Stories about tradition

Oh great government of Pakistan, take notice of the female aid workers in Balochistan, don’t alienate them!

On my recent trip to Balochistan, I came across examples of how women folk fare in tribal set-ups. While we, in the urban centres, believe that women are usually ignored and not allowed to contribute to society in tribal arrangements, the Baloch tradition has a very unique way of putting their women to good use. Tribal feuds and enmities usually span over generations. So when all else fails, the hidden asset – the women – is consumed. The women of the tribe seeking to reconcile are sent to the other tribe. These women then beg for forgiveness for the men folk of ...

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The Baloch tribal system isn’t all that bad

Bijjar is a Balochi word which means cooperation or help. We have all heard our esteemed intellectuals on national television talk about how the tribal system has multiple drawbacks. The primary reason these intellectuals like to rail against the tribal system is because they themselves have minimal knowledge about this structure. Their knowledge about the tribal system is restricted merely to its problems, which encompass things like the Sardari system, a hierarchy where the head is a sardar (chief), the exploitation by feudal lords, the culture of ammunition and strict ideologies against women education. Unquestionably, some aspects of the tribal system do more harm than good to a ...

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Neelam Ghar and Kasauti: Change is not always a good thing

Recently, I was flicking through the local channels when my fingers suddenly stopped on Pakistan Television (PTV) – our once-glorious national channel is now on permanent crutches, a tragic outcome of trying to keep up with modern trends. And amid such handicaps, there he was, the immortalised Mr Tariq Aziz, boisterously putting up questions of general knowledge. Agile and above 60, he would race towards an enthusiastic audience that could be cajoled into doing anything for him, from playing age-old games like musical chairs to participating in Urdu poetry competitions. One of his famous chants still echoed in the auditorium as ...

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A dialogue with my murderer

I am Bano. My mother used to call me Pari (Fairy). I was the only baby girl of my parents. I was killed by my uncle. My father was supposed to kill me but he didn’t have the courage so he asked my uncle for the favour. I was killed in the honour of my family’s good name which I destroyed. I was killed on Eid day. My grave is in my village and I was buried in my Eid dress. My father visits my grave in the dark so that no one sees him. My mother never visits my grave, she can’t make it. My ...

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Expat bhai, Pakistan is Pakistan yaar!

I feel sorry for Pakistani kids who grew up abroad. I realised this when my nine-year-old cousin was doing a heritage project in school, about Pakistan. She had to talk about her ancestry and how she ended up in America. It was going to be a typical project. She was going to narrate the cliché, sappy story of how her parents were looking for a better life for their children and thus migrated to America. Then, she would talk about how when she was three she visited her grandparents’ farm in Pakistan. Over there, she saw cows and hens ...

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Why I fell in love with Saudi Arabia

Moving to Saudi Arabia was such an incredible culture shock. Having been accustomed to a really open way of life in Barcelona, I just did not know what to think. I kept telling myself not to panic and that in time, I would adjust… Eventually I did. Aside from the restrictions I had many wonderful experiences. Saudis are such friendly, hospitable and generous people. I was constantly being thanked for coming to their country and educating their people. I remember one man in particular saying, “I would like to thank you on behalf of our people for coming here and educating us. We need ...

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Keep the hope alive, dear Pakistanis

We are no messiahs and we are certainly not asking you to turn a blind eye to all the problems that we face. It is always good to remain cognizant of the challenges that lie ahead of you ─ it can help you plan better. But there must never be any room for you to lose hope. Hopelessness, we have been told, is faithlessness. And we have faith. We have faith in the people of this country. We have faith in our belief that the people of this country will complement each other. ‘The Pakistanis’ is a celebration of the little ...

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Why should feudals apologize?

I have grown up hearing all the stereotypes on television in newspapers. Feudals drive big jeeps (who cares how many books they read?). Feudals are the reason the country can’t prosper. Feudals abuse people in the name of tradition. But this ‘wadera’ boogeyman image is not accurate. I’m not saying that exploitation of the poor does not exist in rural Pakistan, but the facts that are often ignored are: Exploitation is not exclusive to the agricultural community. For every landlord who mistreats the people who depend on him for a livelihood, there are at least three who are actively working to provide services (services that every ...

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Aalmi Mushaira 2011: Just another oldies affair?

In a candid interview with Pakistan and Gulf Economist in 2002, Azhar Abbas Hashmi claimed that the tradition of the Aalmi Mushaira in Karachi started as a means of improving the city’s image of genocide and lawlessness. Over the years, people of different nationalities, religions and political persuasions connect on an intellectual level and obtain what composite dialogue can never wholly impart: a feeling of unimpeded unity. The Aalmi Mushaira 2011 commenced with similar expectations at the Karachi Expo Centre under the auspices of the Sakinan-e-Shehar Quaid Karachi. The event was held against the backdrop of political tension and violence. And yet, ...

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Should we report aerial firing in basant?

If I had a brother or even a close relative, who enjoyed aerial firing, especially during weddings or birthdays, I honestly doubt that I would ever report them to the police for a measly Rs5,000. Activities such as kite-flying and aerial firing, particularly amongst the youth, have to be dealt with through a stronger hand. Basant, a festival for which kite-flying is an essential aspect, is especially prevalent in Punjab. Kite-flying there is not only to entertain the masses, it is part of a much larger tradition that resonates heavily in the region. That’s my point — tradition, much like a habit, ...

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