Daily Archives: August 26, 2009

Salaam Pakhtunkhwa

Haligoli, (2001), a miniature by Saira Wasim – collection of
Robert Roder

Peshawar, a city destroyed
by terrorism

IDPs returning to their homes

Wherever I went to eat, there was a meat-fest in waiting. There comes a time in life when you want to give up meat forever and that moment arrived on a dark, load-shedded night in Peshawar

Raza Rumi
My recent weeks have been consumed by travels to the capital and to the grim frontiers of Paktunkhwa. As part of an unwieldy team undertaking a survey of the wretched internally displaced persons returning to their homes, I was in and out of Peshawar several times. Other than encountering the depressing stories of a people trapped by their history and geopolitics one had to struggle for a vegetarian meal in good old Peshawar. Wherever I went to eat, there was a meat-fest in waiting. There comes a time in life when you want to give up meat forever and that moment arrived on a dark, load-shedded night in a cloistered guest-house reeking of cigarette-smoke and untreated sewage. Thank God for my friend Ahsan, who like a good comrade humoured me and regurgitated the lessons of being patient and calm. I must not complain too much for I’m not an ungrateful wretch. There are many in the subcontinent who cannot even afford a basic meal, let alone pleasures of the flesh. But there has to be a limit to the carnivorous instinct that we are so given to in the Land of the Pure, Purists and Puritans.

As if a non-vegetarian diet was not enough, the scare of being smoked out by the Al-Qaeda goons was even more disturbing, dare I say, indigestible. A happy-go-lucky and overly-healthy host, as he drove us into the by-lanes of the old Peshawar that must have been beautiful once, gregariously referred to all the sites where bombs had erupted were a little disturbing. Not that I am scared of dangerous places, for I have braved a post-war Kosovo with a fair measure of bravado. But the hysterical “outsiders” ranting about how insecure we were in Peshawar was a little dampening for a Lahori soul. We do live in interesting times, made even more interesting by naïve security experts and people fed on Western media reporting on Pakistan being a truly dangerous pit-hole of the world. Sometimes the propaganda war does conquer your senses, I must confess.

So we visited the camps where thousands had been packed like sardines and where women recounted stories of bereavement and heavy-duty terror-mongering by the good Taliban as we are told that there is a clear distinction between the good and the bad Taliban. Now if the good Taliban, referred to as “patriots” not long ago, are such barbarians, I shudder to think what the bad Taliban might be like. The children at these camps were suffering even more. The heat could be unbearable and drinking water was not always available. And to top it all, recreation and education were non-existent. But all of this is well-known and I see no point in re-hashing what has already been told umpteen times.

What I can safely say after a first-hand encounter with the affectees is that we are an unkind, cruel society and are unable to provide citizen rights equally and without discrimination. Most provinces and their rhetorical leaders refused to give shelter to these unfortunate victims. This is why my visits have been an eye-opener about the sheer beauty of the traditional Pakhtun culture. The host families, regardless of their limited means and trying conditions, did not raise an eyebrow when they had to take care of the IDPs. More importantly, the displaced people themselves had such a remarkable understanding of what is going on in the Frontier and its neighbouring country, i.e. Afghanistan. They bore the scars and dealt with the wounds with immense grace and perseverance. True heroes, I’d say. Continue reading

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Filed under North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Peshawar

Dividing India To Save It

This is an article from an Indian Muslim writer  in response to Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah which poses some very interesting questions regarding partition and the role of Nehru and Patel in it.  Should make for interesting debate for scholars of partition on PakTeaHouse-YLH
By M J Akbar_775267_jinnah300
Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah has certainly provoked much ado about something, but what is that something? Would this biography have made news if the author had not been a senior leader of the BJP?

 The world of books requires some chintan, but fortunately no chintan baithak. Who or what, then, is the story: Jinnah or the BJP? The two are not entirely unrelated, for the BJP was formed as a direct consequence of the creation of Pakistan. The umbilical cord still sends spasms up its central nerve.

Two questions frame the Jaswant-Jinnah controversy. Was Jinnah secular? Do Nehru and Patel share the “guilt” for Partition? Continue reading

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Filed under History, India, Jinnah, Pakistan, Partition

Indian Supreme Court orders deportation of Pak detenus

This is a welcome decision – a little late but right for sure. About time that both the states resolved such issues that affect common citizens and those accused unfairly of sabotage. Raza Rumi

The NEWS reports today – NEW DELHI: A division bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising JJ Altmas Kabir and VS Sirpurkar on Tuesday directed the Union of India to complete the process of deportation of Pakistani prisoners who have completed their respective sentences and are still held in various jails. The Supreme Court asked the Union of India and the State government to provide a status report on the detention of Mohammad Shafiq Malik of Faisalabad, Pakistan, presently held in the Central Jail of Jodhpur, who was acquitted of all charges framed by the government of Jammu and Continue reading

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Filed under India, Justice