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Showing posts from May, 2010

VIEW: Cyber Wars: Who killed Facebook? Not I - (The Un-Redacted Version)

Published in Daily Times / 29 May 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Try clicking on a news item about Pakistani students protesting the Facebook ban in Google. Try googling Muhammad for that matter. Just try it.

You cannot, can you?
Not if your internet service provider (ISP) is anything like mine. Not since the crackdown on Facebook.

And all because of the event planned for May 20, 2010 in the far recesses of cyberspace — an event that prompted Facebook users to start a campaign requesting other users to initiate a boycott. But a simple appeal to shun the social networking site that was hosting a page encouraging caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was apparently not enough. Making the ‘choice’ to quit did not quite satisfy. No, the users had to make a bigger statement.

No one knows how the religious parties got wind of this or at what point did the Lahore High Court (LHC) decide to enforce compliance to the boycott. But they did. Give them (the religious parties) enough rope and they will han…

BOOK REVIEW: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, May 22, 2010
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Barack Obama

When Senator Obama — he was a senator at the time — penned his views on the American dream, his own state played a useful role in setting the tone. He was still two years away from the finish line but was well inside the perimeter of history-making events.

The book, he says, was born of conversations on the campaign trail to the US Senate. The vision is powered by his passion to bring American policies in sync with the new world order. As commander-in-chief, he gets to field test this optimised vision and attempts to close the rift, but as senator he could play around with ideas that best represented the new politics that he believed to be the need of the day. While he impresses upon the readers the importance of propping up this world order with some good old-fashioned values, he stops to grade the policies in place at the time. Rewiring a system that estranged the US from the world and, to …

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan at Knife’s Edge

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in DAILY TIMES (15 MAY 2010) under the heading: Anatomy of a crisis

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Post-2001, Pakistan is braced for impact, trying to keep its strategic interests from getting tangled up with other agendas. Yet, the country is not a first-time entrant in the game of power. It came out of the Soviet-Afghan adventure with its wits intact, and went on a (mis)adventure in Afghanistan aiming to gain strategic depth immediately afterwards, with carefully cultivated ‘assets’ and quietly managed sideshows with the leftover jihadists in Kashmir, to the dismay of many.

Accepting the lead role of an impartial observer in the second round of regional power games has brought it some unwanted attention from extremist quarters and left it shaken to the core. Allies may be footing the bill for this performance but ordinary Pakistanis are paying the price. It has been an unseasonably busy few years, what with keeping terror at bay, restor…

BOOK REVIEW: The 50th Law of Power: Fear Nothing By Robert Greene and 50 Cent. Reviewed by Afrah Jamal.

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / 8 May 2010 under the heading, LEARNING FROM THE 50's

It is blue and gold and it is all about you — the present day ‘you’, planning a rendezvous with destiny, flanked by fear and unhappy at the prospect of rocking that nice boat. This version of you tiptoeing around people’s feelings (sweet), working up the courage to do ‘something grand’ and looking aggrieved at having missed that turning to ‘greatness’ yet again, can use some perspective.

The 50th Law of Power: Fear Nothing is a one on one session with 50 Cent and Robert Greene, designed to give everyone a shot at a life unencumbered by the fear we were just talking about. 50 Cent is a former hustler, present rapper from the hood. Robert Greene has authored books like 33 Strategies of War, 48 Laws of Power, etc.

Robert Greene you get. But 50 Cent!

Their wildly different backgrounds — one roamed the mean streets of Southside Queens, the other walked the mean cor…

BOOK REVIEW: Boom Boom Shahid Afridi

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Book Compiled & Edited by Asif Noorani

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / 01 May 2010

Cricketers, poor souls; they carry the weight of the world and the hopes of their nation. Legends in their fields, these celebrated few have a nationwide cult following. The sporting arena confers dual citizenship on the chosen. Time stands still when these demigods are in true form. The world ends when they are average mortals. These men walk a fine line between celebrity and infamy, crossing over at inopportune moments and tried by public opinion each time they do. That is where the pitchfork-wielding public comes in. Their passion for the game runs deep.

Shahid Afridi is Pakistan’s greatest asset. But he also suffers from a condition that makes him do funny things at the wrong moments. Afridi has provided fans with endless entertainment and a reason to live. He has also stomped on their hopes and snuffed out their dreams.

Boom Boom Sha…

BOOK REVIEW: Sahib: The British Soldier in India / Author: Richard Holmes

Published in Daily Times / Apr 24, 2010

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

They came for the trade. And found something better. When the dust settled, an empire had changed hands. The architects of the change, who bore witness to the rise and fall of the mighty empire, imprinted their impression upon their adopted homeland. The land, in turn, left an indelible mark on the newcomers.

Richard Holmes, himself a soldier and a leading military historian, looks beyond the empire carved from the remains of another civilisation, steering past the colonial designs of the company and later the crown. He seizes upon the red coat and brings the British solider to life by sharing extracts from his letters and references from archived documents. Using their words to animate the land of the pagoda tree (page xxv ) — as 18th century India came to be known — and letting their experiences set the tone, he rekindles the magic that went with the trappings of a sahib and the horror inherited with and inflicted upon…

VIEW: My Fair, Goon? “By Jove: He Nearly Did it….”

Published in CHOWK Aug 27, 2009

A satirical take on Rehman Dakait

Here lies Rehman

Day Job: local Godfather; often mistaken for the Fairy Godfather.
Primary Residence: the Hood – Lyari.
Forwarding Address (had he lived): the Senate?
Recently discarded Motto: ‘Be Scared’.
New party Motto: ‘We Care’.

Once featured in the sport section, a regular in crime and rumored to have been vying for a spot in the political pages – the fellow may have started his career playing football for ‘Rexer XI’ as a youngster; he spent it playing havoc with Karachi’s law and order as a gang leader. At the time of his death, however, his business card would have read ‘social worker’ and (soon to be) ‘smarmy politician’. This mystifying turn of events will leave the most jaded among us intrigued, horrified, worried and a little speechless. Here is a chap who embodied stereotypical villains - sans the cat, Al Capone - without the Fedora, and maybe Vlad the Impaler – on a good day. Isn’t political contender cum…