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Pakistani Rage Against The Country's Entitled Elite

In Pakistan, rising outrage towards pols' "VIP culture."
In Pakistan, rising outrage towards pols' "VIP culture."
Naeem Sahoutara

KARACHI — In Pakistan and many other Asian countries, politicians are given preferential treatment on the roads, in airports, and in services while everyone else waits in line. So it's not surprising that this lopsided system is breeding growing outrage.

In a wealthy suburb of Karachi, where many high-profile politicians live, a small middle-aged man stands at a busy traffic intersection. Wearing a long a black gown with a sign that reads "NO VIP," he says that while your house is yours, the public road is for everyone. With him is a group of around 50 protesters who have been coming here every week since the end of September.

In Pakistan, politicians, high-profile judges, and members of the military travel everywhere with state security guards and are escorted through traffic by police. They are assured smooth rides while creating terrible traffic jams for everyone else. It's not unusual for flights to be delayed because VIP politicians are late.

In a rare case, passengers recently fought back. This video, which went viral in Pakistan, shows what happened when former Interior Minister Rehman Malik kept a plane waiting for two hours. Angry passengers eventually forced him off the plane.

Dr. Irfan Dawoodi, a senior surgeon at one of Pakistan's top hospitals, says this is not an isolated incident. "A lot of times, people can't get necessary treatment because they are stuck in traffic," he says. "This happens all the time in Islamabad. These are the terrible things that are happening in our country. The bureaucrats, military officials, rich people who have armed guards flouting arms have complete disregard for the poor people. These are the people who are horrible, disgusting. They should not be allowed."

Sharmeen Osmany, a lawyer and the wife of a Supreme Court judge, says the term VIP is being misinterpreted.

"VIP means you are influential and have too much money," she says. "This is the meaning of VIP at the moment. I'm sorry but I don't agree. What should be the true definition of a VIP? I think a person who is law-abiding and paying taxes, contributing to the nation. They are sons and daughters of the nation and VIPs."

The Pakistani constitution, she notes, says no one in the country is above the law.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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