Stories published in November, 2010

Aasia Bibi: A question of religious freedom

The recent case of Aasia Bibi once again thrust Pakistan into the international stage for it’s appalling record of human rights. But though many commentators have called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, I feel we are missing the bigger picture. Calling for piecemeal legal reforms is a necessary part of incremental, pragmatic and gradualist change (tadarruj as it’s know in the classical Islamic legal traditions). However, the greater point about this case is the issue of religious freedom. It is a question of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. On another level it is to do with ...

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A US pilot’s tale: The gauntlet of goodwill

I’m a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot with Task Force Denali, a US Army aviation battalion sent from Alaska to provide flood relief to Northern Pakistan. I blogged about my first impressions of Pakistan nearly two months ago, and I’d like to share some more thoughts about my new friends here. Surrounding our barracks and the control tower, hangars, airfield, and base itself are Pakistani military guards and commandos – tough, well-trained men armed with assault rifles and pistols tasked with maintaining security 24 hours a day. I didn’t know what to make of these guys when I first saw them. Take, ...

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The man who taught us to be afraid

Learning that adults aren’t always as virtuous as we expect them to be is a rite of passage. One teacher exemplified this lesson, presenting himself as a patriarch. He told his students they were like his children and he would lecture them on morals. His tarnished reputation preceded him and this was his way of overcompensating. One girl dropped his class because he made her uncomfortable. When she asked a question he would come around and “accidentally” brush his hand against her. He’d pick up a book, place it on a lap and write with one hand resting on a ...

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In defence of the Baloch sardar

The unrest in Balochistan is fast becoming taboo in our public discourse. While the issue is granted much less than its due airtime in electronic media, even whatever lately has been written in print also often tends to conform to the national security narrative. Considering how large an impact media can have in forming opinions, it’s a pity that prime time pundits have failed to break free of the establishment’s shackles. A prime example is Mr Ejaz Haider’s op-ed piece on Balochistan published in The Express Tribune on November 6. When I read e piece I disagreed with his reasoning ...

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Blasphemy law: An apparatus to sustain tyranny

In Pakistan, if you have a land dispute, political rivalry, or just personal or professional jealousy or economic rivalry with someone and you are bent on settling your score, then teaching them a lesson is easier than you think. You can make your enemies regret every day they have ever lived, especially if they are non-Muslims, Ahmadis, Zionists or “Hindu Zionists”. Although in Pakistan it may seem convenient to hire an assassin or kill them yourself – but why do things ‘illegally’ when you can destroy their lives ‘legally’ with popular support? All it takes is a false accusation of blasphemy ...

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‘Democracy’ with daddykins

Some of you may have witnessed a flurry of photographs on Facebook some time back boasting the Matrix-like poses of a young fellow of no more than 25, receiving in his words ‘the gun salute and government protocol in Malta.’ Under what authority may I ask? Another bombastic snap provides the answer to the mystery, our hero in tow with the Pakistani High Commissioner to Malta at the Maltese Presidential Palace with the caption reading “aka Dad”! Apparently, the highest positions of our Foreign Office are now decreed under inheritance laws. Father and son on a mission to build the country’s credibility ...

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Super comic-book adaptations: How to do it right

Comic book movies have been doing very well. The Dark Knight, Spider Man and its many sequels, and the X Men bought comic books to the masses and earned lots of money in the process. No one can dispute that comic book movies are the right way to go. All of the large production houses are picking up rights to adapt comic books. The Green Hornet, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Captain America, Cowboys and Aliens, the Avengers are all going to be coming to the big screen soon. Movies and comics have a strange relationship because comics are open to ...

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Guzarish: What a drag…

Magic and wizardry rocked the silver screen this weekend. Harry Potter from Hollywood and “Guzarish” from its infamous counterpart, Bollywood. Guzarish of course set a precedent of being released in Pakistan on Eid, a couple of days ahead of India. The much talked about Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Guzarish”, a story of a quadriplegic ex magician raises some ethical questions about euthanasia. But overall as a movie, it seems to be a drag. From his first venture Khamoshi, where Mr Bhansali had Manisha Koirala playing a mute person, he  has focused on stories revolving around disabled people. In “Black” with Rani Mukherjee played a ...

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Give the girls a chance!

Amidst all the allegations surrounding the men’s national cricket team – the spot-fixing controversy, selections rows, and the general consistency with which they implode, it was a pleasant surprise to see the women’s team win some laurels. Forget the fact that they beat China and Japan, not really the mightiest opposition in cricketing terms, forget the fact that, from what we saw, the cricket seemed to be of a ludicrously pastoral standard (although I would not mind some of the women fielders in place of Imran Farhat in the ODI side) – the fact of the matter is that this ...

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Pak Tea House vs Let Us Build Pakistan: Just another talk show?

A debate recently ensued between Pak Tea House (PTH) and Let Us Rebuild Pakistan (LUBP), two eminent blogzines of the Pakistani blogosphere. It started when the former criticised Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) over its handling of the disciplinary violation of party regulations by Sherry Rehman. LUBP accused PTH authors of wrongly exaggerating the facts and giving PPP a bad name without a valid reason. Hot words were exchanged and name-calling was indulged in from both sides, making it quite a spectacle for the readers. Eventually, after a number of fierce posts, from both ends, the matter came to end ...

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