Who will catch the big fish?

April 11, 2013

By Zara Zulfiqar

In Pakistan we believe, not in addressing causes, but getting overwhelmed by effects. Our law makers know they can’t execute well thought out policies effectively, so they just trim the weeds to make them look like grass. Not realizing unless the weed is uprooted it will grow back, and create room for more of its kind. We have seen it in the routine network jams that major cities experience every Eid, any holiday, even some Jummas. Another example is banning of ‘double sawari’, Basant, one wheeling. Most of us have come to terms with this bizarre system of ‘damage control’.

I have frequently heard people gab on ‘so what if it saves lives?’ Ethically speaking I’d rather be deprived of the luxury to text for a day than have a few dozen dying in a bomb blast. But the issue is not the inconvenience, rather the lazy psyche behind it. It takes almost no effort, and leaves the big fish swimming free, finding loopholes in these second grade solutions our law makers come up with. Such solutions are like allopathic medication, antibiotics, and antidepressants. They should be the last resort because your body becomes immune to the dose, and heavier doses are required to have the same effect. Not to mention they have severe side effects. Essentially they are making your body more and more dependent and continue to take a toll on normal bodily functions.

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February 15, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed

As of now Pakistan has no enemies. Even those who hate us and want to do us in are not really our enemies. Take India for example—basking in the glow of its many achievements it is gloating as Pakistan stews in its own juices. All it has to do is wait for juicy morsels to be thrown up by Pakistanis themselves so that it can tweak them and splash them all over the world. The recent plethora of whistle blowers is manna from heaven for the Indian media, establishment and politicians so these whistle blowers are encouraged to spew out more and more poison against their own country and they are falling for it in pursuit of their own warped ambitions.

Consider Afghanistan. It can talk publicly about a strategic relationship and need not be an enemy. It encourages the Pakistanis who have joined hands with others to kill other Pakistanis not just in the western border areas but deep in the heart of Pakistan. Now and then they inspire the misguided Pakistanis who think they are struggling for their rights and freedom by killing their brethren who may be of a different sect or by blowing up the people who are their saviors and by damaging precious assets of the State. There are many who then take on the task of stoking the fires and exploiting the vulnerabilities that emerge. It helps that Pakistanis raise their own voices to condemn their own law enforcers.

Consider the US whom many consider an enemy. It’s not– because it doesn’t have to be. By our actions and our confessions and the antics of our despicable whistle blowers and those who give them a stage we are actually confirming the worst fears of the US and the western world. No one needs to do anything and the well funded think tanks all over are going crazy analyzing and projecting what we are telling them about our past and present. No other country talks endlessly about its own corruption the way we do. No one parades sensitive issues the way we do. In no other country are their own countrymen actively involved in assisting others from inside to carry out dastardly terrorist attacks and subversion. We kill our own governors and then eulogize the killers. We set up national heroes making a laughing stock of ourselves. So called analysts and experts think it is macho to dig up dirt on our own institutions and scatter it all over. No sir—the US need not be our enemy.

Take the Taliban-not the ones fighting to free their country of foreign occupation but those who are fighting and killing to get power so that they can impose their rule and their laws on Pakistan Of course they are Pakistanis but with them are free loaders from all over the world as well as from other parts of Pakistan. There are some who have sympathies for them. Others think we should surrender to them or join them or hold talks with them on their terms. Our confusion translates into the world thinking we have a mindset with Lemming like suicide ambitions. We then find others simply setting themselves up in inspirational or funding roles to keep the body counts high all over the country. The Taliban need not be our enemies to get what they want—they can be our friends and achieve their goals. If they want to talk why don’t they declare a cease fire and talk without pre conditions?

The whole world with many Pakistani included are telling us what to do to get our economy right. We are doing the exact opposite of what they are telling us. Mobilize your resources-we do not. Curb your expenditure-we do not. Stabilize your internal security—we do not. Establish the rule of law-we do not. Get your public sector enterprises under control-we do not. Stop subverting your institutions by using discretionary powers and political clout-we do not. Get everyone to do his job-we do not. Elect political LEADERS not people who want authority-we never did-will we now?

The media is having a ball. It is raking in revenues from advertisements. It has developed clout and uses it to pressurize and extract the maximum from every source. It pits whistle blowers against each other and watches them do each other and the country in. It pits political rivals against each other and then sits back and watches the feathers fly as they scream like banshees. It does not do any heavy lifting like policy analysis, counseling, advising or suggesting or informing-much easier to rake up and scatter muck all round. To hell with the country and its image. The joy in the media is from the excellent local and foreign drama serials, movies and fun talk and comedy shows. No wonder more and more people are getting hooked to these and go to the news channels only during ads in their favorite shows.

So do we have enemies? No we do not because we are own worst enemies. Like sheep we see people lined up for meaningless security checks, waiting in queues for CNG in their vehicles, outside government offices to get some flunkeys approval or signature or simply staring into space as they wait for the power to come back on. Yet it is these people-the common folk in the cities and villages- who are keeping the country afloat and functional. From abroad they send hard earned foreign currency and within the country they work and earn and spend and pray for better days. These people are the true friends of this country and it is their resilience that keeps faith alive and the home fires burning. They demonstrate the great potential that this country has. Long live the people and may the enemies within perish.

Are we waiting for a miracle?

December 21, 2012


As eight anti-polio workers are killed at the hands of ‘extremists’ Pakistanis once again get swallowed into the black hole of never-ending troubles. That’s what we do with our problems. Let them build, keep putting them off. And then people die because of our own indifference. As news spreads about the 9th anti-polio worker’s death in another tragic attack on the UN, the liberal and conservative, the patriotic and indifferent, together stand on the same end of the spectrum. This is good news for a people who have no sense of self interest. We instead decide who our enemies are and then hurt them howsoever we can, even if it hurts us.

So what is the history of the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan? The facts are simple: vaccines are manufactured in the United States, under WHO standards. Pakistan has the highest number of reported cases in the word at this point (84 nationwide cases were reported last year). Since 2009, 200,000 children have been missing the vaccine each year, making matters only worse on our ever deteriorating portfolio. Why? Because in essence Pakistan’s only ‘well wishers’, the religious anti-West camp, revealed how the United States was only trying to sterilize our people through ‘pig fat’ vaccines. After the fake vaccination campaign by the CIA to capture OBL was exposed, more reason to believe the Tehreek-i-Taliban flooded the already paranoid herd.

As hatred towards the West escalates in Pakistan’s vulnerable North, innocent lives continue to be lost at the hands of drones and the powerful right uses religion as a tool to evade the masses from their own self interest, we witness our own downfall. The liberal, and relatively conservative elite, together continue to bash these attempts as conspiracy theories, yet the problem escalates. Should hatred towards the West, love for religion and suffering from Western policies allow our people to hate on themselves? There seems to be a major lag in narrative: the extremes have been warded off in a place where their voices are muted, and their growth ignored. And this indifference towards them is what helps them grow.

By turning a blind eye and deaf ears towards the booming right Pakistanis have left themselves unprepared for any such attacks. When the anti-polio drives started we were all cheering on for a liberal Pakistan that welcomes health aid and efforts from our allies, frenemies (whatever you want to call them), but until such an incident occurs we keep our faces buried in the sand, not prepared for a reaction. Malala Yousafzai again pops up as an example of such passiveness that we display as a society. This incident reflects badly on us as a people, but it is only a true reflection that we have become. People are like sheep. They need a shepherd. The vacuum the extremists are filling now already existed due to a lack of outreach on the government’s, and apathy on the people’s, part.

Escalating fanaticism, disjointed narratives, and rising problems on every front are not just a consequence of bad leadership, or strong military, or religious influence. Rather it is a product of our Attention Deficit Disorder as a people. We are avoiding our immediate surroundings. The rich either become part of the government or start up a business to secure their lifestyles, the upper middle class try to flee, the lower middle class delude themselves with religion and the least fortunate use drugs or religious rhetoric to make peace with what they have. Those who constantly watch the news feel they have played their part by keeping themselves aware. Facebook causes pop up, and we think signing them will hypothetically take the matter to the ICC or UNO and we will be rescued.

We have political and social explanations for why the incident occurred. Since the upcoming election is the most important concern, most make-do with any explanation that links these two. Perhaps this was a tactic to delay elections, they say. Maybe it really was, but by doing so we once again resort to rhetoric, and ignore our real problems. This incident needs to be an eye opener to us a society. We thought the attack on Malala was enough and then within weeks another extremist backlash occurs. As the UN decides to wrap up the campaign, we have given the world more reason to let us be, and drown in the venom we are constantly producing. We don’t need the West to destroy us. We have ourselves.

Defeating disabilities

November 16, 2012

For Pakistan

A staggered gait. A protruding limb. A twisted gaze. A crooked smile.

Do these features make you uncomfortable? Make you feel the need to look for alternative topics of discussion? Then you are one of the thousands Pakistanis who treat people with special needs with a discriminatory attitude.

Disabled people are mostly treated with pity or contempt. In the first case, the sympathy, even if well intended, only makes the disabled more conscious of his/her disability. Disabled people have frequently expressed their anger about how their disability is used to define their character and personality. Non-disabled people are likely to believe the disabled to be oppressed, lonely and disadvantaged. In reality there are people like Abia who are great leaders striving for a better world.

Read more…


October 30, 2012

By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal

Youth festival at National Hockey Stadium Lahore and two T-20 cricket matches at Karachi’s National Stadium were the trend setting events. Both were a resounding success; radiating the real image of Pakistan, the world over. During the youth gala, thousands of cheerful boys and girls fascinated the viewers all over the world by their splendid performance. It demonstrated to the world that sky is the limit when it comes to the potential and capabilities of the Pakistani youth, and as indeed the Pakistani nation. Likewise, in both the T-20 matches ‘Pakistan All Star XI’ outplayed their rivals. More than the results, what mattered was that after a long spell, Pakistan played host to international cricketers. Over 35,000 cheering fans enjoyed the action on two evenings. Above all, there was no untoward incident during these mega sporting events.

Though organized by the Punjab government, the Youth Festival was a reflection of national aspirations. Chief Minister did a commendable job by giving a focus oriented vision for the event. His team also planned meticulously and executed it with fine precision. This youth festival was something different; not just a mundane ritual focused around photo session.

Initiative by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to mobilize the youth paid dividends; it brought honours to the country by setting or bettering over a dozen of World records. It was a well-organised healthy activity, which was spread over several months starting from district level and then culminating with a mass participation in a joyous mood.

Young boys and girls, during their media interviews, expressed immense love for the country and expressed their resolve to work with even greater zeal to make Pakistan a shining star in the comity of nations. They tried to build a softer image of Pakistan to the world, hoping that their efforts would be recognised by the international community. Though Pakistanis going through rough times, no one should underestimate Pakistan’s resilience.

Most impressive of the events were mass singing of the national anthem, formation of the world’s largest national flag and a human mosaic of the Lahore Fort. Also new world records were set in martial arts, plug wiring, fastest chess set up, pulling a truck by a moustache, fastest time for wearing a cricket kit, longest frog jump, football headers etc.

On the opening day of the festival 42,813 people in the National Hockey Stadium sang the national anthem together, smashing the previous record of 15,243 held by India. Patriotic emotions ran when thousands of participants joined in singing the national anthem.

After observing the attempt of making the largest human flag from different angles and heights, the Guinness World Record adjudicator declared: “It’s amazing, amazing display of unity of 24,200 people here in Lahore tonight…It was an amazing view and I am surprised to see the unity and great show of Pakistani youth. After going through the figures of 24,200, I declare it another World Record for Pakistan,” said Gareth. “The youth of Punjab ‘touched the sky’ with their efforts; they have been working day in and day out to enter the GWR books and I hope this will be written in golden words,” he added. Earlier record was set by 21,726 participants in Hong Kong in 2007. Pakistanis formed the world’s largest human flag to demonstrate that the nation is united under crisis and ready to steer the country out of crisis.

Moreover, 1936 students belonging to different schools in Punjab created the largest mosaic; these students made the image of historical Shahi Qila, thus bettering an American world record by 1458 people in South Carolina on 03 December, 2011. “What an incredible painting it was. I am happy to announce this, another Guinness World Record for Pakistan,” said Deaves. “Every single one of you holds this record,” he said.

Pakistan also set a record for breaking the maximum number of records in one day. Eight records were set in a single day. Pakistan has also made a record of holding and making 13 records in the shortest period. So many records have tumbled that it is difficult to keep track of all of them. Pakistani masses proved that they are peace loving people and have the strength to do anything.

Individual record setters also deserve national commendation for their initiative, skills and perseverance. Mohammad Mansha set a new record for making ‘chapattis’ (breads) – mixing, kneading, spinning and cooking three in three minutes and 14 seconds; 12 year old Mehek Gul took only 45 seconds to arrange the pieces on a chessboard with one hand. Ahmed Amin Bodla beat a record by landing 617 martial kicks on a punching bag in three minutes. Saddi Muhammad set a record by using his moustache to pull a 1.7 ton truck over a distance of 60.3 metres. Mohammad Nauman wired a household plug just in 35 seconds. Daniel Gill and Mohammad Rizwan set a record for heading a football between them, for 335 consecutive headers in three minutes 45 seconds. And, Ahmed Amin Bodla broke the 12 kicks shot of the world record created by an American, Meza.

Coming to cricket, under normal circumstances, the two Twenty20 matches wouldn’t have made any headlines. They were just exhibition matches featuring an International World XI involving former stars, retired from the game. Pakistan had become a recluse in the world of sports since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. It had triggered genuine fears about the future of sports in Pakistan. Hopefully, now the things will change for the better. Event also put a smile back on the faces of millions of cricket fans across the country.

PCB chairman voiced confidence that international matches will return to the country next year: “I think these matches, despite being private, are a good step and PCB supported and encouraged these matches and they generated a lot of enthusiasm from the fans, which is a good sign… “We are talking to two other boards as well… We have given them security plans and I am sure the day is not far when we have big time cricket.”

Pakistani youth has unique qualities and capabilities and they can perform wonders if enabling environment is provided to them.Pakistanis one of those lucky countries where youth is in majority. Cricket and other sports are important means of mobilizing and focusing their energies. Youth festival brought good name to the country and sent across a strong message all over the globe that Pakistanis are achievers and doers. This indeed helped in boosting the sagging morale of the nation. It was a refreshing break form headlines like bomb blasts, Taliban, drones etc, it is pleasure to see Pakistan returning to innocent pleasures.

Well done youngster, keep it up, nation is proud of you!

In search for a national terrorism policy

October 19, 2012


A country can never be fully prepared to meet the challenges that terrorism, be it of any kind or in any shape, brings. In the Information Age, methods and techniques of terrorism are continuously evolving and the danger keeps escalating. Pakistan faces a unique challenge, for it is the battlefield for fighting terrorists which have caused great human losses across the globe. Since 9/11 it has had to deal great pressure from western powers to curb militants who have targeted foreign nationalities and even Pakistanis. With an economy in distress and meager welfare facilities, all of which are plagued with corruption, insecurity and cases of terrorism have stretched thin the allocation of resources. However, policy makers and analysts feel some of this stress can be relieved if Pakistan deals with security crisis in a systemic and organized manner. Twelve years into the War on Terror and Pakistan still lacks a universal narrative on terrorism. The attack on 14 year old Malala Yousafzai on October 9th uncovered the political rifts in the Pakistani government over counter terrorism.

The world hurled its condemnation on the Taliban militants who targeted Malala, an act that symbolizes the existence of an oppressive mindset that violates basic human rights. Pakistani politicians reacted strongly, some calling for the immediate enactment of the North Waziristan Operation to eliminate the militants. MQM expressed great disapproval with Altaf Hussain urging the army to immediately begin the Waziristan operation. Repeated failure of dialogue with the Taliban has convinced him of the need for a military response. Although ANP and MQM do not see eye to eye on all matters, the former’s failure against Taliban in Peshawar caused it to support a military response. The ruling party, PPP, was not far behind in denouncing the attack. Its senior leaders including the PM vowed to root out extremism but they were hoping the Army or the parliament would take the initiate by approving of an operation. However, the Army threw the ball in the government’s court by necessitating its approval for any such action while resistance from opposition parties thwarted a parliamentary endorsement. The government finally decided to play safe by promising that such a decision will be taken if the need arises with the backing of the political and military leadership.

Even though all political parties criticized the attack to some degree or another, some parties chose to disagree with a military reaction against terrorists. The JI and JUI, for instance, urged the government not to misuse this incident to gain some political advantages and support for a military operation. At the same time, various conspiracy theories regarding the role of Malala as a spy and the wider interest of America in exploiting Pakistan sprung up. Significant opposition also came forth from Imran Khan, leader of PTI and the savior of Pakistan according to its rapidly growing supporters. He believed a military action to be premature which if carried out would aggravate the security crisis. Khan suggested a three point strategy: detachment from the American War on Terror, dialogue with the militants and as a last resort, military action. He particularly stressed on the participation of the locals in these decisions so that they did not feel alienated.

PML-N is a step ahead of many parties as they not only differ with other parties but their own members also have conflicting viewpoints. Although they have opposed the government’s plan for a military operation in Waziristan, their leaders haven’t explicitly favored dialogue either. PML-N members claim this to be a political trick to delay elections. Still we have Marvi Memon propagating a forceful response while Zafar Ali Shah, Khurram Dastgir and Saad Rafiq have been open to the option of cooperation as part of a multidimensional approach.

If this wasn’t enough, the matter of a terrorism policy was muddled with pro-Malala and anti-Malala discourses. Phrases like “You are either with the Taliban or against the Taliban” were being used to determines one’s loyalty to the state or the militants. A national terrorism policy cannot be simplified to just the Taliban, the drones or US intervention in Pakistani affairs. In fact they are the constituents of that policy.

A difference in opinion over the Waziristan operation should guide debate and discussion over other issues to eventually reach a state policy against terrorism. This is however only the first part of the process; the policy must then be implemented. Malala’s attack was most unfortunate but when seen in the context of the upcoming elections and worldwide outrage, it may be just the right amount of push needed to ensure that political parties come up with policy agreeable to all and sundry.

Hidden Truth

October 22, 2010

Can Pakistan be a World Power Today? THINK!


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