Pakistan’s Screwed Up Priorities

You would think that Pakistan has learned its lesson after all these years. You would hope that finally, the custodians of this state have decided to put the prosperity of the people ahead of their egos and pretentious nationalism. But it seems we may never live to see that day.

Just when Pakistan is preaching to the world about peace, “Nazism,” and “averting nuclear war,” its military has chosen to send a message to India and the world. Probably anticipating war on the Kashmir front, they tested a nuclear ballistic missile with the sinister name of “Ghaznavi,” named after the Afghan Turkic warrior emperor Mahmud of Ghazni, who invaded several Hindu temples in India.

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Ironically, the government plans to send a very different the next day with observing its first-ever Kashmir Hour. Something that they want to model after the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel as a part of the rhetoric strategy of the government.

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The recent posts comparing Modi with Hitler and RSS with Nazi Party are evident of that notion.

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Many people supportive of this form of protest believe that it will project a positive image of the nation around the world. However, the appropriation of the Holocaust and Nazi rhetoric is far more problematic than PTI can imagine. But let’s ignore that factor for a second and let’s appreciate the non-violent line of protest Pakistan is taking.

Still, acts such as intimidating India with nuclear ballistic missile tests with this symbolism is not only disturbing but duplicitous. It does not add any confidence whatsoever in a nation which holds the reputation of not staying true to its word whether it comes to eradicating terrorism or supporting or financing terrorism from its soil.

Then again, the international community is not naive enough not to understand the state of democracy in Pakistan. They are aware of the dual narrative from the Pakistan military and the civilian government. But the Pakistani citizens satisfied by this line of rhetoric by the Prime Minister should really be disappointed by the recent missile test. Because there goes your image of being a peace dove in the region.

Asma Jahangir: Mourning Pakistan’s Eternal Free Speech Hero

Source: refrl.org

What we had feared for long finally happened this dull Sunday afternoon.

I often used to wonder how in the world Asma Jahangir was alive and well in a country where bloggers are getting abducted for criticizing the establishment and where journalists are getting murdered and attacked in the light of the day. I often used to wonder how this brave lawyer woman can get away with how openly and aggressively she attacked the bureaucratic oligarchy ruling this country.

Perhaps she was a part of that privileged class too but at least she spoke out about those who lacked it. She successfully managed to separate from the filth of the complacent privileged classes (which most of us in Pakistan, at least from urban Punjab, are connected to in way or another) by calling them out on their hypocrisy. She did so by speaking out for the helpless and the unprivileged.

She genuinely spoke out for the cause of democracy and human rights and in the meantime, even confronted politicians from all parties and even judges when she had to. Her fairminded activism earned her the position of the United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights Council on Iran which magnified her voice on a global scale. Of course, her diplomatic role for the UN which only made a good name for Pakistan was seen as a traitorous act. But enough of the international impact.

She always knew that the real battleground was back at home in Pakistan, where the state of human rights was as abysmal as anywhere in this world. Could have immigrated to a Western country any day.

As unimaginable her death was to her followers and admirers, it only brought to surface the venomous bigotry that she had been fighting her entire life. Widely hailed as the conscience of the nation by several obituaries following her passing, this was how a large section of our urban population was treating someone who stood up for their very rights. Of course, anyone who had a different idea of living their lives other than the prescribed bigoted and suffocating convention in Pakistan is considered an Indian, Israeli or American agent.

Another one of the reasons why she will be so badly missed and has been irreplaceable is that she could say unimaginably brave things and get away with it. But at least she led by example and showed that it could be done. The question really is not what would have happened to another person, it is that nobody else dared to go even close.

In the end, there have been several calls to offer her a state funeral, with the most prominent one made by the Chief Minister Sindh. While the idea sounds great in theory, just imagine for a minute. Wouldn’t it have been the greatest insult to her legacy? Why would a discriminatory state mar the honor of her funeral? Why should the national flag obscure her individuality and her singular message of freedom and human rights for all?

She never needed a certificate of patriotism from anyone.

Source: geo.tv

When you are a hero, even your funeral becomes a symbol of resistance against ignorance.

Unbelievably, her funeral even became an object of conspiracy when orthodox misogynist Muslims condemned those mourning her to mix genders at the funeral prayer. These sort of opinions and the sort she fought all her lives might sound absurd in a parallel universe. But sad enough, they are a fact of life and have undoubtedly outlived Asma Jahangir.

This is why we are mourning the departure of Pakistan’s Eternal Free Speech Hero as we celebrated her life.

May God have mercy on us.

The Writing on the Wall

Source: clarionproject.org

Source: clarionproject.org

Well, the writing on the wall is clear.

Now it begins. So much for the days of freewheelin’ secular and leftist bloggers. It’s all over.

Now is the time for the Islamist social conservative and the militant nationalist to reclaim the space on the social media that they probably should never have given up. So that these secular bloggers never should have started in the first place.

Now begins the time to silence our pens and tongues from dissenting.

On the bright side, at least the social conservatives and religious fanatics might stand against the banning of social media websites, which actually comes as second nature to our authoritarian government.

As I said earlier that the Jamaat-e-Islami goons could be the first on the streets protesting a facebook ban.

But I’d understand if you accuse me of too much optimism here. Because the picture on the ground… on the cyberspace, rather… is quite dismal.

We get it. There are some matters which are too sacred and important to be discussed.

But whichever force is behind the sudden disappearance of the three bloggers, could you please return them to safety as citizens of this country?

While we are sadly aware that an allegation of blasphemy is considered verdict in this society, and even though that’s what the fight is all about, could we still hope for some respite for them?

We totally understand. We know that perhaps some of the nationalistic entities absolutely have no regard how the world sees us in terms of our tolerance for free speech.

We would keep that in mind whenever we are going to write. Because we want to live peacefully in the one and only life that has been enforced upon us.

Not only do we assure of good behavior, we would also be particularly respectful of any ideas that is held by our social conservative ideological adversaries. Because there really is no other choice.

But even if we do adhere to these rules and do not wake up the dormant, if not dead, conscience of the nation, we still cannot ignore the damage done. We simply cannot ignore the “disappearance” of the secular bloggers.

And now we hear that all of them have committed blasphemy. How convenient. So, who is the entity that takes such action against such people and how have we decided that they are guilty?

Of course, the ones who get caught are always the blasphemers and the traitors.

Alright, we get it. There are certain lines that we are not supposed to cross. But not everyone is going to agree. There are always going to be some people who are never going to agree.

What are we going to do with them?

Are we going to make them disappear, kill them, or try them all for blasphemy and treason? Hang them on public squares?

And if yes, then what is the message that we are sending to the world about Pakistan? What sort of a country treats its citizens in this way?

The guardians of national security should think about it.

Now this may offend the loyalist of the state and religion, but there is a reason it is our duty to stand up for these missing bloggers.

One of us could be next any day.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Khawaja Asif, Traitors & the Pakistani Welfare State

Source: Sabir Nazar

Source: Sabir Nazar

Part I: The Traitorous Defense Minister 

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Minister of Defense, has been under fire for his recent statements against the Armed Forces.

Of late, the Armed Forces have taken active offense to the relentless criticism on its institution from civilian sections, such as the media. Finally, we have an aggressive ISPR Director General on board.

But apart from the media, certain politicians have also been actively criticizing them as well. Especially from the party in power.

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

The incumbent PML-N Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has been at the forefront of this assault, more recently merely for stating that the Parliament is the more sovereign institute.

He had been particularly at it, when he was in the opposition during the reign of President General Pervez Musharraf and the last democratically elected government of the PPP led alliance.

Khawaja Asif may have been irresponsible but he has spoken his mind when it comes to criticizing the Pakistani military for certain practices.

As rightly pointed out by Ahsen Iqbal, the current confrontation has more to do with offering the under-trial General Pervez Musharraf a safe exit path than anything else. However, with the fallout of the assassination attempt on Hamid Mir, the counter offensive has taken a new turn.

In the currently on-going pro-establishment campaign on most media channels, one of Khawaja Asif’s speeches from 2006 was aired to prove his traitorous record.

I was startled by that speech which Khawaja Asif made on the parliament floor that I must confess I was not aware of. I have a feeling I must not be the only one. Had I been in charge of the ISPR, I would have made all efforts to prevent the airing of that speech on national TV, it was so revealing.

The speech was not just about the usual cries of military imperialism or the excesses breaching civil liberties in Baluchistan, but it concerned something lot deeper. Even for the Punjabi people.

 

Truer words have hardly ever been spoken on the floor of the Pakistani legislature.

Well for the most part.

There is no wonder why he is the latest entrant in the traitors’ Hall of Fame, or Shame.

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Source: geo.tv

Source: geo.tv

Part II: The Pakistani Welfare State

The last minute of the clip of this speech, mentioning the words “Welfare State” largely reiterates what I have been maintaining for quite a while now. Perhaps not on my blog though.

The people of Pakistan have been fed this false ideal of “Islamic Welfare State” right from the beginning. They have been fed a utopian fallacy that a state would be established which would provide them everything from food stamps and shelter to free education, and from utilities to free healthcare.

Actually, all these benefits have been reserved to the people in the government service, whether military or civilian. However, such entitlements, or privileges, which include insured housing, subsidized education and absolutely free healthcare have been particularly enjoyed by the military service.

In Pakistan, the military pretends that it is a profitable corporation with benefits only reserved for its employees. This approach has largely improved the acceptance of these institutional perks. Nobody should dare question “private property” right?

Furthermore, their absolutely inevitable national defense function and employment incentive have particularly ruled any possible political criticism out. At least in Punjab.

This is the current Pakistani concept of Welfare State, and one that has been widely accepted by the Pakistani people. As a matter of fact, one of the main aspirations of the-not-so-affluent classes is to uplift their living standards by entering the exclusive club of military and civilian government service.

As a matter of fact, there could not have been a better strategy for the exclusivist government club to strengthen and legitimize its power grab.

Pakistan is a classical example of a government entity that has a state and a large piece of land at its disposal. It would employ all in its means to perpetuate its hold and the most lucrative of such tactics is increasing government based employment. A mode of employment that is as useful to the economy as a leech is to human body.

Surprisingly, but perhaps not so surprisingly, the people of Pakistan celebrate the announcement of government positions. It is for precisely the same reason.

They are condemned to.

It is their only ticket to the dream of the Pakistani Welfare State.

Banning the Anti-State Cable Network

Source: The News

Source: The News

Politics of the Jang group is such a mixed bag.

At times, the news group is said to be in the pocket of the ruling Sharif brothers and at others, it is considered to have operatives in a hostile India.  Sometimes, it is serving as the bullhorn of the Chief Justice and sometimes it seems to be the voice of Islamist bigots.

At times, its channel is said to be the mouthpiece of the establishment. At others, it is apparently perceived to be accusing the ISI of all the ills in the world, especially shooting its senior anchor Hamid Mir, and asking its head to step down.

But everyone can agree that the channel Geo News is sensationalist at best.

We have a problem in Pakistan, which by the way, exists all over the world too. A problem that needs to go. We are ever prepared to penalize people for saying things.

Therefore, the currently ongoing silent censorship of the news channels of the Geo Network, which may or may not materialize into license cancellation. The backlash came after the ISPR decided to file a libel lawsuit for false accusations over Mir case, followed by the Defense Ministry forwarding an application to the PEMRA for its ban. (Really Khawaja Asif? Oh I get it.)

OK, so why is everyone quiet over it?

Because clearly they have crossed the line. Nobody likes it, neither do I even though I didn’t catch what is said to be the worst of it, and it is hideous. Typical Geo TV. And yes, an example must be set to teach the channels to report responsibly.

But how? And who would do it?

And why do bans need to be enforced for the same purpose?

The government can’t shut a channel up just because it had an unfavorable broadcast for a few hours. Then there is no free media if that is the case, and certainly no free speech.

Libel lawsuits are all good, so are penalties on violating code of conduct. But does this kind of reaction mean that anyone criticizing certain public institutions will be met with such a reaction from the government? What are we aspiring to become? Soviet Union or Nazi Germany?

In any case, the government must not penalize speech and any such law should be deemed unconstitutional. Surely, not the case in Pakistan.

I believe the right way to penalize an irresponsible channel is to impose a monetary fine instead of banning it altogether. Even though I would never support even a monetary fine for speech.

We need to stop shutting people up to feel secure. Not sure if that kind of security ever worked.

Or perhaps just let people change the channel.

How to Judge an Act

Source: APP/Dawn

I am pretty sure it always would have been sick to live in Pakistan, but I can tell you it is getting sicker by the day and I am afraid it will only get sicker in the future. For a people who have isolated themselves from the rest of the India supposedly for their superior moral values and purity (therefore the name Pakistan or “Land of the Pure”), away from unclean, uncircumcised and idol-worshiping Hindus, they have become so decadent that they have apparently lost all human common sense of what is right and wrong.

As if they needed any further degradation? Some might add.

In today’s Pakistan, the 21st century Pakistan, when humans are jumping off the edge of the stratosphere of the planet, we are still insistent on enforcing beliefs in barbarian medieval nonsense. But let us even keep religion out of it, because a lot of my friends are insistent that I am too obsessed with it, though it really is that way because everyone around me is. Though you cannot really keep it out of the discourse in context of the Pakistani society, can you? But saying that, it at least establishes how self-important and self-conscious it is of its morality.

Whenever you see some kind of moral idiocy emerge to public discussion, it is usually the result of some rotten and twisted piece of moral conclusion in a reaction to the wounded collective ego of a mob. You know, mobs like nations, religious communities and political parties, or may be even other groups. But so much for generalizations. Let us leave such privileges to the morally correct so that they can decide who is patriotic and who is moral and who is religious or not.

I have just discovered a new standard on how to judge an act. To be able to tell whether it is right or wrong. To be able to tell whether you are supposed to celebrate or mourn it. Simply see what kind of people are condemning or applauding it. So you would be able to tell whether you see such an act as a real occurrence or dismiss it as a charade pulled off by the master superpower forces of the world. There are no limits when you are thinking with a bias and starting your arguments with one. So it seems.

So now some of us, particularly the only patriotic, the only religious and certainly the most morally righteous ones of all, have sunk to a new low by imagining the shooting of a 14 year old as the justifiable punishment to “an American agent” at times and to be a complete fraud that had never actually have happened in the first place at others. I would particularly envy the intelligence of all those who are able to hold both these views on the Malala shooting incident at the same time. But then again, in a world ruled by Godly-Satanic superpowers, anything is possible. Of course, it must be something good if pro-West secular hypocrites are condemning it.

But I don’t really wish to be harsh. Not everyone thinks like a complete idiot, and I am talking about nationalist-religious patriots, even though it implies otherwise by definition. This is when matters of common sense and those of great sensitivity are discussed, such as the ones that involve 14 year old girls being shot by unreasonable and barbarian terrorists, or militants, or freedom fighters, but certainly criminals. As much as I believe in peaceful Pakistanis and peaceful Muslims, I am more than ever convinced that I am living amid individuals blinded by one of the most horrific moral standards and religious-nationalistic ideologies and who would go to any extent to justify their beliefs.

And I don’t say this out of frustration on dealing with their arguments, quite the contrary since they can so easily be proved wrong. Though making them believe that they are wrong is another story. But I say this because of the violence and the risk that it involves. I say this because you cannot breathe in this society without offending someone somewhere and getting threatened for who knows what. I say this because it is not safe, it has never been safe, to say what you think is right and to express what you really believe in.

I more than welcome and support the right of expression of ridiculous arguments, because all they end up doing is showing broad daylight. A lot of my friends oppose hate speech very strongly, to the extent of banning it. I oppose hate speech too and when it comes to direct threats, I would lean in favor of removing it from published and broadcast content as well, but I’d just like to make a point here. Firstly, you can’t completely ban hate speech any more in the world of social media, but even if you wanted to, displays of hate speech perfectly tell you the bigots from people who are controlling and fighting prejudice abuse, or the prejudices their upbringing imprinted them with.

You cannot help but feel disgusted at people targeting Malala like this. I made this point earlier too, but I am honestly sick up to the throat with this nonsense. The Pakistani nation is in a state of denial right now and they are in a state of denial because they are too afraid to face and consciously accept what they believe in, or what they think they strongly believe in.

Yes, denial is that easy when the reality is that ugly.

Like life.

The Politically Religious

In the English language, the adjective “religious” is used to mean in one of its contexts, to quote Merriam Webster as one of the many possible sources, for being scrupulously and conscientiously faithful, or fervent or zealous.

Well, perhaps the expression “doing or following something religiously” is used because the religious adhere to faith without much reasoning. Similar is the case with some people in the political sphere, who may or may not have anything to do with religious political parties or a religion even (clarifying just because I used the term “religious” in the post, and also to exaggerate the fact that they are perfectly smart folks), but who would adhere to their political parties so religiously that they would even justify the obviously wrong actions that their parties have been resorting to.

And this happens in the case of almost all the political parties around the world, no one singled out. And let me be clear again, it is actions, or say even statements, and not ideology that is being discussed here.

They would justify actions that any sane man would question and would object to, just because of their affiliation with a party. I guess it would not be incorrect if I take the liberty to call them “The Politically Religious”.

They are either not sincere to their countries or humanity, or are more sincere to their political parties than their countries or humanity, which is perfectly fine and rather admirable, and the only way this behavior would make sense, well to me at least.

In either case, their principle, if there is one, is beyond my understanding.

In the end, to quote Mark Twain:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government (party?) when it deserves it.

Though the last refuge of a scoundrel…

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NOTE: If you have been offended by this post, then let me clarify the fact that if you do criticize your political party for all its nonsense, then this post is not talking about you. If you are feeling offended anyway,  then you may or may not even know that what nonsense your political party is or has been up to, and I am glad that I successfully offended you. Nothing personal though and I support your freedom to uphold your opinion. If you know that you have been at it and have not been offended, then you are fit to become a politician, if you are not one already. I have been as general and discreet in my manner of putting forth my argument as possible. You will find your specific examples when you come across them and will not have to work as hard for finding them as you would have for reading these lines. However, my sincere apologies and respects to the genuinely religious folks, that is, only if you disapprove of suicide-bombers and preaching.

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