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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Speaking of Spies

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: March 29, 2012
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C29%5Cstory_29-3-2012_pg3_3





I had no idea that we were so challenged when it came to separating fact from fiction. So Bollywood came up with a desi James Bond, if you will, called Agent Vinod, and our feelings were hurt. Our gifted patriots decided that it was not worthy of being shown at the movie theatres in Pakistan. There seems to be some sort of bashing of the spy agency of Pakistan. My simple question is: so what? Isn’t a movie a story, a piece of fiction?

The Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan defended his flick by saying that there was an element of evil on both sides. It is that evil that prevents both sides from sustaining healthy neighbourly relations. Heck, his lady love in real life, playing the same role in the movie, portrays a Pakistani spy agent. Fair enough, I get it, but our patriots were offended and so we did the usual boycott.

Of course, another befitting response could have been summoning one of our Lollywood supremos to churn out our very own version called Agent Momin, but maybe I am the one volunteering this great idea. Our own desi studs, Shaan and Moammar Rana can fit into the die quick. Add a few raunchy numbers filmed at Bari or Evernew Studios by a heavy duty damsel in usual distress, and you have a perfect recipe for a blockbuster. Coming soon to an empty theatre near you.

But in any event one has to ask the patriotic crowd, ever heard of a thing called DVD? The so-called offensive flick will be on that disc fairly soon and in most small screens at home. So what is all the brouhaha about? I remember when Tere Bin Laden, a Bollywood comedy, was banned for similar reasons. Never mind it had our own lad Ali Zafar in it. It had nothing to do with the real Mr bin Laden, but his name was more than enough to cause panic and hysteria.

Speaking of the late Mr bin Laden, now some serious talk. There is allegedly a Dr Afridi in custody for tipping off the Americans about his whereabouts. The details are quite murky, but one has to still view it with some objective thought processes. Dr Afridi is being labelled as a spy working for US intelligence. If I had the power to award him with the highest civilian honour possible, I would. If, in fact, his ‘tip’ led to the end of a terror czar, then he deserves praise not disdain. But, as always, we are the ‘Upside Downistan’.

Many brainy and brilliant writers have delved into this subject. Two of my personal favourites, Feisal Naqvi and Ejaz Haider, presented their verdict in a popular daily. Mr Naqvi, arguing like a typical legal eagle, made a compelling case chiming with this scribe’s opinion. Mr Haider countered Mr Naqvi’s position by providing a rebuttal and terming Dr Afridi culpable for aiding a foreign government on Pakistani soil. In Mr Haider’s analysis, he cited a precedent of the US president of not pardoning an American who was convicted of spying for the friendly nation of Israel.

Mr Haider provides a very detailed analysis. Not in ten lifetimes can I ever be as creative, or have command over words like him. However, I humbly disagree with his account. His article did not encompass the real culprits, who provided a house, a lair, a palace for the fallen ex-mujahid. Being his fan, when I persisted on Twitter, he relented that those people should be taken to task as well by the law. There lies the irony. We are shooting the probable inadvertent messenger, but not the real masterminds behind this grand embarrassment.

There are two scenarios. One is that Dr Afridi inadvertently supplied a sample of DNA, which became the prime reason for Mr bin Laden’s tracking and his eventual end. In my opinion, no harm, no foul. He should be rewarded for his honest mistake. The other scenario is that he deliberately supplied US intelligence with the sample and thus aided and abetted a foreign government on Pakistani soil. This is the premise of Mr Haider’s argument. This is where his extraordinary assumption, in my opinion, is flawed and his precedent inapplicable. Mr bin Laden was neither a Pakistani citizen, nor was he a lawful resident of Pakistan. In reality, an illegal alien, breaking the laws of Pakistan, residing without a visa. On top of that, Mr bin Laden had issued many warnings to Pakistan in his messages, so in essence he was an enemy of Pakistan too.

Being an international fugitive, he cannot be treated with the same legal protection that an ordinary Pakistani citizen enjoys. Being without a visa, he was devoid of rights that a sovereign government provides to a visitor or a resident. I agree that the US Navy Seals did not provide Mr bin Laden the due process that he perhaps deserved. But, based on the information available thus far, even if Dr Afridi aided the US, it was not to harm Pakistan or its citizens or its interests. He should still be revered and awarded recognition. Those who question his patriotism ought to ask the question of themselves, what would have they done? Go to the local authorities? I will let the readers guess what would have been the outcome of that honest attempt of a duty bound citizen in our ‘Upside Downistan’.

The New Resolution

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: March 22, 2012
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C22%5Cstory_22-3-2012_pg3_4



Another Pakistan Day on the horizon. What I see is the usual rhetorical speeches, some patriotic songs and a reminder of what Allama Sahib had envisioned, what Quaid was able to accomplish. Nothing more and nothing less. Each new year, at the beginning of the year, people tend to make a lot of resolutions, and then break those resolutions, as if they never existed. Need I say more in this regard about the “Pakistan Resolution”?

The driving force behind the move called the ‘two nation theory’ has been fiercely debated and it is pointless to regurgitate the same old arguments. Whether the ‘two nation theory” is a fact or not is insignificant. What is more critical right now is where we are headed collectively as a nation. Pakistan is a reality and moving ahead with the times in sharp contrast to the vision of the people who once gathered at Iqbal Park in 1940. Either we continue the lament or we collectively come to the inevitable conclusion: it is what it is. Now, how to march forward?

We are one heck of a strategically placed country, neighbouring two giants if you will, China and India. It is no surprise that both are poised to become world economic leaders. There is a major paradigm shift happening around the globe and the old school of thought about strength is being challenged. The future resides in economic prowess and progress. The ability to cripple the world based on dominating either supply lines or critical technological functions is being dubbed as the new way to demonstrate your strength.

Business graduates would recall the ‘four P’s’ of marketing, which are critical for any organisation. I know I am aging, but if I recall, those elements are product, price, place and promotion. Needless to say, both our neighbours have excelled in those. Having discovered their niche, they intend to exploit their strengths on the global stage. In our case, we are a confused nation. We are still stuck with the anti-India-centric strategy and an imaginary slogan of ‘all-weather friend China’. Next, we have Afghanistan on our frontal radar. Therefore we are unable to define and exploit our niche.

It is about time to identify our economic strengths as a nation. In order to do that, much like the marketing P’s, we have five T’s to ponder. In this amateur scribe’s utterly flawed opinion, those five T’s are: tolerance, tourism, technology, taxation and transparency. Many would laugh this off and ridicule the simplicity. However, when one pays some serious attention to these elements, the glaring facts tend to emerge.

It is no surprise that, sadly, we are known as the terrorism capital of the world. This has to be reversed at any cost. This scribe has previously argued that it requires an overhaul of the mindset of the nation. The sore, sticking issue of conspiracies ought to be buried, once and forever. Even if there is any shadow of a doubt, we have to diffuse it with tact, resolve and unyielding determination. We are way too smart for any so-called evil and conniving conspirator to mess with us to begin with. The element of tolerance gives the impression of a strong cohesive and diverse nation: different languages, ethnicities, colours and faiths, yet joined by geographic and historical bounds. No language, sect, race or religion superior or inferior. That’s truly one heck of a tolerant nation.

Next is technology. No question about the importance of this one. We have to compete with the neighbours who, literally, are going to control this facet all over the world. We may not be able to surpass them due to their sheer size. But even if we intend to become the second fiddle, it would be a monumental achievement in itself because, believe it or not, huge economic betterment will be associated with it, and everyone’s eyes will be watching.

The more we open our country to tourism, the more we will be able to market ourselves on the international stage. This element opens the doors for economic activities and in turn, rewards Pakistan manifold. No amount of diplomacy can produce the amount of goodwill that person-to-person contact can. Much like our neighbours, we have command of the universally accepted English language. Needless to say, we are equally gifted with similar traits, yet we have not tapped into our core strengths.

Taxation is the lifeblood for any nation. That is the source of revenue that gets redistributed to the people. From a street vendor to a conglomerate, all have to be a part of this. Without proper taxation, we would remain in an abyss. 

Last but not least, is the transparency of government. If the government is the representative of the people and truly for the people, then every single paisa it earns should be available for public scrutiny. All in all, this is the new resolution we ought to focus on. Enough of what happened 72 years ago. It is time to do what will keep us going for the next 72 and more.

Turning History Into Rubble

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: March 15, 2012
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C15%5Cstory_15-3-2012_pg3_4



The former President Bill Clinton in his autobiography, My Life, admits that his failure to get Osama bin Laden, post-USS Cole bombing, turned out to be quite fatal for the entire world. Had he been successful at that point, perhaps there would have been no 9/11 and the rest of the madness that ensued from there on. One thing is for sure, we are in a totally different world post-9/11.

Till this day, some folks who view the world from the myopic prism of religion, have been unable to comprehend the event. They rant and spin wild conspiracy theories about the event. I am not referring to the average clueless, emotionally charged and mentally challenged jihadi in Pakistan. I am referring to the so-called educated and enlightened professionals. The issue with them is they are unable to compromise with their ego. To them, it is an evil conspiracy to malign Islam. What they fail to let go of is that neither the late Mr bin Laden was a Muslim leader, nor was he representing Muslims of the entire world.

When we engage in a dialogue, they always come up with these pointless arguments, non-starters if you will, by asking, “Who created bin Laden”, “Do you know bin Laden was a US ally in the Soviet war?” I often smile and ask a very simple question, “Have you never experienced or witnessed a marriage, a business relationship or a partnership of some sorts go sour?” The fact is that we all engage in transactions, both monetary and non-monetary in all forms. We take oxygen in to let carbon dioxide out. Even in our personal lives, we do the same thing with our loved ones. Taking it to the other level, even in faith we submit to the will of God to earn a reward in the hereafter. Everything is give and take, no freebies at all.

Getting back to Mr bin Laden and the US. Mr bin Laden was supposedly offended by the abruptness of US policy reversal in post-Soviet Afghanistan. However right or wrong that move may have been, but to react in the manner that Mr bin Laden did, gave no boost to him or his so-called cause. As very aptly highlighted by Fareed Zakaria in his book, The Post-American World, Mr bin Laden and his al Qaeda’s overall impact will remain fairly insignificant in the overall scheme of things around the globe.

The irony is that disgruntled Muslims, who have been ruled by tyrants in their own lands, blame the western world for this dilemma. The inequity and vacuum of modernity they experience in their daily lives is somehow tied to the manipulation of the evil west. This is the catalystic argument used by the jihadis and their like to create the aura of self-righteousness. Somehow, to them violence and getting even by destruction is the only way to go. I have argued consistently here that this is a typical defeatist mentality: blaming others for your own shortcomings. No tyrant can ever survive, until or unless the people allow him to do so. No superpower can support one if its own people refuse to. Ergo, the hollow arguments of inflaming and swaying the overly hyper-emotional Muslims are quite shallow. It is up to the nation to determine what path it wants to embark on and how.

Last year when US Navy Seals took out Mr bin Laden, it was a major shocker. Even for the first few hours, I was in denial. However, after a few hours it became clear as day that President Obama was not peddling fluff to the world. My passionate and mentally challenged fellow co-religionists went into a complete denial mode back then as well. To them it was another “evil conspiracy” to malign Pakistan and its valiant army. But, alas, after all the denials and rabble rousing, we had to admit that yes, we were housing the most notorious terrorist of the world.

There is a commission called the Abbottabad Commission pursuing a judicial inquiry into this matter. What is most perplexing, however, is the recent demolition of the infamous mansion, where Mr bin Laden spent his final days. Why was an important piece of evidence demolished when the inquiry is still underway? People can come up with all kinds of lame reasons for such an act, but covering up, washing away or demolishing the structure will never erase the incident from our history.

The rubble in Abbottabad will remain in the books of history around the globe forever. How many such accounts can we amend, alter or change? If anything, the place could have been turned into a museum, so that people around the globe could come to this historical site to touch, witness and feel the lair of the so-called mujahid. A museum is not a shrine. A museum preserves history so others can see, feel and learn. All of us are going to perish. Some tend to make very tall claims and in the end, end up in the ocean. Just for the sake of perspective, and the world moves on. Nations that cannot preserve and reconcile with their historical blunders tend to repeat those blunders over and over again.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Patriotism For Sale Part 2

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: March 08, 2012
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C08%5Cstory_8-3-2012_pg3_5

Last week I highlighted the infamous orator, who has now been limited to various TV screens. His so-called 'Takmeel-e-Pakistan' rhetoric is still there though. In his heart of hearts, probably, he must have come to the conclusion that his charm is very limited. The so-called shaheens (eagles) of Iqbal are not interested in a long march to New Delhi. There are other more pressing issues encompassing the wretched lives of the youth of our land. Or for that matter, some of them have found a new 'superhero' who can take them to the valley of their dreams — sometimes calling them to a 'Pakistani Spring' or promising them a 'tsunami'.

Let's look at Allama sahib's vision for a moment. When Iqbal was dreaming of a land for the Muslim majority of India, he was envisioning one for all the Muslims of India. Hence to paint him as a philosopher solely for Pakistan is disingenuous. The Pakistan Resolution came to fruition after the demise of Iqbal. To somehow tag and link him to be Pakistan-specific is a major misconception. Furthermore, if people focus on his message, his message is addressed to the entire Muslim world. Simply speaking, it is a reminder to reclaim the glory of the past by achieving excellence in every walk of life. But somehow our emotionally charged people only focus on the idea that Iqbal wanted us to wage wars. If they had their way, Allama sahib would be in full khaki gear, ready for combat.The measure of patriotism is to some extent linked with war and conflict. If the people are ready, able and willing to wage, participate in and support conflicts, then they are extremely patriotic. If they refuse to engage in these futile strategies then our emotionally charged ones bestow the honour of being a traitor on them. The ones who do sense the hollowness of this argument can easily decipher how off the mark our clueless jihadis are.

Iqbal was not against the west, as we are sermonised by some. Why would he head to the west to seek higher education? Why would he accept the title of 'Sir' from the west? Why would he not relinquish the title if he was so disturbed by the inequities of the west? Besides, every creative person, be it an artist, poet or a musician, reflects his emotions based on his personal experiences. Each experience has a context. Simply pasting a couplet here and there and spinning it to further the desired narrative is dishonest. Iqbal is not around to provide us with an explanation or his clarification for certain renditions. To claim to think like Iqbal is a great disservice to his name.

The other rather bizarre development is a new organisation called Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC) — a coalition of many religious parties along with a few so-called charity organisations. Their aim and objective is rather similar to our expert orator: to fight with India and the US till death. One has to give credit to them for engaging the ultra-hyper and charged, often jaded people, who are seeking their salvation through a speedy death. A lot of fellow scribes have given their brilliant analyses on DPC, so I will save the readers from any further torment.

However, I would like to ask a few questions of our highly patriotic DPC members for people to get some clarity. According to them, the State of India is an 'Enemy of Islam' with a vengeance. Are DPC folks aware of the simple fact that India has a soaring population of Muslims, greater or equal to the ones in Pakistan? DPC rallies beat around the old bush, say, of Raymond Davis, who has long been gone. They demand to stop the NATO supply lines because of the Salala incident, yet stay totally mute on other massacres within Pakistan...any reason why? Furthermore, who gives DPC the right to make such outlandish demands, which violate the policies of the elected government? Lastly, if their reckless rhetoric may result in something fatal, then how would they contain it?

Preparing people to die in the name of patriotism or religion is fairly easy. The tough part is to educate and demonstrate to people how to live, and live with such traits that benefit them and the others around them. Come to think of it, it is the empty stomach that is often the cause of any major conflict. None of these folks want to build something, which may be beneficial to the generations ahead.

If the DPC and their likes can harvest their patriotic fervour by creating a parallel fighting force, then why is it unable to construct roads, schools and irrigation works in the rural areas? If the answer to this question is that it is not within their scope as it is the responsibility of the elected government, then by the same token, national defence is the responsibility of the same government. It takes minutes to embrace and convince others to embrace death. It takes years and a lot of hard work to lay the foundations of schools, roads, hospitals and commercial enterprises. The former is a cop-out if you will, and the latter requires immense amounts of dedication and hard work. The test of the hereafter begins with the life here. How we lead ours and let others lead theirs is the first step towards salvation. To me true patriotism means helping another human being to live and prosper. This alters the course of many generations and collectively the future of the entire nation. I would like to sell my brand of patriotism too. Any buyers for this one?


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Friday, March 2, 2012

Original Article: Daily Times.
Date Published: March 01, 2012
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C03%5C01%5Cstory_1-3-2012_pg3_3


A couple of years back, I was called to face my archrival, the TV (of course), by the better half. She was impressed by an orator who was leading a spellbound audience of young men and women. I spotted a former rock star on stage with that person as well. His chaste Urdu and English toggle was emphasising a narrative that at least to me was extremely flawed and highly irrational. If my memory serves me right, there were giant-size portraits of Iqbal and Quaid in the background. The caption above the portraits read, 'Wake Up Pakistan'. I honestly wished that Pakistan never did on such idiotic calls.
His message was grudgingly against our neighbour India and he kept on emphasising 'war' as the final answer. I was amazed at the audience, who were glued to his utter nonsense. He kept on bringing Iqbal's vision and made superficial connections of what Iqbal had desired from his people. It turned out that he was a fellow alumnus from the same Adamjee Science College, Karachi, where I had tried my luck in the early 80s. If anything, I came to this conclusion. The institution was unable to produce at least two bright minds. One was trying to peddle the 'Holy War' and the other, trying everything within his power to stop this madness with his ink-less pen.

The royal fluff of the gentleman was laughable and the constant barrage of God's will was nauseating. According to his narrative, Pakistan was created by God Almighty on 27th of Ramadan and that was the testimony that God will protect it. Allama sahib was a great mujahid, who was almost like a supernatural human being. To him Iqbal was a 'Wali', and Iqbal wanted Muslims to reclaim all their lands. The most ludicrous claim was, 'Dilli' (or New Delhi) was ours. The gentleman wanted the youth to march over to New Delhi to reclaim it and announce on the air waves, "This is Radio Pakistan, New Delhi."

There was a vow at the end of the session about 'Takmeel-e-Pakistan'. This was about a rally to be held at the Minar-e-Pakistan, where people from all walks of life were invited. The message was directly aimed at the 'youth'. The idea was that Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir and Pakistanis will march from the Minar-e-Pakistan to India to reclaim it and India will be defeated. Oh yes, then they were supposed to live happily ever after. Not to mention, this is what Iqbal had desired and this was the command of God Almighty as well.

To those of you who have guessed the name of the great orator, the idea behind the build-up was to illustrate the sheer stupidity behind such claims. What transpired after that is common knowledge. The great orator was unable to muster enough people to carry out his 'jihadi rally' to execute his ultra patriotic plans. Our neighbour is completely intact and the New Delhi's Radio still has an All India Radio service.
To some patriotism is all about war. A 'jihad' if you will. This is the story unfortunately fed to us from the textbooks of our history. The dominant narrative or theme has always been: the world is against us. The entire world, in one shape or form has been conspiring against us. Come to think of it, the conspirators and the perpetrators have only one agenda at hand — eliminate Muslims and Pakistan. Yes we claim that the term Muslims and Pakistan are two sides of the same coin. Somehow the darn conspirators have a thorn in their eye that no ophthalmologist of the world has been able to remove.

We are fed that Pakistan was created for Islam and the evil enemies cannot tolerate this. There lies the major false narrative. Pakistan was created for a sizable Muslim majority, who were otherwise being marginalised in United India. According to Quaid's vision, we were at a 1:4 ratio in United India. He felt that we would get a fair share if we were to build a country with a dominant Muslim majority while respecting and safeguarding the existent minorities within the territories of Pakistan.
Whether Quaid's real vision turned out to be effective or not, it is a totally different subject. But the founding father being a staunch man of principle was creating a Pakistan based on fairness and equality, a Pakistan where peace and prosperity were to prevail. The painful and shameful episodes of partition left immeasurable wounds on both sides. But to spin it all and make it about God's will and command is a shameful stretch.

The root of the animosity, if you will, resides in the uneven partition. The killing, the mayhem, the rape and murders, one of the worst episodes of crimes against humanity on both ends. I repeat, both ends. We tend to bury our own misdeeds and present ourselves only as the victims. With that mindset, we create a nation with a tainted vision. A group of people who are angry, envious and jaded, who are eager to claim their rights by such emotional rhetoric. To them dying for such a divine cause is the ultimate testimony of being patriotic. I humbly disagree.
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