Columns articles


Hostages to the past

The urge to write on relations between Pakistan and India came after watching coverage of the visit of Chinese Premier Wan Jiabao to Pakistan this week. The dignitary’s visit to Islamabad had been preceded by a State visit to India. While covering the event, the State electronic media declared repeatedly that the visit was coming on the back of a visit to India which was a failure. No one felt the need to substantiate this judgment, which was delivered with unthinking certainty by the


Syed Hassan Belal Zaidi

Bhai-chara at the top

In our neck of the woods, no one gets raped and plundered more than principles. Ladies, gentlemen, boys, girls and children of all ages get to ride them, which is more than one can say about the village bicycle or the local doodhwala’s donkey cart. Lawyers, doctors, politicians and shoe-makers, all have used and abused certain principles, bent them according to their own needs and purposes (using oxyacetylene flames and shoe-horns where necessary) and shoved them where the sun doesn’t


Rabia Ahmed

A regional grand opera

You’d think with its present culture of shootings and suicide bombings Pakistan would discover an alternative method of welcoming VIPs, but no, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arriving in Pakistan was treated not just to a normal gun salute, but to a gunshot for each step he took. That may be our idea of honouring someone, but the Premier, poor man was probably a nervous wreck by the time he wobbled off the tarmac and into his car, in no fit state to handle his chopsticks for quite


Hassaan Ghazali

Up in smoke

A lot can be said about the graphic warnings on cigarette packs that have started appearing to discourage smokers. Maybe a pat on the government’s back followed by a sharp kick in the derriere would be considered fair payback for scaring the daylights out of a pack-a-day smoker just going about his business. Yet, there it was at a luncheon in the deepest darkest Punjab that our host pointed out the new images and in return got ones with the latest rendition of a startled guppy fish at


Imran Khan

The Shia Question

The term “Jewish Question” has been used in a variety of ways, but its most common usage has been an anti-Semitic one; where it refers to all the “problems” that have been created because of the mere existence of the Jews. It was the Nazis who proposed a “final solution” to this question, a solution that they carried out in the death camps of Nazi Germany.
If you are a Sunni in Pakistan, it is very often that you might hear of problems such as the Shia domination of decision


The Reko Diq fiasco

The interesting thing about the internet is that it is as great a force-multiplier for ignorance as for knowledge. Take, for example, the Reko Diq project. The average Pakistani newsreader is convinced that (a) the Federal Government is an evil stooge of western interests; (b) the people of Balochistan are being ripped off yet again; and, (c) it is now up to the Supreme Court to save us. All three beliefs are completely wrong.
Here are some facts about the Reko Diq project.<br


Humayun Gauhar

No lessons; no solutions

December 17 has just come and gone again, so let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a young slave boy. His masters decided to get him married to a young girl, though she was not the one he would have chosen. Once married, they would be set free. The girl was the one who had fought for freedom more than the young man. But though she was very intelligent and very beautiful, inside and outside, the young man did not think so, for where he came from beauty meant fair


Kuldip Nayar

A bit of a mess

India is in the midst of scams running into an astronomical figure. The one relating to 2G spectrum comes to $2 billion. The estimate about corruption in the Commonwealth Games held recently in Delhi is around $5 billion. Bureaucrats and some foreign firms have been found indulging in over-invoicing or high-jacking the cost of works. There are also a few housing scandals. In fact, one scam or the other has been tumbling out of the government closet at regular intervals in the last


Sarmad Bashir

Go configure

Every good politician has a back door. And Maulana Fazlur Rehman knows exactly how to create one for himself. You have to be over-optimistic to believe that he will stay out of the ruling coalition for too long. It would have been difficult for him to resist the temptation of taking phone calls from the Presidency and the PM House but he might have done in hope of a better deal coming through. The Maulana is just trying to play it cool.
The JUI(F) pulled out of the coalition at


What can be done?

As Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822), the self-proclaimed legislator of the world observed: The world is weary of the past, /Oh, might it die or rest at last!
The Combine and its ward, the political elites, have the obligation to rescue the country and themselves from the steep downhill slope of a tottered system of governance.
The saga of exercising sovereignty, since 1947 by the military and civil services (the Combine), clearly leads one to conclude that the Combine


Ejaz Haider

Pacifying Balochistan

As I alighted from the plane at Quetta airport, the piercing wind the locals call Kandahari hit me. It was my fourth visit to Balochistan in as many months, and like previous visits this one too answered some questions and, as always happens with intractable problems, left me with many more questions.
Twenty minutes after I had left the airport, word came about the suicide attack on the chief minister. The next day, as I sat through the graduation ceremony for students of the


Agha Akbar

Much ado about nothing

Interesting times are never far away from the Pakistani political scene. When the debate was focused on the RGST and whether the government would be able to rustle up the legislative muscle to ram it through both houses of the parliament, the prime minister’s showing the exit to a brace of ministers from his cabinet provided the spark that made the JUI(F) walk out of the coalition in a huff.
This made JUI-F the first party to exit from the carefully constructed and well coalesced


Imran Husain

That snake again

I’ve spent a lifetime hoping, praying and yelling there must come a time when Pakistan deserves to come first. There is nothing we have not seen happen. Hit by every possible calamity and enjoyed every possible success. But this wish of mine has not been fulfilled yet.
I’ve tried to provide solace to my pain by attributing this to the process of ‘growing up’, of evolution, the hyper-emotional character of our people, the list goes on. But each time, the disappointment is greater


Dr Faisal Bari

New bank on the block

A few days ago the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) issued a license for a new scheduled bank: the Sindh Bank. Two days ago, the Minister of State for Economics said that the government had to give Rs 300 billion a year to keep the bigger state-owned enterprises afloat and the government was keen to stop this eventually. The Minister of Finance has been going around saying that the government needs to cut expenditure and raise more money – even trying to impose an unpopular GST and ad hoc


Shirin Sadeghi

Last words

If you have ever thumbed your way through a book of “famous last words”, you’ll understand why today’s revelations about the late Richard Holbrooke are quite normal.
“Famous last words” collections have been printed worldwide by various publishers throughout the centuries. These publications claim to have an index of the famous last words of famous dying people – individuals whose special status has, unlike most other people, lent their last words to posterity, having led to


Dr Mubarak Ali

Matter of perspective

It has become a ritual to remember the fall of Dhaka without introspection and learning any lessons from it. It reminds me of the fall of Granada in 1492 when the last Arab ruler left his capital after his defeat and surrender. The last sigh of the Moor has become a symbol of helplessness as is evident in the fact that the Christian powers, after the reconquista, asked the Muslims and the Jews to either convert to Christianity or leave the country. In case of the fall of Dhaka, we do


Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

Education and society

Pakistan’s national priorities are highly tilted in favour of state institutions and national security. This has contributed to strengthening state institutions like the bureaucracy and the military and the assigning of the highest priority to national security considerations.
Societal development and political institutions are neglected because of a lower priority for allocation of resources to the sectors that relate to nation-building and welfare of the people. The most

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