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  #21  
Old Sunday, April 21, 2013
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Default Smokers’ Corner: A Tuesday in hell


Smokers’ Corner: A Tuesday in hell



Nadeem F. Paracha



Tuesday, the 16th of April was an extraordinary day in Pakistan. The sun rose to bring into view a brutal attack on the convoy of PML-N leader, Sannullah Zehri in Khuzdar, Balochistan.

Though Zehri survived the assault, unfortunately three members of his family lost their lives.

Police pointed the finger at the Baloch insurgent group, the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) that has already threatened to thwart the election in Balochistan.

But the tragic episode rudely brought home a stinging realisation to the PML-N: Keeping mum about armed militant threats may give it space to hold rallies and corner meetings in the Punjab, elsewhere it is as venerable to the psychotic rage of extremists as are secular parties like the ANP, MQM and the PPP.

The PML-N has to realise that by remaining awkwardly vague about its stand on the threat faced by secular parties from those who slaughter indiscriminately in the name God, it cannot remain unharmed in a country now overflowing with mad men of all shapes, sizes, hue and colour.

If those who mercilessly cut down Zehri’s family members belonged to an outfit that evokes hatred in the name of Baloch nationalism, the same Tuesday witnessed yet another bloody attack on the ANP by those who consider themselves to be the only true Muslims in this country.

Ever since the TTP threatened to attack leaders and rallies of the ANP, MQM and PPP, it has planted a bomb in front of almost every little step that the ANP has taken.

On that eventful, gory Tuesday, the extremists were at it again blowing up a small ANP rally in Peshawar that was also being attended by veteran ANP leader, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour. His younger brother, Bashir Bilour, had already been killed by the extremists.

Bilour only barely managed to escape the onslaught, but the attack put to death 17 people, including eight children.

It is perfectly reasonable to ask exactly how killing innocent men, women and children pleases the Almighty and benefit the faith that He bestowed upon us Muslims through his last Messenger?

Equally rational is to question the sanity of men who slaughter unarmed civilians in the most sneaky and cowardly manner and then claim that their faith and God ordains it?

But even more pressing should be the question seeking an enquiry into the state of mind of those who, despite the ever-increasing episode of mindless bloodshed that our TV screens are usually splattered with, still manage to actually end up blaming the victims.

And here I am not only talking about the confused urban middle-class kids who move to and fro from their Xbox consoles to their laptops, bashing out ill-informed and knee-jerk gibberish on Twitter and Facebook — reactionary nonsense that sounds as foul as their fast-food burps.

They are simply mimicking all those noble men and women who appear on TV with the sole aim to obfuscate the obvious truth about the sheer brutality of the madmen.

They do this with reactive rhetorical arguments studded with pointy terms like geo-political situation, Islamophobia, drone attacks and corruption, etc.

If they can’t get themselves to forgive the ‘last five years of record-breaking corruption,’ of ANP, MQM and PPP leaders who have so far been killed by the extremists; and, in a way, see the killings as God’s retribution against these awful, awful politicians, what about the men, women and children who had absolutely nothing to do with what the satanic politicians were up to?

How is the mass murders justified? In this case, of course, expect the drone argument to sprout like a wild flower, and angry laments about how we are fighting someone else’s war to kick in.

So about 49,000 Pakistani civilians, politicians, cops and soldiers have been massacred by those who kill indiscriminately just because drones chase them and we are fighting an alien war?

Ah, if it was all that simple. TV channels showed the heartbreaking scene of a nine-year-old child weeping and beating himself at the site where our anti-imperialist heroes tried to blow up an aged leader of the ANP.

No one knows if the kid was doing so because he had lost a relative or a friend in the attack, or was he in shock, but imagine a son, brother, nephew or close relative of yours as young as that unfortunate boy going through a similar episode.

The extremists are what they are and they take pride in their madness. That’s why to me more disturbing are apparently sane men and women who seem to muster their sadness, outrage and tears only if a tragedy comes with the words drone, America and Karachi gangs. As if all other acts of murder and violence are justified and not worth outraging about.

The lives of the loved ones of the 49,000 Pakistanis killed since 2002 have been shaken. On Tuesday, everyone else (especially in Karachi) was shaken by an earthquake (about 5.9 on the Richter Scale).

Amazing how well Karachi managed to survive the quake, with all those tall buildings and congested apartment blocks.

On the night of the earthquake, a famous TV anchor did us all a great favor by talking to a seismologist. But, alas, since for some strange reason any talk about science on local TV channels requires to be balanced out by the musings of a religionist, the anchor then promptly called in a cleric to give that inevitable religious twist to the topic.

His mighty insight: The Almighty creates earthquakes in societies that listen to music and have become obscene.

How conveniently we trivialise the glory of the Almighty and how quickly we reduce science to mean nothing but a heap of secular, Western nonsense.

So remember, the next time you switch on your Ipod, you might be inviting an earthquake. Meanwhile nothing of the sort happens when men slaughter women and children in the name of God.

Of course, nothing obscene about that, no?

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  #22  
Old Monday, April 29, 2013
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Default Smokers’ Corner: Pulp fantasies

Smokers’ Corner: Pulp fantasies


Nadeem F. Paracha


A recent editorial in Dawn appropriately wondered about this year’s speech by COAS General Parvez Kayani at the annual passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy.

The moment contents of his speech became news, some conservative media personnel and columnists could be seen puffing their chests with happy hot air and excitedly wagging their fingers at their more liberal counterparts, reminding them how the COAS had gone on to declare that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam and that ‘no one can take Islam out of Pakistan’.

Much has been written and discussed about exactly what constitutes this ‘ideology’. Liberal scholars, intellectuals, historians and those on the left have for long argued that things like the ‘Pakistan Ideology’ are post-Jinnah concoctions molded by conservative historians, religious parties and the military-establishment to maintain and sustain their undemocratic influence over a diverse ethnic and sectarian polity.

Those on the right, of course, disagree. They continue to insist that Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, used the Pakistan Movement as a roadmap to a destination where Muslims of different languages, cultures and sectarian persuasions would gel together as a monolithic state and nation and be ruled by the dictates of the Quran and the Sunnah.

This has not happened. And it can’t. It’s a fairy tale scenario peddled as history and an ideology that in spite of creating fissure after fissure between sects, ethnicities and between the military-establishment and political parties, is still being unabashedly flaunted.

So much so, that the fissures that it has caused have now gradually created an extreme expression of madness that uses terror and bloodshed to enact a so-called Islamic State.

But more pressing should be the concern about the state of mind of the soldiers who are on the frontlines of a vicious battle against those expressing this extremism in the most brutal manner.

In his last year’s speech at the PMA, the COAS clearly emphasised that the existential threat to Pakistan was largely internal. This year, however, it became external again. Where do such sudden shifts leave the soldiers?

A friend of mine (a former journalist and now a filmmaker) once told me a revealing little tale. To film a documentary, he had travelled up north into a tense battle zone where the Pakistan Army was fighting a bloody war against the extremists. This was during the military operation in Swat in 2009.

There he met a soldier who startled him by saying: “Sir, since you seem to be an educated man and someone I can trust, let me tell you that all these men (extremists) are our own people”.

He then added: “We are told so many things about whom we are fighting. But we know who these people are. These are the people we have known for years, but now they have turned against us”.

The soldier was not saying anything new. Because barring the usual set of so-called patriots who are ever-willing to lie through their teeth just because they believe that certain fibs serve the country’s interests, by now most Pakistanis (at least outside the Punjab) know that the vicious enemy, the people of Pakistan and its army are up against are very much a product of our own naive follies and misplaced arrogance.

Nevertheless, when one hears this coming from a soldier on the frontlines, one is not sure how to react.

Whether one should rejoice or should we see this as a warning?

The debacles faced by the US army in Vietnam and by the Soviet forces in Afghanistan should be taken as examples to be learnt from.

It is easier to raise an army on certain myths about one’s foreign enemies and on an exaggerated sense of patriotism. But the post-World War II scenario in this regard is studded with examples in which, in a long drawn-out armed conflict, there does come a time when armies facing guerrilla warfare begin to lose touch with all the ideological hoopla that they were fed during training.

There are numerous accounts of how whole battalions of American marines and Soviet fighters ended up rebelling against their own superiors because after facing bloodshed and madness on the battlefield they completely lost contact with what they were told by their politicians and generals. All that indoctrination began to melt away and they found themselves awkwardly exposed to a set of truths that they were conditioned to actually repress.

These are the kind of truths that a soldier, especially if he is being readied to take on a ruthless bunch of insurgents, should be briefed about up front.

As one saw in Vietnam and Afghanistan, all that mythical talk about how the soldiers were fighting for a higher cause simply began to melt away and the soldiers were not only left stranded with a rude reality, but they had no clue how to address it. It is a bit unsettling to know that the Pakistan army is preparing its men for the conflict against armed extremists by using rhetoric it originally devised for a possible war against an external enemy.

But it is their own countrymen that the soldiers are facing on the battlefield and/or legions of fanatics who believe that they are the ones serving God, even if that means blowing up women and children.

The enemy in this context is not the saffron-clad battalions on mechanical elephants fitted with nuclear warheads. The enemy is very much from amongst us.

Telling the soldiers the whole truth is better. This should mean organising a re-orientation program with a view to ready them to fight an enemy that is not dropping from the sky or rolling in from across the border, but emerging from our very own mountains and cities. The threat remains very much internal, dear General.


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Old Monday, May 06, 2013
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Default Pakistan: a very modern history

Pakistan: a very modern history

Pakistan occupies an area which was home to some of the earliest Neanderthal settlements, some of whose decedents can still be found hiding in caves in the mountains of North West Pakistan.

The only difference is, in the Stone Ages, these Neanderthals were armed with clubs and stones, but today they are armed with guns and bombs.

Remarkably though, they remain as furry as they were millions of years ago.

The modern state of Pakistan was born out of the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 and has faced many regional confrontations, usually brought on by its continuing habit of poking its nose where it doesn't belong.

Created to meet the demands of Indian Muslims, Pakistan was originally in two parts: Part 1 was called Maula jat and Part 2 was called jat in Dhaka.

The east wing present day Flooded Republic of Bangladesh is on the Bay of Bengal bordering the Bollywood Republic of India and the Miserable Republic of Burma.

The west wing present-day the Not-Quite-Arab Republic of Pakistan stretches from the Arabian Sea to the Himalayas and according to famous poet, philosopher, military strategist, historian and judo expert, Zidec Hamid, the country actually stretches all the way to New Delhi, Kabul, Tashkent and maybe even Beijing and many parts of Mars.

The break-up of the two wings came in 1971 when the fish-eating east-wing seceded after fighting an insurgency culled and planned from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and an early draft of the Di Vinci Code.

Civilian politics in Pakistan in the last few decades has been tarnished by corruption, inefficiency, confrontations and bad breath between various institutions and/or whatever institutions that are left in the country. Actually, the word political institution is an oxymoron when discussed in the context of Pakistani polities and the state.

Alternating periods of civilian and military rule have not helped to establish stability. In fact, instability is the only stable tradition in Pakistan; a tradition that is being passionately upheld by a series of TV talk shows because political stability would mean lack of viewership and advertising revenues for the channels and a drastic drop in popcorn sales that can spell disaster for the country`s economy.

Pakistan came under military rule once again in October 1999 after the ousting of a civilian government that had lost a great deal of support because the public lost its appetite for rich dishes such as nihari, paye, and biryani which Prime Minister Naraaz Sharif was a great fan of.

He has since become a vegetarian of sorts and is usually taunted as becoming a sissy by Brig (R) Cookie Monster Gul, the architect of the Afghan Jihad and the 1857 Indian Mutiny.

According to famous poet, philosopher, military strategist and lifestyle fascist, Maria Beep she also took part in the 1857 Mutiny as a gallant needle-worker.

Her gallantry was praised by the famous poet, philosopher, military strategist and flogging enthusiast, Sangsar Abbasi. Maria Beep still has her famous 1857 needles with which she now pokes voodoo dolls of her competitors in Pakistan`s cutthroat fashion industry.

Sanana & Safibarf are her two latest victims who launched a counterattack through their new summer collection that included Persian tea cosies worn as corporate aunty headgear.

After Pakistan`s last benevolent dictator, General Mush P. Bonaparte, eventually relinquished his uniform amidst tears in November 2007, in February 2008, his supporters were defeated in the election, also amidst tears.

The Pakistan Khapay Khapay Khapay Party formed a coalition government led by Asif Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Zardari Bhutto and an impeachment process was launched against Mush, who resigned (amidst more tears) in August 2008.

Pakistan`s place on the world stage shifted after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US. It dropped its support for the Neanderthal regime in Afghanistan and was propelled into the frontline inthe fight against terrorism, becoming a key ally of the Elders of Zion and assorted secret Freemason societics.

However, Pakistani forces have struggled to maintain control over the restive Neanderthal regions along the Afghan border, where Neanderthal militants are firmly entrenched with bombs strapped around their tummies which they claim is only a weight reducing exercise. Most Pakistanis entirely believe this to be true.

In the spring of 2009, the government attempted to reduce disaffection in the troubled north-western Swat district by agreeing to the imposition of the Whipping Women Law.

Far from improving security, this move allowed the Neanderthals to tighten their grip on the region, and the agreement broke down after only a few whips.

The government waged a military campaign to flush out the furry Neanderthals an act that many sensitive Pakistanis such as poet, philosopher, politician and balaybaaz, Lord Jibran Can`t, and Mian Naraz Sharif criticised. Mainly just for the heck of it.

Asif Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Zardari Bhutto won the presidential race of September 6, 2008, by a big majority. His election came after his predecessor General P. Mush Bonaparte resigned amidst tears under threat of impeachment.

General P. Mush Bonaparte`s rule had ushered in increased freedom for the print media and a liberalisation of broadcasting policies.

Television is the dominant medium, and there are around 50,000 private channels all babbling about the same things but each calling their individual babbling `exclusive.

More than 100 private FM radio stations have been licensed. Fake American accents and low IQ levels are firm prerequisites for success.

Scores of unlicensed FM stations are said to operate in the tribal areas. They are usually operated by Neanderthal RJs of which DJ Fazalullah In Da Caaaaave is the most popular.

There are around 20 million internet users in Pakistan. A growing number of young Pakistanis have engrossing and intelligent discussions on various internet sites. Here is one example:

Superbilla: What you think you think you are you kafir anti-Islam Pakistan Afghanistan Israeli Hindu dog!

Pakpunk: Oh, you shut up you terrorist what you think you are you and I am I am great Muslim and Pakistan jeeay jeeay yea!

Munchkins: Oh why you fight you both, we all Muslim ummah and Pakistani patriots so we should make unity and gather and explode atom bum on India!

Superbilla: Oh you shut up you hypocrite you not real Pakistani but Ahmadi nonsense, oh you bastaaaaaaaa! !

Munchkins: Shut up your face you infidel man you destroy unity of Muslim ummah you too bastaaaaaaaa! !

Moderator: Guys please refrain from using bad language. We're Muslims and this is a respectable forum.

Munchkins: Oh why you say this to me to me what about superbilla and pakpunk I am tolerant best Muslim in whole wide world like Pakistan best country in whole wide worldly universe.

Moderator: I said exhibit tolerance and respect, okay?

BobbyBunny: Thank you, sir, for the tolerant words. I am from the US and....

Moderator: What? US? Oh, you bastaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Pakistan: a very modern history
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Old Thursday, May 16, 2013
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Default How green was my valley?

How green was my valley?



Many years ago, when Swat was still green and free from bushy warlords, I knew a middle aged man there who was also a tracking guide. His name was Atique Ali Khan and I remember every time I used to ask him about how his two children were doing at school, he was in the habit of constantly quoting a well-known hadith. `Allah be praised`, he used to say. `They are doing well at school. As the Prophet (PBUH) used to say, go as far as China f`or knowledge.

Well, I haven`t been to Swat in a long time and I have no idea what became of Atique. But thanks to the rude mushrooming of the rowdy keepers of faith in that part of` Pakistan some f`ive years ago, I`m sure his children weren`t even able to walk a kilometre for knowledge, let alone ever visiting China.

Though the 2009 military operation in that area largely cleared the place of the mad men, last year`s shooting of the 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai confirmed the apprehension that these men are still embedded in Swat among its otherwise peaceful populace.

These men were an angry lot.Once upon a time, it is said, they used to let off steam by chopping down trees. That was bad enough, but I guess ever since trees have become somewhat scarce in Swat, the level of their delusions about faith suddenly doubled, rather quadrupled.As a consequence, they began ranting incoherent loud nothings on clandestine FM radio stations about how extremely angry they were about all the obscenity and injustice in the world and about matters related to the education of little girls. Indeed, a grave danger to faith these young ones certainly are.

Well, the loud FM stations too didn`t seem to satisfy their monstrous appetites for divinely inspired action, so off they went blowing up CD shops and girls` schools.

Blow `em all, became their heartfelt mantra, as they became angrier, louder and, of course, a lot bushier.

Unfortunately, since supposedly their faith was a lot stronger than that of us `bad Muslims`, it required more from them. So these angry men started blowing themselves up! What`s more, for an impressive display and effect, they did this in public places. Off they went with a bang, taking along with them mutilated and severed bodies, dozens of men,women and children. And up they all went to paradise, or so they say, and so they believed.

But what about you and I, the bad Muslims? What do we have to say about the blowing up of girls` schools, CD and barber shops in our own backyard? Happenings that are still a reality in various towns, enclaves and cities of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, south Punjab and parts of Karachi? What do we have to say about men of faith in our very own country who actually believe that suicide and multiple murders in the name of God will land them a cosy little corner in paradise? The ideological and material clash of two extremes Bush`s clean-shaven neo-cons and the bushy Islamist terrorists have left most `moderate` Muslim populations in a scared and awkward state of myopia.

This disposition has helped serve the purpose of the Islamists.

Sadly, most `moderate Muslims` instead of forming a third opinion through some sort of a rational consensus, have decided to take sides between the two extremes.

For example, most Pakistanis naturally took an opposing view of Bush`s `war on terror`. Fair enough. But since much of this was done without a clear third view, commentaries and opinions against matters like drone attacks, suicide bombings and `war on terror` have regrettably sounded more and more like jerky jingoistic spiels.

Unfortunately, these excitable tirades helped fatten the delusional and self-righteous complexes of`the Islamists.

The third view that is directly linked to the democratic political parties and the self-interest of` the military, government and society of Pakistan was ultimately sacrificed at the altar of hyperbolic political cliches and rants, making the country continue suffering from a scenario in which we went on bad-mouthing one extreme (neocons) while uncannily allowing the other extreme to get fatter,bolder and wilder.

As for Atique Ali Khan, I wonder if he`s still alive, or for that matter, if his children are still alive. One thing`s for sure, though. They won`t have many schools left to go to. But what`s a school compared to a place in paradise, aye?

How green was my valley?
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Old Sunday, May 19, 2013
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Lurching for meaning



I'm sure, by the time this column appears on these pages, a lot has already been said, written and investigated about the rather stunning results produced by the May 11 election.

It was interesting to note that, alas, though the electronic and social media is effective in generating hype and virtual commotions, they do not necessarily impact voting trends the way one was expecting them to.

If one believed in the sustained hype about PTI`s `tsunami` in the social media, he or she was understandably left mouthing incoherent and disoriented gibberish on Twitter and Facebook the moment it became clear that PMLN would bulldoze all opposition, especially in the Punjab.

Not only was PTI drubbed severely in the Punjab by PMLN, it could not even go past the number of seats won by the PPP a party that was pushed into the corner by threats and attacks by the TTP and came to the election as a highly unpopular outfit after spending five chaotic and mismanaged years as the outgoing ruling party.

In Sindh where, according to the electronic media, PMLF and the Sindhi nationalists were set to f`inally topple the PPP`s traditional supremacy, they simply failed to even slightly check the PPP`s sprint towards victory. The PPP cnded up winning a comfortable majority in both the national as well as provincial assembly elections in the region.

However, the electronic media was correct in predicting the success of the MQM, the major party of Sindh`s capital, Karachi. The party managed to retain its electoral hold in the city, even though PTl accused it of rigging the election.

The truth is, even if one takes back a chunk of` the votes that the MQM received, it will still manage to win in Karachi. Those residing outside Karachi, or for that matter, away from the more congested areas of the city, have yet to figure out the rather complex and paradoxical nature of the party`s electoral popularity among the Urdu-speaking majority in Karachi and in parts of Hyderabad.

MQM cannot be defeated in Karachi with lofty middle class idealism and moralism or with flag-waving patriotism. Not only are these perceived by MQM voters to be tools and excuses to undo the economic and political interests of the city`s Urdu-speakers, these also don`t unclog gutters, mend electricity wires, and guarantee regular water supply to areas far way from trendy boulevards and shopping malls of Clifton and Defense.

Apart from PMLN`s stunning show in the Punjab, the other most interesting bits about the election was the wayPTl managed to gather a semblance of respectability by winning big in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

Though the media did allude to PTI`s growing popularity in KP, how-ever, during the last few weeks of the election campaign, when the province`s outgoing ruling party, the ANP, was suffering a continuous series of brutal assaults by the extremists, TV channels began to float the idea that the ANP might benefit from a sympathy wave.

Nothing of the sort happened and the party was rudely wiped out by PTI that managed to win the largest number of seats in KP.

But perhaps the most noteworthy bit, at least to me, was to see how Peshawar in KP and Rawalpindi in the Punjab voted. Both these cities went to the PTI.

Rawalpindi was swept by the left-liberal PPP in the 1970 and 1977 election. It gave a split verdict between the PPP and the conservative PML (IJI), in the 1988 election, before falling completely in the lap of PMLN throughout the 1990s.

The PPP did manage to win a few seats here in the 2002 and 2008 election, but Rawalpindi remained to be a PMLN stronghold until this year`s election.

PTT dislodged PMLN`s supremely here on May 11, and ironically, it did so in an election in which the PMLN completely swept the rest of the Punjab! Peshawar where PTl enjoyed a clean sweep on May 11, has turned out to be an even more (if not the most) temperamental city when it comes to elections. Its seats were shared between the left-wing NAP and the right-wing JUT in 1970.

Then between 1988 and 1997, these seats altered between the PPP and the left-liberal ANP before going completely to the right-wing alliance of religious parties, the MMA in the 2002 election.

In 2008, Peshawar re-adjusted itself and once again voted for the secular ANP and the PPP, only to obliterate both these parties in 2013 and give the centre-right PTI all four of its seats.

Some observers believe that whereas voting in Rawalpindi still takes place on the basis of ideology reflecting Punjab`s shift from left to right ever since 1990 voting trends in Peshawar however, always exhibit the city`s pragmatic nature where its Pashtoon and Hindko voters are merciless in judging both left and right parties purely on the basis of performance.

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Old Monday, May 27, 2013
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Good luck, gentlemen


In a recent speech, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Parvez Kayani praised the nation for rejecting the threats of the extremists by coming out and voting in the May 11 general elections.

Within a month the COAS has made two speeches in which he has come out clean in reiterating the military`s narrative and stance regarding the menace of extremist insurgency and violence in the country.

Never has a leading military man been so clear and categorical in owning the `war against terrorism` in Pakistan.

Not only did things in this respect remained vague, uncertain and muggy in the civilian political circles, the military too, whose men are on the front lines of this vicious war, remained somewhat hesitant in fully defining Pakistan`s role in the conflict.

In spite of the fact that ever since 2002, thousands of Pakistani civilians, soldiers, policemen and politicians have been killed by the extremists, Pakistan`s civilian and military circles remained largely uncommitted and fuzzy about the required narrative that was needed to inform the nation and consequently attract its support for the war.

In the absence of such a narrative, the task fell on the laps of the populist electronic media and certain political parties.

Playing to the confusion set off by the unabashed acts of terror by the extremists and almost perversely explaining the war as an extension of `American imperialism`, the media and some opposition parties created exactly the kind of uncertainty and doubt that the COAS tried to counter in his speeches.

Rightly and timely, the COAS was more concerned about how a narrative generated by the populist media and the opposition parties about the war was now affecting the soldiers fighting an enigmatic and almost ghost-like enemy that is not rolling in from across the Indian border nor parachuting from the skies. It is emerging from within our own cities, towns and mountains.

Nevertheless, his recent statement has come at yet another intriguing period in the country`s topsy-turvy history.

In a few days time, two centre-right parties, the PML-N and the PTI, will be forming governments in the centre, the Punjab and the KP.

The parties that were part of the last ruling coalition, the PPP and the MQM, and under whom the military carried out various operations against the extremists, have been relegated to Sindh. Another anti-extremist outfit, the ANP, that too was part of the former coalition, has been wiped out in the KP after the May 11 elections.

Both PML-N and PTl have been strong advocates of holding peace talks and dialogue with the extremists.

The two`s strong showing in the Punjab and the KP in the May 11 elections now gives them enough democratic credibility and right to put their dialogue theory into practice.

Of course, this will not be the first time that a civilian government would be entering into a major dialogue with the extremist outfits. The PPP-led coalition almost handed over Swat to them after one such dialogue and deal in 2009, until the deal was unabashedly broken by the extremists, and the military had to be sent in to wrest back the control of the area.

The extremists vented out their rage on the three main parties of the former ruling coalition by killing over a hundred of these parties` supporters and leaders just before the May 11 elections. Even more painful was the collateral damage that occurred during the terror campaign in (mainly) Karachi and the KP.

That said the PML-N and PTI now have the mandate in the Parliament and in the Punjab and KP Provincial Assemblies to correctly claim the right to put into action what they believe is a better idea to win peace for the Pakistanis.

Supposedly, the offer for a dialogue has come from the extremists, but only if parties such as the PML-N, PTI and JI are involved. Fair enough.

These parties should be given all the space and support that they require in this respect because they`ve earned it through the vote. But one will be watching with great interest how men like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan negotiate with a rigid group of men who not only reject the Constitution of the country and democracy, but also consider a majority of`Pakistanis to be false Muslims, if not outright heretics.

Eyes will be fixed more on Nawaz Sharif whose party, the PML-N, has the largest number of seats in the National and Punjab Assemblies.

Also, as a politician, he is far more seasoned, mature and perhaps more temperate, than the impulsive, inexperienced and somewhat brash, Khan.

If both these parties actually manage to make the extremists end their campaigns of terror, it will be nothing short of achieving a miracle.

But how much are they willing to compromise to achieve this? Will the extremists be asked to join the mainstream scheme of things? If so, then as what? They hate shrines, CD shops, cinemas, even paan shops (!) And what if the talks fail? Is there a Plan B? Let`s hope peace does come and the extremists finally realise that when over 60pc Pakistanis poured to vote, it was a sign that they may be suffering from war fatigue but their trust in democracy is robust, now more than ever.

Also, both Mian Sahib and Khan must bear in mind that peace is achieved with honour and not at the expense of sullying the memory of the 50,000 Pakistanis killed in this war.

It is the people who elected your parties for stability and good governance and this is more for Khan not because of your fancy theories and whims.

Good luck to you both. And may win peace either way.

Good luck, gentlemen
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A couple of questions, gentlemen: If US drone strikes in Pakistan`s tribal areas whip up an enraged sense of` revenge among the area`s Pashtun populace, what do terrorist attacks by the extremists create? On TV talk shows one of`ten hears anchors and politicians bemoaning how drone strikes that (along with the militants) also kill innocent people, are creating angry Pashtuns who then go on to become extremists because taking revenge is a cherished Pashtun custom.

But what about the hundreds of Pashtuns who have been slaughtered by the extremists in mosques, shrines, markets, political rallies and sometimes even outside their own homes? If collateral damage from a drone strike takes out the family of an honourable Pashtun in the tribal area and he then takes up arms, or decides to wrap his waist with a suicide vest, then what does that Pashtun who lost a loved one in a terrorist attack from an angry extremist do? Does he pick up a gun or wear a suicide belt as well to take revenge from those who killed his loved ones? Or are just those Pashtuns who have become terrorists (due to drone strikes) the only real Pashtuns who follow real Pashtun traditions, while those who died or lost friends and family members in extremist attacks, fake Pashtuns? So, once again, let me try to understand this. Pashtuns who lost loved ones in US drone strikes become extremists.

They then go on to kill those they blame of siding with the US because seeking revenge becomes their traditional and customary duty.

But if taking revenge is such a Pashtun tradition, who do those Pashtuns whose loved ones were blown up, shot or beheaded by the revenge-seeking extremists, take revenge from? Sorry for going round and round here, but think about it.

Aren`t we continuing to offer a rather simplistic explanation fattened with the over-exaggeration of certain Pashtun traditions and myths in trying to figure out what makes a Pashtun man kill in the name of revenge and religion? Drone, Pashtun tradition, revenge are words that are spouted out whenever our knees go on a collective jerking spree.So, extremists become extremists because of drone strikes. Their violence is their revenge against the state, government and the people of Pakistan who supposedly allow these strikes to take place.

But, it`s back to the same question: If US drone strikes create extremists, what do extremist strikes create? Also, if drone strikes are creating violent religious extremism, what are extremist attacks creating? Do extremist attacks create enraged atheists who move out to slaughter, torture or behead religious extremists? Do they create Muslims who toss away their faith and become peace-loving Buddhist monks? No. What both drone strikes as well as those by extremists are creating is an ever-expanding narrative that eschews complexities and embraces one-dimensional, black and white simplicities: Pashtuns are an honourable but vengeful race so extremist violence will vanish once the drone strikes end and the US pulls out of Afghanistan.

I sincerely hope so. But, of course, as the few realists left in this country in this context would tell you, the mentioned narrative is simplistic hogwash, if not entirely to do with apologists who still believe that extremist violence is some kind of an anti-US and `anti-imperialistic` statement.

Yes, negotiations can take place with angry men hurt by the slights of a superpower or the state. But can they take place against sheer criminality? The realists suggest that what may have begun as an angry ideological reaction to American military action in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, has mutated into becoming a thorny network of brutal criminality that, apart from the usual attacks on mosques, Sufi shrines, schools, political rallies and in markets, now also include kidnapping for ransom, extortion, smuggling, bank robberies, et at So, if` drone strikes turn peace loving men into violent extremists, do terror attacks by these extremists turn bad Pakistani Muslims into good ones? One has to be extremely cautious in taking a position on the drones` issue. For years now, all kinds of surveys and reports have been waved, pointed at and talked about.

Some reports talk of the widespread collateral damage that drone strikes generate, whereas there are some equally detailed reports claiming that the collateral damage is minimal and drones almost always hit their target, taking out dangerous militants hiding in places where the Pakistani authorities can not, or even fear to trade.

The truth however lies somewhere in the mid-die of` these two positions. It has to because not even the finest researchers and media personnel have ever been able to visit and closely analyse the on-ground situation in areas where drones hover over and then strike.

Blindly condoning drone strikes is as mindless an act as is the blind condemnation of these strikes.

The truth behind what really takes place due to the strikes is still very much with the Pakistani armed forces that are fighting a brutal war in Pakistan`s rugged tribal areas.

Because by the looks of it, I am quite convinced (and disturbingly so), that neither Pakistan`s news media nor even its top politicians really have a clue about this. They`re simply mouthing off a simplistic narrative.

Thus, it has now become imperative for the armed forces to truthfully brief the country`s civilian leadership on the issue.

It will then become equally binding on the civilian leadership to share with the Pakistani people the truth in this matter, instead of muddling it just because it might contradict the popular narrative that many politicians and media personnel have been advocating.

Yes, the truth hurts. But the damage caused by a lie has a deeper, more lasting impact.

True lies
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This just has to be the ‘preachiest’ generation of young Pakistanis ever. On TV, in social media and even in drawing rooms, young Pakistanis are proudly out in numbers advocating ‘positive thinking’ to the cynics, calmly ignoring the fact that a cynic may just be a sceptic (like most rational human beings).

But, you see, rationalism is bad because it may amount to one repressing his or her emotions.

A very unhealthy thing to do. It can turn a person, not only into a cynic, but, horror of horrors, unpatriotic, which, in Pakistan’s case, can then lead him to become an agnostic, or, God forbid, an atheist.

In which case positive thinking must dictate affirmative action: Kill the fools.

Of course, you must understand that this logic is usually and entirely based on assumptions.

Positive thinking demands it. After all, investigating the facts behind the assumptions can be a time-wasting exercise that makes Jack, Jimmy or Junaid a very dull, introverted boy on his way to becoming a cynic and (thus) a positive case for elimination.

The let’s-be-positive crowd is a weird lot. Not that I’m all that normal, but they’re weirder, even though they might not look it.

Brought up on those amazingly unhinged tales of sword and sorcery (‘Pakistan Studies’) at school, they then plunge into those ‘building self-esteem’/self-improvement' seminars and books that are basically the corporate yuppie strain of that New Age nonsense about personal aura, positive vibes, et al.

Nevertheless, the swords-sorcery-meets-let’s-be-positive-generation will shower you with great admiration if you unthinkingly and animatedly nod to whatever positivism is trending on Twitter or Facebook. No, you’re not a sheep but … okay, you are a sheep but, like, so what? Right? Right.

They will shower you with love if you agree with their positivism. Especially if the positivism is about being positive in one’s condemnation of what is not positive. Such as the oh-so-arrogant display of individualism.

Don’t you hate such so-called individualistic displays of negative thinking and arrogance? Always trying to look and sound different. Always trying to tell us that suicide bombers kill more people in Pakistan than drone attacks. And that accountability against corrupt people should not only include politicians, but military men and the judiciary too. And that Tariq Ali has started to sound like a man who got out of the jungle after decades thinking that the Vietnam War was still on. Or that the TTP were a 21st Century reincarnation of the Viet Cong.

One is ‘paid’ (by a ‘foreign hand’) if he disagrees with the positivists and patriotic if he agrees. This swords-and-sorcery-meets-let’s-be positive-generation leapfrog’s from Mohammad Bin Qasim to the ‘be positive’ corporate guru of the month in a matter of a single sentence.

Take for instance how many of them responded to the UK court’s verdict on the three Pakistani spot-fixing cricketers. In 2010 when the spot-fixing scandal broke, positive thinking dictated that the cricketers must be supported because both international and local (negative) forces were most probably behind this event as well.

And thanks to many of our positive media personnel it seemed that for a while, Salman Butt, Muhammad Amir and Muhammad Asif, were about to become the male equivalents of Aafia Siddiqui (remember her of the ‘I shot the sheriff’ fame?).

But, alas, a little more than a year later when the three were proven guilty in court and sent to prison, all hell broke lose.

No, there were no rallies against the ruling or condemnation of the verdict. Instead, people began burning the three cricketers’ effigies, cursing them for disgracing the country’s name.

So the negative old me decided to tweet a question: How come there are stones and curses for a spot-fixer but rallies and rose petals for certain pious killers? Remember Mumtaz Qadri?

As the positivists came rushing in (on Twitter) to condemn my negative question, I kept on wondering how come so many Pakistanis and the media are ready to pour out and passionately demand that certain corrupt cricketers or politicians be lynched, but then the same people shower praises on self-appointed defenders of the faith who commit murder? And how the positivists look the other way when some other self-appointees in this respect go about their business of blowing up mosques, shrines, schools and markets?

But, then, I understood. Why disturb one’s healthy positive aura and vibe with awkward questions. Why complicate things. I mean, all this might lead to negative thinking thus cynicism, thus unpatriotic thoughts and perhaps even atheism, no?

One should be positive. Especially about his country, its nuclear arsenal and especially the fact that we are ready to eat grass for our precious bomb. Or rather, the poor are ready to eat grass for it. An entirely positive thing to do.

So it is our duty to sympathise with the poor grass eaters and hang a few politicians, eliminate a few cricketers, censure a few journalists and make peace with extremists so as to at least keep the price of grass affordable for the masses who, inshaallah, will one day vote in hoards for a Mr Positive par excellence in the next election. It’s beside the point that positive thinking also dictates that democracy is a sham and only a modern-day caliphate is the answer to all our problems.

Ah, that felt good. Yea, man, check out my positive vibes. Like, groovy — in a Mohammad bin Qasim kind of a way, of course.

Groovy patriots
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The day the world changed (but we didn’t)


It was the Autumn of our disconnect. Meddle Earth — also called North America and/or Hollywood — was struck by a tragic catastrophe: Its leader, the very popular and articulate, George W.XYZ, lay in his TV lounge choking on a banana.

It was a gift given to him by the High Priestess of Kabala, Madonna, on her return from the dark heart of Africa where she had adopted 1,600 starving young Michael Jackson wannabes.

Seeing their master choke on the banana, George’s two dogs, Walt and Disney, ran for the phone. Walt picked up the receiver, while Disney dialed 911.

By now the banana had travelled past George’s Adam’s Apple, when George’s friend, Secretary of State, Dick Van Winkle — an apparently senile but wily ol’ sorcerer — entered the room.

“George,” he said. “Cough! Cough!” Coughed George. “George, we have been attacked!” Said Dick. “What?” Said George, and plump! Out came the banana. “Gee, George,” said Dick. “What in the good Lord’s name is that?” “Madonna… I mean, banana”! George replied. “You said we were attacked?” “Yes, George. Attacked!” “In Iraq!” “No, George, in New York.” “Really?” “Yes, George, really.” “No, I mean, you are serious, right?” “Yes, George, I am serious.” “Really?” “Yes, George, really.” “I see. So, what are you going to do about it?” “You’re the President, George.” “I am?” “Yes, George, you are.” “Really?” “Yes, George, really.”

FOXed News confirmed that the city of New York had been attacked. The highly objective and sober channel reported that the city’s two landmark buildings, called the Swindle Towers, had been attacked by a couple of flying camels.

The network’s correspondent who was at the disastrous scene of the dastardly attack said that two flying camels were seen in the sky just before the attack, and then suddenly both the camels rammed themselves into the two buildings.

As the TV channels showed the harrowing scenes of the buildings being razed and crashing to the ground, Al-Kabeera TV started running exclusive footage of famous Arab philanthropist, Osama Bin Ladee’da, discussing the fine points of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk in the singer’s 1983 video of Billie Jean.

In passing, Osama was also heard praising the camels for their heroic, paradise-bound deed in New York — a city where Osama once worked as an aspiring ballet dancer in the 1970s.

“Really?” said George. “Yes, George, really,” said Dick.

Only a few days after the dastardly, disastrous, devastating and depressing attack, America’s two leading intelligence agencies, CIA and FBI (or Dumb & Dumber), released information on the flying camels.

According to the agencies, a total number of four camels took part in the attack — the other two had flown to ram themselves in the Octagon Building in Pennsylvania and the White house in Washington DC.

All the camels, it was said, came from a sprawling camel farm in the peaceful and democratic Scandinavian country of Afghanistan.

The farm was said to be owned by Osama’s international charity organisation called Al-Fido — named after Osama’s beloved German Shepherd whom, nonetheless, he shot dead when he left ballet dancing and embraced armed philanthropy (bullet dancing), that forbids keeping dogs as pets. Instead, Osama had started raising camels, goats, llamas and wives, with the later being kept in the goats’ section.

The names of the camels who attacked the Swindle Towers were: Al-Alim Bin Qasim Al-Baruni and Al-Walim Bin Ghaznavi Al-Al. Both the camels belonged to the liberal country of Saudi Arabia and had arrived at Meddle Earth by Euro-Train which they had taken (at gunpoint) from a station in the cultural capital of Europe, Mogadishu.

The camels had then got wings fixed on the sides of their humps in Disneyland in Florida and were financially supported by Osama’s Al-Fido organisation throughout their groovy stay in the US of A where they also attended a couple of Britney Spears concerts and a few baseball games, all the while planning their attack on lollipops (at the concerts) and hotdogs (at the baseball games).

Concerned that the camels are being assimilated by the wicked ways and culture of Meddle Earth, Osama’s contact in Meddle Earth, country & Western singer Noam Chomsky, gave them a long lecture on linguistics which the camels found to be rather boring.

Anyway, the CIA and the FBI claimed that Osama’s camel farm in Afghanistan also had illegal naswar labs. Naswar is a very strong green colored snuff which is popular in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of the leading naswar brands in these countries is called The Taliban®.

Though banned all over the world, The Taliban® remains to be the largest selling naswar brand in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was only recently banned in Pakistan when it was said to have induced wild hallucinations in young users, making them see Musarat Shaheen floating in the sky. This somehow made (and still make) very enterprising young men chop heads and blow up mosques and schools.

This is exactly what the users of The Taliban naswar brand started to do, and all in the name of charity, philanthropy and meditation.

CIA and FBI explained that Osama had made huge investments in The Taliban® naswar brand, and that the CEO of The Taliban Naswar Corporation©, One Eyed Jack, had connections in certain Pakistani agencies, Heckle & Jeckle.

“Really?”Said George. “Yes, George, really,” said Dick.

Pakistan had been bombing itself to stone age for long, so George threatened its leader, General Musharraf Schwarzenegger — a carefree mountaineer famous for scaling the rocky hills of Kargil— that he will bomb Pakistan out of the stone age if he didn’t support Meddle Earth in its attack on Osama’s camel farms and the offices of The Taliban® snuff brand in Afghanistan.

Fearing that getting out of the stone age would deprive Pakistan of glorious military dictators (and TV talk shows), Musharraf agreed to support Meddle Earth’s operation in Afghanistan.

However, two of Pakistan’s biggest, most popular, largest and landslide-election-winning political parties such as Pakistan Thereek-i-Imran (PTI) and the Jamat-i-Zabaani (JZ), severely criticised Musharraf’s decision.

PML-S [Pakistan Muslim League-Saudi), a tiny party in the dusty Pakistani town of Jeddah in the improvished province of Punjab, too accused Musharraf of selling-out.

“Nothing and no-one can dare pull Pakistan out of the stone age!” said Jimran Khan in a press statement. They added that enjoying Taliban® snuff brand is the right of every Pakistani and that of their brothers (but not sisters) in Afghanistan.

Even though Meddle Earth let Pakistan retain its sacred stone age status, it attacked Afghanistan. But after realising that Afghanistan was merely a large, useless lump of rock, bombing it out of stone age won’t make an iota of difference.

In frustration, George ordered an attack on Iraq saying that Iraqi dictator, Aladdin, was funding renegade Red Indians who wanted to take back the American continent from the superior Caucasian invaders.

As can be seen in various Oscar-winning documentaries made on the subject, and groundbreaking research conducted by giant scholars and intellectuals like Prof. Zion Hamid, Dr Haroon Shahid Yahya Billa and trillions of their PhD followers on Facebook, we now know that the whole attack was a hoax; a conspiracy by the illuminati, the Third Generation of the Elders of Zion, Mr Spock and Dr Phil against Islam, Pakistan and the wonders of the stone age.

The day the world changed (but we didn’t)
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Even 68 years after the Second World War folded with the terrible spectre of two mushroom clouds over Japan, a disturbing thought has continued to haunt the people of Germany, rest of Europe and the United States of America.

This thought, or more so guilt, has made the state, governments and the media in these countries adopt certain political and social narratives and stances that are commendable.

These have gone a long way to nourish the respective societies in these countries with a consciousness that is largely based on intellectual faculties such as rationalism and an emotional disposition that is readily empathetic towards victims of mass violence and immediately repulsed by those who inflict such acts of ferocity.

Nevertheless, the mentioned remorse-ridden thought has at times also seen some European nations and the US overcompensate in this respect.

But what is this thought? For the Germans it’s about how the bulk of its society remained soporifically quiet when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis were marching thousands of men, women and children of the country’s Jewish community, along with the gypsies, communists and the physically and mentally handicapped to the harrowing gas chambers and twisted torture cells set up by the Nazis to ‘cleanse the country from impure Germans’.

For the rest of Europe (especially the United Kingdom), and for the US, the disturbing thought is about how for quite some time their governments decided to simply ignore the rise of fascism in Europe and as a matter of fact, at one time, even submissively engage with fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, simply discounting the fact that these were violent, racist and aggressive regimes with some rather twisted ideas about racial purity, governance and dominance.

Indeed over the decades, these thoughts made many European countries and the United States instil anti-racist and anti-hate aspects into the mainstream narrative, that began to appear in these countries after the war. A narrative in which the ‘civilised man’ did not mean a Christian out to colonise barbarians and teach them the ways of the civilised Caucasian races.

A civilised man now meant a tolerant, democratic and progressive person who was empathetic towards the plight of those suffering from the effects of dictatorships, corruption, racism and bigotry.

But whereas this narrative did help many European governments to engineer genuinely progressive societies and strong, caring states, some myopia did set in to define the new civilised and empathetic man.

For example, driven by the guilt of the past, the US and Europe went all out to accommodate the Jews who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

But in case of the Jewish state of Israel, the US and Europe looked the other way when (this time) the previous victims of fascist savagery disturbingly began to adopt some questionable methods of their former tormenters in their tussle against the Arabs.

Things got a lot more ironic and complicated when, at the same time, the new, tolerant and democratic man was asked to denounce the violent totalitarianism of communism by embracing the Arabs and the pious, Godly Muslims against the ungodly communists — in spite of the fact that the pious ones clearly had bigoted, delusional ideas about the glory of their faith and most even thought that Hitler was a rather fine gentleman.

Today, such topsy-turvy and inherently contradictory dictates of post-war Western thought have suddenly converted the once pious allies into dangerous barbarians (‘Islamo-fascists’).

Western fascism erected by the likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Spain’s Franco did not fragment into oblivion. It was displaced and became an organisational and operational inspiration for a number of mad men in Africa, Latin America and Asia/Middle-East, most of who were supported by the US and various European countries to keep the violent spectre of vicious, inhuman communism at bay.

The funny thing is, in the context of the Muslims, though they continue to be pushed aside and scorned at for being anti-Semitic, the West and the US still believe that their respective societies’ democratic and tolerant values will be successful in turning angry bigots into allies to oust anti-West/Israel regimes in the Middle East. The West’s on-going misadventure in Syria is a recent case in point.

On the other hand, it is perhaps the guilt of nurturing whole chunks of Muslim societies into becoming psychotic hoards of sectarian and religious bigotry and hatred during the fight against the evil communists that many Western countries today can be seen looking the other way when extremists wag their fingers at ‘Western debauchery’ in mosques within European capitals.

Ask any liberal Pakistani or Arab journalist or columnist and they are more than likely to tell you that most of the hate mail that they get comes from Pakistanis and Arabs living in the US, Canada and especially the UK.

Apologetic behaviour and narratives born from guilt, political cynicism or a distorted understanding of religious text, all contribute to the disquieting slumber, silence and confusion that follow a terrorist act.

It can be a military atrocity inflicted by the Israeli military against unarmed civilians in Gaza; a vicious, primeval blow against men, women and children by ‘Islamo-fascists;’ or mad men spewing utter hatred on TV, in a mosque or on the social media.

The West and the US must escape from the stranglehold of its guilt-ridden disposition because the key to solving such problems still lie with the developed countries, as the states in countries facing the major brunt of bigoted violence from Israel and religious extremists in Muslim countries are empty shells ruling over thoroughly (and dangerously) confused societies.

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