Stories about human rights

Pakistan did not need to pick a side in the Canada-Saudi Arabia conflict

I had the pleasure of visiting the Pakistani consulate in Toronto the other day to renew my passport. Every time I enter the consulate, it’s like I am transported back in time to a bureaucratic government office in Islamabad in the 90s. Passport renewal process in Pakistan has been improved and streamlined yet our consulates and embassies still operate as if this is Nawaz Sharif’s first term in office. But I digress. I was seated next to a bearded gentleman who was also there to renew his passport. We struck up a conversation and I found out that this man ...

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From Zahid to Bubbly

“So you have decided to keep humiliating us in front of people,” he said with a roaring voice. His beloved Baba had slapped Zahid on wearing red lipstick again. “You are a boy, a man! The only waris (successor) of our hundreds of acres of land. I will beat you black and blue if I ever find you doing anything girly again.” Zahid had tightly clenched a broken red lipstick in his hands. Baba was continuously lecturing him about masculinity but surprisingly, all this scolding was appearing so rhythmical to him. Baba was admonishing him but he was dancing in his mind, wrapping red dupatta and responding ...

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I am one of the ‘entitled millennials’ whose conscience got pricked by Mohammad Jibran Nasir

There was a post making its rounds on Facebook that caught my attention, which said, “If you were to meet your eight-year-old self today, what advice would you give?” And then a slightly more chilling question, “What would your eight-year-old self say about you?” I remember myself at eight, naïve and highly impressionable, living in a world of make-believe, convinced that life was as simple as being one of the good guys and standing up against all forces of evil. But with time and growth came the realisation that things aren’t so simple. This is a blog I may perhaps be better off not writing. ...

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NA-247: A dictator, a mayor, an activist – who deserves Karachi’s hot seat?

With elections looming a mere 44 days from now, political parties have pitched their best candidates in the most powerful constituencies. With Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan standing from five different seats (how insecure?) in three provinces for the National Assembly (NA), the power show for the General Election of 2018 will be unforgettable. For Karachi, though, the one NA seat that wreaked havoc and chaos in 2013 was the NA-250 (now NA-247). Being part of the NA-250 constituency myself, I remember the painful series of events that took place in the last elections. Dr Arif Alvi won the ...

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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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When charitable organisations don’t believe in only giving anymore and barter sex for food

This year is definitely a year for women. At the start of 2018, the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes (now deceased), Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey (although the allegations were from men) decimated due to sexual assault allegations. It seems the propensity for women to come forward and report indecent behaviour by powerful men is now on the rise.  Now it seems every faucet of life, from sporting events and Larry Nassar’s incarceration, to Hollywood and now the world of charities and NGOs, is slowly turning on. Recently, atrocious allegations were revealed by news outlets of the use of prostitutes by ...

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There could only be one Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s valiant moral compass

Last year, I wrote an article praising a person who I consider to be my most favourite Pakistani, Ms Asma Jahangir. In that article, I wrote how courageous she was and how she had taken principled liberal stances throughout her life. Due to this, her support for any political party or institution was not constant. She supported the judiciary during the lawyers’ movement and was its fiercest critics later on when she found out that judiciary under former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhry was overstepping its constitutional authority. She supported Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) point of view ...

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Can Shahid Khaqan Abbasi #BringZulfiqarHome so he can spend his remaining few days with his family?

“We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” – Robert Houghwout Jackson Conflicting interests and balancing human rights with state laws lie at the heart of the sentencing process. Judges may arrive at decisions based on either restrictive or broader interpretation of laws. Hence, the plight of terminally ill prisoners can only be resolved by having concrete laws and policies formulated to create exceptions to cases like that of the Pakistani death row prisoner in Indonesia, Zulfiqar Ali who is suffering from chronic liver and Diabetes Mellitus. Ali was taken into custody in 2004 on drug-related charges. ...

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16 years after 9/11: Its tragic memory, surreal aftermath and the insecure world it left behind

In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, young men like me who had posed as ‘Marxists’ across the 80s were overwhelmed by a sense of both sadness and dread. And yet we knew that things in our beloved Soviet Union were not quite like what we had imagined – a socialist Utopia in which the working classes (the proletariat) had risen above economic, religious and social biases to consolidate their own rule according to the noble dictates of Marxist-Leninism. I was 22 in 1988 and about to head out to a university in Moscow on a scholarship. The plan was ...

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Basila & The Street Crew: A much-needed humanised portrayal of the transgender community

Growing up, I always wondered about different genders. I was curious and after talking to different people, I learned that there are some really alarming misconceptions about transgender people. Especially in Pakistan, they have long been denied basic human rights and are usually seen as “different”, abnormal, lowly, dirty and mere objects for entertainment. I was really young when I first encountered a transgender individual yet I remember it so vividly. This incident was as normal as any other daily interaction but there is still something about that moment that I find really bizarre. We were staying at our grandmother’s place during summer holidays ...

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