Friday 4 November 2011

Justice is blind but should not be served blindly: Spot fixing, Pakistani cricketers and the Bookie

I am appalled at the leniency of sentences handed down to Majeed Nawaz the bookie, Salman Butt the Captain, and Muhammad Asif the bowler. I am equally appalled at the harsh sentencing of Muhammad Amir the teenage victim of this saga.
Image design by Anam Haleem. Published on
Mr Justice Jeremy Cooke stated “These offences, regardless of pleas, are so serious that only a sentence of imprisonment will suffice”. I agree entirely, but sentencing Mazhar Majeed for only 32 months of which he will not serve half in jail is a travesty. Three cricketers have received additional punishments (and rightfully so) from ICC in the form of ban on their participation in all forms of cricket. Butt and Asif's cricketing careers are almost certainly over. But with his links to the underground Mafia, that runs the fixing business in sports, Mazhar Majeed will be back in business in no time looking for other cricketers to corrupt and matches to fix. He is the one who should have been made an example.

Amir is the young talent who has been hard done by the ICC and the British legal system. In Pakistani cricketing context a young prodigy would bowl a no ball on Captain's instructions whether there is money involved or not. Amir took money - from the socio-economic background he comes a few thousand pounds is a life changing sum of money. He did commit a crime in legal terms but his punishment (both by the ICC and the courts) is not proportionate to the crime committed. Justice is blind but should not be served blindly.

Thursday 6 October 2011

"Stay hungry, Stay foolish!" Steve Jobs R.I.P.

Steve Jobs is no more. I have no words of my own to say today. I am reproducing a remarkable inspirational speech Steve Jobs made at Stanford University.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.

Or watch this great man say all of this on video

Friday 30 September 2011

Does Trafford Council expect residents in Altrincham to be responsible for cleaning footpaths in front of their properties?

This is an image from Taylor Road in Altrincham. Footpath pictured is next to Leverett Close, a residential home.

Notice the road mostly clear of Autumn leaves - duly picked up by the Trafford Council's green waste removal staff. Few years ago the large machine that vacuumed the road off the leaves was normally accompanied by couple of staff on foot carrying leaf blowers removing leaves from the footpaths so that they were picked up by the machines. Not any more! Only streets in the area you will find the footpaths clean are where either there are no trees or where the residents either blow the leaves away from the footpath themselves, or have recruited gardeners to do so for them. This is not the case where the residents are senior citizens or the building is not a private residence.

On dry summer days like today these leafy streets present scenes worthy of a mention in scenic Britain catalogues. Not on normal late Autumn usually wet Manchester days I am afraid. This is when spots like the one in this picture with their thick and wet leaf cover become lethal accident spots especially for senior citizens out for a walk with the dog!

If I am to look at the evidence of last two winters, these leaves will stay right through the time when snow arrives. Inches thick leaf cover with inches thick snow cover = dangerous for normal fit healthy people as well!

This can only lead to a ridiculously hilarious scene from last winter like the one on Bradgate Road in Altrincham when I saw a dozen or so council staff trying to use leaf blowers to shift snow covered leaves from the foot path over to the street, and giving up after a hard graft resulting in cleaning of only five meters of space. Equally unfair to those hard working staff whose time and resource is visibly not being managed professionally.

So, my questions are:
  1. While increasing my Council Tax contribution every year, is the Trafford Council expecting me to take responsibility for removing green waste (which is not coming from trees/plants on my property) from the footpath and street in front of my property.
  2. Why is the Council negligent in cleaning in front of and behind properties that are not owned by individuals
  3. Is it not criminal social negligence to let deteriorate the condition of footpaths and walkways used by senior citizens for their much needed daily walks
I hope someone responsible is able to take ownership and respond.

Monday 19 September 2011

Dengue Fever, Zia-ulHaq, and CIA - script for next John le Carré novel set in Pakistan

Pakistan is always rife with conspiracy theories. Any problem no matter the scale, whether national, regional or local there is a well presented conspiracy theory depicting a foreign hand working against the state of Pakistan and people working in collusion with a local stooge. Some are downright ridiculous but some hold credence with many. More than often these theories are published in reasonably respectable sources and penned by equally "respectable" writers.

Latest one that intrigued me is the allegation that Dengue fever, just like Taliban is actually a creation and legacy of none other than our very own Mard-e-Momin General Zia-ul-Haq working on the behest of global arch villain USA through CIA. Written by two erstwhile academics from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Lahore and published in Business Recorder Pakistan is well worth a read without prejudice.

Dengue epidemic and political subjugation
Huzaima Bukhari and Dr Ikramul Haq
Very few people in Pakistan know the history of the dengue epidemic in Pakistan. It dates back to the era when we decided to give free hand to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use our land for its nefarious activities. We received many "gifts" from the Americans in post Afghan war that dismantled the USSR - dengue and drugs, arms and terrorism, religious bigotry and militarism. During the engagement in Afghanistan through the mujahideen, CIA started a "project" (sic) in Lahore under the name of the 'Malaria Eradication Centre' - headed by one David Nalin - to wage biological warfare against the USSR troops. The Centre hired some poor residents of Green Town as guinea pigs. They were infected with the dengue virus and were later on exposed to the Aedes mosquitoes in netted beds. In this way, David Nalin created virus-carrier species - A. aegypti A. albopictus, A. polynesiensis and A. scutellaris - capable of transmitting the deadly epidemic disease commonly known as dengue or yellow fever amongst the Red Army occupying Afghanistan. The story of CIA's plans for developing biological weapons in Pakistan through its undercover David Nalin was published in weekly Viewpoint of Lahore in its edition of 1st June 1980 revealing as under: "Doctors in Lahore are investigating the tragic effects of a drug administered to some poor patients of Green Town. Four of such patients have developed serious psychiatric disorders. It is alleged that they have been given an anti-malaria drug which is still in the experimental stage. The experiment is reported to be part of a research programme; a local institution is carrying out in association with an American University. Until those responsible for the experiment are made to disclose the nature of the drug, it is not possible to say as exactly what has happened to the four unfortunate patients - aged between 15 and 25 years. But, as Viewpoint has repeatedly maintained in these columns, the employment of humans as guinea pigs for drug research is a practice no civilised society, however poor and dependent it may be can countenance. An immediate inquiry is called for." In the wake of this publication, the issue was further investigated by Pravda providing full details of the dirty project of the CIA in Lahore of developing biological weapons under the garb of a malaria eradication programme. The matter was taken up by the USSR with the USA and Pakistan at the highest level. The Russians threatened to take the matter to the United Nations exposing CIA connections in the Afghan War and the unlawful use of biological weapons. The Pakistan government was left with no choice but to close down the Centre and expel David Nalin from Pakistan declaring him persona non grata. A journalist translated in Urdu the stories published in Viewpoint and Pravda that exposed the activities of the CIA using the so-called Malaria Eradication Centre. He was arrested and taken to the Lahore Fort by the agencies. He was brutally tortured by the investigative agencies. They accused him of being an agent of the KGB in Pakistan but failed to prove it. Later on, he was released but forced to go into exile. This bizarre episode reveals how Pakistan became the victim of all kinds of devastating repercussions of the Great Game of the superpowers of that time in this region. The USSR and USA engaged in conventional war also resorted to horrific biological warfare, killing thousands of innocent people. Unfortunately, dictators like Zia not only sided with the US but also allowed the CIA to operate from Pakistan for all kinds of dirty operations imaginable. The wages are before us: the dengue epidemic, violence, arms, drugs and above all political subjugation. A great intellectual of our time, Edward W Said, in his books exposed these so-called champions of a free world and faith. In Pakistan, we are still faced with the challenge of undoing Zia's legacy, which was later reinforced by the Sharifs, Musharraf and others. Professor Said rightly argues that in a world where might is right, the powerful in global politics ensure the perpetuation of their control through handpicked cronies and lackeys in different countries. Not only Zia and his remnants inflicted this country with deadly diseases like corruption, violence, politics of fascism and drug addiction, but they also pushed the common people to the wall. After deposing and managing the judicial killing of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Zia paved the way for foreign intervention and the physical presence of CIA agents in Pakistan, playing havoc with our security. The activities of the CIA operative in Lahore way back in 1980 mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. It needs thorough investigation to unearth the activities of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in Pakistan since 1979, when in the name of jihad against the Russians they started laying the foundation for their permanent stay in Pakistan - the beginning of the political subjugation that continues till today. Even for a genuine democratic government it would be difficult to undo the legacy of dictators like Zia and Musharraf. Those possessing gun power always strive to dispossess the masses of their rights through cronies. The Neo-Colonists create and support the cronies as it would not be possible for them to exploit the world's resources without their support. The US State Department claims that all political parties in Pakistan (including religious fundamentalists) are ready to toe its line. It is extremely unfortunate that we have cronies all around who are ready to follow the US agenda, which is detrimental to the interests of Pakistan and ultimately for the entire Muslim World. The so-called advocates of "changing the system" (MQM, Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami et al) have also allegedly pledged before the USA [] that if given a chance to rule they would willingly fulfil their agenda most efficiently and faithfully. This clearly establishes that we lack leadership capable of educating and mobilising the masses to come out of political subjugation by making Pakistan economically a self-reliant State. The existing parties are controlled by a few "power hungry" individuals. But then there is no easy solution as popular support is not manna from heaven to be bestowed on an unwilling people, it has to be generated, organised and mobilised.
(The writers are Adjunct Professors at Lahore University of Management Sciences.)Copyright Business Recorder, 2011

Monday 8 August 2011

Top 20 movies list for Ramadan

My daughter received this circulating on SMS and shared with me. I found it hilarious and felt like sharing widely. My favourite one is "The Curious Case of Unfolding Samosa" - which one's yours!

1) 30 First Dates

2) I Know What You Ate Last Ramadan

3) Sehri at Tiffany's

4) Dude, Where's My Food?

5) Save the Last Samosa

6) Harry Potter & the Goblet of Vimto

7) Harry Pakora & the Chamber of Ketchup

8) Harry Pakora & The Deathly Hunger

9) Iftar for Shmucks

10) Fast Another Day

11) The Curious Case of the Unfolded Samosa

12) Saved by the Adhaan

13) How to Lose a Stone in 10 days

14) Eat Pray Love...Sleep

15) The Pakora, the Samosa & the Chutney

16) Charlie & the Samosa Factory

17) Confession s of a Fruitchaat toholic

18) Indiana Juice & The Raiders of The Last Spring Roll

19) Fasting & Furious

20) Samosaman.

21) Gone in 30 fasts. No more

Tuesday 26 July 2011

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park July 2011 - a photo diary

RHS Flower show at Tatton Park Cheshire was a huge success this year. I was invited to the show by the BBC Radio Manchester as a guest on Becky Want's programme on Saturday 21 July. During and after the programme I was able to take a few photos to share with readers. I hope you like them.

Thursday 21 April 2011

"Muslims Against Crusades" do not represent Muslims in Britain. Speak out if you agree!

There are likely to be millions of British Citizens who do not agree with many of the policies of the British government - our Foreign policy is normally on top of the list of contentious ones. We live in a free and open society where there are democratic processes in place to record our disagreement, or make policy changes happen.

There are among us fringe radical groups who claim to be representatives of one cause or another, but in the absence of any wider democratic base they adapt the tactics of shock and awe through their appalling behaviour.

As a British Muslim I have always been appalled at the views and actions of radical groups who falsely but unashamedly claim to represent me, a British Muslim. These are groups like Muhajiroon, Islam4UK or their latest incarnation "Muslims against Crusades".

Their actions and ways of protest are appalling without exception.

When they protest at the funerals of British soldiers - they are not airing their feelings against any illegal wars - they are disrespecting and hurting not only the grieving mothers and families who have lost their loved ones but also the mothers and families whose sons and daughters are in combat situations overseas. These ordinary British citizens, just like me, are not the ones who make the foreign policy - they are not the ones to pick an issue with.

When they decided to burn poppies on remembrance day, they were not protesting against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were disrespecting the memories of millions who gave their lives fighting against tyranny and evil in the World Wars. There is a clear line where protest becomes a brutal attack on someone else's feelings and values. Publicity whore from the US Terry Jones is a modern day example of those who cross this line. I do not see any difference between Terry Jones and people like Anjem Chowdhry. Al-Muhajiroon, Islam4UK cross this line time and again and now "Muslims Against Crusades" is planning to the same by staging protests at the Royal Wedding.

I still have to come across another fellow Muslim in the UK who agrees with their views or actions. "Muslims Against Crusades" do not speak for me or for any other Muslim that I know in my community. I am saying it loud and clear. Other British Muslims need to stand up and be counted as well.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Daily Star reporter resigns in protest against the paper's anti-Muslim propaganda

Richard Peppiatt, reporter for Daily Star UK resigned in protest at what he says the newspaper goes out of the way in its anti-Muslim propaganda. He writes:

I nearly walked out last summer when the Daily Star got all flushed about taxpayer-funded Muslim-only loos.

A newsworthy tale were said toilets Muslim-only. Or taxpayer-funded. Undeterred by the nuisance of truth, we omitted a few facts, plucked a couple of quotes, and suddenly anyone would think a Rochdale shopping centre had hired Osama Bin Laden to stand by the taps, handing out paper towels.

I was personally tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our postmodern victory in "blocking" the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil.

Not that my involvement in stirring up a bit of light-hearted Islamaphobia stopped there. Many a morning I've hit my speed dial button to Muslim rent-a-rant Anjem Choudary to see if he fancied pulling together a few lines about whipping drunks or stoning homosexuals.

Our caustic "us and them" narrative needs nailing home every day or two, and when asked to wield the hammer I was too scared for my career, and my bank account, to refuse.

Full resignation letter is a good read and is published in full by Daily Guardian.

Friday 4 March 2011

They came for me and there was no one left to do anything about it in Pakistan!

"First they arrested the Communists - but I was not a Communist, so I did nothing.

Then they came for the Social Democrats - but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing.

Then they arrested the trade unionists - and I did nothing because I was not one.

And then they came for the Jews and then the Catholics, but I was neither a Jew nor a Catholic and I did nothing.

At last they came and arrested me - and there was no one left to do anything about it."

Rev. Martin Niemoeller, Nazi Prison Survivor
Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States tweeted this statement in the aftermath of assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities in Pakistan and a leading Christian politician. His crime - he along with the assassinated Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer recommended a review of Blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Both paid the price with their lives.

Hussain Haqqani's tweets about Rev. Martin Niemoeller struck a chord with me. I could see the present day Pakistan and its people vividly in the Rev. Niemoeller's statement. Let me rewrite what I read:

First they killed the Shias - but I was not a Shia, so I did nothing.

Then they came for the Ahmadis - but I was not an Ahmadi, so I did nothing.

Then they killed the Christians - and I did nothing because I was not one.

And then they came for the Mohajirs and then the working women, but I was neither a Mohajir nor a working woman and I did nothing.

At last they came for me - and there was no one left to do anything about it." - Surviving citizens of Pakistan
Another fellow tweep asked a question that is so pertinent to Pakistan

Question: What have you done today that you know added to your own character?
Possible answer from Pakistan would be: While one courageous voice after another was being brutally silenced, I stayed quiet

Thursday 3 March 2011

Khuda Hafiz! George of Pakistan has left!

British journalist George Fulton came to Pakistan to participate in a reality TV programme "George ka Pakistan". He ended up falling in love with the country and people and in the process winning the hearts and minds of Pakistani TV audiences who campaigned successfully to make him a naturalised citizen of Pakistan. George Fulton is the adopted son of Pakistan who loves the country and its people for what they are, but cannot stay quiet for what they have become. George is leaving Pakistan. He had a choice to leave and stay unconditionally loved by those left behind, or to speak up his mind, say the truth that a majority (yes! majority) are not willing to listen, and lose many friends and fans in the process. George decided to do the later. I am producing below farewell message from George which is poignant and heart rendering - I couldn't stop tears swelling in my eyes. Article is originally published in Express Tribune in Pakistan.

George Ka Khuda Hafiz

For the past nine years, I have been in a dysfunctional relationship. My liaison started somewhat unexpectedly, quickly becoming an all-consuming passionate love affair. My partner reciprocated strongly, bestowing deep affection and adoration upon me. Blinded by love, I was naive to her failings. Yes, at times she was self-destructive, irrational and grossly irresponsible, but I hoped by appealing to her nature’s better angles she could change. Instead, as the years progressed, and, supported by her ‘friends’ in the media, she corroded, simultaneously displaying signs of megalomania and paranoia. Once the relationship turned abusive and I feared for my life, I decide to call it quits. Today, the divorce comes through. Her name is Pakistan. And today, I am leaving her for good.

This was not a difficult decision to make. In fact, I didn’t make the decision. It was made for me. You do not chart your own destiny in Pakistan; Pakistan charts it for you. It’s emigration by a thousand news stories. I am aware that bemoaning the state of Pakistan as a final shot appears churlish and arrogant. After all, I have the luxury to leave — many others do not. Nor do I want to discredit the tireless work of the thousands who remain to improve the lives of millions of Pakistanis. They are better men and women than I. Pakistan has also given me so much over the years. It was Pakistan who introduced me to the love of my life. And it was upon her manicured lawns that we married, and upon her reclaimed soil that we set up our first home. She brought the love of a new family and new friends into my life. And it was Pakistan that witnessed the birth of my son, Faiz — named after one of her greatest sons.

She embraced me like no other gora post-9/11. I appeared in a documentary/reality series titled “George Ka Pakistan”. It allowed me to explore the country. I ploughed fields in the Punjab, built Kalashnikovs in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (probably couldn’t do that now), and mended fishing boats in Balochistan. The culmination of the series saw the then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, confer Pakistani citizenship upon me, after the viewing public voted overwhelmingly to make me one of them. I was their George. Fame and affection followed.

But that love was conditional. Conditional upon me playing the role cast — the naive gora. The moment I abandoned the Uncle Tom persona and questioned the defined establishment narratives — whether through my television work or columns — excommunication began. No longer a Pakistani in the eyes of others, my citizenship evidently was not equitable to others.

So, as I depart, I could go with my reputation tarnished, but still largely intact. Or I could leave you with some final words of honesty. Well, true love values honesty far more than a feel-good legacy. So here goes.

Pakistan, you are on a precipice. A wafer-thin sliver is all that stands between you and becoming a failed state. A state that was the culmination of a search for a ‘Muslim space’ by the wealthy Muslims of Northern India has ended up, as MJ Akbar recently pointed out, becoming “one of the most violent nations on earth, not because Hindus were killing Muslims but because Muslims were killings Muslims”.

The assassination of Salmaan Taseer saw not only the death of a man but also represented for me the death of hope in Pakistan. I did not mourn Taseer’s death. I did not know the man. But I mourned what he represented — the death of liberal Pakistan. The governor’s murder reminded us how far the extremist cancer has spread in our society. A cancer in which I saw colleagues and friends on Face book celebrate his murder. A man murdered for standing up for the most vulnerable in our society — a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. He committed no crime. Instead, he questioned the validity of a man-made law — a law created by the British — that was being used as a tool of repression.

In death, the governor was shunned, unlike his killer, who was praised, garlanded and lionised for shooting Taseer in the back. Mumtaz Qadri became a hero overnight. But Qadri is not just a man — he’s a mindset, as eloquently put by Fifi Haroon. Fascism with an Islamic face is no longer a political or an economic problem in Pakistan, it’s now become a cultural issue. Extremism permeates all strata and socio-economic groups within society. Violent extremists may still make up a minority but extremism now enjoys popular support. As for the dwindling moderates and liberals, they are scared.

Pakistan does not require a secret police, we are in the process of turning upon ourselves. But then what do you expect when your military/intelligence nexus — and their jihadi proxies — have used religious bigotry as a tool of both foreign and domestic policy. It is ironic that the one institution that was designed to protect the idea of Pakistan is the catalyst for its cannibalisation. Christians, Ahmadis, Shias and Barelvis have all been attacked in the past year. Who will be next? Groups once funded and supported by the state have carried out many of these attacks. And many jihadi groups still remain in cahoots with the agencies.

So as I leave Pakistan, I leave her with a sense of melancholy. Personally, for all my early wide-eyed excitement and love for the country and its people, Pakistan has made me cynical, disillusioned and bitter over time. I came here with high hopes, adopting the country, its people and the language. I did find redemption here — but no longer.

From the moment I arrived in Pakistan nine years ago, the omnipotence of the military apparatus was self-evident. Yet, as I leave, it’s apparent it will be this institution, more than any other, that will be the catalyst of this country’s eventual downfall. As Pervez Hoodbhoy recently pointed out, rather than acting as a factor for détente in the region, our acquiring the nuclear bomb in 1998 exacerbated our military arrogance. Kargil, the attack on India’s Parliament and, more recently, Mumbai have all occurred since we got the bomb — attacks that couldn’t have been carried out without some military/intelligence involvement.

And yet, ironically, the military’s regional self-importance belies our chronic servitude to the US. In addition to being the largest landowner in Pakistan, the Pakistani Army is the world’s largest mercenary army. Look at the media storm created over the Kerry-Lugar Bill for it’s supposed slight to Pakistani sovereignty. Yet it is the army’s reliance on US military aid that has made Pakistan a client state of the US. This inherent contradiction is not disseminated in the media. Instead, the established narrative for our acquiescence to the US is laid firmly at the weakness of our political class. As if it was the politicians — and not the military leadership — who somehow control Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Of course the military/religious right in Pakistan use their proxies in the media to blame the Hindus, Americans and Jews for all our sins. But those sins are mostly ours. Atiqa Odho, a friend, and someone who truly wants the best for Pakistan, sent me a text message after the detention by India customs of singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. “Rahat Ali Khan is not a criminal, he has become a victim of corrupt trade practices in India that have singled him out to target the soft image of Pakistan… Let’s not treat a music icon who has million of fans over the world as a common criminal.” The text had it all: hyper-patriotism, paranoia, absolution of responsibility, and a shot of snobbery. Why shouldn’t he be treated as a common criminal if he was avoiding tax? The attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team wasn’t a foreign hand. It was a Pakistani hand. Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir were not brought down by some covert Anglo/India plot, but by their own avarice. They cheated.

But the right’s hyper-nationalism is perhaps more tolerable than the liberal elite’s disengagement and insouciance. Like the right, the liberal elite believe all Pakistan’s woes belong to others. But rather than the Hindu/US/Zionist paranoia of the right, the liberals put the blame on the mullahs, the masses, the uneducated and the unwashed — anyone, but themselves. We — and I include myself here, as this was my social milieu for the past nine years — are unaware of our own hypocrisy.

My friends will condemn the cricketers, but not the society that actively encourages these lower middle-class boys to cheat. But why would they? Their families have gorged and benefited from this society. Recently, at a coffee shop, I overheard a society Begum, decked out in designer clothes and glasses, bemoan the cricketing scandal. Her ire was primarily directed at the boys for bringing Pakistan’s ‘good’ name into disrepute — not the cheating itself. She then harked back to a time when the Pakistan cricket team spoke English well, as if good English equalled with moral rectitude. But does she question how her husband makes his money? For every Rs100 collected by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in taxes, it misses another Rs79 due to tax evasion. The FBR estimates that the total revenue lost by the government as a result of tax evasion comes out to Rs1.27 trillion for this fiscal year and is equal to eight per cent of the GDP. According to the FBR, over 70 per cent of all taxes evaded are corporate income taxes. What’s the difference between Salman Butt screwing his country for money and the rest of us?

But the liberal elite is a misnomer. We aren’t really liberal. We want the liberal values of free speech and rule of law, without wanting to instill the economic and democratic mechanisms to ensure them. We espouse liberalism but don’t practice the egalitarian values — distribution of power and wealth — that underpin liberalism.

But then, the English liberal ‘elite’ has abdicated all responsibility to govern in the past 60 years. Despite enjoying unprecedented levels of wealth and education, we no longer believe it is our duty as the best educated and most privileged in society to contribute to its development. The English language has created a linguistic Berlin Wall between us and the rest of the country. We remain cosseted inside our bubble. Instead, we have ceded political space to a reactionary, conservative, military, feudal and religious nexus. Tolerating this because, in turn, they have left us alone. They have allowed us freedoms that the rest of the country doesn’t have.Freedom to get obscenely wealthy. Freedom to party at Rs10,000-a-ticket balls. Freedom to dress how we like. But these freedoms come at a price. A Faustian pact has been signed.

Even Pakistan’s intellectual elite has largely abandoned its responsibility. An ideological vacuum occurred after 1971, when the ‘idea of Pakistan’ and the two-state solution failed. What filled the vacuum over the succeeding decades have been a variety of parties with their own vested self-interests — Ziaul Haq, Islamists, the Saudis and the US — trying to enforce their own idea of Pakistan. Today, our intellectual elite are too compromised — suckling on the teat of donor money, scholarships and exchange programmes — to challenge the US narrative.

Unfortunately, no one is immune to the ills that this country subjects its citizens to. I have changed. Slowly, my values and morals have corroded. But I don’t want that for my one-year-old boy, Faiz. I want him to grow up in a society where guns are not an everyday occurrence and his parents can openly hold hands.

After Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, my mother-in-law — a hardworking, decent school principal, who was born in Bombay and had grown up in Dhaka before migrating to Pakistan — called me up. She had seen three of her children leave Pakistan during the past 20 years. My wife was the last one remaining. As she spoke, she sounded defeated: “George, just jao. Jao”. So now I am going. Khuda hafiz, Pakistan.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Colonel Imam killed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

A local television news channel in Pakistan has released a video message of Colonel Imam reading out what appears to be his final plea to the Government of Pakistan to take action for his release. He states that he was kidnapped and is in the custody of banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who are alleged to be responsible for a spate of killings of Shia minority in Pakistan and for terrorism related activities in the region.

Colonel Imam dead - Creator killed by his creation

News agencies in Pakistan are reporting that Brigadier Amir Sultan Tarar, well known as Colonel Imam has been killed by Taliban in lawless North Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Times Online credited Colonel Imam to be the main man who single handedly ran the Mujahideen insurgency against the Soviet Union in 1980s..

As a top agent for the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, Colonel Imam recruited, trained and armed almost every one of Afghanistan’s prominent insurgents and warlords during the 1980s. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmed Shah Massoud and Jalaluddin Haqqani were all his charges or colleagues at one time.

He escorted Charlie Wilson, the Texan congressman who funnelled millions of dollars to the Mujahideen, into Afghanistan three times and once took the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, then the CIA’s Deputy Director, to a Mujaheddin camp near the border.

According to daily Telegraph Colonel Imam believed that

only direct dialogue between the Afghan authorities and Mullah Omar himself, without the interference of the Americans, could end the conflict [in Afghanistan]
Since leaving the ISI, Colonel Imam

has styled himself as a human rights campaigner. He has defended al-Qaeda suspects and fought attempts to extradite Mullah Baradar to Afghanistan.
It is the same Mullah Baradar that his captors in March 2010 wanted to be released in exchange for his life. In March 2010 Colonel Imam was kidnapped by Taliban along with another ISI official Khalid Khawaja and a journalist Asad Qureshi. Col Imam was later released but Khalid Khawaja was killed. After his release Colonel Imam continued to be a vocal proponent of dialogue with Taliban.

His alleged killers have refused to release his body to his family. I personally still doubt that script for colourful life of Colonel Imam is just yet finished.