Stories published in July, 2011

Angry Birds, the Pac-Man of our times

“It is too hot!” my father sighed, as our waiter jotted down our orders. Having waited for nearly 30 minutes, we were finally seated at Arizona Grill, an insanely popular steakhouse in Karachi, Pakistan.  My father winced, cupping his ears: “It is so noisy.” I glanced at the smiles on the faces of my siblings and my mother, as they all nodded in agreement. While I was enjoying the atmosphere, I had to admit that it was rather uncomfortable. At half past 10, on a Saturday night, the basement floor of the eatery was overcrowded. The compact hardwood surroundings made it difficult for the ...

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I am a death toll, please tell my family

I am a Pathan My family lives in Swat, I’ve come to Karachi looking for work without knowing anyone in this big city. I started my struggle six months ago. Back in Swat I have a family, a pretty wife and four children. I want to send my children to school but can’t afford it. The economy in Swat is bad; there is no work which is why I’ve come to Karachi. They say it’s a big city and everybody gets something or the other according to their naseeb (luck). Well, I’ve come here to try my luck too. After a long ...

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The bag that worked

Not surprisingly, Hina Rabbani Khar has captured the popular imagination. The bag, the shades, the pearls and the chiffon. No news article about the Pak-India dialogue was complete without a reference to all of them. And while every major news outlet did precisely that on Wednesday, Thursday brought the bashing. Why is the media fixated by the bling, and not the brawn, they asked? Khar-the-celebrity overshadowed Khar-the-politician, they said. The media should differentiate between stars and politicians, they recommended. Why the holier-than-thou attitude, I ask? Besides the exchange of most-wanted terror lists and general accusations, no major breakthrough had been made ...

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Sino-Pak relations: Beyond the rhetoric

Just a day after the US suspended $800 million aid to Pakistan, a news story appeared in major newspapers of the subcontinent. In Pakistan it read, China has pledged support to Pakistan when US has suspended its assistance. In India it read, Pakistan would be leaning on the Chinese to fill in the gap created by suspension of US aid and the Chinese would acquiesce. What actually happened was that Hong Lei, spokesman of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while answering questions during a routine briefing responded to a US aid suspension question in a very measured way. While avoiding commenting on ...

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Google+ is not a threat to Facebook

This is not the first time Google has attempted to uproot Facebook from its position as the number one social networking website. First, it purchased Orkut and tried to give it a makeover, but failed miserably. Then they introduced Google Wave and Google Buzz but both turned out to be miserable failures. Both Google Wave and Buzz, like the recently launched Google+, offered features which no other website offered, but they failed to survive. So, can Google+ climb to the top and fill Google’s void in the Social Networking world? The first question that comes to my mind is whether ...

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Karachi and the failure of Pakistan’s multi-culturalism

The martial tradition of the Pakistani Army failed and the ‘’Islamization’’ drive of Zia which was the martial tradition merging with clerical power also failed . What did these processes fail at? They failed at creating some coherent narrative of Pakistani citizenship that was pluralistic and open enough to absorb the different ethnic, linguistic and indeed tribal affiliations of the Pakistani citizenry. State sponsored Islam (which in itself is quite unprecedented within the body of Islamic history and literature) has not created any form of universal Pakistani citizenship. The Karachi conflict is the result of decades long alienation, mistrust and hatred towards different ...

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Pakistan, a place where non-Muslims also live

A lot has been written about the plight of minorities in Pakistan – some by minorities themselves but mostly by the majority. In most such reports, analyses and blogs, the focus has been on the aggressive tactics used by a violent and regressive few to intimidate and persecute the middle to lower-middle class of Christians and Hindus. I speak not of Ahmadis, as the persecution they face is a more severe one resulting in death and legislation-led despair. Theirs is a plight I pray for daily. In this piece, however, I want to focus on another aspect of the issue that ...

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Noori: Once upon a light

It was the gloomy winter of 2005. My interest in philosophy and arts was growing. As a reaction of my rebellious nature and artistic romanticism, I had moved out of my house and started living in a small room in old Lahore. My mornings were dedicated to riaz (practice) of classical music and I either painted or read the whole day. Exactly like some typical ‘crazy artist’ character portrayed by Dostoevsky. One day while playing the harmonium, I saw a little girl who was peeping inside from the old, wooden window. Upon realizing that I had noticed her, she smiled shyly and ran ...

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US withdrawal: Implosion, or peace for Afghanistan?

All military campaigns have lifecycles. Some are short while others drag on for years but the end is always inevitable. It is this inevitability that currently overshadows American military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The war in Afghanistan has been America’s longest war. It has been costly in terms of money and lives for all countries involved. George W Bush invaded Afghanistan to avenge the 9/11 attacks; he also took the opportunity to take the war into Iraq, to pre-empt Sadam Hussain from using his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. After Bush’s two terms as the ‘war president,’ the ...

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Poetry for monkeys

Do you know Mr Javed Chaudhry? You should if you don’t. He’s amazing. Recently, he was invited to speak to some students on ‘Relationships’(?). He kicked off the discussion with the claim that he is smarter than Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, et al. simply because they lived 5,000 or 3,000 years ago (both dates are wrong, actually). He said: “If we are not wearing 5,000 year old pants or using nail-cutters from so long ago, then why are we bothering with what those people thought or wrote?” After this hatchet job on Aristotle & Co’s longstanding reputation, Mr Chaudhry laid it into Darwin ...

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