Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
So, after everyone else has taken their shots at Dr. Saab, it’s time I register my take on the whole affair. I’m assuming, by now, everyone has seen the offending video clip (despite GEO’s efforts to get it pulled from youtube), as well as Dr.Saab’s ensuing jawab-e-shikwa, and have been anxiously awaiting my comments on them. You have, don't deny it! Anybody who thinks Aamir Liaquat’s explanation is the entire truth should stop here, as the follows assumes the opposite.
To start off, was it really that wrong for Aamir Liaquat to be caught swearing, and acting less than charitable while off air? Well, in short, yes! It was exactly that wrong, maybe even more. A very telling sign of this is his subsequent explanation. Had his actions been acceptable, or even only mildly unacceptable, there would have been no need for such a wildly outrageous explanation. He could have apologised, or simply ignored the issue, as he has been steadfastly doing regarding his dubious doctorate for the past many years (fake degrees, as we all know, are only a minor sin). Instead, he dug himself into a deeper hole by stating that the tongue that mentions the name of the Prophet could never engage in vulgarity. So, in his own words, such behaviour would be intolerable and render him unsuited to fulfilling his role on television.
This is both his prerogative and his necessity. The fact of the matter is that the wholesome, unimpeachably pious persona is what he was selling. He could not, under any circumstances, allow this image to be tarnished.
And this is where more culprits need to be drawn into the dock. Aamir Liaquat Hussain is not just a personality engaged in imparting Islam. He is a carefully cultivated, and most importantly, highly lucrative product. Not only does he earn his television channels obscene amounts of money, he is also the face of many an advertising campaign. So, maintaining the false façade of Aamir Liaquat is in the interest of many a powerful group. I’m not sure about his current political standing, but there was definitely a time when these groups also featured a prominent political party.
This brings us to the responsibilities of all of these groups. Since we’ve established that his behaviour was intolerable for someone carrying out his responsibilities, was it not the job of his producers or channel executives to distance themselves from him? Since most of the clips are from Geo, shouldn’t they be held responsible for housing and promoting a charlatan? And what of his ad endorsements? Will advertisers and companies try to pull him from their campaigns?
Of course, I’m living in a dream world when I say these things; in a world where profitability is not the measure of morality. More likely, everyone will look to quietly gloss over this little blip. We’ve all had our laughs, and now it’s back to work, making money selling piety. The only way anybody is going to pull away from Aamir Liaquat after this is if he becomes a financial liability. But since our opinions are mostly decided by these very media groups I suspect there's little danger of that happening and it would just be cheaper to pretend nothing happened.
At the same time, I do suspect one aspect of Aamir Liaquat’s explanation rings true. I have a feeling his accusation that Geo intentionally leaked the video to damage his reputation is not entirely outlandish. After all, they had lost a cash cow to the opposition, why not try to dent their investment? They pulled the video from youtube just a fraction too late. It had gone viral.
On the other hand, if this was the act of a rogue Geo employee with access to the tapes, will Geo be naming him and acting against him for violation of copyright? I suspect not!
Come to think of it, I guess it’s about as likely as Aamir Liquat taking legal action against Geo for “dubbing and imitating him” for the purposes of defamation.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The unseemly sight of concrete blocks and MP check-posts has now become an integral part of our lives. God only knows when we will be rid of these symbols of insecurity; unless things change drastically, I suspect it may not be during my lifetime.
Friday, May 6, 2011
I haven’t been writing much recently, and had decided to stay particularly away from the whole Osama saga because I think I’m not educated or informed enough to present anything solid or insightful. Three days of going through articles on the internet have, however, confirmed that this is hardly a reason to stop. So, once more into the fray!
There is some evidence left to be verified though, isn’t there? What about the dead son’s body, and the twelve year old daughter, both of whom are supposedly in Pakistani custody? Can we at least do our own DNA tests on them to confirm that they are in fact OBL’s offspring?
Or is there another possibility? Is it possible that we actually have no modus operandi for such a situation? So a couple of American helicopters violated our airspace and headed towards Abottabad, what were we to do? Shoot them down? This is the same military that has, for all its condemnation, never dared to shoot down an American drone. Would it have been practical for it to engage American helicopters? Was it perhaps easier to look the other way while the Americans went about their business?
Just out of curiosity though, did they confirm bin Laden’s identity before or after they shot him? Hypothetically speaking, what would they have done if, after shooting him, they do the DNA test and it turns out to be someone else? (If I was in that situation, I’d just get rid of the body as soon as possible… not that I’m implying anything!)
PS. Before I got carried away, the idea was that I could write up all the questions and then draw the various conclusions from each one. And when I say draw, I mean literally draw, like a graph. Maybe I'll do that now...
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I can’t stop my hands trembling. For the past forty minutes I have been going through a fixed routine. Pacing swiftly, sitting down, lighting up a cigarette, extinguishing it untouched, getting up again, pacing again; I have exhausted this repertoire several times over. I tell myself that all this nervous activity is bound to attract attention, especially at an airport. This makes me even more nervous.
My nerves are not unjustified. I’m a dead man. Not literally, of course. Not yet, anyway. Though that has the potential for a nice sketch. Man walks into a police station and nervously says, ‘I’m a dead man’ and it turns out later he actually is a ghost. It’d be tough to keep that interesting until you hit the punch-line, but I’m sure it can be done. I’m smiling. What the hell is wrong with me? Well, a lack of concentration for one. My inability to organise my life is another. A few failed and spectacularly short relationships might point to the existence of a third, though maybe it’s just a symptom of the second.
There I go again, getting caught up in an analysis of my life. I need to focus. Otherwise, I’m not going to have much of a life left to screw up again. Perhaps I should eat something that will help me to think. A nice chocolate bar, that’s the solution. But which one though? I bet they have a very limited choice here. It’s a crummy little airport. I bet they don’t even have Galaxy, and if they do, it’s probably all melted and refrozen and out of shape. Forget the chocolate. I’m not going to have it. But how will I think without it? I’m going to die, without any attempt at escape, because this stupid airport shop doesn’t have a decent bar of Galaxy.
Hold on, am I really buying this? This isn’t some silly little exam that I can blame on bad weather and ill-health and explain away till next time. In all likelihood, there will be no next time. Just like that Eminem song.
Focus, man, focus! Let’s go over what has happened so far. Let’s try to assess the situation. Understand the gravity of the events. Do an analysis of the risk and loss involved, like those actuaries do. Or gamblers. I’m a smart guy. I can do this. Ok, lets start. I was ordered to take a flight from this airport - a simple enough task for most people. But then I’ve never considered myself to be a part of the rabble. I am a prince among men. A diamond in the rough, just like Aladdin. Have I teetered into sarcasm in my own mind? I don’t even know if I’m being serious when I’m talking to myself?
Does it matter if I’m special? Does it matter if any of us are? For fuck’s sake, will you FOCUS! Last thought – I like that phrase ‘fuck’s sake’.
So, returning to the little problem at hand. We chose this airport for its lack of security. Well that was a good call, not much security here. That guard looks like he’d let a cannon pass if its wheels didn’t squeak and disturb his slumber. But is that a plus or a negative? Am I more afraid of the authorities, or the people who hired me? Let’s just note this down as ‘inconclusive observation’.
Perhaps I should be drawing a conclusion. Perhaps that’s my problem; my ceaseless procrastination. Okay, here and now, lack of security, good or bad? Well, I could be shot right here and now, but for that to happen, they would need to know I’d screwed up. Unless they were following me, there’s no other way. Thank God I didn’t attend that bastard’s last-minute calls. He must’ve assumed I was already on the plane. He didn’t think too highly of me, but I don’t think he suspected I was this incompetent.
Seriously though, when did it come to this? I had such a promising childhood. My little quirks were always so endearing. Oops, turned up at school in his slippers, what a character! Who would’ve thought that all these events were eventually going to culminate in the monumental cock-up I have managed today. Missing the flight I was supposed to hi-jack. I mean, seriously!
How did a nice boy like me end up in a situation like this? A few stereotypical things come to mind. Lack of employment, lack of stability, lack of family. Lacks and lacks of everything. I am a lack-pati! Oh, what a corny! It’d be funnier if I was married… and Indian.
So, everything’s sorted, I can die in peace. You jackass!
Maybe it wasn’t a screw up. Maybe I subconsciously didn’t want to go through with it. Perhaps I’m a newly discovered Buddhist. I have generally avoided violence all my life. Well, at least when it was to be directed towards me. No, that’s not it. It was that damn taxi-driver driving as if he had all the time in the world, ‘Don’t worry sir, no need to rush’. The bastard broke down twice on the way.
I told them to get me a car to the airport, but no. Cheapskates, serves them right. What kind of an operation are they running anyway. I’m sure if I explained this to them, I could make a compelling case. Yes, I’ll tell them it was all their fault for not getting me a car. I’m sure they’d listen to that. Right before they castrate me.
O shit, it’s 5 o’clock already. I’ve been analysing the situation for ages. It’s now over an hour since the nice lady at the check-in counter told me she couldn’t let me on the plane. They’re probably expecting the news to break any minute now. I’d better run for it. I saw a bar on the way here. It's far enough away from the airport, I'll go there.
So now I’m in the bar, glued to the news on the television. How can I possibly get out of this? If only that plane would crash. Nobody would be any wiser about what happened. It wouldn’t be my fault. Everyone would think I’d died on-board. Please God, I’ve rarely asked you for anything. Please crash that plane. Show me you’re there. Show me you care about me. Crash that plane!
I’m feeling better now. Planes crash all the time, don’t they! I mean, I know the chances are usually remote, but I think God is definitely going to make up for everything that’s gone wrong with my life on this one. I can feel it!
Ah, this is going to be a story for the ages. I’ll tell my children all about it…when the time is right, of course. Or maybe, I’ll just go directly to my grandchildren and tell them.
Maybe someone will make a movie about this at some point. It’d probably be a comedy, the way this is turning out. Shit, that means whoever is playing me is going to be some sort of bungling comedian. Unless someone does it tastefully. That would take a real genius to capture the reality of the situation.
Hold on, everyone’s gone quiet. What’s that on the news? An aeroplane is in trouble. The pilot’s reported he can’t get his landing gear down. What’s the flight number? Dammit woman, we know the situation is tense at the airport, what the hell else were you expecting? Just tell me the damn flight number! Really, are you going to go on about how worried you are? Is that what’s important - how you feel? What about – o there it is. It can’t be… It is! It’s my flight! And it’s circling because it can’t land. God has come through for me.
But is this situation good enough? A plane crashes on the runway? Yea, I think it would at least get me off the hook. Who’s going to chase after a dead man?
They’re trying to get it down somehow. All the fire-trucks and ambulances have lined up. Little do they know that the divine force is not with them. But what if it lands? Well, I’ll be done for. But it can’t, can it? No - no way. My hands are shaking again. People around me are trying to calm me down - Don’t worry? It’ll land? I’ll keep my mouth shut. Okay, time for the final approach. The pilot’s bringing it in. Please don’t let it land. Please no.
It’s coming down lower... lower. I’ve put my glass down. This irritating guy next to me has his hand on my shoulder. I bet he can feel my heart racing. All the blood has rushed to my head. My ears are throbbing. The flight is about to touch down, and… Aargh. What’s wrong with these fuckers at the news channel. You’re supposed to be giving me the news as it happens, you bastards! They’ve switched to the studio. Okay, hold on. They’ll tell us soon enough.
Just have another drink. I can barely get the words out to order a cool glass of water. The barman’s put it down in front of me with a look of sympathy. Just gulp it down.
Here's the update! And…
God proving once again that He not only hates me, He enjoys torturing me as well. Probably shouldn’t have shouted out loud like that. The guys at the bar are staring at me though it doesn't really matter any more. Things are about to get much worse. It's time to get my bag and passport and disappear. If only I can make it to the airport.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
-This was written in response to an article in Express Tribune on 4th January, 2010. It was an excerpt of one of Pervez Hoodbhoy's talks.
While reading the article published under Pervez Hoodbhoy’s name, entitled ‘Why do they pick on us Pakistanis?’ I was still trying to assess the arguments when I hit the second last paragraph.
“For example, Imran Khan — who speaks of the West as the fountainhead of evil — prefers to keep his family in London and New York, owes his fame to a game invented by British colonialists, and employs real doctors rather than hakeems for his cancer hospital.”
Now, I have never been to MIT, and do confess to having limited education, but clearly, logical thought is not part of their curriculum for physicists. Before I move on to the rest of the article, the mind-blowing absurdity of this statement has to be addressed. While criticising Imran Khan’s choice to keep his family abroad seems a reasonable argument in pointing out his hypocrisy (which it is not… but we’ll come to that), the good doctor has seen fit to point to his fame in a ‘colonial’ game, and his employment of medical professionals as signs of his closet western-ness.
So apparently, anyone who indulges in the most popular sport in the subcontinent automatically loses his license to criticise any action being conducted in the West (of course, it’s all one big area over there that invented the game among their other achievements). Anyone who has ever been to a doctor is also out. Unless you frequent hakeems or any other local forms of medical professionals, you too have no right to criticise the West. I’m assuming this is because ‘the West’ gave us modern medicine. Presumably, anyone who has ever used algebra in America has no right to criticise Arab policy either.
Let’s move on from this staggeringly illogical statement, with the assumption it was made in a moment of madness, and try to get to the core of the text. Firstly, the idea is presented that Pakistanis have a hard time at American Immigration because of a bad track record. While I can understand the frustration and humiliation of people subjected to ‘the special line’, the measure in itself is logical enough.
The second point, however, seems a little extreme. The only two options that presented themselves to Dr. Hoodbhoy during his inflamed rage towards the American bombing of Vietnam were either to bomb Harvard Square or to leave the country. Why was he not out there, protesting like everyone else? Why was he not withholding taxes or picketing the White House? Of course, his move in itself is commendable, he returned to Pakistan, and the impoverished country no doubt gained an eminent physicist. But his flight did little to pacify the Vietnamese. I don’t know, perhaps he did protest, but his return to Pakistan made the war go away, at least for him.
Then, in the soul-searching that ensued, Dr. Hoodbhoy came to another staggering conclusion. Since injustice against the weak has been practiced by every strong party in history, the weak should just accept it and get on with their lives. Quite brilliant!
The article then turns into an ode to Western liberalism. People are safer there to practice their religions, their rights are secure and so on and so forth. Critics of the US are not contending any of this. Even extremists like Faisal Shehzad never claimed they were protesting local American prejudice. The US comes under attack from the likes of Imran Khan because of their overbearing ‘bull in a China shop’ foreign policy. In the sentence where Dr. Hoodbhoy mentions the decency of Americans in protecting Muslims in their own country, he is also completely flippant about the two illegal wars that George W. Bush started which killed thousands of people. Of course, I forgot, it’s the way the world works.
US forces currently occupy bases all the way from Pakistan to North Africa, where they prop up despotic, repressive regimes. They have gone against UN policy time and time again, and bombed innocent civilians in almost every part of the globe. People in these areas do not have the option of going home and forgetting all about it.
Obviously, I am not endorsing terrorism, but surely the only other solution is not to lie down and accept the status quo as morally correct. Pervez Hoodbhoy seems as resigned to being a second rate citizen of the world community, tiptoeing around American whim, as he claims minorities are in Pakistan.
Finally, let’s make the distinction between Pakistani Americans, and Pakistani students in America. Pakistani-American’s who live in America, and have adopted the American way of life should of course be shunning radicalism and violence, but that’s not the entire story. They do also have a right, and perhaps to some extent, a responsibility to protest and criticise unjust actions by their own (or as Dr. Hoodbhoy would prefer ‘adopted’) government. They are not there to quietly and apologetically keep their heads down, and keep out of sight; they are there to live a normal life.
Pakistani students, on the other hand, could, and should be acting as ambassadors. They should obviously be shunning radicalism in their own country, but also educating common Americans about what makes the US so unpopular in the third world.
Perhaps, from a purely practical perspective, one could argue that immigrants should try to adapt to their host country, but surely commentators in Pakistan have the right to criticise Western policy they disagree with?
As this is an excerpt, I suspect (and hope) that there is a great deal that is incoherent and could possible be taken out of context, but by and large, the apologetic theme that is willing to fatalistically accept illegal wars, while criticising its blowback is troubling. Perhaps if eminent Pakistani intellectuals such as Pervez Hoodbhoy were able to make more of a fuss about the injustices of American foreign policy and its disastrous effect on Pakistan, misguided youths such as Faisal Shehzad would not feel the need to express their own discontent in such a violent way. Instead our leading minds tend to shirk away from any such responsibilities, perhaps for fear that the next time they won’t even have the opportunity to stand in the slow-moving line.