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

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    1:20 pm, Tuesday, June 3rd It was a regular weekday with the familiar hustle of an office facing tight deadlines. Some people had finished their lunch and were chatting over tea about the upcoming football world cup. Others were just about to tuck into their food and planning out the post lunch work plan. A colleague broke the news, the possibility of which had been discussed in hushed tones many-a-times. Breathlessly she spilled the words:

    Altaf Hussain (Chief of the MQM Party) has been arrested!”
    All was left aside and everyone started checking social media for updates. Some turned on the news on their laptops. Others started making frantic calls to friends and loved ones. The conversations were terse and along these lines:
    “Have you heard? Where are you? Are you ok? Please rush home and call me as soon as you get there”.
    Staff was told to leave for their homes. Routes were checked and more calls made. Soon panic spread as the familiar bursts of close gunfire and ringing of cell phones became an accompanying refrain to our frantic conversation. 1:50 pm, Tuesday, June 3rd Most of the staff had left and I was alone in my space. The support staff looked more worried than others. They had bus routes to consider and many had come by public transport.
    “Are they burning buses?” a tea boy asked me.
    I didn’t know what to say but gave him some cash for a rickshaw.
    “What will happen now?” another asked.
    I was quiet. As I saw a calm environment descend into chaos, I thought back to all those times the city has witnessed this; the riots, the curfews, the burning cars and the same conversations. I recalled May 12, 2007 when the city burned and the chief justice of Pakistan was detained at the airport. There was an exam the next day but all thoughts of studying banished as the count of deaths and destruction played out like a live performance of pure carnage. I remember October 19, 2007 when my boss came to my desk and told me that Benazir Bhutto’s motorcade has been attacked on Shahrah-e-Faisal.
    “Get home, now”, he told me.
    Today I repeated the same to my staff. I remember December 27, 2007 when an evening news bulletin announced that there has been an attack on Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi.
    “She’s been killed”, someone shouted.
    The same panic, the same instructions,
    “Get home, now”.
    I never could get home and spent the night at a friend’s house who lived nearby. The next three days were spent in fear as rumours flew about poisoned water in the supply line and mobs looting and burning all that came in their way.
    “This is Berlin in April 1945”, a cousin had said. “No, this is Karachi now”, was my response.
    Berlin was in the midst of a World War, we were in the midst of unmitigated chaos. 2:15 pm, Tuesday, June 3rd The picture was complete by now; closed shops, home bound traffic jams and the omnipresent and impending sense of doom. The financial market had reacted with lightning speed with the Karachi bourse plunging 780 points as panicked traders took sell orders from terrified investors. Such has been the pattern; breaking news reports a rush for safety, death and destruction accompanied by deaths. Some people I know have become “preppers” and keep a hoard of essentials in their home in case the shut-down continues on for a few days.
    “What if they cut the supply lines?” they ask.
    This question would be suitable in a war zone but does not seem out of place here also. Parents plan their children’s school location in terms of how quickly they can rush them home in a situation like this. Others scrounge and save and disrupt their households to live closer to work places so they have a plan when their boss says,
    “Go home, now”.
    It does not have to be a death or even a real occurrence. A few years back the rumour started that Dr Farooq Sattar has been killed. Pandemonium set in and was only quelled after major damage had already been done.
    “Why are people reacting this way?” a newly arrived foreigner asked me on the phone in a defiant tone.
    I thought back to a conversation I had with some Indian academics. They were contending that Bal Thackeray in his heyday held absolute power in Mumbai, never replicated by anyone before him or after.
    “No political leader in the world has even come close in controlling a city”, a Delhi University professor claimed.
    I told him that Karachi has some 20 million people, at least as large as Mumbai, and is shut down within minutes after a shut-down call by the MQM leadership. They were shocked in silence and conceded defeat. I told my foreign friend the same story and asked him to check the news. He was puzzled but then called back in a few minutes to say the same thing I have been hearing for years now and may hear for the times to come: Go home, now.

    Altaf Hussain (AFP)Altaf Hussain (AFP)

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    Yesterday, Pakistan lost two impeccable fighter pilots in a saddening crash in Karachi. The incident took the lives of Wing Commander Khurram Sammad and Squadron Leader Umair Elahi. As the Mirage fighter plane crashed in Baldia Town, the incident caused four other casualties. Yesterday, Pakistan also saw the self-proclaimed ‘Quaid’ of Sindh, also known as Altaf Hussain getting arrested for money laundering. The news of his arrest caused the usual stir in halting all life in Karachi. Roads were jammed, shops closed and basically all activities came to a standstill as the city sat in terror. The violence that comes with such news is nothing new. People of the city of lights were stranded in their homes, their offices and on roads. What bewildered me was the media and news reports of the day. All that the media watchdogs were concerned about was ‘bhai’s’ arrest. My questions to the people behind cameras and their producers are, what about our soldiers? Our men? Those men who have put in days and nights protecting our country? The same men who get little praise from you and lots of flak. Those men who were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. Why wasn’t their death given due coverage and reporting? Why? Are the lives of honest and meticulously dedicated people, who put themselves at risk each day to serve you inexpensive? Do you not give them the time of day because instead of ‘entertaining’ you, their lives revolve around protecting your right to live? What is it about these men that make them less heroic than those you chose to cover? Why do you not care? My questions are unending. Wing Commander Samad and Squadron Leader Elahi were two brilliantly trained, competent and efficient fighter pilots. They are two out of the barely 500 dedicated fighter pilots serving your great nation. They were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. Two families have lost their beloveds at the line of duty today; families that knew the risk of sending their sons to defend the country, but did so anyways. Or the wives who knew of the risks of their husbands’ jobs but nevertheless carried on sending them off with cheers and high spirits each morning. And don’t forget the children of these brave soldiers; the children who are too young to understand anything beyond the love of their fathers, too young to understand the fact that their fathers have lost their lives in a nation that is truly ungrateful. Today, these two families are damaged beyond repair. Had this crash taken place in a remote area, I wouldn’t have been this perturbed, but the fact that it took place in a populated area in Karachi and yet was not given due coverage infuriates me. Here’s an open statement of a patriotic Pakistani for the media – wake up and realise the importance of balanced journalism. Wake up and let your Pakistani citizens know of the loss of two of its sons. Wake up and give us news beats that are vital. Wake up and let us, Pakistanis, feel the pain of the sons of this soil living courageous lives to keep us safe. Because, trust me, that self-proclaimed ‘Quaid’ sitting abroad isn’t even blinking at your everyday plight as compared to those who spend their days and nights in daring occupations such as those serving in the Army, Air Force or Navy. Rest assured, the ‘Quaid’ may be let off and come back to your TV screens, but those honourable soldiers, those who embraced martyrdom yesterday, will not be back; give them their due respect.



    fighter pilotfighter pilot

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    I am often asked by my family and friends in Toronto about whether or not I would want to go back to Pakistan after completing my degree here. This question stimulates a range of mixed emotions in me; I think of a lot of factors ranging from the prevailing security situation to job security, job progression and of course my parents’ expectations from me. However, at the end of the day, I always tell them that I will go back. To this, I often hear people saying,

    “We will see after two years.”
    Or
    “Everybody goes through this patriotic phase, you’ll get over it.”
    Frankly speaking, I do not know what will happen in two years, after all, two years is a lot of time. But despite everything, I would always want to go back to Pakistan for a number of reasons. Firstly, Pakistan is my country, I belong there. Don’t get me wrong, Toronto is a beautiful city; from the Tim Hortons coffee shop just besides my house to the busy streets of downtown, everything is very organised and disciplined. The CN tower is magnificent and the Harbourfront looks absolutely mesmerising during the summer nights. But then again, all this cannot beat the wide, smooth phase 8 road, Doh Darya, Kharaders halwa puri, Javed’s nihari and various pakwans on Burns Road in Karachi. I cannot even explain how terrible the food here is especially for a guy like me who is used to dhaba chai and daal. Frankly, I believe I was built for Pakistan and there was a reason God chose Pakistan as my birth place. No matter how hard I try, I miss everything I love about my country every day. Karachi, my city, also known as city of lights is one of the dearest places in this world to me. From the perfectly round Tooba Mosque to Quaid’s Mazar, everything about the city makes me fall in love with it even more. All those places my friends and I have hung out at and our days on the streets, everything strengthens the sense of belonging to the city. How could I possibly forget the infamous beaches in Karachi? Sure, the beaches around here are gorgeous but nothing beats the excitement and sense of adventure at the beaches in Karachi. From the man selling lattoos that light up or man who urges you that ‘this particular camel ride’ will definitely be the best you ever had. What compels me to return to my country is that since the day I started understanding politics and corruption, I have blamed everyone involved in building my country’s structure; from politicians to businessmen, the army to the religious clerics, from the armed to the poor. But I never looked at what I could do for my country to fix it and alleviate its deplorable condition. That is why I plan on going back to Pakistan. I want to make an honest living in the city I love play my part is pulling my country of the dark hole it seems to have delved into. I want to come back and use my education to bring those who have brought nothing more than corruption, loot and extremism to country’s name, to justice. I want to make them apologise for having set their bad intentions on Pakistan. My parents are from Pakistan, including my grandparents who have lived most of their lives on Pakistani soil. I have lived in and loved that country all my life. The green and white flag defines me. I cannot separate myself from my identity and Pakistan is my identity. Despite its imperfections, I would move back to Pakistan in a heartbeat. Pakistan is filled with some of the most talented individuals in the world; just think of where we could take the nation if all of us, all those who studied abroad and locally at top universities, put our heads together. We would be a force to be reckoned with. We can be that force. Whatever damage is done is done, but the time to make repairs is now. The only way that change can be brought to Pakistan, in the true sense of the word, is us, the people. Yes, change, prosperity and progress will not come easy or fast, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either was it? I am coming back to my country, I am coming back to my Pakistan.

    canadacanada

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    The story developed like a gathering storm. First there was news of a security breach when some armed men cut through the fence from the ‘Fokker gate’ near the Ispahani Hanger, close to the Pehelwah Goth area which had already been cited as a security risk many times. Television audience was just trying to catch its breath over the horror unfolding in Taftan, on the Pak-Iran border where over 23 Shia zaireen lost their lives to a suicide attack, in a manner that has such a familiar, horrible ring to it. As if that breaking news was not heartbreaking enough, news about the security breach at the Karachi airport wherein Airport Security Force (ASF) check post was attacked splashed across the screens. First, it was that the ASF personnel had been injured and the intruders had come in. Then, the entire incident snowballed wherein they not only killed the ASF personnel, but a PIA employee in the Cargo terminal, as they moved rapidly deeper into the Karachi airport. The fire fights broke out, Rangers moved in to assist the ASF personnel, sounds of blasts and heavy weaponry rent the night air, and then there was news of the terrorists moving towards an international airliner on the runway, ready to depart, and stiff resistance in which they were able to hit an oil depot, sending out leaping flames billowing smoke. The media rushed into this chaotic scene, and added to the confusion by throwing in unconfirmed, unattributed, very speculative news, including that of aircraft on fire. That there can NEVER be any short cuts to experience was very clearly visible on a couple of channels who rushed their senior reporters. That is where some voices of sanity could be heard. The rest were proving prime examples of irresponsible journalism, which showed that the back-end support from the newsrooms was just as lacking in experiencing and ability to deal with such crisis. Troop movement was shown, until better sense prevailed, names of the fallen personnel were being aired, when protocol as well as sensitivity demands that the family be notified before the names are revealed. Bodies were shown, their condition graphically described, location of the mortuary as well as injured personnel was revealed too. This is all against the agreed media norms. When will the media learn? Despite being involved in media trainings, it is at times like these I feel it is a losing battle. Pakistan is supposed to be a ‘happening place’, not for all the right reasons, but even then, these happenings provide ample opportunity for the media to learn and improve itself, for practise is supposed to make you perfect, instead of being repetitively imperfect! However, that is whole different discourse. Let us talk about the ‪#‎KarachiAirportAttack. How is history repeated? Why was the name of the Mehran and Kamra airbase bandied about? And why has a huge sigh of relief been heaved simply because in the final analysis, the ‘assets’ remained safe, despite the loss of 16 precious lives? Is it because, as reports during this crisis indicated, prior warning had been received of an imminent attack on the Karachi Airport, and yet it happened? Just like in the case of Mehran and Kamra bases? If that warning had been given a week ago, what extra security measures had been taken? Was the alert level raised to match the threat level? Apparently not. The ‘jungle’ that is being mentioned across the perimeter fence from where one group of these terrorists intruded is not a Redwood forest – those are just bushes which in any case should not have been obscuring the view of any person on watch, if there was one. The area adjoining Pehelwan Goth should have extra security not just because of its proximity to a populated area, but because of the presence of the operational installations of the airport, like the RADAR, which are located there. They are much too easily accessible. Also, even after the end of the operation, the other entry point has not been mentioned, despite acknowledgement of the fact that the terrorists came from two different points. However, what bothers me, and takes me back to another incident at the Karachi Airport, way back in the mid 80’s, in September 1986 to be precise, when the PanAm Flight 73 was stormed by terrorists, who had entered the airport effortlessly, because they were wearing ASF uniforms, and were in a van with ASF markings. They were just saluted in, and went right up to the aircraft, and boarded it, taking the passengers hostage. The crew, following protocols, escaped from the cockpit so the terrorists were not able to get the plane to fly to a destination of their choice. The saga lasted for over two days, and had a violent and bloody end, with over 20 people killed, when Pakistani commandos stormed the plane and killed most of the hijackers, but not without loss of life to the passengers either. So is being in a uniform enough of a right of passage to even high security areas? Is this attitude that is the Achilles heel of our security set up? Why hasn’t the protocol of questioning persons of one’s own force trickled down through the forces that are manning the entry points? There must not be any exceptions to the rule, be they women, children or people in uniform – especially those wearing your own uniform. It is these lapses that have cost us dearly in the past, but we never seem to learn from them. These people entered not only wearing uniforms, which are not really all that hard to acquire, but came in with heavy weaponry. Irrespective of the origin of those weapons, which again is the subject of another contentious debate, the fact that so much armament crossed the security parameter of the largest civilian airport of the country is a scary prospect. One doesn’t want to take anything away from the round of congratulations taking place at the ‘end’ of the operation in which ASF, Rangers, Sindh Police and the Zarrar Force ‘cleared’ it of the terrorists within five hours. Three of the intruders blew themselves up, nine were taken down, none survived; so the who, when, what, why of the incident will need some other modes of answers. 14 others lost their lives, ASF, Police, Rangers, PIA and CAA staffers. 26 have suffered injuries of varying degrees and severity. Aircraft remained safe and just the cargo building suffered damage. But isn’t there another damage we need to assess amidst all the thumping of the chest and backslapping? The damage to an already fragile image of the efficacy of intelligence and security apparatus which is supposed to pre-empt, and prevent these incidents. Damage control and fire fighting takes the shine off the remarks about the ‘ability to deal with all manifestations of terrorism’ etcetera. Or is it this very question that is damaging?



    Karachi airport (AFP)Karachi airport (AFP)

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    As a pilot, I’m often quizzed endlessly in great depth, particularly by those fearful of flying about how safe it really is to fly. My answer is always the same - you are the safest after take-off, having had already traversed the most dangerous part of your journey, that is from your home to the airport and onto the aircraft. Nowhere does this statement hold truer than in the terrorist metropolis of Karachi. My sole apprehension on every flight, in and out of Karachi, pertains to getting from Defence to the airport, and vice versa. And Sunday night, my ultimate fear manifested itself.  In an attack similar to those conducted recently at PNS Mehran and Kamra Airbase at Karachis’ civilian airport, terrorists donning airline uniforms infiltrated the airport and wreaked havoc at Karachi’s one and only gateway. Following the attack, the media played its part and created confusion as well by making invalid statements and reporting misinformation in hopes to increase viewership and ratings. Hardly any emphasis was placed on exposing real facts and come morning, inadequate accurate information had emerged. So far all we know is that uniformed terrorists infiltrated the old terminal through the Fokker/Chairman gate, which is the entrance to the national airline’s maintenance facilities immediately opposite the airlines headquarter. Secured by a few Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel, a metal detector and an x-ray machine with barely 50 metres between the roadside and airside, this entrance possesses the least number of obstacles for an infiltrator. The entrance is an open doorway without even the protection of a physical door. Since this doorway does not lie in the path of the travelling public, it has been overlooked by the ASF as a serious security threat. Anyone from the janitor to the paan waala will tell you that this entrance is the most vulnerable access point. I recall being surprised at the lack of security and proximity to the roadside this entrance posed the first time I traversed it. The terrorists allegedly fought past the ASF personnel and were able to move large amounts of munitions inside the premises thereafter. The damage they inflicted therein is irrelevant to this discussion and the entire attack seems to have been accounted for by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as reciprocation to the army’s air strikes in North Waziristan. Since tens of thousands of us pass through this very airport, this attack, in particular, has touched us personally and as a nation we are all wondering how it can be so easy to infiltrate and destroy such a fortified strategic asset. Similar questions were asked by the world post 9/11. How could all that security, screening, intelligence and multi-layered protection have been bypassed so easily?  And in both situations, the answer is the same – it all boils down to the mind-set of the defenders, in this case the ASF. To understand the situation, let’s look at the current airport security and how it evolved into this supposed modern high level of impenetrability. The ASF was established in 1976, for protection of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), but was moved to the auspices of the defence department in 1984. The CAA, which administers and regulates (a contradiction in itself) airports in the country, collects billions of rupees from travellers, airlines that visit and traverse the airports and airspace, advertisers and countless others. It is hailed as one of the wealthiest departments of the government. Yet, its facilities are archaic and aviation professionals regard the lack of adequate facilities as contributory to the recent aviation catastrophes in the country. Similarly, the ASF is relatively poorly equipped and struggles to accomplish its mission to secure airports nationwide, routinely coming under attack in areas such as Peshawar and Balochistan. Simple and very visible areas of security such as airport access points are usually wide open doorways. They are sometimes ‘guarded’ by a single ASF member who visually identifies a familiar uniform and rarely checks for any identification card (which in itself can easily be reproduced by a 12-year-old with a scanner and a printer). Thousands of protocol passes are also issued by the CAA and ASF every year to facilitate the passage of VIPs and wearers of such passes do not even require a uniform to gain access. They simply display the said piece of laminated, stamped paper. Internationally, airport access points are closed and not so easily duplicable electronic systems are required to gain access. The so-called bomb detectors, or toy remote control antennas as my three-year-old calls them, cannot distinguish between a smart phone and a weapon, and have been proven useless by numerous agencies. Yet, we continue to deploy them nationwide. The CAA and ASF should have invested heavily in electronic access systems and border style x-ray explosive detectors through which the entire vehicle can pass and be scanned. But these are really all just deterrents and one cannot help but recall the hijacking of a PIA F-27 aircraft where it was the ASF guard who, for a few thousand rupees, provided the hijacker with the weapon he used. If weapons can be smuggled into maximum security prisons, how can an airport with millions of travellers and tonnes of baggage passing through it be made 100% secure? No, it is this belief in the impossible that has got us to this point. But let us examine how we got here. In the early days of modern aviation, circa 50s to 60s, terrorism hadn’t been invented and there were no body scans or x- rays. Passengers travelled freely and the prevalent mind-set was one of making the aircraft safer. This changed drastically in the 70s and 80s, also known as the golden age of hijacking when dozens of aircraft were hijacked by everyone from frustrated ticket sales agents to religious extremists. During this period, the era of airport security evolved and, body and baggage searches, x-ray machines and metal detectors were slowly deployed across the globe. Pakistan had its fair share of hijackings, with both PIA and international airlines the likes of Pan Am being hijacked at Karachi. The security mind-set migrated to cater to the hijacker/bomber and tactics, and deterrents devised accordingly. Over time, it was generally assumed that an attack on an airliner would come in this form and so it was on that fateful day in September that the world was rocked when multiple aircrafts were hijacked to be flown into the Twin Towers. The only weapon the hijackers had was their minds and determination, something no deterrent system or x-ray machine could ever detect. Even today, it is widely acknowledged that an attack such as 9/11 would go undetected. It just so happened that the 9/11 hijackers managed to smuggle cutters on-board. However, these were irrelevant to the hijackings and a weapon could have been fashioned from anything on-board, from cutlery to aircraft parts. Yet, the new mind-set emerged to detect hidden weapons and anything from toothpaste to a child’s toy gun was considered dangerous. Yet, the real danger, the element of surprise and the changing mind-set of the enemy was not acknowledged. Billions of travellers’ dollars are spent separating the traveller from his perfume, whilst the terrorists simply adapted to these measures and formed a new method of attack, such as what we witnessed the other night. Most ironically, pilots are also searched and are not allowed to carry a screwdriver or butter knife on-board. However, there is a two feet serrated axe at their disposal, the cutlery on-board is often metallic and the ultimate weapon, the airplane itself is entrusted to them. This then demonstrates our inability to adapt and the travelling public’s disposition to accept anything in the name of security, no matter how illogical. In Pakistan, intelligence is supreme and has access to unlimited resources; yet we cannot pre-empt an attack identical to the two recently carried out? Even a day after the attack, chaos ensued as multiple agencies tried to decipher the security situation and struggled to give the all clear. Such multi-agency responses require better coordination and a system must be established that places control and response in capable and deployable hands. The only real security we have is to adapt like the terrorist, which can only be done through intelligence gathering and by accepting that the enemy is capable of anything. Until we do not acknowledge the need to start searching for the wielder of the weapons, rather than the weapons themselves as we currently do, we have little chance against such extremists and their imaginations. [poll id="343"]



    Karachi airport attack Reuters-Karachi airport attack Reuters-

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  • 06/10/14--04:32: Sleeping with the enemy
  • Today, on June 10, 2014, Pakistan has officially become the biggest joke in the world. This is the second attack to have taken place, one at and one near the largest airports in the country. It came after an emotional morning in which the world was informed that bodies of seven people, remnants of the first attack, who were stuck inside the cold storage area, were retrieved. This, of course, only happened when the media boxed the eardrums of every politician it could reach. Before that... well before that we were asleep. We did wake up though. For a few hours during the first attack and called it a day as soon as we thought the situation was under control. A furious battle took place on the runway, terrorists were killed and then we scanned the area, ‘to our satisfaction’; comfortable with our accomplishments, we settled down into our regular routine again. I mean, who thinks about survivors after the incident takes place, right? After a terrorist attack of this magnitude, where we came out the obvious ‘winners’, why would we need to check every nook and corner of the airport to make sure no sneaky little terrorist was left behind. Since we didn’t do that, we obviously would not think we’ve left survivors, our own citizens, those who worked AT the airport, behind. What an insult. Please. Pakistan knows how to do a clean sweep. Anyhow, after hours and hours of the victims calling family members, them pleading with the authorities and finally the ‘rescue efforts’, we were able to get the bodies out. Unfortunately, and predictably, by this time, they were burnt beyond recognition. Hope died. Some stated that the victims had bullet wounds and may have died due to those. That’s good enough. Yup. We can settle for that. So what if they took over 24hours to start trying to get them out? The fact that there were bullet wounds means they were probably dead anyway, right? Phew, that’s a load of our conscience. We might as well settle for something that will help us sleep better at night. Funnily enough, the one thing we are taught in school, when preparing for the real world is not to settle. Don’t become comfortable, they would say. Success comes to those who never believe they have done enough; they strive for more, for bigger and better. Isn’t that why nations prosper? They don’t become comfortable with the level of success or development or progress they have achieved; the wheels of hard work and determination keep moving. Don’t set a goal for yourself, but don’t stop yourself from touching the sky. The sky’s the limit. But in Pakistan – we settle. We settle for the poverty thrust upon on us. We settle for honour killings. We settle for child marriages. We settle for corrupt politicians. We settle for incompetent security forces. We settle for Pakistani Christians being persecuted. We settle for forceful conversion of Pakistani Hindus. We settle for Shia pilgrims being brutally murdered and we settle for terrorism thriving in our airports and backyards. Yes, we settle. We squirm, plead and cry but we settle. We give in. We don’t forgive, but we forget. Sunday night, our airport was attacked; the biggest airport in the country. You know why? Because we settled for an airport like Jinnah International Karachi. You think it’s the fault of the security forces present there? No. It’s not. They did their job. They secured the area. They settled for mediocre ammunition, no bullet proof jackets and crappy salary because you and I settled for that airport. We settled for the second rate security measures because we believe we have done enough. We settled for the fake bomb-detecting device that wasn’t able to detect the rocket launchers that were used last night. Obviously, they had been covered in an invisibility cloak, because we hadn’t managed to see it until much later either. We settled for security forces reaching the site of attack an hour later because they were busy performing protocol duties with the so-called VIPs of this nation. We settled for 12 hours of war at our airport. That same night Shia pilgrims were targeted. Did we act up? Did you get off that couch of yours and demand resignations? Did you take to the streets? Of course not. That’s not convenient. That’s not comfortable. We sat back, whispered a few words of condolences, shock and anger, and then we settled our backsides back in that warm spot we had somehow managed to jump out of for a few seconds. Are you surprised that this attack took place? Think about it. Close your eyes and visualise that airport. Visualise how many times you have seen tiny little security lapses. Did you report that lapse? Of course not. It’s not your responsibility. Why would you? Why should you have to get out of your comfort zone and demand the security be heightened? It doesn’t affect you anyway, it’s not like you travel that much, right? It doesn’t affect you anyway because you aren’t Shia, right? It doesn’t affect you because you pay the security forces to go out there, without bulletproof jackets and mediocre ammunition to protect you, right? It’s not like you are in the line of fire. You are personally affected by nothing. We settled for negotiations and look what that brought us? We settled for this government and look what that brought us? We settled for embarrassing security measures and today, yet again, we were attacked. Whether it was one person or an army of 300, the question is why they had the guts to do that. Why did they have the courage to stand up to security personnel yet again? Why did we allow Pakistan to become to laid-back? Why? Yesterday, our flag used to flutter in the midst of an independent Pakistan. Today, it is used to cover the bodies of our dead citizens. And we’re okay with it. Yesterday, we did not ask any questions. We, the citizens of Pakistan, did nothing but wait for media updates. We didn’t take to the streets, we didn’t protest, we didn’t demand resignations and we didn’t demand justice. So why ask now? Don’t demand change, Pakistan. You don’t know what it means. You don’t know how to achieve change. You don’t know how to value human life. You don’t know how to value independence. Today, once more, let’s just settle. Today, we slept with the enemy - failure. We settled, yet again and NOTHING is going to change!



    Karachi airport- graphicKarachi airport- graphic

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  • 06/10/14--06:48: It’s our own damn fault!
  • After an attack on Jinnah International Airport just two days ago, you would think we have some practice in dealing with the situation. We don’t; in fact, we just keep getting better at failure. The second attack takes place at the ASF training camp, which is in close proximity to the high-alert, already bruised airport. The events that followed post breaking the news were something to see, perhaps as a training manual for What-Not-To-Do-In-An-Emergency-For-The-Second-Time. Within minutes you felt like you were actually there as reporters tried to take us foot by foot with the commandos holding weapons. It began with a few ASF officers taking positions with their guns behind rocks, on what seemed to be a vast plot, leading to the Pehlwan Goth slum. You could hear gunfire provide background to the voice of the reporter, as the cameraman accompanied him in the danger zone. Not only was the entire country getting a good view of an on-going operation, the assailants would be daft to refuse such a steady stream of sensitive information. During the coverage, each reporter tried to give extra information, as one reporter on a private news channel said,

    “The troops are moving ahead towards the colony to find the culprits.”
    I couldn’t help but wonder what they would do in case a bullet hit a soldier during live coverage, or even worse if it hit the reporter. As a journalist, albeit not a field reporter, this is neither an example of heroic nor sane reporting. Journalists, media vans and excited onlookers should be cleared from sensitive areas to a safer place. Additionally, media houses need signs placed around the newsroom,
    “Do not shove a mic in the face of a commando during at attack, EVER” for obvious reasons.
    https://twitter.com/spopalzai/status/476275350067245057 As combat action stood as backdrop, inevitable confusion ensued as each agency’s statement battled with another’s at ironic speed. While ASF claimed their academy had been attacked, DG Rangers telephoned Chaudhry Nisar to refute the claims and call it a,
    Ghalat fehmi” (Misunderstanding)
    Sindh information minister Sharjeel Memon said it was not a major accident but that terrorists opened “aerial fire”. ASF spokesperson, Colonel Tahir Ali, stated two terrorists attempted the attack, whereas channels reported anywhere between four to eight assailants. And so, you can understand my confusion when I learnt of the subsequent arrests made. If the attacks didn’t happen, who and what are these arrests? We didn’t learn the right procedure for shutting down and reopening an international airport. The airport was once again sealed when the combat began, only to resume activity with the hour. Last night’s premature decision to resume activity at the airport while seven employees burned in a cold storage building has taught us nothing. While the federal government should immediately take responsibility for the unnecessary loss of life, recovery after an operation must be a priority. If we are to assume it was a case of terrorist aerial firing (a new style of theirs perhaps), how could the residents of Pehlwan Goth be ignored? With a thunderous round of crossfire, it’s a miracle no one appears to be hurt. Maybe we’ll find out 26 hours later. If I am to move past to our glorious record of failure, there are at least two things that weren’t repeated post attack number two which need to be given credit and a slow-clap for. 1) Journalist heroes with mass following did not blow more buildings using their imagination, as Dr Shahid Masood’s eight-plane idea last night. Thanks to @Fauji_Tweets, the world was soon in on the (now deleted) journalistic horror. https://twitter.com/fauji_tweets/status/475925677561376768 2) Civilian journalists at least tried to minimise the damage by not tweeting live from Pehlwan Goth, mid-action, as some did yesterday. Perhaps it was due to the lack of Twitterati in the area, but it was nice not to see people giving up-to-date pointers on the latest security strategy. Last night’s gem: https://twitter.com/saim_riz/status/475725041414328321 I asked someone who he was to blame for the last two days of mania if he had the chance, for which he asked three minutes. Maybe it was an attempt to gather courage for the words or for the time it takes for conspiracy to settle in, either way, “security forces” came the reply. To my relief, it was not directly for the attacks but for the negligence in predicting such an attack was to take place. Some said the government is to blame, while others twisted it in strange ways to link it with Imran Khan. Though some like me see it straight,
    “It’s our own damn fault.”


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    A few days ago, I came across a story of a US-based Pakistani driver, Raja Naeem, who was seen protesting against the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, outside City Hall in St Louis, US, along with two dozen other taxi drivers. The reason being; he felt that he was being deprived of his right to wear his ‘religious dress’ during work hours. Naeem has also filed a case against the taxi commission for discriminating against him and not letting him fulfil his ‘religious obligations’. Although I believe Naeem has all the right in the world to protest and follow his religion, what I failed to understand was the correlation between wearing a particular uniform to work and fulfilling his religious duties. How exactly does that make any sense? It is incredibly exasperating to assume that faith, or religion, is bound by the sort of clothes you wear to work and just goes to show the lack of understanding we have of our religion. As far as the limited knowledge of Islam I possess, I believe if you are covered, in accordance with the prescribed parameters of religion, you are good to go. I do not believe to have heard anything that implies that Muslims are prohibited from wearing anything but a shalwar kameez to be able to pray. In fact, in many other Muslim countries, there is no such thing as the shalwar kameez! Are their prayers less effective than ours then? A dress code is important and promotes equality at the workplace and religion has nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we tend to believe that Islam is all about the dress one wears or the beard one grows or the hijab one dons. They forget that religion is personal; it’s what is on the inside that matters, not the sort of dress you wear. It is your intention that truly counts. In Pakistan, 90% of the population dresses in shalwar kameez, a traditional dress. Do they do this because they are all Muslims? What about the Pakistani Christians, Pakistan Hindus, Parsis and foreigners who come visit the country? Lots of you will argue that it is the right of the taxi driver to protest against the taxi commission, but just think for one second, would Pakistan allow a priest to wear clerical clothing or a cassock with a cross around his neck and drive a public taxi? Would we not identify him as a Christian? Would he not become vulnerable to attacks? Why would any workplace want to risk the life or safety of their workers? Do the students in Pakistan not wear a uniform to school? Those are not shalwar kameezs, is there a problem there? Can they not pray? Dress codes promote discipline, equality and uniformity; what is wrong with that? It is a measure to prevent discrimination of any kind. The reason for which the commission made a uniform obligatory is to make it easier to identify and distinguish between licensed and unlicensed drivers; a safety measure installed to ensure no reckless driving and safer travels. The taxi commission, after consultation from an imam of a local mosque, they allowed the driver a concession; they permitted him to wear a long white shirt with a black trouser. Unfortunately, even this was not good enough for Naeem, as this still, somehow, affected him while undertaking his ‘religious duties’. I fail to understand his point of view. My request to people like Naeem is this: take some time out to understand what your actions are leading to; not only are you killing Pakistan’s image in the international arena, you are trying to show Islam as an inflexible religion around the globe which is not true! In this case, the driver accused the taxi commission of discriminating against him, by not permitting him to dress according to his ‘religious parameters’. But from the way I see it, discrimination lies in the driver’s decision to not follow the code and to separate himself from rest of the pack – just because he has a different religion. This post originally appeared here.



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    I promise this blog will not bash Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). My stance on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is extremely straightforward. I strongly feel there is no room for negotiations because there is simply no middle ground. There is nowhere that the TTP can be met halfway. They have two very clear demands – Pakistan must break off all relations with the United States and Pakistan must accept their version of Shariah law. The first demand might be a matter of foreign policy, but the second is a matter of lunacy. How would these negotiations even go about? What we can do is ban music but can’t ban women from driving cars? There are so many aspects to their version that we really can’t apply in the 21st century. And let’s not forget that the TTP feels all minorities from Shias to Ahmadis to Hindus to Christians, all are targets. Now, will we give up a piece of our country and gift it to TTP to rule so that they may impose their practices openly on a few Pakistanis before moving south more than they have already? Another reason why it is impossible to maintain that middle ground is because TTP is unreasonable and not trustworthy. We have seen them, time and again, dishonour peace deals by using that time to consolidate, regroup and then strike back. Regardless, what is truly beyond reason is that these are the same people that have openly and boastfully admitted killing thousands of our innocent men, women and children. They have beheaded our brave soldiers and attacked hospitals, schools, shrines and places of worship. I, for one, can never come to terms with what they have already done or even consider dialogue – as the thought is cowardly and treasonous. The TTP is a force that must be crushed, not appeased. #FlightTerrorism On June 8, 2014, when the entire world’s attention was on Pakistan, since Jinnah International Airport was in Karachi, the largest airport of Pakistan in the largest city in Pakistan, was under attack, I realised, and some of my dearest friends agreed, that we were done discussing the issue in drawing rooms. I would consider myself wajib-ul-qatal if I fail to mention my Shiite brothers and sisters that were killed the same day by terrorist outfits. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Citizens of Pakistan Facebook Page[/caption] A day after the attacks, we created an initiative called #FlightTerrorism and our aim was to non-politically pressurise the government to stop negotiating and take stronger action against all those that have been found responsible for aiding, abetting and committing terrorism, may it be the TTP or any other illegal organisation. It is important to mention that this was more my brilliant and dynamic friends than me. The demand is simple: We do not want the government to consider any organisation, involved in terrorism, as Pakistani or as a stakeholder in Pakistan’s matters. We plead the people of Pakistan to put aside religious differences, sectarian issues and ethnic rivalries, and come together as ‘citizens of Pakistan, to fight for a unified and secular country. The protest In a matter of days (four, to be exact) we organised a vigil in honour of those who have lost their lives to terrorist acts, especially in the June 8 attacks, and what a demonstration it was. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Citizens of Pakistan Facebook Page[/caption] We were basically just a bunch of kids (some of us extremely tired and sleep deprived) who woke up on a Saturday afternoon, made some banners and placards with antiterrorism slogans and slogans supporting our brave armed forces, rented a mobile speaker system to play music, and decided to hang out at Do Talwar Chowrangi till Maghrib. The feelings I had that day were magical! We were singing Jazba Junoon, asking people to join us by calling out to those in the cars around us; we were fighting terrorism, in our own, small way. Important to mention here is that no roads were blocked and nothing disrupted the traffic or the daily routine in that area. By Maghrib, after a number of people – including women, children and families – had come and gone and demonstrated with us, we concluded the event by attempting to light candles (failed miserably), sang the national anthem, observed a moment of silence for the brave, and obviously yelled out a few ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’ chants. They always do the trick. The encouragement While it was great having people we didn’t know join us and unite for a common cause, it was a little disheartening to realise that a lot of people we expected to see were a no-show. A lot of people see protests or demonstrations as pointless, and it may be valid, but in situations where there is little an ordinary citizen can do, such steps, in my opinion, can be very important. When people step out of their houses and on to the streets to protest, the government sees that and realises that the public is demanding accountability. In my opinion, what we did was absolutely necessary because the government needs to know that we are watching and we will hold them accountable. Even for the protestors, I am sure this demonstration reminded them of how much they love their country; it definitely reminded me and also made me realise that I have duties as a citizen and I need to fulfil them. Every little thing counts. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Citizens of Pakistan Facebook Page[/caption] The success of our demonstration should not be measured in numbers. Passers-by gave us a lot of encouragement and responded well to the demonstration. People read our signs, honked at us and gave us the ‘thumbs up’, rolled their windows down and told us they were proud of us. Many got off and joined us. The message had reached, the people had noticed and we had made our point. That’s how I know we were successful. The indifference While these activities made me ecstatic, I felt quite the opposite the night before. In trying to spread the word, I started to send private Facebook messages to friends on my list. I did a lot of copy pasting and sent a lot of messages – and I mean a lot! Sadly all the messages I sent were ignored. I can’t lie. It did hurt. During the protest, I tweeted everyone, from Shahid Afridi to Bilawal Bhutto to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, to let them know what we were up to. Some people were very kind and responded, others didn’t. Actually, a majority did not. Elie Wiesel once said that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference. Disagree with me, argue with me, attempt to change my mind, but please do not ignore me. One of the reasons behind the indifference could be that many of us argue (as I mentioned above) that protests take us nowhere. We are indifferent. We refuse to do anything (Shout out to Imran Khan for making people falsely believe in change and then destroying their faith in patriotism. I was lying. Do you think I can do anything without bashing PTI?) A better tomorrow Anyhow, we have become apathetic and are anything but resilient. Stubborn maybe, but not resilient, and this is extremely toxic as future prospects look extremely dim with a youth that is desensitised and hopeless. But I’m hoping things will change now. I’m hoping that due to our protest, people will realise that little steps matter; that, as citizens, we have a few ways to contribute and we should do what we can. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Citizens of Pakistan Facebook Page[/caption] My request to my countrymen is for them to realise that, as citizens of this beautiful country, we need to step up and say something about the state of our affairs. Our country needs us and it is time to accept our responsibility as citizens and do something about it. The state has not been protecting us, might not be doing the best job, but now it is our time to hold ourselves accountable for being quiet for too long. Enough is enough! It is time to take back what is drenched in the blood of our ancestors! It is time to support our brave men and women in uniform! It is time to take back our country! Pakistan Zindabad! Pak Fauj Zindabad! Zarb-e-Azb Zindabad!



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    Over 100,000 people poured into the twin cities to welcome the internationally acclaimed cleric and prominent political figure, Dr Tahirul Qadri. The Benazir Bhutto International airport, one of the most vulnerable airports in the country, has been on high alert for some time now, due to the fear of an insurgency attack.  Islamabad’s airport has an extremely limited amount of space to accommodate passengers; with very little parking space and hyped up security, vehicles normally have to queue up outside the airport territory and end up blocking two general lanes of the main road leading to the airport which leads to a lot of commotion. This, in itself, becomes a major security concern. With such a situation, no sane local government would allow an important public figure to land in the area, become vulnerable to open threats and be the cause of added disturbance. Yes, in Dr Qadri’s case, the government may have had their own agenda to prevent him from landing in Islamabad. Whatever the case may be, Dr Qadri resides in Lahore and has a large following in all major cities, especially Lahore and Karachi. The airports, in both these cities, are located on the outskirts of the city and have the capacity to accommodate larger crowds. In light of that, wouldn’t it have been easier for Dr Qadri’s followers to come and welcome him in either Lahore or Karachi? But, despite knowing the limitation of the airport, Dr Qadri chose to land in Islamabad. Why? Before he embarked the plane from London, Dr Qadri stated clearly that he did not intend to have any public gathering or sit-ins in Islamabad, nor did he have any intention to provoke his followers to be violent. Why, then, did he choose Islamabad, knowing that it could turn ugly there if the situation is mishandled even the slightest bit? His speeches, too, are full of contradictions. At one point, he addressed the establishment of the country and said that he supported their agenda and stood by them. But, at the same time, he also stated that if he were killed during his visit to Pakistan, his followers must not stop until the revolution has taken place – a revolution which calls for destabilising the present government. On the face of it, it seems Dr Qadri did in fact plan to demonstrate public strength in Islamabad and intended to travel to Lahore via the historic GT Road, accompanied by hoards of his followers. Unfortunately for him, his plan was quickly discovered and foiled. But how, if at all, would such a demonstration have benefitted the local people? He may have travelled business class from London to Islamabad via Dubai, but travelling via road, on a 282-kilometre-long journey, accompanied by multiple cars and security personnel would only have resulted in a colossal wastage of tax-payer money. He should have weighed the practical implications of such a ‘grand entrance’. At the same time, Dr Qadri’s decision to stay on the plane until enough ‘security’ was granted to him was not only detrimental to Pakistan’s image globally, but also acted as a burden on those passengers who were to board the same flight to return to Dubai. After the entire fiasco, there are passengers still waiting at the airport, not knowing whether they will be able to fly to their destinations today or not. The Lahore airport was supposed to operate at least 10 domestic flights, along with another 14 international ones to Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East. All these flights have been delayed, cancelled or re-routed to other nearby airports. Around 2000 passengers, foreigners included, have been affected due to Dr Qadri’s actions. The government had taken all necessary precautionary measures, which included blocking roads, banning cellular services and also considered disconnecting social media services temporarily, just so that the political figure could get home safely. Yet, Dr Qadri seemed to have taken it upon himself to single-handedly make the aviation sector suffer, not only in terms of monetary losses but also with their reputation. What if the international airline, on which Dr Qadri was aboard, had threatened to discontinue its flights to Pakistan? This would have been the second international airline to discontinue its operations in the country. But why would that bother Dr Qadri? He doesn’t live in Pakistan, so why would it bother him how Pakistan or its image suffers? He is more inclined on bringing a ‘revolution’ to ‘uplift’ Pakistan’s image. Let us all be a little realistic and understand that whatever it’s downsides, Pakistan is a sovereign state, and no one has the right to challenge its rit. I do not, in any way, advocate that the government’s decision to divert the plane was right, but with the mindset present in the ruling elite, like Dr Qadri, this is the best the government could have done to handle the situation. The least we can do is side by the presiding government, after all, we voted these guys in, didn’t we?



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    It is said that things are not always the same on the inside as they may seem on the outside. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The same phrase can be said for Lyari’s current situation. Lyari is one of the oldest and most densely populated areas of Karachi, where people belonging from different races and ethnicities have been living together for years. However, people need to understand that Lyari’s real identity has been manipulated and the area is wrongly presented as a symbol of terror and fear. It is not as bad as it is portrayed by the media or discussed during dinner gatherings. In order to realise the normalcy in Lyari, one must visit the locality, especially while the world’s most watched event, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is underway. Millions of miles away, Lyari is seen to be portraying a mini Brazil of its own, with every nook and corner of every street decorated with colourful flags of different football teams and pictures of famous football players. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448"] Photo: AFP[/caption] Most of us have heard of areas in Lyari like Kalakot, Baghdadi, Chakiwara and the likes, due to the many operations that have taken place there, but rarely have we ever heard of Football Chowk, Usman Park, Gabol Park, Peoples Stadium, Lyari Football Ground, Eidgah Ground and many similar places. At night, people gather at these grounds to watch the screening of the matches where big screens have been installed for people to come support their favourite teams in action. You get to see fans waving their favourite team’s flags, wearing jerseys of their favourite players with flags of their teams painted on their faces. One can say that they have a special traditional style and distinct culture. They start dancing on the echo of a special type of instrument, which is quite famous there. Every single goal sends them into an enthusiastic frenzy, especially if scored by their favourite team. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448"] Photo: AFP[/caption] Brazil is an all-time favourite there, with motorbikes, houses and offices covered in Brazil’s flags. Germany, Portugal and Argentina follow suit. In terms of players, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are liked the most; so much so that you even see young fans sporting Ronaldo’s signature hair style. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448"] Photo: AFP[/caption] The extent of their love for this sport can be judged by the fact that, even before the match between Brazil and Mexico started, a rally was arranged without the supervision or inclusion of any political party, where the supporters danced and hooted for their favourite teams. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448"] Photo: AFP[/caption] This under-privileged and misunderstood area is amazingly talented. Not only in football but the people of Lyari are equally talented in other sports as well, like cricket, cycling, donkey cart race, karate, boxing and various others. One will find many sports clubs and gymnasiums that are operated without any government assistance, where sportsmen train themselves. That is the reason there are a whole lot of sportsmen that have emerged from Lyari and the kind of enthusiasm these people have for sports is palpable. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone said that the greatest sportsmen came from Lyari. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448"] Photo: AFP[/caption] I know that when you hear the word Lyari, the first few things to pop into your mind are civil war, thugs, gang wars, dangerous but this was my attempt to change the way Lyari is thought about. There are places and people who have hidden talents that don’t meet the eye, but if you search hard enough, you will realise that even a place like Lyari is gifted. It is so much more than just gang wars, guns and terrorism. Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself, visit the streets of the area and see how the people over there are full of life. Read the original Urdu version of this blog here.



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    Recently, I had to pay a visit to the Karachi Intermediate Board of Education in North Nazimabad because I had lost my original Intermediate admit and enrolment card, without which my Intermediate Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) could not be issued. In other words, I knew that I was bound to suffer that day at the hands of inept and inconsiderate government workers. I took a day off from work to run my errand and headed towards the Karachi Board Office, where numerous students were sitting on the side-path, waiting for the administration office to open. Apparently, mornings at the Karachi Board Office begin around 10:30am. What’s more is that once these officers do decide to show up, they cannot be found in their seats. Upon inquiry, you’re told that they are gone for a tea break, which can stretch on for an hour or so, very easily. Hence, when I reached, the officer who was supposed to handle my case was gone on one such tea break. While I waited for him, I noticed the cracked walls covered in spray paint with names of different political groups and their affiliations wall-chalked on them. At no point did this place seem like a ‘prestigious’ education board. Had it not been for the signpost outside the boundary, the board office would have been indistinguishable as a government building. After what felt like an eternity, the officers returned to their respective offices and, begrudgingly, began attending to our queries. The board office follows an intricate (read: mindboggling) system of paperwork, very little of which is done with the officers themselves. Students are made to move from one window to another, filling up a variety of forms for only God knows what. These forms are supposed to be submitted to different offices with many counters. There were multiple times when I found myself standing in the middle of all the fiasco, not really sure where to go. A few times I even got lost and ended up somewhere entirely different than where I was supposed to be. Finally, after getting lost for the nth time, I reached the appropriate counter from where I was supposed to get my documents duplicated. However, my troubles were far from over. At the counter before me were two middle-aged women, who were busy numbering their papers. I stood there and waited for them to notice that someone else was standing behind them, so that they might hurry. But that did not happen. Instead, I had to wait behind there while they debated on how Asr-e-Shireen has lost its taste, particularly on how their gulab jamuns are no longer as soft as they used to be. I could not help but interrupt this oh-so-important conversation so I could get out of this place. After receiving glaring looks from them, I was finally at the counter. The officers looked at me, skimmed through my file and handed me another form. Then, he told me to get it signed from the room next door, where three men were busy indulging themselves in their chana chaat party. All I wanted was to get the forms signed and be done with the process but the young assistant at their office asked me to wait outside, while the three were done with their spicy treat. Frustrated and annoyed, I thought to myself if this is how things actually worked in the government sector? Where the public waits while government officers fill their tummies. Within a few hours, the inevitable lunch break began. And no, they were not done with their chaat till then. I should inform you here that a government official’s lunch break is no ordinary one; it has a series of underlying stages. It starts with a break for Zuhr prayers and catch-up sessions with fellow employees from other offices, followed by reading the daily newspaper. And then, eventually, they move towards the actual lunch. This takes up a good two hours. To be honest, I kept cursing myself throughout this ordeal for losing my original documents. I guess this was my punishment. However, the plunder and insensitivity that was rampant in these offices bothered me greatly. Students had been waiting there for hours; some had come in early morning with the hopes of getting their work done sooner. Yet, their problems remained unsolved. This behaviour by the officers gave away a clear message. If you want to get your work done, you better start bribing or wooing them with gifts. In current times, where inflation rates are rising exponentially, these employees have understood how to make matters work for them. So what, if the average citizen suffers as a result? As long as there is money flowing into their pockets, they are fine with what they are doing. My worry is what happened to the sanctity of halal earnings? How do these employees sleep at night, knowing about the amount of bribes they have taken? Does their conscience not force guilt into their hearts? Employment free from corruption and nepotism, for all, is a priority concern for Pakistan. The ministry of labour and manpower should conduct a periodic assessment of the current employment situation in the country. Countries experience progress and development principally through the work that they do. It is not just about having a job but the quality of employment that provides basic rights to services and a voice in decisions that affects the community.



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    Whenever I see her, her eyes haunt me. The sadness in them is unspeakable and the horrors of her life, incomprehensible. She is young and beautiful yet her heart yearns for a minute of peace and happiness. She is Sarah*, a married girl who lives with her in-laws. Sarah married into a family of four sisters where her husband was the only son. The torture began almost immediately. Her three unmarried sisters-in-law cannot stand the very sight of her. They never speak a kind word to her, and always address her with stern and blank expressions on their faces. The very faces that smile at everyone else freeze at the sight of Sarah. When the family attends marriages and other events, Sarah is left behind. Although she is expected to be present before their eyes at all times (lest she retreats to her bedroom to rest), she is not allowed to participate in conversations. When she enters the room, the conversation halts and all eyes receive her with disdain. One particular evening, some guests were over, and Sarah’s mother-in-law and sisters-in-law ridiculed her cooking in front of them, leaving her red faced. But how could she ever confront them for the insult? How dare she? Stern eyes watch Sarah’s every move. She is not allowed to stay in her bedroom, go out alone with her husband or visit her parents. At meal times, her plate is examined for the amount of food on it. A few months into the wedding, Sarah became pregnant and this gave her immense relief, for she felt that perhaps an innocent new life would bring forth kindness and acceptance from her in-laws. But things seemed only to get worse. She was not shown any mercy in the first gruelling months. Her immense nausea was regarded as irritating, “a drama” and ignored. She had to continue performing the household chores. Although a maid came in the mornings to clean the house, she was instructed not to clean Sarah’s room. In the agonising, humid summer of Karachi, Sarah had to seek permission from her mother-in-law even if she wanted to turn on the air conditioner in her bedroom, which she was often denied. The months passed and one day Sarah felt an excruciating pain in her abdomen. She mustered the courage to inform her mother-in-law of the pain, only to be brushed off. By evening the pain had increased and she observed bleeding. Her husband took her to a clinic nearby where, to their horror, they were informed that Sarah had miscarried the baby. After this incident, Sarah was sent to her mother’s house for a few months because the in-laws feared the neighbourhood would associate the miscarriage with their openly torturous behaviour towards her. When things hushed down, Sarah returned and so did the cruelty from her in-laws, with a vengeance. Sarah comes from a lower middle class family. She must make the marriage work. She must suffer, day in and day out, by the very people who are supposed to be her ‘new’ family – people who are unbelievably nice with everyone else, except with their own brother’s wife. Sarah’s is a true story. My question to you all is this: when we love our own daughters with our heart and soul, how can we hate another’s daughter to such an extreme? Such cruel behaviour exists in many households across the country, more so with females hailing from weaker families. When and how will things change? And before you nod your heads in agreement or shake them in horror, look around yourself. Is there a Sarah in your house as well? *Names have been changed to protect identities



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    In hindsight, I suppose we should have seen it coming. Karachi had been a great city, once called the Queen of the East, but for a long time now it had become unlivable, given the daily killings, terrorist attacks, the rampant looting of pedestrians and motorists by armed gangs. We should have seen it coming. The city was the most highly taxed in the country, but no one knew what happened to the hard-earned money we gave as tax. It was widely believed, though, that our corrupt rulers were siphoning away most of the budget amount into their foreign bank accounts. Many industries had been shifted to other cities and some factory owners even migrated to other countries, taking their machinery with them. That is when we should have seen it coming.  I remember how the public protested when the government decided to set up nuclear power plants on the seashore, very close to a fault line which, according to geologists, made Karachi prone to moderate-to-intensely-strong earthquakes. In fact, there had been a strong earthquake and a tsunami in 1946, but this was ignored by the government. Nuclear experts had warned, correctly, that in case of an accident in the power plants, the residents of Karachi would die horrible deaths and that the survivors would not be able to live much longer either. Shouldn’t we have seen it coming? Then there were the coal-fired power plants that emitted thick smoke that enveloped the city and ultimately resulted in acid rain, which then led to the corrosion of agricultural fields, the only source of food supply for the city. The scarcity of food raised prices so much that about a quarter of the city’s population perished of hunger. Riots for food resulted in the death of many more and things kept going from bad to worse, and residents were often scared to venture out of their houses. Worse was yet to come but we didn’t see it coming...  A deathly virus spread, and since most of the inhabitants lived in crowded and cramped houses, it took the lives of millions within days. The rulers had not spent much on health and hospitals, and so there were very few doctors at hand to treat those who were sick. And then began the tremors. At first the earthquakes were mild, resulting in huge cracks in high-rise buildings. The government set up a committee to determine why the buildings were not able to withstand even mild tremors, and it turned out that although Karachi has a Building Control Authority, most of its employees existed only on paper and were called ‘ghost’ employees, though they were pretty real when it came to collecting their salaries. This, by the way, was true of most the employees working in the Sindh government (or the Sindh ‘non-government’ as some liked to call it pertaining to the fact that no one had ever been able to find any shred of evidence that our leaders even knew the very meaning of the word ‘governance’). Then one fine day, after another earthquake, a dam collapsed and this was followed by an explosion in the one of the nuclear plants, which the government had been warned about. The city was exposed to lethal radiation and the survivors went through excruciating pain before eventually dying. Those that died on the spot were considered ‘lucky’. And yet, we didn’t see it coming? A few days later came the deathblow – the tremor that really shook Karachi, with its epicentre right underneath the city. It was this, and perhaps the tsunami that followed that brought Karachi down to its knees. The few buildings, that were still standing, came crumbling down, sea water entered the city, flooded roads and soon acres of land were under water, drowning the very last of men. And then it came... the end... And so, the Queen of the East, which had managed to survive against all odds for so long, finally saw its end and Karachi city ceased to exist, becoming just another chapter in history text books for children to read in times to come.



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  • 07/17/14--02:59: Karachi is… love
  • I started this year with a blast, quite literally, and to date, this city has taken more lives than you and I could have expected. Being an average student trying to live an average life, I have been told to reach home ‘foran (immediately) innumerable times and have seen my siblings dance over missing school or exams due to unforeseen circumstances. This city has become no less than a war zone and those who just thought ‘yeh kya bakwas hai’ (what is this crap) to themselves are seriously delusional. In these past few months, I saw a leader being arrested, witnessed an acquaintance get shot in the head and heard about countless snatchings with statuses like,

    “Got mugged, don’t text or call.”
    I was told that people from Karachi get immune to the sound of bullets and wails of dying people. Truth is, no we don’t. We just take out a few moments to grieve silently and then bury ourselves into a deeper hole of helplessness, convincing ourselves that everything will be okay. We are stuck to the TV screen for hours, watching the wrecked state of this city and its people, and then later just forgetting about it like it never happened. While deep inside, my accusing fingers are secretly pointing at our good-for-nothing leaders; I can’t help but wonder that there is more to Karachi than what we spit our blames at. There is love. Hard to admit, but yes it exists. It’s in the scent of Sea View that most of us scorn and twitch our noses. However, for the rest of the Karachiites, love is sitting on the rocks or having unbalanced camel rides, clutching tightly onto each other’s waists. It’s in that black sand and ice cold water that touches the feet and soothes the fear of being out in the open unprotected, under the naked sky of this ‘fearful’ city. It may not be in the foreign television shows or behind the overly dramatic eyes of ‘Hum TV ke actors. Instead, it’s behind the grieve-stricken eyes of the brother who cries over his sister’s ‘jahez’ (dowry). It is hidden under the sweat of the middle class man who takes out his rickshaw every day to stand in the CNG line so that he can get his kids to school the next day – a voiceless cry for their educated future. Love is behind those bun kebabs full of unhygienic deliciousness. And in the streets of Dhoraji where one cup of gola ganda and two straws can define us, something that nobody in any other part of the world could ever understand. It’s behind buying your wife or ‘bachi’ a gajra while embracing the scent. And only we understand the intimacy of the nakaab wali aunty, tugging comfortably onto her moochay walay husband on a motorbike. It lies within a man sitting in a Corolla or City, determined to buy ‘motiya ke phool’ in preferably, or most definitely ‘20 rupay ke chaar’. Love is the overly-loaded bikes of Karachi men of all ages; their silencers screaming out their excitement from behind their rides. It lies in the woofers of the guy blasting ‘Bewafa’ in his car. When you know that love for him may take a little longer to find. It’s in the lost eyes of the old man who sits on his balcony from afternoon to dusk, listening to ghazals on his radio and waves at every child who passes by. And in that moment you realise that he knows more about love than you ever will. It’s in the smile of the mother who finally realises that she has parented her children to be models of not perfection, but good human beings; simple, loving, caring humans. It’s behind the eyes of grandparents simply awing their generation with tear-filled eyes, blowing Ayat ul Kursi and feeling wondrous but old and nostalgic at the same time. You see it in the air of the magical hand that pushes the Ferris wheels parked at the corner of the streets of some unknown locality. Or in the delighted screams of the barefoot children dressed in shalwar kameez running around muddy streets like it’s the most exciting thing ever. We witness it amongst the late night baraats and after a week of tiring mehndi dance practices. Or just chilling at one of the hundred cafes located on Khayaban -e- Sehr! Sheesha or Bundu Khan, ‘meetha’ or ‘saada’ khushbu wala paan, love is in our food. It’s behind the eyes of the old bhutta wala after school hours or the sabzi wala when the scorching heat does not deter him from making his ends meet. It’s in the smile of the rider when you tip him for home delivery, or in the smell of the freshly baked naan that two children share in the car even before it reaches the dining table. Love is carved amongst the ‘sher- o-shairi’ behind buses and trucks. Or the bright blues, reds and yellows behind the loud and gurgling rickshaws waggling on the busy streets. It’s in the joy of bargaining for a pair of jeans at Sunday Bazaar, or merely in the satisfaction of watching a late night movie show and conveniently spending your pocket money on it. But love does exist. It exists in the mere air of this city. Love is waking up in the morning after a riot because you know it is routine and that you cannot give up. Not now, because this is not about you. It’s about everyone associated to you, who are dependent on you. It is realising that this is what survival looks like. Not for yourself but for them. It’s messy, incomplete and heavy on the hearts of those living here. But it’s there. If one Pakistan versus India cricket match can unite the whole city into loud chants of team green, I can proudly say that love exists in this patriotism we have buried within us. You, as an individual, are more than just a green passport. You are Pakistani. And one that has to survive these conditions. No storm lasts forever. So believe in yourself and make the change. For all I can say is that the only determination I know is a flashback of the sights you all have witnessed living here. This is your home. Don’t let it slip off your judgments and hopelessness. Not so soon. You were born to conquer, to fight. And Pakistan was born to prosper; one city at a time, wanting nothing from its people but the satisfaction of being loved back. This post originally appeared here.

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    Nawaz Sharif’s visits to Karachi have been brief and mostly concerned with law and order. The last visit, however, was a bit different from the previous ones; the prime minister (PM) has announced to launch the Metro bus named Green Line for Karachi with a gigantic budget of Rs15 billion as reported by the media. He also supervised another important meeting at the Governor House, regarding other development projects in Karachi. Millions of commuters, every day, have to rely on obsolete and dilapidated buses and recklessly driven Qingqi rickshaws to reach to their destinations and back. The beautiful bus stops that were installed by the city government have also been neglected. Last time the citizens of this great city saw any development work was under the mayor-ship of Mustafa Kamal and Pervez Musharraf. The restoration of so-called democracy in 2007 brought back the PPP and the local bodies system was rolled back; the reins of the city were handed to corrupt and inefficient administrators. The green bus project, initiated by the ex-nazim, was discontinued in order to pacify the transport mafia which was being actively patronised by PPP and its ruling partner ANP. The K-IV and S-III water and sewage project, the Lyari express-way project and the garbage disposal projects were ignored throughout the five-year tenure and the city’s woes kept piling up. Throughout the “democratic” period, the Sindh government showed criminal negligence in ignoring the public service developmental projects of Karachi. Even after coming back to power on May 11, 2014, they continued to show lack of vision and interest. MQM was offered, or rather forced, to join the Sindh government with no significant portfolios and hence, no room to show performance. This ‘step-motherly’ treatment has created a vacuum and PML-N is playing its cards really well by taking matters in its own hands. By announcing the development projects, Nawaz Sharif has taken the PPP leadership off-guard and if these projects materialise into something concrete PML-N will have a future in Karachi, possibly shrinking the PPP vote bank. In recent meetings the PM was accompanied by a high powered PML-N delegation, but also separately met with the MQM officials to discuss related matters. This chain of events could mark a significant change in the political scenario of the country in the days to come. However, it is unclear whether this is an attempt by the PM to create a PML-N vote bank or an honest effort toward developing the metropolitan city. Only time will tell how sincere the Federal government is in providing any relief to the Karachiites. In terms of the delay in the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), the Sindh Chief Secretary stated that encroachments are the biggest obstacle. He informed the PM that the Sindh government needs massive funding to clear the area and relocate encroachments. This suggestion was taken into account and instructions were given to concerned departments. Directives were also given to expedite water and sewage related projects in the mega-city. Karachi Circular Railway, after its completion, would further ease the traffic related problems of Karachi. The current transport system is inefficient and unsafe; a modern transport system with hydraulic doors, electronic ticketing and radio controlled communications systems, and seat by seat sitting arrangement is desperately required. With the red line, green line and the recently announced yellow line mass transit systems, it can be hoped that commuters coming from far flung areas will be able to reach the city centre and industrial areas in a timely manner. Moreover, with the announcement of K-IV project, the water woes of Karachiites will lessen to a great extent. Karachi is a city that contributes towards the economy of Pakistan with a 69% revenue, it is a city which is home to people belonging to all four provinces, it is a city that feeds the poor and provides jobs and opportunities to millions of Pakistanis and is also considered one of the most charitable cities of the world, deserves an equally good lifestyle and amenities for its citizens. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. [poll id="352"]



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    How this could be possible? I shook my head in disbelief.

    “Ibn-e-Raza has been shot dead!” the voice reiterated itself.
    How someone can be so cruel, so vicious? In state of disbelief I stood up, changed my clothes and sat in my car. My mother, sitting next to me, was continuously crying.
    “He was such a nice boy, he was...”
    She was crying so hard that words seemed to have disappeared from her mouth. I rolled my window down and took a deep breath as a slight wave of wind touched my hair. My mind was gripped with an ocean of thoughts and memories. I remembered when he last called me.
    “I scored the first position in my matriculation exams!”
    Oh! How happy he was that day.
    “I want to be pilot, Soha baji”, Raza had told me.
    He had told me that he was very close to making his dream come true. His parents were very proud of him. He was their only child. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="287"] A picture of Ibn-e-Raza. Photo: Soha Jafri[/caption] The parents... My God! As tears began rolling down my cheeks, the car suddenly stopped and I realised that we had reached our destination. When I got out of the car, I found myself standing right in front of an imambargah in Rizvia Society. His dead body was in there. People around me were sad, some of them were crying. But this wasn’t the first time I stood here. In fact, this was my second time – my second time in three months. Back then it was my brother’s dead body that resided behind those walls. It was my brother’s funeral that I had attended. He, too, was gunned down. My brother was shot dead while he was coming back home. The attacker had fired 10 bullets in his chest and two on his face. He died on the spot. I will never understand why he was killed and that too so brutally. Now, I was back here, in the same spot, but for my cousin’s funeral. With trembling feet, I entered the imambargah. I could hear his mother crying. I went into the hall and then I saw it. The coffin was right there with his dead body in it. I saw his face; it was pale. But he looked like he was sound asleep. Soon, the funeral prayers took place and then it was time to take his coffin away to the graveyard. He left us all, his mother and his family, in deep grief. Once all the rituals were done, it was time for us to go back home. I stood up and came outside with my mother. Our car was waiting there; we sat in it. I looked back at the imambargah and wished once again what I had wished the last time I was here three months ago.
    “Please, not again!”
    But deep in my heart, I knew that I will come back again, to bid another loved one goodbye. The Shia community in Pakistan, roughly around 40 million, is the second largest religious group present here. Yet, we are persecuted, targeted, slaughtered and killed, without mercy – just because our sect is not the same as that of our killer’s. These targeted killings continue without any decrease in the ferociousness of these attacks. The 2012 Annual report published by Global Human Rights Defence on Pakistan stated that,
    “So far in Pakistan more than 10,000 Shias have been killed (in direct attacks only). In Parachinar valley more than 4000 Shias were killed. People are pulled down from buses, their identity cards are checked, their names are different than the Sunni names [so they are easily identified] and they get killed and raped; women have been threatened and molested.”
    Now what is the future of Shias in Pakistan? In fact, the right question is, do they have a future here at all?
    Mein kis k hath mein apna lahu talaash karun Tamam sher ny pehny howy hain daastany (In whose hands should I find traces of my blood? The entire city is wearing gloves)
    Please stop killing us. Stand against it, condemn it. Do something, please. But make it stop!

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    I wonder why it’s called Choti Eid. It’s so much cooler than Bari Eid, or any other festival for that matter. Writers’ folklore says that the five elements that comprise a popular story are: religion, mystery, relationships, money and sex. Amazingly, Choti Eid brings all of them to the table. Religion – celebrating a month of abstinence, giving and worship Choti Eid is the culmination of a full month of religiously obligated prayer, restraint and abstinence. It’s been a month that people have been praying more regularly (including taraweeh prayers!), using less abusive language, giving more in charity and generally trying to be better human beings. Some people would argue that driving home in Karachi 30 minutes before iftar can be more dangerous than taking a stroll in Gaza. But I would argue that if you are late for iftar and maghrib prayers begin while you’re on the road, the nearest rehri wala (hawker) will offer you a piece of whatever goodies he’s selling and refuse to accept money for it, which is absolutely wonderful. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Reuters[/caption] Which reminds me, people getting together for iftar is another wonderful religious-cum-cultural tradition that helps foster a sense of community as a precursor to Eid. Friends and family getting together to break their fast is always fun. Okay, I admit things can get a bit awkward when most of the people attack the food at 7:10pm while our Fiqh-e-Jafria brothers have to wait for 7:20pm without trying to look conspicuous, but I say a little awkwardness is a decent price to pay for sectarian harmony. My Shia friends have found a non-awkward solution for this turn up 10 minutes late! And to those who are on their worst behaviour while fasting: it is okay, we understand you were hungry. Enjoy Eid and try harder next Ramazan please. Mystery – chand raat or taraweeh? Choti Eid has always been big on mystery. Thousands of children and their parents go to their rooftops on the 29th of Ramazan, after maghrib prayers (pakora in one hand and binoculars in the other) to look for the new moon. Will it be Eid tomorrow? Is Mufti Muneebur Rehman in a good mood? God, I hope he didn’t have a fight with his wife today! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Nzaar Ihsan[/caption] What are the Pakhtuns up to? After 67 years, will this be that elusive year in which we have only one Eid throughout Pakistan? Do we go take the girls out for choorian and mehendi or do we go for taraveeh? Will masterjee (tailor) or rangwala (dyer), as the case may be, have my suit/dupatta ready on time? While we respect the concept of 30 rozas and all, one has to admit that nothing beats the exhilaration (and relief) of a chand raat announcement on the evening of the 29th. And they’re probably right when they say that Satan is locked up during Ramazan, because the moment chand raat is announced, all hell really does break loose! Aunties are running after masterjees for their suits, girls are looking to kill the rangwalas who didn’t get the exact colour on their dupatta, and the neighbourhood boys are manning the choori and mehendi stalls in the hopes that the pretty girls living in the house across the street will visit and ask for their assistance to try on choorian! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: INP/File[/caption] Relationships – chachus, khalas and SMSs With no distractions like bakras or butchers, Choti Eid is all about relationships. Poor people take their children to Minar-e-Pakistan, the rich ones take their families to the golf course, and almost everyone takes their kids to meet their chachusphuposkhalas and mamoos. The big cities tend to empty out as millions of people travel back to their pind (if you’re from Punjab), mulak (if you are Pathan) or gaon (if you are from anywhere else in Pakistan). There are reports every Eid about the transporters increasing charges before Eid, but hey, doesn’t the bus wala deserve to take his children to the zoo? My personal favourite family ritual is going for namaz on Eid day. Even after 36 years, the routine is exactly the same. 1. I oversleep – my mom bangs the door down. 2. I accompany my brother and cousins to Model Town Park, Lahore, for Eid prayer (something that has changed is the level of security – now we have to navigate through scanners, metal detectors, and snipers at every entrance). 3. We give fitrana on the way in (another change I’ve noticed is in the recipient of the fitrana – a couple of decades ago people would line up to donate to the religious outfits waging war in Kashmir; now the religious parties’ stalls are visibly empty while the number of people lined up at the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Sahara for Life and other non-religious NGOs is much more). [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Shahbaz Malik/Express[/caption] 4. The maulvi prays to God for everyone’s health, safety, prosperity and asks for our sins to be wiped clean. 5. He then goes on to ask God to liberate Palestine and Kashmir (Chechnya made it into the list during the 1990s but isn’t there anymore, I wonder why). He also prays for the progress of Pakistan and the destruction of Israel and all other enemies of Islam (one of these days I’ll ask him why his dua isn’t working – which my brother thinks is not a very bright idea). 6. Maulvi sahib reminds us of the steps involved in the Eid namaz (it’s a bit tricky). 7. He reminds us that while we are free to do so, we should remember that hugging each other three times while wishing ‘Eid Mubarak’ has nothing to do with Islam. 8. Namaz begins and the person next to me messes up his namaz steps, disorienting us all. A few people start following him and now we have half the row standing up and the other half in rukoo. 9. After namaz, all of us religiously hug everyone else three times regardless of what maulvi sahib had just lectured us about (this is probably the only time of the year when Pakistani men go around smiling and hugging random people... it’s wonderful!) [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Reuters[/caption] 9. On the way out, I wish ‘Eid Mubarak’ to the security guards and snipers at the entrance (this step was added in 2007). 10. We come home to a delicious breakfast, which we are having for the first time in 30 days – I am convinced that this is the best, most tasty meal of the year. And immediately after breakfast, the flood of Eid Mubarak SMSs (of every variety, from religious to loving to funny) begins. Over the years, I’ve realised that I miss Eid cards – the real kind that you would have to go out and buy from the same mohalla stall that sold mehendi and choorian. The ones which you would address to every chachukhalaphupo and mamoo and spend time remembering their children’s names to make sure nobody was left out. Money Eidi is probably the cornerstone of Choti Eid, especially for the children. Little do they know, if they are below the age of 12, chances are their Eidi will be ‘embezzled’ by the parents to account for the outflow of Eidi to relatives’ and the neighbours’ children. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: AFP[/caption] Fresh crisp notes actually become an industry in the week running up to Eid and immediately after namaz, the entire public workforce (the dakia (mailman), the kachra walay (janitor), the bijli walay (electricians) and the likes) starts turning up at the door to collect Eidi.

    Humari sarak itni saaf tau nahin hoti jitni safai walay Eidi lenay pahunch jatay hein!” my mom always complains.
    Sex – no more abstinence! Let’s admit it, between the preparation of iftar, rising early for sehri and other household chores, there is not much going on in the bedroom for a great many couples. Choti Eid brings with it the lifting of all restrictions on copulation and, in many a pind, several bundles of joy. Like I said, with all the elements of a hit story, I wonder why it’s called Choti Eid... it’s so much bigger than any other festival round the year!

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    This Eid proved to be the deadliest in terms of loss of lives when news started coming in of the recovery of more than two dozen dead bodies that were washed ashore at the Clifton beach, Paradise Point and Hubco beach strips. As of now, 36 bodies have been recovered and the death toll is rising with several still missing. Till further notice, the beach has been closed for public. The horror started on the first day of Eid when an unusually large number of people turned up at the beach and spent entire days and nights enjoying their Eid beating the heat. A large number of such picnickers belonged to other cities, who were in Karachi for work or visiting relatives. Most of the young men who drowned were in their teens. The entire search and rescue operation is being conducted by the divers and helicopters of the Pakistan Navy. The main reason behind these mass deaths is still unknown. Some call it a consequence of the ongoing dredging activity being done to expand the port area while a widely established fact is the disregard shown by the public towards warning signs setup by the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) regarding the ban on swimming in the open sea, under Section 144 with red flags installed at prominent locations throughout the Karachi shore line. Families scuffled with the law enforcers while our men in uniform, albeit low in numbers, tried their level best to keep them away from the beaches. A couple of lifeguards who were posted by the CBC pushed their limits in carrying out the search and rescue operation with limited equipment at their disposal but to no avail. This entire episode points towards sheer negligence by beach goers and is a lesson learnt the hard way. This has, in fact, become synonymous with the negligence shown by the general public when, in the event of an imminent danger, our people run towards it rather than from it. Be it a cyclone or an oil spill at the sea, Karachiites make it a point to rush to the danger zone in order to witness the danger ‘first hand’. Besides the ignorance of our masses, the under strength law enforcement agencies and poorly equipped rescue services failed to respond to SOS calls in a timely and efficient manner. The water and safety aspect is getting more and more relevant with each passing day. The estimated figure of 360,000 drowning deaths annually worldwide is an alarming figure and thus, developed countries have been working towards improving their rescuing protocols. Here are some of the standards that are followed worldwide: Measures necessary to minimise frequent drowning cases

    • Educating the public
    • Denial of access and/or provision of warnings
    • Acquisition of rescue and survival skills
    • Provision of rescue equipment and its maintenance
    Together, these measures constitute a drowning prevention strategy to help control risk. Operators, CBC in this case, must adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. No beaches are safe and each beach has its own dynamics and needs to be dealt with separately as an individual case. Identifying beach hazards There are two main types of sea currents that are caused by tides-wave action or a combination of both. A rip current is a body of water moving out to sea and is often fast moving with a potential to drag swimmers in to the open sea and cause drowning. Such currents can be identified by the following characteristics:
    • Discoloured water, generally brown due to sand stirred off the bottom
    • Foam on the surface extending beyond the beach
    • Waves breaking larger and further out on both sides of the rip, often on banks
    • Debris floating seawards
    • A rippled appearance when the water around is generally calm
    A lateral current is a body of water moving parallel to the shore and is caused by either the tidal flow along the coastline or the action of waves hitting the beach at an oblique angle. In most situations, for an average swimmer, there is no danger as the current takes them along a beach rather than away from it. However, in some locations, these currents can wash into a rip current or off the end of a spit. The water safety code
    • Hitting the Karachi beach, an open sea, may look safe but even in the summer it is extremely cold and will be much harder to swim in than a warm indoor pool. Beware of deep water, slippery banks and strong currents.
    • Look out for signs and notices which tell you of the dangers and where it is safe. A red flag or a skull and bones sign means that there is danger ahead and that portion of the beach should be avoided at all costs.
    • Go in a group rather than going alone. Children should always be accompanied by adults and water sports enthusiasts should ensure someone else is near.
    • By learning rescue and survival skills, you may be able to help someone else and yourself if there is an accident. Instead of jumping into the water to save someone, immediately call for help rather than putting your life in danger.
    • Stick your hand up and shout for help if you feel you can’t swim back to the shore.
    Flag system Internationally, a standard flagging system is adopted for beach safety purpose. A red rectangular flag depicts danger ahead (no swimming zone). Red over yellow sign shows the position of life guards on duty. What needs to be done? In order to prevent such accidents from happening, the government of Sindh and CBC will have to come up with a dedicated rescue service which shall have a team of trained and competent rescue personnel with a decent salary structure and perks. Services of international search and rescue consultants can be obtained in this regard in order to train our men and women on contemporary lines. General public awareness programs should be held in all local languages and on all major TV channels with maximum outreach. Rescue services should be provided in terms of speed boats and a couple of helicopters for timely rescue and relief. A proper monitoring mechanism of the provided equipment should be formulated to discourage political figures from utilising such services for their own personal objectives. While many of these steps may seem very obvious and even rhetorical to some of you, with the recent deaths that have taken place, I have realised that common sense may not be that common after all.

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    I remember a crowded market back in Karachi where we stood in a corner going through the merchandise. I was with one of my ‘foreign-educated’ aunts. Suddenly, I saw her face turn a shade of red. I dismissed it and we went back to sifting through the clothes.  A few moments later, it happened again. Her face turned red and her brows creased, but this time she turned around and before I knew it, she had grabbed a young boy by the collar. 

    “Can’t watch where you’re going huh? This is the third time you’ve passed by this place and grabbed me. Do you want me to beat you up or do you want me to hand you to the guards?!” said my daring aunt as her voice rose by a few decibels.
    A couple of men here and there began shouting at the boy in disgust. My aunt’s husband, who was also with us, quickly realised that the matter could escalate and asked her to calm down. The boy was visibly fraught and wanted to leave as soon as possible. After a little more reprimand, he ran away on his tiny, skinny legs. We went back to shopping and soon forgot the incident. I was 18 at the time and until then, I was always told that girls were to remain silent when someone ‘touched them inappropriately’. If someone was ogling you or following you, the best thing to do was to sit back quietly or retreat to a place of safety. While I have always been a believer of this conventional wisdom, something about what my aunt did that evening made me question those age-old pieces of cautionary advice. Until then, I had always thought that if you raised your voice or attacked someone who attacked you, it would only bring problems (dishonour to your own image and that of you family). Something about my aunt’s loud rebuttal made me wonder what would happen had I had the courage to stare down at the creepy maulvi who used to stare at me instead of what he was teaching. Or the ‘well-respected’ family member who was famous for his inappropriate touching (yet no one did or ever said a thing against him). Or the awful driver who would verbally harass females when they were alone or the random creep who would deliberately walk into a shop and stand so horrifyingly close that you were forced to leave without completing the errand. The list was endless. What would have happened indeed? There is a lot of talk about rule of law and passing bills in Pakistan when it comes to sexual harassment and violence against women. There are plenty of NGOs and women’s rights activists speaking out against crimes against women and offering them protection from sexual harassment. The United States recently released a video showing various actors who have taken part in an initiative launched by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden titled It’s On Us which addresses rapes on campus and how everyone must join hands to prevent it. They talk about how victim blaming is not the answer, nor is it helpful. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Top, left to right: Kerry Washington, Barack Obama, Jon Hamm. Bottom, left to right: Joel McHale, Joe Biden, Rose Byrne. Photo: Screengrabs from 'It's on us'[/caption] While it seems like a noble and just cause in the light of the recent Steubenville rape, it seems like a far cry in our society. Even though rapes and sexual assault cases are far more prevalent in Pakistan, the reportage is meagre. Despite having laws in place regarding sexual harassment, there is a social and cultural taboo regarding a woman speaking about harassment. Whether it is at the workplace or at college, you will hear women ‘hushing’ up the stories, avoiding being named, avoiding public scrutiny or any kind of activism that can highlight the issue. On college campuses, you may also find powerful groups of young men using the guise of ‘ragging’ and ‘horseplay’ to corner women into humiliation and embarrassment. At work it can be a powerful employer or a supervisor against whom you can’t lodge a complaint because it would mean just more problems. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Top, left to right: Connie Britton, Questlove, Randy Jackson. Bottom, left to right: Kevin Love, Mayim Bialik, Common. Photo: Screengrabs from 'It's on us'[/caption] You can’t blame these women – you can bring them a thousand laws, a million lawyers and they still wouldn’t open up or talk about being raped or molested. The fault is not in the legal system alone (which, of course, also needs a lot of work) or the political fronts where this issue is not being highlighted as it should be.The fault lies in our social fabric where the onus of harassment and predation falls directly on the victim. The fault lies in the eyes of our own brothers and fathers and friends and sons who objectify women, who attack them for speaking out and who judge them for being strong and vocal about their rights. The fault lies in the horde of people who treat sexual molestation as a crime different from theft or robbery or any other kind of assault. The fault lies, first and foremost, in the stigma that we have created for women which prevents them from feeling safe, independent and equal.

    Its on us coverIts on us cover

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