Stories about colonialism

Why is PML-N being so secretive about CPEC’s investment plan?

If the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) wasn’t already an enigma, the recent debates regarding its pros and cons have muddled this into an even bigger mess. On one hand, there are the knockers who didn’t shy away from labelling it as the future East India Company (EIC), and on the other, we have the blind patriots – the ones that hold CPEC at the highest level of sanctity, that merely questioning the transparency regarding CPEC’s projects amounts to treason for them. Undoubtedly, these directionless debates have a lot to do with the suspicion and political sensitivity created by the government around the CPEC framework. However, to me, ...

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When will Pakistan stop mocking people for speaking imperfect English?

Recently, a video went viral on social media of a group of girls in which one of them spoke a misplaced English phrase. The results of this innocent error by that girl were catastrophic. It soon became a phenomenon on the internet with the girl being subject to several jokes and derogatory comments. Following this, news came that the girl has not been attending college due to this incident. This represents two chronic problems in our society; first, the issue of cyber-bullying, and second, our obsession with the colonised tongue. Cyber-bullying is reprehensible, but the underlying issue is that we give English ...

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Life at the fringes of empire: Edward Eastwick in Sindh

Edward Eastwick (1814-1883) entered the service of the East India Company at the comparatively late age of 22, after arriving in Bombay in the summer of 1836. This was not Eastwick’s first trip abroad. Following the unlikely advice of a family doctor and the ‘earnest solicitations’ of his wife, Eastwick’s father Robert had taken his sickly 10-year-old son on a year-long opium-trading voyage to China in 1825. Eastwick caught the travel bug, and probably many others besides. The privations of this early voyage may have gone some way to prepare Eastwick for his first posting in India as ‘Assistant Political Agent, Upper Sindh’. After an ...

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The vicious cycle of a Pakistani applying for a UK visa: Apply, reject, more money, re-apply, reject, more money

London is like my second home. My love for the city knows no bounds. My friends like to call me the brand ambassador of London. Even my wife feels envious at times. While London in summer is more like a ritual for me and my family, I am not too sure if the tradition can be sustained anymore given the visa tragedy. Recent news has been dominated with UK visa horror stories of endless delays and unreasonable rejections. The United Kingdom seems to be pursuing an unannounced policy of rejecting visa applications from Pakistan. A recent study conducted by an ...

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Saudi Arabia flogged a blogger? Let’s blame the West for that too!

Worshipers emerged from a mosque in Jeddah to witness a Saudi activist, Raef Badawi, being ceremoniously lashed. One… two… three… all the way to fifty painful whips, which are only the first of the thousand due to be delivered in 20 weekly sessions. International condemnations are flowing in, in support of the 30-year-old co-founder of Saudi Liberal Network, convicted of ‘insulting Islam’ after criticising powerful Saudi clerics online. He’s also been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay a fine of one million riyals. This is not the first crackdown by the establishment on liberal Saudi artists, academics and writers challenging the ...

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Sizing up the Sri Lankan strife

In many ways, islands defy the socio-political belligerence of geographical proximity to other lands. Sri Lanka distinctly holds its own, even with the world’s largest democracy staring down intently at its past and present. It is either because of this, or perhaps despite it, that the seemingly small spec of land divided by a narrow sea from the southern tip of India has endured decades of a bloody civil war with such sound determination. Not long before I landed at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, I realised this was a land of two tongues. Tamil and Singhalese are both percussive, rotund languages. The ...

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No, Mr Khan. Dictatorship is never better than democracy

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief, Imran Khan, has recently claimed that former President Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship was better than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s democracy, allowing the world to roll its eyes to what has become our national shame – the dictatorship apologia of self-hating democratic politicians. In what has become a weekly tradition of delivering bafflingly misinformed statements, the lines between dictatorship and democracy were blurred by the D-Chowk rage-generators, in an attempt to continually vilify Nawaz’s government. The comparison of dictatorships and democracies is as ludicrous as suggesting that a bad bargain is worse than someone stealing your wallet. Any notion ...

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Say ‘yes’ to foreign aid!

Colonialism has left an indelible mark on the psyche of the people of Indo-Pak subcontinent and maybe that is why anything that in some way seems anti-west scores well with the general public. Almost all the dwellers of Indo-Pak subcontinent exhibit such a mindset in one form or the other. This attitude runs in policy making as well, after all, indigenous policy making cannot avoid such influences. In 2003, Vajpayee’s government showed the door to all donor countries except for six. To every decision of such kind, there are two aspects; one is the ‘explanation’ and the other is the ‘reason’. ...

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How golden was Ayub Khan’s era?

The numbers do not lie: in terms of economic growth, former President Ayub Khan was not the best ruler Pakistan ever had. Admittedly, he is in second place and beaten only very narrowly by former President Ziaul Haq: Ayub averaged 5.82% growth during his eleven years in office compared to Zia’s 5.88%. Still, the myth of Ayub’s “Decade of Development” persists and so it is worth examining (on what would have been his 105th birthday), what his record was and how he compared to the rest of Pakistan’s rulers. Perhaps the single biggest reason people remember Ayub’s era fondly is because ...

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Colonial ‘chai’ and capitalist ‘coke’

A few days ago, a guest at my house enquired why I don’t drink tea. I mentioned that at some precarious juncture of my youth I irrevocably replaced ‘chai’ with ‘coke’ as my daily conduit. He expressed his dismay and proceeded to tell me how ‘coca cola’ was a Zionist enterprise and a universal capitalist symbol. I responded that ‘chai’ was just as much a colonial symbol as coke was a capitalist one. If one beverage carried with it the plasticity of commercialism; the other bore the bourgeois refinement of elitism. The conversation got me thinking seriously about our colonial ...

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