Public vs. Consumers

How does it feel when you are the only woman sitting in the Islamabad High Court at the Justice Qazi Faiz Isa led three-member judicial commission? You don’t feel harassed by all the men present there. Not even a single female lawyer or witness or a female journalist with the exception of a female secuirty guard (in plain-clothes). The thing that hits you hard is, in Pakistan every political or public discourse is “male-dominated”.  You don’t get to see the “female” perspective.

Why it is like this? Because the traditional role of men and women are  defined in a way that you don’t even question it. Hence, Politics is not a job done by women. Court reporting is a field of men not women. Many here argue that trends are changing in Pakistan but seriously after yesterday, I feel, it would take another century to see presence of women in the public sphere. But then I also feel that there is no “public sphere” in the Pakistani society. The public sphere defined by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas.  The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (1962). 

“By the ‘public sphere’ we mean first of all the realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed”… “Citizens behave as a public body when they confer in an ­unrestricted fashion – that is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to express and publish their opinions – about matters of general interest.”

Are Pakistanis only passive consumers? As Habermas mentions various factors that adds to the eventual decay of the public sphere. Consumerism in one of the factors that turns the critical public into passive consumers. Aint we all dependent on TV Channels giving us information about each and everything that concerns us. The commercial mass media discuss our problems and issues without including citizens in the debate. According to Habermas, ” Democratic public life cannot develop where matters of public importance are not discussed by citizens.”

The High Court proceeding  yesterday about the “Memogate” scandel is of high public importance but is it discussed by the public? This question is yet to be debated either by the public or  by the consumers.

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I google hundered of things, words, sites but I never thought about google-ing my name. I have been indifferent about my name Annie. I know each and every detail of my name.  And since my childhood I am a lil bit particular about spellings of my name. It is A.N.N.I.E not A.N.Y. I corrected many people in all these years:) and they all have been kind enough in writing my name, the way it should be.

However,  this name of mine brought few strange questions and I noticed people changing tones while talking to me. Our landlord in Islamabad, a very polite man, was shocked to know that my real name is Qurratulain (like any other Annie in the sub-continent).  I tend to assume (always) that everyone knows who is Qurratulain Tahira or Qurratulain Hyder. And as later was nick named as Annie Apa , I inherited my nick name naturally too.  *Yes, you may call me a snob but I want people to have general knowledge.

It never occured to me that it can bring questions about my religious or sexual prefrences. As our landlord was telling me happily about his happiness over his discovery that I am not Annie the Christian, I am Annie the Qurratulain. Does it matter? *WUUTANG

Growing up in Pakistan with a name Annie was never a problem. No one questioned it. No one laughed at it and no one ever said IT’S DIRTY. In my Pakistan it was normal to have a nick name and to be known by it. There is hardly anyone who calls me Qurratulain. Annie is my name for Khas o Aam. But thanks to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for informing me and all the public that ANNIE is a vulgar name. It is name of the women in their fantasies. The women who takes men home and please them the way they want. My name is in the list of supposedly banned words. Ouuuch! *it hurts. It is same list , they are allegedly compiling with the ban on porn sites in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

My friend Taz Anjum was first one to reply:


they increased my vocab!!

I never knew so many dirty words existed

now ppl will use them in conversation rather than texting.”

Asmah Ahmed, another dear friend who can relate to what I am going through said:

“Honestly, can you imagine that people actually sat together and came up with the sickest ideas to compile this list? I bet most of us never heard (of) half or even more. I don’t even know how to react anymore! For the record, I still like your name very much and will continue to take it in public:P ”

And Tazeen Jay laughingly said on the phone “yar google your name”. We both giggled 😉

Ouuuch! I feel sick man.  I don’t have a heart to do it. I don’t wanna think about all those perverts who compiled this “dirty list”. All I can utter is CHUTIA, BARHAWEE, KHOTEE.

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Isloo week-ends

I look at the right event invitation bar on my FB page. There are three events happening in Bonn on the same date and on the same weekend. It’s been almost three months now. I am back in the land of pure but my weekends belong to somewhere else.

My new city, Islamabad looks cold and calm from outside but it’s warm and happening, once you know it. We (me and Thomas) are lucky enough to have friends and family here. If we want tips about shopping and organic food or exploring old hiking routes, we have Naghma Khala. She is roaming in the city since late 60s. One of those who developed many routes and could talk for hours fondly about the town Islamabad. However, Islamabad has become Isloo now and it’s no more a town that Naghma Khala grew up with. It is a city now. Yes, a city without a cinema and an airport. But it does have “The Rock”.  An amphitheater for the local musicians.(the local musicians thank Kamran Lashari for this) Entry is free but you are only entertained if you come with a “reference”. I asked one of our friends behind it, Zeejah. He replied, “yar, we welcome everyone as long as they are friends with our friends or we know them through some reference.” I personally didn’t understand his logic but that’s the fun and mystery behind Isloo and Isloo weekends.

This weekend on Saturday night we decided to go to Kuch Khaas, a private cultural center on the Margalla Road. A drug and alcohal free zone but open for all. Overload, Pakistan’s loudest rock band was playing there. A rock concert in the capital was too much fun to be explained in words. The masti we had could only be felt. Around 500 young and old Isloowallas were enjoying electronic and dhool fusion. The girls in Hijab, army wallas without uniforms, fashionites in stiletto heels and the boys in beards all were banging their heads on “Batti”, “Neeray Aah” and asking for More.

Isloo rock concert

Farhad Humayoon and Nasir Sain. Rock Concert at Kuch Khaas

I hope Overload was loud  enough to be heard by the policy makers at the Constitution Avenue.

More about Isloo weekends soon. Until next weekend, ciao!

And for friends in Bonn: Party hard and trust me you are missing good fun and Isloo nights.

P.S I missed telling you about Friday night at H 2. But that story will be narrated soon. Let it be a mystery like Isloo and more about Islamabadi weekends soon!

P.P.S We are going to Masud and Uzma’s place tonight. Wil introduce you to them soon.

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my world has changed

Love gardens are smaller now. Don’t they? I questioned Javed Y-zai, a friend from my university days. He looked back and replied calmly, “you have seen bigger places that is why this looks smaller to you now”. I noded “yes” and thought for a second, how do our worldview changes? how people and places grow bigger or smaller? Our perspective about life and others depends on our own exposure and vision.

10 years ago when I visited the campus with my mother in 2001, campus looked like a jungle to me. Like many other students with an urban background I found it difficult to live in but eventually fell in love with the campus.

A walk from hostel 5 to Antro department was the longest walk I walked until then. There were no barriers or gates outside the girl’s hostel or the Social Scinces Canteen. The Mosque outside the boy’s hostel was not bigger than two rooms and now they have blocked the road that goes to the hostel. University is growing smaller and the mosque is getting bigger.

University Road is still called University Road but it is blocked for the University students and teachers. Why? because it leads to Diplomatic Enclave. To be more exact the US embassy is on the University road. Before Sept 11, we were allowed to use this road and it was one of the most beautiful routes from Islamabad city to the suburbs.

I didn’t dare walk into the Anthro or IR department. Yes, I didn’t have the courage to look at the empty corridors. I did look at the triangluar (Titanic style) balcony and thought about the love birds, Lubna and Sikandar.

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I went throuh my album of Sorag-e-Zameen and felt like flying back there. Beautiful faces and spacious hearts, Habib Jalib, Abid Mir and Siraj…Jogizai girls and Quetta, I miss them all.

Sitting on a big comfortable chair in an air-conditioned room with 24/7 electricity and wifi is only making me comfortably numb.

Look at him, he also looks comfortably numb or? I think his eyes tell the tale. What do you think?

When he goes for a stroll, this is what he sees every where in the town. To counter these men in khaki unifrom he asked his mother to give him his old Baloch Shalwar and took out the old rusty gun from the box that was hidden under the bed for years and years. Look at his eyes again…don’t you think, he is telling it all?

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Life is a bitch!

She wakes up and look around. The big red cupboard is still there and she is under her red blanket. Today is an exception. This doesn’t happen every morning to her. She doesn’t have the luxury to wake up in the same bedroom. Things change quickly in her life. Sometimes she wakes up in another room, thousands of miles away, where there is no red cupboard and a red blanket for her. She doesn’t even remember any other wall neither does she remember the other colors of blankets she has been using. What stays in her memory box is only her red lovely blanket…

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will Prayers get him back?

From A to Z, from Musharraf Zaidi to Bakhtawar Bhutto, from Punjab CM to Pakistani PM everyone is praying for safe return of Shahbaz Taseer, son of late Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Late Taseer was killed early this year by his security guard after he called for justice to a Chiristian woman, Asia Bibi, charged under Blasphemy law. And here I am sitting in my drawing room, living in the virtual world and wondering, will prayers work for the young Taseer?

Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped in the broad day light form Hussain Chowk in Gulberg, Lahore. He was driving his (read his late fathers’) Mercedes. The kidnappers came in a black Land Cruiser. No one knows what was the number plate/registration no. Pakistani media are focused on the car company and model than on registration number. The kidnappers threw his Ipad, Iphone and two other phones on the road and they also left his billion dollar worth car. They only took Shahbaz along…why?

Anas Abas, a Pakistani blogger based in the UK updated his status saying, “Shahbaz Taseer was abducted by Jaish e Muhammad Group from Lahore Today. The strategy is to pressurize the family to drop charges on Mumtaz Qadri the killer of Salman Taseer. Mumtaz Qadri is a free bird anyway since there is no Judge even ready to take his case. Mumtaz is a highly revered Jerk just like his demented idol Ghazi Illumuddin Shaheed”

Express Tribune’s blogger Jahanzeb Haque detest the kidnapping in his blog “Shahbaz Taseer kidnapped, and a scream that never ends”: What a sad state of affairs – the screams in my head will not stop today, or for many more days. I go online hoping beyond hope to find some meaning in this madness – to connect to some of my fellow people.”

Jahanzb Haque is terrified and mentioned few status updates of his Facebook friends about kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer.

“There are already comments welling up under articles being shared on Shahbaz Taseer’s abduction. This is what I read pock-marked among messages of shock and dismay:

Wajahat Ali Khan Wow! 1 Secular abducted (Updated on Media) 10,000+ Faithful Muslims abducted (No Update on Media) ET; You are failed. (22 people like this)

Azhar Haleem Raja its realy bad bt 1 thing there are 100′s of people kidnaped daily alas never heard of those poor felows bt a rich kidnaped n media z barking (13 people like this)

Shahiq Ali What do we know he was probably kidnapped by his girlfriend 😉 (11 people like this)

Xalvi Xalviz All media now following this. Media is biased. Normal citizen insaan nahi hotay? Tab koi Ku nahi headlines deta (1 person likes this)”

Many bloggers and twitteratis are avoiding to speculate. However, few among them are pointing their fingers at the right wing organizations that supports Qadri, the killer of late Salman Taseer.

Blogger Tazeen Jay questions and raised a serious question in her blog “A Reluctant Mind”,”If a rich and well connected (they have connections with the men in two of the most powerful houses of the country; Presidency and PM House) family like Taseers is facing so much grief vis-à-vis security, rule of law and justice in the country, imagine the plight of a common man. Be it Karachi or Jamrud, the Taseers or any other poor family, the state is failing its citizens again and again and is doing it with impunity.”

Looking at the recent and past record of the Punjab Police. There is a little hope that Shahbaz Taseer will be found soon. But hoping against hope, I join the collective prayer for his safe and early return.

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