Who is the dumbest of them all?

I have been an ardent supporter of democracy to the extent that I am even supporting the present democratic setup. I believe unless the system runs it course the garbage will not be sifted, the politicians will not learn to pay for their mistakes through the ballot box and we will not get new leadership that pays attention to its constituencies.

But the present leadership through it actions as well as constant streams of bullshit from its mouth sometimes makes me question my beliefs but more than that my sanity. This government has turned out to be the stupidest and dumbest in the history of Pakistan. Had I been a conspiracy theorist I would say that they are acting this way to achieve some ulterior objective which is so ghastly that it confounds me. How can any one be so dumb?

1. Despite the statement by David Cameron, Zardari takes a foreign trip to France and UK. I would really like to know from an insider what was he REALLY doing there. It was a personal trip at national exchequer where he even meets Sarkozy. It may have had something to do with the submarine kickback case in France in which Sarkozy is being investigated for using the kickback proceeds to finance presidential campaign of his predecessor. If it was a foreign policy trip, why was son and daughters accompanying him in casual wear. In the videos showing his arrival on airports, why isn’t he afforded official protocol?

2. In Wall Street Journal, US officials say that they really had to push on Zardari to go back otherwise he felt no compulsion to go back to spearhead the flood crisis. True he is not the Chief Executive after the 18th amendment. But what could be more important to be with your country men, who elected you President, in this time of crisis?

3. When a foreign policy trip is planned, the foreign minister goes along. But if he remains behind,  he should at least be able to tell the nation what is so important during flooding that the president had to leave without him. So where was the foreign minister and what did he say? He was at a fashion show (like the Karachi Fashion Week last year was the proverbial middle finger to Talibans _ I am paraphrasing the organizer and participants but this is what they said_ this fashion show would have been the finger to floods) and what does the dumbass say when people ask him about floods and Zardari trip : this is not the place to ask such questions. Please approach the foreign office.

4. GEO TV which was out in full force blaming Zardari for taking a trip during the national crisis, what was it showing during that time? Nadia Khan hosting a fashion model talent show finale for four hours. Thats what I can kettle calling the pot black.

5. We all know that the magnitude of this disaster is huge. Army and civilians and NGOs are trying their best to reach everyone but its difficult in the wide area to reach all of them. Hence, the religious charities are helping people wherever they can and reaching out to them. Even Musharraf was smart enough not to ban charities despite immense US pressure after earthquake as he knew that the charities were doing huge humanitarian and relief work. However, our interior minister says today that such charities will not be allowed to work and people working for them will be arrested. People are dying of aid not reaching them and we need each and every bit of help we can get. Save lives now and worry about the propaganda of charities later.

6. We were worried that world does not trust you, that we will misuse aid. Gilani is on record saying that we will give record of each penny of aid last week, (most humiliating statement a Prime Minister of a country can give in times of crisis). The opposition reaches out to the government and says that if the people are not giving aid to government doubting its credibility lets make a transparent commission so that people trust us. PM agrees to it and makes an announcement. Yesterday he goes back on his words as according to DAWN they are making a different committee as implementing the agreed upon commission would be construed as accepting opposition’s advice. So they make something called NDMC with the same usual culprits which the people have shown distrust in. Is this the time to play such politics?

Not a big fan of Shahbaz Sharif (a dictator in democratic clothing) but he has since stopped making statements (which were raising controversies) and is focused on relief work in his province. I hope that PPP leadership takes a leaf out of his book but then their coteries would advise against it as it would be following the opposition.

So my question again? How dumb can one party collectively be? Isn’t there a single sane person in PPP?

The politics of disaster, terrorism and financial aid

In her book Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes  disaster capitalism as politics of using disasters (shocks) to push through unpopular decisions without any opposition. I had earlier written a post on this topic. If she studies Pakistani politics of last ten years, she can write another book on politics of terrorism and financial aid.

In the news yesterday, Pakistan’s ambassador to United Nations stated that if the world does not come forward to help Pakistani’s (read dole out more money and financial aid) in need due to flooding and havoc created by Monsoon rains, it could lead to increase in terrorism.

Don’t we ever get tired of milking the “terrorism” cow? It is surprising that it is almost ten years since Musharraf started milking the cow by his double game after 9/11 and the cow still has not gone dry.

When the Kashmir was hit by the devastating earthquake, the government machinery was found incapable to do anything. Jamat ud Dawa (JoD) were the first ones on the ground. With their jihadist training and rugged terrain experience, they were able to provide relief to areas where no one else could go.

……it [JoD] was certainly making its name heard across the line of control doing earthquake relief – better indeed than the Pakistani army. Where the army could move supplies into the mountainous region only by helicopter, the militants were already there. These hardy guerrilla fighters, experienced at operating in the mountains, cleared their own dead then went to help in the earthquake relief: “only the Mujahideen are helping, from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat ud-Dawa…One hour after the quake, they were here. The army only came on the fourth day.”—-openDemocracy

They were followed by MQM and Jamat-e-Islami. These three are persona non grata: JoD because they are jihadis (read terrorists), MQM because of their ethnic based politics and JI for bringing religion into politics.

At that time, there were concerns that Jamat ud Dawa’s relief work in  earthquake affected area would serve as big recruiting opportunity for Jihadis (not because of their hardline preaching but due to extensice welfare activities carried out by them). There was a lot of pressure on Musharraf from US at the time to impose a ban on Jamat ud Dawa. Despite himself wanting to do so but fearing the repercussions from public for stopping welfare activities when they were mostly needed and not having the infrastructure nor resources to take over the extensive relief network of JoD, he didn’t do it. I don’t know whether JoD recruited anyone but they did developed a lot of goodwill (in modern parlance, they won the hearts and minds of local people).

MQM which is mainly a urban Sind based party also made inroads into the heart of people through their welfare activities. It was said at the time that if elections were held in those areas, MQM could easily sweep them whereas winning even a single seat was deemed impossible earlier. It was rather unfortunate that MQM sacrificed all its goodwill just to please Musharraf in May 12 massacre. It was large price to pay for a useless cause. Hence, the two islamists earned the lasting goodwill by their relief work in that disaster.

The government has  started crying “terrorists” to squeeze more money out of US.  Most of Pakistan army is busy fighting a war with Talibans, it leaves little of them to help out in relief work. The civilian aid agencies are ill equipped and ill trained to solve such a catastrophe. Hence the Jihadis, who can endure hardships for long time, live on the rugged terrain and have proven their resilience by fighting US and Pakistani forces without comparable resources, will come forward  to help the people in need. Who knows, may be the government itself may ask these organizations to help as the disaster has been huge. Though we will be asking US and the world for aid, the final delivery will be done by these jihadis and they will earn the goodwill of the people whether US and rest of the world likes it or not.

From NYTimes quoting DAWN’s Huma Yusuf

Tragedies such as those Pakistanis have borne in the past few days — the plane crash and the ravaging floods — provide governments with the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity for governance. The failure to do so breeds conditions that allow extremism to thrive.

The mantra that good governance is the best antidote to extremism seems cliched. But it bears repeating in Pakistan, where the authorities have proved incapable of learning from history. Few can forget that five years ago, in the wake of the October 2005 earthquake, the government’s failure to cope with immediate relief efforts created a vacuum within which Jamat-ud-Dawa pulled off its greatest publicity stunt.

The extremist organization had the most efficient response teams on the ground, and boasted the most functional and well-stocked relief camps. Its mobile X-ray machines and operating theaters made international headlines. Through their clever use of mobile technology, the group’s volunteers established an unparalleled communications infrastructure that facilitated relief work.

The government and army, meanwhile, fumbled in early relief and reconstruction efforts, as charges of corruption in the distribution of aid and resources were rampant. The consequences of Jamat-ud-Dawa stepping in where the government should have been exercising its authority are obvious today in the support and influence that the organization enjoys.

I am not praising these organizations. I am just pointing out the fact no matter how hard we try, due to our lack of training, equipment, infrastructure, resources, manpower etc, we leave a be a vacuum for these terrorist organizations to fill.

You might wonder, where are the politicians? They are busy in their blame game. Shahbaz Sharif is requesting Zardari to stay home and be there for the people in this tough time. Babar Awan is saying that this IS the time for Zardari to go abroad and raise funds (he should call it begging). Qaim Ali Shah (Sind Chief Minister) is saying that normally Punjab makes Sind beg for every drop of water yet now they have opened floodgates thus drowning Sind. Meanwhile neither the military nor civilians nor the media is highlighting or interested in the plight of Balochis and then we wonder why Balochis are fighting for secession.

Aloof and regardless of what is going on in the rest of country, MQM, PPP and ANP (this is the ruling coalition in Sind) are busy settling score through daily killings in Karachi with 14 killed in just two days.

As a nation, we haven’t fared well either. Till day before yesterday we had ignored all the flood victims.

The pakistan flag was at half-mast on the first day to honour more than 150people who died in an air crash in Islamabad. It should rightly have remained at half-mast as more than twice as many died in monsoon rains. But the rich die in air crashes; the poor perish in monsoon rains. Flags rarely flutter at half‑mast for the poor. —- Guardian correspondent David Hopp

A good analysis of the same topic on five rupees:
The role of class in covering national tragedies or why aren’t the floods in KP getting attention

UPDATE: Christian Science Monitor reports on Jamat ud Dawa helping in flooded areas:

At the JuD aid “camp” on the main road east out of Charsadda, huge pots, used to cook on an industrial scale, were lined up, and the cooked food already had been distributed to the needy. An ambulance, no longer needed to ferry the injured, was being loaded with bundles of second-hand clothing to be given away. JuD also was running a first aid clinic in a building in town belonging to a college, the group said.

The group is operating under the name of Falah-e-Insaniyat but has made little effort to disguise that it’s JuD. Its staff said that it had 2,000 members working for flood relief, across the northwest and south into Punjab province. The uniform vests worn by many of the volunteers bear the badges of both JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat.
“If the government were doing this work, there would be no need for us,” said Hajji Makbool Shah, a 55-year-old volunteer at the aid camp. “When the floods came, we carried people out on our shoulders to our own ambulances. Where were the government ambulances?”

Shock Doctrine and Pakistan : Part I of II

I was at a dinner on Friday night. Multiple bomb blasts in Lahore had taken place the same day. A guest at the dinner asked me that if I had read about ‘shock doctrine’ as someone told him that new Lahore blasts appear part of some shock doctrine.

I told him that though I did not finish ‘Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein (I have a tendency to leave a book in the middle if it cannot keep my interest), but no for a fact that there is a disconnect between her understanding of the doctrine and what he (guest) is implying. The main thrust of the book is on ‘disaster capitalism’. The author, however, touches upon what he is referring to. I might take up the case of ‘disaster capitalism’ in Part II whenever I get around to writing it.

In referring to what the guest was implying, the author says that governments use moments of shock to push through laws, reforms and actions that would have otherwise been unpalatable or unacceptable to general public.

The US was known for its relatively better justice system (there were exceptions but people accepted it more or less to be relatively fair compared to rest of the world) with prisoners having rights such that they can’t be imprisoned without bringing charges against them. Then 9/11 happened. This was followed by limits imposed on personal freedom and rights. Wire tapping became common. Prisoners can be held without trial for ages. Guantanamo Bay facility which might have been unforeseeable before the 9/11 with its human rights abuses, is perfectly normal and nobody raises an eye brow on the injustices carried out there. The implication here is not that US caused 9/11 rather that they have used the shock of 9/11 to usher in laws and restrict rights that people would have (before the event )vehemently protested against. Now the people accept everything meekly under the pretext of greater good / security.

A recent example is the Underwear bomber case. Enough questions have been raised in the media about whether the whole thing was a preplanned charade by US security forces: how could the guy even get pass the vigilant Israeli trained Schipol airport security. Prior to this incident, there were discussions in the media whether the new body scanning machines at the airport are an invasion of privacy and paranoia carried to the extremes. After the event, the body scanners are a permanent feature for foreseeable future and no discussion or even alternate suggestions or put forth in the media. Everyone has accepted it. No questions asked. Period.

Coming back to the dinner. My contention with the guest was that unlike the US society which is generally united against the Talibans and any external threat, Pakistan is a bipolar or multipolar society. Whereas such blasts in US might have brought people together and might helped push in laws or whatever the government might throw at people, however, Pakistanis are still not convinced that its the job of Talibans. If its the Talibans, then these must Punjabi Talibans and not the Haqqani network. If not them, then may be its bad Talibans and not the good Talibans. I have even heard that the bomb blasts may have been instituted by agencies or the Presidency to create panic and chaos in Punjab and bring down the Shahbaz Sharif  government.

From a ‘shock doctrine’ perspective, the bomb blasts need to achieve an objective i.e., make it easier to bring in some change which would otherwise not been palatable. So far I haven’t seen any such move.

The guest who proposed the ‘shock doctrine’ conspiracy theory was no right wing sympathiser. I was actually surprised that such a liberal and anti-taliban and non-right-wing person would forward a theory which is normally associated with right wing nut jobs.

Vigilante Justice

My notion of vigilante justice has been formed through an overdose of American TV _ TV series, made for TV movies and cinematic movies as well.

The story line almost always follows a similar pattern. The vigilante starts with a motive i.e., he has been affected deeply by some injustice (mostly murder of one or more family members) and the police could not make it right. It is normally a symbol of rampant criminality in the city and the Police are incapable of doing anything about it due to limited resources, corrupt officials, absent judiciary etc. Consequently, the protagonist takes over the mantle of administering justice himself under a guise .

Initially his actions are welcomed by the general public with the exception of few elite and some nutjob in media. Along the way the hero loses his way, or the media starts taking a different perspective, and after one mistake or misreported incident, the population turns against the hero. Now our vigilante is all alone with little or no public support. The movie takes a darker tone after this.

Most of the superhero movies as well as comics follow the same pattern. A cheesy version is Spider Man movie (which gets cheesier with each subsequent episode) where Peter Parker decides to become Spidey after his Uncle Ben is killed.

I haven’t  directly followed the current media brouhaha over the extra judicial justice being administered in Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab. However, people around me have kept me updated by talking, discussing and getting excited over it.
In addition to American movies, my personal thoughts on the topic have been affected by my observations and experiences with law and order situation around me.

In 2004/2005, there were large number of dacoities in North Nazimabad area of Karachi. Occasionally, it was reported, the dacoits would be arrested by the Police. But since the dacoities weren’t going down, it fed the rumor that Police is in collusion with the dacoits and lets them go after arresting them. Then one day, couple of dacoits were captured by the frustrated people of the locality. Rather than handing them over to the Police, they were burnt alive in the street. The dacoities stopped though it is said that later Police made the life miserable for the residents.

If lawlessness prevails, sooner or later vigilantes come. The arrival of Talibans in Swat was justified by the injustices of the feudals over there. The Lal Masjid saga started because reportedly people of the locality asked them for closing down a brothel as the police was not doing anything about it. A clear case of vigilante justice gone wrong.

In 1997/1998, there were rumors of a CHALAWA in Karachi. People talked about a really fast dark colored man harassing people and robbing them. Even my friend bought into it saying that they captured the chalawa in their area. He hadn’t seen the chalawa himself but knew someone who knew someone who knew someone (you know how this works) who captured the chalawa around dawn and reluctantly handed him over to Police knowing that Police will let him go. Anyway, it was reported in the newspapers later that people in a certain locality captured a Chalawa, tied him to the pole and beat him almost to death. Later on, it turned out that he was an innocent gutter cleaner and was going back after working in some gutter. The rumors ended soon afterward.

Do a google search on Hajiano case / white corolla case in Defence, Clifton Karachi and you will find out about a criminal who truly deserves to be dragged in the streets and stoned to death by the public to be made an example for the rest of the criminals out there. Similarly, all those people committing crimes against children (pedophiles) deserve a similar fate.

I did not feel like this till a few months ago. Then my 68 year old uncle was murdered right outside his house by two motorcycle riding robbers for a few rupees that may or may not be in his pocket. Now I am all for vigilante justice because I know that the bastard police is never going to catch the culprits. I am also aware of certain areas where the police officers are actually in connivance with the robbers and dacoits.

I know the argument. Where does one draw the line? If everyone starts administering justice, it will be chaos and bloodshed every where. May be. Or may be it will force the government to finally get their act together.

Coming to the current media stories, the aspect I find abhorring is the Police administering the justice on behest of provincial government. Had it been the towns people or the affectees doing it, I would not find it distasteful. The Police and the government are supposed to maintain order and if they take on the mantle of vigilante justice a.k.a. extra judicial justice in their hand, it means they don’t trust the courts to administer justice. If this is the case,  how can one expect the general population to have any trust in courts and the justice system.

Cafe Pyala has a better blog post on the same topic here.