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VIEW: No More Sitting Ducks - taking a Chapter from the 1980s Playbook

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, December 31, 2011


These days Pakistan can be found standing at the crossroads mulling over its future role in an ongoing war. A shaky alliance merits the deployment of its sophisticated air defence network on the western front. Its cash-strapped economy in turn merits the reassessment of the defence budget to sustain this expansive proposition. After 26/11, Pak military’s mission statement has undergone some necessary overhauls; it must now rethink safeguards against a powerful ally and identify the limitations of its proposed strategy.

The primary goal is to strengthen the western border defences. It has been done before. No Soviet could get past their watchful gaze in the 1980s. Pakistan’s current capability allowed swift detection of an intruding Indian helicopter from the east recently. And yet there have been two air violations from the west in a span of six months. Two!

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, radars had been deployed on t…

VIEW: Spin Cycle (A look at Media’s responsibility) - 2007

BY: Afrah Jamal & JH
Published in Pakistan Observer 2007

“People understand that democracy depends on a free press, but just as importantly, real democracy depends on a fair press."
Roger Ailes, Chairman & CEO, FOX News.”

The shift in power has been perceptible in the dominance of ‘real news’ over ‘selective views’ and a government that is no longer dogging the footsteps of journalism. A free press is powerful. With power comes responsibility and this new found freedom brings a far greater obligation, to advocate truth with as much ‘good sense’ as with accuracy and impartiality to sustain a liberated press.

This could be when potential harm from complete disclosure vs. publics’ right to information is given due consideration to avoid an infringement upon raison d’état. But this very premise raises some serious questions like ‘will a bowdlerized version of truth be acceptable when national/security interest is at stake?’ ‘And granted that the Media’s role is to further ou…

FILM REVIEW: West Bank Story a live-action short film (2007)

Published in The POST May 17, 2007

Directed by:Ari Sandel
Written by: Kim Ray and Ari Sandel
Duration: 21 Minutes
(An official selection of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival)


The Middle East is better known for staging violent uprisings, certainly not for inspiring comedic masterpieces.

Since 1967, the West bank has spawned a surge in Arab hostility, frequent visits to the Middle East by Condoleezza Rice and lately, a small little inspirational musical comedy about competing falafel stands, directed, co-written and produced by Ari Sandel (part Israeli, part American Californian native). Since there is no easy way to represent both sides fairly, the very notion of West Bank Story is greeted with a justifiable mix of scepticism, wariness and resentment at first. No doubt, it is a precarious balancing act that mandates such a film to be witty without being offensive, show compassion without discrimination and entertain without losing substance. So does West Bank Story deliver?

West Bank Story

VIEW: The Lost Art of Music Video Making (2007)

Published in the POST Aug 16, 2007

2011: All Pakistani/Foreign Music Channels have been removed from the local TV cable

If, through some science fiction miracle, my past self happened to glance at the present, the me of the 90s would wonder why I tinker with the radio of an obviously non-functional music player in 2007. It is wiser not to let on that though we can carry 1,000 songs in our pocket, getting just one from the 'telly' is practically impossible. I am afraid the Taliban do not get credit for this though. No, the disappearance of English music from TV falls in the jurisdiction of the oft-cited cable provider's monopoly on this particular genre. Two articles on their antics are quite enough and hence, this is not a commentary on these folks.



Still, before we go any further, PEMRA officials need to check what one particular distributor is up to in Karachi. Meanwhile, back in the future without any English videos/music to preview, one can still flip over to MTV Pakist…

INTERVIEW: Pak-US Relations - an Interview with Dr Rodney Jones (2007)

Published in the POST & VISTA Magazine 5 March 2007 in 3 parts

By: Afrah Jamal & QS

PART 1

Dr Rodney Jones is President of Policy Architects International and has served as Senior Advisor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) project of the Carnegie Moscow Centre and as Senior Advisor and Counselor to the Keystone Centre’s National Commission on Nuclear Threat. Policy Architects International is a private research, consulting and advisory services organisation in Reston, Virginia that concentrates on services needed in international policy areas, including international security, economic development, technology transfer, trade controls, public and private assistance and direct investment. Following is an interview with Dr Rodney Jones.

Q: Since quite a bit of confusion among Pakistanis, amongst the majority at any rate, stems from the fact that they do not understand how we are perceived from across the Atlantic, so let us begin with the basics - the American minds…

VIEW: Signs of Our Time

Old Old Piece Published In The POST, May 10, 2007

Update: Imran Khan's Karachi Jalsa (2011) turned to yesteryear's idols to liven up the proceedings....

2014: JJ puts his foot in it by declaring women should not be allowed to drive. Time to Boycott his clothing.

It is the 1980s.

Sounds of music emanate from a garden where some youngsters strum a guitar to the amusement of a small captive audience of neighbourhood children perched on the wall, the best seats in the house.

Some years pass; destiny fashions this unlikely albeit glamorous hobby into a career; a pop icon emerges with the phenomenon of Vital Signs, one of the most recognisable and well-loved hit songs of that time and a fan base ranging from admiring youth to stern-looking aunties.

As the Signs rejuvenate Pakistani pop culture, their wholesome image and evident musical genius quickly establish them as a class act. Music flourishes despite the stifling media policies and good songs with great musicians surface to defi…

BOOK REVIEW: Inside the Pakistan Army: A Woman’s Experience on the Frontline of the War on Terror

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Author: Carey Schofield

First Abbottabad, then Admiral Mullen, and now the BBC — whispered allegations against the Pakistan Army have picked up pace. Thus far it has been unable to build an effective counter against the barrage of accusations headed its way. Thus far it has watched its credibility plummet and the problems mount. That the military’s weakened standing can be attributed to a series of unfortunate events — some of their own creation, others beyond their control, have left their image tarnished. Even the fact that a Pakistani checkpost recently came under NATO fire and suffered heavy casualties did little to alter the negative perception.

Carey Schofield, the author of Inside the Soviet Army, who admits to having spent seven years studying the Pakistan Army, is off to vindicate her hosts. Since she does not practice the military’s customary caution, her…

VIEW: A Base for an Eye

Written 29 Nov 2011..Published 06 Dec 2011 in GEO NEWS BLOG

This week’s episode of ‘Homeland’ (TV serial) bears remarkable resemblance to events that transpired halfway across the world along the Durand line. In the drama, civilians are accidentally shot by officers while in pursuit of a wanted suspect and though there are witnesses who can testify to the contrary, the official story insists that the suspect fired first. In real life, ISAF led by Afghan Special Forces in hot pursuit of insurgents mowed down a Pakistani check post eerily echoes that very claim regarding the predawn raid which, were it not for their statement, reinforces Pakistan’s image as a wronged partner instead of the usual ‘janus-faced’ ally.

Admittedly, a very steep price has been paid for altering the perception with the lives of more than two dozen Pakistani soldiers who perished in an ISAF attack on 26 November 2011. Yet, even in a straightforward case like this – and no one contests the border violation – even…

THEATER REVIEW: Karachi The Musical ‘Haar Na Mano’ (Don’t Give Up)

Published in Daily Times / Wednesday, November 30, 2011

By Afrah Jamal

Though Karachi of the shiny flyovers, sprawling malls and violent impulses has been billed as the star, the one with the Spartan tastes, colourful khokas – and, of course the violent impulses steals the show. That tough neighbourhood with the dusty streets and a no-go sign hung at the gate – that is Lyari; home to odious bandits, obscure boxing coaches, soccer aficionados and predatory politicians. Folks might say there is little of value in this wilderness. But for a brief moment, they will greet this troubled piece of land with a hearty cheer instead of an involuntary shriek thanks to a sweet musical extravaganza that welcomes them aboard its famed boxing clubs and, by default the dreaded hood for a show and tell.

Lyari, in its latest incarnation serves as the backdrop of a new stage play that recently concluded its three-week run at the Karachi Arts Council. Nida Butt & Hamza Jafri’s brainchild - ‘Karachi – …

BOOK REVIEW: Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published n Daily Times / Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Author: By Steve Inskeep

This is ostensibly the “story of a single day in Karachi’s life” — a city that remains in a violence-induced stupor for the most part of the year now. The choice of the day is perplexing since it happens to be the Ashura (10th day of Muharram) incident circa 2009 when a bomb ripped through a procession and ensuing violence ripped apart the community. High-profile tragedies like the one chosen to be this book’s centrepiece have complex backgrounds, and unresolved endings. Isolating a single bloodcurdling note from a lavish production can be restrictive. Here, however, life and death are constants — one brings the city’s narrative to a standstill but also spawns multiple plotlines — and as the writer will demonstrate, not all with tragic beginnings.

Steve Inskeep is the host of NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ and recipient of the 2006 Robert F Kenned…

VIEW: Year of The Faiz

By Afrah Jamal

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, October 29, 2011

“For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished freedom is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while there was still time” — George Sutherland.

A bit of art to rebuild an ancient potter’s village, a sampling of prose to challenge the established order, a simple vision used as ballast to steady a foundering ship — when all three intersect, the ripples can create an alternate timeline. Setting aside 2011 as the year of Faiz has opened a doorway of possibilities.

Several months ago an open call was issued to interpret Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry through visual art. A specially designed A4-sized paper was the chosen medium of expression. This ambitious project was part of the ongoing centennial celebrations to honour a legendary poet. A few weeks ago that vision took the form of ‘Postcards to Faiz’ and was unveiled at Frere Hall, Karachi — a city where he spent man…