• February 23, 2024

India Pakistan: secret career of a dream

The mutual hostility between India and Pakistan has been around for so long that berating each other has become second nature to every pundit, journalist, analyst and talking head. You must have seen the show we put on for your amusement where our mouths are almost frothing, every syllable wrapped in shrill and death rays…

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Entropy in history

The way we are taught history in schools is enough to put a whole class to sleep in a heartbeat. Don’t get me wrong. You may find many interactive classes, but teachers usually want you to remember things that matter the least — for instance, dates. Here and there, you may find a teacher who…

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Winged-horses of doom

They say when television was invented, many sales reps and marketing executives refused to take it seriously. Out of the 360 degrees surrounding you, why would anyone want to keep looking at a small corner of the room. But as it turned out, they couldn’t be more wrong. For generations TV screens enthralled, amused and…

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Wages of ideology

Bear with me as I first identify a few abstract thoughts and then seek to operationalise them. You will see they all come together in the end. Devil’s bargains don’t come cheap. The reason why people either opt for or tolerate them is that there is a visible delay between actions and their consequences. But…

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Opportunity costs

Call it a legacy of loss or the curse of Sisyphus, Pakistan’s history is replete with counterfactuals — the coulda-woulda-shoulda of our past. There is something genuinely bitter about knowing that you repeatedly came this close to success before losing your way often because of an act of self-sabotage.Please do not dismiss me as a…

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Age of acceleration is upon us

While we were destroying our brain cells in noble political battles involving questions like whether the faithful should break their eggs at the big end or the little end, The Future of Life Institute, which among other things, monitors four major challenges to humanity (AI, biotechnology, nuclear threat and climate change), came up with an…

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What’s the point?

Farrukh Khan PitafiMarch 25, 2023 The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist. He tweets @FarrukhKPitafi and can be reached at contact@farrukh.net How many times must we ask the same question? Why bother, what’s the point? Who doesn’t know Pakistan grapples with many intricate and interconnected obstacles that hinder its development and stability? These obstacles include,…

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On conspiracy theories

“You just have to flood a country’s public square with enough raw sewage. You just have to raise enough questions, spread enough dirt, plant enough conspiracy theorizing that citizens no longer know what to believe. Once they lose trust in their leaders, in mainstream media, in political institutions, in each other, in the possibility of…

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Pakistan’s liberty deficit

Recently, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announced that it was degrading Wikipedia services in the country on account of it not blocking some offensive content online. Later this throttling turned into a blanket ban which eventually was lifted after pushback from the users. Now if you know anything about Wikipedia you know that instead of petitioning…

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The last workforce

In the dystopian sci-fi TV series, Revolution, where an unknown phenomenon causes the permanent shutdown of electricity worldwide (implausible, bordering on stupid, I know), there is a scene which merits mentioning here. The power has just gone out. Our protagonist knows it is a permanent outage and lets his children finish the stored ice cream with…

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An interview with ChatGPT

While we remain embroiled in the minutiae of our political and economic mediocrities, the world keeps progressing at a breathtaking speed. As we interact, the AI wars are heating up. Please do not think an AI apocalypse like the one described in the Terminator series or Matrix is upon us. It is not. Not yet, at any rate. But…

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Redundant Overton window

Zia Mohyeddin and Amjad Islam Amjad died this month. So did General Pervez Musharraf. But except for some peripheral controversies, tributes and discussions, the country had little time to spare for the demise of these three iconic figures of its history. It is as if we are in haste to forget. To do what, you…

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Stop horsing around!

For obvious reasons, this is a watered-down version of the joke. And I think I have mentioned it before. Two saints are playing golf. One dearer to God than the other. Let’s call him the high priest. The other saint, let us just call him the saint, hits the ball for a perfect 300-yard drive…

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Smell the coffee!

As a nation of tea drinkers, this country does not truly appreciate the gift that is coffee. This piece is not about coffee per se. It is about the need to wake up. And some rude awakenings. But you cannot possibly expect me to let this opportunity pass without extolling the virtues of my beverage…

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The generational thing

There is no hard and fast rule about the sociology of contemporaries. But it goes without saying that despite your individuality you share a lot of influences with your age fellows. That is to say, if you gained consciousness in a given decade, all things being equal, you read more or less the same literature,…

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Histrionics as policy

In the age of gadgets and hyper-connectivity, where people spend more time with screens than themselves, mindfulness exercises and meditations make sense. You must have seen many examples of people walking around totally engrossed in something that is going on on their smartphones without any awareness of their surroundings. Don’t judge them too harshly. In…

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Look, another year

D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous? (Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?). Important, existential questions. Apt to ask them at the start of the new year. But I have a better one: What’s the point? Every year we say goodbye to the old one, celebrate, and resolve to bring…

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Between a rock and a hard place, again

It is believed that during Imran Khan’s final year in office, two strong opposing pulls emerged within the ruling dispensation. One exceptionally placatory towards the Afghan Taliban and the TTP. The other, more cosmopolitan, tough on Afghanistan but highly conciliatory towards India. And these intra-podal pulls, among many others, I believe, in the end, broke…

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Algorithmic cauldron

What do you think these three clips, ‘pawry ho rahi hai’, ‘mera dil ye pukare aaja’ and ‘Lahore da pawa, Akhtar Lawa’ have in common? Yes, they all went viral on social media, but what explains this virality? Algorithms. We live in the age of algorithms. Their rise and might have only just begun remoulding…

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Reading is forbidden

A big problem with Pakistani history is that huge chunks of it are missing from the public record. By this, I do not mean that chronology or publicly accepted superficial accounts of those periods have disappeared from the record. Certainly not. We lack granular details, 360-degree memories and feel of the given times, autobiographies and…

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Management style of supreme commanders

Almost the entire title of this piece is lifted from Tom Holt’s book, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. Almost but for self-explanatory reasons, not quite. In my pantheon of modern writers, Mr Holt has found a venerated place. He sits right between Douglas Adams and Haruki Murakami. My accidental rendezvous with his work came…

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Playing defence

Forgive me if I do not mince my words today. We all like to believe that the forces of chaos and degeneracy have finally been vanquished. A Waterloo of sorts. But can we be sure? The decline is decline, after all, and to understand where we are right now, we have to comprehend what was…

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Future cancelled

On November 15, Przewodów, a village on the outskirts of Poland neighbouring Ukraine, was reportedly struck by a missile. Early reports hinted at the possibility of the missile being of Russian make. For a heartstopping moment, it felt like the war in Ukraine was about to spill into Europe. If Russia went to war with…

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Nation building in a fugue state

Every crisis presents an opportunity. It is a test of your wisdom to spot it in time. A few days ago, a corps commanders meeting concluded without any press note. Remember, issuing a ceremonial press release after such meets is a custom, not an obligation. But our wisdom-starved vlogophere and pundits took it as a…

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Imran Khan — signal and noise

How do you write a piece on the reasons behind Imran Khan’s meteoric rise when he has been pushed out of power, launched an agitational march which seems doomed to fail, and narrowly escaped a serious attempt on his life with a bullet wound? This last part has given the Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirots…

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The Hindutva consolidation

Rome was not burnt in a day. Many thought they could stop it. But not our Nero. His fiddle is a metaphor for an unparalleled wild abandon and perhaps a tortured form of twisted wisdom. Embracing Murphy’s law. That which can go wrong will go wrong. Why burn your own hands in the process? Today,…

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What’s eating Gwadar

‘Dream big. But keep it simple,’ instructed Art Williams’ aspirational audio back in the 1990s. For those who don’t know, Arthur L Williams Jr is a school football coach turned insurance executive in Palm Beach, Florida. He made a fortune in his adopted career and has been spreading the word through his aspirational talks and…

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Nightmares never end

Something needs to be said about one specific aspect of the human condition. A fear that refuses to go away no matter what you try. The fear of a sudden crash, a devastating shock to the system. A paralysing, catastrophic blow that breaks your back. To offer one example, let’s look at the Ukraine-Russia war.…

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