January issue 2010
The Year That Was
Hope and change, the buzzwords of 2008, were in short supply in 2009. Instead, we got more of the same.
The economic crisis that had been threateningly looming, finally erupted. War raged throughout Pakistan, from the valleys of Swat to the urban centres of Islamabad and Lahore. As if fears of bankruptcy and terrorism were not enough, the world had to worry that it may die of flu. In depressing times — and 2009 was the bleakest year in recent memory — some inspirational stories emerged. The child stars of Slumdog Millionaire rose from the slums of India to the red carpet at the Oscar while the government of the Maldives, an island threatened with extinction, brought much-needed attention — and a touch of humour — to the global warming crisis by meeting underwater. The human spirit, it seems, is still alive and kicking, even in the most trying of times.
View nine images from the nine stories that defined 2009 (below and on the following pages).
A largely peaceful protest in London during the G20 summit turned violent as protesters stormed into the city office of the Royal Bank of Scotland, chucked smoke grenades, smashed windows and threw office equipment out the window. The protesters were lobbying for greater action against, and regulation of, banks. The protest came as the world witnessed the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, as stock markets tumbled and property prices fell.
Dil Bole Hadipa
The National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by President Musharraf in 2007, to facilitate the return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to the country, was struck down and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The beneficiaries of the NRO now run the risk of being removed from office and having cases against them reopened. Jubilant lawyers, who had been fighting for an independent judiciary for over two years, were seen dancing in the streets after the verdict was announced.
Hall of Fame
Slumdog Millionaire made history by winning eight Oscars, among dozens of other international awards. Based on the prize-winning novel, Q&A by Vikas Swarup, it traced the lives of three children growing up in the slums of Mumbai. However, alongside critical acclaim, director Danny Boyle was harshly criticised, especially by Indian audiences, for glamourising their poverty-stricken lives. Ultimately, though, the images of these impoverished children won the world’s hearts.
Officially known as the H1N1 virus, swine flu was the biggest health crisis of the year. The first documented case was found in Mexico in March and by mid-June, it spread so rapidly all over the world that it was declared the first flu pandemic by the World Health Organisation in four decades. So far, H1N1 has claimed over 11,000 lives. Pakistan, too, has not been spared, with 212 confirmed cases of swine flu and some fatalities across the country.
Vale of Tears
In one of the bloodiest years in Pakistan’s history, continous bomb blasts and suicide attacks — especially in Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Rawalpindi — rocked the country. Additionally, girls’ primary schools and colleges were blown up or burnt down by the Taliban in Swat, Buner and surrounding regions. Karachi, which had escaped terrorist acts for much of the year, fell prey to three bomb blasts on successive days during Moharram, one of which killed over 40 people.
Under the Sea
The president of the Maldives held an underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to climate change. Currently, the Maldives are at an average of 2.1 metres above sea level and face the threat of being wiped out if sea levels continue to rise rapidly. The underwater meeting was held prior to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.
The Pakistan government launched an offensive known as Operation Rah-e-Rast against the Taliban insurgency in Swat in April 2009. This led to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the history of the country, with more than 300,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) taking refuge in camps set up by the government.
Death of a King
On June 25, the world mourned the death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Despite his well-publicised outlandish behaviour, Jackson’s death came as a shock to everyone. His contribution to music is immeasurable. All previous allegations about child molestation were forgotten as the world sat glued to their TV sets to watch one of the largest, most theatrical funerals in recent history.
The beleaguered Pakistan cricket team’s Younus Khan led the team to victory in their final match against Sri Lanka in the World T20 Championship. The final was especially poignant as the Sri Lankan team had been attacked by gunmen in Lahore just a few months earlier.