Columns articles


Sarmad Bashir

Embracing turncoats

With the PML(N) facing trouble in reshaping the Punjab Cabinet, the strain of embracing the turncoats must be getting too much to bear for Mian Nawaz Sharif. Maybe he understands that he has been forced to take a decision that goes against his moral fibre but he is yet unaware of the consequences of the political blunder he has committed.
By choosing the course of patronising horsetrading, the PML(N) leadership has not only violated the Charter of Democracy, which binds the two


M J Akbar

Mercury rising

When you buy tickets to a circus you expect to see a few clowns. A clown is not a fool. It is far more difficult to make people laugh than to annoy them. A good clown must silence his ego, for he has to reduce himself to the lowest common denominator to maximise the laughs. He is a professional. But he is also, inherently, a character, or he would be just another diligent accountant, trapped within the limitations of safety-first. It is this characteristic that impels him to leap into


Arif Nizami

Winds of change

As Libya teeters on the brink of a chaotic civil war, its strongman Muammar Gaddafi obstinately refuses to quit. Delusional about his invincibility, he has vowed to die a martyr rather than step down or go into exile.
Will the process in Libya be an exception to the winds of change blowing over the Middle East that have swept away corrupt and autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt? Gaddafi is counting on tribal loyalties and his narrow support base to stick to power around


White Lies

While Colonel Gaddafi fights for political survival and all the perks that come with it, he may be unaware of another move in Pakistan to do away with his name. The colonel can bomb protesters in Libya but what can he do about Lahoriites who want Gaddafi Stadium renamed. He obviously cannot send fighter jets to kill those who demand that an iconic building discard the name of a dictator who is getting really bad press these days. Some alternative names have been posted on social


Raoof Hasan

Widening schisms

The brutal assassination of the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, the only non-Muslim member of the cabinet, is another indelible stigma on the face of a country that appears rapidly degenerating into a quagmire of blood and hatred. The fact that this happened in the federal capital in broad daylight is reflective of the impotence of the government to stem the fundamentalist tide. The silence of the religious parties adds to the humiliation of the country.<br


Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad

Let Libya be

What the US-led West is doing in Libya is what they have always done: remaining silent about the excesses of a helpful dictator as long as he is able to keep the masses under control. They court the autocrat, enter into lucrative business deals with him and earn super profits by selling weapons including devices of mob control like tear gas shells, rubber bullets, water cannons and weapons that dictators can use against protestors in urban areas. Once the masses are up against the


Ejaz Haider

Emergency ethics needed

In this country we have reached the point where, what Michael Walzer referred to in Arguing About War as “emergency ethics”, has to take over. In simple terms, emergency ethics refers to taking decisions in situations that demand tough, existential moral choices.
Between the absolutism of a moral position and the cavalier utilitarianism of all-is-justified lies another position. This position neither places itself in the abstraction of a moral principle nor goes into a


Agha Akbar

A crusader no more

This was inevitable. After the assassination of Salman Taseer, and the way his murder was celebrated and the murderer honoured in full public view by some quarters, with our entire political class either silently sympathising with the killer or cowering instead of taking him and his sponsors on, Shahbaz Bhatti had it coming. And he knew it.
That makes him another good man with the courage to stand up for his convictions and humanity (his death a reminder of how few we are left


Free, at last?

Jubilant scenes from Cairo earlier this month, when men both young and old, tired of endless corruption and suppression, came out chanting “freedom” on the streets of a civilisation nearly 4000 years old. Women and children numbering in millions could also be seen just as I was attempting to pen this down.
Sitting miles away in London from the epicentre of this revolution, I wish I could feel like an Egyptian. Hats off to them for coming out of their shelves to end an era of


Nazir Naji

In the establishment

In the face of the public unrest being displayed in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Libya, American-patronised establishments are now struggling to keep their loosening grips on power by bringing in new administrations and new faces. The agenda to keep the American establishment involved in power that the team of President Bush, Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice couldn’t fulfill, the Obama administration is serving it very well. One can recall that before starting the war in Asia, these


Shirin Sadeghi

Willing suspension of disbelief

Once a year, people all over the world tune in to watch the same show at the exact same time and it’s a pleasant pill to swallow when everything else that is being broadcast live is a 24-hour cycle of bad news.
Hollywood’s Academy Awards ceremony is, as British comedian Ricky Gervais bluntly put it, “a night of the most privileged people in the world being told how brilliant they are and thanking God for loving them more than ugly poor foreigners.” But while it may be an anxious


Hassaan Ghazali

Master of none

Human settlements in Pakistan seem to follow a similar trajectory. The larger they get from the populations swelling inside them, the worse they become. At a time when our towns and cities are proving themselves unmanageable even by the (seemingly) strictest of administrations, it appears that it is still possible to plan for urban areas of Pakistan before they turn into…urban areas of Pakistan.
The role of planning in urban development has always been our Achilles heel, so it


Kuldip Nayar

Inaccurate labeling

Certain institutions come to be recognised for their learning and cosmopolitan character. This aspect is so ingrained in the minds of people that even a small deviation can spoil the image that might have been built through long traditions over the years. I am afraid that the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) at Delhi may lose the halo of reverence it has enjoyed so far. It has been declared as a minority institution.
The very word ‘Islamic’ gave it a special link with the Muslims.


Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

Hits and misses

Pakistan’s current experiment with democracy is three years old. It was in February 2008 that the general elections were held and the federal and provincial governments were installed in March-April. There were occasions during these three years when the democratic institutions and processes appeared to be in serious trouble. However, there have been significant achievements.
The 18th Constitutional Amendment has introduced some far-reaching changes in the state system that will


Mayank Austen Soofi

Delhi’s Un-Tahrir Square

While the world is getting worked up over Cairo’s Tahrir Square and its clones in the rest of the Middle East, permit me to talk about a square in Delhi, which too is witnessing some action, but of a less revolutionary kind. In a city as big as this, this is a very small, possibly insignificant phenomenon, but it must be noticed and written about before it vanishes. A smoggy traffic square that was once dreaded by commuters for its long jams has become an unlikely urban haven. Check


Rabia Ahmed

Following revolution

The ancient Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’ is apparently only the first of three curses. The other two are ‘May the government be aware of you,’ and ‘May your wishes be granted’ or ‘May you find what you are looking for.’
There appears to be little doubt that the first has come through in most places, and in the case of Egypt the second and the third have come through as well. It remains to be seen whether Egypt turns out to be curst or blessed. Either way,


Dr Faisal Bari

Stemming the tide

The labour laws of the country say that unskilled labour, working 40 hours a week, should be compensated by a minimum wage of Rs 7,000 a month. People, irrespective of what they get hired for, should at the very least be making Rs 7,000 a month.
Although it is not clear how the government of Pakistan has arrived at Rs 7,000 as the minimum wage figure, the usual thought about minimum wage is that it is tied to the idea of a ‘bare minimum’. The poverty line in Pakistan is, roughly

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