Tagged with " Pakistan"
Dec 26, 2011 - PPP, published work, Social Media    2 Comments

Making fun of North Korea

With Kim Jong-il’s death, it was but expected that the western media and its consumers would jump into mocking everything about North Korea and its dead president. Twitterverse (with its fake twitter profile of Kim Jong-un), Tumblrs and Facebook pages are inundated with links poking fun at the backwardness, insularity and stupidity of North Koreans. Media savvy, English-speaking, hip Pakistanis are taking part in this mock-fest wholeheartedly. This is most fascinating because Pakistan, perhaps, is more like North Korea than most other countries.

North Korea is usually dubbed as one of the poorest countries in the world. Pakistan may not be one of the poorest countries — yet — but it sure is on its way to becoming one with a paltry two per cent growth rate (which in any case is undermined by the high population growth rate), soaring inflation, unprecedented unemployment and never-ending energy crisis.

North Korea is dubbed by mainstream western media as an anachronistic nuclear country whose population lives in abject poverty and where political dissenters are sent to die in concentration camps. We, too, are a country where women are buried alive in the name of tradition; millions do not have access to either clean drinking water or sanitation; and the lesser is said about the bonded labour tilling the land, the better.

If North Korea is the most isolated nation in the world, we, too, are pariahs of sorts. Getting anywhere with our green passport is an ordeal. We have had sanctions levied on us on counts of aiding and abetting terrorism to child labour and what not. If the US has used trade sanctions as leverage to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, we have been meted out the same treatment back in 1998 after conducting the nuclear tests.

We mocked the outpouring of grief — which may have been staged and must have appeared contrived to western eyes — but how can we forget how we behaved when one of our own leaders, Benazir Bhutto, died four years ago — with fist-thumping grief, tears, chaos, mayhem and bloodshed.

We scoffed at the leadership succession plan of North Korea, mocking a four-star general in his 20’s. But have we ever stopped to think that we have done something quite similar — made a barely adult teenager, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was not even a resident of the country, the chairman of the biggest political party of Pakistan.

The malaise of dynasty is not limited to the PPP alone. If Asfandyar Wali is a third generation ANP leader, then Mian Nawaz Sharif is preparing ground to bring in his daughter, Maryam Nawaz , to counter the threat of the PTI and help his party shed the old fuddy-duddy image. And Imran Khan is probably planning to challenge the Election Commission on the issue of the enforcement of the law barring dual nationality holders from contesting elections, to ensure that his progeny be able to do the requisite politicking when their time comes.

Heaping scorn on a malicious dead dictator is fine, but ridiculing an entire nation for their collective bad fortune is just in bad taste. I wish Pakistanis had shown a bigger heart and extended compassion to the North Koreans. After all, who else should have been able to empathise with them like us?

Originally published in The Express Tribune.
Dec 1, 2011 - USA    6 Comments

So this is how they are spending the Kerry-Lugar Money

Every pole on the Constitution Avenue is sporting this banner announcing a conference by Competition Commission of Pakistan (weirdest government body name ever ). I have a message for whosoever is at the helm of affairs at this competition commission: If you had so much money to burn, you should have done something else, like take a ride in a hot air balloon. You do not announce a conference on every nook and cranny of the city as if it is a fair with clowns and a big fat Ferris wheel, it is in extremely bad taste. 
PS: The USAID should take the tagline “From the American People” off as soon as they can; I have a feeling that American people will not to be too happy donating money for useless banners in a country where most people can’t read.

Nov 30, 2011 - USA    8 Comments

Anyone protesting outside the GHQ?

Sometime last week one of my former students asked me to help her with a protest in front of US Consulate in Karachi against the latest NATO attack on Pakistani soil killing 24 soldiers. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as fond of protesting against the injustices as the next person, but I have serious questions about the whole brouhaha that surrounds the latest development. 

For starters, NATO has been violating our borders for quite some time now and quite a huge number of Pakistani citizens have died but no one barring the leadership of Jamat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaaf uttered a single word against those deaths. The victims of drone attacks were called collateral damage. Pakistan army’s silence was especially baffling considering it is their responsibility to defend the borders and its citizens, but ISPR never issued any statement over the serious death toll that occurred due to drone attacks – even when a baraat (wedding procession) was attacked. If the wikileaks’ released cables are to be believed (and there is no reason we should not believe them), it is evident that instead of protesting against the drone attacks, the army actually requestedthe US government for greater drone back up to support their own military operations on the ground. What I find most surprising is that such duplicitous policy of the armed forces did not result in country wide protests against them. Apart from the five usual suspects who decry military’s role in country’s foreign and domestic policy, no one took much notice of it. If inviting another military to attack your own soil without disclosing it is not the betrayal of highest order and a seditious act, then what is?
I am just as saddened by the deaths of 24 army men as anyone who has respect for human life, but the lives that we have lost in Pakistan as the result of the same military’s tacit acceptance of drone attacks by another country and its oppressionin Baluchistandemand the same empathy and compassion, if not more. I hardly see it anywhere.

Instead of protesting in front of US embassy (chances are that we will be stopped from doing so by our own law enforcement agencies) we need to indulge in a little introspection and ask the following questions: 

– What provoked this attack? According to reports, cross border skirmishes and exchange of rocket fire between Pakistani and NATO forces in not something new. According to NYTreport, there have been 55 ground-to-ground rockets fired between Pakistan and NATO forces.
– What was Pakistan air force doing? The attack apparently went on for an hour. They were nowhere to defend our borders. What’s the point of spending a bulk of the tax payers’ and foreign aid money on the armed forces when they cannot quickly come to defense of the troops under attack by the foreign forces? 

I am horrified at the US nonchalance and the super cavalier response from their government – it took President Obama a good three days to offer condolence and express regret at the loss of 24 lives – but I do not see any point in protesting in front of the US consulate. I would, however, love to stand with those who want to protest in front of GHQ, taking them to task for their repeated incompetence and many treacherous acts. 

PS: How can anyone take these protests seriously when Jamaat-ud-dawa activists dupe children into participating in anti-US rallies by conning their parents into believing that they would be attending a science fair?

Nov 17, 2011 - religion    25 Comments

The capacity to love ‘the other’

I heard the word Xenophobia for the first time when I attended my International Relations 101 class. My high school existence was pretty idyllic where acing Calculus was my biggest challenge. I had no idea that there existed a world where anyone can fear or hate the other for being just that – ‘the other’ – someone who looked different, spoke a different language or believed in a different God.

We Pakistanis hate ‘the other’ with unmitigated gusto. The capacity to hate ‘the other’ is not exclusive to us; there will always be some people everywhere who are more bigoted and dislike ‘the other’. What makes our hatred of ‘the other’ unique is that it has a constitutional sanction in shape of the Blasphemy laws and Article 295 and we feed that hatred through curricula demonizing ‘the other’.  These laws and others have created an atmosphere of violence and vigilantism that not only shatters the very fabric of society; it makes the whole country insecure – for everyone – the persecutors, the persecuted and everyone in between, but more so for the religious minorities, women and those who raise voice against that vigilantism.
As a person who is interested in minority rights, I have been following up on all the terrible things that go on in the name of vigilantism but it was all kinda abstract for me before I met Bee through a mutual friend. Bee is a smart, educated young woman from a well off family who looked fairly satisfied with her life. When I started cribbing about my lack of decent employment (for me anything that pays me less than a gazillion rupees is pure unadulterated crap which basically means all the things I have ever done), she too mentioned that she would like to do something more dynamic and challenging but she cannot leave her job. When I asked why, she told me that being an Ahmadi, she is afraid that she will be judged and/or hounded for her faith. She feels safe in her current employment because it has a relatively liberal and multicultural environment – something which is generally lacking in Pakistan. As someone who has resigned from a well paid job in protest because a colleague refused to furnish a written apology for bad behavior or because I did not feel like waking up at the crack of the dawn, I was deeply saddened to know that one could be forced to stick with a dead end boring job because the alternative could be harassment or persecution.

I may sound like an idealist (Which I most certainly am NOT) but I strongly believe that the key to overcoming the hatred is to start being friends with at least one of ‘the others’. Once you get to know one ‘other’, chances are that you would not jump too quickly to judge and persecute the rest of ‘the others’.
I want to salute everyone who goes out of his/her way to include ‘the other’, to make friends with ‘the other’, to extend a helping hand to ‘the other’ and to fall in love with ‘the other’. They certainly make this world a better place. On a personal note, I mourned the deaths of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer this year and learned about the fear that Bee has to face every day, but I also learned that people can come together in most incredible ways. I cherished the unions of the friends who dared to love ‘the other’ – a Greek friend from college married an Arab, another English class mate married a Bangladeshi, a Pakistani friend married a German and another Pakistani American virtual friend married a half Japanese half American and is now expecting a baby who is ¼ Japanese, ¼ American and ½ Pakistani. Three of my friends opened their hearts and homes and adopted babies from other countries. Anyone who has ever adopted a child would know how lengthy and at times heart breakingly tedious the process of International adoption is, but they persisted and they persisted because they had the capacity to love ‘the other’.

For once in my life, I want to be an optimist and believe that if my beautiful, wonderful and amazingly awesome friends can overcome the fear of ‘the other’ and grow to love ‘the other’ as partners, lovers, friends and children, the rest of the world can follow suit.

Thanks to my most amazing parents and my fantastic friends who taught me about compassion and understanding, I too have learned how to appreciate, respect, cherish and love ‘the other’, irrespective of the differences, at times perhaps because of those very differences. Here is to the human capacity to love ‘the other’.

Oct 14, 2011 - Uncategorized    7 Comments

Our parliamentarians and other animals

The first time I noticed Abid Sher Ali was when he made Farrah Dogar the most famous/notorious high schooler in Pakistan. As the chair of National Assembly’s standing committee on education, he went anal about her being awarded a few extra points in her high school marks sheet and provided fodder to reams of newsprints and hours of “analysis” on television about state of education, corruption of judiciary and abuse of power. He even went after the employees of FBISE for accommodating CJ Dogar’s request. Now I am all in favour of meritocracy and rule of law but my heart went out for the 18 year old girl who was made a laughing stock on national and satellite tv for point scoring with her father, former CJ of Supreme Court of Pakistan. I also was kinda pissed about selective amnesia plaguing Mr. Abid Sher Ali when he forgot about Ms. Mariam Nawaz (D/o of former almost Ameer-ul-Momineen janab Baray Mian Sahab) being awarded extra points to get in medical college. 
Apart from vowing to take Justice Dogar to cleaners repeatedly, Mr Abid Sher Ali – a thorough gentleman – also has a penchant for getting loud and obnoxious with ladies of other political parties. His emotional outbursts against Speaker Fehmida Mirza and Ms. Sharmila Farooqui are well documented. But everything that has happened in the past was actually leading up to this momentof perfect mayhem when he wanted to get physical in the hallowed environs of the parliament with another parliamentarian. He first wanted to punch and then tried to throw a bunch of parliamentary directories at an MQM legislator Mr. Sajid Ahmed; unfortunately, another PML-N MNA intervened and stopped him.
Peace and sobriety are indeed much desired traits but I so wanted him to throw some kick ass punches at MQM’s Sajid Ahmed for disrupting the tirade of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Imagine how MQM would have reacted if it actually happened? They probably would have sued Mr. Sher Ali for every imaginable grievance and more. Imagine the number of hours of tv debate it would have generated! Imagine how many experts on constitutional decorum would have sprung! Regrettably, he was stopped from taking the parliamentary proceedings to the next level and we are stuck with making fun of “Dr.” Rehman Malik and his apple/banana jokes which are kinda stale now.

Here is our esteemed parliamentarian Mr. Abid Sher Ali in all his violent glory; may he get even more inventive with insults and go from strength to strength.
PS: The title is borrowed from Gerald Durrell’sautobiography My Family And Other Animals. No disrespect is intended towards either Gerald Durrell’s family or the animals they have housed. 
PPS: Here is an awesome montage of the glorious moments by Dunya Tv. 

PPPS: I know this post is about Abid Sher Ali and I should have pasted his photo but who can resist a beaming Dr Rehman Malik in academic robes and rosy cheeks. 

Sep 27, 2011 - rant, religion    17 Comments

Imran Khan’s spiritual experiences and my nani’s psychic abilities

Though I have no intention of either buying or reading Imran Khan’s book “Pakistan – A personal History” the translated excerpts published in the Sunday Magzine of Daily Express are pure gold and a highly recommended read (could not find the link despite looking for ages – their website is a total nightmare btw). Among other godlike protestations of greatness from the book, Express carried a boxed piece titled “Roohani Tajurbat” which details Imran Khan’s spiritual experiences.
As Imran Khan was uber awesome at everything, he was an early starter in experimenting with spiritual experiences as well and has had his very first spiritual experience at age 14 – and no, I am not talking about that kind of experiences. Khan saab recalls that he was going through a period of doubt when his mother’s pirni paid them a visit.  Imran Khan did not finish the requisite Nazra Quran lessons (every Muslim child must finish Quran at least once under the guidance of a quran teacher who can teach them how to recite Quran in Arabic). Although most Muslims can read and recite Quran, they cannot understand the language, but I digress. Anyways, the pirini ji who had not even looked at Khan – she observed purdah with a 14 year old boy as well – told Khan’s mother that her child has not finished his nazra lessons. The pirni ji, who did not trust the 14 year old Khan enough to not observe purdah with him, then told his mother that she should not worry about it. According to the aforementioned pirni ji, even though Khan was adept at lying to his parents at the ripe old age of 14 (he not only lied about finishing the recitation lessons of Quran, he even got the man of God – the Nazra teacher to lie on his behalf), he still is a “naik rooh” (pure soul) and will eventually turn out to be a great guy (if Pirni ji was that great a psychic, she should have known what a ‘legen – wait for it – dary’ play boy this naik rooh turned out to be, but I digress again).
This is not the only “spiritual” incident the excerpts in Express’ Sunday Magazine carried. Everyone he had met only predicted greatness and more greatness for the great Immy K. Let me reiterate that I have not read the book but if the excerpts are anything to go by, I wonder why any sane person would ever want to spend their hard earned money on narcissist ranting of a man who is probably sad and lonely and was probably high as a kite when he wrote that book.
My dear departed nani made similar predictions about me, but do I ever take them seriously – only when I am high on cough syrup. Do I plan to write them all in an autobiography, hell no. But then, I am an ordinary person who sadly has no illusions of grandeur, either about herself or her Nani’s psychic abilities.
As I could not find the link, I decided to take a picture of the said piece
Oh and before I sign off, let me just say this. Roohani tajurbat, my %&^(*@#*&!
Sep 15, 2011 - Uncategorized    32 Comments

Blaming the victim: modus operandi of the religious right

Earlier this week, TV presenter Fareeha Idrees (she is kinda irrelevant generally, her star shone briefly when she managed to get the first post world cup Afridi Interview) said that Altaf Hussain and Zulfi Mirza are responsible for floods in Sindh. Now we all know that Both Zulfi Mirza and Altaf Bhai are capable of a lot of things but flooding their voters and constituencies is not one of them. Ms. Idrees’ argument was fairly simple. She said, “Jin jagahon pe logon ne Quran uthaya ho wahan azaab tau ayega” (The places where Quran has been disrespected will face the wrath of Almighty). My geography may not be as good as Ms Idrees’ but didn’t Altaf Bhai pull his antics in London and Zulfi Mirza in Karachi? Going by this logic, shouldn’t Northern London and the city by the sea be submerged in water and Nawab Shah and Badin be dry as a walnut? 

As if Ms. Idrees’ ramblings were not enough, Kamran Khan (hosting the highest rated TV show in the country) presented one Maulana Tariq Jamil, a Rajput brother from the fine district of Mian Chunnu and spiritual leader of the likes of Junaid Jamshed, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq, on 13thSeptember 2011. Maulana sahib very clearly stated that the floods in Sindh and the Dengue in Punjab are a consequence of our sins (he blamed 2005 earthquakes on a gay marriage) and we must repent and seek forgiveness. Now I am all for repenting the mistakes and seeking forgiveness, but the list of sins listed by the good maulana was mind boggling to say the least. Some of the bizarre sins listed were being friendlier towards your friends than to your father, being obedient to your wives, popularity of music esp. female musicians and greeting each other with hello and hi.

Perpetuating this kind of thinking on such a high rated TV show was most irresponsible of Mr Kamran Khan and his team. Instead of looking for public officials responsible for not ensuring that safety and evacuation measures were taken, they took the easy way out and made a telephone call to a member of clergy. The Maulana sahib conveniently blamed the victims for their sins instead of holding the public officials accountable for their negligence of criminal proportions. Junaid Jamshed has done it before and now his mentor is doing the same, blaming the victim while absolving the perpetrators of any wrong doing. Is this the modus operandi of the religious right in this country?

The message that came on Kamran Khan Show was loud and clear; stop making friends, beat your wives twice a day, stop greeting others with hellos and perhaps public beheading of a female musician or two will take care of natural disasters, bad planning and climate change be damned.

Sep 8, 2011 - Uncategorized    8 Comments

Rock stars of the new millennium

Yesterday, I participated in a BBC radio program on Tenth anniversary of 9/11 and later attended a session on Granta’s latest issue “Granta 116: Ten Years Later” where events since 9/11 were discussed and how the world has changed in the past decade since 9/11 at Kuch Khaas. 

The two really smart people Cyril Almeida and Declan Walsh read passages from the publication and a few not so smart people asked some really dumb questions (one guy actually addressed Mr. Walsh as ‘Decline’). 

I am not as smart as the two aforementioned gentlemen and would not try to throw light on events around 9/11, but the world has changed indeed in ways we never thought it would. A decade ago, we used to queue to get autographs of sportsmen and rock stars. We now queue in front of the famous journalists to get our copies signed.

9/11 has turned journalists into the rock stars of the new millennium – at least in our part of the world.


Declan Walsh signing copies of Granta 116

The rock star and the fans

PS:  To all my journo friends, apka number bhi ayega.

PPS: Extremely grateful to QZ for the photographs, I literally stalked her for them

Killings and kidnappings: a day in the life of a Pakistani

While driving in Rawalpindi yesterday, I came across a series of wall chalking on Tulsa Road demanding the release of Mumtaz Qadri, the infamous murderer of one Salmaan Taseer. I was kinda sad with all things wrong with this country where people not only demand the honorable release of a murderer; they openly declare him a hero. I shook my head and drove on.  
Near Tulsa Road, Rawalpindi

Earlier this morning I discussed this with a friend and we both lamented the fact that even with repeated confessions, the murderer will probably get away with it because no judge who wants to live in this country would dare award any sentence to Mumtaz Qadri. We know that the cleric, Muhammad Afzal Chishti,  who led his funeral prayers had to fleethe country owing to death threats so no judge/judicial bench with an ounce of self preservation instinct would even think about going anywhere near Mumtaz Qadri. Such is the stateof affairs of Pakistan. 
As if this was not enough, Shahbaz Taseer, son of the late Salmaan Taseer was kidnappedearlier today. According to the police, there is no evidence linking the murder of the father with the kidnapping of the son. If a rich and well connected (they have connections with the men in two of the most powerful houses of the country; Presidency and PM House) family like Taseers is facing so much grief vis-à-vis security, rule of law and justice in the country, imagine the plight of a common man. Be it Karachi or Jamrud, the Taseers or any other poor family, the state is failing its citizens again and again and is doing it with impunity.
Here is wishing Taseers that Shahbaz makes it back unharmed.

Jul 3, 2011 - USA    16 Comments

LGBT rights, brought to you by Uncle Sam

So the United States Embassy hosted first ever LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual &transgender) Pride Celebration in Islamabad last week and somehow it ended up being the front page news in Jang’s Rawalpindi edition. 
According to the press release issued by the embassy, the event demonstrated continued U.S. Embassy support for human rights, including LGBT rights, in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.  
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against LGBT people and I truly believe everyone has the right to live according to their own wishes but something does not feel right with US embassy hosting this event. For starters, LGBT rights are one of the most divisive and hotly debated issues in US. There is no recognition of same-sex unions and no laws forbidding employment discrimination against LGBT persons at the federal level. Yes, some states have enacted laws for LGBT persons and same sex marriages conducted in those states are recognized in other states, but there is no uniform federal policy. I personally know a few American LGBT citizens who have moved to Canada, Belgium and Netherlands for more personal freedom.
I find it kind of ironic that a country which cannot assure equal rights to its own LGBT citizens and where Christian Right is getting increasingly aggressive against civil privileges of LGBT persons and a woman’s right to abortion is showing support to LGBT movement against the religious right in another country.
I also find it odd that an event that took place on June 26th 2011 gets reported a week later on July 3rd on the front page of the largest selling Urdu newspaper. Does it not raise too many questions? Is it not inviting trouble for the LGBT persons in the country? I mean everyone gets labeled US agent in a jiffy and declaring LGBT persons US agents can kind of legitimize their persecution. Is it not stirring things up on purpose? Do people think LGBT movement (if we have any) in Pakistan would be better off without foreign support or do they think foreign donors are the only way LGBT persons can gain acceptance? 
Does it all look fishy or am I a paranoid psycho who, after living in Pakistan for so long, cannot take anything like it seems any more.
PS: For a newspaper that uses the term liberal fascists against progressive folks a little too liberally; this news report is remarkably neutral. 
PPS: Jang wrote ‘bisexual’ in Urdu letters as ‘high sexual’ which I found rather entertaining.