Stories published in February, 2012

Sights and sounds at the Karachi Literature Festival

Foreign correspondents like conjuring the “books, not bombs” angle to justify the expense of flying down to Karachi to hear a bunch of people talk about politics and their books (in that order). But at this year’s Karachi Literature Festival there were bombs everywhere. Pervez Hoodbhoy led a discussion on bombs of the nuclear kind, Ayesha Siddiqa lobbed a few verbal bombs in Anatol Lieven’s direction for not nursing sufficient hatred for the Pakistan Army while Mohammed Hanif even dropped the deadliest bomb of all: the F-bomb. I began my annual pilgrimage to the Karachi Literature Festival by making a mental ...

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Who cares about Pakistan’s Anna Hazare?

The success of the Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and the defeat of his Pakistani counterpart Jehangir Akhtar in their almost similar missions perhaps reflect the nature of politics and how it is perceived in both countries. The 75-year-old Indian shot to fame, thanks largely to the power of the Indian media, when he undertook a much hyped fast. That, more or less, brought the Indian government to its knees and made it agree to move a bill in parliament to establish the office of an ombudsman (Lokpal). However, in Pakistan, the story was quite different with the fasting Akhtar largely ...

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Sexual abuse: A victim’s diary

It didn’t take much time for me to spill my heart out. My secret had become too much to bear. I needed someone, anyone, to hear the anguish I had hidden for so many years. I sat on a chair facing the psychotherapist, my face tense, my hands trembling. As I revealed my deepest and darkest secret, I burst into tears. My story is not new to the therapist. Sexual harassment is common even among the rich. A perfectly made-up face and bright smile camouflage secrets that I had refused to face for a long time. Between heart-wrenching sobs, I started. I live ...

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The barber, the doctors and the striking workers

“Uncle” works at the barber shop I frequent. The aging Balakot native has seen his share of hardships since I’ve known him. In 2005 he, like thousands of others in Balakot, was left homeless in the aftermath of the earthquake. After returning to Islamabad, he worked tirelessly to save enough money to start afresh, not an easy task for someone contemplating retirement only weeks earlier. Almost six years later, with life just having returned to normalcy, Uncle suffered a heart attack that temporarily left him unable to work. Not something anyone working paycheck-to-paycheck can afford. Uncle returned to the workplace part-time ...

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To ban or not to ban …Shezan juice

A couple of weeks back, the Jamaatud Dawa held a well-attended rally in Rawalpindi to remove an Ahmadi religious centre from Satellite Town. Even though neighbours claimed to have no issues with its presence, the assault on this myopically-perceived menace seems far from over. Just take the little-reported effort to ban a local cell phone company due to its ‘questionable ownership’. Although proven to be non-Ahmadi owned, the company still raises suspicion because it starts with the same letter that a derogatory term for Ahmadis does. Apparently, a flaw in their phones’ Urdu dictionary which made it impossible to type the ...

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IPL: A story of continuing insults for Pakistan

This is not the first time that politics has intruded the Pakistan-India cricket scene. In fact, this is the fifth time that Pakistan has been snubbed by the Indian Premier League. As the diplomatic war between the rivals wages on, the Pakistani players are excluded. Unfortunately, the Pakistani authorities remain cooperative and apologetic; they don’t feel the insult, but instead keep going back for more rejection.  First IPL: Pakistani players knocked the tournament and Sohail Tanvir was the leading wicket taker. But when Shoaib Akhtar complained fabout not receiving the contracted amount, he became the bad boy. Second IPL: India accused Pakistan of involvement in ...

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Overtures from Washington

There are clear and unmistakable signs of a possible thaw emerging between Washington and Islamabad, with the head of the US Central Command expected to visit the Pakistani capital this month. Both sides are counting the threads of converging interests and a strategic rethink is taking shape on Pakistan’s possible role in US talks with the Taliban. The deadly Nato attack on a Pakistani border post on November 26 last year had virtually frozen the relationship at both political and military levels, leaving the US to embark on a solo journey in uncharted waters as Washington engaged the Taliban for the ...

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Veena Malik interview gone wrong

Veena Malik is back in the spot light for playing item girl “Channo” in a new Bollywood movie called “Gali Gali Chor Hai’. There have been mixed reactions to the video; some people hate it, some love it, but mostly people stare at it. Ali Zafar was wrong. “Channo kee aankh mein nasha” nahin hai… us ki choli mein LED hai. This sketch parody is what would ensue if Veena Malik actually started sporting the Bright Bra on a regular day. This and the Maya Khan show. I love this country. Only in Pakistan will you see ...

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A fantastic dive into the deep blue sea

A few weeks ago, my cousin asked me to accompany him on a scuba diving trip to Mubarak village, a place just outside Karachi. I was excited by the prospect and agreed in an instant, so he picked me up before sunrise. When we reached the village, we took a boat ride to Charna Island for the dive. We were accompanied by a team of professionals who briefed us before the dive. I was surprised to learn that one can enjoy the experience of scuba diving without knowing how to swim. After a few other important instructions regarding underwater communication signals, ...

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When Twitter gets it wrong

I spend an average of 14 hours online every day. During this time, I monitor stories on different news sites, wires stories, Twitter and various other sources. Being in the news business, you can gauge where the news is wrong and where factual inaccuracies are coming from, which (newsflash) happens often. From politicians to opinion makers to senior journalists, factual errors and incorrect news is nothing new but it isn’t only media folk who are to blame. The online community itself is also part of this phenomenon. While ordinary citizens are never short of spreading rumors or incorrect news online ...

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