Stories published in October, 2019

Should Karachi fear the sea?

On November 28th 1945, a deadly earthquake occurred 100 miles South of Karachi in the Northern Arabian Sea, triggering a Tsunami which resulted in the loss of over 4000 lives. Since then, no tsunami has occurred off the coast of Karachi, but the location of the city does make it susceptible to a host of climatic disasters, because Karachi could very well be in the path of a storm in the near future. Over the past few days a series of cyclones in the Arabian Sea have been presenting a clear and present danger. A cyclone named ‘Kyaar’ damaged several coastal villages earlier in ...

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Has contemporary Urdu poetry lost its essence?

In Urdu literature, traditionally two concepts have remained dominant with regards to where creativity emanates from. The first is amad (spontaneity) and second is awrad (contrived). For a long time, the majority of Urdu writers, and the socio-cultural ethos in general, tilted more towards the amad theory, with Mirza Ghalib writing, “Aate hain ghaib se ye mazaameen khayaal mein Ghalib  sareer-e-Khaama nawaa-e-sarosh hai…” (The subjects (for my poetry) come to me from divine hidden sources, The scratching sound my pen makes resonates like the sound of angels) There were several writers who grappled with these ideas in Urdu literature, however they were not formally conceptualised until Muhammad Hussain Azad, ...

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How Nawaz Sharif’s illness has changed Pakistan’s political chessboard

As per expectations, the Islamabad High Court suspended the imprisonment of Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference case for eight weeks. The high court cited his deteriorating health condition as the reason for doing so. Since being hospitalised last week, Nawaz has been battling ill health while the current government and its backers are praying for his early recovery. This is perhaps a situation where even the worst of Nawaz’s visible and invisible opponents want him to recover from his illness as soon as possible. As a result, Nawaz’s critical illness has actually changed the dynamics of the power chessboard, and the government of Pakistan ...

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What does Pakistan’s improved ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking mean?

The World Bank’s latest rankings of 190 countries on the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) is out.  Pakistan did well, considering it moved up 28 rungs on the rankings ladder, from 136th place to 108th.  In this latest round, Pakistan is one of 10 countries (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria) that have improved the most across at least three of the 10 factors that go into constructing the EDB rankings. The annual report received wide publicity on its arrival because the rankings matter. They reflect how conducive the regulatory environment is for opening ...

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The Karachi Biennale: Is art a bigger threat than extra judicial killings?

What transpired at the Karachi Biennale 2019 (KB19) soon after its inauguration is simultaneously disquieting as well as deeply insightful. It presents an opportunity for us to reflect on the systemic and endemic intolerance for dissent that exists in our social, administrative, and political structures. We live in times where art and speech are not only censured by official channels but even society at large often turns a blind eye to the callous condemnation of free expression by the powers that be. Anything that makes them uncomfortable is considered taboo and everything that questions the status quo is considered a ...

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What does it mean to be Pakistani?

The concept of national identity has been long debated in Pakistani drawing rooms and in the media. The question as to whether or not we as a nation can claim to represent a monolithic or homogeneous group has been one which largely remains unanswered, yet continues to be just as important today as it was when this nation came into existence. Earlier this year, a friend of mine went on a mission to ascertain how us Pakistanis described ourselves in nationalistic terms. There was a background to this activity; his brother had relocated to the United States (US) several years earlier and despite ...

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Is a peace deal in Afghanistan possible?

After a month-long thaw starting from last September, the Afghan peace process has now started to gain some momentum. United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul yesterday to discuss the future of peace talks with the Taliban. On Friday, Moscow hosted Khalilzad, along with Chinese and Pakistani representatives, to find a way for the resumption of the negotiations with the Taliban. Last week, Khalilzad and European Union envoy Roland Kobia, issued a comprehensive communique acknowledging that “sustainable peace can only be achieved through a negotiated political settlement.” However, these intra-Afghan negotiations between the ...

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What psychological impact is sexual harassment having on Pakistan’s students?

In light of the recent case of harassment that has emerged at the University of  Balochistan, it is vital that we do not shy away from discussing the psychological impact such incidents have on students. As someone who has previously been associated with the academia, it is worrying to see the apathy with which such occurrences are treated and how often teachers accused of harassment are simply not held responsible for their actions. This lack of accountability was the very reason why I left a teaching position about half a decade ago. During my time as an instructor, an entire classroom of students ...

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Is Durj worth the controversy?

Pakistani cinema is slowly (read at a snail’s pace) evolving to encompass a wider range of issues rather than just plots centred around the typical boy meets girl and disaster ensues. Durj is one such offshoot movie that tackles the sensitive, almost taboo, subject of cannibalism. This dark theme, however, is not the reason why Durj has been in the spotlight of late. Controversy has surrounded the Shamoon Abbasi starring mystery thriller even before its release, with only two out of three censor boards of the country clearing the movie initially. But as they say, no publicity is bad publicity ...

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Why are we silent about the sexual abuse at madrassas?

Of late, many individuals in Pakistan have finally begun to confront the long festering issue of sexual harassment, with several brave victims choosing to speak out about such issues despite the repercussions that often follow such admissions. Harassment and abuse, whether at the workplace, at a university or at ones own home desperately need to be tackled, yet, we as a nation are still largely reticent to openly acknowledge and discuss these matters. This is made all the more problematic when religion is thrown into the mix. For years, it has been silently acknowledged that many madrassas (religious seminaries) in ...

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