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How many PMs and presidents has Pakistan had in 70 years?

Last week Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi was sworn in as Pakistan’s 18th prime minister since the country was born 70 years ago. If I was allowed an emoji on this page, I would choose the one that rolls its eyes because I find it the coolest.

Yes, that’s how many times prime ministers and presidents have come and disappeared into oblivion in my country. Believe me, and excuse my ignorance, but I had to google to see how many (since 18 is quite a number) had actually been able to complete a democratic term ever since.

Utterly dismal is that that none have to date. But then that’s a completely different discussion and I am a very apolitical person, despite being a journalist.

Living away from Pakistan has its own, umm…perks, especially when you are living amongst ‘neighbours’ who keep reminding you that they belong to the world’s greatest democracy. Well yes, I get that!

I know they aren’t being unkind when they state this fact but, yes, it does hurt a bit and makes one think.

Ages ago, the only political talk I ever heard were the casual discussions my parents used to have about Mohammed Khan Junejo and the dictator Zia ul Haq, names that always remained just familiar and meant nothing more.

We were not residents of Pakistan and since I was busy growing up in an African jungle, politics was always a distant talk until I moved to Pakistan and joined a newspaper while still a student.

Journalism in Pakistan is still mostly about politics so you can understand how badly I was out of place. It was something like a freshly laundered shirt being thrown into a murky and muddy pool. The only difference here was that I was the freshly laundered piece that had to swim through the murk.

Years later remain a blur and the fight, as long as I remember, was always between the enigmatic Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan Muslim League. One would go – without completing a term – and the other would take over the vacant chair of premiership.

The first time I voted was for Sharif, not because I preferred him, but because I was a young eligible voter and because my relatives thought I should vote for him. I was specifically even shown where I should put the stamp. (Insert another eye roll emoji here) Yes, that’s how easily my political affiliations could change.

Later on, when I moved to Dubai and joined Khaleej Times, I was lucky enough to cover events where Benazir was present along with her team of equally enigmatic female politicians such as Sherry Rehman and her constant companion Naheed who was side lined after Benazir’s death in 2007.

Benazir was a tall and charismatic woman who commanded immediate attention wherever she went. I was immensely proud that she was Pakistan’s first female prime minister but I was focused on my work as I was still a fledging reporter and did not pay much attention to her brand of politics.

It’s almost been 10 years but I still remember how the news of Benazir’s assassination shook the world. My focus was still on work since I was scrambling to put together stories from her second home in Dubai. It wasn’t until a day later that I realised we had lost a great woman and a far-sighted politician who believed in true democracy.

With Benazir gone, the strongest contender who remained was Nawaz Sharif though there were several PMs who came into power in between for such short periods that one hardly recalls their names.

Again, I wasn’t much bothered by who came and who left the throne in Pakistan until ex-President Pervez Musharraf, who was the 10th one by the way, decided to end his exile in Dubai to contest elections in 2013. Taking lots of best wishes for safety from family, friends and colleagues, I flew with him on his chartered plane from Dubai to Karachi to cover the event.

Despite his popularity – mainly on social media, a phenomenon similar to what opposition leader Imran Khan currently faces – Musharraf lost the election badly. Luckily for me, I survived the journey and sit here telling my tale today.

Imran Khan has risen as an immensely popular leader and has swept the youngsters off their feet with promises of a new Pakistan which all Pakistanis have been dreaming of. I, too, was lured by his promises but despite proving to be a strong opposition leader, I am yet to be convinced of his ‘newness’ and to see some work being done on the ground.

All seemed well on my political affiliations until last week when Sharif was disqualified (yet again, yes for the third time – insert eye-roll emoji again) and my Dubai-based story kind off played a role in his disqualification from office.

While I want to be happy that as a journalist I probably won’t be getting another chance at bringing a government down through accountability, I feel a tad sad.

Lots of congratulatory messages are still pouring in from Pakistanis and fellow colleagues back home in Pakistan and here and, not to fib, I do feel good about them.

Also, I am already a Twitter star where the number of my followers has doubled since the news broke, even though people now expect me to speak about politics only. So why am I unhappy?

Despite the accusations of corruption against Sharif, I was hoping against hope that he would somehow complete his term and Pakistan would firmly be called a democratic country.

But alas, the jinx hasn’t been broken and democracy has been derailed yet again. Not too sure when now next I’ll be able to boast and tell my neighbours, “See, we too are a democracy.”

 

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The weighty trap

Asma Ali Zain

A picture is worth a thousand words indeed. Add to that a sprain in the neck. That’s pretty much how my weight loss journey started.

It was a casual photo taken during a work assignment that my photographer colleague sent across to me that triggered the whole episode. Of course, he was doing me a favour but he didn’t realise that he had sent shock waves across along with the photos.

All I could see was a bloated face with stretched facial features with no particular shape that you could call a nose or chin. And, yes, I did a double rebound on the double chin.

Probably it was the first time I actually looked at myself that closely after ages.

In short, I was hopelessly obese and it was affecting my health in general and putting a strain on my neck – yes neck – in particular. And why was my neck being affected by my weight, you might ask? Well, my hectic lifestyle as a journalist and poor postures at work have given me a complicated and fatal neck strain which, according to the doctor, is worsening because I am fat. The condition would improve once I lost weight, he said.

I haven’t struggled ever with weight loss per se because I have never seriously tried to lose the flab. I have always been comfortable with my body.

I mean I did try to stay in shape and did the occasional gym sessions, built up some muscle and also went for heat therapy cure hoping to melt the fat away but nothing ever worked because of hypothyroidism that makes losing even tougher.

But when your weight starts weighing you down, it is time to think.

A friend then casually mentioned that a dietician could help and I begrudgingly tottered to one.

I was immediately made to stand on a weighing scale that protested, groaned and creaked loudly under my weight. If the nutritionist noticed, he was good at hiding it or must have seen worse.

Am still not saying how much I weighed, and don’t even dare ask!

You are obese, he said with a face, as a flat as a diet plate and handed me a chart that made my eyes pop out of my head. And I was immediately put on a six month diet to reach a target weight fit for my height and age.

But imagine when a South Asian is told that you can no longer eat chappati or rice and the evening cuppa has to be without milk and sugar! Yeah, that’s what happened to me.

The only allowed foods for that week were boiled eggs, grilled chicken, low fat yoghurt and cheese, green salad and lots and lots of water.

Only those who have treaded this path can know how the journey feels.

However tiring and lonely the journey was, my destination seemed to be nearing.

Did I detect a sly smile on the lips of my dietician when he was looking at my weight results beamed through to him after a machine scanned my body mass index, water retention and fat levels within a week’s time?

Yes, I had lost a whopping three kilos in the first week and that too only with light exercise, and of this, one kilo was fat. Yay.

This was motivation enough to keep me going for the coming weeks.

A new diet chart was floated and again there were more boiled eggs, grilled meat, lots of green veggies, water and endless unsweetened green tea.

No sweets, no chocolates and definitely no cheating and the result was a smooth downhill from that point onwards.

I lost another three kilos the following week and I was already feeling lighter, and healthier. I was still not allowed to eat fruits and all fruit juices were off limit.

The only amount of rice I was allowed to eat after week four was five tablespoons – almost what I used to eat just while tasting if the biryani I was cooking was good enough or not!

More boiled eggs, grilled stuff, veggies and lots of water were in the menu for the following weeks with one cheat day where I didn’t dare cheat lest I gained what I had lost.

Today, it’s been three months to the day since I started and I have lost a total of 11 kilos (woohoo!) out which six kilos is fat. I still have another three months to go to achieve my target weight. But, bring it on! I don’t mind because though I have lost unwanted weight, I have gained a new lifestyle.

I am receiving all compliments with the required grace and have dropped two sizes and one shoe size which had increased due to water retention and bloating.

Am almost looking like what I used to be before I let myself go.

But to top it all, am a healthier me. I feel lighter and more energetic with less aches and pains. And yes, the neck pain is no longer noticeable though that is partly due to the amazing handiwork of the physiotherapist who is treating me.

In all, the tougher the goal, the sweeter the achievement and that’s all the sweet you will be allowed. Go for it.

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Law firm confirms Pakistan PM’s Dubai job papers as ‘legal’

 

A Dubai law firm has submitted a legal opinion to Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s alleged employment in Dubai, verifying that the employment documents which imply he was employed by Capital FZE in Jebel Ali Freezone (Jafza) in Dubai until 2014 are 100 per cent legal.

The legal firm Khalifa bin Huwaidan Advocates was consulted by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that has submitted a 254-page report to the Pakistan’s Supreme Court into Nawaz’ family wealth.

The court held its first hearing on Monday to decide the fate of the prime minister who is contesting the corruption investigation. He has denied any wrong doing.

The Dubai law firm submitted its report to the Supreme Court on Monday, Khalifa bin Huwaidan, lawyer and legal advisor at the firm, told Khaleej Times.

“Normally businessmen establish companies in Dubai if they want to maintain a visa status in the company but in this case, (Nawaz Sharif) was an employee in a Jafza-based firm,” he confirmed.

Khalifa’s conclusion was based on the copy of the labour contract Nawaz had with Capital FZE, and said “The contract is 100 per cent legal.”

The legal opinion has been readied based on the UAE labour laws, he said. It earlier emerged that Nawaz Sharif was employed as chairman of the board for Capital FZE company in Jafza from August 2006 to April 2014 and was withdrawing a salary of Dh10,000. However, his employment status was terminated in 2014 after the company was dissolved. This was a year after he became the prime minister of Pakistan for the third time.

The Sharif family has denied that a salary was withdrawn and said that the visa was to facilitate visits to the UAE. However, as per the UAE Labour Law, all employees have to receive a salary through a bank account under the UAE’s Wage Protection System (WPS), failing which the firm can be blacklisted and shut down.

Also as per the UAE law, if no record of a salary transfer to the bank is found, the employer is held liable not the employee. However, it is not clear who owned Capital FZE before it was dissolved.

Hussain Nawaz, son of Nawaz Sharif has rejected the JIT findings that his father was being paid by the Dubai firm. He said that his father never received any salary from the aforesaid company. Hussain said that his father was appointed as chairman only for facilitation of visa and visits to the UAE in 2006.

The JIT report has also revealed that Nawaz did not disclose this information before running for the highest public office in 2013 which is against the Constitution of Pakistan. The JIT findings are based on its correspondence with Jafza.

A legal opinion from a Dubai firm verifying the legality of the employment contract will leave no room for Nawaz to contest this in court.

This result is also likely to impact the case against the Sharifs, which are being probed after the Panama Papers revealed in 2016 that three of his children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement. The assets in question include four expensive flats in Park Lane, London.

NOTE: This article was originally published on http://www.khaleejtimes.com

 

 

Love · Poetry

Still Red

And then he came along…

Rising like a Phoenix from my ashes

And gathered all my Red;

And put together my scattered Red, piece by piece

I bloomed once again…

His sweet whisperings caressed my Red, deeply;

Shaking me to the core, a depth I’ve never felt before

He is me, he is my Red…

Love · Poetry

Red

I was wearing Red when he broke me,

I was wearing Red when he shred me into tiny pieces,

And even before I could gather myself,

The winds blew, strong and hard,

And scattered my Red like seeds,

To be sowed again, to be shred again…

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The Hijab Flag

Muslim flag of defiance

Source: The Hijab Flag

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Dear Aleppo

Feministani by Bina Shah

Dear Aleppo

There are thousands of new, dark stars in the evening sky tonight.
Each one a soul who died yesterday, today, tomorrow in Aleppo
Babies burned in their beds,
Doctors lined up and executed outside the hospital,
The elderly, machine-gunned as they walked the bombed and broken streets.
I will count my prayers on those stars tonight
— Ya Allah, Ya Rehman, Ya Rahim
— Ya Kareem, Ya Hayy, Ya Qayoom
I will wish for terrible retribution on your liberators.
And tomorrow, and for the rest of my life
I will tell the world about all of its new constellations.

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