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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Seductive Quality of Leisure

Surgeon Masood Shaikh, in his usual matter-of-fact way, stated, "Your TURP surgery was successful, which means that you're now healthy and have the same chance of contracting prostate cancer as any other person." The biopsy report that came, after a suspense-laden week, was 'clear', putting many minds at peace.

Even I was relieved at the knowledge, for, despite being prepared for the worst, I must admit that I felt too young to die.

The aftermath, however, has been disastrous in other medical ways, not necessarily directly related, I think. Numerous doctors were unable to diagnose it, covered me in creams and ointments, bathed me in solutions and herbal teas, stuffed me with numerous pills and tablets, poked and punched me in unmentionable spots (hopefully for more than cheap thrills), sent me off to specialists of all sorts, and subjected me to a second biopsy (and another round of the accompanying suspense for family and friends).

In jargon, designed to sound inaccesible, the biopsy report told me what I knew only too well: I had lesions and they itched badly! But it did rule out the Big C, again! Nothing like getting another confirmation of this kind to get the spirits high. It added that my condition seemed to be a drug-induced reaction. The extreme discomfort that I have lived with, as confirmed by a new doctor at the very first look only yesterday, was caused by a specific medication (Amaryl 2) that was administered to control my diabetes during the surgery period. Well. Better late than never, as the cliché goes ... so I am now using a new set of ointments, creams and tablets. But I am confident that, this time, they'll work. [Please do not be a moron and ask me why I did not go to him in the first place!]

Because of all this, my visits to my office, b.i.t.s., became less frequent, often lasting only for the few minutes that I was needed to offer support or advice to the wonderful team that runs on ideology for fuel. I must confess that so enjoyable and seductive is this lifestyle that I, who - until recently - was proclaiming, "I am 64 and hope to be 24 next birthday", am beginning to flaunt my age around in order to convince myself and those around me that what I am looking forward to is to live a retired life.

Of course, you will not see "(Retd.)" written after my name; that's an abbreviation, in my book, for 'Retarded'. You will find it most prominently used by newly appointed heads of public sector corporations - old cronies who have retired from their life-long jobs in, generally, the armed forces. This really means that they have been asked to handle challenges they are most likely incapable of taking up --- since 'retirement' implies that they been decreed to be no longer capable of performing well even those tasks that they trained for and specialized in for 40-odd years.

What is most tempting about this semi-retired state that I find myself in? I can read and listen to music without let or hindrance, almost all day and night, if I so wish. (Sadly, I cannot say that for my other love: movie-watching - but that's another story).

I had always considered strange how we all listen repeatedly to our favourite pieces of music - serious and pop - but rarely re-read our once-loved books (other than those that duty requires). I decided to do that and see if it afforded me the same kind of pleasure that the deja vu factor in musical experience does. Well, let me state emphatically that it does! And in Spades!!! This is especially true of books that I had bought between the ages of 12-15, when I was feeding my voracious appetite for philosophy, especially my new-found agnosticism. This time around, they are affording me another kind of pleasure, for I now have the experiences of my life to test those philosophies against. In any case, the books in my collection are a reminder of the roads I mentally travelled, of the guides I chose along the way, and of the prejudices I re-arranged in my mind as I encountered new ideas.

A renewed respect, too, has emerged for people who were far ahead of their time, for their visionary statements are becoming clearer in the light of recent events and societal changes. I shall end by sharing two re-visited passages that, while certainly not the profoundest among my recent readings, will, I hope seem relevant to many:
"I have no doubt at all that we will progress industrially and otherwise, that our country will advance in science and technology ... But what I am concerned with is not merely our material progress but the quality and depth of our people. Gaining power through industrial processes, will they lose themselves in the quest of individual wealth and soft living? ... Can we combine the progress of science and technology with the progress of the mind and spirit also? We cannot be untrue to science because that represents the basic facts of life today. Still less can we be untrue to those basic principles for which we have stood through the ages. Let us then pursue our path to industrial progress with all our strength and vigour and, at the same time, remember that industrial riches without toleration, compassion, and wisdom, may well turn to dust and ashes." Jawaharlal Nehru - Addressing scientists at opening of a technology institute / 1961
"The central theme of my discussion is that I believe that one of the greatest dangers to modern sociey is the possible resurgence and expansion of the ideas of thought control; such as Hitler had, or Stalin in his time, or the Catholic religion in the Middle Ages, or the Chinese today. I think that one of the greatest dangers is that this shall increase until it encompasses all of the world." Richard Feynman - Addressing scientists at the Galileo Symposium in Italy / 1964
Oh, and given the fact that retirement is not a lucrative business, re-reading does help reduce the expense of buying more books.

[Don't know when this post will get published. Internet services are still dead. For the record: this piece was completed at 11.54 on June 28, 2005.]

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Jaan kee amaan paaooñ to arz karooñ ...

General Musharraf is, generally speaking, generally speaking. To give him his due, his straight-forward, mainly un-rehearsed and unbridled statements, have endeared himself at home and abroad, even to the common man in neighbouring India, where a dillivaala tells me, he'd win the local elections in Delhi hands down! [Amusingly, during the recent Dehli Cricket-Summit, the Indian Media was not allowed near him freely, lest he say something and score a point.]

So - one has to come to believe that, unlike our deceitful politicians, whatever the President says, he means. Thus, it came as a grievous shock to read, in The Times (June 18, 2005), General Sahab's statement that rape was "not a rampant malaise Pakistan suffers from everyday...".

Of course, whatever he says is based upon whatever he knows, either from personal experience or from what is fed to him by the increasing band of sycophants and chronic liars around him. He would do well to give more ear-time to the few learned and honest members of his team, those who actually believe in the kind of Pakistan that he claims to be carving from the mess a sad past has shaped it into.

I am sure that once aware of the breadth of the problem the President will look at the incidents in Pakistan, of this most heinous of crimes, in a new light. The learned Eqbal Ahmad, in his piece, War on Women, published in Dawn [Feb 27, 1994], writes:
"Rape is the most common form, worldwide, of violence against women. In this Islamic Republic it is an epidemic. HRCP offers an estimate: A woman was raped every 3 hours during 1993. Two were gang-raped every day. And half of those assaulted were minors or teenagers. Rape victims are often murdered after they have been raped. HRCP mentions young victims ranging in age from five to fifteen. It also cites numerous cases of lndlords, politicians, and police officers engaging in crimes against women, including minors."
A common reaction by many people, in a well-intentioned effort to defend Pakistan's image, is to quote figures from the USA and other countries for the rapes that take place there. First of all, the ills and wrongs of other countries do not justify ours. And, in Pakistan - as well as in India, as in many 3rd world countries - the crime of rape is very different from the rapes in the West. While always a crime of power rather than sex, rapes are mainly pertpetrated by psycopaths, individuals, and loners. Not so here  (imagine 3-year old and 80-year old victims!), as another quote from the same article by Eqbal Ahmad, referring to the local occurrences, shows:
"[Here] As a rule, the crimes are committed with the aid or knowledge of one or more persons. In other words, they are not merely the product of individual pathology; they are perpetrated in a social context."
Given that these words were penned way before the cases of Jirga- and family-abetted crimes that my earlier blogs have mentioned, I believe it's this lack of access to the facts and statistics with regard to rape that makes it possible for the President to wave it away as merely another attempt at a slur against Pakistan.

I beseech him to take an unbiased look (despite the fact that Eqbal quotes HRCP) at what goes on in a country where, even by the admission of his fraud-perpetrating minister, Aamir Liaquat, child molestation runs rampant - and goes unpunished - in places of learning. Surely, the children who grow up in such a brutal society are unlikely to adjust well and treat others with honour.

The full text of Eqbal's essay can be found, along with some of his best analytical pieces, in the OUP publication, "Between Past and Future" - Eqbal Ahmad's collected essays on South Asia.

[Internet services have died, nationwide, I believe. So let me add for the record that this piece was completed at 23.30 on June 27, 2005]

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Monday, June 27, 2005

You have not converted a man, if you have silenced him!

Aainah khaanay ko hae darkaar kya?
Chaahiyay ek sang, agar chaahiyay!
[Himayat Ali Shaaer]

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

National Harakiri time?

The following item that appeared in the Qatari Newspaper, The Peninsula, reflects the sick society our religio-political nutcases have helped breed in Pakistan:
In an act of revenge, a woman was gang-raped with the consent of her in-laws by three people on her wedding night in Dera Ghazi Khan town in central Pakistan, police said.
Ghulam Hussain, the father of the victim Kaneez Kubra, said his daughter was married to Mujahid Hussain on April 28, as ordered by a panchayat (local jury) under the wani custom since her brother Abdul Majid had sexual relations with Mujahid's sister Sumera.
After the wedding, Kaneez went to the groom's home. Her husband stayed with her in their room till 11 pm and then left. Afterwards, Mujahid's grandfather Shahroo Khan and his mother Mukhtar came in and told the bride that the wedding was just an excuse to exact revenge on Majid for outraging Sumera's modesty.
Mujahid then invited his three friends Muhammad Rafiq, Shabbir Muhammad and Abdul Majid Almani, who gang-raped the bride. The next day, Mujahid took her to the house of his friend Ghulam Mustafa, who also assaulted her.
On April 30, when Ghulam and other relatives arrived to take Kaneez back as per tradition, she related the story to her father. Investigation Officer Zulfikar Ali Qureshi said the police were making raids to arrest the accused but they had left the area and gone into hiding after the case was registered against them.

If group Harakiri is impractical, we should at least construct a Wailing Wall near the Quaid's mausoleum.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Bol - Keh Lab Aazaad Haen Tayray

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

This is one Al-Qaeda Operative I'd love to catch!

Khuda nay diya hae voh husn in butoñ ko Keh, ham kya, farishton kay eemaan jaen!


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Yeh kahaañ kee dosti hae ?

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have stopped issuing Tourist Visas to each other's citizens.

Sounds like just the push we all needed for increasing people-to-people contact.

Oh, well. As Abi said:

Do dushmanoñ meñ aaj, Khuda khaer hee karay,
Voh sülah chi∂ gaee hae keh sad-rashké-jang hae

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Change the 'Realities' and the 'Image' will follow

We are constantly told that we need to 'sell' ideas, ideologies, institutions, or even ourselves, in order to succeed. Success, of course, being defined by 'The Bottom Line'.

Use such words and phrases frequently for the sake of analogy in these contexts and, fairly soon, they begin to shape the core philosophies. That is why the businesses set up to build 'soft images' of people, institutions, ideologies first have to reduce all of these to mere 'products'.

Often, more often than not, in fact, what is being sold is not good enough. But Spin Doctors in the Advertising and PR worlds (non-identical, but twins nonetheless) have the answer ... and one that suits the manufacturer, since it is economical. "Don't improve the product; just put a different spin on the marketing/advertising! It's been tried on Toothpaste ('Now in the new Red, White and Blue packet!'). And it worked! That week, in McCarthy's USA, people bought 3.7% more of the brand in question."

Why do people fall for these obvious falsehoods? Gullibility. There's one born every minute, na? Let's face it: Advertising gets the most amazing results. One of my favourite stories is about the little classified ad in a major US newspaper that said, "Last Chance to send $1 to PO Box ...". No one questioned why? The innovative advertiser received $1337 in 2 days.

We now have the Government of Pakistan engaged in a campaign that will help develop a 'soft image' for Pakistan. And they hope to do that without bothering to alter the realities. Enlightened Moderation hardly seems appropriate as a slogan for the bunch of people that the President has been lumped with (or chosen as the best of the available litter). None of them are Enlightened; and only a couple of them are Moderate.

But why spend all this money meaninglessly? Why do we need to build a 'soft image' at all? Who is the target audience? Surely not the Government of the USA, which knows all that goes on here, much of it at its own behest and/or with its approval. Surely not the American media, that has access to reports of our worst incidents and doings, and adds its own (often untrue) twists to the reports. Surely not Potential Investors: MNCs actually benefit from the oppression and corruption in third-world societies where their off-shore businesses are not subject to Human Rights Laws and other evils that could eat into profits. And there is certainly no point in targeting the citizens of the USA. They do not count! Not even in their own 'democratic' country where elections are now rigged or results manipulated, misinformation doled out for legitimizing unjust wars, FoxNews considered 'unbiased media', civil liberties trampled upon, people even arrested for wearing Peace T-Shirts in shopping malls.

After the recent and shameful Mukhtaran Mai fiasco and the President's unbelievable pronouncements while in NZ, for which the whole nation is receiving flak from everywhere, a really hard image has already been etched on most decent minds.

My suggestion to General M Sahab would be to scrap the soft image idea. Surely, not much will come of the excercise. We could use the saved money to develop local TV programs to counter the nonsense that is being doled out each day ... e.g. through programs like Istekhara Online and others that promote weird and anachronistic ideas. That would help actually change the mindset of our people and have long-term benefits for our country.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

May the farce be with you …

According to President Musharraf even threatened to "slap" a reporter "in the face" for publishing details in an international magazine about Mukhtaran Mai's defiance. The reporter in question was none other than Pakistan's leading women's rights activist, Asma Jehangir, who is also a UN special rapporteur on human rights.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Mukhtaran Mai vs. The Rest of Pakistan

The past couple of months have been a bit trying, for one reason or another. Mainly a state of mind that has corresponded to a confused state of health. So, while I had written 3 or 4 pieces to blog, I did not quite finish any. By next week, if all goes well, I shall be placing them all here.

Two recent things have jolted me out of my state: The APHC visit (blogged by many others, so I shall stay out of it) and the unexpected turn that the Mukhtaran Mai Case has taken, with the release - yet again - of the culprits.

My friend, The Warrior, has written a clear and hard-hitting piece on the latter subject, which I reproduce below (as usual, without his permission!) ... No point in my writing anything that is bound to sound limp after this, na? Over to you, again, NS:

There are examples in history where armies were dispatched to protect the honour of a single woman. There is however no example of a single woman dispatching herself to fight against an army of institutions that collectively represent an entire country. An unparalleled example in which a country that nauseatingly proclaims its 'enlightened moderation", gangs up all its state institutions to deny justice to a helpless victim so that the life and liberty of rapists can be protected. A unique case where a country as its state policy (or the lack of it) actively promotes the crime of rape, and still more vigorously protects the rapists - whose links can be invariably traced to the ranks of powerful and influential.
There may not be words profound enough to pay tribute to this women from Meerwala , who single-handedly shattered the holy myth and the hollow façade of the land of the pure. She has brought home the reality that the state and its uniformly inept, inadequate and immoral institutions will never support an ordinary citizen. They will act only when such an act is committed on the family member of a Chief of Staff, Chief Secretary, Chief Minister or a Chief Justice. The state does not exist for ordinary citizens. 
She has thus correctly chosen to wage a moral war, all by herself, against the rest of Pakistan. She is single-handedly fighting against the Jirgas, knowing full well that the powerful wish to retain them as an instrument of oppression. It was a Jirga that ordered her rape. She is fighting against the corrupt police, who did not register an FIR, till forced to do so. She is fighting against the courts, whose inept bickering and myopic clerical understanding has denied her justice for the past three years. She is fighting against the President and the Prime Minister, who did nothing to help her, beyond promises and photo sessions. She is fighting against the 'momins' and the 'mullahs', whose measure of morality is limited to marathons. She is fighting against politicians and parliament, whose legislature will provide for slogans but not speedy and respectful support to a rape victim. And - finally - she is also fighting against the sleeping conscience of the people of Pakistan, whose tolerance for oppression and injustice knows no bounds.
If one day Pakistan has a system that will provide speedy and respectful justice to every rape victim, then we must know that it would not have been possible, but for the struggle and sacrifice of a woman from Meerwala. Thank you Mukhtaran Mai.
[Naeem Sadiq]

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