Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why Dawn.com editor Jahanzaib Haque was wrong to have tweeted about the KGS event

Much has been said about Dawn.com editor Jahanzaib Haque's tweets that he did after attending a careers fair at his alma mater, Karachi Grammar School. The Express Tribune, where me and Jahanzaib were colleagues, even did a story on it here and whether they should or shouldn't have done it is an entirely separate debate.

Many people on Twitter including some dear friends have expressed solidarity and support with him saying that he was courageous to have done what he did. Part of this may also have to do with the fact that many people want to be seen on the right side of a dispute so that their chances of being published by a major online site are not negatively impacted in any way. 

That said,this entire debate misses a couple of crucial points and they need to be spelt out. Of course, it goes without saying that the issue is not that one cannot or should not criticise ones former school or university. This is a very common thing because people often have good or bad experiences while in school but the context in which such criticism is made can lessen its validity.

 Jahanzaib was on the same panel as me and was an invited guest of the Old Grammarians Society (OGS) which has been organising this event for some years now for the benefit of the schools students. We also had Faizan Syed, CEO of Health TV, on the panel and the three sessions we had were lively and engaging with participating students asking many questions related to journalism and the media.

The point essentially is that since he was an invited guest of the OGS and went presumably of his own volition, such tweets (see below -- at least two which ridiculed other speakers at the fair) were clearly in poor taste. That is a thoroughly unprofessional thing to do and in very poor taste. You don't accept an invite from an organisation or institution for an event and then use that occasion to make fun of it and ridicule others who attended it -- and that too to thousands of your Twitter followers from a handle that identifies you as the editor of a major online news site.

 By all means, Jahanzaib can hate his old school all he wants but then perhaps he shouldn't have accepted the invitation in the first place (in fact, during the panel sessions, he actively sought out its students for internships). He should have politely declined instead of saying on Twitter "in my defence I refused five times". Furthermore, to have tweeted what he did, from his handle which identifies him in a position of some authority and responsibility shows a lack of judgment on what an editor's job entails. 

These principles are so basic that one is surprised that the editor of a major news website seems to have been entirely unaware of them.










Friday, April 10, 2015








9 things that Pakistani social science textbooks will not teach you

By Omar R Quraishi


1. That Pakistan was once the home of people who used to follow Buddhism - check out the numerous ruins of stupas found all over the country especially in the north. A good example is the ruins of Taxila which at one time were home to a great Buddhist civilization over 2,000 years ago. 


2. That Pakistan was once home to a significant population which followed Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism -- proof of this can easily be found in the dozens of abandoned Jain temples in Sindh, especially Tharparkar District, in the prevalence of Hindu temples (many of them still in use) in Sindh and abandoned Sikh gurdwaras throughout Punjab.


3. That Pakisan in fact did not win a single war against India - not the one in 1948, or the one in 1965 -- which at best can be called a stalemate -- nor the one in 1971 or the Kargil War in 1999 where it had to withdraw after international pressure and gained nothing out of the adventures, except the dead bodies of its valiant soldiers.


4. That the secession of East Pakistan was in fact caused by our own follies, in particular by the refusal of West Pakistan's political leadership, especially Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who refused to recognize the victory of Sheikh Mujib's Awami League and did not let him form a government in Islamabad, which was his right given that his party won the most seats. The history books will also not mention a word about the alienation that many East Pakistanis felt, not least because of the language issue, and because most policies were West Pakistan-centric.


5. That Pakistan in fact came into being on Aug 14, 1947 and not any time before that. Many Pakistan Studies books teach students that Pakistan was in fact created when Mohammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh in 712 AD and brought Islam to the subcontinent.


6. That much of north India -- UP in particular and Punjab as well as Rajasthan -- shares cultural, ethnic and language links with many Pakistanis.This is evident also in the fact that Bollywood films -- which draw heavily on this north Indian culture and ambience are immensely popular this side of the border. Of course, doing so would in fact undermine the Two Nation Theory, which textbooks say is what Pakistan was premised on. The textbooks are, as expected, also silent on the obvious extrapolation from the 1971 creation of Bangladesh, which is that it disproves the Two Nation theory.


7. That Pakistan's Hindus -- there are 2-3 million of them and concentrated mainly in Sindh -- are a productive and valuable segment of Pakistani society and contribute to the national economy. No wonder, that if a Hindu Pakistani goes outside his area of residence and meets another person the question that he is often asked is "Aap kya India say hain?". The textbooks also make no mention really of Pakistan's other minorities such as Parsis, Christians or Sikhs. This is because the emphasis is on Pakistan being a state for Muslims, and hence all non-Muslim groups are equated with the Other.


8. That Pakistan has had many men and women who were members of minority communities but who contributed in a major way towards their country and society. Examples are the late Justice A R Cornelius, the late Justice Dorab Patel, and Air Force and 1965 War hero Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry.


9. That there is a role for women in Pakistani society outside of the boundaries pre-determined for them by their patriarchs, i.e. fathers, brothers, husbands and so on. Of course, in reality the world is changing and so are these boundaries but most social studies textbooks for government schools will make their students think that we are still living in the middle of the 20th century.

Friday, March 13, 2015




7 things you should know about Zakiur Rahman Lakhwi

By Omar R Quraishi

1. The suspected mastermind of the Mumbai attacks is said to be 53 years old and was born in the Punjab city of Okara, close to Lahore.

2. Lakhvi, whose release was ordered by the Islamabad High Court earlier this morning (after it cancelled a detention order issued by the Islamabad local administration), was arrested in December 2008, along with 11 other LeT's activists. They were detained during a raid at an LeT facility near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The formal announcement of his arrest was not made a couple of months later in February 2009 by the then interior minister Rahman Malik.


3. While he has always denied any involvement in the Mumbai attacks, Lakhwi has been a proponent of sending fidayeen squads to Indian-held Kashmir. Addressing an annual congregation of the Markaz ad-Dawa wal Irshad, he said that Pakistan's withdrawal from Kargil had disappointed Kashmiris and had allowed India to present a picture as if it had emerged victorious. That was all the more reason, he said, that fidayeen squads needed to be sent to Indian-held Kashmir. He also quoted figures to the congregation citing cases where such squads had carried out targeted actions.

4. It was not until November of 2009 when Lakhwi and six of his LeT associated were formally charged by a Pakistani court for involvement in the Mumbai attacks. However, in over 5 years since then, the case has moved at a snail's pace. The government has had to appoint two more special prosecutors after the first one dealing with the case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar, was shot dead in Islamabad in May 2013. Chaudhry Zulfiqar was also dealing with the Benazir Bhutto assassination case as special prosecutor when he was killed. Currently, the special prosecutors include Abuzar Pirzada and Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry. Misbahul Hassan Qazi's appointment as the third special prosecutor was okayed this month by the interior ministry. 

5. The FIR (First Information Report) in the case against Lakhwi and six other accused was drawn up and filed by the Special Investigation Unit of Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency. However, the special prosecutors say that they find the case tough since they have repeatedly received threatening calls on their mobile phones and because the witnesses who have to depose against the LeT members have never been provided any protection by the state. 

6. The case of the seven suspects in the Mumbai attacks, being heard by a magistrate in Islamabad, has proceeded at a snail's pace. The past several hearings were all adjourned, because the case record had been sent to the Islamabad High Court to decide on Lakhwi's detention, which it did this morning. At the last hearing, a witness by the name of Mumtaz told the magistrate that there was an LeT training centre at Mirpur Sakro in the province of Sindh close to the sea from where the Mumbai attackers were alleged to have left for Mumbai by sea in a boat.

7. Now that Lakhwi has been ordered released, the original case against the seven suspects (one of whom is Lakhwi) remains in doubt given that the Islamabad High Court's release order is based on the premise that there is no case against Lakhwi.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


13 things you should know about Jihadi John









1. His name is Mohammed Emwazi

2. He is a British national of Kuwaiti origin and grew up and lived in West London

3. He is thought to have travelled to Syria in 2012 and joined the IS

4. He has a degree in computer programming

5. He was first seen in the IS propaganda video of James Foley who was beheaded in August 2014

6. He has appeared in a series of IS videos of Western hostages, all of whom were executed, some of whom Emwazi himself killed.

7. His friends say he radicalized after a planned safari to Tanzania along with 2 other friends (including a German convert) went sour

8. A former IS captive has said that Emwazi is obsessed with Somalia and the rise of Al Shabab there

9. He told friends that Britain's domestic spy service Mi5 tried to recruit him

10, In 2010, UK counterterrorism officials detained him after a trip to Kuwait and searched his belongings,

11. Following this search, Emwazi was stopped from flying back to Kuwait where he was to get married

12. A former captive said Emwazi took part in the waterboarding of 4 Western hostages

13. He did not attend a madrassa but a private university in the UK where he grew up - the University of Westminster in London

Monday, February 23, 2015

Killing Dogs in Karachi 







The screengrab above is from a disturbing video uploaded on Facebook by Karachi resident Hira Tareen (https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10155291511590492&set=vb.767165491&type=2&theater) showing a dead stray dog killed by shooters hired by municipal authorities in an upscale Karachi neighbourhood.

 This practice of getting rid of Karachi's stray dogs (estimates put the city's population of such animals, in the absence of a proper survey, at around 50,000) by killing them has been going on for years but thanks to the growing use of social media in Pakistan, its barbarity has come under increasing scrutiny of late.


In the past, the Karachi Metropolitan Corportationn (KMC) in charge of this issue would carry out week-long campaigns every year where they would place food laced with poison for stray dogs (the packets used to be called 'gulab jamuns', named after a local sweet delicacy). While inhumane, this was done after publicizing the campaign through newspaper notices and with warnings to residents to keep their pet dogs indoors.

However, as the city's governance has taken a severe battering in recent years - thanks largely to neglect by successive governments - the method of eliminating stray dogs has basically fallen apart as well. To begin with, there is no campaign generally speaking and when public complaints against stray dogs rise, municipal authorities -- such as the Clifton Cantonment Board in the case of this video -- adopt very ad hoc, and cruel, measures.

As this video shows, untrained teams of dog killers are driving around the densely populated city of Karachi -- and shooting these animals in the middle of the day. And after doing that, the animal is left to die a slow death. In the case of Ms Tareen's video, the poor animal - he managed to survive - lay where he was shot, injured for several hours, before being taken to an animal welfare clinic.

Residents of the city who have seen this disturbing video are right to ask that cannot the city's municipal authorities think of more humane ways to rid the city of this problem. Cannot the stray dog population be neutered so that their numbers go down over time? A large Indian city recently adopted a proposal to train some of its stray dogs and use them for security purposes.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Furore in Karachi neighbourhood over killing of stray dogs



video


The disturbing video above was uploaded on Facebook by Karachi resident Hira Tareen (https://www.facebook.com/zaratareen?fref=photo) . This practice of getting rid of Karachi's stray dogs (estimates put the city's population of such animals, in the absence of a proper survey, at around 50,000) by killing them has been going on for years but thanks to the growing use of social media in Pakistan, its barbarity has come under increasing scrutiny of late.

In the past, the Karachi Metropolitan Corportationn (KMC) in charge of this issue would carry out week-long campaigns every year where they would place food laced with poison for stray dogs (the packets used to be called 'gulab jamuns', named after a local sweet delicacy). While inhumane, this was done after publicizing the campaign through newspaper notices and with warnings to residents to keep their pet dogs indoors.

However, as the city's governance has taken a severe battering in recent years - thanks largely to neglect by successive governments - the method of eliminating stray dogs has basically fallen apart as well. To begin with, there is no campaign generally speaking and when public complaints against stray dogs rise, municipal authorities -- such as the Clifton Cantonment Board in the case of this video -- adopt very ad hoc, and cruel, measures.

As this video shows, untrained teams of dog killers are driving around the densely populated city of Karachi -- and shooting these animals in the middle of the day. And after doing that, the animal is left to die a slow death. In the case of Ms Tareen's video, the poor animal - he managed to survive - lay where he was shot, injured for several hours, before being taken to an animal welfare clinic.

Residents of the city who have seen this disturbing video are right to ask that cannot the city's municipal authorities think of more humane ways to rid the city of this problem. Cannot the stray dog population be neutered so that their numbers go down over time? A large Indian city recently adopted a proposal to train some of its stray dogs and use them for security purposes.

Surely, Karachi, too, could try a less barbaric approach.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More money for the military?

A senior defence ministry official - an air-vice marshal - briefed the Senate's Defence Committee on May 19 about the budgetary needs of the military. The official somewhat disingenuously told the Senate committee that Pakistan was the lowest spending on defence in the entire region and the figure he quoted to substantiate this claim was that Pakistan spent around $8,400 per soldier while India spent roughly three times that per soldier. A more accurate measure of comparison would be defence spending as a percentage of GDP which in Pakistan's case is 2.6 per cent of GDP compared to India's 1.8 per cent. Similarly, Pakistan spends $35.4 per capita on defence compared to India which spends $29.9. One is not sure whether any of the Senators present in the committee hearing could figure that what they were being told was not entirely true and that Pakistan does spend far more on defence than it should be given the size of its economy, GDP per capita and low human indicators. The official -- perhaps inadvertantly -- also told the Committee that military pensions had now reached Rs 100 billion per year and that this figure was paid out of the civilian budget. This means that the real defence budget for 2013-14 is not $6.37 billion as publicly admitted in official statistics and budget documents but around $7.4 billion, thereby making the official's claim that Pakistan spends the least on defence in the region even less credible. And now on to those who cry hoarse and paint anyone who asks such questions or point out such discrepancies with the label of 'anti-state' and/or 'anti-national'. The defence budget is paid out of public funds and this is taxpayers money and hence the public has a constitutionally guaranteed right to know how this money is spent. At one point in the briefing, the Defence Ministry official was asked by some senators about the size of the ISI budget and whether it was audited and he declined to give any details. While it is true that the size of the budget for intelligence agencies the world over is not a publicly known figure, it is however shared with members of parliament -- which is precisely a reflection of the fact in mature democracies of parliament being sovereign. In Pakistan's case, it would be fair to say that this detail is not shared with MPs except perhaps with the defence minister and the prime minister. The other issue that is raised by apologists for yet more military spending has to do with the fallacy which says that a lot more funds could be freed up in the budget for health and education if the budgets used for these sectors was used more efficiently and if there was less corruption. This ignores the fact that there is corruption in all sections of the government, not just civil, and further the inescapable reality that a country like Pakistan needs to be spending far more than it currently does on health and education, and that this extra money is not going to come from simply utilizing the existing budget for either more efficiently.