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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday My Bomb The Dearest

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 24, 2012

Mian Nawaz Sharif must and should gloat in glee for making the only ‘Citadel of Islam’ absolutely invincible, and above all, for making the Glory of the Almighty directly proportional to the size of our nuclear arsenal. Before the hyper-nationalists, the puritans and patriots issue some decree against me, let me clarify. Another Yaum-e-Takbeer is around the corner. Why do we need to tie the Glory of God to our nuclear assets? Anyone, please?

I still have clear recollection of the summer of 1998. Someone returned from Pakistan and narrated the jubilation of the nation. How everyone was on cloud nine after witnessing a befitting response to the archival, India. The jingoistic slogans were the newsworthy items in the rather nascent internet publications from Pakistan. People were ecstatic, much like as if they had won the World Cup against India.

I am no political, military or security analyst, but in my humble opinion, it was a tremendous opportunity that Mr Sharif failed to seize. Mentally, perhaps, he was on the cricket pitch of Lahore Gymkhana, playing his favourite sport. He rode on the idea of ‘tit for tat’ and a monumental political gain — a solid ‘sixer’ and a great victory almost guaranteeing him another term. What an irony; almost a year later, he found himself behind bars in the Attock Jail, if my memory serves me right. What a pity, the ‘man of the match’ was given such an unprecedented and shabby treatment.

Again, if I am rewinding the events accurately, the Clinton White House had intervened prior to the nuclear test. Diplomatic efforts were made to sway the premier on our end. The premier had refused to budge and traded the ‘day of a lion’ over ‘thousand years of a jackal’, Never mind that the same ‘lion’ was seen acting like a ‘mouse’ perhaps a year later in New York. But such is life. There is a saying in Urdu that loosely translates as: ‘Sometimes, the days are much longer than the nights, and sometimes, it is the other way around.’ Need I say more? The same overly blown honour deflated so rapidly, it honestly evokes uncontrolled mirth.

While we are on the subject of sports and games, any amateur cardplayer will tell you that you never show your strength or weakness in a game. Keep your cards close to the chest, and play the game, maximising your advantage. If Mr Sharif had negotiated with the State Department at that juncture, perhaps it would have been a win-win situation for Pakistan. Who knows, the circular debt could have been written off, some aid specific to healthcare, education and entrepreneurial ventures could be on the table. A nation without the shackles of debt would have been much better off by 2012. Ah, the pavilion cheers...ah, the honour, probably, is priceless and non-negotiable.

Again, to the hyper-patriots, no one is suggesting that the plan of going nuclear should have been shelved. It should have continued as planned, except for the much touted and revered ‘tests’. If you take it astep further, the same technology should have been geared towards the energy issues of the country. A country so deficient in basic power, literally crippling its public at all ends, would have been in a much better shape. Where life and commerce are so adversely impacted, you find an extremely irate public, screaming for its basic needs. Yet, we thump our chests for possessing the ‘bomb’. This sure bombs the whole idea of this bomb. I would refrain from mentioning the ‘father of the bomb’ here, as that is a different subject for another day. However, I would urge people to Google John Stewart and Dr A Q Khan. The Stewart skit on him is an absolute classic.

As anything in our promised land, there is a twisted ‘Islamic’ angle to this great achievement for the entire Ummah. The question here is not the existence of the bomb, the question is our misplaced priorities. Our emotions have always outsmarted our pragmatism. We live in that emotional bubble, which cocoons us from all facts and reality. The real war in the modern day is not about a nuclear arsenal, but information and economic resources. Nations who master those skills will be ahead of the game.

Those of us who live in an imaginary and illusionary world of strength based on the bomb ought to revisit Economics 101. There is a rudimentary concept of guns and butter. We really need to go over that concept over and over again. The butter should trump everything, although I would go for vegetable shortening with zero trans-fats in this day and age. Well-fed stomachs have adequate energy to charge ideas, which are much stronger than any bomb. Thriving nations with innovative ideas and endless commerce explode with excitement and prosperity. You find people energised with optimism as they are armed with possibilities. Until this concept finally gels, it is time to sing the ‘happy birthday, my bomb, the dearest’ song. After all, it is 14 years old. The question that still lingers is, has this teenager made us any safer? I will end here at this note: just ask the Almighty yourself, how His Glory can reign supreme in our hearts forever.

Peace In Tiny Pieces

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 17, 2012

An Indian channel tried to stir a ‘conspiracy’ that some Pakistani businessman from Lahore had made it to India to stage another Mumbai-style terrorist attack. Undoubtedly wrong, yet it created a frenzy almost instantaneously. The television age of instant news and the dangerous trend of ‘breaking news’ stir up many pots for no reason. The fundamental problem is lack of verification and vetting of sources that supposedly supply such news items to channels — be it in India or Pakistan. The gravity of this gaffe and its potential impact can be extremely serious, without a doubt.

Needless to say, there are hawks on both ends, who absolutely despise the idea of any overtures towards peace. I can say with relative certainty that if Mr Jinnah were around, he would have been utterly dismayed at the existing relations between the two states. He had envisioned that we would be living amicably like the United States and Canada. It is ironic that we are more like North and South Korea, bloodthirsty and ready to engage violently to settle unfinished scores of the past.

One of our gifted anchors decided to get even with the Indian channel by televising a live show from a business centre. His point was that those ‘alleged’ terrorists were in fact peaceful merchants conducting their business in the heart of Lahore. Those gentlemen, of course, vented their frustration as well. The intention of the anchor was to expose the absurdity of the Indian channel in labelling the innocent merchants as alleged terrorists. However, when a crowd gathered at that site and the anchor denounced the ‘Aman ki Asha’ initiative between the two countries, it was rather irresponsible on his part. As tiny or insignificant as the measure may be, both countries are in dire need of such a process. One can sympathise with the Indian scepticism in light of the previous incidents. The leaders of both sides along with an overwhelming majority of people, on either side, have concluded that peace is the order of the day.

The respected anchor’s statement denouncing the initiative is sad and definitely a reactionary response. Perhaps there are many like him on the other side hogging screen time, peddling the same narrative. But it is rather disheartening that we are still going round and round, inciting the same time-tested and completely failed ‘enemy syndrome’ on both ends. The crowd at the venue of course chanted slogans of Takbeer and renewed their vows to defend the fortress of Islam. One gentleman made a rather amusing remark; he felt that Ajmal Kasab was an innocent villager and somehow framed. The usual Pakistani gripe of Indian insincerity towards peace and the Kashmir issue was repeated over and over. The Indian media’s role in maligning Pakistan was discussed at great length as well.

Now this is rather ridiculous as Kasab was captured on closed circuit TV in India as one of the main culprits of the Mumbai mayhem back in 2008. Yes, he was framed for sure, not by some conspiring and conniving person, but by the eye of the camera. We can sit and argue endlessly that it is a ‘grand conspiracy’, but the facts will not alter. Indeed, there are many characters like him within us and perhaps there are many on the other side. Some of those were perhaps behind the Samjhota Express massacre.

The loss of innocent lives to feed the lust of a silent and, regrettably, violent minority is reprehensible. The rust of ages is not going to disappear in days. Yes, it will take some time. However, the governments on both sides have to make a concerted and sincere effort to expedite things within their reach. The secretary and junior level talks have been progressing at the pace of a rather sleepy snail. It is high time that the premiers sit face to face and make some bold and historic moves.

Similarly, media on both ends has to play a responsible role in healing wounds and not reopening the old and inflicting some new ones. Children on both sides ought to live in a fair and peaceful region, where poverty is eliminated and prosperity can be embraced. Policy makers on both sides ought to revisit the opening scene of a Bollywood movie of the early 1990s called Henna. Incidentally, our foreign minister shares the name of the leading lady of the movie. The opening scene showed a flowing river, which runs through both countries, without distinction. Peace and prosperity is much like that river that needs to run through our lands to wash away all unnecessary blood that was shed. Peace in all its tiny bits and pieces is far better than decades of meaningless war and hostilities. I sincerely hope someone in the corridors of power can see and utilise the flow of peace.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The March Madness of May

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 10, 2012

If anything the former Premier Nawaz Sharif, along with another former skipper, Imran Khan, ought to be saluted for, it is invigorating health consciousness in Pakistan. The call for rallies and marches are meant to remind the masses that the best defence against bad cholesterol and boredom is a long and hearty march. The former PM has decided to compel the sitting PM to resign and the former captain wants to demonstrate his unyielding solidarity with the ‘independent judiciary’. By the way, Pakistan is perhaps the first country on the face of the earth where people come out on the streets to show their appreciation of the judiciary in this manner. I presume it is to show their appreciation for what they are paid to do all day long.

The self-proclaimed ‘Lion’ has roared in Taxila and the angry middle aged man has taken his love for the judiciary to the streets of Islamabad. Both have started their respective campaigns — let us say election campaigns — ahead of schedule. Both have chalked up additional turf and territory to cover during this month. I am sure the summer will be hotter than ever with the rising temperature on the political scene. There is some noise from the incumbents too that they will respond with similar marches from all four provinces and so on and so forth. Hence, the title of this write up is what you have read earlier.

I wish these marches were truly about fitness and health consciousness. But as some high-pitched anchors opine nightly, people have nothing to wear and no food in their stomach. They can barely survive — how in God’s name can they care about their health? Hmm, high-pitched nightly drama, where politicians and especially incumbents are painted as the real culprits and the true scum. How convenient. The public sees this nightly circus with all its doom and gloom and becomes overly depressed. By the way, this is an old military tactic called ‘Psy Ops’. By no stretch of the imagination am I trying to defend the proverbial ‘scum’. In any part of the world, this scum, the so-called smooth operators, is needed. These are slick sales people selling dreams to the otherwise hopeless masses. This is a job too and someone has to do it.

The political parties sell ideas and those ideas need buyers. As long as people are willing to listen to the pitch, laced with sound bytes, the politicians are willing to go on and on. There is heavy duty selling that goes on; promises are endless and the sound bytes get more and more creative. If you are as old as me, and have been to other countries in the world, you know that much of it is, let’s say, a stretch. Hidden somewhere in the sermon is the reality. Smart people are those who are able to read the truth between the lines and make their ‘buying decision’ of the ‘lesser of all evils’, among the pack. People who remain stuck solely on the pitch, punch lines and much of its fluff, are found very disgruntled, post-election. Despite all its shortcomings, the only way to go is to select the right salesperson. As flawed as the system may be, that is the only way that works and perfects itself with time.

Getting back to our scene of physically fit salespeople, Mian Nawaz Sharif has sung his own self-praise for building the magnificent Motorway and the magnificent bomb. Another subject altogether for another day. Whereas the former ‘Kuptaan’ has uttered the word ‘corruption’, perhaps for the billionth time by now. His admiration and solidarity with the independent judiciary is unquestionable. Our great Khan has championed marching for the cause of the judiciary. There is one minor detail though; there is no request from the honourable and utterly independent judiciary. Nor there has been any sign from the bench, which invites, or let us say, drags the so-called ‘political players’ into a purely legal matter. But as I said earlier, the election campaign has begun. The Khan, and rightly dubbed Noah of our times, has started to build the Ark.

Mr Khan’s call is purely political. To prove my point, had the independent judiciary spared the prime minister and found his conduct satisfactory, would Mr Khan still be out on the streets, glorifying the verdict? I think not. I have argued here and at other venues in the past that just by calling itself ‘independent’, the honourable judiciary of Pakistan cannot absolve itself of its excesses of the past. The overarching belief of turning a new leaf one fine day, which will erase everything, is completely flawed — so long as it is limited to one particular institution. Similarly, the military cannot wipe off its blunders and say, ‘Let’s move on.’ The politicians are chastised for being corrupt and beneficiaries of an unconstitutional ordinance. Has someone questioned the other integral organs of the state as well? Because the ghosts of the past will keep haunting us, until we either make every historical wrong right, or bury everything for everyone and start a new day. A selective ‘pick as you like issue and justice’ is, in fact, a travesty of justice. Those who put too much faith and stock in any particular institution and elevate it to the ‘holier than thou’ level are actually fooling themselves. In a true democratic form of government, all institutions are open to scrutiny. In a truly equitable system, there are no sacred cows. Till this reality dawns on us, let us keep on marching forward.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Crisis, What Crisis?

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 03, 2012

It is almost laughable to hear many self-made ‘pundits’ and so-called ‘senior analysts’ opine on the recent conviction of the prime minister. Some are giving their statements on the supremacy of the law, and others are giving the nation lessons about standards of morality. What a bunch of very comical people. The above-listed reasons should adequately demonstrate why I abstain from the otherwise idiot of a box. Yes, even I made an exception, and succumbed to some of these great shows of ‘national significance’.

The news was being closely monitored and anticipated by the entire country. A short order by the apex court created such a long list of experts on everything. Oh my God! The only sane voices that I perhaps heard were from Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and Ms Asma Jahangir. First, let us revisit 2009, when the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) was declared unconstitutional. If my memory serves me right, there were 800 plus beneficiaries of that infamous ordinance. The nation has been beaming in on one particular individual ever since, and about the rest no one knows or perhaps cares about. Why, what is their status?

Speaking of that one particular individual, the elected president of Pakistan, while in office he enjoys absolute immunity from any prosecution; hence, he is still the president. If this were not the case, he would have vacated the office back in 2009. One has to then ask a simple question, why waste useful time and positive energy on any argument when all and sundry had agreed on this issue in 2009. Ah, here comes the kicker. The president may not have the ‘absolute immunity’ in any cases against him outside Pakistan. This refers to an alleged Swiss account and perhaps the alleged sum that the president has supposedly stashed in that account.

If a leading newspaper of Pakistan is to be given any credence, the Swiss prosecutors closed the inquiry against the president of Pakistan in April 2008. The prime minister was asked by the Supreme Court to revive the inquiry against the president by writing to the Swiss prosecutors. The prime minister, according to his interpretation of the Constitution, refrained as he felt the presidential immunity trumped any such request.

So let us put this scenario in an objective line of thinking and see if this is really the crime, and about which the entire brouhaha is continuing. If the sitting president is immune to prosecution within Pakistan, then how can a request to a foreign nation to probe against him become constitutional? Very respectfully, in a society of laws, citizens — whether a commoner or a prime minister — have the right to question the constitutionality of the law. If the prime minister questioned the constitutionality of the law, by not initiating the probe overseas, he was found in contempt.

Barrister Ahsan’s plea has to be given some serious consideration. Ahsan’s argument is in essence a disagreement with the august court because it found the prime minister guilty on certain charges that were not part of his original indictment of February 2012. Secondly, he is absolutely on the mark when he argues that it is unprecedented to try or intend to try a sitting head of state in a domestic or foreign court. Ms Jahangir, a legal icon in her own right, has clearly stated that the honourable bench is in essence on trial here as well. The bench has to demonstrate its absolute impartiality and render decisions according to the Constitution of Pakistan.

The so-called pundits and analysts are hell bent on making this simple legal question of ‘rights and responsibilities’ into a so-called crisis of epic proportions. The ‘Armageddon’ of the law and the lawless. It is a shame that we have nightly opinion-makers who tend to give an absolutely unfair and biased take on this whole scenario. In any democratic system, all stakeholders tend to constantly struggle for their positions within the framework of the law. This is the beauty of a fair, unprejudiced and unbiased system.

Any convict has the right to an appeal and the prime minister is no exception. The loudmouth anchors and their panelists, who are giving the nation endless lectures on morality and moral grounds, ought to look at themselves very closely. The short order does not compel the prime minister to resign on any grounds — moral or legal. The process pertaining to his removal is explicitly defined within the constitution. To the political opportunists, one has to simply make a humble request. The elections are a few months down the road. Rather than wasting all their zeal and zest in manufacturing a so-called crisis, they should redirect their energies to their constituents. The nation needs a steady system of transfer of power, based on the will of the masses. The real judge of this government or any future ones is the 180 million people. Let them render their absolute and undeniable verdict.

The Carsh of Sanity

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: April 26, 2012

My self-imposed ban of TV could turn out to be such a blessing, I just never thought. For most Pakistanis, Friday, April 20, 2012, turned out to be a tragic and dark evening. Being in this part of the world, it was a bright morning for me: life at its usual pace, early morning, a hot cup of tea and miles of commute. My Twitter timeline lit up with a preliminary message of a flight losing contact with its control tower in Islamabad. The tea, despite being the usual addition of half-and-half cream and honey became unusually unbearable. The tweets that followed were heart wrenching. A quick prayer came out of my mouth and the usual sea of cars on the Southbound welcomed me.

The car radio at 8:00 am announced the news of a Pakistani airline’s plane crash in what the newscaster was able to pronounce as ‘Izlamabaad’. Loss of 127 lives. Another prayer left my lips and the images of despair and chaos appeared on the windshield of my car. The Airblue disaster was still fresh in my mind, where we had lost a close relative. He was a remarkable individual, who will always remain in our prayers; one of the most hospitable and witty people I met in my life, who gave me great tips on one of my passions — backyard barbecue grilling. He introduced our family to the most beautiful sites this part of the world has to offer. Above all, knowing my weakness, he gave me a taste of Lahore in the heart of ‘Frisco at a cabby’s hangout, by far the tastiest desi (subcontinental) food the Golden State could ever offer.

The car finally came to a rest in the parking lot of my office after 45 minutes of various over- and underpasses. I desperately pulled out the handheld to see if by some miracle, fate had reversed its verdict. The timeline was running perhaps 40 tweets per minute. All full of the same information, links to some sheer insanity. The rescue operation hindered, the charred bodies beyond recognition, and the reporters as usual breathlessly uttering gibberish. In sum, another show. The hyperventilated trying to suck the air out of the viewers. Trying to break the relatives of the victims into many pieces, with their so-called ‘breaking news’.
I often wonder what is more important. People’s ‘right to know’ or the media’s ‘right to show’. The burnt remains, the images of mayhem, people looting the dead like some hungry vultures. What great ratings can any channel achieve by such gory images? Even if theirs is the first one to blast it on the idiot box, what great thing did they achieve?

The engine oil for our so-called ‘independent media’ is frenzy and sensation. Of course, many people have opined on the lack of proper media and journalistic ethics as the primary reason behind such madness. However, this does not need any of the aforementioned explanations. This is humanity 101. Be respectful of the departed and their loved ones by not displaying the dead in such an unimaginable state. Do to others what you expect for yourself. No sensitivity or ethics training required. No one teaches this in any school — this is the unwritten rule that we follow as human beings, no matter what part of the world we belong to. Period.

Remember we are a reactive nation. Do a lot of talking. This is what makes us feel important. No wonder why we are suckers for such situations. Without having the foggiest idea of how the aircraft functions, we have to lay the blame on someone. It is the government, the late pilot or some unseen force. Someone has to be blamed right now, right this minute, so we can satisfy our urge to blame. So we can move on to the next issue and continue this rather ‘constructive cycle’.

‘Cabin crew prepare for landing.’ These are the words my ears want to hear anytime I am on a flight, no matter where I am headed. I am sure the passengers on that ill-fated flight must have heard that announcement too. What went wrong after that, of course only a thorough investigation will reveal. But our make-believe analysts and specialists have rendered all kinds of verdicts. The actual reason for the crash will emerge soon. There will be calls for reforms, the compensation promises for the bereaved and perhaps a suo motu by the apex court, the ultimate stop for every buck that has to stop somewhere. The families of the 127 victims shattered forever and there are barbs flying about, e.g. who issued the licence to the beleaguered airline. If seeing is believing, then yes, one can see where this is headed, all based on previous disasters of this nature. Perhaps, a couple of years later, the matter will be buried exactly where the victims are buried...all to give the poor souls some much-needed company.

The Strong Ledaership Myth

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: April 19, 2012

Try engaging people and you hear the common and prevalent gripe — Pakistan needs a strong leader. We will bring one and all will be hunky dory. Then we will all live happily ever after. If strength is the only prerequisite for a leader, then we have had our share of the so-called strong leaders all along. Whether we chose them or not, they were in front of us, staring at us and throwing their full force on us. Each one of them came to fool us, to take us to that utopian world of sweeping reform and unmatched accountability. These were people with unlimited power and barely had any obstruction in their way, yet they left us in the same, if not worse, lurch.

This concept, almost mythical, is in fact a false one. Sadly, if you look around the Muslim world in general, you will find the same abyss, what I consider is the Muslim world’s ‘tribal mentality’. We still tend to live in the old age where a tribal leader used to call the shots. The leader was considered supreme because denouncing him meant the kiss of death. You look around — the Muslim world is replete with such iron-fisted leaders who gave little to their people, or for that matter, rarely felt any need to be answerable to them.

If history is one of the most enlightening institutions, then Chairman Arafat, President Mubarik, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, President Haffez al Assad, and King Raza Shah Pehalvi are fitting examples to reflect and seek some precious insight. For the sake of brevity I will stop at this short list, but it illustrates the point I am trying to make. As someone very aptly said, “Leaders are dealers of hope.” Then reflect on what kind of hope these leaders injected in their respective nations. Most were authoritarian despots and gave little credence to the will of the majority. Again, the same tribal mindset perhaps predicated their decisions. Did they leave their nations yearning for someone just like them? If the answer is still unclear then I rest my case here.

I may vehemently disagree with the former president Bush, as he did not earn my vote twice, but I do agree with him on at least one thing. As flawed as his response may have been to 9/11, but he did sow some seeds of change in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The critics call them puppet regimes. I humbly disagree. Repeatedly, on various occasions in both Afghanistan and Iraq, people have lined up for hours, against threat of attacks, and exercised their right to vote. With all the kinks in the system, one cannot easily disregard the progress these nations have made towards a transparent system. Israel is the staunchest ally of the US in the Middle East. Yet until this day, the US has not been able to install a puppet regime in a tiny nation like Israel. Despite the friendly relations between the two, both strongly disagree on many issues.

Those who dismiss it all as a malicious attempt to introduce the American way of life in the Muslim world, need to be questioned about the following. Were the Taliban and Mr Hussein practising the true Islamic way of life in their respective nations? Why is freedom to choose your leaders and to have a system of participatory form of government considered an American phenomenon? The argument is so hollow that it is absolutely ludicrous. The educated class that criticises the role of uneducated people being futile in any such process actually insult the intelligence of a vast and vital majority. The desire to improve your life and the life of your loved ones, based on a free and fair system, is not American, but rather universal.

Granted the system itself is not perfect; there are flaws, there are inequities here and there, but even the best of the democracies go through their evolutionary process every day. The process is a thriving system, which fosters creativity and innovation through practical ideas. The citizens band together to improve, day in and day out. Disagreeing almost on everything, yet respecting the will of the majority. Much like life, there are highs and lows every day, yet all of this is necessary to engage the electorate.

So in essence, leaders are not supposed to be perfect or strong. Leaders ought to be pragmatic. These are people who have a vision, yet are very cognizant of their surroundings and limitations. They encourage the consultative approach and feel the pulse of the nation. They put their nations on a strong footing by creating opportunities for all, leading to well-fed stomachs and bright minds with loads of positive energy. These are the telltale signs that a real leader is at the helm of a strong and thriving nation.

The Sudden Ajmer Calling

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: April 12, 2012

Diplomatic errors aside, the US State Department recently issued a reward for any information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed. This initiated a passionate debate in Pakistan. Passionate indeed as it was seen from the tainted lens of the usual India-Pakistan tussle. The minor detail leading to such a reaction, of course, was this call made by the State Department to their Indian counterparts. Our prime minister quickly retorted that Pakistan’s sovereignty must be respected and in a way, told the US that we were not ready for a sequel to the Abbottabad operation. PM Gilani’s comment was a bit hasty. Unlike bin Laden, Saeed is a Pakistani citizen, duly protected by the rights given to him by the law of the land. So rationally speaking, the State Department did not place any so-called bounty on Saeed’s head. All it said in essence was that since Pakistani courts had released Saeed on multiple occasions due to lack of evidence, it would be prudent to seek some. Perhaps this reward would serve as a catalyst to yield the desired outcome.

Saeed’s subsequent press conference and challenges to the US were good moves on his part. Of course, his stance was that he was willing to plead his case in any court of law in the world, including the US. His supporters made the usual connection between him and Islam and deemed the US pledge as an attack on Islam. has to take pause and wonder how in the world someone can come up with this logic. However, it must be remembered that blind passion and logic are both inversely proportional.

The leading question that pops up in my idle mind is where are the most cases filed against Saeed in the world? Since the answer is so obvious, the next question that pops up is that would he go to that place and face them? I will let the many talented and gifted analysts render their professional opinion on that one.

One such gifted analyst, whom I admire and respect a lot and follow on Twitter, came to Saeed’s rescue in a popular daily. He provided a detailed legal analysis of how Saeed was exonerated from all the cases in Pakistan. The most telling comment of his write-up was buried in a phrase somewhere, “...granted Hafiz Saeed is no Mother Teresa.” When I pressed the acclaimed scribe on Twitter to describe Saeed since he was no Mother Teresa, then what was he, the scribe simply admonished me for being wrong and acting like an uninformed net activist.

I know I am clueless about the intricacies of foreign relations and perhaps do not know jack about the Indo-Pakistan military conflict, but I know one thing for sure. The Indians may have a ton of information against the person in question. It would not be a stretch to assume that it was shared with the US State Department on that end. This is what led to the $ 10 million reward. The Pakistan Foreign Office of course has requested their Indian counterparts to share that information with them. The Indians are arguably wary of any such sharing. There is a mountain of mistrust between the two countries. There are hawks on both ends that are unwilling to bend. As cruel as it may sound, the conflict between the two neighbours is a thriving business for some. I take exception to instances when people go for the jugular by attributing it to a western conspiracy. It is rather easy to lay the blame on others rather than accepting our own shortcomings. In the early scribbles at my initial forum, I argued this to death with many passionate hawks on both sides. For that, I earned so many titles that I do not have the space to repeat them here. The fact of the matter is that Mr Jinnah had envisioned a relationship between India and Pakistan much like the US and Canada. There are many, including this scribe, who would do anything in their power to make that happen, no matter what.

One has to take President Zardari’s personal visit to Ajmer with a grain of salt. Then the Indian PM Manmohan Singh’s lunch invitation to the President on a rather private visit catches the eye. The president took a delegation of advisors with him who perhaps had a similar spiritual calling like him. When these lines are being read, both the president and the Indian PM would have been done with their ‘mini-summit’. If I were to make a wild and amateurish guess about the agenda of that meeting, I would say the information about Saeed would perhaps be one of the key points.

If I were a foreign office geek, I would let Siachen take the lead on that agenda. It was heart wrenching to hear about close to 140 lives lost at that freezing post. Again, with no military background, I often wonder that the cost of staffing that post certainly outweighs any potential or perceived benefit. If there was any doubt about this civilian’s assertion, perhaps the deeply talented and trained generals and their superiors will be able to give it a second thought after this horrific tragedy. Let us all give a salute of honour to the valiant jawans and civilians who perished, and many who are up there on numerous recovery missions. These are the selfless people responding to the call of duty, a duty that takes them to unimaginable places. There are many silent people on both sides who have laid down their lives at the frozen heights of Siachen and Kargil. One often wonders for what — perhaps for the boiling egos of a deeply cynical minority. Ironically, on both ends, these are the ones whose hearts and minds are definitely frozen

The Legend Of Bhutto

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: April 05, 2012

Had he been with us, he would have been 84 today. And he would be perplexed much like the founder of this country. What went so terribly wrong with the ‘New Pakistan’ he was destined to rebuild? He was the one determined to build a new Pakistan, as he yelled at the UN General Assembly in 1971. No this is not one of those, often termed as a jiala’s (militant PPP worker’s) cry. Almost 33 years later, a lot has changed in Pakistan, except one thing: Bhutto’s unyielding spirit is still alive from the gallows of Rawalpindi Central Jail, forever and ever.

Bhutto was no saint, nor was he religiously righteous. Just a man of strong will and convictions. In retrospect, not all his convictions could be termed as perfect, but nevertheless, he was an unwavering fighter. His critics unleashed everything in their arsenal on him, on his lineage to his religion. Strangely or ironically, the right, whether it is in the east or the west, clings to this concept, uses it to the core to rally its bigoted base. It does this to create the sense of a so-called moral clarity, very conveniently forgetting that each soul will be tested individually on that Final Day.

A bright mind, a visionary, a zestful spirit, eager to do too much too fast. Yes, he made his share of wrong moves. Much like the founding father, he was a modern man with all his flaws, a man who wanted to put Pakistan as a progressive country on the map of this world. The anchors of any country or nation go through their leadership tests every day. So did he. History records their trials and tribulations for posterity. In the end, what matters is their execution and its overall impact. It would be fair to say that they roll a dice every day. Sometimes it sticks and at times, even with the best of intentions, it fails miserably.

So did Bhutto, to become another Quaid of Pakistan. To maintain his campaign promise, he introduced an automatic roti (bread) plant, which was perhaps a blunder. His ‘Islamic socialism’ and the reverence to Chairman Mao were perhaps not concepts made for Pakistan. Bhutto’s nationalisation of industries and government institutions for redistribution of wealth was perhaps one of his worst moves. The most radical and flawed was to engage his parliament to regulate the faith of people.

Yet what was so appealing, so unique about this man that made him immortal? Many would attribute it to his ability to connect with the masses, by permeating their souls. Letting them know that the masses did matter. Each person had a unique potential to be the best he should be. The severance of one wing was not the end of Pakistan. No wonder why 33 years later, the chant of “Jiye (long live) Bhutto” still lives on. The cynics and critics call this sacrilegious and consider it lunacy to revere a dead man. Perhaps there are certain people in this world who are truly immortal. Bhutto is one of them. With all his poor moves and missed opportunities, flaws and follies, he has emerged as one heck of a survivor.

To his critics, he was a smooth operator, a man raised by another dictator, Ayub Khan. To them, Bhutto was an actor who knew how to mesmerise a crowd. To them, he was a lip-server. To them, he was a feudal. To them, he was taking Pakistan to ruin. If history is the ultimate arbitrator in this world, then it rendered an undeniable verdict in favour of Bhutto and his nemesis Zia. Bhutto chose death over begging for clemency from Zia. He traded a legendary life of immortality, a triumph only reserved for a few valiant souls.

Perhaps General Ziaul Haq underestimated something. He thought that the story would end at the dingy jail cell of Rawalpindi Central Jail. The quiet burial of Bhutto at Garhi Khuda Bux and a strong clampdown on the media would be the ultimate blow. By subjecting the family of Bhutto to ill treatment, he would prevail. Last year, a leading weekly reprinted a foreign correspondent’s account of that ill-fated morning of Bhutto’s execution. At the gallows, according to the scribe, Bhutto’s final words in his native Sindhi were: “O God, you know I am innocent.” Perhaps the angels at the gallows who came to greet him, gave him what he had always wished for, a permanent spot in the hearts and minds of many, a life forever. Like many, this scribe continues to chant till this day, Jiye Bhutto, knowing full well that the chant is perhaps not for a departed soul but for the undying spirit of hope, change and progress. We the people matter and yes we can be the best, so long as we believe in hope. And as all who love him say, Jiye Bhutto, Sada jiye (Long live Bhutto forever and ever).