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.

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Hyper-active imagination in Pakistani political rumor mill

There comes a time in every idealist’s life wherein he has to decide whether to stay true to his cause or give in to commercial interests. Learning from a post by pseudo-journalist Ali K Chishti wherein he tagged his post about an ISI assassin who used to carry his ISI badge with him(absurd! I know) with totally unrelated but sexual words (Punjabi Girls, Sex, Mujra) most probably to get more visitors to his site and fearful of my dwindling visitor numbers I have decided to do the Faustian bargain for getting more hits. But only for one post now. However, unlike Chishti, tags in my post will be related as each word would have been mentioned in the article.

The quotes below are based on first hand account of a friend who is a Karachi based senior banker from his one day visit to Islamabad and Lahore to meet senior banking professionals and corporate head honchos there. In his own words Pakistanis have a “hyper active imagination”.

Don’t judge me for posting these as I am just a messenger. Moreover, do keep in mind that these are just baseless yet delicious (or disgusting _ based on your perspective) rumors. I have tried to keep editing to minimum to keep the original flavor so any mistakes (grammatical or idiomatic) should be attributed to original narrator. As I said, I am just a messenger.

1. President Zardari and Bilawal Zardari Bhutto regularly engage in Ménage à trois with Pakistan’s ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

An unknown Bangladeshi online English-language magazine reported about an affair between Bilawal and Khar. The news went viral overnight and Khar was forced to issue a strong denial about it. It was assumed that ISI planted story to discredit Khar for she was making some ripples in foreign policy area (an area where army traditionally keeps a strong control behind the scenes) and when this rumor got traction, ISPR was forced to issue a clarification that ISI wasn’t behind it. Finally, editor of the online newspaper that broke the news was arrested to avoid creating any more controversies.

2. Sharmila Farooqi is Mr. Zardari’s keep, and she got engaged to someone (adviser to the President) in Presidency for her to have a legit reason to stay there.

3. Yusuf Raza Gilani routinely offers his wife, sister and daughters to get political mileage. He once offered his wife to a senior banker for a loan write off to one of his business entities, the senior banker said, kay mera standard itna kharaab nahin (translation: my standards are not that low).

On this I asked my friend that did the respective senior banker who was offered the wife tell this to you himself. He replied,

Nope, his friend. The guy who told me is Senior Executive Vice President and no. 3 in a bank, and he said, roozi per betha hoon, jhoot nahin bolon gaa (interpretation: he sweared that I am sitting on my livelihood (job) and will not risk it by spreading false rumors)

4. Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son (Ali Musa Gilani) is going steady with Bukhtwar Bhutto, and it was she who stood up to his father for Gilani to be given his place back Pakistan People’s Party

My friend summarized the above items in these words

Generally speaking every one on who’s who list of Islamabad (Pakistan’s Capitol Hill) is screwing either daughter or wife of some other guy on the same list

5. CEO of GEO TV has Sana Bucha’s blue tapes with him, and they would soon be leaked.

GEO TV used a similar tactic earlier. When their high ratings garnering religious anchor and a fake doctorate Aamir Liaquat Hussain had moved over to ARY TV channel, they released compilations of him using expletives when he thought the camera was off (of the time when he used to work at GEO TV).

This should have been the downfall of Aamir Liaquat. Yet to give you a flavor how things work in Pakistan, after this scandalous recording came to life, he was rehired by GEO TV. Commercial interests trumpeting moral superiority, if any. GEO TV even launched a celebratory campaign to announce Dr. Aamir’s coming back to their network

Coming back to the original rumor, Sana Bucha had left GEO TV earlier. She has since been fired or resigned from Dunya News as well. Probably a black mailing game played by GEO TV.

6. When Makhdoom Amin Fahim threatened to leave PPP, Zardari trapped him by depsoiting cash in Amin Fahim’s account, and then tipping off NAB so that he comes running to Mr. Zardari to keep him out of jail.

Enjoy. Now keep those hits coming.

Democracy is the best revenge

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post Musharraf (Army) is a genius. Rereading it,  I surprised myself by forgetting the very message I was trying to get across at the time.

When Asif Zardari said “Democracy is the best revenge”, we never stopped to think who he was talking about. If it was the killers of Benazir, then the best revenge would have been bringing her murderers to justice. Now I realize that he was talking about extracting revenge from a country that had given him shame, humiliation, confinement in the previous years.

More importantly, I think he was saying what the army wanted him to say to people of Pakistan, “You wanted democracy? You with your movements for restoration of democracy and judiciary had taken on Musharraf and Army. Well this is what you get for democracy. One of the most corrupt persons in Pakistan”.

Honestly I have to admit that I was pleased rather thrilled to hear that Zardari was pelted with shoes in Brimingham. However, the way whole media enterprise has picked up this story and tried to promote it, prompted me to think that there must be something fishy. Probably the media has been egged on by Army/ISPR to start picking on Zardari.

The worst part is Zardari does not help his case either. By travelling in a time when he should not have, claiming that he is not the chief executive (then why was he meeting chief executives of France and UK) and having his jyalas supporting him with no regard to decorum etc. wherever he made speeches, he has shown that he does not have interest of this country in his heart. The trip was purely personal.

But the question is, does the Army have the interest of the country at heart? Frankly speaking, two cases come to mind that show no they don’t.

First,  Zardari himself. If he was such a corrupt person, Musharraf (Army) had him under incarceration for 8 years. Could not they bring in a single corruption case to conclusion? If the Army is so sincere, he should have been tried on corruption charges and sentenced to prison never again fit to fight elections. However, what the army does is release him to live amongst his dogs in New York to fight another day or to make use of him when he is needed which is shortly afterwards and he is brought back doodh ka dhula under Army sponsored NRO.

He does what the army expects him to do turning the public opinion in favor of Army (which had reached a low during Musharraf years) as more and more people want Army to step in to relieve them of this corrupt President. I sincerely believe Zardari was a pawn in the great game by Army.

Second, Sufi Mohammad _  father in law of notorious Molvi Fazlullah  in Swat, was under Army lockup. To reign in Fazlullah, they release Sufi Mohammad. The father and son (in laws) duo turned out to be a bigger menace with the Army finally stepping in to throw them out with the gratitude of whole nation and a promise to build a cantonment in the area to prevent future such occurrences.

May be I am thinking too much but all this appear as games orchestrated to bring the Army back on top.

Woodstuck Pakistan

In Karachi Fashion Week proud designers brought out skimpily clad models as a show of defiance against the Taliban and terrorist activities in the country and created a hype in world media not least because the organizers and journalists used every available forum to tout it as showing a bold front to Talibans. The event was a success and thank heavens no untoward incident happened. The designers and media organizers had shown the proverbial finger to the Taliban.

Score : Media 1 – Taliban 0

GEO TV and musicians did not want to be left behind. Earlier, Bob Geldof through his Live 8 and Live Aid concerts, had brought awareness of certain issues to the forefront across all continents which were soon forgotten as soon as singing was over. GEO wanted to replicate a similar feat though on a much smaller scale by having AAG live concert with 12 hours of live transmission across three continents.

The concert was touted as Peace Concert aka Pakistan’s Woodstock and the purpose would have been to show that people in Pakistan are fed up with Taliban and want peace (this they would show by dancing to music).

Whereas Karachi Fashion Week showed the birdie to Talibans by having the event far from troubled areas of Punjab and NWFP in a five star hotel under extremely tight security in Karachi, Woodstock Pakistan attendees would not have to worry about their lives and they can dance the night away for the sake of peace in Pakistan in the security of Wonderland, Dubai.

Well it seems that Taliban had nature on their side on this one. Due to the bad weather, the concert was canceled. Whereas every medium available was used to announced the organization of event, its cancellation was sheepishly mentioned just by a small ticker on GEO TV.

Score : Media 1 – Taliban 1

Looking forward to the next event to see how the scores pan out.

UPDATE:

It seems that Taliban had nature on their side. Cafe Pyala has an excellent post on their website explaining a fiasco that Live AAG concert has been.

Final Score: Media 1 – Taliban 2