Stories about pakistan

What does it mean to be Pakistani?

The concept of national identity has been long debated in Pakistani drawing rooms and in the media. The question as to whether or not we as a nation can claim to represent a monolithic or homogeneous group has been one which largely remains unanswered, yet continues to be just as important today as it was when this nation came into existence. Earlier this year, a friend of mine went on a mission to ascertain how us Pakistanis described ourselves in nationalistic terms. There was a background to this activity; his brother had relocated to the United States (US) several years earlier and despite ...

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Is a peace deal in Afghanistan possible?

After a month-long thaw starting from last September, the Afghan peace process has now started to gain some momentum. United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul yesterday to discuss the future of peace talks with the Taliban. On Friday, Moscow hosted Khalilzad, along with Chinese and Pakistani representatives, to find a way for the resumption of the negotiations with the Taliban. Last week, Khalilzad and European Union envoy Roland Kobia, issued a comprehensive communique acknowledging that “sustainable peace can only be achieved through a negotiated political settlement.” However, these intra-Afghan negotiations between the ...

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Why are we silent about the sexual abuse at madrassas?

Of late, many individuals in Pakistan have finally begun to confront the long festering issue of sexual harassment, with several brave victims choosing to speak out about such issues despite the repercussions that often follow such admissions. Harassment and abuse, whether at the workplace, at a university or at ones own home desperately need to be tackled, yet, we as a nation are still largely reticent to openly acknowledge and discuss these matters. This is made all the more problematic when religion is thrown into the mix. For years, it has been silently acknowledged that many madrassas (religious seminaries) in ...

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Pakistan’s burgeoning intellectual dilemma

Normally, we think of knowledge as an activity which is shorn off from society in the libraries and laboratories of thinkers and scientists. On the contrary, production of knowledge is very much connected to the prevailing mindset and cultural ethos which directly influences our perception and reception of knowledge. It is this very mindset that has contributed to the poor state of human sciences in Pakistan – where these subjects have essentially been assigned a marginal status at the higher education level, as compared to natural sciences. Instead of engaging with complex ideas, we reject them by stating that they are ...

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Jami’s bravery has opened the doors for a much needed conversation about rape

Sexual harassment or abuse is a very difficult topic to discuss, especially in a country that still heavily indulges in victim-blaming. Despite the arrival of the MeToo movement in Pakistan, we are still having a tough time believing victims and holding perpetrators accountable, even in clear cut cases like the Mukhtaran Mai case. Things became more convoluted recently after Professor Afzal Mehmood, a lecturer at Government MAO College, committed suicide after he was wrongfully accused of sexual harassment. Those who oppose the MeToo movement used this incident to further their own agenda. As a result, many victims were afraid that the brief ...

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Can demonetisation help address Pakistan’s FATF concerns?

While many in Pakistan celebrated after hearing the news that Pakistan had survived ‘Indian lobbying’ attempts to get Pakistan onto the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) black-list, it would be foolish to think that a position on the grey-list is something to be proud of. FATF’s primary duty is to be a global watchdog which curbs money laundering and terror financing, and while Pakistan has assured the task force that the nation will achieve the set targets, the likelihood of this happening still remains circumspect, especially given the wide array of problems the nation is already facing. Undoubtedly, the pace of ‘progress’ is far below ...

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Why do we exoticise the Kalasha yet continue to ignore their woes?

The mountainous communities of Pakistan who inhabit the valleys of Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalaya are on the margins, ignored and side-lined; dependent on external centres of power for knowledge that define and decide their identities, policies and power dynamics. The people of Pakistan largely don’t know much about these communities, their languages, cultures and history. This was glaringly evident during the media coverage coming out of the valley during the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to one of the Kalasha valleys in the Kalashadesh in Chitral. Some reporters associated with certain famous media houses even thought that ...

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Why was Steven Butler denied entry into Pakistan?

When it comes to press freedom, Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries for dissenting journalists. It can be argued that since the era of General Ayub Khan, the press in Pakistan has remained hostage to the one-sided propaganda of the state. However, since Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is a democratic party and came to power through the ballot, it was expected that the media would be allowed to practice objective journalism and that freedom of expression would not be curbed. Contrary to expectations, the PTI regime has proven to be worse than previous dictatorships, essentially imposing an invisible ban on the ...

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Will the victims of the Balochistan University scandal get justice?

A month ago, the Balochistan High Court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to look into the sexual harassment reports which had emerged from Balochistan University. According to FIA findings, both female and male students “were being blackmailed by some staff members through ‘objectionable’ videos of them, recorded through CCTV cameras hidden at various places on the campus including its washrooms.” These reports are bound to have repercussions not just for the educational institution under question but also on women’s education in Pakistan as a whole. Whether or not those responsible for blackmailing, harassment and an evident breach of privacy will be ...

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What can Pakistan learn from this year’s Economics Nobel Prize winners?

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Michael Kremer of Harvard University won this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics. Congratulations to all three Nobel laureates. In their ground-breaking research, the three transformed the way developmental issues are studied, showing what works and what doesn’t. Their adoption of the experimental approach and particularly the use of random control trials, used mostly by biologists, in developmental economics is considered ground-breaking. Experiments open the door to understanding and knowledge, and rather than assuming what would work or wouldn’t, their approach looked at experimental data to come to a ...

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