Stories about history

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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A department in ruin, a history forgotten

Punjab’s department of archaeology, recently devolved from the federation under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, has had no operational legislation since April 8, 2011. As a result, no law to arrest any person caught scribbling, drawing or causing harm to a monument of historical importance exists. Similar is the case with the environment protection department. Field officers and inspectors issuing notices, sealing and fining owners of pollution-causing units, have reverted to Punjab Local Government Ordinance (PLGO) of 2001. The Antiquities Act 1975 and the Environment Pakistan Protection Act 1997 are both redundant. Officers of both departments have drafted legislation to replace ...

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A short biography of Mr West Pakistan

Mr West Pakistan turns 64 on Sunday. The retiree has come a long way since his birth. Unfortunately, now deathly ill, Mr Pakistan is desperately seeking a cure for the diseases that ravage his body after years of negligence. Born on a hot August day in 1947, little Pakistan came into the world with his twin brother East, and a completely dysfunctional family. Born prematurely amid severe complications, Mr Pakistan grew up an orphan. Abandoned by his mother, what little he knew of his father, was quickly erased by the abysmal faculty at school. His other brother, Mr India, did remember ...

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Pakistan: ‘We carved a truth out of the game of lies’

Today is August 14, 2011. An overwhelming majority of Pakistan and India whose minds have been indoctrinated by state-sponsored-distorted text books of history are celebrating the day as “the 64th freedom day” but this red letter day stings my heart when I hear the account of history from my elders. These people are not ready to agree with the historical background presented by Chaudhry Mohammad Ali in his book The Emergence of Pakistan. While presenting the logic behind the differences between Hindus and Muslims which led to the severance of India Ch. Mohammad Ali writes: “They have mixed but never fused: they ...

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Parenting the digital generation

It is normal now days to see very young children in Pakistan confidently operating technology, possessing cell phones and using social media. A seventh grader can multi tasking; constantly uses SMS to communicate, spending a lot of time online, staying connected with people through the social media and surfing the net and checks out brainpop.com to get homework help while simultaneously listening to his/her iPod. Many young people have blogs by the age of 13-14 years now. So, even if their essays or stories do not receive a good grade in class, or their ideas and thoughts are not entertained ...

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