The winning and shortlisted stories will be published in December 2021

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Alia Ahmed is a journalist and editor formerly with The Herald magazine, who now divides her time between Toronto and Karachi. She holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Previously, she worked for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York. Alia’s work has appeared in The Herald, Dawn and The Hudson Review, a New York based literary quarterly. She has also worked as a waitress at a friendly Toronto restaurant-- which, she believes, is quite possibly the best education in writing fiction.

WINNER

NAJMA

 by

Alia Ahmed

Set against the backdrop of a frenetic, violent and tumultuous Karachi, Najma is an urban tragedy about a friendship between two women from contrasting socio-economic backgrounds: a wealthy, apathetic young woman and her older, shabby driving instructor.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Some excellent excellent writing. It felt  very effectively rooted in place. A world with awful and off-putting textures and the protagonist's immense and occasionally horrifyingly familiar snobbery. - FK

  • I love the voice of the piece, which is chilling at the start, and not interested in being likeable or relatable. The writing is really first rate. - KS

  • “Najma” is unabashedly grungy and obnoxious, with just the slightest hint of humanity.  I was impressed by the casual callousness with which the narrator is able to tell this urban tragedy, a rare feat for a young writer. - MWK

  • An excellently unlikable narrator. It takes real skill to make one of those someone the reader wants to spend time with. - SV

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Natasha Japanwala is a writer from Karachi. Her essays and reportage have appeared in publications at home and abroad, including Dawn, Al Jazeera America, and The Washington Post. Fiction always was, and remains, her first love. 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

COVERS

 by

Natasha Japanwala

 

Repressed desire and longing are evoked by the polished yet understated writing in this story of an ambiguous relationship between two women. A swim in the sea, pregnant with possibility, turns chilling when the unexpected happens.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

The subtle evocation of social markers and perhaps the most polished writing are what elevate this narrative, which plays out against expectation.

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Zehra Nabi earned an MFA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and since 2017 she has been teaching English in Karachi. She previously worked at Newsline magazine and her fiction has appeared in several online literary journals

HIGHLY COMMENDED

DANDELION BLOOM

 by

Zehra Nabi

Raging rows, a pernickety, controlling husband and a sympathetic neighbour are elements that are neatly observed in this story of escape from a dysfunctional marriage.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

An unusually shaped narrative, lifted by well-captured observation and good writing with some nice turns of phrase  ‘sometimes hungry for resolution, forgiveness came easily’

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Alizah Hashmi is a medical student in Karachi. Her work has appeared in The News International and The Aleph Review as well as in several online literary magazines. She wants her stories to reflect her love of Pakistan, it’s people and their realities. She was long-listed for the ZHR Writing Prize in 2019

HIGHLY COMMENDED

GROWING BABIES IN BIG HOUSES

 by

Alizah Hashmi

A chaotic mélange of relatives who come together to live in one household is what underpins this story of deceit and betrayal. Distrust and lies, both small and large, characterize the relationships between all family members.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

Some nice subtleties in this family saga. The writer keeps us guessing as to where the story is going which makes it a page-turner.

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Zofishan Umair is a humor columnist and satirist based in Karachi. Her words have been published in Dawn, Khaleej Times, The New York Times and The Express Tribune. She is currently working on her first book (possibly) titled 'There's Xanax in my Pepper Crusher.'  

HIGHLY COMMENDED

MY HUSBAND'S MISTRESS

 by

Zofishan Umair

A witty, absurd take on the ménage et trois with story-telling that has a real capacity to surprise. A comedic commentary on the patience and tolerance of Pakistani wives.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

This is good storytelling premised on a funny idea that takes a risk. It shows real imagination in the way the author puts images together – a cow sprouts a trunk to become the elephant in the room. The witty, tongue-in-cheek commentary is interspersed with turns of phrase that provide some actual lols. 

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An academic and researcher based in Lahore, Sarah has been teaching English

Literature to university students for over a decade. She is co-founder of Tazkirah, a reading group committed to providing intellectual spaces to young women. Sarah loves to experiment with magical realism in her work and is writing her first novel.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

THE WOMAN WHO LISTENED TO EVERYBODY

 by

Sarah Abdulla

Told from the viewpoint of a decidedly unreconstructed middle-aged, middle-class office “uncle”, this story of a woman who demands payment for a life spent listening to the problems and opinions of her family and friends is an intriguing premise that is neatly juxtaposed with sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

An intriguing premise makes this story very readable. Taking risks with form, the author takes the absurdity in an unexpected and surreal direction. Also, it provides glimpses into an urban, middle-class milieu which is not often represented in English language fiction in Pakistan.