Stories about history

Happy birthday President Asif Ali Zardari!

Back in 2007 as the lawyers’ movement gained momentum, it attracted abrupt attention of a youth brought up in the ‘prosperity bubble’ of a military regime. With little sense of our history and politics, many (including me) got carried away in the sway of events that followed. More in sheer aversion for a uniformed dictator than in admiration of a principled man in robes. Putting out the fire of secessionist sentiments in Sindh after the assassination of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in the garrison city of Rawalpindi was met with utter disregard by the self righteous urban bourgeoisie and their corporate ...

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Bhagat Singh the intellectual

A lesser appreciated aspect about Bhagat Singh, who was executed on March 23, 1931, was his intellectual prowess. In the greater context of subcontinent politics and history, Singh’s socio-political understanding showed a very nuanced and detailed insight into the future of India and the importance to transform society. The tragedy, in the context of a Pakistan that lacks an academic culture, is that Singh’s legacy has been used to reaffirm the state narratives set in place. For some reason or another, history before 1947 has been studied in limited scope within Pakistan. In reality, Singh’s writings should be seen as ...

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For economy’s sake: Can India and Pakistan forgive and forget?

When geography and history become prisoners to politics, it’s destiny that becomes the real victim. A realisation is dawning on South Asian countries that by pandering to narrow political vision they have invited misery, backwardness and suffering for their own people. Their potentiality has become stilted at the altar of political bickering which stunts the economic growth of the region. How can these historical shortcomings be overcome? How can we rewrite a new history of economic integration? Representatives from all the South Asian countries gathered, in New Delhi recently, to mull over a new destiny for the region that shares ...

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I speak Punjabi (but my kids might not)

‘Ik Sutti Uthi Dooji Akhon Ka’ani ’- Do you understand what this Punjabi idiom means, or do you need a translation in English first? The literal translation may be “one just woke up and the other one is partially sighted!” but that isn’t what it means.  This funny phrase refers to a person who has just woken up and then on top of their disheveled appearance is cross-eyed as well. It is used “icing on the cake” in English. Most people wonder why everything in Punjabi sounds so comic? Maybe our ancestors just appreciated humour. If you belong to a Punjabi speaking family and couldn’t ...

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Love and tears for Dhaka

My stepfather, Afzal Ahmed Syed, is a generally quiet and inward man who occasionally breaks from his reticence with humorous insights about the world. He does this not through fanciful and elaborate explanations, but in pithy quotes or by reciting a shaer. As many thoughtful commentators on his life and poetry have suggested, much of my father’s poetic vision has been shaped by his experience as a witness to immense political tragedies like East Pakistan’s violent rebirth as Bangladesh in 1971, the Lebanese Civil War, and the ethnic and sectarian violence that overwhelmed Karachi in the 1990s. Musharraf Farooqi, my father’s ...

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Why Ashura is a ‘Holy-Day’ for all of us and not just you

I was tempted to write this article when I read another one on The Express Tribune titled ‘Muharram is your holiday, not mine’. In this blog, the writer complains about how she feels discriminated against and threatened by the Sunni sect, especially during Muharram and the day of Ashura. While my intention is not to preach my version of Islam or contradict any sect’s belief, I feel that both Shias and Sunnis fight over the wrong reasons, with each sect going to the extremes to defend its own beliefs and judge the others’ doings. For me, following the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) ...

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How I learnt where Islam ends, and culture begins

Like the vast majority of Pakistanis, I was raised a Muslim. Being ‘raised’ Muslim, to my best knowledge, means that during my childhood and as I grew older, I was exposed to Islamic teachings. I had a maulvi sahab, I read the Holy Quran, learned how to pray and was taught the history and fundamental principles, or pillars of the religion. Till my teens, I was in my opinion a good Muslim. I found it very difficult to lie, I gave charity, I prayed, I fasted, I respected my parents, and forgave those who hurt me. I was satisfied with ...

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What our text books do not say

While having class discussions with my sociology students sometime back, I noticed that some of my students, although very bright and intellectually capable, seemed to be uneasy with various debates within the stream of sociology about topics that are considered taboo in our society. However, what struck me most was their constant reliance on pinning down problems in the societal realm of Europe to the continent being not impacted by Islam. Their reference point always seemed to be the ‘glorious age of Islam’-the years of Madinah republic. My students seemed to be still living in a romanticised past where Islamic empires ...

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The Three Musketeers: Ridiculous, not ridiculous fun

Very early on in The Three Musketeers, the servant Planchet (James Kimberley Corden), in a scene that falls distinctly flat, is discourteously awoken while sleeping on the balcony, by loads of pigeon droppings on the face. In more ways than one, this failed scene sums up the entire film; not only does The Three Musketeers stumble clumsily from passage to passage, but on the whole, for viewers, feels like having pigeon poop dropped on one.  Directed by Paul WS Anderson, whose career highlights include mediocre video game based films like Mortal Kombat (1995), ...

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Dastaan: History on TV

Dastaan, a Hum TV production, is probably the most gripping modern day ode to the beauty and simplicity of  pre-partition life. Written by Razia Butt, Dastaan depicts the love story of Hasan (Fawad Khan) and Bano (Sanam Baloch) – a romance which is shred to pieces by the gruesome and gory separation of 1947. The drama starts off as a tender series of events between the couple, but later morphs into a saga full of blood, greed and lust. This turn of events hurls Bano, the quintessential Pakistani girl,  into the arms of madness, because she is devastated by the ...

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