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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


sometimes i wonder:

where there is smoke there must be...
where there is hatred there must be...

at the end of the day:
and how about another cliche?
when all is said and done

it's only a matter of time
when we turn to dust or ashes
pick up some dust for me, some ashes, anyone
and pray tell me its caste, religion, nationality


we will continue to throw darts
of suspicion, misgivings and hatred
am sure it is written in some book
oh words have such longevity


those who seek love, understanding, pyar
would be shunted, ignored and called names
condemned to the fringes
this also is life and
cliches reign supreme
like un-ordained prophets
dancing in the desert's infrequent rain-storms


i will go for green tea
wait! is called green tea...not because...!

Salvador Dali

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Qissa Kahani Ka: The Story Tellers Of The Raj

Dosto, grab your drinks, and smokes (if you do), put on something warm and comfortable and follow me to the fields. Let us find a large tree. There, that one would be fine. Make yourself comfortable. Let's get the fire going.

Come with me to the waning days of the Mughals and the rising days of the Raj.

India was largely agrarian and feudal. Fort William College and the invitation of tum likho, hum chapay ga (you write, we will publish) surreptitiously whispered into Indian ears was yet to come. (My conjecture: another seedy ploy to divide and rule through cultural subversion.)

Gutenberg's revolution through Fort William College was yet to show its mixed impact.

The nights were long. After a long day in the sun people would gather around the campfire. And the duel between the spell and quiet of the dark and the magic of the storyteller's yarns and tales would begin. The storyteller would spellbind his audience and try to win them away from sleep.

The calm and peace offered by the night will be fought with magical tales of bravery, romance, wisdom. The intuitive story teller would introduce turns and twists in plot to keep sleep at bay. He would draw tricks from his bag of oration. This magic lasted till later into the night.

In later times the campfire gave way to shama (lamp). And the crowds would move into courtyards. But the wooing of the listener's attention by the storyteller would continue.

The oral traditions still held sway over the visual.

The qissas people heard were a blend of those passed from generation to generation as well as those created by storytellers on whims of creativity.

Enters the Raj and the centuries old traditions of Mother India with contributions from Persia and beyond began to disintegrate. The printed word became a blessing in disguise killing off the oral traditions with a merciless stroke.

The only tradition that withstood this onslaught was the mushaira.* But Urdu had to pay a hefty price too: by adapting itself to continue the oral traditions of the classic ghazal only! The jadeed (new) ghazal and naz'm, qissa-kahani (short stories and tales) were abandoned and orphaned to fend for themselves in print only. Other forms of poetry like marsia, qasida also suffered.

The qissa-kwani (storytelling) succumbed to the imported versions of the short story and later novels. Intezar Hussain quoting Jean-Paul Sartre said literature is created by the writer and the reader.

When the story telling gave in to the printed word, the immediate and spontaneous interaction between the narrator and the listener withered away giving rise to the more distant and aloof relationship between the writer and the reader. Millions who could not read became the casualty. Fort William irrevocably cut off the umbilical cord between the story teller and the listener.

The tradition brewed over centuries met instantaneous death. Few of the qissa's oral traditions survived or were incorporated in this new printed form.

Disappeared forever the flexibility, innovation, voice inflection and the theatrical gestures of the animated story teller.

Now more digressions: Let's move from the qissa kahanis of old to the short stories and novels of today. And continue this journey from the novel to shaeri

The old classic ghazal survived through the offices of mushairas, but the jadeed ghazal (or new ghazal) and the naz'm (poem) found itself unwelcome there. Like short stories and novel they also embraced the printed word. Because of the education spread it was accessed by an ever shrinking percentage of the population further decimated along ethnic and linguistic lines. The erosion of Persian from court language and its replacement with English also contributed to the decline of qissa-khwani.

Ending digression: the film director of today is perhaps the true successor to the Chahar Dervish (story teller's) of yore.


* This is not entirely correct as I learned here from Anil

In the 70s and 80s, Staal showed how the ancient Indians devised elaborate cryptographic schemes (Kramapatha) to ensure that nothing in the main Vedas — RigVeda and SamaVeda — was lost during oral transmission. And it wasn't. As the British discovered to their astonishment, different groups of Brahmins across the country were still chanting the very same verses, almost 3500 years later

The above was from various sources but in particular this owed a great deal to an excellent essay/column by Urdu short story writer Intezar Hussain. (Those of you not familiar with him can go to Dr. Muhammed Umar Memon's the Annual of Urdu Studies - where you will find articles about him and some of his stories translated into English). I read the essays and articles a while ago.

Caveat: While Intezar's column/essays provided the catalyst for this some of the wider curves and liberties I have taken are entirely mine-t

Some more links for those interested:

Bagh O Bahar -Introduction by F.W.P.

A Tale of Four Dervishes

James Esnor

Monday, March 29, 2010

Valentine Poems


also realistic


also realistic

Pablo Picasso

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning

what is it when the well versed
end in head-on crashes?

the asphyxiating suffixing
of the ding prefixed with stan
(which in some indo-germanic
languages means an abode)

together it means
being in upright position
on the feet, tall, resisting...
ready to face the winds

this is far from being over
over can be prefixed
overstating, overstriding
but seldom to (over)standing
--overstand to lose a sale, yes
but no inging there

before i come to the mis
another s to the prefix
would conjure pleasant images
(without being naughty or sexist)
and i hope this sunday morning
you're still standing beside me
............on standing
before i discard over
and move to under

life's journey is seldom a straight path
or gods would not arm us with understanding
nor would we feel its absence profoundly
when the turns and banks accost us in eyes

the paths and weather turn ambivalent
when mis is (pre) fixed to understanding
leading to sunday morning's dense inging

Maxfield Parrish

Saturday, March 27, 2010


fate deals, we play
don't own the deck
play best as we can
whine, thank, pray, scold
for the allotted seconds
we play

dropped in waters
we swim
with or against the tide
in shallow and deep waters
for the allotted seconds
we swim

is there anything
we cannot do
to stay afloat?
tell me then why
are we segmented?

Rokni Haerizadeh

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Pause Button

This place I worked once in downtown had a park round the corner. I had an appointment at the bank four blocks away and left the office in plenty of time and decided to take the scenic route through the park.

It was a fine warm morning defying T.S. Eliot's cruel April predictions. A nanny had brought her wards to the park and there were other children running, shouting, chortling, enjoying the mid-noon mirth.

A man was feeding the pigeons out of a brown bag oblivious of others. Another panhandler was drinking out of his paper bag.

There was an empty bench. I sat down.

People were crisscrossing the paths. Some ambling, jaunting, rushing, strolling, determined to reach somewhere.

And there were birds chirping too. Flying singly and in groups. They seemed to be as happy as the frolicking children in the park.

I must have sat on the bench for a long time.

"I was caught in the traffic, can we reschedule for Wednesday at 3.30?" I said when I returned to the office.


Am very lucky to have this pause button. I can press the pause button and enjoy life's little pleasures and gestures. My pauses can be short or long. The stay in park was one of the shorter ones.

Other short ones will be enjoying a washed dished, (digression: dishwashing is a very satisfying experience for me. Rinse, soap, scrub, wash, dry. Job completed. How many other projects can be finished in such short order?) birds feeding, catching lovers eyeing each other, squirrels storing food for the winter, boats sailing in the lake, a big plane landing, an hail-mary in slo-mo, a painting in the window, traffic and signals at a busy intersection.....

M has almost given up asking why am late;)

Am known to have quit and gone on travels lasting months. Well, not really. They needed me so much they would give me leave-of-absence. They would qualify as the longer pauses

During one such pause I spent an afternoon in a very interesting conversation with a couple in their eighties on the Rajdhani heading towards Trivandrum. After inquiring where I was from, why I was travelling, where I was going, was I married, had any issues - this puzzled me at first - had no idea whether they were debriefing me on Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechenya, Croatia, Palestine - the grilling went on for some time.

Afterwards, they shared their tiffin with this stranger. What was more interesting is what they said later. They said they would have loved to take a pause from their lives earlier on to travel on a whim like I was doing.

I had encountered similar comments everywhere I went.

And I would tell them the same thing in reply. If you want to do something and are determined to do it nothing can come in the way. Just some fore-planning and some mule-ness is all that is needed. Oh, and I forget, a very supportive spouse.

This leads me to a recent exchange with a very hyper super achiever friend


You need to slow down. How?
Two quintuplets would force you to slow down.
But, let us not even consider that!
Explore other ways.
Find that pause button!

Once you make that discovery you could pause life at will and begin to appreciate and enjoy it more. Of course you will have to curb all the high-flying go-getter tendencies and throw all them over-achiever urges out the window.


tough choices

slow down with quintuplets?
what r u high?
pause button?
arey bhai pause button use karnai ka time hO tO slow down hoon na
u and ur brainwaves


If we do not voluntarily learn to use and enjoy the pause button now mother nature will impose it upon us. Only then it could be sans enjoyment..

Tyeb Mehta

Thursday, March 25, 2010


he never yelled
just pushed the gajras* in view
and looked with baleful eyes

when the traffic halted
other hawkers, beggars pounced
seeking alms, selling wares
............but this kid
and his younger sister
merely looked at you

they could've been mute
i never heard them peddle
the only thing i traded
was a dismissive
maaf karo! nahiN chahiyay**

* * *

stopped at red on islington*** yesterday
and the scent of jasmine wafted in
i looked around for baleful eyes


*....a bracelet made of flowers
**...forgive me! don't need it
***..a T.O. street

M F Hussain

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let Us Divorce God

Is fatalism inherent?

The age old and ever inconclusive debate over Jab'r and Qad'r, Ordained or Free Will, Determinism or Indeterminism is being lost to Ordained without a whimper.

Uttering meaningless InshaAllahs and MashaAllahs, invoking His help without doing the leg work, hoping without effort, are the hallmarks of the New Desi Muslim.

There are three broad categories of Desi Muslim.

1: The vast majority who are too impotent or apathetic to do anything. Their first struggle is for survival. The divine handlers of opium see to it that they do not come out of their stupor.

2: A minority debates and pontificates interminably over issues in vain.

3: And an even tinier minority takes matter in their hands. This includes the likes of Edhi and Burney and some NGOs.

The latter pay their respects and homage to gods in their own way. But from the practical stand point they have all but divorced God from their efforts. They practice their religion or belief system but do not wear it on their sleeves.

They exemplify the tolerant and practical face of Islam that is in such short supply.

Claude Monet

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Painting With Words

if i were a painter
with strokes wipe away scowls
make faces smile

she smiled at my folly,
i thought of the rancor
between religions,
and sullen gods

but i am a stargazer and
armed with word-chisel
would work to wipe away
a few more frowns.

Ap Verheggen

Monday, March 22, 2010

am no god

when i was young
i knew everything
could do anything
i was GOD
today i know i know
so little
am barely inches
above ground
and contentedly
am no god

Willem Roelefs

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On Take-offs and Blast-offs

In those days we used to take turns to travel to Karachi. M would visit her parents and I would baby sit the kids for a week. Some months later I would take off for a week. On one of those trips I decided to take our first born along. He was perhaps 4 or 5 then. There were no direct flights. Toronto, NYC, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Islamabad, Karachi - five take-offs and destinations.

At each take-off our conversation went something like this:

a: we are blasting off
t: we are not blasting off, we are taking off
a: no, we are blasting off
t: nahin baitay, we are taking off...

At about this juncture I would go into a somewhat detailed explanation about aerodynamics - weight of aircraft, the jets' thrust to propel it into air, and then compare similar dynamics of the rocket - the weight of the rocket and the total thrust of its engines to propel it out into orbit, in a language that a five year old would comprehend. Understandably, this lasted for quite some time. He would listen attentively for a while, drift off to some other subject, will return to the take-off-thrust discussion again and this would be repeated till he nodded his understanding, or till the next take-off!

Finally, we landed in Islamabad. In the terminal as we lined up for immigration someone tapped my shoulder. I turned back to find a fellow passenger. He said, 'I hope you do not mind my saying this but I have been sitting in the row behind you and I must commend you on your patience in explaining take-offs and thrust. You are a wonderful single parent...' or words to that effect...

Suddenly all my jet lag dissipated...

That was then...

Today, he is an irreverent iconoclastic young man who is opinionated and sometimes brash, and friends meeting us for the first time say we are so alike, and I protest -how can we be similar? I show respect and courtesy, even to strangers, do not use/abuse language like he does...

We did inculcate mental open-ness, inquisitiveness,thinking outside the box, but always with love and respect for others. All is not lost.

If I sound harsh and narrow-minded you should see when I come to his rescue when M wants to dispatch him to the moon. Well, sometimes I have no choice - I have to defend him. Wouldn't you if she would start off with 'your son...' a big hint of what is about to follow or 'he has taken after you, he....' followed by the latest...ahem...indiscretion?

The other son never lands in trouble...of course he is her son:)

Reza Deraksani

Saturday, March 20, 2010

nawwab one leg, two legs

N: Why do you smoke?
t: huh?
N: Why do you drink?
t: huh?
N: Why do you eat?
t: Next would be 'why do you breathe?'
N: Did I ask you about that?
t: I am not your hydrant.
N: We are in a foul mood today.
t: You badly need some canine counselling.
N: Therapy is the sole domain of the two legged beings.
t: Two legged? Ah...hydrant?
N:..yes I lift one and that is the difference between us and you.
t: We lift two legs? Squatting is decidedly not lifting!
N: We are not only in foul mood but are also a little dense.
t: Sometimes Nawwab you are impossible.
N: Missionary position. Woof, woof!

[later, by the fireplace, watching House]

N: Why do you watch House?
t: Because he is quite a character.
N: He is also much like us one legged beings.
t: Here we go all legs.
N: Sarcasm does not suit you.
t: I know you will lull me to sleep with your leg theory.
N: We are not selfish, we are not psychos...
t: ...yes, and you are not corrupt, and you do not hoard...
N: ...and are not hung up on manufactured gods
t: This is quite a long demolishing bark...Man...God....
N: ...and two legs.
t: Yaar bhago, so jao...kyun khamkhwa tung ker rahay ho.
N: And we do not divide beings under class or caste.
t: OK, if you are so good how come you did not invent the wheel?
N: Progress is an illusion. We have no need for it.
t: Just like the tooth paste?
N: And calendars and flow charts and progress reports.
t: Alright, so the animal kingdom is superior. Khush?
N: You must be tired also.
t: Foul and tired? That must be a lethal combination.
N: [hmmm...that means a short walk tonight.]
t: Let us make it a quick trip.
N: You were only half serious about canine therapy.
t: In case you are elevating yourself to PSD you are dead wrong.
N: We help mankind.
t: We train you to help us.
N: This is a bad way to begin April.

Top 10 service dogs

Pavel Tchelitchew

Friday, March 19, 2010

Luis Camnitzer

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lewd Texting, Misleading Headline, Loonie closes on parity with U.S. dollar, Karachi Literary Festival

Shahidul's Crossfire
Iran, Pakistan sign gas pipeline deal; India kept out [headline misleading - India opted out]

Andre Derain

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three Cups of Tea in Perspective, Mehreen Bokhari, juta, lathi and thappar.

Three Cups of Tea in Perspective - Rafia Zakaria Yet to consider Mortenson’s story of initiative and resolve as solely a project to redeem Pakistan in the eyes of the West would be an error... enterprising NGOs that have built schools in rural Sindh and Punjab have failed to catch the international imagination with the level of intensity garnered by Mortenson’s project....Yet it is this last facet of Mortensen’s book that exposes the danger in elevating it to a panacea for all the ills that plague Pakistan. Simply put, while education is one of Pakistan’s needs and Greg Mortenson’s efforts are laudable, they do not present a thorough investigation into Pakistan’s structural problems and should not be taken as a stand-in for a deeper understanding of the country. In addition, there are Pakistanis such as Abdul Sattar Edhi who do not have Mortenson’s international fame but who have, with even fewer resources, managed to deliver their communities from poverty and build schools or small industries without the intervention of a foreign saviour.

CARTE BLANCHE: Pakistan’s new national game —Mehmal Sarfraz

The Ministry of Sports has passed a decree that in view of the current sports crisis, it has been decided that to boost the morale of the general public we should have something that we excel in as our national game

Mehreen Bokhari: As for Punjab, a little sneak-peak into its budget expenditure will answer whatever questions might be arising in our minds. Punjab’s development expenditure is heavily concentrated on Lahore at Rs 7,000 per capita. Compared to this, the most poverty-stricken and thus vulnerable areas of south Punjab are allotted less than Rs 400 per capita.
And Rauf Klasra writes "Former president Pervez Musharraf used the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) to get Rs 55 billion contracts without tenders only to distribute them among those private companies and contractors where his relatives and friends were working to help them mint money through such secret deals." without dropping a single name!

Battle over Afghan peace talks intensifies, Stuff to think about, Americas Secret Prisons

The pope's entire career has the stench of evil about it
Why Thousands Are Turning to a Psychedelic Plant from Africa for Release from Severe Addictions
Goldman's Great Greek Swindle and the American Blowback
Is Goat the New Cow? Why American Foodies and Environmentalists Are Reviving the Old-World Staple
Battle over Afghan peace talks intensifies
US military targets Israeli 'intransigence'
Americas Secret Prisons

Cafe Piyala again comes up with stuff to think about.After watching / reading the portion quoted above, do we, the viewers, have a right to ask the following questions?

1. Was Hamid Mir being an impartial and analytical journalist with respect to the PMLN?
2. Is it his position as a journalist that allows him to provide security advice to the Sharifs and be on the roster of speakers at a madrassah at least two years in a row?
3. With respect to the security advice Mir admits himself to have tendered the previous year to the Sharifs and the (later assassinated) head of the Jamia Naeemia, does Mir know something he is not telling his viewers or the government, and if so, how?
4. Was it fair of the media to attack what Shahbaz Sharif said without providing the full context of what he was responding to, particularly when it involved one of its own?


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Death by debt, Is anyone listening? Nighat Orakzai offers dupatta to Shahbaz Sharif

Cafe Piyala: A Bit of His Own Medicine for the 'Doc'
Nighat Orakzai offers dupatta to Shahbaz Sharif
I was quoted out of context, says Shahbaz
Aga Khan's Islamic treasures go on show in Berlin
Rs100 bn deals without tenders; PAC takes stock of NHA violation of Public Procurement Rules today

Death by Debt - Dr Ashfaque H Khan: External debt and liabilities stood at $55.7 billion by end-December 2009 – increased from $52.3 billion in end-June 2009. In other words, Pakistan added $3.342 billion in external debt in just six months of the year. For the information of our readers, Pakistan added $2.6 billion in external debt in seven years but in the last two and a half years, it added $15.3 billion to stand at $55.7 billion.

From Osama to Taliban, where are the Sharifs headed? Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s careful treading through the power corridors received a severe blow as his public appeal to the Taliban for avoiding his fiefdom raised an unprecedented hue and cry in the National Assembly.

Book review: The secrets of the human soul —by Mehr TararLink

July, July By Tim O’Brien Penguin Group; Pp 306
“We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare” — William Butler Yeats.

The 60s. The golden generation
with huge dreams. A group of college students. The kick ass, never-die attitude. The passionate spring of 1969, when all of them live beyond themselves, truly buoyed and inspired by the times awakening them to new realities. Something is in the air; they live enveloped in a wave of moral heat with a tangible distinction between the good and evil permeating their thoughts and actions. Fast forward to year 2000 — a new millennium — the same group of people meet for a class reunion.

No one is listening, Kamran: Surely spreading hate against other religions is against the law? Surely calling for mass suicide is against the law? Surely advocating nuking the hell out of another country is a crime against humanity itself? Why, then, is this man not prosecuted?

Why does the federal government not get the Federal Bureau of Revenue to investigate the sources of this person’s income, which must be huge judging from the campaigns he mounts, to see who exactly keeps him in big money? Why does the judiciary, which seems to be hell-bent on just pursuing the federal government’s leaders, not take suo motu notice of this man’s dangerous spoutings?

Maxim Cartoon

A Matter of Timing, Rupert Murdoch: America's Own Goebbels, Israel and the US: Tiff or tipping point?Why does Andy McNab still hide his face?

Pakistan sharpens its focus on militants: Kiani is to date a success story. He has succeeded in negotiating the military's central role in the "war on terror" and in sidelining Indian's role in Afghanistan. He has mounted military operations in the tribal areas and in Swat, where he has to a large degree rolled back the militants' advances. Kiani has been chosen as the man to make all of this happen. His record is good, but as the attacks in the past few days indicate, the militants have ideas of their own that could derail the best

Pew Research Center: Journalism is Dead…Sort of and the reason follows...
Israel and the US: Tiff or tipping point?
Why does Andy McNab still hide his face?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Translator Speaks Up For Translations
Former NY Times Editor Asks: Why Don't Honest Journalists Take On Roger Ailes And Fox News?
Israeli Settlement Expansions Continue
A Matter of Timing
How secure is your password? Let's explain it visually
PC Hotel Workers Strike update – 20 Days and counting
Tomgram: Lewis Lapham, Art and the Money Exchange

Obama in more trouble than Netanyahu over Iran: The best thing that Israel can do for the United States in its time of befuddlement is pursue its own interests, for American and Israeli security concerns have one overriding commonality: the need to prevent rogue states in the region from acquiring nuclear weapons. In the the present test of wills between Washington and Jerusalem, the smart money is on David rather than Goliath. [Spengler is a pro Israel hawk]

The True Story of Jews & Freemasons: Are there lodges in Muslim countries?
In most Muslim countries, Masonry is prohibited by law because it is considered to be part of the so-called worldwide Jewish conspiracy. In Saudi Arabia, for example, a Mason will be put in jail. There are reports of secret Masonic lodges in Muslim countries, but I don’t know if they’re true. There were rumors that King Hussein of Jordan was a Mason, but in the same way he kept his contacts with Israel a secret for so many years, there is no telling whether it is true or not. Turkey is the one Muslim country where there are no restrictions on Masonry.

Rupert Murdoch: America's Own Goebbels - What single man did the most to get people behind Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld to go to war with Iraq, which ended up in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians? Rupert Goebbels Murdoch.

Who spreads the propaganda that Obama is the next Hitler? Rupert Goebbels Murdoch.

It gives the man a pretty good taste of his own medicine, don't you think? Not as bad as sticking the name Hitler on Obama, but still quite excellent. Rupert Goebbels Murdoch.

What are you waiting for, dear reader? You have a sense of social responsibility, don't you? And you also have email, haven't you? Rupert Goebbels Murdoch.

Let's spread the name around. Starting now.

Willem de Kooning

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Pakistan is at a critical make-or-break stage", Maj Gen Holbrooke Speaks, M J Akbar,

By Qurat ul ain Siddiqui
Q. How do you see the future of Pakistan?
A. I will continue to do my work and serve the people. However, Pakistan is now at a critical make-or-break stage, and if the system does not undergo a major overhaul, I am afraid that the country may even break up. Given the current conditions, it will take nothing short of a calculated, studied revolution to change things and save Pakistan.
Jawed Naqvi: At a time when the Indian media seems to have lost the plot it once flaunted as a major asset (Feroze Gandhi, remember?) and as its credibility gets rapidly eroded and when it is beginning to be seen as an adjunct of the state and its many corporate collusions, a group of a dozen journalists who question the drift is reason to rejoice. But are the Dirty Dozen dirty eno

VIEW: Equal rights and equal opportunities —Fauzia Yazdani

Female empowerment will not happen through political slogans, but through carefully designed policy interventions that focus on integrating women so as to further gender mainstreaming
ugh to take on the challenges that a power-drunk and increasingly wayward state poses?

M J Akbar: The 108th Amendment envisages a rotational method of reservation that would make two-thirds of the Lok Sabha, or about 360 members, one-term MPs: 181 that will get reserved in an election, and the 181 male seats that will get reserved for women in the following election. Both categories, therefore, become one-term MPs. Two-thirds of the Lok Sabha, therefore, will have no political incentive to serve its constituents.

Kafiristan, Geitner, Shahbaz, Jabari Asim, Amil Khan

Obama outraged at Mexican killings - Lahore, Kabul, Baghdad does not elicit outrage. Why?

Jabari Asim: Much American racial ignorance probably stems from our stubborn insistence on "recognizing" race in the first place. "Race is an idea, not a fact," Nell Irvin Painter reminds us in her impressive new book, The History of White People. "Each person shares 99.99 percent of the genetic material of every other human being. . . . [P]eople from the same race can be more different than people from different races." Without any empirical basis to support their efforts, she observes, arbiters of alleged racial difference proceed via "individual taste and political need." Painter diligently lays out the ways that such tastes and needs worked, over time, to create the classification "white." She tackles a provocative subject with easeful authority, proceeding with admirable restraint and letting flawed scholarship and thinking speak for itself. She only occasionally resorts to such harsh but justifiable descriptions as "nutty," "cockamamie," and "flagrantly nonsensical."
Amil Khan: For the last five months, I have been working in Pakistan on a project to support the many elements of Pakistan's society who believe that hating other religions or different Islamic communities is against the nature of Islam. Our project, Karvaan-e-Amn (Caravan of Peace) has its work cut out, not because its message its alien, but because we are trying to argue against an ideology that has been purposely built up over 30 years with millions of dollars worth of foreign funding.

Emilie Clark

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nadeem F Paracha, Ardeshir, Amina Jilani, Reem Wasay, Talpur, Farrukh Saleem, Aaaker Patel

Ardeshir Cowasjee: Karachi has three sewage-treatment plants (Gutter Baghicha, Mauripur and Mehmoodabad) which process less than 25 per cent of the city’s effluent, allowing over 400 million gallons per day of raw and poisonous sewage to pour into coastal waters. It is criminal that the city government has allotted amenity land for housing to its political supporters within two of these sewage plants — Gutter Baghicha and Mehmoodabad — thus restricting the much-needed expansion of waste-treatment facilities.

Nadeem F Paracha: TV personalities like Zaid Hamid and Aamir Liaquat, and politicians like Imran Khan and Munawar Hussan, are pegs of this new trend, mixing neo-traditionalist trappings of exhibitionistic piety, dress and claims with political discourses that may sound populist and radical, but in fact they are nothing more than the kind of reactionary and myopic mindset... Today society stands clearly polarised. On the one side are those we call the masses and who play the most direct role in politics of democracy; whereas on the other side are large sections of the middle class ...This class, believing in pious and patriotic proclamations expertly wrapped in delusions of grandeur and conspiracy theories, stands completely isolated from the ongoing masses-based democratic process that is underway.

Maxim Cartoon

Amina Jilani: Now, firstly, doing away with the 17th Amendment will not restore the constitution to its pristine 1973 condition. Secondly, doing away with the 17th Amendment, which upholds and validates the LFO of 2002, will mean doing away with the parliamentary structure as it stands. Are the learned legislators, inter alia, going to do away with themselves? Are they about to agree to the elimination of the increase in the number of seats in the assemblies and the factor of the women’s seats?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
He was given the post of visiting lecturer which earned him 640 rupees a month and once a week he took the students outdoors to sketch.
Son of the toil
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Looking at the many portraits of the women and the young girls he has painted over the years, you cannot tell whether the subject...

Book review: From shrine to soapbox —by Reem Wasay

Mazaar, Bazaar: Design and Visual Culture in Pakistan
Edited and designed by Saima Zaidi Oxford University Press; Pp 347

Seeing truly is believing when leafing through this mammoth collection of the images we are most associated with, those that have defined the visual landscape of Pakistan, a work still in progress. In a day and age of limited attention spans and visual overload, to come across an exhaustive portrayal of the optical dimension of Pakistan’s story-so far has proved to be illuminating indeed. Mazaar Bazaar, the first in-depth look at the design and visual culture of this country, is a feast for every budding creationalist’s hidden aesthetic acumen. Saima Zaidi, a lecturer on design and typography at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, has painstakingly gathered an indispensable anthology, aimed at thrusting our heritage into the here and now.

analysis: Phony pilots —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Nationalities are denied rights in the name of religion and state ideology, people go missing on flimsy grounds, minorities live under threat and police brutality continues unabated

And the debt keeps escalting!

Rajen Nair: Photo documentary on Dharavi-

re: this
2002-2007: Geo began its test transmission on August 14, 2002 (regular transmission began on October 1). Between 2002 and 2007, some three dozen additional television channels also went on air. Somewhere between 2002 and 2007, the electronic media had become an alternative source of power transforming Pakistan's triangular political arena into a polygon with four sides.
you should explore this alternative source of power in greater detail in another column
1: how effective is this power?
2: who are the power brokers?
3: do they inflame of diffuse crisis?
4: how biased/unbiased/manipulative are they? [ recommend reading cafe piayala, nadeen paracha - no criticism of conglomerated and sponsors and backing up wolf in sheep's clothing...farhat hasmi, aamir liaaqut hussain, zaid hamid etc.....]
5: do they have a code of ethics?
6: which ones enjoy establishment patronage (including 'agency' support for selected 'anchors')
Aaker Patel: The second act of legislation, the one against corruption, is called the Right to Information Act. This law addresses the secrecy that citizens of poor nations are used to in their relations with the state. The officers of government departments -- police, municipality, tax -- usually behave like masters. The citizen, especially the one who is not rich or influential, looks to them as dispensers of favours rather than of service. They hold enormous arbitrary power because authority isn't easily challenged in India. The RTI Act, as it is called, forces them to explain under what law they have taken the decision they did. This makes them more likely to do the right thing, or so the act's legislators believe.

Tarbela Dam, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Denies Interview, Meet the Ann Coulter of Pakistan.

Bryan Wells, a visiting scholar at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences who wrote his doctoral thesis on the Indus Valley symbols at Harvard, agrees, in theory, with Mahadevan and Adhikari – that the symbols form a script. “But I don’t know why you need mathematical models to know it’s a language. You just have to look at the damn thing.” Nathan G for The National

Code unknown: the fierce argument over ancient Indian symbols "Our algorithm looked at a corpus of 417 Indus Valley symbols, from 2,906 individual texts,” Adhikari says. “Then it ran every possible two-character combination to compute the probabilities.” For comparison, the team also turned the program loose on Sumerian, English and Old Tamil scripts, and on two control batches of non-linguistic symbols. The results, plotted as a graph, look striking. The curve representing the Indus Valley symbols sits, along with the other known languages, in a dense bunch, which looks like a quartet of snakes trying to eat each other. The plots for the non-linguistic symbols, meanwhile, float serenely far above and below this intertwined bundle. On this metric, the Indus Valley curve coincides nearly exactly with that of Old Tamil, the most ancient of the known Dravidian languages. “When we published our results,” Adhikari says, “we were immediately called Dravidian nationalists.”

Soft-spoken Somali-Canadian, K’naan, about to go global

Tarbela Dam & Karkoram Highway Threatened in Pakistan
Meet the Ann Coulter of Pakistan.
Robert Fisk’s World: Try this reading list if you want to understand the Middle East
Sex and the Swami: Has saffron been stained?
venomously asking?

Beyond boundaries: Explaining his motivations, Singh referred back to his origins in Sindh (the province famous for its syncretistic and tolerant Hindu-Muslim culture) and suggested that he could only mourn the subsequent division of pluralist communities on the basis of abstract and singular religious identities. “In Jaisalmer,” he said, “Muslims don’t eat beef, Rajputs don’t eat pork.” Singh went on to speak wistfully of a famous shrine in Indian Sindh that is revered by both Muslims and Hindus.

Salvador Dali

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Beena Sarwar, Irfan Hussain, A Count Ability, Anjum Niaz,

Beena Sarwar Personal Political: Plays and books, not bombs “New Karachi literary festival hopes to turn page on bombs,” trumpeted a headline in the Independent, UK. Inspired by Jaipur, the festival in March “may not turn the page on the bombs,” as Siraj Khan, a Boston-based Pakistani commented in an email, “but it is very inspiring. In my recent 7-month stint in Karachi, I saw and felt this breath of fresh air myself. This has not happened overnight and it’s not just the new crop of writers who are turning the tide.” Read more

Irfan Hussain: Given Nawaz Sharif’s distrust of the military, the army is hardly likely to prefer him to a pliant Asif Zardari. From GHQ’s perspective, it is a choice between bad and worse. So even though the army high command might loathe and despise Zardari and the PPP, they fear Nawaz Sharif and a resurgent PML-N. Another factor in the army’s calculation must be that unlike the past when a pliable judiciary gave coup-makers a blank cheque, this time they will not have an easy ride in the Supreme Court.

Book review: Chilling truths —by Afrah Jamal

The Al Qaeda Connection By Imtiaz Gul Penguin Global; Pp 320

Today, the landscape has been transformed into a hunting ground as the showdown between the military and militants gets underway and retaliatory strikes against the public intensify. While attempting to curb insurgency within its borders, Pakistan’s security forces have been accused of stage-managing militant outfits that once served as counterweights against traditional enemies. Never disarmed, and left unguided, these heat-seeking entities latched on to a new target.

Anjum Niaz: Taseer's nitpicking against the LinkSharifs is unending. "Look at the kind of people being voted into the assemblies on PML-N tickets. They belong to qabza groups, are accused of molesting women, are fraudsters and barbaric law- breakers…they are the dregs of the earth! Daily we hear their MPA or MNA featuring in the press for breaking the law." Isn't Asif Ali Zardari too breaking the law, employing jailbirds, bank defaulters, outlaws, villains, NAB convicts to sensitive posts? Two wrongs don't make a right.

Let us look at the assets that allegedly belong to our two-timer: “The Raiwind estate spread over several thousand acres; Ittefaq Sugar Mills set up in 1982; Brothers Steel in 1983; Brothers Textile Mills in 1986; Brothers Sugar Mills Ltd in 1986; Ittefaq Textile Units in 1987; Khalid Siraj Textile Mills in 1988; Ramzan Buksh Textiles in 1987; and Farooq Barkat (Pvt) Ltd in 1985.” Naeem Tahir's A Count Ability: This is obvious and ‘tangible’, but there are said to be other ‘intangible’ but useful ‘assets’. The examples are quoted: $ 60 million from the famous road contract known as GT road (connecting Lahore-Islamabad); $ 140 million in unsecured loans from Pakistan’s State Bank to fund companies owned or controlled by the two-timer. He did not pay the loans back to the bank, instead got them pardoned from President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar. Rs 60 million from government rebates on sugar exported by mills controlled by him and his business associates, Rs 58 million from inflated prices paid for imported wheat from the US and Canada. There may be an endless list of gains by using authority, gains in taking over foreign exchange, levying of duties after the Ittefaq Group imports and so on, and of course the prime properties in London and elsewhere.


Maxim Cartoon

Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Under the Radar News 3.11.10 Israel's Gaza Blockade Criticized By UN Humanitarian Chief

BOOK REVIEW : Healing invisible wounds BOOK REVIEW Healing invisible wounds
Noor by Sorayya Khan Reviewed by Tahir Rauf

"The people who say - those who go away will return - tell lies."
Waris Shah (Sufi Poet)

Noor is a beautifully crafted political novel by Pakistani-Dutch writer Sorayya Khan. Khan paints the pictures of the horrors of 1971 civil war between East and West Pakistan, in which about three million people died. As a result of that war, Bangladesh was created, with the Indian army acting as a scalpel. In Bangladesh, almost everyone has a relative or friend who was consumed by the war. Thousands of Pakistani Bengalis were victims of the atrocities of the West Pakistani army, which included rape and horrific killings.

Asia’s new strategic energy resource?

AN ATOL SPECIAL REPORT : Iran's spies show how it's done -

Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, 1928-2010 - Tantawi was a moderate in the same way King Abdullah is a moderate; compared with the radicalism of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the hard-line Wahhabi clerics, both appear to be in the vanguard of an Islamic renaissance. Prior to his order prohibiting niqab at al-Azhar, Tantawi condemned female genital mutilation (FGM), which he also described as unconnected to Islam. But both niqab and FGM have been supported by radicals among Muslims

A titanic power struggle in Kabul
Sending a laptop to Gaza
Twitter Location Tool Exposes Your Whereabouts
Johann Hari: Enough. The Palestinians Should Now Declare Independence
Pakistan Missile Test In Arabian Sea Appears To Send Message To India
The Decline of Israel: Interview with Jonathan Cook
Tomgram: Andy Kroll, Welcome to America, Sucker

Jacob Marrel

Friday, March 12, 2010

Club Helpless or Club Indispensable, The Thar Spell, Nahid Raza,

Spirituality à la Nahid

KARACHI: Art critic Nafees Ghaznavi has used “prized artist” and “feminist warrior” for describing Nahid Raza whose solo exhibition is being held at Chawkandi Art Gallery.

Themes of spirituality play a huge part in Raza’s work, and the presence of Buraq in many of her works reminds the viewer of the sacredness of women and how men cannot live without them and vice versa. Her constant use of circles is a testament to women’s power to enlighten us just as the moon enlightens the earth when it is devoid of the sun.

Karl Rove “Proud” of U.S. Waterboarding

Smart Toilets? A Revolution May Be Coming to Your Bathroom

The Desert Spell Far from being a storm in the desert, Thar also holds many stories of its own. It’s inception as Sindh’s jewel is backed by old temple ruins loaded with cultural, religious and historical significance, which were validated by crooked signboards bearing the authority of the Director of Archaeology of Hyderabad. But even to the untrained eye, these ruins seem half-heartedly restored and some stood on the verge of collapsing. Despite this, walls engraved with carvings and drawings of Hindu gods, elephants and lotus symbols appeared imposing at times. The sandstone marble pillars of the Bhodesar mosque also created a tangible peaceful spirit that captivated us.

Welcome to Club Indispensable: Time will tell. At the moment, only this is certain: you, me and our elected representatives are mere passengers in a vehicle that we can only pray Kayani and his boys know the destination of. Welcome to Club Helpless.

Gulmina Bilal Ahmad :We have to differentiate between the branch and the root of the problem. The ideological thinkers and the leaders of the Taliban responsible for creating havoc in our lives are the roots. The roots need to be pulled out of society. For they wilfully make the decision to bomb the innocent. They are responsible for their actions of waging war against the state and the people of Pakistan. No mercy should be shown to them for they had the freedom to make the choice. Thus they should be held responsible. However, for those who did not have the freedom to choose, rehabilitation must be explored as an option for them.

IPRI, scholar clash over book rights

Reqo Diq mine at melting point, India seeks a new direction,

The Thames Tunnel

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Unmitigable torture, Restoring 1973 Constitution in original form not possible: Aitzaz

Unmitigable torture (1) The dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.
(2) No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.
— (Article 14, Constitution of Pakistan) -
Last week a very large number of people in Pakistan discovered that the way some police officials thrashed a few men in their custody with leather straps (chhittar) was absolutely unconscionable.

Women sans ideology It is the entrenched exploitative system that needs to change, not the sex ratio in parliament.

Restoring 1973 Constitution in original form not possible: Aitzaz

Kamila Hyat: But, while the electronic media has certainly opened up debate on all kinds of issues and with its tabloid-style reporting created a kind of obsession with news, the question is also what thought processes it is encouraging. The volume of religious or pseudo-religious programmes on television, when all the channels are taken collectively, is enormous. ...But the electronic media has in other cases also pushed thought in a specific direction taking it towards obscurantism and ignorance – and this is a disturbing trend in a society that badly needs meaningful change

VIEW: Age of extensions —Syed Talat Hussain

The COAS has done precisely what the chief justice did in the case of his trusted comrades, which is not much different from the reasons we hear from the president and the prime minister for retaining important members of their cabinet and advisors. One of the fundamentals of this entire effort has been to ensure that bad traditions of the Musharraf era are firmly rooted out. (But Talat, Kayani fails here, badly)

Book review: The other side of tragedy —by Anum Raza Hasan

Humanity amidst Insanity: Hope During and After the Indo-Pak Partition By Tridivesh Singh Maini, Tahir Malik and Ali Farooq Malik
UBSPD; Pp 186

Every crisis poses an opportunity to seek some lesson, some space to persuade reflection. From tragedy can come wisdom that might open minds, that might save lives. This book epitomises the hope and progressive foresight in daring to look at the other side of tragedy.

Pakistan risks IMF's $1.2bn, Why the Maoists want Arundhati Roy | Faisal Devji, Rachel Corrie Family Finally Puts Israel In Dock

Pakistan risks IMF's $1.2bn
A good bet on cash, tourists and crime
On Meera Nanda's The Wrongs of the Religious Right: Reflections on Science, Secularism and Hindutva
China has a Congo copper headache
THE MOGAMBO GURU : Inflation insurance
The Annual Kenneth Arrow Lecture: Amartya Sen on "Social Choice and Individual Values."
The ecological case for ebooks
TalibanLite™: More Virgins, Less Killing™.
Why the Maoists want Arundhati Roy Faisal Devji
A defining moment for punk Islam? Basim Usmani
Loonie at par by summer: economists
3-D TVs coming this week to U.S.
Canadian wheelchair user beaten in Australia
Rachel Corrie Family Finally Puts Israel In Dock
Rachel Corries (Posthumous) Day In Court
Truth in labeling: EU court challenges "Made in Israel"
Letterman Proves That Rahm Emanuel Is Nuts (VIDEO)
America confronts its worst nightmare: blonde 'Jihad Jane'
World" href="" target=_blank>Jerusalem Journal: Palestinian Family’s Eviction Stirs Old Ghosts in a Contested City

Ala Bashir

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pilgrim Non Grata in Mecca, Newsweek Sets Up Local Shop, Clueless?

Mayor of Kabil & Occupier of President's House discuss Security

Pilgrim Non Grata in Mecca
Pennsylvania Woman Tied to Plot on Cartoonist

Rana, Malik get one-year bans, Younis and Yousuf axed from teams - If the team is rotten, then are the people who are in charge of running it not the same? The players have been singled out, but the managers, selectors and board officials who run the show have sidestepped the mess nicely. What of the punishers?

Upset by U.S. Security, Pakistanis Return as Heroes - In preparatory briefings for their trip, the politicians were advised that they might have to submit to extra body searches, just as randomly selected Americans must submit to secondary screening by the new machines, two officials from the American Embassy said. The Pakistanis were specifically warned that the United States was not a “V.I.P. culture,” unlike Pakistan, where politicians are often exempted from unpalatable procedures that other people have to tolerate, the American officials said.

Newsweek Sets Up Local Shop

Invisible victims of terror With the helplessness of such women visible to all, it is hardly surprising that stories have surfaced about pimps who propose marriage ostensibly to ‘help them’. Apparently, after a sham ceremony, the pimps transport widows and young women from various areas of the NWFP to red light districts in Karachi and Lahore. Undoubtedly, many of those who escape this fate often end up begging to feed their large families since they lack access to any skills or resources to earn a living.
Maxim Cartoon

Tick Tock: Only 2 weeks left: PPP, MQM indecisive over new local govt system
President Zardari signs women bill into law
Women’s Complaint Cells closed down without prior notice
Biggies refuse to cough up Rs 7 billion

Police clueless as Lahore blast toll climbs to 15 - This is strange - what happened to the usual suspects - the US, Israelis, India, RaW.....?

Anjum Niaz: We all are adrift as a nation. Convicts, cheats, felons, jailbirds are the government's and opposition's most favoured. Forget the Taliban savagery, the whole landscape is turning bloody. Had the rot been contained; had corruption by cabinet ministers been stopped; had Zardari's wealth been returned to the treasury coffers; had the energy crisis been resolved; had the president fulfilled his promises made to the people of Pakistan; had the superior judiciary been allowed to work independently; had the PML-N been a genuine opposition party and not a shadow boxer; the daily practice to reward the criminals that we're witnessing among the ruling party and the opposition would be a thing of the past.