Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wikileaks Assessments of Pakistan's Nukes

If anybody is interested, the internal wikileaked assessment on Pakistan's nukes is misleading, yes we likely do have 130,000 people working in the Nukes complex, but for the last 3 years I was hearing that we had 60,000~70,000 people deputed towards the security of those nukes. So of those 130,000 people, 60K to 70K are for protection, the other 60K to 70K are nuclear weapons technologists.

K = 1,000. If you didn't know.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Think Tanks Vs Universities - I Always Thought That Think Tanks Were Easier to Engage With Since High School

And university (getting in, staying in) was a right royal pain in the ass. But there was a reason. The Universities are ancient institutions with ancient and deeply rigorous standards. They have to be, to justify the insane quantities of governmental subsidisation all of them undergo. So they're rigorous to the point of driving us shortcut looking Pakistanis, insane. Hell, that's why we overthrow dictatorships (or try to). Democracy is safer, boring but less rigorous than the education the IMF backed technocratic suckups surrounding any dictator, went through. In Pakistan, the equivalent of serving corporate interests at this time would be serving the Pakistan Military`s (corporate) interest. Stupid idea.

But back to think tanks. They serve corporate interests and are endowed by private or corporate funding. Universities at some level have to serve the public interest.

Interestingly, in the United Kingdom, there`s been a spate of fake universities, in fact fraudulent, private universities, so much so that the mouthpiece of middle classiya Pakistan, The News carried a piece on a clampdown on them. Now if I could find it.....

(Gratuitous ideological point: Maybe neo-liberalising everything was a bad idea? It let the fraudsters loose.)

I sort of realised how easy and simplistic the messages are, coming out of think tanks, in comparison to universities because:

1) The pronouncements of Think Tanks, always seemed a bit too simplistic.

2) Before the neo-liberal era, (the Bretton Woods era of the sixties and seventies, and yes Bretton Woods ideas are not completely applicable anymore) the main engine of ideas was the university, not the Think Tank.

After the rich started getting richer, in the late seventies onwards (not just in Pakistan, but across the West), Think Tanks seemed to rise to greater prominence than universities, as a sort of rival generator of ideas. This was driven home by this piece by Adam Curtis where he writes on the strange rise of this competitor to idea generation, the Think Tank. And considering the furore over the report published by the Jinnah Institute (the Think Tank parade/charade comes to Karachi) the history of the Think Tank, as an alternative to the University as idea generating machine. The university, in world politics, were so important to the world`s history during the sixties and seventies, that it echoes down to this day. Even in Pakistan.

But I always felt that serving the corporate interests was easy, and it is. It`s so easy, a high schooler could do it. With a high school education. And then earn a high schooler`s wages for life. Which is why kids are told by their parents; get lost to university and come back with good grades.

The rise of neo-liberalism was paralleled and aided by the rise of the Think Tank industry. Corporate power in the west, and military corporate power in Pakistan rose during the last thirty years, aided by a think tank industry acting as a handmaiden, and corporate ideological armourer for it. The power of think tanks has gotten so great, as idea based rivals to universities, that with New America Foundation and the Jinnah Institute, those trying to serve democracy and stop the excesses of corporate military and corporate power are finding themselves needing to recreate the tactics of their ideological opponents. To have ready made ideas lying around, except this time in service to democcracy.

Maybe universities and their students should consider stepping up on this matter. If they can stop worrying about the constant problem of jobs and grades that plagues them.

In the meantime, have a look at the strange rise, and rise of the Think Tank.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

110,000+ Armed Security in a city of 18,000,000.

Credit to Najam Sethi who gave two vital pieces of information that were necessary at 5:11 and 8:14, at what ails the PPP-MQM relation, and the breakdown of armed forces in Karachi, respectively.

In this city: There are 20,000 Rangers based inside Karachi, 35,000 police for Karachi, plus 55-56,000 private security guards.

That's an armed force of ~ 110,000+ armed men for a city of 18,000,000.

They can be deployed and within 15 days hunt down and capture the men doing this.

However from there it gets complicated.

Many will be released back into the streets due to an obsolete jail system and an overloaded judiciary. But that's not even the real hindrance that is stopping the government from starting an op against these men.

The real issue is that government relies on the MQM for seats. Much of the MQM's cadre will be swept up if an impartial sweep is started throughout the city. The MQM cannot afford to have large numbers of its men thrown into prison.

Also in the sweep many ANP men, and possibly members of the People's Aman Committee will see its men tossed in the cooler. But their criminals are joined through alliances, not party membership. MQM has party people who are in trouble. And the government needs the MQM. There is a way out; if the pol's can negotiate with each other and decide how much of their cadre its acceptable must face prison time for crimes committed. Also if they negotiate down from the angry maximalist positions each has taken regarding local administration systems & unresolved power sharing agreements in Sindh and Karachi/Hyderabad, that might help.

The census is abut to start, and in relation to that there is something regarding the demarcation of electoral constituencies, and the politicians are antsy about that. Most And a final compromise on the negotiated end of the commisionerate system, the Musharraf era elected Nazim (mayor) system and what version a democratically elected government would want.

A final's an outline. The politicians from the PPP, ANP & MQM, and I have to stress, it must be *THE* leading politicians of these parties, must sit down and find where they can agree on the Venn diagram of what kind of local government Karachi & Hyderabad (and in contrast the rest of Sindh) must have, what common minimum principles/numbers they can accept on the demarcation of electoral constituencies and most importantly, what proportion of their cadres are completely criminalised and need to be taken off the streets.

It is entirely up to our politicians to work this out. There is no Uncle Sam or General Kayani to hold their hands. They must realise that they cannot completely wipe any of the other two of the board, and for better or worse, everybody will have to live with each other. A path out of this bloody deadlock we are in, may appear if they can reach some sort of binding decision on how Karachi/Hyderabad should be governed and simultaneously, with the criminals taken off the streets.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Best Chronology on Pakistani Violence from Partition to 2007...and my Response to It

Note: i'Ve basIcally beeN looking for something like this. A resource that pulls together all the various and DIsparate events of violence that Pakistan has suffered and perpetrated. This thematiC chronology of mAss violence goes beyond all the usual, easily available TImelines that exclusively fOcus on islamist violeNce. The ethnic violence perpetrated in Pakistan is a mythic chronicle to itself and deserves to be told. This is a great resource for it, describing all the violence that took place in chronological order, with all the players laid out, and the murder described, from the time of 1946-47 till when the "war on terror" in Pakistan ramped up in 2007, ending with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. There is a smorgasbord of violence to pull out and relate to in this chronologically arranged list of Pakistan's multiple conflicts. I pulled out the one that is clearly related to what is going on in Karachi; because well; I was there :-). You pull out and write about what you think relates to you.

I remember clearly, very clearly, because for some reason it stuck out in my mind that summer, or close to summer 1994, Karachi became insanely violent. You sometimes start questioning your own memory of when you are in your early years, attending Kindergarten, but dammit, my memory was right. Not out of any hazy compromise between my memory and that of the historical media consumed, but BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Knowledge of violence is prominent in memories leading to the summer of 1994, accompanied by the feeling of fear and uncertainty in the air, because IT DID HAPPEN, I didn't just imagine it as other people who can't remember what happened when they were 5, 6 or 7, either repress, pretend to forget or actually forget.

I Remember.

I Remember it was April ~ Spring 1994 When Violence Ramped Up in Karachi. I knew, for some reason, despite being a child then, and never seeing the exact days and attacks laid out, that April ~ Spring 1994 was when it happened.

The relevant section to be scrolled down to is:

"2.3 The MQM Versus the Pakistani State and the MQM-Haqiqi"


1992; June 19 is listed as the date when:

"the Pakistani army intervened in a government-initiated military crack down code-named “Operation Clean-up”, allegedly in order to quell the chronic ethnic unrest in the province. Following the army operation, which resulted in a thousand of so-called terrorists and dacoits killed (Verkaaik, 2005.), a vendetta ensued between the two rival factions of the MQM. The MQM (A), whose leadership had to go underground, set about recovering by force its lost offices and the localities of Landhi and Korangi controlled by the MQM (H). It soon took the shape of a proxy war between semi-autonomous gangs trying to control small patches of the city and which lasted for months causing the death of many bystanders."

And then there is no entry for two years until suddenly......

APRIL 1994. The normal tick, tick, tick, of a few dead, then weeks of peace was blown to smithereens by a massive quantity of violence. And then the slide to hell began:

"1994; April 29 to May 5, The six-day insurgency: The MQM violently opposed the provincial government of Sindh as well as the federal government headed by the Sindhi leader of PPP, Benazir Bhutto. The MQM militants attacked more than 70 law enforcement agencies in the province and killed 32 people, mostly by sniper-firing (Haleem, 2003: 469). Till June, 62 policemen and more than 500 civilians were targeted (Haq, 1995: 1003)."

Long live memory and human experience. The direct way we learn.

A note of thanks to Shahreyar Mirza (twitter, tumblr) for finding the Chronology of Mass Violence & bringing it to our attention.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Syed Saleem Shahzad. A Lookback.

Even though I disagreed with the guy, I bloody did not want him dead. Where does Al Qaeda end & the Pak Mil begin? RIP Syed Saleem Shahzad.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

This is what I wrote when I heard of Saleem Shahzad`s murder. We knew thanks to twitter that Mr Shahzad had been disappeared, but like many people we expected something like the Umar Cheema incident, where a reporter gets picked up, roughed up and released. Instead, we are confronted with the potential murder of Mr Saleem Shahzad at the hands of the intelligence services.

I may be saying potential, but that is what the news reports say. The opinion, rippling up and down the twittersphere, is that despite reporting on the intersection of Islamic militants and Pakistan's intelligence agencies, it is the latter part of the equation that has firmly done in Mr Syed Saleem Shahzad. Mr Shahzad's last piece, the first of a promised two parter, on the infiltration and presence of Al Qaeda cells in the Pakistan Navy, is likely what sealed Mr Shahzad's fate.

Mr Saleem Shahzad's name was likely one I had come across, as a hyperlinks would casually direct one to the Asia Times website over the last decade. And why wouldn't they? Before this current generation of journalists and bloggers, with their synthesis view of the War on Terror, growing up with it (seeing as we were just merely teens when 9/11 happened) Asia Times had a staff with multiple alternate ideologies running, right through the time of the Asian financial crises of 1997, when the print version of the newspaper folded and "Asia Times Online" took shape.

Mr Shahzad, along with Pepe Escobar, covered Pakistan from their own perspective for the early part of the last decade, whilst other voices also began rising to the surface.

However, as this new Pakistan focused journalism rose up, Mr Shahzad continued on the stories that were most attractive to eyeballs outside Pakistan, namely, the rise of Islamic extremists and their links within the Pakistan government and military. The new breed of Pakistanis journalist was more interested in what was payed to play by the domestic Pakistani consumer.

Mr Shahzad did not focus his stories intently on this "inside the loop" version of Pakistani news. He continued to focus on the line that was sold outside Pakistan, because let's face it, it effected those countries through violence; the continuous rise, and rise of Islamic extremism. And of course its murkier, and murkier connection with the Pakistani state.

This was no longer the open and shut training of Afghan Mujahideen in the eighties or of training Kashmiri guerrillas in the nineties. After 9/11, and in fact, after the airlift of evil, or as I call it, the airlift of buying General Musharraf credibility.

Parading the caught members of the airlift of evil would have been the easiest way to bring Pakistan to the reputational cul-de-sac it finds itself in, plus could have nipped the seeds even of the Taliban insurgency.

For God's sake, Pakistan AIR FORCE officers would have been taken as Prisoners of War inside Afghanistan in November 2001. I remember that time. It would be the current pressure Pakistan is facing, multiplied by a factor of ten or twenty. The Pakistan military, and General Musharraf should thank their lucky stars that President Bush and V.President Dick Cheney were incharge.

The thought of Pakistani Air Force officers being paraded around as POW's inside Afghanistan by the Americans in late 2001, would have bought the military to the DOMESTIC crisis point it faces right now within Pakistan; our soldiers being caught so closely in co-operation with the Taliban right after 9/11.

We were bought a good ten years.

The reason I bring the Airlift of Evil up, is that with the capture of Osama Bin Ladin a thousand yards from Kakul, a decade long obfuscation campaign has officially ended. The last ten years since 9/11 have been spent by ordinary citizens and reporters trying to decipher and cut through reams and reams and of bullshit spun by those at the top of multiple governmental heaps. Those would be the government heaps of the United States, and Pakistan. The Bush junta, and the Musharraf junta, constantly spinning a line of BS to keep people distracted from their own incompetenct complicities in crimes of commission over the last ten years.

To try and make sense of these problems, we the ordinary people were left with groups like Asia Times Online, and their ideologically charged reporters, such as Pepe Escobar, and the Urdu press influenced Syed Saleem Shahzad.

In those ten years, the Islamist virus entered Pakistan, mutated and turned in all different directions. Syed Saleem Shahzad remained focussed on it.

I first really took note of Saleem Shahzad's name when he appeared on an independent Canadian news program/Youtube channel called "The Real News". The Real News is known for having an independent bent, as it is lead by Paul Jay, an independent journalist and film producer, who's been running the Real News since the summer of 2007. I especially recall, "The Real News" introducing Beena Sarwar on film (this was the first time I had seen her on tv) in the time around the emergency and in the period leading immediately to what turned out to be the surprisingly independent February 2008 elections. Pepe Escobar was his regular international correspondent, and it is likely that he bought Saleem Shahzad in. When I first saw Saleem Shahzad on The Real News, I was not totally impressed with what I saw, but I had to admit that Mr Shahzad was somewhat on the right path. At that point, in and around the summer of 2007, the Musharraf regime was collapsing, and one was hoping that everything would be resolved with minimum bloodshed. That was not to happen.

During 2008, I ventured onto Asia Times Online, time and again, to try and make sense of the prevailing low level chaos that was ensuing. Even though I got some valuable editorial insight, the air of excessive speculation, and excessive reliance on ideology (an unreconstructed Marxism in the case of Pepe Escobar and prevalent ideological conservatism in the case of Saleem Shahzad and Spengler) was a bit of a turnoff for me. I read Asia Times on and off through 2008 and 2009, but came to feel they were not good for illumination on the development of Pakistan's democratic politics. Cyril Almeida lightly references this feature of Asia Times, when he describes Syed Saleem Shahzad's publisher and the last story that Mr Shahzad did that is likely the reason that got him killed:

Saleem was not mainstream media. He was committed to his work, yes; he knew well the contours of militancy in the region, yes; but he was not mainstream media. He traded in the currency of explosive revelations and, at least in the minds of editors and news directors of major media houses here, there was often that little bit of uncertainty surrounding the reporting.

His last piece was illustrative of this. That the PNS Mehran attack was facilitated by someone in uniform, retired or serving, seemed fairly clear to many. There had also been rumours for months about navy personnel picked up by intelligence agencies for links to jihadi groups, but the veil of secrecy was tight and veteran trackers of militancy had not got very far on the details.

Saleem’s last piece, though, was a narrative perfectly formed, all the pieces falling into place in a way most people familiar with such stuff would at least have raised an eyebrow at. The theory didn’t get much play locally or internationally and it would be fairly plausible to assume the second part of his two-part series would have been received with similarly cool interest.

After summarising the nature of Mr Shahzad's last story, and critically looking at the nature of his publisher, Cyril Almeida does turn to the very obvious facts of the present case:

So, we are left with the case of a journalist picked up from central Islamabad whose work had long since ceased to make waves in the media, and yet he was brutally tortured to death. That’s what makes the ‘why’ part so thoroughly unsettling, if not downright scary.

Cyril goes on to point out how now there will be a difficulty in determining what is going on in the further recesses of our deep state, a condition already difficult, exacerbated by this murder. The appropriate phrase is "chilling effect", but just the amount of outrage this murder has caused will lead many to question whether overt criticism of the military establishment can be stopped. The military establishment now knows that technologically, it is now difficult to stop people from overtly criticising it, however, the purpose Syed Saleem Shahzad's murder may serve may be to stop deep investigations of the deep state, those sort of attempts at understanding, where you are sometimes unsure whether you are speaking to a witness or a participant.

And that is what happened in the line of reporting Syed Saleem Shahzad was pursuing.

Here he is, on The Real News, on 20th May 2011, TWO DAYS BEFORE the attack on PNS Mehran, describing how there is a possibility of a mutiny brewing within the Pakistan military over the close co-operation with the United States. He had been tracking this in his news filings over arrests made in the Pakistan Navy of cells of Islamic extremists. Al Qaeda had threatened retaliation if those captured terrorists weren't released. That is why we had those bombings of Pakistan Navy buses.

Mutiny Inside the Pakistan Military

Much of what Saleem Shahzad said in this video is worth investigating. I don't have space to go into every salient thing he said, I would mention though, the fact that the ISI mis-reported to Musharraf who was behind the December 2003, completely fucking up relations between the Jihadis and the military (a month of rage, May 2004, was carried out in Karachi, attacking higher military leaders, possibly not unrelated to this) and General Kayani earned his chops, by actually being in charge of finding WHO tried to kill Musharraf in December 2003. Needless to say, Syed Saleem Shahzad, correctly predicted that there would be a partial mutiny inside the Pakistan military (it happened in the Navy, I think we may have to wait for the actual Army shoe to drop *shudder*) and just to add to the Saudi-Iran angle of them using Pakistan as a proxy battle ground, there is a LOT to be said for this, but just to blow your mind, here is a trailer with video of an Arab Sheikh handing out money to the families of kids who were used as camel jockeys in a Gulf Arab Emirate, on whom this is a documentary. The more important point is, here is a Gulf Sheikh, just randomly handing out money to a group of poor south Punjab Pakistanis.

If Pakistanis want to talk about sovereignty, they will also have to talk about how they are allowing all these countries to use their territory as a proxy battleground for all their stupid sectarian feuds. Saleem Shahzad's further points on the Taliban being stunned whilst simultaneously grieving for the loss of Bin Ladin are also valid assessments to make.

After the murder of Saleem Shahzad, from Pakistan's side, there has been loud anger, and a voicing of a desire for resistance and protest. Some of the responses have carried great personal steel, and resolve to not let matters continue in the way that they are. Others are not always too secure in this view.

Munizae Jahangir is right. This is a government that has been unable to even convict anybody for the murder of Benazir Bhutto. It was also interesting to see The Real News reference Asian Correspondent.

People will continue to speak against the excesses of the military establishment. But they are constantly unsure whether these criticisms or protestations will have much impact.

As for poor Syed Saleem Shahzad, he left a book. That was published just two weeks ago.

Called "Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11". I'm buying and reading it.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is survived by his three children and widow.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adding my Twitter Account

As it has become obvious to everybody, I have a twitter account. Unfortunately, between that, work in real life, and an immense flood of news since 2011 began I've slightly neglected my blog. I think it's fair to add the twitter account to my blog, sot it's now there on the right, the These Long Wars twitter account. Now that they're linked together, I think I can find more motivation to update regularly. It was something I wanted to get to, but finding the widget was getting in the way. Twitter is useful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ted Rall Speaks to The Young Turks About the Rise of the Obamabots. It's Great When Stuff You Like Comes Together

I like Ted Rall. I also like the Young Turks. Its great when two things you like come together. The Young Turks are an independent news group from the United States, who started out from Youtube, talk radio and Air America and have expanded to the point where their founder Cenk Uygur (pronounced Jenk You-Gur) can now and then be seen on Dylan Ratigan's show.

Cenk is the one who interviews Ted and is the "Young Turk" who named and founded the show with his friend Ben Mankiwiecz. Mr Mankiewiecz is the son of a famous advisor to the Democratic party. The show, the Young Turks has it's own interesting take on Pakistan, which has now considerably changed and been updated with the capture of Osama Bin Ladin from right next to Kakul. I wanted to blog about The Young Turks and their take on Pakistan earlier, but I'll definitely do something on them at a later date. Cenk should consider having Mr Rall on MSNBC, where his views could be seen more favorably and disseminated more widely.

For now, please enjoy Mr Ted Rall's independent take on the Obama presidency, the political red lining that took place during the Bush years (that continued till three years back and could return again) and the rise of the Obama Bots.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Professional Opinion on the Last Three Weeks

I concur with Baba-e-Qaum, Mohammad Ali Jinnah on all this:

Sorry I've been gone for a bit of a while all this year. Between the murder of Salman Taseer, of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Cricket World Cup, the eruption of the Arab Spring across the Middle East and North Africa, and my subsequent taking up of Twitter and Tumblr over the last three months, as I had been promising to people for nearly half a year, a LOT has happened. A Lot.

I promise I shall add my Twitter and Tumblr to this blogspot, but for now, you can directly read my updates as I figure this stuff out.

And then there was the mother of all events that happened in of all places, Abbottabad, as the United States Public Enemy No 1 was killed by 80+ US Navy SEALS in under 40 minutes after ten years of being really on the lam, after committing the greatest terrorist atrocity the world has ever seen. And Pakistan plus every global news cycle was thrown into an administrative tailspin. The murder of Osama Bin Ladin on Pakistani soil (a thousand feet from our premier military academy) resulted in the first ever offering by the DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE PAKISTANI KILLING ISI to resign for a mistake that he committed. And the Pakistani parliament and civilian establishment let that opportunity slip through their fingers. They didn`t even extract a promise to carry or aid an investigation and THEN get General Ahmed Shuja Pasha`s resignation. A failure. Along with the dizzying array of failures that have stalked this land (and even threatened and blown parts of it up) since 4 US helicopters slipped below the radar into Pakistani airspace on the night of 1st May 2011.

These failures are documented by even dear old Wikileaks, which has now signed a deal with dear old DAWN to exclusively publish all those old leaked cables from late last year that pertain to Pakistan, exclusively in DAWN. The same cables that may have helped set off the Arab Spring through their revelation of President Ben Ali`s wrongdoings in Tunisia. So there is that. A documentation of failure.

And those failures continue.

And we have at, this point in time, a 10 hour long failure unfolding in PNS Mehran. A failure that strikes deep into the heart of the Pakistani military, and deep in my heart, as I lived close to PNS Mehran at one time and have even been there. PNS Mehran is entering it`s eleventh hour of siege and TWO P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft were destroyed by 10 to 15 militants who snuck into that little monument to my childhood and its commute, PNS Mehran. That's a total of $70,000,000 worth of damage to Pakistan right there and then by the TTP.

In response to the murder of Osama in Abbotabad. And then some other reasons of course.

The Full Complement of the Pakistan Navy's Orion P3's

The filmmaker Sharmeen Chinoy once asked a Pakistani Taliban collaborator, if they think they'ld win. He replied, "We will never run out off sacrificial lambs".

So there's that.

I have to go now and won't be back for some time. You can follow me on Twitter, but in the meantime, for the best analysis of this whole situation; from the capture of Osama Bin Ladin a thousand metres from Kakul, to the glass half empty session of parliament that partially absolved the military, to an entire UNIT of militants sneaking into the Pakistan Navy's premier Naval Air Base and blasting away $ 70,000,000 worth of equipment.

Good Night Y'all.

And God Bless All Those ordinary rank and file who fought and died and were injured fighting those scum that were sent in PNS Mehran.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

It seems a lot of people have died since this year has started. A lot of famous individuals dying and a lot of regimes have died as well, especially in the Arab world (sorry for not covering that, but things don’t seem to shut down in Pakistan). But most of those deaths were political or well known to the media. The one I am confronted with is a slightly personal one, the death of a literary influence on my work, a man I began reading in the mid-2000’s. A good man and a good writer, Mr Joe Bageant.

Mr Bageant died on the 26th of March of 2011, last month, and since we were all busy with our own things, I didn’t notice the death of somebody whose writings informed me. His writing introduced me to another culture of America, that of the working man, and what it means to have to fight and struggle in this brave new economy when the chips are stacked against you.

There were a few salient features of Mr Bageants writings. His description of a rural pre-television childhood, a description of being raised in a pre-internet era, the contours or shadows of the confederacy he could feel in his life in the South, how he enjoyed reading, whilst many of his fellows growing up were not too fond of it. The more serious stuff was how he described the effects of growing up a religious Christian and most importantly, why George Bush won the second term and why people voted against their own interests to elect George Bush to power, not once, but twice. On the way, he verbally kicked an American John Dolan, who is related professionally to Matt Taibbi, whilst in the process humanising Lyndie England (who never should’ve been in Iraq, like the rest of the American army) yet simultaneously condemning her act of torture. In his later writings he turned to a very environmentalist reading of the economy, something I disagreed with, and sometimes wrote off as a feature of age. Especially when he talked about the US maybe become a second world country and “Please excuse the lack of oxygen”.

He is also one of the few Americans who mentioned Swat as one of Obama’s wars and tried to explain to Americans what their role was in the war in Swat. For that he has my permanent gratitude.

I ran into Mr Bageant’s writings in 2005. I’m not sure how I ran into his writings. It likely had something to do with the website and its internet published columnists, that eventually led me to Mr Bageant’s little place on the internet. I had been referred to by Michael Moore’s website, a man who championed (and still does) America’s urban working poor. And whereas Mr Moore’s factory workers have been driven from the factory into the fry-cook job, Mr Bageant’s rural American workers have been driven off their land over generations by collapsing food prices thanks to corporatized farming, to compete with America’s working poor for those fry cook jobs. It is these people Joe Bageant wrote about, because it is these people Mr Bageant came from.

End reference:

Some of the few things I read off Mr Bageant, flipping between 4chan and Joe Bageant’s website. 4Chan has made into Time magazine as a cultural icon. Mr Bageant deserves to be counted as one as well.

Carpooling With Adolf Eichmann (references Pakistan’s “nuclear blackmail”)

Drink, Pray, Fight, Fuck (An introduction to the Scots Irish)

Poor, White and Pissed (Why poor people in the United States may have voted against their own economic interests)

Lafayette Park Blues (A History of Joe Bageant During the 1960’s)

Mash Note for the “Girl With the Leash” (On Lynndie England’s infamy)

Driving on the Bones of God (A Contemplation on the Federal Government Structure in Washington)

Karaoke Night in George Bush’s America (A Contemplation on His Ancestral Town’s Fellow Citizens)

One Last Kick At Liberal Dogs (On Contemplating American Liberal’s Own Sometime Bigotry Against and Misunderstanding of Rural America)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shaheryar Mirza Summarises the Uncertainty over these Naval Bus Blasts

Shaheryar Mirza got everything right that we could possibly get over the current air of uncertainty and opaqueness over these recent bombings of Naval buses over the last three days. I had just written a large 800+ piece on the twin bombings on Tuesday against two Naval buses, simultaneously attacked in morning rush hour traffic in two different parts of Karachi. I was editing that piece last night when twitter lit up that a new attack had taken place, this time close to PNS Karsaz, this time at a different Naval support base. This obviously means that the all Naval support bases and their staff are a target. A few salient things to take away from what Shaheryar said:

1) They are not sure that this is part of the larger "War on Terror". Maybe the Taliban could take responsibility, but as people were discussing on twitter, they may just take random credit for any attack.

2) The Navy should really have all its buses change their routes randomly as they are very likely under surveillance. I thought of this when I got up, but I just saw Shaheryar's suggestion of it.

3) It really is too easy to pull of an attack like this in Pakistan and South Asia. Pakistani cities are crowded, traffic is packed quite close together and there are odds and ends sticking out of all parts of a city that allow an attack to be carried through if one has the few bomb-making geeks necessary. This type of attack is called a "remote control bomb" from back in the day in South Asia. I.E.D became the popular term for it because of the US military's chutar (fucked) habit of trying to talk its enemies down. Back in the eighties, with KHAD operating in Pakistan, the ISI & the Muj in Afghanistan and the ISI, Muj & Khalistanis operating in Indian Kashmir and Punjab respectively, these type of "remote control bombs" were very common. Back in the day here means the eighties till some time in the mid-nineties.

Anyhow, the history lesson can wait. I have an episode of HIGNFY to watch to decompress, a piece to re-edit and then some really serious work to get to. Say a little prayer for the dead doctors and dead Naval support staff. I've known these people from personal experience in my life in Karachi, and all they demonstrated they wanted from life, was to work hard and get ahead, for themselves and their families.

They didn't deserve to go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MQM Guys Likely Killing People. Here's Why.

In this piece (4 Political Activists Gunned Down in Karachi) all the dead are listed as being either from, or related to someone from the PPP, the ANP or the JSQM. All three parties have a leftish bent, derive their base support from rural Pakistan, and have a not-insubstantial following in the cities as well. Plus all parties are known for a bit of an ethnic bent (in the JSQM's case it's out and out an ethnic party), with the PPP being known for having a serious Sindhi following and the ANP for representing Pashtun folk. The PPP does try its best to appeal to all of Pakistan, but faces a backlash in urban centres and suburban environs with anyone even minorly conservative.

And that backlash in Karachi is killing its workers. Who is missing from this list of the dead? What major party, known for its Karachi stronghold, doesn't seem to have its workers dying here? Obviously, the urban, centre right, "purportedly" non-ethnic MQM. I seriously doubt that ANP members are gunning for PPP people. Or that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Pakistani Taliban would waste their meagre and hunted resources in Karachi, wreaking vengeance on their old ANP foe.

The article is missing any references to the MQM. The Dawn newspaper has a policy of simply boycotting coverage of the MQM, unless another party mentions it. Ergo, we are left with only one culprit hunting down rival parties members all over Karachi.

Of course the last question is, why? Why is the MQM hunting members of opposing parties? Two old reasons and a surprising new one. Firstly there is the old segueway of political partywork connecting sometimes seamlessly into the criminal underground. There is a fight over the spoils of that. Secondly, the Musharraf dictatorship kept the city quiet by reading the MQM the riot act. The Musharraf dictatorship could use the stick of the Karachi Corps Command to whack anyone who decided to raise a ruckus in the country's major port city. But the present government either does not trust the military, is not trusted by the army, worries that if it unleashed the army, collateral damage might occur where the army goes after those it has been aching in Karachi to harm and the ensuing collateral damage would be left strewn around the civilian governments neck. The fight for black and grey resources, and deep tensions over the use of the military to suppress the killings are two reasons why these killings continue.

But a new reason may simply be, that the left(ish) parties star may be rising. That parties like the PPP, ANP and JSQM may be gaining a filip because the poor labourers who a generation ago voted for them, now have educated children who want to go up in the world, recognise these parties as a ready made vehicle to work from their own ethnic perspective and wish to use them to improve their own position. The MQM has its own children who want to rise, but whereas a generation ago it was the MQM's cadres that could boast of being "educated" (completing high school, gaining some college education, completing bachelors) a new multi-ethnic "educated" generation has come about in Karachi, one where ethnicity is not considered a great barrier to being called "educated". The desire for upward mobility is no longer the sole prerogrative of the Muhajir working and middle class. Its spread across ethnic lines to many children of Karachi, who's families could a generation ago be described as "rural" when they arrived in the city.

So the younger, more desperate have linked up with these national and nationalist parties, the fight for control over Karachi's resources has gotten more desperate, and the desire to make something of oneself manifests itself in greater, more reckless displays of political bravery. And the aging youth (pretty soon aging men) of the MQM, find themselves having to face a tide of younger and possibly hungrier kids. The children don't have martial co-ordination as good as the MQM, so they find themselves more the hunted, than the hunter in these targetted killings. And why should the ANP, PPP and JSQM have better internal co-ordination than the MQM? They've demonstrated their lack of capacity to respond effectively or demonstrably whilst in government. So the MQM can continue sending out bullet ridden messages to workers of rival parties.

And what does our government do, in a situation that can only be described as a rising tide? One in this case of human blood and not salt water
At the central police office, it sets up a "special cell", which, "has been recently set up on the chief minister`s directives to keep the exact record of targeted killings in an effort to prevent misreporting of the incidents in the print and electronic media."

Our government decides to just sit at home and count the bodies.

Which considering the past behaviour of our government, seems quite apt.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

RIP Moin Akhtar

Gone at the age of 60. Yah Khuda, who does that nowadays? Moin Akhtar sahab did, and it's sunk in that an original, hardworking and good man has passed away.

Forget emotions, I feel like there's a small empty space in my heart.

Ahmer Naqvi and Sami Shah wrote best on Moin sahab's passing.

And this one video Ahmer Naqvi posted is tragic, as he typed it. It's the comedian Omer Sharif reacting to his comedian colleague Moin Akhtar's death:

Moin Akhtar's work had a mild socio-political bent to it, a consistent criticism that went along the lines of nobody's perfect, and if anybody in Pakistan is pretending to be, they aren't being honest or smart. It was not necessarily Jon Stewart-esque, but in an environment (the last three decades of the 20th century) when entertainment in Pakistan was purely apolitical, Mr Akhtar stood out for criticising people who had influence on this society.

All I can say is said by Ahmer Naqvi, on the passing of a talented and good man:

Moin Akhtar was easily one of the greatest Pakistanis to have ever lived, my favourite comedian growing up.

انا لله و انا عليه راجعون

Postscript: Mr Nadeem Farooq Paracha wrote the best fact based obituary on Mr Moin Akhtar. It covers his history, his rise to fame, the famous stars he worked with, his health issues towards the end of his career, and most important the last role he had with Mr Anwar Maqsood on "Loose Talk" (multiple episodes available on the net), the show on Pakistan's private television channels that from 2002 onwards, made him famous amongst the young of Pakistan, all over again. Here is Mr Paracha on Moin Akhtar: "Death of a Comic Genius"

From God We Come, and To God We Return.

But it happens faster if we overwork and smoke as well.

انا لله و انا عليه راجعون

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The article "The Tribune' asked me to write and refused to Publish by Shabnam Hashmi

I don’t know from where to begin this story. There are thousands of images which float by. An image appears for a split of a second and then disappears. Some images and memories stay so long that they haunt. Sometimes I try to run away from the stories and images but they don’t leave. I fight with my own self, running away from these images is betraying the victims, on other occasions I feel my brim is full I cannot retain any more.

Every journey into writing is an emotional journey into the stories of a besieged community and the apathy of the state and the nation.

I often wonder how these women retained sanity.

A mother hiding in bushes, clutching her two children close to her chest while her elder daughter was being brutalized, stripped naked, gang raped; her breasts cut off and burnt to death. The helplessness of the mother, the choice of being killed herself along with the two children or letting the daughter be massacred without registering a protest haunts me. In the initial months every time I met her she kept mumbling,’ I am ashamed to be a mother; I am ashamed to be a mother’.

A mother carrying her unborn five month baby inside her womb, carrying another three year old with her, fleeing from the mobs runs for safety to a village which is 5-6 kms away, gets shelter is asked to leave early morning, reaches an Adivasi village, after two days again on the move but not lucky enough to escape this time. The younger daughter is killed on the spot and mother gang raped and left considered as dead. The mother survives and so does the five month old baby inside her womb. On July 5, 2002 around noon I reach the hospital the baby, just two hours old, sleeps peacefully beside her mother. I see a smile on the mother’s face for the first time in all those months.

Another mother is beaten severely inside her own house. These are not VHP goons; these are men in uniform and the year in 2009 and not 2002. She is kicked on her private parts with boots. She has a 18 day old baby. Snatching the baby from the mother, the baby is thrown to the ground. The mother bleeds heavily and finally losses consciousness. Eleven other women face the same ire from the local police. The reasons can be any. Right now the police are frustrated as someone whom they had arrested got down from their motorcycle and walked away while they were taking him to the police station. So they arrive in nearly 25vehicles start breaking the doors of residential homes, break vehicles, and enter 12 homes, attack women and children, molest women, arrest them and take them away. Its only next evening that the magistrate orders a medical test but the doctor is too frightened to take a stand so no lady doctor is found to examine the women.

Khatoon takes food for her sons on her visit to the jail the police officer pushes it away with his shoes, scattering the entire meal on the floor. She had perhaps saved money from her own meal to be able to bring this for the sons. Two of her younger sons are moved and she is not informed where they have been moved to. She keeps searching for them. Then the third son is also moved. For three months she has no clue where the sons have gone. She goes almost insane searching for them. Finally her elder son manages to write to her and informs her that they are in Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad. Shamsher Khan, Siddique Khan and Nasir Khan are released after nine years. They have been declared innocent. What about those nine years of humiliation, torture, want, hunger, separation, a mother’s sufferings?

Yasmin Bano’s body is waiting for her last journey, her four children crying bitterly hoping Abba would come at least for the funeral but parole is denied. Was it just some skin decease because of which Yasmin died or did she succumb to grief? Her husband Hanif Abdul Razak had a business of manufacturing school bags. The crime branch police officials took him as well as his younger brother from the house at about 3:00 AM on March 27, 2003 with the promise to release them the next day.

Both the brothers are separated and beaten severely for almost two and a half hours. In the morning, they are put together and the police officers then debate whom they should implicate in a case. Ashok Singhal, one of the police officers proposes they should implicate the elder brother, as he is the only earning member in the family. Both are detained illegally for 12 days without being produced before the court, are regularly physically tortured by the police. Hanif is harassed to agree to every condition otherwise be prepared that younger brother would be booked in the same case.

On April 9, 2003 Hanif is produced in the court, before the Metropolitan Magistrate. He is granted fifteen days of police remand. During that time, they subject him to excessive torture. They strip him completely, lower him down into a tank full of water and then give him electric shocks on the sensitive parts of the body. They ask him to admit that he had made the Tiffin bombs, or else his body might succumb to severe torture.

After the 15 days of police remand he is produced again before the court. The Magistrate, already has a statement under the section 164 of IPC that Hanif is asked to sign. Hanif however, refuses to sign the statement arguing that he has not committed any crime. The magistrate then turns to the police officers and says, ‘Take him back for another day, see that he doesn’t refuse to sign tomorrow’. As instructed, Hanif is brutally tortured all night and therefore does not resist any longer. He finally succumbs and signs the statement under the section 164 of IPC in the court the next day. Based on that statement, the court sentences him to ten years of imprisonment on May 15, 2005.

Hanif was neither granted parole when his mother died on Jan 4, 2007 nor on May 13, 2008 when Yasmin, his wife died. No mother with a Muslim name can sleep peacefully in Modi’s vibrant Gujarat.

Niaz Apa lived in village Ognaz in Daskroi taluka. She had a fairly big house in her village and 18 Gunthas of agricultural land touching the road. Her house was attacked, looted and destroyed in 2002. Her granddaughter Farheen was playing outside the home when a petrol bomb was thrown towards the house. It came and fell in front of Farheen. Something seem to have frozen with in her mind since then. She has to be helped to walk even nine years after the incident, she cannot even see a stove burning, and no amount of treatment has helped so far, a child traumatized for life.

The family fled and spent 8 months in a relief camp. Niaz apa filed cases against the attackers naming them. They were all neighbours and land owners. She could not return to the village or cultivate the land, the condition was withdraw the cases. She tried giving the land for cultivation on commission (batai), the attackers again did not allow that till the cases were withdrawn. They threatened to destroy the crops if any such effort was made without compromising on the cases. Then Niaz apa tried to sell the land, the attackers threatened the buyers with dire consequences. Finally she sold the house and the land secretly on a throw away price much lower than the market rate. Like 5000 other families she lives in Gujarat as an internally displaced person in a small room in one of the make shift colonies built by various NGOs for the internally displaced. There are many others who compromised and went back to the villages living next to the rapists, murderers and looters.

Rashida Ansari lived in Ootwali chali in Behrampura, Ahmedabad. Her colony was attacked, looted and burnt down, Rashida fled with her family, Junaid was 9 years, Ibrahim 8 and Javed only 6. They asked the police to help them but police only fired at the people trying to escape the attacking mobs. It was just their sheer luck that the family was not hurt. She spent 6 months in camp in Jamalpur which ran in a school building. The camps were forcibly closed down after 4 months and she still had nowhere to go. She tried going back to where she lived. A wall was built to block the way to where once the Muslim families lived. Rashida tried to take another route to her house but immediately a small mob collected and they took out swords. Rashida had to run for her life never to return to that area again. She erected a small chappar in a corner and spent another two months under that.

While still at the camp she came to know about a meeting taking place at the Behavioral Science Centre. She decided to go there and what she heard there was absolutely new and amazing. She met people who talked about justice and equality, about the dream of building a society without hatred. There were more Hindus in that meeting than Muslims. She had seen only the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS brand so far who used religion to spread hatred. She was happy to meet so many Hindus who believed that her right to the nation and citizenship was as much as theirs.

Rashida decided to join this fight. Her family was very supportive but there were the conservative Muslim organisations who objected to Rashida doing this work. There were pressures to wear burqa and remain in the confines of the household but these voices in Gujarat were feeble and are still feeble as compared to states where Muslim conservative sections have been stronger.

In the coming days Rashida had become a part of Aman Samudaya. She joined the teams working in various relief camps, filing police cases, doing surveys, fighting for the rights of victims. Now Rashida fights for all the underprivileged.

Every story that I narrate reminds of hundred similar stories.

Certificates for Modi from Vastanvi and the likes have not changed the reality on the ground.

In a State where stray dogs from the cities are caught by the municipalities only to be let off in the early hours of the morning in Muslim bastis what justice can you dream off?

It is the enthusiasm and conviction of a few to resist which keeps the hope alive, though the rays of hope to overcome this madness are becoming blurred with every passing day.

Shabnam Hashmi
March 14, 2011
New Delhi

Note From TLW: I ripped this off Facebook and posted it here because I have no interest in spending anytime on Facebook, and this through twitter and open hyperlinks, should be available on the open net. I really don't like Facebook.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When the JI and JUI Aren't Fanatic Enough For You

Combined with the double assassination attempts on Fazl-ur-Rehman this attempted attack on a JI leader should really give us pause. Even after everything we've seen, this acts as a signpost on how faaar out of whack the situation with the militants has gotten. If the Jamat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam are not fanatical enough for a person, then this certainly means that things have gone far out of the control of a lot of people. The children, teenagers and youths planning these attacks have basically become a bunch of crazy wild dogs, snapping at anyone and everyone who does not conform to a deeply backward regressive view of the country. And have no doubt about it, these are all kids under thirty planning and executing these attacks. It becomes more obvious that religious indoctrination in our society has to be cut back, curtailed and controlled. The scaling back has to begin, and the JI and JUI, who were at the forefront of raising it, have to be told to shut up and back off for their own safety. These two idiot parties deserve a serious chunk of the blame for what has happened but they should now recognise that they are on a suicidal path that will destroy if not this nation, but certainly them. On the way, more innocent Pakistanis will die in the JI and JUI's attempts to make Pakistan and Pakistanis more palatable for Islamisation. At this stage Islamisation and Talibanisation begin to look like one and the same.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Two Videos and a Series

Ahsan had a video up by someone who visited North Punjab and Central Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa. They were a collection of pictures with commentary on the context of each picture, accompanied with . Here are two videos I found sometime back that I think are worth watching. Both are Karachi related, and present a unique viewpoint on the city by the sea. The first is "Scraplife: Ewaste in Pakistan", by a Green Peace photographer.

Tracking illegally (obviously) exported ewaste to Karachi, the ewaste dumped on Pakistan comes to the very famous Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi. Well, famous to Pakistanis. Just like Dharavi has seeped into the Western consciousness maybe Lyari (or its strongest contender Orangi) will do the same.

This video was intriguingly shot in summer 2008, a period of medium level political turmoil, when frantic negotiations between the PML-N minority and the PPP government continued, all under the Presidency of General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf. It turned into the last summer of Mr Musharraf's presidency, as at the end both parties came together and forced the General (retd.) President to resign.

Anybody who's woken up to the stench of burning "something" in Karachi, and I absolutely loved the reference to Lyari as a place where everything that isn't allowed in Pakistan happens in Lyari. What like drinking, doing drugs, whoring and murdering? Oh if only, and only those things happened only in Lyari. Maybe he was talking about secularism, democracy and civilian rule. Yes those certainly aren't allowed in Pakistan, but they happen in their own perverted way in Lyari (See People's Aman Committee for further details). I enjoyed the observation that Lyari's electronics burning grounds give an "apocalyptic feel". Most of Karachi gives me an apocalyptic feel. Much of the video and the descriptions are run off the mill street poverty in Karachi, interacting with 21st century Western techno-activism. This story mentions the wholesalers who buy the used computer hardware, and that got me wondering how much of it ends up in Uni Plaza as spare parts. Likely the parts that look least damaged, or Uni Plaza's suppliers import computer parts that actually work. The story that touches my heart though is that of on of the many Gold Melters of Lyari (you read that sentence correctly), and their short, poisoned out lifes. A good video to jolt Pakistanis from the complacency they feel about all the poverty they live in; and a look for foreigners, at the real everyday fight in Pakistan; the fight for a decent living.

The second is Amar Jaleel, a Dawn columnist who I used to enjoy reading for as long as he wrote in the Dawn Sunday Magazine. Here he is speaking about Karachi.

Its also a good video, but I would take some issue with what he said about there being no fighting when Hindus and Muslims lived together in pre-partition India. There must've been some fighting. And at Mr Amar Jaleel, I would also add that I know exactly who Ms Zaib-un-nisa was, a famous journalist and editor from the 1960's who stood up to the Ayub Khan regime. This bit of information is pre-internet.

But I do agree with Mr Jaleel, the sense of loss from 1947 in Karachi is undeniable. Mr Jaleel's articles in the Dawn magazine were known for covering current affairs with a meta-physical feel to them. I do miss them a bit, but their critique of the dominant authoritarian, anti-democratic political culture in Pakistan were too allegorical. He didn't land any direct punches. Maybe because the people from his generation who landed direct punches were disappeared or pushed out of journalism or Pakistan. There are more videos of Mr Amar Jaleel in a series he called "My Vanishing Karachi". Under "My Vanishing Karachi" he had "DJ Science College", "Empress Market" (warning beheaded goat's heads maybe NSFW), "Heritage Buildings" and very appropriately "Tram Service". Mass transit is a serious necessity in Pakistan.

I went for the first video, because it was the first one I saw, but I had no idea how popular the series would prove, nor how to bring it up. Ahsan provided that opportunity.

Taken together they are a pretty serious indictment over the neglect of an expanding Karachi, coupled with the serious lack of democratic institutions for Karachi'ites to use. A failure to realise the extent of the growth of a city that houses ~10% of all of Pakistan's population.

A last few words on Amar Jaleel. I've been saddened that he stopped writing. Especially when the Musharraf regime that he despised actually began to crumble. Mr Jaleel's writings are now very difficult to find on the internet. Many of them very politically provocative; taking sharp and deep digs into the dominant institutions of Pakistan, and some of its most cherished myths. Dawn has a responsibility to fix its error ridden archive. Now with the internet, we may actually have a real and effective memory hole not necessarily for entire sweeps of history, but certainly for individual episodes and discrete events. There are some people who have complained that Dawn has been losing some of its most provocative articles to '404 errors. I would agree, especially in relation to a valuable writer like Mr Amar Jaleel. His allegorical stories were good. One that stood out in my mind was where he characterised Musharraf as a neighbourhood bully who had forced his control on the neighbourhood, and the United States arrived as a storm like monster. Musharraf had the chance to let it enter the neighbourhood (in this case Afghanistan) or not, and Mush allows the US to enter. And you can hear the cries of pain and terror from where the monster is, but the neighbourhood bully keeps trying to distract you with the sound of his own voice. A good story.

Pakistan is Going Through Puberty

On Karachi Khatmal's advice I've put this here as a blog post. I think its appropriate. I ended up jamming an entire blog post as a comment on a swansong to Shoaib Akhtar. Shaiby deserved better. Both from my comment and in real life. But Mr Khatmal's analogy of Pakistan as a country with a misifiring adolescence was too good to pass up, and something I had considered for a very long time. Please keep reading.

Love, is a Shoaib Akhtar delivery KK. Because your understanding of love does change as you grow older. And the moment of release, is better than what a child could imagine.

Now, you know me, I go straight for the what-makes-this-place-tick part of the story, and man did I love your meta-description/discussion of our image problem. The suppressed past part is apt, and I've been warning people to always prepare for "embarassing realities" to pop up suddenly into the political scene. Just one example of an "embarassing reality" was that whole Pakistan's pervy google search thing, and another was our horrid labour practises which just killed of 40+ miners. Heck, Kamran Akmal is an embarassing reality, and even our beloved Shaiby and Lala pull heavy on the embarassing part in a way Imran Khan had to enter politics to acheive.
I won't ask how we alleviate it because you went for the coup de'grace when you compared Pakistan to an adolescent who's still a child. Man, I've been saying that to a few people since 2007; that basically, I think Pakistan is going through puberty. Seriously. If Pakistan makes it to 2013, and then to a new legitimate government, this country will have grown. Puberty explains everything, from the fight with backwards extemists, to the robust debates in the media, to the military become more sophisticated in its propaganda efforts, to Zardari acknowledging dead minorities first in his speech to the parliament, to Zaid Hamid/Hamid Mir constantly carrying a dark cloud around them due to embarassment/voiceover in a murder, these are signs of childhood breaking down, and maybe people growing up. When you were a teenager, didn't you feel sometimes like it was the end of the world? Well, this country is not going away; its bought off half the Baloch leadership, killed off the recalcitrant part, and is skulking around to clear off embarassing spots on its Balochistan sheet. And growing up is part of this little saga. There's also the past.

It was good to also see metaphors of child abuse there. I always considered our dictators to be negelctful Guardians.

And I seriously think our relationship with the United States can be classified as statuatory rape. We were 3 years old when the US began wooing us. The US was 174 years of age. The even used Walt Disney to draw us in to buy military toys, and then turn us into their chauthy beewee in Asia.

Seriously, I think the US can be called out on statutory rape, and it has been an abusive history. How does one go about dealing with an abused child? Especially one that is maybe, finally giving signs of growing up? You can introduce it to love. And Shaiby's demostrations of passion in bowling, as a love to aspire to, and Afridi's bara bhai like attention, may be one of many ways this country deals with the psyche problems it has.

Please check out Karachi Khatmal's beautiful doosra style comeback on Pakistan being stopped in the World Cup.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shoveling Snow and Blogger/Gmail/Google

So whilst we were enjoying Pakistan clinically taking apart West Indies, on Pakistan Day itself (23rd March), it was snowing like crazy all of Wednesday. Result, 4~6 inches of snow, which I have to now go out and shovel. ~Sigh~ I remember last year, and the year before how I was shocked in 2009, that by mid-February, all the snow had melted off my lawn, and March was completely slush free. Well, not this year; I assumed that the same slush free conditions were what we would be going for. Apparently though, the weather is now going to look as nasty as it is supposed to in that part of the year that is supposed to be classed as "winter", i.e mid March in North America. So yeah, going out and shovelling.

I at least hope that Goddamn google, blogger and gmail don't leave me logged in. Blogger's wordprocessing application, in which I type is a bit of a pain in the neck to begin with, mis-formatting the font and spacing in odd ways. On top of that when I sign out, they don`t sign out completely. I logout of gmail or blogger, and then I open google in a new tab and it reopens with me logged in. I don`t think its a conspiracy, but I do think that like all Pakistanis, I push the products I own and use, to their specified limits and beyond. I want to get my time and moneys worth, and maybe google/blogger, just have some strange glitch. We shall see when I reuse this on some new internet browser. For now, I have all the four major ones installed; but this signing-out-but-not-signing-out glitch/privacy invasion is a pain in the neck. I'll keep an eye out on it for the time being.

Must. Go. Shovel. Now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Debt Slavery and Dead Coal Miners in Pakistan - A Land With Bonded Labour

Pakistanis never talk about domestic debt slavery. Its actually strange, but there is an entire debt slavery structure in the rural environs of Pakistan. Maybe because of its downright horrific nature, the urban chattering classes simply avoid discussing it. Killing off ( predominantly Hindu) moneylenders was a reason that some people gave me that rural Punjab and Sindh supported the creation of Pakistan.

This debt slavery was transferred from generation to generation and children would be born directly into a slave family. That is the story of Iqbal Masih. Strangely, Pakistan is so anti-labour, that it doesn't even acknowledge this kid as a hero. Or maybe that people have too many tales of tragedy to tell in relation to their labour.

But in relation to the coal miners who recently got killed and a further few trapped inside the mine. Towards the last two minutes of this report, the reporter talks about how some miners mention that they took out debts, and they're working this dangerous job to pay those debts off.

The story of Munnu Bheel (google him sometime) is one that comes to mind. I remember reading about him in 2004, and here we have a documentary of him talking in 2010, of his family still missing.

The movie calls Munnu Bheel, Mannu Bheel, but I'm willing to forgive that error. Funny enough, this is exactly the edition of Herald where I read the follow up story ("Die Bheel, Die") on this case:

And so there we have the primary resource workplace of Pakistan. No wonder people ignored it and didn't talk about it. Its depressing, dangerous, full of slavery and debt bondage that's been going on for generations around the society. The doyens of modernity are too busy focusing on themselves to notice society at large. Or they've withdrawn into their shell because the horrors of society are too overwhelming. Well they just maybe, but possibly for lack of organised attempts to fix them.

Yay - The Snows Melting and Its Raining

I moved into the house I'm in right now on the day with the heaviest snow of the year. Like the ground was blanketed by one and half feet, eighteen inches of snow. Something else moving house in weather like that. Really Fun!!!

But that was a little over a month and a third ago. Now the snow has melted and its raining; beautiful Karachi boy cooling rain. It makes me happy to be alive and now I can walk for both work and study. And its only March 21st! Man this is great. Life is good.

Will now sit inside, watch the rain, and run down my tea stock. I think I just finished an entire box of teabags.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saba Imtiaz (The Express Tribune) Speaks To Jeremy Scahill (The Nation)

The author of Erase and Rewind, spoke to the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. The worlds meet.

One thing I regret; is never going on Band Baja when it was active.

A personal lesson for readers of this blog: journalism by those raised in Karachi* does get a person places. Now if it could only change the world.

Kudos Saba, and thank you Jeremy Scahill.

Postscript: Along with this and a reference to Mr Ayaz Amir's column (Behold the Molten Rage of the Honour Armies), this is the first and last time this blog will talk about the annoying meme that is Raymond Davis.

*I changed the the phrase "raised around Clifton" to "raised in Karachi" as Saba Imtiaz contacted me and clarified that she never lived in Clifton. Clifton here is a reference to an area of Karachi where I spent a lot of time, and where a great number of educational institutes of Karachi are located.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Memoriam of Shahbaz Bhatti

Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti
Born - 9th September 1968
Murdered - 2nd March 2011

I feel this needs to be written. Even if its been two weeks since Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered, and I know everybody feels the same way I feel, but this needs to be said loud and clear. I want to apologise to his family and friends and express my grief and regret. The sadness at this murder breaks my heart and runs over into my soul at the spectacle of murder my country at large has become a stage for. I once used to take solace in the fact that it was only Karachi that partook in large scale murder in this day and age. But with Pakistani imperial ambitions blocked in Afghanistan, and an insane Al Qaeda turning its strategic violence industry on Pakistan, the mad radicals have decided to exploit to the hilt, every faultline, every difference, every frayed nerve ending to get their message of vengeance across to the larger Pakistani public at large. This includes exploiting the fact that for some strange reason I still have difficulty fathoming, a section of Punjabi Pakistanis get more worked up on insults to the prophet, rather than sticking to their religious mandate to worship no God but Allah. Or maybe if they want to get worked up it could be over non-reporting teachers or raped and murdered children in the province of the serial killer Javed Iqbal. But no, it’s a law passed by Zia that is used to victimise people, steal their property or destroy their reputation, the preservation of which’s abusive nature is more important than any other social ill that plagues Pakistan.

And so it’s with regret that I write that another in a long list of Pakistanis has been felled by the fanatics nurtured by our society and its government. Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was killed 12 days ago on his way to work by Taliban gunmen. They were surgical about it, stopping the driver, telling him to get out of the car and then assassinating the Minister. He had not been given police guards, and simultaneously, an intelligence call came to him to inform him that his life was in danger. Allah. Yes geniuses at Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, we know Bhatti sahib’s life was in danger. What you people at the Jasoos Adda could have done would be to find the name of his killers, or maybe lodge cases and file for arrest warrants against everybody who had verbally or in writing made a threat against a sitting minister of the state.

My anger is overcome with sadness. The PPP should rabidly pursue the killers of their party member the way General Musharraf rabidly pursued those officers who tried to murder him, overturning entire careers if necessary. Yes I know that is a blasphemy, for civilians to challenge the careers of those in the government defence/intelligence sector, but I think it is necessary because too many high profile terror attacks have occurred for an example not to be made of in the government security bureaucracy.

This is part of the policy angle, and maybe some progress has been made. But I think more important is to speak about the human angle of the murder of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, and this is painful to write. Mr Bhatti was a citizen of Pakistan. The community he belongs to, Pakistani Christians, are no less citizens of Pakistan, whether they are in Lahore, Pindi, Karachi or the insurgency hit Khyber district. In this day and age, with mass produced powerful weapons, more miniaturised, more sophisticated and more lethal in smaller doses, human thinking has to evolve beyond the barbarism of the 1940’s that it still seems stuck in. Mr Bhatti in his death has become a champion and symbol of victimisation for his community, against a policy instrument of persecution, of Muslims, Christians, Hindus and other human beings. His death placed the champions of the blasphemy law in a dark place, with Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman coming out and saying that maybe the law might need to be amended.

A dark way to get change.

Mr Bhatti was a brave Punjabi. The last post I wrote before his murder, I wrote in jubilation at Pakistan winning against Sri Lanka with our notoriously unreliable Cricket team. In it I wrote that Pakistan needs Brave Punjabis and smarter, wiser and more mature Pathans. In explanation I wrote, “A little more heart and soul in some brainy corners” in reference to Pakistan needing some bravery amongst its Punjabis. What more could I have possibly meant? That the smart Punjabis who have made their way up the corporate-bureaucratic ladder in Pakistan did so by staying silent about obvious displays of bigotry amongst Pakistanis and how these culturally normative prejudices were tolerated and accepted over decades. A time has now come to address these unspoken prejudices and hatreds. Mr Shahbaz Bhatti spoke about these and paid what can be described as the ultimate price for it. For that I salute him.

And I still want the Blasphemy Laws repealed. I asked for a brave Punjabi, and God dammit we got them. We need more brave living Punjabis, and not dead ones, but now I ask for the repeal of those instruments of abuse, the Blasphemy laws.

This post is now published on the web page of the Critical Supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party Website.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the Brain Virus - Dedicated To Some Lahoris Who Know Me

They say they actually know the people at Brain Computers. Go figure. I`m from Lahore too, so yeah. I had heard long in Pakistani professional circles that Pakistanis were responsible for creating the first ever virus. Then I got unrestricted internet access and saw it confirmed for real in Time Magazine. I suppose this could have some thing about what Karachi Khatmal says on originality and Alpha Za said about Pakistan needing some smart, scheming entrepreneurship to save its economy (even the Zardari kind is fine). But this seems more important. Its the intersection of both, originality and entrepreneurship by way of information technology, a minor interest of mine. And here it is, a Finnish computer security company goes to Lahore and meets the creators of the Brain Virus. There is something touching about this video.

For one thing, this is the first time I am tagging both Pakistani History and Internet together.

For another they have Lahori Pizza Hut at the end. YAY!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Situation in Flux - My Response to Nadeem Gehla's "Between Blood, Revenge and the Legacy of Martyrs"

Here is where Mr Gehla's article is, on the contemplation of the idea of revenge. Here is Mr Ejaz Haider, on the contemplation of revenge itself. Below is the response I posted to it:

Personally, my heart was rent by the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti sahab. I had varied responses to that incident of violence. What I want to mention is that somebody made the recommendation that the time may have come for the government to go beyond mere legalities and start going for extra-judicial assassinations as a way to end the religious extremists attacks. My response was agreement and I wrote:

The PPP will have to have a long, hard sit down talk with the PML-N and the ISI about their sectarian friends in Punjab.

Then the PPP will have to wear its Naseerullah Babar pants and get ready to break skulls and, and catch cuts.

Now I have no doubt in my mind that the PPP has three armies of brave Jiyalas ready to fight for their democracy and their country. And reading this article by Ahmed Nadeem Gehla reminds me that these brave men and women are ready at the signal from their party to fight. This is a sentiment that dovetails completely with what I myself have written. However, Mr Gehla’s fear of an escalation and “intervention” by the establishment, keeping in mind what happened during the PNA movement are also valid. Keeping this in mind, I would like to request the party that it at least raise the verbal pressure on centre right, to right wing forces to suspend aid for sectarian terrorists.

If the PPP takes the decision to go through with extra-judicial measures against sectarian terrorists, I assure you the blog “These Long Wars” will support you.

In the meantime, I would like to add that your policy of non-intervention may or not bear fruit. Here is the Dawn article, “Too Little, Too Late” on the ever chameleon like Fazl-ur-Rehman expressing some regret on the current state of the Blasphemy Laws. The words from him and Dawn are:

“if a law is being misused against minorities, we are ready to discuss this [matter]”. Such is the grimness of the situation Pakistan is facing vis-à-vis extremism that even this small concession must be greeted with relief.

I wonder what this bodes in terms of Mr Gehla’s idea of non street confrontation over the blasphemy laws? This is a very serious situation, and the words of Mr Fazl-ur-Rehman have to be taken somewhat seriously in this respect.