Shehzad Ghias Shaikh

Stand-up comedian/Writer/Trainer

Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, the founder of Cogito Productions and Room for Improv-ment, has a decade of experience working in the theatre and television industry of Pakistan. He is also a journalistic scholar on theatre in Pakistan.

Shehzad performs stand up comedy all over Pakistan, the United States and Canada. He also tours with his improvisational comedy troupe and writes comedy and satire for various organizations.

Shehzad has degrees in law, arts and theatre. He offers workshops, trainings and speaking sessions on confidence building, communication, personality development, idea generation, team building, writing, acting, directing, improvisational and performing.

For Bookings/Inquiries: Please contact at

shehzadghias@gmail.com

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Pakistan in Homeland: Finally an accurate portrayal (satire)

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1136621/pakistan-in-homeland-finally-an-accurate-portrayal

Spoiler alert: The article produced below contains spoilers of Homeland Season 4.

For years (read three seasons), I have watched agent Carrie Mathison fall in and out of love with Nicholas Brody on the hit American TV series, Homeland.

The premise of the show is rather unbelievable: Nicholas Brody, a US Marine turns against the United States after being captured as a prisoner of war in Iraq.

Now, hold on.

How is it humanly possible for a person to turn against the greatest country the Earth has ever seen, or that a US Marine would ever question that maybe the tactics employed by their army in Iraq may not exactly have been humane?

There is clearly no evidence that any actions by the US army in Afghanistan (or Iraq, or Vietnam, or Syria, or Cuba, or Japan, or Pakistan) have been anything other than what God ordained the good people of America to do to ensure good prevails in the world.

 

Also read: Homeland season four to provide glimpse of Pakistan

 

And how do they expect me to just accept that Nicholas Brody has become a Muslim? For one, he is white! Hello? That doesn't happen unless, of course, he has fallen in love with a girl from Pakistan and her parents insist on converting him.

The following two seasons had even more preposterous storylines, such as the fictitious idea that drones cause collateral damage or that a United States intelligence building could be targeted by terrorists without them apprehending and intercepting the attack beforehand (ideally, followed by bombing another country in the Middle East).

I find it strange that a generation of Pakistanis who grew up playing 'Counter Strike' cannot appreciate a successful bombing.

But on second thought, the bombs in Counter Strike were placed by terrorists; that explains a lot. My surprise is now directed towards our savvy political commentators for not blaming 'Counter Strike' for a larger Zionist conspiracy against Pakistan, aimed at turning our children into bomb experts.

In fact, now that I come to think of it, they even had a map called ‘de_Karachi’.

 

Read on: 'Homeland' triumphs as Emmys go for dose of reality

 

Sorry, I got distracted there, as I did with Homeland as the seasons dragged on. I had given up all hope until Season 3 shone like a diamond in the rough.

Nicholas Brody was the good guy all along. Nothing adds legitimacy to a storyline like a white man saving the world and redeeming himself. There is a reason we have such reverence for the British and for why Zubaida Apa wants the entire country to look more gora. Maybe, just maybe, if we look the part, they might grant us visas to visit their countries.

Season 4 of Homeland premiered on Monday. It began with a drone strike on North Waziristan. It was astonishing how accurately the writers had used Google translate to simply translate their dialogues into Urdu.

The number of people who speak both English and Urdu in the world is so minuscule that it must have been really hard for the producers to cross check if people in Pakistan actually spoke like the actors were speaking in that episode.

Technically speaking, “I am sorry” does translate to 'mujhay maaf kariye' in Urdu but if anyone was to say that to somebody in Pakistan at the occasion of their parent's death, it is more of an admission of guilt rather than a phrase expressing sympathy. The Indian and American actors deployed to play Pakistanis, seamlessly delivered their lines in Urdu with the authenticity of Siri telling me it loves me on my iPhone.

 

Take a look: TV in Pakistan: Why can't we have pilot seasons?

 

After the series spent 40 minutes justifying the collateral damage caused by dropping a bomb on a wedding, the story picked up pace as the action moved to Islamabad.

The series of incidents which followed were totally not inspired by the Raymond Davis story. There are constant scenes of a bunch of Pakistanis protesting outside the United States Embassy in Islamabad throughout the two episodes, and their presence is even acknowledged by the CIA agents in another clear success of the dharnas in Islamabad.

Tabdeeli has reached the upper echelons of America’s intelligence agency. They might even be forced to pull out of Pakistan if GoUSAGo catches on with the masses.

Where the series is particularly accurate about its portrayal of Pakistan is at the end of episode one:

A Pakistani news channel reveals the name of the CIA Station Chief in Pakistan while he is casually strolling in a bazaar in the city. Obviously, every other person in that bazaar is immediately aware of his identity, despite there not being a single television or radio set present (I think they just looked at a white guy walking in Islamabad and assumed it was him).

Anyway, the hordes of men proceed to do what any reasonable Pakistani would do: pick up sticks and start beating his car with it. Three or four of them get shot in the face by a CIA agent but that is completely irrelevant to the plot.

The men drag the Station Chief out from his vehicle — a United States diplomatic vehicle — and stomp him to death in the middle of the street in Islamabad.

In case the gravity of that did not sink into you, a CIA station chief gets STOMPED TO DEATH in the streets of Islamabad and Pakistan continues to exist as a country on the world map.

See, I told you Homeland could be unpredictable!

 

Explore: Dollars and sense of American desis

 

This season, I am looking forward to more bearded men and veiled women in the streets of Pakistan saying words that vaguely sound like Urdu. I am also intrigued by what other accurate portrayals of life in Pakistan we will see.

Maybe, Carrie Mathison ventures out on the streets alone and hears a man say to her, “Dekhti hee rahay gee ya number bhi day gi?” or Peter Quinn getting his mobile snatched at gunpoint.

There is also a perfect opportunity for Saul to come to Pakistan and infiltrate the terrorists as a double-agent; he already has the beard and his Urdu cannot be worse than the “Pakistani” actors employed by the show.

Also, we all know Pakistan is just mosques and burqa shops. But I'd like the show to showcase the more modern side of Pakistan too. So, how about Homeland show us the US Embassy in an act of highlighting Pakistani culture and fusing it with the modern world...by organising a Burqa Fashion show at the venue?

You know, just your regular desi chic-conservative affair, with models walking down the ramp to the tune of 'Burqay mai rehnay do, burqa na uthao' while the Pakistanis outside the embassy still protest because the eyelashes of many a model are visible through the veil.

I think they may actually be getting there, considering the third episode for this season is named 'Shalwar Kameez'.

It could even show the American saviours helping the native population by barging into schools and shutting them down. For western readers, who may not be aware, all schools in Pakistan are obviously suicide bombing training institutes. An episode could just be a game of bomber man and minesweeper combined into one.

 

Also see: Pakistan versus America: We are not all that different

 

I am also looking forward to an episode just completely blacking out, making the viewer think the episode has ended prematurely, only to find out it was just load shedding.

Carrie Mathison has been trained in the most advanced intelligence techniques, but can she venture through the US Embassy in Islamabad using only the light from her cell phone?

Her skills could be challenged to the limit in Pakistan if she finds a Pakistani Nicholas Brody.

  • Will she be able to convince his parents that she can be the ideal daughter-in-law?

  • Can she make the perfect roti?

  • Will the CIA give the in-laws a new car, a refrigerator and an air conditioner?

The prospects of an American-Pakistani wedding this season are tantalising; it is for certain that an episode with the CIA agents dancing on Desi Thumka at the mehndi would get the show it's highest ratings ever.

We, the VIPS, have troubles too

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1137702/we-the-vips-have-troubles-too

The VIPs of Pakistan have been getting an unnecessary amount of flak recently. Suddenly, they are the reason for every social ill in the country. As a VIP myself, I want to reach out to the masses of the country with a message promoting peaceful co-existence.

We, the VIPs, do not want to make your life hard; we just want to enjoy our 500 rupee cappuccino in peace after a power yoga session.

Sure, we may treat airline pilots in Pakistan as personal chauffeurs, but then, there are hardships in our lives too: We have to travel in Pakistani airlines!

Is it not an absolute travesty that the government does not grant every VIP in Pakistan with a private plane? Honestly, I can think of no better use of your tax money. The only alternative is to take out all the first class cabins and piece them together into one VIP-only plane. The cockpit will then be attached to the first class cabin with all the other planes free to be pulled to their respective destinations using donkeys and horses.

Also, it will greatly reduce Pakistan’s fuel consumption, allowing us to actually run our Ferraris on petrol instead of CNG. Do you even know how much a CNG kit in a Ferrari costs? There is not even a VIP line at most CNG stations!

 

Also read: 'If you are not a VIP, you are unworthy of criticising a VIP'

 

I have to say, this whole business of bashing VIP protocols — the mass media has presented a highly biased view on this subject, deliberately choosing to ignore all the benefits of protocol movements.

Sure getting a protocol is pretty convenient, but there is an element of trickle-down economics that benefits the lower classes as well.

You like to talk about the poor. Have you ever thought about how hard poor mobile snatchers have to work on the roads, forced to go about their business hurriedly before the signal turns green?

A protocol provides these guys with ample time to get new — or not that new — presents for all their families and friends for Eid.

Being against protocol is being against Eid. Are you against Eid in Pakistan? ARE YOU??!!

Yes, that's right, you poor souls should be grateful to us VIP folk for the misery we hand you guys.

 

Read on: VIP culture: 'Those who ride motorbikes may be shot dead'

 

The thanklessness is appalling really. I mean, I keep hearing all these people ranting on and on about this fast-paced world, and how they don't get the time to...blah blah blah...but no one notices that waiting in your car during a protocol is the only opportunity to sit back, relax and think, apart from the time you're sitting on the toilet.

Sitting behind the steering wheel with nowhere to be and nothing to do...what beats that? And even if you have some business to attend to, it's not like you can go there now, especially since your cellphone just got stolen.

We, the VIPs, can relate to that of course, our families lives well within their means to understand the plight of the common man; which is why I only got the regular iphone 6, instead of the gold one that I usually get. The phone also bent slightly during my power yoga session, such an annoyance; and much worse than having it stolen at gunpoint.

Much worse, seriously.

 

Take a look: Contesting VIP culture

 

Then there are complaints of unemployment and how there's so much competition and yada yada. Well, newsflash, guys: no market is more competitive than the VIP market.

Do you have the slightest idea how hard it is to be a VIP? If somebody buys a house for a billion dollars, you have to go and buy a house for two billions dollars just to retain your VIP status.

I do not need a two billion dollar house, the 1.5 billion dollar house was sufficient, but I was forced to do it.

No other group of people in Pakistan faces such intense peer pressure. Sometimes I feel like the world is a giant monopoly board. Luckily for us, the 'Go To Jail' square on the board in Pakistan is reserved for non-VIPs only. And even if we mistakenly end up there, there are always multiple 'Buy a Judge' card, which all VIPs are entitled to.

There is also an entire population out there complaining about roti.

Now that, I agree with; I do not have any roti in my diet either. Good for me and all the others out there, because roti has a shocking number of calories in it. I have replaced all wheat with Kale and Avocados.

Non-VIPs are super lucky that they get to eat organic all the time. We have no option but to have all the burgers, pizzas and other unhealthy foods so that the masses do not have to suffer. Obviously, then I have to go to the gym and walk a mile on the treadmill. I'm so jealous of all the Pakistanis who get to do it naturally every time they go to drink water from the well.

 

Editorial: VIP culture

 

All I am saying is that our lives are not that easy, but we have to do it just to be the right symbol for the masses. You see, we have to be an inspiration for all of Pakistan, and that's no mean task. The least you guys could do is that every time you are stuck in traffic and counting the cars in our protocols, be inspired and aim to achieve the same status one day.

If we cannot be appreciated for all the hardships we suffer for the common people, then I implore the international world to consider turning all the Defence areas of Pakistan into a separate country: VIPakistan.

VIPakistan will not have roti, kapra and makaan. Instead it will only have whole wheat bread. Kapra is optional and makaan sounds so archaic anyway. I prefer the word mansion. I mean, is a house without a jacuzzi even worth living in?

I would hold a jalsa to celebrate the creation of VIPakistan, but most of you would probably not be VIP enough to attend it. For those who do happen to be VIPs, VIPakistan’s constitution will grant all its citizens with all fundamental rights, including but not limited to, the following rights:

  • The right to have no education, especially if daddy dear has promised to make me CEO of the family business
  • The right of liberty. We shall have all rights over all of Liberty, sorry Lahoris. You can still have Anarkali and Fortress because ewww who goes to Fortress?
  • Right to undue process of law
  • Freedom of protocol movement
  • Freedom of association. We will have complete freedom over any association anywhere
  • Freedom over institutions
  • No one will be equal before the law
  • Freedom to all property
  • Freedom to forced labour

 

VIPs are a crucial part of the very fabric of Pakistan. Just because we have graciously accepted that the common subjects no longer have to call us ‘King’ or ‘Prince’ does not mean we will give up all our rights. I would have fought for our rights if it weren't for the fact that we are VIPs and don't have to fight for anything, people just give us things.

Talking about giving things, my father decided to reward me for acting like a commoner and not insisting on a gold iphone. But it turned out that was only a test and he already bought me the gold iphone. So I am going to update my Facebook status in support of the socialist movements in South America before my dad grounds me for speaking to the commoners in Pakistan.

PS. Just a heads up: I have a flight at 9pm today. Expect Shahrah-e-Faisal to be cordoned off.

Why go to war with India?

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1138806/why-go-to-war-with-india

Why are some people in Pakistan suggesting we go to war with India?

They are the only country in the world with Katrina Kaif. Have they not seen her mango drink advertisements?

On the other hand, India too should be mindful about escalating tensions on the Line of Control. If we ask Fawad Khan and Ali Zafar to come back, Indian ladies will have to go back to swooning over the likes of Sunil Shetty and Ajay Devgan.

India and Pakistan should share a friendlier border so that it is easier for Sania Mirza to travel back and forth between her sasural and maika. Maybe that way, Shoaib Malik might also get a chance to play a little cricket while Sania is away visiting her parents.

 

Also read: 6 things Pakistan and India can do instead of fighting

 

We have lived next to each other as neighbours for 67 years now. Sure, when I moved into my own neighbourhood, I would throw lemons at my neighbour and he would play cricket on my porch claiming that he had rights over it; but we eventually found a way to live together. Now, we are living off the sugar and potatoes borrowed from each other every other day. We even get together and gossip about the neighbourhood.

India and Pakistan should do the same; discussing how Bangladesh is now old enough to get married and find a reasonable superpower suitor for her or how they saw Sri Lanka shopping at Sunday Bazaar despite claiming she only wears “designer joras”. If either sees that the Chinese ambassador is sneaking into the embassy late every night, they can conjecture over what new country it might be having an affair with.

India and Pakistan should also do the number one thing that makes a neighbour just the absolute best: sending leftover biryani from functions at their house.

Households in both countries have forged friendships with their neighbours and healthy communities. You can even say that it is a Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki. If India feels that they have the upper hand right now and they can exploit that, it should not forget that Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahoo Thi. They should become a good Humsafar to us rather than acting like Mera Sultan.

 

Also see: Pakistan-India peace: A good idea that nobody wants

 

And if both the countries keep insisting on competing, instead of co-operating, then, there are still better alternatives to war available.

Here are some ideas:

  • Shahrukh Khan and Sahir Lodhi can compete against each other for the ‘Best Sahir Lodhi Impersonator Award'.

  • Tahir Shah and Himesh Reshamiya can have a singing competition. There is potential for superhit duets like Eyes dikhla ja and Dil kee soorkh deewaron par eyes hai teri teri.

  • They can play a game of Gullu Danda, combining the powers of the non-violence of Gandhi’s Danda and the non-non-violence of Gullu Butt.

  • A spelling bee competition between Bilawal Bhutto and Rahul Gandhi where they would be asked to spell words in Urdu and Hindi respectively.

  • A Master Chef style competition between India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, famous for starting his career selling chais and Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, rumoured to have started his career selling dahi bhallas. Both the leaders can set up food stalls to see who can outsell the other. Alternatively, we can even create a Pacman style game where Nawaz Sharif eats everything.

  • Raghu Ram of MTV Roadies honour and Waqar Zaka of Living on the Edge dishonour can audition each other for their respective shows to see who is the most ‘daring’.

  • I would also suggest a competition to see which country has the better Coke Studio, but then even Pepsi agrees that Pakistan’s Coke Studio is the best.

These are just some suggestions; we can incorporate all the ideas to have an Olympic style competition between the countries; anything to bring the two closer together.

Hopefully, we do not have to see another scene of Meera and Ashmit Patel kissing on screen to make that happen.

 

Take a look: Pakistan in Homeland: Finally, an accurate portrayal!

 

Celebrities of both countries should come forward to volunteer themselves for these competitions. The Tahirul Qadri of India (popularly known ‘Zakir Naik’) can compete in a memory test against our sports anchor, Mirza Iqbal Baig.

Both of them have the uncanny ability to remember the minutest of details. Mirza Iqbal Baig often greets his guests on the show with intros like,

17th October kee duphayr 4 bajay Karachi kay National Stadium kay Javed Miandad Pavilion kay ground floor kay bathroom kay 4th stall mai aap nay jab 20 minute kay baad cheekh mari toh phir mai Rose Petal ka 17 rupay ka 2-ply Toilet Paper 8 steps le kar aap kay pass laya.

On the other hand, the following is an excerpt from an actual conversation between Zakir Naik and a waiter at a restaurant in India:

Waiter: “Hello sir, what may I get you?”

Zakir Naik, “I will have item number 47 on page number 7.”

Waiter: “Sure sir, that is the Chicken Burger, would you like any fries with that?”

Zakir Naik, “Why? Why would I order fries brother? It is written, on Page number 7, line number 8, it states all burgers come with fries.”

Waiter: “Alright sir, that would be Rs 500.”

Zakir Naik: “Why 500? It is written on Menu Page 7 that the cost of the chicken burger is Rs 427. India Act of Taxation 1965 page number 45 Clause Number 7 part B clearly states that charging more than 16 per cent GST is haram. 16 per cent of Rs 427 is Rs 68.32, so total is Rs 495.32. Why are you charging 4 rupees and 68 paisas extra? It is haraam, brother.”

It is rumoured that Zakir Naik even reached out to Imran Khan to organise a dharna over the 'dhandlee' at the restaurant. The Olympics could even feature a dharna competition between PTI and Anna Hazare.

 

Read through: 6 surprises that greet a Pakistani in India

 

We have reached out to India on numerous occasions to improve relations between the two countries. We even let them win a World Cup semi-final, when Sachin Tendulkar was batting, all Pakistani fielders were busy pretending they were Kamran Akmals. Oh by the way, the latest research says Kamran Akmal can potentially help cure many Ebola patients; he is apparently the only person who is unable to catch it.

India needs to treat Pakistan as equals. We are not far behind them in any field. Modi met Obama and we had Osama, we are literally just a letter away from them. They sent a satellite to Mars and I just sent Fazlu kaka to the store to get me a Mars bar.

We even made a car that runs on water. Now, only if we had water to run that car. Somebody needs to make a car that runs on pan ki peek for Karachi.

India is also known for the Taj Mahal but I doubt that impresses any Pakistani. Our country has made a national hobby out of putting women in walls. There is a saying in Punjab, "Jinay deewar mai chuniya hee nahee o jamiya hee nahee".

Pakistan is the Yin to India's Yang; we are the aman in their asha; we are the lawn print to their fashion; the rice to their biryanis; the Disney Prince to their Disney Princess.

India, your movies taught me that “pyar dosti hai” so despite the fact that we are fighting with each other, you need to understand that kuch kuch hota hai, tum nahee samjho gay.

Do not wait till this Kajol becomes all beautiful and gets wooed by a Salman Khan. Let us try to be friends and if things work out, maybe some years down the line, our parents will meet each other and pave the way for our everlasting happiness.

Being Pakistani in New York: Outside 'Shitzad', it ain't all bad

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1139650/being-pakistani-in-new-york-outside-shitzad-it-aint-all-bad

I am a thoroughbred Pakistani; born and raised.

All my ideas about the far-fetched land known as ‘America’ were based on films and television.

I believed people just got drunk, lost their best friend and spent three movies looking for him.

I thought all the hours spent perfecting my technique of stealthily throwing my number at a girl in a public place would finally bear fruit.

I vowed to never eat an American pie or play the trumpet.

I was convinced college would be less ‘Student of the Year’ and more of a ‘Euro trip’.

As my Pakistani friend took me to the Gourmet restaurant in Queens, New York on my first night, all my illusions shattered.

 

Also read: Chicago Zindabad!

 

I do not mean the adjective ‘gourmet’ but the proper noun ‘Gourmet’, referring to the chain of restaurants in Lahore by the name.

As I sat there with a plate of chicken biryani, I felt cheated out of my American dream.

But there was hope – I had biryani.

Once you look past their phonetic indisposition towards all names Pakistani, Americans can actually seem like a fairly decent bunch. In my case, it has come to a point where I just accept all spellings ranging from ‘Jazzat’ to 'Shitzad’ for my nick at Starbucks.

I am now conditioned to assume the drink is mine every time the barista stares at the name of the cup for a few seconds without saying anything.

It is not entirely their fault. They grew up believing the world consists of the Americas, the oil rich Middle East and the evil communist states – the rest is all oceans and Antarctica.

It makes you think they must have a very hard time playing 'Risk'. People assume Pakistan is an Arab state and direct questions that range from the usual “do you have your Arab robes” to the ridiculous “where do you park your camel back home"?

As a Pakistani, you are often looked up to for judging the authenticity of a 'falafel' sandwich.

One should not hold people’s ignorance against them. When a person once asked me if all women in Pakistan wore the burqa, I responded emphatically:

“No, only about 10 to 20 per cent of women wear burqas in Pakistan; the rest of the society is quite progressive. We allow women to wear just scarfs” (a statement I later regretted only because I had to explain I did not mean literally just scarfs).

I have also found that Pakistani women intrigue Americans a lot, Pakistani men not so much (I refuse to believe it is just me). A man once stopped me on the street to say just how absolutely inspiring the strength of women in Pakistan was to him. I expected a speech about Malala Yousufzai or Benazir Bhutto, but he followed it up with,

Here, we get clean drinking water for a dollar, and women in Pakistan have to walk miles with buckets on their heads to fetch water from the well.

Holding back my laughter, I told him that sometimes, the wells are located in a different city, to which he said:

That is fine though, women can drive to the well then.

At this point I told him how crazy he was being:

You have no idea what you are talking about. Women are not allowed to drive in Pakistan.

I have even reduced the standards expected of our people. A person came to look over me as I was about to sign a document claiming that he just wants to see me write because ‘all Pakistani people have beautiful handwriting’.

He expected calligraphy, I gave him cacography. Now, I can say there is at least one generalisation that I managed to falsify for one person, by drawing squiggly lines which seemingly spelt out my name.

 

Explore: Being a Pakistani abroad

 

And I blame technology for forcing mankind to live in a world where we still have to write anyway. Things would have been different if Steve Jobs were alive.

I must say that the ignorance ran both ways though, and I was forced to reassess certain notions I had about the world too.

After growing up on movies like the American Pie series, when I walked into an American college on day one and saw that there was a university sex bathroom, my eyes lit up.

But I had no idea why people kept opening the door and judging me for sitting there stark naked waiting for somebody. It took a while to figure out that Unisex is not an abbreviation for University sex.

 

Explore: 6 surprises that greet a Pakistani in India

 

Another confusing incident was the following conversation I had with a Native American:

Hello Shehzad, I am Indian.

Hi, we are neighbours!

Oh, so you are on the fourth floor too?

No, I mean our countries.

Are you from Canada?

No.

Mexico?

No, Pakistan. My ancestors were probably Indians too.

Oh, so you moved from here?

From India, millions of us did.

I think you have it wrong, I am not East Indian. I am Indian, from the West.

Oh! I am so sorry, I get it now. I know what you are talking about; I am a huge Chris Gayle Fan.

No, Shehzad. Not ‘West Indian’ but American Indian!

In my defense, Christopher Columbus made the original mistake. It was only a matter of time before Indians also moved to the Western Hemisphere and reclaimed the title for their race.

The first time I walked into a Chipotle, the server looked at me and asked, “Brown or White?”, I felt vindicated. All the Fair and Lovely I used in Pakistan had finally paid off! But I humbly told her, “Brown”.

She proceeded to put brown rice in my bowl and asked again, “Black or Brown?” This time I knew she was talking about the beans.

As soon as I landed in America – fresh off the boat as they say – all of my subcontinental genes fired up to say: "Open a 7/11!" or "Drive a taxi!"

But I decided to attempt a career in stand-up comedy. I could see the disappointment in my parents' eyes all the way from Pakistan. Doing stand-up comedy in America is not easy either.

Over here, the quality of a stand-up act is defined by the following two terms: ‘bombing on stage’, which means you had a bad night, or ‘killing’ which means you did a great show.

I am quite fine with Americans doing that, but just a little worried at the prospect of someone putting up a Facebook status that says, “Shehzad Ghias bombed at the Broadway Comedy Club”.

That is sure to get the CIA knocking on my door. If I am lucky, it might be Carrie Mathison, who would mistake me for Ayan from the show Homeland.

 

Also see: Pakistan in Homeland: Finally, an accurate portrayal!

 

Even their fundraising campaigns are designed without due regard to Pakistanis. Americans can freely participate in “No Shave November” and “Movember” campaigns but a beard for me is practically a sign to the cops saying “Frisk me”, and a moustache makes me look like Gullu Butt.

To avoid any of that, I make sure I shave till I bleed. The only downside is, I have to go through November looking like I am against any awareness for cancer research.

There are a significant number of Pakistanis in America, but every single one of them lives their life in fear of being deported. I am so terrified that I have still not ordered a Bomber Jacket from Amazon, despite it lying in my shopping cart for a year now.

If Rosa Parks was Pakistani, she would not only agree to sit at the back of the bus, she would agree to sit on top of the bus, stand at the door of the bus or hang from the back of the bus only to ensure she stays in the bus.

And a desi Martin Luther King’s speech would have ended with, “I had a dream but never mind, I am up now and will be at work soon.”We need a civil rights movement to have the freedom to stay here.

There is a little China in New York, there is a little Brazil in New York, there is a little Italy in New York. I think it is about time we make a little Pakistan here too. The New York Electrical company is already helping to make us feel at home here by switching our power off for half of the day.

However, for all Pakistani women, I must say if they want to turn New York into home, make sure to have a well dug up a few miles away from home; because what's Pakistan without the daily camel ride to the water-well?

Stop this gender discrimination AGAINST MEN! (Satire)

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1142379/stop-this-gender-discriminationagainst-men

Feminism is a lie. If it was not a lie, why would there be no mentions of it in the Constitution of Pakistan?

The constitution; a document that has everything from your fundamental rights to your not so essential lefts, from the Objectives Resolution to the subjective New Year resolutions, from how to create the systems of governance to how to dissolve them and impose martial law.

It is all in there, there is even a section on the nation’s favourite past time: borrowing money.

It is a complete code of life but with zero mentions of feminism. The 20 amendments to it also do not mention feminism, as they say, if it ain't broke, don’t fix it.

This fictitious ideology has been imported into Pakistan as western propaganda against our way of life; it is another attack on the fabric of our society, just like Harry Potter. The most unbelievable part of that entire series for me was the existence of a co-education school.

 

Also read: #HeForShe: Why do men hate the 'F' word so much?

 

It is contrary to our cultural values, such as honour killings and female infanticide. If you cannot kill anyone you want whenever you want without facing any consequence, what is the point of living in Pakistan then? The country was created after western powers got tired of playing Risk and wanted to play Counter-strike … for real.

In fact, flight simulator is the most popular game in America, or as the activity is more popularly known as in Pakistan: Drone attacks.

Feminism is not a Pakistani phenomenon. Quaid-e-Azam does not mention feminism once in his speeches. He does not say, “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques and you are free to go to your liberal arts colleges.”

If Quaid-e-Azam was a feminist, he would have ensured that his sister also emerged as a powerful leader of the freedom movement. People would have remembered her as the ‘Mother of the nation’ and be forced to add her picture to their Pakistani leaders sticker collections.

All I am saying is feminism is not native to Pakistan. It only exists in the minds of some students at liberal arts colleges who want to look cool holding a board up saying things like, “I need feminism because membership to the debates society was already full.” They are not doing it for their rights, if they really wanted their rights in Pakistan so bad, shouldn't they just have been born as men?

 

Also read: To be a feminist … in Pakistan

 

What do they need all their rights for? They already have complete freedom of the house.

Think about the economic burden on the house if women are liberated in Pakistan. When women are home all day, you do not even need a chowkidaar. If you have children, think of how much you save on a babysitter. And if they can cook, think of all the times you can tell her to make you a sandwich.

If women are treated as equal, how will all us men continue to enjoy the benefits of all their domestic work and still pretend we wear the pants in the house because we are the breadwinners? Do you want to live in a world where men do not wear pants?

What will come of this fight for equality? It is not like if we give women in Pakistan equal opportunity and resources; they can go and win Nobel prizes, Oscars and Emmys for Pakistan.

We need to curb this spread of feminism in Pakistan, and replace it with masculinism; to stop the gender discrimination against men. If women become equal to men in Pakistan, we will have to stop acting like animals to them. And we really like acting like animals, we grew up watching the Crocodile Hunter, you cannot suddenly expect us not to jump at something we find gorgeous and roll around in the water shouting, “Crickey Mate.”

How is it always the man’s fault? The western media has the sense to also blame movies and video games for violence in society. However, in Pakistan, despite the fact that a popular television show clearly shows a woman bearing a Burqa terrorising a village, hitting innocent people with books and pens, all the blame for violence falls squarely on to men.

Women have a problem with everything, next thing they will ask not to be sexually harassed at work. If I did not want to sexually harass my workers, would I not just hire men?

They even have the audacity not to fall all over me when I walk out of my house wearing Axe deodorant. I want my 150rs back on that can!

It is not like men hold all the power in Pakistan, continuously, and deliberately, perpetuating ideas about gender, that women are socialised into ensuring the hegemonic structures in society placing the male at the top remain in place. That is crazy talk.

Men do not dictate social relations in Pakistan, for instance marriage. If you hate us so much, why do you marry us?

Don’t try to turn this around on us also, we have a good excuse, we can at least say we married you for the jahez. What is your excuse? It is not like society creates pressure on women to see marriage as a necessity. Girls in Pakistan have a lot of choices, they can marry somebody their parents wish her to marry to, or they can move abroad and be dead to them forever.

Dil Bola Ebola

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1143985/dil-bola-ebola

It might sound like the latest soda beverage to hit the Pakistani market, or a Pakistan-only instant messaging service launched after Whatsapp is inevitably blocked by the government, but Ebola is actually a rare and deadly disease. Think of it as the ISIS of diseases.

Basically, everyone is going to die.

People have been quarantined, airports have been shut and the panic buttons have been struck. People in the Godzilla movie had reacted with lesser intensity.

Pakistan has a lot to teach the West on how to deal with adversity. If Ebola were to come to Pakistan, we would line up at the airport with roses and fake ‘Eid Mubarak’ currency notes; lining up to take selfies with it. I can see #ComeEbolaCome trending in Pakistan.

 

Also read: Pakistan ‘ready’ for WHO Ebola spot checks

 

Ebola is spread through bodily contact, and this is a country where a man cannot ride a bus without coming into contact with all parts of the anatomy; so naturally, Ebola would flourish from all the love. It is also spread through bodily fluids, which would turn all the public walls in Karachi into nurseries for the disease.

Soon, every wall in the entire city would be plastered with the message:

Yahan Ebola karna sakht mana hai”.

Whereas the West has merely adopted Ebola, Pakistanis have learnt to live with fear. We were born in it, raised by it, moulded by it. Our coastal belts are the busiest when a cyclone is around the corner. When Nilofar proved to be bewafa, it led many to theorise that the restaurant Kolachi came up with the rumour of a cyclone to increase business.

This is where Pakistan’s lack of security has worked to its advantage; even Ebola has refused to come to Pakistan.

Let us be honest, why would anyone fly into Pakistan to die from Ebola? We offer so many more interesting ways to go out.

Also, if someone uses a Pakistani airline to fly to Pakistan, having Ebola would actually be an upgrade on that experience – “Ebola; great people to die with.”

If nothing else, Ebola visiting Pakistan would at least provide all the teenagers lining up outside Moon Traders on Saturday nights with an excuse. The most common preventive measure against the disease is to use an alcohol-based sanitiser, so if you were to get caught with a bottle of Absolut Vodka on your way back from Sindh Club, you can simply smear it all over your hands and cite medical reasons.

 

Also read: Steps taken to keep Ebola virus out

 

How will we even know if we have contracted Ebola? The main signs are vomiting and diarrhoea, which, for me, are simply signs of having had an awesome dinner... at Burns Road. It is my alternative to going to the gym.

You know what we should do though? We should quarantine ourselves from the world, preventing the spread of Ebola from ever entering Pakistan. Maybe this reverse psychology will want people to come to Pakistan; people lining up outside our consulates around the world, as we recount to them one by one, every one of our visa applications they rejected, and laugh in their faces.

Once the pandemic is over, and the rest of world is as abandoned as Park Towers was after Dolmen Mall opened, we could slowly repopulate the earth. An entire earth full of Pakistanis, imagine the endless possibilities!

We would have the entire world to ourselves, when a city becomes too full of paan kee peeks, instead of getting the local architecture school students to clean it, we can just move to a new Pakistan. We would win all the games we ever play; Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq can both be captains.

Any shortcoming could be blamed on the influence of other planets on our domestic policy. Our ministers would probably need to fly to Jupiter and Saturn to ask for foreign aid. The government can also blame everything on Ebola; ‘There is Ebola on Youtube, we cannot unblock it in Pakistan’, their statements would read.

 

Also read: Being Pakistani in New York: Outside 'Shitzad', it ain't all bad

 

But, even if we have all the territory in the world, I am sure our government would not make new provinces.

Instead we'd have Europe and Africa renamed to New Punjab; Asia and Australia would become Sindh; the Americas could be Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan; and Antarctica could be Balochistan, though Balochistan’s population is probably lesser than Antarctica’s right now, and Antarctica probably has more infrastructure, too. In fact, I won't be surprised if it turns out that Pakistani governments have invested more in Antarctica than they have in Balochistan in the last 67 years.

Like their expired medications and experimental military equipment, eventually the West will export Ebola to Pakistan; we will end up paying taxes on it as well. The national debt will increase to accommodate Ebola's expenses, and the rest, we are all too familiar with.

Till then, the least we can do is admire the resilience of our people, and laugh in the face of any incoming threat which thinks it can bring us down. Hah! I say bring it on, Ebola.

But on a serious note, please don’t. #GoEbolaGo.

Get your Raj: How to write the perfect Bollywood movie in 10 easy steps

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1145754/get-your-raj-how-to-write-the-perfect-bollywood-movie-in-10-easy-steps

More important than the story is the hero.

Godfather starring Tushar Kapoor would flop but the story of Humpty Dumpty starring Shahrukh Khan would make 5 trillion crores at the box office.

Any classic fairytale starring Shahrukh Khan would be an instant success, except Sleeping Beauty, you would need Imran Hashmi’s talents to awaken her from slumber.

Obviously, the Bollywood-isation of these stories will require Snow White to be fed the apple from her evil step mother, who married Snow White’s father for his wealth and needed to get rid of Snow White to get her inheritance.

Hansel and Gratel would get lost in the ‘kum ka mela’ as kids, only to find each other years later, thanks to the matching lockets hanging around their necks.

Rapunzel would be rescued by Rajnikanth throwing her his ponytail.

The reason why Salman Khan still has a job is that people would literally go to the cinema just to see their favourite star do nothing for three hours; how else can you explain the success of Dabang 2?

2. Make sure the last name of your hero is Khan

 

Fawad Khan and Sonam Kapoor.

There are more Khans in Bollywood than Sohrab Goth.

It is surprising Shahbaz Sharif has not yet helped Bollywood build an underpass from Peshawar to Mumbai.

If the last name of your hero is Khan, you have a hit, this is why Fawad Afzal has added Khan to the end of his name, despite what the abbreviation of his three names read aloud may sound like.

If the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf experiment ends, I see a few film fares in Imran Khan’s future. Heck, they’d even hire Younis, and even he would be a better actor than India's own Imran Khan.

3. Surround your hero with an idiot

 

Rajpal Yadav.

Your Raj can dance, sing, fight bad guys, he may even get a horse to jump over a building and drift on the road at 100 miles but he cannot be the butt of the joke and still be expected to get the girl.

Unless he is Govinda; Govinda can do anything.

This is why you give all the bad punchlines in the movie to his friend, the Johnny Levers and Rajpal Yadavs of this world. They only exist to be bitten by dogs and have chimps steal their clothes when they go bathing in the river.

The life ambition of this idiot, apart from bad comedy, should be to fulfill the lifelong dream of his/her only living parent. He/she should then sacrifice that dream to help your Raj meet the girl of his dreams.

4. The girl

 

Kajol, Sushmita Sen, Juhi Chawla.

There is no Bollywood movie without a love story.

A Bollywood movie is like high school, everyone is bound to fall in love.

If your Raj is Shahrukh Khan, you can make him fall in love with anyone really. His teacher (Main Hoon Na), his boss’ girlfriend (Yes Boss), his best friend’s wife (Darr) or his best friend who is finally over him and is about to get married (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai).

Either the girl should know she is the most beautiful person on earth and time should stop the moment she walks in. Rose petals should start falling, people should start singing and clouds should start pouring.

Or you should tie her hair in a knot and make her wear glasses, in which case everyone should ignore her. Until! She takes the glasses off and the rose petals start falling, people start singing and clouds start pouring.

5. The songs

 

Varun Dhawan.

No love story is complete without songs; you do not have to be a Beethoven to get the music too.

Pablo Piccasso said “...great artists steal”, by that logic, all music directors in Bollywood are great artists. All you need to do is get the karaoke version of a song from another country and put the words ‘pyar, ishq, dil, tu, mera, mohabbat, hamesha, deewana” in different permutations and combinations and you have the songs ready.

You can even cater to the hip crowd by inserting a random English word in one of the songs. Suddenly the boring Indian pyaar becomes “Ishq wala love”, you can even add “Yo yo yo Honey Singh” before the song and pretend its Eminem singing to make it an even bigger success.

6. The dancers

 

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto with dancers.

Everywhere the boy and girl go, there should be 30 odd dancers on standby ready to jump into a completely coordinated dance with them as soon as either of them starts singing.

Pedestrians should feel India has the best flash mobs in the world.

If you do not have a choreographer, just make the boy and the girl run around the city. For the chorus, you can pick a random piece of clothing they could play with.

The only time anybody will even see the dance is when it is an item song.

7. Item song

 

Katrina Kaif.

This is where all the Munnis get badnaam and all the Sheelas get jawan.

When casting the actor for the item song, the writer should visualise her as the only girl in a pool of men. The girl must be held up by at least 10 men and carried around as if they were carrying her coffin, and she should definitely find herself immersed in a body of water at least once in the song.

The song itself should just take the worst ad taglines ever and use them to objectify women. Literally any ad can be used for the purpose.

Utho beta aankhain kholo, bistar choro aur mun dho lo… agayee Sheela, Sheela kee jawani

Meri muthi mai bandh hai kia? Bata do na … baby doll mai sonay di

Meri nunnhi parri tu ghar ko chali, moltyfoam … munni badnaam huee darling teray liye

If the song does not scar the childhood of everyone who watches it, you have failed to do your job.

8. The girl’s father

 

Amresh Puri.

There can be no Raj without an Amresh Puri, he is essentially the see to Raj’s saw.

The only dream of this overly protective father is to keep his daughter away from all men, till he weds her off to a complete stranger.

Ideally, the father should belong to a family that is the arch nemesis of your Raj’s family.

Put a flashback scene about how Raj’s great great great great grandfather stole a chicken from the chicken coup belonging to the girl’s ancestors; from that day forth, they have vowed revenge!

9. The fight

 

Shahid Kapoor.

Apart from being the perfect lover, singer and dancer, your Raj should also be able to partake in random Royal Rumble matches on the streets; he should obviously always come out victorious.

He should have the strength of Hercules, the speed of a rozaydaar running late for iftaar and the will of a teenage boy with slow internet.

For your ideal climax, he should let himself get beaten up by people who will go back to their villages after the shoot and tell their grandchildren of the day they slapped Salman Khan.

Bloodied, battered and bruised, the love of his life would finally give him the permission to fight back by dropping her dupatta; the universal sign for a whopping.

The hero would then embody all the Chuck Norris facts in a series of implausible fight moves inspired from the fatalities in Mortal Kombat.

10. The Shaadi

 

Shaadi scene from Namaste London.

Watching the fight, the baap of the girl would realise that he was wrong, all wrong.

He would see Raj was perfect for his daughter; if these Bollywood fathers watched Pakistan television they would all give Gullu Butt their daughters.

All the Shaadi preparations which were already in place for the girl’s arranged marriage would now be conveniently rerouted for the hero and heroine to get married.

It should remain unclear whether the previous guy the heroine is supposed to get married to, ever gets a refund on the Shaadi decorations.

If Karan Johar is to be trusted, the entire movie is only an excuse to shoot the shaadi at the end.

Any Indian movie that does not end in a Shaadi with three thousand people perfectly dancing in sync is basically a tragedy.

November 30: The Revolution will be televised

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1147036/november-30-the-revolution-will-be-televised

The date is set, the venue is set, you better watch out, you better not pout, the Revolution is coming to town: Imran Khan has announced November 30 as the day for the final battle, when Liu Kang meets Shao Khan for the final Mortal Kombat.

The government is trying its best to prevent the final of this World Cup from happening. However, they are going about it completely wrong. PML-N feels it will win if it manages to overcome the problem of load-shedding, but that is exactly what Imran wants them to think.

Actually, the only way the government can win is by increasing load-shedding. Think about it, no electricity means no television. If the people do not see the revolution, they can be made to believe the revolution does not exist.

There is no point in looking to ban channels or television anchors. Rather than putting containers in Islamabad, the government should put containers in front of everyone’s television. To add to their support and placate the viewers, they could project PTV on to these containers. There is worry about electoral reforms when you are gripped by such intriguing television programming like how to drive a tractor or how to put an iron cord into the plug.

Also read | Azadi march: Nationwide release, multiple shows on weekend

No more of this live coverage, if you want the news you wait till 9 pm. By that time, most of Islamabad will be asleep anyway so they will have no idea what is happening at D-chowk. They can wake up in the morning to watch cartoons on PTV, safe in the knowledge that everything is alright. That is how I always got by in the 1990s.

If the government does not feel like doing something this drastic, there is another option: make little changes to throw off the protestors.

So, say they want to ensure the protestors do not block the road. Well, how about taking along all the ministers for a road trip inside Islamabad on November 30. Their protocol cavalcades would take up all the roads in the city, leaving no space for anyone else to come and block them.

Or say, the government has had enough of DJ Butt. They could simply replace him with one of their own, like DJ Sir Mix-A-Lot; he is the biggest supporter of PML-N. He even made a song about how much he likes the Butts, such as Gulu Butt, who appears to be the party's main support base. By the by, Sir Mix-A-Lot is also an extremely honest man, since he cannot lie.

Explore: Of wet shalwars and televised 'revolutions'

Instead of tear-gassing the protestors, the government could release laughing gas into the dharna. They could then blame the protestors for making light of such a huge issue by laughing at it. It will also achieve the government’s intention of keeping the protest peaceful. The whole thing might just end up looking like a bad Bollywood comedy scene.

If the protestors try to storm the parliament, the parliamentarians should move to the dharna space and occupy that, leading to a game of pakram pakrayee (tag), ideally to some Tom and Jerry music. If Imran does not want to come to the negotiating table, they should put negotiating tables everywhere they do not want Imran to go.

The government could even distribute free ear plugs to everyone and claim nobody heard any slogans of “Go Nawaz Go.”

And if Imran continues to threaten the government with bouncers and yorkers, they should report his action to the ICC. Those guys are pretty good at that stuff and will take no time in banning the PTI chairman from ever bowling again.

Take a look: The limits of populism

If all else fails, the government still has one person they can turn to in order to avoid the confrontation; a man under the employment of the government; whose recent track record is better than anyone else’s in the government; a man who has an even better track record than Imran's; a man other countries even fear. That man is: Misbahul Haq.

Think about it, it's captain versus captain. It would confuse all the followers as to which captain to follow? Whatever Imran throws at him, we know Misbah will manage to block it. This is the final of the Mortal Kombat we all want to see. By the time Misbah gets out, it will already be 2018 and the government can cede to the demand for fresh elections. They could even partner him with Younis Khan to win over KP.

Imran started his protests on August 14 and it took him this long to complete his century, whereas Misbah can score a century inside 56 balls. If India flexes its muscles, well, no problem because Misbah has already shown that he can beat India. He can even beat Australia, if we are to ever go to war with them. If nothing else, such a ploy would be worth it just to see Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Akhtar criticise Misbah after the protests.

Read on: What's wrong with our Kaptaans?

Herald asked two days ago what's the best drama that has aired on PTV? I do not know the answer to the question but I do know that Pakistani politics should be right on top. November 30 is the season finale we are all waiting for. Will Ashar accept Khirad back into his life? What were the contents of Farah’s letter to Pyaare Afzal? Will Buland marry Rudaba for love or Tayyaba for money?

Find out all, in this Sunday's Revolution Finale.

Grabs popcorn

Yes, in my name please (Satire)

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1148522/could-you-name-this-place-after-me-please

If you do not have a couple of universities, a national scheme, a road, a 'chowk', an income support program or at least a couple of highways named after you, you are basically a nobody in Pakistan.

So, to save myself from any further indignation, I have legally changed my name to “Minar-e-Pakistan”.

Now nobody can stop me from saying, I feel humbled by the government’s decision to name a national monument after me.

My wife, “Super Highway”, has already planned a celebratory party. I am sure both my children, “Food Street” and “Baagh-e-Jinnah” are really proud of this honour bestowed upon their father.

Also read: What’s in a name?

The point is, if you have nothing named after you, you could totally name yourself after places, anything from "Lahore Fort" to “Frere Hall” or “French Beach”. Christopher Nolan is sure to run right up to you with the script of 'Inception 2' the moment you upload a selfie titled “French Beach at French Beach” on Instagram.

If the beach is not your thing, there are always cities. If David Beckham could name his son ‘Brooklyn’, why can't one of our kids be a 'Lyari', a 'Phase-VIII', an 'LoC' or a 'Macchar Colony'?

I have anticipated your question — worrying about gender, aren't you? Well, you shouldn't. Our forefathers foresaw this day and duly gave our cities gender specific names: Thatta, Multan and Mardan are boy names while Ghotki, Swabi and Larkana are girl names. The clues are in the names themselves — Larkana literally translates to “boy no”.

An amrood of a great poet of Sindh, who was affectionately called 'Shaikh’s pear' even said:

“What’s in a name? That which we call rose is actually Mahrose beauty parlour.”

Read on: Did you know Burnes Road was named after a British spy-doctor?

I especially support the decision to have universities named after people, like the engineering university in Karachi which named itself after the Game of Thrones protagonist, Ned Stark. Now that's how you name an institution, kudos to them.

I say, do away with all the weird acronyms and name all universities after people, preferably politicians. At least people would know what to expect when they enroll in the 'Shaikh Rasheed School of Biology' and specialise in ‘how to spot manufacturing defaults’.

And how about 'Asif Ali Zardari School of Financial Management' or the 'Nawaz Sharif school of Home Economics?' I would love to enroll in there. Although not my field, the 'Rehman Malik School of Time Management' and the 'Pervez Musharraf School of Constitutional Law' both sound equally tempting.

For foreigners, we could have the 'Bilawal Bhutto Department of Urdu Language' offer special courses. For locals, there is always the Meera School of English Language.

Take a look: From Nehru to Jigar Muradabadi: A road renamed

I mean, the growth options are simply mind-boggling.

For the fantasy-loving types, there'd always be Mamnoon Hussain School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — where you walk right into the wall of President House and simply vanish.

So let's have a countrywide renaming frenzy, shall we? Off the top of my head, let's rechristen the National Museum of Pakistan to “Zubaida Apa” from now on, while the Nanga Parbat can be simply called "Veena Malik”, a surefire way to give our tourism industry a much needed boost.

Let's rename everything in Pakistan after people, just for laughs, if nothing else.

If not me for me, do it for Pakistan (if we are still calling our country that). We could potentially save our economy by annually allowing the highest bidder to have their name as the name of the country for a year.

For coming up with this brilliant idea, I think it is only fitting that for the first year, Pakistan should be named after me.

Of lions and sheep: The problem with PML-N’s narrative

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1151220/of-lions-and-sheep-the-problem-with-pml-ns-narrative

The protesters have been labelled enemies of the state. The protestors have been labelled as foreign conspirators.The protestors have been labelled terrorists. At least the government is consistent in its policy of negotiating with terrorists.

The lack of a clear narrative only complexes the possibility of a diplomatic process. Is Imran Khan wanted for inciting violence by the police or is he wanted back in Parliament by the government?

Sheikh Rasheed is criticised for hate speech and Imran Khan is criticised for using language unbecoming of a popular leader, yet the ministers from the government engage in similar behaviour.

I believe the problem is twofold; an ever changing party policy that is not clarified to all its representatives and the personal egos of party representatives appearing on television.

Also read: Will it ever end?

On one channel, a government representative paints the government as the sitting duck, helpless in the face of violent mobs; being stalked and preyed by the wild wolf of D-chowk.

On another channel, a government representative stays true to their party's election symbol and roars threats of violence and arrests to all representatives of the PTI.

For the love of God, decide what the protestors are. Terrorists or mummy-daddy weaklings?

With all the recent acts of violence, the cat is firmly out of the bag. The Hyde to the government's Jekyll tends to shows its ugly self far too often for anyone's liking.

You cannot continue to play the victim after throwing the full resources of the state in your favour. Chaudhry Nisar releases a statement promising the protestors will be met with the full force of the writ of the state.

An hour later, Pervaiz Rasheed holds a press conference claiming helplessness in the face of the violet mobs of protestors.

An hour later, Saad Rafique vows to respond to Imran Khan by 'stooping down to his level'.

An hour later, news breaks of Ishaq Dar welcoming PTI for negotiations.

Where is the consistency?

Read through: Bad faith negotiations?

You cannot play both the lion and the sheep. If the government's policy is to be against street protests, they should prevent Rana Sanaullah from appearing on television and challenging opponents to a street fight.

Every time the government is able to win over supporters by painting PTI as the antagonist of this story, they get their buttons pushed by a PTI leader and completely lose the plot.

Nothing strengthens the PTI's movement more than the constant illusion of chaos, which the government's dodgy narrative only adds to further. When you, being the government, say that nobody knows what is going on, maybe you shouldn't be in the government. Right?

However, is the PML-N think tank really so thick-skulled that they cannot even fake a sense of calm?

Instead of restricting the supporters of the PTI to a limited procession or movement, the PML-N support in Faisalabad played right into their hands by engaging in a fist fight; and so, the tiger vs the lion catfight continues.

The PTI, meanwhile, has realised that there is more than one way to skin a cat; they have dragged the government out of their burrows and into the battlefield.

See: Activist’s death helps PTI enforce shutdown

This is no longer the case of an opposition party causing the government agitation; this is now a clash of egos between the PTI and the PML-N — in fact, it has been like that for quite some time now.

The PTI has accepted that they are only doing this to bring the government to the negotiation table. What more can they do short of admitting defeat?

In their attempts in trying to shame the PTI leaders, the PML-N might end up losing everything. Instead of offering them an olive branch, the government is basking in the possibilities of further insulting Imran Khan and his party members. Had they stuck to their guns — the metaphoric ones — this impasse would have long been behind them

I do not know what the PTI's plan D is, but if the government's plan is to keep feigning chaos and disillusionment, things could still spiral out of control for them.

Nawaz Sharif had publicly asked for a judicial commission and the government had shown a willingness to negotiate and relative flexibility. Their PR narrative so far painted them as the sheep, the victims.

Why the aloof attitudes now?

Look through: Poll reform process

The moment they felt safe, the lions emerged out of the sheep’s clothing. It may have been heralded as a moment of victory for their loyalists but for the neutrals, it exposed the shallowness of the government’s narrative and strengthened Imran’s position.

The only reason Imran has been able to keep the momentum is because the government keeps adding fuel to the fire.

And the problem with the PML-N is, they do not want a revolt but they do not want to stop being the lions either. If only they could stop falling prey to their own egos and not resort to violence to ‘teach them a lesson’, they may be able to still win some sympathy.

By now, everyone knows the hand Imran has and continues to overplay.

By now, everyone has seen the claws PML-N has, too.

But if they keep resorting to violence, we will be moving into uncharted territory. And, the lion isn't king there.

#PeshawarAttack: 10 ways we should not have reacted

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1152476/peshawarattack-10-ways-we-should-not-have-reacted

The standing of a nation is determined by how they react to a tragedy. All nations face tragedies. Pakistan faces them more often than most, but the events of Tuesday shook even this hardened nation.

For a time, it seemed, the tragedy will unite the people. Everyone was in a state of mourning.

However, our reactions after the immediate mourning have ranged from slightly off bad to downright horrible. Every time I log into any social media platform, I am shocked by what I read.

1. Justifying/rationalising the attacks

 

Let’s get one thing straight: there is no religion in the world that would call for a savagery like the Peshawar attack. It is bad enough that you are so shorn of humanity that you will find the Peshawar massacre justifiable, but it’s made even worse by finding its justification in religion.

Explore: 20 questions we should be asking after the Peshawar massacre

The historical context also does not justify the attacks. Children have died in drone strikes and military operations but that does not make walking into a school and shooting young children any less indefensible. It is not less unjustifiable because they were army kids, it is also not worse because they were army kids; they were kids, period.

If that does not make your heart break, get medical (read mental) help.

2. Bomb their villages/Kill their families

 

It is our humaneness which makes us better than them. If we lose that, we are simply giving in to what they want.

The need for vengeance is understandable. The attack left the entire nation fuming with rage, but we should not burn ourselves in that fire. It makes sense to demand that members of militant organisations and adherents of militant ideology are hunted down and killed or captured, but this does not call for activities risking the lives of innocent people. There is always collateral damage in war, but taking the collateral for granted will make the war pointless.

We have to be better than them, always remember that.

3. Hang them in the streets

 

I am torn on the issue of death penalty. I am not completely against the idea since Pakistan has a history of militants breaking out of jails, and these criminals should suffer for their crimes against humanity, but it is something that needs to be done, not something we should enjoy doing.

Also read: Are we any different from the terrorists?

There is no reason to make a public spectacle of it and then share pictures all over social media. Using dead bodies to make a public statement is a very dangerous precedent to say the least.

4. Nuke India

 

Most of Pakistan appreciated the support and sympathy extended by India to Pakistan in the wake of the tragedy. Many Bollywood superstars came out with condolences and condemnations. Anupam Kher even penned an open letter. #IndiaWithPakistan was trending on Twitter. It was heartening to see the people of the two countries set aside their differences to come together for humanity.

However, some segments of the media fuelled the anti-India narrative in Pakistan. They didn't lose a second in blaming RAW for the attack, despite the fact that TTP had already accepted it. The ensuing situation led to many anti-India comments on social media, the worst of which was the suggestion of a nuclear war.

Often, both India and Pakistan are seen mentioning the nuclear option with frightening casualness. The governments and the media on both sides of the border should take a lot more caution; we will not only lose our children but also our unborn children if, god forbid, nukes ever come into play.

5. XYZ did it

 

Conspiracy theories rang on. Despite the TTP accepting responsibility for the attack, all kinds of theories were prevalent, ranging from Imran Khan orchestrating the attack to find a face-saving way to end the dharna to Nawaz Sharif being the mastermind of the attack to get Imran Khan to end his dharna.

Could we not have forgotten about the dharnas for a few days, at least?

Take a look: Our denial killed children in Peshawar

One popular anchor even put a clearly photoshopped picture on his Facebook account linking one of the dead terrorists to Malala. When Malala was shot, a lot of people claimed Taliaban could not do it since she was a school-going child. The Peshawar massacre should have brought these people to their senses, but surprisingly, some people became even more vehemently anti-Malala after the tragedy.

6. Kill the liberal dogs/Kill the mullahs

 

As the divides between the camps kept growing every day, the unified front put up by the country was soon in tatters. Many used the #AskGHQ trend on Twitter to viciously attack liberals; blaming liberals for causing the attacks because of their “anti-army” sentiments.

I personally see no problem in asking for accountability, but people asking for every mosque to be shut down in Pakistan and every mullah to be hanged are too far removed from the ground reality. The extreme opinions on both sides of the divide simply make the chasm bigger. It has come to a point where death threats are being thrown around casually for anyone’s liking on Twitter.

Look through: 5 awful responses to Sana Mirza’s harassment at the PTI rally

Then there are people criticising the holding of vigils for being un-Islamic. It only hurts the feelings of those who are taking some semblance of comfort in these shows of solidarity. These vigils bring prayers and compassion with them. Our religion is a religion of compassion. Lets all learn to show some for each other.

7. Impose military coup

 

One of the oldest and quite venerable television anchors has appeared on television multiple times claiming that martial law has been imposed in the country, all but in name.

While it is true that the nation is in a state of emergency, and many of the decisions being taken without the legal process taking its due course, it isn't like the civilian government has lost all authority.

To use the tragedy to further your political beliefs, or to call for a change of regime or spread false chaos is utterly unacceptable. This is the time for the nation to stand united under the leadership despite having disagreements with them. You can question their decisions and call for accountability or transparency, but to call for an overthrow of the government at this time is treasonous.

8. Sharing all the images

 

Despite all the pleas, including by psychiatrists, to not share the images of dead bodies; warning people of the potential psychological damage, especially to children who see them; the images continue to be shared rampantly all over social media.

A mother told a story of how her little daughter told her she would not go to school anymore because she saw on TV that kids get beat up so much at school that they start bleeding. And that is so despite the fact that the poor soul did not even understand the extent of the tragedy.

This disrespect to the parents, family members and friends of the deceased children absolutely must stop. Next time you consider posting an image, take a moment to think, how would the parents feel, watching pictures of their dead child on Facebook?

9. Interviewing kids in the hospital

 

Taking cue from popular anchors, many citizens have started going to hospitals and the houses of the victims to interview them. These poor children are forced to relive the worst moments of their lives. Unless you are a qualified psychiatrist, there is a high risk that whatever you say to the child may make the trauma worse.

Explore: Anatomy of an apologist: A double-act play

The children are also being encouraged to take up militancy against the terrorists. While it is completely acceptable for these children to grow up wanting to join the police or army, using these interviews to encourage militancy may make some of the people watching them take up the law in their own hands.

The last thing Pakistan wants is more militants.

10. What if it was your child?

 

It may seem like a completely innocuous thing to say, but it is tangibly offensive to the victims and their mourners.

What are you telling them, that one needs it to be their child to have empathy? That we must feel sadder because the kid was from a certain country, certain religion or certain ethnicity is against the idea of humanity. The world has been unanimous in their support and sympathy; we should do the same the next time there is a tragedy anywhere in the world.

Implying that someone would not feel the pain unless they imagined the victim to be their child is wrong and goes against the humanistic ideals we should be promoting in Pakistan. You should not have to imagine it a certain way; you should learn to feel for everyone’s children.

Think about what you are saying the next time you share your opinion publicly. Sometimes even the best of intentions go astray with a few bad choices of words. We are all in this together; we cannot lose our humanity in the face of the worst tragedy we have faced. It is the pain that makes us human, not the anger.

Do away with liberals (Satire)

Originally appeared here:
http://www.dawn.com/news/1153293/do-away-with-the-liberals

I've had it with them. Enough is enough. This group of people has been corroding the very fabric of our society; they have already caused us enough damage and if we do not act against them now, they will use their ideological extremism to attack every facet of our lives.

You know who I am talking about: the liberals!

The liberals, with their Ivy-league degrees and their lofty ideas borrowed from philosophers whose names we cannot even pronounce. I mean, what the hell kind of a name is Nietzsche? Such pretentiousness.

Then you have the Marxists.

I am surprised how their tailors even find the amount of red cloth required to make all those flags. One would think a bunch of people calling for equality would make flags using some other colour for a change.

Speaking of flags, my poor mother spent an entire day in Toronto waving a rainbow-coloured flag thinking she was supporting a post-apartheid South Africa.

She even asked me, “Why does the pride parade logo look exactly like the old Hum TV logo?”

I stayed mum. What could I say? I couldn't bear to shatter her conservative utopia and reveal who the humsafar was in this case.

Also read: Being queer was not always a crime in Pakistan

My mother's was a simpler time. Her generation did not have this fad of liberalism. Everyone accepted that they had no rights, and as a result, they all led fairly happy lives.

They did not have the peer pressure forcing them to protest for freedom; they were 'free' from this social obligation. Instead of asking for their rights, they could just exercise them. Get the genius here?

But I have to say, what is the point of exercising your freedom of expression if you are not going to get any likes on it?

Did the older generation even have the common courtesy to acknowledge they had borrowed somebody else's ideas before repeating them? I never heard my grandparents go “Retweet @…” before saying their stuff out loud.

They were constrained by technology; they must have had to wait weeks to get pictures of their food developed to show to people. You had to rely on the Kodak photo studios to apply the right Instagram filter on your pictures.

But by and large, they were good days, I have to say, because all this technology now has given these liberals too much control over our country.

They have no respect for anyone or anything, not even our flag — they wear it as a t-shirt. If flags were meant to be worn as clothes, don’t you think Gandhi would have done so? The only reason he could not convince Kashmir to be a part of India was he found out how cold it was up there. Gandhi walked up to the border and simply walked back shaking his head saying: “Nope. Nope. Nope.”

Take a look: Stop this gender discrimination…against men!

These liberals want Pakistan to act like a modern democracy. They keep quoting laws from England. If we wanted to be ruled by the British, we would have never let them go in the first place. We made a country because we didn’t like their laws, and their rules, and their commissions.

We liked their railway, and cricket, so we kept those, but we don’t want them to come back. Do you see us shouting “Simon come back, sorry about 1919?” No, you don't.

Man, I do miss the days when PTV was the only channel on TV. It had zero liberals in it. Now, all the private channels are flooded with them. They're everywhere, perverting the minds of the children of our country, shouting out CIA's unjust torture techniques and what not.

I do not want to know what the CIA does wrong, I want to know the same things I wanted to know back when I was a kid: who came to Neelam Ghar wearing mismatched socks and will end up going home with a water cooler.

See: When will our news channels learn to cover tragedy?

Life was so simple. The liberals confined themselves to getting together at tea houses, reading poetry and hugging books written by Sadat Hasan Manto. None of them were on night time television shows. I am sure none of them even know how to drive a tractor or the fact that it has four wheels.

These liberals have moved television away from comfortable, quality programming. Now we have shows which actually question the state’s policy.

I mean, dude, the only reason I vote is so that the state is somebody else’s worry. Why would you take that away from me?

As long as I have my highways and my metro bus, I don’t care what hotel Nawaz Sharif stays in New York.

Now, suddenly these 20-somethings feel like they can tell people how to act. I ask them, where were you during Partition? Where were you during 1965? Where were you during 1971?

I know the excuse, “Oh we weren’t born then”— typical liberal behavior. If the wars Pakistan fought were Facebook events, they would all have been there.

They are so hypocritical, I ask them this: If they want freedom, why are they living in Pakistan?

It has come to a point where everyone must decide what side of the line they are on, the liberal side or the Pakistani one. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that all liberals in Pakistan were created on a factory on Mars in a joint venture by America, India and all the Jews of the world.

I for one, am proud to say I am a Pakistani, I don’t care much for liberalism. It is a philosophy based on the idea of liberty, and boy do I hate going to liberty. I hate standing outside for hours and hours waiting for my mother to complete her shopping.

Pakistan needs to 'create a scene' around sexual harassment

Originally appeared here:
http://thediplomat.com/2014/11/pakistan-needs-to-create-a-scene-on-sexual-harassment/

The issue of sexual harassment is not local to any one region, country or place. Similarly, it is not exclusive to any single gender, class, or religion. Last month, we heard the story of a woman in Columbia University in New York carrying a mattress everywhere with her on campus to protest alleged rape. Last summer, James Madison University’s decision to offer a light punishment to perpetrators of sexual assault received worldwide censure. Last week, a video of a woman in New York receiving hundreds of cat calls over a ten hour walk around the city went viral.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from the United States, Pakistan’s Federal Ombudsman directed the leading university in the country, the Lahore University of Management and Sciences (LUMS), to remove Abid Hussain Imam, a professor in the law department, after he was proven guilty of sexually harassing a student. This case highlights the notion that in Pakistan, university administrators and staff are not simply indifferent to sexual harassment on campus; they are often the perpetrators.

In a similar case last November, students of Punjab University protested against the vice chancellor of the university for supporting a teacher accused of sexual harassment. Additionally, over the summer, a story broke out of an assistant professor allegedly trying to molest a student in Quad-e-Azam University. These cases did not receive much public attention, and the news stories were forgotten quickly.

The stakes are higher this time. Abid Hussain Imam, the accused in the LUMS sexual harassment case, is an Ivy League graduate and LUMS is regarded as the most prestigious university in the country. Having personally been a part of the Law Department at LUMS and having served on the University Student Council and the Law Student Council, the news of sexual harassment on campus was not surprising at all. The university administration has had a surprisingly cavalier attitude about sexual harassment on campus. The students less so — this case led to a widespread online petition asking for the removal of the LUMS vice chancellor for tolerating sexual harassment on campus.

Numerous students on campus have suffered sexual harassment. The challenge in convicting the perpetrators is the reluctance of the aggrieved party to pursue legal action. They find the social stigma that comes with the public attention too much. As a result, they choose to suffer in silence, rather than be blamed for inciting the harassment. They refrain from creating a scene.

However, the decision of the survivor in this case to pursue a case with the Federal Ombudsman, despite being threatened by the university not to, could prove to be a watershed moment for Pakistan. The high profile nature of the case — partly due to the prestige of LUMS and the elite status of the professor — has sparked a larger conversation around the subject in the country.

Before this case, sexual harassment was a topic people were hesitant to discuss. Women in Pakistan were largely socialized into a gendered order forcing them to suffer in silence; women accepted that being sexually harassed is a part of life in Pakistan.

After the case, however, a movement titled “Create A Scene” has started on social media, encouraging the sufferers of sexual harassment to not suffer in silence. The tag #ISaidNothing is generating a lot of buzz. The Facebook page of the movement has now shared numerous stories by women who kept silent about incidents of sexual assault for years. They thought it was better to suffer in silence than to create a scene. They thought creating a scene would bring disrepute to them and their families. The accused — instructors, family members, even religious clergymen — continued to live respectfully in society, while many of the sufferers internalized the victim shaming and lived in self-loathing.

In a country gripped by terrorism, sectarian violence and civil strife, the topic of sexual harassment has been a distant concern for many. The case at LUMS has allowed people to speak more freely about the subject. The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging that there is a problem. The stories of brave women having the courage to share their stories publicly have made the nation realize that, yes, there is a problem.

Blaming survivors for what they wear, where they choose to be, or for inciting sexual harassment is unacceptable. After the news of sexual harassment came out, LUMS was even attacked by conservatives for its liberal policies, some even going to the extent of questioning whether the university should have separate classrooms for boys and girls. One comment on the news read, “A Lion and a goat cannot drink from the same water.” Maybe, during the times of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization or its immediate aftermath, this comment would have reflected the popular sentiment in Pakistan, but in Pakistan today, the tides are changing. A series of commenters criticized this individual for the use of this metaphor for sexual assaults.

The people of Pakistan are learning to have a conversation about sexual harassment. In a country with no sex education in schools and almost no public seminars on the topic of sexual harassment, the road to ridding society of this plague is not easy. However, slowly and surely, the stage is being set for Pakistan to “create a scene.”

If Ghalib was alive in 2014 in Pakistan

Originally appeared here:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25555/if-ghalib-was-alive-in-2014/

We curse him while trying to cram verses from Deewan-e-Ghalib into our heads for our Urdu literature exams. We study him because we have been told to but if – by some miraculous, unfortunate realignment of the stars – Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, or Ghalib, was alive in 2014 rather than the 19th century, I am sure he would have been found hiding under the deck of a boat trying to escape to Australia.

The first charge levied against him would have been of being an Indian agent; he was born in Agra after all. Anchors would appear on television with proof of how RAW infiltrated his young mind as a child to use him as a weapon against Pakistan. Historical evidence would be used against him, if he is in favour of the creation of Pakistan, why did he not fight in the war of independence in 1857, instead choosing to stay at his home in Delhi writing in his diary like a pansy?

Ghalib described the mutineers of 1857 as ‘traitors’, ‘filthy vagabonds’, ‘pitiless murderers’ and ‘black-faced thieves’ in Dastambu. The recording of him saying these words would definitely be played over and over again, especially on a show claiming to provide the bitter truth. How dare Ghalib say anything against the brave soldiers fighting for the freedom of this country? Surely, he must be arrested and tried under high treason. At the very least the channel that Ghalib works for should be banned for a couple of weeks.

His lavish praise of the British is surely a sign that Ghalib par dollars lagay huay hai (Ghalib has been bribed with dollars). He is nothing more than a liberal fascist trying to corrupt the pure people of Pakistan by importing western ideas.

He even wrote a qasida (laudatory poem) in praise of Queen Victoria, going against all the cultural values of Pakistan, which forbids men from flirting so openly, that too with a woman as old as Queen Victoria! Social media would be filled with comments like,

“Ghalib is no better than a glorified friend shipper.”

He would be criticised for sending all these poetic verses to girls at odd hours. Screenshots of Ghalib’s texts saying “Ishq ne ‘Ghalib’, nikamma kar diya, warna hum bhi aadmi thy, kaam kay” (love has made you useless, Ghalib, otherwise you too were a worthwhile man) would be posted by girls on their newsfeed, ridiculing poor Ghalib.

If he escapes the public persecution that comes from all this, he would then be characterised as an agent of Iran sent to Pakistan to separate Balochistan. He wrote in Persian also, after all, so there can be no other reason that a man must know Persian other than the fact that he was sent by RAW to Iran to train to fight for the Balochistan Liberation Army.

By some miracle, if Ghalib retains any sanity after these ordeals and manages to write anything, I cannot even imagine the amount of blasphemy cases that would be filed against him for his poetry.

If Ghalib had published, Humko maaloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat lekin, dil ke khush rakhne ko, Ghalib yeh khayaal achcha hai (we know the reality of heaven but, this thought is good to soothe the heart Ghalib) or Aah ko chaiye ek umar asar hotay tak, kaun jitna hai tirii zulf kay sar hotay tak in Pakistan in 2014, he would be forced to flee to London and knock on Junaid Jamshed’s door to live in exile with him.

If Ghalib had the audacity to suggest to the Pakistani population that he wished to consume alcohol in a mosque, the only question would be the amount of effigies of his that would be burnt by protestors all over Pakistan. A popular self-proclaimed defence analyst claiming to provide the brass tacks would surely denounce Ghalib by quoting his favourite poem.

Iqbal nay kya khoob jawab diya hai iss RAW kay agent ko, ke tu kafir hai, teray dil mai Khuda nahee, Insha’Allah teen din mai Delhi mai Radio Pakistan goonjay ga”.

(How well has Iqbal answered this RAW agent that he is an infidel; he doesn’t have God in his heart. By the will of Allah (SWT), Radio Pakistan would resonate in Delhi in three days).

All Islamic organisations would publically condemn Ghalib; his condemnation of the Mughals and the Ai’n-e-Akbari (Constitution of Akbar) would be exhibited as evidence of how Ghalib is against the establishment of an Islamic empire.

They might even alleviate some of his worries. Ghalib expressed,

Imaan mujhay rokay hai, jo khinche hai mujhay kufr,

Ka’aba meray pheechay hai kaleesa meray aagay

(My faith prohibits but infidelity attracts me,

Ka’aba is behind me while a church is ahead)

His confusion would be non-existent in Pakistan; mobs would simply burn the kalissa and place mosques on all sides of Ghalib.

His only solace is that he may find some support in a popular political party. Being originally from India and Urdu-speaking, Ghalib could do well as a leader in Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) under the patronage of a fellow poet, in the shape of Altaf Hussain. Mirza Ghalib could also have been a ghost writer for Altaf Hussain’s book Falsafa-e-Mohabbat. If he wants to continue to live in Karachi, he would be forced to admit Altaf Hussain as being the better poet though.

If all else fails, Mirza Ghalib could resort to making a livelihood in Karachi by stealing cell-phones.

Instead Mirza Ghalib has been dead 145 years, lying peacefully in Delhi safe in the knowledge that his own security guard would not shoot him and a mob would not attack his house.

It is a pity that we are forced to memorise Ghalib’s verses with teachers insisting on telling students what exactly the author meant without inculcating the method of critical thinking and scepticism in Ghalib’s work. If anything, Ghalib’s message is more pertinent than ever in 2014, where the nation is finally beginning to question the absolute authority of the religious cleric.

We often talk about how the nation has failed Quaid-e-Azam; I cannot think of many of our national heroes that we have not failed. If Ghalib was alive in Pakistan in 2014, I wonder how long he would have stayed alive for.

Bas-ki dushvaar hai har kaam ka asaan hona,

Aadmi ko bhi mayassar nahee insaan hona

(Enough for it is difficult to have anything easy

It’s impossible for a man to even act like human)

Happy Birthday Mirza Ghalib!

You are truly alive in our hearts and minds, but thank God you are not physically alive today.

Correction: An earlier version of this post translated the word Kaleesa incorrectly. The error is regretted and has been rectified.

Best of Pakistani Politics 2014

Originally appeared here:

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25592/best-of-pakistani-politics-2014/

It’s December, which means it is awards season. It has been a roller coaster year filled with action, romance, suspense and adventure. The Academy of Pakistani Politics has had a particularly tough time shortlisting the nominations this year.

However, after much thought, we are finally ready to declare the following winners:

 

Murad Saeed for Fight Club

Also, Arsalan Iftikhar for Father of the Pride.

 

 

Sheikh Rasheed.

Sheikh Rasheed:

Jab doodh ghar araha ho toh award lenay kee kya zaroorat hai?”

Photo: File

 

Gulu Butt for Terminator: Model Town

Gulu Butt:

Hor hor dabang dabang… I mean I apologise to the glass I broke.”

Photo: File

 

(Nominations)

Aitzaz Ahsan for:

“Take me to court; I’ll take you to the cleaners.”

And:

Chaudhry Nisar, kaisa diya?”

 

 

DJ Butt for Ho Jamalo Go Nawaz Go

DJ Butt:

“Once a butt, always a butt.”

Photo: File

And now for the big ones, with their nominations!

 

(Nominations)

Muhammad Afzal Khan for 28 Weeks Later

Raheel Sharif for Ender’s Game: August 28th

Hamid Mir for Bullets over Sharhah-e-Faisal

Mamnoon Hussain for I am not there: a biopic

Najam Sethi for Jurassic Parrot

 

Winner:

Raheel Sharif for Ender’s Game: August 28th

Raheel Sharif:

“Just Because.”

Photo: File

 

(Nominations)

Ataullah Essakhelvi for Naya Pakistan

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for Saaf Chalee Shafaf Chalee

Altaf Hussain for Bambino Bambino

Shahbaz Sharif for Dastoor

Tahirul Qadri for Go Nawaz Go

Winner:

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for Saaf Chalee Shafaf Chalee tum say apna ye wada hai.

Rahat:

“God willing I will sing the song for the PPP too next year.”

Altaf Hussain:

“Iskee bohri tayar karo.” (Prepare his body bag)

 

 

(Nominations)

Tahirul Qadri for Dharna Hum Le Jaye Ge

Pervez Musharraf for Shawshank Redemption: Chak Shehzad

Asif Ali Zardari for The Godfather: You Don’t Go Against Democracy

Shahbaz Sharif for Lagay Raho Baray Bhai

Qaim Ali Shah for Hunger Games: Thar

 

Winner:

Asif Ali Zardari for The Godfather

Asif Ali Zardari:

“Next year Bilawal will win everything! I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Photo: File

 

(Nominations)

Home Alone: Bilawal House Edition

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Sher, the Teer and the Balla

James Bond 007: The World Cup is not enough

Green, White and Orange is the New Black

From China with Love

Winner:

Raheel Sharif.

Raheel Sharif:

“Just because.”

 

(Nominations)

Sharmila Farooqi for X-men: Days of Future Past

Maryam Nawaz Sharif for Youth in Revolt

Naz Baloch for Legally Blonde: Hair Colour Counts

Hina Rabbani Khar for Gone Girl

Asma Jahangir for Angry Birds

 

Winner:

Sharmila Farooqi.

Sharmila Farooqi:

“I do not look like Kareena Kapoor.”

 

(Nominations)

1.       Imran Khan for Titanic: Hashmi come back

2.       Imran Khan for Kuch Kuch Dhandlee Hai

3.       Imran Khan for Billwale Civil Disobedience Karjayein Ge

4.       Imran Khan for 12 months a dharna

5.       Imran Khan for The Wolf of D-Chowk

Photo: File

Winner:

Javed Hashmi for Gharwali Baharwali

Javed Hashmi,

“I got this award from the people and I would like to return it to them. “

Imran Khan:

“#Dhandlee

Photo: File

The Academy refuses any inquiry into its completely fair and impartial process of selecting the winners in every category.

180 million hearts broken... again.

Originally appeared here:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25341/180-million-hearts-broken-again/

Jallianwala. Dhaka. Quetta. North Waziristan. Peshawar. Places change but stories remain the same. That doesn’t make the heartbreak any more bearable. The unanswerable ‘why’ still looms over our heads.

Why this?

Why now?

Why us?

Today’s massacre in Peshawar reverberates throughout the country. I cannot even fathom what the parents of the children are going through but I write to tell them they are not alone, it is the least I can do.

It is the least I can do to at least try to reach a level of catharsis which will make me feel capable of ever feeling again, which will make me feel a shred of humanity, any sense that this remains a world I want to continue living in. A world shared by death and the bringers of death.

Do these people not have children of their own?

Maybe they had them once.

The sight of a baby’s clothes charred black hurt just as much, no matter what country, creed or religion the baby belongs to. I am sorry we brought you into a world of such terror; you deserved better. Maybe God agreed, which is why He took you away from us so soon. You deserved better.

We are a country of martyrs, we create them and we become them; the cycle of violence never stops. We celebrate the dead, we celebrate the murderers. Our celebration of unbridled joy at the top of the Ferris wheel pushes it into motion; soon we find ourselves at the bottom watching others celebrate the same. We do not get off the Ferris wheel; we simply look to get back on top.

We are told that we stand at a sensitive junction – the crossroads of time yet we see nothing at the turn. There is more darkness beyond darkness. There is no sun outside our Platonian cave; are we destined to always merely see the shadows?

Generation after generation inheriting a war till the point that nobody even remembers why we are fighting; we are bound to remember but we are also bound to forget. Peshawar will be a mere statistic in the years to come in the growing lists of massacres in the country. The families will remain forever affected, the population will move on. Oblivious how hypocritical any cries of ‘bomb their families’ are.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz asked how many rains it will take to wash the stains of blood in 1971, 43 years later we are still looking to wash the stains with more blood. Wondering why they are not going away. Will we never see the patch of green promised to millions? This is not what Pakistan was meant to be. We decry the broken promises, the shattered dreams but we fail to ask who hijacked them? Whose wars have we been engaged in for over 60 years? Why are we still fighting them?

All questions lead to more whys we might never know. We will die and the next generation will ask the same questions. There will be another Zarb-e-Azb, there will be another Peshawar. 180 million hearts will break again. A population will cry out again,

“Why?”

All we are left to do is to shed more tears, lose more children – the innocent always suffer the most. Our gardens continue to turn barren yet we continue to scorch more land.

The sound of a mother’s cry is louder than a bomb. Will we be remembered by images of the empty cradles, the unworn shoes and the sounds of soothing lullaby heard by no one?

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind but where does a child for a child leave the world? How many children will die before we realise that too many have died?

To adapt a quote by Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemoller said during World War II,

“First they came for the Hindus, I was not a Hindu so I said nothing… then they came for the Bengalis, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Begali… then they came for the Ahmadis, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Ahmadi… then they came for the Hazaras, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Hazara… When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”

There are no words I have to express my sadness at what happened in Peshawar. I cannot even console myself let alone somebody else. All that comes to mind are words of Faiz Ahmad Faiz,

Aaj kay naam aur aaj kay gham kay naam,

Aaj kay naam kay hai zindagi ki bhaarien gulistan se khafa,

Zard patton ka ban

Zard patton ka ban jo mera desh hai

Dard ki anjuman jo mera desh hai

Un dukhi maon kay naam

(A toast for today and a toast for today’s grief,

A toast for today for the spring of life is displeased from its garden,

Yellow leaves in autumn,

Yellow leaves in autumn that is my nation,

Unbearable pain that is my nation

A toast to those sorrowful mothers)

Aunty Shadi Kara Day Gi (Satire)

Originally appeared here:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25234/aunty-shaadi-kara-day-gi/

I am turning 26 next month. I see how aunties look at me at weddings and mehndis. Even for a guy, I seem on the tail end of the perfect shaadi age bracket. No longer am I the choicest meat at the supermarket; I fall somewhere between that and expired meat, which is then sold at cheaper prices.

It seems ironic being compared to a piece of meat, the look in these aunties’ eyes gives me a window into feeling how girls feel going to Aashiana or Liberty market to buy the latest lawn print. Mehndis are no different than shopping malls for many aunties; the Hyperstar of people.

Looking around is window shopping, relatives serve as customer support helping them find out the necessary details. In lieu of any such relative, I believe people carry a device like the device that helped Ash Ketchum recognise Pokemon. One look at the dress enables them to recognise the designer, year of print release and price of the dress. And just like Pokemon, these people seem to be driven by a desire to Gotta catch ‘em all.

My mother has made new friends with random aunties calling at the house. I cannot get my burgers as customised as professional match makers are able to provide for potential matches. I thought my mom was ordering the new Ipad, when she asked for the “white, smart and sleek model”.

No country values intellect more than Pakistan. We use smart as an adjective to appreciate somebody’s looks. The top most demand is a doctor bahu (daughter-in-law). The five-year MBBS degree serving as a crash course to prepare you for anything else you may suffer from in life. If you can dissect a frog, you are welcome to marry our son.

My mother has collected a notebook of phone numbers with parents with eligible daughters. I am convinced there is a Facebook group somewhere passing around these lists. These calls seem to be the sole reason landlines still exist in Pakistan.

I wonder if there is a ‘Tinder’ like app for parents in Pakistan that lets them swipe left or right at other parents they like. The app would let them see the financial, religious and ethnic status of other parents. If both parents swipe right and like each other, only then are they allowed to exchange pictures of their children.

Come to think of it, Pakistani parents should sue Tinder. We have been making matches based solely on photographs for ages. If westerners think they have it awkward at first dates, we arrange the most extravagant first dates inviting all our families and friends; these first dates are called ‘weddings’.

There are also greater chances of these first dates leading to something in Pakistan. One minute you are enjoying a Hanif Rajput chicken biryani and the next you are cooking chicken biryani for you, your spouse and your two children.

I completely feel ill-equipped to go through this experience; it seems rather daunting. I do not even know how to ride a horse. If somebody hides my shoes, I have absolutely no qualms about walking in my socks. If you know they are going to get stolen, why not just go wearing a pair from Sunday bazaar?

I don’t photograph well, I hate ladoos and my shalwars keeping slipping off. I would make the worst dulha (groom) ever. I might just start performing if I am on the stage for too long. And nobody wants their daughter to get married to a comedian. No amount of claiming you were ‘kidding’ would save you, if you jokingly tell somebody you like men just to get out of the ordeal.

If you are to risk it, I would recommend doing it right before the final family picture. You know, the one meant to be framed by Jimmy’s and put up all over the house compelling all guests to compliment it.

I told my father about my difficulties at understanding all of this. He said we will talk about it later and instead took me to the bakra mandi (goat market) to buy a goat for Eidul Adha. He taught me how to check if the goat was pure bred or not. I soon realised any animals tracing their lineage to exotic foreign lands like Australian cows were valued way higher than the locals.

The teeth are the best way to find out about the age of a goat, which is why my dad insisted on the goats smiling for every single picture. The goats need to be a certain age for them to be the ideal sacrifice. The height, the weight and the colour of the goat, all have to be perfect. There are hundreds of goats in the market but you are looking for that one goat that would make suffering through the stench of the bakra mandi worthwhile.

Eventually, I had no say in the matter; my father selected a goat.

I have no idea why I had to endure through all of this. My father tied my hand around a string attached to the goat and we were handed a document signifying that the goat belonged to us. My father put it under my name. I was happy to give the goat my name.

As I sat there at the back of a truck lying next to a bakra staring into the starry night on that cold winter evening, the bakra snuggled next to me. All of a sudden I felt something. It is then that I realised what my father was trying to teach me. All I can say is: Well played, dad, well played. I now know why he insisted we buy a neutered goat instead of an unneutered one.

Does Pakistan's media encourage sexism?

Originally appeared here:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25145/does-pakistans-media-encourage-sexism/

The recent controversy surrounding Junaid Jamshed has dominated social media over the weekend. The matter is between him and God; I am in no position to comment on the apology or the blasphemy issue at all. Maybe this incident will open a conversation about the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. However, I am surprised at the lack of a conversation around the casual sexist remarks passed by public personalities in the media in Pakistan.

Junaid Jamshed has previously suggested that men should not teach their wives how to drive. In response to the recent controversy, Aamir Liaquat responded in kind with comments about Junaid Jamshed’s mother. We live in a country where the most common abusive words involve a person’s mother and sister.

There are numerous instances of casual sexism in our media that we largely ignore, or accept. Shahid Afridi might as well have said that women belong in the kitchen when he was asked about the girls’ cricket trials in Peshawar. Our most famous stage show, Baqra Kistoon Par, opens with a joke about Umar Sharif tying the woman to the house instead of the cow. Shaikh Rasheed repeatedly ridicules Bilawal Bhutto for being feminine. Rana Sanaullah appeared on television defending the son of a MNA, accused of rape, by putting the blame on the girl for willingly being in a room with the man.

 

 

 

When Jasmeen Manzoor tweeted about being in a meeting with Zardari, Abid Sher Ali responded with a

“Are u alone :-)”

@FarhanKVirk

As public personalities, these people have the ability to influence opinions across the country. With our independent media still in its nascent stage, it is still to devise a code of ethics to govern itself by. People appearing on the media are unaware of the massive responsibility that comes from millions of people having access to your opinion.

We lack a media watchdog organisation that would hold the people failing to act in a responsible manner accountable for their words. Some people highlight certain instances on social media but the controversy boils over. None of the people involved are labelled misogynistic and none of these people have been made to apologise for their statements.

A lot of people brush the issue of sexism off by claiming there are more pertinent issues in Pakistan such as terrorism. However, they do not realise the snowball effect these statements could have. Our acceptance to sexism eventually leads to violence against women in Pakistan. There are close to a thousand reported honour killings in Pakistan ever year. To equate being feminine to being weak relegates women to an inferior place in society.

Is the marginalisation of half of our population not a serious enough issue?

It would be hard to blame it on any specific instance but these statements simply perpetuate the gender hegemony present in our society rather than educating people about the issue. Shahid Afridi is a hero to most Pakistanis, I wonder how a girl in Peshawar must feel knowing he does not approve of her playing cricket. It might even influence parents not to send their daughters to the trials. Even in instances without any physical violence, the price of the damaged dreams of a generation is surely too high.

The point is not to vilify individuals but public pressure in making people apologise for passing casual remarks on television or official sanctions might preclude other people from making similar statements. Right now, people are allowed to make statements on mass media platforms with complete impunity. There are no general hate speech laws in Pakistan, which is also partially why there is so much frivolous litigation abusing the blasphemy law.

The WEF’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Report rated Pakistan as the second worst country in the world, behind only Yemen. It may not be because our T20 captain is against cricket trials for girls, or a leading religious cleric feels women should not drive, or politicians and comedians persistently ridicule women but I am sure it didn’t help.

Even when the message is not so clear, these people should be cognizant of the different connotations of their statements before making them. Applying the law of torts neighbour principle for negligence, they must take reasonable care to avoid acts of omissions that could reasonably be foreseen to injure one’s neighbour. Anybody who has the ability to watch or read your statement is your neighbour in this scenario. At worst, you are culpable of being sexist and at best, you have been negligent and if your negligence leads to physical violence or emotional trauma, part of the responsibility for that lies with you.

Calm Down - There is no revolution coming

Originally appeared here:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25115/calm-down-pakistan-there-is-no-revolution-coming/

Imran Khan has repeatedly insisted that the revolution he is advocating will be peaceful. Maybe, that is why it has not materialised as a revolution. Peaceful revolution is an oxymoron; a contradiction unto itself.

Hans Kelsen theorises in The Pure Theory of Law that societies are built around a Grundnorm, a basic norm, that all of the society’s customs derive out of. A revolution simply changes this Grundnorm. The French Revolution replaced the absolute rule of the monarchy with democratic ideas of citizenship. The Iranian Revolution replaced monarchy with an Islamic republic. The Cuban revolution replaced a dictator with a communist regime. The Bolshevik revolution in Russia led to the creation of the Soviet Union. None of these revolutions were peaceful.

All the countries that we now look towards as being civilised and orderly have reached the equilibrium they find themselves in after years of infighting and violence. America was created after going to war with the British. A century later, the country nearly tore itself apart with a bloody civil war and another century later, the country went through a mass uprising and unrest with the civil rights movement.

Last week, streets all over America were shut down by people protesting against systematic racism in the country. The protests were sparked by two separate incidents. The first was the decision of a grand jury not to send the case of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager to court. The second was the decision of a grand jury in New York not to send the case of a white police officer choking an unarmed black man to death in Staten Island to trial.

The locations for people to gather were announced online. The hashtag #ShutItDown started trending, and people did the rest. There was no politicisation of the affair; the leaders emerging from these protests are concerned citizens with no political aspirations or ulterior motives. Similar to the Arab Spring, the protestors have deliberately distanced themselves from any particular personality. Nobody is sure how these protests will play out. There are no plans A, B and C.

In Pakistan, Imran is not leading a revolution; arguably, he is the only thing standing between Pakistan and a revolution. Imran has provided an outlet within the system to allow people to blow off steam without revolting against the system. His movement is now serving as an exit valve in the system itself.

In Ancient Rome, on one of the days at the festival of Saturnalia, slaves were treated well and they were allowed to make fun of the aristocracy by putting up satire plays. The day allowed the slaves to release all their anger towards their masters. Shouting ‘GoNawazGo’ achieves the same purpose for many people in Pakistan.

Hope is the opium of the masses in Pakistan. In every new saviour they are promised better days. It is the promise that keeps them believing. It is the hope that precludes absolute anarchy. The illusion of chaos keeps actual chaos at bay. Newspapers are riddled with news about people committing suicide and/or killing their entire families because they could not afford to feed them. I wonder, what is stopping these people from doing the same to other people?

The mass movement against the status quo was not Imran’s initial intention when he set out for Islamabad. The emergence of the movement has left Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) leadership confused as well. Enamoured by the support, they overplayed their hand leaving them with no bargaining chips.

Despite all the talk of revolution, the incongruity in PTI’s position is that they want to work within the current system. Their problems are with the personalities in the system, not the system itself. They are not seeking a revolution at all, they just want a change of faces. Their ‘revolution’ has been reduced to a clash of personalities and egos. Nobody is even attempting to argue for a change in the Grundnorm itself.

What is the Grundnorm of Pakistan?

Now that is a Pandora’s Box one should stay clear of. Whatever ideas people had about it, they built a system around it. There is a constitution and a system of governance based on the trichotomy of powers of the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. PTI not only accepts the Grundnorm but also all that is built around it.

The idea of revolution, as tempting as it is, is being misattributed. This is no revolution. There is no such thing as a peaceful revolution. For every Mandela, there was the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). For every Gandhi, there was a Bhaghat Singh. For every Jinnah, there were Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali Jauhars.

Pakistan has never seen a revolution. For everyone advocating going back to the Pakistan of 1947, we are pretty much still in the Pakistan of 1947. Nobody wants a revolution, most people want a change that would suit them; both the politicians and the people. We want to keep the pyramid, just turn it on its head.

If the dharnas could cause a revolution, the real status quo of Pakistan would have never allowed them to happen.