Stories published in March, 2012

My trip to Guantanamo Bay

A few nights ago, I had a dream where I had ended up in Guantanamo Bay again to cover a military commission hearing sans any luggage. It may sound like the stuff nightmares are made of, but in reality, going to Guantanamo Bay to cover military commission hearings of detainees has been a fascinating, if not surreal experience. From the moment the airhostess on the chartered flight announces, “Welcome to Guantanamo Bay”, to the realisation that you are on a tiny strip of land that has borne witness to some of the worst human rights abuses to have occurred on US ...

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Use or abuse: How far will social media activism go?

On 26 February 2012, an unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest by George Zimmerman. Minutes before the shooting Zimmerman called 911 and allegedly said – as has been proved by the release of dispatch tapes – that Trayvon “looked suspicious.” He claimed self defense and no charges were filed, however when police arrived on the scene all they found with Trayvon was a can of iced tea and a bag of candy. This incident did not explode on  mainstream American media for a while. But the uproar was loud and clear on social media platforms. It became big on Twitter, Facebook ...

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Pakistan’s Asia Cup victory: Silencing the naysayers

You’re sitting at the office  swamped with work and don’t want to do it – it’s the usual mood before a long weekend. Add to it the opportunity to watch Pakistan battle it out with Bangladesh for the crown of the Asian championship, and you have people just willing the clock to strike five. It was in this mood that we sat in the lunch area streaming the match live at around 1.30 PM on Thursday. During that passage of play, Pakistan lost two cheap wickets. Some declared that we were going to lose this, some weren’t sure and some ...

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10 things I noticed on my first day at work

The first day of work can be full of excitement… before you get to the office. It’s like the first day of school; you can’t contain your excitement but when you enter the premises you are already dying to leave! I’ve listed the 10 things I noticed on my first day of work. Here goes: 1. The blank look on the HR guy’s face when you arrive at the office – the same guy who interviewed you and begged you to accept the package . No one knows where you are supposed to sit, how you’ll enter the building or if you’ll need a laptop to work ...

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Smiling through a bad day

I disembarked the airplane thinking of how discontent I was with the 35 hour journey. I was determined to write letters of complaint to the involved airline for their disorganized conduct. Now, I had a total of 12 hours of nothing to do. I felt vexed and disgusted.  I found a secluded bench, dropped my bag, and sat down to engage in what travelers typically do at airports – people-watching.  After looking around for several hours, I came across an elderly gentleman who would not stop smiling. It seemed that nothing could faze this man.  He entertained a couple to whom ...

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International aid and development are not synonymous

With the groundbreaking Oscar win of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and its appreciation in Western audiences, the implications of foreign funding for ‘development’ in Pakistan have been brought to the forefront. The documentary, ‘Saving Face’, highlights the oppression of women in Pakistan and is bound to attract ‘development projects’ which aim to facilitate women’s rights. The term ‘development’ is most commonly understood as a process of social, cultural and economic growth of a country or area perceived as ‘traditional’ rather than ‘modern’. With this premise two points come to mind. The first question raised is that should a society be injected with a ...

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Azan, shisha and convenient hypocrisy

There is a cafe near my university which is frequently visited by students. It has groovy music and plenty of shisha. From the very visible public display of affection to the “immodest” dressing of students – it is a conservative’s nightmare.  I am sure you can picture the place in your head by now. So one particular day while I was there with my friends, a waiter suddenly rushed towards the sound system and switched it off.  One of my friends joked that maybe the Taliban had finally heard of this place and attacked. However, that concern was rapidly waived as girls sitting ...

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Problems and progress: Reasons to celebrate Pakistan Day

Is Pakistan the most exciting place to live in the 21st century? On the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the Pakistan Resolution, the evidence appears to be stacked overwhelmingly in Pakistan’s favour. Consider this: the Pakistani people are frontline warriors in the greatest ideological battles of the 21st century. Whether it’s the war against religious extremism or the definitive showdown between democracy and entrenched dictatorship, the Pakistani people are playing an outsize role in shaping not just their own future, but also a new, post 9/11 world order. If you want front row seats to witness 21st century history in the making, Pakistan ...

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What our HEC can learn from India

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has made significant contributions since its inception in 2002, however the strategies used by the commission have room for improvement. Statistics clearly show that the quantitative results of the HEC are plausible, with drastically increased university enrollment and a huge army of PhDs in the making on scholarships. The quality of students on the other hand, does not seem too impressive. It is hard to challenge the fact that knowledge is not being produced in the country, and this raises a question: What exactly do we want to achieve with this enormous number of ...

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What is the worst thing about Pakistan’s media?

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) deserves a pat on the back for its bold move towards greater transparency in their online complaints section – they’ve given the public access to the complaint log. To be frank, a pat on the back for Pemra and a cold shiver down one’s spine is unfortunately the order of the day. Let us delve into this treasure trove of the Pakistani complainant’s mindset. First of all, the top 10 list of offenders: No Name Complaints 1 Samaa TV 450 2 Geo News 147 3 Geo Ent 95 4 Express News 32 5 AAG / Geo Aur 26 6 ARY Digital 21 7 HUM TV 13 8 Dawn News 11 9 Dunya TV News 11 10 AAJ News 8 That is a total of over 800 complaints; again, an ...

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