Thursday, February 26, 2009

Of Faiz, Salman Taseer & the Sharif Brothers

Another sad day for Pakistan!

Another proof that Zardari was not just academically unqualified to lead Pakistan out of its multiple crises, he is also unqualified as a president, the uniting force of a federal state. That he lacks a political vision for Pakistan has been evident throughout his brief tenure, so his pathetic pursuit of a military dictator's policies can't be lamented forever. But what is the rest of our political leadership thinking? The Prime Minister has condemned the biased decision against Sharif brothers in unambigous terms. Asfandiar Wali sounds even more enraged and has not minced words. Imran Khan has never been afraid of speaking his mind, and he has shown no surprize. Qazi Sahib, quite predictably, is beside himself. Even the Choudhries from Gujrat, who now have a golden opportunity to grab, don't seem too happy for such short-sighted decisions have repurcussions that can also wrap unsuspecting hopefuls in their onslaught. Of course, the only person who hasn't condemned this politically motivated decision is Altaf Hussain, the nominator-in-chief of Asif Ali Zardari.

Isn't it a huge irony that Faiz sang songs of doing away with the oppressors and the tyrants all his life, yet it was to be the ignominious lot of Dr. Taseer's brilliantly-educated son, and Faiz Sahib's nephew (through marriage), in the month of Faiz Sahib's birthday, that a civil martial law is imposed upon Faiz Sahib's native province? Once again the hope of able governance, and dedicated service is lost. Once again peoples' voices are being stiffled, their dreams of a peace and prosperity being trampled. And so Faiz Sahib and his vocal wife, Alice probably turn in their graves, while Saleema and Muneeza Hashmi, once brilliantly articulate against dictatorships of all sorts, now silently watch their cousin's fascist politics.

Salman Taseer may not be his father's true son, but same is true of Sanam Bhutto. She had the audacity to hold a nation, so wronged by political adventurers, responsible for her sister and father's murders, but she allowed her father's and sister's sacrifices to be stolen away from right under her nose with blatant lies. She watches, too fearful for her own life (perhaps rightly so), as her father's party disintegrates at the hands of these midgets, and says nothing. Some day, the truth about Benazir's will will come out from her own children, but I refuse to believe that she did not confide in her only sister and her children about the major decisions she was making with her father's and her own political capital, that would have significant consequences for not only her own party, but for her country. Sanam Bhutto has been a coward for not speaking the truth when she could be the most valuable voice people and PPP's faithful workers have wanted to hear. That can perhaps resolve at least one baffling issue for Pakistan: the legitimacy of its current President who has continued playing with the destinty of this country, and why had he really been sidelined by his own wife.

Its also a moment of deep reackoning, of a decisive step for people like Yousuf Gillani and Asfandyar Wali. Do they want to be unwilling witnesses to another chaos, or part their ways with the dishonest and selfish politics of nincompoops. While Mukhdoom Fahim Amin sold his soul to the devil for a mere ministry, this is the moment for Makhdoom Yousuf Raza Gillani, Asfandyar Khan and perhaps the likes of Raza Rabbani to decide how they want to be remembered by history, the most ruthless judge of character.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Democratic Govt.: the First Challange

(These thoughts were generated by the columns of Salim Safi & Maryam Gilani in Daily Mashriq, Peshawar last week, and Hasan Nisar in Jang Rawalpindi on Saturday, March 15th; I expanded upon the two letters written seperately to the first two journalists.)

I am no sympathizer of Pakistan Peoples Party, except when it faced the calamitous moments of 27th December 2007, when the earth shook for all and sundry whether they were Pakistani or not. I was never a fan of Benazir until she was assassinated so mercilessly, so unreasonably, in the prime of her life, and at the peak of her political maturity. The fact remains that many of her actions and political twists and turns last year prior to tragic events of December made me question her sincerity in bringing back democracy to Pakistan. Now, in retrospect, many of her actions make some sense and show a political acumen that she certainly did not have in her first two stints as premier. She definitely had thought about her course of action, of delivering promises that she and her father had failed to deliver earlier. She matured as a politician as she negotiated the challenges of her difficult and restless life as almost a single mother, a lonely wife, a suffering sister, and a devoted daughter. I give her benefit of doubt because she seemed to be embarking on an independent course, and cleverly used her connections and influences to find her way back home---only to face the fate that destiny or evil traders of death had prepared for her.

Of all parties affected by this most untimely death, is her own party---the Pakistan Peoples' Party (Parliamentarians), which is of course not much of a peoples party, or else Asif Zardari, the defacto chair would heed the voice of the people.

I do, unfortunately, tend to subscribe to the theory regarding Zardari's involvement in BB's shameful murder. Zardari has gained the most from this carefully engineered situation. While Bait-Ullah Mehsud may scream from the rooftops that he had no role in BB's murder, and while Amrica Sharif is totally bewildered at the turn of events & suffers the uncertainty quietly (with its ambassadors still hobnobing with Zardari and others), and while Pakistani police may beat the pulp out of those kids caught in Dera Ismail Khan to get their confessions, I find it hard to believe that this man has truly suffered in any way (his 8 years in prison...ha!), especially the loss of a trusted, beloved wife (his years of escapades in Islamabad, as erstwhile Mr. 10 %, are no secret).

Zardari watched from the sidelines as the bloodbath played out in Karachi and Rawalpindi, pretending to be sick, sick, sick with heart ailments and whatnots. There was also the excuse that someone had to take care of the "children", while the children had raised themselves under their mother's supervision. All along, Zardari had been away, either in jail on charges of corruption, or in New York convalescing and recuperating. On the third day of his wife's burial, he suddenly demolished a much-revered tradition of his ancestors, naming his son a "Bhutto" (how I would have celebrated that as a feminist if that had happened only a week, a month, or a year earlier when the mother was alive). Then he announces that he be buried in the Bhutto Mausoleum after his own death (and what about his own ancestral cemetery, and his own status of being an only Zardari son), knowing full well that secretly, his friends, and openly, his foes are frowning upon these too good to be true shows of loyalty to his wife's memory. People know that cultural traditions should not be subverted in a moment of sentimentalism. A consensus has to be built thoughtfully, philosophically, to do away with them. In fact, his own party had nothing but an embarrassed silence after these emotional announcements which also publicly aired his desire to be the future premier. One wonders if this was the direction, the game was going to take, and Benazir was, but a pawn, not a leader in the hands of conspirators.

Now, carefully moving ahead with the game plan, comes the long and ugly strategy of doing away with one of the most loyal leaders of the party: Makhdom Amin Fahim. When even non-sympathizers like me feel like screaming out in protest, others must believe "there is something rotten in the state of Denmark." No one in the party is saying: the king is naked?

When were Asif Zardari's intentions not clear? This is what he had aspired for all along. Nature, or destiny, or a flawless conspiracy, has provided him the perfect opportunity. Now suddenly he is in perfect health; now he has become a picture of modesty and generosity. But do Pakistanis have such short memories?

I am not just venting myself; I love my homeland & I believe Pakistan is being deprived of an honest man, Amin Fahim, to lead it out of its current madness and Mian Sahib or Asfandyar Wali would rather be silent witnesses than vocal critics of these moves (and perhaps it is not really their place either to criticize or comment).

I wonder why are Amin Fahim's loyalties to the Peoples Party questioned now (a la Khwaja Asif & some journalists). The man comes from a family that has been PPP loyalist since its birth. Under no circumstances were the Makhdooms deterred by anyone. No temptation (including premiership) could steer this particular family away. What else one must do to prove himself? Amin Faheem is politically-savvy and yet a man of values; unlike million other politicians, he is educated and cultured, has sagacity and strength, and is time-tested. He has an even temper (unlike the current President of Pakistan who often acts like a street-thug), and is respected alike by friends and foes and even by those who were neutral. What else does one want in a national leader? If he has started showing signs of discomfort & displeasure with people like Zardari & Sherry Rahman, why shouldn't he? Zardari's so-called imprisonment aside, his ambitions are very thinly veiled. Sherry Rahman is of no consequences at all, and yet she dared to lock her horns with a stalwart.

This certainly does not bode well for PPP. Just like its original team that stood with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in its moments of trial, propelled it to the tragic moments of December 1971 to form the first government, and then was dismissed most cruelly under a variety of circumstances (everyone born before 1980s knows the fate of J. A. Rahim and others), Benazir Bhutto's right hand Amin Fahim is being severed, and her trusted team is nowhere to be seen.

The point is that it is not just the institutions that matter; people and their leadership also matters. People make institution and strengthen them with their ideals, their vision. Institutions are not wild, organic growths, they are conceived by great minds and strengthened and cherished by the characters of their leaders. When Bhutto lost his original magic and developed autocratic tendencies, he brought about his own tragic end ("The fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars, but in ourselves" says Shakespeare). Although one can apply the same to Amin Fahim, I suggest Zardari is a better candidate for putting the party on a course that may not have been envisioned by Benazir Bhutto.

As a concerned Pakistani in the US, I feel being let down once again, by the people who have little qualifications to make decisions of major consequences. It hurts, and it hurts deeply when you see your country "going to the dogs" literally, especially if you are far away. I never had any personal fondness for the two Makhdom Sahibs (Amin Fahim or Javeid Hashmi), but as I age myself, I realize these are the old guards of a declining order. They do not need to prove anything anymore. They are not the "salesmen" of their parties; they are the true asset and treasures of their parties. They are the leaders Pakistanis have looked up to, and hope to guide them out of this bloody scenario of their daily lives.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pakistan Army & a New Scenario

Hear it from the horse's mouth.
Maj. Gen. (r) Ahtesham Zamir admits of his degrading role in the Musharraf-Shujat staged farce that was the election of 2002. I suspect this gentleman is the son of late Zamir Jaffri, and perhaps the credit goes to that thing called "zamir" (which his father, a beloved poet, an honest man, had no dearth of) that has finally forced his mouth open and made him speak candidly about the drama that ushered in one of the darkest periods of Pakistan's history, under two criminals called Pervaiz Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz.
One wonders and wonders what happened to the erstwhile values of honesty, honor, humility, and professionalism? The best education (of Shaukat Aziz) in the world, and a good family background (of Pervaiz Musharraf) that were thought essential to a good, productive life, went down the drain, and two nincompoops played relentlessly with the life & honor of a nation, with the reputation of a country, and its army, causing such damage that it will take decades to recover from this ignominy.
Pakistan army has suffered as much as the country it was supposed to protect. As curious kids of the 1960's, and as young women, we almost worshipped men in the uniform, be it an officer or a sepoy (soldier). Many dreamt of their Prince Charmings in a uniform. Those dreams of young women and adoring children, that relentless trust of an innocent nation, were trampled under bloodied boots in Islamabad, Baluchistan, Waziristan, & Swat in the last five years.
Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani has taken the first few steps to restore that honor. May he never fall to the temptations of the Devil Incarnate to prolong his evil empire, pretending to fight terrorism. Only the new, legitimate government of Pakistan must lay the groundwork for dealing with problems that do need to be addressed. Pakistan army should advice and implement legislated policies, but must refrain from treading the dangerous path of Gen. Zia and Gen. Musharraf.
I am sure Gen. Kiyani will not follow Zia & Musharraf, no matter what the international players dictate. See, we are still willing to trust, despite bitterness of all these years. I hear that one of the new Chief's clan, Gen. Jamshed Kiyani had boldly told the king he is naked, to his face. He was send home. Yet he will be remembered for speaking up when it mattered most, unlike the clique of retired generals who have suddenly woken up from their collective coma to make their sickening presence felt once again (excluding Air Marshal Noor Khan, a total gentleman and a professional soldier through and through). These time-tested power-brokers now have the audacity to presume Pakistanis have dementia. However, we know this country does not need Tikka Khans & Faiz Chishtis, Hameed Guls & Asad Durranis anymore; we do not even need Asghar Khans & Aslam Begs. These are men of our national nightmares, lacking any vision at any time. They played with the fates of two nations, and have caused such scars, even Time cannot heal them.
What we do need is men like Waheed-Ullah Kakar & perhaps Asif Nawaz Janjua. They were the soldiers that served well and faded gracefully from the limelight when the time came to make an exit. Gen. Kiyani can do even better; destiny has chosen him for this moment; he can rise like a "Mard-e Momin" or fall in disgrace like his many predecessors.
The Kiyanis have shown character. Ashfaq Kiyani has all the stars aligned for him. He must save, strengthen, and restore the reputation of an army that had made us proud in 1965. Under no circumstances should the Pakistan Army engage into politics of this country again. Its time for them to redefine, and remake their image; they have gained enough wisdom of their own in the last 50 years.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Once again---the dreaming, the hoping

Don't know about others, but I feel these could be the times history changes its course in Pakistan, and becaue of it, the rest of the world.

While Zardari and Nawaz Sharif hobnob in Islamabad, Asfandyar Khan & Afrasiyab Khan in NWFP should reflect on this moment of rebirth for Pukhtoons (I am using this term loosly for people of all ethnicities, all religions, and all political persuasions, since anyone from the land of my ancestors is identified as Pukhtoon, and I sincerely believe they are). These two and their team can either cause a stillbirth, cause a botched delivery, or cradle in their arms, the dream that can be translated into reality.

Never before have the people of this blood-soaked land expressed themseleves in such clear, emphatic manner. Asfandyar Wali and Afrasiyab Khattak cannot let these voters down who came out aginst all odds and spoke in such a resounding voice, matchless in history of this province. Once naive, now war-weary, our people have undoubtedly paid a huge price for their blind trust in a misdirected, misguided Jehad. We ravaged our own land & spilled our own blood for the bully in the allay who is himself bewildered at the outcome of these elections.

Enough of our colossal stupidities! Now is the time to look back and re-interpret what Wali Khan had said all along: this is no Jihad; this is a war between two superpowers in which Muslims shall be the ultimate losers. His prophecies came true, but so can his dreams for this land, this nation
History may not provide such an opportunity to ANP again, if they do not prove themselves true Pukhtoons, true Muslims, true Pakistanis. Now is the moment to dispel the doubts cast over the party's character forever, and now is the moment to show that Bacha Khan's legacy of non-violance, and Wali Khan's vision of Pukhtoon Renaissance did have meaning & substance.

To Asfandyar and Afrasiyab and their loyal followers falls the sisphyan burden of reconstruction on both sides of the Durand line. Our rise is their rise and our blood can rejuvinate our sisters and brothers on the other side. We have wronged them and betrayed them for a very long time. Now is the time to pay their debt by facilitating their efforts to create a peaceful Afghanistan by consolidating our own strengths in Pakistan, and then by lending strong support to a legitimate democratic center, and by saying "no more" to all native and non-native forces of darkness and destruction.

I am sure Gen Kiyani and the Pakistani Army will rise to the occasion as the signs are all positive so far. If all our stars are aligned, and we show the will and the determination, there is no reason why this country cannot, on its own, put an end to the hegemonic agendas of the war-mongers of the world.

God-speed, Asfandyar. May God help you and give you the wisdom of your ancestors. Ameen!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Our Moment of Joy

Celebrate people! This much awaited moment of triumph for DEMOCRACY & the people of Pakistan is totally matchless. Who knows how BRUTUS/ZAHAK (of Shahnama) will stomach it, and how Zardari & Nawaz Sharif will screw up their mandates later (hope I am wrong). At least in this moment, we are alive and proud as Pakistanis. At least in this moment, we can trust Pakistani Army to do what it should have done all along, and not disrespect the will of the people.
I am so ecstatic in this moment, despite the daily problems and stresses of life, I can't compare it to anything except perhaps the moment Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup in 1992, or the moment Javaid Miandad hit his famous sixer in Sharjah. Those were such genuine opportunities to be proud as Pakistanis! And incredibly only a decade and a half ago....
Last night reminded me of the elections of 1970, when I was not eligible to vote, but had enjoyed the election transmission on Pakistan Television with the whole gang in Peshawar. That transmission was moderated by the inimitable Shuaib Hashmi and Obaidullah Aleem. Yesterday and last night, I watched the Internet transmission of Geo with the same excitement, and lo and behold, who brought me most of the news: a talented former student Javaid Iqbal who had caught the acting bug while working on his Masters and who I had only half-heartedly encouraged in that direction. Now he is one of the faces of Geo news. And I am proud that he found a way to fulfill himself.
I hope and pray our hopes, this long-suffering country's hopes, are also fulfilled. Ameen!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

OBL in Chitral

Read story at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/07/eveningnews/main3243560.shtml?source=search_story#ccmm

I am so against drawingroom journos who can't help themselves. Here is my original response which had to be curtailed to 1500 words:

My problem is with the basic facts of the story. Where did the "author" get the idea that Chitral is a rugged country with Tribals governing their land with an ancient code of hospitality etc.? Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The author of this report does not have any idea of the diversity of Pakistani population, their customs, or even the Pakistani terrain.
Chitralis are a different melieu from tribal Pukhtoons (of Waziristan, Tirah, even urban from Peshawarites) who have alledgely hosted Bin Laden at various times in the past; neither are they bound by the code of "Pukhtoonwali." Their history is different from the rest of Pakistan, and their chemistry, their habits, their customs, their approach to religion and issues of security have always been quite at variance with the more aggressive Pukhtoons.
Characterized usually as the most peaceful, fun-loving, romantic people of the North, they have faithfully followed the laws of the land, dating back to the colonial era. It is almost baffling that while other ethnicities, just beyond the Lowari Pass and Arandu engaged in the militant struggle against Soviets and Americans, as a perceived "Muslim cause," Chitralis have remained largely aloof and unimpressed by the "Jihad" next door. You could say the mullahs could not hoodwink them.
Ironically, they have hosted the Afghan refugees for three decades, and were frequent targets of heavy, relentless bombing of the Soviet Airforce (that I witnessed) during the 80's and early 90's. Yet they seem to have a clear understanding of the game that was played by the "super powers" and their boy-toys, the mujahedeen or Taliban. They always seemed to know who was pulling the strings.
The long and short of it is, Osama Bin Laden would think many times before he heads in that direction. While Chitralis may not jump over each other to host him or hand him to the CIA, they would dutifully present him to the Pakistani government, no matter who is in power.
Interestingly, if Benazir is "installed" as the next premier of the country, OBL will have to steer clear of "Kashkar" since the Kashkaris have forty years of loyalty to her late father, ZAB, a leader with a very modern, secular, pro-West approach to all issues.