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Pakistan Press (16 Sep 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)



The Making of Pakistan’s Putin: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 September 2016




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

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The Making Of Pakistan’s Putin

By Ayaz Amir

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 strengthened.

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.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/150155-The-making-of-Pakistans-Putin

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The Friendly Racist

By Maria Sartaj

16-Sep-16

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 there.

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 (washing utensil).

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 minds.

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.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/16-Sep-16/the-friendly-racist

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Inequality Within Our Public Agenda

By Syed Mohammad Ali

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. 

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1182226/inequality-within-public-agenda/

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MQM Vs the State

By Syed Kamran Hashmi

16-Sep-16

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 destroys it.

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 unruffled.

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 circumstances.

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.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/16-Sep-16/mqm-vs-the-state

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Despondency Transformed Into Hope

By Malik Muhammad Ashraf

16-Sep-16

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 claiming.

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 terrorism.

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 Pakistan.

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 situation.

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 connectivity.

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 the boat.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/16-Sep-16/despondency-transformed-into-hope

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Why Are Rural Sindhis Hesitant To Change The Way They Vote?

By Mujtaba Ali Isani

September 15, 2016

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.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1182230/rural-sindhis-hesitant-change-way-vote/

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Well Done, Anarkali

By Asha’ar Rehman

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 social taboos.

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 of pride.

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 the Mughals.

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 kept alive.

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 much worse.

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 Purani Anarkali.

Source: dawn.com/news/1283986/well-done-anarkali

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/the-making-of-pakistan’s-putin--new-age-islam-s-selection,-16-september-2016/d/108571





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