Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pakistani Journalism: Dangers of a shared reality

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Telling sanity from insanity

Unidentified person(s) have torched a madrassa (religious seminary) in Swabi area of Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. It is the first case of its kind. Call it bizarre, wacky or amusing, but the fire has ignited some interesting comments. A high police official told the BBC Urdu service that only a "half crazy" could do this. Going by this argument we can say that those who have torched and bombed hundreds of schools across the Pakhtunkhwa are full crazies. But we have never heard any police or any other government official describing the religious lunatics with such words after a school has been bombed or torched.
So far more than 300 schools have been destroyed in Pakhtunkhwa, with more than 170 only in Swat which was taken over by the madrassa-graduated Taliban for a short but bloody period. Apart from a few civil society organizations, who have been put on the back foot by an aggressive religious right, there had been no protest by any political party. Now even the routine condemnation in the media is being avoided.
But this time round it became hard for Jama'at-i-Islami and the known pro-Taliban JUI (F) to hide their hypocrisy: Their leaders' mouths are foaming in fury and they have asked their workers to take to the streets. Maybe they are furious that why the culprit(s) took a madrassa for a school and put it to torch.
Will anybody among the protesters ask these fire-breathing mullahs, "What about hundreds of schools that have been razed to the ground in the name of Islam?"
But I am still not convinced that the person(s) who did it in Swabi is "half crazy". If it is so, then his saner half was active while lighting the match.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pakistan: A Hard Country

Mr. Anatol Lieven says many things in Pakistan have not changed, and culture is one of them. I don't know how he uses the word culture. For me culture in parts of Pakistan has changed fundamentally. It has been invaded and almost taken over by Arab tribal culture. Many cultural practices and products have changed. Music is no more a cultural product, cultural practices of festivities like wedding and other cultural practices are now taboo.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Turkey's soft power

Joseph Nye says that a country's soft power is embedded in its values, culture, and legitimate foreign policy.However, while researching for a paper on "Turkey's Public Diplomacy" I came across other tools of soft power that gives a certain country an edge over others. In the case of the U.S., its soft power flows from its hard power--a combination which makes it a smart power.

Since Turkey has no comparable hard power, it uses other tools to make its power 'smart' -- at least in its sphere of influence. The first tool in its arsenal of Public Diplomacy is its geographic location. Strategically located at the confluence of the East and West, Turkey is in a unique position to work as a bridge between the East and the West. It is in Anatolia where East meets West.

Secondly, its modern outlook with a secular democratic political system--especially after Kemal Atatürkmade Turkey look Westward--makes it, if not a Western state, at least a look-alike of the West. Thus it made it possible for Turkey to identify itself with the modern world and be a candidate for EU membership. It also became a model for other Muslim countries in many respects.

Third, Turkey shares a long history with the Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia and as far away as Afghanistan. It made things easier for Turkey to reconnect to and prop up its historical and cultural roots in these countries. Turkey has also racial, ethnic and linguistic affinities with many countries in the region, especially Caucasus and Central Asia.

These soft power tools or assets have put Turkey in a unique position by raising its stature as a spokesman of the Muslim world, who can talk to the West on their behalf. For the West, this spokesman is not unfamiliar, and also not so different. For the East, Turkey is one of them.

Monday, March 28, 2011


There are many things common between India and Pakistan like,languages, literature, music, religious traditions, and thousands of years of togetherness under local rulers and competing empires. There is only one issue that despite thiscommonality makes them distant neighbors: the Kashmir issue.
It is the dispute over Kashmir region that sharpens differences and blurs this commonness. However, the sports of cricket, which hasdeep roots in the subcontinent as a cultural tradition, is one other strand that weaves the peoples of India and Pakistan together. Cashing in on this cultural tradition, leaders of the two countries have used Cricket Diplomacy to thaw iciness in their relations.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to the pleasant surprise of many, invited his Pakistani counterpart to watch the World Cup 2011 semi-final between the two countries' teams in Mohali, India, as part of Cricket Diplomacy. And Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has concurred to watch the match alongside Mr. Singh.
It is not the first time for India and Pakistan to use cricket for diplomacy; it started in early 1980s when Indian and Pakistani armed forces had been eyeball to eyeball with each other. The Indian Express newspaper says:
"Cricket diplomacy is now very much part of Indo-Pak diplomatic tradition. In 1987, Gen. Zia ul Haque invited himself to witness a cricket match in India as part of his effort to defuse tensions following a military confrontation. Gen. Musharraf did much the same in April 2005, when he wrangled an invitation from Dr. Singh to witness an Indo-Pak cricket match in Delhi.The talks during that visit produced the basis for a serious bilateral negotiation on resolving the dispute over Jammu & Kashmir."

In 2005, Mr. Singh told the Indian Parliament that nothing brings the people of the subcontinent together more than our love for cricket and Bollywood. His predecessor Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, before sending them to Pakistan, advised the Indian cricket players: "Dil bhi jeeto!" [Win their hearts too].
Many commentators see the Indian Prime Minister's invite a smart diplomatic initiative through cricket undertaken after India and Pakistan resumed the dialogue process stalled in November 2008 when the Indian financial capital Mumbai was hit by terrorist attacks.
One commentator has rightly pointed out the potency of Cricket Diplomacy by observing: "Overnight, the mood of the media and the people, at least in Pakistan, has turned towards India." What politicians, generals and diplomats could not achieve in years, Cricket Diplomacy has done it in ways.
It is now up to the politicians to catch on the positive public sentiments and move on normalizing relations between India and Pakistan. Public Diplomacy does not resolve thorny issues, but it does build confidence and trust between peoples of two countries. When diplomats and politicians talk to each other in an atmosphere of trust, they can reach an understanding on issues that bedevil their relations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The saga ends, but ...

For Americans, phew! Raymond Davis was flown out of Pakistan on Wednesday. Not only he, on a second flight families of the dead spooks also left Pakistan. The Sharif brothers of Punjab went into a sheepish silence after a month-long public posturing. Pakistani media have tongue in cheek. The rightists and their fundo allies are nonplussed. The loyal kings of Arabia gloat in the confines of their palaces at having served the royal powers in Washington.
Old connections wear out hard. Just like old habits die hard. When the U.S. fails to bring Pakistan around, the Saudis do the trick for them. They could do it because they guard the path to the holy pilgrimage. And they have extra palaces in the heart of the desert, some always vacant that entice many.

The story of Davis's release goes like this: families of the victims pardoned him in exchange for blood money amounting to $ 2.3 million. A court in Lahore dropped murder charges against the CIA contractor, who the U.S. claimed enjoyed diplomatic immunity. The BBC's Urdu website says that Saudi Arabia played a role in Davis's release.
A spokesman for PML (N), Siddiqul Farooq, told the BBC that the families of the victims had been taken for Umra where they agreed to pardon the U.S. citizen. How can the Sharif brothers say no to a simple call from the Holy Land where grass does not grow, but they managed to grow hair?
The whole saga is full of contradictions: The U.S. benefited from a sharia law that runs counter to whatever values America stands for. The fundos are crying foul against a deal that was struck as per the 'law' they always want to impose in Pakistan.
Hillary Clinton says the U.S. did not pay the blood money; Pakistan says families of the victims got it. Then who paid the money? Maybe, the Saudis.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Education emergency in Pakistan

Call it comedy or call it biblical contradiction. But something is just not right. For the past three days, Pakistan has been in the news for the bizarre reasons, as if it had never really been. "Pakistan is crippled by an education emergency" that "threatens the security of the country," says a report by the Pakistan Education Task Force.
Hard on the heels of this report, came the news that "Pakistan is trying to purchase [more] F-16 fighter jets from the United States to enhance its air capabilities." The task force report says that "Pakistan--in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh--has no chance of reaching the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for education by 2015."
But, Pakistan is not concerned about its education or development disparity with India. If it is concerned at all, it is about asymmetrical stockpile of weapons. "Because of the disparity with India, our needs are huge."
Today, Pakistan is at war with itself. How can F-16s come in handy to win this war? If weapons can ensure anything in such a situation, that is a total and certain defeat. Guardian newspaper points out that the elite educates its offspring at expensive schools in Pakistan and abroad, and so education has slipped off the agenda.
Right from 1947, Pakistan has been a paranoid state forcing it to put military security ahead of everything else. A lion's share of the GDP goes to the defense budget, while just peanuts are left for development and education. It had been an old doctrine of 'security is development' that necessitated such allocation of funds. This doctrine changed in early 1990s to 'development is security', but we have stayed put seeking development in security.
Nothing is more worrisome than the emerging scenario: a 180 million strong country armed to the teeth, afflicted by illiteracy and stuck in the pit of poverty. Heydays for extremism and terrorism!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Talibanistan: What a nonsense!

Though I have never had a favorable opinion of the mainstream American media, but the crap that the Foreign Policy magazine published in its March 04 issue is disgusting. However, it confirms that the elitists in the U.S. are amenable to every kind of warped view if it can give them a face saving.
Mr. Saleem H. Ali gives a bizarre idea of creating a Talibanistan in the heart of Pakhtun mainland, which according to his myopic view, has always been a bastion of extremist Islam. Ridiculously enough, he conflates the Taliban with Pakhtuns by giving a disconnected referencee from history.

Even going back to the 1930s, Waziristan's rallying flag against
the British was a simple white calligraphic "Allah-Akbar" (God is Great) on red fabric.

Historically, it may be correct. But, one fails to understand Mr. Ali's logic that how does raising such a flag against the British colonials amount to the local people's extremism or religious fanaticism. Mirza Ali Khan, popularly known as the Fikir of Ipi, raised the red flag t
o challenge the British forces. His was a liberation movement, not one for imposing the so-called Shariah like the Taliban want to haunt the whole region with. A religious figure like the Fakir of Ipi's struggle to evict the imperial forces from his homeland had never been unprecedented or one of its kind.
In Latin America, the movement against exploitation and colonialism had been spearheaded by the Church. For this 'crime' many priests have lost their lives, but can we call it Latin American's love for fanaticism and extremism?
By giving such out-of-context historical references, Mr. Ali tries to give an impression that as if Pakhtuns are congenital extremists. If the people of Waziristan had raised such a flag to evict the British forces, then Pakistan as a state has this fanaticism in its very foundations: it was founded in the name of religion.
Extremism that has swept Pakistan and Afghanistan has its roots in strategic goals of Pakistani civil & military establishment. It has always been the goal of this strategic (please, read warped) thinking (myopic) to keep the tribal areas of Pakistan impoverished, deprived and underdeveloped by keeping them isolated.
What people like Mr. Ali see in the badland of Waziristan, in fact, resonates with people sitting in the heartland of Pakistan: Punjab. Waziristan is home to terrorists of their kind because they have been lodged there as a strategic asset for future use. Surprisingly, Mr. Ali sees extremism in the Pakhtun land but looks the other way when the streets of the liberal Islamabad are bathed in blood in the name of religion.
For Pakhtuns, religion is an aspect of life; for their masterminds across the Indus, it is a new-found identity. Those like Mr. Ali that equate the Fakir of Ipi with Osama Bin Landen need revisit the history anew. The Fakir was son of the soil who wanted to liberate his homeland. Bin Laden is a stateless terrorist who wants to ignite a clash of civilizations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another killed, many silenced!

Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down Wednesday exactly two months after Punjab Governor Salam Taseer was shot dead by his own security guard in the same capital city of Islamabad--and for the same reason. Another was killed in the name of religion; many others were silenced.
Like Mr. Taseer, Mr. Bhatti, the only Christian minister in Pakistan, had called for the repeal of draconian blasphemy law that has been haunting the already cornered religious minorities in Pakistan. It has become irrelevant whether the Taliban or their ilks under different names claim or not responsibility for such high-profile killings.
The state of Pakistan is on the back foot and religious fanaticism in the ascendancy. When states become ideological, the very ideology starts eating into its vitals. States embrace constitutions, not religions. When states own a particular religion, it becomes intolerant for many others. Some of the denizens become citizens, others mere subjects; just like majority, minority; Muslims, non-Muslims--and finally we versus them.
Just like 'national culture' is politically constructed, 'national religion' is also a political construct. Religious belief is an extremely personal matter; it is a link between the believer and the Divine. States and their citizens have a social contract between them, and states are responsible to live up to that contract.
Pakistan, as a state, rescinded its contract with its citizens the day Objectives Resolution was made part of the constitution. That day Pakistan decided to deal with its people not as equal citizens, but on the basis of their religion. One religion and their followers are too many for the state than the many religions and their followers.
I earlier in these lines said religious fanaticism is in the ascendancy. I take back my words. The state itself has become fanatic while its citizens are on the back foot. I don't know whether this is ascendancy or descendancy for the state that people are killed in the name of its religion?
With every murder in the name of blasphemy Asiya Bibi and her children must be having shudders down their spine. Every bullet that has been fired at those who raised their voice in her defense may have pierced their soul too. They may have felt the heat of the bullet. As the land of the pure is shrinking for non-Muslim citizens, the Christians and others like them must be feeling a constriction in their chests. One dies once in life; they die every day. But who cares?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Social Media and Political Change

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, preceded by a botched uprising in Iran, has ignited a new debate on the power of social media as a tool of political change. The fall of communist regimes in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is being counted among the success stories of the Voice of America (VOA). The fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the most recent successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have generated kind of euphoria: authoritarian societies can be impregnated with democratic ideals by exposing their masses to broadcast media messages.
However, Clay Shirky in an interview with Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and his recent article in the Foreign Policy magazine has given an alternative opinion about the role of social media in democratic struggles. He is of the opinion that social media have a helping and coordinating role in public uprising against autocratic or authoritarian regimes.
Social or political change occurs when a vibrant civil society makes use of social media like Twitter, Facebook and blogging to coordinate with each other. This coordination, which takes place at horizontal level, and not broadcasting to a wider public--which is vertical communication--weakens the resolve of the state to use force. That is the reason that "governments are afraid of synchronized groups than informed individuals," Shirky says.
It means that if there is no public sphere with politically "engaged citizens" within the country, mass media with contents produced in a foreign land cannot bring a political change. This brings us to the other point of Shirky that tools of horizontal communication like cell (mobile) phones are more important than broadcast media for a revolution to succeed.
Social media, as against broadcast media, allow larger coordination across a wide area which makes them more powerful than the mass media. Uprisings in the Arab world have been augmented, not caused, by the social media. People have grievances--political, economic and social etc--against authoritarian governments. The government is afraid more of coordination among these disenchanted sections of society than a foreign propaganda tool. However, if a broadcast media becomes interactive by engaging the target audience in a dialog with and within a cross section of society, it becomes more effective in helping a movement against the regime.
To channelize pent-up rage of such sections of society, what it all needs is to bond them in a network of other people like them. And here Twitter, Facebook and blogging come in handy and effective. Christopher Dufour, who spoke in our class last week, summed it up succinctly: "There is no Twitter revolution; there is a revolution that uses Twitter." He was equally forthright when he said that if you wanted to influence someone, grow bigger ears to listen to them, which, in my view, is a case against relying only on broadcast media as a tool of public diplomacy.
For a social or political change, the local people are needed to be given a platform to produce their own programs and communicate them with their own people. The so-called Twitter revolution in Iran failed because the contents of communication had been produced outside--in the West--and then sent into Iran. People in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in overthrowing autocrats because they used the social media for coordination and networking. Al-Jazeera also worked as a networking tool then merely broadcasting anti-Mubarak rhetoric.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sad news for book-lovers

Curtain fell last week on Saeed Book Bank, Pakistan's one of largest booksellers in Peshawar. It was shifted to Islamabad where the book store already has a large outlet. Depleting number of costumers and increasing insecurity seem to be the main reasons behind shuttering the store that stood tall for decades on the vibrant Arbab Road in Peshawar Saddar.
Books have gone beyond the purchasing power of an average person in Pakistan, but sleek restaurants that dot every main road in Peshawar do a roaring business despite heightened insecurity and rampant poverty. It reflects badly on the culture of a society where people spend more on eateries, but refuse to pay for a book.
A city of three million, Peshawar has only one public library and almost no reading room. I don't know what is the marker of development and progress in a country like ours? Is it the number of libraries, universities and research centers or the number of cars on its roads or the number of cell phones people use?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Al-Jazeera and Arab dictators

Egypt finally banned Al-Jazeera television. But this is not for the first time for the Doha-based channel to attract the ire of despots and dictators. Every Arab land, including Palestine that has seen a spark of unrest, despots have turned on the television channel accusing it of fomenting and inciting unrest.
There is no doubt in the fact that mass media play a crucial role in mobilizing people everywhere. But it is always the suppressed and the caged that stream out in the street to say to their despots: enough. Short-sighted as they are, the despots and dictators fail to realize that unrest can never be fomented in a democracy. Stop clinging to power unwanted. Stop suppressing your own people. Let mass media give vent to public's grievances. Finally, let the people elect a government for themselves, you will find mass media on your side.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mullah, Media and Veena

It was not without feeling a pain and shame to watch clips of Express TV's interview with Pakistan film star Veena Malik and a mufti. Pakistani media in cahoots with religious right has taken Veena Malik to task for participating in an Indian reality show.
The only blame that host of the program, Shahid Malik, and Mufti Abdul Qavi could bring against Veena Malik was that she defamed the culture of Pakistan by participating in the show. My first question is that is there anything called Pakistani culture? There is no consensus about it at any level, because Pakistani people have yet to explore their historical roots.
The religious section, which is on a warpath against any dissenting voice, have been trying all along to link our roots with the Arab land. There is another section which looks towards Central Asia to find their antecedents. However, historians like Mubarak Ali have a strong case to say that the people of this region are old Indians and present-day South Asians.
Unless Pakistanis relate themselves to their roots, they cannot talk of any culture of their own, because culture is always a historical continuity. It never begins at a point in history; at least not at a certain date and year. Culture adds new layers to its old ones like a crustacean to grow.
Our culture did not begin with the invasion of Sindh by Mohammad Bin Qasim who was as culturally different from us as any foreign invader. Except for Pakhtuns, no Pakistani share any cultural roots with Ahmed Shah Abdali and Mehmud Ghaznavi who attacked then India repeatedly from the eastern side. India had never been a land without its own people; it has a historical continuity of no less than 4000 years.
People living in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are denizens of the mainland, and they should accept this fact. It was the result of Arab traders' intermingling with the local population and the message of love by great Sufis that a section of the local population became Muslims.
With the change of religion, culture does not change so quickly; the Muslims of the region still culturally share a lot with people of India, irrespective of their religious differences. Cultures can not live in isolation; we lived in harmony with people of other religions in the same land for centuries and that is the reason that we have a lot common in culture.
Back to Veena Malik story, she presented a soft image of Pakistan for which she deserves our and our media's kudos. Pity the media and pity the people who take pride when 'we' send Ajaml Qassab to spill blood of innocent people in India. Then, this fact did not cross our face that whose culture Qassab and his accomplices were representing? At least not ours.
If Veena Malik should not have taken part in an Indian show--as suggested by clean-shaved maulvi called Shahid Malik--because of cultural sensitivities, then Pakistani players should not go to India for sports, or Indian players should come to Pakistan.
If our maulvis in and outside media are so touchy about the image of Islam and Pakistan, they should stop glorifying murderers like Qadri. It is not only shaming us Muslims, but is also sacrilegious. Stop stoning people to death and stop harassing those very Pakistanis who are just religiously different from us. It is disgusting.
If Meher Bokhari has Salman Taseer's blood on her hands, then if--God forbid--Veena Malik is killed by another Qadri, Shahid Malik and Mufti Abdul Qavi must be counted among the culprits. One longs for the good not-so-old days when there was no private TV in Pakistan and no such obscenity and vulgarity beamed into people's living rooms.
Veena Malik spoke with the strength of a conscience while shame was writ large on the faces of the two maulvis--one modern, the other archaic.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WikiLeaks and Ben Ali's fall

Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali became the first victim of the WikiLeaks. Or, the leaks just dealt the final blow to make the corrupt dictator flee? (By the way, all dictators are corrupt. Are not they?)
However, more is expected to come in other Arab countries. Public outrage against dictatorship and voracious corruption of the rulers in Tunisia has sent alarm bells across the Arab world. Amr Musa of the Arab League has warned that other Arab countries could face unrest like that of Tunisia on account of increasing poverty among common Arabs.
It seems that WikiLeaks are proving a blessing in disguise for the people who suffer at the hands of dictators like Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and Hosni Mobarak of Egypt. The United States and its corporate media have never 'exposed' the Arab dictators only to keep the oil flowing and put the anti-Israeli sentiments of the people of Arab world on leash.
On another note, the media in Pakistan are trying to inflame public sentiments against the PPP-led government by trying to draw a parallel between corruption of Ben Ali and perceived corruption of President Asif Ali Zardari.
However, they fail to realize that Ben Ali and his coterie's power flowed from the barrel of the gun, while in Pakistan a democratically elected government is struggling to survive the repercussions of an inherited war on terror and deep-rooted extremism.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Playing with words we don't know their meanings

Afghanistan's Education Minister Farooq Wardak, in an interview with Guardian newspaper said the Taliban have agreed to drop their opposition to female education in the war-battered country. "It is attitudinal change, it is behavioural change, it is cultural change," he said. Interesting!
Attitude, behavior and culture all changed within a few years. Do these change so quickly?
Behavior is always driven by belief. Therefore, it changes with a change in belief which may happen in a short span. Attitude is comparatively long-lasting because it has its roots in culture. Culture itself is mind, which is a combination of values, thought patterns & perception, beliefs and behavior.
Culture is like an iceberg with behavior, customs, language, food, art and clothes just the tip, which is called external culture.
The most significant part of culture is internal or inside our heads which encompasses our way of thinking or how we perceive or interpret reality. Our values and beliefs are determined by this part of the culture. These values, beliefs, and ways of thinking in turn shape or determine most of our behavior.
Looking at behavior, attitude, and culture in the light of these arguments, one is surprised how all the three transformed for the Taliban in just 10 years.
Daily Dawn of Pakistan in one of its editorials on January 14 says: "On the surface it was a stern public diplomacy message from the vice president of America to the people of Pakistan." Public diplomacy by its very nature is always soft. Because the aim of public diplomacy is to get people of other countries do what you want them to do without threat or coercion. For public diplomacy governments normally use channels other than diplomacy per se. Like Voice of American (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Liberty Radio (RFL)etc are tools of public diplomacy the United States have been using to promote a soft image of itself. Public diplomacy depends on soft power instead of stern or hard power.
We should be careful in using words which have a large baggage of meanings behind them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Withering state

German philosopher and sociologist Max Weber says that only STATE has a monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory. It means that a state exists so long as it has a monopoly of violence--of course apart from its other obligations. Furthermore, only states have the right to declare war.
In the light of Weber's idea of state Pakistan exists no more: it has lost its monopoly of violence over the years. Pakistan as a state has declared a war on terror, while home-grown non-state actors have declared war on the very state of Pakistan.
In a functioning state courts hand down punishments to the convicts which are executed by the executive (another organ of the state). However, in Pakistan, individuals and militant outfits punish people summarily in blithe disregard to judiciary (second organ of the state) and the executive.
I am wondering whether a state can claim its existence in the absence of any functioning organ?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Supine and spineless!

Behold! A member of the committee tasked with determining the causes of Salman Taseer's assassination has come up with a bizarre revelation: Qadri, the assassin, has no connection to any extremist and defunct organization. Which means that Taseer's assassination was the act of a lone lunatic.
But what about the thousands of people who jubilated at the murder and still try to lionize the killer? What about the scores of 'lawyers' who garlanded Qadri and offered to plead his case free of cost? What about heads of almost every religious party that still eulogize the killer and justify the murder?
Everybody that spoke at the Karachi rally and hurled threats at every moderate, sane people are complicit in this assassination. In short, Qadri is not an unbranded lunatic murderer; he belongs to every organization that bay for the blood of religious minorities and threaten every person that calls for the repeal of the draconian law called blasphemy law.
Every organization--and every individual--that supports the blasphemy law is related to Qadri, both directly and indirectly. And last but not the least, every 'journalist' that stoked hatred against religious minorities and against saner voices like that of Salman Taseer and Sherry Rehman is culpable. Qadri belongs to Meher Bokhari, Ansar Abbassi and their elks, and they belong to Qadri.
Qadri belongs to Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI (F), Jamaatul Daawa, Jaishi Muhammad, Sipahe Sohaba, Sunni Tehrik--name a so-called religious organization and they belong to each other.
This shameful story was capped by our supine and spineless Prime Minister Gillani, whose government stooped so low and literally disowned the hero who stood by his conscience until his last drop of blood. Taseer died a hero's death; his party tucked its tail between its legs and ran for their lives.
The civil society put up a brave face, but was ditched by the government when Gillani announced not to amend the blasphemy law. Shame on you!

Supine and spinelss!

Behold! A member of the committee tasked with determining the causes of Salman Taseer's assassination has come up with a bizarre revelation: Qadri, the assassin, has no connection to any extremist and defunct organization. Which means that Taseer's assassination was the act of a lone lunatic.
But what about the thousands of people who jubilated at the murder and still try to lionize the killer? What about the scores of 'lawyers' who garlanded Qadri and offered to plead his case free of cost? What about heads of almost every religious party that still eulogize the killer and justify the murder?
Everybody that spoke at the Karachi rally and hurled threats at every moderate, sane people are complicit in this assassination. In short, Qadri is not an unbranded lunatic murderer; he belongs to every organization that bay for the blood of religious minorities and threaten every person that calls for the repeal of the draconian law called blasphemy law.
Every organization--and every individual--that supports the blasphemy law is related to Qadri, both directly and indirectly. And last but not the least, every 'journalist' that stoked hatred against religious minorities and against saner voices like that of Salman Taseer and Sherry Rehman is culpable. Qadri belongs to Meher Bokhari, Ansar Abbassi and their elks, and they belong to Qadri.
Qadri belongs to Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI (F), Jamaatul Daawa, Jaishi Muhammad, Sipahe Sohaba, Sunni Tehrik--name a so-called religious organization and they belong to each other.
This shameful story was capped by our supine and spineless Prime Minister Gillani, whose government stooped so low and literally disowned the hero who stood by his conscience until his last drop of blood. Taseer died a hero's death; his party tucked its tail between its legs and ran for their lives.
The civil society put up a brave face, but was ditched by the government when Gillani announced not to amend the blasphemy law. Shame on you!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Murder in a context

Everything that a person does is determined by his/her environment. Prevailing environment provides a context to our doings because nothing happens in a contextual vacuum. When the assassin Mumtaz Qadri, who now hymns na'at's in police custody, emptied two magazines of his official gun into the body of Salam Taseer, the context for this gory drama had been provided by the national media, and many others.
Some others tried to give it a post-murder context. Babar Awan called it a conspiracy against the government--a government which literally let the valiant Taseer down. It was no conspiracy; it was plain murder based on religious and sectarian hatred. Full Stop.
Rehman Malik says that he himself would shot dead, on the spot, if someone blasphemes. One is constrained to tell him: "Just shut up your gab, man!" It is akin to promote anarchy by emboldening lunatics who have already gone haywire. It is worse than inquisitions. If Interior Minister of a country promotes lynching by mob, how can we expect justice in such a society. I know that Rehman Malik wants to save his own skin by pampering to the rabid reactionaries.
The last time I checked Pakistan had a constitution and a warped legal system with (mal)functioning courts. Then, how and why he felt the need to shoot down a person on the spot without bring charges against him to a court of law?
Babar Awan, who has a knack for making a mad run for every high office, set his eyes on the vacant governor's house in Lahore even before Taseer's blood was wiped from the murder scene. It was shocking to see a sheepish mirth on his face while sitting with Asif Zardari in anticipation of being called to replace Taseer. But can he or anyone else in the ranks of the present-day PPP replace Taseer? They may fill his chair, but the void will be there.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pakistan or Orwell's Animal Farm?

When Mumtaz Qadri, the killer, was brought to a court in Rawalpindi on Wednesday a motley of lunatics showered him with flower petals and chanted slogans in his support. Just like an individual can suffer from schizophrenia or paranoia, these psychic diseases can afflict a whole lot of people. This is what Pakistan is passing through these days.
But the situation becomes all the more alarming when these schizophrenics and paranoids take control of the mass media, attire modern dress and bray for the blood of a few liberal voices. It becomes a classic case of Modern Media, Medieval Mind (Zafarullah Khan in his seminal research used this term for jihadi web-based newspapers in Pakistan).
But the line dividing hate-based jihadi and mainstream media is getting blurred. Blogs like are the only alternative and saner media in Pakistan. Liberal voices have been stifled. Blogs have become the only islands of freedom of speech. However, they can be no match for the mainstream media that have been taken over by the lunatics.
How many people in Pakistan have access to the Internet? How many people can read and understand English, which is the lingua franca of blogposts? People everywhere are dependent on newspapers, radio and television to have a world view. Private television play a havoc in Pakistan, because the common viewers have a blind faith in them on account of their being not government-controlled.
Gone are the days when journalism used to be a profession of the left; now it has been taken over by the rabid rightists. Even the present-day left has taken a U-turn. In the words of my journalist friend, Iftikhar Firdous, left is now only a sign of direction. This shows bankruptcy of Pakistani society.
Those chanting for the killer and garlanding him for his despicable crime forget that Salman Taseer was not an individual; he represented a section of society which does not see life in black & white. The criminal silenced that section of society; left them chilled in fear. Pakistan is fast becoming George Orwell's Animal Farm where people like Ansar Abbasi, Meher Bokhari, Shahid Masood and Hamid Mir will tell the people what to chant and how to chant. Goons like Qadri will stalk every nook of the country to silence any dissenting voice.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Groping in the dark!

How difficult it has become for individuals in Pakistan to adjust to the sensitivities of the numerous? Life has become a balancing act on a thin rope in a dark room which is not there. It is a torturous walk to a certain death. Nay! It eats into my vitals, but does not let me to die—once and for all. They want me to die in pieces. Like Prometheus, they eat my liver every day; but it grows back to be eaten again the next day.

How can I balance myself? My body and steps can respond to only one beat at a time. But there are many that shake my soul. Shatters my whole body. Confounds my mind. Sap my courage. And take away my will to step ahead. I want to freeze, turn into a stone just like ‘they’ have frozen time and space. For me, time moves but in a circle like arm of the clock. For them, time is standstill. Nothing has moved, nothing will move. The sun rises and sets out of its wont.

But I see their faces are frozen too. Like a mask that has no emotions, and it sends shivers down my spine. How can I trust people who garland the killer and shower profanities on the victim? Who reach out to the wolf for devouring one of their own primate. Don't they know that they are kissing the cold hand of the death? Look! blood is still dripping from his hands and he is frothing at his mouth.

He has tasted human blood. Now, nothing else can quench his thirst.

And look at the media! They are spewing more hatred. Instead of telling the story of the death of humanity, the anchorpersons and their 'experts' blame the victim and valorize the killing machine. Is it because the killing machine has got a beard? No problem, if he has got a warped and twisted soul like his mind--if he has any.

After all, the killing machine was manufactured by these anchorpersons. They wrote the script. They chose the characters. They directed the whole gory drama.

I am losing my balance. I cannot step forward--not even backward. And it is so painful to stand still. I can stop my hands and feet from moving. My eyes from blinking. But, I can't stop my blood from running in my veins. Therefore, I take one long plunge. To hell with death-mongers. I dare to say that the one whose blood turned the streets of the capital into red is a shaheed. The one who had a wry smile on his ghostly face is a murderer.