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?