Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I was going through some poems today, and I came across an old poem which I used to enjoy as a child. I have decided to share it on my blog. It is called 'the Tiger' and was written by William Blake. I love animals, especially cats of all sizes. Big cats in particular are getting more and more endangered due to illegal poaching activities. According to WWF, there are now less than 3200 tigers left in the whole world. We all need to take responsibility and play our part in saving these magnificent beasts. A first step can be as simple as getting to know the facts and joining the WWF Tiger site where one can find more information on how to help.

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,

And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? 

Oscar Fashion Musings

The highlight of the 84th Annual Academy Awards has to be Pakistan's first Oscar, brought home courtesy of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Chinoy has the whole country brimming with pride, and with the documentary 'Saving Faces', she has highlighted an issue which needs to be tackled with utmost importance here in Pakistan, that of acid attacks on innocent women.

The fact that Chinoy wore traditional Pakistani attire to the ceremony makes her dress, and yes you can call me biased, one of my favorites from the Oscars. Chinoy sported an ivory outfit designed by Bunto Kazmi. I also loved the gold jewellery adorned by Chinoy at the event, designed for her by Kiran's Fine Jewellery. The gold handcuff band had a Pakistani flag attached to it made of Diamonds and green Sapphires. We at Surreall Jewellery love the patriotic flavor added:

Now moving on to the other fashion personal favorites of Oscars 2012. A lot of dresses made news and were praised on the red carpet, but here I will just list my own personal favorites. I loved Natalie Portman's Vintage Christian Dior gown, along with the jewellery she was sporting:

Penelope Cruz kept it classic with her outfit on the red carpet. I absolutely adored her hairstyle, and her choice of jewellery kept in line with the whole classic appeal. The color of the dress could be improved on though.

I loved the vibrant rich red gown worn by Emma Stone, along with her Luis Vuitton bangle and clutch.

I also liked the vibrant outfit adorned by Ellie Kemper.

Last but not least, is Octavia Spencer, who rightfully won 'Best Supporting Actress' for her role in 'the Help', a movie which I thoroughly enjoyed. Spencer wore a beautiful, elegant silver dress by designer Tadashi Shoji, although her choice of accessories could have been improved. Spencer has worn dresses by Shoji before, and the designer knows very well how to complement her body shape without compromising on the style level.

Others who made headlines include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez and Stacy Keibler. The above however, happen to be my own personal favorites in best dressed for Oscars 2012.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rebuttal to TIME Magazine's Cover Story on Pakistan

On 16th January 2012, TIME Magazine featured a cover story on Karachi, terming it as 'Pakistan's Dark Heart'. Upon reading it, one is given the impression of a city torn in civil war, instability and on the way to destruction. If I had never been to Karachi, or did not have good friends living there, upon reading this article I would perceive it to be a highly dangerous, volatile place on Earth, where the fashionable thing to own is weapons.

Karachi is definitely facing some problems, but the impression portrayed to the world by TIME magazine is highly negative and one-sided. I am a Pakistani, and I will obviously have many reasons and justifications on why Karachi and Pakistan as a whole is not the dangerous state portrayed by the story. However, to make the argument more balanced, I will instead give examples of what Non-Pakistani's have to say about this particular story.

The following is a letter written to TIME Magazine by an Australian in rebuttal to the article. I came across it via my brother on Facebook. 

'Dear Editor,

I recently returned from a charitable trip to Pakistan, whereby I visited both Karachi and Islamabad. I spoke with several universities, key businesses, prominent business leaders and several religious people from all generations….

On the day I returned to the office, someone had placed your magazine (January 16, 2012), on my desk. I read with interest your article on Karachi and the city in doom. For a person to have just returned from the very same place that your magazine described was somewhat bizarre, so I read with great detail your writer (Andrew Marshall’s) account.

Let me begin by saying that I often flick through your magazine and find the articles of great interest, but on this particular day and this particular article, I found certain comments to be both one sided and indeed very negative. I say that because I saw a different Pakistan to what was portrayed in your article. I do not and will not comment on the political or religious problems that the country faces, but I will go so far as to say that not everything is as bad as the image that your magazine paints.

Sure there are deaths in the cities. Please show me a city in the world that is free from political fighting and unrest.

Sure there are differences in the political party opinions. Please show me a country in the world where the political parties agree.

Sure the innocent are suffering. Please show me a country in the world where wealth and power is equal and the innocent don’t suffer.

Sure corruption is in Pakistan. Please show me a country in the world that is corruption free.

My list could go on, but my point is that Pakistan does have problems…but so does every other country in the world in some way or another. However, in the case of ALL other nations, there are often good things to report and the media goes out of its way to promote these good things across the globe, whenever possible. The ridiculous amount of shootings in the USA is balanced off by the success of Google, Microsoft and Apple. The financial dilemmas of Greece are lost in the marketing of the Greek Islands as a holiday destination of choice. The child slave industry of India, is brushed under the carpet in favour of the nation’s growth in the global software boom. What I am trying to say, is that someone needs to look further into Pakistan and see that there are millions of great stories to write about, which would portray the country in a different light, to that what is being portrayed by your article.

When I was in Pakistan, I visited a towel manufacturing company (Alkaram Towels). They produced some $60million in export in 2011 and are aiming at $85million in 2012. A substantial increase in sales…in a recession I would remind you. The company was started by the current Chairman, Mr. Mehtab Chawla, at the tender age of nine, after his father passed away. Today the very man employs 3000 staff. Now that’s a story.

I visited universities of NED, Hamdard, Karachi, Szabist and NUST. The students are unbelievably intelligent. They spend their spare time developing APPS for android and apple. They are involved in cutting edge technology and no one in the world knows this. Why not send a reporter to Pakistan to look into this. Why not research good things in this nation, rather than just the bad things. At NUST (National Institution for Science and Technology – Islamabad)) there were 38,000 applications for medicine. There are only 83 seats for the medicine course on offer. The competition is unbelievable. In short it pushes the best to be even better. But the world doesn’t know this. Why? Because no one wants to report on it, or no one knows about it…or both!!

Please do not get me wrong. I understand that news is news, but it is high time that the western world stopped promoting these terrorists and political wars in Pakistan and started to write something that would help the nation. Something positive. If we really care about global partnerships and economic growth, then I suggest we try and give Pakistan a helping hand. There are 180 million people in Pakistan, 65% are under the age of 25. The youth of Pakistan is its strength.. it is like a sleeping giant. If you think that India is a booming nation. I suggest you stop a second and look at Pakistan. Given a little help from the western world, Pakistan can become a dominant economy. She doesn’t want aid and she doesn’t need money… she just wants the chance to be seen in a different light. I believe we have a fundamental obligation to assist. The only question is, who will reach out first.

Warmest regards,

Tony Lazaro

Managing Director
Rising Stars Management Group
Tel: 02 8824 7000
Fax: 02 8824 7766. '

I did double check before posting and yes there is a Tony Lazaro of Rising Stars Management Group who wrote this letter.

Another rebuttal I would like to share is that of a Sikh who came to visit Pakistan recently. The whole article is published in the Asian Journal here. I am going to copy paste the important lines below:

'The trip, which started on a positive note, was however dampened when I stopped to pick up a copy of Time magazine at the airport with the lead story about Pakistan titled: “Pakistan’s Dark Heart.” It is these perspectives that I wanted to escape after being so bombarded with negative sensational stories about Pakistan in the West and India. Also, the constant warnings here in British Columbia that Sikhs are not safe in Pakistan, that I should not travel with a Sikh and that I am crazy to travel there added to my panic. 

But once in Pakistan, I found the opposite to be true. This piece illuminates, not the dark heart of Pakistan, but the kind, generous and sincere hearts of the Pakistani people in general and the respectful treatment of Muslims towards Sikhs and Sikh shrines in particular. 

IN closing, I did not see the dark heart of Pakistan. I did not see a fanatical, irrational and violent Pakistani people, attributes that continue to be generalized to the entire Pakistan community and nation. On the contrary, on this trip, I saw a deeply spirited, non-pretentious and kind people.'

Videos on youtube have also sprung up by foreigners who have actually seen Karachi and Pakistan against the one sided article by TIME Magazine such as the one found here.

If you want to read a copy of the article published in TIME Magazine, a copy was also published on this site since I do not subscribe to TIME Magazine. 

An article published in Telegraph UK also rebuttals the TIME Magazine Cover Story:

'Indeed, the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating Pakistan.  

A profile of Karachi – Pakistan’s largest city and commercial capital – in Time magazine earlier this year revealed that more than 1,000 people died in 2011 in street battles fought between heavily armed supporters of the city’s main political parties.

But isn’t it time we acknowledged our own responsibility for some of this chaos? In recent years, the Nato occupation of Afghanistan has dragged Pakistan towards civil war. Consider this: suicide bombings were unknown in Pakistan before Osama bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001. Immediately afterwards, President Bush rang President Musharraf and threatened to “bomb Pakistan into the stone age” if Musharraf refused to co-operate in the so-called War on Terror.  

Many write of how dangerous Pakistan has become. More remarkable, by far, is how safe it remains, thanks to the strength and good humour of its people. 

...the Daily Mirror had the inspired idea of sending Botham’s mother-in-law Jan Waller to Pakistan – all expenses paid – to see what she made of the country. 

“The country and its people have absolutely blown me away,” said the 68-year-old grandmother. After a trip round Lahore’s old town she said: “I could not have imagined seeing some of the sights I have seen today. They were indefinable and left me feeling totally humbled and totally privileged.” She concluded: “All I would say is: ‘Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you’ll love it’. Honestly!”

Mrs Waller is telling the truth. And if you don’t believe me, please visit and find out for yourself.'

I will like to end this article by mentioning the last example, of an American who lived in Lahore and claims 'Pakistan saved my life.' 

'About a year and a half ago, I made the decision to move to Pakistan.  Since then, perhaps the most popular question my local friends ask is, “Were you scared to come to Pakistan, because you thought we were all terrorists like the Western media portrays us?”

Honestly, no, I was not, and I did not.  Even before coming to Pakistan, I found the notion that all 180 million people residing in Pakistan, the sixth most populous nation in the world, were terrorists or had extremist tendencies completely ridiculous.  I figured that, as in every country, Pakistan had people from all walks of life with different creeds, hopes and dreams, opinions, and lifestyles.

So, to answer my friends’ questions: No.  I cannot readily and honestly answer that coming to Pakistan drastically changed my opinion of the country—you see, it was never negative in the first place.'

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A tyrant caught red-handed

I have come to the conclusion that one just can't watch television news anymore without being shocked. Case point what I saw today. I was sitting bored on the sofa, flipping through news channels when I stopped to linger on Geo News. They had big flashing signs coming up every few minutes about some breaking news. Intrigued, I watched on. What followed has left me feeling appalled and indignant.

I have tried to google the story so I could share it with my friends, but I guess it is too recent, so haven't found much online. The Geo clip is not available on youtube yet either. Hence I decided to write this not only to vent out the feelings of shock and horror conjured up after watching this clip but also to use it as a platform to share the news with others.

A Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate for the Sindh Assembly seat beat innocent women at the polling station. The candidate's name is Wahida Shah and what makes the video so shocking is the fact that she suddenly lashes out and hits the women in the polling station! Not only does she hit one, but there are clips of her hitting multiple women who were just standing there, just brutally slapping them for no apparent reason. From the video clip, she first talks furiously to the security man near the ballots, and then without any warning turns out and slaps the poor lady sitting innocently nearby. The woman starts to cry. Shah is then also seen lashing out at other women, all of whom seem poor and helpless and did nothing to incite her anger.

The fact that Shah has lost her temper, is very fat compared to the thinner women around and is putting all her energy in her slaps and punches makes her look highly scary and honestly reduces respect any one must have had for her to below zero. Shah is apparently a powerful woman according to the locals, since when the cameraman asks the women victimized, between their sobs they say nothing happened. It was just a misunderstanding, Wahida Shah did not do anything. The poor women were too terrified to speak the truth.

Geo goes on to highlight how the poor woman must have thought that Wahida Shah was their one hope, a representative who can bring their plight and highlight their oppression. Little did they know that the very person who symbolized a light in the tunnel would make the journey all the more terrifying by showcasing her true colors as a tyrant.

The poor women who were beaten were innocent government employees, many of them primary school teachers. They did not deserve to have someone lash out at them so rudely. Not only has their respect been compromised, they have also been traumatized mentally, emotionally and physically. Even if they were the employees of this tyrant, no one deserves such treatment. The government should take this into view and Wahida Shah should not be allowed to run for office again. An example needs to be set. People deserve to be treated equally with respect, regardless of power, creed, race and money.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once Upon A Basant

The following article has also been published on the Express Tribune website at the following link:

It’s that time of the year again. When the frosty blues and grays enveloping the surroundings start to disappear and in their place awakens a plethora of colors, fresh and vibrant as if after a long hibernation.

As if by magic, peoples spirits start to soar, life starts looking more, excuse the pun, ‘sunny’. This was especially true when I was growing up. Since as soon as the flowers started appearing, so did simultaneously kites all over the sky, with people getting ready for the much awaited Basant festival.

I used to love Basant when I was a kid. My Khala (maternal aunt) would have a huge Basant party on her roof top. Family and friends would dress up in bright yellows, with the guys busy on the rooftops, and the ladies in the kitchen busy conjuring up some of the most delicious food for lunch. Everyone would have the yummy food on the rooftop, and everyone would spend the whole day on the roof top, just simply enjoying life. People would engage in friendly competition with the neighbors, and literally have conversations over rooftops. The skies were full of kites, laughter, music and shouts of 'boo-kata'. Basant was an event that brought the whole community together, something that is very rare in todays time. Basant was special since it was a festival for the rich, the middle class and the poor.

I would have taken more pictures back in the day, had I known that Basant would one day be banned. I have some amazing memories of Basant. My Khala was an amazing cook, and my elder cousins would go hunting some days before. My Khala would cook Murghabi (wild duck) and on some rare occasions venison (deer) meat curry also. When I was a young kid, I would go ask my elder cousins to fly me a kite and then hand it to me when it was in the air. Once it started going down, I would call on them to make it fly higher again. We would chase after kites, and overall the day is associated with laughter, joy and fun.

Some people however decided to take the friendly competition a little too far. They started making chemical dors (strings), which turned out to be lethal and claimed innocent lives. The kites also started getting better, due to which the string got thicker and similarly lethal. This whole turn in kite flying claimed a lot of lives, which led to Basant being banned in the year 2005.

I am totally against anything that would claim so many innocent lives, particularly victimizing the poor motorcyclists. However I wonder if lives could be saved, without sacrificing a Pakistani tradition as old as our country itself.  

I wish the courts had focused more on what turned an otherwise safe event into a dangerous life threatening one. Instead of taking the easy way out, maybe if we all had taken responsibility of what was happening, Basant would still be here. I believe a better solution would have been the regulation of kite sizes and especially string types, so that dangerous string that can claim lives not be used. Harsh fines and punishments should be linked with breaking these regulations, which can literally fall in the grounds of potential murder. Some people would raise their eyebrows on how this would be implemented. I feel that if the legislature has so far quite successfully managed to keep a curfew of 10pm at an emotional affair such as weddings, this is very possible too.

If the courts do their part to bring back the festival, then the citizens must do theirs too. Our media is playing a powerful role, and it can help spread awareness of the dangers of Basant, so Pakistanis start to take a responsible approach towards their lives and that of their fellow citizens. It can highlight how carelessness can cause deaths on Basant by falling over rooftops, how chasing kites is not half as important as saving your life and how people should explain safety to their children before the festival.

Everyone who has seen the true spirit of Basant misses it to this day. I believe that instead of being overwhelmed by withdrawal symptoms, there is another safer, rational way out which can save lives and at the same time return a much cherished festival. The verdict lies with the Pakistan courts.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dark Justice

This article has also been published on the Express Tribune newspaper website at the following link:

The Pakistani media is playing a proactive role in bringing forth cases of victims who have been dealt with unjustly or have been ignored due to many reasons such as them being poor and not having the power or means, which are usually taken for granted by our elite, to rectify a wrong.

I have seen various cases being brought forth by television media and the ever popular talk shows, which highlight the plight of poor people who are suffering from some health ailments which can easily be cured if they had the resources. By putting the spotlight on such issues, they have treated certain such individuals due to the out pour of funds by their TV clientele and sometimes even the government stepping in. In other cases they have highlighted the stark contrast in how justice is delivered to opposite ends of the rich/poor spectrum.

One such episode which would have left many an audience watching highly indignant would be the one I saw last night on Dawn News. It was an episode of ‘News Night with Talat Hussain'. This particular episode showed two very different sides of justice, one of them being the Prime Minister’s indictment for contempt by the Supreme Court. Gillani has the resources to hire the best lawyers and even if the court does find him guilty, he can still walk away using the ‘Presidential Pardon’ which is allowed under the Pakistani constitution. 

At the other end of the spectrum we have a young boy from Gujranwala called Arsalan Latif. Arsalan was innocently playing, and running after a kite which had been cut from its string. He caught the kite. He had some ‘string’ or ‘dor’ with which he decided to play with the fruits of his labor. However, the police came and caught him and he had to spend the night in jail.

I understand kite flying is banned in Pakistan. The fact that makes this story so incredulous is that the boy arrested was just 13 years old! That would make him a minor, and yet he had an FIR filed against him which has in a way impacted his whole life by creating a criminal record.

The young boy got so scared when the police came that he ran and hid in his bathroom. The police came and took him from the bathroom. His parents were not home but his younger sister and baby brother were. Amidst their howls and sobs, the police beat up poor Arsalan up, handcuffed him and took him to jail.

The whole family was traumatized by the incident. Arsalan had an exam the next day, which the police agreed to let him sit, but nonetheless he had to spend the night in jail. His family had to bail him out despite them being poor and him being a minor and even the offense, excuse the pun, being very ‘minor’. Unlike the PM, these people did not have money to hire a lawyer.

Being sent to prison brought shame upon the family in their neighborhood, and traumatized their young children. When Talat asked the younger 9 year old brother about the incident, he started crying uncontrollably. Arsalan himself could not help crying and feverishly repeating between sobs that he would never fly a kite again. He said he was beaten up again in the police station and spent the whole night upset and crying. Considering the horror stories we hear of what goes on in jails nowadays, I sincerely hope he did not have to put up with anything else. The trauma and stress of this incident has marred this young boy’s life forever.

This is absolutely outrageous. How can the police take such an irresponsible stance on something like this? I am sure there are many children out there like Arsalan. It is time our society stood up against the abuse of power and the ‘dark’ side of justice delivered that remains largely ignored. I thank and encourage our media to bring forth such incidents so we can live in a more transparent society where justice is delivered more equally.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Against All Odds

There is a lot in human society that is based on material and superficial 'worth'. This is incorporated into children from a tender age. Somehow people automatically show respect to those who have money, driving in their expensive cars and flashing all their bling. This is done regardless of how the money may have come into their hands. If one is poor however, despite having excellent etiquette or living an honorable life, that person is most likely to be looked down upon.

I try not to stereotype. There are ofcourse cases in which this does not hold true. However majority of the cases seem to predominantly fall in the above defined scenario.

There are many stories about how the poor get badly treated just because they are not blessed with material wealth. From being jailed without proven guilty, being 'experiments' to see how drugs react on humans to being abused for labor because they do not know their rights or do not have the resources to have a choice in the matter. The list is endless. The story I want to share with you today is one how some people fight through this stereotype and against the odds rise and earn the respect of complete strangers.

I am one of the complete strangers whom this certain individual earned the respect of. I doubt she knows about me. Her name is Zainab. This is her real name, and the story I am going to narrate is true as well. I came across it because a friend of mine went to college with Zainab a few years back.

I shall refrain from naming the college. It is a medical college based in Lahore, Pakistan. Zainab was the eldest daughter of quite a few siblings, I do not know the exact number. She had managed to get a scholarship to the college, due to her excellent marks in FSc. The reason why my friend knew Zainab was because Zainab always topped their batch.

Sometimes the girls in the class would get together to exchange notes. One day the girls were sitting together, and some of them started poking fun at Zainab. She used to have a few pair of clothes, and would wear them most of the time. The girls starting taunting her, on why she didn't have new clothes, probably out of jealousy I suppose. Zainab did not say much and tried to laugh off the matter.

A few days later the bunch of girls were sitting together and Zainab came to them very happily. She was wearing new clothes, and had bought a few from 'Mausummery Lawn.' Now this incident is based around 2004 or 2005, so the current whole designer lawn hullabaloo was still in the making. There were a few nice lawn shops out there, one of them being this.

It was the end of summers and during that time 'Mausummery Lawn' used to have sales in which they would sell the remaining stock at very economical prices. The girls saw the clothes, realized it was sale period, and instead of saying anything nice started taunting her again, 'O yea sales there. Everything must have been so cheap. Who buys at sales, blah blah.'

I believe the tauntings broke Zainabs heart, because she was bewildered for a few minutes, didn't know how to react and then burst out crying.

'I'm not rich like you guys,' she cried out and ran away sobbing. The other classmates were surprised at the outburst, then brushed it aside and got busy with swapping notes again. Until a few days later when one of Zainab's friends narrated them her whole story.

Zainab was the eldest in her family. She had atleast 3,4 siblings (I do not remember the exact number). Her father had a kidney disease, so he was usually unwell. Her mother would work as a seamstress, stitching clothes to make some decent money for her family to survive by.

Every morning before college, and every day after it, Zainab would pick and drop her younger siblings to school. She would then go home and cook for the whole family. She would do all the cleaning, since her mother would be busy stitching clothes, and then she would help her younger siblings with their homework. Only then would she get time to study herself.

It is common knowledge that medical curriculum is very lengthy and strenuous. This story made my heart melt. I felt horrible that the girls had been so mean to her, even my friend was saying she felt bad at observing what had been going on. So from that day, now and then I would ask my friend updates on Zainab.

Somehow against all odds, Zainab did not only top each year in her batch, she came third place in the whole of Pakistan based on the final medical board test results. I later heard she got married, and well don't know much now. What I do know is how someone has that much integrity and courage to overcome such difficulty and pressure from family and peers is someone who very much has earned my respect. I have only prayers for that brave girl and her family.