Stories about free

What do Pakistan and India share? No respect for women

They call us independent, free nations. Pakistan and India, after 60 odd years of being ruled by the white man, has been unable to break free of one acute problem: The white woman. Whether it is by selling our lovely brown women fairness creams and coloured lenses or by introducing at least one beautiful American/British girl into the storyline of your favourite drama/movie, the focus on the white woman is taking a slightly grotesque turn. The line between fascination and obsession is smudged as I go through the account of a CNN report where a female student from the University of Chicago talks about being groped, ...

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Article 25-A: What does the ‘free’ in ‘right to free education’ imply?

Pakistan faces many challenges today, but education is one of the biggest. It includes huge disparities in terms of opportunities, particularly for girls and the rural population. There are also the issues of poor quality of education, low enrollment and high drop-out rates. Reportedly, over 25 million children between five and 16 years of age are out of school. This fact points to the emerging and critical social imbalance of education, even as a fundamental right. Article 25-A, the Right to Education, was inserted in the chapter of the fundamental rights of the Constitution as part of the Eighteenth Amendment. ...

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Free laptops: Incentive or publicity stunt?

The Punjab government’s initiative of distributing laptops among bright students has invited criticism from all quarters, including Transparency International Pakistan (TIP), which has raised questions about this self-proclaimed transparent process. Initially, the government earmarked Rs2 billion in the annual budget for this scheme and later increased it to Rs3.7 billion. Now, the education department has prepared a PC-I that has projected an amount of Rs4.4 billion for the purchase of 110,000 laptops. The Punjab government inked an agreement with a company for the provision of laptops at the rate of Rs37,700 per unit. The procuring department has now allegedly changed ...

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Do I have the right to remain Ahmadi?

In 1966, nearly 180 million people in the US received Miranda rights – the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. Half a century later, a religious community in Pakistan, another country of nearly 180 million people, is facing a rather caustic version of the Miranda rights. They don’t have the right, but a duty, to remain silent. The religious group is the Ahmadiyya community. Two recent events frame the issue aptly. First, on January 29, 2012, clerics organized an anti-Ahmadiyya rally in Rawalpindi, attended by 5,000 madrassah students, chanting threatening anti-Ahmadiyya slogans and demanding to take over a 17-year-old Ahmadiyya ‘place of worship’. Then on February ...

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Know your rights: Ilmpossible

Distracted by the political instability of the country, Pakistanis have failed to draw their attention to the termites that have been incessantly devouring the well being of the country. The crippled education system of Pakistan has proved to be one of these destructive creatures. Nevertheless, the presidential assent given to the Constitution (18th Amendment) Bill in April 2010 was an occurrence of great magnitude in this matter.  What were the outcomes of the 18th Amendment? It turned Pakistan into a parliamentary republic; it removed the powers of the president to dissolve Parliament unilaterally. What else did it do to the constitution? ...

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Give Kashmir a chance

On June 26, 2011 elections for the legislative assembly were held in the Pakistani Kashmir, also known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). This is one of the most unique names you would ever encounter in the history of names of states – a territory which has to prefix Azad (free) to its name to proclaim its freedom. The so called Azad Kashmir is by no stretch of imagination is ‘free’ – instead it has become a neo colony of the Pakistani establishment. The whole legislative assembly of Azad Kashmir is subordinate to the orders of GOC Murree and the ...

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The last refuge of a scoundrel

Not a day goes by when I don’t feel disgusted by some within my own profession. They range from journalists who will do almost anything for a free lunch and those who will rub shoulders with almost any man in power in order to gain whatever personal favours they can fathom. Recently I was accused of being ‘anti-state,’ and a ‘RAW agent’. And all this because I pointed out how one particular TV talk show host was claiming to be working for free in an event paid for by taxpayer money. Since then, many powerful people have called me up and ...

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Optimism, and the liberty to be free

Salman Taseer’s first birthday since his assassination, unsurprisingly brought back memories of a very dark day. Still ensnared in those thoughts, that quiet day turned on its head when news of the kidnapped journalist, Saleem Shahzad’s killing broke out. The investigative reporter was tortured and killed brutally. The feelings I felt put a sense of déjà vu in my conscience. Anger, disgust, fear and sadness all made their simultaneous entries into my mind, but felt strangely familiar. Soon I realised that these feelings actually hadn’t just entered my head, they were already there. I was already feeling all these emotions ...

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Why pay for online information?

Shortly after the internet revolution, newspapers and magazines were publishing their articles and news online for readers and it was not long before it was necessary for them to have online editions. Publications started competing for more website visitors resulting in the emergence of the e-paper which put a scanned version of the publication online for free viewing. It did not take long for people to become dependent on these free e-papers and many readers cancelled their subscriptions of the print edition. As revenues fell, publishers were left scratching their heads. Had they made a mistake by going online? However, they could not ...

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Can you imagine a world without Wikipedia?

“Wikipedia only works in practice. In theory, it’s a total disaster.” Wikipedia, supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, has accumulated over 17 million articles in 262 languages as well as inspired copycats in Google and Facebook (see Google Knol and Facebook Community Pages). It still, however,  does not have money to keep the site running – nor does it want to charge money or display ads on its websites. If you’ve been to the Wikipedia website lately, you might have seen a banner at the top of the page that says “Please read: A personal appeal from Wikimedia Executive Director Sue ...

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