• February 23, 2024

Whither proactive foreign policy

Growing up in Pakistan with a hunger for books I found one Pakistani title rather alluring. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s The Myth of Independence has the kind of ring to it that instinctively gets what generations of Pakistani policy pundits have been failing to underscore so succinctly. But that is where the book’s miracles end. In plain speak,…

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The Red Queen is laughing

What’s the point? The more you want to fix it the more it all crumbles. You can wake up someone who is sleeping. You cannot rouse someone who is pretending to sleep. You can protect someone who faces an imminent threat of death. How can you defend someone who wants to kill himself? The human…

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Pious greed

We have read much about the confluence of religion and politics, militancy and politics, and why even military and militancy. But one topic flying under the radar and hovering almost beyond the edge of sight is the collusion between the business class and religion. This might be the most important factor yet to define the…

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Why we can’t have nice things

Any noble intention can be twisted, perverted, and weaponised to produce the most troublesome results. Do you need examples? Consider the opposition to the invasion of Iraq. This opposition produced a mass movement across the western world and led to highly publicised million marches. Sadly, this movement could not stop the invasion which would unhinge…

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Is a world war coming?

As the post-election crisis simmered in the US, a nameless, faceless French programmer (identity withheld by the authorities) decided that the decline of the Western civilisation was inevitable and with his health deteriorating so before ending his life he would send his bitcoin savings to far-right pundits like one white-supremacist and holocaust denier Nick Fuentes…

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Alert: Fourth Reich imminent!

Is Russia about to walk into a trap in Ukraine? What are the forces that may want it to invade? Should Russia’s insistence on protecting its sphere of influence be compared to Hitler’s claims on Europe or America’s Monroe Doctrine? And what the consequences of an invasion might be? Could it lead to war? Could…

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Tangled web of good and evil

What makes someone or something great? A work is great if it takes the civilisation a step forward (genuine, innovative work) or if it is a bestseller? If originality, innovation, and progress were the standards for greatness then Socrates wouldn’t have to drink poison hemlock, Galileo wouldn’t have been blinded, Van Gogh wouldn’t have to…

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Milking guns

The butter versus gun debate has become a perennial part of our national discourse. It was bound to be. The country has faced external existential threats since its inception. No matter what spin India tries to put on its machinations the truth remains that its intervention was instrumental in the fall of East Pakistan. And…

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Pig’s breakfast

27 December 2021: The People’s Party is organising the anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Sindh. In the past fourteen years, the event has become an established occasion of the show of force by her party and her next of kin. Media on this day instinctively knows not to draw attention…

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So it goes

Happy new year, dear readers. Or whatever helps you sleep at night. If I were to look for a phrase to encapsulate my thoughts about this year changing business, I would have to borrow another phrase from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five apart from the title of this piece that comes directly from the book. And that phrase is…

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Choose your own dystopia

A piece that appears on the 25th of December and addresses neither the birth of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Quaid-e-Azam or the great leader to us) nor Christmas seems to be a waste of space. But here is the thing. It’s been 145 years since the Quaid’s birth, slightly over 74 since he created this homeland,…

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Should they hang?

In the American cult classic TV series Arrested Development one major character is Maeby Fünke. While the complexity of the role played by Alia Shawkat goes beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say she is this very resourceful child of a dysfunctional marriage in an extremely dysfunctional family who does often ridiculous and occasionally…

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General crash

India’s first Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat perished in a helicopter crash along with 12 others a few days ago. I have already publicly offered my condolences. His sudden departure has given birth to a host of questions, some about the future of his newly minted offices, some about the overall direction of the…

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Bad habits continue

Two menaces keep devouring Pakistan. The egotism of the elite and polarisation of the masses. Egotism because it is the epitome of classism which invariably brings you back to the precipice. In its very essence, it is the most egregiously dogmatic and exaggerated view of your own or your class’s abilities. I alone know what…

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Muslims under pressure

Muslims can preempt this by doubling down on assimilation Reminder: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on December 7, 2015: Remember the poll numbers. So, listen. Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.…

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Who created TLP?

It is the 20th of November. If you look out the window you may notice that heavens have not fallen nor hell frozen over. Today marks Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s 37th death anniversary. While he is gone his work, name, and legacy live on. But pundits seldom have time to pay homage to legendary poets. On the 18th of…

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Who rules Pakistan?

Tribalism in Pakistani political discourse obscures a wide array of dynamics that play a disproportionately bigger role in our daily lives. And yet you will hardly ever hear political pundits comment on them. That is precisely why blind tribalism is such a stupid thing. Instead of allowing scholarship to evolve organically, it sends you on…

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The world order grift

“Dialogue is useless”. Did you know Charlie Chaplin barely escaped an assassination attempt by sheer dumb luck? No, it is neither revisionist history nor any form of alleged Mandela effect. It is called the May 15 incident. Look it up. For the readers in a hurry here is the gist of it. Chaplin was on…

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Prognosis negative

Full disclosure. The title of this piece is borrowed from one episode of the legendary sitcom series Seinfeld. In one episode this is the title of a fictional movie that Jerry, Elaine, and George plan to see together but cannot. Although Seinfeld is one of the three sitcoms I can never resist, the other two…

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Why I deactivated my Facebook account

To be honest, I never thought that one day I would be writing an exclusive piece on a social media app. But it shows you how the world has changed. This seemingly innocuous app sitting on your computer or smartphone home screens presents layers upon layers of threat to your privacy and human civilisation in…

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Lessons from America and Afghanistan

Let’s face it. There is no comparison between the US and Afghanistan in terms of state power. America remains the most powerful country on the planet, Afghanistan one of the weakest ones. In Afghanistan’s defence, you can advance only one argument. That it still stands. That it has not lost any territory to another country…

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Forest for trees

Renowned Urdu writer, playwright, and broadcaster Ashfaq Ahmed used to give long talks on PTV. A collection of these talks called Zavia was later compiled and presented in a multi-volume book series. In one of these talks, he shared a Chinese story. I couldn’t independently verify if it comes from a Chinese source. But it is a…

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Crouching tiger or hiding dragon?

The world was bracing for the new cold war. AUKUS became a reality. The QUAD leaders met in DC. News outlets were already churning out stories against China’s alleged ambitions. Stories about Uyghur suffering failed to provide as effective a hook that many expected owing to the lack of hard evidence, so the attention gradually…

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Anticipatory anxiety, technophobia and proactivity

The Future of Life Award is something I probably wouldn’t have heard of, had it not been for a lucky coincidence. On April 26, 2018, I wrote a piece in this space titled “Ready to lose your job?” It was an assessment of how quickly artificial intelligence could make the human workforce redundant. The technological…

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The Indians in the lobby

There is a short-lived but hilarious Jack Black and Tim Robbins starrer series called “The Brink”. Be warned. It is not for the faint of heart. Or for those who were tragically born without a sense of humour. While the plot involves a nuclear crisis in Pakistan, the writers of the series time and again…

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Salem witches and global trials

What do you know of the touch test, witch cakes and spectral evidence? An answer would take us to 1692 colonial America. The New England settlement was still young, obstinately religious and growing. In January 1692 Salem village (now Danvers)’s first ordained minister, Reverend Samuel Parris, a man reviled by the local populace for his…

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Fake news

On January 12, 2018, only four days after his 76th and last birthday, British tabloid Daily Mail carried a remarkable headline about renowned physicist and pop-science legend Dr Stephen Hawking. “Has Stephen Hawking Been Replaced with a ‘Puppet’?” it asked. As if it was not enough, it went on: “Conspiracy theorists claim the REAL professor is DEAD and…

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Shocks become us

The collapse of reality is an atrocious experience. An ordinary person treats at least a few things in life as fixed, immutable anchors to reality. Until the fall of the Twin Towers, to an average New Yorker, and perhaps even to an average American, they must have served just as the very anchor. Symbols of…

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How wars hurt us

As the American media continued its unrelenting coverage of the fifth day of Kabul’s fall to the Taliban, Floyd Ray Roseberry, a 49 years’ old North Carolinian, pulled up his muddy Dodge Ram on the sidewalk of the Library of Congress, live-streaming on social media with a detonator in hand and told authorities that in…

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Seventy-four

How does one even begin to express one’s love for a homeland that is everything? Alpha and omega. Home, journey and destination. A sandbox where you make all mistakes and in a heartbeat, everything is forgiven and forgotten. Motherland and fatherland. And must one express this love? Or is it communicated and understood without saying…

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