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Friday, November 30, 2007

Raja Paurava and Alexander — Salman Rashid

Thank you Salman Rashid and Ejaz Haider! This column needs to be read and reflected upon. There is a lot of truth here for us. History and past is not a line drawn in sand. Denial can only turn us into an ostrich. And in degrees we are in denial. Please read and circulate.

FOOTLOOSE: On Raja Paurava and Alexander — Salman Rashid

We do not celebrate Paurava; we name no roads after him and do not teach our children of his lofty character because he shines in our pre-Islamic darkness. But can we today name even one leader possessed of just a shadow of the integrity and character shown by Raja Paurava?

I lament that we in Pakistan, those of us whose ancestors converted to Islam, insist on denying our pre-conversion history. For us, it simply does not exist. We invent tales of imaginary ancestors having arrived in the subcontinent duly converted to the ‘one and only true faith’ from some place in Iran or Central Asia. Pride of place of course goes to all those who subscribe to the yarn of their ancestors’ heroic overland trek direct from Mecca. I know of families who possess genealogical charts connecting them to prophets of yore and, in one case, even to Adam himself!

Consequently, everything that transpired in this great and wonderful land of the Sindhu River before the arrival of these august (albeit imaginary) personalities was Kafir. To be proud of it is criminal; to acknowledge it negligent of religious duty. Not surprising then that some of us even have a problem mentioning Moen jo Daro and Harappa.

Since all our imaginary Islamic ancestors came from the west, we somehow got it into our heads that all those who came from that direction were also necessarily Muslims. An ‘historian’ at Taxila once told me that Alexander the Macedonian was one of Islam’s greatest heroes. Similarly, on a visit to the village of Mong (Mandi Bahauddin) many years ago, a man floored me by not only commending Alexander as a personality of the Scripture but also for reviling Paurava (Porus in Greek) as a Hindu. But history remembers Raja Paurava as a man of rare character.

The Battle of the Hydaspes (Jhelum River) was fought in the year 326 BCE on a beautiful morning in late May after a night of torrential rain. The crystalline blue sky would have been piled up with cumulus when Paurava’s Punjabis advanced to meet their foe the Macedonian, Greek, Scythian, Persian and even a brigade of Punjabi troops from Taxila. From even before day broke, it was a hard fought contest. And before the sun had started to wester, the Punjabis were in disarray. The battle had been lost.

Arrian, the Greek historian, writing four hundred years after this epic battle pays tribute to Raja Paurava thus — and there can be no greater tribute for it comes from a foreigner: ‘Throughout the action Porus proved himself a man indeed, not only as a commander but as a solider of the truest courage...his behaviour was very different from that of the Persian King Darius: unlike Darius, he did not lead the scramble to save his own skin ... [but] fought bravely on.’

With all his units dispersed, Paurava, himself grievously wounded in the right shoulder, eventually submitted to an old philosopher friend of his and permitted himself to be led into Alexander’s presence. Arrian recalls that encounter: ‘[Alexander] looked at his adversary with admiration: he was a magnificent figure of a man, five cubits high and of great personal beauty.’ The cubit being variable in various parts of Greece, this figure would yet mean that Paurava was no less than seven feet tall! And Alexander of middling stature would have had to look up into those dark eyes and the sweat-streaked face.

It was then that the famous exchange took place that even the most ignorant among us know of. What, asked Alexander, would Paurava wish that the conqueror do with him and Paurava replied that he wished to be treated as a king. This much we all know. But Alexander had a farther query. ‘For my part your request shall be granted. But is there not something you would wish for yourself? Ask it.’ And Paurava the Punjabi who we are ashamed to claim as our own said that everything was contained in this one request.

Peace was made between the victor and the vanquished and it has been said that this was one battle where both sides emerged victorious. Alexander returned Paurava’s kingdom to him and shortly after the death of the king of Taxila asked Paurava to look after the affairs of that kingdom as well. Just three years after this great battle on the Jhelum, Alexander died under mysterious circumstances in Babylon. That was June 323 BCE. Within years, the great Raja Paurava was assassinated and the story seems to have ended. But not quite.

In 44 CE, Taxila was visited by a Greek philosopher named Apollonius. The philosopher’s account (kept by his diarist) tells us of two temples, one outside the city walls and the other by the main street leading to the king’s palace. Both temples had large copper plate murals adorning their walls. The murals depicted scenes of battle from the struggle that had taken place on the banks of the Jhelum River three hundred and sixty-seven years earlier.

The account marvels at the finesse of the renditions: the colours and the forms were as though one were watching a real scene frozen in time. The murals in both the temples depicted Raja Paurava in defeat. The account goes on to tell us that these murals were commissioned by Raja Paurava when news of the death of Alexander arrived in Taxila. Consider: Alexander was dead in distant Babylon, his Greek garrisons in the Sindhu Valley had deserted and Paurava was now the unquestioned master of this country. As sole sovereign, he could have ordered the murals to turn history around and depict him in glorious victory and Alexander in abject and shameful defeat.

But the Punjabi king was not just great in physical stature; he possessed also a soaring spirit and largesse of the heart that few of us know. The king ordered the murals, so it is recorded by Apollonius’ diarist, in order not only to acknowledge his friendship with Alexander, but also to preserve history as it had actually unfolded. In his wisdom the king knew that the creative passage of time was bound to alter history.

When the murals were put up, Taxila was what we today know as the Bhir mound. Two hundred years later, the Indo-Greeks shifted it to the remains we today call Sirkap. It is evident that the murals were admired to be moved to the new city. In the subsequent two hundred odd years the city was rebuilt several times as the various cultural layers show. Each time the murals were safely removed to a new site or they would not have survived three and a half centuries. Finally, in 25 CE Taxila was levelled by a severe earthquake. And when nineteen years later Apollonius arrived, the city was being rebuilt under a Parthian king and the murals had faithfully been reinstalled at the brand new temples. History was not permitted to be tainted.

We do not celebrate Paurava; we name no roads after him and do not teach our children of his lofty character because he shines in our pre-Islamic darkness. But can we today name even one leader possessed of just a shadow of the integrity and character shown by Raja Paurava?

Salman Rashid is a travel writer and knows Pakistan like the back of his hand\11\30\story_30-11-2007_pg3_5

Doomed to Repeat: October 12, 1999 - November 28, 2007

Where were you then, where are you today? Where was Pakistan then and where is it at today? And before we pause to ponder over the answers to above we should also briefly think about the course are we heading for from today.

In 1999 Pakistan was tethering on the brink of bankruptcy of a different kind. The foreign exchange reserves were at an all time low. The bug in Mr. Sharif's ears has been telling him to become an all powerful Amir ul Momineen. He, who professes the restoration of 'Nov . 3 Judiciary' as a first precondition had sent his goons to storm and cow the same Judiciary. To change Lord Acton's words slightly - "power corrupts, absolute power maddens".

Brothers Al Sharifosky had seemingly lost their marbles then.

The for-life chairperson of Pee-Pee-Pee, the lady in white and green with a tasbih had already left Pakistan under a cloud. Gross corruption cases against her and her beloved Mr. Ten or Mr. Fifteen Percent, more serious charges of ethnic cleansing (they were worded as extra judicial killing) leveled at her government by a President appointed by her Mr. Leghari.

Today, the former general is eating his mangoes.

The NA has completed its term. Foreign Exchange reserves are at a respectable level. Power has been devolved some. Electronic Media Revolution is in place (despite the temporary teething troubles.) Emergency is to be lifted December 16, 2007 and elections to be held on January 8, 2008.

In a general sense - we and the country both are a little better off today than we were on October 12 in 1999.

But a skeptic might say we are worse off today. There is less law and order in the country. Religious fanaticism is at an all time high. Inflation is gnawing at the poor and middle classes. Livelihood and safety is a greater issue.

And a handful of intelligentsia - the lawyers, journalists, activists and some students are fighting. Am sorry for this reality check - but where are the people?

Fighting for what? For a return of the Sharifs and the Bhuttos?

Those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Is this our death wish?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

MEDIA-PAKISTAN: TV Talk Shows Take to the Streets - Literally - Zofeen Ebrahim

KARACHI, Nov 28 (IPS) - The question on the TV talk show was simple. Celebrity anchor Hamid Mir asks guests from various political parties if they are prepared to participate in a general election under emergency rule. As the cameras roll, the guests squirm uncomfortably in their seats and make non-committal noises.

But it was a show that is never going to be aired. For Mir’s popular ‘Capital Talk’ has been banned along with Geo TV, the private channel that showed it on weekdays until President Pervez Musharraf clamped emergency rule on the country on Nov. 3.

Never one to give up, Mir has persisted with 'Capital Talk' through what he calls his ‘road show’, simulating on the streets a studio and conducting a talk show with all the trappings of live broadcast minus the commercial breaks. Mir has seen worse during the days when he did street theatre during the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq’s 11-year regime (1977-1988).

Mir says he finds the experience exhilarating, especially the large live audiences, even if they are unruly and brimming with emotion that often burst into paroxysms of slogan-shouting against Musharraf. [for more click on the heading]

a response

who am i?
a transient
from here and there
floating as a cloud
with my partner in crime
for the alloted three score
....................and ten
reading, wondering, musing

who are we?
a spec of sand
on the vast shoreline
...............of history
being washed by
...............waves upon waves
days upon nights
...............doing nothing
...............going nowhere
...............and tragically
making no difference

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Candidates Contesting in Multi Ridings

With high profile candidates contesting from more than one seat, the travesty become evident if they win from more than one seat. By law they have to vacate the other seat/s.

The Government has to organize polling in those seats again. It costs approx $300,000 to $450,000 to set the machinery for one bye-election. These costs can be avoided directly or indirectly.

In Pakistan in 1997, a parliamentarian spent, on average, about $120,000 in order to get elected. Corporate financing of political parties is common even in well-developed democracies, but in South Asia comprehensive legislation to regulate these finances is often lacking or weakly enforced. LINK

These costs were an average from 1997. In 2007 the costs may well be between $150,000 to $240,000 per seat.

Directly: A simple amendment to the Election Act whereby a candidate can only contest for one seat in any given election.

Indirectly: Another Amendment to the Elections Act declaring that if a candidate wins more than one seat, the seat/s vacated will be awarded to the candidate in that riding garnering the second highest votes.

This will have the desired effect.

Pakistan's Economic Monster - The Tarbela Dam

Is this writer crying wolf? Any experts here who can shed more light on this? Also, if someone can tell me if the silt can be removed or dealt with more effectively. How do other big dams like the Three River Gorge etc deal with this?

Pakistan's cup of political woes is brimming. Lurking behind is a less obvious and closely guarded economic monster threatening to garrote Pakistan — the rest of the world better watch out for flailing nuclear arms. I am not crying wolf:

Terbela Silting _ A Cause for Red Alert

Tarbela silting: capacity fast declining Tarbela Dam is losing 100 000 cusecs storage capacity every year and with that pace there will be no water available for wheat maturing and cotton sowing after five years. 100 000 cusecs water forms the irrigation supply of 10 days, which means that every year Tarbela will hit the dead level 10 days earlier. The calculation has already proved correct, as the dam had exhausted on March 26 in 2000, on March 15 last year, and on March 6 this year. Increasing water shortages during the Rabi season also substantiate the point; 19% during 2000, 41% in 2001, and 51% this year. "Tarbela Dam was designed to store 9.5 MAF," says an official of Wapda's water wing. Out of it, around 2 MAF was meant to supplement the Kharif sowing during March and April. With silt inflow, the dam's capacity has been reduced to 7.2 MAF - a loss of 2.3 MAF - during the last 26 years. The loss is 0.3 MAF more than of what was kept for the Kharif sowing. A hydrologist said that Pakistan was losing 1% water storage capacity every year while its population was growing by 2.5%.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What opposition? - Fakir S. Ayazuddin

The president has proved himself to be the most outstanding politician in Pakistan, and while he has shown nervousness at times, he has nonetheless emerged as the outright winner in the political sweepstakes. He could not have achieved this without the greed of his adversaries.

Benazir was offered the prime ministership for Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the leader of the PPP in the National Assembly, three times by Musharraf. She refused all three times, and would settle for none other than herself. The cost to her party cannot be calculated. The party standing in the Punjab has been eroded, and today it is non-existent. She has absolutely no one she can blame except herself. Somehow the spell she has on the Americans holds her in good stead, but even that was shattered when Negroponte refused to meet with her on his recent trip. The PPP hierarchy is still in a state of shock, but none dares to ask Benazir why she has brought the party to such a state. It is almost as if she deliberately set about destroying the position of the PPP in the political games that are being played out. The street power in Sindh was shown as hollow. And completely non-existent in the Punjab.

After the initial reception at Karachi, the numbers just vanished, and try as she did, nobody showed up. In Larkana her home it was worse, and after spending just one day she rushed back to Karachi. The Western media also packed their bags, and went back to seek other more sensational spots, for the excitement of an adoring mob failed to materialise. In a word she was passé. After Lahore and Islamabad, the picture was clear. The chief minister of Punjab had done his homework, and Benazir had played into Musharraf's hand by her confrontational stance. This proof was laid before Negroponte, along with the NRO, which showed the US that Musharraf had indeed kept his word by pardoning her considerable corrupt practices. This pardon may prove extraordinarily expensive for the president in the end. She, however, had no cause for her obdurate stance. Will the PPP consider the damage to her party? Her insistence on a short date for the elections has brought a date of January 8, 2008 a scant six weeks away. When I asked some PPP stalwarts, they were not hopeful of putting together a proper fight in such a short time, nor do they have the funds. It is unlikely that she will open the Bhutto accounts for them!

[for more click on the heading]

Do business and Islam mix? Yes, if you are the Aga Khan - By G. PASCAL ZACHARY

He is a moderate Muslim religious leader and a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. He is also a twice-married jet-setter, and he owns hundreds of racehorses, valuable stud farms, an exclusive yacht club on Sardinia and a lavish estate near Paris.

He has poured money into poorer, neglected parts of the world, often into businesses as basic as making fish nets, plastic bags and matches, while also teaming up with private equity powerhouses like the Blackstone Group on a huge US$750 million hydroelectric system in Uganda.

And as he tries to present a less threatening face of Islam on the global business stage during a time of war, the Aga Khan - one of the world's wealthiest Muslim investors - preaches the ethical acquisition and use of wealth and financial aid that promotes economic self-reliance among developing countries and their poorest people.

In a rare interview, the Aga Khan, who is chairman of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, a for-profit company based in Geneva, says he is more concerned with the long-term outcomes of his investments than with short-term profits. Rather than fretting daily over the bottom line, he says, he tries to ensure that his businesses become self-sustaining and achieve stability, which he defines as "operational break-even," within a "logical time frame."

The Aga Khan, left, poses with his son and daughter-in-law, Sept. 17, 2006, in Chantilly, northern Paris.
"If you travel the developing world, you see poverty is the driver of tragic despair, and there is the possibility that any means out will be taken," he says in a telephone interview from Paris. By assisting the poor through business, he says, "we are developing protection against extremism."

A classroom at the University of Central Asia, Kazakhstan, founded by the Aga Khan.
The company's main purpose "is to contribute to development," he adds. "It is not a capitalist enterprise that aims at declaring dividends to its shareholders." Central to his ethos is the notion that his investments can prompt other forms of economic growth within a country or region that results in greater employment and hope for the poor.

Economic developments experts say the Aga Khan's activities offer a useful template for others - including philanthropists like Bill Gates and George Soros - who are trying to assist the world's poorest by marrying business practices to social goals, but whose foundation work usually stops short of owning businesses outright in poor countries.

Britain's Prince Charles, left, chats with the Paris-based Aga Khan during their visit to a 900-year-old fort in the northern Afghan village of Altit, Nov. 3, 2006. The Aga Khan maintains close ties to influential leaders from all walks of life.
Paul Collier, an economist at Oxford University who specializes in the problems of poor countries, says he believes that aid agencies could benefit from operating more like venture capitalists - and more like the Aga Khan. "He gets a multiplier effect from his investments that's really lacking in foreign aid," Collier says. "I'm impressed with his way of accepting risk and thinking long term."

The Aga Khan, left, congratulates graduates of a midwife training course in Afghanistan that was sponsored by the Aga Khan Development Network.

Friday, November 23, 2007

He is coming. He is coming!

He is coming. He is coming!

Wily President Gen. Musharraf has pulled another rabbit out of his Commando cap.

Reuters and AFP report that the not-so Sharif will be returning to Pakistan soon. So that is what his recent trip to Saudi America was about?

Makes some sense.

Lift Emergency. Release detainees. Allow political activities. Pressure Pinky. She is so hungry for power that she will have to rethink not participating in the elections.

The more the merrier.

Emperor Sipah IV and the Knights of the Corps will love it. Divide and Rule. The more the merrier easier.

Business as usual in the new parliament?

Hands Off Iran -Chris Hedges

I will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran. I realize this is a desperate and perhaps futile gesture. But an attack on Iran--which appears increasingly likely before the coming presidential election--will unleash a regional conflict of catastrophic proportions. This war, and especially Iranian retaliatory strikes on American targets, will be used to silence domestic dissent and abolish what is left of our civil liberties. It will solidify the slow-motion coup d'état that has been under way since the 9/11 attacks. It could mean the death of the Republic.

Let us hope sanity prevails. But sanity is a rare commodity in a White House that has twisted Trotsky's concept of permanent revolution into a policy of permanent war with nefarious aims--to intimidate and destroy all those classified as foreign opponents, to create permanent instability and fear and to strip citizens of their constitutional rights.

A war with Iran is doomed. It will be no more successful than the Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon in 2006, which failed to break Hezbollah and united most Lebanese behind that militant group. The Israeli bombing did not pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 65 million people whose land mass is three times the size of France?

George W. Bush has shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law. He has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons and defied the Geneva Conventions and human rights law in the treatment of detainees. Most egregious, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public. He seeks to do the same in Iran.

This President is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the "crime of aggression." And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for this crime, if we do not actively defy this government, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others.

[for more click on the heading - thanks AL for this link]

Musharraf relents, Sharif to return to Pakistan - Reuters

Aaj Television quoted Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the ruling PML, as saying that the party was not scared that its former boss Sharif was coming back.

Hussain was probably putting on a brave face, as many of his party could flock to Sharif's banner, given that Musharraf and his intelligence officials appeared to have done a deal.

News that Sharif would soon return, and talk that the emergency might soon be lifted, buoyed the Karachi stock market, which rose 1.4 percent. It has now clawed back much of the 6 percent it shed following the imposition of emergency rule on November3.

[for more click on the heading]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chess At Dupont Circle: Circles of Life

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“Want to play a game (of chess),” said my friend AJ from Fairfax, Va.
“Where are you?”
“You know the games we played at the Dupont Circle?”
“Where are you going with this yara?”
“Look up Wells Tower in the (Washington) Post Magazine today,” AJ said.


Our first summer in the US, we stayed at Hatnett Hall off Dupont Circle in the NW for a few weeks. In the evenings we would walk past the circle and would stop by the chess tables scanning moves.

On the odd occasion when a seat was available I would sit down for a game, or just sit down on a bench and watch the world pass by. One day, immersed in thoughts, I heard “Aap ka is’m e shareef kiya hay” (what is your good name?) I looked around and saw an old man feeding birds talking to himself, one sprawled on the grass, a few in a cluster holding brown bags and a couple in mid twenties. I ran a mental check list of what I had eaten or drunk earlier, and decided to ignore the query, thinking it a figment of my imagination.

Then I heard it again, “Aap ka is’m e shareef kiya hay?”

I looked around again and saw the same couple smiling at me. I replied this time and learned they were peace corps volunteers who had served in India.


Another evening, we were sitting on the bench when I suddenly got up and excused myself. AJ was used to me and said nothing, just nodded. I had spotted this old lady try to cross the Avenue but there was no let up in the traffic. I struck up a conversation with her and offered to help cross the Avenue. We exchanged small talk as I scanned the traffic for the right moment. She asked me from where I was, how long had I been in the US (two weeks). After I helped her cross the Avenue, she turned to thank me and made a point of mentioning that she was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I had learned the language.

Miss Val from my school would have shaken her head and smiled that dimpled smile if she had heard this lady.


Dupont Circle was not a smoke free zone those days. Mary Jane mingled freely with auto emission.

(AJ please reassure CJ that was not the reason why we frequented the Circle)

From the cover story by Wells Tower in the Washington Post Magazine, The Days and Knights of Tom Murphy I learned that the portion of Dupont Circle where they play chess has been christened Chess University of Dupont Circle.

I learned from Murphy that the entire tortuous body of the game's strategy is neatly reducible to three clean principles.
"Number one, king safety" -- above all else protect your king. "Number two, control the center" -- i.e., maintain influence over the board's four center squares. "Number three, free the people and give everyone a healthy job" -- that is, don't oppress your powerful rear echelon behind a torpid row of pawns; stagger your pawn platoon so that your ranking pieces can go to work attacking or defending.

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Tom Murphy: Circles of Life
e4 –c5
................. sirens blare

Nc3 –Nc6
................. Philly unsettles
f4 – g6
................. stints stab
Nf3 – Bg7
................. passions bloom

Bb5 –Nd4
................. obsession ferments

Nxd4 –cxd4
................. on the wall of palms
................. graffiti masquerades

Ne2 – e6
................. clouds fog

d3 – Qa5+
................. chess black and white
................. life all gray
................. living red

The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military - By AHMED QURAISHI

Here is a long article by Mr Ahmed Quraishi in support of the occupying army. He appears authoritative ("according to my sources"). I must confess I had read Mr. Quraishi prior to this. He is critical of NGOs, Geo, Hamid Mir etc. Judge for yourself. To read the full article click on the heading.


In Pakistan, the target is a Pakistani president who refuses to play ball with the United States on Afghanistan, China, and Dr. A.Q. Khan.

To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway:

  • A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role in Washington’s war on terror and predicting his downfall.
  • Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.
  • Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.
  • A campaign waged on Internet where tens of mailing lists and ‘news agencies’ have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the Pakistani military.
  • European- and American-funded Pakistani NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real jobs to work as a makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.
  • U.S. government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding inflation and corruption.
  • Some of Musharraf’s shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.
  • All this groundwork completed and chips in place when the judicial crisis breaks out in March 2007. Even Pakistani politicians surprised at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers campaign, complete with flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media outreach.
  • Currently, students are being recruited and organized into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web sites and ‘online hangouts’. The people behind this effort are mostly unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners, placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No major student association has announced yet that it is behind these student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most journalists covering this story. Only a few students from affluent schools have responded so far and it’s not because the Pakistani government’s countermeasures are effective. They’re not. The reason is that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local NGOs are mostly founded and run by rich, westernized Pakistanis.


As a starter, Islamabad blew the wind out of the visit of Mr. John Negroponte, the no. 2 man in the U.S. State Department, who came to Pakistan last week “to deliver a tough message” to the Pakistani president. Musharraf, to his credit, told him he won’t end emergency rule until all objectives are achieved.

These objectives include:

  • Cleaning up our northern and western parts of the country of all foreign operatives and their domestic pawns.
  • Ensuring that Washington’s plan for regime-change doesn’t succeed.
  • Purging the Pakistani media of all those elements that were willing or unwilling accomplices in the plan to destabilize the country.

Musharraf has also told Washington publicly that “Pakistan is more important than democracy or the constitution.” This is a bold position. This kind of boldness would have served Musharraf a lot had it come a little earlier. But even now, his media management team is unable to make the most out of it.

Washington will not stand by watching as its plan for regime change in Islamabad goes down the drain. In case the Americans insist on interfering in Pakistani affairs, Islamabad, according to my sources, is looking at some tough measures:

  • Cutting off oil supplies to U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials are already enraged at how Afghanistan has turned into a staging ground for sabotage in Pakistan. If Islamabad continues to see Washington acting as a bully, Pakistani officials are seriously considering an announcement where Pakistan, for the first time since October 2001, will deny the United States use of Pakistani soil and air space to transport fuel to Afghanistan.
  • Reviewing Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Islamabad needs to fight terrorists on its border with Afghanistan. But our methods need to be different to Washington’s when it comes to our domestic extremists. This is where Islamabad parts ways with Washington. Pakistani officials are conisdering the option of withdrawing from the war on terror while maintining Pakistan's own war against the terrorists along Afghanistan's border.
  • Talks with the Taliban. Pakistan has no quarrel with Afghanistan’s Taliban. They are Kabul’s internal problem. But if reaching out to Afghan Taliban’s Mullah Omar can have a positive impact on rebellious Pakistani extremists, then this step should be taken. The South Koreans can talk to the Taliban. Karzai has also called for talks with them. It is time that Islamabad does the same.

Here is an Idea Whose Time Has Come

I abhor the euphemism civic society. Find it too elitist. What is wrong with people? Khair, nothing will really change unless people come out. Thus far people have shown a great reluctance to come out in the streets.

Yes, the journalists are being arrested as those lawyers and activists arrested earlier are being released. But sadly, the groundswell of protests is not there.

Anjum Niaz has floated this idea from Madame Justice Nasirah Iqbal:

Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal stands tall once again. Having mobilized her brother judges and activists to give Iftikhar Chaudhry a stunning welcome in Lahore this past June, she is now the convener of Women Action Committee to 'save Pakistan'. Organizing daily indoor meetings at different locations all over Lahore, Justice Iqbal wants to convey their "silent and peaceful protest against the deepening crisis created by imposition of martial law in the garb of emergency by a dictator who wants to install his own cronies through rigged elections in order to perpetuate his own power."

The impressive assembly of women will continue peaceful protests against the imposition of emergency; the unjust removal of upright members of superior judiciary the clamp down on media and the perversion of democracy. "We have resolved to conduct daily prayers and to work for revival of the constitution, restoration of judiciary and rule of law, release of innocent prisoners and holding of free and fair elections under an impartial election commission with access to public by all political parties through free media," says Nasira Iqbal, who perhaps draws her inspiration from her late father-in-law, Allama Iqbal.

"We're giving out black arm bands to as many people as we can till all members of civil society who care can wear them," she continues. "We also request that each citizen stand on the street in front of his/her home, office, shop for five minutes every day with a Pakistan flag in his/her hand between Zuhr and Asr prayers. These individual acts don't constitute an offence and is not hit by Section 144 of the PPC."

[click on the heading to read her column]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A False Choice for Pakistan -By Salman Ahmad

As Pakistan descends into political chaos, much attention has been given to two leaders competing for power -- the current dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and the media-savvy former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. The White House appears to be backing Musharraf as its best bet in the "war on terror," while much of the world's media and Western liberal elite see Bhutto as a democratic savior for a country mired in Islamic fundamentalism.

We supported Musharraf because of his promises to fight extremism, bring accountability into politics, open up an independent media and reduce the immoral gap between Pakistan's rich and poor. But no amount of governmental fear-mongering can make us look the other way while he imposes emergency rule, intimidates the media, dismantles the judiciary and muzzles dissent. Without respect for civil institutions, his flawed government is doomed to fail.

Yet Benazir Bhutto is no savior. The queen of hypocrisy, she has managed to hypnotize Western liberals with her claim to represent progressive elements in the Muslim world. Bhutto is a charlatan. How can she call herself a democrat while also appointing herself head of the Pakistan People's Party for life? Her time as prime minister brought staggering levels of corruption and graft. Bhutto's niece and sister-in-law accuse her of conspiring to murder her own brother, Murtaza, who challenged her power during her second term. She continues to see Pakistan as her personal feudal fiefdom to be plundered. A false prophet of democracy, she threatens to bring back the rule of the gangster rather than the rule of law.

The United States and its allies need to unequivocally support the Pakistani judges, lawyers, journalists and rights activists fighting for the rule of law. A strong Pakistani civil society would provide stability and a powerful institutional deterrent against violence and extremism. It is the best hope for discouraging future political and military actors from grabbing power unilaterally. The reward for such support now could one day be a democratic Muslim country at peace with itself and the world.

[click on the heading for more]

Cystal Gazing

While it is entirely plausible that Mushy is stalling Bushy and waiting for the next Administration to be sworn in, time is a luxury not on his side.

If we can scrutinize the past and project it on the current and future dealings then I’d say that Mushybaba’s public statement are calculated to play the gallery both at home and abroad. The public ‘rebuff’ given to Negroponte will be followed by private reassurances to mai-baap that he would do what they ask for in a few day’s time. This is not a hard sell for both the White House and the Foggy Bottom. They understand the consequences of appearing too poodleish

Tomorrow, (later today) Mushybaba is going to SaudiAmerica. I won’t be surprised if King Abdullah bin Bush arranges a surreptitious pow-wow between Musharraf and Sharif bin Zia. Even a hint of that would be enough to keep Pinkybaby off guard.

Crystal Gazing?

On his return the Emergency will be retired along with his uniform. The detainees will be released. Sharif would make sound bites of returning to Pakistan. Mrs. Zardari will participate in election after threatening to boycott it. Chastened Geo and ARY News and Current Affairs Programming will return to air. The Article 6 issue (treason for tampering with the Constitution will be resolved somehow. Somehow? Ji, the Jadoogar of Jeddah hasn’t replied to my email yet. But he will find a way, rest assured.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Cyber Rebirth of Pak Tea House

Desicritic Raza Rumi introduced me to the cyber rebirth of Pak Tea House in these words:

Pak Tea House is a little corner in the blogosphere that will endeavour to revive the culture of debate, pluralism and tolerance. It has no pretensions nor illusions but the motivation of a few people who want to see Pakistan a better place - where ideas need to counter the forces of commercialism, adverse effects of globalisation and extremism. And, ideas must translate into action that leads us to an equitable, just and healthy society.
The moving spirit and the editor behind Pak Tea House is Raza Rumi who blogs at Jahane Rumi

Pak Tea House has already attracted a few regular contributors – Aasem Bakshi, iFaqeer, Muzaffar, Shaheryar Ali and Yasser Nisar in addition to Raza. LINK

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSome are based in Lahore and Karachi, others in the diaspora from where they hope to bring lively debates and outlooks on a variety of subjects to the internet community first. Later they would like to revive the coffee house experience physically in Lahore and other cities.

Dreams are born, small steps bring the destination closer. If they persist and garner acceptance and support of friends and well wishers they may replicate a cyber Pak Tea House in a few years.

* * * * *

The Cyber Rebirth of Pak Tea House Part II

Little is know of the origins of Pak Tea House on the Mall in Lahore. Some have mentioned that before the great divide two Sikh brothers owned Indian Coffee House and Indian Tea House on the Mall across from each other.They migrated to Delhi and opened Indian Coffee House off Connaught Circle. The Lahore one reopened as Pak Tea House and became the unofficial headquarters of an eclectic bunch of writers, artists, musicians and the Halqa e Arbab e Zauq.

Halqa e Arbab e Zauq was formed on April 29, 1939 as Baz’m e Dastaan Goyaan. Later its name was changed to Halqa. It attracted many leading names of the Progressive Writers Movement that was formed in 1935 in London and included Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmed Faraz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Muneer Niazi, Mira Ji, Kamal Rizvi, Nasir Kazmi, Professor Sayyid Sajjad Rizavi, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and Intezar Hussain. [link wikipedia]

Most of these writers either belonged to or were influenced by the Progressive Writers Movement that was formed in 1935 in London and later in 1936 in India under Sajjad Zaheer. In the list of members you will find a who-is-who of writers and artists such as:

Prof. Zoe Ansari, Dr M. D. Taseer, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer, Prof Ahmed Ali, Dr Nusrat Jehan, Rashid Jahan, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Ahmed Faraz, Kaifi Azmi, Krishan Chander, Ismat Chughtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Josh Malihabadi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Munshi Premchand, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Majaz Lucknawi, Sahir Ludhianvi. (This list is taken from wikipedia and personally I have doubts if Ahmed Nadim Qasmi and Ahmed Faraz belonged to the Movement or were merely sympathizers.) [Progressive Writers' Movement]

Poet Ali Sardar Jafri writes:
Progressive Movement was a spectrum of different shades of political and literary opinions with Prem Chand, a confirmed believer in Gandhism at one end, and Sajjad Zaheer, a confirmed Marxist, at the other end. In between them were various other shades including non-conformists, but every one of them interested in the freedom of the country and glory of literature.

The basic and fundamental postulate of the Progressive Writers Movement is the unity of art, use and beauty. It is not a violent departure from the past or an angry revolt against tradition as such, although we did reject certain unhealthy and obscurantist trends. And that is how our path was new. What we tried to do was a reiteration of the values getting lost in modern commercial age, or distorted under the weight of the decaying social systems. It is a rediscovery with a new experience and consciousness, and new artistic giving fresh vigour to Urdu poetry and literature as a whole. The false notion should be discarded that a few hot-headed men can get together and launch a literary and artistic movement of such a dimension as the Progressive Movement. Poets and writers are like the seeds holding the heart; the movement provides them the good soil and the right climate to blossom.

Reminiscing about Pak Tea House novelist and writer A Hamid said the following in an article that was translated from Urdu by journalist/writer Khalid Hasan:

I remember the Lahore of the old days distinctly and long for its return. If you walked from the Tollinton Market towards Regal Cinema, just past Commercial Building, on the inside road, there used to stand the Sunlight Building, which was home to various companies and stores, including the Krishna Book House. If I remember, this name was later changed to Minerva Book Centre. There were also a couple of restaurants that the building played host to.

The India Coffee House and the Cheney's Lunch Home stood side by side. After independence, I saw more than once Saadat Hasan Manto at the Cheney's Lunch Home, as well as the sweet-voiced and handsome Amanat Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana. The Coffee House was frequented by journalists, lawyers, teachers and writers. The regulars included Abdullah Butt, Bari Alig, Abdullah Malik, Prof Alauddin Kalim, Riaz Qadir, Manzoor Qadir, Ijaz Hussain Batalvi, the painters Shakir Ali, Ali Imam, Ahmed Pervaiz and Anwar Jalal Shamza.

Ayesha Javed Akram in Lahore Stories: Cracked crockery, writes:

They say Faiz Ahmed Faiz used to sit there. They say there was a time when the tea was made to perfection. They say the biscuits were crisp, the pastries fresh. Today though, the Pak Tea House is but a relic.

Though the Lahore Writer’s Club continues to hold meetings there, and just yesterday they conducted a musical evening at the Tea House, but it is no longer the literary hub of legend. It has since closed down.

Dr. Mohammed Umar Memon, professor and editor of Annual of Urdu Studies wrote in one of the editorials:

Pak Tea House (Lahore), having held on with a resilience all its own for well over fifty years as a home to countless poets and writers of all shades and political stripes, finally yielded place to the irreversible forces of commodity culture raging throughout the metropolis, dying quietly as the year 2000 was drawing to a close.

The Pak Tea House was not merely a place where writers hung out and passionately discussed literature, the arts, and politics, or where they held their literary meetings and dreamed their brave, fragile dreams, or where they stopped on their way to and from work every day for a brief chat, it was unique as a gathering place which never denied its hospitality to anyone, even those who could not afford to pay for a cup of tea. It chose to operate at a loss rather than submit to the indignity of closing its doors to the nation's destitute and chronically disenfranchised intellectuals.

It was everything the society at large was not—and above all it was a place where dreams could be dreamed, where time and history could be held at bay. The demise of such an institution calls for a proper eulogy, and who better to write it than one of its regulars, Intizar Husain, a loyal associate from its first days right up to its last. He entered it as a young man, fresh from his native Dibai (India), and as a man in his late 70s he was among the handful who gathered there in funereal silence to sip their last sad cup of tea. So when I asked him for an obituary, he graciously obliged. His piece, included in the Urdu Section, recalls the Pak Tea House with tender remembrance of its motley of well-off and penniless patrons, and their sublime and mundane concerns. It is more than an obituary notice, it is a writer's tribute to a place which provided fellowship and comfort and a home away from home.

Musharraf remains the US 's best option By M K Bhadrakumar

My friend SR forwarded this article by Anbassador M K Bhadrakumar. It is full of interesting insights and little gems that merits reading it for yourself. I have pasted some highlights. To read this little gem in full click on the heading.

The visit by US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to Islamabad on Friday has a parallel in an extraordinary American mission jointly undertaken by the then-secretary of state Warren Christopher and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to the Pakistani capital almost 28 years ago.

Pakistan wasn't a nuclear power in February 1980, and General Zia ul-Haq was the pariah of the international community. Zia had all the infirmities that dictators were afflicted with - an abominable human-rights record, his nuclear intent, his aversion to pluralism, his dalliance with religious bigotry, to name a few.

US officials (and newspapers) were confident Zia would grab the Brzezinski-Christopher package offered as inducement for fighting a clandestine war in Afghanistan . In the event, it took a further 14 months for Washington to work out the terms and conditions for bringing Zia's regime on board. An account of the riveting drama was later made available to readers by the then vice chief of army staff, General K M Arif, in his memoirs, Working with Zia.

The salient point is that Zia simply decided he would be better off not dealing with the "lame duck" Carter.


Biden is right in saying it is time Washington addresses the core issues of the US-Pakistan relationship. The issue is not about Musharraf alone. There is doubtless a massive undercurrent of "anti-Americanism" in Pakistani society. Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid recently noted that the animus against the US runs "most markedly in the educated middle classes".

Conceivably, pushed against the wall, the Pakistani military would choose to wait (like Zia did) to open a fresh page with a new administration in Washington . Pakistan can afford to do that. As it is, 75% of all supplies for the US forces in Afghanistan flow through or over Pakistan , including 40% of all fuel. The Pentagon press secretary admitted on Wednesday that the supply lines are already "a real area of concern for our commanders in Afghanistan ". Also, Islamabad cannot be unaware that apart from the Afghan war, regional tensions involving the US with Iran , Russia and Central Asia are likely to accentuate in the near term, which in turn will only increase US dependence on Pakistan .


First, Negroponte will be off the mark if he imagines he can still catapult former prime minister Benazir Bhutto into high office. (She seems to pin residual hopes on Negroponte, though.) The army and the Punjabi-dominated establishment simply refuse to allow Bhutto to come into the corridors of power. The establishment sees Bhutto as a difficult personality - "the most corrupt, sluggish and extravagant politician in Pakistan ", according to Musharraf's close confidante, Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed - and as a spent force politically. Musharraf has publicly debunked her claims to popularity in Pakistan .

Finally, Negroponte will know that after all, Washington has ways to influence Musharraf, and there is no need to insult the general and unintentionally unleash the anger of the Pakistani military. Musharraf has already offered that the choice is entirely Bhutto's to be conciliatory or confrontational. Negroponte and Musharraf could find common ground in lifting the emergency as soon as possible - they could even agree on a date - or removing restrictions on the media and civil society, or, better still, releasing political leaders and activists from detention.

One thing is clear. The military is not with Bhutto, and the country doesn't seem to trust her. Musharraf happens to be the only acceptable game in Islamabad .

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India 's ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

[click on the heading for the article]

Imran Khan is one of 25,000 jailed innocents By Jemima Khan

I remember I was summoned to meet him a week before the elections, in 2004, to convey a message to Imran who was away campaigning in his constituency. I was asked to arrive after midnight and was sneaked into his residence after being searched for recording devices. The self-appointed president outlined the results of the impending elections, reeling off the exact number of seats the various parties would win.

It turned out he was spot on, and not, I suspect, because of any great political foresight. Musharraf also guaranteed Imran's fledgling party a significant number of seats and a ministry of his choice if he joined forces with his coalition of government-friendly parties. Imran refused. He had already become disillusioned by Musharraf.

[for the rest click on the heading]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

MNMLST POETRY: Unacclaimed but Flourishing - by Bob Grumman

My first introduction to this genre was by way of eclectic poet Munir Niazi. His minimalist two worded poem resonated a long time


I recalled it recently when vivek forwarded a link to an article on Aram Saroyan's one word poem


I am not sure if anyone has written this poem. But I am inspired to write this:


If you focus it, just this one word in the center of the page and let the gamut of thoughts and feelings run perhaps you would enjoy this too. And please continue and read the wonderful essay by Bob Grumman.


It is not clear when contemporary minimalist poetry began, or who "invented" it, but it's probable that one-word, one-phrase, and other very compressed poems were among the oddities thrown together by the dadaists in the twenties. At around the same time, imagism importantly emphasized the value of concision. A third important contribution to minimalist poetry was made by the concrete poetry movement of the 50's and 60's before it succumbed to narrowness of scope and various forms of parochialism. The flowering of the haiku in the West was a large influence, as well. To my mind, though, full-scale minimalist poetry didn't begin in this country and Canada until the one-word poems of Aram Saroyan and Richard Kostelanetz in the late sixties and early seventies. The movement, if it can be called that, was almost invisible until the mid-eighties when poets like Geof Huth, Jonathan Brannen, Karl Kempton and others joined it. It is still small, but large enough to make the following survey possible.

An especially accessible example of minimalist poetry by George Swede seems as good a place as any to start that survey:



Here in just two words a thief's contraband is clearly and amusingly shown rather than verbally described. Similarly likable is Adam Gamble's

For my last piece of evidence for the high value of minimalistic poetry, I am going to turn to my all-time favorite minimalist poem, which is probably my all-time favorite poem of any kind, as well, Aram Saroyan's:


This is quite a famous, or notorious, poem. Every few years somebody comes out in print against it. A few years ago, for instance, the nationally syndicated columnist, William Rusher, was bemused that the government once (in the seventies) gave an award to so poor a work of art. I, on the other hand, can still scarcely believe that the government once gave an award to so wonderful an artwork. Most people tend to echo Rusher's view of it, even when they encounter it properly, at the center of an otherwise blank page--to emphasize its deserving a full page's worth of attention (as an expression of light, and only light). Merely glancing at it, they judge its key element, the extra "gh," a petty eccentricity designed to shock, or a hoax calculated to win the esteem that obscurity-for-obscurity's-sake too often receives from academics. They are seriously wrong: the extra "gh" is neither trivial nor obscure. By putting it into his word, Saroyan brings us face-to-face with the ineffability of light, a mysterious substance whose components are somehow there but absent, as "ghgh" is there (and delicately shimmering) but unpronounced in the word, "lighght." And he leaves us with intimations of his single syllable of light's expanding, silently and weightlessly, "gh" by "gh," into . . . Final Illumination.

[for the full essay click on the heading]

Media Watch: The First Challenge For the Caretaker Government of Mian Mohammed Soomro

At 1am Pakistani standard time Geo and ARY cease to broadcast News and Current Affairs Programmes.

I started monitoring Geo at 1330 local time (2330 PST). Anchor Shahid Masood was announcing the end of Geo transmissions from Dubai for worldwide viewers. (They were already off air in Pakistan.)

He brought on anchors and guests on the news programmes. And as is his penchant, he asked each guest about why they think Geo was being meted this treatment.

Anchor Hamid Mir said he senses the writing on the wall some 2 ½ years ago when the Musharraf Administration started exerting pressures on the ‘management’. At first the pressures were subtle and with time they grew more direct. Advertisements were reduced and cut off from the Group.

(Geo is a privately owned company by the Jang Group founded by patriarch Mir Khalil ur Rehman and now run by his sons. Mir Shakil ur Rehman heads the Jang Group of companies. The Geo division is run by his 28 year old son Mir Ibrahim Rehman.)

The last straw came when the Administration wanted the Jang Group to give an “undertaking”

When Dr. Shahid Masood probed about the salient points of this undertaking Hamid Mir mentioned the following:

  • Drop Shahid Masood’s Meray Mutabiq
  • Drop Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk
  • Fire journalist Anwar Abbasi
  • Submit News and Current Affairs Programming prior to airing

Hamid Mir also spoke of an incident in New Delhi in 2005 when he inquired from the Minister of Information why Geo TV was banned in India. At first the minister tried to dodge the question but Hamid persisted saying it is seen by Indian expats in Dubai and they sent Geo positive feedbacks, why were mainland Indians denied acces to Geo TV.

At his persistence, the Minister finally said that Geo was considered a 'tool' of Pakistani Government trying to brainwash Indians. And then Hamid added at the irony that Geo TV is considered ant-government by Pakistani Administration and pro-government by the Indian Administration!

Syed Talat Hussain of Aaj TV said: Life goes on. There will be less “truth” visible and heard tomorrow.

Nasir Baig Chughtai, Senior News Analyst and the person I took to task once for the plethora of mostly insignificant news guised as Breaking News offered a somber view.

Lt. Gen Talat Masood, an analyst said this was a “sign of government weakness.”

Retired Justice Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui and British MP M Sarwar offered their shock at the Geo News becoming news.

Lahore housewife Sunbul Raza broke down and had both the anchors in tears lamenting the demise of Geo News.

Former PM Nawaz Sharif said the anchor’s plight reminded him of his days in Attock jail when he used to ask himself, “What have I done? Am I a hijacker? Am I a traitor?”

Any mention of his negotiations with the Government for his release after trial and conviction and subsequent internment in Saudi Arabia was not hinted at.

Kaukab Farshori of VOA read from the State Department statement: “We’re troubled by the expansion of restrictions on the media.”

Only towards the end of this programme at five minutes to one, Dr. Shahid Masood mentioned the fact that the channel would remain on air but without any News or Current Affairs Programming.


While this is a sad chapter in manipulations and intervention by the government encroaching on fundamental rights – rights which are suspended under the Emergency – this should be deplored and protested by freedom lovers everywhere.

An independent fourth estate is the blood running in the vessels of the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive.

The one thing that is not clear at this time is the role of the caretaker government in this. Is it a party to these shenanigans? And if not, can it step in and right the wrong?

Reversing this decision by the Caretaker government of Mian Mohammed Soomro will be seen as a litmus test of its neutrality.

Caged tiger, angry dragon - humayun gohar

Good observations. Click on the heading to read it in full -t

What an affront to God. Whilst our most corrupt villain of a politician has been let off the hook, our most honest hero of a politician has been arrested under the anti-terrorism act. "It could only happen in Pakistan," many would say spontaneously. I reject this assertion with contempt, for it implies that we are intrinsically a dishonest people who cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.

I know Musharraf too. Both he and Imran are my friends. Whenever I felt that they were wrong I always told them so, either verbally or through my writings or even on television. Neither of them may like what I am going to say, but they have many things in common. They both have tunnel vision.

Both achieve their objectives, no matter how many mistakes they make and how ruthless they may have to be along the way. Both are attractive to women. And both have selfless intent. They both want the best for Pakistan even though they might make a hash of in getting there.

I was totally against Imran going into politics. I wanted him to continue with his social work and build more cancer hospitals in Pakistan. Politics is a waste of time. I remember one night Imran, his sisters Rubin and Aleema, my late father and I discussed Imran's entry into politics into the wee hours of the morning. We all told him not to and instead concentrate on social work.

He said that he felt frustrated because one could set up one hospital here and another there, but if one wanted to do good on a vast scale one had to be in government to beat bureaucratic red tape and corrupt rulers. None of us bought it. Should Mother Teresa have been in politics, or Edhi? That is another trait he shares with Musharraf: both can be obstinate; both learn the hard way.

What about RIGHTS usurped by Pakistan?

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 17 (APP): A committee of the UN General Assembly on Friday unanimously adopted a Pakistan-sponsored resolution reaffirming the right of peoples to self-determination, and called for cessation of foreign military intervention, occupation and repression. Pakistan has been tabling this draft in the social committee since 1981 and each year the General Assembly passed it by consensus. The text serves to focus attention on struggle by people for their inalienable right to self-determination.

The draft will come up for adoption in the General Assembly next month.

The resolution reaffirms the universal rights of people to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter and international covenants on human rights. It welcomes the progressive exercise of this right by peoples under colonial, foreign or alien occupation and their emergence into sovereign statehood and independence.

The text calls upon those states responsible to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories and all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment, in particular the brutal and inhuman methods reportedly employed for the execution of those acts against the peoples concerned.

The text requests the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to continue to give special attention to the violation of human rights, especially the right to self determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation.

Besides, Pakistan, a large number of countries from Asia, and Africa co-sponsored the resolution this year, including Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, China, Comoros, Congo, Chad, DPRK, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Saint Lucia, South Africa, Singapore, Somalia, Thailand, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates.

Earlier, introducing the draft, the Pakistan delegate said the right to self-determination was the cornerstone of the United Nations Charter and has been affirmed by all the major international summits, declarations and resolutions of the Organization.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Musharraf under pressure as U.S. envoy flies in - Aijaz Ahmad:

Aijaz Ahmad: Musharraf has cornered himself. To view this video comment please comment on the heading

Will This Cyber Revolution Fly or Fizzle?

Utho meri duniya ke ghareeboñ ko jagaado
Kaakh-e umara ke dar-o deewaar hilaado

Rise, awaken the poor of my land
Rattle the palaces of the rich men’s band
– “Allama” Mohammad Iqbal

Khomeini’s cassette revolution that he launched from Paris suburbs to oust US backed Shah opened a new era in mobilizing the masses.

The ‘free’ electronic media in Pakistan turned its guns on its benefactor. It refused to be silenced even when it was locally muzzled. It spawned another cyber movement, this one led and aided by bloggers.

The western media co-opted it and gave it further impetus. BBC, NYT, Slate, WP et al appealed for their help and contribution.

Benazir is sensing a kill without thinking it through. Nawaz Sharif is marginalized. JI and other parties in opposition act impotent.

Electronic Media is brimming with righteous indignation. Lawyers’ protests seem to have been over shadowed by those of the Press. Students have confined their shouting on the campuses only.

How much of this flow of information and views filtered down to where it really mattered? How much of the aftermath of protests affected the ordinary Pakistanis?

This raises two important questions. Can the political parties effectively mobilize any street power? Or are they in collusion with the Army and prefer back door negotiations for power realignment and share in the pie?

If the citizens refuse to come out no real change of power structure will occur. Street power is the only force that can effectively take on the occupying army. In ’88 Asia’s best equipped army refused to come to the Shah’s aid when it confronted the street power of the Iranians.

The other possibility is what Pakistanis have experienced previously and seemingly refuse to learn from. The pressure is brought on but merely results in a change of face. Sweets will be distributed and everyone will go home with a smile.

That is what happened when Ayub was removed – and Yahya, Bhutto, Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Benazir again, Nawaz again and Musharraf. And if things are not calculated wisely perhaps the past will be repeated with another Khaki face.

The ‘upright, professional soldier’ will take over and make the right promises – free and fair election - in 30 days, 90 days, one year, next year! And in another ten years, if Pakistan survives, the dissatisfied elites would again band together to demand freedom and justice and free and fair elections.

Who will make the citizens rise?

Hillary's Musharraf By Greg Palast

You've seen all those creepy photos of George Bush rubbing up against Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, the two of them grinning and giggling like they're going to the senior prom. So it's hard to remember that it was Hillary and Bill who brought Pervez to the dance in the first place.

And it all began with an unpaid electricity bill. In 1998, Pakistan wouldn't pay up millions, and they owed billions, to British and American electricity companies. And for good reason: the contracts called for paying insanely high prices. It smelled of payola - and ultimately, the government of Pakistan filed charges against power combine executives and canceled the contracts. That's the rule under international law: companies can't collect on contracts they obtained by pay-offs.

But these weren't just any companies. One was a Tony Blair favorite, Britain's National Power. The other was Entergy International, a sudden big-time player in the international power market based out of, oddly, Little Rock, Arkansas. Despite the Clinton Administration's claim to fight foreign corruption, this was an exception. Clinton and Blair voted to cut off Pakistan's funding from the IMF. Pay-up the power pirates, they told Pakistan, or starve.

[for more click on the heading]

The Book That Can’t Be Published In America By Alan Hart, author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews

The question Americans asked in the immediate aftermath of the horror of 9/11 was “Why do they hate us?” And in many American minds the “they” of the question were not only the violent Islamic fundamentalists who, according to the official version of events, were solely responsible for bringing down the Twin Towers, but Arabs and Muslims everywhere - about a quarter of humankind.

Since that particular shocking and awesome event, I have often asked myself how different the world today might have been – how much less destruction and killing there would have been - if President Bush had said something like: “That’s a very good question. We must and will seek the answer to it before we decide how to respond.”

If an attempt had been made to answer the question, the first thing that would have been established is that the overwhelming majority of Arabs and other Muslims everywhere do not hate Americans or America. If they could, very many Arabs and other Muslims, perhaps even half of them, would live in America to enjoy the apparently good life there.

What they hate is American foreign policy. And the underlying prime cause of that hatred is Congressional and White House support for the Zionist state of Israel right or wrong. But Israel’s American-endorsed arrogance of power and contempt for international law is only one of two factors in the equation that, over the past 60 years, has seen Arab and other Muslim hurt, anger and humliation turn to hatred on account of the conflict in and over Palestine. The other is the impotence of the regimes of the existing mainly corrupt and repressive Arab Order, regimes which, genereally speaking, are perceived by their masses to be, in effect, American-and-Zionist stooges.

On 11 September 2001, I was well into the writing of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, so I didn’t start out with the idea of answering the “Why do they hate us?” question, but the book does provide for Americans a complete, comprehensive, detailed and fully documented answer to it.

[for more click on the heading]

Bangladesh cyclone kills hundreds - Parveen Ahmed

A cyclone that slammed into Bangladesh's coast with 150 mph winds killed at least 242 people, levelled homes and forced the evacuation of 650,000 villagers before heading inland and losing power today, officials said.

Tropical Cyclone Sidr roared across the country's southwestern coast late Thursday with driving rain and high waves. Most of the dead were killed by falling debris, according to Nahid Sultana, an official at a cyclone control room in the capital, Dhaka.

Downpours and staggering winds also spawned a water surge four feet high that swept through low-lying areas and some offshore islands, leaving them under water, she said.

[click on the heading for more]

Rape victim gets 200 lashes

Riyadh - A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman - whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms - was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape", the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

[click on the heading for more]

The big thirst: The great American water crisis -

The US drought is now so acute that, in some southern communities, the water supply is cut off for 21 hours a day. Leonard Doyle reports from Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a once-lush region where the American dream has been reduced to a single four-letter word: rain

Published: 15 November 2007

On Dancing Fern Mountain, in the hills above Chattanooga, Tennessee, two brothers worry about a beaver dam which is blocking access to the only fresh water supply for miles. "The dam is ruining the water and every time we tear it down, the beaver builds it again," says Larry Fulfer. "People don't think we should, but we're gonna have to get that critter and kill him."

With a slap of his tail, the beaver disappears. His dam is at the mouth of a vast underground cave system, where enough pure spring water emerges to supply the half-a-dozen families who live on Dancing Fern Mountain. "This drought has turned us into hillbillies," says Larry's brother, Brian, with evident disgust. "All we want is water in our taps."

[for more click on the heading]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think -Tim Cameron


People think it means:


Actually means:
Not a damned thing.

This is not a word. Now, we have no problem with making up words (if a particular scent can only be described as "fartalicious," we reserve the right to call it so). The problem with this one is "regardless" already means something isn't worth regard (that's why the "less" is there) so adding the "ir" to it means... it's worth regarding again? Who knows.

Should you care?
If there's ever a time to speak up, this is probably it. Mainly because this is one of those words used almost exclusively by people trying to sound smarter than they are. Remind them that when using fake words to at least try to use ones that have some kind of meaning, if they want to avoid unnecessary cockulance when speaking.

[for more click on the heading]

New caretakers; Elections under Emergency; Lyari killings; Events, blogs, HRW etc. - Beena Sarwar

Nov 15 update - besides the issues in the subject line, scroll down for upcoming events in NY (Nov 20), Academics for Freedom, and most TV news channels back on air...


It's midnight, and first assemblies to have ever completed their tenure in Pakistan are now history. A new caretaker set up is in place, headed by Senate Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro as caretaker prime minister to oversee elections in January. These elections will be meaningless under the Emergency that shows no sign of being lifted even though Musharraf has tantalizingly said that he almost stepped down. The Constitution, the judiciary, and human rights must be restored – as the Karachi University Teachers' Forum demanded in their banner (cleverly avoiding the use of the word `emergency' or any other overt criticism).


Here's how HRCP director I.A. Rehman puts it: "The whole transition to democracy is meaningless under emergency. Even elections will bring nothing for this country under the present circumstances. In my opinion emergency has made autocracy in Pakistan even more autocratic. It is true that before the promulgation of emergency Musharraf was already ruling the country by his own choice, but now all the powers have gone to him. He alone is responsible to decide." - – The text is worth reading in full, for the clarity IAR brings to the issue, as always.

The bottom line: "The real victims of this coup are the people of Pakistan. When you discriminate against the judiciary and gag the media both suffer, but the ultimate victims are the people. If they do not get a good government, they suffer. Then there is no democracy without the judiciary. As for the media, it has under attack so that people cannot formulate their own opinion by getting relevant information. The government is not against these TV news channels but against what they are doing -- informing people. This is a way to put a stop to the democratic process. So democracy is the real target. All these are pillars of democracy."


Several people gathered at the Karachi Press Club for a seminar on media freedom this afternoon – there were probably more police outside than journalists at one point. Many civil society activists (from People's Resistance) turned up with posters and banners expecting a rally (someone had sent out an email which caused this confusion), but it was essentially a journalists' event and the KPC officer bearers asked the activists not to go outside and protest as Justice Wajihuddin was coming and the police were just looking for a chance to pick him up.

I had to leave before Justice Wajih got there, so missed his speech etc – but as I walked to the main road displaying my `Hum Dekhenge' poster, the police started wondering what I was up to. A couple of them approached me wondering if `aap log' (you people) were going to Governor House ("we can't allow that and there will be trouble"). Fortunately, or not, depends how you look at it, I was only going home), and there was trouble at the KPC. In Lyari, however, it was a
different matter.


While at the Press Club, we heard that two boys had got killed in Lyari (PPP stronghold). Apparently there was a shootout as people tried to get the shops to shut down… News report here - -
And photos (thanks Choudhry) here. Sad


Another piece of news we heard while at the Press Club was that most of the TV news channels were back on air, with the notable exception of Geo (all channels, including sports & entertainment), and ARY. I suppose we'll have a better idea of the full story tomorrow (though we can all speculate about what happened).

Former Editor of The News Lahore (and former co-director of the HRCP) Kamila Hyat had a very good piece on this issue in The News today, \arguing that the channels can't indefinitely be kept off the air, there has to be some negotiation & give & take – `Futile measures'


The activism continues, adding a new element – `teach-ins'. Activist Naeem Sadiq and Sahar Shafaat (a political science professor based in the U.S., currently in Karachi) went to Lyceum Karachi today to give a lecture on the current situation in Pakistan. They spoke to about 30 A Levels students, focusing on the disparities in Pakistan, and what can be done about them. "The lecture made a very clear suggestion that students engage in peaceful protest as a way of
resisting martial law."


1) There have been reports of a few LUMS students being arrested in Lahore. If you have any information that could help in tracing them please email and IMMEDIATELY. A prompt response to help save a few people from military court.

2) Two innocent students were killed today in Karachi. If anyone has more information about their identity, affiliation, or any thing relevant please email We are especially looking for an eyewitness account of some one who was at the protest today and saw the firing today. If you know of anyone please forward them this request.

ACADEMICS FOR FREEDOM A Group of independent Pakistani academics have launched a new blog which is going to consistently update Pakistani and international audiences through analytical insights into the immediate and longer term adverse impacts and ramifications of the imposition of Emergency in Pakistan on November 3, 2007.


From Samar: A strong showing by citizens of Rawalpindi/Islamabad yesterday outside Dawn News office. Thank you all for your support; thank you Zanaib and Alia for putting it together. I'd also like to take the opportunity to decry the actions of Islami Jamiat Students in Lahore yesterday. Ours is a peaceful struggle for democracy and we cannot condone violence in any form from any party. Additionally, we firmly believe that, if we are to succeed in restoring democracy, we must remain united. There is no room for factional politics within our movement. Divided, we're easy pickings for a ruthless dictatorship. For those unfamiliar with the story, please read:


ISLAMABAD, Monday, 19 November - Student Protest outside Air University PAF Complex, E-9, Islamabad, Time: 2pm

KARACHI, Tuesday, 20 November, Karachi Press Club, rally by journalists Time: 3pm

NEW YORK - Doctors For Democracy and Justice Seminar: Pakistan main Aeen and Jumhooriat ki Pamaali- Ek lamhae fikr (Trampling of Constitution and Justice in Pakistan) Sunday November 18th, 1 PM to 5 PM (Ziafat ( previous Bukhara Restaurant)
786 Coney Island Avenue, Midwood NY 11230 - Tel 718-287-7011)
Speakers include:
- Justice (Rtd) Wajih-ud-Din Ahmed, through special telephone
- Ali Ahsan Esq, Attorney at Law, Son of Atizaz Ahsan
- Mazhar Abbas, Secretary-General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (in NY to receive the CPJ International Press Freedom award – see
- Dr. Manzur Ejaz, Washington based renowned Journalist
- Hassan Abbas, Boston based political analyst
- Rana Ramzan, Pakistani American Advocates for Civil and Human Rights (PAACHR)
For further information, please contact Dr. Abdul Majeed (516) 655-4134) Dr. Qazi K.Haider (516) 225-7852, Dr. Faheem Butt (516) 410-1507, Dr. Nasir Gondal (917) 860-0808 and Ahsahullah Khan Bobby of Coney Island Avenue Project (917) 440-9002

New York Students' Pakistan Action Committee/EHTIJAJ/Featuring /Salman Ahmad (Junoon)/
Sunday, November 18, 2007, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
*Location: *UN Head Quarters,* *First Avenue at 46th Street/NY Students' Pakistan Action Committee is a coalition of students across NY Universities./

UPDATE ON ABIDA HUSSAIN From her son Abid Imam, a lawyer in the US:Sent: Wed Nov 14 18:12:50 2007

Syeda Abida Hussain, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, former Cabinet Member and Member of Parliament, and presently a member of the Central Working Committee of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, was arrested under orders of the present regime in Pakistan earlier today for engaging in the agitation for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. Some hours later, she was brought back by the police to her residence, which has been declared a sub-jail. She is under indefinite house arrest and is confined to her room and back verandah, with policewomen posted outside her bedroom door, and policemen posted at the gate.

All pro-democracy forces in Pakistan today, including the Pakistan People's Party, hope for the speedy release of all political prisoners, lawyers and members of the judiciary, a restoration of the 1973 Constitution, the reinstatement of the dismissed Chief Justice and the dozens of judges that were dismissed along with him. We also desire the repeal of the present administration's extension of the Army Act to apply to all civilians who, if now publicly say or are overhead saying anything critical of the Army or any member of the Armed Forces, are subject to arrest and trial by military courts, in addition to the repeal of the ban on the independent TV channels. All of the foregoing are prerequisites to holding free and fair elections.

HRW DEMANDS: Pakistan: Rescind Decree Allowing Military Trials of Civilians

For Immediate Release - Pakistan: Rescind Decree Allowing Military Trials of Civilians Amended Law Gives Impunity to Intelligence Agencies (New York, November 15, 2007) –…. …Trials of civilians conducted by special military courts under the amended law will not be public, investigations will be conducted by military officers, and rules of evidence and procedures laid out for constitutional trials will not apply. It is increasingly recognized under international human rights laws that the trial of civilians by military courts should be very exceptional and only occur under conditions that genuinely afford full due process….The amendment will take effect retrospectively from January 2003, in effect sanctioning impunity of the army for detaining and "disappearing" people. Full text at:


Winding Back Martial Law in PakistanIslamabad/Brussels, 12 November 2007: General Pervez Musharraf's declaration of martial law on 3 November can only bring more violence and instability to Pakistan. The international community must support the Pakistani people's demand for the immediate restoration of constitutional order and democracy and the end of military rule. …To achieve this, the international community should apply graduated sanctions, starting with immediate suspension of military cooperation talks and a review of military aid. If Musharraf does not take off his uniform by 15 November and undo martial law and its effects, tougher sanctions should follow, including suspending non-counter terrorism military aid. If there are no results in 30 days, the military's foreign assets should be frozen and senior officials and officers refused travel visas. Simultaneously, aid should be expanded for education, poverty reduction, healthcare and relief work, with \the money channelled through secular NGOs…. Read the full Crisis Group briefing at: