Monthly Archives: December 2007

Bhuttoism

They finally got her.” was how a friend informed us about Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. To echo Nawaz Sharif, we still cannot believe it. BB had been confronted with so much… bombs, assassination attempts, exile that we thought she’ll sail through this one too. She didn’t.

The Daughter of the East didn’t survive. For us, it is meaningless as to whether a suicide bomber got her, or she was shot dead or her heart failed. The important thing is how she lived. We’ve blogged about her alleged corruption. We’ve criticized her but in spite of all this; one has to say that she was an inspiration. Not just for the women but for all Pakistanis. The “young girl” as General ( retd) Naseeruallah Babar used to refer to her captured the political imagination of everyone and that is why even her opponents feel a sense of loss now.

After Benazir took oath for the first time as Prime Minister, her first words were ,“ Zinda hai Bhutto. Bhutto zinda hai ” (Bhutto is alive)

Who will lead the party is anyone’s guess but in terms of Pakistan’s political history it will always be ,“Zinda hai Bhutto.Dono Bhutto zinda hai.” (Bhutto is alive. Both Bhuttos are alive)

Mushraff’s democracy

President Mushraff adequately displayed his understanding of democracy when in an international interview he said ,` “The problem with the West and your media is your obsession with democracy, civil liberties, human rights.” Who has built democratic institutions in Pakistan? I have done it in the last eight years. We empowered the people and the women of Pakistan. We allowed freedom of expression”

Please note the semantics.. . “I have done it.. ” “Allowed freedom ….”

Political Science 101 perhaps Mr. President ? It should tell you what government by the people, from the people and for the people is and why it cannot be “allowed” or “done” by one man.

Who is contesting the Pak elections?

Our heads are reeling from the stress of the game: who is contesting and who is not? Actually it is a case of who is contesting, which party platform, who is accepting the party ticket and who is returning it? The latest score is :

PML-N is contesting.
PPPP is contesting.
JI is not.
JUI-F from the platform of MMA is.
ANP is contesting.

….. and the latest news… Aitzaz Ahsan is not. He has asked his lawyers to withdraw his nomination papers. According to him, “ even the parties that had decided to contest the elections were already calling them sham and rigged. Even the patrons of the regime had pronounced that these were not going to be perfect, which means that it is recognized, in advance, that these will be rigged. What can thus be achieved from such elections?

In our opinion, perhaps the citizens should ask ,“ Why spend our money on such elections?”

Stand up for Code Pink

As soon as the deported Code Pink activists landed in the US, they went to attend a Congressional hearing in Washington DC. They wanted to speak at the hearing but were told that the speakers had already been chosen.

One of the speakers was Mr. Richard Boucher the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.At the hearing “Mr. Boucher gave the impression that Pakistan was on the path to democracy and that the billions of dollars in assistance was being well used. He called the state of emergency a mere “bump in the road.” The travesty of sacking the independent Supreme Court judges and replacing them with Musharraf allies was called a “Supreme Court reshuffling.”

When the Code Pink activists wanted to protest and declared, “ Musharraf has beaten lawyers and students, destroyed the judiciary, and censored the press. The U.S. must freeze all funding to this military government until emergency rule is lifted, the independent judiciary is reinstated, the censorship of the media is lifted, and all judges, lawyers, students and human rights defenders are released.”

The activist was arrested and will be appearing in court on December 27th to face charges of Disorderly Conduct.

Now is the time , in our opinion, that the Pakistani civil society must pay it’s dues and support the Code Pink activists just as they supported us. If you are a blogger , blog about it , if you are part of an online or offline network use it to support Code Pink activists who have been arrested for speaking for us.

“I have a choice:A choice to leave”: President Mushraff

Mr. Mushraff speaks to ABC news. Some quotes from this video are :

Here we hang people, don’t teach us what you have.” on agitation and putting protesters in jail in Pakistan.

Whose failure of intelligence is it? The Americans” on why hasn’t Pakistan caught Osama bin Laden up till now.

If I am not satisfied by the election results, I have a choice. A choice to leave.” on elections.

The last statement is very disturbing. With such high stakes , are there any prizes for guessing if the Jan 8th elections will be general elections or the Ex-General’s elections?

Code Pink deported from Pakistan

To “support the Pakistani civil society.” two Americans Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry landed in Pakistan on November 25th. They attended various events, held a vigil to protest the arrest of Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan and for their efforts received a lot of media and internet attention. However, December 4th evening saw them being “arrested.” According to reports, “ Armed policemen jumped out of cars and motorcycles and surrounded their car, guns drawn. They forced the driver and journalists out, beat passers-by who were looking at the scene, and hijacked the car with Benjamin and Barry inside. They raced recklessly through the crowded streets of Lahore, endangering the lives of those in the car and outside. They took the two activists to the Race Course Police Station. Benjamin was roughed up by a woman police officer who was given orders to take away their cell phone.

Benjamin and Barry were never charged with anything and no reason was given for their brutal arrest. After four hours, a representative of the US Embassy appeared. The activists were allowed to leave in his custody, but are being forced to leave the country.” They will arrive on Thursday, December 6th 2007 at 8 am at New York’s JFK airport and are said to be available for interviews.

Everyone has been condemning the arrest and the deportation of the two activists. Certainly condemnation is in order. However, we fail to understand as to how the two activists came up with this strategy of “supporting the Pakistani civil society.” They travelled from America to Pakistan to take part in the protests and hold a vigil outside Aitzaz’s residence thus getting a lot of media attention. If their sole purpose was to render support to the Pakistani civil society, then couldn’t they have lobbied the US government since nothing moves in Pakistan without Uncle Sam’s permission?

Both of them are from Code Pink. Code Pink has become well known for it’s lobbying against the Iraq war using unconventional methods. Could’nt Code Pink think of other more effective ways of supporting Pakistani civil society given their rich experience?

This compels one to ask did the activists really work out their strategy of helping the Pakistani civil society. What purpose did they achieve? Won’t they have been more effective by building the pressure on the US media and the US congressmen to ask the right questions as to why the US is mum over the situation?

Political advocacy: Pakistani ishtyle!

A group of concerned Pakistanis ( mostly living abroad) a while back got together to form the Campaign to Restore Democracy in Pakistan (CRDP). Their work mostly consists of sending out op-ed pieces and other news alerts about Pakistan copy pasted from the mainstream media, their members then comment on it, sometimes a virtual fight breaks out amongst it’s members during the discussion but on the whole it is a good volunteer networking effort. We are also on their mailing list and from time to time get their mails. The mail that we got today actually was so funny that we thought we ‘d share it . Here goes:

MMA is meeting on Saturday (today) in Islamabad to discuss the election strategy. It is clear that the state-sponsored-Fazl-ur-Rehman will be trying to convince the rest to forget the election boycott. We can not allow this to happen. Below are the telephone numbers of the MMA. Please call and sms to show solidarity to the MMA parties who have announced boycott of the elections and put pressure on Fazl-ur-Rehman to join the rest of the APDM.
Our stance: no elections till the judges are restored to pre-Nov 3 position.
There will be NO compromise on this.”

Here is the best part of the message :

“A couple of words of advice:

• SMSes might not be as effective as with PML-N (for obvious reasons).
• Please try to use a simpler version of English or write in Roman Urdu.
• Please do not call during the Jama’at timings of Fajr, Zuhur, Asar,Maghrab and Isha.
• MMA leadership may avoid talking to women. Please don’t take this personally.
• Concepts like democracy, rule of law, etc may be new to these blokes.
• Islam is perhaps the only word they know. Do not waste a lot of time telling them why the judiciary should be separate from the executive. Instead focus on helping their Muslim brothers against the enemy etc.”

Lessons from Swat “success.”

According to reports coming out of the area, the military operation in Swat has been “successful” . While it is good that militants have been flushed out of the areas which they had taken over, the question still remains as to whether the military operation was an end in itself or a means to an end? Now that the military operation has been “successful” how do we know that the militants would not regroup and strike again because of the poor intelligence of state troops? Having said , let us also not forget the fundamental question of who are these “militants” and how did they become that influential?

Lal Masjid , the Swat operation and even the operation in the FATA area has time and time again emphasized one thing which is : piece meal military operations just do not work.

What is needed, in our opinion, is a fundamental reorientation of thinking of state, society and religion’s relationship in Pakistan and the first step to do that is not through a gun but through dialogue.