Thursday, July 3, 2014

Highly educated unemployed survey

If you live in Pakistan, you are sure to have a few well qualified friends, who are unemployed because either they lack the right connections or they didn't get their degree in 'the right field'. I have a few too, and have been worried about the situation because it bodes ill for us as a whole.

Please go through the following form and help compile some data regarding the curse of unemployment and the abundance of over-qualification.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Interpreter offspring of the brown ‘goras’

Pakistan is a country for extremism. We welcome all sorts of extremes. Religious, liberal, educated, uneducated, privileged, under-privileged, the list can go on forever, but of all, we are best suited for the privileged. People who have money and belong to the upper class, the ones who can afford to live in a bubble which is hardly affected by inflation, bad public health, foreign policies, power failures, water shortages, etc. This bubble is well protected, having been reinforced by continuing with the colonial system, yes colonial and not post-colonial. The only difference is that the white supremacists have been replaced by their interpreter class. Whether that interpreter class comes from the Pakistani elite schools or consists of a bunch of foreign educated kids, who chose to return to the land of the pure, is irrelevant for the not-or-under-privileged.

They are the ones in whose hands the ‘goras’ left Pakistan in 1947. These brown descendants of the goras aspire to be ‘goras’. They are an alienated hybrid of this confused society which lacks an identity, or as it is said in Urdu; are suffering from “Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka” syndrome. We have several words to identify them, including English medium, burger types, establishment, liberals, secular, etc, etc. It is our own hodgepodge of a feudal, capitalist, dash of Islamic socialist, colonial society.

"We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect," by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859) a Victorian historian, essayist, and parliamentarian. He served as a member of the supreme council of the East India Company from 1834 to 1838, where he oversaw major educational and legal reforms. These lines might be from early 19th century, but they still ring true for Pakistan. We hardly see any significant changes in our education, health policies. Simply because, it isn't beneficial for the interpreter class that, as mentioned earlier lives in a bubble.

The most beneficial for the interpreter class is to let the system stay as is. Or perhaps make it worse, as making it worse only affects the under-privileged who are already dispensable and ‘oh so corrupt’. Their only utility is their voting capability. The privileged decry all that is under-privileged. They occupy higher ground and perhaps intentionally or unintentionally without realizing their own role in maintaining the status quo, blame it on the have-nots. In a way it is understandable. It is not a matter of good or bad, wrong or right, rather it is about retaining privilege with which comes power, a vicious circle, where policies are not made by people who are not in power. And power is not owned by people who are not privileged.

We are conditioned from our cradle to be adapted within one of these categories of privileged or under-privileged, depending on what class we come from. Our opportunities and lack thereof depend on who our parents are or were. We can even classify it as the privileged and ones that do everything in their power to become privileged. The earlier has all that it takes to stay privileged, including ‘interpreter offspring’, while the other tries its best to break this circle of privilege by hook or by crook.

These interpreter offspring are often foreign qualified or local elite school graduates, who have more market value compared to the local public university graduates. Some will argue it is because of what these graduates have to offer, but the million dollar question is should access to education be determined by the amount of money ones family possessed? Probably at this stage many readers would be squirming to say, but nobody stopped the other people from getting the same level of education. That if ‘one wants’ nothing is impossible, and 10 children of a Pakhtun laborer working in Karachi can have access to education at the Karachi Grammar School. The laborer will only have to work ‘really hard’ to achieve this. And only ‘lazy’ people complain.

God and state are all just and fair when it comes to equal opportunities. And there are plenty of opportunities to be had if one is born in the right place, at the right time. Being born as an offspring to the ‘interpreter class’ means, having access to better schools, better education and at the end of it all, a better job, better working environment and a higher position that pays well.

It is part and parcel of almost everybody’s professional and practical life. Be it architects, doctors, journalists, teachers, etc. In the field of architecture the pay scale depends on the school one graduated from. A graduate of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture will be offered a higher salary after graduation compared to the one who graduated from NED University, Karachi University or Mehran University. It is very easy to guess at this stage that the one to be offered the lowest salary would be from Mehran University. Hence, the never ending cycle based on privilege continues. Forcing many people to resort to unfair means to break this cycle and become more privileged, powerful, resourceful and ‘equal’ within the unjust system.

Let’s take the example of the media that is owned by people from political, industrial, banking sector and where most of the positions of power are held by people from elite backgrounds. Someone’s father owns a hospital, another’s is a bureaucrat, yet another is the nephew of a serving MNA, or is related to an industrialist. They all probably went to the Karachi Grammar School, later attended Oxford or some other foreign university privately or on scholarship is a whole new topic of debate, but they have a silent covenant to follow. These people are city editors, senior editors, if without a foreign degree sub-editors at desks, concessions are also made when a local university graduate proves his/her metal against the ones who belong to the higher echelons, especially if this ugly duckling did his or her O levels from City School, Beaconhouse, etc. However, reporting is majorly dominated by the ‘chhota mota’ background people; graduates of Peshawar University, Jamshoro University, Baluchistan University, etc.

How many of us realize that the mere use of internet and capability to write proper English is a product of our class based post-colonial society? Should good education be a choice dependent on money? How many of us actually step back and let a public graduate take lead instead of us, because oh we are so much for the equality of opportunities? The reason nothing changed in 65 years is that the blame ball is being tossed around among the privileged class, who are not separate but a single entity.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Determining the right to be Kashmiri or Baloch

Spoke to the boisterous Lateef Johar, who said with his mischievous smile that his mother thinks he is ignorant for not drinking juice as per the doctor's advice. Lateef belongs to Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) Azad. He is on a hunger strike. Sitting along with his comrades, in front of the Karachi Press Club for the past 12 days, he has not eaten anything. They are hopeful that someone will hear their pleas for justice and BSO Azad Chairman Zahid Baloch will be released. Their aim is to see their leader free of the shackles that have allegedly been put on by the Pakistani security agencies.

Banuk Kareema Baloch, the Vice-Chairperson of BSO Azad said that none of the mainstream political parties have shown their support so far. A thick register meant to record the voices in writing is progressing very slowly. When asked if she knew how many have signed it so far, she said she doesn't know, but the register was started only yesterday. She is a fierce voice among those who demand justice and freedom from the Pakistani State's oppression. Torture, threats, and illegal detentions are a norm, she said. The vociferous woman belongs to Turbat, a city located in southern Balochistan, within the Pakistani 'disputed territory'. Banok Kareema was awarded a five-year sentence on March 16, 2010 for arranging a protest rally on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day.

The region of Balochistan mainly includes southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and a very small section of southwestern Afghanistan. Administratively divided between three countries - Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan - Pakistan holds the largest 'share' of the disputed territory. However, nationalists have never accepted any of the countries as their conquerors. The website run by BSO Azad clearly states that Pakistan occupied Balochistan on March 27, 1948.

The rational side of my brain says that while being a separatist and actively working against a state, expecting good behaviour either stems from naivety or extreme political savvy-ness. However, my emotional side, that grew up on feeling for the Kashmiris suffering at the hands of the Indian 'enemy', makes me want to lash out at the treatment being meted out to the Baloch. How does one strike a balance? How can I support Kashmiris and Palestinians, but forget the Baloch? If Kashmiris are suffering from illegal detentions and custodial disappearances, their bodies being dumped in unmarked graves, while women and children continue to suffer, should I not show solidarity with them? And if I do that, is it honest and justified to not extend the same to the people of Balochistan?

They say that the Indian authorities are brutal and have in the past tortured many of those who want to be independent, to death. Sometimes, they even shoot loved ones to teach a lesson. They only demand for their right of self-determination; nothing more, nothing less. Should we not stand in solidarity with our brothers in Balochistan, who are facing the same situation, but at the hands of India's enemy Pakistan?

Here is another story. Published on a Pakistani tv channel's website:
Kin of missing people in Kashmir sit on indefinite hunger strike (October 21, 2013)
Srinagar.Residents in Indian held Kashmir launched an indefinite hunger strike on Monday (October 21) to protest against the mysterious disappearances of their relatives from the strife-torn province.
People in Kashmir’s Srinagar city, took to streets with empty utensils and photographs of their missing family members who had been allegedly subjected to custodial disappearances since the eruption of militancy over the region in 1989.
Protesters said that the provincial government had been neglecting the issue and didn’t initiate any probe into the missing cases of several youths.
The protesters demanded an intervention by the federal government to deliver justice to the families of the missing people.
“Some people have been kidnapped, and a few are missing and we are unable to figure out whether they are alive or dead. We are urging the provincial government to put pressure on the federal government to find out these missing people,” a protester, Zahoor Ahmed Mir, said.
Reportedly, nearly 50,000 people have been killed and countless have disappeared in Kashmir since insurgency started in the region, which India claims is sponsored by Pakistan.
The 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the country, which gives troops sweeping powers to kill suspected rebels and immunity from prosecution, applies only in Kashmir and insurgency-affected northeast India.
Human Rights groups say it has given the security forces a license to kill torture and rape with impunity in Kashmir.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Takfir, recipe for ‘Halal’ genocide

We live in a cauldron of sectarian strife. Where Deobandis consider Shias, Ahmedis and Barelvis dispensable, Salafis consider every one disposable, Shias and Sunnis feel Ahmedis should be put to the sword. All in all, most of the mainstream sects have a hint of Takfiri, a dash of fanatic and a sprinkling of Tableeghi in them. And yet, there has been no mention of the treatment meted out to the non-Muslim minorities yet. Those dishes, err! People are not allowed in the kitchen called Pakistan. Or we use the whole set of chefs’ knives we bought using CIA funding.

Apart from Jhang, Karachi and other pantries of Pakistan, our crooks have been trained in Kashmir, against the vegetarian chefs; and Afghanistan, against the radical chefs from Russia. Remember the 80s? We had a famous General Crook working with the CIA? He’s the one who bought the knives. In short, our cookhouse is more of a madhouse. And these were just the chefs, we haven’t even mentioned our in-house official butchers yet. It’s a dangerous business, cooking. We cannot be hypocrites and claim we ensure safety and security, and that too peacefully for anybody, let alone the rare dishes.

The chefs, at least the ones trying to maintain a certain taste, want the Arab cuisine to be the favorite, not just the favorite; it should actually be considered the most supreme among all, compared to which any rare or medium rare dish should not be given any importance. However, there is a major problem, we are not sticking to Arab food and the chefs that be don’t like it. The reason is that everyone has opened a TV channel to promote their own recipe and hence it gives them an edge. Chefs from the Tigris and Euphrates valley are being given more airtime, and the Persian chef is increasingly poisoning the cooking trends. Hence, we have decided to purge his minions using our master chefs’ LeJ (lovingly known as the Jhangvi) & SSP (fondly remembered as the Sipah-e-Sahaba).

Here are a few recipes from the online archives of the Haq Char Yaar website, a favorite with SSP and LeJ, yes yes these are some famous chefs known for their unsavory methods for purifying our cookhouse. Their craving for purity is the driving factor, even if it means burning and slaughtering the dishes. They compete with butchers, but that is a separate story. Let’s not botch it up for now.

Avoid them at all costs, on the roads and wherever else you go. And don’t be offended if they shoot you down, especially if you are a Persian chef and a Shia; bear in mind that even if you have tasted Persian food you might not be spared, totally your fault for not sticking to Arab food. If possible, keep your greasy kitchens locked, as nobody is willing to take a guarantee against them. The supporters of the Arab food don’t even consider the Persian cooks worthy rivals. Useless and dispensable the food as well as the ones who make it, is what the clear message is. So read it carefully.

Not to be left behind in technology, many of these dangerous chefs are tweeples now. They know only good recipes are not enough to take down the foreign imposters, so they now use social media for voicing their frustration. They have quite a following too, more than 2000 followers and some blood curdling tweets, giving a step by step methodology to flush out the unwanted. They might even put our butchers to shame. Follow them for some good cleaving and beheading techniques if you are a butcher.

Our cookhouse, the madhouse, brewing war to spread all over the world to appease the oil giants and their consumers is in a sad shape. Be it Gilgit, Quetta, Parachinar, Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad, the poison is spreading with no end in sight. For how long till it boils over and burns each and everything is anybody’s guess. One thing is sure though, none of our safety gear is in place and the inspectors aren’t interested in even checking the fire extinguishers. Till then, butchers roam freely in this land of pure!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In the name of politics: Dashing the Hague Convention

The commoners’ idea that politics is a dirty business would not be too far-fetched when talking about Pakistan; instead, it is as extreme as those wearing sharia beards. An Urdu saying, ‘pait mein daarhi’ (literally: having or growing a beard in the stomach; figuratively: having a hidden beard), was written for those running so-called liberal parties. It’s a fight out here, and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has used the covert way to subvert Taliban, by targeting heritage at Sindh Cultural Festival. The planned fest is an unconventional example of how during armed conflicts, heritage sites might end up needing protection from overambitious politicians.

In a recent interview with Daily Times, Sharmila Farooqi credited PPP Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (BBZ) for his idea to host Sindh Cultural Festival. Contrary to PPP’s inability to hold local government elections in a short time, arranging Sindh Festival was not much of a big deal. Using government funds, of course, not only was the PPP able to publish all sorts of advertisements accompanied by their cute little Superman logo in newspapers, they even pulled off an electronic advertisement targeting the mango people subconsciously via a well-tailored Baby Zardari as future prime minister.

Not stopping there, the PPP launched on to the big idea of bringing on centre stage the Mound of the Dead or Mohenjo Daro. However, the controversial woman leader had said that though the festival would be inaugurated at Mohenjo Daro, the ceremony had been planned at a safe distance, keeping in mind international bylaws.

Mohenjo Daro is an archaeological site in Sindh which was built around 2600 BC to house one of the largest settlements of Indus Valley Civilisation. Being among the four river valley civilisations, it is a record of not just Pakistan and India’s history and ancient heritage but the entire world. One might even argue in favour of political parties using such locations as a trump card to gain say in the pluralistic Sindh, but only if such a stage was not being set right atop the historically neglected but important UNESCO site.

What currently has been planned “on” Mohenjo Daro is nothing short of a way to eradicate the material evidence of the rich and diverse culture of this land. When we think of war and its awful consequences, the deaths of soldiers and civilians as well as alleged terrorists are a reminder of destroyed futures. But in case of attacking historical sites, it becomes about wiping out history, its memory and our collective past. Exactly what the Taliban are accused of! In these circumstances, how can one support such callous neglect and destruction of our past, present and future?

In their book ‘The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq’, Peter G Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly ask why, after millennia of human conflict, have we not become better at protecting cultural heritage and if we can get better? They attribute it to three aspects: targeted destruction to gain political advantage; ‘collateral damage’ where it is destroyed as an ‘innocent bystander’ as fighting takes place; and destruction caused by the trade in illicit antiquities. Perhaps the part about “political gain” is well suited to the current scenario, albeit there’s a difference in weapons.

Mohenjo Daro at the moment is not under threat from an armed conflict, but from the political aspirations of one of the mainstream parties, the PPP. However, the rhetoric being used by the party that ruled the country for five years during the previous democratic regime reads “heritage is under threat, and the festival will protect it from destruction”. In BBZ’s words that we have to experience as part of our daily commercial dose: “Sindh Festival will make us aware of our existence.” And what better way but to replace weapons with stakes nailing the wooden stage and tapping heels in stupor atop 5,000 years worth of history.

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (commonly known as the Hague Convention) is for protecting cultural property during an armed conflict. Perhaps they should come up with one called ‘Protection of Cultural Property Against Political Aspirations of Fledglings’.

One might remind BBZ that even the internationally acclaimed English rock band ‘Pink Floyd’ performed to an empty, ancient, Amphitheatre of Pompeii in Italy, respecting heritage by keeping the maddening frenzy of concert attendees at bay.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Where clerks like generals, intellectuals prefer paternal elite

Here I go again, talking about the interpreter class that forms the academic elite in this country. The ‘intellectuals’ for whom nearly all that is local, traditional or let’s say ‘desi’ is worth rubbishing merely because it does not fit in those defined Western boundaries of ‘civilized’, unless, mind it, the matter is about the exoticized version tailored for the sahib. Just like those perfect ‘gourmet samosas’ and ‘connoisseur jalebis’, all enjoyed wearing ‘dholki haute couture’. Tea party culture hidden behind Marxist theory and dialectics of how to buy vodka from the local bootlegger. Disjointed nuanced semantics of urban and rural divide that are not as feudal as they used to be just because the lord put some money in a couple of sugar mills and sent his children to study at Eton, Berkeley or Oxford.

Not to forget the sugar coated, tech-savvy babus who went to local IBAs and LUMs to get their humble degree; either because they were too mummy daddy to bear the routine of doing their own laundry, or because no international elite school found their credentials worth getting besmirched by the humble presence on campus. Do not count the odd ones out, for they are so few, you can count them on just one hand. [Also, to trample their self esteem, they are lathered in shariat terms like Qarz-e-Hasna]

It wouldn’t be a long shot if one said that it was summarised in the 19th century by Macaulay for the rest of the hullabaloos who were busy being ‘clerks’ [and continue to do so] since British Raj gave them the ‘authority’.

"We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population," Macaulay declared.

Apparently the enrichment never seized and continues to befuddle those who must be guided by the intellectuals as a shepherd guides ‘sheep’.

The intellectuals are stuck in the rut about generals, because supporting paternal elites in their opinion is better than supporting the status quo. Oh the fuzzy frenzy of semantics, prey the clerks cannot fathom the difference, if there is one, as they were never trained to distinguish the nuances of mere words.

But lest the clerks demand to send a general to a foreign hospital instead of the gallows, rest assured that the Berbers in them were never thoroughly put to rest. Though it is all right for my lord to inaugurate a humble school for the clerk, where never would he ever send his own son or daughter. The general must pay. Both for the hospital, as well as the school made for the clerk’s descendants. For who else would my lord not elite rule if there were no more clerks? Not those peasants, for the fiefdoms have them as serfs, and missing out the peasant lot comes natural to clerks and intellectuals alike, for those poor dudgeons exist merely as ballot papers.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Disenfranchising the power of temptation

I never understood this idea of 'temptation', it's so full of crap and one sided. It simply translates to a woman being a living temptation in the society. A society which wants to regulate everything when it concerns women, from the way we dress, to the way we talk, live, walk, sit, etc, etc. It begins with 'good girls' do not speak too much, give their opinions too much, wear short clothes, make their own decisions or worse of all demand to be treated equal to men and have sex.

In case you do not agree with this conditioning, you will be told that living as you please is a temptation for men. If you speak too much, a man might be tempted to shut you up by force. If you are too opinionated and wear short clothes, men might be tempted to think of you as an open minded whore, and end up raping you. And if you demand justice, remember it was you who tempted, and your value is half that of a male witness [Not just in Islam. Conviction rate of rapists in USA is a mere 6%], so the man will get away with a pat on the shoulder, because after all, it was your fault.

In short, your choices are, being a good girl and getting married, or, being the bad girl who is treated like a whore. If you are a 'good girl', people have authority over you to treat you like cattle, cover you up in layers of clothes and present you in a marriage market, where the highest bidder will get rights to plunder your body as he pleases. By the way, in more than 35 countries, marital rape is not considered a criminal offence. There are verses in the Quran that tell a man he can sow his seed in a woman as he pleases. [2:223 security reasons]

Point here being, "As the Man pleases". It begins and ends with pleasing men and is never about a woman's own choice. While we all live in a world full of temptations, and temptations could be of many kinds, when it comes to religion, it seems that the only temptation are us women. Even the way we breath can be termed a temptation by men. Christians have a little bit better in their Bible in the form of conjugal sexual rights. As long as your rapist is your spouse, its legal honey, bear with it:

Religion talks about us women along with cattle, land and possessions [3:14]:

It seems that while the 'good girl' has the chances of getting raped by her spouse, the 'bad girl' is not safe either. The only difference is that the 'good girls' chances of getting raped are limited to one guy only, while the 'bad girls' can get it from anybody around them. Co-workers, random dudes roaming the street, boyfriends, even fathers. Actually, in my opinion this whole good and bad girl conundrum is just humbug. It is about men; when they want to be appeased, sated sexually is when they can decide about whether you are a good girl, or a bad one. Either way, we are temptress since Eve's time, who dared to pick the forbidden apple, and man has yet not forgiven us.

Here's what a sermon website has to say about temptation:

1. Temptation is a process.
2. Temptation comes from the enemy.
3. Temptation comes in beautiful packages.
4. Temptation hits us where we are weak.
5. Temptation blinds us from reality.
6. Temptation builds us up before knocking us down.
7. Temptation plays on our emotions.
8. Temptation, when given into, separates us from God.
9. Temptation, when given into, makes us its slave.
10.Temptation has a way of escape.