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

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    Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, DJ Butt and their merry gang kicked off their Pakistan tour yesterday by visiting the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) stronghold; Karachi. They undoubtedly drew a large crowd consisting of people from all walks of life. But then again, so does Jamaat-e-Islami. Large numbers at rallies or not, one thing that really gets to me is the massive pool of contradictions that are the PTI. They are credited with ‘emancipating women’ and the number of women at their processions and rallies is always highlighted. Yet the party had the lowest number of women contesting general seats during the elections. They speak of ending dynastic politics and feudalism, yet their second in command is a “pir” and is currently preparing his son to enter politics. They speak of being more educated and capable, yet they use the worst possible language and take name-calling to a whole different level. Imran definitely touched on a number of issues yesterday; issues that matter a lot to the average Karachiite, including the water mafia, Lyari gang wars and how rural Sindh is direly in need of Naya Pakistan. But after spending more than a month protesting in Islamabad and reminding us on an almost hourly basis of how rigged these past elections were, it is almost astounding how Imran and company conveniently forgot to mention anything regarding rigging yesterday. Actually a number of events just seemed to slip from their memory: Zahra Shahid Hussain’s murder and how they accused MQM of assassinating her, the protest at Teen Talwar regarding rigging and NA-250, all those phone calls to the Metropolitan Police in London about a certain statement regarding said protest by Altaf Hussain, re-polling of NA-250, visits to London and Imran approaching Scotland Yard to arrest Altaf. All this was simply forgotten and I believe the rally set a new record on collective, selective amnesia. So much so that Imran actually thanked Altaf before the rally began for his hospitality—the wonders. It now seems, that according to Imran, the only places where rigging did not take place are the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the city of Karachi – riveting revelations. Unfortunately for Imran and PTI, many of us have the ability to retain memories. I for one will not be able to forget how Imran continues to pressure a democratically-elected prime minister to resign from office, how PTI stormed Red Zone with cranes and how PTI has asked its supporters to not pay taxes and utility bills. And to show that he means business, he recently burnt his utility bills on stage. I wonder how he gets fuel without paying taxes or bought that plane ticket back to Islamabad, but then, that would become an entirely different debate. Regardless of all his faults, one must commend Imran for making a very wise decision to now tour the country as Islamabad protests slowly fizzle out. Next stop is Lahore, and I do look forward to Imran not making any valid arguments or presenting any substantial evidence to back his accusations. On an closing note, I would just like to remind everyone who is reading that Imran did win the World Cup, is extremely good looking even at 60 plus and plans on ending poverty in India.



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    If you’ve somehow missed yesterday’s news, you should know that there was another attack in Karachi last night, at Gizri, DHA. When I heard about this, I felt the same pang of anger and frustration that anyone normally would in such circumstances. But, within a minute, it was all forgotten and I continued watching the movie I had paid for. How did I feel so comfortable in resuming my business so soon? Because I didn’t ask what happened, where it happened or why. The real question I asked myself was: did it matter? Sounds harsh, yes, but that’s the truth. Have we, as Pakistanis and especially as Karachiites, lost all feelings and empathy to the attacks taking place around us? Yes. Does anyone even consider the dangerous living conditions they are in before leaving their house? I know I don’t, even though these incidents give my mother the correct justification to badger me into coming home early. Have we really become oblivious to all this? The answer may not be what one would like to believe, but yes, I have – and so have many others. If you don’t believe me, go right now and type Karachi on any news website and all you will find in the first five headlines are the following words: attack, killing/killed and death. Yet we all read these things and then go on our merry way like the city is still full of sunshine and daisies. It might so for some, but for those who have lost their loved ones to this barbarianism, the city has become a living, breathing nightmare for them. But what is it to us, right? As long as we or our loved ones are not directly affected, it’s perfectly fine. So far, nothing much has been done to curb this situation. These killings have become so rampant that 2013 was called the ‘deadliest year so far’ with a record of over 3200 killings.  Does this number shock you? It really shouldn’t. Why? Because every other day, you do hear about a death over a property dispute or a target killing in some remote part of the city or someone murdered in cold blood over a cell phone snatching incident. But you never register it. You never let it scratch through your conscience and sink in that a living being, a human, a fellow Pakistani, was killed – that a life was ended. You just don’t let it register. And hence, it comes as a shock to you when news channels tell you the total number of people killed by the end of the year or month. The conditions are alarming and with the demoniac circumstances, Karachi has slipped on to 136 out of 140 cities in the Global Living Ranking according to the Economic Intelligent Unit Index. We were at 134 four years ago, so this really shouldn’t be a shocker. It just seems like there is no way but down at this point. I’m amazed at the amount of anger I feel right now. Is this the city I want to die for? Is this the city I love? Is this the place I trust my life with everyday? I know I haven’t done a lot to help Karachi but I haven’t done a lot to hurt it either! In maintaining this bipolar relationship with Karachi, we’ve lost so much. We’ve lost so many Chaudhry Aslams, Zahra Shahids and the recently slain Dr Muhammad Shakil Auj to Karachi and nothing can ever make up for that. And now targeting another SP just claimed two more lives. When Chaudhry Aslam was slain in Karachi at the beginning of this year, we felt a sense of terror. A strong man, a fearless man, was taken down by the enemy, and this made us all the more vulnerable. Last night’s attack was aimed to kill Farooq Awan, SP Special Investigation Unit (SIU) – another high ranking police officer. The question is, how long will these police officers live in fear? How can they work towards making the city better when they know that doing so might cost them their lives? Mercifully, Awan survived this attack. And since he survived it, it wasn’t a big deal. So what if two people lost their lives? That happens all the time, right? It’s scary to realise that it will take a lot more than everyday bombings to shake us to the core. I think Imran Khan and all our other politicians, who have the mandate of this city and this country, need to get their affairs in order. Pakistan doesn’t really need democracy at the moment; all it needs is a little humanity. Wake up people. The least we can do is mourn the dead and not slip back into our bubbles. It’s about time!



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    Karachi saw its renewed glory days under the presidency of Pervez Musharraf. For the first time, the citizens felt bonded with the city and its ways. There was an air of optimism and under the ‘I own Karachi’ program, for the first time in a long time, Karachiites came forward to beautify their city and contribute towards its uplift. The two mayors, Mr Naimatullah Khan from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) followed by Mustafa Kamal from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), did wonders and set the city on the path of progress and development. I personally know a number of expatriates who relocated back to Karachi in order to invest in its thriving economy. There was massive activity on the technological front and the citizens of this great port city had started witnessing a paradigm shift in the dynamics of their hometown. However, things changed when Musharraf stepped down; elections were held and a political party, holding mandate exclusively in the rural districts of Sindh, came into power and had its aging political stalwart in office as the chief minister of the province. That’s when the actual decline of Karachi initiated. Law and order took a nose-dive; local bodies system, which had done wonders for this city, was rolled back as corrupt and inefficient officers were ‘appointed’ rather than ‘elected’ to look after the sprawling mega-city. In those five years and this first year, since the recent elections, Karachi has suffered gravely at the hands of inefficient and unelected administrators. Karachi is now a heap of garbage and boasts of unfinished and rolled back developmental projects. Without a proper local bodies system in place, the city has gone into the hands of looters and plunderers. Those beautiful bus stands that were built by Mustafa Kamal now portray a story of neglect. Green bus service, which was a sigh of relief for many commuters, was discontinued under the pressure of the transport mafia, and now in the absence of a proper mass transit system, ugly out-dated busses and unregistered Qingqi rickshaws are plying on our roads. The water project, K3, was the last mega project this city saw. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which provided technical cooperation and other forms of aid promoting economic and social development worldwide, pulled out of the Karachi circular railway project due to lack of interest shown by the Sindh government in clearing the encroachments along the track. With no solid waste management system in place, the garbage is lying out in the open. Tanker mafia is more powerful than ever before; they force water-deprived residents to buy the most essential commodity from them rather than enjoy uninterrupted line water supply, which is the basic right of any citizen. In contrast to Karachiites, Lahoris enjoy a proper city life with the basic amenities and facilities available to them 24/7. Cleaner and wider roads, a proper traffic management system, relatively better law and order, the metro bus and the recently signed up metro train project that will start anytime soon. The difference is clear – Punjab government is sincere to its province while the Sindh government, with a six-year failed governance history, is still setting records of incompetence and is expected to make a mess of this city in the days to come. Local bodies’ elections are, therefore, badly needed before Karachi turns into a complete wasteland.



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    If you’ve lived in Karachi, you’re sure to have heard the complaint about there being a lack of entertainment options in the city. Eating out represents the obvious choice for entertainment but there is always the “and now what do we do?” question that hangs in the air after the meal. It’s too early to go home and unfortunately the debate about ‘what next’ rarely moves beyond dessert options. The thought of why there aren’t more regular entertainment options in our city has been annoying me for a while now. If one looks at the thriving theatre industry or the packed cinema halls over the weekend, there is certainly a lot of demand but then why aren’t other performers seeking to fill this void? Back in February, Saad Haroon did a fantastic comedy tour of the country. While I was sitting in the audience, I remember thinking that all he needed was a microphone to put on a fantastic, sold-out show. Inspired by Saad and convinced that laughter was exactly what us, frustrated Karachites, needed, a few amateur lovers of comedy, and I, decided to try to host at least one comedy show a month. The initial thought was terrifying as stand up comedy involves a solo performance, which means rejection cannot get more personal. But back then, the prospect of quick fame – and even the juvenile thought of getting some female fans – was a better motivator than fear. To date, we’ve been persevering on little more than passion, but after two well received shows (and one very disappointing one), we were pleasantly surprised when another group hosted a show. With yet another comedy show at the end of the month, the thought has crossed my mind whether this is proof of an emerging, albeit nascent, Karachi comedy scene. So I thought I’d speak to other performers about the obstacles preventing this fledgling, live comedy scene from taking flight. Art of public speaking One significant challenge is getting hold of performers who aren’t daunted by public speaking. New performers panic at the thought of not being found funny and so those with a knack for noticing the comical in the commonplace prefer to stay in the background, writing articles or playing with Photoshop. Akbar Chaudhry, a key figure behind the LOL Waalay troupe who has been doing comedy full time since February 2014, adds that a career in the arts is still looked down upon. At the moment, the majority of performers are theatre actors who are between projects and students with free time. But the ability to attract a steady stream of talent that is willing to persevere remains a challenge. In this light, both Akbar and Junaid Akram, who is part of the Dubai stand up scene and prolific on social media, point to the limited scope for comedians to test jokes in an understanding environment like an open mic night. Both stress that paid shows are not the right platform to experiment. With there being only two venues in Karachi that organise such events on an ad hoc basis, the frustration of waiting for such an opportunity, coupled with the fear of failure, means that many have given up stand up prematurely. The next challenge is content. Junaid adds that performers need to be able to address family friendly topics. While he believes stand up can be a refreshing and entertaining way to discuss social issues, taboo topics such as religion and sex can ruin the atmosphere. Both he and Akbar agree that more mentoring is required to help amateurs understand audience tastes. This is a significant problem as there are only a handful of professionals pursuing comedy fulltime. Unfortunately, this means that very important skills about holding a crowd’s attention remain undeveloped. Attracting audience Another major challenge is of attracting an audience. A humorous show like Aangan Terrha managed to run packed houses for over 100 shows not only because its content was accessible to everyone, but because it had a star name: Anwar Maqsood. Salman Shamim, who organised his first stand up show in June 2011, is aware of how hard it can be to attract a decent crowd. Salman, who is behind a number of viral YouTube videos, hosted a show on the fourth day of Eid which wasn’t well-attended. Commenting on the challenges of organising such an event, he mentioned that it’s important for shows to be on the weekend and for marketing to be a priority. While Facebook represents a great and cost effective means to market events, he adds that one needs well-connected contacts and outdoor marketing to bring in the crowds. This is clearly a major issue as I’m often told that people had no idea a show was happening. Financial viability The need to invest in marketing and advertising bring us to the next concern: financial viability. Without a star headlining the show, it becomes risky to book a large venue. Worse still, it means the ticket price needs to be concessionary. There are thankfully a few venues that require ticket sales to be shared 50/50 with performers. This is great as it means organisers cannot lose money. However, larger venues require booking fees that can be as high as Rs40,000 per show. While Akbar concedes that venue booking costs are an obstacle, he believes that if a sponsor covers the booking fee, the show can make financial sense. There is unfortunately another challenge that pertains to monetary matters. Since a number of performers are often needed to put up regular shows, when the amount is divided there is often just a small four figure sum left to be shared. Again, this puts the onus on the performer to stay committed to improving in the hope of greater financial rewards later. Finally, there is another problem that many are unwilling to talk about. We’re fortunate in Pakistan as there are no government licenses required to stage shows, as it is in Dubai. But even though everyone accepts there is a huge need for entertainment, I’ve found comedians to be reluctant to take a chance on a big show. For more established performers, there is the concern of performing alongside amateurs and hence being associated with a poor show. In addition, there is unfortunately a short-sightedness among performers, myself included, as without a set calendar of shows, there is a greater incentive to take small earnings from a show instead of investing in booking a larger venue or on marketing. While one should be grateful that there are more shows happening, the scene remains characterised by part-time performers holding ad hoc events. Until the major issues highlighted above are addressed, it’s likely that the live comedy scene will remain in second gear. Unless someone takes the step of investing in a star-supported show to get people talking and sponsors interested, Karachi’s entertainment scene is likely to be characterised by irregular small scale shows.



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    Life without a working smartphone in your pocket, at all times, is strange. It’s like something in missing in your life, like some tragedy befell upon you. I have gone through such a tragedy, and I’ve been the same. Five days ago, after receiving a phone call, I saw that my phone’s battery was almost dead. That’s normal, right? Well, I rummaged around my room to find the charger. My eyes remained settled on the screen as I connected my charger to the tiny slot, waiting for the light come back and see my phone grin with life again. However, that didn’t happen. It stayed silent as I helplessly watched my vintage wallpaper of petals and leaves get dimmer and dimmer, until finally fading away to a complete blackout. My heart was taken over by the same darkness that engulfed my phone. All at once, I wanted to check the calendar, use the calculator, post a tweet, make a note; I wanted to make it live again. Or, if nothing else, I wanted to at least say a proper goodbye to it before sending it away to the hospital (read: mobile phone repair shop). But alas, fate is cruel. Its screen did not light up again and it was safe to assume that it had gone into a coma. I felt numb while giving it away – the pain was too much. But there was nothing I could do to make it come back to life again. Only the doctor (read: repair man) could breathe some life into it now. Needless to say, my prayers were almost entirely focused on its well-being. However, the past five days have been nothing short of torture for me. Here is how my days went: Day 1 I baked! Note: Before my venture, baking was part of my ‘top five things I’m terrible at’ list, on number two. Also note: I needed my phone for the recipe. (This was followed by a half an hour remembrance of how great my smartphone was) Anyway, reluctantly I took out a Martha Stewart recipe book, and read from it (unbelievable, I know). Since I had no new notifications to worry about, I wholeheartedly mixed and whisked the ingredients and baked a lovely lemon tart that tasted quite decent. Lessons learnt: 1. No use of phone while eating allows tasting buds to work efficiently. 2. Sometimes, when you cook with dedication, you earn the right to being called a master chef for a day. 3. The touch of a glossy cook book actually feels very nice. Day 2 I sat on a chair, sighed, cheered away the emptiness my hand felt, and painted my fingernails, twice. It was only then that I realised that I needed a manicure as well, so I got myself an appointment. Of course, I needed my phone for that too but, thankfully, the landline was still available. Lessons learnt: 1. It is important to take care of yourself. 2.  The buttons on a cordless are fun to press on. 3.  I need to buy more nail polishes. Day 3 I went with mother dearest to pick my sister up from her friend’s place. The experience gave me the opportunity to look outside the window, eat ice cream using both hands, and laugh with my family instead of at internet jokes. Lessons learnt: 1. Life goes on perfectly without a car selfie. 2.  Karachi is not a clean city. 3.  It is important to talk to your mom; otherwise she thinks you love someone else. Day 4 I spent the day at the dentist and then the mobile shop, only to discover that my phone still needed another day to discharge. My toothache (I’m guessing it was the lemon tart) had me do nothing productive but whine about how much I needed my phone to distract myself. I decided I should clean and organise my makeup instead. Lessons learnt: 1. How to be patient. 2. I have enough makeup. Day 5 I terribly felt the need to post something on Instagram, but there was no way to do it. So after that, I decided I had nothing better to do at home; hence, I went along with my grandmother to the eyewear shop. The objective was to choose an eye frame for her, but instead, I ended up liking one for myself (and buying it). Lessons learnt: 1.  Grandma doesn’t let you pay. 2.  These shops will have your frame adjusted for free. 3.  You feel important when your choice of consideration is fulfilled. 4.  My eye sight has become weaker. By the end of day five, I realised that life can go on well (not entirely, but positively) without a smartphone, which sometimes only symbolises nuisance. So maybe if we could use it less then it would be almost possible for us to live without it. Today is day six by the way, and I feel relatively normal.



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    Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has become quite a talking point these days. Its chairman, Imran Khan, has been giving ‘dharnas’ for the past 50 days (though one must question the legitimacy of the dharna since it keeps hopping from Bani Gala to Karachi to Lahore and so on and so forth) in the name of… well, I’m not really sure. Perhaps some of the angry, cussing, hatred-filled insafians can enlighten me with their version on this. I’ve faced enough abuse from PTI trolls for not supporting PTI and openly criticising Imran’s version of facts and events. Khan sahib wants a ‘Naya Pakistan’ and chimes for ‘tabdeeli’ (change). He has a litany of allegations against the incumbent government ranging from rigging to the PM being ‘sadiq and ameen’ (Article 62 and 63). Every night, at prime time hour, Mr Imran Khan Niazi, MNA from (NA-56 Rawalpindi), stands atop his container and demands a resignation from the democratically elected prime minister of Pakistan. His tirade doesn’t end or begin with the resignation. He calls everyone in the parliament a ‘thief’ – conveniently forgetting that he is a member of it as well. He insists that the Sharif brothers have looted this country for 30 years (a factual error that esteemed politicians such as Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Sheikh Rasheed can happily correct him on as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has been in power for less than 15 years) and that only he, Mr Khan, understands the value and meaning of good governance. He cites examples from Scandinavian countries, and then goes on to burn his (allegedly paid) electricity bill. He talks of ‘azadi’ (freedom), ‘tabdeeli’ and a ‘Naya Pakistan’ but does not explain how he aims to achieve it. There are two frightening dimensions of PTI. The first is the fact that there is no change in the province that they did manage to form a government. Whether it is the IDPs or flood-victims, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak seems to have little involvement in their relief. Imran himself has done or worked little to alleviate the suffering of the people of his province. Instead of a civil disobedience movement, it would have been much more heartening had he asked his emotional and loyal insafians to donate heartily to the flood relief programs. Instead of making Nawaz Sharif the focus of his speeches, parodying Awami National Party (ANP) leader Achakzai or dancing on DJ Butt’s tunes, I would have respected Imran much more had he mobilised the crowds of millions and the Tsunami of people (by his own account) into making positive changes into their lives. He is a crowd-puller for sure and has a faithful (almost cult-like) fan following who believe everything that comes out of his mouth. He ought to have led by example by teaching Pakistani men and women to respect the constitution, to follow the rules and to make Pakistan a better country by working together. Instead he spreads hate and violence, never condemns the attack on Geo television workers, openly incites hatred against state institutions and uses borderline abusive terminologies for everyone ranging from Nawaz to IG Islamabad to Najam Sethi. The second frightening aspect is PTI’s soft corner for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), considering how Imran wants TTP to open official offices and the Taliban claimed that they do not accept any prime minister except for Imran. Khan sahib also went on record to state that it was Benazir Bhutto’s own fault for being bombed. This is not only ominous and foreboding but is also misleading for the politically-ignorant followers of Khan. Siding with religious extremists or even being an apologist for militants at a time like this is not the change Pakistan needs. Recently, PTI gave an example of its political opportunism as it endorsed Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)’s proposed changes in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P)’s textbooks. Stories of regional personalities such as Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Bacha Khan, Ghani Khan and Ranjit Singh were added by ANP, which JI and JUI-F strongly opposed. They demanded the removal of the abovementioned personalities as well as removal of pictures of women with their heads uncovered. Education cannot be dictated by politics and religion, especially in a country like Pakistan where there are various ethnicities and religious minorities and the freedom of expression is already an important issue. In a country where professors, doctors and sitting governors are assassinated for exercising their right to free speech, it is imperative that our education system is free from bias and influence of religious extremism. It is imperative that we teach our children to embrace truths and differences of lifestyles in every way. It is also imperative that Imran sahib, who regularly chants ‘change’ and ‘revolution’, should remember that charity begins at home and the censorship-stricken schools of K-P are as much a part of Pakistan as D-Chowk, Islamabad and Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore.



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    The term “Na maloon afraad”, in recent times, has become almost ubiquitous and synonymous with those unknown/anonymous miscreants that are up to no good at all vis-à-vis to any law and order situation in our major cities. However, this time around, it has a comedic spin surrounding it; enter Na Maloom Afraad, the Pakistani feature movie! [embed width="620"]http://vimeo.com/99359741[/embed] Suffice to say, the consensus will be unanimously positive and endearing when one will head out to the movie theatres to see this particular motion picture; they will be thoroughly entertained and get their money’s worth. It is a pure masala film through and through, which is not a bad thing, seeing how lately there has been a great dearth of unadulterated, solely “paisa wasool” (worth your money) and quality entertainer movies that have been churned out of Lollywood, and Na Maloom Afraad delivers that aspect in abundance. By having Nabeel Qureshi as the director at the helm under the banner of Filmwala pictures, the film benefits greatly as a direct result. He has been acknowledged as one of the few directors that are playing their due and active role to usher in a new wave of contemporary Pakistani cinema. A cinema that is not merely about the “ghundas”, “Maula Jutts” and “Noori Naats” of our world but rather more about substance, quality, well-rounded scripts and overall aesthetics. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Na Maloom Afraad Facebook page[/caption] Speaking about the premise of the movie, it swivels around the three main protagonists: Shakeel Bhai (Javed Sheikh), Farhan (Fahad Mustafa) and Moon (Mohsin Abbas Haider). For the sake of not spoiling the story of the movie itself, let’s just say that fate intervenes and due to a series of unfortunate events, their paths get aligned and together, they conspire to plan something ‘big’ to earn fast and easy money. And what that ‘big’ thing is, you might ask? Well, you have to go to cinemas to see for yourself. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Na Maloom Afraad Facebook page[/caption] In the acting department, all actors demonstrate their acting prowess sufficiently, especially Fahad and Mohsin. Fahad has transitioned seamlessly from the smaller screen of the drama industry towards the bigger celluloid screen of the cinema format. Javed is, as usual, on point and Urwa Hocane has perhaps given her best performance yet that will strongly cement her position for future movie acting endeavours. Salman Shahid, in his portrayal as Gogi, requires special praise and kudos for the way he has portrayed this character. Perhaps one can’t help but to draw an outright parallel between his on screen persona of Mushtaq Bhai in Dedh Ishqiya and Gogi, but nonetheless his comedic timing remains impeccable as always. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Na Maloom Afraad Facebook Page[/caption] Ultimately, it is the trifecta (Javed, Fahad and Mohsin) that carries the movie competently on their shoulders because their chemistry is just amazing and they click and gel in with each other like three peas in a pod. Other cast members include Paras Masroor, Kubra Khan, Ali Rizvi and Nayyar Ejaz; they all hold their own in the limited on-screen time that they are given. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Na Maloom Afraad Facebook page[/caption] The director has intentionally opted to choose regular local Karachi landmarks and locations for shooting the bulk of the movie, instead of international exotic locales. Same is the case with shooting the songs of the movie. The subject of the story is such that showing outdoor and extravagant foreign location in large proportions will seem out of place and incompatible with the on-going theme of the movie. In particular, it will resonate well with Karachiites and they surely will appreciate the fact that their daily commuting routes, streets, back alleys and roads are shown extensively in the movie. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Na Maloom Afraad Facebook page[/caption] In terms of the musical score of the movie, it will rival any Bollywood flick, as all the songs are catchy and melodious, especially the item song Billi in which Mehwish Hayat exhibits her dancing talent. She is simply scintillating, drop dead gorgeous and spectacular. Finally Pakistanis have an item song they can call their own, without going into the merits or the demerits of the culture of embedding an item song in a movie; it is a reality whether one likes it or not. Instead of playing the usual Munnis, Jalebi Bais and Chikni Chembalis of Bollywood over and over again in our local functions such as weddings and the likes, Billi will be a better if not equal substitute for them for some time to come. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x25e88y_billi-na-maloom-afraad-movie-song-featuring-fahad-mustafa-urwa-hocane-and-javed-shiekh-audio-song_music[/embed] To sum it all up, Na Maloon Afraad doesn’t exactly transcend its genre led clichés but it does however offer quality entertainment in bucket loads. The songs, the comedic timing, the punchy yet idiosyncratic hard-to-forget one liners coupled with an excellent timing that will not drag the film and the subtle social commentary. To the naysayers, it is a request that instead of trying to find flaws in our locally generated movies such as that it’s inspired from the likes of Hera Pheri or any other Bollywood movie, we ought to applaud the fact that after such a long hiatus, some good, wholesome movies are again coming out in Pakistan which are locally made. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Na Maloom Afraad Facebook page[/caption] It would be almost criminal (pun intended) to miss this one out. Na Maloon Afraad is a riot, in every sense of the word that would leave its audience short of laughing fits and aneurysms!



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    As Zarb-e-Azb moves towards a ground offensive in Miranshah, bomb disposal units are assigned the daunting task of safely detonating troves of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) precariously stacked in numerous factories scattered across town. A junior military officer, part of one such unit, reflected on a mission he had successfully carried out earlier in the day. Referring to the IED composition, he said,

    “They (TTP) are damn experts, awesome work. Brilliant minds how they use local materials urea and the likes to make IEDs, awesome. I wish I could get trained by them”.
    Simply by an apt assessment of the adversary’s skill set, in this case the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) immaculate IED assembling techniques, he is able to carry out the task in a more profound manner. His jawans (soldiers) trailing not far behind. Terrorism falls between being purely chaotic and utterly systematic. Because terrorist actions based on bewildering ideological premises, seem so incoherent and illogical. Yet, the tactical superiority continues to bedazzle Pakistan’s finely tuned conventional military and it’s far reaching intelligence services. With increasingly daring and meticulously planned attacks on key civilian and military installations alike, it is crucial to comprehend that the country is not facing a rag tag collection of religious zealots.  Recently, the TTP have successfully seized different airports, which wreaked havoc on the security establishment and eluded intelligence agencies. A few months ago, militants laid siege to the country’s busiest airport, Jinnah International. Fully gauging the airport’s economic as well as symbolic relevance, the TTP extended beyond the lawless tribal belt in FATA, merging into the country’s industrial hub for an audacious multifaceted assault on both the country’s weaning sense of pride and security. Key military bases have been repeatedly attacked by TTP militants as well. The attacks have become increasingly daring and inflicting greater damage with every blow. All three wings of the inter-services have been shaken to the core. In August 2012, among speculation of a proposed military-led offensive in North Waziristan (NW), military intelligence for weeks was expecting an assault on key compounds. The suspicions and validity of the reports were remorsefully confirmed when TTP commando militants stormed the sprawling Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Kamra, destroying an aircraft and martyring one security personnel. In May 2011, an assault of a similar nature was carried out on one of the country’s elite naval stations, Mehran base in Karachi. A small team of terrorists infiltrated the compound, successfully destroyed two surveillance planes and killed at least 17 people including security personnel. No previous incident has resonated a deeper sense of aggravation and shock as the 2009 attack on the country’s military’s General Headquarters (GHQ), located in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The attack left six army personnel dead, including two senior military officers. All these attacks share salient features. A small band of highly motivated and grotesquely adroit insurgents, infiltrate seemingly impenetrable fortress-like compounds and leave behind a deadly trail of bloodshed and battered pride. Full-fledged military operations targeting TTP strong holds in the lawless North and South Waziristan region have hardly been a complete success. Their innate ability to disperse into neighbouring Afghanistan, regroup and attack from across the Durand Line, exhibits their cross border lethality, thus introducing an array of complexities for the country’s security establishment. Is defeating the TTP an unachievable goal? Hardly! For an effective campaign against the TTP, with grudging respect, the security circles must acknowledge the group’s tactical and strategic capabilities and respond proportionately. After years of delaying a proposed military response to address the growing influence of TTP operatives in NW, it appears the country is catching up. The military’s willingness to eliminate terrorist cells by launching a full-fledged operation is testament to a renewed and aggressive appraisal of the TTP’s immense hold on the region. While armed forces continue to clear the lawless frontier of TTP fighters and its foreign associates, the country is bracing for a possible wave of reprisal attacks, resonating far into urban centres. Celebrating Pakistan’s 68th Independence Day, two groups of terrorist (believed to be foreigners) simultaneously attacked the Samungli and Khalid airbases in the southern city of Quetta. Leaving no room for mistakes, the security personnel who had received a heads up from the intelligence community were successfully able to thwart the insurgents from breaching the perimeter. The 11-hour gun fight resulted in all 12 militants being killed and a huge cache of weapons and suicide vests recovered. Successful instances like these show the military has begun to acknowledge TTP’s ‘brilliant minds’. Anti-terrorism campaigns characterised by an intricately planned offensive, of an increasingly robust nature, have placed the insurgents in a vice. Pakistan military is squeezing it tighter with passing time.

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    Eidul Azha in a rural set-up has jarring differences when compared to how we celebrate this Eid in cities. I live and celebrate my Eid in Karachi, but if I celebrate it in my ancestral village in Khairpur, Sindh, this is what would be different. The animals would be much less expensive, much more readily available, and the sense of community in sharing the meat would be the focus. Less affluent neighbours and relatives will casually come to the house where an animal is sacrificed and ask candidly for a share of the meat. The ones giving it out will not look down on the ones asking for it. There are fewer formalities and lesser ego issues involved, something that urbane sensibilities take away. But perhaps the best thing about celebrating this Eid in my village is that no one questions the ritual. In an urban, more “aware” world, we question everything. But when each religious ritual is questioned, its efficacy is doubted and its methodology is demeaned, we are actually getting ahead of ourselves. A classic example is what we here every year:

    “Why not do away with this ritual of animal sacrifice?”
    The reasons given are many. The fact that this ritual involves blood and “gore” and millions of poor animals end up losing their lives, and so the ritual is too violent. The fact that the stench, the organs, the blood (yes, the blood is a pet peeve) and the slaughter waste makes our entire cities abattoirs. And the most classic one is that the same money could be used to help the needy with their more urgent needs.
    “Why not pay a poor child’s yearly school fee, rather than spending the same money on slaughtering a goat?”
    The answers to above criticisms are quite simple, really. The problem is not with so many animals being slaughtered, but with the fact that our cities in Pakistan are not equipped with the infrastructure to dispose the slaughter waste on this day, or any day actually. Our anger is misdirected at the ritual, whereas the problem lies with the lack of civic sense in our citizens in how they dispose the slaughter waste. Here, we stumble upon a bigger issue – the fact that being a good citizen that does not harm others is a basic tenet of Islam, but is sadly not seen as one. But just because people break traffic signals, we cannot stop using cars on streets. Similarly, the ritual cannot be done away with because of the fault of some. The poor animals being slaughtered actually provide livelihood to millions of poor Pakistanis who wait eagerly for this Eid to sell off the cattle they have raised all year round. Try and explain to the shepherds who travel to Karachi from Tharparkar and to Lahore from villages in Rahimyar Khan that you think this ritual should be done away with. The reaction may surprise you. What’s interesting is that most of the people criticising the ritual are avid meat-eaters all year round. It is not like they moved to being vegetarians and vegans. They love their ‘bong ki nihari’ and ‘mutton pulao’, but have a problem with this, giving reasons from environmental imbalance to being unkind towards nature. The ritual is mandatory for those who can afford to sacrifice an animal. In today’s era of inflation, if a person can afford to spend on an animal’s sacrifice once a year, then that person can for sure spend on paying a child’s fee for school too. Why are the two things mutually exclusive? Why must I choose one? But who are we kidding? The above given reasons, both for and against this ritual, are logical. And religion, worship, and most of all faith, cannot be explained by logic. Humans are innately selective in the logic they choose to strengthen what they already believe in. Muslims, who unquestioningly carry on this ritual, or any ritual of faith, may have understood that salvation lies in trusting how the Mastermind has designed religion. He created us and He knows what works for us. Sitting and meditating is great but can never replace the five daily prayers. A nature hike may be great for your soul but can never have the effect that sa’ee between the perpetually overcrowded Safa and Marwa in the hot city of Makkah does. And if I spend money to help a needy (which I must, as charity is both a ritual and a purification exercise), it’s a great thing to do, but will not have the same effect as sacrificing an animal on this day. In this act, I feel an affinity with that act of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). As someone who has genetic hemophobia and cannot stand the sight of blood, it’s not an easy ritual. But then, acts of love and leaps of faith never really are easy.  As mentioned in the Holy Quran, it is not the flesh or blood of animals that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him. The biggest part of piety is handing over one’s reigns to Allah, and saying, “You Know best”. Accepting one’s human limitations of understanding when compared with Divine wisdom – that, my friends, is the ultimate sacrifice.

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  • 10/14/14--06:49: To Karachi, with love
  • Dear Karachi, I know that you’re probably busy with your everyday schedule but I decided to write to you anyway. I hope you listen to the complaints I make and the compliments I mean. Almost every few days, you witness something awful. But I am so glad to see the strength that you have sustained. You’re still living. You moved on. And that’s what makes me fall in love with you. You’re beautiful, chaotic and dangerous in your own manner. At times, I can’t really tell who you are. I can’t decide if you’re the Lady in Red, who seduces people by bribing them with money and employment, or if you’re the Black Widow, who scares away people with pistols, murders and bhattas. I can’t decide if you’re a Mercedes or a high-roof; you depict both ironically. Your malls and restaurants are opposite to your small, congested, ghetto areas. Frankly, you’re a mixture of both. You, my dear, have taken so many lives. You have provided bread to so many people and have become a home to countless. You are an inescapable hope. Your tumult, in fact, every single face of yours, is like heroin, so addictive. The addict wants to go away, far away from you... but he fails. He struggles to find peace away from you, because he knows that you can only be a safe haven to danger and depression. But somehow, despite cursing you, he fails. He is still madly in love with you, so much that he can’t imagine living without you. He realises that all this is now a part of his life, without which he is incomplete. He accepts this and lets you eat upon him like a cancer. Tell me, Karachi, are you a predator or a prey? Do you hunt Karachiites or have they victimised you? It’s hard to say. But one thing is clear, whether a predator or a prey, you’re the one who’s losing. You’re deteriorating. You have evolved from the city of lights to a city of demise. You are broken. But the good news is that you don’t need to get depressed. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe it’s a train, I can’t say. What I can surely say is ‘you are strong’. You have proven that broken cities are not a sign of weakness. They depict strength and patience. They sustain power. They know how to survive... you know how to survive. Even when you’re burning, you manage to earn the highest income for the country. Your loyalty to Pakistan cannot be questioned, my dear. You’re like an acid victim; completely destroyed, yet extremely beautiful. You’re like autumn leaves, falling apart. You are like the Tower of Pisa, leaning towards downfall but standing against gravity. You are like a mountain, high and rugged. Like a goat escaping a slaughter scene. Like an injured bird, who knows how to fly but cannot fly. You are Karachi. You refuse to fade into oblivion. Oh my darling, imagine the wonders you can do if, for once, all the obstacles are removed. My lovely Karachi, every cloud has a silver lining and I am sure you’re going to find one. All you need to do is stay calm and non-violent. I know it is too much to ask but this is for our future. You need to stop your enemies from throwing gasoline on you. I know you will get through all this; I am sure you will go through it and come out alive. You will make it to success. You’ve dealt with so much and you’re still standing. Nothing can break you down, Karachi, for you are magical. You are hopeful and this is what will help you shine one day, even brighter than the koh-e-noor. I promise. Just hang on tight! Your everloving, Karachiite



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    Bread! Sounds doughy, sounds boring and definitely sounds like a typical consumption option around K-town; but a revolution is here! Oh yes, it’s Hoagies that has entered the food market of Karachi, like a thunderbolt to strike the agendas of all possible foodies of the city! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hoagies Facebook page[/caption] Hoagies drew a lot of popularity over social media and the food scene of Karachi within a short span of time with a promising new concept of deliciously toasted ‘hero sandwiches’ and stirred the right amount of hype to challenge the traditional ideology of subs, wraps and sandwiches. The hype did wonders and drove ‘foodies’ like me to Hoagies, situated at Saba Avenue, in the posh locality of DHA, Karachi. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hoagies Facebook page[/caption] The place was well lit with wooden booths to accommodate all hunger struck victims and illustrated just the right image of what the eatery aims to do; be a saviour in case of hunger and the urge of a good sandwich. The display menu was elaborative with appetising food photography and catchy names like ‘Hellafat’, ‘Hollywood’, ‘Homie’ etcetera. The offered Hoagie sandwiches were even better! The staff was courteous and the transparent preparatory counter itself portrayed the honesty and hygiene of what one is about to gulp down. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hoagies Facebook page[/caption] I opted for the ‘Original Hooligan’! (Notice the alphabet ‘H’ playing the lead in their signature sandwiches, maybe the aura of a cheery hurrah or a heroic element). The name ‘flattery over flatbread’ was born as soon as I received my heroic dose of Hoagies. The bread is an ideal in-house baked treat with a secret dough recipe, which has sworn to stand firm against the sloppiness of sauces and the cheesiness of the mozzarella and cheddar conspiracies. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hoagies Facebook page[/caption] Over this eight-inch white doughy awesomeness, juicy tender and well-seasoned beef strips were laid to rest with a generous blanket of slit open mushrooms and onions. On top of it was a dancing layer of Hoagies’ signature dirty sauce, topped with thick tomato rings and fresh lettuce leaves. After the final ecstatic drizzle of shredded mozzarella cheese, this flattery was caged down with the final white hoagie roll. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hoagies Facebook page[/caption] Hoagies won me over in terms of taste, value for money and its distinctively unique concept of bringing about something new to offer in terms of fast food. The brand is competing wholeheartedly with internationally known competitors but has won a distinguished ranking in my opinion. They have managed to draw attention with their colourful branding and language with which to address all Hoagies’ fans in its own special way! A must visit for all those who are on the hunt for something new - Hoagies is definitely worth it! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Hoagies Facebook page[/caption] This place is not just a hero in terms of its sandwiches, but adheres to social responsibility as well! The place is wheelchair friendly, and they cut the Hoagie sandwich into half, as if they really know what a customer may seek. Happy eating!



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    In the midst of a tussle between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been cast aside. However, after the party’s rally today, this might not be the case anymore. For Pakistan’s political web, this is an extremely positive development. PPP was outmuscled, outwitted and completely blown away in the 2013 general elections. Statistically, PPP’s seat count in the National Assembly went down to 45 seats from the 118 it won in the 2008 elections. This was, in no small part, due to PPP’s poor performance from 2008 to 2013. As things unfolded following the elections, the general feeling was that PPP was redundant and dead as a political entity, with the 2013 elections being one of the last nails in its coffin. The old guard had been put to shame, and the new one went unnoticed. While it is fair to say that the rise of PTI created a massive chunk in PPP’s electoral potency, likewise it is also fair to believe that Pakistani politics needs a vibrant PPP back. Historically, PPP has been the most potent left-wing political force in Pakistan at the federal level. While it has been guilty of making a disappointing shift to the right wing’s capitalist end at various points in time, Bilawal has injected some much needed left-blood into the party again. Starting from the current civilian ruling class to the military, capitalist blood runs through the country’s veins. A country where an industrialist, drowned in blood of the proletariat, serves his third term as prime minister. A country where the ruling elite showcases consumerism in all its sick glory and the average man struggles to feed himself even once a day. A country where the phenomenon of religion and hyper-nationalism is poisoning minds every passing day. A country where, out of the two political entities brawling it out for federal power, one feeds off private industries and the other feeds off misguided anarchy, fuelled by hyper-nationalism – the choice of ideologies is limited, and it doesn’t make for pretty reading. With a potent PPP, a third ideological narrative is offered; an ideology that – if executed properly – can reap benefits on both social and economic levels. This is of utmost importance in order to avoid pushing Pakistan in a position where the only available option is either hyper-nationalism or the socioeconomic horrors of privatisation. A third option, one that speaks for the working class, one that empowers the proletariat, one that addresses the issue of class conflict, is pivotal for Pakistan. PPP’s recent history has been a massive disappointment. No one realises this better than the PPP leadership themselves, even if they don’t admit this publicly. But after the dust from the 2013 general elections settled, there have been a few bright spots for the party. The Sindh Festival was brilliant, and Bilawal’s bold stance on terrorism has been commendable. But all this needs to translate into something more. It is obvious that the party has become more active off late, showcased by the recent movement in Southern Punjab. It is still, however, playing third fiddle to PTI and PML-N despite being the official opposition in the Parliament. This has not necessarily been a bad thing, since it has allowed them to avoid the media spotlight and regroup as a political entity again. Critics of PPP will bring up arguments such as Bilawal House occupying public property, cell-phones being shut down in Karachi due to the rally, the treatment dished out to Rehman Malik and the likes – all things effectively going against the PPP’s ‘for the people, with the people’ roots. These are all valid arguments, and ones that need to be addressed by PPP urgently. There has to be a better way to offer Bilawal security than by causing inconvenience to people. Tightening security for a one-off rally is understandable but doing that perpetually is not. However, what needs to be remembered is the fact that, due to Bilawal and PPP’s very vocal anti-terrorism stance, the threat to them is very real. It was there when they were campaigning for the 2013 elections and it is still here today. There is also the regular argument of what makes Bilawal stand out. How is he better than any other politician? The answer is simple: Bilawal doesn’t stand out right now. He has a while to go before he is able to do that. What he does bring to the table, however, is a massive political legacy – first built by his charismatic grandfather and further honed by his mother. He also brings with him an incredible amount of baggage amid accusations of corruption and inefficiency, the lessons of which PPP learned in the 2013 general elections. The point is to take everything in your stride and learn. Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will never rise as federal political entities; therefore it is down to PPP to keep the left-wing active at the federal level. An active left-wing in Pakistan is imperative. The roots of PPP are imbedded in Marxist theory and Socialism. The same roots that have given Pakistan brilliant statesmen like Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, and Malik Meraj Khalid. It is essential that those roots are not abandoned again the way they have been in various moments during the party’s rollercoaster history. The party has made mistakes, some small, some massive – and they must not be repeated again. When all is said and done, what needs to be acknowledged is that Pakistan was not better off without its strongest ideological political party in limbo. Here’s hoping that the PPP rises again, following today’s rally, stays true to its ideological roots and moulds a positive future for itself and the country.



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    One does not have to be an Imran Khan fan boy to realise what is wrong with Pakistan and its ruling class. The primary reason Imran’s message has resonated with the masses is due to their longing and need for this current system to “change”. Today, as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) prepares to throw one awesome party of their own, I doubt if that “change” will have anything to do with them. It seems that this dog is not willing to learn new tricks at all. It is beyond comprehension, in a country where the capital has been besieged by two political parties for over two months now, how one political party has shut down the largest city in Pakistan for just one rally. Roads blocked, shops closed, the entire city at standstill as Prince Bilawal Bhutto Zardari comes of age. Certain inconveniences are taking place in Islamabad, no doubt, but the scales are not comparable. The Sindh Government has blocked almost all major roads and, till yesterday, had even planned on declaring a provincial holiday and suspend mobile networks. Again, let’s not forget that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have been at this for two months, while the PPP rally is yet to even take place. As I write this, the helicopter is en route to the venue. Leading up to this so called historic gathering, Karachiites have also seen every billboard in the city and major landmarks painted green, red and black, adorned with photos of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Bilawal Zardari himself. One can only wonder what percentage of all this marketing expense came from the Sindh exchequer and from the pockets of the residents of Sindh, and for how long PPP can rely on these faces and not their track record to gather crowds and hold political ground. Regardless, it is truly unfortunate what has become of a party that claims to represent the rural and lower class of our country but ends up only highlighting what is wrong with us – dynasties, corruption and ignorance, to mention a few. Has PPP already forgotten what took place on that plane when it decided to wait for Rehman Malik? Are they as oblivious to public sentiment as our national government is? Notwithstanding what Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech might comprise, the precedent that has been set in the making of his first major, political address reaffirms the fears of those that support the system and Constitution of Pakistan and fuels the fire of anarchism and disruptive forces presently rampant throughout the country. There is no change here.



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    Sunday mornings are the laziest mornings of the week, when all one wants is to wake up to the smell of halwa puri and thick newspapers. However, this Sunday morning, Karachi woke up to the news of a robbery at the Edhi residence – house of Abdul Sattar Edhi and Bilquis Sattar Edhi and – headquarters to the Edhi Foundation, which was looted in broad daylight by unknown dacoits. This is surprising, yes. It should not have happened, I agree. But it happened. It happens all the time in Karachi. I’m just glad that the robbers had at least this much humanity left in them that they did not kill the man himself. So there you go, Pakistan; he is alive and well. Like they say,

    Jaan hai tou jahan hai” (If you’re alive, the world’s alive)
    During a lunch-time discussion, however, my colleague was surprised to see that I wasn’t affected much by the robbery – and I was equally surprised to see her making such a big deal out of this. Is this incident new to our metropolitan? Then why the outcry? Is it because it happened to a philanthropist? I am more concerned with, and happy about, the fact that the robbers didn’t harm Edhi Sahib or his wife. In the words of Edhi Sahib himself:
    “Mere saath kuch nahin kiya. Balkey izzat di, kursi pe bithaya…” (They didn’t do anything to me. In fact, they showed respect and asked me to sit on a chair)
    Although this does not justify the robbery itself, it could have been worse. The icing on the cake for me, though, was the comment made by the police, terming this robbery as ‘unethical’. I am still to learn what ethical robberies are... The media is in frenzy, Twitter is ablaze with the hashtag #DonateToEdhi, our chief minister has woken up from his slumber and bothered to take notice and SHO Zafar Iqbal – who was probably with his family on a picnic that beautiful Sunday – has been suspended. But, what bothers me as a layperson is not that Edhi Sahib was robbed; it is the question that why did Edhi Sahib, a philanthropist and a Nobel Prize nominee, have gold and money worth millions of rupees, including foreign currency, in his house? Edhi Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in Asia, with its website boasting that donations can be made via credit cards, bank transfers and even PayPal. Why would so much cash and gold be donated in person, and kept at a residence that doesn’t even have any security? And that too in a city like Karachi, which has been voted one of the top 10 most violent cities in the world. Edhi Sahib, you are no way immune to theft or robbery; robbers would never care if you are a saint or a sinner. In a city where people hardly make enough money to feed their families, thinking that one would be safe because one is compassionate to all is beyond naivety. Investigation of the incident shows that this was perhaps a planned robbery, as the Edhi residence maintained lockers with valuables that the dacoits immediately targeted. Clearly, they already knew about it and were well aware of its contents. Faisal Edhi, son of Edhi Sahib, stated that the valuables were given to Edhi Sahib for safekeeping, as an ‘amanat’, because he is a very trusted man. Again, the question is, who are these ‘people’ who entrusted Edhi Sahib with keeping valuables in his house and endangered his life, instead of using banks and locker services like the rest of the 23.5 million individuals in the city? Are these ‘people’ evading taxes by safekeeping their gold and currency with Edhi Sahib? Or are these ‘people’ afraid to disclose their assets? These questions, I believe, will remain as unanswered as the question “Benazir ka qatil kaun?” (Who killed Benazir?). Edhi Sahib, I feel for you and let me assure you that people all over the world will still donate to the Edhi Foundation, irrespective of the fact that the stolen valuables were not donations but entrusted to you for safekeeping by unknown ‘people’ for unknown reasons. As a citizen of this city, however, I am disappointed that when valuables of rich people are stolen from your respectable organisation, it is termed unethical but when hundreds of people are robbed every day of their hard earned money on traffic signals, in their homes or even outside mosques, no action is taken. Is it justified to term those robberies as ethical and not disturb our beloved chief minister over them? Or is it mandatory that the regulatory authorities only take action when a high profile case like yours is reported?

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    It feels really good to be a Pakistani woman these days. It brings a big smile to my face when I see five Pakistani women in the list of BBC’s 100 women of 2014. And no matter how controversial one may call Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize, there is no denying the fact that it has brought Pakistani women at the centre stage again. Yes, the world is often quick to assume that women in our country are weaklings – damsels in perpetual distress. For a very long time the west has considered them little more than slaves of their male counterparts. Their assumptions are based on certain facts we unfortunately cannot deny. The Global Gender Gap Report has pushed Pakistan to the second last position in the world in terms of gender equality. But is that the complete truth? There are stories that this Gender Gap Report won’t tell and yet these stories exist because of this very gender inequality in Pakistan. Our women have proved, time and time again, that they simply do not give up in the face of any opposition. Not too long ago, they stood along men to demand independence from the British rule; they have continued to stand up to demand their own freedom in the independent state of Pakistan. Here are a few of the many incredible stories worth remembering today. The story of freedom fighters: I don’t know if young Fatima Sughra heard about Jinnah’s speech in Aligarh in 1944 where he proclaimed,

    “It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”
    But she defied the four-wall prison and much more when she climbed up the Civil Secretariat Lahore during protests in 1947 and pulled down the Union Jack to proudly hoist the flag of Muslim League on the building. It was a remarkable thing to do. She was only fourteen at that time and she probably did not realise the symbolic importance of what she had done. Pakistani women would climb over barriers, buildings and even mountains to push the boundaries of their own emancipation for decades to come. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Women activists during Ziaul Haq's era.[/caption] Fast forward to Ziaul Haq’s regime – a time of great tumult in the lives of Pakistani women. They are being told that if they are sexually assaulted or raped they would require four male witnesses to prove the crime in the court of law. They were also being informed that from now onward the evidence of two women would be equal to that of one man. Pakistani women did not sit in the four walls of their houses on hearing this. They could see a shadow falling on the future of their daughters to live safely in the land of the pure and they would not sit quiet. Outraged, they came out on the streets to protest. They were baton charged but did not give up. This was the time women emancipation campaign gained strength in the country. We see prominent activists, like sisters Hina Jilani and Asma Jahangir, emerge out of this chaos and help create organisations like Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Women’s Action Forum (WAF). Work done by female activists in this era became a blueprint for future feminist movements in the country. The story of education advocates: Women empowerment and education go hand in hand but education is a dangerous thing. It makes us aware of our surroundings and our place in the world. It nurtures a questioning mind and uplifts the spirit that seeks freedom and justice and equality. Therefore, imparting quality education to masses – especially those living in the rural areas of Pakistan – has remained extremely difficult. In the past, women have been deprived of education more than men because they are not seen as bread winners for the family and education is largely seen as means to get work. By taking the right to education away from our girls we have also snatched their right to justice and freedom. One of the first schools for Muslim girls was founded in 1895 by Amina Tayabji and was a result of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s bold campaigning for education for Muslims. Later, in 1906 Begum of Bhopal, the female ruler of the princely state of Bhopal opened an exclusive girls’ school in Aligarh. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pop singer Madonna with activist Humaira Bachal and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid. Photo: Madonna Facebook Page[/caption] Today this is a cause close to Malala Yousafzai’s heart and while she is on the forefront, we should not forget that, thankfully, she is not alone in her struggle. There are girls like Humaira Bachal, fighting for the right of education in Pakistan every day. Bachal was the first woman from her family to receive an education despite the opposition from community elders and even her own father in the little Mawach Goth in Karachi. At an impressionable age of 12, she began teaching underprivileged children in her neighbourhood. This practice became what is now Dream Model Street School. She has received many international awards for her struggle and achievements including Women of Impact Award at the Fourth Annual Women of the World Summit in 2013. Then there is Begum Jan, a doctor who grew up in South Waziristan and attended a boys school because there was no school for girls in her village. She is the founder of Tribal Women Welfare Association, which not only educates tribal women about their rights but also gives them basic medical education. She was the first Pakistani woman to receive the International Women of Courage Award in 2008. The story of storytellers: While we are speaking of courage, let’s talk about a certain Zaibun Nissa Hamidullah. She was the first female English language columnist and political commentator in Pakistan but left the paper when reprimanded for her political commentary. She launched Mirror – a monthly publication, which became critical of Iskandar Mirza’s rule and was later banned. A famous street in the heart of Karachi, Zaibunnisa Street, is named after her. She has inspired hundreds of women reporters, editors, publishers and storytellers to join her tribe. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Zaibun Nissa Hamidullah[/caption] Stand back and look at Pakistan’s literary scene. There is an array of female writers of both poetry and prose who have most eloquently conveyed the struggles of Pakistani women in their writings. We have Ismat Chughtai, Quratulain Haider, Zahida Hina, Bano Qudsiya, Fehmida Riaz, Ada Jafri and Parveen Shakir to name a few in Urdu literature. Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah and later Bapsi Sidhwa were trailblazers for dynamic writers of English fiction like Sara Suleri, Kamila Shamsie and Uzma Aslam Khan. Today, there are many prominent female directors, photographers, and artists magnificently shaping the visual culture of Pakistan. In recent years the unstoppable Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has captured the stories of previously unseen Pakistani change-makers in her camera and has mesmerised the world with her storytelling. The story of social architects: Then we have women laying the groundwork for development in impoverished regions of the country. One of them is Dr Quratulain Bakhteari who spent the formative years of her life living in a refugee camp in Karachi after the partition. She was a young mother of three kids by the age of 22 but managed to complete her Masters degree from the University of Karachi and later completed her Doctorate from Loughborough University in England. Today she is the founding director of the Institute For Development Studies and Peace (IDSP) – a training ground for young change-makers from underprivileged communities. She has been working for the development of rural communities and girls’ education in Balochistan and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. [embed width="620"]http://vimeo.com/56813587[/embed] And when we talk about community work, may we never forget the resilient Parween Rehman who assumed the helm of The Orangi Pilot Project in 1999 and helped empower over 113 settlements in Orangi by providing the residents with right training and guidance with a belief that people are their own best resource. She was assassinated while returning from work after receiving several threats to her life for her work. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Parveen Rehman. Photo: NPR/File[/caption] The story of game-changers: Just last year we saw a new tribe of change-makers emerge in Swat Valley. International media reported with great interest the formation of an all female jirga as a reaction to the normal male jirgas. The story made headlines when Jan Bano took the case of her deceased daughter, Tahira, to the female jirga, after rejecting a verdict given by a local, typically all-male jirga on her daughter’s death. Young Tahira died after spending 14 days in agony when her husband, Subha Khan, threw acid on her. The police refused to register the case. Local jirga decided that one of Khan’s sisters should be married in Tahira’s family to compensate for her loss but by this time Jan Bano already had enough of the jirga’s misogynous approach to justice. She had heard about the all-women jirga and approached it for help. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] In this photograph taken on June 20, 2013 women attend a jirga in Saidu Sharif, the twin town of Mingora, the largest city in Swat. Photo: AFP[/caption] While critiques may see jirgas – either men’s or women’s – to be fundamentally flawed for they exist parallel to the existing law of the land, it is reassuring to see women especially in the more conservative tribal areas of Pakistan standing up for themselves. Surprisingly, reports suggest that many local men are supportive of the female jirga for they too have seen the injustice in male-dominated verdicts in the past. It would only be fair then to give Pakistani men due credit. Just as all Pakistani women are not damsels in distress, not all Pakistani men are tyrants and abusers. There are men fully aware of the rights and place of women and who have supported women emancipation in their homes and social circles over the past several decades. There are perhaps just not enough of them yet. So when we talk about Mukhtar Mai, let’s not forget it was a local cleric who encouraged her family to file a case with the police against the injustice of the local jirga and when we talk about Malala, let us also remember it was her father who first encouraged her to take up the cause of education seriously. The women who have not found support from men in their lives have turned the very opposition into their strength. They have achieved what they have achieved not because they are women but because they have refused to believe that being a woman in Pakistan puts them at a disadvantage. They have exercised their right of choice and in doing so have shown great courage and strength. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ayesha Farooq. Photo: Reuters[/caption] Unfortunately there is no scale to measure courage. We cannot measure how our first female fighter pilot Ayesha Farooq has inspired young Pakistani women. She said in an interview that after losing her father as a child, she grew up to become a young soldier in her family. I wish we could count how many more young soldiers live amongst us, hidden from public recognition. We all know women amongst us working to support their families, multitasking like mad to make sure their houses remain spotlessly clean, and the food is ready and their are families happy. There are courageous women who speak up against domestic violence and abuse even if it means a breach of their private life. There are daring women who take up a career of their choice and marry the man of their choice even if it means they will be shunned from the family forever. Brave women who are making all the choices in their lives, demanding that they be counted and treated like independent human beings and nothing less. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Samina and her brother completed their trek up Mount Everest. PHOTO: theyouthrepublic.com[/caption] On the other side of the scale, suffering will continue. Honour killings, domestic violence and forced marriages will not disappear magically but these atrocities do not define the future of Pakistani women. Be it Fatima Sughra who hoisted the Muslim League flag on the Civil Secretariat in Lahore in 1947 or Samina Baig who unfurled the flag of Pakistan on Mount Everest in 2013, women of Pakistan are telling the world to acknowledge them for what they do and what they are capable of doing. Nothing can stop them from conquering their own fears as well as new horizons they have found beyond the four walls of their houses.

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    My first interaction with her was back in late 2010. I read her letter-to-the-editor in Dawn, expressing her disappointment about her fellow students’ indifference to the prevailing conditions in the country and how the NED University of Engineering and Technology (NEDUET) administration, which boasts of maintaining a non-political environment at campus, fails to take notice of chalking done by a specific political group. The audacity in Ms Nabiha Chaudhry’s words made an impact on me. After finding her online on Orkut, I dropped her a message appreciating her bold stance and hoped that I would get to meet her, as my first year at NED was about to start in a few months. Those were the days when dictatorship under Pervez Musharraf was in full swing and a crackdown on the media and judiciary had just begun. A lot of activism was seen from the civil society in different parts of Pakistan but hardly any reaction was found in Karachi. There was this apathetic attitude in the educational institutes here as to what was happening around, which was in sharp contrast to the students’ protests we saw at the University of the Punjab (PU), the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and the likes. By starting off discussions on online forums with like-minded students, the efforts of Ms Chaudhry and others like her eventually culminated in the formation of the Constructive Students Network (CSN) – a students’ group in NED. The aim of this group was not to carry out violent protests but to create a thought-provoking process in the younger generation that could have much longer-lasting effects. CSN was in no way similar to the other societies operating in NED at that time – the basic objective was to spread the ideology that we, as students, represented the educated class of Karachi and hence we should rise above our differences of ethnicity, race and religion to work for a common cause; for the betterment of Pakistan. And Ms Chaudhry, no doubt, succeeded in instilling this belief in hundreds of people. I became a part of this journey when I attended one of their first meetings and was inspired by the passion and determination found in this small group. In contrast to the pessimism commonly found amongst engineers when it comes to talking about the future of their country where the most important topic of conversation becomes how fast they can move abroad, here was a person trying to convince others that Pakistan is all we have. Instead of lamenting over the dismal situation in the education sector, we were made to realise how much investment was being endowed in our engineering degrees by the government. These degrees were accepted world over and we paid a nominal fee because of the subsidised fees. Thus, the educated youth had to recognise their role and responsibility as citizens of the state. We had to enhance our capacity in terms of leadership, decision-making, policy implementation and firmness of principles in order to be able to work towards its progress. And all this came from the brave girl who had witnessed her father being killed because he had made efforts to end all political influence in the educational institute he was heading. And to top it all off, her family never got justice on that case from the prevailing system. There existed no apparent reason for her to still have faith in this country and the system that it was running. But despite that, all her efforts were directed towards the cause of developing a strong sense of nationality and patriotism among the youth of Pakistan and making them prioritise objectivity of national interest over individual gains. My first of many projects under her leadership was a seminar on “How to counter the brain drain in Pakistan” in early 2008, where we tried to give the students of NED the hope that despite the air of nepotism and corruption that surrounds us, there were practical examples of people who, through their ingenuity, made their way forward and were now excelling in their respective fields in Pakistan. Seven years later, I am now pursuing a fully-funded MS degree from one of the largest university networks in USA, from their department in petroleum engineering which is highly funded and top ranked in the world. Residing near the energy capital of the world, where headquarters of all major oil and gas companies are located, I see many fellow graduates easily getting enticed by their high salary packages and lifestyles they offer for working in the US and Middle East. But despite all that, I am still trying to carry the spirit and message that I got from our first project and look forward to returning back to Pakistan after my graduation. Why, one may ask? Because of the patriotism instilled within me by Ms Chaudhry. Her belief that no matter how dark the night, somehow the sun will rise once again and all shadows will be chased away, still make me believe in the Pakistan she envisioned, the Pakistan she glorified. I recall an incident where, after an extended power outage in Karachi, she told us:

    “… and hope you all are not just cursing the KESC but probing the matter and deciding yourselves that there will be a day these problems will no longer exist. We will bring that morning to our country, InshaAllahHum dekhein ge, laazim hai ke hum hi dekhein ge! (We will see it; it’s imperative that we will see it).”
    There were speculations in the media regarding her death and absurd theories were tossed around about how she burnt herself to death. The only thing she ever ignited was passion, spirit and patriotism in the hearts of her students and all those she met. She reiterated again and again that we should believe firmly in Allah (SWT), never give up against obstacles in life, have an optimistic frame of mind and work for the cause of a better and sustainable future of Pakistan. That is all I believe about my mentor, friend and older sister – Nabiha Chaudhry.

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    Drones, poverty and fundamentalism – these are often the things we hear on the news about Pakistan. But over the last two years, Pakistanis have brought home an Oscar, an Emmy, the Nobel Peace Prize, won second place in the Laugh Factory Funniest Person in the World competition and secured four places in the BBC 100 Women 2014 list. On a smaller scale, Pakistani contribution to local art, literature, fashion and music is everywhere. You just have to look. In Canada, Talal Chaudhry and Zohaib Bakhtyar are one of Toronto’s most talented duos on the electronic music scene. They are gaining international attention with their deep, melodic and often experimental sound. Better known as ‘Talal & Zoi’ and sometimes referred to as “T&Z”, the pair can be found spinning at some of Toronto’s most popular nightclubs and summer parties. They have been signed by notable labels like Dirtybird Records, Thoughtless Music, Rawthentic and Dantze. Most recently, T&Z was signed to Traum, a German record label who has signed artists such as Max Cooper and Maetrix. As I entered, T&Z’s recording space in the heart of Toronto’s Cabbagetown district, the first thing I noticed was a huge portrait of Quaid-e-Azam on the wall – a reminder of their roots and a symbol of Pakistani pride. [embed width="620"]http://vimeo.com/37682350#[/embed] Tell us about your early years – where did you grow up? Zoi: I grew up in Karachi and Lahore. I attended boarding school in Chandbagh which was about an hour or so away from Lahore. Talal: I grew up in Lahore. We both finished high school in Pakistan and came to Canada for university studies in 2006. When did you guys get into music? Talal: We used to hang out as kids and listen to a lot of music. I always played music when I was a kid in Pakistan – jamming, shows, gigs, and singing, played the guitar and the likes. I always loved it. I always wanted to do it. I went to some shows around the age of 11 and I remember thinking,

    “Wow, these guys are awesome!”
    We also had a piano at home which my sisters used to play. All my sisters got music lessons growing up, I didn’t have formal lessons but I ended up being the only one in my family who pursued music as a career. Zoi: I’ve been into music since I was very young. I was known to have the biggest music collection in school. From cassettes to CDs. I had everything – all genres. Moving to Canada was when I realised the electronic music scene was huge here. The shows were awesome and that definitely played a big role in driving me into DJ’ing and, eventually, production. Talal picked up turntables and we both started practicing pretty much every weekend. https://soundcloud.com/talalandzoi/tz-autumn-mix Did you come to Canada to study music? [They both laugh] Zoi: No, No. I came to study finance at the University of Western Ontario. Talal: And I was studying biochemistry at the University of Toronto. I started studying it because I wanted to be a doctor eventually but that didn’t work out and soon it was ‘bye bye’ biochemistry. I dropped out and decided to pursue music full time. What caused the leap from music being a hobby to music being a career? Talal: When we came to Canada we realised we could actually study music. It became more of a legitimate career option in that way. We got into the electronic scene here and loved it. Zoi: I would come to Toronto from London (Ontario) every weekend. I was studying finance at the time. I would take a two hour bus just to attend small shows with around 15 to 20 people. Eventually I dropped out of Western because I realised I didn’t want to do that. Talal went to a sound program and I too decided to pursue that to further deepen my knowledge about audio and music. We are now both certified sound engineers. We started doing our events after that and started building a small following. It just all went uphill from there. When did you start doing music together? Talal: It started off with just us jamming; we would hang out in a lounge and just play music – it was 2007 or 2008. Zoi: It wasn’t serious or anything; it was just for fun. https://soundcloud.com/talalandzoi/tz-in-between-the-lines Why electronic music? Talal: There are no boundaries with electronic music – you can have Hindi, French, and even Spanish elements in a song, quite seamlessly. And if you have Spanish in a song, it doesn’t make it a Spanish song. It’s still an electronic song that every person in the world can connect to. Zoi: As Talal said, electronic music now has no specific language; it’s at this stage where you can take it anywhere. Right now is a great time for electronic music. It’s amazing. There is immense creative freedom. Talal: A hundred percent. Zoi: [mocking Talal] A thousand percent. A million percent! Where did you start playing initially? Zoi: I found this little venue called Harmony, just through a random posting online. It was some lounge that was going out of business so I called the guy about it. His name was ‘Ranko’ – he was a really cool guy. We told him we’d bring our own equipment and our friends. We just needed a venue and we had around 40 or 50 people to show up. Then we started playing at another small venue called Toi Bar a few doors down from Harmony. That happened because one day these two girls walked in and told us, “You guys are really cool, you guys should play here regularly!” So that turned into more of a regular gig. This was 2008. Talal: So it went from us jamming to us getting gigs here and there. We literally started to play at places that were on the brink of closing down. Because of Toi Bar, we got recognition. Previously, we were contacting people, but now, people were also contacting us. We started getting more shows. At that time, I was starting to finish my sound engineering course so I had started producing music and that obviously helped. When you can create your own music and you’re getting signed to labels and stuff – that really helps, especially in addition to what we do. Zoi: It’s all a package, DJ’ing and producing music go hand in hand. https://soundcloud.com/talalandzoi/t-z-misunderstood How many shows are you doing per month? Talal: We get to play pretty often. Some weeks we have just one show and other weeks we have four. I’d say it averages to once a week for most of the year but definitely more in the summer time. What’s the best gig you’ve played? Zoi: There are quite a few but the most recent was actually at a ‘secret society’ beach party in the summer. There were about a 1000 people in attendance. Definitely played our hearts out! Talal: I remember taking my turntables back to Pakistan and throwing a party in my room. This was, by far, the best party I’ve thrown. Things were breaking, people were having a blast. My wife, Amal, made a painting about me and Zoi called Shut up and Listen to the Music which inspired us to have a gig named after the painting – that had a really good turnout, I’d say over a 1000 people showed up to the warehouse to enjoy it. Are your parents supportive of your music career? Talal: My parents were actually anti-music the whole time but I sort of forced it upon them. I used to play the drums in bands. I would tell them I am going to a friend’s birthday and actually go do a gig in front of like a thousand people. And even when I wanted to ditch bio-chem, they weren’t okay with that. But things changed as time went on and now they are fine with it – they are actually very supportive. Zoi: [he laughs] My parents weren’t, at first, but now they are fully on board. I dropped out of a business program to do sound engineering – so I guess I can’t really say they were never fully supportive but they were always hesitant. It’s all good now though. In fact, I’ve seen my parents listening to our Soundcloud page on their iPads sometimes… it’s amazing! Even their friends back home and their kids are sometimes blasting our music in their cars! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Talal & Zoi Facebook Page[/caption] Do you feel like you have a presence in Pakistan? Zoi: Yes! Our mothers will be coming back from lunches and whatnot and people will stop them to ask about us. Talal: Definitely. We feel very much supported. There was once a rumour in Pakistan that we opened for Madonna [laughs] – which is good I guess because it shows they are proud of us. What is the most gratifying thing about being a musician? Talal: You know, it’s really nice to get messages when people are telling you you’ve inspired them. That’s amazing. Music, for me though, will always be first. We are so sure this will be our career and it will get better and better. Zoi: Yeah, it’s great when people connect to our music. I remember getting a message from some guy who really felt our music – it resonated with him. Things like that are always nice. But it’s also gratifying to do what you love. If you don’t love what you do, there is no reason to do it. We genuinely believe we will be able to sustain ourselves as musicians – if we didn’t believe in ourselves, this whole thing would be a waste of time. I think artists have to have that mentality to push through the tougher times. Do you think there is a bigger following for electronic music in Karachi or Lahore? Zoi: Both, I think. Talal: It’s hard to say, they have different vibes. Do you think the youth in Pakistan need more options in terms of being able to pursue art and music as a career? Zoi: 189% yes! Talal: Definitely. As you know, I didn’t even consider it an option till I came to Canada. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Talal & Zoi Facebook Page[/caption] So what can we expect from T&Z in the future? Talal: We are focused on our music right now but we very much want to play music and sounds for movies in the near future for the entertainment industry in Pakistan. Because we have extensively studied sound, we want to be able to do films, radio, TV shows, sounds effects, voice recording – basically everything. In Pakistan, there is a huge shortage of certified sound engineers; so we feel we can really help. We also want to create our own record label and help Pakistani electronic artists get their music out there. There is so much talent but people are not getting signed, they aren’t gaining exposure. We also want to start touring. We love Toronto but we want to explore more places. Think about it, if you play at the same venue and for the same crowd week after week then you’ll have to change your art quite often – whereas if you play in London, Belgium or New York, then it’s not like you have a prepared set but you can present your core sound to each city. And there is a different rush that comes with playing in a new city where people are hearing your music for the first time. Zoi: If it has to do with sound, we want to do it. Bilal Brohi actually just started a specialised sound program, I was looking at the pictures, and there are like 20 students who have enrolled – which is amazing. There are not many channels in Pakistan. Let’s take electronic music – it’s hard for people in Pakistan to know where to even share it. That needs to change. We want to be a part of that change. Toronto is our base but we want to be on the road. We want to share our music with more people in different places. Pakistan has a rich musical history and, yet, very few avenues for ordinary musicians to obtain a formal training to be able to pursue music a career. One obstacle to becoming a musician is partially rooted in the lack of access to music education, especially for women. The other impediment comes down to genetics; musicians typically come from musical families. Most children in Pakistan will never know if they have an interest in pursuing music because it is rarely incorporated in the school curriculums. As more and more Pakistani artists, like Talal and Zoi, gain international recognition, there is hope that these musicians will use their clout to actively shape and influence the musical opportunities available in Pakistan.

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  • 11/17/14--11:01: Karachi from under the sea
  • My mother tells me a story of my childhood often. I was three, at some swimming club in London, and my sisters were taking swimming lessons. Too young to be allowed in at that age, I fought and wrestled against my mother, till the point that she was physically restraining me. The bemused instructor told my mother to let me go, to see what I would do. I made a running leap into the water, and haven’t looked back since. Having been a self-proclaimed water baby my entire life, scuba diving was naturally always high on my to-do list. Last year, I finally got around to doing something about my aspiration to go scuba diving. It stemmed from a desire to explore something new in our great city, Karachi. While doing my research on the best facility to go to, I was recommended by a few friends to go with Indus Scuba, from their personal experience. They said the training was thorough, the safety measures were more than adequate and the instructors were very competent as well as personable. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Myra Iqbal and Extreme Maneuvers Adventure Club[/caption] Scuba diving season in Karachi is from November to about February. Keeping that in mind, I enrolled in the October classes to complete my pool sessions. These consisted of demos, equipment-based training, basic procedures and safety drills, as well as working with a ‘buddy’, which is your partner for the dive. You learn to work closely with your buddy, in case of emergencies when in the deep, such as running out of air supply or malfunctioning equipment, and you do certain skill based exercises such as taking your mask off and putting it back on underwater, learning to equalise, and more. The pool sessions also give you your first sensation of being able to breathe underwater, a sensation that nobody can really explain to you, and it really got me excited for my first open-water dive. After completing a certain number of pool sessions, we finally ventured out into the open sea. On the day of the first open-water dive, the diving group headed towards Mubarak Village, from which we switched two boats to get to Charna Island. The long boat ride, the heavy equipment and the cumbersome wet suit, once in the water, stopped mattering, and a sense of excitement mixed with fear engulfed me. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16beby_charna-island_news[/embed] The instructors took the group down slowly, with the help of a rope. At this point, I surprised myself by going halfway down, and then panicking a bit and coming back up. As it turns out, my panic was caused by the thought of entering the great unknown, something that I had always looked forward to. The dive master helped me control these fears and brought me down slowly to the sea bed, where the rest of my group was, about 20 feet deep. We did our drills which, to be honest, weren’t very different in the actual sea, if you can just control your mind. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Zarmina Faisal[/caption] Once those were done, we were taken to explore the coral. Let nobody tell you that Pakistan has nothing to offer; the beauty of our marine life will leave you speechless. Being underwater and breathing, you become acutely aware of each and every breath you take, can feel the sensations of your body reacting to that breath, and in my experience, I think it just made me appreciate the beauty of what was around me. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16idk3_beauty-of-under-water-world-karachi_sport[/embed] Bright, red corals play host to a kaleidoscope of marine life; angel fish, tuna, sea urchins, are commonly seen. I came across more varieties of fish than I could recognise or name – it truly was a visual treat. I was told that there are barracudas and sting rays too, although I didn’t get to see either. The ever-changing visual scenery, the feeling of being in an unknown world and the majesty of nature at its best makes for a beautiful and humbling experience. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Zarmina Faisal[/caption] Time in the magical underwater world, however, is limited; we had to regroup and resurface. On subsequent dives, I realised one thing: even if you dive in the same spot again, no two dives are the same. The underwater world reveals different secrets each time, and plays a different host to your visual senses. Each has its own beauty, its own scenery, and its own feeling to offer, which can leave you overwhelmed and physically exhausted. I went on to do more dives, finish the practical dive section of the PADI certification, as well as complete the theory and take the test, which gave me my certification. Scuba season ended, life went on as normal, but now it’s almost that time of the year, and my little mermaid senses have started tingling again.



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    Relieved to finally be done with our university exams, Asad, my best friend from university, suggested he and I decided visit Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine during our vacations. Since I had plenty of time to spare, I agreed and the two of us decided to go on Saturday early in the morning to avoid any rush. At 8am on Saturday, Asad came over and together we left, on my motorbike, for the shrine. After offering our fateha, we realised thatit was still relatively early and we didn’t have anything is specific planned out. S on our way down the stairs of the shrine, Asad said it was a nice day to go to the beach. The thought of the relaxing sea breeze and quiet waves was very enticing. Since we were already so close to Sea View, I agreed. Since it was still earlier in the day, the sun was not very strong and a cool breeze welcomed us near the water. We walked on the beach for a while, in silence, taking in the beauty that surrounded us. It was the perfect morning. After a few minutes, we were approached by two young boys – roughly around eight or nine-years-old – inquiring about whether we were interested in taking a horseback ride. Funnily enough, the boys were not accompanied by horses. I let out a confused laugh and Asad inquired,

    Beta, where is this horse that you’re asking us to ride?”
    At this, one of the boys shouted something in a high-pitched voice and two horses came running towards us, and stopped near them. We were really in no mood to ride a horse at first but the children insisted so much that we gave in. They told us that one round was Rs10. We agreed and got atop the horses. The ride was fantastic. The cold wind blowing in our faces was very refreshing and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. After 15minutes or so, I told Asad that I had had my fill and was planning to get off the horse. He, too, was tired by now and we decided it was time to head home, but when we told the children to stop, they refused to listen. They pleaded for us to take another round and convinced us to take another round. The breeze was so nice that we agreed and stayed atop for another 20minutes. At the end of that, when we asked them to let us down, they refused to let us off the horses. At this point, alarm bells started going off in a remote part of my brain. I insisted, but to no avail. When we did finally manage to get off the horses is when things went unimaginably wrong. We took out Rs10 each and handed it over to the kids. At the sight of the money, however, the demeanour of the children and their attitude towards us changed completely. They threw the money on the floor and started yelling at us about how the amount to ride the horse was Rs840 each, and that we owed them Rs1680! My jaw fell to the floor,
    “What rubbish are you talking? We were supposed to pay you Rs10 each, as agreed earlier. Why are you asking for such a high amount now?”
    Asad asked the children to pick up the money but they refused, still arguing that we owed them RS1680. Thoroughly agitated, Asad picked up the money from the ground and we started making our way to my motorbike. Suddenly, a man – in his early 20s – came out of nowhere and grabbed Asad’s collar. He punched him in the neck and Asad fell to the ground. Since it was early in the morning, the beach was relatively empty. The only people present were corn-vendors and camel drivers; none of whom came to our aid. We felt completely trapped. I felt my throat going dry while we tried to explain to the man that the agreed amount was Rs10 per horse ride. It was unfair to demand a higher price after we had gotten off the horses, and we were not going to pay. A small crowd of vendors etc started gathering around us; I felt like we were being cornered. We did not dare to make any sudden moves to avoid further aggravating the situation. The man who hit Asad started searching our pockets. He found Rs1500, put the money in his pocket and shoved us away. That money was all we had for the month and so I tried convincing him that we would be willing to pay Rs100 each, but that much was entirely unjustified. Instead of hearing us out and negotiating, the man threatened us of ‘dire consequences’ if we didn’t ‘keep our mouths shut’ and leave the area that instant. By now I had had enough. We did not agree to such a long ride in the first place and I refused to be bullied a second time. Furious enough, I decided that I was willing to put up a fight, but Asad pulled me towards the bike and said things may get out of hand, and that we should just leave. Looking around us I realised that there was no point fighting a losing battle and getting hurt in the process, Asad was right, and so we decided to leave. When we were getting onto my bike, I heard a roar of laughter behind me. The entire crowd was bursting with hilarity, while the two children gave us smug looks. That was the last straw. I explain to Asad how this was not on and we could not just let them get away with robbing us like this! At this point, with no other viable option left, I decided to call the police. Although I knew that the police in Karachi was notorious and asking them for help may result in more trouble. But I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I took out my cellphone and dialled 15. I explained the entire situation to the operator on the helpline. He inquired whether the man who robbed us was still present at the beach. Still staring at the crowd, agitation boiling through my veins, I told him that he was still very much present at the beach. Still unsure about whether this was the right thing to do or not, I asked the operator bluntly as to whether I should wait on the police or not waste my time? In a consoling voice he stated that a police unit should reach us within five minutes. In the meanwhile, Asad kept insisting we leave because he thought that the entire thing was just a futile exercise. But I was adamant and kept waiting. I was aware of every passing minute and once the excruciating 13th minute had gone by, I received a call from a police officer, asking for my location. I gave them the exact coordinates and soon enough a police mobile from the Boat Basin Police Station arrived. A sub-inspector came out of the mobile and when I narrated the incident to him, I was astonished to see that the police mobile had left and the sub-inspector was left on his own to deal with the situation. Surprised, I asked him how he would handle so many people alone but he replied that it was his job to worry about that. He asked us to go and point out the men, and to leave the rest up to him. When I showed him the children with the horses, he ran towards them and caught them – but with a smirk on his face asked if these ‘little children’ had mugged us. I told him that another guy, who had beaten us, was their companion and that he had disappeared now. While we were still having this conversation with the policeman, another man came crying towards us and complained that a photographer had mugged him too – the agreed amount of taking a photo was Rs30 but the photographer charged him Rs500 and when the man didn’t agree, the photographer forcibly took the money from him. He had also been beaten up and wore bruises on his face. The sub-inspector had already started beating the children up, asking them where the money was. During this commotion, a man came to us and said that he would give us our money if we would ask the police inspector to let his children go. Angered by the mere thought that this man was responsible for the bringing up of those children, I told him to give us our money back first. This man, who wore a regular a shabby shalwar kameez, took a wad of money out of his pocket, licked his finger, counted three Rs500 notes and handed them to us. When the sub-inspector saw that the man had returned the money, he caught hold of him and arrested him as well as his children. By this time the police mobile had returned and the criminals were taken away. This event made me understand just how dangerous it was to visit Sea View in the morning and how there was so much street crime these days. Crime is rampant in Karachi, and even our beaches aren’t safe anymore. While this paints a really dismal picture for Karachiites, what restored my faith in our city and its people was the police officer who helped us. To be honest, I was convinced we would have to pay the officer the Rs1500 after getting it back, but I regretted that thought after this incident. It was then that I realised that not all police officials were the same dishonest and corrupt officials. Some of them were true to their uniforms and I hope that they serve as inspiration for the rest of the police force too! Read the original Urdu version of this blog here.

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    For those of you who are not from Karachi, Pakistan, and who do not know what Sunday Bazaar is, it is a huge open thrift market in the posh locality of Defence Phase 8. You will find anything and everything – bolts of luxurious fabrics, original oil paintings, fruits and vegetables, wicker baskets, leather jackets, second-hand books of all genres, used shoes and bags, disposed-off toys and electronics among many other things my brain refuses to do an inventory for. Essentially, it is a wholesale-cum-flea market which takes place on, you guessed it, Sundays only. And for those of you living in Karachi who don’t know what Sunday Bazaar is, what rock are you living under? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Noreen Qayam[/caption] So considering that Sunday Bazaar is a one-stop shop, it is obvious that it would be frequented by all and sundry. But keeping in mind the strange dynamics of this city, ‘all and sundry’ becomes a lot more entertaining than you would expect, especially the interaction, or lack thereof, between those visiting the bazaar. Here is a glimpse into the wide variety of our species I have encountered there. The tribal clan Karachi is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, the proverbial ‘greener pasture’ that people from all over the country come to settle in. Hence, it should come as no surprise when you see flocks of shuttlecock-burqa-clad Pukhtun females descend like a blue cloud upon the stalls and begin conversing in rapid-fire Pushto with the mostly Pukhtun vendors. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: File[/caption] On the very next stall, you will probably come across a small family of 15 from Hub, Balochistan, who have hired a Bedford truck for their trip to this shoppers’ paradise. They provide a colourful backdrop for the Sindhi clan in their mirrored frocks and scores of children, as they peruse the shiny, “gawldun” (golden) jewellery for the next wedding in the tribe. There is absolutely no shortage of our tribal brethren in this vast space where all of Pakistan seems united for once. The celebrities For the entertainment-starved people here, there are days when a ray of hope shines upon them in the form of a grimy person covered in the Phase 8 dust, who happens to be famous for some reason or another. Sunday Bazaar is one place you are most likely to come across your favourite TV actor strutting about in designer sunglasses (which you will spot two streets away at a corner stall) and, seeing your star-struck expression, will pause in front of you expectantly waiting for you to ask for their autograph. You will probably also get a glimpse of a famous singer haggling with the fruitwala in a not-so-melodic voice, and probably an actress who dared to step outside her house with, wait for it, no makeup at all! Imagine the horror of seeing her as a normal human being! The bookworms There is a special breed of homo sapiens who have a strange affinity for the written word, and you will find them bent over rows upon rows of books at the bookstalls in Sunday Bazaar, studiously ignoring the cacophony of human voices that surrounds them as they withdraw into their book-bound bubble. These people come in all shapes and sizes, belonging to all ages, and chances are that if you saw them in the morning when you entered the bazaar, you will probably find them at the same shop when you leave three hours later; the only difference now being the presence of a plastic bag full of treasures they unearthed during their long and exhaustive search. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Farah Kamal[/caption] Just by the way, I also happen to belong to this category! The baby boomers It is not hard to find this haggard family as the fathers portray Jason Statham-like driving skills, manoeuvring baby strollers through narrow alleys carrying sweaty toddlers dripping ice cream in their wake. The mothers, on the other hand, pacify cranky babies with every form of rattling bling-bling they can gather at the junk corner. More often than not, the baby boomers seem to be on a mission to come, conquer and leave as soon as possible, before the baby poops and they have no way of changing their diaper in this desert wasteland, so to speak. It is very rare that you see a quiet family of this kind and when you do, you wonder if the zombie apocalypse has arrived because it just seems so unreal. The football fanatics As you near the footwear area, you find yourself surrounded by complete teams of kitted out teenagers in heated discussions over Nike versus Adidas, studs versus no studs, green versus black and so on and so forth, extolling the virtues of their favourite player wearing so and so shoes. Sometimes you will find a lone adolescent boy stubbornly pointing at his favourite pair of Nikes while his mother continues to lecture him on the vice of overspending whilst trying at the same, unsuccessfully, to convince him to buy a cheap China-made copy which the vendor swears comes from the same Nike factory. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Farah Kamal[/caption] The scavengers The early bird gets the worm, and the first to arrive at the bazaar are those who look to sweep the arena clear of the bounties it has to offer. You will probably not even find these scavengers after noon because they were the ones who helped the sellers unpack their wares during the early hours, while simultaneously setting aside everything they find worth a dime. If you have been wondering why you never find the good stuff, chances are that the good stuff is now the property of these hawks and it will never see the light of the sun again… ever. The misfit aunties These are the stereotypical Burger aunties who seemed to have somehow teleported from their drawing rooms straight into the midst of this “durrtyoOld peasant village” in their expensive lawn suits, sleeveless tops, capris and perfect manicures and blow dry. These ladies also happen to be very active at those stalls that sell *cough* fake *cough* designer handbags, which they intend to flaunt at the next kitty party when they explain how difficult it was to obtain this last item from Louis Vitton’s Fall/Winter collection on their recent trip to Italy. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Farah Kamal[/caption] They will be seen conversing in English with the shopkeeper who will look at them admirably and answer right back in Urdu, and somehow a transaction will eventually take place while you remain lost in translation. If you ask them though, they will most likely look very confused as to how they came to be in this place, telling you in their most earnest voice that it is their very first time coming to Sunday Bazaar only because it is so close to their palace on 26th street and they suddenly found themselves free this unfortunate Sunday. The farangi (foreigner) These are typically the children of the above mentioned aunties, who went abroad for higher studies after A-levels. They turn up at the bazaar in tank tops, shorts, flip flops and bandanas. They stroll about the bazaar likening it to the flea-markets they visited on their road trip across the States. Looking over at the mass of humanity they will hold a social dialogue among themselves, in their most native American accents might I add, on issues plaguing the Third World which the American President’s latest reforms will most definitely solve, of course. You might even find them clicking away on their DSLRs capturing the ‘true face of Pakistan’ while they go about telling each other not to touch anything simply because ‘germs bro’. The foreigners The “actual” farangis who have come here for the first time belong to all races and nationalities; the tanned Americans/Europeans still carrying their backpacks around, the Russians and Ukrainians who are sometimes mistaken for our Pukhtun brothers, the Africans often wrongly accused of participating in the Lyari warfare and the Orientals who seem to always be in a hurry to get to the next stall. If they are smart, they will escape the claws of the vendors who heap bags upon bags of “vairry chheep” things ‘Made in Pakistan’, turning their stalls into souvenir shops making the foreigners wonder how anybody thought things are affordable here. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Farah Kamal[/caption] The k3wL by0!z and g@Lz If during your journey through the maze of Sunday Bazaar, you come across young men whistling, humming, singing the latest Bollywood songs, swaggering in tight jeans in unthinkable eye-popping colours, wearing sunglasses with the stickers still on, and hair gelled back very, very carefully, then you behold what we call the ‘kewl byoiz’. They truly believe they are the perfect substitutes of Zayn Malik or Fawad Khan, with just the right amount of star quality. Their female counterparts are the heavily made-up, high heeled, blinged-out, fancy dressed ‘kewl gurlz’ who treat the potholed streets as their modelling ramp, throwing Kareena Kapoor inspired hair flips left, right and centre. They fully believe they have the filmi husn (movie-like beauty) and hoshruba ada (star-like attitude) that will score the ‘kewl byoiz’s’ affections. They will also, quite promptly, break the shiny, little man-child hearts when they shift their attention to the used spiked and long leather boots which they intend on pairing with their denim-patterned tights and diamante-studded ruffled tops. Because really, who has a better fashion sense than them, hain jaanu? The mazdoors and vendors Last but not the least, the natives of the bazaar itself; the shopkeepers who make their livelihoods based on the whims of the buyers, the vendors whose disposition varies as much as the dwarves who Snow White lived with. Then there are the mazdoors (workers), from toddlers to adults, running after you with their woven baskets, asking (read: insisting) you need a porter to carry all your shopping for you. Sometimes, you will have three of them fighting over who gets to carry your onions and tomatoes. Not quite what you dreamt of when you thought about all those eligible bachelors competing for your affections but you snap out of your reverie when you realise they are fighting for a right to the measly wage of perhaps Rs20, a small denomination note whose absence you never noticed until it started resembling the Rs5000 note. They add another depth to the characters you meet in this giant labyrinth you navigate through. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Farah Kamal[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="536"] Photo: Farah Kamal[/caption] This, of course, is my own experience at our beloved Sunday Bazaar, and I have only listed the most memorable types of people I have seen there, obviously not covering “all” those who visit. Now that Sunday is upon us, I am off to get myself another stack of novels at a bargain now. What kinds of people have you come across at Sunday Bazaar - I am sure we can swap notes! This post originally appeared here.



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