Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2013

VIEW: Behold a Pale Drone...& Hell(Fire) followed with it

First Published in Economic Affairs (Pakistan) / Dec 2013 Issue

The PM reportedly smiled during joint exercises held in the aftermath of an American strike that took out TTP mastermind Hakimullah Mehsud. It was triggered by one little demo, where a drone was downed - by us, in real time - with some 35mm Oerlikon guns.

A year ago Pakistan had put its pet drone technology on display in the International Defense Exhibition & Seminar (IDEAS). The interest in drone tech surfaces from time to time. It is usually preceded by a laundry list of demands that yoyo between two distinct themes - American drones (shoot ‘em), and NATO supply routes (shut ‘em). Those who bore witness to Pak armed forces fearsome capability and (drone) targeting skills in “Azm-e-Nau 4”, naturally wonder when and if they will ever get to use them. Our ROE’s (Rules of Engagements) permit action against combat aircraft that violate the airspace provided the wreckage falls within our territory. The last clause does n…

OP-ED: Grim Reapers & the Peace 'Corpse'

Published in Daily Times / 10 Nov 2013 Sunday Ed

The death of an important Taliban figure is a cause célèbre at drone central. Here, not so much. Here, we prefer to sit around the fireside and wallow. That in turn pushes drone morality, sovereignty violation, the untimely demise of the peace talk genie, and terrorism US ‘shtyle’ to the top of the agenda while the smiling face of a dead Mehsud looks on.

The US-made spanner, which upset the Waziristan bound applecart, was unexpected. Or was it? An incident took place in Afghanistan prior to the appearance of that Predator. Killing Hakeemullah Mehsud — a man with a double bounty over his head (in dollars and Pak rupees) — comes on the heels of Latif Mehsud’s capture in Afghanistan in early October 2013. The Tehreek-e-Taliban’s (TTP’s) right hand man, allegedly caught canoodling with KHAD/NDS and picked up by our mutual friends, may hold the key.

Rumour has it that Mehsud was being cultivated as an Afghan asset to get even with Pakistani …

OP-ED: Second Coming of Pakistani Cinema

Published in Economic Affairs / Nov 2013

One day an actress, a filmmaker, a director and a distributor gathered to talk shop over tea. Even though a regional film had won at the NY City International film festival, and another cleaned up the local box-office a few years ago, the obituary for the Pakistani cinema was delivered a while ago. It was to remain uncontested for a long time.

Film buffs were left wondering why not a single award winning film (Seedlings) or documentary (Saving Face) had been screened in the gleaming new cinemas; or where that little advertised indie horror flick disappeared to, moments after its debut. And do local movies even stand a chance against the distributor’s bottom line, or space unfairly reserved for the Indian blockbuster for that matter. Mandviwalla opened the gateway to neighbouring cinema and fielded objections of an uneven playing field with a shrug - good Pakistani movies need not fear any Indian invasion in his view.

A few months pass. The dis…

STYLE: A ‘Haute’ Ticket Item

Published in Daily Times Pakistan (Entertainment Section) / 26 Oct 2013

Your talent will get you far, but your passion will get you further” – Tabassaum
Mughal

Bath island - turns out, not really an island; it is a place where one can find, among other things Tabassum Mughal’s outlet and her shiny new salon. Her signature piece was featured in Bridal Couture 2013 (BCW) earlier this year. Her collection was later seen on London’s runway. And a bewitched crowd now circles her new line for Eid, drawn by a certainty that behind the closed doors lay the proverbial ‘one’.

They are not wrong. As she unveils a new vision of silk & satin to the world, there will be a constant embedded in that impeccable fashion statement. She has achieved a wonderful hybrid harvested from the rich heritage and decadent flavors that define our poorly misunderstood region.

The person in-charge of these creative coups can be seen flitting in and out of the situation room – otherwise known as the exhibit…

VIEW: Syria’s Detox Debate

Published in Economic Affairs / Oct 2013 issue

‘The Newsroom’ stumbled upon evidence of a black op codenamed ‘Genoa’ in Season 2 where Sarin was allegedly used, but by Obama and not by Syrians. The show employed a premise that flitted with the potential fallout should evidence of war crimes perpetrated by an American administration were to surface, and bore no resemblance - accidental or otherwise, to events that were to unfold a few weeks later.

The fictional Sarin saga would be resolved just as the Syrian episode was gaining traction. Syria’s use of banned Chemical weapons would send America’s Commander-in-Chief scrambling to the war room to devise an appropriate response, give Russia an opportunity to practice their ‘mediator of the month’ skills, and put Assad on a makeshift dock.

The world gets ready to batten down the hatches in the midst of all the political point scoring. Because the decision to use force that could potentially cripple a nation is not without side effects; t…

BOOK REVIEW: A Restless Wind

First Published by Daily Times (Pakistan) / 07 Oct 2013

This is an Advanced Review

Zara Hamilton returns to Qila, her ancestral home, to a dying aunt, a troubling secret and a cradle full of memories. Her Pakistani origins, Indian roots and British background add spice to a casual road trip. Her quest will be inscribed against a stormy backdrop darkened by communal rites, tired superstitions and Hindu-Muslim divides. It casts the requisite pall on princely states, and their gracious guardians, and turns the few memorable chapters from her life into a lovely epic.

Shahrukh Husain lifts the barriers separating two worlds, unearthing crevices filled with centuries of emotional debris and calcified remains of old glories. Her new novel traces their luxurious outlines with grim determination as it staggers into a vault of memories and retrieves a closet full of worn-out skeletons in search of clarity.

Married to an Englishman, the protagonist’s dual identity and rich heritage come in handy a…

How I Met Your Country

BOOK REVIEW: The Redeemers

Published by Daily Times (Pakistan) / 15 Sep 2013

Author: Suresh Taneja

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Thank you Suresh T. for the review copy

‘The Redeemers’ can easily be in the fantasy / fiction aisle because of its ludicrous premise. It begins with India at the top of the superpower pyramid for starters’ and its citizens seen breezing through U.S. immigration sans visa. It then goes on to cast four conscientious youngsters responsible for its remarkable transition as narrators who step in to the ring and relive the heady years leading up to the year 2030. The glittering future demands an enormous suspension of disbelief, present day India however with all the spectacular excesses will make the South Asian community feel right at home. Suresh Taneja’s blue print for a new domestic world order can ostensibly be mapped on both sides of the border and not just because of unavoidable similarities in terrain.

The author is a Chartered Accountant with a conscience and a…

OP-ED: A Veiled Threat

First Published in Economic Affairs (Pakistan) / Sep 2013 issue

The ‘Avenger’ phenomena hit Pakistan sometime in late July 2013. The choice of the name had an instant effect - loud cheers, inaudible gasps, startled looks and a few boos were reported. A musician, composer and most recently Campaign Ambassador for ‘Save the Children's Everyone Campaign’, who reigned in the 1990’s as the front man for ‘Awaz’, and nowadays goes by the name of Aaron Haroon (redundancy alert!) is responsible for these seismic changes in the national topography.

Back then the band made history when ‘Janeman’ became the first Pakistani song to air on MTV; now another precedent has been set as Pakistan’s first animated, female super hero takes the stage.

It is different because the secret identity goes undercover in a burka. It is controversial for the same reason.

A school teacher by day, Jiya dons the invisibility cloak before setting out to conquer the world. A burka has been used here as a symbol o…

OP-ED: What’s In A Name(sake)?

First Published in Daily Times / 2 Sep 2013

A beloved cricketer’s name adorns the billboards but this is not a biopic. The cricketing world it allegedly represents provides a compelling front but it will not be a return to his old stomping grounds. Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (MHSA) draws upon a living legend’s legacy to leverage the passion and throws in a cameo or two, but that is the extent of Afridi’s involvement. Meanwhile, somewhere in a small little village, a disgraced cricketer turned coach who trains a rag tag team will be moved centre-field. And the one thing that binds the nation together and provides the soulful soundtrack will become the anchor.

The newly minted flight is bound for cricket-ville and in some parts of the world that is reason enough to join in the festivities. Humayun Saeed, seen at the helm wearing a number of hats as the producer/actor enlists the classic underdog formula to launch his ambitious vision. The village club is in danger of being shut down, and m…

Op-Ed: MQM in Hot Soup

First Published in Economic Affairs - Islamabad based Magazine (Pakistan) / Aug 2013
BY Afrah Jamal


‘What was it for
?' The BBC Two anchor asks Farooq Sattar (MQM’s Deputy Convener and Parliamentary leader) with an impassive face, referring to the stash of pounds found after a raid on Altaf Hussain’s London pad.

‘Whatever it was for’, he answers, at his inarticulate best.

The word ‘body bags’ ominously flashes on the screen, Mr. Sattar changes tactics; ‘we were all laughing’, dismissing it as a joke.

The savvy anchor runs more damning clips.

‘It is out of context’, Farooq declares. ‘There is no reference to context’, he adds helpfully.

But your own SC took notice…

‘o’ that’, ‘mere emotional outburst.

Unlike those ‘media types’ this party member would not speculate on the origins or purpose of the stash. He, like other loyalists filed away the latest episode under ‘more malicious propaganda’ and ‘sinister witch hunts’, accused BBC of falling prey to Taliban influences and conti…

OP-ED: Solar Club - The Last Resort

Published in Economic Affairs (Pakistan) / July 2013

Thanks to Danish Shakil for sharing his expertise & FB / twitter walas for their help

Unkind sms’s were openly traded on the anniversary of ‘the bomb’ about how a nuclear power was unable to launch its precious arsenal because a vital component went missing for 12-20 hours. Clever memes that owe their origin to the spectacular failure of our resident electricity providers now appear on the social media with depressing regularity. The hum of generators provides a jarring soundtrack to a dull background of protesting masses out on the streets and smarmy politicians out on the trail.

After investing in UPS’s (that cannot get charged) and generators (that eat up precious fuel), homeowner’s are eyeing the solar market as a last resort. Faint glimmers from some old solar powered lights brighten up the garden. Our solar adventure ends there. As the newly sworn in government wrangles with ‘circular debts’ and drops big words like Renew…

SERIES REVIEW: THE KANE CHRONICLES

First Published in Daily Times (Pakistan) / 07 July 2013 under the title 'Walk Like an Egyptian...god'
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

When ancients get their marching orders, it comes with an unexpected makeover. When Rick Riordan dabbles in mythology, it comes with some expected upgrades. The Heroes of Olympus, spin off to Percy Jackson and the Olympians series awakened both Roman and Greek gods for a few rounds of ‘mortal’ combat. Things happened. During the brief intermission, he rolled out a fresh set of gods, tracked down more heroes and stumbled upon a shiny new quest. The Kane Chronicles is bound for the land of Pharaohs with a brother, sister duo in tow who are descendent from an ancient line and have an Egyptologist for a father. One “lives out of a suitcase” and the other is “British.” And then they discover their true lineage and hearing voices in their collective heads becomes part of the Kane package.

Eastern mythology crackles with the same feverish …

ART REVIEW: Flying solo with ‘the artist presently known as Omar Farid’

First Published in Daily Times (Pakistan) / 23 June 2013 - Sunday Edition


A small gathering of connoisseurs and curiosity seekers get a personalised tour of the show, their ‘oohs’ and ‘ahas’ broken by an occasional ‘o my that is disturbing’, at which the artist bows and looks pleased. Omar Farid’s ‘Flying Solo’ exhibition promises a delightful getaway to a spruced up wonderland. A few days earlier at another gallery, he was seen airing his views on real art, which must be unforgettable — leave lasting imprints, make one think and blink — or words to that effect.
We see what he means at his opening held the very next week at the Art Chowk in Karachi.




A wily feline in ochre/burgundy tones looms into view, oozing malevolence and doom for some unsuspecting bird, mercifully out of frame. There is no need to overanalyse the creature. In this case, a cat is just a cat. The experience will get ‘curiouser’ as a macabre, ink and acrylic induced haze envelops the quaint backdrop.



What do you …

TELEPLAY (Early Bird) REVIEW: BEHADD (HUM Tv)

First Published in Daily Times (Pakistan) / 08 June 2013

Congratulations Asim Raza on winning the 2014 Hum Award for best Teleplay


Asim Raza (Director Behadd)

The lights dim, and a warning is issued. There will be no gloss in Asim Raza’s presentation. The audience braces itself. This is not a film per se, Asim clarifies, adding that “a long play with substance will be at par with a telefilm.” The audience relaxes.

The directorial debut of Raza’s latest venture took place at the newly opened Cinepax, Ocean Mall (Karachi) towards the end of May. Behadd (Unlimited), which will be aired on Saturday, June 8, 2013 on HUM TV, is a nuanced family drama that mines a (single) mother-(spoiled) daughter relationship for spectacle. Raza, hailed as an ace commercial/music video director, did it in a short span of time, with his small support system and a lot of help from friends. For him this was a challenge taken on to counter the flurry of insinuations hurled his way of propping up visuals with th…