Stories published in September, 2011

Friends, presidents, captains

The pulse of popular opinion can be gauged at the city’s cafes and teahouses; whether it’s the ‘absconding’ president or the swelling ranks of Kaptaan’s party. Now that most, save the absolute haters, have reconciled with the fact that the president is here to live, the question debated is where he will live. He’s not coming back, says the self-assured one. His days are counted; the khakis have had it, he adds, with a sense of smugness inversely proportional to his political insight. Maybe he’s just really ill and that’s about it, I hurl, as a conspiracy spoiler. Bah, I’m dismissed. ...

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The city of prose

Madiha Sattar, a writer based in Karachi, in her recent comment on the Karachi violence complained about ‘the mythology of the city’s not-so-distant golden past’ that is evoked whenever the times are dark and roads bloody:  Those of us not old enough to have worn hipster saris to nightclubs here in the 60s and 70s, are frequently subjected to misty-eyed reminiscing about a city that was once apparently safe, cosmopolitan and liberal, a magical place where one could drive around late without racing home to avoid a hold-up and people were far too polite and open-minded to be too fussed ...

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Limping towards polio eradication

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nigeria as the four ‘polio endemic’ countries of the world. It’s distressing to learn that according to WHO surveys, nearly 80% of all polio cases reported from these states come from Pakistan, with 144 confirmed cases in 2010 and 57 reported during the first half of this year. This trend, despite consistent efforts to combat the disease through mass immunisation campaigns across urban and rural localities, poses many questions. Health and social sector experts reiterate several obvious reasons for Pakistan’s inability to control polio like other countries, despite massive global ...

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Suo motu this, your Lordship

In a recent news piece on television, told in a voice-over that makes me wonder if the narrator was secretly snickering at the story, it was reported that the Chief Justice of Pakistan couldn’t make it to the Supreme Court on time because his car was stuck in the flooded streets of Karachi. As I go through The Express Tribune’s slideshow of ordinary citizens wafting, wading, waddling through the waist-deep waters, the news piece on CJP getting late disturbs me. I wish one of these pictures could speak to His Lordship if this is what it takes for the DCO ...

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My mother survived dengue

I remember dengue fever, which is now spreading like an epidemic, was completely unknown in our part of the world a couple of years ago.  For the past two months we kept hearing about the increasing number of dengue cases in the Punjab province but we never really paid heed to the warnings. I didn’t bother about specific preventive measures since I was never a really a Mospel person in any case. I will never ignore such warnings again in my life as my mother suffered from dengue this Ramazan. My mother had a fever that came and went, when we had ...

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Love mein ghum: Lollywood in a shiny, new package

A swirl of flashy colours and deafening screeching music, combined with gory action stunts, have defined Pakistan’s Lollywood cinema in the recent past. Weapon-wielding thugs and skimpily clad stout heroines have provided the dwindling cinema goers with a staple diet of grotesque violence and crude erotica. The phrase ‘revival of Pakistani cinema’ which springs up time and time again with a new release, seems to have been overused to the hilt Charged with the spirit of keeping the sinking ship of Lollywood afloat, the golden girl of Pakistani cinema, Miss Reema Khan, stepped into the director’s shoes coming up with ...

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‘Holy’ castration…what’s next?

A recently published story in The Express Tribune titled ‘Pir processing: toddler castrated to free him for temptation,’ September 12, poses stark questions with regards to how sexual violence is rapidly increasing in Pakistan and how the public and authorities are choosing to deal with it. The story itself involved a pir in Gujranwala who castrated a two-year-old boy in order to ‘make him a malang’. The child’s mother was complicit in the act and told reporters that she had promised her son to pir Haider Ali, who she insisted had ‘helped her conceive’ after eight of her children died. ...

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Video blog: What I saw in Badin

Two hundred people have fallen prey to the devastation that hit Badin and other areas in Sindh by more than 1,000 millimeters of rain in the last month. This is the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Sindh. Compare this to the 70 odd millimeters of rain that has fallen in Karachi over the past few days and one begins to realize the magnitude of the catastrophe Sindh is facing. I was in Badin earlier this week with a group of volunteers called SA Relief. I witnessed, first hand, what exactly was going on. From our entrance into the Golarchi area ...

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Sorry honey, mama’s too busy for you

The recent murder of Riphah University’s vice principal in Rawalpindi received a flood of comments on The Express Tribune’s website, some opinionated, some sympathetic, some bewildered, and some ridiculous. The most befuddling though, was a string of sentiments in favour of this embarrassment for the human race; ‘oh he must’ve given him bad marks’, ‘oh, the teacher was mean’, ‘oh the fees were high’. Incidentally, the ludicrously incorrigible command over the academic lingua franca of the country, displayed by the aforementioned empathisers, is, in a word, not good. Sorry, I know that’s two words but I don’t want to scare readers off with more ...

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Can secularism help Pakistan?

The vox populi says “no”, and I understand that most readers would hold fast to this sentiment with earnest sagacity regardless of what I write here. But recognizing that this debate has been re-invoked by a popular article “Secularism does not equal tolerance”  about secularism not being a necessary prerequisite to religious tolerance, I beg to state my own case. Firstly, I must stress (as many secularists do) that secularism is not an anti-religious system. It merely stipulates that the state affairs must not be influenced by religion, in acknowledgement of the fact that a nation is a collection of citizens with ...

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