Sunday, February 28, 2010

Racist speech of the Day

Martin Kramer, who is a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for National Affairs at Harvard University in a speech at the Herzliya conference in Israel advocated eliminating aid to Gazans (termed pro-natal subsidies) because 
“Aging populations reject radical agenda and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians, too. But it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why in the ten years, from 1997 to 2007, Gaza's population grew by an astonishing 40%. At that rate, Gaza's population will double by 2030 to three million. Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim, undermine the Hamas regime, but they also break Gaza's runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have. That may begin to crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men."
This officially makes him a racist @$$ in my book.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Random Video of the Day

Just when you thought things couldn't get any wierder, here is video of a Sikh singing a Pakistani song.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Links for Thursday

He loves me, he loves me not. Steven Coll describes the tumultuous relationship between the ISI and Taliban. Highlight: one I.S.I. general was "crying out loud, with his arms around my neck like a woman"

There is something even the Chinese aren't capable of mass producing. LA Times reports on the evolution of the dupatta.

Talk about moving fast. Half of the members of the notorious Quetta Shura have been arrested by Pakistani forces, CSM reports. Kalsoom (CHUP) has a brilliant post on what it means for US policy in the region.

The end of internet?  Google argues why an Italian judicial conviction may spell an end to the WWW as we know it.

And a compelling case for reading marriage contracts before signing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Song of the day

I can't seem to get this out of my head.



I officially place this group on the Roti List

Cartoon of the Day

While Saad (Fly you fools), usually does a pretty good job with his webcomics, I really think he has outdone himself on this one.

indian comics, webcomic, free comics, online indian comics, jokes
Fly You Fools - Indian Comics about Life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Raising the Hindu specter (Updated)

While scouring the websites of Pakistani newspapers during my daily info gathering session (aka lunch break), I was struck by this particular headline:


And while I would usually not read The News (mostly due to atrocious writing and lack of intelligent analysis), the headline encouraged me to give up a few moments of my time and delve into the article. I had a few thoughts as to why Ulema would support this ban:

1)Pakistani Ulema (as a group) are not particularly good kite fliers and want to hide their deficiencies in this regard.

2) Kite flying is fun. Since Ulema consider anything from which people derive pleasure to be un-Islamic, hence the banning of kites and Basant.

3) Basant is a cultural celebration with roots in Hinduism (See Vasant Panchami). Since Hinduism is "BAD" as it is not Islam, therefore Basant and all activities associated to it are also "BAD" and therefore should be banned.

4) Many people die every year due to deaths related to kite flying (esp. kite figthing). Since kite flying peaks during Basant, the Ulema support its ban to prevent these incidences.

(Image Credit: P.K. Bangash, Associated Press)


Of course, it was the Hindus.



Yes, the article also mentioned safety concerns, but only in the third paragraph (of four in total); the association of this festival with Hinduism was discussed in the first. At this point, it would be remiss not to mention that the Ulema in question (namely Maulana Izhar Hussein Bokhari, Maulana Akram Hamdani, Maulana Abdul Jalil Naqvi, Zahoor Elahi Qadri and Hafiz Iqbal Ahmad Rizvi) by no means represent all muslim religious clergy in Pakistan. But the percieved importance of Hindu associations of a cultural festival over the safety concerns with kite figthing begs this question:

What is it about Hinduism that raises our hackles?

This conclusion is not simply based on the actions of the few Ulema from the above article, but rather a bevy of personal experiences with friends, relatives, coworkers, acquaintances and strangers. When I asked an acquaintance about her decision to eschew the Mehndi (basically a celebration where Henna is applied to the bride, and upcoming wedding is celebrated with song and dance) from her wedding, she replied:

"The Mehndi is a Hindu tradition, I would like my wedding to be Islamic"



The ever increasing antagonism towards Hinduism and anything associated with it, reeks of an identity crisis. The quest for a "pure" Islam, a reaction to the decline of Muslim empires in the 19th century (although the Ottoman Empire was officially disassembled in 1916), requires a nemesis. And Hindu beliefs and practices provide the perfect one. Subcontinental Muslims don't have to look far to find a group correspondent with pagans of Mecca (as depicted in Islamic historical narratives).


(Image Credit: Flickering Screen)

It doesn't matter that what purists consider Islamic culture is derived from pre-Islamic pagan, Sassanid and Byzantine cultures. Or that several major trade routes intersected within the Arabian Peninsula resulting in the presence of other cultural influences. Or that the indigenous culture of the Arabian Peninsula to which purists aspire to is far from homogeneous, as seen in the present day differences between the cultures of northern and southern Saudi Arabia.

(Image Credit: CM Evans)

Reverting to an "Islamic Culture" mandates that there be one to begin with. As I stated in an earlier post, just because Islam emerged from the cultural context of the Arabian peninsula does not mean that the culture of  8th century Hijaz (eastern Arabian peninsula; location of Mecca and Medina) is religiously mandated. For a religion which claims to be for all of humanity, to impose the same culture on everyone else would be an act of imperialism.

Segregating cultural practices as either "Hindu/non-Muslim" or "Muslim" is not only far removed from historical fact, but also highlights our delusions. It is a manifestation of our desire to be linked with the grandeur of Damascus and Cordoba at the height of Muslim power, despite our lack of cultural, social and historical commonalities. Unless we admit to the fact that we are as much a product of the indigenous cultures of the Indian subcontinent as the Arab and Persian invaders, we are doomed to an eternal existential crisis.

And there's no-one left to blame
Oh, tell me when will you ...
When will you accept your life ?
(The one that you hate)
For anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes 
*

*Lyrics taken from Accept yourself, The Smiths

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts on Mullah Baradar's arrest

There has been a lot of buzz about the recent capture of Mullah Baradar in Karachi (see NYT, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, Reuters, AP). Or if there is one, given Interior Minister Rehman Malik's vehement denial including a lengthy lambasting of NYT which first reported the arrest. Considering the high correlation between the occurence of an event and its denial by a top Pak political official, it is safe to say that Mullah Baradar is in Pakistani custody. The capture of Mullah Baradar is being hailed as a military victory, as often is the case when high ranking Taliban members are captured or killed. The pending question however is whether this arrest has any large scale ramifications on Taliban activity in the region.

So far, the arrest of Mullah Baradar has not quelled any indiscriminate violence against civilians in Pakistan. Given that when Baitullah Mesud was killed, there was an increase in violence throughout the country, it is very unlikely that Baradar's arrest is going to bring any respite. In my opinion, the only measure of success against the Taliban is a decline in indiscriminate killings, which neither the killing or capture of top Taliban commanders in the past have initiated. In this regard, the capture of Mullah Baradar is insignificant.

Joint US-Pak efforts in Mullah Baradar's arrest highlight an  increased cooperation between the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies (namely CIA and ISI). Considering the level of hostility that has existed between these organizations in the past, this cooperation could mark a shift in the tolerance of homegrown Taliban for the Pakistani security agencies (and presumably the government). The arrest could also be a by-product of the increasing refusal of the Pakistani Taliban and its associates to participate in political startegies with the Pakistani government, as indicated by the Mullah Baradar's interview to Newsweek.

Another point to note about the arrest is its location, namely the fact that Baradar was caught in Karachi. Given that Karachi serves as headquarters for the drug and ammunition cartel, land mafia and other political militants groups, it is not a surprise that the city is also a hideout for the Taliban elite. The arrest not only confirms that the Taliban are using Pakistani territory, but also points towards increasing Talibanization of urban centers in Pakistan's center (Sindh and Punjab).

Anything I miss?

Friday, February 12, 2010

This is to help you waste your time effectively

Cafe Pyala has a brilliant post on the efficiency of the Pakistani National Assembly. If you are a cynic, you will enjoy this one. If you still have faith in the Pakistani political apparatus, click at your own risk.

A curious case of bait and switch--an unnamed Arab ambassador is having his marriage annulled after finding out that his bride, whom he had not seen before the wedding had facial hair and was cross eyed. For all you men out there, maybe the niqaab is not such a good thing after all.

And just when you thought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was getting redundant--enter the Rafiq Husseini sex tape.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Denial is not just a river in Egypt

In the wake of sectarian attacks on Shiite pilgrims in Karachi (involving a bus loaded with women and children and an ER) as well as ongoing attacks in the Frontier region; the most recent involving a girls school and a technical college, it was disturbing to hear Interior Minister Rehman Malik invoke the involvement of "foreign elements". Denial at the highest level of government, despite mass terror is a symptom of a wider social problem; evading responsibility for our actions. Right now I'm not talking about the legalisation of corruption vis-a-vis the NRO (recently declared null and void), but something much simpler. In a recent post, fellow blogger Karachi Khatmal noted

My wife has a Slovenian friend K who shares a flat with a man named S. S is coloured brown, and learnt his thickly accented English at St. Michael's but/and he assures all and sundry that he is British.
Till recently, S had the habit of hosting raucous parties which would end late, with S rendered comatose amidst an inglorious mess of pasta-encrusted dishes, half-empty beer bottles and bass-blasting stereos. However, after a three day New Year's blinder, S vowed to give up drinking and clean up his ways. As K awaited with bated breath, it appeared that S had changed his life around. 
 One Friday night, K arrived at home to find another party, with the alcohol replaced by a bubbling shisha. Without bothering to investigate the legality of the ingredients burning within, she went to bed.
[On Sunday]... K was having breakfast when she noticed a black burn mark on the expensive carpet they had paid a 200 pound deposit for. Intrigued and incensed, she investigated further. The linoleum kitchen floor had a similar black burn mark[...] K would later discover that the size and shape of the burn marks in question closely resembled the circular shape of the specialized coals used for shishas.
 And so she decided to confront S. When he came home, she pointed out the burnt carpet and asked him if he did it[...] he replied with a straight face:
That wasn't me, I wasn't home last night. Maybe you did it?
 (Image Credit: Hookah Bowl)

Not convinced? How about this?
In one article for Smoker's corner, NFP recalled a conversation between himself and another motorist
While driving to my office the other day, I almost crashed head onto a motorcycle. The burly man riding the bike was coming from the wrong way on a one-way street. After breaking,  I gestured him as to what he was up to.
The motorcyclist gestured back and then shouted: ‘Are you blind?’
With half a smile and a full frown I told him he was the one coming from the wrong side.
‘So?’ he asked.
‘So, my friend, you are the one who has broken the law,’ I explained.
‘Whose law?’ he said. ‘It’s not God’s law, is it?
 (Image Credit: Muhammed Ramazan. Taken from: All Things Pakistan)
There is nothing similar between the two people mentioned in the incidents above. S/S.S from Karachi Khatmal's post is a secular educated affluent ex-pat, who imbibes in alcohol and more recently shisha, while the motorist from NFP's article is middle class (I'm assuming), living in Pakistan and religious. When called to accept responsibility for their actions however, both chose to renege.

(Image Credit: Despair)


Which leads me to Hazrat Zaid Hamid and Jahil Online.

(Image Credit: A Reluctant Mind)



Both of these men are influential members of the Pakistani media and use it as a platform to spread their ultra-nationalist, religious beliefs. They are the poster boys for denial, revisionism, racism and bigotry. On previous occasions, Zaid Hamid has called for the extermination of Jews and Hindus, the military takeover and cleansing of India. In September 2008, Aamer Liaqat Hussain declared that Islam sanctioned the killing of Ahmadis, a statement which led to the subsequent murder of two Ahmadi men.

It would be easy to dismiss Zaid Hamid and Aamer Liaqat Hussain as fanatical extremists, except that they are not. In fact, both of these individuals are the embodiment of the denial and reneging that is Pakistan today. They are the product of half a century of Zia's Islamization coupled with the revisionist tendencies of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, the bigotry of Jamaat-i-Islami and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto towards Ahmadis and numerous subsequent denials and revisions. They are a product of the glorified history of the Islamic civilization, never mind that the Umayyads and Abbasids murdered their political opponents, forced their language and culture upon the conquered population (Abbasids only), engaged in slavery and developed one of the earliest slave trade routes out of Afrcia (East Africa-Makran Slave trade). They are representatives of a generation growing up with a white washed history where the genocide of 20,000 to 3 million Bengalis (figures vary from source to source) and rape of 250,000 women (Liberation War Museum, Dhaka) was hidden and justified. And they are the dedicated to the perpetuation of this denial for future generations.

So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that  in IRI's May 2009 Survey of Pakistani public opinion,  when asked who was responsible for the 2009 Mumbai attacks, approximately 40% of respondents said India, while 31% said don't know.
 

Or if a future conversation between Asif Ali Zardari and Manmohan Singh goes something like this.

 
(Comic Credit: Vijayendra Mohanty. Taken from: Fly You Fools)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

Karachi Blasts

 
Volunteers search damaged bus carrying Shiite pilgrims 
(Image credit: Associated Free Press, taken from Dawn.com)


Two separate attacks coinciding with the Chelum procession have left 25 people dead and more than a 100 wounded. A motorcycle rigged with explosives collided into a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims killing approximately 12 people, followed by a second explosion killing 13 people inside Jinnah hospital, where the injured were being taken. A television rigged with 25kg of explosives found in front of the hospital was disabled.In lieu of the attacks, the Chehlum procession was halted.

According to NYT, there are several conflicting accounts of the incidence. Some witness claim a motorcycle was used while another report suggests the bomber was aboard the bus.

Dawn.com has posted a gut wrenching media sideshow on the aftermath of both attacks.

Blast in Jinnah Hospital caught on CCTV-GeoTV


Blast caught on Cellphone camera-ARY News



Scenes from the attack sites-Express News


PM Yousuf Raza Gilani and Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari condemn the blasts-"attack a heinous act"

Abdul Sattar Edhi narrowly escapes attack in Jinnah Hospital-The Guardian

Eyewitness accounts from AKS (Five Rupees)

I was at my office when the blast occurred which is only a few hundred meters away from the blast site and rushed home after the bomb. The biggest worry was that there may be more blasts or that there may be riots. The police was quick to cordon of the road from Tipu Sultan and it was apparent that most people on the road were trying to get home as soon as possible.
 Words from a survivor
"I will keep sitting here because it is my sons' blood, I want the terrorists to kill me as well."
P.S: I will update post as more information comes out

Update (5/02/10-1:45PM)

BBC coverage of attacks
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8501204.stm

Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=38421345

Update (5/02/10-11:09PM)

Sindh Goverment announces compensation for families of victims

Sunni and Shiite Islamic scholars (Ulema) urge for calm