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Directionless: trapped in a vicious cycle

The image below is that of a painting by the amazing Pakistani artist Saira Wasim and it relates to the theme of my piece below published in Express Tribune recently.
We just celebrated our 67th independence anniversary amid a show of hard power and political maelstrom — a beleaguered prime minister, cacophonous calls for ‘change’ and civil-military wrangling. If anything, the current crisis is reminiscent of Pakistan’s self-perpetuating curse: directionlessness and endemic instability. It does require a major effort by the ruling elite and intelligentsia to keep recurring trends alive and scuttle potential for progress. And we seem adept at it.

A year ago, it was hoped that Pakistan’s democratic transition was proceeding in the ‘right’ direction: one elected government followed by another, a free media, an independent judiciary and a military reviewing its past policy of interventionism. Obviously, such a situation imparted hope for policy revisions and course correction. Most importantly, given the nature of Sharifs’ support base, the promise of economic revival seemed realistic.

Our structural constraints and the dwindling quality of leadership have come to haunt us again. So, within a year, the political future looks uncertain; and in such a situation, the scope for deliberated policy reform becomes even more limited. The federal government has been battling for its survival since June and its capacity for democratic negotiation is almost absent. While the apparent cause for instability is lack of consensus on election results and mythical charges of rigging, the underlying factors are deeper and more worrying.


Ali Sardar Jafri’s amazing poem

14th and 15th August are two dates that evoke mixed feelings for those of us who want a peaceful subcontinent free of jingoism and weapons. Thanks to a facebook friend, I re-read this amazing poem by Ali Sardar Jafri. It evokes the nuances of Partition and the Independence. That fateful August saw a man-made disaster and 2010’s August is witnessing an epic, horrendous natural calamity.

I must find (or render) a translation of this sensitive, powerful poem. Here is what the first verse says in my slipshod translation:

Yesterday, the sun split into two and diminished at this border

Freedom’s dawn was also wounded at this very border…


Isi sarhad pe kal dooba tha sooraj ho ke do tukade

Isi sarhad pe kal zakhmi huyi thi subh-e-azaadi

Yeh sarhad khoon ki, ashqon ki, aahon ki, sharaaron ki

Jahan boii thi nafrat aur talwarein ugaayin thi

Main is sarhad pe kab se muntazir hoon subh-e-farda ka […]

August 16th, 2010|Pakistan, Poetry, Urdu|12 Comments

Jinnah’s fabulous picture

Amit has asked me to find a framed copy of this picture and what a great portrait it is. The only other portrait that has fascinated me is one painted by the great Pakistani artist Zahoorul Akhlaq.

May 19th, 2009|Personal|4 Comments

A new book on the Partition saga

Changing mindsets by SYED ALI NAQVI

titleOne might cry out, humanity is dead if there was any, in disgust and disbelief after going through the events of the partition of the subcontinent. It is hard to believe that hatred and instinctual savagery can derive men to the edge of morality. Politics, religious bias and ethnicity do have the poison to make men so vulnerable that they get ready to put everything at stake.
Partition of the Indian subcontinent is seen as one of the most brutal and unfortunate events in the world history. There are incidents of mass murder by every religious and ethnic community of each other as well as rapes and abductions of women, looting and separation of families during the […]

December 14th, 2008|books, History, India-Pakistan History|13 Comments

national identity sans freedom

A few quotes from this article in the Hindustan Times – incidentally it also includes what I rambled….

Freedom means everything. But I’m not free. All these concepts are self-imposed imprisonments.—Roshan Seth, actor

Independence has provided me with a national identity but it hasn’t meant freedom. I find myself enslaved to narrow ideas of patriotism. I’m […]

August 20th, 2008|India-Pakistan History, Journalism|3 Comments

South Asian Cooperation and the Role of the Punjabs

South Asian Cooperation and the Role of the Punjabs. Tridivesh Singh Maini. New Delhi: Siddharth Publications , 2007 

South Asian Cooperation and the Role of the Punjabs is a book that approaches the topic of conflict resolution with a difference. Trividesh Singh Maini’s book does not approach peaceful cooperation from the normative security framework. Nor, for that matter, does the author take the increasingly emergent economic approach to conflict resolution despite the fact that the book’s content deals with the subject of regional cooperation. Alternatively, Maini’s book helps its reader understand the dynamics of cooperation and peace among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the island nations of Sri Lanka and Maldives) by presenting a cultural analysis.

This use of culture is persuasive. The author posits himself and his book as scholarship that thinks outside the bureaucratic box of normal research on South Asia with its vested interests in the region to reveal the “emotional” trajectory of cooperation that is occurring in this region. Using culture to support his thesis, Maini illustrates for the reader various cultural exchanges between two cities, Amritsar in East Punjab in India and Lahore in West Punjab in Pakistan. These include visits to religious shrines, literary exchanges and especially recent transportation events such as the initiation of bus services to help people meet their relatives on the other side of the border. […]

July 6th, 2008|books, History, India-Pakistan History, Indo Pak peace, Peace|3 Comments