Pakistani hero in Birmingham

As reported on GEO:

A man threw two shoes towards President Asif Ali Zardari when the latter was delivering a speech at Pakistan People’s Party’s convention here on Saturday, an eyewitness said.

However, the shoes failed to reach the stage, sources said.

I wish the shoes had reached Zardari.  In these times when the President is away from the country when he is most needed, it reminds me of the Fleetwood Mac’s song “I need a hero”. I say lets invite the shoe thrower as by engaging in this selfless courageous act, he has conveyed the sentiments of the nation without holding anything back and proven himself  a hero.

Moreover, I have also heard that his throws were better than most of our cricketers. May be he can teach “the boys” a trick or two.

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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?”

Is democracy unislamic? Is Khilafat only form of government acceptable in Islam?

Other day a friend of mine was talking about Khilafat being a solution  as democracy has not been able to solve our problems. He was probably influenced by Hizb-ut-Tahrir propaganda. Having met a few of these Hizb-ul-Tahrir aficionados, I find them educated, intelligent and much more world-wise than what passes for liberal-educated class in Pakistan (but then this is just my opinion). However, whenever I ask them how will they choose their Khalifa (will it be a democratic process, will Khalifa nominate himself, or have they already decided on a Khalifa but he is invisible/underground like the 12th imam etc) I have always drawn a blank. Lets assume that some how Khilafat is established and against all odds we accept a Khalifa. Will he be Khalifa for life? Once he steps down, how will we agree upon the next Khalifa?

I have heard some people (mainly liberals) criticize the Prophet that he left his companions without telling them how to choose their leader. Its my belief that the Prophet was Divine messenger and the Divine had given us a choice of whatever method we deem suitable for selecting who rules over us. Obviously certain things are common sense that the leader should be of clean character, just in his dealings etc. I am sure that if some method had been suggested or recommended by the Prophet for selecting a leader, the liberals would have hounded it as another example of rigidity of Islamic rules even if it had been democracy. Another so called secular liberal had said that democracy does not suit the genius of [Pakistani] people and later words to similar effect were uttered by the last dictator but that does not bother the liberals.

Since none has been divined, I believe all methods of ruling whether it is Khilafat, Monarchy, Democracy are fine as long as they don’t usurp on anyone’s rights and work towards the betterment of people. If democracy does not work, replace it with Khilafat but then there needs to be a system in place for choosing and replacing the Khalifa which is not clear or which has not been made clear to us by the proponents of Khilafat. Even if the monarch is just, I would not mind living under his rule.

Couple of years ago I remember surfing the channels and I chanced upon Zaid Hamid being interview by Lucman. The Commando was ruling us at that time. Someone, probably a Zaid Hamid fan, telephoned in the show and he wanted Zaid Hamid to say that democracy is un-islamic. The guy calling in sounded educated. However, the reason he wanted democracy to be labelled un-Islamic was that movement for removal of Musharraf and restoration of democracy had gained momentum and he wanted a justification for his support of Musharraf. One of the most ridiculous way for justifying a dictatorial rule.

US citizens were celebrating 4th of July few days ago and I had a chance to read through their declaration of independence. What a marvel of human thought.

This comes from the second sentence of declaration:

….Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Here they do not talk about democracy or any other form of government. They just say that if the system government does not deliver, they can throw away the system and put in place a new one. However, they add a little qualifier that prudence should taken when making such a decision.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

What beautiful prose and ideas. I could not have said it better myself :).

I don’t consider the takeover by military or military rule removal of a despot or change of a system. They are as much a despot as the despot they are replacing. A game of musical chairs between democratic despots and military despots is played and we are the spectators.

The way things are moving, a time will come that our troubles will become insufferable, we will need to walk out and demand our rights even if it means changing the system. We have done it before (most recent example being restoration of Judiciary which showed two things: 1) if we get together we can get the military man to remove his uniform and even give up his seat and 2) that sometimes there is no difference between military and civilian despot _ both refusing to reinstate the judiciary) and when the time comes, we need to do it again.

After General Kyani

Quite a number of people forwarded me an article by Shaheen Sehbai from The News. I have some respect for Sehbai as he single handedly tried to mount opposition/resistance to Musharraf though from abroad through his South Asia Tribune when everyone else had accepted Musharraf  (this was before the judiciary crisis provided the opposition a common platform to oust him).

However, yesterday’s op-ed piece reminds me that his journalistic standards are as loose as the rest of the industry. I suggest you read the whole article yourself. I am here just copying bits and pieces of it.

The minister has stated on record that Army Chief General Kayani will not be given an extension and he has not sought one, which means Zardari, through his proxy prime minister, will appoint an army general of his choice as the next COAS and Pakistan will become a safe haven for him and the corrupt and the dishonest mostly found in PPP power corridors these days

Why should it matter who is appointed from the Generals. If the Army and Kyani has deemed the person fit enough to be promoted as a General so far, I am sure they must find him capable enough to hold his own. If not, then one should not have any trust in Army to judge their own kind.

But another honourable way for the PM would be not just to resign but to dissolve the National Assembly and let the people elect new leaders, thus finding a constitutional way out of his personal dilemma. He may be accused of stabbing his party in the back but his party colleagues would be more to blame because they are the silent spectators to the rape now going on with Benazir Bhutto’s party and her principles

I want to smoke what this guy is smoking. The diatribe out of some newbie columnist would have been OK but from someone who has remained an editor of newspaper, it seems like the pen is his but the words are being fed to him probably by the army.

The basic issue is whether the Pakistan Army will allow a political leader who has a tainted past, who has a tainted present and whose future is evident from what he is doing, to dictate the terms of reference of how this country will be run and by whom, including the future of the army which has the highest stakes in the country.

Is this guy on a high? Does anything happen in this country without the army knowing? During Musharraf’s tenor when BB was murdered and all evidence was wiped out by washing it down, does anyone has a doubt that it could have happened without a go ahead from Army?

Who brought Zardari to Presidency? Wasn’t it Musharraf who engineered the NRO? Didn’t the army know that Zardari would become the president as a result and like any human try to prolong his stay at the top and fight tooth and nail with anyone trying to bring him down from his throne? If Army didn’t think this, then Army as an institution is more naive than a common man in this country.

If Kyani ever needed anyone to forward his cause for an extension or even transfer to Chairman Joint Chief of Staffs Committee (CJCSC) he knows who to hire i.e., Shaheen Sehbai

His role in the NRO, his soft guard-of-honour to General Musharraf after convincing him that he should leave the country, his decision to keep the army and ISI away from interfering in the 2008 polls, his decisive call to restore the Supreme Court judges on March 15, his intervention to stop the Kerry-Lugar fiasco, his quiet meetings with Choudhry Nisar Ali, Shahbaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan to ward off potentially destructive confrontational scenarios, his focus on the war on terror and his successes, his blunt ‘no’ on several occasions to the Americans, and many other yet unknown interventions, only prove that he has the interest of the country at heart and his decisions have not been motivated by personal interest.

From the establishment parties I have always seen calling the Army to intervene and impose martial law but when the press especially the group which cries itself hoarse over democracy prints something like the following para, something is definitely now right (with the media group, that is):

If General Kayani, who went out of his way to ensure that the judges were restored at the last minute and the Long March of Nawaz Sharif was called off, now allows Mr Zardari to demolish the same Supreme Court, just because the corruption-tainted President cannot defend the billions of dollars he made illegally, it would be such a disservice to the country that all the good that the General may have done in his entire career may not be able to wash it

And the icing on the cake

What General Kayani can do, before bowing out honourably, is to ensure, like he did playing a subtle behind-the-scene role several times, that no crony of the president is appointed as the next COAS and a transparent procedure is adopted to make that appointment so that the new COAS is not obliged to any person and takes decisions only in the national interests. If Kayani thinks anyone is conspiring behind his back, he can take action now as COAS and stop this conspiracy.

This country has gone to dogs because no one respects their boundaries..politicians meddling with the judiciary, bureaucracy getting involved in politics and the army getting involved in everything (behind-the-scenes or bluntly).

Even if Zardari wants to appoint his crony as a General, I say let him do it. He is within his rights and secondly he is appointing from Generals from the Army and not some PPP politician. If Zardari thinks by making a COAS he is making his position secure, I think he has forgotten the lesson of what happened to his father in law who appointed his crony (apparently) as COAS.

A Fine Balance

The crises in Pakistan have made a lot of young people politically-aware or at least politically-excited. Some talk about revolution, others talk about socialism and some are turned off by democracy permanently. However, this post is not talk about the political awakening or excitement in Pakistan.

I am reading a book “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. Despite not being a fan of South Asian English fiction, I have been captivated by the book. I hope to write a review of it once I finish reading it but if you can take my word for it, buy the book and read it. I have never read such wonderfully written English. For any aspiring English writer, it should be compulsory reading on how to make the reader read every word.

The book covers a large period but is mainly centered around the time when Indira Gandhi imposed State of Internal Emergency. Reading about it reminds me of my conversations with the above mentioned politically-awakened-youth.

Some excerpts from the book:

Their talk was filled with words like democratization, constitution, alienation, degeneration, decentralization, collectivization, nationalism, capitalism, materialism, feudalism, imperialism, communism, socialism, fascism, relativism, determinism, proletarianism – ism, ism, ism, ism, the words flying around him like buzzing insects.

This is exactly the kind of the discussions I have with the youth of today whenever I get the chance.

… Sometimes, dogs came into their debates – imperialist dogs, running dogs of capitalism. Sometimes the dogs were pigs, capitalist pigs. Money-lending hyenas and landowning jackals also put in occasional appearances. And lately, besides the isms, there was this Emergency that they kept going on about, behaving as if the sky had fallen.

The last sentence reminded me of my discussions with the people who have joined Musharraf fan club on Facebook.

I was too young when Emergency was imposed in India. However, there is a wonderful short description of the events leading to the Emergency:

….Three weeks ago the High Court found the Prime Minister [Indira Gandhi] guilty of cheating in the last elections. Which meant she had to step down. But she began stalling. So the opposition parties, student organizations, trade unions – they started mass demonstrations across the country. All calling for her resignation. Then, to hold on the power, she claimed that the country’s security was threatened by internal disturbances, and declared a State of Emergency….Under the pretext of Emergency, fundamental rights have been suspended, most of the opposition is under arrest, union leaders are in jail, and even some student leaders.

I have been oblivious of this episode of the largest democracy in the world.

But the best part I like was when the people from slums are rounded up in buses on a promise of five rupees and tea and snacks to attend a speech given by the Prime Minister. Reminds me of Musharraf era.

Once the Prime Minister finishes her speech to standing ovation from the crowd who start clapping on the cue, the speaker takes control of the mike and points dramatically at the sky towards the far end of the field.

“Behold! Yonder in the clouds! Oh we are truly blessed!”.

The audience looked up and around for the source of this rapturous seizure…on the horizon, floating towards the field was a huge hot-air baloon…It lost some height as it neared the crowds and now the sharp sight could recognize the high hovering face behind the dark glasses. The figure raised a white-clad arm and waved.

“Oh, we are twice blessed today in this meeting!” the man sang into microphone. The prime minister on the stage with us, and her son in the sky above us! What more could we ask for!”……..”Yes, my brothers and sisters, Mother India sits on stage with us, and the Son of India shines from the sky upon us! The glorious present, here, now, and the golden future, up there, waiting to descend and embrace our live! What a blessed nation we are!”

Zardari and Bilawal anyone.

Note:
1. The book is not about politics or Emergency. It describes how lives of some people become “linked inextricably in ways no one could have foreseen..written with compassion, humor and insight”

2. I picked out the political excerpts as to me they describe a situation that is so familiar.

Who will make your tax money work?

Yesterday, the hot news was resignation of Shaukat Tarin, a banker,  from Ministry of Finance. Being a banker is no qualification for running the finance ministry, yet we have a precedence in Shaukat Aziz who was a banker (aka money launderer for dictators, tax evaders, etc along with some honest billionaires as well) as well. PPP has always been weak in the area of finance and it is understandable when they bring someone from outside who has some credibility to run the ministry.

Prior to this stint, Shaukat Tarin had made millions first in turning around Habib Bank and then offloading his non-performing commercial and consumer loan infested Union Bank to Standard Chartered when the Pakistani economy was at the peak of consumer debt fueled bubble.  What this shows that he is a shrewd and competent professional and has respectability in financial circles. By bringing him on board, government expected to deliver similar miracles for the economy of Pakistan.

Since his departure, a few names have been floated. From Cafe Pyala

Arif Habib CEO Nasir Baig, former State Bank governor Dr Ishrat Hussain and former PPP finance minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin. From my sources, apparently, the President’s camp and the Prime Minister’s camp have their own favourites. Baig, who is incidentally the brother-in-law of Anwar Majeed, Zardari’s so-called right hand man (who is also related to Shaukat Tarin through the marriage of their offspring), and Shahabuddin are apparently in the President Zardari’s list, as is PPP MNA Naveed Qamar. PM Yousuf Raza Gilani’s list, on the other hand, has, in addition to Hussain, current state minister Hina Rabbani Khar and economist Dr [Abdul] Hafeez Pasha [Sheikh]. Who eventually gets picked may indicate which way the wind is blowing. In fact, having one of Zardari’s nominees get the post would be no big deal. One of them not getting it, on the other hand, might be.

This is my take on the nominees:

After the privatization fiasco wherein Abdul Hafeez Shaikh begged government owned Etisalat to take over government owned PTCL (I thought privatization follows from the mantra that business of government is not business) on terms that were disadvantageous to Pakistan, breached conditions of bidding contract, I would think twice before appointing him anywhere in Finance.

We all know that Naveed Qamar can’t deliver. That is why Shaukat Tarin was brought in initially to advise him and eventually the prime minister.

Hina Rabbani Khar..you got to be kidding me…except for good looks, the lady has nothing going for her. With the exception for the budget speech in Parliament, she did not have to work a single day in her life.

Ishrat Hussain is a developmental economist and by the same virtue was unsuitable for the State Bank job. But since he came from IMF/WB and had an open mind (willing to learn and be corrected) he did well rather much better than what followed: Shamshad Akhtar who was not even a career economist having made a career in Operations at ADB and the current absent minded incompetent Salim Raza whose only qualification is relation to NBP president Ali Raza.

Nasir Baig …. I don’t know much about him. The rumor has it that the list of nominees is bad by design, to make it easier to appoint Nasir Baig who stands out as being ‘andhon mein kaana raja’.

In opposition, Ishaq Dar/Sartaj Aziz are relatively competent. Lets see which way the ball rolls.

Musharraf (Army) is a genius?

In recent times, a lot of terms have acquired cliched status because of overuse and “existential” is one of them. Thankfully no one has labeled the tiff between judiciary and presidency in Pakistan at present as “existential” crisis and we are grateful for that.

Nawaz Sharif has finally decided to jump in and make a bold statement against Zardari. It had been very quiet on right-of-centre-wing-front for a while. I was wondering for sometime that why is NS so quiet. Why has he not  been taking advantage of Zardari/Government for their stupidity and idiocy? Though the idea had been making ripples in my mind but like a tsunami, the realization hit me today. I realized that (even for purely selfish reason) NS does not want to rock the boat of democracy. He wants the democratic process to continue for five years. If Zardari continues like this, definitely PPP will have a defeat in next elections as they have nothing to show for their time in government.

Stopping the process midway through street protests and calling for mid term elections would bode less well for all politicians (as well as the country) whether in government, opposition or outside. However, to allow the government with the likes of compulsive liars like Rehman Malik and Kaira would also be a big mistake as there may not be much of the country left to rule when the time of next election arrives. So the right thing would be to protest against Zardari and his decisions. However, that would derail the democratic setup and serve as invitation to Army to intervene.

Hence, NS is in tight spot i.e., damned if he does and damned if he does not. This is without even considering what is good for the country before someone considers me a PML(N) sympathizer.

Hindsight is 20-20. It should have been obvious to me when NRO was passed by Musharraf. May be I was deluded that when Zardari said “Pakistan Khappay”, he really meant it. Zardari has only gotten humiliation from this country and all his wealth is abroad_ he has no stake in Pakistan. Why would he be good for Pakistan. If one reads the facebook status updates, the youtube videos, the jokes and verses in the name of Faraz that keep circulating, Zardari is the most hated personality in Pakistan amongst the middle and elite classes. By passing the NRO and taking Zardari (most hated and apparently most corrupt personality in the country( though no cases stand against him but it does not mean that people perceive him as honest)) to the presidency, Musharraf has ensured that democracy does not succeed in Pakistan. If Zardari is what you get for asking for democracy, the current generation till it lives will be never again ask for democracy.

Ayub said, “Democracy does not suit the genius of Pakistanis”, pretty soon we will hear all the educated lot requesting to be ruled by a army because we the educated lot consider ourselves “bloody civilians” not realizing that it has always been Army (and recently Musharraf) that have placed this country on the path of destruction.

Today, I appreciate the genius of Musharraf/Army. After making us lose East Pakistan due to Army/Bureaucracy shenanigans, lets see what we end up losing this time.