Sunday, April 15, 2018

A playlist for the musically curious

album reviews

George Ezra’s Staying at Tamara’s is pleasantly charming; Deb Talan’s Lucky Girl feels safe; The Fratellis’s In Your Own Sweet Time is among the most enjoyable albums you’ll hear this year

Artist: George Ezra
Album: Staying at Tamara’s

Four years after making a splash with his massively popular debut Wanted on Voyage (2014), English singer George Ezra has returned with his sophomore record, Staying at Tamara’s, a decidedly safe set of sunny guitar pop songs with rousing choruses and cheerful melodies.

Produced by Cam Blackwood and co-written by the singer himself mostly with the help of Athlete vocalist Joel Pott, the new album finds Ezra singing about anxiety, escape, and, of course, love.

When the record is at its best – particularly with the infuriatingly catchy ‘Paradise’ that will burrow its way into your mind and then adamantly refuse to leave despite all your protestations, and the potential summer anthems ‘Shotgun’ and ‘Get Away’ – it’s hard to deny Ezra’s appeal. But over the course of 11 tracks, the singer-songwriter’s formula starts to become a little too repetitive, and when the monotony sets in, it becomes evident that most of these songs by themselves would have next to no personality were it not for Ezra’s deep, rich voice.

It’s painfully clear that the artist has no intentions of surprising listeners, let alone challenging them in any way. Yet it’s so hard to dislike his output, thanks to his innate ability to come up with solid pop tunes.

Staying at Tamara’s may make you wish the singer had lent his lovely baritone to more interesting and fresh material, but the album will also leave you humming the standout tracks because while it may be sonically and thematically inoffensive and unexceptional, ultimately the album is still pleasantly charming.

Highlights: ‘Paradise’, ‘Get Away’, ‘Shotgun’, ‘All My Love’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

*****

Artist: Deb Talan
Album: Lucky Girl

The last decade of Deb Talan’s life has been both rewarding and challenging. On the musical front, the American singer – the female half of the indie pop duo The Weepies – has found success with her group. On a personal level, she has married her life and music partner Steve Tannen, had three children, and battled and survived stage three breast cancer. Her experiences have prompted her to now “step out musically” and make a solo record that gives her a chance to express herself as “a survivor, a songwriter, and a lucky girl”.

Backed by gentle guitars, pianos, and drums, Talan reflects on her life and identity in this collection of 13 soft, soothing songs. She writes and sings about motherhood and children in the touching ‘Growing Up’, and references other musical works in tracks like ‘Joshua Tree in the Headphones’ and ‘Son Volt Came to Town’. Her music instantly sounds familiar as the singer never wanders too far from the Weepies style and doesn’t take this opportunity to explore new musical grounds.

While this set of melodious, intimate songs is always amiable, it suffers from Talan’s reluctance to try something a bit different on her solo outing, because even though individually these songs are beautiful, as an album, Lucky Girl feels safe, repetitive, and not quite as memorable as one would have hoped.

Highlights: ‘Butterfly’, ‘Joshua Tree in the Headphones’, ‘Growing Up’
Rating: 3 out of 5

*****

Artist: The Fratellis
Album: In Your Own Sweet Time

The Fratellis may have lost some of their manic effervescence in the decade since the release of their debut album Costello Music (2006) but the now-seasoned group has clearly retained its ability to deliver upbeat, catchy alternative rock songs. Their fifth record, In Your Own Sweet Time, sees the band come up with 11 vibrant new tracks that their fans will find very hard to resist.

Powered, once again, by Jon Fratelli’s wry lyrics and distinct delivery, the new album is well-crafted and gives listeners another shot of lively rock while giving the Scottish band a chance to gently expand their sound.

Reuniting with Tony Hoffer, who also produced the group’s debut, has clearly paid off. From the buoyant album opener ‘Stand Up Tragedy’ to the Indian-influenced closer ‘I Am That’ (which is also the most unique track on this set), the record captures the band’s ability to put together pop hooks with rock elements and create infectious music. Standouts like ‘I’ve Been Blind’ (which begs to be put on repeat) and ‘Indestructible’ are among the most contagious tracks the group has released of late.

In Your Own Sweet Time may not be as hyper energetic as their ‘Creepin’ Up The Backstairs’ days, but it remains fun from start to finish. And while it may not be the most interesting album you’ll hear this year, it will probably be among the most enjoyable ones.

Highlights: ‘Stand Up Tragedy’, ‘Starcrossed Losers’, ‘I’ve Been Blind’, ‘Laughing Gas’
Rating: 4 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 15th April, 2018 *

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Quiet Place - an intriguing thriller

movie review

A Quiet Place

Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe
Directed by: John Krasinski
Tagline: If they hear you, they hunt you.

It’s the 89th day of a monster invasion that has ravaged the world. Fierce armoured beasts that hunt by sound have decimated the human population on the planet and are now picking off the remaining survivors. Anyone who makes the slightest sound is immediately snatched by a lethal monster. You have to stay silent to stay alive.

That is the premise of A Quiet Place, a little horror thriller that has unexpectedly become the most talked about film of the moment.

The story follows the Abbot family – father Lee (John Krasinski, who also directed and co-wrote the movie), mother Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt), and their children – who are trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic, silent world. They communicate by sign language, which they happen to know because their daughter (Millicent Simmonds) can’t hear. But as the film begins, a tragedy befalls the family, illustrating just how dire the situation is and how high the stakes are.

Then we jump to day 472, and – if you’ve seen the trailer, you knew this was coming – the Abbots are expecting another child. How will the impending birth and arrival of a newborn impact their chances of survival?

It’s an intriguing setting and an interesting plot, and its simplicity is absolutely mesmerising. Within minutes the tension of the noise ban has you in its grip. The silence is suffocating.

The lack of dialogues for much of the film also gives the cast an opportunity to shine. They communicate volumes with their gestures and impressions in their nearly silent roles. Blunt in particular is absolutely terrific as a mother trying to protect her children while bringing another one into the world. Plus Blunt and Krasinski’s chemistry makes it easy for viewers to care about the couple.

And it would all be very satisfying were it not for the frustrating lack of details and explanations. The film leaves you with so many questions that it becomes very hard to just ignore its implausibilities.

Horror movies – or rather movies in every genre – require a certain degree of suspension of disbelief, but it is unfair to demand the audience completely turn off their brains to enjoy the action.

There are simple things that could have easily been addressed but are instead just left to confuse and distract the audience for the film’s one and a half hour running time. Where did these creatures come from? Why did the family choose to live in a quiet place? Surely their chances of survival will be higher if they are in a noisy place? Why not live by the waterfall which masks their sounds instead of a secluded farmhouse where every noise feels amplified? Why not wear socks instead of walking around barefoot? How has someone been tending the crops silently for over a year? And just why on earth have these parents chosen to have another child in the middle of an apocalypse, putting their entire family in unnecessary jeopardy?

It also remains baffling that the civilization survived long enough to print newspapers about the devastation caused by these mysterious monsters, but a whole planet worth of scientists and defence specialists couldn’t figure out how to defeat creatures with highly sensitive hearing.

Despite every criticism though, it’s hard to deny the fact that A Quiet Place is very well made, and it is still highly recommended to everyone. It is more tense and suspenseful than scary, and while it may not be the most effective “horror” film, in many ways this is one of the best “thrillers” that have come along in a while. If you just go with it and don’t let yourself get bogged down by the minutiae, you will definitely appreciate the movie, its unique plot, fascinating setting, and stellar acting. And if nothing else, you will certainly enjoy discussing it with your friends.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 14th April, 2018 *

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Darkest Minds - yet another derivative young adult thriller?

trailer review


The trend of turning young adult novels into films may have produced more misses than hits, but the mixed results haven’t dampened Hollywood’s enthusiasm for pursuing more such projects.

The upcoming movie The Darkest Minds is all set to join the considerably long list of these page-to-screen adaptations. Based on Alexandra Bracken’s novel of the same name and directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the film is a teen dystopian episode set in the near future, and by the looks of its trailer, it will probably turn out to be yet another generic young adult thriller.

The story revolves around children and teenagers who survived a deadly plague and developed superpowers. After the government rounds them up and detains them in camps, a group of runaways – portrayed by Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, and Miya Cech – band together to stand up against the grownups that deceived them and fight back while learning to harness their strengths.

From the looks of it, The Darkest Minds seems like a crossover between The Hunger Games and X-Men by way of The Maze Runner. If there are any original ideas in the storyline then they haven’t made their way into the trailer. It all seems overly familiar and not particularly exciting. The voiceovers and dialogues sound clichéd. And it remains to be seen how well the main cast of young actors will perform.

But there is still reason to be hopeful though, thanks largely to the fact that the film comes “from the producers of Stranger Things and Arrival” (as the trailer tells us in bold capital letters). Both those projects were inventive and unique, and hopefully some of their qualities will rub off on this movie as well.

The Darkest Minds seems to be aimed squarely at those who enjoy young adult thrillers and fans of Bracken’s book series in particular. And while this brief peek into the action probably won’t excite anyone outside that demographic, we can still hope that the final product won’t just come off as a patchwork of the many similar projects that have preceded it and will offer enough individuality to warrant a viewing.

The film will be released on 3rd August 2018.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 10th April, 2018 *

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Ready Player One - a visually dazzling bundle of clichés

movie review

Ready Player One

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Tagline: Break free.

The powers of nostalgia can be blamed for a number of recent big and small screen projects, including sitcom revivals and movie spin-offs. And nostalgia is clearly also the driving force behind the success of the cinematic adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One. Directed by the great Steven Spielberg, the film is a celebration of ‘80s pop culture by way of a visually ambitious extravaganza with a paper thin story.

It’s the year 2045, and humanity has chosen to escape its dystopian reality via the virtual world of the OASIS, leaving behind real-life desolation to venture into a digital world where the imagination is the only limit.

But the fate of this simulated world is left in limbo upon the death of James Halliday (portrayed by Mark Rylance), the co-creator of the OASIS and owner of the world’s biggest company. To determine the future of his creation after his demise, Halliday set up an Easter Egg hunt, hiding three keys inside his game. The first person to finish the quest gains total control of the OASIS and inherits the programmer’s massive fortune.

Among the many people who make it their mission to crack Halliday’s code is our protagonist Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), an orphaned teenager who goes by the avatar Parzival in the OASIS, and sees winning the quest as a ticket out of his impoverished life.

Of course a nefarious company, IOI, also wants to take over the program and has amassed an army of players focused on winning the prize.

It is thereby up to Wade and his virtual friends – including his bestie Aech (Lena Waithe) as well as Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), the protagonist’s obligatory love interest because how could there not be one – to triumph the challenges and stop IOI’s wicked CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) from taking over the OASIS.

There are definitely seeds of an interesting premise here, but unfortunately they degenerate into a bundle of clichés overloaded with pop culture allusions. The film tries to distract viewers from the predictability of its storyline by turning the proceedings into a game of “spot the reference”. Combine this plethora of cultural nods with properly impressive – although vertigo-inducingly busy – visuals plus some very well executed sequences and you’d almost be inclined to excuse the triteness of the entire project … until you think about it and realize this isn’t quite the epic adventure it pretends to be.

Why is everyone fighting for escapism when they should be fighting to fix the real world instead? Who knows. And why should the potential disruption of a virtual world with advertising (or even the insinuation of data falling into the wrong hands) create a bigger hullaballoo than the actual killing of innocents in the real world? No idea.

The heroes of Ready Player One aren’t on a mission to fix real life issues but to preserve a fantasy that basically gives people a platform to not deal with genuine problems, and while the film makes a half-hearted attempt to dodge this criticism at the very end, its proposed solution is too little, too late, and too dumb.

To be fair, while Ready Player One is convoluted, it isn’t a complete mess. There are parts of it that certainly work. A sequence set inside a popular horror movie stands out, and T.J. Miller’s villainous henchman I-R0k is quite amusing. Spielberg’s world building is doubtlessly masterful. Plus you really can’t deny the nostalgic charm of seeing some of your favourites from the past randomly pop up throughout the proceedings.

But don’t expect depth, don’t expect layers. The heroes are the good guys; the villains are evil, scheming dirtbags. There are no real twists. It’s all very, very predictable. The dialogues are cloying. The live-action acting by the young leads is passable at best; the digital avatars aren’t very engaging (and sometimes make it seem like you’re watching someone play a very expensive-looking video game). At its core, the whole thing is straight from the young adult dystopian adventure playbook.

The film offers the same kind of escapism that it champions for much of its exhaustingly long running time. Turn off your mind, indulge in the nostalgic pop culture bombardment, and just go with the cheesy fun if you want to enjoy it. But whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of actually analysing it or you risk being underwhelmed by the utter banality of it all.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 7th April, 2018 *

Sunday, April 01, 2018

In the company of Jack White, They Might Be Giants, and Andrew W.K.

album reviews

Jack White’s Boarding House Reach makes for a challenging listen; I Like Fun by They Might Be Giants is another terrific collection of offbeat alternative rock ditties; Andrew W.K’s newest effort throws a bash for your spirit

Artist: Jack White
Album: Boarding House Reach

There has always been something a bit eccentric about Jack White’s music and persona, and his idiosyncrasies have indeed made his work more interesting, but his output has never been quite as esoteric as it is on his third solo album, Boarding House Reach, a wondrous cacophony of sounds and ideas that is exciting and intriguing but also rather confounding.

The musician – who has crafted a style very distinctly his own over the last two decades by creating an irresistible brand of garage and alternative rock imbued with flavours of folk and blues – has decided to wander into a more avant-garde direction with these 13 tracks, all but one (‘Humoresque’) of which were written by the singer himself.

Even the more straightforward songs – like the standout ‘Over and Over and Over’ – find White playing with sounds, leaving behind the minimalism that characterised his early work in favour of constructing more lavish arrangements.

On the less conventional tracks, White defies the traditional song structure and opts instead to experiment with styles – hip hop, rap, funk, jazz – and sonic elements. Some efforts come off as an uneasy marriage of several disparate fragments (‘Hypermisophoniac’, ‘Get in the Mind Shaft’); others seem more like ideas for songs than actual songs (‘Everything You’ve Ever Learned’); yet others take promising grooves but then stretch them into tedium (‘Corporation’).

It’s all a bit erratic, yet it’s strangely compelling as a whole, painting the picture of an artist who isn’t content with standing on safe ground and is actively working towards exploring new landscapes. But on an individual level, the pieces can seem indulgent and opaque.

Boarding House Reach makes for a challenging listen, although it is interesting to delve into the record and discover its many nuances. It is confident, daring, curious, bizarre, but ultimately not quite as satisfying as you would have hoped.

Highlights: ‘Over and Over and Over’, ‘What’s Done Is Done’, ‘Connected By Love’, ‘Humoresque’
Rating: 3 out of 5

*****

Artist: They Might Be Giants
Album: I Like Fun

Over a three decade long career, They Might Be Giants have mastered the art of creating quirky pop songs, so it comes as no surprise that their latest album, I Like Fun, is yet another terrific collection of offbeat alternative rock ditties.

The soaring melodies belie the dark sentiments at the core of the lyrics, and the group’s unique, often absurd way of looking at things never fails to be impressive.

The Johns have death on their minds on tracks like ‘I Left My Body’ and ‘Last Wave’. The ironic ‘By the Time You Get This’ is told from the perspective of a narrator who lived long ago and is offering a bleak look at his present as well as hope that the world will be a much better place by 1937. Songs like ‘Let’s Get This Over With’ and ‘When the Lights Come On’ highlight just how effortlessly the group can make music that is both catchy and complex.

With all 15 tracks written primarily by They Might Be Giants and produced by the band with the help of Pat Dillett, I Like Fun is an irresistible invitation to explore They Might Be Giants’ quirky, sweet, dark, warm, cryptic, compelling world, and it’s a journey well worth taking.

Highlights: ‘Let’s Get This Over With’, ‘I Left My Body’, ‘The Microphone’, ‘When The Lights Come On’
Rating: 4 out of 5

*****

Artist: Andrew W.K.
Album: You’re Not Alone

Nearly a decade after we last heard from him, Andrew W.K. is back to reaffirm the power of partying in You’re Not Alone, a collection of bombastic hard rock jams that are relentlessly optimistic, embarrassingly joyous, and instantly contagious.

The record throws a bash for your spirit while celebrating music’s lifesaving powers by way of a 16-track onslaught of raucous, anthemic rock music.

It isn’t exactly shocking that the album feels like a (very loud and intense) musical therapy session, seeing how vocal the singer has been about mental health issues. He encourages his audience to ‘Keep on Going’, assures listeners that ‘You’re Not Alone’, and affirms that we won’t ‘Give Up on You’. A handful of motivational spoken-word interludes have also been peppered throughout the record for some added self-worth reinforcement.

Those who enjoyed his previous work – especially his debut album, I Get Wet (2001) – will definitely not be disappointed with his new set. This might not be an experimental masterpiece or indeed show any inclination towards trying something different, but it does prove that a good pop hook goes a long way and that pure exuberance can indeed be contagious. In the company of Andrew W.K.’s music, you’re definitely not alone.

Highlights: ‘Music Is Worth Living For’, ‘Give Up on You’, ‘Keep on Going’
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer 

Instep, The News International - 1st April, 2018 *

Friday, March 30, 2018

About a dog

introspection

Lovely readers,

Good day.

This is Sameen, a fellow Earthling [1] whose name you might have seen in Us Magazine before.

And as you may or may not have noticed yet, I have taken over today’s issue of the magazine. Apologies!

Let me explain.

But before that, let me warn you, the rest of this piece is a bit of a downer. Tears are likely to be shed at some point. So grab a box of tissues, have a seat, make yourselves comfortable. Now hand me the box of tissues because I am going to need it.

Take a look at this photo. [2]


This is Rocket, a beautiful four-legged bundle of awesomeness. I first met him a few months ago – perhaps in the second half of last year? – when I found him walking around, all by his lonesome, in my neighbourhood. I gave him some milk and bread, and that’s how we became friends. He quickly became very popular and much loved in my family. Whenever he showed up – which was almost every day, at times more than once a day – we’d feed him, talk to him, dote over him, and sometimes let him inside to rest in the porch. He was smart, gentle, and very friendly, and his effortless adorableness always left us uplifted. We talked about letting him stay inside more often (if we could teach him to get along with our many stray cats) and he was on his way to having a permanent home with us [3], but that wasn’t to be.

On 14th March, we heard a gunshot. Rocket, we would soon find out, had been shot and killed. And so had most of his canine friends.

I had heard of the culling of stray dogs numerous times before, and it had always broken my heart. But I had been told it didn’t happen here, not in our town. Our people weren’t that brutal, and if there was ever an issue, our strays were just nicely, humanely relocated to some magical farm where they lived happily ever after. Of course I didn’t entirely believe that, but surely the authorities wouldn’t just suddenly, randomly shoot all the dogs?

Yes they would.

Just thinking of culling is upsetting for any animal lover; experiencing it first hand is just plain excruciating.

What could possibly make it even more excruciating? Finding three lovely dogs (who looked very similar to Rocket) outside the house the next morning and not knowing what the heck to do.

A guard told us that a man had been called in to shoot the dogs, and the guard himself seemed upset about the decision. “It’s such a sin to shoot animals like this, it’s such a sin to shoot cats and dogs,” he kept repeating. “Bohat gunna hai, bohat gunna hai.”

So were we going to hear three more gunshots that day? We couldn’t just sit idly by and let that happen. But what could we do?

“Contact NGOs,” someone suggested, and a lot of frantic googling later, we found the links to a few animal welfare organizations that helped stray animals. The terrific Shermeen – the sub-editor of this magazine – was nice enough to message them on Facebook, until we finally heard back from one of them. Todd’s Welfare Society (TWS) agreed to help by relocating the dogs (for a fee of Rs.1000 which one of my friends generously donated immediately). Their team showed up twice – on Thursday night and Saturday night – and despite their best efforts were unable to catch the dogs (who it turned out were the parents of lovely little pups). They simply weren’t trained for the job, they said; they were just volunteers. They did, however, manage to convince the authorities to stop the culling (for now) and next time to give them a call and to help them relocate the dogs instead of killing them mercilessly.

Of course this isn’t a permanent solution and it leaves the ultimate fate of the dogs in limbo. So what is a better, long-term solution? I tried to find out, and the nice folks at Us Mag were kind enough to allow me to tell you all about it.

To find out about humane stray control strategies, I asked a number of veterinarians, including some who have worked on projects to rescue stray dogs; you can read what they had to say here.

Fortunately a lot of people are trying to do something about this issue. You can read the interviews of three such efforts – TWS in Lahore, Save Our Strays in Karachi, and People’s Animal Care Trust in Rawalpindi – in today’s issue of Us. There are, of course, many more animal welfare initiatives in this country; we hope we will be able to tell you about their efforts, too, in the future.

We have also asked celebrities their views on animal rights and welfare. We admire these people for their talents, and they clearly admire animals for all the benefits and love they provide.

In these pages, you will hear from a lot of people who will implore you to love animals, not fear them; to try and help them, not shoot or poison them to death. Several experts have explained why culling does not solve anything; it just leaves you tapped in an endless cycle of brutality. Please pay heed to their words.

Nature is magical. Everything has its place in this world, and we all need to coexist in harmony. Being the dominant species gives us power. And with great power, superheroes keep telling us, comes great responsibility. It is our responsibility to help the creatures around us, not crush them.

While I may not know much, I am fairly certain of the fact that God did not create dogs so that psychopaths could use them for shooting practice.

Please help bring culling to an end. Help any animals you can. Raise awareness about their plight. Teach children to care. Don’t let your fear or inconvenience be the death sentence for another living creature. And if you have genuine concerns about any animals, please do not ask your authorities to shoot or poison them; specify that you don’t condone needless violence – ask for humane solutions instead.

Embrace love.

And if you can’t do anything else, then just do one thing: be kind. Please be kind.

[1] (unless you’re from a different planet, in which case … hope you’re having better luck than we are)
[2] This is an old photo from when he first showed up months ago. I’m afraid I don’t have any more recent photos. Didn’t realize I urgently needed to take more. Didn’t know I’d never get the chance.
[3] A friend abroad had even sent a collar for him. It hasn’t arrived yet. You do not want to speak to me the day it does.

- Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News International - 30th March, 2018 *

For the love of animals

us talk

Celebrities weigh in on the situation of animal rights in Pakistan, the plight of stray animals, and what can be done to make things better for animals in this country

Haroon Rashid
Haroon and Bella
- Animal rights in Pakistan: Unfortunately animal rights are not getting the attention they deserve. Animals need to be treated in the most humane manner possible.
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: I think the plight of animals in Pakistan is not very good. You just have to take a look at the state of some of the zoos. We do have many animal lovers in Pakistan, but at the same time, the majority of the population never grew up with pets and are scared of cats and dogs, which is quite funny to me.
- How to improve the situation: I think the biggest issue we face is awareness and that can come through education and public service messages. Furthermore, I think children should be exposed to animals at a young age. Many children are discouraged from keeping pets by their parents even though they desperately would love to get a puppy or a kitten. Having pets can have so many benefits; it’s well documented in science. Children especially benefit from growing up with pets. Pets teach empathy and responsibility; can give children confidence; and can be very therapeutic.

Zoe Viccaji
- Animal rights in Pakistan: As a nation, we treat our animals really badly, and there seems to be very little empathy towards living things. Something that bugs me to no end is that whenever I post anything about animal rights or a case where animals are being treated badly I get a number of messages telling me to get my priorities right and how dare I talk about animals when there are ‘much bigger’ issues.
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: My heart bleeds for our strays.  I know overpopulation is a huge issue and stray dogs have been a nuisance to many, but this issue needs to be tackled as it has been in many foreign countries through trap-neuter-release. Unfortunately our people believe in what they think are quick fixes, and hordes of dogs are poisoned and killed. Funds dedicated to proper population control are swallowed by those at the top.
- How to improve the situation: That’s a tough question and I’m really no expert. I would start by creating loving environments in schools for animals and making them more a part of children’s lives. Just as we are told to do to others as we would have them do unto us, love and respect towards animals needs to be built into our moral and ethics codes.

  • Zoe and Teddy: This is the very first dog I ever had. Picked him up in Jhelum and [hid] him in the car. When we got home my parents got a shock. We went back trying to find its home and finally some shopkeepers said he was a stray who had no home and we were welcome to keep him. His name was Teddy and he went on to live for around 12 or 14 years. My first song was also about him when he passed away.

Goher Mumtaz
- Animal rights in Pakistan: Animal rights in Pakistan are seriously compromised. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any animal rights being acted upon, so not sure even if there are any. [Animal rights will remain only theoretical] until and unless the masses are aware of them and feel responsible towards them.
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: Animals are mistreated, abused, and neglected. And what’s sad is that it can be witnessed anywhere and everywhere in Pakistan because there is no law and no fear of any charges or punishment. The mind-set of people that “forget about animals, even we humans don’t have any rights here” makes it ok for them to mistreat or become a witness to the mistreatment towards animals.
- How to improve the situation: I believe there should be a law [that requires] charges [being filed] there and then, like they do if you break traffic rules. There should be shade provided for working animals, with designated areas where they can rest. There should be shelters for stray animals to encourage people to help them and leave them in good hands. I can go on and on.

Angeline Malik
Angeline and Oscar Wilde
- Animal rights in Pakistan: I feel there is no such thing as animal rights in Pakistan. I believe they have equal rights as any human being but it's a shame that animals are treated with cruelty in Pakistan.
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: It's very unfortunate but if you look around you and see all these voiceless stray animals, you will think their conditions are so pathetic that their only relief is death. How terrible is that? No one bothers to feed them and provide them clean water. In fact, the general attitude is of abusing them, which is a shame since being a Muslim state we are supposed to be kind to all beings, but that is not what the general population practices.
- How to improve the situation: We can improve conditions by creating awareness. No one addresses the rights of animals. The general population is more concerned about their own wellbeing. [There will be improvement] if we can reinforce the fact that while [people] are working on the betterment of their own plight, they should be kind to animals along the way. The government should take steps to create more shelters. Take a stand where we see any kind of cruelty to animals and reinforce the basics of Islam.

Nausher Javed
- Animal rights in Pakistan: Unfortunately this is a neglected topic in our society. I don't see a lot of focus or attention given towards it. 
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: I feel the only focus is on killing or poisoning the stray animals with no future oriented approach.
- How to improve the situation: Better medical services, more veterinary clinics, and qualified doctors is what we need. There is scope to introduce more adoption centres and animal centres where pets can be left in safe hands.

Ayesha Omar
- Animal rights in Pakistan: I feel that we need more rights for all living beings in Pakistan, whether it’s animals or human beings. I do know that a bill was passed recently which makes cruelty towards all animals a criminal offense punishable under law, so hats off for that bill being passed. At least a step has been taken in the right direction. But a lot more can be done.
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: There are so many strays all over the country. A few people I know do actually work a lot for animal rights. A friend of mine, Ayesha Chundrigar, has an animal shelter as well which I frequently visit, and a lot of friends are also doing stuff privately on their own.
- How to improve the situation: I think that more laws can be passed about cruelty towards animals. I think the government should set up animal shelters for strays where they can feed animals, and also work on awareness campaigns to promote animal rights. We need to educate people and teach them what to do when they see an animal in pain. And the state should get involved and get connected to the people who are trying to help animals on their own.

Anoushey Ashraf
Photo credit ACF
- Animal rights in Pakistan: I have been a very strong advocate of animal rights in Pakistan. I think they deserve the rights that are already there in our laws but they’re just not implemented.
- Plight of stray animals in Pakistan: My heart breaks every time I look at a donkey or a dog or a cat or any strays. It really makes me feel very sad and very upset. I’m glad that there are organizations and the youngsters are now doing their bit to help the plight of stray animals in Pakistan. I have a feeling that very soon things will get better for them.
- How to improve the situation: I think teaching children empathy [will help] because learning to respect and love animals starts at an early age. Another thing that can improve the situation is the spaying-neuter campaign that the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation is working on extensively. That’s a really good way of going about things because that’s how you eventually end up controlling the population of strays in the country, and that will automatically improve the situation.

- Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News International - 30th March, 2018 *