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.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cyril Almeida Grasps the Nature of These Long Wars

Cyril Almeida has grasped that the nature of the religious extremists we face is a sort of implacable insane foe. The military establishment is involved in this, so are local factions of our politicians, and those factions which stand opposed to the local sectarian fanatics, are making the mistake of appeasing them. This appeasement has to stop. Because people otherwise die.

In the PPP's defence, I would like to say that they are trying everything short of harming people in trying to stop the violence. But to the PPP, I would say, your members are being killed, can't you do something? At least tell all your members to now be armed, the way Altaf told his followers to be armed when the MQM first had to break the control of Muhajir areas from the Jamat? If not a fitting analogy, at least this time make a swift call to the ANP, MQM and PML-N to amend or abrogate the Zia created blasphemy laws? Do it fast and quick and change at the case registration process at least.

Cyril captures the forever war nature of the cultural and now physical assault Pakistanis face. Here it is: The Politics of Appeasement.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pakistanis Themselves Don't Understand Pakistan

What do you think I've been trying to do for the last decade and a half or so? ;-)

You should read this:

Read the interview. I always found Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy kind of grasping and interested more in promoting herself, but if I run across something she says about Pakistan and terrorism, I do read and listen.

I must mention that some people from my family made interesting comments relating to suicide/economic desperation way back in 1998 at the time of Pakistan's nuclear tests and the sanctions that resulted. I commented to a family member on the rise in suicides that were coming forward in the Metropolitan section of the city newspaper. My relative responded by saying that yep, suicides rise in times when money becomes really hard to come by. In my mind, I had a half formed thought (this was way back in 1998) about people using their suicides to kill other people, maybe even copying stories I heard about Pakistani soldiers in the Battle of Chawinda strapping dynamite under themselves and lying under tanks. I didn't air that little bleak thought back then, but God knows, it was interesting. Note to self: Must always air bleakest thought.

I actually have some stories on the economic devastation caused by the sanctions, but since the bleeding was more personal and locallly confined, nobody talks about it. I should come back to it someday. In the meantime, it was nice to see Mohsin Hamid's "Mothsmoke", and now Sharmeen Chinoy (dropping the Obaid, 3 names annoy me) talk about the correlation between economic devastation/the rise in suicides/the rise in suicidal behaviour.

You guys should really read what Ms Chinoy has written: