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Showing posts from May, 2006

Regional harmony

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has welcomed Iran’s initiative to hold a tripartite meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The offer was made during a meeting in Tehran between Karzai and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Pakistan and Afghanistan have of late been at loggerheads and Iran’s entry into the picture is the result of ongoing consultations between senior officials of the three countries. The volatile situation in Afghanistan is spiralling out of control, as violence is spreading beyond the traditional Taliban strongholds. Moreover, the resentment against the US is gradually on the rise, as is evident from yesterday’s accident in Kabul involving a US military convoy, which led to rioting and bloodshed in the capital.

Afghanistan being a landlocked country is dependent on Pakistan for trade and overland communications. Now, however, Iran has offered Afghanistan road and rail links to its port of Bander Abbas on the Gulf. Improved comm…

Stop the discouragement!

“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live” — Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Jinnah had a vision for Pakistan. He envisioned a country where the men and women would be on an equal footing, working side by side without any discrimination. His dream still remains a pipedream, since the parochial mindset reigns supreme in Pakistan. A substratum of inequality remains because society still believes that women are biologically made to raise a family and do the household chores and men are supposed to earn for the family. Society refuses to believe that these beliefs are just stereotypes that have been enforced upon us and can be done away with.

Despite the changing trends, our society has not yet evolved to a point whe…

Remarriage: another stigma

“The birds that live i’ th’ field
On the wild benefit of nature, live
Happier than we; for they may choose their mates,
And carol their sweet pleasures to the spring” — The Duchess of Malfi (3.5.18-21).

Last week I discussed how divorced females are looked down upon in our society due to an obvious expectation that they are supposed to remain in marriage till the end of their lives, whether or not that marriage is happy. It is generally believed that a divorced woman damages her own as well as her family’s prestige. This in turn lowers the prospects of marriage of her younger sisters into good families. Society tries to suppress women’s rights by giving such issues a ‘religious’ twist. Unfortunately, women themselves fall prey to this by playing right into society’s hands and becoming a party to their own subjugation. The roles of women as essentially mothers and guardians of tradition are aimed at keeping women in chains, away from the limelight and taking a solid part in the development…

Up close and personal with M J Akbar

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M J Akbar is a leading Indian journalist and author of several bestsellers. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Asian Age, India’s first multi-edition daily newspaper with a global perspective, and is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Deccan Chronicle, a Hyderabad-based news daily. He comes from Bihari Muslim ancestry. He was recently in Lahore for the book launching ceremony of his latest (seventh) book, Blood Brothers: A Family Saga.

We found him sitting in the lobby of the hotel he is staying at, having coffee with some guests. After bidding them farewell, he greeted us with a warm and hearty ‘hello’. Dressed casually in a white summer shirt and trousers, M J exuded an aura of coolness mixed with exuberance. After the formalities, we sat down for a chitchat session.

M J started to talk about his latest book with such passion that it was clearly visible how strongly he feels about it. He said that this book holds a special place in his heart, though this was not to say that hi…

Divorce: a taboo

A family friend gave birth to her fifth daughter (she does not have any sons), and the whole family — including her other four daughters — kept crying for days. This is the usual welcome a female child receives at her birth.

The discrimination starts at birth and then it continues throughout her life. Forced marriages are a norm — a girl has to say yes to the man chosen by her parents or else suffer further humiliation at the hands of her family and society. If she has fallen in love with another man, lo and behold, she has committed one of the gravest crimes of all time! And the parents try to remedy it not by offering her hand in marriage to the man she loves, but forces another man on her. Such is the fate of most females in this country. In Islam, a female has the right to accept or reject marriage proposals. Her consent is a prerequisite to the validity of the marital contract, according to the Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings.

Marriages without consent sometimes end up in divorce. Alt…

Rendezvous with MJ Akbar

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MJ Akbar, a leading Indian journalist and author of several bestsellers is in Lahore for the book launching ceremony of his latest (seventh) book, Blood Brothers: A Family Saga. The book launch ceremony will take place today (May 11, 2006) at Al-Hamra Arts Council, Lahore.

The book has had tremendous success in India and was sold out even before its launch there. The second edition was at the printers even as the book was being released.

MJ is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Asian Age, India’s first global and a multi-edition daily newspaper, and is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Deccan Chronicle. The secret of his success as a journalist is fearlessness and honesty. “The simplest way to deal with anything is to not want anything in return. I never try to embellish the truth, never put a spin on it. I write what I perceive to be right.”

Talking about his book to The Post, MJ said that this is a very special book for him, though all his previous works are near and dear to his he…

Resorting to old tactics

President Musharraf has once again started using the ‘President’s Chamber’ in Parliament. Since his address to a joint session of Parliament in January 2004 where he had to face a resilient opposition, he had virtually cut himself off from the institution. Now after a long absence, he has decided to reacquaint himself with the parliamentarians. The question that comes to mind is: why now? Possibly this is an indicator that since the 2007 general elections are looming, the president has felt the need to begin campaigning for it in anticipation. Also, the recent meeting between Benazir and Nawaz may have disturbed the General. He appears to be trying to pre-empt the penchant of our political ‘seasonal birds’ that only languish till harvest time. Asserting that he has introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan for the first time, Musharraf said that the tradition of dissolution of Assemblies has been put to rest. It is arguable, however, whether high principle or political convenien…

Why women?!

“I was told that whistling wasn’t ladylike, but I knew even then that women were simply not supposed to be that happy” — from Kindling the Spirit by Lois P. Frankel.

A gender role is a set of behavioural norms associated with males and females, respectively, in a given social group or system. Traditional gender roles are oppressive for women and many believe that the female gender role was constructed as an opposite to an ideal male role, and helps to perpetuate patriarchy. In a patriarchal society like ours, women are mostly considered subordinate to men. ‘Patriarchy’ (from Greek: patria meaning father and arché meaning rule) is the anthropological term used to define the sociological condition where male members of a society tend to predominate in positions of power, with the more powerful the position, the more likely it is that a male will hold that position. Such societies give men power and authority over women, which can be found at the individual, group or institutional level.

M…