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Imran Khan Gives Me Heartburn.

October 17, 2011

I can no longer deny that Imran Khan seems to be growing more and more popular by the day. People, who in the past would have laughed at his irrelevance, do not any longer. Some go as far as to even support him now.

I must say that I am quite surprised by this phenomenon. There has been no sudden change in tack by Imran Khan to cause this surge in support that we’re apparently seeing. His argument has, by and large, remained the same: 1) get rid of the corrupt politicians already in power, 2) cease all Pakistani support to the West’s war in Afghanistan , and 3) cease military activity against the various Jihadi outfits operating in FATA.

I can certainly rationalize why Imran Khan has grown more popular recently without changing his argument. The general populace is terribly war weary, and the economy has been in a slump that we seem unable to shake off. In all honesty, no war and a booming economy is an option anyone in their right mind would take.

Keeping the upsurge in popularity in mind, my thoughts on Imran Khan have changed from the dismissive, “He’ll never get it” to ”Alright, Imran Khan is Prime Minister. What’s the worst that could possibly happen?”

And it’s when I ask myself this question that I truly begin to get troubled. Remember how Rumsfeld once infamously said something about “known unknowns and unknown unknowns”? That’s about the same amount of confusion I get from Imran Khan.

Let’s start with Imran Khan’s associates over his political career. General Hamid Gul was an early adopter of Imran Khan. The man incidentally still quite proudly speaks of cobbling together the IJI; so that’s great company for a politician to be in. Another of Imran Khan’s close associates has been Shireen Mazari. In case you weren’t aware, Ms. Mazari had an altercation with an American gentleman in a restaurant and yelled, “Yankee, go home!” at him. This was because he had the temerity of brushing his chair against hers. Perfectly mentally stable character, that one.

While speaking of Imran Khan’s associates one must never forget the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Jamaat has stood by Imran through thick and thin. Except for that time when they had all that “Imran Khan is bringing the Jewish Lobby to Pakistan” business in 1996, and then when the Jamaat’s student wing had Imran Khan arrested for protesting against Musharraf. Friends like these.

I don’t know if any of these people are going to be in an Imran Khan government should that happen. However, I’d rather not take my chances with Foreign Minister Mazari. Thank you very much.

Another argument, which is tossed around often, is that Imran Khan has never been tried and therefore should be given a shot. Conceded. We haven’t. We also haven’t tried The Mazdoor Kissan Party, or the Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaaz, or the SSP really. Apparently, electoral politics is now a single-turn carousel that everyone gets to get on. [Save the military. Naturally, they run the carousel.]

What irks me most about Imran Khan is that I have no idea how he’s going to do anything that he has said that he’s going to do. His slogan for this campaign has been, “Tabdeeli Ka Nishaan, Imran Khan” (Imran Khan: The symbol of change). Yet, his politics or the ways that he has presented his politics are no different from that of the two major parties in Pakistan (the PPP and the PMLN). There is no clarity as to how anything will be achieved. If Imran Khan is going to run on a “Change” platform, thereby placing himself on a pedestal, I as a voter demand for him to display behavior that is uncommon among Pakistani politicians.

This entry is by no means meant as a defence of the sitting governments in Islamabad or Lahore. The fact that Imran Khan has managed to acquire the level of popularity that he has is a scathing indictment of their governance failures. However, I have a fairly clear idea of what I expect from them. I have a good idea that the PMLN will push forward with an aggressive trade agenda with India and will push back against the military (mainly due to Nawaz Sharif’s personal vendetta against the institution). With the PPP, I know that they’ll continue to pay lip service to nominally liberal clauses, will continue their alliance building / breaking politics, and will probably oversee greater devolution to the provinces.

Truly think about it for a minute. Do you have any idea what Imran Khan’s economic policies are? Or how he’ll work with India? What’s his relationship with the military going to be like? How would he manage a severance of ties with the United States or at the very least with the war? On what terms will he make peace with the Taliban?

Yes, he’s opened a hospital and a university and he’s perceived as being incredibly clean. But do you really know what he’s going to do with the country?

My true fear is that Imran Khan is the “pait mein daarhi” that some have been waiting for, for so long. And that’s not a great feeling to have when you’ve moved your question from “Oh he’s irrelevant let me laugh at his idiocy!” to “What if he does?”

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On Saleem Shahzad’s Brutal Murder and the Military

May 31, 2011

What can one even say about Saleem Shahzad’s brutal murder?

Shahzad was the Pakistan bureau chief of Asian Times Online and had recently authored a book entitled “Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11”. From what I’ve read of his work Shahzad provided unique insights on militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Insights some people clearly no longer wished to be revealed.

The last article he penned was on the attack on PNS Mehran. The article alleged significant Al Qaeda infiltration in the lower level ranks of the Pakistan Navy and spoke of direct negotiations between the Pakistan Navy and Al Qaeda’s 313 Brigade. Two days after publishing this report, Shahzad was abducted. Two days later his body was found in Mandi Bahauddin.

I did not know Shahzad personally, and therefore cannot speak in that regard. However, from what many people who do know him have said, he was an intelligent, charming, and kind person. One can only hope that his family may find some peace in these impossible times for them.

What I do know is that Shahzad’s murder is indicative of a military complex that is thrashing about. Unwilling to go down, it is more than happy to push the entire country over an abyss to safeguard its narrow institutional interests.

The warning signs were there all along that the military and the ISI were perfectly capable of such an act. Scores of Baloch journalists, politicians, and activists have turned up dead after disappearing for a short period of time. Anyone who has ever seen a picture of a Baloch murdered by the state apparatus knows of the tell tale signs of torture on the body. The same marks visible on Saleem Shahzad’s corpse.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Pakistanis paid little to no heed to the systematic repression and torture of the Baloch. A land considered too far removed from the palace intrigues of Islamabad or the road widening boxed thinking in Lahore. What’s that they say about chickens coming home to roost?

The Pakistani Military establishment has its interests – those interests are to enrich itself. You could say that the interests are wider, such as control over foreign and defence policy, control over internal security, etc. But truly, all these interests converge into a singular point where the army simply wants to maintain the maximum amount of power to himself. Because power is the road which leads you to riches.

Let’s not believe their hollow claims of sovereignty and “ghairat”. The way they define “ghairat” has nothing to do with personal dignity, and all to do with ensuring their survival as the hegemon in Pakistan. And any institution that kills Pakistanis, be they the Baloch or Saleem Shehzad, has no concept of what sovereignty means.

Ever since the 2nd of May, our military Lords and Masters have been on the back foot. Their response has been indignation. How else to explain the arrogance of Chief of Naval Staff Nauman Bashir in informing us that the brazen attack on PNS Mehran was “not a security failure”?

The ethos ingrained in our security high command is not “protect your people”, its “you can get away with anything.”

And if getting away with something requires the murder of the citizens you have sworn to protect; so be it.

Few things could be more repulsive.

PAF Spin Doctor

May 7, 2011
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It seems as though the military is taking the incompetence line and running with it.

According to this Hamid Mir report from The News today, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has apparently tried to deflect blame on its radars being jammed by the US at the time of the OBL raid.

Their excuse? The radars weren’t jammed – we just hadn’t switched them on. You really can’t make this shit up.

Since this news report was published this morning the Pakistan Air Force has issued a statement denying that the radars weren’t operational. Too late though. The damage has been done.

Quite clearly, the Pakistan Air Force and the military in general needs a better spin doctor. I would like to volunteer my services for this noble task. I will now present a list of excuses that would have flown better than the one actually used by the PAF.

1)   “You see, there is only one electric supply connection for both the PAF radars and the Presidency. President Zardari has made it entirely clear that his air conditioners must not go off at night or he’ll sack the entire Pakistan Military. As is clear, we had no choice but to keep the radars off to continue the defense of our great nation. Yes, we’re blaming the civilian government for our failures.”

2)   “It’s usually just considered good practice to switch all electronics off before leaving the room, wouldn’t you say?”

3)   “The Pakistan Air Force is acutely aware of the shortage of electricity in our nation. As part of the energy conservation movement launched by the sitting government we have decided to keep all radars off between 9 pm and 9 am. A replacement plan has been devised though. The Ruet-e-Hilal Committee has been hired all year long now to keep an eye on any intruding vehicles. Their ability to spot the moon for Eid is unmatched and we’re looking to bring this capacity into our national defense.”

4)   “It is with a very heart that we have to inform the nation that the individuals manning the radars all spontaneously combusted that night.”

5)   “The freedom afforded to the Pakistani media has allowed us to streamline our operations. Now we just keep our televisions on to see when the Geo and Express wallahs report on some incident. We then try and rush to the scene, but the rickshaws hired as part of the streamlining effort are often late. The tardiness of Rickshaw Wallahs is something we feel the entire nation can empathize with.”

6)    “No, no. They weren’t off, they weren’t jammed either. We identified an intrusion but the radars picked up a migratory pack of birds the other day. We scrambled our jets for nothing then. Fuel is terribly expensive, and we’re just trying to not increase the burden on the national exchequer.”

7)   “You know, sometimes there are things you just don’t need to fucking know.”

8)   “Our nuclear weapons are safe. No further questions.”

Exemplary Punishments for Exemplary Idiots

May 6, 2011
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Osama Bin Laden is dead.

In case you hadn’t heard.

Found in Abbotabad (or A-bought-aa-baad as many people who know how to pronounce the name Abbott insist on pronouncing it), killed by Navy SEALS in a 40 minute operation, and then buried at sea.

No matter how you cut it, though, there are serious questions that the Pakistan Military and the ISI need to answer.

Did they know OBL was in Abbottabad, a stone’s throw from Kakul? If they did, why wasn’t anything done? If they didn’t, what kind of sweeps were they doing in Abbottabad when higher ups from the military, including General K, would visit Kakul? Why has the ISI and the military been receiving such a large chunk of the budget if they were unable to find the most wanted man on earth so close to one of their haunts?

Did they know about the American operation to take out OBL? If they did, why are they pretending as though they didn’t? It’s not as though Al-Qaeda and its many allies aren’t targeting Pakistan and Pakistanis as is. If they didn’t, then should we understand that the much vaunted PakMil and Air Force allowed an invasion for nearly 90 minutes? And if so, we come back to the issue of the precious, and scarce, national resources the military consumes.

Therefore, they must be punished. Beyond the optimal punishment of firing General K, DG-ISI Pasha, and other upper brass, and slashing the budget, I would like to recommend a series of individual punishments for all the incompetents in charge of our national security.

Director General ISI, Ahmed Shuja Pasha

Dear DG ISI,

Your phone, all landlines and mobile devices, will be tapped for all eternity by the same incompetent ISI lowlies who tap our phones. Every single phone conversation you have will be interrupted by the Tony Soprano style deep nasal breathing and accidental button pushing sounds made by the guys who tap every other Pakistani’s phone.

You will be locked in a room with Ansar Abbasi for a minimum of five hours a day where you will provide him with information from “sources”. You will then have to proof read his articles so that none of us have to deal with the mangled language he believes to be English.

You will have to spend 24 continuous hours each week watching Hamid Mir, Orya Maqbool Jan, and Zaid Hamid talking up the ISI. Your eyelids will be kept open a la Clockwork Orange. There is no quicker way to get to hate the ISI, take it from a bloody civilian.

The Corps Commanders

Dear Corps Commanders,

Your membership to all golf clubs in the country will be immediately rescinded, including your precious Garrison Golf Courses. Your handicaps will also be made public so we can all point and laugh.

Your houses will be turned into public parks where civilians can come and go as they please. You will continue to live there, however, in a very limited portion of the estate. People will come and gawk at you and marvel at the once powerful species “Pakistan’s Lords and Masters.”

You will be lined up at Wagah daily at 6 pm where you will sing “Saare Jahaan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara” as a confidence building measure. The Poet of the East will be terribly proud.

Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani

Dear General K,

I hope you enjoy the shipment of Nicorette I have included in this package for you. We know how much you love your self-rolled cigarettes, but they are truly very bad for your health. So, chew on this.

As further punishment, you will have to join Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League. We know you know he’s insufferable. Now prepare to spend the rest of your life as his spokesperson.

The Pakistan Armed Forces

Civilian. Control.

Hurts, don’t it?

General K, We’re About To Have Some Words

May 1, 2011

General Ashfaq Kayani runs this country. Let’s not waffle about on this issue. The democratic regime is anemic at best and hapless at worst. What he says carries weight. People listen to him.

When General K says that the nation will not sacrifice its honour for prosperity, he’s expecting people to take it at face value. An unquestioning media will accept it as essential, and will let it lie.

Now, there’s no doubt that honour, or ‘ghairat’ is real. Living your life with dignity and honour is the right of the people of Pakistan. Having their decisions actually count is the right of the people of Pakistan. On that front, I have no issue with his comment.

Similarly, General K is not the first (and he’s unlikely to be the last) Pakistani political personality to make this statement. Rhetoric laden with national honour stretches all the way back to the Two Nation Theory and has been employed by all our rulers. As was pointed out to me on Twitter, the greatest example of honour-over-prosperity rhetoric is ZAB’s infamous “Even if we have to eat grass” speech.  It’s an essential, and cheap, political trope that excites people.

What is particularly egregious about this line of argument is that it somehow glorifies poverty, turning it into a virtue. Trying to convince the people of the country that toiling in subhuman conditions is a sacrifice they’re making to ensure that the nation remains honourable. It stakes the nation’s dignity at the cost of the individual Pakistani’s.

The fact that such rhetoric emanates from the military is particularly jarring for me. No single institution has sold out the nation’s “honour” for its own prosperity at the rate that the military has. And none has forced individual Pakistanis to live as undignified, fearful lives as it has.

The army has willingly taken on a mercenary role since the Soviet ‘Jihad’. It has willfully indoctrinated young boys to turn themselves into weapons; in the process snatching away sons from families that would have depended upon them to live a life of dignity in their old age.

The military has appropriated a larger and larger chunk of the national budget to buy itself fancy gadgets at the cost of expanding education and healthcare. Snatching from us the right to education and a healthy life.

And while they may talk of dismantling the feudal nizaam, they themselves have emerged as the largest landowner in Pakistan. Some dignity they’re affording us.

They’ve trampled on our vote time and again. They’ve murdered a Prime Minister through a kangaroo court. They have shown time and again that they care naught for the dignity of our vote.

They’ve treated Pakistanis as second class citizens simply due to their narrow definition of what ‘Pakistani’ is. Which for the uninitiated is basically “Love the army and listen to everything we say without fail.” A genocide in Bengal (yeah, let’s not sugarcoat it), and ongoing repression in Balochistan that barely makes it to our news channels.

In the meanwhile, we have our gleaming Defence Housing Authorities, and our vast Fauji Foundation industrial complex. It would appear that while we ensure the nation’s honour, someone is indeed getting prosperous.

So, General Kayani, allow me to be a little skeptical. Just a tiny bit skeptical when you ask me to forego prosperity for honour.

The Return of the Blog

April 30, 2011
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Anyone who has read my blog would know that what I try to do is point out how ridiculous some of the things we do in Pakistan are (try being the operative term here). There are attempts to inject humour into these situations and try to observe them as what they really are: astoundingly stupid.

Unfortunately, things stopped being funny (at least to me) some while back. It all started with the Taseer assassination. What followed, in terms of media and public reaction is, what I hope, the lowest point in our nation’s history. May we never sink to those depths again.

But the point I’m trying to make is that the lens through which I was viewing things changed. News articles started propping up on the death of liberalism in Pakistan (a patently strange idea, since liberalism had already been killed and was at the time of Taseer’s assassination already a zombie. Now it’s one of those zombies without a mandible that can’t even bite some unsuspecting asshole to transfer the zombie strain to them. That’s how pathetic we are now.)

The subsequent Shahbaz Bhatti assassination was my white flag moment. ‘They’ were on a marauding rampage, and nothing was being done to stop them. A new status quo had emerged, which can be summarized thus, “shut the fuck up chootiya kaafir.” Being both a chootiya and a kaafir I acquiesced. “Yes sir. May I tell you that your flowing beard looks particularly ravishing today, I hope you’ve been using the Katrina Kaif approved Pantene on it.” The response, I imagine, would be, “Why yes I am chootiya kaafir, thank you for noticing. Seen those Slice juice ads with her in them? We’re getting those banned soon.”

In the midst of my permanently bent over position where I was taking and loving it, this whole Raymond Davis saga exploded. Some fat ass decided he was going to Jason Bourne his way out of a double murder. Fat ass did not realize that a) he was a fat ass who doesn’t have parcour knowledge, and b) Lahore traffic is not amenable to car getaways. So, he got his ass landed in jail.

Suddenly, all we could talk about was diplomatic immunity and to borrow terms that I increasingly detest the “Ghairat Brigade” and “Middle Class Mentality” had begun salivating at the mouth. We got the Amreekan. He’s in jail now. We’re going to hang him and then have a big party.

And so out came the Ansars, and the Mirs The Saleem Bokharis, and the Orya Maqbools. Clasping their hands together and acting very Three Witches from Macbeth like. A bubbling cauldron in their middle (peppered with some Shan nihari masala I hope) prepared to slowly braise a Raymond Davis calf or thigh. A tandoor had been set up in the environs too, because White Man nihari without roghni naan is unthinkable. (Just ask those two Punjabi cannibals. Borderline blasphemous.)

But, out of nowhere and from the unlikeliest source, the humour came back. Our lords and masters in their starched uniforms, polished boots, and sometimes lathay-ka-shalwar-kurta-because-plain-clothes-are-important-too pulled the rug from under our Nihari preparers. Some cheered, other booed. I laughed. I laughed until my sides hurt. The same people so convinced that they were running the country came to learn of the status quo themselves. It can be summarized as thus, “Shut the fuck. And resize your britches. Your hips look enormous in those.”

And thus the humour returned, and everywhere I look I see ridiculousness. The PPP and the PMLQ’s waltz, the PMLN’s soiled panties at the sight of Imran Khan, Imran Khan and the MQM kissing and making up, Imran Khan leading massive (for him) political rallies.

Yes. Pakistan is back. It’s ridiculous again. Certainly, it’s also a very sad place still, if the Sakhi Sarwar attacks and the Supreme Court verdict on the Mukhtaran Mai case are anything to go by.

But the menace, the all encompassing menace.

I don’t feel it anymore.

And so, I shall return to the blog.

Thanks for listening. Now shut the fuck up chootiya kaafirs.

Best Cabinet Ever

February 5, 2011

Senior PPP Leader Jehangir Badar has informed the nation that President Zardari has allowed Prime Minister Gillani to dissolve the cabinet. Following this dissolution, I’m assuming (or at least hoping) that we’ll have a new one.

In my capacity as know-nothing nobody I’m going to make some serious recommendations for the various ministerial posts that effectively lie vacant. This will, undoubtedly, be the best cabinet ever.

Interior Minister

Job Description: Sheer incompetence.

Incumbent: Rehman Malik

Replacement: Babar Awan

Rehman Malik, he of the wondrous tie collection, has excelled at doing absolutely nothing, and when he has tried to do something it’s been useless.

Babar Awan, he of the wondrous two-tone beard, has excelled at doing absolute nothing, and when he has tried to do something it’s been useless.

Perfection.

Read more…