Monthly Archives: October 2013

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case – A Review

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It is strange how a particular place can invoke a plethora of memories and bring about a nostalgic rush at the same time. It seems only yesterday I was travelling to Styles for the first time, foolishly believing the best years of my life were behind me. Little did I know at that time I was on my way to meet a man whose influence over me was to mould my entire being and change my outlook towards life; and here I was once again, travelling to the same country house in Essex. The prospect of seeing Poirot again kept me animated through the dreary journey. I had missed him dearly.

Hercule Poirot. His egg-shaped bald head, magnificent moustache, penchant for order, and famous ‘little grey cells’ were renowned the world over. Over the years, we had been inseparable as Poirot had built himself a reputation for solving the most challenging of cases as a private detective after his retirement from the Belgian police force. I had last met him over a year ago, and it had saddened me immensely to see with my own eyes the devastation old age had wrought upon him. Crippled with arthritis, he had to move around in a wheelchair with his valet having to cater to every need of his. His face had become wrinkled and lined, and he had lost his plump frame. I had learned that Poirot had been living in Styles for some time, and my heart yearned to enjoy his company once more.

Poirot had written a letter asking me to join him at Styles on an urgent errand. On my arrival, Poirot told me to my great surprise that he was on the trail of a criminal mastermind whose pursuit had brought him to Styles. Five unrelated murders had taken place, and Poirot was convinced that his suspect was linked to each one of them. It was Poirot’s belief that this mysterious villain, whom he referred to as only ‘X’, was present among the occupants of the guest house that Styles had been transformed into.

In the beginning, I had my doubts about the whole business. In the case studies of the five murders Poirot had shown me, it was evident that the guilt of the murderers had been proven beyond doubt. After I had been introduced to all the guests occupying Styles, my scepticism increased further. They all seemed nice, friendly people and I could not bring myself to believe that one of them was a maniacal serial killer who had already committed five murders in cold blood and was planning another while at Styles, according to Poirot. I remembered a case Poirot had once recounted to me upon my insistence that there must have been an instance when his little grey cells had failed to function properly; the case of ‘The Chocolate Box’. I thought to myself it was only natural for Poirot to be imagining crime everywhere he went in his old age since his whole life had been dedicated to fighting crime and evil. However, I dismissed these unpleasant thoughts from my mind and reminded myself of Poirot’s unparalleled ability to solve the most baffling cases throughout his distinguished career.

Poirot had asked me to become his eyes and ears at Styles which is exactly what I did. I reported every incident that took place around the house to Poirot and kept him aware of daily developments. Poirot had always been secretive in his ideas and theories but the complete lack of information he provided irritated me beyond measurable extent. My misgivings were laid to rest and Poirot’s theory was proven correct when an attempt on an occupant’s life was made. Poirot told me then that this would be the last case we would solve together and that at the end of his career, he had finally come across the perfect criminal. What began as ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ would fittingly end at the same place as Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case’.

At the end, all I recall is Poirot signing off our first adventure at Styles with “we shall hunt together again”. The end of Poirot’s manuscript read “We shall never hunt together again, my friend.” Grief overtook my senses as my mind wandered off to memories of all the cases we had solved together. Poirot always said I had too trusting a nature. Maybe he was right. I never guessed. I never guessed…

(Written from the perspective of Captain Arthur Hastings, companion-chronicler and best friend of Hercule Poirot throughout his detective career)

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Democracy that is accountable is democracy that delivers

“A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency” (Obama)

Democracy is a form of government in which power is held by the people and exercised by them through a system of representation involving free elections to benefit the whole society. For a society to move forward in the right direction and this system to be a success, it must be ensured that those in authority make rightful use of the power bestowed upon them and remain liable to answer for their conduct. Although democracy in Pakistan is still at a nascent stage, it can be made to deliver if political corruption in the country is curbed, the influential role of the judiciary in the evolvement of democracy is realized, and voting is made a privilege instead of a right.

Ever since Pakistan gained independence in 1947, it has experienced turbulent times on a democratic front. The fickle nature of Pakistani democracy is evident when taking into account the various coups d’état that have been carried out by military establishments against civilian governments periodically which have resulted in a state of martial law being enforced four times in the country’s short history. In the aftermath of these events, chaos prevailed and Pakistan was thrown under dictator rule. However, the country recently experienced its first successful transition of power from one civilian government to another following general elections, with the previous government having completed their stipulated term in office. It is a step in the right direction for democracy in this country but there are many hurdles still barring the way. The newly elected government has been highly inefficient in dealing with insurgents and the Taliban who have accepted open responsibility for blatant attacks on Shia Hazaras that have left at least 800 dead and more than 1500 wounded. The recent attack at the mountain base camp in Gilgit-Balistan, which resulted in the deaths of nine foreigners, served as a massive blow to the tourism industry in Pakistan and further demeaned the country’s already tattered global image. Unless the new government can quickly devise an effective strategy to bring about peace and economic stability, yet another military takeover seems to be on the cards.

Political corruption in Pakistan is at its peak. During the last four years of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s tenure, Pakistan lost an astounding US$94 billion due to corruption, tax evasion, and bad governance. In 2012, Pakistan was ranked as the 33rd most corrupt country in the world, according to the Corruption Perception Index. Unless political corruption is rooted out of the democratic system, the nation will fail to progress significantly. This is where the country’s judiciary has a role to play. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already given indications that it will intervene to try and limit the proliferation of corruption in the country. In June 2012, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was disqualified by the highest bench of the judiciary on charges of contempt of court. The Supreme Court also instructed the country’s government to initiate a treason case against former President Pervez Musharraf who came into power following a military coup in 1999. An empowered judiciary, along with a free and independent media led by capable journalists, would serve well to keep corruption levels in the country under control. In addition, bodies such as the National Accountability Bureau and Public Accounts Committee will continue to bring more corruption cases to light. A separate Accountability Commission could also be set up to ensure all institutions perform their duties without any breach of morals. In doing so, it must be ascertained that feudalism and the practice of inherited politics is abolished and the vibrant youth of the nation empowered and educated to secure the country’s future.

One of the main reasons the evolution of democracy in the country has stalled is illiteracy among the masses. In a recent report, Pakistan ranked 113th among 120 countries regarding literacy rate. For democracy to flourish in Pakistan, a certain level of education must be made a prerequisite for an individual to cast their vote. The issues that plague this country today are beyond the scope of understanding of the average uneducated voter. If educated people, who have a better understanding of political policies and are less prone to manipulation and ideological hegemony, are allowed to vote on behalf of the illiterate as well, it would benefit the entire nation. Furthermore, referendums could be used to give the whole electorate a chance to voice their opinion on the more important issues the country faces. This would lead to higher transparency in running the affairs of the state along with a higher involvement of the masses.

To ensure that politicians in the country remain accountable, voters who are aware of the laws being formulated and whether they are in accordance with the interests of the public are required. The presence of such a community in society would keep a check on the government’s actions as it would bring into question any action of the government it deems contentious. This would result in the general public being empowered at the end of the day through their elected representatives which is the true essence of democracy.

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10 concise ways to make a feminist shriek in agony

  1. Ask a feminist woman to make you a sandwich. Nothing will raise her temper quicker than this simple request. If things get heated, you can always tell the lady how being in the kitchen will help develop her creative side and get her a higher number of marriage proposals.
  2. Start dating a girl who works at Subway. She will have to make you a sandwich with a big smile on her face when you visit the restaurant every day. To hit the nail on the head, take a feminist friend along with you.
  3. When a feminist asks you for a stopwatch, act surprised and ask them what went wrong with the timer on the microwave oven.
  4. Use the word ‘patriarchy’ every once a while. Act offended when a feminist asks you not to use the word and remind them of your right to express yourself.
  5. Ask a feminist how they plan on bringing about change in the societal status quo. Once they start elaborating enthusiastically, cut them off by saying it was a trick question and how the only change women can bring about is in the condition of the kitchen.
  6. Ask a feminist whether they want to hear a joke. When they reply in the affirmative, say “change”. When they respond with “I don’t get it”, reply with “exactly” and walk away with a smirk on your face.
  7. When in an elevator with a feminist, make sure you allow the women to leave first when the doors open and tell the feminist afterwards how you are proud of yourself for upholding women’s rights.
  8. Tell a feminist you will do the dishes if they make you a sandwich. If they make you a sandwich in the hope that you will fulfil your end of the bargain, tell them washing dishes is not a man’s job. If they don’t make you the sandwich, you would still have outraged them with your proposal. Win-win situation either way.
  9. When a feminist tells you men who say women belong in the kitchen don’t know what to do with them in the bedroom, reply by pointing out a sandwich always tastes good after strenuous exertions.
  10. Tell a feminist gender equality should work both ways which is why men should stay at home while women go out and earn a living to sustain the household. If this does not throw the feminist into a wild fit of rage, you have either followed instructions incorrectly or decided that the implications of making this remark out loud might be disastrous.
  11. Tell the feminist they scream like a woman when your mission has been accomplished (promised 10, delivered 11).

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