Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Job for the Chief?

There is some Pro-Wrestling outfit called the Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Apparently last Monday the HWA had six title bouts broadcast on some US television channel. Match 4 involved “Tracey Smothers w/ "Sugar" Shane Matthews & The Terrorist vs Matt Stryker”, whatever that mumbo-jumbo means.

I imagine it involved a bunch of assorted laughable goons shouting and screaming while pretending to be seriously involved in a wrestling bout. Anyway, cutting a long story short according to a
Website post-match report the following took place:

[A wrestler called] 'The Terrorist' unrolls a Pakistan flag and is about to sing the Pakistani national anthem. He tells the crowd that it's a long song and to not chant USA. "Call Me" by Blondie hits and McGuinness runs into the ring with a chair.
Ummm...well, after that what can you really say?

On second thoughts I suggest we send our Head Chowkidar pronto to Cincinnati where he can display the non-terrorist side of Pakistan and defend our ‘national interest’ by thumping this horrid unpatriotic ‘The Terrorist’ into submission and then by buying a ranch and settling there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mengal and the Red Baron

At noon last Sunday I dialled my radio to City 98 FM to listen to the ‘Red Baron’ interviewing Sardar Attaullah Mengal, one of the three Baloch sardars loathed by the Chowkidar in Islamabad

For those not familiar with the latest radio scene in Pakistan, let me tell you that recently there has been a mushrooming of FM stations. And the ‘Red Baron’ is a pseudonym that has been embraced by a well known local – and as your Blogger rigorously sticks to his own anonymity, it would be unfair to expect him to expose the Red Baron’s actual name.

Interspaced with lengthy bits of Balochi ballads, Kafis and other local music, the Red Baron interviewed the Mengal chief about his political life and his views on the current volatile situation in Balochistan.

Here is a gist of what Mengal said:

  • The Kalat State was never a legal part of British India, but in fact a ‘Treaty State’ similar in status to the Kingdom of Nepal. In 1947 the Khan of Kalat, after obtaining legal advice from constitutional lawyers, opted for independence (ironically one his earlier lawyers had been one Mohammed Ali Jinnah). In 1948 the state was amalgamated into Pakistan at gunpoint against the unanimously declared wishes of Kalat’s elected Assembly.
  • Unlike other nationalities in Pakistan, the people living in Balochistan have nothing to show for their 58 plus years as citizens of Pakistan.
  • There have been several insurgencies in Balochistan – 1948, 1957-8, 1962, 1973-5 and the latest ongoing one. So it is not as if Baloch resentment is a recent phenomenon.
  • After several years of quietude the Gwadar issue has set Baloch nationalism on fire once again. Why? Currently there 200,000 people living in the Gwadar area (and comparison was made with Karachi’s 1947 population of 350,000). The influx of new settlers will turn the people of Balochistan into a microscopic and politically powerless minority in their homeland.
  • The present political leadership of Balochistan had been inflicted upon the province through the machinations of Islamabad - by blatantly rigged elections favouring corrupt and ineffectual puppets. The only true power in Balochistan was the local Corps Commander and the ISI. It was they who told everyone what to do and what not to do, and everyone from the chief minister Jam Yusuf downwards obeyed their dictates.
  • Punjabi leaders – like Sheikh Rashid – have loudly declared that Pakistan’s economic future lies in Balochistan. Already a road is being constructed from Sindh’s Rato Dero to Gwadar, making way for a direct route from Punjab to Gwadar bypassing Karachi altogether. Islamabad’s priority is the economic interests of Punjab, with the other two provinces coming a distant second, and the people of Balochistan nowhere at all.
  • He (Mengal) and the other two vilified sardars were all for development and the mega-projects providing the benefit went to the people of the province. Right now it is clear that the future economic sovereignty of Balochistan will end up in the hands of outside settlers, hence the diehard opposition.

That is about where I had to finish listening to the interview as the traditional family Sunday lunch had to take precedence.

I must admit Sardar Mengal comes across more calm and straightforward than our squeaky-voiced and regularly haranguing Chowkidar. The other thing worth mentioning is that for once the normally voluble and verbose Red Baron was not only restrained in speech but appeared to be in complete agreement with his interviewee.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Burning Our House Down

Apart from the obvious outrage at the insulting cartoons, there are three likely strands to the violent demonstrations that we have witnessed all over Pakistan these past few days.

The Religious Parties
Using the pretext of anti-cartoon agitation the political parties from the religious right are attempting to harness public support and galvanize opinion against Musharraf and his military regime.

Their primary goal: 3 March 2006, the expected date of George W. Bush's planned visit to Pakistan.

With all the TV channels focused on rampaging mobs openly abusing Musharraf by calling him degrading names, the military regime’s standing in the public eye has been considerably damaged.

The Regime and its agencies
In recent years the military regime has often and quietly spurred on our ‘bearded’ elements to demonstrate and vent their rage in the streets. The idea behind this design is to demonstrate to the West that without the presence of Musharraf and his Khakis the country would rapidly descend to a state of mouth-frothing fundamentalism.

As I stated in a previous

In 2005 Musharraf's regime banned the protest rallies of journalists, feminists and members of the Pakistan People's Party, while it allowed the Mullahs to hold anti-American "million man marches" throughout the country. Bankrolling these groups serves the useful purpose of making the army internationally preferable by contrast.
Le Sans-Culottes
Our so-called post-9/11 economic turnaround has come at a tremendous cost to the lower income groups. While the GDP has improved, the Consumer price Index has soared, making many basic essentials frustratingly expensive for increasing millions. While the money-making Elites have made fortunes in the property and the share market, many more millions of Pakistanis have sunk below the absolute poverty line.

While the rich party (and immunize their guilty consciences by giving trifles to Eidi and other charities), the people are hurting. Forgetting the unfortunate unemployed for a moment, even many of the urban employed can no longer afford to feed their families adequately. Alarm bells should be ringing in Islamabad - but they aren't.

BBC noted:

Most of the public and private property attacked by the rioters cannot even remotely be linked to the cartoons.

The buildings burned in Lahore and Peshawar included cinemas, a theatre, banks, mobile phone outlets, fast food restaurants, the Punjab assembly building, petrol stations, music and video shops.

This wanton destruction can be read as a warning sign of the growing sense of alienation and depravation felt by the urban poor.

The violence unleashed in Lahore, the heartland of our Establishment, has rocked the regime. A sheepish Pervaiz Elahi admitted that official permission had been given to the demonstrators to take a rally out on the Mall because of its
noble cause’. The Musharraf regime undoubtedly now regrets the passive support it originally provided to the demonstrators (serves them bloody right for once again trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds).

In your Blogger’s opinion the Musharraf regime has been badly mauled by these street demonstrations.

Discredited in the public eye Musharraf may be, but the history of the Khaki republic of Pakistan clearly reveals to us that military dictators only topple when they are knifed in the back by their own uniformed 'supporters'.

There is no real sign of that yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Poor Shazia Khalid vs. A Sleazoid

A Baloch reader (Gedroshian) based in Muscat has informed your Blogger that the authorities have announced that Dr Shazia Khalid, the poor lady who got raped in the Army-guarded compound at Sui early last year, had been subjected to the brutal sexual assault by the local Bugti tribesmen and not by anyone else.

After some brief Googling I came across the following report from
Geo TV

Bugti tribesmen were involved in Dr. Shazia case: DCO
DERA BUGTI: Bugti tribesmen were allegedly involved in Dr. Shazia Khalid case, told DCO Dera Bugti, Abdus Samad Lasi here.Talking to Geo news, the DCO told that according to local reports, Bugti tribesmen allegedly involved in Dr. Shazia Khalid case were still absconding. He further told that among these absconders included a junior clerk, Saeed Suri of DCO office and several others. He said that the doctors of PPL and Captain Hammad were wrongly implicated in this case.
Interestingly enough Asma Jehangir, the much-admired Chairperson of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), who met with Shazia Khalid just prior to her hurried departure for UK, had this to say in this month’s Newsline magazine (February 2006 issue, p.43):

I met [Dr. Shazia Khalid] for an hour-and-a-half in Karachi but since I met her as her lawyer I cannot reveal much about that meeting. I can only repeat what she said in front of Mr. Iqbal Haider and Anis Haroon that ‘my mother prays for Mr. Bugti everyday’.
So do we believe what Shazia Khalid has to say or some hand-picked regime flunkey?

In view of the above facts, please don’t blame me for suggesting that DCO Dera Bugti Abdus Samad Lasi is nothing more than an agency-controlled sleazoid.

(For more details on the Shazia Khalid tragedy please see my earlier
Blog )


The Mobs and Musharraf

Television audiences in Pakistan, thanks to the plethora of local channels have, over the past few days, been subjected to sight of rampaging mobs venting their rage at Musharraf.

According to a Pathan viewer the Pushto language Khyber channel showed angry marchers yelling ‘Musharraf is a kuta’. It appears that in the brief TV clip the demonstrators managed to call Musharraf ‘a dog’ fifteen times over.

I cannot help but wonder what this sort of public display is going to do to Musharraf’s reputation in the Awam's eye? No much good I expect.

Friday, February 17, 2006


While one can accept the concept of freedom of speech being analogous to a religious creed in the Western democracies, it does not logically follow that such a freedom can be willfully used to denigrate the beliefs of other people – be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu et al.

Although Jyllands-Posten - a Danish right-wing Christian newspaper - by publishing offensive cartoons of Islam’s Prophet, has insisted that it was simply exercising its right of free expression, its past actions belie this claim.

As the
Guardian reports:

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of...cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

And according to an account in the
International Herald Tribune, Flemming Rose, editor of Jyllands-Posten the Danish editor behind the offensive cartoons said in an interview that:
[He] would not publish caricatures of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel strangling a Palestinian baby since such an image could be construed as racist.
Okay, cartoons of Christ were censored as they would ‘provoke an outcry’ and caricatures of Ariel Sharon suppressed because such images ‘could be construed as racist.’

So, it does become somewhat evident that Jyllands-Posten did not wish to afford Muslims the same deference that the newspaper was willing to provide to its Christian and Jewish readers. So, one can therefore reasonably infer that the cartoons were purposely published without least bothering about the sensibilities of the members of the Danish community of Muslims. Having looked at the statements and actions of the newspaper’s editorial staff chronologically over the past few months, I would go further and suggest that the gratuitous publication of the cartoons, in fact, were intended to humiliate the local Muslims.

While one can accept the fact that in Western Europe the governments have no control over its press; after all freedom of the press is one of the fundamental bastions of a modern democracy. But Denmark’s rightwing and stridently anti-immigrant PM Anders Rasmussen’s obduracy added fuel to an existing inflammatory situation.

Time magazine reported:
[T]he tempest might have remained a largely local dispute had Prime Minister Rasmussen not compounded the editors' intransigence by refusing to meet with the ambassadors of 11 Muslim countries to discuss the cartoon flap.
Rasmussen’s unusual behaviour even came in for criticism from his nearby colleague, the Swedish prime minister, who
Rasmussen has remained passive, "If I were him, I would say the government and the press have no right to humiliate and hurt people because of their religion."
In retrospect, if Jyllands-Posten had displayed less arrogance towards the rising Muslim protest and the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen shown some empathy, the contraversary may have been contained in the earlier stages. But both were playing to the public gallery - there has been a marked increase in anti-immigration sentiment among the Danes, particularly towards Muslim immigrants who are perceived by many locals as posing a threat to Danish culture.

And so, it becomes increasingly obvious that this issue is not really about a clash of cultures – i.e. the democratic concept of ‘freedom of expression’ vs. Islamic fundamentalism. Instead it is about a newspaper, carried away with jingoistic exuberance, deliberately seeking to insult members of a religious community under the pretext of press freedom.

Many western newspapers, believing the issue to be all about democratic freedoms, have injudiciously proceeded on a wrong course of action. To my mind the freedom of expression is a hallowed right of a free society, but in this instance it has been intentionally misused for malevolent purposes.

Free press, like other freedoms, comes with an obligation of exercising responsible judgment. Newspapers should have the complete freedom to speak out on any issue of their choice, but publications that deliberately seek to offend powerless minorities (Danish Muslims, in this case) do not further healthy debate nor advance the cause of freedom.

And finally, I would suggest that those who wish to demonstrate against the publication of these insulting cartoons have every right to do so – but peacefully. Resorting to unnecessary violence has no place in a civilized society.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Lying Poltroon

While Musharraf and his flunkies have repetitively denied the existence of any military action in Balochistan, reliable reports from the province have constantly undermined the hollowness of Islamabad’s position.

The latest to expose Musharraf’s lies is the
Washington Post.

Quoting US intelligence sources, the newspaper states that 6 army brigades plus 25,000 paramilitary forces (Frontier Corps) are currently waging war upon Pakistani civilians in Balochistan.

The article also reports that the military regime in Islamabad is using the 20 U.S.-supplied Cobra helicopter gunships and four squadrons of fighter planes, including U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter jets, which has resulted in 215 civilian dead and hundreds more wounded, many of them women and children.


Pakistan's Costly 'Other War'
By Selig S. Harrison- Washington Post -Wednesday,February 15, 2006; A21

The usual explanation for Pakistan's failure to go all-out against al Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Afghan frontier is that Gen. Pervez Musharraf's armed forces and intelligence services are riddled with Islamic extremists. But there is also another, equally disturbing, reason. Musharraf has increasingly been forced to divert ground forces and U.S.-supplied air power from the Afghan front and from Kashmir earthquake relief efforts to combat a bitter, little-noticed insurgency in his strategic southern coastal province of Baluchistan.

Musharraf's "other war" against the Baluch, an ethnic minority of 4.5 million, has become increasingly bloody in recent weeks. According to U.S. intelligence sources, six Pakistani army brigades, plus paramilitary forces totaling some 25,000 men, are battling Baluch Liberation Army guerrillas in the Kohlu mountains and surrounding areas. The independent Pakistan Human Rights Commission has reported "indiscriminate bombing and strafing" by 20 U.S.-supplied Cobra helicopter gunships and four squadrons of fighter planes, including U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter jets, resulting in 215 civilian dead and hundreds more wounded, many of them women and children.

Visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told human rights commission leaders recently that the Baluch conflict is an "internal matter" for Pakistan to resolve and that the United States has not raised the issue with Musharraf. This policy should be reversed, not only to stop the carnage but also because the United States has a major strategic stake in a peaceful accommodation between Islamabad and Baluch leaders. The administration should call on Musharraf to start negotiations immediately, and President Bush should keep up the pressure when he visits Islamabad in March.

Multiethnic Pakistan, dominated by the Punjabis, who control the army, is likely to become increasingly ungovernable in the absence of a political settlement with the Baluch. A continued military confrontation in Baluchistan could well intensify long-festering ethnic unrest in neighboring Sind and embolden various anti-Musharraf forces throughout Pakistan. Musharraf's ability to put adequate military resources into the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, already limited, would be further reduced, undermining U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

The strategic importance of Baluchistan has grown since China started building a port for Pakistan at the Baluch port of Gwadar, close to the Strait of Hormuz, with a projected 27 berths, enough for a major Pakistani naval base that could be used by Beijing. The Baluch ancestral homeland stretches west beyond Gwadar into adjacent Baluch-majority areas of eastern Iran, where there is a nascent Baluch rebellion against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran fears Baluch nationalism, but India is more ambivalent. New Delhi wants a stable Pakistan that will negotiate a peace settlement on Kashmir. At the same time, many Indian commentators appear happy to see Musharraf bogged down in Baluchistan and hope that the Baluch crisis will force him to ratchet down Pakistani support for Kashmiri Islamic extremist insurgents.

Musharraf has presented no evidence to back up his accusations that India is aiding the Baluch insurgents. But New Delhi did say on Dec. 27 that it is "watching with concern the spiraling military violence in Baluchistan" and called for political dialogue. Both Baluch and Sindhi leaders have often said that they would welcome Indian intervention to liberate them from Islamabad.

At present, most Baluch leaders do not call for independence. They are ready to settle for the provincial autonomy envisaged in the 1973 Pakistani constitution, which successive military regimes, including the present one, have nullified. What the Baluch, Sindhis and a third, more assimilated ethnic minority, the Pushtuns, want above all is an end to blatant economic discrimination by the dominant Punjabis. Most of Pakistan's natural resources are in Baluchistan, including natural gas, uranium, copper and potentially rich oil reserves, both onshore and offshore. Although 36 percent of the gas produced in Pakistan comes from the province, Baluchistan consumes only a fraction of its production because it is the most impoverished area of Pakistan. For decades, Punjabi-dominated central governments have denied Baluchistan a fair share of development funds and paid only 12 percent of the royalties due to the province for the gas produced there.

The Baluch were forcibly incorporated into Pakistan when it was created in 1947 and have subsequently staged two short-lived rebellions, in 1958 and 1962, as well as a protracted struggle from 1973 to 1977 that involved some 80,000 Pakistani troops and 55,000 Baluch tribesmen.

The big difference between earlier phases of the Baluch struggle and the present one is that Islamabad is no longer able to play off feuding tribes against each other and faces a unified nationalist movement. Another important difference is that the Baluch have a better-armed, more disciplined fighting force. Baluch leaders say that rich compatriots in the Persian Gulf are providing the money needed to buy weapons in the flourishing black market.

It is clear that a continuing Baluch insurgency would pose a major threat to the Musharraf regime and to U.S. interests in Pakistan. Future military and economic aid to Islamabad should clearly be withheld until Musharraf stops his military repression in Baluchistan and enters into serious negotiations with Baluch leaders. Once the present crisis is defused, the United States should launch a sustained effort to promote a process of democratization in Pakistan that gives long-overdue recognition to its multiethnic character.

The writer, former South Asia bureau chief of The Post, is the author of "In Afghanistan's Shadow," a study of Baluch nationalism. He is director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Toadyism, Shahbaz Sharif & the Family Chappell

Rewards for Loyal Toadies

In June 2005, when Musharraf went ballistic over a village woman - the hapless Mukhtaran Mai – and disallowed her from traveling abroad, his loyal toady Nelofar Bakhtiar (engaged as some sort of supposed advisor to the supposed prime minister) rushed to the press and fervently announced:

'All I want to say is that whatever decision the president took was the right one.'
Unable to pass the opportunity to eulogize this woman, I
commented (in my blog): 'This lady deserves the Victoria Cross for sycophancy above and beyond the call of sanity.'

Ms. Bakhtiar was undoubtedly aware that dynamic toadyism pays untold dividends in modern Pakistan. And so, not surprisingly, it was recently reported in the local press that Muslim League (Chumcha Group) has awarded a guaranteed senate ticket to this fearless female example of accomplished sycophancy.

Way to go, Senator Nelofar Bakhtiar!


Shahbaz Sharif Takes Leave of His Senses?

According to yesterday’s Daily Times

Shahbaz Sharif admitted that although he previously regarded ‘competence and ability’ as the most important qualities in a party member, he too was now beginning to agree with his brother’s emphasis on ‘loyalty’.
Hang on. Your Blogger can understand political ‘loyalty’ to a set of beliefs or principles, but unvarnished loyalty to any politician or political family reeks of pure ‘Badshah-ism’. Besides the only people who could profess loyalty to man with a revealed IQ that is even less than that of George W. Bush’s, would be those whose political self interest would be cloaked with bountiful sycophancy.

Since October 1999, those who could ditch the Sharif brothers and prosper did so. Most of other so-called ‘loyalists’ who didn’t abandon the Sharif family did so because they weren’t offered any significant positions by the military and were not terrorized by NAB for their past misdeeds.

What Shahbaz Sharif ought to have said is: ‘We need people with political integrity accompanied with a measure of competence’.

Someone should perhaps remind him that abject ‘loyalty’ and ‘ability’ rarely go hand in hand; on the other hand ‘competence’ and ‘integrity’ can be compatible.

I can’t help but wonder whether the word ‘integrity’ even exists in the Sharif brothers’ lexicon?

A Dim-Witted Australian Sheila

The three Chappell brothers – Ian, Greg and Trevor - have never been acknowledged for being superior cricketers in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, if anything, they have been known for the meanness, pettiness, at times, plain nastiness.

The eldest, Ian Chappell, notoriously changed the cricket’s chivalrous code for good. He is widely credited with starting the trend of not walking, even when the batsman knew he was out. Ian’s attitude was that it was the umpire's job to make the decision. As a result, he would stand his ground until the finger was raised, no matter how obvious the dismissal. Unfortunately the disease spread through the Australian team and then was caught eventually by all other international sides.

Then it was Greg Chappell, as the Aussie cricket captain in 1981, who told his brother Trevor Chappell to bowl underarm along the ground for the final delivery of an ODI against New Zealand. The action prevented tailender Brian McKechnie hitting the six runs required for a tie in the first match of the finals series.

And now we have the same Greg Chappell, as the Indian coach, irately complaining about Shoaib Akhtar’s deliveries shortly after India’s test series defeat in Pakistan. If he had wished to have been taken more seriously, he ought to have complained during the series and not after it was all over. No one can be blamed for assuming that it was a case of the usual Chappell ‘sour grapes’.

And now to cap it all, today I read the following on the
A half smoked cigar of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is the most precious memento that Judy, wife of Indian team coach Greg Chappell, is carrying from her Pakistan visit.
When Indians next meet Zimbabwe, I would suggest that Judy Chappell collect a similar trophy from Robert Mugabe, another celebrated third-world ‘democrat’. If she can’t collect Mugabe’s half-smoked cigar than perhaps she should settle for one of his oft used snot-covered handkerchiefs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Does Islam Support the Baloch?

Your Blogger is not by any means an expert on religon. It was only after someone mentioned the applicability of the Islamic notion of 'a just war' on the Balochistan situation, did I begin to surf the Net. During the search I came across the following piece of information from an Islamic Website:

Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause.

Yet another Islamic Website proclaimed:
In brief, Muslims were allowed to wage war only because they were oppressed and subjected to violence. To put it in another way, God granted permission for war only for defensive purposes.
In your Blogger's personal view - if the above interpretations are correct - then Islam would likely support the Baloch insurgency against the injust encroachments of a colonial-minded Islamabad.

Battle Tanks vs. Luxury cars

I just read a comment that maintains that there are more luxury cars in the Pakistan Army than tanks.

While I find this difficult to believe, I still can't help wondering what the actual ratio of luxury cars vs. tanks might be?

Can anyone help?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Some Advice for the Ex-PMs

In yesterday’s Daily Times Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi (a most reputable political and defence analyst) had some sensible advice for our erstwhile civilian leaders.

If the PPP and the PML-N want to work together to pressure the Musharraf government and move Pakistan towards democracy, they will have to learn from the 1988-1999 period. Regardless of Nawaz Sharif’s interpretation of the October 1999 military takeover, his policies contributed to the military’s return to power. In a bid to concentrate powers in his hands, Nawaz Sharif harassed the press and the opposition, weakened the parliament and undermined the Supreme Court and the presidency. However, his effort to subdue the military backfired. The moral of the story is that rulers — civilian and military — should avoid concentrating power at the expense of institutions. Power should be exercised within the limits of law and equity.

Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were intolerant of each other during 1988-1999. Whichever party was in power tried to undermine the opposition. The Nawaz Sharif government instituted court cases against Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. Are the two parties now willing to adopt a balanced approach towards each other?

In the past, both cultivated the military to strengthen themselves and appealed to the army chief to remove the adversary’s government. Political leaders should not seek strength through the army high command or ask military leaders to dislodge a civilian government. The military top brass are more inclined towards a coup if they know that a section of the political elite is willing to support them.

Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif should offer a political and socio-economic agenda that addresses the people’s problems. They need to articulate strategies for the growing economic disparities, alienation in the smaller provinces (especially Balochistan and the water storage issue), urban decay and deteriorating security and the democracy deficit.

The PPP and the PML-N should work to expand political space for themselves and force Pervez Musharraf out of office. They need to develop a clear vision of cooperation and a code of conduct to avoid past mistakes. They should agree to respect the basic norms of constitutionalism and the rule of law and desist from appealing to military commanders.

Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif claim to have learnt a lesson from their previous periods of misrule. The pertinent question for us is: Can we believe them?


With Musharraf facing the wrath of prominent US newspapers, combined with Benazir Bhutto’s recent high profile visit to Washington and the failure of the Pakistan Government to nail Asif Zardari in the Isle of Man case, Benazir’s star is momentarily in ascendant - much to the Head Chowkidar's discomfort.

Despite all the sudden spurt of nice things the Bush Administration is publicly saying about Musharraf, one suspects this is all part of a major covering up of a more private and subtle message - which is 'get your act together Mushie-boy'. After four and a bit years of putting up with our Head Chowkidar, Washington DC is close to reaching an exhaustion point in its patience with dealing with Musharraf - given old Fateh-Kargill's propensity for obsessive double-dealing.

The Empire, I believe, has begun to look at alternatives and has given him notice of its intentions. Unfortunately substitutes in Pakistan are hard to come by and that remains Mush's only source of continued survival.

So what has Musharraf done to protect his 'kursi'? Well according to today’s Daily Times he has sent ‘two high-ranking members of the military establishment’ to Dubai to meet with Ms Bhutto.

So the cat and mouse games begin anew…

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Past Chowkidars in History

For those who may not be overly familiar with the history of our previous Head Chowkidars, here is a brief potted history:

General Iskander Mirza
President Iskander Mirza - the 1st hijacker of constitutional government - imposed martial law on 7 October 1958 and was overthrown three weeks later by his own army chief, General Ayub Khan.

Subsequently, Mirza suffered a lonely life in exile, in a state of near-poverty, for eleven years before dying in London in 1969
. Sadly for him, even his body was denied burial in Pakistan by the Yahya Khan’s military government. It was finally laid to rest in Iran.

General Ayub Khan
After overthrowing President Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan strutted on the political stage for 11 years. Eventually the self-styled 'Field Marshal' was betrayed by his own chosen subordinate, General Yahya Khan, who deliberately undermined Ayub’s grip on power by depriving him of crucial army support during nationwide unrest in 1969.

After his dismissal Ayub Khan retired unceremoniously to his village near Abbotabad, where he died in 1974 as a lonely and near-forgotten man.

General Yahya Khan
Having achieved high power after betraying his mentor, Yahya Khan was destined to occupy the presidency for a short time. After a period of gross mismanagement of national affairs which resulted in deaths of tens of thousands of Pakistanis, a crippling war defeat at the hands of India and a catastrophic break up of Pakistan, Yahya Khan was booted out of power by his own officers (General Gul Hassan et al) who opted to replace him with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - ironically the only civilian Martial Law Administrator in modern world history. Bhutto immediately placed Yahya in detention.

After eight long years of a humiliatingly disgraced existence, Yahya died an uncelebrated death in August 1980.

General Zia-ul-Haq
In 1977 the meglomaniacal Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was turfed out of power by his hand-selected obsequious (and supposedly unthreatening) Army Chief Zia ul Haq.

After clinging onto power for over eleven long years this scheming charlatan was blown from out of the sky by his own officers. Rumours suggest that all that was recovered of Zia’s remains from the plane-crash site was a solitary jawbone.


From these histories one can notice three common factual threads emerging:

  1. Not one of these Chowkidars could stay in power indefinitely.
  2. In the end all of them were betrayed by their own uniformed subordinates.
  3. Once out of power, with the exception of Zia’s flaming exit, they all suffered sad and miserable ends.

I wonder, does Musharraf - our not so overly intelligent Fateh-Kargill - really think he can beat these historical odds?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Most Undiplomatic Scene

The above picture appeared in today’s Dawn with the following subtitle:
ISLAMABAD - February 7, 2006: Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri talks to his Cuban counterpart Felipe Perez Roque here on Tuesday.

Well, to your Blogger, with all the finger pointing and wagging going on, it looks to be a most ‘undiplomatic’ scene.

Here is my version of the imaginary conversation that might have gone on.

Kasuri to the Cubans:
I smoke bigger, better and more expensive cigars than Castro, your Communist Dictator.

Cuban FM to Kasuri: Hang on a moment - did you say 'Dictator
'? You mean SeƱor Castro, the Great Liberator and our people’s beloved Hero - you imbecile!

Cuban FM’s Aide to KasuriYou’re just a rich capitalist schmuck and anyway your wimpy dictator only smokes puny little cigarettes.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

'Aalim' the Lecher?

The latest Friday Times, in its Such Gup column, makes an amusing report headed Zalim Online on the incident already highlighted in my blog The Fraud Wins Again!

As it adds an interesting new wrinkle, it is worth retelling:

The followers of [Altaf Hussain] decreed that they would not stand for any, repeat any, tinted glass windows on vehicles in Karachi. They made the decree public via their usual authoritarian determination to stop cars with opaque windows...This carried on for a good few weeks until the [MQM] zealots happened to stop one of their own. Drawing the protesting driver to the curb, it dawned on the zealots that they had in fact apprehended their very own Zalim Online who was driving about Karachi with tinted windows and a very young woman cowering in the back seat…Needless to say, the campaign was dropped forthwith.
How is Aamir Liaquat Hussain going to explain away this kind of behaviour to his thousands of devout and devoted fans?

Fraudulent degrees, tinted windows and now consorting with young girls – I wonder what next for our ‘Religious’ superhero?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some Reflections on the Pakistani ‘Elite’

The urban Pakistani ‘Elite’ never ceases to astound me; at times, sadly more frequently than not, it is discomforting for me to realize that I’m a part of them.

It is not often that I get shocked these days, but it does happen and it did happen on the night of the Eid of ‘sacrificial slaughter’ a few weeks ago.

It was a largish dinner, a customary one given by the host twice a year on each and every Eid for family and friends – I was part of the latter. There was the usual smattering of the ‘Elite’; some old money, many businessmen, some senior executives from the MNCs and a solitary serving Brigadier (a family member). Being a celebratory family event, the ages ranged from 2 ½ year-old to about 75 years-old. One could say it was fairly representative gathering for a function of its nature.

As the evening wore on, among the men copious amounts of usquebeatha were being downed in characteristic local fashion and the resulting well-oiled vocal chords were soon in full flow. As a bi-annual decade-plus regular at these functions I was familiar with most, if not all, the other guests.

And I now intend to make a digression before coming back to the main point, so do bear with me.

At the dinner I could not help but notice the change in mindset this group of men had undergone over the past few years Five years ago their typical frame of mind, as the evening got further lubricated, would have been ‘All Hail Musharraf Our Savior’. About two years ago I began noticing that a bit of sideline sniping had begun against our Chowkidar-in-Chief. And now, by January 2006, these sporadic potshots had turned into a tidal wave of denunciations. On Eid night only two people were desperately attempting to defend our Chowkidar-in-Chief; one was a property developer, who has seen prices (and his profits) spiral by leaps and bounds since 9/11; the other, a son of an ‘Ayub Khan- period’ senior bureaucrat, who was known to have left the son two abiding legacies - an immense ill-gotten fortune and a hankering for ‘well-ordered’ military rule.

As for the change of attitude among the majority of the regular guests, I can only hazard a guess. While many of them had probably become inured to the state of rampant corruption and ill-governance (by the usual motley crew), they had, I suppose, misguidedly believed in the pledge of cleaning the Augean stables that Musharraf had made at the time of his coup. His obvious duplicity, I assume, has left a large degree of sourness among the urbanites.

Noticeably, a large part of the conversation revolved around the prodigious Khaki land grab that has taken and is still taking place – much mention was made of a Defence Housing Society stretching from ‘Lahore to Wagah’, Gwadar, Creek City, Karachi National Stadium et al. One can possibly conclude that this calculated seizure of huge wealth may seriously have jibed with the ‘Elite’s’ own money-spinning preoccupations.

Truth be told, these days, similar muttering can be found wherever one finds a gathering of the urban ‘Elite’ – whether it be at their clubs, at dinner parties or elsewhere. At the same time, as I have already mentioned, our urban ‘Elite’ is, first and foremost, only really interested in income-enhancing activities; they will moan and they will groan but will do little else. So, why should our senior Chowkidar be at all concerned with their opinions?


Now coming back to what shocked me.

Present at this very same Eid dinner was middle-aged, chief executive of a middle-ranking finance-type company. I don’t know about his schooling or university but he has joined the right clubs and moves around in the social circles that he probably wished to been a part of. Anyhow, late in the evening he ventured forth and sprouted the following viewpoint to a small group of seated men.

‘We should all be fed up with the way the West is treating us, it is all really unforgivable’, he reasoned before following it with a piece of abject lunacy. ‘What we should really do is give the same treatment to these wretched minorities – Christian, Hindus and Parsis -that we have got stuck with. These people are by and large anti-Pakistan anyway, so we ought it to ‘give it to them’ and then ‘biff them out of the country’.

Unable to keep silent I endeavored to civilly remind this bonehead that the white strip in Pakistan’s flag was meant to represent our minorities. But this man remained unperturbed and replied to me, ‘That flag represents 1947 and in 2006 we have to hold views in accordance with the realities of today’.

Then I tried to point his attention to the glaring fact that some, if not most of these so-called minorities (excluding perhaps the Parsis) had lived in ‘geographical’ Pakistan for several millenniums - unlike many of us. I even reminded him that as he declared himself to be a Syed, he was, by that token, historically an Arab and therefore technically an outsider. Furthermore I asked him: ‘Provide me with one good reason as to why anyone should boot out hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of this God-given soil who just happened to Christian, Hindus or Parsi?’

His resolute answer was, ‘Islam. This country was made for only us.’

Realizing it was pointless to further participate in this nonsensical drivel, I curtly informed him that what he had just said was ‘the brainless thing that I had heard in long time’. To my astonishment, rather than get incensed at my intentional insult, he looked at me more in sorrow than anything else. It was as if I had been the unintelligent one; the poor simpleton who had failed to recognize the level-headedness of his approach.

The real irony is that this individual happens to belong to the Shia community of Islam; Shias represent some 20% of Muslims in Pakistan and are in a clear minority to the majority -and increasingly aggressive - Sunnis (which happens to be the religious grouping I was born into).

It occurred to me that a numbskull – such as him – did not realize that once we start out booting out all minorities, his turn as a member of the minority Shia would eventually come one day. To take a brutishly extreme example, it is a bit like a Jew in 1933 Nazi Germany encouraging the new Hitlerian government to send all the communists, socialists, gypsies and other nonconformists to their deaths in concentration camps.

With a fixed mindset such as his, my arguing any further would have been a complete waste of time. So I gave up and instead walked away from him and those patiently bearing up with his load of twaddle.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

All Hail 'Uncle' Bob !

Pakistan has always had cricketing talent in surplus, but for years our national side had been bedeviled with bickering, ruinous egos and a series of hopelessly inept management teams.

Under the reign of Musharraf-appointed Gen. Tauqir Zia Pakistani cricket managed to reach its nadir. For four long years our national side was in a constant state of upheaval - captains, batsmen, bowlers, managers, coaches and selectors seemingly came and went at the drop of a hat without any offered explanation. In return, all the public ever got was a litany of empty promises and a spectacle of a national sporting humiliation at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

Gen. Tauqir Zia, who was prone to issuing magisterial commands, created a stultifying atmosphere at the PCB. The organisation became rife with sycophancy, favouritism (even Zia’s son - the general jr.- found himself elevated to the national side) and petty egotistic rivalries. Little effort was made to build team solidarity and public spats between captains and players were commonplace. This was further exacerbated by bitter feuds between various members of the team’s administration, which were carried out in our daily newspapers.

Whatever Zia’s hidden talents may have been, as the head of the PCB he proved to be singularly incompetent.

Then there was another critical problem – our prima donnas. Due to lack of proper management control many of the leading players had developed grandiosely inflated egos. Not only were they prone to throwing selfish tantrums and indulging in factional infighting but many of them had resorted to making money through illegal match fixing.

Clearly the basic requirements to produce a match winning team - such as determination, confidence, discipline and the all-important sense of team spirit - were palpably missing.

Tauqir Zia’s replacement as PCB chairman was Shehryar Khan, well-known for being upright, honest and decent, who brought in Bob Woolmer as coach, amidst howls of indignation from leading cricket personalities such as Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Sarfaraz Nawaz et al.

In a space of just over a year Woolmer has welded a Pakistan side imbued with an astonishingly strong bond of solidarity, team spirit and visible harmony among our players. We have always had talent in buckets but possibly for the first time we have a real TEAM.

Okay, Inzamam has also done a superb job in uniting the team under his captaincy, but I would maintain that it is only during Woolmer’s care could a straightforward individual, such as Inzamam, have been allowed to rise to his full potential. Why? In Woolmer’s absence the usual rules of sycophancy and favouritism would have applied - traits which I suspect are not Inzamam’s strongest suit and as a consequence he would never have been allowed free reign as a captain, even if he had been appointed as one.

To hear a former supreme egoist such as Shoaib Akhtar publicly putting his team first in each and every one of his interviews is a sight for sore eyes. And the noticeable displays of team camaraderie – as each team members cheers and supports the other – are all too unique for a Pakistani side.

And now having watched our team convincingly beat both the English and Indian sides all I can say is that we now have the makings of a world beating side that has the clear potential to beat Australia.

It is time to give credit where credit is due: Well done Bob!