Image

Every now and then, there’s a soft piece in a foreign publication that essentially tries to eschew the prevalent narrative about Pakistan – that it’s populated by beards and terrorists, that the women are uneducated and oppressed, that arts and culture are non-existent and that we’re all baying for western blood.

Every now and then there’s a prominent Pakistani (fashion/music/arts/politics) who’ll be decrying that narrative. They’ll talk about how Pakistan really isn’t all that, and to an extent there’s nothing wrong with that. The narrative mentioned above doesn’t explain Pakistan, much like any label or narrative ignores/excludes exceptions and minority behaviour. It’s nothing new – Switzerland e.g isn’t chocolate and watches, nor is Scandinavia IKEA and porn.

The problem, however, arises when the rent-a-quote Pakistani idiots in these soft pieces offer up examples of why Pakistan isn’t a misogynistic, fanatical hell-hole. The problem is when someone calls Pakistan out on being a fundamentalist state (we’ll conveniently ignore that our Constitution relegates Ahmedi’s to second class status) and the reply is not far removed from, “But I drink beer! And I’m going to a rave this weekend!”

Pakistan’s seemingly famed party scene doesn’t exist for everyone. I’d like to know that when some weapons grade twat talks about booze being readily available, how many people out there actually know his bootlegger? How many people can actually afford to pay for booze, let alone have access to it in the first place. What’s conveniently forgotten is that there’s booze and sex and drugs and parties and raves in Pakistan, but only if you know the right people.

That’s what’s left out every time Buntie Aunty decides to mouth off to a broadsheet. That’s what’s left out every time SomeoneStickAnOilRigInMyHead guy talks about doing tequila shots.

But even that’s still a minor prick (no pun intended) compared to the absolute uselessness of talking about Pakistan’s soft image.

When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won her Oscar for Saving Face, everyone rejoiced (aside from a few prize assholes). That’s fair enough – a successful Pakistani woman won a prestigious award. Did it show up Pakistan’s soft side? “Finally some good news for Pakistan!” was the refrain heard around the world.

But one of the many inherent gifts of being a Pakistani is a wonderful lack of self-awareness. Even if you manage to overcome it individually, as a collective whole there’s no escaping it. SOC (name’s a mouthful, don’t mind me) winning was rightly lauded, but amidst all the high-fives everyone seemingly forgot what her documentary actually was about; a Pakistani doctor coming back to help victims of acid attacks.

How many hacks with tweets and facebook statuses and blogs and op-eds, writing about SOC’s win, dealt with the very severe issue of what her documentary touched on? How many actually thought, ‘oh shit, she won an Oscar! let’s watch Saving Face and try to raise awareness of victims of acid attacks, or at least find a way to donate/fund Dr. Mohammad Jawad? Hell, how many ended up watching the documentary itself?

Pakistan’s not a great country. Pakistan’s not a lovely country. Pakistan’s an absolute mess – a cesspit of misogyny, rent-a-tit politicians, corruption, reckless amoral journalists, a ratings hungry self-flagellating media, violence, sectarianism (institutionalized and otherwise), regressive social conservatism, religious fanaticism, and finally, a military establishment that embodies all of this.

The sooner Pakistanis realize that very real and absolute nature of this ‘lovely country’, the sooner relevant pieces can be torched and rebuilt.

And fuck Hello!

RIP Sifwat Ghayur

Often for many of us, suicide bombs are an atrocity that affect us in indirect ways. ‘x people dead in a blast in Peshawar’ – it’s harrowing, frightening, disgusting and a whole lot of other adjectives, but it’s rarely personal. This is particularly evident in the ‘blogosphere’ which is largely populated by upper class citizens and overseas Pakistanis. Though I need to clarify that I’m not having a go at anyone at all.

For me too, most of the time these were just figures. Occasionally I’d come to know that someone who was an uncle of a close friend of mine passed away (Asfandyar Amir Zeb) but it’d still seem distant. But today things are different. Sifwat Ghayur was a college roommate of my dad’s, and was a close friend of both my parents when they were in the Civil Services Academy. He was a man who helped pay for the education of his sister’s children (whether it was school or university), and he was steadfast in his opposition to the taliban, an opposition that manifested itself ideologically as much as in bureaucratic/physical terms. It was for his very real opposition that he lost his life today.

As easy as it seems to be to ask for the death of every talib or to ask for the US to pull out of Afghanistan and for Pakistan to detach itself from the US effort in Afghanistan, all of that quite simply ignores the taliban ideology, the very basis of these sub-human scum. That ideology will not be defeated solely by gunships and drones, or by acquiesing to what the taliban want by letting them be. Both strategem will only create further Sifwat’s – great men brought down by cockroaches simply because of their opposition to them.

And it is this ideology, in it’s nucleus, that must be obliterated. Because when you tear apart the socio-political layers of Islamic fundamentalism, it comes down simply to Wahhabism. And that is what we must struggle against every single day to reclaim the lives of people like Sifwat Ghayur, Pir Hafiz Rafeeullah and the countless other victims of taliban terrorism whose names I unashamedly don’t know.

Rest in peace Sifwat Ghayur, the world is a lesser place today.

Of Pakistan, the failed states index and patriotism

I’m not the most patriotic Pakistani you’ll ever see – whether that’s in real life or the blogosphere. I don’t know why that is – god knows I used to ‘patriotic’ in my teens. But over the years I’ve managed to find myself distanced from the idea of being a ‘pakistani’ – in the sense that it forms a considerable part of my identity. I am technically a Pakistani – I was born in Karachi and grew up within the four provinces of this country, but if someone were to ask me tomorrow who I am, my reply wouldn’t be, “a Pakistani.” It isn’t because i’m particularly ashamed of belonging to this country – i’m not; but I definitely don’t feel the pride that some do when they term themselves Pakistanis. Now part of that is because I’m not certain how proud one can be to belong to a state; after all, I didn’t choose to be born in Karachi. I had no say in the matter at all. I had no say in growing up surrounded by Pakistanis, and I sure as hell had no say in whether or not I was able to induce myself into Pakistani culture. Hell, so many of us grow up and want to break away from the ‘conservative, myopic and misogynistic’ Pakistani society, so at what point in time do people who espouse the same views feel proud of belonging to a country with societies based along those lines?

I bring all of this up because of the Failed States Index. For many, it’s a shocking and deplorable assessment of Pakistan. ‘Our country’, they posit, ‘is not a failed state.’ Maybe there’s some truth to that. Some. But how many of these very people would deplore the current state of the country? It’s politics, it’s economics and it’s power struggles? Yet, when I see the FSI I feel nothing. It doesn’t rankle me, nor does it surprise me.

You see, the biggest gripe I have with people who talk about Pakistan’s ‘image’ abroad, and about trying to change that and showing people that there’s more to Pakistan is that for them there exists a different Pakistan. For them, a Pakistan exists full of opportunities and wealth. But that isn’t Pakistan. The Pakistan of Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys, of Land Rovers and Beamers, of Les Pauls and Raves, of Absoluts and Finlandias doesn’t exist for the vast majority of Pakistanis. Do you have parents who can send you abroad for Bachelors and Masters degrees? Well done – you belong to less than 1% of the population of Pakistan. Your opportunities are not available to most Pakistanis. Your world, your bubble, is quite different.

So when we talk about ‘our’ Pakistan and it’s ‘image’, when we talk about the FSI and it’s rating of ‘our’ Pakistan, we’re not only incredibly wrong but equally remarkably naive.

Humour my cursory glance of the FSI report:

  • I-1 = 8.3. Of course we’ve got mounting demographic pressures – linked directly to our economic fallibilities. Poor families produce more, because for them rather than a greater burden it means more kids to send out on the streets to beg or work for pathetic wages. More childen, more money.
  • I-2 = 8.6. I don’t think this deserves explanation. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the term ‘Displacement’ by now. Or better yet, IDPs.
  • I-3 = 9.6. This does seem a bit sensational. Christians, Sikhs, Hindus are socially excluded, but 9.6 would mean regular attacks on minorities and more than just ‘exclusion’ – it ought to mean apartheid. Yet, though Pakistan is nowhere near being even remotely just when it comes to dealing with minorities, I don’t think we’re an apartheid state.
  • I-4 = 8.3. Again, self-explanatory. I don’t have much here in terms of figures and all, but there is a sense – there is hope – that the brain drain is lessening. My generation is more profoundly aware of the fallacies of Pakistan and seems to be more interested in helping avert the literal failing of the state than previous generations, and maybe in the future Pakistan will be safer on this front, at least.
  • I-5 = 8.8. Uneven economic development along group lines. I’m surprised this isn’t higher. There has been a sense of trickle down wealth – Musharraf did help create a burgeoning middle class – but every effort from Zardari and co. points the dismissal of the same middle class. Plus, what’s that I hear you say? “The rich get richer”?
  • I-6 = 6.4. Not there, yet.
  • I-7 = 9.1. Ahh yes. The delegitimization of the state. I’ve said it before, but the biggest threat to Pakistani sovereignty is not the US or India, but the taliban.
  • I-8 = 7.5. Should be higher I think. We aren’t seeing the extinction of public services, but they do cater primarily to the elite. If you’re poor and you’ve been robbed or need medical help, you’re shit out of luck buddy.
  • I-9 = 8.9. Arbitrary application of law? You gotta be kidding me guy. That term was made for Pakistan. I mean, we’ve got lawyers who build rooms on land that doesn’t belong to them, and then when the High Court tells them the construction was illegal and orders the police to raze it, the lawyers go beat up the police! The long arm of the law bitches – it’s going straight up your ass the place where the sun doesn’t shine.
  • I-10 = 9.5. Again, self explanatory.
  • I-11 = 9.6. This is a bit harsh. We do have factionalized elites, but neither of them have – at least overtly – authorized or desired violence.
  • I-12 = 9.5. Well, the US wants our babies, so I guess this has got to be high. Though additionally the dependence/intervention is based on how much Pakistan is dependent on foreign aid – so that at least clears some of it up.

Aside from the very few harsh assessments of Pakistan, does any of that read wrong? If we look past “Pakistan is tenth of the index of failed/failing states” and we study the scores, it tends to make far, far more sense.

Now to some extent, the FSI seems flawed. North Korea, e.g, is 17th. Now, by and large, the life of an average Pakistani citizen is potentially brighter than their North Korean counterpart. If you can string together the cash, you can actually obtain a radio that doesn’t lie about the Pakistani cricket team’s travails internationally. Also, despite everything, PTV won’t you tell you that Kim Jong-Il doesn’t go to the loo. Yet our GDP per capita languishes around $2.2k p/a, while that of North Korea (as per ’08) is around $1k. So, compared to an isolationist state run by a dictator, just how badly are we doing in relative terms?

Now broadly speaking in politics the biggest indicator of a failed state is the inability of the state to protect its own citizens. Depending on how you view things, that indicator can be limited to physical violence (as in the Hobbesian state or Weberian state) or it can be broadened to include the economy, health, education etc. In the latter, ‘security’ is deeper, because in the modern world so as to avail the best opportunities (or any at all) one needs education, and in our era money plays a far bigger role in life. Health too becomes important – if you die because you starved, or because you contracted hepatitis B, the government can be called to fault because they didn’t purify water sources, or they didn’t distribute food or impose export quotas and so on. Death, afte rall, is the opposite of the security.

In this latter, broader definition of what constitutes a failed state, the FSI is extremely relevant. It looks not just at the physical destruction of a state, but at the very fabric of it. Lebanon, e.g, is a state with a border dispute and with a far violent state bordering it (Israel), yet despite Syrian and Iranian intervention (Hezbollah), that state still remains lower than us on the FSI.

Now, I don’t see Pakistan failing as a state anytime soon. I genuinely don’t. Somehow, despite the myriad issues the state of Pakistan has faced, it’s political and economic elites have always managed to sustain the state, even if for their own purposes. That will, for better or for worse, continue. But what constitutes a failed state for those very elites, and what constitutes a failed state for the daughter of a farm worker who finds herself gang-raped, with the jirga/police doing fuck all is quite different. For some guy whose bought his first piece of land, only to realize it was a scam and then find himself thrust out by the Pakistani judicial system, the state is a failure. For the IDPs who now head back to Swat and find themselves amidst a massive clusterfuck, threatened by the taliban from the left and facing friendly fire from Pakistani apaches, Pakistan represents a failed state because it neglected the security of these citizens of the state.

So, despite the inherent sensationalist nature of the FSI report, and the instrinsic complexities of trying to ascertain the level of ‘failure’ of a state, what does the report say that so many of us haven’t already mentioned on blogs and in the papers? So why the faux-outrage? If there is any, of course.

Pakistan and Ahmadis

I don’t have much to say on the events of yesterday, mostly because I didn’t watch most of the coverage and read up due to the fact that I’m in the middle of my exams. Suffice to say, I feel like committing mass genocide where I round up most of the Jamaat-e-Islami, ISI, members of the Punjab Govt over the past 2-3 decades and Hamid Mir. I feel embarrased and enraged to be a Pakistani, and I feel repulsed and disgusted. As a Pakistani optimism with regards to the state and it’s behaviour, or the behaviour of Pakistanis in general doesn’t tend to exist. Yet, yesterday was a new low – and the worst part of it is that the fallout (which’ll be non-existent) will help us reach a lower low, if you can forgive the tautology.

Anyway, I’ll just post a few links instead that have better enunciated my thoughts:

Tazeen’s We all have blood on our hands!, Cafe Pyala’s The Original Sin, Mehreen’s  Of Ahmadi’s 298-B and Pakistani hypocrisy and finally, kaalakawa’s Hanging My Head In Shame.

Heroes

I was going to write out my thoughts on our esteemed representatives who decided to come back to Pakistan after being faced with scanners before entry into Washington. Ultimately, as much as I find the introduction of extra scanners and the “list” (14 or so countries defined as hotbeds of terrorism whose citizens/travellers are to be scrutinzed that little bit more) deplorable, you have to suck it up. Why? Cause that’s the way shit rolls. Fighting these little annoying battles are largely worthless, in my worthless opinion. Just leads to unnecessary fixation, when the broader issues get sidelined because they’re ostensibly less tangible.

But I digress. I can’t be bothered to write out my thoughts really, though this snarky NYT piece does a good job I suppose of elucidating some of the hypocrisy inherent in people like these.

Instead, I’ll just listen to one of the best records I’ve heard in 2010 (which itself has been a fantastic year for music already).

Eduardo Santos

So I’ve been reading Barry Buzan’s People, States and Fear for my Intl. Security course, and I came across this rather brilliant quote from the ex-Colombian President, Eduardo Santos:

“What we are doing is building up armies that weigh nothing in the international scale, but which are juggernauts for the internal life of each country. Each country is being occupied by its own army.”

Now I cannot help but be crack a smile at just how true that sounds in relation to Pakistan.

The Pakistani tradition of cyclical retardation

Pakistanis as a people are a curious bunch. Sometimes we’ll be passionate and full of cunning; our hearts will be full of love and trust. On other occasions, we’ll be cynical and downright stupid, playing out the same beaten arguments again and again for no reason whatsoever.

Despite the fact that it is clear as day that the taliban problem needs to be addressed, at least in half, by the military, some “intellectuals” will still feel it is their duty (to the gods of idiocy) to argue otherwise.

Step forward, Ansar Abbasi:

 

We are on a suicide mission. At a time when our sovereignty is seriously threatened and is being violated and our foreign policy being entirely run on alien diktat, Pakistanis are being made the scapegoats on a daily basis as their lives serve as fodder for the US war on terror, imposed on us on Washington’s terms.


Initially it was General Musharraf, who after 9/11 served as Washington’s poodle and badly divided the nation. And now it is the democratically elected but NRO-laundered regime that has owned the US war as its own war.

And who is it that is threatening our sovereignty then? The US? An ally who attached conditions to aid just like any state? You wouldn’t be talking about the taliban now would you?

Ah yes, the US War on Terror. Surely it can’t be our war, despite you know, the taliban routinely killing Pakistanis. Or, you know, taking control of Pakistani territory and cutely negotiating a huge chunk of it for themselves (Swat). You do know that that’s also a violation of our sovereignty, right?

 

When last year, the only time the issue was ever referred to parliament in nine years, the people’s representatives unanimously disowned this war and without even a single dissenting voice passed a resolution demanding a homegrown solution to extremism and terrorism through a dialogue. But who cares what the people say.


That’s fair. The Pakistani people got their wish, to an extent, with the talks that handed Swat over the taliban. Ofcourse, the taliban then decide to flounce over to Buner – 60km from Islamabad. Isn’t that when the people of Pakistan thought, “oh shit. they’re coming closer to us!” And so Pakistan woke up. When I say Pakistan, btw, I mean the powerful Punjabis and Sindhis, because lets face it: what are a couple of thousand pashtun deaths eh? Sharia Law and lashing of girls is a-okay as long as it happens in the NWFP. Or Afghanistan!

I haven’t even touched on the argument that you can’t really negotiate with the taliban either. By that I don’t mean a “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” stance. Fuck that. What I mean is that there is nothing we can realistically give the taliban. What do they want? NATO/US forces out of Afghanistan? We can’t do that. Sharia law in Pakistan? Nops. Swat? Not really. I mean okay, the government might give it over cause who cares, it’s Swat, but a government can’t hand over a substantial piece of the country to a militant group. What next? Rich kids with Uzis owning Defence in Lahore?

So, I ask again Ansar Abbasi, what can we give to the taliban?

 

Blah blah blah blah blah general banalities blah blah blah blah vague statements that are on the mark – because they’re vague blah blah blah blah safe rhetoric blah blah blah another generalization blah blah blah safe moral argument blah blah blah.


Fair enough.

 

We don’t want our people to be killed but others do. We don’t want our army to be dragged in a situation where it is compelled to use its muscle against its own people and get unpopular but others do. We don’t desire to see brothers killing brothers here but others do.


Wahey! The reason for the title of the post! The comeback of the same godawful, 10th grade level arguments! YES!

Our army kind of got us into this mess you know, by, um, training people like these cuntchops? That said, it is unfortunately the infantry that gets screwed over. That is a shame. People like Col. Imam are the ones who ought to find themselves facing a blunt knife heading towards their testicles.

 

But what we want and desire cannot be achieved if we follow the foreign dictat. It can’t be achieved through military options either. It can be effectively achieved only through a process of dialogue, rethinking of our strategy, pondering into the whole situation to address the root causes, the US war on terror, drone attacks, enslavement of Islamabad to the whims and wishes of Washington and US and Nato forces presence in Afghanistan. A political initiative in line with the unanimous resolution adopted by the parliament last year is thus a vital and urgent need. Terrorism is condemnable but it cannot be defeated only through the use of force, which is counter productive.


Come on now. Dialogue schmialogue. Unless you can, through dialogue, ensure that the state of Pakistan maintains its sovereignty and can enforce provincial and federal laws throughout the country. But you can’t do that now can you? Root causes of terrorism? How about thirst for power, religious fanaticism fostered in unchecked Madrassahs, a ‘better’ life by virtue of the extraordinary amounts of cash channelled to terrorists, training provided by ‘rogue’ members of the Pakistani Army/ISI and so on?

Terrorism is condemnable? What the fuck is this wimpish league? Shit. I can’t remember what Wikipedia calls ‘vague’ language but the word they use is brilliant for this half-assed twattery. Blowing up women and children in Peshawar is condemnable?

 

This is precisely what is happening in Pakistan. Washington would not like this but we need to focus on political means instead of entirely depending on the military option, which should remain restricted and quick. The US war on terror is neither in the interest of Muslims nor in favour of Pakistan. Therefore, the US war, now owned by our rulers and fought in the fashion the US expects us to fight, is not our war and it will never be.


The War on Terror isn’t in the interest of muslims? It isn’t in our interest to weed out a fanatic element of Islam that wants to do nothing more than distort and pillage the religion and its teachings? It isn’t in our interest to ensure that an ideology like that of the taliban at the very least takes on a non-militaristic route? It isn’t in our interest to ensure that muslim women aren’t whipped because they were talking to a guy who wasn’t their father/brother? It isn’t in our interest to ensure that a man who doesn’t want to keep a beard is lashed to the seventh circle of hell?

We do fuck all (if not encourage) to take care of a bastardization of Islam, but when someone else wants to have a crack at it we throw a fucking strop? As a muslim if I’m going abroad I’d rather not have Visa problems and security problems simply because I belong to a faith whose followers are a bunch of tossers who don’t want to help clean their goddamn backyard.

Pakistan is stuck in a cycle – a cycle of violence, arguments, justifications, democracies and dictatorships. It rises inherently from a seemingly imbedded antipathy towards anyone who dares to criticize us, no matter how true their criticism rings. That’s why our arguments never develop from the same tired soundbytes. That’s why we never listen to what the other party says and take that into account, in order to better streamline our positions. That’s why one thrown plate of pudding is followed by another, and another, till infinity.

And just as I say that, Imran Khan pops up with his usual gems.

I don’t think it’s possible to even cry anymore.

Ironing

Isn’t it ironic that just as most people are up in arms over the patently misunderstood Kerry-Lugar Bill, with the primary criticism being that it violates our sovereignty, the GHQ ends up being invaded by the TTP, a collective of terrorists who have for the past 3-4 years been regularly violating our sovereignty?

But that would require an understanding of what sovereignty is. Amongst other things, it is to paraphrase Weber, “the monopoly that a government possesses over violence.” It’s just not questions of interference from other states.

However, if I may stoop down to their level, it begs a question. What’s better: the taliban subverting the state’s sovereignty via violence and in the process killing scores of hundreds of Pakistanis, OR, the US violating our sovereignty by handing us $1.5b each year and attaching some conditions to it?

All I’ll say is, for the past half decade we’ve been okay on the taliban regularly dismantling whatever writ or sovereignty the state possessed. It’s amusing that the question only arises when the US is brought up.

A facepalm is only so appropriate

This was in the letters part of today’s The News:

Friday, October 09, 2009
The government has denied the presence of Blackwater or Xe International personnel in Pakistan. I have seen six men working as bodyguards of a senior US diplomat in Peshawar myself and these men looked as if they were the Blackwater type. Since the government denies their presence, my question to it is that if tomorrow one of these security men was to shoot a Pakistani — as has happened in Iraq — who will be held responsible and punished?

Saman Basir

Peshawar

Yes. I’ve even, for the sake of clarity, bolded what I think is the logically infallible part.

This, is the only sentiment for that letter:

Frighteningly, it’s not that she’s alone in this. Her discernment, and that of others like her, has found its way into the general publishing ability of a fair few ‘journos’. In other words – there are some fucking morons thick enough to think that just because some random ass nutcrackers apply preconceptions to reality, it automatically becomes ‘newsworthy’.

9/11

So it’s the eighth anniversay today of September 11th, 2001.  Over the past couple of days I’ve seen some embarrassing and shocking articles/youtube vids put up by people on my facebook (FFS) relating to how 9/11 was part of the New World Order bollocks to how it was planned and operated by the Bush administration.

What shocks me most, aside from the ludicrousness of these “theories” is the complete failure of most of their proponents when it comes to looking up official responses to their criticisms or the original story as it is. Loose Change for example omits, subverts and bastardizes many official accounts in order to shape their criticisms better. They present a changed official story that fits in with their mundane criticisms, in the process alluding to out-of-context quotes and indulging in frivilous quote-mining and attribution to ‘sources’ that really don’t exist.

That said, I suppose there’s an argument to be made about the complicitness of the US in terms of negligence. That is to say that maybe they could’ve been smarter, sharper and better prepared. But that is quite a long way from arguing that they deliberately perpetrated this abhorrent act of terrorism (though all acts of terrorism are abhorrent, morally).

9/11 was an act that has and will define our generation, mostly through it’s after-effects. The Asian Tsunami took more lives, and Srebenica was more horrid, but one was a natural disaster and the other occurred at war-time. But 9/11 was a show of force and terrorism that took apart one of the United States’ most famous landmarks, and it’s major economic hub. It was a blow to a great city, and it was frightening because of how it was perpetrated. For better or for worse, it changed the lives of billions around the world – it changed politics and it changed the very idea of international security.

102 Minutes That Changed America is a documentary that shows amateur and news footage of 9/11 without narration, seamlessly blending videos together to show a different perspective to what happened. It shows the (in)humanity of what happened, and it shows the fear and chaos that rippled through NYC and it’s habitants as the two towers were hit, and as they ultimately collapsed. It is not easy viewing, but it must be watched, if in spurts of 30 minutes a day.

Anyway, I sincerely hope no other country on earth ever has to go through something like this.