“Dua karo iss dafa beta ho” – Is being a ‘beti’ really the curse it’s made out to be?

Being the fourth daughter my parents were blessed with, I always used to ask them if they had ever wished I had been born a boy. I spent a lot of time wondering if, after having three girls, they were disappointed to see yet another daughter instead of a son. To my relief, my parents always responded to this question with a resounding ‘no’. Rather, they would get surprised and question me instead on the kind of nonsense that fills up my brain with questions such as these.   It is true that I have never felt loved any less by ...

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Remembering Habib Jalib: the torch-bearer of resistance through poetry

There is no doubt the languages of Pakistan are rich when it comes to resistance poetry. One need not look far; in Urdu alone, names such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Josh Malihabadi, Kishwar Naheed, Fahmida Riaz and Zehra Nigah come right up. Then there are names such as Shaikh Ayaz, Attiya Dawood and Amar Sindhu for Sindhi; Mir Gul Khan Naseer for Balochi; Ustad Daman, Ahmad Rahi, Ahmad Salim, Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, Najm Hosain Syed and Fakhar Zaman for Punjabi; Janbaz Jatoi and Shakir Shuja Abadi  for Seraiki; and Khan Abdul Ghani Khan, Qalandar Momand, Khatir Ghaznavi, Farigh ...

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From bhaiya to saiyaan: The dangers of cousin marriages

I was surfing through the channels when I came across a TV serial, Mein Maa Nahi Banna Chahti (I don’t want to be a mother). I was able to grasp bits and pieces of the story – the heroine liked another man but her father coerced her into marrying her phuppo’s (paternal aunt) son. The phuppo, meanwhile, desperately wanted a male heir. The storyline was repetitive and regressive but I stuck around for a few more episodes, and I am grateful that I did, because the drama tackles a crucial issue – genetic abnormalities in children born in cousin marriages. Before pseudo theologians and geneticists come after me with ...

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What will it take for Karachi’s 20 million citizens to feel safe?

On the topic of Karachi’s security, Allah Dino Khawaja, the Inspector General (IG) of the Sindh Police, recently stressed on the need to design a comprehensive strategy to curb street crimes. It is a matter of general observation that all previous drives and campaigns in this context have failed miserably; the very obvious proof of this being the high rates of crime prevalent in Karachi despite the presence of additional forces, including the Rangers. The following are factors acting as an obstruction in providing relief to the people of Karachi: 1. Lack of training, equipment and facilities Effective law enforcement requires planning, training and implementation. Unlike the ...

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“Khud khana garam karlo” – Pakistani men’s kryptonite

There is very little doubt that the #MeToo socio-political statements on the internet are among the most powerful ones in recent history. Spreading virtually across the entire globe, the online movement has gathered its fair share of attention in Pakistan too and thankfully so. The recent Aurat March was proof of this movement affecting this country. What began as a protest against sexual misconduct, has now raged into something much bigger. It holds even more meaning in countries such as Pakistan, since not only is sexual misconduct ripe here, the country is still home to an extremely patriarchal society. The Aurat ...

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How I jumped off the porch and wrote a book at the age of 21

When I was seven-years-old, I wrote a poem about a cat too afraid to jump off a three-foot porch. The cat’s name was Tom, and he was afraid of heights and thought he’d die if he made the jump. At the end of the two stanza poem, Tom makes the jump and realises he’s a fairly good jumper – as all cats are. From that day on, Tom isn’t afraid to jump off the porch. From that day on, Tom is brave. When I was 16-years-old, I fell in love with an amazing girl who would go on and break ...

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International Women’s Day: What if women started getting paid for household work?

“So do you work or are you just a housewife?” I remember being asked this question many times by people I was meeting for the first time. I also remember asking other women the same insensitive question, simply because I too, like so many of us, had been conditioned to only value work that gets remuneration in return. Looking back, the years during which I took a hiatus from work as a journalist, because I was looking after a home and my family, were the years I perhaps worked the hardest. Even physically. Imagine for a moment that the women all around us ...

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Are medicine and engineering the only two feasible options for Pakistani students?

Till a couple of decades ago, engineering and medicine were considered the most sought-after fields for students to pursue professionally. Parents at home and teachers at school would shape the youngsters in order to make them able to qualify for the top-notch medical and engineering schools. The most common statement to hear as a child, whenever questioned about future plans in front of our parents, would be, “Mera bacha bara ho key doctor ya engineer banay ga.” (My child will grow up to be a doctor or an engineer.) Young people never even get the chance to come to this realisation on ...

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Did you just call me a “bhangi”?

It happened again; this time in a closed setting with a small group of people. We were just a bunch of colleagues having fun, most of who will probably have a good laugh and forget about it in within the hour. But will I forget it so soon? My past experiences, the history of which is entrenched into my memory, remind me that perhaps this will not be so easily forgotten. I believe the last time something like this happened was back in school, during my O’ levels; then too, between a group of friends. I don’t seem to remember ...

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The Pakistani male conundrum: If you date a girl, don’t marry her

“Yaar ab aisi larki se shaadi thori karsaktay hain!” (One cannot possibly marry such a girl!) “Yaar wo Sunni hai or mein Shia; meray ghar walay kabhi nahi manein gay.” (She is a Sunni and I am a Shia; my family will never agree.) “Aisi larkian toh sirf time pass hoti hain; shaadi thori kartay hain in say.” (Such girls are there for fun, to pass the time only; you are not supposed to marry them.) “Ammi abbu nahi manein gay. Wo hamari zaat ki nahi hai.” (My mom and dad won’t agree. She doesn’t belong to our caste.) These comments, unsurprisingly, came from some of my very ...

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