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Enigma of democratic governance

Pakistan’s President Iskander Mirza (1956-58) is remarked to have said that democracy was ‘unsuited’ to the genius of Pakistani people. Decades later, similar questions about democratic form of governance are being raised in Pakistan. Take any TV show, multitude of op-eds, or more worryingly, check what the young people have to say on Facebook or Twitter. The parameters of debate remain the same.

The urban Pakistanis’ disdain for the ‘illiterate’, ‘rural’ politicians to rule the country is a running theme. More importantly, the duality of civil-military rule has generated a peculiar discourse: the weak and corrupt ‘civilians’ compromise national security as opposed to authoritarian regimes which guard ‘ideological’ and geographical borders of the country.

This is why we have seen civilian governments come and go, especially in the past two decades with charges of corruption and violation of national security. For instance, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, while dismissing Nawaz Sharif’s government in 1993, alluded to, among others, the charge of murdering General Asif Nawaz Janjua, the Army Chief. Benazir Bhutto till her last remained a ‘security risk’ even when she compromised her principles and fully supported and owned the Taliban policy of the 1990s. The grave sin of Nawaz Shairf in his second tenure was attempting to secure peace with India; and the gravest of all was allegedly plotting to kill the Army chief in 1999 by diverting his flight.

And now the ‘proof’ of this errant and traitorous behaviour is an unsigned memo sent to Americans to contain Pakistan Army. Since the matter is soon going to be subjected to an inquiry and perhaps judicial proceedings, it would be best not to speculate any further than what has been reported, or shall we say, trumpeted in the press. Prior to this, the provisions of Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid legislation (passed by the US Congress) were somehow considered to the handiwork of the civilian government. It eludes commonsense as to how can a civilian government be so powerful to influence a foreign legislature. But then, such tales require a willing suspension of disbelief.

The recent memogate saga, not unlike the past occasions, has accelerated the pace of rumour-mongering and has spurred obituaries of the civilian government. Perhaps even more than the change-rhetoric generated by the October 30 rally of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) where the memo and its alleged author Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani was named in public as an official who may have compromised ‘national interest’. Most media commentators are saying that a change is going to take place before March 2012 Senate elections and the gathering storm of opposition protests […]

February 3rd, 2012|governance, Pakistan|3 Comments

Pakistan’s Sufis Preach Faith and Ecstasy

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. […]

April 15th, 2009|Islam, Sindh, Soul, Sufi poetry, Sufism|0 Comments

This night bitten dawn

By Raza Rumi

The triumph of a popular movement on March 16 has marked a new beginning. The retreat of an intransigent government and the wise response by the PML-N and the lawyers averted a major crisis that could have been violent, and also a potential recipe for harming the parliamentary system in its infancy. There was a sigh of relief among the public for a long-standing issue appeared to have been resolved. This has been a monumental achievement by all standards.

However, the inherent imbalances within Pakistan’s power structure and the state of its polity are yet to be addressed and the contradictions of how our power is exercised stared us as the good news rolled out through the ubiquitous TV channels and their zealous presenters. The way quintessentially political issues and turf-wars between the PPP and PML-N were battled and resolved through a stage-managed process only concealed the bitter power-realities of Pakistan. […]

April 2nd, 2009|Personal|2 Comments

Pakistan: turmoil,implosions and drama

Pakistan is once again in political turmoil. Two popular Punjabi leaders are disqualified by a court that has been maligned over the last few months. Governor’s rule has been imposed in the larger province – epicentre of Pakistani power.

Overall these recent developments do not bode well for […]

February 26th, 2009|Politics|2 Comments

On Habib Jalib

Kazim Aizaz Alam has sent this piece on the great poet for publication at Jahane Rumi.

I was recently introduced to someone who had been a companion of Habib Jalib. Khurshid sahib now works at the Karachi-based afternoon paper, Qaumi Akhbar, and sometimes reminisces about the good times he shared with people associated with the film industry. Being a film/theatre reporter for 59 years now (yes, he started his journalistic career in 1950!) Khurshid sahib has come in touch with every notable film star, director, writer, poet, musician and singer of Pakistan.

One of his dear friends was Habib Jalib. According to Khurshid sahib, whenever Habib Jalib was in town, his Vespa (that he still drives) would serve as the poet’s conveyance. Last time when he met Jalib sahib, he was in Karachi for a book-launch ceremony. In those days there used to be a UBL hostel in Saddar. The then president of the UBL was Jalib sahib’s fan who had arranged his stay at the hostel. Khurshid sahib picked him up from there and took to the Arts Council of Pakistan where the ceremony was to take place. He clearly remembers that Jalib sahib’s health was not good and he looked too frail. The poet walked into the venue with the help of Fehmida Riaz and Khurshid sahib. Benazir Bhutto was the chief guest and was accompanied by Begum Nusrat Bhutto. He says that both the distinguished ladies rushed forward and welcomed the ageing poet with utmost respect. Such was Jalib sahib’s regard that despite his bitter criticism of Benazir Bhutto’s policies during her first government, she had come to pay homage to the great revolutionary. […]

February 8th, 2009|Poetry, Urdu, Urdu Literature|4 Comments

Imagined homeland

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. […]

February 5th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Published in The Friday Times, Sindh, Sufism|2 Comments

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar of Sehwan

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar‘s shrine is full of devotees these days. His Urs is a major cultural event in Sindh. The Qalandar has followers across the Central and West Asia and his shrine and festivities around the Urs are an important part of Sindh’s spiritual and cultural landscape. […]

September 2nd, 2007|Arts & Culture, media, Sindh, Sufi poetry, Sufism|14 Comments