Stories published in December, 2011

Ignoring CNG cylinders

When the first blast occurred on the GT Road killing nine people in July, it was just a freak accident. In less than six months, however, the once never-heard-of-before-freak-accident has become an all-too-common occurrence, with power players blaming each other and submitting petitions to the already-overworked courts. As this happens, many of the vans and buses being used in public transport even now are running time bombs since in many of them the high flammable gas methane often leaks. But some two months ago, when the leading cause of unnatural Pakistani deaths was not a case of exploding methane storage tanks, a less-reported ...

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What MI 4 taught me

In a weak moment, I decided to watch Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol. I got roped into watching this movie despite the fact that I am not a fan of MI3, and I haven’t even seen MI1 or 2. Yet, sometimes in life you just have to sit back and be grateful; I am grateful that I watched MI4 because it taught me a few invaluable lessons. Please find below a list of things I learned from this movie (in order of appearance), and note that a few of these might be spoilers. American agents can plant/overtake ...

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(Almost) swindled at the toll-booth

Most of us living in Lahore or Islamabad have travelled via the motorway M2 at least once. Starting at the Islamabad toll-plaza and going all the way to the Thokar Niaz Baig toll Plaza Lahore, the only stops you get to make are at gas stations-turned-restrooms-cum-dine ins. They charge twice as much for a packet of Lays or a bottle of water as the retail price. And even if you choose not to make a stop during this three to four hour spine-snapping journey, do not fool yourself into believing that you saved yourself from these rip offs. Read ...

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After Kim Jong-il

As the international community and regional stakeholders look to take advantage of the small window of opportunity to reform the ‘hermit kingdom’ following Kim Jong-il’s death, it seems premature to predict a “Pyongyang Spring” in the making. As a New York Times editor who visited the country a few years back put it, the regime under Kim Jong-il might be the most totalitarian in the history of mankind. Unlike Stalin, Kim Jong-il took advantage of emerging technologies to perpetuate the regime’s propaganda unlike no other while blocking its use for his citizens and keeping them isolated from the rest of the world. North ...

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Deconstructing the PTI troll

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is the talk of the town. Naysayers have several objections – some which are fair, some not quite. One particular complaint, however, is a unique piece of criticism leveled against the party: that of the PTI troll, someone we all know and despise. When criticising the PTI on public forums, especially Twitter, a commenter is often subjected to harsh language and offensive speech by ‘supporters’ of the party. Instead of presenting arguments against criticism, these trolls subject the critic to intense cyber abuse. While I agree that this behaviour is not in the party’s interests, criticising the ...

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The PIA problem

This article is not written with the intent of defending President Asif Ali Zardari or his party.It aims to illustrate how the hyper personalisation of politics and governance in Pakistan has created unachievable expectations for quick fixes, based on overly simplistic explanations of state failure. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is an illustration of perhaps the biggest disservice the president has done for his country; he allowed himself to become a lightning rod for every explanation of state failure. By explaining the poor performance of the state to the person who occupies the Presidency, we overlook the many structural, underlying and historical reasons that perpetuate state failure. The dominant ...

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There is more to you than the colour of your skin

This may come as a surprise to you, but even women who till fields care about their complexion.This insecurity has risen from the relentless advertisements that preach ‘fairness’ as the key to all happiness. According to the media, being dark is a disadvantage akin to being disabled; a disadvantage so severe, that it could result in you remaining unmarried for the rest of your life. Our media has brainwashed people into believing that they may have absolutely no chance of ever being happy or married if they are dark. A Pakistani woman may face a multitude of issues; she might have eight children, a gambler for ...

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Zulqarnain Haider: Cricketer, whistle-blower and hero

At the spot-fixing trial of Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt, and Mohammad Amir, the most startling piece of news came towards the end. According to various reports, the lion’s share of the spot fixing money, distributed by now disgraced sports agent, Mazhar Majeed, went to cricketer Mohmmad Asif. The question immediately begged itself, why did the majority of the money go to one cricketer? BBC’s Gordon Farquhar speculates in his blog: “He said £2,500 went to Amir, £10,000 to Butt, who was looking wretched in the dock at this point, and £65,000 to Asif. Asif? The man who said in his defence the no-ball was ...

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Not with that thing on, sister

So it turns out, I cannot enter a nightclub in Dubai. To those who haven’t ever visited the city, Dubai is a place where there are more nightclubs than mosques. Here, alcohol is a ready consolation for all and sundry. When I was visiting, I was forced to put a pillow over my head in a desperate attempt to drown out the noise from the clubs nearby. In Dubai, according to the Emirati who drove our Land Cruiser over sand dunes for the desert safari earlier in the day: “We Dubai people, we do this every day. We get tired of clubbing and partying, ...

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Banana cake with a Nutella twist

I love bananas and I love Nutella, and combining the two leads to sheer magic. While it is very difficult to imagine improving on Nutella, when you combine it with fresh cream, butter, and icing sugar, and then spread this frosting atop a moist cake chock full of bananas and walnuts, the blend of flavours is simply mouth-watering.  For UAE National Day on December 2, I was invited to a barbeque hosted by a friend. I knew I wanted to bake a cake for the occasion but couldn’t decide which kind until I opened the freezer to find a handful of frozen brown bananas ...

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