Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Wahhabisation of Pakistan

* Manan Ahmed published in the guardian.co.uk,
* Friday June 27, 2008

The migration of thousands of Pakistani men to Gulf states since the 1970s has had a huge impact on the character of the country

“Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections”, concluded Carlotta Gall in the New York Times on June 24. Just two days later, comes news that “Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban” has killed 22 members of an intermediary peace committee between the State of Pakistan and Mehsud. I guess there are some leaders in Pakistan, after all. Pakistan’s “Talibanisation” in the northwestern rural regions and the stalled lawyer’s movement in the major cities appear, at first glance, to reflect a deep chasm within Pakistani society. This division, if one should call it anything, is routinely understood as a manifestation of moderate v extreme Islam. But that raises the question of why it manifests itself along rural/urban, and class lines.

Extremist ideology, as we have learned in the last 8 years, is just as prone to attract highly-educated members of the professional class as unemployed, frustrated youth. We have to delve deeper into Pakistan’s recent past if we are to understand the crisis it faces at the present. Sub-continental history is dotted with intermittent mass movement of people – usually triggered by famine, war or worse – replete with attendant tales of distress and misery. In my reckoning, the early 1970s saw the another key migration that has so far received little analysis. It involved vast numbers of men from the rural and semi-urban parts of Pakistan moving to the emerging oil-based oligarchies in the Gulf. Continue reading

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Filed under Islam, Islamism, Pakistan, Religion, Terrorism

Struggling to dance

By Beena Sarwar

An evening of classical dance at the Arts Council Auditorium, Karachi
was a moving tribute to young, upcoming dancers — and most of all,
to Sheema Kermani

Sheema Kermani shines through her students. At an evening of
classical dance in Karachi on May 24, she performed and showcased the
work of sixteen students, ranging from newcomers to experienced
dancers. The end of the over-two hour long ‘Jugalbandi’ that
juxtaposed dance styles on one platform, drew sustained applause and
a standing ovation from much of the audience filling the Arts Council
Auditorium to its 500-strong capacity. It was a moving tribute to
young, upcoming dancers — and most of all, to Sheema Kirmani for her
lifelong dedication as a teacher, creativity as a choreographer and
as a dancer herself. Continue reading

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Filed under culture, Dance, Society

Civil Service Is No Longer An Alluring Career for Pakistan’s youth

Raza Rumi

A little news item that appeared a few weeks ago was ignored by our all-knowing analysts and TV channels. Reportedly, the Federal Public Service Commission failed to recruit all the vacancies that were advertised for the CSS competitive examination held in 2007. Out of 290 available posts, the number of successful candidates in the 2007 CSS competition was merely 190, leaving almost 100 vacancies unoccupied.

In the photo above Founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah is seen talking to Pakistani Civil Servants (circa 1947)

Last year, too, the government could not get enough number of successful CSS candidates to fill in the available posts and 47 vacancies could not be filled. Such instances have occurred before but given the state of unemployment this is, to put it mildly, shocking.

The truth of the matter is that entering the civil service is no longer an alluring career option for the talented young men and women of this country. Perhaps, the greatest damage to the attractiveness of the civil service came in the wake of the devolution plan that rendered the most coveted service group — District Management Group – unpalatable. Within days, the district administrators had no prescribed career-paths and that they had to be subservient to small time political cronies of the central political elites.

But this would be too simplistic an explanation. The last decade has also witnessed Pakistan’s fitful integration into the global economy resulting in expansion of private sector opportunities with higher salaries. The remuneration of a new entrant into the civil service is three times less than what a telecom company would pay to its junior employee. With money as a new god in the age of globalisation, choosing a dysfunctional civil service would make little sense. Continue reading

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The legend of Kasu Ma sati in Pakistan’s Sindh

Kasu Ma is said to have immolated herself in the 18th century, after her son died in battle. She took on what was traditionally a wife’s duty because her daughter-in-law refused to die on the pyre – a bad omen which Kasu Ma hoped to negate with her own death

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro

An elderly woman leaned against the pillar of Kasu Ma sati, her head bowed down in prayer, oblivious to her surroundings. As I approached her, thinking to ask about the sati, she turned around and signalled for me to sit down. Her name was Shani Bai, she told me, and she was a member of the Meghwar community and a devout devotee of Kasu Ma sati. She had come to the shrine, in Sindh’s Mithi district, from the nearby town of Chelhar to pay homage.

Sati is a funeral rite, practiced by some Hindus, in which a recent widow immolates herself on her late husband’s funeral pyre; the term can also refer to the widow herself. The ritual is named after the goddess Sati, who, according to Hindu mythology, burned herself to death after her father insulted her husband, the god Shiva. Although strict proscriptions against the rite now exist, sati dates as far back as the fifth century, if not earlier, and was practiced regularly in parts of India until the 20th century. Even today, sati veneration is widespread throughout the Sindhi district of Tharparkar, where nearly every village has a memorial stone commemorating a sati.

As she sat in front of the shrine, Shani Bai told me she paid her respects to Kasu Ma whenever there was a problem in the family – and she is hardly alone. Many women of her community visit the shrine of Kasu Ma regularly in hopes of finding solutions to their worries and travails. During the annual mela, almost every caste of Hindus swarm to the shrine, where Maganhars, who have traditionally provided musical services, sing bhajan (devotional songs) and chhands (folk poetry) in honour of the sati. Continue reading

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Travels to Pakistan – A Jeddah-based journalist’s account

Pak Tea House is grateful for this contribution from Tariq Al-Maeena a journalist based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – his account of travels in Pakistan is engaging. We are publishing the first three parts on his impressions of Islamabad, political intrigues of the Capital and his sojourn to Murree. The interesting bits are his comparisons with Saudi Arabia where Pakistan is viewed as a poor country. The remaining parts will be published later.  (Raza Rumi)
 
Pakistan Re-Visited – (1)
Islamabad
 
When the invitation came in from the Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah to visit Pakistan as part of a media delegation for the purpose of acquainting ourselves with that country, I had no moment of hesitation in accepting their gracious offer.  This in spite of my family’s vocal concerns about my personal safety, with pre-election violence that had plagued that country still fresh in their minds. 
 
I had been to Pakistan before, albeit the city of Karachi only and that was thirty years ago.  This trip would afford me the opportunity to visit several cities in Pakistan for the first time and my excitement at exploring new adventures knew no bounds and there was no stopping me.
 
It was PIA, the national airline that we boarded one night for our flight to Islamabad.  Along with me was the rest of the media delegation: Tariq Mishkhas, managing editor from Urdu News, Nasser Habtar, Al-Watan newspaper bureau chief in Abha, and Mohammed Yousuf, Arab News correspondent. Continue reading

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Filed under Islamabad, musings, Pakistan, Travel, Writers

All Yours Now

Bring you will “the revolution” they said,
As my young soul stared into its existence,
From those tables where they all ate,
Fruits, knowledge and fear of unknown
Raise yourself, you have learnt enough
Our voices will be there, always
Unfold your arms, don’t remain silent
The old desks, heavy in their burden
As my old friends let me disappear
From their world of magic and wisdom Continue reading

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Filed under Citizens, Democracy, History, Pakistan, poetry, Politics, Society, Writers

Karachi calling – Mohammad Hanif

posted by Raza Rumi

When novelist Mohammed Hanif told friends he was returning to Pakistan after 12 years in Britain, they were aghast. Why would he and his young family swap London for a city with daily power cuts and rampant gun crime? The answer proved surprisingly simple …

  • Mohammed Hanif writing for The Guardian (Tuesday June 24, 2008)
Mohammed Hanif

Twelve years ago, I arrived in London from Karachi with eight suitcases, a new wife and a three-year job contract. Before leaving for London, we had put our books, furniture and even some of our kitchen utensils at our relatives’ houses. When I told my friends and family that we would be back after exactly three years, they gave us a knowing smile and encouraged us to sell that sofa instead of putting it in their store room.

Two months from now, we are planning to return to Karachi with a container full of furniture, more pots and pans than we left behind and a 10-year-old son. Friends and family in Pakistan are aghast. From London to Karachi? Why are you coming to Karachi? Do you know what happened to Sana’s friend the other day? Do you have any idea how you’ll live without electricity for 10 hours every day? And, by the way, have you discussed this with Channan? How does he feel about it? Continue reading

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Filed under Books, Karachi, New Writers