Thursday, December 31, 2009

Karachi: The Aftermath

Watching this video was a heart wrenching affair. It just makes me wonder if we as Karachiites will ever find a way to end this cycle of violence.

Update: Dawn article describes the reaction of the shopkeepers who lost their livelihoods in the blaze.

Things I wish I could do

You have to watch this, you really do!

Picture/Poetry of the Day

Image credit: Karachi Metblogs

The degree of realism in this poem is simply (there is no other way to put it) brilliant. The author has serious guts. The words are bare bones; honest and open. There are no bullshit metaphors, no cloak and dagger nonsense, no need to instill mental imagery. The work simply speaks for itself. You might be wondering, why I am waxing poetic (pardon the pun) about this picture/poetry. It's because after listening to bald-faced lies every single day, reading the unvarnished raw truth can be extremely refershing.

Like this

And before you ask, no I'm not endorsing, Sprite or 7up or whatever.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Karachi Burns

Image Credit: Faysal Mujeeb/WhiteStar

Gut-wrenching eye witness accounts show the sheer brutality of a suicide attack on a Muharram procession in Karachi on Ashura.

Karachi metblogs has uploaded a series of pictures from the blast site.

Dawn slideshow shows extent of damage.

 NYT reports the death of at least 30 people. This is the third attack against Shiites this week.

Bomb Blast caught on camera-Associated Press

Attack caught on GeoTV

Political leaders condemn blast.

President Asif Ali Zardari (AAZ) appeals for calm

MQM leader Altaf Hussein reacts:

Abdul Sattar Edhi, whose Edhi ambulances were instrumental in delivering the injured to hospitals and collecting the dead describes the scene:

 Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah offers compensation to the families of those killed and injured.

We cannot afford to be ambiguous on Taliban ideology any longer- Nadeem F Parachi

Scenes from the attack-GeoTV

This attack hit me on a personal level. My family attends the Ashura procession every year and thankfully no one was seriously injured. One family friend was at the blast epicenter. He was thrown 25 feet away from the blast and somehow managed to survive. He was lucky, everyone around him died. His 10 year old son was found uninjured under 4 bodies.

I mourn with the families of those who died in today's attacks. It could as just have been my family, my friends. While I know it is improbable, I hope and pray that this will be the last attack of this kind. Enough blood has been spilled. There have been enough deaths.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A part of us

Just this morning I had the opportunity to view Sunita Krishnan's courageous talk on sexual slavery at TED India event in Mysore Bangalore. Herself a victim of sexual slavery, Sunita co-founded Prajwala (eternal flame), an organization dedicated to rescuing women and children from brothels and educating them to prevent second generation prostitution. Prajwala runs 17 schools in Hyderabad for 5,000 children and has rescued 2,500 women from prostitution.

While this talk was presented with an Indian context, there is as much relevance for Pakistan if not more. Pakistan is one of the global hubs for human trafficking. According to Coalition against Trafficking in Women, more than 1 million Bangladeshi and 200,000 Burmese women have been trafficked to Pakistan, sold for US$1,500-2,500 depending on age, looks and most importantly virginity.

What struck a chord with me was the importance of acceptance. As Sunita Krishnan points out, the success of rehabilitation of these victims is dependent upon civil society which has traditionally engaged with these individuals through social exclusion. This has to change.

In the words of Sunita Krishahn, it is not enough to discuss sex trafficking in our air conditioned drawing rooms or at our parties. It is not enough to give some money each month to this cause. We need to empathize with these victims, offer them employment in our offices, provide them with work in our homes. We need to accept them as our neighbours, friends and relatives. Victims of sex trafficking are a part of us, not apart from us.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roti List: Jully Black

I know that it has been quite a while since I've added an artist to the Roti List; I just hadn't found any great music over the last 6 weeks. But over the past few days, I've listened non-stop to Jully Black's new album The Black Book. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an R&B fan. Much of what's on the radio nowdays in this genre sound the same. But there's something about Jully's lyrics and composition that grabs you. Her work is raw and yet polished at the same time. Her voice will take you back to the days of Aretha Franklin and the Supremes, but her harmonies and backgrounds couldn't be more modern. Each and every one of her songs on this album is genius, inspired and hypnotic.

Here is my favorite song

Monday, December 14, 2009

Old Habits die hard

In an interview with an Arab television network, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated that there exists concrete evidence implicating India's involvement in terrorist attacks throughout the country. He also emphasized that Pakistan played no role in the Mumbai attacks (ignoring the fact that Pakistan is the base for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group behind these attacks).

Following this interview, Mr. Qureshi was seen lighting up a substance eerily resembling weed. This could explain why the foreign minister seems to have lost his mind.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A different kind of terrorism

While many of us associate terrorism with suicide bombs or indiscriminate gunfire like the recent incident at a Rawalpindi mosque, there exists within our society another kind of terrorism. And unlike these attacks, it is more personal. It is not ideology or political agenda that drives acid attacks on women. Its a culture that accepts violence against women as a norm.

The first step in curbing this kind terrorism is to document these attacks and provide legal and medical aid to the victims. The Progressive Women's Association  (PWA) in Pakistan is one organization which deals with such cases.Since its inception, PWA have gathered over 7,800 such cases, of which only 2% have garnered a conviction.While our attention over the past months has been focused on dealing with Taliban violence against civilians and rightly so, we must not forget about this kind of terrorism either.

Please note that the following images are graphic. View at your own risk.
Image credit: Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press

Irum Saeed, 30, poses for a photograph at her office at the Urdu University of Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, July 24, 2008. Irum was burned on her face, back and shoulders twelve years ago when a boy whom she rejected for marriage threw acid on her in the middle of the street. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times to try to recover from her scars.

Shameem Akhter, 18, poses for a photograph at her home in Jhang, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 10, 2008. Shameem was raped by three boys who then threw acid on her three years ago. Shameem has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars.

Najaf Sultana, 16, poses for a photograph at her home in Lahore, Pakistan on Wednesday, July 9, 2008. At the age of five Najaf was burned by her father while she was sleeping, apparently because he didn't want to have another girl in the family. As a result of the burning Najaf became blind and after being abandoned by both her parents she now lives with relatives. She has undergone plastic surgery around 15 times to try to recover from her scars.

Shehnaz Usman, 36, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Shehnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute five years ago. Shehnaz has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars.

Shahnaz Bibi, 35, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Ten years ago Shahnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute. She has never undergone plastic surgery.

Kanwal Kayum, 26, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Kanwal was burned with acid one year ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage. She has never undergone plastic surgery.

Munira Asef, 23, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Munira was burned with acid five years ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage. She has undergone plastic surgery 7 times to try to recover from her scars.

Bushra Shari, 39, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, July. 11, 2008. Bushra was burned with acid thrown by her husband five years ago because she was trying to divorce him. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times to try to recover from her scars.

Memuna Khan, 21, poses for a photograph in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, Dec. 19, 2008. Menuna was burned by a group of boys who threw acid on her to settle a dispute between their family and Menuna's. She has undergone plastic surgery 21 times to try to recover from her scars.

Zainab Bibi, 17, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008. Zainab was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage five years ago. She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars.

Naila Farhat, 19, poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008. Naila was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage five years ago. She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars.

Saira Liaqat, 26, poses for the camera as she holds a portrait of herself before being burned, at her home in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 9, 2008. When she was fifteen, Saira was married to a relative who would later attack her with acid after insistently demanding her to live with him, although the families had agreed she wouldn't join him until she finished school. Saira has undergone plastic surgery 9 times to try to recover from her scars.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Carnage in Rawalpindi

Soldiers take up position outside mosque (credit: Voice of Asia)

In one of the most violent attacks in Pakistan's history, armed militants stormed a mosque in one of Rawalpindi 's secure military residentail areas killing 40 people and injuring 80 others. Among the dead were 16 children, several high ranking military officers including an army general and soldiers. The attack at Laal Askari misque involved grenades, atomatic weapons and explosions.Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed repsonsibility for these attacks.

Details regarding the attack remain unclear. According to New York Times (NYT),  at six militants carried out the attack while AlJazeera English reports that  eight were involved. Both sources claim that four militants were killed in battle with security forces, with NYT claiming that an additional militant detonated himself. Dawn reports that at least four militants were involved, of which two blew themselves up. Times of India claims that a total six militants were involved, of which one blew himself up and four others were killed in security fire. According to BBC, at least four militants were involved of whcih two detonated themselves and the rest were killed in firefight with the army.

 Many important questions have emerged in the aftermath of these attacks and serioucly call into question the compentency of Pakistan's security forces to deal with the Taliban. Considering the heavy military presence in this area, how were  militants able to carry out this attack? If "only military officers and formal officers who have screened by the intelligence services were supposedly allowed in the mosque", then how could militants able to enter its premises?  Numerous attacks of Pakistan's security apparatus (Rawalpindi GHQ, Naval Headquaters) leaves no doubt to the fact that Taliban affiliated organizations (TTP, AlQaeda, Punjabi groups) consider the Pakistani state as the enemy. This also begs the question, whether there are serious holes in security protocol or if insider information is involved.

The recent spate of attacks on civilian and security targets proves that Taliban are an enemy of the Pakistani state and its people and must be considered as such. However, both the civilian government and the military continue to ignore the scope of this problem. Firstly, it must be recognized that the Taliban are no longer limited to the NWFP, FATA region and pose an immediate threat to Pakistan's heartland. Secondly, the public must shed the Pashtun image of the Taliban. If the ongoing attacks in Punjab prove anything, it is that the Taliban have diversified on both a regional and ethnic level. In addition, the Taliban cannot be considered  an organized entity. Rather it is a set of factions loosely tied to a series of nuclei which at times operate independently and at others provide intelligence and logistical support. The harder the secuirty forces clamp down, the more independent these factions become. We need to act now. The longer we wait to deal with the Taliban, the harder it will get.

It is the very least we owe our dead

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


A suicide attack near Islamabad's naval complex today, killed a naval officer and critically wounded two others.

Awami National Party lawmaker; Shamsher Khan killed in suicide attack in Swat. Ten others were injured

Nine alleged militants were arrested in the Khyber agency.

Twelve alleged militants arrested in Khurram, key militant commander killed.

Cartoon of the Day

(credit: Patrick Corrigan; Toronto Star)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Zardari hanging by a thread

With only 15 months into his rule, Zardari is facing an existential crisis with his popularity plummeting to new lows, rising military praetorianism and an emboldened opposition . Added to this is a Taliban insurgency targeting civilians on an almost daily basis and a military offensive in South Waziristan producing no results. And let's not forget about the death of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO); an amnesty bill protecting Zardari, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and 8000 others from legal action or the calls for relinquishing the powers of the 17th constitutional amendment; allows him to dismiss the prime minister and suspend the national assembly (credit goes to Musharraf). Zardari is toxic, and everyone knows it.With Gilani maintaining a strict hands off policy  and Altaf's MQM backing the opposition, his days are numbered.

Excepting a miracle, the future for Zardari is bleak. Considering Pakistan's political climate it is likely that Zardari will be forced from the limelight; either due to pressure from the opposition (military, PML-N, religious conservatives) or by his own party; Pakistan People's Party (PPP)  or both. This is already clear with his giving up control of the country's nuclear arsenal to Gilani. Zardari's departure from the political spotlight may have major implications for both Pakistan and the PPP.  Here are some possible outcomes:

a)Zardari remains as President with majority of the power(notwithstanding the NRO, control of nuclear arsenal and the 17th constitutional amendment)

In previous political crises surrounding the PPP from the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry to ceding Swat to Taliban control through agreements, Zardari  has managed to hold onto power despite dips in popularity and vociferous political opposition. It is possible that Zardari may manage to hold onto power once again.  This time, however around Zardari does not have widespread support within the PPP; which was the case in these prior incidents.

Probability: 29%. Zardari has proven to be tenacious time and time again and it won't be surprising if he somehow manages to hold on. If Zardari holds onto power, it will be only if Gilani and other members of the PPP give him support. Considering that Gilani has publicly distanced himself from Zardari and asserted his political power, it is highly unlikely that he will support any move Zardari makes to remain in power.

b) Zardari remains as President on a symbolic level; power shifts to Gilani

Gilani is the only high ranking member of the PPP that has yet to be embroiled in any recent political scandals. In addition, he has somehow remained unscathed from the public backlash surrounding the suicide attacks and has not been targeted by the political opposition. In recent weeks, Gilani has also benefited directly from Zardari's waning power. He now has control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and enjoys greater support within his party and the opposition. With Gilani in control, the denouement of Zardari need not mark the end of the PPP. It may in fact provide an opportunity for the PPP to shed its image as a political legacy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and transform into a more egalitarian party. In addition, Gilani may be able to keep praetorianism at bay by improving relations between the military and civilian government. Since he possesses the greatest credibility among the PPP leadership, he may also be able to deal more effectively with periphery provinces (Balochistan, NWFP).

Probability: 40%. It is very unlikely that Zardari will hand quietly hand over major political decisions. Since he was married to Benazir Bhutto, he considers the presidency as his right and will be unwilling to become a symbolic figure. On the other hand,  Zardari is a liability for the PPP at this point. Gilani and other senior PPP members may sideline him from political power if they consider him a threat to their party's survival in the future. This outcome depends on Zardari's unpopularity and the desperation of high ranking PPP officials.

c) Zardari refuses to step back, splits PPP along the lines of loyalty.

Many among the PPP ranks consider the party as political inheritance of the Bhutto clan. Therefore there is a high possibility that if Gilani attempts to wrest control of the party from Zardari, there may be an internal conflict between his supporters and those of Zardari leading to a split similar to PML-N and PML-Q. If this does happen, the political clout of the PPP will weaken resulting in a power vacumn at a national level. A PPP split will also mark the end of national politics (PPP is the only party that can gather support across ethnic and sectarian lines). Considering the level of animosity that exists between different ethnicities at the political level,  PPP's absence could possibly result in further destabilization along these lines. In addition, the lack of consensus among the democratic establishment may result in unstable minority governments.

Probability: 30%.  Zardari has the loyalty of many PPP supporters. He is aware of the  importance of the Bhutto name and has used his marriage with Benazir Bhutto and their son to support his claim to PPP leadership. However, his relationship to the Bhutto clan is through marriage not blood, which may be detrimental when appealing to die hard Bhutto supporters. This may be used by Gilani to justify sidelining Zardari from the PPP. Then again, Zardari is much closer to the Bhutto clan than Gilani.

d) Zardari resigns; Gilani takes over

Gilani may persuade senior members of the PPP into acknowledging Zardari as a liability to the party and a threat to its future in Pakistani politics. If he succeeds, Zardari may be pressured into resigning and taking a backseat in national politics. The removal of Zardari from PPP's leadership could result in the transformation of the PPP from a feudal party to a one with greater political access (at least for the non-Bhutto PPP members)

Probability: <5%. Zardari possess a huge ego and there is no way he will step down voluntarily, especially since he has publicly stated otherwise. No amount of political maneuvering will make him give up his position.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blackwater in Pakistan

Jeremy Scahill (The Nation, US Magazine) recently published a piece alleging that Blackwater is conducting clandestine operations in Pakistan.

Ahsan(Five rupees)has written an excellent analysis on a)the validity of Scahill's claim and b)its political implications for Pakistan.

 Definitely something you should checkout.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poetry of the Day

I just came across some vids of my favorite spoken word artists Josh Healey and Kevin Coval

Josh Healey-Queer Intifada

Kevin Coval-Why I stopped going to Shul

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turning Up the Rhetoric, Tuning Out Reality

In a recent press conference, Shabaz Sharif (the better half of the Sharif duo) spoke about the importance of initiating talks with Baloch leaders to address their woes and to work towards ending longstanding anti governmental violence in the region. During this conference however, the economic and political grievances of the Baloch people took a back seat to anti-Indian rhetoric as Sharif went on record stating that the government had "proof" of Indian involvement in Balochistan and Waziristan. If Sharif's goal was to increase the appeal of PML-N among the Baloch, this was clearly not a way to do it. Moreover, this anti-Indian episode demonstrates that our political parties have not yet attained the level of maturity they require when it comes to governance.

It is easy to blame the Baloch insurgency (or rebellion, depending on which side you're on) on Indian RAW involvement. After all what gets us all incensed if not an Indian conspiracy against Pakistan, or even better a Jewish one against Islam. And as I'm sure our politicians are aware, it also has the tiny side benefit of ridding the capacity of logical analysis from the masses. Most important however is that fact that our appetite for political conspiracy as a nation proves our inability to take responsibility for our actions. It's easy to blame someone else for one's actions. It takes balls to admit to one's mistakes. And that's precisely what's wrong with Pakistani society.

It is a fact that for the past 70 years the Baloch people have been suffering under the rule of the central government. Balochistan remains the most underdeveloped region in Pakistan, with the lowest rates of literacy in the country. And despite being loaded with mineral wealth, it remains the poorest. Sui, the region in which the largest natural gas reservoir in Pakistan was discovered, still does not have access to natural gas. There is intense discrimination against the Baloch when it comes to employment. In fact, none of the top political or civilian posts in the province belong to those of Baloch ethnicity. So is it any wonder why there is an ongoing secessionist movement in the province. Would you be willing to live under a government that treated you like that?

This is not to say that the Baloch leadership does not have its fault. The leaders of the secessionist movement, the Bughti clan are by no means democratic. Leadership is based on hereditary succession, and it is likely that they're fighting for economic and political sovereignty for themselves, rather than the Baloch people (I'm just naturally suspicious of anyone who is a feudal lord). But I'm not sure how that's any different from any Sindhi or Punjabi feudal lord, whose actions we readily tolerate (if not approve).

The Baloch people deserve more than to have their legitimate concerns take a back seat to political rhetoric. It would be beneficial for the government to deal with Baloch grievances and come to a compromise over Baloch economic and political sovereignty rather than to deal with an ongoing insurgency. Not only will this inprove center-province relations,  it will also discredit secessionist organizations leaving the military to better direct its resources towards fighting the Taliban. But this is only possible if reality is favoured, instead of rhetoric.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song of the Day

When I heard this song, I knew I had to share it with everyone out there. Think of it as classical techno; fusing the classical baroque Canta 147 by Bach with old gameboy and Nintendo sounds within a techno beat (It sounds strange, but just play the vid. you  won't be sorry). If you're interested in hearing more, check out Omodaka. They're a Japanese band that have been experimenting with fusing Japanese and Western Classical music using gameboys as the primary musical instrument.

Canta 147-Omodaka (techno)

I've also posted the original  17th century version for those of you unfamiliar with Bach and his work. You can also read about Bach and his contributions to classical music here.

Canta 147-Bach

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interview with a Taliban Suicide Bomber

How does one go about gaining this worldview anyway?

The war we are losing

For the last four weeks, the Pakistani armed forces have been hard at work in South Waziristan  targeting the "roots" of Taliban insurgency. These weeks has also been the most violent  in this country's history, with more than 2000 civilian deaths alone from car bombs and suicide attacks in busy market places, army headquaters, a university and just recently an ISI building. And it looks far from over.

When the offensive began, I was doubtful of its success in dealing with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliated organizations. There had just been a brazen attack on the army GHQ in Rawalpindi and the airwaves had been filled with talk about the "Punjabi Taliban". At that point in time, many still believed that this was just a last ditch attempt by the Taliban to target the military forces. The last four weeks of violence have rendered this interpretation false.

Many questions are also emerging about the credibility of military intelligence. The South Waziristan offensive was launched on the basis of intelligence which indicated this region as being  "Taliban HQ". Following this logic one would expect there to be fierce fighting for Taliban strongholds such as Sararogha and Kotkai.  This is not the case. In fact Taliban casualties are nowhere near its 10,000 or so estimated fighters. Interestingly,  prior to this offensive regions such as Mohmand and Malakand were also considered as Taliban stronghold. But this was not the case as shown during rmilitary action.

There may also be doubts as to the effectiveness of the military strategy involved. In a pre-offensive briefing, military spokesperson remarked about its strategy to prevent cross-border hoping, noting that troops had been deployed to the border region to intercept militants on that end. When questions were raised about the possibility of militants escaping via North Waziristan, no concrete response was given.Considering  the geographical range of recent attacks, there is no doubt that the Taliban have moved on beyond the NWFP and FATA region. From Swat to Mohmand and Bajaur and then South Waziristan , the military seems to be one step behind, following the Taliban trail instead of predicting its next moves. In addition, it continues to engage in traditional warfare against an enemy employing guerrilla strategy. And it shows.While the army employs its might in South Waziristan, the rest of the country burns.

It is very clear that the TTP and its ilk pose an existential threat to Pakistan. However, we have yet to engage in intelligent warfareat a time when we can least  Only 1/3 of our troops are participating in this offensive, while the rest remain at the Indo-Pak border. And this is not likely to change anytime soon, despite the fact that Taliban attacks occur everyday. It has become readily clear, we are losing this war.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bomb blast in Charsadda

Scores of women and children were among the 34 people dead and 100 hundred injured when a car bomb went off in a busy marketplace in Charsadda, near Peshawar.

An absence in ambulance services and trained rescue teams led to a delay in the transportation of the injured to hospitals. Authorities were forced to rely on the government based in Peshawar and private organizations.

Hell hath no fury....

American LBGQT community boycotts the Democratic Party

Cartoon of the Day

I know I haven't posted these in a while, but I just couldn't resist sharing this

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ballsy Move!

A lone student at a gathering of the Iran's academic elite criticized Khamenei to his face. Mahmoud Vahidnia, a 25 year old mathematics student at Sharif University and a gold medalist of the national Mathematics Olympiad, spoke for some 20 minutes, critiquing state television and radio, the inability to voice criticism against the supreme leader and the power structure of the guardian council and assembly of experts.

I don't know why in this country it's not allowed to make any kind of criticism of you," he told Iran's most powerful cleric, who has the final say in all state matters. "In the past three to five years that I have been reading newspapers, I have seen no criticism of you, not even by the assembly of experts [a clerical body with the theoretical power to sack the leader]. I feel that if this doesn't happen this situation will lead to discord and grudge.

Wouldn't our system have a better chance of preserving itself if we were using more satisfactory methods and limited the use of violence only to essential circumstances?

Khamenei responded calmly to these questions stating
Don't think that I'll be unhappy to hear such statements. No, I would be unhappy if such statements are not made

Suprisingly, Vahdinia has not been arrested for his actions leading some to speculate the validity of this event. There is a great deal of tension across the Iranian blogosphere with some bloggers calling him the bravest student in Iran and others alledging that he was planted(read the comments) by the government.

I've posted a video of the event below. Please note that it is in Farsi as I was not able to find an English version.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Roti List: K'naan

While hip hop may have started out in the black ghettoes of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles over 30 years ago, it has now become a global phenomenon influencing music styles from Japan to South Africa. And no one personifies this more than K'naan (pronounced Kay nuh an). Born in Somalia raised in Toronto, K'naan utilizes traditional African beats and instuments with poetic lyrics focusing on the Somali immigrant experience. You can check him out at his website here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sararogha Seized

Pakistani Military forces have siezed the Taliban stronghold of Saraogha with few casualties. Over 24 militans have been reported killed, a number which is being disputed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). TTP spokesperson Azam Tariq has claimed that only 11 militants have been killed so far, referring to the military advancement  in the region as part of strategy to draw the army into a trap.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who else would it be?

Suprise! Suprise!

Pakistani Security forces have found proof of India's involvement in South Waziristan in the form of weapons and literature. However, no details reagrding the seized items were released to the public and they were sent directly to the Foreign Office.

It figures. Just as Pakistanis begin to hold their government responsible for the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) attacks, evidence for Indian involvement emerges.

But then again, what would Pakistan be like without conspiracy theories?

(As for the title,  please note that I'm being sarcastic)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Those who wait...

I hope you all take the time to read this. I couldn't agree with the author more.

While the entire piece deals with the demise of the PPP as a democratic force in the country, its most important point (which is also the least discussed) is the dilemma many Pakistanis face when it comes time to cast ballots. Who can you vote for when everyone is in it for themselves?

I dedicate this video to those of us searching for alternatives. I hope we find what we are looking for

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No shit, Sherlock!

Pakistan's Minister for Information and Broadcasting is requesting that electronic media avoid live coverage of the attacks because it depresses the masses.

Is this really news to any of us? I mean who gets a warm fuzzy feeling when watching a news coverage of an area ripped apart by bomb blasts. But I don't see how preventing news media to provide live coverage of these incidents is beneficial for the Pakistani people. Ignorance may be bliss, but not in this case. The public needs to be aware of the ugly reality of these attacks  in order to fully comprehend the threat that Al-Qaeda affiliated groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) pose to this nation. And live media coverages of such attacks play an important role in this. In fact, these coverages have been pivotal in shifting public opinion against the Taliban.

So why would the Pakistani government want to limit these coverages?

 Its actually very simple.

The widespread carnage over the last two weeks which has been covered live by the media has created dissatisfaction (to put it mildly) among the masses about the capability of this government to stand up to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its ilk. Unlike these elected officials, the majority of Pakistanis cannot afford round the clock security. It doesn't help that all of our politicians (and I mean all, regardless of who is in power and who is not) have spent their time hiding out in their barricaded houses under tight security and have done nothing to comfort the public which has to go deal with this violence on a regular basis. Zardari has made no public appearances. He has not visited the soldiers who are fighting in the front lines. He has not met with the relatives of those who have died in the latest Peshawar attacks.

By trying to prevent the masses from seeing the aftermath of these attacks, the government has chosen to save its own political skin instead of reassuring the public. And that is the real tragedy of this situation

Peshawar Blast-Coverage

I'm trying to upload coverages from as many networks as possible not only to provide the widest range of information possible, but to also show how these sources differ from each other in their coverage of these attacks.

Associated press reports from the scene

Coverage from ITN News (UK)

NBC's coverage

Fox News (I know, they're not exactly a news network)

Samaa TV (another Pakistani Network) showing the confusion at the scene

Express 24/7; an Pakistani News Network-English

Sky News (British)

Peshawar Blasts-Updated

A car bomb exploded in Peepal Mandi, a crowded marketplace in Peshawar killing 95 and injuring more than 213 people in one of the deadliest attacks in recent history.
It was a car bomb. Some people are still trapped in a building. We are trying to rescue them,’ bomb disposal official Shafqat Malik told reporters.
These attacks come just hours after US secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad to meet with political and military leaders.



Murtaza Razvi from "Attacking our way of life". I agree with every word

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton responds below. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi-the violence will not break the will of the Pakistani people.

Security expert: Peshawar attack demonstrates arrogance of Taliban-CNN

According to the Huffington post, no one has taken responsibility for these attacks as of yet

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Canon  condemns attacks

British Foreign Secretary David Milliband condemns attacks

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon: "Outraged over loss of so many lives"

New York Times: images from attack site

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can you please get to the point?

 I was surfing the net when I came across this video from a Pakistani current affairs program called Thodi Si Siyasat, broadcast by Geo TV. Watching this show (for the first time), I was struck by the lack of coherence in its format. This guy started out by talking about ISI Chief's visit to the Indian High Comission complaining how this mean that we were sissies to the complaints of the Indian Comissioner chastising the Pakistani National Assembly for accepting the Kerry-Lugar Bill (or KLB as many have fondly dubbed it) and then India claiming rockets were launched from the Pakistani side of the Wagah border and then skipping over to the Mumbai attacks.

After just listening to this guy for 2:29, I was exhausted. I just had one question: What the @$# do these things have to do with each other?

Just get to the point already!!!!

Waziristan Offensive update

  Eleven militants and two security personnel were reported dead in a gun battle following a militant attack at an army check point in Mohmand, South Waziristan. The army retaliated, striking at a suspected militant comound, resulting in the deaths of an additional 11 militants. The Inter services public relations notes that in the past 24 hours, 42 militants have been killed, in the military advance from Kotkai and surrounding  villages to Touda China and Ganra Kach, near Sararogha which is reputed to be a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) stronghold.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roti List: Orphaned Land

This week's music feature is Orphaned Land, an Israeli death metal band credited with the creation of a new genre of metal known as Oriental death metal. Oriental death metal utilizes Arabic percussion and strings with electric guitar shredding and harsh metal vocals. Orphaned Land is not only one of the biggest music phenomenon in Israel but it is popular throughout the Middle East. In fact, the band sings in a variety of languages including English, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Yiddish. Their songs usually have a biblical context and focus on extremes such as meeting of east and west, light and darkness and God and Satan.

My favorite song to date is the Birth of the Three which focuses on the commonality between the three Abrahamic faiths in a very death metal way. Whether you're a burgeoning metal head like me or someone who has never listened to metal before, I hope you take the time to check this song out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Shafique Ahmad Khan, the Balochistan education minister has been shot dead in after armed gunmen opened fire in front of his house in Quetta. Balochistan liberation United Front has claimed responsibility for the attacks

Six army personnel are dead in an military helicopter crash in Bajaur when returning from a routine supply mission  from the border regions.

Thirty five Uzbek and Afghan nationals including seven women have been arrested after being found illegally in the country

It seems Musharraf has decide to put himself back in the game after seeking official contacts with the US government, meetings which according to the Obama administration have no significance.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Karachi paradox

In recent headlines pertaining to Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) related violence across Pakistan's major metropolitan centers, Karachi seems to be missing. And I'm not the only one who has noticed this. In fact both Nadeem Paracha (Dawn Blogs) and Ahsan (Five rupees) have both commented on what I'd like to call the Karachi paradox.

Being a former Karachiite, I can tell you that Karachi is by no means peaceful. In fact, since the late 70's/early 80's it has always been characterized by a combination of ethnic, political and religious violence. Actually, I would argue that the main ongoing tensions in the city are in fact all political, with religious (Sunni vs. Shiite) and ethnic overtones (Sindhi vs. Mohajir, Pashtun vs. Mohajir). The only purely political violence would be the power struggles between Altaf's MQM and MQM Haqiqi (a breakaway group) in the late 80's/early 90's at the height of which sacks filled with the mutilated bodies of young men were found everywhere.

Karachi is also Pakistan's largest city with an estimated population of 12-19 million as compared to Lahore (6-10 milllion), Rawalpindi (1-3million) and Peshawar(1-2million) as well. It is also Pakistan's commercial capital. So why has Pakistan's most violent, populous and economically important city been ignored in this recent string of violence? (not that I want it to be targeted).

Both Nadeem and Ahsan have provided several hypotheses for this. According to Nadeem, the relative calm is a product of its ethnic and religious plurality. While I would prefer this explanation for the recent calm, just as I would prefer that people opt for singing Kumbaya while holding hands instead of killing each other over disagreements, the cynic in me has trouble accepting this. Ahsan on the other hand, attributes this phenomenon to a number of possible reasons from the shift of focus of the TTP from civilian to state actors,  to  increased vigilance on the part of security forces and the recognition of the Taliban as a "bad" entity on part of MQM resulting in action against burgeoning militant groups.

In my opinion (once again I'm not an expert), the combination of all three factors that Ahsan  mentioned  has contributed to this calm. While Karachi is the most populous and economically important city in Pakistan, it is not the seat of political and military power.In this sense Punjab is very important. When Pakistan under Musharaf, agreed to cooperate with the United States to act against Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, there was a major shift in military policy. Instead of ignoring and abeting these groups as had previously been done, the military took combative action. This meant that the Pakistani army was no longer an ignorable entity for these groups. Thus the attacks on army posts and personnel in NWFP and the recent attack on the GHQ. In addition, Punjab is also the headquaters of state apparatus making it key for anyone who wants to gain control of the country.According to this hypothesis it makes sense that recent violence has hit heavily in this region and Karachi like the rest of Sindh has been ignored.

The second important factor is the MQM. The MQM exerts a political hegemony in Karachi and has on many occasion wrestled with the political aspiration of other ethnic groups; in recent times this has been the Pashtuns and their Awami National Party (ANP). The most recent examples of this would be the excluding Swat refugees from entering Karachi as it would upset the Pashtun-Mohajir demography by increasing the number of Pashtuns in the city  resulting  in an increased power base for the ANP. This would have threatened MQM's political dominance in the city. Ahsan is correct in identifying the hyper-vigilance of the MQM as a reason for the comparative calm in Karachi. However, I would disagree with his assertion that this is somewhat due to the secular nature of the party (as well as anti-pashtun). In fact, MQM has on occasion worked with radical islamic groups in the past, specifically Jamat-Ulama-Islam (JUI) which espouses values similar to the TTP. I would base this hyper-vigilance specifically on its xenophobic attitude towards the Pashtuns which is based on maintaining its political hegemony in Karachi.

As for the increased vigilance on part of the security forces, this once again falls into the domain of the MQM. Being the ruling party in Karachi, MQM has the ability to use security forces to maintain its policies. In my opinion this hypothesis is an extension of Ahsan's second argument and the least important out the three.

On a less serious note, I've dedicated this version of Kumbaya to all of you who bother to read my posts. I hope you enjoy it.

Kotkai under military control and other developments

According to army forces, Kotkai has fallen into military hands after three days of intense aerial bombardment Twelve militants and three soldiers have been reported dead in the final stages of the Kotkai takeover.

In related news, security agencies have captured  two men believed to be the highest ranking members of the Punjabi Taliban and are considered the master minds behind the Rawalpindi GHQ attacks as well as others in Lahore. It is also thought that these two men served as the links between the Punjab and Waziristan branches of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan.

In Bajaur, 18 suspected militants were killed when US drone strikes targeted an ongoing TTP shura. It is reported that the TTP deputy in chief Maulana Faqir had left the area just ten minutes before the attacks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roti List: Rokia Traore

While surfing the internet I come across a lot of innovative, imaginative and outstanding music from a wide variety of different genres and languages. Considering the talent of these musicians, I am surprised at how little known their work is. The Roti List (my playlist) is a series of blog posts that aims to highlight these musicians. I hope you enjoy their music as much as I do

For the first post in this series, I have decided to focus on Rokia Traore. She is a award winning Malian Singer (Mali is a country in West Africa), Songwriter and Guitarist who uses vocal melodies in traditional Malian music. She sings in a combination of french and Bambarra (one of the languages of Mali). I've posted one of my favorite songs below. If you are interested in her work check her website out (Please note the website is in french, but you can use Google translate to access it in English).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Five things you can do with poop

#1 Poo paper

Yes, you heard me correctly. Paper made from poo. Poo paper can be made from a variety of animal excrement including, sheep, cow, elephant and even panda poo.

Here is a notebook made from elephant poo

Sheep poo envelopes

and finally greeting cards made from Panda poo

There are even instructional videos on making poo paper

Celebs are in on it too

#2 Jewelry

I thought people were joking, but then I came across this:

Don't they look nice. Well, these are moose poo earrings. And there is more...

Koala poo earrings

Reindeer poop necklace

Or if you're really classy
Gold plated koala poop earrings

#3 Lip Balm

 Alaska sells a variety of Moose poop products including Moose nugget lip chap; a lip balm made from Moose poo. 

#4 Toilets and Energy?

Virginia Gardiner a sustainable designer  has recently launched the LOOWatt, a toilet designed entirely of poo.

According to her website:

The LooWatt aims to solve this global sanitation crisis by creating an entirely new waste disposal infrastructure. The composting toilet is molded from 90% horse dung, and features a biodegradable lining that stores excrement in a sealed, odor-free container. Once the toilet is full, the user takes the poo package to an outdoor biodigestor, which in exchange provides a free source of biofuel for cooking.

An interview with the designer:

#5 Grow food

Taking recycling to the next level

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Update on Islamic University Blasts

Aljazeera correspondent describes on the scene carnage in a short blog post:

Inside the university, the smell of smoke makes you choke. On the ground, a blood trail leaves you in no doubt as to the ferocity of this attack.

Everyday objects are strewn across the floor. I pick up a watch, a cheap $10 affair from one of the local markets. It's blackened and burnt.

I wonder if its owner is alive or dead.

More details emerge about the blasts. According to Associated Free Press (AFP), the first bomb went off in the faculty of Islamic Jurisprudence used by male students and the second went off in a women's cafeteria.

There has been no responsibility claimed for these attacks although the blast bears similarity to the recent wave of suicide bombing carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Interior Minister Rehman Malikr responds :"Pakistan is in a state of war"

PM Office condemns the attacks

...the perpetrators of such heinous crime would not be spared.

CNN reports live from the blast site

Conspiracy theories emerge;Indian (RAW) and Israeli(Moussad) intelligence agencies behind the attacks

Orla Guerin of BBC News reports

One of the blasts happened outside the office of the professor of Sharia law. The blast was so powerful that it punched a massive hole in the wall of that office.

Rubble and masonry were littered on the floor, as well as some shoes - it's unclear whether these belonged to the bomber or one of his victims.

One student said the sky went dark when the explosion happened, that some people ran away in fear while others tried to help the victims.

If you are in Islamabad, BBC would like to hear from you. You can send your comments, thoughts and opinions using the comment form available at the bottom of the linked BBC article.

Video news coverage:


Dawn News Report

Geo TV

Blasts at Islamic University in Islamabad

Militants have continued to step up their attacks in the wake of the the South Waziristan offensive. Today, two bomb blasts were set off at the Islamic University in Islamabad killing seven people (including the two suicide bombers) and injuring 29 others. Up to four thousand students were present at the time of the blasts, one of which occurred inside a classroom. I will continue to provide update as more details emerge.