Stories published in April, 2011

Pakistan’s very own apartheid

I perceive myself to be liberal because I believe that I am a pluralist. I am not an extremist in my political or religious views. I am proud that I am different — separate — and quite clearly a minority in my country. However, despite my so-called pluralism, I do not want to associate with those I call the ‘jaahils’ and the ‘fundos’ and in that sense I end up being disconnected from the mainstream. Some readers may not like this but I will give the example of the burqa-clad mother of four who believes that she is pious and righteous, ...

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Small provinces have big dreams

Over the past few years people across the country have joined the debate on establishing smaller provinces. But there are constitutional, economic, ethnic and political problems with turning these dreams into realities. The ideas came to the fore after the renaming of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started the debate about the creation of smaller provinces. The Hazara province The basis for this demand was purely ethnic as people claimed they were happy with the old name NWFP.  Protests on the streets for a new Hazara province claimed seven lives. But a deep look into the social, ethnic and political set up of the Hazara Division ...

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It’s time for Junoon to make a comeback

There I was one lonely night back in 1999, watching the Zee Cine Awards by myself. Among the Indian celebrities there were a few familiar faces. That night Junoon performed Sayeein to a packed concert hall and I remember dancing in an empty living room with sheer rock and roll joy. Since then, the band has broken up and splintered in to Sufi analyst, confused solo musician and missing-in-action gora. They went from being a small time English language band to the biggest musical phenomenon in the country. Lead singer Ali Azmat has said: “In our first live concert. There were just seven ...

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Message to literalists: You are a minority

The Pakistani Taliban’s suicide bombers attacked the shrine of Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar in Dera Ghazi Khan district, killing 50 people. The dead include children, women, the elderly and handicapped. Self-destructing suicide bombers who kill innocent people show that they are against the Islamic ideology of saving humanity from self-destruction. Taliban’s confused ideology The Taliban (including Wahabis, Salafis and all Muslims who kill other Muslims) cast a shadow on their status as Muslims. The classical scholar Hasan alBasri calls Muslims who kill other Muslims “the grave sinners”, whereas Wasil ibn Ata called such Muslims neither “believers” nor “non-believers”. Ironically, the predecessor of all ...

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India’s ‘small hearts’ and Afridi’s big mouth

I’ve never been Afridi’s biggest fan. But his recent form with the ball, and his leadership in the World Cup changed my mind…well, sort of. I have always found him to be mercurial. From scoring a hundred in 30-40 balls to getting out after playing the most atrocious shot in the books, Afridi has even bitten into a cricket ball. A day after his return to Pakistan, he held a brief press conference on his front porch. Lala fired back to a question asked by one of the reporters regarding Pakistan’s defeat against India. He questioned why Pakistanis look towards India with ...

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Banning opinion: What would Gandhi do?

In the words of 16th century English author and philosopher Francis Bacon: Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. In the 21st century, a section of Indian politicians want to add one more line to this sentence: some books are to be banned without reading and knowing the name of the author. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul: ...

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Don’t hate Rebecca Black, she may change the world

On March 14 this year, 13-year-old singer Rebecca Black from California released her song Friday. In a matter of three days, the YouTube video was closing in on 14.5 million views. As of April 3, it has been viewed over 80 million times. Why Rebecca Black? It isn’t uncommon for catchy songs and humorous videos from renowned artists to become viral hits but this song does not fall into either of those categories. Billboard said the song came “straight out of auto-tuned hell”; Rolling Stone characterised the song an “unintentional parody of modern pop”, and CNN called it “an internet sensation for ...

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HEC devolved at the altar of politics

Like the Federal Education Ministry before it, now the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is being devolved to the provinces. The very ingredient that strengthens the fabric of a society — education– is being adulterated through a planned strategy. Some portfolios are to be held by the federal government due to the nature of their strategic importance. For instance, letting provinces have independent foreign policies would be suicidal. Similarly, while provincial governments should manage the education infrastructure in their respective jurisdiction–which they were already doing–they should not have any control over the curriculum being taught. Every school in every province should ...

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Hating Terry Jones is bad for Muslims

It’s the same old cycle. Once again an insignificant person does something radically stupid in the West, and we in the East go on to a killing rampage. I am talking about the burning of the Holy Quran incident carried out on March 20, 2011 by Terry Jones, an American Christian Evangelist pastor from Florida. This is the same man who threatened to burn the Holy Quran on 9/11 but relented once he got the media hype he wanted. Spreading the stupid In the immediate aftermath of the burning, I thought that the Muslim world had shown restraint and ignored Jones’ thoughtless acts, as ...

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Doctors have to eat too

As a medical student, I have witnessed the doctor verus government tussle from the get go. Firstly,  let me clarify that this is not a protest – this is a breaking point. Doctors have been protesting for years and the government paid little, if any, attention. The facts leading up to this month’s events are actually understandable to anybody who has been to a hospital ward. Serving humanity or bank accounts? The first question in a medical student’s life is where he will work after MBBS. This is no joke. An estimated 1,500 doctors leave Pakistan every year to work abroad. This year ...

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