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

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    Some days ago, Sindh Inspector General (IG) AD Khawaja lauded and rewarded a Karachi resident for killing a robber. This seemed like an old West Hollywood movie where bounty hunters get rewarded for killing criminals. He further stated that citizens should possess weapons to defend themselves. I wonder if this statement depicts how weak our judiciary is or how helpless those whose job is to defend us are. Moreover, this statement comes at a time following a recent incident that shook people with horror – Karachi residents beat a street robber until he was unconscious and then dumped him in a sewerage hole to die. [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/thekarachiwalay/videos/vb.1171101509585434/1356814617680788/?type=2&theater"][/fbvideo] Is this not enough of an indication on how paranoid our people are when it comes to law enforcement and the justice system? They are forced to take the law into their own hands and these incidents are society’s way of venting out their frustration. Karachi, being the epicentre of economic growth, has also been the same for crime and terrorism. The crimes committed in Karachi are as diverse as its people. After a quiet phase, there has been a sudden rise in target killings and street crime yet again. This overshadows the claims law enforcement agencies have been making, while shouting for major reforms to the judiciary and law makers. The Rangers operation, which has been on-going for a few years now, has claimed to achieve feats. Though is that really the case, considering that two army personnel were murdered in broad day light and, that too, in one of the busiest areas of Saddar, Karachi. The magnitude of crime may have lessened slightly in number, but the freedom with which these criminals operate has not. Some even claim it to have evident political motives to settle political rivalries, mentioned in Amensty International’s Report too. Such things make citizens lose all form of trust in such efforts/initiatives. The police have issues of their own; from out-dated investigation methods to overflowing corruption, and performance that diminishes with age. Being victims of the on-going blood bath themselves, they still lack the training to counter well trained criminals and terrorists. Being a Pakistani, we must ask why so much hype is warranted by a JIT report when the document holds no legal value in court? The Parliament, that comes together consecutively to pass bills like cyber-crime, should also work on making laws that ensure that those responsible get punished accordingly, and do not get away through the gaping loop holes present in our system. If a strong investigation takes place that is backed by a law that enables them to deliver justice, I believe the citizens will not need to carry guns. People in Karachi are cleaning streets, which is the metropolitan authority’s job. Now the police want the people to defend themselves too? If everything has to be done by the people, why do we pay millions in taxes to public servants? The United States, which has a much advanced legal system and police network, is struggling with the promotion of gun culture and thinking of introducing laws that can control it. In Pakistan, where making way through justice and law with money and power goes unhindered, such an idea will be devastating. In the modern age there are more progressive ways to counter this problem than promoting gun culture. Terms like community policing and neighbourhood watch are well known methods for a community’s contribution in stopping crime. People should be encouraged to come together and help those whose job it is to carry a gun and protect people, rather than taking it into their hands. This red flag on the judicial system needs to be addressed and investigation methods need to be modified, so that the guilty can be punished. Much is expected from law makers sitting in the Parliament. Hope is bleak as many cannot even spell the word ‘justice’. We as people must not equip our youth with guns but, rather, with knowledge to protect themselves. Only then can they create a better Pakistan, not one where power dictates law. [poll id="671"]


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    The city of lights: Karachi. Karachi has always been seen as the land of opportunity, the city where dreams come true. Many claim that it is the Dubai of Pakistan; Karachi is where people come with hope and promise, looking for a brighter future. It is a city of contradictions; it’s a blend of cultures, it’s sunrises over Sea View, nights reined by terror, it is so many things all at once. But I didn’t know that until recently. For many people, Karachi is solely represented by the sea. They don’t see the city for all that it has to offer, and I can’t blame them because I didn’t realise that until I watched the contemporary dance drama, Conversations 2016 – a love letter to Karachi, at the FTC Auditorium. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook[/caption] Directed by Joshinder Chaggar and Sunil ShankarLove Letter to Karachi is a visual treat. It is backed by an interesting and captivating score by Ahsan Bari. The play displays various elements ranging from Karachi’s culture, lifestyle, residents, media, political and security conditions along with many others issues. The play starts with a narration that defines the current state of Karachi and what follows is a representation of what many people in Karachi have faced at some point in their lives. This is what makes the play stand out. It shows a reality that is tangible, and relatable. It depicts the youth playing their favourite sports, people enjoying their nights out at a fashion show, crowded streets, and biking. After a while into the play, a dramatic shift takes place, where the situation turns chaotic, creating a certain tense situation for adolescents. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook[/caption] Love Letter to Karachi showcases a multidimensional view of Karachi – from the misleading nature of some of its citizens, to the love and support many share for their community – the play goes far in illustrating the layered truths of our diverse city. The play also highlights how the media controls the mindset of commoners and how day to day problems (for instance the lack of electricity), add to the suffering of the locals. Furthermore, it represents Karachi as a cultural hub, with locals who lead selfless lives full of love and harmony. It is a beautiful representation of how an outsider can develop his/her personality, likes and styles, and the way Karachi embraces everyone that comes to seek shelter within it. Yes, there are adversities, and the cons tend to outweigh the pros, but still Karachi never fails to surprise its residents. Karachi restarts every morning. It gives its people a second chance, as all the hate, conflict is washed away like the waves of sea view draw back the sand every morning – rejuvenating our hopes. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook[/caption] A special shout-out to the choreography, execution, music and lighting; it makes this stage play worthwhile. It’s classy, artsy and oozes relevance. All the cast members are extremely impressive in their respective roles. Kudos to Shankar and Chagger for displaying such a realistic visual extravaganza for Karachi and Karachiites. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook[/caption] The show is on till August 14, 2016 at the FTC Auditorium, I would definitely recommend it everyone; go and watch it, but only if you appreciate a class-act. By the way, it’s extremely fast paced, therefore it does requires the audience to be focused and involved throughout the play. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Facebook[/caption]


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    Three months, Rs250,000, and a backpack, what does that get you? Memories for a lifetime. From Gwadar to Khunjerab Pass – I made it to over a hundred sites travelling solo, hitchhiking and using public transport. What started out as a desire to get away from the day-to-day ordinariness of life, turned into a journey encompassing cities, towns, plains, forests, deserts, mountains and beaches. I managed to explore all four provinces and territories, all the while meeting some of the most wonderful people from all walks of life. I was hosted by old friends in certain places and places where I had no friends, I ended up making more. When neither option was feasible, hotels provided a roof over my head. People were full of love and respect everywhere I went. The diverse landscape and terrain kept me fascinated all through out. What’s more is that the entire experience changed my perceptions about Pakistan and in the process, false myths and stigmas associated with Pakistan were debunked. Terrorism, oppression and poverty; these are the words that go hand-in-hand with Pakistan, or at least that is what the foreign media portrays. But their depiction is inaccurate. One has to experience Pakistan like I did to understand what it actually is. I visited numerous places. The following is a list of places in each city I feel are worth a visit. Gwadar Port Hammerhead Astola Island Beach Kali Temple Hingol National Park Kund Malir Hinglaj Khuzdar Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences Taftan Pak-Iran Border Quetta Hana Lake Quetta Cantt mosque Chaman Pak-Afghan border Bab-e-Chaman Ziarat Quaid-e-Azam Residency Prospect Point Baba Kharwari Zaranda Tangi Kawas Dam Kolpur Temple Fort Munro Anari Triman Damus Playground Sakhi Sarwar Sakhi Sarwar shrine Dera Ghazi Khan Ghazi Khan shrine Taunsa Suleman Taunsvi shrine Dera Ismail Khan Indus River viewpoint Jogian Wali Gali temple Bannu Bannu park Parachinar Mountains and meadows Kohat Kohat Tunnel Zinda Peer Peshawar Bab-e-Khyber Jamrud fort Fort Bala Hisar Qissa Khwani bazaar Karkhano markets Mohabbat Khan mosque Peshawar museum Deans mall Malam Jabba Ski Resort Chitral Shandur top Swabi Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology Tarbela Dam Attock Attock Bridge Attock Fort Attock Festival Hindu Temple Hasan Abdal Punja Sahi Astore Rama Meadows Nankana Sahib Nankana Sahib Wah Cantt Taxila Bhuddist ruins Taxila museum Islamabad Faisal mosque Daman-e-Koh Monal restaurant Pakistan museum Saidpur village Lok Virsa museum Lake View park Shakarparia Pir Sohawa Monument Centaurus mall Murree Pathriata Ayubi Abbottabad Shimla Hill Harnoi Thandiani Naran Lake Saif-ul-Mulk Kaghan Babusar top Chilas Shangrila hotel Tatu Fairy meadows Nanga Parbat base camp Deosai Sheosar lake Skardu Shangrila resorts Sadpara lake Karimabad Rakaposhi peak Altit fort Eagle’s nest Attabad Attabad lake Sost Khunjerab pass Rawalakot Banjosa lake Khewra Khewra mines Katas Katas Raj Lahore Badshahi mosque Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore fort SoZo water park Lahore museum Jhalo park Lahore zoo Wahga border Multan Shah Rukne-e-Alam shrine Bahawalpur Noor mehal Derawar fort Saqidabad Bhong mosque Guddu Guddu barrage Daharki SSD temple Khairpur Kot Diji fort Sukkur Masoom Shah minar Lansdowne bridge Sukkur barrage Sadh Belo Larkana Mohenjo Daro Bhutto family mausoleum Dadu Gorakh hill Nawabshah Rani Kot Sehwan Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine Mithi Gadhi Bhitt Shiv temple Krishna temple Nagarparkar Chorio Kasbo Sardhro Bhodesar mosque Marvi well Neenuram ashram Ghori temple Umarkot Umarkot fort Shiv temple Thatta Shah Jahan mosque Makli hill Kinjhar lake Hyderabad Rani Bagh Karachi Quaid-e-Azam tomb Mohatta palace Seaview Do darya Frere Hall Arena Atrium mall Ocean mall Dolmen mall So here’s Pakistan, raw and real, through the lens of a smartphone. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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    Getting a seat in a crowded bus is a small victory that one may celebrate in their heart, but if the person seated next to you is stern looking and constantly stares at you for no apparent reason, this victory might turn into uneasiness. At that point, all one wishes for is for time to go by as quickly as possible. However, I have a way out of it; every time I sit next to someone, I give them a slight smile to the person seated next to me. Last night, while on a bus, I smiled at an old lady whom I had caught looking intently at me earlier on. She gazed at me for a while and returned the smile,

    “Now, I won’t feel uneasy about being watched for the next hour,” I thought to myself.
    After a while, the old lady tried to break the ice by asking me where I had come from and where I was headed. I told her my locality, to which she remarked that that was her stop as well, and she lives only two blocks away from me. Then she asked,
    “Would you like to come with me? I can drop you off to your place – my husband will pick me up from the stop.”
    Thinking her offer sounded suspicious ,I scrutinised her face, but her expression gave nothing away. So I told her,
    “Thank you, but my brother picks me up from the stop. He will be waiting for me.”
    She let out a little laugh, perhaps sensing my distrust, and said,
    “Beta, I am glad you said no, you can’t trust anyone these days, not even your own shadow.”
    I nodded at her remark; she continued,
    “A while ago I was robbed by a gentle looking man, who gained my trust at first and then made a fool out of me.”
    Okay! This seems interesting, I thought.
    “What happened?”
    And so began her tale. She was waiting for the bus when a man approached her with some papers in his hand and asked,
    “Madam, do you know of any widows residing in this area?”
    She was taken aback by his question and told him she didn’t live in the area and then asked him why he wanted to know about widows. He changed his question around and asked,
    “Madam, do you know of any needy widows?”
    She told him she didn’t know of any such widows. She also added that she wouldn’t reveal such information anyway unless his inquiry was accompanied by a logical reason.
    “I was asked to do a survey for a lady from a well-known hospital. She handed me this responsibility, but I need a woman to work with me.” “What do you mean?” she had asked. “The lady, who is overlooking the administration of the hospital has allocated Rs70,000 for household utility expenses, which she wants to distribute to needy widows. Not only that, she wants to do it every month so that women in need may carry out their daily tasks with ease. She is also willing to provide ration. You see, since it’s a big responsibility, I need a trustworthy woman like you to work with me for this noble cause.”
    She immediately turned his proposal down because she knew what he was going to ask of her; she told him there should be a proper channel for this and there are other women who are working for such causes so he could contact them. After a momentary pause, she asked,
    “Why do you want me to be a part of this?” “You seem very trustworthy and I feel that I can trust you with such a large sum of money.”
    After saying this, he took out his cell phone and dialled the ‘lady from the well-known hospital’s’ number and made me talk to her. He, very intelligently, had gained this old aunty’s trust and the lady on the phone convinced her to undertake the task.
    “Then? What happened? How did he rob you?” I asked the old aunty curiously.
    She paused for a while, pressed her lips together, combed her short hair back and set her dupatta on her head, as if she were gathering her thoughts. She started again.
    “As per the discussion with the lady on the phone, the man was going to provide me with Rs70,000 at that very moment. After hanging up the phone, I asked the man to do what the lady over the phone had asked me to. He asked me to walk towards the bank so that he could withdraw money. After walking a short distance, he turned around and put his hand on his forehead, as if he had forgotten something important. When I asked him why he had stopped, he told me he had to buy a few things a widower had asked him for. Instead of walking towards the bank, he headed on towards the market. When he reached there, I heard him curse himself in a low voice; concerned, I asked him what was wrong, he said that he has forgotten to withdraw money from the bank in order to buy the things. I told him it wasn’t a big deal and that we could go back to the bank. But he insisted that I should pay since we were almost at the market and going back would be a big mission. I hesitated, but he went on an emotional guilt trip about about how he had trusted her to safeguard Rs70,000 and the least she could do was trust him in return. Letting my guard down, I searched my bag and handed him Rs5,000. Then I followed him to the shop where he stopped to purchase the required items, but I thought the prices were very high and began bargaining. While negotiating with the shopkeeper, I noticed he wasn’t by my side anymore. I suddenly grew alert and started looking around for him but calmed down when I saw him standing at the other shop, looking at me. From there, he waved at me. But my gut feeling kicked in and I sensed something was up so I sped towards the shop, only to discover that he had fled with my money. I looked for him everywhere, but couldn’t find him. I couldn’t believe I had been conned by that crook. When I finally shook off the shock, I thought of talking to the ‘lady from the hospital’, but realised that the call had never been made from my phone, it had been made from his phone.”
    After listening to the old aunty’s story, I was speechless; not because she had been tricked, but by the manner in which the man had gained her trust. I asked the aunty if she had lodged an FIR against the thief, but her answer upset me even further.
    “Beta, can a person lodge an FIR against one’s own silliness?”
    She continued,
    “Throughout my teaching career, I have helped people steer clear from such scammers. I have always stopped them from falling prey to mobile, gift cards, washing powder, and job opportunity scams. But I became a victim myself. And I am highly disappointed in myself. I can’t even tell my husband about this incident because he would laugh at my stupidity.”
    I tried as much as I could to console the lady, but I knew I couldn’t change the way she felt. What I gathered from this story was either these predators prey upon our innocent naiveté or play with our emotions. Everything they do stops us from thinking logically and rationally. I hope we all find it in ourselves to identify such unsuspecting predators and protect ourselves.


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    Whilst travelling from Doha to London, I had a 60-year-old Pakistani aunty sitting next to me on my flight. To be honest, it was a rather pleasant surprise to find another Pakistani on board. What came next was a surprise, but not a pleasant one. She began talking to me. Incessantly. Without any breaks. She started off by telling me that she is from a rich business family in Karachi and handed me her husband’s business card right after. She went on to tell me that her only son, who lives in England, recently got divorced. She let me in on the nitty-gritty details about how he was hoaxed by the girl and her family. She went as far to say that the girl was psychotic and created numerous problems for her son. Then she asked me if I am married, to which I responded that I’m not. She took that as an invitation to tell me how to choose the ‘right girl’ for myself and lecture me on the flaws of aaj kal ki larkian (the girls these days) and said there are no sinf e nazuk (women) anymore. I could tell she had something against aaj kal ki larkian, who according to her, are not willing to do anything and everything for their husbands. They just don’t care about them is what she said. She went on to elaborate how she still takes care of her husband herself, even though she has servants and has never cooked or done any household chores. I nodded my head in response, but she kept at it and further degraded aaj kal ki larkian by comparing them to herself. The conversation then drifted towards the topic of materialism. Boy was she passionate about that particular topic. She told me how much she despised materialism, and how everyone around her is so materialistic. She narrated an incident about a funeral she went to, where a relative of the deceased hugged her as she was leaving, and then complimented her jora. She asked,

    “Is it Asim Jofa?” “I don’t know what it is. Could be Sapphire.”
    She went on to say that she only buys her clothes from Asim Jofa, Sana Safinaz, and a few other high end designers, but at the same time, she despises women for being materialistic and that too at a funeral, taubah! The conversation then shifted back to her son, saying how good it was that we brought him up in our conversation. Truth be told, I wouldn’t label this as a conversation, it was more of a one sided rant. She wanted to tell me more about him and she started telling me what a simple boy he is and is not brand conscious at all. However, she added,
    Allah Ka shukar hai beta, aisee baat nahe hai. Har cheez hai.” (Thank God, child. It’s not that we don’t have it. We have everything) “My son always wears shirts from BOSS. But recently, he has stopped talking about these shirts since I told him not to waste money.”
    While she was saying this, I looked at my shirt, wondering where I got it from. The horror would not stop. Even though my responses were mostly ‘okay’ or ‘yes,’ it did not deter her. As if a verbal description of her son wasn’t enough, she started showing me pictures of him on her phone. She asked me if I found him handsome and I nodded, out of politeness. Next, she showed me messages from her niece, a scholarship student at IBA, all the while praising her niece’s intelligence and smartness. I somehow became privy to all her relatives details. She even showed me a text that her niece sent her – one that showered her aunt with adoration and praise.
    “Look how nice I am,” she said to me.
    Once again, I was left with no other choice but to nod. Finally, the much awaited landing announcement reverberated through the plane. The aunty turned to me and told me to recite Ya Hafeezo a number of times along with her. I pursed my lips and nodded, again. The reason I shared this painful experience was to emphasise how materialism has become inherent in our lives, to the extent that we don’t even realise it. A mature 60-year-old woman despises others for being exactly what she is. Isn’t that hypocrisy? Most people have begun to value a person based on the brands they wear as opposed to the individual’s integrity and honesty. Relationships with inanimate possessions are more cherished than those with the ones with actual people. The worst part is we fail to recognise these flaws. What happened to modesty and humbleness? This seven hour long ordeal made me realise how our society has changed. The aunty made me feel ignorant for not knowing high end brands that are oh-so-important. But then I realised, it doesn’t really matter. As for you aunty, I think I now know why your ex-daughter-in-law left.


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    The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) is dying. And no, Raheel Sharif and the Pakistan Army have absolutely nothing to do with its death, though they certainly seem gleeful at the prospect and appear to be doing everything within their power to hasten the demise of the party that claims to represent the interests of Muhajirs in Pakistan. To put it simply, the MQM is dying because it has no reason to live anymore. And while some of its supporters still cling on to its slogans as comfortable relics of the past, and its machinery of death and destruction can still do damage to the country’s financial capital, the MQM cannot escape reality: Muhajirs are not a threatened ethnic group in Pakistan and a party that sustains itself on stoking a sense of fear within that ethnic group will strangle itself to death. To understand why the MQM is dying, you do not need to watch Altaf Hussain’s speeches, nor do you need to pay attention to the army operation in Karachi, and most certainly don’t listen to the know-nothing talking heads on television. You do not even need to talk to Muhajirs about their political views. All you need to do is stand on the sidewalk on II Chundrigar Road in Karachi at 9am on a weekday morning. Stand in front of any building and ask the young men and women going into those buildings just two questions: how much money do you make, and how much money do your parents make? While you will meet many sons and daughters of comfortably middle class families, you will also meet the 24-year-old commercial banker at Bank Alfalah, making Rs40,000 a month, whose father is a rickshaw driver scraping by on Rs15,000 a month. You will meet a young accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers whose parents own a fruit cart and barely make it above the poverty line. And you will meet the young lawyer whose father owns a small paan shop on a street corner in one of the many working class neighbourhoods of the city. These young men and women have one thing in common: they have managed to secure a ticket out of their working class background into Pakistan’s rising and increasingly affluent middle class, and they did not need a government job to do so. Some, maybe even most, did not even need a government-subsidised education to get there either. Why is this relevant to the MQM’s imminent death? Because the fundamental premise that justified MQM’s existence in the first place was the notion that Muhajirs were being prevented from gaining access to economic opportunities by virtue of their ethnicity. Muhajir resentment emerged in the early 70s when, after two decades of dominating the Civil Service of Pakistan, they were finally forced to make room for people from other ethnic groups in the country through the introduction of geographic quotas for government jobs. Of course, Muhajirs did not see it as an injustice being corrected: they had been raised to view other ethnic groups as unworthy cretins and saw this policy measure as the death of meritocracy. Built on half-truths and lies though it was, that culture of resentment at least held some credence when the government was the dominant economic actor and the only paths to upward economic mobility relied on access to political patronage and a government job for yourself or for one of your family members. But as the economy liberalised in the early 90s onwards, there is now no longer just one path to the Pakistani upper middle class: there are many, and many of them are controlled by Muhajirs themselves. In other words, the economic anxieties of the 70s that animated the rise of the MQM no longer exist. The fastest path to the upper middle class life in Pakistan is no longer through the government but through corporate Pakistan. The smartest students no longer want to attend the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul on their way to becoming colonels and generals, nor Government College Lahore on their way to becoming DMG officers. They now want to attend LUMS and IBA on their way to becoming brand managers at Procter & Gamble and Unilever. The government no longer controls access to economic opportunity through patronage, and so the democratic order no longer threatens Muhajir economic interests. It did when they relied on the disproportionate power in the civilian bureaucracy that was only possible through undemocratic control. The geographic quotas remain, but Altaf Hussain’s successors at the University of Karachi either no longer care, or are no longer threatened by them. Even if you want a government job as a Muhajir, there are now so few people applying from urban Sindh that the quotas perversely begin to work in your favour. In short, Muhajirs no longer need the MQM to guard their narrow ethnic economic interests in the federal government because those interests no longer hinge around government jobs. Now they have a much wider set of economic interests and need a party that is interested in governing the country’s largest city and providing it with a functioning infrastructure. Under the Musharraf Administration, it had briefly felt possible that the MQM could make the pivot from being the insurgents to being the responsible governing party. Then came the brilliant Pakistan People’s Party ploy in 2011 of using Zulfikar Mirza to make the MQM go back on the ethnic defensive, and all of a sudden the MQM’s evolution stood aborted. The party reverted to being the well-organised gang of thugs it always was. Some observers, such as Zarrar Khuhro in the Herald, argue that the MQM needs to find a post-Altaf Hussain strategy to survive. While Khuhro’s analysis of the break-down of the MQM is very well laid out, I argue that no viable recovery strategy exists: Muhajirs want to revert to their pre-88 voting patterns of voting for national parties and in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), many of them have found one they can accept. If Imran Khan can stop being so painfully Lahore-centric, Karachi and Hyderabad are the PTI’s for the taking. Meanwhile, the MQM will die. And there is nothing anybody can do to keep it alive. Not anymore. This post originally appeared here.


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  • 08/25/16--05:31: A farewell to MQM
  • Life is a system of cycles. The sun comes up, shines bright, and goes down bringing the night only to be outshone by the sun again. This phenomenon is so natural that normally people do not pay attention to it after they have studied it in the fifth grade. What’s more important is perhaps the knowledge that human life and events are also similar to these cycles. People, movements and ideas rise and become prevalent only to live out their lifespan and ebb away in history while another takes their place. The most popular theory that explained this phenomenon was of course Hegel’s dialectics. Most people who rise to power unfortunately forget that their power no matter how vast shall see its end one day. More problematic perhaps are the attempts that these people make to maintain their power even when it is bound to vane. Almost every dictator in history could be quoted as an example. However, to relate it to our matter at hand, let us connect this to the Muttahid Quami Movement or Muhajir Qaumi Movement (later Muttahida). Once upon a time, any word, statement or action that took place in the public sphere of Karachi, could not be done without the blatant or silent consent of the MQM. The party was literally everywhere, riding on the back of the public support that made it a household name. Voting for anyone apart from MQM in Karachi was almost unheard of (partly because they never let anyone vote for someone else. Even the dead have voted for MQM in past elections). As the cycles of life would have it, the same Karachi hardly coughs now if MQM announces a strike. Most traders and businesspersons in the city find it appropriate and safe to retain their business hours rather than to shut down in the face of imminent danger. MQM’s clout as a party and as a political force has diminished in recent years, more so at the hands of the Rangers (establishment) than any political force. What could have gone wrong went wrong when the Rangers raided 90 last year and recovered caches of ammunitions from the office along with wanted target killers, who were living nearby. Altaf  Hussain’s rants to keep his party relevant amidst this onslaught have only made matters worse. First, his speeches were banned on national television then his protests started falling on deaf ears. The inclusion of Afaq Ahmed of MQM Haqiqi and then Mustafa Kamal (Pak Sarzameen Party) into local politics, created existential threats for the MQM. They huffed and puffed but these ‘rotten eggs’ were here to stay. Altaf’s temper also took a turn for the worse, as did his drinking problem. As we have probably witnessed one time or another, Altaf would rant in drunken furore calling everyone vile names and giving indirect threats, only for him to issue an apology the next day when he had a hangover. Last Monday, he went too far. Instead of indirectly insinuating action, he directly ordered his fanatical following to attack ARY and Samaa TV for not showing news of MQM’s on-going hunger strike. The mayhem that followed was witnessed all over the globe. Altaf wanted the satellite channels to shed light on MQM’s plight – unfortunately, he did so by burning himself and his party at the stake. No amount of clarification or apology is working and the political parties have rallied along with mass hysteria, in condemning MQM to an early grave. What followed was quite interesting. Farooq Sattar and the rest of the Rabita Committee called a press conference as soon as they were released from jail on Tuesday. In unison, they announced that MQM Pakistan was just that and would be taking all its decisions within the country effectively bringing to a halt the dictation that came from Edgware, London. Aamir Liaquat went as far as to announce that the party supremo needs to have his ‘mental condition checked’ if he has one. This announcement was followed by a press release by MQM London in which Mr Altaf Hussain endorsed the statements made by Dr Farooq Sattar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ss1O1yMoLXQ For a moment, it seemed that this shocking piece of news had been enough to save the face of MQM. A lot of its sympathisers were wondering how Dr Farooq would be able to run the party without its leader and we are talking about the “Hamain manzil nahi, rehnuma chahiye” (we don’t want a destination, we want our guide) party. Dr Farooq made it a point to emphasise that this disconnection from London was done purely as a conscientious decision and not to protect the party from its actions on Monday. Truth be told, this ploy worked – for a while at least. It was the minor things, which followed that laid bare the whole trick. When Aamir Liaquat resigned, he tried his best not to say anything against Mr Altaf but ended up giving a vital piece of the information. When Waseem Badami asked him about Altaf Hussain still running the MQM in ARY’s political show 11th Hour, Dr Aamir let loose a few words implying that Altaf Hussain was still in charge. He even went on to say that what was said in the Dr Farooq’s press conference was a camouflage and that Altaf Hussain still ran his party as he always has. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9hTEX1ggdk The next morning when Waseem Akhtar spoke after winning the mayoral elections, his aide and Deputy Mayor Arshad Vohra kept on receiving instructions from someone, who kept directing him not to discuss Monday or Altaf Hussain. Arshad Vohra later clarified that it was a ‘friend’ but I think we all know who likes to call and issue directives during a live press conferences. Jee Bhai, jee Bhai. All that said and done, I do wish readers to refer to my blog on Mustafa Kamal written a few months ago. A few things mentioned in that blog are coming true, hence proving that fortune telling does sometimes demonstrate truth. Mustafa Kamal’s Pak SarZameen Party (PSP) has expanded leaps and bounds in Karachi. A recent visit to Gulistan-e-Johar during Azadi celebrations really surprised me. It would not be incorrect to predict that Johar now belongs to PSP. Afaq Ahmed has also been holding party meetings almost every week in wedding halls, which the media is not openly covering. MQM will now try to sell its new minus Altaf persona, and open spectacles of affection for the armed forces will be on display. However, any discerning person can see through this facade. As predicted earlier, PSP is in line for succession and the Iron Throne will pass onto Mustafa Kamal but only after Altaf Hussain lives out his days in the public isolation of the London Secretariat. The chaos that is Karachi can only be controlled by a member of the mob itself and currently there is no better candidate in the eyes of the public and the ‘powers that be’, other than Mustafa Kamal and his PSP.

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    When I received an invitation from the University of  Balochistan informing me that five of our engineering projects had been accepted for the first Invention to Innovation Summit – the first comment my director made was,

     “Umair, do you know the halaat (conditions) in Quetta? Taking students there can be risky!”
    [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] The 1st Invention to Innovation Summit in Quetta[/caption] It wasn’t easy trying to make him understand that all universities from Sindh and Balochistan were participating; hence it was mandatory for us to attend. However, we were finally able to convince him. There were nine of us, out of which seven were visiting Quetta for the first time. Ultimately, this resulted in a fear of the unknown, mixed with a desire to meet new people. However, what we witnessed during our three days there totally changed our perspective of Quetta. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] What we witnessed in those three days totally changed our perspective of Quetta.[/caption] We reached Quetta early in the morning, and a local student’s father greeted us at the bus stand. He arranged for our transport to the hotel, which was near Liaquat bazaar. Once we reached our hotel, we freshened up and made our way to the University of Balochistan. On our way to the University, the first thing we noticed about Quetta was the fact that it was built between mountains. The second thing we noticed was that Frontier Corps (FC) troops were stationed on every road. Even though the large presence of Law Enforcement Agents (LEA) painted a grim picture of the city’s security, it created a sense of safety and decreased the possibility of threats. Upon reaching the University, we unpacked our projects, set up our booth and were ready to present. The first thing that used to come to mind when I thought of Balochistan was the backwardness of the community and its people. However, much to my surprise, the University of Balochistan is just as lively as the University of Karachi. The students, their political parties, and faculty are of the same calibre. I noticed that the students of Karachi and Balochistan were visibly different in terms of physique. I am a slim person, and I couldn’t find anyone that even remotely resembled my physique. The students proudly wore their kameez with ghair wali shalwar (flowy shalwar). A person can deduce the stature of the other through their style, which was what we did. I was also amazed to see many students wearing Sindhi topis. Upon further inquiry, I discovered that there is a very small difference between Sindhi, Pakhtun and Balochi topis. For mere laymen like my team, we were completely unqualified to determine the difference. I almost missed the turban which I thought was related to the Pakhtun or Baloch culture. It is in fact a modified version of the Sindhi topi, which is worn in Quetta by Balochis and Pakhtuns. Various female students on campus also had a unique style of dressing; they covered their face with their dupattas, but had exceptionally decorated their eyes, so much so that one couldn’t help but glance at them. The common perception about females in this province is that they are very religious, cover their faces and have strict segregation rules. Though this does not stem from religious ideas, rather it seemed to be a matter of Baloch or Pakhtun customs. I only came across a handful of female students in abayas. Before getting on the bus to Quetta, I had called one of my former students, who belonged to Quetta, hoping to meet up with him. Unfortunately he was in Lahore at the time. Regardless, this is where my fascination with the people of Quetta began. My student insisted that I stay at his house, and he would arrange my transport along with everything else. When we did reach Quetta, I received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as the chachu (paternal uncle) of my former student. He asked me if I had reached safely, inquired about my accommodation and insisted that I have dinner with him.
    Aap humaray mehmaan hain, baghair khana khaye aap nahi ja saktay”. (You are our guest; you cannot leave without eating food).
    [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] Much to my surprise, the University of Balochistan is just as lively as the University of Karachi.[/caption] Another facet that I saw was the students’ awareness when it comes to politics. At a question and answer session, one student asked a tough question, and in response his fellow classmates applauded him. He asked,
    “If the gold of Reko Diq and the natural gas of Sui could not change the life of a citizen of Balochistan, what can we expect from a road of China Pakistan Economic Corridor? Will it be dealt amongst the Nawabs, the Sardars, the politicians and the generals?”
    Several other interesting questions were raised; however the answers from the government representatives were disappointing. It seemed, yet again, that the Gwadar port of Balochistan might not change the fate of the ordinary people. As the day came to an end, we packed up and were ready to head back to our hotel. But our plans changed as we had to drop a local student to her house on Alamdar road. Alamdar Road was home to the Shia Hazara community and housed an FC check post, who did not allow anyone inside the premises unless their ID cards were handed over. This security measure was implemented after a recent bomb blast on the Hazara procession where hundreds of Hazara Shia’s were killed. The family members of the deceased refused to bury the deceased until proper security was provided to them. All along the road, pictures of the deceased were displayed. I asked our Baloch driver about the mix of Shias and Sunnis in Quetta, and he categorically said that there are no Shias in Balochistan, there are no Shias in the Pakhtun area of Quetta and the Hazaras residing there are from Iran. This was also certified by the fact that there is an Iranian embassy in Quetta along with Afghan embassy. Quetta’s political importance can be understood by the fact that its reach is as far as Iran and Afghanistan. The faculty was invited for a networking dinner at the Quetta Club, located in the Cantonment area (Cantt). I did not avail the pick and drop service organised for me and instead went around the city in a rickshaw before making heading towards dinner. The roads in Quetta are very narrow and during rush hour all roads are usually jam packed. Another thing I noticed was the vast difference between the vehicles present at a given time – while some are on bikes and cycles, others are driving around in Land cruisers and Pajeros. This illustrates the large-scale disparity in wealth distribution and a dearth of middle class citizens in the region. I asked the rickshaw driver about the situation of Quetta and he said,
    “It has gotten much better because of the FC’s strong presence, but it’s temporary.”
    I was astounded that he did not take advantage of me being a tourist and charged me an honest amount for the distance we had travelled. In cities like Lahore and Karachi, taxi/rickshaw drivers tend to rob you by overcharging, even if you’re a local. He left me at the Jinnah check post in the Cantt area and I walked the rest of the way. Only stickered rickshaws were allowed inside. I had suffered a toe injury so I walked rather slowly. It took me about two minutes to get to the reception area. I told them that I had to go to Quetta Club, but was informed that I was at the wrong check post; I needed to go to the China check post instead. The receptionist said that it was a 10 minute walk, but because I had an injured toe, I decided to take another rickshaw to the next check post. I stopped another rickshaw who quoted Rs30 for the short ride. I had a Rs1,000 note and neither of us had any change. It was around 10pm at night so there weren’t many rickshaws coming my way either. I made the obvious decision and started limping ahead. The rickshaw driver saw me and said,
    Aap ko waisay hi choor deta hun, aap humaray Karachi kay mehmaan hain.” (You are our guest from Karachi; I’ll drop you free of cost).
    He dropped me at the check post without taking any money. My admiration for the people of Quetta tripled after this. In Lahore, just mentioning that you are visiting from Karachi can get you into trouble, however in Quetta, you are treated with respect. During dinner at the Quetta Club, I met the main organiser of the event, Dr Waheed, who was a friend of the Head of Department of Electrical Engineering Program at our University. He was extremely happy to hear that someone from Karachi had participated. In the closing ceremony of the second day, with an auditorium filled with students and teachers of various universities of Balochistan, coupled with industrialists, Dr Waheed specially thanked us for coming from Karachi, and gave us a special shield for participating in the summit. During the networking dinner, I came across a Physics professor from the University of Balochistan, who happened to be a classmate of our head of department during his PhD studies. He too was thrilled to hear that we were from Karachi and took me in his own car to drop me to the hotel, even though it was quite far from his own house. I was continuously impressed by the hospitality of these people. I came back at around midnight and sat with my students for a cup of tea while sharing my experience. They had similar stories to tell as they, too, had been roaming around in the bazaar and exploring Quetta. They said that their attire made it obvious to the shop keepers that they were from Karachi, and kept insisting that we have a cup of tea with them. They also spoke of the instance where they were finding this particular, popular place to eat and asked a policeman for directions – who was kind enough to offer taking them there in his van. The next day, we were better organised. We reached the university early, set up our booth and impressed many with our engineering projects. I also visited other booths which were set up by other engineering universities like Mehran University, University of Khuzdar, and University of Turbat. Along with The Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), we displayed our electrical related projects. We had our event that evening, so I politely asked my former students uncle to meet for lunch the next day instead. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality that almost everyone from the region exuded. Later, my student’s uncle visited the University of Balochistan, and brought Kabuli Pulao (a famous rice dish in Quetta) with him along with a packet of dry fruit. He kept insisting on taking us all out for dinner, but we had already accepted another dinner invitation. The first day was busy; there were various sessions organised and one of the sessions that I attended was of personal interest to me; it was about the CPEC and its effects on Balochistan. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] We reached the university early, set up our booth and impressed many with our engineering projects[/caption] Various myths about Balochistan had been completely debunked in one day. When I visited the projects displayed by BUITEMS, I was astonished by their effort and their level of skill. I had assumed that they would be of a lower calibre or have lower technological standards than our projects, but I can safely claim that their projects levelled, if not surpassed ours. I heard that BUITEMS has made a serious mark in the technological front and I finally witnessed their achievements. When I asked about the secret to their success, someone remarked that admissions are purely based on merit, and even the son of a governor would be denied admission at the institution if he did not meet their criteria. During the exhibition of our projects, a bunch of jolly Psychology students came to our stall. We were dressed in pants and shirts – hence were standing out. They tried to understand the engineering projects but eventually gave up and offered us tea, and once again, made the friendly request which was,
    “Aap humaray mehmaan hain.. jaanay say pehlay humaray saath chai zaroor peeni hay aap nay.” (You are our guest; you have to have tea with us before you leave).
    I couldn’t say no, and we went out to have tea. I asked them if they had ever visited Karachi and they said they have and stayed in Lyari. Another student from Khuzdar University who was staying in the same hotel as us was also from Lyari, and I found that generally the Baloch from Quetta hold strong connections to Karachi via Lyari, while Pakhtuns hold strong connections from Al Asif and Kati Pahari. Another group of students came and one of them gave me his cell phone number and said,
    “Kissi bhi qisim main Quetta main zaroorat ho ya pareshani ho aap humain call karna.”  (If you ever need anything or need any help in Quetta, please call me).
    We already had the Kabuli pulao for lunch with my former student’s chachu, and the organisers gave us coupons for three biryanis. When the students went to the counter to get the three biryanis, they complained that there are nine people from Karachi. Without any hesitation, the man working at the counter put aside all his calculations, took out nine biryanis and said,
    “Aap humaray mehman hain, kam hojayay to batayayiyeaga.”  (You are our guest, if these run out, let me know).
    The summit came to an end in the evening and we returned to our hotel. Another student’s father, who had worked here, had arranged a van for us through his friend so we could go to Labelli, a restaurant just outside Quetta. Being a Karachiite, I have tried sajji at many different places in Karachi but never really liked the dish. But when one tastes the sajji in Quetta, they will forget the sajji of Karachi! Another interesting aspect of Quetta was the elegant display of roses, not just in the university, but all over the city as well. I don’t know why Quetta isn’t famous for its variety of roses because, for us, they were the most unique feature of Quetta. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] The roses were the most unique feature of Quetta that we had witnessed[/caption] On the third day we decided to visit Ziarat. We went out early in the morning; the father of a local student came with us. Her mother had been kind enough to prepare some delicious chicken karhai and kebabs to eat there. Ziarat is about three hours from Quetta, but those three hours were filled with breath-taking sights. The first thing you notice are the mountains, which are initially very far, but as you keep driving towards Ziarat, they get closer and closer. The landscape is exceptionally beautiful. My students, selfie-maniacs, stopped the car at several points to take pictures. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] The landscape is exceptionally beautiful[/caption] Upon reaching Ziarat, which is enclosed by mountains, we went to the Quaid-e-Azam residency which has been refurbished. It was selected as a health resort by the British in 1891 and they earned around Rs38,000 in one year by promoting tourism in this beautiful place. I fail to understand why tourism isn’t being developed in such a beautiful place. There are hundreds of spots in Ziarat which can easily attract domestic and international tourism if proper guest houses, resorts, camping trips and basic mountain climbing facilities are set up. The name Ziarat was given to this area because of the Mazar (mausoleum) of Mulla Tahir, also known as Baba Kharwari. Hanna Lake, present in Ziarat, is also an exceptional spot for tourism; however it is not being exploited for commercial use either. After the adventurous experience, we returned to the bus stand from where we had to head back to Karachi. Our visit had truly changed our views of Quetta and its exceptional people, along with the beauty of its nearby areas. It is our governing bodies’ political mistake that has given it a negative reputation and created havoc in such a rich and cultural society.


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    Domestic cricket is the budding ground that provides national teams with young talent in order to keep them abreast with the rest of the competitive cricketing nations. In this piece, I will discuss the basic components that make a successful and spectator-oriented domestic cricket structure. We begin with the teams system. Pakistan is probably the only country in the world where the main national cricket tournament involves teams representing state departments. Nobody wants to go the stadium to watch PIA face off against WAPDA. This is the most obvious (and yet persistent) problem of our domestic leagues. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Umar Akmal celebrates his record-equalling century after pummelling Rawalpindi bowlers for nine sixes and as many fours. Photo: Shahid Saeed/ Express[/caption] It is only when we will have cities or provinces playing each other that our tournaments can generate the sort of crowd interest in local matches as is witnessed in England and Australia. This is because region-based cricket inculcates within players and fans alike a feeling of affiliation and ownership in their teams, that is unmatched by departmental cricket. In our current Quaid-e-Azam Trophy configuration, we see absurd groupings, such as Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited against Islamabad and Khan Research Laboratories against Peshawar. How can that possibly be a successful model to follow? There are two strong but diverging voices in Pakistan on this important matter, both boasting credentials of equal calibre. Imran Khan, who disapproves the prevalent approach, and Javed Miandad, who believes departmental cricket is the best way to secure a good financial future for players. The answer lies somewhere in the middle: We should hold uniform region-based tournaments three times in the year for the three separate formats, where departments, instead of fielding their own teams, sponsor the regional outfits. With better crowds and higher television viewership, it would be a win-win situation for the teams and the departments. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Lahores vs FATA.
    Photo: PCB[/caption] To be fair to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), they do hold national city-based T20 Cups every year, and with the successful holding of Pakistan Super League (PSL), we have finally managed to sway away from departmental cricket. But we lack consistency; the PCB must ensure the regional squads that feature in T20s, also play in domestic four day and one day tournaments, instead of any departments. The main reason why Australia has reigned over the cricket world for such a long time is their domestic Sheffield Shield cricket. Australian players compete at such high levels while representing their provinces that it prepares them mentally and physically to transition easily to the international arena. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="696"] The NSW Blues (pictured) will play a Sheffield Shield match. Photo: AAP[/caption] We, on the other hand, depend entirely on natural talent. This did get us through till the 90s, but now, with the fast changing landscape of this sport, raw talent no longer cuts it; polishing has become essential, and that can only be achieved by a competitive national structure. After we have taken the first step, the next would be the venue selection. Rather than holding tournaments at randomly selected cities, we should play at a ‘home and away’ basis, something we see in English County cricket. It makes no sense for Lahore and Karachi to play a match in Multan. Rather, if one weekend, the Lahore side plays Karachi at the Gaddafi stadium, and seven days later, they play at the National stadium, this would create great anticipation amongst people and some intense rivalries unheard of in our local cricket. With proper advertising, affordable ticketing and full securities measures in place, fans would definitely pack the stadiums to support their respective cities. And as we know, good contests produce higher standards of performances, with bragging rights on the cards. Granted, Pakistan has become the world’s best Test team, an astonishing feat for which words alone can do no justice. But, let us be clear, we achieved that distinction despite the system, not because of it. If our domestic structure was at par with the likes of Australia, England or South Africa, we would have become number one a long time ago, and that is what people at the helm need to understand. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pakistan celebrate their win over England in fourth Test at Kia Oval, August 14, 2016. Photo: Reuters[/caption]

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    While winding up the lesson, the teacher turned towards the clock to check the time – there were 20 minutes remaining. Opting for a pop quiz, he asked everyone to take out a rough sheet of paper. One of the students eagerly did so – for history was her favourite subject – but as she scribbled the answer ‘Treaty of Versailles’ to the question asked by the teacher, she saw terror approaching from the corner of her eyes. She heard the dreaded words,

    “Please step outside and bring your diary along.”
    And quietly moved toward the door while all the students stared at her and some whispered amongst themselves,
    “She hasn’t paid the fee again.”
    This is how such incidents usually pan out. Harassing children over non-payment of fee appears to be a policy most private school religiously adhere to. This harassment includes, calling out the fee defaulters in the midst of a lesson, announcing the names of children during the school assembly and sticking warning notes in diaries. The school’s administration, in some cases, doesn’t even permit students to attend lunch-time. These children are often made to spend the whole day waiting outside the principal’s office or are plucked out from the classes at any time of the day. Some of the harsher punishments include, detaining the results or admit cards and not allowing students to take the examination. However, in most cases, the whole scenario purposefully takes place in front of other students, who at times, happen to study with their ‘defaulter’ associates. But before jumping to the conclusion that parents should be more ‘responsible,’ it’s high time that we focus on the plight of students. In cases when names are called out in the morning assembly, which marks the beginning of a day, these children are reduced to being ‘defaulters’ and friends and class mates find out that they have not paid their fee, their teachers find out and the administration apparently knows already. Everyone in that space is privy to the unneeded information that these children are either financially unstable or their parents are either negligent or cannot afford the education of their child. Events such as these trigger a sense of humiliation, guilt, anger, fear and self-suspicion within the effected – they end up developing severe self-esteem issues. Such brutal behaviour has severe consequences. They shy away from their class mates and their tiny hearts begin to thud faster as soon as the secretary enters with a list. They themselves are aware of the fact that their fee has not been paid and it’s mid of the month, but what can they do? Have you ever asked a parent why they send their child/children to school? Or why they send their child/children to a particular school? The answer will be the same – “we want our children to avail the best education.” But under such hostile circumstances, are children really acquiring the best education? I don’t think so. Are these children the ones who earn for their own education or who decide for themselves which school to attend? No. It is apparent these children are dependent upon their parents for the payment of their school fee. Given this natural hierarchy, the children are no one to consult to in this matter. Here it becomes even more important to ask; should children be subjected to this treatment at school? Are they the individuals to consult to in this specific affair? What position does this treatment put the children in? In the process, these children end up paying an amount heftier than their fee for the non-payment of it. While many of us would contend that parents are in agreement with the school to pay the amount on time or schools are ‘business enterprises,’ we are trivialising the problem. Education is the right of every citizen which is to be provided by the state. But our state fails to do so, instead, it expands on commercialisation. No measures are being taken for the betterment of already existing public schools. Rather these schools are being handed over to private sectors for generating profit. What kind of education are our children receiving? Children are sent to private English-medium institutions because they apparently provide ‘quality’ education. While teaching, I happened to ask my students (those appearing for the Board exams) the definition of a noun. I was surprised when they answered,
    “Noun is an action word.”
    I was left speechless. When I asked students of grade five to solve a five-digit addition sum, except for a few, the whole class was clueless. Students belonging to the Cambridge system (a system which is lauded for producing students who can fluently converse in English) go to language institutes, pay an exorbitant amount of fee, and try to learn to speak fluently in English. I personally feel the colonial language is one of the biggest complexes prevalent in our society. Often students belonging to some well-reputed educational institutions in Karachi ­– while referring to a math problem or any other subject issue ­– tell me that their teacher asked them to ask for help from their tuition teacher or parents. If ‘quality’ was to be examined – these institutions would fail miserably. Then what is it that these institutions are good at? They’re just good at perpetuating competition, since that is what gets the market going. They treat children as objects and tools and view them as just another source of money. Education is one of the most profitable sectors in Pakistan. But our public education sector is deplorable, which forces parents to turn towards private institutions, which they may not be able to afford. This in turn can lead to a delay in payment of fees. After all, privilege tends to flow upward, rather than downward, in our society.


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    It’s almost that time of the year again. Yes, that time, when the city is intoxicated by the smell of rotting intestines, and fresh blood: Eid. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced it, and no that’s not nostalgia or longing embedded into that phrase. I’ve been away for the past few bakra Eids, and somehow they all seem to mesh into one in my mind. I’m trying to think back and dissect them into individual moments and memories. 2013 This is my first Eid away from home. I wake up to Eid Mubarak messages but I’m not really feeling festive. There is no holiday from school. There is no sheer being cooked in the kitchen. There are no new clothes. I used to love Eid. The smell of mehndi as I woke up in the morning, laced with the aura of crisp notes I was handed for Eidi. bakra Eid was especially my favourite. At one point in time, I wanted to be a doctor so I’d dissect the goat’s heart after it was sacrificed with my mini-sized doctor gloves and mask. I’d show my younger brothers where the aorta was, and how the different chambers functioned. That was when everything was new and appealing. That was also when I didn’t know much about the world. One year, and I remember this moment so vividly because it was the crux of my realisation, if realisations could be boiled down to moments and places. That was the year I was going for the big guns, yes, I was going to dissect a camel’s brain. Every year, my neighbours put on this huge show where people from all over the neighbourhood would come to my street to watch the mighty ship of the desert be sacrificed. I woke up early in preparation because I had to be there to take my brain otherwise, God forbid, someone else would steal it (ah the naiveté that surrounds the minds of teenagers). I was all dressed up in my shiny new Eid clothes, my hair was freshly made, and the smell of mehndi was distinct as I skipped my way to the gate of my house. There was a large group of people so my father guided me through and I stood there waiting eagerly with him and my brothers by my side. Soon after, a boy of around twelve came out, and people parted. He had a small knife-like object in his hand, and he drew back and threw it at the camel’s neck. That was when I realised I didn’t want the brain anymore. The mighty ship of the desert fell to its knees, a sight I had never seen before because I was always afraid of camels. I used to ask my father to lift me off the camel before it sat down sat in that roller-coaster manner, at the beach. I didn’t dissect another organ again after that. It’s been a few years now. And my first Eid away from home made me miss it profusely. I craved the company of people of my faith, even though faith hadn’t been the basis of my friendships with people in Karachi. After that year, Eid usually consisted of a desi meal with Muslim friends, we’d talk about Eid at home, and how different everything felt. But eventually, Eid became another holiday filled with yearning to be back home. Somehow Eid had fizzled in my mind. It was no longer about the clothes, the visiting, or even the animals anymore. It churned into a more tangible reality where all I really longed for was family. So I guess, if you ask me what Eid means to me today, that’s what I’d say. It wouldn’t be mehndi, shiny Eid envelopes, or sheer khurma. It would just be home.

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    Dear Soumyadipta Banerjee,   I don’t know if it’s the right thing to be writing you a letter, since you might be endorsing a cut-off of all sorts (of written collaborations between our countries) after so emphatically bashing the cultural ones. It might not even be the best time for you since I see your fellows are caught up in a frenzy of misjudging the Pakistani markings regarding the ammunition used in the Uri attacks. But I write to you because it’s necessary. You might not have singled out Fawad Khan in your letter but I evidently am addressing this to only you, since I do believe that many in your country still retain the basic sense and these are only your blatant misconceptions that I intend to discuss. I don’t know whether it’s a tragedy or a comedy that you are intent on portraying Bollywood as a resort for all unemployed Pakistan artists. Heck, you make it sound like a charity that would have put the late Abdul Sattar Edhi to shame. Accordingly, it’s convenient to pin-point a successful Fawad Khan (or your other options that include Mahira Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or Adnan Sami – all of whom have been duly hailed by your country), but not a failed Veena Malik or a Meera; who ran out of work in Bollywood as soon as they started since they couldn’t impress your audiences. That is the point exactly, Bollywood takes what sells. It isn’t doing any great service to the artists of my nation by hiring them out of pure sympathy. Just see the comments on the trailer of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil on YouTube, the people of your country are swooning over Fawad Khan so much that at places they even seem to over-shadow the lead of the movie. Producers are hiring Pakistani artists and paying them (something that you seem to mention quite often) because they are making money through them; it’s business, not altruism. You take the credit of making a superstar out of Fawad Khan ever so smoothly. But there’s a hitch: Fawad Khan was a superstar in Pakistan right when Humsafar aired in our country. All his subsequent serials were TRPs smashing. Friends from India tell me that Fawad Khan had won Indian hearts right when Zaroon was aired on Zindagi Channel. His stint in Indian cinema might have propelled his popularity slightly, but that’s what exposure does to you. Deepika Padukone didn’t become a superstar after landing a role opposite Vin Diesel; it was her credentials as a superstar that got her there. And I see no way how you can take the credit of his stardom for something as forgettable as Khoobsurat, a flick that was duly bashed by all your critics (“great films” you say, I reserve my comments). India didn’t make Fawad Khan a superstar, it roped him in because he was one already, and marketed the product where the demand was brewing already. Mahira Khan is another sweetheart of Pakistan. These are the highest paid celebrities in Pakistan, and the latter’s film in India hasn’t even released yet. The last point was just for your notice in case you try to claim Mahira Khan’s stardom in the future too. It’s grossly ignorant on your part to claim that while your country opens its doors ever so warmly to our country, we shut them in your face just as relentlessly. Can you please tell me how many Pakistani films have graced the screens of your country lately? While we have seen almost every Indian film playing in our country, if one of our films is lucky enough to be given the green signal by your country, it lands in trouble. The innocent Bin Roye was banned in Maharashtra, so you can definitely keep your intrinsic welcoming fantasy to yourself. Even if some Indian films are banned in Pakistan, they have baggage attached to them. Expect us to screen a Phantom in our country only if you agree to show a Waar in yours. We also know that all Pakistani channels are banned in India, despite you agreeing that Pakistani serials are way better than Indian ones. Here you might be surprised to learn that every single Pakistani channel buys Indian content and plays it on our channels, despite Indian channels also airing in most parts of the country. All your excruciating daily soaps (and God knows those things are liable to be banned only due to the sheer insanity they portray) are actually bought by Pakistan just as your films are. We are not just welcoming to your content, but also a revenue-generating market for you. So kindly cut us some slack, and do the math! You seem indignant on the view that Indian artists aren’t allowed to work in Pakistan. Well, you may want to take a back-seat and question any among Nandita Das, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri among others in this regard, all of whom have portrayed essential roles in Pakistani films. Neha Dhupia has even done an item number here. We have had songs sung by Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Harsdeep Kaur, Rekha Bhardwaj, Ankit Tiwari and Sukhwinder Singh amongst others in our films, despite our music industry being second to none, and many among your population also seem to testify to this fact. We have even had Indian singers on our Coke Studio, which is the rage all over the sub-continent. Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Sidhart Malhotra, Amrita Arora, Arjun Kapoor and many others have been a part of our advertisement campaigns, and you know better, those things pay quite well. You talk about piracy as if Pakistan has a monopoly on it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s an international issue. You should remember Udta Punjab as we remember Jawani Phir Nahi Aani, both films pirated in the very country they were made by. You play the higher ground by narrating how Pakistani artists have been showered with love in India. You might not have gotten to see that, but every single Indian celebrity who has ever come to Pakistan has gone back waxing lyrical about the sheer amount of adulation and admiration they’ve received in Pakistan. You can either ask me to send you the links of their interviews or ask Mahesh Bhatt or Zeenat Aman yourself; just don’t ask Anupam Kher – but guide him on the process of applying for a visa. We have even been borderline welcoming to your director making propaganda films against our country, while one of your own actresses has been charged with sedition for stating something as innocuous as Pakistan is not hell. This tells us something about our attitudes, doesn’t it? So let’s just do away with playing Mother Teresa! And now, the most important point, you charge Fawad Khan for not denouncing his own country, but getting away with the charming smile of his every-time. Except that that isn’t his job. How would you feel if Hollywood starts seeking an apology from Priyanka Chopra every time an Indian is lynched for eating beef in your country? It’s not the job of artists to do what politicians are supposed to do. As Kamila Shamsie puts it, let’s not shift this burden from the shoulders of those responsible even one inch to those already engaging in exchange of culture and good-will. Fawad Khan doesn’t have to carry the baggage of his nationality this way, just as you don’t hold your celebrities accountable for the actions of your state. In fact, how can you even stoop to the level of charging Fawad Khan with something some non-state actors from Pakistan might have done, when your own celebrities don’t bat an eyelid for the persecutions your state officially does? Isn’t your all-time leading superstar associated with a party that orchestrated the Gujarat riots? Have you ever questioned him? How many of your celebrities have avowed against the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir, or the blinding of innumerable folks with pellet guns in that burning state? When you’re so intent on pointing out the alleged blood on Fawad Khan’s hands, how can you brush off the blood from the conscience of one of your own in a blink of an eye? The blood that was split by your state with a proper agenda, not even some lunatic groups going astray. You cannot choose to look the other way when it comes to you, while trying to limit our focus to the loopholes erratically emanating from our place. When your celebrities don’t take it upon themselves to apologise for something their state is doing, why should Fawad Khan take the responsibility of something his state isn’t even directly involved in? You try to be a humanist, but all you end up becoming is a hyper-nationalist jingoist. If there’s an equation of the cultural exchange between our countries, the balance shifts overwhelmingly in favour of Pakistan. We watch your films, telecast your shows, and listen to your songs; we know a lot more about your country that you have ever known about us. Your ignorance about us is what leads to you writing apparent love letters full of hatred to the likes of Fawad Khan. You know how many Pakistanis have been killed due to terrorism? More than 50,000. Innocents, largely unnamed, faceless Pakistanis. Our civil society, our community, our media, our children and lately, even our establishment, is trying extremely hard to get rid of the scourge of terrorism. If you cannot help us with that, kindly do not insult us by bickering nonsensically out of the blue. Oh, and people didn’t even know you before you started your rant against Fawad Khan. Now the whole sub-continent is talking about you (not very kindly, but hey, no publicity is bad publicity). So the next time you ignorantly claim that your country made Fawad Khan a super-star, always remember that it was due to this very same Pakistani star that you got your two minutes of fame. Do visit Pakistan someday, please, to let go of the sheer bias you have against us. I, along with most other Pakistanis, will be very happy to show you around. And I promise, we won’t even consistently remind you of how much we’ve spent on you! Love from a Pakistani. PS: Fawad Khan is from Lahore, not Karachi.


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    Dad That fact that the protagonist of today’s narrative happens to be dad doesn’t really surprise me. You see, he’s been quite unwell recently. He’s elderly – almost eighty, I believe, if you go by the date of birth on his passport.

    “My date of birth is inaccurate on that passport”, dad told me several years ago, which basically meant that he didn’t know his exact birth year. Neither did others around him. “In those times, the exact date of birth was imprecisely documented”, the others said.
    Regardless of his actual age, and semantics aside, dad is whom you would call ‘geriatric’ – very elderly, in simple English.
    “But he’s been unwell before, so what’s different now”, you ask.
    Well, dad is losing his grip on reality faster than I had anticipated. Several years of slowly progressive dementia most likely has created an individual unable to recall day-to-day routine. Long-term memory seems to be intact as I’ve gauged that periodically. But it’s short term memory that is questionable. For instance, he will forget that he’s been for his walk twice already. So, when he wishes to go for his third walk of the day (or night, as the case may be), and mom has to keep him indoors firmly, he gets upset. He also forgets that he’s been to the doctor and his blood tests have been recently run.
    “Asad,” he says, when he can recall my name. “When will you get my blood tests done? It’s been a long time. Have you checked my sugar?”
    I take a deep breath and count to 10 before explaining for the umpteenth time that he’s already been to the doctor recently, and that he’s been given a relatively clean bill of health. Although dad’s not diabetic, I do tell him to stay away from excessive sugar intake, since with his deteriorating memory I’ve noticed an increase in his appetite for sugary things. Perhaps people with dementia have a statistically significant proclivity to sugar? Anyhow, telling dad to go easy on the sugar hasn’t really borne fruit in over a decade. But I still keep at it. Given the care giver’s frustration with memory issues of the loved one, patience can be quite challenging. After dealing with dad over the past three years since returning to Karachi after a 15 year jaunt in Houston, I believe I’ve achieved a remarkable degree of patience and tolerance. Although, truth be told, it’s easy for me to say so since I can switch off once I leave my parental home, as I don’t live there. I can’t say the same where mom is concerned. She gets upset and vocalises that stance readily, especially when dad has asked her three times in the span of five minutes for something today that was already done yesterday. In her defence, she’s the ‘primary’ care giver. She has been for all her married life. And as a house wife that’s all she’s done. So if she gets short-tempered with him and his repetitions now, then, I think, it’s okay to cut her some slack. Dad’s hypertensive and is currently on two medications for controlling his blood pressure. Mom ensures he gets his medications on time. He doesn’t remember the names of his meds, nor does he care about those names, their dosages, side effects, and so on. I think he understands the utility of pharmacotherapy in maintaining his health, but quite generically. Every time I visit dad I think he manages to recall the association between his son and the medical profession. He then likely recalls the device the doctor uses to check something relevant to his health.
    “Doctor, shall I get the device to check.. ummm.. because you haven’t checked my.. ummm.. in a long time”, he asks me.
    He can’t say what it’s called because he’s forgotten the said device’s name. The ‘ummm’ that he’s alluding to is blood pressure. We then go through an elaborate ritual of getting him to lie down still while I get the ‘ummm’ device hooked up around his arm to get a reading. Despite memory lapses in almost all spheres of his daily life, dad hasn’t forgotten one particular medication. The sleeping pill. He has been self-administering that wretched lexotanil for as long as I can remember. Dad calls it the ‘small red tablet’. You are probably familiar with the famous valium, also a sedative, but a longer acting benzodiazepine versus the short acting ‘benzo’ lexotanil. Dad gets agitated when we hide the potentially dangerous benzos; he fumes and frets and threatens mom with all sorts of dire consequences if they (the benzos) are not handed over. If he’s given custody of the benzos, he tends to overdo them. Note, I don’t say overdose. Although, given his age and frailty, there’s not much of a difference between overdoing and overdosing. Last week it happened while mom was out shopping. Dad decided to go for his walk – the second for that day as he obviously had no recollection of the first one. Since he wasn’t being closely supervised, he ended up buying a stash of benzos from the pharmacy right behind his house. What happens to be a heavily controlled substance elsewhere in the world for logical and rational reasons is readily available, over the counter, in pharmacies across Pakistan. And a strip of ten ‘small red tablets’ is cheaper than a Magnum ice cream bar. To cut a long story short, unbeknownst to mom, dad took four times the recommended dose of the benzos; fallaciously thinking that more pills equals better, longer sleep. And he did fall asleep the following morning, but rather sadly, in the bathtub, where he was found. Subsequently mom managed to lug him out of the bathtub and on to the bed. Dad then continued to sleep over the next several hours.
    “What were you doing in the bathtub? Did you fall asleep?”
    I asked dad when he came out of his slumber a bit.
    “Ummm. ahhh. errrrr”, he said.
    He had completely forgotten what had happened. We speculated that he had gone to the bathroom to pee, but the effect of the sleeping medication was too much for him to overcome. Dad remained quite lethargic and hardly moved the rest of the day, in spite of several attempts to wake him up and feed him. Luckily he hadn’t fallen in the bathroom, or at least we didn’t think he had. I didn’t find any cut, bruise or swelling on his scalp to suggest a head injury. Throughout the day and during his prolonged sleep he did soil himself frequently. After changing his clothes a few times, we decided to put him in a medium sized adult diaper. The last time I had changed diapers was for my second child when she was still a baby, almost eight years ago. A sleeping adult, completely uncooperative with diaper placement represents a much more difficult scenario – trust me on that. Putting a diaper on my elderly parent was something I had never thought I would be doing and, although it was an awkward moment, there was much learning in it too. The following morning, dad was more awake and had reverted to inquiring about the small red tablets, blood tests, sugar, ummm, and so on. Fortunately, he did not require any further diaper therapy. Life for him, and for us, was back to normal. Epilogue: The cursor on the computer screen blinks away oblivious to my struggle to collect more words that I can string together ‘on paper’ for dad. But Ed Sheeran’s poignant Give Me Love playing in the background helps generate some coherence so I can reach closure for this narrative. Today I realised something important: I wanted to write about dad while he’s still around.
    “But is he really still all there?” asks a voice within.
    I don’t know the answer to that. And, it probably doesn’t matter. The ground reality is that I needed to write about dad, while he’s still around. And the rest, as they say, is history. For Abu.


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  • 10/01/16--03:49: An open letter to Indians
  • Dear Indians, As someone whose recent family history is very much a consequence of partition, I am no stranger to the divisiveness of Pak-India politics. Despite a shared history and culture, we stand today as two nuclear armed nations that have fought three wars against each other. Hatred for the other is fostered in both countries – neither India nor Pakistan is innocent as far as propagating hyper-nationalist aggression is concerned, but this time around, it feels slightly different. This time around, your government, sections of your media, and sections of your civil society (in concert with the government) are behaving in an exceptionally immature and dangerous manner. They are committing themselves to positions that are harmful to regional stability and to the prosperity of both countries. In short, they’re making a mistake and they’re embarrassing your country. Here’s why: Kashmir Both your government, and to a worrying extent your media, are unwilling to accept the grave seriousness, and the indigenous nature of the Kashmir problem. Terrorist or freedom fighter, love him or hate him, Burhan Wani was an inspiring figure for thousands of Kashmiris. Remove yourself from the politics of it for a second and consider that at face value: a separatist who’s killing drew hundreds of thousands at his funeral, and thousands upon thousands on the streets for months after – that’s indicative of a serious underlying problem that your government is either failing to recognise, or worse, has recognised and is now foolishly trying to quell by force. They’re pulling the wool over your eyes by blaming the problem on Pakistan, and by labelling dissenters as ‘terrorists’ and the unrest as ‘Pakistan-funded’ they’re playing on your nationalistic sensitivities to divert attention from a very home grown, very Indian problem. The reason the bodies of dead protesters are being wrapped in Pakistani flags, the reason some Kashmiris support Pakistan against India in cricket matches, the reason that slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ are chanted in Kashmir is not because of some elaborate ISI conspiracy that’s now coming to the fore (as your media would have you believe). The reason is simple; the people in Kashmir, and especially the younger generation, are sick and tired of a 700,000 strong force that routinely beats, shoots, blinds, rapes and murders them. They’re sick and tired of living under occupation, under a law that is so draconian (Armed Forces Special Powers Acts or AFSPA) that it’s startling to me that anyone in India is surprised by Burhan Wani’s popularity. Kashmiris don’t raise Pakistani flags because there’s some mysterious ISI handlers coordinating it behind the scenes; they raise them because the world has been silent to their suffering, and because (for better or for worse), Pakistan is the only country that decries these atrocities and places moral support behind their right to determine their own future, especially when so much of their past has been robbed from them. Any Kashmiri who is my age (24) has essentially been born into, and lived their whole life under the AFSPA and has been witness to unspeakable excesses committed by the Indian Army after the Pundit exodus. If you have actually read the AFSPA and have heard about how the Indian Army has treated people, then it should come as no surprise why protestors take to the streets every single day, despite knowledge of the fact that they will be shot at with guns that could blind and/or kill them. Peddling the view that the unrest in Kashmir is Pakistan sponsored ‘terrorism’ is a deliberate strategy employed by your government to hide their own repeated failures in the region. It’s convenient, and it’s easily believed (because Pakistan has a bad track record here) but in this instance, it’s simply inaccurate. The indigenous nature of recent unrest in Kashmir is blindingly (morbid pun not intended) self-evident, and a direct consequence of the centre’s inability to reconcile with a rightfully aggrieved population. Please stop buying into the lie that the recent unrest in Kashmir is Pakistan’s doing because it’s short changing the Kashmiri people’s opportunity to highlight their plight. It’s making them guilty by association – when they’re really not. Uri The attack on Uri had barely wound down when your government/media started hurling accusations at Pakistan. This is not only dangerous, it’s pretty unprofessional from a journalistic point of view. What evidence? What markings? Food wrappers? Really? Is this the standard that ‘the world’s biggest democracy’ holds its press to? Your media/armchair strategists then took it one step further – they started talking about a ‘befitting response’ and ‘the whole jaw for a tooth’, ‘hot pursuit' and ‘surgical strikes’ and other nonsense to that effect. All of this before any kind of formal investigation into the incident had even taken shape. Please make no mistakes: this is equal parts stupid, dangerous, and delusional. Pakistan is a sovereign nation – any encroachment or direct attack on Pakistan will be considered (rightly so) as an act of war. Your ‘befitting response’ will beget its own ‘befitting response’ and before you know it, a chain of events get set off that culminate in nuclear war. And for what? Some political point scoring? So Narendra Modi can look like the tough guy he purported himself to be? So war-mongering Indian news anchors (who are honestly some of the most amusingly aggressive people I have ever come across) can finally be satisfied? I can almost hear them shouting ‘khoon ka badla khoon’ (blood is avenged by blood) or something equally Bollywood right now. Please, my Indian friends, do not be swayed by these embarrassments to the profession of investigative journalism. They’re mouthpieces of your government and their post Uri behaviour is telling of a level of aggression syndicated by your government that was/is independent of what happened in Uri – an aggression that is pre-planned and in-line with your PM’s decision to support terrorism in Balochistan. The kind of aggression that Pakistan has always feared and always prepared for. Nuclear war is no joke, neither is it some distant, far-off possibility in our fragile sub-continental context. Nuclear war is mutually assured destruction (MAD) of the worst kind. Nobody wants that. Not even you Mr Goswami. Come to think of it you don’t look like you’d be very comfortable in any confrontation outside of a shouting match, let alone a nuclear war. Balochistan Your PM has taken a position of open, overt, unapologetic interference in Balochistan and your government is now offering asylum to a man who is directly responsible for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers. Think about this for a second – this would be like Pakistan publicly declaring its official intent to fund and arm members of the Khalistan movement and then start offering them citizenship and hosting them on our talk shows. In Pakistan, we’re all aware of the fact that India has been funding terrorism in Balochistan, but when it becomes the official and declared policy of your PM it becomes a very serious problem. It’s akin to the difference between a situation in which you know your neighbour’s dog s***s on your lawn and you hate him for it, to a situation in which your neighbour makes it his Facebook status that his dog does in fact take s***s on your lawn, and that he intends on allowing this s***ting to continue unabatedly. The former, one can live with (albeit grudgingly) – the latter has consequences. Water Your government is now taking a position where it is signalling that it either intends on violating the terms, or unilaterally pulling out of the Indus Water Treaty. The Indus Water Treaty has been in place through the 1965, 1971, and Kargil wars. It’s sacrosanct because it is a shared resource that millions of people depend on for their livelihood. Cutting off water supply, or choking the water supply coming into Pakistan in violation of a treaty would be considered no less than an act of war, as it signals intent to do mass damage to both life and property. Such a move would be dumb as it leaves Pakistan with no choice but to react out of self-defence. It’s also a dangerous game to be playing since China could easily get involved (they’re upstream of you) and beat Modi at his own nasty game. Water is a vital resource without which crops will die and people will go hungry, which would lead to serious destabilisation. A destabilised Pakistan is not good for India, especially when the destabilisation can be clearly attributed to Indian policy. The international community may view India as a rising star, but this rising star status is likely to be dampened if your PM keeps behaving like a nutter. He’s overreaching and will find himself out of his depth, causing serious loss of face on his part. The prospect of this loss of face might even persuade him to double down on his current strategy, which would of course be the recipe for a perfect storm. Consider that Modi’s policy of diplomatic ‘isolation’ is already falling flat on its face: Pakistan is holding its first ever joint military exercise with Russia since 1947, just got the US to signal that it doesn’t support India’s position on Balochistan, and got China to chime in that it would stand behind Pakistan in any cases of foreign aggression. So, isolation? Not really. Try again Modi, or better yet, calm yourself and come back down to reality. The ‘terrorism’ hypocrisy Your government and your media propagate a view that Pakistan is some sort of rogue state that functions solely to export terrorism. What they don’t tell you or what you choose to ignore is that Pakistan is a much greater victim of terrorism than India – we have lost over 8000 soldiers and 80,000 civilians in the fight against terrorism just in the past 12 years. We’ve taken on jihadi outfits left, right and centre – even ones that we had a hand in creating. For your every Pathankot, we’ve had 10 Pathankot’s. For your every Mumbai attack, we’ve had five Mumbai attacks. Our cities have been plagued by suicide bombers and fear, and your government has been complicit in some of this terror. It has funded anti-state militants in Balochistan as your PM all but admitted to, has sought to destabilise Karachi through Altaf Hussain and has also used consulates in Afghanistan to fund the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) through RAW. When your media launches a tirade against Pakistan as a sponsor of terror, they fail to point out that your own government has actively pursued a policy of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Whether you agree with this policy (you might well think that it’s a justified tit-for-tat response to perceived interference in Kashmir) is irrelevant – rather what’s important to understand is that Pakistanis these days operate (rightly so) under the assumption that the Indian government is doing everything it can to actively destabilise the country through nefarious means. For all the Indian friends I have made over the years as a student in the US, I’ve never met a single one that hasn’t expressed a desire for peace and cooperation between our two countries. Granted, I’ve had extremely heated debates, but regardless of our disagreements over specific issues we’ve always netted out on the shared belief that the future of our region should hold less, and not more, of what we’ve become accustomed to our entire lives. This knowledge is what motivates me to write this out – the knowledge that there’s a divide between most Indians and Indian government policy, and that there are reasonable people on both sides of the border that should be actively engaging with one another. If you have not already, I implore you to open your eyes to the reality in Kashmir – the reality of crimes committed against a civilian populace, the reality of rapes and shotguns, of mass graves and curfews. The reality that what’s now happening is somewhere between civil disobedience and an intifada and that the fault is primarily your government/army’s. There are hawks on both sides of the border – people who benefit from aggressive posturing and the possibility of war. These are the same people who are doing a disservice to the majority of their countrymen who are just regular people that want to live peaceful, prosperous lives. I think it’s also important to point out the amount of amusement Pakistanis treat the scrambling of your politicians and Director General of Military Operations with. In an attempt to divert attention from Kashmir and placate the hawks in India, your government/army is now telling you fairy tales of how paratroopers crossed into Pakistan, killed a bunch of terrorists, and then somehow flew back unharmed, in what they're calling a ‘surgical strike’. Make no mistake – these are such lofty fabrications that people in the Pakistan Army don’t know what to make of it; they’re somewhere between amused and confused considering that if there was a surgical strike, it was so damn surgical that there are no signs of it whatsoever. What has been established is that at least eight of your soldiers have been killed and one has been captured. So, surgical strike? More like surgical blunder. I hope that after reading this you will leave with at least some sense of perspective – some sense of how the other side sees the moves your government is making, and some sense of how this is likely to play out if left unchecked. You’re better than Modi, Ajit Doval, and the RSS, India. Don’t let them monopolise your country’s future and stop letting them embarrass you as a country. Best, Ibrahim Pataudi (a regular Pakistani citizen)


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    At the beginning of the ride, the cab driver asked me for Rs150 for a journey halfway through Peshawar – Saddar to the ends of University Road. Sounds reasonable, I thought to myself. On the way, we struck up a conversation. By the end of the ride, he refused to take a paisa.

    “You are from Karachi. That means you are my guest.”
    He declared with a smile warm enough to melt stone. When I insisted, the rebuttal brought me to tears.
    “Aap ne izzat di; mohabbat di. Pakhtun ko aur kuch nahin chahyay.” (You gave me love and respect: that is all a Pakhtun needs).
    Coming from a city like Karachi where money matters (a lot), I stood by the side of the road a little perplexed immediately after getting out of the cab. My dazed and confused train of thought was broken by the sound of an unmistakably mechanical crack. The noise repeated itself three times. I looked down to see the taxi driver struggling to engage first gear. When he finally did, the cab’s engine screeched, showing the fan belt needed replacement, while shuddering revs were a clear indicator of the clutch plate’s imminent demise. The gentleman behind the steering wheel clearly needed money to fuel his livelihood, yet he left with nothing. Without giving it much more thought, I walked into one of Peshawar’s more upscale eateries where I met two friends, both born and bred in the city and my hosts in their own individual respects. Towards the end of a hearty lunch, I shared some details of my chance encounter with the kindest taxi operator on planet earth. That is when I was told of a code called milmastya (mil-mast-ee-a). Milmastya is a set of rules which dictates that apart from the best food and accommodation possible, the host must hold him or herself responsible for any harm to their guest – no matter how grievous the injury or devious the guest. It literally stands for code of hospitality.
    “This is nothing; wait till you go to you go to Fata.” I was told.
    One of the biggest wars of our time ultimately resulted from this very custom, but that is a story best told on another day because today we speak of hospitality. On the way back from lunch, I was shown the pillars of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s government; the assembly building, the Peshawar High Court and many others. As we drove down the same road, a hand came across my line of vision as I sat on the passenger seat of the car. It signalled to the left.
    “And that is where it all happened. That is Army Public School.”
    Said one of my hosts. I kept looking at the structure as it passed, turning head and gaze. Soon, there was a giant lump in my throat as my mind raced to pictures sent by our photographer of strewn chairs, bullet-ridden walls and shoes filled with the blood of children. It is rare that a person can smile and almost burst into tears at the same time. Yet, I was in that very position because Peshawar showed me that despite all the blood it has shed, it can treat an outsider more graciously than any other city I have had the fortune of setting foot on. Power, influence and money cannot open as many doors as a guest or visitor in this region. Sadly, outsiders, like the ones who massacred hundreds of schoolchildren at APS, have wreaked the most havoc in the lives of these people. Yet, Peshawar is just the tip of a massive milmastya iceberg. Forty-eight hours later, I found myself journeying out of the city into FATA’s mighty Khyber Agency. The term outsider usually has a negative connotation, but not in the tribal belt. Here, the smiles are broader and hugs warmer for any visitor. Between the free tasters of patta tikkas lovingly prepared by Landi Kotal’s most renowned barbeque specialist to giveaways offered by shopkeepers, one was treated like a king. Clearly, Khyber Agency is yet to learn its lesson. After all, it was foreign influences, allowed into the area as guests, which brought the tribal areas to their knees and drove people out of house and home. The unbridled passion for welcoming all ultimately forced the kabaili laug to spend months under far off tents or open skies, while usurping terrorists lived in the comfort of homes left behind. With the militants now gone, it is inspirational to see that Riwaj – the tribes people own set of rules – is again the order of the day. Milmastya is back to centre stage at every hujra. Sadly, the rest of Pakistan still wants to club tribal people with terrorists.
    “They are all one in the same.”
    A friend from Karachi told me on the phone while I was en-route from Peshawar to Jamrud tehsil. Such a statement could not be further from the truth. Speaking of the truth, the reality is that the people of the rest of the country could not care less about the fate of FATA; therefore, such gross generalisations. With tears welling up in his eyes, a senior khasadar official standing at Michni gate near the Torkham border asked me a very difficult question.
    “When will people from the rest of Pakistan realise that we want peace more than they do. Have they suffered like us?”
    He inquired. I did not have an answer; especially since the man lost friends and family in the war on terror. After having been at the receiving end of the ultimate hospitality, I asked a tribal malik in Landi Kotal if there was any way that I, as an outsider, could return the favour. He asked me to deliver a simple message.
    “Please tell the people of Karachi that the kabaili laug are not wild animals with horns coming out of their heads. Hum bhi insaan hain, aap ki tarhan.” (We are also humans, just like you).


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    The traffic, temperature and the pressure is at its peak, with one hand on his bladder Ritesh Kumar stands between a locked public washroom and a mosque. Karachi: Each no-go area is a safe house for another; welcome to Karachi, a city of 16 million people where public lavatories have become equally restricted for the militant, khaki or a civilian.

    Yahan peshaab karnay wala ghada hai.” Whoever urinates here is a donkey.
    These warnings are painted on many walls in Karachi. The only option people have is to accept the compliments written on the walls and keep on going. According to UNICEF,
    “There are 41 million people who do not have access to a toilet in Pakistan and as a result they are defecating in the open…”
    Gulshan-e-Iqbal, where almost a million Karachiites reside, has about two public washrooms – and those too are locked for some unknown reason. The one near NIPA Chowrangi, an area that is considered one of the busiest and is usually backed up by traffic, has only one public washroom which, too, is locked for reasons that are unknown.
    “It’s been locked for more than two years,” says Inayat Khan, who is a waiter from the nearby tea stall.
    Sometimes pedestrians as well as the tea stall customers graciously defecate behind the bus stop, turning a public space into a toxic wasteland of filth. Karachi Municipal Commissioner (KMC), the department that is responsible for sanitation in the major areas of Karachi, is not doing much. The secretary, Badar Jameel, did not know how many washrooms were located in Gulshan-e-Iqbal town and why they have been closed for two years. With the mayor of Karachi in jail, the local government is clueless about sorting out the sanitation problems of Karachi. Syed Agha Attaullah Shah, the chairperson of Raah-i-Raast Trust, had taken up the matter of sanitation to court. He believes that the government is not solely to blame; even the judiciary is not serious. According to Shah, the private firms were ready to build public toilets but it was the local government that was not ready to give away the land. City district government Karachi has so far rented out more than 250 bus stops for opening shops as well as displaying commercial billboards.
    ‘‘The problem with public washrooms is that it doesn’t get you the DHA plot you aim to buy,’’ says Shah.
    The founder of the trust has helped in installing at least six public washrooms in several areas of Karachi up until now.
    ‘‘It’s a facility that is granted to even the most barbaric killers in jail but the rightfully deserving civilians are still deprived of this space.’’
    The state of a city can be judged by their washrooms. There is nothing to be expected from a metropolis where the washrooms are sealed. A magnanimous metropolitan with a whopping number of 18 towns and 178 union councils with hundreds of bus stops, cemeteries and malls and markets situated in various regions are all without clean and properly functional washrooms. The city has numerous graveyards, chowks, public parks, shopping plazas, prominent roads and general hospitals – all without the facility of a washroom. The act of openly defecating has played a huge role in spreading diseases. Millions of children especially under five years of age suffer from diarrhoea, constipation and stunting. This highlights the issue of inequality, poverty and the lack of hygiene. Nasha Pestonji, the manager for World Toilet Organisation, believes that Pakistan is in dire need of sanitation solutions, now more than ever, because of the growing population, lack of good infrastructure, an unsteady health care system and huge proportions of illiteracy. One has to start somewhere, unfortunately, however, our government seems to be satisfied with the public urinating on walls. Pakistan is known to have the worst sanitary conditions in South Asia. Diseases like diarrhoea kill more people than attacks of terrorism, according to a World Health Organisation report, it was revealed that “every 24 hours, 320 children die from diarrhoea..” The year 2003 was the golden era for Karachiites; with bridges, flyovers and signal free routes. The city was re-invented, yet nothing was done about sanitation. With a budget of Rs 408 billion the mayor made sure that people got to drive on smooth roads, but disabling both, men and women, from having access to any decent public toilets. They are left to either spray the walls of public spaces or wander about from town to town in search of malls, markets, mosques or even petrol pumps to tend to their calls of nature.


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    I don’t know what others may say, but I support Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for taking a rally out on Sunday and paralysing Karachi. We don’t spend Sundays at home; we spend it on frivolous activities like going to the beach, eating out and spending a few thousand rupees on indigestible food in one of the many restaurants which have sprung up over the past few years.  This Sunday we stayed home and (besides saving a good amount of money), I found that my grandchildren have grown up without my noticing it. You see, every day they have already gone to school by the time I get out of bed, and when I return home at night they’re asleep. And on Sundays, as I said, we are usually out, my grandchildren with their parents, and the two of us on our own. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that both my grandchildren are fluent in two languages and are very good in mathematics (like I was at their age). This was a really good discovery which I would not have made if Bilawal Bhutto Zardari hadn’t decided to bring the city to a standstill. Of course, staying at home meant that we went for a walk after a long time and came across a few of our neighbours for the first time and found out how nice and courteous they are. It was a pleasant surprise to find that there is a park nearby where (due to the rally) hundreds of people were enjoying the sea breeze for which Karachi is famous. After an hour-long walk, my wife and I were able to talk without shouting at each other, which is the norm whenever we return home late every Sunday evening. Of course, some misguided people are complaining that due to the complete blockage of roads, a few were not able to get to the airport and missed their flights, while others who needed urgent medical attention couldn’t be taken to hospitals, and so had to die and couldn’t be buried until the next morning. Oh well, people miss their flights every now and then and some deaths do occur due to traffic jams, so why are they complaining? Anyone who isn’t comfortable with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari taking out rallies and making life pleasant for people like me is probably an enemy agent and shouldn’t be living in Pakistan anyway. So I am with you, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari; go ahead, hold rallies every Sunday – it’ll make you very popular and win your party all the seats in Karachi in the next elections.


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    A few months ago I came across some photographs of my old school taken in the 1920’s. What was amazing was that these photographs showed the school just as I remember it. St Joseph’s Convent School for Girls is a private, selective school in Karachi, Pakistan. It was founded in 1862 by Belgian nuns. Today there are around 2000 students on roll. It’s an all through school. What do I remember about my time at the school? Well, obviously my friends. Many of us are still in touch with each other. When we meet we are the same happy-go-lucky, giggling teenagers we were at school. We are very comfortable in each other’s company in the way only childhood friends can be. There is no pretence, just the joy of being in each other’s company and I think St Joseph’s has a lot to do with that. I’ve never forgotten the wonderful staff, both the nuns and others. Unlike the common impression people have of a convent education, the nuns who taught me could not have been kinder. That is not to say they weren’t strict. They were, but they were fair as well. Teaching was what people would probably label as traditional. The photograph below dates back to the 1920’s but my classrooms were the same. Teachers stood at the front and we sat in rows facing the blackboard. There was homework and there were tests. Miss Aileen Soares, our maths teacher (she completed 50 years of teaching in 2011!) used to start each lesson with a five minute test, the results of which would count towards the final grade. She would walk up and down the classroom and at the end of the five minutes she would say, “Books up for correction”. Girls sitting at the front of each row would get up, collect the books and take them to the staffroom. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="177"] Miss Soares[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Classroom in 1920’s[/caption] When Miss Soares would show us how to solve a problem, she would explain while writing on the board and when she finished she would start erasing it. You quickly learnt to pay attention in her lessons. We were expected to have impeccable manners and a great deal of emphasis was placed on good behaviour. There were consequences if homework wasn’t handed in on time. There was never any low level disruption. We stood up whenever an adult came to our classroom. We were expected to behave as well brought up ladies or we would be taken to task by Sister Zinia, our principal. I know this may sound very Victorian, but even with the advantage of hindsight I can’t see anything wrong with that. There was a narrow staircase which you can see in the photograph below. We were expected to let the other person pass before we went up or down it. Years later when I was studying in the international school in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting for the head-teacher. When she came down, she asked me why I hadn’t gone up. I explained that that was the way I had been taught by the nuns at my previous school. I said a silent thank you to them when she said she thought I was very polite. Looking back I know that one of the reasons for the school not having any issues with behaviour was that the sanctions for bad behaviour were clear and consistently applied. Teachers were backed by the senior leadership team and we knew it was no use complaining to our parents. For one, they wouldn’t go against the teachers because culturally, teachers are respected by everyone and parents would never overrule a teacher. Secondly, and again this is down to culture, the same boundaries were applied at home too. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="413"] The narrow staircase.[/caption] As far as the curriculum was concerned we studied English Language and Literature, Urdu, Maths, the Sciences, History, Geography, Physical Education, Art, Music and even needlework. We were expected to memorise scriptures, time tables, and poetry and were tested on all of these. We were lucky enough to have a huge playing field, which we, for some reason, called the Hockey Field, as well as a tennis court. There was healthy competition between Houses and an Annual Sports Day where trophies would be awarded for individual and House winners. We were taught to be magnanimous when we won and took defeat in our stride. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] We were lucky enough to have a huge playing field.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] My friends were Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and Zoroastrian. Photo: Shamim Taufiq.[/caption] This was a convent school in a Muslim country where everyone had “British values”. My friends were Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and Zoroastrian and the religion each of us followed mattered not one jot! Again, I think that was down to the environment at home and at St Jospeh’s. Some more photographs to give you a flavour of my school. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] Staff room.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Left to right: Sister Zinia Pinto, Sister Francis Mary, Sister Cecilia Francis and Ms Aileen Soares.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Courtyard[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Corridors leading to classrooms.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Mrs Lobo, our Music teacher.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] St. Joseph's Convent School.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="456"] The St.Joseph's school song.[/caption] I recently came across a question posed to teachers on Twitter which was,

    “Would you send your child to the school you teach in?”
    If you ask me if I would send my daughters to St Joseph’s Convent School for Girls my answer would be yes. That is the biggest accolade I can give to my school. (These photographs were posted on Facebook and I had asked permission to use them. If you would like to be credited for them individually please let me know and I shall do so.) This article originally appeared here.


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    Whenever one thinks of travelling within Pakistan and prospective vacation spots, the northern areas of the country are what come to mind. Scroll down your Facebook wall and Instagram feeds and the pictorial storyboards will corroborate this stance. Unfortunately, with the prime goal of running away from the heat and the general lack of interest in exploring our diverse culture, heritage, environment, and wildlife, we often ignore the treasures that our southern region has to offer. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] We often ignore the treasures that our southern region has to offer.[/caption] Science has proven that there is a delicate balance between the wildlife and their habitat, climate change and humans; disturbing any one of these will have a negative impact on the other. From the snow leopard population, which is an indicator of the health of high altitude ecosystems, to turtles which serve as cleaners of our water bodies, all species play an important role in maintaining the environment. This natural network determines our own survival and quality of life and, therefore, it is important that we educate ourselves and take ownership of the environmental issues around us. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Turtles serve as cleaners of our water bodies.[/caption] Recently, I was a part of an exposure trip (organised by WWF-Pakistan) for a group of digital media representatives to their Wetland Centre at Sandspit, Karachi. The visit aimed to show participants nature that is close to the city and enable them to experience turtles nesting first-hand. The trip also included a boat ride through the mangroves, turtle watching (given that the green turtle nesting season is underway), and opportunities to hear how the local fishing community has turned into protectors of their habitat and wildlife, as well as what the organisation is doing on ground. After bracing a traffic jam that broke our expectations, we finally reached the Wetland Centre, with just enough light to head out straight for a boat ride through the mangroves. The light was not as much as is expected at dusk, thus hampering our ability to take awe-inspiring Instagram pictures, but, thankfully, grey scale filters came to the rescue. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The light was not enough, as is to be expected at dusk.[/caption] During the boat ride, Umair Shahid (North Indian Ocean Coordinator from WWF-Pakistan) briefed us on the important role that mangroves play in the ecosystem, the various species that exist in Pakistan and their current status. Mangrove plants mature in about five years and their wood is inherently resilient. The roots of these specialised plants grow above the ground and one hectare of mangrove plants can absorb 1.5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. One of their key roles is to act as the first defence mechanism against natural disasters like cyclones and storms. Furthermore, they act as soil binders and prevent the fast rate of soil erosion. As for their connection to marine life and the local fishing community; they provide nursery grounds for small fish species, crabs, and shrimps. One hectare of mangroves can support the growth of 500 kg of fish and 250 kg of shrimps. Mangroves are also a roosting ground for migratory birds. Pakistan has the seventh largest mangrove forest in the world. We were home to eight sub-species, however, due to our ignorance, only four of these are left; Avicennia marina being the dominant species. By the time we were done with the boat ride, it was already dark. We headed to the WWF-Pakistan Centre for an interactive session on the key issues threatening the ecosystem and the role of the local community as defenders of these natural resources. The transformation didn’t happen overnight. A lot of time and energy has been invested through various training programmes of WWF-Pakistan, whereby communities have been educated about the benefits of sustainable fishing practices and alternative fuel sources to help protect plantations in the area. The role of digital media and the potential it has to help spread awareness was also discussed. As this tool is not confined by boundaries, it can help highlight topics to national and also international audiences. Pakistan generally makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, but there is a lot more happening in our country that deserves to be broadcasted by the media. A recent video of a local fisherman trained by WWF-Pakistan releasing an olive ridley turtle, which he saw entangled in a wasted fishing gear, was a heart-warming sight and something the international community appreciated greatly. It got 13 million views on the WWF International’s Facebook page alone, with comments that ranged from appreciating the successful rescue to the humane aspects of protecting animals. Again, reinforcing the fact that there is an inherent balance between the environment and the animals, and that it is natural for us as residents of the same environment to protect them. [fbvideo link=“https://www.facebook.com/WWFPak/videos/10156909943485515/”][/fbvideo] Later on, the local fishing community that works closely with the organisation served us a home-cooked meal of fried fish and prawn biryani – it was delicious, and definitely left me wanting to come back for more. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pakistan is home to five different species of marine turtles.[/caption] By the time we were done with dinner, the watchers informed us that two turtles had come to the beach and were in the process of digging pits to lay eggs. Pakistan is home to five different species of marine turtles. The green turtle is the only species that nests in the country. They mature at the age of 25 and their average life span is approximately a 100 years. Around 2,500 to 3,000 green turtles come for nesting every year to Sandspit during the season, which starts in August and goes up to December, sometimes even till January. These turtles lay about 120 to 150 eggs at a time. Due to the low probability of these eggs hatching, coupled with their low survival rate, the increased incidents of being caught as by-catch and their illegal trade, they are now marked as an endangered species in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Two turtles had come to the beach and were in the process of digging pits to lay eggs[/caption] The two turtles that came for nesting were approximately 50 and 65 years of age respectively, as suggested by WWF-Pakistan’s marine expert. During this stage of nesting, the turtles are not to be disturbed, even by the use of light or excessive noise. However, once they had settled in and began laying eggs, the group went across to Sandspit beach and observed them nesting and closing their pits with their flippers. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Once they settled in and began laying eggs, the group went across to Sandspit beach and observed them nesting and later on, closing their pits with their flippers.[/caption] This visit was a unique experience. But when it comes to increasing your knowledge about the local ecosystem that lives close to a large metropolitan city like Karachi, it was just the tip of the iceberg. It left me realising how little I know about Karachi and how revolutionary this short visit really was in highlighting that. So next time you are planning a trip, do consider going for a turtle watch. Get in touch with WWF-Pakistan through their social media and they will happily help you organise a similar visit. All photos: Fatima Arif


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    Can we talk about QuettaThey called Quetta the fruit garden of Pakistan, once. You read about it in your social studies class as the ninth-largest city in Pakistan; it was a capital, and capitals are revered. But no one ever talked about Quetta outside of textbooks. Monday night, October 24, 2016, cadets at a police training academy in Quetta awoke to a terrorist attack that killed 61, and injured more than 120. The dead bodies piled up, young men in the prime of their youth, young men that fall in the same age bracket as our brothers and sons, our husbands and fiancés, our friends and loved ones. The dead bodies piled up – and we didn’t pause. Our lives went on, the way our lives have always gone on as Quetta bleeds. Our newsfeeds didn’t go very black, our conversations didn’t change so much, and our plans weren’t disrupted at all. The dead piled up in Quetta – young men who were training to protect others, their bodies shrouded in multi-coloured blankets, a pair of naked feet poking out from underneath the fabric here, a hint of garment visible there; young men who were training to protect others lying still and cold on the ground outside a hospital, oblivious to the stares of those around them – and our lives went on. When terrorists struck the APS school in Peshawar, we came together. We came together from Karachi to Delhi, from London to New York, because the suffering of children knows no boundaries. Because killing the young is like a sudden knife tearing open the heart of the world. Now the dead bodies of young adults pile up in Quetta, men the age of our brothers and sons and lovers and friends, and we go on with our lives like nothing has changed. In August, an entire generation of lawyers was killed in Quetta – every single senior practicing lawyer and barrister died in a terrorist attack at a hospital, on August 8, 2016. And we went on with our lives as if it wasn’t our problem, not so much, not really. Those of us who have buried a loved one know how traumatic it is to lose a life. Why must Quetta bury its people again and again and again, while we go on as if nothing has changed? Why must Balochistan? In Quetta, the courtrooms lie empty because an entire generation of lawyers is gone. The loss of institutional knowledge and expertise resulting from their absence is so immense, it is almost impossible to wrap one’s head around the breadth and depth of it. Lawyers and law-enforcement agents - in the past few months, it is those that stand up for your rights that have been targeted. Without these people, who protects you? Without these people, where do you stand? What drives this apathy? What drives our inability to realise the magnitude of these horrors? What drives our continued silence on Quetta? On Balochistan? Will we never talk about Quetta outside of textbooks? Will we never talk about Balochistan? Can we talk about Dera Bugti, which houses four major gas fields, but is itself deprived of gas? Can we talk about Sui, whose people are shivering in the cold, despite providing natural gas to the entire country? Can we talk about Alamdar Road, where Hazara families sat in the open air alongside the decaying bodies of their children and siblings, their parents and partners, unable to lower their loved ones into the ground, forced to suffer the brutality of displaying their dead to the world, in the hopes of media coverage of their plight? Can we talk about Monday night, when 61 young cadets training to be protectors, lost their lives to a terrorist attack? Can we please talk about Quetta? Can we please talk about Balochistan? Flag-covered coffins and martyrdom will not stem the flow of blood, will not make up for the loss of assets that have a chance at making us whole again. Only action will, and action stems from advocacy. Action stems from knowing. Most of us don’t know anything about the situation in Balochistan beyond a vague idea of civil unrest and neglect, and it’s time we educate ourselves. This piece was originally published here.

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