Red, White and Black


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. 😡



Press Under Attack
27 March, 2007, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

The country has witnessed a fortnight of political turmoil. It now seems that the government’s antics have not stopped and more foolishness is enroute. Adil Najam on ATP publishes a letter from Hameed Haroon, CEO and Publisher DAWN Group of Papers. The letter details various tactics that have been employed by the government in subverting the freedom of press in Pakistan. The accompanying appendices provide detailed and documented proof of the government’s arm-twisting. I am publishing excerpts from the letter here:

Since December 2006, the DAWN Group is facing massive advertising cuts equivalent to two thirds of total government advertising. This has occurred primarily as a consequence of a decision ostensibly taken by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz’s government, but in reality ordered by General Musharraf and engineered by several of his advisors that constitute the government’s inner cabinet.

Particularly sensitive for the agreement are the escalating developments in Pakistan’s western province of Baluchistan, and in the tribal agencies of North & South Wazirstan on the Afghan border. Also irksome have been the DAWN Group’s related attempts to monitor a recurring tendency toward covert militancy among responsible decision-makers in government.

In the first phase, approximating with the years 2004 to 2005, the Government of Pakistan essentially worked by attempting to exert pressure on the Dawn Group by proxy – the proxy in this case being the Provincial Government of Sindh. It is in Sindh’southern metropolis of Karachi, that the headquarters of the DAWN Group of Newspapers are located.

This period first witnessed the government’s exerting of harsh pressures on our daily evening newspaper – The STAR – by attempting to intimidate and harass journalists with false cases and concocted charges, and by a failed attempt to implicate the writer of this letter, as CEO of the Group, in a totally fabricated incident of terrorism and illegal weapons possession. (Refer Appendix A 1.1.1, to, 1.1.4 and 2.1.2)

The second stage involved the direct exerting of pressure by the Federal Government itself. After a series of fumbling measures and half-hearted advertisement bans by the Federal Government with respect to DAWN in 2005, a turning point was reached when one of our influential current affairs magazines, the HERALD, published a series of controversial stories and articles from June 2005 onwards on topics such as the Pakistan Government’s war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in North and South Wazirstan; a possible resurgence of covert government support to Kashmiri militants; and also on the mushrooming policy debacle for government with respect to the Bugti insurgency in Baluchistan. (Refer Appendix A 1.2.1, to, 1.2.4 and 2.2.2)

As a consequence, the government imposed an almost comprehensive ban on Federal Government advertising. (Refer Appendix A 2.2.2t) with an intent to provoke the financial collapse of the DAWN Group.

Financial conditions within DAWN now became even more vulnerable to outside pressures as a consequence of our decision to commence work on a new TV channel – DAWN News.

The government’s refusal to give us a license mainly stems from our refusal to submit to its unethical pressures while reporting events in Baluchistan and North & South Waziristan. This refusal has become an acute cause of concern for the future financial viability of our publishing group.

Follow on the rest of the letter to the original post. Rather than just cribbing, I am more interested in figuring out how can we register our protests against this subversion of the press? More on that later, I guess.



Enough?
13 March, 2007, 10:23 am
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

I have not blogged regularly for the past few months. Besides being busy, I have not felt inclined enough to write on anything… maybe owing to a sense of desensitization or maybe the events have not been provoking enough (and that is a HUGE statement if you look at the precarious situation in the country and maybe, sadly, reflects a degree of apathy ). The events of the past five days, though, have made it imperative that a statement is made and protest is registered. Yes, I am talking about the infamous ‘sacking’ of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Lets set aside the manner and premise of the removal of the highest law-giver of the country and focus on the treatment that followed. The Chief Justice has been held incommunicado with no access to lawyers, phones or newspapers, his family’s passports have been confiscated and to top it all the government is refusing an open hearing to the deposed Chief Justice. The irony could not be starker – here you are doling ‘justice’ to the ‘Chief Justice’ with all of these impairments. Hah!

Then consider the treatment that was handed out to the lawyers. They were baton-charged, beaten up and pelted with stones. WTF! [Note that, I don’t use it often.] What sort of pathetic police state has Musharraf transformed Pakistan into?! Enroute to work today, I passed the National Assembly – Jinnah Avenue leading up to the Constitution Avenue is barricaded and lined with cordons of police ready with riot gear. And guess who are they waiting for? Yes. *drum roll* The lawyers, who will be here to protest against the removal and against the disgracing of the judiciary by our benevolent dictator General Pervez Musharraf. And no prizes for guessing the treatment that will be meted out again to the lawyer fraternity.

Incidentally, where was this maniac desire to establish the writ of the state when the government was being held hostage by mad raving mullahs?! [And oh, btw, those mullahs have established permanent morchas on the walls of that infamous madrassah – where they sit ‘guard’ – while they have their faces fully covered and I have always spotted a protruding hidden rifle-like object in one of the morchas… ha! Where is the state in this case?!]

And then of course, we have the state information minister stating on TV that only Lahore saw protests by the lawyers and the rest of the country functioned normally. Why lie? And then take two private TV channels off-air for having the guts to telecast the abhorrent treatment being meted out to the lawyers in Lahore!? Recently a journalist friend told me that the government has warned the media not to say too much about it now since the issue has become sub judice. The government has been preventing the media from making bold incriminating headlines. Wither free media too? Is our benevolent dictator finally turning into a despot?

I have always been more of a pro-Musharraf person than an anti-Musharraf one. He has been the lesser of the evils that plague the country. I still believe that he is best option when it comes to foreign policy and is probably the only leader, who at least has some vision and independent thought for the nation. The political leaders that we have are nothing more than bickering animals. But at this point, all of this is eclipsed by the increasingly despotic nature of Musharraf’s rule on the domestic arena. My confidence in his ability – and even in his intent – is gradually ebbing and I do worry for the post-Musharraf Pakistan. This sort of behavior cannot be tolerated. It is shameful and abhorrent. Fie Musharraf, Fie!

At the end of the day, I am left with the same question: what more can one do other than register one’s protest through a angry post like this one? And that feels so inadequate. Hmmph. I am reminded of Faiz’s Hum Dekhen Ge:

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garaan
Rooyee ki terha urr jayen gey
Hum mehkoomon ke paaoon taley
Yeh dharti dhar dhar dharkey gi
Aur ahl-e-hakam ke sir ooper
Jab bijli kar kar karkey gi

Hum dekhen gey

*Sigh*



Batons will do it!
9 February, 2007, 11:11 am
Filed under: Islam, Pakistan, Politics

This would probably turn out to be more of a rant than anything else. On my way back from work everday I pass Lal Masjid – the very same has been in the news a lot lately. For the last few days, I have been noticing that there are always 10-15 face-covered-baton-wielding young men standing on the boundary walls and the roof of the masjid. They are trying to ensure that the government does not demolish this masjid too – by taking to violence. Just like their female counterparts from Jamia Hafsa.

The sight did not rest easy with me. It gave me the creeps – just like this feature written upon a visit to Jamia Hafsa:

The students of the Jamia wake up every morning at 5:00 am. They are not allowed any games, out-door trips or TV. Watching TV, they said, was banned in Islam. They live in strict gender segregation and believe in the subordination of woman to man. They study Islam in its most extremist form. The students and teachers told me the madrassa is grooming wives and mothers for jihadis, female suicide bombers and female foot-soldiers who will clash with the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, if necessary.

They said Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omer were their heroes and they were ready to become suicide bombers to kill the ‘enemies of Islam’ in Pakistan and abroad. When I said that Bin Laden is a terrorist who is fighting for an Arab cause on our soil, someone shouted ‘Osama!’, and the rest yelled ‘zindabad’. This yelling went on for a while.

I had been mulling over this whole thing since I read the news yesterday that the government had agreed to rebuilt the demolished Hamza Mosque. And I thought: whither the state? Why is that the state agrees to the demands of a few baton-wielding extremists yet publicly humiliates innocent citizens who are protesting against the state enforced disappearance of their loved ones? And then we crib about our society turning into an increasingly intolerant one. Who is really to blame?

This TFT editorial [warning, PDF file] for this week strongly mirrors my own thoughts:

This episode raises questions of law, state and religion. It suggests that any extremist mullahs do not accept the notion of the “writ of the nation-state” and the laws of the land promulgated by parliaments and constitutions if, in their view, these are in conflict with their notions of Islamic law and life. Indeed, by their very definition and logic, not just Pakistan but the whole world belongs to Allah and they (the mullahs) have a right to build mosques (houses of Allah) wherever they like, regardless of the laws relating to land and property.

It concludes:

The Pakistani nation and state is therefore faced with a new and dangerous threat that represents a violent minority which seeks to exploit the values of liberal democracy to undermine majoritarian democracy. This threat cannot be thwarted by military means alone. The nation and the state will have to demonstrate a broad democratic mainstream moderate consensus to tackle their common enemy by political, legal and economic means. This is not just General Musharraf’s war. It is every patriotic Pakistani’s war who wants to protect and defend this nation.

But it gets me to wonder why wasn’t an equally strong condemnation issued when Muhammad Bin Masood was humiliated? [or was one?]

Our society is precariously placed – suicide bombers have wrecked havoc in the last forthnight. Who are they fighting? The state by targeting high profile locations and killing on-duty policemen? Or themselves by targeting other sectarian groups? A few days ago Daily Times reported that IJT students activists have been preventing Shia students from praying at the university mosque and I sat there for an hour, thinking: what the hell?! Since when have we started playing God?

I wonder how long we would be able to hold strong if this wave of religious intolerance and extremism is to continue festering in our society? And how the hell do you stem it when the state is busy appeasing it for political gains? Where exactly are we headed?



Pakistan’s Taliban Quagmire
18 January, 2007, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

The last month has seen an exchange of verbal volleys between the Pakistani, American and Afghan establishments, leading to a definite straining of the atmosphere.

First, we had Karzai publicly lambasting Shaukat Aziz over Pakistan’s alleged role in the increasing Taliban presence in Afghanistan. Following that Pakistan decided to go forth with the installation of biometric checkposts on the Pak-Afghan border along with the fencing and mining of the border area. The idea was to limit and monitor cross-border movement. The decision drew sharp rebukes not only from the Afghans, but also from the international community – though on entirely different grounds. To add another twist to the developing story, American officials decided to become involved in the blame game.

Continue reading



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



More than Shame
29 December, 2006, 10:26 am
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics, social

 

Police broke up a protest demonstration organised by family members and relatives of missing persons, badly beating and arresting several of them after they tried to march to the GHQ to present a memorandum to the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff.

Eyewitnesses said the trouble began when a heavy contingent of police, led by SP Yasin Farooq, SP Muhammad Azam and DSP Rana Shahid, pushed some of the protesters inside the hotel’s boundary wall, shoving and manhandling them badly.

After some time more protesters arrived and started shouting slogans against the police. Those who had been detained inside the hotel also came out to join them.

This led to skirmishes between police and the protesters. According to the eyewitnesses, the protest took a turn for the worse when the police stripped a young man, Mohammad bin Masood, the son of missing Masood Janjua. The witnesses said even then the police continued to drag him, finally throwing him into a police van. [Link]

Follow on to this post on ATP. So who’s shame is it anyway?

I am too shocked/incensed to put down anything else. Maybe later. But does anything more need to be said?

 Update: A balanced and well-made documentary by PBS can be watched here.



Rethinking Kashmir
21 December, 2006, 7:54 pm
Filed under: India, Kashmir, Pakistan

Two weeks ago, President Musharraf presented another “out of the box” proposal for the resolution of Kashmir in an interview to India’s NDTV. Details of the proposal can be found here. Summarily, his solution was based on the following four points:

1. Kashmir will have the same borders but people will be allowed to move freely back and forth in the region.
2. The region will have self-governance or autonomy, but not independence.
3. Troops will be withdrawn from the region in a staggered manner.
4. A joint supervision mechanism will be set up, with India, Pakistan and Kashmir represented.

He said that if the the solution was accepted by India, Pakistan would be willing to give up its claim on Kashmir. Needless to say, his words did ruffle quite a few conservative feathers in the country and the Foreign Ministry had to do some fire-fighting. The MoFA clarified:

Pakistan ‘s legal position on the Jammu and Kashmir disputes is based on the UN resolutions. Kashmir is a disputed territory. According to the UN Security Council’s resolutions, Pakistan and India are parties to this dispute and Kashmiris have to essentially decide their future. It is about the aspirations of Kashmiri people. Pakistan does not claim Kashmir as an integral part. Kashmir is disputed. We however, hope that when Kashmiris are able to exercise their right to make a choice, they would opt for Pakistan .

The President did not talk about giving up Pakistan ‘s position on Kashmir . Azad Kashmir has its separate identity with a President and Prime Minister. It is not a province of Pakistan . If it were, there would have been a Governor and Chief Minister instead of President and Prime Minister.

The operative clause in the MoFA statement is that Pakistan’s stance on J&K is based on UN resolutions. I want to tackle two things on this issue here.

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