Stories about poverty

What’s the point of your National Laptop Scheme if I can’t read or write, Mr PM?

The Prime Minister’s National Laptop Scheme was introduced in 2014, an expansion of a previous version by the name of the Shahbaz Sharif Youth Initiative. Four billion rupees have been allocated for the scheme and more than 100,000 laptops have been distributed through the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in colleges and HEC recognised universities. As part of phase two of the Laptop Scheme, 25,867 students were meant to receive laptops by February, 2016. But what concerns many of us is, what the return on this extraordinarily huge investment under the banner of Youth Initiatives has been so far – especially ...

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A six-year-old’s wish: “I like Pakistan. But I hope they make it better like Canada”

 “I like Pakistan. But I hope they make it better like Canada.” These words have been haunting me for the last couple of hours, written by an ostensibly vivacious six-year-old. They speak of the intense trauma that he is currently experiencing when relating to his homeland. A child’s innocence enables him/her to create impressions that perhaps lays bare the lines of fault and pretence which envelops our vastly deceptive lives. Children often have the uncanny ability to see through the façades which we erect on impoverished realities of life, and since their hearts are yet to be tainted by the vices ...

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His shoes disgusted me

I was in the bus sitting next to him, trying hard to look away. I had never seen them so close – so broken before. Generally, the stitches were patterned, the shine was bright, and even when it was dull; they made the person complete, secure. But here, a small piece from the side was missing. There were threads that were coming out from the opposite side. I could see his brown sock and his foot was visible from a hole in it. And that sight – that incredibly normal sight of someone’s foot, but in a public setting, with ...

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In Pakistan, the reality of poverty is hidden behind inaccurate numbers

Credit Suisse insisted that the world lagged behind Pakistan in the rate of total wealth increase between 2000-2015. Surprised? According to a report published in October 2015, the total wealth in Pakistan has increased at the rate of 7.4 % between 2000 and 2015, whereas the total wealth of the world increased at an average of 5.2% annually over the same 15-year period. The total wealth in Pakistan increased from $170 billion in 2000 to $495 billion in 2015. Similarly, the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015-16 has claimed that the per capita income in dollar terms has increased from $1,516.8 in fiscal year (FY) 2015 to $1,560.7 ...

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Thari culture, palla fish, Bombay bakery and my meethi journey through rural Sindh

Quiet recently, I joined a small group of close friends on a trip to Tharparkar, Sindh. The three of us reached Karachi by air and went to Hyderabad by road, where two other group members joined us. The five of us started our journey to Tharparkar via Badin. Our first stop was at Mithi, the district headquarters, where we experienced the first taste of hospitality by a Hindu friend’s family, who despite being vegetarians had prepared meat for us with various other delicious vegetables. After enjoying the scrumptious meal, we continued our journey onwards to Nangarparkar. On our way to Nangarparkar we ...

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The biggest treasure we can give our kids is to teach them about Edhi

He was not a mystic, an angel or someone from out of this world. He was a common man. He was from amongst us who stayed true to his roots and taught people a better way to live through his actions. What made Edhi stand out from everyone else was not by any sort of divine miracle, but because of the actions he took and decisions he made in his life. He faced poverty, lack of resources and odds (like all of us do) but he did not bow down or shy away from challenges; whenever he was faced with ...

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Does the death penalty target criminals or the poor?

A damning report places Pakistan as third in the list of countries where the most number of executions took place in 2015, after China and Iran and before Saudi Arabia and the United States. In other compelling statistics, in 2014, the Global Slavery Index, Pakistan ranked third in a list of 167 countries where the problem of human slavery is most severe. In 2012, we had the most number of people (28 million) affected by war and conflict. Along with other South Asian countries, Pakistan ranks high in hunger and malnutrition statistics, with about 41 million people undernourished in the period 2014-16, a whopping 22 per ...

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How do you stop a man who wants to kill children so much he is willing to die for it?

In a broken down house in some sleepy part of Lahore, a man woke up knowing it was the very last time he was ever doing so. Perhaps he watched the sun rise one final time, perhaps overwhelmed by its beauty for a few seconds he doubted himself. Perhaps he wondered how many people will miss him, perhaps he looked forward to what he was promised after death, perhaps he was just tired. We don’t know anything about him, not his identity nor his dreams, ambitions, fears and above all his demons. We don’t know who he left behind; a ...

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Terrorism doesn’t care if you are non-Muslim or Muslim, Brussels and Turkey are proof of that

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in Brussels. This could be a revenge attack in response to the Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam’s arrest in the city, last Friday. This could also be a symbolic attack against the European Union. Or it could just be another venue for a terror attack after Turkey, as the world watches in horror. It would be an oversimplification to suggest that ISIS is a group of overzealous Muslims working towards the ‘holy’ cause of establishing an Islamic Caliphate; they kill innocent civilians, both Muslims and non-Muslims. They work carefully to draw a wedge between ethnicities within a country to ...

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Why do Pakistanis cheer Brandon Stanton, but attack Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy?

Like so many in Pakistan, I was pleased when American photo-blogger Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York, visited the country to tell the stories of every day Pakistanis. As with his other excellent work, Brandon shared some moving tales, creating empathy as only he can. At the end of his Pakistan series, Brandon moved on to a despicable social ill of Pakistan: Bonded Labour, which is used to victimise thousands of Pakistanis and has been described as modern day slavery by the United Nations. Like any good journalist, Brandon highlighted the issue by sharing several heart-breaking stories alongside striking photos while relating some ...

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