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The NA 250 lollipop

NA 250. A hot national assembly seat; so declared before elections and even further so, after rigged elections. A constituency where stalwarts such as Khushbakht Shujaat, Naimatullah Khan and Arif Alvi were contesting.

Let’s cut to the chase. As most of you know, ECP had called for re-polling in 43 stations of NA 250 on the 19th of May. The polls were conducted and even after a low turnout, Arif Alvi has won the seat. For PTI fans, I suppose this is good news.

I stand against it. I can’t imagine why PTI supporters are pleased at this. From what` I understand from all of this is, they went on the roads asking for the main course, and they are settling for peanuts. I am not so sure a battle based on principles (at least that is what Arif Alvi and Ali Zaidi have reminded us again and again) can be settled for something so substantially less as a single constituency; a far cry from the re-elections demanded in all 20 constituencies of Karachi.

I fear PTI has took the bait. By accepting re-polls in NA 250, you have placed the quest for Karachi re-elections in jeopardy. We have seen how ECP has given scant attention to the demand for re-elections. Do you really think it is likely to give more favors after giving NA 250 a chance? Also, PTI is overestimating its supporters. For how long can their supporters maintain the same enthusiasm and fervour in continuing the re-elections demand in Karachi, when majority of their supporters have voted in NA 250?

Often, the success of a movement depends on the degree of agitation of the people. Till the mob is kept agitated, a movement will live. Grant it a little breathing space, a certain degree of relief, and it is very likely that the small dose of happiness will eradicate the very agitation that led Karachi to come out on the streets. Is PTI sure it can continue its quest for Karachi re-elections when it has already acheived a soul-satisfying victory in NA 250? That is the biggest challenge for PTI, and at such a crucial juncture, when things are in their favour, may be they should have avoided putting this theory to the test.

As it is now, MQM has boycotted the re-polls and already acheived moral high ground. What’s to stop history from recording NA 250 re-polls, if Karachi re-election movement fails, as a protest of the affluent? Does PTI think some months from now, MQM, ECP and the media will not remind them of the fact that the affluent society of Defence and Clifton settled down after getting their desired constituency? Does PTI think the relevant stakeholders will not degrade the Karachi re-elections movement from a matter of principle, to a matter of a single constituency?

Perhaps the coming days will tell better of how PTI’s stance changes. Perhaps the protests will still continue with the same force. Perhaps the ECP, MQM and the media will crucify PTI for choosing NA 250. Perhaps I will be wrong. I certainly hope so.

The battle for Karachi – a fight for our rights!

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Contrary to popular belief, General Elections were held in Karachi too. Well, atleast one party says so. The others claim that elections were never held in Karachi. And by God, we the citizens of Karachi, bear witness to it.

The people of Karachi were misguided to think their vote actually meant something. They were misguided to think if they step out of their homes to do what they can for change, somebody is actually going to care. The state, the judiciary, the media, all seem impervious to the state of Karachi and the strong resentment that Karachiites are filled with, against the rigging.

Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the two large parties after MQM in Karachi, have taken the mantle for demanding re-elections in Karachi. And public sentiments are with them. Infact, perhaps that is the reason why no one is interested. Perhaps if a militia-backed party had violated Karachi streets in protests, the way they did on Election Day, Pakistan and its stakeholders would have been interested.

The bottom line is this : Karachi revolted. The vote bank of MQM is shifting. These elections were a chance for Karachi to let parties know they cannot terorrise and rule over them much longer. Their electoral revolt however, was cruelly stifled and killed. The powers in government / establishment it seems, don’t really care about Karachi. We have been handed back to the rule of tyranny. It seems Karachi has not shed enough tears, has not lost enough blood.

Even though Karachi contributes massively to Pakistan’s economy, and continues to display unflinching resilience in their daily lives, it seems the people of Karachi have been assigned to the dustbins of Pakistan’s national matters. Are just and fair elections really too much to ask? Is it too much to ask of the media to give fair coverage to the undeniable expression of truth on the streets of Karachi that the elections were massively and shamefully rigged, and that the current results DO NOT represent the mandate of the people?

A lot of pseudo-intellectuals have done nothing but expressed dissent over the protests, mocking it as unruly behaviour and a means to disturb the stability of Karachi. How stable exactly, is Karachi in its current state may I ask? How safe is it for a citizen to roam on the streets? How safe is it for someone to question illegal protection money, and the use of force to effect acquiescence?

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Why does the protests of JI and PTI irk you so much? Which of their demands does not seem reasonable? Why has fighting for your rights become such a degradable concept? Did the people who mock us really think change would come without any agitation? Did you have in mind that people were going to smile and accept the absolute thuggery displayed on the polling stations? The whole city witnessed first hand the hi-jacking of polling stations, the by-force ballot paper stamping, the stamps without ID cards, the screening of pro-MQM voters and the theft of polling rights of the people who weren’t. What, did the people mocking the protests think no one is going to revolt?

Loopholes in ECP preparations were already made before elections. JI most of all, had repeatedly highlighted the pre-polls manipulation being orchestrated in Karachi. JI’s decision to boycott elections, questioned by many, has now proved right. MQM is pushing to grant re-elections only in NA 250, the seat where PTI made its stand by not boycotting. However, PTI stance has to be respected. These political games are new to them and Karachi is a deadly game. Keeping that in mind, PTI has responded admirably and courageously, led by Arif Alvi. He has emerged as a fine leader in the wake of Imran Khan’s injury. He has connected with the people and given Karachi a new voice. People may degrade this as a burger movement, but it is far from it. It seems people have wanted to stand against Muttehda’s domination for years and now they have got a voice they feel proudly affiliated with.

It is very disturbing to see that in crunch time, the very torchbearers of democracy and freedom are questioning Karachi’s right to exercise their freedom of choice. All those expressing dissent at Karachi protests, know that if we succeed, you will go down in the footnotes of history as people who indirectly backed oppression and the bullying of Karachi citizens.

Re-elections in Karachi are not important only for the number of seats to be gained. They are important because it is Karachi’s right to choose fairly. Even if MQM wins and they probably will, re-elections are called for in the belief that the results will show the true representation of the political parties involved.

Victories of nearly 200,000 votes affected through rigging are an effective method to stifle hope in Karachiites. Victory by small margins on the other hand, will give Karachi hope. And by God, if fair elections are held, Karachi will prove just how close they have come to ousting corrupt parties from power in Karachi.

PTI Shahra-e-Faisal Dharna - joined by Dr. Merajul Huda JI

PTI Shahra-e-Faisal Dharna – joined by Dr. Merajul Huda JI

The people of Karachi, quite frankly, are frustrated. They are tired. I was there at Shahra-e-Faisal, people are ready to stand for something. That is an acheivement. They are tired of being mugged, tired of being killed, tired of being held hostage to the whims of non-representative political clashes. Most importantly, people find it impossible to wait for another five years for justice. For if they back down now, who can guarantee the next General Elections will not be rigged?

Muttehda, through media statements in the last three days have shown Karachi how they have alienated the people of Karachi from rest of Pakistan. Terming the protests burger, and a clash of classes, is the rhetoric they have used to maintain the safety of its voters. These are bold statements, when you consider Sardar Nabeel Gabol’s transformation into Nabeel Gabol Bhai. Today, we are nothing. Just heartbroken citizens of Karachi. Our city remains hi-jacked.

This is a call from a wronged Karachiite. Keep the protests going! Day 4 – PTI and JI keep the anti-rigging protests ALIVE.

The problem with PTI supporters

In all certainty, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf seems to be heading towards majorly shifting the voting dynamics of Pakistan. Their senior management has displayed ingenuity and used their great charisma to gather and rally support for their party. On the front, they have devised a decent political manifesto and brought into limelight leaders from different factions of the society a.k.a Asad Umer, former-CEO of Engro Corporation. They have managed to bring an average Pakistani citizen to yearn for change, to proclaim their allegiance and yes, turned a majority of the apolitical population in Pakistan into political enthusiasts. We must concede this acheivement to PTI.

However, the same cannot be said about the average PTI supporter. The campaign has injected, or should I say intoxicated mass PTI supporters with self-righteousness of sickening proportions. Their campaign owes alot to PTI’s solid social media team. Coupled with that, their supporters have aided the party in launching massive smear campaigns against almost every party contesting elections.

Suddenly, it seems that the only logical, the only sane, the only PATRIOTIC choice left for a Pakistani voter is to vote for PTI. Their supporters would have you believe that PTI is the only sincere party, the only voice of truth, the sole Messiah. No other party deserves attention, no voter of any other party can vote with a clear conscience, no other voter can lay claim to patriotism, and that no other voter wants welfare for Pakistan. It would seem that Imran Khan has waved his magic wand, and all other members of his party (including a significant number of members being most interestingly plucked from other parties) have been miraculously cleansed.

PTI supporters would have you believe Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Imran Khan is Albus Dumbledore. All other parties are various versions of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eater cronies. Unfortunately, the world is yet not quite so simple.

Talat Hussain gives food for thought

Talat Hussain gives food for thought

As the election has come closer, their supporters have become increasingly rash and illogical. Even granted that the youth will show signs of immaturity, the level of immaturity on display has been shocking. In addition to this, often PTI supporters have resorted to serious cyber harassment and abuse on social media. In their haste and anger to question your beliefs, your patriotism, your morals and faith, they won’t hesitate to crucify their own members. Shireen Mazari and Imaan Mazari would attest to that. I would love to quote Edmund Burke here,

“The most important of all revolutions, a revolution in sentiments, manners and moral opinions”.

The most important point I want to raise here is, can you really lead a revolution or change based on hateful rhetorics? Will this serve to unite the country, or only serve to unite only those that have not yet decided to vote for anyone, under the umbrella of PTI? Is this behaviour not creating further polarity among the people of Pakistan? The majority of PTI supporters are high on ‘change’ and ‘revolution’. What I can see in the future however, is PTI boasting student / youth federations with weaponised wings. For hand them weapons, and there may be no difference between them, and any other party in the future. PTI has a trigger-happy voter base waiting for self-destruction.

I can’t help but quote a beautiful message from Martin Luther King,

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies, ‘or else’? The chain reaction of evil, hate begetting hate and wars producing more wars must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”

He couldn’t have said it better.

Who will guard the guards? Headlights on the Media – 1

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      ‘ or

Who will guard the guards?

    – This my friends, is a quote to be revered.

I first read it in Dan Brown’s novel Digital Fortress.The original quote is in Latin; in both languages it sounds poetic to me, and perhaps it is eerily prophetic.

The phrase, originates from the poet Juvenal, the Roman satirist who mentioned this phrase in his collection of Satires. In relation to Juvenal’s poem, the quote questions the possibility and effectiveness of enforcing a defined moral behaviour on women, when the enforcers themselves were not free from corruption.

The latin extention of the quote is:

audio quid ueteres olim moneatis amici,
“pone seram, cohibe.” sed quis custodiet ipsos
custodes?
cauta est et ab illis incipit uxor.

The english version of this phrase (and feminists are going to love it) translates to:

I hear always the admonishment of my friends:
“Bolt her in, constrain her!” But who will guard
the guardians?
The wife plans ahead and begins with them.

In modern times however, the phrase has been used to express concerns on excessively imposing governments and oppressing dictatorships. It would be unjust though, to restrict the application of the quote solely in reference to the pre-determined guards of society (the government & its security forces). The time has come, infact it can be safely declared that it has been long overdue, when the application of this quote must be extended to the televised, online and print media.

I cannot help but feel that the media has violated our fundamental right to be able to think on an individual level. I cannot help but fear that this collective bombardment of like-minded ideas is saturating the limits of what an average human brain can evaluate and absorb rationally. I cannot help but feel and it is but natural, that as the rationale of the human brain is exhausted, it is extracting further sustenance from irrationality, or radicalism. When I mention radicalism, do not confuse it with the terminology associated with Islamic extremism.

When the thoughts and beliefs of various personalities are expressed on individual locations, it gives the audience allowance for a wider degree of thought dispersion. For example, I, along with thousands of others, run individual blogs in which we say what we want to. When you read a person’s message on an individual location, you may choose to accept or refute an individual’s idea.

But what about online content control of expression of thought when you write for the major blogs? Who guards what blogs, stories and thought streams they run as a collective unit, when they nitpick the right contributions and choose what to run? Who challenges the globally practiced editorial policy of making changes in headers and / or content of articles, news runs or investigative reports? Who checks what kinds of media campaigns are being run, what is the campaign’s ultimate objective and who verifies the financiers behind the media campaigns? A collective thought is far more powerful in its effect and is more likely to be thought of as a representative sample of the overall population. Hence, more likely than not, it will influence your mind and your beliefs. The problem is further exacerbated by the changing of news / article headers. Headings are signposts that focus the reader on the most important content in a piece of writing. Through the heading, the viewer constructs a visual image of the core message, and judges the news / article for the same, regardless of its contents. One must realize and accept that there are few souls with complete conviction; and such channels, newspapers and blogs are ripe tools to mould minds which are either devoid of individual beliefs, or are caught in the throes of confusion.

I write this with the realization that people rooted in the media will not hold the same thoughts as I do, but I feel I must express my concerns out in public at least, and challenge the legitimacy of the idea and philosophy that the media, the Fourth Estate, as described by Thomas Carlyle, and as used by Jeffrey Archer in his novel to great effect, is the beacon of morality, truth, and justice; and above all, is independent!

For any media / news agency that needs to tell the public how diligent, moral and honest they are, and even that through advertisements run on its own channels, cannot hope to instill a vote of confidence in its viewers, can it? You know an entity is truly lost when it needs to market its sense of justice, and honesty.

I plan to write more about the issues that trouble me in regarding the pathways selected for communication with the masses. At this point in time, my objective was to question the accepted principle of giving the media free reign. In the coming weeks and months, I hope to further develop my thoughts, my beliefs, and share them with you. Your comments of agreement or disagreement, will be highly appreciated. This is merely my thought process in development.

The anarchy of peaceful protests – a classic oxymoron

Could they have done anything different? Could the protests have been any other way? I mean, we all know by now that almost none of the prominent religious scholars can be trusted to raise an unconditional voice against the madness that comes automatically programmed into an average Pakistani protestor. It also remains undisputed that the large-scale protests were nothing, if not political. All religious groups and parties have proven beyond all doubt that presently, the religious scholars of this country are not fit to lead anyone.

So who can?

It may be fair to conclude that most of them did not want what ensued a month ago. However, none of them have displayed the courage of going against the popular norm. None of them publicly denounced with conviction the chaos that was taking place. No, their tone, their stance against the angry mob was how one friend might talk to another close yet misguided friend; ‘Yes I understand what you are doing and why you’re doing it, I know , I am hurt too, but please don’t do it.’

  

It’s come to a point where you’ve got to ask, ‘Who are they kidding?”. I mean, we have a long and colorful history of mass protests in which we have repeatedly exposed our distasteful disposition to violent behavior. Are our religious leaders really that naïve? Is their shock and surprise at the destructive nature of the mob really genuine? I don’t believe it, but if they expected something different, it would only go on to confirm the level of their disillusionment with reality!

As much as it saddens me to say it, for I have been a firm believer in the mantle of leadership being borne by our religious scholars, this is a combined failure of the whole religious organizational and political structure. The notion that we can be led and guided by them in these testing times has come crashing around our feet. Their wisdom and their politics both have disappointed me. The idea of religious leadership is dead.

This is what @tazeen had tweeted about them, and to which I fully agree:

Why is the protesters’ leadership called Ulma-e-Karaam by all the TV channels, surely we all know that they are hooligans.

Mufti Naeem on TV the other day, publicly denounced these acts and yet he had the audacity to talk about them in a polite and understanding manner, asking protestors to please go home and that God will reward them for their emotions and actions.

   

Does that not confuse you about the message they are trying to convey? Are our religious scholars not aware that an unruly faction is always waiting for such mass protests to create havoc, burn and loot valuables and public property? Do they not themselves recognize these events as an opportunity to promote their own agendas and display their hypnotic power over the masses, and do the protests not waiver strictly from the original purpose to everything deemed un-islamic? Why were banks and cinemas attacked and American flags trodden on and burned if that’s not the case? Their leadership and mandate has no direction; their political statements are more or less garbled insults at everything American (they are well aware of how much an average Pakistani likes to hear that).

   

On Saturday at Jauhar Chowrangi, a religious party had laid down an American flag on the road and took pictures as cars drove over it. I am greatly saddened for currently, there is no future for this country if such religious leaders continue to hold power over the masses. A peaceful protest in Pakistan is just a myth.

If you go on a social media round, as I’m sure most of you have already done, you might go on to question who the heck is on the roads when most of us seem to be in agreement on not resorting to violent discourse and adopting peaceful and more beneficial means of countering such anti-islamic propaganda. But then we all know that the majority does not have access to the internet for a start; a large majority of those who do, have not yet embraced social media. Add to that our unfortunate language barrier. As a result, we, the bloggers and the writers, only seem to be talking and discussing and expressing horror among ourselves! We may occur as intellectuals, but practically, what are we doing other than showing how sharply we can think and how eloquently we can write?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves if our efforts, with all our best intentions, are even sufficient to make a tangible difference. We debate, we argue, we discuss and exchange views. Yet this exchange and development of thoughts is not trickling down to the masses, most of which cannot even read. It’s just a theory, but there’s got to be something wrong in what we are doing. Are there any avenues for us to reach the masses? We know Pakistan does not have a vibrant reading culture. Can we reach out to the masses in a better way? Can large communities be educated through seminars and schools?

I am stumped to be honest. The only way I see to improve the situation is to break through the barrier between the intellectuals and the mere followers. How can we do that? Let’s generate ideas and share our thoughts. I am sure that when all of us start to think in these terms; we will come up with great ideas to expand the information flow from a trickle to a river.

The majority of our people only get to listen to the perpetually inflammatory media and the sermons of the self-appointed representatives of religion that are well aware that they are their only source of knowledge.

We must challenge that source. 

Racism, and the disease within

There’s a famous Chris Rock (one of my favorite comedians) question: ‘Who’s more racist, Black people or White people? BLACK PEOPLE! Why? Cuz they hate black people too! Anything white people don’t like about a nigger, black people REALLLYY don’t like about a nigger!’

 

You’ve often heard of the word racism – and its automatic connection with the whites and the Asians/Africans/Blacks/Pakistanis. On too many occasions, we see people bleating about how our nation is a victim of racism from the outside world, specially the West. Too many times, you see people frothing spit in anger at how we are looked down at, treated with disdain.

I’ve been observing this for a fair bit of time and I can’t help being disgusted by the hypocrisy of it all. When was the last time we did not think about the racial background of a person while dealing with them? Punjabi, Bengali, Pakhtun, Sindhi, isn’t this how we categorise each other? Shia, Sunni, Bohri, Parsi isn’t that how we are divided? Isn’t it just absolute fun to snigger at a peculiar accent? We might get away with claiming all of that to be in good fun, but in reality, every mockery is borne from some background of prejudice. Why is the term Bengali such a gaali now? Why is the Pushto community the brunt of all jokes? The prejudice and scorn has reached an unprecedented level of sickness.  

Let’s face it; we all are racists of the highest degree. In our minds, racism only exists between the West and us! It doesn’t occur to us that when we laugh at the way someone talks or cringe at someone’s looks or their skin colour, we ARE being racists. We have a tendency to listen with open ears to a person who’s speaking good English. There’s a general unconscious assumption that speaking fluent English automatically grants you a 160 + I.Q! We tend to be intimidated and over-awed when confronting a local who’s jabbering away in rapid English. Our accents, our dialect: changes. Turning our faces into dismissive walnuts, we suddenly start waving hands to look more impressive.

Now let’s look at the role the media plays. We wake and sleep with ideas that our media feeds us. If you’re a girl, you BETTER be Snow White if you wanna get married. If you’re a guy, having a clean shave would give you the best chicks. The resultant is the metrosexual craze among men, adopting standards set by showbiz and media. White and ONLY White is the acceptable colour. Does it occur to us how racist a nation we are? We ridicule our own people, our own colour, our own clothes, and our own ethnicity – in short a nation overwhelmed by an acute inferiority complex; a nation desperately trying to act, sound and live like the West! 

The accent issue is something which concerns the youth the most. I’ve never understood why it is embarrassing or funny if someone speaks in a different accent. The day we realise that an accent is not a fault, but a representation of a part of our country, a symbol of the diversity of our culture and simply….natural, we would stop being condescending towards them. There’s nothing cool about me if I can communicate in good English. Sure it helps me in my career, but how does that make me superior? What’s the big deal if my accent sounds acceptable when I blurt out some English words? Why shouldn’t a person having a Punjabi, Sindhi or let’s say a Memon accent be respected for the idea they have? The problem: we have grown far too ignorant and intolerant to think seriously about these issues. A large reason of these prejudices and mockeries should be credited to the grand schemes of politicians that need this hatred to drive their vote bank and to keep the communities away; for distrust leads to insecurity which leads to fear that leads to clutching at straws of hope. For the masses, those straws of hope are the politicians that claim to represent their ethnic identity!

Each one of us takes pride in the community we represent. We want to belong. Somewhere or the other, we just want to be part of a club. There was ample evidence of that in the last elections. We are more patriotic about our preferred parties than about Pakistan. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen Pakistani flags adorned with the same passion that I saw people adorning their respective party flags, shouting Siraiki, Muhajir, Sindhi and Pushto slogans. Outrageous slogans telling our own people that OUR SPECIFIC community is different and SO MUCH BETTER than yours. Isn’t this racism?

I have walked around my campus; I move in different circles. And … I see naked revulsion and contempt in the eyes of students, for people who are either dark or greasy, or lack the Tom Cruise/Kournikova looks, or are simply un-cool by their standards. The term maila is what they use for anyone they do not think belongs to their class. Accept it or not, inside every one of us knows that even if to a minor extent, shades of racism exist in our own self. The media of the sub-continent is rife with open and un-censured mockery of fat and black people. Fat and Black looks so offensive the way I blurted the words out, doesn’t it? Isn’t it sad that it doesn’t look a bit offensive when films are shown where these people are openly ridiculed to make other people laugh? There’s a fine line between humour and humiliation, and we do not seem to know the difference between the two. 

We judge people by a criterion that should be the most irrelevant. THIS is racism. Our battle for supremacy over each other has drifted us apart and I fear, if not resolved sooner … we’ll be diving headfirst into a deep abyss. I think it’s high time we learn to differentiate between what’s natural and what’s fake. What is ‘us’ and what is ‘them’. What we ill ‘ALWAYS’ be and what we can ‘NEVER’ be. Most of all, we must embrace our culture and respect what we are. Only then, can we rise as a proud nation. Only THEN, do we hold the right to complain against racism from the west, only then.

 

 

 

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