Save the banks to save the economy – Spanish Edition

“Spanish housing in the 2000s was the U.S. experience on steroids. During the early part of the decade, house prices soared 150 percent as the household debt-to-income ratio doubled. When house prices collapsed, the home equity of many Spanish home owners was completely wiped out, setting in motion a levered-losses cycle even worse than the one in the United States. The Spanish economy foundered, with unemployment topping 25 percent by 2012. Spanish home owners had even worse problems than their American counterparts. As in the United States, house-price declines destroyed home equity, and many home owners were evicted from their homes. But in Spain a law from 1909 stipulated that most Spanish home owners remain responsible for mortgage payments—even after handing over the keys to the bank. If a Spaniard was evicted from his home because he missed his mortgage payments, he could not discharge his mortgage debt in bankruptcy. He was still liable for the entire principal.1 Further, accrued penalties and the liabilities followed him the rest of his life. And bankruptcy registers made it difficult for him to lease an apartment or even get a cell phone contract.

“As a result of these laws, mortgage-debt burdens continued to squeeze Spanish households even after they were forced out of their homes. Suzanne Daley of the New York Times reported on the story of Manolo Marban, who in 2010 was delinquent on his mortgage and awaiting eviction. He expected no relief from his $140,000 mortgage even after getting kicked out: “‘I will be working for the bank the rest of my life,’ Mr. Marban said recently, tears welling in his eyes. ‘I will never own anything—not even a car.’”3 Hard-handed Spanish mortgage laws spurred widespread condemnation and social unrest. Locksmiths and police began refusing to help bankers evict delinquent home owners.4 In 2013 Spanish firefighters in Catalonia also announced that they would no longer assist in evictions, holding up a sign reading: “Rescatamos personas, no bancos”—we rescue people, not banks.

“Even outsiders recognized the harshness of Spanish mortgage laws: the European Union Court of Justice handed down a ruling in 2013 demanding that Spain make it easier for mortgage holders to escape foreclosure by challenging onerous mortgage terms in court.5 The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board—not known as a left-leaning advocate for indebted home owners—urged Spain to reform mortgage laws to “prevent evicted homeowners from being saddled eternally with debt.”6 A number of opposition parties in the Spanish parliament attempted to reform the laws governing mortgage contracts. But in the end, nothing was done. As we write, harsh Spanish mortgage laws remain on the books, and Spain has endured a horribly severe recession, comparable to the Great Depression in the United States.

So why wasn’t more done to help Spanish home owners? Lawmakers in Spain made an explicit choice: any mortgage relief for indebted households would hurt Spanish banks, and the banking sector must be shielded as much as possible. For example, if lawmakers made it easier for home owners to discharge their debt by walking away from the home, more Spaniards would choose to stop paying and walk away. This would leave banks with bad homes instead of interest-earning mortgages, which would then lead to larger overall economic costs. The head of the mortgage division at Spain’s largest property website put it bluntly: “If the government were to take excessive measures regarding mortgage law, that would affect banks. It would endanger all of the hard work that has been done so far to restore the Spanish banking system to health.

“The New York Times story by Suzanne Daley reported that “the government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has opposed . . . letting mortgage defaulters settle their debts with the bank by turning over the property. . . . Government officials say Spain’s system of personal guarantees saved its banks from the turmoil seen in the United States.” The article quoted the undersecretary of the Housing Ministry: “It is true that we are living a hangover of a huge real estate binge. And it is true that far too many Spaniards have excessive debt. But we have not seen the [banking] problems of the U.S. because the guarantees [requiring Spaniards to pay their mortgage debt] here are so much better.

“Still, the extreme preferential treatment given to banks under Spanish bankruptcy law was not enough to protect the banking sector. Spanish banks steadily weakened as the economy contracted. In July 2012 the Spanish banking system was given a $125 billion bailout package by Eurozone countries. And it was actually backed by Spanish taxpayers.9
So did the policy of protecting banks at all costs succeed? Not at all. Five years after the onset of the financial crisis, the recession in Spain is one of the worst in the entire world. If protecting banks at all costs could save the economy, then Spain would have been a major success story.” “Still, the extreme preferential treatment given to banks under Spanish bankruptcy law was not enough to protect the banking sector. Spanish banks steadily weakened as the economy contracted. In July 2012 the Spanish banking system was given a $125 billion bailout package by Eurozone countries. And it was actually backed by Spanish taxpayers.9

So did the policy of protecting banks at all costs succeed? Not at all. Five years after the onset of the financial crisis, the recession in Spain is one of the worst in the entire world. If protecting banks at all costs could save the economy, then Spain would have been a major success story.”

Excerpt From: Sufi, Amir. “House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again.”

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Is MQM working in cahoots with Lyari Gang?

My cousin calls me. I don’t recognize his number on the cellphone so I ask him why has he changed his number. He says he is receiving extortion threats. He runs a School in Federal B Area (an MQM strong hold). He tells me that all other private schools in the area have received a similar threat. I ask him is it MQM? He said MQM are nicer people, they have minimum monthly donation of 20k per month and that is it. So I asked if it is notorious Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP)? He says, “No! it’s Lyari gang.”

Now my cousin lives in a neighborhood that is self contained in terms of his needs i.e. all his near and dear ones live in the same locality and kids study in same school so it’s not like that he is afraid that he or his family will be targeted when he travels out of that MQM stronghold because he rarely has any need to. And a threat is not useful unless TTP can enforce it at short notice.

Now if you have lived in MQM area, you know that MQM has local on the ground intelligence i.e., guy smoking cigarette at the street barricade all day long, Sabzi wala, corner shop wala, hardcore MQM supporters that is your neighbor etc. To send threat and then to enforce it in MQM area, Lyari people need local intelligence to not only to gather info but most importantly to enforce their threat. It is hard to fathom how they would have been able to gather this information without being noticed by local MQM intel.

Anyway my cousin and other private school owners in the area go to meet IG Sind Shahid Hayat but according to him Hayat wasn’t willing to listen and with non-Urdu speaking people around him as officers and advisors kept on saying that it’s the Urdu speaking people who are to be blamed. Where can one go to seek redress if the police keeps on blaming the victim? So my cousin is shifting rather opening a new school in Lahore and starting there from April session.

I live in Korangi_another MQM stronghold. Shopkeepers in our area get MQM “donation” slips every month depending on the size of the business from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. Last month, the meat shop walah refused pony up Rs 5,000 when every one around him did. Following week he, and him alone among 100s of shops, receives an extortion demand from Lyari Gang and he pays up Rs100,000 to get them off his back.

This is all anecdotal. With all the caveats that go along with such statements, my conclusion is bloody MoFos MQM is either in cahoots with Lyari Gang or they pretend to be Lyari Gang when it suits them. Bastards pretend to be the last stand against Lyari gang and Taliban but are not above working with them or pretending to be them when it suits them.

Nothing surprising here because our chowkidaars (the army, police) have already been stealing from the till but it hurts slightly more when your ethnic brother saviors also engage in similar tactics.

 

Musings on Pakistani social media – Part II – Liberal edition

I am so glad I went off the grid when I did as shit is really hitting the fan. My twitter timeline is depressing and when people tweet quotes from Pakistani TV talkshows transmitted after a tragedy, I wonder why do people torture themselves by tuning into them but more importantly how do they keep their sanity after listening to the bullshit that passes for discussion on evening talk shows.

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Around couple of months ago I wrote a post titled Musings on Pakistani social media-Twitter edition in which I bashed PTI calling them naive for buying the hype they themselves create on social media and believing that large number of PTI trolls and their RTs of pro-PTI material on social media will translate in to overwhelming majority at the ballot box.

Couple of years ago, one of the starry eyed supporter of PTI named Zohair Toru became famous or rather infamous for displaying such naivete:

The video went viral. Shandana Minhas’s Cafe Pyala did a post on it: The Poor, Sensitive, Hot and Bothered Revolutionaries! . The below translation of the video is picked from Cafe Pyala:

“See what is happening with our sisters and mothers in this demonstration. We are all from good families. We have come out on to the streets to raise slogans for Imran Khan. We are being beaten by our own police. They’re pushing us. We have come for a revolution, for your country. Every person here has come out of his house for this. Who would do such demonstrations in such heat [otherwise]? The police is shoving us, for what? For a foreigner? For Raymond Davis? He caused such bloodshed in Lahore and ran away to his home. See what is happening with Afiya Siddiqui. Nobody has such justice. We have all come out on the streets. Our homes have curtains too. Our women also do purdah. But when revolution requires it, every person in the home comes out on the streets. [To off camera supporter] Am I lying? I’m saying the correct thing, right? Everyone comes out. Sir, look our own police is beating us, how can we bring about a revolution? You tell me, you’re from the media. If you’re with us, only then will the revolution come about. If the police don’t beat us up, only then will the revolution come about. Now look at Imran Khan. What need does he have for this, he’s a very rich man. He’s standing up there on the stage and addressing people and even he is getting pushed around. Everyone’s getting pushed left, right and centre. This brother here, he’s totally sapped by the heat. Do we have any need of coming here?”

We all had fun with him. Garmi mein Kharaab and Inquilaab kaisay aaye ga became catch-phrases. One only needs to read the comments on Cafe Pyala post on how we (including myself) had a lot of fun at Toru’s expense.

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I have grown more mature (at least I like to think that) since then. Yesterday I tweeted this

What brought this on. If you have been following Pakistani news which I don’t much but occasionally get the pulse of the nation through my twitter TL, we are losing the counterinsurgency or counter-terrorism war with Pakistani Taliban aka TTP. Recently TTP had huge successes for example jail-breaking hundreds of their colleagues from D.I.Khan Jail, killing a serving Pakistani General and yesterday there was that despicable attack on church killing 81 people.

Subsequent to all these attacks, educated tweeps became very excited blaming everything on PTI and Imran Khan.  The outrage starts from the moment the news hits the wires till the day-end with all of the influential tweeps coming together in lambasting PTI and RTing PTI bashing posts till the time their fingers are tired from incessant tweeting or they find some other diversion in another window of their browser. The outrage is mellowed down the next day and by third day everyone has moved on.

In their excitement they forget that Imran Khan barely managed to secure enough votes to form a coalition government in KP province otherwise it was quite easy to have a different party ruling the province in KP. They also fail to notice that Imran Khan does not get the same air time on TV as before and does not wield much influence in KP (as many PTI insiders will tell you) either. Young starry eyed too-young-to-vote crowd might still look to him but that doesn’t translate into much influence either in the party nor in the government. Moreover, though he gets the majority blame for stating that we should negotiate with Taliban before we take the full-court-press offensive against them, an All Parties Conference was called and it was agreed by all stakeholders (right wing, secular, military) that negotiations with Taliban to be given a chance.

The [interior] minister said that leaders of all the major political parties were on the same page with regard to national interests. He said that it was a good omen that all the leaders have shared their views and ideas for bringing peace in the country and no personal or party agendas were pushed during the meeting. He said that the resolution adopted by the APC was an outcome of the consensus not only among political leadership but also the military leadership. He hoped all political and military leaders would continue to join hands for national interest and hopefully the security situation would improve by leap and bounds. He also mentioned that the attitude of the military leadership encouraged political leaders to move towards peace process and initiate negotiations with Taliban.

But if one logs on to facebook or twitter, it is as if Imran Khan alone is spearheading the negotiations and all the other stakeholders including military are against it. A friend’s status update:

Then there was this

I am not reproducing here what was and is being said on twitter. The crux of it is that “it is all Imran Khan’s fault and 140 characters are not enough to express my outrage”.

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Musharraf and his supporters were also equally naive believing that social media represents the ground realities. Wusatullah Khan did a brilliant piece on it

اگلے پانچ برس تک جب سیّد صاحب دیارِ غیر میں پاکستانی جمہوریت کے فروغ میں اپنے مدبرانہ کردار پر روشنی ڈال ڈال کے شل ہوگئے تو انہیں دوبارہ سے بے یقینی کے گدلے ساحل پر پھنسے ہوئے پاکستان کو صاف پانیوں میں دھکا دینے کے لیے ٹگ بوٹ بننے کا خیال آیا۔ مگر اس وقت تک اپنوں کے ہی زخم خوردہ سیّد صاحب کے پاس ذاتی مقبولیت کو جانچنے کا صرف ایک ہی پیمانہ بچا تھا یعنی فیس بک۔ چنانچہ انہوں نے چار لاکھ فیس بکیوں کی نیک تمناؤں کے سہارے دو دفعہ ملک میں خمینی اور بینظیر سٹائل میں اترنے کی دھمکی دی۔ ایک آدھ ٹیلی وڈیو جلسے کے ذریعے درجہ حرارت ناپا۔ اپنی مقبولیت کو جمع تقسیم کیا اور خود کو بدلے بدلے سے پاکستان میں دھکا دے دیا۔

جب وہ کراچی میں اترے تو لاکھوں انٹرنیٹیوں میں سے تقریباً ایک سو کے ٹھاٹھیں مارتے سمندر نے والہانہ استقبال کیا۔ مگر سیّد صاحب نے واپسی کی فلائٹ بک کرانے کو ایک بانکے کمانڈو کی روایتی شان کے خلاف سمجھا اور بلٹ پروف جیکٹ پہنے پہنے عمارت در عمارت گھومتے گھماتے عدالتی کمرے میں جا نکلے اور پھر بطور سلطان راہی مثالی حاضر دماغی سے کام لیتے ہوئے مشینی گھوڑے پر سوار وہ بہادرانہ پسپائی اختیار کی کہ اپنے ہی گھر کی جیل میں پہنچ کر دم لیا۔

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The people expressing outrage on twitter are not dumb and their anger is justified at the way things are moving in Pakistan. However, these were the very people who made fun of Zohair Toru and other such supporters of PTI for experiencing the reality for first time by stepping out of their air-conditioned homes, away from facebook and feeling the heat and police shoves (they had yet to face the police baton or rubber bullets but I think that is too much a price to pay for Inquilab for PTI supporters). The same people also made fun of PTI supporters’ love of social media saying that they have already elected Imran Khan as Prime Minister of Facebook Pakistan (I am guilty of this as well). However, my twitter timeline of last two weeks show that they are no better than PTI supporters when it comes to believing in non-existent power of social media.

The twitter revolutions and Taksim protests that were organized using Twitter gave this Pakistani “elite” (in terms of the strata of society they represent) tweeting class a delusion that protesting on twitter matters. It might matter in Arab countries where the press is not free and one is not allowed to criticize government in public or even very carefully in private. In Pakistan, the press is very vibrant and free and full of criticism of government. The amount of (deserving) criticism that was directed at previous PPP government was unprecedented. I don’t think even the current government much less military can absorb such criticism. But I digress. My point is the role of twitter in the aforementioned protests was to allow people to organize physical protests and express their anger and frustration at the government or at the prevailing affairs. The protests were not limited to tweeting about it. They organized protests using twitter, went to protests and then tweeted about it.

In our case, it has been two weeks yet our tweeps are limited to tweeting their outrage on the APC resolution, killing of major General and since yesterday on killing of innocents in a church. Not a single one of them has gone out or even suggested to go out and record their protests/anger/frustration before their political representatives or even at the local press clubs.

Despite knowing better, they are displaying a character which is epitome of naivete, the very character that they made fun of in Zohair Toru. This is why I said that Zohair Toru was better. He may be confused, naive, ignorant but at least he went out, away from his PS3 or keyboard or whatever the rich boys do, in the summer heat to stand up for what he believed in.

[UPDATE]

From Dawn:

The bloody attack was a reality check for the coalition partners of PTI, including Qaumi Watan Party and Jamaat-i-Islami. The ministers and MPAs fearing backlash could not dare to visit the LRH for almost three hours after the incident to console the angry mourners and ensure timely treatment of the wounded. There were no arrangements at the official level to provide coffins. Thanks to Al Khidmat Foundation which arranged about 100 coffins for packing bodies.

Al-Khidmat is charitable wing affiliated with the right wing Jamaat-i-ISlami, coalition partner in KP government.

What have left leaning people done except for tweeting to like minded people on twitter going to achieve?

Going off the grid

In the first few days of Ramzan (or Ramadan), my satellite TV subscription ended. I didn’t renew it believing TV to be an unnecessary distraction during the holy month. Before Ramzan, I watched political news shows about Pakistan as aired on GEO, DawnTV etc and also occasionally also tuned in to watch the hourly news. Since the set-top box was provided by the satellite TV company, when the subscription ended, it stopped showing free-to-air channels too. As such, I couldn’t even watch such channels as CNN, BBC etc.

It had a positive impact on me during Ramzan. Part of it may be the blessings of holy month but mainly it was because I had stopped watching depressing Pakistani political shows which only highlight the problems and or get the invited guests to argue with each other. However, I am not sure if such programs have been instrumental or even helpful in resolving the problems highlighted by them. Sometimes they bring in members of opposing factions in the parliament. Though the programs always end in a handshake and a resolve to sort out the issues, over time the public has come to learn that nothing really happens. Hence, what we get out of these programs is awareness of the myriad problems facing the society and the country yet not a solution in sight. Hence, only outcome for those watching the programs daily is cynicism and depression.

There has been no good news out of Pakistan for last many years except for the election that went smoothly and at least a lesser evil was brought into the government. When it comes to rest of world, last few months have not been good for the Ummah (muslim nation) either. The events/protests in Turkey, Egypt and Syria presenting a very bleak picture. If one is plugged into media and social media like I was till Ramzan, what I was getting 24/7 was depressing news with respect to issues that were close to my heart.

Though due to cancellation of satellite TV subscription, I was saved the ordeal of watching political talk shows, however, I was still pretty much plugged into my twitter feed and continued to get my news and depression fix from it.

Then I took a two week Eid break and traveled to Pakistan. I don’t change SIM of my iPhone and keep keep the phone on roaming just in case someone needs to reach me for work related matter. I carry a local cheap phone when I go out and keep my iPhone in the kitchen (centrally located in our house) so that if there is a call on it, someone can immediately tell me that it is ringing. This meant I couldn’t check my twitter timeline frequently.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Then massacres in Egypt started and my father asked me if I knew about them. I picked up my iPhone and didn’t let it go for next one week. Finally, my father complained that why am I always playing with my iPhone and I realized the addiction it had become. So I left it at the kitchen counter once again and didn’t pick it up (except for checking office emails) till the time my trip was over.

I picked up two books meanwhile and finished them during this period. Occasionally I came across a good quote or passage and had an urge to share it on facebook and twitter. But I resisted. I knew that once I logged into my facebook or twitter account, I will do much more than just sharing and may even end wasting few hours on it. With result that I was able to finish the books.

Now I am back. I have bought a new satellite subscription. However, this time its only for football and other sports (though no cricket). I check in to my twitter timeline twice or thrice daily but not for minutes or hours, Just for a few tens of seconds to read at most ten tweets that are on top.

I stopped caring about Ummah and Pakistan issues. As if my caring mattered. Even my tweets and links I share on facebook have slowed down to a trickle. My klout score which peaked at 60 just before Ramzan is coming down at a fast clip.

I was sitting with a few friends Friday night and having a reputation as plugged-in source-of-information they wanted my opinion on Karachi operation, NATO containers, Mohajir Republican Army, Syria attack, Kerry statement etc. I had an idea about these but since I just read the headlines or few tweets never bothering to go into details, I didn’t have much to add. Rather I asked them to fill me in.

Honestly, the temptation is strong. When you are the source of all information and  theories etc people seek you out for your opinions and information. They listen to you and probably may be swayed towards a particular political viewpoint because the way you presented the information. However, by not remaining that source anymore, you are losing that power, and losing it fast.

Yet the power beckons you, like the ring beckons everyone who comes across it in Lord of The Rings. The question therefore remains do I have the strengthl to resist the temptation of power in light of the costs (from being center of attention to nobody). So far I am resisting.

Egypt causing instability in Saudi Arabia?

Unlike Egypt or Syria, Saudi Arabia does not receive much coverage in international media. Except for few reports appearing occasionally about repression of Shiites in eastern region of Saudi Arabia, there has been very little coverage of ripples being created in normally sedantry Saudi society due to brutal military crackdown and massacres by Egyptian Army led by Al-Sisi.

Whereas Saudi government or rather monarchy has decided to put its weight completely behind the Egyptian military, it is not going down well amongst some strata of Saudi society.

Best overview is provided by Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued an unusually rapid and strong endorsement of the Egyptian military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-ins, calling on all Arabs to unite behind a crackdown on terrorism, incitement, and disorder. Bahrain, the UAE, and Kuwait rapidly backed his stance. But many of the most popular and influential Saudi and Kuwaiti Islamist personalities disagreed vehemently and publicly. Indeed, a popular hashtag quickly appeared on Twitter: “King Abdullah’s Speech Does Not Represent Me.”

When I started tweeting about these responses, a lot of Saudis quickly pointed me to Mohammed bin Nasir al-Suhaybani. Suhaybani had delivered a sermon at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina denouncing the crackdown, and arguing that whoever supported the coup bore the responsibility for the bloodshed and had God’s curse upon them. The video, posted to YouTube, has received hundreds of thousands of views. His rapid banishment quickly generated a popular hashtag in his defense (“Shaykh Suhayban Represents Me”) — which resonated uneasily with the hashtag “King Abdullah’s Words Do Not Represent Me.”

Few have been more outspoken than the influential Saudi Islamist Salman al-Awda, who tweeted in English on August 15: “Whoever helps a murderer – whether by word, deed, financial support, or even a gesture of approval – is an accomplice. Whoever remains silent in the face of murder to safeguard his personal interests is an accessory to the crime.” Surrounded by dozens of Arabic tweets blaming the Egyptian military for said crimes, the implications for the official Saudi position were difficult to miss. “It is clear who is driving Egypt to its destruction out of fear for their own selves,” he tweeted. “I am with those whose blood is being shed and against those who are blindly going about killing people.”

That seems to be in line with the most popular responses among the politicized Islamists of the Gulf. Examples abound. Ibrahim Darwish, in a video posted two days ago, was particularly incensed by the “monstrous crime” of Muslims killing Muslims. The Saudi professor Abd al-Aziz al-Abd al-Latif on August 16 complained about the official framing: how could it be that “supporting the coup and financing butchers and traitors is not fitna and not terrorism and not intervention in the affairs of Egypt, but fitna is calling for the rights of the downtrodden?” Another popular Islamist personality, Hajjaj al-Ajmi, declared “there is no doubt that the Gulf regimes participating in shedding the blood of Egyptians deserve the curse of God.” Others were more careful in their criticism, or focused on the need to avoid bloodshed, but their sympathies seemed clear. Mohamed al-Arefe declared himself on August 15 to be “with Egypt in my heart and my position and my preaching,” calling on Egyptians to “avoid violence, preserve the calm, do not wash blood with blood.” A’idh al-Qarni pleaded for all sides to show restraint.

But that is not all. Fearful of democracy gaining roots in the gulf neighbourhood, Saudi government got their grand mufti to implicitly endorse the coup, the brutal crackdown and the massacre.

The Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh has stressed the need to adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah to unify the Ummah and to avoid conflict and division.

He said that deviating from the teachings of the Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions is the reason behind current tribulations and calamities, in addition to deviating from moderation and issuing fatwas without knowledge.

He stressed the role of scholars to warn people against the dangers of sedition and show them the right path by disseminating accurate Shariah knowledge derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. He also warned against reverting to tribalism, extremism and conflicts over control that will cause the Ummah “great calamity.”

But in this age, one may be able to control the electronic and print media but social media is a totally different beast. The Grand Imam of Makkah Holy Mosque is a revered figure amongst Muslims but on August 23rd he delivered a friday sermon lambasting the Syrian Bashar Al-Assad but supporting the coup in Egypt. Saudi twitter went up in flames with this hashtag#خطبة_السديس_لاتمثلني i.e. the sermon of Sudais doesn’t represent me

Its just a start. Saudis are taking to twitter quite aggressively

But one should not read too much into it because in the end, “protesting on internet is effortless therefore worthless.”

A fight broke out between Egyptian expats (Muslim expats more often than not support autocracies in home countries) and locals in Riyadh mosque when preacher in Friday sermon instead of toeing the official line of supporting the coup started lambasting Al-Sisi. From Al-Arabiya (visit the link for the video)

The report said the Saudi cleric had been praying for the downfall of both Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and General Sisi, prompting uproar from the Egyptians who were in attendance.

And with anything happening in Saudi, it resulted in a hashtag #عراك_جامع_الفردوس. Seems hashtags will do for Saudis now. However it seems that such hashtags are causing jitters to the Saudi authorities

300 hashtags targeted KSA in one month, says official

Over 300 Twitter hashtags targeting the Kingdom and its people have been registered in just one month by the Sakina program combating extremist and terrorist ideology, which is run by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, according to the program’s director.

Speaking to Al-Watan newspaper, Abdul Monem Al-Mashooh said: “The hashtags were made by unknown people who know what they are doing and are following up closely the current events in the region.” He said over 17,000 tweets reacted to these hashtags.

“This number should be taken into consideration and should not be ignored even though it increased suddenly before vanishing. Although these hashtags failed to achieve their goals, they succeeded in stirring a limited number of people, a matter which should be dealt with carefully,” he added.

He regretted the fact that several accounts on Twitter acknowledged and interacted with the hashtags without verifying their sources and real purposes.

“Everyone should realize very well that this is a battle against the Kingdom and it should be fought with great wisdom. Our religion, security, unity and minds are targeted. Reforms and advice are a must but those who wish evil to this country and hate us should not play any role in the process of reform and advice.” Al-Mashooh said the hashtags were made from unknown Twitter accounts that are run by people who want to wreak havoc and chaos in the Kingdom in order to achieve their goals.

“They care about nothing but instigating sedition, exaggerating mistakes, and filling people’s minds with hatred. They have been trained to create an environment conducive to chaos,” he warned.

Al-Mashooh said most Twitter users in the Kingdom realize that such hashtags come from foreign sources.

“Most people refuse such hashtags because they go against the Shariah. People realize what happened to other countries whose people listened to the calls for chaotic revolutions,” he said while emphasizing the importance of countering such hashtags with wisdom.

The Sakina program plays a weak role in countering such extremist ideologies on social networking sites because it does not have enough capabilities, Al-Mashooh pointed out. He called for setting up a center to study such hashtags and other posts on social networking sites.

Why Shariah doesn’t spread in Pakistan

Taliban in Herat.

When ordinary people speak of their reverence for the Shariah, and their respect for the Taleban when they introduce the Shariah, this should not necessarily be taken as active support for the Taleban’s complete programme. Rather it is a mixture of a reverence for the Shariah as part of the word of God, dictated to the last Prophet, with a vague yearning for a justice system that might be cruder than that of the state, but would also be quicker, less biased in favor of the elites, and conducted before the eyes of the people, in their own language. Mixed in with this is a great deal of somewhat veiled anti-elitist feeling, which in the eyes of parts of the Pathan tribal populations helps fuel mass acceptance of Taleban attacks on the local maliks and khans, or tribal bosses and local landowners.

But then, the Pathans have always been the most culturally egalitarian people of Pakistan. Among the masses elsewhere, the progress of the Islamists has so far generally been very limited when it comes to gaining active mass support. One key reason for their failure to date is the deeply conservative nature of much of Pakistani society; for – quite contrary to most Western perceptions – Islamist mobilization often thrives not on backwardness, but on partially achieved modernity. Thus, to judge by all the economic evidence about poverty and landownership, radical Islamist groups preaching land reform ought to be flourishing in the Pakistani countryside.

In fact, the only areas where they have had any significant success (outside the Pathan territories) are where a sectarian (Sunni versus Shia) or tribal element comes into play. This is partly because of clan solidarity, but also for the simple reason that the only people who could lead such a radical Islamist movement in the countryside are the local mullahs, and they are in effect chosen by the local ‘feudal’ landowners – who do not exactly favour radicalism of any kind, least of all involving land reform.

In the cities, things are freer, but even there most attempts at political mobilization from below are stifled by the grip of the political bosses and the kinship groups they lead, as well as by the politically apathetic condition of society, and by divisions along religious lines. In other words, while there is certainly a great deal of economic, social discontent in the Pakistani population, being discontented is not at all the same thing as being able to do something about it. As of 2009, the perennial discontent of the urban masses in most of Pakistan continues to express itself not in terms of political mobilization behind new mass movements, but sporadic and pointless riots and destruction of property – including most notably the buses in which the rioters themselves have to travel every day.

Excerpt From: Lieven, Anatol. “Pakistan: A Hard Country”