Sep 26, 2007 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

We are neither happy, nor gay!!!

Suffering from the ‘foot in mouth’ disease, President Ahmadinejad has done it again, this time in front of some of the most intelligent young people. He was greeted with laughter and cries of disbelief, and rightly so, when he told students and staff at Columbia University: “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals. In Iran we don’t have this phenomenon. I don’t know who has told you we have it.”

Since the Islamic revolution in Iran, there have been strenuous but not always successful efforts to bury this past. Of all the Muslim countries, Iran at the moment is probably the most active in persecuting gay people. This probably has less to do with religion than local political and cultural factors. Rumour has it that House of Raza Shah Pahlavi was overwhelmingly gay. His Prime minister was a homosexual man and even Shah was bi-sexual. (For complete story, see re.html)

I have been to Iran and traveled all over the country by road (a total of 16 major cities). The number of metro sexual men in most Iranian cities is far higher than, let’s say, either Manchester or San Francisco (cities famous for their sizeable gay population). If the law of averages is to be applied and half of those hyper metro sexual men are gay, then that’s a huge number. The Arab and Persian literature is filled with homo erotic themes for centuries; calling it un natural or western is not only stupid but ignorant as well.

It also leads one to wonder if this historic prevalence of homosexuality and homoeroticism in the Middle East responsible for historic exclusion of women from full participation in society, or vice versa? He is taking the leaf out of Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels ( German politician and Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Adolf Hitler) who said that if you lie convincingly and repeatedly, you eventually believe it and it goes away.

Sep 19, 2007 - rant, Society, urban    8 Comments

I was hit, by a speeding vehicle, literally

Yesterday, I was hit by a speeding vehicle, literally. Apart from a dislocated shoulder, the totally banged up driver’s seat door and a bruised ego, I am doing fine.

It was a regular September afternoon, warm yet breezy. I left office at 2:55 (we get off at 3.00 pm during Ramzan) thinking about the precious half hour I would get before asar prayers to doze off, and I was hit. Believe me, I have used by this expression quite a few time, oh and then I was hit with this and that but the feeling of actually getting hit by something big and speeding is a different story altogether. All the bones and muscles that I never knew existed are crying for attention and some TLC and telling me that this is how one feel when they are hit.

Like it is practiced in Pakistan, a fight between the drivers of two vehicles involved in an accident is mandatory, the fact that they are fasting and their patience is on a short leash usually add fuel to the fire. However, it never happened in this case. I was quite delirious with the shock of it and had difficulty getting my bearings when the other driver, a pathan chauffeuring a huge sedan for his employers, came down and started knocking on my window. I tried to wind down the screen but failed, the door was smashed to scrap and my shoulder so badly hurt that any attempt at wrestling would have caused much damaged to both, the shoulder as well as the door. I opened the door and he asked me for my license, though I was seeing leprechauns and fairies, I still have enough sense to ask if he is the cop. at this he turned blue and started screaming and cursing the government that give license to women who are just good enough to make rotis at home. Thought that tirade did help in getting me riled up but such was the pain that I could not do much with that anger.

The accident happened because I wanted to take a turn and had been indicating that but the other driver emerged from a nearby lane and tried to overtake me, hence the collision. When I asked him if he did not see me indicating the turn, he said, “bibi dhoop main indicator kisko nazar ata hai” (who can see the indicator in sunlight?). Meanwhile, somebody had called the police and when they saw a woman all by herself, they thought it is a good opportunity to scare her and get some money out of her.

When they reiterated the other driver’s claim that I was wrong, flabbergasted that I was with the indicator and dhoop justification, I asked them if my car is hit from behind it certainly cant be my fault, it had to be them. no one can hot their own car with that angle. The policemen insisted that I should either pay up and leave quietly or come to the police station with them and leave my car with them. As both the suggestions were unacceptable, I then decided to deal with them Pakistani style and had called one of their superiors who then had told them to lay off. After some serious threats and my former employment card (I used to work for the biggest broadcast company in Pakistan), I managed to scare them away and drove my car back. When I called the claims officer at my insurance company, his first question was, “array Miss Tazeen kisko mar dee garee aap ne?” Implying that because I am a woman, I must have been at fault. When I went to the mechanic, he asked the same question with an even more demeaning, “baby ap ne garee mar dee?”

Here I am, nursing my shoulder and wondering what is the bigger problem; bad drivers, road rage or the patriarchal attitude that says women are not fit to carry out the simplest task (not that it is simple any more in Karachi) of driving?

Sep 18, 2007 - quirky    2 Comments

A soul mate that never was

I have been labeled a cynic by all women around me because I don’t believe in a perfect soul mate. In my opinion, a human being is too complex a creature to have a soul mate who would either think, behave or respond as desired by one. I was proven correct by this Bosnian couple, who while looking for soul mates found out that life is actually a bitch and then you die. Here is the story for you. ___________________________________________________________

A Bosnian couple is getting divorced after finding out they had been secretly chatting each other up online under fake names.

Sana Klaric, 27, and husband Adnan, 32, from Zenica, poured out their hearts to each other over their marriage troubles, and both felt they had found their real soul mate.The couple met on an online chat forum while he was at work and she in an internet cafe, and started chatting under the names Sweetie and Prince of Joy.

They eventually decided to meet up – but there was no happy ending when they realised what had happened.Now they are both filing for divorce – with each accusing the other of being unfaithful.

Sana said: “I thought I had found the love of my life. The way this Prince of Joy spoke to me, the things he wrote, the tenderness in every expression was something I had never had in my marriage.”It was amazing, we seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriages – and how right that turned out to be.

“We arranged to meet outside a shop and both of us would be carrying a single rose so we would know the other.”When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry.”

Adnan said: “I was so happy to have found a woman who finally understood me. Then it turned out that I hadn’t found anyone new at all.” To be honest I still find it hard to believe that the person, Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things to me on the internet, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years.”


The funniest part is that they cheated on each other….with each other and then blamed each other, looks like a match made in heaven, what say?

Sep 16, 2007 - published work    2 Comments

Polls apart

EVER since year 2007 started, the buzzword is ‘Election Year’. Whether it is about the election year political or judicial activity, or the ‘good election year budget’, the election year sloganeering is at its peak and parties are busy forging new alliances and reviving the old ones to get the holy grail of parliamentary style democracy, simple majority in the lower house (heavy mandate is so out, remember what it did to a certain Mr Nawaz Sharif).With elections come election monitors, at least in countries where democracy is on shaky grounds and Pakistan certainly passes muster on that count. Election monitoring is the observation of an election by one or more independent parties, typically from another country or a non-governmental organisation (NGO), primarily to ensure the fairness of the electoral process.
An international election monitor is quite different from, let’s say, a class monitor. A class monitor is a lot more powerful than an international observer monitoring elections. The class monitor has complete authority over its subjects; an election monitor on the other hand, just monitors and reports the events as they unfold.
I too, have had the honour of working as an international observer monitoring elections in Sri Lanka for their parliamentary elections in 2004. My job was a bit more specific than your average run of the mill observer. I was there to specifically monitor election related violence. It meant that if anyone wanted to rig elections right in front of my eyes, they were welcome to do so, as long as they did it peacefully.
Before I embarked on the mission to observe, along with 15 other observers, I was given a couple of days of training about what to do in the field, what to look for, who to meet and what procedures to follow if I happen to witness election related violence. During the briefing, I was introduced to all kinds of election observers. The variety I got introduced to, for the very first time, was a diplomatic husband. I know the term is quite alien to us Pakistanis where husbands need not be diplomatic at all, but believe me, there are quite a number of them out there. All of them were from Scandinavian countries. Their wives work for diplomatic missions, so they could not be engaged in gainful employment. As they don’t attend ikebana classes like most diplomatic ladies do, they spend their days collecting children from school or playing golf or monitoring elections as it is not classified as work. Technically, you have to volunteer to observe elections.
There are monitors who have mastered the art of monitoring elections and have monitored elections everywhere; from Belarus to Nigeria to Papua New Guinea to Ecuador. One monitor’s dream monitoring job was to monitor elections in Saudia Arabia, when they get democracy that is.Some observers are students from rich countries with huge doctoral grants who want to get in the underbelly of the political system of a third world country and what better of that would be than monitoring elections.
Then there are US monitors who want to bring ‘democracy’ to the whole world. When I lauded their efforts of flying off to foreign lands, making the rest of the world safe for ‘democracy’, and asked them if their government would open doors for the rest of the world to check on the fairness of elections in US, they said that US boasts the oldest democracy which hardly requires monitoring. I guess Florida is no longer part of the United States.
Last but not the least are the penury stricken students like me who take on the job because it meant a month away from cold and damp Manchester and a chance to visit home for very little money. Curiosity about the process and prestige ranked much lower when I agreed to take on the job.
After being trained when I went to my duty station, which was a large area around the hill station of Kandy, I made a schedule for the fortnight I had before elections about the places to visit and the people to meet. Sadly, my schedule was shot to pieces with almost daily occurrence of bomb blasts, if it can be called that. Every other day, one would hear about a bomb blast in an area. Upon visiting the site, we would find a one and half feet-wide dent, caused by a homemade petrol bomb created in a used soft drink bottle. The only incident when they actually used hand grenades did not garner much attention as none of the bombs exploded. I ventured too close to the site and squatted next to the unexploded hand grenade to take a picture. My 70-year-old translator almost had a heart attack flinging his arms like crazy asking me to get away. He was not too happy with me and only stopped admonishing me when I told him that my bravado stemmed from ignorance rather than valour and courage.
As part of the monitoring process, I met local politicians from the three leading political parties. Imagine the plight of those who will have to monitor elections in Pakistan. They will have to meet with a dozen factions of PML alone, then there are a couple of JUIs, JUPs and MQMs along with ANP, JI, TI, NAP, BNP, JWP and what not. To top it, we have three versions of Ms Bhutto’s political party which are Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians and of course Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian Patriots (Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?).
While monitoring elections in Sri Lanka, one politician asked me about my nationality. When I told him I am from Pakistan, he asked me if I know Shoaib Akhtar. The only common ground between me and Mr Akhtar is our green passport and nothing else. When I tried to divert his attention to Sri Lankan politics and the violence around it, he refused to budge and talked about his plans to invite himself as a chief guest to all international cricket matches and meet his favourite stars when he gets to the parliament and becomes a minister. Shoaib Akhtar obviously topped his wish list along with Rahul Dravid, Jaques Kallis and Brett Lee.
In the end, my station turned out to be quite peaceful. There were no deaths reported and only four people got injured. A few bombs here and there and the minor irritant of Shoaib Akhtar fixation, it was quite an experience, one that I would highly recommend.

originally published in dawn

Sep 9, 2007 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Atomic Attraction

China has recently opened up the base where it researched and produced its first nuclear weapons as a tourist attraction. The question is, do you really want to go?

China’s so-called “Atomic Town”, a base built in 1958 to research and build the country’s first generation of nuclear weapons, is now officially open and being promoted as a tourist attraction (what were Chinese thinking, or may be they were just not thinking).

The supposed main attraction is an underground, reinforced concrete bunker which originally contained the main research laboratory. Along with the rest of the base, it was closed in 1987 and handed over to the provincial government six years later.

The underground headquarters of the nuclear weapons research and production base are a curiosity to many people. They can see the nuclear city for themselves.

But would you really want to go? Apart from the remoteness and the lack of much to see of any interest, you would also have to trust officials when they say the site has been thoroughly decontaminated? I think not, unless they start selling performances by Atomic Kittens as added attractions.

Sep 2, 2007 - rant    No Comments

Being rare ain’t that cool

Like most people who’s motto is that self love is beginning of a life time, it too think too much about myself, add too much importance to what I read, what I say and most of all, what I write. I always used to grumble that i am the most misunderstood person I know, no one gets me and I am too good for the people around me and what not, my friend sent me this site that explained it all.
It said that it is my birth date that has made the way I am. If only i was born a couple of days later or a week earlier, my destiny would have been so different, it is the date, December 3rd, that made me the way I am.

this is what the site says, you can check out your fates too at

***Your Birthdate: December 3***

You are more than a big ball of energy – you are a big ball of hyper.
You are always on the go, but you don’t have a type a personality.
Instead of channeling your energy into work, you instead go for fun and adventure.
Witty and verbal, you can have an interesting conversation with anyone.
Your strength: Your larger than life imagination
Your weakness: You tend to be pretty scattered
Your power color: Lime
Your power symbol: Lightening bolt
Your power month: March

***Your Personality is Very Rare (ESTP)***

Your personality type is dominant, driven, poised, and self-aware. Only about 5% of all people have your personality, including 3% of all women and 6% of all menYou are Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving.

PS: With just 5 % like minded human beings, the probablity of find them is a very low 4.99999%. I should tell myself to be content with gamas and majas around me.

PPS: What the hell does power color and power symbol means???

PPPS: and power month……….. does that mean that i am powerless the rest of the year????

Aug 27, 2007 - Shahrukh Khan, Society, USA    2 Comments

Looking for a Pakistani SRK or Obama

Shobha De recently paid to tribute to Shahrukh Khan in an Indiatimes article where she said that he is the “man with an important agenda (to save Islam and restore its tarnished glory) and not just an actor but an influential agent for change.”

She believes that he is ready to enter into the second or dual phase of a public life and become a politician. She thinks that “Shah Rukh Khan is the Neo-Mussalman India has been waiting for. He wears his religion unabashedly on his sleeve and has referred to himself as ‘an ambassador for Allah’. She also noted that over the past few years, SRK-watchers have monitored his every ‘aadab’ and ‘salaam alaikum’ at high profile events and commented that he no longer greets fans or anybody else, with the more traditional ‘namastey’. He also makes it a point to acknowledge ‘Khudaa’s’ grace and blessings, each time he is complimented, besides vociferously articulating his feelings about the misrepresentation of Islam. These sentiments are heartfelt and undoubtedly sincere. They all add up to a whole when seen in a larger, political context.

If SRK does contest an election in, say, Uttar Pradesh, he’ll win it, hands down. That’s a given. But will he, unlike some of his other film industry colleagues, succeed as a neta? Be the leader India’s young are desperately in search of? We will not know it unless he decides to take the plunge but most of us do believe that SRK has what it takes to be a 21st century politician, in the international mould. He is young, wealthy, successful and sharp. Above all, he has a dream – at least Shobha De thinks so. He is a man on a very special mission.

At this point in time, we know less about Obama, his real test would start once the Democratic Party goes into the primaries, but the significance of his announcement is tremendous, especially at this point in time when the world stand divided along every imaginable divide. SRK, on the other hand, has been around for far longer and if the US political lingo is to be followed, is thoroughly vetted. SRK, in my opinion, hardly shoots from mouth and if he ever does, he stands by it (he does not whine about journalists misinterpreting his words). His recent film “Chak de” has done a lot more for the feminist cause than many other films that wear their feminism on every dialogue and poster, yet fail to get the message across. SRK has the charisma and can inspire the youth of India in the 21st century. I have seen and met young Indians who hangs onto everything he does, it is no mean feat in any ways but it is all the more amazing in a country as big as India.

As a Pakistani, the 64 million dollar question that comes to my mind: where do we find such a leader/role model in Pakistan. Someone who has grasp on the local and international scene, who is good in his chosen field, who not only commands popularity but immense respect across board, who firmly believes in ‘nation Pakistan’ and what it entails, someone who is neither apologetic about being a Pakistani nor defensive but at the same time does not resort to nonsensical nationalism for useless political point scoring and short term gains. Sadly, we have no such home grown figures who are not only larger than life but also scandal free. The closest thing we HAD to a young(ish?) and charismatic role model(yes, the use of past tense is deliberate) was a passionate Imran Khan who, much to my utter dismay, has turned into a sad caricature of his old self. His politics is divisive and obscurantist. His invisible ‘beard’ is far longer than that of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and a lot more dangerous.

If I am asked to vote for somebody like SRK, I most probably will. After all, he is assured and bring a sense of stability after being at the top of his game for over a decade) that political scene here is crying for. The question is, will I ever get the chance to vote for someone like SRK in Pakistan???
Aug 26, 2007 - rant    2 Comments


iRant. It’s not just me, we all whine, whimper and rant. I just do it a little more publicly than most and probably with a little more style, hence a friend suggested that I should call my rants, iRants like CNN’s iReport or an iPod or iGoogle.So what’s the latest in the iRantville (yes, I am adding new words in the language of the Queen)? Well, we have all heard about the brain drain in our country and how all educated and able bodied people are leaving the country in droves. The generally cited reasons for the brain drain are economic, political and security driven but there are other reasons beside. I think the system is driving people away for being educated, intelligent and able bodied because the system does not like people who are educated, intelligent and able bodied.

I could never manage to get time off during summers when one so want to get away from the sweltering heat of the city by the sea, I can take time off in, lets say, February or October but never in June and July. Once, I have had enough and decided to have a word with HR people and was told that summer vacations are reserved for married employees. “Excuse me,” my eyes popped out, but he very calmly told me that single employees are given low priority for summer vacations as they don’t have to arrange their schedules around children, they can take time off any time they want to. Its not as if they have to coordinate everything with school year. “But isn’t the purpose of having a vacation is that you take one when you need one to recharge your batteries and what if you need to recharge your batteries bang in the middle of June, what then? I was told that I should hold onto my batteries very carefully till September when I can get some time off.

This is not all, my colleague gets a longer lunch break every day because he has to pick his children from school and drops them home. Its takes him about 45 minutes and that is beside the designated one hour. If I say that I have to go away for an hour for a hair cut, I would be told stay put and do it over the weekend but not the people with children, they can get away with anything. There are times when I am tempted to put up a picture or two on my desk claiming them to be my children. I have enough nephews and nieces and can come up with at least three who look like me, if need be, I can even come up with a couple of step children if need be.

Recently, I went to a branch of State Bank to take care of my father’s investments and I was not being allowed to park my car in the reserved car park. Its not that it was a car park reserved for bank employees, they just did not have any rules. I stopped when I was told that I cannot park inside the premesis but when I saw three cars passing right beside I went and asked them. I found out that they are letting old people and women with children can park inside and people like me should go fend for ourselves. Those who live and drive in Karachi know what premium does a parking space hold. I would not have minded that it was a standard rule, but they made exceptions and there were no standard grounds for them as well. All it did was send the message across that people who are able bodied can go ^&*($ themselves. No one gives two hoots about them. If I ever leave the country, it would be not because I want to earn more or want to live in some godforsaken little village in Ireland or Canada (the two most popular destinations these days), it would be because I don’t want to be discriminated for being intelligent, educated and able bodied.

Aug 26, 2007 - published work, travel    No Comments

Packing the Persepolis punch

Although Iran is far more famous these days for its ambitious President Mahmud Ahmedinijad and its uranium enrichment plans, its historical treasure far outweighs that claim to fame. One such treasure is the once famous city of Persepolis, about 400 miles south of the capital near the modern city of Shiraz, just over an hour’s flight from Tehran. It was the seat of a powerful dynasty of Zoroastrian kings who ruled this region 2,500 years ago, and even today its ruins convey a sense of royal power. Founded by Persian King Darius the Great in about 518BC, the site’s Iranian name is Takht-e-Jamshid – The throne of Jamshid – the mythical King of Iran. It was also called Parsa, but when the Greeks came they changed the name to Persepolis, meaning the city of Persians.

One of the most awe-inspiring monuments of the ancient world, Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenian Empire. It was built during the reign of Darius I, and developed further by successive kings. The various temples and monuments are located upon a vast platform. At the head of the ceremonial staircase leading to the terrace is the ‘Gateway of All Nations’ built by Xerxes I and guarded by two colossal bull-like figures.

Perhaps the most splendid architectural expression of the Achaemenid Empire, the city was built on a huge half-artificial, half-natural terrace. The main characteristic of Persepolitan architecture is its columns. Grey limestone is the main material used in the buildings in Persepolis. The greatest palace was named Apadana and was used for the Shehenshah’s (King of Kings) official audiences. The work began in 515 BC during Darius’ era and was completed 30 years later, by his son Xerxes I. The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side being 60 metres long with 72 columns, 13 of which still stand on the enormous platform. The columns carried the weight of the vast and heavy ceiling. The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two headed bulls, lions and eagles.

A visit to Persepolis is the cultural highlight of any visit to Iran. This scribe visited the city at the height of summer, but such is the magical aura of the place that one feels transported to another era. The remains such as bas-relief wall and sculptures provide an insight into hearts and beliefs of the ancient Iranians. The wall depicts the coronation of one of the Achaemenid kings where ambassadors from different countries are paying homage to the new king and presenting gifts from their kings. The cuneiform inscription informs us that Parthians, Abyssinians, Greeks from Odysseus’s Ionian Islands, Arabs, Indians and Gandarans from Afghanistan, all came to pay tributes to the Persian king. One can almost imagine how it must have looked back then

The great king Alexander is not a well-liked figure in Iran which should not come as a surprise because he was responsible for the demolition of the great palaces, when a drunken party ended with the burning of the palaces, the effects of which can still be seen in the Tachara, Darius’s private palace, where the stone is blackened and clearly heat-damaged. When this scribe asked a few local students what they thought about the Macedonian invader, they unanimously said that he was a terrible man. He was an invader who was only interested in adding land and countries to his empire, a violence junkie and a looting drunkard. “Quite like American forces in Baghdad,” added one student.

The buildings at Persepolis are divided into three areas – military quarters, the treasury, the reception and occasional houses for the King of Kings. These include the Great Stairway, the Gate of Nations built by Xerxes, the Apadana palace of Darius, the Hall of a Hundred Columns, the Tripylon Hall and Tachara palace of Darius, the Hadish palace of Xerxes, the palace of Artaxerxes III, the Imperial Treasury, the Royal Stables and the Chariot house.

A visit to Persepolis is highly recommended for history and architecture aficionados, in fact it is recommended for anyone who likes beauty. It definitely is worth bearing the heat, the scorching sun and the dust.

Originally published in Dawn
Aug 21, 2007 - religion, Society    1 Comment

Mullah Radio and his fatwas

Pakistanis as a nation are quite obsessed with marriage. We are either attending them, planning them, setting them up, breaking them up or berating people for not committing to it. In short we sleep and breath marriages, but maulvis is Pakistan are even more obsessed about marriages than an average Pakistani. I recently read that Maulana Fazlullah (of Swat), who is also known as “Mullah Radio” because of his fiery Islamic sermons that he delivers on his illegal FM radio channel, urged his female followers to make sure that their husbands grow beard. He also warned them that their failure to do so would result in annulment to marriages with their beardless husbands (The Friday Times published the details of the fatwa).

This is a first I heard of annulment of marriage on the grounds of a clean shaven face. I have heard women complaining about the 4 day old stubble but women have no issues with clean shaven men, if they have then all the campaigns of shaving creams, razors and after shaves across the world who show a woman lovingly caressing the freshly shaved cheeks of her man are not “in” on the secret.

In any case, weird fatwas are nothing new for Mullah Radio. He earlier issued fatwas against female literacy, television, music and fiction writing. Yes, he has banned women’s digests in his area because he thinks they are propagating obscenity. On the contrary, they teach our little girls how to be docile little good wives who press their husbands feet at the end of the day. If only fatwa issuing maulana knew how to read and write, he would not issue this fatwa.

According to dawn reports, Mullah Radio could often be seen riding on a white horse to give the impression that he was the one who could revive the Khilafat. He had also designed special propaganda techniques to mould the opinion of Swati women, the least educated class, to his favour.