Author Archives: zahaidrehman

And the winner is…



Photo courtesy Sanwal Tariq (Facebook)

The entire world watches on and waits with bated breath for the results of ANTM (Afghanistan’s next top man) and three main contenders have emerged as the leading candidates in what is to be Afghanistan’s first democratic transition. We have the people’s champion, Abdullah Abdullah, “with a name so nice, you have to say it twice”. Contesting against him is the good doctor Ashraf Ghani, who will seemingly use debate and logical arguments to thwart the Taliban (we all know how well that works). And the third horse is the one being backed by the outgoing president, the ‘king’s man’, Mr Zalimai Rasoul.

Our people’s champion is a well-known politician, who is well received by the Afghani public, judging from the 31% of the votes he got in the presidential elections of 2009. While he is experienced in international diplomacy, and as Foreign Minister was responsible for broadening ties with the global community, his plans to tackle terrorism and fix the security situation in the country are still a mystery. He has advised the Taliban to change their ways if they are to be brought into the fold of the rest of society through dialogue, which is like telling a dog to stop using its nose to formulate likes and dislikes.  His election campaign is centered around putting the lid on corruption in the country.

The doctor is an academic and an intellectual, and is famous for his economic acumen alongside his self-imposed exile during the Taliban years. Believed to be temperamental and on occasion, volatile, it remains to be seen whether he is as inconsistent as his potential predecessor Karzai. For the good of Afghanistan and the world at large, it is hoped that he is not.

The last frontrunner, is our king’s man and is seemingly experienced in issues of national security. Whether he manages to break free from the yoke of the old government and all of its failings still remains to be seen.

It must not be forgotten that amid all this, the BSA hangs in the balance, and the next President will decide whether US troops are to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Whichever candidate is selected, it is imperative that Afghanistan is not left on its own with untrained security forces to fight the battle-hardened Taliban. But with the way things stand, one man’s decision will decide the outcome of the drawn-out war on terror, and we can only hope that Afghanistan chooses the right man for the job.


Mob mentality


Another temple was burned down, this time in Larkana, by a mob that lost control over yet another fake blasphemy charge against a Hindu. Imagine being constantly scared and feeling vulnerable and alien in your own country, in a sea of people that have nothing but disdain for what you stand for. Imagine an eid, or any other day of festivity where you cannot celebrate for fear of being attacked by an ignorant mob over some trumped up charges that have nothing to do with you. This is how the religious minorities in Pakistan feel on a daily basis. The blasphemy laws are to blame once more, being used for all the wrong reasons to take advantage of the inferior status ascribed to being part of a religious minority.

How is an organized mob created anyway? In a mob, there is no responsibility, no reprisal for any atrocities committed. There are no faces. There is bravery in numbers. Pitchforks and fire is the only image that comes to mind. The mob does not need facts, only allegations. The mob functions on the basis of outlining an ‘us’ with an opposing ‘them’. Those that are left out are easier to dehumanize and subsequently attack, if needed.

The biggest problem with any democracy is that it can potentially establish a tyranny of the majority and oppress those that do not identify themselves with the biggest group. Our country though divided along many lines, still calls itself an Islamic nation. Everybody else, those that have different beliefs and even those who are perceived as deviating from the ‘norms’ (what these are is debatable) are second-class citizens. This is not the first incident, and nor will it be the last. When minorities are left completely unprotected by the government, the people are free to exploit them in any way they see fit.

The only way Pakistan can begin to improve the status of minorities is through repealing a law designed to oppress the freedom of expression. Can a law really stop people from committing blasphemy? There is no real way to assess when blasphemy has been committed. And a mob can never pronounce judgments, let alone on something this subjective. All religions inherently contradict each other. Those that believe that their religion is the one true religion should be secure in their own knowledge and should attempt to rise above anything they perceive as insulting. We are no longer in the dark ages, and a law made to facilitate elaborate witch hunts has no place in the modern world.

Nagging Conscience


Nagging Conscience An interesting thought crept in to my mind this morning while I was getting ready for college. I was busy putting on my clothes when I realized that the single biggest engine of motivation in society is guilt. Think about it, we are all born in to a world full of people who expect things from us. We have responsibilities, duties, cares and troubles, things we must do, not for ourselves, but things which are thrust on us by others. We are scared of what will happen if we fall below the bar other people set for us, the bar we think we should aim for to please them. This simplifies a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately. Why I’ve begun to hate everyone and everything around me. It all seems fake, like it was made to look shiny. The reality couldn’t be more different, dirtier.

 At the end of the day, it’s all shit. Doesn’t really mean anything. The reality we create around us is just to battle with our inferiority complexes. We try for our lives to have meaning, but fail miserably. We look for higher powers, for answers because we want to belong, to feel like it all means something, even though it doesn’t. We live on just one of a million possible planets in infinite space, yet for some reason, we’re arrogant enough to think that we’re actually special. That somebody out there actually has a plan for us. I find the thought amusing. I find it funny, how on the scale of things, we are more insignificant than the smallest dot the human eye can see, yet our quest for something bigger compels us to be irrational and think that our thoughts, our lives really matter. For us, the concept of infinity is unimaginable, and for us, time and its length only matters till we’re alive, but we cannot even begin to appreciate what eternity really means. When I was six, and I used to think of heaven, my biggest fear of dying used to spring up in front of me, and that was of eternal life after death. I used to fear that I would get bored even if I made it to heaven, because let’s face it, forever is a long time. There’s only so many times you can eat all the candy, play all the games and have sex with all of your virgins because eventually, since it is never ending, the possibilities would end. I preferred oblivion to this situation. Fifteen years later, I actually applaud my six year old self for having this thought. People get smarter as they grow up, I, on the other hand, feel that I was smarter as a six year old.

Nothing really happens. Nothing ever happens. And that for me is a source of constant depression. On the face of it, the college we go to is always full of life. Things are always happening. From parties, to sports events, to competitions of debates and dramas. But I hate being there for these. They make me feel even more alienated from the others. I don’t understand how everyone has so much fun in their lives. I find it nauseating. I know I need change. I wasn’t always like this. But I don’t understand what really needs to be done. Not coming to school doesn’t help either. I get behind on work and feel even more miserable. I try watching a movie but am too distracted to focus. I start looking for my copy of Lord of the Rings, my favourite book in the world, and the answer to all my problems. As a child, when I first read it, my life was going through a rough patch and I wasn’t really happy. But then I started reading LOTR in got so lost in it that I forgot about everything else. I wanted this feeling of oblivion again as I went through my bookshelf, my eyes peeled for the familiar worn, green spine. I found it at the bottom, right on the edge, inviting me to get lost within its pages. I retrieved from the shelf and lied on my bed and started reading. When I was done reading six chapters, I looked at the time and saw that six hours had passed since I started reading it. The feelings of depression, the loss of hope were gone. I then had an epiphany. There was no point in looking for meaning within life because it was a fruitless task. If one is critical about happiness and where to find it, then he/she won’t be able to find it. The only way to be truly happy is to enjoy the little things, like eating your favorite dessert, or listening to your favorite song. There’s no point questioning your existence with such negativity, because at the end of the day, you’re stuck with the lot that’s been handed to you. My purpose in life, from then on, has been to explore and enjoy all the little things that have always fascinated me, and so far, I have been successful at enjoying myself. At the end of the day, none of the philosophical questions matter, because there is no right answer to any of them. One should think about them, but not let them get in the way of your life. That is the true meaning of happiness.