My Pakistani Person of the Year 2014: Muhammad Jibran Nasir

Source: Jibran Nasir

Source: Jibran Nasir

Up till this morning, I had been pretty clear in my mind that my Pakistani person of the year would be none other than Malala Yousufzai. But then again, I thought there should be better reasons than just being the Nobel peace laureate for the year. She is making her difference alright, and the Nobel Peace Prize is certainly the highlight of the year before she largely becomes irrelevant.

But who has contributed something different for Pakistan this year?

Who is it that has been willing to face the danger of challenging Mullahs for their understanding of what is good for the country, without putting their personal safety first.

For these reasons alone, my Pakistani of the year has to be Muhammad Jibran Nasir.

Though I cannot fully get myself to agree with the Charter of Demands of the movement. Article 3 more specifically, which gives PEMRA and PTA more reasons to live, and calling for the kind of social media profile witchhunt and ideological targeting that could kill free speech in this country. Because while it would be meant to target those inciting hate (hopefully), such internet policing would eventually target pro-secularism elements.

I also oppose suppressing the voice of Maulana Abdul Aziz, who is only doing the cause of secularism a favor by honestly expressing his Islamist beliefs. Let his madness be known to all.

Furthermore, I have no interest or inclination to call for the protest of someone who did not condemn or had celebrated the Peshawar massacre, and so what if he ultimately apologized? It means nothing.

But despite all those differences, his cause is absolutely right.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the clerics of Lal Masjid and the administrators of Jamia Hafsa are killing freedom of hundreds of children. And it is not hard to imagine that if it were up to them, they would take away whatever freedoms we enjoy.

Even during the anti-Abdul Aziz protests, a father was looking for the release of a detained daughter in the female seminary of the mosque run by the wife of Maulana Abdul Aziz.

This, apart from their active militant activity back then,  is why the Lal Masjid operation carried out by the military in July 2007 was absolutely justified, though seemingly a little excessive in its execution.

Jibran Nasir became a hero for the secularists and liberals in Pakistan as soon as he started his protest movement, but he also gained the support of most skeptics when he received the first death threat from the Lal Masjid terrorists.

A death threat from these people is no joke. It is not freedom of religion, though that is what gives them a free pass, and it is surely not freedom of speech.

If that was not enough, Maulana Abdul Aziz dug his own grave by threatening Nasir, the MQM chief and other protesters. It was primarily his own stupidity more than anything else that got him into trouble. Even resorting to sending out threats of suicide attacks. But the credit must go to the protesters outside the Aabpara police station who persisted on the calls of his arrest.

While a local judge has issued the warrant, Maulana Abdul Aziz has not been arrested as of December 31, 2014.

Meanwhile, Jibran Nasir has been accused of all sort of things that the pro-Islamist, pro-Taliban nationalist right wing considers to be evil under the sun. He has been called an anti-Islam agent of the Indian, US and Jewish lobby, member of the MQM, a Hindu-loving Holi-celebrating traitor and an Ahmedi, the ultimate enemies of the state and the root of all evil in the universe.

No, he is not anti-Islam. It is probably people like me who would bash him for not being precisely that. But no, we won’t.

He responded to each and every falsehood though, and has proved to be the moral victor. But moral victories do not matter in the real world, or at least in Pakistan.

While I am aware that the militantism that the anti-Abdul Aziz movement is taregeting does not address the root of the long term problem of faith based violence, but I must also concede that his movement is probably the best shot we got. This, along with the government’s decision to crack down on religious extremist elements.

However, our law enforcement still looks pretty weak, and almost unwilling, when it comes to cracking down on the real culprits, namely Islamist extremists, and would be far more comfortable targeting the protesting workers of AWP as easily as they would drink water.

It is people like Jibran Nasir who are actually making a difference for Pakistan, out in the battlefield, and putting the rest of us to shame.

Dear Pakistani expats, this is the sort of person you may want to support.

His battle is the battle of the people of Pakistan and is the battle for democracy.

And for all you Islamists out there, he is not alone.

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Read about my Pakistani person of last year here.

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My Pakistani Person of the Year 2013: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Source: geo.tv

Source: geo.tv

For reasons right and wrong, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is my Pakistani Person of the Year for 2013.

He has taken office after a massive victory in the May 2013 elections in which people, of the Punjab at least, have clearly voted for economy ahead of any other issue. And his party PML-N had heavily relied on promises of economic prosperity in its election campaign too. Since government is the sole provider of many utilities, it was just a change of subscription from the same source.

While his party, like every other party in Pakistan, believes in big government and big spending and has to offer its fair share of idiotic socialistic election stunts, it still happens to be the best hope for greater economic liberalization in Pakistan.

Perhaps, another hope is its conservative sister PML-Q, which may or may not vote to support many economic reforms out of political rivalry, while PPP and PTI could oppose based on their ideology. It is a shame that both parties have parted ways on anything but issues, and it is mostly Nawaz Sharif’s fault.

To be fair to the Prime Minister, he has inherited a financial wreck from the PPP led coalition government, which doubled the total debt in its term ending in 2012-13. So it is hardly a surprise that the PML-N government is desperate to finance the state any way it can and adding on further debt.

However, Pakistanis have grown sick of excuses and passing on the blame to the predecessor. The PML-N government will have to make tough decisions and it partially seems headed that way as well, at least in terms of reducing the size of the government. But it could damage the economy to some extent in its own right by irresponsible spending.

At the same time, Nawaz Sharif is far from perfect. He has a reputation of a democratically elected dictator, whose second term legacy is still crippling democracy in Pakistan. His party tolerates Islamic fundamentalism, though there is no other way to win an election in Punjab, and he almost became the Emir-ul-Momineen.

I can never forgive his 14th amendment and never will. But if you still look at him with hopeful eyes, it tells you of how bad things are. Perhaps he is the wrong choice, but I am not liberal, or idiotic, enough to think someone else would be a better choice at this point. I didn’t vote for his party, but would have voted for him had the Prime Ministerial ballot been there.

There is this fool’s hope of keeping your fingers crossed that he has learned something from the second term mistakes. And so far, he has not managed to offend my sensitivities.

Given the usual election cycles in Pakistan, most people are likely to vote for a more populist and pro-socialist government in 2018 in any case. While PML-N can compensate its loss of reputation with its trademark wasteful infrastructural and welfare stunts, even though it could either carry out those schemes or control inflation effectively without widening the deficit, it should at least do the needful about the economy on the larger scale in the mean time. Regardless of the cost.

If PML-N is able to privatize major departments currently administered or influenced by the government, especially PIA  and the Steel Mills, and partially at least, it would leave government with a productive legacy.

I would rather have much lesser government control in the oil and power market as well, though this is harder to achieve. The privatization is the easiest measure and would go a long way in the improvement of the economy and standard of living of Pakistanis.

But he has just rejected a recommendation of OGRA to increase oil prices. I don’t even mind the continuous subsidies if either the size of the government is drastically reduced or the income tax revenue is drastically increased. Failing to make one of the two unpopular decisions would mean continuing the same old disaster.

You cannot have big government without a lot of taxes and cannot expect government to look after every single aspect of the economy without paying taxes. Pakistani people do not seem to understand this.

Most Pakistanis are under the impression that a “good government” can solve all their problems. To them, a “good government” should be like a messiah that would come to their rescue. Can you blame them?

But this is why there is an excess supply of messiahs in Pakistani politics.

This is why you have MPs walking out of the legislature all the time, including PML-N, whenever oil and power prices are increased, so that the government can further subsidize these commodities.

This is why you have parties restoring laid off employees in ancient history with pay and benefits in retrospect at the taxpayer’s expense and call it a fulfilled promise.

And this is precisely why Nawaz Sharif is the best man to lead the country at the moment, until we can find someone better and less messianic. At the moment, only he is really able to bring about the changes that the Pakistani economy actually requires. He could fail, but his direction does not look too bad.

We can put off whatever political correctness we are missing right now to a later year.

My Pakistani person of the year for 2012 was Malala Yousafzai.

Happy New Year.

My Pakistani Person of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

The undisputed Pakistani of the year 2012 is Malala Yousafzai. Malala has been significantly important this year and is expected to be in the future as well because her influence has not only created an impact locally, but also internationally.

The failed assassination attempt on her carried out by the local Taliban mercenaries resulted in a strange twist of fate catapulting her to the status of an international ambassador and symbol of education of girls around the world, particularly in repressive environments.

For those doubting her and undermining and underestimating her achievements, she stood for education of girls and women in probably the most unfavorable conditions in the world, especially where there was a direct threat to her life. This was proved by the assassination attempt on her on October 9, 2012, which also injured two other of her classmates. The Taliban still vow to continue their attacks until she is dead.

Another unconscious achievement of Malala, the daughter of a Pakistani teacher and school principal, has been exposing the insensitivity, cruelty and illogic of the fundamentalist conservatives of the country who rejected the incident as a hoax, denying that she had not been shot at all, and calling her a foreign agent.

Malala Yousafzai is a name well recognized around the world now, as she has been appreciated by the likes of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, British Prime Minister White and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Canadian journalist Tarek Fatah has even initiated a global petition for nominating her for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013, adding to her long list of honors including the Sitara-e-Shuja’at for her bravery. I am not a fan of the Nobel Peace Prize, but hell why not if Henry Kissinger and President Obama can win it.

Malala Yousafzai has also been the runner up for TIME magazine’s Person of the Year nomination for 2012.

But of course, she didn’t deserve the first place.

But I am pretty sure that the greatest of all her achievements is standing up against fundamentalism and even conservatism and that is what truly makes her a hero for me. I wish I had even half of her courage and energy. Hope is certainly not dead in Pakistan, as hard as they might try.

She is currently hospitalized in Birmingham, UK, recovering from damage and awaiting reconstructive surgery on her skull bone and let’s hope she gets back to full mode.

I am sure we all miss her energy.

Happy New Year.