Posts

Silence of the Lambs

It is not often that we see Pakistan’s political parties avoiding comment on a matter of national importance, but General (R) Raheel Sharif’s new appointment to lead a 39-country Saudi military alliance is one such issue where many of them are keeping mum. Members of both, the ruling party – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – and the opposition – the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – were clearly hesitant to say anything on the record regarding this issue.

Newsline approached the PPP for comment, but received no official response from them. Some analysts believe this is because the PPP has reached a deal with the establishment and does not want to offend the military establishment by taking sides. While the PPP denies these rumours, the party’s silence on Raheel Sharif’s new ‘job’ does lead to speculation, especially in light of recent events related to Ayyan Ali, the return of Sharjeel Memon from Dubai, and the acceptance of Dr Asim Hussain’s bail plea by the Sindh High Court.

While…

Interview: Qamar Zaman Kaira

Why do you think the PPP was wiped out in the 2013 elections after being in power for five years? Why did it not do well anywhere except Sindh?

There are two dimensions to this. First of all, there was election management and manoeuvering. This is quite clear; both the PPP and the PTI have the same stance on this issue. Having said that, a perception was built, which wasn’t based on any reality. Sitting Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, a section of the media, and the Muslim League in opposition, acting as a troika, tried to create a [negative] image of the PPP, and they were quite successful in demonising the party. We did not pay much attention to the media, and unfortunately, we paid for it as people bought into all of this.

They say that we did not do anything; that we were an administrative failure; that we were busy looting this country. Now let’s look at Pakistan in 2008 when we came to power, and in 2013 when we handed over power to another government. This will give you a rea…

A welcome’s hopeful afterglow

Normally, when two countries announce a bilateral meeting, there is a certain amount of certainty that it will take place. But the question “will they, won’t they?” is asked every time there is a scheduled meeting between officials of India and Pakistan. Decades of bitterness, hostility and mistrust between the two nuclear neighbours inevitably warrant such uncertainty till the very last second. Back in August, the first-ever National Security Adviser (NSA)-level talks were called off at the last minute due to preconditions set by India that were unacceptable to Pakistan.

Rapid thaw in relations

When it was initially announced that India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would be attending the “Heart of Asia” conference in Islamabad, some were sceptical. But in the backdrop of the “brief contact” between the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in Paris and the subsequent meeting of the NSAs and Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, in Bangkok earlier this month, many other…

Terror taunt, peace stop

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new building of the Afghan parliament, constructed by India, in Kabul this morning.

He made several allusions to Pakistan while addressing the Afghan parliament: "Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border, when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut and their patrons are no longer in business."

This remark was obviously directed at Pakistan. Who would have thought that hours later, Modi would be having tea in Lahore with his Pakistani counterpart?

That Modi is social media-savvy is no secret. This time too he used Twitter to make one of the most important policy decisions: "Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi."

His tweet created a media frenzy in both countries.

Anchor and lawyer Fawad Chaudhry said it was no secret that Sharif was keen on building relations with India.

When Modi came to pow…

Changing the narrative for peace

December 16, 2014, is a day that will haunt our memories forever. Around 150 people — more than 120 of them children — were brutally murdered, nay massacred, by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists at Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar.

Pakistan has seen so many terrorist attacks in the last decade that we have lost count. All we know is that more than 60,000 civilians have lost their lives in these attacks and thousands of security officials have also been martyred. All lives are equally important; they all matter but the way these children were killed shook each and every one of us. Those children who survived the attack are scarred for life. We cannot even begin to imagine how their lives have changed forever.

This attack also changed Pakistan — not in entirety but in some ways. There was palpable anger in society after the APS attack. As a result, the pro-Taliban narrative was changed; the military establishment changed its tune, so did the politicians and the media. But …

Distorting history

At Pakistan’s first international education and cultural festival, School of Tomorrow (SOT) — held in Karachi last week — I moderated a session titled, ‘Teaching History and Social Studies in Intercultural Societies’. The three panellists included a physicist who is also a professor, an architect and a journalist. The discussion was made interesting because all the panellists were quite open in highlighting the fact how we teach children distorted history from day one. While we were discussing history and social studies being taught in Pakistani classrooms, I was reminded of a quote by Roger Schank. Mr Schank — a radical educator, Artificial Intelligence theorist and cognitive psychologist based in the US — pointed out something very interesting in an interview recently. He says: “We are taught made-up history by our respective governments. All history is a bunch of lies; we are living in a fictional world.”

Thus, his views on history can be applied globally. All countries glorify th…

Demonising women

We live in the 21st century but sometimes we behave in ways that would put even the Dark Ages to shame. Ever since the news of the Imran-Reham divorce surfaced in the media, what we have seen is misogyny and nothing but. Reham Khan is being vilified left, right and centre. What exactly is her fault in all this, one wonders. Why is it that the divorce is being pinned on her and her alone? Some of the reasons being given in the media are: she is ‘ambitious’, she is a ‘working woman’, she is a ‘divorcee’, she has ‘political aspirations’, she wants to be in the limelight, among other things. One wonders if a man would be attacked for being a divorcee, for being ambitious, for working, for wanting to be in the limelight. No, a man would not be attacked for all these and more.

In her interview to The Sunday Times, Ms Khan rightly pointed out: “Both of us are divorced, but it seems [from the media] that I’m the only one. We’ve now both been divorced twice, but no one says that.”

Those who …

Mixing politics and cricket

There is a cricket series scheduled between India and Pakistan in December 2015 but due to the tense political relations between the two neighbours, nobody is certain whether it will take place or not. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials — Chairman Shaharyar Khan and PCB executive committee chief, Najam Sethi — were recently invited to Mumbai by BCCI President Shashank Manohar for talks to chart the way forward. Shiv Sena members stormed the BCCI headquarters on the day the meeting was scheduled to be held, which compelled the BCCI to postpone the talks until after next Sunday’s match with South Africa. The Pakistani media is now speculating whether the series has been cancelled or not.

According to Mr Najam Sethi, if the BCCI had wanted to cancel the series it would have simply made the announcement and not called PCB officials for talks. “The BCCI preferred to dissipate the Sena protest by letting them into their office to meet Mr Manohar and then disperse rather than ask the po…

The cost of justice

The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan’s decision on Wednesday to maintain the conviction of Mumtaz Qadri by an Anti-Terrorism Court is being hailed as a landmark judgement. Qadri, who had filed an appeal for a reduction in his sentence, was earlier convicted for the assassination of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer. Qadri killed a man he was duty-bound to protect, but shamelessly maintains he did the right thing.

According to Qadri, Shaheed Taseer had committed blasphemy by challenging the blasphemy laws and asking for the pardon of a blasphemy-accused, Aasia Bibi. Less than two months after Taseer’s assassination, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was also gunned down. He, too, was vocal about the conviction of Aasia Bibi on alleged blasphemy charges.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) did a great disservice to the justice system in March this year when it ruled in favour of Qadri’s application to void Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). While the IHC upheld Qadr…

The bad... and some good

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Shaikh, while delivering the Haj sermon on Wednesday, said that some people were trying to enforce their own agenda through violence and giving Islam a bad name. “Daesh (ISIS) is pursuing a path meant for destruction of the Muslim ummah. It has not spared even mosques and peaceful citizens. They are disfiguring the image of Islam,” said the Grand Mufti.

It is good to see that even a hardliner Islamic country like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking a strong position against ISIS but as a Pakistani citizen, one wonders if the Saudis could have been so thoughtful when it came to funding madrassas in my country, which have churned out not just jihadis but hardcore religious extremists. In their sectarian wars, they have made my country a pawn and we, the people of Pakistan, are bearing the brunt. ISIS is not the only group that has attacked mosques and peaceful citizens. The Taliban have done the same. They have not even spared innocent ch…