Monthly Archives: September 2010

An insane message

Bilal Qureshi

According to the New York Times, Pakistan’s military is maneuvering to remove the current government. This, according to the paper, is because of corruption and lack of proper response to the flood.

What is missing from the report is that once this government is gone, angels and superheroes are going to takeover and they will change everything wrong with Pakistan, overnight.

The world has seen this before, but I suspect that people in Pakistan like this game of throwing out democratic governments and bringing in old, tried, and tired hands with this hope that somehow, magically, things will change and yes, improve, even though, history begs to differ.

No point in repeating that the current government has been perpetually dealt with crisis right after Musharaff and his cronies left the country without any food, water and money. What Musharaff and his gang did leave behind were multiple disasters in the shape of terrorism, charged up lawyers movement, and uncountable other problems that the current government is still trying to solve. Continue reading

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Pakistan: A Brighter Future?

Niaz Murtaza

Pakistanis tend to be dreamy romanticists. Our favorite dream relates to the sudden emergence of a knight in shining armor from heavens to rescue everyone through able governance. Unfortunately, this is a pipe-dream, for leaders emerge from within societies, from among stronger classes, and embody the worldviews of their parent class and allies.

Governance transforms when classes angry with the status-quo become organized enough to challenge ruling classes. The collective anger eventually ignites political aspirations in the hearts of their most daring members. In absolute states, these aspirations unleash armed revolution. In even imperfect democracies, elections provide easier avenues to challengers unless their agenda lacks mass appeal, like the Taliban’s. Thus, armed revolutions under democracies appeal mainly to unpopular fascists unlikely to win elections.

Six overlapping classes currently compete for control in Pakistan: generals, aristocrats, industrialists, mafia, militants and middle-classes.  The predatory worldviews of the main contenders—army, landlords and industrialists—cause economic stagnation. The high numbers of competing groups and their divergent agendas cause instability. So does the unequal representation of different ethnic groups among powerful classes, as those thinly represented among powerful classes, such as Balochi, become rebellious.

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Regime Change or Cosmetic Surgery

Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf

When we as Pakistanis discuss the partition of the sub continent and creation of Pakistan, we usually refer to the freedom movement led by both Congress and Muslim League in the backdrop of events within the united India and the Jinnah-Nehru rivalry. We also ignore to shut our eyes to the reality that despite a sustained freedom struggle, Jinnah’s Pakistan has remained elusive due to the instability created by various power houses within and outside Pakistan’s politic body. 

By 1951, most of the die hard and ideological supporters of Jinnah had become back benchers, others left for India and those who dared became traitors or got the lead clad in copper. The entire construct of Pakistan as an equal opportunity and democratic republic evaporated in the heat of political machinations exploited by elites and zealots who themselves were never the vanguard of Jinnah’s movement. By 1956, the army as the strongest institution was hobnobbing with USA and in 1958 in full grip of political power. This political seesaw has continued without addressing the factors of perennial political instability; except that all interventions notwithstanding military or political have served to secure great power interests while compromising Pakistan’s strategic equilibrium and political institutions.  Continue reading

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The ardent messiah seekers

Raza Rumi

A natural disaster, largely unavoidable, has provided a glorious opportunity to all those who have been hankering to reverse Pakistan’s fragile transition from an authoritarian to quasi-democratic rule. There is hardly a new script for the much-touted change and its proponents are using the same old tricks out of their worn out hats to prepare for a rollback of the democratic process. Therefore, the intense rumour-mongering, which has gripped Pakistani psyche over the last fortnight, is a tried and tested success formula: create the perception of change and then turn it into reality.

Even though Pakistan’s military remains unwilling to intervene, regime-change seems to be the flavour of the month. Ironically, this time large sections of the electronic media are hyperactive participants in the process, which is most likely going to push the country towards another man-made disaster. It is appalling to note that TV talk shows are focusing on extra-constitutional remedies. For instance, a Mr-Know-It-All anchor, whose acrobatics are well-known, posed a question to his (utterly uninspiring) guests to discuss the merits and demerits of the Bangladesh model and the so-called ‘General Kakar formula’. While the responses of the guests were entirely predictable, the most shocking response came from none other than former minister and Senator Iqbal Haider who has been a dyed-in-wool democrat. He confidently and at times vociferously advocated the “General Kakar formula” which essentially relates to the intervention by the army chief in a situation where a political deadlock emerges. One had always sympathised with this reputed lawyer’s position on the problems with the way his former political party – the PPP – was led and managed but to hear pleas for an extra-constitutional intervention was shocking to say the least. Continue reading

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..The Taliban is NOT an expression of Pushtun Nationalism

By Qudsia Siddiqi

One of the biggest lies that have been spun by our establishment, which is the arbiter of our national narrative, is that the Taliban are an expression of “Pushtun Nationalism”.  This lie has been repeated ad infinitum by reactionary politicians and Taliban apologists like Imran Khan and  biased academics like Tariq Ali and Rasul Baksh Rais.

The rich and diverse culture of the Pushtuns extends back to several millennia.  The cultural and anthropological influence of the Pushtuns extends from Iran to Bangladesh and even a cultural metropolis like Calcutta can boast of hosting Pushtuns and their way of life.  From Rehman Baba to Khushal Khan Khattak, poetry and moderate religious views have been a cornerstone of Pushtunwali.  The land of the Pushtuns is the land of Lord Gautum Buddha.  Even in Bollywood, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor are the sons of Peshawar and Shahrukh Khan is atleast a nephew of the same city.

In the socio-political domain, Pushtuns have proven their valour on the battle field and have also shown the rest of South Asia that when it comes to non-violent resistance, the Pushtuns are second to none.  Today, nothing comes closer to describing the political beliefs of Pushtuns than the political ideology of literacy and non-violence of the Frontier Gandhi, the late Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Bacha Khan. Electorally, the Pushtuns on both sides of the Durand Line have always voted for secular, nationalist, center-left parties like the ANP in Pakistan.  Even the Pushtun vote for JUI is not predicated on Islamism but on a secular nationalism.  In this regard, in the seventies, the JUI was ostrasiced by Islamofascist parties like Jamaat Islami and the leadership of JUI under Mufti Mahmood was tagged as socialist deviants! Continue reading

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The Meltdown Of Logic

By D Asghar

It is rather disheartening to see the lack of objective analysis when it comes to the general population of Pakistan. Mostly people tend to think along the lines of religion or language and tend to hold their strong position irrespective of what facts are presented to them. Any person engaging in a meaningful dialogue is shunned by the usual and often debated conspiracy rhetoric.

Let’s take the event of 09/11 for an example. On the eve of 09/11, when I spoke with my Mother in Karachi, she was convinced by the Pakistani media that there was not a single Jew, who was murdered. All the Jews were informed a day in advance, not to show up to work, that ill fated Tuesday. When I informed her about the facts, it was hard for her to accept. I had a few discussions with my relatives, who were adamant about that. They were utterly convinced that it was an “inside job”, and the whole incident was a pathetic attempt by “Evil America” to malign the Muslims and to “conquer their lands.” Continue reading

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Working with the victims of the disaster – Part I

Usman Ahmad’s diaries

Day 1
The small smattering of rain the previous night ensures a clement beginning to our journey south and the flood hit areas of South Punjab and Sindh. The cool bite of the air is a sublime luxury I will later look back at longingly as the days ahead unleash the fury of their white heat. But for now, I gaze only at the waving hand of my infant son, who has awoken at this unearthly hour to bid me adieu. As our Pajero draws away – I catch my final glimpse of him nestling on the doorstep – firm in his refusal not to go back inside. The sight makes me laugh and becomes my first memory of a trip I had wanted to make much earlier.
Together in the company of two colleagues, we leave to deliver specially prepared Eid ‘Gift Packs’ and other sundries to victims of the floods and assess the cost of the devastation, so that the fraught process of rebuilding so many shattered lives can begin.  With almost 21 million people affected by the disaster, and vast swathes of the country still under water, the task at ahead will be long and arduous. Continue reading

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