Tagged with " politics"
Jul 17, 2010 - published work    14 Comments

Is Monticello a sauce, a casino or a mid level mafia goon?


Whenever the word Hawaii is mentioned, normal folks think about white sand beaches, cool drinks, surfing and snorkeling. If you are a politically-minded person you may think about Hawaii as the birthplace of the current US president, but no one would think of Hawaii as the academic destination of choice.

Honestly, if I had to spend any time in Hawaii, I would rather soak up the sun on the beach than spend it inside a stuffy library. I know that there are people who go to college in Hawaii but they must have super human discipline to concentrate on academia when waves and wind beckon them to step outdoors.

Our esteemed minister for law and parliamentary affairs, Babar Awan is these days embroiled in a fake degree scandal. Apparently his doctorate degree, obtained from a certain University of Monticello in Hawaii is fake because the said university has been declared a non-recognised and non-chartered institute by the courts in the State of Hawaii. Babar sahib, for starters, you chose to order your (fake) degree from a university named Monticello which either sounds like the name of a casino or a spaghetti sauce from southern Italy, but not the name of a centre of academic excellence. At best, it can be name of a minor character in Mario Puzo’s Godfather trilogy.

Secondly, sir, you already had perfectly respectable degrees from Punjab University for both, bachelors and masters, why did you have to order a fancy doctorate degree from the University of Monticello? Honestly, if I were the investigation officer, I wouldn’t have investigated too much had your fake degree been from average, regular-sounding universities like the University of Montana or a Florida State University, but with a name like Monticello – people were bound to get suspicious. And that is what that has brought you down sir, the name of your chosen university. Next time, pick a better name.

‘Dr’ Babar Awan is not the only one with fake university with a fancy name. International University of America in London is very popular among the parliamentarians from Baluchistan. MPA Shama Parveen Magsi and the infamous minister for postal services Mir Israr Ullah Khan Zehri (his claim to fame is his defence of burying women alive as part Baloch tradition) have so-called accredited degrees from this university. If either of them had bothered to think this through, they would have noticed that there is no room for an ‘International University of America’ in a city like London that boasts a number of top tier universities and colleges. Perhaps minister sahib was too busy defending supposed Baloch traditions – he could not possibly find the time to pursue academic excellence or to even look for a fake degree from a believable university

Mir Humayun Aziz Kurd, the federal minister for livestock chose Eire International University for his fake BBA Marketing degree. Eire is the Gaelic name of Ireland, which except for a tiny minority in Ireland, no one really uses it, but I digress. There is an unaccredited university named Irish International University but perhaps Kurd thought it would be fancier if he used the Gaelic name of the university instead of the regular English. In any case, the university is a sham and according to Wikipedia, its own honorary chancellor calls it “dodgy.”

MNA Mazhar Hayat is also a proud holder of a degree from Winona State University, USA. Unlike Monticello, this is actually a proper university – albeit with a filmi name – but the university has confirmed that Hayat’s degree is a fake. Hayat must have been a fan of Winona Ryder from those ‘Heathers’ and ‘Reality Bites’ days and when one of his henchmen asked him about his degree of choice, he asked them to get him some ‘Winona.’

Originally written for Dawn.com with a different title and the illustration is by Fieca.


Apr 5, 2010 - Uncategorized    8 Comments

Double jeopardy anyone?

For a president who is willing to surrender his powers inherited from his predecessors – civil and military – who used them ruthlessly, Asif Ali Zardari is not getting his due share of appreciation. Between the Chief Justice who is asking the Swiss courts to reopen the cases and meeting leading witnesses on the side and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), it is quite obvious that they are making sure that it remains that way.

Last week when the everyman and his dog was heaping scorn on Nawaz Shareef’s U-turn on 18th amendment bill, Chief Justice very conveniently took a suo motu notice on non implementation of December 16,2009 verdict declaring the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) null and void and asked the NAB to implement the NRO ruling in letter and spirit in – get this – 24 hours.

This week, NAB apparently has decided to reopen cases against politicians, including those disposed of recently by accountability courts. Now I am not defending anyone who is corrupt and all but can it be done legally? As far as my limited knowledge of law goes, no person can be tried for committing the same crime twice, even if they happen to be Salman Farooqui!


Polygamy for the greater good



There is an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Whenever I read it, I always think that it must have been coined keeping Pakistan or Pakistan like situation in mind.
Last year with repeated shoe throwing incidents at Ghulam Arbab Rahim, former Chief Minister of Sind, I gave the verdict that Sind Assembly is the lamest legislation house in Pakistan where people indulge in brawling at no provocation. The image took a further nosedive when MQM MPAs in the assembly expressed grief by commemorating a moment of silence at the death of Michael Jackson. I mean we all loved good ol’ MJ and I am sure Mr. Faisal Sabzwari must have grooved to ‘Thriller’ in his younger days, but I was kinda lost and failed to make the connection between Sind Assembly and MJ. But of late, Punjab Assembly has dethroned Sind Assembly as the legislative body where all the moronic, dense and dim witted good for nothing publicity whores gather and talk nonsense at the tax payers’ expense.
A few weeks back, a PML – Q MPA, Ms. Samina Khawer Hayat has decided to straighten the youth of Pakistan by proposing a bill on putting a ban on all the late night cell phone packages across Punjab. According to her, the young boys and girls are wasting their time chatting and texting with each other which is not only bad for their academic grades but is also deemed un-Islamic. She blamed the cell phone companies for the moral degradation of youth by keeping the phone charges so affordable. The best way to deal with the issue was to keep the cell phone charges out of purchasing power of the younger Pakistanis. Needless to say, Ms. Hayat got prime time coverage and was interviewed by many news channels with nothing better on their agendas. A day before the bill was proposed, no one apart from Ms. Hayat’s three children knew or cared about her and all of a sudden, she became the woman who would affect not only millions of young and not so young Pakistanis who call their friends and family late at night, but also the profit margins of perhaps the only successful and commercially viable sector in Pakistan.
Now, Ms. Hayat had tasted blood and she was like this vampire who needed a constant fix to feed into her yearning for more fame, prime time TV spots and front page newspaper headlines. The next thing we knew, she totally hijacked the bill proposed by her colleague Sheikh Allauddin, when she came out and said that men can and should marry a second, a third and a fourth time without the consent of their first wife. While presenting her precious views in favour of polygamy, Ms. Hayat said:

“If there is no bar on them marrying again, all of men’s frustrations would be reduced, while women would be able to salvage their honour and lead secure lives.”

Now call me extremely thick , but if all these men are already married to super women like Ms. Hayat herself, then why in the God’s name are they still so bloody frustrated? Secondly, if there are so many single unmarried women around, why are they not frustrated? Is sexual frustration a male domain only? Are all unmarried women without honour which they can only salvage or reclaim after becoming someone’s second, third or fourth wife? What kind of society have we become where the only course of security for a single woman is to become someone‘s second, third or fourth wife. I guess in Ms. Hayat’s esteemed opinion, the state that has repeatedly failed to provide security to its female population can only go forward by promoting some seriously misogynist legislation.
Like I mentioned earlier, Punjab Assembly has managed to congregate all the idiots par excellence so most treasury members endorsed Hayat’s demand and appreciated her ‘bold’ stance on the issue. Sheikh Allaudin and Maulana Ilyas Chinnioti and Amina Buttar termed her suggestion “ideal”. I was not present there but I am sure that Maulana Chinioti must have been salivating when he said that Hayat had ‘voiced the wishes of Muslim women’.
While there are people who are hoping that Samina Khawar Hayat’s husband marry three more women without her permission ASAP and some are envious of her husband as she has so generously bestowed her husband with the permission to seek wife number 2, 3 & 4, I will only share her contact details.
Those of you who either want to praise Ms. Samina Khawar Hayat or call her names can do so by texting or calling at her cell number 0300-8030786. This is my public service of the day.

I don’t know about the others, but we are seriously living the Chinese curse.

Jan 8, 2010 - Uncategorized    26 Comments

Pakistani hockey team fined for hugging a woman !!!

Mr. Dasti will not let go of any opportunity to get famous at the expense of others. After inquiring into Pakistan cricket team’s semi final place in the Champion’s Trophy and getting his 15 minutes of fame, the man decided he can make a career out of irritating various sportsmen and can continue to get coverage for his nuisance value.

The latest in the drama called Senate’s Standing Committee on Sports is that they fined members of the national hockey team after photos were surfaced of them hugging a female liaison officer at the Champions Challenge tournament in Argentina last month.

One of the players, Rehan Butt along with the coach Shahid Ali Khan and manager Asif Bajwa were fined Rs 200,000 for spreading some love.

Dasti could not have reproached them for bad performance – they were the runner ups and lost the finals to New Zealand – so he decided to fine them for hugging a lady. While fining the members of Pakistan Hockey team, Mr. Dasti came up with some quotable pearls of wisdom. He said:

It is not our culture to hug a lady.

He also threatened/warned the coach Shahid Ali Khan and said:

If I would have to take the decision you all could have ended up in a lock up after the team returned home. Don’t get yourselves involved in such parties in future tournaments abroad.

As if this was not enough there was a female member of the committee Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry and she also wanted her share of limelight in the media. She said:

We have our own traditions, our own culture which should be portrayed abroad. We didn’t shake hands with males when our women parliamentary delegation visited the US last year and here they are giving a hug to a lady.

Poor coach Shahid Ali Khan explained it all and said that it was an official dinner and the lady asked to get pictures taken with the players and they obliged.

So what if they got some pictures taken with a woman? They were just spreading some good cheer and love and the senate committee thought there was something wrong with that? I think it would have been churlish if they refused her the pictures. In any case, Pakistan is a cricket loving nation; no one actually notices the hockey players let alone get their pictures taken with them. As sportsmen they also deserve some praise, and if they are getting it elsewhere, then great. In a way, the hockey players must be secretly pleased, at least they got noticed and people are talking about them.

If I have my way, I would fine the members of Standing Committee on Sports and would demand that Mr. Dasti resign as soon as possible. He is the biggest threat to sports and sportsmen and sportswomen in the country.

Look at the poor kid, he looks so happy

Nov 30, 2009 - Uncategorized    21 Comments

Signs of Baloch dissent in the outskirts of Karachi

Just step out to the outskirts of Karachi and you will notice signs of Baloch dissent everywhere. The picture below says Balochistan Liberation Army Zindabad (Long live Balochistan Liberation Army) and it was taken earlier today en route to the Beach. Apart from ubiquitous PPP flags and some signs of activity from MQM, BLA’s support was chalked on almost every wall.

Nov 12, 2009 - Uncategorized    12 Comments

and they thought money laundering was no crime?

Those of us who happen to live in Pakistan were inundated with images and sound – in case of Chaudhry Nisar, screams – of PML-N leaders lambasting PPP in general and President Zardari in particular, for presenting NRO in the parliament and threatened to go to any lengths – constitutional as well as populist – to resist it.

PML – N leaders have said it time and again that they have nothing against any particular politician and they only wanted the absconders of national wealth to not benefit from the aforementioned ordinance. I wonder what they will have to say in response to the recently emerged NAB Court documents where Senator Dar has made a confessional statement in April 2000. Mr. Dar had accepted that he had been handling the money matters of the Sharif family and he also said that Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif were involved in money laundering case (Hudaibiya Paper Mills) worth at least $14.886 million, which is still pending in the National Accountability Bureau.

Dawn also reports that the statement by Senator Ishaq Dar is irrevocable as it was recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Would the Shareef Brothers maintain their ‘holier than thou’ stance towards all the absconders of national wealth, including themselves or would they try to pin this one on Gen Musharraf and his dictatorial policies like they have done with everything else?

PS: Why did it take 9 years for this information to be surfaced? Would it affect Shareef brothers (known to some as Jimmy & Timmy) eligibility to take part in elections?

Jun 11, 2009 - quirky    31 Comments

Gaddafi on a mission to meet 700 Italian women

Separately, Silvio Berlusconi and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi are about as coo coo crazy as it gets, but when you put them together, its gets beyond wacky and enters into realm of subliminally nutty.

Colonel Muammer Gaddafi, who is responsible for keeping a company or two of jet black hair dyes in business, is now touring Italy, the land of Pizzas, Pasta and Silvio Berlusconi. Apart from being the dictator par excellence – he has been ruling Libya for a good forty years now – his claim to fame is that he employ young women as his bodyguard (he has male guards too but leaves them home when he travels abroad to look cool) and erects a tent to sleep in wherever he go.

During his recent trip to Italy, the crackpot dictator personally requested to meet 700 women from the world of ‘politics, industry and culture’. Now how he came about that particular number is something I will never know, but Zoe Williams at Guardian speculates about the selection procedure of those who get to meet the Libyan leader. She believes that “Berlusconi must have gotten down his Bumper Catalog of Hot Stuff, got rid of any that were over 25, discarded those with a loud voice or body hair, and whittled down the rest by ballot until he got to 1,000.” I don’t know how the final 700 were selected.

Among those who get to shake it with the tent pitching nomadic leader, Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunities Mara Carfagna is at the forefront. Minister Carfagna claim to fame is that she is a former topless model and has been the subject of public flirting by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Before we debate the peculiarity and creep quotient of the request and Berlusconi government’s proclivity to entertain weird demands of the foreign dignitaries, let me remind you that it is not the first time such a request was made and entertained. Apparently, a similar request was made during his trip to Paris a couple of years back where he met with 1000 Parisian women, who were told he wanted to “save European women.” He was not very clear on what he wanted to save them from, though.

If anyone thinks I have seen some crazy ass political satire and soft porn last night and mixing the two here, let me remind you that truth is stranger than fiction almost all the time.

Gaddafi in all his hair dyed glory

May 7, 2009 - Uncategorized    44 Comments

Even the last remnant of national integrity is gone

I admit, I waste time on those crazy facebook quizzes and I do it almost every other day. Last week, I came out with my list of five people I would like to meet and US President Barack Obama was one of them. If someone wants to judge me for my demented groupie-ness, I can live with that but I really would like to meet him before I die.

I was seriously miffed when I saw the picture of President Obama flanked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and our own much loved President Asif Zardari flashing his newly acquired set of pearlies. Imagine how miffed I must have been to see Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, sitting next to his daddy. Nothing – and I say it with absolute confidence – can either explain or justify the presence of a twenty year old sophomore in an official meeting at the Whitehouse. For heaven’s sake, it was NOT a garden party where President Obama was introducing his little girls to the children of President Zardari, it was a high level tripartite government meeting and a kid gets to attend it because his daddy happens to be running (read ruining) the country?

I thought Asifa Bhutto Zardari’s presence in a meeting with former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was in absolute bad taste, but at least Asifa had the excuse that Dr. Rice was visiting her home, the Presidency. This, on the other hand, is pampering your child at the expense of not only the national exchequer but also the last remnant of national integrity.

Shame on you President Zardari.

Apr 30, 2009 - Uncategorized    81 Comments

A conversation that is haunting me


Everything that can go wrong is going wrong with my life right now and I honestly do not notice/read/watch much these days except for what’s going on around me, but there is one news item that kinda caught my eye. The Taliban in Orakzai Agency have razed 11 houses belonging to the local Sikh community after they refused to pay jizya (a tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects to live in Muslim countries).

It reminded me of a conversation I had approximately 8 years ago with a ten-year-old boy. I was working as a research assistant to a professor working on Madressahs along Pakistan Afghan border and I was assisting him in the field research. I used to take field notes, record the proceedings of focus group discussions and community debates and made sure that everything is stored and recorded in chronological order. As we had to speak with a lot of kids, we made sure that we take, along with us, a lot of sweets and some cheap toys from Karachi for madressah students and it helped tremendously in breaking the ice. Zar Wali was that ten-year-old boy I mentioned earlier; he grew quite fond of me and would always tag along asking me a million questions about the camera I was using, my ancient recording equipment and a laptop that weighed just a little less than the CPU of a desktop.

One afternoon after a meeting with administrators of two madressahs, I was writing my observations and Zar Wali was sitting by me when we had this conversation, here is a brief part of that conversation.

Zar Wali (ZW): Will you see me if I come to Karachi.
Me: Sure, do you plan to come to Karachi?
ZW: May be I will get a job there when I finish with the madressah.
Me: (although I knew about the curriculum, I just wanted to know what he thinks about his education and asked.) So what is it that you study at the madressah that will get you a job in Karachi?
ZW: I only memorize Quran and learn to use some light weapon, but you know that already, you ask everyone the same question.
Me: So you don’t study Mathematics or Science, right?
ZW: Of course not. They are the teachings of infidels.
Me: Really? Who told you that?
ZW: My teacher at the madressah, who else?
Me: Do you know that there is a branch of mathematics called Algebra and it owes a lot to a Muslim scientist called Ibn-e-Musa al-Khwarizmi? He was a mathematician and a Muslim.
ZW: I don’t know, I just know that my teacher says that it is for infidels only.
Me: So what will you do when you graduate from the madressah?
ZW: I will go for jihad.
Me: Where?
ZW: I don’t know? Afghanistan or Kashmir.
Me: If you have Islamic governments in both, Afghanistan and Kashmir, then what will you do, you can’t fight jihad all your life?
ZW: I don’t know, I guess they will send me to fight somewhere else.
Me: Ok, suppose you have conquered the whole world and everyone is living under Muslim rule, then what? You have no money making skills and you will not be able to land a job. What will you do then, should you not learn something other than learning to use light weapons?
ZW: No, I will continue with jihad.
Me: (Exasperated) But who will you fight against?
ZW: Men who do not keep beards and women who do not observe purdah.
Me: I do not observe purdah; will you kill me as well?
ZW: If I am told, yes, I will do it.

I was laughing when I asked this question and was expecting a vehement head shake with a “No, I will never kill you” kind of response. Imagine how I felt when the little boy who told me, repeatedly, that I am best girl in the world apart from his mother because I gave him a plastic scooter would feel no compunction in killing me if instructed. I did not take the extent of his indoctrination that seriously in 2001 but now, this conversation keeps haunting me. Every time a school got blown, every time a man was beheaded or a girl was flogged, Zar Wali comes back to haunt me and ask me, “What were we all doing when they were training our children to become terror mongers and killers.

Mar 31, 2009 - published work    21 Comments

No news is good news


Waking up on a Monday morning is an ordeal in any case; waking up to ghastly news is a double whammy. Picking up the newspaper on a Sunday is easier – you can easily forego the news section and go directly to the magazine (or sports section if you are a man) and have breakfast in peace. But no such luck on a Monday. On Mondays, you have to grow up and read the news as it happened the day before.

I braced myself and picked up the Monday edition of Dawn and saw that while US President Obama ruled out deploying troops inside Pakistan, his Defence Secretary Robert Gates clearly stated that Pakistan needs to do more otherwise US troops will have to take matters in their own hands. Does this mean that Obama was speaking for the world media while Gates was speaking to the people who are running, or rather attempting to run, the country called Pakistan?

Another news item reports that a former nazim, district police officer and three other people were killed in Lower Dir – an area adjacent to the troubled Swat valley – while resisting the kidnapping of a local bank manager. In Khyber Agency, 10 khasadars and six religious activists were kidnapped. The Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam accused Taliban militants of the crime. It seems that army forces and civilians were not enough of a target and now the Taliban are spreading their wings and targeting other Islamist groups.

The front page proved to be too dreadful, so I turned the page only to learn that Pakistan is one of the least popular countries in the world and keeps sterling company with Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Israel.

National news turned out to be a disaster, full of stories about crime against women. In Dadu, a young girl was gang-raped and killed. In Sukkur, a jirga decided to marry off two girls – one of them a minor – to punish their brother, while a mother of two in Layyah fears for her life after being accused of having an extra-marital affair, a punishable crime in Pakistan. What these news stories suggest is that in case you escape regular siege-and-hostage situations and frequent suicide bombings and if you happen to be a woman, chances are, you may not survive the alternative justice system, discriminatory laws and good ol’ patriarchy and misogyny.

The newspaper also carried a report about the YouTube video of ATM robbery incidents in Karachi that are being circulated via email and Facebook: people armed with pistols can be seen robbing citizens using ATM machines. The message the clip gives to people is that working hard is pointless – just get hold of a weapon of your choice and rob anyone at will, safe in the knowledge that no one will apprehend you.

A sad picture of a child working in a recycling plant in Hyderabad and the Economic & Business Review’s analysis of economic doom and the Pakistani rupees’ abysmal standing against world currencies completed the dismal picture. I shook my head and skimmed through the paper once more, looking desperately for just one positive report, but failed to find any good news.

Putting aside the paper, I switched on the TV and witnessed what was perhaps the most disturbing live footage of armed terrorists attacking a police training academy in Lahore. Even though police recaptured the academy with the help of army and paramilitary forces after an eight-hour siege, it left questions about the vulnerability of our security apparatus and the government’s will to bolster it.

While the country is in complete chaos, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is doing his bit to increase European tourism in Pakistan by bringing his firang friends from university – in identical outfits of white kurta-pajama complete with a red silk shawl more appropriate for a mehndi function – to attend daddy’s address to the parliament. We have heard of disaster tourism and poverty tourism in the past, but Bilawal takes the cake for innovative thinking and introducing political tourism in Pakistan.

At times when the country needs a leader to takes charge and do something to combat militancy, everyone from the president to the coterie of ministers are busy issuing rhetorical messages. Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world where the president and prime minister only ‘condemn’ acts of terror instead of taking concrete actions against them. Someone needs to tell them that condemnation just won’t cut it anymore.

Originally written for Dawn.com