A brief note on Abbottabad Commission report

July 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

In the wake of Abbottabad raid on OBL‘s compound back in 2011, we saw a knee-jerk reaction in the form of nation-wide anger. The anger was not directed at a terrorist who killed thousands of innocent people and yet, was comfortably residing next to some critically significant military facilities in our beloved country – no, rather, there was a sudden surge of nationalistic jargon coming from foaming mouths who wanted America to pay for having violated our sovereignty.

Naturally, there is a possibility that OBL planted his DNA, multiple fake wives and children, a fake trail, fake couriers who maintained his link with an Al-Qaeda which, by the way, doesn’t really exist. Luckily, at least we are ready to admit that the raid by US Navy SEALS was real.

Discounting such patriotic notions and fairly intelligent conspiracy theories, the Commission which was tasked with probing into the May 2 raid, recently brought together its findings in the form of a report. Since the Commission didn’t comprise exclusively of army personnel, it’s objectivity, sanity and patriotism can be questioned. Such doubts are compounded by the fact that ‘certain elements’ barred the report from reaching the mainstream media until some obviously-traitorous whistleblower recently leaked it.

Now, the findings of the Commission are fairly startling, so you don’t have to hold them as true. For instance, the Commission has explicitly stated multiple times in the report that the May 2 raid, and the fact that OBL was present in Pakistan, were both huge failures on the part of the military as well as the civilian government.

However, the chief body which was directly working on tackling high-value targets in Pakistan is ISI. The intelligence agency didn’t share any intel on OBL with other civilian intelligence or law-enforcement agencies, which means that no one else knew what leads CIA had provided regarding the former Al-Qaeda chief. Given ISI’s exceptionally vigilant performance, then, it is no surprise that OBL was able to sneak into Pakistan back in 2005 and live in Abbottabad cantonment for years, without triggering any alarms.

In light of the evidences gathered, timelines constructed and testimonies heard, the Commission noted that it was virtually impossible for the renowned terrorist to hike around Pakistan without help from someone within the security agencies. Of course, this would be far more probable if General Hamid Gul was still serving in the military. But since he’s still the primary inspiration of many top army officers, the Commission’s analysis isn’t that far-fetched. Besides, we have seen many recent incidents where army personnel went over to the dark side over promises of Houris and cookies.

Now let’s deal with them Americans. In 2005, CIA stopped sharing intel pieces regarding OBL with ISI, simply over certain well-substantiated allegations that the agency often rats out the  intel, abetting certain high-value targets in escaping just before a strike. Such notoriety eventually lead to an ally which became increasingly disillusioned of our ‘sincerity’ in nabbing the top Al-Qaeda cadre. As a result, when the CIA finally had confirmation that OBL was comfortably lounging off his late years in a lavishly large compound in Abbottabad, the agency acted without consulting Pakistan’s military or the political government.

While the anger over violation of our borders is justified (a violation which, by the way, has been committed by hundreds, if not thousands, of Taliban since 2001), the question is: shouldn’t we be angrier over our inadequacies in tracking down the most wanted man in the whole wide world? Why aren’t our nationalistic sensitivities hurt over the fact that at one side, we minted billions of dollars from the U.S. and at the other, OBL found a safe abode in Pakistan? The Abbottabad raid was certainly an insult to us, but it must be so only because we were not the ones who nabbed OBL first.

The Commission’s report clearly points out that the greatest failure in this debacle was on the part of ISI. The agency didn’t share its OBL-related intel with any other domestic agency while the political government wasn’t informed any better, thus leaving the onus of responsibility on ISI. It’s about time for GHQ to take note of such inadequacies, root out any and all such elements which have the slightest inclination towards religious extremism, especially within ISI, and once and for all, submit to the will of the political government.

There are many who’d love to blame the West for the whole thing. Such comical manifestations of our idiotic notions of national sovereignty are merely a reflection of an ostrich burying its head in the sand. As long as we remain in the vile shade of denial and refuse to take care of our own backyard, the international community is not going to stand by and wait for us to devise solutions for a problem that has a huge global impact. And for that, the ball is in GHQ’s court.

Killed over a jug of juice

June 28, 2013 § 3 Comments

justice

Three years ago, two brothers were beaten to death by a mob in Sialkot. The video went viral on the internet and the society, at large, was outraged at the incident. Justice, although delayed, was eventually served only because the social media took up the cause and forced the mainstream media to attend to the heinous incident.

A similar incident has taken place at Multan, except that this time, the perpetuators of the murders are powerful feudals. According to ground reports, Javed aged 9 and Jameel, aged 13, were forcefully taken from their parents in Kotla Rahm Ali Shah. Faheem Abbas Shah, the feudal overlord in the area, took the kids to his home in Multan, to act as servants. The parents wanted their kids to study but Faheem thought domestic work was far more lucrative a career.

Following their ‘hiring’, the kids were not allowed to meet their parents for many subsequent months. On Thursday afternoon, June 6, Jameel poured himself a glass of juice from the fridge and broke the glass pitcher in the process. Faheem’s wife, Hina Gilani, was so enraged over the ‘brazen’ trangression of a slave that she beat him bad and then slammed the jug against his head.

Jameel started bleeding but retreated to the rooftop, which was his only refuge. In the blistering heat of Multan, he continued to hemorrhage while Hina Gilani and her family didn’t provide any medical assistance. When the 9-year old brother Javed saw the critical condition of his brother, he rushed to his ‘owners’, crying and pleading to seek help for Jameel. Naturally irked by the ‘irritating’ kid, Hina beat him as well. The kid ran back and sat by his dying kid on the hot, cement rooftop.

By next morning, Jameel was dead. Hina called up her husband, Faheem, telling him of the inconvenience. Another elder brother of the two kids, Saeed, was also a personal assistant of Faheem. He was told that his brother had incurred food poisoning and they needed to go see him. On the way, Faheem told Saeed that Jameel had died. Once the duo reached Multan, Jameel’s body was lugged into Faheem’s car and taken back to the village. Meanwhile, the 9-year-old Javed was so traumatized and dehydrated that he fainted and was taken to the local hospital and admitted. He stayed in a very critical condition for a long time before reviving consciousness.

Back at the village, Faheem barred the local imam from viewing or washing Jameel’s body, so as to keep the wounds on his body discreet. He instructed another person, Maulvi Shafi, to wash the body instead. However, when Shafi uncovered the boy, he was shocked to see the bruises on the body and the sharp shards of glass in the boy’s skull. He immediately asked for an autopsy but was told to shut up. In view of the profuse bleeding from the head, it had to be dressed even just ahead of the burial.

When probed by Shafi and others, Faheem claimed that the wound was due to a head sore and that, while his body was being transported, the kids’ head hit the window of the car, causing the bleeding. According to him, Jameel had already died of typhoid back at Multan. The devastated father of the two dead kids, Hameed, has filed an FIR against Hina Gilani and Faheem, under article 302 and 356. However, the DCO of Multan, Gulzar Shah as well as the Commissioner of the city are distantly related to the perpetuators. This is precisely why Hameed is currently under an immense pressure by the authorities and attempts are being made to persuade him to back off.

The big question for us, the spectating, silent nobodies is: are our sensitivies stirred only when we see at graphic videos of tortures and murders? And are the Suo Motu’s limited only to hyper-sensationalized news reports? What about the mainstream media houses, many of which have shied away from even reporting the incident? Does the atrocities committed in the backwaters of our urbane playgrounds unimportant and insignificant, even when they involve the most inhumane acts?

After the Jatoi case, many jumped to the defense of the feudal system, citing how it’s unfair to generalize a single instance over an entire faction. This is the second of the innumerable such incidents, many of which go unreported. And this is indeed a reflection of the feudal mindset which involves taking tenants as slaves, treating the poor as scum and disposing of them whenever the need be.

For the last five years, we dragged Senator Rehman Malik through the mud over every such case. It is time Chaudhry Nisar, the new Interior Minister of Pakistan, started doing his job and took notice of this terrible tragedy. It is also time for the Chief Justice to forego the notions of ‘greater good’ and ensure justice is meted out even to those who hail from the lowest rungs of the society.
Three years ago, it took a shocking video of the mob-lynching of boys in Sialkot to awaken the humanity and invoke our outrage. Will the plight of this boy be ignored in the absence of bloody pictures and graphic details?

The journey has only started for PTI

May 14, 2013 § 8 Comments

pti

The elections are mostly over and the final verdicts are pouring in, sealing a decisive victory for PML-N and sufficient seats to put PTI down as a significant opposition player. Where lion-bearers are very joyous, vowing to bring back the glory days of Pakistan, PTI supporters look utterly saddened and dejected.

However, now is not the time to pout or be sad. Now is also not the time to deny the fact that PTI did not get a sweeping majority. Rather, it is time to gracefully admit defeat, hail the 30+ odd seats that PTI has secured and learn a few critical lessons from the voting season.

What PTI achieved?

PTI has emerged as a political force to reckon with. At the same time, Imran Khan can be given the absolute credit for prompting the youth of this nation to become an active part of the political process. I was a part of the D-chowk jalsa on May 9; I actively engaged in political discussions with others of my age group – and the sheer hope and optimism they expressed and the renewed vigor of nationalism that twinkled in their eyes and in their conversations, was absolutely awe-inspiring.

This was the first time in Pakistan’s history that such a huge portion of youth has gone out on the streets, stood in lines for hours and cast their votes. This is also the first time in this country’s history that expat Pakistanis have flew back in such huge numbers to stamp the ballot paper.

Finally, PTI is currently the second-largest political party in Pakistan. The struggle that started 17 years ago, at the hands of a single man with no hopes but a rock-solid ambition, has now turned into a huge force. This is the time for celebration of a really good start, not that of disappointment.

What PTI needs to work on

However, it is also time for the party to look inwards and discern its short-comings. The chief among these is the fact that PTI has turned out to be a party that is primarily focused on the urban middle-class youth. This objection is true to a certain extent – the detachment of the party from rural pockets is what decisively turned the tables against it in Punjab. Then there’s also the issue that PTI didn’t really do any ground-level mobilization in Sindh or Baluchistan – both are critically important for this country and are becoming increasingly so. PTI needs to reach out to the population at large and go beyond urban dwellings.

Secondly, PTI must use the next five years to mature itself as well as its supporters. There are those amidst PTI who refuse to discern the critical importance of democracy and tend to undermine it at times. There are also such who tend to dwell on the negative, call the mandate of others a fraud or useless and similar other bold statements – PTI leadership needs to communicate to their young, hot-headed, yet politically active voters, that such ideas are terribly adverse to the democratic process in Pakistan at large.

Youth in Pakistan is here to stay and will form a majority of the population until 2052 or so. And this youth vote will become an increasingly dominant phenomenon in the coming years. Although this youth seems to have kicked into the political arena, it is undergoing disorientation. One can understand that to carry out a huge election campaign, you need to have a foe you can cite as a failure. So PTI’s criticism levelled towards PMLN was an election strategy.

But elections are over – a huge populace, comprising of the youth, is waiting for Khan to show them the way now. This path must not be that of hatred, intolerance or destructive criticism. It is high time for PTI to rally the youth around someone more grand and more inclusive – namely, nationalism. I have seen the hopes in the eyes of those who have been utterly disappointed in their country; I have seen the so-called mummy daddy kids stand on streets for hours, in blistering rain and under rains. This passion, this fervor must be used to fuel a nationalism and reinstate our pride in being Pakistanis.

Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Cricket, Music, Pants And Phones Are Haram‏

February 16, 2013 § 10 Comments

So you think Valentine’s Day is haram and shouldn’t be celebrated? If so, it is very likely that you also condone forcefully stopping people from celebrating it. From the fiery patriot-cum-pan-Muslim-cum-anti-West-cum-pro-vague-notions-of-glory crowd, we have seen many exclamations against the Valentine’s Day in the last few days.
To these passionate Muslim patriots, I have a few queries, merely out of curiosity: are birthdays halal or haram? I’m confused since they weren’t celebrated 1400 years ago. Is music halal? If yes, which one – the one Junaid Jamshed produces now or the one he produced a few years ago? Is cricket halal because according to the awesome scholar of Muslim world, Dr. Israr Khalifa, cricket should be banned because it incites immodest sentiments in the viewers and waste their time.
Are western dresses halal? Are cars, computers, products made by the capitalist-Western world halal because I am concerned – they take billions from us to their pockets which help them buy nukes, eat pork and a lot of other haram stuff. So perhaps the phone you are using, the laptop you preach people on, the tablet on which you speak Islam on Twitter, all of them send money away to Kafir companies for haram purposes. I shudder even to think about it.
That is not the end of it. TV is itself haram, most authentic hadiths will tell you. So is loudspeaker, if we are to believe the Mullahs of days gone by. Photos are haram and thus, photo studios should be haram. Identities must be limited to thumb prints perhaps – a Muslim country must have no place for the haram practice of photography. It is safe to state that 90% of our lifestyles today are haram in the light of orthodox Islam.
The big question is: what should we do. Should we start telling each other what sorry bunch of kafirs we are, start criticizing each other’s western dresses, houses, cars and laptops, demanding that government arrest everyone who is clean-shaven or wearing pants, and call on terrorist Islamist organizations to kill those who indulge in such Kafir practices (yes some ‘peaceful’ believers did that on Twitter on Valentine’s day – this was their ‘peaceful’ protest against a few people waving banners).
Should we put death bounties on each other’s heads because quite frankly, I can call you a non-believer for any of the aforementioned practices and find the excuse to chop your head, courtesy the freelancer Mullahs which are a dozen a dime in our land of pure.
Or should we let it be; stick with our notions, try to tell others what we think is right and listen to what they hold as true; argue peacefully, without calling for each other’s deaths, without slitting throats, without giving death threats, without branding each other Kafir, without jeopardizing each other’s lives on tiny issues.
Should we do this as a civilized nation, live and let live, be tolerant and accept all mindsets without letting anyone violate the basic human rights – or should we become the rabid dogs that rip each other’s throats and turn this nation into a pit of madmen?
The choice is yours.

The flawed argument in favor of reserved seats for women

December 18, 2012 § 11 Comments

Imran Khan recently kicked up yet another melee in Pakistan’s media when he declared that he would have women contest elections rather than enter the National Assembly on reserved seats. Before weighing the plausibility of the argument, many were quick to jump the bandwagon of unqualified criticism simply because it was Khan who said so.

For the uninformed, women in Pakistan’s National Assembly currently have 60 reserved seats. How exactly are these seats filled in? Well, since the seats are allocated to each political party based on their proportion in the legislature, the said political parties have the sole authority to figure out who will fills these seats.

The result is simply that the wives, daughters, sisters, relatives of the bigwigs of each political party smugly position themselves on these seats, clamouring out about women rights yet being utterly incompetent to launch the least effort to that end. Seats are allocated purely on political connections with nary a thought spared to any merit or qualification.

There are plenty who dished out a tab bit intelligent criticism to Khan’s proposition by stating that letting women contest elections is nearly impossible in a conservative country like Pakistan. The argument is quite valid and yet it is utterly inadequate to reach the conclusion that the reserved seats shouldn’t be tampered with.

In my view, yes women contesting elections still seems a remote possibility. However, things are on their way to change with ECP pushing for a greater number of party tickets given to woman candidates. Meanwhile, what we CAN do is to ensure that at least the women who find their way to NA on reserved seats merit some minimum qualification.

Just like I would never vote Hamza Shahbaz for being Shahbaz Sharif‘s son, I wouldn’t want a woman to represent Pakistani women simply because she is the wife of an eminent politician. Is that principally wrong? No. Is that too much to ask or somehow impossible? Absolutely not. So why the mindless ruckus then?

Rather than expending their energies in rabidly attempting to defend the reserved seats, I would suggest that the women rights activists can do a far better job if they tried to coordinate with the authorities and somehow devise some kind of minimum qualifications for the women who get to be appointed on the reserved seats. A proven record of working for women, some political insight into policy-making for the said gender – anything tangible that may make sense for a person who gets to be on one of those reserved seats. And I really don’t think that is too much to ask for.

PPP apologists and intellectual dishonesty

December 12, 2012 § 8 Comments

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Most of the times I read an op-ed about PPP in an English daily, it’s almost bilious – especially if it’s meant to eulogize the party. Normally this is how the course of such articles go: high words fly, lofty ideals are cited, arbitrary versions of historic incidents are recounted with more than a tinge of bias, grand titles and appellations are quietly slipped into what is pitched as a balanced opinion piece and the masses are told, yet again, that in PPP is embodied the ultimate saviour of this nation.

I have often read such pieces and tolerated them, hoping year after year that the party that is so revered by the liberals of this country may perhaps someday live up to those expectations. But the last five years have been an abysmal disappointment, even when I know well the adage about history repeating itself.

Let’s, for once, be honest. PPP is not a liberal party. It has never been a liberal party. It is a political party that is as opportunist as PML-N, ANP, MQM, PTI or JI. From Zulfiqar Bhutto’s decision to render Ahmedis infidels to PPP’s cowardly silence over Salman Taseer’s murder, I utterly fail to see how this party is any different from others who play to the gallery and use populist rhetoric to score points. PPP has proved liberal at times, yes, but only when it was most convenient. And the same goes for all other political parties. I simply fail to see how one is any better than the other.

The liberal coterie has long lambasted PML-N for its electoral alliance with extremist organizations such as SSP. However, I don’t hear no caustic words from the jayalas-in-guise over PPP’s decision to form an electoral alliance with Sunni Ittehad Council. Let me remind those with poor memory retention powers that SIC is the same party which openly hailed and eulogized Salman Taseer’s murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, and campaigned for him all over the country.

What is even worse is that the fiercest apologies for PPP emanate from those who profess in being rationalists and unbiased analysts. Time after time, they would defend the feudal culture that breeds in the very lap of PPP, the dynastic politics that is the hallmark of the party and the other follies that are silently glossed over with what can best be termed as intellectual dishonesty. They would tell you how PPP has passed a bill in the assembly which will finally bring deliverance to such women who are victims of domestic abuse – yet they wouldn’t tell how the bill has zero practical value due to an utter lack of implementation and serves merely to earn PPP precious political points. They would tell you how PPP is committed to the elimination of all kinds of religious extremists – yet won’t say as to why the party would take the likes of Maulana Fazlur Rehman under its fold every now and then.

Recently, many of these ‘intellectuals’ have taken to defending the up and coming ‘heir’ to the party’s ‘throne’ – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. I have nothing against Bilawal – he may be a bright, young man for all I know. But what I do know for certain is the fact that to this day, he hasn’t played any political role in Pakistan, has spent little time in his homeland, and feels a lot more comfortable speaking English than Urdu. The primary, and sole, merit for a politician is the work he has done, or not done, for the people – not the family he hails from.

How does one pre-qualify Bilawal as a great politician when he doesn’t have a day’s worth of actual political experience? If he contests elections, enters practical politics, bags some worthy achievements, I’d be more than happy to vote a youthful leader. But until he has done that, I fail to see how can one extol him without being dishonest.

I have no grudges against PPP except that it is the one party that was not based on religious claptrap or stifling ideological premises. Yet, it has failed to deliver what many had hoped it would. And in doing so, it has stooped to the prevalent mediocrity of the political arena.

How is Abdul Qadir Gilani’s win a victory for democracy?

July 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

(Cross-posted from ET Blogs)

Yesterday the by-elections on NA-151 were held in Multan. This was the very seat from which Yousaf Raza Gilani was removed as the Prime Minister. Ever since PPP was elected and Gilani was appointed as the Prime Minister, Gilani’s sons, Abdul Qadir Gilani and Ali Musa Gilani have been doing exceptionally well. We found a few hints of this in the ephedrine case in which Musa Gilani is currently implicated.

But I digress.

So, in the by-elections Abdul Qadir Gilani scored a win. No surprises there – the Gilanis are a Pir family with a huge number of followers and a lot of influence in Multan.

What was surprising for me was that our very dear Twitter liberatti started cheering for PPP the instant news came in of AQ Gilani’s success! They started hailing this as the victory of democracy, the voice of the masses, the apt answer to the judiciary’s ‘aggression’ and what not. Naturally I was amused, but not so much at the hollow grandeur of these words as at the very stance taken by many friends and colleagues.

As it is, a lot from our liberal coterie tend to support PPP for some very obscure reasons. They term it the ‘true face of democracy’, the party which has sacrificed a lot for the sake of democracy, the only party with a liberal manifesto and the list goes on.

I personally hold most of this to be plain untrue.

Whereas PPP may have made a lot of efforts towards the restoration of democracy and for its continuity, for which I sincerely commend the party, it is still far from being a truly democratic party.

Abdul Qadir Gilani’s win is case in point.

Hereditary and family politics has become a sad norm within PPP. With is shocking is that this is getting support from people rather than critique.

Log on to Twitter for a second and you’d see hoards of tweets stating how AQ Gilani has proved democracy is the true winner. Really? The son of a Pir (a religious equivalent of a typical feudal) who was able to swoop the seat of the Pir once he was disposed, is a victory of democracy? Either there’s something very wrong with this argument or I’ve had all my definitions wrong.

My only contention in all this is that many liberals – some of whom I deeply revere and respect – have become more of a reactionary force. In trying to belittle PTI, oppose Imran Khan and somehow ridicule the party, they are trying to justify a whole lot of equally despicable evils. For instance, a gentleman on Twitter was found stating something like:

Since grapes are sour, PTI fans would now say that voters in NA-151 were illiterate.

Through such sarcastic remarks, he thus effectively discarded what is a very valid argument. You can take that from someone who has lived in Multan for the last 15 years.

AQ Gilani’s vote bank indeed comprises of a lot of tenants and such people who are directly favoured, affected or controlled by his family. This has been true for feudals and for Pirs, but suddenly it’s no longer true for Gilani because, well, he is opposing PTI and his win could be rubbed into the judiciary’s face.

Then there is the regular argument of putting PPP’s (on-paper) liberal stance against PTI, PML-N and others. My question to all of those who do this is:

Wasn’t Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the one who branded Ahmedis as non-Muslims and initiated a vicious cycle that still continues to this day?

And exactly what liberal policies have PPP been able to enact practically throughout its three governments? Merely passing bills in the parliament is barely an achievement.

Moreover, the way our present government has handled all issues, from the energy crisis to inflation, I have absolutely no love lost for this government, but yes I would really want to see it complete its term and continue the democratic process.

Having said as much, I would also want others to justify the rhetoric of PPP being the best ever political party. This is a claim which needs to be propped up on facts and achievements and not mere words.

Published originally on Express Tribune Blogs.

Image Courtesy: ET Blogs

Pakistan’s social media – who will guard the guards?

January 30, 2012 § 14 Comments

The recent issue of Maya Khan vigilantism and the subsequent uproar that ensued in the social media resulting in the termination of the said anchoress and her team has brought to fore a number of questions. Whereas I whole-heartedly ascribe to the widely-held opinion that this is a major victory for the liberal coterie which is otherwise known for keyboard ‘jihad’ alone, I have my contentions.

Let’s not put down the entire thing to liberals’ win. The impact of the social media’s protest over this issue, in particular, was hugely galvanized because it struck a chord with a vast majority. In principle, nearly every person who saw the show and was not a mullah or a cranky old aunty with religious notions of Zia-ul-Haq, was horrified. And that, precisely, is what took the dissent to a proportion where SAMAA TV was eventually forced to take down the show and sack the perpetuators.

That being said, it doesn’t diminish the significance of social media as a very effective medium. It has been central to many civil movements around the globe, from Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. But we have to pause here for a second and see if the role of social media in Pakistan is overstated. The Maya Khan episode was perhaps the only occasion where social media did play a decisive role. There have been numerous other issues over which Twitter was clogged with dissident discourse and Facebook statuses sprung up to register protests and yet it all resulted in absolutely nothing. One such case in point: Salman Taseer’s assassination.

This brings me to the chief point of my contention: perhaps, the increasingly active social media is, at the same time, polarizing the two divides in our society – that of conservatives and liberals. While liberals have traditionally been aloof from Urdu dailys and widespread publications, they have now found a new medium in Twitter and Facebook to actively further their point of view. But at the same time, this seems to be happening at the cost of an erosion of liberals’ presence in the streets which now seem crowded by banned terrorist outfits openly rallying in provincial capitals and claiming to bring back the glory of an Islamic caliphate.

At the same time, there is also the problem of social media etiquette which was highlighted in the anti-MayaKhan campaign. When lambasting a person for invading other’s privacy, how fair is it to publish her personal pictures on Facebook and Twitter and dig deep into her personal background to reveal anything that may remotely amuse a furious audience? The importance of this question couldn’t be more pronounced as millions of Pakistanis flock to these sites which are fast becoming the next ‘main’ mode of public conversations. We saw the manifestation of this phenomenon well when a video of Mansur Ijaz was widely used to take cheap sling shots at his personal life. If the propriety of a public conversation can’t be observed by social media, there’s no point in the same social media pointing fingers at others.

A concerted effort has been launched by eminent journalists and media personnel to agree to definite set of rules which shall serve as self-regulatory inunctions for TV channels. A similar measure should also be taken for the social media which asserts its position as a portion of citizen journalism and yet is far removed from any journalistic norms. There’s already a raging debate in the West over where the line should be drawn for social media commentators and we ought to address it before social media becomes the next vigilante. It’s essentially the same age-old question of who will guards the guards.

Marriage and the flawed social premise for it – I

January 28, 2012 § 4 Comments

Marriage is a fundamental element of the social life – or so it is considered. Due to the widespread legitimacy it enjoys among a majority, it is the most valid mode for the continuity of human creed; and so, very crucial too.

However, the reign of this institution is increasingly diminishing in our times. So is manifest in an increasingly high percentage of divorces and an utter lack of interest among the youth to associate them with so ‘stifling’ a limitation. The trend is more or less the same both in the East and the West, though at different levels and for different reasons. In this article, I shall attend to the reasons contributing to its failure in our very own society.

Marriages, before the wave of modernism and urbanization hit our society, used to be largely successful. It may be a result of a number of reasons including the stigmatized status of divorce, a strong observation of the traditional morality that supported it and the not-yet-eroded family-system. All these factors contributed to marriages that were successful at any rate, though not necessarily happy. Divorces were very few and far between and it at least brought a sense of completeness to the married couple, if not a joy of togetherfulness.

However, inevitable as it is, we have evolved from that phase to the society we are today. In our today’s society, the youth seems to consider marriage an unnecessary burden and continues to evade it as long as possible, only to give in eventually due to social pressure. While many may quickly infer that the social pressure is perhaps the salvation for the institution of matrimony, I hold the views quite contrary. To me, the social philosophy upon which resides this important facet of human life is utterly flawed and contributes greatly towards its eventual failure. We shall see in the succeeding lines how this claim is substantiated.

Let us consider the many closely linked notions that are held, with slight variations, by the masses at large towards marriage. These can be divided into two broad categories: (i) considering a fact that religion still is a prevalent agency that drives most of our decisions, many consider marriage the necessary step to avoid ‘sinful indulgences.’ (ii) to those with a non-religious pro-marriage disposition, for a complete and happy life, marriage is inevitable. These are the two primary philosophies that drive a person or are used to drive a person to get married. We shall categorically investigate the validity of these conceptions and their eventual consequences.

Coming to the religious lot and their observation that marriage has a knack of saving one from sinfulness, we are forced to admit a basis for this profound relationship which is absolutely flawed and contributes greatly to the lack of any elation in a couple bonded thus upon these conditions. To put it simply, when a man is signing the marriage-papers, he is, in other words, telling his spouse that she is the ‘object’ that shall save him from lust and sin. And vice versa. This means that both are induced, by the social order, to use each other as a means to an end i.e. abstinence. How outrageous! And whereas such use to nobler ends, such as mutual happiness, could have contributed better to the longevity of a marriage, an end like this has an effect quite adverse. This view is specifically divorced of all emotion that is an essential part of a relationship and rests solely upon a rather mundane and incomplete principle. Not only that, it goes on to persuade the couple to view marriage as a ‘needed’ bond, not a desired and to-be-enjoyed one. The inevitable consequence is that such a start barely leads on to a successful future, with a lack of understanding between the parties and also a lack of respect, too, which is a logical outcome of viewing the other person as an ‘object’ to a means. In our male chauvinistic society, this lets the male partner have an upper-hand, both physical and mental. And marriage becomes a boon rather than a bane, more so for the female partner.

However, as women realize their rights and become increasingly independent in our society, and justly so, the relationship, that was once successful in similar circumstances plus the women’s timidity, now ceases to hold because the women wouldn’t let the man have an undue upper hand. Due to this, the only course for such a relationship, before long, is abandonment. Hence an increase in divorce rates.

A cross-analysis of the other, alternate premise often used to draft the importance of marriage will be discussed in another forthcoming post.

Image courtesy Charles.

The curious case of angry liberals and Imran Khan

January 8, 2012 § 4 Comments

Pakistan’s political environment is electric with Imran Khan’s ‘tsunami’ that has swept across provinces and parties alike. It’s just about two months ago when political pundits were claiming that PTI is a non-entity and that Khan’s claims at bringing about a change are nothing but hogwash. They would sweep their hands in a condescending manner, mid-air, and laugh off his chances in the future politics of Pakistan. I must give them that since his jalsa in Lahore, they have accorded him a little respect at least.

The political environment in Pakistan, which has been stale with old slogans and tried faces, has suddenly turned electric and alive. People, youth, political recluses and hermits are suddenly thronging Imran Khan’s jalsas. This may be perhaps one of the very few and rare instances in Pakistan’s history when a political cause has struck such a chord with all and sundry.

The most interesting aspect of this ‘revolution’, however, can be seen in the liberal coterie of Pakistan. While some select few have chosen to side with PTI and be a part of this change which may be in the coming, others have only grown fiercer in their criticism leveling newer and more advanced allegations against Imran Khan. Here, by liberals we can assume two distinct groups.

One is the group that claims to be the leftist set, clinging stubbornly to an age-old, tried and failed model, stuck to the pre-cold war era and breathing a belief that they can bring about a communist revolution in Pakistan. They are perhaps the smallest political ideology in Pakistan. They read Noam Chomsky by the day, smoke Marlboro whites in anti-capitalist seminars by the night and discuss Lenin and Marx with their ‘comrades’ which, in a given gathering, rarely exceed the figure of ten. Their sole criterion for one’s merit is the extent to which that person conforms to their narrow, set ideology. And anyone who stands contrary to that is a pro-capitalist, elites’-serving, establishment-implanted thug. Period. That’s pretty much the argument.

The second set of critics from amongst the liberals is those who genuinely believe in human rights, separation of state and religion and desire to see Pakistan moving towards a more humane political model, without necessarily sticking to a definite ideology. I tend to believe I am a part of this group. However, I have stark disagreements with these liberals, at large, over PTI and Imran Khan. Most of the criticism that has been mounted against Kaptaan by them is more or less articulated in my earlier article ‘Imran Khan – to vote for or not?’And I absolutely agree to this part of their stance that from a purely liberal view-point, Imran Khan is definitely not a good choice.

But the present political discourse is more of an argument of ideal vs practical. They wish to have a person who is the epitome of secular humanism and would lead them right-away to a Pakistan where religion and state are entirely aloof, rights of all minorities are well protected and military suddenly has absolutely no role in politics. Well, here’s the bitter pill: that’s insanely utopian.

The immediate analysis, by the liberals, after the Lahore jalsa was that Imran Khan gathered people from all around Pakistan and that such a huge crowd after so many preparations wasn’t that great an achievement. The Karachi jalsa pretty much trashed this argument. But then some new arguments surfaced during Karachi jalsa, which were equally ridiculous. A fellow tweeted that security personnel had been ‘instructed’ to attend to jalsa. None of my acquaintances from security agencies corroborate this allegation but that’s not a proof of no-guilty. What is a substantial proof to the contrary is that a mere look at the crowd would have convinced any sane analyst that this was a jalsa where people from all walks of life, all ethnicities and all kinds of backgrounds were present. Even if security personnel were instructed as per the claim, that would have contributed barely a fraction of a percent of the crowd on site. An insignificant contribution to a popular cause at best, if at all, but nothing more.

I also am unable to comprehend the tacit approval and support extended by fellow liberals to PPP. A party that, yes, may have a rather liberal manifesto but one which rarely ever contributed to make Pakistan a more humane state. A party that has been involved in perhaps the worst corruption scandals of all times, with the exception of unearthed billions gobbled by our military, that is. And a party that has been ridiculously adamant in pursuing politics merely for the sake of politics. Why would a sane person in his right mind support such a party any more, especially when BB is no longer leading it and persons with feeble intellects and absolutely no political vision continue to be at its front. For my part, I think supporting PPP any more is hazardous both to Pakistan and to democracy. The other major player, PML-N, too has failed to do anything significant in its current spell. It has merely played the role of an opposition for the mere sake of playing that role. And its subtle approval of the right-wing extremists, the likes of Jamat-ud-Dawa and Sipah-e-Sahaba is as clear as the day! So no, I won’t support the Sharif brothers either.

Incidentally, only a year ago, I was planning on writing an article where I thought I’d propose a mock government with kind of ideal persons (from amongst the available lot) in all positions. I placed IK as PM, Javed Hasmi as Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi as Interior minister and similarly, all best-of-the-worst politicians at a position which best suits them. A year forward, IK is pretty much realizing the very plan. The allegation that IK is suddenly bringing all the ‘used’ baggage to his party is not good enough, to me. I think that on the contrary, may be a lot of people are jumping the PTI bandwagon because things have gone so wrong that they really want to work under someone who at least speaks of bringing about a positive change. And in IK, all these ‘spent’ cartridges have found their salvation.

The case of Javed Hashmi is definitely not that of someone hoping to ‘gain’ political power or someone who’s been ‘advised’ by ‘deep state’ to go join IK or any of the other standard motives proposed by liberals about those leaving their parties and joining PTI. His case is, at least, one glaring fault in the arguments put forth by most analysts. But yes, there are some who have joined PTI as opportunists. And such morons will always do so during every major political transition.

And as a matter of fact, PTI doesn’t have much choice in this. If IK chooses unknown, never-heard-of candidates to contest elections for PTI, PTI will once again lick the dust in the elections. But if IK takes these eminent politicians within the folds of PTI and at the same time, manages to stick to his vision and proposed policies, this can well mean a definite step forward. Not the best move, mind you, but a step forward. Let’s not forget even a politician of Bhutto’s stature did end up including Khar in his league.

Also, if IK was someone with a liberal manifesto and PTI a party well divorced of all things religious, as our liberal coterie would have him, I don’t think they could have bagged more than a seat or two. The liberals ‘need’ to understand that if they keep looking for an ideal person and stand aloof from the ground realities of a country whose masses still are steeped deep in religion, they will never find anyone good enough. But if they are looking for the ‘better’ of the ‘worst’, they may find, in Khan, the very choice.

On a concluding note, criticizing from the distance and trashing virtually every political entity by counting out the flaws while never endeavoring to be a part of the setup and try and improve it, pretty much renders all arguments from the ones who merit the aforementioned qualification, illegitimate.

Jamat-ud-Dawa – Pakistan kay ‘Khudai Faujdar’

January 5, 2012 § 9 Comments

Most of you would have seen slogans seething with hatred plastered across the walls all around Lahore and most highways of Punjab. As soon as Pakistan and India relations began to improve, obscure coalitions and unheard-of groups have suddenly jumped the bandwagon of anti-India sentiment. And the credit of it all goes to our very own group of Khudai Faujdars – Jamad-ud-Dawa (JuD).

Whereas most militant outfits have gone extinct or at least covert in their operations in a post-911 Pakistan, JuD continues to enjoy full liberty despite being a banned organization. It arranges rallies, has a huge area in Muredke as its headquarters and its leaders continue to spew venom and hatred in their Friday sermons and speeches at rallies. Support for JuD’s activities has certainly waned among common masses but apparently, ISI is not really ready to part from its chief proxy-war gurus of Kashmir insurgency.

And that can be easily seen in this recent tide of ‘apparent’ opposition to Pakistan-India relations. I say apparent because while a huge majority of Pakistan either doesn’t give a shit about what pacts are signed with India, so engrossed they are in their own local political and economic issues, the insignificant cretins who number in thousands continue to litter the walls all across Punjab to make an impact. And whether or not ISI is directly backing this ‘project’ is unimportant. The fact is that JuD’s rise to power has been hugely funded and assisted by ISI and our Arab patrons who, after doling out millions in their lavish harems, come to Pakistan to cleanse their sins off by funding Jihadi fighters. And they have a particular fondness for JuD since it conforms to the most rigid, fanatic interpretation of Islam, Wahabbism, a love it shares with Saudi Arabia in particular.

The current peace process with India doesn’t sit well with our military. Military wants to be regarded as the most important entity in Pakistan, a status it has achieved through perpetuating war, rigging political process and influencing media. And it doesn’t want to let go of this status, since that may also mean budgetary cuts once everyone is finally sure that we are in peacetime, quite contrary to what army will have us believe. And so, as soon as an important milestone is achieved in peace process with India, suddenly one of the political hubs of Pakistan is ‘charged’ with anti-India sentiment. However, the turn-out at these rallies pretty much shows what strength an extremist organization has, even in a country riddled with religious fervor – numbered in thousands and most of them being the jihadi members of the organizations, shipped from all parts of Pakistan, they carry little significant anymore. But the depressing fact is that the state machinery is doing nothing to curb them and rather, in many ways, assists them.

Slogans like ‘Bharat se rishta kia – nafrat ka, intiqam ka’ pretty much shows the philosophy which is at the heart of JuD. The most interesting part is that JuD claims politicians are politicking over Pak-India relations and says that they should rather consider India an enemy while the fact is that JuD has long done its own politics over corpses, wearing thousands of youth it has gotten killed in Kashmir as a medal to acquire moral legitimacy and financial assistance. It cites these thousands of deaths with pride and without the slightest remorse even when these deaths have come about to yield absolutely nothing, zilch! And it naturally wreathes in agony as soon as something hints a normalization of Pak-India relations since that means JuD gets to lose its bread and butter and will no longer be able to drive its sales-pitch to a common Pakistani.

The unfortunate fact is that the federal government, despite having initiated the peace process itself, and PML-N chief having spoken publicly about his support for positive relations with India, don’t find the moral courage to openly denounce JuD’s activities or to ban its leaders. This has to change or we run the risk of non-state elements disrupting the entire peace process, like they have times and again in the past.

The missing creative DNA in our students

December 16, 2011 § 11 Comments

Have you ever woken up in the morning to realize that the next big idea that may entirely change the world can be yours? Have you wondered that you could’ve thought what another individual at some other part in the world came up with? More importantly, do you even believe that you have the potential to create something, an idea, a notion, that can be unique and entirely new and innovative?

I ask so because the journey of creativity begins from the very belief that one can embark upon it. Too often do we shy away from taking this path simply because we think we can’d do this. And consequently, we spend our lives following in what others coin and discover and invent. We dwell in the delusion that certain traits merit creativity and the lack of them renders us incapable of initiating the process.

Well, creativity is spontaneous. It is natural and it needs absolutely no qualifications. Yes, nurturing a creative thought and taking it to the point of realization may require certain traits such as diligence and persistence but the idea, in itself, merely requires mental effort.

Sadly, the culture to creatively think and design products, ideas etc is entirely missing in Pakistani universities, save a few private ones. Having studied at an engineering university, I can tell from my experience that 90% of the final year projects are simply attempts to re-create products or projects which are already available – and this, without tweaking that product significantly. If only the students were taught to think out of the box and come up with innovative ideas, we’d already be having a number of extra-ordinary creations.

At one hand, it won’t only promote a sense of entrepreneurship among the students, it may also help our industry come up with a few handy inventions. The necessary fund required for rather large-scale endeavours may be channelled by the industrial giants, just like it’s done in US. But then, we’ve got a long way to reach that point.

Especially in a world fast turning increasingly digital, the importance of IT-related innovations can never be overstated. And while the rest of world is coming up with more unique, extra-ordinary IT innovations every other day, the sole focus of IT/CS students in Pakistan is to hitch up a good job. Yes, the financial circumstances somehow makes that inevitable but then, prospective entrepreneurial ventures based purely on their creativity and hard work may be a better answer for their economics.

One can say that the responsibility for such a paradigm shift in higher education curriculum lies with the government and HEC. But I think that’s like trashing the very notion and pretending we can’t help doing so. In recent days, P@SH@ has been particularly active in promoting entrepreneurship among the youth and that has worked! Some new ventures have surfaced and yet others are most probably in the pipeline, especially after P@SH@ came up with the idea of an ICT fund. But this needs to go beyond one organization. How hard is it to instil in our students that they can think; that they can make new things, think new ideas and that this is not a blasphemy. I tend to think a mere effort on the part of some, who are cognizant of this need, can change things hugely.

Nomination for Blog Awards 2011

November 14, 2011 § 15 Comments

My blog is up for the ‘Best Youth Blog’ category at Blog Awards this year. If you are a reader of this blog and you think this blog deserves to win, simply click the image below and vote for the blog at the page it redirects you to. Be so kind as to also leave your comments on that page.

Imran Khan – to vote for or not?

November 3, 2011 § 46 Comments

To vote:

• There’s no doubt in the fact that he has magnetized the youth, especially the urban youth, to abandon the comfort of their homes and move forward from mere words; Imran Khan brought them to the streets and no matter how or what he is, he at least unfolded a new chapter in our youth’s political activism which is a dire need today.

• On a neutral stand-point, Imran Khan is someone who hasn’t been tested yet. Despite all the talk about Imran Khan being the ‘suicide’ option, even worse than status quo, the fact remains that so far, Imran Khan has never been found involved in any corruption charges. And the feats he has achieved in the past, from leading Pakistan to a run for World Cup to establishing the hospital and a university, all these clearly tell that here is a man who wants a social change and who has tried to bring it as far as he could. So, after all give and take, Imran is still someone who one seeks out as a possibly better option. In short, his past record shows him a man who is honest and incorruptible.

• Imran Khan does not come from a political background or hasn’t been launched by one of the major political parties and then took his own stage. He’s self-made, in so far as his political achievements are concerned.

• Imran Khan is a face well-known internationally. He is a person who knows how to speak well, how to get his point across and how to adjust to different kinds of audiences. Just ask yourself, who would the world take more seriously when addressing at UN General AssemblyMian Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain (just saying) or Imran Khan? Plus, his British connections may let him sale relatively smoother in the rough waters of foreign diplomacy. That, of course is an assumption but a fair comparison lends it weight.

• Not only youth but a number of intellectuals, media personnel and a constituency of literate populace sides with him. While you will see men shipped from rural regions and ‘patwaris’ are the gatherings of both PPP and PML-N, the jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan had people from all walks of life, most of the politically conscious, at least in comparison to the voters of PPP and PML-N.

• Thus far, Imran Khan hasn’t pitched in any ethnic-centric, region-centric or any other exclusive rhetoric. He claims to be fighting for elimination of corruption, all over Pakistan. Whatever the manifesto of PTI encompasses, it speaks for the entire Pakistan. And that is manifest in both the words and actions of PTI thus far.

• Imran Khan talked about women rights, about educating Pakistan and similar other objectives which pretty much constitute much of what’s wrong with Pakistan today.

Not to vote:

• The chief problem that I find with Imran Khan is his anti-US rhetoric and pro-Taliban stance. Of course he hasn’t openly supported Taliban like JI and others, he has never spoken against him. He speaks of talking to Taliban by ending war or terror and thus restoring peace but all this is a highly impractical as well as illogical. Taliban are not ready for talks, their Shriah-aimed ambitions are not regional but universal and they are not to be told to ‘give up’ their demands just like that. A recent proof to that can be found in the example of the fate Rabbani met in Afghanistan.

• Another great concern is about the personnel his party has been embracing. From Hamid Gul to Jamat-e-Islami rightists, his party has well catered to all sorts of members without disagreeing with their ideology. PTI has also been indiscriminate towards accepting such politicians who have abandoned other ships or were kicked out, some of them even on corruption charges. So whereas yes, Imran Khan comes clean on the issue of corruption, his party seems to be taking a somewhat relaxed stance towards it.

• The worst, of all things leveled against Imran Khan, is his alleged involvement with the deep state or what we know as military establishment. There has been talk of agencies supporting his cause and Imran’s tacit approval of army’s actions since he never talked against the army or it’s exploitations in Pakistan. And this allegation gains much currency when one sees that right now, PTI is only hurting PML-N’s vote-bank, the only party in the political arena who aims to bring army to accountability. Naturally, the logical path for army is to support Kaptaan and that is understandable – but Kaptaan’s support for army is what perplexes many since corruption simply can never be eliminated from Pakistan until army, too, is brought under accountability.

• Recently, PTI arranged a demonstration in Peshawar where it blocked roads to barr NATO tankers from going across. According to media reports, the demonstration was attended by a number of extremist right-wing parties. Also, on the way back, Imran stopped by at the Maulana Sami-ul-Haq’s seminary, the great madressah which has the ‘honor’ of having first launched Taliban who were students there. This is not to hand-pick a single example and lambaste PTI over it – rather, this is simply a proof to the aforementioned assertion that Imran Khan seems to sport pro-Taliban sentiments – now whether these sentiments arise purely out of his anti-US strategy or are these a result of some military minds working to shape PTI’s orientation, one cannot say. But those are the facts.

While that pretty much sums the chief features of both sides of the mirror, let me add that I haven’t absolutely ticked off Imran Khan. He has made his presence known and he may well have a political future, perhaps a significant one. What makes me wonder is that in recent days, in fact within a week of his jalsa, a number of intellectuals have been won over by him – they are optimistic, liberal, humanists and they see a hope in him. My sole hope with Imran Khan, however, is that the mistakes he has made thus far and the errors he has committed in the estimation and ideology of the Taliban and other right-wingers is a result of his naiveté and political immaturity, further bolstered by the ‘patronage’ of JI hawks and exploited (?) by the military establishment. One can only hope that once the liberal coterie abandons its distanced criticism and joins the flock, Imran Khan may have a chance of bettering his views and consequently, his policies. I, personally, think he will be the last man to concede to the implementation of Shriah.

11eleven – celebrating global diversity

October 24, 2011 § 8 Comments

It was the dream of a girl – a dream to work for global peace in whatever ways she can. And that gave birth to a unique idea, that of celebrating global diversity through a project that shall encompass the entire globe. When Danielle Lauren came up with an idea, it was the idea of one person. But as she started working on it, with the conviction that the world really is a beautiful mixture of cultures and a realization of this beauty can bring us all together, she was able to bring together an international team of bloggers, social activists, translators and web designers. Today, her idea is on the very brink of realization.

11eleven project is a unique venture in that it tries to show us a different dimension of globalization – a face that is not menacing or threatening but one that depicts how the world is connected together in a conglomeration of different cultures and languages, each of them equally beautiful and enchanting. On a single day, Nov 11, 2011, the day when the date is to be spelled as 11/11/11, bloggers, photographers, film-makers, tweeters and social activists will come together on a platform to share their ideas; their views of how the world looks like from where they see it; what beauty the sounds spill from where they hear it; what truth the words which they pen contains; and finally, how this mosaic of inter-twining perspectives brings out the true connection that we all share, no matter where we are placed on a map.

The ‘about’ section on the official website well sums up the idea behind this project:

“We want to plant a seed of compassion in the world and allow people all over the planet to gain a perspective of this crazy rock that we all live on. Are people from different parts of the world really that different? Different cultures may have different traditions, but we’re pretty sure a teacher inMadagascaris trying to achieve the same as a teacher in theUSA, or a Muslim father wants the same for his children as a Jewish father! We want this to be used as a time capsule for people to look back on and see how the world was in 2011. We’re looking for truthful stories from people around the globe that will give us a clear idea of how it is to live where you do, something that news channels or other programs miss out on.”

The best part about the project is that if you wish to participate in it, you are not constrained by language barriers. Write in whatever language you may deem fit, be it English, Urdu, Punjabi or any of the thousands of other languages. The team at 11eleven claims that it has a team of international translators that is all set to handle this multitude and craft it into a semblance of a single, global narrative.

With a few days to the project, thousands of people are already on the list, actively participating in the project and furthering the word. 11eleven has partnered with a number of international not-for-profit organizations such as Global Voices to let the world know about it. You also stand a chance for your artwork to be introduced to a global audience through a number of publications such as Marie Claire Magazine.

The topics for the submissions are: Beginnings; Make A Wish; Play; Courage; Routine; Beauty; Water; Darkness; Faith; Heartbreak and Love. You will have one day, Nov 11, 2011, complete with its 24 hours to submit artworks from any of the categories about the topics listed above. The bloggers are to blog about “How I wish the world will be in 100 years”.

I feel particularly excited about this event because in it, I see a chance of showing the world what Pakistan truly is – that behind the glaring headlines of terrorists attacks and war against terrorism, we are people just like any other people; that we share similar joys, sorrows, similar routines, similar love for art and a similar compassion for humanity like any other in the world; that Pakistan is as culturally rich as any other region in the world. I believe that here, now, is an opportunity for us to tell the world who we really are and weave our colors in an international narrative. And to say out loud that we are a nation that loves peace and humanity.


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