Stories published in December, 2011

Why cry foul?

We, the Pakistanis are a strange bunch. Any ill that befouls any Muslim, or so called Muslim anywhere in the world, suddenly becomes a national cause. The most recent in the sporting world is from the boxing arena, where Britain’s Amir Khan fought Lamont Peterson of the US for the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association light-welterweight world titles. Amir Khan lost and Lamont won, so why such a big fuss here in Pakistan? Why is there so much media hype about racism? Why are Amir’s fans stating that ‘rightful victory’ was ...

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Humsafar: Here’s what the noise is about

The Pakistani TV series “Humsafar” has gathered tremendous popularity since its launch on September 24 this year. At least five pages are dedicated to it on Facebook, with a cumulative number of fans exceeding 100,000. Every status update, video clip, or image shared on these pages gets thousands of likes within hours and they are shared over and over again. Not only this, but “Humsafar” can be seen trending on Twitter very often too. Some enjoyable Tweets I have come across that capture the mass appeal of the show are: Hafsa_Khawaja That awkward moment when you meet Asher from “Humsafar” and your mother is even more ...

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Botox, surgical revamping and the elixir of youth

Sequined, satined, bejeweled, and heavily perfumed, a female form came hurtling in my direction. “Oh Mariam, what a surprise! Where have you been all these years? Good to see you!” It was a classmate from medical college who had been in the United States for many years. She had recently relocated  so that her children could be eased into Pakistani culture and make the transition from west to east. “You look great. What have you done? ” I asked enthusiastically. “Nothing major really, just surgery around the eyes, collagen fillers around the mouth, and laser resurfacing on the skin. You know it’s a constant ...

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Islamabad diary: Making sense of Zardari’s sojourn

When the coup comes, will it be a silent one or will it, like most coups do, make lots of noise? Is President Asif Ali Zardari in Dubai for genuine medical reasons or is he seeking a safe haven? Is it the army that is gunning for him or is it the Supreme Court, or perhaps a combination of the two? Such idle gossip seems to accompany nearly every elected government in Pakistan but this time there is a difference. Usually the rumours are spread by the military and their cheerleaders in the media. Now, however, most of the coup ...

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The fast and the furious donkeys

“My donkey is better than any horse,” exclaimed Ghulam Mohammad, also known as Jami, after he crossed the finish line on his donkey cart. Jami earns his living transporting goods in Karachi. The donkey-cart racing is not just a way of entertainment for him, letting loose after a week of hard-earned labour. It’s also a means of easy money — a win earning him anything from Rs 3,000 to Rs 40,000. Living by his four rules to success after participating in over 60 races, the 28-year-old – with a special bond with his donkey – loves the last race the most. “A ...

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Nuclear Iran is not in Pakistan’s interest

Since the International Atomic Energy Agency issued its latest findings on Iran’s nuclear program and activities, policy-makers in the West and the United States in particular are weighing their options on how to respond to Iran’s continued defiance of its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations. The Islamic Republic’s nuclear program has possible military dimensions and its stated “peacefulness” lacks credibility. Alarm bells in Israel have been ringing for a long time and a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites seems imminent. Not much is being discussed in Pakistan about the implications of a nuclear Iran, precisely due to Pakistan being consumed by its ...

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An entrepreneur in the making at Sunday bazaar

For as long as I can remember I have been a regular visitor at Sunday bazaar. I love to see the interesting mix of people, some haggling, some in awe of the vast variety of goods on offer, some merely strolling through.This Sunday was no different. I woke up bright and early and decided to hit the bazaar. I think I was a little too eager – stalls were being set up when I arrived. “No problem,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just observe as they set up.” As I was walking though the aisles, I saw a merry young boy, no older than ...

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Journalist, writer and carpenter

Most of us tend to believe, for good reason, that journalism is inimical to creative writing. Exceptions apart, the Urdu writers who have ventured into journalism have not returned to the world of literature. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the South American writer, however, believes otherwise. He learnt, he says, from his own experience that literature and journalism are conjoined and nurture each other. An Urdu translation of the interview has been published in Kahani Ghar, a new literary magazine. Marquez, it seems, resents the use of tape recorders by interviewers, a standard practice these days. “I have a very good one”, he ...

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Bonded to brick kilns: A song for revolution

“That was the darkest decade of our time. Women were considered half-the-man. Workers were as suppressed as slaves. Artists and poets were not allowed to create. Killing in the name of Islam began in that era. And those who resisted either had to face lashes or ended up in the Kafkaesque prison cells of the Lahore fort. Thus, everyone was oppressed except the religious clerics and those who surrendered to the worst military dictator. That was the 80s, but things haven’t really changed yet…”  (Mussarat Aziz) These are the words my mother wrote on a birthday card she gave me ...

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‘No Baba, not her 18th birthday party, her wedding’

“Baba, I need to go to Mehek’s* mehndi tonight.” “Mehek’s sister?” “No, Mehek’s. As in, Mehek in my class.” My father lowers his newspaper, eyebrows raised. “Mehek in your class is getting married?” Yes, Mehek in my class is getting married. And I am cordially invited. Who gets married at 18? Apparently, a sizable chunk. I can easily produce a list of girls who have gotten married, will get married this year, or will be getting married in the next year or two. The list of girls whose possibility of getting engaged in the next year or two is exponentially higher. And this phenomenon is not ...

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