I got the shock of my life when I woke up this morning and read a Whattsapp message from an old friend that he has bladder cancer and has to undergo surgery tomorrow.  Even though Zahid Shaikh lives in the US and I last met him ten years ago, I can't stop wondering why he of all people should get this dreaded disease. He's never smoked in his life, nor has he ever taken an alcoholic drink. I suppose it must be due to the red meat that Americans love to eat.

Coincidentally, X (Twitter) posted this morning that three out of every thousand Americans (as well as UK nationals) will get cancer (for Pakistan this figure is one in a thousand, but I strongly doubt it, as most Pakistanis don't have regular check-ups and die while sleeping).

Zahid is the younger brother of Abid Shaikh, who died two years ago. He's a year younger than me. The three of us used to spend our teens going to movies practically every Sunday. Both brothers were highly gifted, both could write and play music beautifully (Zahid is an exceptionally gifted painter). I hope and pray that he recovers and lives a long and healthy life.


Irfan Memon, a school principal in Malir (a suburb of Karachi), is accused of raping more than twenty five women whom he had promised to employ as teachers in his school. Years ago, I had written about Ali Mohammed Hajiano ("Rapist in a white Corolla"), who had kidnapped and raped thirty seven women. I don't know what happened to him. If he was sentenced to a jail term, he's probably free by now (if he ever went to jail, which is doubtful, as he was the son of a civil servant).

I can't understand how Irfan Memon raped these girls so easily. They could have resisted with all their might, they could have yelled at the top of their voices, yet they silently allowed him to undress them and do the unthinkable. Were they very poor and needed employment desperately? Didn't they know that being in a room alone with a man could result in getting them pregnant?

There are reports that he raped forty five women, but only five women have appeared and accused him of raping them. I saw a video clip in which a misogynist claimed that these women agreed to have sex with him when he promised to give them jobs. He also suggested that they were the type who would sleep with anyone for money. I doubt it. The poor girls could have been simpletons who didn't know anything about sex. Let's wait and see how the case develops.


Khashoggi parallel

THIS is with reference to the editorial “Sikh activist’s murder” (Sept 20). I am surprised that the United States and other Western countries have not reacted in the way they did when Jamal Khashoggi, an American journalist, was killed in Turkiye allegedly by a bunch of Saudis having state backing in 2018. Is it because India is not a Muslim-majority country?

Shakir Lakhani


Published in DAWN, September 23, 2023


In most countries, a man can't have more than one wife. In Turkey, polygamy is banned. In Pakistan, if a man wants to take a second wife, he has to get written permission from his current wife, who has no choice but to agree, as she knows he will divorce her if she says no. 

Muslims living in the UK have found a way to practice polygamy without being arrested. They can't divorce their current wives because they would have to give her half their properties and incomes, without having full custody of their children. So they have an Islamic marriage in a mosque. The second wife doesn't object, she's already a British citizen and even if she has children without being legally married, the state cannot punish her. In fact, her children will also get UK citizenship.

During my recent vacation in England, a ten year old girl (Sarah) was killed, and her father (with his second wife called "partner") escaped to Pakistan. They are now back in the UK, facing trial for murder of the little girl. Her biological mother is Polish, and her father evidently didn't want to divorce her (for reasons cited above). So he married a British Pakistani woman without divorcing the first wife.  I can guess why he killed his daughter. He probably wanted her to go to Pakistan with him so she could be engaged to one of his nephews. I suspect that when she refused, he got enraged and beat her up. I hope he and his "partner" are sentenced to life imprisonment.

I've always maintained that the UK is the only country I'd like to migrate to if circumstances force me to leave Pakistan. In fact, if it wasn't for the weather, I'd gladly live there for the rest of my life. 

This was the seventh time I visited UK, and the longest (six weeks). I met many people there, visited a number of towns and gained three kilos (even though I used to walk six thousand steps daily).

The first thing I learned was that if one wants to live there permanently, he should go there before the age of 35. The evening I landed, my bones ached terribly and I had difficulty opening my fists and raising my hands. I cannot bear cold weather, even the mild winters of Karachi make me sick. But due to the pure air of Newcastle and surroundings, I did not suffer from sneezing and coughing.

The next thing I learnt was that most people in the UK are law abiding (although it won't be long before the Muslim population grows so much that the country will be like most third-world nations). Already there are parts in most UK cities where Pakistanis and other Muslims are concentrated and in those places there is a lot of crime. The only beggars I saw were Muslim men and women outside the mosques on Fridays.

The only thing about the trip I didn't like was the long flight and the transit period of three hours at Doha Airport. For some reason, they didn't allow us to board and disembark through ramps, they had a bus which drove the passengers to the aeroplane. I learned later that they do it for all flights originating from and going to Pakistan. But then, I returned from Manchester and the plane was full of Americans, Chinese and Africans, yet they too were made to board the bus,


HIGH SUGAR PRICES: This is with reference to the editorial ‘Sugar prices’ (Sept 7). I believe high sugar prices would actually prove to be good for the country, as it will ensure less consumption of a commodity that is the cause of several health concerns. A sugar-heavy diet is linked to increased risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and poor dental health. If high prices result in reduction of sugar consumption, there will be fewer ailing and corpulent Pakistanis around.

Shakir Lakhani

DAWN, September 10, 2023


Like many of his predecessors, the present army chief (Asim Muneer) thinks he can steer the country out of its present crisis. Someone should tell him that no one has yet succeeded in reducing inflation, chiefly because the powerful mafias in the country refuse to pay taxes. Any leader who dares confront them will find himself out of office. 

Addressing leading businessmen of the country he told them of his plans to crack down on money changers, power thieves, smugglers and other worthy citizens of the country. It may work for a while, but after a few weeks things will be back to normal. 

As a result of his efforts, the dollar depreciated by Rs. 15 in the past couple of days, but sugar prices rose by more than a hundred percent. Petrol prices depend on international crude oil prices, so the army chief can do nothing about it. Getting tax evaders to pay taxes depends on the FBR, which is riddled with corruption, so one can be sure that this too will not happen.

So the army chief's attempts to improve the country are doomed to fail.

I still find it difficult to believe that I'm still alive. In my teens I thought I wouldn't live beyond the age of 40. In fact, during the brief period I studied palmistry (when I was 20), I found "proof" that I would be dead in a few years. It didn't happen and every day when I get up in the morning, I'm grateful to be alive.

Many people I knew in childhood and in school have passed away. Two close cousins died before the age of 70. I used to suffer from breathing problems and blocked nose until ten years ago. So there is no earthly reason why I didn't conk out years ago.

I really don't know why I've successfully completed seventy nine years. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I never took up smoking. I also stayed away from red meat and kept my weight under control (70 kgs). Plus of course I walk more than six thousand steps every day.

This year I'm spending my birthday in England, with my daughter (my youngest child). She's the one I like talking to the most, as (like me) she's read a lot. She persuaded me to travel this year, and I agreed, even though I hate travelling long distances.

So, if anyone were to ask me how I've managed to remain alive despite being "unhealthy" most of my life, I would answer that it's because I've been physically and mentally active throughout my life (besides of course having a healthy diet).

In Pakistan, whenever a government finds itself in trouble (as in today's financial crisis), one of its ministers gets the bright idea that cracking down upon women is the solution. In the past, women have been forced to don the burqa to cover themselves but even though that has never helped control inflation or eliminate terrorism, it's always the women who have to suffer.

The caretaker government in Punjab has suddenly decided to close down theaters in the province because they found women dancing there. It should be mentioned here that the caretaker government has no business doing so, as it is there only to conduct peaceful elections and hand over power to the next elected government. But apparently its ministers think that forcing women to stop dancing will bring down prices or curb terrorism.

There's no use telling the government that the public is starved for entertainment, and those who can afford it, want to see plays and dramas just to help them forget the myriad problems they're facing. I won't be surprised if the next thing they do is to close down cinemas because in their opinion, seeing unveiled women turns men into rapists. And it won't be long before they ban women from appearing on TV. Then someone will see something "obscene" on Facebook or YouTube and ban those as well.


 The situation in Pakistan is very bad. Every day the rupee's value  is depreciating, it's now even lower than the Sri Lankan currency. Prices of shares on the Stock Exchange are their lowest. The country is on the verge of collapse. Protests against high electricity prices have paralyzed the country. Unless a miracle occurs, Pakistan may disintegrate, as it did in 1971.

But apparently those who rule over this benighted nation are not aware of the critical position the country is in. Government servants (both retired and serving) still get free electricity, petrol and gas, causing a huge loss to the exchequer.

Even Imran Khan's servant (President Arif Alvi) is so shameless that he has asked that his salary be raised by 33 percent! He's being paid Rs. 800,000 p.m., but apparently that is not enough, despite getting free electricity, petrol and everything else. He wants his salary to be increased to Rs.1.29 million before he leaves office, knowing that the state will have to pay this amount until he and his wife are both dead.

A revolution is required to put the country back on track. This country will not survive if those who rule over us continue looting and plundering.