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Style 101: Sanam Chaudhri


Sanam Chaudri is a versatile designer based in Karachi whose approach towards design is minimal and believes in meticulously crafted delicate details. Sanam’s latest festive collection, ‘Dhanak’ is an ode to timeless tradition and new age world. The collection features formal wear which focuses on intricate embellishments and statement silhouettes.


An ice blue kurta made in kora silk adorned with gotta, tilla and sitara handwork, is matched with a narrow pure silk shalwar. It is teamed with a silk dupatta which features gotta detailing and finishing which adds richness to the whole look.


A traditional angrakha with feminine panels is an all time classic. Thel bright yellow angrakha features generous panels with gotta, tilla and sitara handwork all over the panels in ankora silk and is paired with a contrasting peach silk dupatta. The angrakha is paired with a narrow silk izaar with gotta detailing all over.


The mint green sleeveless shirt paired with matching traditional gharara is a timeless ensemble. Made in kora silk, this short panelled shirt has contrasting orange floral motifs embellished with sitara and tilla paired with a gharara; which is also accentuated with gotta work all over.


Bright yellow is always a seasonal favourite. A beautifully hand worked short kurta in kora silk, embellished with gotta, tilla and multi-coloured sitara is matched with a satin silk patyala shalwar with gotta detailing.The traditional yet chic outfit is paired with a contrasting teal blue embellished dupatta with gotta and tilla work to finish the look.


This piece is the epitome of timeless tradition and a new age world. The dove grey anarkali is made in pure kora silk anarkali and features appliqué work along the borders as well as tilla and gotta hand work. The outfit is paired with a contrasting peach dupatta and a silk sharara.

The Home Edit


Houseplants can bring a much-needed sense of wellness and positive energy to your space. But caring for them isn’t always easy. However, not all plants are created equal when it comes to low maintenance, and some plants are simply hard to kill.

The best thing about low maintenance house plants is that you don’t need a ton of time, space or even light for them to grow. In fact, some plants prefer a low level of light and infrequent watering. Low-maintenance plants are simply the ones that don’t require daily care or a complicated setup to flourish. The only thing you can do when you’re new to plant care is to choose a plant that is sturdy and won’t fall apart the second you make a mistake.

If you want to spruce up your home with a little greenery but you’re new to plant parenthood and want to stick to plants that are more forgiving and low-maintenance, here’s what you need to know, which plants to buy to how to keep them alive and happy. This beginner’s guide gives you all the basics on which ones to choose based on our environment, exactly when to water, and how much sun each plant needs.

Spider Plant

If you’re looking for a good investment, Spider Plants are the one for you. Not only can they tolerate a whole host of neglect, but they’ll also produce stolons that’ll harbour small offsets for you to separate. Water once the top third of the soil becomes dry, feeling the pot’s weight for confirmation. Situate in a bright, indirect setting with a good level of humidity, and you’ll be good to go. If they develop brown leaf tips, it’s probably because they are in a hot, dry room or it may be a result of under watering. Simply cut off the brown bits and move the plant to a cooler place, then up the feeding and watering routine.

Snake Plant

Snake plants are rather popular because they’re incredibly hands-off and easy to care for. They don’t need a ton of light, and they can handle quite a bit. In addition to being able to withstand pretty much any living condition, snake plants are also really powerful air purifiers. They can go for a month without water, but if it starts to look wrinkly, it definitely needs a drink. Yellowing leaves are a sign that you have overdone it. The only care it needs is an occasional wipe of the leaves to keep them shiny and dust-free.

Money Plant

Money plant is a popular houseplant with immense benefits. Many believe that keeping money plants in the home can bring good luck and prosperity. Among the main benefits of the money plant is its ability to purify the air by eliminating airborne pollutants like carbon monoxide. It has heart-shaped leaves on a twisty stem. It’s a climber, but it can be trailed from a pot, or trained up an interior wall.

Peace Lily

This is one of the best low maintenance indoor plants for people who don’t always keep on top of watering plants. It has glossy, green leaves with occasional elegant white folded flowers. Stand it in bright but indirect light and water only when the top of the compost is dry. Since a peace lily naturally grows in higher humidity climates, during the summer months you may want to mist the leaves often. If the plant droops, it means it is thirsty, but it will soon recover if placed into a sink or bowl of water for 30 minutes. Snip off the spent flower heads and any dry leaves.


Monstera plants are beloved for their tropical look. They might look like a diva, but it is actually pretty low-maintenance. It won’t drop its leaves if you miss a few waterings, and it’ll be okay if you can’t stick it right in the window. Water when the top inch of the soil is dry. If the leaves turn yellow, it’s a sign that it’s too wet. If the edges of the leaves turn brown, this might be a sign that the plant needs more moisture or a larger pot.

Imran Khan’s Twitter Space session breaks global records


Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan broke a global record on Wednesday, as he spoke during a live session on Twitter Space ahead of his party’s rally in Lahore.

A relatively new feature of the social media platform, Twitter Space allows live conversations and unfiltered discussions. During the former premier’s session, over 446,000 people tuned from around the world to interact with Imran. The session was curated and hosted by Dr. Arslan Khan and Jibran Ilyas on Wednesday night at 10 pm local time.

It was reported that approximately half a million users interacted with Imran Khan with an average of 165,000 users listening at a given time. The record was previously held by K-POP Lyrical Space with over 44,000 listeners.

PTI is well known as the first mainstream political party to utilise social media effectively by formulating innovative campaigns. The party’s focus on robust social media strategies has successfully allowed it to garner support globally. Since the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly, his party has popularised the hashtag “Imported Hakumat Na-Manzoor”, the largest trend in Pakistan’s social media history as it has been tweeted over 7 million times.

PTI’s official account congratulated Pakistan, as the ex-PM’s session broke the record.


Matt Navara, a social media consultant based in the United Kingdom tweeted, “a new @TwitterSpaces record?”

Another user highlighted that the historic session would serve as a reminder of the importance of social media in politics. “Social audio will be huge for politics,” he wrote.

“This is history!” a PTI supporter tweeted.


Fuel subsidy


The Shehbaz Sharif government is faced with a dilemma whether to keep on appeasing the voters by freezing fuel prices through massive subsidies or to take a realistic view of the rising oil prices in the international market and act accordingly. The government appears to be following a populist path, at least for now. On Wednesday, the ECC okayed a grant for Rs68.7 billion to enable the regime to provide petrol and diesel at subsidised rates. Considering that already substantial subsidies are being given on the sale of petroleum products, another huge amount of subsidy will only add to the government’s growing fiscal deficit, pushing it to an unaffordable level.

The biggest challenge that the incumbent government faces is to put an ailing economy back on rails. Now most economic indicators like budget deficit, trade gap, current account deficit, the declining rupee, soaring inflation, and galloping debt cannot be described as encouraging. Moreover, several billion dollars will be needed for debt repayment. In this grim economic scenario, continued provision of subsidised fuel is something hard to swallow. The rising interest rate has made the availability of credit difficult, and this has combined with increasing inflation to restrict employment generation. Even if goods are available in the market, there are few buyers. Undoubtedly, the country is in a difficult economic situation. Now one way out is to negotiate the resumption of the stalled IMF bailout package of $6 billion.

As was expected, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail has flown to the United States for talks with the International Monetary Fund. Herein lies the crunch. The government is continuing to freeze fuel prices for fear of a backlash from the masses while the IMF has set tough conditions for the release of loan amount. It has demanded abolition of subsidies on fuel and electricity as well as an end to tax amnesty. So, the negotiations with the IMF will be hard sell for the finance minister. The government seems to be waiting for signals emanating from the talks with the international lender. Probably, only then will it put a brake on subsidies.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2022.

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State gifts


Gifts and valuables that come the State’s way as a mark of respect and benevolence from other countries are a sacred trust. They are in need of being retained in museums, and their credentials thoroughly made public. This is so because this state-centric tendency of offering gifts is a two-way traffic. The gesture is reciprocated too. And when Pakistan doles out gifts and similar souvenirs to foreign dignitaries, the same are bought from the public exchequer. Thus, from the canons of morality, it is incumbent upon the recipients to promptly submit the received trophies in national exchequer. So is the prevalent thumb rule in civilised modes of governance.

This issue is now under litigation. An honourable judge of the Islamabad High Court has made some great remarks by saying that “people come and go but the… office remains; … and it is not a big thing if money is given to a certain extent and the gift is kept…” The backdrop of such an observation is the modus operandi wherein heads of governments either retain the precious gifts altogether, or pay a token amount to the exchequer in lieu thereof — not only depriving the treasury of its due, but also demeaning the courtesy of the foreign country by brushing the valuables. The gifts belong to the state and its sovereign, and must be documented and retained.

The court, while seeking a list of valuables that came during ex-PM Imran Khan’s tenure, has rightly called for formulating a clear-cut policy that such gifts should be deposited in Toshakhana. The justice quipped that the court would provide constitutional interpretation regarding the matter, if needed. What is required is a thorough probe and disclosure of the contents received by successive governments and as to what was their fate. It is disturbing that the government(s) are reluctant to share this piece of information, and a similar order by PIC to publicise details of the gifts remains unimplemented. Now, the court too wants the information to be made public, and why not! The practice in vogue to retain secrecy hints at skeletons in the cupboard.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2022.

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Kidnapping of newborns


Children’s kidnapping from hospitals, especially of newborn babies, in various parts of the country has been continuing for years. In most cases, the abductors are women. Babies have been kidnapped or stolen from both private and government hospitals. So far only a few kidnapped babies have been recovered. Karachi, in particular, has been hit hard by the phenomenon of babies’ abduction from hospitals. Recently another newborn baby was kidnapped allegedly from a private hospital in the city. This incident has once again increased the sense of fear and insecurity about newborns’ safety in hospitals. Here the role of the Sindh Healthcare Commission (SHCC) comes into question. Established in March 2014, the SHCC is empowered to ensure security to both medicare providers and the recipient of healthcare; curb negligence in the provision of healthcare; and check anti-social activities at hospitals. The commission’s mandate covers both public and private hospitals. Unfortunately, the persistence of babies’ abductions from hospitals has put a question mark on SHCC’s performance.

By now hospital managements and the government administration should be familiar with the modus operandi of those involved in kidnapping babies from hospitals considering that their tactics are almost identical. But the sorry situation shows slackness on the part of the SHCC and hospital administrations. Hospitals need to focus more on tightening security and vigilance on their premises as this would effectively prevent babies’ kidnapping and also infuse confidence in patients, their families and the public at large. The circumstances surrounding the latest kidnapping indicate that security arrangements were much wanting at the hospital. The newborn was abducted when his father had gone out for sehri. There were chances that criminal elements might take advantage of the sehri time when male attendants of mother and child are away from them. All the CCTV cameras at the hospital were out of order when the incident occurred. This is a serious failure.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2022.

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Ukraine war and Middle East food sovereignty


From the richest to the poorest countries, rising food prices continue to be the cause of much bane and blight, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Two years later, just as the world had almost come to terms with the effects of the pandemic, the Russian-Ukraine conflict erupted.

Events in these countries have conferred many challenges to global food security, since both countries have a prominent role in international food production and supply. Together they provide 19 per cent of the world’s barley, 14 per cent of wheat (Russia being the largest exporter of wheat, Ukraine, the fifth largest) and 4 per cent of maize, making it a cumulative total of more than one-third of global cereal exports. Moreover, they account for more than 52 per cent of the world’s sunflower oil export market and are lead source of global fertiliser.

The current Russia-Ukraine face-off is creating shockwaves is the food logistical network without sparing anyone. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region — one of the world’s most food insecure areas — was already enmeshed in a toxic combination of three Cs: conflict, climate change and coronavirus. Since the start of the conflict, imports from Black Sea ports have halted which has caused much distress in many of the MENA countries which are heavily dependent on wheat from Russia and Ukraine. For instance, Lebanon sources more than 50 per cent of its wheat from Russia. The country’s grain silos were destroyed in the Beirut blast in 2020 and presently the current infrastructure can only hold about one month’s supply of wheat.

Since World War II, Gulf countries have been painfully aware of their food import dependence. For the West, oil has since long been used as a weapon by MENA countries. In similar fashion, food trade has left an unconscious emblem of fear in the Arab world because for quite some time, food has been used to further geopolitical goals. For instance, the grain embargo in 1980 against the Soviet Union had implications for the Middle Eastern countries in the forms of reduced availability of food aid and a rat race circling around international diplomacy and petrodollar recycling.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the cost of a basic food basket marked an annual increase of 351 per cent in Lebanon, followed by Syria, with a 97 per cent and Yemen with 81 per cent. The World Food Programme (WFG) has already been forced to reduce its food rations in Syria and Yemen. Further reductions risk pushing people towards starvation.

The war has also generated fear that much of the international aid, which is critical life support for many in the Arab world, will be diverted to Ukraine where more than 3.7 million people are war refugees. This actuality threatens to macerate both household and government budgets alike and raises the prospects of mass popular protests — the likes of which have not been seen since the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011.

In the backdrop of the global food supply chain crisis, dedicated efforts need to be made to secure and preserve production and marketing activities so as to ensure that there is no impediment in the global supply chains. This will in turn provide a security cover for all inter-connected logistical systems and infrastructure globally. Furthermore, before any steps to secure domestic food supply are taken, governments must be cognisant of the impacts such actions will have on international markets. In tandem with this, there should be greater transparency and information on global market conditions so that informed decisions can be made.

In short, when food, which is a basic right and should be affordable, becomes out of reach, it will drive people to the streets.

Needless to say that by domino effect the wave will eventually seep into every corner of the world.

History is full of examples that a protracted war has no winners.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2022.

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The albatross of debt trap and US intervention


Imran Khan has won back the hearts of his constituents. A few days ago, a young couple I met talked about Imran Khan’s rallies. When asked why they would support Imran when his performance as a prime minister had not been satisfactory and that Imran had openly admitted to not having a team prepared to meet governance challenges. The couple agreed to all that and said they and other supporters of Imran in their family and friends’ circle had decided not to vote for Imran in the next election. But the couple continued that the way Imran was removed from power; the way his ouster was managed through judicial intervention; and the way looters were brought back to power had convinced them that a conspiracy had indeed been hatched against him at the behest of the mighty US.

In other words, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has given a new lease of life to Imran’s dying popularity by moving against him with a vote of no confidence. However, the worst part of the story is that despite the repeated assertions from the powers-that-be that Imran was removed through a democratic process and that they had nothing to do with it, a large swathe of people are not ready to buy this argument. Instead, they believe that two powerful state institutions used the PDM to remove Imran Khan on the orders of the US.

The US is hated and disliked by both its allies and enemies for playing a self-created role as the world police and legitimising the right to change regimes or intervene in a foreign country to restore democracy or protect human rights. No country can rear its head as a powerhouse, especially on the back of technological advancement, a military stronghold, and most importantly, an economic giant. For decades, the US had held the reign of distribution of petroleum products and controlled countries potentially rich in oil and gas through CIA. Israel in the Middle East has been the largest US benefactor as well as a bulwark against Arab monarchies and authoritarian governments that had to be kept under the watch lest they challenge the US or Israel’s power in the region.

However, with the turn of the century, with the coming of September 11, and with the intervention in three wars for regime change — in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria — the world shifted the paradigm of power in favour of multiple city-states.

The emergence of China and Russia proved to be a game-changer. This new block provided relief to the world strapped with no other choice but to find a place of shadow under the all-powerful US umbrella. The Syrian war was the first blow to the US intervention theory when Russia and China joined hands against the former as well as its Arab allies to resist the ouster of President Bashar-al-Asad.

The gradual inroad of China into the energy sector and Russia’s near invasion of Europe through pipeline diplomacy loosened the reliance of the world on the US. Moreover, CPEC, the pivotal BRI component, is taking wings in Pakistan; and Gwadar is all set to become the alternative to the Suez Canal and other global navigational grid. On the other hand, India, Russia and Iran have also joined hands to build a 7,200 km International North-South Transport Corridor. These projects shall move the world away from the US-controlled Sea Lines of Communications.

According to a Wall Street Journal story, the de-facto King of Saudi Arabia and the Emirati leaders refused to take Joe Biden’s call made to stall the formers’ relations with Russia. India had also dismissed the demand calling it an intervention in their national interest.

Pakistan is heavily dependent on the US-managed multilateral lending agencies to survive. This albatross of debt trap cannot sustain the US pressure and might have possibly given in.

The truth of this cipher telegram can only be known if an impartial inquiry is held on it — one on which all the stakeholders have consensus. Otherwise, had not we seen regime changes through a plane crash, the hanging of a prime minister, and the ouster of an elected government prior to 9/11?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2022.

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What profits a man?


“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and
forfeits his soul?” — Mark 8:36


Two weeks ago I wrote about the American political sitcom Veep and what a perfect metaphor it is for our times. Before that, I have repeatedly told you that I do not see the appeal of the public office. Political power is overrated and what use is it to force people to do your bidding? To top it all, political power intrinsically does not have any value of its own. Not until you bend some rules. From a traffic warden to the world’s most powerful office a job is just another job. Power is only enticing when you are ready to exploit it. Otherwise, you could easily be as powerful by being a librarian in a backwater country.

And yet so many would do a lot, sacrifice a lot including their souls to climb up and sit atop the greasy pole. What gives?

When in the final episode of the Veep, Selena Myer throws her daughter’s marriage under the bus, selects the worst excuse of an accidental politician as a running mate, and sends perhaps the only staff member who cares about her to prison, just to be president again, there comes a moment when she is in the Oval sitting alone. She looks at the empty room in melancholy and sighs before being distracted by work. We are then fast-forwarded to 24 years later when she is dead and her funeral is going on. As she is laid to rest, the breaking news of Tom Hanks’ death at 88 offsets the coverage, and fickle news channels cut away from her funeral. And one cannot help but think what a waste of so much talent. Why go there? What you gain through such compromises is always finite, meaningless in the long run, what you lose in the deals (your soul, your well-meaning friends, love and relations) is permanent? Power is only an opiate meant to dull the pain. But make no mistake. The pain is there. What gives?

Many of you must already have guessed where this is going. A fortnight ago, when in my piece titled “Explaining gravity to a chicken”, I quoted Amy from the show telling Selena Myer that because of her poor governance no woman would win again, I thought I was being more than obvious. In fact in the end I said as much. Too bad if no one was keen on taking a hint. It took decades to convince the system to go out of its comfort zone, its safe list of candidates and break the mould of the two-party system and make room for a third one. But what happened next was so traumatising for it that it may not trust another outlier for a long long time.

What are the key administrative strengths of the democratic order and why would a bureaucrat prefer a democratic system over a dictatorial one? It is inclusive, it is owned by the people, yes, yes, yes, but you are not getting the question. Administrative strengths. Administratively it guarantees a system of succession and peaceful transition of power. Come hell or high water the term based civilian to civilian transition is constitutionally ensured. No wars of succession, no protracted pitched battles, and certainly nothing out of the ordinary the public servants are expected to do. Just do your job and leave the rest to the constitution and the people. The second administrative strength of a democratic system is change because it does not believe in life tenure for an elected office. You can argue that it is a weakness, that a good leader should remain in office much longer. Okay, but who succeeds him once that good leader being a mortal dies? Any systemic guarantee that another good person succeeds him or her? None. You can have an angel running the show for twelve years succeeded by 80 years of a satan’s rule. Terms in office and term limits ensure that no such tragedy befalls the nation. In a nation with a mixed democratic autocratic experience whenever a dictator went out of power the country went through hell. So what happened on April 9 was the system’s nightmare come true.

Now let us talk about the unproven hunches. Some parts of the system believe that on the 9th there was a conspiracy but those accused were not responsible for it. That whoever designed it wanted one of two things. Either a division or even a clash among the country’s top military brass. Or the outright imposition of Martial Law that would have been rigged to meet the same fate as the 2016 failed Turkish coup attempt. These parts believe that the plan for a public pushback was in place. And the people who came out a day later would have been clogging the arteries of the country a day earlier had martial law been imposed. And then someone uncontentious would have been forced to fill in the void by bringing back the former premier. Those who were looking for division within the army’s ranks underestimated the military discipline. The system believes it dodged a bullet and vows to never let it repeat.

But what is the source of the conspiracy? Look at what went on in America, Europe, and many other US allies for an answer. The cold war never went away. Russia is not as strong as the Soviet Union but it has made good use of technology and hybrid warfare. The Mueller Report bears testimony to that. In his speech before the Ukraine invasion, Putin refused to honour the agreements made in 1991. If he hasn’t forgiven 1991 do you think he has forgotten the 1980s? All western allies are going through this schizophrenia, Russia and its long-term allies like India are not. Among the western allies, there is a reason why the ambitious ones from Trump to Netanyahu, from Erdogan to Marine Le Pen, and Nigel Farage all lined up to meet Putin. The former premier’s Moscow dash is read in the same context.

In the final season of Veep, there is an interesting development when Myer seeks China’s help. First in South Carolina the black voters are turned back from the polling booths, and then on the Election Day too an implied intervention takes place. China’s reference is incidental. China is still a US ally or at the very least harbours no malice. Russia does. It is believed that the writer used China and Myer’s accidental campaign manager Kieth Quinn to hint at Russia’s interference in 2016 and Steve Bannon’s role in it. Exploiting Pakistan’s emotional cadres is a far easier job.

So a picture emerges of a man who had cut many deals. One, the above. Two, the Buzdar deal because of superstitions I mentioned last week. Three, with the hard-right pro-Taliban faction. And finally with the elements who care little about the institutions, and the constitution and do not mind jeopardising the national integrity for personal gains. Remember unlike Pakistan Turkey has no territorially ambitious neighbour sitting next to it to devour it. It could afford the 2016 failed coup. Pakistan cannot. I don’t get why someone I believe is fundamentally a good person would cut such deals. But of course. Ambition!

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2022.

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Turkish actors are very popular in Pakistan: Mehwish Hayat



Upcoming Pakistani romantic comedy film London Nahi Jaunga, starring Humayun Saeed and Mehwish Hayat, is currently being shot in Istanbul. Producer Irfan Malik told Anadolu Agency that it is the third film he shot in Turkey, a country he views as his second home.

“Turkey has excellent technical facilities for filming and there is a large TV industry in the country. They said that there are 8,000 movie theaters here. I would like my films to be released here as well,” said Malik. “TV series from Turkey are shown on Pakistani televisions, but the Turkish films are not shown in Pakistani cinemas. We aim to take steps in this regard to improve the brotherhood and good relations between the two countries.”

Underlining that he is in talks with distributors for his new movie to be screened in Turkey, Malik said, “My goal is to broadcast this movie in Turkey with subtitles and dubbing. Thus, this movie will be the first Pakistani movie to be released in Turkey.”

Saeed said, “I am very happy to be here. All Pakistanis love Turkey. Turks also love and respect us.”

Hayat said crews started shooting the film in Pakistan and shooting the second part continues in the country. “We are shooting the movie in a very beautiful place. I am having a great time with the professional shooting team,” said Hayat.

Underlining that Turkish television series have a great influence in Pakistan, Hayat said, “Turkish actors are very popular in Pakistan. I think Turkey and Pakistan should work together in projects involving Turkish and Pakistani players.”

The cast includes Kubra Khan, Vasay Chaudhary, Sohail Ahmed and Gohar Rasheed. A portion of the film will be shot in London in the coming days.

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