Stories published in November, 2015

General Raheel Sharif in Washington: Déjà Vu all over again

As Raheel Sharif visits the United States, it’s worth taking stock of how little has changed in US-Pakistan relations. Imagine you’re the US ambassador to Pakistan, and you’ve been tasked to draft a cable to prepare American officials in Washington for the visit of General Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani army chief who has arrived in town for a five-day trip. So what would you say? First, you’d counsel some conciliatory comments: “We should recognise growing Pakistani casualties in the fight against militants … (and) reiterate the long-term US commitment to support Pakistan.” Soon thereafter, however, you’d urge your Washington counterparts to get down to business: “We need ...

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Today, Paris, we speak to you from Pakistan

The words terrorism and fundamentalism are popularly associated with Islam. Fear of Islam and the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments is no longer a topic of debate, but an overwhelming state of reality for many Muslims. The recent attacks in Paris have aggravated the sentiments of Islamophobia, which is a win-win situation for the groups carrying out these attacks. We were gutted by the brutal massacre that took place in Paris. First-hand accounts of the attacks are so chilling that it is impossible for us to sit back and not enter the conversation regarding terrorism and Islamophobia. Pakistan’s voice is crucial in ...

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Making sense of terror attacks anthropologically

On the evening of November 13, 2015, Paris suffered the worst terrorist attack in modern European history, killing over 120 people. The scale and sheer barbarity of the attacks is unprecedented. The French society is in trauma. The world is in shock. Paris, still reeling from the aftermath of the deadly Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year, will no longer be the same city. From holding vigils to changing Facebook display pictures in French flag colours, the attacks have prompted an exceptional display of solidarity with the victims by the global community. The western leaders have been quick in showing support for Paris, calling it ...

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The Paris attacks are an act of war – against Islam itself

The appalling attacks in Paris were, as Francois Hollande said, an ‘act of war’. They were Islamism’s declaration of war on free society – but, crucially, they represented something else. An act of war, by Islamists, upon Islam itself. As Douglas Murray says, it is lazy and wrong to argue that these attacks had nothing to do with Islam. The repugnant creed of the Islamic State (IS) is certainly related to Islam – but it is also inimical to Islam. The scenes in Paris will shock Muslims world over; indeed, when we Muslims hear of gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” before committing the very acts of murder explicitly prohibited by the Quran, ...

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Ashes, Wine and Dust: Unswerving, profound and painfully beautiful

“There are no plans, just people fooling themselves by attempting to design their fates and futures. It makes them feel invincible, even if it’s for a transient period of time.” Ashes, Wine and Dust is the debut novel of Kanza Javed, which was shortlisted for Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2013, making her the youngest and the only Pakistani writer nominated for the prize that year. Set in Lahore and Washington DC, Ashes, Wine and Dust is a journey of a young girl, Mariam, whose childhood experiences of loss of loved ones and memories associated with them make her feel everything a little more deeply. Thus, ...

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Facebook’s #PrayForParis filters and Hamza Abbasi’s selective humanity

The recent attack in Paris was a day that represented humanity’s darkest side. It shook France, it shook Europe and it shook the world. While there was an outbreak of grief and support for the victims, our very own Facebook enigma, Hamza Ali Abbasi, opened up his usual can of hate mongering with the following status update: No one denies that people have vested interests, and in matters of geo-politics, there will always be some form of selectivism. No one also denies that the selectivism in question needs to be highlighted. But is it necessary to take up an anti-western stance in times like these? Is ...

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My people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris

I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I’ve always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago. These have been two horrible nights. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut, the second took the lives of over 100 in Paris. It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris. ‘We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late ...

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Why Pakistan should recognise Israel

Sometimes it becomes inexorable and practical to change the paradigms, let the past stay in the past and forget about historical incidents in order to open doors that lead to peace, prosperity and harmony. History documents that Pakistan and Israel are never directly involved in hostility or disputes with each other. However, in showing solidarity with Arab countries and in support of Palestine, Pakistan has categorically refused to recognise Israel as an independent state since its inception. Our history books and widespread stereotypes have played a major role in filling our hearts and minds with hatred against Israel. Considering the cost-benefit analysis and without ...

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Misbahul Haq is Pakistan’s greatest asset in this age of slings and arrow

Two thousand and six. That’s when Pakistan were last ranked second in Test cricket. Back then, in the English summer, under the calm command of Bob Woolmer and Inzamamul Haq, Pakistan cricket was powered by skill and a degree of missionary zeal – blessed, you might say, by Bob and God. But the bank of blessings emptied soon after Pakistan got to England that year. Next, a forfeited Test, Woolmer’s death, terrorist attacks, and spot-fixing. An unprecedented four-year spell of curses. Four years with little blessing. By 2010, Pakistani cricket was more dead than alive. It would do well to exist. In 2015, Pakistan cricket ...

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Does Lahore really need its own Disneyland?

Lahore will have its own ‘Disneyland’ – a recent news item that does not carry significance as far as headlines are concerned, but does carry a ton of significance otherwise. As things stand currently, only a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Punjab government and the Chinese company. While a MoU has no legal value, it does point a finger towards Shahbaz Sharif’s priorities. Coming from an industrialist background, his focus towards capitalism is unquestionable. From investing in infrastructure to handing out laptops, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government is a big proponent of liberal economic policies, despite being a conservative party otherwise. But ...

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