Stories published in October, 2012

Infrastructural speed breakers in Punjab

Residents of Rawalpindi have continuously been facing traffic problems primarily due to deteriorating state of roads in urban areas. Massive traffic jams occur at peak hours on Benazir Bhutto Road, Mall Road and Saidpur Road. The government finds little sense in constructing flyovers on different intersections of Benazir Bhutto Road. This is in spite of the fact that the smooth flow of traffic at the main artery of the city is severely hampered. The long-term and feasible solution to traffic in the garrison city lies in adding new roads to the existing infrastructure rather than solely focusing on Benazir Bhutto Road. ...

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Increasing call rates to Pakistan is plain cruelty

The recent increase in the calling rates for incoming calls to Pakistan has come as a rude shock to many overseas Pakistanis for several reasons. Firstly because there was no prior announcement of this revision in rates and secondly because the rate of increase which ranges between 300% to 800% is beyond anybody’s comprehension. It is being reported that this big increase is a result of the PTA’s decision to implement the International Clearing House (ICH) and is claimed to reduce illegal calls to Pakistan. This government has now become notorious for its illogical and poorly advised decisions but this increase in ...

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Malala Yousufzai: My ‘small video star’ fights for her life

I had the privilege of following Malala Yousafzai, on and off, for six months in 2009, documenting some of the most critical days of her life for a two-part documentary. We filmed her final school day before the Taliban closed down her school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley; the summer when war displaced and separated her family; the day she pleaded with President Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, to intervene; and the uncertain afternoon she returned to discover the fate of her home, school and her two pet chickens. A year after my two-part documentary on her family ...

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Are warlords, pirates, famine and poverty a Somalia of the past?

After years of transitional and ineffective administrations, Somalia’s new federal government has rekindled hope especially for any Somalian from my generation. All we have seen is Somalia in a limbo since 1991, with the world waiting and watching how much worse it could get for us. In what is a historical event, Somalia’s new federal parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud an academic and activist, to become the country’s next president. The defeat of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed who was leading the transitional government, in what was a tight competition; Somalians see a sign of changing times. Mohamud’s election as Somalia’s president is ...

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English Vinglish: Definitely a must-watch!

Yeh bar bar usse judge-mental keh raha hai, laiken mujhe toh bilkul theek lag rai hai. Mental, mental kyu keh raha hai phir? (He keeps calling her judgemental, but I think she looks perfectly normal. Why does he keep calling her mental, mental then?) These are the bewildered words of Shahi – a simple woman from India played by Sridevi in her comeback film English Vinglish – as she tries to follow an English movie on TV.  Made you smile didn’t they? Such is the tone of the entire movie – innocence and simplicity – under which lurks the very meaningful theme of ...

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PTI’s Peace March: Give credit where it is due

Waziristan, a centre point for drone attacks by US-led NATO forces, is a place from where thousands of residents were misplaced internally and had to lodge their families to safer places of Pakistan. Waziristan, a place that is forgotten even by its own rulers. Recently, Imran Khan, Chairman Tehreek e Insaaf, led a ‘Peace March’ to South Waziristan along with the citizens of Pakistan, local media, his own party workers, and above all, foreign journalists and anti-war activists from the West.  This march started from Islamabad on Saturday October 6, 2012. The motorcade drove across Talagang, Chakwal, Kundian, Mianwali, Karak, Dera Ismail ...

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My fragile house of cards

My life was a house of cards, And I always had a foreboding feeling, That it would fall apart. Apart like broken window shards, Or like the pieces of a broken heart, And one day when I had least expected, The cards toppled and I could not help it. I struggled with it and with myself, And in it I found little pleasures. My queens now were further apart, They’d been my gossipers and backbiters, but now they were busy, in making the house. And my jacks were now more lumber-jacks, And not anymore vehement and unyielding fighters, Putting all their energy to gather logs, To assist was now one of their ...

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Why Barfi made me barfy

Last week I watched India’s foreign film Oscar contender, “Barfi”. This is the story of a young man who is deaf. He lives in Darjeeling and falls in love with a girl who he can’t have. He gives up on her and falls in love with another girl who he can have, but not without the requisite twists and turns, including a murder investigation, a kidnapping, poverty, and a lot of singing and dancing.  Oh yes; the young man is deaf, the first young woman is able to hear, and the second young woman is autistic. While the movie was beautifully shot, ...

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Our taunts at West Indies: Who is the most racist of them all?

Less than a couple of months ago, a colleague of mine, who is of African American descent, and a Muslim convert, mentioned to me an incident: “You know I was sitting in the mosque for the taraweeh and there was a South Asian woman sitting next to me. While talking on her cellphone, she made some reference which I’m sure was for me ─ ‘kaali’ (black). The funniest of all the things was that she herself was not a shade lighter than me.” Beneath a hearty laugh, I was terribly embarrassed. Almost as a rebound, I explained, “You may have been mistaken, but ...

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Is it time for UN intervention on the missing persons in Balochistan?

Recently, a UN Working Group concluded its 10 day visit to Pakistan. Amid controversy and criticism, the Group on Enforced Disappearances was tasked with mandate of investigating in “humanitarian spirit” the allegations of enforced disappearances or missing persons. As a result of the findings, criminal proceedings cannot be initiated against those found to be guilty; however, a survey of modern history reveals that humanitarian motivations are not apolitical in their intent. UN humanitarian missions have ranged from Somalia and the Balkans in the 1990s, to most recently in Afghanistan and Libya. In most of these cases, the UN invoked its right ...

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