Stories published in July, 2011

Inconclusive debates of our time

Friend Ashfaq Salim Mirza is a modernist among our comrades. He refuses to limp back to rosy 19th Century and unlike most dwellers of that dreamland, who have an explanation for every unfolding event, believes several debates are still inconclusive. Arguing with him, our mentor, the late Professor Khwaja Masud, would often take umbrage at his unqualified rejection of Sufism as a crutch for the Left to hobble on, in a kind of three legged race, with the Pakistan ideology stalwarts. He took to task the nascent Awami Party — which he had himself co-founded with Harris Khalique, Ayub ...

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Buried under forewords

I have received a strange book of poetry. I started reading it: a foreword, a second foreword and another foreword. After that, yet another foreword. What kind of poetry can it be, I wondered, to need so many prefaces (and where is it hiding). The book is called Satre Nau, the author is Manzar Hussain Akhtar. Having encountered several forewords one after the other I thought maybe these were originally written for separate books and have now been compiled in a single volume. But then I turned another page and to my surprise came upon poetry. Why, I wondered, should poetry ...

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Jagjit Singh: A man for all seasons

Jagjit Singh: just the name of this maestro is enough to excite his legions of fans. At a recent concert in Europe, old and young crowded into the auditorium, the scene reminiscent of a desi wedding, with women dressed to kill in sequins, silks and red lipped pouts. The great singer held the audience in the palm of his hand as he regaled them with ghazals intertwined with jokes, anecdotes and improvisations. Making my way through his throng of admirers at the end of the concert waiting to get his autograph, I found the ...

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Helping Punjab’s medical students

One needs to score at least 82 per cent marks in Intermediate exams and then pass an entry test to gain admission into any public medical college in Punjab. This ensures that those who do eventually study medicine are among the best and brightest in the province. However, the fate of some 950 such intelligent students is hanging in the balance as the Punjab government didn’t take approval from the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) before admitting these students to medical schools. Last year, four new public medical colleges – in Sialkot, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sahiwal and Gujranwala – were ...

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Ryan Crocker: Afghanistan’s Lawrence of Arabia

As the military drawdown begins in Afghanistan, the Americans are upping the diplomatic ante. They want a neat transition and a solid presence in Kabul after the exit. It was in this connection that Ryan C Crocker was sworn in as the new United States (US) top diplomat in Afghanistan on Monday July 25. Crocker’s earlier stint in Kabul involved reopening the US embassy in 2002, after the Taliban government was replaced by that of the Northern Alliance. In his new assignment Crocker may actually be talking to the Taliban. Crocker’s predecessor, Karl W Eikenberry, was a former general, whose ...

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What’s the worst thing that can happen in an examination hall?

What is the worst thing that can happen to you in an examination hall? That you are caught cheating? Or, that you prepared for the wrong exam? No. Of course those things are pretty bad, but the worst thing that can happen to you in an examination hall is to be sexually harassed by the invigilator. Picture this: you are busy thinking about some weird biology term or phenomenon that could ruin your grade if you jumble it up. You are drenched in sweat because the fans are out of order. The windows are broken so the sunlight pierces through and hits your ...

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Who is @SundusRasheed?

Sundus Rasheed describes herself as an occasional writer, a behind the scenes media person and a travel addict. She is responsible for a great team of Radio Jockeys at CityFM89 and their shows and everything that goes into making radio – including music and promotions. “If something goes wrong on air,” she says “I’m the one to blame.” Q: Why did you join Twitter? I joined Twitter when Facebook was banned for a couple of weeks, sometime in May 2010. I felt so disconnected from the rest of world – what people were thinking, what my friends were doing. Twitter proved to be such a melting pot ...

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Black metal, white terrorists and what Norway taught me

When I was 17-years-old, I was a trouble child. I was oscillating between depression and rage, my teachers and parents had no control over me, and most of all, I had a profound sense of being an outcast from the society that I lived in. To offset this overwhelming sense of alienation, I turned to the internet, my only window into a world outside my own. It was here that I actively sought to find meaning and to fill the gaping hole that my own society and culture could not fill. What I found, (amongst other things), was a one-man black ...

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Restoring the ISI’s tarnished reputation

An intelligence agency is at the frontlines of every war, especially against terrorism. Terror and terror networks can only be contained, dismantled or destroyed with effective intelligence gathering. But if the reputation of the intelligence agency is tarnished and its every action is questioned, no war can be effectively won and no strategy can be properly executed. It is unfortunate that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) is caught up with—and in some cases, rightly accused—for many domestic and international incidents involving terrorism and other transnational crimes. At the same time, it has also become a scapegoat for those who have ...

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Was there a Kharotabad cover-up?

The judicial tribunal tasked to investigate the Kharotabad incident has reached the conclusion, after holding hearings for a month, that all the five foreigners, including three women, who were killed by law enforcement agencies’ personnel,  were “well-trained terrorists” and had “strong links with terrorist networks” operating in Pakistan. There were many journalists present at the crime scene but for obvious reasons no one came forward to testify. When I asked one of them why he hadn’t come forward, he said there was no point since nothing would be done, and it would not be sensible to pick a quarrel with the ...

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