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    The stage is all set for the battle of the General Elections 2018, with all major political parties eyeing the throne. Though we are more than a month away from the big day, the three leading parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are all hoping to make the government in the centre as well as in their respective provinces. Given the dynamic circumstances of our political arena, it is almost impossible to predict a winner at this stage. Nonetheless, looking at the present situation, one can try to assess whether the new elections will bring the winds of change that we hopefully expect, or whether our democracy will shock further with its unpredictability. PML-N is still the favourite A recent survey conducted by The Economist has suggested the election will be in PML-N’s favour, and predicted that PML-N will form the government in the centre and in Punjab. Even a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan suggested that PML-N remains the most popular party in the country, though Imran Khan’s PTI has caught up to second place. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Voting intention polls conducted for the National Assembly since 2013. Photo: Wikipedia[/caption] PPP remain the underdogs While the surveys are in PML-N’s favour, ground realities are changing every second, especially as certain forces work to ensure that PML-N does not return with the same fervour. Strangely, as everyone focuses on PTI’s chances, no one is discussing the dark horse – PPP – which is very much still in the race. The PPP won around 40 National Assembly (NA) seats in the General Elections of 2013, making it the second largest party in the parliament. Unlike the previous elections where PPP was not allowed to run an election campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), this time the party is freely campaigning, which can bring in a victory of around eight to 10 seats in K-P. Likewise, being instrumental in toppling the PML-N from the government of Balochistan, the PPP has the chance of securing some seats from Balochistan as well. Additionally, the void left by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi and Hyderabad is surely going to benefit PPP too, giving it the opportunity to grab an additional 10 to 12 seats. Big win likely in NA for the PPP Unlike the previous General Elections, the PPP has improved its relationship with the powers that be, which is why winning 60 to 65 NA seats does not seem unlikely. If it manages to win 65 seats, it will be in the driving seat to form a coalition government either with PTI and independents, or with PML-N and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The latter seems unlikely, for if the sources are to be believed, PML-N will not be sitting in a coalition government with the PPP. PTI’s chances are inflated Like always, PTI is sure it is going to sweep the elections, but once again, the reality on the ground is entirely different. In the previous elections, PTI was able to win a major chunk of seats from K-P. However, this victory was the result of the Taliban not allowing the Awami National Party (ANP) and PPP to campaign in K-P. As a result, PTI benefitted from the space left by the two major parties. This time both ANP and PPP are running a strong campaign, and given PTI’s performance and the incumbency factor working against it in K-P, it will be very hard for the party to even win 17 NA seats from K-P. If it somehow manages to win even 10 seats, that can be labelled a good show. Will electables change the game? In Punjab, dozens of electables have jumped ship from PML-N to PTI, especially from South Punjab, and this is where PTI can really benefit. In the last General Elections, PTI was able to win only five NA seats from Punjab, but now with big names like Nadeem Afzal Chan and Raza Hiraj in its league, PTI stands the chance to win around 30 to 35 NA seats from Punjab. In Sindh, however, other than Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s constituency, the chances are very dim for PTI. Even in Balochistan, winning two seats will be a miracle for PTI. So this leaves the total tally of the expected number of seats for PTI somewhere amid 45 to 50 in the NA. PTI’s anti PML-N narrative not strong enough Had Imran been able to focus on central and northern Punjab with the new narrative of highlighting the weak points of PML-N’s Punjab government, its chances of winning more seats would have been higher. However, Imran stuck to his old mantra of accusing Nawaz Sharif and holding the PML-N responsible for every ill the country is facing at the moment. His old narrative did not prove fruitful in attracting large numbers of electables from northern and central Punjab, neither has he been able to dent the PML-N’s vote bank through this narrative, if the by-elections are any indication. In fact, there is only a wave of increased sympathy in Punjab for the PML-N’s supposed victimisation. If given a level playing field, PML-N is most likely to return Coming back to the PML-N, with its strong grip over central and northern Punjab – still the strongest and most coveted region in the election – the party is all set to win at least 70 NA seats. The Lahore division, Gujranwala division, Sialkot division, Rawalpindi division and the Sargodha Division, are all still considered the PML-N’s forte. If the party can win around seven to eight seats from the Hazara belt and another five to six seats from Swat, Shangla and adjacent areas – the stronghold of Amir Muqam – it can eventually win around 90 seats in the NA easily. PML-N’s coalition government is the most probable outcome This number can give PML-N the status of the largest majority party in the parliament, but it is not sufficient to get a simple majority. This means the PML-N will bank heavily on Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s National Party. Additionally, the MMA’s revival, with an alliance between Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and other religious parties, will provide the trump card. Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F normally wins 12 to 15 NA seats from K-P and Balochistan, and with JI and other religious parties as allies, it can increase its tally to 20 seats. If we add the number of MMA, PkMAP and BNP’s seats with PML-N’s expected 90 seats, the PML-N will be in a position to make a coalition government in the centre as well as in Punjab, particularly with the help of independent candidates. PPP has a shot at the centre  If, however, the PML-N shows an average performance in Punjab and instead of winning 90 seats it manages to win only around 70 from Punjab and the rest of the country, then the equation will be completely different. It will then be a coalition government led by the PPP, MMA, ANP, and the independents. PTI’s chances still sketchy It seems that the game is poised between the PPP and the PML-N, though PTI’s eventual performance could cause an upset to this prediction. After all, a coalition government is deemed easy to control and dictate by the forces that be. The PTI can turn the tables if somehow voters from Punjab entirely turn against the PML-N, which seems very highly unlikely. The road to Islamabad goes through Punjab, and we all know whoever wins Punjab actually wins the centre as well. Whether we see a PML-N led coalition or one led by the PPP, or even miraculously one led by the PTI, the game will change depending on help from the independents from Punjab, the MMA and the ANP.


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    The misguided attempt by Reham Khan to sully Imran Khan’s reputation by way of her autobiographical tell-all book, has caused a sensation on both social and broadcast media. After all, an exposé by a woman scorned has a clear objective – to target and destroy the former husband. However, from whatever I have seen, heard and read so far, the message in the book consistently detracts from that narrative. It seems like a collaborative endeavour from a group of incompetent ghost – read ghastly – writers, given a project to lump together a disparate group of people and events and build a narrative that attempts to point a finger at the supposed misdeeds of many and puts the responsibility on one: Imran. Reham was not completely successful in her mission to destroy Imran’s character in the aftermath of the epic public spectacle her divorce became. With this book, she has only accomplished to cast a deep and troubling shadow on her own, by attacking many unrelated parties who end up becoming collateral damage in the war between two former spouses. Let’s spare a thought for the one real victim of this train-wreck – Wasim Akram’s former wife, who passed away in 2009 and is thus incapable of defending herself from the grave. I will not even dignify the nature of the allegations made by Reham in the book, but I will say shame on all those who played even the smallest role in this enterprise. Surely the question to be asked is: who hoped to benefit most from this macabre and twisted tale? Those convicted of graft, self-dealing, cronyism, nepotism and running the country into the ground for 30 years, who have failed to address the public scrutiny of their countless misadventures and performance while in public office. The book is possibly a Trojan horse to deflect attention from their failures and other core issues in the country. It seems no one is talking about the real challenges Pakistan is facing: health, education, jobs, safe drinking water, power outages; all of which are missing from election manifestos. This unholy mess of a book is not only crass, cringe worthy, malicious and toxic, but also a blunt instrument of distraction. Where Imran is concerned, there are no new earth-shattering revelations here; just the same old wine packaged in a new bottle. In fact, Reham will only succeed in causing some serious collateral damage and could herself implode into ignominy during the process. The affair is now a cheapened soap opera, as players from all sides keep pitching in with opinions no one asked for. From stage left appears Hamza Ali Abbasi, no stranger to controversy in his own right and a well-known Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) loyalist and unofficial mouthpiece, who speaks faster than he can perhaps process. Hamza needs to grow up and learn to serve his leader better than he has during this fiasco. Watching him on a recent talk show – the rhetoric, the emotion, the conjecture on display – made me cringe my way through the show, as I waited for someone to knock some sense, decency, decorum, sanity and even a little bit of fact into the mix. Hamza believes the book has only been written to distract and deflect from real issues during the election; the irony is lost on him that he has successfully managed to launch the book better than any PR expert could’ve dreamed of. Reham now has a platform from which the book launch can actually be something the public may eagerly devour. And what about the accusations and threats around the alleged hacking and sharing of Reham’s “fake” emails by Hamza? There is yet another lesson for Mr Abbasi here. Being a public figure himself, he should have known shaming Reham would be a double-edged sword. While attacking her book, he managed to get into the spotlight himself and shoot himself in the foot in the process. Although hacking or faking emails is not rocket science, both are illegal. On the flip side, Hamza may have received the manuscript legitimately. Reham had possibly already sent the manuscript through her Gmail account to some friendly journalists to build early buzz on the book. Any one of them could have passed it on to Hamza. So, here’s my take on what may have actually happened! The PTI had been expecting the book to drop sometime before the elections. They had Hamza proactively looking to get a manuscript to start discrediting it. The book probably landed into his inbox by hook or by crook – through a journalist friend or via a hack, either is a possibility. The shock value in the manuscript forced PTI’s hand to go public, without authenticating the manuscript and shedding caution to the wind. Tactically, they believed they could take the hits now, months before the election, and deal with it head on. Desperate times, desperate measures. On the hack question, Hamza’s defence is weak, as it does not seem to be out of the question. He then possibly doubled down by publishing allegedly fake emails from Reham – easy to do but hard to prove. Accusations have been made by both sides, but sadly, the ensuing Twitter spat was so undignified it actually bordered on inane. I can’t say who won, but it was a close tie in the banality stakes. However, are we all barking up the wrong tree? Hack or not, the fact is the manuscript has leaked and the question that arises is: will it damage Imran’s fourth and possibly final attempt to be elected premier of Pakistan? Imran came into politics with enough “playboy” baggage 20 years ago to sustain any meaningful impact from this book. The public accepted him for what he was then and who he is now. He has always remained mum about his alleged relationships, in matrimony or otherwise. He has remained particularly silent on his divorce from Reham, and has never publicly castigated her with accusations, slurs or blame for the split. This behaviour redeems Imran and his legacy to some extent, for no matter what Reham has thrown at him, now and in the past, he has chosen to remain silent and dignified. In reality though, the book may not be Imran’s biggest problem in the upcoming elections. His recent missteps, from welcoming Farooq Bandial into the PTI amongst many others like Aamir Liaquat, as well as putting more than one name forward for the interim chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), only to pivot and withdraw the names in quick succession, are potentially bigger threats to his election prospects than this exposé. Imran’s lieutenants have done a bigger disservice to him with haphazard and shoddy due diligence on candidates put forward for these critical appointments. Luckily for PTI, the quick reversals of the aforementioned blunders might have mitigated some of the damage. Imran needs a more disciplined kitchen cabinet and needs to be more hands-on in strategic decision-making. The voting public expects a lot more from him, especially as he’s selling himself as an agent for change. The rhetoric on the jalsa circuits alone is not enough to give the intelligent voter the confidence that steady hands will be running the ship while Pakistan finds itself in choppy waters and a perfect storm lies in wait. Should the book ever make it to the printing press, despite all the writs and threats of litigation, here’s a sobering message for those who choose to buy and read it for a cheap thrills – I’ll guarantee cheap, minus the thrills! A literary giant Reham is not, but what may fail her would not be the lack of a lucid narrative in her book, but the malicious intent with which she wrote it; one that could misfire spectacularly and not succeed in disrupting Imran’s political juggernaut, even though the book’s many stakeholders are hoping for the reverse. In the meantime, Imran may well be the last man standing on Election Day, but there is a woman scorned who may just succeed in bringing him down.


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    With elections around the corner, every party is looking to up the ante with rhetoric and political noise. It’s raining slogans and promises, not to mention accusations as well. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seems like the only party with any traction at the moment, and I am shockingly surprised to see PTI as the only party making waves as far as election campaigning is concerned. Taking the opportunity to see what they were promising this year, I went through their manifesto ­– being professionally involved in both editorials and political writing for quite some time, it was more curiosity than anything else. Before I write any further, I must of course confess that I am not a PTI supporter, so what you are about to read is as neutral as I can be. Generally speaking, the manifesto – the English version I went through at least – is well written. It is definitely a step ahead from what Imran Khan’s nemesis and former wife Reham Khan has written in her so-called memoirs, which were published online on July 10th.   Despite the well-written nature of the manifesto, it still needs an editorial hand to tweak it. There are grammatical and punctuation mistakes here and there, but no spelling mistakes. Whoever wrote this was definitely old school, as they dumped the modern use of the ‘ze’ spelling style for the older ‘se’ spellings. The writing work is short, to the point and crisp, but rife with sweeping generalities. Apart from the financial policies, whose detailed precision stands out, the remainder of the manifesto reeks of banality, something akin to offering a panacea for all of Pakistan’s ills, as politicians do on stage in rallies.

    Hum aap ko pani, bijli, gas daingay! (We’ll give you water, electricity and gas!) Lahore Paris ban jayega! (Lahore will become Paris!)
    You get the idea. The manifesto has seven chapters, the first being an introduction and the remaining six covering major policy areas, namely transforming governance, strengthening the federation, having inclusive economic growth, uplifting agriculture, building dams and conserving water, revolutionising social services and ensuring Pakistan’s national security. It’s good to see the chapters written as actionable items, rather than simply boring headings. A weird aspect of the manifesto was that it began not with a simple introduction, but a listing of the achievements of the PTI administration in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Anyone having a technical understanding of manifestoes knows the document is a statement of purpose and policy, not a glorification of one’s accomplishments – no matter how big they are. It has always been the purpose of manifestoes to highlight what a political party will concentrate on once in power – past actions should be loud enough to speak for themselves. As mentioned before, the manifesto covers almost all major policy areas in generalities. The only specific programs it mentions are Sehat Insaf cards, the Green Growth Agenda, Youth in Politics, Community Challenge Fund, and a few others which are already in practice. The manifesto also pays a bit of homage to the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), which it mentions quite a few times when discussing poverty. It is commendable to see the PTI recognise an effective poverty alleviation program and attempt to improve it, despite it bearing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s name. The real shining light of this manifesto are the economic policies; it is blatantly evident that Asad Umar has been hard at work on this document. The economic policies outlined give the reader a glimpse into an elaborately planned economic framework, which has possibly been chalked out somewhere in PTI’s policy committee. The ‘Reform Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)’ section in the ‘Inclusive Economic Growth’ chapter was one of the major highlights, and seemed to have borrowed some inspiration from The Role of Taxation in Pakistan’s Revival by Jorge Martinez-Vazquez and Musharraf Rasool Cyan. If the authors didn’t take any inspiration from the work then maybe they should, as both Vazquez and Cyan have spent numerous years preparing taxation reform papers for successive Pakistani governments at the behest of the World Bank. The manifesto makes some tall claims in certain sections which seem insurmountable, such as the creation of 10 million jobs in five years, and the creation of small and large dams to conserve water. Personally, I am glad to see a manifesto laying out an actual goal which is not vague. However, PTI needs to be mindful of the fact that it is the actual goals which haunt you at the end of your tenure. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) sections were a bit of a downer for me, as I expected PTI to have a clearer vision and better goals for the most important socioeconomic development in Pakistan’s recent history. Finally, I would like to commend the party for presenting their vision on the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and Pakistan’s security policy as a whole. Some parties avoid saying too much out of fear of the security establishment. However, there is one important point of concern here. There were rumours circulating that PTI leader Faisal Vawda was going to have a closed doors meeting with Aurangzeb Farooqi, the head of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), perhaps regarding seat adjustments or political support. Everyone knows Farooqi and Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi’s integral role in the culling of religious minorities in Pakistan. Despite the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) allowing them to contest elections, it would be extremely detrimental for PTI to join hands with known terrorist sympathisers. One would hear the chants of ‘Taliban Khan’ all over again if this happens to be true. The second most important point of concern is a missing Child Protection policy or bill. Imran was part of a ground-breaking documentary several years ago, and was personally informed by the interviewer about the rampant incidence of child sexual abuse, specifically within the K-P province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Kasur case also highlighted this issue on a national level. Why there isn’t a strongly worded policy tackling child abuse, especially customs like bacha bazi, is beyond me. If PTI cannot take up the absolutely crucial but iconoclastic position of strongly dealing with such offenders within its own province, it will probably never be able to take a stance on it nationally either. I don’t want to point a finger at PTI for playing it safe in its own home turf just yet, but they need to say something openly about this soon. Overall, the manifesto is a concrete document laying out certain plans that PTI wish to undertake. Whether they’ll be able to take up even half of this successfully is a matter that will be decided by the emerging fault lines within the Parliament after the upcoming General Elections.


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    On July 25th, Pakistan’s fate, at least for the next five years, will be in its own hands. The future will come down to all of us as we make certain choices in that polling booth. Some of us will still be thinking, weighing pros and cons, measuring the benefits, and calculating the risks. But most of us would have likely made up our minds on who to vote for before judgement day. The next day, Pakistan, a sovereign state since 1947, will see only the second successive transition in democratic power. But I have a question: are all people informed enough to decide the fate? Are all voters equally aware of the choices they will make, and their repercussions? Of course, not. The only requirement is that you need to have a national identity card (NIC), effectively making anyone over 18 years of age eligible to decide the country’s destiny. But if we were to add the requirement of having a matriculation/high school certificate at the time of casting the vote. Critics would argue this is impractical, and would needlessly eliminate a huge portion of the population. The counter is that this need not be a requirement for the next elections. Make it a vision 2028 or 2033. Make it a long-term plan for the next 20 years, giving enough time for elected members to build schools in their constituencies, provide thousands of jobs to teachers, clerical staff, senior management and construction workers. Add to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) through more work for the construction, steel, and services industries. Moreover, a matriculation only requires 12 years of education. I am being generous when I say give them 20 years. Take the extra eight for construction, enrolment and awareness. Some would now say Pakistan doesn’t have the budget for such a programme. The country spends close to Rs700 billion on education, roughly 2% of GDP, on the sector each year. Still, the literacy rate in the country is no better than 58%. According to a report published a few years ago, largely due to the fact that education is not a widely reported topic, as many as 66% of children in Balochistan and 51% in Sindh are out of school, followed by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) with 47% and 34%, respectively. These are estimated figures, and by no means capture the scenario. The literacy rate of 58% is an astronomically exaggerated figure even by the definition of the ability of a person to read and write a simple letter with understanding in any language. So where does the money go? If even Rs700 billion isn’t enough, I don’t know what will be. If its falls short, open accounts in banking institutions. You want to crowdfund a dam. How about you crowdfund education! Worried about getting teachers to go to far-flung areas? How about you use the same students who have recently passed or finished their education by offering them jobs as teachers in the same school. You have created jobs straightaway. Never mind Pakistan’s millennium development goals or the sustainable development goals. Forget those. The country hasn’t met them, and probably won’t. But you put the requirement of a high school or matriculation certificate to casting a vote, and all election candidates vying for a place in the elections will look to increase school enrolment and literacy levels in their constituencies. It may give current elected members a headstart, but increasing awareness through education means the voter can no longer be fooled by cosmetic measures. The voter is now a much more aware, much more educated, and a much more informed person before stepping into the ballot box. The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees education to every child aged five-16 years, and you know what, it is free and compulsory. But at the end of the day, Pakistan will never implement any step that would put it on the path of growth, prosperity and sustainable development. We will argue, fight, abuse and remain in misery. For this is our curse. We have lived it for 71 years, and we will continue to do so. We lack the will to sacrifice. Some are fortunate, but remain oblivious. Several are less fortunate, but unaware. A few of us are just outright corrupt.


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    In June, Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and now set to be the country’s future prime minister, made a few uninformed statements on feminism. He said, 

    “I disagree with the western concepts of feminism. It has completely degraded the role of a mother.”  
    The internet responded to this and set the record straight. The theory and practice of feminism, which is certainly not always western, has led to maternity benefits for working mothers and has elevated motherhood in that regard. But Imran has previously opined on topics that stray from his area of expertise. His views on feminism do not necessarily determine the nature of PTI’s work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to promote women’s rights. However, facts do. Unfortunately, though, they have not delivered. K-P has yet to enact a law against domestic violence to protect women. Other provinces have enacted such laws for the protection of women – Sindh in 2013, Balochistan in 2014, and Punjab in 2016 (despite PTI leaders’ opposition to it). The momentum for women’s rights legislation was strong in the last decade and activists were able to table and push multiple laws to end gender-based violence and discrimination. In K-P, PTI acquiesced to the religious right-wingers who publicly claim such laws are a sign of western liberalism, which is in-line with Imran’s poor view of feminism. In 2016, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) rejected a version of the K-P domestic violence bill; its chief publicly condoned light beating of a wife by her husband. In a climate where dialogue around protecting women from violence at home had already dealt a blow, in 2017, law-makers presented a compromised domestic violence bill, but that too failed to pass. Progress to protect women against sexual harassment at the workplace was slow in K-P. In 2012, Sindh became the first province to appoint a provincial ombudsperson mandated by the Federal statute – the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace 2010. Yet, eight long years since the passage of the act, K-P has yet to appoint one. This is a legally qualified person who decides all appeals in sexual harassment cases and provides judicial-like oversight to potentially diverse and often irregular sexual harassment complaint processes conducted at schools, companies and other organisations. Under the Federal Act, such person, essential for the Act’s implementation, can be anyone qualified to be a High Court judge or with 20 years of experience in civil service, or an eminent educationist. In 2018, K-P amended the 2010 federal law; the change reduces the requirement to 15 years of experience in the civil service to be qualified as ombudsperson. If it was the definition that had stalled the appointment of an ombudsperson, the amended definition is not very different from the original. Maliha Husain, a prime advocate of the law and behind its implementation success, is hopeful that the new government will be quick to appoint one. Laws are important to recognise the menace of violence against women and girls. They pave the way for rights to not just be articulated, but also normalised; appointment of personnel and budgeting for the laws to be operational is important for these rights to be developed, mainstreamed and strengthened. One may critique the work of the Sindh sexual harassment ombudsman, but this critique is only possible because one was appointed – and we now have a substantial data on how the law was interpreted and how the state handled such complaints. With K-P, we start on a blank slate on sexual harassment, lying on the negative axis of domestic violence. However, a party cannot survive without women – in parliament or in the party echelons. On the parliamentary front, MPA Meraj Humayun (now with PTI) said,
    “PTI-led government made measures to support and promote female parliamentarians but that they failed to create a conducive environment for women in the assembly and the secretariat.”
    She said the government gave K-P a “solid women’s empowerment policy” but she also points out that,
    “Seven bills drafted by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus including those covering domestic violence, trafficking, home-based workers were not placed on the agenda despite repeated requests.”
    A final draft of the empowerment policy does not seem to be available online. Compare this to the Punjab policy which was made readily available online and paved the way for women’ rights NGOS to voice and demand the benefits promised under it. Shad Begum, known for her work of empowering women of K-P towards political participation, says that PTI has done little for women at the grassroots, but they have engaged women at the party level. There was a very low allocation for women in the annual budget. This is unfortunate in a climate where rural (and urban) women are on the brink of poverty and need attention paid to their livelihoods, economic opportunities and resources. Even appointing women police officers has been a slow and stagnant work-in-progress. While PTI in K-P has had a feeble track record in protecting women against violence at home and the workplace – other laws also have an impact on women’s rights. Laws and schemes protecting health (such as the sehat sahulat card), education, child labour and forest rights, also impact women. Policies on crime and terrorism, madrassa reforms and funding also set the stage for promoting or crossing out women’s rights. The province of K-P has a strong tradition of grassroots activists who use systems and push laws, whether to enable labour benefits such as EOBI, push for district level women’s commissions, or implement changes in health policy. It is these ordinary people of K-P, one hopes, who will continue to push for real change, rather than accepting technocratic, diluted, or cosmetic changes from above. In 2013, I became familiar with the Forest Act of 2002 that envisions a role for forest community women in joint forest conservation and management. At the time, members of the forest community in Swat were asking for its implementation – which was weak – including forming committees and giving royalties. They questioned how extant laws can be put in the bin of history and new mechanisms such as the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN REDD) can be adopted. The billion-street tsunami and its Rs12 billion budget, part of UN REDD, was such a venture. Shiny, exciting, and great for marketing, but indicative of a tendency to start from scratch and undo years worth of work on forest rights (and indirectly women’s rights). This makes poor case for governance, but no one will deny extra trees are a bonus. Building new schemes while relegating past work to oblivion sets us back; not making laws and systems work in key areas of gender-based violence sets us back. In K-P, PTI has to set matters right. Create an environment where anti-domestic violence legislation can be unchallenged by the right-wing and then enact a strong version of the bill. Appoint an ombudsperson to handle sexual harassment cases and put more women in the police force at all positions with powers to file FIRS. Empower all the bodies, commissions and departments needed to do the work of implementation. Allow female politicians to push a vibrant gender mandate, and the party itself will transform. But if it continues to sabotage or micro-manage them, then it will be much of the same K-P – lethargic and tardy on women’s rights.


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    The minorities living in Pakistan have perhaps been more adversely targeted since 9/11, with them being harshly exploited by the majority on the basis of their religion. Brutal incidents against the Christian community in Pakistan have gained international media attention, but politicians who made many promises in the past to work equally hard for minorities conveniently forgot about their promises once obtaining a seat in the parliament. Before Imran Khan turned towards politics with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), there were many famous politicians who made their party manifestoes in favour of the minority, just to grasp their attention and their vote. They pandered to us, but they ignored the role played by the Christian community in the development of Pakistan. We, the Christian youth of Pakistan, are fully aware of the game the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has played in the past to obtain the maximum votes from our areas. This is not to rant against the PML-N or favour PTI; the only true endgame is seeing new and educated people in the parliament, which is a dire need to safeguard the rights of Pakistan’s minorities. In simple words, Pakistan’s minorities no longer want to try what we have already tested and what has repeatedly failed. The leadership of all political parties must keep in mind the wish of our beloved founding father. Quaid’s Pakistan is a land where the state has no link with a person’s faith, and where people are free from oppression and enjoy their religious rights. After all, have we forgotten what Muhammad Ali Jinnah said in his famous August 11th speech?

    You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”
    The ruling parties must thus select new and educated faces from minority groups; people who are determined and serious about the development of their communities, and not just their own family’s progression. No one can deny the existence of pressure groups, which restrict and prevent those who try to work for the betterment of minorities in this country and create unbreakable hurdles to keep them silent and helpless. In many cases, perhaps due to lack of unity, jealousy or fear among leaders, even those who have some power to help minorities refuse to do so, saying,
    “We are not elected by your votes, but selected by our party leaders.”
    Thus they prefer to work only for the sake of their parties, instead of resolving the problems faced by the minorities. So how can one build a new home using old bricks? Minorities today need strong voices in the legislature instead of voiceless ‘yes-men’ making a sham out of our democracy. We require bold and strong spokespersons that bring change keeping in mind bringing religious minorities into the mainstream, and this is where Imran fits best. Imran believes we must ensure our minorities feel safe and are equally empowered as compared to the majority Muslim populace. The PTI also believes in a clear-cut ‘peace within, peace without’ policy, as stated by the Quaid himself. Although Imran’s stance on certain matters may make us worry about being a minority, on the other hand, his party’s stance is that everyone will be treated equally under the eye of law, which makes me and others like me feel secure. And given that Imran’s first wife belonged to a minority group as well, offers a clear picture of how he feels about the equality of human beings, irrespective of their faith. I am neither a fan of Imran’s looks nor his cricket, which my generation in particular is not familiar with. I simply support Imran because of the honesty with which he has made the promises he makes during his speeches and his rallies. Especially during his visit to Youhanabad this year, where he addressed the Christian community and said that minorities will get equal rights when PTI comes into power. Shehbaz Sharif ruled Lahore for around 10 years – he must by now be familiar with the condition of Christians in Youhanabad. Yet he never bothered to visit the area. Imran is the only national leader after the Quaid himself who has visited the Christians of Youhanabad and addressed the problems of its people. PTI also became the first party in Pakistan to reserve a seat to represent the Kalash community. This shows Imran is committed to bringing people from all across the country into its assemblies. Moreover, during their previous tenure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), PTI not only allotted scholarships for minority students, but also put a ban on the sale and purchase of properties belonging to the church. In one of the last jalsas of his election campaign at Walton Road, Lahore, Imran directly addressed the Christians of Pakistan and reminded them that his leader is Jinnah, and like him he is in favour of equal rights for minorities. Initiatives and actions such as these are what draw minority groups towards Imran and his PTI. As a Christian, I am aware there is a history of broken promises when it comes to almost every Pakistani leader, as they use shallow campaign slogans which have only darkened the corridor and limited the path of opportunities for minority groups. But we are confident that this time the outcome will be different, and we choose to put our trust in Imran to deliver on the promises he has made. I am using the term ‘we’ because I believe I am speaking for many like me who spent the first vote of their life on Imran. Overall, it seems as if things are improving for minorities in Pakistan, if only on the surface. There exists a political awareness today that didn’t exist earlier; so much so that people are celebrating the election of three Hindu candidates elected from Muslim majority areas on general seats in Sindh, with all three belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Krishna Kohli, a Thari woman from a remote village of Sindh, was also elected as a Senator on PPP’s ticket. All this shows that new leadership is considering the rights and representation of Pakistan’s minorities. For us, it has felt as if every decade is worse than the last, with respect to the conditions of Pakistan’s minorities. False allegations of blasphemy against Christians alone have become common overtime. But today we have a lot of hope that Imran will not only truly address the issues we face, but also practically make Pakistan a better state for minorities, creating Jinnah’s Pakistan where we can learn to live together in peace again.


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    I’m sure every Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member, in the leadership of Imran Khan, watched the full Rocky Balboa saga before initiating their election campaign. However, instead of only being inspired by the motivational rhetoric to push forward, a PTI MPA of the Sindh Assembly recently took his Balboa skills for a test... literally. As popularised by a viral video, in an altercation-turned-thrashing, Imran Ali Shah can be seen slapping the Senior Deputy Director for Coordination of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Dawood Chauhan. The reason being an alleged touch-and-go between both their cars. As a citizen of Naya Pakistan, I’m a little shell-shocked, a little relieved, and very disappointed. In a recent video, the MPA claims that the viral video does not show the full picture of the story. He explains that he unmounted his vehicle to “resolve matters” with the motorist. However, as per his alleged story, one of the motorists began to curse at the parliamentarian, in response to which he pushed Chauhan and matters “escalated from there”. Conflicting him, the viral video shows Shah repeatedly slapping the CAA’s Deputy Director of Coordination. For an educated MPA to physically abuse anyone, despite whatever reasons, is simply appalling. Resorting to physical violence represents a lack of ability to rationally process situations in a civilised and organised manner, which leads to questions regarding Shah’s potential and credibility as a leader. A person who can take the law in his own hands today, can do much worse with it when the law is on his side tomorrow. No excuse justifies the actions of Shah, no matter what clarification he presents, and regardless of any apology or action taken by the PTI disciplinary committee, this does testify to an abuse of power. What makes the matter worse is an explanatory note posted by Chauhan’s son, who claims that his family has known Firdous Shamim Naqvi, the president of PTI’s Sindh chapter, for years. And thus, asking his fellow countrymen to ponder over what would have happened if his family had not known Naqvi. It clearly suggests that the family’s relationship with Naqvi, and the fear of consequence is the only thing that eventually lead Shah to seek Chauhan’s apology. If a member of society with such affluent friendships can be thrashed, this situation cautions the common man of their standing. Yet, this is also what fuels my slight relief. Asking a sitting member of the parliament to present a version of their story and suspending their membership till a final decision is made by PTI’s provincial disciplinary committee is unprecedented in a country such as Pakistan. Leaders like Rana Sanaullah have publicly abused, cursed, and religiously, politically and racially profiled hundreds of men and women without any consequence. They have gone on to vilify women in profane language, indulging in sexist, misogynistic commentary without any fear of “the law”. This represents a strong deterrent for “masculine men” like Shah, who believe that they can rage out on anyone in public without any consequences. However, while PTI’s actions are commendable, this is not where the story ends. The matter does require proper and deliberate investigation, which should ideally result in a harsh punishment for anyone who is willing to resort to physical violence. At the very least, it is evident that the MPA needs some anger management classes, and a tour of a therapist’s office. In Imran’s Naya Pakistan, this abuse of power, especially by men who are meant to be model citizens, leading and representing their constituencies, should not be tolerated. Furthermore, while Shah did apologise, his apology and explanatory video are clearly not heartfelt. A lack of honest remorse is pungently observable in the parliamentarian’s body language which further needs to be addressed. The shell-shocking part of this story, though, entails of an alleged National Identification Card (NIC) stating that Shah holds dual nationality. An image of the alleged NIC went viral on social media showing that Shah might be a British national as well. But there has been no official validation of the fact as of yet. Nonetheless, if it does come to be true, it could lead to Mr Shah’s removal from the Sindh Assembly, as well as a great deal of trouble for PTI. Further twists in the story come in the form of a video by Shah’s stepmother. She has alleged that he has indulged in illicit activities, document forgery, and acts of physical aggression before. She claims that he and his brother never “accepted” their father’s second marriage, and threatened the widow after his death, eventually forging false documents rendering her ineligible to any inheritance from her husband. If true, this reiterates that Shah isn’t the sort of representative Imran promised in his revolutionised Pakistan. Therefore, whilst this matter needs to be investigated objectively, Shah should be made to understand that he has no right to threaten, physically harm, or even curse at the public. He is a representative of the people, and in turn a servant (as emphasised by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), and not the oppressor in a typical monarchy. Nonetheless, whilst this video-war-drama fuels ratings for top media outlets, Pakistan is clearly a long way from being Naya. A few weeks back, Pervez Khattak, the former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), had made some very questionable comments himself. Although he too apologised for his actions, this trend of making blunders and quickly showing remorse seems all too familiar. As aforementioned, while the disciplinary committee hearing and suspension of Shah’s membership for the time being shows a road to progress, it can only truly lead to the materialisation of Imran’s dream if some concrete action is eventually taken. Per trends of the past, if this event too is forgotten over the next few days and another mistake-then-apology breaks the internet, Pakistan won’t be moving quickly enough in the right direction. We, as a nation of individuals responsible for our actions, need to get our act together. Physical violence in response to situations that can be easily handled, such as a minor accident, are way too common in Pakistan. Beyond the scope of just one incident, we must address these issues at an individual, familial, cultural and societal level, ensuring that coming generations understand the consequences of aggression, and only resort to civilised discussions to handle such situations. And no matter how much more money or comfort he has on his parliamentary seat, Shah is no exception to the lot. He too needs to get his act together! May Pakistan prosper, and the Pakistani people learn to handle their anger better. Pakistan Zindabad!

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    I have to concede, it is not easy to digest. But every once in a while, there is news that shakes up the political arena and sweeps the ground beneath your feet. This is one of those instances. Although more details are to be revealed, there are enough facts present at the moment for us to be reasonably alarmed. It seems, unfortunately, that the only “genuinely incorruptible” man in Pakistan has also been compromised. The district police officer (DPO) of Pakpattan, Rizwan Gondal, was reportedly transferred after he intercepted Khawar Maneka, former husband of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife, Bushra Maneka, for speeding. The DPO and Khawar were asked to resolve the matter by the former apologising to the latter. Gondal refused to apologise, stating that the police had done nothing wrong and were just doing their job. Reportedly, this led to him being transferred. The matter is said to have involved Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, and by extension, one could reasonably assume that there is some involvement of the first family as well. It is also alleged that Bushra interfered in the matter and informed relevant authorities to get the issue sorted as soon as possible. Alternate versions of an incident are always present, but in the age of information, they are increasingly hard to validate. Imran Shah, the PTI MPA from Karachi, scrambled to sway the narrative, but could not gain traction with even the staunchest of supporters. Eventually, he had to cave in, though not entirely, and admit defeat. Similarly, this incident seems to be heading the same way. So far, there does not seem to be a credible alternate version of facts that supports the untimely transfer of the DPO. And it seems highly unlikely that an alternate version of the truth can be presented. Even the greatest spin doctors cannot shun the accusation that the transfer was politically motivated. And it does not help the government that the officer in question was a topper in his CSS exams, and hence makes it more difficult to discredit his story in the eyes of the public. Although a pretext will be found, there is no doubt. And 48 hours are enough time to do it. However, it will only be for the consumption and reiteration of the state-controlled media. Why this is problematic? Imran’s manifesto and narrative was dominated by an anti-corruption motto which was later translated into the “austerity campaign”. The campaign serves as a symbol; the government is here to serve and not rule its people. Hence, were it any other political party that tried to influence an institution, it may not have caused the uproar that it did. But someone in or related to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) involved in something like this just seems hypocritical. What further increases the gravity of the matter is that PTI substantially banked on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) votes by its claim of depoliticising the police. It laid down a vision of rule of law, with no exceptions. As Imran very recently stated in his speech, every man regardless of his social standing ought to be equal in the eyes of the law. A more blatant contradiction in what is said and what is being done cannot be presented. All the aesthetic work of Asad Umar travelling in economy class, Imran hiring only two servants, Arif Alvi driving his own car without any security or protocol or road blockage, and Imran Ismail not living in the Governor House goes down the drain. The whole “austerity campaign” is reduced to mere words because it shows that the government will make exceptions and will bend the law at its discretion. And what started as a mere issuance of a speeding ticket could eventually hamper the government’s vision of broadening its tax base, because it has lost its credibility. It’s a stretch, but it is still a huge loss as far as optics are concerned. And good optics command an obedient population. The slippery slope Whether this incident will set a precedent for further monarchical behaviour is a matter of debate. On the one hand, one could argue that this incident could be deemed an exception because the PM’s family was directly involved, and similar exceptions will not be made for other big-wigs because they do not carry the same power. However, this could also be used as an example to bend the law, as the ministers see fit in the future. Because if the PM’s wife’s former husband can do it, then why can’t a party loyalist avail the same privileges? And as it turns out, it did not take that long for one of these loyalists to avail the opportunity themselves. Sheikh Rasheed, a prominent ally of Imran, was recently seen using the police for his own benefit in Rawalpindi. A video surfaced of a traffic warden knocking over bikes to make way for the railway minister’s government car and security detail. In doing so, he damaged private property. Local traders complained that they had wanted the area to be cleared out too but it had not been done so. Rasheed reportedly said that since he is a minister, he has the power to remove encroachments, if he wanted to. So even if, somehow, we understand the justification that a certain exception had to made given it was Bushra's former husband who is the accused, what action will be taken in Rasheed's case, if any? Will we receive another justification that holding Rasheed accountable will create political rifts between the two allies? This is dangerous territory, but PTI has chosen to enter it. If the party wanted to find a way around the law for themselves, why did it claim to be different from other parties in the first place? There is nothing new in what is happening at the moment, we have all seen this power of privilege time and again with previous leaders and that is possibly PTI’s first failure since making the government. The first lady This may not be the US but people here certainly have expectations of the first lady. Kulsoom Nawaz has always been instrumental for Nawaz Sharif’s campaign and Bushra too curbed dissenting voices within the women in PTI. Thus, if the first lady were to be involved in this incident, it would not only open her to accountability but also implicate Imran directly. Implicate him in something that he accuses others of.  Put him in the position where fingers may be pointed at him for corruption, putting his family first and bending the rule of law for them and himself. He will be accused of siding with everything that he had stood up against. All that fight for justice, is this what Imran wanted all along? Predicting the future is beyond us; however, some precedents are too strong and hence can shape behaviour. This had the potential to be one of those incidents. If Imran’s own family was subordinate to the law, then Imran’s repeated pleas to the public servants of this nation asking for their fidelity to the law and the Constitution would not have fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, it seems that there will always be people above the law. As of now, Prime Minister Imran has taken notice of the incident and has asked Buzdar to submit an inquiry report. It remains to be seen if strict action will be taken against Khawar, if he is proven to be guilty, but what is perhaps more likely is that we will be presented with those “alternative facts” soon enough.


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    The Indian state of Kerala, known as God’s own country, has become the victim of nature’s wrath and is experiencing the worst floods of the century. Thus far, the floods have left 445 people dead and dozens missing. In the hilly regions, floods have caused landslides which have exacerbated the destruction of homes, bridges and road networks. Around 1/6th of the population of the state has been directly affected, and the central government has declared it a level-3 calamity, which clearly indicates the severity of the catastrophe.  First of all, it is worth exploring why God’s own country has come under God’s ‘wrath’. For all the farrago of superstitious explanations coming from various quarters, it needs to be cleared that the floods can be classified as a manmade disaster, as stated by eminent ecologist Madhav Gadgil. A 2011 report submitted by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, headed by Gadgil, had apparently warned that ill-thought developmental practices were ruining the ecological sustainability of the Western Ghats hill chain, one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas. The report advised many states, including Kerala and Karnataka, to follow sensible and sustainable development policies near protected forests in hilly areas. The report was rejected by the ministry as well as by both states, yet the worst damage of these floods took place in the areas where the Gadgil committee recommended protection. Indeed this is a great warning, not just for India but for the entire sub-continent. South Asia has lately been on a development-centred economic growth spree to improve its infrastructure and cater to its fast increasing population and demand for jobs, housing, recreation, and food. With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) underway, this drove has further strengthened with a strong sense of strategic competition and rivalry. However, the states involved need to exercise caution in this rat-race for development. Coming back to Kerala, I would like to address the controversial issue of foreign aid for the floods. Many Indian media platforms are running stories of India rejecting foreign assistance from the UAE, and projecting it as an example of inhumanity. These stories have strong undertones of turning the issue into a political vendetta against the current central government. The implication here is that the aid was rejected because the central government is being partial against the state government, for it is run by a party other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Further, one can also sense a subtle intent to add a communal colour to the issue, as the state of Kerala has a substantial Muslim population, many of whom work in the Gulf States and follow the Wahhabi school of Islam, adding strong cultural and economic linkages with Arab nations. However, the issue is clearly being blown out of proportion. The media and intellectual quarters are foregoing rationality to add political baggage to their op-eds. First and foremost, it must be noted that there was no formal offer of aid through the official channels of the UAE – it was merely a verbal gesture. Secondly, the policy of not accepting foreign aid is neither recent nor a BJP invention – the same was done by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the US and Japan offered humanitarian assistance during the 2013 Uttarakhand floods. Earlier on in 2004, India refused to accept American aid for rehabilitation after the Tsunami. The reason for this is that India is economically self-sufficient and has a robust disaster management infrastructure. India is currently the sixth largest economy, and second largest state in terms of population. Thus, it has the ability to generate funds and provide humanitarian relief, as is the case for the Kerala floods. There exist paramilitary cadres and organisations like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) with high-quality expertise in the field. Further, as stated in the parliament by the Minister of State for External Affairs, General VK Singh, over the past years, India has become a nation that has given more foreign aid than it has received. He also suggested that as the country’s international stature and economic heft grows, India should avoid taking aid from foreign countries. After all, accepting foreign assistance does not rhyme well with India’s growing global stature and economic heft. Another question that comes to mind while accepting foreign aid is of the informal and unwritten obligations that emerge alongside it. If a country takes assistance from a foreign country, in many ways it loses part of its strategic autonomy. Hence, when India is in the position to self-finance its relief efforts, it would not be sane to accept foreign aid instead. Moreover, the state and centre have done a commendable job in disaster management thus far in Kerala. The state has provided shelter to over one million people in over 3,200 shelters, and the centre has provided assistance of Rs600 crores. All Indian states have provided financial and other kinds of assistance to Kerala, and many civil servants, politicians and ordinary civilians have donated a month’s salary to relief efforts. This shows that India is indeed capable of handling the matter internally. Finally, in a gesture of goodwill, newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, also offered humanitarian assistance after the disaster. Once again, while India has sincerely expressed her gratitude to Pakistan’s new government for offering relief assistance, it has not accepted, as per its policy. However, this need not be the reason to deduce that this comes as a jolt to peace-making efforts between the two countries. On the contrary, Pakistan’s gesture has been appreciated in official and civilian circles. In India, people have strong hopes when it comes to Imran and his Naya Pakistan. Imran is already a hero in India, not just because of his celebrity status, but also due to his tree-plantation initiative in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). His earlier interactions with India and Indians during his cricketing days and his study of Indian states like Bihar proves in certain terms that he has a better understanding of India and its concerns. I believe his vast public following, sincerity, and out-of-the-box thinking makes a perfect combination to achieve a breakthrough in Indo-Pak relations, provided he gets enough support from within. On India’s side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his commitment to good India-Pakistan ties, and has clearly stated that India is looking for constructive and meaningful engagement with Pakistan. Hence, there is no reason to portray India’s refusal to accept Pakistan’s help as an indication of stiffening relations between the two countries and take it as a signal to make doomsday predictions – especially given this refusal has nothing to do with Pakistan and everything to do with India’s stature and its internal policies. The sky is the limit for cooperation between India and Pakistan, and substantial progress and dialogue can easily take place between the two, as long as there exists an overall atmosphere of peace and goodwill.


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    Squeaking with laughter while speaking to a journalist, then concluding with a sardonic snide, Iftikhar Durrani, Imran Khan’s spokesperson, claimed with confidence that SP Tahir Dawar was “safe” in Peshawar on October 28th. Unfortunately, however, with the recent discovery of the policeman’s dead body, that arrogant snide should only linger as a haunting memory for the prime minister’s top aide. The note from the Islamic State (IS) found alongside the late SP’s body is what makes matters worse than one could potentially begin to imagine. The latter being so, specifically because the government has repeatedly claimed that neither IS nor any direct affiliate of the organisation exists in Pakistan. The government’s claims with regards to IS, however, seem very incredible, particularly with clerics like Maulana Abdul Aziz issuing public statements in support of IS’s missions and objectives. Furthermore, with posters and graffiti representing IS’s logo vandalising public locations in Punjab, one can only question the credibility of the government’s confidence in its claims. Specifically, the appearance of an IS flag in the federal capital back in September 2017 itself is a clear reflection of the extremist organisation’s existing support in the country. Moreover, General John Nicholson Jr, the commander of US and international forces, claimed in early 2017 that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) provides a “core fighting group” to the IS. Considering that the TTP is an existing and identified threat to Pakistan’s security, their direct linkage to the IS re-emphasises the support for the organisation across the tribal region of the country. Without acknowledging the existing support for such a nefarious organisation, the Pakistani government, in effect, turns a blind eye to a very pressing matter. One, which if not handled correctly, could lead to a very barren and distraught country. One that could also possibly be the cause of SP Dawar’s assassination, particularly because of his strong stance against extremist ideologies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) region. An outstanding officer, the late policeman was a very strong adversary of extremist ideologies. To an extent that he spent a large fortune rehabilitating a close relative who had been brainwashed by a fanatic group including the Taliban. His resilient efforts against such terrorist factions are evident by his success at rehabilitating his relative, and are also reiterated by his successful campaign and encounters against terrorist outfits in the region. Hence, it stands to reason that he posed a direct threat to such organisations, particularly the IS, which could have taken callous steps to remove this beloved officer from their opposition. Their success at doing so, however, highlights a blunderous lapse at the hands of our government and security agencies. In failing to protect a coveted officer, one who had already out-battled death twice – once from a suicide attack in 2009, another time during an encounter in 2007 – the government’s impotence at protecting its citizens is far too clear. What makes matters worse is the government’s apathetic attitude towards the recovery of the officer after the issue was brought to limelight. Despite his sudden absence being highlighted by his family and friends across multiple media outlets, the government refused to accept the news of his abduction. Therefore, the concerns regarding his death and the high degree of backlash from the Pakhtun community are not only justified, but an omen portending a divided Pakistan. If the government fails to protect one of its own, and that to a coveted SP from K-P, how can it possibly begin to emphasise any notion of protection for the ordinary citizen? Furthermore, the fact that Dawar was abducted from G-10/4, Islamabad, a residential area in the federal capital, follows to question the ineffectiveness of agencies that could’ve lead to this event. As a friend succinctly put it:

    Agar Islamabadi safe nai hain tou phir Lahorion ki tou khair.” (If Islamabadis aren’t safe, then Lahoris have much to fear.)
    Whilst I supported Imran vehemently throughout the 2018 elections, perhaps due only to the lack of a better choice, I find his lack of decisive action quite alarming. I see the pragmatism in moving forward, but failing to learn from mistakes is not only an unrepentable sin but a poor reflection of the state of the government. And we, as Pakistan, have made the same mistake over a hundred times. From the murder of Italian-Pakistani student Sana Cheema to the murder of SP Chaudhry Aslam Khan in Karachi, we’ve repeatedly indulged in temporary states of grief, followed by insincere apathy. Thus, at the very core, I sincerely hope that the government is willing to take actions beyond the formation of another joint investigation team (JIT), and eventually ensure the punishment of any entities involved in the SP’s assassination. At the end, Imran seriously needs to reconsider his priorities and reallocate manpower towards ensuring the security of Pakistani citizens as well. Unfortunately, however, if this trend does go on, Pakistan will only continue to lose gems like SP Dawar. Nonetheless, as a young Pakistani, I must wait patiently for this country to move out of this constant state of turmoil, and that is what I urge my fellow youth to do. Beyond that, I implore my nation to take up pens against extremist ideologies. I hope that all of us are willing to shun down everyone who even remotely tries to propagate any hatred or divineness and make them realise the toxicity of their behaviour. Without proactive action, Pakistan cannot grow out of this extremist phase. Pakistan Zindabad!


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    At the time of writing this article, the trailer for The Legend of Maula Jatt (LoMJ) has already garnered around three million views on multiple accounts on Facebook, around one million views on YouTube, and more than a million views through different reaction videos. It has generated the hype it truly deserved. Anurag Kashyap was one of the first ones to tweet about the trailer, while the likes of Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt and Sonam Kapoor are full of praise for what they have seen. This is Fawad Khan’s first film since returning from greener pastures, Bilal Lashari’s second venture after the trendsetting Waar, and Mahira Khan’s reunion with Fawad. What’s not to look forward to? It has something for everyone; even for someone like me, who thought Waar was overrated and disjointed (even though very well treated). Before moving further, let’s address the elephant in the room. I have seen numerous posts leaving comments like:

    “Gladiator ki copy hai.” (This is a copy of Gladiator) “Game of Thrones chhaap liya.” (They’ve copied Game of Thrones)
    My simple answer to whoever says that to me is:
    Tou aap chhaap letay!” (So you could have copied it!)
    Whether or not it is copied, has the Pakistani audience seen Fawad in this avatar before? Has the Pakistani audience been privy to this scale on the big screen by a Pakistani film before? The answer is a plain and simple no. Teefa in Trouble was a big film, but even that does not come close to the scale Lashari has brought to the screen. It might not be at the level of Baahubali, but it’s close to KGF, which is already breaking record after record. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] Undoubtedly, LoMJ looks grand. However, what’s important is the substance behind the froth. It doesn’t look grand for the sake of it; effectively meaning it does not look like Thugs of Hindostan or Tashan. It looks rustic. It looks raw. It looks audacious. It does not look like a remix by Neha Kakkar; it looks like a remixed track by Tiesto. It does not look like what Farhan Akhtar’s Don was to Chandra Barot’s Don; it looks more in line with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes to Alfred Werker’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; essentially improving a classic in modern times. Does it also have the potential to become Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag? Yes, it does. Remaking a classic is a daunting task. Expectations are high and there will always be some purists who will never be happy, no matter how well you do. Agneepath, for example, was a very good remake; however, it also faced criticism for removing the character of Krishnan Iyer. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] Fawad’s look is on point; his hair, not so much. However, his intensity is contagious. My forehead had a frown while watching his trailer, and for no reason at all really. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] Hamza Ali Abbasi looks closer to Khilji of Padmaavat, and to be honest, falls slightly short of Fawad in the trailer, particularly in that laughter scene. Perhaps he is supposed to? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] Mahira is there, albeit overshadowed by Humaima Malick’s slyness. Gohar Rasheed looks evil, and Nayyar Ijaz even more so. Sreejesh Nair’s soundtrack speaks for itself, and is probably going to be 50% of the ticket’s worth. I would also not have been surprised if the characters started speaking Dothraki, but why not? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] One of the toughest tasks of the film was the makeup, and boy have Maram and Aabroo lived up to the task, barring Fawad’s hair. Did I mention his hair looks out of sync? The trailer of LoMJ is thus everything it was expected to be and then some. Will it make commercial sense? Let’s have a look. Firstly, it’s an expensive film. That scale and grandness does not come cheap. In order to make money, it will have to become the highest grossing Pakistani film ever. Not just the highest, but highest by a mile. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] There are still two problems with the film though – starting with the language. It’s 100% a Punjabi film, just like the original. How the audience from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will react to a national level Punjabi film remains to be seen. If Shaan Shahid is to be believed, Karachi already has a problem with films being made in Lahore, let alone a Punjabi film. Secondly, if the rumours are true, there are no songs in the film. A film without a song in today’s time is, once again, audacious. In front of LoMJ will be Wajahat Rauf’s third film, taking around 20-30% screens out of the 130 or so available. Rauf’s film is a comedy entertainer with a relatable young cast. Can that topple the grandness of LoMJ? You never know. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="480"] Photo: Giphy[/caption] As Maula says,
    “Maulay nu Maula na maray tay Maula nae marda!” (If Maula does not kill Maula, then Maula does not die)
    Maybe the only reason for Maula Jatt not working at the box office will be Maula Jatt itself. The Legend of Maula Jatt is set to release on Eidul Fitr 2019.

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