Red, White and Black

An Open Letter to the Naysayers
7 October, 2008, 4:07 pm
Filed under: general, Pakistan

Dear Compatriots,

Over the past few weeks, I have heard growing rumbles, murmurs and whispers of many plans to leave the country. I am told that the game is up, the snitch has been caught and Pakistan is done. It is time to leave. Time to leave before things get worse. Time to leave before a suicide bomb hits your loved ones. Time to leave before you lose power completely. Time to leave to before its you.

I am told that there is no hope for the country. That corrupt rulers are in control. That foreign powers are playing their chess game with our lives. That the militants and the extremists will not listen. That it is not our country anymore. That nothing we can do will change matters.

Wrong. My dear friends, you are very wrong. No, the country is a mess. You are right on that. But you are wrong to believe that it is done. It is not done yet. A nation is composed of people. And while you might be ready to give up, others will fight on. Because they understand that individuals can make a difference. Because they understand that change does not materialise mid air – that people bring change. Because they continue to have faith. Imagine the difference it will make if each and everyone of us decides to live up to that responsibility. Nations are not built without sweat and blood. The require both. And a lot of pain. But most of all, they require preserver-ness.

So I ask you: did you exhaust all your options of making a difference before you decided to give up? Have you? Or did you just decide to give up, pack your bags and leave?

Call me a hopeless fool in denial. But I will stick it out here.  Because I believe that individuals can make a difference. Because every cloud has a silver lining. Because I am determined to do my share to bring change. Because no matter how much this country sucks, it still defines who I am. Because there is no place like home and I will not run away while my home burns. And because, we will change things.

So to you naysayers, I say: think and think again.

A Sad Angry Citizen

SMSing trouble
14 August, 2008, 9:28 pm
Filed under: general, Pakistan | Tags: , , , ,

This morning The Daily Times carried a news story that has me worried. The news story reports the incidence of controversial SMSes being spread in Karachi:

Some people in the city have been growing more and more worried about the fears of the alleged spread of ‘Talibanization’ especially with the appearance of incendiary graffiti, posters and cell phone text messages.

“Some families from [the name of a place in Sindh] arrived at [the name of a place in Karachi] and were taken upon by [the name of one linguistic group] who misbehaved with their women,” said one text message. “Their bodies were painted red and they were stripped naked… [One linguistic group] has given [the name of another group] a deadline to leave [an area in Karachi]. Think, are you going to do something or just talk? Send this SMS to all [one linguistic group] so that the nation awakens. Long live [the name of a political leader.”

Another message said: “An elder from [a place in the Punjab] has told the people of Sindh in a message to pray [a certain prayer] and ask their friends to do so because a great tragedy is about to befall the province. He sent a similar message to Balakot as well before the earthquake happened.”

This is coming in the backdrop of a series of reports over the past week which have warned against the imminent “Talibaniation” of Karachi. Karachi is already scared with ethnic warfare and fanning of hatred and anti-ethnic feelings in this manner does not bode well for the social fabric of the city.

I have witnessed the power of smses in another conflict recently. And the ability of these not-so-innocuous messages to spread fear and panic cannot be underestimated. The state can take a number of educational steps to counter the spread of such hatred, but the utlimate responsibility lies with the users. We are a country where sms forwarding is a hobby and we have to be extremely careful of what we are spreading. I hope that these messages fizzle out but they will do their damage if we don’t pause to think about them.

Edit: A related opinion piece.

PTA at it again?
7 April, 2007, 10:39 pm
Filed under: general

So, I hear from the grapevine that PTA is back at the blog-banning business. This time , wordpress has also been blacklisted along with blogspot. Apparently some ISPs in Karachi have already blocked the wordpress domain, but I can still access it here in Islamabad. Are these the last few glorious moments? I had to migrate from blogspot last year because of the same ban and I am seriously pissed at the prospect of a repeat. (I like wordpress!!)

But really, wither freedom of speech? And under the guise of what?! National security?! Curbing on government criticism? Yeah, RIGHT!

I hope like hell that this is not true, but if it is then: WTF!

Yes, I am really annoyed. 😡

The Play
3 January, 2007, 9:09 am
Filed under: general, Politics

Year end play: The Nuculier God
Theatre: The World
Set Design: Tony Blair
God: George Bush
Sacrificial Lamb: Saddam Hossain
Slaves: Saudi Royal Family and cohorts
Extras: The United Nations
Theme song: I can kill any Muslim

I can kill any Muslim
Any day I choose
It’s all for the cause of freedom
I can kill any Muslim
Wherever I choose
It is cause we’re a peace lovin’ nation

So we egged him on
When he attacked Kuwait
And the trial may have been harried
So we supplied him arms
To gas the Kurds
With him dead, that’s one story buried

Violence in Iraq
Has been on the rise
The US can hardly be blamed
Our interest was oil
And we stuck to our goal
Why must my cronies be named

Saddam’s emergence
As Arab resistance
That wasn’t part of the plan
Had Amnesty and others
Kept quiet when it matters
We’d have quietly gone on to Iran

Asleep I was
When he hanged on the gallows
Well even presidents need sleep
Oblivious I was
When the planes hit the towers
I had other ‘pointments to keep

More Iraqis dead
More ‘mericans too
OK they warned it would happen
Why should I listen
When I rule the world
No nation’s too big to flatten

The Saudi Kings
They know their place
At least they’ll know by now
Muslim’s OK
If you tow the line
Out of step, off you go, and how

Tony and me
We keep good company
Dictators know when it matters
Regardless of crimes
And religious inclines
Safe if you listen or its shutters

I can kill any Muslim
Wherever I choose
I choose quite often I know
I can kill any Muslim
Any day I choose
I did it so now they will know

Received this as a forward. Thought it was pertinent enough to share here. The tradegy of the whole thing is that because of the manner the trial was conducted and the verdict enacted – Saddam’s guilt was nullified by the martyr status he now has across the Muslim world. He won’t be remembered as a tyrant but a Muslim leader who was killed at the behest of the US. Pity!

PS. Replace “I can kill any Muslim” with “I can kill any Third World-er” and it would still hold true. It’s just a simple question of the congurance of American interests. The saddest part is that the Muslim world is the most spineless of all Third world-ers! Bah. I’m ranting early morning.

The Hajj Sermon
31 December, 2006, 9:30 pm
Filed under: general, Islam, Politics

I ended up listening to the Hajj sermon a few days ago and a couple of points caught my attention. Speaking to the congregation of believers on Hajj day, the Saudi state-appointed Mufti claimed:

…that the slogans of enlightened moderation and socialism were completely opposed to Islam and there was no place for sectarianism in the Deen. He said the cause of downfall of Muslims was distraction from their Deen and that was why the enemies of Islam were uniting against them. He added that Muslim governments should make efforts to unite against the enemies of Islam. The Mufti said that mujahideen in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of Muslim world should protect the rights of their brethren like they do for the House of God.

So while the Mufti made some politically correct noises like emphasising the need for unity, speaking out against the terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam and denouncing sectarianism. But for the rest of it – the political part of the sermon, he resorted to the same old schizophrenic rhetoric that has become the custom of the religious Right in the Muslim world. Continue reading

Junoon Declassified
15 December, 2006, 12:14 am
Filed under: general, Pakistan

Came across this excellent video about Junoon, via my good friend BD (yes, I am trying to butter him up…). Amazing video – choronicles both the history of Junoon and also looks at Islam and the impact of 9/11.

Can anyone find the rest of it? I would be forever indebted! : P

The Perks of Being Rich
4 December, 2006, 1:40 pm
Filed under: general, Pakistan, social

Over the weekend, I followed the development of one very depressing incident with a grim heart. The incident in question, was brought to my attention by Zakintosh at The Windmills of My Mind. According to the news reports, the owner of the Nirala chain caused the death of 2-month baby in Defence, Lahore and then proceeded to threaten the injured parents into silence. Media reports suggest that an FIR against the culprit has still not been registered owing to an apparent collusion between the police authorities and the culprit. Such, of course, are the perks of the rich in our country.

I don’t know what is the status of this story at this point in time, but knowing how the system here works it would not be wrong to assume that Nirala company owner will get away with making a complete travesty of justice. In this regard, I urge you all to do your little bit to highlight this incident through the press and the media. One, I endorse Zak’s boycott of Nirala sweets. If we can support an innocuous boycott of European products to protest against the Danish cartoons, it ought not to be too hard for us to say NO to Nirala Sweets. Second, I urge you all to write letters/emails to your favourite papers and try to get this issue highlighted. Our efforts will not be able to bring back a dead baby, but we can at least make an attempt to stop the incessant mockery of justice.

Every single voice matters. Please join the chorus!

P.S. On a related note, Ejaz Haider of The Daily Times laments the lack of deceny in our society. Thought provoking material there! Give it a read.

P.P.S. A few friends and I are trying to organise some sort of protest in Islamabad (this week/end) and Lahore (the following one). So please drop in a note if you are interested.

Edit: The issue was also covered at ATP.

War does not spare the old or the young…
4 December, 2006, 1:31 pm
Filed under: general

It’s true! Consider this:

During the incursion, Israeli soldiers detained all men aged 16-40, including Watfa and Diab’s sons and grandsons. The army targeted the mosque, attempting to arrest militants hiding there, the report says. The women put up their own resistance, gathering as human shields around the mosque to help the militants escape. ‘I am 72, says Watfa, ‘but by doing this I felt 20, young and useful and ready to act.’ She pulls off her long veil and holds it high in her right hand. ‘I waved my hijab as a white flag and prayed with the other women in front of the holy mosque. But the Israelis continued to destroy it.’

Two women were killed by the Israeli Defence Force that day. Watfa was bruised, as was 70-year-old Fatma Najar, hit by a bulldozer. Three weeks later, Najar blew herself up near Israeli soldiers, wounding two. In Gaza she is seen as a heroine. ‘If the Israelis came to my house to gun down my children and I had a belt, I would do the same,’ says Watfa.

Is this not desperation speaking or what?

Leering : the ever young fad of Pakistani men
23 November, 2006, 12:14 pm
Filed under: general, Pakistan

No, I am not looking for a fight here. And yes, I know that there are many gentlemen out there. But. Sadly, there is just not enough of them in my country.

Though things are considerably improved over the last few years, but it is still considered unthinkable for girls/young women to venture out alone after dark. The poor thing will be stalked, leered at and eve-teased! Actually, the night factor does not make a difference. This will happen either way. And Burqa or no burqa, that still makes no difference. The girl is, but a sexual object for a common Pakistani man.

Take this article by Kamran Shafi. [I do sometimes, feel that he complains a little too much but on this count I cannot but nod my head to his piece.] Consider:

In short, the Land of the Pure is as inhospitable a place as any in the world for women tourists, particularly farangi women tourists. Let me look at it through the eyes of my old friend Katrina, and new friend Jo, who visited us from New Zealand just two weeks ago. For myself, I can’t even begin to tell you what a difficult time I had taking the two around in the Islamic Republic.

There was no place we went: Peshawar or Lahore or Islamabad the Beautiful where the two ladies were not stared at incessantly. The starers were not only your ordinary man on the street but also policemen, and in one case army soldiers travelling in the back of an army truck on the GT Road behind which we got stuck. You name ‘em, and they stared; oh, how they stared.

In almost every case, and I have upset fellow columnist Angela Williams saying this once before, the leerer’s hand strayed you-know-where; there to stay until my companions and I were out of sight. Complimenting the straying hand was the look on the Yahoos’ faces, bordering on something between insolence and vulgarity and tawdriness, a small mocking smile playing on their lips.

Yelch! Why is it that the Pakistani men cannot think of women as anything other than as sexual objects?! And yes, by and large these are ‘Muslim’ men. And yes, they cover up their women in a chaaddar or a burqa, but is that any good?! Every step taken by her is rigorously monitored by filthy eyes. You go to a crowded place and there is every chance in the world that you will be leered at, felt up or pinched! Why?!

For the life of me I cannot understand, where this comes from! Before you say that it is education, I would preempt you and say NO! Ever seen a group of young college boys, standing around the corner of a street or outside a girls college, indulging in “poondi”?! I have. Suffered through the ignominy! And this is just one sophisticated way of putting it. So no, it has nothing to do with education or the lack of thereof!

It has to do with our values and mores. For an avowedly Islamic society, we are shockingly devoid of even the most basic morals! Take the example of a typical college boy. While he will bristle and fume if his sister is ever teased or harassed, but it would perfectly okay for him to do so with another girl! Take this hypocrisy to another level. While many “pious” men would consider it sinful for a Muslim woman to pose in a bikini but they can easily leer the night away looking at bikini wearing non-Muslim women. What on earth?!!

It is a perverted hayaless mindset that prevails. And it is nothing but a social product of forced piety and haya. In our over zealousness, we have never looked to impart the very basic norms about human dignity and respect to our children. Therein, lies the root of this problem. And that is also why I don’t see times changing. A sad fact of life in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The Silence
6 September, 2006, 11:59 pm
Filed under: general, Islam

This week’s blog-surfing led me to this post, through Eteraz’s blog, to which a reply was posted here. A number of questions [a couple quite inane in nature] were raised at the Gates of Vienna and responded to succinctly by Eteraz. But there is still one question that stood out:

What counts is the collective action (or passivity) of millions upon millions of ordinary Muslims, folks who know nothing of Spinoza or Voltaire, or even Arabic literature.

When hundreds of thousands of Muslims take to the streets to protest violence against infidels in the name of Allah, then I will believe that Islam can be peaceful. When I see protest signs against jihad parading up the streets in Riyadh or Tehran or Jakarta, then I will believe that Islam is indeed reformable. But not before.

Such things have never occurred.

This is not the first time I have encountered this question on an online forum. When such questions are raised, the operational belief remains that the majority of Muslims are silently complicit, if not actively involved, in global violence that rages in the name of Islam. They contend that since the majority are not seen actively protesting against the militancy and extremism, so they must just be pretending their opposition. This notion needs to be rebutted in the strongest words.

Continue reading