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.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

So begins the unravelling

By Saroop Ijaz The 2013 election was rigged. It was rigged before it happened. It was rigged before Mr. Imran Khan woke up to the fact. It was rigged when TTP picked favorites. In the run up, during the campaign, ANP leaders were killed every day. PPP and ANP were threatened, attacked, maimed and told that they could campaign at their own peril; the peril was violent death. The field was uneven, and the field was Punjab and Punjab only, since our “estranged brothers” were in no mood to allow campaign and electioneering in the rest of Al-Bakistan. Yet, to point to this elementary fact was to be an apologist for the beleaguered parties, to defend corruption.  The prime beneficiaries were Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr. Imran Khan, who in the competitive spirit did not even spare a moment to condemn the attacks on rivals, to condole with the leaders and families of those killed. Callousness was the name of the game, leaders of PML-N and PTI implying and sometimes saying it directly that PPP and ANP had it coming, that they deserved to be murdered by the terrorists for poor governance and corruption. Would the election results been substantially had there been a level playing field? Most probably not, however, it certainly would have been less bloody. More significantly, there would have been dissent, a semblance of diverging views. Some of us warned about the “right versus the right battle”, with the liberal (even if token) parties coercively relegated to the bench even before the match started. It was not because of any love lost for the liberal forces and their performance; rather it was and is for sanity. The primary problem with an internal right contest was that there is only one direction to go, i.e. more right. Side note to friends in India: be very afraid, we have been there, done that, and got the T-shirt (which is smeared in blood now). The political rightist forces, PML-N and PTI now compete with not only the religious right of JI and JUI-F but also JUD, SSP/ASWJ and other assorted, pleasant “non-state” actors, and at times with the TTP itself for that space. The PML-N and PTI cannot win this. While, it was fun to be all glib and sly about the temporarily alignments and beating them at their own game, except, it will not happen.  Media had by then found out that xenophobia sells, and it sells best as a hybrid of religion and xenophobia. The hand is now being overplayed. When Shaheed Governor Taseer was murdered, it was apologia and obfuscation, same with Shahbaz Bhatti, and it continues to this day. Recently when Shaheed Rashid Rehman was assassinated, no television channel found the issue news worthy since there were dharnas to cover, and blasphemy law discussions have more chances of attracting bullets rather than ratings (one sparkling exception was Mr. Ejaz Haider’s excellent program on Capital TV). The Media tried very hard not to find blasphemy law, yet the blasphemy law has found the Media. It is in the nature of these things. Competitive spirit and temporary powerful allies just like the elections at play again. It is the “rival niji” channel under attack and hence “fatwas” inciting violence are being solicited and then aired on prime time. Some of them must be feeling pretty smug at the prospect of market share, ratings, and money. Well, not for long. The “fatwas” will come back to you. The agent provocateurs of today will be the victims of tomorrow. If the dangerous shenanigans do not cease immediately, it will not be a question of “if”, it will most certainly come back to other “niji channels”. Hafiz Saeed and friends have already become legitimate, now they are fast becoming the mainstream, all the rest just being fringe.  Once they do their latest media fan boys will be the first to fall. A lot of what it seems is sadism on National television is really masochism, diligently preparing the guillotine for themselves.  If you create an environment where a “Fatwa” is all you need to have the rival eliminated, and you are not the fatwa granting authority yourself, well, you are not awfully smart then, are you? What Mr. Imran Khan and Ch. Nisar Ali Khan do not understand that electoral reforms and cabinet positions will be redundant in the Khilafat. The Emirate will not tolerate Mubasher Lucmans on the airwaves (Actually, very, very hard to tolerate even before the Emirate). To make hate and terror mainstream does not work, particularly for the wannabes, be it wannabe Taliban politicians (Taliban Khans) or wannabe hysterical television anchors (Lucmans et.al). As the Amir, Mr Fazaullah has demonstrated given the opportunity “our estranged brothers” can run media enterprises of their own. The non-State actors are having a festival. The last line of defense is the most visible now. From Prime time television to outside press clubs. One perhaps needs to re-think the label “non-State”. The defense day parades in the years gone by were a visible manifestation of the State. Now they are conducted by the Difa-I-Pakistan under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Hafiz Saeed. If the mighty guardians of our State have publicly come to this, then the end perhaps is nearer than we had imagined. The history of temporary alliances in this country is long and wretched. Today, the ASWJ, Sunni Ittehad Council and the Shia organizations being united in the “great cause” of eliminating a television channel. They have all united before a few times. One was the second amendment (Side note: one not newsworthy report was that an Ahmadi charged with blasphemy was murdered in police custody yesterday, do not let it dampen the Nationalistic fervor though). Islands of hatred and persecutions do not work. Some of them know it all too well, right now. Yet, for the “greater good” they again stand united today. Not for long, some of them will fall. By becoming allies they lend credibility to the voices which have called for their murder before, and will do it again once the honeymoon is over. Good news: at this rate, unprincipled alliances and appeasement will be over soon. Nobody left to be appeased, or to appease, just one happy pious group. The inquisition will be televised. Ladies and Gentlemen, hold on tight, this how all of it unravels.