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    enter image description hereIf I can drive in Pakistan, I sure as hell can drive anywhere in the world.

    That notion sparked my quest to learn driving in Karachi. But what was supposed to be a journey to unlock more roads of adventure, turned out to be a series of unfortunate events.

    I must first give some premise on what kind of a person I am. A foreigner is one, a Chinese (or ching-chong, as some Pakistanis call us). To add to that, and most of all, a really unlucky being. So if there is anyone who had to wait half an hour for her driving instructor out in the cold, it would be me. And it was only the first lesson.

    But fine, it was 6:30 pm; I could totally understand that “heavy traffic” explanation. As soon as I saw my instructor, I literally heaved a sigh of relief and thought “now I can finally breathe”, which turned out to be yet another overstatement.

    You see, the car had no windows, which made breathing in an unpolluted space impossible (don’t get me started on the street pollution). But the thing that struck me most - there were no seatbelts. I have never driven a car or taken up any driving theory lesson before, but I always thought that wearing a seatbelt is a ‘needless to say’ kind of traffic rule in any country, not excluding Pakistan. Apparently not.

    If I am to ram into a tree or other vehicles, am I perhaps supposed to thrust myself backwards at that precise moment so that I would not fly through the windshield? Yes I do have an instructor who might want to make sure that doesn’t happen, but… we will get to that.

    So let’s go back to 6:30pm. The car finally arrived after half an hour of cold waiting and I got into the passenger seat and five minutes later, my star-crossed aura struck once more – the tire bust. After a few tough minutes of hand signing, I finally understood what my instructor meant by “wheel”. Well a punctured tire might sound very much like an inauspicious start, but my spirits were still up, surprisingly, because I got to have a free lesson on changing tires, though it simply meant I got to watch from the side.

    My instructor swiftly replaced the “wheel” while I invited ogles beside the car with a big red-lettered “L” for Loser plastered on the rear window. Okay maybe it’s “L” for Learning, but you can’t possibly blame me for thinking otherwise. After what seemed like 15 minutes, the man turned to me and said, “You, drive.” If there was any instance I felt like hitting anyone in Pakistan, it was then. But of course, back then I did not know this is what everyone does during their first driving lesson – they just cut straight to the chase and into the driver’s seat. But in my defense, they are not in an old and tatty car with an engine that sounds like metals of all kinds breaking into a gazillion pieces.

    Now to the metaphysical part of my story; I always feel like the spirit of a world-class car racer lives within me, or perhaps I carry some of him or her (yes my car racer ghost can be a woman) from my past life. Anyway, my past experience with a Daytona in a climate-controlled arcade usually attracted envious looks from aggressive little boys with goofy larger-than-life grins, who at my every turns and drifts, frowned like they never had even when their teachers were lashing at them. That’s my achievement on the four-by-three arcade screen. In real life, it wasn’t that pretty.

    See in the world of Daytona, the only living organism are those invisible spectators who exist for the sole purpose of clapping for me, and even that is contestable since they don’t subsist beyond the screen. But behind the steering wheel in Karachi, it is as if people want to run into a car just so that they could be seen. Until now, I had not managed to grasp that concept, which is why I know I might not be explaining it well. They come from all places, left right back and front, and they want you to be more afraid of them than you should be, like a cat which thinks it is a lion. But seriously, who are they kidding?

    The onlooker who sat next to me seemed to understand these messed up dynamics. So he kept saying to me, “be careful of cars, and be more careful of humans”. Well it could also be interpreted as he does not want me to kill someone, but no I would not think of him that way because I know he definitely does not value life as much as I do – especially after what he shared about his hunting trips, the glorious and not-so-glorious facts. Thus I prefer to regard it as “he does not want me to kill someone with him sitting next to me,” which runs well by me, because I would not have the kind of money to get myself out of prison like CERTAIN people from CERTAIN walks of life do.

    They (public service advertisements that are definitely not shown in Karachi) always advise people to not get distracted while driving, so there are in fact a lot of traffic rules dedicated especially to that. The most common of all being the “no texting or calling while driving” rule. There is a reason why that law exists. It is hard to understand how a person could brake in split seconds, and daringly place his or her life on the mechanics of a tattered car. But it happens, and quite frequently so, because I do not think headsets exist in Karachi, at least not for these drivers.

    That still treads the dangerous but acceptable line, like single rope cliff climbing, it is inconsiderate and the innocent ones usually die first, but we are human, and subconsciously we have the tendency to conclude our lost meaningless lives in a big whoosh, usually with the company of others, without even intending to.

    But driving in the opposite direction of incoming traffic? That is the last straw. It is akin to suicide bombing, it is premeditated and there isn’t a single excuse on planet Earth that suffices to explain why it could be done. It is intolerable and should not be condoned. No amount of blinkers would make me safe, driving amongst this suicidal bunch.

    With that angry thought, I expected nothing less than another punctured tire, because angry karma comes in one full round, and this rings true even on an inanimate object. Once again, I had to get down, but lucky for me (my first peek of luck, fancy that), my house was not far, so my instructor walked me home.

    The first time I drove, I had to walk home, that is life with a big capital “L” in Karachi.

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    enter image description hereSomething very disturbing happened last month, and it went largely unreported in the world’s mainstream press. On the night of May 2, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere touched 400 parts-per-million (ppm) in Hawaii for the first time in at least 800,000 years. Sensors placed near the summit of the volcanic Mauna Loa measured this record on an hourly basis through sunrise the following day. Levels continued near that benchmark throughout May, crossing 400 ppm on May 7th. Scientists say that Arctic weather stations have also hit the hourly 400 ppm mark last spring and this year, but the Mauna Loa station, located at 3,400m and far away from major pollution sources in the Pacific Ocean, has been monitoring levels for more than 50 years and is considered one of the best standards for indicating CO2 levels.

    Why is crossing the 400 ppm mark so alarming? Well, scientists had guessed that we would hit the 450 ppm mark some time around this mid-century. It is only 2013, and we have already reached 400 ppm. "At this pace we'll hit 450 ppm within a few decades", said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which operates the Hawaiian observatory. What is the cause of this rapid increase in carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere? Carbon dioxide and most of the other greenhouse gases come from industrial and other human activity on the planet, including the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and from deforestation, which has all been steadily on the rise in recent years. Every time we burn fossil fuels, we are adding to the Earth’s emissions of greenhouse gases – and energy use was projected to grow by 50 per cent between 2005 and 2030, hence the rapid increase in CO2 levels.

    You might have heard of the global campaign centering on the number 350, to draw attention to 350 ppm which a number of scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere. For hundreds of thousands of years, the global atmosphere was fairly stable at around 270-280 ppm of carbon dioxide. Then, two hundred years ago the industrial revolution took place in the West and with the proliferation of smoke emitting factories and coal burning engines we shot up from 280 ppm to 385 ppm and are now touching 400 ppm, which is why the Arctic is melting. Even if we stopped using fossil fuels immediately, there is enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases stored in our oceans, which would continue to come out over the decades.

    Fossil fuel burning results in more than 30 billion metric tons of CO2 being added to the atmosphere each year. With the world still dependent on fossil fuels for energy and with deforestation continuing at its current rate (cutting forests releases large amounts of carbon dioxide), we are heading towards a world that will be drastically different from the one we know today. According to Rajendra Pachauri, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "every single estimate that people have come up with has been exceeded by reality…The impacts of climate change are clearly turning out to be much worse than what we had anticipated earlier." (

    The solution, of course, is to cut down on the energy we use (from fossil fuels) as soon as we can, and turn to renewable energy like wind, hydro and solar, but it is easier said than done. The oil and gas industry is very powerful and the multinational corporations are driven by greed, not altruism.

    European politicians have linked the more well-known two degrees rise in temperature to 450 ppm, pointing out that any further increase in temperature will mean that we will have no chance of limiting climate change to acceptable levels. The theory is that if we can keep the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere below 450 ppm, then we might manage to keep global temperature rise below 2C. Right now, 450 ppm is more palatable to political leaders in the West and under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international community of nations has agreed that 450 ppm – linked to a rise of two degrees Celsius in global average temperatures – should not be exceeded.

    So where did the 350 ppm figure come from? It originated from a NASA research team, which surveyed both real-time climate observations and emerging climatic data in January of 2008. Their peer-reviewed article concluded that above 350 ppm of carbon dioxide, the earth’s atmosphere couldn’t support “a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

    Naturally, limiting carbon dioxide levels to 350 ppm would mean even more stringent emissions cuts, which seem unlikely given the economic recession in Europe and elsewhere.

    NASA scientists like James Hansen had warned, however: “Present policies, with continued construction of coal-fired power plants without CO2 capture, suggest that decision-makers do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. We must begin to move now toward the era beyond fossil fuels. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects”.

    Some scientists now argue that we passed the safe level for greenhouse gas concentrations long ago, pointing to the accelerating impacts, from extreme weather to the meltdown of the Arctic sea ice. Others argue that we have some more room to burn fossil fuels and clear forests (but not much) before catastrophic climate change becomes inescapable. At any rate, limiting CO2 levels to 450 ppm by the end of this century will require emission cuts of 80 per cent or even more in the next 40 years. However, the current UN climate change talks are in a deadlock and no global agreement to reduce emissions is expected to be reached until 2015.

    The last time CO2 levels at Mauna Loa were this high, humans did not live there. In fact, the last time CO2 levels are thought to have been this high was more than 2.5 million years ago, an era known as the Pliocene, when the Canadian Arctic had forests instead of icy wastes. The globe’s temperature averaged about three degrees centigrade warmer, and sea levels were five metres or higher. According to Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon cycle researcher with the Scripps Group, “The 400 ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it's too late for our children and grandchildren”.

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    enter image description herePolitical advertising campaigns have come a long way across the world. But if we look at their impact in India, we realise that there has not been a single campaign since India achieved independence which has been able to increase the ever dipping confidence of the public at large in their leader(s), political parties, their ideologies and the much promoted achievements. This is reflected in the fact that despite of we having completed 66 years of our independence, the voter turnout (percentage of total registered voters) in our general elections has never gone beyond 63.56 per cent(1984 general elections). Even in 2009, the voter turnout was 58.19 per centwhich shows that there always exist that group comprising of 30 per cent (approximated after writing off 10 per cent for those who are not able to vote due to inaccessibility to polling booths, ill health, job locations etc.) of eligible voters who have either lost faith in Indian democracy and the candidates contested by the parties or have developed that “nothing will change” attitude.

    In 2004, Indians witnessed a campaign called “INDIA SHINING” and are now being subject to what is being called “BHARAT NIRMAN”. There is a huge debate on whether there exists any difference between the two campaigns? Another discussion which is making rounds is that if “INDIA SHINING” was responsible for the debacle of BJP in 2004, has Congress also decided to fall in the same black hole come 2014?

    I wonder why we are even having these debates about these campaigns. Have we even analyzed whether our voter has evolved to that higher pedestal where she leads a minimum living standard and needs that “last mile support” in the form of a motivating campaign inviting her to be a part of the “change”. Is she even equipped to be a part of that “change” and on top of that does she even knows what “change” is being visualized? Public money to the tune of Rs. 150-200 Crore is being spent to create a positive wave of excitement to trap the sadly forgetful Indian to gather votes for the party in power in the upcoming elections.

    USA has seen many victorious political campaigns which swept their entire nation. One such blitzkrieg was “YES WE CAN” and “COUNTRY I LOVE” which managed to drive Barack Obama home. This campaign was based on developing an emotional connect between a leader and the people of a country where literacy rate itself is 99 per cent with a HDI (human development index) of 0.937 (highest possible being 1). Don’t we need to first carry out a revolution bringing up our people to a level where they have trust in India’s system and processes, 100 per cent education levels and very strong HDI?

    Every Indian state today is following the centre’s strategy and recklessly spending public money on advertising their self proclaimed achievements through newspapers, television channels and radio. How many such campaigns are based on electorate feedback? The sad answer is none.

    When a FMCG company advertises a product like soap, it is based on in depth marketing research. This research is supported by customer feedback where the customer is obviously king and finally goes on to decide the fate of the product. Is the voter not king for the elected leaders? If he is the one who decides their fate then why is he not surveyed before releasing any information through any form of media? I am sure that if we run a questionnaire asking the people across India’s states about the performance of the current government (2009-2014), it would yield a dismal response. “Are you better off than you were 5 years back?” and the obvious answer from a majority of the randomly selected sample would be “NO”.

    enter image description herePolitical advertising where the state/central government(s) are listing down schemes without studying their impact have to be stopped to ensure that public money is spent on research rather than on advertising. In this case, if we take the example of NREGA and its impact, the government is simply canvassing higher employment numbers whereas there is no real infrastructure growth and the rural populace is being engaged in passive employment. On the sanitation front, a majority of men and women across rural areas still use the roadsides/bushes/other open areas as toilets. They have to wait for the sunset in the evening and wake up before the sunrise in the morning to defecate in the open areas near their houses. Is it still justified for our government to advertise India Shining/Bharat Nirman?

    The opposition party in India is losing out on time and as the election draws closer, I am sure that they will also come up with a campaign which will have a portion blaming the ruling party enlisting their wrongdoings while the rest of it will comprise of macro-level tall claims of what they will do if voted to power. My question remains, “have we asked the public?”

    It is only when we will go and ask the farmers, rickshaw pullers, cobblers, vegetable vendors, paan wallahs, taxi drivers in every city/town/village that we will get the actual response on whether the people are leading an improved lifestyle then they were a few years back. This is the true barometer which will help us design future strategy/amend current policies. Reckless publicity is just to eyewash the people of this country. Beware and introspect.

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  • 06/05/13--08:24: A license to rape
  • enter image description here A series of events in the past few weeks have again highlighted the injustices being committed against women in the name of Islam in Pakistan. Recently, the three accused of raping an 18-year old woman at Jinnah’s Mausoleum were set free by a court in Karachi. The court refused to entertain the DNA evidence, which reportedly proved the guilt of the accused, and gave the accused the benefit of the doubt because the victim could not produce four eyewitnesses to the rape. Weeks later, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) decreed that the DNA evidence in the absence of four righteous men as witnesses to rape is not sufficient for conviction under Islamic law.

    While women are being discriminated in Pakistan and elsewhere in the name of Islam, there is nothing Islamic or divine about the man-made laws in Pakistan. Take the case of the Hudood laws in Pakistan, which were enacted by the then military dictator General Zia to Islamicize Pakistan’s legal system. A close scrutiny of the laws reveals that the Hudood laws, which also cover offenses related to rape, are in fact a legacy of the British Colonial law. As these laws stand today, they discriminate against women rather than protecting their rights. Furthermore, the refusal to embrace modern-day forensic evidence is a divergence from the Islamic tradition where similar techniques have been used by the Muslim jurists to resolve disputes in the past.

    In a well-researched paper published in 1997, Professor Asifa Quraishi explains that the rape laws in Pakistan are anything but Islamic. Drawing exclusively from Islamic sources and Quranic injunctions, Professor Quraishi makes the following points. First, the Quranic injunctions are restricted to zina (consensual sexual act by adults outside of marriage). There is no mention of rape in Quran. Secondly the intent of the Quranic injunctions was to prevent lewd behavior in public and to limit instances of false accusations. The requirement to produce four witnesses who had explicitly witnessed the sexual act is possible only if the act is being committed in public and in nude. This suggests that “unlawful sexual intercourse will be prosecuted by the state only when it is publically indecent.”

    The noble Quran forbade Zina (fornication) in Surat Al-'Isrā' (17:32) and prescribed the punishment in Surat An-Nūr (24:2). The noble Quran then reads:

    Those who defame chaste women and do not bring four witnesses (shuhada) should be punished with eighty lashes, and their testimony should not be accepted afterwards, for they are profligates. (24:4)

    The Quranic speech is clear and without confusion. The requirement to produce four witnesses, and not just male witnesses, is required by the Quran to prevent false accusations of fornication against women. The Quran does not ask for four male witnesses, but General Zia’s Hudood ordinance did when it required “at least four Muslim adult witnesses, about whom the Court is satisfied, having regard to the requirements of tazkiyah al-shuhood…”

    The Quranic intent had been to protect the rights of women against false accusations. General Zia’s Hudood Ordinance accomplished exactly the opposite. Firstly, it unnecessarily confused rape, a violent crime, with fornication. Secondly, the Hudood ordinance has made it impossible for a rape victim to get justice in Pakistan. Under the Hudood Ordinance, the Courts require four “adult male” eyewitnesses to rape. When a female victim fails to produce four male eyewitnesses, she is then charged under Tazeer for fornication. If the woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape, the rapist/s gets a walk, while the woman is charged with fornication using pregnancy as a proof.

    Man-made law

    How is it possible that the very Quranic injunctions that were supposed to safeguard women’s rights were reversed by General Zia to discriminate against them? Professor Qurashi offers the answer to this riddle by exposing the plagiarist jurists commissioned by the military dictator to draft the Hudood Ordinances. She reproduces the texts of the Hudood Ordinances enacted by General Zia, and the earlier British Common Law of rape. I have reproduced below verbatim the two texts to demonstrate that what was presented to Pakistanis as the divine law was in fact a cut-and-paste from the British Common Law. Even the explanation to what constitutes as rape is identical in the two texts.

    enter image description here

    What the mullahs defend in Pakistan today is not the divine law, it is the British Common Law. The Quran does not explicitly refer to rape. But the laws to prosecute rape have been enacted in the name of Islam. In their eagerness to promote their cultural patriarchal biases, the jurists have imposed their ignorant and misogynist views over Islamic jurisprudence. Where the noble Quran suggested four witnesses, they turned into four male witnesses; whereas the Quran intended to prevent false accusations against women, the mullahs created laws that had no parallel with Islam.

    Professor Qurashi points out that requiring four male witnesses, as is stated in the Hudood Ordinance, creates this situation where women could no longer be accused of slander. If a woman’s testimony is not admissible in the Court, as per the Hadood Ordinance, a woman can make false accusations against others without fearing punishment.

    The Hudood Ordinance, as it stands today, prevents women in Pakistan from following the noble Quran that states in Surat An-Nisā:

    O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever acquainted with what you do. [4:135]

    This infringement of Quranic law continues unabated in Pakistan.

    Is Islam against circumstantial or forensic evidence?

    The precedence for circumstantial evidence is set in Surat Yusuf (12:23 – 12:29) in the Quran where it narrates the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) being accused by a woman of attempting to rape her.

    The Quran narrates the story in the following verses (12:23 – 12:29):

    And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, "Come, you." He said, "[I seek] the refuge of Allah. Indeed, he is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed." And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that we should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants. And they both raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back, and they found her husband at the door. She said, "What is the recompense of one who intended evil for your wife but that he be imprisoned or a painful punishment?" [Joseph] said, "It was she who sought to seduce me." And a witness from her family testified. "If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth, and he is of the liars. But if his shirt is torn from the back, then she has lied, and he is of the truthful." So when her husband saw his shirt torn from the back, he said, "Indeed, it is of the women's plan. Indeed, your plan is great. Joseph, ignore this. And, [my wife], ask forgiveness for your sin. Indeed, you were of the sinful."

    Circumstantial and forensic evidence are not merely an invention of the modern times. The story about the Prophet in Egypt suggests that centuries old legal traditions relied on logic and commonsense. In fact, there is even evidence of the use of forensic evidence in the early days of Islam. Anwar Mahmud Dabur in al-Qara’in wa Dawruha fi al-fiqh al-Jina’i al-Islami (p. 215) narrates the story of a woman who falsely accused another man of rape. She spread the egg yolk on herself and her clothes and brought it as evidence to Caliph Umar ibn Khattab. The Caliph consulted another woman who confirmed the woman’s clothing bore semen stains. The Caliph consulted Ali (subsequently the fourth Caliph), who immersed the stained cloth in boiling water that turned the stains into white solid, which smelled and looked like egg yolk.

    The Islamic tradition provides for the use of the scientific evidence in legal matters. Forensic evidence can be used under the tradition of Qarinah (circumstantial evidence) and al-ra’y al-khabir (expert opinion). The Prophet himself is reported to have consulted an expert on face recognition to settle a paternity dispute (Sunan al-Dar Qutni, p. 240). By turning our collective backs on science, logic, and ijtihad, we have brought ourselves to a state where discrimination against women and the disenfranchised is being committed in the name of Islam.

    A study of 74 cases of rape or attempted rape registered at the Shadman female police station in Lahore during 1995 and 2008 reveal the ugly consequences of inadequate legal frameworks in Pakistan. Writing in the Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Pakistan in 2010, Dr. Iram Manzoor and others discovered that most rape victims were aged between 10 and 19 years old. Approximately 74 per cent victims were unmarried, 83 per cent had grade eight or lower education, and 82 per cent were unemployed. In the 13-year period, only five per cent accused were convicted of the crime.

    The five per cent conviction rate for rape has been reported in other studies in Pakistan. As a comparison, the conviction rate for rape in neighbouring India is around 26 per cent. In a written statement to the Parliament, the Minister of State for Home Affairs revealed that 24,206 rape cases were registered in 2011 and 5,724 were convicted.

    The superior courts in Pakistan must act without delay to address the shortcomings in the Hudood Ordinances. For decades women in Pakistan have been discriminated against in the name of Islam. Quran does not explicitly address rape. In fact, the Islamic jurisprudence deals with rape under Hiraba and Jirah; even allowing for compensation for the rape victims.

    If it is indeed true that the rape laws are anything but Islamic, they should then have no place in Pakistan’s judicial system. This matter, however, cannot be left to the mullahs to decide. We already know what they believe in. It is the time for the rest of us to speak up.

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    Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    It is the glory of the labyrinths of power that whomsoever has entered this maze has never returned unchanged. It would be a miracle if someone did emerge unaltered. You cannot imagine how much they struggle just to get inside these labyrinths. That includes all the promises they made and the promises others made to them, as well as the dreams that they showed to the public. But they guard their dreams from everyone, ensuring that no one knows about them until they are fulfilled. Their path forward can only be paved by showing several different dreams to people. Otherwise they would spend their entire lives hovering at the edges like evil spirits without a single chance of entering the labyrinths of power.

    Curing someone who is addicted to wandering in these labyrinths is a complex task. Such people refuse to come out if they are already inside. If they must come out for some reason, they immediately begin struggling to return to it, which continues until their objective has been achieved. If their separation from the mazes is lengthened, they either fall seriously ill or leave this country to go to another country, hoping that they could have all the comforts offered by the other countries even if they can’t have the luxuries in their own country, aptly known as self-exile.

    So the exile replaces the labyrinths of power, while every street, village, town, metropolitan cities exist only in name and whose roads are like archaeological sites. These people only visit the villages when they are struggling to return to power again. They also must greet and hug these people, something they never want to do. Only some people are lucky enough to live next to Masjid Nabwi in Medina and see the holy mosque every time they peek out of their window. Then there are those who prefer the streets of London and Dubai where there’s no chance of an unknown bullet being shot from the gun of a target killer. Whether they are in power or out of it, they are always surrounded by armed guards.

    Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    Everyone living in exile for the last five years returned home expecting that they’ll finally enter the labyrinths of power this time. But if they didn’t succeed for some reason, they shall soon return to their life in exile. Some people love their exile so much that they aren’t prepared to return at all. But there’s not a leaf that can flutter without a statement being issued to the media from there. Occasionally, the media discovers that a leaf moved here when this statement is released from abroad. This is an exile that keeps one so closely connected to one’s homeland that one’s country would be ashamed for keeping its sons away from her.

    However, it doesn’t matter which nationality you obtain because your country won’t let go of you so soon. Whichever country you may be in, whether you are asleep or awake, you remain aware of the news that is transmitted from your country. Sometimes our friends and family living abroad tell us that there is a riot in our neighbourhood or bullets are flying in the streets. But why are we talking about this? These poor souls are the people who have neither seen the labyrinths of power nor been in exile. They live in luxury both here and there. Only those who are used to it grow thin due to anxiety. The country continues to operate in the same manner as it has always has and will continue to do so.

    By the way, there are those who can’t secure enough votes to come into power. Their chance comes when a military coup occurs or a caretaker government comes into force. It’s like our social activists, technocrats, businesspeople and even the literati and journalists have won this lottery. They finally get a chance to visit the labyrinths of power on the basis of their honesty in speaking and writing the truth and their services to the society. One should only possess true passion; your luck and the agreement of your colleagues in power will be enough to take you to the labyrinths of power without having to go into exile wherever you aspire to be. Alhamdullilah! This time around one returned just as empty-handed as when one first came into power. In any case, it’s useless to discuss transfers, promotions and postings. Whatever we do, we do so because of our passion to serve our nation. We have nothing to do with give-and-take, we are Allah-lok and no one knows it better than you!

    It depends entirely on you whether you find yourself in the old Pakistan or the new one. It’s not going to change by changing your cap or curing your baldness. Previously, video messages were relayed from an undisclosed location by our old friends, the Taliban. Now video messages are also transmitted from the Shaukat Khanum hospital. Change will come, but slowly, as this nation cannot tolerate an overnight miracle. The difference between those in power and those who aren’t will eventually start becoming evident. What’s the hurry anyway? Please wait some more. We haven’t even forgotten the loadshedding yet. So, we must muster up some courage to accept the gifts that the upcoming budget is going to bestow upon us.

    The presents this new budget is going to bring along aren’t for those who are in power or for those who are in exile, but for us. Our acceptance of it won’t matter, as it’s a part of our fortunes. At every step, we would have to bless them with our acceptance. You already have been accepting everything for the last 65 years, thinking it’s God’s will, so why avoid it now?

    Illustration BY Khuda Bux Abro
    Illustration BY Khuda Bux Abro
    Only those who are actually focusing on something else avoid it. If their focus was entirely on the nation, then we must accept everything as it is, just like we always have done. Those who are eyeing the labyrinths of power continue to remain mesmerised in the mazes of power, whether they are dreaming it or it’s real. They only come in the real world when they get support from above and from below. The people on the outside bless them and those who are inside cannot stop supporting them. The only other option they have is exile. You know how some people have spent years abroad in exile, saying that their party workers don’t permit them to return so they cannot return yet.

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  • 06/06/13--03:43: Cafe Black: The last bastion

  • A cultural centre near the shrine of Sufi saint, Shah Abdul Lateef in Bhit Shah, Sindh.
    A cultural centre near the shrine of Sufi saint, Shah Abdul Lateef in Bhit Shah, Sindh.

    During the previous PPP-led government, plans were afoot to build the world’s first ever international Sufi university near Bhit Shah in Sindh(1).

    The main purpose of the institution was stated to promote interfaith and intercultural education to tackle religious extremism in the country.

    Such a thought and project could only have come about in Sindh. Especially in the context of what Pakistan has been going through in the last many years.

    Not only have the country’s other provinces – especially the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Sindh’s capital, Karachi – become central targets of horrid terrorist attacks by extremist organisations, the Punjab province in particular has been witnessing a steady growth of faith-based conservatism within its urban middle and lower middle-classes.

    When extremists (calling themselves ‘Punjabi Taliban’) attacked the famous Sufi shrine, Data Darbar, in Lahore in 2010, economist and political analyst, Asad Sayeed, made a rather insightful observation.

    He said that had such an attack on the Darbar taken place 20 years ago, thousands of Lahorites would have poured out to protest.

    But not anymore. The attack on one of Punjab’s most popular Sufi shrines was simply treated as just another terrorist attack.

    The aftermath of the 2010 Data Darbar attack in Lahore.
    The aftermath of the 2010 Data Darbar attack in Lahore.

    Though it is now clear that extremists from within the ‘Wahabi’and Deobandi strands of the faith have been going around blowing up Sufi shrines frequented by the majority (and the more moderate) Barelvi Muslims, the Barelvi leadership has mostly looked elsewhere, putting the blame on the ever-elusive ‘foreign hands.’

    Journalist and intellectual Khaled Ahmed once wrote a telling tongue-in-cheek article about the annual gathering of the Dawat-i-Islami in Multan.

    The Dawat is the Barelvi equivalent of the Deobandi Tableeghi Jamat. Both outfits are considered to be non-political organisations that are more interested in evangelising their respective versions of Islam and its rituals.

    One should also mention that both these strains of Islam accuse each another of being ‘flawed Muslims.’

    Ahmed wrote(2) how after Dawat’s huge congregation in Multan, when police found some bullet-riddled bodies of Dawat members, the outfit’s main leadership simply refused to acknowledge the glaring evidence that pointed towards the involvement of an opposing Sunni sect’s organisation in the murders.

    Ahmed adds that Dawat leaders began babbling about ‘outside forces (RAW, CIA, Mossad)’ who wanted to create disharmony between Pakistan’s Barelvi majority and the Deobandi and Wahabi sects.

    One can understand the above-mentioned episode as an example of the confusion Barelvi spiritual leadership has gone through since the 1980s.

    From its inception in the 19th century(3) and until about the mid-1980s, the Barelvi sect was largely apolitical in orientation, non-Jihadist and followers of some of the most relaxed dictates of the Hanafi madhab.

    ‘Barelvi Islam’ (as it is sometimes called) is purely a South Asian phenomenon(4) that fuses elements of South Asian Sufism with the folk and populist strains of various cultures that exist in the area.

    It is also called the ‘folk Islam’ of the region in which a high degree of tolerance exists between various faiths, sects, classes and ethnicities and in which the puritanical aspects of other Islamic sects are eschewed and even rejected.

    The Sufi shrine and an intense reverence of the Prophet play a central role in Barelvi Islam. Its populist and moderate make-up helped it become the majority Sunni sect amongst the Muslims of South Asia.

    Two of its leading opponents have been the Sunni Deobandi sect (also a product of South Asia) and the Puritanical Saudi-inspired ‘Wahabism.’

    Both have accused Barelvis of ‘adopting non-Muslim rituals and practices’ and assorted ‘heresies.’

    In spite of being the majority sect amongst Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, ‘Barelvi Islam’ hardly ever had a coherent political expression in shape of a mass-based political party or organisation.

    Its spiritual leadership largely remained pro-Jinnah (unlike most Deobandi organisations of undivided India), and various Pakistani political leaders have continued to appeal to the symbolism and lingo associated with various populist aspects of Barelvi-ism.

    Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was the most successful in this respect.

    Bhutto was also one of the first leading Pakistani political figures to popularise the act of regularly visiting famous Sufi shrines in Sindh and the Punjab.

    ZA Bhutto showering rose petals on the grave of Sufi saint, Data Ganj Bakhsh, in Lahore (1974).
    ZA Bhutto showering rose petals on the grave of Sufi saint, Data Ganj Bakhsh, in Lahore (1974).

    Barelvis are in the majority in Sindh and the Punjab(5) , whereas Deobandis are largely centred in KPK and in the Pushtun-dominated areas of Balochistan.

    Until the 1970s Barelvi-ism also prevailed among many of Sindh and Punjab’s urban middle-classes, especially those who considered themselves to be progressive and likely supporters of secular politics.

    However, the arrangement in this context was suddenly disturbed with the arrival of the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in 1977.

    Dipped in the political Islam of scholar and founder of the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami (JI), Abul Ala Mauddudi, Zia soon moved towards infiltrating the spiritual and political nerve centres of Barelvi-ism in an attempt to ‘reform’ them.

    Founder of the Jamat-i-Islami, and one of the main architects of 20th century ‘Political Islam,’ Abul Ala Maududi was a huge influence on General Ziaul Haq.
    Founder of the Jamat-i-Islami, and one of the main architects of 20th century ‘Political Islam,’ Abul Ala Maududi was a huge influence on General Ziaul Haq.

    Stunned by the ‘Islamic revolution’ in the Shia-dominated Iran in 1979, Saudi Arabian monarchy and its ‘Wahabi’ Sunni religious elite began seeing Pakistan’s Barelvi-dominated make-up as vulnerable to Shia-ism’s revolutionary symbolism.

    At least that was one of the reasons used by Zia and his Saudi allies to draw the United States into giving Pakistan billions of dollars worth of aid and arms – apart from the fact that Soviet forces had invaded neighbouring Afghanistan in December 1979.

    With the aid also came ‘Wahabi’ propaganda literature and the elevation of clerics who began setting up madressas and mosques.

    These madressas operated as institutions that would indoctrinate young Pakistanis – most of whom were immersed in the non-Jihadi traditions of Barelvi-ism – and prepare them for Jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan(6) .

    Zia also began describing famous Sufi saints as ulema and banned (in the media) all criticism and humour aimed at the clergy.

    The Afghan war, Saudi propaganda, the mushrooming of Deobandi and ‘Wahabi’ madressas and televangelists, and a concentrated campaign by the Zia regime to equate the dictatorship’s corporate-Islamist makeup as something in accordance with the Shariah had a telling impact on Pakistan’s religious sociology.

    In the KPK many moderate and progressive Deobandi strands that had prevailed in the province began sliding into the sect’s more radical dictates, coming closer to the puritanical ‘Wahabi’ and Salafi ideas about faith.

    This slide was celebrated by the Zia dictatorship as a successful blow to the secular and ‘treacherous’ Pushtun separatist tendencies.

    In the Punjab, the province benefited the most from Zia’s Punjab-centric capitalist manoeuvres. This coupled with unprecedented remittances coming from Pakistanis who had begun travelling to the Gulf States for work from the 1970s onwards, gave birth to new moneyed classes.

    Many from the petty-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie sections began moving away from their Barelvi heritage and towards the more puritanical strains of faith.

    Their Barelvi past now reminded them of their economic modesty, and consequently they began relating their enhanced economic standing with the adoption of the more puritanical strands of the faith that they came across in countries like Saudi Arabia.

    Many urban Pakistanis began reflecting their enhanced economic standing with the adoption of the more puritanical strands of the faith that they came across in countries like Saudi Arabia.
    Many urban Pakistanis began reflecting their enhanced economic standing with the adoption of the more puritanical strands of the faith that they came across in countries like Saudi Arabia.

    That’s why the growth of Islamist and sectarian organisations in the Punjab and KPK under Zia, was whole-heartedly supplemented by local funding coming from Punjab’s nouveau-riche and petty-bourgeois trader classes.

    Interestingly, it was also the same classes that also pushed the Barelvi leadership to become more conservative and radical.

    Those sections of the Punjabi petty-bourgeoisie that stuck to Barelvi-ism encouraged their spiritual leadership to compete with the Puritanism and radicalism of the growing influence of Deobandi and ‘Wahabi’ groups.

    This trend saw the first ever emergence of radical Barelvi groups. In the early 1980s, the Dawat-i-Islami was formed to counterbalance the growth of the Deobandi Tableeghi Jamaat that had begun making deep inroads into Punjab and KPK’s bourgeoisie and the military.

    Lieutenant-General Javed Nasir was Director General of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, from 1992 till may 1993. He was also a committed member of the Tableeghi Jamat.
    Lieutenant-General Javed Nasir was Director General of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, from 1992 till may 1993. He was also a committed member of the Tableeghi Jamat.

    The Dawat discouraged the Barelvis from indulging in antics associated with the region’s folk Islam, emphasising an increased reverence of holy personalities and encouraging holding of recitals of just naats and milads instead of quwalis and *dhamals**(7)* that have been integral parts of ‘folk Islam’ in South Asia.

    1992 saw the formation of the Sunni Tehreek (ST). A militant Barelvi outfit that emerged from the splintering of one of the oldest Barelvi Islamic political party, the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP).

    Such occurrences did not really help the Barelvi sect defend its traditions in the face of the state-sponsored Deobandi and Wahabi onslaught - rather, these organisations began turning Barelvi-ism into an equally anti-pluralistic and militant political phenomenon.

    By the 1990s, Zia’s manoeuvres and Saudi involvement in reshaping Pakistan’s religious tradition had already seen KPK and Punjab become hostage to various violent Deobandi militant and extremist outfits and new-born Barelvi reactionary-ism.

    Leaders of the Sunni Tehreek at a party rally in Karachi
    Leaders of the Sunni Tehreek at a party rally in Karachi

    The Punjab also saw a rise in the use of reactionary political and religious narratives within its lower-middle and middle-classes, whereas in Balochistan attempts were being made (allegedly by the ‘establishment’) to neutralize secular Baloch nationalist militancy with the help of both puritanical evangelical as well as militant outfits.

    This had already been done successfully in KPK in the 1980s.

    But Sindh …

    But what happened in Sindh? Barelvi-ism in Sindh (outside of its capital Karachi) has always been a lot more secular and pluralistic than the Barelvi-ism in the Punjab.

    The strand’s sociology in Sindh heavily revolves around the staunchly secular historicity that the province’s famous scholar, GM Syed’s literary works generated.

    He described a highly pluralistic and secular reading of Sufism as being the cultural and religious heritage of the Sindhis and it is this narrative that still rules the roost in the province’s social and religious psyche.

    A 1979 poster of Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed.
    A 1979 poster of Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed.

    This is one of the reasons why Zia almost completely failed to impose his version of Islam here. Also, just like the majority of the Baloch who equate puritanical Islam with the ‘Punjabi elite,’ so does the socio-political discourse in Sindh(8).

    On the other hand, in Karachi, though Zia-backed Deobandi and Wahabi radical outfits did manage to find a foothold, two things have always worked against these outfits here.

    The first is the fact that the sprawling ethnic, sectarian and religious diversity found in Karachi actually absorbs and neutralises any attempt by an outfit to impose its version of Islam.

    Secondly, MQM, a party that first emerged as a mohajir nationalist group, adopted almost the same populist Barelvi symbolism and lingo as Bhutto did in the 1970s.

    Also, the other major political party in the city too is secular (in Pakistan’s context): the PPP.

    Though the Sunni Thereek (ST) has managed to infiltrate some sections of MQM’s support base, ST is Barelvi and anti-Taliban (albeit equally reactionary).

    In spite of the rampant crime and ethnic tensions that are a constant in Karachi, it will not be an overstatement to suggest that the rest of Sindh today stands to be perhaps the only sanctuary in present-day Pakistan that is (comparatively-speaking) largely free of the factors that have created opportunities in the Punjab and KP for violent extremist activity and socio-political conservatism.

    Sindh: The last bastion?

    Last year newspapers reported a series of bomb attacks on railway tracks in the Sindh province.

    The attacks were owned by an obscure organisation called the Sindhudesh Liberation Front.

    The name took a lot of non-Sindhis by surprise. Why would there be an angry Sindhi movement when there have already been two Sindhi prime ministers and, what’s more, a Sindhi president is currently at the helm of the federation?

    However, according to Sindhi nationalists, the original architect of Sindhi nationalism, the late G M Syed, is back in vogue amongst the new generation of Sindhi nationalists.

    A T-Shirt that has become popular among young educated Sindhis.
    A T-Shirt that has become popular among young educated Sindhis.

    Back in the 1960s, G M Syed, an accomplished scholar and politician, painstakingly constructed an elaborate historical narrative of Sindh and its people.

    It presented Sindh as an ancient land whose people have always been one of the most pluralistic and secular under both Hindu as well as Muslim rule.

    The narrative goes on to suggest that during the long Muslim rule in the region, Sindh’s pluralistic tradition was carried on by a number of Muslim mystics (Sufi saints) and Sindhis have continued to demonstrate a passionate attachment to these mystics.

    Syed’s narratives on Sindh may now have become common knowledge to most Pakistanis, but this was not always the case.

    In fact, just like Pashtun nationalist, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and many Baloch nationalist thinkers, Syed too was constantly put on the spot by the state for preaching anti-Pakistan and ‘anti-Islam’ ideas.

    Syed was a magnet for all sorts of ironies. During the Pakistan Movement he steadfastly stood with Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. But soon after independence, he became one of the first prominent men to decry the hegemony of the ‘Punjab-dominated elite’ over other provinces.

    Another irony that Syed could never reconcile his politics with was the Bhutto phenomenon.

    Z A. Bhutto, a Sindhi, and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), experienced a sudden, meteoric rise (in the late 1960s) when Syed’s narrative had begun to take hold among Sindhi youth.

    Syed did not applaud Bhutto’s rise in spite of the fact that Bhutto was a Sindhi and a declared progressive.

    Bhutto’s Federalist-nationalistic rhetoric did not sit well with Syed. To Syed if one brushed off Bhutto’s leftist notions from the surface, underneath was a man wilfully doing the bidding of the ‘Punjabi ruling elite’.

    Syed’s analysis had deemed Pakistan to be a state that was destined to fragment. And just like his Baloch, Pashtun and Bengali nationalist contemporaries, Syed too blamed the myopic politics of the ruling elite for this.

    He accused the civil and military members of the said elite for undermining the cultural histories and traditions of the many ethnicities that resided in Pakistan.

    He accused them of imposing upon the ‘oppressed ethnicities’ a cosmetic version of nationhood.

    Syed’s suspicion of Bhutto turned hostile when Bhutto used a constitutional process to reinforce the kind of nationhood and faith Syed had accused the establishment of imposing.

    To Bhutto it was the dictatorial way that this concept of nationhood had been imposed that made East Pakistan break away (1971) and repulsed the non-Punjabi ethnicities. Syed disagreed. To him Bhutto was merely giving ‘Punjabi hegemony’ a constitutional sheen. In 1973 Syed finally called for an independent Sindh (‘Sindhudesh’).

    Graffiti in on a wall in Dadu calling for an Independent ‘Sindhudesh’.
    Graffiti in on a wall in Dadu calling for an Independent ‘Sindhudesh’.

    In April 1979 when, through a sham trial, the Ziaul Haq dictatorship sent Bhutto to the gallows, Syed termed Bhutto’s tragic demise as a great loss to the establishment.

    Mocking the establishment’s arrogance Syed remarked, ‘today they (the establishment) have killed their own, best man.’

    With Bhutto out of the way and a reactionary Punjabi general ruling the roost, did Syed finally make Sindhis rise up for Sindhudesh?

    No. Even though Sindhis did rise up, especially during the 1983 anti-Zia MRD movement led by the PPP in which hundreds were killed, Syed did not support the uprising.

    This time another Bhutto had appeared, Benazir. To Syed here was another popular Sindhi who was willing to clean up yet another mess created by the establishment so the federation could be saved - a federation Syed had no hope in.

    But why has the federalist PPP continued to win elections in Sindh instead of the Sindhi nationalists?

    In the 2013 election, the PPP once again swept Sindh. One theory attributes the PPP’s victory in the province to its former government's ambitious social welfare scheme, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

    The scheme had largely benefitted peasant and working-class women. Consequently, these women ventured out (many for the first time) to vote. Voting in droves for the PPP, their votes strengthened the party’s traditional vote-bank in the province and gave it the edge that it needed to ward-off the challenge posed by the desperate alliance of conservative and pro-establishment PML-F and some Sindhi nationalist parties.

    Another observation suggests that by voting heavily for the PPP, the Sindhis usually vote rationally because they are aware that their best access to mainstream centres of decision-making and influence still lies by way of the PPP.

    This observation also goes on to add an ethic dimension to it by further suggesting that to most Sindhis the PPP offers the best balance between the Sindhis’ practical need to remain attached to Federalism and their inherent Sindhi nationalist sentiment. Other large mainstream parties like the PML-N are still viewed as an extension of ‘Punjabi hegemony’ here.

    Women at a PPP rally in Hyderabad, Sindh.
    Women at a PPP rally in Hyderabad, Sindh.

    Recently a young Sindhi (and PPP voter) told me that the ‘establishment’ has started playing a game in Sindh which even the PPP won’t be able to check.

    On further inquiry he explained that some sections of the ‘establishment’ believe that they can subdue Sindhi nationalism the way they did Pashtun nationalism and the way they are trying to suppress Baloch nationalism, i.e. by crudely injecting a puritanical strain of Islam into what are almost entirely secular nationalisms.

    ‘Look what has happened in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?’ The young Sindhi asked. ‘Look how sectarian organisations are roaming freely in Balochistan. They (the ‘establishment’) are now helping fanatics to build madressas in Sindh as well so that Syed Sain’s legacy and those of the Sufis in Sindh can be replaced by mullahs and extremists’.

    To this young Sindhi, Sindhudesh Liberation Movement, is a reaction to this.

    ‘Sufi University to be set up in Bhit Shah’:

    Khalid Ahmed, Pakistan: The State in Crises (Venguard, 2002) p.38

    Pnina Werbner, Pilgrims of Love, (C Hurst Publishing, 2003) p 242

    Barelvi Islam:

    Eamon Murphy, The Making of Terrorism in Pakistan, (Routledge, 2012) p.24

    Irfan Husain, Fatal Fault Lines, (Arc Manor LLC, 2012) p.201

    Anjana Narayan, Bandana Purkayastha, Living Our Religions, (Kumarian Press, 2009) p.75

    Farhan Hanif, The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan (Routledge, 2012) p.79

    Michiel Baud, Rosanne Rutten, Intellectuals & Social Movements, (Cambridge University Press, 2002) p.82

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  • 06/07/13--02:00: Weekly Classics: Oldboy
  • enter image description hereNo country does psychological thrillers like South Korea. With zero sense of remorse, zilch spot of rationality, zot tinge of humanity…

    With absolutely nothing, Oldboy begins (See trailer here).

    Oh Dae-su (played by Choi Min-sik), a family man in his thirties, wakes up to solitary confinement in a motel-like prison, oblivious to how and why he had ended up in there.

    For endless cold and bitter nights, he sees only the corny geometric wallpapers adorned with a ghastly portrait of a waning old man which forewarns too much of his looming predicament than it should; he hears only the doomed melody that impends the gas which raids his consciousness; he smells only this vapour, specifically Valium, made by the Russians to sedate their Chechen adversaries but now used on him; he tastes only the saltiness in the dumplings with a glut of spring onions that numbs his tongue with their cyclic flavour; he feels only the ghastly loneliness and hysterias that are slowly eating into his heart, invading what’s left of his sane mind. Most of all, he asks only the simplest question, which was never answered...

    “If they had told me it was going to be 15 years, would it have been easier to endure?”

    enter image description here

    ...For the past 15 years, Oh Dae-su lived a living hell without knowing why he was put in there. What unforgivable mistake had he committed to incur this unexplained imprisonment of more than a decade? Was it someone he had offended?


    “You can't find the right answers if you ask the wrong questions.”

    After a span of eternity, or so it seems for Oh Dae-su, he was suddenly released on a rooftop, with no explanation. Nil. Naught. Nada.

    In fact there was no sign of his previous captivity except for a tattoo of 15 stitches that he has sewed onto his hand as a painful reminder of the years stolen from him for a reason he had yet to discover.

    No doubt, he became obsessive about finding his captors. Recalling the dumplings he ate daily while he was confined, he tracked down the restaurant and eventually found the “prison” which was in fact a building filled with room cubicles where the rich would pay to have others incarcerated.

    There was no way these minions would know the mastermind, but they did provide him with one piece of valuable information before he fought his way out of the building with a hammer in one hand and a knife stuck in his back.

    Oh Dae-su was held captive because he was apparently “talking too much.”


    “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.”

    While he was hot on the heels of revenge, Mi-do (played by Kang Hye-jung), a young sushi chef miraculously fell in love with him during their first happenstance. It was miraculous because Mi-do is an attractive young woman in her twenties, who had no reason to fall for a disheveled ahjussi who is positively unhinged.

    Maybe it was because of the giant live moving octopus (actor Choi Min-sik completed the scene without any computer-generated imagery) that he swallowed in front of her while her jaw dropped, because that is definitely not the kind of courage you can find in any lucid being. But as it happens, Mi-do was the only one who believed Dae-su’s encounter, and very soon became his only source of comfort in this heedless seek for vengeance.

    enter image description here

    One would expect the antagonist to only be revealed at the end of the film, typically in the finale. But no, as explained from the beginning, logic and conventions are overrated.

    No longer plunging into the darkness of unresolved conundrum, Oh Dae-su could finally put a face to his enemy, and so could we.


    “I thought I'd lived a simple life. But I've sinned too much.”

    enter image description here

    Lee Woo-jin (played by Yoo Ji-tae) finally revealed himself as Dae-su's kidnapper, a billionaire and undoubtedly a sadist. With every taunt and goad, he maneuvered Oh Dae-su like a seasoned puppeteer, but of course, he had 15 long years to contrive a way to deal with him.

    Woo-jin gave Dae-su an ultimatum of five days to discover his “evil deed” for himself or else Mi-do would not live past the fifth night. Innately (inaptly) curious, Dae-su started to seek his connection with Woo-jin and found their association in a place long forgone.


    “Be it a rock or a grain of sand, in water they sink as the same.”

    Sangnok High School is the place where it had all started – an unintentional remark sparking off a fatal rumour. Insignificant, yet lethal in its every sense.

    “Even though I'm no better than a beast, don't I have the right to live?”

    Oldboy is the second installment of director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

    If there were any films to be named as the epitome of vengeance, it would be Oldboy. In an assortment of themes such as existentialism, the implication of memory, torture, violence and most controversially, incest, Oldboy has imbedded in its ending, the most twisted of minds and psychological games that surpass our usual tolerance for brutality.

    Having won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival with exceptionally high praise from the President of the Jury, Quentin Tarantino, the film had an impact throughout Asia and even Hollywood (Spike Lee will be releasing a remake this year) with its radical storyline.

    enter image description here

    Choi Min-sik is indisputably unrivalled in his portrayal of a man being driven to the verge of a nervous breakdown. But his counterpart Yoo Ji-tae, did an equivalently remarkable job portraying a hopeless man who lived only to destroy a life in the most perverse and undignified manner, because that is what revenge is all about – to make someone suffer much more than you did.

    The depth of a human heart is so full of sadism that even our human mind cannot fathom - there is no delicateness to the message conveyed.

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  • 06/07/13--01:45: Age of enlightenment
  • Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan
    Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan
    “You will never hear me complain about getting old; think of the people denied the privilege” – Anonymous

    Ok, let’s talk about something we never talk about. You know, that thing that makes us cringe. The biggest taboo of all — our age. Or to be precise, a woman’s age.

    We’ve all heard the jokes: how a woman would rather die than reveal her age. How we fight tooth and nail to keep our wrinkles at bay. How the use of make-up increases in proportion to the number of our birthdays. And the stereotypes ring true because, at some level, every woman is conscious of her age.

    Of course, it’s not just women who suffer the punishment of growing old. Men too face the horror of physical infirmity, loss of independence and the ever-present spectre of death. But for women the repercussions of aging go beyond the obvious. Because, while everyone comes into this world with an expiry date, it’s only women, at least in our society, who bear the burden of a ‘sell by’ date.

    It’s no coincidence that we speak of the single woman (in hushed tones and behind her back) as being ‘on the shelf’; we joke about the ‘marriage market’ ‘drawing room displays ’ and although they may not put it in just these words, ‘shopping’ for a bride is one of the most popular pastimes of aunties with even not-so-eligible sons.

    Yes, even in our so called urbanised, ‘this-side-of-the-bridge’ society, a woman is measured by her marriage-worthiness, and while a fair complexion and a green card are an added bonus, age is the most crucial deciding factor.

    And if you think the pressure eases up once a woman is ‘safely’ married, think again: of all the men who leave their wives, how many actually marry (or get involved with) an older woman? Obviously, while women may be judged by their age, men are the ones who feel defined by it — the older he gets, the younger a companion he seeks.

    You see, though it is women who get to be the butt of the jokes, it is actually a man’s vanity that places a premium on a woman’s age. Is it due to the notorious biological clock — the younger the women, the better the chances of producing more children? Not really. Because even girls of 26 are deemed to be over the hill when it comes to taking part in the rishta race. A girl of 19 has been known to be rejected in favour of her 17-year-old sister — mind you, the prospective groom hadn’t seen either girl, he just made his choice based on age.

    Younger brides are easier to ‘mould’ an auntie explains smugly. The older the girl the harder it is for her to ‘adjust.’ Husbands of course, never need to be moulded, they don’t need to adjust.

    It’s no surprise then that women are programmed to be sensitive about their age, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change the script. Look around and you will see more and more independent, successful, empowered women who have discovered that turning 30 or 40 or 50 brings its own rewards. In a study which surveyed around 2000 women between the ages of 40 and 65, quoted by the Daily Mail, over 80 pc of the women said that they are happier in themselves than younger women.

    The survey included a mix of all types of women: the married and the single; those with children and without, career women and homemakers. That this sense of security and confidence cut across all these demographics shows that it is not reliant on external forces. It comes when we realise that we don’t need anyone else’s approval to feel good about ourselves.

    So does that mean we throw away the anti-wrinkle creams, cancel the gym membership and pig out on junk food all day? Of course not. This is the age when we pamper ourselves, stay fit and beautiful because that’s what makes us happy. Not because we want to land a husband or please a rishta auntie. And that’s the best reason of all.

    Me, I just celebrated my 40th birthday and I’m off to treat myself to a day at the spa — see ya. ————————————————————————————————————————————————

    enter image description hereShagufta Naaz is a Dawn staffer

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————— The following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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    In Search of Fatima is a beautiful memoir written by Ghada Karmi, the eminent doctor, author and academic of Palestinian origin. The book details the birth of her two wholly separate identities as an Arab and an English woman, the journey that she undertakes to first adjust to the new society and its culture and then following her becoming aware of the contradictions and conflicts of her two different identities, her embarking on a new journey in order to attempt a reconciliation between her different identities, in what may be considered a new process of assimilation that she must undergo to readjust to a changing British society.

    The book begins with a prologue, written in a third-person perspective, that relates the emotions of a little girl as she is forced to leave everything that was familiar and deeply loved; her house, Fatima, Rex (her dog), neighbourhood, country and land – as the fighting in her neighbourhood stopped briefly. This child is Ghada Karmi herself, her innocent younger self. The narrative subsequently switches back to the past where Karmi describes her family background, her birth and of course, the political climate in Palestine and the rest of the world as the Second World War was raging with full force when she was born. Soon, the narrative moves onto the escalation of hostilities between Jews, Arabs and the British under the British-controlled Mandatory Palestine, which overshadow the lives of the author, her family and their friends. Within the first ten years of her life, the conflict had soured to a point where their Qatamon neighbourhood in Jerusalem had begun to empty as the residents fled the ever-increasing conflict. Major incidents like the King David Hotel and Semiramis Hotel bombings, as well as the Deir Yassin massacre brought the conflict to one of its most extreme points. It was after the latter that Ghada and her family fled to Damascus to her maternal grandparents. Later, her father went to England where he landed a job in BBC’s Arabic service after being rendered unable to return to Jerusalem to his old job or find a new one in Jordan’s Amman. Subsequently, Ghada, her mother, sister and brother joined him after about a year. Thus begins a new life for them; a search for a place, a niche into the fabric of English society where they could at least feel they had a home, even if they did not have a country anymore, or so they thought.

    Immigration to England shook the very roots of the Karmi family. The nakbah was a loss that the family was never able to come to terms with, even though they all did what they could to heal the wounds they had all sustained. Her mother tried to reclaim her lost home by attempting to recreate their family life as it had been in Jerusalem. She soon gathered many Arabs around her, which helped her to recreate some of her past life in the cold England. Similarly, her father – who had spent a large chunk of his life in England and knew the most about English people and culture out of the entire family – devoted himself to the Arabic language and its literature, presumably to keep himself connected with his roots in this way. Ghada’s elder sister, Siham, – just like her father – did not immerse herself into the English culture like Ghada did but continue to keep her Arab identity alive and thriving, despite a generally indifferent and sometimes hostile environment (it eventually became more of the latter). On the other hand, Ghada and her brother Ziyad became more immersed into the English culture than the rest of the family, even more so the author as she imbibes their prejudices, especially those regarding foreigners like her, as well as the more positive aspects like literature, music and food. But the trauma of their past had destroyed the very fabric of their family life. Although they sometimes entertained guests (mostly Arabs) at their home and helped to serve food and drink to them and also went on return visits as a family, they, however, became completely detached from each other, with each member of their family leading distinctly separate lives. What made this more difficult were their parents’ expectations that the children would remain in the mold of being Arab and Muslim, despite growing up and being educated in England, without much guidance from their parents.

    Karmi’s memoirs illustrate how the political can become the personal. The political events in the backdrop of her life decided the course her life would take, seeing as the Suez crisis of 1956 and the war of 1967 were responsible for demolishing her “personal edifice” (Karmi 2002, p. 293). The former began this process, while the latter constitutes the peak point of this process. Each event forced her to question and reevaluate to what extent she had thought she had assimilated into the British society, who had rejected her for her Arab origins during these events. Each event also constituted a personal u-turn in her life. For instance, the discrimination and hostility she faced at the hands of her schoolmates during the Suez crisis leading her to eventually switch schools, while the 1967 war became a climax point in her already crumbling marriage to John Thornley, after which they divorced a year later. In both events, she felt insulted by the apathy and the refusal of other British people to consider her perspective as an Arab and a Palestinian. Both events also marked her political awakening, which subsequently lead to her taking more interest in Middle Eastern politics than ever before.

    The book ends with the following paragraph,

    “I closed my eyes in awe and relief. The story had not ended, after all – not for them, at least, the people who still lived there, though they were now herded into reservations a fraction of what had been Palestine. They would remain and multiply and one day return and maybe overtake. Their exile was material and temporary. But mine was a different exile, undefined by space or time, and from where I was, there would be no return.”

    (Karmi 2002, p. 451)

    But the tone of this concluding paragraph is inconclusive yet positive, especially if you take into consideration Karmi’s lifelong work regarding migrants’ public health and Middle Eastern politics – particularly the Arab-Israel conflict. It is as if the sound of the azaan had helped to rejuvenate and rekindle her spirits, kind of an encouragement to continue with her work and learn where she truly belonged. The last lines indicate that she has decided to form a new identity where she is both Arab and British. They also imply that she has now come to an understanding that she must carry on with her life as a British citizen of Arab origins, continue to be proud of her roots but also her identity as a British national.

    Therefore, Karmi’s memoirs chronicle the journey of an entity, as well as other similar entities that travel constantly from one place to another as they search for a place that could give them a sense of belonging somewhere, a place that could replace their lost nation in one way or the other. Everyone who has ever felt out of place or has been discriminated against for being a foreigner, whether implicitly or explicitly, will therefore be able to relate to Karmi’s autobiography. Her memoir is immensely detailed and its depth of human experience makes for an immensely moving and an unforgettable reading experience. This is why anyone who reads In Search of Fatima is unlikely to ever forget it.

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    enter image description hereThe oath-taking is over and so is the job of assigning jobs to individual ministers. Beyond Nawaz Sharif becoming Prime Minister for a historic third-term, what strikes me is that the old team is back too.

    From Ishaq Dar to Khwaja Asif, from Chaudhry Nisar to Ahsan Iqbal, loyalty has been rewarded by Nawaz Sharif. In the Prime Minister’s mind, he seems to want to begin from where he left off in 1999.

    Sartaj Aziz, one-time finance and foreign minister, has returned as a key adviser on foreign and national security affairs. The circle is complete.

    My Pakistani friends have told me time and again that Mian Sahab is a changed man. He’s learnt his lessons from the run-up to the 1999 coup and is now interested in working for the welfare of the people of Pakistan.

    The fact is that he ran a whimsical, power-hungry government, which had to deal with the May 1998 Indian nuclear tests a year after taking power for the second time in 1997.

    And, since I lived and reported from Pakistan at the time, I remember that lakhs of Pakistanis lost all their savings when their dollar accounts were frozen and told they could withdraw their money in rupees at a rate fixed by the government.

    (I must add here that my own foreign currency account was frozen at the time as the government feared a run on the banks in the wake of the response nuclear tests conducted by Sharif’s government. After running around for weeks, I was able to withdraw my savings since exceptions were made for foreigners!).

    Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.

    I want Mr. Sharif and his team to succeed – in delivering a regular and reliable power supply, in ending the Taliban menace through any medium that works, in building good relations with Afghanistan, India and the United States – success in everything that the people of Pakistan want.

    Pakistan and the region would be a far better place if we could concentrate on commerce and not conflict.

    On India, Mr. Sharif has made all the right noises. Even during his second term, the noises were pretty much in tune with the larger objective of engaging India. But the actions (in the form of Kargil) for which Sharif may or may not have been responsible were another story.

    At the time, in 1997-1999, anti-India groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba were out in full force on the streets and the Prime Minister and his team could do little about it. There was also little doubt that the Army establishment of the time led by General Pervez Musharraf was fully backing these anti-India groups.

    It’s key that this time round Mr. Sharif is able to translate his words into actual results. I’m a bit wary given the number of false starts India and Pakistan have made in the past two decades.

    My sense is that having good relations with India and Afghanistan is intrinsically linked to Pakistan’s internal well-being.

    If Pakistan moved steadily along the democratic path, if its rulers respect the rule of law and constitutional limits, and work seriously towards improving the lot of its people, then they and the region can hope for a better future.

    If not, all of us might be in for a bad re-run with new characteristics.

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    For whom the bell tolls

    The 16th day of April 1853 is special in the Indian history. The day was a public holiday. At 3:30 pm, as the 21 guns roared together, the first train carrying Lady Falkland, wife of Governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, steamed off from Bombay to Thane.

    Ever since the engine rolled off the tracks, there have been new dimensions to the distances, relations and emotions. Abaseen Express, Khyber Mail and Calcutta Mail were not just the names of the trains but the experiences of hearts and souls. Now that we live in the days of burnt and non functional trains, I still have a few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing at the door as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-fi communications, I hope you will like them.

    enter image description hereAcross the slums of Gojra, the memory of a saint is enlivened by a city. Before Tek Singh came and lodged here, it was a deserted place by the pond (Toba in the local language). He made it a point to service thirsty passer-byes from this pond. Years later, his act of charity founded the city, which is now named after him, Toba Tek Singh.

    Other than Manto, the story of Toba Tek Singh is also told by a local farmer, Ameer Chand Kohli. In a city of Muslim majority, he headed a well-to-do Hindu family. After the birth of his fifth daughter, Ameer Chand started visiting saints and shrines for a son, who could carry his name. In one such visit to a faqeer, he pledged that if he ever had a son, he would devote him to Sikhism. After a year, a baby boy was born. Ameer Chand named him Bishon Singh and started raising him as a Sikh. Life at the Ameer Chand household became festive during the summers, when all his daughters, along with their children visited Toba for the entire season. The sisters gossiped under the tree and the kids played out in the fields.

    Now that the grandchildren of Ameer Chand have dispersed from the shores of Australia to the Islands of West Indies and have taken up residences at Washington and Abu Dhabi, they still remember the favor of that Sikh saint and the summers at Toba Tek Singh.

    Like every year, the family of Ameer Chand had gathered at Toba Tek Singh during the August of 1947. One day, on his way back from the fields, he saw a large crowd, smoldering in anguish at the chowk. Standing at the centre of the crowd, a Muslim migrant was telling the story of his journey to Toba. A few women from his convoy had jumped into dark wells to save their honor, while others who chose to live, now told the brutal tale of rape and wrath. Ameer Chand felt that the journey, sufferings and helplessness had cast some permanent features on his face. At his home, Ameer Chand sat in the bethak and discussed with Majhi Ram, the personal servant since ages, about how times had changed.

    Before dusk, a few blasts were heard and hell broke loose. Driven by frenzy, was the angry mob, attacking Hindu houses. Everyone ran for their lives, caring the least for luggage. The voice of the crowd drew near, as they ran from street to street. While the crowd increased in number, the alleys decreased. When they reached the last lane, the police finally woke up to action. The Hindu and Sikh population gathered and moved to the Grain Market, a large compound in the city. The police escorted and protected them from people, people who had been their neighbors for generations.

    When the stay at the Grain Market prolonged, people started dying of hunger and of disease. Between the man and his creator, hung a feeble layer of canvas, which dare not stop anything, save the prayers. The weather made it impossible to live inside the tent and the young daughters made it impossible to live outside. With every passing day, rations decreased and ailments increased. Ameer Chand recalled his childhood maulvi of the madressah, who had taught him that wars in India were always amongst the kings and the people stayed out of it. This time, however, the kings had made peace amongst themselves, while the people killed each other.

    Everyone worried about Majhi Ram, who was missing since the first day of the riots. No one knew that Majhi Ram had converted to Majhi Khan and sided with his new brothers in faith to loot Ameer Chand’s house.

    After a two-months stay at the camp, a special refugee train arrived from India. Their lips trembled with silent prayers and their bodies shivered with fear of the unknown as they filled the congested compartments. This was common to railways stations across India, that summer. Every one of the millions who crossed this new found boundary had thousands of stories to tell and everyone carried these stories on his person. Parched lips, mucus in their eyes, dust patterned on their facial features, dark lines of burns on their necks and a saltish flavor on their tongues, were all the shades of these stories. Taps at railway stations had dried up long ago and water was not found anywhere enroute.

    enter image description hereOnce the train left Toba and reached Lahore, it awaited its fate at the station. The safety of the outbound train was conditional to the inbound train. If the train, coming from India, safely made it here, this train could whistle off but if it carried corpses, it was to be returned with the same stock.

    The whistles of the arriving train were heard with anxiety and soon people were spotted leaning against the footrest. The refugee special was allowed to leave for Patiala via Amritsar. At Patiala, the passengers got off the train amid celebrations, and were garlanded. The scene reminded Ameer Chand of the Lahore Railway station and he had a feeling of Déjà vu. The large view mirrors in the train had the etched acronym of the NWR (North Western Railway). For the first time, in two months, Ameer Chand saw his face closely. The features of that displaced person caused by the journey, suffering and helplessness had started to appear on his face too.

    “Toba Tek Singh” as told by Ameer Chand is now more than 60 years old but that of Manto appears fresh.

    The story of “Toba Tek Singh” apparently focuses on a mentally unstable old man, but within its words, it carries the piercing pain of partition. Caught between the geographical divide and emotional trauma, Bishen Singh disparagingly tells the awful truth of politics. As an inmate at a mental facility in Pakistan, his heart betrayed his body and his soul divorced his identity. This probably was the toughest of partitions.

    Having little knowledge about politics and the politicians of his time, Bishen Singh had no one to apportion the blame so he took it out upon himself.

    When Manto read “Toba Tek Singh” for the first time in the Pak Tea House, he had worn out of his age. Before reading the last lines in his classy dramatic voice, he paused to inhale the silence in the hall and wiped the tears that rolled down silently.

    “Around Dawn, Bishen Singh uttered a shrieking sound and collapsed. Officers ran toward him and saw that the man who had been standing for the past 15 years now lay still, on his chest. On one side, across the barbed wire, was India and on the other side, was Pakistan. In between the two, on a piece of land, which was neither Pakistan nor India, lay Toba Tek Singh”.

    Read this blog in Urdu here.

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    enter image description hereTen percent of the world’s education deprived primary-aged children live in Pakistan. This sad reality persists even after the amended constitution (Article 25A, 18th amendment) declared education free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16.

    The first budget of the new government in Pakistan will be presented on June 12. Within a short span of a few weeks, the newly elected government has to shift gears from promising the world to the electorate to delivering on those promises. In a resource constrained economy where the tax revenue and exploitable natural resources are in short supply, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has to invest strategically to get the highest rates of returns on public sector investments.

    While many demands would compete for the government’s investments in the new budget, nothing, however, is more important than the need to invest in education. And whereas many would campaign for investments in higher education, the Sharif government should realise that investment in primary education has a higher social rate of return than the rest.*

    It was only a few weeks ago when the Nawaz League promised the voters that if elected, they will increase the education budget from under 2 per cent of the GDP to 4 per cent by 2018. The Pakistan Peoples Party pledged even a higher share of 4.5 per cent of the GDP for education by 2018. Imran Khan’s party pledged to increase the education budget by five-fold. This is, however, not the first time that political parties campaigned to increase investment in education. The post-election reality of severely constrained tax revenue, huge obligatory payments for debt servicing and the armed forces, and the lack of commitment to education, often result in even lower investment in education than before.

    Despite the promises for increased education spending in Pakistan, the abysmal state of literacy, let alone education, has persisted. Estimates suggest that no fewer than 7 million primary-aged children are out of school. The enrollment rates are lower for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) than the other provinces. And even within KP, far fewer girls than boys are enrolled in schools. UNESCO reported that the net enrollment ratio for primary-age children was 72 per cent (2011) against the regional average of 89 per cent. The gross enrollment ratio for secondary education is 35 per cent (2011) against the regional average of 60 per cent. And finally the gross enrollment ratio for tertiary education is 8 per cent (2011) against 18 per cent in the region.

    At the same time, UNESCO estimates some 50 million Pakistanis are illiterate. How is it possible that every incoming government promises more spending on education, and yet one finds millions of illiterate in Pakistan?

    The federal government, after the 18th constitutional amendment, is responsible for tertiary or higher education. Provinces have been devolved the responsibility for education up to grade 12. Primary and secondary education in fact falls under the purview of district governments. This creates an interesting challenge in Pakistan where primary education has been devolved to local governments who are the most cash-strapped level of government, given their inability to generate buoyant sources of tax revenue.

    Despite the fact that primary education receives the highest share of education spending in Pakistan (34 per cent of total education spending), the demand for primary education services far exceeds the supply. The result is obvious. Poor quality and an inadequate primary school system has failed to meet the demand for primary education, resulting in a large number of school-aged being not in school.

    Source: *Macro trends in financing of education in Pakistan: An analysis of public sector allocations and expenditures*. 2011. UNESCO.
    Source: *Macro trends in financing of education in Pakistan: An analysis of public sector allocations and expenditures*. 2011. UNESCO.

    Given the poor quality of infrastructure and teaching in government-operated primary schools (read FAFEN’s report on the poor state of school infrastructure), middle- and upper-class households no longer send their children to government-run primary or secondary schools. A parallel universe of for-profit primary and secondary schools has emerged in Pakistan. These schools charge exorbitant tuition fees, which are often beyond the reach of middle-class households, let alone the lower middle-class and low-income households.

    This has resulted in a multi-tier education landscape in Pakistan where the children of high-income earners are being educated at high-quality private schools, while lower middle-class children and others are condemned to government-run public schools. And the very poor in Pakistan are simply out of luck since their children are not in the school system.

    UNESCO has documented the huge disparities in education attainment between the rich and the poor in Pakistan. For both rural and urban households, the number of years of schooling is much higher for the top earners in Pakistan, the bottom earners; females belonging to the lowest 20 per cent earners in rural households reported the least years of schooling.

    Source: *The State of the World’s Children*, 2012. UNESCO.
    Source: *The State of the World’s Children*, 2012. UNESCO.

    The Social Rate of Return on Primary Education

    A World Bank study from 1986 estimated that for developing countries, social rate of return to higher education, estimated as an increase in wages resulting from higher education, are lower by 13 per cent than those to lower levels of education. This suggests that the biggest bang for the buck is delivered by the investment in primary education rather than in higher education. The Sharif government, however, has the restricted mandate to invest in higher education alone.

    This is not to suggest that there are no benefits of investing in higher education. In fact, a subsequent critique of the World Bank report appeared in 1996 in the journal Economics of Education Review in which the author argued that the measures of social rates of return ignore other unmeasured social benefits, which support investments in higher education.

    There are, however, several other concerns about investing aggressively in higher education in Pakistan that merit some debate. Writing in the same space earlier, I had argued that the higher education spending on research has not served the immediate needs of the nation. Pakistan-based academics are busy researching problems that do not offer immediate reprieve to the masses. I wrote:

    “The following graph is a pictorial representation of the subject areas used to categorise the 7,151 doctoral dissertations. The size of each subject area is in proportion to how frequently it appeared in the list thus revealing Chemistry and other basic sciences along with Islamic studies and Urdu being the most common research areas for doctoral dissertations in Pakistan. Education and agronomy are rare examples of frequent research topics that address immediate needs in Pakistan.

    enter image description here

    “When one thinks of the grave challenges Pakistan has faced in the past three decades, Chemistry, Zoology and Urdu literature do not come to mind. One sees poverty, income inequality, food security, water shortages, infrastructure deficits, illiteracy, violence, wars, religious fundamentalism and sectarianism as some of the challenges that threaten the survival of the society and the State.”

    Investing in research in higher education makes sense if the academics align their research priorities with the needs of the nation. With over 800 million rupees allocated to research in 2010-11 budget alone, one wonders how much of the funds were spent on research in poverty alleviation, improving literacy, and improved access to water, sanitation, and affordable power.

    The other big concern about investing in higher education is that the government subsidises all who attend institutes of higher learning by not charging as tuition fees the cost of operating universities. The subsidy is thus extended to both deserving and underserving students. Furthermore, a large number of those who pay a fraction of what it costs to train doctors and engineers leave Pakistan for opportunities abroad, thus depriving the nation of the opportunity to reap the benefits of investments in human capital.

    Many will argue that investment in research and development is necessary for economic development of the nation. While this is true for advanced economies, the same does not necessarily apply to Pakistan. Consider that the advanced research in nuclear weapon program has produced hundreds, if not thousands, of highly trained physicists, yet it has no impact on the nation’s ability to overcome power and water shortages. In fact, Amatul R. Chaudhry and others in Pakistan Journal of Commerce and Social Sciences in 2009 observed that in the case of Pakistan “higher education does not cause economic growth.” Their empirical tests suggest that the unidirectional causality runs from economic growth to higher education.

    The impact of higher education on economic growth perhaps is observable only in the long run. Saima Riasat and others writing in the journal Educational Research in December 2011 demonstrate the point that “education expenditures have a significant impact on long-run economic growth.” However, a review of studies exploring the relationship between education expenditure and economic growth in India failed to find a “robust relation between education expenditure and growth.” Sayatan Ghosh Daastidar and others at the University of Dundee in a discussion paper made the observation that “expenditure on education is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for growth.” The impact depends more upon the labour market and economic conditions. They observed that it was only after India opened its economy to the world in 1991 that the effect of education expenditure was felt on growth.

    The education budget for Pakistan

    If the Sharif government is serious about using education as a vehicle to increase growth, it has to make smart investments in the education sector. Increased spending on education without due consideration may have adverse impacts. The financial planners toiling with the budget should consider the following.

    1. The Federal government cannot confine its role to higher education, thus leaving primary education to the cash-strapped local governments. The federal government has to pump significant funds into primary and secondary education, while the operation of schools can still be left to local governments. The federal government can establish a task force to monitor, benchmark, and document the efficacy of funds transferred to lower tiers of government to improve primary and secondary education.
    2. The higher education spending has to be primarily spent on research and development on problems that require solutions in the short-term. A solution for power shortages, water scarcity, stagnant crop yields, preventing against the devastating impact of natural disasters, e.g., floods and earthquakes, and improving law and order are some examples of research priorities.
    3. The public sector universities should charge adequate tuition fees to cover operating costs for the undergraduate degrees. This would eliminate the practice of subsidising even those who do not qualify. Need-based scholarships be offered to those who would demonstrate financial need after qualifying for higher education. This would free-up significant funds that could be made available for research.
    4. A grass root campaign be launched to mobilise Pakistani youth to improve literacy by teaching basic literacy to adults. Similar plans in the past turned into gimmicks. This could be done better by engaging celebrities in Pakistan to lead the initiatives.

    A literate Pakistan will be able to meet challenges better. If millions are left out of schools, and an increasingly disproportionate number of girls remain illiterate or semi-literate, the resulting workforce in Pakistan will not be able to compete globally.

    The new government should therefore set meaningful targets. Promising an increase in the education budget is not a smart goal. Instead the Sharif government should set the target of achieving 100 per cent literacy for primary-age children by 2018. By leaving no child behind, Pakistan can move forward.

    Psacharopoulos, G., Tan, J. and Jimenez, E. (1986). *Financing education in developing countries. Washington, DC. The World Bank.

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    enter image description hereAccording to the Center for Science and Environment in Delhi, solar energy has finally “arrived” – it is now causing trade wars between the US, Europe and China, which tells you that this sector is growing and is lucrative (hence all the competitiveness). Today, solar energy is positioned to become a new source of power to lead the world to a low-carbon future and hopefully, away from a global climate catastrophe (caused by rising emissions from burning fossil fuels). For solar energy to become so cheap that it can compete with coal and oil, its deployments needs to be greatly scaled up.

    That is happening already – not just in the western countries like Germany and Spain, but also in the developing world. In South Asia, Bangladesh and India are quickly deploying this technology already, which is becoming cheaper each year. The Chinese have actually managed to bring down prices in the last few years – it is estimated that in 2011 Photo Voltaic (PV) modules cost 60 per cent less than what they did in 2008. Today, China has a glut of solar panel production and Chinese manufacturers that supply most of the world’s solar panels are struggling to avoid bankruptcy after expanding too fast. The resulting plunge in solar-panel prices means that investors can expand into new markets. Pakistan can use this opportunity to request the Chinese government for major solar power installation financed by China. Instead of talking about nuclear and coal, we should be seriously considering this modern, renewable energy, which is THE energy of the future.

    Currently, we have an installed capacity of around 23,000 megawatts and a demand of only around 16,000 megawatts so we are actually OK for now. What we need to do in the short term is to finance the circular debt and address the massive theft and corruption that takes place in our power sector. Energy reforms are of no use unless they are long-term and we need to be thinking of the future. Our political leaders should be planning for the long-term, which means thinking years ahead (taking our population growth and the increased demand for electricity into consideration).

    According to development expert Dr Tariq Banuri, who is a great advocate of renewable energy in Pakistan: “Unless we have a solvent system, it is difficult to attract investment in new capacity. Not surprisingly, the only ‘investors’ we seem to be able to attract are snake oil salesmen out to make a quick buck (in fact, a quick million bucks), in cahoots with the high level decision makers, but with no interest in building new capacity and helping the country overcome the energy gap. This leads me to three points. First, given the insolvency of the system (and the insolvency of the exchequer), we have to be mindful of what the rest of the world would be willing to contribute in order for us to attain an adequate level of energy availability. This is the argument for renewable energy. In case of all other technologies, we will either be on our own, or may in fact face unanticipated repercussions in the future. Second, we need to strengthen the dual pricing system in such a way that it leads to strict segregation between low-income consumers and those with high-incomes plus the commercial, government (including military), agricultural, and industrial sectors. The best way of doing it is to reserve the low cost energy (WAPDA/ hydro power/ domestic gas) for the low-income sector and ask the industrial, agricultural, commercial, institutional (e.g., military) and high-income residential areas (e.g., defense housing authorities) to generate their own energy. Instead of diesel generators during load shedding, they should be encouraged to build large scale and efficient and non-polluting energy systems. Third, the incoming government has to address the stratospheric level of corruption in the energy sector”.

    The Alternative Energy Development Board in Pakistan (AEDB), which is promoting renewable energy in the country, says that currently both the Solar PV and Solar Thermal based markets are rapidly developing in the country without any government subsidies or direct assistance. Although Pakistan has yet to install its first ‘MW scale’ solar PV project, there has been a sharp increase in the capacity of installed Solar PV technology in the country during 2012 (small-scale kW range installations). The AEDB report for 2012 explains that: “Considering the significant energy shortfall with heavy load shedding in major cities of the country with hardly any electricity being supplied to the rural communities, increasing trust and popularity of the effectiveness of the technology within the country as well as reduction in Solar PV systems globally, this trend is not surprising and is expected to continue in the future. It is also worth mentioning that development of the capacities of the local technical staff and vendors working in the Solar PV market has also resulted in improved quality of O&M and played a key role in developing consumer confidence to install Solar PV systems”.

    enter image description here

    According to Najeeb Nayyer, a Karachi based engineer, who is also a big promoter of renewable energy, “The cost of a reliable 5.0 kW solar system is under 1.0 million rupees and there are several reputed suppliers selling solar panels, deep cycle batteries and inverters. There is also a massive growth in small wind turbines (upto 10 kW) and again a 5.0 kW system (for Sindh and Balochistan’s windy coastal areas) could be installed in 1.0 to 1.5 million rupees”. He points out, however, that before buying and installing such a system, a household should first reduce the house's total energy requirement by cutting down all wastage of energy. This can be done in part by switching to LED lighting – according to Najeeb, “Recently a friend in Lahore dropped the total load of all domestic lights (switched on in the house) from 1600 watts to 200 watts. It was done by shifting to LED lighting. Once you do something like this you have substantially reduced the acquisition cost of an alternate energy system as now you are buying panels, batteries and inverters for a much smaller load application”.

    Another important energy saver is insulating the roof and walls, something that we just don’t do in Pakistan. Najeeb recalls: “For years during the 1990s, I was amazed to see the Karachi office of a friend which was cooled by a single 2.5 ton AC. The office was 2000 SFT. My friend is an importer of insulation and sound absorption materials and he had literally packed his entire office walls and ceiling with sample panels of his insulation boards and rolls. This is just one example of how effective the insulation can be in creating a comfortable environment with 1/4th the energy need”. There are now special paints available in the market to paint one’s roof to reflect sunlight – if nothing else, just try white washing the rooftop to lower the building temperature.

    But solar power is not just a solution for the middle classes (the elite can afford generators) in this country – it is actually a pro-poor technology. For millions of poor people living off the grid in this country, solar energy is perhaps the only way they will ever get access to electricity. Carl Pope, a well known US based climate change and renewable energy expert who visited Pakistan this year, advocated the setting up of “direct current micro-grids that can provide solar lighting and cell-phone charging to rural households at a cost lower than current kerosene expenditures, with payback periods of less than two years”. He elaborated further: “There are over 10 million households in Pakistan without electricity. These households spend at least 750 million dollars a year on kerosene for lighting. For 1.2 billion dollars, which is about worth 18 months of kerosene bill, each one of these households can get a solar energy system. The payback period is 18 months, and if the households were to regularly pay back to the providers what they saved on kerosene, the provider would make a ton of money within two years. It's a good business, a big business, a two billion dollar business…”. He pointed out that people have tried similar models on smaller scale in Africa and India. “In this model, three things are required: a) a bank to provide financing, b) reputable distributors and supply-chain/logistics companies that make sure that the product that is being provided (solar panels) is a good product, that it will actually work, and c) somebody willing to provide the first-loss guarantee to the bank. If you get the last two together, they can get the bank”.

    Without a doubt, solar energy has a substantial role to play in the country and needs to be actively promoted by the government on a priority basis. However, without some sort of financing, solar installations for now remain expensive and out of reach of the many. If bank finance schemes are made available, a lot more people will install solar systems. The technology is sound, the vendors are ready, the need is desperate – we just need the government and the banks to jump onto the solar bandwagon!

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    enter image description hereA couple of years ago I wrote Media Without Borders on the World Bank blog. In it I talked about the insatiable human appetite to communicate with one another, and how modern technology was assisting this. I also wrote about Aman Ki Asha, an initiative lead by media groups across the India and Pakistani borders. I wrote dryly:

    And India-Pakistan relations won’t be restored overnight with a few songs and some front-page doves. But what heartens me about Aman Ki Asha in particular is seeing media (refreshingly) taking responsibility, and understanding they have a part to play.

    A couple of years on, and regional peace has not broken out – and whilst Nawaz Sharif will be focussing on domestic issues as all new incumbents do, I would argue that there has been some improvement in cross border relations – not necessarily lead by officials.

    As a former diplomat, I have often reflected that I make a much better Ambassador for my country as a citizen. The context that you engage with another country is important. Whilst Aman Ki Asha focuses on media and cultural connections, I recently attended the launch of an initiative that promises to do the same for business.

    The Dosti Network is an ambitious programme lead by the Pakistani Seed Ventures and Indian Angel Network. Both organisations invest in new business ideas – Seed Ventures now employs 600 people and the Indian Angel Network invests in a new business every 3 weeks. This time their focus is on mentoring businesses that operate across the border with their neighbour. One of the mechanisms for this is a business startup competition– which will see young entrepreneurs from Indian, Pakistan and the diaspora community persuade the investors in the social and economic worth of their plan televised on Pakistani and Indian TV.

    What was curious was that the launch was happening a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Chowk at the Palace of Westminster in London. A neutral space, but one might have asked why not launch the initiative in Dubai where many business deals between the two countries currently takes place? Looking around a roomful of British Pakistani and British Indians I could see why. The 1.5 million British Indians and 1 million British Pakistanis are the largest and second-largest minority ethnic groups living in the UK and their peaceful co-existence has been admired. Perhaps because they share an identity as “British Asians”, but also because of a shared past and relationship with colonial Britain. To harness this positive energy is a great starting point. Several of the attendees at the launch pointed toward cross-border business initiatives that already exist – citing women’s groups and Kashmir-based orgnisations that were striving to connect with neighbours for mutual economic betterment. The Dosti network can only stand to add to this.

    So whilst we might be asking, can Nawaz Sharif mend Pakistan's ties with India? We should be also seeking ways for the citizens of the two countries to connect in other contexts – whether it is as part of our insatiable human appetite to communicate with one another, or a passion to do business. Eventually the dosti or friendship into the fields of education, development, technology and human rights. All these things contribute to a “Hope for Peace” between the nations. If you have any examples of such initiatives, please feel free to share in the comments below.

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    -Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    -Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    Takht Lahore and a sense of deprivation: both seem unconnected at the first glance, but in retrospect, the Takht Lahore – that had possessed all that Pakistan had to offer for the last 60 years – became acquainted with deprivation for the very first time in the last five years. Nevertheless, it remained the owner as always because the armed forces and the bureaucracy were full of its people.

    You know perfectly well how our armed forces and the bureaucracy still prefer to retain full control of the state’s affairs. So it’s okay if the elected representatives of the smaller provinces were in power at the centre, because the affairs continued to be run the way the real owners wished. Even though, the government was comprised of representatives from the smaller provinces. It was, therefore, understandable that Takht Lahore – that has always spent its money generously – began to develop a sense of deprivation, as it was not represented adequately in the centre. So it is only Takht Lahore that truly knows how difficult it is to exist without being in power at the centre.

    How far do you think Lahore is from Islamabad? The latter was specifically built so that all problems could be solved before nightfall. Mian Sahab even took the trouble to construct the motorway to make this easier. You saw how it became possible to solve all problems with the help of Lahore-Islamabad motorway. But in the last five years, people from far-flung places not only had a blast in Islamabad but also poked much fun at the expense of Takht Lahore, teasing them unnecessarily. On one hand, people from small tribes and provinces were ruling in Islamabad, while the Takht Lahore was sinking in the darkness without any electricity and gas.

    In a way, the inhabitants of Takht Lahore asked for votes by saying that the people sitting at the centre and the smaller provinces were the ones that punished the Takht Lahore for being the largest and for possessing the majority was the reason for the darkness and gas deprivation the Takht was suffering. They will eliminate the darkness as soon as they come into power and return the light forcibly taken from them back to their people, they had said. And now when the Takht Lahore has actually come into power, they say that it will take still more time yet to return the light stolen from their people. Mr. Minister has even said that the public will have to decide if it wants CNG or electricity, as they can only manage to provide one or the other.

    Actually, our public hasn’t been able to understand the fact in the last 65 years, that the language spoken while one is in power and the language spoken when one isn’t in power are two entirely different languages. Just like day and night, these two languages can never become the same. No matter whoever it is, across the line of power, each person speaks the language of that particular side. If you wish to have Mian Sahab and his cronies speak the same language that they were speaking just before they were voted into power, well, a person will say anything during a rally speech.

    -Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    -Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

    But on this throne – which they have come to possess with your assistance – even a comedian starts to talk sense. Mian Sahab is already a serious and patient man. And this time, the public is expecting so many things from him that after crossing the line into power; he not only looks serious but even somewhat saddened. His feeble smile hides many secrets, which will slowly be revealed. Some have already begun to be revealed.

    It will be enough if the ones who were planning to bring change within a day can bring that promised change to the place where they have been given a chance to do so. However, in the place where there was no chance that there would be any change ever, Mian Sahab’s one decision has laid its foundations exactly there. On one hand, this decision has indeed worried many but on the other hand it also indicates the next measures that Mian Sahab will probably take. At first, the prime minister was just another pawn in the game of presidency. But now at least the former won’t have to constantly look to the latter for assistance in making such decisions.

    The inhabitants of our presidency only have a few more months to go. Then they will have to satisfy their wish to be a president from Karachi’s Bilawal House. Actually, before Islamabad was built, the Presidency was situated in Karachi. But after it moved to the new capital, it is now known as the Governor House. Yet, the road is still known by its old name: Aiwan-e-Saddar Road. This time, the governor will be an Urdu-speaking person. The PPP is already beginning worry about the fact that a Bhutto is going to become the governor, when actually the real Bhutto is eagerly awaiting the departure of the fake Bhutto from the presidency. As soon as the fake one packs up, another bombshell will be thrown upon us.

    Mian Sahab has always enjoyed throwing bombshells. When the real Bhutto will sit in the presidency, the sense of deprivation that the Sindhis have suffered due to the two-and-a-half ministries they were given in the Centre, according to a Sindhi newspaper, will be alleviated to some extent. But now it’s time that PPP was held accountable for its actions of the last five years towards the Takht Lahore that reduced it to the lowest point of deprivation. So now the latter shall lead the state proceedings for the next five years. Even then, the Takht plans to keep Larkana at the forefront because the fake Bhutto had moved to Nawabshah and usurped Larkana in the process and now the real Bhutto must be brought back into the fray. Then you’ll see what the Takht Lahore and Larkana will do in Sindh.

    -Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    -Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro
    It would have been better if the country had been managed from Lahore instead of bothering Islamabad because in any case, both cities are one and the same now. Six ministers, the speaker, the premier and the chief minister are all from Lahore. The remaining eight ministers are from Gujranwala. Everything will now happen between Lahore and Islamabad. Why go to Islamabad? This time, all the differences between the two cities will soon dissolve.

    Those smaller provinces are entirely your concern! After the 18th Amendment, all provinces have become responsible for their actions. Balochistan has been handed to its real heirs. Let’s see how they deal with the abductors of the ‘missing persons’ fame and those who leave corpses everywhere. Five corpses were gifted to them on the very first day in office. Those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) are still squabbling over the provincial education ministry. Shoot down a drone and then we’ll believe you. The real change will become evident when it’s time for the moon sighting at the start of Ramazan. In Sindh, a day of mourning and a strike coincided with the provincial government’s first day in power. Apparently, it seems that those who are always in power are going to spend their next five years in power playing the ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum’ film. They will keep coming and going – sometimes happy, sometimes not.

    Read this blog in Urdu here.

    Listen to this blog in Urdu:

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  • 06/13/13--05:02: Spice it up for Mama
  • -Illustration by Alia Chughtai/
    -Illustration by Alia Chughtai/
    Did you watch the swearing in ceremony of the federal cabinet? That was the event in which the top military brass sat in the audience and the civilian leadership on the stage, and the entire proceedings were carried out in three foreign languages – the recitation of Quran in Arabic, its translation and oath-taking in English, and the national anthem in hybrid Persian.

    I was present at that ceremony, as an invited guest, and one of the very few who knew at least one of the three languages. The rest pretended they too know English, like the president who must have read the oath hundreds of time, still got all his pauses wrong. I was there because I am a very important person. Hint: My designation also happens to be the set of letters that appears on license plates of some Multan-registered vehicles.

    Out of the 400 or so MNAs, I am in a select group that consists of families who inherit, maintain, expand, and pass on to the next generation, a thing called the vote bank. Like any other asset, the bigger the vote bank, the stronger your bargaining position with political parties and brigadiers in white shalwar kameez, whoever happens to be in-charge. When we contest elections it’s only to prove that our vote bank is not just intact, it’s growing.

    To be honest I have never really wanted to be a legislator, or a politician, a man of people. I hate people, and politics and legislation. I studied philosophy and for a time, arts, in Lahore. I lived and breathed music, while I failed semester after semester. I was an amateur poet of deep passions and noble ambitions. I wanted to become a songwriter for INGOs. Instead, I became a full-time MNA when my father decided to retire. He’s been a member all his adult life and I now I have to carry the tradition until I can pass it on to my eldest son, or the way the world is going, perhaps to my daughter.

    I took this job with very little enthusiasm. I found Islamabad boring and pretentious, fellow MNAs insufferable fools, and the Parliament building a hideous and oppressive place. This mood lasted as long as it took me to write my own job description. And literally, overnight everything changed. I now find Islamabad bursting with calm energy and kinetic stillness. I have discovered that some of my fellow legislators are brilliant at what they are not known for, and the Parliament House is absolutely the best place to do freelance consulting and lobbying business, and its cafeterias are cheaper than roadside dhabas.

    The key phrase is: ‘writing your own job description’. I see these fresh new faces at the start of every parliament. Some are in awe, others are excited, and almost everyone is confused. Some get wiser but many stay in awe, excited and confused right till the end of their term. The only knowledge they take away from their experience is: the allowances MNAs can claim but don’t generally know about, the timing of Juma prayers, comparison in the quality of free food they get at five-star hotels, and the sacred privileges they enjoy. They go back as naïve about the work of an MNA as they come because they expected someone to tell them what to do. Those who come on party tickets do get told what to do. We independents have to read the environment and find our own philosophy towards working in Parliament.

    I learnt mine from a Queen Latifah song for the movie, Chicago. This delightful number is an explanation of the ‘system of reciprocity’: ‘If you want my gravy; pepper my ragout; spice it up for Mama; she’ll get hot for you’. What I learnt quickly was not how to season a French stew but how much and what kind my gravy is. I am letting you in on a secret here: You just receive people in the cafeteria, have a chat over tea or milkshake, and they’ll take you on a spectacular journey of the gravy train, your gravy train. They’ll bring plans, projects, deals, endorsements, lobbying requests …

    Having learnt the possibilities, you then have to choose some and discard others. There are these ambitious types who take risks, play big, try everything, but they eventually displease both their superiors and voters with their frenzied lust, and disappear in the famous dustbin of history. Like this MNA from Islamabad who was in such a hurry to make his billions that by the third year of his term; he was the newest property tycoon in Islamabad and had been charged in courts of law with almost all criminal offences listed in the law book, including slapping a teacher and escaping from police custody with the help of armed men.

    I have my principles. And I have a style of my own. I never join an official or unofficial grouping within the National Assembly. When someone needs my vote they come to me with an offer. I always decide on merit; the highest bidder gets my vote. After hours I like to hang around in the cafeteria. There are always punters lurking around to sign up legislators for speaking assignments, foreign trips, honourary positions … And here I am sharing another secret with you: I have not only attended all the Parliamentary sessions and therefore done my duty honestly as an MNA, I’ve also been able to realise my dream of youth. The famous song that you see on television every day, ‘I am happy now’, is penned by me.

    It was launched at the inauguration of a foreign-funded project that was to provide a village with 10 hand pumps and two bars of soap per household. See how the opening captures the spirit of potential societal transformation:

    I am happy now, I am healthy now; I get clean water to drink and a bar; Of soap to wash my hands and plates; From the kind people of United States.

    Long live Pakistan and its Parliament. Long live foreign donors and INGOs.

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    Please note: These do NOT include controversies to do with either match-fixing or spot-fixing that have already been written about on numerous occasions.

    The Kardar eruptions

    enter image description hereAbdul Hafeez Kardar was an average batsman and an occasional bowler.

    But the fact that he had already played Test cricket for India before the creation of Pakistan in 1947, and that he was well-educated and a keen student of the game, persuaded the nascent country’s cricket board to name him as the Pakistan’s first ever Test captain.

    Articulate and authoritarian by nature (1), Kardar, a graduate of Oxford University, became a suitable choice to captain a side of talented but diverse group of players many of whom could not even afford to acquire a proper cricketing kit.

    Kardar consolidated his position as a stern, authoritarian but respected skipper by leading Pakistan to eight victories out of the 23 that it played under Kardar between 1952-1958.

    Kardar waves to Pakistani supporters from the balcony of the Oval Cricket Ground in Edgbaston in 1954.
    Kardar waves to Pakistani supporters from the balcony of the Oval Cricket Ground in Edgbaston in 1954.

    This was a remarkable record for a side whose players were extremely underpaid and had to regularly borrow cricket equipment (including shoes) from friends and fans! (2)

    Kardar’s main weapons were the stubborn opener, Hanif Muhammad, and the prodigious swing bowler, Fazal Mehmood, when he led Pakistan to its toughest tour thus far, thousands of miles away from home: The Caribbean Islands (West Indies).

    This was the tour that drained Kardar the most, as Pakistan fought hard in completely alien conditions and in front of hostile crowds. (3)

    Pakistan lost the series 3-1. But this also meant that under Kardar, Pakistan had won a Test against every Test-playing side, except South Africa, that (in those days) didn’t play against non-white teams (and vice-versa).

    Hanif Mohammad returning to the pavilion after playing an epic innings of 337 against the West Indies in Bridgetown, 1958.
    Hanif Mohammad returning to the pavilion after playing an epic innings of 337 against the West Indies in Bridgetown, 1958.

    Exhausted, Kardar announced his retirement from the game at the age of 33.

    In the late 1960s, Kardar befriended firebrand politician, Z A. Bhutto, and joined Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). He was made the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board in 1972 when the PPP came into power after the 1970 election.

    Pakistan cricket had slumped in the 1960s. The team played 33 Tests in the said decade (under 6 captains), but could only win 2.

    Kardar was asked by Bhutto himself to head the cricket board and revive the team’s floundering fortunes.

    Known for his headstrong ways, Kardar presided over the board like he had over the team i.e. like an unbending dictator.

    He was instrumental in inducting young blood into the side, and it was under his supervision that future starts like Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Raja and Javed Miandad became mainstays in the team.

    Though he retained the veteran Intikhab Alam as skipper till 1975, in 1976 he thought that the team was not producing the kind of results that its talent promised.

    So he dumped Intikhab, and replaced him with the aggressive, Mushtaq Mohammad.

    Mushtaq’s brother, the master batsman, Hanif Mohammad, had played under Kardar and was still in awe of him. Kardar wanted to use this to his advantage and was sure that Mushtaq would be as obedient to him as Hanif was. (4)

    But Kardar came in for a shock when he was directly confronted by Mushtaq during the latter’s very first series as captain (against NZ, 1976).

    Kardar kept involving Hanif and advised him to ‘put some sense back into his brother’s head’ (5), but Mushtaq just wouldn’t relent.

    Mushtaq had asked for a pay raise for his players, but Kardar had refused. He threatened to drop Mushtaq and bring back Intikhab as captain. In fact, he did just that before Pakistan’s twin tours of Australia and West Indies.

    He got Mushtaq and his allies, Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz, dropped by the selectors and chose a completely new squad for the long tour.

    Before this, during the second Test against NZ in Hyderabad, Kardar had called up 11 first-class players and lodged them in the dressing-room in case Mushtaq and his team disagreed with him on the pay issue.

    At the toss the Pakistan dressing room was actually cramped with about 25 players! (6)

    The Bhutto regime’s Law Minister, Hafeez Peerzada, intervened, and agreed to accept Mushtaq’s demands.

    Kardar was gutted. He resigned but was persuaded by Bhutto to carry on, until he was unceremoniously removed from the board’s top post when General Ziaul Haq toppled Bhutto in a military coup in June 1977.

    He quit the PPP in the 1980s and was leading a retired life when he was asked by Pakistan Television (PTV) to join its commentary panel for Pakistan’s 5-Test tour of India in 1987.

    Kardar (left) with famous Pakistani journalist, late Khalid Hussain, in Lahore (1989).
    Kardar (left) with famous Pakistani journalist, late Khalid Hussain, in Lahore (1989).

    As Imran Khan’s Pakistan achieved a closely-fought victory in the last Test in Bangalore, Kardar couldn’t control his emotions and blurted out (live on TV): ‘We have beaten the Hindus in their own land …We have conquered the Hindus.’

    Some blamed Kardar’s more-than-a-passing liking for vintage Scotch for the statement while others explained that old age was taking its toll (even though he was just 62 at the time).

    He passed away in his hometown, Lahore, in 1996 at the age of 71.

    It is said that those who played under him in the 1950s couldn’t ever get themselves to disagree with him or even see him in the eye even after decades.

    Fazal’s swan song

    Fazal at Karachi’s National Stadium, 1959.
    Fazal at Karachi’s National Stadium, 1959.

    Lahore-born Fazal Mahmood had already cemented his reputation as a match-winning swing bowler (and Pakistan cricket’s first ‘sex symbol’), when he took over from Kardar as captain of Pakistan.

    Though his performance as a bowler was enough to guarantee the respect of his team-mates, Fazal’s stint as captain was continuously compared (by the press) with that of Kardar’s.

    In fact, soon after Kardar had announced his retirement, the then President of Pakistan, Iskander Mirza, had tried to persuade Kardar to stay on as captain. (7)

    Kardar politely refused and Mahmood was made Pakistan’s second cricket captain at the age of 31.

    Flamboyant, charismatic and extremely popular, Fazal had been leading the team’s pace attack and had almost single-handedly won Pakistan a number of Tests.

    Fazal returns to the pavilion after bowling Pakistan to victory against England, 1954.
    Fazal returns to the pavilion after bowling Pakistan to victory against England, 1954.

    In his first series as skipper, Fazal’s side defeated visiting WI side 2-1.

    But discontent against his captaincy began to rise when Pakistan went down 2-0 against the visiting Australians in 1959 and the team then settled for a drab 0-0 draw in the 5-Test series against India in 1961.

    Fazal (third from left) enjoying a smoke and a chat with famous Indian film star, Raj Kapoor (first from left) at a party in Mumbai, India.
    Fazal (third from left) enjoying a smoke and a chat with famous Indian film star, Raj Kapoor (first from left) at a party in Mumbai, India.

    The press believed that the burden of captaincy was contributing to Fazal’s weak performances as a bowler and that the team needed a more aggressive captain. In other words, what the pundits meant was that the team needed another Kardar.

    Then in early 1961 the cricket board suddenly sacked Fazal as captain.

    Sections of the Pakistani press alleged that some players in the side had accused Fazal of exhibiting nepotism and favouritism in selection matters.

    Angered by the board’s decision, Fazal retired from cricket when he was not selected in the Pakistan team that toured England in 1962.

    Pakistani cricket fans were expecting the team’s leading batsman, Hanif Muhammad, to be given the reigns of the captaincy.

    But the cricket board, still searching for another Kardar, pulled off a surprise by naming the then 24-year-old middle-order batsman, Javed Burki (8), as the team’s new captain.

    Javed Burki batting against England in 1962.
    Javed Burki batting against England in 1962.

    Burki was a highly talented middle-order stroke maker from Lahore who had graduated in 1960 from England’s Oxford University. He had played only a handful of Tests before he was asked to lead the side during Pakistan’s 1962 tour of England.

    The tour was a disaster. Burki was in-charge of a squad that had broken up into two camps, one siding with the sulking Hanif and the other supporting the young Burki.

    After Pakistan’s pace attack on the tour broke down due to injuries, the board requested Fazal Mehmood to come out of retirement. He agreed and was sent to England. The decision to send Fazal was taken without consulting Burki.

    Fazal’s presence in England was not appreciated at all by Burki and his supporters in the team. (9)

    They feared that Fazal would conspire with Hanif and try to reclaim the captaincy from the young (and struggling) Burki.

    Though Burki used him to deliver 63 overs in the fifth and final Test, both were hardly on talking terms. Burki kept alluding that Fazal was sent by the board to topple him.

    Nothing of the sort happened. Pakistan lost the series 4-0 and Fazal retired once again in 1962 at the age of 35.

    The first Pakistani cricketing star. Fazal in a Brylcreem press ad (1957).
    The first Pakistani cricketing star. Fazal in a Brylcreem press ad (1957).

    Javed Burki in 2001.
    Javed Burki in 2001.

    Fazal became a cricket commentator in the late 1970s and his friendly and witty duals with former Indian batsman, Lala Amarnath, during the 1978 Pakistan-India series became extremely popular with TV viewers.

    Fazal’s tenure as commentator, however, was short-lived as he insisted on coining his own words for various cricketing terms. It is believed that it was Fazal who coined the Urdu word ‘ranzain’ (runs).

    For example, during the Lahore Test in the 1978 series, this is how he went on to describe a ball (and its aftermath) by Pakistani pace bowler, Imran Khan: ‘Imran bhaagtey hooay aye, gaindh karai, tapa ball (bouncer), Vishvanath ka sar kay ooper wala shot (hook?), fieldbaaz (fielder) gaindh kay peechay, par chaar runzein (four runs). (10)

    Fazal as TV commentator during the 1978 Pakistan-India Test series.
    Fazal as TV commentator during the 1978 Pakistan-India Test series.

    Though not a religious man during his cricketing career, Fazal joined the Islamic evangelical organisation, the Tableeghi Jamat, in the late 1980s.

    He passed away in 2005 at the age of 77.

    Fazal with former Pakistan military ruler, Parvez Musharraf in 2005.
    Fazal with former Pakistan military ruler, Parvez Musharraf in 2005.

    Saeed’s turnarounds

    Saeed Ahmed.
    Saeed Ahmed.
    It is surprising that not many cricket enthusiasts in Pakistan remember Saeed Ahmed.

    He made his Test debut in 1958 at the age of 21 and quickly cemented his place in the side as a prolific one-down batsman.

    After scoring over 2,000 runs, Saeed began to imagine himself as the next Pakistan cricket captain.

    Saeed’s ambition in this respect was fulfilled when the cricket board elevated him to replace Hanif Muhammad as captain just before the series against the visiting England side in late 1968.

    Though the series ended in a 0-0 draw, fans and players alike thought Saeed was an overtly defensive captain. The board also observed that he had not tried to develop any sort of rapport or empathy with the players.

    He was replaced by Intikhab Alam in 1969.

    Saeed made himself unavailable for the 1969 series against New Zealand and moved to England where he developed a great liking for the swinging nightlife of the era.

    He returned to the side during Pakistan’s 1971 tour of England but was only selected for one Test (out of three).

    Pakistan lost the series 2-0 and Saeed again began to position himself to take over as captain.

    Intikhab Alam was retained as skipper for Pakistan’s 1972-3 twin tours of Australia and New Zealand and Saeed travelled with the squad as a middle-order batsman.

    The three Tests in Australia were played on fast, green-top wickets. The one for the third Test in Sydney was the greenest. A day before the Test, Intikhab told Saeed that he would be playing him at his old one-down position in the Test.

    Saeed refused, suggesting that he would be better off playing at number 6. Intikhab disagreed.

    When the Pakistan team reached the Sydney Cricket Ground about two hours before the Test, Saeed went for a stroll towards the pitch. Looking that it was still as green as the day before, he told Intikhab that he was not feeling well and had strained his back while practicing. (11)

    He was left out from the side. But soon someone noticed that Saeed, who was supposed to be suffering from a ‘strained back,’ was having a time of his life, dancing away at a Sydney nightclub.

    An inquiry was launched by the skipper and the manager and it was decided that Saeed had lied about his injury. He was sent back home on disciplinary grounds.

    Saeed returned to Pakistan and then moved back to England, but he never played for Pakistan again.

    Twenty-five years later, in 1998, he suddenly reappeared on the cricketing scene at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium where Pakistan was playing an ODI tournament.

    Former England captain and famous commentator, late Tony Grieg, spotted him hovering outside the Pakistan team’s dressing room. Saeed was a completely changed man.

    In an interview to Grieg, Saeed told him that he had ‘rediscovered God’ and had joined the Islamic evangelical group the Tableeghi Jamat in the late 1980s (12) and that he was here on the invitation of some Pakistani players who also wanted to join the Jamat.

    A changed and ‘pious’ Saeed Ahmed being interviewed by late Tony Grieg in Sharjah, 1998. Grieg had introduced Saeed as a terrific batsman and his (Grieg’s) ‘drinking buddy’ in the 1970s.
    A changed and ‘pious’ Saeed Ahmed being interviewed by late Tony Grieg in Sharjah, 1998. Grieg had introduced Saeed as a terrific batsman and his (Grieg’s) ‘drinking buddy’ in the 1970s.

    It is believed Saeed played the initial role in bagging the first batch of Pakistan players for the Jamat.

    Saeed is still associated with the organisation and continues to live a quiet life in the UK.

    Madcap Raja

    Wasim Raja.
    Wasim Raja.

    Extremely moody, painfully introverted and given to occasional spats of brooding, Wasim Raja made his debut in 1973 at the age of 20. Born in Multan, he came from a highly educated family.

    Former Pakistan captain, Imran Khan, once described Raja to be one of the most talented batsman he ever played with, but also one of the most reckless. (13)

    Raja’s rapid century against the West Indies during the 1975 Pakistan-West Indies series is what got him his first dedicated group of admirers.

    He didn’t disappoint them when he smashed an almost match-winning fifty against the same side during the 1975 Cricket World Cup in England.

    Raja on his way to smashing a quick-fire fifty against the WI during the 1975 World Cup in England.
    Raja on his way to smashing a quick-fire fifty against the WI during the 1975 World Cup in England.

    The Test (in Karachi) in which he got his first century also witnessed Raja’s first brush with notoriety. While fielding on the boundary line, Raja worked up the crowd by turning towards it and then unzipping his trousers and mischievously threatening to show his … thing. (14)

    Nobody quite remembers what prompted him to do this, but the Urdu press reacted by claiming that Raja had taken the field while drunk.

    Raja answered the press by cracking his first century but then ending up in the hospital after being hit by a full-blooded pull shot by Clive Lloyd that fractured Raja’s right foot.

    Raja was dropped from the side just after one Test against the visiting New Zealand (for ‘undisciplined batting’) in late 1976. But he made it to the 17-member squad selected for the long twin tour of Australia and the West Indies under captain, Mushtaq Muhammad.

    Raja could not find a place in the playing XI in the first two Tests during the Australian leg of the tour.

    But he more than nudged captain Mushtaq and vice captain Asif Iqbal by blasting a quick-fire century in a side game against Queensland.

    Sure to be picked up for the third Test in Sydney, Raja was told (by Manager, Sujahuddin) that Mushtaq and Asif have decided to play Haroon Rashid instead of him.

    Raja had been drinking heavily in his room that night. He went into a rage. After smashing a mirror in his room, he stumbled into the hotel lobby, abusing the manager and accusing him of trying to destroy his career. (15)

    Some Pakistani players, Mudassar Nazar, Salim Altaf, Sarfraz Nawaz and Zaheer Abbas, were enjoying a quiet drink at the hotel bar when they saw Raja stumbling over sofas in a drunken rage. They at once alerted the captain who rushed to the scene and calmed Raja down.

    When the Pakistani press reported the incident, the board demanded that Raja be sent back home. But skipper Mushtaq vetoed the idea. (16)

    Raja then went on to play all the 5 Tests during the West Indies leg of the tour, notching up over 500 runs in 5 Tests.

    Famous WI cricket expert and commentator, Tony Cozier, writing for the Pakistan Cricketer observed that Raja had gathered hundreds of WI fans who ‘fell in love with the man’s caviller style of batting and demeanour.’

    Reminiscing about the tour years later, Pakistan fast bowler, Sikander Bakht, in an article wrote how during one of the Tests on the tour, Raja slipped out of the dressing room and mingled with a bunch of West Indian fans to smoke ganja (marijuana) with them.

    He came back when a wicket fell, padded up, went in and lofted the 6’7 WI fast bowler, Joel Garner, for a first ball six over long off!

    Raja lofts Garner for a first-ball six! Pakistan vs. WI, April, 1977.
    Raja lofts Garner for a first-ball six! Pakistan vs. WI, April, 1977.

    When Pakistan won the fourth Test in the Port of Spain, one Jamaican newspaper, The Star, observed that the ‘visitors were a hearty lot. They played their cricket hard and partied harder …”

    Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan celebrate Pakistan’s victory against Australia in Sydney, January 1977.
    Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan celebrate Pakistan’s victory against Australia in Sydney, January 1977.

    Play hard, party harder: A WI feature on Pakistan team’s visit to a WI nightclub during the 1977 Pak-WI tour. Seen from left: Reserve wicketkeeper, Taslim Arif, who joined the house band to bash out some tunes; Stylish Pakistani opener, Majid Khan; Taslim and Pakistan fast bowler, Sikandar Bakht.
    Play hard, party harder: A WI feature on Pakistan team’s visit to a WI nightclub during the 1977 Pak-WI tour. Seen from left: Reserve wicketkeeper, Taslim Arif, who joined the house band to bash out some tunes; Stylish Pakistani opener, Majid Khan; Taslim and Pakistan fast bowler, Sikandar Bakht.

    Raja lost his place in the side again during the 1978 Pakistan-India series, only to come back in for the 1979 World Cup in England.

    After making impressive scores, he was however dropped from the playing XI for Pakistan’s semi-final game against the WI.

    After the tournament, fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz, alleged that both Raja and he were ‘punished’ and ‘unfairly treated’ by new skipper, Asif Iqbal, for ‘not toeing the party line.’ (17)

    Group photo of teams competing in the 1979 World Cup. The Pakistan squad (second from left): Asif Iqbal, Sadiq Mohammad, Iqbal Qasim, Wasim Bari, Wasim Raja, Javed Miandad, Majid Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Haroon Rashid, Hassan Jamil, Sikandar Bakht, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and a team official.
    Group photo of teams competing in the 1979 World Cup. The Pakistan squad (second from left): Asif Iqbal, Sadiq Mohammad, Iqbal Qasim, Wasim Bari, Wasim Raja, Javed Miandad, Majid Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Haroon Rashid, Hassan Jamil, Sikandar Bakht, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and a team official.

    Though Nawaz refused to tour India under Asif in late 1979, Raja went and smashed 500-plus runs in the disastrous series that Pakistan lost 2-0.

    He was Pakistan’s most successful batsman on the tense tour and this somewhat got him lesser flack from the Pakistani press that began to suggest that Pakistani players were spending more time partying than concentrating on cricket.

    Though it was Imran Khan’s alleged affair with Bollywood bombshell, Zeenat Aman, that made the headlines in both India and Pakistan’s tabloid press, Raja was accused of going into bat while being under the influence of alcohol.

    A member of Pakistan’s tour management quipped that if Raja really was drunk while batting then all batsmen should go out to bat drunk because Raja had cracked more than 500 runs in six Tests on the tour!

    Sikander and Raja during the 1979 Pak-India series. They topped the bowling and batting averages respectively during the series.
    Sikander and Raja during the 1979 Pak-India series. They topped the bowling and batting averages respectively during the series.

    Raja’s popularity with female fans hit a peak (along with Imran’s) in 1981 (18), but during the team’s 1981 tour of Australia, Raja met and fell in love with a young Australian woman.

    In 1981, the couple married.

    Settling down: Some Pakistani cricketers at Raja’s wedding reception. (From left): Asif Masood, Shafiq Ahmed, Wasim Raja, Imran Khan, Taslim Arif and Munir Hussain (Sports journalist and TV commentator).
    Settling down: Some Pakistani cricketers at Raja’s wedding reception. (From left): Asif Masood, Shafiq Ahmed, Wasim Raja, Imran Khan, Taslim Arif and Munir Hussain (Sports journalist and TV commentator).

    Wasim with brother Rameez after the latter was named the Pakistan U-19 team’s captain in 1981. Rameez went on to play and then briefly captain Pakistan. Today he is a respected TV commentator.
    Wasim with brother Rameez after the latter was named the Pakistan U-19 team’s captain in 1981. Rameez went on to play and then briefly captain Pakistan. Today he is a respected TV commentator.

    After his marriage in 1981, Raja’s eccentricities decreased and he managed to hang on to his place in the side till 1985.

    In the late 1980s he moved and settled in England, and for a brief stint was also the Pakistan cricket coach.

    Raja in 2001.
    Raja in 2001.

    In 2006, he died of a heart attack while playing a veterans match in England. He was only 54.

    Better safe than Saf

    Sarfraz Nawaz (aka Big Saf).
    Sarfraz Nawaz (aka Big Saf).
    Fast bowler, Sarfraz Nawaz, made his Test debut at the age of 20 in 1969. But it wasn’t until 1974 that he came into his own, both as a cricketer and (according to one of his captains), ‘an enfant terrible.’

    A brawler, heavy drinker and clubbing enthusiast, the 6’4 Nawaz was described by Mushtaq (19) and Imran Khan of being a bipolar personality who would give his all on the cricket field but was prone to break every rule laid out by the board and the team management.

    For example, Mushtaq was always astonished to discover how Nawaz regularly broke team curfews by slipping out of hotels and ‘drinking, womanising and partying (20) at clubs till the wee hours of the morning but would then be the first one to arrive on the ground!

    Another former captain, Intikhab Alam, suggests that it was Nawaz who (during Pakistan’s 1974 tour of England) introduced Imran to the wonders of London’s nightlife, something Khan’s elder cousin, Majid Khan, became very concerned about.

    Nawaz during the 1974 England tour.

    Nawaz is also credited for being the first Pakistani cricketer (along with Javed Miandad) to have adopted the Australian tactic of ‘sledging’ – in which a bowler/fielder hurls abuses and rude sarcastic remarks and taunts at batsmen to unnerve them.

    Mushtaq and Khan describe how Nawaz and Miandad both became ‘terrors’ on the field, especially between 1976 and 1979.

    Nawaz would spit abuses (in Punjabi!) at the Australians but his main target remained to be India’s classy opener, Sunil Gavaskar, who (during India’s 1978 tour of Pakistan), had to repeatedly approach Pakistani skipper Mushtaq Mohammad, asking him to ‘control Sarfarz.’

    Nawaz was a huge Z A. Bhutto fan as well. So he was pretty ticked off when General Ziaul Haq toppled the Bhutto regime through a military coup in July 1977.

    During a side match against the visiting England side in December 1977, a television camera (and, more so, boom microphones placed on the line), accidently captured the image and sound of Nawaz talking (in Punjabi) to a friend on the boundary line: ‘Ay bhen@#d Zia kana, kadi tak ay?’ (Till when we have to tolerate this f@*king cockeyed Zia?).

    The camera jerked and as if in a panic immediately moved to showing another part of the ground and the microphones was switched off.

    During the first Test in the 1979 Pakistan-Australia series, after bowling Pakistan to an almost impossible victory (bagging 9 wickets in an innings), Sarfraz was interviewed by an Australian TV commentator who asked him how did the team plan to celebrate the win.

    ‘Oh, well, with a few drinks …’ Sarfraz said.

    But after realising that sale of alcohol (to Muslims) had been banned in Pakistan in April 1977 and that the interview was being beamed live to Pakistan (from Melbourne), he checked himself to add: ‘… I mean, soft drinks, soft drinks … we will celebrate with soft drinks.’ (21)

    Pepsi, what? There was nothing soft about the way Pakistan cricket teams used to celebrate victories. Here Sadiq and skipper Mushtaq rejoice Pakistan’s series levelling victory against Australia with pints of beer (Sydney, 1976). In the background is Imran Khan, who took 12 wickets in the match.
    Pepsi, what? There was nothing soft about the way Pakistan cricket teams used to celebrate victories. Here Sadiq and skipper Mushtaq rejoice Pakistan’s series levelling victory against Australia with pints of beer (Sydney, 1976). In the background is Imran Khan, who took 12 wickets in the match.

    Sarfraz holds on to his drink during a party thrown by author and cricket commentator, late Omar Qureshi (second left) in 1979.
    Sarfraz holds on to his drink during a party thrown by author and cricket commentator, late Omar Qureshi (second left) in 1979.

    Though Sarfraz would become a lot more controversial after his retirement when he began to take names of players he thought were involved in match-fixing, it all started during the 1979 World Cup in England.

    During the event he had a huge row with new skipper, Asif Iqbal, who accused Nawaz of continuously breaching the rules by staying out late at night and not attending practice sessions and team meetings.

    After the tournament, Nawaz told Pakistan’s cricket monthly (the now defunct Pakistan Cricketer), that Asif had formed a clique of players around him and that any player who refused to agree with him was admonished and ignored on the tour. (22)

    He said Asif had made sure to drop him (Sarfraz) in some matches for no apparent reason and then dropped Wasim Raja for the all-important semi-final game against the West Indies, in spite of the fact that Raja had an impressive record against the Windies.

    ‘Raja and I were treated like strangers on the tour, just because we weren’t Iqbal’s yes men’ he added.

    Pretty miffed: Pakistan squad at the 1979 World Cup: (From left): Iqbal Qasim, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Sikander Bakht, Haroon Rashid, Hasan Jamil, Muddasar Nazar, Wasim Raja, Sadiq Muhammad; (sitting from left): Wasim Bari, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas and Sarfraz Nawaz. The photo was taken soon after Nawaz and Asif had had first of the many arguments on the tour.
    Pretty miffed: Pakistan squad at the 1979 World Cup: (From left): Iqbal Qasim, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Sikander Bakht, Haroon Rashid, Hasan Jamil, Muddasar Nazar, Wasim Raja, Sadiq Muhammad; (sitting from left): Wasim Bari, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas and Sarfraz Nawaz. The photo was taken soon after Nawaz and Asif had had first of the many arguments on the tour.

    The controversy turned even uglier when Mushtaq Mohammad was replaced by Asif as Test captain just before Pakistan’s 1979 6-Test tour of India.

    Sarfraz accused Asif of conspiring against Mushtaq. He then refused to be part of a team led by Asif Iqbal.

    Nawaz returned to the side when Asif retired from the game in early 1980.

    Sarfraz himself retired in late 1982, but was coaxed out of retirement by his then best friend and fast bowling partner, Imran Khan, who had become Pakistan’s captain in May 1982.

    Nawaz finally retired from the game in 1984 at the age of 35.

    However, in the 1990s, Nawaz had a falling out with Imran when Khan became a ‘born-again Muslim’.

    Nawaz accused Khan of being a hypocrite and Khan retaliated by calling Nawaz ‘mad.’

    Sarfraz and Imran led the Pakistan pace attack from 1976 till 1983. They were also best of friends till they fell out in the 1990s. Here they are seen at a party in Karachi during the 1980 Pakistan-Australia series.
    Sarfraz and Imran led the Pakistan pace attack from 1976 till 1983. They were also best of friends till they fell out in the 1990s. Here they are seen at a party in Karachi during the 1980 Pakistan-Australia series.

    In 1994 when Pakistani players Rashid Latif, Aamir Sohail and Basit Ali came out and accused a number of their teammates of being involved in match-fixing, Nawaz became their biggest supporter.

    Then in 1999, he even went on to suggest that match-fixing was actually started by Asif Iqbal and Sunil Gavaskar during the 1979 Indo-Pak series (23). Both the players retaliated by saying that Nawaz had completely lost his mind.

    Sarfraz at a press conference in 2010 announcing his joining of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Before joining the MQM, he had been a member of the PPP from 1987 till 1996.
    Sarfraz at a press conference in 2010 announcing his joining of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Before joining the MQM, he had been a member of the PPP from 1987 till 1996.

    Sarfraz married thrice in his life. Today he lives alone and refuses to take back any of his accusations against some of his former teammates, even if this means that he would most probably never be able to find any worthwhile position in Pakistan cricket anymore.

    Citizen Khan

    Imran Khan, 1979.
    Imran Khan, 1979.

    Coming from a cricketing family, Imran Khan, studied at Lahore’s prestigious Aitchison school and then went on to pick up a Masters degree from Oxford.

    He made (a rather unremarkable) Test debut at the age of 19 in 1971 and was quickly forgotten about until called back into the side in 1974.

    19-year-old Imran Khan being introduced to the Queen of England by skipper Intikhab Alam, 1971. For a while Alam forgot Imran’s name until reminded by a fellow player.
    19-year-old Imran Khan being introduced to the Queen of England by skipper Intikhab Alam, 1971. For a while Alam forgot Imran’s name until reminded by a fellow player.

    Imran in England during Pakistan’s 1974 tour of the country.
    Imran in England during Pakistan’s 1974 tour of the country.

    Under the guidance of captain Mushtaq Mohammad, and the tutelage of friend and fellow bowler, Sarfraz Nawaz, Khan gradually rose to become a premier quick bowler.

    His breakthrough moment arrived in the third Test during Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 1976. The team was one down in the 3-Test series, but Khan bowled Pakistan to a historic victory by taking 12 wickets in the game.

    It was also during this Test that Khan experienced his first taste of controversy.

    Australian players, especially tearaway fast bowler Dennis Lillee and wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, had been sledging the Pakistanis throughout the tour.

    Pakistani skipper Mushtaq Mohammad decided to turn the tables by letting lose his two fast bowlers, Imran and Sarfraz, and allowing them to bowl bouncers at Australia’s tail-end batsmen.

    Khan was particularly vicious on Lillee and Marsh, bowling them bouncers despite being warned over and over again by the umpire.

    As Sarfraz continued to abuse the batsmen with choice Punjabi words, Khan kept bowling short and then running up to the batsmen to give them a menacing stare. And every time Khan did that, the 19-year-old Javed Miandad, standing at silly point, would keep repeating (to Marsh and Lillee), ‘he kill you, now he really kill you!’ (24)

    The umpire finally stopped the game when a Khan bouncer flattened Lillee. Mushtaq intervened and asked the umpire why he hadn’t stopped Lillee from bowling bouncers to Pakistani tail-enders?

    The issue was resolved when Mushtaq loudly told Khan to stop bowling bouncers. However, when Khan reached his bowling mark, Mushtaq told him to ‘aim right between the bastard’s eyes.’ (25)

    Imran Khan eyes and gives a mouthful to Australia’s Rod Marsh at Sydney, 1976.
    Imran Khan eyes and gives a mouthful to Australia’s Rod Marsh at Sydney, 1976.

    Mushtaq arguing with the umpire. Also seen is substitute fielder, Wasim Raja, and a furious Imran Khan (behind the umpire).
    Mushtaq arguing with the umpire. Also seen is substitute fielder, Wasim Raja, and a furious Imran Khan (behind the umpire).

    Interestingly, Khan’s performance (and looks) turned him into a ‘sex symbol’ first in Australia than in his own country.

    But when he returned to the Pakistan side in 1978 (after being banned for joining Kerry Packer’s league in Australia), his rise as more-than-a-cricketing-star gripped Pakistan as well.

    Newspapers began to report his frequent ‘love affairs’ in the UK and how he was a ‘nightclub magnet’ who made sure to frequent almost every nightclub in the cities that the Pakistan cricket team toured. (26)

    When he landed in India with the Pakistan team during the 1979 Indo-Pak series, the Indian tabloids were the ones that first used the word ‘playboy’ for him.

    Khan celebrated his 27th birthday with his teammates in the dressing room of the cricket stadium of Bangalore. But some Indian tabloids reported that in the evening he was seen ‘escorting Zeenat Aman,’ the Bollywood bombshell.

    Pakistan team celebrates Imran Khan’s birthday in the dressing room during Pakistan’s 1979 tour of India. From Left (back row): Abdur Raqeeb, Sikander Bakht, Sadiq Mohammad, Taslim Arif, Unknown Official, Asif Iqbal, Abdul Qadir, Zaheer Abbas. From Right (front row): Talat Mirza, Mudassar Nazar, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Wasim Raja and Naeem Ahmed.
    Pakistan team celebrates Imran Khan’s birthday in the dressing room during Pakistan’s 1979 tour of India. From Left (back row): Abdur Raqeeb, Sikander Bakht, Sadiq Mohammad, Taslim Arif, Unknown Official, Asif Iqbal, Abdul Qadir, Zaheer Abbas. From Right (front row): Talat Mirza, Mudassar Nazar, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Wasim Raja and Naeem Ahmed.

    Some members of the Pakistan team at a Mumbai club during the 1979 tour. (From left): Sadiq Mohammad, Abdul Qadir, Muddasar Nazar and Imran Khan. In the background (in a black blazer) is Wasim Raja.
    Some members of the Pakistan team at a Mumbai club during the 1979 tour. (From left): Sadiq Mohammad, Abdul Qadir, Muddasar Nazar and Imran Khan. In the background (in a black blazer) is Wasim Raja.

    When during the second Test, Imran could not bowl more than two over due to a back strain, the Zeenat Aman news was picked up by the conservative Urdu press in Pakistan. It lambasted the team for indulging in ‘immoral activities’ and spending the nights at clubs and with Indian actresses.

    The truth was the team had partied much harder during the 1976-77 Australia and West Indies tour, but the difference now was that it wasn’t performing as well as it had on those tours.

    Sikander Bakht and Wasim Bari with Indian film star, Dalip Kumar, at a party in Mumbai during the 1979 Pak-India tour.
    Sikander Bakht and Wasim Bari with Indian film star, Dalip Kumar, at a party in Mumbai during the 1979 Pak-India tour.

    Pakistan lost the series 2-0 and one Urdu newspaper went on to actually suggest that Zeenat Aman was responsible for giving Khan a bad back!

    Many years later, Indian author, Shobhaa De, asked Aman about her supposed fling with Khan in 1979. Aman replied that there was nothing serious between the two and that she found him to be ‘arrogant and rude and very impolite to his fans.’ (27)

    However, one of India’s most respected monthlies, India Today, reported in 1984, that the affair was actually very serious and that the two even came close to getting married. (28)

    Zeenat Aman.
    Zeenat Aman.
    Stories about Imran’s affairs with British women continued to flow, but as he made peace with his ‘playboy’ image, he found himself embroiled in yet another controversy.

    Asif Iqbal retired from the captaincy and the game after the 1979 debacle against India and was replaced by the 23-year-old Javed Miandad. But by 1982, ten players (led by Majid Khan) refused to play under him including Imran (see next section).

    The turmoil led to Khan being made the captain. He would go on to become one of Pakistan’s most popular and successful captains.

    He obviously had a brief falling-out with Miandad but both soon patched up.

    Ironically, it was with his cousin, mentor and the leader of the anti-Miandad rebellion, Majid Khan, that Khan had one of his hardest fall-outs with.

    During the 1982 tour of England, Imran decided to drop Majid from the first Test and instead play the young Mansoor Akhtar.

    Majid who was the dashing, stylish and prolific mainstay of the team’s batting line-up ever since the early 1970s was livid, in spite of the fact that he had lost his form.

    On Imran’s own admission, Majid hasn’t talked to him properly till even today, more than thirty years after the initial spat.

    Majid Khan (aka Majestic Khan).
    Majid Khan (aka Majestic Khan).

    After beating Australia and India in 1982-83 (3-0 each), Khan developed a serious stress fracture in one of his shins and had to quit the game for a while.

    He had picked 40 wickets in 6 Tests against India and was at the peak of his bowling when he broke down. His brief exit plunged Pakistan cricket back into disarray and in-fighting.

    Imran uproots Indian skipper, Sunil Gavaskar’s stumps during the third Test (in Karachi) during the 1982-83 Pak-India series.
    Imran uproots Indian skipper, Sunil Gavaskar’s stumps during the third Test (in Karachi) during the 1982-83 Pak-India series.

    Khan returned to the side in 1985 and after playing for a while under Miandad, he was again made captain. Miandad became his deputy.

    In 1986, controversy came calling again. Qasim Omar, who had established himself in the side as an elegant, young batsman, returned from Pakistan’s 1986-87 tour of Australia and immediately held a series of press conferences.

    In the first conference, he accused Khan of being jealous of him.

    Qasim claimed: ‘I made a fifty in a match, and then raised my bat to the applause of the crowd. Instead of being praised by the captain, I was abused by him for getting out and he then went on to insult me.’

    As Khan rubbished the accusation, Qasim retaliated by issuing a statement alleging that Imran Khan and his team were heavy users of hashish (cannabis), and that they would smuggle the drug (for their own consumption) from city to city in their batting gloves.

    Qasim also alleged that during the Australian tour, players were allowed to bring prostitutes into their hotel rooms. (29)

    It was Khan and the team’s good luck that they had been performing well and this made Qasim sound bitter and (as one sports journalist noted, ‘imbalanced’).

    Qasim was banned by the board for making unsubstantiated accusations against the captain and the national team. In the early 1990s, he joined the Islamic evangelical organisation, the Tableeghi Jamat.

    Qasim Omar.
    Qasim Omar.

    But as Khan’s team continued to produce successful results, the drug controversy returned right after the 1987 Pak-India series (in India) that Pakistan famously won.

    To neutralise Indian spin bowling, Khan had revived former left-handed Pakistan batsman, Younis Ahmed’s career by inducting him into the side.

    Younis had played a couple of Tests for Pakistan in 1969-70, but was banned by the Pakistan government when he toured South Africa with an English club team in 1971.

    South Africa was under a racist (apartheid) regime in those days.

    Younis, a highly talented batsman, had continued playing county cricket in England and was 40 when he was re-inducted into the Pakistan side by Imran.

    However, just before Pakistan’s 1987 tour of England, Younis issued a statement alleging that Imran Khan was a bad influence in the team because he encouraged his young team members to consume drugs and indulge in womanising.

    Though some Pakistani newspapers demanded that Ahmed’s accusations be looked into, Khan and his team were at the height of their popularity after beating India in India.

    But Younis did not relent. In an interview he gave to the popular cricket magazine (the now defunct Pakistan Cricketer), Younis alleged that at a party during the India tour, he saw Khan smoking dope.

    Younis said: ‘When I saw a cigarette in his hand, I asked him whether he had started to smoke. He smiled and told me this was no ordinary cigarette. Some of the players who were also there started to laugh. So I asked him what he meant, he took a long puff of the cigarette and then handed it to me, saying, ‘try it.’ I soon found out it was a hashish joint.’ (30)

    Khan again rubbished the accusations, suggesting that Ahmad was just miffed at him for not selecting him for the England tour.

    *(In 1993, six Pakistani cricketers were arrested from a Grenada beach for smoking ganja) during Pakistan tour of WI under Wasim Akram.

    Imran Khan and then Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Nawaz Sharif (right), at a function in Lahore soon after Pakistan won the 1987 series against India.
    Imran Khan and then Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Nawaz Sharif (right), at a function in Lahore soon after Pakistan won the 1987 series against India.

    Khan and his merry men (from left): Zakir Khan, Saleem Jaffar, Mohsin Kamal, Mansoor Akhtar, Wasim Akram, Shoiab Mohammad, Tauseef Ahmed and Abdul Qadir.
    Khan and his merry men (from left): Zakir Khan, Saleem Jaffar, Mohsin Kamal, Mansoor Akhtar, Wasim Akram, Shoiab Mohammad, Tauseef Ahmed and Abdul Qadir.

    Though controversies about Imran’s sexual escapades and drug usage continued to crop up, he went on to lead Pakistan to win the 1992 World Cup in Australia.

    He is still remembered as one of the finest cricketers produced by the country and certainly its best captain.

    He not only reintroduced the kind of unity and spirit that was absent in the team after Mushtaq Mohammad’s retirement, but also nurtured a series of quick bowlers (Waqar, Wasim, Aaqib), young batsmen (Inzamam, Ramiz, Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed) and wily spinners (Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed), turning them into match winners.

    He was more than helped in running a successful side by his vice captain, Javed Miandad.

    Both of them became the two most important players in the Pakistan side. Famous Pakistani cricket commentator, Chisti Mujahid, once said, together, Khan and Miandad, were ‘a powerhouse of cricketing strategy and ability.’

    Recently while talking (on TV) about their playing days, Ramiz Raja and Wasim Akram said that Khan was a stern captain but a very caring one.

    They added that Imran and Miandad set tough standards and would not tolerate anything less than full commitment, but they also made sure that playing cricket and touring was also fun for the boys.

    Mentor and prodigy: Khan with Wasim Akram during the 1987 England tour.
    Mentor and prodigy: Khan with Wasim Akram during the 1987 England tour.

    Khan and Miandad: As captain and vice-captain they were ‘a powerhouse of cricketing strategy and ability.
    Khan and Miandad: As captain and vice-captain they were ‘a powerhouse of cricketing strategy and ability.

    Another accusation that Khan faced during his captaincy was of being arrogant. This 1990 article by famous cricket journalist, Fareshte A. Gati, explores the issue.
    Another accusation that Khan faced during his captaincy was of being arrogant. This 1990 article by famous cricket journalist, Fareshte A. Gati, explores the issue.

    Miandad and Khan share a joke during a fundraiser in 2004. Khan retired from cricket in 1992 and Miandad in 1996.
    Miandad and Khan share a joke during a fundraiser in 2004. Khan retired from cricket in 1992 and Miandad in 1996.

    Javed must go

    Javed Miandad.
    Javed Miandad.

    Identified as a batting prodigy, Javed Miandad made his Test debut in 1976 at the age of 19.

    By the time he was just 23 he had become the captain of the Pakistan cricket team.

    Miandad had rapidly rose to become a regular in the team and he was specially nurtured by captain Mushtaq Mohammad who found in this prodigious, mischievous and cheeky player a brain that was capable of understanding the game on a very mature level.

    In 1979 when Asif Iqbal retired from cricket after Pakistan suffered a 2-0 defeat in India under his captaincy, he was expected to be replaced by two other seniors, either Majid Khan or Zaheer Abbas.

    But the Pakistan cricket board asked former captain Mushtaq Mohammad (who had alleged that his captaincy was toppled by Asif Iqbal in 1979) to take over as captain again for the 1980 series against the visiting Australian side.

    While deliberating the matter of captaincy with the board, Mushtaq instead suggested young Miandad’s name. (31)

    The new chief of the board, Nur Khan, who was also a great believer in Miandad’s potential of becoming a good captain, agreed, and the 23-year-old was elevated as the country’s new cricket captain.

    There was some grumbling among the seniors in the side, but since major players like Zaheer and Majid had been so out of form on the Indian tour, they concentrated more on retaining their place in the side.

    Miandad on the cover of the 1980 edition of (the now defunct) Pakistan Book of Cricket.
    Miandad on the cover of the 1980 edition of (the now defunct) Pakistan Book of Cricket.

    Miandad won his first series as captain, defeating Australia 1-0. But the team lost to the visiting West Indians 1-0. However, Miandad was retained as captain for Pakistan’s return tour to Australia where it lost the series 2-1.

    By the time the Sri Lankan team arrived to play its first Test series against Pakistan in early 1982, both Zaheer and Majid had re-established their place in the squad.

    So when the board again named Miandad as captain for the series, both the players refused to play under him. (32)

    Zaheer Abbas.
    Zaheer Abbas.

    Miandad was shocked. He first thought that it was just Majid and Zaheer, but then Nur Khan called him to inform that there were more cricketers involved in the mutiny.

    Now Miandad believed that the old Karachi vs. Lahore conflict was rearing its ugly head again. Miandad was from Karachi and thought that Lahore players in the side were the ones who were stirring things up.

    But he was confident that Lahore guys like Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and Wasim Raja won’t lend any support to the mutiny. He was wrong.

    Not only had Majid and Zaheer gotten support from all the Lahore players, including Mudassar Nazar, they had also got on board Karachi players like Iqbal Qasim, Mohsin Khan, Wasim Bari and Sikander Bakht. Miandad was gutted.

    Mohsin Khan.
    Mohsin Khan.

    Majid and Zaheer had managed to get signatures from a total of eight players on a protest letter to the board that suggested that Miandad was ‘immature’ and ‘rude to the seniors’ (34) and that they will not be available to play under him.

    When Miandad led a completely rehauled side in the first Test of the Sri Lankan series, the general stands at Karachi’s National Stadium erupted with demonstrations against the mutineers. (35)

    Posters and effigies of the rebelling players were set on fire, especially those of Zaheer, Majid and Imran.

    The Karachi press continued to dub the controversy as yet another example of the Lahore players’ ‘hatred’ against Karachi’s Javed Miandad (36) – even though four of the signatories, Qasim, Bakht, Bari and Mohsin, were from Karachi.

    At the start of the second Test, Mohsin Khan and Wasim Raja decided to break from the rebel squad. They joined the team for the second Test.

    Iqbal Qasim also declared his availability for the third Test, but by then Miandad himself finally suggested a way out when he offered the board his resignation.

    Nur Khan stressed that the board was with him, but Miandad had made up his mind – but only on one condition: That neither Zaheer nor Majid would replace him. (37)

    Nur Khan.
    Nur Khan.

    The board agreed and the rebellion was over. Pakistan won the series 2-0. Both Majid and Zaheer were bypassed and Imran Khan was made the new captain.

    Some twenty years later, Miandad suggested that most mutineers were not really against his captaincy. He said they went along with Majid and Zaheer because they thought the board would make one of them the new captain.

    Nevertheless, Miandad later went on to captain Pakistan in 34 Tests (same as Imran). (38)

    But in 1993, he faced another mutiny, this time led by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. He again resigned and was replaced by Akram. Younis was named the vice captain.

    However, in 1994, Younis pulled off a mutiny involving ten players against Akram. Akram resigned and Salim Malik was made the ‘compromise captain.’

    Wasim and Waqar: Quite the deadly duo.
    Wasim and Waqar: Quite the deadly duo.

    Faith wars

    Former Pakistan cricketers, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saeed Anwar and Mushtaq Ahmed at an event hosted by Islamic evangelical organisation, the Tableeghi Jamat.

    Till about the late 1990s, Pakistan cricket teams were known more for pulling off unpredictable and exciting results on the field (either way) and indulging in raunchy activities off it involving women, drink and clubbing.

    They were a far cry from the teams that began to take shape from 2001 onwards, in which, (at one time between 2004 and 2007), more than half the side were directly involved in the preaching activities of the Tableeghi Jamat.

    It all began in 1999 in Sharjah where the Pakistani squad under Saeed Anwar’s captaincy was competing in an ODI tournament.

    Former Pakistani cricketer and a committed party animal, Saeed Ahmed, who had joined the Tableeghi Jamat in the 1980s, managed to make his way into the team’s dressing room.

    Former Pakistan cricketers, Inzimamul Haq, Saeed Anwar and Mushtaq Ahmed at an event hosted by Islamic evangelical organisation, the Tableeghi Jamat.
    Former Pakistan cricketers, Inzimamul Haq, Saeed Anwar and Mushtaq Ahmed at an event hosted by Islamic evangelical organisation, the Tableeghi Jamat.

    He was allowed to give a ‘religious lecture’ to the squad that politely admonished the players’ off-field activities. On his way out, he left behind a few cassettes containing the speeches of some of the Jamat’s top preachers.

    Players like Mushtaq Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Anwar took the recordings with them when Pakistan went on the 1999-2000 tour of Australia under Wasim Akram’s captaincy. (39)

    By 2001, all the three players had joined the Jamat and changed their lifestyles and appearance.

    Mushtaq Ahmed in 1999.
    Mushtaq Ahmed in 1999.

    … in 2009.
    … in 2009.

    When Pakistan was eliminated from the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, all three saw their careers coming to an end. But so did the careers of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

    When wicketkeeper Rashid Latif was dropped as captain after just three Tests, Inzamam was given the job.

    Inzamam-ul-Haq, 1993.
    Inzamam-ul-Haq, 1993.

    Now leading a team that had lost a number of its top players and riddled with intrigues and opposing camps, Inzamam discussed the matter with his good friend Mushtaq Ahmed.

    Mushtaq asked him to find solace in God and took him to the Jamat’s annual gathering in Raiwind.

    By 2004, Inzamam was in the bag of the Jamat that (from the mid 1990s) had been working to recruit men from Pakistan’s sporting and show-biz world.

    Inzamam then used religion (or at least the Jamat’s version of it), as a tool to resurrect the side.

    He started inviting various preachers from the Jamat into the dressing room and soon, most players began to fall in line.

    A select group of Jamat members began to travel and stay with the team, even on tours. Players were encouraged to keep beards and pray together.

    Some observers believed that Inzamam’s strategy had done wonders for the team, uniting it and turning it into a well disciplined set of players.

    Even non-Muslim coach, Bob Woolmer, agreed that the induction of faith had boded well for the team.

    Group prayers became a norm under Inzimam …
    Group prayers became a norm under Inzimam …

    But just as cricket fans were curiously and even admiringly seeing the birth of a new culture in Pakistan cricket, Pakistan’s leading Urdu newspaper, Jang, ran a story in January 2005, claiming that not all was quite well in the team.

    The story claimed that the Jamat was applying pressure on Inzamam to further ‘Islamise’ the team. As a consequence, the story added, Inzamam was trying to recruit those members of the team who had not already joined the Jamat.

    The report suggested that the Jamat had been particularly interested in getting the flamboyant Shahid Afridi into its fold, and after much plodding and work, finally managed to make Afridi join the evangelical group. (40)

    Afridi’s lifestyle was as wild as his batting. But talking to Jang he said: ‘This is now a very different team. In the past we used to go out to clubs after the day’s play. Now we go out and pray together. I am glad I made this decision (of joining the Jamat). It has united the team again.’ (41)

    Afridi: The bad boy days …
    Afridi: The bad boy days …

    Now a good boy.
    Now a good boy.

    But the news report seemed to have (uncannily) opened up a Pandora’s Box. What was being seen as a smart and admirable tactic of utilising faith to construct a united team began to drift towards becoming a controversy.

    Soon, further news began to spill out that at least three cricketers were not happy with what became to be known as ‘Inzamam’s Raiwind regime.’

    Two of these players were Abdul Razzaq and Younis Khan. Though Younis was already a very religious man (who even fasted during matches), he did not appreciate the fact that the team was being asked to openly exhibit its new-found religiosity.

    In an interview that he gave to the Pakistan English daily, The News, in early 2009 when he became captain, he said: ‘What this (show of religiosity) did was that it made most players very introverted. They stopped going out and socialise; they also stopped interacting with other teams.’

    But the most vocal critic of Inzamam’s ‘Raiwind regime’ was tearaway fast bowler was Shoaib Akhtar.

    A mercurial and wild character in the mould of Sarfraz Nawaz, Akhtar continued to confront and question Inzamam’s tactics.

    ‘I usually do the opposite of what I am told to do,’ he later wrote in his book. He wrote that Inzamam and the Jamat were pushing down religion down the players’ throats. (42)

    By 2007, Akhtar was perhaps the only player left in the team who was still reflecting the old, raunchier and irreligious culture of Pakistan cricket teams of yore – even though Mohammad Asif was not so far behind, having a particular liking for beer and hashish.

    But as Akhtar ranted and raved, threw tantrums and brawled his way across episodes that included drug and drink binges and obsessive womanising, he retained a very healthy respect for Inzamam as a batsman at least.

    Shoaib was also the only player in the side whom the Jamat members that accompanied the team simply refused to approach.

    Pakistan cricket journalist, Osman Sammiuddin, noticed that ‘either they (the Jamat people) were just too scared to go near him, or they found him to be beyond repair.’

    Shoaib Akhtar at a nightclub in the UK, 2005: ‘Beyond repair?’
    Shoaib Akhtar at a nightclub in the UK, 2005: ‘Beyond repair?’

    The whole simmering but quiet controversy about the Jamat’s involvement in the team finally erupted into a full-fledged drama when Pakistan was eliminated from the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

    It lost badly to the lowly rated Ireland team, and then coach, Bob Woolmer, suddenly died in his room in mysterious circumstances.

    Shoaib Akhtar, who was not part of the squad, bemoaned the fact that an over-indulgence in religion had become a distraction for most players and they just lost the will and spirit to compete like they used to.

    The team’s media manager, Pervez Mir, was much harsher. In a press conference after the tournament, he claimed that many team members used to go out and try to convert West Indian civilians instead of coming to the ground to practice.

    ‘Is this what they are paid to do?’ He asked. He also added that Woolmer had confided in him that he just couldn’t sit down with the players and strategise because they were always going off to either pray or preach.

    After the debacle, the Pakistan cricket board asked the team to keep faith a private matter and disallowed any overt display of religiosity during matches.

    Inzamam retired, but when three Pakistani players were caught red-handed in a spot-fixing scandal in 2010, Sarfraz Nawaz noted: ‘In last many years, the Pakistan team and management has been a spectacle of moral hypocrisy.’

    The mighty Inzi makes his exit from cricket. It was unfortunate that controversy hastened the ouster of this most talented and exciting batsman.
    The mighty Inzi makes his exit from cricket. It was unfortunate that controversy hastened the ouster of this most talented and exciting batsman.

    Things settled down a bit when Misbah-ul-Haq took over as captain in 2011.

    A quiet, calm and extremely private man, the religiosity factor in the side too became exactly that: Quiet, calm and extremely (if not entirely) private.

    Misbah, both in faith and game: Quiet, calm, private.
    Misbah, both in faith and game: Quiet, calm, private.


    (1) Masood Hassan, This was a man (The News, April 22, 2012). (2) Fazal Mehmood, From Dusk to Dawn (Oxford University Press, 2003) p.198. (3) Stephen Wagg, Cricket & National Identity in Post-Colonial Age (Routledge, 2005) p.123. (4) Hanif Muhammad, Playing for Pakistan (Oxford University Press, 1999). (5) Mushtaq Muhammad, Inside Out (2010). (6) Ibid. (7) Fazal Mehmood, From Dusk to Dawn (Oxford University Press, 2003) p.198. (8) Javed Barki is the first cousin of two other Pakistani Test cricketers, Majid Khan and Imran Khan. (9) Ibid p.88. (10) Related by former Pakistan English commentator, Omar Kureshi, in a conversation with the author in 1989. (11) Dr. Nauman Niaz, Pakistan Book of Cricket (Vol:2), (Pakistan Cricket Board, 2005). (12) Saeed Ahmed’s interview taken by Tony Greig and broadcasted like from the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in November, 1998. (13) Imran Khan, An All Round View (Random House, 1984). (14) Raja’s ton: (The Pakistan Cricketer, February 1975). (15) Mushtaq Muhammad, Inside Out (2010). (16) Ibid. (17) Sarfraz Nawaz interview (The Pakistan Cricketer, September, 1979). (18) Rehana Hakim, Will The Real Raja Please Stand Up? (HERALD, January 1981). (19) Mushtaq Muhammad, Inside Out (2010). (20) Ibid. (21) Post-match interview given to ABC commentator, 15 March, 1979. (22) Sarfraz Nawaz interview (The Pakistan Cricketer, September, 1979). (23) Prove it, Gavaskar challenges Sarfraz: (Rediff, March 1999). (24) Mushtaq Muhammad, Inside Out (2010). (25) Ibid. (26) Christopher Sandford, Imran Khan: The Cricketer, The Celebrity, The Politician. (27) K. V. Surendran, Indian writings: Critical perspectives (Sarup & Sons, 2000) p.349. (28) India Today Vol:9 (1984) p.80. (29) ‘Test Star Revels Sex & Drugs in International Cricket’ (The Mirror, 12 June). (30) ‘Is The Skipper a Junkie?’ (Pakistan Cricketer, May 1987). (31) Mushtaq Muhammad, Inside Out (2010). (32) Javed Miandad, Cutting Edge (Oxford University Press, 2003). (33) Ibid. (34) Ibid. (35) Personal experience. The author was present during episode. (36) Gul Hameed Bhatti, ‘Miandad and Majid Don’t See Eye to Eye (The Pakistan Cricketer, December, 1981). (37) Javed Miandad, Cutting Edge (Oxford University Press, 2003). (38) In 1994, another ten-man mutiny erupted. This one was led by Waqar Yunus against the captaincy of Wasim Akram. (39) Amir Mir, Talibanization of Pakistan (Biteback Publishing, 2011). (40) Shahid Afridi nein bhi Tableeghi Jamat ka khairmakdam kar diya (Jang, January, 2005). (41) Ibid. (42) Shoaib Akhtar, Controversially Yours, (HarparCollins, 2011).

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  • 06/14/13--04:50: Weekly Classics: Platoon
  • enter image description hereWhen the rich wage war, it's the poor who die.—Jean-Paul Sartre

    Not being funny but as soon as this Oscar winner's opening credits roll in you are more or less drafted into the narrative. The film begins as boys barely in their 20’s jump out from the back of a plane just in time to see that same space being filled in by dead bodies. Providing a stark outline that this was Vietnam, an almost factory operation; dead bodies out, live bodies in.

    As Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) steps into view, the deathly grimace of a soldier almost entirely devoured by the war welcomes him, as a warning. This place will change you, ‘it’s like being in another world.’

    The Vietnam War was, in a lot of ways, unapologetically obvious about its class discrimination, drafting the men that were too poor to get a college education or pay a psychiatrist to avoid conflict. It was the war of the underdogs that belonged to a super power, the men that fought in the longest American war were ‘bottom of the barrel and they knew it.’ It is for this reason that Chris and Oliver Stone’s involvement in the war is so pregnant with class guilt and the desire to be redeemed by descending into the working class. The screenplay for Platoon was under edit for around a decade before the film was released. Oliver Stone subtracted and added a myriad of political ideologies and sentiments to get as close to the veteran response to the Vietnam War at the time. One of the reasons this film has been hailed as an ‘authentic’ portrayal of the war, is the fact that Oliver Stone is actually a Vietnam War veteran himself.

    In this semi-autobiographical narrative Chris Taylor is Oliver Stone’s alter ego, vulnerable and transparent. Though he is already disillusioned with his abandoned bourgeoisie family values and college education, the war will give his disdain a whole new paradigm shift. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Elias (Willem Dafoe) are two sergeants of the same platoon and symbolise the worst and best in humanity. They are ‘the two fathers’ that Chris is born of, giving the plot a larger Freudian and literary epic point of view.

    enter image description here

    During the first half of the film the enemy is faceless, largely silhouetted and the protagonist is only just fighting the jungle as of yet. The rain, the leeches, the snakes and the heat coupled with Chris’s idealism; ‘I just wanna be anonymous, do my share for my country’ is simply setting the stage for the brutality and mindlessness soon to follow. We are shown through the eyes of ‘fresh meat’ what the war was like on the ground. The confusion towards who the enemy really was, ‘a gook could be standing three feet in front of me I wouldn’t know it’ and ‘the impossibility of reason.’ He is blatantly introduced to the managerial system with which the war was operated. Chris is part of the new guys that are being sent out as ‘bait’, since they were deemed dispensable as not too much time had been invested in them. There is a wealth of broad Marxist undertones to be dug out from this narrative and they are by no means accidental. More than once the characters in the movie proclaim how they have to break their backs for ‘the white man’ and that it’s ‘politics man, politics.’

    enter image description here

    We are shown how men who know little to nothing about the war are subjected to night after night of attacks and ambush. They have minimal training, next to no sleep and their nerves are visibly fraying which translates into the gradual and inevitable erosion of reason. Little by little the soldiers begin to lose their grip on the situation that was never within their reach in the first place. They attack a village in search of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) where Bunny (Kevin Dillion) smashes open the head of a disabled Vietnamese villager as his almost ancient guardian watched, catatonic with incomprehension. This is where the two worlds represented by Elias and Barnes come to a standoff when Elias attacks Barnes. Barnes is threatening to kill the daughter of a villager who he suspects is a NVA agent, Elias being witness to this threatens Barnes with a court martial which sets the wheel in motion to remove Elias as an obstacle to Barnes authority. This is where Chris must choose between his 'two fathers' and the two realms of humanity.

    enter image description here

    Platoon does not show you the war of and with the Vietnamese. Platoon shows you the war waged internally as a consequence to the war waged externally. This is done because it shows you the point of view of a ‘grunt.’ A ‘grunt’ wouldn’t have subtitles to the Vietnamese being hurled at him, he wouldn’t carry any empathy and understanding towards a culture that he has basically just been thrown into. A grunt would have had almost no contact with women except those on the other side of the enemy lines and would have to choose whether he saw them ‘as a thing’ or ‘a fucking human being’. A grunt would have to deal with his fellow mans insides hanging out, starvation, anxiety, fear and battles with daily morality because a grunt ‘can take it, can take anything.’

    But it’s not all bad, Stone interrupts the bleakness with beautifully bright examples of humanity, compassion and humour. For all its shortcomings and irregularities of actual historical accuracy, the movie shows a larger picture of war as business. It’s a desolate plot that is guaranteed to infect you with the same disillusion suffered by its characters.

    enter image description here

    ‘I don’t know brothers, but I’m hurting real bad inside.’

    Watch the trailer here.

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  • 06/14/13--04:26: The surrender of Karachi
  • enter image description hereJust past the middle of February 1843, Karachi was tense. In Saddar, the market was quiet and the shops were shuttered. The Battle of Miani was being fought elsewhere between the Talpurs and the British, the old and the new. It was Hyderabad that was more important then, more coveted and better fortified.

    In Karachi there was trepidation of a different sort. Here was not the immediate chaos of blood and battle, of bludgeoned bodies and blasting bayonets but rather the echoes of an uncertain discomfort found only in peripheral places. When Naomul Hotchand, a merchant and a man of Karachi before it was a city, walked into its suspicious streets that February, he could sense its seething pulse.

    The silence was owed to rumors of a counter attack against the British. There was a sizeable camp of British soldiers at Karachi and the rulers of Sindh, facing defeat at Miani had asked other allies for assistance. The air spoke of their arrival and the possibility of a surprise attack on the encampment at Karachi. The people of the city, the merchants, fisher-folk, the tradesmen and the craftsmen feared that they would be caught in the middle. They were packing to leave, to go as the panicked people of seaside cities often do, to wait by the sea, or on the boats and barges away from the shore and from the battle.

    Naomul Hotchand took matters into his own hands He was positively disposed to the British, having used the enmity between them and the long ruling Talpurs to his advantage in the past. When the Talpurs had tried to prevent the shopkeepers in Saddar Market from selling to the British, Hotchand had intervened. The shops had opened and the sahebs and their wives had bought what they needed. He had earned some credit with the fair-skinned people he guessed would soon be ruling his land.

    It was this credit of past favors that got him into the British camp. The natives were not allowed into the barracks then, their guile and wile not having endeared them too much to the white warriors mourning their lot at being stuck in Karachi. Nevertheless, Naomul Hotchand requested that he be allowed in the audience of Captain Preedy, a man whose name he knew from his previous dealings. When he was finally admitted, when he finally spoke and when he finally revealed the possibility of an impending attack, he was taken seriously. Another British officer one more senior than Preedy arrived to bear the burden of the decision that had to be made. The two white men whispered together, the newcomer more unwilling than Preedy to trust a native. In the end, the conference on how to save Karachi was held in the bathroom of Captain Preedy’s quarters, the safest place in the city.

    With the exchange of this information, the surrender of Karachi was ultimately wrought in the bathroom of a British barrack. According to Naomul Hotchand’s memoirs, the British soldiers simply walked to the marketplace, where the Talpur soldiers still manned the guard posts. When these straggling soldiers were confronted by the British, they simply surrendered. And so in February 1843, on an uneventful evening after a battle that took place somewhere else and an informant who made his case in a bathroom, Karachi became part of the British Empire.

    The proclamation for annexation was hung in the bazaars and Naomul Hotchand, a newly wrought hero was promised many things for his service to Empire. A man of Karachi had given up Karachi, and with his surrender, the people returned from their boats that were out to sea and their hideouts that were near the shore and the city went on until the next betrayal, the next agreement and the next set of rulers eager to wield their flags atop its roofs.

    That was the first surrender of Karachi but its conundrums and circumstances would echo in tone and tenor of surrenders to come. Must the city stand for its own, pit one power against another, both distant and both uninterested, to manufacture the means for its own survival? Must the people of the city, forever living in the shadows of wars fought elsewhere, victories proclaimed by uninvolved others, revel in the cold, pragmatic opportunism that seems its lot?

    One hundred and seventy years after that first surrender, Karachi’s people are stuck again somewhere between old rulers who don’t care and possible new ones who seem to care even less. In the blazing sidewalks of the city in the tired suburbs staked by this or that group, in the apartments whose builders did not consider fan-less, light-less, long hours, linger the questions of the first surrender. How must an ignored city learn to be noticed, how must an unloved city learn the mores of affection, how indeed must a city without a story, make for itself a history? The terms of the next surrender may consider these questions.

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  • 06/15/13--02:33: The falsehood about truth
  • enter image description hereNearly universally, “truth” is rated a perfect 10 among the moral values. The scriptures exhort us to always speak the truth, so does the Maulvi from the pulpit, so do our parents, and so do we – when we become parents, and so on and so on.

    I say this notion is a total falsehood.

    I can right away see SuoMoto action against me for attempting to corrupt the good folks that read Add to that a telephone call from Mr. Mohsinullah Mohsin that a bomb-laden motorcycle is on its way to a place near me. Goodbye dear world.

    My position is that falsehood – more commonly known as lies, is the true foundation of an organised, civilised and humane society.

    My first example is from the world of love and marriage. A pretty girl knows this wonderful man, who has many positives; decency, a good job, coming from a respectable family etc. etc. The only issue is that the man won a third prize in a beauty competition that had only two contestants, including him.

    The man loves our pretty lady in question and asks her hand in marriage. The only reason for the lady not wanting the man as her husband is his challenged looks. She refuses politely. The miserable man asks her, “My fair lady, for what reason do you reject me?”

    I now pose the question to the Truth brigade: what should be the lady’s answer?

    Should she tell him the truth that he failed in the looks department, or cook up a lie about being un-decided or not being ready for marriage? I guess most of you decent folks will say that she should not tell him that he is butt ugly, since that is not a nice thing at all to say to an otherwise decent fellow. Thus, being humane is the criteria here and not the primacy of truth. Falsehood triumphs!

    Second example: You work in an office and hate the guts of your boss but you need to stay employed. During the annual evaluation you are asked to rate your boss. The truth is that you want to spit in his face and kick him in his gut, but you say that he is the next best thing to mango ice cream. You keep your job, your family is happy, the boss is happy. Falsehood saves the day for everyone!

    You ask your wife, “Do you love me darling?” Given that most marriages are not really about love but about sensible choices, she is quite likely to say in her mind, “No darling, it is the house and the car that I really love”. But what comes out of her mouth? “Of course, I love you!” She in turn asks the same question of you. If what you really feel is that you hate her, would you risk saying that and upset the whole marital apple cart in a second and face the mess that comes with it?

    Truth be told, any so called civilised / organised society cannot afford to entertain much truth. The whole fabric of the society will be torn in a day if a “Speak the Truth” day is observed: most marriages will end up in divorce, half the employees fired, the policemen will shoot the horrid guys they are supposed to protect, a certain retired General bombard the Chief Justice with the choicest of invectives, Pakistan’s relations with friendly nations breaking as the friendly nation’s President says in his welcome speech what he really thinks of our exalted Head of the State, etc.

    Finally, when I send this to, and the editor finds it the vilest piece of writing ever to arrive on her desk. She will send me a polite note saying something about too many other things in the queue etc. because, in general, she likes my blogs. When I receive the reply, I will curse the editor for her lack of appreciation for my masterpiece, but will send her an equally polite note saying that I understand, and that I hope the next one will be published.

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