Stories published in January, 2011

Fear in Pakistan: Hitchcock, the Taliban and us

Sometimes I feel like I am Melanie Daniels from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” A 1963 suspense horror film,The Birds is depicts Bodega Bay, California, which is suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of widespread and violent bird attacks over the course of a few days. If you think about Pakistan, you can’t help but compare the birds in the film with the Taliban and militant groups . If only we could study what motivates them to carry out such acts. Of course, getting a terrorist to sit through a psychology experiment as a volunteer would be pretty ...

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Do doctors have super-powers?

Medical education seems tedious and never-ending. It has the capacity to kill with utter cruelty but it does have a few perks. As I near graduation I have realized that I have changed. My English grammar and composition have suffered a severe blow. My literary sense has gone down the drain. But my colleagues and I have also acquired a few specialised skills at medical school which we are extremely proud of. 1. Energy: The magic 5 minute power nap In first years of my college, my parents were a little perplexed when they would find me sprawled on the floor over my anatomy book . They would ...

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Islamabad Etcetera: Accursed ambulators!

Footpath walkers or street corner loafers, pedestrians to the genteel public, these pavement grinders are a contemptible lot. One will not recourse to anathema or expletives here, for it is not the place, contenting oneself instead with whatever is uttered under the breath but one feels a sheer tyranny at the hands of these seemingly unassuming ‘bystanders’. Do not of course mistake this for classicist spiel, for one’s issue is not say of condescension but the mere pragmatism of these people and the jeopardy (what a reversal!) that they put motorists in. The impulse to cross a road, to ford it, is ...

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We are racist, like our parents were

Growing up I was often told by my parents to stay out of the sun. Like most middle class Pakistanis, they were worried that the complexion of my skin will become dark if I spent too much time outside. My aunts flung concerned glances at me and my cousins during summers, especially when we were returning home after playing cricket, and made taunting comments about our tanned skin. Thus, from a very early age I learned that having dark skin was something to be embarrassed of. My classmates were also familiar with this racial demarcation, so making fun of kids ...

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Pakistan’s imperfect cricket team

Not taking anything away from Pakistan’s victory, the fact that the win in the Hamilton Test came under slightly fortuitous circumstances (some freak dismissals and the condition of the pitch), cannot be and, perhaps more importantly, should not be ignored. To keep up the good work that was undeniably done by an at-last-united looking Pakistan team, and to ensure a series win, the management and the players need to take care of some issues very quickly, before the second test at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, starts on Saturday. The favourable pitch The first and foremost factor that went in favour of Pakistan ...

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PPP destined to complete its term

First, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) withdrew support from the government. Then the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) pulled out and we counted the minutes, waiting for Prime Ministers Gilani’s government to collapse. The Oil and Gas Regulation Authority’s (OGRA) intimation of an increase in petroleum prices in the New Year came as no surprise to economists watching the steady rise in global petroleum prices, though ever the opportunist opposition parties rallied to condemn the government’s move. Commentators had been predicting an increase since the middle of December, while the formula for calculating oil prices is widely known. Should we have repeated the mistake ...

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After Taseer: Time to change direction

For many, the start of a new year marked the beginning of fresh hope that things would finally change in Pakistan. After all, December had seen a dramatic decrease in the number of suicide bombings in the country and the politicians had finally started arguing over public policy as opposed to security. This new found optimism, however, came to an abrupt halt when Malik Mumtaz Qadri emptied the magazine of his brutally murdering Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, and leaving the ideology of Pakistan hanging by a thread. What has followed since is a nation split in opinion over whether the action ...

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Tolerance & understanding: Learning from Egypt

Just before Christmas last year, I passed a group of children arranging themselves in two straight lines outside the big church in F-8, Islamabad. They had a special program planned and were waiting to welcome their guests with flowers. I caught a glimpse of laughter and nervous excitement and nearly smiled, before seeing the police van, ambulance and fire engine parked on the curb. Then there was a sudden stab of panic and I wished I could stop to usher them all inside. “Please, God, let them be safe,” was all I could think on the way home. Is it ironic ...

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Qayyum Nazar: Giving myself a break

After a lifetime of looking for the newspaper first thing in the morning I have realised that this is not a happy habit. Almost every day the papers feature some story or the other that counts for a bad omen. Reports of suicide bombings and terrorist strikes are, of course, a routine. To recover from the bitterness, I thought, I needed to read a book. The book I happened to pick at random had sketches of Qayyum Nazar, Prof Syed Waqar Azeem, Dr Nazir Ahmed, Dr Muhammad Ajmal and Dr Syed Abdullah. In the foreword, the writer, Sabir Lodhi, asserted that ...

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Economic policies: Think short term, stay happy

Weak governments cannot make strong policies. We saw an example of this when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani gave in to political pressure and reversed the decision to increase petroleum prices – despite the fact that oil prices are soaring in the international market. The move received praise from both, political and business leaders. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) rejoined the government while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also supported the decision – all without any consideration for the long term economic implications of the move. During the episode leaders made a volley of statements that I have done my best ...

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