Blocking Nato Supply

In the last couple of weeks we saw PTI activists and perform the task of physically blocking the Nato Supply routes to Afghanistan, in protest against drone strikes and ‘the resulting civil war in Pakistan.’

Whether this protest is lodged with US or PML-N, I don’t see it achieving anything but political mileage for PTI. PML-N government already shares, by and large, the viewpoint that the PTI has on the issue of terror. It also agrees with it on the issue of drones.

Afghanistan is not just a war ravaged country but also a land-locked one. It gets its food supplies from different routes, the principal amongst them being Pakistan. To put things in perspective, the import-export associations, who are staging a protest of their own against the PTI’s strikes, say that the number of containers of fruits and vegetables that cross the border ranges from 450 in the off-season to 2,000 in the peak season. That figure has now dribbled down to 50 to 100. This is a course of action that is not really going to stop the drone strikes. it is only going to make NATO’s logistical costs only marginally greater if they were to start employing any other routes. But it would certainly lead to food insecurity in Afghanistan.

Not only is Pakistan’s target of export to Afghanistan ($2 billion) not going to be met, but even the tax revenue stream that the transit trade was going to provide the provincial government, one that the latter has itself accounted for in its budget, is not going to be met.

20:10 hours
Saturday 14 December 2013

The Baloch march

On October 27th a group of women, children and even old have commenced a 700 kilometer walk from Quetta to Karachi for their rights , for knowing whereabouts of their beloved and for a peaceful secure future which is a right of every Pakistani.

Balochistan, rich in copper, gold and natural gas, is Pakistan's largest but least populous province. It is also the least developed, which has aggravated a long-running ethnic Baloch separatist movement that wants more autonomy and a greater share of its mineral wealth. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people have suffered the fate, known as “kill and dump”, in Balochistan since January 2011.

These are women and children, weaker and oppressed marching on foot from Quetta to Karachi to remind us that while we manufacture half-truths, trifle with the non-issues, some of their loved ones have been missing for years; those they have found, they found tortured and killed, their bodies dumped even without the dignity of a shroud.

Will we be moved, walk in step with them or just leave them with a feeling that they’ll be right to lose all hope in Pakistan?

19:40 hours
Friday 1 November 2013

Malala, the ‘foreign agent’ and Dr. Hoodbhoy, the ‘Jahil’

The past animosity between Dr Hoodbhoy and Ansar Abbasi fueled a debate that turned into an ugly verbal brawl on national television, with insensitive comments being exchanged by both parties. It was really awful! And the most obnoxious thing I found in the debate was Abbasi’s bigoted version of Malala’s book, and his refusal to be corrected when given facts by Dr. Hoodbhoy. He rather, very sordidly, got personal.

Ansar Abbasi has gone after Malala as according to him she, in her book, was too soft on Salman Rushdie. In her book, Malala argued for freedom of speech while disagreeing with the contents of Satanic Verses, more particularly she says:  ‘Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!’ She talks about the rights of Ahamadis, the problems with the blasphemy law, and that Pakistan lost three wars against India. The later is a fact accepted everywhere in the world, except in Pakistan's textbooks. And the horror of it all for Abbasi, she criticized Pakistan's brutal military dictator from the 1980s, General Zia ul Haq, and his ‘Islamisation’ policies that Pakistan is still dealing with. Abbasi is indeed a fan of Zia - and Malala's criticism of his hero must have crossed him immensely.

These are the exact excerpts from her book:

'He (Salman Rushdie) has [sic] all the right under freedom of expression, but my father said that we should write a book against him --- My father also saw the book as offensive to Islam but believes strongly in freedom of speech. ‘First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,’ he suggested.'

'Now we are a country of 180 million and more than 96 per cent are Muslim. We also have around two million Christians and more than two million Ahmadis, who say they are Muslims though our government says they are not. Sadly those minority communities are often attacked.'

Shame on the talk shows that deliberately manipulate such sensitive issues into controversies and the opinion former who manipulate people's feelings by debating around them. 

23:50 hours
31 October 2013

Peshawar Church Attack

We have become a country where identity – be it religion, ethnicity or gender – can be the difference between being allowed to live and having a permanent death sentence hanging over you.

Christians are slayed while they pray, Shias are dragged out of buses and killed over belief and women are murdered, raped and humiliated because of traditional forms of ‘honour’. The Christians – as patriotic and as Pakistani as any of us – have hardly ever been involved in controversies and have generally chosen to keep a relatively low profile, speaking out only peacefully about the ceaseless social, economic and religious discrimination in their face. Yet, they suffered the same faith as does all other minorities and weak sections of our society.

Over 200 innocent people worshipping, as is their right under the Constitution, have had their lives ruined by bigots and murderers. And some of our politicians believe we should be talking to these people?

We can’t simply be told that these talks will miraculously resolve everything.  How can we talk of peace when we are seeing no response from the other side? We blame one group or another, conducting these attacks to sabotage the elusive talks – including the so called ‘foreign hand.’  The absolute last thing we need right now is the usual fit of conspiracy theories.

Talking with the Taliban is fruitless. The government should now order the army to take the gloves off and use whatever legal means practicable to eradicate the bigoted barbarians who threaten the very existence of the country. The attack on Peshawar Church was an attack on everyone who refuses to accept obscurantist agendas. We have remained silent for far too long and silence now will have blood on its hands.

23:15 hours
24 September 2013

Jinnah of Pakistan

A couple of months back, I was so stricken by the destruction of Jinnah’s residency in Ziarat by Baluchistan nationalists. I couldn’t help feeling pangs of patriotism rushing through me. It made me curious to explore, the life of this pragmatic leader of South Asia.

One of the tragedies of Pakistani youngsters of my generation is - knowing Jinnah, always as the ‘Quaid-e-Azam,’ through text books from our schools. However, a saint like picture of an impeccable Jinnah painted in these books always seemed to me too good to be true. On the other hand, it’s rare that you find accounts of Jinnah that are not amalgamated with Indian biases towards this man – the one who absolutely stood unbent in the face of two of India’s most popular leaders– Gandhi and Nehru and their insistence on a united India.

Then I hit upon Stanley Wolpert’s, Jinnah of Pakistan. It is the first account of Jinnah I have read that doesn’t portray him as a prophet nor villainies him as some pigheaded opposing Gandhi and Nehru for his vested interests. When I opened this book, I was hooked on by these opening lines in the preface: 'Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three.'

At the start, the book just felt like another chapter from Pakistan Studies text book since the book covers a broader canvas – Jinnah’s life from birth till death. But this was the first account of Jinnah I found no difficulty to believe in. As the charming, eloquent, intelligent and always wining advocate turns into a stubborn, cold, and egoistic man, who was so accustomed to of the idea of winning that failure wasn't a choice for him. Those who have read the book would agree that I'm not denouncing Jinnah, I'm instead praising him! Despite all this, he was the most extraordinary man this land could ever produce.

Jinnah was rather secular and more westernised. He never felt an attachment to the great masses of Indians and didn't feel he could communicate with people on that level. He would much later find that he could, as he finally convinced the Muslim masses that they would have to partition India and that he was the man to lead them.

The book doesn't focus on his triumphs only but his pain and failures are also part of the book. Small anecdotes and major incidents of Jinnah’s life are well narrated. Jinnah’s love and marriage to Ruttie is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Here is an excerpt from the book on death of Ruttie, ‘It (the funeral) was a painfully slow ritual. Jinnah sat silent through all of its five hours. As Ruttie’s body was being lowered into the grave, Jinnah as the nearest relative was the first to throw the earth on the grave. He broke down suddenly and wept and sobbed like a child for minutes together. That was the only time when I found Jinnah betraying some shadow of human weakness.’

Angel or devil, it won't be wrong if I say freedom of India may the result of rioting freedom fighters and post WW II constraints on Briton, but formation of Pakistan can be solely credited to one man - That is Jinnah!

20:03 hours
Sunday 3 August 2013

The test of our tolerance

Our country is plagued by chronic sectarian violence, which has escalated recently given the targeting of Hazara refugees, who also happen to be Shia. We have failed to protect our Christian, Ahmadi and Hindu minorities. On top of that, Pakistani authorities seldom bring perpetrators to justice or taken action against those who incite violence.

Given this reality, it is understandable if the international community criticises us for failing to adequately protect the rights of minorities. In its latest report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)  has suggested that the US government designate Pakistan and eight other countries as a ‘country of particular concern’, where sanctions are advised if there is continued failure to protect minorities.

Attacks on places of worship, on places of residence, targeted killings, forced conversions and blasphemy allegations are the different forms of persecution that minorities in Pakistan have incrementally faced over the past few years.

The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by the minorities. And in Pakistan, our authorities, laws and attitudes, all prevent minorities from becoming successful citizens in Pakistan. We live in such an ideologically, insecure country hell-bent on maintaining our brand as Islamic Republic that we even undercount and under-report the percentage of Minorities in our census.

Monday 1 July 2013
22:40 hours

Not so promising after all

So we have a new government in place. But the proceedings so far don’t seem too promising. Is the new government ready for the innumerable changes ahead? 

Among the elections campaigns, we heard a lot about PML-N being the target of criticism for having a soft corner for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorists but just before the elections it masterfully silenced the issue. Now when they have the government in the centre and Punjab will they order a full-fledged operation against these terrorists? The Hazaras of Quetta and Victims of Abbas Town, Karachi want justice more than the Metro Bus Service. Asghar Khan case is still a skeleton hiding in the closet, will the government act to punish the culprits or will we see a petition submitted in the Supreme Court soon urging the government to take action against these culprits? Pervaiz Musharaf is another issue which demands sensitivity. Will Nawaz Sharif, who has been accused of taking a soft stance against him recently, come out strongly against the man who over-threw his government in 1999?

It will be good for PML-N government to learn from its own mistakes of the past and those of the PPP in the last few years. Nawaz Sharif will have to curb the tendency of claiming to be a caliph of sorts in order to gain popularity among rightists. He will also have to stop hiding terrorists in Punjab and start taking serious note of those in the province accused of terrorism. And, unlike the beginning of his rule, he will have to stop strengthening the Ziaul Haq-inspired laws, which have made the lives of minorities and women hell in this country. 

His biggest challenges will be dealing with terrorism and the generation of power. The first will be very difficult since he, too, has been insisting in the past that this is not Pakistan’s war. And in this, Nawaz Sharif needs the help of Imran Khan. If there is one man who can convince Pakistanis that the war against the terrorists is their war, it is Imran Khan. Will Imran rise to the challenge or will he discredit Nawaz leading to five more years of random explosions? 

23:24 hours
Saturday 8 June 2013

Elections and the promised ‘change’

I had this sincere wish and gut feel that Imran Khan might pull off a major upset against all odds in the recent elections. Though, the results, in terms of number of seats won in the National Assembly, doesn’t quite reflect the massive impact Imran Khan has made on our political landscape over the last couple of years. But, no matter how big a mandate Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz may have managed to secure from Punjab to form the next government, the change ushered in by Imran is what these elections will always be remembered for!

I was thrilled to see the massive voter turnout, thanks to the election ‘passion’ instigated mostly by Imran Khan’s unbelievable charisma and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s colossal social media campaign. They truly made the silent majority come out of their homes for the first time and vote in large numbers. I went to cast my vote for the first time, and was stirred to see educated women out of their houses queuing up to cast their votes.   Never in my life before, I witnessed enthusiasm of this sort coupled with concern for this country’s affairs. Truly unbelievable and moving scenes were witnessed at polling stations across Pakistan where people who had never bothered to be a part of the political process came out to vote against all odds as we even saw people coming on wheelchairs and also on stretchers just to be a part of this change. 

The ‘change’ Imran Khan has been promising might not have fully arrived but the seeds have indeed been sown. Change does not happen overnight nor does it come so easily but if the PTI and its followers can build on this we may well experience real change within the next couple of years. The status quo has been severely dented. It is evident by the knocking out of previously ruling parties: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQ) and Awami National Party (ANP). Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has perhaps been given a last chance as some people chose to stick with the tried and failed instead of opting for the emerging and untested force under Imran Khan.

Election Commission of Clowns defines ‘Saadiq’ and ‘Ameen’

Responding to the wider debates and confusion around article 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Clowns has finally decided to put an end to the controversy by giving out their definitions of ‘Saadiq’ and ‘Ameen.’

According to their definition, a Saadiq is a self righteous blockhead, who understands well that religion is a manipulative tool and NOT someone’s personal matter. One of the visible signs of a Saadiq includes his ability to recite ‘Duwaa e Qunoot’ fluently, without necessarily the need to understand its meaning. 

A Saadiq is also well aware of the ideology of Pakistan. Now, most of the people were not sure what exactly this particular ideology is, since everyone had their own version? Therefore, the Election Commission of Clowns has also defined the Ideology of Pakistan:  ‘ It was an egalitarian dream (or fantasy) that resulted in around 500,000 brutal killings in a single year in India and Pakistan. It also provided an immediate opportunity for looting and invasion of properties of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan and rape of around 10,000 of their women. The ideology is also our rationale to compete against an impossible rival with a massive army and defense spending, leaving common population to live well below poverty line.  The complacency of the ideology is evident by Baloch nationalists movements claiming returns for ‘their’ resources of natural gas, Sindhi politicians opposing Kalabagh Dam keeping back ‘their’ share of Indus waters and also, by breaking away of Bangladesh from Pakistan back in 1971.’

A Saadiq is also a person who firmly believes in the distorted history and manipulated facts taught in the text books in Pakistan.

According to the Election Commission of Clowns a perfect role model of Saadiq is Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan's spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.

Ameen: The Election Commission of Clowns defines Ameen as a hypocrite with Swiss accounts, luxurious life styles, and extensive properties but petty tax returns. Ameen is also the person who asks a set of questions to please the large number of people who believe in the egalitarian fantasy of an Islamic state but cannot agree on which version of Islam this state would follow. Islam has a different version every few miles in this country, adhering to Pashtunwali, Jirga justice, shrines worship or numerous other traditions. Most of these versions are at war with each other, often thirsty for each others blood.  An Ameen knows very well how to appeal to these emotions of people and on the other hand, divert their attention from letting in of corrupt, tax evading and inept candidates back into elections.

The role model of an Ameen could be Mullah Omar!

Bushra Naz
09:45 hours
Saturday 13 April 2013

Not so happy women’s day

According to recent surveys of Pakistan, while female education is on the rise, the percentage of males educating themselves remains stagnant. Job opportunities for women have increased. But male unemployment remains unchanged, as does their mindset.

Despite the fact that women now felt empowered and were aware of their rights, their condition did not change. Mostly, still, a girl is forced to marry an unemployed suitor and become the breadwinner of the family.  Wife beating, acid attacks, number of children, demand for dowry and the attitude of men, remained constant. We witness the same in our country. Even though we see the emergence of a new Pakistani woman – aware of her rights and ready to fight her battles – but she is still a ‘damsel in distress’.

In a patriarchal society like ours, the need of the hour is to develop a plan to work on the mindset of the rural, or uneducated, male. Subjugation of women has been imbedded in their minds as part of the culture. This may not be true for most of the male urban dwellers but the perception at large remains the same.

Schools for girls, vocational centres and female empowerment campaigns may raise the threshold of awareness, even marginally increase women empowerment, but women will not gain the rights and respect they deserve in society until and unless the minds of young men of the under privileged class are not liberated through education and employment.

There are numerous components of gender inequality that cannot be solved merely by basic education or financial empowerment.  First, the need of the hour is to focus on deep-seated patriarchal cultural causes that take away from the woman the freedom to make informed choices.

1840 hours
Friday 8 March

Minorities, this is not a country for you!

Extremist bombers killed nearly 200 people in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta in the two worst bomb attacks to strike Shia Muslims from the minority Hazara community, just weeks apart on January 10 and February 16.

The aftermath of the attack once again paralysed the country. After the usual assurances by the government, the Hazara community finally agreed to bury their loved ones. Reportedly, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) is ensconced in Mastung and the Frontier Corps (FC) has shown some resolve in taking them to task.

The menace of terrorism apparently started with Pakistan’s recruitment of the youth to sign up as mujahideen to fight the Soviet ‘infidels’. Madressahs have proliferated without hindrance, although the progenitor of this trend Gen Ziaul Haq died a quarter century back. The trend shows no sign of lessening and the current civilian government miserably seemed failed to curb extremism in the country.

It’s a shame to see how the sound administrative setup inherited from colonial days has been thoroughly disfigured both by dictators and venal politicians. While the number of officers has increased ten-fold, their efficiency has gone down in inverse proportion. From secretaries to inspector generals of the police, officers are daily paraded before the Supreme Court but no one takes responsibility and there are no honest answers.

The taxpayer is justified in inquiring why this overfed administration should be maintained when no one is working?

2015 hours
Thursday 28 February

The Qadri madness

And so while the long march was impressive the numbers, for the most part, remained static. It was a huge crowd and the Allama’s followers stayed put despite the bad weather. But Jinnah Avenue did not turn into Tahrir Square. And so the dream had to come to an end.

Pakistan - A people’s democracy? Egalitarianism? What nonsense. Pakistan was created for the triumph of the upper classes, and its democracy fashioned to keep this arrangement in place.

If the present regime has made bad governance into an art, what did others do before it? This democracy only functions to fulfill the needs and greed of the rulers and their functionaries. This stood out as an stark reality during the recent Balochistan crisis when no one of any consequence visited the Shia protestors, a majority of them women and children braving the cold for several days and nights, beside the dead bodies of their loved ones. The provincial government was dismissed by only when it became apparent that the crisis could possibly derail the federal government itself. Asif Zardari was helped along in his decision when a large group of Shia protesters, somehow evading the strict security cordon in Clifton, gathered to stage a dharna near Bilawal House in Karachi.

If the Shia protesters could sit out the freezing cold of Quetta till the Balochistan government was shunted out, Qadri’s supporters can brave Islamabad’s freezing rain. Certainly there is need for elections to sustain democracy but what if this democracy continues to sustain corruption? Do not confuse SC’s orders for Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s arrest as an attack on democracy. A coincidence perhaps, but orders for his arrest for corruption as an individual coincided with him being Prime Minister. Let another PPP stalwart become prime minister or simply announce general elections! The country cannot afford a constitutional crisis because of the likely confrontation between the government and the Supreme Court.

2210 hours
Saturday 19 January 2013