Stories published in December, 2019

How to empower small businesses in Pakistan

In my recent conversations with the Ministry of Commerce, it was apparent that the government wants to equip 50,000 micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) with an export capacity so that their products can be offered online. I tried to offer sincere recommendations to the government so that they can adopt a methodology to go about this in the most cost-effective and expedited manner. In my first article on the e-commerce policy framework, I highlighted the importance of marketing, payments and logistics which are essential components if the government wants MSMEs to have sustainable exports. In the discussion I had with the ...

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Why are Pakistani men so fearful of female sexuality?

It is worth reflecting upon how our society is at a complete loss when it comes to dealing with the so-called ‘scandalous side’ of the private lives of individuals, especially when the scandal involves women who enjoy a celebrity status, more so if the scandal implicates their agency over their sexuality. In the recent past, with growing frequency, we have seen several leaked videos go viral on social media. Every such instance leads to the public ruthlessly judging the morality of the women involved rather than calling out those responsible for this breach of privacy.  It is ironic that the same society ...

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Cyber warfare or ‘How to win a war without fighting’

Sun Tzu’s first rule in his famous treatise ‘The Art of War’ was to win, if possible, without fighting at all. Since his time, warfare has evolved through many generations – where first generation warfare saw brave generals and their forces fight face to face in pitched battles, second generation warfare ushered in the age of indirect fire and combat between adversaries who could not even see each other. The second generation morphed into the third generation as adversaries attempted to infiltrate each other’s lines to create havoc among their counterparts’ ranks, and it then gave way to fourth ...

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How Greta Thunberg galvanised the crowds at COP25

The arrival of the 16 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg at the IFEMA Conference Centre in Madrid, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2019 (COP25) is being held, suddenly electrified the otherwise uneventful climate moot. She was quickly mobbed by youth delegates and negotiators keen to take pictures of the inspiring young leader who has become a global celebrity in little over a year. In fact, she left shortly afterwards to return to the city centre to lead a massive climate march later that Friday evening. When I first heard Thunberg speak at COP24 in Katowice, Poland she was just ...

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PTI’s Achilles heel: The foreign funding case

The foreign funding case filed against PTI has had to circumvent several obstacles before it could be fixed for daily hearings. It overcame a number of applications and writ petitions by PTI that attempted to challenge the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the nature of proceedings in general. Ironically, it was Akbar S Babar, a founding member of the PTI, who had filed the case in the ECP back in 2014. He alleged that PTI had received funding from foreign nationals and overseas companies through numerous undeclared accounts. Allegations of embezzlement and money laundering also formed ...

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Why did students protest against a Muslim teaching Sanskrit in India?

India has quite a few institutes which teach Sanskrit, and often times interested people from different parts of the world attend classes to learn the ancient language. In the 19th century, German Max Mueller learnt Sanskrit and translated the ancient Vedic texts into English and other languages. He was a great scholar of Sanskrit at a time when the world was not exposed to India the way it is now. His translation of the Indian ancient texts helped ensure that the world had access to India’s philosophical and cultural treasures. This cultural exchange has been part of the civilisational history of South Asia, and the Indian ...

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Dining on ashes: Pakistan’s hazardous coal dependent future

This article is the second part in a series about climate change and Pakistan’s carbon footprint. Read the first part here. ~ Earlier this year in August, I came across a newspaper article that read: “The government confirmed on Sun­day successful commercial operations of a two billion dollar 1,320MW coal-fired power plant set up by the China Power Hub Generation Company (CPHGC) under the China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor (CPEC) project.” It is mind boggling to see such news at a time where the world is moving towards renewable energy. What makes it worse is that Lahore has been plagued by dangerous smog for the ...

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Remembering Josh Malihabadi: The poet of revolution

Today marks the 121st birthday of one of the finest Urdu poets of the 20th century, Josh Malihabadi. The year 2018-2019 is thus being marked as the 120th birthday of Josh. The last days of Josh were spent in an atmosphere reminiscent of the final years of the Chilean socialist poet Pablo Neruda; both passed away under their respective countries’ worst military dictatorships. The difference being that while no one was allowed to attend Neruda’s funeral, about a hundred-odd people did attend Josh’s funeral, led by the great socialist poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Josh has been christened as the ...

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The Dua Mangi case: A glimpse into our society’s rotten morals

Are my clothes speaking to you? Listen closely: Do they tell you where I’m from? What I like? What I desire? Do they say, yes? Does my tanned skin scream to be touched? Does the curve of my neck seem ever so welcoming? I’ve grown up surrounded by this very narrative. The Pakistani vernacular is etched with log kya kehengay – embedded with the notion that my body, if hidden, says no and if exposed, draws the male gaze towards me. But the problem with the male gaze is simply that it does not stop. Not for a fully clothed body, not ...

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Farogh Naseem: The indispensable law minister?

In a move which raised many eyebrows, Farogh Naseem resigned as the federal law minister last week so that he could appear before the Supreme Court in an attempt to ensure that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa received the three year extension which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) desperately want him to have. After the verdict, which passed the matter onto parliament, Naseem was swiftly reinstated as the law minister by President Arif Alvi, leaving many scratching their heads for several reasons. Was the constitutional crisis that shook the nation not of Naseem’s own making? Why was he allowed to take ...

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