Friday, July 17, 2009

Blog Recommendations And Thoughts On The Pakistani Blogosphere

Three recommendations for you guys today.

First, on U.S. politics, I don't believe I don't have Five Thirty Eight linked on our blog roll over on the right hand side of this page. I've been reading it for more than a year now; I basically got into it for the statistical analysis of the U.S. election and primaries last year. I read it pretty regularly even now, and it always has interesting (and non-statistical) posts. It's very empirical and well-reasoned, so check it out.

On the Pakistan side of things, two really excellent blogs you guys should check out. First up is Roznamcha-Bach maintained by Saesneg (no, I don't know what that blog title refers to either). It's really smart and well-written. The second is erase and rewind maintained by Saba Imtiaz. It is also really smart and well-written (I wish I had better adjectives, but in these cases, it's appropriate). I highly recommend both of them, and making them a part of your daily read.

By the way, the only reason I'm not recommending Saba's sister's blog (which is also very good, but I'm going to be spiteful and not link to it) is because I'm trying my level best to coerce them to consolidate their blogs. Seriously, does it make ANY sense to you guys that two sisters, who both have a blog, who both blog about basically the same things, would do it in different places on cyber space? I mean, what the hell happened in their childhood that forced them to do this?

On a related note, I want to make a couple of comments about the Pakistani blogosphere before I go to bed. Back when we started this blog almost three years ago, there were basically a grand total of zero Pakistani blogs that I read. I mean sure, there were a couple around that functioned as news aggregators or comment-free-for-alls, but there was little insight, analysis, and enjoyment to be had from perusing these blogs. There may have been a couple of exceptions but I must have been unaware of them.

I would say that over the last eighteen months, that has really changed (or maybe I have just been introduced to them that recently). There are some really smart and interesting and funny Pakistanis and Pakistani-origin people out there, making the Pakistani blogosphere vibrant and energetic and intelligent. Are there some really bad blogs out there? But of course. But they are being balanced, at least in my view.

One thing that has been good to see is that many of these blogs put forth views and analysis that we would not find from mainstream sources in Pakistan (no, Herald and Newsline, you don't count as mainstream). It's funny, I had a conversation about this exact topic very recently: I was interviewed the other day by this woman doing a report on, amongst other things, the state of the Pakistani blogosphere.

I told her, in so many words, that it was great to see some liberal (and I mean politically liberal, not my-dad-drinks-scotch liberal) voices out there, certainly more than proportionate to our true number as part of the population (my best guesstimate is that of the Pakistani population, about 0.5% is liberal the way I define it, and of the Pakistani blogosphere, about 30-35% is liberal the way I define it). She asked me why that is. In my opinion, selection biases can probably explain most of that discrepancy. We have to ask: who, amongst Pakistanis, is going to have a blog? Well, for one thing, it's going to be someone with an internet connection (that instantly disqualifies a vast majority of the population, don't you think?). For another, it's likely to be someone educated. For yet another, it's likely to be someone young, who actually reads other blogs and so knows what the hell a blog is.

Yes, it's true that not all young, educated Pakistanis with an internet connection are liberal (trust me, I know from personal experience). But certainly young, educated Pakistanis with an internet connection are more likely to be liberal than the average Pakistani. Thus, the average Pakistani blog is more likely to be liberal than the average Pakistani mainstream media source (though I'm positive that Zaid Hamid would destroy all of our readership statistics combined if he were to ever get a blog; luckily for him is not yet taken).

Anyway, the basic point is this: it's great to see so many good Pakistani blogs come up in the last couple of years. May this trend continue well into the future, and may the government's dumbass Cyber Crime Act not interfere with that growth.

Speaking of good Pakistani blogs, does anyone know what the hell happened to Rabia at Grand Trunk Road?


Jman said...

To this list i would like to shamelessly add my own blog. Although it doesnt comment on finer details of politics or religion (well sometimes it does) it endeavours to bring a smile to your faces.

You may wish to find it at

I even have 1 follower. This is a lot!

Khizzy said...

well anonymous comments on my blog tell me you guys are the best and i'm a loser.
i am obviously one of the random mindless blogs out there, since i often get shamed and asked by anonymous commentators on why my blog is so ignorant and stuck in a bubble.
They also ask me why my blog is not as informative and ermmm... worldy as FIVE RUPEES.
oh wait...FIVE RUPEES and CHUP. kalsoom gets me in trouble too.

sabaimtiaz said...

Ahsan, thankyou for the praise :)

Now you do realize, I hope, that Huma and I are not just sisters, we're identical twins. We've shared everything from the word go - is there no justice? Can we not have separate blogs? WHYYYYY.

Seriously though, we started out blogging to write personal crap and the smart and well-written blogs you read today are an evolution of that. Plus Huma and I tend to often blog about different things. Really, we DO!

Kalsoom said...

I think Rabia's website domain for Grand Truck Road expired. She mentioned she was going to renew it but then never did :( Hopefully, her blog comes back up.

Ahsan, would like to echo your new recs - Saesneg's blog is fantastic and its made even more amazing that he's not Pakistani - he has demonstrated a lot more understanding (and objectivity) of issues than many of us do. Saba's blog is funny and ever-insightful as well.

Khizzy, sorry I get you in trouble. If it makes you feel better, I love reading your "random" thoughts!

Ahsan said...


You're right, that WAS shameless.


Don't know whether to say sorry or thank you.


It's ok. AKS almost never writes on the same topics I do (except football and cricket I guess), but we're still here in the same place. Just bite the bullet and do it already.


Good to hear. I thought maybe she had become the first victim of the Cyber Crime Act (just kidding, shouldn't joke about these things).

I didn't know this Saesneg chap wasn't Pakistani.

saesneg said...

Ta for the props! Much flattered - I am actually angrez but living in Cardiff in Wales at present.

The blog title is a bit of a mess to be honest. It used to be called Cardiff Will Take You Alive but I felt that didn't fit in with the emerging theme. Ages ago on twitter I asked what the Urdu word for diary was and someone came back with roznamcha. I thought I'd use that with the Welsh word for little or small, bach, to give the blog title the meaning of small diary in Urdu and Welsh.

It is grammatically correct in no language I know.

saesneg said...

And no, I don't speak Welsh.

Majaz said...

Hira @ is one of the most wittiest people I've ever read in the blogosphere and that's saying something.

I don't mean to sound offensive or anything (and usually when a person starts a sentence like that, you know the other party's going to take it as just the opposite) but isn't it a little partisan for you to praise your friends and not really look at the sphere objectively?

Lemme point out, before you come guns ablazin, that I'm a very regular and avid reader of Five Rupees and with the occasional scoff or laugh, I actually enjoy coming here. It's a good blog, so there.

But posts like these, Ahsan, kinda make me wonder if it's not so much as karma as it is nature that Bilawal Zardari was sitting next to his dad in the much-spoken-for meeting with Obama.

Please take this in good faith, and I'm not saying that Saba Imtiaz or Tazeen or anyone else you vouch for aren't good authors, I'm sure they are, and having read their blogs, they're doing okay. But seriously - you gotta step outside this little circle of blog-friends and see that there are a lot of witty, passionate, intelligent, politically cognizant bloggers Pakistani out there and believe it or not your friends don't necessarily have to be on top of the list. :)

Don't take me wrong. I'm a fan of Fiverupees. I just think praising blogs like that is neither an act of humility nor objectivity.

And popularity doesn't equal worthiness either.

Thought my epigrammatic words of wisdom wouldn't be complete without that last bit.


Ahsan said...


Much ado about nothing. I don't know any of these people from Adam -- they're not friends of mine at all. Only "know" them through their blogs. Our friends -- the ones with blogs that I plug that is -- our listed under "friends" on the right hand side of the page.

I have no doubt that there are great blogs out there that I haven't mentioned. Doesn't mean I can't recommend that ones I have recently started reading.

Majaz said...

Aaah. Well.

That's settled then.

You should definitely give Hira a read though. Even if right now she's a little MIA, she's really one of the funniest people I've gotten the chance to read.

The Gori Wife said...

Thanks for this, I'm looking to expand my reading list and "smart and well-written" is something I'm always game for.

nb- said...

I second the demand for the sisters to combine their blogs.