May 14, 2013 § 8 Comments
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.
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.
December 12, 2012 § 8 Comments
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.
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.
Image Courtesy: ET Blogs
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.
November 3, 2011 § 46 Comments
• 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 Assembly – Mian 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.
- Will popular Imran Khan be independent too? – Pakistan Daily Times (news.google.com)
October 14, 2011 § 25 Comments
There comes a point in the spiritual journey of a man when things no longer are what they seem. Whereas others look at things in the same ordinary fashion, you have a deeper understanding of them and discern other, deeper meanings of them. For example, the other people be looking at apples and calling them apples but nay, you be the wise one, knowing that what they see is a banana, looking like an apple. Such is the profundity of true wisdom. And when such true wisdom transpires to others who can ‘see’, they are elated and instantly rush to you to congratulate you at having achieved that height of spiritual excellence. These like-minded wise men then shower you with all sorts of accolades so as to prompt you onto your path of wisdom so that you may reach that pinnacle of human intellect whither you can discern that an apple is both an apple and a banana. The-duality-of….fruits phenomenon, as they call it.
July 9, 2010 § 2 Comments
Host: So how do you view the current turmoil in Pakistan?
Rep: Alhamdulillah our government in Punjab is working wonders.
Host: What about the terrorists that are rumored to be camped in Punjab?
Rep: These are mere conspiracies pitched by those you are well aware of *wink*
Host: Do you think your government is doing enough to thwart terrorism and militancy?
Rep: Of course!! Look at our sasti roti programme. It’s a booming success!! We are bringing relief to the common man.
Host: There are talks of Punjabi Taliban. What do you have to say about them?
Rep: I myself have seen people from northern regions leading prayers in Punjab. There are camps in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Host: But what about camps in Punjab?
Rep: Jamat-ul-Dawa is a legit organization. They have a clean record and we won’t do anything to harm them.
Host: Do Taliban exist?
Rep: We must stop the operations. They are doing great harm to our Islamic country.
Host: I’ve been told PML-N’s party-head tried to have himself declared ‘Khalifa’ in his last reign?
Rep: Taliban had a glorious rule in Afghanistan. They established Shariah and look for yourself how peaceful it was. *tears of joy*
Host: Why have the terrorists been successful in striking Punjab again and again?
Rep: Please don’t try to harm the democratic government in Punjab by such comments!!
Host: Have you done anything to ensure the security of the common man?
Rep: Our leaders spent many years abroad in a large palace and a luxurious lifestyle for the sake of this nation. What more do you ask of us?
Host: If the Taliban are not stopped, don’t you think anarchy will replace order in Pakistan?
Rep: We have restored judiciary. We mobilized lawyers. And now Babar Awan is giving them money. Look at them!!
Host: The Center said that they passed you information about a possible attack on the shrines. Why, then, was no action taken or security upped?
Rep: We have announced a large sum of money for the families of those who lost their lives. The centre wants to derail the provincial government.
Host: Why was Punjab government not able to do anything to regulate sugar prices? Is it because many PML-N members are directly involved in sugar production?
Rep: I swear upon my life we won’t let the price of roti go beyond 2 rupees.
Host: What is the greatest threat to the security of Pakistan?
Rep: The greatest threats are Rehman Malik and Governor Punjab. They are enemies of democracy. They conspire and it’s a result of their conspiracies that people have become foolish enough to blame the Taliban for everything.
Host: Don’t you think Taliban are the chief problem right now?
Rep: No. PPP has started a campaign against judiciary. We won’t stand it! We have been trying to respond peacefully but we will fight now!
Host: Fight whom? The Taliban?
Rep: We believe in dialogue.
Host: You mean you’ll engage in dialogue with them to give up terrorism?
Rep: We hope so. We have tried that in the past too by asking them not to attack Punjab. I think this time we should ask them in Pushto.
Host: Do you have any message for the masses?
Rep: Yes! I want to let the masses know that we are the ‘khadims’ of the awam. Do not look at our Mercedes’ or BMWs and think we are exalted. Do not think for a moment that our sugar mills will stop us from feeling your pain. Just know that we are your sincerest khadims and we will lay down our lives to protect you from everything, including a military operation. Please side with us in fighting this global conspiracy so that Quaid-e-Azam’s dream of an Islamic state could be restored.
June 20, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The media limelight apparently has shifted away from the 18th amendment bit too soon. While it had been the topic of heated discussions and talk shows, the getting over was quick. It was particularly surprising considering how PPP and PML(N) tried to score points after passing this amendment in the assembly and hailed it as a grand success and that how absolutely otherwise it was. Once we’re past the rhetoric, it is not too difficult to discern how the amendment brings us barely any good as a nation and how it sneaks back the clauses most detrimental to democracy under the guise of democracy itself.
If we simply review the effects this amendment shall have on the democratic process in the coming years, that will give us the measure of it’s importance. The most hailed part of this amendment is the doing away with 58 2(b). The bane of this clause has long haunted the corridors of power for elected representatives, including Prime Ministers. And the objection cited to it is very well placed, since it literally renders the entire democratic structure vulnerable to Presidential moods and through that, allows for the involvement of other back-door actors including the GHQ.
In that context, the roll-back of this clause indeed served greatly in restoring the powers of the parliament and its head. But did it really? When we look to the other implications of the package, it barely seems so. Sub clause 4 of Article 17, which had been formerly restored under Mr. Musharraf’s regime, putting an end to one-person shows within political parties, has also been quietly shelved in the current 18th amendment. The deleted clause states that “every political party shall, subject to law, hold intra-party elections to elect its office-bearers and party leaders.” It’s removal, in simple words, means that a party head can stay at the seat as long as he sees fit and never needs to hold an election within the party to see if the members wish otherwise. Practically, this is highly desirable for both PPP, PML (N) who primarily are run as family businesses, at least as far as the top appointments are concerned. Many other parties too fall within this realm, including ANP, MQM etc where ‘once a party head, always a party head’ rule applies regardless of how democratic the outfit becomes. Such hereditary politics reeks of a sheer hypocrisy on the parts of the political parties. But their common consent over this perhaps can account for the rather passing importance given to this clause which, in word and deed, is highly detrimental to democracy.
That’s not all. Here’s something more to depict how in-line are the other amendments with the usual democracy magniloquence our politicians often deploy. An amendment to Article 63 A implies that if the party head feels that a certain parliamentarian of his party is somehow no longer fit to represent the party, he can write to the speaker and get him removed. Admitted that a measure of some sort is needed to stop floor-crossing and horse-trading on the floor. But that can be quite conveniently accomplished without vesting yet another absolute power with a party head, most appropriately through the parliamentary leader of that party. The direct implication of this is that if a parliamentarian feels that his party is supporting something not quite right, he is bound by constitution not to object for if he does, it shall have repercussions. Add to this picture the other immediately relevant clause of removing the obligation of intra-party elections and you realize what mighty powers this amendment places with the party heads – to name two of them, Mr. Nawaz Sharif and President Zardari.
When viewed now, the annulment of 58 2 (b) too becomes meaningless since if you take powers from the President and that person is also the party head, that little changes anything. He/She can still effectively affect all the decisions of his party within the parliament and enjoy a rather safe distance from the entire process by staying aloof in the Presidential palace. Not only that, he can’t be removed from his Presidential appointment either since he is the party head and needs not hold elections or seek consensus within party for the continuance of his term as long as his tenure allows.
Once you give a fleeting analysis to the whole 18th amendment package, it becomes quite clear that the reservations of judiciary over it are quite plausible, cited repeatedly by SC. But how far can judiciary interfere in constitutional amendments is still unclear and whether or not it has the right to define what is in-line with the ‘basic structure’ of our constitution remains a question yet to be answered. It is also quite apparent that the main players of this game have found the gray area where their interests coincide and have happily constructed the amendment about it, creating the illusions of ‘restoring’ democracy and reaching a historic consensus, both false and misplaced.
Media, too, needs to stop giving its token of approval to such artificial measures which rather work more towards the weakening of democracy. The lack of criticism has seriously contributed to a public acceptance of the aforementioned amendments which is based on part-ignorance and part-misinformation. And media’s role is precisely to thwart the shaping of such faulty perceptions by actively exposing the story behind the story which, in this case, is certainly a rather disillusioning one.
P.S. A relevant case, that of President’s Zardari’s dual office, is underway in the Lahore High Court. Petitions have been filed against him since he holds the office of both President of Pakistan and the head of PPP. And, in the light of past interpretations of clause 41(1) by SC, as in the case of Mr. Nawaz Sharif vs The President in 1993, the President is morally bound not to have such position which may compromise his neutral stance on national affairs. However, whether the ruling comes in the President’s favor or not, the party-heads’ powers still stay unquestioned.
Originally published at @ http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/89/18th-amendment-looking-beyond-the-rhetoric/
January 3, 2010 § 9 Comments
Lately there have been ripples through my social circle over a recent blog post I wrote, also RSS-fed at my facebook profile. The post in question was about Kerry-Lugar Bill and the reaction that ensued primarily consisted upon telling me how ‘unpatriotic‘ I was and more interestingly, how dispassionately I rejected army’s role as the savior of this nation for the past decades. I confess to the crime and hence, am guilty of charge.
However, allow me a quick traversal of the available facts and my contentions to the cited arguments about the army/democracy issue. The actual point that was made, not by a single or two but many of my friends, which is indeed unfortunate, was that democracy is a system quite unfit for a country like Pakistan and that army is the right choice for running the affairs of this state. Startling as it may seem upon the surface, even startling was the way this proposition was supported. It was said that over the years, democratic governments had totally failed the nation and every time, army was made to intervene. And that it had to, to save this country from falling into pieces. Random citations were quoted of the economic indexes during army take-overs to prove the point, though never with a verifiable source of course.
I must say all this did intrigue me. And hence this article. I’ve been reading through the lines about the way people treat the notion of democracy and how casually they can go on to denounce its validity for Pakistan without pausing for a moment and looking to the finer details of its implications here. To most, the failure of a term or two of the elected governments means the failure of democracy and an obvious switching of choice to army Generals. However, faulty as this perception may be, it’s all the more dangerous considering our youth is still ready to chance dictatorship against democracy, albeit, I admit, a partial and highly imperfect one.
To all such fellas, I’d first want to represent a vivid notion of what really democracy is. No nations are blessed with one hundred percent honest politicians and none have a system without corrupt ones. It’s an amalgam of the very two everywhere. And no country achieves the perfect model of democracy from day 1 either. It may take a term or two or many terms of elected governments after which a suitable democracy may procure. But how exactly this works? That’s quite simple. People elect a government and if it’s unable to satisfy the wants of the masses, they switch their choices and votes in the next polling. The government changes and people are able to test multiple candidates upon the honor of their words. It’s only after many continuous elections that the masses may be able to realize which party precisely may be ‘the party’ for them.
It may be termed the evolution of democracy in a country. Along the course of this system, people learn to make the right choices, the politicians learn to make the right decisions and government witnesses honest politicians dedicated to accomplish things.
However, when the very process is disrupted mid-way on the pretext of faulty apparatus installed as corrupt parliamentarians or an imperfect functioning of the elected government, all goes back to point zero. Usually, the new system installed as an alternative to democracy then attracts all the hatred of the lot and people tend to forgive the mid-way disrupted government’s mistakes. And that’s precisely what has been happening with Pakistan. Throughout the history of more than sixty years, democracy hasn’t been allowed to take its due course for even a consecutive ten years. Every time, army intervenes through one excuse or another, attempting every time to cash into the government’s wrong decisions by buying itself another term into politics. Letting aside the disastrous implications it has on the army itself, it comes as a major blow for the democratic system which then relapses to point zero.
And in our national history, we have witnessed many point zeros and many relapses. Times and again, army has pushed us back on the starting point claiming the inevitability of its intervention and the importance of its presence for the national security. All false and hogwash! Even the exalted stature accorded to army is based, mostly, upon the false tales of its victory. I won’t talk of the accounts of its valor but victory…seriously! There’s been none and we’ve been beaten up by our neighbor upon our nasty maneuvers along the borders in the past, so much for our ‘passions for jihad’, always a prologue for a wrong policy or a false decision. Deaths are easy to cover up when wrapped in the veil of valorous martyrdom, you know.
Talking of army’s rule, one is also instantly reminded of the brutalities deployed in 1971, the severe violations of human rights in East Pakistan at the hands of our ‘jawans’ and the extra-judicial killings and kidnappings in the very recent reign of our dear Mr. Musharraf. I left the mention of Zia intentionally for his ten years ask for an entire other article and of course, an article would it be soon enough, for that duly befits the dictator’s extraordinary moves during his time.
What’s more, our army has been the active incubator for breeding the many jihadi militant organizations of the yester-years, thanks to its own overt religious under-tones. In fact, it’s our army indeed that created the Taliban brathers to fight off the infidel kafirs in the neighborhood land of pure. Unfortunately, through certain twists of time and policy shifts, the ‘original Islam’ ruled Taliban out in the contemporary world and army too declared them gone-mad terrorists who ought to be gunned down. And hence the trouble we have been in of late.
A well-used tactic in creating a better image for the past military interventions has been the ‘we needed to take control of affairs at an emergency basis or Pakistan would’ve been in danger’ argument. A friend did cite that to me to justify her claim of army’s being the best choice for Pakistan. However, there haven’t been any such situations in our history where army became the inevitable force needed at the helm of affairs. Army is always the last and the least desired choice and when it does take over, all democratic institutions move into hibernation for all the years it remains in command. And when it finally makes it back to the barracks, they have to start anew. That’s precisely the reason we are still a long way from a fine model of democracy. Yet, I’d say there is hope of goal in this journey towards a better democracy and when people tell me they’re tired of it mid-way, it is very disappointing!
December 26, 2009 § 15 Comments
As if the likes of Dr. Shahid Masood, hosting pseudo-politicians like Hamid Gul, spinning their endless tales of conspiracy theories was not enough, I was pretty surprised to read a column in Nawa-i-Waqt today. Seems like we live in strange days where power shifts from army to judiciary and media and parliament in nowhere in the scene.
The recent series of events makes it clear how certain media outlets have specifically targeted the ruling party and been exaggerating things against them, which also would perhaps explain the unneeded and rather immature statement along with the ruling on NRO given by the Supreme Court. One of the hawks of lawyers’ movement, Ali Ahmed Kurd, himself lashed on SC over such an unnecessary move and pointed out that SC judges were treading a very dangerous line, making rather political moves.
I must say it’s not that hard to connect the dots here. At one side, rightist media outlets along with the power of a major media group have taken their position against PPP generally and Zardari in particular. And no matter what, they don’t seem to be stopping at anything but their removal. While that’s the situation, their aggravation of the affairs pretty much led to all the noise over NRO and the post-NRO-ruling.
This creates a picture where media is bringing things, by sort of creating a hype, to SC’s consideration and SC, empowered by what I may call media support, is making rather reckless decision. The parliament is entirely out of the scene and in fact, the entire ruling party is like held accountable for cases that aren’t yet proved against them. I don’t have anything for PPP but I believe that such a situation means only one thing: media is striving it’s best at either derailing the democracy or else is playing at the whim of other political players who already are in the good books of SC judges. Either way, the pieces fit.
Coming back to the column I read today, the great writer suggested that army and judiciary should join hands in order to bring the corrupt politicians to justice. This is just too much! The guy, in other words, is simply telling army to help judiciary destroy the democratic structure since his ‘suggestion’ entirely rules out the inclusion of parliament in the picture. It’s flabbergasting how openly these columnists are proposing such outrageous possibilities.
And let me show what the connotation is: the connotation is that SC is making such statements as this where it suggests the government to take the aid of eunuchs to pressurize corrupt personnel. I mean…what the hell! Where is it all going! How can a sane person even suggest that – and not to forget, SC’s suggestion was a ‘serious’ one, not one made in humor. And to top that, Geo was pretty quick in launching an interview of Bobby Almas, citing her ‘special strategy’ she’d launch to carry out SC’s suggestion.
So the point I am making is: with the unlimited support of a deeply biased and very immature media, SC is on the way of making controversial decisions, which may (let’s hope it doesn’t) at one hand, compromise SC’s own credibility, and at the other, damage the democratic structure irreparably, thus giving army another excuse to intervene. And considering the current security crises we are going through, I believe now would be the most unfeasible time for such a happening.
October 24, 2009 § 6 Comments
There has been a lot of ranting, lately, over the famed Kerry Lugar Bill passed by the US congress about the aid package to Pakistan. As usual, Pakistani politicians and masses took to protest and retaliations over the bill, because of the usual silly argument of the bill being from US. Most of those ranting loud claims of the bill’s connotations and it’s inevitable implications are the ones who haven’t yet even read the bill in it’s totality – and well….that makes about 90 percent of the total opponents of this bill.
It’s a commonly observable phenomenon in this society of ours that the top 10 percent that’s bestowed with the bite in the governmental cake, even when entirely undeserving of being a parliamentarian or a senator, usually are entirely incapable of intellectual dealing with issues of vital national and international importance. This becomes manifest times and over again at several instances when these suit-clad ignorants try to play their usual rhetoric towards something which totally lacks the capacity to contain such a dimension – and the result is that they form opinions and make decisions without the slightest trace of conscience of the issue at hand and this ignorance persists throughout the tackling of it – even after it’s being implemented.
And what to say of the masses. They are the rest of the 80 percent deaf and dumb beings who are played with by the earlier cited 20 percent. They are like a disoriented group of humans each of whom clings to what seems the most attractive on the surface – some move on to the Shareef group, impressed by Shahbaz’s rhetoric and his short-term, ill-planned reforms. Other take to JI’s stance, fooled like always through the popular religious sentiment which JI has been cashing in since ever.
Coming over the issue at hand, namely Kerry Lugar Bill, it all stands pretty true. The latest in the series is JI’s so-called referendum against the bill. After Juma prayers, I was able to snatch a peek at the poll JI had installed in front of the mosque for the purpose. And not surprisingly, it were only the turban-clad, bearded madressah students voting a ‘namanzoor (unaccepted)’ for the bill. And one can be pretty sure not a single one of them would have actually read the bill. Let them alone, the higher-ups of JI, ranting incessantly against the bill’s anti-Pakistani undertones seem barely to have read the bill(from the nature of their objections). Even our parliamentarians are quite unaware of the exact clauses of the bill, hunching wildly in favor or against it – and that pretty much hints at their methods of opining and decision-making.
Now here’s to some popular myths about the bill, as received through frequent msgs on my mobile for the last few days:
1 – Army will not interfere in politics:
Well…that’s true – the bill asks for a mechanism to keep army at bay – at barracks, to be exact. But is that not exactly what we want? I am quite unable to grasp why would a sane being even object to it!
2 – Army’s major postings will be approved by US:
BULLSHIT! I wonder what sort of idiotic morons make those rumors – but then again, in a nation where Christian towns are burnt to ashes over a tiny, false rumor, it is understandable why people give space to such lameness. Well…..as a matter of fact, there’s no such clause in the whole bill. The bill only asks for the army postings to be done by the civilian government, as is done in all democracies around the globe and as is very desirable in our country too.
3 – There will be no restrictions to US citizens(black water) in Pakistan.
Again, nonsense. There’s absolutely no clause in the bill that asks for such a thing. All anti-terrorism operations within Pakistan are not even to be co-ordinated together with any US force or personnel. Within Pakistan, Pak army is to tackle all security issues.
4 – There will be access of US to any person related to nuclear energy. (A Q Khan)
The bill, in it’s connotations, only implies that US will keep an eye out for the possible occurrence of a nuclear proliferation from our end and if so happens, will cut short the aid package, stopping the immediate next installment.
5 – Aid will be given to persons, not Pakistani government.
Persons is an intended replacement for non-governmental organizations that the actual aid package talks about.
“PREFERENCE FOR BUILDING LOCAL CAPACITY— The President is encouraged, as appropriate, to utilize Pakistani firms and community and local nongovernmental organizations in Pakistan, including through host country contacts, and to work with local leaders to provide assistance under this section”
That’s precisely the original statement. However, the aid is still to be doled out to the government when it’d have been far better off in the hands of standard, well-reputed NGOs working here, considering the corrupt reputation of the current government. Nevertheless, the myth is a mere rumor, albeit sadly so.
6 – ISI will be under American joint of chief staff.
Now that’s the most hilarious one. I am, literally, quite baffled at the creativity of the original creators of these rumors.
Having done with that, I’d say that there’s nothing wrong with the bill, really, when considering it in it’s entirety. True, the language of the bill is somewhat commanding and hence rude, but then again, it’s us who need the money – and beggars don’t complain. Those whining over the language actually need to complain against accepting aids and taking yet another temporary opium injection for our crumbling economy, for that’s what all the recent aid had been. No long-term planning is done through this aid package and it’s one half vanishes with the governmental affairs and accounts (no wonder – we boast of having, afterall, the largest cabinet) and the other half never makes it to the actual reforms it is intended for.
The only thing about the bill that’s unacceptable to our masses is that it’s straight-forward. There are two ways of saying ‘aid us in Afghanistan’ – one is by asking Pakistan for being an ally in Afghan fiasco- and the other is to ask Pak army to protect US operations in Afghanistan by taking care of this side of the border. That’s what the bill does and that’s where our false patriotisms are stirred. So much for this pretense!
Therefore, the sentimental gibberish of the so-called patriots with their falsely-inflated patriotism which’s actually a miscolored ignorance over the bill-issue, needs to rest! They have absolutely no idea about what they are talking about, and unless they do, to engage in a debate with them is nothing but like stooping to the level of a stupid to prove him wrong – which, in turn, only results in one being defied for they are far more experts at being stupid.
What’s more, without accepting this aid package, we are left in an economic crisis where we have yet again to get a hefty loan from IMF which, obviously, we then have to return with the interest – which means another strain on our economy for the decades to come. I guess accepting this aid package, then, wins out to be a far better package especially when it doesn’t ask of the government to increase electricity charges and petrol charges, as opposed to IMF’s conditions.
September 17, 2009 § 6 Comments
August 30, 2009 § 2 Comments
Few days ago, an ex-army man involved in the alleged massacre of MQM personnel back in 90s came to the media limelight, exposing many grand so-called secrets and making many loud-mouthed claims.
Let’s take a logical view of this fresh saga of political intrigue sending ripples through Pakistan’s politics. At a time when PML N is actively pursuing the case of Musharraf’s trial, a ghost from the pages of past comes out. Having being lost to anonymity previously, he walks over to the media, make some very controversial statements and bingo! He’s all over news, in every talk-show and the subject of every heated political discussion.
Now we shall deal with each of the pertinent points of this episode.
First, we shall see who are the immediat beneficiaries of the claimed clandestinal revelations from Brigadier Imatiaz. As is obvious, the guy went out of the way to praise Altaf Bhai and his party and to acquit him and his party of all charges whatsoever, purging them of all the follies committed and trying to devise a newer outfit for them – pure as a new-born.
Next, it totally moved the centre of attention from Musharraf’s trial to other issues, in fact non-issues if I may, since no proof whatsoever was produced to substantiate the claims which were made. Nonetheless, that did divert the focus from Musharraf’s trying to incidents of past, sparking anew a controversy involving Nawaz Sharif, ISI and many other political powerhouses.
The question, which is of vital importance in the case, is that how much truth is their in this guy’s say. One may well be amused to learn that the guy hasn’t produced any proof whatsoever which shall conform to all the accusations he’s been hurling on many people over the last few days – in fact, the way he proves things are by giving excerpts from books written by ex-army men or wives of former politicians. Seriously, how pathetic could he get?!
What’s more, while the talk of minus-one hadn’t faded yet, with it’s effects discernable already in the talks of the possibility of army intervention yet again, this guy’s allegations, resounded so loudly with the help of our clueless media, are a bid to attack the main brokers of the current political system, thus posing an immediate threat to both the credibility and sustainability of the the present elected government.
Another dimension to the whole thing is our media’s role. Our media simply seems to be on a audience-minting spree. It’s shameful on the part of our channels, above all Geo and ARY and the likes, who tend to heed more than they should to the rants which prove nothing anyway. In a bid to maintain the aura of suspense and keep an immature, mostly ignorant audience hooked to these stunts, these pathetic media channels have brought Brigadier Imtiaz just the limelight he needed. And so, the guy gets a grand fame within a few days, thanks to a few controversial statements and our bloody media outlets.
Finally, while I am not among the fandom of the much-criticized Hamid Gul, I would certainly find him credible enough when citing the opinion that ISI officals can not at all be tried for the wrongs they’ve done. ISI had been and still is, being exploited by the players of the political arena, usually contemporary governments and it’s those governments and not the ISI heads who’d be tried for the follies committed.
Lastly, I’ve a few simply queries to this issue: where was this patriot for the past 20-something years? Why did he pop out just now out of nowhere and made it big? If, according to his own admission, he has been offering bags of money to politicians, can the possibility that he himself accepted a few today and started speaking what he was made to, ruled out? Certainly not, if I may.
August 30, 2009 § 4 Comments
Recently, it’s been alleged that a private security contractor company, Blackwater, is to deploy some thousand of it’s troops at Pakistan. While many rendered that a conspiracy theory and both Pakistani government and the US embassy denied that, that’s precisely how the lending of Pakistani air bases to US planes was dealt with, which did indeed turn out to be a reality. And so, I tend to be really skeptical over it.
What’s most startling to know is that Blackwater, the largest contractor company among other private security contractor companies deployed at Iraq and Afghanistan, isn’t under the direct command of US army and acts by it’s own rules, having a rather notorious record of frequent human rights voilations.
A former employ of the company, in his declaration to a court in Virginia citing company’s involvement in murders and unlawful activities within US, alleged that Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.”
The related article could be find on the following link:
Below is the video of a US journalist who’s been actively pursuing the charges against Blackwater and has been persistenly voicing his concerns over the company. However, from the response that his research generates from other media personnel, it seems US media barely considers that an important enough an issue and even if so, wants to hush up over it, considering it rather funny that Blackwater, without the jurisdiction of US constitution or the authority of military command, is out there to hunt Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.