Amid tens of thousands of cheering women, Altaf rattles off topics lost in political rallies

MQM chief Altaf Hussain, in his hour-long address to women and children who had flocked to the Mazar-i-Quaid grounds for the rally, paid a verbose tribute to the women in attendance. “Through this historical public gathering, we have sent out a message to our political opponents that only our women are strong enough to compete with them,” he said.

Altaf claimed that no other political party had managed to organise such a huge event even when men and women were in attendance. “Over one million women of Pakistan are in attendance in this rally.”

The MQM, he said, has the honour of being the first party to include women in its political movement. “We organised a similar rally on July 16, 1988. When, in 1987, I was in jail and most party leaders were forced into hiding, it was the party’s women who stepped up and brought MQM victory in the general elections that year.”

In 1992-93, he said, the women were left to take over the party’s affairs when thousands of male workers were arrested and taken into state torture cells. “They [the women] opened Nine Zero, they buried the bodies of their kin,” he said, also paying tribute to the mothers who had given birth to sons who sacrificed their lives for the MQM’s cause.

Moving on to address women who were campaigning for Baloch missing persons, Altaf claimed that 28 MQM members were still missing from the 1992-93 army operation against the party. “We empathise with you. We feel your pain,” he told them.

Altaf also thanked women from the Bengali community who he said were present in huge numbers at the rally.

Violence against women

Altaf’s speech touched all the right notes. He mentioned honour killing, Karo Kari, acid crimes and domestic violence and even brought up topics like dowry and gender discrimination which are considered the social norm.

“The perpetrators of Karo Kari and acid crime should be hanged,” Hussain said passionately to women who listened with rapt attention. “Women in Pakistan are subjected to treatment meted out to second- or third-class citizens. Worse yet, they are treated like animals. Crimes like honour killing, wani and marriage to the Quran are rampant under the veil of tradition.”

The MQM, he said, wanted to create a Pakistan which was free from discrimination against women and where women had the freedom to make their own decisions. “We support not only strong legislation [for women’s rights] but also proper implementation of it. The MQM has raised its voice on every parliamentary forum like no other political party has. We want women to have the status in society that they truly deserve.”

As evidence of MQM’s commitment to protecting women from violence, he mentioned the cases of Shaista Almani, whose family was hunting to kill her for marrying of her own will, and Dr Shazia, who survived rape at the hands of doctors at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital. “MQM protected Shaista Almani and Dr Shazia and ensured that they and their husbands are safely sent abroad.”

Balochistan issue

Dedicating a portion of his speech to the burning Balochistan issue, Altaf said that due to wrong policies and use of force to stifle voices for Baloch rights, the province is now standing at the point of secession from Pakistan. “We are still not willing to accept that robbing people of their rights intensifies feelings of depravation in people which can then not be solved through mere assurances.”

He said he had continuously raised his voice against the situation in Balochistan, the operation in the province and the enforced disappearances.

“Baloch people have lost confidence in Pakistani leaders. We will now have to take brave decisions and give them all their justified rights,” Altaf said, adding that a roundtable conference will have little impact on solving the problem.


Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu: Not everyone has to fall in love

This boy-meets-girl romantic comedy is recommended to everyone for a nice night out. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

If there’s one film that will immediately launch a heated debate between boys and girls, it is Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu.


Imran Khan plays the role of Rahul, a 25-year-old nice guy who has recently lost his job as an architect in Las Vegas and whose only real ambition in life is to please his parents. The parents, played by supremely-talented actors Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak-Shah, are abusiness couple who love their only son and have provided him a luxurious life. They are, however, perfectly comfortable with imposing their views on him and almost blackmailing him into doing things that would help their business and social lives.

Kareena Kapoor plays Riana, a 27-year-old unemployed hairstylist who is so eccentric she can bring light into anyone’s life with just a single smile. Her family is the exact opposite of Rahul’s. Everyone, including a senile granny, is crazy; so crazy that Riana’s by-mistake marriage with Rahul and its annulment are dinner table conversation.

The pair, in their Christmas night drunken revelry, end up marrying each other, only to wake up the next morning and realise what an awful mistake they have made. Rahul knows Riana is never going to fit into his life – or the one his parents expect of him – and Riana, who has jumped from one relationship into another since she was 15, just wants to be alone. But it’s Christmas time, and all official work is on hold. So, Rahul and Riana are man and wife until the Americans roll back into work mode. In that one week, they become best friends. Reminded of What Happens In Vegas, right?


Well what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because that’s not what happens in EMAET; he falls in love with her but she does not and that is that! Here comes the point of contention between men and women: Kapoor, who is a natural at playing the character of an irresistibly adorable girl (Geet in Jab We Met) who is free as the wind, plays it phenomenally well inEMAET as well. And Khan, taken in by her charm, construes what she believes are friendly gestures as romantic overtures.

Every girl and boy who have ever been close friends have, at least once, had this conversation. And that is what makes the film so real. They are made for each other – her strengths are his weaknesses and vice versa but, as is common in real life, that isn’t enough. They have their lives and their goals, and sometimes the time is just not right for love. Every loving gesture that a woman makes is not supposed to be interpreted as an advance for romance.

In short, this is a boy-meets-girl story that has a happy ending, but not the one we are used to seeing. The film, despite being too reminiscent of Jab We Met and Anjaana Anjaani, holds its own.

Khan, who I believe should consider a career in something else because of his absolute lack of entertainment ability, is surprisingly good in the film. This is probably his only film that I have walked out of feeling thoroughly entertained. And though most of the credit for that goes to Kapoor, Khan deserves some too – at least for looking the part that he has played.

Overall, this is a film I recommend to everyone for a nice, soft romantic comedy night out. And if you’re a girl, take with you a male friend who you fear might be falling for you!

NRO letter: Nawaz throws weight behind Supreme Court

KARACHI: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Nawaz Sharif might have let the Memogate case go, but he is still fully focused on the National Reconciliation Ordinance case.

“If money belonging to the people is looted from them and stashed away in accounts in Swiss banks, will the nation not demand that this money is returned to them?” Nawaz said at a joint news conference with Mumtaz Bhutto, chairman of the Sindh National Front (SNF) Mumtaz Bhutto.

The statement comes hours after the Supreme Court framed contempt of court charges against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, for failing to write a letter to Swiss authorities despite court instructions in the NRO case.

Talking about the letter, which has become a bone of contention between the judiciary and the government, Nawaz said that the people must be explained what the significance of this letter is. The letter, he said, should say that this money belongs to the people of Pakistan and it is their demand that this money is brought back to their country. “The money will only be brought back if this letter is written. So why is the government unwilling to write this letter and bring the money to Pakistan?”

In a clear reference to President Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz said that nobody in the country is willing to accept that one man who has looted all this money and refuses to bring it back is allowed to go scot-free while a prime minister becomes his scapegoat. “It must be clarified to the people what the government is committed to: the country or corruption? The prime minister has also taken oath under the constitution and should be clear on which side he is on.”

Coalition partners

Responding to a question, Nawaz said that in supporting the government in its refusal to write the infamous letter, the coalition partners are behaving irresponsibly. “This move is completely against the aspirations of the Pakistani people and it is because of the allies’ support that the government feels that it can get away. The coalition parts, therefore, must reconsider what they are doing.”

Severely criticising the coalition partners, he said that their support to the government in this matter was unconstitutional and illegal. “Not only are they siding with the government, they are also accusing the judiciary of being partisan.”

Supporting the judiciary

The judiciary, he said, is being unfairly blamed for being partial. “Does the ordinary Pakistani citizen not want that this money is returned? That’s what the Supreme Court is also saying and hence asking for the letter to be written. Is it, then, saying something unjust?”

On the matter of presidential immunity, he said that the Supreme Court will better decide on the issue but in his view, immunity or no immunity, the people’s money must be returned to them. “The nation does not careabout immunity. Even a person like me doesn’t understand it. It is the nation’s money, it should first be returned to its rightful owners and then we will talk about immunity.”

Dodging a question about whether the PML-N will take to the streets if the government-judiciary showdown continues, he said that the entire nation is with the judiciary on the matter. “The government is responsible and it has committed crimes, but is trying to blame the judiciary. This is unacceptable.”

Commenting on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s recent statements about the PML-N, Nawaz said that those who really yearn for change do not join hands people from the status quo. “He doesn’t welcome people who are responsible for where Pakistan is today. Politicians should not have double standards.”

Asked about boycotting elections, he said that the PML-N has always maintained that it will only boycott elections if the Pakistan Peoples Party does so. “I have said since the London all-parties conference that for an effective boycott, all parties must refuse to participate in polls.”

Mumtaz Bhutto meeting

Earlier, Bhutto said that in the meeting, he and Nawaz discussed what can be a new direction for an immediate change in the dismal situation of the country. “We must search and find a solution.”

He said that there is a consensus among all political parties that this government cannot be expected to hold free and fair elections, which is why the 20th amendment has been brought in the assembly. “We discussed the formation of an interim government and its mandate,” Bhutto said.

To a question of a possible alliance between his and Nawaz’s parties, he said that his party’s reach is limited to Sindh and it operates on a one-point agenda that Pakistan should become a confederation, implying that the two parties had different agendas.

Originally appeared here:

A conversation with Shobhaa De: At 64, Shobhaa De is still going full steam

KARACHI: For someone with a phobia of needles, Shobhaa De is remarkably comfortable poking others with her razor sharp words regardless of how uncomfortable it may make them.

“Last week, I was at a dinner, when a minister seated at my table said snidely ‘she writes very critically about me and attacks me on TV’. And I turned to him with a smile and said ‘you’re very lucky it is only occasionally’,” said De, while speaking at the Karachi Literature Festival, which kicked off on Saturday.

“He told the host he had a stomach ache and was gone within five minutes,” she continued, wittingly.

Possibly the most glamorous 64-year-old on both sides of the border, De didn’t disappoint to live up to her ‘Superstar writer’ title.

De is primarily known as a gossip columnist, despite having worked on 17 novels – her 25-year-old Socialite Evenings now a Penguin classic – and appearing as a panellist on many television shows about women in India.

This is, perhaps, because of her unapologetic stand on refusing to weave a narrative from the perspective of a victim – a role that most women writers in the subcontinent have taken upon themselves.

“Women are meant to write about suppression, depression, oppression and repression; I understand, but that’s not my life. I don’t want to glorify suffering or make women martyrs and victims in our society,” she explained. And she was honest about it: “It would be hypocritical.”

Almost wishfully, she added, “It would be so much more pleasant if we could do away with the filter of gender.”

De also questioned why women have to be referred to by their gender before their profession. “I am against this categorisation. You don’t say male doctor, male writer, male sportsperson, then why woman writer? As a publisher myself today, I protest against tags like Chicklit, which are meant to communicate that ‘oh, we don’t take it seriously; we enjoy it and then chuck it away’.”

De’s disdain for all prescribed roles is underlined in her latest book, Shobhaa At Sixty.

Like most of her other books, her photograph is splashed on her latest book’s cover. This time, however, it is from a photo shoot she did for Vogue magazine when she turned 60.

Her publishers, almost expectedly, wanted the usual bindi and sandoor as the cover.

“In our society, a woman is cast aside once her childbearing days are over. Once a grandmother, your role is to babysit your grandchildren, while others travel around the world. I have six children and I am a grandmother. But my cover breaks the image of what a 60-year-old should look like.”

But while she speaks openly and candidly against being catergorised, she appears most comfortable in her role as a mother, in every way that society defines it.

Responding to a question by a woman in the audience who said her life plans are on hold while her two-and-a-half year old son takes up all her time, De said, “A two-and-a-half-year old son is a tyrant. Forget about doing anything else until he grows up.”

But, she was careful to add that a woman must not put her life on hold. “I believe all women are essentially born jugglers, we are built to multitask without any song and dance.”

As the session drew to a close, it became apparent that the audience did not want to let her go.

The last question, not surprisingly, was what to expect in her next book.

“It is about an oily, sleazy, despicable politician in Delhi,” she said, adding almost incorrigibly: “I want my future novels to be even raunchier than the old ones.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2012.

Tech-savvy PTI gets Facebook pages back up

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s official Facebook pages, which were taken down by hackers on Friday, have been put back up.

“The pages were put back up at around 5am on Monday after hectic efforts by party members in the US and Pakistan,” President of the Insaf Students Federation in Karachi, Arsalan Ghumman, told The Express Tribune.

Approximately 30 pages were hacked, including the official page of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, ISF’s own page and that of PTI Secretary General Dr Arif Alvi.

“We immediately contacted the National Response Cell on Cyber Crime, a department of the Federal Investigation Agency, as well as the management of Facebook in the US,” Ghumman said.

Since it was a weekend in the US, it delayed the process and made it that much more complicated. “But it worked to our advantage that the PTI is an officially recognised political party in the US,” he said.

Although PTI has a fair idea of who hacked the pages, Ghumman said, they are not willing to disclose the hacker’s identity right now. “I just want to clarify that this is not an inside job, as some people have been saying on social networking websites. The hacker is not and was not a member of the PTI,” he said, adding that the party is considering holding a press conference to disclose who hacked the pages.

Meanwhile, ProPakistani, a blog reporting on Pakistan’s telecom and information technology industry, reported that a 21-year-old boy who claims to have hacked the PTI pages had uploaded his picture on one of the hacked pages.

According to a message he posted on the page before it was taken down, the hacker called himself “UN DT” and showed that he’s in Karachi. Screenshots, exclusively shared with ProPakistani, show the hacker’s message that he hacked the pages because the PTI administration doesn’t allow fans to post questions on pages’ walls, restricting fans from asking anything from the PTI.

He disassociated himself from any political party and demanded that the Facebook pages’ administrators be terminated.

Agneepath: Why remakes are worth it

They say you shouldn’t redo a role that Amitabh Bachchan has done before. And if the role is the character of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan in Agneepath, then the only thing you should be redoing is mulling over your decision to replay it.


Hrithik Roshan went through that process of thinking and then rethinking some more, and as a Bollywood fan, I am grateful that he decided to take up the challenge. He did justice to the character of an angry young man whose sole purpose in life is to avenge the death of his father; a vulnerable man who is a brother, a son and a lover.

The three-hour-long film, with an overdose of melodrama and sometimes even violence, is not for those who don’t appreciate Bollywood for what it is: paisa wusool entertainment.


The great news is that the film does not waste precious minutes on songs that serve no purpose. Contrary to what most of us would have thought, nobody really bothered with Katrina Kaif’s horribly done item song Chikni Chameli. In fact, several people in the theatre murmured, “Can we get on with the film please?” as the song made an unfortunate entry at a point where the two main characters were meeting after 15 years.

Even though it is difficult to ascertain what era the film is set in, it is appreciable nonetheless; a brilliant mesh of the 90s India – where beneath the surface, every hero was an angry young man who lived in a jhopar patti – and 2012 Bollywood cinema, which has progressed by leaps and bounds in terms of technology.

While staying true to the 90s plot with minor additions such as Rishi Kapoor’s role as Rauf Lala, director Karan Malhotra and his team have exploited the almost unlimited resources that a mega producer like Karan Johar put at their disposal, making Agneepath a great viewing experience.

The film belongs to Sanjay Dutt as much as it does to Roshan. Dutt, who had admittedly proven himself in negative (Khalnayak) and semi-negative (Vaastav) roles, is absolutely disgusting as Kancha, a man who hangs men to death as he pleases. Dutt manages to depict Kancha very well.

For me, however, the real star of the film was Rishi Kapoor. Best known for soft roles like the chilled-out father (Hum Tum and Namastey London), he is surprisingly compelling as the repulsive villain who rules the Mumbai drug scene. Nowhere in the film does he appear the typical cuddly (and often tipsy) Rishi Kapoor – he is Rauf Lala and that is all.

When he announced plans to remake Agneepath, producer Karan Johar had said he wanted to set the record straight since the film had under performed when his father made it in the 90s. Apart from achieving that success, Agneepath is the final answer for those who are still critical of the concept of remakes.

Now that Indian filmmakers have proved that they are capable of re-imagining legendary roles like Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and Don, next on the cards should be a Sholay remake. I’m sure you’ll agree!

I will quit politics if proved ISI funded PTI: Imran

KARACHI: Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has thrown down the gauntlet, that he will quit politics if it is proven that his party has been funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Ever since his party’s massive rallies in Lahore and Karachi, critics have questioned where the PTI is getting its money from. Many say it is an ‘establishment’ darling and is receiving funding from intelligence agencies.

“I will quit politics if proved that the ISI funded PTI (sic),” Imran wrote on microblogging website Twitter on Thursday.

Imran and other leaders from his party, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have claimed that the party receives generous funding from overseas Pakistanis, like Imran’s other successful projects such as Namal College in Imran’s home constituency Mianwali and the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore.

Imran further wrote that his party will never allow the use of Pakistan Army against the country’s own people. “We need to stop this War on Terror which in effect is a war of terror orchestrated by the US (sic),” he wrote.

Mohammad Amir released from prison

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir has been released from prison in England, where he was serving a six-month sentence for spot-fixing.

Once considered cricket’s most promising star, 19-year-old Amir was found guilty in the scandal that shook the cricketing world in August 2010. Amir, along with then skipper of Pakistan’s test team Salman Butt and fellow fast bowler Mohammad Asif, had taken bribes from bookie Mazhar Majeed for bowling no-balls in a test match with England.

Undercover reporters from now defunct British publication News Of The World had secretly videotaped Majeed during transaction.

Talking to the media, after news of his release spread in his village, Amir’s brother said that the family was very happy, but would be even more happy when Amir would start playing for Pakistan again.

In November 2011, Amir, Asif and Butt were found guilty by a London court.

Although Amir has served half of his sentence at a young offenders facility, he has been released on bail for good behaviour, two days early. He is yet to finish his five-year ban period.