Friday, February 20, 2015

Be careful general

Weekly article in Daily Times - Be careful general - - February 19, 2015

Hypocrisy and being human

Weekly article in Daily Times - Hypocrisy and being human - - February 12, 2015

No room for el-Sisi

Weekly article in Daily Times - No room for el-Sisi - - Feb 5, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Burning the midnight oil

Weekly article in Daily Times - On fuel crisis - January 29, 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hanging by a thread

Weekly article in Daily Times - Hanging by a thread - - January 22, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Comedy in tragedy

Unlike what the mainstream media believes, portrays, or covers, I have always found a PML-N government to be a comic affair. Ever since their first stints of power in my teen years to today, every time they have been in power, in their desire to look ultra-smart they end up providing comic relief to the observers. This time around, however, the affair seems to be on steroids. And if that was not enough what followed APS attack has sealed the deal for someone looking for ultimate comic relief. And the magnitude of tragedy that it follows and the problem that we face makes this comedy even more tragic.
We are dealing with a government that seems to have no clue of the problems and how to deal with them. And in all seriousness trying to solve them without clue, it is creating a classic comedy. On security policy, all it is resorting to is a series of All Parties Conferences. Even that would have been fine had the agenda been initiated by the government. But the missing entity from all these conferences is the government itself. Yes Mr. Prime Minister does make a feeble-toned speech with strong rhetoric (that actually makes it look all the more comic) but in the end one does not see government in agenda setting or even contributing to agenda setting. Even in its perilous, pathetic state, from politicos, it is Pakistan Peoples Party that seems to be leading and the APCs seem a dialogue and consultation between PPP and the Army. The government in power seems to have yielded it all to the armed forces on policy front.
And this indeed is even more comic because flash back 10 months and this government was trying to hold the armed forces by their throat. From Geo incident to Musharraf trial, it was bent on nabbing the power of armed forces. 10 months down and the government has fallen on the feet of armed forces in what is the most complete surrender of any civilian government in the history of Pakistan, from holding by throat to falling on feet with nothing in between.
And this main comedy affair is followed by comedies on the peripheries. In response to one of the worst terror attacks in the country, the interior minister wanted to regulate the amount of bread loafs one could buy at the bread shops. And then he appears in Senate ending his boycott of the upper house and roars at the ministers who are not attending the session (which by the way is more or less the entire cabinet). Pressers by information minister make even the serious sort go tipsy laughing. And then there are speech writers of Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Punjab who are bent on dragging fight against terrorism into every speech of theirs, be it related to revamping of the sewer system of Jia Bagga, without naming Taliban.
If this was not enough, after lifting of moratorium on capital punishment, one of the first to be hanged turns out to be a juvenile charged on a petty family feud, making the mockery of the entire process. Courts of Punjab come to the help of government and release mastermind of Mumbai attack leading to more embarrassment for the country at this critical juncture. And then right under government’s watch a deal is brokered between two sectarian terrorist outfits to pardon each other’s’ killers. We could have afforded the antics of comedy on issues like bread loafs and Jia Bagga sewer system but capital punishment was introduced to give a stern message to the terrorists and it turning into a laughing stock undermines the effectiveness of the measure to begin with.
This comedy of errors make some doubt that PML-N may deliberately by trying to do all these to undermine Army’s proactive push against the terrorist post-Zarb-e-Azab and particularly post-APS attack. Just when I, too, am very apprehensive of PML-N’s historic terrorist connections, I have more faith in its ability to act humorous (for the lack of a more polite expression). When Kamran Akmal got cleared of match fixing charges for famous Sydney Test, the best comment was: ‘hence proved he is actually a lousy wicketkeeper’. With these comedies of PML-N, I would tend to subscribe to a similar opinion about it too.

With the sword of allegations of electoral rigging hanging over its head, if rigging is proved, PML-N will be on its way out. If not, it should be allowed to complete its term respecting the mandate. However, it is imperative to attack and correct the myth of PML-N’s competence. In 90s and now, it has been a party known for comedies of errors. From its decisions on economic and energy front to its handling of foreign policy and security policy, it is one big bunch of inept sorts. We need to register this, remember this, and keep reminding everyone of it. We and our generations can ill afford such stand up comedies at the very top of national decision-making.

Edited version appeared in  - Comedy in tragedy -  January 15, 2015

Thursday, January 08, 2015

How South Asia can crumble

Weekly article in Daily Times - How South Asia can crumble January 8, 2015

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Military courts: missing perspective

Weekly Article in Daily Times - Military courts: missing perspective - - January 1, 2015

Saturday, December 27, 2014

When life is light

Some debts have to be repaid. Not because they matter to the one they are owed to but because they are essential for the cycle of life.
It is seven years into the end of the life that was Benazir Bhutto. A life that inspired many in my generation and the generations that followed. A life that can be marked in one word – hardship, lived with a character that, too, can only be summed up in one word – brave.  It is tough to encompass a life as yours Bibi, and yet I owe it and so I will try.
You were born in a life of luxury, a life that turned upside down on a night of July 1977. What followed was a life that was marked by hardships, a disintegrated family, struggle, hopes dashed, dreams broken, and the loss of near and dear ones. Such misery and hardship could make anyone insane. And yet you came out of it not only sane and composed but dignified and compassionate. What you went through could make anyone vengeful and yet revenge was never on your mind. During your second stint in power, when few working under you attempted resorting to revenge, you would intervene and mend. Bearing the hardship and misery with dignity and compassion, alone, could qualify anyone as a superhuman and yet this dignity and compassion was only the inception of your legend.
When I was a child, raised in a Muslim household with strong emphasis on good and bad, and reward and punishment, I would always wonder how one can be judged on something that is not of one’s choosing. It was in the later years that I reconciled that the hardships come to us for the path we choose. We choose the path and the path has a price.  Once those choices are made, walking along the path, we need to deal with the troubles of it. The harder the path, the more the price one pays. Once chosen, abandoning it leaves us condemned; carrying on we pay the price. But it is these choices, bit by bit, that make the universe move forward. It seems, at some point in those last months of 70s, you chose your path too. You could have abandoned it all and lived a life of luxury in Oxford or Boston or anywhere and yet you chose to take up the fight, making it your calling. And once you did, you were ready to pay any price for it, fully knowing it will be painful and hard, but it will be the right thing to do.
For those living larger than the ordinary, they needs not do things that they desire, nor do things the social or any other code asks them of, but they should do things for they are the right things to do. Your fight was one such and in your struggle the mindfulness of it oozed out of your aura.
Anyone who followed your life would know that you had a strong spiritual inclination. In fact, to a supporter like me, it sometimes irked me. But spirituality is not something you ever flaunted. You were accused of being a heretic, an anti-religious, a “Westernized” (as if the word means anything) and what not and never in response to it did you ever try to emphasize on your religion or spirituality. And this is precisely how it should be. If one believes one is doing the right thing, it has to be sold on the power of the idea, for the rightness of what one is doing. It need not have crutches of piety, moral code, or conformity to tread. If something is right, it will inspire on its own. If one needs to invoke (and in most cases exploitatively) religion or honor to sell an idea of new age, the idea has some inherent wrong in it. You were not a saint but a beautiful human being who would keep treading what you believed was right; keeping your faith, belief and spiritual enlightenment to yourself, never misusing them for a fight that was yours, a fight for the right cause.
The bravery that summed up your life could not be understood better than in your last months. Mindful of the threats that were ahead, you chose to do what was to be done. You were the only leader who would openly call Taliban a threat to Pakistan, who would openly take on the government on surrendering Pak territory to extremists. You were the only leader who had the courage to support operation on Lal Masjid for the writ of the state, and when dictator’s own party turned cold feet, you were the one to endorse and support Women’s Protection Bill because all those were the right things to do. The conviction of doing the right thing was not deterred by the blames of colluding with Musharraf or the West, neither was it deterred by the threats to your life.
Amid the threats you moved on with a firm conviction that your idea will succeed sooner, that the time is on the side of your idea. On one hand is the force that wants to hold these lands to the regression and manipulation through ideas that have run their course but the ideas which are central to their hegemony. On the other, those who are fighting for the order here that will unleash the forces of liberty, progress, human dignity and innovation, your side. You fought for it bravely and compassionately, and through your fight you have pushed us closer to attainment. The fight continues. It will have to be fought hard but we must move on with the conviction of victory, a victory inevitable for being on the right side of the history.

These debts are to be repaid. Those pledges are to be kept. That light needs to be protected. The march continues with the feet falling firm on the ground.

The piece is also published in Daily Times on December 27, 2014 with some modified proof.