Tagged with " Karachi"
Jan 15, 2013 - published work    1 Comment

Looking at the bigger picture

Activism in Pakistan is generally inconsistent and sporadic. People stand up and raise their voices after tragedies and calamities have become front page news but very few individuals and groups persevere and continue with their efforts for their chosen cause.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) is one such organisation, which has been working for workers’ rights in the country for over 30 years. Many of us were traumatised by the fire that took the lives of 262 workers at Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town last September, and demanded immediate action, like the arrest of the owners of the factory and revamping of the way the labour department works but soon moved on to other issues. PILER, which has been advocating greater investment in terms of interest and stakes in workers’ safety and well-being, sought another solution. While an indifferent state and an employer unconcerned with the safety of its workers bear major responsibility for the tragedy, it also tried to involve international buyers, who were a part of the supply chain and tend to benefit from the cheap labour provided by Pakistani workers.

The German buyer, KiK, was engaged in a dialogue to not only seek compensation for the victims of Ali Enterprises, but was also involved in a plan that worked towards building a long-term workplace safety regime for Pakistani workers. Clean Clothes Campaign, an international workers rights group based in Amsterdam, collaborated with PILER to commit a judicious compensation amount. KiK recently signed an agreement with PILER to make an initial payment to the victims and their families of one million dollars in order to provide immediate relief and to negotiate a long-term compensation package with all other involved stakeholders.

The compensation payment initially seeks to focus on those workers’ families, which have not received any assistance because the victims’ bodies were unidentifiable, and will focus in later phases on those rendered disabled and hence unemployable and others who have received some state compensation. PILER has requested the Sindh High Court to constitute an independent commission to oversee the compensation process and determine all necessary details for the purpose.

KiK’s initiative has helped establish the responsibility of buyers in the production system of Pakistan. This may be the first time that buyers have come forward to take responsibility and made a commitment to ensure future safety of workers. It works to their benefit as well because it makes more sense to invest in a prevention regime rather than participate in fire-fighting at a later stage after their reputation and credibility has suffered.

In addition, PILER has filed a petition, which demands that a judicial commission headed by a high court or a Supreme Court judge be constituted to give its findings on the causes of the industrial fire tragedy; assign responsibility and liability to government officials and departments responsible for negligence, and failure over a timely response to the fire; determine compensation for the families of the victims; and make recommendations for the avoidance of such industrial tragedies.

It takes sustained efforts to keep an issue alive and to ensure that things change. PILER’s effort tells us that we need consistent and continued effort if we want to see things get better and to also look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on narrow and short-term gains. Things will only change when people collectively ask the state to move away from non-issues and demand its attention and focus on the taxpaying, GDP-earning voters.

First published in The Express Tribune

PS: I have had the pleasure of working with Karamat Ali of PILER and believe him to be one of the few good ones. Those of you who live in Karachi and have some extra time, please help the good folks at PILER in whatever way you can. There are not many places where you can work with people who can still inspire you, Karamat Ali and B.M. Kutty at PILER are those rare people who make you believe that you can make a difference.

The Turkish Invasion

I thought I was keeping abreast with what is happening in the entertainment world by downloading the latest episodes of Homeland and American Horror Story and listening to the Top 40s on the radio but I found out that I was wrong.

My bubble burst during a trip to Karachi in December where I realized that I have been practically living under a rock in Islamabad and had no idea that we were facing what is now called Turkish invasion. 

Nope, the Turks are not attacking us — they are one of the few countries who still tolerate us — it was the Turkish soap that everyone was watching, talking about and obsessing over. From my sister’s maid to my friend’s teenaged sister to my adult male cousin, Ishq-e-Mamnoon (or Aşk-ı Memnu as it is written in Turkish) was all the rage with everyone.

My sister’s maid wanted to know if the characters on the soap are Muslims and if they will burn in the eternal hell fire for drinking, wearing western clothes and for their permissive attitude towards pre- and extramarital sex.

My friend’s sister was obsessing over the hotness of the male lead and had his face on her desktop which was a vast improvement on her previous crush (Justin Beiber hogged the screen the last time I visited their house).  

My adult male cousin who markets television software for a TV channel was also talking about it. He sat me down and ran through the economics — like how the first channel bought the soap for just $900 per episode and how the copycats are forking $5,000 per episode after the first one turned out to be an off-the-chart hit.  

As if that was not all, I ended up witnessing a protest by Television Producers Association in front of Karachi Press Club against foreign content. 

Things went crazy during the telecast of the final episode and my timeline — both on facebook and twitter — was so full of Ishq-e-Mamnoon, I ended up googling Turkish soaps that are or will be aired in Pakistan and it turned out that most of them have the same actor. 

He is that guy.

Till now, my experience with Turkish television was limited to watching some of it on long bus rides from Istanbul to Izmir and then from Seljuk to Konya – that, too, without subtitles — during a visit to Turkey. My friend Sam and I made a guessing game of the dialogues and storyline. The one we watched was the Turkish version of Grey’s Anatomy and yes, Turkish doctors were way hotter than anyone on the American series, but I digress. 

When I came back from Turkey, no-one asked me much about the people — it was always about the places — but ever since Behlul (the male lead of Ishq-e-Mamnoon played by Turkish actor Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ) graced our television screens, every woman who is hooked onto Ishq-e-Mamnoonwants to know if Behlul was a fluke or do other Turkish men look like him.

It is not just the young ones; aunties who were in love with Ashar of Hamsafar just a few months ago have now forsaken their affections for him and have moved on to the taller and blonder Behlul.

If a man can capture the fantasy of an entire nation with a name as ridiculous sounding as Behlul — it rhymes with mehlool — then he should be commended for pulling it off. 

If you thought that it was only women who were watching it, you had it all wrong. This Turkish soap was just as popular among men and I have actually heard a few of them discussing the ladies of the cast with as much gusto as teenage girls reserve for boys of One Direction.

The Turkish beauties

When I asked a socialite why she is obsessed with Ishq-e-Mamnoon— I only caught part of the last episode and the dubbing was a major letdown — she retorted, “What’s not to like?”

When I asked her to elaborate, she went on, “There is a gorgeous man torn between what is right and who he loves, he is conflicted and in pain, what can be more engaging than that.”

I agreed with her, a distressed good looking man is television gold because every woman who watches him wants things to go right for him. “And if the male lead was not enough of a reason, I watched it for clothes and accessories,” she added.

I have been told that ladies with disposable income have planned shopping trips to Istanbul to buy baubles by the designers featured in this soap, many a fashion blogger from Pakistan have even listed the names of the designers that Pakistani buyers should look for when they are in Turkey.

A web designer who does not watch anything else on the local television but watches Ishq-e-Mamnoon thinks the reason the Turkish soap broke all ratings record is because it had fresh faces. “I have been watching the same actors doing the exact same sh*t since I was in diapers. Back then, they used to romance the ladies with their real hair, now they do it after getting follicle implants.”

Serious pontification and discussion with a friend who is pursuing a doctorate degree in England on Pakistani television content validated this claim. From Noman Aijaz to Faisal Qureshi, from Shahood Alvi to Aijaz Aslam, they have either been under the knife for follicle implants or sport a toupee. The only people who still have all their hair are Adnan Siddiqui and Humayun Saeed but they, too, have been at it since I was in grade school and that happened in last century — like literally.

The best bit that I heard was when a friend who is pursuing PhD in Canada (yes, I have very learned friends; they all either have doctorate degrees or are pursuing them, I am considered barely literate amongst my friends) was cornered by a Hijabi lady at a dinner.

She was asked about her plans of finding matrimonial bliss with a suitable partner and her prospects of landing one in Canada — she is over 30 and according to most married women with children in Pakistan, ovaries of every unmarried woman over the age of 30 are dying a lonely miserable death.

As the lady knew that Pakistani men would not want anyone over the age of thirty — unless she happens to be Mahnoor Baloch — she was persistent in her queries about the suitable men for her in the frozen land of Canada.

My friend who was a little perturbed by the inquisition tried to put a stop to it by telling her that there are no desi men where she lives and obviously, the Hijabi lady would not want her to end up with a gora

The aunty thought for a while and said that after watching the Turkish soap, she has realized that there are other kinds of Muslims out there and as long as my friend ends up with a Muslim — even if he happens to be a sharabi kababi Turkish or Algerian man — she is okay with it.

Who would’ve thought Turkish invasion would bring a change of heart and an overall acceptance for bad boys among ladies of Hijab. If airing just one soap has done this, imagine the hell that will break loose if they start airing two or four of them simultaneously!
This picture is added solely for the benefit of female readers and has absolutely nothing to do with the text

PS:This was written sometime last month, now there are three Turkish soaps that are being aired from three different channels. We don’t know if they are as popular as Ishq-e-Mamnoon or will impact the hijabi ladies as strongly as Behlul did. I did manage to catch the first episode of Manahil and Khalil and though the play was a bit of a meh, I found the tickers with text messages sent to the TV channel about the Turkish Hottie most hilarious. Azra from Lyari wanted Behlul’s phone number and Zareena from Khushab wanted to have dinner with him. The boys in Lyari and Khushab will have to up their game if they want to have a chance with either Azra or Zareena. 

Originally written for Monthly Pique, I like them Pique people, not only because they pay on time and well, they call me a major league blogger.
Dec 14, 2012 - Uncategorized    4 Comments

The gems at Khajoor Bazaar

During my last visit to Karachi, I wanted to buy some fabric favoured by Balochi women and for that I went to Khajoor Bazaar. While I met some very interesting characters there, I spotted a couple of items that were hilarious and chances are that you will not find them in the bazaars that you regularly visit. 

The first couple of photos are of T shirts with romantic slogans in Urdu and last but definitely not the least, third picture is of the wedding gift that rivals only Bahishti Zevar (apologies to readers outside Pakistan – if I have any – you just wont get the reference). 

Hum do dil
Do dil, ek dosray se duur huay, milnay se majboor huay

Dil diya, bhool huee Saajan

Best wedding gift ever. A rolling pin set that says “Shadi Mubarak”

PS: h/t to Summaiya Jillani for spotting the rolling pin set, I was busy listening to the song a sharbat wala was singing. 

PPS: Picture quality is not good because I took them with my sasta phone.

Nov 13, 2012 - rant, women    4 Comments

Do not expect others to feed you if you decide to procreate nine times

Warning: This is a rant. 

Not only English newspapers generally carry more news stories on and about women, their stories are generally more nuanced and gender sensitive in comparison with Urdu and vernacular press. This story that I am going to discuss was published in Express Tribune and it does not pass judgment on the women it discussed but I strongly believed that in this case, the story could have done it with a bit of analysis on the socio economic mores of the society.

The story narrates the tale of two women, Humera and Suraya. They both lost their husbands to the civil unrest and target killings in Karachi. It has been two years since Humera’s husband passed away but she is still not working and expects other people to financially help her run her house. It must be noted that Humera is a middle aged woman and has 9 children – some of them are adults and one of her daughters is married – yet she does not leave her home because she fears that people will question her character if she leaves her house. The woman lives in Kati Pahari, a colony of working class people in Karachi adjacent to North Nazimabad which is a middle class area and if only Humera and her adult daughter go to North Nazimabad and work as domestic servants, they can jointly earn anything between Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000 a month.

Suraya also lost her husband four years ago and but unlike Humera, she is financially independent. Not only is she working and supporting her two daughters, she is also paying off her husband’s debt and living a life of dignity.

There is a woman who had nine children – if people like her or her husband are approached for family planning, they generally deny any such services and say that children are God’s gift and they bring their own food with them. However now that she cannot feed them, she expects other people – who go out of their homes and work hard to earn money – to feed them while she just stays at home because she fears her virtue would be tarnished! Hello, you have nine – NINE – children and you still care about what other people have to say about your virtue? What is more important for you as a mother, your virtue or your children’s food? There is also a sense of entitlement that now she is a widow, other people should help her. She says that she constantly thinks about ways to feed her children but she has never thought about doing an honest day’s work to many some money. Here is a woman who is refusing to act like an adult and take responsibility. If there is any place in Pakistan where people can break taboos and do things differently, it is Karachi and if someone refuses to do that, they do not deserve any sympathy. Had that woman been living in Badin, Sadiqabad or Akora Khattak, her excuse had been valid because there are no opportunities to work for anyone in those areas but this is nothing but an empty excuse in a city like Karachi.

I read the story and then I read it again. For starters the writer squandered the opportunity to draw comparison between people who work hard and the others who prefer to live their lives as parasites and society’s reaction to both parasites and the hard working people. Suraya – the other widow – should have been written as an exemplary character who defied the odds and is living a better life because of three major factors/decisions that made her life better – one, she was educated by her parents, two, she had just two kids instead of nine, three, she chose to work and live independently instead of relying on others. As it was a feature, not a story breaking news, the writer had an opportunity to dig deeper and touch upon the malaise that is holding our society back. I know reporters are supposed to be neutral but this country is going to the dogs, our birth rate is the highest in the region and we are a water insecure country – no water after 2030 for Pakistanis – it’s about time everyone should go militant on issues of family planning and innovative ways of farming. 

I know that this is a fairly politically incorrect piece of writing and not a cohesive one at that but I had to get it off my chest. I judged a widow for being lazy; having too many children and called her a parasite, but it is about time we call a spade a spade and appreciate those who want to be productive members of the society.Women staying at home is a very urban phenomenon, its about time we learn from our rural sisters who have always worked outside their homes and contributed to the economy – even when it is not officially acknowledged.

Response to a comment

This is in response to Anon commenter who apparently is a regular reader but chose to not disclose his/her name. I wonder why? 
I have absolutely no idea if this particular woman chose to have 9 children but she chose not to work and is asking for alms to support them, that, in my opinion is criminal behavior for a mother. 
You second point is that Pakistani wives do not have the luxury of choice to say no to their husband whether they want to have sex or multiple number of children and that I have unlearned/erased everything I know about gender inequality, traditions and male dominance. 
I would like to point out that accidents and tragedies provide everyone with fascinating opportunity of choice – of either becoming a victim or becoming a person who fight and defy odds. The woman may not have had a choice when her husband was alive but she had the choice of either becoming a victim (Hai Allah mein bechari bewa meray itnay bachay meri madad karo) or a fighter (Screw traditions, I am gonna get out of the home and try and carve a better life for my kids). Unfortunately she chose to play the victim card and for that, I will judge her. 
Your third point was that it is easier to leave two kids at home instead of 9. I find it kinda baseless, I mean this woman is middle aged and has married off one daughter. I am sure at least three of her children would be adults who can either work or look after the younger ones. The argument that she cannot leave them at home does not hold true here. 
In addition, I would like to point out that this is not about just a case but how we tend to side with the person who plays the victim instead of the one who fights things out. If anything we need to support those who decide to take charge because we can do with more doers and less parasites.
I would also like to say that media generally portrays the stories of victimhood which perpetuates the stereotype of bechari aurat and from what I have learned about gender, social structures, feminism, we do not need that, we need stories (I have written about Nazirapreviously) that break the shackles and glass ceilings.

The alternate universe where Shahid Afridi and Katrina Kaif share a plate of biryani

Nothing makes me miss the city of Karachi more than its crazy zany billboards, banners and adverts. Here in the twin cities, you either see road side boards selling real estate (Gulberg anyone?), the odd billboard of the PM or the President opening an institute or welcoming a foreign dignitary or if you are in Rawalpindi, you would spot chotay Mian sahib (Shahbaz Sharif) celebrating the construction of a nala or kamyab dengue bachao muhim, everything is mundane and nothing touches the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit of Karachi and its people.
Once upon a time, a cart vendor by the name of Ilyas Quraishi started selling Biryani in my former neighbourhood in Karachi. We don’t know if it was because his biryani tasted better than others or because he was the sole biryani seller in the muhalla or the fact that he used to raise the price of his plate of biryani quite regularly; his business grew phenomenally and in few short years, he moved from a single cart to multiple carts, then to a shack and finally to a proper shop. This reflects two things; Ilyas Bhai is a bonafide Karachiite who is enterprising and knows what works for him and pursues it. Secondly, we in Karachi, can never get enough of Biryani that is why the city has many rags to riches stories of the biryani sellers of all varieties in almost all localities.
This Eid, Ilyas bhai decided to go big and ordered a couple of big Billboards to announce to the world that Ilyas Bhai and his biryani is here to stay.
Ilyas Quraishi Biryani house wishes you Eid along with Shahid Afridi, Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif
On the extreme right corner of this billboard, we have Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, getting many thelas (bagfuls just does not seem right when we are talking about biryani) of Ilyas Biryani while riding a bike. An unseen acquaintance meets him and the conversation goes like this:
The unseen acquaintance: “Shahrukh Bhai, kya baat hai, itni dher saari biryani lay ke ja rahain hain woh bhi Ilyas Bhai ki, kya mehman aye hain?”
Shahrukh, in his glorious hairdo says, “Kya karain bhai, humaray mehmaan tau Ilyas Bhai ke ilawa kisi aur ki biryani khatay hi naheen.”
It does not end here, in this Ilyas biryani alternate universe, Shahid Afridi – Lala or Shahid Bhai as he is affectionately called by the fans – is married to Katrina Kaif. In their biryani filled coupledom, a conversation goes like this:
Katrina: “Birynai kaheen idhar udhar se mat lana, sirf Ilyas Biryani se hi lana warna mein naraz ho kar apni ammi ke yehan chali jaon gee. 

Shahid Bhai gets worried, does not even bother to change and starts running towards Ilyas Birayni in his Pakistan team kit saying, “Naheen naheen, apni ammi ke yehan mat jana, mein Ilyas Biryani hi la raha hoon.”

This too reflects two things; firstly, Bollywood is BIG; from selling soaps to fizzy drinks to Ilyas Bhai ki Biryani, we need Katrina Kaif and Shahrukh Khan. Second of all, if there is anyone who either matches or beats the Bollywood brigade in terms of popularity and selling goods, it is Shahid Bhai. Eat your heart out #TeamMisbah, you can never sell a plate of biryani — or murgh cholay for that matter — it is brand Afridi that does it.
PS: I wonder what numerous Lala fan girls have to say about this pairing of Shahid Afridi and Katrina Kaif by Ilyas Quraishi biryani walay.
Photo Courtesy: Salman Jillani

An unrealistic code for elections

Pick up any news item these days and there will be a connection with the Supreme Court in one way or the other. The spine recently developed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also owes its existence to a Supreme Court directive, which resulted in a brand new code limiting the election expenses of a candidate to Rs1.5 million. Election candidates were banned from providing transport facilities to voters on election day and were prohibited from using other promotional tools. The sentiment is noble but the implementation of this code of conduct seems impossible for various reasons.
Given the state of inflation and the size of constituencies — particularly, for the National Assembly — the amount of Rs1.5 million is unrealistic. Well-heeled Pakistanis spend more on a valima; expecting candidates to woo around a hundred thousand voters per constituency on that budget would be a tad unreal. In addition, a lot of services during campaigns are provided without any monetary transaction. One supporter gets the banners printed while another provides tents for the jalsa and a third supporter does the catering for the aforementioned jalsa, free of cost. This makes the process of keeping the tabs very difficult.
The ECP also prohibits the political parties from hoisting party flags on public property or at any public place unless granted permission by the local government for a certain fee. Every city is already flooded with political flags of all colours and hues. The residents of Karachi will vouch that they have seen the political flags of all parties inundating their streets, making the street look like it is in a perpetual state of a campaign of some kind or other. The code of conduct is silent on how the ECP will get rid of the flags and whether is has the authority to order local governments to do so. Further, the removal of party flags is contingent upon local governments having the resources to remove them.
Wall chalking as part of an election campaign is also prohibited by the ECP along with the use of loudspeakers, barring election meetings. Again, controlling wall chalking would be a momentous task and the candidates can always say that their supporters and not their campaign teams are behind it.
Further, the ECP also forbids candidates to affix posters, hoardings or banners larger than the prescribed sizes for the campaign. Most urban centres and highways already sport larger than life hoardings of political leaders; the Sharif brothers in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Gujranwala, Asfandyar Wali in Charsadda and Peshawar, Altaf Hussain in Karachi and Hyderabad, Imran Khan in Lahore and Peshawar and the whole Bhutto clan almost everywhere in Pakistan. These hoardings do not ask voters to vote for any particular candidate during the election period. Hence, they are not related to any election campaign. Yet, they propagate the messages of various political parties and can affect the election process. The ECP’s code of conduct does not say anything about these advertisements.
The ECP also banned candidates from providing transport facilities to voters on election day, which, again, is essential for maintaining neutrality. However, it can adversely impact the percentage of voters, who will actually go out and vote. While limiting election expenses is a very commendable step for which ECP should be congratulated, it needs to make the code of conduct more realistic and must also come up with ways to implement it.

First published in The Express Tribune. 

Apr 21, 2012 - published work, terrorism    2 Comments

The geography of news

With its incidents of terrorism dominating the airwaves, Karachi probably is considered the most dangerous part of the world’s most dangerous country. It may be true but it is definitely not the whole truth. Any news originating in Karachi trumps news originating in any other part of the country because Karachi is at the centre of the journalism business and other peripheral areas just do not get similar airtime. A recent study by Intermedia Pakistan on “How Pakistani Media reports terrorism-related conflict”, reveals that the geography of a news item is very important in determining its selection and and placement.
The study came up with some very interesting observations. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Fata, Balochistan and Sindh seem to be suffering almost daily from incidents of terror. While the print media is giving due coverage to all regions, the priority and non-priority areas are quite obvious in electronic media reporting.
According to the study, Sindh remains a priority area for TV channels. One of the reasons that Sindh is regularly featured with respect to terrorism could be the fact that terrorism incidents in Sindh, specifically Karachi, are usually linked to political upheaval. The fact that the head offices of most news channels with a team of skilled reporters happen to be in Karachi, also helps in detailed reporting of many aspects of the incidents, something which is not possible in remote areas. On the other hand, news about Fata and K-P seems to be relatively underplayed on TV.
The study reports a total of 119 incidents of terrorism in Sindh between January and March 2012. On TV, the region seems to be a priority with 56 stories aired in the monitored bulletins. Balochistan was mentioned as a terrorism target as many as 123 times during the same period but the number of related news items about the province was only 15.
However, it is not only the number of items about Sindh that makes this region a priority area. A look at the placement and significance of news items from here confirms this trend. Television channels give priority to certain news items by putting them ahead in news bulletins; news generated in Sindh is given more priority in prime time bulletins compared with news generated in Balochistan.
Balochistan seems largely under-reported on the electronic media. News from Balochistan makes only nine per cent of news on the nine o’clock bulletin. The whole world knows how bad the situation is in Balochistan and that incidents of terrorism occur every day, yet the province only gets about 10 per cent of the priority time in television news bulletins. The print media has been more responsible regarding this and 28 per cent of priority items that appear on the front page of newspapers are from Balochistan.
News is a serious business and reporting terrorism is a very sensitive matter. Many reporters have lost their lives while reporting from the conflict zones of Balochistan and Fata because militants felt that they were not given enough coverage. If news reporting continues to be about the urban centres, not only will we not know what is truly happening in the areas of our news periphery, but it may also trigger misguided policies at the state level.
The detailed report is available online at Intermedia’s website www.intermedia.org.pk

Originally written for The Express Tribune 

Apr 15, 2012 - published work, Society, women    1 Comment

The problems with Jamat-i-Islami

The war of the words between Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) is neither new nor shocking. The residents of Karachi and newspaper readers all over the country are well aware of it. However, the latestround of spat where JI head asked the government to deal with their coalition partners – the MQM – in a high handed manner ostensibly to bring peace to Karachi borders on ridiculous, even for a party that boycotts elections and has not had any noticeable presence in the national and provincial legislative assemblies for quite some time.
For starters, MQM is the single biggest representative of the people in Karachi in the parliament and has been consistently getting the votes since ’88, kicking them out of the government and dealing with them in a “high handed” manner will not yield any lasting – or temporary – results. JI has been so long out of the parliament that its leaders have forgotten that popular politics is about taking care of the wishes of the electorate, not dealing with their mandate in a high handed manner.
By constantly targeting MQM, a party with a decent enough mandate in the province of Sindh, JI is indirectly proposing the political isolation and disenfranchisement of a large group of people. In a country where sense of victim hood is high among so many marginalized sections of the society, adding one more to it is tantamount to internal security hara-kiri, but JI is vigorously following this policy. Instead of working to bring in more groups into the political arena, they are trying to push away those who are part of it.
JI is supposedly a national party but they are only concerned with safety and security of Karachi – an issue that gets enough coverage in the media and is never out of the discussion. However, one is yet to hear a single word of condemnation from their leadership on the premeditated targeted killings of Shia Hazaras in Quetta, probably because the ‘banned’ organisations that have taken responsibility for most of the attacks are ideologically identical to the JI vision of a Pan Islamic Sunni hegemony.
While they are quiet on the Hazara genocide, JI decide to speak against the sectarian violence in Gilgit – Baltistan and are supporting the protests by Majlis Wehdat Muslemeen in front of the parliament. However their denial about the causes of the violence continues and they are blaming the ‘foreign enemies’ for the latest spat of violence in Gilgit-Balitistan. To add injury to the insult, they are seeking council from the right wing militant Sunni outfits – the very perpetrators of the violence – seeking to bring about the peace in the region.
JI also opposes the bill on the domestic violence which was presented again the national assembly recently after being lapsed. What JI should realize is that they have lost their right to protest legislative amendments when they boycotted elections. Only the parties with presence in the assemblies get to discuss and amend the constitution.
If Jamat wants to be taken as a serious political contender they need to focus on the issues that are relevant to the people of Pakistan instead of blaming MQM for violence in Karachi and USA for everything else that is wrong with the country. But if their previous record is anything to go by, it is pretty obvious that Jamat does not want to be a serious game player and is happy to play the rebel rouser with a nuisance value and not much else. 
Originally written for The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version. 
Apr 6, 2012 - published work    1 Comment

Career choices Karachi has for little Owais

It was Mark Twain who said “clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” While no one can deny the importance of sartorial choices in making us who we are, it is our environment – literal, social, cultural, and psychosocial – that decides who we are and what we are going to be. 
Owais is seven years old and lives in Karachi – Orangi Town to be precise. His father works as a junior care taker in a shrine and his mother is a maid. When I first met him, he looked like a happy go lucky, fairly smart kid who likes cricket and bananas in no particular order loves going to school because he gets to hang out with his friends and considers his mother to be the best person in the world. Sounds like a regular kid? Yes, he does. It is only when I started to talk to him about his career choices that one realizes what living in a society like ours has done to him and hundreds of thousands of other children.
Owais wants to join the army which looked like a decent career option. A lot of kids would want to do that but when he was asked why he would like to join the army, he said that he will have a big gun with which he will be able to intimidate everyone. He also relishes the fact that an army person is at the top of the food chain and can even beat a police man.
His second career option is to go into the police. Just like the armed forces, police officials are also powerful people who can beat up everyone whenever it takes their fancy. Owais’ father was once beaten up by them for no reason. Owais thinks that if he joins the police force, no one will be able to harm his family except for the army officials, only they are more powerful than the policemen.
Owais’s third and least desired career option is to become a maulvi. When asked why, he said that a maulvi is well respected in the community, gets sent good food from every house in the neighborhood and most of all, he gets to beat up all the children he teaches Quran.
Owais has lived with frequent and continual exposure to the use of guns, knives, drugs, and random violence in his neighborhood. He has witnessed shootings and beatings many a times in his short life and thinks only those professions that can offer a modicum of security are worth pursuing.
Living in a society where it is an everyday occurrence, Owais thinks violence is a natural state of being. For him beating up random people including children is a fine way to live and make a living. At this point in time, he does not even have access to a television at home, nor does he hang out with adults who indulge in violence, imagine how he, or any other child like him who thinks violence is cool, will behave when he gets to watch all the violent material available on television and make life choices after that?
The responsibility of providing our children with a safe and secure environment falls on all of us, parents, teachers, clergymen, relatives, government executive, political leaders and actors. Its about time we learn to get over our petty squabbles for short term personal and political gains and start thinking about our children?
Originally written for The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version. 
Mar 12, 2012 - Sana Kazmi, Shahid Afridi    3 Comments

Bright lights and Shahid Afridi’s adoring fans at NSK

I have spent many a memorable days at National Stadium in Karachi where I, with friends, family and all the other spectators, have rejoiced our wins, bemoaned our losses, have beaten down the water bottles on the chairs, screamed for every wicket taken and every boundary scored and always came home with a sore throat and broken down voice. Though needless, I would say it anyways; National Stadium has been an amazing part of my life in Karachi and I am sad that it has been three years since international cricket has not come to Pakistan.
If we talk about NSK, we have to talk about Shahid Afridi who has become an integral part of the proceedings at NSK for past so many years. Before anyone cast doubts over Shahid Afridi’s total pwnage of the crowds, s/he should at least once go to a stadium to see how Lala has millions of adoring fans wrapped around his little finger and how they wait for a wave from the showman and then cherish it with unmatched fervor. Last week, the  visit to NSK reminded me of the kind of effect Lala has over his millions of fans. At least I have never seen anything like that and I have seen international cricket in four different countries.
I was in Karachi last weekend and am grateful to Sana Kazmifor taking Summaiya and I for an exhibition match held at NSK. It was a perfect breezy March evening for cricket and National Stadium looked beautiful in floodlights. Though the match was not publicized, but there were quite a few cricket fanatics who were there to see their heroes and there is no cricketing hero bigger than Shahid Afridi in Pakistan.
It was during this match I met with a family who can lay claim for being one of the most dedicated and fervent fans of the man. There are four girls in the family and they all play club cricket and dream of hitting sixes like Shahid Afridi. Their mother takes them to all the practice sessions and matches and is totally supportive of her daughters’ sporting activities, something that we do not see often in Pakistan. They were so adorable, they made a birthday card for Lala and brought flowers and gifts for him and were determined to meet him and give it all to him in person.
I wish more girls get into sports and have parents who are as supportive as the parents of these lucky ones. I wish they get to play for the country and make us as proud as their idol, Shahid Afridi. 
National Stadium under lights

The game at full swing

The guy in that red circle is our Lala, it was the warm up football match before the game

These girls are hardcore Afridi fans

Some more fangurls and a sole fanboy

Birthday greetings for Lala

Every little boy wants to be Shahid Afridi
Another adoring fan
This one is also sporting Lala’s number

I mean business

Emulating the star-man pose

Boom Boom fan

The fanatics who would go to any match to enjoy cricket

Waiting for a glimpse
Mirza Iqbal Baig was also there in all his hair dyed glory
Every kid was wearing the number 10 shirt, that is the karishma of our beloved Lala