Stories about history

Let a photograph familiarise us

They say a photograph is worth a thousand words. A single image is able to portray and capture raw human emotions and project it to a wider audience. Wars, natural disasters, sporting events have all become muses to showcase and highlight the extraordinary, resilient and inspirational moments of the human race. These moments have the power to evoke strong emotions which can prove to be the catalysts triggering political and social change. In times of war, a photograph has the ability to overshadow political speech. Whether it is Capa’s classic shot of the falling soldier during the Spanish civil war or ...

Read Full Post

Intellectual poverty: Troubles of the Muslim world

It sometimes seems like a lost cause – our backwardness as a nation, our never ending cynicism and our victimisation at the hands of the West. What is it that fans all the violence in our societies? Perhaps we never bother to think about that. The only instincts that are left in us are animal. And it’s not only us. It is also the Arabs, the Central Asians, the Persians and others who are scattered across the face of the earth – all, victims of stereotypes and suffering from a chronic identity crisis. It is us, the Muslims, the peoples of ...

Read Full Post

A-levels: Atom bombs, measurements and etymology

One of my best friends is half Sindhi and half Pathan, which means that she can kick, scream and yell in four different languages. How I wished I had her linguistic virtuosity at 9am one morning this week when I turned over my Physics paper to start the exam only to be lost for words. I had no one to blame but myself. This was the subject that involves flipping paper cones off the back of a ruler and going cross-eyed trying to determine the terminal velocity they achieve. In A’ Level Physics, tennis balls feel the need to fall ...

Read Full Post

Dan Brown: A disappointing one-hit wonder

“The Da Vinci Code” hit book shelves in 2003, and went on to become the best-selling English language novel of the 21st century. Very few books dig down into the roots of history, challenge your beliefs and provide food for thought; this one did. Besides igniting some ferocious controversies and becoming a global phenomenon, the book established its author, Dan Brown, as a talent to watch. However, Brown’s next books have failed to live up to the standards that he himself modeled. There’s a blatant sense of repetition and a tone of monotony easily palpable in his novels that followed. Take ...

Read Full Post

December 16: Bangladesh’s day of liberation

The newspaper headlines in Dhaka on December 16 gave me pause: “day of liberation”, “victory day” they proclaimed in big black letters emblazoned across the masthead of the papers. In Pakistan, isn’t this day perceived as a somber occasion where Pakistan was rent asunder by the forces of evil? The answer that was evading me while scanning the newspapers came to me when I saw these words of a Bangladeshi columnist. “The 16th of December 1971 was a day of transformation. It turned caged birds into free birds. On a single day, our life changed for the rest of our ...

Read Full Post

Minorities in Pakistan: Living a marginalised reality

I’ve found the reaction to Pakistan’s current blasphemy laws surprising. Not because I think the whole Aasia Bibi (and more recently Naushad Valiyani) issue has been blown out of proportion but because of how long it has taken Pakistan to acknowledge the malicious nature of the blasphemy laws. I feel that our nation’s reaction is luke warm – one that has flourished just so most of us can sleep at night feeling good about ourselves as genuine ‘online philanthropists’. These blasphemy laws have existed in Pakistan as long as I can remember. They are a product of what General Ziaul Haq and ...

Read Full Post

WikiLeaks: Redefining diplomatic history

The continuing WikiLeaks saga has many important implications for the state of international relations which have been much debated over the print and electronic media. We’ve heard diplomats, kings, generals and politicians from all over the world having candid and unguarded conversations about each other. However, we have failed to see how the leaks have threatened the idea of history, and notions of the process of discovering it. History is not what has happened in the past but an account of what is said to have happened. The historical process can range from a sage telling a story to a ...

Read Full Post

Where did the blasphemy law come from?

According to Islamic belief, blasphemy is considered the use of profanity or a show of disrespect towards religious beliefs and holy personages, but unlike Judaism and Christianity, no strict punishment for the crime has been proscribed. In fact, Allah takes it upon Himself to deal with those who “revile Allah in their ignorance”. Quran’s Surah Al-Anam aayah 108 says: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord and We ...

Read Full Post

Road trips to Sindh’s secret tourist treasures

Recently, I had an opportunity to travel to interior  Sindh and discover the wonders of the ancient necropolis of the Makli, the Shah Jehan mosque and Haleji Lake. All of these attractions are in the district of Thatta,  just a few hours away from Karachi. If developed, these places could be great tourist spots not only for Karachiites who love road trips but also for people living in other parts of Pakistan. Haleji Lake Haleji Lake is the largest bird sanctuary of the country and is about 70 kilometres from Karachi. A few kilometers of uncarpeted road links it to National Highway and ...

Read Full Post

Using literature as a window to the past

In all nation-states, history is distorted to create convenient narratives. Our country is suffering not only from the usual propagandisation of the past, but also because its fiction is being ignored as a source of both art and inquiry. The truth in the works of Faiz or Manto might be uncomfortable for us to face, but responsible education should be structured around seeking truth rather than obscuring it; understanding history rather than ignoring it. Remembering Jinnah Saadat Hasan Manto is one of the best-known fiction writers from the turbulent period during which the subcontinent gained independence and was partitioned. His stories ...

Read Full Post