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Latest Breaking Pakistan News, Business, Life, Style, Cricket, Videos, Comments

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    While Pakistani fans of Brandon Stanton were posting warm and welcoming comments on the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, the power of pre-conceived notions and assumptions about Pakistan was evident in the contrasting rude and dismissive comments. Some of them called Pakistan “that wretched country” and threatened to give up on being fans of Brandon if he visited Pakistan. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="482"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] And so it has been. Pakistan, a beautiful country, inhabited by a vibrant nation, is often seen globally as a monolithic entity in which only extremists and bigots live, and where only bad things happen. It is seen as not just the land of the 2005 earthquake, the 2010 floods and the 2015 heat wave, but the land where these natural disasters could not be handled and too many precious lives were lost. It is seen as the land of the patriarchal man who throws acid at the woman who rejects him, and the country where schools are bombed. This is how Pakistan is seen by many who have a simplistic and, unfortunately, a binary world view. They have seen that side of Pakistan that makes headlines for all the wrong reasons. Pakistanis, thus, find themselves in a situation where people of the world are not willing to visit it, and they cannot really be blamed. Who would want to plunge into danger knowingly? If at all they do, there are very typical places they will visit, amid caution, fear and high security. They will experience the beautiful but sterile (parts of the) federal capital, Islamabad, and take selfies at the Mughal and colonial architectural sites in Lahore. They will give a talk at a university campus, eat at Cuckoo’s Den, and rush back home at the earliest. In doing so, very few visitors of non-Pakistani origin really get a flavour of what the real Pakistan is. Karachiites, in particular, have even forgotten what a non-Pakistani taking a walk on the streets of Karachi looks like. In such a situation, while as Pakistanis we are grateful that brave and unprejudiced visitors like Brandon and the players of the Zimbabwe cricket team took the risk and cared enough to see what Pakistan actually is, a part of us is saddened. Our excitement and hash tags like #cricketcomeshome or #HONYcomestoPakistan express how starved we are for such cultural interactions. We wish that it was just a given that people from all over the world would visit Pakistan for its natural beauty, its cultural diversity, and as one of the most interesting places in the world. https://twitter.com/Sahr_M/status/627352608563314688 https://twitter.com/Imanay/status/627321461129134081 [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="464"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="468"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="461"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="470"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] To Brandon Stanton, we say thank you, for sharing stories of the people of Pakistan as they really are. Thank you for telling us about the little boy who says the best thing about his sister is her happiness, about the young girl who wants to grow up to be a chef, about the woman who wanted to be a singer, about the boy who gives us a deeper insight into battling our fears, and the shepherd from Hunza who says his goat is called…well…a goat! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="489"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="487"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="488"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="486"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="485"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] What defines our country are its people, who comprise a proud, hospitable, charitable, and resilient nation. The average Pakistani goes through the same struggles and cherishes the same joys as anyone anywhere in the world. It is time that people stop seeing Pakistan through the lens of its challenges. And even if they do, we must remember that the more the challenges, the more the opportunities of brighter tomorrows.



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    Karachi Se Lahore is another comedy flick from the back to back line-up in Pakistani cinema. It is directed and produced by Wajahat Rauf and the screenplay was written by Yasir Hussain. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zq517_karachi-se-lahore-movie-trailer-new-pakistani-movie-2015_shortfilms[/embed] The story kicks off with the introduction of Zaheem (Shahzad Sheikh) and Maryam (Ayesha Omar) who are neighbours constantly arguing and fighting on senseless issues. Zaheem is seen living alone in an apartment (no mention of his family) and is a banker at Habib Bank Limited (HBL) (too much branding, as expected) who is clearly not happy with his current situation. Being the lead in the film, his acting on the big screen did not impress at all as he definitely missed the right notes. On the other hand, Maryam is Tiwana’s (Javed Sheikh) daughter. She also has a younger brother named Zeezo (Aashir Wajahat), who is too cool to be a younger brother (I would definitely love to adopt him). No other details regarding Maryam’s character have been revealed, apart from the fact that she is single and always cranky. She is shown as a laidback, lazy, stubborn, tom-boyish girl who swears and watches cricket, as if girls on an average don’t do that. Also, if she really is a tom-boy, then what’s with the pink shalwar kameez? In my opinion, her role appropriately falls under the supporting cast category, rather than the female lead. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] Photo: Karachi se Lahore facebook page[/caption] Eshita Syed plays the role of Aisha, Zaheem’s nagging and bad-tempered girlfriend, whose parents are nowhere to be seen in the movie, not even at her own wedding. Hussain also plays the role of Moti, Zaheem’s stuttering friend who usually gives brilliant ideas, despite not being taken seriously most of the time. Also starring in the movie is Ahmed Ali, who plays the role of Zaheem’s friend, Sam, who is constantly trying to impress ladies with his not-so-charming personality. The story begins when Aisha is sick and tired of waiting for Zaheem to make something out of his life and decides to take matters into her own hands. Hence she goes off to Lahore to marry her Canada-returned cousin, who by the way does a horrible job with the accent. With the help of Maryam, Zeezo and his two friends, Zaheem decides to go to Lahore to stop her from marrying her cousin and convince her to give him a second chance. The rest of the story revolves around their road trip from Karachi to Lahore and the hurdles faced on the way. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Karachi se Lahore facebook page[/caption] Yasir’s acting has been brilliant throughout the movie. None of his dialogues or punch-lines seemed unnecessary. There wasn’t a dull moment in his presence as he kept the viewers entertained and laughing. The entire cinema was applauding his jokes and one-liners throughout the movie. For me, he was the star of the show. If the movie manages to win an award that will solely be because of Yasir’s acting and dialogues as Moti. The rest of the characters were pretty weak and failed to make an impression. You will know what I mean once you watch the movie. I would surely watch it five times again, only for Yasir’s acting. The locations chosen for the movie were outstanding. However, I would have preferred some more of scenic views keeping in mind the movie is about a road trip from Karachi to Lahore. You can’t help noticing the Cornetto and HBL branding, which can test one’s patience and make the person want to throw something at the screen. The brands must have spent a huge chunk of their marketing budget for sponsoring the movie, so stock up on some patience when going to watch it. Ayesha’s item number, Tutti frutti, is a hit and has a catchy tune. It is our very own version of Baby Doll.  Aaja Re is another melodious track which was very much liked by the audience. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zjk9l_tutti-frutti-official-video-song-promo-ft-ayesha-umar-karachi-se-lahore-youthmaza-com_music[/embed] “Rabbi Ralli”, another item number featuring Mantahaa Maqsood, who plays the role of Mr Tiwana’s courtesan, is not to be missed if you love listening to up-beat desi numbers. Also try listening to Lahoriya a few times, and then tell me if you are not hooked to the beat. NooriShiraz Uppal and Sur Darvesh have done a brilliant job with the music. I have already added a few songs to my playlist. It’s always a feast to finally listen to some nice music, especially when it’s a production of your very own industry. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="564"] Photo: Karachi se Lahore facebook page[/caption] Overall, the movie was a fun ride. Despite being a low budget production and an almost three-hour long movie, the movie did create some magic. After Na Maloom Afraad, this movie stood out the most for me, as compared to all the recent releases. Have to give that much credit to Wajahat and Yasir. Two thumbs up to Yasir for his contribution towards a brilliant script and such fine acting, something I have seen after a long time. If you’re looking for a heavy dose of laughter, Karachi Se Lahore should do the trick. It’s a total paisa wasool (worth your money). I would rate the movie: Music: Four out of five Eye candy: Three out of five Direction: Four out of five Overall: 4.5 out of five This post originally appeared here.



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    The recent allegations surrounding designer Tabassum Mughal are widely known. She is accused of ‘beating up’ and verbally abusing a client’s mother, Shagufta Noor, when she visited the studio at the day on which the delivery of the dresses was due, and was supposedly not shown the dresses, which propelled her to demand an immediate cash refund. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook group Bring Tabbasum Mughal to justice[/caption] Like most Pakistani saas-bahu (mother-in-law/daughter-in-law) dramas, the story is remarkably twisted. It became murkier when a complete stranger, Hira Haroon, read the client’s friend’s post on a Facebook group, and decided to help. Daughter of a retired Army major officer, Hira approached the client’s (namely Adeeba Ahtesham) family. After pulling some strings, Hira’s father was able to register an FIR against Tabassum, which the police had allegedly refused to register earlier when Adeeba’s family had visited the station. When Hira’s father reached Tabassum’s studio with an arrest warrant and a police escort, a new side to this story emerged, the details of which you can read here. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="539"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] The incident triggered massive outrage on social media when the client’s friend, Maryam Waqar, posted the entire scenario on Facebook, leaving out the ‘facts’ that were later revealed upon the intervention of Hira’s father. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x307h1x_the-other-side-of-tabbasum-mughal-controversy_tv[/embed] As per one of the narratives, the client had ordered three outfits from the designer for her daughter’s wedding, out of which one did not meet the client’s expectations. The client, whose daughter’s wedding was apparently called off, demanded a refund for all three outfits, Rs8.5 lakhs. When Tabassum refused to give a refund as the other two outfits were ready and as per the client’s order, the enraged client started to verbally and physically abuse the manager to which Tabassum intervened. People leapt to condemn and condone the actions of those involved. Accusations were hurled and offensive remarks were exchanged. The post was shared over a thousand times, and a state of heightened frenzy was created over Facebook as people flocked to comment and pass their verdicts. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: Facebook group Bring Tabassum Mughal to justice[/caption] At this point, it is hard to believe who is right. There are so many accounts offered, and all so contradictory in nature, that it is impossible to come to any conclusion. We can only wait for the intervention of the police, and hope that proper, thorough enquiry will yield the truth. Having said that, it is tragic to see the direction this nation is headed. There were many on Facebook who were ranting about how the dresses were too expensive and Rs8.5 lakhs was extravagant madness. But that should be the least of our troubles. After all, consumerism drives the economy. And although I’ll admit I’d never spend so much on dresses girls hardly wear after their wedding events, it is a personal choice and, no, you don’t have the right to berate it. It is the deeper issue of how there was so little tolerance demonstrated by the customer and the business alike that should bother us. If a successful designer with all the ostensible refinement of the elite couldn’t handle an errant customer, should we expect the three-quarters of the Pakistani population living under $2 a day to even think about the finer virtues such as patience, kindness and forbearance? We shudder at the ruthless patriarchal culture prevailing in its most ugly form in Pakistan’s rural areas. If a woman’s self-respect is at risk in one of Karachi’s most chic and elegant designer studio, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to want feminism to prosper in Pakistan? Where is civility? Why is humanity missing from the ‘land of the pure’? Supposing Shagufta Noor did physically abuse a female worker first by throwing a shoe, does that justify the reaction of Tabassum Mughal’s team in any way? Why did her throng of workers and kaarigars (craftsmen) not restrain the woman or call the police? I am not implying that the client was not at fault, she clearly crossed the line. And yet, going by the designer’s response, must we all practise the ‘eye for an eye’ law of retaliation in polite, urban settings? We are permanently marred. As a nation, we’ve been through so much in such a short span of time – a mere decade or two – that we are left shaken and devastated. The violence this country has witnessed, the terrorism Pakistan was and is plagued with – all of it has reduced our frustrated tempers to a simmering boil. A little spark, and we flare. You see it on roads when you’re a second too late to start the car after the signal turns from red to green and there is an angry, protesting blast of honking. You see it at wedding buffets where people jostle and elbow each other, and wrestle over the serving spoon. You see it at restaurants where people yell at waiters for any slight delay or mistake. You see it at lawn exhibitions where women fight over the dress that was the last of the season’s collection. You experience it standing in a queue where people keep pressing against you, the queue which is formed after tremendous difficulty in the first place. In events such as these, there’s a profound sense of disillusionment. Where do notions of right and wrong disappear when the waters get slightly turbulent? Hopelessness sets in heavily. One wonders at this monotony of dread. Where is the quest for higher aspirations for revolution? How can we move on to more significant issues such as inter-sect harmony, if we fail so drastically at tackling trivial issues such as a designer dress fiasco? It is high time we think about it. Maybe it’s time we stop the blame-game we excel at, and try to individually correct ourselves. If you lie, try not to. If you’ve ever hurt someone, apologise. If your teacher is giving a lecture, listen politely. If you mock people or crack jokes at the expense of others, quit the habit. If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make one. Show compassion, be kind to children and be gentle with elders. Courtesy matters. You might think this stuff is trivial and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but sustainable change begins from the bottom. As for Tabassum Mughal’s case, the truth will come out eventually, and the internet will forget about it and move on to more interesting stories as it always does. But for once, let us not forget so soon. Let us take heed and learn a lesson, before humanity and social etiquette completely collapse in our ailing society.



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    Manzoor, Zahoor and Saleem Elahi. Imran and Humayun Farhat. Moin and Nadeem Khan. Hanif, Mushtaq, Sadiq and Wazir Mohammad. Wasim and Ramiz Raja. This is not a listicle of the cricketing families of Pakistan, otherwise it would have also included Imran Khan, Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Anil Dalpat, and Danish Kaneria (who are cousins, by the way). If this list is not enough, a simple Google search will yield nearly 162 families in the realm of world cricket. And the reason for mentioning all of this you ask? Well, it is to ask a simple question: Why are only the Akmal brothers considered as being the perennial symbol of one of the greatest cricketing failure? And more importantly, what is it about Umar Akmal that people don’t understand? A recent article poised a question, ‘Umm Just who is this guy Umar Akmal anyway?’ Well to answer a few of their queries, he is a right-hand batsman, ‘part-time’ wicket-keeper and bats at the fifth and sixth spot most of the time – actually always.But surely, we Pakistanis, even after being a ‘cricket-loving’ nation, love to hate. I guess Osman Samiuddin was right when he wrote in a 2014 article for ESPNcricinfo,

    “Umar is cursed twice over not just because of who he is – a Pakistani batsman – but especially what he is. Which is the most utterly modern batsman Pakistan has. He is their first true batsman of the post-Sehwag age, where clear-headed intent in shot-making is a far bigger commodity in batting than many other attributes.”
    I guess Samiuddin’s thought process was a little cloudy when he attributed the trait of a ‘clear-headed intent in shot-making’ to Umar. Well, why did he praise him so much? There must be something cooking for the controversy theorists’ thoughts. Umar’s statistics, in all three formats, boast both quality and quantity, if seen as a whole. A 129 and 75 in his first Test, 46 and 52 in the second and a naught followed by 77 in the third Test in New Zealand, against the likes of Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori, speaks volumes about the skill that Umar possessed in the early stages of his career. Unfortunately, he only played 16 Tests for his country. He was sacked for his desperation to score runs quickly than expected in Tests and admitted,
    “I don't think I should hold back my shots in Tests. If I do that, I’ll get confused and start declining.”
    And so he did. He only not held back in the longest format, the third of the three Akmal brothers made a swashbuckling appearance in the ODI format with 102 off just 72 balls with a strike rate of 141.66 in his third ODI against the Lankans. Some will say, yeah well, what did he do after that? The answer is, out of the 111 ODIs he has played, Pakistan won 54 and in those, he averaged 42.39. Not bad for a person who bats at number five and six, eh? And as far as the shortest format is concerned, T20, his average of 27.32 might not be great, but it is nearly equal to another specialist batsman Ahmed Shehzad (28.16). Meanwhile, in a total of 62 T20s played, Pakistan won 33 and he averaged a 33.70 in them, better than his normal average. We can safely call him a match-winner for this, right? Apart from his quantitative prowess with the bat, the quality of shots and his untainted ability to produce something out of nothing left his domestic coach, Mansoor Rana, awe-inspired, when he scored 855 runs in his maiden first-class season.
    “One innings from Umar can change everything. He can demolish, he can win the game in ten overs,” said Rana back in 2008, who I guess was exaggerating Umar’s aptitude. Or let’s just say, for controversy theory’s sake, Rana was forced into praising Umar by the batsman’s father-in-law Abdul Qadir.
    Moreover, Samiuddin did not start following Umar when he had become a regular in the Pakistan team. In 2009, just after his debut, the well-known writer had already hinted towards the greatness of one the Akmals.
    “At the risk of being a product of this age, has there been a better, more rounded batsman to come through in Pakistan in the last decade? Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan, around the turn of the century, were the last batsmen Pakistan produced and both took time to settle in, and neither looked, initially, as settled, or as pure as does Akmal.”
    This time even I am out of ideas for a controversy. Someone please suggest something regarding this. Oh wait! *the light bulb tings*, the author is quoting the same pundit again and again. Who else has praised this still-very-young lad?
    “As a batsman, he is technically complete, possessing the skill to play orthodox and unorthodox shots all around the wicket with equal flair and command.”
    And no, this didn’t come from Samiuddin; instead, it came from another Karachi-based cricket pundit, Saad Shafqat. So, the question that still looms in one’s mind is, why is Umar not able to convert his pure potential into something tangible, like centuries or double tons for that matter? For a cricketer who’s played 57 ODIs at the sixth position, a do or die spot, he averages a 36.97 with a strike rate of 88.44. And in the 30 outings at the fifth spot, Umar averages a 35.44 with yet again a staggering strike rate of 80.62. His plea to let him play towards the upper order, where he can settle in and translate 50s into centuries, has been heard on only six occasions – once at one-down and five times at the number four spot. His average at those positions (28 and 14) might not claim him to be a perfect upper middle-order batsman, but it is equally not enough evidence to declare him a failure at those positions. Conclusively, a batsman who promised so much at the start of his career with great numbers and for someone who still shows stark glimpses of his great shot-play on occasions, the question remains, why has he not been given the treatment he deserves by Pakistan? Is it the lack of the wow factor of ‘boom boom’ or is it because of his belonging to the Akmal clan?

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    It started during the World Cup 2015. What was first a dialogue from an extremely popular and recent Indian movie, took over nearly all Pakistani TV stations. It was simply inescapable. Any news channel you surfed through, you would hear it,

    Sarfraz dhoka nahin day ga! (Sarfraz won’t betray you!)
    [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Reuters[/caption] In the midst of an inauspicious start to the World Cup campaign and the team management’s baffling decision to persist with the woefully out of form Nasir Jamshed, a state of frenzy engulfed the nation over the perceived injustice done with Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s hero of the previous winter. In what almost became a national movement of sorts, with various conspiracy theories afloat, the team management finally heeded the nation’s plea to restore Sarfraz to the team, and his performances, including a century against Ireland, merely left egg on the faces of the management and per the movie, fulfilled the prophecy of ‘Sarfraz dhoka nahin day ga’. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] THANKSGIVING PRAYER: Sarfraz Ahmed celebrates his century against Ireland at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
    Photo: AFP[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pakistan needed a moment of inspiration or a million. It needed Sarfraz Ahmed. Photo:AFP[/caption] Since then, although the wider public has maintained a sceptical view of the team management’s relationship with the wicket-keeper cum batsman, it seemed the management had learnt their lessons. Hence, Sarfraz was not only re-instated into all formats but was also made the vice-captain of the limited-overs teams and his performance has not disappointed. It all had seemed to calm down. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pakistan clinched the second T20 vs Sri Lanka in a sensational last-over finish. Photo: AFP[/caption] That is until the recently concluded T20’s against Sri Lanka. Never mind that we won both the T20’s, or that Mohammad Rizwan, who had been put in charge of wicket-keeping duties, gave a stellar performance in the ODIs prior to that, or that his replacement, Umar Akmal had done well in the first T20. It was Sarfraz again who grabbed all the headlines – through no fault of his own—as fans fumed at the decision to drop him. Sarfraz, on his part, did well to quell the controversy by stating he was happy for the team and had no issues with the team management. However, that did little to end the debate. It has been stated, due to ‘prevailing favouritism’, Sarfraz was not in the team while a former captain remarked it was because others saw him as a threat to the captaincy. In a rather unusual move, even the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) backed by populist demand, asked Afridi to explain why Sarfraz was dropped. Even Rashid Latif advised the PCB to release a statement to explain the management’s decision.  And if that was not enough, Najam Sethi, on his political talk-show stated the management will be asked to explain the reasons behind the wicket-keeper’s omission. Such is the furore regarding Sarfraz’s treatment that PCB hastily released an audio interview with Sarfraz, during the World Cup, to calm the storm and dispel theories regarding any problem the management may have had with the Karachi-born player.  In what seems to have become a more sensitive issue than minority rights, we may have borne witness to the cult of Sarfraz Ahmed. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sarfraz has been benched time and again. Photo: Reuters[/caption] Sarfraz has never been short of supporters, not at least on a regional level, as throughout his career, his backers have always been quite vocal about their support for him. He was captain of the Under-19 (U-19) team that beat India in the final of the World Cup in 2006. He had always been earmarked as the future wicket-keeper of Pakistan but was seemingly pushed into the team well before he was ready in 2007. What resulted was an extremely under-whelming start to his international career where he was in and out of the side and devoid of a lengthy run in the team. In fact, his stint in the team prior to his remarkable performances in 2014 was nothing short of disastrous with the player appearing bereft of any confidence or self-belief.  His average of 18.57 in 6 tests and 18.27 in 26 ODIs beggared belief, for this was a player who was seen as a future captain and maintained an average above 40 in first-class cricket. It is not uncommon for selectors in Pakistan to throw a player into the deep-end before he is ready only to see his confidence shattered, but you can hardly blame them in this case. Such was the hype emanating from Karachi regarding its prodigy that it simply became impossible to ignore as he was given his debut against India in 2007. It is fair to say that Sarfraz never truly gained the acceptance of the dressing room, key to a player’s confidence, and was resigned to short and largely unsuccessful stints in the team. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sarfraz Ahmed insisted that he was just happy to get a chance to play in the Tests and ODI series in Sri Lanka and perform himself. Photo:AFP[/caption] Since then and up until 2014, Sarfraz polarised the fan-base on a geographical basis, with those in Karachi citing yet another case of discrimination against players from the megapolis, while those outside claiming he was just another overhyped player from Karachi so much so that he made the much maligned Kamran Akmal’s selection easier to fathom. To the more impartial viewer, however, it was a case of a player with great potential who was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His supporters may have caused his career great damage by forcing him into the setup prematurely resulting in a disgruntled management who never really wanted the player. It is exactly this kind of support that this writers guards against. While I am a huge admirer of Sarfraz and reckon him to be one of the stars of our game, his supporters need to be more prudent. This kind of support and especially the vitriol served to the management in response to his omissions is sure to antagonise quite a few within the game as well. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Tom Latham congratulates Sarfraz Ahmed on his defiant century. Photo: AFP[/caption] The cliché of cricket being a great leveller still rings true, especially for batsmen who can be blind sighted by blips that have them questioning their entire game. Sarfraz more than most can appreciate this cliché for he was down in the doldrums not so long ago, seemingly another tragic case of a talented player ruined by the system. He deserves all the praise coming his way for transforming his career and becoming a genuine star and an integral part of our team across all formats. But the more maniacal his support gets, the more derision his supposed critics receive will only provide more ammunition to his nay-sayers should Sarfraz ever find himself in the midst of a blip, and it puts further at risk, his career coming full circle.

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    The heat wave that killed more than 1,300 people in Karachi seems like a long time ago. Concerned citizens, in the heat of the moment, promised to plant trees, but very little has been said regarding when and how this can be done. As time is passing and cool monsoon winds are blowing away painful memories of the heat wave, the promises seem to be dissipating. Where memories are short lived, long-term efforts to mitigate a recurrence of the same catastrophe seem nowhere in sight. That is the problem with climate change – the cause and effect, both take place over extended periods of time. In a world of instant gratifications, both individuals and governments seem to have no patience to invest in something that will not show results instantaneously. Trees are an integral part of the environment, a part sorely missing in mega cities such as Karachi. Trees have a cooling effect as they transpire water from the ground, through the roots and out from their leaves. In addition, trees provide shade. For those who experience Karachi heat on the streets and have compared the temperature in shade and in open air know the difference. Planting trees in this concrete jungle is the real way we can stop this from happening again. However, few people recognise the impact of planting a tree today that could potentially save lives decades later. Those who are seriously inclined towards it, often end up planting the wrong trees at the wrong places due to a lack of awareness. Other than experts, like the unsung heroes of the ‘Mera Karachi (My Karachi) drives for tree plantation, people may be planting trees in Karachi but are planting them wrong. First and foremost, not every tree can bear Karachi’s temperament – what to plant should be a primary consideration. In Karachi, one thing to bear in mind is that anything we plant will have to be watered by us, as rains are a rarity and the city is already suffering from water shortage even for human consumption. As horticulturist and activist, Tofiq Pasha Mooraj says,

    “If you plant it, you water it.”
    For that, water conservation and recycling is important. However, this should not be the only consideration. The Corynocarpus is hassle free, fast growing, adaptable to even high salt content, economical when it comes to watering, and is the most popular choice of Karachiites since recent years. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo: Wikipedia[/caption] However, it does not provide shade as it grows almost straight and vertically. There have been studies that point in the direction that Corynocarpus causes allergies in humans who live nearby. Most importantly, its roots, when they grow deep underground in search of water, break or clog Karachi’s sewage and water lines. In this, it resembles the harm the Eucalyptus trees caused the city earlier. The city realised 25 years later what the Eucalyptus had done. As a result, an unnecessary effort was put into cutting out Eucalyptus trees in the city, and we lost out on the city’s greenery as well. While it has the advantage of providing cheap wood and grows fast, it literally throws toxins at other plants and does not allow other plants and trees to grow close by. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Reuters[/caption] A recent trend is to plant Khujoor (date) trees with full grown tree implants. However, the tree and its fruit are prone to fungal attacks due to the humid weather here. The date tree is therefore a less than ideal choice. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: AFP[/caption] The best trees for the city are those that take less water and provide shade. The best example is Neem, a very smart life form, which sucks in water from underground and provides cool shade. Other sensible choices are Gulmohar (Flame of the forest), and Amaltas (Indian Laburnum). These are deciduous trees that shed leaves, which proves to be very useful for Karachi. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="533"] Photo: Express Tribune[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="533"] Photo: Pinterest[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400"] Photo: Twitter[/caption] Indigenous varieties like Laal Badaam (Indian almond) and Jaamun (Syzygium cumini /jambolan) are also useful fruit-giving trees that give shade. Lignum is also a good option; it looks pretty, and uses less water, but takes time to become a shade giving tree. As it is a mid-sized tree, it is good to plant in areas where there are electricity wires above. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="481"] Photo: Wikipedia[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="469"] Photo: Pinterest[/caption] The choice of the tree you plant also depends on where you plant it and the space available. This brings us to the second consideration – where should one plant trees? For starters, if you are planting in a place other than your lawn, make sure you have permission to do so. Make sure the tree, once it has fully grown, will not interrupt electrical wires or obstruct underground sewage or water lines, or damage any walls. A good place is dividers or the place between your boundary wall and the road. Those living in apartments will have to be more creative, and settle mostly for plants that can be grown in pots on the roof. Yet, the important role green roofs can play must not be undermined. The ideal planting season for trees is mid-February to mid-March and mid-July to mid-August. Trees can be planted at other times too but extremely hot or cold months should be avoided. This means that it is best not to plant in April, May, June, and October.

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    After the Indian High Commissioner, Dr TCA Raghvan and his wife met the hearing and speech-impaired ‘Hindu’ girl in Karachi, reportedly stuck in Pakistan for 13 long years, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj vowed on Twitter,

     “We will bring Geeta back to India.” “Our High Commissioner believes that Geeta is an Indian,” Swaraj added, while thanking all the wonderful individuals in Pakistan who looked after the wretched girl like their own daughter and sister.
    https://twitter.com/SushmaSwaraj/status/628608743006048256 Geeta – whose heartrending story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a character named ‘Munni’ in the Bollywood blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan – is unable to return home, for she cannot remember or explain where she is actually from. Geeta has my good wishes. First of all, it was extremely nice of the minister to take time out of her busy schedule and pay attention to this humanitarian issue, especially at a time when she finds herself in deep water over her alleged help for the tainted former Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner, Lalit Modi, in obtaining UK travel documents. The opposition has been relentlessly demanding her resignation for helping a ‘criminal’ with serious charges of money laundering against him, amongst some other names. But we forget, it was a case involving a ‘Hindu’ girl stuck in Pakistan. I am convinced had it been about a ‘Muslim’ girl stuck in India, the Islamic Republic would have shown the same zeal. Yes, this is what India and Pakistan relation is all about – religion (duh)! I have a few questions for the honourable minister in this regard. If the girl stuck in Pakistan were Yasmeen, instead of Geeta, would you have even taken cognisance of the case? Would you still call her an Indian rather than being happy in getting rid of one more Muslim voter? If only we could once look around the lens of religion, we would find thousands of Yasmeens and Geetas longing to be reunited with their loved ones. This is the tragedy of the Indo-Pak relationship, for oceans of ink could be bled to expound on the damage partition has done to our people. Think about a well-off, educated Pakistani man who actually contemplated crossing the border illegally to meet his relatives in India after repeated visa rejections by the authorities. He eventually resorted to doing something so desperate, which may have cost him his life also. Think about those hundreds of unfortunate fishermen who languish in our jails for years for no fault of their own. Ponder over the misery of that Indian-Pakistani woman who could not be with her father in his last moments because her visa was rejected. Think about the thousands of men, women, and children who lost their precious lives in 1947, at the hands of those whose only religion is hate. Think about the plight of Kashmiris. People, who had been living together as brothers since time immemorial, were divided along the lines of religion by simply drawing a line that ran across their homes, villages, fields, and above all, the hearts of our people. The violence that ensued was unprecedented. Thousands of people were murdered, raped, and forced to flee their lands where they had been living for centuries. We are still paying the price for that madness and reaping the whirlwind. Who were they to divide a people whom the God had made one? Today, when we burn in the fire of hatred and fast hurtle down towards mutually assured destruction, my mind dwells upon Mahatma Gandhiji’s message to all of us in his last moments before he was murdered by a Hindu nationalist. On January 17, 1948, just 13 days before his assassination, during Gandhiji’s fast unto the death at Birla House in Delhi. His condition was deteriorating. During his prayer meeting that evening, he said that the number of telegrams he was receiving was increasing. There were many telegrams from Pakistan too, in fact that day, Gandhiji received a telegram from Karachi. Muslim refugees, who had been driven out of their homes from Delhi, wanted to know if they could now come back to their country India and reoccupy their homes. “This is the test,” Gandhiji said on reading the telegram, writes Tushar Gandhi, the former’s great grandson in his book, Let’s Kill Gandhi’. His representatives fanned out and distributed copies of the telegram to every Hindu and Sikh refugee camp and explained to the people what they would have to do to make Gandhi break his fast. The telegrams were good, so far as they went, the author writes. But as their friend and well-wisher, he was bound to tell those who were moulding Pakistan’s destiny, if they failed to see and admit the wrongs for which it was responsible, they would not be able to make that country permanent. He had accepted the Partition as a fait accompli and added that he would not mind India becoming Pakistan if Pakistan meant what its name implied – the land of the pure. That did not mean he approved of partition or ‘a voluntary reunion’.
    “But I wish to remove and resist the idea that Pakistan should be reunited by force of arms. I hope that this will not be misunderstood as a note of discord. Whilst I am lying on what is truly a deathbed, I hope all Pakistanis will realise that I would be untrue to them and to myself if from a sense of weakness and for fear of hurting their feelings, I failed to convey to them what I truthfully feel. If I am wrong ... I should be told and, if I am convinced, I promise that I shall retract what I have said here. So far as I know the point is not open to question.”
    Sudheendra Kulkarni, a socio-political activist and columnist, during his recent visit to Lahore met a maali (gardener) whilst taking a stroll in the garden. When Mr Kulkarni asked him if he thought that Pakistan should improve its relations with India, the reply was direct and startling.
    “Dekhiye, yaa to Hindustan ko Pakistan mein milaa do, nahin to Pakistan ko Hindustan mein mila do. Is batwaare ne bahut nuksaan kiya hai.” (Look, either merge India into Pakistan or Pakistan into India. This partition has caused a lot of harm.)
    I second the benevolent gardener. For as the hymn goes: Only he Who is smitten with the arrows of love, Knows its power This post originally appeared here.

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    Pakistan is a land of talented and gifted people. We have people who have made something out of nothing. With barely any resources available, various Pakistanis have outdone themselves in recent times and have brought pride and prosperity to their motherland through their hard work and sheer determination. Shah is a movie which is based on one such individual, who rose from the cluttered streets of Lyari in Karachi. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2w9lyj[/embed] He rose from nothing and became the pride of Pakistan, but eventually, he was reduced to a mere memory in the minds of Pakistanis. Shah is a story based on true events about the journey of Pakistan’s famous national hero, Syed Hussain Shah. He became the only Pakistani to win a bronze medal during the Olympics in Seoul in 1988. The movie was released this Independence Day to pay tribute to Pakistan’s forgotten national pride. It is a sports biopic and the ideology and concept behind the film is brilliant and worth applauding. The movie starts with a journalist named Noor (Kiran Chaudhry) who inquires about Hussain Shah, the famous Olympian Pakistani boxer who won numerous gold and bronze medals for his country by participating in international boxing matches. She finally manages to find Shah who narrates his life story and the hurdles he faced on his journey to dominating Asian boxing for nearly a decade. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: Shah official Facebook page[/caption] Performance wise, I feel the movie solely rests on one man’s shoulders, Adnan Sarwar, who is not only the director and writer but also the music composer. His accent and dialect throughout the film are quite impressive. Some scenes are worthy of applause; for instance, when he wins his first fight in Calcutta and the Indians tease him saying, “Jootay do Shah ko.” (Give him shoes) That particular scene with Pakistan’s national anthem playing in the background gives the audience goose bumps. Similarly, another superb scene is when Shah wins his fight in London. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="428"] Photo: Shah official Facebook page[/caption] Other than Sarwar, the other actor who manages to leave a mark on the audience is veteran Gulab Chandio. He portrays his character with complete gusto and is an absolute delight to watch. Most of the actors in the movie are locals from Lyari, which I feel may have been somewhat of a challenge for Sarwar, but it all seemed to work out perfectly. Apart from Sarwar and Chandio, the rest of the actors have limited screen presence. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: Shah official Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: Shah official Facebook page[/caption] Shah sends the right message of pride, patriotism and aptly pays tribute to the great Shah. Unfortunately, the film does have its flaws and lacks quality and aesthetics in other departments. For instance, the editing by Tahir Ali seems to be the weakest part of the movie. Similarly, cinematography by Omar Daraz and Hassan Zaidi is nothing to write home about. This could be due to the fact that the team had an extremely limited budget to work with as compared to the other recent Pakistani productions. Other than that, Urdu dialogues should have been supported with English subtitles as some of the dialogues were a bit difficult to comprehend. However, it’s great to see that Pakistani directors have taken the initiative to delve into the lives of famous yet forgotten heroes. If you want to educate yourself about the famous Olympian and support the revival of Pakistani cinema, then I suggest everyone to go watch Shah.  [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="595"] Photo: Shah official Facebook page[/caption] Overall, even though the message of the movie was very strong, it lacked the finishing touches required to make a film go all the way. I would rate Shah a 2.5 out of five.



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    Earlier this year, I was in rural Punjab conducting fieldwork on a study called ‘Women’s Work in Agriculture and Nutrition’. Prior to that, I was interviewing adolescents and their families in lower income areas of Karachi for a study called ‘Being an Adolescent in Karachi’. As a surveyor, I was introduced to interview respondents by a local resource person in both settings, and although my position as a researcher was the same in both sites, I noticed a stark difference on how people treated strangers between the two sites.  In rural-southern Punjab, people’s candour, warmth, and kindness were prominent. Even though majority of the interview respondents belonged to poor socio-economic backgrounds, they welcomed our survey team into their homes and were generous with their time and resources. People left their work to sit and respond to our questions. Although we did most of the questioning, a common question put to us was,

    “Khaney mein kya leingey?” (What would you like to eat?)
    Even though we declined most of the time, respondents often brought dishes full of gravy or fruits at the end of the interview. After experiencing such generosity at the first household we interviewed, I assumed that the family’s hospitality would outweigh others, but I was mistaken. People behaved similarly in all the houses we visited. Forty-year-old Amina helped to put things into perspective. She told us that it wasn’t just about being a good host, but also a matter of status and what was expected by other people in the village. Amina lives in a village located near Bahawalpur district. She is separated from her husband and resides with her brother and his family.
    “We can’t let you go without eating”, she said, while peeling another orange for us. “You are our guest. What will people say? Families who don’t welcome their guests are not respected. This is why we save money and keep it in case any guest arrives unannounced and there isn’t any food in the house.”
    On the other hand, while conducting interviews in Karachi, we as fieldworkers were seen with suspicion and doubt in most sites. We couldn’t readily walk into people’s homes until they saw a familiar face, which is why our resource person, a resident of the area we were working in, had to convince them first, gain their consent, and then we could proceed. At times, even the resource person was unable to gain people’s trust and we had to move on to another eligible household. In Karachi, upon entering respondents’ homes, some families offered us refreshments, but most did not. Many respondents were preoccupied with either household chores or getting ready to go to work, asking us to rush through the interview. Some had to travel long distances to get to work, whilst others had a tight schedule. When interviewing female members of the household, a male member often stood alongside her to see what we were talking about. It became apparent that in the city, people had far less time for anything that wasn’t a part of their daily routine, mainly because they had to get to work, which wasn’t always the case for people in rural areas. However, a striking difference remains in people’s temperament and how much time they have for others between the rural and urban settings. In the rural sector, people in the village make everyone a part of their home, their family and their community. In the city, we as people are divided into different groups according to class, caste and kinship, building barriers against one another.  Although these barriers also exist in the villages, the concepts of community and family are much more enforced in the rural sector. It is a norm that has been followed for generations. Residents of villages are a close knit community that protects and supports one another. They are unified and treat each other as their own. On the other hand, in the urban sector people are more inclined towards individualistic behaviour, thinking and looking out for one’s own welfare. Some people may call us selfish and arrogant, but we associate such behaviour with intelligence and shrewdness, resulting in our victory. We put our own needs, wants and beliefs over others, giving our convenience, success, and what benefits us the utmost priority. So why is there such a strong dissimilarity? Can this variation be attributed to norms or what has become the people’s attitude? It is quite common to value what is scarce and devalue what is ample in quantity. Could it be due to the abundance of strangers in the city, which is why they are valued in the villages? Or is it because residents of cities are habitually creating spaces and building boundaries? In what perhaps once started as a pursuit to safeguard family, has now turned into a norm. Is the rising crime rate being used as an excuse to become unreceptive and alienate outsiders? This post originally appeared here.

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    Karachi will endure not just because it has to, but because its inhabitants refuse to call it quits and give in to the face of adversity, for it is the people that define Karachi, and their resilience in essence embodies the spirit of Karachi. Karachi belongs to all of those who seek refuge beneath its bruised and battered but bountiful shade, irrespective of what walk of life they come from.  Karachi is not just owned by the political parties that represent it in the provincial or federal echelons, rather, it is owned by its people. We blame the politicians that they’re not doing enough to quench the violence happening daily in Karachi, as they’re too busy in politicking. However, we cease to ponder over the very basic fact that these individuals are too among us, cut from the same cloth as us, we elect them, we choose them to represent us and make decisions at our behest. So would we react so differently if we find ourselves in their shoes, hypothetically speaking? There was once a time not so long ago, when  everyone who came to Karachi for a better life was welcomed with open arms regardless of what their political, religious or ethnic orientation was. It was not seen as a line in the sand or a point of contention, but rather as a mixing pot of culture and ideologies, where everyone was tolerant of each other views. In every sense of the word, Karachi was a loud, boisterous and lively place once that brimmed with life resonating everywhere. The only thing that resonates now is the deafening echo of bomb blasts coupled with sporadic gun fire and the blaring sound of the sirens of ambulances rushing towards the troubled area. Unfortunately, perhaps lately, we the Karachiites have grown accustomed and numb towards the senseless violence and bloodshed happening around us. All the blood and tears that have been shed around us, we have the illusion that if we look the other way and let it be, we will insulate ourselves from it.  By ignoring this underlying problem, by closing our eyes shut, we won’t make it disappear. This is wishful thinking bordering naivety at best. The haves of our city are too busy fortifying their castles and fortresses, bomb and bullet proofing their vehicles in light of this looming threat, while the have nots have nothing but the word of God in their heart to keep them away from harm’s way and being reduced to a number in the daily tally of lives lost in our city. While comfortably sitting in our cosy and plush sofas, having casual social gatherings with our friends, we reflect on the thought that how Karachi was once truly “the city of lights”. When we reminisce that era, we go through an undercurrent of sadness and feel nostalgic about it. Or should we try and make our collective selves heard? There’s no denying the fact that we as the inhabitants of Karachi stand divided and callous, for a lack of a better word. Divided and segregated in terms of our creed, our language, our ethnicity, our race, our social status and our lifestyle. The leeches, the parasites that are sucking the life, the vitality out of our city incessantly without showing any remorse are thriving and feeding off on this very fact. Karachi feels like it’s surrounded by its enemies who appear in the shape of those rabid hyenas, who are biting it one at a time, picking on and feasting on its flesh mercilessly. Yet it still survives and will continue to do so. It is high time to put our petty and minuscule differences aside and focus on the larger scheme of things, so many precious lives have been lost in our dear city while we sit idly, bicker,  quarrel and oppose each other.   If  we reflect and introspect on the recent incidents that have dealt a serious blow towards the social fabric and tranquillity of Karachi,  let it be the Safoora Goth incidence which sent shockwave throughout the country, the random day after day of shutter down of the metropolis and political unrest, or the ghastly attack on Jinnah International Airport. Rest assured, the patience of Karachi’s inhabitants have run out, they want a timely and a permanent solution, simply put; they want peace. The bureaucratic caretakers of this great city and its elected officials should put aside their vested interests and join hand in hand which will be a reason for mutual benefit for all demographical entities that live in Karachi. If all of these political entities continue to procrastinate, the mandate to undo all of the aforementioned issues will be given to military forces, some of which we’ve already witnessed in recent months that have greatly improved the law and order of Karachi.  This is but an ad-hoc solution and not a permanent one, but right now, we’re out of options and this is the only option that seems feasible and do-able. Karachi is like the fictional creature Phoenix, which keeps rising out of ashes each time it is injured, bruised or battered. Each time more resilient and hopeful than the last, hopeful of dreaming that the future will hold better times and opportunities for our future generations to come. We should get rid of the fear that consumes us, and let our voices be heard, for it is the fear of not being vocal, not being able to get our voices across that enable the politicians to do as they see fit. We must rise from our differences, our insignificant and petty quarrels that divide us, until we lambs become lions. Perhaps we should find solace in this particular extract from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. These words stand as a testament to Karachi’s resolve and perseverance and the people that it harbours.  “Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears, Looms but the horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years, Finds, and shall find, me unafraid…”



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    Thar’s veteran politician, Rana Chandra Singh, once commented on the size of Umerkot’s Lanba ground in Dhatki, “Lanba ground Kachhi menhan Bhari ya Bhutto re Dikri.” (Either the southern rain has the power to fill the Lanba ground, or the daughter of Bhutto.) Those were the days when Sindhis, both Muslims and Hindus, chose to name their children after the famous Bhuttos. There are many Zulfikars, Bhuttos and Benazirs in Sindh and people once took pride in such names. Similarly, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged, many who had named their children Ziaul Haq, changed their children’s names immediately. Now, you will rarely come across a person named Zia in Sindh. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) represented the people; PPP represented the icon that was Bhutto. They, in fact, were correlated. But now the Bhuttos are gone, and the ardent following has disappeared as well. For years, Sindhis have shown reverence and unconditional support to PPP because of the Bhutto scion. But now that era of sympathy seems to have come to an end, since its current leadership has failed to live up to their expectations. The people of Sindh have had enough of disorder, lawlessness, nepotism and, of course, corruption prevalent in the province. I’m one of the thousands of Sindhis who feel no sympathy for PPP anymore and do not have the same allegiance towards the party as my forefathers did, and hence today, I’m one of its biggest critics. I am often questioned whether I still support democracy, and if I do, then how can I criticise PPP? Most times, people strangely equate opposing PPP to harming democracy, which subsequently means one supports dictatorship. I am told that bad democracy is better than a good dictatorship and hence I should support PPP. At times, it even makes me wonder whether I am anti-democratic. But a big ‘no’ echoes back. Thus it leads to a series of other questions – why don’t we feel sympathy for a party we loved so dearly once upon a time? Why do I feel this innate satisfaction when a noose is tightened around the neck of its moguls? Why do we cheer when authorities such the Rangers, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB) make arrests in Sindh and conduct a raid on government offices? I don’t remember a single Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) when the people stood with PPP during Zia’s toughest era. But I do remember Pervez Musharraf’s time and how people abhorred him as much as they loved PPP. Do they feel love towards Benazir Bhutto because they are indebted to this selfless woman who had lost her father and two brothers in the struggle for democracy? But the question is, was there even a struggle for democracy? A series of reasons follow my questions. 1. Seven years of sheer incompetence Who would have thought the ‘emblem of federation (PPP)’ would be swept away from the country in just a span of seven years? PPP was brushed aside in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in the 2013 General Elections. Subsequently, in the Cantonment Board Elections, PPP only secured seven seats across the country, and hence, the nation’s biggest and oldest party was shot down to the fourth ranking simply because of its incompetence. If this was not enough to prove the fact that PPP was standing on a slippery ground, PPP’s leaders continued to harp on about reaching the stars. Recently, in Azad Kashmir, where PPP is a ruling party, it seized six of the eight reserved seats. Asif Ali Zardari continues to remind us time and again of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), but if this trump card of theirs was sufficient to win over the hearts of the public, it would have translated into winning the elections. But the fact of the matter is that it could not. It was Zia’s mission to finish PPP, but he could not achieve what he aimed to do. Although keeping PPP’s current leadership in mind, I feel Zia’s dream has come true. Over these seven years, the law and order situation has deteriorated. This can be highlighted by the fact that both the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for Minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti were killed during PPP’s tenure. What’s more tragic is that the party could not hold a protest demonstration, let alone arrest the murderers. Similarly, Karachi remained a battlefield for criminals, murderers, mafias, and political parties until the Rangers swung in to action. A report shows that out of the 1,180 killings in Sindh last year, at least 96.18% occurred in Karachi alone. Forced marriages are still a common practice in Sindh, so are forced conversions. Women are killed under the pretext of honour and are given in Vani. Every city of Sindh seems like a trash can and a pond of drainage. There is not a single city in the province that any PPP leader could present as an example of a new, revitalised Sindh. Moreover, the first and foremost promise the Zardari government made was to arrest the murderers of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. However, that remains to be a forgotten promise. If a party that could not even gain justice for its founders, how can you expect it to do justice to its people? 2. Incompetent leadership The Bhuttos fought for the rights of the people and the democracy of this nation which manifested in striking the right chord with the people. On the other hand, Bhutto’s son-in-law, Zardari tried to save his power by striking for mufahimat (reconciliation). In all these years, what he could have excelled at was reconciliation, regardless of what price his party paid for it. But evidently, he couldn’t be least bothered about it. The country’s largest party which is confined within one province is struggling to save itself in its own home town. After six years of being in power, in September 2014, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto realised that his party had committed mistakes in the past and apologised for these blunders. Bilawal requested the workers to not leave the party and assured them of their commitment by winning back the trust of the people. But his leadership style proved him spineless, since not the slightest change has taken place. Many senior leaders have been side-lined in the party and many were forced to leave. In Punjab, workers are deserting the party in complete desperation, simply because Punjab is no more of a priority for the party leadership. Remember how Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was with the people of Punjab during the floods in the 70s, or Benazir who on the very next day of the October 18, 2007 bomb attack went to Lyari to sympathise with the relatives of the victims? But of late, when the searing heat wave was brutally killing people in Karachi, the current PPP leaders intended to visit Larkana but instead chose to stay in Dubai. A leadership that has nothing to do with the common man would never garner the support of the people. 3. Corruption, nepotism, and much more People continue to ask what the PPP government has done for its people in these past seven years. Did their pro-poor and ‘roti, kapra, makaan’ slogans during two of Zardari’s tenures in Sindh materialise into anything productive? I don’t think so. Town Municipal Administrations (TMAs) have become ATMs for the leaders. Health, education, and irrigation are not as bad as they used to be, but the entire system as a whole has witnessed a downfall. There are several stories of land grabbingcorruption, and nepotism in rural Sindh. PPP ministers made a thousand fake appointments in different departments, and many people have paid piles of money to win a job, but they’re still clueless. No one in their right mind would apply for any job in Sindh, as they know that the pre-requisites for any government position in Sindh are two things – money and political favour. Initially, Zardari acquired the title of Mr 10 per cent, since he would keep most of the allocated budget for a particular project for himself. Recently, Lyari ganster Uzair Baloch spilled the beans on committing murders allegedly on the orders of PPP leadership, including its co-chairman and former president Zardari. Zardari even allegedly transferred money to Swiss bank accounts illegally. But that’s the past, so let’s bygones be bygones. However, Zardari has failed to save himself from such allegations even after becoming the party’s co-chairman and elected president. A case in point is the Ayyan Ali’s case. Hostility towards Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur, is not only felt on the public level, but can also be seen within the party. Many officers and politicians who have been arrested have allegedly confessed to corruption in the ruling party. But despite all these facts, when Asim Hussain is arrested in Sindh, it happens to be an attack on Sindh. Why would people support a party that faces a cyclone of corruption charges? 4. Pushing Bilawal aside If one gets a chance to flip through PPP’s newspaper advertisements during the last two elections, all one would see is pictures of Zulfikar, Benazir, and Bilawal splashed over the pages to rein in votes, instead of Zardari himself or Faryal Talpur as epitomes of leadership. But as soon as the elections finished, Zardari and Talpur suddenly showed up again, occupying a large portion of advertisements, replacing the original Bhuttos. In all these years, Bilawal has just remained a showpiece. There are stories of Bilawal being at loggerheads with his father because of anti-people policies, corruption and other matters. He also ran away from the country and came back silently. He still seems mechanically controlled and is only launched whenever needed. For example, after the Rangers’ raid on the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), which triggered Zardari’s outburst against the establishment and several arrests were made, Bilawal was the complete opposite and remained calm. Even though Bilawal disagrees with his father, he continues to remain a puppet and I feel he will never be able to muster enough courage to stand up against him. Based on these incidents, it’s clear that he will be unable to bring about a change in his own party. Now, in the face of corruption charges on the party’s leadership, Bilawal is forced to stay back, perhaps, in order to calm the situation and show the public that he is one of them. But he, as a chairman, finds himself unable to purge his party of the corrupt and the incompetent. Why would people support PPP, a party that cannot even be controlled by its own chairman?



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    Sadly, there is nothing unusual about teenage suicide. Nothing new about the reason behind it either. Recently, two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, killed themselves at their school in Karachi, apparently because they were ‘in love’ and did not expect their families to consent to them marrying each other. According to The Express Tribune, the boy shot the girl first as per her request before pulling the trigger on himself. The young couple had left behind two suicide notes for their parents. Both of them said that they were aware that their parents would never allow them to get married which is why they decided to take their lives. Both letters, which appear to be written by the same person, requested the parents to honour their dying wish to be buried next to each other. Whatever the facts of the matter, keeping in mind that in such cases the facts are never clear, the reality is that these two children died and our hearts go out to their families during this terrible time. May the two children rest in peace, and may Allah (SWT) give their families strength to bear their loss. Teen years are never easy. With turbulent hormone levels and uncertain judgement, it is hardly surprising that suicide is a significant cause of death amongst teenagers. It is as true that parenthood is not easy either, and being a parent of teenage children is particularly difficult. Like any profession, being a parent is learned on the job. To expect a ready-made sage to emerge as a result of a nikkah and the process of childbirth is naive in the extreme. Therefore, to blame the parents for this or any similar case is cruel and indecent. The reaction to this awful incident is what invites comments the most. Reports of this tragedy elicited scores of comments within the day, most of which passed a harsh sentence on the parents. Strange, because which of us is without error as a parent and can throw the first stone? And how wrong is it to jump to conclusions at a time like this, particularly when all is conjecture and none of the facts are clearly presented before us? Even were it otherwise, it is obvious that our compatriots stand in need of sensitivity. Other commentators pointed fingers at Hollywood, Bollywood, local television plays, Indian and others, computers, iPads, mobile phones, and free phone packages, 3G networks, video games, co-education, little religion, no love and too many firearms. I looked but could not find any allusions to the CIA or Mossad, but I am sure they will turn up in due course if they’re not already there, camouflaged by the reference to movies. We must learn the sheer inevitability of technology. It is like the sexual urge. It will happen and suppressing it will create problems. You can only learn to use it in the right way. So TV will happen. Computers will happen, as will books, movies, cartoons, and YouTube. Ban it as much as you will. People will find them, read them, see them, hear them, and more so if they are banned. I would not have cared two hoots for it but because it was banned, I admit to having read the book that was set to become Salman Rushdie’s great flop before it was banned. The thing that can and must be controlled in some way is the easy access to firearms. What is being done about this? And about the reason why so many persons possess firearms in the first place? The possession of firearms is very often a result of a very real perception of a lack of security. Even so, the possession of firearms is open to abuse. Remember how Salman Taseer was killed? Security is a state concern which it has shamelessly shirked along with most of its other responsibilities. What is being done to make this country more secure, other than making it over to arbitrary justice handed out by unqualified courts? And there are many other persons who possess firearms with a view to aggression rather than self-protection. What is being done about them? The other point in this case is that the young boy, being an Ismaili, would not have been accepted by the girl’s family, or so it is reported in the news. Who knows what the facts of the case are, as I said before, and I stress on this again. Certainly, the local SHO had no reservations about claiming that the two were very young and came from different communities, and ‘which parents would have allowed this?’ It could be that he was referring to them being underage, but he could equally be referring to their belonging to separate communities. And that is probably the saddest thing of all, that the factor of community is ever an issue. Even if that is not the truth in this particular incident, there is the fact that the SHO seems it fit to say so, the fact that so many people would agree that two different communities may not intermarry, even if they both call themselves Muslim. If this is not a problem of our own creation, what is? Why, at every instant, do we blame someone else for our problems? Like other countries, Pakistan has a host of issues. It is time we recognised that our society and no one else is at fault in most tragedies that occur here. We have lost the ability to share, coexist and debate as a society and the results are before us. Many years ago, a person who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in the US left a note that read,

    “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”
    If you go out in any of the cities in Pakistan and smile at a stranger on the road somewhere, he will look at you stonily and walk on. Not one person will smile and offer you courtesy, not one will make way on the road, open a door for you, or smile and thank you if you do. By these standards, all the persons in Pakistani cities should kill themselves forthwith. This is not an issue created by cell phone packages, by Bollywood or co-educational schooling. It is not the fault of RAW, the CIA or Mossad. This is us, the people of Pakistan ourselves as a society. Let us forget the Golden Gate Bridge and acknowledge the issues right here, in Anarkali Bazaar, in Landhi, Korangi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta, and recognise the ones who created them – we and I. When something goes wrong, let us examine where we went wrong, and take pity on those who suffer as a result of these tragedies. It’s time to cultivate some sensitivity, a modicum of sense, and learn to live in this world with grace. It is a world where technology rides on our shoulders and a world where all communities must learn to live together now, or die.

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    In his fiery and ‘courageous’ speech, followed by his ‘courageous’ exit from the country, Asif Ali Zardari seemingly tried to intimidate the country’s establishment in general and the army in particular. The speech was filled with direct and indirect attacks at, and threats to the Pakistan Army, apparently as a pre-emptive response to what followed. It was later that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) clarified that these accusations and threats were actually hurled at former army men and not ones currently in service. This was the first of many unbelievably lousy explanations put forth by PPP as part of a damage control exercise. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was already an aggrieved party facing Rangers operation in Karachi against militant wings, terrorism and ‘economic terrorism’. Immediately after the raid at MQM’s head office, nine-zero, Altaf Hussain started with his careless accusations, threats and cries of foul play. Some may remember how PPP initially tried to side with MQM but then, sensing how that could expedite the process – in which they were the next likely target, went silent and chose to wait their turn. But as soon as it became imminent, Zardari boarded MQM’s bandwagon and adopted a Altaf style of offensive defense. What was previously being alleged a conspiracy against MQM is now also treated as conspiracy against PPP. Though PPP preferred to portray it as an independent conspiracy against them and not part of a conspiracy against both MQM and PPP, since until recently, PPP seemed to believe that MQM’s cries were unjustified and lacked merit. After Zardari’s speech and exit, PPP and its co-chairmen remained silent on the matter. But the day Dr Asim Hussain – a former federal minister from Zardari’s term – was arrested, and remanded to Rangers’ custody, all that changed. First, Mr Khurshid Shah, opposition leader in the National Assembly, delivered a not so subtle message from his boss threatening ‘war’ if a hand was laid on Zardari. Then came Zardari himself, with threats of dire consequences to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for engaging in “politics of vengeance”. During his stay abroad, Zardari seems to have learnt that the ‘conspiracy’ against PPP is not the army’s or the establishment’s doing, but Nawaz’s. In fact, as part of the damage control exercise, Zardari seemed to praise the army while threatening Nawaz. He said,

    “When Pakistani Army is fighting a decisive war against the terrorists and also fighting at our borders, Mian Nawaz Sharif, instead of challenging the real enemy, is targeting People’s Party and other political opponents.
    Zardari’s speech against the head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the prime minister, has effectively put an end to the ‘politics of conciliation’. Friends have, unilaterally for the time being, become foes. Some say this may be part of a larger plan to disrupt the on-going operation against corruption and the corrupt. Some say that PML-N is in cahoots with PPP and MQM on this, since they see themselves as next in line. Some believe that since MQM’s resignations failed to create the perception of a political turmoil, a rift between PML-N and PPP may just be another attempt to do just that. But then, all this is just hearsay. Zardari accused Nawaz of reverting to the “politics of 90s”. In a way, many believe that we may see a partial re-run of the 90s after all, the decade that saw Zardari being charged, investigated and imprisoned. But I don’t think that’s what Zardari was referring to. He was referring to the pre charter of democracy rift between his wife’s PPP and Nawaz’s PML-N; the times that preceded the politics of ‘conciliation’ and brotherly ties between the two major political parties. PPP and PML-N were engaged in a tug of war in the 90s. With the help of the establishment, neither let the other rule in peace. Some say it was more about not letting the other loot in peace than rule in peace. Imran Khan’s version of this conciliation is a ‘loot and let loot’ arrangement between PPP and PML-N, implying thereby that neither party will hold the other accountable for any crimes or corrupt practices. I haven’t yet seen PML-N affirm Imran’s view in words or by implication. Zardari, however, did imply that Imran’s assertion is somewhat accurate. In his speech he said,
    “We accepted the results of 2013 General Elections for the sake of democracy, although those elections were Returning Officers (ROs) elections…”
    We may doubt the allegations of rigging but Zardari appears to be saying that he knew the elections were rigged, and mandate acquired thereof was fake. Nevertheless, he chose to let PML-N rule in the interest of democracy. Now that gives credence to Imran’s version of PPP-PML-N ‘conciliation’. So how sound is Zardari’s accusation of reversion to the politics of 90s? First of all, Benazir Bhutto’s PPP of the 90s was a muscular political party with strong public support throughout Pakistan. Zardari’s PPP has been reduced to a frail provincial party with negligible support in other provinces. The allegations of a conspiracy against PPP in the 90s are not baseless and have been proven in the Supreme Court. But Benazir’s reception upon arrival in Pakistan in 2007 and the result of the 2008 General Elections showed how the conspiracies failed. But where the establishment failed in the 90s, Zardari succeeded with flying colours in just five years of co-chairmanship. So I don’t think the ‘enemies’ of PPP need a conspiracy anymore, not one to remove Zardari from office at least. But to keep him there? Perhaps. Then there is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). There was practically no third force in the 90s. PPP and PML-N took turns at running the country. Thanks to the own-foot-axing PTI, the nation now has a third option. PTI has already overtaken PPP, and PML-N is more concerned with its new worthy adversary. Lastly, there is that hearsay about the prime minister not being in charge, so even if it were a conspiracy, it couldn’t have been hatched by PML-N. So Mr Zardari, I don’t think there’s any conspiracy. Pakistan does not want a conciliation which puts you, or anyone else, beyond accountability. I can see you have a hand that used to be a good hand in the 90s, but it’s not the 90s anymore and the Sindh card, the Bhutto card, the political victimisation card or the conspiracy card, are not the cards they used to be.

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    Kabir Khan is a well-known and renowned Bollywood director and it’s pretty clear by now that he is not interested in directing and producing ‘masala movies’. Since his directional debut, Kabul Express in 2006, he has made five films and there’s been a geo-political angle in all of them. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2z857o[/embed] Phantom is the latest movie directed by Kabir Khan. The film has created way too much controversy due to its subject matter, the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Additionally, the time of release hasn’t aided the movie either, keeping in mind the rising tensions along the Line of Control (Loc). The basic background of the movie revolves around a covert operation commissioned by RAW, which requires killing all the convicted and alleged perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The mission is carried out by a disgraced former officer of the Indian Army, Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan). The movie begins with the RAW headquarters in focus. A meeting between senior officials is interrupted by a junior officer, who takes the liberty to suggest a covert operation against terrorists in Pakistan. After a go ahead from the head of RAW, Daniyal, who is rejected by his family and is living in solitude, is convinced that if he carries out this operation, it will definitely restore his dignity and honour. The movie then unfolds, showcasing Saif Ali Khan on a killing spree in the UK, US, Syria and finally, in Pakistan, killing all the terrorists RAW wanted him to eliminate. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"] Photo: Phantom Facebook page[/caption] The Phantom team should have known that such an idea and storyline would garner a lot of negative attention from across the border. Therefore, in order to rein in viewers and success, the team should have been more sensitive towards the audience, focused on viewers who watch movies for the content, and those who are not offended by the topic or issue at hand, but unfortunately, there were quite a few glitches in the story line and the presentation turned out to be a disappointment. For instance, killing an already sentenced terrorist in a US prison, depicting a stereotyped ultra-conservative urban populace in Pakistan where most of the males are wearing prayer caps all the time, and the depiction of Lahori weddings is also quite perplexing. Furthermore, it is mind-boggling as to how they manage to flee from Lahore to Karachi by road in just 10 hours. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="469"] Photo: Phantom Facebook page[/caption] This is Kabir Khan’s second consecutive movie, after the Box Office hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan, in which he has showcased Pakistan intricately but failed to grasp the true essence and picture of it. Most of the people who are well-acquainted with the ground realities of Pakistan would smirk at the ignorance of the director’s portrayal of Pakistan. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="585"] Photo: Phantom Facebook page[/caption] The stance held by the actor and director regarding Phantom is that the movie is not anti-Pakistan, rather anti-terrorism. Although, if the movie is showcasing Saif on the hunt for Pakistani terrorists, this overrides the director’s stance and automatically implies that Pakistan is a facilitator of terrorism. Trying to appease both parties, namely Pakistan and India, is impossible. Another alarming aspect this movie has highlighted is the subconscious glorification of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), simply with the use of reverse psychology. The movie is an amalgam of fictional and non-fictional characters and events. The reach and power of all those non-fictional characters shown in the film will only consolidate their invincibility. Had Zero Dark Thirty been made before the Abbottabad operation, it would have only inflated the prowess of Osama Bin Laden. As for acting, Saif has done justice to his role whereas Katrina Kaif’s character, Nawaz Mistry, is quite confusing. Her character has been shown as someone being influential yet naïve, and even emotional in her professional resolutions. Katrina’s acting lacked depth; the audience is subjected to the same old superficial expressions. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="484"] Photo: Phantom Facebook page[/caption] Surprisingly, Phantom doesn’t include a long list of songs like your usual Bollywood movies. There are only three songs out of which two seem like space fillers, while the third one, Afghan Jalebi, was the only song that stood out and had a catchy tune. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zu9o5[/embed] The movie hasn’t given any thoughtful message regarding the rational behind dealing with terrorism, rather it’s more of a revenge and honour affair. Phantom, like Waar, can only provide momentarily adrenaline rushes to the reactionary and hyper patriots.



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    I am sure that anyone who has seen the Game of Thrones would love to know what house they would belong to had they been part of the series. But what if we lived in a world where houses were based on the A’ level colleges that people attended – or were aspiring to attend? How would that work? After a lot of research and analytical conversations with alumni from the top ten A’ level institutes in Karachi, I was able to grasp a sound, albeit limited, understanding of the kind of students who studied at these particular schools. And in GOT language, this is how the schools can be best understood: 1) Karachi Grammar School (KGS) – House Lannister Mostly rich, these kids have an air of superiority that surrounds them. The similarities between KGS folks and the Lannisters are uncanny! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="245"]game of thrones animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 2) The Lyceum – House Stark Everyone’s favourite, and ruled the A’ level realm once upon a time. But they have fallen now and are too scattered to find their bearing. Also, they believe in diversity. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="245"]game of thrones animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 3) Nixor College – House Targaryen The school, like Daenerys Stormborn aka Khaleesi, came to the surface a few years ago and is now making its way to take over the kingdoms. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"]Game of Thrones animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 4) Beaconhouse Schooling System – House Baratheon While they are part of the elite schools (houses), there is lack of unity within them as there are many branches (brothers) and they often end up competing with each other. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="389"]slapping animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 5) Bay View High School – House Tyrell Their presence or absence doesn’t make a difference. They tend to aim high and become rulers of the realm, even if that means leaving your school (name) and getting admission (marrying) into another. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="245"]game of thrones animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 6) City School PAF Chapter – House Tully While their individuals end up making a name for themselves (hint: Catelyn), they are not a very prominent school (house) collectively. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="245"]george rr martin game of thrones gif Photo: Wifflegif[/caption] 7) St Patrick’s High School – House Bolton They are aggressive and would not hesitate in cutting others down if it leads to their victory. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"]game of thrones animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 8) South Shore School for A-level Studies – House Greyjoy They are close to the sea. Their members have a habit of partying and having a good time, even if it means they’ll get into trouble for that. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"] Photo: Tumblr[/caption] 9) Foundation Public School – House Frey While they don’t have any major role in the realm, they are often visited when there is nowhere else to go. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="245"]game of thrones animated GIF Photo: Giphy[/caption] 10) The Avicenna School – House Tarth The members are helpful and loyal to their school (name) but nobody really cares about them and often other houses make fun of them. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="245"] Photo: Tumblr[/caption] Bonus: Private candidates – The commoners Those who see these great houses fight and brawl against each other while they go on their merry (or morose) way. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"] Source: Uproxx.com[/caption] Yours truly belongs to this category.



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    The search for our identity starts at home. But how do we define home? In this episode of Science ka Adda, we search for our cosmic address, starting from Karachi and ending with some of the farthest galaxies discovered by astronomers. Such an exercise immediately provides a humbling perspective in light of the sheer immensity of the universe. We may be worried about the day-to-day happenings on a relatively small portion of the Earth, but in some ways, these are pale in comparison to the known universe that contains more than hundred billion galaxies, each containing a hundred billion stars. Our sun is just one of these stars. But what is truly amazing is that inhabitants of a planet orbiting an ordinary star located in the outskirts of our galaxy have discovered their cosmic address. Join me on Science ka Adda in searching for our place in the universe.



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    Not too long ago, at the call for a citywide strike from Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), Karachi would have launched into a panicked frenzy, storekeepers would have shut down their business, cars would have lined up at petrol pumps, even those with full tanks (because that’s how we roll), schools would have closed early leaving both children and their parents scrambling for home, roads, buses, and, cars would have become the victims of anonymous perpetrators, flowers would have wilted, young lovers would have cancelled their dates at the park, opting for Skype instead, housewives would have cooked strange tasting curries because the dahi wala (yogurt shop) had gone back home, people would have had lunch with double roti (bread) because the chapatti wala was suddenly on vacation in Honolulu. To put it mildly, hell would have frozen over. In sharp contrast, I experienced a typical day at Tariq Road this afternoon, roads were teeming with activity, shops were crowded, the traffic signal boys were busy cleaning windshields while the drivers screamed, begged, and cried for them to stop as usual. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] When I came to the realisation that MQM had called for a strike today, I was in shock. It was as if the stern teacher had asked the students to head back to the classrooms, and for once the students did not pay heed. Well, it seems like there is a new principal in town. According to Samaa, after explaining how four of his party’s workers were tragically murdered, local MQM honcho, Dr Farooq Sattar called for a strike,

    “We appeal to the trade, transporter, and schools associations to answer MQM’s call affirmatively.”
    Usually, these words would have been as powerful as Ali Baba’s, “Band hoja Sim Sim.” But today, when MQM tried to log into its account, it found the password had been changed, and the squiggly security code symbols were beyond recognition. Samaa says the Rangers issued the following statement,
    “We cannot allow anyone to bring life in the metropolis to a paralysing halt.”
    Just to make sure the message hit home they added,
    “You are requested to take Saturday as any other working day. Do not be afraid to continue with your business or other activities. Call 1101 (Rangers Helpline) if anyone tries to force you to close your shop/office down for the day against your will.”
    [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] I am not here to pass judgment on whether MQM has been victimised by the Rangers in their operation to clean up Karachi during the last year, but admittedly, life seems safer. Undoubtedly, we the citizens of Karachi are thankful to the Rangers for bringing about some peace. It would be easy for me to say this sitting in my home, but speaking to the blue collar workers who reside in Karachi’s more volatile areas, the transformation seems to have been genuine. A cleaning lady who hails from Korangi said to me,
    Bhai (brother), I live in a bad area. It was difficult to live there without people taking money from us in the name of a certain group. It was also not unusual to see the same people walking about at night heavily armed. But since the Rangers’ operations started we have started to see more calmness. It is far from perfect, but it is significantly better.”
    Of course, before we gloat about MQM’s lack of street strength, regardless of how we feel about the party, let’s keep in mind that they were created out of necessity, and were a symptom of Pakistan’s discrimination towards people from Karachi. Even now, when I speak to former MQM voters who are highly educated and boast impressive careers in the private sector, they tell me of a time when the people of Karachi faced incredible bias. I have heard first-hand accounts from senior Karachiites who were appallingly denied their rights in terms of education, work, and other basic civil freedoms. Yes, there was a gaping wound in Pakistan and MQM functioned as the bandage. If the bandage has become dirty, then the blame not only lies with the bandage, but the source of the wound as well. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption]

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    Pakistan Super League (PSL) gets rolling in February next year. PSL promises to be a great Pakistani sporting spectacle, with competitive cricket and the entire sixes-for-fun (T20) aura. However, one may think that Qatar’s Doha is not the ideal venue for PSL, due to it’bs lack of knowledge on cricket. PSL filling our stadia in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar would have been fascinating indeed. However, our misleading global image prevents the likes of Warners and Gayles from touring Pakistan. Keeping reality in sight, which includes the unavailability of grounds in UAE in February, we would have to be content with Qatar for starters. Qatar held a somewhat successful women’s 50-over tri-series last year where the crowd responded fairly well. It also has a burgeoning population of immigrants from Pakistan and other South Asian countries, which would love to see a month long T20 party. T20 cricket needs an experience to be built around it, which is of paramount importance. This experience comes from the entertainment value, the glitz and glamour, and the ability to engage the audience, that is present on and off the field – PSL needs to embody that very experience. It should be the dawn of a new era, creating opportunities for Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), cricketers, sponsors, fans and the media to benefit from. PSL should not fade away like some of the other T20 leagues. Rather, it should be developed into a sustainable cricketing bonanza, whereby it also mirrors Pakistan’s positive image. The Master’s Champions League should not steal the spotlight The likes of Wasim AkramAdam GilchristBrian Lara and other legends would return from hibernation to take the cricket field in Master’s Champions League (MCL). PCB could not secure grounds in UAE, as they were already booked by the MCL for two weeks in early February. A ‘Wasim Akram versus Brian Lara’ duel would guarantee enormous global viewership and might push PSL in the background, which would impair PSL’s worth and perhaps even the viewership it manages to get. The good news is that MCL won’t be a month-long affair. It would be wrapped up within two weeks of February. PSL could start as soon as the MCL ends, therefore avoiding any clash with it. Grand opening and closing ceremonies Be it a T20 league like Indian Premiere League (IPL) or an International Cricket Council (ICC) event, the opening ceremonies promise of what to expect from the tournament. Clumsily choreographed performances, bad hosting, and clichéd acts downgrade an event right from the word go, but a perfectly executed opening ceremony coupled with creative performances, portraying the culture of the host nation, helps start the show with a bang. The closing event should also leave an impact, making the crowd want more. Successful ceremonies take months of practice and planning. Surely Najam Sethi, having artists in his family and being the spearhead of PSL, would know their significance. Contacting Arts Councils of Pakistan, along with famous directors, choreographers, artists and other big names to plan, prepare and execute the ceremonies should be on top of the list of the organisers. Packing up the stadium Natives of Qatar might not be interested or familiar with cricket, but it is a good opportunity for PCB to promote the game there and score some brownie points with ICC. No matter how competitive the game gets, matches played with grounds half empty don’t go well, with the perceptions of those who watch them from their homes. With the Doha stadium having a capacity of 10,000 spectators and with the growing South Asian population there, filling the ground should not be an issue. However, PCB should not get carried away, and they should start marketing PSL in Qatar at least two months prior to the event. Be it door to door campaigning or simply by building hype through social media, PSL should make people anticipate it. During the tournament, gimmicks like an ‘Over with a Star’, where a fan either gets to bat or bowl on one of the side pitches with a cricketer, or something like a ‘10 minutes expert’, where a fan gets to share the commentary box with someone like Ramiz Raja can be used. Maintaining the Pakistani connection While the emphasis should be on getting the Qataris to the stadium, PCB should not forget that the tournament is for Pakistanis – Pakistanis who are cricket-starved and have supported their team through thick and thin. An impression of alienation, even if unintentional, should be avoided at all costs and Pakistani fans should feel involved. Maximum viewership in Pakistan would mean financial success for the sponsors, the company with TV rights and PCB and would mostly ensure a second season. Among other initiatives, PCB could rope in a sponsor to send a lucky winner from Pakistan in each of the matches, get a fan to watch a PSL match with a former cricketer on a big screen, or offer special discounted tour packages in collaboration with the sponsors and the Qatari officials. International standard TV production values The onus for providing high-quality TV transmission for the league would lie with the company which gets the TV rights. However, PCB could at least stipulate some conditions which would require the TV rights holder to guarantee transmission of international standards. A few local commentators don’t sound appealing and are not able to stir interest, and using fake accents in the local T20 competition makes up for annoying viewing. PSL would be watched globally. Not only is it imperative to get hold of big players on the field, but getting good international commentators is equally important. The use of simple concepts like on-field microphones, through which players on the field and commentators interact and the use of latest production equipment are mandatory, even if they seem trivial. Proper programming schedule for pre and post-match sessions are a must. One thing IPL does really well with is its extra innings T20 starring Navjot Sidhu. Even with all the marketing strategies PSL employs, it all boils down to the game itself. Lack of competitiveness, low scoring pitches, slow outfields, and lack of incentives for the local Pakistani talent may overshadow it. Emerging players should be given incentives, where maybe an emerging player, instead of getting a gold plated bat or cash prize, gets a county contract through PCB-England Cricket Board (ECB) collaboration. Teams should be balanced, three to four pitches should be prepared to bear the entire tournament and foreign coaches should mentor the local talent. Like an entrepreneur, the team behind PSL should know that with proper financial planning, the main focus should be on growth, and profitability would eventually follow. PSL’s success doesn’t ride with PCB alone. Multinational corporations and local industrialists have to come forward with sponsorships and hopefully they will. Similarly, the Pakistani media has a role to build hype and promote the event, and if all the other stakeholders fulfil their responsibility, then the average Pakistani has to fulfil his responsibility by watching and supporting PSL.  



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    Michael Chabon’s first novel, the critically acclaimed The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was first published in 1988, a good 15 years before the concept of my existence was even remotely conceptualised. He was also the 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  Yet during the summer of 2010 – with a generation gap of eclectic music and outrageous hairstyles separating us – when I happened to come across a rather yellowed and withering copy of this particular novel, with one swipe of a dust cloth, 297 pages and an instant connection later, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh  became my favourite book, a book I retreat to ever so often. The book received fame, catapulted Chabon into literary glory and earned him the status of a wordsmith at a young age.  However, after a low-grossing film adaptation a couple of decades later, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh soon became forgotten like a book at the end of the stack. Set in the 80s with the city of Pittsburgh as the backdrop, Chabon began writing The Mysteries of Pittsburgh then aged 21, and an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, submitted it as his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) thesis at the University of California, Irvine. The novel is a coming of an age story of confrontation and sexual identity. It is written in a first person narrative from the point of view of Art Bechstein, a recent college graduate, as he recounts the events of the first summer after finishing college. Art is the son of a gangster. His father, Joe Bechstein, a mob man and a money launderer for a crime family in Washington, comes to Pittsburgh to hold business meeting. While in the city, he takes time out of his busy schedule of a gangster and his gangster-esque affairs to meet with his son. Immediately, when the profession of his father becomes known from the very first sentence, we wonder,

    “What does Art’s mother do? With his dad’s lifestyle, she probably divorced him a long time ago.”
    The truth being, she passed away when Art was a child and it is revealed that his father, though indirectly and discreetly, holds his son responsible for his wife’s passing. It is apparent from the beginning of the story that Art has no interest in plunging into the underworld and his father shares the same belief. But his father’s world of guns and money is a fate Art can never truly avoid. As the story progresses, Art meets characters that will pull him in the shady world of the underworld, though not necessarily the same as the one his father belongs to, reshaping his understanding of the world as he knows it. The story officially begins when Art meets Arthur Lecomte in the university library, a depressingly charming gay young man who introduces him to the beautiful Jane Bellwether, and her on again-off again biker boyfriend, Cleveland Arning and a fellow library worker, the effervescent Phlox Lombardi who Art begins a romantic relationship with. But as life in Pittsburgh moves forward, Art and Arthur develop an attraction towards each other and Cleveland, a fan of the Bechstein family business, plunges deeper into the world of crime. Art finds himself tangled amidst a plethora of relationships and expectations, and is forced to confront his life for what it is and come to terms with who he really is. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, in essence, tells a story of a young man who until the first summer after he graduates, lives vicariously through other people’s experiences. The irony of it all is that he learns to become his own person through the very same people he clung on to so dearly, for even the tiniest breath of life. Chabon ends his wistfully spun tale of wit and intellect with teachings that more or less, we all have come to realise at one point in our lives or that, memories of people and places are but only exaggerated longings of all that we once held dear. Especially at a time when we were only beginning to discover who we really are as people. Chabon with his exquisitely entertaining prose and his bright characters brimming with vivacity, managed to create a rather timeless piece of relatable fiction. It caters to the mind-set of not only a 20-something recent college graduate in the United States experiencing life for the first time in the 80s but even to that of a 16-year-old young girl, leading a rather uneventful life, browsing through a used book store in Karachi, 30 years later, halfway across the world. It is a shame that it has been forgotten so easily.

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    I took a photo while Jeremy Corbyn – a British politician who is the leader of the Labour Party and the Opposition, and is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North – Naila Hussain, and I were leaving for lunch in a rickshaw in Karachi, where we had gone to attend the World Social Forum in 2006. Tariq Ali, along with Corbyn, were one of the highlights of the forum. Dr AH Nayyar introduced me to Corbyn, since his elder, more radical brother was in Dr Nayyar’s research group at the Imperial College in London). Having heard Corbyn, Tariq Ali and other Stop the War speakers in London, it was wonderful to meet them in Karachi. When I went to London for my studies, the Iraq war was about to start. There were huge anti-war demonstrations in London. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where I was studying, was the hub of anti-war activities. I joined the Stop the War group at SOAS and saw the length and breadth of London through protest marches with my group members Chirashree Dasgupta, Suchetana Chottapadhyay and Nina Balogh. It was an amazing feeling to march with hundreds of thousands anti-war protestors in London as compared to marching with 50 civil society members in Islamabad. It speaks volumes of Ziaul Haq’s influence on Pakistani polity which broke the back of left-wing politics in Pakistan. Jeremy Corbyn, Tariq Ali, and other speakers of the Stop the War movement were in SOAS almost every week to galvanise student support and to participate in debates and events. I still recall Ali’s roaring speech outside the British Parliament on March 20, 2003, where he predicted that it is going to be a long war and it won’t be a swift breeze for the US and Britain. It was an amazing speech with detailed references to Iraq’s history as well as Islamic history. I had never seen Ali so riled up before. Iraq, its civilians, and the whole Middle East is still paying the price of the neo-conservative Iraq war with their blood. When the photo of the young Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, went viral recently, I could not help think of the Iraq war whose effects are still ripping off the seams of structure and society in the Middle East. While right-wing politics is highly on the rise in Pakistan, India, and the Middle East, it is great to see that left-wing politics is gaining hold in Europe. Zia’s policies decimated left-wing politics in Pakistan. Unions were broken, universities were taken over, the press was muzzled, the curriculum was changed to spread hatred of other religions, and the entire state and society was re-engineered along retrogressive right-wing lines. Pakistan has never been able to get out of the whirlpool and we keep on sinking deeper and deeper into the sea of violence and intolerance. In such depressing times, it is nice to revisit Corbyn’s Pakistan moment, to remind us of a time that is achievable if we try.



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