Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Giving Nature a hand

The ‘bandar ka tamasha’ (monkey show) has always been a central part of childhood entertainment in Pakistan. The sight of a man carrying a small monkey around the streets of Lahore is common enough. Sometimes, they are accompanied by a goat or a dog, which serves as something for the monkey to ride as part of its act. The troupe travels from car to car, knocking on windows, looking for people interested in watching their act. They don’t mind where you are, whether you’re parked in the bazaar, snacking, or on the main road stuck in a traffic jam, they’re ready and willing to perform.

For a few rupees, the bandar-wala will enthral young and old with a lively show consisting mainly of the monkey caricaturing humans in certain comic situations. Armed with the dugdugi and a light cane, he instructs the well trained monkey to go through the various routines and situations he has taught him, and the monkey obliges without protest. The act is more often than not quite entertaining.

But I have always been slightly uncomfortable with the whole idea of the bandar-wala. It always seemed slightly cruel in some ways. For one, the monkey has obviously been captured from its natural habitat somewhere in the wilderness of the north and been brought away to the city. This must have some effect on the psychological well-being of the animal; being taken away as well as having to adjust to captivity. Also, it’s always struck me as highly likely that the animal is mistreated. God knows what technique the trainer uses to train it, but if he is beating the poor animal, it’s not like he’s going to have some animal rights group on his tail (the trainer’s tail, not the monkey’s!).After all, in a country where human life and rights are of little consequence, what chance does a poor animal have.

There is the off-setting argument of the poor bandar-wala having to make a living, but it is not enough to quell this uncomfortable feeling.

I think there is a justification though. Look at it this way. Supposedly, we have all evolved, and are still evolving. These monkeys and humans most likely had a common ancestor at some point in the distant past. But what happened? We humans got our act together. We stopped swinging around, shouting and flinging faeces at each other (I’m actually not sure that these monkeys do the last part). We realised that the future lay in Yahoo and Google, and hedge-funds (whatever the hell they are!). We decided to stop picking berries and mucking about all day, and to get real jobs as writers and engineers. We also gained something called self-awareness, and started asking questions about where we came from, and why we are here, and whose winter collection is to die for this year. These monkeys are too busy stuffing their gut to be bothered with these profundities.

But, of course, what really separates us from our rather backward and rather distant relatives is our manners; our social graces, if you will. What it is to be human is the way we greet each other, the way we shake hands, or heartily slap each others backs; the way we laugh and joke in a way that shows good upbringing. It’s the way we say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘LOL’ and those countless other phrases that demonstrates our superiority over the animal kingdom. These pleasantries may seem inconsequential, but are essentially what sets us above all others.

Well, I guess it’s about time we stopped thinking about ourselves and decided to help the less fortunate. So, if a few bandar-walas have taken it upon themselves to educate and civilize our boorish cousins, good on them I say. Yes, the poor brutes may feel hard done by, and yes, we too feel a slight sympathy for them, but this is the kind of tough love they need to get out of the squalor they have restricted themselves to for centuries.

Natural evolution, of course, is a very time consuming process, and it may take thousands of years before these creatures develop any sort of self-awareness or appreciation for these civilities. But, when they get there, they shall be able to draw on these experiences to know exactly how they should be behaving. The monkeys of the future will be fully trained to deal with awkward social situations.
‘I have to visit my in-laws today, how should I greet them?’ ‘My wife beat me up today, how should I react?’ ‘I’m going to a Bollywood themed disco tonight, if only I knew how to dance like an Indian actress’ – none of these situations need trouble the poor souls.
They will simply react with ‘O yes, I remember, we’ve been trained for exactly such a situation, it’s in our genes.’

And who knows, this training may actually result in acceleration of their evolutionary process. I’m sure it must have some effect.

Of course, we also need to be careful of the other possible eventuality of aiding monkey evolution; the dreaded ‘Planet of the Apes’ scenario. We must therefore set strict guidelines for monkey training. We must be vigilant and ensure we have the upper hand at all times, and inculcate monkeys in ways that ensure an uprising will never be possible. Implanting a deep need to watch inane soap operas, or reality television should ensure their brains are never developed enough to plot an overthrow of the current natural order, while also keeping them functioning socially.

Helping nature is the least we can do!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Unlikely Superhero

-The follwing story is a work of fiction. All characters and events are a product of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual events is entirely coincidential

I suppose everyone is familiar with the concept of superpowers. We’ve seen enough movies and read enough comic books to know how it works. There are two common explanations for people possessing such powers, either they’re not human and belong to a more developed species, or they’ve been in some horrible accident where they’ve been exposed to radiation or chemicals or something powerful enough to alter their genetic make-up.

I’ve still to figure out which of these categories I fall into. I have been in possession of my power as far back as I can remember, but it’s difficult to tell how I got it. There was one bizarre incident when I was little.

I’m not a very smart man now, so, needless to say, I was no genius at the tender age of two either. My entire day was spent waddling around the room, banging my head into pieces of furniture. For some extra excitement, I would chew on whatever I could fit into my mouth; shoes, crayons, table legs, I’ve chewed them all. So, it was one such action-packed day when I sat behind the television taking in the weather report while happily chomping down on the antenna cable, when the antenna, outside, was struck by lightening. The electricity from the strike travelled down the cable to the television, blew it up, and threw my two-year-old frame across the room. I was lucky to have survived. But this doesn’t really sound like a bizarre enough accident to have given someone superpowers does it?

On the other hand, my superpower isn’t really all that super either. I’m getting quite embarrassed talking about it now. I suppose I should say what it is and get it over with quickly. My superpower is, brace yourself, the ability to forecast the weather. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I can give you all the details. Just pull them out of thin air. The day’s highs and lows, humidity, wind speed, rainfall, pretty much anything you need to know. The time-span of these forecasts diminishes with the distance. So, sitting in Lahore for example, I could give you the weather for this city for the next four days, but for Islamabad it would be the next three days, and barely twenty-four hours for Karachi.

So was it due to the weather report on television that I got this skill, or are my parents aliens? I couldn’t really say. I mean they’ve never mentioned it, how would you know?

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered I had this gift. I was somewhere in my early teens, and was ecstatic at being gifted at something. I figured I could be something great with a skill like this, if only I could figure how to use it properly.

You can also imagine my disappointment in my later teens when I discovered how utterly useless this gift was. There wasn’t much crime-fighting to be done just by predicting the weather. There wasn’t much money to be made either. To be honest, modern technology really killed off any potential I may have had. In another time, I could have been a god or a messiah of some sort. I could have blessed generals and emperors with knowledge of what the future would bring. For all I know, soothsayers of ancient times were actually people like me. Today, of course, we live in the age of the weather report. I used to stare in horror and disgust as smug, smiley men and women graced my television screen with predictions they had made using their machines. These hacks who think they are doing me a favour. I don’t need your bloody forecasts; I already know what the weather is going to be like. I am the chosen one!

Like a lot of other things in my life, this anger also left me. I had barely scraped through college, and with few options open to someone as devoid of talent as myself, I was facing tough times. The trouble isn’t just that I lack talent. The trouble is the coupling of this disability with my crippling laziness. I really can’t imagine working hard at a job. So, I did the one thing that seemed logical. I sold my soul and went over to the dark side; I became a meteorologist. Now it’s my smug. smiley face on television that tells people what weather awaits them. I get to do nothing all day and just turn up for the bulletins. I don’t need to prepare, obviously, so I have absolutely nothing to do.

Given my lethargic disposition, I am living the dream - getting paid, decently enough, for showing up in front of a screen and saying things from memory. Sometimes the machines get it wrong, and we have a mismatch between what I’m saying and what’s on the screen. At these times I act all worked up about the incompetence of the guys running the screens, and bask in my brilliance the next day when I am proved right.

It’s a nice existence, but sometimes I do wonder about what could have been. If there had actually been some awesome application to this skill. I even have a superhero costume, hanging in the back of my closet. Sometimes, late at night, I get it out and dress up while watching television. I narrate my own background story.

“Iqbal Jameel, by day he’s a mild-mannered weatherman, but when night falls, he becomes… Weatherman!”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trusting the PCB

Among the many voices that have been consistently critical of the authorities running Cricket in Pakistan is that of legendary captain and all-rounder Imran Khan. His denigration of the BCCP went well beyond usual player-management friction one may expect in sport. In the 1992 version of his autobiography, All Round View, Imran has accused the board of incompetence, nepotism, and outright corruption. The chapter discussing this topic is full of quotable incidents and insights into the visibly bungling authority that is the Cricket Board in Pakistan. From tales of small-minded board officials trying to manipulate players and captains, to stories of criminal negligence in developing the domestic circuit, to accusations of ticket sales fraud; the few pages paint a bleak picture of the what goes on under the control of the ‘cricket bureaucrats’.

He closes his critique of the board with the following sentence: “Quick and extensive surgery is required if we are not to become a second-rate cricket power.”

As the more astute of our cricketing audience will have noticed, we have become a second-rate cricket power. Far from the roaring team of the eighties, widely acknowledged to be one of the fiercest in the world, or even the nineties when an unpredictable but outstandingly talented Pakistan team could be relied on to give tough opposition to any side, today Pakistan fans go into matches with much dread and a little lingering hope.

But the events that are unfolding in Pakistan cricket these days have managed to outstrip even the great Khan’s apocalyptic predictions. Barely two months after the national captain and two strike bowlers were suspended by the ICC, and in the backdrop of their hearings, the young wicket-keeper has done a runner. Zulqarnain Haider disappeared form his hotel room two days after playing a small but crucial role in securing the fourth ODI for Pakistan against South Africa. On the morning of the fifth ODI, without warning, he was gone. He was later to resurface in the UK, claiming he ran out of fear for his life after receiving threats from bookmakers. He also said that his family (still in Pakistan) are also under threat.

Setting alternate scenarios and Haider’s possible ulterior motives aside for a moment, if the situation is to be taken at face value, the episode highlights what has been a lingering issue in Pakistan cricket. While rumours of a gambling mafia’s influencing games in Pakistan have plagued the team for decades now, the true extent and power of the perpetrators is little known. The lack of a whole-hearted effort from authorities to tackle this menace means its perpetrators have never actually been unmasked. It also means the machinery in place for carrying out this task have never been exposed neither has the dilemma facing players involved in the Pakistani cricketing structure.

The term ‘mafia’ seems to be aptly selected in light of the omerta observed by all those contacted concerning any investigation into the matter of match-fixing. The Qayyum report itself is reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s hearings in the second Godfather movie, with Ata-ur-Rehman doing several about turns in his allegations against Wasim Akram, news of several witnesses to present evidence who then reneged, and the commission distinctly noting the non-cooperation of those questioned and their reluctance to tell the truth.

Zulqarnain is, of course, not the first player to have been threatened. In fact, it now appears to be normal practice. The Qayyum report also contains the story of Saeed Anwar, who allegedly confessed to receiving instructions to underperform to Javed Burki and committed to relate the same story to the commission. He then returned to Burki to pull out of this commitment as his brother was being threatened. The entire episode was denied by Anwar in front of the committee, except for the part where his brother had been threatened. (The report doesn’t address any investigations into why his brother would be threatened if the incident reported was not true!)
Ata-ur-Rahman, among his u-turns, also claimed that he had been forced to retract his statement by coercion.
Geoff Lawson, the former Pakistan coach has also reportedly cited an example of strong-arm tactics being used to influence the team. He reportedly told of a selector whose daughter had been threatened. In his highly vocal criticism of Ijaz Butt, he has been defending the actions of the three players accused in England of Spot-fixing saying, "If it is the case that these young players are being affected, then there is something very bad with the environment in which Pakistan cricket is being played"
If the practice is as rampant as it appears to be, there is one aspect that the media (even the English media) seems to be consciously avoiding. That is the possibility of the complicity of the board in the practice of match-fixing. The Cricket Board’s inability to protect its players has been oft criticised, but is that where their crime ends? The question that needs to be raised more forcefully is what Yawar Saeed actually thought was going on when his players were openly cavorting around England with a man known to be linked with bookies and match-fixers. The News of the World report also noted the condescending, and abusive tone in which Mazhar Majeed spoke to several players, most prominently, Mohammad Aamir. This is a fact that definitely warrants more investigation into the exact nature of the relationship between bookies and the players.

Much of the suspicious behaviour of the Board points to its reluctance to delve very deep into the issue. The Qayyum Commission itself seems to be a bit of fiasco. Given its time constraints and lack of evidence, it closed with a vague conclusion that all was not above board in the cricket team. Fines and recommendations followed, but nothing concrete. Even these recommendations were ignored by the PCB.

The Cricket Board falling over itself to deny any impropriety in England was also highly suspicious. It seemed to completely rule out the possibility that the players may be guilty. Could this be due to a misplaced need to protect its players? If so, such notions seem to have vanished once the players’ hearings started. The board quickly abandoned their support for the players, cancelling their contracts.

If patterns of corruption are studied (and there is ample opportunity to do so in Pakistan), quite often regulatory bodies appointed to prevent illegal operations get involved with operations for kick-backs. It is not beyond the realms of imagination that the Pakistan Cricket Board is also upholding this time-honoured tradition. It would certainly explain Zulqarnain’s reluctance to go to them for help. It would also explain the reluctance of the Board to tackle the issue of match-fixing.

There comes a stage when incompetence reaches such levels that the integrity and intent of a body must be called into question. That stage has long been reached for the Pakistan Cricket Board.

It will be an obvious embarrassment to the country if external forces have to step in to sort out the structure and functioning of the Cricket Board. The rest of the cricketing world’s fast depleting patience with Ijaz Butt and the Pakistani Board may result in just that. Pakistan is already on the brink of being declared a pariah in the cricketing world, firstly due to the security situation and now with constant controversy. Ijaz Butt has been told in no uncertain terms that his antics will not be tolerated by the ICC for long. But will the Board get its act together and decide to finally take the issue seriously, or is Pakistan cricket doomed to a fate worse than ‘second-ratedness’.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rooting for Shiv Sena

So apparently, the story goes that an Indian reality show (Bigg Boss, which I'm guessing is their completely original take on Big Brother) was set to have two Pakistani contestants participating. Of course, for such a high-brow, and tasteful endeavour (hosted by Salman Khan no less), they have opted for two intellectual powerhouses: Ali Saleem (The cross-dressing wonder) and Veena Malik (No introduction necessary). Needless to say, no good can come of this.

As the nation covers it eyes, and braces itself for yet another barrage of embarrassing incidents bound to ensue, there is one ray of hope. Shiv Sena have jumped into action demanding their exclusion. Party activists apparently stormed Bigg Boss’s bungalow and beat up security guards there. Bal Thackeray has reportedly said, “Under the guise of the show, Pakistan’s green poison is being spread in this country. Whoever loves this country, we shall ask for their support and not permit the show to continue, come what may.” The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is apparently of the same conviction.

Considering the celebrities being sent over, one cannot help but feel sympathetic to their cause. But there are greater reasons to root for them. Firstly, their outright hatred for all things Pakistani and their violent outbursts that follow are a good reminder that such extremism is not an exclusively Pakistani monopoly.

Most importantly, and practically viable, however, is the possibility that the two Sena’s may succeed in preventing two Pakistani psychopaths making complete prats of themselves on Indian television. And all the while our celebrities can be martyrs of Indian intolerance. Pakistan really could not hope for a better break at the moment. In fact, to further support Thackeray’s cause, I think all those who love this country should also be praying that they succeed.

Thackeray said that Sena would not be cowed down and his activists would disrupt the show. I just hope he lives up to his promises.

Friday, August 27, 2010


* I sent this to Dawn in November last year. No prizes for guessing it's level of success. I have also since realised he isn't the only raving fanatic they indulge. Oh yes, and I didn't hear from them other than the automated message.

I have recently become an avid reader of Dawn news. It was the first newspaper i started to read. The newspaper itself had a look of respectability and sophistication enhanced, of course, with the emblem on the front page proclaiming it to be founded by the Quaid-e-Azam. I started following the TV channel when it started, because of the absolute three-ring circus that all the other channels had become. It was good to see that Dawn maintained its dignity and remained somewhat objective.

So, logically, when I moved abroad for work, I relied heavily on the Dawn website for news from home. This is when I came across articles by a certain Mr. Nadeem F. Paracha. I fail to understand why Dawn would provide a forum for the rantings of a pompous, semi-literate, "liberal fanatic" such as Mr. Paracha.

I have yet to read an article in which he was able to present a sound logical argument and augment it with any sort of facts at all. His writing is sloppy, his claims childish, and his narcissism unbearable. He takes great pleasure in dreaming up weak arguments and defeating them. He is neither insightful nor amusing, and I suspect a lot of his rants are thrown together after briefly rushing through wikipedia articles. To be completely honest, I feel a man possessing his level of analytical and argumentative skills would be annihilated if he was ever to come up against any school team on the Pakistan debating circuit.

His frequent attacks on conspiracy theorists such as Zaid Hamid, with whom he has decided to start a personal vendetta, have never been backed up with the slightest of fact or logical argument. I am no fan of Zaid Hamid, I suspect the veracity of a lot of his claims, but I dont need Mr. Paracha to sit and make fun of his hat or his followers. In the three or four articles that Mr. Paracha has devoted to condemning the man, I have yet to see any point at which he was able to refute the claims of Zaid Hamid. All NFP is capable of is childish name-calling.

Considering the fact that the Mr. Paracha has only one subject to write about, I have serious reservations about his ability and qualification to do that. His claims that all sorts of conspiracy theories are childish and ridiculous are stated with no backing evidence. So, his audience is then expected to take his word for it. If this is the case, what are his qualifications and what are his sources, why does Dawn cater to providing him with a platform for his beliefs?

The idea that there are imperialist designs in the policies of the United States is not entirely unique to the bourgeoisie, conservative classes of Pakistan, as he likes to refer to them (a term that no doubt makes him feel educated), it has a history associated with it, and is a view held in a large part of the world. I will not get into the details in the hope that you are aware of what I am referring to, but the point is, if someone is going to stand up and refute these claims, I would like to see some evidence.

Just saying the same thing every week, and calling anybody who disagrees an idiot does not make it so. These are the antics of what Mr. Paracha claims to "expose". It is the practice of demagogues. I am not a mullah, I have no sympathies with the more conservative or religious sections of society, but I appreciate their existence and the diversity in our society. NFP, unfortunately, is a divisive force, and not a very eloquent or sophisticated one. He is a pseudo-intellectual who preys on the minds of the young and impressionable with his 'oh-so-cool' display picture and his 'no-nonsense hard-hitting' language. Unfortunately without the required facts and argumentative skills, the result is just drivel from an attention-starved quasi-social commentator who is trying to make a niche for himself in the Pakistani media by serving as a Western apologist (I'm sure NFP would have been in contortions with joy at the structure of the last sentence).

I have long been hoping to write this, but only now have I gotten around to it. I implore you to remove the ridiculous segment from Mr. Nadeem F. Paracha, to maintain the intellectual journalistic integrity of Dawn. If this cannot be done, and I am completely wrong about Mr. Paracha, I am hoping someone will write to me to explain the wisdom of his words (Or at least to acknowledge that my feedback has been read!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Backlog of rants

I, for one, am sick and tired of all the blame that is being heaped upon me every day by overzealous bloggers and writers, supposedly leading the charge from the intellectual youth of Pakistan. Every day, I am subjected to articles left, right, and centre telling me how xenophobic we are, how barbaric we are, how corrupt we are, essentially, how everything that is wrong in this country, from the most major to the most insignificant shortcoming is due to me.

All I have to do is see the headline on any of the numerous ‘liberal’ blogs and I automatically know what’s in it. Of course, I still read it just to get my blood-pressure up (I’m getting very little exercise these days, so I guess this is a good cardio substitute). Its always some ridiculously childish ‘insight’ about what is wrong with Pakistani society, followed by a routine condescending sermon on how its all essentially our own fault, and if everyone just cleaned up their act, everything would be fine and dandy. Each time someone shares one of these articles on Facebook with their own additions of ‘this is who we are’ etc. I find myself thinking ‘speak for yourself!’

I have been analyzing my existence in this country this past 26 years. In all honesty, I fail to see how my actions have, in the least contributed to the sad state of affairs we face today. I did not institute corruption, I have not advocated violence against minorities, I did not lead to the crumbling of state institutions. Why am I consistently being told that this is who I am?

Of course, I realize that when these writers say ‘we’ they don’t mean every single person in Pakistan. In fact, I’ll go one step further, they don’t even mean themselves, or their friends, or the relatives they get along with. No, their use of the term is purely preacher-esque. In quite the same way as priests and maulvis say ‘we’ or ‘hum’, it is a feeble attempt at avoiding condescension. Basically, ‘we’ means that uncle who is irritatingly consistently following up on your prayer routine, or the local maulvi who occasionally preaches to you when they get hold of you. It’s all those other intolerant people they just can’t tolerate!

One blogger wrote yesterday about an old, bearded man who pointed to his shorts and pointed out that they were un-Islamic. This story was presented as an example of narrow-mindedness and a lack of tolerance. Of course, it didn’t occur to him to just smile at the old man and let it pass. If it was someone closer to his age, he could have told him to **** off (fill in your favourite four-letter word). In both situations, the incident would have gotten the amount of attention it deserved. But no, our young intellectual decided to share this story of the harassment and mental anguish he had just been subjected to with the rest of the world. Has he spent all his life on some other planet, where no one comments on anybody else’s appearance or actions?

More interesting are the articles pertaining to corruption. Apparently, we are all corrupt as well, so most educated writers out there are unable to fathom why Zardari is given such a ‘hard time’ about it (an exceptional query considering that if the accusations against him are proved true, that phrase should have a whole new meaning!). While part of me believes that there are ulterior political motives to the simplification of this question, for those genuinely failing to understand, let me break it down. Corruption in Pakistan has become a sort of chicken and egg conundrum. Is it the corruption in society that throws up corrupt leadership, or do corrupt leaders lead to a corruption of society? While the enlightened will generally back the former, I believe it is the latter. In either case, our dear president has for long been the poster-boy for corruption. The label of ‘Mr. 10 percent’ has been his to wear proudly for about two decades now. Although there have been some attempts to try and attribute this reputation to nefarious ‘agencies’ and propaganda, the fact of the matter is, most Pakistanis, and now most of the international community, are fairly certain of his corruption. His continuous attempts at avoiding the courtroom have also sort of affirmed this belief.

Many have now shifted track to a somewhat dismissive stance; ‘Corruption is a natural part of politics the world over, so we should not worry about it’. In brief, corruption has no major impact on a nation, or a people’s well-being. I watched as Mr. Najam Sethi presented this idea on television a short while ago. I have since seen a lot of other people follow suit. These people fail to notice that in most civilized societies (and I’m sorry the US does not really make that list), corruption is not condoned. No television anchor in his right mind would go on television and say that corruption is tolerable. What is perhaps more damaging than corruption itself is the perception of corruption. A perception that our current government is tackling not by avoiding controversial appointments or even pretending to cut back on their standard snatch and grab, but by simply telling people not to bring it up.

With only slight regret, I would have to say it doesn’t even matter now whether Mr. Zardari is in fact corrupt or not. The fact is that his election and amnesty have sent a crucial and dangerous message to our society, and internationally.

Domestically the message is simple; those who fail to exercise fully their ability to abuse their positions are chumps! This is the message that is being sent to our youth and our society in general. The moral of the Zardari story is simply that one must snatch and grab as much as possible to succeed. The results of this message are clear to be seen. Daily, the position of the government weakens as institutions deteriorate and people begin to take matters into their own hands. The monetary loss is only another facet of this problem. The bigger problem at hand is the devastating effect on the concepts of justice, law and order in society.

Internationally, the image being given of Pakistan is also the very same. That it is a nation of crooks being headed by a crook. So they have every excuse not to come rushing with their wallets when we need help. Of course, this does not stop them giving us loans fairly regularly, but that’s a separate issue.

Traditionally, our average intellectual will about now begin to ridicule conspiracy theorists. Granted, that many a theorists occasionally go overboard with their claims (a certain red beret comes to mind), the intellectuals, however, are now bending over backwards in the opposite direction. Supposedly, any claims that foreign powers such as the US or India may be acting covertly against Pakistani interests are attempts at self-appreciation. Apparently, we say these things to try and make ourselves feel important. The world is a garden of roses, and the white man can do no wrong. If the US has been supporting a fascist regime in Israel, it is for the good of everyone. If NATO illegally attack Afghanistan, it is purely to cleanse it of ‘extremist elements’ that seem to grow out of the soil there for no particular reason. If they invade Iraq, it’s to bring democracy and justice to the Iraqis. How dare any one suggest that they may actually be serving selfish national (and imperialistic) designs, just like any other empire in history!

The Indians are our other new found best friends. They constantly tell us, and the international community, that our stability and security is their top priority, and we believe them. After all, why would they lie, it’s not as if we have some sort of border dispute with them or something? That they have been pulling troops out of Kashmir ever since Pakistan has been fighting insurgencies is just a fortunate byproduct of an unfortunate situation. And why would they support insurgencies or separatist movements in Pakistan anyway, it’s not like we ever did this stuff to them in Punjab, or that they’ve done it before as well, and besides, the purpose of their covert agencies is just to be helpful boyscouts to the world, sharing information and spreading peace and love wherever they go.

The real super-villains in the whole security situation are our military. Last week a certain Mr. George Fulton suggested that the world is not anxious about giving us aid because we ‘cried wolf’ too long, and now the world has ‘eventually twigged’. While I could potentially agree with the overall idea that the world fears siphoning of the funds to military expenditure or Swiss bank accounts, the examples he gave were unbelievable. According to him, Zia played off the Americans against the Soviets in Afghanistan. So there they were, those poor gullible Americans, with no intentions of picking a fight with the Soviets (they were shy in Afghanistan presumably, since Vietnam, Cuba and Korea had already happened), and along came the wily Zia with cohorts, twirling their moustaches and rubbing their hands together, slyly offering to fight the war in Afghanistan for obscene amounts of money ($600 million in aid per year). And then, those sly dogs, eventually went on to win the Americans the Cold War. O the betrayal!

Then of course, the Americans had barely gotten over the shock of being taken for such a ride by the shrewd Pakistanis that they were forced into waging an illegal war in Afghanistan. The poor souls had to threaten to bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age to get them on board for such an obviously grand and noble cause. And yet again, that smarmy Pervez Musharraf had the audacity to ask for money to support their crusade? My blood boils at the thought of his treachery.

If anything, these two generals should be questioned about the legitimacy of dragging their people into the war in the first place. The US emerged as a sole superpower after the first adventure, and have pretty much pushed their war into Pakistan as a result of the second. It is the state and people of Pakistan that have suffered. And yet, our media is the one justifying their audacity is expecting the rest of the world to tiptoe around them, as they go gallivanting around the world ‘spreading freedom and democracy’ to their hearts’ content.

Ah, of course, I forgot, criticizing the west and harping on about corruption in politics is old and out of fashion now. Apparently, it’s just so last season. We need to all realize that issues have statutes of limitations on them. After a certain period of time, it becomes okay for everyone to exploit us on these fronts. I find it amazing that this actually presented as argument in a lot of recent articles.

After much rambling, let me return to the simple problem at hand. In my childhood, my plan after becoming a billionaire was to set-up an effective Pakistani news channel. I was sick and tired of hearing only one side of the story from CNN and BBC. Although the billionaire part didn’t exactly pan out, there are now numerous independent news channels that seem to have money to burn. But all I get from them is sermons about how shit we all really are.

The fact of the matter is, the people writing these columns, much like myself, have little contact with the majority of Pakistan. There is little interaction with the people in the streets, we don’t know their problems, their issues, the rationales behind their choices etc. Instead, these people are trying to judge Pakistanis in the same way, and using the measures and frames of reference as the Western media. The result, of course is that they don’t match up. The basic factor of the conditioning of most Pakistani citizens is completely ignored. Taking the Sialkot incident as an example, it was no doubt a most heinous and shocking incident. However, it demonstrated something deeper than human barbarity or even just the negligence of the police at that particular instance. Details of the incident are not clear, but on the whole it seems to have come about due to a lack of trust in the local law enforcement agencies.

As a result people have increasingly started taking the law into their own hands. This incident was not as isolated as one might imagine. It happens somewhat frequently when thieves are caught in ‘mohallas’ and people decide to teach them a lesson. The reason is simply people’s desperation to protect themselves from such incidents and the various state institutions failure to do so.

In all such cases, it is the government, and solely the government that is responsible for such actions. One cannot keep a person ignorant and then condemn him for it. One may argue that the people are responsible for electing the government, but then again, the veracity of the democratic process in Pakistan is also extremely dubious. Without proper institutions people protecting their basic rights, people cannot be expected to vote independently. This, of course, would be a massive problem in the feudally dominated rural areas of Pakistan.

Although I understand the need for people to act as social commentators, and I understand the allure of being a deep misanthropic cynic, most of the issues being raised on English newspapers as either too trivial for a country that has people starving, or are too out of touch with ground realities. The supposed house cleaning exercise has turned into a whinging party for privileged young people who are too disconnected with the social norms of a vast majority of the country, or simply don’t like them.

If the idea is to change things, a little positivism may go a long way in achieving that goal. People who inspire don’t go around telling their audience how ignorant and uncultured they all are. My message to all these writer: Please try to keep the gloom and doom to an absolutely necessary minimum and also, don’t start generalizing our own population based on individual incidents. Even in those incidents, the focus should be on fixing the system rather than condemning the entire nation’s population. Perhaps, and here’s a thought, only write when you actually have something to say, don’t go looking for issues to whine about.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

X: wasnt it going to be you and your wife
Y: ah, yes, she went out, she'll be back any minute now.
X:thats good to know. And when'd she leave
Y:umm... if im not mistaken its arounndd.. 14 years now. but you know how traffic is in the suburbs these days...
X:and you expect her to be back any minute now?
Y:any minute, dinners ready, we'll start just as she comes
X:i see, umm... i hate to say this but.... could it be... that infact your wife has left for good?
Y:well you see, that depends on what she does and if that falls into the socially acceptable definition of good.... if she had gone out , saying "X, im off for the crusades", i could safely say yes, she has indeed left for good. but sadly she didnt. and im in a bit of a grey area here.
X: umm i see. and what did your wife say when she left
Y:let me see, right after i smacked her with the cleaning broom she said , " you wont see me come through this door again"
X:and dont you find that a bit strange?
Y:i do, i do indeed find that very strange. One, that in all honesty that is a very nice door, its a bit harsh to hold that sort of bias against it. And more importantly , not coming in through this door, leaves her with all but one possibility. To come in though the window.. and for her to be doing this at her age, every day... quite strange , yes.

agay complete ker lay...