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NA-1: The Tsunami Breaker

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By the morning of May 12th, PTI’s tsunami had officially swept through Peshawar valley. This was a victory that was mostly at the expense of the ANP, thus prompting many to declare it to be a spent force, the strongest proof of which was the routing of Ghulam Ahmad Bilour on NA-1 and that too with a mammoth margin of 66 thousand votes. But yet, just two months later, Ghulam Bilour has reclaimed his seat.

So what happened exactly?

One explanation paints the PTI as being alone against an alliance of ANP, PPP, and JUI-F and thus overwhelmed by its experienced opposition. But then that is factually incorrect as PTI had its own set of allies, including the Jamat I Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP). Furthermore, the local leadership of PML-N had also announced its support for PTI. The strength of these two alliances can be assessed from their performance during the recent general elections. On May 11th, PPP and JUI-F had a total of 11,859 votes while JI, QWP and PML-N had 12,977 votes for NA-1. Based on these numbers, PTI actually had a stronger rather than a weaker electoral alliance when compared with ANP.

The selection of Gul Bacha is another reason cited for PTI’s defeat, as he was a “non-entity”. But then just two months ago another non-entity by the name of Javed Nasim defeated Haroon Bilour on PK-3. It should be mentioned here that this is the constituency of Bashir Bilour Shaheed, one that he managed to maintain even during MMA’s whitewash of 2002. But yet despite Bashir Bilour’s martyrdom, PK-3 preferred a non-entity to his son, perhaps because the non-entity came with the name of PTI; a name that generated trust and hope.

In my opinion PTI’s defeat in NA-1 is a weakening of its ability to generate trust. It was this particular ability that allowed PTI to sweep Peshawar valley with mere non-entities. But now that trust is being squandered because of the immature behavior of its leadership and more importantly through the inability of KP government to deliver on its promises.

The immaturity of PTI’s leadership was evident in the way it dealt with Samad Mursalin. This is the same Samad Mursalin who ran from PF-2 (now PK-2, a sub constituency of NA-1) on a PTI ticket in 1997. He was the face of PTI in Peshawar city back in the 90s. One would expect that considering Samad’s long time association, Imran Khan himself would try to defuse the situation, by convincing Samad in person.

However, it appears that Imran Khan was actually avoiding Samad, and that too in the most ridiculous of manners. Apparently when Samad tried meeting with Imran Khan at the CM house Peshawar, he was tricked into going into a waiting room and then was locked inside along with his workers. They were allowed to leave only after Imran Khan had left the premises. Samad’s angry press conference after this incident was reported in the national as well as local press.

Subsequently, the provincial leadership made a few half-hearted attempts, but then publicly announced the cancellation of Samad’s membership right before election. And just for extra measure called him a “back stabber” in an official statement. Samad’s reaction to this childish behavior needs to be seen as more of a response to an insult rather than a breach of loyalty.

But would a mere ticket allocation explain this defeat? Many claim an unofficial victory for PTI by saying that the sum total of Samad’s and Gul Bacha’s votes is more than that of the ANP. However, this claim is factually incorrect, as according to ECP; Samad received a total of 1,707 votes, while Gul Bacha received 28,911. Their total of 30,681 votes is still less than that of ANP at 34,386 votes. So even if there were no splits, PTI still would have either lost this seat or managed a very close win.

Surely this massive reduction of 66,000 votes and that too within a span of two months cant only be associated with the selection of a wrong candidate. A constituency of 320,000 registered voters must have had other issues that affected its voting decision.

In my opinion this is where PTI’s performance comes into play, and 83 days is more than enough of a time to assess promises that were made to be fulfilled within 90 days. It is very clear that PTI has been unable to meet the standards of governance and conduct which it demanded of previous Government and which it promised to its voters.

But besides not being able to meet its own set standards, PTI is also struggling to match up with its predecessors. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of terrorism, an issue that is central to the terror ridden constituency of NA-1, whose Qissa Khawani bazar has been a preferred target of the Taliban.

It is no coincidence that after the arrival of PTI’s government, there has been a sudden increase in Taliban’s extortion activities in Peshawar. This has mainly affected the business community a substantial proportion of which is based in the inner city, an area that falls under NA-1.

The Government’s response has largely been ineffective as there are reports of a demoralized police force, with some officials blaming the PTI government for a lack of resolve in fighting the TTP. This lack is evident in the inability of PTI’s government to even condemn the Taliban.

On talk shows it has become a joke to get an unconditional condemnation of the TTP from KP’s ministers, with both opposition leaders as well as anchors daring PTI leaders to do so. Shaukat Yousafzai, on Nasim Zehra’s show, went to the extent of saying that he had not heard about TTP’s threats to the ANP, PPP and MQM and therefore will not condemn them.

While such wisdom buys safety for PTI’s leadership, it is also costing them the trust of the people who came out in droves to vote for PTI. It is very likely that the tsunami that began in Peshawar valley could very well end here as well and from the looks of it, the process for that might have already started.

Published in The News on the 27th of August 2013.

Written by Imran Khan

August 27, 2013 at 4:33 am

Posted in ANP, Democracy, Pakhtunkhwa, PTI, Taliban

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The Lesser Khakis

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In the aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jail break, Pakhtunkhwa’s minister for Revenue and Estate, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur visited the jail. Talking to reporters he expressed his frustration with both the army and police for being unable to thwart this attack.

He began by pointing out that despite the presence of two brigades in D.I.Khan cantonment, the army did not engage the terrorists. On this, the minister decently expressed some “tahafuzaat” (reservations).

But then he turned his attention towards the police, and out come accolades such as “Nikamay”, “Nikhatu”, and “Buzdil”. The good minister seemed disgusted with the fact that only 5 policemen were martyred. As body counts of “at least 50 if not 100” are decent estimates of bravery.

This disgust for the police and respectful grumbles for army is something not particular to Mr. Gandapur. It reflects the mindset of this nation. From political talk shows to comedy stage shows, castigation and ridicule of our police is the norm.

Those justifying this discrimination, do it by declaring Police to be corrupt, and therefore less respectable than army. But scandals like NLC refute the myth of an incorruptible army. Furthermore, our three military dictatorships can be accredited with most if not all of the problems we face today. Effects of Police bribery seems puny when compared with this.

But blaming the army as a whole is deemed offensive, because an institution should not be blamed for the deeds of some individuals. After all, Zia ul Haq and Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed were two completely different people. One was a traitor, while the other a martyr.

And I agree, while no institution should be above accountability, generalizations based on uniforms are unfair. Our army is composed of far too many patriots than those who exploit the leverage associated with their uniform. The ultimate proof of their patriotism is a willingness to embrace martyrdom and a long list of those who already have.

But then how is our police any different? Has it not offered its own martyrs? Pakhtunkhwa’s Police, alone has a list of more than 1000 in the last 10 years, add to it those from other provinces and you have many more.

Police constables across Pakistan man check points knowing very well that the next driver might be a suicide bomber. Many of us today owe our lives to a split second decision of some brave police martyr who chose country over life. How is this display of patriotism any different from that of the soldiers who man our borders?

Names like Malik Saad Shaheed, Sifwat Ghayur Shaheed, Fayyaz Ahmad Sumbal Shaheed and many others are no less in stature than names like Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed, and Sher Khan Shaheed. Both groups were the sons of this soil, who died with their boots on and presented Pakistan with the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, there is no Noor Jehan to sing for the martyrs of our Police and no national day to celebrate their sacrifice.

On the 8th of August a bombing in Balochistan wiped out some of its top police officials, an attack which in its magnitude seems similar to the one on Malik Saad Shaheed that decimated the top brass of Pakhtunkhwa police, a loss from which the province is yet to recover.

But Pakistan, as a whole, did not care on that blood soaked eve. Instead what came to the fore was the face of Mufti Muneeb and the joys of eating vermicelli. The headline news on PTV at 10 pm began with the Eid announcement, followed by the PM getting a briefing on the LoC situation and then came the news about the 38 martyrs of Quetta. Private news channels were no different.

Any self-respecting nation would have flown its flag half-mast to honor this sacrifice. Instead these martyrs were honored with the cancellation of PM’s “Eid Milan party”, and that alone was deemed as sufficient.

Are we so blind to realize that these men were targeted because of their uniform, a uniform they donned to defend this thankless mob of 180 million? But, forget the rest of Pakistan, even Quetta reverberated with joyous aerial firing on the eve of this massacre.

The aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jailbreak has also been marred by the same bias that underestimates the abilities and courage of our police. Its analysis usually starts with the Taliban arrival at the gates of the jail, ignoring their journey from Waziristan to D.I.Khan and back. By beginning from the gates of the jail, this version conveniently cites “low morale”, “cowardice” and a lack of training as probable reasons of failure. All of which implicate the police.

While there is no doubt that police morale has been lowered due to the inane policies of the current KP government, and that it can definitely do with better equipment and training. But using these excuses for the D.I.Khan incident is a bit of a stretch.

The terrorists originated from Waziristan and went back there unchallenged. If cowardice and low morale is to explain police reluctance to engage, then the same should explain the reluctance at several army checkpoints as well as that of the two brigades present in DI Khan cantt.

It does not make sense to say that thousands of uniformed men from both the police and army had a simultaneous and sudden attack of cowardice. It is possible that these men might have been ordered to stand down, and it is essential that this possibility be investigated. Making a scapegoat of the police will only demoralize them further.

Nations honor and celebrate their martyrs. It is one of those things that differentiates a nation from a mob. This Eid, Pakistan acted like a mob, a shameless and thankless mob. It is high time that we start acting like a nation because acting like one is essential for surviving as one.

 Published in The News on 15th of August 2013, under the title “Police: how many should die?”

Written by Imran Khan

August 15, 2013 at 5:02 am

Martyrs or Vermicelli?

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There is one thing that you have to give credit to the Taliban for, which is that their brutality can exceed the wildest imagination of most fiction writers.

Consider the recent attack in Quetta. 38 people butchered of which 19 were police officials. The attack was on a funeral, which too was arranged for by the Taliban. For that they attacked an SHO who had taken out his children for Eid shopping. The children were injured but their father was dead. An eid gift from the bearded Talib uncle. Ramzan, children, funeral, and all of that planned to the finest detail, can one be more heartless?

These 20 police officials did not have any personal enmity with the Taliban. Their sole crime was to wear their uniform, the one that they had donned to defend the likes of you and me.

In other words, these men were killed in the name of Pakistan. And the motive most probably was to send a message to us Pakistanis.

But the vilest of villains might just have met their match, in the form of the most indifferent of victims. Turns out TTP’s thunder was stolen by Mufti Muneeb and his promise of vermicelli. Because what mattered to Pakistanis on the eve of 8th of August was if they will be waking up for sehri or will there be vermicelli for breakfast? Shaheed gai bhaar main.

In my opinion we probably told the TTP to try harder. The bond of the word “Pakistani” is not that strong to make strangers ache for each other. The people that they did impact were the immediate family and friends of the deceased and those are a pretty small proportion of the Pakistani population.

I mean we could actually calculate an estimate of the people that the Taliban did affect in their last ten years of carnage. A rough estimate of TTP related deaths stands at around 40,000. Lets assume a family size of 7, and they have actually affected about 280,000 immediate family members. Throw in a circle of friends and extended family of around 14, and that’s another 560,000. Add these up and it’s a total of 840,000, add in a few suffering from Pakistaniat and we have a nice total of around 1 million affectees.

In proportionate terms that is nothing, as it is only 0.5% of Pakistan. If the TTP thinks its hurting the 180 million strong Pakistani nation by bombing and decapitating an insignificant minority then they are being deluded.

To many, our ability to not care about such incidents represents defiance and it somehow shows our “resilience”. I agree that we cannot give up on our way of life by succumbing to terror. But did we really show our defiance this Eid?

Defiance would have begun with a complete official focus on the incident. The Prime Minister, President, Federal Interior Minister, CM Balochistan and Governor should have all reached out to Balochistan police in every way possible. Making sure that the enemy knows that the elected symbols of state stand by its uniformed defenders. Our flag should have flown half-mast for the entirety of Eid, and our PM should have announced that this Eid be dedicated to the martyrs of Quetta.

Our clergy should have made a point in mentioning this incident in the two khutbas that day and castigated those who use Islam in such actions. Duas should have been dedicated to these martyrs and also to the families that they have left behind.

Our media should have focused on the sacrifice that our police is rendering, with the aim to galvanize this nation into honoring its defenders. It would have made these martyrs household names for the nation to cherish.

And with all that, we could have eaten our vermicelli, worn news clothes, and hugged each other Eid Mubarik. In doing so, we would have sent a strong message of resilience and defiance, that we still remember those who sacrificed their lives for us but we are not going to give up on our way of life. We are grateful to our martyrs and we will bring their murderers to justice.

But was it this way?

Well, not even close.

The Government’s response was pathetic at best. Nawaz Sharif, fresh from his umrah trip, simply sent his condolences and said that his Government is committed to eliminating terrorism. As usual, this “promise for future action” failed to name the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan who had proudly taken responsibility of the incident. While the flag flew full mast on his office, the PM sahib was gracious enough to cancel an “Eid Milan party”.

Our Interior Minister saw it fit to spend Eid with his family rather than to rush to Quetta like he did after the Balochistan Medical Complex (BMC) attack. He showed up in Quetta on the 11th, i.e. 3 days after the blast to give this statementI pay tribute to the martyrs and the deceased who have lost their lives in the recent attacks and we want to assure everyone that an investigation is underway.” I wonder if someone could tell Chaudhry Sb, that the guilty have admitted to their guilt for the 100th time now. What exactly would he be investigating?

One wonders what happened to the Chaudhry sb, who only a month ago lashed out this strongly at the security agencies for the BMC attack? He has been awfully silent after that outburst.

And if you thought that the straight shooters of the nationalist government of Balochistan would come to the fore and reply to the TTP, then that too would be a pretty high expectation. When IG Balochistan did his press conference, there was no one from the federal or the provincial government by his side.

This was such a contrast to this press conference after the BMC attack, in which Nawaz Sharif was flanked by Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and accompanied by DG ISI and DG IB. Where were these same people after this recent massacre? Didn’t they promise us the world after BMC?

This Friday gave our clergy that rare opportunity to give two khutbas. From what I could gather on twitter as well as from relatives and friends, almost every other mosque had nimazis chanting “ameen” for success of “Mujahideen”. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that the “success” of Mujahideen was in splattering the innards of these very nimazis on the floors of their mosques.  And that the sole hurdle to that success was dressed in a police uniform and standing guard outside, ready to sacrifice his own life for the safety of those who were praying for his death.

PoliceNimaz2

Pakistani media was no less disappointing than the clergy that prayed for the success of our killers. On the day of the bombing, by 9 pm the news had become the second most important news of the day i.e. before the martyrs were even buried. Here is GEO’s 9 pm bulletin and here is Dunya’s. Notice that in Dunya’s bulletin, the story of Quetta attack comes at around 27th minute. It was preceded by reports such as Reshma taunting Meera and interviews of people coming out of aitikaaf.

Media anchors were a mixed bunch on the 8th of August. Talat Hussain, Abdul Malik, Ejaz Haider and Javed Choudhry, canceled their regular Eid shows to cover this incident, and perhaps represented the only concerted and dedicated effort from our electronic media on this issue. Nadeem Malik and Abdul Moiz Jaffri added the incident to their regular topics.

But then we had Mehr Abbasi who was out on the streets talking about Eid shopping. Fareeha Idrees cashed in on the comic value of Sheikh Rasheed which has become so necessary for getting a rating push these days. Mr. Kharra Such, Mubashir Luqman invited two palmists. He actually began the show by claiming that he invites palmists when he has “no other topics to cover”. Asma Sherazi did a “gup shup” eid show to do “khushi key batain” while Moeed Pirzada focused on India Pakistan LoC tension. And then Waseem Badami along with Junaid Jamshed pondered if their “Shaan e Ramzan” show was as good as the show that they were trying to copy.

Talat especially pointed out the absurdity of our media in focusing on Eid shopping and Mufti Muneeb. Ironically, his own program got interrupted to facilitate Mufti Muneeb’s announcement. Watch his show, at around 4:25, when the reporter from Quetta is cut off mid sentence to beam Mufti Muneeb’s announcement live.

The owners of all media channels who make tall claims of bringing about a revolution in this country seemed very reluctant to cancel on their money making plans of fun and masti for the next three days. There were no exceptions. As from the 9th of August, the Quetta incident simply disappeared from all programming and gup shup shows featuring our giggling media anchors came to the fore.

But what takes the cake for me is this cartoon from Roznama Nai Baat on its Quetta edition for the 9th of August. This was on the back page, while the front page carried the news of the Quetta massacre.

Policecartoon

This pretty much sums up what we think of our police. A bunch of corrupt thieves whose sole aim in life is to rip us off of our money. Forget about this being in very bad taste because that would be too much to expect. But the irony is that this concern about corruption, that clearly outweighs the sacrifice of our police martyrs, is coming from a nation that has one of the lowest tax/GDP ratio in the world, i.e. a nation of tax thieves.

If this Eid signified our resilience then we need to redefine this word. We need to redefine it as the ability to not give a damn about tragedies befalling those who are neither friends nor family, the word Pakistani should not matter.

Define it like that, and yes, we might be the most resilient nation in the world.

A salute to our martyrs who have definitely been spared from this particular national trait.

I just wonder how many more of them are left?

Written by Imran Khan

August 12, 2013 at 6:52 am

PTI’s vote validation – voting differences

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PTI has demanded that for six constituencies, votes be validated through matching thumb prints with the NADRA database. Such an exercise could be fruitful if PTI’s losing margin is small.

However, the constituencies demanded by PTI are a mixed bag, with the differences varying from 4,000 to 40,000, as the following table shows.

Constituency

PTI

Opposition

Affiliation

Difference

NA 57

55515

59638

PML-N

4123

NA 110

71525

92803

PML-N

21278

NA 122

84417

93362

PML-N

8945

NA 125

83190

123094

PML-N

39904

NA 154

75184

86046

Independent

10862

NA 239

34601

39069

MQM

4468

Note: The names of the constituencies are linked to the corresponding source at the ECP website.

Written by Imran Khan

May 16, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Democracy, PTI

Watan Ya Kafan

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The Awami National Party (ANP) began its campaign with the slogan “Pur Amn Pakistan”. However, in the aftermath of the attack on the Bilours of Peshawar, an unofficial slogan came to the fore and has since taken over.

Watan Ya Kafan” (Country or Shroud) sums up the stance of a group that is bloodied and cornered but yet proud and defiant. Not only does it signify ANP’s resolve but it also pays homage to the choice made by more than 700 of its martyrs.

One would assume that such gallantry would elicit praise from all quarters. But that is certainly not the case. Instead, there exists quite a strong sense of resentment. Polls indicate that, and my personal interactions corroborate it. By and large, the source of this resentment seems to be ANP’s financial corruption.

This belief is mostly backed by anecdotes. And one particular line that is quoted as the ultimate proof is “Baba ta easy load ka”, alluding that during ANP’s tenure bribing Haider Hoti’s father was necessary for getting things done.

Ironically, many of my friends who are utterly disgusted with ANP’s corruption, seem to have a different yardstick for their own financial integrity. One will claim a substantial inheritance from a father who was known for taking bribes. Another, a Government servant, is infamous for not even pardoning relatives when it comes to “fees”. But then both are completely disgusted over Baba’s “easy loads”. And they have every right to be, because hypocrisy of critics should not absolve the ANP of its crimes.

It would be ridiculous to claim that the ANP government was not involved in any corruption, but by the same token it would be naïve to rely just on anecdotes to associate it with corruption at unmatched levels. If the accusations are true and corruption was that widespread in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, then some indicator somewhere should capture it. Especially when compared with other provinces.

The Transparency International (TI) Pakistan is one such source. Its surveys for 2009 & 2010 provide estimates of the annual average provincial corruption expenditures. For both these years the sample from KP had one of the lowest corruption expenditures among the four provinces. For 2009, Khyber Pakhtunkha averaged at Rs. 3,454, while Punjab was Rs. 19,959. For 2010, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the lowest among all provinces at Rs. 3,528, while the highest i.e. Punjab was at Rs. 17,791. This infographic has more detailed comparisons based on those statistics.

TI Pakistan didn’t consider these estimates in its provincial corruption ranking for 2010, as it was based on perceptions. It focused on just one question; for KP, the respondents were asked if the present Government (ANP) was more corrupt than the previous government (MMA). But here is the twist; for some odd reason TI chose Peshawar, Mansehra, Abbotabad and Haripur as representative districts for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

An anti ANP verdict from the Hazara division was inevitable, and this was presented as the perception of the whole province. This result was then used extensively in the media to label ANP’s government as the most corrupt. I wrote a more detailed piece on TI Pakistan’s methodology back in 2010.

While the jury is still out on ANP, lets focus a bit on this national obsession with corruption. Yes, corruption is a huge problem in Pakistan, but does it really overshadow terrorism? Last year, Pakistan had a total of 652 bombings leading to 1,007 deaths, that means an average of 2 bombings and 3 deaths per day! and this was one of our better years.

But yet survey after survey confirms that Pakistan considers corruption to be a bigger problem than terrorism. This is akin to a cancer patient citing a common cold as his biggest ailment. The difference between corruption and terrorism should be obvious from their respective units of measurement; rupees for corruption and deaths for terrorism. How big of a bribe can outweigh the death of one human?

The ANP’s biggest sacrifice is against the menace of terrorism. If it had followed MMA’s path, today some of its top workers and leaders would still be alive. But instead it took on the biggest monster of our times, and paid dearly for it. Ironically the ones so eager to bestow the title of “Pashtun resistance” on the Taliban refuse to even acknowledge this non-violent defiance.

Acknowledged or not, but the followers of Bacha Khan are meeting the standards that were set in Qissa Khawani in 1930, and Barbara in 1948. The villains might have changed but the resolve of these martyrs harks back to the days of Ghaffar Khan. It is a fact that the number of martyrs of ANP is comparable to those from uniformed outfits like the Frontier Constabulary, Police and Pakistan Army. Not a small feat for a political party.

However the comparison is really striking when done against other parties, especially the ones claiming ferocity of felines and natural disasters. This lot is faking complete oblivion to a danger that threatens the very existence of their proposed “Roshan” and “Naya” Pakistans.

Cowardice and opportunism seem to be the only apparent reasons for their silence. A convenient excuse is to declare the war against Taliban to be “someone else’s war”. But while Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan may have their own interpretations, Hakeem Ullah Mehsud has made it clear that his war is against Pakistan, whether its “Roshan” or “Naya” will not make a difference.

Today ANP has been left alone to fight a war for the survival and continuation of Pakistan’s democracy. After every bombing its battered leaders reiterate their demand for a timely election, one that their party is very likely to lose. It is a slap in the face of those who want to destabilize our democracy, but as a principled stance remains unappreciated by most Pakistanis.

Supporting the ANP doesn’t necessarily mean that one votes for it. Regardless of party affiliations the need is to provide a united front against the forces bent upon destabilizing democracy in Pakistan, and are presently focused on the ANP.

For those who still think ANP’s corruption doesn’t make it worth the effort, I propose the following calculation.

Step 1: Put a price on the life of a loved one.

Step 2: Multiply that price by 700.

Step 3: From this total subtract the biggest possible estimate for ANP’s corruption (make it KP’s entire budget if you may).

Lets see if the remainder is positive or negative.

An edited version appeared in The News on the 27th of April 2013 under the title “Terror, Corruption and ANP”

Written by Imran Khan

April 27, 2013 at 5:34 am

Defending MQM

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My reaction to Altaf Hussain’s marathon press conference was one of sympathy. Sympathy that I felt not for the beloved leader but for thousands of his otherwise rational followers, who have now been entrusted with the Herculean task of defending gems from his speech, one that featured verses from the Quran as well as songs from Bollywood.

What makes things worse for these MQM supporters is their obsession to demand a saintly reverence for their leader. Consider the case when Imran Khan, the leader of PTI, chastised his supporters for raising the slogan “Zardari Kutta”, calling it an “insult to dogs”. The response of the PPP to that low blow stands in a sharp contrast to the killing spree that followed Zulfiqar Mirza’s outburst in July this year, when he declared Altaf Hussain to be a criminal. This extreme reaction is not something that can be simply pinned on emotional party workers, as even the party leadership is known for flaring up on talk shows. The former mayor of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal, went to the extent of threatening PML-N’s Zaeem Qadri with physical consequences, for his audacity to criticize the Quaid of MQM. But with his recent vitriol against every major political party in Pakistan, the Quaid I Tehreek, has managed to invoke a lot of “irreverence” from his detractors; as his loosely built arguments and eccentric theatrics are proving to be easy pickings for them.

Take the map for instance; that plan to carve up Pakistan to make room for “Free Baluchistan” and Greater Afghanistan. The map itself is not from a classified CIA or MI5 file but from an article written by an ex soldier and a novelist named Ralph Peters. Mr. Peters imagined a hypothetical map for this region, with borders redrawn in a way that would resolve conflicts and bring peace. Pakistan is not the only country that lost territory in that map, Israel did as well. The requirement now for maintaining Altaf Bhai’s reverence is to not only prove Mr. Peters as the mastermind behind United States’ global agenda, but also to justify the existence of a secret US plan that will result in the loss of Israeli territory to Jordan and Lebanon.

Also consider the duration of the event; the MQM has always denied allegations that it intimidates the media through violence, an allegation that was part of Zulfiqar Mirza’s charge sheet against them. But, the duration of this press conference lays credence to that claim. If one assumes the Mirs and Lakhanis to be rational businessmen, then it is indeed mindboggling to see their channels sacrifice millions in ad revenues to ensure an uninterrupted broadcast. These two families are not known for their loyalty to the MQM, but for their business acumen, it would indeed be ridiculous to accredit MQM’s “PR” capacity for causing this irrational business decision. The only rational explanation for such a decision is that the reward for these sacrificed revenues came in terms of the security of life and property for these channel owners. The forced sacking of Nusrat Javaid for pointing out this particular “hostage taking” of Pakistan’s media, further corroborates the allegation that MQM uses violence against the media. It would indeed be very difficult to prove that these channels that are operating in an industry that is marred by low profitability were suddenly willing to sacrifice precious ad revenues en masse.

While the leadership of MQM insists that it does not want to address the allegations from Zulfiqar Mirza, it is very obvious that these three press conferences were done to do exactly that. If Mirza’s allegations of extortion, treason, and mass murder were frivolous then what exactly was the need for these three events? One would assume that for each of these conferences the MQM used the best that it had in terms of evidence. But by deflecting the pointed accusations of Mr. Mirza and by focusing on completely irrelevant issues, MQM has only strengthened the case that was made against it.

The strengthening of Mirza’s case only magnifies the severity of his allegations, and with the leadership of MQM simply failing in making a credible defense; it is time for MQM’s supporters to start questioning their leadership. Under no circumstances, should the construction of flyovers and up gradation of drainage systems be reason enough to justify the massacre of thousands, because caring about Karachi should mean valuing its people and not just its infrastructure.

Appeared in Pakistan Today on the 13th of September 2011 under the title “Still Defending Him”

Written by Imran Khan

September 13, 2011 at 4:29 am

Lunar Legitimacy

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Having grown up in Peshawar, and in an extended family that comprises of both Barelvis and Deobandis, I can hardly remember a time when the whole family celebrated Eid ul Fitar on the same day. Considering the festival deficient nature of our national calendar, the annual spoiling of Choti Eid is not a small loss, especially when a Government body exists for the sole purpose of ensuring a united Eid. This problem has persisted for quite some time now, and its solution is stalled by completely wrong perceptions about its true nature.

A common mistake is to term this separate Eid as an expression of Pashtun nationalism that is limited to a few towns and cities. The fact of the matter is that Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti (ANP)’s decision to celebrate a separate Eid in 2009 was no different than that of Aftab Sherpao of PPP during his tenure back in the 90s, Akram Durrani of the MMA also took a similar decision during his time. It is very evident that the support for a separate Eid has come from all sorts of political quarters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), and not just nationalist ones.

Another mistake is to explain this separate Eid in light of the racist stereotyping of Pashtuns. It is almost a cliché to come across racist text messages as well as politically incorrect newspaper cartoons that cite “Pashtun stupidity” as the main reason. While the stupidity of the Pashtun gene remains to be proven scientifically, it is definitely moronic to actually believe that a race can be “stupid”.

It is true that the Eid disagreement manifests itself in ethnic terms, but its real source lies in the sectarian rivalries between Deobandis and Barelvis. These rivalries are annually reignited after the apparent discrimination faced by Deobandi witnesses in the Ruet I Hilal committee. At times the Committee adjourns very early for these witnesses to present themselves and sometimes the witnesses are rejected supposedly unfairly. The Deobandi complaints are mostly centered on the negative role played by the Chairman of the Committee; Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman, who happens to be a Barelvi.

The resulting Deobandi defiance is then announced through loudspeakers across KPK and it is here that the issue takes on an ethnic tone. These Eid/Ramzan announcements that are usually made pretty late during the night give details on how Pashtu speaking witnesses were rejected by a committee that is dominated by non Pashtuns. Thus, the announcement becomes a rallying cry, and the separation from the rest of the country becomes a show of defiance against the discrimination doled out by a Federal Committee. That being said, it is important to highlight the fact that many devout Barelvis and Shias in Peshawar follow the Ruet I Hillal Committee, and similarly some mosques in Lahore are reported to follow Masjid Qasim Ali Khan.

An ideal Eid/Ramzan announcement should have two attributes: First, its astronomical legitimacy and second, its legitimacy among its intended audience. The Pakistan Meteorological Department (MET) has enough capacity to ensure the astronomical legitimacy of an announcement, but as this is a matter of faith the verdict of scientists is bound to have a lower weightage than that of the clergy. It is this particular fact that legitimizes the existence of the Ruet I Hilal committee, as it should ensure a consensus among the masses on this issue.

But year after year, the Committee’s decision has been rejected by a sizeable number of Pakistanis. It is very amusing to hear Mufti Muneeb explain the legitimacy of the Committee’s decision by citing the MET department, goes without saying that if astronomical validity is the only thing that matters, then what exactly is the need for a Ruet I Hillal committee? Equally bewildering is the Chairman’s proposal to “enforce” an Eid, here again, the need for a Ruet I Hillal Committee stands annulled, as the enforcement can also be done for announcements emanating from the MET department. The good Mufti needs to realize that instead of blaming dissenters, the need is to contemplate on why the Ruet I Hillal committee has failed in building a consensus?

The structure of the Ruet I Hillal Committee allows for the needed consensus building as it has representation of all the sects. But, the main reason put forward by its dissenters is the apparent arrogance of Mufti Muneeb. These allegations were corroborated by the Mufti’s behavior on talk shows this year, as he flared up and stormed out of most of them when he was confronted on this issue.

But even if one disagrees with the allegations against Mufti Muneeb, it is important to consider the fact that this is his 10th year of Chairmanship. It is obvious that if one of the sects gets 10 continuous years of leadership, then technically the committee ceases to represent all the other sects. In this scenario the legitimacy of the Ruet I Hilal committee can be bolstered substantially, if the Chairmanship is rotated between the various sects on an annual basis.

Choti or Meethi Eid is one of those very few occasions that is not exclusive to any particular sect. Considering the fact that we have lost thousands of lives to the menace of sectarianism, this day needs to be leveraged to build bridges. But as things stand, it is instead magnifying sectarian differences into ethnic ones. In this situation, raising the credibility of the Ruet I Hillal Committee is crucial in halting the deepening of these fissures, if that raised credibility comes at the price of a few hurt egos then that is a price worth paying, as the reward is in terms of much needed national cohesion.

A slightly edited version appeared in The News on the 5th of September 2011.

Written by Imran Khan

September 5, 2011 at 5:10 am

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