Stories published in November, 2011

All that is good (and bad) in Memogate

1. Whoever wrote the memo was speaking for the supremacy of the civilian, democratic setup with acknowledgement of the ground realities of a country easily swayed, even toppled off-course by the military. Kudos. Caveat: The sentiment to preserve civilian rule may have stemmed from self-preservation rather than democratic principles – but either way it is worth applauding. 2. The fact that Osama bin Laden was found on our soil, living a stone’s throw away from the Army encampment really called for an accountable and independent inquiry along with the exposure and termination of service of those possibly involved in the whole ...

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The not-so-desperate housewives

Steve Jobs is dead. There was a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, will be released against the freedom of over a thousand Palestinians. There are a huge bunch of protesters that have occupied Wall Street. The Yemeni president is back. 28 people are dead in Baghdad. Thismakes the total Iraq body count well over ten thousand in less than ten years. And somewhere in Pennsylvania, a paralyzed man high-fived just using his thoughts. None of these possibly world-changing events matter to the average Pakistani housewife. Call it what you may, but most ...

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Selling uranium: Australia’s hypocrisy

The politics of nuclear proliferation is due to take centre-stage with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard lobbying to overturn a ban on the sale of uranium to India. And in this case, India has been put in a “class of its own” by the Australian prime minister, who added that the policy shift would apply only to India and not open up potential sales to Israel or Pakistan. So what is the basis for this hypocrisy? India, like Pakistan, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, fortunately or unfortunately for Islamabad, New Delhi has increasingly become Washington’s economic and ...

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Yes we Khan, but should we?

Pakistan is not immune to the insurrectionary air of the Arab Spring or the international “Occupy” movements. There is a genuine appetite for change, and Imran Khan is adeptly channelling it. Buoyed by these sentiments, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf jalsa (rally) in Lahore on October 30 was undoubtedly a huge success. Imran Khan is the harbinger of the Pakistani Spring. Change is coming. Yes we Khan.  Clinging to this simplistic hope, throngs of urban, middle-class, and typically election shunning Pakistani youth have gravitated towards the PTI. Politicization of this section of society is, of course, a welcome development. The highly conservative, Islamist ...

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PTA bans, and words we cannot say

Dearly beloved and graciously naïve, The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has allegedly compiled a list of words that the directors have deemed obscene and want to ban for text messages. As laughable as this may seem, this list, if real, is a clear example of the extremist mentality that some of the office-bearers in Pakistan have. Sifting through these banned words, I discovered that even the word “Jesus Christ” might be forbidden, along with many other words of everyday usage. Why on earth has Jesus’s name been banned? Is it some kind of an abusive word? As much as rightists and McBurqas may like it, ...

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What is Shah Mahmood Qureshi doing?

Like many observing the political musical chairs before the elections, I too was curious about Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s cryptic political decision. Why did he leave us guessing by not disclosing his future plans the day he announced that he was leaving the Pakistan Peoples Party? Perhaps, he wants to remain inthe limelight by encouraging speculations till November 27 at the Ghotki rally. He might, on the other hand, be attempting a win-win situation as both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are preparing to welcome him in their parties. God knows better. After a 20 minute conversation ...

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I walk the line

If you are standing, have ever stood, or in the future plan to stand in a line in a government office – read on. But, first, let us establish who you really are. You are someone waiting in a line, of people with strikingly diverse dialects and personas, to get your driver’s license or ID card. You belong to the educated, upper-middle class of the country. You ardently hope to see this country ‘change’. This is why, when your father or uncle offered to place a few calls to save you the trouble of waiting in line,  you chose to abide by ...

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Liberty must trump security

How safe is safe enough? As terrorist attacks have hit nearly every major city in the country over the last four years, this is a question that almost nobody has asked. We now accept random police checkpoints, and intrusive security measures at places that were once significantly more open. A small price to pay for security, some might argue, but I only have one question: for how long? Exactly when will it be safe enough to take them all down? When there are zero bomb attacks in the country? We have had several months of those. A whole year, maybe? What ...

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Afridi is our good luck charm!

Shahid Khan Afridi, the captain, who went into temporary retirement sometime ago after a fallout with the board and the coach, has had an immediate impact on team performance. In the first ODI he played after coming back, he was named Man of the Match for his brilliant bowling and in the second ODI against Sri Lanka he might have led Pakistan to victory with the bat had he not been run out. Each shot he played leaving the field were good cricketing shots suited to the limited overs game. But alas, luck didn’t favour the brave in this instance. The direct hit by the Sri Lankan ...

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One more step towards legal rights for women

Women Parliamentarians have proved that when it comes to higher priorities, politicians can go above party divides. The bill on anti women practices passed by the National Assembly, which prohibits forced marriage, marriage with Quran, restricting women to get their rightful share in inheritance and giving women in exchange for conflict resolution, is a proof of that. Donya Aziz and Attiya Inayatulla have been working hard on this bill and have been mobilizing support from all parties. Though the bill is signed by eight Parliamentarians of PML (Q) including Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, it is women Parliamentarians that have gone through the ...

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