The Man Behind The Minar: Nasreddin Murat-Khan

By Sonya Rehman He wasn’t an ordinary man, and neither was his life. Even though Nasreddin Murat-Khan is largely acknowledged as the ‘architect behind Minar-e-Pakistan,’ his story goes beyond the minar, and far beyond Pakistan. We meet at her childhood friend’s home in Lahore for tea. Meral Murat-Khan, Murat-Khan’s youngest daughter, is soft-spoken and candid…

Against All Odds

By Sonya Rehman In a village in Raiwind, Lahore, a little boy would sit in a basket attached to his father’s bicycle and repeat mathematics multiplication tables that his father would chant aloud for his son to memorise. In the evenings, after a long, tiring day in the fields herding cattle, the shepherd would ask…

Off The Beaten Track

By Sonya Rehman Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, with his thick, curly dark hair combed back, he could be an intense, brooding hero in a desi Indie flick, or a reluctant villain in a hit drama serial. Slim, self-assured and self-contained, Shahvaar Ali Khan has depth. And beneath all the layers there is…

Postcards From Pakistan: Can Local Tourism Be Revived?

By Sonya Rehman Nishat Mummunka’s love for the aviation industry was almost instantaneous when she began working at American Express’ travel department in 1973 in Lahore, Pakistan, as a fresh graduate. Soon enough, her passion for all things travel led her to lucrative offers from Swiss Air and British Airways, the latter of which required…

Beauty Beyond Borders

By Sonya Rehman Mahira Khan lights up the screen – be it on the small screen in a drama serial or on the big screen, in a feature film, she’s a complete natural, an earnest star, the eternal girl next door with an unshakable earthy vibe. A loveable artiste who embodies each character given to…

Bollywood Legend Visits Pakistan Encouraging Indo-Pak Artist Collaborations

By Sonya Rehman Kicking off with much fanfare this month, the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop’s three-day International Film Festival in Lahore showcased a number of Pakistani and foreign productions, in addition to bringing together renowned Pakistani and Bollywood A-listers, film critics and movie buffs on one dais. But perhaps the highlight of the evening was the attendance…

An Unsung Hero

By Sonya Rehman Initiated this year, the social media initiative, Pending Meal, spearheaded by the young advertising professional, Sarah Rizvi, has garnered immense popularity. This week, Masala! chats with Sarah about her social welfare project and the importance of paying it forward. How does Pending Meal work? The idea or concept behind Pending Meal is…

Defending Digital Freedoms in Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman This year, one of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders, Nighat Dad, a young Pakistani activist and lawyer based in the city of Lahore, is one of the most significant voices in the country in creating awareness amongst Pakistani women about cyber crimes and cyber harassment. Having founded her not-for-profit, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)…

The Evolution of Fawad Khan

By Sonya Rehman In the news recently for walking out of Battle for Bittora and then bagging Vogue’s Most Beautiful Male award in Mumbai, the charming, debonair actor, with his self-assured smile that makes many a heart flutter, has come a long way. In 2007, after interviewing him immediately after his debut in the Pakistani…

Journalism in Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Perhaps best known for his widely popular, hard-hitting talk show, “Talk Back,” and “Eye on India” for the local Pakistani news channel, DAWN News, Wajahat S. Khan is one of the best-known Pakistani broadcast journalists in the country today. Having worked for a number of local and foreign media houses; such as…

Fiza Farhan: A Pakistani Change-maker

By Sonya Rehman For 28-year-old Fiza Farhan, being caught up in a 9-5 job was hardly appealing. Rather than just another cog in the corporate machine, she always wanted to make an impact on Pakistani society. Working as the CEO and Co-Founder of a local microfinance institution, the Buksh Foundation, and the Director of Buksh…

Pakistani Performer Uncovers Comedy in Taboos, Cultural Crossover

By Sonya Rehman Nadia P. Manzoor, a Pakistani writer and performer based in Brooklyn, New York, has made it her mission to bring to light the struggles of young Pakistani Muslims, immigrants in foreign countries, who struggle to find their identity while growing up in traditional Pakistani homes; the balance between the East and the…

Protesting in Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Mohammad Jibran Nasir is a young Pakistani activist from Karachi, leading the popular #ReclaimYourMosques campaign in Pakistan after the brutal Peshawar attack in which more than 130 children were killed in cold blood by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Nasir’s movement was initiated after the Lal Masjid’s imam, Abdul Aziz, refused to condemn the…

The MMA Roadshow comes to Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Synergy MMA Academy in Lahore, Pakistan, is almost empty this morning. But it’s early, and besides, it’s a Sunday. Sitting on the mats with a friend, the gym’s owner, Bashir Ahmad, is dressed in a black robe with the belt loosely tied around his waist, revealing a toned chest and defined abs….

Priya’s Shakti – A Comic Book Heroine Tackles Rape

By Sonya Rehman The brutal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, India, in December 2012, had a profound affect on Indian documentary filmmaker, Ram Devineni. The incident led to the creation of Devineni’s comic book, Priya’s Shakti, targeted towards the Indian youth. The book is about a young female superhero who tackles rape…

Pakistani Start-Up Preserves a Disappearing Craft

By Sonya Rehman Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim, two young Pakistani entrepreneurs, are on a mission to preserve the art and craft of handmade leather shoes through their start-up, Markhor. A Persian word meaning ‘snake-eater,’ Markhor is also the name of an endangered wild goat – Pakistan’s national animal. In 2010, Waqas Ali was sitting…

Pakistan’s First Woman Cartoonist Shapes Young Minds and Society

By Sonya Rehman This year Nigar Nazar, the first professional woman cartoonist in Pakistan and, quite possibly, the Muslim world, was named one of the 100 Women of 2014 by the BBC. Nazar began her career in the 1970s, and her cartoon character Gogi has not only been published widely within Pakistan, in an assortment…

The Media in Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Having been affiliated with the Pakistani media industry for over a decade, Puruesh Chaudhary has become an integral part of the country’s crop of young and ambitious players in the media sector. From initially working with two leading, local television channels – DAWN and SAMAA TV – Chaudhary has been invited to…

The 1947 Partition Archive: Preserving the Past

By Sonya Rehman Even those of us who have been direct beneficiaries of the world’s digital media revolution are finding it increasingly challenging to retain and sort through information. The chance to mull over a certain story, opinion piece, or photo-essay is fast becoming a luxury. The makers and takers of news are forgetting how…

Defying the Odds – an Indian in Afghanistan

By Sonya Rehman At just 37, Kavita Nair, a Mumbai native, has lived a life many can only dream of. Based in Kabul, Afghanistan, and working for a relatively new Afghani media house, Shamshad Radio & Television Network (STRN) as a Director of Project Management and Business Development, Nair’s love for her second home, Afghanistan,…

The Awesome Guy behind ‘My Awesome Journey’

By Sonya Rehman While popular Facebook pages such as ‘Humans of New York’ (and other similar pages) enjoy their fair share of popularity on the internet, a humble educationist in Lahore decided to honour inspiring Pakistanis via his very own, and relatively new, Facebook page – ‘My Awesome Journey.’ High-spirited and chirpy, Usman Aziz’s energy…

Get The Business Started

By Sonya Rehman Hassan Iqbal Rizvi and Saad Shahid are currently the hottest young entrepreneurs in Lahore giving the city a jolly good dose of pop art and retro funk fashion. Their start-up, ‘9Lines,’ is a clothing and lifestyle brand fast gaining popularity among young Pakistanis that have an inclination towards alternative fashion that make…

Daughters of Lahore

By Sonya Rehman On a cloudy weekday this month, sisters, Afshan Ejaz and Noshi Ejaz are putting together a modern-looking clay pot at Shehrezade Alam’s workshop in Lahore. Alam, Pakistan’s acclaimed female potter is not in at the moment, but Afshan (the older of the two) chirpily tells me that she’ll be joining us shortly….

Akhlaq Ahmed: A Voice of Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman He was a well-known playback singer of the Pakistani film/music industry; with hits such as Sawan Aaye, Sawan Jaye, Sona Na Chandi, Saathi Mere Bin Tere, and others, the late Akhlaq Ahmed was one of those most well-respected singers of his time (in the 70s and the 80s). Born into a lower…

“Allah rung laavay”

By Sonya Rehman They are everywhere. Those heavy-set Gods of the highway, those mammoth trucks in their entire jazzy splendor. The swirls, the motifs, the colours, the patterns, the tigers, the peacocks, the parrots, the lions, and the roses, the thick lashes on singular eyes, the lips, and (at times) the face of a politician,…

Chayn: Helping Victims of Domestic Abuse

Founded by a 23-year-old Pakistani, Hera Hussain, Chayn  – a website for Pakistani women who have been victims of domestic abuse – was launched this year with the help of 70 volunteers across the globe. While the portal aids in raising awareness of emotional and physical abuse, dealing with abuse, informing Pakistani women of their…

Singaporean Photographer Edwin Koo: Views from Pakistan to Kathmandu

By Sonya Rehman Describing himself as an “accidental photographer,” Edwin Koo is an award-winning Singaporean documentary photographer who produces work that is striking and evocative. So much so that his body of work on Swat, Pakistan, titled Paradise Lost: Pakistan’s Swat Valley, won him the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography in 2010. In an…

Filmmaker Focuses on Water and Warming in Northern Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman This year, an Italian-born filmmaker, Niccolo Piazza, is preparing to release The Karakoram Anomaly, a documentary examining life, culture and heritage in Baltistan and the Hunza Valley, locations in Pakistan’s mountainous northern regions, against a broader backdrop of climate change. The Karakoram and Western Himalaya mountain ranges are part of this area,…

Mother, Daughter Preserve Art Form in One of World’s Most Volatile Places

By Sonya Rehman From beautiful coasters to colorful tiles, stunning table tops and other accessories, Pakistani entrepreneur, Farhana Asad, along with her artisans, has been producing meticulous works of art that involve the use of semi-precious stones to produce stunning, intricate mosaic works in an explosion of colors. Farhana’s works of art involve the application…

In New Delhi, a Transplanted Trinidadian Pursues His Kathak Dream

By Sonya Rehman They say art has no boundaries, and in the case of Quincy Kendell Charles, the saying couldn’t be more apt. A native of Trinidad, Charles was only 15 years old when he first discovered Kathak, a popular Indian classical dance form, while watching a television program in Trinidad. The young, graceful Kathak…

Kachee Goliyan – Pakistan’s very own Marvel/DC Comics?

By Sonya Rehman While a handful of Pakistani animators, such as Mir Zafar Ali, Asim Fida Khan, and Wajid Raza, among others, stand as living, breathing Hollywood success stories, Pakistan’s animation industry remains in a fledgling stage. While there are a number of notable Pakistani cartoonists such as Nigar Nazar, Pakistan’s first female cartoonist, and…

Meet Ghani Chaudry, the Pakistani Tailor Who Conquered Savile Row

By Sonya Rehman For 14 years, the reputed Pakistani tailor Ghani Chaudry worked on the legendary Savile Row — the famous street in London’s Mayfair district whose bespoke tailoring services can be traced back some 200 years. Having provided his tailoring expertise to television series such as the BBC’s Bird of Prey and ITV’s The…

BBC Urdu: A Conversation with Sairbeen Hosts Erum Gillani and Nosheen Abbas

By Sonya Rehman This year in February, BBC Urdu launched Sairbeen , a current affairs program broadcast on the local Pakistani television channel, Express News, with a team of all-female Pakistani presenters. The Diplomat spoke with Sairbeen’s Erum Gillani and Nosheen Abbas about their meticulous training at the BBC’s headquarters in London prior to the…

A Pakistani in Hollywood: A Conversation with Faran Tahir

By Sonya Rehman Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir is no stranger to Hollywood. From roles in productions such as Iron Man and Charlie Wilson’s War to Star Trek and beyond, he has also guest starred in well-known television series like The Practice, 24, Grey’s Anatomy, NYPD Blue, and Supernatural, among many others. Most recently, Tahir has starred…

A Female Journalist in Pakistan: Kiran Nazish

By Sonya Rehman From current affairs to social issues and human interest stories, Pakistani journalist Kiran Nazish has written for Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Forbes  and a host of other local and foreign publications on hard-hitting socio-political issues and poignant stories of those affected by war. In an interview with The Diplomat, Nazish speaks about…

Journeys on Canvas

By Sonya Rehman Vivid, dramatic colours, a Maharani, a tiger, a fox, and Moroccan rose sellers – Shirin Sahba, an artist based in China, produces art that is dreamy and ethereal. Her series of paintings have a certain, enchanting quality about them – they appear as faraway stories, set in distant lands, faceless characters and…

Pakistani Duo Zeb and Haniya Cross Musical and Geographic Borders Alike

By Sonya Rehman In 2004, cousins and musical collaborators Zebunnisa Bangash and Haniya Aslam — whose families hail from the city of Kohat in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — released their first single, “Chup.” At the time, the Pakistani music scene was becoming thoroughly saturated with primarily mainstream pop music. But, encouraged by…

HELLO! Pakistan Chats with Ghazala Rahman

By Sonya Rehman In her beautiful home, furniture designer, Ghazala Rahman, talks about her love for craftsmanship and the journey that led to her furniture outlet, ‘Indesign.’ Ghazala Rahman, the woman behind the well-known furniture shop in Lahore cuts an intriguing figure. She is a dignified woman, bold in her approach to her work and…

In Conversation with Shyam Benegal – one of India’s Major Filmmakers

By Sonya Rehman Even though he stands as one of India’s leading Film Director’s – with a career spanning over four decades, with numerous documentaries and feature films to his credit, Shyam Benegal is extremely down to earth, when I meet him at his friend’s residence in Defence, Lahore, where the Director and his wife…

Saadia Mirza – The Elusive and Elegant Pakistani Fashion Designer

By Sonya Rehman She has never been one to strive for maximum media exposure and press coverage. Since her entrance into the local fashion arena years ago, Mirza has worked at her craft in a meticulous, quiet and cautious manner – qualities she still nurtures today, even after all her success and recognition as one…

The Artist and his Muse

By Sonya Rehman Artist Usman Saeed uses Model, Mehreen Syed, as a Canvas. Currently teaching at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, artist Usman Saeed is no stranger to the local art scene. His father, Saeed Akhtar, is one of the most prominent painters that the country has to offer. However, this by…

Embodying Art and Fashion – The Vibrant Avatars of Asmaa Mumtaz

By Sonya Rehman Fierce, fabulous and off-the-wall, Asmaa Mumtaz, the country’s first personal stylist produces work that is daring, contemporary (in every sense of the word) and edgy – just the right ingredients needed to shape, mold and jazz up local fashion to contend at the international level. With a BFA (Hons) from the National…

“Ours is an Effort which will Reap Results not in One Generation, but over Two to Three Generations.” -Samina Rizwan

By Sonya Rehman In Pakistan, scholarships for students hoping to receive funding for undergraduate and graduate programmes are few and far between. While some private institutions (in addition to some not-for-profit ventures) award partial and/or full scholarships to deserving students, financial aid and scholarships are greatly needed in the country to support young Pakistanis in…

Speaking Easy: Allama Iqbal’s Grandson – Yousaf Salahuddin – on his Current Project and the Future of Art and Culture in Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman If you’ve lived in Lahore long enough, you’ll know who Mian Yousaf Salahuddin is. Commonly known as Yousaf Salli, Salahuddin is perhaps best known for his quaint haveli in the Old City, Haveli Barood Khana, which has seen political figures, journalists, writers, local and foreign celebrities; popular TV and movie personalities, singers,…

Worth the Weight

By Sonya Rehman Slim and petite, one would never guess (at first glance) that Pakistani-American, Kulsoom Abdullah, has been Weightlifting – at both the national and international level since 2010 – in addition to Crossfitting. Born and bred in the US, Abdullah’s parents (born in Pakistan; her father from Tangi and her mother from Charsadda)…