Stories published in April, 2011

TR = Terror

You’ve heard the rumors: literature is dead, libraries are museums, reading is an outdated practice, and writers are beggars. But, gentle readers, let me assure you, the truth is as ever: people love their writers — and today more than ever. In fact, today’s readers love writers so much, so intensely that they want them to be more than just writers. They want them to be their mystics, oracles, psychics, visionaries, political experts, policy makers, cookie monsters, cuddly bears, bffs, everything — that is, everything but writers. And most writers are like attention-famished kids who have managed to trick everybody ...

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Choose democracy, not the HEC

Criticism of the government’s decisions is becoming more of a habit than a reformative concern among our so called experts. As far as media campaigns to save the Higher Education Commission (HEC) are concerned, some would even suggest that democracy is being slaughtered at the altar of activism. Since the federal government’s announcement to devolve HEC, there has been a plethora of articles, blogs, letters, and comments, most of them supportive of the commission’s authority in matters relating to higher education. Few, if any, have bothered to objectively and critically weigh the HEC’s success against its failures as a central ...

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Running away from our saviours

When George Fulton says he is returning to the UK for security reasons, it is understandable. When Pakistani men say they want to go to another country for the sake of someone else’s security, it’s unfortunate. When I read a story about reports on how scores of young men were applying for jobs to serve as security officers in a Middle Eastern country my first reaction was don’t these people realise that they are needed in their own country. Later, I came to know my maid’s son had applied for the same job. I was flabbergasted. She said: “It is better that ...

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Coffee and gunshots on Zamzama

Last August, a friend and I were sitting at Butlers Chocolate Café enjoying fancy coffees and chatting about life when suddenly, the cafe’s lights dimmed. At first, I thought the power had gone out but when I saw an expression of concern on one of the waiters’ faces, I suspected there was something greater at play. I asked the waiter if everything was okay. At first, he appeared a little hesitant to leak the news, but then he said: “Some men are firing on the main road, outside the restaurant.” It took me a minute to truly fathom what he was saying. I ...

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Passport woes: Does the world need to know we are Muslim?

Whenever I travel overseas I feel uncomfortable when the immigration officer opens my passport and looks through my personal details. It’s not because the colour of my passport is green; what annoys me is the fact that he knows my religion. Why should I tell the official that I am a Muslim? Is my nationality i.e. Pakistani, not enough? Does it matter if we are Muslims or non-Muslims? We are Pakistanis. Is that not enough for an identity? I, for one, do not understand the reason for having a religion category on one’s passport, especially seeing all the problems our country has faced because of ...

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Barca vs Real: Top tier clash

Match-ups between Barcelona and Real Madrid have traditionally elicited more emotional involvement from fans of both these football giants, than any other club fixture has ever been able to do. It is perhaps because of the ‘political enmity’, if that phrase can be used, between the Catalans and the Castilians. Whatever other reasons exist for the charged atmosphere regarding the ‘El Clasico,’ just the quality of football is enough to leave at least the neutrals licking their lips. This season however, the fixture between Real and Barca is to be played five times as the two sides meet in the final ...

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Why the US dollar fell during current global crises

An interesting aspect of the Libyan, Tunisian and Japanese crises was that the US dollar fell against other major currencies, by a lot. Normally, in times of crises, investors tend to move towards the dollar. It is viewed as a safe haven. However, during the current crises, the dollar fell to historic lows against the yen, before the massive international central-bank intervention reversed the fall (now, the financial market will remain uncertain in the next two years. You can bet on that). Even the Euro strengthened against the dollar and Europe is considered to be in a messy situation that needs ...

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Pirs, fakirs and other freaks

Blood curdling fury. That’s the best and perhaps only way to describe my feelings when I read news stories about pirs and their never-ending shenanigans. Fury, not at the pirs, because let’s face it, they’ve proved time and again that they’re quite good at their job of scamming, but at the people who happily volunteer to be used and abused by these charlatans and then go whining about their misfortune to the authorities, seeking commiseration and justice. What a heartless snoot you must think I am, right? Brutally chalking off victims of one of the most hideous and widespread forms of ...

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Los Angeles versus aliens: Who wins? Who cares!

Battle: Los Angeles is a film that won’t confuse you with plot twists and multi-dimensional characters.  The 1 hour 56 minute film is a straight-up, military-oriented, alien invasion film powered by the basics: tension and heroics. It may not be an original concept, but director Jonathan Liebesman (Texas chainsaw massacre: The beginning) and writer Christopher Bertolini (The General’s Daughter) put together a film that is a thrilling ride. The plot Alien beings have invaded major cities across the globe. Only this time, the battle field is Los Angeles. A squad of marines is busy evacuating civilians from Los Angeles, which the military is about to nuke. There are ...

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Why fifth graders throw rocks and want peace

A great deal has been said and written about the education emergency in our country. However, the most disturbing statistics are not the ones about the number of children not being taught in schools; it is the ones about children who go to school and yet fail to develop the critical thinking skills Pakistan badly needs. As co-director of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) School Outreach Tour, I work with 1,000 children in low-income schools in Karachi. It has taught me about educational methods in Pakistan in a way that no report or research paper ever can. In one of my first ...

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