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Archive for October, 2010

Halloween is upon us, dear readers, and as Glee’s Sue Sylvestor aptly noted it is “the day when parents encourage little boys to dress like little girls and little girls to dress like whores.” It has long been this blogger’s favorite holiday, for no other reason than being able to legitimately march around in ridiculous costumes (i.e. flamingos and Snuggie-inspired outfits), causing my mother to lament, “Ufh, why don’t you at least try and be pretty?!”

Although Halloween is a largely Westernized holiday (and yes, we know, dreamed up by Hallmark, candy companies, and dentists to make boatloads of money), a little thing called globalization means it is increasingly celebrated worldwide. Therefore, for my fellow Pakistanis, I give you the CHUP Halloween Edition – ideas for clever costumes inspired by the many characters of Pakistani society.

Asif Ali Zardari

 

Wheee!

This costume is somewhat of a given, but the Zardari costume can be pretty clever. Aside from the obvious glasses and muchie (moustache), you should also carry a hobo-like knapsack filled with Monopoly money and/or a polo stick. If you’re feeling really committed, print out three photos and post it to your kameez – one of Benazir Bhutto, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and – of course – Mohammed Ali Jinnah (see photo above for inspiration). Get into character by twirling said moustache and asking random ladies at party, “If you insist, I might hug.” Plus points for getting said ladies to actually hug you.

Yousaf Raza Gilani

 

Expecto Patronum!!!

Last year on a visit to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reportedly turned to PM Gilani and said, “Excellency you are not a simple politician but a political magician and I am deeply impressed by your way of governance.”

To be Jadoogar (“Magician”) Gilani for Halloween, you will essentially need to dress like an overgrown Harry Potter with a large handlebar moustache. A wand and robe (with PPP emblazoned on the back) are preferable, and instead of a thunderbolt on your forehead, you can draw a little crescent moon and star. Harry Potter be proud.

Sherry Rehman

"Dahhhlings, I eat men for breakfast."

Ladies, this is a fabulous and glitzy costume. The kind of costume that will allow you to wear caked on makeup and foundation, paint your nails red, and wear oversized designer glasses. Of course, it may be difficult for people to differentiate you from a regular fabulous auntie, but keep a cigarette in your hand at all times, wear a label that says, “Benazir wuz ma BFF,” and hang out close by to Jadoogar Gilani all evening. Done.

Pervez Musharraf

Who poked me? Who!

This is a fun one, people. For those interested in dressing like Mushy for Halloween, don a half military outfit (khaki) and shirt/pants ensemble – this will require a tailor or, at the very least, a good stapler. Rip both outfits in half and sew/staple them together. Add a pair of glasses, a muchie (of course), and on the back of your costume, wear a sign with the Facebook logo and, “LOLZ OMGZ. MUSHY HAZ 1 MILLION FANZ!” Take a marker with you and have people sign your sign or “fan” you at your respective party, thereby adding to your number, and hence, your political clout. APML foreva. TTFN.

Zaid Hamid

You will need a scruffy white beard, a lal topi (red cap), and a turtleneck sweater to dress up as Pakistan’s favorite “ultranationalist” right-wing televangelist/conspiracy theorist. Sneak people into party corners all evening to tell them your latest theory about how RAW/Blackwater/Zionists were behind the recent floods/drone strikes/traffic jam/ominous body odor. If you’d like to make this into a group costume, add Shireen Mazari, rocker Ali Azmat, designer Maria B., and Ahmed Quraishi and turn it into X-men/Superhero-inspired outfits – fighting RAW/Blackwater/Zionist agents one day at a time. Plus points for capes and masks.

The entire Pakistan cricket team

Where to even start with these guys? The spot-fixing, the ball-biting, the warts, all lead to a pretty inspired group costume. The beauty is in the props. You and a group of friends should wear the Pakistani cricket uniforms. The person dressing as Shahid Afridi should gnaw on a ball all evening. The Shoaib Akhtar wannabe should wear sunglasses on the back of his/her head, and carry wart (ahem) medication around all evening.  Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir should be – err – shady, and try to make side deals with Monopoly money all evening. Let your imagination run wild.

Sania Mirza & Shoaib Malik (& Ayesha Siddiqui)

(AP) Shoaib: "EYE Loooooveee You! Get it?! Get it?!" Sania: Oh. God.

Oh, these two lovebirds. A great couple costume, the Sania Mirza wannabe should carry a tennis racket, wear a visor, and wave an Indian flag all evening. Shoaib Malik should don his cricket outfit and wave a Pakistani flag all evening. They can get into pretend fights all evening over which country Sania will actually play tennis for now. Extra points for another friend dressing up as Ayesha Siddiqui, the poor woman Shoaib allegedly had a “telephonic nikah” with, and sitting in between the couple all evening.

Meera

Oh no, jaani, no!

Ok, I have felt really bad about people making so much fun of Lollywood actress Meera (myself included), but on Halloween, anything goes. The Meera darling should have fabulous makeup and hair and wear a t-shirt that says, “I’m NOT a Layer!” She should also speak English rather incoherently all evening, explaining to strangers, “Oh no jaani no, I work for people day and night, for poor peoples!” Bonus points for someone coming dressed as her reportedly estranged husband Attiqur Rehman, given that their emails to each other were hilariously recounted on the Pakistani news last year.

Altaf Hussain

 

"It's a party in the U-K!"

Ah, Altaf Bhai. I almost forgot you (thanks for the reminder Excelsior). MQM leader Altaf Hussain is an institution, delivering speeches over speakerphone while sitting in London or breaking into heart-wrenching tears on live news shows. The Altaf Bhai costume will involve shaded glasses, a large moustache, slicked back hair, a large ring, and a label on his kameez that says, “MOHAJIR 4 LIFE, SON!” Costume wearer should carry an old landline phone around with them throughout the party, and kiss anyone who somewhat resembles Mustafa Kamal.

What are your suggestions for a rad Pakistan-inspired Halloween costume? Share below.


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(Koolmuzone) Atif Aslam singing on Coke Studio

Today, the Pakistani music industry is diverse and rich, and immensely popular television shows like Coke Studio have successfully fused traditional sounds with modern influences. Below, Rafaya Sufi, an Editorial/Web assistant at Asia Society’s headquarters in New York, walks us through the country’s history of music, (this article was first featured on Asia Society’s blog on October 12):

NPR published a piece on understanding Pakistan through its pop-idols this month, staying true to the multiple contours of the complex Pakistani society and the constant struggle between identity and what is “cool.”

Pakistani music, as diverse as its multiethnic population, ranges from qawwali, a popular brand of music branched from Sufi Islam, to good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. It includes diverse elements ranging from music from various parts of South Asia as well as Central Asian, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and modern day Western popular music influences. With these multiple influences, a distinctive Pakistani sound has been formed. From Pakistan’s inception, music was a form of entertainment like anywhere else. But unlike Pakistan’s hardline-Islamist image today, society was a just a little bit different back then.

In the 1960s, Pakistan, a place where alcohol was still legal and couples frequented movie theatres hand-in-hand, prospered, and visits from Jackie Kennedy probably helped too. The ’70s and ’80s saw the rise of political Islam, culminating in the conservative dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq. Despite this erratic political landscape, the tradition of Pakistani music remained strong.

Today, I will take you on a tour of Pakistan’s music since gaining independence on August 14, 1947.

1940s:
Alam Lohar is a classic cult Punjabi-folk favorite. Born in 1928, Lohar began his career when he was just a teenager. Listen closely and you’ll realize why he is considered to be (metaphorically speaking, of course) the grandfather of Punjabi MC, today’s biggest bhangra music star. Using a peculiar instrument called the Chimta and an overwhelming singing stamina, Lohar wooed the crowd with the song Jugni, below:

1950s:
With a few exceptions, minorities in Pakistan appeared frequently on TV during the 1950s, singing some of the great music to come out of the entertainment industry. Sunny Benjamin John and Irene Perveen, singers belonging to Christian families, stole the hearts of young Pakistanis with their heartfelt music, their music falling into the ever popular and favorite genre of ghazals, songs of poetic expression. Also, hello color-TV:

1960s:
Ah, the golden years of Pakistan. Music in the ’60s took a turn around the world. With the Beatles in the West, Pakistan produced Ahmed Rushdi in the East – arguably, the first disco star of his generation. Ko-ko-Korina, a song that earned a Platinum Jubilee, was so popular in the region it escalated the Pakistani movie industry to great heights. Many renditions of the song appeared in the next few decades both domestically and in Pakistan’s next-door neighbor, India. Folks, put your dancing shoes on:

1970s:
The 1970s gave rise to a popular, risqué trend called the “hair dance.” Young Pakistanis who attended dance parties were no strangers to this style of dancing. To do the hair dance, one had to shed all their inhibitions, and shake it, literally. The video is pretty self-explanatory:

1980s:
To any Pakistani who grew up in the ’80s, the words “Vital Signs” were not measures of various physiological statistics, but a musical band of heartthrobs who sang Dil Dil Pakistan, literally meaning Heart Heart Pakistan. These young, leather-jacket-wearing-motorbike-riding men were patriotic, and Pakistanis realized, “You know what? It’s cool to be Pakistani.” Styled in Ray-Ban wayfarers, the band members of Vital Signs challenged General Zia-ul-Haq‘s strict regime and introduced Pakistanis to the world of pop music. Because it was a patriotic song, it remained uncensored. Earlier in the decade, the late Nazia Hassan sang Disco Deewane, or crazy about disco, a song which made it to the US Billboard charts, a first for any Pakistani singer. Because the 80s produced some of Pakistan’s most memorable pop-stars, you get to enjoy not one but two videos:

1990s:
The U2 of Pakistan, Junoon struggled with promoting their music. The US invasion of Afghanistan left much violence on the streets of Pakistan and thus began a long, on-going stretch of political instability. One band member, Salman Ahmed, said he made his first political statement by creating a rock band. Their music, which highlighted the corruption of Pakistan’s elite, Benazir Bhutto for instance, got them into trouble. They were banned. Junoon’s vocalist Ali Azmat considered himself and the band to be “musical guerillas,” but the ban only escalated their popularity as counter-culture heroes. Watch this fascinating documentary by VH1 and narrated by Susan Sarandon on Pakistan’s greatest rock band, Junoon:

The 21st Century:
In the early 2000s, the explosion of media gave young artists an opportunity to showcase their talent. A plethora of TV channels saw the emergence of fresh, new faces that are now household names in Pakistan. Halfway through the decade, Coke Studio launched. This rendition of Live on Abbey Road has created a fusion of all musical genres. From combining qawwali with bhangra, to ghazals with rock, Coke Studio has brought artists from all over the country into one studio, and made it work. Here’s a little sneak-peek into the world of the hit-series Coke Studio:

Then there are those artists to come out of Pakistan, of which Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is considered to be timeless. A frequent collaborator with Peter Gabriel, powerhouse Khan, a qawwali singer who sang for soundtracks of movies such as Dead Man Walking, Natural Born Killer, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Gangs of New York is considered to be the greatest to come out of Pakistan. Time magazine writes about Khan: “On [his] death in 1997, Westerners were just starting to grasp this musical treasure that Pakistan had given the world-but in South Asia women wailed and men wept as if a god had removed himself from the earth.” Take a look:

The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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The Corruption Perception Index (lighter colors = less corrupt, darker = more)

Ah, Pakistan. Not only do we consistently top the Failed States Index [see Alex Lobov's take down of the "failed state" term over at Zeitgeist], but this past summer, we also ranked number one in the world in sex-related searches, garnering us the label, “Pornistan” (thanks, Fox News). Jinnah Sahib, (aka, Big Poppa), would be so proud.

On Tuesday, Transparency International released their 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the degree to which public sector corruption is perceived to exist in 178 countries around the world. Corruption, according to TI, is defined “as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” encompassing practices in both the public and private sectors. The CPI scores countries on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).

Lo and behold – Pakistan, with a score of 2.3, ranks 143 in the world in the index, dropping 0.2 since 2008. Last year, we were ranked 139 in the CPI, meaning perceptions of corruption are worse than before. (We are 34th most corrupt country, versus 42nd last year).

The interesting part of the index is that it quantifies perceived corruption rather than the tangible occurrence of corrupt practices. According to Transparency International, this is “because corruption – whether frequency or amount – is to a great extent a hidden activity that is difficult to measure.” The organization added in its report, “Measuring scandals, investigations or prosecutions, while offering ‘non-perception’ data, reflect less on the prevalence of corruption in a country and more on other  factors, such as freedom of the press or the efficiency of the judicial system.”

Al Jazeera English had a noteworthy discussion today on the reliability of measuring perceptions with TI’s Robin Hodess, former UPI correspondent Sam Vaknin, and David Cole, the managing director of the Atlantic Council. Although Cole affirmed the CPI is a very “well-respected” report with “sound methodology” [the report is an aggregate indicator that brings together data from 13 sources by 10 independent institutions over the past two years], Vaknin contended that perceptions are about psychology, “which is susceptible to manipulation.” For example, he noted, if a government is saying it’s spending an inordinate amount of time fighting corruption, “this may change perceptions about corruption” even if the facts on the ground remain the same.

Although the CPI doesn’t measure citizen perceptions of corruption, Hodess noted there is a close correlation between public attitudes (measured by their Global Corruption Barometer) and the index. For the purpose of Pakistan, I went back to the most recent Pew poll released in July [it should be noted that this wasn't some scientific comparison]. According to the poll, 74% of Pakistanis polled say corrupt political leaders “are a very big problem,” compared to 71% last year, 64% in 2007, and 58% in 2002.

This is not to say that these perceptions don’t correlate well to reality, (or that the result of Pakistan’s place on the corruption index was all too surprising), but it does raise some interesting food for thought. For example, what role does the Pakistani media play in changing perceptions about corruption, particularly since electronic news channels have increased considerably in the last few years? Were perceptions in 2002 different because corruption was less rampant or because we didn’t have a liberalized media valiantly raising this issue for debate? In other words, are we more aware about corruption now or has corruption really gotten worse in Pakistan?

As I sifted through news coverage of these rankings, I did also find the reactions and headlines to be pretty interesting. First, The News released an article by Ansar Abbasi entitled, “Pakistan Racing to Become No. 1 Most Corrupt Country.” In the piece published the Sunday before the report was released, Abbasi wrote that sources in the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), which contribute to the preparation of the Transparency International report, told The News quite ominously, “You will soon be hearing really bad news about Pakistan.”

A “source” also commented, “It seems the country (Pakistan) is fast racing to become number one on the list of the most corrupt nations.”

This statement – by an anonymous source from one of two different organizations – was subsequently quoted or referenced in the Indian press. Exhibit A: The Times of India headline:

Horse race or Corruption Index?

Exhibit B, the Hindustan Times:

Um, no. That was Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan...

And finally, Exhibit C, or the “Kick in the Babymaker,” One India:

 

Dude. That's cold.

Ok, we get it. Pakistan is a corrupt country. This is and has long been a serious issue. We are in the red – literally and figuratively [see TI's nifty map]. But we’re not number one – at least not yet. And more importantly, it’s not a competition! There’s no prize for two countries still ranking pretty high on the index, especially if both rankings worsened from last year! Rather than us both puffing out our chests and measuring our worth relative to the other, maybe we could instead concentrate on actually tackling this issue better (a difficult task if there ever was one).

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Violence in Karachi 102

 

NYT: AFP/Getty Image

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled, “Violence in Karachi 101,” in which I attempted to break down the players in the  then-conflict, the root causes, and potential solutions, thanks mainly to interviews with journalists covering the issue on the ground. In Karachi, violence and political tensions have erupted time and time again, cloaking the city in bloodshed and garnering momentary headlines.

Huma Imtiaz wrote in the NY Times yesterday, “Targeted killings of various ethnic groups and political parties’ workers have left more than 300 people dead since 2008.” In recent months, noted Dawn Newspaper, Karachi has suffered “the worst such violence in years with 85 people killed after a lawmaker was shot dead in August.” Since Saturday alone, more than 70 people have died in the city as the result of such killings. Imtiaz reported,

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), representing the city’s Muhajirs, and Awami National Party, (ANP), with a dominant Pathan support base, have had tense relations. The MQM has accused the ANP of supporting organized crime and the ANP charges that its opponent is a terrorist organization that is responsible for the killings of Pathan residents. Both parties are coalition partners with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party in Sindh.

But what are the nuances of this conflict? Are the players involved the same as previous spates of violence and are they motivated by the same root causes? For those of us not from or currently living in Karachi, the nuances of the conflict seem daunting to comprehend. Below, two journalists – Huma Yusuf from Dawn (currently the Pakistan fellow at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) and Shaheryar Mirza, a Karachi-based reporter for Express 24/7, provide insight and help answer some FAQ’s related to Karachi’s most recent outbreak of violence:

Q: News agencies report that unrest first broke out in Karachi on Saturday, a day before a by-election was slated to be held for a provincial assembly seat left vacant after Raza Haider from the MQM was assassinated in August. Was the by-election the cause of this recent outbreak of violence or was it merely a catalyst following months of escalating tensions?

According to Yusuf, the mechanics of the conflict are the same as always – ethnically driven conflict over turf and power in Karachi. Although the by-election can be seen as the “catalyst” for the recent violence, political/religious/ethnic tensions are always simmering in the city. Orangi Town, the site of the by-elections, is the “tensest district in Karachi that is divided between the Mohajirs and the Pathans,” and the assassination of Raza Haider led this to be a very emotionally-charged election among MQM’s constituents.

Mirza added, the MQM has held the provincial (MPA) seat in Orangi Town since 1988. Although mostly Urdu-speaking communities live in Orangi, “it borders many different areas which have absorbed the large influx of Pashtun immigrants. Therefore, the two communities, as they expand, run into each other and begin to overlap.” As a result, he added, “some votes are won and lost in the new overlap,” leading to competition for power or “turf.”  Competing groups subsequently use violence and extortion to rule certain areas. “It is a lot like the way gangs exert their influence in other countries except that in Karachi, political parties are behind it.”

However, noted Mirza, this “political turf war” is only one aspect of Karachi’s violence. The drug mafias, criminal organizations, militant groups, student organizations, and ethnic violence “all overlap and link with each other through politics, ethnicity, and religion,” creating a complex web of unrest and tensions.

Q: This is obviously not the first time tensions in Karachi resulted in violence – is this spate of killings part of the larger trend from the past or is it different? (Are the killings less targeted and more indiscriminate?)

According to Yusuf, this recent outbreak of violence appear to be more brutal, mass killings, inclusive of people other than party workers (like the assassination of shopkeepers near Shershah).  She noted, “This could indicate two things; (1) Since the MQM has been worrying about shifting demographics in Karachi (in favor of a growing Pashtun voting block) the stakes of this round of violence are higher, and the parties are trying to give each other sterner/more violent messages than before. And (2) the involvement of other criminal groups and gangs (i.e. the Lyari gangsters that MQM has complained of). This is not a new phenomenon, but indicates a worsening level of security, law and order control.”

Mirza also noted the conspiracy theories surrounding the killings. “Amongst people who have been reporting on crime in the city for a long time, it is a common assertion that intelligence agencies also play a part in the violence – whether it is to raise tensions and pit certain groups against each other or for small-time political assassinations.” Another conspiracy theory, he added, “is that a certain political party will assassinate members of their own party (if they want to get rid of them in any case for instance) to basically show that their leaders are getting killed and trigger an ‘operation’ in an enemy area.”

He also noted another important aspect of these killings – the resulting perception amongst people within the community.

I was in Orangi town during the elections and a man came up to me and asked me where I was from. I told him I’m Urdu-speaking. He became comfortable and said, “First it was the Sindhis that were killing us, then the Punjabis and now the Balochis.” He was not affiliated with the MQM but was Urdu-speaking. This is important because this is felt by many who are directly affected by the killings. Political parties have ethnic foundations in Pakistan despite what they may proclaim. But when these killings take place, people will forget about the turf war and think simply that it is a matter of ‘wiping out’ their ethnic communities or oppressing them. The parties play on these emotions and the people support their parties as a result of this.

Q: What role do politicians from these parties play versus the supposed political agents that are perpetrating these killings? How does this impact the political sphere?

According to Mirza, “It is hard to say exactly how much role the politicians play in the actual ‘ordering’ of killings and the like.” Much of the violence is perpetrated on a more local level through local actors and agents from political parties, with “some resulting from personal enmities within rival parties in an area.”

He added, “The PPP has a greater disconnect from its lower cadres than the MQM. In Karachi, it is said the MQM is so well disciplined and organized that it would be unheard of that any action is taken without the direct consent of its supreme leader.” However, Mirza added, “I find this hard to believe and the rapid spiralling nature of violence contradicts the fact that every killing can be ordered from such a high place.” The political sphere is impacted a lot through the blame game. “The MQM has specifically identified politicians and political agents it thinks are responsible, bringing them into the public sphere. The politicians seem to be immune from a lot of the personal attacks, except for how they are viewed within their rival’s minds.”

Q: Much like before, Army rangers were deployed in the city to restore order. Is this productive in breaking the cycle of violence in Karachi?

According to Yusuf,

The Rangers’ presence historically has succeeded in reducing incidents of violence. The problem, though, is that deploying the Rangers is not a long-term, systemic solution to the deep-rooted problems of Karachi violence. It’s just a temporary band-aid, one that loses effectiveness once the elite forces step away from tense areas. In some ways, reliance on the Rangers over the years has worsened the problem, because that means the police have remained largely inept and corruptible in the face of Karachi’s complicated ethnic and turf wars.

While it is good that the federal government and politicians have been taking increasing note of Karachi’s violence, added Yusuf, “the truth is that this is a local problem, with well entrenched powerful local actors. The solution will have to come from within Karachi, not from Islamabad.”

Q: As a journalist reporting on this issue on the ground in Karachi, what are some obstacles or frustrations you face in your coverage?

As is common with most types of war/conflict reporting, noted Mirza, the people who get killed become a statistic in the news process. He added, “We aren’t given the space to pursue the families and give the victims a face or their families a voice. The reporting is very simplistic when it comes to targeted killings.” Moreover, he noted, a lot of killings that take place during a long spate of targeted killings “get falsely reported and lumped into the overall death toll.” This exacerbates the situation, making it seem worse than it is, and panicking the public even more.”

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Image from UK Independent: Painting by Amina Janjua on Pakistan's Missing Persons

Guernica Magazine’s October issue has a really powerful piece about Pakistan’s missing persons, people who have disappeared  under the government label of “terrorism suspects” since the 9/11 attacks, (many from Balochistan). Guernica’s J. Malcolm Garcia wrote, “Guilt or innocence is not the issue. To impose terror on suspected terrorists, to maintain a grip on power, ah, now that is a strategy, eh?”

According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2010, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has estimated that 1,100 people “disappeared” under the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, a number that “is almost certainly an underestimate.” HRW added in its assessment, “The Zardari administration promised to resolve these cases, but it has made negligible progress. Pakistan has yet to sign the international treaty banning enforced disappearances.”

One man who disappeared in 2005 was Masood Janjua, the husband of Amina Janjua, a housewife-turned-activist, a woman who reportedly “took on” the government and the ISI to find and rescue her husband, subsequently inspiring others whose family members also disappeared under the Musharraf regime. Back in 2007, Frontline/World’s David Montero interviewed Janjua, who said, “When a person is desperate for their loved one, the person most dear to me, the person who I can’t live without…I have to give my life [to find him].” Guernica Magazine, in their piece, wrote,

More days passed [since Masood's disappearance]. The days turned into weeks, months, years. Still no Masood. Now forty-six, Amina alternates between fear, sadness, and puzzlement when she speaks of Masood’s five-year absence…But now instead of despair, a weary, hardened resolve to find him compels her. They had been married sixteen years when he went missing. Twenty-one years now, when she includes the five years he has been gone. She tries not to think what another five years will be like without him.

Montero spoke to former law minister Wasi Zafar in the aforementioned Frontline/World piece, “Pakistan: Disappeared.” Zafar told the PBS journalist, “If he’s a terrorist, he loses his rights…If in developed countries it can be done, then why not here?

Zafar’s statement begs the question – if someone is a suspected terrorist, does he (or she) have the right to a lawyer, to call their family? By virtue of still being a suspect, arbitrarily taking away these people’s rights before they have been proven guilty is and should be considered a violation of human rights, a fact that makes these suspects of terror and anti-state activities victims in the eyes of international law.

According to HRW, “In October 2009, the government amended the country’s anti-terrorism laws through presidential ordinance to further curtail the legal rights of terrorism suspects. Under the ordinance, suspects can be placed in ‘preventive detention‘ for a period of 90 days without benefit of judicial review or the right to bail.” The organization added, “Confessions made before the police or military are now deemed admissible as evidence despite the fact that torture by Pakistan’s police and the military’s intelligence services continues to be routine.”

Guernica’s piece is especially thought-provoking because it humanizes the many “persons” who have disappeared in Pakistan, some of whom lawyer Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui believes were “given over to U.S. authorities in exchange for cash and are held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.” Masood Janjua was a father and a husband, a man who went hiking and skiing “on a whim” with his family. Sheraz Arshad, the son of Mohammad Arshad, was an 18 year old who “smiled easily but shyly,” who wanted to join the army “for the opportunities an army career would present to a young man born in a humble village.”

Garcia noted one particular exchange between Amina, who now runs Defense of Human Rights, and a woman whose son disappeared:

If my son is alive, I want him here, and if he is dead, I want to know about his death, a woman dressed entirely in black tells Amina. Her son has been missing for a year. Amina holds her hand. We won’t complain to anyone if he’s dead, the woman says. We just want someone to tell us.

Though the numbers of people who have disappeared are often depicted as part of a faceless statistic, the testimonies of their families – their pain, their loss, and their struggle – should be a constant reminder of how very human this issue is, and what a gross violation of human rights is committed unabated on a regular basis within our own borders.

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The Find Heaven Campaign

 

The Find Heaven Video

 

Earlier this year, Daniyal Noorani wrote, sang, and produced a thought-provoking music video called, “Find Heaven” (Jannat Pao in Urdu). The lyrics are as follows,

Hey/What’s going on over here/Something’s just not right/My head is spinning with questions/But where are all the answers/Tell me one by one they came and they said/Do you see the truth?/Just follow me my friend/And you will find heaven

In April, Daniyal wrote for CHUP,

The lyrics for “Find Heaven” was a moment of inspiration…during those days I was clearly disturbed by the events that were transpiring in Pakistan. Suicide bombings were happening on a daily basis and the subsequent public opinion, at best, was apathetic. While writing “Find Heaven” I thought of it more as a narrative and story which highlighted society’s failing as opposed to thinking of it as a statement against the extremists.

Recently, Daniyal made the decision to turn that theme into an entire campaign, using animation and music to “bridge the communication gap between the ‘Muslim World’ and the West.” The animated videos will aim to address extremism, militancy, corruption, women’s rights and other issues. When I last spoke to Daniyal about the Find Heaven campaign he noted, “I think this approach is innovative as it is using a medium – animation – that is considered childish to address a mature and grave subject. In addition, I believe trying to move away from the documentary approach and creating content that can be part of “pop culture” can make an impression on a wider demographic, the youth in particular.”

The kickstarter campaign will produce songs like “Cover Up” and the “Reluctant Terrorist,” and even an anime series called, “The Stories of Chota Jatt,” a mythical character who can fight extremism, corruption, and other ills facing Pakistani society today. This of course requires funding, [see Daniyal's appeal below featuring The Kominas' Shahjehan Khan], so to donate and learn more about the campaign, click here. Daniyal needs to raise $10,000 to make a communications campaign of this kind possible, so donate today!

 

 

The Proposed Anime Character, Jatt

 

From a personal standpoint, the Find Heaven campaign is innovative and unique and conjures up past attempts by cartoonists and musicians to tackle difficult subjects through approachable mediums. Maus, the graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, for instance, told the story of the Holocaust by portraying the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. The 99 is a comic book series by Dr. Naif al-Mutawa about Muslim superheroes promoting universal values. Using nuanced characters like Young Jatt allows the messaging to be far more tailored to a local target audience in order to get this campaign’s point across. Given the many and very serious issues Pakistan faces today, a campaign of this kind is not only unique, it’s much needed.

Daniyal’s campaign appeal (here’s also a link to a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post):

And their public service announcement:

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According to columnist Andrew Alexander, the Washington Post’s editors recently pulled a Non Sequitor comic strip by Wiley Miller, because they were “concerned it might offend and provoke some Post readers, especially Muslims,” (thanks for the link @joshuafoust). Alexander wrote,

Miller is known for social satire. But at first glance, the single-panel cartoon he drew for last Sunday seems benign. It is a bucolic scene imitating the best-selling children’s book “Where’s Waldo?” A grassy park is jammed with activity. Animals frolic. Children buy ice cream. Adults stroll and sunbathe. A caption reads: “Where’s Muhammad?

Here’s the key part – Miller didn’t actually depict Prophet Muhammad in the cartoon, [which you can see here]. That was the point of his satire, though the Post’s editors still felt the cartoon seemed like “a deliberate provocation without a clear message.” Miller reportedly responded angrily, telling Alexander it was a commentary on “the insanity of an entire group of people rioting and putting out a hit list over cartoons,” as well as “media cowering in fear of printing any cartoon that contains the word ‘Muhammad.’ ” He added, “The wonderful irony [is that] great newspapers like The Washington Post, that took on Nixon . . . run in fear of this very tame cartoon, thus validating the accuracy of the satire.”

A few people have since weighed in on the Post’s decision. Reason Magazine wrote,

If the Post‘s new standard for comics is to make jokes “immediately clear,” then it might be time to kill the comics page altogether. No, Martel/Brauchli, you pulled the cartoon because your fear of Muslims outweighs your commitment to free expression, period.

According to the LA Times’ James Rainey (the LA Times also yanked the cartoon), fear was not the reason the editors’ decided not to publish the cartoon, it was instead a matter of “expediency.” He noted that The Boston Globe had a similar complaint. Deputy managing editor Christine Chinlund noted,

When a cartoon takes on a sensitive subject, especially religion, it has an obligation to be clear. The ‘Where’s Muhammad’ cartoon did not meet that test. It leaves the reader searching for clues, staring at a busy drawing, trying to discern a likeness, wondering if the outhouse at the top of the drawing is significant — in other words, perplexed.

I’ve written extensively about the South Park cartoon controversy as well as the controversial “Draw Muhammad Day!” which spurred indignation, hate-mongering on both sides, and even resulted in the Lahore High Court banning Facebook back in May. There is a fine line between freedom of expression and needless provocation, and the Danish cartoon controversy and subsequent events have made that line even finer.

But the recent censorship of Wiley Miller seems to signify just how thin that line has become, and how overly sensitive and politically correct the world feels it has to be to avoid backlash, and let’s be honest, death threats and fatwas. By pulling the plug on relatively mild pieces, they are intensifying the sensitivity on the issue, to the point where we are equating Islamophobic cartoons that are genuinely insulting to satirical pieces that editors fear will “perplex” Muslim readers. Not all Muslims need to be treated with kid gloves, and the more hypersensitive we become on that issue, the more it validates cartoonists like Miller’s point.

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Musharraf: pre-dictatorship. Nawaz: pre-hair plugs.

 

It is October 12 (or at least it still is here). On this day, Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published in 1979. And, on October 12, 1999, Pervez Musharraf staged a coup in Pakistan, overturning the government of former PM Nawaz Sharif.**

It seems we aren’t too far from where we were eleven years ago. Musharraf has made his political re-debut once again, to much fanfare/Facebook poking. But instead of flowers, Nawaz’s “Happy Anniversary Mushy” present was a seven-page charge sheet, calling his “coup-inator” [yes, I just made that up] the “most corrupt, callous, immoral and ruthless ruler,” [via the Express Tribune]. Trés romantic.

According to Dawn,

The charge-sheet contains allegations that Musharraf imposed martial law twice, undertook a Kargil misadventure, misused army to serve his personal interests, declared war against the people of Pakistan, blackmailed people through NAB, murdered Akbar Bugti, abducted people, killed scores of people in Lal Masjid, promoted cronyism, nepotism, corruption and favouritism, attacked the judiciary, promulgated NRO, massacred people on May 12 and Oct 18 in 2007, and got himself elected unconstitutionally as President of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Punjab’s Provincial Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning Musharraf and declaring October 12, 2009, “the worst tragedy of Pakistan’s history.”

Let me see if I got this straight. We are currently tackling the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters that has faced Pakistan – that has impacted over 20 million people, devastated livelihoods, and destroyed homes and the Punjab Assembly wastes time declaring Musharraf’s coup the worst tragedy in our history?

It’s not that I don’t think the hoopla surrounding Musharraf’s return borders on the absurd. In fact, I’ve been humming the Twilight Zone theme song a lot these days. But I will acknowledge that Musharraf has a right, just like every other corrupt/failed/exiled Pakistani politician, to reenter the political process. If he thinks 324,650 Facebook fans are an electoral ballot make, then that’s his prerogative. And, even though Nawaz Sharif received the highest opinion rating (71%) among those polled in the recent Pew survey, that still doesn’t mean his own record is squeaky clean. Far from it. So if you’re going to accuse a former leader of cronyism, nepotism, corruption and the like, remember that pot called. He’s calling you black.

 

 

**October 12, 2010 is also the day that at least one of the Chilean miners was rescued! Whohoo!

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Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images

 

On Thursday, twin blasts struck a Sufi shrine in Karachi, killing at least 5 people and injuring at least 40 others (the Express Tribune reports 10 killed and over 50 injured), just a few months after 40 people were killed in an attack on the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore. According to Al Jazeera English’s correspondent, the incident at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine appears to have been perpetrated by suicide bombers.The Express Tribune spoke to eyewitnesses, who said the first blast occurred when “a guard tried to stop a suicide bomber and he blew himself up.” The News provided more [horrific] details, noting, “Two heads, believed to be of the bombers, have been recovered from the blasts site where severed limbs and human flesh littered the ground, sources said.”

BBC News cited President Zardari who said the attack occurred when people gathered to hand out food to the poor.  The Associated Press added in its coverage, “Thousands typically visit that shrine on a Thursday, praying, distribute food to the poor and toss rose petals on the grave of the saint.” Zardari told reporters, “The relentless attacks on ordinary Pakistani citizens by those who want to impose an extremist mindset and lifestyle upon our country will not deter our government and the Pakistan Peoples Party. We remain committed to fighting these murderers and expelling them from our land.”

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, Al Jazeera’s correspondent noted the attack bears “the hallmarks of a Taliban attack.” Express reports that all shrines in Karachi have been closed, as well as the Bibi Pak Daman shrine in Lahore.

CHUP will provide further updates on this story.

UPDATE 1140 [EST]: According to the Associated Press, a Pakistani Ranger said some “suspicious packages” were found at the blast site.  Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza told reporters, “We have provided the best available security at this shrine. Humanly, it is not possible to stop suicide bombers intent on exploding themselves.” Meanwhile, GEO News quoted Secretary Auqaf Sindh who said they “had not received any security threat from the Interior Ministry and there were no security cameras installed inside the shrine.”

UPDATE 1330 [EST]: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, news agencies report, while authorities say schools will remain open tomorrow. According to the Associated Press, “The first explosion took place as the suspected bomber was going through the metal detector before a long staircase leading to the main shrine area, said Babar Khattak, the top police official in Sindh province. The second blast took place about 10 seconds later, farther ahead of the metal detector, he said.”

Some people are questioning whether the presence of security cameras in the Sufi shrine would have made a difference in stopping this attack. My thought? Hindsight is 20/20, but if the suicide bombers entered the shrine during a busy period, amid throngs of people, security cameras would have done very little.

UPDATE 1430 [EST]: Fahad Desmukh has some insightful sound bites on his blog from speaking to people at the shrine just after the blasts occurred. See here.

The Data Darbar shrine bombings spurred a lot of conversation about Sufism in Pakistan. The truth is that Sufism, or mystical Islam, is arguably not an “antidote” to Islamist extremism, but it is an embedded part of the Pakistani culture, an integral part of our narrative. Abdullah Shah Ghazi was an 8th century Sufi saint credited with bringing Islam to the region along the coast. His shrine is believed to protect Karachi from cyclones and other sea-related disasters. A BBC article written five years ago about the shrine noted, “Although Thursdays are traditionally holy nights when devotees pray at Sufi shrines, the revelry at Shah Ghazi seems to have little to do with prayer,” adding that music, dance, and drugs “are the traditional vehicles of devotion.”

BBC reported, “The Sufi shrines offer the underclass spiritual sustenance, a social valve of entertainment, and a safety net of free rations. It is a bond that has not been loosened by militant Islam.”

 

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The U.S. Image Deficit

Drones a la Iron Man 2. Oh yes.

The below post first appeared in Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel today, discussing the recently released FATA poll by The New America Foundation. Given the rising tensions between the U.S./NATO and Pakistan, particularly in light of a growing terrorist threat in Europe, such polls can provide interesting insight into the very complex conundrum of anti-American sentiment:

Drones have been the tactic of choice in targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in the past few years. The strikes have increased significantly under President Obama’s administration, with the New America Foundation noting 79 reported attacks in 2010 so far compared to 53 in all of 2009. In September alone, the CIA reportedly conducted 22 drone strikes, “the most ever in a single month and more than twice its monthly average.”

The tactic, despite killing at least around 380 militants this year (high estimates suggest about 620), is immensely unpopular among Pakistanis, and has contributed to rising anti-American sentiment in the country. On Thursday, the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow released a new poll highlighting perceptions in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The poll consisted of face-to-face interviews conducted from June 30 to July 20 with of 1,000 residents age 18 or older across 120 villages/sampling points in all seven tribal agencies, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

According to the findings, about three-quarters (70.8 percent) of FATA residents polled oppose U.S. drone strikes; with 47.8 percent of the respondents saying the strikes kill civilians (only 16.2 percent say they accurately kill militants). Moreover, 9 out of 10 people in FATA oppose the U.S. military pursuing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, a further reflection of the nationwide opposition to a U.S. military presence in the country (as also indicated in the latest Pew Research Center poll, conducted in April 2010).

However, critically, these findings don’t translate to a support for al-Qaeda or the Taliban. On the contrary, more than three-quarters of FATA residents polled oppose al-Qaeda’s presence in the region, with more than two-thirds opposing the Pakistan Taliban. According to New America Foundation, “Indeed, if al-Qaeda or the Pakistani Taliban were on the ballot in an election, less than one percent of FATA residents said they would vote for either group.” Instead, the majority of those polled in FATA responded positively in favor of the Pakistani military, with about 83 percent responding that they had a favorable opinion of the Pakistani Army, and the most popular individual among those polled was General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army Chief of Staff.

This poll’s findings are significant when compared to the oft-cited survey by the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy conducted in 2009, in which 52 percent of the 550 respondents in the tribal areas said they believe drone strikes are accurate, leading many to conclude that residents in FATA were actually in favor of drone strikes, despite nationwide anger indicating the contrary.

While no poll is entirely conclusive or without flaws, the latest poll by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow is more methodologically comprehensive than preceding surveys, which used admittedly informal techniques. Moreover, these statistics should serve as a means to understand trends and analyze the nuances of Pakistani society, rather than as stand-alone facts and figures without any context. Attitudes, particularly those surrounding anti-American sentiment, are complex and not often rational or linear.

For example, although about 70 percent of FATA residents strongly oppose drone strikes by the U.S., 38 percent of respondents said the Pakistani military should launch its own drone attacks against militants in the FATA (34 percent said they should not use drones). Therefore, the public’s approval of drones splits if the attacks were instead carried out by the Pakistani Army, thereby reflecting a very fundamental point – many people aren’t against the drone tactic itself, but the policy, as well as the perception of the United States as a military aggressor in Pakistan.

According to Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia Advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace, this poll further reflects a deep mistrust of the United States, which stems from a belief “that this superpower uses force to settle its problems.” Despite the billions of dollars in non-military aid funneled into Pakistan from the United States, Pakistani citizens continue to primarily view America through a security lens. “This is unlikely to change,” noted Yusuf, “even if many of the FATA respondents said that their views of the United States would improve if the U.S. increased visas for residents and educational scholarships to America.” Financial and economic incentives will not change overall perceptions as long as the American security policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues, he emphasized.

Cyril Almeida, an assistant editor and columnist at Dawn, echoed, “Anti-Americanism is deep and pervasive. To the uninitiated, the Pakistani desire for a U.S. visa/passport/job may seem like tacit approval of what America stands for and aspires to achieve through its foreign policy.” However, he noted, this would be a wrong assumption. “The personal (economic advantage that may be gained) is very different from the political (intense opposition to U.S. foreign policy). And this contradiction is not specific to the Pakistani condition,” but is reflected elsewhere in the Muslim world.

As the use of drones continue unabated in Pakistan, and tensions are further exacerbated by news of NATO attacks killing Pakistani soldiers across the border this past week, anti-American sentiment will only continue to rise, despite billions of dollars of aid being promised to local civil society, and despite American efforts in the recent flood disaster. The purpose of these polls and surveys, therefore, is not to simplify the Pakistani psyche, but to comprehend this image deficit. If the United States is truly concerned with anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, and its security implications, then such data can provide important insight.

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