The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn

Victo Ngai

I have the great pleasure of working on the beautiful fantasy novelette “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by USMAN T. MALIKSharif, a disenchanted young Pakistani professor, grew up and lives in the United States, but is haunted by the magical, mystical tales his grandfather told him of a princess and a Jinn who lived in Lahore when the grandfather was a boy. After the passing of his grandfather, Sharif decides to unveil the mysteries by tracing his root in Pakistan. You can read the story here on  

Big thanks to AD Irene Gallo as always and Usman Malik! 

don’t act like this is something new. police brutality and the mistreatment of black people has been going on since the establishment of america (and before, fuckit). the palestine-israel conflict has been going on since the end of world war two. the conflicts in pakistan have been going pretty much since the establishment of the british raj. this is not new. this is not “sudden”. the world is not “suddenly changing”. this isn’t “what our world is coming to.”. it’s always been this way. you’re only seeing it now.


6 Terrifying Facts About Landmines

In an age of shooting sprees and suicide bombings, landmines seem a distant threat. But in the last week alone, seven people were killed when they came into contact with the explosive devices: an 11-year-old boy in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, one person in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, and at least five were killed in Paksitan’s Balochistan province. Often decades old, landmines litter the terrain of resolved conflicts and pose continuing threats to those who live in their midst.

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One of my childhood friends had a glorious voice. She used it to recite naatain at any given chance she got. Her favourites were Zah-e-Muqqadar and Fasloon Ko Takaluf Hai Hum Sey Agar. I mention this here, today, because it is 12 Rabi ul Awwal, and it feels like the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) birthday has become a marketing strategy for so many religious factions who are in a race to do one up on their rivals by holding a bigger Milaad gathering. There was one near my new home the other day, and what was being recited on the microphone neither moved me nor convinced me that I should be paying attention to this recitation. 

Now, my friend, when she recited these Naatain, with her big eyes shut tight, her small hands clutching her neatly set dupatta tightly, her slim, small body swaying back and forth with an internally organized rhythm, moved people to tears. Even me, in my self-imposed phase of indifference (age 13; it’s a tough time for anyone). I can admit to this now without embarrassment. And I think I had to admit it because the world has suddenly taken a strange turn. We are now all collectively embarrassed about owning up to our harmless religious pageantry because it has been hijacked by people who have taken it away from childlike adoration to rabid fanaticism. It is a shame. I don’t know what can be done about this, only that I am currently listening to Qari Waheed’s beautiful rendition of Fasloon Ko Takaluf Hai Hum Sey Agar, and I am quietly content about knowing the worth of personal faith. 

And for anyone out at this time in Lahore, or any city of Pakistan: please stop and take a look at the ‘pahadis’ the children make to celebrate the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) birthday. It’s all beautiful because it is somewhat removed from the politics of religious factionism and fanaticism. And while you are doing that, have heart. Perhaps there will be a time to be good again. I hope we are all around to see it.  

There is no dedication on this post, but it is partially written for my friend Ambreen, who made me understand that you don’t need to have a voice like a nightingale to sing about the things you love. You just need to sing. 

Badshahi Mosque; photo taken on 11th October, 2011, at 5:42 PM. 

Everyone is leaving this summer. So far I’ve heard China, India, Quebec, US, Pakistan, and Saudi. I really miss Pakistan. I had full intentions of going but I’m gonna wait it out till next December for my cousin’s wedding. Frankly, I don’t have the money really. Even after all these years, I still get home sick. Canada hasn’t ever, probably will never feel like home. My sisters are so well adjusted here but I really can’t seem to do so myself. On some subconscious level, I think I just don’t want to.

The smell of bun kebabs; the gunnay (sugar cane) ka juice after a hot school day; my aunt dragging me to suddar in a rickshaw, and I’d only go with her if she promised to buy me chat; calling every shop owner ‘khan’ and staying there for like 45 mins just talking about irrelevant shit that had nothing to do with buying the clothes until the other guy came in and got us chai; the Sunday morning tradition of going to buy halwapuri with my dadaji on his Vespa.

Since most women wore the niqab, I loved making eye contact because that was really the only place to look. It’s refreshing to pickup on the facial expression of these women by only looking into their eyes. I used to grab on my mom’s abaya when we crossed the Karachi streets because my other sisters would always get her hands before me. 

Every morning I woke up to like 6 different adans because we had a mosque on every street corner. I didn’t need the automatic computer adans or an alarm or a calendar to tell me to pray. 

I realize Pakistan gets so much bad publicity but I really do love it. I have witnessed bombs and shootings and robberies but it’s more than that. A lot more than that. 

Aid and Conflict in Pakistan | International Crisis Group

Islamabad/Brussels  |   27 Jun 2012

Despite many billions of dollars, international assistance to Pakistan, particularly from the U.S., its largest donor, is neither improving the government’s performance against jihadi groups nor stabilising its nascent democracy. 

Aid and Conflict in Pakistan, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how the U.S. focus on military funding has failed to deliver counter-terrorism dividends, instead entrenching the military’s control over state institutions and delaying reforms. In order to help stabilise a fragile country in a conflict-prone region, it concludes, the U.S. and other donors should focus instead on long-term civilian assistance to improve the quality of state services, in cooperation with local civil society organisations, NGOs with proven track records and national and provincial legislatures.

Since 2002, U.S. funding has been heavily lopsided: $15.8 billion for security purposes, compared to $7.8 billion in economic aid. Because U.S.-Pakistan ties continue to be narrowly defined by counter-terrorism imperatives, many Pakistanis believe that Washington is only interested in short-term security objectives.

“U.S. support for long-term democracy and civilian capacity building is the best way to guarantee the West’s and Pakistan’s interests in a dangerous region”, said Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “But aid policies must be better targeted, designed and implemented”.

Because of strained U.S.-Pakistan relations, particularly since the May 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden near a major military academy in Abbottabad, donors and their implementing partners face increasingly difficult conditions. Along with bureaucratic and military restrictions on NGO staff and activities, rising security threats, particularly kidnappings-for-ransom, also impede aid delivery.

The Obama administration’s aid policy, which limits U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and NGO input into program designs and strategies and stipulates an abundance of rules and reporting requirements, constrains the capabilities of USAID and its implementing partners. Short-sighted policies aimed at winning hearts-and-minds through high visibility “signature” development projects are often mired in a sluggish and unaccountable bureaucracy. Instead of measuring success as a bricks and mortar game, economic aid should focus on supporting democratic strengthening, capacity building for better delivery of services, economic growth and civilian law enforcement.

All military funding should be rigorously monitored, and the administration should apply congressional certification requirements that the Pakistan military has ended its support to jihadi groups, holds human rights violators to account and does not subvert the democratic process. Above all, Congress and the administration should not allow frustrations with the military to restrict economic assistance and support for the democratic transition.

“Without a change of course, U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001 will leave a legacy of failure”, said Paul Quinn-Judge, acting Asia Program Director. “In Pakistan, it will be remembered for failing to provide effective support for democratisation, and in the U.S. for failing to deliver on stability and counter-radicalisation”.



The Ten Most Emotionally Intense Humsafar Moments (Cont.):

#8 Farida and Khirad’s Rendevous before Heeren’s Surgery:  

Now this isn’t the only time these two very pretty ladies have a showdown in Humsafar, and believe me it’s not the only one on this list, but Khirad’s second time around with Farida is definitely worthy of a spot. No longer scared and afraid, Khirad has transformed from bali ki bakri to a strong, independent woman, and she’s having none of Farida’s nonsense. As Khirad responds with immense personal strength (after all Farida did kick her out of that house!): “Aap aur kar bhi kya sakti hain, jisko bulana hai bulaien, jitna shor machana hain machayein. Mein tab darti thi jab mein aapkay betay kay saath rehana chahati thi aab mein lanat bhaijti hoon aap par, aapkay betay par, aur aapkay ghar par”, one is left to wonder if this is the same Khirad that left Karachi in a truck with a Pathan driver who took pity on her. These are perhaps the strongest lines in the entire drama (at least for me), for here, it is clear that Khirad no longer cares for the Hussains, their wealth, their status, their son - her husband, the house, nothing at all. She never did in the first place but now there’s no doubt for the audience either. Perhaps, the only time in the series that I saw Farida dumbstruck was when these words were exchanged.

Not much can keep good, old Farida down but Khirad’s moo tod jawab certainly resulted in her bolti being band (for good too!). As Khirad dramatically leaves, the camera pans on Farida and the scene cuts to Ashar’s flashbacks of his time with Khirad. Sarmad Khoosat beautifully juxtaposes the present with the past, this time though the characters are reversed. Kehtay hain waqt hameeshan apnay aap ko dhorahata hai. Aaj jahan Farida khadi hui hai wahan kal Khirad khadi thi. For Khirad’s courage in front of the very woman  who ruined her life this scene makes it to number 8 on this list.

Crowds Descend on Abbottabad, Pakistanis Express Shock, Anger

Some Pakistanis are shocked and angry over the U.S. commando attack that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.  Crowds of people flocked to the compound in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden had been hiding

We have come to see whether all this is true or not. Such a big event has occurred here. The whole world is talking about it. I cannot believe that it is true. How can such a well-known person live in such a house?

Alam Sher

Tailor, Abbotabad

Not far away, crowds expressed anger and frustration over what they see as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. They say, the fact that the U.S. conducted the mission without Pakistani authorization means their country is not well defended.

We want to convey that we are insecure. Today, Americans came and they did what they wanted to do. Tomorrow, India will come and they will do what they want to do. Where is our security?

Salman Khan

Butcher, Abbottabad

Sentiment that has been inflamed, some say, by the killing of America’s enemy number one on Pakistani territory. But the protests so far have been small and isolated.

I think the reason why there are no big protests, demonstrations in Pakistan is due to the fact that support for every kind of militant, whether al-Qaida, whether Taliban, Jihadi has gone down. It doesn’t mean that the people of Pakistan are now supporting the U.S. There’s still a very strong anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan.

Rahimullah Yusafzai

Journalist, Islamabad