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. 

April 30, 2018

When contemptible street scum actually is contemptible

Abid Sher Ali (left) and Rana Sanaullah (right)
Shireen Mazari uses the word ‘guttersnipes’ to describe the filthy Rana Sana, Abid Sher Ali and Talal Chaudhry of the PML-N. As an upstanding citizen of Pakistan with the moral obligation to tell misogynistic a-holes to go to hell, I stand with her and her choice of words to describe these men.

It all started when Abid Sher Ali in his infinite (lack of) wisdom decided to call Shireen Mazari a ‘tractor trolley’ on the floor of the parliament; the very same parliament where we expect the best of us to go and debate and listen and make laws. Instead of apologizing, he doubled down on his vulgarity and gave a new weapon to PML-N supporters — that it was OK for them to harass and verbally abuse the women of PTI.

It is no secret that the PML-N has always been envious of Imran Khan’s unrelenting popularity in the upper-middle class of Pakistan. This class is educated, moneyed, social, outgoing and constantly calls for changes to the established power structures that we’ve been seeing since the 1980s. So how does the PML-N react to this class? They go after the upper-middle class women by slut-shaming them. In their tiny, regressive worldview, the PML-N yanks think that slut-shaming these women will elicit the same reaction that they would have if somebody slut-shamed their own mothers, wives and daughters — hurt the ego of the men.

But this vileness does not swing from one tree. PTI is also notorious when it comes to lack of women protection. The vitriol they spew against Maryam Nawaz Sharif Safdar, or Ayesha Gulalai, or heck, even Imaan Mazari (daughter of Shireen Mazari) will leave anyone’s mouth agape. It all points to the bigger fact that these men (of the PML-N and PTI) believe it is OK if women are befouled as long as it’s the women of the other side; it only becomes an issue if it’s the women of their own side who are harassed.

I do not expect Rana Sanaullah or Abid Sher Ali to be punished by the leadership of the PML-N. Rana Sana’s foul mouth has uttered unbelievable vitriol in the past without a single hair ruffling on either of the Sharif brothers’ heads. It will be no different this time. What I am happy to see is that instead of the people saying “this is more of the same,” they’ve really taken both Rana Sana and Abid Sher Ali to the cleaners. Rabia Anum of Geo says she will not invite or interview Rana Sana, Abid Sher Ali or any other “misogynist creeps” until they apologize. Imaan Mazari has publicly called out Maryan Nawaz Sharif Safdar, Marvi Memon, Saira Afzal and Shaista Pervaiz and demanded that they stand up to safeguard the respect of their female colleagues.

Will this ugliness make any difference to the political careers of those who foul-mouth women as if they were consuming Rooh Afza on a hot summer day? Most probably not. But if there’s one thing everybody can be proud of, it’s that the conscientious people of Pakistan will not stay silent in the name of such backwardness anymore. 

April 26, 2018

When the election turns into a selection

Khawaja Asif
Imran Khan likes to refer to Nawaz Sharif as The Godfather because the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom decided to reference “The Godfather” (a fictional book by Mario Puzo) in the Panamagate verdict. He likes to use it because because the analogy reinforces the idea that Nawaz Sharif is a don (head of the PML-N), surrounded by his henchmen (top leadership of the PML-N), running Pakistan’s version of the Sicilian mafia. Today, the Islamabad High Court disqualified another one of Nawaz Sharif’s henchmen — Khawaja Asif, for life. Khawaja Asif said he’ll appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court, but we all see a lost cause when we see one, right?

Or maybe we don’t. This is more fuel to the fire. First, they went after Nawaz Sharif. They technically couldn’t do much to him because hey, nothing — not the offshore companies and not the accursed flats in London —  was actually in his name. They were either under his sons’ names, or they were under Maryam Nawaz Sharif Safdar’s name. So what did they do? They pulled the lamest excuse in the entire universe, that Nawaz Sharif is dishonest and untruthful because he did not declare that he could have received a salary from the company of his son, registered in Dubai, and even though he actually did not receive that salary, he still could have received it, to disqualify him from the prime ministership. You still want to say they weren’t out to get him from the start?

Khawaja Asif’s case is different. He has an iqama of the UAE — a residence visa — which allows him the ability to flitter between Pakistan and Dubai should the going get tough; which it seems to have gotten. But the judges said it was not his iqama that was the problem; it was the fact that he was receiving a monthly salary from Dubai, and had not declared his employment in his nomination papers. This made him ineligible to contest the elections in the first place. In 2017, Usman Dar of the PTI filed a petition challenging the legality of Khawaja Asif’s election and thus, Khawaja Asif was also found dishonest and untruthful much like Nawaz Sharif and now, he’s out on his butt for the rest of his life. The establishment’s blue eyed boy celebrates wild today.

We are part of the democratic process. This means that when a judge passes a ruling, we are bound by our civic duty as upstanding citizens of our country to accept it. But even the judges in this case had to concede that this ugliness has gone on for far too long now. Justice Athar Minallah wrote in the judgement that:

“It would have been been appropriate if the petitioner [Usman Dar of the PTI] had gone to the parliament to deliberate on this matter, before invoking the jurisdiction of the court.” 

But Usman Dar did not go to the parliament. He used the precedent set by the Supreme Court, which weaponized Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution of Pakistan, and used it as a sword to cut off Khawaja Asif’s political legacy.

The judiciary (and by extension, the PTI) has made a complete mockery of the democratic and political process in Pakistan. It is the people of Pakistan who elected Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif, Chaudhry Nisar, Imran Khan, Usman Dar, Jehangir Khan Tareen, Asad Umar, and it should be the people of Pakistan who should decide how to punish those who lie to them. And the ladies and gentlemen that the people of Pakistan have elected to sit in the parliament of Pakistan, should deliberate on what needs to be done to those who violate the sanctity of the oath that they’ve taken. That’s the democratic process.

Instead, we’ve got power hungry maniacs invoking a judicial martial law and using it again and again to fire at those that they’re opposed to. The judiciary’s role is not to adjudicate on the political destiny of Pakistan; that is the job of the parliament and the people of Pakistan. The judiciary’s job is to ensure that due process and the spirit of the law is followed.

As it turns out, the PTI would much rather have the judiciary of Pakistan decide the political destiny of Pakistan, even if it means the spirit of the law gets trampled beneath the heavy boots of irony.