Monthly Archives: December 2008

Book Review: Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

Picture right below Bashart Peer

lal-chowk-srinagar-oct-6American author and academic Alastair Lamb wrote of the Kashmir dispute as “incomplete partition”.  He wrote that had it not been for the Kashmir dispute, Pakistan and India might have worked out their differences and existed as two prosperous nations “evolving towards each other” –which was the stated objective of partition in the first place- instead of away from each other. The cleavage instead has widened and Kashmir remains etched in the consciousness of Indians and Pakistanis – both anxious to claim it to complete themselves.  So  Basharat Peer’s memoir epitomizes the effect of this incompleteness that both Indians and Pakistanis have brought to bear on the lives of hapless Kashmiris.
“Curfewed Night” is a chronicle from the eyes of a Kashmiri growing up in the valley and watching it transform into a hotbed of violent militancy pitted against state oppression. It is also about a people unwilling to lose their identity. What is it about identity anyway that causes people to sacrifice their future in its name?  Identity is the most powerful mobilizing force in history.  But what happens when identity gets into a perpetual conflict with those who wish to crush it?   Does identity dissipate?  Kashmir has been ill-served by India, by Pakistan, by the militants and by its own politicians who have failed to work out a compromise.  It has turned the serene valley into the bloodied nose of Asia. Continue reading


Filed under Books, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Reviews, south asia, violence

Dark forces still potent year after Bhutto’s slaying

ISLAMABAD — A year after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Pakistan is still struggling to embed democracy and battle Islamic extremism, the causes for which she died.

The same dark forces that appear to have killed Ms. Bhutto on this day last year – Islamic extremist groups based in Pakistan – seem to be behind the carnage in Mumbai last month, an event that pushed Pakistan into an even deeper crisis.

Tensions between Pakistan and India, which blames “elements from Pakistan” for the Mumbai attack, escalated sharply yesterday after Pakistani military officials said that troops had been “pulled back” from the Western border with Afghanistan. Unconfirmed reports said that thousands of troops had been redeployed to the border with India in what would be the first concrete sign that either side was preparing for conflict.

For Ms. Bhutto’s admirers, and for many other Pakistanis, the issue that rankles most on the first anniversary of her murder is the apparent lack of any investigation into who killed her, despite the fact that her own Pakistan Peoples Party was elected into government 10 months ago. This omission says much about the state of the country.

“The investigation of the [Bhutto] murder has remained suspended by fear of facing the demons within Pakistan’s body politic,” said Raza Rumi, a newspaper columnist. “She alarmed those who didn’t want a secular, civilian country. The unravelling of Pakistan can be dated as starting from her death.” Continue reading


Filed under Pakistan

A Sonnet

by Saad Sultan

For my mouth being long by silence tied

I would in unquestioning blindness blame

My guiltless eyes, for in your heart they spied

No flicker breath’s blow could kindle aflame. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under poetry

Remembering Bibi

by Raza Rumi

It was only yesterday that we were mourning for the loss of an icon of our times. The much loved, and passionately hated Benazir Bhutto whose tragic murder in broad daylight was the greatest metaphor of what Pakistan has turned into: a jungle of history, ethnicity and extremism. Little wonder that Bhutto’s worst enemies cried and lamented the loss of a federal politician whose life and times were as unique as her name. The populist slogan – charon soobon ki zanjeer (the chain of the four provinces, literally) could not have been truer than the most tested of axioms. As if her death were not enough, the state response was even more brutal. Why did she participate in public rallies? On that fateful day of December 27, 2007, why did she invite death by sticking her neck out – literally and metaphorically? This was tragedy compounded by invective and betrayal. After all, had she not received a tacit understanding from the then military President, General Pervez Musharraf?

The official machinery then went to work in a super-efficient frenzy. Within hours, the murder scene had been washed away, right opposite the Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi where Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was also shot dead. If anything history repeated itself with a bang – only to restate that Pakistani Prime Ministers are dispensable accessories of the power game. The misogynistic thirst for blood-letting once quenched, patriarchy dictated that the autopsy of a woman became an issue of honour, confusion and violation of the law. How telling, that the laws of the land remain subservient to the imperatives of culture and tradition. Continue reading


Filed under Benazir Bhutto, Democracy, dynasties, Media, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Sindh, south asia, state, Terrorism, violence

ye jo karbala, is baar barpa ki gai..

Wajid Ali Syed’s touching poem

ye jo karbala, is baar barpa ki gai..
vo karbala jo hum ney apni ankhon sey dekhii…
jismey Hussein ki bajayee is baar
Zenab shaheed hui..
us karbala per bayn karney waly..
kisi kandhey key mutlashii rahey..
aur koi qalam TooTtney per..
marsia bhi na keh saka…


Filed under Pakistan

Volumes of praise

For someone who writes introductions for respected literati’s books, Khalid Hasan himself needs no introduction

By Saad Sarfraz Sheikh

Born in Srinagar, Khalid Hasan is a senior Pakistani journalist and writer. His journalistic legacy and proficiency as a writer began with The Pakistan Times as senior reporter and columnist in 1967. Upon Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s request, he had the prestigious honour of becoming his first press secretary. He held the additional honour of postings in Paris, Ottawa and London for five years in the country’s Foreign Service.

Khalid Hasan resigned in protest when Bhutto’s government was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq. Disappointed, he shifted to London and worked with the Third World Foundation and the Third World Media. Then he joined the newly-established OPEC News Agency (OPECNA) in Vienna, Austria, where he stayed for 10 years. He returned to a different Pakistan briefly in 1991 where he worked as a freelance journalist for the next two years. His prolific journey continued as he returned to Washington in 2000 as special correspondent of the Associated Press of Pakistan, which he left to join the Daily Times and The Friday Times, Lahore in 2002. He continues to work as a special Washington correspondent and columnist of these two publications. * Continue reading


Filed under Pakistan

NWFP policy needs a paradigm shift

by Manzoor Ali Shah

When Lord Curzon took over as the Viceroy of India in 1899, the British were trying to recover from the affects of 1897 rebellion in northwestern parts of India, that beginning from Malakand took the most parts of the tribal areas in its spiral. Around 10,000 British forces were deployed in Khyber, Waziristan and Malakand areas at the time of his arrival. Lord Curzon in 1901 created a new province by the name of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) from areas lying west of Indus under the policy known as ‘Withdrawal and Concentration.’

The British first interaction with the Frontier came when Monstuart Elphinstone visited the area in 1809 and his ‘ An Account of Kingdom of Kabul’ was first British account of this area, which was gaining importance due to ‘Alarmist Policy’ followed by Britain due to Czarist expansion in Central Asia.

Following his visit the region potential as a trade corridor to Central Asian states came to limelight and under ‘Meddling Policy’ Alexander Burnes was sent to Kabul on a mission in 1832 and the British interference in the Afghan affairs culminated in First Anglo-Afghan war of 1839-42. Continue reading


Filed under North-West Frontier Province, public policy, Terrorism, violence