Some sobering lessons

16 October 2011

By Raza Rumi:

Adecade after the ghastly attacks on the Twin Towers, the world has not changed. It is business as usual: imperial projects, ‘dangerous’ foes and millions of hapless, voiceless people. 9/11 was a reprehensible act perpetrated by a desperate and rogue network whose ideologues had hijacked a faith and its symbolism long before they started to assert their worldview by force.
While most 9/11 perpetrators belonged to the Middle East and its infamous Holy Kingdom, Pakistan emerged as the epicentre of terror in the global imagination and continues to occupy that exalted position. Its neighbourhood has been ransacked and occupied by the liberators and now the war on terror has turned into a contested, essential Pakistani experience. Nearly a million people in Iraq are dead or missing but never mind. It is time for the West to take stock of what happened due to a relentless pursuit of ambition and greed of an unaccountable, omnipotent war industry. (more…)

Institutions, accountability and the UN Report

12 June 2010

The UN Report is a historic document for it brings forth a set of findings and actions that should become the cornerstone for democratic mobilisation in Pakistani politics

The UN fact finding report on Benazir Bhutto’s murder is a scathing indictment of the Pakistani state and its dysfunctional institutions. However, sections of the media have seized it as a glorious opportunity to target the PPP itself by squarely apportioning the blame on Rahman Malik and Babar Awan – the two characters who are now punching-bags of the right wing. Not that Malik or Awan are spotless revolutionaries, but they are no different from the other political actors. After all, Pakistani politics is a nefarious web of patronage, sycophancy and shady deals, often involving the state and its agencies. The reason for targetting these two individuals is simple: they are close associates of President Zardari who, according to the Punjabi urban legends, is the alleged killer of Mohatarma.

Now that the UN report has exonerated Zardari of the crime, a few TV anchors and several writers in the vernacular press are hell-bent on proving that the real reason for Bhutto’s murder was the whisking away of a backup vehicle. Such a narrative ignores the gritty and ugly realities of our polity. The reason is quite clear: public discourse must be shaped in a manner that minimizes the embedded, historical role of the praetorian state, intolerant and suspicious as it is of alternative sources of power. In this case, it would be the popular legitimacy which Benazir Bhutto enjoys even in the grave.

The ‘establishment’

The UN report has attempted at a loose definition of what constitutes the Pakistani establishment, and places its intelligence agencies at the core of such a power-centre. In recent days, this has been derided by the usual suspects. First, the Urdu columnists whose careers have been shaped and enriched by invisible hands. Second, the TV anchors whose shows have lost all credibility. And lastly, the audience they cater to: the conservative mindset which cannot forgive the Bhuttos for being pro-poor, Sindhi and secular. (more…)

Pakistan’s Sufis Preach Faith and Ecstasy

15 April 2009

Read this great blog and was tempted to cross-post a few bits here:

Every year, a few hundred thousand Sufis converge in Seh- wan, a town in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province, for a three-day festival marking the death of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in 1274. Qalandar, as he is almost universally called, belonged to a cast of mystics who consolidated Islam’s hold on this region; today, Pakistan’s two most populous provinces, Sindh and Punjab, comprise a dense archipelago of shrines devoted to these men. Sufis travel from one shrine to another for festivals known as urs, an Arabic word for “marriage,” symbolizing the union between Sufis and the divine. (more…)

Saving Kahoo Jo Daro

24 February 2009

Read this impassioned appeal in the press – it also alerted me to the situation that haunts this ancient relic.

The city is built beside an old Buddhist metropolis of 4th century. There are remnants of the Stupa in ancient city known as Kahoo Jo Daro.

The Stupa on Moen Jo Daro , Kahoo Jo Daro and some other un-excavated Stupas can be classified as the lower Indus basin sites. They are different in art & material. Mud & terracotta is widely used instead of stone. (more…)

Imagined homeland

5 February 2009

It irks me when I hear simplistic platitudes on Pakistani society, state or people. The heterogeneity of Pakistan is by itself an anthropologist’s dream, a planners’ headache and a sociologist’s challenge. Despite the sixty-one years of drumming the uniform nationalism mantra, Pakistan’s regions and their peoples refuse to toe the line sponsored by the official textbook masters. This is why one minute there is a delightful speech on being a Pakistani and the other minute caste, tribe or ethnicity raise their discrete heads and the linear formulae dissolve into thin air.

Recently I was in Karachi and discovered that the drawing room chattering there was vastly different from that of Lahore’s. The immediate urban crises of the Sindhi capital overshadow discussions that the Punjabi heartland loves to indulge in. The war mongering that has been a recent pastime on TV channels and in influential quarters of Lahore, is looked at with suspicion and, dare I say, contempt by many Karachi wallahs. It was refreshing to be reminded that, much in line with South Asian history, Pakistan is a diverse, multifarious place. That this country cannot be boxed easily and therefore appointed labels dissipate easily. (more…)

Of saints and sinners

2 January 2009

James Astill writing for the Economist says that the Islam of the Taliban is far removed from the popular Sufism practised by most South Asian Muslims

Declan Walsh

“NORMALLY, we cannot know God,” says Rizwan Qadeer, a neat and amiable inhabitant of Lahore, Western-dressed and American-educated, eyes shining behind his spectacles. “But our saints, they have that knowledge.” (more…)

Remembering Benazir Bhutto

27 December 2008

Raza Rumi retraces the bittersweet legacy of Benazir Bhutto (published in the Friday Times)

It was only yesterday that we were mourning for the loss of an icon of our times. The much loved, and passionately hated Benazir Bhutto whose tragic murder in broad daylight was the greatest metaphor of what Pakistan has turned into: a juBenazirBngle of history, ethnicity and extremism. Little wonder that Bhutto’s worst enemies cried and lamented the loss of a federal politician whose life and times were as unique as her name. The populist slogan – charon soobon ki zanjeer (the chain of the four provinces, literally) could not have been truer than the most tested of axioms. As if her death were not enough, the state response was even more brutal. Why did she participate in public rallies? On that fateful day of December 27, 2007, why did she invite death by sticking her neck out – literally and metaphorically? This was tragedy compounded by invective and betrayal. After all, had she not received a tacit understanding from the then military President, General Pervez Musharraf?

The official machinery then went to work in a super-efficient frenzy. Within hours, the murder scene had been washed away, right opposite the Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi where Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was also shot dead. If anything history repeated itself with a bang – only to restate that Pakistani Prime Ministers are dispensable accessories of the power game. The misogynistic thirst for blood-letting once quenched, patriarchy dictated that the autopsy of a woman became an issue of honour, confusion and violation of the law. How telling, that the laws of the land remain subservient to the imperatives of culture and tradition.Benazir-Bhutto-best-image

Within a day, Pakistan shook and the world also felt the tremors from an already stinking cesspool of violence, terror and global mischief. Many Pakistanis think these labels are of imperialist manufacture, reeking of hogwash. But the case has been made: Pakistan is a rogue and failing state and no one is safe. (more…)

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