Articles on this Page
- 09/21/15--02:14: _Perhaps Pakistan ca...
- 09/22/15--03:28: _Pakistan Super Leag...
- 09/23/15--05:53: _Do billboards plast...
- 09/23/15--23:58: _Chop Chop: A health...
- 09/24/15--23:00: _Is your bakra a ter...
- 10/12/15--12:01: _Noori awakens the m...
- 10/14/15--06:08: _Dear Danish Ali, re...
- 10/17/15--22:00: _It took me a real l...
- 10/24/15--23:00: _I took a roadtrip f...
- 10/29/15--02:44: _Karachi and the par...
- 11/05/15--05:13: _A foreigner’s persp...
- 11/07/15--11:01: _Following the evolu...
- 11/07/15--23:00: _Un(wheeling) the tr...
- 11/30/15--11:01: _The case of stolen ...
- 12/24/15--02:27: _Dear Bisma, you wil...
- 12/26/15--21:00: _The day Benazir Bhu...
- 01/07/16--02:56: _Is Alamgir Khan’s g...
- 01/12/16--11:01: _This video is why o...
- 01/27/16--05:00: _So last week we wen...
- 01/28/16--03:24: _Have you visited th...
- 09/23/15--05:53: Do billboards plastered with pretty women cause road accidents?
- 09/23/15--23:58: Chop Chop: A healthier wok through the fast-food lane
- 09/24/15--23:00: Is your bakra a terrorist?
- 10/12/15--12:01: Noori awakens the music industry with ‘Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh’
- 10/29/15--02:44: Karachi and the paralysis of imagination
- 11/05/15--05:13: A foreigner’s perspective on Pakistan: The land of the misunderstood
- 11/07/15--11:01: Following the evolution of biryani, all the way to New York City
- 11/07/15--23:00: Un(wheeling) the transport mafia in Karachi
- 11/30/15--11:01: The case of stolen side mirrors and stereo systems
- 12/24/15--02:27: Dear Bisma, you will be forgotten and there will be more like you
- 12/26/15--21:00: The day Benazir Bhutto died, and with her the city of Karachi
- 01/27/16--05:00: So last week we went to the Karachi Eat Food Court at the Frere Mall
- 01/28/16--03:24: Have you visited the Wall of Kindness in Karachi?
A tree along the Jantar Mantar road in New Delhi, India – a place which resembles London’s Hyde Park for being a way too busy place to protest – is a stark reminder of a judicial revolution; a judicial revolution for the justice of women to be precise. This is the same place where a massive campaign started off back in December 2012 in order to seek justice for the 23-year-old psychotherapy intern, Jyoti Singh Pandey who was gang-raped and brutally physically abused in a bus. Thirteen days after she was raped, she succumbed to her injuries and died at a hospital in Singapore. I had the chance of visiting this place on August 11th and I found a few bouquets kept at the foot of the tree instead of the usual placards criticising the government. The place was eerily quiet, the loud chants for justice could not be heard and I wondered to myself, is the fight over already? Yes, on the streets it is, because it’s being fought in the courts now. The sole purpose of courts is to address public grievances, but what’s so novel about the courts handing out justice? It’s the fact that it happened because of a much needed revolution. Pakistan and India suffer from similar gender-based disparities as well as problems with the judicial system, which faces criticism for the delay in dispensation of justice primarily due to the lack of resources. Journalists in Delhi were rightfully concerned, as they stated that the number of cases each judge had to hear totalled up to 50 or more per day. I’ve seen the cause list in Karachi, and nearly every judge in the Sindh High Court has to hear up to a 100 or sometimes even more cases daily. So why is the civil society in India not out on the roads, protesting and seeking justice for those who are victims in sexual offence cases? The answer lies in the fact that the state machinery did not take up temporary solutions by resorting to a defensive position or baton-charge hundreds of demonstrators, rather it looked for a permanent solution. Criminologists say that crime can never be rooted out in any society, whereas jurists believe that law and punishments deter criminals. The Indian government set up a judicial committee tasked to study and take public suggestions in order to look for the best way to amend laws in order to provide quicker investigation and prosecution of sex offenders. Around 80,000 suggestions were considered and finally the Indian President, Parnab Mukherjee, promulgated the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. This amendment added new offences such as acid attacks, attempts to acid attack, sexual harassment, acts with the intention to disrobe a woman, voyeurism, and stalking to the Indian Penal Code. A major breakthrough came when the Indian Chief Justice, Altamas Kabir, passed an administrative order, asking all the states’ chief justices to set up special courts to fast-track trials for sex crimes. Now cases involving violence against women are heard in courts on a day-to-day basis. Subsequently, these trial courts conducted speedy trials and convicted the three accused for rape and murder in Jyoti’s case and awarded them the death sentence. Last March, the Delhi High Court dismissed their appeals, upholding the sentences. It’s not just Jyoti’s case; the special courts are conducting fast-track trials in sex crimes all across the country. This is the best example of how effective the legal and judicial system is, a system which dispenses speedy justice to survivors, who are somehow still a marginalised group in our society, even though it is the 21st century. The judicial system regarding justice for women paints a completely different picture. Dozens of cases are pending, therefore creating a backlog. The prosecuting agencies are responsible for delays in achieving the goals set by the National Judicial Policy. In 1987, the National Assembly promulgated the speedy trial courts for Speedy Trials Act, 1987 for speedy trials. Then the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 was enacted for the same purpose to ensure speedy trials. These courts primarily tried those charged with conspiring against the state, terrorism, extremism, etc. But it seems that the legislators do not consider offences against women serious enough in order for legislations to be passed in favour of them. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the way the Indian judiciary handles their cases.
By now everyone knows that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is planning on conducting its first ever international tournament in UAE, the T20 Pakistan Super League (PSL), which will be played from February 4 to 24, 2016. The logo launching ceremony was held on September 20, 2015 and a star studded dinner announcing the commencement of PSL was held in Lahore last week, suggesting that PSL activities are in full swing already. Plenty of renowned international stars have signed up for the tournament, including the hard-hitting batsman and ‘Man of the Series’ of World T20 2010, Kevin Pietersen, who announced his arrival through a video message on social media. Joining him was the captain of the World T20 winning West Indian team, Darren Sammy, who also announced his arrival through a video message. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/thePSL/videos/922977797768875/"] https://twitter.com/thePSLt20/status/645671541854896133?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Apart from these two, various big names have expressed interest in taking part in the tournament, such as Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine. https://twitter.com/najamsethi/status/643505625482297344?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw The presence of these mega stars will not only boost the confidence of the organisers, but will also motivate the players to start working on their fitness levels and other skills to be able to be at-par with these stars whilst playing alongside them in the mega event. Although PSL is going to be a tournament comprising of five teams – Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, and Islamabad – and only 24 matches will be played, it has a huge significance for a small board like PCB, which is going through a difficult phase financially as they have only managed to host one home-series since 2009. The hugely anticipated support of national and international sponsors, celebrities, and business tycoons of Pakistan will not only compensate the board financially but also the domestic players who are lagging behind financially as compared to the domestic players of other countries. Furthermore, observing the National T20 tournament organised by PCB every year does not do much good for our players. The Pakistani batsmen hesitate to innovate, are less prone to risk-taking, and less eager to open up unique scoring opportunities which is the reason why Pakistan remains one of the three teams which haven’t yet scored 400 in an ODI and stand as a team known for lower run rates in an era of high scores. By competing against the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Mahela Jayawardene, and Martin Guptill who are renowned for their modern techniques, hopefully they will try to imitate them and add a new dimension to their conventional batting. However, it is important for PCB and our media to realise that it is far too early for PSL to be compared to Indian Premiere League (IPL) – the mega league organised by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) every year, also known as the biggest cricket league in the world. In doing so, it might lead them out of bounds and take the focus away from the core activity – which is to organise a tournament matching international standards. Hence, the successfulness of PSL is inevitable. By the looks of it, PCB seems very optimistic and motivated about it. Naming the Pakistani legends Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja as the ambassadors ensures that the league is in the hands of the right people who know what it takes to make these sorts of leagues successful. At this stage, appointing the right people for the right job should be the main focus of PCB. A proper plan of transparency should be setup to ensure that the league is clean of any corruption, which seems like the only threat to this project at the moment. Furthermore, PCB should make sure the rights of every stakeholder involved – the players, coaches, administration, broadcasters, sponsors, are taken into the account. Rest assured, the league is going to be a great success and will play a leading role in bringing cricket back home. All photos: Shafiq Malik/Express
Billboards have always been a bone of contention amongst the religious in Pakistan. They have resorted to throwing stones and other paraphernalia to register their protest at the image of pretty female models advertising various products from mobile phones to lawn prints. On the other scale, you get celebrities proudly posting images of billboards with their face on them with hashtags on Instagram as a way of showing just how cool they really are. This week, however, a Supreme Court judge in Karachi ruled that female models on billboards are responsible for road accidents. Yes, on roads that are packed with sputtering rickshaws, a never-ending array of motorcycles, several Corollas and not to mention all those wibbly-wobbly bicycles on the side, it is billboards with female models that indeed cause road accidents. Having driven in Pakistan before, I can assure you road accidents are not caused by aesthetically pleasing billboards but by total chaos on the roads itself. When you’re not too busy swerving from other vehicles, you have to make sure you don’t hit the beggars on the side of the street who swarm together waiting to pounce on cars that are waiting at the traffic light or from other cars that cut sharply in front of you if you happen to drive at a pace that slows them down. Instead of punishing billboards, more should be done about the standard of safety on the road itself which is a mammoth task that no one really wants to tackle, so the scapegoat in the shape of hoardings are slaughtered instead. Billboards are a great marketing technique for companies keen to display their wares to entice passer-by’s into buying their products. They are relatively cheap, form a good source of income for companies, and also keep the advertising companies in business. There is a definitive logic in removing billboards in the case of strong winds, which can make them fall and kill innocent passer-bys and they should be nailed to walls instead to make them safer, as they do in England. However, there is no logic in blaming female models who have no control over the content of their advertiser’s methods. Instead male drivers who take issue with females should show restraint and modesty by lowering their gaze and focus on the ensuing chaos they face on the streets. No one bats an eyelid when a partially-dressed male model is shown on billboards. Aren’t they just as distracting to females? Will road accidents be less prevalent if male and female models were censured? In conclusion, I agree in part to the judgment of the honourable judge that hoardings when improperly erected can be extremely dangerous but hoardings are a great source of marketing for the advertisers and a good way to spruce up a concrete jungle. If one takes issue with them, they should simply focus on the colossally difficulty of driving by keeping their eyes on the road.
A few days ago, hungry for something different, my friends and I decided to give Chop Chop Wok a shot. Considering it was five in the evening, we didn’t expect the place to be completely packed, and it wasn’t. Luckily, we were seated upon arrival. Situated in the meandering streets of Khadda Market, Chop Chop Wok is a new and fast emerging eatery. The concept of Chop Chop Wok is based around creating your own meal and eating out of a box. With 180 different combinations, the word monotonous cannot be used for their menu. Not yet, at least. The inspiration behind Chop Chop Wok seeped into the architecture of the place as well. Minimalistic and clean, with five wooden tables and benches which can seat around 22 people at one time, the place has an uncomplicated vibe to it. Customers can see their food being cooked by internationally trained chefs on a live flame in front of them, which dispels any notions of unhygienic food. When it came to ordering food, the menu was a simple step-by-step process. It states the choice of bases, flavours, and meat. What I liked most about the menu was the availability of healthy choices such as brown rice and the fact that each meal adds up to around 300-350 calories, which I feel is a fantastic amount for a more than filling meal. And in terms of affordability, one dish at Chop Chop cost us as much as a meal at Burger King would cost. Except this is definitely a healthier pick in the fast-food genre. The staff seemed in control and polite, and were helpful explaining the types of dishes on the menu to us. And the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the food. To begin with we decided to order the sticky BBQ wings, lamb chops with teriyaki sauce (which were served to us complimentary as a taster for Eid – WIN!), and chicken tom yum soup as our starters. For our main course we ordered, the Nasi Goreng with egg, Pan Asian rice noodles with chicken, Thai red curry with brown rice, Thai green curry with jasmine rice, Chilli prawn with calamari, and black pepper beef with rice. Our food took around 25 minutes to be served. When we asked the owners about where they drew their inspiration from, they explained that it was mainly from London style eateries such as Wok to Walk and Wok Wok; ideally a take-away. The fact that the concept of the eatery is take away, the cut off time should be anywhere between seven to 10 minutes. So timing would definitely be something they would have to look into in the future. Cooking lamb can be tough. If undercooked, it ends up tasting rubbery, but the teriyaki lamb chops were soft and tender, and had just the right balance of a sweet and salty combination. The sticky BBQ wings took a little while longer to reach us, but they were an instant hit. Just the right amount of tangy sweetness and crispiness, they were devoured as soon as they landed on the table. The only disappointing factor in the trio of appetisers was the chicken tom yum soup. The general consensus on our table was that it was watery as compared to the usual tom yum soup. I personally felt it was too strong on the spice - it tasted like red chillies dissolved in water. Moving on to the main courses, my favourite dish was the Pan Asian rice noodles. Succulent and soft noodles with stir fried vegetables and the spices on point, it proved to be a refreshingly different dish. The Thai red curry with brown rice was the perfect blend of spice with coconut milk. The coconut milk shined through, though the brown rice was slightly undercooked. The Thai green curry was a tad bit sweet and had a stronger taste of coconut milk as compared to the red curry. If rated, it would be an average dish, overshadowed by its compatriot, the red curry. The Nasi Goreng seemed like a rich dish, with a fried egg perched on top of a mound of rice, served with crispy crackers. It was flavourful and filling, though it was overpoweringly spicy. The idea of the egg may not appeal to everyone, but it definitely complements the dish perfectly. For those who love sea food, they’d definitely enjoy the prawn and calamari dish. The prawns were cooked to perfection and it had the right amount of spice. The downside of the dish was that the calamari was slightly undercooked and the rice quite dense. The black pepper beef was delicious. No complaints at all. The Vietnamese sauce complemented the beef well. And compared to the other dishes, it wasn’t as spicy. Another win! Considering the fact that Chop Chop Wok is mainly a take away, it’s heartening to see the amount of effort the staff put in the presentation of the dishes, allowing all the dishes to come off as visually appealing. To douse the fire and flavour in our mouth, we ordered the iced lemon tea and mint lemonade. The iced lemon tea was refreshing and had the perfect amount of lemon and sugar whereas the mint lemonade, to some of us, was overpoweringly minty. On a scale of one to 10, I’d give it a a fair seven. Chop Chop Wok is a new born baby and it will definitely take time to make its place in the market, but with the booming success it is currently witnessing, the prospects seem bright. If I had an insatiable craving for oriental food, I’d definitely drive all the way to Khadda Market for a fix of sticky BBQ wings and Pan Asian noodles. All photos: Mushal Zaman
A week ago or so you were perhaps meandering in the bakra mandi; looking for the perfect specimen to take home. You inspected 20 plus bakras, clutched each animal’s jaw to find out if your bakra-to-be has two or four teeth and sturdy horns – sharp enough to butcher other bakras in the mandi. You inquired about the weight of half a dozen cows, and went to check out that one camel in the neighbourhood also. After loitering around, you finally got down to business, put on your crafty airs and negotiated a deal. You walked out of the mandi with a strong looking, cinnamon dusted bakra. As you strode out, gloating about your shrewd bargaining tactics, the bakra wala sniggered as he counted your money. Little did you know that the bakra you just purchased was not only ridiculously high priced, it could posthumously even become a terrorist. Let me explain. Every year, you carry out your qurbaani with heartfelt zest, spend your halal money fattening up your beloved bakra, who has been christened with a ridiculous name like Bubbar Sher or something, and when it’s all done and the meat is simmering away in pressure cookers, you hand out the cinnamon dusted skin of your animal to the man at the door who promises that Bubbar Sher’s remains would be used to facilitate so-and-so madrassah. You ardently summon him with your hand and urge the man to take the hide off your back. Your mouth is too full of kaleji to inquire further, and frankly, you just don’t care. This is where most people in Pakistan exhibit blatant ignorance when it comes to qurbaani. The truth is that every year millions of animals are sacrificed during Eidul Azha and the skins that are acquired make up for half of the country’s leather exports. Pakistan’s leather industry is a prosperous enterprise and has the capacity to churn out huge profits. Each year, several seemingly legitimate organisations, operating as fronts for terrorist organisations, carry out coordinated plans to collect animal hides from households and mosques. Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) is one organisation, for example, which has been heavily involved with the collection of animal hides. It is also known to be associated with the Jamaatud Dawa – a militant group with strong links to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The FIF is known for collecting nearly 100,000 animal skins every year. In 2009, the organisation raked in profits as high as 100 million rupees. If used for the purpose of terrorism, that’s $1.2 million worth of bombs, guns and military arsenal. Think about that before you offer your holy sacrifice. Where do you think all that gun powder will accumulate? In your backyard, in the streets of your cities, in your towns and villages. Chances are that your animal skins have ended up paying for the atrocious endeavours of many militants. There is a blemish on your check book and it screams of terrorism. How long will you stay ignorant? It’s not just one organisation, there are many other religious and political factions that are arduously waiting for Eidul Azha. The most prominent political force of Karachi; is also the hegemon of the sacrificial animals’ hides collection – gaining possession of 70 per cent of the total hides. The city alone witnesses the sacrifice of one million animals at the very least, thereby enabling the party to collect up to 0.7 million hides. With each cow hide raking in approximately $50 and goat hides raking in $5–$8 per piece – sorry to jog your fifth grade Math a little, the party makes millions, simply through your ‘worthless’ animal hides. Those supporting the party are perhaps oblivious of the fact, that the $35 million they helped raise, is also supplementing the party’s militant wing. The extortion cases, street crimes, stuffing of bodies into gunny bag incidents, target killings, increasing weaponisation of Karachi – all the ills the Karachi dwellers are fed-up of, are because (inadvertently) you were financing them. I see those facial muscles tightening. Legitimate charity organisations are also able to garner a considerable number of animal skins, such as the Edhi Foundation and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre (SKMH). The SKMH was able to collect 50,000 animal skins in 2013. The number when compared to the large amount that the dubious charity organisations are able to collect, is rather shocking. An official from the Edhi Foundation in Islamabad, Mohammad Rashid asserted that,
“It’s hard to compete because they have more manpower from all their religious seminaries. They send all their students out to the streets, to volunteer.”The organisations that truly deserve your help are suffering as a result of the public’s blissful ignorance. The truth is that they do not have significant political clout to gather animal skins from the remote areas of central Punjab and interior Sindh, where other militant organisations have considerable influence. The government has not taken any definitive action to stop banned outfits from collecting skins. Only Peshawar has exhibited real agency in the matter. The city requires NGO’s to undergo registration, in order to engage in the collection of skins. It has also disallowed the establishment of collection points within the premises of the city. Moreover, the use of loudspeakers to rally people to donate has also been prohibited. If Peshawar has taken such strict measures to hinder animal skins’ collection processes by banned organisations, why have the rest of the cities exhibited such blatant dormancy? The federal government hides behind statements such as “they’ll collect skins anyway”, “we can’t stop them” and “they’re doing it for a good cause”. Most of our politicians shrug and pretend they cannot do anything. The fact is that these banned outfits have stirred fear in the hearts of many. There’s a very real reason why no major publication in the country speaks about those banned outfits. Do we have to keep relying on journalists abroad to carry stories about our suffering, our people and our land? Are we really that impotent? Our government’s self-imposed shackles are its safety net. They say and do nothing to avoid altercations with terrorist organisations. You can point fingers at your government officials, blame them and evade your responsibility too. That would allow you to get back to the kaleji sooner. However, before you assume innocence in all of this, remember that your nonchalant attitude could earn millions of rupees for those terrorist organisations, however a little vigilance could cripple them. Of course, the government’s claims seem fallacious but we can’t disregard the fact that some of these banned organisations are inexorable because they keep resurfacing under false names. I’m not eradicating the possibility of the government hiding behind this defence to shirk responsibility of their wrists, but this makes a greater onus of responsibility reside on our shoulders. The government is accountable for the conscientious collection of hides of the entire country, but you my friend, are responsible for that hide(s) positioned within the parameters of your house, then why the negligence? So, this Eid, mix in a little acuity in your busy schedule. Keep your eyes open. Notice things. Know what’s going on. Don’t let your qurbaani become an asset to terrorism.
animal skins- cover
Recently, the highly acclaimed Pakistani music band, Noori, held album preview sessions in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi for the public on a first come basis. That was the first uncut and instrumental public performance of their upcoming new album, “Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh”. Being a Noori fan myself and having attended the album preview held in Lahore, I can safely say the band members, Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, have not given up on the music industry in Pakistan just yet. They made an attempt to bond with their loyal fan base and discussed the ideas and concepts behind the album in a manner unlike anything seen before in Pakistan. The whole session was highly interactive and the audience felt as involved as the band itself. At the album preview, Ali Noor warmed the hearts of the audience,
“We do not want fans. We want friends.”The album launch itself held at a local mall was open to public and the response was phenomenal. It was a great feeling to see so many people line up to buy the music CDs and getting them signed by the band. The energetic fans and the environment was enough to take me back in time when Pakistani music was at its peak. People would actually buy music CDs, attend concerts, gigs etc. Unfortunately, music record sales have taken a nose dive over time because of piracy, and concerts have become a scarce musical entertainment because of security concerns. However, in these trying times of piracy, lack of concerts and talent drain, Noori has still stuck to its roots and tried to give the Pakistani music scene yet another wake up call with “Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh”. The album artwork and the overall album presentation are fantastic. It makes buying and owning a CD much more enjoyable. The album cover is like a little story book which talks about the album and the people who worked hard to make it all possible. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook/noori[/caption] Now, let’s talk about the most important bit about the whole album, the musical content. Noori has managed to hit so many levels simultaneously within a matter of nine songs. From the care free and feel good songs like Hey Ya to the intense and power-packed songs like Sarfarosh, the band has elevated upon the signature Noori vibe. The music feels familiar yet completely different at the same time. https://soundcloud.com/potato_quality/4-noori-hey-ya?in=potato_quality/sets/noori-begum-gul-bakaoli-sarfarosh https://soundcloud.com/potato_quality/7-noori-sarfarosh?in=potato_quality/sets/noori-begum-gul-bakaoli-sarfarosh Chronologically speaking, the band worked on these songs even before they had worked on the songs from their two previous albums which were released a decade or so ago, a fact which was revealed by the band at their album preview in Lahore. Considering that fact, it is strange how the lyrical content of this album is so much more mature in comparison to their previous albums. In a beautiful story created around the lady Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh, the album talks about Pakistan being a country of opportunity at independence and questions what went wrong. On a broader level, the band has tried to engage the youth and make them realise how everybody has a role to play in the betterment of this county. This time around, the band also involved the public by giving them a chance to sing along on their album, which can be heard in Kedaar, Mujhey Roko and Saya e Khuda e Zuljalal. The pictures of the singing fans, along with their names, have also been included in the album cover booklet. Kedaar, Mujhey Roko and Aik Tha Badshah are songs which we have heard before and were not completely new additions to this album. However, they were altered in a way which made them even better than before. Saya e Khuda e Zuljalal is an absolutely beautiful rendition of the Pakistan National Anthem. For years to come, this will definitely be a song I will listen to whenever I need to awaken the patriot within. Overall, Noori has made an incredible comeback and I wish them the best of luck for all the future endeavours to come. The more success they see, the more success the music industry in Pakistan will see. That means more and more great music for all of us.
One is usually starved for entertainment in Pakistan. For many, going to new restaurants, trying new cuisines or going to the movies seems to be the only mode of amusement. But these days, to curb the plight of social activities, there has been a marked increase in plays and stand-up comedy acts which is attracting hoards of entertainment deprived followers. I recently went to a stand-up comedy act in Karachi. Danish Ali was performing and needless to say, I was pretty excited. I have been a huge fan of his from the start, hence I was really upset when they cancelled the Real News, which is where I first saw him perform with Saad Haroon. I loved watching him perform as the opening act and generally thought he was the better comedian. I could not stop laughing the whole time when I saw him perform his first solo stand-up act at PACC. I’m sure everyone knows about his Facebook videos. So naturally, I had high expectations going in to watch his show again. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/Danishalifanpage/videos/vb.20697595193/10152979360835194/?type=2&theater"][/fbvideo] [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/Danishalifanpage/videos/vb.20697595193/10152934797310194/?type=2&theater"][/fbvideo] However, the show that followed left me utterly disappointed and dissatisfied. First of all, the show started half an hour late, and I know many might say that as Pakistanis we should be used to such lack of punctuality – but that is no excuse. This shows that probably the comedian or his management do not value the time of their audience. But this was not the issue. What really annoyed me was the fact that if not all, a majority of his jokes were the exact same ones he had performed at his last stand-up act. As a loyal fan, that is not fair. Yes, his interactions with the crowd were funny but I was there to hear the jokes, not see someone make fun of other people. Saad Haroon had done something similar where he repeated all the same jokes from his old stand-up act, and people were not happy and neither was I. Imagine if Russell Peters was still saying,
“Somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad!”It would not be funny, it would be downright annoying. Every comedian always brings up new material for every new act he does, they can’t keep repeating the same thing over and over again. It becomes monotonous and boring. George Carlin, Jimmy Carr, Kevin Hart, and even Louis CK, all these great comedians have new material every time they come on stage and our comedians must do the same. It’s their job to be funny and bring up new material and that’s what the fans are paying for. I am not saying his performance was poor or he’s a bad stand-up comedian; he is funny and knows how to build a joke and deliver a punch line but that punch line isn’t going to be funny the second time, because you know what’s coming. Also, as someone who’s a loyal fan and truly enjoys his work, I feel somewhat robbed. I thought I would be hearing his new material, not the same old jokes again. Had I known what I was getting into, I wouldn’t have gone. So please Danish, get some new material. Stop taking your audiences for granted. Because before you know it, your shows might just stop attracting fans, and that is professional suicide.
It was the summer of 1999 when Pakistani cricket fans were eagerly hoping our cricket team would bring home the second World Cup from the Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. That night, I was not watching the hyped Australia versus Pakistan match in the comfort of my TV lounge or with my family and friends; rather I was watching it with my mother who was lying in a hospital bed, after undergoing a single breast mastectomy (which is the surgical removal of the entire breast in women). I remember my mother being in excruciating pain. I was too young to comprehend what on earth brought my mother to this stage, I was angry and confused because I did not understand why she had to undergo two surgeries even though she would consistently be visiting experienced doctors at one of the most renowned hospitals of Karachi. As I grew older, I came to know that the doctors at this renowned hospital in Karachi had misread my mother’s breast lump for around two years; and two years are enough for the lump to grow bigger and harder. To diagnose whether it was cancerous or not, she was scheduled for a lumpectomy (a surgical procedure that removes only the tumour and a small rim (area) of the normal tissue around it). The reports showed stage two breast cancer which had already spread to her lymph nodes (part of the body’s immune system) in the left underarm area. Therefore, to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, she had to undergo a mastectomy of her left breast. To further prevent the cancer cells (if any were remaining) the doctor prescribed radiation therapy, which is a form of high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays, etc, to destroy or damage cancer cells . Since radiation only works around primary areas, she was further administered with chemotherapy (chemo) which is a combination of pill form or medicine injected intravenously (into a vein with an IV) to treat cancer. The goal of chemo was to kill cancer cells throughout the body which may have spread to parts of the body away from the primary (original) tumour. Although the treatment procedure nauseated her beyond belief and caused hair Loss, but my mother did not lose hope and strength. However, 15 years after my mother recovered from breast cancer, my life took a U-turn. It was the summer of 2014 in June when I developed a constant pain in my right breast which made me cautious and I started getting flashbacks of my mother’s cancer treatment days. One day, the thought of having to deal with the entire diagnosis of breast cancer jolted me out of my bed. Without delaying things any further, I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician and the next thing I knew I was sitting at the radiologist’s office with an ultrasound report revealing that there is a cyst which needs to be biopsied. I underwent a needle aspiration procedure, which is meant to draw a liquid sample from the cyst. The struggle of inserting a heavy needle in my right breast under a localised anaesthesia was traumatic as the doctors figured the breasts were too dense. I couldn’t hold back my tears and screams because the pain was so intense. After failed attempts of needle aspiration, it was then determined that since it was a lump, it would need to be removed surgically in order to be able to tell if it was benign or malignant. At the age of 28, knowing that my early age pregnancy and breastfeeding routine would protect me from breast cancer, I was at a loss after hearing about my lumpectomy. While recovering from lumpectomy and waiting for my biopsy reports, my mind automatically edged towards all sorts of negative thoughts about chemotherapy, losing my hair and ultimately losing my breast just like my mother did. It was devastating. Finally the day arrived when I was sitting at the breast surgeon’s office, waiting to hear the results. The doctor was snipping my dried out stitches with a pair of scissors and examining my recovery from a week old lumpectomy. I was relieved when the reports came clear and I realised that all the pain and apprehensions were worth it. The only way to prevent breast cancer is early detection, especially for high risk women like me who have a history of breast cancer in their family. However, early detection and regular breast examination should not only be followed by women with a history of breast cancer in their family but for all females once they hit puberty. It took me a real life experience to understand the importance of early diagnosis and early treatment to minimise the possibility of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month worldwide. Due to this annual campaign, more and more young and post-menopausal women are able to gain wider insight into the possible causes of breast cancer, such as high breast density and a family history of breast cancer, along with the understanding of preventive measures for women in the form of post-menstrual breast screenings and annual mammograms in post-menopausal women for better results. This means young women are advised to schedule their breast screening after their menstruation, because the change in breasts due to hormonal fluctuations just before and during the menstrual cycle can affect the clarity of reports. Women over 40, who have reached menopause, should not skip their annual physical appointments which should include mammograms. Apart from early screening, the healthy behaviour, along with healthy lifestyle choices may help in lowering our risk of different types of cancer listed below. - Be physically active (Get regular exercise). - Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (Survivors who are overweight or obese should limit high-calorie foods and beverages and increase physical activity to help with weight loss). - Choose 100 per cent whole grain foods (such as 100 per cent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millet and quinoa). - Limit red meat and processed meat. Choose chicken, fish or beans more often. - Limit bad fats (saturated and trans fats). These are found in foods such as red meat, fatty deli meats, poultry skin, full fat dairy, fried foods, margarine, donuts and microwave popcorn. - Eat good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats). These are found in foods such as olive and canola oil, nuts and natural nut butters, avocado and olives. Since Pakistan has the highest incidence of breast cancer amongst the Asian countries, it is extremely important to emphasise a culture of healthy choices, early examination and diagnosis through public service messages and observing breast cancer awareness month at schools and colleges. Since early diagnosis increases the chances of surviving breast cancer as high as 90 per cent.
Pakistan is a land of plains, plateaus, mountains and a rich cultural heritage. It also has an abundance of fruits and vegetables; an abundance which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If marketed appropriately, Pakistan’s treasures can attract a multitude of tourists. This summer, I had the opportunity of taking a road trip from Karachi to Islamabad and then Muzaffarabad, allowing me to be stunned by Pakistan’s beauty first hand. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Guava Cart at Phool Nagar, near Multan.[/caption] Road trips are fun but can be extremely exhausting and require a lot of planning. Drivers must be well rested, your car should be checked by a mechanic thoroughly, the tyres should be in good condition and should be sturdy enough to pass the rigours of bumpy roads and a spare fan belt and tyre should be carried. Also, you must always carry lots of spare change as the entrance to every city has a toll plaza. The distance from Islamabad to Karachi is 1500 kilometres (km) but since the distance was too long for us to cover in one stretch, we made a pit-stop in Bahawalpur for the night. The idea behind doing this is to cross the interior parts of Sindh during the day time, preferably before sunset because some parts, particularly Obaro, are known for their dacoits, and just like any other country in the world, smart travelling ensures full security too. We started our journey to unveil the beauty of Pakistan, on July 20 at 6:15 am. Our first destination was Moro, a town in Naushahro Feroze, Sindh, where we stopped for breakfast. Moro is 320 km away from Karachi and it took us approximately five hours to get there. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Full family having break fast at Moro.[/caption] Before reaching Moro, we drove by Hala, Hyderabad, and many other small towns in Sindh. Whilst driving by Hala, we came across small stalls, strewn alongside the road, selling various handicrafts, embellished bed sheets, pillow covers, and other handmade items. What was interesting to note here, however, was that when we stopped at any of the highway restaurants, we were charged for roti on a per head basis and not per piece, unlike how it is in Karachi. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] Candid 'naanwala' at the highway 'dhaba'.[/caption] After freshening up at Moro, we started our journey with new found excitement. On the way, we saw farms of khaji (raw dates), banana trees, mango orchards and bought fresh fruits from the vendors on the sidewalks. Our journey met with a hiccup around Ghotki town when some protestors blocked the road to protest the death of their buffaloes because electricity wires fell on them. Unexpected road blockages by locals are common in parts of Sindh and one should keep time provisions for them when travelling by road. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] Fresh 'khajis'.[/caption] We reached Bahawalpur at around 8:30pm. In Bahawalpur, we visited the historic Darbar Mahal (palace), built by Nawab Sadiq IV, in 1907. The interesting fact about this palace was that the construction material used for it was brought from Multan and in order to save time, a line of labourers was formed from Multan to Bahawalpur. Darbar Mahal is a piece of art but, unfortunately, is closed to the public as it is being used by the army. ‘Noor Mahal’ is another such place in Bahawalpur which I intend on visiting the next time I visit. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Darbar Mahal[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] Darbal Mahal[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] Another click while at Darbar Mahal.[/caption] We resumed our journey the next morning, driving towards Islamabad and were able to reach Rawalpindi by night. On our return journey, we stayed at Rahim Yar Khan instead of Bahawalpur. We had the pleasure of looking around khaji farms, which we had passed earlier. I also had the good fortune of closely observing technique of processing khajies into dates; for those interested in knowing how it is done, they are put into a large clay oven full of water, a fire is lit under this oven and after a few hours, these khajies are taken out and laid out on large mats in the open for drying and voila! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] A beautiful morning in Rahim Yar Khan.[/caption] My interaction with date farmers made me realise the shortage they faced when it came to basic resources and tools. I am sure that if this industry is developed to its full potential, Pakistan can start exporting dates and earn revenue in order to boost its economy. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] Drying dates at a farm in Gambat, Sindh.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] A 'khaji' farmer.[/caption] Various towns I came across were either completely unheard of or were only ever mentioned during election season; towns such as Meharbpur, Daulatpur, Miranpur, Uchsharif, Peermahal, Hasilpur, Bhaipeeru, Khanqah Dogran,Tala gang, Phool nagar, Jandial, Bucha, Kalan,Kallar Syedan and many others. Travelling by road is a unique experience. It gives you the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of a country and to discover the customs practiced in remote areas. If I had not made this journey, I would have been deprived what real Pakistan truly is. Of course, it requires patience, but I advise all my readers to try it at least once in their lives in order to explore the hidden treasures of Pakistan. All Photos: Khurrum Zia Khan
TOSS TO ME
You want to read about a vision of a just Karachi? The contract killer ($50 a hit) ripping up the road behind Disco Bakery on his Honda 200CC and the secret service colonel cracking skulls in a Clifton safe house will both cite one vision: Dubai. This happens to also be the vision of the one-armed Afghan refugee selling Beijing socks off a cart in Saddar bazaar and the unsexed Karachi Port Trust shipping agent waiting for shady clients to cough up cash so he can escape to Phuket. To borrow from an old Urdu election rallying cry, Chalo,chalo, Dubai, chalo (Come, come, let’s go to Dubai). Vision presupposes the ability to see what is in front of you, and based on the understanding this seeing yields, you can plan with some measure of wisdom to create what you do not want to see in the future. And so, it is noble to ask what could be a vision of a just Karachi — except that this is an unfair assignment given that this city completely confounds the senses. Just when you think you have some idea of what Karachi is, the landscape will chimerically shift. It is small wonder that the people who live here are forever trying to explain Karachi to themselves and to each other, to define it and even try to form some vision of what it should be. But the city is elusive. In our desperate attempts to exercise some control over this kind of existence, we tend to do two things in reaction, look outwards or backwards. Those who look outwards have fixated on Dubai, a long-time employment destination for the Pakistani labourer who idealises it as a city where the streets are paved with gold. Given that Dubai is a 90-minute flight away, the elite and upwardly mobile middle classes of Karachi exalt it as an escape from Karachi’s filth and madness. Dubai fits their vision of a shiny, clean, crime-free metropolis where you can exhaust yourself in air-conditioned malls with their Nine West stores, JC Pennys and Starbucks. Dubai assuages our near-Catholic sense of Islamic guilt of enjoying things too Western; not only is the city Arab but if it is kosher for the sheikhs to order hickory barbecue (chicken) bacon cheeseburgers at the Hard Rock Café, so can a Muslim from Karachi without going to hell in a breadbasket. Stories of Dubai’s real estate bust or the effects of its sterile soullessness and hidden human rights violations don’t figure much in conversations in Karachi. So, one vision of Karachi is to become a Dubai. Sadly, this is the vision of policymakers in Karachi and the powers that be in our federal capital of Islamabad, who hold the purse strings to our infrastructure development. You can see this vision manifest on our streets in the 44 pro-car and anti-pedestrian overpasses, the new malls, the gated communities. We look outwards when we want to envision Karachi. We would rather mimic instead of indigenously assessing what Karachi is and what its people — rich or poor — need. Those in Karachi, who do not worship Dubai as an urban model, look backwards. They are full of nostalgia for a postcolonial port city that had dance halls, cinemas, nightclubs, booze, cabarets, promenades, bars, even the British. Dizzie Gillespie came to Karachi in 1956. Custard was served at the Scottish Freemason Hope Lodge. The nostalgia is dated to the 1980s, however, when political violence started to erupt. But oh, before that you could walk around the old city parts of Saddar and not get murdered. Now you can’t even wear your diamonds beyond Sind Club (where a sign once said, “No women and dogs beyond this point”). The lament for this Kurrachee, as the British spelt it, and the yearning for it to return, conveniently ignores that it was, as Karachi historian Arif Hasan puts it,
“A culture of a colonial port city with a colonial administration under the Empire.”It was bound to eventually end as it did in a decade with the exit of the British upon Partition in 1947. Either way, Dubai or Kurrachee, at least these residents of Karachi have some idea of what they want this city to be like. I envy them. I look — but I see nothing. I am afraid to form a vision of Karachi, much less one for a just Karachi. This should not be a challenge given that I know and love this city as a journalist can. Each day, for 15 years, I have been editing news about it, writing it, scouring it, cajoling reporters and photographers to go forth to negotiate with it. We are reluctantly intimate with its subterranean economies, its government extortions, its skins, its rejections, its hidden mercies, not to mention where to get the best goat curry. Oddly though, the knowledge of these Karachis has had the opposite effect of creating confidence to comment with any authority on the city. If anything, I know that you cannot know anything about it for sure. I have come to see it as intellectually dishonest to hold forth on Karachi. To generalise, especially, is a sin. Take for example, the long-held view of the residents of Karachi and its police that our slums are the root of crime and religious extremism. It is a convenient snobbery to declare that the poor are criminals. More specifically, we assume that the Afghan refugees, who flocked here from their homeland upon the Russian invasion in the 1970s, are holed up as the Taliban or are the only ones peddling crack on our streets. Crime statistics reveal a more nuanced picture that criminals also live in middle class apartments and not just our ghettoes. When crime shoots up, the police and paramilitary forces raid slums. Young men are rounded up, blindfolded and trundled off to police stations only to be released a few days later because there is no evidence against them. The crime graph doesn’t budge a coordinate. We fool ourselves into thinking we know this city. Perhaps my caution when it comes to reaching conclusions — and hence developing any vision — about Karachi seems extreme. But even if I suspend it for an essay to try to envision a just Karachi, I am stumped by a paralysis of imagination. I baulk at drawing on the examples of cities in the global North because there are no guarantees that what works for New York will fit for Karachi. The catch phrases resilience and smart city fail to resonate with Karachi (so much so that a friend in urban studies has started a “Dumb City Project”). Similarly problematic is casting an envious eye towards our neighbour India with its Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Ministry of Urban Development and e-Seva services. I have come to believe that this inability to even dare to dream of a just Karachi is in part a symptom of living in a city that has been forced to run on crippled formal systems or none at all. Where would I even begin? By shamefacedly admitting that we don’t even have an office of the mayor? We have not had an elected city manager since 2009 but it is only now that the Supreme Court is trying to push the provincial or state government to hold local government elections before the year ends. (In the meantime a handpicked bureaucrat, officially referred to as a city administrator, has been in charge. But his mandate is not to run the city efficiently as he is not answerable to the people of Karachi.) To be fair, though, not all of what Karachi is today can be attributed to the current failure to form local government. But if I am to draw from the accepted international standard of having city government systems in place to run our cities, I can be forgiven for assuming that this would be a prerequisite to forming any vision in the first place. Isn’t it supposed to be like this: You elect the best qualified mayoral candidate who presents what is closest to your vision for your city? Instead, over the decades, there has been an erosion of the institutions that have traditionally managed Karachi, with the office of the mayor being the last nail in the coffin. With the recession of these formal systems has come a slow descent into informality, which explains why the city keeps spinning. Our water doesn’t flow from the tap because a tanker mafia steals it from the bulk mains at source and sells it back to us at Rs2,500 (US$25) for 2,000 gallons. The government’s inability to provide affordable housing has left people at the mercy of loan sharks and real estate middleman who squat on state land by developing slums. Informality is the only formality we know. To borrow from beat writer Richard Fariña, Been down so long it looks like up to me. In this ‘down’, Karachi has learned how to survive and keep working. There is a special Urdu word for this, jugardh. It means ‘make do’ or ‘quick fix,’ to put it roughly. This is our new city social contract in the absence of government. If we want to get anything which the city management would otherwise do for us, we have to rely on informal networks. If you want to get a sewage pipeline fixed in your street, for example, you call up your uncle who happens to know the managing director of the water board. I understand that perhaps people who have lived in cities with long histories of experimenting and honing the formula for local government are now wondering if a certain measure of informality or organic bottom-up self-determination isn’t a better model. This is a position that can be taken by someone within the luxury of a working system. To me, a system is a safeguard from inequality. The system applies to everyone, not just those with enough powerful connections. Inequality and justice are two sides of a coin to me. Isn’t justice, by one definition, the administration of the law or authority to maintain what is fair and reasonable? If so, then without an elected City Council with its Treasury and Opposition to keep in check a mayor and his administration (called the Karachi Municipal Corporation), nothing this city decides for itself will be fair and reasonable. Systems inherently carry checks and balances because they are premised on rules. If informality is the only ‘system’ we have then no rules apply. One example stands out in memory. When we did have an elected city council from 2001 to 2009, Opposition councillors from one political party locked horns with the Treasury members and the Mayor, Mustafa Kamal, over the distribution of funds to their neighbourhoods. They could prove to the city, their voters and those who gave Karachi city its funding that they had been gypped. Don’t get me wrong, our experiment with devolved local government was not untainted by corruption, which emerged at the smallest city unit, the union council level. But at least people living in UC-9, for example, had someone to go to with their needs and that councillor could take it to the town nazim (administrator) who could make a noise in the city council in front of the mayor. A vision of a just Karachi then perhaps just asks for a basic system of governance. Its residents — whether they drove Mercs or motorcycles, lived in mud huts or mansions — should be able to elect their own representatives. And through them the people would be able to provide their own sense of a just Karachi or at least be able to fight an unjust one. In the absence of a city council, we have been left at the mercy of the ‘vision’ of ill-informed bureaucrats who have been handpicked by the province’s (state’s) powerful political parties to ‘run’ Karachi as puppets. So we have a Karachi Administrator instead of a mayor and he runs the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation which includes, for example, the departments of transport and communication, sanitation services, parks, land management and local taxes. This has essentially allowed the only two powerful political parties on Karachi’s scene to make unchallenged decisions about the city’s resources. Let me give one example of a series of coordinated yet unexamined decisions that were made without any input from Karachi’s residents that will have devastating effects on the future of the city. In 2010, the government created a new high density law and declared 11 zones in Karachi, many of them slums, open for high-rise construction. Height-related restrictions were removed. The amalgamation of plots was allowed, plot ratios were removed and the sizes of buildings were increased. The reasoning provided by policymakers was that Karachi’s population was rapidly growing and densification was needed. No one pointed out that the areas earmarked for high density zones were already dense and there were plenty of rich neighbourhoods with sprawl that were untouched. This law has opened the door to mega real estate projects without any oversight from the city’s Master Planning department, which has essentially a fairly good design for the city till 2030. This important department has been administratively placed under Karachi’s building control authority, which doles out permits for all construction in the city. The world over this hierarchy is the opposite; only if a building adheres to the plan the city has made for itself can it get the green signal. For those of us who have tried to keep track of the changing face of Karachi, it is dismaying to behold a constant slipping away of its beauty and charm, or that intangible magic that makes us love this city despite its madness. It is being taken over by the untrammelled development of gated communities. The timber mafia keeps felling its ancient Banyan trees. We had a water crisis this summer because no one is at the helm to plan for the future of our supply or fix our leaky pipes. Our footpaths are disappearing under billboards. Our parks are being taken over by the offices of political parties. Public spaces are being taken over by parking lots. A vision of a just Karachi? I am laughing. Visions are supposed to create. What do you call wanting to undo? This post originally appeared here.
As someone who grew up in the United States, I have sadly grown accustomed to hearing about drone attacks, suicide bombings and terrorists whenever Pakistan is mentioned. To an average American, Pakistan is nothing more than the place where Osama Bin Laden was killed or one of the most dangerous countries in the world with its mountains and caves inhabited by terrorists. Most Americans grow up knowing and believing this image of Pakistan with no compelling reason or need to challenge this perception. I am half-Colombian and have had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in the South American nation of 48 million people best known worldwide, unfortunately, as the home of cocaine, drug lords and kidnapping. For more than 50 years now, the country has suffered from an internal that has killed thousands and displaced millions from their homes. People are disillusioned by the political process, corruption, rampant poverty and crime. Despite an undeniably persistent sense of cynicism, Colombians are some of the happiest and most energetic people in the world. Little known or appreciated by too many, both inside and outside, Colombia possess incredible cultural and physical beauty. With this in mind, I wanted to see if Pakistan was similarly misunderstood and so I started my journey from the City of Lights in search for an answer. My trip was met with cautious optimism from my friends and family, and I hoped to come back with a clear, unbiased perception, free of media influence, of Pakistan to share with the world. If I had never read the news and somehow ended up in Pakistan, none of the aforementioned characteristics would come to mind. Rather the green, peaceful streets of Lahore, the majestic shores of the Indus River, or maybe even the incredible energy of a local bazaar would paint a very positive image of the country. During my trip, this peaceful tranquility was perhaps most apparent atop a grand 500 step staircase that leads to the ancient Buddhist ruins at Takht Bhai in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) – an area Americans know as a safe haven for the Taliban. Tucked in between two mountains about two hours from the border with Afghanistan, the numerous stone structures at Takht Bhai soar into the sky as reminders of the widespread influence of Buddhism as far back as the first century BC. The view of the surrounding valley and distant mountains was as breathtaking as that of Machu Picchu, a tourist attraction in Peru visited by millions each year. I stood alone at the very top of the temple in awe of my surroundings, yet overcome with sadness that I was the only visitor there – the average American, and perhaps even most Pakistanis, have never even heard of Takht Bhai. The history and diversity of Pakistan is extremely impressive and can be found no matter which province you might call home. In Islamabad, I met a Pakistani who went on a road trip through 37 states in the United States. She had seen more of my country than I have. As I feel more compelled to explore the country I was born in, it is my sincere hope that all Pakistanis appreciate (and if possible) take the opportunity to enjoy the incredible beauty and history of their great country and advocate for its preservation. Whether I was enjoying chapli kebabs or pulao in Peshawar, driving by some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen in K-P, or wonderfully serene Punjabi countryside, I could not help but be impressed with the delightful Pakistani flavors, scenery and people I met along the way. Throughout my time in the Land of the Pure, I couldn’t help but draw similarities with Colombia. Despite geographic, cultural, and linguistic differences, exceptional natural beauty, delightful people, scrumptious food, and sure enough a unique combination of pride and cynicism welcomed me. It felt like home. All photos: Robert Locke
Derived from the Persian word ‘Birian’, biryani is a spicy rice and meat dish which is prepared by mixing layers of rice, meat, tomatoes, fried onions, spices, and food colour.
Biryani making is an art – one has to know how long rice should be cooked for, before it can be arranged in layers along with the meat and tomatoes. The rice can become soggy if boiled excessively, or even remain undercooked if not boiled for an appropriate amount of time.
All biryani lovers take their biryani very seriously. They feel irked if the biryani isn’t yellow enough or if there’s no khewra (rose water) sprinkled on top. Some take it quite personally when biryani is not served with raita (yogurt). It has become such an integral part of our culture that no desi wedding is complete without a few deghs of biryani. Moreover, biryani deghs are commonly distributed among the poor during Ramazan and Ashura.
Many of us, however, have no idea how biryani came into our lives and cemented itself as a cultural edifice.
It is believed that the dish was first introduced in the subcontinent during the Mughal era. It is said that biryani originated from Persia via Afghanistan and North India. During the reign of the Mughals, Lucknow was known as Awadh, and the biryani craze there led to the creation of a specialised Awadhi Biryani.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Awadhi biryani.
Photo: Hotstar.co.in[/caption] It didn’t take long for the biryani to spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. Various cities and states mixed in their own flavours and tastes to create their personalised versions of the rice dish. It is interesting to note that variants of biryani emerged, just as Emperor Aurangzeb made administrative divisions in various regions. When Nizamul Mulk was made the ruler of Hyderabad and the Aaru Kaadu region to the south of Hyderabad was placed under the Nawab of Arcot, two distinct versions of Biryani emerged in the state of Hyderabad – the Arcot and the Hyderbadi biryani. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Arcot biryani.
Photo: Recipesaresimple.com[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Hyderabadi biryani.
Photo: Grabhouse.com[/caption] We owe the introduction of biryani in Mysore to Tipu Sultan. At the time, it was a royal dish for the Nawabs and Nizams. They used to hire vegetarian Hindus who cooked it with eggs instead of meat. The history of biryani dates back to the 1800s. There are numerous stories associated with this dish. One story has it that Timor brought it down from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan and Northern India. According to another story, Mumtaz Mahal declared it as a ‘complete meal’ for the army. Some disagree with the origins of the dish, stating that it originated in West Asia. According to some, the nomads used to bury earthen pots full of meat, rice and spices in a pit. The pots would eventually be dug up after some time; rich with the aroma of spices and the well-cooked layers of rice and meat. Countries today, however, have their own versions of biryani, such as the Turkish Pilaf with mild spices and nuts in Turkey, Kabuli palao in Iran, Malaysian biryani and Indonesian biryani. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Turkish pilaf.
Photo: Iheartyum.com[/caption] New York is termed as the melting pot of various cultures. It is believed that close to 400 various dialects and languages are spoken in the neighbourhood of Jackson Heights, which is the largest desi corridor of North America. When I read about the Biryani Cart situated near sixth avenue and 46th street while I was in New York City, my excitement heightened along with my curiosity. The Biryani Cart was established by a Bangladeshi American, Meruj Kumar. Chicken, mutton and vegetable biryani is served here along with a delicious yogurt and chutney. The menu also includes kati rolls and tandoori chicken. It is quite popular around town and has also been nominated for the “Vendy Award” several times. Vendy Awards are awards for street vendors in New York. It is in the city of New York, closer to midtown Manhattan, where a biryani khoka is situated which serves biryani. What started off as a small business, has now expanded to various locations around the city. I was delighted to see that the Americans were enjoying the biryani just as much as I was. Karachi saw its advent of biryani begin in 1969. Most Karachiites would agree that biryani truly gripped the city when Student Biryani opened up. Slowly it turned into a popular Pakistani food chain, and the city has since been hooked. Student Biryani is a variant of the Bombay biryani. The unique taste of student biryani boasts of black cardamom, black cumin seed and a unique masala blend. Apart from having branches in Karachi, Lahore and many other cities throughout the country, Student Biryani has also expanded to Dubai. The recipe has never been replicated. The first store was opened in Saddar, Karachi by Haji Mohammed Ali. The business is now run by his sons and grandsons. It is highly unlikely that a Karachiite has never tried it. With so many different variations of the biryani, one has bound to try at least one. Needless to say, no one has just tried it once – as it keeps you wanting more.
Public transport is crucial to any city’s development and is one of the basic civil rights a government owes to its citizens. However, sadly, in a huge city like Karachi, people don’t have proper public transport systems and the one that’s already in place is run by the transport mafia – which stops at nothing to exploit the citizens of this city. This mafia-handled system consists of sub-standard coaches and minibuses, operated and under the complete ownership of private businessmen. The population of Karachi is around 16.62 million currently and is said to increase to 27.5 million by 2020, according to KMC estimates. Karachiites make around 24.2 million trips via public transport on an average weekday. As per data collected in 2012, there are 12,399 permit-holding buses currently operational in Karachi (the term ‘buses’ here includes all large transportation vehicles, such as normal buses, mini buses and coaches – each of which have 26 seats on average). If you include the number of vehicles that operate without legal permit, then the amount increases. Keeping the permit figure in mind, we can estimate that there is one bus for every 1,171 people and 45 passengers per bus seat in Karachi. These tightening figures must give you an idea of what a struggle it is for the common Karachiite to commute from one place to another on a daily basis. It would also explain the overflowing buses you might have seen on the roads with people either hanging by the doors or sitting on the rooftop, putting their lives in danger. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Stock Image[/caption] The sad part is that an absence of any other alternate affordable mode of transportation forces us to travel under these circumstances. You will find more room for chickens in a poultry truck if compared with the space restrictions faced by humans on these buses. On top of that, there is no consistency in the schedule of these buses. Your bus might arrive before its scheduled time or an hour later; there are just no checks in place. Transporters decide how many buses will operate on any given day and citizens have no choice but to adjust accordingly. If CNG is closed on a particular day, the number of buses are reduced to save money, which ultimately results in a huge number of people not being able to travel. ‘Fare’ weather friend Private bus owners rarely abide by notifications or orders that ask them to decrease fares. In fact, they hardly ever follow government directives and there is no standard formula defined to decide bus fares. Karachiites are supposed to pay whatever fare the owners have decided – otherwise they can get off the bus and sit at home. Fares always increase when fuel prices increase; however, the same doesn’t happen when fuel prices drop. Because of this, fare-related disputes between passengers and conductors are pretty common. If you travel 10 times on a public bus, chances are you’ll come across fare-related fights at least nine times – I guarantee that. Since neither a static formula nor a predefined platform to decide fares exists, passengers often complain that they are being charged unjustly. But conductors and drivers never accept this. On an average, one-way fare per passenger for a bus is Rs20/- (regardless of whether you are sitting, standing or hanging) with room for 26 passengers to sit; however, there are often more than double the number of passengers on-board, who are either standing inside or hanging from the door or sitting on the rooftop. For argument’s sake, we can conclude that at least 40 passengers are on board in a bus at any given time. This means that a single bus collects Rs800 for a single one-way trip in a day; which means that 12,400 buses collect around Rs9.9 million for a single trip! If we estimate that a bus makes at least 10 trips, the figure becomes Rs99.2 million. This is what private bus owners earn in a single day, which is quite a hefty amount! So it’s clear that public transports rarely go into losses; why then are owners adamant when it comes to decreasing or changing fares? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="461"] Photo: Sajjad Hashmi[/caption] As no official data is present regarding this, and the basic data used for calculations is collected from various sources, a variation in the figures can be expected – but the overall picture will remain the same. Misbehaving with the passengers Most bus drivers and conductors are uneducated. They become a part of this mafia from an early age and are unable to get any education. Hence, they don’t have any manners about how to deal with the public. They often misbehave with passengers over petty issues, such as taking fares or asking them to snug in (if they are standing) so room can be made for more passengers. They often push and shove passengers inside, without any regard whatsoever. Above all, their behaviour with female passengers should be condemned. In Karachi, buses are supposed to have a separate section in front, only for women, but conductors often allow men to ride in that section as well. They misbehave with women regularly; cussing and catcalling is a usual phenomenon; fights often erupt between passengers and conductors (or drivers) over some snide remark made by them. I remember this one time when the conductor went into the women’s section, even though it was full, under the pretence of collecting fares. The women started complaining that the conductor was trying to grope and touch them, and was purposely brushing himself against them. The issue escalated and people from the men’s section also joined the protest; the verbal dispute soon turned into a physical one and the bus couldn’t continue its journey further. While the protest saved many women from getting harassed by that conductor, the thought that he had such audacity made me very uncomfortable about travelling in a public bus. Security Since these buses are not owned by any government authority, they pose a danger to citizens at various levels. Most drivers are not trained to drive large vehicles; in fact, often underage boys are seen driving. These drivers have no knowledge of traffic rules or conduct. They often over-speed and overtake other vehicles in a very reckless manner. This puts in danger not only the lives of its passengers but also of those people who are on the road. These irresponsible and inexperienced drivers are to blame for most of the road accidents that take place in Karachi, making Karachi’s roads one of the most dangerous to commute on. More than a 1,000 people lose their lives in Karachi every year due to road accidents and more than 35,000 accidents occur annually, leaving many injured or disabled. Beside these dire consequences, this system has also been giving rise to many major conflicts in the city. The Bushra Zaidi case is monumental in this regard, where a road incident led to the start of ethnic riots resulting in 50 casualties with 300 people injured within a week! Since then, there exists a strong divide in this city over particular ethnic lines and all this hatred has roots in this transportation system. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="550"] Photo: Sajjad Hashmi[/caption] Another rising concern is the illegal usage of low quality cylinders for CNG. These cylinders are usually meant for general usage and not made for high pressure CNG usage. They are fitted in the passenger area of the buses, putting the lives of commuters in great danger. These overly-filled buses are hardly stopped by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) during snap-checking, as it is not practically possible to stop each of them and check everyone in and out. Also, since they are not regulated by any government agency, their monitoring practically becomes impossible, which makes them a security risk; the perfect camouflage for terrorists to travel form one point to other within a city or even smuggle weapons and other illegal material, like drugs, throughout Karachi. Time to commute These buses stop regularly at random stops, resulting in road jams, and they often wait longer than usual on stops where there aren’t many passengers on-board. This increases the overall travel time for passengers and also make it uncertain for them to calculate their estimated time of arrival. This has also affected the traffic patterns in Karachi. Due to the deteriorating condition of this system, many people try to get their own means of transport as soon as they are able to afford it. As a result, we find more vehicles on the roads and the roads becomes congested. This leads to a collapse of the traffic flow, especially during peak hours, where the commute time almost doubles. Monopoly Keeping the government aside, even the transport mafia doesn’t do any good for the citizens. Neither do they make their own services better nor do they let alternative transport systems grow in this city. They just have their own monopoly, which they wish to maintain no matter what. One example of this is the green bus. When the standardised, comfortable CNG green buses were introduced by Mustafa Kamal (former mayor) in Karachi, the buses and their stations were attacked and were also criticised on an official level by representatives of the transporter mafia sitting in the Sindh Assembly. In 2009, the transport minister of the time – who was also part of the transport mafia – said, with regards to the green buses initiative, that:
“CDGK’s job is to clean drains, not to run transport for citizens.”However, Mustafa Kamal kept his efforts going to keep these buses on the roads as long as he was in charge, but as soon as he left, so did the buses. The remaining buses were recently ‘re-launched’ by the Sindh government after changing their name to SMBB Bus Service. They are the same as far as the appearance is concerned but they are now being operated just like all other public bus. The Karachi Mass Transit Plan (1987-1991), Karachi transport improvement project (KITP-2009), circular railway service in Karachi and Karachi mass transit project too have faced the same fate. The same transport mafia has also been blamed for influencing the bans over pillion riding and Qingqi rickshaws in the city. One might argue the Qingqi rickshaws are also not a suitable mode of transportation, but for the citizen of Karachi, these rickshaws in which they can travel by sitting comfortable, are a blissful alternative compared to travelling like animals in these public buses. Seeing their popularity, the transporter mafia has been trying to pressurise the government to ban these rickshaws from day one. A recent example is when the transporters announced that they will only reduce the fares by one rupee, and that too once the government bans these rickshaws. These were the exact words used:
“The KTI has made it conditional for the minister to ban the Qingqi if he wants the transporters to decrease the bus fares.”What do you expect in a city where ministers take such strict “directions” from the ones they are supposed to regulate? This is a prime example of how audaciously this mafia operates in this city. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Sajjad Hashmi[/caption] The road ahead We, as citizens, and the government need to own Karachi as our city – only then will we ever be ready to understand this issue and work on finding a solution. Karachiites need to unite, albeit if they travel via buses or not, and stand up against this mafia which is devouring our roads and our civic rights. Karachi’s problem can only be understood and resolved if its administration and government is done by those who live here and have been affected by the aforementioned issues. When elected representatives from this very city will handle its transport, they will have to make sure that they keep it as per the public demands or the public will reply back in the form of their voting power. For a start, the government should foremost re-launch the circular railway and metro projects in Karachi and the City District Government should be made responsible for these. It should also start its own bus system comprising of standard buses operating over seat-by-seat basis with pre-decided fares, timings and routes. Furthermore, LEAs in the city should be directed to keep an eye out for criminal elements who would surely try to dismantle these projects through various conspiracies and nobody should be allowed to blackmail the government or create hurdles in the path of these development projects. The transport minister should not be someone who has his own stakes in it or else he’ll always keep the mafia first and the city second. A strong political will and hard-core action is needed to take down this 50-year strong mafia in Karachi and set citizens of Karachi free from these shackles, giving them a lifestyle which may not be luxurious but at least humane enough for them to live peacefully in. The time to act is now. Don’t let the mafia rule over you and treat you like animals anymore.
Fahad Ahmed, a banker by profession, was provided a company-maintained car by his employer. After having upgraded from a two-wheeler and now commuting in luxury, this brand new 1300cc vehicle was the car of his dreams. Little did he know that soon he would be coming under tremendous stress, just in order to keep this car safe from various criminals, roaming the streets of Karachi. It was a Sunday and Fahad had gone to his in-laws for dinner with his wife and two kids. After attending to the social call and exchanging farewell, the family returned to their brand new car only to discover that the side mirrors were missing. Soon they realised that someone had actually broken the entire frame along with the mirrors and the only part left were the wires hanging out from the sockets. That very moment, all their dreams were shattered and the trip back home was a torture. Aliya Mir works at a multinational company and drives to and back from work in her 1800cc vehicle on a daily basis. Having her side mirrors stolen was a routine affair for her, but one fine day when she stepped out of her office and reached her car, she realised that the driver’s side window was smashed and her in-car entertainment system along with the air conditioning vents and knobs were missing. She had to drive back home without any air conditioning and an empty space where she once had her expensive entertainment system installed. Although the car was insured and she would get the stolen items compensated for, but it was the mental agony and the fact that someone actually broke into her car and stole something that belonged to her that bothered her. Such instances are now a routine activity for Karachiites. Be it outside a mosque, a mall, grocery store, marriage halls and banquets, bank or even your own houses, no place is safe and these robbers strike with impunity. A little research on this rapidly growing crime has revealed the following facts: Types of criminals These are not your regular muggers or street criminals. These are instead a group of highly skilled technicians, who have connections with vendors operating in the automobile parts and accessories markets in Saddar, Sher Shah etc. They have the required skills to disarm a vehicle’s security system, dismantle different types of frames and compartments (be it an old one or a brand new model), in a matter of few seconds and get away with the loot. Modus operandi These criminals work in pairs. They ride pillion on a motorbike and as soon as they spot an unattended car in a secluded neighbourhood, one of them – the tech guy – moves towards the targeted vehicle while the other one is on a lookout duty to keep an eye out on any law enforcers, owner of the car or the general public. The tech guy circles around the car to make sure that no one is watching and then assesses the security system of the vehicle. Experienced ones enter the car by breaking the rear quarter vent and make it to the front portion. The entire dismantling and escaping the crime scene takes hardly 20 seconds. Most of these criminals use proper tools and will leave your car unscratched, taking just the stereo system/ entertainment system only or most of the time, the entire air conditioning panel. Side mirrors are easier to steal. All that is required is a small screwdriver and a little bit of expertise. Some of them are quite ruthless and do not hesitate in chipping off the entire frame, which again takes just a few seconds. What kinds of cars get targeted? These criminals target different models of Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Honda City and from the imported category of vehicles, their target vehicles include Toyota Premio, Allion, Belta, Vitz and even Toyota Fortuner. The latest models come with panels that can very easily be dismantled without even using many tools, which makes it more convenient for thieves to get their job done in a matter of a few seconds. What should the general public do? Those who can afford should drive in the company of domestic help or be driven by a chauffeur. It would be safer if the car needs to be parked in open or at an unguarded location. Installing one of those security systems with sensors and remote-controlled vibration alert systems can be of some help. Smash-proof films can be installed on the car windows that can stand blows and attempts of break-ins. Vendors of such films are located in Badar Commercial, Zamzama and Khadda Market. One should be mindful that these criminals operate in pairs and one of them is mostly carrying a firearm. It is advised not to get into any kind of confrontation with them upon encounter. A safer option would be to raise alarm. What can the police do? All stolen parts are sold at Sher Shah and Saddar. If the police want to curb this menace, all they have to do is set up surveillance around and inside the markets dealing with used and stolen vehicle parts and catch the criminals on the spot. Why they haven’t done so yet is, well, not hard to imagine.
Dear Bisma, Although there is much uproar as to how tragically you passed away yesterday, it is unfortunate that in a few days’ time, this case, like every other, will be dusted under the carpet and forgotten as a new Bisma will come into being. It never stops. I hope wherever you are, there is justice. I am glad you do not have to grow up knowing that the lives of us citizens are not as important as security protocols. I am glad that you are not subjected to the violence you may have faced like more than three-fourths of our women do, or that you will never know what it feels like to go hungry or feel like you are fainting without basic necessities such as electricity and water in the heat. You will not be robbed; you will not shake each time you stand alone at a bus stand, because really, anything can happen. You will not walk on the same ground that has soaked up so much blood, nor will you have to piece back your life when it is shaken by a bomb blast. Heaven may be your best chance at education, because here, it is taboo to go to school, especially for girls. But I am sorry. I am sorry you will not be able to see your parents’ faces as they watch you take your first step, or the tired face of your father when he comes back home each day trying to earn enough for your school fees. I apologise that you cannot climb into your mother’s arms after a hard day, because Bisma, she loves you so much. There will not be any secret treats slipped to you by your family, no whispered gossip to your friends. You will not know how it feels to wear lipstick for the first time, to watch Karachi’s sunsets, to sit at the beach and feel the sand. You do not know how this city lights up, or how the world will one day look at Pakistan and salute. Bisma, you’re gone, and I do not know how your family will cope, or how you would have affected this world. But Bilawal Bhutto passed safely and he will find a loophole out of the inquiry. Do not let him. Ask God, please, to give our people strength. To those who can read behind a screen, bring others out onto the streets and do not let the killers of our children get away. We cannot lose any more Bismas, we simply cannot afford for any more lives to be lost. How much more can this land take? Have mercy, please. Love, A Pakistani girl
On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. The reverberations from those guns shots were heard and felt all over Pakistan. Many of us have distinct memories of where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. We have stories of our personal experiences from that day. Some of us were stuck in traffic; some of us were stuck at home. Despite the variance in our experiences, there was one common thread that tied all of our stories together – feelings of panic, hysteria, confusion and chaos. On that fateful day, I was attending a training session at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi. Sometime around dusk, news started pouring in about the assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto. No one bothered too much with that bit of news because… well she was alive. Since the incident didn’t take place in Karachi, we focused on finishing the remainder of the training. The news of her death hadn’t been broken to the public yet. A few hours later though, the face of Karachi changed. It was announced that Benazir Bhutto had died. It was like a scene from an apocalyptic film. Phones began ringing. People began talking in hurried, panicked voices. People pushed and shoved to rush out the doors and into their vehicles. Rumours started swirling about angry mobs scaling walls of residences in our localities (which later turned out to be untrue). The city fell into complete anarchy. I got into my car with nervous hands and a lump in my throat. I gripped my steering wheel to steady myself and got off from Karsaz Road towards Aziz Bhatti Park to avoid traffic jams on University Road. Drivers abandoned traffic rules and pedestrians ran across roads without any semblance of sanity. I was surrounded by burning cars. I held my breath as I thought,
“I’ve driven into hell.”Three protestors armed with sticks and rods confronted me in the vacant ground adjacent Baitul Mukarram mosque. Panic struck me and I started driving on the muddy ground. My tires got stuck in the mud and no matter how hard I stepped on the accelerator, my car refused to move. Fear gripped my entire body as I realised I couldn’t be more vulnerable. That’s when I saw the three miscreants, aged between 15 to 20 years, charging towards my car while I was seated inside. Upon seeing my beard, one of the miscreants shouted,
“In logon nay hi Bibi ko mara hai.” (They are the ones who killed Bibi.)One of them raised the rod in his arms over his head and smashed the windscreen of my car. Seconds later, his other cohort perforated the rear screen as well. The third one was charged with hitting me, but I ran out, away from my vehicle as fast as I could. I twisted my ankle in the process. I thought I was going to die. The three street urchins smashed my car in a matter of minutes, and drove off with it because I had left the keys inside the ignition. They were drifting my car in the vacant ground and hurled abuses and slogans while I watched helplessly. They took the vehicle in a dark corner of the ground away from my view and siphoned off the car stereo, console, spare tire, my laptop and even my jacket. Afterwards, they parked the car in the same place, as if they were inviting me to collect it, but they took the keys with them. I gathered my breath and with the help of a passer-by tried to pull the vehicle away from the empty ground and away from the gaze of another group of miscreants, but then another bike riding team arrived with tools and a piece of cloth. This time I was sure I was going to be killed. The expertise of this second team was remarkable because they took less than a minute to torch my car. They broke open the fuel tank side cover, dipped a piece of cloth in gasoline, lit the cloth using a matchstick and threw it on the seats since the upholstery catches fire very quickly. In a matter of six to seven minutes, I saw the fuel tank explode. I cried as I limped across University Road, completely disoriented, with my twisted ankle. I kept turning around to see my car that was now engulfed by flames. The moment I entered a block of Gulshan-e-Iqbal across Federal Urdu University, a group of people with a camera approached me and asked me to narrate the great injustice that I had to endure. I felt my blood boil. I was already seething with anger and their questions sent me over the edge. I snapped back at them that I would not allow them to record my interview or force me to blame any community or party. Dismayed by my reply, they tried to intimidate me but the grave expression on my face sent them away. I went to my sister’s house because the area around my residence was still too dangerous and volatile. The next day, on December 28th, I went to the Aziz Bhatti police station to register an FIR, since I had lost my passport, CNIC and my laptop. The police officials refused to register an FIR, and told me that more than 125 vehicles had been burned within the jurisdiction of their police station so an individual FIR could not be registered. They gave me a copy of a collective FIR, where a tiny yellow highlighted registration number was what was left of my car. They refused to register an FIR for my laptop, passport and CNIC and asked me to leave. As I walked home, my ankle throbbed in pain. The streets were littered with the remnants of chaos. Traffic was slim. The air had a taste of desolation. When I reached Sir Syed University, two people riding a motorcycle stopped me. They demanded my cell phone and threatened to shoot me. As the man waved a gun in my face, I thought about letting him shoot me. I thought about all that I had endured, and all that I had lost. I thought about holding on to the last shred of integrity that I had left. But I handed over my cell phone. And with it, my last nerve. In two days of utter mayhem in Karachi, I had three separate FIRs: For my car, laptop, passport and CNIC. But my biggest concern was that I could not report the worst crime – the injury on my being. I am still haunted by events of that day. Since then, I have started carrying licensed weapons while driving with my family, because I cannot, in any way, let the safety of my family be compromised. After December 27th, something changed in the city’s air. I know many Karachiites who have obtained arms licenses to take their security into their own hands. That day, isn’t just the day that Benazir Bhutto died, it’s the day Karachi and its people changed forever.
For a long time in Pakistan, art belonged in galleries and to the elite. It was individualistic, and for that reason, terribly exclusive and elusive. Though over recent years, tables are slowly turning and the high fences around the world of art are being brought down, with an increasing number of artists now looking towards engaging the communities and making their work accessible to larger audiences. Last year was perhaps the best in this regard, especially with the revival of public art in the Pakistan. From IAMKHI beautifying the walls of Karachi with truck art and graffiti, to The Fearless Collective engaging the communities in storytelling via murals and Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF)’s installation, Intersections, at Istanbul Chowk, Lahore, art is slowly being used as a tool for dialogue and social change. This has served in not only broadening the definitions of what art is – something much more than a well-proportioned, perfectly made piece hanging on pristine walls – but also encouraging the viewers to think constructively. But more than that, the rebirth of public art and its focus on social issues has led to the people recognising their rights and using this medium to demand change. Every piece of public art is a political statement and serves as a reminder of the kind of beliefs and values a society holds. Perhaps this is why the stir caused by Alamgir Khan’s effort, Fix It, to highlight problems faced by Karachiites, and the government responding to the requests has been a welcome change, a reprieve during unstable socio-political times. It ignites hope that perhaps we are moving towards a change for the better, a change where the common man is more conscious of his role and rights in the society and is an active participant in ensuring their security. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="625"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Fix It Facebook page[/caption] Regardless of this, there are two questions that have been largely avoided, or ignored in light of the positive support ‘Fix It’ has garnered. As a society just entering into the realms of public art as a political statement, we must consciously, even if grudgingly, try to be aware of the downside of public art. One of the criticisms to Alamgir Khan’s graffiti have been that it is more of vandalism of public property than a piece of art – not much different from the wall chalking around the city highlighting everything from homeopathic ventures to political slurs. So, where do we draw the line? In Khan’s case of gaping potholes and ditches, does the notion of vandalism still apply when the caretakers of that property are content in leaving it in a derelict condition, despite having the responsibility of managing it? Finally, looking at the response this campaign has resulted in, does it still count as destruction of public property when it has led to the reconstruction of that destructed property? Political graffiti, by its very definition, aims to highlight a social issue and start public discourse, and Fix It meets these requirements wonderfully – even if rather unsophisticatedly. The best kind of activism is one that is intelligent yet subtle and manages to hit the mark in an unobtrusive fashion. The direct mockery aimed at Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, while effective in its measures, leads one to wonder about the thought process behind the campaign. Coupled with Alamgir Khan’s statement of being against the idea of wall chalking and his repeated insistence at this being a purely apolitical campaign – contradicting the very essence of public art – one can’t help but question the movement’s validity and reliability. Is this another episode of the blame game? Our history and present is dotted with people pointing fingers at others, all the while shirking responsibilities assigned to them – a phenomenon that is directly proportional to the amount of power one has. As hard as these questions are, we need to stop evading the hard facts. In times when we desperately need to initiate action and conversation about the ills and failures of society and our leaders at large, one can only hope against all odds that campaigns like these are a start of a much-needed revolution, rather than a pissing contest.
Recently, a brawl broke out between a citizen and a group of traffic police officers at the busy PIDC intersection in Karachi. Initially, media reports painted the citizen as a victim who had been subjected to police torture. Civil society and political activists joined the bandwagon as well and the perpetrator was released after a brief detention period. Later on, when the CCTV footage was released, it showed a completely different picture where a law enforcer was seen approaching a citizen instructing him to move his motorcycle away from the no-parking zone. After a very brief exchange of words, the deranged individual initiated a fistfight by punching the cop right in his face and throwing him down to the ground. It took four policemen and a Rangers officer to subdue the burly former navy employee and take him into custody. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/samaatvnews/videos/1050354841653654/"][/fbvideo] Internationally, law enforcement officers may use whatever force is reasonably necessary to affect an arrest or protect themselves (or others) from imminent harm. This is the rule of thumb and is widely practiced in developed countries. A law enforcer is supposed to protect him/her self and others before making his move to disarm or subdue an attacker. As part of routine training, police officers are taken through courses involving self-defence, basic first-aid/CPR, domestic violence, patrol procedures/techniques, health and fitness etc. Internationally, the law says that if a law enforcer feels that an individual is approaching him/her with intentions of causing any kind of harm, s/he is authorised to use all means necessary to control the situation. This could also involve using a fire arm for self-protection. There are several non-lethal gadgets including tasers (a weapon firing barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporary paralysis), pepper sprays, batons, etc. that are routinely used by police officers to subdue and capture a deranged individual without causing any serious physical injury. What can our police authorities do? - Perform frequent health and fitness checks on our police officers. - Arrange frequent refresher courses in self-defence and first aid. - Equip and train the law enforcers (including traffic police) in using the following non-lethal gadgets. Pepper sprays Pepper sprays are used in policing, riot control, crowd control, and personal self-defence, including defence against dogs and bears. Its inflammatory effects cause the eyes to close and it obstructs vision temporarily. This temporary blindness permits people using pepper sprays for self-defence as the perfect opportunity to escape and allows officers to restrain subjects easily. Taser guns A taser fires two small dart-like electrodes, which stay connected to the main unit by conductors in order to deliver electric current to disrupt the voluntary control of muscles causing neuromuscular incapacitation. Tasers were introduced as non-lethal weapons for the police to use in order to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous people, who would have otherwise been subjected to more lethal weapons such as firearms. Flexi cuffs (plastic handcuffs) Plastic handcuffs are a form of physical restraint for the hands, using plastic straps. They function as handcuffs but are cheaper and easier to carry as compared to metal handcuffs. Batons A baton is essentially a club of less than arm’s length made of wood, rubber, plastic or metal. They are carried for forced compliance and self-defence by law-enforcement officers. With the above mentioned equipment, a law enforcer won’t have to get into a royal rumble with a perpetrator and would rather use one of these gadgets to smoothly subdue and arrest a violent individual. What we saw at the traffic intersection at PIDC was complete failure on part of our police trainers. With a little more focus on fitness levels and self-defence techniques the police higher ups can save the entire department from such embarrassing situations in the future.
As a city, Karachi yearns for entertainment. Unfortunately, the only entertainment we seem to think of in this part of the country surrounds itself around food. Now, no one’s saying food is a bad thing – I mean being a Karachiite automatically means you are an inherent foodie. But when you combine food and a festival together, your expectations automatically rise. Since the past two years, Karachi has been hosting what is called the Karachi Eat Food Festival. This consists of lots of different (already established) restaurants coming together in a big beautiful lawn at Frere Hall, with a stage that is (supposed) to host concerts and regale a whole bunch of entertainment starved Karachiites. The initial response to this festival was fantastic – it was a brand new idea, played the tunes of a foodie’s song and was an outlet for entertainment. But over the years (three to be exact), reactions have begun to vary. From hearing words like “delicious”, “fun” and “different”, we started hearing words like “same-old”, “unorganised” and just “okay”. What surprised me a little bit, having attended all three festivals, was how complacent Karachiites became when it came to such events being hosted; I’ve heard things like “but we have nothing better to do so let’s not criticise the one thing we do have”. We know how to make things fun, there is no doubt in that, but the fact that we will settle for the most convenient money-making kind of fun, that compromises our general approach to food, is a bit disappointing. In the Karachi I know, we have Facebook pages that hold restaurants accountable for the slightest mistake in their order. We know how to tell the difference between good food and just food – we pride ourselves on it! I mean how many times have we fought Lahore over which city has better food? And yet… when it comes to a grand scale event such as the Karachi Eat Food Festival, we step away like docile little lambs happy to be fed dry grass. This is not to say the festival isn’t a great idea – it’s fantastic! A friend argued that it is nice to have “all the restaurants under one umbrella”, but then… how is this “festival” any different from the various food courts we have at all our malls? Does it suddenly become okay to wait at a stall for over 50 minutes for unpalatable food? Food that would have been of much better quality were you to order the exact same thing to your door step? After all, everything at the festival is available at the restaurant itself too… so why should I wait in line for food that is not up to the mark? But then, I hear things like “what about community”. And I see people fighting over the last chair available, if that means sliding your backside onto one when you see an older person waiting for it… really doesn’t warm me up to the community argument. While that really isn’t the purpose of this discussion, the fact that this festival is just another regular food gathering is. To me, a festival is a celebration of sorts – something that encourages you not only to enjoy food, but to learn something from it or experience something new. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to walk into the festival and learn all about the various kinds of food available in Sindh? How one kind of biryani is different from the other? How, as Khurram points out in the video, a regular dish like sajji is made differently in every different city? Wouldn’t it be a tourist magnet if we hosted this festival yearly to boast about the culture of food in Pakistan? Wouldn’t it be great to walk in and show your friends that one particular stall that you can relate to most? I mean… churros really don’t ring the Pakistani bell in my mind. And besides, where do they even come from? What is the significance behind that dish? If you want churros, so be it, but tell me something about it! I don’t mean to criticise the organisers or the event, it is a great endeavour – but is it enough of an endeavour? No. The organisers have set a precedent for massive food festivals to take place in Karachi. Imbuing the right flavours and the right ambience is our prerogative to take. Karachi has exhibited great enthusiasm when it comes to these festivals, but we need to make sure that they remain what we want them to be – a true celebration of food. For that we need to stop applauding restaurant-made pasta, pies and desserts and give a chance to the food that is prepared by small vendors and new players in the food market. To truly celebrate food, we need to make sure that food takes centre stage, not popular restaurants and eateries. Enough mass-produced churros and cheesecakes, let’s bring out the home-bakers and allow them to strut their stuff. No more mainstream desi food served by major local food labels, let’s rejoice in the essence of true Memon, Bohra, Sindhi, Parsi and Bihari cuisine. When Karachi Eats, it shouldn’t have to bore its taste buds with the same old stuff. When Karachi Eats it should indulge in a kaleidoscope of flavours and aromas that can truly satiate its appetite. Bring the surprise element back - keep it interesting. [poll id="411"]
As I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed I saw a post about the Walls of Kindness in Iran. The post had thousands of views, shares and comments. Naturally, I wasn’t the only one who was inspired by these acts of altruism. People have been leaving jackets and scarves for the poor who can’t afford warm clothes in the winter.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: AP[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: AP[/caption]
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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Iranian volunteer Mohammad Esmaeil Khosroabadi, right, donates a sandwich to a needy man at a street charity hut in southern Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.
Photo: AP[/caption] After a few days, I got a call from my sister who told me that Pakistanis too are constructing a wall of kindness. The idea of giving out clothes not by hand, but by hanging them on street walls for the homeless and the needy is a remarkable initiative to bring the community closer together. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Yum to Yikes[/caption] Teachers from Bahria College, Ismat Ali and Maria Waqas, have introduced the Wall of Kindness in Karachi. The first wall was set up on January 15, 2016. Karachi’s Wall of Kindness is not just confined to clothes -- it is equipped to accept food items and other necessities of life. The simple principle involved in this endeavour is to leave stuff you do not need, and would end up throwing away, for those who need it. It is being managed solely by the founders of the project.
“We do not really need the government’s support at this point,” said Ali, when I asked her about how they are planning to keep it up in the future. “We are ordinary people with humanitarian instincts. We want to help those less fortunate than us. That’s what drives us and that’s all we needed to start the Wall of Kindness in Pakistan.”[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Yum to Yikes[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="576"] Photo: Yum to Yikes[/caption] She also mentioned how they surrounded themselves with personal security when they were setting the wall up so no one would interrupt them. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/mariyamhatesyou/videos/907017372685400/"] Walls have always been used to create distances between nations and communities. However, this unique use of walls is bringing communities together. People are now joining hands to create a kinder world for everyone to live in. We should all join in and make our streets warmer, well-fed and happier.
wall of kindness