Stories published in February, 2011

The inconvenience of late night announcements

Late on Monday evening, the provincial government announced a holiday on account of Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi. The delayed announcement caused students, teachers and parents a great deal of trouble in the morning when they realised that schools were closed for the day. While I understand the need to close down schools in light of processions, considering the security risks they entail, I fail to understand why such public holiday announcements have to be made at the last minute. It is unfair because those who didn’t watch the news after 10 pm probably had no knowledge of this announcement. A colleague told me that ...

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Cabs with no destination

Without learning anything from the bitter experience of the Sasti Roti scheme, the Punjab government has now launched the Yellow Cab project for unemployed youth, without addressing loopholes experienced in the same initiative in 1993. The same scheme was launched by Mian Nawaz Sharif as PM in 1993, in which thousands of vehicles were provided on installments. It was aimed at resolving the country’s transport and unemployment issues. This time round, the Punjab government has reserved Rs.4.5 billion to initiate the Youth Employment Scheme (YES) which will provide taxis for 20,000 unemployed people. 40 per cent of this amount has ...

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Help! Our police needs help

There he stands; his black uniform stretched across a protruding belly, he has a certain fondness for chai and ‘pieces of paper with pictures of the Quaid’. This is the image that comes to mind when one thinks of a Pakistani policeman. In the pre-Musharraf era, crime was a major problem. Mustering the political will to clean up the police force was hard because the political elite found it useful to make alliances with certain police departments. Two important things have changed since then. Firstly, another threat has emerged, the militant threat, which attacks not only the common man but ...

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5 things I hate about being single on Valentine’s day

We have all been there. Love is in the air and there’s a flicker of romance in everyone’s eyes but you’ve just gone through a bad breakup and are a member of the ‘loners club’. Your friends excitedly make big plans for D-day. They have already bought new outfits to wear along with gifts for their loved ones. But all you can do is listen with a poker face as they share ideas and ask for advice resisting the need to scream. You begin to hate your newly acquired relationship status for various reasons: 5)  Paraphernalia Malls, shops and bookstores are displaying chocolates, teddy bears and  ...

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Should Muslims celebrate Valentine’s Day?

The internet has been inundated with emails, Facebook posts and videos encouraging people to boycott Valentine’s Day and claiming that Islam prohibits the holiday. One video made by a group of young boys quotes historical references to prove that V-Day is un-Islamic. I received a text message that said “Speak against the kuffar and boycott Valentine’s Day!” A student in one of the classes that I teach said: “Celebrating Valentine’s Day is gunnah.“ While another said: “Do you know the Americans came up with this event to mess with us? They’re trying to take Muslims away from their faith by showing them such celebrations.” Perhaps these ...

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What does the future hold for Egypt?

While I do not want to detract from the amazing achievement of the Egyptian people, their future is still uncertain. Who will fill the power vacuum? Omar Suleiman is not a favourite Touted as a replacement by Mubarak and tacitly supported by the US, Omar Suleiman clearly isn’t popular. This is hardly a surprise, given that he was head of Egypt’s intelligence agency (you know, the one that allegedly tortures lots of people) and, according to Wikileaks, told Israel (who love him very much) that he’d like “Gaza to go hungry, but not starve”. Not exactly a hero. Who is Mohamed ElBaradei? ...

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World Cup 2011: The batsmen must click

With the World Cup taking place in the subcontinent, batting will play a key part in how Pakistan fares in the event. The duo of Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad performed reasonably well in New Zealand. Shehzad is quite raw and inexperienced but remains talented and has an array of strokes at his disposal. However, whether he stands tall to pressure at the biggest stage in world cricket remains to be seen. If he manages a big innings early in the tournament, I believe he should have a good World Cup. Hafeez has been around for quite some time without cementing ...

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Nationalising culture: A broader perspective

Historically, February is a month of kite-flying in the cultural capital of Pakistan. Basant supporters mark the event as a hallmark of Punjabi culture. By playing up the Punjabi culture aspect, their motivation has been to circumvent the religious connotation attached to it by those who see it, among many things, as a ‘yalgar’ of Hindu values meant to corrupt Muslims. Another thing February is known for is Valentine’s Day. That too has supporters who see it as a manifestation of love and festivity. For the rest, it’s a part of the ‘devil’s plan’ to lead as many souls to ...

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Skeletons in the Cabinet: A reshuffle that makes no sense

After almost three years of unprecedented failures, the government finally overhauled the Cabinet this week. Or has it? The new and improved ‘small’ cabinet includes  a lot of old faces but there have been plenty of surprises – and they have been shockers. Ministry for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, of heera mandi attack fame, who is often called to talk shows when a little ghunda element is needed has been given the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Dr Awan is now responsible for ‘handling’ the media, and tactfully explaining the government’s policies and defending it’s mistakes. From now on, after every single cabinet ...

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Love is more than roses: The legends behind Valentine’s day

It’s the same old story every Valentine’s Day. Red things plastered everywhere, sales, advertisements and the omnipresence of hearts. As sentimental music lulls the senses over candlelit tables where love struck eyes caress each other in banal and repetitive gestures, the voice of reason within me asks, “What the hell is wrong with us?” If someone told me February 14 was the day that fat cats from Hallmark and flower tycoons from around the world gather to toast their Dom Perignon and light their cigars with $100 bills to celebrate the world’s stupidity, I wouldn’t be surprised. It is one of ...

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