Stories published in June, 2011

I am a sardar

I am a Sardar. I am six feet tall and came out of my mother’s womb ready to raise hell. To borrow from Isaac Babel, if rings were fastened to the sky I would have pulled it down to the earth. Yes, I have men and guns but these are just the traditional trappings of power. I look after my men and their families. They are my clan; we are bound together by ancient geographies and histories. They are my children. I uphold tradition but know that in order to survive in today’s world an education is essential. I studied Agriculture ...

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Open Mic Night in Isloo: Just so-so

Open mic nights have fast been gathering immense popularity amongst performers, whether they are singers, dancers, poets or comedians – these nights provide them with a platform to present their act in front of a proper audience. Origami Entertainment in association with Nandos Islamabad organized one such event. I was one of many amateurs that decided to avail this opportunity to play my six string. Registrations were sent, acceptance calls were received and sound checks were made. Unfortunately, the venue was not very big so the inherent limitations of good sound were pretty visible from the get go. Lahore open mic nights ...

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MQM: Let the games begin

That the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) isn’t by now used to the “chicanery” of its senior partner in the coalition government portrays either naivete or clever calculation. In MQM’s case, naivete should more or less be discounted because the party has spent the better part of eight and a half years in power corridors – counting, of course, its five-year stint with the previous regime. It is hard not to understand, if not master, the laws of power, no matter how dysfunctional they may seem in our polity, in such a consecutive period. And yes the party has had ...

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Riaz wanted to learn English

It was almost 11 years ago when I stopped my car at the Teen Talwar traffic light to be greeted by the usual herd of beggars, windscreen cleaners and newspaper sellers. One of the newspaper sellers, Riaz, a total of four feet in height, asked me for a lift to the Marriot signal. Irritated by the commotion around me, I chose to ignore him. Rather than moving on, he boldly walked in front of my car, locked eyes with me, stuck his teeth out like President Asif Zardari would, if he stared at the sun, and performed a mini-break dance ...

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Give Kashmir a chance

On June 26, 2011 elections for the legislative assembly were held in the Pakistani Kashmir, also known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). This is one of the most unique names you would ever encounter in the history of names of states – a territory which has to prefix Azad (free) to its name to proclaim its freedom. The so called Azad Kashmir is by no stretch of imagination is ‘free’ – instead it has become a neo colony of the Pakistani establishment. The whole legislative assembly of Azad Kashmir is subordinate to the orders of GOC Murree and the ...

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The effects of the social media

The ongoing debate regarding the impact of social media is part of a greater construct in relation to the progression of democratic systems across the world. It cannot be denied that social media has played a unique role in gathering people to topple dictators and tyrants but the question remains whether this is necessarily healthy for the public sphere in which a functioning democracy runs. So when we talk about the ‘Arab Spring’, it is a unique set of events that have been launched through what many analysts call “the political awakening of Arab youth.” To start out, the new Muslim ...

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No, it is not time for gay rights in Pakistan

In the wake of the same-sex marriage bill passed by the New York Senate, a few people are supporting similar kind of rights for the (still closeted) gay community in Pakistan. In my view, it is disastrous to even think of it at this moment, for the following reasons: The gay community in the United States (US) achieved their current rights after decades of continuous social, political and legal struggle. Yet even today, several states including the US federal government do not recognise civil union/partnership. Some states permit civil unions but they don’t equalise those to marriage. According to public wishes, ...

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Afghan drawdown: The vultures descend

Now that the die is cast and the United States is finally stepping up the process of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the vultures are finally swooping down to ensure that they get a piece of the carcass. Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia; all seem to have a stake in Afghanistan’s future. Out of these, Pakistan and India are arch rivals and have conflicting interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan, which often views Afghanistan as an extension of its own backyard seeks to play out the game of strategic depth in the country. India, on the other hand is taking a more indirect route. ...

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My art is not for you Prime Minister Gilani

My friend stood painting something abstract, holding a cigarette  in a manner that complimented her artistic persona. She probably noticed my sarcastic smile and said, ‘Hey Ammar! I know you criticize abstract art, but you see artists are free souls. We don’t believe in any rules, regulations and boundaries. We choose to be apolitical and are not disciplined folks at all. Discipline and art do not go along.” I remained silent looking at something black lying next to her bag. She continued, “What are you looking at? The graduation gown? That’s for the convocation dress rehearsal. Everything has to be ...

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Let them wear bangles

Has life for women in Pakistan improved or deteriorated over the past decade? This question is being hotly debated in the wake of a report that listed Pakistan as the ‘third-worst country in the world for women’. Now, I am not one to say that some Pakistani women have not made great strides in the past ten years or so. When critics of reports like the one I mentioned above rattle off names of prominent women politicians, educationalists, intellectuals and social workers as proof of women’s success in Pakistan, I agree wholeheartedly that these women have effectively contributed to society, ...

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