Tag Archives: perception

‘Perception about Pakistan changing in India’

BY ZAHEER MAHMOOD SIDDIQUI

LAHORE: Perception about Pakistan is now changing in India, according to a Delhi-based expert who is currently in Lahore to attend the third Pakistan Urban Forum.

Vandana Mehra, whose father lived in Bannu (Khyber Pakhtunkhwah) before the partition, first came to Pakistan in 1999 with a lot of “myths” in her mind about the country.

“In less than a week, all these myths (got) busted. Pakistan was not what it was being projected as then (in India) and is certainly different from what it is being perceived there even today,” she maintains.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1224940/

In the shadow of the gun – I

By: Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

During the 1973-1977 army action in conflict zones, thousands of innocent people were killed, tens of thousands were internally displaced

Mr Ikram Sehgal’s “Of Empire and Army” (Newsline, March 2012) is a bundle of misinformation and bias against the Baloch. Perturbed that the media holds the security establishment solely responsible for the Balochistan crisis, he claims, “Most of our problems stem from jumping to conclusions that are based on misinformation, and then deliberately distorting those half-truths to suit mass perception.” He feels, “Disproportionate media projection of the separatist leaders encourages ethnic divisions and violence.” He probably thinks the Baloch struggle and the atrocities by the state are a figment of the media’s imagination.

The state’s brutal kill and dump policy seems justified to him. He half-heartedly admits, “No one denies the fact that targeted killings of the Baloch are taking place, that people are being picked up and that state actors are involved in the killing and the disappearances.” Then he offers a lame justification that “sons of the soil” are killing an equal number of settlers. Balochistan Home Department’s recent report said that the majority of the ones killed are ethnic Baloch.

Sehgal tells us that on December 29, 1973, as his son was being born in Karachi, his company came under heavy fire from Marri insurgents near Kahan, after the dismissal of Ataullah’s representative government. The Baloch considered them aggressors rightly, and could not be expected to throw a party. He then says, “Throughout that year, many soldiers were martyred and several injured,” and adds, “In one instance, the insurgents beheaded 19 of our soldiers.”

Well, I too was in the Marri area with the Baloch nationalists then and assuredly, the Marris never indulged in such abhorrent practices. His claim defies reason as no guerilla could possibly have time to ambush and behead soldiers. Ambushes invite response and with helicopters, jets and motorised transportation at the army’s disposal, only fools would linger after an ambush.

The columnist adds that the army could have retaliated against the Marris in kind but relented because they understood that their Sardar (tribal chief), who was living comfortably in Kabul, misguided the Marris. Incidentally, Sardar Khair Baksh Marri and other Baloch leaders, including Sardar Ataullah Mengal, were in jail until 1978. He blames the media for misinformation and distortion. During the 1973-1977 army action in conflict zones, thousands of innocent people were killed, tens of thousands were internally displaced, social and economic life was disrupted, flocks were stolen, crops destroyed, and the entire Balochistan was terrorised. Eight persons, whom I knew personally, including my dear friend, Daleep Dass, aka Johnny Dass, went missing, never to be heard of again. Sher Muhammad Aliani — a sept, an elder, a septuagenarian — was picked up because of an ambush in the vicinity of his settlement near Kahan; his brutally tortured corpse was later recovered. Murad Khan Ramkani of Tadri too was similarly killed. The valiant Asadullah Mengal and Ahmed Shah Kurd were abducted and killed in Karachi. The examples of the ‘consideration’ shown are too numerous to note.

Continue reading In the shadow of the gun – I

American strategy in Afpak

About the US soldier going postal in afghanistan…

By Omar Ali

I wrote this comment on the SWJ site and I just thought it would be interesting to see what people here think of the American “strategy” (or lack of one) in Afghanistan.
The killings today, while tragic and awful, are themselves indicative of nothing new beyond one soldier going nuts…could and does happen in most wars and more likely when a war has stretched on for a while and more likely with soldier and locals being different people (not necessarily different nationalities..pakistani soldiers in Bangladesh or even some Indian soldiers in Kashmir could feel equally surrounded by aliens). It will have a huge propaganda effect though. Anyway, my comment is more about the US strategy: what is it? what should it be? What would it be if you were president?

Continue reading American strategy in Afpak

Are we wrong about Pakistan?

When Peter Oborne first arrived in Pakistan, he expected a ‘savage’ backwater scarred by terrorism.

Years later, he describes the Pakistan that is barely documented – and that he came to fall in love with

It was my first evening in Pakistan. My hosts, a Lahore banker and his charming wife, wanted to show me the sights, so they took me to a restaurant on the roof of a town house in the Old City.

My food was delicious, the conversation sparky – and from our vantage point we enjoyed a perfect view of the Badshahi Mosque, which was commissioned by the emperor Aurangzeb in 1671.

It was my first inkling of a problem. I had been dispatched to write a report reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens. Shortly before he died last December, Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair that bordered on racism.

Pakistan, he said, was “humourless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offence and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred”. In summary, asserted Hitchens, Pakistan was one of the “vilest and most dangerous regions on Earth”.

Since my first night in that Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts of the lawless north. Of course there is some truth in Hitchens’s brash assertions. Since 2006 alone, more than 14,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks. The Pakistan political elite is corrupt, self-serving, hypocritical and cowardly – as Pakistanis themselves are well aware. And a cruel intolerance is entering public discourse, as the appalling murder last year of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he spoke out for Christians so graphically proves. Parts of the country have become impassable except at risk of kidnap or attack.

Yet the reality is far more complex. Indeed, the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating Pakistan.

Continue reading Are we wrong about Pakistan?

Limits to Imran’s magic

By Haider Nizamani

SPEECHES made at the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) rally in Karachi on Dec 25 were a perfect “motley mixture of high-sounding phrases … [and] adherence to the old routine”. It will hardly endear Imran Khan and his party to ordinary Sindhi and Baloch publics.

The issues speakers zeroed in on and the topics they did not touch upon offer an interesting insight into the ethos of the PTI and how out of touch it is with the Sindhi and Baloch political pulse. Both in terms of content and form there was little on offer for Sindhis and the Baloch in the vicinity of Jinnah`s mausoleum.

Start with what Imran Khan had to say about Balochistan. He quite correctly, and I am assuming sincerely, apologised to the Baloch for the wrongs done to them. Who was he apologising as? Was he doing it as a Punjabi? If so, he did not make it obvious. Nawaz Sharif did the same in a meeting with Sardar Ataullah Mengal only a few days back. Instead of echoing what Nawaz Sharif had said to Sardar Mengal, Imran Khan should have paid attention to the veteran Baloch leader`s response in which he considered such apologies hollow and minced no words in conveying to Mr Sharif that the Baloch youth viewed the army as a Punjabi army and not a national one.

Unless politicians from Punjab are willing and capable to rein in the army there is little hope of winning over the hearts and minds of the people of Balochistan. Imran Khan`s answer to Baloch alienation is to bring `development` to the province. Mention `development` to a Baloch and she/he immediately thinks of boots on the ground and men in khaki hunting down Baloch nationalists. `Development` in the Baloch perception means systematic exploitation of Balochistan`s natural resources and a denial of political rights spanning half a century.

Imran Khan quite naively invoked West Germany`s example of helping East Germany in the reunification of the two. He wants to play West Germany to Balochistan, conveniently forgetting that it was the East Germans who brought the Berlin Wall down to be one with their West German brothers.

In the case of Balochistan, the situation is almost the exact opposite where there is an ever-increasing aspiration to get out of Pakistan instead of an urge to be part of it. When it comes to Sindh, the PTI bowled, to use Imran Khan`s favourite cricketing analogy, a wide on Sindhis in both form and content. topi

Let us look at the form first. The team that Imran Khan chose to surround himself with on the stage did not even have a token Sindhi among them. Sindhis have not patented the Sindhi (cap) and it would have done no harm to adorn one when attempting to put up a mega political show in Sindh.

If you are going to punctuate speeches with songs then not having any Sindhi song on the playlist only sends a wrong message. Whether or not you appreciate Shah Abdul Latif`s poetry, it is customary to pay tribute to Latif when politicking in Sindh.

`Tsunami` may be a nice and thunderous word elsewhere but in the coastal areas of Sindh people associate it with misery not merriment. The list of such symbolic follies is too long for a newspaper column.

In terms of content there was little that Sindhis could identify with but a lot that would keep the PTI on the political margins in the province.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi`s speech was, again using cricket analogy, akin to Misbah-ul-Haq`s innings against India in the 2011 World Cup semi-final. Misbah scored only 17 runs during the first 42 balls he faced thus contributing to the cost incurred by Pakistan.

Qureshi did the same for Imran Khan in Karachi as far as PTI`s immediate fortunes in Sindh are concerned. Qureshi chose to play the nuclear nationalism card and accuse President Asif Zardari of being not as strong a nuclear nationalist as an ideal Pakistani president should be. He went on to educate, or rather bore, those attending with concepts such as no-first-use, Cold Start and asymmetric warfare.

The speech sounded more like a pitch to secure the slot of foreign minister in any future government than connecting with the masses in Sindh. Simply put, you don`t talk about that stuff in public rallies in Sindh. It finds little resonance with Sindhis.

Imran Khan was equally off the mark if one purpose of the show was to win the support of Sindhis. His road map was a motley of generalities guided by political naivety that made him look up to England as a model welfare state when he first set foot there as a teenager.

His solutions to complex socioeconomic and political issues are sought in simple steps like computerising the land records because a computer does not accept bribe or aspiration to provide free legal advice to 80 per cent of the population.

And no such talk is complete without customary tribute to Lee Kuan Yew`s ways of `developing` the tiny island of Singapore. These propositions resonate with the urban middle classes of Punjab and possibly Karachi but have little to do with various segments of the Sindhi population.

For Imran Khan the only hurdle in the way of exploiting coal deposits in the desert Sindh may be the law and order situation in Karachi but for Sindhis the issue is more complex and requires provinces having a greater say and decision-making powers when it comes to natural resources.

Imran Khan and his party have an attractive platform for the urban middle classes of Punjab but his slogans have little appeal where the Baloch and Sindhi political path is concerned, at least for now.

The writer is a Canada-based author. hnizamani@hotmail.com

Courtesy » DAWN.COM

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/27/limits-to-imrans-magic.html

Happy Independence Day, India and Pakistan. And congratulations Bangladesh, for having moved on

Midnight’s problem child

by Omar Ali

Pakistan and India are celebrating the 64th anniversary of “Freedom at midnight” with their usual mix of nationalism and jingoism (Bangladesh seems to ignore this nightmarish dream anniversary and will be mostly ignored in this article). The fashionable opinion about India (within and without, though perhapsless on the Indian left) seems fairly positive; about Pakistan, decidedly muddled if not outright negative. Is this asymmetry another manifestation of the unfair assessments of an Islamophobic world? Or does this difference in perception have a basis in fact? .

Read more → 3quarksDaily
http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/08/midnights-problem-child.html

Time to change

– Time to change: ‘Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah’

by Shiraz Paracha

Excerpt:

India centric mindset of the Pakistan military is one of the root causes of Pakistan’s problems. From generals to soldiers most men in the armed forces are paranoid about India and some have racist tendencies, too. …

…. Some young officers of the Pakistan armed forces are genuinely embarrassed by the growing criticism of the armed forces. One major general of the Pakistan Army asked me recently, “We want to build a soft image of Pakistan”.

I responded to the soft-spoken and cultured gentleman by saying: “Please, replace ‘Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah’ as your motto. A change of motto would be a symbol of a wider change of mind and perception.

To read complete article → LUBP

Is Pakistan collapsing – by S Akbar Zaidi

This presence of Osama bin Laden led to an extraordinary event of US SEAL military officers “invading” Pakistan, violating its air space, carrying out a military operation for 40 minutes and killing the most wanted terrorist and flying back to Afghanistan.

From drone attacks to constant admonishing by the Obama administration, to a weak economy, an insurgency and target-killing of the non-Baloch in Balochistan, and a weekly dose of suicide attacks on common people, all support a perception that Pakistan is collapsing. However, this conventional understanding may not be accurate. What these events suggest is that there is a growing crisis and contradiction within and between the institutions of the state in Pakistan and these crises and contradictions, evaluated differently, might offer a completely divergent narrative. What may be collapsing is the political settlement that has existed for many decades and this may be a positive development. Democractic forces have an opportunity now to end the military’s domination of Pakistan. …

Read more: View Point

Chronicles foretold – By Najam Sethi

– The cold-blooded torture and murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad by “invisible agencies” roused the journalists of Pakistan to unite and demand an independent and credible commission of inquiry to unearth the facts and punish the perpetrators. A media “dharna” outside parliament in Islamabad was aimed at securing an independent supreme court judge to head the inquiry instead of Justice Agha Rafiq, the chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court, nominated by President Asif Zardari.

Two questions arose. First, why did the media unite in such an unprecedented manner in this case when it didn’t do so in the case of the sixteen journalists so far killed this year in Pakistan? What was so particularly frightening or significant about this murder that compelled the media to stand up and be counted? Second, why did President Zardari originally pick a “Zardari-loyalist” to head this commission? Was this aimed at shielding any slip up or criminality on the part of the PPP government? And if it wasn’t, who was President Zardari trying to shield and why?

The answers are straight forward enough. Saleem Shehzad had recorded his problems with the ISI and left a testament indicting it if he was harmed. He was writing a book exposing the inroads into the armed forces and ISI made by retired or serving officers sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s violent ideology. Such exposure was deemed irrevocably embarrassing to the national security establishment. It explained the lack of preparedness on the part of the military to defend and protect itself — as evidenced in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Abbottabad in recent times. It also confirmed the fears of the international community about the security of the nukes, triggering scenarios of pre-emptive action against them in the event of their seizure by rogues allied to Al Qaeda. When Saleem Shehzad went ahead and published his book, he had to be silenced.

That, at least, is the media’s perception of what happened to him and why. Thus the media banded together to demand accountability so that the same fate did not befall any other journalist. If this perception was wrong, an independent commission of inquiry should have been able to establish the innocence of the ISI and redeem its credibility. If it was right, the ISI had to be chastened and cleansed of such elements. What is wrong with this way of thinking? Indeed, when an attempt is made to hide the facts behind a stooge commission, such suspicions and perceptions take deep roots and protests are inclined to become more widespread and violent. If President Zardari hadn’t finally heeded the journalists’ threat and appointed Justice Saqib Nisar to head the commission instead of Mr Agha Rafiq, the media was all geared up to announce a blackout of all government news and military press statements and advice.

Much the same sort of trouble for the government and military may be forecast for another commission of inquiry pledged by parliament to uncover the truth behind the Abbottabad debacle. In this case, too, the military seems to have leaned on the weak PPP government to desist from seriously inquiring into the mishap because it would deeply embarrass the “national security establishment” and conceivably jeopardise its “strategic relationship” with its Pentagon counterpart in the United States.

In both instances, however, there is one critical factor that threatens to derail the unholy nexus between a weak government and an arrogant military that are clutching at each other for protection. That is the opposition lead by Nawaz Sharif. The PMLN stood solidly with the fearful media in the first instance and will back the outraged public in the second. No less significantly, the sympathies of the newly independent judiciary are with the media, opposition and public. This is an inherently unstable and precarious situation. Where do we go from here?

The military has no option but to press the strategic “Paradigm Reset” button. The media and judiciary have joined the stake holders’ club. The military must realize that it is no longer capable of “managing” or “manipulating” or “blackmailing” the twice-bitten opposition to do its bidding blindly. The media too has been empowered by a wave of “citizen-journalists” who cannot be repressed. There are 20 million internet users in Pakistan and 4 million Facebook freaks and Tweeters. This organic new species had defied the dictators of the Middle East and smashed their censors. It is destined to do the same in Pakistan.

The situation is fraught with dangers of unmanageable upheaval. The military must adjust its sights accordingly. If, for example, the US were to launch any new unilateral action that outraged the Pakistani media, opposition and public, the military would be caught in the eye of the storm. It won’t be able to resist the public pressure but it also wouldn’t like to be savaged by America. Thus it could be the biggest loser in the game. Forewarned is forearmed.

Courtesy: Friday Times

via Wichaar

Problems of Sindhi Nationalism – What way forward?

Written by Dr Beenish Shoro

Excerpt:

…. In Pakistan the national question exists in its worst form because Pakistan itself is an example of a failed nation state. Pakistan was created as a result of the partition of the Indian subcontinent as the British imperialists and the local/national bourgeois leaders feared that a united national liberation would not stop there but would move towards a social transformation that would overthrow landlordism, capitalism and the imperialist strangle hold. To avoid a socialist revolution they conspired and split the movement along religious lines that led to the reactionary and traumatic partition of a land that had more than five thousand years of common history, cultural and socio economic existence.

Pakistan was founded not as a nation state, but as a state made up of nationalities. Even the abbreviations which form the word Pakistan are a testimony to this fact. This corresponds to its belated character. … National oppression has been brutal and rough ever since the country came into being. ….

….the separation of Bangladesh, the inability to resolve regional and sectarian disputes, the inability to sustain a clear concept and direction to Pakistan’s Nationalism and finally failure to create a modern cohesive nation state.

Pakistan’s political system is dominated by elite groups. In addition it faces the dilemma of chronic military rule. ….

….Sindh, the southern most province of the state possesses one of the most varied demographical set-ups in Pakistan. There is a very fragile ethnic balance between Sindhis and non-Sindhis. After partition many of the immigrants from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in India moved mainly to Karachi, but also to Hyderabad, Sukkur and other cities of Sindh.

This massive influx of Mohajirs from India and other nationalities resulted in a greater control of people from this transmigration over the economy, jobs and posts in the state apparatus. Although this phenomenon had a greater impact on urban Sindh, the deprivation was felt also in rural Sindh especially amongst the Sindhi middle classes. The acquisition of State and other lands by Punjab Generals and other settlers further aggravated this feeling of national deprivation amongst the Sindhi populace. There are several other factors which fuelled these sentiments. ….

….At the heart of nationalist sentiments in Pakistan is the perception by non-Punjabis that the Punjabi nationality dominates the economy, politics, society and the state. There is considerable evidence to support this perception. First, Punjabis constitute a majority of the population, approximately 60%; second, they dominate the civilian bureaucracy and the military; third, the Punjab is by far the wealthiest and most developed province in the state. And this perception is ironically fuelled by governmental policies designed to assuage such perceptions. ….

…. G. M. Syed can rightly be considered as the founder of Sindhi nationalism. He formed the Sindh Progressive Party in 1947 and demanded provincial autonomy within a socialist framework. In 1953 he formed the SindhAwami Mahaz. G. M. Syed himself a middle sized landlord represented the grievances of that class as well. …

… There have been several movements in Sindh over the last 60 years but there are three very significant mass upsurges that shook the echelons of power in Islamabad. These are the movements of 1968-69, 1983 and to some extent that of 1986. All these movements had different intensities, character, orientation and motivations. …

Zia was the son of a Mullah who had migrated from Eastern (Indian) Punjab and was American-trained at Fort Bragg. His atrocities, his make up and his background were enough to provoke massive hatred from the masses in Sindh. Zia’s repression of the Sindh was no less than the brutalities of British colonialists inflicted upon the mass of the subcontinent and other colonies. All this unleashed a glorious movement of the Sindhi masses against the military dictatorship. Although this movement had significant nationalist overtones, fundamentally it was linked to the general class resentment against this regime.

The movement failed because the regime was able to foster ethnic and nationalist discord especially in urban Sindh and in other main cities and provinces of Pakistan. In Karachi the Pakistani state devised the instrument of the MQM, the Punjabi Pushtoon Ittehad, Islamic fundamentalists and other reactionary outfits to break the momentum of struggle that was developing along class lines.

Still the movement raged on. In such circumstances whenever national antagonisms coincided with class contradictions they became especially hot. According to the official figures 1263 innocent people were slaughtered by the army in rural Sindh while thousands more were injured. There are heroic episodes of resistance that have now become legends in Sindhi folklore. …

… In 1986 the movement in Sindh was actually the last nail in Zia’s coffin. …

… If we in Sindh should achieve “freedom” through the same phenomenon as in Bangladesh we may well get freedom from non-Sindhi capitalists, but we will be all the more cruelly exploited by Sindhi capitalists and landlords. These nationalists do not want freedom from poverty, misery, unemployment; they just want freedom to establish control over their own market where they could extract a huge surplus by squeezing the last drop of the workers’ blood.

The feudal landlords want freedom to exploit the peasants and working class …

… We will take revenge for the crime of partition of India through the formation of a Red Revolutionary Subcontinent. As Comrade Lal khan says, “The unification of the Indian subcontinent will be on a much higher plane than the 1947 Partition.” …

To read full article :→ Marxist.com