Red, White and Black

Keeping Faith
26 August, 2008, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Pakistan | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last Tuesday was a happy day for most Pakistanis. They were still rejoicing in the afterglow of the resignation of a military dictator. Musharaff finally read the writing on the wall and bowed out. Last Tuesday discussing this on another forum I had written:

This is what they should do now. The judges issue is nothing but a ceremonial issue now. They will be restored..well and good. And I hope the judiciary will retain its spine and keeps these fools on their toes as well. Next on the 17th Amendment will be repealed and the parliamentary form of government will be restored in earnest. The President will be a ceremonial head again – minus 58-2b. Of course, the first real test for the coalition would be the choice of the new President. It’s an open field there.

Looks like I called it wrong. I realise now that I was hoping for the ideal situation and forgot about the relaities of Pakistani politics. I had hoped that rationality and good sense would revail. But only a week later the coalition split. Zardari reneged on his promise and said that political agreements cannot be considered to be as sacrosanct as the Quran-Hadith. Nawaz Sharif has a right to be angry with Zaradari. Does it matter now that Zardari apologised? After all his apology will be as good as his political agreements, no?

I am really angry over these developments. I am angry that Zardari has put his ego and ambition infront of naitonal interest. I am angry that he has squandered a historic opportunity to establish a national unity government where both the main parites of the country would have been able to work together to strengthen the democratic tradition and to fight the pressing issues of terrorism and economic fraility. I am angry that we may not get a similar opportunity soon. I had a long discussion on the issue with a friend today and the premise put forth was this: We should let this continue. This wrangling is what democracy is all about. We need to let this assembly complete its term and establish a precendent for democracy in Pakistan.

In other circumstances, I would have agreed. But this is not the time to let the kids learn how to grow. The time demands that they act as adults yesterday and figure out a roadmap to steer the country through these troubled times. If anything, whatever we know about Zardari and the democratic governments of the decade of the 90s does not give me hope. There is already talk of Zardari keeping 58-2b, of the PPP working to oust PML-N from Punjab, of the possibility that the national assembly will be dismissed if PML-N gets too rowdy. And of course, this would create yet another classic situation for the military to intervene.

And to think that we did not have to take this path. But old habits die hard, don’t they? Here’s to hoping that I am proved wrong. I desperately want to..but at this point keeping faith in the system is turning out to be extremely difficult.


Back to regular programming
14 August, 2008, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Pakistan

After a long long break, I plan on resuming regular blogging. *fingers crossed*

And oh, go there:

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.

Black Flag Week: Support the Judiciary
9 March, 2008, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics


From here. And the email forward:

Aitzaz Ahsan has given a call to observe Black Flag Week in Pakistan.
Everyone is requested to show their solidarity for the restoration of
the independent Judiciary in Pakistan. You can watch the message (with
English subtitles) at:
The Emergency Times:
Teeth Maestro:

Here are a couple of things you can do:

1) Record a small video of yourself wearing a black flag, black
clothing or even just a black cap and post it on youtube in response
to the Aitzaz’s video message. In the video you should talk about why
you support the restoration of the judiciary.

To respond to the video:

If you have trouble uploading the video on youtube please email the
clip to

2) Take a picture of yourself, your friends and/or your family holding
a black flag or wearing black clothes and send it to If you are uncomfortable revealing your
identity you can have the picture taken from your backside or cover
your face before taking the picture. You can also help us by taking
pictures of your friends, family members, relatives and others who may
not be able to take pictures

3) Take part in the events that observe the Black Flag Day in your
cities. You can get information about the major events at:

If your event is not shown on this blog please email with details of the event and it will be
updated shortly.

4) Attached is a picture that you should use as your facebook, orkut
and myspace picture for till Sunday, March 16, 2008.

5) You can use many variations of a black flag. Suggestions include
black armbands, headbands, stickers, caps, headscarfs, etc.

6) Please encourage your friends, family, teachers and everyone else
you know to participate in the Black Flag Week. The biggest strength
to the campaign would be pictures and videos.

7) Please forward this email to as many people as you know to make
this campaign a success. You can also inform them of this campaign
through facebook:

In solidarity,

What Next?
19 February, 2008, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Around 3 months ago, I had made a post on this blog calling for a boycott of the elections. The post was made when the civil society movement was at its highest and the political parties were toying with the idea of a boycott to pressurize Musharraf. I got a number of comments on that post, but owing to the necessities of academic work, I was never able to reply to them.

One of the main reasons, I had supported the call for boycott was that I was certain that under the pro-Musharraf setup, elections would be massively rigged and that the issues of the judiciary and media’s independence would not be addressed. I was also disappointed by the fact that PML-N (at that time) and PPP were not taking a strong stance in support of the civil society and the lawyer’s movements. I had hoped that if a society-wide boycott could be engineered, it would sound death for Musharraf and his cronies.

Did my position change in the post-Dec 27 world? I don’t think so; I still retained the principled stance of the boycott. But the events witnessed over the past 48 hours do shed a different light on the entire set up.

Continue reading

4 December, 2007, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Boycott the Elections. Stay at home.


Can you? [Access full size here, as I can’t get the wordpress editor to process a full image.]

The question of the nukes
19 November, 2007, 1:36 am
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Our esteemed President declared two days ago:

“Allow me to stay in power, or else the nukes go into the militants hands. Only I (Repeat I), can safeguard the nukes. The west has a choice. Me or nuclear talibans.”

Good God. On Friday, at a panel discussion we organised at Kroc on the state of emergency in Pakistan, 2 friends and I spent the latter part of the discussion arguing that the nukes were NOT a danger to the West. That fears of OBL getting his hands on them were plain paranoia. That it was more important to root for civil and human rights, for democracy and for an open society than harp around the dangers of nuclear proliferation and AlQaeda (which sadly ended up being the hot topic, but more on that some other day!). But no, that is what they are most concerned about here in the US! Pakistan’s nukes and what do you do when your dear President offers such statements of confidence?! Oh, the MFoA says:

Meanwhile in Islamabad, the Foreign Office clarified certain reports of President Musharraf saying the country’s nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands. The FO spokesperson said in a statement, “The report is a complete distortion of the president’s interview. Contrary to the report, President Musharraf had reiterated that the nuclear weapons could not fall into wrong hands.” The spokesperson said, “He had argued that because the military organisation is responsible for their safety and security, our strategic assets are secure and in no danger of falling into wrong hands.”

Yeah right.

The top NYT story yesterday was US Sceretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms!

And oh, before I get back to work:

A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said. If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. [Here]

Charming proposal.