Stories published in October, 2019

Why do we exoticise the Kalasha yet continue to ignore their woes?

The mountainous communities of Pakistan who inhabit the valleys of Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalaya are on the margins, ignored and side-lined; dependent on external centres of power for knowledge that define and decide their identities, policies and power dynamics. The people of Pakistan largely don’t know much about these communities, their languages, cultures and history. This was glaringly evident during the media coverage coming out of the valley during the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to one of the Kalasha valleys in the Kalashadesh in Chitral. Some reporters associated with certain famous media houses even thought that ...

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Zahid Mayo: Breaking the canvas

When Zahid Mayo was studying at one of the most notable art colleges in the country, the National College of Arts (NCA) Lahore, he was a square peg in a round hole. Mayo had dreamed of studying there since he was a teenager and finally managed to gain admission in 2008. But, having come from a small village near Gujranwala, he felt alienated in his new surroundings. His fellow students with their impeccable English and urban ways made him feel like he will always be an outsider. But then again, Mayo was not one to take such things sitting down, and ...

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Why was Steven Butler denied entry into Pakistan?

When it comes to press freedom, Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries for dissenting journalists. It can be argued that since the era of General Ayub Khan, the press in Pakistan has remained hostage to the one-sided propaganda of the state. However, since Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is a democratic party and came to power through the ballot, it was expected that the media would be allowed to practice objective journalism and that freedom of expression would not be curbed. Contrary to expectations, the PTI regime has proven to be worse than previous dictatorships, essentially imposing an invisible ban on the ...

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Will the victims of the Balochistan University scandal get justice?

A month ago, the Balochistan High Court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to look into the sexual harassment reports which had emerged from Balochistan University. According to FIA findings, both female and male students “were being blackmailed by some staff members through ‘objectionable’ videos of them, recorded through CCTV cameras hidden at various places on the campus including its washrooms.” These reports are bound to have repercussions not just for the educational institution under question but also on women’s education in Pakistan as a whole. Whether or not those responsible for blackmailing, harassment and an evident breach of privacy will be ...

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What can Pakistan learn from this year’s Economics Nobel Prize winners?

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Michael Kremer of Harvard University won this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics. Congratulations to all three Nobel laureates. In their ground-breaking research, the three transformed the way developmental issues are studied, showing what works and what doesn’t. Their adoption of the experimental approach and particularly the use of random control trials, used mostly by biologists, in developmental economics is considered ground-breaking. Experiments open the door to understanding and knowledge, and rather than assuming what would work or wouldn’t, their approach looked at experimental data to come to a ...

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The mystery behind Sir James Abbott’s bizarre tribute to Abbottabad

If you were to take a stroll through Lady Garden Park in Abbottabad, you would eventually come across a marble plaque on which a rather infamous poem has been inscribed. Simply titled Abbottabad, the reason the poem has garnered a certain degree of notoriety is more to do with the man who penned the poem rather than the poetic styling of the piece itself. This poetic tribute to Abbottabad was written by the very man whose name the city and district still share – Sir James Abbott. It interesting to note that unlike certain other cities in Pakistan which were named after ...

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Can Imran Khan help ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Acting upon a request from the United States to calm ongoing regional tensions, Imran Khan’s mission to engage in shuttle diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and Iran has presented a respectable image of neutrality, but this image alone is unlikely to facilitate peace. One would be forgiven for conflating Imran Khan’s impressive international image with productive foreign policy. A maiden visit to the United States this year, last month’s emotional United Nations General Assembly speech on Kashmir, and meetings with two of the world’s most bitter rivals – broken up only by a brief stop in Islamabad to welcome two ...

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The Maulana and his army

If Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman goes ahead with the plan he has announced, hordes of khaki-clad men wielding sticks will descend upon the federal capital. No matter how many times Rehman insists that these men will remain peaceful, the striped sticks they will be brandishing are by no means for playing dandiya (a folk dance performed with sticks) with the law enforcement personnel deployed to deal with them. Rehman recently flexed his muscles in Peshawar, staging a gathering of this militia called Ansarul Islam and then letting them loose on the streets of the city, giving the ...

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Is the Ruet-e-Hilal committee obsolete?

For years now, the image of a cluster of bearded men hovering over a telescope has become a staple sight in Pakistan. The head of this entourage, Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman, has long wielded great influence over the members of this committee. However, in recent times, the concept of the moon sighting has evolved into an almost comical political issue, where individuals continue to exchange barbs in an attempt to gain control of their increasingly eroding clout and status. It is almost as if the functioning of the Ruet-e-Hilal committee has now morphed into a battle of egos between over-aged, obsolete clerics, vying to secure ...

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Why does Pakistan’s ‘reformed’ domestic cricket structure still sideline talent?

In an attempt to re-brand itself, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has overhauled its domestic structure, hopeful that a restructuring of the local cricketing system will help produce more talented players for the national side. However, if one were to dig past the surface, it becomes evident that these reforms are nothing more than cosmetic changes since we continue to see the same injustices when it comes down to the squad selection. The squads for the six teams which will be competing in the National T20 Cup 2019 only reflect the backward thinking, still reliant on older ‘established’ players instead of ...

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