From Pakistan, With Love

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So Pakistan and Bangladesh faced each other in the Asia Cup Final and Pakistan managed to grab the victory by only 2 runs. Our nation is ecstatic and rightly so; we won this cup after 12 long years.

Yesterday, while I was flipping through the television channels, I heard some cricket expert state that it’s going to be for the first time in the history of cricket, that two Muslim countries are to face each other ever in the final of a big series. And I silently condemned him for mixing religion with sport and deemed it totally pointless and irrelevant to mention that fact.

Today, as the match progressed and reached its most crucial stage at the end, I saw the whole crowd of Bangladesh praying desperately and then I saw the people of my own country supplicating with equal anxiety. A rather strange thought crossed my mind: two nations,collectively invoking the same God, in the same way, begging for two totally opposite outcomes, I wondered if God loves us enough as a nation to favor our prayers more.

It turned out that we won. Our moments of collective pride and jubilation are indeed rare and I wish to thank Allah for giving us a reason to rejoice as a nation.

As far as my personal opinion about Bangladesh is concerned, I have never felt the general acrimony against Bangladesh as I would normally feel towards any other opponent in cricket. Now consider my behavior as inappropriate, because I decide to bring history into sports, but all I feel towards Bangladesh is a sort of affiliation covered by a feeling of remorse. Bangladesh could still have been a part of Pakistan, if we never treated them like a colony. Despite the fact that Bengalis were essentially the most prominent figures in the Movement for Pakistan (in fact even Muslim League was established in Dhaka in 1906), we shamelessly kept them deprived economically, politically and socially and to make matters worse, the rigid, condescending behavior of our politicians alienated them even further. Then our fat, flabby generals decided to hit the last nail in the coffin by launching a brutal, military operation that ended up perpetrating unspeakable atrocities. For further references to the moral lapses, see Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission Report of 1971. Anyway, in short, all I believe that Bangladesh deserves from us is a little confession and a huge apology.

See, I digressed.

My point is that I support Bangladesh in every match except if it’s against Pakistan. Me sense of being a Pakistani weighs more than the general affection that I feel for Bangladesh. Although I very well realize, that we are to Bangladesh what India is to us. I imagine that the history textbooks in schools in Bangladesh must portray us as the dirty, evil villains of their past. I am sure they hate us. And they have a right to.

As Pakistan bagged the win after a nail biting last over, I was exceptionally happy to see the people of my country rejuvenating their pride in being Pakistanis. It was equally heart-wrenching to see the faces of Shakib-al-Hassan, Mushfiq-ur-Rehman and other Bengalis players streamed with tears of disappointment, weeping, hugging and comforting each other. For a moment I found myself wishing that the pharaohs from our past hadn’t just dissected the country up. I felt sorry but I knew I would never trade it with the celebration and contentment I see across my streets because the people of my land need reasons to be united more than anyone else does.

A few months back I watched a report on television, that claimed that recently the London School of Economics conducted a survey to determine which country’s people are the happiest people on the planet. It was found out Bangladesh topped the list. I am not sure how accurate that survey might be, but it surely declared Bengalis as the happiest nation around the globe. I do not exactly recall where did Pakistan stand in the list but I have a hazy idea that it was somewhere around in the 30s or 40s. The grief-stricken, oppressed people of my country also deserve to be happy someday. You, my dear brothers, are a happy, progressing state anyway.

So Bangladesh, you guys played exceptionally well. And I want to thank you from the core of my heart for knocking India out of the series, for emerging as a tough opponent, turning the final into an interesting nail biting game and fighting hard enough not to make Pakistan’s victory look like a one-sided piece of cake, and for establishing a general example for everyone that anything small and weak is capable of rising to be mighty. Nobody is going to underestimate you ever again and that is your victory. I wish you all the very best for all your future cricket encounters.

I respect you Bangladesh.

But I love to see Pakistan win.

P.S. (added after 4 days) Now when your pleas to reverse the final on the basis of stupid allegations are sprouting all over the place, I might want to withdraw some of the respect and affection that I showered upon you earlier. Accept the defeat with dignity at least and stop whining like babies. Thanks.

An Open Letter to Mr. President

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Dear Mr. President,

With all respect which I doubt that you deserve, I may state that I have a few massive concerns related to you and your recent address to the Joint Sitting of the Parliament that I seriously need to get across. I very well realize that your disregard towards general public opinion is brazen enough to render any expression useless.

But oh well, just for the sake of my own catharsis!

I recently had the chance to listen to your presidential address in which you nicely tried to present a beautiful rosy picture of our country, and maintained that all credit of this imaginary prosperity must go to your excellent governance. You also attempted to dub the longest tenure of an elected government as your giant achievement. I apologize if I disillusion any of the fantasies that you’ve created in your head, but I must emphasize on the fact that your government, more than yours, is the success of the patience of the people of Pakistan who have always shown incredible resilience in the face of adversity and disaster.

A few words also, on the way you proceeded with your address: I remember when we were in school, and any of our teachers would just mechanically read off from the book during her lecture; our faith in her grip over the subject would immediately erode away with dozing off as the only option left. I mean, I acknowledge the fact that the only steps you lay on Pakistani soil are mostly from your home to your helicopter that transports you to the airport. I sympathize with you that most of your days are spent abroad because your foreign assets need supervision and you are unable to overcome the alienation that you possess towards the people and the problems of this country. But I strongly urge you to at least prepare well for your extremely rare public appearances, because reading off the whole speech, keeping your eyes affixed on the script just doesn’t emanate the right kind of signals.

In the start, I was fooled into believing that you’re up to making some sort of important announcement, but it took me only moments to decide that there was nothing more to it except for the broadcasting of the accomplishments that never took place. Whoever was bestowed with the challenge of writing the presidential address was either amblyopic or under a serious dearth of resources, unable to factually present the bigger picture. For instance, the Benazir Income Support Program was touched upon; the inadequacies of it, were not. Neither was there any mention of the scam the program recently turned out to be. You claimed to have taken measures to appease the Balochistan crisis, but you failed to then justify where exactly on ground those measures are, and why are they unable to assuage the rage and the separationist elements boiling forth more than ever in Balochistan lately. You also made a rather surprising revelation about the sincere commitment of your government towards the goal of electricity production and asserted that you were successful in generating 33 million additional watts and more is work under progress. Excuse my curiosity Mr. President, but might you also reveal where exactly are you hiding all those extra million watts because, at present, the most torturous and the longest unscheduled bouts of loadshedding render your assertions just so hollow.

I realize that the undisrupted supply of electricity that you have ensured for yourself and your family financed mainly by our blood and taxes does not leave you in a position to understand the plight of a common man who suffers at the hand of power outages. But if I may remind you I am not talking about my own selfish concerns. Although God knows, how exceedingly annoying it is to be disrupted and how loadshedding has turned a normal human being into a factory of rage and curse. But most importantly, I dismay upon the state of stagnation and inactivity in the industry that lead to losses, unemployment and a wretched state of misery. Your golden statistics and extra million watts on paper are not enough to wipe that out.

I digress, but I might as well add that I was impressed to see with what reverence your cronies, yes-men, and beneficiaries were absorbing the sacred words coming out of your mouth. I mean they were all ears and I was surprised by the enormous human capacity at work to contain a plethora of blatant lies. Only if you had also talked about the corruption, incompetence, mismanagement and plunder carried out by these associates of yours.

The larger part of your address was dedicated to imparting the economic accomplishments of your government. You made it sound so utopic and prosperous that I assumed you had forgotten you were talking about Pakistan. I do not understand why all the relief efforts that you enlisted have failed to pull 50% of Pakistanis living below the poverty line any higher. And why so then Pakistanranks so low on the Human Development Index (fell from 125th in 2010 to 145th country in 2011) after all your tireless efforts to elevate the poor.

I wish to add that being an economics student, thinking in terms of economics has become sort of my habit and therefore I am in full position to identify the distortions and incomplete, manipulated pieces of statistics that you promulgated to establish your desired viewpoint. To count a few, you proudly announced that you raised the salaries of the government employees by 125% over the past four years. A person only needs to be college educated to debunk the myth of the efficacy of a nominal wage increase. But ah my memory! I keep forgetting that you did not really meet the criteria required for holding public office, which requires a college degree and chief justice Hameed Dogar had to relax and lower the qualification standards to allow you to become the president of Pakistan and hence you acquired your dream job with little education and hardly the intellectual depth deemed necessary for it. So, may I assist you a little? If you raise the nominal salaries and the inflation is rising at an even a higher rate, and the prices of basic necessities, food, fuel, education and medicine are skyrocketing, the benefits in real terms of any such measure are then reduced to almost zilch. The people are not better off in terms of their purchasing power and standards of living and you sadly failed to account for that.

Moreover, you also confidently asserted that exports under your tenure have reached a proud figure of $2.5 billion. Now I must praise, what a smart, smart move. What a skewed display of facts to mention the exports without having to say a word about the imports and the bigger picture known as the trade balance. Only if you had also mentioned that that imports have also crossed the figure of $5 billion which results in a negative trade balance. Concealing the truth in order to distort things is technically a lie.

And foreign debts?

I assume you might have forgotten to mention the foreign debts because the appalling figure related to them isn’t that petty a thing to be otherwise overlooked so easily: That the total foreign debts over the last four years have exceeded the overall sum of debts incurred over the past fifty years. The people of this country reserve the right to know that half their sweat and blood is being used to service these huge, mysterious foreign debts. The people must also need to know that under the façade of progressive taxation, they are being subject to repressive taxing, because big shots like you and your associates are essentially tax evaders and the whole burden falls on the shoulders of a common man in the form of oppressively increasing indirect sales taxes.

I am unhappy because the former dictator Musharraf dubs his economic policy as his major success despite the fact that it was dominantly consumption-based, supply-side, and essentially myopic. But yours is worse and is an incomparable malfunction leading the former to mistakenly believe himself as the only savior of the nation at this point of crisis while the country just cannot afford more mess.

Evil deeds are bad, but evil deeds along with a sense of self complacency are a disaster.

You seem to hold a lot on to the rhetoric of democracy. “We are proud of our young democracy” is what you stated in your address. Correct me if I am wrong but in your lexicon of political jargon, is ‘democracy’ listed as a term to describe the concentration of all power in the hands of one individual who can use the parliament as a rubber stamp? Or is democracy a legitimizing banner under which you can carry out all plunder peacefully? It seems so. Because the facts suggest that your practices are indeed far from the true essence of democracy. You brought your sisters in the parliament and allotted key positions to your favorite people in your party and government. Those who dared to disagree with you had to suffer the fate of marginalization from the mainstream. And I had been thinking all my life that democracy is all about consensus and elections at every level.

So basically, after recounting this all, I wish to also recall Abraham Lincoln’s words that you cannot fool all the people all of the time.

I realize that Pakistan has mostly been unfortunate in terms of the leaders it has acquired but some are classified as more unscrupulously obstinate than the rest. And it’s a total pity when a man allegedly involved in corruption, bribery, graft, blackmail, kidnapping and even murder is hauled into the office of the President, thanks to the assistance of a dictator and the intervention of a superpower. I am sure you can empathize with my sorrow over this series of misfortunes. But as your governance term is coming to its close, the best you can do at the end is to abdicate your presidential responsibilities peacefully without any theatrics and ensure to carry free and fair elections. I may add that sweeping your glance over the history of Pakistan should be enough to realize that most leaders let go the throne either by death or disgrace, or both. Faiz has beautifully portrayed in the verses that describe the inevitable day on which all crowns will be tossed in the air and all thrones will be smashed. Excuse my superstitiously medieval thinking but on the day of your address, when your chair hurled back and came down falling to the ground, it just rang like a bad omen in my mind and reminded me of the very same Faiz’s verses.

You, your associates and fellows might have ended up as multi-billionaires at the cost of the impoverishment of millions and have successfully deterred our faith in humanity, but a faith in the retribution of a higher power just keeps us all going. I wonder when will we all learn to learn and learn to care?

Regards,

A Concerned Pakistani

‘Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;

Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.’

Cricket is Hope.

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There are a number of factors that could generally be considered as cohesive forces that can serve to unite a nation. Religion, in our case, isn’t one of them. As much as we are indoctrinated to believe that Islam was the key propelling force that led to the creation of this state, I fail to see religion as a uniting force for our people. Even if I put aside the oppression and neglect that we uphold towards our minorities for a while, and solely focus on the Muslims of the Land of the Pure, the sight is not a pleasant one to behold. There is a constant state of battle in which every sect is insistent to declare the rest as repulsive infidels and deem their own selves as the true believers. We are a country in which two sects won’t break their fast on the same time just to maintain their differences, where one province always mysteriously sights the Eid moon one day before the others and even the celebration of the biggest religious festival is not uniformly observed across the country.

Political ideology doesn’t count as one of the uniting umbrellas for us either. There would be a man whose sense of patriotism would stand unquestioned among all, after the glorious moments of pride he earned for the country; whose humanitarian works would lead us to classify him as a quintessence of benevolence. But the moment he descends onto the muddy path of politics, suddenly a league of skeptics would erupt amongst us and begin questioning his motives and doubting his abilities to ever be able to achieve any political success. The instant he begins drawing incredibly large crowds, stirring them into sparks of passion and awareness, a concurrent surge of smear campaigners will also rise, who, in their disgruntled desire to sound like uniquely and autonomously opinionated intellectuals, will manufacture and propagate flaws and apprehensions to breed neuroticism and pessimism among the people who dared to hope for the better. In short, it seems highly unlikely that we ever unanimously decide to gather under a political canopy for there will always be the fads and the haters. Cynicism has become our national character.

Unity seems to elude us in almost every sphere of life. A highly intolerantly polarized society as we are: some are liberal ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ trash in the eyes of others, while others deem some as despicable fundamentalist extremists. The wall of antagonism between the rich and the poor is also mounting for there is discontentment on one side and contempt on the other. There is a divided opinion on almost every issue faced by our country. The disunity erupts into its most gory form of ethnic hatred and intolerance, which is evident in the ethnic violence and targeted killings in Karachi.

The founder of our motherland advised we must adhere to the three ingredients required for the making of a strong and successful nation; unity was one of them. I feel sad because I imagine that looking at us must cause his soul much deep anguish. My quest for a reasonable source of national unity could have ended in despair, pushing me down further in the abyss of hopelessness if there wasn’t one glimmer of hope to cling on to: Cricket. For me it’s not just a sport, it is a reason to hope.

If any of you ever had a rejuvenating experience to witness any public screening event of the cricket matches of Pakistan, or had ever come across any sort of celebration on the streets after a huge victory, you would probably agree with me when I say that cricket is an incredible cohesive force that merges all our nation into a single entity, giving them all a similar reason to rejoice, converging all their dreams onto a single point, all lips seen uttering the same prayer. Leaving aside the tiny number of Pakistanis whose existence is sad enough to render them indifferent to the sport of Cricket, there are basically two broad types of green supporters: those who submit their unconditional love and support for the green shirts, no matter how they perform, and those who enrage and censure their very heroes when they fail to fulfill their expectations. This is much analogous to a mother slapping her child after he failed his final exam. She reprimands him for she is hurt because she expected her child to do better. The underlying sentiment for both the types is more or less the same. The amount of passion and unity at display during the cricketing season is beyond any comparison; the same across the rich and the poor, the same regardless of any religious dispositions or political affiliations. And especially the anticipation of a match with the ‘rawayti hareef’ brings our nation even closer. No matter how many talks of trade that we carry out, or what sorts of ‘aman ki ashaa(yain)’ we generate, we cannot deny the fact that an encounter with India in the cricket field will always translate into a war. And to be honest, I do not mind any bloodthirsty energy as long as it is enough to engender solidarity amongst us. We are a nation hungry for a few moments of pride and cricket is a season of hope for us. Cricket is our rare source of unity and let us just vow not to abandon this unity under either victory or defeat because positive nations do not just disown their assets under changing circumstances. There will always be fluctuating moments of triumphant pride and unfortunate disappointments but the factor of unity must remain a constant. No matter what the outcome turns out to be, let us just seek comfort in the fact that for once, we were one. Let us just not give up the only kind of unity that we possess.

These Uncouth Politicians

I remember when I was in kindergarten and prep, my teachers at school ensured a great deal to foster the correct social conduct and mannerly behavior among all children. In particular, we were repeatedly reminded to bear in mind the precise rules to carry out sophisticated, polite conversations with our elders as well as our fellow kids. The rules were plain and simple: harsh tone and abusive language are considered uneducated, rudeness is a herald of defective upbringing and hence it is to be avoided, the degree of loudness is directly proportional to the intensity of stares and glares that you are likely to receive back as a response, and interrupting someone while he/she is still in the middle of speaking is a cardinal sin! The failure to abide by these regulations as well as the cases of extreme infringement was categorically reported to our progenitors on the much dreaded occasion of the parent-teacher meeting. A formal tribunal of penance was then held at home, an inevitable consequence that followed and it was eventually declared that we need to inculcate the right kind of communicating skills and quit being a source of embarrassment to the household by exhibiting indecorum of any sort. Year after year, our annual result report card contained a column on which we were graded upon our general propriety of behavior and mannerisms within the school realms. This pattern of constant reinforcements, I must admit, helped substantially.

As we grew up and our minds developed, we began to ponder upon the universe and formed our own little beliefs and opinions. Being the little orators of our own little worlds, we deemed it highly essential to convince our peers and siblings to subscribe to our evaluations upon various matters. Therefore, a boisterous argument with a sibling was not an uncommon sight for our parents to witness each day. It was then when our parents helped this golden rule to dawn upon us: it is not a symbol of timidity but rather nobility to settle a difference of opinions calmly rather than bursting into a brawl which is downright brute by all formulas of judgment. As we leaped into our university life, we were emphatically taught in our university core course of communication to carefully avoid all forms of logical fallacies like ad hominen, ad baculum, red herring and tu quoque in order to argue for our stance reasonably and get it across effectively. Anyway, let me not get further into the details of how effectual parenting and schooling attempt to convert individuals into more shapely human beings, and unfold the question, indeed not novel in its nature, which popped up in my mind today after watching a couple of talk-shows on different news channels: Were most of our politicians taking a nap during all these stages of their own schooling, socialization and development? Because their behavior surely doesn’t exhibit any traces of human sophistication that education embellishes a person with.

Our news talk-shows have rarely been a source of fruitful debate but a mere platform for a bunch of politicians to unleash their acrimonious selves and dish out allegations on anyone and everyone who belongs to the opposition, being the quintessence of perfection that they themselves are. The current heated up political environment has left many politicians incensed and more illogical than they have ever been. As I tuned into a very famous talk-show and saw Mr. Faisal Raza Abidi seated on the panel of guests, I was glad I could finish my meal without needing to monitor the remote-control, because with him on the screen, the sound waves that the television emits are largely audible even when set at the minimum levels of volume. Such are the incredible wonders of Mr. Abidi! He is indeed hired to play the mouthpiece of PPP, and that too the most vitriolic of a kind. As Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed of PTI brandished a pile of documents and continued to corroborate and enlist the various foreign properties possessed by the honourable Mr. President, Mr. Abidi could no longer suppress his responsibilities of advocacy of the eternal truth that he represents. He dived in with the fervor that he does not need to advertently gather; it comes naturally. He raged and ranted at the top of his voice and almost got up from his chair in an attempt to snatch the papers from Mr. Rasheed and gauge them for reliability. He even abandoned the courtesy of ‘aap janaab’ and dropped down to “yaar tum” which by no means fell in the category of a friendly gesture. Call me a capitalistic mind, but I speculate that Mr. Abidi’s bonus salary is proportionate to the amount of action that he successfully puts at display in each show. With no disrespect intended, I also assume that during those crucial early years of schooling that I discussed earlier, Mr. Abidi must have regularly bunked them and sneaked to video-game bars instead. It just showed.

Hopelessly, I switched to another channel only to find out the following in another program: As the foreign properties of the Sharif Brothers were recounted, a PML(N) ‘tiger’ Mr. Parvez Rasheed roared in and remarked, “ You are a liar!” Ahem. I assumed may be he has resigned according to the challenge put forth by him (that he would resign if PTI could get even as many people required to fill the chairs placed in the Lahore Jalsa of the 30th October) proving himself to be the epitome of truthfulness and hence the brimming confidence to call another a liar. I was wrong.

On another channel, I had the honor to witness the very unique of her kind Ms. Fauzia Wahab, screaming “OOO BHAIII O BHAIIII” to the anchorperson just to get herself heard and downsize the analysis of the rest. She indeed puts all her past acting expertise to a perfect use. When an analyst accused the big parties of blatant corruption, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal of PML(N), with an ever complacent smile on his face responded comfortably that Imran Khan, too, has admitted in his book that he had been involved in matchfixing at some point. I immediately made a mental note that this response was a perfect example to explain to my freshman friend what does the logical fallacy of “tu quoque’’ mean. Congratulations Mr. Iqbal, you just made an educational contribution in the life of a student! Mr. Iqbal also passed a very profound evaluation that Imran Khan does not deserve to be in the government because he lacks the experience to govern and rule while PML(N) has learnt it over years. The host expressed a remark carved out of sheer humor: “Yes indeed you have very well learnt how to get away without being caught.” If the two politicians were merely smoldering by now, this comment set them ablaze and they exploded into a combat. Amid all the animalistic noises that ensued, I successfully decoded a fragment of a sentence uttered by Ms. Wahab that was directed towards the host, “Call the CEOs of big firms in your show and then try to talk to them like this.” I am sorry Madam but the validity of that comparison did not hold any ground; the CEOs are only answerable to their own shareholders, while you being in the government, are accountable to every Pakistani.

The unseemly behavior of our political class does not just end at these little excerpts from these talk shows, which last from 8 to 11 every night and are rarely any productive, rather it is also evident in the annoyingly crude routine ‘bayaan-baazi’, that includes dishing out cheap one-liners, be it by Ch. Nisar or Dr. Rehman Malik in order to malign their opponents. This is the loathsome community that politically represents Pakistan the world over.

Considering the uncivil and illogical communicating skills of our politicians and the great disservice they do by generating disuniting tendencies, I hereby propose to the higher authorities to not just declare the Bachelors degree a prerequisite for contesting in elections, but also insist that it is imperative for all the members of the Cabinet and the National Assembly to produce their early schooling report cards. They must be required to ensure that their attendance remained regular and they were not subject to parental negligence. Moreover they must submit the testimonies to prove that over the course of their development, they have internalized the basic criteria in order to be categorized as civilized citizens (read: human beings). Needless to say that the boundless creativity of our ever innovative politicians might as well force them into forging these documents because “degree tou degree hoti hai, chahay asli ho ya jaali ho.”

*This was originally written on 1st November 2011.

*Some parts are obviously meant to be satirical.

*Offence at places is indeed meant.

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Salut!

So the clock says its 3:35 am, and I just created my blog; I must be mentally unstable.

I do not have a particular purpose in my mind which led to the creation of this blog, I guess I’m just bored. And most importantly I have simply run out of people to stalk on facebook. Facebook is losing its charm with every passing day.

Anyway I will attribute this coining of the idea of having my blog to my beloved roommate Roha, who has her Physics exam tomorrow, while I’m at home. Best of luck Roha you’ll do great.

At this point in time, I seriously doubt there is any need to introduce myself. Who is interested anyway?

I just hope my ever fluctuating mood lets me visit this place again.

Over and out.