March 6, 2019

The radicalization of the Indian masses

Indian public burns a Pakistani flag
On February 26, 2019 when India crossed the international border and dropped bombs on a hilltop inside Pakistan, a fundamental shift in how Pakistan India relations work took place. Gone was the status quo of restraint and diplomatic threats that India fomented against Pakistan in the aftermath of every unsavoury incident that took place in India. Suddenly, it was replaced with the idea that India could not only teach Pakistan a lesson but that it could do so brazenly, and without threat of reprisal. Clearly, India assumed its social capital in the international comity was established enough to allow it to pull off the kind of daring raids that say, the USA, might be able to pull off. There was only one problem — Indian aggression is a matter of ego and existentialism in Pakistan. The Pakistani military for 70 years has existed to neuter this threat from India. If it does not react or respond to Indian acts of aggression, then why do we even have it?

So on February 27, 2019 Major General Asif Ghafoor got in front of a podium and told India it was time for Pakistan to give it a surprise. On February 28, 2019, in broad daylight, Pakistani warplanes intruded into Indian airspace, identified six targets and dropped bombs around them. The message was clear: we might not have the courage to take on a US invasion, but an Indian invasion would be met with the full might of the Pakistani military.

Analysts from both sides of the border and across the world will dissect the war cries, doctrines, nuclear thresholds, risk appetites and risk capacities aplenty in the aftermath of this escalation. Already we’re seeing them tell us what Modi thinks, what India wants, where Pakistan went wrong, what the next move from both sides will be. But I’m not interested in any of that. Because all of that fails to take into account the most shocking revelation that has come to light during this unfortunate saga: The extreme jingoism teetering on abject fascism across the Indian diaspora.

I have tried finding a reason for it, but I’ve merely ended up scratching my head. Who knew that Indians have this much hatred for Pakistanis? That normal, middle class Indians are willing to impose collective punishment on the people of Pakistan in the form of a doom and gloom war? That they are willing to let their armed forces butcher Pakistanis for the sake of teaching the state of Pakistan a lesson?

For the longest time I believed that the people of India and Pakistan were largely the same; suffering from the same economic corruption, injustice, inequality, vice, ethnic nationalism and social dogma. I believed that due to a shared history, language and culture, the people of India and Pakistan were sympathetic to each other’s plight. They both wanted normalization in relations between the two countries and that it was the governments and establishments of the two countries that fomented this hysteria on either side of the border. The past ten days have proved me wrong.

You see, if India had decided to pursue the dogged but ultimately unsexy route of pressurizing and isolating Pakistan internationally, people like myself would be further emboldened to hold our government accountable today. Why does the state of Pakistan, after all, not arrest Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed? But with Modi’s blood baying, the Indian media’s fascistic approach to win the ratings war and the Indian populace’s extreme jingoism, what’s ended up happening instead is that people like myself have started to reconsider the existential threat India poses for Pakistan. Suddenly, it’s not so much why does the Pakistani establishment tolerate these snakes, but more how do we defend ourselves against this Indian onslaught. Because an onslaught it has been, and one that refuses to subside.

Despite Imran Khan’s unilateral goodwill gesture to release the captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, Modi has refused to deescalate. Their media has spun every humiliation suffered by India into a win. Their people have been radicalized beyond measure. Egged on by a hysterical media beating war drums, a populace that will not back down until it has spilled blood, and an establishment that thinks teaching Pakistan is the only solution to save face from the crushing humiliation of losing two fighter jets and a pilot, Modi is looking to teach Pakistan even more lessons.

But see, none of that would be shocking on its own accord. Modi is not a pacifist. He is known as the Butcher of Gujarat after all. What is shocking is the vitriol and hatred that has been on display since February 14, 2019. While Pakistanis make memes, Indians make prophetic death threats. While Pakistanis turn Adnan Sami into a caricature, Indians resort to the worst kind of trolling imaginable. The sense of camaraderie that I, perhaps mistakenly, felt with my Indian compatriots is now gone. It is now Pakistan versus them, and when it’s come to this, how can I choose them?

This has been a heartbreaking episode. Not because India and Pakistan have almost gone to war; not because Kashmir is on fire and we’re completely choosing to ignore the Kashmiri plight for our own selfish reasons again; not because mothers have lost sons because a tiny man with a large ego took oath as the prime minister of India. All those reasons make this a rage inducing interlude.

It has been heartbreaking because I’ve finally realized, that we’re not the same as them.

May 22, 2018

“Violence is justified, as long as my party is perpetrating it.”

Naeemul Haq of the PTI (pictured) slapped Daniyal Aziz of the PML-N on TV
Violence. The great means to the great end; the great end being the establishment of the Naya Pakistan. For if the end is the creation of Naya Pakistan, who cares if a few people get slapped along the way, right?

For those who still don’t know, Naeemul Haq of the PTI slapped Daniyal Aziz of the PML-N, on Muneeb Faruq’s show on Geo, after Daniyal Aziz called Naeemul Haq a ‘thief.’ What a noble man is Naeemul Haq, that he gets offended when somebody calls him a thief. Clearly, we must all side with him for he is the radical revolutionary we have been waiting for, the one who will deliver us from our penance, and then we can start actually building the Naya Pakistan.

Whether you find this sad, alarming or hilarious, there are those who actually believe everything I’ve written up there.

You see it started in 2014, when the great Imran Khan of Mianwali decided it was OK to mainstream uncouthness into Pakistan’s politics. When it was pointed out that more is expected from the leader of a party that claims to represent the educated, urban lot of Pakistan, his followers came out of the bushes like snakes and consistently asked ‘so what if he uses uncouth language?’ Well so his lackey slaps a minister on TV. That’s what. It doesn’t take a genius to draw that line. One would’ve hoped the great Khan would reprimand Naeemul Haq, like he is wont to do with Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, but his Twitter account sits quiet today.

But Imran Khan not berating Naeemul Haq is not out the ordinary. In fact, one might go so far as to call it “mundane.” Imran Khan who indulges in uncouthness himself is hardly the kind of person you would expect to come to the aid of Daniyal Aziz, or tell his minion to apologize, or say that this is not how civilized people behave. Imran Khan then, is like Khadim Hussain Rizvi. When Rizvi was asked about the filthy, vulgar language he employs in his sermons and his homilies, he said even at the time of the prophet the companions used such language. It is nothing bad, or out of the ordinary. It didn’t take too long for that vile language to turn into a full fledged war on the state of Pakistan either.

So it should come as no surprise then that the followers of Imran Khan — the ones who claim they are the educated, urbanized, progressive, modernist people of Pakistan — say Daniyal Aziz deserved being physically assaulted because “he was taught a lesson.”

According to the perverted logic by this person, it would be quite OK now for any PML-N supporter to go and “teach” Imran Khan a lesson by punching him in the face, or “teach” Asad Umar a lesson by throwing a shoe at him, or “teach” Jehangir Tareen a lesson by violently accosting him. I mean, it is OK to use violence to teach people a lesson apparently.

This periphery that we’re standing on, is unacceptable. You may hate the words and actions that your opponent uses. You may hate their guts. You may hate the fact that they refuse to see your point of view, but know that you are in the wrong if you stand behind the person who violently accosts another person just because you don’t like the words that he’s saying.

I’ve seen Naeemul Haq up close. He can usually be found sitting at the Burning Brownie cafe in F-11 Markaz in Islamabad on weekend nights. I’ve always been put off by his vibe, but I never imagined that this lazy, cantankerous waste of human flesh would have it in him to slap a person from an opposing political party. Clearly, our politics has reached a point where this is an acceptable modus operandi.

This is not the Naya Pakistan I had envisioned when Imran Khan first coined the term. Instead of it meaning something positive or good, Naya Pakistan has become a pejorative term; the kind you want to disinfect yourself from. I really hope Imran Khan will put his money where his mouth is, and reprimand Naeemul Haq. Because if not, this will just be one more item in the list of hypocrisies Imran Khan has committed and is known for.

May 13, 2018

In defense of Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif
And once again I must brace myself, for the torrent of “you love Nawaz Sharif” trolls is forthcoming. But that’s OK, because sometimes objectivity and truth is more important than reality denying denizens attacking your integrity. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let us talk about Nawaz Sharif.

Two days ago, an interview which Nawaz Sharif gave to Cyril Almeida of Dawn was published in which Sharif claimed:

“…we have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it. Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”

This statement of his, particularly his allusion to the fact that non-state militant organizations active on Pakistani soil were used to kill people in the Mumbai attack has caused the military establishment and its social media mongering masses’ libido to go into overdrive. Some choice comments from social media following the publishing of Nawaz Sharif’s interview present the following narrative: Nawaz Sharif is a traitor! Look how he defames Pakistan! He is an Indian agent! He has been placed in Pakistan for Indian interests!

The outlandishness of these claims is only exceeded by the outlandishness of the well read, well connected, well educated masses, who have ample access to fact checking resources, yet still choose to not only believe in such nonsense, but revel in spouting it off. When it is the educated people who hawk such nonsense, it is an indicator that any debate on merit and value is effectively dead in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif is a traitor because he is a traitor, ergo anything he will say and do is because he is a traitor.

Just the other day I was having a discussion with a friend and I told him the genius of the military establishment is not that they can meddle and muck with the civilian government; it is that they have made the general public believe that it is not only acceptable, but it is actually for the greater good. Spoiler alert: we’ve seen this film before, and the greater good is a pound of horseshit that never hits home. Nawaz Sharif being removed from the post of the premiership on the flimsiest of excuses, the censorship imposed on him, the humiliation he is being subjected to (re: not being given an extension to visit his cancer-stricken wife), is not only acceptable, it is actually preferable because it is “for the greater good.”

Tomorrow (May 14, 2018), the military has called for a meeting of the National Security Council “…to discuss recent misleading media statement regarding the Bombay [sic] incident.” No doubt, the Supreme Ruler of Pakistan, General Qamar Javed Bajwa will tell his puppet Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, to put the out of control madman Nawaz Sharif on a leash. In what universe does any of this make sense, or sound appropriate?

But let’s back up for a moment. In 2009 Rehman Malik held a national presser in which he proclaimed:

“Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan. We have lodged an FIR into the case.”

He then went on to say that the “attackers left from Karachi on a boat hired from Balochistan” and that, “an e-mail claiming responsibility for the attack was sent by Zarrar Shah of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.” All this was admitted by the Interior Minister of Pakistan … in 2009.

In 2016 Rehman Malik further said (in response to David Headley’s testimony):

“We have the details about who paid tickets, who funded him and how he recruited non-state actors from Pakistan [for the attacks].”

But that’s Rehman Malik. He too is a traitor in the mould of Nawaz Sharif. Why should we listen to him?

OK then. Here’s General (R) Mahmud Durrani, the National Security Advisor describing the 26/11 Mumbai attack in his own words:

“I hate to admit that the 26/11 Mumbai attack carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan on November 26, 2008 is a classic trans-border terrorist event.”

Mahmud Durrani further went on to explain that he has —

“… very good information that the government of Pakistan or the ISI was not involved in 26/11. I am 110% sure.”

Then there is Bob Woodward, Michael Hayden and Hussain Haqqani who all said the same thing — that General Pasha (ISI chief at the time) admitted that the Mumbai attack was planned and executed from Pakistan by non-state actors. His exact words are said to have been “the people were ours, the operation was not.”

Now that you have all this information, scroll up and look at the statement Nawaz Sharif made. Does it sound traitorous and treasonous anymore? Does asking a legitimate question — can we allow non-state actors to operate from our soil? — really make one a traitor to Pakistan? Because if this is the definition we’re using now, it’s only a matter of time before each and everyone, including those who think they’re above board, are accused of treason.

This is not to say that Nawaz Sharif is without fault and we need to defend his integrity. Not at all. What this is about is the fact that a de facto shadow government is in place, with unwilling puppets dancing in front taking the abuse. Nawaz Sharif’s self-indulgence is revolting, his satiation repulsive, but in the same vain ask yourself why him only? Why do we think it is OK to break every single norm that we bandy about as being essential to a democratic, prosperous Pakistan when it comes to Nawaz Sharif and single him out? If there is accountability, it should be across the board. But does it look that way to you?

If your answer is “for the greater good,” and that it needs to start from somewhere, I have nothing but despair and hopelessness for you. The greater good is nothing, if it is not for everyone including those you hate, loathe and detest. 

May 8, 2018

When little Zainab was raped and killed … the second time

Artwork for the TV drama Zainab kay Qatil
A friend of mine sent me the link to the post (shown above) by A-Plus TV while I was asleep today. I’ve never watched A-Plus TV myself, but a cursory glance at their Facebook page tells me that they have more than 2.4 million likes on Facebook; clearly, the channel is very popular amongst the masses. My first introduction to this abhorrent lick of degeneracy masquerading as a TV channel was in the form of a video that another one of my friend’s had posted on his Facebook wall, way back in 2016. The video was from a Ramzan Iftar show that aired on A-Plus TV in which that famous misogynistic insult to men Waqar Zaka, and his female version Maya Khan, had blindfolded an elderly lady and asked her to ‘live on the edge.’ She was to put her hands in 6 containers placed side by side and identify what was inside them, and if she could successfully do it for all, she would win something or the other. The first basket was filled with lettuce; the second with mice; the third I do not know, because my stomach flipped after it saw a woman who looks like a grandmother, picking up and squishing a mouse whilst blindfolded. The video thumbnail showed a crocodile, so I’m assuming at some point, she would’ve had to put her hand into container with a crocodile and squish it too.

Here’s the irony: The video was titled “most fascinating and thrilling moment.” This was a Ramzan show.

Now A-Plus TV is back, and it’s even more fascinating and thrilling. They’re going to make a drama around the death of little Zainab; the same little Zainab who was 6 years old, and who was brutally raped and murdered by her neighbor in Kasur. Clearly there’s a market for morbid, debased and vitiated TV, because why else would A-Plus TV decide to shoot an entire drama around the brutal, gruesome death of little Zainab? The erudite brains at A-Plus TV saw that the drama ‘Baaghi’ based on the life and death of Qandeel Baloch was largely successful, so they decided it would be apt to rehash the formula with another tragedy. Only this time, it’s a 6 year old girl who’s body has been cold for only 5 months.

In the summer of 2017, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (the show runners behind Game of Thrones) decided to pitch a TV show called ‘Confederate’ who’s premise was that the South had successfully seceded from the Union “…giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal, and has evolved into a modern institution.” The reaction to the idea was swift and brutal; slavery in the USA might’ve been abolished in 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment, but even in 2018 the thought of two white men creating a show with an alternate history in which black people are shown as slaves is condemned with a vociferousness we seldom see. On the other hand in 2018 in Pakistan, little Zainab’s death can be exploited for ratings, fame, money and glamor, and there’s nothing anyone can/will do except pass a comment, or heave a sigh. Our collective amnesia seems to be the culprit, but it is more likely the fact that somewhere in the past 70 years, our morality committed suicide.

Some things are sacred. Some things you do not make light of. Zainab’s death is one such thing. Imagine the pain her parents must go through every day. Now imagine them watching their worst nightmare exaggerated and dramatized, and broadcasted into the homes of millions of people across the world. Does your head bow with shame? Because mine does. It pains me to think that we have become so desensitized to basic human emotions that it is OK for us to exploit someone else’s tragedy for our own benefit. After this drama airs, which it inevitably will, the actors and actresses which take part in it will laugh and drink as they accept and give awards and congratulate each other, and say cliché things like “Zainab’s death is an eye-opener” or, “Zainab’s story is the story of millions of children in our country.” They will fail to mention the millions they will earn to exploit these stories.

Meanwhile in Kasur, one less light will burn in little Zainab’s home because she doesn’t exist anymore and there’s no one left to fight for her honor.

May 4, 2018

The curious case of Meesha Shafi, which isn’t really that curious after all

Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar
Raima Khan has penned an op-ed in the Daily Times where she uses the same tried and tested arguments to shame the victims of harassment into submission. They range from the ‘if she didn’t like him, why did she hang out with him?’ to the ‘but she’s also done such terrible things in the past, why don’t we talk about those?’ Before we go any further, it is important to remind the good people of the fact that Daily Times is the same newspaper that published a post by Mohsin Sayeed in which he called women who disagreed with Meesha Shafi “cock sucking cunts.” Then, it apologized to Mohsin Sayeed for publishing the post in the first place. So you can understand if I don’t pay much attention to this worthless rag of a newspaper.

But a lot of people seem to think that Raima Khan has provided some genius insights into the whole Meesha Shafi, Ali Zafar saga. Spoiler alert: She hasn’t. Here I debunk the arguments she’s made, point-by-point.

1. “This is a case of two equals and therefore cannot possibly be talked about and discussed in the same narrative as other sinister and harrowing cases of sexual harassment.”

No it’s not. Now I believe in the multiverse theory, which suggests there is an infinite number of universes, so I can imagine a universe in which Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar are equal, but it most certainly is not this one. Meesha Shafi does not get paid as much as Ali Zafar. She doesn’t get the same list of overzealous band of fans who will defend her to her detractors. Heck she isn’t even given the benefit of doubt when she makes an allegation of harassment. She’s dismissed, as if she’s overstepped her bounds. Ali Zafar on the other hand is immediately believed when he denies the allegations.

2. “Her former manager, Fahad Rehman claimed his experience with [Meesha Shafi] included ‘blackmail’; two women part of the band at the jam session where the alleged harassment was said to take place came out as witnesses … a former theatre colleague, Talia Mirza wrote a public note on Facebook claiming that she had been bullied and Shafi had slut shamed other women. She also said that Meesha’s brother, Faris Shafi, also a public figure, had put women in uncomfortable situations in the past including herself.”

This is an interesting one. Let me talk about the women first. The two women who came forward said Ali Zafar has never harassed them, and they did not see the harassment take place. They did not say the harassment did not take place. When incidents of harassment take place (the kinds which Ali Zafar is accused of), they usually aren’t done in public for the benefit for all those present. But let’s assume the witnesses are absolutely correct. To wit, the counter is the several other women who’ve come forward claiming Ali Zafar harassed them. Raima Khan chooses to believe the witnesses at the gig. I choose to believe the women who’ve come forward otherwise. See the problem?

Now about her manager and Talia Mirza. They both have made serious accusations against Meesha Shafi, and if their accusations are correct, then Meesha Shafi’s only proving the point that she’s no different than a slimy sleaze ball who people should stay away from. But I put it to you, does Meesha Shafi being a sleaze ball give anyone the right to harass her? If you answered no, then stop bringing her other transgressions up. They are irrelevant and have no bearing on this incident. If you answered yes, you’re a perverted slime ball and you should be ashamed of yourself.

3. “It is also important not to dismiss the pictures of Shafi and Zafar together simply as misogynistic media trying to portray her negatively.”

I rolled my eyes so hard when I read this, I think I gave my eye a cramp. Wife, gets beaten by husband everyday, still takes a smiling picture with him. Why didn’t she leave him? What stopped her? Niece, abused by her uncle, still takes a smiling picture with him. Why did she take a picture with him? Why didn’t she tell anyone? Girlfriend, slapped around by boyfriend, still takes a smiling picture with him. That’s her own fault. Why was she his girlfriend? Why didn’t she behave like proper Muslim women?

Meesha Shafi, harassed by Ali Zafar, still takes a smiling picture with him, for any number of reasons. Maybe he’s a friend who she thinks hasn’t realized he’s overstepped his bounds; maybe she’s afraid of the reaction she’ll get if she creates a scene, so she finds it easier to smile and take a picture with him; maybe it’s a professional picture because they’re both celebrities who work together, so they need to take smiling pictures; maybe she just smiles when she takes a picture.

Seriously, what kind of an absolutely ridiculous argument is this? They took pictures together, so Meesha Shafi must definitely be lying about being harassed? OK then.

4. “Shafi herself, according to public records, has had an FIR filed against her some years back. This was by her very own family members and famous musician, Farhad Hamayun. Why is none of this being documented and talked about?”

Because it’s already been dealt with. It was years ago, an FIR was filed, some outcome came out of it, and it’s not an issue anymore. Creating a deliberate logical fallacy — Meesha Shafi was harassed by Ali Zafar, oh but here look, she had an FIR filed against her — is disingenuous at best, and petty, vile, crude and immature at worst. None of this is being talked about because Meesha Shafi being a sleaze ball does not give anyone the right to harass her. It’s like Maiza Saeed talking about Imran Khan being petty, when she was asked if she will condemn the words of Rana Sanaullah and Abid Sher Ali. One does not make the other right.

Here’s where we stand at the end of the day. You will believe what you choose to believe, but some hard facts just can’t be mollycoddled. As a Pakistani man I know exactly the kind of locker room talk, objectification and debauchery men indulge into. As a Pakistani man, I know exactly how men with power and influence, manipulate women. It surprises me when men come to the defense of other men with the ‘where’s the proof?’ line of argument, because they know exactly where that proof is; it’s in the mirror staring back at them. There’s about a 98% chance that Ali Zafar is indeed a sexist, misogynistic, harassing pig, and men and women who choose not to accept that can continue to stick their heads in the sand. They’re fooling nobody but themselves.