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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The 65 Year Old Infant Part 5

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: September 13, 2012
Original Link:

First and foremost a heartfelt note of gratitude to many who have appreciated a novice like me and my efforts to direct our attention towards our flailing ideology on life support. Those re-tweets on Twitter and personal e-mails tend to uplift my spirits. When I wrote the first instalment, I was not expecting that it would end up in an amateurish thesis.

Therefore, without further delay, I would like to present some solutions to our dilemma, of course in my very own 'simplistic style'. In the last four weeks, I have exposed the gaping holes in our 'two-nation theory'. It has always struck me that we badly need a revision of that failed ideology. Nothing would be more apt than what I will introduce as a 'One-Nation Theory'. The fundamental problem with the existing two-nation theory is that it assumes that Pakistan is solely inhabited by Muslims; thus in essence, it completely sidelines any non-Muslim as an equal citizen.

What the one-nation theory will truly stand for that is all Pakistanis, regardless of who they are, what they believe in, what language they speak, what heritage they have, what colour, caste or creed they have, will all be one, with no concept of majority or minority. It will be utterly criminal to invoke any preferential or discriminatory practice of any shape. A rich and influential person will not be able to trample the rights of any poor or weak person, as the system will never allow such malpractice. All citizens will be equal, with equal rights, equal protection and equal responsibilities.

My critics will jump in and exclaim what is so unique about this? It is like this right now, all Pakistanis are the same. We all know that if that were the case, then we would not have been in such a pathetic state. These are folks trying desperately to cover the casket, which is so clearly visible to the rest of us. The most ironic thing is that these folks accuse people like me of being 'traitors' to their motherland and by extension, to our faith as well. Anybody with a tiniest brain cell if it is still alive can easily decipher that the present status quo contradicts everything that our faith stands for. On the other hand, what the one-nation theory proposes is the real essence of our faith. The highlight of this ideology is that it encapsulates all the fairness that has been repeatedly emphasised in the Holy Scripture as well, without alienating a single citizen.

Does it mean that people with their regional identities will have to compromise their respective identities? Not completely, I would suggest, but we cannot and should not let the regional identities ever trump the basic 'national identity'. That is the key. This is where some of the confusion lies. In the present ideological sphere, try engaging people about their true identity. You will get a very misleading response, perhaps like this. I am a Muslim first, then I am a Pakistani. The questions I often raise get me either scorn or empty stares, or I am asked, "So are you trying to tell me that you have to be a Muslim first to be a Pakistani? What if you are not a Muslim then are you not a Pakistani? What about millions of Muslims who are not Pakistanis, are they still Muslims?"

The problem with people solely leaning on religion to create a unified and cohesive nation cannot get any clearer than the generic conversation listed above. It is time to create an unbiased, unprejudiced, unwavering, unyielding and just nation, based on fairness and equality. Yes, I do get lectures from my critics that my faith propagates all of that. What they fail to realise so conveniently is in practice it is not so. Then I get the canned excuse of we are so far away from the 'deen'. Once we all become 'good Muslims' all will be fine. Then when I raise the question of who will decide if one is acting like a good Muslim, it evokes a similar reaction as listed above. Almost instantaneously comes the textbook defence, "Well once we have the Shariah law, government will do all that." I smile and probe further, "What if the majority opposes the Shariah law, then what?" At that point, the discussion usually turns into a heated argument because the typical person only sees it from an extremely myopic angle of their faith. When I remind them that Pakistan is not a theocracy but a democracy where the majority gets to decide, so if the majority opposes something, not out of their disrespect or disdain towards the faith but their fear of subjectivity and over-intrusion of the state in their religious affairs, then where lies the solution?

I have no doubt in my mind that the one-nation theory is the need of the hour. It will pacify many who feel disenfranchised and alienated from our richly diverse nation. We will emerge as a strong, united and dedicated country, where people will not have so much negative baggage at all times. I hope that some legislator is reading these lines and I honestly wish that he or she introduces a bill on the floor of the house.

I will repeat myself here once again. When I wrote the first instalment in the shadow of Independence Day, I had no idea what I had touched. This topic is so near and dear to my heart and I have a bit more to say, so long as you are willing to listen.

(To be continued)
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The 65 Year Old Infant Part 4

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: Sept. 06, 2012
Original Link:\09\06\story_6-9-2012_pg3_

My critics on Twitter and some through e-mails tend to mount an illogical defence of our ‘failed ideology’ by using the ‘Objectives Resolution’ as the real ‘Two Nation Theory’. I laugh and overlook their intellectual delinquency, as you cannot form an ideology after you have achieved your goal, so to speak. One of these days, I will unpack that historical blunder as well, but for right now and for the sake of brevity will stick to the topic at hand.

One may argue that a mission statement can be redefined based on the circumstances. Agreed, but there is a difference between a mission statement and the real basis for any revolutionary idea. A revolutionary idea that affects the lives of millions has to have a sound basis. Lack thereof invites rather the failure, fissures and disasters we are witnessing for so long. The aftermath of the East Pakistan debacle has exposed our absurdities. I have written here in the past about that ugly episode. Again, I will refrain from revisiting that chapter over and over again.

One has to be utterly dumbfounded by the logic that I will present to you. A significant number of our fellow brethren migrated from India after the partition. Decades have elapsed, but we still call them mohajir (migrant). Why are the people who migrated from India and settled all over Pakistan, and have distinct regional identities such as Sindhis, Punjabis and Pashtuns not considered migrants? Why are the migrants who do not have a distinct regional identity associated with a regional language still considered migrants? Mind you, they follow the same religion and values like us yet one can see a stark difference.

With the abject and undeniable failure of our foundation, we have foolishly tried to invent an identity by aligning ourselves with the Arabs, trying desperately to redeem ourselves at all costs. In a futile attempt to run away from our true heritage of Indian descent, we have called ourselves pseudo-Arabs and have failed miserably. Try planting a rose garden from the seeds of a cactus. It is just not going to happen. In this confusion, we have created a major hotchpotch.

There is a volatile and confused nation that is unable to reconcile with this bitter fact. A nation raised on fabrication, half-truths, failed ideologies and overly religious attitudes is bound to fail. There is no question about it. I will clarify my position again; religion in itself is the best thing to have. We all need an anchor for our souls, but to try to transform a society and an entire nation with my ‘personal anchor’ is going to rebound. Then making sure that all and sundry toe the line of my personal anchor, at any cost, is a no-brainer for utter idiocy.

The fact that our masses are still debating whether Jinnah was a Shia or not, 64 years after his death, can clearly demonstrate the height of our collective ideological infancy. As if a Shia is not capable of connecting with the masses to create a movement that alters the course of history. A land full of supposedly educated and enlightened people so judgmental about each other’s beliefs and faiths has to go in a downward spiral. In all these years, the state has tried to create a mindset of playing the ‘Big Brother’ focusing on people’s faith.

What I am going to raise as a few questions now may offend many a folk, but what the heck. Are we a truly ‘independent’ country? If we are dependent on ‘foreign aid’ and ‘foreign ideas’, then it behooves us to inflate our chests on every August 14 and pretend that we are so independent. If the presumed persecution of Muslims in a predominantly ‘Hindu country’ was the reason, then why are so many fellow Muslims in our land persecuted and hounded? In the last 65 years or so, what is our greatest achievement that we can flaunt in front of the world? I have a few, more painful questions but for the sake of sensitivities, I will pause here.

Some readers have e-mailed me and questioned my motivation behind this miniseries. They have criticised my so-called ‘anti-Pakistan’ stance. I respectfully disagree with them and re-emphasise that my hyphenated identity has ‘Pakistani’ as a prefix. My objective is to raise some pertinent questions and allow us to think objectively. There is no doubt in my mind that our ideology needs to be redefined. It is for our own good and the sake of our survival. Believe it or not, I do have some solutions to offer as well, the solutions that offer us an overhaul of our entire mindset. In hopefully the final installment of next week, I will lay out those solutions for the benefit of my readers.

The 65 year Old Infant Part 3

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: August 30, 2012
Original link:\08\30\story_30-8-2012_pg3_3

There are accounts of the Quaid being dismayed and moved by the plight of the refugees when they poured into Pakistan, penniless and destitute. His ‘confession’ to one of his physicians regarding the creation of Pakistan being a ‘mistake’ was mentioned by Mr Kuldip Nayyar as well. Nevertheless, it was one of those decisions that was like a uni-directional bullet; once exercised there was no other option but to see it through.

With the Quaid’s early demise died all hopes and dreams of his vision. We often tend to overlook that all political leaders are mere mortal humans with their own strengths and weaknesses. In an effort to bring such a diverse group of people together, the Quaid may have been overly optimistic and perhaps made some very extraordinary assumptions. One of the assumptions being that all Muslims needed was their own land and that they would overcome their differences amicably.

Due to multiple sects, beliefs and practices, there are many dimensions to our faith. Like any other Abrahamic religion, there are differentschools of thought about practices. What this scribe finds quite disheartening is that people too often become hung up about the process or procedure and tend to ignore the real essence. In their effort to prove that their way of practice is more authentic and accurate, they tend to marginalise others. Hence, the differences and the accompanying chaos take root. Another subject for another day.

Our foundation was built on what is often characterised as a ‘half-baked theory or ideology’. I am afraid I agree with that assertion. This topic is so deep and vast that a novice like me does not have the capacity to delve into its intricacies with utmost honesty. A diverse land like India knew that if it defined itself as a ‘Hindu’ state, it was bound to fail. The reason is plain and simple: even Hinduism has divisions and subdivisions based on practices and the caste system. India’s adoption of a secular state was the best move on their part. Is it a perfectly secular state in practice? Perhaps not, but ideologically it is in a much better shape than ours is.

In this third instalment, perhaps the readers can begin to relate with the title of this write up. Ideologically, we are still in the stages of infancy. By the grace of the Almighty, Islam is my faith too, but to argue that my country is a citadel of Islam and God’s gift to mankind on the 27th of Ramzan is perhaps nothing but baseless rhetoric. I do not see the rest of the 40-plus Muslim countries looking up to my country for all the right reasons. My humble request to my fellow countrymen is to travel around a few Muslim countries to get the flavour of what our Muslim brethren really think of us.

Islam does not need any citadel or fortress, as its universal message of equality and justice, while having fear of just accountability by the Creator on the Final Day, holds true anywhere. People come together based on a more personal and common ground of heritage, belonging to the land, language, economic interests, future personal and financial growth, ability to live in relative peace and prosperity and innovative ideas. Try looking at any two Punjabis (I am one myself) meeting in a London or Toronto subway and the first thing they ask each other, of course in Punjabi, “Where are you from?” That is often followed by the exact location of where they are from — Hoshyarpur, Ludhiana, Jallundhar, Lahore, Sialkot or Muridke, etc. One may be wearing a coloured turban, the other may be clean shaven like me, but their common language and heritage binds them together in a faraway land. The same goes for the Gujarati-speaking people from Surat or Karachi; they have a lot to share with one another. Mind you, mostly their discussion is about entrepreneurial ventures and rarely about their respective faiths. There is an unwritten rule that most sensible people follow in this world and the successful countries have adopted for their own strength: keep the divisive issue of religion out.

To say that the adoption of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 was the lethal injection to Pakistan’s cohesive fabric would be an understatement. Subsequently, the cracks within our Pakistan, based on language, sects, region, further augmented the argument that one cannot cobble an alliance solely based on a broad common faith. The separation of East Pakistan has been the nail in the coffin of our somewhat flawed ideology. The Bengalis were perturbed about unequal treatment and their long-standing economic woes. No matter how much we try to blame it on an ‘Indian conspiracy’, we cannot ignore our follies with our own Muslim brethren. We tend to overlook our own blunders and try to obfuscate. Remember, if there is a vacuum somewhere it is going to invite attention, because you have to feed the stomach first and provide hope for the future to elicit a favourable reaction. The faith can fill an empty soul, but an empty stomach is an entirely different story.

The 65 Year Old Infant Part 2

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: August 23, 2012
Original link:\08\23\story_23-8-2012_pg3_3

Before I continue with where I left off last week, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all who sent emails after reading the first installment. It was quite humbling to see how most minds think and interpret this event the way I do. Again, a heartfelt thanks to all and I hope to get this feedback consistently.

Let me clarify my position right off the bat. My expression is not a plea for reunification of all three parts of a fragmented India. It is solely to point out the inaccuracies, according to my interpretation. I am noacademic or historian. The researchers and academics can write books and papers, but in the end what really matters is how certain events and their aftermath actually affect people as a whole.

To say that the ‘Two Nation Theory’ is the basis for Pakistan and in the absence of it, Pakistan has no reason for its existence is nothing but a jingoistic rant. The flaw in that assumption is proved through multiple pieces of evidence. The overwhelming number of Muslims in present-day India was pointed out last week. If that ‘theory’ were accurate, there would have been a mass exodus from India post-partition. India would be an absolute Hindu populated country, with no minority in sight, let alone Muslims. Second, the theory assumes that Muslims are a unique breed of people, so unique that they are incapable of residing with any other non-Muslim group in harmony. Nothing can be further from the truth when it comes to this. Several hundreds of years of Muslim presence in India until 1947 along with other faiths is anothervalid testimony.

The mere fact that post-partition Muslims and Hindus live in harmony in all parts of the world where life takes them is another undeniable proof. Whether it is the Middle East, Europe, North America, the Far East, Australia or South Africa, you see us living and working together in concert with relative peace and prosperity, often characterised under a broad singular category of ‘Indians’ or ‘South Asians’. Therefore, to continue to argue that we are two nations and so dissimilar that we cannot coexist at all is, to say the least, very flawed.

Does this mean that the demand for Pakistan was wrong? Maybe, maybe not. The narrative that we are fed on the tube or textbooks begs some reasonable questioning. I touched on this in one of my previous write-ups as well. Allama Iqbal is glorified as the ‘great scholar’ who dreamt of this ‘independent state’ for Muslims. All I know is that Allama Sahib expired prior to the passing of what was known as the Lahore Resolution of 1940. Even in that resolution, the language indicates or hints at ‘sovereign states’ of Muslim majority. The plural ‘states’ indicates that Muslims were demanding autonomous states within India where Muslims held a valid majority.

The partition cannot be solely attributed to a declaration, which in essence did not even request any such action. We now call it Pakistan Resolution and somehow pretend that it was the real impetus behind our demand for a separate homeland. One does not need to be a scholar to realise that the Quaid, Mr Gandhi and Mr Nehru were definitely not on the same page with one another. There was undeniable friction between them. Add the chain of events post-Lahore Resolution, and at some point, it became what it was meant to be. Disagreements, power plays, betrayals and no reconciliation whatsoever led to the inevitable.

Undoubtedly, the Quaid was a determined individual. What he accomplished was nothing short of a miracle. The gaining of an entirely different country carved out of India was monumental and unbelievable. Yet one cannot deny that the term ‘Islam’ was ‘used’ to galvanise popular public support. Islam or Muslims in India were not being persecuted as a whole. The other argument of a ‘Muslim way of life’ being so incongruent with Hindus is only partially accurate. With the exception of faith, most of the customs of present-day Pakistanis are quite similar to their eastern neighbour. Mind you, six and a half decades later we are still relatively similar.

The Quaid was strong in his vision and convictions and felt that Muslims would always remain a minority in India. He was absolutely accurate on that count. He believed that Muslims would be marginalised in a united India. But the Quaid perhaps was overly optimistic about the relations of Muslims within their own community. Pakistan since its inception has proved that Muslim-on-Muslim violence has been a much greater threat than that between Muslims and non-Muslims. The present situation speaks volumes about the inability of Muslims to coexist with one another in harmony.

The atrocious and abhorrent violence at the time of partition has left such deep-rooted scars on our collective psyche that we are unable to erase them from our character. Look at what we did to our leaders and saviours, so to speak. Mr Gandhi, Mrs Indira Gandhi, Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Mujibur Rehman, Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto are just some names that come to mind. One can make a compelling argument that had the Quaid not been battling his terminal illness, he would have met a similar fate too. But a question about his stalled ambulance at Mauripur Road will always remain a mystery. This was the head of state, the person behind our great independence, struggling for his final moments. He was left helpless for hours, but why?

The 65 year Old Infant Part 1

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: August 16, 2012
Original link:\08\16\story_16-8-2012_pg3_3

A fair warning to some who tolerate my weekly gibberish, if you are sensitive to the truth, please move on and read something else in this esteemed publication. By skipping this write up, you will not hurt my feelings at all. By the time these lines will be read, the nation must have gone through its yearly high of the so-called patriotic fervor. The tube must have shown the sayings of the Quaid for the billionth time and the print media must have provided the special multi-coloured supplements highlighting the struggles of our elders to gain this promised land. Never mind on August 15th, it will be business as usual, those leaflets with tiny flags on the strings must be down on the ground by the ruthless wind and the supplements I mentioned, will perhaps become wrapping paper for the poor street vendors. Need I say any more, or does it seem to be clear as day, what the real issue is, with us.

Some of you will rush to judgment by calling me the usual names. I am old enough for that, so go right ahead. But every year, when this day comes, I am afraid my mind questions the reason why we are in such a state. To reflect in the past to discover the faults is the first step towards any possible correction. But to tuck everything under the rug and call it ‘patriotism’ by blatantly ignoring what went so terribly wrong is downright idiotic and the height of our collective ignorance. I know some will criticise and label a ‘non-resident’ like me to have no right over this land. Well, with them, I have always respectfully disagreed. A land that gives you birth and raises you will always remain yours, no matter where you end up, much like my grandmother, who till her last day kept on reminiscing about ‘her Amritsar’, while physically being in Rawalpindi. Her monumental struggle with her eight daughters to migrate from Amritsar to Lahore in 1947, without her husband, is another subject for another day. But who is responsible for the deaths of millions who lost their lives for no reason? Was it just because the boundary commission decided to draw lines on the land? Why were British so oblivious to the massacres that took place on both ends to form, the two so-called sovereign nations? Was it political expediency or the Great Britain was drained with war debts, that it just adopted the ‘cut and run’ policy and left a partitioned India in a total mess? Who in his right mind thought that transition and migration of millions from one land to the other would be like an annual vacation? The insanity that ensued and the worst form of barbaric acts that were committed to gain the so-called ‘independence’ cannot be just conveniently termed as ‘sacrifices’ to gain our motherland. With all the patriotic mumbo jumbo can people conveniently ignore many who lost almost everything, from their means of living to their family members to make it to this side?

I often laugh at people with profound sadness when they yell ‘corruption’ on the idiot box in this day and age. Let me take them back in time to remind them about this phenomenon and its real birth. Who was able to check all the claims that were filed in 1947 on property, whether those were valid or not? Who came up with the novel idea that people would be ‘honest to the core’ and all would be up and up in the promised land? Without proper verification or a vetting process in utter chaos, who felt that justice would be done to every migrant entering the ‘land of the pure’?

If the Two-Nation Theory was so right on the dot, then nothing can be more damning than the refusal of a significant number of Muslims to buy it. Why did a significant majority of Muslims decided to remain in India? One can attribute the usual conspirators and so on and so forth, but that is your usual textbook type excuse. Ponder on it more closely and without bias, you will see some very glaring cracks in that particular belief on this side of the border. Mind you, in 65 years the number of Muslims in India has surpassed those in Pakistan. Agreed not all is hunky dory and rosy for them on that side either, but they are an extremely significant majority. In 65 years, they have debunked our claims by their utmost perseverance. Often, we in our arrogance, call it the ‘sour grapes’ syndrome, but the reality, I am afraid, is to the contrary. As much as one may disagree with the narratives of Maulana Azad, but I am afraid he was on the money. The partition was actually a partition of ‘Muslims of India’, now divided in three different countries, with three different cultures and three different identities.

Those of you who will brand me as a ‘traitor’, and a paid agent of some foreign intelligence, please grow up for once. All I am trying to highlight are the undeniable facts. Ignore and obfuscate as much you like, but it only keeps you in the same state as you are presently in.

When The Barbs Fly

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: August 09, 2012
Original link:\08\09\story_9-8-2012_pg3_3

As they say, politics is not meant for the faint at heart. It is a dirty business and the ones who want to play the game, must be fully aware of the rules. The rules are pretty simple: there are none. When the election season is about to start, the opponents try their level best to test their combat skills, much like the exercises of troops, prior to being dispatched for war. This phenomenon is fairly common in many other countries as well. The idea is to discredit the opponent completely in front of the potential voters and in the end, just get to the finish line. Any and everything is considered fair game. Again, much like the real battlefield, its victory at all costs or nothing.

So recently when the ‘Aging Lion’s’ close aides tried to take out the ‘Angry-Middle-Aged Hero’, some of the folks were disappointed. To them it was the lowest of the lows. This scribe does not have any political affiliations with any of the existing players, incumbent or otherwise. But one was amazed to see such a reaction, as if one is a sacred cow and the other was an ugly villain. It was almost sacrilegious to point a finger at one, though he had the absolute right to point all 10 of his fingers at everyone else.

The nature of accusations was discussed at great length. The cubs were criticised heavily for heading into an arena that was supposedly considered a ‘no-go area’. Again one was amazed at that reaction. Why is anything considered a no-go area, in any case? The public has the right to know about any and everything related to any person who is a public figure; after all, it is the public’s donations that fund the organisation in question. Therefore, scrutiny is their due and appropriate right.

His often ultra-passionate followers, and I believe the middle-aged hero himself, used the ‘pity card’ for his rescue. It was a bit interesting to hear the logic. The logic was, that if any donor believed those baseless accusations and stopped funding, it would adversely impact the ongoing care of the patients. The question was raised as to who would be responsible for the condition of patients. Let me make something very clear: my heart goes out to people who receive care at that institution. May God Almighty give every single person a speedy and complete recovery. However, the question that emerges from this bout is that is this organisation not supposed to be well funded? Are the donors so childish or naïve that they take the word of the cubs at face value? Assuming all the evidence that the cubs were peddling is frivolous, then one should not have anything to fear. But let us assume if it is the other way around, then even in that case, not all donors are going to pull out. Perhaps a little bit of a dip for a few months and one sure hopes that an organisation of this stature has a contingency plan in place to meet any such challenges.

Inept, corrupt, gambler, money launderer, tax evader were some of the ‘honorary titles’ that were exchanged. To me it was sheer political jockeying. It was rather interesting to notice the threats of lawsuits as well. It proves one thing for sure that Pakistan is following in the footsteps of its major benefactor by turning itself into an equally litigious society. With thousands of pending cases for decades, the apex court is burdened with additional volume from all quarters. All and sundry want to head to that area, almost instantly now, bypassing every other level, just heading straight to the ‘Ultimate Hall of Justice’.

This scribe does not condone any of the tactics used by any of the players. It is rather evident that this is not the first time that such attacks have occurred and it would certainly not be the last. Actually, in a sense it is good for the public. The idea of transparency is always good and key for good governance. In one of my previous write ups I had highlighted that we tend to get carried away based on our ideological leanings. We tend to put our heroes on some sort of high and holy pedestal and absolutely refuse to view them from a human lens. All of us are fairly feeble individuals, with some flaw in us. It is almost natural. Therefore, to expect someone to be perfect and angelic is our gross national idiocy.

It is about time to overcome this perfection syndrome. We are perfect, our leaders are perfect, our goals are perfect and how dare someone point a finger at us. This line of thinking is old school in this age of information. If we spend valuable time in pretending or defending our favourites as flawless, in essence we are fooling ourselves. Let the barbs fly, let the dust settle. The truth eventually comes out no matter what. At least this exercise exposes the true colours of some. That is the bottom line. For that, emotions, egos and rhetoric has to be completely set aside and rational thinking applied at the ballot box. Even if it is not my favourite person, who will it be? It will be the one who will actually be able to deliver.

Oh Dear Cynicism Everywhere

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: August 2nd, 2012
Original Link:\08\02\story_2-8-2012_pg3_3

One of the many blessings of this blessed and holy month here is the ability to rekindle and bond with our community at special prayers. The highlight has always been the community Iftar on every Sunday. When all of us get together, all of us volunteer and do our bit. Our community is truly gifted with an extremely special leader who invigorates the masses with his wisdom, foresight, devotion and utter conviction. It is very rare that you find a community so diverse as ours, yet in so much harmony. Let us face it; we all bring the signature traits of home along with us and no matter how many years go by, our ancestral way of thinking remains relatively unaltered. Needless to say, our places of worship in many areas over here are a spitting image of what we see back home. Very sadly, ethnic, linguistic or sectarian politics plays its usually devastating role at our seminaries too. One wonders in amazement how a ‘House of God’ turns into a personal fiefdom of some and how some, regretfully, fool the congregation. Oh yes, the issues often stem from monetary disputes and a lack of accountability and so on. Perhaps that could be another subject for another day.

Mostly at our mosque, you run into educated professionals who volunteer for many activities and programmes. It is always enlightening to engage in conversations as it clears the thought process and helps one to understand one another a bit better. Despite the education, experience and the conditioning of the environment, there is a recurrent theme that one feels in the group. This includes me as well. The generation that left their homes in South Asia and some parts of the Middle or Far East is generally far more cynical as compared to their own offspring, the ones who are truly natural-born Americans.

One may argue that we have seen the worst in our neck of the woods, which makes us a bit edgy and hence cynicism is part of our conditioning. Though on the other hand, it makes us strive harder atwork to prove to our counterparts or colleagues that we are an extremely functional and productive breed. Often in this environment, one goes beyond the usual to impress upon the general populace that we come in peace and we are part and parcel of the fabric of this nation.

The bigger question is what makes us so cynical. Is it because we have seen our lands go through a lot of turmoil, where the rule of law was always sidelined? Where our parents went through so much struggle, just to put food on the table. Where there was so much disconnect between what people say and what people actually do. No wonder then, when you engage with most of the people back home, you hear the same echoes of cynicism and disbelief, over and over again. People do not trust one another and deception is the order of the day. The disillusioned masses seek someone to come from the wonderland and take their miseries away, knowing well that it only happens in stories that one reads or watches on the screen.

Therefore you engage us in any discussion, and we tend to bring in our religiosity one way or the other. We tend to prove to all and sundry that we are the best of the believers and we are the proud followers of the Prophet (PBUH). Then one wonders why there is so much chaos and disarray. That is what one may call a million dollar question. In other words, we must be lacking something that takes us to heights of such insecurities. The religious leaders blame this on the alienation from the ways of the Prophet (PBUH). It is debatable what truly is the way of the Prophet (PBUH). The so-called ‘vibrant’ and ‘objective’ electronic media feeds the ‘doom and gloom’ scenario very often. This literally sets the tone of a typical evening conversation between friends and relatives.

Someone at our congregation said something very powerful the other day. The power of change resides within you. What it truly means is if I want to change my life and live the way I should be living, then it all begins with me. People (myself included) tend to invent and create excuses about their inability to act. The path to success really is within our reach, provided we are honest with ourselves and committed to change.

Cynicism attracts cynicism and hence before you know it, almost the whole country is engulfed in this mess. This scribe truly believes that cynicism is an unhealthy trait in our case. At this rate and such hyper-negativity, we will not be a proud and successful nation. Come to think of it, this is a cynical statement as well. As they say, old heights die truly hard, at least in my case for sure.

The Darkest Knights Of Evil

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: July 26, 2012
Original Link:\07\26\story_26-7-2012_pg3_3

The darkness of a dark man in a dark movie theatre here in Colorado became glaringly obvious when he opened fire at unsuspecting spectators. To them, he felt like part of the show, for a moment. But soon they were shocked beyond their wildest imagination to witness the ‘darkest knight of evil’ among themselves. There were 12 dead, dozens wounded, multiple lives and families shattered. The debate on who, when, why and how rages on. The TV and radio talking heads, the print and electronic scribes will rip it apart for the next few days and then some other story will earn the glory to replace this maddening yet very tragic news. The Columbine massacre from the same state is still fresh in many minds. A high school, 13 years ago, in broad daylight saw a similar mayhem, and now this. The same questions are being asked: whether gun control is needed or not, whether Congress needs to take any decisive action or not, can the National Rifle Association allow any restrictive measures or not. All of this will be fiercely debated but at the end, as the citizens of the United States of America, we expect not much will happen. This fatal trend of ‘domestic terrorism’ will play itself out, repeatedly. The only change one will witness is the date, time and the venue.

One has to live here to understand the absurdity of certain quarters. People quote the Constitution left and right, and yes, as much as I disagree with their interpretation of its context, I have very little choice but to obey it. There is a huge and powerful lobby behind the right of citizens to bear firearms. Whether James Holmes could have been stopped by tighter gun or ammunition control, I cannot argue definitively. However, what begs a question is how someone can just load himself with so much firepower and walk into a movie theatre. That is the catch. All eyes and heads should be focused on prevention and security at movie theatres, malls, schools, ballparks and airports — for that matter, any place that holds a crowd. Ample measures should be in effect at places of entry to prevent such madness repeating itself.

The opponents of controls argue that loonies are loonies and they are everywhere. One cannot alter one’s lifestyle to that extent, as it will be in essence giving in to the fear of such characters. We heard the same lines post-9/11 too, that it was an attack on ‘our way of life’. It is a threat to the freedoms that most Americans enjoy. I disagreed with that simple assertion back then and I disagree with this simplistic explanation for such evil acts now. In my humble and perhaps, utterly flawed opinion, evil is just evil — without any race, colour, creed, national origin or religion.

Whether people like Timothy McVeigh bomb the Alfred P Murrough building in Oklahoma in 1995 or Ramzi Yousuf and his companions attempt to blast the World Trade Centre in 1993, to me both are evil. To me they represent no faith, no religion, no cause, no justification, no clarification and no basis. They are the real axis of evil. They represent nothing and have no leg to stand on. Whether it is Atta and his companions hijacking commercial planes to do the unthinkable or people seen around in our neck of the woods blowing others to pieces, all have one common denomination — dark and ugly evil.

What people fail to understand and often miss is the ‘American way of life’ is actually the ‘human way of life’. People around the world in many countries just do what all of us love to do. Play sports, enjoy art and movies, volunteer, congregate to pray or go to learning institutions. These are not only what can be singularly termed as ‘American freedoms’. These are more or less ‘universal freedoms’. All human beings strive to enjoy these tiny little joys that life has to offer. The characters that unleash their anger, disappointments and warped anxieties in the name of this or that neurosis, it does not matter who they are, where they are, what they are known as at birth. They are the darkest forces of evil. They are the worst of everything that life has to offer.

What these darkest knights of evil fail to realise is that not only many lives perish because of their acts, many more are impacted for life. The spouses who never get the comfort of their beloved partners, the children who are put on the path of emptiness, a sibling who can no longer relate to his or her family member and expect a shoulder for some much needed strength. All the scriptures, all the stories and movies, all the reality in front of us have proved one thing over and over again. There are only two sides, good or evil. We the people carry these within ourselves. We the people have the power to step out of the abyss of darkness and offer a ray of hope to one another. That ray of hope can be nothing more than a smile. A smile is all it takes to change this world. Just a simple act of smiling can alter the course of this entirely complex yet so simple a world.

Goodbye Piety Hello Hypocrisy

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: July 19, 2012
Original link:\07\19\story_19-7-2012_pg3_3

Well if you are ready for some heavy duty rotten attitude of some of the ‘real people of faith’, then you have a couple of more days to go. Here comes Ramazan, with all its fervour. The month when Almighty locks up the only devil and we the people try to fill in for his prolonged hibernation. Some of you will be muttering that here goes another ‘liberal’ trying to ridicule the holy month. By the grace of the Almighty, I am not a liberal according to your interpretation and my parents raised me in a fairly ‘conservative’ manner. Till this day and I sure hope, that until my final year, may the Almighty grant me the ability to fulfil my duty as an ultra-ordinary and a very sinful human being, in this holy month.

I have always been amazed about the disparity in the words and actions of my people. In a very simple sense, this month is a boot camp for all the believers to prepare them for the hardships and challenges in their lives. It gives us the opportunity to be thankful each day for all the blessings that the Almighty has showered on us, including but not limited to food and water. It is a month where we tend to continue our endless battles with temptation and sin, and try to listen to the inner voice of our souls. I am the least learned, but I feel that it is to purify the soul, atone for the sins of the past and condition ourselves for the remaining life.

However, when I see my brothers and sisters losing it or snapping at others for some real simple stuff, it just boggles my mind. Poor household help gets the worst treatment, especially in this month, just because their employers are starving. You dig deeper and they have the usual — you guessed it — their fasting as an excuse. Hmm...By the way, as much as I remember, patience is the virtue that brings us very close to God. Similarly, you see (myself included) us talking behind someone’s back, when we know that backbiting and that too while fasting, is a grave, a very grave sin. It pretty much whitewashes whatever good we may have earned while fasting in this holy month.

Then people have this sudden urge of being ultra-religious. You ask, and they start quoting the Holy Scripture or the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH). Never mind that they will go late to their work and use the tarawih, suhoor and the Fajr prayers as an excuse. Similarly, they will be in the office for a few hours and then take off at 4:00 pm because of course the prayers will be calling them home. One just wonders why people cannot pray either at the office or in a mosque close to the office. I thought it was one of the reasons why we parted ways with our friends down south back in 1947, so that we can practice our faith openly, without fear or pressure. But I digress.

As I said once before, Americans just get a bad rap for being materialistic and capitalistic for no reason. Check out the prices of edibles and other items in the holy month, and you will get an instant lesson in microeconomics. You pay the ‘surcharge’ perhaps three or four times the regular price on most of the items. The Eid shopping, not limited to clothing and shoes, can clear all your doubts that consumerism reigns supreme, and thrives in our Islamic Republic. The same goes for the livestock during the other Eid, perhaps at the skyrocketed and unfairly jacked up rates. We go bonkers over the term ‘interest’, but never realise that these inflated rates are quite ‘usurious’. But again I digress.

Then with the modern age, we have embraced the idea of ‘televangelists’ giving us sermons on what we ought to be doing in the holy month. Our pre-dawn meal and iftar are full of religious messages. So people are glued to their TVs as it is all good and use that as a leverage to seek the highest echelons of heavens. The televangelists give verdicts according to their interpretation of the Holy Scripture and narrate sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). One has to be totally naïve to take their word for it. The reason is plain and simple. I will repeat here once again. Heaven and Hell both belong to the Almighty. Only He has the say in either case. Without His mercy (regardless of our mountains of good), we cannot make it there. Until this day, I remember what I learned in my childhood. Never seek justice of the Almighty, just seek His mercy at all times. Because for Him to overlook my never-ending mounds of sin is not even a fraction of how long it takes me to blink. I know that despite my poor attempts, I will not even carry a tiny speck of good with me, except the hope of His mercy.

Meet The New Age Lincoln

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

I often feel a bit envious of someone we all know, and hear about every now and then. Well envious in the sense that it makes me wonder what is so special about what he has to offer in terms of talk that people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for his so-called lectures. The man is completely out of touch with ground realities back home, and continues to harp on old news and tries very hard to justify his coup of 1999. If your guess is our former chief executive/president, a former commando and the head of a political party that is on life support, Abraham ‘Musharraf’ Lincoln, then at least it tells me that you are fully awake while reading my weekly gibberish.

Our dear friend was back in the news again. He was at Aspen, Colorado’ s serene and scenic tourist resort town, attending a festival called the Aspen Festival, along with his family members. He tried convincing the audience that he was the new age ‘Lincoln’. Just like Lincoln, he had to unwillingly resort to an unconstitutional act to save his nation. He was referring to Lincoln’s suspension of haebas corpus in order to, perhaps, snatch people in the name of ‘national security’. The problem with this spin is that most of these people were supposedly shipped to foreign shores for interrogation. To Lincoln’s credit, for what it is worth, there is no such historical account. Don’t know much about the ‘captivated Aspenians’, but it was always an impossible buy for me. Or, if he was referring to his ‘emergency’ of November 2007, then I do not recall a civil war like the one Lincoln was facing in 1861, in our land. I am afraid I will not be able to alter my position, no matter what, even if the new age Lincoln offers a free lecture to me and then as a bonus adds his classical music renditions as well. Personally, I think he should spend more time perfecting his music skills, more than his political ones. That is one talent that he needs to embrace with all seriousness.

It was interesting to note that our ‘desi Lincoln’ made a reference that the people of Pakistan look to the military as a last resort. The event of October 12, 1999 is a completely different subject for another day. I am afraid I do not recall the people of Pakistan sending any SOS messages to our friend on that Colombo to Karachi flight that brought him to power. If saving one’s job by hook or by crook is considered as the voice of the people, then I disagree. Last week, I had touched on one of his predecessors too. General Zia’s takeover was sold to us as the people’s will too. Need I say more than that it was more of his own will, and very much so that his predecessors in uniform fulfilled their naked lust for power, calling it the voice of their people.

The fact of the matter is that we do not have any saviours. Expecting or labelling one, whether military or non-military, is the biggest disgrace to the human intelligence. Human beings are intelligent, regardless of their social strata. The men in khaki of the past have trampled the will of the people and made their way in. Is it me, or has someone noticed and felt this obsession of the khakis of ‘saving Pakistan’. It is their proxy in the political arena, toeing the line of their masters and chanting the same mantra over and over again. All of them very conveniently forget, overlook or pretend that in most armed conflicts, our valiant men have mostly brought shame to our name. When people like me bring this reality to the fore, we are often labelled as ‘sell-outs’, ‘traitors’ and ‘shameless’ and some other names, which cannot be penned here.

Interestingly or ironically, at the same venue was present another former general to give Mr Musharraf some company and perhaps some different perspective. It was General Stanley McChrystal of the US — a man much like Mr Musharraf who was relieved of his duties by an elected executive. Nevertheless, unlike Mr Musharraf, he was aware of his constitutional limits and gracefully accepted his boss’s decision. With its 236-year-old arduous journey, the US has gone through many upheavals and turmoil, but never in his wildest imagination could an American general think of what was heralded as Mr Musharraf’s ‘act of courage’. Very simply speaking, nations cannot be salvaged by dictators. Nations stand on the edifice of a constitution and its regard at all costs. Similarly, nations disintegrate and eventually perish if such crucial regard is compromised repeatedly.

The common cribbing one hears is that who needs the inept, corrupt and good for nothing politicians. I laugh this one off very often as the usual obfuscation of the khaki loyalists. People who have gone through some standardised testing would agree with the faulty logic. Just because some politicians are incapable and unworthy, to brand all politicians in the same category is illogical and inaccurate. Similarly, when this scribe refers to the khakis, his implication is solely towards the ones who disregard the constitutional supremacy and not the ones who offer their lives to keep this nation safe and secure — operating in many unimaginable posts, wearing a uniform, and following orders, so most of us can sleep at night. I will salute all of them, in awe and gratitude, perhaps until my last breath. There is not enough monetary compensation that one can shower on these selfless souls. These people of my land descend from the heights of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or hail from the remotest villages of Punjab — the ‘batmen’, the lance naiks, the subedars and the ordinary sipahis. These are the real heroes. These are the real defenders of the soil.

When people like our dear friend stand in front of the podiums on the world stage and open up the laundry list of the mean and ugly politicians of the land, they often tend to disregard something truly significant. They often disregard these real heroes, who become cannon fodder often due to their follies — be it the battlefields of Dhaka or the frozen posts of Kargil. Many of these brave souls in return do not see, witness or feel what it feels like playing a round of golf at some officers club or how a corner mansion overlooking the lush hills of the capital in some exclusive retired officers’ enclave makes one feel. I will leave you with this parting thought. The hardship and miseries of these poor souls cannot be squarely placed on the shoulders of the infamously corrupt and inept politicians, the ones who are kicked around every night, without fail, on the idiot box and perhaps every minute on the net.