Monthly Archives: December 2009

Tender Tea House

From Partition onward, Nasir Khan writes, a dusty cafe was the centre of Lahore’s literary life.

Pak Tea House sits on Mall Road in Old Anarkali, nestled between tyre suppliers and motorcycle workshops.

Before Partition it was the India Tea House, but 1947 and a quick paint job changed that. No one knows why it became – along with several similar shops on the same street – a favourite haunt of so many intellectuals. Maybe it was the cheap but good milky tea, or the extra-sweet biscuits. Perhaps it was the literary sensibility of the first post-Partition owners, two brothers from India. It might have been the radio on the counter that was constantly tuned to Lahore’s call-in request programme. And, for scores of struggling writers and poets, the availability of food on credit certainly had something to do with it. Continue reading


Filed under culture, Heritage, History, Lahore, Pak Tea House, Pakistan

Pakistan: A Failure of Intellectuals

 BY AZHAR ASLAM AND SHERMEEN BANO (Cross-post from Vision21)

Every Identity has a history and so does that of Pakistan. It is short but tumultuous, although some say it was born with the conversion or settlement of the first Muslim in India. In truly modern sense though India was only itself born, when British firmly established their rule from Afghanistan to Burma, by 1890s. In the process of doing this however, they sowed the seed of national consciousness in the minds of Indians. British influence moulded Indian nationalism by omissions and commissions. However it inevitably also laid the seed of communalism, as different regions and nationalities in the sub continental melting pot, woke up to the British rule and demanded their rights.

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Filed under Democracy, Identity, India, Islamabad, Islamism, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Justice, Literature, Partition, Philosophy, Politics, public policy, Religion, Rights, Writers

Democracy Is The Greatest Revenge

By Asif Ali Zardari (writing in the Wall Street Journal)

Two years ago the world stopped for me and for my children. Pakistan was shaken to its core and all but came apart. Women everywhere lost one of their greatest symbols of equality. And Islam, our great religion, lost its modern face.

On Dec. 27, 2007, my wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated. She was the bravest person I have ever known, and the second anniversary of her death is an appropriate occasion to reflect upon what she achieved for our country, and how her legacy must be preserved against those who would return Pakistan to darkness. Twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir had an immense impact. She stood up and defeated the forces of military dictatorship. She freed all political prisoners. She ended press censorship. She legalized trade and student unions, built 46,000 primary and secondary schools and appointed the first female judges in our history. And she showed the women of Pakistan and the world that they must accept no limits on their ability and opportunity to learn, to grow and to lead in modern society.

The target of two assassination attempts by Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, Benazir repeatedly warned a skeptical world of the impending danger from extremists and militants. In her last campaign—even on the very day of her death, by the hands of such extremists—she mobilized and rallied the people of Pakistan against the terrorist threat.  Benazir’s murderers didn’t kill her dreams. On the day we buried her, even as her supporters cried out for revenge, we reminded our party and country that, in her own words, “democracy is the greatest revenge.”

And then we led the Pakistan People’s Party to victory in the elections. Since then, fulfilling the electoral manifesto she wrote, the nation’s economy, which had been left in shambles by the priorities of a decade of dictatorship, has been stabilized and revitalized. Food shortages have ended. Power shortages have diminished. We have adopted a national curriculum for the first time in history to challenge the spread of political madrassas. Constitutional reforms are being finalized which will rid Pakistan of the undemocratic provisions inserted by military dictators that expanded the power of the presidency at the expense of parliament. Benazir Bhutto died confronting the forces of tyranny and terrorism, and Pakistan remains committed to the struggle that she led. We have reclaimed Swat and Malakand from the militants and rehabilitated the displaced persons back into their homes.

 We have taken the fight against militants to other areas, including South Waziristan in our Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and to our major cities, and we will win this war against them. We will not let militants violently impose their political agenda on the people. Political ownership of the war against terrorism rests with the people of Pakistan for the first time. We are in the front trenches of this war while the community of nations stands with us. Much has been accomplished, but it has not been easy for my nation, for my party or for my family. The forces in Pakistan that have resisted change, modernity and democracy for 30 years still attempt to derail progress. Some of these forces who were allied with dictatorship in the past now hope that the judicial process can undo the will of a democratic electorate and destabilize the country.

A litany of ancient charges of corruption—the modus operandi of past plots against every democratically elected government in Pakistan—now threatens to undermine the legitimacy of our government. Those that will not stand with us against terrorism stand against us in the media. I have spent almost 12 years in prison on trumped up charges never proven, even by a court system manipulated by dictators and despots. But like Benazir, I refuse to be intimidated. So let the legal process move forward. Those of us who have fought for democracy against dictatorship for decades do not fear justice; we embrace it. My ministers, my party, leaders of other parties and thousands of civil servants across our nation will defend themselves in the courts if necessary.

Democracy has come a long way in Pakistan, and the People’s Party has always been at the vanguard of the fight. In 1979 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir’s father and the elected prime minister of Pakistan was executed under a smokescreen that history now characterizes as a judicial murder. Two decades later Benazir was indicted on fabricated charges on the orders of her political enemies then in power. When tape recordings of these government officials ordering the courts to fabricate evidence and false witness against Benazir were made public, these trumped-up charges were dismissed. Those of us who have been victims of dictatorship in the past believe in the rule of law and have faith in the judicial process. We believe, in the words of my wife, that “time, justice and the forces of history are on our side.” We have not come this far in our democratic struggle to fail. In this struggle, I am inspired by my father-in-law, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who said that he “would rather die at the hands of dictators than be killed by history.”

Mr. Zardari is president of Pakistan.


Filed under Pakistan

“Monster MQM”

[This is another contribution by Bilal Qureshi (see here for Bilal’s previous piece on the NRO). We are pleased to publish it since we believe it is important to continue the debate. We do not necessarily subscribe to the author’s views – PTH]

By Bilal Qureshi

   © The Nation, Pakistan

There are times when I am tempted to accept Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) as a genuine political party. However, thankfully, I come to my senses as soon as MQM attempts one of those fascist maneuvers that have become synonymous with MQM. If anyone pays close attention, it is not difficult to see a pattern with MQM. Continue reading


Filed under Democracy, Justice, Law, Pakistan, Politics

NRO Debate Continues …

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

Duniya ki tareekh gawah hai,  adl bina jamhoor na hoga  

History bears witness,  there shall be no republic (democracy) without justice

-From Aitzaz Ahsan’s Poem “Kal, Aaj Aur Kal” – the anthem of Pakistan’s Lawyers’ Movement.  

“I am for the Law.  We wish for a republic of laws.”   John Adams- one of the founding fathers of the United States of America.

 “The first observation that I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.”   Mahomed Ali Jinnah- our Quaid-e-Azam.

The decision on NRO was a historic one.   Based on the short order, however, a reasonable apprehension exists that by invoking articles 62-f and 227,  the Court has effectively brought into play dormant Islam-inspired clauses which shall further strengthen rightwing in Pakistan.   This apprehension is obviously not without merit.   Articles 4, 8 and 25 – 8 and 25 being fundamental rights which according to constitutional theory are supreme-  were much stronger clauses and the court did well to invoke these but this is where the court should have stopped.  Ofcourse this is entirely a conjecture without the detailed judgment.   That said the important thing is that the NRO has been reversed and it has strengthened democracy whether nay-sayers accept it or not.  The people need to see that the system works and punishes crooks no matter how powerful they are.  And there is no doubt that the Supreme Court should also take to task those holy cows that have run amok in the country but that will also happen in good time.   Continue reading


Filed under Jinnah's Pakistan, Justice, Pakistan

A Remembrance of Benazir Bhutto

By Mark Siegel

For those of us who knew and loved Benazir Bhutto, not just as a great political leader but as an irreplaceable friend, the days between Christmas and New Years can never ring with joyous holiday spirit and celebration. December 27th is a dreaded day on the caledar of the people of Pakistan, democrats all around the world, and the family and friends of Benazir Bhutto. It is a day of remembrance, reflection, and inevitable thinking of what could have been had she lived to govern Paksistan once again.

To so many she was an icon but to me she was a friend, a colleague, an intellectual sparring partner, an aunt to my children and a soul mate to my wife. On top of all the great things that she had done, and the endless possiblities of what she could have accomplished had she lived, I genuinely miss her on a personal level. Continue reading


Filed under Benazir Bhutto

Change of Guard At Jinnah’s Mausoleum On His Birthday

No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of their houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our women have to live.– Mohammad Ali Jinnah 1944

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Filed under Jinnah's Pakistan, Women