New Age Islam Edit Bureau
16 September 2016
The Making of Pakistan’s Putin
By Ayaz Amir
The Friendly Racist
By Maria Sartaj
Inequality within Our Public Agenda
By Syed Mohammad Ali
MQM Vs the State
By Syed Kamran Hashmi
Despondency Transformed Into Hope
By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Why Are Rural Sindhis Hesitant To
Change The Way They Vote?
By Mujtaba Ali Isani
Well Done, Anarkali
By Asha’ar Rehman
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
The Making Of Pakistan’s Putin
September 16, 2016
“The leader must aim high, see big, judge
widely, thus setting himself apart from the ordinary people who debate in
narrow confines.” General Charles de Gaulle.
I think – and I could be dead wrong and if
I am, let me go to Sehwan Sharif to atone for my misjudgement – the most
important event in Pakistan’s recent history will happen post-November when Gen
Raheel Sharif puts up his spurs and a successor takes his place.
I can bet anything that when his departure
ceremony takes place in General Headquarters and he formally relinquishes his
command there will be on his face not the wan, wistful look that Gen Musharraf
had when he was handing over his baton to Gen Kayani. Musharraf was looking
back on his years of glory and was uncertain about the future, correctly as it
soon turned out, Kayani, his anointed successor, in effect becoming his Brutus.
Gen Raheel will face no such predicament,
his circumstances entirely different. His success as army chief will be behind
him. But a future that could well be promising will be before him. He will have
taken off his uniform. But given Pakistan’s circumstances, and the general’s
standing with the public – wide sections of which already look upon him as a
national hero, for the way he has led from the front and taken up difficult
challenges – there will arise, sooner than anyone can think, the opportunity,
or indeed the temptation, to plunge into the murky sea of Pakistani politics.
Gen Raheel’s record is enviable. No army
chief before him has won the laurels he has. Army chiefs, historically, have
been flattered and made much of when at their posts. They have been forgotten
if not vilified after their departures. Gen Raheel for a change has won a great
measure of public support and approval because of the things he has done –
Fata, Karachi, and being there every time when danger or tragedy has struck.
When he steps down this status, far from diminishing, is likely to be
Because 1) there is a leadership vacuum in
the country; 2) this emotion-prone country has always been looking for a
saviour and deliverer; and 3) no one fits the saviour model more than Gen
Raheel. It’s almost as if his three years as army chief have led inexorably to
this point. And fortune and the Fates have been kind to him.
He could easily have fallen by the wayside.
If the conspirators had succeeded and he had seized power during the dharnas in
August 2014, as he could have done, that would have been the end of him
politically. Fata would not have happened and Karachi would have remained
unsettled, the Karachi Fuehrer still calling the shots. And the corrupt
oligarchs in power, far from being finished, would have turned once more into
the martyrs and champions of democracy that they became after Musharraf’s coup…and
Pakistan would have been stuck with them for another decade.
That was the first temptation and a lesser
man would have succumbed to it. The second temptation lay in the matter of an
extension. If Gen Raheel at the hands of the corrupt oligarchs had accepted any
kind of extension, three months or three years, he would have shot himself not
in the foot but the stomach, the equivalent of falling on his sword. That would
have been the end of him and his legend. And the oligarchs would have gone
laughing all the way to the banks where their billions are kept, their nervous
looks replaced with triumphant smiles.
Angling for a field marshal’s baton, the
line peddled by a host of conspiracy theorists, would have been another cup of
poison. With a field marshal’s baton in his hand, aping the Rommels and the
Mansteins, Gen Raheel would have looked the biggest fool in the wide region
between the Himalayas and the Arabian Sea. Lahoris would have cracked such
jokes that he would not have known where to hide that baton. The legacy of
Shabbir Sharif, Sitar-e-Jurat and Nishan-e-Haider, would have been sullied
forever. And there would have been no stopping the laughter of the oligarchs.
There was a third trap which Gen Raheel
could have fallen into. After his announcement last January that he was not
interested in any extension and would take none, he could have sat back in his
chair, taken it easy and become a lame-duck. But he has been active throughout,
keeping to his punishing pace and, to the dismay of the oligarchs, continuing
to lead from the front.
His speech in GHQ on Defence of Pakistan
Day was the speech of no army chief. It was a tour d’ horizon, a state of the
nation review, encapsulating the achievements of the armed forces in retrieving
the spaces of national sovereignty lost to the forces of terrorism. There was
not even a remote reference to the role of the government, perhaps rightly so
because in the reclaiming of the lost spaces the role of the government has
been zero. Democracy purists, fighting democracy’s battles heroically from
their armchairs, would take umbrage…for these were words more apt on the lips
of a national leader.
But this is Pakistan’s reality today, the
oligarchs occupied wholly with what comes easiest to them: money, the underhand
deal turned into an art form; and abdicating the tough decisions to the army.
And the army chief was like Caesar addressing his legions, paying scant
attention to the Roman Senate and the politicians.
An analogy from the past may hold a light
to the future. When Bhutto stepped down as foreign minister in 1966, to see him
off at the Rawalpindi railway station were a handful of well-wishers. Of what
awaited him in Lahore the next morning he had not the slightest inkling. But a
charged crowd was there, filling the platforms and the overhead bridges. Bhutto
went to the Governor’s House for lunch with the Nawab of Kalabagh and his train
kept waiting. When he returned the crowd was still there and as he climbed into
his saloon he stood at the door and, overcome with emotion, he wiped his eyes
with his handkerchief and threw the handkerchief into the crowd and it was torn
to pieces. A year later was laid the foundation of the PPP.
I have a feeling or it could be my fantasy
that such a homecoming awaits Gen Raheel when he is no more army chief. The
nation, in the grip of moneyed politics, is directionless. It knows neither its
purpose nor its destination. Pakistan has been saved, the forces of terrorism
defeated, lost sovereignty retrieved, but the leadership vacuum remains.
Corrupt leaders can pull a nation down, as
corrupt and visionless leaders destroyed the mighty superpower that the Soviet
Union was. Strong leaders can pull a nation up, as Vladimir Putin has restored
relevance and a measure of greatness to Russia. Pakistan awaits its own Putin
who can stem the rot, reverse the process of national decline and give point to
the Pakistani quest for purpose and relevance. Pakistan may be at the cusp of
such a moment.
I have another feeling: that this
battle-tested army will stand for no Ziauddin Butt as its chief. The decision
will come from the army, not the oligarchs – to ensure that into safe hands
passes Gen Raheel’s hard-won legacy.
By Maria Sartaj
Last week, global citizens of social media
raised a hue and cry over Air China’s racist precautions offered in their
in-flight magazine. The booklet while describing London had advised its
passengers to be vigilant while entering areas populated by Pakistanis, Indians
and blacks. We all felt incensed and flared our nostrils at how dare they think
of us as dangerous.
Legally speaking, it was a terrible thing,
completely uncalled for, but in many ways, Air China’s soft warning represented
our inner selves. There is a ‘friendly racist’ in most people that creates
boundaries for themselves and others. This amiable racist is to be feared more
than the outright hatemonger, as at least there is some iota of honesty involved
Let’s face it; sadly, we, Pakistanis, are
quite racist at heart even if we don’t like to admit it. When travelling in New
York we cringe upon seeing a group of African American people, holding onto our
handbags tightly. Non-resident Pakistanis will agree with me when I say most of
them hesitate to buy property in areas populated by African Americans. To us,
all Chinese people look similar and eat worms and dog meat. The one race that
we do look up to is white people, but that has more to do with our submissive
colonial past than our genuine liking for them, because even they are thought
of as ‘dirty bums’ who use tissue paper to wipe their behinds and not lota
Pakistanis are not only racist but heavily
divided on ethnic lines too; even today we are acutely aware of a person’s
background, be it a friend, a neighbour or a colleague. We use this piece of
information to build up conclusions and aid our generalisations; favouritism
may come into play due to this as well, but on the face of it we all like to
sing Dil Dil Pakistan on 14th August every year.
No one is born a racist or disliking a
group of people. Left alone in the daycare, a Caucasian infant instantly warms
up to his or her Asian friend. Similarly, in Pakistan we can spot toddlers
playing with children of the domestic staff till they are rebuked, and taught
to pick friends from a certain financial standing, sect or caste. Our hearts
are so divided and tainted with negativity for the ‘other’ that it is difficult
for us to like anyone except our own kind. Variety is certainly not the spice
of life in Pakistan.
Almost every major mainstream political
party of the country, except for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has an
ethnic subtext and supporter base; they have built their narratives on the
subtle dislike that we carry for those who aren’t like us. The friendly racist
in us sees the Punjabi as an uncouth paindo (villager); the Pashtun as an
illiterate, gun-toting gang member; the mohajir as a dark-skinned, paan-spitting,
mini Altaf Bhai; and the Baloch as the tribal minded, non-nationalist
percentage of the population. The friendly racist certainly has buddies from
the community he’s uncomfortable with, but also has a lot of stereotypical
notions about them and cracks offensive jokes behind their backs. He or she is
more toxic to the social fabric than one can imagine.
People essentially hate what they can’t
understand; if it is a culture with polar opposite traditions to their own that
leaves them confused, they put up red flags around it. Superficial patriotism
creates more damage, and it is not only limited to news channels; Pakistanis
will need to acknowledge ethnic fault lines in their hearts first and then work
toward diminishing them. The situation may be better than what it was in the
1980s, which, for example, led to the creation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement
in Karachi, but even today we fear venturing into the other’s domain. A little
mishap or a bad experience, and one entire community gets written off in our
PTI, thankfully, does not use the worn-out
but powerful ethnic card. It is headed by Imran Khan who has fluency in
Punjabi, and is not even seen as a pure Pashtun by his ethnic brethren as the
Niazi tribe settled in Mianwali in Punjab a few centuries ago. Khan essentially
represents two cultures, one that is rooted in Pashtun traditions, and another
that he grew up surrounded by. Multi-ethnicity works to shatter divides: some
Pashtuns of Karachi, for example, will identify themselves more with the Urdu
speakers of Karachi than with Swat-based Pashtuns. This adopted ethnicity or
mannerism is something most Pakistanis should choose to embrace to develop a
more melting pot like culture.
The problem arises when we are taught that
Sindh belongs to Sindhis, Punjab is for Jatts, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for Pashtuns
and Balochistan for the Baloch. This leaves many groups such as the mohajir
community or even the south Punjabis feeling vulnerable and ‘rootless’. The
ideal first step would be to rid the mind of the secret hate for anyone, and
recognise the other as just another human being trying to make ends meet and
improve his or her lives.
Inequality Within Our Public Agenda
September 15, 2016
Since the 1990s, around a billion people
are estimated to have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Yet, it is intriguing
that this decrease in poverty is not accompanied by any significant reduction
in the gap between the haves and the have nots. Despite the enormous growth in
global wealth, the so-called ‘trickle-down effects’ of this progress remain
lacklustre. Income inequality has actually increased both within and across
countries. The fact that we live in a world in which 72 per cent of the world’s
poor possess around one per cent of its wealth indicates how deeply flawed our
prevailing models of growth are.
Moreover, it is now increasingly clear that
the prevailing means of securing economic growth are not environmentally
sustainable. The emerging climate change related consequences of the relentless
pursuit of growth have in fact already begun undermining the gains made in
poverty reduction over the past several years.
It is thus imperative to focus on making
economic growth more equitable and sustainable.
Yet, many international development
agencies continue focusing on enhancing economic growth and increasing the
actual size of the proverbial pie so that everyone can get a bigger piece,
rather than thinking about how the pie can be made in a more
ecologically-friendly manner, and how to redistribute the proportion of its
slices, so that everyone gets a decent share.
It is thus refreshing to see the UNDP’s
country office in Pakistan having taken up the issue of inequality squarely in
‘Escaping the Inequality Trap’, which is the latest issue of Development
Advocate Pakistan. This quarterly publication, edited by UNDP personnel,
provides a useful platform for the exchange of ideas on key development
challenges facing the country.
In Pakistan, the challenge of inequality is
quite daunting. According to the latest official data, consumption-based
poverty has dropped from nearly 58 per cent to under 30 per cent between
1998/99 and 2013/14. However, based on Gini coefficient calculations for the
same period, Pakistan’s richest 20 per cent now consume seven times more than
the poorest 20 per cent.
Our regional disparities are also
disturbing. The latest Multidimensional Poverty Index, (which measures health,
education and living standards) has found stark disparities between rural and
urban Pakistan, and within different regions of the country. For example,
multidimensional poverty is under 32 per cent in Punjab but rises to nearly 74
per cent in FATA. Inequality’s insidious effects pervade households too, where
women are much worse off than men.
The UNDP is therefore right in pointing out
that Pakistan’s institutions, incentives and laws continue to favour the rich
and burden the poor. Tax exemptions are provided to the elite in the name of encouraging
growth, alongside imposition of indirect taxes which disproportionally affect
the poor. Discrimination on the basis of gender, economic status, religion and
social identity further restricts upward mobility. The list goes on.
It is encouraging to see UNDP’s publication
acknowledge that tackling inequality requires a much more holistic approach
addressing the underlying structures and processes which cause inequality.
However, its prescriptions mostly focused on domestic issues such as the need to
reform key institutions, making fiscal or monetary policies more equitable,
overcoming the evident regional inequality, and mainstreaming women’s
priorities in budgeting processes.
While these are all important suggestions,
being a UN agency, the UNDP needs to broader its analysis. Going beyond
domestic causes, it must also begin looking at why and how donor agencies and
aid policies have been exacerbating inequalities in countries like Pakistan.
For instance, the report cites the problem of landless farmers as a major cause
for rural poverty. However, besides the vested national interest of the
military and landed politicians, the rural development strategies of the World
Bank and other major donors have favoured capital intensive farming, and other
market based mechanisms. Such strategies have certainly not improved the
circumstances of the rural poor, such as sharecroppers, agricultural labourers,
daily waged and seasonal labourers and the women involved in agriculture.
While the UNDP must begin drawing attention
to how international development agencies exacerbate inequalities in countries
like Pakistan, this, of course, does not mean that our own policy and opinion
makers can continue neglecting the oft-identified reasons for the glaring
inequality within our midst.
In response to bad behaviour of children,
if parents lose their temper they invariably teach their offspring the very
lesson they did not intend them to learn: that getting angry and being out of
control is justified, and is the right thing to do. It does not matter
afterwards how often they advise their children about virtues of patience and
forbearance, children are not going to learn those principles. They would only
learn how the problem is solved in reality.
Being parents we all know that children
misbehave and push our buttons. Is it a surprise? Sometimes they push our
buttons with such tenacity that we want to smack them. However, if we show our
weakness and vulnerability at any point, trust me, by yelling, throwing things
or hitting them, we lose the battle even before it has begun. The same rule
holds true for the state and its citizens as the state like a parent carries
the responsibility of protecting its people and taking care of their basic
needs. Criminals in this example can be understood as difficult children, the
ones who do not follow the rules, and those who push our buttons.
Some of these criminals are so cunning that
they hide behind a political facade, their ethnic background providing them a
protective shield, their cultural distinction creating a barrier. If these
offenders bear organisational skills on top, they can wreak havoc in the state.
How? Deceit and trickery. Most importantly, they can disguise their violent
members as political workers who depending on the situation change their hats,
obfuscating the difference between a peaceful member of society and the one who
On the other hand, the state wants to
maintain law and order, and it cannot tolerate such elements running freely.
However, the moment it loses its temper and crosses a delicate legal boundary,
it also loses the battle that has not even begun. True, the state with all
sincerity is trying to reassure the people that no one should break the law.
Citizens though, as in the case of children, through the actions of the
agencies are learning just the opposite: 1) might is right, and 2) breaking the
rules and regulations can be justified if done in uniform.
Do you appreciate now how crucial it is for
the state to follow a strict code of conduct, a code that is much stricter than
what it plans to implement on her citizens? The point is even when it can teach
a lesson to these offenders, it must not attempt to do so on its own without
the due process of law.
This analogy of the state and citizens, and
parents and children, best describes, in my opinion, what is going on in
Karachi for the last three years, but more so after the controversial speech of
Altaf Hussain in August.
In response to the alleged violence of the
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and its workers, the state through the Rangers
has unleashed more violence upon them; some of them have been arrested and
tortured, their offices torn down, and party leaders forced to live in exile or
made to go in hiding. While this is going on, the judiciary that had to stand
in front is sipping a cup of tea somewhere behind the scenes indifferent and
What has made the situation even more
precarious is that people now also accuse the agencies of not letting the
judges take independent decisions, forcing them to tilt against the MQM. The
most obvious example is of the imprisonment of the mayor of Karachi, Waseem
Akhtar, who appeared before the court confident that the cases against him did
not stand a chance to win. He was denied bail, and was put behind bars under suspicious
If it is true, the whole system has been
turned upside down, and the place of justice has been converted into a place of
oppression. People argue that the act of pressurising the judiciary is same as
the act of infiltrating a political party with criminals. Why? It is because
judges who do not perform their duties honestly also aid in promoting crime,
violence and illegality. Frustrated by a blatant and unchecked use of power,
many are concerned that the state does not even bother to go through the
process sometimes. If their suspicion is high, the body of the accused is found
on the street, a daring example of ‘reverse’ target killing.
In any case, the current harsh and violent
path that the federal government has opted is a slippery slope with the
potential of huge losses in future and a minimum short-term gain. If long-term
success is required the state must show strength through restraint, and by
following the rule of law, not by breaking it.
By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Notwithstanding the scepticism expressed by
opponents of government and cynical assertions about its achievements during
the last three years, it is hard to contest the claims of the prime minister
when he says that Pakistan is striding on the path of peace and prosperity, and
is well poised to become the economic hub for the countries of South Asia as
well as Central Asia. If we compare the overall security environment in
Pakistan and the existing economic portents at the moment with the situation in
2013 when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government came into power,
as well as developments in the region , the inference that can safely be drawn
would not be different from what the prime minister has been repeatedly
When the PML-N government assumed power —
hardly anyone would tend to disagree — the country was engulfed in an ambience
of gloom. Snowballing terrorism and religious extremism posed an existentialist
threat; the economy was in complete shambles marred by a debilitating energy
crisis; and Karachi, the industrial capital of Pakistan and the jugular vein of
the economy, was ruled by terrorists, target killers and land mafia. Balochistan
was seething with insurgency and sectarian killings. These were egregious and
intractable challenges that needed political will and vision to take them on to
turn the despondency into a vibrant hope.
Honestly speaking, the government
notwithstanding the constraints and the presence of debilitating factors,
showed a remarkable commitment and courage to take on those challenges. It
accorded top priority to dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism and religious
extremism, and with the consent and approval of all political forces, initiated
a process of dialogue with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). But when it
became evident in the wake of continued acts of terrorism by the TTP and its
affiliates — like the attack on the Karachi airport — government did not
hesitate to launch the Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in consultation
with the military establishment. Subsequently, the National Action Plan (NAP)
was also put into place to deal with the situation in the backdrop of the
attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar.
While our valiant armed forces executed the
operation, federal government and political parties extended national ownership
and the support that it required. State institutions like parliament and the
judiciary also paved the way for the establishment of military courts through
the 21st amendment and its endorsement respectively, which formed the most
crucial element of NAP among other variables.
Within two years from its commencement, the
Operation Zarb-e-Azb has achieved its objective of clearing North Waziristan of
terrorists and their infrastructure. That could not have been possible without
the unflinching commitment and sacrifices rendered by our valiant soldiers, and
their role in reconstructing the destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitating
the internally displaced people (IDPs). During the operation, 3,500 terrorists
were killed, and 992 of their hideouts were destroyed. In achieving this, 490
security personnel lost their lives, while 2,108 were injured. The nation owes unqualified
gratitude and appreciation to our armed forces for what they have done to winch
the country out of an extremely bad situation.
Rehabilitation of IDPs is in progress, and
to help them restart their lives schools, roads and mosques are being built
with the support and active participation of the troops. Army has constructed
700 kilometres of road in North Waziristan. To ensure that terrorists do not
stage a comeback to the area, new wings of FC and para-military forces are
being raised to man the check posts along the Pak-Afghan border to regulate the
movement of people through a process of verification.
Alongside the operation in North
Waziristan, army also undertook 19,347 intelligence-based operations in other
parts of Pakistan to pre-empt the backlash and to eliminate sleeping cells and
supporters of terrorists; in these 213 terrorists were killed. These operations
have greatly helped to curtail incidents of terrorism, contributing immensely
to the improvement of law and order.
Situation in Karachi has vastly improved.
As a result of targeted operations, 1,203 terrorists belonging to the al-Qaeda,
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, TTP and Tehreek-e-Swat have been arrested, including 636
target killers belonging to proscribed organisations and political parties.
Remnants of terrorists, though, are still carrying out sporadic attacks and
target killings as a retaliatory action.
In the wake of the last terrorist attack in
Quetta, government has upped the ante against terrorism by launching a
countrywide combing operation and pursuing the implementation of NAP with a
renewed vigour. Civil and military leadership, together, review the situation
for adopting necessary and required measures to uproot the scourge of
The economy is on the upward curve
signifying the commencement of an era of sustained economic growth. The
macro-economic and structural reforms have produced encouraging results. The
veracity and authenticity of these claims have been endorsed by international
institutions like the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and global
ranking agencies like Moody’s, as well as international media. The Transparency
International in its three successive reports has indicated a dip in corruption
In regard to the energy crisis, the
situation has gradually improved. Nearly, 3,000MW electricity has been added to
the system. A number of power projects has been initiated, including under the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with a cumulative production capacity
of 10,640MW, which is likely to come on stream by the end of 2018. The import
of LNG from Qatar has already started creating a positive impact on the energy
These verifiable facts prove that the PML-N
government has been successful, to a great extent, in tackling the formidable
challenges that it inherited. What was remarkable about the achievements so far
is that they were accomplished in spite of diversion of enormous resources
towards implementation of Zarb-e-Azb, devastating impact of floods on the
economy, heavy payment of debts inherited by government, and economic losses
incurred during the protest of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami
Tehreek in Islamabad. Gloom has surely been transformed into an abiding hope.
Implementation of CPEC is going to bring
transformational change in the economic profile of Pakistan as well as the
entire region. Reportedly, the ADB along with five other multilateral donors is
also developing six corridors that will connect the Gawadar and Karachi ports
with Central Asia and Europe via Russia. This is being done under the
initiative of the Central Asia Regional Cooperation (CAREC). Ishaq Dar,
Chairman, CAREC, has convened a meeting of the organisation on October 26-26 in
Islamabad, and the forum is likely to discuss further avenues of regional
As a result of these developments Pakistan
is poised to become the economic hub for South Asia and Central Asia with
prospects of infinite economic benefits. The future economic outlook is surely
very encouraging, provided detractors of government do not succeed in rocking
Why Are Rural Sindhis Hesitant To Change
The Way They Vote?
I went on a preliminary research trip to
Sindh to study the phenomenon of feudalistic persistence. Before I went there
for this research, it was puzzling that in Sindh, Balochistan and southern
Punjab, there were still large land-owning families who had a number of
share-croppers and great political influence; especially because such feudal
tendencies were dead in the other provinces in Pakistan and in neighbouring
countries. Places where I spent time included Karachi, Hyderabad, Sanghar,
Sukkur, Shikarpur, Larkana, Khairpur, Thatta, Gharo as well as other areas. The
areas where I conducted fieldwork were quite representative of Sindh as they
included both rural areas in the north and the south, and the major urban
centres of the province. The usual division of Sindh is along the north-south
and urban-rural lines. In the north there is more water for agriculture but the
soil is more saline and the land becomes waterlogged easily. In the south there
is less water but areas where there is irrigation are quite fertile. Most of
the land area and population (76 per cent according to most estimates) in Sindh
could be best described as rural. The transition from feudalism mostly effects
the rural countryside although its effects are felt in the urban centres as
well. There is also variation in the amount of violence prevalent in Sindh. The
rural areas in the north are much more violent than the south in terms of
violent deaths, kidnappings and theft. The urban areas in Sindh also have their
fair share of violence but it is of a different nature, based mostly on party
and ethnic lines rather than the clan-based, tribal nature of rural violence.
During the interviews conducted during my
stay, landlords whether from the north or the south, lamented the gradual
breakdown of the feudal structure. The tenants, on the other hand, seemed to be
worried about a host of factors including poverty, lack of basic facilities and
if applicable, their feuds with other clans. The tenants also spoke quite openly
about the tyranny of certain feudal lords although it was expected that in
theory that they would be afraid to do so. While it is not possible to go
through the many factors that were mentioned as to why the feudal system was
breaking down, they included smaller landholdings per individual due to
inheritance, absentee landlordism, exposure of tenants to foreign countries in
the Middle East, the availability of alternative career options if the
relationship with the feudal became sour and the advent of democracy where
tenants can choose which feudal to play against the other.
It may be safe to say that Sindh is a land
where democracy did not have its expected positive effects. Sindh lags behind
in almost all human development indicators of literacy, health and poverty.
During my fieldwork the one thing that was most noticeable was that even though
there was a feeling that the feudal system was on the decline, the
feudal-turned-politicians were the ones who had not only maintained their
estates but also consolidated their powers. State support coupled with the
unwavering loyalties of co-tribals and tenants have made them wealthy and
influential. A necessary factor for a feudal to hold on to power was to have
some sort position in government; whether a successful politician, a top
bureaucrat or being part of the armed forces. Without having the backing of
state power the feudal’s power was not seen as credible.
What was known across the land was that
state officials were highly corrupt, often bagging much of the development
funds for themselves which were meant for the impoverished people of Sindh. The
conundrum then was, despite the apparent corruption, why had the current lot of
politicians still been able to maintain a vote bank among the population? The answer
to such a question is not straightforward and studies in Asia and Latin America
of hierarchal patron-client structures provide some insight. Literature tells
us that in some cases the patron is able to buy the votes of his clients by
promising and/or providing some state services or money. In other cases, the
elites had established enough fear in the hearts of their voters to ensure
their compliance on voting day. All of these factors are also seen in Sindh.
Most significantly, the landlords through the
many middle-men and brokers ensure their supporters protection from the police.
Protection from the state as a reason for voting for a politician is a factor
that hasn’t been explored much in the literature to be found in Pakistan. The
common man in Sindh seemed to have lost hope in anything government-related.
All politicians and bureaucrats are seen as corrupt by the average citizen. The
ideal strategy then is to extract as much as possible from anyone giving
anything or support the one who is expected to most credibly provide benefit in
the future. This mentality has meant that politicians would be voted for, even
though they would be providing only the slightest of benefit. The problem of
new entrants in politics is that they are not seen as credible enough to ensure
change. The result is that the ordinary Sindhi, given the lack of basic
facilities, thinking in the short term, is reluctant to vote for a new
political party or candidate, as it is seen as a huge risk for a poor citizen
to take on.
September 16th, 2016
ONE doesn’t know which walls they had been
kept behind until now but if the outcry is anything to go by then these girls
had no business suddenly emerging in Purani Anarkali to create a controversy
more unnecessary than others.
Theirs was a scripted act in advertisement
of both cause and merchandise. Later on, an attempt was made by the sponsors to
minus the cause from the equation. It was claimed that this was a mere attempt
at selling a product which was not to be confused with any effort to break
By that time though, many a thesis and a
few dozen interpretations had been paraded in public, ranging from the
mainstream to the fringe — blogs and other alternative media forums. Everyone
had a reason to comment on the flash-mob experiment that starred a few
undoubtedly brave women. Even amidst all kind of denials and admissions and
rebuttals, a debate raged. The advertisement had served its stated and unstated
— perhaps unintended? — purpose.
By the time the girls departed after their
shocking experiment in the flash-mob technique— taken off the internet, along
with their message — the venue of their choice had also come under close
scrutiny for any marks of it being the exclusive abode of the prudes. That
might not be the case.
The mysterious, unyielding huddles which
operated informally in Purani Anarkali not too long ago continue to be a source
But why Anarkali, so named after a woman
who according to a legend which adds richly to Lahore’s romance was buried in a
wall for daring the authority of her time? The area’s history, at least its
relatively recent past, makes it difficult to understand why anyone would
choose it at a particular time to highlight an oppressive tendency in Lahore or
in Pakistan in general.
Adjacent to the colleges is the bazaar
which was for long the main retail market of the city. Nearby are places where
the thinking and writing types would hold their sessions. These include the Pak
Tea House, the Chinese Lunch Home and before that, the Nagina Bakery, etc. This
has certainly been a more forward-looking part of the city, despite the fact
that it gets its name from the infamous legend of the entombing of a woman by
Come to think of it, this is a fact that
might have actually helped in its selection for the shooting of the package.
The area, with all the usual men and suspects around, must have been subjected
to detailed and close inspection before it was approved as fit for hosting
which turned out to be quite a dangerous experiment. In which case all credit
to Purani Anarkali. Well done.
The average onlooker apart, those who have
been around long enough would agree that this particular part of ‘an
increasingly conservative Lahore’ has been more likely to draw a bunch of
Pakistanis desirous of speaking about their choices than most other parts of
the country. Again, notwithstanding the collective verdict about the experiment,
there are a number of groups and huddles previously active in the area that
would be happy to note that their tradition based on free expression has been
Old Anarkali has been a favourite and
convenient haunt for students, say those of them looking to grab a quick
affordable lunch before proceeding on other, if less exciting, business of the
day. These students must have included men of all verities including the ones
contrasting with those who would allow themselves to whisper something
provocative or inane in the ear of a woman passing by.
Perhaps pleased by this latest occurrence
around their old abandoned habitat would be a group of political activists. Purani
Anarkali now routinely features in narratives about how it was and what it
could have been. Some of these stories are bitter and speak of an individual’s
disillusionment with those ‘who took us for a ride selling us dreams which
could never have been realised — especially not with them at the helm’. Yet in
so many accounts, mysterious, unyielding huddles or tharas which operated
informally in Purani Anarkali in the not-too-distant past were and continue to
be a source of pride.
These huddles indicated desire, movement
and for those who are able to overcome the disappointment of failure a source
of some satisfaction. At the gatherings here the more dramatic and vocal
amongst these typical Anarkali dreamers taught their colleagues the merits of
revolution and struggle.
The more suave would venture further and
claim that not only did Anarkali and other such locales bring together
change-seekers relevant in the parallel stream of the country’s history, the
anti-thesis they brought to the fore actually contributed to the evolution of
the Pakistani reality. The oft-cited argument is that, without these dissenters
who had the courage to defy the odds by indulging in the forbidden from
platforms such as those which existed at Purani Anarkali, things could have been
There may be a lot of debate about the
gains and losses accruing from those formal or loose unions. There can be
little doubt, however, that bound by their status as dissenters, the angry and
those left out were able to create a small world of their own to live in, even
if the utopia of their thoughts never materialised. That little world populated
by those you could argue with, even if not everyone agreed on everything, was
an end unto itself.
Common final destinations are perhaps
harder to come by now than they were then. There is no escaping the need to
create those small safe worlds where you can breathe easy and coexist with
souls you have something in common with. The spaces have to be created and
explored and exploited and discovered. Like the more tolerant environs of