Tuesday 31 March 2009

My home is on fire

My home is on fire. Lahore was attacked again yesterday by cowardly brainwashed zealots. Within a space of one month it was second attack where Punjab Police sacrificed eleven lives on the altar of terrorism. Only difference this time was that four of the perpetrators have been caught alive. Though, the Ministry of Interior has been quick to point fingers at usual suspects, and Baitullah Mehsood, head of a banned militant outfit alleged to be responsible for assasination of ex Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has accepted responsibility for yesterday's attacks, I hope that those caught alive will point to real culprits who financed, planned and help with this attack.

This is the second kick in the backside of intelligence agencies in a month. When the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked I wrote that there is no lack of skills and intelligence capacity and capability in Pakistan. Even in this case the Intelligence Bureau had alerted the Punjab Goverment of the risk of another attack on a government facility. It is the incompetence of our ruling class and their misplaced priorities that is resulting in this continuous loss of life. Listenining to the pointless policy speech by President Zardari addressing the joint session of the parliament I could only think of a verse from Urdu poetry

Barbad gulistaan karne ko to ek hi ullu kaafi tha
Yaha..har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai anjam-e-gulistan kya hoga

Literally meaning

For destroying the wonderful garden, even one owl is sufficient
Here there is an owl on each branch, wonder what would happen to the garden

There is still some light at the end of the tunnel. With the return of ousted Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, a known competent administrator I hope that focus of provincial administration will return to providing security to common people and establishing once again the rule of law.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Terrorists against symbols of love and harmony

Sow flowers so your surroundings become a garden
Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet

If you shoot arrows at others,
Know that the same arrow will come back to hit you.

Don’t dig a well in another’s path,
In case you come to the well’s edge

You look at everyone with hungry eyes
But you will be first to become mere dirt.

Humans are all one body,
Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.

Not many people in the west, living in a media savvy world of today where the North West of Pakistan is being portrayed as the hub of global terrorism and current head quarters of Al-Qaeda, would realise that these verses were written three centuries ago by Rehman Baba, eminent Pushto sufi poet. Rehman Baba lived his life, practised his personal form of sufi-ism and wrote his poetry in the same tribal belt where American drones are killing dozens of ordinary civilians every week while hunting for Osama Bin Laden and his cronies.

World as we see it today might have been significantly different had any in American CIA and Pakistan's ISI working with the then military Dictator General Zia paid heed to Rehman Baba's words "Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet" when gathering, creating and training a rag tag army of Jihadis from all over the Islamic world into a professional guerrilla fighting force to hit the final nail in the coffin of a dying Soviet Empire. These thorns that were sown in the rugged mountains terrains of Afghanistan and North West Pakistan have come of age and are now pricking the feet of the entire world, not only their creators.

But, a huge price is being paid by the historically self effacing Pashtun populations of these regions who have over the last three decades suffered material and human losses, at the hands of these imported jihadis and those who created them, and are now being inflicted with emotional torture by targeting of shrines. On 23rd March terrorists targeted the shrine of Rehman Baba - a place of reverence for Muslims across the ethnic divides.

Rehman Baba belonged to a long list of sufi scholars and poets who are credited for the spread if Islam in the Indian subcontinent through their literature and life. These sufi poets were did not follow or pursue the ways of established religious establishments. Three hundred years ago Rehman Baba’s "pursuit of God outside the mosque led to confrontation with the established religious hierarchy. His quest for God made him a solitary mystic with little interest in formal religion." Some historians believe that Rehman Baba’s unorthodox views inflamed the local religious establishment:

I got nothing from being a sheikh or from my righteousness
From now on it is my turn, to do whatever I can at the tavern
I washed my hands of piety when the musician picked up the rebab


Rather than the unacceptable worship of the hypocrite, I prefer to be drunk on Saqi’s wine.
Whether knowledge, rosary or recitation, I am happier asleep than awake with these.
I don’t like the Tooba tree’s shade, but prefer to be burnt like a kebab in the flames of your face.

Attack on Rehman Baba's shrine is another attempts to establish a religious hegemony upon the local population by invading Jihadi Mafia. A lesson from history that invading powers of all sizes and sorts have forgotten that Afghans and Pashtuns have never surrendered to invasions. I hope that the declaration of war by attempting to destroy the sanctity of Rehman Baba's shrine will act as a rallying cry for peaceful Pashtuns to stand up against what's trying to destroy the very roots of Pashtun traditions.

Pakistani poets in struggle for democracy - II: English translation of some of Habib Jalib's poems

In my hand I hold a pen,
in my heart the light of consciousness.
How can your forces of oppression
ever win?

In response to my last post about Habib Jalib I was asked if there were any translations of his poetry available in English. Here is a small representative selection of English translations of his work.

I copy below a translation of one of his most mutinous (according to ruling dictators of the time in Pakistan) poems "Dastoor" also famous as "Main Nahin Maanta" - literally "I refuse to accept". You can also watch the great man reciting the poem in this video

I refuse to Accept

The light which shines only in palaces
Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows
Derives its strength from others’ weakness
That kind of system,
like dawn without light
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept

I am not afraid of execution,
Tell the world that I am the martyr
How can you frighten me with prison walls?
This overhanging doom,
this night of ignorance,
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept

“Flowers are budding on branches”, that’s what you say,
“Every cup overflows”, that’s what you say,
“Wounds are healing themselves”, that’s what you say,
These bare-faces lies,
this insult to the intelligence,
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept

For centuries you have all stolen our peace of mind
But your power over us is coming to an end
Why do you pretend you can cure pain?
Even if some claim that you’ve healed them,
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept.

Translation of another example of his revolutionary poems used sometimes very effectively by media during the struggle for democracy under General Musharaf's dictatorship is produced below. This video is an example of how media used his poetry for political messaging.

So I said this to him…

So I said this to him:
“Your 100 million people,
are ignorance personified,
Their minds have gone to sleep,
And every ray of hope,
Has been lost in the darkness,
It is completely true,
They are the living dead,
Completely unaware,
A disease of life itself,
And YOU hold in YOUR hands,
The cure for all their ills”

So I said this to him:
“You are the light of God,
Wisdom personified,
The Nation is with you,
And it is only through YOUR grace,
That the nation can be saved,
You are our morning bright,
After you there is only night,
The few who dare speak out,
Are simply mischied-makers,
You should tear out their tongues,
And throttle them on sight!”

So I said this to him:
“Those eloquent with pride,
Their tongues are silent now,
There is calm now in our land,
Oh what a difference there is!,
between today and yesterday,
People are in prison today,
At their very own expense”

So I said this to him:
“China is our friend,
We’d give our lives for her,
BUT the system that they have,
Let’s steer well clear of that,
From far off say ‘Salaam’,
The hundred million asses,
referred to as ‘the masses’,
How could they become rulers!,
Of this there is no doubt,
And my only prayer now is,
That you’ll always be our boss”

There are some more English translations of Jalib's poetry available at this site.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Pakistani poets in struggle for democracy

I have been planning to write about the importance of literature in general and poetry in specific in highlighting a nation's state of mind at a particular stage in its history. A friend at the British Council (Anwar Ahmad) beat me to this by sharing the following message which unfortunately my readers who cannot read Urdu will not be able to appreciate fully - apologies for that. Anwar wrote:

"piece of good news coming from Pakistan - which is likely to go unnoticed largely - is that finally the government has decided to award posthumously the highest civil award to a man of letters, no less than Habib Jaalib. Jaalib, who belonged to a, [economically] lower class family, fought all his life for civil liberties, democracy and the people of his country. He would have been a great romantic poet had he not devoted himself to writing 'revolutionary poems'. When he started writing poetry, his famous ghazal was much appreciated by the critics and readers alike. The first bait [verse] was:

Is shehr-e-kharabi mein gham-e-ishq ke mare
Zinda hain yehi baat bari baat hai pyare

But as a true revolutionary, he suffered a lot. His family often did not have any resources to lean back upon while he was in jail. When he wrote his famous poem, Dastoor, on the 1962 constitution, Ayub administration did not tolerate it. And only someone like Jaalib could be so indiscrete:

When we think about the [recent] restoration of judiciary, we should not forget many people who fought for this cause in the most hostile conditions in the absence of any media on their back. And how can one forget his great poem when [military dictator General] Zia's Martial Law administration was trying to silence every voice which did not endorse his philosophy. Jaalib was beaten up on the Lahore's Regal Chowk. A police officer kicked him [repeatedly], on writing against Zia. And what a beauty the poem was. Who says that propaganda can not be artistic:
His widow refused the government grant when it was offered after his death. PPP applauded him when it was in opposition but in government it was hardly any different to him. He and his family lived a difficult life. I end the message with his ghazal which describes his ideology in his own words:

Sunday 22 March 2009

Pakistan - governance by "Containers"

One of the most haunting images of last weekend (13-15 March) from Pakistan was that of forlone looking presidential palace in Islamabad hiding behind long containers, nomally used for ferrying goods across the country. Someone in authority thought using these containers would be the best way to block highways and access routes to Islamabad. Objective was to stop the civil society, protesting and demanding the return of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, from marching on to the federal capital.

Out of panic our "Hardward" trained Minister of Interior, Rehman Malik panicked into issuing orders to stop, confiscate and as a result grinding to a halt the goods transport industry in Pakistan for the whole week. His experience in Security Industry (he was in charge of Benazir Bhutto's personal security - and promoted to the rank of top sleuth in Pakistan after her assassination) led him to believe that blocking roads with long containers will stop people from marching towards the capital.

Long March is now successfully over, Chief Justice returned to his duties to administer justice, and the Prime Minister was busy dining with Mian Nawaz Sharif, head of the opposition today. I am not sure that we will ever find out the true cost to an already faltering economy of a week long hijack of goods transport industry. Containers that were confiscated were not empty - they were full of goods that had to be delivered somewhere according to an agreed time frame. Large number of these containers were carrying perishable food items. In the absence of a working insurance industry most of the losses were not covered and will be borne by the traders.

There was a human element to this episode, as well. For every truck that was impounded, for every container that was left on a road to block traffic, there was a truckers assistant left behind - for those not aware of how trucking industry works in Pakistan - with every truck on the road there is a character on board to accompany the driver, called a "cleaner". He is a lackey, under training and spare driver, person responsible to take care of the truck and do odd jobs. These poor creatures were left behind to look after the containers and its stocks, in many cases in deserted areas far away from residential and commercial facilities without access to food and amenities. They were few of the real victims of this crisis who will never be compensated.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Pakistan's sports in exile

There is some political calm in Pakistan after the unecessary chaos and civil strife created by president Zardari's political adventurism in Punjab and his desire not to abide by the desires of the civil society in Pakistan to re-establish the judicial superiority over dictatorial power setup. With the return of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the political activists back in their drawing rooms one can now focus on the future, or lack of it, of sports in Pakistan.

Recent attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team have highlighted the fragility of security situation in Pakistan in specific and the Indian subcontinent in general. Face of terrorism has changed since the cowardly attacks in Islamabad, Mumbai and Lahore. New methods adapted by well trained terrorists have made it easier for them to strike any where with deadly effect. Though the immediate impact of attacks in Lahore is on future of all kinds of sports in Pakistan but in reality the face of sports across the world will change. The day attacks happened in Lahore reverbrations of Munich Olympics were felt again. Football world cup in South Africa and London Olympics, though years away, will not be the same now. Terrorism is striking at the heart of sports, what has been and could be the best tool for international cultural relations. At a time when the world should be standing united to tackle this international menace, there are those who are trying to make Pakistan an international sporting pariah - another example of collective punishment being inflicted on a nation for the crimes of a few stateless and mindless criminals. Reminders of Gaza - anyone! but on a different scale.

Matters have been made worse for any kind of international sports in Pakistan. Most of the immediate impact has been felt by cricket fans of Pakistan. Visit by Sri Lankan team was expected to revive the confidence in security situation in Pakistan but ended up destroying it completely. Australia, New Zealand, and Indian cricket teams have refused to travel to Pakistan over the last two years. Any hopes for an international team visiting the country for at least next five years are completely gone.

It is not only cricket, though, that has suffered due to security concerns. Hockey, the second most popular sport has also faced the same situation. Champions Trophy in 2007 was moved away from Pakistan due to similar concerns. Foreign sports people of all backgrounds are refusing to travel to Pakistan. Pakistan Football Association couldn't recruit a Hungarian as a national coach because he refused to work in Pakistan in worsening security situation.

With cricket, at least, there is some hope that Pakistan can choose to play in UAE and England as home grounds. Large cricket loving expatriat populations in these places provide an ideal alternative to home crowds and grounds. This is provided that out of any mis-founded partriotism the decision makers in Pakistan's cricket establishment do not carry on trying to make a case for foreign teams to visit Pakistan - a highly improbable scenario. Note that Bangaladesh cancelled a visit by Pakistan cricket team to Bangladesh out of security concerns. Pakistan's priority should be to make sure that Pakistani sports people do not fall behind in opportunities to compete at international level even if it means more international travel and no international competition at home. While doing this it is vital to focus on revisit and develop local sports infrastructure - perhaps its time for government to bury the hatchet and ask for Imran Khan's help.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Welcome back! People's Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry

I wrote this post sitting on a Train heading towards London. Sun is shining and sky is bright bringing hope for a beautiful day – the way it has been for Pakistan since yesterday since the government finally decided to cave in to pressure from the civil society and bring back one person who for over two years have come to symbolise hope in Pakistan – Iftikhar Chaudhry, deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan – now People’s Chief Justice.

CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry carries a heavy burden on his shoulders – burden of hopes of a nation that is: scarred by rape of its democratic and human rights by military dictators; pillaged by religious fanatics born out of US sponsored holy war against Russia in Afghanistan who were then raised and nurtured by another military dictator in Pakistan seeking moral and political legitimacy; and let down by the heirs to a democratic legacy - the current government of Pakistan.

His return should be credited to the long struggle undertaken by civil society, the lawyers movement and the Media who took the brunt of civilian dictatorship in the making. But it should also not be forgotten that the political ineptness of the current government, that resulted in the political chaos in Punjab and in return pushing the second biggest political party in Pakistan to throw its political might and street muscle behind the Lawyers, is to be credited for this success.

For a change I would like to give credit to the current army leadership as well who despite a golden opportunity handed over to them by the circumstances created by the politicians not only abstained from political adventurism but used its muscle to bring the political stalemate to an end. Last two weeks proved that, unlike popular perception, simply instructions from our lords and masters in Washington DC are not enough to bring the political elite in Pakistan to their senses. Helpful cajoling from the military brass did the trick – not a day of pride for political institutions.

CJ Chaudhry is no Messiah who will return on 21st March 2009 and will solve all the nation’s problems overnight. But he surely can begin the long process of healing the sore of “might is right” that has festered in our society for the last sixty years of our existence. Through the strength of his character, he has shown that one man can take a principled stand against the might of a military (or civilian) dictatorship.

He will need to draw deeper on the power of his beliefs to fulfil the task that lies ahead of him – that is to bring respect and dignity back to a judiciary dealing with an identity crisis by beginning a clean up of the rot that it has brought upon itself by being the creator of “doctrine of necessity” to support “might is right”. He has been elevated to be a symbol of integrity and “what could be” of our judicial system. His immediate task is to work towards making sure that only honest and competent wear the robe that delivers justice, and those with vice and incompetence are never able to enter the august ranks of judiciary. There are those in superior judiciary whose name is tainted by allegations of high level links with criminals and mafia – those should be investigated and kicked out or their names cleared.

And there is the matter of National Reconciliation Ordinance and blanket indemnity enjoyed by past and current rulers. If they were innocent there name should be cleared through a swift and thorough judicial process or they be tried and punished through due process.

Finally, he will have to be cautious as there are pitfalls waiting and those who would like see him fall and fail.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Sherry Rehman: A woman with moral courage

Well done, Sherry! I can't remember when was the last time, in Pakistan, when I saw a powerful government minister resign, from a job that she obviously loved and enjoyed, on the grounds of opposition to wrong policies of her own government. One can mention leader of the upper house Senator Raza Rabbani resigning last week - but his, in my view, was a reaction of a scorned loyal jiyala (Jiyala: loosely means a deveotee, and it has become a buzzword in Pakistan largely taken as a devotee of Pakistan People’s Party), who was hoping to be the next Chairman Senate and resigned when he didn't get the coveted prize. Sherry, on he other hand has taken a stand on moral gorunds - her opposition to government's atempts to silence independent media - target once again the Pakistani television channel GEO who are banned from transmission in Pakistan. I was talking to my brother in Pakistan this morning who was watching GEO on cable TV - since yesterday even the cable TV operators are now defying the government bans. More on thais civil disobendience later...

This short post is to rejoice the moral courage of a young woman in Pakistani politics who has taken a moral stand. she hasn't left the party on whose platform she has struggled for bringing back democracy, nor has she denounced the political ideology she beleives in - Just taken a moral stand. In a herd of morally and intellectually incompetent people surrounding president Zardari she was a breath of fresh air that will be sorely missed.

During last two weeks, for me images of two woman define Pakistan - one is Sherry, a an epitome of modern Pakistani woman who did not sell her soul for political and financial gains. Other one was Laila Muqaddas (the relegiously headscarfed hypocryt) who allegedly sold herself for 30 million.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Pakistan - Is Zardari attempting political suicide!

Confession time! 25th March last year I was a wee bit emotional watching Bilawal Zardari shedding tears sitting in the guests gallery of the National Assembly of Pakistan watching the first post Musharraf democratically elected government take oath. I nodded in agreement when he repeated his mother's statement that "democracy is the best revenge".

Like many of my friends I rejoiced when Yousuf Raza Gilani anounced, as his first act as Prime Minister, releasing the deposed judiciary from house arrests. I was happier when, biggest improbability happened and a coalition government of two arch political enemies Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N) took oath of office in my home province Punjab.

On 09 September last year I was trying to bury my earlier prejudices watching Asif Ali Zardari take oath of office as president. I belong to a generation of Pakistanis that grew up hearing stories (some prAsif Ali Zardarioven true in overseas courts of law, and some possibly untrue) of corruption by Asif Ali Zardari and his elevation on corruption index from Mr. Ten Percent in PPP's first term in office to Mr. Cent Percent in its second term. I for one honestly tried to put all of my earlier feelings and prejudices about him aside in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's untimely death and saw him portraying himself as a mature political leader of national stature the day he shouted "Pakistan Khappay" (Sindhi word literally meaning "Pakistan needed") in response to anti Pakistan slogans at Benazir's funeral, and later entering into discussions for political reconciliation and working with long term political foes to form governments of national unity all across the country. His past "sins" were being forgotten and forgiven by most and his popularity at an all time high across the political scene.

I am a strong believer that the worst democracy is preferable over the best dictatorship. Given due time, democratic and civilian institutions can develop and mature, and most problems that are endemic in Pakistan's political infrastructure can disappear - if we just don't let another power hungry military dictator come forth again.

There has been a reasonably large number of Pakistani friends who kept reminding hopeless romantics like me that a leopard doesn't change its spots. Zaradari's innate nature will soon come out to haunt the nation fairly soon. If I am to draw any conclusions from news from Pakistan over the last few weeks it is strikingly obvious that those who doubted his intentions, his credentials as a democrat and his mental health to be a national leader were apparently right. Any positive illusions I and millions of common Pakistanis had about his leadership are fast dissipating.

Zadari lays claim to being the heir to Bhuttoism which was an ideology and a symbol of empowerment for the dispossessed. Since coming to power he has systematically disenfranchised those among party and political leadership who beleived in the Bhutto legacy. Personal loyalty has and is being rewarded over competence - see no further than the Federal Minister of Interior and the newly installed Chairman of Senate.

In less then a year creator of slogans like "Pakistan Khappay" is now known more for his statements like "agreements... are not holy like the holy Quran and the Hadith and can be modified if circumstances change". Hearing this many Baloch tribal elders would have turned in their grave - Zardari being from a Baloch tribe.

Compared to political and governance situation under Musharraf in 2007 we appear to have come full circle with only the face changing at the top of the government:
  • One of the main reasons for civic society standing up against Musharraf was his unashamed contempt for independent judiciary and sacking of 60 judges inclusing the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Zardari is following in his footsteps by refusing to bring back the independent judges (one of the election promises by Benazir Bhutto) sacked by Musharraf and recruiting to the judiciary equally unashamedly a cohort of his cronies.
  • Law and order situation is as bad, if not worse than it was in 2007. Terrorists have proven that they can strike any where in Pakistan, with complete success and then walk away without taking a single hit.
  • Curbs on an independent media are as stringent as they were in Musharraf's times. Once again Pakistani independent television network GEO is banned to transmit in Pakistan as a punishment for airing anti-government views.
  • Crackdown on political opposition is as harsh as ever with the only difference that Nawaz Sharif has not been sent in exile to Saudi Arabia.
We have been here a number of times in the past. If the nation was not reeling from the pain of Musharraf's regime and Army has not been so severely discredited for failing to curb Taliban insurgency in the North and North West of the country, Jamat-e-Islami would have been writing letters to the Generals to come and rescue the country from inept political leadership.Sherry Rehman

A positive development yesterday was resignation of the Federal Information Minister
Sherry Rehman protesting the curbs on independent media. Dissent within the People's Party on inept governance is a good sign.

A vast
majority of people of Pakistan (172 million of us) know with absolute clarity where the priorities of the government should be: (1) providing security to common people by combating politically and militarily, if the needed, the menace of terrorism emanating from Afghan borders; (2) working on bringing economic stability to an almost bankrupt economy, and; (3) political stability and strengthening of state institutions like judiciary.

People's party rode to electoral victory in the last elections on a wave of political sympathy emanating from death of Benazir Bhutto. It canno
t afford another botched term in office because it does not have leadership of Benzair's stature whose sacrifice will bring it back to power again.

Monday 9 March 2009

Return of "Lota" - Pakistan braces for resurgence of lotacracy

For my readers from outside Pakistan and those who are not aware of intricacies of Urdu language I would like to describe the term Lota which has a significance in Pakistani politics.

Defined by wikipedia Lota is an Urdu and Punjabi language word for a small, usually spherical water vessel of aluminium, brass, or copper used in parts of South Asia

a LotaIt is commonly used to store or transfer small amounts of water. In the Indian sub-continent, where cleaning with water is the usual method for maintaining personal hygiene after defecation or urination, a lota with a spout is widely used as a container for this purpose. Due to the hygienic requirements of ritual ablution, or wudu and ghusl in Islam adhered to by many Muslims, the use of a Lota has become prevalent throughout the Muslim world, where it is considered to provide a more thorough cleaning than simply using toilet paper.

So what is the significance of a lota in Pakistani politics. The word "lota" and especially the phrase "Be-penday ka Lota" (literally a "lota without a base") is colloquially used in a derogatory manner to refer to a person who frequently switches loyalties. This is because a spherical lota without a base tends to roll over in unpredictable directions when kept on uneven ground.

The term "lotacracy" was coined in Pakistan to describe politicians who frequently switched parties.

Recent political turmoil in my home province Punjab as a result of removal of provincial government lead by Pakistan Muslim League (second largest political party in Pakistan) imposition of governor rule in the province, disqualification from holding political office and contesting election of Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif. All of this with an objective to impose a minority led government in the province with the help of political turncoats or the Lotas.

Pakistani politics has always been marred by horse trading after a ruling political set up is brought down using undemocratic means. Members of parliament sell their conscience in return for cash and material benefits and set up "Forward Blocs" that support the new set up. These forward blocs are always and without exception a group of Lotas who have named and got their price.

And the honour of being the first lota in the new post Musharraf democratic set up is bestowed upon a female member of provincial assembly Laila Muqaddas, whose father in law (a local politician) has sold her for allegedly 30 million rupees. He tried to run an auction between Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League with a starting bid of 20 million. Though shunned by Sharif brothers he was still able to get the bid from PPP increased to 30 million.

In Pakistani culture a lota is used for both ablution and wiping your rear end. A lota used for one purpose cannot be used for the other. But a political lota, whatever their claim, is never better than a used arse wipe. And we are about to see a resurgence of this dirty commodity over the coming days.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Taliban, Lashkar, LTTE, India – what difference does it make?

There has been little progress in investigations into the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore Pakistan. Though there has been an abundance of conspiracy theories and finger pointing. Some analysts blaming it on some faction of Taliban (of whom, to make matters worse, there are various varieties now), Laskar-e-Tayyiba, LTTE from Sri Lanka, RAW – the Indian intelligence agency, and in view of some die hard conspiracy theorists the government of Pakistan itself are involved and might have orchestrated this to shift national attention from the political turmoil in the country.

Track record of such investigations in Pakistan suggests that although over the coming days some group (in all probability Lashkar) will be held responsible for planning and execution of Wednesday’s events, those who perpetrated this heinous atrocity will never actually be identified or caught. Investigations into high profile terrorist events of recent years including bombing in 2002 in front of Sheraton hotel in Karachi when England cricket team were staying there, kidnap and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, and bombing of Marriot Hotel in Islamabad in 2008 have not resulted in identification and arrest of real culprits.

Its not that the intelligence agencies in Pakistan lack any skills or resources needed to accomplish this but there has definitely been a lack of real political will and resolution needed to rid the country of the mess we are in. During his reign General Musharraf made an art out of playing, for the benefit of the western world, the victim and the crusader in the same tune, in the war on terror. Investigations into terrorist events during his times were always half hearted and never delivered any credible results.

Unfortunately, the current political set up has read a chapter or two from Musharraf’s book and rather than attempting to deal with the terrorist menace with all the might of State behind it, they are trying to carry on feeding the bogey man to keep the west scared and pouring security aid and funds into Pakistani establishment. Trouble is they are proving to be down right incompetent at doing that as well.

Political masters in Pakistan are bent upon playing with fire at the moment. The world is getting more and more worried about the terrorist bogey man from Pakistan. In his recent statement lord and master of Afghanistan, Christopher Dell, US Ambassador speaking to Guardian newspaper said "From where I sit Pakistan sure looks like it's going to be a bigger problem, … It is certainly one of those nuclear armed countries the instability of which is a bigger problem for the globe…Pakistan is a bigger place, has a larger population, its nuclear-armed. It has certainly made radical Islam a part of its political life, and it now seems to be a deeply ingrained element of its political culture. It makes things there very hard."

How do you think Pakistani political masters are addressing this problem… by creating an uncalled for political turmoil by disrespecting the political will of the people of the Punjab and suspending the provincial assembly, beginning the all so often repeated drama of horse trading to achieve absolute political power, and letting the sore of rotten judicial infrastructure fester untreated.

Who is responsible for the atrocities in Lahore - Taliban, Lashkar, LTTE, India – what difference does it make? In the absence of a leadership with integrity and loyalty to the state and nation this menace will continue to haunt us and the world.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Remember and honour those who perished!

I am guilty! In my last blog post, like a majority of my fellow nationals and rest of the world covered in deep sorrow over the events of Tuesday in Lahore, the attacks on our guests the Sri Lankan team I completely forgot to honour the seven lives sacrificed on the altar of terrorism.

I don’t know their names, or their backgrounds, but I do know that they were sacrificial goats presented by Punjab government to the inhuman butchers, the terrorists. I don’t know for sure but I really doubt that the police guards were adequately trained to deal with a terrorist attack like the police and paramilitaries used to be in Ireland. I don’t know for sure but am positive that none of them was wearing a bullet proof vest that a bobby on local beat in peaceful communities is always wearing in the UK. I don’t know but I am confident that they did not have the fire power to match and respond to the professionally trained and equipped terrorists. If I am wrong on any of these accounts then what logical explanation is there that they got slaughtered by two terrorists in an open space like Liberty Square in Lahore.

I do know for sure that among these policeman was a father and a son and a husband who did not return home Tuesday night. His name will be identified in media in passing as “the deceased” and then quickly forgotten. His family will probably be handed over a meagre 1000 pounds (for a photo opportunity for the Governer) and then left to rot in poverty.

Since the beginning of the illegal war carried out by Tony Blair in Iraq 179 British soldiers have given their life in the name of Queen and Country. Every single one of them is remembered and honoured. When remembering them no one is bothered about the legality of war – important is the life that was lost.

As the front line state in the war on terrorism we have lost more Pakistani soldiers, para militaries, and policemen then United States has in Iraq and Afghanistan put together. Do we announce the exact number? Do we even make a passing attempt to remember and honour?

As a nation we are reaching a state of mind where an individual life has lost its value, its sanctity. We do not pay attention until the number of dead is not above a certain threshold. And this threshold is increasing as the time goes by.

And where is accountability. In a civilised nation a soldier gives his life in combat – his family takes the ministry of defence to court because it failed to provide mission critical equipment to army in Afghanistan. In a highly charged security environment of Pakistan, government of Punjab assigns an ordinary police contingent to guard a VIP visiting cricket team. Accountability for murder of this police team rests with those who assigned them to this responsibility. But no one will be brought to court while the Judiciary is embroiled in its own identity crisis.

We can’t solve all these problems today, but for the moment we can remember and honour those who gave their lives on Tuesday. God grant them their just place in afterlife.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Sri Lanka Zindabad (Long Live Sri Lanka)

Today's attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers are a poignant reminder of the state of anarchy we are facing. This is a dark day for Pakistan cricket and a dark day for our international relations. When the cricket playing nations of the world were closing their doors and no one wanted to contemplate a visit to Pakistan it was the brave Sri Lankans who stood by us and despite all negative advisories came to play here. At a time when even Pakistanis living overseas think twice before going on a holiday to Pakistan they came - there bravery and courage is exemplary. Their bravery should been respected they should have been treated better. In the land of hospitality their treatment has ashamed us. My heart goes out to the cricketers, their families, and to Sri Lankan nation. On behalf of my nation, I am sorry.

Our leaders will soon be making hollow promises to bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice and to conduct swift investigations to catch the culprits. And, of course, there will be ceremonial pointing of fingers towards India – quid pro quo for Mumbai.

Speaking to BBC this Sunday Russian Oligarch Alexander Lebedev was commenting on how the current global economic crisis might affect Russia. He commented "we have a primitive economy based on raw materials...infrastructure is fifty years old on average and has to be scrapped completely. We are not producing anything. Our political system provides for no competition, no proper elections, no proper parliament, no proper media, no judicial system - that means if the government commits a blunder there is no one to correct it".

In Alexander Lebedev's statement I subconsciously replaced "Russia" with "Pakistan" and found it equally relevant. Our political system has failed time and again, parliament is ineffectual, Judiciary is busy dealing with its own identity crisis and there is no security for common citizens let alone the visitors. With all her ills Russia has not reached a point of self annihilation as Pakistan is rapidly.