Stories published in February, 2012

Judicial activism and democracy

Recently in the backdrop of the ‘memogate’ controversy, the honourable apex court hearing a petition regarding the possible removal of the ISI chief and the army chief sought “assurances” from the government that the two would not be removed. Some would think that this is an example of one pillar of state, the judiciary, overstepping its boundaries and encroaching on the mandate of the executive. In Yale Law Professor Owen M Fiss’s essay The Right Degree of Independence, which deals with the idea of political insularity for the judiciary, an independent judiciary acts as a “countervailing force within a larger ...

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The Islamic university where girls were raped

Today a news article in Dawn revealed the shocking case of female students and staff members forced to offer sexual favours in return for grades and demands of their immediate superiors. I do not believe that this news is “shocking” because such cases are a rarity. In fact I believe that such cases probably proliferate throughout educational institutions, or indeed in any institution where men are in a position to extract sexual favours. This case is shocking because of the International Islamic University Islamabad’s indifference to these cases and its efforts to cover it up. Further, they have tried to justify ...

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A day in the life of Nasreen kaamvaali

Get-togethers at our place had increasingly become as monotonous John Grisham’s novels – the same faces, the same stories. That was before a fecund family brought along its 12-year-old maid who doubled as a nanny. Nasreen had a clean face, shampooed hair and possibly her best dress on, but bent by the weight of a chubby baby, she seemed like a blot on the landscape. She couldn’t be part of light-hearted flirtation, political discussions or trade cooking recipes, so she just sat in the corner and smiled. For a pubescent girl stuck with a two-year-old who, when not eating or sleeping, could ...

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So what’s wrong with being connected?

Look at the picture above. It was taken at an event attended by the most connected people in Pakistan, sitting row upon row, young and old alike. Something tremendous may be happening on stage, but all of them are staring into devices that are gobbling up their lives. When I was growing up, the biggest sci-fi thing out there to marvel at was the ‘tricorder’, which existed in the fantasy world of Star Trek. According to Wikipedia, a tricorder is a multifunction handheld device used for sensor scanning, data analysis, and recording data. A tricorder from Star Trek was about as capable as the ...

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Keep Mohsin Khan as coach

The basic ingredients required from an ideal cricket coach are: mentoring the team, maintaining discipline, building for the future and forging a good relationship with the captain besides. Unfortunately, the wish-list of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) seems to be different. The coach should be ‘qualified’ and must be from outside Pakistan. The board appears to have almost finalised a deal with former Australia cricketer Dav Whatmore to fill the vacancy of permanent coach of the Pakistan team. Whatmore, undoubtedly, has solid credentials but like many other well-wishers of the country’s cricket, I think the former Sri Lanka and Bangladesh coach ...

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You deserve 20 marks if you’re a Hafiz-e-Quran

I recently read a news story where I learnt about an incident of discrimination against a Pakistani Christian student named Haroon. Haroon couldn’t get into medical school because he was refused the 20 extra marks that Hafiz-e-Quran students are given on the exam. According to him, the practice was unjust since his Bible knowledge was just as good. I sympathise with Haroon; I am all for giving him the opportunity to study at a medical college, but not at the cost of demoralising people who memorise the Holy Quran and earn those 20 marks. Let me explain why. Twenty marks hardly make a two percent difference in ...

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A second chance for Amir

For a long time, I was so gutted by what Mohammad Amir did that I felt his crime was unforgivable. He had been with the team for a year; a year of travelling, a lot of learning and a lot of guidance. But I guess the guidance came from all the wrong quarters; Salman Butt was his best friend on the Pakistan cricket team, as he once claimed during the World T20 in the West Indies. And that friendship cost him. Did anyone expect a street-smart character like Amir to be so gullible? Was he so innocent that he just got sucked ...

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Say Gracias if you love Spanish food

Cafe Gracias, a gorgeous new restaurant serving Mexican and Spanish cuisine, is a warm and welcome addition to Karachi’s fine dining scene.  The eatery is run by sisters Sidrah and Hifza, whose love for cooking and Spanish culture resulted in this restaurant. Hifza, quit her job as a software engineer in the corporate world after three years to follow her dreams of opening a restaurant and now runs the place full-time. One of the things I instantly loved about this place was the refreshing decor and ambiance; a brightly colored and decorated space with beautiful wall murals and hanging square lamps. Each lamp shade bore a screen print on each side, which ...

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Danke Deutschland, for the love

Stereotypes have always existed; while modern pluralistic societies do condemn them, certain events leave marks that often lead to prejudice and bigotry. There was a time that Jews  were associated with ‘Bolshevik’. Today, the word ‘Muslim’ is unfortunately associated with ‘terrorist’. So before I left for Germany on a study trip, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and arranged by the German Academic Exchange Services (Daad), I had a preconceived idea about the country.  While my perceptions about Germans were varied and complex, during my two week journey from Munich to Berlin, with the breathtaking scenery of Heidelberg and the Cologne ...

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Have you been exorcised by Baba Welfare?

What is being witnessed in the video above? Is it an exorcism, or is it a terrifying, arcane ritual devoid of any notion of modern medicine (leave alone human and social cost)? Imagine yourself to be the girl being exorcised. What would you feel? Terror? Helplessness? Would you play along just to appease your family who has put you in this position and this big bearded man calling you a devil? Would you fight back, and to what end, given that your struggle will be called further proof of the presence of a jinn? Now try to imagine that you are actually ...

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