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Old Sunday, January 10, 2016
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Default December 24, 2015.

From red to green and out of the blue: Tale of the somersault man

Haris, an old college buddy of mine back in the mid-1980s, came from a highly conservative middle-class family in Pakistan’s chaotic, colossal metropolis, Karachi.

Yet, he was an impassioned member of the left-wing student outfit that we were both once an integral part of. However, I was never really quite sure about the nature of his ideological disposition.

For example, though Haris would usually agree with our student outfit’s views on matters such as democracy and supported the organisation’s opposition to the reactionary dictatorship that was in power in Pakistan at the time; yet, he would refuse to participate in the many demonstrations that we held on the campus against those who were aiding Afghan, Arab and Pakistani militants fighting against the Soviet-backed communist regime in Kabul.

Though, today, I can effortlessly call the entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan as an all-out invasion, back then, in a world still in the grip of the Cold War, I would passionately try to prove that the invasion was part of some glorious socialist revolution unfolding in Kabul.

All of us who were on the left sides of Cold War politics described the other side as being nothing more than a bunch of counter-revolutionaries. But none of us were able to fully gauge the true nature of the fall-out of the Afghan Civil War, especially in Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto, during her first term as PM (1988-90), was the one who first began to exhibit concerns about how the winding down of the Afghan Civil War would witness the wholesale return of fighters who had been radicalised while fighting the Soviets. But personally, I became a lot more conscious about this predicament by what I was once told by a cousin of Haris.

In December 1990, I began my career as a journalist and hadn’t been in contact with Haris after both of us graduated from college in late 1987. Bumping into his cousin at the Karachi Press Club in early 1991, I only casually inquired about Haris.

He told me that right after graduation, Haris had travelled to Afghanistan. I instinctively asked whether he had gone there to side with the Soviet-backed regime — just as dozens of young men from leftist student groups in Pakistan had done across the 1980s.

I was baffled when I was told that Haris had actually jumped on the other bandwagon: The one that hundreds of young Pakistanis had jumped on to ride into Afghanistan to join the anti-Soviet mujahideen. I was told that Haris had fought alongside the mujahideen for almost a year and only returned to Pakistan in late 1989 when he got injured.

I finally met Haris in 1994. At the time he was rearing to go and fight in Indian-held Kashmir. I asked him what had made him turn right from left, and he told me that he had joined the leftist student outfit at college only to bother his conservative father with whom he was not on very good terms.

So, after college, instead of trying to bother him, Haris decided to impress his father. Not by joining a government institution or a private firm (as his father had wanted him to); or by growing a beard (which he eventually did in Afghanistan); but by actively declaring his enmity against those his father detested the most: The surkhas (communists). By travelling to Afghanistan, he wanted to put this into action.

So, was the father impressed? Far from it. He was mortified. All he wanted was a ‘pious’ son with a stable professional career.

Well, by going to Afghanistan, Haris had ended up bothering his father again. And he wasn’t able to go to Kashmir because his parents just refused to let him go. I had jokingly suggested to him that he'd become a leftist again because maybe this time his dad would be more appreciative.

But Haris did not react jovially to the joke. With a stony expression, he responded by saying: “But there is no Soviet Union anymore. We defeated it.” And when I inquired that whether by ‘we’ did he also mean the United States, he remained stone-faced.

Haris never went to India-held Kashmir. Instead (as I found out in 1999), he travelled to Madrid and then ended up settling in Seattle in the United States.

Two of his paternal uncles had settled in Seattle in the early 1990s, and by the early 2000s, Haris was living with one of them and working (as a partner) at three grocery stores that they owned in the city. He called me in May 2004 and told me he was visiting his family in Karachi. We met in my office for lunch. He had gotten married and had two young kids. He had come to my office with the aforementioned cousin.

As I was jokingly teasing him about his flip-flopping ways, his cousin suddenly jumped in and sarcastically mentioned something about how Haris had now been busy trying to make Pakistanis living in the US, 'better Muslims'.

Haris had by then joined an apolitical Muslim evangelical group. So I asked him what he was doing living in a western country. His reply: “They (the Westerners) are very tolerant and understanding people. They let you live according to your culture.”

His cousin again jumped in: “Great. Why don’t you now invite a group of American Jews and Christians to Pakistan? Let’s show them how tolerant we are as well.”

Haris was not amused.

Haris’ cousin was totally apolitical in college. I never knew him as much I did Haris, but he told me that he was very close to Haris’ father whom he had blamed when Haris had run off to Afghanistan.

Haris returned to Seattle. I didn’t hear from him again. Ten years later in 2014, when on Facebook I shared a picture of mine taken in Dubai, I got an SMS from a number that I did not recognise. It was Haris’ cousin. He said that if I was still in Dubai, I should go meet Haris who now lived and worked in Kuwait and was visiting Dubai the same time I was.

I asked the cousin what Haris was doing in Kuwait.

“He runs a business there. He moved from the US two years ago,” the cousin texted.

I asked him why. And this is what he texted back (with a smiley): “He thinks they (the Westerners) are very intolerant and biased people.”

“But didn’t he say they were very tolerant?” I asked.

“Yes” the cousin texted back. “But Haris isn’t.”

Source: From red to green and out of the blue: Tale of the somersault man
Published in Dawn, December 24, 2015.
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Last edited by Man Jaanbazam; Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 09:06 AM.
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Default December 27th, 2015

Sudden impact

Travelling on a plane to London in 2011, I spent most of my time studying a detailed research paper authored by Mathew J. Nelson, a distinguished lecturer of Political Science at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the UK.

I had been invited to London by a South Asian student body at SOAS for a talk on the cultural aspects of contemporary Pakistani politics and youth. I was hoping to meet Mr Nelson at SOAS whose paper, ‘Religion, Politics and the Modern University in Pakistan and Bangladesh’, had convincingly contextualised a rough thesis that was taking shape in my mind at the time.

Whereas I had first come across Nelson’s paper in late 2010, it had originally appeared in 2009. It was one of the first academic attempts to suggest that the universal narrative and understanding of the rise of religious extremism in Muslim countries as being something entirely linked to the fall-out of madressah education, poverty and illiteracy, was just one aspect triggering the radicalisation of large sections of Muslim societies, especially in developing countries.

In 2009, a lecturer in UK pointed out the blurring lines between evangelical groups and the more clandestine, violent ones
Nelson warned that this was a somewhat myopic mode of understanding the thorny phenomenon of religious extremism in these countries, because his research (of various private and public-sector universities of Pakistan and Bangladesh), had produced certain findings, signifying that those trying to comprehend the issue of religious extremism might be being a tad too simplistic in their approach.

Though agreeing that many madressahs in Pakistan and Bangladesh (ever since the 1980s) have played a role in molding militant mindsets, Nelson’s research concluded that the understanding needed to be stretched beyond the confines of madressahs.

Today, as Pakistan stands reeling from the shock of watching perfectly ‘normal’ and educated middle-class students and professionals being arrested for their alleged involvement in a number of gruesome acts of terror (in the name of faith), Nelson, in his 2009 paper, was advising experts to turn their attention towards this segment of society.

When his team of researchers went around various private and public universities in Pakistan and Bangladesh (between 2008 and 2009), they discovered that the conventional dynamics of student politics in these universities had eroded. The erosion had created a vacuum in which a whole generation of young Pakistanis and Bangladeshis now found themselves engaging with various new enigmatic players (all of them religious).

Till the early 1970s, most universities in Pakistan were hotbeds of leftist and liberal politics. Enrollment to these universities grew two-fold from 1969 onwards, and most of the new entrants came from conservative towns and small cities.

Alienated by the rhetoric of the left groups, and by the fact that in the 1970s these groups had begun to splinter, a large number of the new entrants became natural constituents of right-wing student outfits.

One of the most organised among these was the Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT), the student-wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami. The IJT did well to deliver various services through the student unions. Incidents of violence were low and differences between student groups were resolved through annual student union elections.

But things in this respect began to change quickly after the emergence of the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship in July 1977 — especially after Pakistan agreed to become the launching pad for Afghan insurgents fighting against the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul.

It is correct to suggest that some of the strongest seeds of religious militancy and extremism in Pakistan were sown during the Zia regime (1977-88). These seeds produced a culture which encouraged resolution of conflict through violence.

Student politics was one of the first entities in the country to be engulfed by such a culture, and violence between student groups between 1977 and 1984 produced dozens of casualties.

Unfortunately, this is the portion of student politics that has lingered in the minds of young Pakistanis from the mid-1990s onwards.

Then, the mushrooming of private universities undermined the importance public-sector universities had once enjoyed. The private universities kept conventional student outfits out. But, as Nelson observes, the administrations of most of these universities did not discourage the entry of religious groups who were (till the 1990s) completely absent from public-sector campuses.

The new groups were largely evangelical in nature. When in 2008, I was conducting research (for a paper on the historical evolution of student politics in Pakistan), I heard various lecturers and administrators of private universities in Karachi and Lahore suggest that the evangelical groups were apolitical and good for the ‘spiritual nourishment’ of the students.

It cannot be out-rightly proposed that the presence on campuses of such evangelical groups is the main reason behind the conservative nature of the two post-90s’ generations of Pakistani college and university students.

But when this presence is coupled with the proliferation of the myopic ideological narrative developed by the state (from the late 1970s onwards), along with the constant attacks ideas such as democracy face in the populist media, it becomes easier to figure out just why the last two generations of college and university students in Pakistan have been so conservative.

And, as we can now see, one can also determine why many educated and urban young Pakistanis have become so vulnerable to the pull of ideas that gradually tug them out of the space provided to them by the evangelical groups and into a realm that is far more violent and worrisome.

This is what Nelson was foreseeing six years ago. The blurring of the line that separates evangelical groups from the more clandestine and violent ones. Nelson’s concern was that universities in this region just might end up becoming recruiting grounds for those bent on committing and facilitating violence in the name of faith. He observed that they might be looking for young men and women who were a far cry from the archetypal madressah students.

Nelson concluded that the rise of extremism (in South Asia) should now be understood as something that has gone ‘beyond the madressah’. He insisted that the conventional idea which stated that acts of religious terror are only extensions of economic deprivation, should now take second place. The focus should be on the more problematic phenomenon of well-to-do, urban middle-classes being radicalised by environments constructed by the administrations of universities who are (willingly or otherwise) unable to comprehend that the evangelical groups just might be generating more notorious byproducts.

Ironically, these environments were proudly created (by facilitating evangelical groups) as a way to keep away the violence of conventional student politics. But as we have now seen, this environment has uncannily begun to produce violence of a completely different, and even more worrisome, nature.

It is blurring the line between demonstrations of piety and sheer terror by men and women who are supposed to be seen as sophisticated models of intellectual enlightenment, ideological refinement and professional success.

Source: Sudden impact
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 27th, 2015
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Default December 31, 2015

A short cultural history of west-returned Pakistanis

In the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistanis who had lived in a western country and then returned home were usually perceived to have become more informed and ‘modern’.

One way of observing this is to study the way the country’s once-thriving Urdu cinema portrayed such Pakistanis. For example, across the 1950s and 1960s, most Urdu films that had a character who had returned from Europe or the US was usually portrayed as a wise and enlightened person.

Cinematic narratives in this context went something like this: An educated city dweller was seen to be more level-headed and less religious than a person from the rural areas. And such a city dweller was usually a Pakistani who had gone to the West for studies or work.

Then, in the 1970s, Pakistan elected its first popularly elected government led by the left-liberal populist, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Bhutto's populism was a regional version of social democracy that was supposedly positioned to be more rooted in the common wisdom of the ‘masses’. It is even more interesting to note how Pakistani films treated this new phenomenon.

As the radical social youth movements of the 1960s in the West exhausted themselves, they became more faddish in content. These emerging fads and fashions also arrived in Pakistan.

So whereas in the 1960s, most Urdu films had celebrated the US or Europe-returned Pakistani as a person possessing modern wisdom and progressive ideas, in the 1970s he/she was usually portrayed as a wild guitar-slinging and dope-smoking hippie.

In Urdu films, during the Bhutto era, though the ‘level-headed’ US/Europe returned Pakistani was still perceived as being progressive, many of his more socially ‘liberated’ contemporaries were seen seen through the prism of the so-called ‘masses’.

Interestingly, this perception of the ‘masses’ was mostly helmed by film-makers with petty-bourgeoisie backgrounds, though such portrayals did not mean that Pakistani society had shifted to the religious right. Not just yet. It was just that the urban liberal tenor of the Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-1969) had mutated (during the Bhutto regime) into becoming a more populist notion.

Thus, Pakistani films of the 1970s came with a new narrative that now suggested that it was fine to be liberal, as long as one remained in contact with the cultural traditions of his/her surroundings.

So where the Europe-returned Pakistani hippie was portrayed as a bumbling hippie buffoon in most 1970s films, an urban Pakistani who was equally liberal but managed to slip in a dialogue or two about ‘eastern values’, became an admirable aspiration. Again, this projection was more of a petty-bourgeoisie perception, rather than of the masses.

The rootless hippie types were also shown to belong to rich families as a way to attack the industrial classes that the Bhutto regime was denouncing.

The 1970s were also a time when a larger number of Pakistanis began travelling abroad. The only difference this time was that whereas almost all Pakistanis used to travel to Europe or the US for work and studies in the 1950s and 1960s, many now began moving to the oil-rich Arab countries (mostly for work) from the mid-1970s onwards.

Up until the late 1970s, Pakistan was a lot more pluralistic than most Arab countries. Pakistanis going to these countries were actually going to places that were squarely under the yoke of monarchies and autocratic regimes whose states were still in the process of being ‘modernised’.

Soon these Pakistanis began sending impressive amounts of money to their families back home, triggering the emergence of a prosperous new urban middle-class.

The process that saw these Pakistanis being exposed to puritanical strains of the faith practiced by Arab populations and also enjoying a sense of their rising economic statuses back home generated a whole new strand of Pakistanis who now began relating their former religious and social dispositions as something associated with low economic status.

This is at least one reason why from 1980 onwards, a large number of urban middle and lower-middle class Pakistanis began sliding towards various shades of puritanism. Or at least pretending to.

This process was also hastened by the policies of a staunchly conservative military dictatorship that had toppled the Bhutto regime in July 1977.

A successful middle-class Pakistani now denoted an educated urbanite who was a trader, businessman, banker or white-collar employee, but who, at the same time, was now more likely to observe regular prayers and preferably adorn religious attire.

In the post-9/11 scenario, Pakistanis living in the West, too, went through this transformation. And though this transformation had been more gradual and slower among the middle and lower middle-classes within Pakistan, it became more pronounced within the Pakistani diaspora in the Middle-East, Europe and the US.

It was mainly accelerated by the popularity of travelling Islamic evangelists catering squarely to South Asian Muslims living in the West.

No more were West-returned Pakistanis being associated with cultural modernism as such. Nor were they free-wheeling wags.

So who are they now?
Anecdotes abound about how the offspring of Pakistanis who had been living in Europe and the US from the 1980s onwards were shocked to discover that Pakistan was not the kind of a Republic they had imagined it to be.

This was an intriguing development. West-returned Pakistanis are now perceived, or rather perceive themselves to be 'better Muslims’ than those living in Pakistan. This is how they like to distinguish themselves.

Had Pakistani cinema been thriving today, I’m sure the films would have now been portraying the new West-returned Pakistani not as a wise modernist or even a hippie buffoon but as a shocked Muslim wagging a righteous finger at his compatriots and advising them to repent, albeit in their American/European accent, of course.

Source: A short cultural history of west-returned Pakistanis
Published in Dawn, December 31, 2015.
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Default January 3rd, 2016

Reading Maududi in dystopia

Abul Ala Maududi (d.1979), is considered to be one of the most influential Islamic scholars of the 20th century. He is praised for being a highly prolific and insightful intellectual and author who creatively contextualised the political role of Islam in the last century, and consequently gave birth to what became known as ‘Political Islam.’

Simultaneously, his large body of work was also severely critiqued as being contradictory and for being an inspiration to those bent on committing violence in the name of faith.

Interestingly, Maududi’s theories and commentaries received negative criticism not only from those on the left and liberal sides of the divide, but from some of his immediate religious contemporaries as well.

Nevertheless, his thesis on the state, politics and Islam, managed to influence a number of movements within and outside of Pakistan.

For example, the original ideologues of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood organisation (that eventually spread across the Arab world), were directly influenced by Maududi’s writings.

Maududi’s writings also influenced the rise of ‘Islamic’ regimes in Sudan in the 1980s, and more importantly, the same writings were recycled by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship (1977-88), to indoctrinate the initial batches of Afghan insurgents (the ‘mujahideen’), fighting against Soviet troops stationed in Afghanistan.

In the last century, the modern Islamic Utopia that Maududi was conceptualising had become the main motivation behind several political and ideological experiments in various Muslim countries.

However, 21st century politics (in the Muslim world) is not according to the kind enthusiastic reception that Maududi’s ideas received in the second half of the 20th century.

By the early 2000s, almost all experiments based on Maududi’s ideas seemed to have collapsed under their own weight. The imagined Utopia turned into a living dystopia, torn apart by mass level violence (perpetrated in the name of faith) and the gradual retardation of social and economic evolution in a number of Muslim countries, including Pakistan.

This is ironic. Because when compared to the ultimate mindset that his ideas seemed to have ended up planting within various mainstream regimes and clandestine groups, Maududi himself sounds rather broad-minded.

Had Maududi been alive today, how comfortable would he have been in a Muslim world crammed with raging dystopias?
Born in 1903 in Aurangabad, India, Maududi’s intellectual evolution is a fascinating story of a man who, after facing bouts of existential crises, chose to interpret Islam as a political theory to address his own spiritual and ideological impasses.

He did not come raging out of a madressah, swinging a fist at the vulgarities of the modern world. On the contrary, he was born into a family that had relations with the enlightened 19th century Muslim reformist and scholar, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

Maududi received his early education at home through private tutors who taught him the Quran, Hadith, Arabic and Persian. At age 12, Maududi was sent to the Oriental High School whose curriculum had been arranged by famous Islamic scholar, Shibli Nomani.

Maududi was studying at a college-level Islamic institution, the Darul Aloom, when he had to rush to Bhopal to look after his ailing father. In Bhopal, he befriended the rebellious Urdu poet and writer, Niaz Fatehpuri.

Fatehpuri’s writings and poetry were highly critical of the orthodox Muslim clergy. This had left him fighting polemical battles with the ulema.

Inspired by Fatehpuri, Maududi too decided to become a writer. In 1919, the then 17-year-old Maududi moved to Delhi, where for the first time he began to study the works of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in full. This, in turn, led Maududi to study the major works of philosophy, sociology, history and politics authored by leading European thinkers and writers.

In 1929, after resurfacing from his vigorous study of Western philosophical and political thought, Maududi published his first major book, Al-Jihad Fil-Islam. The book is largely a lament on the state of Muslim society in India and in it he attacked the British, modernist Muslims and the orthodox clergy for combining to keep Indian Muslims subdued and weak.

Writing in flowing, rhetorical Urdu, Maududi criticised the Muslim clergy for keeping Muslims away from the study of Western philosophy and science. Maududi suggested that it were these that were at the heart of Western political and economic supremacy and needed to be studied so they could then be effectively dismantled and replaced by an ‘Islamic society’.

In 1941 Maududi formed the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). The outfit was shaped on the Leninist model of forming a ‘party of a select group of committed and knowledgeable vanguards’ who would attempt to grab state power through revolution.

In an essay that was later republished (in 1980) in a compilation of his writings, Come let us Change This World, Maududi castigated the ulema for ‘being stuck in the past’ and thus halting the emergence of new research and thinking in the field of Islamic scholarship.

He was equally critical of modernist Muslims (including Mohammad Ali Jinnah). In the same essay he lambasted them for understanding Islam through concepts constructed by the West and for believing that religion was a private matter.

Though an opponent of Jinnah and the creation of Pakistan (because he theorised that an ‘Islamic State’ could not be enacted by ‘Westernised Muslims’), Maududi did migrate to the new Muslim-majority country once it came into being in 1947.

In a string of books, mainly Khilafat-o-Malukiyat, Deen-i-Haq, Islamic Law and Constitution and Economic System of Islam, Maududi laid out his precepts of the modern-day ‘Islamic State’.

He was adamant about the need to gain state power to impose his principles of an Islamic State, but cautioned that the society first needed to be Islamised from below (through evangelical action), for such a state to begin imposing Islamic Laws.

In these books he was the first Islamic scholar to use the term ‘Islamic ideology’ (in a political context). The term was later rephrased as ‘Political Islam’ by the western scholarship on the subject.

In 1977 when Maududi agreed to support the Ziaul Haq dictatorship, he was criticised for attempting to grab state power through a Machiavellian military dictator.

Maududi’s decision sparked an intense critique of his ideas by the modernist Islamic scholar, Dr Fazal Rehman Malik. In his book, Islam and Modernity, Dr Malik described Maududi as a populist journalist, rather than a scholar. Malik suggested that Maududi’s writings were ‘shallow’ and crafted only to bag the attention of muddled young men craving for an imagined faith-driven Utopia.

Maududi’s body of work is remarkable in its proficiency and creativity. And indeed, it is also contradictory. He used Western political concepts of the state to explain the modern idea of the Islamic State; and yet he accused modernist Muslims of understanding Islam through Western constructs. He saw no space for monarchies in Islam, yet was entirely uncritical of conservative Arab monarchies. He would often prefix the word Islam in front of various Western economic and political ideas — (Islamic-Economics, Islamic-Banking and Islamic-Constitution) — and yet he reacted aggressively towards the idea of ‘Islamic-Socialism’ that came from his leftist opponents in the 1960s.

Writing in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, Political Anthropologist, Professor Irfan Ahmed, suggested that there was not one Maududi, but many.

He wrote that elements of Leninism, Hegel’s dualism, Jalaluddin Afghani’s Pan-Islamism and various other modern political theories can be found in Maududi’s thesis.

Perhaps this is why Maududi’s ideas managed to appeal to various sections of the urban Muslim middle-classes; modern conservative Muslim movements; and all the way to the more anarchic and reactionary forces.

But the question is, had Maududi been alive today, which one of the many Maududis would he have been most comfortable with in a Muslim world now crammed with raging dystopias?

Source: Reading Maududi in dystopia
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine January 3rd, 2016
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Last edited by Man Jaanbazam; Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 09:17 AM.
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Default January 7th, 2016

Anxious anti-heroics: Zinda Bhaag — The DVD review

Pakistani cinema is changing. As more and more filmmakers from the urban middle classes continue to extend the recent extraordinary revivalist run of Pakistani films, the scope of mediation and perceptions in this respect are broadening as well.

This was quite apparent in Farjad Nabi and Meenu Gaur’s Zinda Bhaag. Released in 2014, the film is now available on DVD.

Zinda Bhaag is very much part and parcel of the class make-up and social landscape of Pakistan’s new wave cinema, in which films play like stark art-house mediations on life but bear the soul of lively commercial cinema.

However, unlike their new wave contemporaries, directors Farjad Nabi and Meenu Gaur not only entrenched their film outside the confines of middle-class settings, but their main characters also come from lower-middle/working-class backgrounds.

The story is founded on the ubiquitous obsession of Pakistanis from these classes (especially from the Punjab) who illegally make their way into European countries for the purpose of earning a lot more money than they ever could in Pakistan.

The film follows the daily lives of a group of friends who hold low-paying jobs and dream of one day crossing into a European city to match the tales of financial glory they have been told about those ‘brave and clever ones’ from their area who managed to slip into Europe and were doing quite well.

The film also points out the dangers this practice constitutes: many young aspirants are caught and jailed in foreign countries, or die tragically while trying to enter an alien country as illegal immigrants.

A mosque in the congested residential area of Lahore where the film takes place is often heard announcing on the loudspeaker news of the deaths of young men who have died trying to slip into Europe.

But Zinda Bhaag is not a serious commentary on the perils of illegal immigration or the kind of desperation and obsession that makes so many Pakistanis take all kinds of dangerous routes and avenues to enter more prosperous countries.

Instead, it’s a black comedy, giving Farjad and Meenu enough space to deliver quick-fire jabs at certain incidents that take place around the characters’ everyday lives but are the complete opposite of the on-ground realities of the class to which they belong.
In a 1970s Pakistani film, a lower-middle/working-class character would have judged this clash by rhetorically denouncing the opposite reality as something that was pitched against his class as an exploitative tool.

But Zinda Bhaag’s main characters (the friends) do not judge what is not in their reach. Instead, they either aspire to make it their own or completely ignore it.

The film’s main character – a lowly-paid, 20-something electrician, Khalidi – and his buddies get drunk and dream about Europe (and in the case of Khalidi, also about a girl he has met in a public bus where she was selling handmade soaps called ‘Facelook’).

They do not have a political ideology. They can’t afford to. But their goal is clear: to somehow slip into a Western country and drive a taxi. That’s what most young men from their class dream about.
Each one of them is focused on discovering ways of making more money than what their day jobs pay. The guys work as cooks and electricians; they gamble at illegal and shady gambling dens; and some even work on the side for a local thug (played by Naseeruddin Shah).

The girl (who eventually becomes Khalidi’s girlfriend) aggressively makes her way from selling soaps on buses to making sure they find some space on supermarket shelves. They’re not just dreamers, but doers as well, despite going against the grain of middle-class morality and ethics in their ways.
The film’s characters do not judge the unreachable or the unaffordable as something to do with the exploitation of their class. But in situations where they are placed in surroundings that are almost completely alien to the social and material dynamics of their class, the film takes the opportunity to satirise certain traits and idiosyncrasies of the new Pakistani middle classes.

For example, in a scene where Khalidi and his colleague/friend enter a huge bungalow to fix a malfunctioning air-conditioning unit, there is a women’s dars taking place in the house.

Dars – a gathering where a religious preacher delivers commentaries on relegious rituals and traditions – has increasingly become popular among a growing number of urban middle-class women in Pakistan, especially in the last decade or so.

Such gatherings (in the above-mentioned context) usually take place in bungalows owned by well-to-do families and are attended by women who also come from wealthy and middle-class backgrounds.

The film implies that the piety of the middle classes may actually seem alien and distant to the concept of faith of the classes below them. But, again, the film’s main working-class characters, when they come across this particular aspect of the alien and the unaffordable, do not judge. Instead, they are simply amused when they see the main lady preacher at the dars tell her swaying audience:

‘Remember, sisters, we have to think in terms of horizontal and vertical.’ Then prompting the gathering for a response, she uses swift hand gestures to ask: ‘So, sisters, the horizontal is us, and the vertical is …?’ The gathering enthusiastically answers: ‘God!’

Khalidi and his friend simply look at each other and raise an eyebrow, as if trying to figure out what on earth the rich aunty is going on about.

The film also takes a tongue-in-cheek dig at the popularity of Indian TV soap operas that have become all the rage in the region. We see one particular soap called ‘Auqat’ in the film. Every time a TV is present in a scene, it is running this soap. The families of the friends watch it, people in the market watch it; heck, in one scene, even the dreaded thug is watching it! Again, when it comes to satirising certain aspects of Pakistani society, the film lets the scenes do all the talking without using any explanatory dialogue.

The wise gangta.
In another scene, we see some of the friends working as waiters and cooks at a rich man’s party. The film once again puts them in a situation that is alien to the class they come from.

At one point, we see a rich man ordering a security guard to check the pockets of the servants who might have stolen his BlackBerry. It turns out that the device was actually taken away by the man’s young son to play games on. The episode is quickly forgotten, but not for those who were humiliatingly interrogated for a crime that they had not committed.

In a 1970s Urdu film, the humiliated would have launched into a speech lamenting the arrogant ways of the rich. But in Zinda Bhaag, the cooks and the waiters launch into a song (in the kitchen) culled from poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Hum Daikhien Gey’ (We Shall See) and authored for the film by novelist and journalist, Mohammad Hanif. It’s an old revolutionary tune. But, in the film, it is used as a statement expressing irony because over the years this poem has become a favorite of the classes and ideologies it was originally pitched against.

This becomes even more apparent when we see guests at the party discussing ‘revolution’ and ‘change’ for the people they have just interrogated for stealing.

The film continues to play like a black comedy. It is objective to the point of being cynical. Because that’s what reality is like in the situations it is set in.

The characters do not enjoy any cinematic exaggerations. They are quite real, warts and all. But they have an emotionality and spirituality that seems to be inherent in their class and which can even be catered to by the simple act of sitting quietly outside a Sufi saint’s shrine. Thus, the film finds no reason or need to show them praying or thumping their chests while waving a flag. In fact, they are only seen praying at the funerals of boys who came back dead.

The cynical aspect of it is played to the hilt in a powerful sequence in the film that shows one friend getting hold of the passport of a fallen friend, getting the picture changed, and slipping out, only to die and leave the passport for another friend to use.

The film gets darker as the main hero, Khalidi, gets even more desperate to slip out.

He first tries the legal way, but his visa is rejected. Then he tries to get a student’s visa for a hefty price from a shady travel agent, but fails to gather the amount needed for such a visa.

All the while, he gambles frantically, betting on horses, playing flush and games of dice. He gets frustrated and loses his girlfriend and buddies in the process – until the body of a friend arrives who died halfway through his journey to a European city. This is the moment one would expect the film to take a moralistic turn and make Khalidi realise the perils of his obsession and cynicism. Not quite.

The last scene sees him approaching the grieving father of the dead teen. Again, the audience is by now expecting Khalidi him to break down and renounce his obsession. But something else happens: He seeks the dead boy’s passport.

To many people, the film’s ending would seem inconclusive, especially in a South Asian film. But though Zinda Bhaag rejects the notion of a happy ending, it’s not a tragic ending either.

It’s just what heroism would mean to an anti-hero.

Source: Anxious anti-heroics: Zinda Bhaag — The DVD review
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016
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Smokers’ Corner: Navigating filthopia

There is a strong perception suggesting that all provincial governments of the PPP in Sindh have been bad for the province’s colossal capital, Karachi.

Once proudly known as the ‘City of Lights’, and the most modern metropolis of the country, Karachi today looks like the filth capital of Pakistan.

Its traffic follows no rules; its roads and streets are broken; its manholes keep spewing streams of malodourous smut; its walls are covered with the ugliest of graffiti; the lines from its electric and telephone poles are pressed low by their own weight, often just dangling aimlessly in the air; street corners are dotted with stinking mounts of garbage which no one bothers to remove; tiny dunes of sand rest along the edges of its footpaths, that are already anarchically painted with spit stains drained from that terrible indulgence called the paan; and empty plastic bags and random papers sweep to and fro across its roads.

Ever since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, the PPP has been at the helm of affairs in Sindh at least five times (1971-77; 1988-90; 1993-96; 2008-13; 2013-present). The perception that Karachi has fared miserably under the PPP provincial set-ups in Sindh, is not that far from the truth.

The city certainly has been allowed to turn into a chaotic, dirty dump by the last two PPP set-ups in Sindh (under Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah).

Though Karachi is the capital city of a province where the PPP has always been electorally strong, it does not hold much electoral interest for the party where it has never been able to win big.

A peek at how Karachi has fared through different political governments and their agendas
The party has never won more than three NA seats in an election in Karachi. All of its victories here have come in Karachi’s working-class areas, especially Lyari.

Yet, even though Lyari (which also holds one of the largest urban slums in Pakistan) has been returning PPP MNAs and MPS ever since 1970, this area too seems to have gone from being bad to worse!

This year during the local bodies’ election in Lyari, the people of the area returned four PNL-N candidates. This was a clear indication that the new generation of Lyari voters may just have had enough of the PPP.

Lyarites fondly remember the first chairman of the PPP, Z.A. Bhutto. They say that even though the Z.A. Bhutto regime (1971-77) did not do much for the area, he did give them a sense of self-worth and political consciousness.

Some also praise Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, who, during her two stints as PM (1988-90; 1993-96), did initiate some infrastructural and sporting projects in Lyari, but not much was done here after 1996.

Indeed, there is enough evidence to suggest that PPP regimes in Sindh have treated Sindh’s capital rather callously. But was Karachi any better during the periods when Sindh was not in the hands of PPP chief ministers and MPAs?

In the 1950s, Karachi was Pakistan’s capital. It was largely run by civil servants who were mostly from the city’s majority group, the Urdu-speakers (Mohajirs).

Though the city was swamped by the huge influx of refugees arriving from India after the creation of Pakistan, Karachi managed to blossom as an impressive metropolis.

Author Riffat Chaudhry in her book, Shadows of my Memories, writes that (in the 1950s) the streets and roads of Karachi were regularly washed with water hoses!

In the 1960s, during the Ayub Khan dictatorship, the capital of the country was gradually shifted from Karachi to the newly built Islamabad in the north.

But it was Karachi which enjoyed the largest share of the rapid industrialisation that took place in Pakistan under Ayub.

On the one hand, the city thrived as an economic and social hub. Dozens of factories and stylish buildings sprang up, and the city radiated a glowing nightlife.

On the other hand, the fading political and economic clout of the Mohajirs created an antagonistic gap between the Ayub regime and the Mohajir majority of the city.

The swift industrialisation (mostly achieved through so-called ‘crony capitalism’), magnified the growing economic disparities between the classes. Between 1967 and 1969, this manifested itself into becoming a widespread students and workers movement. The movement was strong in Karachi. It forced Ayub to resign.

Karachi became the capital of Sindh in 1970 and Sindh saw its first PPP regime in 1972.

The left-leaning populist, Z.A. Bhutto (a Sindhi), became Pakistan’s PM. Even though his party, the PPP, could only win two NA seats from Karachi in the 1970 election, he promised to make the city ‘the Paris of Asia.’

The Bhutto regime’s first finance minister, Dr Mubashir Hasan, in his book, The Mirage of Power, and Stanley Wolpert, in his detailed biography of Z A. Bhutto, both mention a series of memos that Bhutto wrote to the time’s Sindh CM, Mumtaz Bhutto.

In the memos Z.A. Bhutto lamented that Karachi was becoming dirty and congested. The same memos then urged the Sindh CM ‘to clean up Karachi’s streets and markets’ and ‘make it beautiful again’.

Disappointed with the way Mumtaz was handling the affairs of Sindh, Bhutto replaced him with Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. Though the population of Karachi continued to grow and so did the city’s infrastructural problems, Bhutto took it upon himself to at least give the capital of his home province a pleasant veneer.

Bhutto initiated a ‘beautification project’ in 1974 which saw the Sindh government built the city’s in fact the country’s first three-lane road from the Karachi Airport all the way to the Old Clifton area, some 30 miles away.

Grassy pavements ran along the road, and it also included large roundabouts that were further beautified by marbled monuments and palm trees.

Bhutto fell in July 1977 to a reactionary military coup. The new military ruler, General Ziaul Haq, initially ordered a cleanup of those areas of Karachi that had slid into disarray and neglect during the last days of the Bhutto regime. But eventually Karachi imploded when a large number of Afghan refugees began to arrive in the early 1980s.

When the influx caused ethnic and sectarian riots in Karachi (from the early 1980s onwards), for the first time important economic forces were quietly allowed (by the Zia regime) to move their businesses from Karachi to the Punjab province. This trend has continued.

Ethnic strife and a three-fold increase in crime in Karachi in the 1980s grievously impacted the politics, economics and sociology of the city. It left the post-Zia set-ups in Karachi completely unable (or unwilling) to stop the city from looking like a disaster zone across the 1990s.

Nevertheless, Karachi began to exhibit some semblance of reclaiming its past glories when the Parvez Musharraf regime (1999-2008), ended a decade-long tussle between the state and Karachi’s largest political party, the MQM.

He handed out an impressive budget to the MQM mayor for the ‘uplift of Karachi’. Musharraf, a Mohajir, wrote in his autobiography, it pained him to see what had become of the city.

The MQM mayor was successful in exhibiting the potential of Karachi of once again becoming a most vibrant economic and social hub in the region but only if handled with an attitude that is willing to take complete ownership of this vast, complex city of various ethnic groups.

But, alas, the fall of Musharraf and the welcome return of democracy in 2008 did not fare well for the city. It began to deteriorate again, with all of its major political players going back to fighting turf wars.

Karachi once again became a neglected playground for avaricious politicians, petty bureaucrats, criminal gangs, religious militants and a bewildered population now only willing to maintain social etiquettes within the four walls of their homes. Outside, it’s a free-for-all for polluters, plunderers and an uncaring, clueless provincial government.

Source: Smokers’ Corner: Navigating filthopia
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 10th, 2016
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Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan: A fly-on-the-wall review

Prince: So, about those troops…

PM: We have prepared some really great dishes for you.

Prince: That’s nice to know. Now, about those troops…

PM: …including roasted houbara bustards.

Prince: That’s nice…what? Roasted bustards! YUM!

PM: Now, about those troops…

Prince: What troops?

Source: Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan: A fly-on-the-wall review
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2016
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Smokers’ Corner: Exit stage left

While going through some of the literary fragments left behind by my father (after he passed away in 2009), I stumbled upon two books.

The books were both authored by Sheikh Mohammad Rashid, one of the founding members of the PPP.

After reading through them, I realised how conveniently Rashid had been forgotten.

The books were in Urdu and published between 1969 and 1980. Islam Ka Muashi Nizam Aur Tehreek-i-Pakistan (Economics in Islam and the Pakistan Movement) is largely Rashid’s take on the PPP’s ‘Islamic Socialism’ — an idea originally concocted by intellectual, Hanif Ramay, who weaved socialist doctrines and mid-20th century fusions such as Ba’ath Socialism together with the populist South Asian strands of Islam practiced by the majority of Pakistanis.

In the second book, Juhd-i-Musalsal (Continuous Struggle) Rashid elaborates his own struggle to turn Pakistan into a truly socialist entity.

Has the man who symbolised the socialist conscience of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto been forgotten?
The PPP was launched in late 1967. By the time the 1970 election approached, three strands emerged from within the party.

The radical left component of the PPP was headed by Marxist ideologue, J.A. Rahim; socialist, Mubashir Hassan; the fiery former student leader, Miraj Mohammad Khan; and the veteran trade unionist, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid.

The centrist ‘moderate-left’ lobby was headed by intellectual and author, Hanif Ramay’s ‘Islamic Socialism’ group.

The ‘moderate right’ lobby was dominated by ‘progressive’ elements from the landed classes and white-collar professionals, such as Mustafa Khar, Hafeez Peerzada, etc.

This lobby also included some influential spiritual leaders (Pirs) and ‘progressive’ Islamic scholars, such as Maulana Kausar Niazi.

Rashid was already a political veteran and activist when he became one of the founding members of the PPP.

As a young man, he had been a member of Jinnah’s All India Muslim League (AIML) and was close to the League’s ‘left faction’ that was headed by pro-Jinnah socialists such as Mian Iftikharuddin.

After the creation of Pakistan, Rashid quit the League, accusing its post-Jinnah leadership of coming under the influence of feudal lords.

With Mian Iftikharuddin, he formed the left-wing Azad Pakistan Party. However, he quit this party as well because he believed its manifesto didn’t go far enough to demand radical land reforms. In 1954, he formed a peasants’ front in the Punjab called the Kissan Morcha.

Morcha campaigners often occupied lands owned by powerful landlords in the Punjab and demanded that the lands be distributed among the peasants. In the early 1960s he quit the Morcha, and joined the time’s largest left-wing group, the National Awami Party (NAP).

But Rashid’s stay in NAP too was turbulent. Noting that the party’s top leadership (mostly made up of senior Pashtun, Sindhi and Baloch nationalists) had inherent links with middle-level landed elites of former NWFP, and with tribal sardars in Balochistan, Rashid concluded that the party would not be able to fully implement its socialist programme.

Rashid was close to the Punjabi and Urdu-speaking communists to the Maoist faction of NAP that was being led by the Bengali firebrand, Maulana Bhashani.

In 1967, the year NAP split into two factions (one pro-Soviet and the other pro-China), Rashid was contacted by J.A. Rahim. Rahim urged him to join the PPP which he was about to launch with the charismatic, Z.A. Bhutto.

Rashid thus became a founding member of a left-leaning populist party that would go on to become one of the country’s largest political entities till its eventual electoral collapse 48 years later, in 2013.

With his organisational skills and experience as an activist, Rashid was instrumental in setting up dozens of party offices across the Punjab. He even persuaded radical labour unions and peasants’ committees associated with the Maoist faction of NAP to switch sides and join the PPP.

Phillip E. Jones, in his detailed study of the rise of the PPP wrote that in 1969, many offices operated by NAP turned into PPP offices, almost overnight.

Rashid’s organisational zeal was such that apart from organising pro-PPP mohalla (residential) committees, workers unions and peasant groups in the Punjab, he even formed a ‘Children’s PPP’ in Lahore!

In his study, Jones also noted the emergence of a power struggle between the PPP’s left wing and the lobby populated by ‘progressive’ landed elites. Rashid was in the thick of it. As the 1970 election approached, the left lobby protested when Bhutto handed out some party tickets to landlords in the Punjab.

Bhutto worked out a compromise between the two warring wings by increasing the number of tickets given to middle and lower-middle-class candidates, especially in Punjab’s urban areas.

Rashid’s hectic organisational work for the party succeeded in gathering grassroots level support from across the Punjab. As a result, the PPP managed to sweep the province in the 1970 election. Rashid also won an NA seat from Lahore.

When Bhutto became President in December 1971, he made Rashid chairman of the Federal Land Reforms Commission. But Rashid’s radical suggestions were often thwarted by the party’s moderate wing, leaving him frustrated. However, some of these suggestions were implemented in 1972 and then again in 1976.

Bhutto then made him Minister of Health. This was when Bhutto had begun to purge the party’s radical left faction. Only Mubashir Hassan and Rashid survived the purge.

Though largely sidelined during the second half of the Bhutto regime, Rashid stayed with the party when the regime was toppled in a reactionary coup orchestrated by General Ziaul Haq in July 1977. He was arrested and jailed and then flown into exile to the UK.

Unlike most senior leaders of the PPP who were ousted by PPP’s new chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, or had changed sides, Rashid remained loyal. He returned to Pakistan in 1988 after Zia’s demise. He was expected to repeat the same organisational feats that he had pulled off in 1970.

But times were changing and so was the Punjab. Rashid struggled. The conventional left was withering away. He lost his seat from Lahore in the 1988 election. In 1993 he was made the party’s senior vice president by Benazir Bhutto.

The post-Cold War world baffled this once active socialist. He now seemed exhausted and disoriented.

He became reclusive and quietly passed away in 2002. Pakistani media only briefly mentioned his passing. But, interestingly, a detailed obituary on him appeared in one of UK’s leading newspapers, The Guardian.

Source:Smokers’ Corner: Exit stage left
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 17th, 2016
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Smokers’ Corner: The swords of Karachi

Two of the most well-known monuments of Sindh’s immense capital, Karachi, are Teen Talwar and Do Talwar (three and two swords). Jutting out from the two main roundabouts on main Clifton Road, the swords are made of white marble.

Erected in 1973, they were sanctioned by the government of Z.A. Bhutto. Though the area (Clifton) has always been an upscale (posh) locality, it was thinly populated when the swords went up as compared to the congested look that it gives today.

The construction of the swords was part of a ‘beautification project’ planned for Karachi and initiated by the Bhutto regime. The project mostly included plans for building a brand new three-lane road from the Karachi Airport till the Old Clifton area about 40km away.

The two-way road was to be divided by pavements dotted with plants and trees, and grassy roundabouts surrounded by palm trees. The project was completed in late 1974, but the swords had come up a year before.

But why swords? The electoral symbol of Bhutto’s party, the PPP, at the time, was the sword. So the monuments were originally conceived to symbolise the emergence of the Bhutto government.

The idea was to construct the swords and drape them with the red, black and green colours of the PPP flag; and then inscribe on them the party’s three main slogans at the time: Islam, Democracy and Socialism.

The project to design and construct the swords was given to famous Pakistani architect, Minu Mistri (a Zoroastrian). However, halfway through the construction of the swords, Bhutto decided to change the raison d’etre of the monuments and asked the architect to inscribe the famous motto of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on the Three Swords monument. The Two Swords cenotaph (about half a mile away), was left bare. Both the cenotaphs were given the name, ‘Pillars of Strength.’

Forty two years after being built, Karachi’s landmark swords in Clifton stand tall amidst chaos, telling stories of past glory and present day neglect
So once the swords were completed in 1973, words of Mr Jinnah’s motto, ‘Unity, Faith, Discipline’, were inscribed on each of the Three Swords.

Both the monuments were erected on asphalt roundabouts which were further beautified with carefully manicured grass, flowers and palm trees. In 1974, the Two Swords monument was also fitted with a fountain.

Throughout the 1970s, the road on which the monuments were build was considered to be one of the most beautiful in the city. It was wide, had sparse traffic, and was surrounded by palm trees, and widespread bungalows that had been mostly constructed by British colonialists and Zoroastrian businessmen before the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

The road led directly to Bhutto’s house, beyond which lay not far from the then popular recreational areas of Old Clifton and New Clifton situated near the Clifton beach.

The first signs of the area’s commercialisation appeared in the late 1970s when a branch of United Bank of Pakistan (UBL) appeared a few kilometers away from Three Swords. The design of the branch was rather avant-garde in style and various office scenes for TV plays were shot here.

In 1979, two shopping centres appeared on the opposite sides of the road. They were Uzma Plaza and Kehkashan Centre. They were precursors to the modern-day shopping malls.

It was in 1981 when the Swords were vandalised for the first time. Ironically, the vandalising was done by supporters of Bhutto’s party, the PPP. Bhutto had been toppled in a reactionary military coup in July 1977. In 1981, graffiti against the military regime appeared at the base of the Three Swords monument.

By the late 1980s, the traffic flow on the road increased two-fold. The influx of huge US and Saudi aid (during the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan); and the rapid erosion of the former Bhutto regime’s mixed economy, gave birth to a ‘nouveau riche’ class, many of whose members began to settle in Clifton.

By the 1990s, the Clifton Road had transformed. It became extremely congested; trees were uprooted from its sides to make room for even more apartment blocks, shopping centres and advertising hoardings. Both sets of the swords showed patches of smog and dust on them.

The grass around them had turned brown and the palm trees vanished. This mostly took place during the decade-long and violent tussle between the state and Karachi’s largest party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Posters and graffiti of various political parties, and of clandestine religious groups (that had emerged in the 1980s), now covered the swords.

The traffic situation on Clifton Road became so bad that the size of both the roundabouts was drastically reduced and traffic signals were mounted on four sides of the Three Swords roundabout.

In 2000, amidst the anarchic and tasteless graffiti already painted across the Three Swords, emerged some religious inscriptions, painted slightly above the fading words, Unity, Faith, Discipline.

Some media reports suggested that the religious inscriptions were ordered on the Three Swords by the Clifton Cantonment Board because it believed this would dissuade people from defacing the swords!

But nothing of the sort happened. Instead, sectarian graffiti of various extreme groups began appearing on the Three Swords.

In 2005 (during the Parvez Musharraf regime), Karachi elected a mayor from the MQM. The swords finally got a make-over after almost two decades. Graffiti and posters were removed, the swords was washed, and Jinnah’s words repainted. Though both the roundabouts were further shortened, new grass on them was laid and flowers planted.

The mayor also came up with the idea of outsourcing the beautification of the roundabouts. Famous designers and private banks were encouraged to beautify them. In return they were allowed to put the logos of their companies around the swords.

The plan worked. But whereas the Two Swords have since thrived their renewal, the Three Swords have continued to face challenges which include the ever-increasing flow of traffic, pollution and frequent defacing.

Another challenge that the monument now faces is the way the roundabout has become a popular vicinity to hold protest rallies.

It’s a favourite rallying point of the city’s liberal civil society groups protesting against various human rights violations. It’s also a rallying point of Imran Khan’s PTI. It was during one such PTI rally here when the MQM chief (incensed by the rally’s anti-MQM rhetoric), said something about using one of the swords against PTI supporters. The statement triggered outrage.

With the rising flow of traffic, the city authorities have often thought about removing both sets of the swords. The truth is, had Z.A. Bhutto continued with his original idea of presenting them as symbols of the PPP, the swords would have certainly vanished. But since they emerged as symbolising ‘Jinnah’s Pillars of Strength’, they remain intact. Still standing in the midst of chaos that now surrounds them.

Source: Smokers’ Corner: The swords of Karachi
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 24th, 2016
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The unknown 1975 Pak-India War

Everyone knows about the 1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. But only a handful of folk are aware of a unique war between the two countries which took place in 1975.

Alas, fresh evidence is emerging confirming that indeed, this war did take place, but was kept a secret by the governments of both the countries.

Famous Indian scientist, Professor Narayan G. Harikishan, has claimed that the 1975 war was neither won by India nor Pakistan, but by Cambodia.

And, this is why it was kept secret.

He made this startling claim at last month’s All India Science Convention in New Delhi.

Speaking to leading scientists from all over India, the professor made a presentation in which he exhibited photographs of saucer-shaped objects over Lahore and Delhi during the peak of the war.

He concluded that it was not a conventional war because both the sides used unconventional weapons.

India used nuclear-powered chariots that were constructed from the blueprints of ancient spaceships built in the region thousands of years ago; whereas the Pakistani side used saucer-shaped flying objects fueled by energy extracted from genies (jins)!

Professor Narayan claimed that the photographs were authentic and taken by Indian soldiers in the area where the objects had been sighted.

The pictures were confiscated by the government and only now became known when an Indian antique-collector managed to get his hands on a sari worn by former Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.

The collector noticed a bulge on the right side of the sari. When he tried to press it down with a moderately hot iron, three such photographs stuck out.

They had been sown on the side of the sari and then an additional piece of cloth was sown over them.

The collector handed over the photos to Professor Narayan who carbon-dated them. He discovered that they were taken in 1975.

One of the photos shows strange objects in the sky over the Pakistan-India border.

Further investigation led the Professor and his team to a site of an ancient temple in Bihar where he met famous Indian archeologist, Dr. Ajay Premnaath, who has been conducting extensive excavation work there.

Dr. Ajay was fascinated by the photos and showed Professor Narayan some of the many discoveries that he had made at the site.

The most curious was an artifact that, according to Dr. Ajay, was the cockpit of one of the many flying chariots that the people of the region had built some 7000 years ago!

This discovery has been hailed by the current BJP government in India as a recognition of the ancient brilliance of the people of the region before such collective genius was stamped out by the arrival of Muslim hordes from the 12th century onwards.

When Dr. Ajay told Professor Narayan that similar cockpits were also discovered from ancient temple sites in Cambodia, Narayan immediately flew to Cambodia where he met with Dr. Pomulla Khmer Andrigaat, an Italian-Cambodian archeologist and a former general in the Cambodian military.

Dr. Pomulla told him that indeed, the ancient people of India had created nuclear-powered chariots that could fly.

More startlingly was Dr. Pomulla’s confession that the lost technology was first rediscovered by Cambodian archeologists in 1962.

According to Dr. Pomulla, Cambodia, which had been an imperial power centuries ago, planned to restore its lost status by building flying objects from the rediscovered technology and utilise a Pakistan-India conflict to annihilate Pakistan, India, Burma and Nepal and conquer the region.

The 1975 Indo-Pakistan war was thus triggered by Cambodia.

It used remodeled flying chariots to bomb certain areas along the Indo-Pak border, triggering a reaction from India and Pakistan.

The Pakistanis unleashed flying machines fueled by energy derived from jins and the Indians let lose flying chariots that they had discovered from ancient sites.

The jin-powered machines are said to have been built by Ziaul Haq (who would be made General by Bhutto in 1976), and famous spiritual-energy-physicist, Orya Maqbool Jan.

Much of the conflict took place 70,000 feet in the air where jin-powered objects and ancient nuclear-powered chariots battled it out, while the remodeled Comedian chariots slipped in undetected to conquer India and Pakistan.

The war was brought to an end when Pakistani PM, ZA Bhutto, met with his Indian counterpart, Indira Gandhi, in Shimla in late 1975. They had first met in Shimla in 1974, but their 1975 meeting there was kept under wraps.

Evidence is also emerging that this time peace between the two countries was brokered by famous pop icon, John Lennon.

The evidence lies in a photograph recently released by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono.

Though Cambodia managed to launch a few of their flying machines during the war and occupy swaths of Pakistani and Indian territories, the machines had to be suddenly recalled and dismantled.

According to Dr. Pomulla, this happened when the scientists who had recreated the ancient flying machines were taken away by an unidentified species from their homes in the dead of the night.

The unidentified species had arrived in saucer-shaped flying machines. But, according to Dr. Pomulla, these machines were not like the ancient flying machines found in Bihar and rebuilt in Cambodia.

Dr. Pomulla told Dr. Narayan, ‘these ones were of an extraterrestrial nature …’

This discovery led Dr. Narayan to conclude that most probably the extraterrestrials were from the planet Caprica that is 27 light years away from Earth.

So, maybe, Cambodia too didn’t win the 1975 Indo-Pak war. Most probably the winners were Capricans?

When asked this, Dr. Narayan said he will have to watch Season 5 of BattleStar Galactica all over again for the answer.

Disclaimer: This article is categorised as satire.

Source: The unknown 1975 Pak-India War
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2016
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