Articles on this Page
- 05/26/16--02:54: _Inder Vineet was a ...
- 05/27/16--01:09: _Despite re-verifyin...
- 05/27/16--22:00: _Aashi: The struggle...
- 05/28/16--23:00: _A ‘taroo’s treat’ i...
- 06/03/16--06:39: _Why was Karachi’s C...
- 06/04/16--01:00: _Why are arms and am...
- 06/07/16--01:36: _From Kakul to Hamps...
- 06/07/16--02:30: _Government official...
- 06/23/16--03:26: _It’s good to be back…
- 06/28/16--03:20: _He told his parents...
- 07/01/16--23:00: _My love affair with...
- 07/11/16--05:28: _Thari culture, pall...
- 07/13/16--02:30: _Only in Karachi can...
- 07/16/16--06:15: _When honour lies in...
- 07/20/16--03:31: _A day in the life o...
- 07/23/16--00:00: _The reactions to Qa...
- 07/25/16--04:07: _Pop-up in the Park:...
- 07/27/16--03:47: _Karachi, you used t...
- 08/02/16--03:55: _Rowling’s birthday,...
- 08/04/16--04:39: _Going with the Flo:...
- 05/27/16--22:00: Aashi: The struggle of a transgender in a man’s world
- 05/28/16--23:00: A ‘taroo’s treat’ in Karachi
- 06/03/16--06:39: Why was Karachi’s Commissioner Asif Hyder Shah dismissed, Mr CM?
- 06/04/16--01:00: Why are arms and ammunitions so easily available in Pakistan?
- 06/23/16--03:26: It’s good to be back…
- 07/01/16--23:00: My love affair with language (barriers) in Beijing
- 07/16/16--06:15: When honour lies in what happens between the legs of women
- 07/20/16--03:31: A day in the life of a Pokémon Go addict in Karachi
- 07/25/16--04:07: Pop-up in the Park: Reclaiming public spaces in Karachi
- 07/27/16--03:47: Karachi, you used to be home
- 08/02/16--03:55: Rowling’s birthday, my present
- 08/04/16--04:39: Going with the Flo: In conversation with Waqar Siddiqui
April 13th was the perfect day for 10-year-old Inder Vineet to go for a swim. His father had finally become a member of the Hyderabad Club, only after Inder had begged him a million times to do so. He had, at last, gotten his wish - one that he had waited for a long while. He could learn how to swim now. On Wednesday, Inder left home around 3:45pm for his third swimming lesson. When Inder arrived at the club he was told to leave, perhaps, the pool was closed. But when Inder was heading back, he was called back by two men, presumably lifeguards. At 4:30pm that day, Mr Chatandas, Inder’s father, received a phone call every parent dreads. He was told that his only son was found in the swimming pool, having drowned, and had been taken to Ghani Hospital, Hyderabad. Inder was in critical condition and was not responding to any treatment. The Agha Khan Hospital, Karachi, refused to take this case as they believed the child would not survive. The young boy was then admitted to Liaquat Medical Hospital in Karachi where he struggled between life and death for a week before he passed away. Young Inder, a student of grade six in Army Public School, Hyderabad, breathed his last breath on April 21st. The club management termed it as death by drowning. Inder would have turned 11 on June 5th. Within 24 hours of the incident, Mr Chatandas had contacted the club administration to provide him with the CCTV footage of the tragic incident. The footage he was shown revealed the young boy being taken out of the pool. When Inder’s family demanded the entire day’s footage from the club administrator, Mushtaq, they were conveniently told that the footage had been deleted and the management did not keep a back up. They even refused to return the innocent child’s swimming costume. What was the administration trying to hide? If the boy had passed away because of drowning, why was the management being so unhelpful? Did something else happen or was this an attempt to protect the club’s image? Doctors had pointed out that young Inder had abrasion marks on his neck, nail marks and scratches on his face with bruises on his arms, and these were inconsistent with the presumed cause of death. The doctors had hinted that this may have been a case of child abuse. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inder's radiology report from the Agha Khan University Hospital[/caption] A radiology report by Agha Khan Hospital, Karachi, clearly indicated that there was no water found in the child’s lungs, therefore suggesting that the cause of death was not drowning. Unsurprisingly, when Mr Chatandas and his family turned to the local authorities for justice, they turned a blind eye to the incident. Inder’s family was then forced to hold protests in Karachi and Hyderabad to gather support for justice for their son. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The protest held by Inder's family and friends[/caption] The protests caught the IG Sindh’s attention and further investigations were held. The police arrested Nadir and Sajid, the lifeguards, along with Mushtaq, the administrator and another staff member. The latter two were granted bail. Since then, the investigation has come to a dead end and no progress has been made. Even today, when over a month has passed, Inder’s parents and relatives continue to seek justice for their dead son. Hyderabad Club is a place where countless children, around Inder’s age (or younger), are found taking part in various sporting activities. What happened to Inder could have happened to any other child and no family should go through the grief of losing their child to such an act of violence. The club management failed to cooperate with the grieving family and instead held a function on that same gruesome night. When I first heard about this nefarious act, I was in shock because my own siblings go to that very same club and I felt compelled to inquire, as an elder brother and fellow Pakistani. Why are Inder and his family not getting the attention they deserve? Why have the authorities overlooked this incident? Why is it that whenever a non-Muslim is violated, their family has to resort to holding protests in order to get justice? I know this question is frowned upon, but I want to ask anyway – would this tragic occurrence still be neglected, had Inder been a Muslim? Having said that, would his parents’ questions remain unanswered? I don’t think so. I think we would have been all ears in that case. [poll id="575"] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A collection of some of Inder's photos[/caption] Inder’s family has gone through a lot over the past month. Losing a young son, listening to cooked up stories about their son’s death, not receiving cooperation from the club, being ignored by the local authorities and being forced to protest on the streets in order to get justice. Mr Chatandas and his family have been knocking on countless doors for justice, hoping that someone will empathise with their painful experience. This is why I appeal to you, the readers. All of us send our children and younger siblings to clubs, many a times unaccompanied, simply because we trust that the club is a secure place for them. You probably go to clubs yourself - some to workout, some to swim, some to play a sport and some just for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Imagine losing sight of the youngest member of your party and discovering his/her dead body an hour later. Would you not ask for answers? Would you not hold the club accountable? Would you not demand an investigation? I know many who would break the club down brick by brick to find out what happened to their loved one. Then why are we not supporting the plight of this young family? He was just 10-years-old. Ten. And he may have had to endure things no adult would ever want to think about. This child is not just Mr Chatandas’ child. Inder is your child and my younger brother, and I demand justice. Whether that means ripping apart that club to find out why this young soul’s bright fire was snubbed out so viciously. I want those men to be put through the same evil acts they put Inder through. I want justice. And as a Pakistani citizen who cares about his/her children, you should too. [poll id="576"]
What a strange country we live in! First you harbour terrorists from across the border, facilitate them and help them get a computerised national identity card (CNIC) and travel documents. Then when, inevitably, the terrorist is found with those documents provided to him by the state, the interior minister of Pakistan acts indignant and says that he would push for re-verification of all CNICs in the country. Now what did I, a hapless citizen of Pakistan, do to be punished for what is essentially a sin of the state? And what will re-verification achieve? What new Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) will the government put in place to ensure that a CNIC holder is a bona fide citizen of Pakistan, beyond confirming that there was a corresponding Form B and a family number? These checks must already have been in place when Mullah Akhtar Mansoor got his identity as Wali Muhammad of Killa Abdullah district. He managed to hoodwink the state and its system not because the SOP was not in place but because for him the SOP was bypassed. This means of course that this proposed re-verification is going to fail just as original verification failed to the needful. The powers that be will ensure that CNICs of those special guests in our country remain exempted from any proof of life or family in Pakistan. I have no doubt about it. The reason why Mullah Akhtar Mansoor could masquerade as Wali Muhammad for so long and take a whopping nine trips abroad from Karachi was because the state allowed him to do so. He was a guest of the state and the state bent over backwards to make his stay with us comfortable. He travelled freely, and now that he has been caught, what integrity remains of the system of checks and balances that the state supposedly deploys to ensure that its citizens are accounted for? The proposed re-verification will not restore the world’s confidence in Pakistan’s CNICs and passports unless and until the state changes its attitude at the top and stops playing these God awful games with us. As I argued in my last blog, we need to ask the state hard questions about why it continues to tolerate individuals who are wanted by the world? Subjecting citizens to the torture of re-verification therefore is not the answer. And torture it will be. If biometric SIM verification carried out last year in Pakistan is any indication, this will be an incredibly painful process. Here is how it will pan out. One fine day the interior minister will announce that every citizen of Pakistan has to appear before their local NADRA office and get their CNIC re-verified within six months. Now imagine the load it would put on NADRA. It would have to recheck its own work that it has done over a decade at least. Inevitably there will be a substantial chunk of our population that will not be able to meet the deadline, and make no mistake, by a substantial chunk I mean a number in tens of millions. Their CNICs would stand cancelled. Their passports revoked. Their votes struck off. Their verified SIMs unverified. Interestingly the telecom companies have spent billions of rupees verifying their SIMs/MSISDNs. Clearly the exercise would have to be undertaken again or else the whole thing would become a joke. The consequences of such disenfranchisement by the state will be dire. For all practical purposes these Pakistani citizens would become aliens. What little fundamental rights they have today would be taken away from them. Usually a citizen needs his or her CNIC to file a constitutional writ petition before a High Court. This means that even the doors of justice would be closed upon them. All this because instead of facing the facts and admitting that the state made a mistake harbouring Mullah Mansoor aka Wali Muhammad, Chaudhry Nisar would rather carry out another eye wash. Well I doubt the world will buy it this time. As is, Pakistani passport holders are looked upon with suspicion the world over, even in countries that we consider our closest friends and brothers. Now expect greater scrutiny at every stage from visa application to actual travel. We are in for long drawn out humiliation. I fear that the posterity will curse us. The buck does stop at us as citizens. We have, through our inaction, apathetic attitude allowed fools, crooks, cranks and mad men to run this fine country of ours, geniuses who have squandered every advantage we had and who have amplified our every shortcoming for the world to see. We have tolerated incompetence and indifference, whether by civilian rulers or military, and instead of rising up on very real issues confronting us we have feebly allowed curbs on the space for legitimate political dissent. Democracy means participatory government by the people and for the people. To us, however, it has seldom meant anything more than replacing one tyrant with 1000 tyrants. We have allowed ourselves to be blackmailed in the name of national interest, religion and honour. We have never really resisted anything on principle. Never in my adult life have I ever seen a true movement of the people organised around their inalienable human rights. Even God does not help those who do not help themselves. And so it will be business as usual. Chaudhry Nisar will force this re-verification upon us. We will humbly submit to this fresh eyewash. Meanwhile the real aliens in the country, of which there are many, will continue to enjoy their perks, privileges and fake identities with impunity.
Honour is taken as the sole prerogative of men in Pakistan; but a transgender managed to set a higher example of self-respect and honour in our narrow minded society. Aashi, a 45-year-old transgender from Lahore is struggling against all odds in order to support her family by herself. Her family consists of an elderly mother and a bedridden brother. Aashi makes a living by working as a tailor but things were not always like this. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="330"] Aashi, a 45-year-old transgender from Lahore is struggling against all odds in order to support his family by himself.[/caption] When she was born, her family accepted her with the same regret and reluctance every new born transgender is received within our society. Aashi’s father was a police officer and he preferred to conceal the identity of his new born baby who was born with stunted male reproductive organs. Eventually, although male characteristics were dominant in Aashi’s personality, there were clear signs of femininity as well. As time passed, people started noticing how Aashi was different. She was sent to school where fellow students and even teachers made fun of her. By the age of 15, everyone began whispering about Aashi being a transgender. During those days, people would make fun of her, and her family would feel ashamed of her. People in the area would also taunt her brothers as, “khusray kay bhai” (brothers of a transgender) and in return the brothers also started developing a hatred towards her and lash out by beating her up. She was a human being, but society was treating her inhumanely just because she was different – a transgender – something she was born with, not something she was responsible for. Eventually, when she couldn’t bear the physical and mental torture anymore, Aashi decided to leave Lahore and move to Karachi. This was in 1986, when she was only 15-years-old. She spent the next 20 years there. To earn a livelihood like other transgendered individuals in the city, she had to dance on the streets, at wedding ceremonies and other events where some people would harass her. During all those years no one except her mother wanted to see her. More time passed; her father retired from the police and her mother fell ill. In what seemed to be her last days, she urged her husband to look for Aashi. Her father unwillingly searched for her, found her and took her back to their house in Lahore. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] His father unwillingly searched for him, found him and took him back to their house in Lahore.[/caption] Upon her return, Aashi’s mother’s health improved and she insisted that Aashi stay with the family. Aashi’s brothers opposed the idea, leaving no choice for her and her mother but to leave the family home and start living in a place for rent in Lahore. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Upon his return, Aashi’s mother’s health improved and she insisted that he stay with the family.[/caption] Aashi never danced or indulged in such activities willingly. She always had a great sense of aesthetics and so, to earn a living, she started working as an apprentice at a tailor shop and learnt the art of stitching. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] He always had a great sense of aesthetics and so, to earn a living, he started working as an apprentice at a tailor shop and learnt the art of stitching.[/caption] A couple of years later, Aashi’s father was diagnosed with a chronic illness and became bedridden. His sons, whose birth had once made him so proud, now refused to take care of him. Eventually, he had to move to Aashi’s house, the child he once deemed unworthy. Aashi the khusra (transgender) took over the responsibility of nursing her father. Day in and day out, Aashi took care of her father and provided for all of his needs up until his demise. Later, one of her elder brothers, who used to beat her for being different, also fell ill. Once again, apart from Aashi, nobody else in the family took over any kind of responsibility. Now everyone in the family is dependent on Aashi. She works as a tailor at Lahore’s Fountain House, supervises a gift shop, looks after her mother, brother and provides for all their basic needs. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] He works as a tailor at Lahore’s Fountain House, supervises a gift shop, looks after his mother, brother and provides for all their basic needs.[/caption] Aashi’s family once considered her a disgrace. Today, they thank her for everything she has given to them. By constantly struggling and committing to living an honourable life, she has now become the man of the house. All photos: Shahid Wafa
Before I begin, there is something I want to say: My wife is a stupid woman. There I said it. I don’t know what goes on in that miniscule female brain of hers but she is really getting on my nerves now. I was leaving to hang out with my boys when she told me to take a water bottle with me. There’s a heat wave, she said, you’ll get dehydrated.
“Bottle of water? What is wrong with you, woman? I am not a weak little girl. I am a man. A MAN.”I yelled and repeated for further reassurance to her and myself. Anyway, enough about her and her female dehydration problems, let’s talk about my day with my boys. A day full of beauty and promises! It’s not easy you know, being a ‘taaru’ in Karachi. There is so much competition everywhere you go. My boys and I like to keep it high end though, it is so much more convenient. We hit big malls where we find a wide variety of gorgeous women and girls, there’s food available in case our energy levels go down, there’s air-conditioning so we don’t have to worry about our sweat and drool and dayummmmm are rich women something to look at! Today we went to one of the biggest malls in Karachi, and on a weekend. It was what our brothers in Lahore would call ‘poondi paradise’. So many pieces to look at, so much beauty, where do we begin?! So we started with our usual pattern: The food court Logic: If a girl or group of girls are eating and they see you staring at them, they can’t leave or move away. Why? Because they’re eating! I started with a group of young college girls laughing and having a good time. I positioned myself at the table right behind theirs and pretended to be drinking my drink when actually I was trying to drink in all the details of their beauty. Another plus point about the food court, if they’re busy eating then they won’t notice you. You have to be careful with groups, though. They often get really angry for no reason and complain about you and then there’s an entire scene. God, talk about an overreaction! The shopping area It was time to get walking. I began following a stunning young mother and her teenage daughter to every shop they went to. I knew it was the mother I should be ogling at, but I could not take my eyes off her daughter. I gave her a smile and she turned green. I smirked. It was then that I saw a girl shopping alone. Jackpot! A ‘taroo’s treat’ we call it when a woman is by herself! I leered at her till the point she felt harassed and asked me if I have a mother or sister at home. (What does that have to do with anything?) I laughed and said ‘Ufffff’ in the most vulgar way manageable. She too looked like she was going to be sick. Weird female dehydration problems maybe? Probably. The parking lot Yet another area where the girl can’t move away too far from you because she is waiting for her ride or has parked her car in the parking lot. It is exciting to see how they fidget with their keys or purses and look over their shoulders in panic as me and my boys check them out. Oh and that fake angry look they make, like they don’t want us to look at them from head to toe. Women are so funny… and stupid. On the street The streets are a tharki’s sanctuary. This is where we can do whatever we want without anyone stopping us. My boys and I followed the girls outside the mall, those walking to get public transport. This is when the true animals in us are unleashed. We whistle, leer and make smooching sounds from our mouth. We laugh loudly and make disgusting gestures. The girls look petrified, but have managed to remain calm, to not give us any attention. They avert their eyes and open their dupattas as far as the fabric can stretch. We stay there and watch them leave. We are not worried because we know our work will continue, by their rickshaw walas, men in the buses, drivers, perverts on bikes at traffic signals, some policemen, guards, salesmen and basically by any man with a disgusting mind that these girls will surely come across. Like I said, so much competition, taarus everywhere. But my mind is at ease with the thought that tomorrow will be another day of healthy poondi-ing, harassing and objectifying. Tomorrow and till the end of time. Well it’s time for me to go home now to my stupid wife. God is she getting on my nerves! Disclaimer: The article above is merely based on observation and is not generalisable to the entire male populace. So dear boys, unless you’re a regular harasser of women, please don’t take this to heart. We know that not all men are bad. Relax.
Whenever there is honey, there will be bees and wherever there are bees, there should be a beehive nearby. In other words, be careful of honey or the bees will sting you, not to mention the odd bear or two lurking about. Karachi is akin to the honey, which welcomes millions of people looking for work within its high rises but these people must survive amongst the bears (land mafia, political power mafias, death squads, extortionists and an endless list of the like). The number of bears Karachi attracts is roughly the same number which goes to the rivers to munch on free jumping salmon. The problem is that the bears don’t just want the honey, they want the beehive with it. Political manipulation of bureaucracy has been Pakistan’s most persistent problem as far as one can remember. While the bureaucracy remains answerable to political leaders, their performance is highly compromised due to the plagued political environment. Karachi in particular has faced a major brunt of this political altercation and the city is overwhelmed with severe administrative shortfalls. Despite being Pakistan’s commercial hub and a major source of national revenue (the beehive providing the country with honey) Karachi presents a sorry picture. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) publishes a ranking of cities called the ‘Global Liveability Ranking’ based on their infrastructure networks, access to basic services and standards of living. According to EIU’s 2015 ranking, Karachi ranks 135 out of 140 cities, much below its counterparts in the region like Mumbai (115), Delhi (110) and Colombo (127). From transport, water supply, drainage to solid waste management there is hardly any problem that Karachi residents do not face. While the residents continue to suffer the consequences of poor governance, the administrators of the city also face immense challenges in managing a city like Karachi. The city government with its many bosses has severe administrative constraints and limited resource capacity but these problems are further compounded by political exploitation. The officers find it hard to execute plans and take actions because of lingering political and powerful influences. Karachi is a city with huge ethnic diversity and is also home to many large scale commercial entities. The corporate interests and the mafias continue to make efforts to maximise their benefits often at the expense of the comfort of its residents. The illegal hydrants, builders, beggar gangs, land-grabbers, slumlords and many others are openly operating in the city. The corporate entities also take advantage of the situation warranting restraint. From negotiating prices to licensing, the city administration has a mammoth task to achieve while operating in a highly antagonistic environment. The state’s role in this realm is to reign in the influence of such interest groups and maintain social and administrative order. Unfortunately, the ‘State’ in Karachi’s case is afflicted with political elements, which tend to extract their own benefits in these situations. The administrative machinery ends up facing three choices in this situation; either to join in the plunder, to succumb to their illegal demands or to stand up for its citizens. Those who choose the last option often face retribution and find it impossible to work. Thursday’s dismissal of commissioner Karachi, Asif Hyder Shah is a manifestation of this political manipulation. Being Karachi’s first Sindhi Commissioner, he was often erroneously referred to as a political appointee. The fact however remains that his performance as Commissioner Hyderabad had made him the most suited candidate for the job, even when this appointment irked the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and some Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders. Despite this constraining environment, Shah endeavoured to improve the conditions of the city. In the brief span of five months, he developed a comprehensive long-term growth strategy for the city with the World Bank. This strategy included action plans to revamp the water supply, sanitation, solid waste management, transportation and low-income housing in the city. He also initiated a very effective heat wave management plan that had claimed the lives of hundreds of citizens last year. He also ran an impressive polio campaign by instituting a task force from the commissioner’s office for this purpose. He collaborated with the British Council and Saylani Welfare for rehabilitation and vocational training of beggars in the city earning the confidence of the Sindh governor and even the chief minister, both of whom praised his performance. It was in this path to prosperity, that Shah managed to vex several interest groups. His campaign against the illegal hoardings in the city, ban on illegal transfer of plot registrations due to fraudulent entries and crack down on the hydrants mafia caused him some trouble. However, what led to his sudden dismissal (as rumours would have it) was a contention between him and the local government minister Jam Khan Shoro over the recently announced Rs1.977 billion special development package for the city. It is said that Shah stood against the diversion of these funds to rural schemes and was therefore summarily dismissed. Oh Karachi, when will you govern for yourself? Can we please live in peace and not in pieces? When will the province realise that the best way to ensure that they receive a share of the honey is to wait patiently while the hive regenerates itself rather than burn it down to squeeze every last drop? I hate the Commissioner system personally but when someone has the ability and the will to work, they should be allowed to do so. The sad fact will always remain that Karachi is a city claimed by all but owned by no one. (Many thanks to my friend Sumrin who brought this to my attention and made this blog happen). [poll id="589"]
As per a recent news report, over 170,000 of the total 352,000 licenses in Pakistan could not be verified by NADRA. Acquisition of arms and ammunition in Pakistan has never been a problem for applicants who know the various back door options available in the market. Unless there is a blanket ban on issuance of new arms licenses, a common citizen bearing a computerised national identity card, can get more than one arm license issued under his/her name of various non-prohibited or prohibited calibers if he/she has a direct connection in the federal interior ministry. Background interviews with some prominent arms dealers in Karachi has brought to lime light a trend that is known to only those who have been through this entire process. For a common man on the street without any prior knowledge of the weapons acquisition process, following is the procedure. The license issuance process Previously an applicant had to collect a printed application from the ministry of interior of the respective province, fill in the particulars, get verifications from immediate neighbours, get a clearance letter from the concerned police station and then wait for more than a couple of months to receive acceptance after which he/she could buy a non-prohibited weapon of choice. This was a time consuming process which involved a lot of bribery and connections to get the work done. Because of the complexity of the entire process, many people, in order to save time, acquired the services of agents and vendors who had access to fake stamps and corrupt officers in the ministry of interior who used to get fake licenses issued even when there was a complete ban on the issuance of new licenses. Such licenses could not be verified from the database managed by the ministry and whenever there was a verification drive by the government, such licenses used to get revoked. The current process of acquiring an arms license is more effective, smart and is without much hassle. One needs to visit the offices of the provincial interior secretary and get the entire process done without the need to get clearance from the concerned police stations. The new licenses bear resemblance with the Pakistani passports and require an applicant to go through a process similar to that of NADRA. The chief minister has 100 licenses on his quota per month so as per law, the CM endorses this process (which is merely for the sake of understanding the entire process). Fake and unverified licenses There is also a parallel system in place where arms licenses from other provinces can be converted to the concerned province by paying a fee and getting the document endorsed by the concerned officer in the provincial ministry of interior. This is precisely where majority of the licenses go unaccounted for. An applicant sitting in Karachi can very conveniently get a license issued by the government of Balochistan and get it transferred to Sindh. This process is often full of question marks and involves a lot of bribery and fake endorsements. Back dated licenses are also made through this process, and as per my knowledge, this is that grey area where the government needs to focus in order to crack down on the system of fake arms license issuance. A citizen could get a prohibited caliber license issued on his name before 1995. All back dated licenses being issued these days therefore have the issuance years mentioned prior to 1995 and this entire practice is done with the help of people sitting in the ministry of interior. How can this system be improved? A blanket ban should be enforced on the issuance of high caliber weapons, including AK-47s, 222 rifles, G-3s, M4 carbines, M16s etc. As per the current law, such calibers can only be acquired if one has a connection with the federal ministry of interior and only the federal minister of interior has the authority to issue such permits/licenses. This practice needs to be stopped. The system of chief minister’s quota, MNA’s quota etc. must be replaced with issuance of arms license for non-prohibited calibers; 9mm, 12 bore, .22, .45, .44 etc. to anyone with a valid CNIC, has no criminal record and has no association with any political or religious group. There should be a check on issuance of ammunition. As per law, there is a specific limit which each license carries and that has to be followed when purchasing bullets. Alarmingly such is not the practice and boxes of bullets are issued by vendors without registering the serial numbers of the bullets (which could help in forensics if a weapon is used in a crime). Arms dealers must be obligated to share customer database with ministry of interior to keep all license holders under watch.
The Pakistan Army and the game of cricket have one thing in common; both unite the country but while the soldiers are ‘revered’ from Karachi to Khyber our cricketers have in recent years brought the country together by their comical ineptness which makes us scoff at them in unison.
Of late, the cricketers have had their fame replaced by infamy as they continue to hog the headlines mostly for the bad and ugly causing widespread outrage.
The flak is not restricted to our cricketers alone; the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is easily the most maligned sporting body in the country but in a rare moment of tactical shrewdness that would even make the army generals proud, the PCB think-tank decided to send the players for a fortnight long boot camp to Kakul’s Military Academy.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Pakistan cricket team, training at Kakul Academy
Photo: PCB[/caption] The move was inspired by the most insipid display at an ICC WorldT20 tournament by Pakistan, a downfall so embarrassing that the captain Shahid Afridi was left teary eyed at the end of each of the three defeats to India, New Zealand and Australia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ajr38GwlalQ During the WorldT20, Pakistan fielders resembled a team of super veterans — cricketers who play 60 plus cricket. In the game against New Zealand the fielders gifted 18 additional runs to the Black Caps, allowing opposing batsmen to turn ones into twos and twos into threes, when the same fielders took their turn to bat they ran runs so gingerly that threes were converted in twos and twos into ones! The boot camp lasted 12 days, the grapevine is that from Misbahul Haq to Sami Aslam all the players were treated equally and forced to do army specific drills in three sessions of varying lengths every day. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] he boot camp lasted 12 days.
Photo: PCB[/caption] The players were divided into three groups Pak one, Pak two and Pak three, by the time the camp reached the last three days a Pak four was formed for the injured party! Most of the players found the demands of the camp taxing to say the least, only the ones in the habit of putting their bodies on the line returned unscathed. But considering the lackadaisical attitude of the most sought after sportsmen in the country, the ragghra (strain) was very much the need of the hour. Other than a handful of fit cricketers, the Pakistan teams have carried the burden of unfit and overweight bodies that are a misfit for the rapidly evolving demands of modern cricket. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Army steps in to prep Pakistan cricketers for on-field battles
Photo: PCB[/caption] The army trainers didn’t keep a check on the diet of the players but if the players are indeed serious about the gains that they made in Kakul they would need to combine their fitness regimes with a constant check on their diet. Diet is another historically ignored aspect; most of the players are foodies with a big appetite for greasy food and red meat, the trainers gave them allowance to fill their bellies with the food of their choice at Kakul but one hopes that next time a camp is devised it also teaches the players the art of reigning in their culinary cravings. Perhaps then we will shout in unison,
“Thank you, Raheel Sharif!”Gains of the skills camp On the heels of the boot camp, the PCB turned focus from strength to skill; a seven day training camp sans coach Mickey Arthur followed the Kakul rigours. The curator at the Gaddafi Stadium was asked to dish out green pitches in the searing Lahore heat in an attempt to ‘replicate the conditions in England.’ Of course the weather was as ‘un-English’ as possible but the ground staff tried their best to help batsmen comply with the demands of cricket at the home of cricket. After the skills camp, the players spend some 20 days preparing for the opening Test of the series— Lord’s July 14th — Arthur would supervise the training session in Hampshire besides strategising with the players for combat against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Moeen Ali, Alastair Cook and company. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Arthur would supervise the training session in Hampshire besides strategising with the players for the combat against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Moeen Ali, Alastair Cook and company.
Photo: Reuters[/caption] From Kakul to Hampshire, the fear of a burnout would surely seed some thoughts of doubt in the minds of Arthur and Misbahul Haq. In the days ahead the think-tank will have to balance the act out and ensure that the players aren’t mentally and physically exhausted even before the commencement of the battle. But the battle should be gripping, especially if the players can put to rest the demons of 2010 by exerting their supremacy in matters pertaining to both brawn and brain. [poll id="593"]
I remember the times when power outages were rare. This was before the widespread use of air conditioners. Today, in every government department, air conditioners are switched on long before the baboos arrive in the morning. This is to ensure that when they enter their cabins, the temperature is not more than 20 degrees centigrade. These government officials, ministers included, want to remain cool so they are comfortable even when the temperature outside is 45 to 50 degrees. One doesn’t mind our bureaucrats and ministers enjoying themselves in their ultra-cool offices. But what they forget is that the electricity they use (and waste) has to be paid for. Unfortunately, they regularly default on payment, and therefore the power producing companies are always short of funds and cannot buy the fuel to produce electricity. The result of course is load shedding. It’s not that we don’t have the capacity to produce enough electricity. Our power companies can generate 22,000 megawatts against the required consumption of 17,000 megawatts. But owing to the government defaulting on paying its bills, they are forced to cut back on production and we have long power outages. It is against all logic for the government to spend precious resources on building more power plants when we already have adequate capacity. To reduce load shedding significantly, all that the government has to do is to pay what it owes to the electricity producers. This amount (known as the circular debt) is presently about Rs400 billion. If the power producers are paid what the government owes them, they will increase production and massive load shedding will be a thing of the past. As expected, we are told that there will be load shedding in the holy month of Ramazan, and the common man will suffer because of the government’s inefficiency and negligence. So, while our civil servants and ministers will spend the month of fasting in the comfort of their offices and houses, we (the taxpayers) will have to endure six to eight hours without electricity every day. Last year, many people died in the unbearable heat, and the major reason was load shedding. Why doesn’t the government monitor the excessive waste of electricity in its departments? Why not make government employees pay for the electricity they consume in their offices? Why should we suffer because of the negligence and inefficiency of our “baboos”?
There are expats and then there are people like me, returnees. I’m going to take a literary liberty – without meaning to offend any intellectuals – and call myself an ‘inpat’. I think people like me deserve a special made-up name. Mine is a story like many others. I went to London 25 years ago to study and it took me that long to return. Not because I was particularly dumb and took 25 years to finish my education, but because the rat race rollercoaster of life took over. To cut a long story short, after 13 years in London and 12 years in Dubai, my husband’s work has brought us full circle. And I am now writing this piece, on a hot sunny morning in Karachi, sitting in my study with the good ole split whirring away in the background. It’s been a whirlwind five months since we’ve been back in Pakistan. I get asked all the time how the move has been and whether we are settling in well. People generally ask quite perfunctorily, mostly expecting a whiny response – and many are surprised when I reply that it’s been amazing. These last few months have been a journey like no other. Logistically, a move is a move, whether it’s to London, Singapore or Karachi. Some moves are more challenging than others, but none are easy. Each place has its own idiosyncrasies, joys and frustrations. So from that perspective it certainly wasn’t a move free of ‘give me a break’ kind of moments. If people want the logistical details, they can get that and more by reading my blog ‘Returning to the Motherland’. For me personally, from an emotional perspective, coming back to Pakistan has been wonderful so far. Maybe deep down I was ready to return, even if it’s not a ‘forever’ move – although if anyone had asked me a year ago when we intended to move back to Pakistan, the answer would have been a ‘who knows’. It’s difficult to put the feeling into words, it’s as if all those years my husband and I were busy working and raising a family was, in farming speak, like being out in the fields. And now we are home. The busy noisy roads, the hustle and bustle in the markets, the people on the streets – everyday struggles on such a basic level, but it’s so real. It’s messy. It’s busy. And it makes me feel alive. Is Pakistan still the same 25 years later? Of course not; I would be horrified if it was. Is it better? Yes, in many ways. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. It’s certainly not utopia but its real and its home in more ways than one. Speaking about utopia, just recently I found out that in line with its vision for 2021, Dubai has appointed a ‘Minister of Happiness’. If that’s what societies do once the infrastructure etc. is sorted, then I can’t wait to see who the equivalent incumbent in Pakistan will be! Can someone be tasked with helping others find happiness? Definitely a great subject for another article. Coming back to the current topic, law and order, infrastructure, education and health services are always going to be areas for improvement. But looking at these purely from a ‘user’s’ perspective, I can’t complain much based on my experience so far. Yes, there are many things that need improving and it can be frustrating when you get pulled and pushed in different directions until you finally dig out what you need, but that’s true of most places in the world. Contrary to the global view of security in Karachi, after the clamp down by the army and the rangers in the recent past, there hasn’t been a single moment since returning when I’ve felt unsafe on the roads or in the house. Our children feel safe and secure, whether at school, at home or out with friends. The schools are certainly more structured and better organised than they were when I was a child in Pakistan – not that my convent education wasn’t good enough! The couple of times we’ve needed to see a doctor or a dentist it’s been quick, clean and very professional, so I haven’t yet had any ‘quack-like’ experiences my friends sometimes refer to. I agree that traffic is chaotic and traffic signals are generally treated like decoration pieces and maybe that’s because time is money, even more so here than in the west. But then, look at the Italians. They drive like maniacs too and we just smile graciously and call it a cute quirk! It’s nothing we can’t fix if the right people decided enough is enough. All it takes is for the traffic police to be a bit more vigilant – just look at the roads and the traffic system in Dubai – with those road fines and penalties, no one dares mess about. The only ones who do get away sometimes are the local Emiratis but then, don’t we all get away with quite a bit on the roads here too? Grocery shopping is a breeze. So much great stuff is made locally and a lot is imported for the palate that requires it. Fruit and vegetables are so organically fresh – and free of hormones and preservatives – that if you don’t use them in a couple of days they start to rot. I do sometimes wish we had more restaurants to choose from, but Karachi is certainly better endowed – from a ‘variety of cuisines’ perspective – than most other cities in Pakistan. It’s lovely to see art galleries sprouting up like nurseries used to in the old days. There are musical events, festivals, theatre and plays. Quite a lot to do for those artistically inclined. The malls are havens for the masses – just as the ones in Dubai are – and so much of everyday street shopping is available here. Our own designers are amazing – so many in demand globally. Some of our fashion events are on par with the rest of the world, at least the pricing certainly is! Television dramas and music are miles ahead of where they used to be. In fact some of the best entertainment can be those debates on the news channels when everyone shouts to be heard; if you’ve got a nice supply of headache pills at hand. In a nutshell, Karachi might be a bit more disorganised and haphazard than places like London and Dubai, but it’s already home, in a comfortable kind of way. The motiya sellers are out, Ramazan is in full swing, the mangoes are here and so is the summer. Oh, what a wonderful world!
“I fell a-weeping, and I cried, ‘Sweet youth, Tell me why, sad and sighing, Thou dost rove These pleasant realms? I pray thee speak me sooth What is thy name?’ He said, ‘My name is Love.’ Then straight the first did turn himself to me And cried, ‘He lieth, for his name is Shame, But I am Love, and I was wont to be Alone in this fair garden, Till he came Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.’ Then sighing, said the other, ‘Have thy will, I am the love that dare not speak its name.’” From Two Loves By Lord Alfred Douglas.Back in 2004, I was part of an awareness campaign run by the Pakistan Association for Mental Health in Karachi, Pakistan. One of our camps was held in the Saeedabad locality of Baldia Town. We saw over 500 people over the course of the day some of whom agreed to follow up at our mental health clinic. Among the people I saw that day was a 16-year-old boy who was accompanied by his father. The boy explained that he had never experienced physical attraction towards girls and had throughout the course of his puberty and teenage been romantically and sexually inclined towards boys. He was not disturbed by these feelings but was concerned about his parents both of whom he had confided in a few weeks ago. His mother had reacted by going into a state he described as grieving and his father had seemed worried and kept asking him if he was sure he had never felt any sexual longings towards women. He was curious about being able to change the way he felt and his father, though he appeared resigned from the outset, was also interested in knowing if marriage was a possible “solution”. I explained to both of them that homosexuality was something that scientific research increasingly indicated was an inborn disposition and that it was not, according to Western medicine, considered an illness or condition requiring medical intervention. I counselled them against marriage and told them it would be emotionally disastrous for both partners. The meeting concluded with the father saying that he did not want his son to be “made fun of” and that he would prepare to “send him abroad” after he finished his Intermediate. Reluctantly, I agreed to this suggestion. More than anything else, that experience has been on my mind since the shooting in Orlando – and I have recognised why: It was the last time I was forced to examine the attitudes towards homosexuality prevalent in the culture of my birth and upbringing. My conversation with the boy and his father had left me unsettled and I struggled to reconcile with the reality of what I was presented. I was affected also by my inability to do anything other than offer an expert opinion on what the father and son had probably already intuited. At some point, I pushed the memory away, unable to reach any acceptance or rationalisation of the situation. Most Pakistanis — and Muslims in general — do not wish to harm LGBT individuals. Most are distressed by acts of discrimination and violence towards them. But so ingrained are the negative connotations of non-heterosexual inclinations and so normalised is our acceptance of prejudice that our first reaction to such acts in our midst is the one I had twelve years ago in Karachi; a brief disquiet followed by suppression of feelings so conflicted that one would rather not face them. Each time we do this we feel a little less empathy. Ultimately, we reach a stage where we have conditioned ourselves to not care. This is known as apathy. When we are challenged we resort to deflection. Yes, the Ottomans were tolerant towards homosexuality and decriminalised it a century before the West started to do so. Yes, many non-Muslim nations such as Russia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Honduras are rife with LGBT persecution. None of this, however, is helping LGBT youth growing up in Muslim communities around the world. It is not helping their inability to express their sexuality safely, it is not preventing the marriages they are forced into to “cure them” and it is not helping the mockery and harassment they endure if they dare to “come out”. Let us be honest and very clear about this: LGBT individuals are widely frowned upon, discriminated against and, in the case of certain nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, executed. This is a state of affairs that is untenable and unacceptable. No more. What then, must we do? I believe the answer lies in learning from successful LGBT movements in the West. While there have been variations in approach, the core of most such initiatives started with establishing the LGBT identity; an identity that comes with its own terminology and markers. Political activism is the currency of social change; it overlaps with and is aided or obstructed by other socio-cultural phenomena but is the primary vessel. To advocate an end to discrimination and discriminatory laws, the identity of LGBT individuals as an established group with its own unique identity is vital. Since the terminology and identity markers already exist in the West, the next step would be to formulate linguistically and culturally integrative versions of these within Muslim communities. Following this, the process of political lobbying and social activism, in terms of fighting for the rights of a minority, can proceed. To be clear, the intent of identifying as a minority is not to formalise the schism between “normal” and “abnormal” sexual orientation, it is to make clear that LGBT individuals exist and that their presence and rights must be accepted. While much of the opposition to the gay rights movement in the West came from religious institutions and religiously conservative politicians, the movement steered clear of making theological issues a central concern. This was a likely reason for the political successes; religio-political debates tend to culminate in stalemates and can stall political progress. The Western gay rights movement focused initially on establishing a minority identity, disseminating accurate information on homosexuality, publishing gay and lesbian magazines and taking the debate into mainstream media forums. This was followed by litigation against harassment, employment discrimination and participation in politics. So, perhaps, we know what needs to be done. And perhaps the real challenge lies within; challenging received ideas that we have accepted without scrutiny, without debate and without challenge. LGBT Muslims cannot fight this fight alone. They need our support, particularly in breaking the barriers to free speech, that perpetually stonewall the advance of sound moral reasoning throughout the Muslim world.
Beijing is a heady place for a tourist who can’t speak Mandarin. This was the uncontrived truth that surfaced during long conversations with friends and extensive Google searches on what to expect from the metropolis. I had been warned that the city’s sights, sounds, smells and flavours would not appeal to me unless the pull of a common language could bind me to them. As my trepidation grew into sheer terror, I contemplated the possibility of learning a few words in Mandarin to placate my fears and fit into my new orbit. Before I had boarded the six-hour flight from Karachi to China’s capital, I felt the onrush of anxiety. The stigma and humiliation of being an outsider, of not understanding the native language, was gnawing at the corner of my heart. My new destination seemed threatening even though I had not been assailed by the press of the city’s crowds and noises – not yet. I knew my apprehensions were premature and impractical. That’s why I decided not to think about the trip too much and left it all to fate. Beijing, I told myself, would be my tryst with destiny. If a language barrier was going to hold me back, I would have to bear the consequences. The moment my plane angled onto the tarmac and taxied to a stop at Beijing Capital International Airport, my fears gradually began to ebb. Within minutes of my arrival in the city, the communication barrier steadily lost ground. It was replaced by an impassioned plea for tolerance in a country that was foreign, frightening but quite close to my own. Beijing was pulsing with raw energy and was alive with possibilities. In its clichéd patterns of metropolitan life, I found a striking resemblance with life back home. Towering buildings, traffic gridlocks and the sounds of vehicles hurtling past busy, boisterous streets drew me into an inner circle. I felt instantly at ease with my new surroundings. In my first few hours in the city, I didn’t need to know a word of Mandarin to explore the by-lanes and backstreets of Beijing. There were only a few signboards and hoardings emblazoned with English alphabets. However, the prospect of not knowing what was written on them appeared a lot more appealing to me at the time. Ignorance was my elixir – my only opportunity to find bliss in an unfamiliar setting. I soon realised that my ignorance to the language would deprive me of a mélange of possibilities to explore the city. As my first day drew to a close, I picked up on a few words that featured during daily interactions between Chinese people. Eventually, I found myself saying ‘shishi’ (thank you) to the concierge at the hotel and the woman who owned the utility store across the street. But the wall between me and the people of Beijing had not been broken. Its opacity increased as the days went by. The dimensions of this war were defined and deconstructed during frequent trips to McDonald’s. Every night, as the city prepared to sleep, my colleagues and I found ourselves battling a strange craving for fast food. We would venture out to the McDonald’s outlet across the street to satiate our appetite. However, the process of placing an order was always long, tedious and overwhelming. More often than not, the outcome of these interactions was never what we had anticipated. On the first night, my friend and I pointed at a box of nuggets on the menu card and made a victory sign with our fingers to indicate that we wanted to order two. Ten minutes later, the woman on the counter handed us one box of nuggets, abruptly took a crisp 10 Yuan note from my friend’s hand and began speaking to another customer.
“Excuse me,” my friend said. “You’ve given us only one box of nuggets. We asked for two.”The woman at the counter did not fathom what we were trying to say. After a long, frustrating conversation interspersed with sign language and raised voices, she informed us that each box contained five nuggets and she had given us 10 in one box. In retrospect, this wasn’t a difficult exchange and I felt triumphant at having overcome the need for a common language. I was glad that the woman at the counter was patient and persevered until we understood what she was saying. However, the following day, another experience at the fast food establishment made me yearn for someone who could speak some semblance of English. On our second night in Beijing, we returned to McDonald’s once again but weren’t as lucky as we had been the night before. There was another woman at the counter and she was unwilling to cooperate with us, let alone find a way to ensure we were able to comprehend what she was saying.
“I’d like this,” I said, pointing to the menu card. “I’d like it with fries and coke.”She wrung her finger and mumbled something in Mandarin. I continued to point at the menu, as if I were pointing at a map and asking for directions. She nodded her head and twitched her eyes in confusion. After a few minutes, I realised that the burger I wanted did not come with a meal so I ordered it separately. As I waited for my order, an American woman, who I later discovered, was working in Shanghai also placed an order with utmost difficulty.
“These people should learn English,” she said. “They need to open themselves up to new possibilities and give up on their old ways.”Minutes later, when her order arrived and she rummaged the brown paper bag to determine if everything was in place, the American woman realised that her order had not been taken down correctly.
“You’ve got my order wrong,” she said, matter-of-factly.A few seconds later, the woman at the counter snatched the brown paper bag from the American woman’s hand and flung a few bundled notes at her.
“What’s wrong with you?” the American woman said, her voice thick with anger. “Why didn’t you get my order right?”At that point, I was tempted to fish out the contents of my brown paper bag to see if she had misunderstood my order as well. But, at that moment, I saw the woman at the counter heave a sigh and blink back her tears. I clutched my bag and decided to walk back to the hotel. I began to realise that no language could surpass the depths of human emotions. If it was difficult for me to make sense of what she was saying, I’m sure she was also grappling with the same dilemma. After all, language is all about empathy, about using words to understand people instead of creating cultural and emotional barriers.
Quiet recently, I joined a small group of close friends on a trip to Tharparkar, Sindh. The three of us reached Karachi by air and went to Hyderabad by road, where two other group members joined us. The five of us started our journey to Tharparkar via Badin. Our first stop was at Mithi, the district headquarters, where we experienced the first taste of hospitality by a Hindu friend’s family, who despite being vegetarians had prepared meat for us with various other delicious vegetables. After enjoying the scrumptious meal, we continued our journey onwards to Nangarparkar. On our way to Nangarparkar we stopped at the Marvi well in Bhalwa. To our surprise, the road from Mithi to Nangarparkar was in a quite good condition. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The road from Mithi to Nangarparkar was in a quite good condition.[/caption] The Culture Department under the Government of Sindh has renovated the Marvi well. To facilitate the tourists, a picnic point has also been created, where we enjoyed a cup of tea. There, I strongly felt there was a need for environmental protection initiatives because the surrounding view of the historical site was extremely unpleasant due to pollution. I believe the Sindh Government and the civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the area should focus on environmental protection and creating awareness. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] I believe the Sindh Government and the civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the area should focus on environmental protection and creating awareness.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] I strongly felt there was a need for environmental protection initiatives because the surrounding view of the historical site was extremely unpleasant due to pollution[/caption] We reached Nangarparkar late in the evening. Nangar, the short name used by the locals, is a fascinating place with plenty to see and enjoy about the Thari culture and hospitality. The next morning we started our journey to the Saldro temple, a holy place of the Hindu community, where there were a number of Hindus and Muslims as well. The mountains surrounding the Saldro temple were lovely and unique. There were a number of children at the Saldro temple who were begging instead of attending school. This is another matter the government should look into as it is important for residents of this area to obtain their right to education given to them. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The next morning we started our journey to the Saldro temple[/caption] On our way back from Saldro, we visited the beautiful Jain temple of the Jain religion. There are no followers of Jain in the area anymore – a reason why the temple was in such a dilapidated condition, but the interior of the temple was striking and the art work snaking up on the walls was exquisitely inimitable. I thought to myself,
“What if this historical site was somewhere in Europe?”It would definitely be more looked-after and people would travel from across the world to visit it. Sadly, we have no insight and acumen to preserve such places of historical, cultural and archaeological significance. The dwindling state of the invaluable architecture disappointed me. Hence, I took to Twitter to see if I could, in any capacity, help restore these antique structures, but it resulted in nothing. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beautiful Jain temple[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The dwindling state of the invaluable architecture disappointed me[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The dwindling state of the invaluable architecture disappointed me[/caption] Cosbo village, a beautiful traditional village of Tharparkar was another spectacle with the gorgeous Shiv temple. At the temple, we relished Kabir and Farid’s poetry sung by a local folk-singer Yousaf Faqir, who is quite famous in Thar. Yousaf Faqir is visually impaired. He lives in Cosbo village and goes to Shiv temple regularly. His visits to the temple are a testament to the harmony in which both the Hindu and Muslim communities co-exist peacefully, respecting each other’s ways of life. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] We relished Kabir and Farid’s poetry sung by a local folk-singer Yousaf Faqir, who is quite famous in Thar.[/caption] We had lunch at the Cosbo village and were served finely cooked vegetables with chilled lassi – a mouth-watering treat by some locals who were friends with one of my group members. From Cosbo village it took us almost two hours to reach Choryo mountain temple; another breath-taking sight atop the Choryo Mountain. It is also a picnic point from where one can see the border Pakistan shares with India, though it is not as clearly visible as Wagah. The view of the vast desert at both sides of the border was overwhelming from Choryo – a lifetime experience. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] From Cosbo village it took us almost two hours to reach Choryo mountain temple.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Its plains, the desert, the rolling hills, the water reservoirs; everything was calm and tranquil.[/caption] While roaming around in Nangarparkar, I realised what a serene place it is. Its plains, the desert, the rolling hills, the water reservoirs; everything was calm and tranquil. People were cordial and welcoming. They patiently responded to all our questions, putting a positive impression of the area and its residents. A friend from the development sector said,
“Tharparkar disproved the fact that poverty gives birth to crime. Poverty is very evident in Tharparkar, more than any other part of the country; yet, the crime rate is almost zero.”[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] While roaming around in Nangarparkar, I realised what a serene place it is.[/caption] Back in Mithi, we stayed at a guest house at the famous Ghadi Bhit, which provides a divine picturesque view of city. Friends from Mithi were way more generous than we thought and we were amazed to know that a musical evening had been arranged for us. After dinner, there was a joyful sham-e-ghazal where the rising local folk singer Rajab Faqir, a student of famous Sindhi folk singer, Shafi Faqir, gave a delightful performance. He crooned everything from folk to ghazals in Sindhi, Saraiki, Punjabi, Pashto and Urdu. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] There was a joyful sham-e-ghazal where the rising local folk singer Rajab Faqir[/caption] The morning after, we visited village Nenisar near Mithi. It is a traditional Thari village where we were welcomed by the villagers who put tikas on our foreheads – a tradition observed by the locals. During the course of our conversation with the villagers, I was surprised to learn that the literacy rate of the area was alarmingly low, with only one girl having a Matric certificate. There were no middle or high schools in the village and that is why most of the girls quit school after primary education in most cases, got married. It was quite evident that child marriages were common and culturally acceptable. Speaking of health, one can easily witness the poor nutrition of the villagers, particularly women and children. I must mention that Sindh was the first province to introduce the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013 in accordance with Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, whereby education has been made a fundamental right for children from five to 16-years of age. Similarly, Sindh was the first province to motivate changes in the federal laws and make child marriage a punishable offence under the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2014, also the Sindh Multi Sectoral Strategy was introduced to respond to the issue of lack of nutrition amongst women and children. The key however, is implementation of the laws and policies and making budget allocations for the purpose with a focus on neglected areas such as Tharparkar. Frankly, whoever I asked about their political affiliation or who they voted for, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was the only answer. I once asked a philosopher and political thinker about the reasons of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) little or no following in the rural Sindh. She was of the opinion that Imran Khan has only one agenda and that is corruption and corruption charges against the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, which is not an issue for the people of Sindh. Imran Khan should broaden his narrative and include key issues such as land reforms, minorities’ rights and education etc. and should also pay regular visits to the interior Sindh. Although very short, but it was an incredible experience to visit Tharparkar. Wrapping up our journey, we reached Hyderabad in the evening and had a delicious dinner at the unique Khana Badosh café. I really liked the slogan of the café, ‘where creativity meets.’ [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] We had a delicious dinner at the unique Khana Badosh café[/caption] Pictures of famous poets and scholars including Faiz and a collection of excellent books spoke at length about the literary taste of the owners/initiators of the Khana Badosh café. It further emphasised upon the fact that such people have played a key role in keeping the rich culture of Sindh intact. This is one of the reasons why Sindh is a land of peace while most of the country is challenged with intolerance and various types of conflicts. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pictures of the famous poets and scholars such as Faiz and a collection of excellent books spoke at length about the literary taste of the owners/initiators of the Khana Badosh café.[/caption] The next morning we travelled to Hala to visit the tomb of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. Hundreds of followers of the Sufi saint were paying homage and revelling in the folk music. Love and respect for Sufism and saints like Bhitai is another solid reason which makes Sindh a land of love and peace. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hundreds of followers of the Sufi saint were paying homage and revelling in the folk music.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] We visited Hala to visit the tomb of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.[/caption] We were awestruck when we saw the traditional Sindhi ajraks and other items being produced at the Lateef Ajrak Centre. The role of the Sindh Government in preserving this traditional art work is admirable. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] We were awestruck when we saw the traditional Sindhi ajraks and other items being produced at the Lateef Ajrak Centre.[/caption] I was a bit disappointed to see a child working in the ajrak factory but was pleasantly surprised when the 80-year-old owner stated that everyone working there went to school. Each worker trained there was required to regularly go to school and complete at least Matric level education. I was impressed with the motto of the little owner,
“When there is a will, there is way.”[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] I was a bit disappointed to see a child working in the ajrak factory[/caption] This was the perfect example of how learning, art, skill and formal education can go hand in hand. Hospitality by Sindhi friends continued till the end. The palla fish we had for lunch, hosted at the University of Sindh, Jam Shoro was another great delight. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="338"] Hospitality by Sindhi friends continued till the end.[/caption] Speaking of our stay in Hyderabad how is it humanly possible to not buy a cake from the century-old Bombay Bakery while in the city? Bed sheets from Lateef Ajrak Centre and cakes from Bombay Bakery were the biggest gifts for the people back at home. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] How is it humanly possible to not buy a cake from the century-old Bombay Bakery while in the city?[/caption] I would earnestly request the Sindh Government, civil society and media to join hands and focus on promoting tourism in the province, particularly in stunningly beautiful but under developed areas such as Tharparkar. I am sure there are millions of people in our country and around the world who do not know about the culture of love and peace and the beauty of Sindh. Once people get to know about these sights via social media, they would be tempted to visit at least once. All photos: Arshad Mahmood
Whenever I go abroad, I see that in most cities, policemen are always courteous and helpful, and people are not afraid to go to the police if they are robbed or have a complaint. But not in Karachi. Here, you know that if you ask the police for help, you could end up being robbed by them. I know many people who have been mugged and their houses burgled, but they dare not go to the police for help. In other cities, police officers will never shoot at unarmed men, in fact in some countries the police themselves are not armed. Yet they are able to control mobs without difficulty. But in Karachi, even illiterate and untrained constables are given guns and other weapons to kill whenever they want. In most cities, when police officers see something suspicious, they never shoot. First, they warn the suspect, then determine if he is armed, and if he is, they never shoot to kill. They first fire in the air, then (if necessary) they shoot at the legs of the suspect. But not in Karachi. They shot dead poor Abrar the other day. The young man had sold his cell phone to Dil Nawaz who drove his car away without paying for the phone. Abrar was able to get into the car, for a time hanging from the window. Reportedly, the police officers, instead of firing warning shots in the air, or shooting at the tires of the car to stop it, fired directly at the car, killing Abrar and injuring Dil Nawaz. This, of course, could have happened only in Karachi, the home of those unfortunate souls whose taxes are siphoned away into foreign bank accounts instead of being spent on the welfare of the people. Now that the killer or killers have been arrested, we know what will happen. Their relatives will pressurise the parents of the dead boy to “forgive” them, and the poor parents would have no choice but to comply, knowing that if they refuse, they too would most likely be killed, our police being what they are. A few questions come to mind. The killers were in plain clothes. Their mobile van was not supposed to be in Sindhi Muslim Society where they killed the young man. But of course this, too, can happen only in Karachi. I have often seen mobile police vans in DHA and Clifton which should not be there, vans belonging to far away police stations like Orangi or Landhi. Sometimes these vans have women who get out for shopping in malls and shops. Apparently they are the wives and daughters of the police officers who are supposed to be on duty elsewhere, but because their seniors are too busy minting money and spending it, instead of keeping a close eye on their subordinates, the police officers use mobile vans for their personal needs. This made me think of a so-called “police training academy” in distant Shadadpur, where policemen are supposed to be “trained” before they are posted to cities and towns. Trained for what? To loot and kill the people whom they are supposed to serve? We often see police officers harassing innocent civilians, we hear of them being involved in criminal activities, but do they ever help people? Perish the thought. Most policemen are hired on the directives of politicians (the same people who are looting the nation), and the only thing police officers want to do, and as quickly as possible, is to recover the money they paid (known as “pugree”) to get posted to Karachi. And to extort money from citizens every day so they have enough to pay their seniors to remain posted in Karachi instead of being transferred to small towns where they can’t earn much. Only in Karachi!
Qandeel Baloch is dead. Seems like the woman had earned the ire of way too many men. In Pakistan, the ire of one man is enough to claim your life or at least ruin your face forever with a splash of some acid. First, it was Maulana Abdul Qavi, followed by her husband’s revelations. Finally, her brother came for her life. One woman against three mighty vicegerents of God? Boy, she needed to be put back in her skin and reminded of her auqaat (place) as a woman. Let’s fragment her experiences with the mentioned three men. Qavi The then Ruet-e-Hilal Committee member got embroiled into controversy after Qandeel uploaded a video and some selfies with him of their meeting in a private hotel room. With her revelations of Qavi’s flirtations and inexcusable conduct considering that he is a religious cleric, Qandeel claimed to have exposed the true face of this mullah. When the controversy around mufti Qavi surfaced, even I was a bit wary about Qandeel’s version. But his recent statement,
“People can learn a lesson from the fate of this woman who had accused me falsely,”Makes me wonder if all along Qandeel had been telling us the truth. His statement came during his ‘condemnation’ of the killing. It amazes me how shamelessly he is indirectly justifying the killing by referring to it as some form of punishment for Qandeel’s alleged misdemeanour with him. He seems to be telling us that she has been served well. Makes one wonder if he has some role in ensuring that she is ‘served well.’ Husband While the husband claimed that it was a love marriage and he still had letters written by Qandeel with her blood to him, the social media starlet offered a different version. She claimed that it was an arranged marriage and she had been a victim of domestic abuse during the one year long relationship. As if accusations of abuse were not enough, Qandeel went on to announce that she will now fight for the custody of her son. Brother According to news reports, police have confirmed that Qandeel was killed for ‘honour.’ Family sources claimed that Qandeel’s brothers had asked her to quit modelling and the one who killed her had been threatening her about uploading pictures and videos on social media. Qandeel was famous for her suggestive videos that she uploaded on social media. While I respect her right to use her body as she pleases, I have had my reservations as a feminist over what I see as her own objectification of herself. In my opinion, women have better talents that merely looks. If you say that this is ‘what she wants,’ I still feel that she has been conditioned by our patriarchal society to want this. It is just like we are made to believe that we, as labourers, are compensated for the amount of our labour, while in reality the capitalist enjoys the surplus that we create. The systems in place are basically exploitative and we are conditioned to serve these systems believing that we are doing good to our own selves. However, no opinion or morality brigade is superior to a human’s life. Just this morning, my sister told me how a male friend of hers told her that it’s good that Qandeel has been killed. When asked to elaborate, he claimed that with her death ‘so many young men have been saved from sin’ as there will be no ‘sinful’ videos any more. It amazes me how helpless our ‘young men’ are when it comes to saving themselves from ‘sin.’ To ensure their safety, their only solution is always the elimination of this sin – mind you, sin is just synonymous with woman – and never exercise of self-control. In reality, it is Qandeel’s honesty and defiance of patriarchal norms that actually points out how dishonourable our society really is. She was alone, powerful, influential. And she told all the haters out there that she refused to be suppressed under their patriarchal standards of morality. As Andaleeb Rizvi aptly puts it in her Facebook status,
“Qandeel Baloch's honour killing is a reminder that we are not an honourable people, and probably won't be for another 100 years. She brought the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the mullah out for the public to view. She told of forced marriage and domestic violence she faced at the hands of her own family and husband. She told the society that she was the only owner of her body and self, and will not be dictated by men. She revealed how unhonourable this patriarchal society is, and so she was 'put down' by a man.”Pakistan likes to believe that it is a champion of ghairat (honour). After all, hum maaen, hum behnain, hum betiyaan, qaumon ki izzat hum se hai (We mothers, sisters and daughters, the honour of nations lies in us). To someone who is not aware of how things work in this country, I bring to you a small definition of what honour really means to this country. To be crude, it basically revolves around what happens between the legs of women. To be precise, this honour is the tool employed by our patriarchal society to ensure that no woman enjoys the freedom she wants. Leaving Qandeel Baloch aside, pick up any instance of honour killing. It is no rocket science; all we see is a constant struggle on the part of the champions of the ghairat brigade to enforce the regualtions of morality – lest you forget, these rules are only for women, to make them subservient to the authority of men. Be it the case of Sumaira, the 17-year-old girl who was killed by her ghairatmand brother in Orangi Town, Karachi, this April, for speaking to a stranger man, or that of 16-year-old Zeenat Bibi who was torched to death by her family for marrying out of choice. These women are a few of the women who were reminded of the fate of exercising freewill. With them, women in general are reminded of the lesser status that society actually gives to them.
“In case you are under the misperception that you can equal man, I will remind you of your status,”Says society to each of us women. While many of us will feel that not all women are deprived of freedoms, let me remind you of a harsh reality. Our freedom as women is restricted to what is allowed by the men who ‘own’ us – our fathers, brothers, husbands, etc. If I am an independent woman today who can work with freedom, it is only because my father is a progressive man whose values allowed me to attain independence. As much as it breaks my heart to say this, even our freedoms and the amount of them thereof depend on our men. Qandeel Baloch is dead because the freedom that she had been exercising all along had not been validated by her family’s men. The same will be the fate of any of us who dares to defy the parameters of freedom defined by the men of our families. Let’s sink back into our collective depressions.
When everyone around me started playing Pokémon Go, and it was all over social media, I couldn’t quite comprehend what all the hype was about, and I was curious to find out. It was my friend that got me to finally download it and test it out for myself. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/tribuneblogs/videos/983220391795858/"][/fbvideo] What started off as a trial suddenly turned into an obsession. What makes Pokémon Go so interesting is that it actually uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect exactly where and when you are playing the game. Pokémon begin to appear around you. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/tribuneblogs/videos/983226068461957/"][/fbvideo] As you move around, different types of Pokémon appear depending on your location. The basic idea behind the game is simply to ‘catch em all’ and ‘become the very best’ (catch phrases that all Pokémon fans are familiar with) by encouraging you to physically travel around the real world. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/tribuneblogs/videos/983229118461652/"][/fbvideo] I never thought I’d find myself so addicted, especially being a girl living in Karachi, but every time I step out of the house I have the game on wondering if there are any Pokémon around me. It’s like you enter this virtual world full of Pokémon that sort of exists parallel to the real one. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/tribuneblogs/videos/983249458459618/"][/fbvideo] [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/tribuneblogs/videos/983256481792249/"][/fbvideo] Makes you wonder whether Pokémon had always existed around us – and, perhaps, all we needed was an app to see them.
They call her a prostitute, a sex object, a joke and other degrading insults in an attempt to discredit her. The assumption that is made because they deem her to be all of the above and they felt she could not at the same time be empowering women and/or herself. A fatal flaw is thus exposed. They strike her down for what women (and men) across the world celebrate her for: her courage, tenacity and fire to be whoever she chose to be in a society that (literally) stifles freedom of expression. As I reflect upon this week, many voices leave me heavily conflicted. I cannot begin to comprehend one deafening view that has overpowered the narrative surrounding Qandeel Baloch’s death: misguided male privilege ruling freely on her “feminist” status. An essential part of the feminist movement that most in Pakistan are unaware of and what Qandeel embodied is sex-positive feminism. I call you males ‘privileged’ because you are lucky to be born a man in Pakistan. You can walk around in markets in any attire you please, roam the streets without being touched and cat-called at, and speak freely on social media platforms without fear of physical attack based on your body and appearance. You do not recognise that these “small” freedoms are in fact privileges, as you have been born, entitled with them. Alas, the woman, the bearer of the entire male population’s (about 100 million people) honour: she must not speak too loudly, she must not dress too immodestly, she must act with care and due caution. She is a stranger to these freedoms—they are a luxury for her. It is a good day for a woman in Pakistan, if she can walk the streets without being touched or gawked at. Unfortunately, nearly all in Pakistan have forgotten to remember that this basic disparity of freedoms plagues the nation. You men are privileged because you can breathe, dress and walk freely but most importantly the entire nations’ honour does not rest upon your shoulders—you have shirked it and placed it onto us. Why must I carry this hefty burden without consent? Why is my entire life contingent upon your honour? My honour is my own, and you threaten it daily by reducing me to just a physical object. Your burden is not my weight to carry, nor was it Qandeel’s. Sex positive feminism I wake up to men debating Qandeel’s feminist status rather than speaking out to say that she should not have been the bearer of her brother’s or for that matter their own honour (I am making the assumption that a large proportion of them did at least see one of her videos). You compromised your own honour by following her pages, by mocking her existence. Those who do not understand the feminist movement do not have the authority or right to decide whether or not Qandeel was a feminist. What her death has made very clear is that even the most educated in Pakistan have a very myopic understanding of feminism. The feminist movement is not limited to women protesting on streets with placards, fighting to alleviate the plight of other oppressed women. To shed some light on one aspect of the movement, sex-positive feminism centres on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of a woman’s freedom. In this vein, Qandeel was a feminist in her own right, expressing her sexuality freely. The irony is that the very people who blamed her for being sexual take no issue in trading her “sexual” videos, essentially sexualising her in their own contexts. On a broader level, if socially or culturally understood, the feminist movement seeks to eradicate the treatment that offers discrimination to the “female” gender binary. The social meaning of gender, according to one school of thought is created by sexual objectification of women, whereby women are viewed and treated as objects for satisfying men’s desires. Society, thus, creates a hierarchy where women are dominated through gender (which is, undoubtedly, the case in Pakistan). And who can argue that Qandeel was not attacked based on her gender, based on her curves, based on her lips and her body? Many have said she deserved the attacks for putting up seductive pictures on social media in a country where she should have known the outcome, but I fail to understand how we have absorbed the role of god’s moral police, to judge her actions. Whatever her motivations were, (assuming you do not understand the true aims of the feminist movement) can any of us truly deny that a village girl, posting as she did, putting a maulvi to shame on social media was extremely brave and daring? It takes courage to – in the face of such a bigoted, biased and hating population – act as you please. And she did. She defied the norm! I am consistently asked why I am taking this issue so personally. This is personal. Qandeel’s death is an attack and an insult to all Pakistani women. Whatever the status quo or culture may be, why should we be too afraid to express ourselves? No matter how outrageous the entire male population thinks our expression is (deconstruct my expression logically). Do not reduce me to my body, my motivations or my honour. Those are my own. Do not mock me in my death. And do not, place your honour on my shoulders—I don’t want it.
Spoken Stage, in collaboration with Girls at Dhabas, hosted an event coined “Pop-up in the Park” at Frere Hall this Saturday in order to reclaim the public spaces in Karachi. Spoken Stage is an organisation that fosters the growth of individual expression through the projection of spoken word poetry and prose. Girls at Dhabas was created with the intention of enabling women to claim public spaces, and is quickly gaining influence as women all over South Asia are using the hashtag #girlsatdhabas.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="534"] The event took place at Frere Hall with the intention of reclaiming public spaces.
Photo: Maheen Humayun[/caption] An investment in the arts has grown rapidly amongst the youth of Pakistan, and the Pop-up Stage was a platform that allowed the youth to project their voices in the form of spoken word poetry, music and painting. It was a casual affair with rillies lining a small patch of grass in front of Pakistan’s famous Frere Hall. Chai was served throughout. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400"] These people are amazing and the delicious chai from their pop-up dhaba was flowing throughout. #popupinthepark
Photo: Spoken Stage Facebook Page[/caption] Talent was bidding and the air was thick with inspiration. Karachi is abundant with talent and Pop-up in the Park allowed this talent to flourish on public land. The time for the talented to hide behind closed doors and anonymous pen names is over – the youth is slowly taking over one public space at a time. This was the first time I had encountered something like this in Pakistan. It’s so rare to find a group of people openly expressing themselves in a society where expression seems to be squandered by taboos. This in itself is a step towards progress. A girl recited a poetry slam for all the women that have ever felt like they had to hide their thoughts, or take a back seat to men because of the patriarchy that looms over us. We cheered her on as she echoed over and over again the importance of taking a stand. A band sang a song for all those that have ever felt any kind of pain; their harmonies floated through the air and attracted people from around the park. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="337"] Participants singing at the event for those that came to offer their support for the initiative.
Photo: Maheen Humayun[/caption] Another girl painted a portrait of Qandeel Baloch in her honour. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/spokenstage/videos/1753286398222806/"][/fbvideo] A young girl read a piece of powerful prose about loneliness and the shackles of the human mind. Later she sang the famous Hallelujah, and everyone grew still as her voice rendered thought into all those that had ever felt lost in their lives. There was little to say or do, except immerse ourselves into what was being recited and sung. A spoken word poem filled with fiery repetition sparked excitement in the eyes of everyone there. Another boy read a piece about adjusting back into Karachi after four years of schooling abroad. He went on to discuss his dream of becoming a writer, and the fact that there is always a story to be found in a city like Karachi. Off in the distance, someone blew bubbles into the air, a cotton candy vendor walked around in awe, people stood and people sat and swayed to the music. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="519"] Our #popupinthepark was a raging success, organically growing as more and more joined in to sing, to perform, and reclaim public space.
Photo: Spoken Stage Facebook Page[/caption] Everyone there had one thing in common – they were intrigued by the celebration of art. They were invested in the recitation of poetry, and the calming hum of prose. An environment of creativity is essential in inspiring our youth and hopefully many more events like this will follow. There are numerous public spaces available to our advantage and yet we have grown accustomed to staying indoors. Our people need safe spaces to express themselves, and by slowly taking over public spaces, we are allowing ourselves to flourish into an expressive, confident, and creative society.
I walk out of the plane and I’m hit with humidity, heat, and a smell that I can’t even describe with words. This is home. The airport is packed as I trudge my way to get my overweight, large suitcases. My eyes are watering, my hair is in a state, and my clothes that seemed so loose back in Rome are suddenly sticking to me as the gaze of almost every male present follows me in a carnal manner. This is home. I try and relax as I look at the out-dated conveyor belt slowly moving bag after bag until I finally see my own. I push my way through around 30 males, clad in a mundane-grey uniform, to grab my bag as they all scream,
“Baji, baji” to catch my attention.One of them reaches for my bag but I reject his offer as I can carry my own luggage. As I try to grab my suitcase, I realise that the 37 kilos are heavier than they were back in Rome. But still, I was not going to embarrass myself so I muster up all my strength and get it down. I can do this on my own, I tell myself. Soon my other bag comes, another army of grey clad males try and stop me—again I resist. Finally I’m out. The heat hits my face and I can’t remember ever feeling this hot before. My family is screaming off in the distance, I recognise their voices; their faces are blurry because my eyes are hurting. I see the glistening tip of the M of McDonald’s as I am engulfed by a hug of multiple arms. This is home, I remind myself. It’s been two months since I’ve moved back to Karachi – two months of gradually falling back into the life I was so comfortable with for 18 years. Everything I depended on for comfort and familiarity is no longer comfortable, and no longer familiar. Some days I tell myself that today, I’ll do it. Today I won’t care what anyone says or thinks, but then the other night while I was blindly scrolling through Facebook I came across an article about a 13-year-old girl that was gang raped. How can we exist freely in a place where a girl is lured into rape with the promise of candy? I thought of Sabeen Mahmud and how vital a haven like T2F is in a society like ours. But they got rid of her; clearly unconventionality is not our friend. How can we live in a place where innovation is synonymous with fear? I thought of Amjad Sabri and the joy he brought with every Qawwali he sang – but society failed him. How can we live in a place like this? What can I say, this is home. I stand in the driveway longing to walk to the nearest cafe, or anywhere at all – but the only way to go is by car and I can’t sit any more. I am sitting at work, sitting at home binge watching Netflix, sitting in the car only to go to another place where I’ll sit. What happened to standing? What happened to long walks? Now, my clothes are measured, the tone of my voice in public is measured. My whole life is measured by customs and rules that I no longer believe in. I look up and stare at the grey sky from my courtyard. I am chained within four walls constantly. The walls of my house, the walls of my gender, the walls of the ever dominating patriarchy that keep growing taller and taller as I grow smaller to fit into my self-made box. I cannot breathe because I am larger than the box, my thoughts do not fit within it, and my actions do not either. There, there were no borders, no lines—there was freedom in a way that I hadn’t known before. It tempted me with the ability to express myself in a way that I hadn’t previously been allowed to. And now that I’m home, the freedom I believed I once had has caged me. Every day I try to expand my box slowly and gradually, hoping that one day it won’t be a box anymore. But I know that this is my reality, this is home.
The first time I picked up a Harry Potter book was at the age of 12, when my elder brother threatened to sit on me if I did not try and read one his favourite series. Fearing for my life, I dejectedly picked up The Philosopher’s Stone, and within minutes, I was hooked. Today, nine years later, I still feel that teenage excitement and fixation as I sit on my bed, desperately and acutely ready to soak in the final instalment. The fandom that surrounds Rowling and her books can only be compared to the great George RR Martin and The Game of Thrones series. Both authors have a wide fan base all over the world, desperate to get an atom’s worth of insight into their respective projects. Unlike Rowling, Martin refuses to succumb to fan pressure and maintains, that even though he may publicly state deadlines for his second last novel, the book “will be done when it’s done,” and that the writing process cannot be sped up until he is satisfied with its final outcome. Though Rowling held her ground about the finality of the seventh book, the sheer response she would get even to a rumour of another novel was impossible to ignore. Finally putting an end to our misery, and somewhat giving in, she came to a compromise and released not a novel, but a stage version of what could possibly succeed The Deathly Hallows. As July 31, 2016, approached, Potterheads all over the world eagerly awaited the release of the final book and play, lining up and waiting for hours before sale time, selling out not only the books within minutes, but also the play, a whole year in advance! In Karachi, Dolmen Mall was no exception to this ordeal; the entirety of the ground floor was transformed into the wizarding world, people from all ages were lined up to feel the thrill of the new book. With ridiculous queues and rumours of a total sell out, I decided to get my hands on the online version instead. Unlike her previous releases, The Cursed Child is pleasantly different. Written as a play, the plot, the writing style, and the details are nothing like what the readers were previously accustomed to. With this disclaimer in mind, we see Rowling’s ideas and storyline diffuse through the script, and immediately are transported back to the familiarity of the wizard world. This time around, she takes the emphasis away from Harry and channels it to his insubordinate second child, Albus, and their strained relationship. https://twitter.com/psencikk/status/759626712699109376?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw https://twitter.com/LuPanPudding/status/759640455835332609?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Written in script-form, the story takes us back to the end of the seventh book, 19 years into a post Voldemort era. It depicts the start of a spiralling relationship between a hopeful father and a sceptical and anxious son. With the image and reputation that his father has upheld, Albus is convinced he can’t live up to those standards, and constantly fears he will let his whole family down. Therefore teenage angst and the social acceptance rule Albus’ rash decisions, landing him into a classic Potter-style predicament. With the help of the original gang and a few unexpected associations, the Potters find themselves unravelling a new mystery and saving the world once again from complete destruction. As with every Harry Potter book, Rowling marvellously touches on delicate issues and explores the turbulent relationships between family and friends. Since the book is set in modern-day time, it seems to have evolved and grown along with its characters, incorporating not only the magical element that old Potterheads loved to read about, but also relatable, and mundane problems faced by many people today. While transporting her readers to the much loved Potter-crazed era, Rowling also grounds Harry’s character and shows his evolution from a burdened young wizard, to a struggling father, who simply loves blindly and acts irrationally. The Cursed Child is a distinctively written instalment with unexpected, yet welcomed plot twists and life lessons that will make you pause and evaluate your own relationships and circumstances. It’ll take the timeworn fans to the good old days, returning a piece of their childhood, and help the new fans understand how and why this became such a big phenomenon, and an unforgettable and wonderful piece of literature.
Recently, Facebook was taken by storm when a post by Waqar Siddiqui went viral. Below is the screenshot of the status he put up last night, when he was denied entry into Cafe Flo, a high end restaurant in a posh area of Karachi. [fbpost link="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1141921039212400&set=a.591870704217439.1073741827.100001835438985&type=3"][/fbpost] This is what the restaurant had to say in response. [fbpost link="https://www.facebook.com/cafeflo/posts/10153662648212624"][/fbpost] What would you do if you were in Waqar’s position? And with security becoming an increasing problem, what would you do if you were the restaurant owner? [poll id="670"]