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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”

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Written by Imran Khan

September 13, 2011 at 4:29 am

Karachi’s Pashtun “Problem”

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With the World becoming increasingly connected, political correctness in ideas and behavior is becoming essential for minimizing frictions, and for that reason it also is becoming the hallmark of the educated.

We Pakistanis often complain about the lack of “randomness” at airport security checks abroad and go livid at any generalization linking Pakistanis to terrorism, but then sadly, this indignation is reserved for foreign lands only, the same is definitely not displayed within Pakistan. Pick up any mobile phone here, and it is bound to have SMSed jokes with the racist stereotyping of Pathans. While such stereotyping for the sake of humor is at times tolerable, one is simply astonished to find the same to be believed for real. During the recent spate of violence in Karachi, I was shocked to come across a very high proportion of educated Urdu speaking Karachiites who believe the Pashtun ethnicity to be nothing short of a deformity, and the Pashtun influx as a curse for Karachi.

One of the main fears expressed, is that since Pashtuns are more likely to be associated with terrorism and theft, stopping their inflow would naturally result in a more peaceful Karachi. Besides being horrifyingly similar to the “all Pakistanis are terrorists” argument often used by anti immigration groups in the West, this one stoops even lower as it seeks to quarantine fellow Pakistanis on the basis of ethnicity.  This argument conveniently ignores the fact that if the profession of gate keeping and driving in Pakistan can be associated with one ethnicity, then it is the Pashtuns.  While I am no fan of generalizations, but if one is to be done, then considering typical Pashtun professions shouldn’t the generalization be one of trust, rather than distrust?

Pashtuns are also held responsible for bringing the drugs and Kalashnikov culture into Karachi. This argument completely ignores the well documented planning and financing of the so called “Afghan Jihad”, furthermore, people who say such things basically consider Karachi as an entity separate from Pakistan. The arms and drugs trade was crucial in financing the Jihad, and the inflow of drugs and guns was not something new just for Karachi, it was the same for Peshawar, FATA as well as the rest of Pakistan. Pashtuns as an ethnicity are facing the brunt of that blunder committed by our “strategists” in the 80s. But, to completely ignore that whole episode and blame it on the DNA of an ethnicity would be too ignorant a conclusion. It goes without saying that the response to an increase in violence and drugs is better policing and not racial discrimination.

There also is a ridiculous belief that Pashtuns are somehow incapable of “culturally assimilating” into Karachi, reasons usually given are the inability to speak Urdu and having more conservative norms. To begin with almost all Pakistani Pashtuns are bilingual; it is very rare to find someone in Peshawar who can’t speak Urdu let alone find a Pathan in Karachi who wouldn’t. Furthermore, the norms of the Pashtuns might be considered conservative, but that is if compared with those of the Brazilians. Karachi is no Rio de Janeiro, as testified by the fluttering black burqas on Sea View and Gidani, and also as the former stronghold of Jamaat I Islami, Karachi can never be too liberal for even the most conservative of Pakistanis. Those who consider the Westernized bubbles of Clifton and Defense as the real Karachi are sadly mistaken.

These generalizations mask a worry, which emanates from rising Pashtun numbers in Karachi. Frustrated by wars and lack of economic opportunity, these Pashtuns are heading towards Karachi for a better life. But then, Karachi is not unique in receiving such migrants, just across the border, Mumbai is going through the same. Interestingly, the Urdu/Hindi speaking migrants from Uttar Pradesh, form the bulk of migrations into Mumbai.

Those who are worried about this influx into Karachi, should consider the fact that Karachi used to have a Sindhi majority, a fact that changed after the Mohajir influx. If there was nothing illegitimate about that phenomenon, then assuming no bigotry, there should be no apprehensions about Karachi becoming a Pashtun majority city, because in essence the only difference between an Urdu speaking Mohajir and a Pashtu Speaking Mohajir is that of the date on their train tickets.

Sadly, the expression of this apprehension is not limited to verbal racism, statistics on the ethnicity of the victims show that they are overwhelmingly Pashtun. Mehr Bokhari’s show on the 7th of July, 2011, revealed that in the violence till that point, 80 Pashtuns  and 7 Mohajirs were killed.

The irony of the situation is that those who are bent upon declaring the Pashtun as a separate specie, also make a case for victim-hood based on post-partition hostilities doled out to Pakistan’s Mohajir community.  It should be obvious that the pre-requisite for claiming a higher moral ground based on those injustices, is not to rationalize the same (if not worse) that is being doled out to Karachi’s new Mohajirs.

Appeared in the Pakistan Today on the 20th of July, 2011.

Written by Imran Khan

July 20, 2011 at 4:54 am

Cant wait for Moharram?

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The Taliban strike again, while Peshawar and other cities in Pakhtunkhwa had been targeted frequently, this time they decided to hit the big cities, i.e. Karachi and Lahore. 11 people have died so far with more than 50 wounded.

An interesting thing to note is the statement of claim from the Taliban, here is how it has been reported by Express Tribune

“We claim responsibility for the suicide attack on police in Lahore,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for the TTP, in a telephone call to AFP in Miranshah.

We regret the loss of civilian lives in the attack and warn people to keep away from security forces and government property,” he said.

“The attack was in retaliation for drone strikes and military operations in tribal areas. We have more than 3,000 trained suicide bombers,” he added.

The statement by Mr. Azam Tariq is something that would make the likes of Imran Khan (PTI) et al say; we told you so.

But a few points to ponder; why is it that for these two coordinated strikes, that were supposedly aimed at “security forces and government property”, the TTP chose the Chehlum of Imam Hussain? If they “regret” the loss of civilian lives then why didnt they just barge into one of the hundreds of police stations or army camps that dot Pakistan. Why a Shia procession specifically?

It is obvious that Mr. Tariq is lying, he by no means will ever “regret” the death of a Shia, so why do the drama then? Why not put an Alhumdulilah about killing Shia Kafirs?

In my opinion, statements such as these are to leverage the efforts of all of those who are presenting the Taliban as freedom fighters. This “regret” would probably be enough for many to declare this as a legitimate reaction to someone else’s war.

But, these attacks signify the inability of the Taliban to coexist with anyone who is theologically different from them. With Shias constituting around 20% of Pakistan’s population, this expression of hate should be enough to convince many about the necessity of containing the Taliban ideology.

But the hindrance to this obvious consensus is provided by baseless explanations that declare these actions as mere reactions. The scary thing is that the Taliban has evolved to leverage these ridiculous explanations. An evolution which is exhibited by this new found “concern” about civilian causalities.

Its also not the case that sectarian violence is a post 9/11 phenomenon, which would magically vanish once the war in Afghanistan is over. In the period between 1989 to 2000, around 1000 Pakistanis died and around 2500 were injured due to sectarian violence. A report by the International Crisis Group, claims that 70% of the deaths related to sectarian violence since 1985, were of Shias.

This expression of  “regret” by the Taliban shouldn’t mean anything, but the way the whole debate around the Taliban issue is being carried out, to many out there this is yet another incident to blame on outsiders.

Written by Imran Khan

January 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

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