Mar 10, 2008 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

Another one bites the dust

Another women’s day had passed. I was invited to four different events that day, but I chose the one organized by Goethe Institut and Oxford University Press. It was the launch of a book that was the effort of young Pakistani writers. A year ago, young writers’ competition was launched, 600 stories were submitted and only twelve were chosen to be part of the book titled, “Voices & Visions.”

The reason I chose this event was simple; I wanted to avoid the rhetoric that abounds on International Women’s Day. I thought there would be young people talking about literature and philosophy. Sadly, it did not turn out to be like that. There were customary speeches, a few reading by young writers (quite unimpressive, I am afraid) and then came the chief guest Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal and ruined it all.

Before I go any further, let me introduce her. Justice Iqbal is wife of Justice Javed Iqbal and daughter-in-law of Dr. Muhammed Iqbal a.ka. Allama Iqbal. Before this moot, I thought very highly of her, not only for being a woman judge in Punjab High Court but also for continuing education till late in life. She finished off her LLM in her fifties from HarvardLawSchool (Studying in HarvardLawSchool is tough even when one is in their twenties and thirties, but it is a lot more arduous for a woman in her fifties). On March 8th event, she did not talk about either women’s movement (of lack thereof) in Pakistan or the young writers or writing in general. She hijacked the forum and went on and on about the restoration of judiciary, Justice Iftekhar and lawyers movement. In addition, she blithely assumed that every person present is part of the lawyers movement and asked us all to wear a black armband.

Honestly, she lost me after the first 4 sentences and my friend Zeenia and I started talking about how people do not accord the basic courtesy to the spirit of event and hijack it, even Harvard grad retired judges. When she was unable to do justice to her role as the chief guest, what do we expect from her and the movement that is being run by people like her? In my opinion, lawyers too would turn into a ‘bull in the china shop’ like Pakistani media already has. Pakistani media believes that it is above and beyond law and regulation and anything against them is against the freedom of speech. Lawyers would follow suit and don’t even get me started on parliamentarians. Between Zardari and Nawaz Shariff, it has already been decided that no parliamentarians would be tried for corruption. That would leave people like us who have no recourse but stay put, leave the country or die in silence.

I only wished that someone switched her mike off, but was reminded by my friend that it happen only in the assembly and that too when members from opposition speak. I suffered the indignity of her speech in silence (rolling eyes does not count) and left.

Mar 7, 2008 - Society    3 Comments

Integrity be damned

Watching Geo is painful, seriously.

Try and watch an episode of Nadia Khan Show and you will know how painful it is. All she can talk (read gossip) about is whether Ashwariya Rai is pregnant or if Salman Khan has roughed up his girl friend – yet again, or the latest affair between any two starlets. The other day, I saw a news clip showing some Mumbai wedding attended by the likes of Rani Mukherji, Amir Khan and some other lesser bollywood personalities (They might not be that lesser but I don’t know their names).

This is not all, the other day after the bomb blast in Darra Adam Khel, the newscaster asked the reporter if there are any more deaths and his exact words were, “apkay khiyal main aur kitnee amwaat hue hain?” when the reporter said they have just taken 20 people inside the hospital, the newscaster said, “yani ke mazeed 20 amwat ka khadsha hai.” (that 20 more people may die.)

Pakistani news media is all about sensationalism and news creation these days. Gone are they days when news was properly screened and people would focus on reporting the events as they unfold rather than looking for sensational little bits and creating news for increased viewer ship. Now, its all about ratings and getting multinational sponsorship for the news, just rake in the moolah, authenticity and integrity be damned

Mar 7, 2008 - Society    2 Comments

Withering tolerance!!!

Pakistan always has the dubious distinction of being a country where intolerance is rampant, but this incident takes the cake. In what was possibly the first incident of its kind in the history of the legislative assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, an opposition lawmaker Muhammed Tahir Khokar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was roughed up by some members of the treasury benches on Thursday.

According to Daily Dawn ( the commotion began at about noon when Mr. Khokhar sought the permission of Speaker to read out his call-attention notice seeking a discussion on “frequent foreign tours of Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan and his family.”

Waving an official notification, he said that Rs1.59 million had been withdrawn from the budget of Kashmir Liberation Cell in advance for a 20-day tour to Geneva by the prime minister’s son, Usman Ali Khan, and three ‘relatively unknown’ women to attend the ‘7th session of the United Council on Human Rights’.

However, Law Minister Abdul Rashid Abbasi pointed out that under the rules of procedure, a maximum of two call-attention notices could be tabled in the house on a day. Taking serious exception to what he called suppression of the opposition’s voice to cover up malpractices of the government, the MQM lawmaker, whose mike had been switched off, walked towards the treasury benches and started distributing copies of the notification among the ministers sitting in the front row.

While the law minister tore up the copy given to him, Minister for Forests Ghulam Murtaza Gillani proceeded towards Mr Khokhar and tried to snatch the remaining copies. And Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Raza dashed towards Mr Khokhar and slapped him.

Stunned by the incident, several lawmakers from both sides rushed to the area in front of the chair and some of them tried to bring the situation under control. Minister for Food Abdul Qayyum Niazi was also stated to have punched Mr Khokhar.

It is believed that Mr Raza was angry with Mr Khokhar because he is known for uncovering secret official documents and giving a tough time to the treasury.

A number of meetings were held before the session was called again by the speaker at about 3pm, but opposition lawmakers in their speeches demanded suspension of Mr Raza, Mr Gillani and Mr Niazi.

The speaker said he had been in the assembly since 1991 but had never witnessed such an incident. Appealing to both sides to maintain the decorum of the house, he said Mr Khokhar should not have gone to the other side of the divide when he (chair) was constantly asking him to return to his seat. However, he said, this could not justify the treatment he had received at the hands of the minister for religious affairs. He announced suspension of Mr Raza’s membership under rule 206 of the Rules of Procedure “for the current session”.

However, as the opposition demanded suspension of the other two ministers as well, the law minister said the government would have no objection if they were “censured” by the chair. Upon this, the speaker gave a warning to Mr Gillani and Mr Niazi to be careful in the future and then read out the presidential order proroguing the session sine die.

But six members of the opposition who were in the house at that time did not leave as a mark of protest. Senior opposition lawmakers, except People’s Muslim League (PML) president Barrister Sultan Mahmood, reached the assembly building and joined their colleagues in the hall. They also addressed a press conference.

PPAJK secretary general and MLA Chaudhry Latif Akbar told Dawn that the opposition had given the 10am Friday deadline to suspend the membership of the two ministers.

“Till then, we will stay in this hall and will announce our next course of action if the government fails to meet our demand,” he said.

Mr Khokhar who was bleeding from his left ear, was taken to the nearby Abbas Institute of Medical Sciences. He was admitted to the hospital and sources told this correspondent that his eardrum had been damaged and he might take weeks to recover. Aaj TV’s Bolta Pakistan reported last night that Mr. Khokhar’s left ear is completely damaged and his neck and backbone also suffered injuries.

The most ironic thing is that the person who first started the violence was the minister for religious affairs. If this kind of behaviour is practiced in the legislative assembly, you can imagine how peaceful the streets are of the country.

It happens only in the land of pure.

Mar 4, 2008 - Uncategorized    7 Comments

Honest to blog!!!

Let me confess, I did not particularly like Juno.

I may be the only person on the planet who is not totally bowled over either by the film or Ellen Page in this particular film (those who rate her highly after watching Juno should watch Hard Candy – she is so good, she will scare the living day lights out of you, esp if you happen to be a man in his thirties and you like to befriend young teenage girls online).

Sorry, I digressed but that’s me and branching off is life.

I have to admit there are certain lines that are uttered with such sublime irreverence that make you smile such as ‘PennySaver has ads for parents “Desperately Seeking Spawn” and the super confidence of the character Juno when she said that all the jocks really want gothic/weird /freaky girls. But at the same time, it was nothing out of ordinary, I would definitely be wary of ridiculous hype over a movie again.

What I find most inspirational about Juno is that the screen writer, who goes by the name Diablo Cody and just won a BAFTA and an Oscar for the script, is someone who got discovered as a writer through her blog. I must confess that it is my ultimate fantasy – to get ‘discovered’ through my blog.

The problem is, Ms. Cody got discovered when she blogged about her year as a stripper in Minnesota, which has since then been published as a book ‘Candy Girl: A Year in The Life of an Unlikely Stripper‘. If I write about my work, the five loyal readers that I have will abandon me in a jiffy. Because then, it would be all about things like poverty reduction, income generation model for youth in hospitality sector, participatory development, rural development, civic rights education and gender economics. So if I intend to get ‘noticed’ online, writing about my work would be a big NO. I either have to come up some fantastic fiction, change my profession, start swimming with sharks and blog about it or bury my dreams of discovery forever. Any suggestions people???

Mar 3, 2008 - rant    6 Comments

I rant, therefore I am …

For all you five people who read my blog, I need to rant, badly, so please bear with me.

Someone I went to college with read some posts at my blog and wrote back to me saying that I should write fiction. Honestly, for a minute, I was taken aback (I thought she was praising me and that did take me by surprise) and started fantasizing about being called the Pakistani version of Dave Barry (I know, I know, I am much better looking than good ol’ Dave – a lot less wrinkles fewer grey hair) but then came the dampener. She said that what I write is chick-lit and then went on to define chick-lit and what is considered chick-lit in da USA, as if we, in the backwaters of Pakistan do not know what it is. Ufff I wanted to scream that I know what chick-lit is, we sort of invented it. What they in USA call chick-lit is called zenana adab here; we have produced many chick-lit giants such as Zaitoon Bano, A.R. Khatoon and more recently, Fatima Surraiya Bajiya and Haseena Moin. We even had male chick-lit writers like Deputy Nazeer Ahmed for his akbari asghari saga definitely falls under chick-lit. Khawateen Digest is probably the most popular example of chick-lit in Pakistan and it has been doing roaring business since god knows when. Heck, all our mothers and grand mothers used to read them and have been doing that way before terms like chick-lit or chick-flicks were coined.

Ek tau I generally hate patronizing people, but more so when they are your age but think they know better because they happen to live in USA. As if a blue passport and living in da USA can have positive impact on one’s mental faculties. If that had been the case, we would not have had to endure the last 7 years seeing Bush fumble and mumble incomprehensively a million and one times because the smart people living in da USA would have elected a better person.

Funny thing is, what I write cannot be classified under chick-lit. For one, my wit is too dry for chick-lit, secondly, I am way too irreverent to ever write about panting chests and heaving bosoms and last but not the least is that chick-lit is always about a man, where the chick protagonist fantasize about one perfect specimen of manhood and would do anything to get him. Being the narcissist that I am, I usually write about myself. It is always about what I do, what I think and most importantly; what and who I hate. I love myself and chances are that I will stay in love with myself for a very long time. Such self love would make the requisite pinning (a must for chick-lit) almost impossible to flourish and I will continue to rant as gloriously as I do now.

I rant, therefore I am.

Mar 3, 2008 - Uncategorized    4 Comments

It is the personalities stupid!

I know I am a certified cynic and am generally pissed when grown up people (who in my opinion should grow out of their rose tinted glasses at the ripe old age of 8) present a hopeful picture of a future that none of us will see in our lifetimes. Waisay tau I have grievances against a lot of things but it pains me to see that people actually believe that the ongoing struggle for the restoration (!) of judiciary is anything but power struggle between two men (Musharraf and Chaudhry) with mammoth egos (both are delusional enough to think that they are indispensable).

For all my naïve friends who think this struggle is about reclaiming the dignity of the institution of judiciary and not about personalities should know that in Pakistani context, it is always about personalities and almost never about either the institutions or the country.

History provides us with enough evidence. Ayub Khan kicked the civilian govt. out for the betterment of the country, in his opinion of course, and assumed power becasue he thought he was the best man for the job. Pakistani politicians insisted that all cases be dropped against Mujeeb-ur-Rehman (of Awami league) after he was found guilty in Agartilla conspiracy to destabilize Ayub Khan’s govt, because it suited their immediate goal of rattling Ayub Khan (a personality). Z. A. Bhutto refused to hand over the power to the party, Awami League, that was in majority because he wanted to be in power, the country be damned, Bhutto Sahib, the martial law administrator, wanted to relinquish power only to Bhutto Sahib, the PM. No other candidate, even if he was in majority, was worthy enough. Zia hanged Bhutto because he feared that even a jailed Bhutto can be dangerous for his uninterrupted rule. He introduced drugs and small arms and Islamic militancy in the country courtesy over active participation in Afghan war to sustain his stay in power. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Shariff fought it out between the two of them throughout 1990s, each claiming to be the saviour of the country and democracy. Musharaff toppled Sharif’s govt when he heard that the latter sacked him and CJ Chaudhry is striking back because it is now his job that is in the line. It never was about the institution of judiciary and it never will be. If supremacy of judiciary and constitution had been that important to Chaudhry Sahib, he would not have taken oath under the PCO in the first place and served the good general for such a long time. It never was between the president/army and judiciary; the war is between two personalities.

The mantra of all power brokers and politicians – past and present – is simple. Democracy be damned; constitution be damned; judiciary be damned; heck, even the country can go to the dogs, as long as they get to do what they set out to do.

Mar 3, 2008 - Uncategorized    4 Comments

Gher ittefaqiya

I am officially sick of Mr Nawaz Shariff.

His new wardrobe that he acquired in London, while in exile on corruption charges, his pashmina scarves and his head of new, albeit wispy and surprisingly black hair may have fooled some, but I know that not much has changed as far as his mental faculties go. He is still a little thick in the head.

According to a friend, in a rally in Lahore before elections, he asked the people that what kind of a commando is he (Musharraf) that he changed his foreign policy in Afghanistan when a woman called (he meant Condoleeza Rice – Mian sahib was factually incorrect as usual because Condi only became secretary of state in Dubya’s second term, if anyone had called Mush after 9/11, it was most definitely not Condi). He also called him names on account of Article 58 (2) B. The funny thing is that he is abusing mush for 58 (2) B even though he is the only President who did not use it. Ghulam Ishaq Khan used it twice and Leghari used it against his party leader Ms. Bhutto.

His party members have been sitting in a parliament for the past five years and he now calls it unconstitutional. If it was unconstitutional, then why contest elections and the participated in parliamentary affairs for the past 5 years?

Even the post election struggle is all about power. PML-N has selected Shariff brothers as their parliamentary leaders even though none are members of parliament. Can someone please tell them that they have to be elected members of any legislative assembly in order to lead a team of parliamentarians? Imagine, this guy has been our ‘elected leader’ twice and if things remain the way they are, we will have another election soon and will see him donning the cap of PM for the third time. Life is not fair, at least not in Pakistan.

Feb 29, 2008 - rant, Society    12 Comments

Not quite the party animal

I have been told that there is something seriously wrong with me. Some think it is physiological, some think it is psychological and some consider it to be psycho-physiological, but the fact remains, I dread going to parties and it is deemed to be abnormal by most of my peers. I am still young, social enough to know some people and get occasional if not regular invitations and am considered quite witty (not my words) yet I am the last person who will be looking forward to a party or at least the parties with big crowds and loud music.

Despite popular claims that I am not normal, I consider myself quite normal (could be an acute case of self delusion), but I don’t enjoy parties like normal folks. My biggest flaw is that I actually expect meaningful conversation when I go to a party. Instead of talking about who is wearing what and who is doing whom, I talk about things that actually matter. Is that too big a faux pas?

The other reason is that I am not too fond of parties is that I don’t like Dubai. I have a theory that one’s popularity in the current party scene is inversely proportional to one’s fondness for all things Dubai. Be it hopping over to catch the latest Shahrukh Khan flick or a game of golf with that ‘old Indian friend; or buying that designer bag, everyone has their fair share of Dubai stories. As my Dubai stories are limited to a few hours stop overs on my way to other less commercial destinations around the globe, I feel quite inadequate at the requisite Dubai story session at the parties. While in transit at the Dubai airport, I either hide in the toilet for special persons or the Irish bar where one would never run into desi people asking questions ranging from the origins of your tribe to the weight of your luggage and if you will be willing enough to carry that last minute addition in their luggage which is carrying that bag of chocolates for chintos and bubloos.

My third reason for not going to a party is related to the second one. As I don’t go shopping in Dubai, I don’t have a Louis Vuitton handbag and one cannot go to a party without a designer bag. It is a must have accessories these days, more important than any other type of arm candy, and I usually feel like an impostor at such do-s with my functional leather bag with no designer tag on it.

The fourth reason I am not a party person is that I am against abuse, be it people abuse or substance abuse. As most parties these days are about being wasted, which is aesthetically called ‘letting go’, being the only person in command of your faculties can be extremely trying at times, especially when you have to haul people off from various stages of letting go and then drop them off.

If I had been born in any other country, I would have quit the party scene ages ago, but being a Pakistani, it comes very naturally to me to do things I am not good at. After all, seeing the politicians and strongmen, who don’t know jack about either politics or running a country, have been heading one government after another, I too have taken a leaf or two out of their books and am sticking to what I can’t do well. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I have the decency of being charming and quirky.

Feb 8, 2008 - Shoaib Malik    5 Comments

A marriage that never happened, or did it?

Will it ever end? Apparently the saga of Shoaib Malik’s marriage/no marriage continues, at least on Nadia Khan Show. While watching Ms. Nadia Khan asking 1001 questions to Shoaib Malik – the poor guy looked as comfortable as a man does before facing the gallows – various facets of the saga came up. Although not all of us (watched the program with colleagues) were convinced by Shoaib’s performance, everyone unanimously agreed that there is something seriously fishy to it.

Just a few minutes ago, I received this email which states CNN IBN claiming that a close friend of the Siddiqui family has claimed that Shoaib did tie the knot with Ayesha, but he was duped into doing so.

Talking to CNN-IBN, Kaleem claimed that when Ayesha met Shoaib online, she had shown him photographs of not herself, but her elder sister Nagma. Nagma even met the cricketer in Dubai pretending to be Ayesha.

Shoaib met the real Ayesha for the first time at a party thrown for the Pakistani cricket team at her home in Hyderabad.

According to Kaleem, far from being bowled over, Shoaib Malik was stumped at being cheated for so many years when he finally met Ayesha and he chose to end the relationship on a harmonious note. Little did he know that three years later, Ayesha would undergo a liposuction and seek a divorce.

Now this got me thinking, who is writing the script of it all? This is more filmi than most films these days. Yes, there were films like this (Truth about cats and dogs where Uma Thurman impersonated Janeane Garofalo for the affections of Ben Chaplin) but this one involves an international sports star – the captain of the bloody cricket team for god’s sake – and a cross border romance gone sore.

Knowing Mahesh Bhatt’s proclivity to all things Pakistani, I predict that he soon will be making a film on this story where he will first ask Shoaib Malik to play himself, Malik obviously cannot act to save his life so he would offer it to the other Shoaib (Shoiab Akhtar) but he is now too fat to play any thing other than heroine ka baap. He would eventually cast his ghar ka bacha Emran Hashmi to play Shoaib Malik. No actress is fat enough to play Ayesha, so whoever would agree to don the fat suit would play her. As for the femme fatale who stole Shoaib’s heart in dubai (the elder sister Nagma masquerading as Ayesha), I say Mahesh Bhatt should ask Katrina Kaif to play that role (She is the current hottie for desi men of all ages). There goes the recipe of a bollywood pot boiler.

On a side note, this story proves three things. Pakistani studs rule, if not at home, then in India. Shoba De recently called Zardari ‘the most eligible bachelor’ (Yuck) Imran Khan ruled the roost in his time as the cricketing stud for the whole of South Asia and a scrawny idiot like Atif Aslam is much loved by Indian teenaged girls . Secondly, whosoever performed liposuction on Ayesha is not good at his/her job (she still looks like she needs to shed a stone or two or may be three). Last but not the least, the name Shoaib is not good for Pakistani cricket. I see PCB changing its rules and including that any cricketer whose first, middle or last name is Shoaib will not play for Pakistan, unless he changes his name, what say?


Feb 6, 2008 - quirky    8 Comments

Electile Dysfunction

One of my most awaited emails of the day is the one that I get from urban dictionary. They send their subscribers one new word or slang a day to spice up their vocabulary.

Last week, a word that made me chuckle was “Electile Dysfunction.” Electile dysfunction is the inability to become aroused over any of the choices for President put forth by either party during an election year.

So if someone is US is having a dialogue that goes like: “Is anyone appealing to you in this year’s presidential race?” “Naa… No one excites me. I think I’m suffering from Electile Dysfunction,” don’t be alarmed, they are only discussing elections, and very dispassionately I might add.