Stories published in April, 2011

‘Are you having a baby? I hope it’s a boy’

In an era where cell phones and Botox have changed our lifestyles, our mentality is still not very different from the dark ages. If you browse through any Urdu newspaper’s classified section, you might come across an ad that says “beta” (son) in big, bold letters. If you read further, it says “Inshallah, beta ho ga” (God willing, it’ll be a son). And it’s not just newspapers. People send spam text messages like “Boy or girl, choice is yours”. This is a gruesome reality that tells us our thinking has not evolved at all. The stigma attached to the birth of a female ...

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5 things my taste buds miss most about Karachi

For a foodie like me, London is sheer heaven when it comes to cuisine. At every obscure corner is a hidden gastronomic gem: from mouthwatering dill ice cream served with Mackerel tartare, Burford Brown egg yolk and crème fraîche at Gordon Ramsay’s to red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing that melts in your mouth at Hummingbird’s; from perfectly seasoned soft shell crab and salted egg croquette fried dim sums at Yuatcha to crispy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside fried fish served with chunky chips and yummy mushy peas at pubs. However, indulgence in fancy foods ...

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Shoaib Akhtar: Farewell to a superstar

In a touching gesture, the cricketing regions of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have decided to arrange a series of farewell matches for their favourite son Shoaib Akhtar. Shoaib – who retired from the game during World Cup 2011 – is one of the most exciting players to have ever stepped onto a cricket field. He is a player who drew contrasting opinions, ranging from being an unfit, undisciplined player to an asset who could have contributed more to Pakistan cricket had the administrators handled him wisely. The fighter There is no doubt that Shoaib was a temperamental player who regularly got into trouble ...

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Protesting peasants don’t make good TV

On April 6, 2009, three tenant farmers were killed in Kulyana Estate of Okara for raising their voice against unequal distribution of farmland and demanding ownership rights to the land they had been tilling for generations. These three were members of Anjuman Mazareen of Punjab (Association of Punjab Peasants). A lot has been reported and commented upon about the likes of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) or the Provincial Management Services Association (PMSA). The AMP, like the latter two, has also been protesting in support of certain demands for some time now. However, the similarities between the three end here. Unlike the ...

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Lawmakers annoyed at Senate-heavy cabinet

Almost all newspapers carried an almost identical and startling news report on Monday morning: during his ongoing meetings with IMF managers in Washington, Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh accused public representatives of blocking progress on the reforms package that his predecessor had negotiated with global financiers. The statement attributed to him sounded ominous, if you recall a statement that none other than President Zardari had made in Larkana earlier this month. Addressing a party workers’ meeting on the death anniversary of the PPP’s founder chairman, he revealed that the makers and breakers of governments in this country were now discussing the ...

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When you run out of words

If you live in Pakistan, news mostly constitutes of bomb blasts, terror attacks, bomb threats, terror threats, threats in general, people dying, trying to die, failing to live and a whole array of soul-crushing unpleasantries. Why, then, the need for design? Why add the superfluous to poker-faced horrors? It’s serious business, news is. A pink coloured report on how many people died in a particular bomb blast trivialises its seriousness. How would you react if your ailing grandmother decided to wear a Hawaiian hula skirt on her deathbed? This is mostly what I get to hear when I tell people ...

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The govt ‘takes notice’ of target killings today, tomorrow and forever

Once again the chief minister of Sindh, the governor of Sindh and other responsible senior functionaries of the government have taken notice of the recent spate of target killings in Karachi. But I have to say that I have been reading such reports ever since my childhood, saying that such and such authority has taken notice of such and such incident, and promising such and such action. But it has never really amounted to anything except an exercise in public relations. The first time I heard of this “taking notice” was when a provincial minister education ‘took note’ of an incident ...

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High time Pakistan gets a European football coach

The arrival of Portuguese Carlos Queiroz as the head coach of Iran’s football team is an important development on the Asian football horizon. The versatile tactician has signed a three-year contract with the country renowned for great football credentials, a proud history, talented individual and a good infrastructure. However, there must be reasons that provoked the established football nation to hire a European coach instead of local one. Iran, once a powerhouse of Asian football, is witnessing a decline at international level. It failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and has not won the Asian Cup since 1976. Even ...

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This is my country, and I want it back

Pakistan has aided the germination of Islamophobia, Taliban, extremist tehreeks and intolerant fundamentalism. But it has also produced quite the opposite. You may call them the hidden ones, but there are Pakistanis who say that it’s time to bring a change. No tolerance for wrong A sense of urgency erupted among judicious Pakistanis after the murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. As the media covered protestors on the streets, both left and right wing, there was widespread confusion. Fortunately now, the truth is becoming clearer to the average Pakistani. Now he questions, looks for inspiration and does not want to ignore reality. Words ...

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Are babies worth much in Pakistan?

The news of Pakistan topping the world league of still births creates a sense of indignation. It is yet another sad testament of the country’s health sector. Here in the UK, stillbirths are the highest amongst most developed countries. Although one can apportion some of these causes to placental problems, infections or congenital abnormalities, but there is still a significant number which cannot be explained. Sadly, the UK and Pakistan will address this problem quite differently – perhaps somewhat predictably. In the UK, major investment in research will often follow to investigate the causes of such high mortality rates. This follows its ...

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