Thursday, December 06, 2007

Akbar's Secret Room

Akbar's Secret Room
Originally uploaded by Stuck in Customs
"stuck in custom" makes an interesting point about Akbar's secret room in Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra india.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf prepares to drop army role

The Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, conducted what the Pakistani military said was a round of farewell calls to the country's armed forces Tuesday, a day before officials say he will relinquish his role of chief of the army.

read more | digg story

Monday, November 19, 2007

"The Country is Normal"

I have been tired of reading about the so called most dangerous country in the world (Pakistan)depicted as engulfed in near-war and terrorism and total civic chaos and unrest... There is virtually no news of life going on as normal in the media.. In this scenario this particular letter presents a completely different picture of Pakistan which is a refreshing break from the typical journalism... Here is an excrept:

The country is normal

PUBLIC response to protest calls of political parties against the imposition of emergency and the PCO is ridiculously poor. Common man’s life in the country is unaffected. Marketplaces are wide open, public transport plying in full and shoppers are busy buying what they need unhampered. Similarly government offices as also private sector organizations and schools, colleges and universities are functioning normally.

So, a handful of lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and hired workers of political parties, I understand, cannot make any difference to President Pervaiz Musharraf’s programme of what he calls smooth and peaceful transition to democracy. More..

Friday, November 09, 2007

Iftikhar ready to meet president for judiciary's cause

After about a week of speculations on the role of the pre-emergency Supreme Court of Pakistan's upcoming verdict on the legitimacy of the rule of Gen./President Musharaf, we hear for the first time from the MAN himself. Chief Justice speaks up denying the link...

read more | digg story

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Citizens Challenge Emergency Rule in Pakistan

A record on dissenting views and public action, peoples initiatives from Nov. 3, 2007 on.

read more | digg story

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Emergency in Pakistan, Nov. 2007

There is a lot out there regarding the what and why of the current state of affairs in Pakistan. In general the Pakistani media, intelligentsia and unhappy politicians, has taken a negative stance on the whole scenario.

Here are some highlights from various sources on the question of what and why.

Musharraf tries to stifle outcry over emergency rule
By Simon Cameron-Moore and Zeeshan Haider Sun Nov 4, 6:18 AM ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Police detained hundreds of Pakistani opposition figures and lawyers on Sunday as military ruler President Pervez Musharraf tried to stifle the outcry over the imposition of emergency powers. Read more

Times of India
US prepares to live with another Pak coup
4 Nov 2007, 2250 hrs IST,Chidanand Rajghatta,TNN

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration has signaled that it will be business as usual with Pakistan despite the declaration of emergency and a crack down on civil liberties by its military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

The US provides almost $ 2 billion in annual aid to Pakistan, including of lethal weapons systems like F-16s fighter jets and Cobra helicopter gunships, ostensibly for the war on terror. Pakistan is now Washington's third largest overall aid recipient in the world after Israel and Egypt.

Daily News (Pakistani Newspaper)
Musharraf’s second half-baked martial law
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: General Pervez Musharraf has earned the dubious distinction of being the first-ever Army chief in the country’s history to have suspended the Constitution twice and imposed a half-baked martial law against his own government.

Interestingly, on both occasions he took this extra-constitutional step to secure his own office — previously as the Army chief and now his Presidency.

No matter what justification he offers, everyone knows that Saturday’s suspension of the Constitution was aimed at countering the anticipated judgment of the Supreme Court against his re-election as the President of Pakistan. All and sundry, he was sure that the 11-member larger bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal was all set to nullify his October 6th re-election for the next term. Read on

Dawn Editorial on the 4th of Nov., 2007
Another move towards absolutism

SO we are back to square one. Back to Oct 12, 1999. All the gains over the years have gone down the drain. All this talk about the forward thrust towards democracy, about the impending 'third phase' of the political process and the lip service to the sanctity of judiciary turned out to be one great deception. The people have been cheated. In a nutshell, one-man rule has been reinforced, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel — a tunnel that is dark and winding with an end that is perhaps blocked. The reports about emergency rule were denied umpteenth times by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The denials were bogus. From now on it would simply be a waste of newspaper space and channel time if ever a denial by this government is printed or aired. Read on

Daily Dawn, Cowasjee Corner on 4th Nov., 2007
Law, order and justice
By Ardeshir Cowasjee

DAY after day it is becoming increasingly obvious — to ourselves and to the rest of the world which has any interest in us — that we have recently climbed down from the treetops but have yet to lose our tails.

Power and pelf remain the name of the game — the order of the day. Our ‘leaders’, those who assume power unto themselves utilising whatever means may be necessary, lose little time in deciding that they are the ‘chosen ones’ (some even invoking the name of the Almighty).

Friday, November 02, 2007

House Passes Superferry Bill

The Hawaii Supperferry issue has escalated into a complex legal battle...

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Book recommendations

The What Should I Read Next? website suggests items you might like reading based on real readers' recommendations.
I searched for The Kite Runner and these
were the results:

The Bookseller of Kabul
- Asne Seierstad
Family Matters
- Rohinton Mistry
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
- Lisa See
House of Sand and Fog
- Andre Dubus III
Year of Wonders
- Geraldine Brooks
The Amateur Marriage
- Anne Tyler
Strange Fits of Passion
- Anita Shreve
Snow in August
- Pete Hamill
Pope Joan
- Donna Woolfolk Cross
Shes Come Undone

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who is a Shaheed (martyr) in Jamia Hafsa Operation

We the people of the Islamaic Repubic of Pakistan cannot decide who is a Shaheed and who is not, in the battle of Lal Masjid and the recent Operation Silence..

The government is declaring all of its own casualties (army, rangers etc) as shaheed and anyone who is killed from the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa side as "killed".... And, of course they have to do it, otherwise how can they justify their actions....

But, thinking philosophically and religiously, how do we know who is really a shaheed and who is not!!! In this scenario, at least the media should not take government's side in ''judging' who is really a shaheed..... Because, according the my observation, so far the media has emerged as the strongest voice for common people's sentiments and is the only source of any credible information...... but by doing so, they act like a mouthpiece of the government, rather than an independent entity..

May be we can leave it to history to decide that who was a martyr in this battle....

Some blogs and news about the Jamia Hafsa Issue

(sorry for the haphazard arrangment)

Selected blogs:

Some News Pieces

12 July: 73 bodies recovered at end of mosque siege, (Guardian)
Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's prime minister, declared victory in the fight for the Red Mosque yesterday as commandos gained control of the compound after a 36-hour battle.

"The operation is over," he said after the last rattle of gunfire echoed from the Islamabad mosque. Civilian casualties were lower than expected, he said, and no women or children had been killed.

12 July: Bodies found at Pakistan mosque (BBC)
Soldiers overran the mosque amid fierce gun battlesThe Pakistani army says it has found 73 bodies inside a mosque compound in Islamabad, after fierce battles between soldiers and gunmen inside. Officials said the Red Mosque, or Lal Masjid, complex had been cleared of militants but troops were combing the area for booby traps and explosives.

10 July: Seeing red in Pakistan (The Hindu)
Once the dust has settled on the violent Lal Masjid episode, many will argue that Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf could have handled things differently. Already a 37-party political alliance, comprising among others, Nawaz Sharif's PML-N and Imran Khan's Tehreek e-Insaf, has been set up which has condemned Operation Silence in which the Pakistani army has taken on fundamentalists holed up in the mosque. More than 50 militants and at least 10 soldiers have been killed so far.....

July 4 morning
According the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP):

“The government has set the Wednesday [4th July] 1100 hours deadline for Lal Masjid student to surrender their weapons, said Secretary Information and Broadcasting Syed Anwar Mahmood.Briefing media, the Secretary Information said, the government has offered a safe passage to women and children of Jamia Hafsa and has ensured them full protection.”

From youtube:
4th July 2007 : Massive Street Battle in Pakistan's Capital
Army versus Muslim Militants (
The following video is embedded in the above blog:

March 31, 2007
Pakistan: "Moral" Muslim Women Kidnap And Tie Up Baby
(historical context of the rise of the Jamia Hafsa)

Fact Box from Reuters

(Reuters) - The head of a radical Pakistani mosque at the centre of a stand-off with security forces, Abdul Aziz, was arrested on Wednesday while trying to escape clad in a woman's burqa, officials said.

Here are some facts about the mosque, where hardline Islamist students have been confronting the government since January:

- Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, is regarded as a symbol of radical Islam in Pakistan. It was established in 1965 by Muhammad Abdullah, a cleric believed to have had close ties to dictator General Zia-ul-Haq.

- About 5,000 students study at the two madrasas (seminaries) attached to the mosque.

- The mosque is well known for its criticism of the government and anti-U.S. and pro-Taliban sentiments. Abdul Aziz took over as the chief cleric after the assassination of his father, Abdullah, in 1998.

- He issued a fatwa, or religious decree, in 2005 declaring that Pakistani soldiers killed fighting militants in the northern tribal areas could not be given Muslim funeral rites.

- After the July 2005 bombings in London, police attempted to raid the mosque and the adjoining seminary to investigate its link with one of the bombers. Security forces were prevented from entering the compound by baton-wielding women.

- The mosque has been at odds with the authorities since January when female students occupied a library next door to protest against the destruction of mosques illegally built on state land. The students also pressured owners of music and video shops to close.


March 27 - Burqa-clad female students from the mosque's Jamia Hafsa school abduct three women they accuse of running a brothel. The women are released after they "repent".

Background story of the Red Mosque from Guardian (Western and Modern Version)
The Red Mosque is at the heart of fears that "Talibanisation" is spreading in Pakistan. Its students have tried to violently impose their strict social code on the capital by abducting prostitutes, threatening CD shop owners and defying police. They are led by brothers Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Abdul Aziz, who boast of meeting Osama bin Laden. Until Tuesday Musharraf was reluctant to take them on, saying he feared violence could spread. But critics accuse him of manipulating the crisis to bolster support among Western allies. - Guardian Unlimited ©

A brief timeline of the Jamia Hafsa from Geo website

Text of HRCP Press Release on Lal Masjid incidence

Press Release

10th July, 2007

Probe into Lal Masjid bungling must

LAHORE: A high-level, independent inquiry into the Lal Masjid operation, the clumsy manner in which it was carried and the deaths of an as yet undisclosed number of persons is essential.

HRCP is appalled by the killing of so many, by the disproportionate use of brute force and the arbitrary action taken to deal with the situation.

The question of the long delay in the conduct of the Lal Masjid operation, the confusion over the game plan under which ulema and government members conducted negotiations with Lal Masjid clerics and the lack of a clear-cut strategy regarding those who voluntary surrendered must also be probed. The absence of a coordinated plan in this regard hampered the operation and added to the confusion prevailing amongst people across the country. The homage paid by government members and others over the last many years to clerics such as those running the Lal Masjid and the obsequious manner in approaching them has also quite obviously emboldened them.

The situation at the Lal Masjid did not crop up overnight. The build-up of arms and the training in their use imparted to students had obviously continued for years, with the help and connivance of authorities. It also defies belief that the authorities learnt of the presence of alleged militants within the masjid only hours before the operation. The whereabouts of these individuals should not have been unknown to the vast intelligence network based in Islamabad.

Even now other seminaries exist, where militants are trained and arsenals of arms stocked. The existence and location of these seminaries are well known to authorities Indeed, the violent events seen at the Lal Masjid are an outcome of the collusion between the military and militants backed by the clergy that has continued for decades.

The allegation that women and children were used as a human shield by militants at the Lal Masjid is appalling. Such exploitation of children by seminaries must end and an investigation made into the exemption granted to the seminary from regulating and monitoring its pupils.

The government, with its ham-handed handling of the situation, has in fact created the potential for further problems ahead. The deaths of so many at the hands of State forces may act only to pave the way for greater extremism in society and support for the violent cause militants espouse.

Asma Jahangir

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Jamia Hafsa 'Operation'

8.28 am Pak Stanadard time, Thursday the 12th of July. This is the 10th day of the Jamia Hafsa "Operation" and the Lal Masjid battle...

During these last 12 days I went through totally different set of opinions and solutions for the so called problem... Initially, when the Lal Masjid issue started in the afternoon of the 3rd of July, I thought it is just a minor skirmish between the government and the 'militant' students of the attached seminary Jamia Hafsa.. I was totally with the government and passionately advocated for eradicating militant Islam from Pakistan and was of the view that who are these people to start self policing the nation, when we have fully functional state to do that.. And, that the state has right to establish is writ, whenever and wherever someone tries to create a state within state...

However, with the passage of each minute, hour and day the situation became worse and worse and the fact and figures muddier and muddies... In the beginning, I was really angry at the government for allowing the problem to grow at this proportion that and not taking any severe action early on, like in February when the students took control of the adjacent students library and later in March their attack on a brothel racket run by "Aunty Shamim" and on 23rd (?) June the abduction of 6 Chinese women from a massage parlour which proved to be the straw that broke the back of the camel. In this context, the government deployed rangers (late June ??) in the nearby areas of the mosque and the madrassa (I saw the rangers and student militants holding their positions on 1st of July (from the Sunday Market) and after another incidence of the seminar students' snatching of guns from some policemen from a nearby area, the government launched its retaliation with tear gas... The others answered with their Kalashnikoves.... Exchange of fires continued off and on.. the whole G-6 sector was under curfew all of a sudden, giving no chance to the residents to prepare for emergency or leave the area, if possible....During the stand off of 10 days, the government lost some of its precious officers, unknown number of students died, ~1200-1400 students surrendered (many of whom were taken to adiala jail and unknown places)....

... However, 10 days down the line and a faithful reporting of the private television channels, Geo, ARY and AAJ I am angry at government only and want to really believe in the conspiracy theory that this was all a sham to divert media attention from other burning issues affecting Pakistan, like the case of Chief Justice, pre-monsoon floods devastating Balochistan and Sindh, and most importantly the All Parties Conference (APC) which was held in parallel in exactly those days on the Lal Masjid operation was on its peak.

I don't have any questions to the Officials of the Lal Masjid, and assuming they were militants, I absolve them from any responsibility of answering the nation. However, I want to question the government of Pakistan (and I am not alone in this), that how come they had no clue about the collection of such huge level of artillery and armaments in Lal masjid and Jamia hafsa complex, located in the heart of Islamabad.... How come they did not know anything about the movement of foreign militants living there and where was government when they built this sophisticated seminary for girls, on an illegal land, fitted with its own underground bunkers and underground cells which are inter-connected and further connected with the top minarets... This construction, collection of arms and training of students in warfare did not take place in days... I cannot believe that Pakistani intelligence was not aware of it!!!!

The issue started on 3rd July and continued in a stand off situation till the night of 9th of July when the government was apparently trying to break a deal with the deputy Khatib of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdur Rashid Ghazi (shaheed now).... and somehow a twist in the negotiations happened in the late hours and around 3.30 am the government decided to declare that the negotiations has failed and launched "Operation Silence" against Jamia Hafsa... The building stated collapsing under heavy shelling and firing of bullets... The mother of Maulana Ghazi died around 7-8 am and he himself parted with life around 11 am..

The so called operation is complete now.. Now the government is "washing" the seminary to remove all traces of atrocities and innocent lives gone... The media is still not allowed to go there as the government is fully aware that the sentimental nation of Pakistanis may revolt against the state if they 'see' all that blood and body pieces.. I think this is the saddest period in history of Pakistan, not in terms of casualties, but in terms of the treatment of our government of the ordinary people. At the moment, the media seems to be very neutral and is challenging the government on its intelligence failure and collateral damage, and government is blatantly avoiding answers or accepting the fact that they were really unaware of such level of sophistication warfare machinery in the heart of the capital.

Let's see what happens now... I am not very hopeful.. Already many of ordinary people think that "this was done" to make the USA and UK happy.... And, to prove those people right, 2 F-16 fighter planes reached Pakistan exactly the moment when the death news of Ghazi Abdur Rashid was announced on television. There are many other events which people correlate and in the absence of a credible source of information, I don't blame people believing in conspiracy theories... While there are many who are appalled at the attack of a mosque and seminary, at the same time there are others who firmly believe that government should crush such movements so that in future no one should dare to stand against the state. I think this event has created the biggest chasm in the civil society of Pakistan and may escalate into a full fledged civil war.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

World Bank Reproductive Health Strategy

World Bank Reproductive Health Strategy

Serra Sippel, Center for Health and Gender Equity on May 8, 2007 - 8:45am

The Bush administration has gained notoriety for using women's health as a pawn in catering to its ultra-conservative political base. Particularly noticeable is its attempts to narrow the scope in which international agreements and agencies address sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as attempting to remove references to reproductive rights and access to reproductive health services in UN documents, cutting off U.S. funding for UNFPA, and trying to restrict WHO positions on abortion and generic drugs. To this administration, women are always dispensable.

Read the complete blog:


You can access the final HNP Strategy document here: . The report Annexes
can be accessed on the World Bank website .

The failure of Pakistani feminism by Rafia Zakaria

The failure of Pakistani feminism, by Rafia Zakaria

JH represents failure of Pakistani feminism — Rafia Zakaria The Jamia Hafsa women have made a conscious choice to be part of a violent and radical campaign. But this choice represents the failure of Pakistani feminism to formulate an equally compelling, competing discourse that could truly empower them

The pictures of burqa-clad, baton-wielding women of Jamia Hafsa have made it to the newspapers and TV channels across the globe. For those Pakistanis who do not support their militant brand of vigilante justice (and there are many), these women are a bold and taunting illustration of the increasing Talibanisation of Pakistani society.

Questions abound. But the most important one has not been asked: why would these women choose a militant and radical brand of Islam, one that ultimately preaches the subservience of women, as their vehicle to political action?

Answering this question, and analysing why these women have launched a campaign that so brazenly challenges the state reveals important truths about the state of Pakistani feminism and its failure to provide a political and ideological discourse that could avert this very scenario.

It is important to pay close attention to the extremist discourse that has attracted these women. According to newspaper reports, the women of Jamia Hafsa are not just from Islamabad; most belong to religiously conservative families from all over Pakistan. The fact that they have travelled and live without their families in the madrassah represents the legitimising power that religious conservatism has provided them.

By donning the burqa and adopting the radical and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam espoused by the Lal Masjid establishment, they have rid themselves of the shackles of familial restriction in a way previously unknown to them. While it is true that the power they wield with the burqa and the stick is ultimately designed to impose an order that would all but eliminate their power in the public sphere, it is nevertheless heady and intoxicating in its ability to transform these women from being the receivers to becoming the perpetrators of violence.

The association of women’s empowerment with wealth and moral laxity is a disease that has afflicted Pakistani feminism for decades, the founders of it being women from the elites, who needed a social cause to ease the boredom of long days spent in luxurious villas. In recent years, with the advent of the NGO boom, Pakistani feminism has to some extent redefined itself and expanded its denizens to include liberal, educated middle-class women in urban areas. Despite this, it still remains largely limited to those who can speak the language of women’s rights as a result of English-medium education and the freedom afforded by liberal middle-class families who do not frown on co-education or working outside the home.

But few within the liberal NGO cadres have attempted to challenge the virulent combination of Islamic literalism and traditional patriarchy or engage with women from religiously conservative families. Also, disturbingly absent from the NGO discourse are uneducated women; women who work as maids in urban homes, poor women, rural women and those who have to wear the burqa so they will be permitted to get an education.

When these poor, rural or religiously conservative women do appear in the discourse of Pakistani feminism they appear always as the victim, being defended or empowered by their more educated, liberal counterparts. Other categories of women are somehow never envisioned as the stalwarts of the struggle towards women’s empowerment. Indeed, many women who professionally champion feminist causes never seem to realise the relevance of issues of economic equality and human dignity when dealing with their own female domestic workers. This double standard of who defines Pakistani feminism was most evident in the wake of Mukhtar Mai’s ascendance to fame and popularity. Many “empowered” Pakistani women spoke publicly about how they were offended by the fact that Mukhtar Mai, a rural and uneducated woman, was representing Pakistan internationally.

This double standard and the resulting elitist and exclusionary concept of Pakistani feminism that emerges from it, is in many ways at the heart of the Jamia Hafsa issue. In narrowing in on women excluded from the discourse of the NGO-brand of Pakistani feminism, Maulana Abdur Rashid Ghazi and his brother Abdul Aziz have accomplished a number of things.

First they have, by manipulating the religion, provided these women with a moral vehicle through which they (women) can transcend familial objections and partake of social and political activism. Second, through the use of Islamic doctrine, the Lal Masjid agenda is making a compelling critique of the economic disparities in Pakistani society and capitalising on the belief that women’s empowerment is a cause only for the wealthy and irreligious.

What is often critiqued as “immoral” is the economic exploitation of those who are neither members of the feudal elite nor the political and military classes bestowed with favours. The recent fatwa against Nilofer Bakhtiar, federal minister, is an apt illustration of the strategy. While aimed at the immorality of hugging her French coach, it also makes a compelling statement about the disconnect between a minister for women’s affairs who can go paragliding in France while millions of women in her country cannot leave their houses without a black shroud covering their faces. (Lal Masjid authorities have since denied issuing any fatwa against Ms Bakhtiar.)

This analysis is not meant to illustrate the viability of radical Islam as a vehicle towards women’s empowerment. If anything, I have taken pains to show the tragedy of how the Lal Masjid clerics have manipulated the powerlessness of women to further a grotesquely extremist agenda whose ultimate goal is to subjugate these women even more. The purpose is to show how current discourses in Pakistan on women’s empowerment have to tread beyond the comfortable confines of hotel symposia and rallies; they need to develop strategies that engage the vast swathes of excluded women.

The Jamia Hafsa women have made a conscious choice to be part of a violent and radical campaign. But this choice represents the failure of Pakistani feminism to formulate an equally compelling, competing discourse that could truly empower them.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at

full text is avialble on Daily times.

Pakistan - a state at war with itself, By Lal Khan in Lahore

It is a long scathing commentary on the state of affiars in Pakistan. Agree with most of the description (especially the history) and analysis....I don't think Pakistan can have a succssful socialist movement.

- a state at war with itself, By Lal Khan in Lahore
Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Pakistan - a state at war with itself The situation in Pakistan is marked by the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, the insurgency in Balochistan, the nationalist movement in Sindh, the rise of fundamentalist terror, suicidal attacks, bomb blasts, female Islamic fanatical vigilantes challenging the writ of the state, cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, serious suicidal attempts on Musharraf's own life, the crisis of the judiciary and now the beginning of the civil war in Karachi and elsewhere. This is to name just a few events in the ongoing turmoil in Pakistan. Yet these brutal forces of black reaction that are trying to blow society apart are mostly creations of elements deeply linked the Pakistani state.

After the derailment of the 1968-69 Revolution in Pakistan, the ruling classes brought the vicious Zia military dictatorship to power in 1977 as an act of vengeance against the challenge put up by the working classes to the exploitative rule of capitalism. They were eleven years of the most brutal nightmare in the 60 years of Pakistan's traumatic history. In his recent book, "Frontline Pakistan" Zahid Hussain writing about that period states "Afraid to face a free electorate and having no mandate to govern, the general turned to Allah."

Faced with a rising mass revolt Zia used religious fundamentalism to prolong his reign of terror. In this he was fully supported by the Americans. In this period the CIA was involved in the counter-revolutiona ry "Jihad" against the left wing PDPA government in Afghanistan. The Zia dictatorship was the main executioner of this operation, not just with American consent but with their full support. General Zia infiltrated Islamic fundamentalism within the State and throughout society. Zia-Ul-Haq moved to Islamise the Pakistani army, weaning it away from its secular British traditions. Islamic philosophy became part of the curriculum at the command and staff colleges. With billions of dollars from the US and Saudi Arabia pouring into its kitty, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was turned into a parallel structure wielding enormous power over all aspects of government. Even after Zia's demise, and the so-called democratic interlude of the Benazir and Nawaz Sharif regimes, the stranglehold of the ISI never eased. There were still no significant changes in the control of ISI over foreign policy, the nuclear program and other vital aspects of the state when Musharraf took over through a bloodless military coup in October 1999. Even after 9/11 the ISI continued its logistical and other support for the Islamic fundamentalists' mercenaries in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Central Asia and Pakistan itself. Musharraf did try to rein in the intelligence organizations but with little success. Some of the more fanatical operatives were sidelined, but many more remained in important places from where they have continued to help their reactionary protégés.

In the 2002 elections the ISI had assured Musharraf of a friendly parliament and along with the newly fabricated Pakistan Muslim League (Q) they manufactured the Islamic Alliance MMA that was facilitated into getting into parliament. These mullahs later played a decisive role in getting the 17th amendment passed which legitimized Musharraf's presidency in military uniform. The military continued to patronize the religious right. This explains why veiled and armed women from the Jamia Hafsa can march into a children's library in Islamabad while they are still under their enforced occupation. This could also be why the regime backs down and watches helplessly as those vigilante women assume the role of morale patrons and policing and illegally abduct women and children in the heart of Pakistan's capital.

Apart from religious prejudices the Zia dictatorship and the ISI created other organizations along linguistic, ethnic and chauvinist lines to drive a wedge into the class unity of the proletariat. The most significant was the creation of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) based upon the Urdu speaking immigrants who had moved to Karachi and other cities from UP, CP and other provinces of India. This transmigration was the result of the reactionary partition of the Subcontinent in 1947 on a religious basis. The British imperialists in connivance with the local Hindu and Muslim elite leaders committed this gruesome crime in which more than 2.7 million people were slaughtered in ethnic frenzy. The British and local ruling classes were terrified that the national liberation struggle would pass over into economic and social liberation through a Socialist Revolution. The rise of the MQM was also due to the ebbing of the revolutionary tide that had peaked in the late sixties and early seventies. But the whole process was guided by the agencies of the state. Karachi, which was also known as the Petrograd of Pakistan, has been in the throes of ethnic and sectarian conflicts for almost three decades. The leaders of other national, ethnic and linguistic communities also had a role to play in propping up their own financial interests by whipping up chauvinistic violence between different communities in Karachi.

The MQM and the Jamat-i-Islami are in the forefront of fomenting this reactionary frenzy. MQM is a coalition partner of the present Musharraf dictatorship, the governor of Sindh and other important functionaries of the government also belong to the MQM. Over the weekend of May 12-13 more than 40 people were killed and hundreds injured, one television office was ransacked and the city was under the control of an armed mob belonging to the MQM. This is not the first time that the MQM has been involved in brutal killings and genocide.

This ethnic chauvinist organization has neo-fascist tendencies like the Islamic fundamentalists, and has a history of involvement in extortion, robberies, crime, plunder and assassination in its power belts. Incidentally Musharraf is also a Muhajir (immigrant from India). On May 12 the suspended chief Justice of the Supreme Court was to visit Karachi and address the Sindh Bar. Various political parties had been trying to use this campaign of the lawyers to foist their own political agenda on the movement. Many rallies were planned to welcome the Chief Justice. But the MQM planned with its own government to crush this movement. Hence, the police and state forces stayed away when the MQM vigilantes went on a shooting spree in different areas of the city. The irony is that MQM also organised a huge rally to mourn those who had been killed in this violence!

But the problem for the state is that the Frankenstein monsters that it has created are now getting out of control. Not only is the orgy of violence carried out by the MQM creating a serious law and order problem, but the stooges of the state, the Islamic fundamentalists, MQM and other reactionary outfits are now involved in bloody clashes between each other. The Chief Justice and the Supreme Judiciary who endorsed Musharraf's rule and who have been acting as a safety valve for the regime, now have also fallen apart and the important pillars of the state are colliding with each other.

The campaign around the suspended Chief Justice has attained such significance because there is a burning resentment against the regime throughout society. The dominant political parties are not offering any alternative economic programme. Hence, the vacuum. But historically, due to the corrupt character of the Pakistani ruling classes, they have had to rely on the state more and more to cover up their crimes and corruption. In this process the state, and especially the army, interfered in the economy more and more. Now the largest business entrepreneurs and tycoons in the country are the army generals.

The black money made from the drug trade and arms smuggling, the operations during the Afghan Jihad of the 1980s and later, all brought in large sums of finance capital into different institutions of the state, especially the army and the ISI. These different sections of finance capital represented within the state's military and civilian bureaucracy are now in conflict with each other. These contradictions have now exploded with such intensity that they have brought the conflicts within the state out into the open.

The tragedy is that the PPP is not offering the masses a clear way out from this atrocious situation. It is ironic that while being the traditional party of the masses, its leadership is afraid of the mass movement and is avoiding coming out with the radical socialist programme that is enshrined in its founding documents. Hence the flux and stalemate.

Lenin once said "Politics is concentrated economics". The turmoil and convulsions that have gripped the Pakistani state, society and politics are in reality the reflection of the terrible conditions of the economy itself. The present regime has been able to amass the largest trade deficit and the biggest current account deficit in Pakistan's history. According to the latest World Bank survey 74% of the population lives below the poverty line. The rate of inflation for food products has crossed the 15 % barrier; 82% of the population is forced to use non-scientific medication; 52% of children never get enrolled in a proper primary school; half of those enrolled leave school before completing their primary education and the situation is much worse for girls. Three quarters of the population live below the minimum wage of Rs 4000 (48 euros) per month. The infant mortality rate in Pakistan is the highest in the Subcontinent (88 per thousand births). There is rampant unemployment and according to "The News", the main English language newspaper, a further 10,000 people fall below the poverty line every day. Amongst the 34 poorest economies Pakistan is ranked 17th in education and last, i.e. 34th in health in terms of allocation against total expenditure. During 1990-2005 the average share of health spending as a percentage of GNP was 0.68 % and that of education

1.99 percent.

In the last sixty years of Pakistan's existence spending on social welfare has been the most neglected. Between 1947 and 2005 the total budgetary allocations have been the following: Foreign Debt and interest repayment - 34.5%; Defence (Military expenditure) - 23%; Total Development - 20.5%. And these are the official figures. Most of the so-called development expenditure is siphoned off by the corrupt bureaucrats, the government and the private contractors and other go-between elements. The regime has been following so-called "trickle down economics" dictated by imperialist financial institutions with a ferocious zeal. The higher the growth rates the greater the social decline. Electricity shortages and load shedding create further problems. There is an energy shortage of 2,500 megawatts. This is not only creating hell for the people in this scorching heat but industry and agriculture are suffering. The policy of privatisation has resulted in a greater outflow of profits than the Direct Foreign Investment coming into the country. For every one dollar that comes into Pakistan 14 dollars are taken out. Now there is not much left to privatise and the total foreign reserves can only sustain 8 to 10 weeks of imports. With the micro and macro indicators showing a dismal and terminally sick economy the prospects of any social and political stability are very bleak to say the least. This economic decline will further aggravate the crisis resulting in greater conflagration and social convulsions. The Musharraf regime is hanging by a thread, one push and it will fall. The Islamic fundamentalists have been exposed, especially after the experiences of their governments in Baluchistan and Pakhtoonkhwaa (North West Frontier Province). The MQM's present violent acts are also the result of their desperation due to the rapid decline in their support especially in Karachi. Being in power at both federal and provincial levels they have totally failed to improve the lot of the impoverished masses.

The nationalists in Sindh, Baluchistan, Pakhtoonkhwaa and other areas are splintering and are being reduced to small sects due to their total adherence and compliance to capitalist economics and politics. Benazir Bhutto and the Musharraf regime have been involved in covert negotiations to reach a deal to form a pro-American, "liberal" regime. For the time being this deal has been buried by the explosive events in Karachi and elsewhere. If Benazir forces the PPP into a deal with the Musharraf dictatorship this will demoralize the party activists, but such a regime would be very short lived. The extreme right wing in the state and establishment will not accept her either. The overthrow of such a coalition government would be the beginning of the end for Benazir. Already there is resentment and dismay amongst the PPP ranks. This will explode if Benazir comes to power on the basis of such a conciliatory set up and as the economic crisis intensifies. The perspectives in Pakistan are complex. The state and society are riddled with all sorts of peculiar contradictions. Reactionary forces, albeit superficially, seem to dominate in certain spheres of society. A more vicious and reactionary dictatorial regime is not ruled out, but even if it should come to power it would be very short lived and crisis ridden. It would not last long. The underlying social resentment can explode in a proletarian upheaval as it did in 1968-69. But this time it would be on a much higher plane and with a greater intensity. The reaction of the masses in Karachi and throughout Pakistan in terms of spontaneous strikes shows the potential of the movement and the wrath of the masses that is building up against this regime and despotism in general. The picture of Pakistani society as portrayed by the western media is not only erroneous but also deceptive. The Pakistani proletariat can surprise the world.

When the working class moves it will be a decisive moment for the Marxists who have become a considerable force even at the present time. If the PPP leadership is forced to come to power through a movement that overthrows the Musharraf regime such a movement would be pushed radically to the left from its inception and the Marxists can become a major force during the course of such a movement. A PPP regime on a left basis would come into conflict with the state right from the beginning. And such a conflict could only be resolved through a revolution or a counter-revolution. Pakistan is a failed economy, a failed society and a failed state. Capitalism is dragging it ruthlessly towards barbarism. Now the very survival of society and even civilization depends on the success of a Socialist Revolution. If the Pakistani Marxists work with dedication, and correct strategy and tactics, a Socialist victory is entirely possible in the wake of a mass movement of the workers and poor peasants. A successful Socialist Revolution in Pakistan would open the floodgates of revolutionary upheavals throughout South Asia.

Lahore, May 14, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007


the French election results to me were not a "clear victory" for Sarkozy and defeat of Royal. He got 52% votes, while still leaving a 48% voters who voted AGAINST him. Statistically that is a significant number... but the principles of democracy makes you a winner even if it is by one vote. But, is that fair? Why the definition of democracy can't be changed to some CLEAR win, like a at least a difference of 20% between the leading opponents...


An American women who embraced Islam and became a Pakistani writes about sufism...


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Online Matchmaking

Online matchmaking is a big thriving business, with clients from all over the world. With the rise in presence and usage of internet, it is not a surprise that people are choosing internet to help them find a potential partner.. But, to me, coming from a very traditional culture, where most people, 'still' have arranged marriages, this is old wine in a new bottle.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cricket: Pakistan out, Woolmer dead

This is really eerie!! On St. Patrick's day (2007) Pakistan's team was defeated by the Irish and sent out of the tournament... This is a major blow for a team which aspires to win the cup every time around... Then to make things further worse, in the evening their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his room.. So far the authorities say it is a natural death.. But, he was 58, considerably healthy.. and most people don't see any reason for such sudden death!

Further development of the story was that first his death was declared as a murder by strangulation and the first to be doubted were the Pakistanis team!!! However it took several months of investigation before they declared on 15th May, 2007 that:
"A UK government pathologist has concluded that Bob Woolmer was not murdered, according to the Times newspaper. Dr Nat Carey said after studying autopsy material that death was not by asphyxiation from strangling, it said."

The Pakistanis were jubilant but appalled at the same time on this team and several Pakistanis demanded the ICC and the govts of UK and West Indies to apologize for mud slinging Pakistanis in the murder case.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pakistani Politics a Rant

Political Blog by a female from Pakistan

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let's Burn The Burqa by Taslima

Magazine| Jan 22, 2007


Let's Burn The Burqa

The Quran does prescribe purdah. That doesn't mean women should obey it.

TASLIMA NASRIN My mother used purdah. She wore a burqa with a net cover in front of the face. It reminded me of the meatsafes in my grandmother's house. One had a net door made of cloth, the other of metal. But the objective was the same: keeping the meat safe. My mother was put under a burqa by her conservative family. They told her that wearing a burqa would mean obeying Allah. And if you obey Allah, He would be happy with you and not let you burn in hellfire. My mother was afraid of Allah and also of her own father. He would threaten her with grave consequences if she didn't wear the burqa. She was also afraid of the men in the neighbourhood, who could have shamed her. Even her husband was a source of fear, for he could do anything to her if she disobeyed him.

As a young girl, I used to nag her: Ma, don't you suffocate in this veil? Don't you feel all dark inside? Don't you feel breathless? Don't you feel angry? Don't you ever feel like throwing it off? My mother kept mum. She couldn't do anything about it. But I did. When I was sixteen, I was presented a burqa by one of my relatives. I threw it away.

The custom of purdah is not new. It dates back to 300 BC. The women of aristocratic Assyrian families used purdah. Ordinary women and prostitutes were not allowed purdah. In the middle ages, even Anglo-Saxon women used to cover their hair and chin and hide their faces behind a cloth or similar object. This purdah system was obviously not religious. The religious purdah is used by Catholic nuns and Mormons, though for the latter only during religious ceremonies and rituals. For Muslim women, however, such religious purdah is not limited to specific rituals but mandatory for their daily life outside the purview of religion.

A couple of months ago, at the height of the purdah controversy, Shabana Azmi asserted that the Quran doesn't say anything about wearing the burqa. She's mistaken. This is what the Quran says:

"Tell the faithful women that they must keep their gaze focused below/on the ground and cover their sexual organs. They must not put their beauty and their jewellery on display. They must hide their breasts behind a purdah. They must not exhibit their beauty to anybody except their husbands, brothers, nephews, womenfolk, servants, eunuch employees and children. They must not move their legs briskly while walking because then much of their bodies can get exposed." (Sura Al Noor 24:31)

"Oh nabi, please tell your wives and daughters and faithful women to wear a covering dress on their bodies. That would be good. Then nobody can recognise them and harrass them. Allah is merciful and kind." (Sura Al Hijaab 33: 59)

Even the Hadis --a collection of the words of Prophet Mohammed, his opinion on various subjects and also about his work, written by those close to him-- talks extensively of the purdah for women. Women must cover their whole body before going out, they should not go before unknown men, they should not go to the mosque to read the namaaz, they should not go for any funeral.

There are many views on why and how the Islamic purdah started. One view has it that Prophet Mohammed became very poor after spending all the wealth of his first wife. At that time, in Arabia, the poor had to go to the open desert and plains for relieving themselves and even their sexual needs. The Prophet's wives too had to do the same. He had told his wives that "I give you permission to go out and carry out your natural work". (Bukhari Hadis first volume book 4 No. 149). And this is what his wives started doing accordingly. One day, Prophet Mohammed's disciple Uman complained to him that these women were very uncomfortable because they were instantly recognisable while relieving themselves.Umar proposed a cover but Prophet Mohammed ignored it. Then the Prophet asked Allah for advice and he laid down the Ayat (33:59) (Bukhari Hadis Book 026 No. 5397).

This is the history of the purdah, according to the Hadis. But the question is: since Arab men too relieved themselves in the open, why didn't Allah start the purdah for men? Clearly, Allah doesn't treat men and women as equals, else there would be purdah for both! Men are higher than women. So women have to be made walking prisons and men can remain free birds.

Another view is that the purdah was introduced to separate women from servants. This originates from stories in the Hadis. One story in the Bukhari Hadis goes thus: After winning the Khyber War, Prophet Mohammed took over all the properties of the enemy, including their women. One of these women was called Safia. One of the Prophet's disciples sought to know her status. He replied: "If tomorrow you see that Safia is going around covered, under purdah, then she is going to be a wife. If you see her uncovered, that means I've decided to make her my servant."

The third view comes from this story. Prophet Mohammed's wife Ayesha was very beautiful. His friends were often found staring at her with fascination. This clearly upset the Prophet. So the Quran has an Ayat that says, "Oh friends of the prophet or holy men, never go to your friend's house without an invitation. And if you do go, don't go and ask anything of their wives". It is to resist the greedy eyes of friends, disciples or male guests that the purdah system came into being. First it was applicable to only the wives of the holy men, and later it was extended to all Muslim women. Purdah means covering the entire body except for the eyes, wrist and feet. Nowadays, some women practise the purdah by only covering their hair. That is not what is written in the Hadis Quran. Frankly, covering just the hair is not Islamic purdah in the strict sense.

In the early Islamic period, Prophet Mohammed started the practice of covering the feet of women. Within 100 years of his death, purdah spread across the entire Middle East. Women were covered by an extra layer of clothing. They were forbidden to go out of the house, or in front of unknown men. Their lives were hemmed into a tight regime: stay at home, cook, clean the house, bear children and bring them up. In this way, one section of the people was separated by purdah, quarantined and covered.

Why are women covered? Because they are sex objects. Because when men see them, they are roused. Why should women have to be penalised for men's sexual problems? Even women have sexual urges. But men are not covered for that. In no religion formulated by men are women considered to have a separate existence, or as human beings having desires and opinions separate from men's. The purdah rules humiliate not only women but men too. If women walk about without purdah, it's as if men will look at them with lustful eyes, or pounce on them, or rape them. Do they lose all their senses when they see any woman without burqa?

My question to Shabana and her supporters, who argue that the Quran says nothing about purdah is: If the Quran advises women to use purdah, should they do so? My answer is, No. Irrespective of which book says it, which person advises, whoever commands, women should not have purdah. No veil, no chador, no hijab, no burqa, no headscarf. Women should not use any of these things because all these are instruments of disrespect. These are symbols of women's oppression. Through them, women are told that they are but the property of men, objects for their use. These coverings are used to keep women passive and submissive. Women are told to wear them so that they cannot exist with their self-respect, honour, confidence, separate identity, own opinion and ideals intact.So that they cannot stand on their own two feet and live with their head held high and their spine strong and erect.

Some 1,500 years ago, it was decided for an individual's personal reasons that women should have purdah and since then millions of Muslim women all over the world have had to suffer it. So many old customs have died a natural death, but not purdah. Instead, of late, there has been a mad craze to revive it. Covering a woman's head means covering her brain and ensuring that it doesn't work. If women's brains worked properly, they'd have long ago thrown off these veils and burqas imposed on them by a religious and patriarchal regime.

What should women do? They should protest against this discrimination. They should proclaim a war against the wrongs and ill-treatment meted out to them for hundreds of years. They should snatch from the men their freedom and their rights. They should throw away this apparel of discrimination and burn their burqas.

(Nasrin, a Bangladeshi writer, currently lives in Calcutta) __._,_.___