Tea and Dunhill

You cannot detach a Pakistani from tea and political gossip. They just like talking about politics because it’s in their nature - you know, just like normal people like to eat, drink and sleep!

Broadly speaking, there could be two kinds of Pakistanis you come across – and both kinds are poles apart. The first is the most common type – the ones who believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories. For them, every thing that goes wrong in Pakistan is an American, Indian or Israeli conspiracy. From Baluchistan unrest to trade with your rival country, from cricketers’ swindling to freedom of expression, intolerance towards minorities, protests that only end up harming public property - there is an easy to process, simplistic explanation to all – a conspiracy. Sometimes I think they are better off this way, they don’t have to use their brains in researching and finding out painful facts. They may, in their right minds, be able to challenge you one day that extra sugar in their cup of tea is a Zionist conspiracy, or split milk is some kind of direct consequence of giving MFN status to India (Indian hypocrisy!) After losing many arguments, I realised it’s best to let them live at peace with themselves - reading a copy of Daily Ummat and watching another episode of Aalim Online.

The other kind - the ones who are informed. Liberal Pakistanis as they may like to call themselves – that translates into many things for their counter parts, the conspiracy theorists like: ‘kawwa chala hans ki chaal (a crow imitating a swan forgets being crow),’ ‘angrezon se bhi zyada angrezi (more British than whites) ’, ‘dhobi ka….. (Do you really need a translation of that?) ’ But don’t listen to the conspiracy theorists – they can’t even tell obscenity from other things let alone define it. The liberals would almost smoke out a pack of Dunhill (what is with them and cigarettes, anyways?), debating 10 different reasons behind radicalization in Pakistan or tweeting about the latest riots or pettiness of conspiracy theorists while sitting in some high end cafĂ© in the town. What they may not realise, knowledge is not meant to be kept to their like-minds only. It may be of better use when shared with people who have to dig out conspiracy theories because of lacking it. The liberals may not realize that debates over Dunhill don’t help moderating fuel prices or inflammatory acts. They don’t either help with collection of taxes and widespread illiteracy. They only help a British American Tobacco Company. Only if not being able to see through the impact one can make through their knowledge could be called sleeping, the liberals may be sleeping while wide awake.

Anyways, it feels so peaceful with distant sounds of crickets and katydids under a starless sky. I might as well sleep!

P.S. don’t take Dunhill in the literal sense.

00:28 hours
12 October 2012

Not the drone debate

Somebody asked me a questions a while ago about the increasing following of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), as to ‘why a huge urban-educated Pakistani population is following an anti-west and pro-Taliban leader in a march against drones?’ Now, I am not a huge fan of the PTI or their stance on war on terror in Pakistan. But I think I am able to look into a fraction of why a huge urban population, who do not necessarily sympathise with Taliban, are following the PTI leader.

To majority of Pakistanis, terrorism doesn’t look like a problem bigger than lack of basic utilities, unemployment, inflation and a hundred others that they think are the outcome of ‘bad governance’.

According to an independent research site pakistanbodycount.org maintained by Dr.Zeeshan Usmani, a full bright scholar, total deaths from suicide bombings in Pakistan till last year were 5,067. Also, data obtained from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that so far there have been 349  drone strikes in Pakistan that has reportedly killed around 2,593-3,365 people, out of which 474-884 were reported civilians and 176 were children.

Compared to that, 40% of the 1.8 billion Pakistanis are living below poverty line. According to 2009 census of Pakistan, 43% of Pakistanis do not have access to education. Pakistan’s rate of unemployment is 25%. 1.8 billion Pakistanis are also facing worst of its kind energy crisis in Natural gas, Power and Oil that will only get worst in the coming years. Pakistan has a total hydro potential of 40,000 MW against which it generates only 6500 MW. If the dams are not built, the power shortage will be up to 11,750 MV per year. 

But where would Pakistan get funds and resources to solve these problems? Our people may question robustly rental power and Hajj corruption cases but basic utilities’ wastage and stealing by common people, which is major cause of Pakistan’s energy crisis, are merely considered a reaction to government’s corruption. They may question the helipad at Prime Minister’s House, but would not like paying their taxes, as they have no doubt this will go in the ‘Swiss accounts of Mr. 10% and his friends.’

No matter how helpless the current government is for resolving economic and energy crisis and no matter how much they do for curbing Talibanisation in Pakistan, people would never forget the 1998 New York Times investigative report revealing a network of bank accounts of Zardari and a series of documents revealing corruption and commissions attributed to him, his parents and siblings who had modest assets at the time of his marriage with Bhutto. Though, never convicted during eight years of his imprisonment in a VIP hospital, the cases were withdrawn by the government after the Pakistan Peoples Party returned to power of in 2008.

This probably explains why even an educated and apparently moderate lot is blindly following a philanthropist with a transparent record of personal assets. When a political leader comes in power winning people’s trust, and not through buying votes through feudal lords in exchange of flour bags, he is most likely be able to convince people going against common wastages and stealing of resources. People are likely to thrust him with their tax money because they would trust the benefit would come down to them eventually.


21:57 hours
Monday 1 October 2012