Monday, August 30, 2010
Anyway, adding a new section called Socio-Politico Mazaa.
And yeah, currently it's lady dominated. In all honesty Mr Karachi Khatmal and Chapati Mystery should be there but he's someone who I believe doesn't use blogs for commentary. He uses blogs for Art. KK`s well crafted posts pack a punch. And Chapati Mystery does veer off into socio-cultural fun, but he updates about politics too much.
Ms Mehreen Ali Kasana is in. Fun person, fun blog.
And the respectable Karachi Feminist is innit, 2.
And in her response to the media response of the Sialkot killings, I left a minor comment. Read it.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Long ago, in the mid-nineties, I had trained myself not to bother so much about the state of cricket in Pakistan. I could just see the character of our cricketers oozing through, in the disgusting and woe-be-gone way that they just couldn't care for anything beyond themselves. Their character shone through quite nicely, so I said to myself, why should I bother about these folk? If I wanted a spectator sport, I would switch to observing the behaviour of the various violent groups operating throughout Pakistan. If I had to watch fucks, I would rather observe people who I know openly to be fucks. Like the various ethnic and sectarian militias that operate through the Pakistan.
But the response just in the updates on this blog?
If you click on each, you get the response that each blog had to this scandal.
Now along with that - here's an interesting Indian link. This is strangely sympatico with a conspiracy theory going around that Indian bookies (and by extension Hindooo India) staged this betting scandal with the talented yet "innocent naif" Mohammad Aamir, to deprive us of talent and "embarrass Pakistan". As if Pakistan needs anyone's help in embarrassing itself. But yeah, there's a headline in a Pakistani newspaper called the Daily Express, (the article's in Urdu) which translates into "The Match Fixing Scandal is an Indian Conspiracy Against the Pakistani Team". Seriously.
It's in e-paper format, but fucking seriously. I should translate it, but wow I can't believe cricket is so important to this country that people have to spin conspiracy theories to psychologically protect their egos.
Oh well. Lifetime bans all around.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
And after that little misadventure backfired, and a misadventure I will bet, planted the idea of a coup in the unimaginative minds of Pakistan's purposely-kept-unimaginative-by-the-British military elite (starting of course with Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan), this political faction had to move into journalism and academia to remain relevant. As for Ahmed Rashid, he fought in the 1970's Baloch Insurgency, aiding and abetting the killing of Pakistani soldiers during that insurgency. That's enough for me to hate him. And he took this I-am-opposing-Pakistan-and-aiding-the-murder-of-Pakistani-citizens-attitude-because-the-entire-structure-is-evil attitude into his coverage of the eighties Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The reason a smart man like him probably never made money and a good book of it, was probably because he was involved with the covering the asses of the Communists for whatever fuck mistakes or murders they did in Afghanistan. Then came the Afghan civil war and the rise of the Taliban. In this fight he had no dog. So he's been trying to make up for his hackery over the last eleven years by writing holistically on the Taliban.
And he has taken that holistic approach to Pakistan and its deep state. As a firm believer in holistic analysis, I recommend this article. I especially enjoyed the attempt at summarising the situation in Karachi. It was kind of interesting.
"MEANWHILE, the lack of services is creating its own anarchy. In Karachi, with a population of 18 million, violence is so endemic and its perpetrators so diverse that it is difficult to summarize. What we do know is that beyond Islamic extremism, the city is in the grip of heavily armed mafias and criminal gangs, who kill over control of water supplies, public transport, land deals and the drug trade. Car theft is rampant. The most lucrative business is kidnapping for ransom. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that there were 260 targeted killings in Karachi in the first six months of this year, compared to 156 last year. Eight hundred eighty-nine murders were reported in the same period. Because the city is the melting pot of the country, much of the violence is between ethnic groups who live in virtual ghettoes and compete for the scarce resources of the city.
Ethnic violence is translated into interparty political assassinations. The Muhajir-dominated Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which rules Karachi is made up of Urdu-speaking migrants from India. They are in a bloody war with an MQM offshoot and in intense rivalry with the largest Pashtun secular political group (the Awami National Party) as well as with the majority Sindhi population. The Muhajirs blame the Pashtuns for introducing the Taliban to Karachi, and ethnic killings are multiplying; party workers of all groups are being targeted."
And, of course, importantly enough Balochistan:
"There is another civil war going on in Baluchistan Province between Baluch separatists and the army. A province long deprived of development, political freedom and revenue, this is the fifth insurgency by the Baluch tribes against the army since Pakistan’s founding. The ISI maintains that Indian agents based in Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf states are arming and funding the Baluch. The insurgents launch ambushes and assassinations, and lay land mines every day. They have begun killing prominent non-Baluch who long ago settled in the province. School teachers, university professors and officials have proven the easiest targets—and this in a province that professes a literacy rate of only 37 percent (20 percent for women) compared to the national average of 54 percent. This summer Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that four separatist Baluch “armies” funded by India had forced 100,000 people to migrate from the province. Baluch militants killed 252 non-Baluch settlers from January to June of this year, also assassinating 13 army officers. The army in turn has brutalized Baluch society and several thousand young Baluch are said to be missing, presumed in prison and being tortured. The army’s insistence that the entire Baluch problem is caused by India and that the Baluch have no grievances of their own simply leads to further escalation of violence and further alienation of the population. The province erupted in days of riots and strikes after prominent Baluch nationalist leader Habib Jalib was gunned down in Quetta in mid-July."
This is a summarising article that should definitely be read. At the end, there is some glimmer of hope for a way forward. Building on what this parliament accomplished with the redistribution of money through the 18th Amendment, coupled with realisation amongst the Pakistani population for no more military rule.
Monday, August 23, 2010
He had linked the other large international climate tragedy of the Moscow fires with his constant theme of climate change. Gee, thanks for the kind words given.
Anyway, here's the article:
A Question of Water in Pakistan
This may not be the most tactful time to bring it up, with much of Pakistan under water and many millions homeless. But Pakistan's real problem is not too much water.
It is too little water - and one day it could cause a war. The current disastrous floods (to which the response of both the Pakistan Government and the international community has been far too slow) are due to this year's monsoon being much stronger than usual.
But that is just bad weather, in the end. Every 50 or 100 years you can expect the weather to do something really extreme. It comes in various forms - blizzards, floods, hurricanes - but it happens everywhere.
The long-term threat to Pakistan's well-being is that the country is gradually drying out. The Indus river system is the main year-round source of water for both Pakistan and northwestern India, but the glaciers up on the Tibetan plateau that feed the system's various tributaries are melting.
While they are melting, of course, the amount of water in the system will not fall steeply - but according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, some of the glaciers will be gone in as little as 20 years.
Then the river levels will drop permanently, and the real problems will begin.
When India and Pakistan got their independence from Britain in 1947, there was plenty of water in the Indus system for everyone. In fact, almost half the water was still flowing into the Arabian Sea unused.
But the population has grown fast over the years, especially on the Pakistani side of the border - from 34 million in 1947 to 175 million now - and the amount of water in the rivers has not.
The per capita supply of water in Pakistan has fallen from more than 5000cu m annually in 1947 to only about 1000cu m today, a level defined by the UN as "high stress".
About 96 per cent of that goes to irrigation, and the Indus no longer reaches the sea in most years. That's what has already happened, even before the melting of the glaciers has gone very far.
Fifteen or 20 years from now, the water shortage (and therefore also food scarcities) will be a permanent political obsession in Pakistan. Even now, Pakistani politicians tend to blame India for their country's water shortage (and vice versa, of course). It will get worse when the shortage grows acute.
What turns a problem into a potential conflict is the fact that five of the six tributaries that make up the Indus system cross Indian-controlled Kashmir on their way to Pakistan. There is a treaty, dating from 1960, that divides the water between the two countries, with India getting the water from the eastern three rivers and Pakistan owning the flow from the western three. But the treaty contains a time-bomb.
India's three rivers contain only about one-fifth of the system's total flow. To boost India's share up to about 30 per cent, therefore, the World Bank arbitrators proposed that the treaty also let India extract a certain amount of water from two of Pakistan's rivers before they leave Indian territory. The proposal was reluctantly accepted by Pakistan.
The amount is not small - it is, in fact, enough water to irrigate 320,000ha - and it is a fixed amount, regardless of how much water there actually is in the river.
Now roll the tape forward 20 years. The glacial melt-water is coming to an end, and the total flow of the Indus system is down by half. But almost all of the loss is in Pakistan's three rivers, since the smaller Indian three do not depend heavily on glaciers.
So India is still getting as much water as ever from the eastern three rivers, and it is still taking its full treaty allocation of water from two of Pakistan's rivers, although they do depend on glacial melt-water and now have far less water in them.
As a result, India's total share of the Indus waters rises sharply (and quite legally) just as Pakistanis start to starve. In these circumstances, would an Indian government voluntarily take less water than the treaty allows? Get real. India will be having difficulties with its food supply too, though it will not be in such grave trouble as Pakistan.
Any Indian government that "gave India's water away" would promptly be driven from power - by Parliament if it was the usual fractious coalition, or by voters at the next election if it were an unusually disciplined single party.
On the other hand, no Pakistani government, civilian or military, could just sit by as land that has been irrigated for a century goes back to desert and food rationing is imposed nationwide. Especially not if India's fields just across the border were still green. That is the nightmare confrontation that lies down the road for these two nuclear powers.
Meanwhile, the homes of millions of Pakistanis are underwater. In terms of human suffering, it is 20 times worse than Hurricane Katrina was in the United States five years ago, and it needs a proportionate response now.
But the future holds something much worse for Pakistan (and for India), unless they start revising this 50-year-old treaty now, before the crisis arrives.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
They also used one of the pictures I selected as a filler. In the section on complaints. To signify a sense of being screwed over?
But the larger point would be how our urban based media has some trouble dealing with rural perspectives, and how it seems to skew at times in favour of military rule.
In terms of urban bias we can remember how in 2004, the media in India called the May elections in favour of the BJP. They were left with egg all over their face as they realised that they represented an urban bias where the India shining propaganda had defeated competing ways of thought but the countryside felt differently.
Pakistan is proportionally the most urbanised of all in South Asia, with a third of the population being city based. So a rural perspective should be considered to news presentation/analysis.
As for the complaining issue, I'm of two minds about it. Firstly, I think there should be an airing of multiple points of view. If nothing else, it brings about some sort of tolerance for competing viewpoints in society. And since we're all doubtful how much influence parliament has on our own "deep state", it is quite possible that the way society's increasing religiosity affected the armed forces, maybe society's becoming more tolerant of dissent will also affect the armed forces personnel.
And the army is where the bad side of a sort of nihilistic complaining comes in. Ayaz Amir, a journalist and electorally successful Member of Parliament has at various times called them the non-voting middle classes or more appropriately for its extreme members, the Jihadi media. The best approximation to call it would be the verbalised angst of the non-voting middle classes. The Pakistan Army seems to be their preferred political party of choice (or some rightward variation of the PML-N), and as they staff and run most television news organisations, they seem to be running a political opposition operation rather than straight up news reporting, encouraging any characteristic that would demoralise the PPP, ANP and (possibly) MQM and anyone who associates with these parties. My guess is they feel politically helpless and they are trying to project it.
50,000 US troops will remain in Iraq as trainers for the Iraqi security forces. These troops will not take part in combat ops, but will be designated as advisers. Even these troops have an eventual date to leave Iraq.
The neocon political movement that began this war has been attacked and destroyed from both the left and right. That is the American neo-conservative movement. Now it has to be considered how the Muslim neo-conservative movement, roughly called the Islamists, will be taken out of action for being the most physically destructive political force active today.
For now, we have the official announcement, that no more Americans will be fighting, half a world away, in the battered, fractured and bruised country of Iraq.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The second best line I heard in this clip explained the delegation of authority Pakistan is supposed to have:
"The real influence that any government would have there is the provincial government"
The best line? Well start from the interviewer's sputtering at 2:23
"I Make My Living off Pointing Out Those Structural Problems."
"But those structural problems are not going to get solved because of this flood. They're not going to get solved in one or two days. And they're not going to get solved because the international communtiy is worried about the Taliban over running the country. They're going to get solved because there's a domestic demand for reform. And that demand [sputtering] does not come about overnight. It takes a long time, for countries to go from being incapable, to being capable of dealing with these kinds of disasters."
"That's bad news for the rest of the world because what I'm basically saying is, we're going to have to wait for Pakistan to catch up, and that's just how it is."
Sunday, August 15, 2010
How Unfortunate that Pakistan Seems to Suffer Some of Its Worst Natural Disasters When It Has Bad Relations With the United States
Some of the worst relations Pakistan had with the US was when the government of Pakistan simultaneously became an openly nuclear state and supported the Taliban regime. That would be 1998 till September/October 2001. Drought overtook Pakistan in 1999, and it extended to Afghanistan as well. The first snows fell in November 2001 after three years of drought.
The drought ended simultaneously with the US invasion of Afghanistan. The Gods have a strange sense of humour.
And of course Pakistan's relation with the United States had improved.
In 2005, as the Afghan resistance re-erupted, the US began to look for culprits. Their relation with Pakistan began to deteriorate. And then an Earthquake happened in 2005.
And now, a three ship military task force is off the coast of Pakistan with US helicopters swarming all over the country. And just a month ago with the wikileaks expose, Pakistan and US relations were set to take a serious nose dive.
Strange world we live in.
What is shocking is how a river with such a small width has expanded to cover miles beyond its shores. A horrible premonition is how the area around Sukkur has seen water expand every direction except downriver. What this means is that the flood is worse and the irrigation infrastructure is holding back water from flowing into the sea. This should be good news. However, a second wave of flooding is expected to come through.
The water has to flow through quickly but if it doesn't it could lead to even worse flooding when the second wave of rains and floods arrive. Some might say that Pakistan's irrigation infrastructure should have been able to cope with this, but I have my doubts. Even though the Sukkur Barrage is said by a member of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority to not be under threat of bursting, I'ld like to be excused if I don't believe anybody from the NDMA.
Especially considering the scale of the disaster.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
It should first be mentioned that Pakistan`s ally and friend, China, has also suffered a disaster in the form of mudslides in the city Gansu of the province, Gannan.
They've obviously covered the flood. This is news as art. Some of the pictures are truly mesmerising. Because this all happened.
Since the flood has been so big (turning rivers a few hundred meters wide now 18 miles across), they've had to do a second series.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Economic Collapse by Cyril Almeida
What could be worse than floods that have displaced millions, killed thousands and destroyed huge swathes of farmland, a catastrophe the country will take years to recover from?
Some people think they know, and the answer terrifies them. Away from the political mishegoss in Islamabad, calculators are anxiously being pulled out and back-of-the-envelope calculations are furiously being made by the serious-minded folks.
The numbers are numbing: even before the floods, Pakistan seemed to be heading for economic collapse; after the floods, that appears to be all but a certainty.
Gone will be the days of loadshedding — because there will be no electricity at all in the grid. Inflation, which has stayed stubbornly high, will spike again — because a sustained budget deficit is forcing the government to borrow money, keeping the economy awash in surplus money, more cash chasing the same amount of goods.
Revenue projections could collapse — because piling on indirect taxes eventually causes inelasticity to turn into elasticity: in time, the market shrinks as taxes go up. The current account deficit could balloon yet again as remittances, the great, unexplained boon the past few years, stagnate, putting pressure on the exchange rate and making the days of the 100-rupee dollar a distinct possibility.
Must all this necessarily happen? No. Is it politically inevitable? Yes.
The challenges may be grim, but they are not insurmountable — yet. What is terrifying some people in Islamabad, however, is the attitude of the present government. Like first-class passengers demanding caviar on a sinking Titanic, the federal government seems supremely unaware of the storm that is slowly engulfing it.
Meetings are held on critical economic matters, but decisions are deferred. Ministers prefer to rearrange papers on their desks, if they bother to come in to office at all, rather than study how to push through reforms. At the very top … well, never mind. A presidential helicopter touching down at a chateau in the land of Marie Antoinette said it all.
How can an elected government be so catastrophically, diabolically, maniacally bad? It doesn’t seem to make any sense. The panic alarms are ringing furiously across the country, warning the PPP of an electoral wipe-out the next time round. Wouldn’t surviving to plunder this land some more be an incentive? Why court your own doom?
The answer, alas, seems to lie in a game somewhere else. Zardari and his ribald bunch of misfits appear to be making the ultimate high-stakes bet: that if Pakistan stands at the precipice, arms aloft, seemingly ready to embrace her fate, western hands will claw her back to safety.
It goes something like this. The West will generally not let Pakistan fail because the consequences of failure here are too serious for the region and the world at large. The West will specifically not let the present government fail because it represents the best coalition for claiming public support in the fight against militancy. Combine the general with the specific, and voila! You have an unbeatable hand.
Welcome to Bailout City. Why do the heavy lifting when others will do it for you?
Except, not really. One, there’s little to no appetite in the US to bail out a profligate, corrupt government unwilling to get serious about governance. The Americans have a back-up plan: the IMF. That’s where they send the serial offenders and chronic delinquents for the one-size-fits-all treatment.
Since we are already in the embrace of the IMF, round two will call for tougher measures. The first time they forced us to slash subsidies; the second time they’ll take the scalpel to the public sector.
Public sector enterprises (PSEs) lost Rs250bn last year. Outsiders like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) don’t know how to stop that haemorrhaging in a sophisticated way; they will force the obvious: slash salary expenditures. Which means layoffs. A more sophisticated negotiating team from the Pakistani side may be able to minimise the cutbacks, but if sophistication was a trademark of this government, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in.
Note, though, that the first round of the IMF package hasn’t saved Pakistan, it has just made a bigger mess of things. Electricity prices have been jacked up by 70 per cent in some instances, and yet the sector is on the verge of collapse
It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to figure out why: inefficiencies — a nice word for incompetence, corruption, mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, general thuggery and an unwillingness to play by the rules — aren’t fixed by throwing more money at a problem.
Even if you were to double the price of electricity, the sector wouldn’t become liquid. In fact, it would probably veer towards insolvency, with customers refusing to pay their bills altogether, the fundamental reason for the circular-debt crisis today.
Similarly, slashing the headcount at PSEs will not stanch the losses there. The Railways loses money not because it has too many employees but because it is operating in a structurally flawed market. If you support road carriage at a policy level, as has been the case for decades since the creation of the National Logistics Cell (NLC), there’s little a railways can do — the market will gravitate towards the cheaper option, in this case cheaper because of a deliberate, dubious policy.
(As an aside, the civil-military imbalance has skewed the economy in ways not many understand or even recognise, NLC being a major example.)
In short, the IMF sausage maker is really a meat grinder: what comes out is often messier than what goes in. And a second bailout — post-floods, a virtual certainty — is often worse than the first.
So Zardari & co are really making a losing bet: the financial ‘rescue’ from the West may be worse than the original problem. Then again, that may not seem like such a big deal when you have a chateau — or are selling it or renovating it or whatever he was doing out there. But the rest of us don’t have a chateau to escape to and so we must worry about things like a collapsing economy.
Which brings us to Zardari’s second problem: survivability. In a high-stakes game of bluff, you need to be sure the other side doesn’t have options. But that’s never the case in Pakistan. There are always options.
1999-2002 wasn’t very long ago. Many remember it fondly, for its attention and commitment to reform. Why green-light another bailout for a tried-and-failed lot that will just kick the reform ball down the road again? Why not just fold and walk away from a swaggering Zardari?
Zardari may be too arrogant to care about the media response here, but the scorn heaped on him by the western media will have send chills down the spines of his smarter (!) advisers.
They know the West’s demand for reform is greater than its love for democracy here.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
A backgrounder on why Karachi has had a continous indigenous propensity for violence since the 1980's, which flares up depending on the situation.
Madiha Sattar also mentions how there has been a pattern of violence since 2009 and at a slightly lower rate throughout 2010, bringing it up for the international community to know.
And here's the main thing about Karachi:
The police and the paramilitary rangers are famously limited to main roads in many of the city's neighborhoods, whose inner streets are controlled by arms-bearing gang members operating beyond the reach of the law.
I must state, having known citizens from Karachi, that this constant state of lawlessness exists for every Karachi-ite and has existed for them since the 1980's.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
So here is the link on Changing Up Pakistan's webpage for the flood relief effort.
Pakistaniat.com also has a list of various charities to contact.
Turning grief into action is likely the best thing to do.
Now; on to the main blood related action.
Nadeem Farooq Paracha, in relating the attacks on vulnerable feeling PPP activists who have seen their party leader act foolishly during a bad time, relates his experience of talking with privileged Pakistani kids who are willing to abuse a President who would not slap them back, but would definitely not even flinch in the presence of a religious extremist. They would be scared of being killed. Cowardice? Definitely.
How many people would tell a Sipah-Sahaba member to their face that they're a dangerous cunt.
I would. But the others? Good enough reason to call them "Generation Axe".
I think a full posting of this article is what is needed.
By Nadeem Farooq Paracha
It does pain me to see a lot of ground-level PPP workers being pushed into a corner by their party leader’s nonchalant ways. They seem and sound helpless and exhausted in trying to defend their leader who has become the target of an obsessive-compulsive punching campaign of the media.
However, though the president does not seem to be bothered by the campaign, he must realize that there are many of his party workers who are being seriously affected. More than this, he should also realize that the media is targeting these very workers because it knows how vulnerable they are at the moment and also how defenceless they are feeling in the wake of both the media’s rather pathological hatred for Zardari as well as Zardari’s own obvious and not very endearing eccentricities.
Let’s just forget what I think about Zardari’s tour of France and the UK in the wake of the devastating floods that have hit millions of unfortunate Pakistanis. All I’ll say is that my view on the issue is not compatible with those members of the PPP who are defending the President’s trip, but nor are my views in tune with those heaping scorn over him for being such a heartless president. Instead I will share with you an observation.
In 2005 when a horrifying earthquake hit Kashmir and many areas of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, we saw an immediate response from thousands of young men and women who just rolled up their sleeves and plunged into relief work, sometimes facing great dangers.
I am proud to note that this is one thing this generation is very good at. So I was expecting the same this time around as well. So, off I went with a friend to take a tour of some offices and colleges where we knew a few people.
I won’t go into details about this, but will share with you an episode I witnessed at an office full of young folks. This episode neatly covers the ground realities I experienced elsewhere as well.
At this office I saw three donation boxes put there to collect funds for the flood victims. Since they were one of those transparent plastic ones, one could see through and in them. They’d been lying there for three days and none of them were even half full.
A number of young people approached me and they just seemed to have Zardari’s trip on their minds. Seeing me retreat, my friend intervened: “Zarri was wrong to go. But what have YOU done to help the victims? Do you think all this obsessive whining about Zardari would help you help the hungry, broken and shelterless victims?”
He was right. Because whereas one saw a number of young Pakistanis gathering to actually do something practical and tangible to help the earthquake victims, this time around however, the same young guns and, of course, the electronic media were spending more time spouting accusations and curses at Zaradri and navel-gazing about morality in this context than actually doing something a lot more noble.
There is no nobility I’m afraid in attacking an incompetent (democratically elected) government when every Junaid, Seema and John in the media is doing so – especially a wobbly government of a country ravaged by the demonic specter of religious extremism and violence, a dwindling economy, unchecked corruption and sudden natural calamities . Turning such loud whining into an obsession is even worse.
In a democracy people get the chance and the right to throw such a government out through the power of the vote. But, of course, those who make the most noise in this respect, hardly ever go out to vote.
What’s even shoddier is the way the many western media correspondents based in Pakistan report the happenings here. I have met some really good ones, who are open to learn about the complexities of the many social and political issues that this country faces. But unfortunately, since many of them have connections with the so-called intelligentsia and media of Pakistan, they too end up describing a lot of events through the paranoid shades of the somewhat despotic, self-righteous middle-class morality.
While reporting a political event involving, for example, Nawaz Sharif or Asif Zaradri, most western reporters (like the Pakistani middle-classes) are bound to digress towards commenting on the dynastical soap opera of the Sharif family and the Bhuttos with, of course, Fatima Bhutto, always making some kind of an entry, despite the fact that the talented writer that she is, the lady quite clearly has no clue what politics is.
And when it comes to Altaf Hussain, many western correspondents again take the minority, non-voting Pakistani middle-class view. They (like a bulk of the middle-class in the Punjab), are still measuring Hussain and his party as if this was not the 2000s, but 1992!
Nevertheless, after concluding our ‘fact finding’ mission in which we saw young, middle-class Pakistanis filling donation boxes with anti-Zardari curses (instead of actual money), my friend and I drove down to a café in Karachi where I was invited to meet a large group of young high school and college students.
They wanted to talk to me about terrorism. I’m not much of a speaker, so I just asked them to start a conversation on the subject. They were a lively bunch. But such is the state of confusion, denial and mistrust in the country’s urban middle-classes, that I wasn’t surprised at all to be bombarded by one conspiracy theory after another that these young people had obviously picked up from the electronic media and a number of (the rather unintentionally) hilarious websites out there who deal in peddling the most outlandish claptrap this side of Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin!
I let the young group’s members do most of the talking, until I decided to ask a few questions: “How would you like to be part of a generation that may go down as the one during which Pakistan was finally turned into hellhole of religious extremism? How would you all feel when history describes your generation to be the one that in spite of having unprecedented access to some stunning technology, democracy and superior education, still allowed its country to become the breeding ground for audacious, obscene and insane mad men who use the good name of God to spread hatred?”
“That won’t happen!” A young man announced.
My friend intervened: “Oh, but it’s already happening. It happens almost every single day. Can’t you see it?”
“That’s what the West wants us to believe,” a young lady replied.
“Okay then,” I said. “Let’s say for a while most of you are right to suggest that that ubiquitous foreign Indian, Western, Israeli or Martian hand is involved, it’s still Pakistan’s survival on the line, isn’t it? What have you done about what your country’s going through, apart from, of course, forwarding Zaradri jokes and nice little religious couplets through SMS …”
I was interrupted by an enthusiastic young man announcing the ‘news’ about Zardari facing a ‘barrage of shoes in Britain!’
I nodded my head: “Right, so you think the answer lies in throwing shoes at Zardari?”
“Hell, yes!” came the reply from a couple of young guys sitting in the front row.
“So if you see Zardari, you too will be willing to throw a shoe at him?” I asked.
“Yes, I definitely would!” A young man announced.
“Would you throw a shoe at a religious extremist? I asked.
“Are you crazy!” he shot back. “He’ll blow me up to bits!”
A ripple of laughter and high-fives ran across the gathered group.
“That, I’m afraid, makes you a coward.” I said.
The laughter faded away.
“Anything that scares you or retaliates, you deny its existence. As if it’ll just go away. But all that which does not hit back or retaliate is fair game for shoes and boos? That, lad, is the dilemma of your generation. Now, if you all don’t mind, this creaking 42-year-old cynic would like to have that coffee this café is famous for. Thank you.”