Stories about justice

An open letter to Ban Ki Moon

Mr Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General, The United Nations. January 16, 2013.   Your Excellency, I am not Hazara – my gene pool is not affiliated with the descendants of the great Mongol Genghis Khan, who now inhabit Quetta. But I am writing this to inform you of a pressing issue that has shaken the international community as protests erupt worldwide regarding Jan 10, 2013 bomb blasts on Alamdar Road. Since the past decade, over 1100 Hazaras have fallen prey to attacks of ethnic cleansing carried out by radical militants claiming to eradicate all those who do not adhere to their brand of Islam. In September 2011, ...

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Can rape be classified as ‘big’ or ‘small’?

A week after Ajmal Kasab – the gunman guilty of complicity in the 2008 Mumbai attacks –was hanged in November 2012, a friend from Mumbai and I were discussing the pros and cons of capital punishment. While we both agreed that hanging a person who threatened the security of the state was just, our stance on capital punishment itself was opposite: I was in favour of death sentences, while my friend was against them. When the discussion turned towards rape, things got complicated. “Depends on whether the rape case is big or small,” said my friend. In all fairness, I know he wasn’t speaking literally but at the ...

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My father was 1984’s long-forgotten Shahzeb Khan

My father was murdered in Karachi in 1984. He was shot dead. Some 28 years later, Shahzeb Khan met the same fate. Cause of death? They were trying to protect a woman’s honour. My father, Syed Rabbani Zamir, was trying to prevent the harassment of an unknown woman at the hands of a Saudi naval cadet who had come to Pakistan for training and was shot dead. My family pushed long and hard for justice and ultimately it was served. The offender was court-martialled and ended up serving some time in jail as well. Regardless of what happened to the culprit, the end result was the same ...

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Cheating on exams: I blame the system

A recent news report in The Express Tribune titled “Rs100 is all your dad needs to have pharras delivered to you during the exam” began with the question; “Is there a point to sitting examinations at all?”  The article was about the recent case in Sukkur where invigilators and school staff were found helping students cheat, as eager parents outside paid them off. Let’s start by considering the question posed –  is there a point to taking exams at all? Across the globe, educational systems have implemented testing as a means by which to discriminate academic performance between students. However, this is a hangover ...

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Unapologetic acid attackers: ‘She asked for it’

A few weeks ago, the tragic news of Fakhra Yunus’s suicide garnered extensive amounts of local and foreign media attention; women rights activists spoke up, politicians did the routine condemnation, lawyers demanded justice for a victim who no longer existed, who left precisely because people had forgotten her; her perseverance ran out as the general apathy of her society ran high. We all had become oblivious of her long before she killed herself. That is far worse than any kind of death – when your own people render you irrelevant. But this isn’t about Fakhra. This isn’t about Bilal Khar’s ...

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My trip to Guantanamo Bay

A few nights ago, I had a dream where I had ended up in Guantanamo Bay again to cover a military commission hearing sans any luggage. It may sound like the stuff nightmares are made of, but in reality, going to Guantanamo Bay to cover military commission hearings of detainees has been a fascinating, if not surreal experience. From the moment the airhostess on the chartered flight announces, “Welcome to Guantanamo Bay”, to the realisation that you are on a tiny strip of land that has borne witness to some of the worst human rights abuses to have occurred on US ...

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Use or abuse: How far will social media activism go?

On 26 February 2012, an unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest by George Zimmerman. Minutes before the shooting Zimmerman called 911 and allegedly said – as has been proved by the release of dispatch tapes – that Trayvon “looked suspicious.” He claimed self defense and no charges were filed, however when police arrived on the scene all they found with Trayvon was a can of iced tea and a bag of candy. This incident did not explode on  mainstream American media for a while. But the uproar was loud and clear on social media platforms. It became big on Twitter, Facebook ...

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Missing prisoners: Skeletons with urine bags

For many the media is a watchdog, but some want to make it a scapegoat to achieve their short-term personal goals. The prevailing crises in the country have also increased the challenges for the media to maintain its credibility and impartiality. I have no words to highlight the threats made to media people by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, or certain terrorist groups. But today I still have something to say. One of the country’s top lawyers, defending the prime minister in a contempt of court case, also accused the media of negatively portraying the issue. “Don’t get into this controversy, they are ...

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Why Arsalan was arrested

The Pakistani media is playing a proactive role in bringing forth cases of victims who have been dealt with unjustly or ignored due their poverty or social status. I have seen various cases being brought forth by broadcast media, which highlight the plight of poor people who are suffering from health ailments that can easily be cured if they had the resources. By putting the spotlight on such issues, they have helped these individuals by giving them exposure, sometimes the needed funds and also government intervention. In other cases, they have highlighted the stark contrast in how justice is delivered ...

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A day in the life of Nasreen kaamvaali

Get-togethers at our place had increasingly become as monotonous John Grisham’s novels – the same faces, the same stories. That was before a fecund family brought along its 12-year-old maid who doubled as a nanny. Nasreen had a clean face, shampooed hair and possibly her best dress on, but bent by the weight of a chubby baby, she seemed like a blot on the landscape. She couldn’t be part of light-hearted flirtation, political discussions or trade cooking recipes, so she just sat in the corner and smiled. For a pubescent girl stuck with a two-year-old who, when not eating or sleeping, could ...

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