Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pink Flamingos on Mai Kolachi

Pink flamingos on Mai Kolachi These days if you drive on Mai Kolachi expressway towards Queens Road, you can see something quite unusually pleasant as you look to your left. No, it’s not the grey silhouettes of the cranes at Karachi port but something else, and quite unexpected. As you cross the train tracks you see and get on to the bypass proper, keep driving till you go past the land being reclaimed, rather controversially, by the Karachi Port Trust, on your left. A bit beyond that is a stretch of shallow water, probably caused by the mangroves on the other side or by the tide. Here, every day I have been seeing the rather unexpected but very welcome sight of a large flock of pink flamingos in the water. In fact, each time I drive on this road, my head rather automatically — and rather dangerously — swings towards their general direction. I have seen them fly a few times and the sight is quite amazing because the pink in their feathers is sharp and striking. The only problem is that they are a bit further away from the road, so if you really want to get a closer look at them you will have to park your car on the side and walk as close to the shallow water as possible — hopefully without scaring them away. Since I hardly know much about these birds myself except that they look really pretty and exotic, and apparently fly all the way here from Russia, I decided to do some research on the matter for the benefit of readers. And quite a few interesting things turned up including the fact that Pakistan along with India is one of the major places where pink flamingos can be found every summer. The National Geographic website said that flamingos build nests out of clay and make them above the water. They feed while standing in shallow water and for this they have to lower their necks and tilt their heads so that their bills hang upside-down and face backward in the water. They apparently do this because this allows them to filter plankton, red and blue-green algae, insects, fish, molluscs, and small crustaceans from the water. The reason flamingos are pink has to do with the red and blue-green algae and insects they eat. These are high in certain pigments that cause the colour of the birds to become striking pink. The birds do come all the way from Siberia in Russia’s far east and because of the war in Afghanistan they, like many other birds, have changed their migratory routes and now fly via Iran. The mangroves in and around Karachi and the Indus delta basin are one of the prime places in the world for these incredible creatures. In fact, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, over 80 species of birds flock to the mangroves every year, so it is quite unfortunate that these wetlands are constantly under threat from various government agencies. — By Karachian

Monday, September 2, 2013

Transcript of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's speech of June 3, 1947 - released by All India Radio

Dated 03.06.1947 (Jinnah recording from AIR Archives) I am glad that I have been afforded the opportunity to speak to you directly through this radio from Delhi. It is the first time I believe that a non-official has been accorded an opportunity to address the people through the medium of this powerful instrument direct to the people on political matters. It augurs well and I hope that in the future I shall have greater facilities to enable me to voice my view and opinions which will directly to you live rather than in the cold print of the newspapers. This statement of his majesty’s government embodying the plan of the transfer of power to the peoples of India has already been broadcast and will be released to the press to be published tomorrow morning. It gives the outlines of a plan for us to give it our most consideration we have to examine it coolly, calmly and dispassionately. We must remember that we have to take momentous decisions and handle grave issues facing us in the solution of the complex political problem of this great subcontinent ihabibited by 400 millions of people. The words has no parallel on the most onerous and difficult task which we have to perform. Grave responsibilities lies particularly on the shoulders of Indian leaders therefore we must galvanise and concentrate all our energies to see that the transfer f power is effected in a peaceful and orderly manner. I must earnestly appeal to every community in particularly the Muslims in India to maintan peace and order. We must examine the plan, in its letter and spirit and come our conclusions and take our decision. I pray to god that in this critical moment he may guide us and enable us to discharge our responsibilities in a wise and a statesmanlike manner having regard to the sum total of the plan as a whole. It is clear that the plan does not meet in some important respects in our point of view. And we cannot say of feel that we are satisfied or that we agreed with some of the matters dealt with in the plan. It is for us to consider whther the plan as presented to us by his majesty’s government should be accepted by us as a compromise or a settlement. On this point I do not wish to judge. The decision of the Council of All India Muslim Council League which has been summoned to meet on Monday the Nineth of June and the final decision can only be taken by the Council according to our constitution, precedence and practise. But so far as I have been able to gather in the whole raction in the Muslim League Circle in Delhi has been hopeful. Of course the plan has got to be very carefully examined in its pros and cons before a final decision can be taken. I must say that I feel the viceroy has battled against various forces very bravely and the expression that the has left in my minds is that he was activated by a high sense of fairness and impartiality and it is important to us to make his task less difficult and help him as insofar as it lies in our power in order that he may fulfill his vision of transger of power to the people of India in a peaceful and orderly manner. Now that the plas has been broadcas orally and makes it clear in paragraph 11 that the referundum will be made to the electororates of the present legislative assembly and the North West Frontier who will choose which of the two alternatives in paragraph 4 they wish to adopt. The referendum will be held under the aegis of the governor general in consultation with the provincial government. Hence it is clear that the verdict and the mandate of the people of the rontier province will be obtained as to whether they want to join the Pakistan Constituent Assembly or the Hindustan Constituent Assembly. In these circumstances, I request provincial Muslim League of the frontier province to withdraw the movement of peaceful civil disobedience which they have perforce resosted or and I call upon all the leaders of the Muslim League and the Musalmans generally to organize all the people to face the referendum with open courage and I geel confident that the people of the Frontier will give their verdict by a solid vote to join the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I cannot but express my appereciation of the sufferings and sacrificies made by all classes of Muslmans and particularly the great part that the women of the frontier played in the fight for our civil liberties. Without apportioning blame and this is hardly the moment to do so, I deeply sumpathise with all those who have suffered and those who died and whose properties were subjected to destruction and I fervently hope that the Frontier will go through this referendum in a peaceful manner and it should be the anxiety of everyone to obtain a fair, free and true verdict of the people. Once more, I must earnestly appeal to all to maintain peace and order. Pakistan

Transcript of recording of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's speech - released by All India Radio

Undated (Jinnah recording from AIR Archives) I thank his majesty, the King on behalf of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and myself for his wishes and message. I know great responsibilities lie ahead and I naturally reciprocate his sentiment and we greatly appreciae his assurance of sympathy and support and I hope that you will please communicate to his majesty our assurance, good will and friendship for the British nation and the Crown head of the British Government. I thank your Excellency for your expressions and good wishes for the future of Pakistan. It will be our constant efforts to work for the welfare and well-being of all the communities in Pakistan and I hope that everyone will be inspired by the idea of public service and they will be imbued with the spirit of cooperation and will show that the political and civic virtues which go to make a great nation. The tolerance and good will of the great emperor Akbar showed to all non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back 13 centuries ago when our prophet not only by words but by deeds treated the Jews and Christians handsomely after he conquered them. He showed to them outmost tolerance and regard and respect for their faith and beliefs. The whole history of Muslims where they rules is replete with those humane and great principles and which should be followed and practised us.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Saroop Ijaz -- unedited version

Contempt of the People The Supreme Court issued the contempt of court notice to Mr. Imran Khan contending that Mr. Khan has initiated a campaign to deliberately “scandalize” the judiciary. Looking at the record of the recent years, to the cynic it might seem that the court is rather easily “scandalized”. The suggestively named offense of scandalizing the court is a common law offense, which is now becoming extinct in most countries. In 1899, a U.K. court in the case of Mcleod vs. St. Aubyn , observed, "Committals for contempt of court by scandalizing the court itself have become obsolete in this country.... But it must be considered that in small colonies, consisting principally of colored populations, the enforcement in proper cases of committal for contempt of court for attacks on the court may be absolutely necessary to preserve in such a community the dignity of and respect for the court." So, while not good enough for the “civilized” world, it still has its utility here. The offending word is “shameful” which Mr. Khan used in relation to the role of the Judiciary and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).With the utmost of deference; will My Lords describe the Presidential election judgment as making them “proud”? Is the speedy nipping in the bud of the conspiracy against Master Arsalan Iftikhar a “shining” moment? Does the requirement of being polite while referring to judicial pronouncement apply on to judgments of the Present Supreme Court or does it extend back to all previous decisions? For example, the only term that intuitively comes to mind while describing the ZAB judgment is either “shameful” or “shameless”, similarly the list of cases involving legitimizing martial laws etc mandate the use of these words. One may have very serious and legitimate differences with Mr. Khan’s politics, however he is a representative of the people and the serving of the notice and way he was treated in court leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The only good coming out of all this is that those cheering the Court on in other contempt notices and overstepping of authority for the past four years now are willing to reconsider their position. One hopes that the realization that principles trump personalities sinks in. As a general principle, political polemic should not be employed while discussing judgments. However, the breach of general principles is a two way street here. Other dusty principles are, “sober as a judge”, “judges speak only through judgments” etc. Judgments are silent, while courtrooms deafening. Justice is being delivered one sound bite at a time, jurisprudence being made in the news tickers. The Presidential election judgment was a political decision. If not necessarily in the partisan party sense, then at least in the original Greek sense of the word, “politics”. Mr. Khan responded in the same language in which the judgment was written. It is also the only language spoken in the court. The argument for temperate language is always a persuasive one. Yet, at times the media reports of the language, tone and tenor coming from Court Room number 1 is not for the faint hearted. I have no inclination of joining Mr. Khan in his present predicament, yet as a humble servant of the law one has to respectfully ask if a red line has been crossed. Perhaps, so many red lines have now been trampled upon that we now suffer from color blindness. The excellent Babar Sattar has been reprimanded and told to be careful in his criticism. Mr. Sattar is always very eloquent and temperate, yet My Lords and their “admirers” in the media have taken offense. Maybe it is not how it is being said, but what is being said or perhaps why anything is being said at all. The overuse of contempt law is a symptom of us a state and as a people, who have been bypassed by time, living in our own warps. The gag orders on Faisal Raza Abidi and Malik Riaz, the prohibitions of any discussion of the phenomenal entrepreneurial success Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the desk thumping, the threatening tones of “shhh…not a word” in the times of Face Book and Twitter? A state and those in authority struggling to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer the sole gatekeepers to information; websites banned, op-ed censored, television programs blacked out; yet it keeps coming out. Silencing voices is no longer just wrong; it is also futile. The power of the contempt provision derives from its sparing use. It gets cheapened and ineffective with overuse. If everything is contemptuous, nothing is. If respect has to be demanded instead of being commanded, you already have a problem. The Lahore High Court Bar association (LHCBA) has been less careful than Mr. Khan in passing a resolution. I only repeat what has already been reported in the Media, the LHCBA general house has asked for a reference to be made to the Supreme Judicial Council (Rest in peace) against the judges on the bench for the Presidential election. God forbid; yet it has been said and is now in the public domain. Will My Lords now issue a contempt notice to LHCBA general house? It is certainly within their power to do so. If My Lords in their infinite wisdom feel that it will contribute to the majesty of the law and the integrity of the legal system then all lawyers critical (including your faithful servant) will be willing to spend up to six months in Jail. My Lords, do it if you deem it fit and if it pleases you, however do not ask us to “shut up”. We will not, since we cannot. My Lords have unquestionably the constitutional power to sentence anyone of us to prison for contempt, however with my head bowed, they do not have a right to insult us, not to display contempt for the people; contempt of the people. My Lords, the Presidential election decision and summoning Mr. Khan were not your “proudest” moments and insisting on it will not change that. Lordships, there is work to be done; not the glamorous prime time variety but hard toil. The lower judiciary needs to be reformed, the superior judiciary restrained. Posterity is not kind to evening news stories; jurisprudence needs to be laid down. The D.I Khan jailbreak and its implication for us a state should have been the issue of the last week. Are we condemned to witness, revel in and repeat shenanigans and ego trips only? "Kisay wakeel karien, kis se munsafi chahein"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reflections of an ex Pakistani Army Officer


I joined the Pakistan army as a junior cadet in 1981 and graduated as a second lieutenant in September 1985. The graduation followed ten years of service in infantry that involved tours of duty in Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, the Siachin Glacier, deployment to the first Gulf War, and two tours of duty at the School of Infantry and Tactics. Until I resigned my commission in 1996, I was the most die-hard infantry officer: trained to be a leader of men, highly disdainful of all things civilian, and a strong believer in the absolute superiority of the Armed forces as compared to their civilian counterparts.

This brief article, thus, is based on my personal experiences of being an officer and also a reflective inquiry into the structuring of an army officer’s subjectivity. My account, however, is in no way exhaustive and cannot possibility be read as an all-encompassing explanation for the actions and beliefs of all Pakistan army officers.

The way we were trained had a crucial impact on our worldview and on our self-perception within the national space of Pakistan . I graduated at the height of Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. And though I took an oath to protect and safeguard the ideological and material borders of Pakistan , in my four years of training I was never trained to be a servant of my people. In fact, all formal and informal training was meant to solidify a sense of being above and superior to all Pakistanis who did not have the privilege of wearing a uniform. To be honest, this kind of mindset is not only germane to the army; it also permeates the civil services of Pakistan, but in case of the army the civilians are imperceptibly treated as suspect and not worthy of an officer’s trust.This distrust of the civilian populations was one of the strategies employed by the British to train their officers and men and seems to have been incorporated within the Pakistan army seamlessly. Thus, in a way, the old imperial attitude lives on in the rank and file of Pakistani sahibs, long after the empire has ceased to be.

As one grows in the profession and gets promoted the sense of entitlement and privilege grows exponentially. It is this deeply seated sense of entitlement coupled with a normative suspicion of all things civilians that underwrites the excesses of the army elite. I am not suggesting here that all army officers are corrupt and morally deficient: No, in fact, majority of Pakistan army officers that I knew and befriended during my career were upright straight-shooting men, and our soldiers (Or ORs as our officers call them) are without a doubt the best soldiers a nation can hope for. But, as I have also written elsewhere, most of the corruptions of the army are normalized in such a way that they are accepted as rights and privileges rather than corruptions. And some of these corruptions are institutional and not personal at all and thus simply more palatable. For example, each battalion has something called a battalion fund. Meant to be used for the welfare of troops, this fund is generated by the battalion itself and does not draw on the national military budget directly. In utilitarian terms, this is perfectly fine as the fund IS meant for the welfare of troops. But since these funds are neither audited by an outside authority nor exist officially in a battalion’s public record, they form a sort of hidden economy at a micro level. The ways in which these funds are raised are also highly irregular but are never seen to be so. Some battalions run shops, own rental properties, or own agricultural lands. Those that do not have any such resources rely on other interesting means: coaxing money out of contractors, no not as bribes but as money in lieu of goods. Here is a hypothetical example: If you are deployed in the northern areas, your quartermaster usually deals with more than three contractors directly: the fuel or wood contractor, the fresh rations contractor, and the contractor who dumps rations on your posts. In order to raise money, you can do various things: you can ask the contactor to supply certain things only on paper and ask him to give you a certain percentage of the cost of other things in cash; for your fuel and wood contractor, you can ask him to supply only a prescribed amount of wood/fuel and get the rest in cash; you can do the same with your fresh rations contractors. As I said earlier, none of this money lines the pockets of the officers; it usually ends up in a battalion fund, but since these are black funds, they contribute nothing to the national economy but rather exist in the black hole of a parallel economy.

The case becomes even more interesting if you are in the services: the services deal with large contracts directly and it is there in those large contracts, civilian and military, that huge sums of money are exchanged again without any public record or accounting. Aisha Siddiqua covered this on a macro level; I am only providing some details at the micro level, because it is the moral elasticity of the functioning of the army at micro level that happens to be my concern.

As the officers move through the system of promotions, the degree of their sense of entitlement and their aversion to any kind of civilian oversight increases exponentially. This happens in pretty much all the cases: even for principled officers whom I had admired as a young officer. Obviously, a whole life being protected from the common vagaries of life and lifetime of indoctrination in self worth ought to produce such subjectivities.

What I found especially interesting in my career, as an officer was the unofficial dual layering of the military law. The Pakistan army is governed by two major books of law: The Army Regulations (ARR) and the Army Rules and Instructions (ARI). There is no distinction in the law about how it would be applied to junior or senior officers: all military personnel, in fact, are equal in the rules and regulations. But just as we were being told to avoid talking politics in the dining hall, as it was against the spirit of the army rules, General Zia, our then dictator, was canvassing the nation to gain support for his sham referendum. Of course, we did not have the right to question his authority, but it always made me wonder as to how is it possible for a serving general to act as a politician while his junior officers were not even permitted to speak on the subject of politics.

Similarly, this above-the-board attitude has so deeply permeated the Army elite, that in 1999 General Pervez Musharraf, the then COAS, was actually able to launch a border war—the Kargil debacle—without even informing his own government. It is rumored that when the Indian prime minister called Nawaz Sharif to ask about why Pakistan had started a border war, Mr. Sharif had to tell him that he would have to get back to him after he had talked to his generals. Upon hearing this, it is also rumored, the Indian prime minister had said: “That is the difference between you and us Mian sahib, our generals ask us what they are attempting to do and not otherwise.”

Obviously, there is something broken within the army’s system of subjectivization that creates figures like Ayub, Zia, and Musharraf: I mean how is it possible that all these jokers were able to muster the support of their entire officer corps while obviously violating the very constitution that the army was meant to protect?

Obviously, this subjectivity arises through the systems of training employed by the army: almost all officers are trained to be suspicious of their civilian counterparts and internalize a feeling of systemic superiority over what they consider the corrupt and inefficient civilian-run systems. Naturally, this attitude also plays a role in their view of the popularly elected governments and is further accentuated in case of senior officers who are only accountable to their superiors in uniform.

The myth-making industry—the media and the conservative newspapers—also play a major role in buttressing army’s reputation in opposition to the ineffectual civilian governments. That is why, when going gets rough, our media start imploring the army to takeover and when the take over occurs, the turncoat politicians, the bought judges, and compliant civil servants become a part of a hybrid military-civilian system of power that has nothing to offer to the people except empty slogans. One serious audit of the wealth amassed by all the loyal corps commanders of our former dictators will be sufficient to prove my point. A COAS who takes over the civilian government works through various channels of idealization and appeasement. The first group to be appeased is the corps commanders, who are rewarded heavily for their loyalty. The next group is the politicians who break away from their parties and then sell themselves to the dictators: The chaudries of Gujarat and Shaikh Rashid from my home district are some examples of this bunch.

On lower levels, steps are also taken to keep the lower ranks loyal by introducing various “welfare” schemes that involve cheaply available plots, salary and pension increases, foreign assignments, and civilian appointments of retired officers. This entire system of appeasements, corrupt to the core, enables a dictator to sustain power and where all else fails, the same army can also be deployed to crush any uprising and, interestingly, while the army is deployed to suppress civilian uprisings, they are also paid a daily allowance that comes out of the non-military budget.

I am not opposed to the troops welfare projects; I believe that it is necessary for a nation to provide care for all those who put their lives at risk for the welfare of their nation. But I am, of course, vehemently opposed to spending indiscriminately on the armed forces and its upper crust, while millions of our children go hungry, have no access to healthcare, or a good education.

I hope Pakistan army has probably changed for the better since I left it; but I am also certain that the ingrained sense of entitlement of army officers has also increased. And unless the way we train our officers is altered, this gulf between the army and people they are supposed to protect will continue to widen.

The recent debacle of Osama bin Laden’s long, comfortable tenancy in a house close to the Pakistan Military Academy and what followed after his death is a good example of the army’s holier-than-thou attitude even when their leadership has failed.

While the media, by and large, have done a good job of asking some really pertinent and hard questions of the army and ISI, the civilian government, it seems, has again buckled down and given in to the pressure employed by the military elite.

Looked at differently, this latest failure of Pakistan army and its intelligence agencies is very simple to understand. Here are the facts: The most powerful institution in Pakistan which claims the bulk of our national budget every year failed to notice that the world’s most wanted terrorists was living right next to the home of Amy Officers for FIVE years. What other proof of leadership incompetence do we need? There has to be some accountability for this. But as far as I know, no general has left the service or accepted responsibility. But then, our generals are known for losing half a country without feeling any remorse. And unless our officers are trained as the servants and not the masters of their people, we will continue producing these Muhammad Shah Rangeelas of modern times.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The mystery of Shamsi Airbase

With all the hullabaloo about Shamsi airbase I remembered that when I did this story for The News ( (and The Times of London picked it up the next day), I had at least a couple of pictures which clearly showed that Pakistani military (army and airforce) officers had been the airbase and American officers had shown them around -- the pictures (see for yourselves) show them being shown one of the parked drones -- this picture must be circa 2007 so it was under the government of Pervez Musharraf -- and in one of them the American military official is partly shielded -- his upper torso. Another shows a Pakistan army and airforce officer from behind -- and to their left can be seen two US soldiers -- side-on. In two of these pictures, Pakistani military officials can be clearly seen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Behaviour of FWO official -- according to Dawn's Muzaffarabad correspondent

Dear all,

The other day, while traveling between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad, I noticed a queue of hundreds of vehicles near Banni Pari village which had been stopped by the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) without any warning as they were carrying out road construction in the area.

When I got down and ask FWO personnel after introducing myself that why didn't they detail someone at Jheeka Galli to guide/inform the motorists to take alternative route if the road had to be blocked for 3 hours, much to my horror I had to face the most hostile attitude from them, mainly because being a (commercial) subsidiary of Pakistan army they considered themselves above questioning.

An official in civvies, who introduced himself to me as Major Hassan, said it was not his responsibility to depute anyone to inform the motorists/commuters at Jheeka Galli about the road blockade and that I was nobody to ask such questions to him and instead I should talk to the DC (DCO) and other administration officials in this regard.

When reminded that he was working for a commercial entity which had to do public dealing, he retorted: "I am not a bloody contractor."

That was not the end. He went on to warn me that if I uttered a single more word, he would get me arrested. And when I said, ok go ahead if you can, he called all the workers and asked them to arrest me. The workers, who said if they are in civvies it does not mean anyone should come and put them any question, pushed and shoved me.

"Don't talk to our sahib, first talk to us," they shouted at me.

The major said: Now if other motorists will be allowed to drive past this road after 40 minutes, you will be allowed after 50 minutes.
He then asked his men to remove me from "our project side." who started doing it by pushing and shoving me.

I brought this incident immediately in the notice of my office but there was no action perhaps because it was my "personal affair."

But by sharing it on this forum I just want to draw attention of my colleagues that when we our organisations remain silent on such threatening tones, when they fail to take such issues at appropriate levels, pugnacious people wielding authority feel further energized to do anything they want.

I am sure the Major who confronted me will now definitely be thinking that if he can frighten off a journalist, notwithstanding the fact he could highlight his hostile attitude through media, why not any other ordinary mortal.

I wish we journalist community raises a forum of its own where such incidents are recorded and taken appropriate care of, even if their managements turn a blind eye towards it..

Tariq Naqash
Staff Correspondent DAWN
+92 300 52 33 726
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