BRILLIANT: AISAM UL HAQ
2010 was the year Aisam ul Haq broke the long-standing monopoly held by Pakistan's cricketers, by becoming the country's most celebrated sportsman. More than his achievements on court (reaching two Grand Slam finals, becoming the highest-ranked Pakistani tennis player in history), what was more impressive was the manner in which he went about attaining the honors. He partnered with an Indian at a time of great anti-Indian opinion back home, then delivered a stirring, post-match speech at the US Open in New York (great symbolism), and finally topped it of by becoming a UNDP ambassador and visiting flood-affected areas long after the issue had disappeared from public memory. In a difficult year, Aisam gave everyone something to be proud of.
BIZARRE: SHAHID AFRIDI AND THE TEST RETIREMENT
Who takes over the country's Test captaincy, says all the right things in the run up to a critical tour, promises to be a role model to younger players, and then quits after one game? Who else but Mr. Boom Boom himself. That he won this honor over other bizarre freak shows like the Zulqarnain Haider escapade, Ijaz Butt's match fixing counter-accusation-and-then-back down, and his own ball-biting episode in Australia, is a testament to Afridi's religious adherence to eccentricity.
BRILLIANT: THE 18TH AMENDMENT
When it is all said and done, the current PPP government will be remembered for orchestrating the most comprehensive constitutional reform in the last 30 years. That they achieved it with broad political consensus made it even more impressive. Kudos to the brilliant Raza Rabbani and the Parliamentary Committee that worked diligently to satisfy all the warring interests and doing what few people thought was possible.
BIZARRE: THE ALL-PAKISTAN MUSLIM LEAGUE
When Pir Pagara, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed joined hands to launch this alliance, many thought the country's political landscape would change. Instead, what followed was the most bizarre sequence of events. First, the Chaudhries backed out of the proposed coalition, to be replaced by their PMLQ rebels (called the 'Like Minded Group' whatever that means). Then Zafarullah Jamali, the proposed leader of the steering committee, resigned after failing to convince Nawaz Sharif (who theoretically would be the party's main opponent) to come on board (?). To add more confusion, the party changed its name to the 'Muttahida Muslim League', and its leader claimed that Bilawal Bhutto would become its secretary. All this while, Pir Pagara's party remains a part of the government and recently said it would not be a part of any attempts to topple it. Seriously, WTF.
BUFFOON: THE RIGHT TO BE CORRUPT?
We all know that Pakistani governments are corrupt. I mean its a given, like the color of milk is white, and the sky is blue. But which idiot actually goes out and says they 'deserve' their share in corruption? Well, this guy:
LAW AND JUDICIARY:
BRILLIANT: ASMA JEHANGIR
Despite a last-minute smear campaign by a despicably-low lobby, Asma Jehangir became the country's first female Supreme Court Bar Association President. Even more importantly, she is the first President in recent times to live up to her job title, and not act as the Court's spokesperson. A woman of character and courage.
BIZARRE: THE RAHAT FATEH ALI BLASPHEMY CASE
A woman petitioned a district court in Lahore against a verse in the lyrics of one of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's brilliant songs sung in India. She accused the singer of blasphemy and hurting her 'religious sentiments and that of other Muslims'. While there were many blasphemy cases in the country this year (none of which were funny), this one takes the cake for its inanity!
BUFFOONERY: THE FACEBOOK BAN
Justice Ijaz Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court banned Facebook in Pakistan for a week after controversial content pertaining to Prophet Muhammad appeared on the site. To be fair to him, thousands of Pakistanis also marched against Facebook and there was a user-led week long boycott of the site as well. That most of these users were secretly on Facebook (yeah, we know you turned off Chat), and would promptly return en mass to the site within a few days ensured that this fiasco left a collective egg on the face of Pakistan.
BRILLIANT: CYRIL ALMEIDA
The addition of two major newspapers in a year has meant an almost claustrophobic wealth of English-language op-eds and opinions. Which makes Cyril Almeida's brilliant weekly column in Dawn even more impressive. Rising over the pervasive clutter with incisive and consistently on-the-mark thoughts, Almeida made Pakistani politics simpler for all of us scratching our heads.
|So awesome that we ignore his weird Dawn avatar.|
BIZARRE: SHAHEEN SEHBAI AND THE REKO DIK AFFAIR
The $200 billion corruption story was plastered across the Internet by all and sundry. In fact, it was possibly the most shared story on my Facebook feed. The sound of billions of dollars of corruption and Asif Ali Zardari had people salivating with anger. If only they had researched more. That's because the instigator of episode was Mr. Shaheen I-Hate-Zardari Sehbai, reputed for his ridiculously wild brand of journalism. Thankfully, Cafe Pyala was there to puncture the hype and bust Mr. Sehbai and The News' anti-government hormones.
BUFFOONERY: THE MUSHARRAF OP-ED BY ANSAR ABBASI
Read this gem of an op-ed by Ansar Abbasi, appropriately titled 'Hypocrite, coward Musharraf blows hot air but will never return', following the launch of Pervez Musharraf's political party. Now we know Mr. Abbasi is not the biggest Musharraf supporter, but this hate letter masquerading as analysis was something else. How this made it to the front page of one of Pakistan's leading English language newspaper is really beyond me. In fact, reading it convinced me that somewhere along the line, the author must have thought of inserting the phrase, 'F**k you Musharraf', but better sense probably prevailed. Because knowing The News' editors, it might just have made it to the papers.
GLOBAL COVERAGE OF PAKISTAN
BRILLIANT: THE NEW YORK TIMES ON TAXES
Great story by Sabrina Tavernise on how the lack of taxation is hurting Pakistan.
BIZARRE: PAKISTANI COMEDIANS FIGHT TALIBAN WITH HUMOR
BUFFOONERY: PAKISTAN LEADS THE WORLD IN PORN (NOT)
Excellent rebuttal here.
FINALLY, PEOPLE OF THE YEAR:
In a year when a fifth of Pakistanis were affected by the worst humanitarian catastrophe in recent times, many in the country rose to fill the gargantuan hole left by ineffective government. In particular, the Pakistan Youth Alliance, a group of incredible individuals, has worked tirelessly, long after both local and global coverage of the floods faded. As the winter gathers steam, the group continues to function, deliver aid to areas, and belie the notion that Pakistan's youth is aloof. Hats off to you, good sirs.
AND, BECAUSE WE CAN'T GET OVER CRICKET, THE MOMENT OF THE YEAR:
Watch this Pakistan, and pray something like this comes up next year:
Happy New Year to all!