Stories about discrimination

We, the 99% non-VIP population, are important too

The Sindh High Court (SHC) Judge is a very important person. You can tell that he’s very important because he has a nice car that travels at disruptively high speed among a convoy of other large vehicles. It’s very important for us, the ordinary people, to acknowledge that the SHC Judge is an important man who makes important decisions for this country; for which we should all be grateful. My reaction to the menacing approach of a security protocol is the same as countless of my docile countrymen. We sigh, and give way to the baraat (crowd) of armed men as ...

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Being bipolar in Pakistan has not been easy, especially when people call you “pagal”

The squeaky voice of a trolley passing by woke me up. I was on a hospital bed. I slowly tried to get up while still trying to remember what brought me here. I was alone in the room, and the bed next to mine was neatly made up, with fruits and snacks lined up on the edge of the wall. ‘I had to be somewhere really important’ was all that I could remember. But where exactly? Nowhere! It was all just an illusion, a very dangerous one. I later learned that I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or maybe it was ...

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Quantico’s apology is a slap in the face of every Muslim misrepresented by Hollywood

The past week has caused uproar in the international media, after a Hollywood show had the misfortune of treading conflicting political grounds. ABC, an American television studio, later issued an apology to Indian fans after its crime drama Quantico portrayed Hindu nationalists in a negative light, as they planned a terrorist plot and tried to frame Pakistan for it. The scene from Quantico’s most recent episode, The Blood of Romeo, received prompt backlash from Indians after Priyanka Chopra, who plays the lead character of an FBI agent, holds up sacred Hindu prayer beads as evidence that the plotter, who planned to detonate ...

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I am a Muslim, but I fake fasting in Ramazan

It’s Ramazan and my mother is in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove preparing a big feast. She’s fasting, even though she is a 64-year-old diabetic. As for myself? Earlier in the day, I had a huge fish and chips platter for lunch, but my Muslim family believes I’m fasting with them. This has gone on for years. During the month of Ramazan, most of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims will observe by basically not partaking in any vice for 30 days. From sunrise to sunset, all able-bodied Muslims are required to “fast”; prohibited from eating, drinking (yes, even ...

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Demanding equal rights in Pakistan can turn even model citizens into traitors

For too long, the faction of Pakistani society that upholds the principle of equal citizenship as a fundamental human right has been in despair. This is because human rights are an ideal no one disputes in theory but which, in essence, depend on the non-discrimination of individuals, whether based on religion, language, political opinion or socio-economic standing. However, human rights often becomes a provocative term when applied to a blogger with a dissenting political opinion, or to those we celebrate as symbols of our diversity on Easter and Christmas, or to those listening to speeches about their heroic contributions to the war 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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#PashtunLongMarch: How many more Naqeebullahs have to die before we stop marginalising the Pashtun community?

Nobody could have guessed that the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud – an aspiring and flamboyant model hailing from South Waziristan – would result in an unprecedented and unyielding protest by the Pashtuns in the federal capital. What had begun as a demand for the arrest of former Malir SSP, Rao Anwar, has now turned into a protest to relay the comprehensive set of grievances of a marginalised people. The participants of this long march, who are mostly from the tribal areas, are now calling for all cases of extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns to be exhaustively investigated in a judicial ...

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Bujayote: The future of Pakistan’s musical valley may be bright, but the future of their music is dark

In the extreme north of Pakistan, a small area located in Yasin Valley known as Bujayote, is the home of traditional musicians. According to these artists, this name is associated with one of the very early musicians named ‘Bujaye’, a professional, whose generation pursued this profession. The area is also locally known as “Ustadishoo Deh” which literally means the neighbourhood of the musicians. Yasin Valley is one of the many mountain-locked valleys in the extreme north of Gilgit-Baltistan. The instrumentalists of Yasin perform in a set group of more than three. One of them plays a pair of kettle drums locally called ...

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Rights over respect?: “Madam, this is the Red Zone and ‘khusray’ are not allowed here”

To be transgender means being unsafe across the globe, mainly because the masses have neither the understanding of gender diversity nor the awareness that a gender non-binary exists. Specifically in Pakistan, an almost outright denial of the existence of transgender people has led to their marginalisation as well as a lack of respect from society at large. They face threats, harassment and humiliation on a daily basis, and are only seen as sex workers, dancers or beggars. The disrespect and discrimination reserved for them is across the board, as in my many years I have seen no exceptions to this, not even from ...

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A woman covered with a dupatta, unlike the covered lollipop, will never be covered enough

As I strolled out of Emporium Mall the other day and waited for my car, a street urchin approached me. Assuming she was going to ask for some money, I pretended not to see her, but then she did something shockingly out of the ordinary – she adjusted the dupatta on my chest, draping it in a manner so that my entire chest was now covered by a sheet of cloth. “Baaji, kitni pyari ho (you’re so pretty), but it doesn’t look good na”, she said, pointing to the men standing nearby. “All the brothers are looking at you. Look even I have my dupatta on ...

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