Browsing "Shahbaz Sharif"

From preposterous to downright ridiculous

American humorist Will Rogers said it a while ago but it still holds true. “People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” What should get people thinking or outraged elicits a different kind of response these days among the voting population. With the kind of lives we are leading for past couple of decades, we have started taking things lightly as a coping mechanism. What used to be criminal is now laughable and what used to be stupid is now endearing. No wonder we scored that high on the happiness index, because there cannot be any other rational explanation for it.
Many people have sold volumes and have made fortunes by compiling Bushisms during Dubya’s 8-year rule. I am sure someone is doing the same in Iran with the pearls of wisdom of Mehmoud Ahmadinejad, though we have no way of knowing if that compilation will ever see the light of day. George W. Bush was not the only US president suffering from ‘foot in mouth’ disease. Republican candidate Mitt Romney was planning on firing the big bird (His plan was to stop giving subsidy to PBS which will lead to closure of Sesame Street and make Big Bird redundant) to decrease the domestic debt. Fans of the muppets plan to march the streets of Washington DC before the election to register their protest.  Romney’s brilliant plan is at par with Nobel Committee’s decision to give peace prize this year to European Union or our very own prime minister’s disorientation when he called 14-year-old victim of terrorism Malala Yousufzai who is a high school student and a national icon of courage, an IT expert during a parliament session. Being the head of the government of Islami Jamhooriya of Pakistan, one cannot even ask him what kind of quality stuff he has been smoking.
If any politician in Pakistan who comes even close to good ol’ George W. in terms of political gaffes and repeated faux pas, it is no-one but Senator Rehman Malik. From claiming to have seen surveillance footage of Darth Vader like terrorists to blaming majority of deaths in Karachi on wives and girlfriends in the city rather than the precarious law and order situation. I am surprised that Rehman Malik’s comment did not give birth to a “Real Housewives of Karachi” kind of a reality TV show. Last month, he made a statement about Karachi being the destination of choice for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban for vacations. Being the interior minister, he thought it was prudent to announce it in a news conference but he decided not to do anything about it.
With the passage of time, the delusion of grandeur is reaching epic proportions. Only recently, he decided to extend his jurisdiction to other countries and took credit for people being arrested in the United States.  Yes, Rehman Baba, formerly of FIA and now of Ministry of Interior, claimed the credit for the arrest of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the producer of anti-Islam movie Innocence of Muslims. When it was pointed out to him that Nakoula was arrested for violating his bail in another case, he persisted that it was his voice that reached the right quarters which resulted in the arrest. I mean seriously! How idiotic one has to be to take credit for an arrest which was a very minor domestic matter of another country?
If Dubya stuns everyone with the fact that he was a Yale graduate, Rehman Malik, too, was bestowed with an honorary doctorate degree from country’s premier university, Karachi University perhaps, for his famous one-liners about and apples and banana or his sterling recitation of Surah Ikhlaas during a cabinet session.
The other politician who is known for shooting off the handle is Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani whose unforgettable words “Degree tau degree hoti hai chahay asli ho ya naqli (a degree is a degree whether genuine or fake)” will go down in Pakistani political gaffe history alongside with the boobie groping video. It has become such a point of reference for mockery that everything from space adventures (On Felix Baumgartner’s Space Jump, “Jump jump hoti hai, chahe space se ho ya sofay se” — a jump is a jump whether from space or a sofa) to local politics (Letter letter hota hai, chahay Grade 11 ke boy friend ko likha jaye ya Swiss hukoomat ko — a letter is a letter whether written to the boyfriend of an 11th Grader or the Swiss government).
While we are it, the Marie Antoinette of Pakistan, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, also needs a special mention. When asked during an interview that one-fifth of Pakistanis want to leave the country, the premier didn’t hesitate to respond: “Why don’t they just leave then?”
That nonchalant matter-of-fact response was followed by, “Who’s stopping them?” What followed that super glib response were an awkward silence immediately and a thousand memes on Internet after that.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is famous for either scandals with underage girls or for paying them for their affections. The late tent pitching nomadic leader of Libya Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was also not particularly well known for his sanity and discretion.
During his last trip to Italy, he requested the Berlusconi government to meet arrange for him to meet 700 women from the world of ‘politics, industry and culture’ who he can preach about Islam — the list included a female minister who used to be a topless model. Not only did he make the request, the Berlusconi government was weird enough to entertain it! Apparently, it was not the first such incident and the Sarkozy government was also guilty of giving in to a similar request  made during his earlier trip to Paris.
There have been politicians like Sher-e-Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar or Khadim-e-Ala Mian Shahbaz Sharif who are known for being ladies man and a serial groom respectively, but if there is one politician who endeared himself to people for his buffoon like antics around women, it is the latter’s elder brother.
Who can forget the saga of one Kim Barker and how the Barre Mian tried to ‘iPhone’ her. Things did not stay the same after the whole debacle became public and an iPhone had lost the innocence of being just a gift — at least in Pakistani political domain.

Bilour the bounty offerer is the recent entrant in the exalted club of ‘The gallactically stupid and the damned’. Before he offered to pay the bounty of $100,000 for the head of the filmmaker who made Innocence of Muslims, he was infamous for single-handedly ruining Pakistan Railways and for the ownership of cinemas that showed uncensored clips during regular viewings.  Had it been another country, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour should have been investigated by the taxation authorities for possessing that kind of money because reports suggests that during the last fiscal year, the tax he paid was just a little over $ 1,000 (around PKR100,000). 
Last but definitely not the least is the most theatrical of all Pakistani politicians. He may not grace your television sets everyday but when he does, he does it for a solid three hours and entertains you to no end. Altaf Bhai’s performance in the chooran chatni video is the stuff of legends and his rendition of parday mein rehnay do was perhaps the highest rated — under duress of course — television performance ever. Even Katrina Kaif cannot rival that. 

First published in the monthly magazine Pique

The alternate universe where Shahid Afridi and Katrina Kaif share a plate of biryani


Nothing makes me miss the city of Karachi more than its crazy zany billboards, banners and adverts. Here in the twin cities, you either see road side boards selling real estate (Gulberg anyone?), the odd billboard of the PM or the President opening an institute or welcoming a foreign dignitary or if you are in Rawalpindi, you would spot chotay Mian sahib (Shahbaz Sharif) celebrating the construction of a nala or kamyab dengue bachao muhim, everything is mundane and nothing touches the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit of Karachi and its people.
Once upon a time, a cart vendor by the name of Ilyas Quraishi started selling Biryani in my former neighbourhood in Karachi. We don’t know if it was because his biryani tasted better than others or because he was the sole biryani seller in the muhalla or the fact that he used to raise the price of his plate of biryani quite regularly; his business grew phenomenally and in few short years, he moved from a single cart to multiple carts, then to a shack and finally to a proper shop. This reflects two things; Ilyas Bhai is a bonafide Karachiite who is enterprising and knows what works for him and pursues it. Secondly, we in Karachi, can never get enough of Biryani that is why the city has many rags to riches stories of the biryani sellers of all varieties in almost all localities.
This Eid, Ilyas bhai decided to go big and ordered a couple of big Billboards to announce to the world that Ilyas Bhai and his biryani is here to stay.
Ilyas Quraishi Biryani house wishes you Eid along with Shahid Afridi, Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif
On the extreme right corner of this billboard, we have Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, getting many thelas (bagfuls just does not seem right when we are talking about biryani) of Ilyas Biryani while riding a bike. An unseen acquaintance meets him and the conversation goes like this:
The unseen acquaintance: “Shahrukh Bhai, kya baat hai, itni dher saari biryani lay ke ja rahain hain woh bhi Ilyas Bhai ki, kya mehman aye hain?”
Shahrukh, in his glorious hairdo says, “Kya karain bhai, humaray mehmaan tau Ilyas Bhai ke ilawa kisi aur ki biryani khatay hi naheen.”
It does not end here, in this Ilyas biryani alternate universe, Shahid Afridi – Lala or Shahid Bhai as he is affectionately called by the fans – is married to Katrina Kaif. In their biryani filled coupledom, a conversation goes like this:
Katrina: “Birynai kaheen idhar udhar se mat lana, sirf Ilyas Biryani se hi lana warna mein naraz ho kar apni ammi ke yehan chali jaon gee. 

Shahid Bhai gets worried, does not even bother to change and starts running towards Ilyas Birayni in his Pakistan team kit saying, “Naheen naheen, apni ammi ke yehan mat jana, mein Ilyas Biryani hi la raha hoon.”

 
This too reflects two things; firstly, Bollywood is BIG; from selling soaps to fizzy drinks to Ilyas Bhai ki Biryani, we need Katrina Kaif and Shahrukh Khan. Second of all, if there is anyone who either matches or beats the Bollywood brigade in terms of popularity and selling goods, it is Shahid Bhai. Eat your heart out #TeamMisbah, you can never sell a plate of biryani — or murgh cholay for that matter — it is brand Afridi that does it.
PS: I wonder what numerous Lala fan girls have to say about this pairing of Shahid Afridi and Katrina Kaif by Ilyas Quraishi biryani walay.
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Photo Courtesy: Salman Jillani

An unrealistic code for elections

Pick up any news item these days and there will be a connection with the Supreme Court in one way or the other. The spine recently developed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also owes its existence to a Supreme Court directive, which resulted in a brand new code limiting the election expenses of a candidate to Rs1.5 million. Election candidates were banned from providing transport facilities to voters on election day and were prohibited from using other promotional tools. The sentiment is noble but the implementation of this code of conduct seems impossible for various reasons.
Given the state of inflation and the size of constituencies — particularly, for the National Assembly — the amount of Rs1.5 million is unrealistic. Well-heeled Pakistanis spend more on a valima; expecting candidates to woo around a hundred thousand voters per constituency on that budget would be a tad unreal. In addition, a lot of services during campaigns are provided without any monetary transaction. One supporter gets the banners printed while another provides tents for the jalsa and a third supporter does the catering for the aforementioned jalsa, free of cost. This makes the process of keeping the tabs very difficult.
The ECP also prohibits the political parties from hoisting party flags on public property or at any public place unless granted permission by the local government for a certain fee. Every city is already flooded with political flags of all colours and hues. The residents of Karachi will vouch that they have seen the political flags of all parties inundating their streets, making the street look like it is in a perpetual state of a campaign of some kind or other. The code of conduct is silent on how the ECP will get rid of the flags and whether is has the authority to order local governments to do so. Further, the removal of party flags is contingent upon local governments having the resources to remove them.
Wall chalking as part of an election campaign is also prohibited by the ECP along with the use of loudspeakers, barring election meetings. Again, controlling wall chalking would be a momentous task and the candidates can always say that their supporters and not their campaign teams are behind it.
Further, the ECP also forbids candidates to affix posters, hoardings or banners larger than the prescribed sizes for the campaign. Most urban centres and highways already sport larger than life hoardings of political leaders; the Sharif brothers in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Gujranwala, Asfandyar Wali in Charsadda and Peshawar, Altaf Hussain in Karachi and Hyderabad, Imran Khan in Lahore and Peshawar and the whole Bhutto clan almost everywhere in Pakistan. These hoardings do not ask voters to vote for any particular candidate during the election period. Hence, they are not related to any election campaign. Yet, they propagate the messages of various political parties and can affect the election process. The ECP’s code of conduct does not say anything about these advertisements.
The ECP also banned candidates from providing transport facilities to voters on election day, which, again, is essential for maintaining neutrality. However, it can adversely impact the percentage of voters, who will actually go out and vote. While limiting election expenses is a very commendable step for which ECP should be congratulated, it needs to make the code of conduct more realistic and must also come up with ways to implement it.

First published in The Express Tribune. 

Main naheen manta, main naheen manta

Chotay Mian sahib has got to be the most easily threatened politician in Pakistan.  Soon after the Tsunami Jalsa of PTI in Lahore last year, CM Shahbaz launchedhis facebook page – with all the requisite fan fair of course – to stay connected to people. He also tweets, he may not respond to criticism and allegations of nepotism, but he does reminisce about good old days when his choice in music was more Freddie Mercuryand less Habib Jalib and even his detractors would agree that a man who professes his love for the Queen has got to be endearing in one way or another.  
Though Chotay Mian Sahab has over 124,000 likes on his facebook page, he is not satisfied with the numbers so he asked the top district officials and policemen in all 36 districts of the province, as well as regional police officers and commissioners to join Shehbaz Sharif’s official Facebook page.
Apparently, ordering them to “like” his facebook page was not enough, so he also asked them – politely of course – to remove any PTI-related material from their Facebook accounts. It goes without saying that they are NOT supposed to “like” any PTI page.
Seriously! Looks like our politicians still behave like kids attending grade school and are still governed by the logic that you can’t be my friend if you are talking to that other boy. Most grade school kids will eventually grow up and get over this phase, the same, unfortunately cannot be said about our politicians. Looks like Punjab government officials will have to comply with Chotay Mian Sahib’s wishes; otherwise he may start signing off official documents with “Main naheen manta, main naheen manta.”
 
PS: The story initially came out on The Express Tribune but was taken of their website after a few hours, fortunately siasat.pkhas cross posted it on their page.

Jan 27, 2012 - Shahbaz Sharif    2 Comments

The buffoonery of Shahbaz Sharif



The buffoonery of PML-N leadership is well documented in Pakistani media but the Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s interview last night with Javed Chaudhry was so gallactically stupid, it makes one want to cry – literally. 
A few gems from this epic interview are:
“All conspiracies against Punjab government and corruption schemes are designed in the President House.”
 If the staff at President House managed to find some time off from fighting one case after another from a very partisan judiciary, they would’ve loved to hatch a scheme or two against Chotay Mian Sahib. Sadly they are busy fighting battles for the survival and finishing the term. Mian sahib should look closer to home if he wants to pin the blame – his own government.
“President Asif Ali Zardari is the responsible for everything that ails the country.”
Seriously? Is that your argument? Is that how you are gonna win next elections? By pinning the blame on a man who willingly gave up his presidential authorities to the parliament? Of course Asif Ali Zardari – the co chair of PPP – has control over the party and the government but you cannot blame his office for it.  

“CNG shortage is artificially created by the federal government to sabotage the public transport system introduced by PML-N’s government in Punjab.”
Gas is an exhaustible natural resource, and you would do well to remember that. No government, no matter how suicidal it is, would want to face public’s wrath during election years by making basic utilities unavailable – even if it is trying to make Chotay Mian sahab’s life miserable. 
“I don’t consider this person [Asif Zardari] the president of Pakistan.”
Errr …. All legislative bodies including the one you lead unanimously elected that person as your president. You may hate his guts but you can’t deny the fact that he indeed is the democratically elected president of the country. What makes it more ironic is that this statement was issued the same day when PML-N offers conditional support to the President.
“I am willing to take responsibility for the security of Mansoor Ijaz.”
I am so glad that Rehman Malik plans on filing a request for a ‘contempt of court’ notice against the chief minister.

Things we learned from the Wikileaks Pakistan cables

Most people do not know that the Baboons living in South Africa barter their food. They exchange a banana for a bag of crisps they steal from an unsuspecting tourist. Just like those baboons, Pakistan’s rent seeking elite barters power and privilege. Unlike baboons, who barter among themselves, our political elite barters with an alien foreign force and when they are not bartering with that alien foreign force they want it to play the guarantor; at least that is what latest Wikileaks Pakistan Papers tell us.
While the newspaper reading drawing room analyst types (that’s almost all of us) already knew or suspected whatever goes in the corridors of power, we learned a few new things from the cables. Take this particular cable from 2009 for example, US considers PML (Q) to be the asli tay vadi PML because they have been referred to as plain and simple PML – with no ABCD affixed to it. PML-N, on the other hand, was referred to as such which must have rankled Khadim-e-Ala Punjab a lot. If the pattern of his belligerence is consistent, he must be reciting Habib Jalib’s Main Naheen Manta in his Raiwind mansion since the cables came out.
Some people are drawn to adventure and some are destined to play with fire. In Pakistan,  anyone who takes over the president’s office is predestined to become obsessed with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry or so says wikileaks.
If Pakistani political circles were an American high school, then CJ Iftekhar Chaudhry would have been the fat geeky nerd who would not be touched with a barge pole and all cool kids would stay away from him. US Ambassador Anne Patterson very clearly stated that “no leader in Pakistan really wants an activist and unpredictable Chief Justice.” Poor CJ, if he had to attend a prom, no one would have agreed to go out with him.
The cables also reiterated what we already knew – that PML-Q (yes, I continue to use this moniker because I am not a US diplomat) is the biggest mercenary of them all and would switch sides for a provincial chief minister ship, a senate chairmanship or to get the party leader’s son (as it eventually happened) out of trouble.
Anyone who thought that MQM is a small time party interested only in naddi nalay ki siasat (read elected local government bodies) had another think coming, Amreekis do consult them in matters of governments and coalitions. Apparently Altaf Bhai is as thick with the US envoys as the rest of them and wanted to know which way Ms. Patterson and her bosses move before coming out to support the presidential throne.
What we also learned from the cables is that no matter how many speeches Farooq Sattar would give in the parliament and take part in legislative processes, he would always be called the “in country” leader of MQM and not just the leader. We also learned that stormy relationship of MQM and PML-N is as apparent to the Americans as it is obvious to us.
The cables, sent out by the US embassy in Pakistan, lamented the fact that the US had no leverage over Mian Nawaz Shareef. If only they knew about a certain Ms. Kim Barker and her influence over Mian sahib, things would have been much easier for them. All they needed to do was to convince Ms Barker to accept that iPhone and viola, things could have been different.  
We also learned that General Kayani is as adventurous towards Afghanistan as his predecessors and wanted “tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) to cover wide regions such as the whole of Afghanistan and Pakistan through remotely stationed operations rooms.” Seriously, Kayani sahib is not really a mean guy, he just wants to play Battlefield or Mortal Kombat through UAVs across Afghanistan and Pakistan. So what if it costs us peace in the region, the big boys would get to play the ultimate game.
PS: The cables were classified by Anne W. Patterson, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)or reasons 2.8 (c). I would seriously like to know what those reasons were. 
Originally written for Dawn.com 
May 29, 2010 - Shahbaz Sharif, terrorism    64 Comments

We all have blood on our hands!

Oh Lahore!
On May 28th 2010, I was away from the TV and computer the whole day, a rare feat in this increasingly connected world. I came home around 10.00 pm and was inundated with images and sounds of what is called the worst ever assault on Ahmadis – a persecuted religious minority in Pakistan – during Friday prayers. While everyone from the Prime Minister Gilani to US State Department condemned the incident, no one is willing to look at the real cause of the carnage.
Ahmadis are the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. Although the other minorities do not enjoy perfect conditions in the country, Ahmadis are especially ill-treated, with constitution and penal code supporting those who perpetuate offenses against them. Following a violent campaign, led by the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1974 against Ahmadis, constitutional amendments were introduced by the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Ahmadis were declared non Musilms. Ten years later, military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq (May he rot in hell for all eternity) promulgated the anti Ahmadi Ordinance XX in April 1984. The ordinance prohibited Ahmadis from preaching or professing their beliefs, it forbids Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to ‘pose’ as Muslims. They were forbidden from calling their places of worship mosques. They were also barred by law from worshipping in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms, performing the Azaan (Msulim call to prayers), using the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quoting from the holy book Quraan, preaching in public, seeking converts, or producing, publishing, and disseminating their religious materials. These acts are punishable by imprisonment of up to three years. In short, the ordinance was in violation of Article 14, 16, 19, 20, 22, 25 and 28 of the 1973 Constitution and denied them basic civic rights. For Ahmadis, living in Pakistan is just as bad, if not worse than Jews living under Nazi rule.
It is not just the state institution and right wing political parties that are out for a witch hunt of Ahmadis/Qadiyanis, it is all of us who are responsible for the persecution of Ahmadis/Qadiyanis. Popular talk show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain instigated violence against the community in September 2008, which resulted in death of 3 Ahmadis. MQM, the political party he belonged to, publicly condemned him and kicked him out of the party, but the TV channel he worked for never uttered a word of apology and he continues to spew his venom to this date. Hamid Mir, another popular talk show host on the same channel and a public opinion maker, expressed his intense hatred for Qadiyanis in his leaked tapes which probably have triggered right wing terrorist into taking upon themselves to kill as many Ahmadis as they can. What was that TV channel and state’s response to that? That man is still on TV, dishing out his maligned version of truth day in, day out. Do they have blood on their hands? I say yes.
The judges in our court are obviously sympathetic towards the alleged terrorists and most of the terrorists who were captured and brought to courts were released citing lack of evidence. I am sure like all other previous terrorists who were released, the courts in Pakistan will also release the one who was caught by the people yesterday, even though he was caught red handed killing people. Punjab’s law ministers openly consorts with supposedly banned terrorists outfits, the Chief minister of Punjab is retweeting film song lyrics on twitter after 22 hours of this incident instead of making sure that people who did this are nabbed. While Jamaat-e-Isalami blamed it on USA and Blackwater, Shahbaz Sharif blamed it on enemies of Islam and Pakistan and Commissioner of Lahore Khusro Parvez blamed it all on RAW a couple of hours after the incident without any intelligence report, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. A text message sent to journalists said this: “This is a final warning to the [Ahmedi community] to leave Pakistan or prepare for death at the hands of the Prophet Muhammad’s devotees.” It was signed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Punjab wing of al-Qaeda, the latter a hitherto unknown group. Do all those who live in denial have blood on their hands? I say yes.
The common people are just as bad as our right wing and centre of right political parties; our talk show hosts and mullah sympathizers. In a public forum pkpolitics, many people were justifying the killing spree of Qadiyanis by repeatedly calling them wajib-ul-qatl (must be killed category of apostates) because they act and behave like Muslims. A friend, who works for education ministry in Punjab called and said that most of her junior colleagues were celebrating the death of many Qadiyanis, and these people work for the ministry of education! Do they all have blood on their hands? I say yes.
Every identity card and passport holder in Pakistan – including me – who filled out the form declaring themselves true apostles of the faith have denounced the basic citizenship rights of Ahmadis/Qadiyanis. Do we all have blood on our hands? I hang my head in utter shame and say, yes we all have their blood on our hands.
PS: The only public figure and politician who ever publicly supported the basic citizenship rights of Ahmadis is MQM’s Altaf Hussain.

All images via Time by Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images
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