Sunday, August 22, 2010

We are all Harami

On August 15th 2010, two brothers Moiz Butt and Monib Butt were publicly tortured and beaten to death by a mob in a village near Sialkot. Not the Taliban or any extremist organization, but by the public. And not just murdered, but brutally tortured for two hours for "allegations" of robbery (even if the allegations were true, it is still not acceptable). As Haroon Riaz points out, there was no proof, no trial. Nothing, but public justice. According to reports, the Punjab Emergency Service 122 arrived at the scene, but were prevented from intervening by the local Police and security organizations.

To top it all off the whole incident was recorded for posterity.  Apart from being extremely violent and highly distrubing the videos also highlight the indifference, the lack of response by the public. No one, I repeat, no one looks perturbed by what is happening in front of them. They are indifferent, enjoying this brutal spectacle, this "tamasha" and at times egg the attackers on. The crowd is dotted with the grey caps of Police officers, but no one steps in to stop this mass lynching. At one point, a young child steps in and participates.

Image Credit: Cartoon Stock

So much for Pakistan's "image deficit". From where I'm standing, it seems pretty well deserved.

Remember, when the Ahmadi mosques were attacked in Lahore earlier this year and everyone; the media, the politicians and the civil society blamed the Taliban and extremists.

Image Credit: Pak Defense Forum

Well, it was all a lie. To be more specific, we were lying to ourselves.

Image Credit: Sodahead

You see by pushing the responsibility of the murder of 90 Ahamdis on the extremists, we absolved ourselves from any sins in this matter. Forget about the ostracism of Ahmadis on a national scale.

Image Credit: The Persecution

Forget about the calls for the removal of Ahamdis from public office.

Image Credit: Ahmadiyya Times

It wasn't us.

Image Credit: Martin Kronicle
But as this gruesome lynching shows, we do not need any extremist ideology to precipitate extreme acts of violence. We just need ourselves.

Image Credit: Parental Gleanings

This is not to say that the prevalence of extremist ideology is not a problem, but that this ideology is not simply something thrust upon us by evil Saudi petrodollars. The prevalence of extremism in our society is a product of our gradual descent towards intolerance.

Image Credit: Txt2Pic

As a society we do not tolerate dissent of thought and action from the accepted social norms. Anyone who engages in any behaviour deemed to be outside of these norms is ostracized and put down, often through violence. The blasphemy laws, the discrimination of special provisions  for Ahamdis in the Pakistani constitutions, the mal treatment of religious minorities, the imposition of Urdu as the national language are all a product of this social mindset. These political developments nurture an intolerant national narrative. This creates a negative feedback loop heightening social intolerance which leads to the Lal Masjid incident, the burning of more than 70 christian houses in Gojra, Punjab and the increasing attacks on Ahamdis, Shiites and Hindus, the almost daily suicide bombings in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the attack on the Data darbar shrine.

The general reaction to this public lynching has been extremely predictable at least within the blogosphere. Many of my fellow bloggers are wondering how people could have stood by and watched, even participated in the murder of two human beings. In my opinion this outrage is entirely superfluous. After all in a society where dissent is not tolerated, where difference of opinion is not respected, where a group of flood victims were denied aid and governmental assistance  because they were Ahamdis, would you expect anything else?

In several conversations, I have heard people refer to the individuals involved in this violence as harami. However, to paraphrase Thomas Moore if we are the ones who create these individuals/haramis in the first place and then we punish them, what does this say about us? Aren't we equally, if not more Harami?

Sidenote 1: Harami is a Urdu/Hindi profanity which can be interpreted as being equivalent to bastard X10.

Sidenote 2: One of the pioneers to develop the concept of Pakistanis as Haramis was my fellow blogger Karachi Khatmal, whom I hold in the highest regard.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pakistan Floods: How to donate effectively

Villagers jostle for  relief supplies at flood hit area in Basera, near Muzaffargarh.
Image Credit: Associated Free Press

With rampaging floods moving towards Southern Sindh threatening the ruins of Moenjodaro and Benazir Bhutto's mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh and leaving behind a fourth of the country under water, Pakistan is facing a massive humanitarian crisis. Anywhere from 6 million to over 20 million people have been displaced by the floods, more than the number of people affected by the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined. With reports of cholera outbreaks and other water-borne diseases on the rise, there are fears that the death toll could rise. Given that only 20% of United Nations $460 million dollar relief goal has been raised so far, there is a serious need for more relief funds. According to this BBC statistic, only $6.85 has been donated so far per flood survivor (most of this is unconfirmed pledges).

If you are like me and have decided to donate an X amount of funds to this disaster, it is very likely that you are now facing a conundrum. With the vast amount of donation options out there and your limited funding capability as an individual, how can you ensure that the donation that you make will provide flood victims with the most bang from your buck?

You have to determine two things: 1) what are the resources needed and 2) what are the resources that you are interested in funding. In the case of Pakistan's floods, there are three main immediate resource needs: adequate shelter, food supplements and medical supplies. There are several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in fulfilling these needs. (Side note: Pakistanis can also donate to a government trust, but considering the level of corruption within the bureaucracy, I'm not going to opt for that).

 Adequate Shelter and Food Supplements

1) United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has partnered with mGive in the United States to allow for mobile donations. Text SWAT to 50555 will help donate towards flood victims helping to fund tents and emergency aid to families in need (US only). Please reply YES when prompted to confirm your gift. You can also donate to the UNHCR emergency fund which will help to provide blankets, refugee survival kits (containing a mattress, cooking stove, blankets and soap) and weather proof tents to displaced persons.

2) Save the Children 
Save the Children has been working to provide food supplies, shelter materials and hygiene kits to 37,800 adults and children in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region and are currently expanding their services into the affected regions of Punjab and Sindh. They are also fund raising through mobile donations (US only); Text 20222 to donate $10 to the Pakistan emergency fund. You can also donate online as well as via telephone. About 90% of all donations go towards their designated programs. Click here to access their financial records for fiscal year 2008 and 2009.

3) United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP)
The UN World Food Programme is providing food supplies to flood victims all over Pakistan. They work in partnership with other local and international NGOs to ensure that food supplies reach where they are needed.  The WFP is currently supporting 430,000 individuals and hopes to reach 2 million people by the end of this August 20th, the largest amount ever supported in this organization's history. You can donate online here. Donations are tax deductible for residents of the Unites States, Canada, Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, and Hong Kong.

4)Edhi Foundation
Edhi Foundation is leading the flood relief efforts in Pakistan and have already begun providing services to affected individuals in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab. They are the largest and the most respected private NGO in Pakistan  and  known for their notorious approach to effectively lowering administrative and service costs. In you are in Pakistan, donating to this organization is probably a good idea. Donations can be made in person or through the phone at local Edhi Centers.

Medical Care

5)Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders)
Medicins Sans Frontiers  is providing emergency medical care to flood victims in Pakistan via mobile clinics and health centers in all four provinces affected  as well as sanitation equipment, water, drugs and medical material to displaced persons. You can donate online or through the phone at local MSF offices. MSF's audited financial statements for the fiscal years 2008 and 2009 can be accessed here.

6)International Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC)
The joint International Red Cross/Red Crescent is currently seeking $16,333,000 (US) of funds to support 25,000 families for a period of nine months in terms of food, water, sanitation services and emergency medical services. It is working closely with the Pakistani branch of the IRC to deliver these services on the ground. You can donate online or at your local Red Cross and Red Crescent offices via telephone. Please select Pakistan  when asked to specify a program.

Once you have identified which resources you would like to provide, you can donate to the organization of your choice (not limited to list above).

For individuals abroad: If you and your family members are considering making individual donations, you might want to consider spreading out funds across a large number of NGOs, both Pakistani and international so that you can assist with a variety of resource needs. If you are considering pooling your funds together as a family, pick an organization of your choice and ensure that at least 85% of the funds donated are going to the designated services. If you have relatives in Pakistan, it would be more effective to send donations to them which can be used to purchase items needed by small local NGOs. A list of items urgently needed can be accessed here. Note: The list is located halfway through the document, so please scroll down.

For individuals in Pakistan: You have the option of purchasing and donating the goods and resources needed. There is currently a great need for food supplies, clothing, water purification tablets, bedding materials, medicines and drinking water. Please contact the NGO of your choice when determining which items to donate. When donating money, keep in mind that the most effective way to donate is through cash. Donations made through credit card or cheque may take up to a week to be processed and can slow down the aid process considerably.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dealing with the Floods: How can you help?

Both Kalsoom(Chup) and the good folks at All Things Pakistan have compiled a list of organizations you can donate to. If you've already donated and can give more, please do so. If you are in Pakistan and in close proximity to any of the areas that are affected, please volunteer. The victims of these floods need all the help they can get.

Just to give you an idea of how bad it is, here is the before picture (from NASA via Tazeen @ twitter) of Sindh and Punjab

and here is the after


Monday, August 2, 2010

And the beat goes on

With the widespread tragedy unfolding in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Northern Balochistan, one would think that across the country people would be mobilizing to collect and distribute aid, house refugees and rebuild. And most are. But others are  bent on contributing to the human tragedy. Just as the official death toll rises from 360 people to 900 people to 1,200 people where it currently stands, the public assassination of MQM Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Raza Haider has left ethnic tensions running high in Karachi. According to the most recent reports,within two hours of the assassination, widespread rioting began resulting in the burning of over forty vehicles, with an estimated fourteen dead and a hundred injured.  There are no signs of this violence abating and more is on its way. According to Babar Ghauri, a senior MQM figure "if the municipal, provincial and national government does not react to this appropriately then we will be unable to control our party members."

So more people are going to die because members of the MQM are prone to behave like overly emotional two year olds in contrast to mature adults that they consider themselves to be. In my opinion, both the ANP and the MQM need to realize that political tension between them has life altering consequences for the rest of us who couldn't care less about their feud. People die because they are unable to reconcile their political differences, because they are bent on vengeance. Both parties may address valid social and political concerns of their respective ethnic groups, but the level of violence precipitated by these two groups effectively delegitimizes these concerns. I'm not alone in saying that Karachi would be a far better place if these groups did not exist.

In addition to inflamed ethnic tensions, there have been some indications that the assassination of Raza Haider, a prominent Shiite politician bear the hallmarks of a Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP)/ Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) attack.  Considering that Sipah-e-Sahaba has made a comeback in Karachi especially with the targeted attack on a Shiite religious procession last year and have connected with Taliban movements across Pakistan, this is very likely. This issue has been raised by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, though it is possible that both SSP and LeJ are being used as scapegoats since the federal government might be unwilling to take sides in this contentious issue because it depends on MQM support.

To sum up, we don't know who killed MQM MPA Raza Haider, was it ANP or the super sectarian duo SSP-LeJ? Not that it makes any difference. The MQM is already behaving in a manner that suggest that it blames the ANP. Member of MQM Coordination Committee Wasey Jalil in an interview with Express Tribune stated that

the MQM is hundred per cent sure that Shahi Sayed and the ANP are behind the ongoing target killing incidents and killing of Raza Haider.

With the MQM in full vengeance mode, who need a judicial inquiry?