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Best Pakistani culture writing 2016

By News Desk

Febraury  14 2017

2016 has come and gone, but some things remain — like the very best writing on all things culture in Pakistan.

Over the past year our website has covered every relevant issue from literature festivals to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar win to Qandeel Baloch to the film industry’s revival. Some stories stood out more than others for their relevance and the response they garnered from you, our readers.

So here’s a helpful list of the best of the best on our websitefrom 2016. We’ve chosen the articles below for their quality and also for the impact they had on conversations about culture and society in Pakistan. They’re listed in no particular order.

Happy reading, and keep coming back for more!

1) No one gives me any credit for speaking about girl power: Qandeel Baloch

Being bold is my revenge against this country, says Baloch.
Being bold is my revenge against this country, says Baloch.

In this interview with Dawn.com staffer Hufsa Chaudhry, Qandeel Baloch opened up about her past for the first time.

She talked about her marriage and child and how she worked to rebuild her life after divorce. But the most evocative part of her interview came from her assertion that she represented “girl power”. Qandeel said, “I am a social media sensation, I am a fashion icon. I don’t know how many girls have felt support through my persona. I’m a girl power. So many girls tell me I’m a girl power, and yes, I am.”

This interview came be to one of a kind, as Qandeel was murdered by her brother soon after. It was heavily quoted in the international press.

2) A comprehensive list of things you can ‘lightly beat’ other than your wife

Egg beating on the other hand is permissible.
Egg beating on the other hand is permissible.

This listicle is the Images team’s satirical take on the Council of Islamic Ideology’s suggestion that it is permissible to lightly beat one’s wife.

The story was widely shared and even quoted in the international press as an example of how it’s sometimes best to combat ridiculous sexist opinions with humour.

3) This year’s Karachi Literature Festival felt the seven-year itch. Can it bounce back?

Literary festivals reveal to us who we are, and who we might become. - Photo by Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
Literary festivals reveal to us who we are, and who we might become. – Photo by Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

With the Karachi Literature Festival in its 7th year, Editor Hamna Zubair offered up a critique of festival culture and questioned whether literature festivals in Pakistan really serve to benefit writers and writing.

With the corporatisation of culture festivals on the rise, some key questions were asked – like why literature fests often suffer from ill-prepared moderators or a lack of diversity in opinion, and how we can overcome these lapses to better promote the written word

4) 9 things Pakistani women don’t need to be afraid of anymore

In the past year alone, there's evidence that our efforts to let go of some of our fears and apprehensions might be paying off. It's not going to be easy -- but it will be worth it.
In the past year alone, there’s evidence that our efforts to let go of some of our fears and apprehensions might be paying off. It’s not going to be easy — but it will be worth it.

Jointly written by the Images team for International Women’s Day, this article hit home with many readers for how it proved that, when it comes to women, Pakistani society is in fact changing for the better.

5) Child abuse drama Udaari gets PEMRA notice for ‘immoral content’ and that’s the problem

We asked: why is PEMRA cracking down on a drama that seeks to tackle a social evil like child abuse?
We asked: why is PEMRA cracking down on a drama that seeks to tackle a social evil like child abuse?

2016 was the year PEMRA clashed with content on Pakistani television, most notably with popular TV drama UdaariUdaari follows the fate of a victim of child abuse and her abuser, and though the drama is correct in how it places shame on the shoulders of the rapist, for some reason PEMRA felt its content was immoral.

This piece by Sadaf Haider explained why PEMRA’s decision was incorrect, and how cracking down on dramas that contained important social messages is actually to our detriment.

6) Dear Pakistani men, here’s how you talk about periods

When students from Beaconhouse National University (BNU) taped 25 sanitary pads on their university's wall in order to tackle period-shaming, many men started squirming. - Photo: Mavera Rahim/Facebook
When students from Beaconhouse National University (BNU) taped 25 sanitary pads on their university’s wall in order to tackle period-shaming, many men started squirming. – Photo: Mavera Rahim/Facebook

In April, students from Beaconhouse National University (BNU) taped 25 sanitary pads on their university’s wall in order to kickstart a conversation about period-shaming. Perhaps predictably, many men started squirming. One of these men was Shaan Taseer. His critique of the demonstration quickly turned ugly as he tossed insults at Madiha Tahir.

As more and more men (and women) displayed their discomfort at openly discussing menstruation, the Images team felt the time was ripe to offer up a list of do’s and don’t’s on how to discuss this natural bodily process.

An important ‘do’ was “Do help people understand periods better.” A key ‘don’t’ was “Don’t censor periods in the public space.”

With time, we’re hoping periods will be de-stigmatised!

7) How Sabeen Mahmud’s T2F survived its darkest hour

A year after Sabeen Mahmud's death, we look at how the institution she created managed to survive without her. - Photo White Star
A year after Sabeen Mahmud’s death, we look at how the institution she created managed to survive without her. – Photo White Star

This year marked the one-year anniversary of T2F founder Sabeen Mahmud’s death. This piece was researched by former Staff Writer Zoya Anwer and written by Editor Hamna Zubair as an ode to one of Karachi’s most important cultural institutions.

In Pakistan, institutions are generally weak. They’re so closely tied to individuals that it can be hard to maintain them when those personalities are no more. So the Images team was interested in examining exactly how T2F had survived Sabeen’s death to continue to flourish and provide a safe space for dialogue. What we found is a group of dedicated and loyal staff members who are committed to preserving Sabeen’s methods and ideology even after her death.

The result is a heartening story of resilience.

8) Pregnancy in Pakistan: What not to say to expecting parents

Before our first child was born we received a lot of unsolicited advice. Here's a look at the more outlandish statements.
Before our first child was born we received a lot of unsolicited advice. Here’s a look at the more outlandish statements.

Written by Noman Ansari, this quirky, humourous articlewas incredibly popular with our readers. It was also hilarious. Noman decided to write this piece as a response to the advice he and his wife had received prior to the birth of their baby boy. It hit home because as we all know — we Pakistanis may not be the best at taking advice, but we sure love to dole it out!

9) We need to change the conversation about Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Here’s how.

The concept that a 'positive image' of Pakistan can and should exist is flawed. So is a whole lot more.
The concept that a ‘positive image’ of Pakistan can and should exist is flawed. So is a whole lot more.

In response to the backlash following filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s second Oscar win, Editor Hamna Zubair dissected the criticism and separated the valid objections to Sharmeen’s work from the false claims made about it.

10) I went to the Lux Style Awards for the first time and it was kind of awesome

I wondered: Would all the celebrity stardust at the LSAs make me feel special too?
I wondered: Would all the celebrity stardust at the LSAs make me feel special too?

Staff Writer Sonia Ashraf’s first-person account of attending the Lux Style Awards takes readers through the highs and lows of attending an award show in Pakistan.

Sonia hilariously narrates her disastrous ‘free’ makeover, how she invented a designer name to feel part of the label-infested crowd and how two celebrities made her feel special on the red carpet — which had us thinking maybe they’re not all that bad.

11) Here’s the ultimate Lollywood workout you’ve been waiting for

We watched some of Lollywood's biggest films to show you what the industry's greatest contribution to Pakistani life could be -- #fitspo.
We watched some of Lollywood’s biggest films to show you what the industry’s greatest contribution to Pakistani life could be — #fitspo.

A satirical listicle that cashes in on our obsession with fitness trends and skewers some of the most ludicrous dance moves we’ve seen in Lollywood movies from back in the day. Would you care to attempt reverse push-ups… on a tree?

12) 5 Pakistani couples reveal how they met their true loves online

Before you dismiss it, consider this: in the digital world, no one judges you based on your chai-making skills.
Before you dismiss it, consider this: in the digital world, no one judges you based on your chai-making skills.

Staffer Writers Anum Chagani and Munnazzah Raza get in touch with 5 couples who shared accounts of their online relationships before saying ‘I do’ to their online loves.

When we think of matchmaking in the Pakistani context, drawing rooms and tea trolleys come to mind. But that’s not the only way couples get rishta’d in the modern day. For this piece, Pakistani couples revealed how they met their spouses on matrimonial websites like Shaadi.com, chat services like MSN Messenger and even through news websites like Dawn.com!

13) 8 things from India that Pakistan must ban right now (for realz)

Let's all lovingly look at Pakistan the way Katrina looks at this mango.
Let’s all lovingly look at Pakistan the way Katrina looks at this mango.

On the cultural front of Pak-India tensions, things took a turn for the worse back in October when Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) “banned” Pakistani actors, singers and technicians from working in India till “normalcy” returns.

In response, the Pakistan Exhibitors’ Association — basically cinema owners — announces with as much fervour that they are going to suspend showing Bollywood films in Pakistani cinemas ‘until the situation normalises.’

Everything in the end boiled down to cinema, which is just plain silly. We at Images love some good ol’ satire and this is us taking a run at it; since everyone was on a banning spree, we decided to make some suggestions of our own!

14) Cutting the nose to spite the face: How the Bollywood ban is a mistake Pakistan has made before

The ban on Indian films by Pakistani exhibitors has the potential to stop the growth of Pakistan’s cinema industry.
The ban on Indian films by Pakistani exhibitors has the potential to stop the growth of Pakistan’s cinema industry.

Speaking of the notorious ban, Images On Sunday editor Hasan Zaidi explored in this in-depth piece how the ban on Indian films by Pakistani exhibitors has the potential to stop the growth of Pakistan’s own cinema industry.

He reminded us of how previous bans on Bollywood films stalled the Pakistani industry. This was one of many persuasive arguments against a Bollywood ban presented in Dawn. Very recently, cinema owners announced that they’d be relaxing their stance on Bollywood films. Coincidence?

15) 8 outfits from FPW Day 1 that looked like other things

Is that a mop we see Sonia Nazir? Is it?
Is that a mop we see Sonia Nazir? Is it?

We all know our designers slip up from time to time and seek inspiration from the most random things; this year, at FPW, it seems like they were really moved by their household items.

Compiled by Staff Writers Munnazzah Raza and Anum Chagani, we insist you to read this one just for giggles and challenge you to make it through the entire post without laughing out loud.

16) How secret Facebook groups are changing female friendship in Pakistan

There's a life we paint on Facebook — then there's the truth we divulge in super secret groups. - Photo: Garry Knight/Flickr
There’s a life we paint on Facebook — then there’s the truth we divulge in super secret groups. – Photo: Garry Knight/Flickr

Written by Staff Writer Anum Chagani, this insightful piecesheds light on how women in Pakistan are seeking out support and connectivity from one another online and how technology is ushering in a new era of safe spaces.

It’s particularly interesting because inclusive places for women to come together to commune and heal in our country are few and far between. The article investigates how lack of autonomy in the physical world is forcing us to take our need for sociability and retreat to an online harbour.

17) Why the #UrwaFarhan wedding shouldn’t be the new normal

'UrHan' - as one is beginning to refer to them in the longstanding custom set by Brangelina and Tomkat - believed in celebrating with the world at large.
‘UrHan’ – as one is beginning to refer to them in the longstanding custom set by Brangelina and Tomkat – believed in celebrating with the world at large.

Someone had to say it and who better to spill that real tea than our Senior Fashion Writer, Maliha Rehman?

Without getting too personal, she unpacks how these “hashtag weddings” are perpetuating false expectations for the average bride next door and setting some pretty disturbing precedents. Weddings are supposed to be a celebration of love, big or small, shared with family and friends. Instead, they’ve become corporatized affairs about celebrating your bank accounts. Has consumerism won?

Maybe.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan

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