Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ash Lamour Brand Launch

I had the good fortune of visiting Dawn Lifestyle exhibition at Expo Center Karachi this year. The last I visited this exhibition was back in 2006 when I was a volunteer to organize and manage the exhibition. Handling thousands of people daily for 3 consecutive days was enough motivation for me to not visit again for these past years, but the launch of Ash Lamour forced the lazy me to step out from my comfort zone and enter the hustle and bustle of Dawn Lifestyle.

I went directly to Hall 6 to check Ash Lamour stall, a well presented standard-sized space with neatly placed tables and elegantly displayed handbags. The brand name was highly visual in the backdrop with small silver heart-shapes dangling in front of it. Despite the small size the stall space was efficiently utilized and enough room was available for several people to stand comfortably. The founder of Ash Lamour, Ayesha Akram, was standing there attending the visitors for consecutive three days with her ever present smile.

The clutches on display were simple but elegant in design. They were not highly embellished as we often find such to be and neither were they awkward to carry. I found them well suited for practically any event and will go with any sort of dressing, be it formal or party wear. The price range was between 900 to 2000, a reasonable fee for handbag designs which usually cost anywhere between 1500 to 4000. Being the curious sort I asked Ayesha to tell more about her handbags and how they were made.

The handbags were made from artificial leather that makes them more affordable and durable than original leather. These handbags are easy to maintain and do not stain easily, perfect for long term use. Additionally, the making of these clutches is based on cottage industry concept, which means the manufacturers are residents of slum areas of Karachi that work from their homes. This provides valuable skills, experience and above all, livelihood to these underprivileged members of our society. The whole concept of Ash Lamour is environment friendly with all the materials used in the making and packaging can be recycled.

Ayesha's future plans revealed that Ash Lamour will be conducting an awareness campaign in slum areas where she will be accompanied by few other seasoned campaigners and the residents will be shown how they can develop their skills and work from home. The campaign will be handled by Ash Lamour's CSR department and similar campaigns will be time to time.

The exhibition at Dawn Lifestyle seems to have gone well and the response from general masses have been positive. Ash Lamour has its own Facebook page which more and more people are liking every day.

After meeting with Ayesha and seeing her products on display, I am pretty much sure what I want to get for my mother and sisters next time on their birthdays.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Case of Exploding Cricket

Spot-fixing wasn't yet a distant memory when Pakistan faced South Africa in UAE for all three formats of the game. Loss of Aamir, Asif and Salman had unsettled the Pakistani team and their performance was already shaken due to spot fixing controversy that practically shook the world. Every new update batch on CricInfo had at least one new Spot-fixing related news and the whole affair became a nightmare for Pakistan and England in particular and Cricketing world in general.

It got so out of control that PCB chairman decided to play George Galloway and accused English team of match fixing when ICC began investigating Oval ODI (which Pakistan won) on a tip off from English media. Later he had to retract from his statements in the most humiliating fashion and had actually read out the statements from an email earlier sent to him by ECB.

To add to further humiliation, ICC (who had earlier suspended the Pakistani trio) gave PCB ultimatum to clean the whole Cricket setup from misconducts and match fixing elements or face consequences, possibly in the form of sanctions. This has been the lowest point of Pakistani cricket and Ijaz Butt, so far, has shown no remorse. His dictatorial attitude was evident when he finally let Younis Khan join the team, earlier suspending him along with other senior players of the team for undisclosed reasons and Younis was the last who remained suspend until the mid of England tour, others who applied for reconsideration were allowed to play.

Before the start of UAE tour the announcement of team and captains for all formats of the game took time and surprise came in form of Misbah-Ul-Haq who was made captain for Test squad. Misbah had been out of Cricket team for quite some time now and his form itself was questionable. Amongst many blunders Ijaz Butt made, I believe this one is least worrisome but a blunder in any case.

The start of UAE tour was quite as much as was expected. Pakistan faced the Proteas in two Twenty20 games and lost both of them. The team looked unsettled and despite clear attempts at better performance they failed to face off South Africans on equal terms. It was now time for One Day matches.

The first ODI saw South Africa easily chase an ordinary target set by Pakistan by 8 wickets. Pakistani lineup still hadn't clicked and struggled to pull off worthwhile performance in batting, bowling and fielding. It was no different in the second ODI with Pakistan losing more than half the wickets, including Afridi's, chasing a strong total set by South Africa. All hope had lost until Abdul Razzak let loose batting blitzkrieg that stunned South African bowling attack. Runs flew in all directions as Razzak hit 10 sixes in his innings and pulled off a century at lower batting order that led Pakistan to victory with one wicket and one ball to spare. The whole nation came alive at that news and several disgruntled fans cheered men-in-green for the valiant effort. The individual brilliance saved Pakistan cricket once again.

The third ODI saw more spectators tuning in from Pakistan where they saw their team chasing South African total, gradually losing wickets until they succumbed to defeat by 2 runs. The Proteas were practically dancing out of their skins with this close victorious encounter. Despite being the better team, the South Africans were aware that Pakistani team is always unpredictable due to sudden breathtakingly extraordinary performances by individuals that take the game away in even the most impossible situations.

And Pakistani team proved itself once again in the fourth ODI when it chased South African total with two wickets and one ball to spare. This time the tailenders took the fight with Wahab Riaz and Zulqarnain Haider adding valuable runs that led Pakistani team to victory. The series was equal 2-2 and one match remaining to determine the winner of ODI series. The final was set to take place on 8 November, 2010 and all were anxious for the match.

And that is when hell, once again, broke loose. Zulqarnain Haider, who had been keeping well and played crucially at the end of the innings to lead Pakistan to victory, disappeared from his hotel and no one could find him. Internet was abuzz and Geo news channel in Pakistan was sensational with his "missing" news until one Geo correspondent received text message from Haider that said he was being threatened by some guy to loose the match and because of that he can't play for Pakistan anymore and leaving for England. He requested the media to help in providing security to his family back in Lahore.

Speculations arose regarding Haider's correspondence and his UK departure without passport until Team management confirmed that Haider had acquired his passport from management a day earlier for undisclosed reasons. Geo news contacted several known people who were associated with Pakistan Cricket Board at one time or the other and asked about several possibilities which only led to more controversy. A former chairperson of PCB even said that Haider wasn't an important player and he might be doing that to acquire political asylum in UK to gain British passport, marry a British girl and settle there permanently. It isn't difficult to believe how much worse our cricket has become when we listen to such insensitive and humiliating comments from those who are responsible of running Cricket in the country.

Haider's brother didn't comment much except that his brother was tense since 4th ODI due to threatening phone calls and continuous pressure to "Lose the match". He also said that player politics kept Haider out of team despite his good performance when he was earlier given the chance. The controversy, which we had all but forgotten, came around and bit Pakistan at the rear end, and pretty nastily at that. Pakistani team was without a specialist wicket keeper with final match only hours away.

Umar Akmal, brother to specialist wicket keeper Kamran Akmal, was included in playing 11 with wicket keeping responsibilities. The Pakistani team was once again unsettled with recent twists and strain was visible on players faces. When Hashim Amla struck 3 boundaries from Shoaib Akhter's first over, the mental strength of men-in-green failed greatly. South Africa went on to set a total of 317 with five wickets to spare, a monumental challenge for a team who had started the day with a bad omen.

Pakistani openers provided a surprisingly good start until they blundered after first 10 overs and middle order batting failed to click. In short order the several wickets were down and some individual efforts from Afridi, Razzak and Umar Akmal kept the hope alive until the team lost all of its wickets and suffered 57 runs defeat at the hands of Proteas. Even Pakistan's twitter community had remained mournful throughout the match, their tweets occasional and often subdued.

The recent events did shed light to one important aspect which wasn't considered before, and that is players safety. I remember Salman Khan's role as Radhay Mohan where he goes to threaten a cricket player and comes close to beating him up. This seems nothing else except another Radhay Mohan incident where cricketer is being forced to cooperate or face the consequences, including threat to life. The incident of Hansie Cronje isn't too far back in history when he had accepted illegal dealings, suffered the consequences in form of ban and later lost his life in a plane crash. I now see Hansie's demise in a whole new light after Haider's incident and do not know what to believe.

PCB representative said on TV that Zulqarnain Haider left the team without informing anyone and departed for another country which is clear breach of contract he signed with PCB. In my opinion what PCB should have done was keep their statement limited to investigation of matter and not blaming the breach of contract with PCB. We have already seen the performance of Pakistan Cricket Board and the deterioration it was heading to. Bringing in factor of contract breach simply does not suit them since it's about threat of life of the leading players of Pakistan. If it would have happened with any other team, their respective board would have taken immediate steps for player's security. Here, we have chairman who just can't stop enjoying his foreign visits. Even after the whole incident, Ijaz Butt was in UAE to attend the ceremony and not setting out after Haider right away to reach to the crux of the matter.

At the time of writing of this blog it was confirmed that Haider had landed in UK and was seen at Heathrow airport. He came out of the airport after 5 hours inside.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Evening With Sarah Beg At Liberty Books

I am not much outgoing by nature and enjoy my solace at home. A week ago I received invitation from Liberty Books to attend presentation about the book "The Secret", written by Rhonda Byrne and presented by Sarah Beg. It proved to be too tempting for me and I registered for the event.

Setting aside my lazy activities, I drove to Liberty Books BBQ Tonight branch on Sunday 7th of November and sat amongst the audience gathered to listen to Sarah's charismatic presentation that not just highlighted many of the important elements explained in the book but also linked them with Franklin Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", with personal experiences and religious teachings of Islam.

A little introduction to Sarah Beg might be in order. She is "Manager Capability Development Franklin Covey Pakistan" and is certified trainer for "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". It was my first experience of attending her presentation session that proved to be great one.

The greatest contribution in knowledge was undoubtedly from Sarah but the audience participated immensely to make the event interactive, interesting, informative and engaging. Everyone had something to share and touched upon all-too-familiar topics in new light, casting the whole situation in an entirely different dimension.

The event highlighted concepts which we all should aware ourselves and adopt in daily life:

1) The greatest secret to success in life is "Love"

2) Love the things around you and think positively because what goes around, comes around. The more you are positive, the more positivity will follow you.

3) Even when we're all positive, why still our lives are not wonderful? Because we give up, be pessimist, harbor doubt or don't work at all to achieve positive results.

4) Always keep your destination in mind and work hard to find it. The more positive you are, the greater will be your will and the greater will be your efforts to attain your goal.

5) "Circle of Influence" defines what control you have in any given situation. "Circle of Concern" defines what is out of your control. If there is bomb blast or you are stuck in traffic jam, it's in your "Circle of Concern" and that's where we spend most of our time.

6) Spend more time in your "Circle of Influence". If there is bomb blast, focus not on fear of it but to the well being of victims and try to help out where possible. If you're stuck in traffic jam, instead of getting angry or cursing just put on music and relax because you can't do anything about jammed traffic.

7) Life is not 'happening' to you, life is responding to you. The more gloomy you are, the more gloomy your life will be. The more happy-go-lucky you are, the brighter will be your life.

8) Positive events have positive effects on us and negative events have negative effects. Learn to shut-off your auto-pilot of feelings and remain positive in occurrence of both events.

9) Use positive words, they bring forth positive attitude and put positive impact on both speaker and listener.

10) Have a positive view of life when you wake up everyday. The positive outlook brightens your day and driving, office, shopping and any other routine will be fun rather than torture.

11) Happiness is contagious, try to contaminate yourself with it as much and as many times as possible.

12) Having a bad boss is your bad luck. Instead of blaming your destiny, simply change your attitude and maybe you end up changing the attitude of your boss towards you because happiness, after all, is contagious.

13) Learn to IMAGINE because every inventor had imagined and visioned their success. Pakistan was imagined and visioned by Allama Iqbal and it was made real by Jinnah.

14) Imagination defines your sense of purpose. Have a purpose in life, it proves you are alive and do not simply exist like an empty sack.

15) Law of Attraction states "Like Attract Like", so be positive and positive will be attracted to you. Be purposeful and imaginative, your goal will be attracted to you.

16) Have the intend and passion to attain your goal, this is your driving force towards success.

17) Get rid of negative believes. If you believe on bad luck when a black cat cuts your path, it will come true. Don't give life to bad luck by believing in it.

18) Make your own destiny and don't curse others for whatever happens bad to you and around you.

19) Logic gets you from point A to point B, imagination can take you anywhere you want.

20) Your Love is your shield. Love is not without passion and it protects you from negative feelings, negative attitude, negative behavior, effects of negative comments, hostility and pressure. Once upon a time it was blasphemy to believe that Earth was round. Just imagine the Church's hostility and fanaticism when Galileo claimed Earth was round and how he endured all the hatred, criticism and negativity through his love for science and truth.

Many notable people were also present at the event, including Mr. Asif Noorani, the author of "Mehdi Hasan: The Man & His Music". I managed to get a signed copy directly from him and felt good at finally having the opportunity to learn more about our living legend of music. The presence of known literary people shows how we still value life, strive for betterment and care to spread love and respect. The event was free of charge for the attendees and the hospitality of Liberty Book's staff was exemplary.

These literary events are lifeline of our society which is full of misery, hurt, sadness, death, fear and broken promises. The more we collectively work towards better future, the more we will learn to live positively and affect the events in positive manner. Life does have the habit of challenging us to test our attitude and belief and rewards us accordingly. Let us join hands and promise to be positive, for ours and future generations sake. We are not a country of terrorists and neither we will ever be. We produced scientists, philosophers, artists, humanitarians and heroes before and we will continue to do so.

Pakistan Zindabad !!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pakistan's First Twitter Prime Minister

After heated election campaigns, fiery tweets, anxious pleas and rigging complaints the first elections for Pakistan Twitter Parliament concluded. No member got a clear majority to win the elections, a time of 24 hours was awarded to announce coalitions and gain maximum number of votes to form government.

After much making and breaking, confusion, queries and questions the coalitions were announced. Tweeple Scorpioyas was declared the first ever Prime Minister of Pakistan Twitter parliament with coalition partners AbidBeli, NaeemShamim, Omair_Khalid and Rectified_guy with total vote count of 595 votes. The other coalition is now in opposition with BonBonDude as Leader of Opposition and members Kursed and Guppu, a total vote count of 370. This is Pakistan’s first virtual Prime Minister after the more successful Musharraf's Facebook President episode, effectively forming the virtual leadership of the country.

With a Prime Minister in place the process of appointing Ministers began as interested Tweeples were contacted and word was spread to file nominations for ministries. One Tweeple, IrfanQazi2010, was interested in the ministry of Nepotism, Corruption, Misgovernance, Misinformation and Injustice. He was conveniently ignored.

Tweeple AadilPitafi formed Facebook page for Pakistan Twitter Parliament and in short time it was liked by more than 100 people, showing effective Twitter and Facebook marketing and general audience interest in this unique twitter phenomenon. The first issue Parliament faced was the use of non-Parliamentary language which was effectively explained as “too tarakh” language and banning its use during session. It simply means if you are using #PKTP in your tweet, don’t be frank as “chaddi friends” because while parliament is in session, no one wants to be in his “Chaddi”.

Self-proclaimed President abidifactor ended up arguing in every which direction with the opposition leader who questioned everything, from neutrality to presidential voting and finally an offer of vote of confidence in return for a week of neutrality along with general reminder that they’re not friendly opposition; meanwhile Prime Minster kept banging his head in choosing Chief Justice, COAS and ministers and the first appointment came in the form of Deputy Speaker and Tweeple ShaikhRafia was awarded with this position.

Later on rumors spread that Prime Minister has already set out on his first Virtual Foreign tour (to Pakistan it seemed, since he physically resides outside the country), probably wasting much of new Parliament’s virtual money on Swiss accounts, buying castles and hotels, gambling in Casinos and acquiring personal jumbo jets … all virtual (obviously). It is yet to determine the extent of accuracy of these rumors and possible virtual expenditure; meanwhile self-proclaimed President, Bureaucrat, Intelligence Agency, Media and Establishment abidifactor continued to facilitate the curious visitors and agitating opposition.

Twitter Parliament faced its first crisis when member abidbeli threatened to leave coalition and join the opposition. After much hyper tweeting by concerned members and constant poking, it was announced that the coalition is still intact and abidbeli decided to stay with the government. Then Prime Minister showed up and announced that any problem should be directly discussed with him and not left to speculations.

As of yet the ministries are not complete and preparations for Presidential elections are underway which will be held in coming days. The #PKTP daily has some interesting insights that would give general information regarding Twitter Parliament updates every 24 hours.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twitter Government of Pakistan

An unusual amount of activity on Twitter caught my attention. A constant stream of tweets regarding parliament made me think some new drama unfolding in Pakistan's already disastrous political scenario. A quick check on news channels, blogs and news tab on Google did not reveal anything significant, so I checked the tweets more closely.

There was no news about the current parliament of Pakistan but it was a discussion amongst very active Twitter users of Pakistan on forming a Twitter parliament. Ideas were flying, heated discussions with each other, sharing of concepts and philosophies, method and rules for voting and countless other topics were under debate. Finally a new hastag (#pktp) was used for Pakistan Twitter Parliament which became an active part of Parliament formation. Parties were formed, manifestos written and I believe I saw a tweet that might have included election banner (if that was even possible).

In less than 24 hours, #pktp has thousands of tweets about everything regarding Twitter Parliament election and polling started after a member (@abidifactor) became President to oversee the voting. 11 tweeters stood for Prime Minister election, only one being "Independent Candidate" while remaining associated with virtual parties that seem to have little or no resemblance with real political parties of Pakistan.

The whole affair has generated strong interest as random comments appeared at regular intervals from Pakistani as well as non-Pakistani tweeters. Some considered it as a joke, some applauded, some confused over the whole thing while some asked for party manifestos from the contestants. Some seemed in dilemma to call it a "Brainless Activity to Kill Time" or "Cyber Revolution from Farigh Tareen Pakistanis". All in all there has been great display of vigor by a large number of tweeters and the activity keeps on increasing. A twist in story came when during voting on twtpoll for Prime Minister, the Independent Candidate was accused of "Rigging" as large number of IPs from various different countries were observed voting in a very short span of time. No story of election is ever free of politicians favorite "Rigging" activity that has become symbolic representation of polling in Pakistan (including cyber world it seems).

With Twitter President and soon-to-be-Prime Minister, we would be moving on to forming of Twitter Parliament, write and enforce "Twitter Constitution of (Probably Islamic) Pakistan", design suitable Ministries and then appoint Ministers, Ambassadors, hire Civil Servants, bureaucrats, Policemen, Military, form committees, enforce land reforms, resolve Kashmir issue, end war in Afghanistan, liberate Waziristan, eliminate Taliban, increase water supply in River Indus, give autonomy to all provinces, launch space shuttles, bring scientific revolution ... the list goes on and on and on.

When students all over the world can act as representatives of different countries in Model United Nations then why not die-hard Twitter fans kill time by forming Cyber Government of Pakistan. After all, everyone deserves the chance to lead the country, one way or the other. I wonder what twitter addicted politicians like Salman Taseer and Rahman Malik would have to say as their very power is being hijacked through Twitter revolution.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Woes of Business Education

It came as a shock to me when I read somewhere that Tokyo city alone had over 200 universities. If we check the list of most populace cities in the world, Karachi is included in the top 5 while Tokyo not even in top 10. Considering the huge difference in the population and education facilities, no wonder we have so many fake graduates ruling us.

When deciding to apply for graduate and post graduate programs, the youth find themselves extremely limited with the available choices. If we consider the business schools only, the top business school in Karachi doesn't really live up to its name as the top, however the environment provided and the competitive nature of class tends to keep their students sharp. Having a 50 year history of producing business graduates who now dominate the market also greatly impacts with recruitment drives from known and respectable brands.

If you fail to get in due to competitive test, there is still a college and an institute that have developed reputable standing over the past couple of decades in business studies. They have their own specialties to offer and some of the program structures are not found in any other institute. There has been a growing number of people who actually target these institutions for admission rather than going for the best due to cost, location, environment, studies and various other factors.

Practically all other business schools position themselves after them, to catch those who fail to get into the top 3 of Karachi. Many might offer some argument in defense of their institutions but being a graduate from a "Navy" university myself and having a wide social network that spreads in all business schools of Karachi, I say with sadness that number of business schools can be counted on fingers irrespective of their quality level.

With such a low ratio of institution to students, no wonder business schools fail to take market studies and updating coursework seriously. Majority of them have teachers who had long ago memorized the text books to pass their exams and now follow the pattern to teach their classes, ever improving the art of "rattafication". Some institutes are hell-bent on hiring those who recently graduated from that very institute, effectively killing the possibility of including fresh perspective and experienced faculty staff. The students are now so thoroughly trained in memorizing that even slight deviation becomes a nightmare, especially critical analysis. Teachers favoring free thought, open ended discussions and questions in the tests and exams end up receiving negative feedback from the class, nailing the coffin of 'creativity'.

The institutions still have course books written by American, Canadian and British authors that are focused on business markets of their respective countries. Pakistani market, being an amalgamation of East-meets-West on many fronts (or simply compare Clifton with North Karachi), requires market understanding at an entirely different level. With the western coursework we are trying to imitate western market philosophy which does not properly apply to our business needs.

No local author has come up with satisfactory work in any sector of business which could be used as course book by local institutions. The business schools fail to take in market experts and leading companies as focus groups to understand market demands, improving quality of graduates, increasing depth of their major courses, draft conclusions, take in recommendations, implement them, perform follow-up meetings, check progress and call upon new focus group to understand the current market trends, gauge the effectiveness of previous focus group and asses the need for future.

There is a greater need to increase the number of higher education institutions in the country, let alone in a single city, but that is something which requires time and risk management. We still have current problems to face and resolve them somehow. Until the institutions take it seriously to improve their curriculum with the help of market experts and greatly enhance their graduates abilities, the students will always find a great disconnect between what they were prepared for and what they ended up facing in job market. If the talented students want to study and work abroad and immigrate to western nations on first chance, who can blame them when we ourselves are responsible for ongoing 'brain drain'?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Politics: "Personality Based" or "Party Based"?

Politics in Pakistan is a well known tangle of confusion, lies, deception, favoritism and broken promises. Anything that goes wrong, be it your boss really angry at you when a colleague revealed your secret or you’re next in line for team’s captaincy and someone ‘less worthy’ is favored over you, politics is to blame.

In my experience of both urban Karachi and rural Sindh I came across two distinct forms of commercial politics (politicians are contractual employees, aren’t they?). The personality based politics has strong roots in the countryside where, in a given area, a certain landlord will hold most influence. No matter which party he chooses or even decides to stand as an independent candidate, the votes in his locality will go to him (debatable if it’s by love or by force). This gives the candidate bargaining power and he chooses party that benefits him the most or to whom he’s most loyal.

In similar fashion the party based politics has strong base in Karachi and maybe urban centers like Lahore as well. The party chooses its candidates and probably the seats as well on which they fight during elections. How much the people have their say or how much the candidates have the bargaining power, it is debatable since every party has its own rules and policies. Whether in your locality an unknown person rises up to participate in elections or a personality you know very well and respect, it is up to the party to nominate the candidates.

We have seen effects of both political styles on local, national and international level and have examples to show who people vote and who they would not when given the choice. We have seen ‘Jamshed Dasti’ winning election from Southern Punjab again after resigning despite having fake degree, and we have seen an unknown figure ‘Syed Mustafa Kamal’ rising out towards fame when MQM nominated him against the veteran politician ‘Naimatullah Khan’. Despite having no distinguished record of politics and Naimatullah’s recent completion of term as Mayor Karachi, Mustafa Kamal became second mayor of Karachi in an era of construction blitzkrieg which he further sped up, resulting in a change of face for several areas of the largest city of Pakistan.

Both politicians were supported by their respective people that prove the distinct forms of political practices prevalent in their respective constituencies. Comparing to other countries we often find some similarities and many differences to the way politicians are recognized. Very few people must have missed ‘Barak Obama’s’ rise to presidency where he had charmed the American people so much that he earned victory against ‘Hillary Clinton’ to become lead nominee for ‘Democratic Party’ and faced the ‘Republican Party’ nominee ‘John McCain’ in the final showdown. From his early days as community organizer and civil rights attorney to state senator and then President, a clear line of political ascendance can be traced down to its roots. The U.S political system comprising of Senators might be slow but has the clarity to rip the politician down to his/her bare essence.

In Pakistan however, our Presidents are military usurpers, backdoor entrants, puppets and ceremonial figureheads chosen to smile and nod to show ‘aal iz vell’ in the country. Can there be a possibility for evolution of Pakistani politics where politicians are ripped to their essence and their worth is judged by 180 million (and counting) Pakistanis? If so, will it be the urban ‘Party based’ or rural ‘Personality based’ that will dominate the field?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

People of Pakistan: Anyway to Satisfy?

Recently a friend asked me:

"waka, bhai mere tell me ONE way Pakistan can run and people wud be satisfied. I don't say happy or delighted just satisfied"

The question put me in a difficult position. Most of the literate and educated youth are, sadly, ignorant of ground realities of Pakistan. They might be well versed with Democratic definitions, latest fashion trends, technology changes, industrial development, government corruption and situation of corporate market. Most of these youth probably spent 500 to 5000 rupees a week and their awareness radar operates as far as limits of their urban centers allow.

Beyond that, these youth are dependent on whatever news is brought to them through internet and media. It is good to see youth getting vocal on national issues which is the macro vision of Pakistan, however majority of the youth fail to understand the micro level when asked about tribes, villages, towns, peasants, farmers, landlords and countryside bureaucracy. The latter constitute above 60% of Pakistan geographically, a huge reality that cannot be ignored yet the cage of their cities don't allow them to properly explore what majority of their country offers to them.

Therefor, with a heavy heart, I gave him the following answer.

People will NEVER be satisfied. Rural side wants traditional PPP and PML governments, they want to have government jobs, they want development work and agricultural friendly policies. Last but not the least, they want Education even though it's their least priority.

Cities want diverse groups in government, they want more opportunities, private sector seeks growth, industrial expansion, business safety, urban center development, investment friendly policies, fair market practices, law and order safety and more privatisation of government assets.

Human rights groups want more emphasis on basic rights, provision of water and electricity to furthest corners of Pakistan, reduction in human rights abuses including household "zulm" on wives and daughters in our male dominant society, improve police attitude and cooperation, abolition of laws violating or hurting humans in anyway and public awareness campaigns from the government.

The Expats want our currency to remain devalued enough so that they can send sufficient money to their families in Pakistan. The exporters also want the same so that they can export more to foreign countries.

The importers want increased value of money so that they can import more.

The west, quite frankly, wants us to remain beggars with their constant support of military dictators which hurts Pakistan in the long run.

The Indians wants us to forget Kashmir and be happy buddies forever.

The Chinese wants us to stay supportive all time and help us with everything from small needle to Nuclear reactors. US, Japan and India do not like China and that's a fact hard to miss.

The average urbanite in Pakistan wants beer, booz and every 'Haram' thing to enjoy the adult life.

The Mullahs want Shariah and complete Nakaab culture.

The Taliban wants beheading of every person they deem un-Islamic.

The non-Muslims want a greater share in governance, possibility of having a non-Muslim President, safety of life, freedom to practice their religion and equality on all fronts.

Shia Muslims want their fair share in religious practices.

Sunni sect itself has various sub-sects as contenders to dominant Sunni faction.

Punjabi wants greater availability of water for better agriculture.

Sindhi wants more water in River Indus for the crops of Sindh.

and the list goes on and on and on ...

Tell me, can ANYONE even possibly satisfy half of them?

It is a sad reality, one that we cannot ignore. No matter what we do, there is no way to satisfy everyone. However, we can compromise for national interest and compromise comes through consensus. Dictators do not compromise. They either bow or crush, there is no middle ground to track on and this is the result of their life long military training.

Our political parties, even if corrupt, at least represent the far flung areas of Pakistan where few, if any, urbanites have ventured. Unless people and youth of urban centers venture out of their concrete cages, spend some time with nature, speak with people in regional languages of Pakistan (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Hindko, Balochi, Saraiki etc), understand them and their plight and work accordingly to educate them and their children, Pakistan cannot progress and will remain in suspended animation of a wounded falcon that can neither fly, hop or crawl and wait for a slow death.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Let Me Dance The Sufi Way

I stepped up to the open space, gazing at the sky filled with clouds. It was noon, yet it seemed late evening. The cool air ruffled my clothes and attempted to dislodge my cap. It should have known the Sufis don’t break off that easily. They adapt to the change, like water that fills up the cup or take the shape of palm in your hand. Sufism is the flow of Allah’s beauty through your mind and soul, the appreciation of His creation and feel of His divine blessings throughout your existence right to the core.

The cool air ruffled my clothes again. Maybe it was telling me about its existence, that air is also Allah’s creation and not a distraction. I let it pass from my conscious mind and felt the flow. It was moving in a pattern, a pattern of serenity, of flowing beauty and grace, of power and tranquility, of love and insanity. The air had stories, long forgotten and badly remembered, biased and accurate, peace and war, love and hate. I took it all and felt the ages and their stories, the rise of empires and their crumble to dust, the might of sword and the boom of canon, whisper of seductive lie and sound of bitter truth.

I took it all and let it flow, and in the confusion of ages and the stories ... I heard him.

It was Rumi, recitation of poetry that has survived centuries and still lives in the hearts of millions world over. The air vibrated, swirling around my focus on Rumi, trying to gauge me to listen more to its stories. I ignore it and kept on listening to Rumi and the tranquility his words brought.

And then the rhythm began, slowly as Rumi words flew like a boat gliding over the silvery surface of a calm river. Energy welled up to strengthen my body as it began to flow like water, like the Dervish of the old who would move to the sound of nature and love, of peace and tranquility, of heart and soul for Islam. And like the Whirling Dervish of the old I tilted my head to right with my eyes closed, my right hand raised at sky and left facing the Earth and began the chant of life, circling, whirling, flowing like water caught in the whirlwind. I flowed in all forms and none, I embraced life and death and gathered love and despair, I was the earth and the sky, I was the bird and the ant, the leaf and the larvae. I was a thing of living and thing that never took breath. I was solid as rock and soft as flower. I was the essence of this world and bathing in the blessing of my Lord Almighty.

But the wind wasn’t done with me. It was whispered and circled around my focus. It lied and uttered truth. It blew from Sahara and blew from Antarctica. It was the tornado and the poisonous fume. It continued to blow and swirled around me, countering the way I moved until it said what my conscious could not pass and I collapsed in a heap.

I heard the cries and wails of the devastated. I heard the anguish of the educated and misery of the illiterate. I felt the bleeding of the onlooker and bewilderment of concerned ones. I felt the hunger of the greedy and patience of hungry. I experienced the luxury of rich and discomfort of poor. I felt disinterest of powerful and hope in weak and I could not bear it anymore.

I asked the wind to tell me whose story it whispered. It blew around me in mocking; playing for it finally got my attention. I pleaded begged and wiped tears that flowed down my face. I asked the wind to tell the story it whispered for it was too new, its greed tainting, its anguish cutting, its hope burning, its despair slicing, its hate scorching and its pity insulting. It was too new to be a story of the old, too entangled to be of simple mortals, too narrow to be of progressive, too wide to be of zealots. It was tiny as pin and wide as a mountain. It was a story of sweetness of the greatest scent and bitterness of the foulest medicine. It was of valor and heroics, of cowardice and backstabbing. It had believers of Islam and liars with the hands on Quran. It had fathers seeing their daughters leave with husbands after marriage and it had brothers pimping their sisters away without an ounce of shame. It was a story of construction and destruction, of falling sky and cracking earth and it was all searing my soul away.

I asked the wind where the story happened. It blew silently around me. It didn’t say anything for a long time. I kept on waiting, it kept on blowing. Finally, it whispered…

I tell the story of love and despair, of hope and anguish, of rose and thorn, of life and death, valor and cowardice not of forgotten times but present. I tell of thieves becoming lords and lords vanishing in abyss. I tell of nameless enemies and unknown friends. I tell of legends and myths, of right and wrong, justice and injustice …

I tell you of Pakistan.

You cannot dance Sufi, you cannot dance. You dance for the joy of your Lord when Sufi shrines in Pakistan get destroyed by nameless enemies. You dance for love when woman is rendered as a commodity than a human being. You dance for the sky when fire falls from it to kill Muslims daily. You dance for freedom when countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters cry, wait and plead with lords of the land asking about the whereabouts of their loved ones. You dance for your Lord Almighty when followers of Islam kill each other without an ounce of remorse. You dance like flowing water when devastation of water submerged half the nation. You dance for power when Lords of the land ignored the plight of the weak, left them like vulture feed and buried their women alive like the Pagan customs before Islam.

You cannot dance Sufi, for while you dance the destruction continues and it will soon devour the whole humanity of the nation. For while there is hope, there is possibility of light in the darkest corner.

Then what should I do if not dance. How can I bear this anguish you whispered me? How can remove these poisonous clouds off my brethren?

You cannot do anything except pray, whispered the wind. They are beggars, made this way through decades. Let them find the strength in their feet, the iron in their will, the rod in their spine, the height in their spirits, the truth in their hearts and destiny in their hands. Let them find their way of which they went astray.

They have the strength of Maula Ali in their arms yet they feel not. They have the knowledge of Abbasi caliphate but they are clueless. They have poetry of Rumi in the hearts yet they find darkness in wait. They have strength of Quran in the soul yet lies and deceit guide their lives. They have Iqbal’s guidance but rolled off to opposite path. They have words of Jinnah but they heed of utters of foreign lords. They have role model of Prophet Mohammed yet they bow down to thieves. They are beggars waiting for pity and pittance. They have to rise and be what they are meant to be.

Until then, you cannot dance Sufi. You cannot dance.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Disputing Fatima Bhutto's Claims

I recently had the chance to read Fatima Bhutto's book titled "Songs of Blood And Sword". It was an interesting story about a girl who remembers her father fondly and travels the world, meeting her father's friends and colleagues to him better.

What's astonishing is that despite the long nature of research she undertook, she still is not willing to admit the faults of her father and blames everyone else who speaks against him. In similar fashion, Ms. Fatima Bhutto pointed finger at our family too, accusing us smartly so as to keep a way out from legal action.

I prepared a rebuttal and emailed it to prominent English newspaper of Pakistan, Dawn, to bring the issue to notice and clear any doubts.

The following is what I wrote for Dawn Letters to the Editor but for some odd reason it wasn't printed despite the fact I submitted it twice.

In the end I have been forced to put it on my blog as a way to raise my views about her book and clear the misconception she has tried to create.

Ms. Fatima Bhutto's recent book "Songs of Blood and Sword" has sent tremors into Pakistan's political circles, attracting criticism from several people including relatives. I unfortunately have to bring a half truth to light and address the misinformation.

In the book, Ms. Fatima states that Mir Murtaza Bhutto asked party ticket for Larkana seat which Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto refused and instead gave ticket to a newcomer Munawar Abbasi. She further says that locals know him as a landowner who presented Ajrak to Zia Ul Haq when he visited Larkana.

I want to bring this to notice that Munawar Abbasi was not a newcomer to PPP. He joined PPP on its creation and was student leader campaigning for PPP in Larkana. Munawar Abbasi would drive Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto throughout Larkana district for election campaigns and visit tours in 60s and 70s. Munawwar Abbasi and Dr. Safdar Abbasi's mother, Dr. Begum Ashraf Abbasi, was the first-ever woman in Pakistan's Parliamentary history to be elected as Deputy Speaker of National Assembly in 1973. Before that she was elected as MPA in 1965 and was part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's group in the assembly. She was elected as Deputy Speaker National Assembly again in 1988. Munawar Abbasi was a student activist before the creation of PPP and once party was founded in Lahore, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to Larkana and Munawar Abbasi was amongst the first ones to be officially inducted in PPP as member.

Munawwar Abbasi spent considerable time in jail during Zia's era, beginning from October 1977 for 5 months, March 1978 to July 1978, October 1978 till May 1979 and for one month in 1986. He was elected Chairman of District Coordination Committee Larkana in 1983 and MPA in elections of 1988 (he was appointed Minister for Transportation and later Local Bodies).

Ms. Fatima Bhutto narrates the story in a way that shows Mir Murtaza Bhutto only opted to compete on Larkana seat, however the truth is that Mir Murtaza Bhutto competed on 20 seats (Reference: Dawn's article "Is it the end of Bhutto saga?" dated 24 December, 2008) throughout Pakistan for both Provincial Assembly and National Assembly seats. He had initially asked for party tickets to compete on all of them but Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto offered an alternate of one provincial and one national ticket for him, Mir Murtaza Bhutto refused the offer and filed himself as Independent Candidate. Murtaza Bhutto lost all seats except for Larkana where he won by a narrow margin, details of the victory I would rather not venture into.

Ms. Fatima Bhutto also mentions that locals knew Munawwar Abbasi as the landlord who presented Ajrak to Zia Ul Haq. I am not sure who are the locals Ms. Fatima consulted and without verification she included the information in her book. In 1983 Zia Ul Haq was on Sindh tour and he also came to Larkana. During Larkana district tour he addressed to the local office bearers at Circuit House. Munawar Abbasi was Chairman of District Coordination Committee of Larkana district and it was his duty to attend the event due to the office he held. He did so after consulting PPP leadership and with their permission attended the event with other PPP members.

Other members from Larkana district were Abdul Khaliq Bhutto, (Chairman District Municipal Committee Larkana), Ghulam Mujtaba Isran (Chairman District Council Larkana) and Office bearers from other districts also attended the event, both PPP and non-PPP, including Sardar Mohammed Baksh Kuhawar (Chairman Taulka Municipal Committee Shahdad Kot) and others.

Munawwar Abbasi did not bestowed Ajrak to Zia Ul Haq which can be testified by the above mentioned people who attended the event. Munawar Abbasi sat at the very back seat instead of the stage beside Zia Ul Haq and none of the PPP members including Munawar Abbasi presented Ajrak, Sindhi topi or garlands to Zia Ul Haq. They attended the event on conditions of bare minimum participation. If there is any documentary evidence in form of video clippings of the event or pictures then please bring them forth.