Stories about citizens

Patriotism is for the rich

It was noon on a particularly lazy Sunday. I could not go out as the law and order situation in the city was bad – as usual. I decided to watch television to get my mind off the gloomy state I was in: tired of the situation in the city, where there is a strike everyday because some political figure decides to be inappropriate and crude on national tv. I flipped through news channels because I had heard enough about cars being burnt and people being shot. In hindsight I realise I wanted some kind of escapism. So I landed ...

Read Full Post

Why fifth graders throw rocks and want peace

A great deal has been said and written about the education emergency in our country. However, the most disturbing statistics are not the ones about the number of children not being taught in schools; it is the ones about children who go to school and yet fail to develop the critical thinking skills Pakistan badly needs. As co-director of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) School Outreach Tour, I work with 1,000 children in low-income schools in Karachi. It has taught me about educational methods in Pakistan in a way that no report or research paper ever can. In one of my first ...

Read Full Post

This is my country, and I want it back

Pakistan has aided the germination of Islamophobia, Taliban, extremist tehreeks and intolerant fundamentalism. But it has also produced quite the opposite. You may call them the hidden ones, but there are Pakistanis who say that it’s time to bring a change. No tolerance for wrong A sense of urgency erupted among judicious Pakistanis after the murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. As the media covered protestors on the streets, both left and right wing, there was widespread confusion. Fortunately now, the truth is becoming clearer to the average Pakistani. Now he questions, looks for inspiration and does not want to ignore reality. Words ...

Read Full Post

Lahoris don’t care about their trees

The Horticulture Authority tried to rid the city of all its shady trees and replace them with date palms. Lahoris watched quietly. In the end, it fell to the palms themselves to protest the initiative. The palms planted along the Circular Road, it has been reported, are wilting and dying. Actually the genius who thought of depriving the city of its own trees and adorning it with desert trees should also have imported a little desert. Trees, after all, grow from soil and are best nurtured in the climates associated with their native lands. Lahore is Lahore: Not Dubai or Japan In the ...

Read Full Post

Police force: Where are they in times of need?

They stand tall and sharp in their starch white uniforms, guns ready in hand, next to the fluorescent orange cones dividing us and them. “Of course, the president must be in town,” I thought as I glared at the ever-ready police officers. It’s funny to see these police officers and rangers come out of nowhere every time the president or prime minister is in town. Not only are they out on the streets, they look clean, vigilant and pose to be doing their jobs well. Clearly, the government has the resources to protect the common man, yet the only time you ...

Read Full Post

Secular or theocratic: State needs to deliver

The discourse on the secular versus religious state in Pakistan is almost always based on the personal alignments of the debaters. Routinely missed out though are the hard facts about the actual actors – people and institutions. If the average citizen is asked to describe in one word those who form this state, one can rest be assured that it wouldn’t be pious, modest, honest or trustworthy – the presumable attributes of momins and true Muslims. The state structure has its roots in the Delhi sultanate and then the Mughal Empire, which was established by Muslims from Central Asia. The true ...

Read Full Post

Other people’s trash

A few weeks ago, my friends and I went out for a drive and decided to grab a bite on the way. When we were done eating our food, one of my friends rolled down his window and chucked the wrapper out. I was in utter shock. When I asked him why he did it he seemed very calm, as though he had done nothing wrong. He replied saying “What did I do?” I asked him why he would throw the wrapper on the road. He replied saying “Everyone does it, there’s no harm in doing it.” I couldn’t believe the ...

Read Full Post

A pack of chips

I was travelling via air in the US in March this year and it skipped my mind that in local flights passengers have to pay for their meals. Very confidently, I asked the flight attendant for a pack of chips. “Well, you have to pay,” she said. As I was about to give her money, she informed me very kindly, “We take credit cards only and not cash.” The poor traveller in me was hungry but boldly let go of the pack of chips. Only for it to be returned with a smile by the flight attendant who said, “I often ...

Read Full Post