India


Dr Ayesha Siddiqa is one the most brilliant academic of Pakistan. Daughter of noted Urdu novelist and recipient of prestigious Adam Gee Award for literature Jamila Hashmi she rose to popular fame with the publication of her book “Military Incorporated” a brilliant theoretical contribution on Pakistan Army. She also stands out for distancing her self from anti government rhetoric of most liberal intellegentsia of Pakistan. She has frequently drawn attention to Pakistan’s collaboration with Islamist militancy. She along with Hassan Askari Rizvi was first to point out the principle contradiction in present bourgeois state set up. The conflict between  President Zardari and GHQ. Amongst the liberal academics she was also first to question the Lawyers Movement’s intentions and changing nature of Judicial activism in Pakistan referring  to it as “Judicial populism”. Yet the  persistent capitulation by president Asif Ali Zardari and his failure to give face to liberal and progressive political legacy of PPP has forced almost all of his well wishers to question their perspective. General Zia’s railway minister is Mr Zardari’s prime minister , son of Zia’s governor has  just left the government in an embarrassing situation. The unfortunate irony is that he was not stopped when he was changing the direction of Pakistan’s foreign policy to the favour of Pakistan Army. The conflict exploded in form of Raymond Davies incident. His prime minister publicly declared Zulficar Ali Bhutto’s socialist educational policy as wrong. PPP’s secretary information Fauzia Wahab criticized very core of Bhutto’s economic policy and lectured every one of privatization and economic liberalism and that when even Sarkozi was forced to condemn it after Global Financial Crisis. When Salman Taseer was murdered in cold blood in Islamabad his home minister who had long ties of Begum Shafiqa Zia and Chaudharies of Gujrat commented “I would personally shoot a blasphemer” . This despite the fact that Benazir Bhutto was strongly against Blasphemy law and so far  we believed that Mr Zardari was too. His Law minister , one reputed to enjoy his trust   pledged  to support the infamous ziaist Blasphemy Law even if costed him his life. His home minister Mr Rehman Malik also speaks language of IsI when it comes to Balochistan. He too is reputed to be a Zardari’s partisan. Yet another his  confidant is Mr Jamshaid Dasti who has strong ties with Sipah e Sahaba. It’s a total right-wing regime on whose top is sitting Chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party , the largest socialist Party of Pakistan which is member of Socialist International as well. One simply fails to understand where is party’s co-chairman? Why there is a complete capitulation to right? Why all of chairman’s confidants  are Ziaist? I have frequently drawn parallels from history Zardari should start looking at pictures of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of 1977. He too became hostage to “loyalists”. Those who were sitting on his right and left during negotiations with PNA. Those too were his most vulgar of partisans those who led him to capitulate to right. Those were first to ditch him after 5th July. Zardari should always remember Kosar Niazi

Shaheryar Ali

By Ayesha Siddiqa ( with thanks: Express Tribune)

ayesha.siddiqa@tribune.com.pk

Rehman Malik has yet again scattered his pearls of illogic by saying that the interior ministry was planning to impose restrictions on artists, journalists and students on scholarships travelling to India. They will now have to seek a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry. Initially, it sounded as if he meant everyone visiting India. It seems so reminiscent of the Zia days. More important, I wonder what the president has to say in his defence when he had reminded a year ago some civil society members that, they were constantly pestering him to revoke the blasphemy law and improve relations with India. Creating space in the religious discourse and improving relations with regional states is critical for Pakistan’s own growth and development. Since the end of the 1980s, every government seems to have realised this logic. Or was it a different Asif Zardari than this one who seems to have gone in hiding and so allows his interior minister to shoot himself and the entire nation in the foot? Or is it that the president is too scared to implement what he had reminded the civil society members of? We know that his party is completely divided on supporting Taseer and may be in a greater fix on improving ties with India. Such restrictions on artists , students and journalists are ridiculous and give the country an image of a state with an iron curtain just like the one that the former Soviet Union had during the days of the Cold War. Everyone has the right to travel around freely. Unless the government employs these people, they are private citizens who sell certain services and it gives the country a good name when they perform abroad. The government may or may not have any contribution in training these artists or making them famous. In any case, why should the government care about its citizens making a fool of themselves while they are abroad when it has no qualms about great names like Mehdi Hassan living a life of poverty and in ill-health. Let’s be honest, it was only after Rahat Fateh Ali made his way to a bigger market in Bollywood that he got noticed in Pakistan and outside. Why such a show of aimless ego when the government doesn’t care about the thousands of Pakistanis that travel or live abroad? Or will Rehman Malik impose a condition on all Pakistanis travelling abroad to seek an NOC just because some are found to be involved in crimes in other countries? After all, people may or may not engage in activities in the future that would eventually put them in trouble or embarrass them. But they do not necessarily become the government’s responsibility. In any case, if Mr Malik is so peeved about the state’s honour and wants to regulate the behaviour and personal lives of citizens, he may also look into disciplining the numerous militant organisations that create trouble abroad. This might help the state’s image more than anything else. The interior ministry does not even have the infrastructure and system to impose such a law. Such restrictions at best will ensure that Pakistani artists don’t get invited abroad. The interior minister is possibly trying to make the establishment happy. But then, isn’t he supposed to take his cue from Asif Zardari? Or is it that the president himself has changed the way he used to think about peace and stability in the region and changing relations with neighbours? I am also reminded of Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s first visit to the UK as a foreign minister. The Pakistani high commissioner gathered a few individuals from think tanks and some journalists for a dinner meeting with the foreign minister. Later in the evening, the foreign minister rose to give his speech. He passionately spoke about his desire to make his first trip to India and improve relations with them. It all sounded good except that the defence, air and naval attaches sitting on my table did not see eye to eye with him. Clearly, their brief was different from Qureshi’s. It was not too long before he also started following the brief from the GHQ rather than from his party’s leadership. Now it appears that other ministers have gone the same route. A similar restriction was introduced under Zia’s rule which was fought back and removed through the efforts of Benazir Bhutto. It would help if someone saw the illogic of the above decision. Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2011.

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Shaheryar Ali

Horrific reports coming from Gojra Punjab Pakistan, the Pakistani media maintained a criminal silence and blacked out the violence till People’s Party co-chairman and president of Pakistan Mr Asif Ali Zardari took strict notice of the Anti-Christian pogrom.

Gojra Violence

Gojra Violence

The banned sectarian organization Sipah-e-Sahaba, a violent criminal gang which calls itself “Army of Companions of Muhammed” was build by Pakistan’s secret agencies during period of General Zia-ul-Haq to create an Anti Shia mania in Pakistan to check the popular People’s Party whose leadership had Shia origins. The organization has been banned nominally but continue to work openly in Pakistan especially in Punjab where it enjoys government support.

Made up of ethnically Punjabi immigrants the organization which has its base in Sareiki speaking Southern Punjab, it is supported by the Lahore administration to terrorize the local seriki speaking landed aristocracy most of which is religiously Shia or Sufi minded Sunni-Barelvi sect and politically supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party. By creating ethnic and religious hatred the establishment keeps the popular demand of a separate Seriki province under control.

This organization was one of the first groups from Pakistan to join Al-Qaida, its various splinter groups are active with Taliban. It also participates in Afghan and Kashmir Jihad, one of the reasons for which it is protected by Pakistani establishmentAnotherhousetorchedbyMuslims

According to reports, this organization instigated violence using a mosque by alleging the blanket charges of desecration of Koran and blasphemy.

The Islamist organizations have frequently used these blanket charges to instigate violence. Almost every time these charges are false. No one has ever been convicted or punished in Pakistan after anti minority violence, the police, the courts and the government all are complicit in this evil tradition

The Right wing government of Punjab is continuously de-contextualizing the Islamic extremism problem in Punjab blaming the “mythological Indian-Jewish hand” in the terrorism. The anti minority organizations like Tehrik e Khatam e nabuat receives state funding to conduct its conferences by Shahbaz Sharif the latest darling of Pakistan’s pseudo secular intellectuals.

ImranTalibphotoWhen the violence started the police failed to protect the minorities, christian woman and children were burned alive. The mob refused to allow the fire brigade. During all this carnage Shahbaz Sharif’s police stood silent.

Latest reports suggest that Punjab police has refused to register cases against those who killed the innocent people. The christian protesters have blocked the railway line and refused to burry the dead till Punjab government registers the case.

It must be noted that chemical bombs were used by muslim mob to burn the christian houses. This technique has been mastered during burning of another Christian Village , Shanti Nager. The culprits never brought to justice.

Reacting to the fresh incident of violence against Pakistani Christians, Mr. Joseph Francis, the National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLASS), has said that the July 30 attack on Christian residents of Korian has “reopened wounds” of Christians which they suffered in the wake of 1997 attack on Shantinagar, a Christian village, as well as it has brought back “tragic memories” of Muslim violence in Christian villages of Bhamniwala and Sangla Hill.

his is the fourth biggest blasphemy-related incident of violence in seven months of this year,” Mr. Francis said, and pointed out the Christians were being subjected to atrocities, whose ancestors “had polled a casting vote for the creation of Pakistan.”

It must be noted that Pakistani media fails to report these incidents objectively. Most of the time a black out is maintained. According to ANS news women and children were amongst those who were burned alive. 2 churches were desecrated and copies of Bible were also torn apart.

Its time that conscientious Pakistani should raise their voice against the evil right wing Punjab government and the Blasphemy laws .

When these atrocities were being committed ats of heroism were also being committed. Pakistani communist Shabir Ahmad of Labour Qomi Movement risked his life and saved many Christians when mob was burning their homes. we salute Comrade Ahmad and the communist movement of Pakistan.

The issue in covered here, here and here and please see my earlier articles here and here as well

Pic: Imran , teenager accused of Blasphemy


Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Subject: Cosmetic changes won’t resolve militancy

Lahore, July 21: While welcoming the return of the Malakand IDPs to their homes as a positive development, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has warned the government that no cosmetic shift in the security policies will solve the crisis of militancy and that efforts in a new dimension will be needed to achieve that end. Based on the conclusions of a quick fact-finding mission to the Frontier province, led by Ms Asma Jahangir, the HRCP statement issued on Tuesday said: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is monitoring the gradual return of the IDPs from Malakand Division to their homes. This is a positive development and gives peace a chance. It also presents a brief window of opportunity for reversing the trend towards Talibanisation but this opportunity may be lost if a cohesive policy is not adopted and civilian infrastructure not put in place, an infrastructure that can sustain peace. It is important to recognise the collective role played by the humanitarian agencies as well as the civilian and military administration in making the early return of the IDPs possible. Even more crucial to this turn of events was the exemplary behaviour of the displaced people and their local hosts. The displaced people found their own way to safety under extremely tough conditions and are now making their way home on their own. They have little faith in the government and there is a serious deficit of trust between the local population and the military. In order to build trust as well as to sustain peace HRCP believes that the government must take a new direction. There was near unanimity amongst official and non-official interlocutors that met with HRCP during their missions to Pakhtoonkhwa (NWFP) that any cosmetic shift in the security policies of the government will not solve the crisis of militancy in Pakistan. HRCP believes: • It is crucial that the policy of “bleeding India” and maintaining a strategic depth in Afghanistan be reviewed. In short, the national security paradigm must shift to the need to keep pace with the political realities of the region. There are indications that this has so far not happened.The government must distance itself from the ideology of pan-Islamism. • The nucleus of the top militant leadership must be taken apart and their communication and financial infrastructure dismantled. There are no indications that this has happened either. On the contrary, there are well-founded suspicions that certain elements known for their pro-Taliban policies continue to protect a number of top militant leaders. • The operation in Malakand Division must not lose sight of the strong militant presence in FATA. Peace will not return to Swat unless militant networks in FATA are defeated. • Simultaneous action must also be carried out against all militant networks in other parts of the country, particularly the Punjab, where militants operate with impunity. • The civil and political administration must take command on the ground in Swat soon. There is a comprehensive plan of recruiting and equipping the police force in Pakhtoonkhwa. The number of police stations in the Malakand Division is to be doubled and the police force tripled. It appears that the civil administration is also preparing a comprehensive plan for better governance in the province. The resources provided to them will, however, be monitored by a serving army general on behalf of the Federation. The Awami National Party leaders plan to visit Swat on a regular basis now but almost all IDPs resented the bunkerisation of the political leadership while they faced all the risks and tragic deaths of their families. • Access for independent journalists and observers to the area must be ensured. So far, the military has only encouraged embedded journalism to an embarrassing extent. At times local journalists have openly raised slogans in support of the military. Foreign journalists have accused the authorities of misleading them by giving false names of the places they were taken to for reporting. There are several reports of reprisals against journalists by the militants as well as by the security forces. • Human rights violations should be closely monitored both during and post-conflict. HRCP was appalled at reports of extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces. Militant leader Maulvi Misbahuddin was apprehended by the security forces and later the bodies of Misbahuddin and his son were found in Bacha Bazar. The government claims that they were killed in an encounter while eyewitnesses hold that they were arrested by the police in Mardan. Amir Izzat, spokesperson of the Swat militants, was arrested from Amandara. Two days later the authorities claimed that Izzat was killed allegedly by militants trying to rescue him when they attacked the vehicle taking him to jail. Independent journalists claim that the targeted vehicle shown to them did not even have an engine. The most harrowing reports were of dead bodies strewn upside down by the military with notes attached to the bodies warning that anyone supporting the Taliban will meet the same fate. There must be a difference between the actions of agents of the State and those of fanatical non-state actors. Such tactics only terrorise and dehumanise society. HRCP urges the government to impart training to the security forces and familiarise them with human rights and humanitarian law. HRCP has also received credible reports of the security forces resorting to collective punishments, forcible occupation of orchards and the use of indiscriminate and excessive force. • All human rights violations during the conflict must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice. There are reports of reprisals which can only be discouraged if the State fulfills its obligation of providing justice through due process. • HRCP has received reports of children abandoned during the conflict being handed over to dubious NGOs. It is vital that the provincial government keep track of the adoption of every single child and ensure that children are reunited with their families or are looked after by well-intentioned groups.”

The landmark decision by Delhi High Court which has declared that clause “unconstitutional” which criminalizes homosexuality has opened up a new gate of Freedom not only for India but also for this whole region. Section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality was a dirty legacy of British Imperialism. Justice Murlidharan, has not received any “Harvard Medal of Freedom” unlike our honourable  Chief Justice, but his decision is truly revolutionary.  Our great chief justice despite having received “Harvard Medal of Freedom” has not written a single decision which could bring freedom to Pakistani Ahmedis, homosexuals, Dalits [Musalli of Punjab] or Balochs. All his decisions have empowered military dictators. The situation is not peculiar to Justice Iftikhar and Justice Murlidharn, the comparison goes beyond that when “secular” Muslim League created a communal state. While writing this decision Justice Murlidharn quoted Jawaherlal Nehru’s vision of equality and secularism which he put forward in “objective resolution” of 1946. One “objective resolution” was passed in Pakistan too by Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s prime minister “Nawabzada” Liaqat Ali Khan, in which state of Pakistan was for ever declared subservient to Quran and Sunnah. Our secular clowns spend all their time in proving secular credentials of Jinnah and PML but they never look at the reality. Nehru’s vision made India a constitutional democratic state no matter how much “Hindu” he was in his heart [as these thugs say] , Jinnah made a muslim nation state and his PM made it Islamic no matter if both of them drank wine . Nehru’s Objectives Resolution is quoted by a judge to bring freedom and end bigotry and Jinnah’s PM’s Objectives Resolution is quoted by Mullahs and Taliban to justify their insurgencies. This is the verdict of history. Below is the excerpt from the landmark decision. I am thankful to my dear friend Vijay Sai for sending me the decision. Today i say from the core of my heart “Joy Hind!”

Shaheryar Ali

jawaharlal_nehru“CONCLUSION 129. The notion of equality in the Indian Constitution flows from the ‘Objective Resolution’ moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on December 13, 1946. Nehru, in his speech, moving this Resolution wished that the House should consider the Resolution not in a spirit of narrow legal wording, but rather look at the spirit behind that Resolution.

Nehru said, ‘Words are magic things often enough, but even the magic of words sometimes cannot convey the magic of the human spirit and of a Nation’s passion…….. (The Resolution) seeks very feebly to tell the world of what we have thought or dreamt of so long, and what we now hope to achieve in the near future.”

130. If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’. This Court believes that Indian Constitution reflects this value deeply ingrained in Indian society, nurtured over several generations. The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognising a role in society for everyone. Those perceived by the majority as “deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracised. 131. Where society can display inclusiveness and understanding, such persons can be assured of a life of dignity and nondiscrimination. This was the ’spirit behind the Resolution’ of which Nehru spoke so passionately. In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual.

132. We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 IPC will continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors. By ‘adult’ we mean everyone who is 18 years of age and above. A person below 18 would be presumed not to be able to consent to a sexual act. This clarification will hold till, of course, Parliament chooses to amend the law to effectuate the recommendation of the Law Commission of India in its 172nd Report which we believe removes a great deal of confusion. Secondly, we clarify that our judgment will not result in the re-opening of criminal cases involving Section 377 IPC that have already attained finality. We allow the writ petition in the above terms.”

Ah, the magic lurking in the dry legalese:

We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar as it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

Shining India. Joy Hind

Shining India. Joy Hind

If the country had not been torn apart by British stooges today, Pakistani homosexuals would have been nearer to freedom. Indian courts once again have acted independently . While our courts are releasing monsters like Hafiz Saeed Indian courts are making India more secular and democratic. SA

From BBC:

Activists welcome India gay ruling

Gay rights activists in India say a ruling by the Delhi High Court decriminalising homosexuality in the country is a landmark. The judgement overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which described a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”.

VIKRAM DOCTOR, WRITER AND GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

The ruling is a huge step forward. It is fantastic. I hope the government of India accepts the Delhi High Court decision. It has been an eight-year battle and I am glad it came through.

In one way it changes nothing – there are many gay couples in India anyway. In another way, it changes everything.

Till now we were considered to be criminals. If a gay couple wanted to buy a house together, it was not possible. No financial institute would even consider them.

Participants in a gay march in India

Rights groups have long campaigned for a repeal of the law

I am not saying they can do this now but now we can start fighting.

There are gangs who target gays as they would not go to a police station for the fear of being booked themselves. Even some policemen are part of these gangs.

In Lucknow there has been an incident where even social activists working with MSMs (Men having Sex with Men) for HIV prevention have been detained by the police. And these incidents happen everywhere.

NITIN KARANI, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

For me, most importantly people who are afraid to come forward will be able to do so. It is very difficult to reach out to HIV-positive people.

Also families who use this section to scare their children and get them married forcibly won’t be able to do so.

This ruling will contribute in making society’s attitude more positive. Cases of police harassment may reduce. I have seen people driven to suicide. I hope this decision gives more confidence to gay people to come out, be less afraid.

ADITYA BANDYOPADHYAY, LAWYER AND GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

We are elated. It’s a path-breaking judgement. It’s a historic judgement, it’s India’s Stonewall.

I think what now happens is that a lot of our fundamental rights and civic rights which were denied to us can now be reclaimed by us.

The government has so far been pandering to narrow parochial groups, religious groups but the court order shows that India is ruled by constitutional laws and not by vote-bank politics.

It’s a fabulously written judgement, and it restores our faith in judiciary.

ANJALI GOPALAN, NAZ FOUNDATION WORKING ON HIV PREVENTION

We have finally entered the 21st Century. The government can’t ignore this.

GAUTAM BHAN, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

This is a long-awaited and incredible judgement.

The judges in their verdict spoke about inclusivity, equality and dignity. They spoke about a vision of India as an open, tolerant society and to hear all this from the Delhi High Court was amazing.

SCOTT LONG, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS PROGRAM, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

This legal remnant of British colonialism has been used to deprive people of their basic rights for too long.

This long-awaited decision testifies to the reach of democracy and rights in India.

British colonisers introduced Section 377 to India in 1860. It became a model for similar sodomy laws imposed on other British colonies, and comparable provisions survive today from Singapore to Uganda.

Most of the world’s sodomy laws are relics of colonialism. As the world’s largest democracy, India has shown the way for other countries to rid themselves of these repressive burdens.

CELINA JAITLEY, BOLLYWOOD ACTRESS

I’m overwhelmed. It’s great not to be criminalised for being a human being and what you do in your bedroom.

WENDELL RODRICKS, FASHION DESIGNER

It is a historic moment for all of India. It has been a long fight. Now, one is not a criminal when anyway one was not in the first place.

It is a move in the right direction and I would go further to say that India is not a religion-run state and this decision is restoring dignity to a community that has been fighting for a long time

Aatish Taseer. [With thanks: Prospect]

My parents met in Delhi in March 1980. My Pakistani father was in India promoting a book he had written on his political mentor, the Pakistani leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. My mother, a young Indian journalist, was sent to interview him. Their affair began that evening. My father took my mother’s number, they had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and for a little over a week they disappeared together. My parents met at a time when they had both become politically involved in their respective countries. The state of emergency that Mrs Gandhi declared in 1975 had come and gone—she had returned to power and the terrorism in Punjab that would take her life was about to begin. In Pakistan the year before (the same year as the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the great hope of Pakistani democracy, had been hanged. And now, General Zia, the military dictator, was settling into the blackest decade Pakistan would know. My father had loved Bhutto. He had heard him speak for the first time as a student in London in the 1960s and was moved to his depths. The events of 1979 then ushered in a time both of uncertainty and possibility. Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, had entered politics; Zia had to be fought; and for this man of 36, touched by unusual idealism, his biography of Bhutto became his political entry point. My parents’ affair lasted little more than a week before my father left for Lahore, where he already had a wife and three small children. A month later, my mother discovered she was pregnant. For a young woman from an old Sikh family to become pregnant out of marriage by a visiting Pakistani was then (and now) an enormous scandal. During the week when she was considering an abortion, my father called unexpectedly from Dubai. She told him what had happened.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“What do you think I’m going to do?” she replied.

My father asked her what could be done to change her mind. She replied that they would at least have to pretend to be married and so they tentatively agreed to continue their relationship for as long as it was possible.

But by 1982 the relationship was over. My mother had begun work as a political journalist in Delhi and my father was fighting Zia in Pakistan. What I heard of him over the next two decades came only from my mother. We followed his progress across the border, through multiple imprisonments in the 1980s, to the restoration of democracy and Benazir Bhutto’s victory in 1988, to the failed governments of the 1990s, and his eventual switch from politics to business.fe-chaudhry-bhutto-court-11

In 2002, aged 21, I made a journey to Lahore to seek out my father, Salmaan Taseer. For a few years our relationship flourished, then fell apart. The reason for the latest distance between us was an article I wrote in these pages in 2005, after the London bombings. In response, my father wrote me a letter—the first he’d ever written—in which he accused me of prejudice, of lacking even “superficial knowledge of the Pakistani ethos,” and of blackening his name. That letter was the origin of my book Stranger to History, an account of a journey I made from Istanbul to Pakistan, in the hope of understanding the silence between us. It is a discovery of his faith, his country and the story of our shared but fractured history.

At the end of my journey I was, by chance, together with my father in Lahore on the night Benazir Bhutto was killed. I found to my surprise that the wheels of power in Pakistan had turned once more and my father, who had spent his youth fighting the military, had re-entered politics and was now a minister in General Musharraf’s government. Here was a lesson about life in Pakistan, for the compromises men had to make. But it was not ultimately in the drawing rooms of Lahore or Karachi that I came closest to understanding Pakistani society, but rather in the time I spent with a young feudal landlord, known as the Mango King, in rural Sindh.

***

Pakistan, a land of over 170m people, remains largely rural. People have often said to me, “You will never know the soul of Pakistan till you know feudal Pakistan.” Charged by the desire to see this feudal life, I asked a Pakistani newspaper publisher if he could help. He was a heavy man in a white salwar kameez, with short greying hair and moustache. My mother had put us in touch, and he did for me what I would have liked my father to have done: insist on my connection to Pakistan. By arousing my interest in the cultural bonds that exist between the two countries and in speaking to me of my paternal grandfather, an Urdu poet, the publisher gave me the other side of the romance of an undivided India on which my maternal grandfather and my mother had raised me.

We sat in his grand old Karachi house. He lay on a very high bed, smoking and making phone calls to people who might help me. Boxes and stacks of books lay on the floor. After a few hours of messages left, phone calls returned, lists made, lectures on safety and heat, the publisher looked up at me, scribbling as he spoke. “Can you leave tonight?”

“Yes,” I stammered. “I can leave tonight.”

I packed my bags in the early evening. I was to leave with Hameed Mahesari, the Mango King, and travel to his lands in the Sindh interior. It was well past midnight when a white car, with heavily tinted windows, drew up. As I approached, a passenger door opened, but no one stepped out. Instead, cold, air-conditioned air infused with a faint smell of cigarettes drifted out. I put my head into the car and saw a young man in the back seat, with a black moustache, fair skin and a handsome, slightly puffy face. He peered at me through a dense haze of smoke and gestured to me to get in.

The chauffeur drove off as soon as I shut the door. I turned to the Mango King, who lit another cigarette. He smoked continuously, slowly and deeply, looking out at the deserted streets. I could tell from his eyes and the thickness in his voice that he had been drinking.

“In the city I am a different person,” he said abruptly, “and, you’ll see, in the village I am a different person. One has to adjust. It gets pretty nasty,” he added. “People steal water. Typical vadhera.” A vadhera, or landlord, was what Hameed had become after his father died; his family were among the largest producers of mangoes in the country. “But things won’t change for another 50 years. There will still be feudalism.” I saw that he was drinking from a hip flask.

“Do you know why Sindhi society is a failure?” Hameed asked, in his abrupt way.

“No.”

“There’s no middle class. There’s us and there’s them. We had a middle class, but they took off when what happened?” I thought it was a rhetorical question and didn’t answer, but the Mango King’s gaze held me, expecting a reply.

“Partition,” I answered obediently.

“Exactly. But, you know, life goes on, one day to the next. My father trained me to be a farmer.” Hameed spoke in broken, disconnected sentences. After a long silence, he said, “Do you know why religion was invented?”

“Why?” I asked.

“A man can deal with everything but death.”

Hameed lit up again, but this time my eyes focused on a new discomfort: an AK-47 was placed between us, and the ribs of its magazine, its barrel, and bulbous sight shone in the yellow streetlight. I asked why the AK-47 was so popular.

“Three things you have to be able to trust,” Hameed answered. “Your lads, your woman and your weapon. It’ll never jam on you. Anyone can fire it and it’ll never jam.”

I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke a few hours later when I felt Hameed touch my hand. It was dawn, and we drove down a deserted country road, amid acres and acres of flat, empty fields.

“The estate begins here,” he said. The car swung left. “This, on both sides, is my estate.”

“How big is it?”

“Six thousand acres.” By the subcontinent’s standards, this was a large holding.

Then after a silence, he straightened his posture and, with pregnant solemnity, announced: “This is my territory.”

We passed several acres of a dense, low crop, then just before the house, like some last battalion of a great regiment or a vanishing tribe of horses, were the mango trees. Hameed stared in dull-eyed wonder at the dark green, almost black canopies, heavy with fruit and dropping low in a curtsy against an immense saffron sky.

When we got out of the car, I saw that Hameed was tall and well-built. His cream salwar kameez partially concealed a new paunch and, like the puffiness of his face, it was unattractive on a man of his looks.

Aatish Taseer and Gabrille Windsor

Aatish Taseer and Gabrille Windsor

A few men were stooped in greeting. Hameed waved, then stumbled through a doorway. We entered a walled garden of palms, ashoka trees and buoyant rubber plants. Hameed’s fluttering cream figure lurched down a narrow path that led to a low white bungalow. Darkness and a musty stench from thick, beige carpeting hit us as we entered. I couldn’t make out much in the dim light.

Hameed collapsed into a sofa, and stared vacantly at me, as if only now seeing me. I wondered what he thought I wanted with him. Among pictures of the family, and one of Hameed in a yellow tie, there were many books: a Hitler biography, copies of National Geographic, Frederick Forsyth, Jane’s aircraft almanacs, Animals in Camera and dozens on travel. I felt from the books, and the framed posters of impressionist paintings, a longing for other places.

“Did your father read a lot?” I asked.

“Yes,” Hameed replied. “He was the sort of man you could talk to about anything and he would always have the right answer.” The description suggested a nightmare person, but Hameed hadn’t intended it to sound that way. “I used to read,” he added, “but I don’t get the chance any more.” He showed me a book he’d recently bought. It was a guide to being a gentleman. “It says that a gentleman never adjusts his crotch in public.” Hameed chuckled and then we fell into silence. He sat there, looking neither at me nor at his men, but ahead into the gloom, like a man who had just lost all his money. A servant brought him some water and a new AK-47, this time with a drum magazine. He leant it against the leg of his chair, telling me it was Chinese; more than 100 countries produced them now. He asked me if I’d like to fire one.

“Yes,” I said, surprising myself.

“She wreaks havoc when she opens her mouth,” he smiled mirthlessly. He was prone to theatrical utterances and to clichés like “Different strokes for different folks” or “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” which he said as if they’d never been said before. The idea of firing the gun was forgotten for now.

My fatigue deepened just as the Mango King had a second wind. He ordered wine and offered me dinner. Wine is unusual in the subcontinent, whisky and soda are more standard, but this, like the cigars and brandy, and the guide to being a gentleman, seemed like a recent feudal affectation. I turned down the suggestion of dinner as it was already dawn.

“Yum, yum,” he said, looking at the feast that was now being laid out before us. There were several kinds of meat, rice, lentils, bread and more wine. Hameed rolled up his sleeves to eat and I saw that there were cigarette burns branded into his arm. The cutlery was Christofle, scattered stylishly among the oven-proof crockery and dinner trays.

***

When I awoke a few hours later, I was lying under a wooden fan. Next to my bed there was a copy of Time magazine and a guide to nightlife in Thailand. The room, despite the air-conditioning, was suffocating. It was about 10am and the house was quiet. I stepped into the drawing room and felt a wave of compressed heat. The room could not have been more badly designed for the fierce temperature beyond its sliding doors. It was low, like a garage, heavy with carpeting and velvety sofas, and without ventilation. I stepped out onto a white tiled courtyard but soon retreated. It was dangerous heat, the worst I’d ever experienced: sharp, unshaded, asphyxiating. It could make you sick if you went unprotected into it. Yet to be back in the room, in its stale air, was hardly better. Outside, buffaloes lay in the shade of trees; I could just make out villages of straw dotted around the Mango King’s lands; and slim, black women, in bright colours, with white bangles all the way up their arms, walked along the edges of mud paths.

After tea, breakfast and a shower, I came into the main room to find that Hameed was up and inspecting weapons. “You can’t get this on licence,” he said cheerfully, as the man brought out an Uzi. Hameed was freshly bathed, his eyes alert, his manner sprightly in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible the night before. The deadened glaze had gone from his eyes and his mind made connections easily. He seemed to sense that I might be a little surprised at the gun parade. “A lot of people in Karachi don’t like farmers,” he said. “They say they’re feudal, but my feeling is that there are good and bad people in every field.”

Still squinting through sights he said, “Can you imagine? Even I was kidnapped… I was 12 and when I came back I was 13. It was from 1984 to 1985, for six months. I was chained for the last two. My father wouldn’t pay the ransom. When they called he started abusing them so they only called once. After that, they dealt with my uncle.” The kidnappers had picked him up outside his school in Hyderabad.

His point, it seemed, was not to emphasise the violence in his life but to make clear that he had paid his dues.
Hameed drank heavily; he had suspicious cigarette burns on his arms; he played with guns; and yet what might have seemed like cause for alarm was presented instead as emblematic of the feudal life. The violence he had experienced, and perhaps inflicted, became like a rite of passage.

“Was it traumatic?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but you get used to anything.”

That evening the Mango King suggested I go with him to Mirpur Khas, a nearby town, to meet a lawyer who was working on a case he was fighting. The sun at last was loosening its grip on the day and the land, stunned and silent for many hours, came to life with the screeching of birds and the movement of animals.

Driving out of the Mango King’s gate, I noticed that under the name of the estate, it said, “Veni Vidi Vici.”

“We used to send mangoes to the Queen of England,” Hameed said proudly.

“You should start again.”

“No,” he smiled, “but we send them to Musharraf.”

In the car, the Mango King and his lieutenant discussed feudal revenge. The lieutenant was a muhajjir or immigrant from India. His family came to Pakistan from Jodhpur in Rajasthan after partition. The feudal life needed men like the lieutenant. He was dark and bald, with the aspect of a grand vizier, and after the Mango King’s father died, he served the son as an adviser. They talked about how another feudal owner had killed the Mango King’s friend in an argument over 350 acres. Hameed said that the other landlords still teased the dead man’s son for having been unable to exact revenge.

“Don’t the police ever get involved?”

“Not in these things. The people come to me with their problems and family matters. If you’re the landlord, you’re politician and policeman too. The landowner’s word is law.” Then, pausing for a moment, he said, “In the end, it’s not even about land. It’s about who gets to be head honcho.” He put it well: land at least was stabilising; this was about arbitrary power and Hameed was also vulnerable.

Salman Taseer with Friends

Salman Taseer with Friends

His lieutenant had been back to Jodhpur just once, in 1990, and from the moment he heard I was Indian, he could speak of nothing else. He craned his long neck forward and asked if I saw much difference between India and Pakistan.

“Not much,” I said, meaning to be polite. “There’s more feudalism here.”

“But between human beings, on a human level?”

“No, not really.”

“But there is!” He smiled.

“What?”

“In Pakistan, the clothes people wear are much better. There’s far less poverty. India makes its own things, its own cars, but then you don’t get Land Cruisers. In India, you get Indian needles. In Pakistan, we get Japanese needles!”

In India you now got Japanese needles too. The lieutenant had visited before economic liberalisation, but that was not the point. What struck me was how this man, who would never come close to owning a Land Cruiser, could talk of such things as core human differences. The poverty around him was as bad as anything I had ever seen, yet he spoke of expensive cars. It was as if the mere fact of difference was what he needed. It hardly mattered what the differences meant: that was taken care of by the inbuilt rejection of India. In the confusion about what Pakistan was meant to be—a secular state for Indian Muslims, a religious state, a military dictatorship, a fiefdom—the rejection of India could become more powerful than the assertion of Pakistan.

“What other differences did you see?” he asked.

“It’s hard to say as there’s so much change within India. There are more differences between the north and the south than there are between north India and Pakistan.”

The lieutenant was not to be put down. He wanted to get something off his chest. “The other difference,” he began, “was that while men here wear flat colours, the men there are fond of floral prints, ladies’ clothes.” Hindus weaker, more feminine, and Muslims stronger, manlier: this was the dull little heart of what the lieutenant wanted to say and a great satisfaction came over his face as he spoke. This was the way he reconnected with the glories of the Islamic past when the martial Muslims ruled the “devious Hindu.”

“Were you scared when they kidnapped you?” I asked Hameed, hoping to hear the rest of the story.

“The first 15 minutes were scary, but then it was all right.”

After four months he had tried to steal a kidnapper’s gun and use it on two of them, but just as he picked it up, the third returned and wrested it from his hands. That was when they chained him as punishment.

I thought he wanted to say more, but his lieutenant interrupted: “Tell me,” he said, “why do you wear a kara?” He was referring to the steel bangle on my wrist.

“My grandmother is a Sikh and wanted me to wear it.”

“Your mother’s Sikh and you’re Muslim.”

“No,” I said, not wishing to annoy him, “my mother’s Sikh and my father’s Muslim.”

“Yes, yes, so you’re Muslim.”

“I’m nothing.”

The lieutenant seemed to ask the question in the most basic sense. He could tell I wasn’t a practising Muslim, but he wanted to know if I was Muslim somehow.

“Come on, you’re Muslim. If you’re father’s Pakistani, you’re Muslim.”

“If you say so, but don’t you have to believe certain things to be a Muslim? If I don’t believe, can I still be Muslim?”

He looked at me with fatigue. It was almost as if he wanted to say yes. It was as though, once acquired, this identity based on a testament of faith could not be peeled away, like caste in India. And I felt that if I could know the sanctity of his feeling of difference in relation to non-Muslim India, and the symbolic history that went with it, I would be as Muslim as he was.

“It’s his decision,” the Mango King laughed.

The lieutenant fell into a moody silence. “It’s hotter in India than it is in Pakistan, isn’t it?” he started again.

The Mango King groaned with irritation.

“It’s the same!” I said. “You see too many differences.”

Perhaps sensing that he had created bad feeling with a guest, he said, “Sikhs have a very sweet way of speaking.”

“They speak just like we do!” Hameed snapped, and the lieutenant retreated with a sad, stung expression.

Pakistan’s economic advantage, the manliness of Muslim men, Land Cruisers and Japanese needles, even an imagined better climate: these were the small, daily manifestations that nourished a greater rejection of India, making the idea of Pakistan robust and the lieutenant’s migration worthwhile. Hameed didn’t need the lieutenant’s sense of the Other. He was where his family had always been, sure of himself and, if anything, he felt the lack of the Hindu middle class that had once completed his society.

***

On the way into town, Hameed explained the legal dispute. It was a complex story in which the laws of the country—British law with Islamic accents—came into conflict with feudal family agreements. Hameed’s aunts had inherited a parcel of land, which they wanted him to inherit, but as his cousins (with whom he’d had gun battles) contested this, a spurious sale was organised, by which the land would come indirectly to Hameed.

The section of town we entered in moonlight had old-fashioned whitewashed buildings. Outside the lawyer’s office there was an open drain from which a vast peepal tree grew, its roots threatening the foundation of both street and building. The man inside the pistachio green room was like a caricature of a small-town lawyer. He was squat and smiling, with dimples and greasy hennaed hair. His office contained a glass-topped desk, green metal filing-cabinets and shelves stacked with volumes of Pakistan Legal Decisions.

He had been briefed about the case and, after offering us tea and soft drinks, he began: “You have two options, either of speaking the truth or… I’ve heard, sir,” he said, a smarmy smile lighting his face, “that it is hard for you to tell a lie.”
Hameed looked at him. “No, there’s no such problem.”

“Another situation is that we don’t tell the truth,” the lawyer said, shaking his head mournfully, as though drawing some pleasure from the foreplay of an illegal act.

“Please leave truth and lies aside,” Hameed said. “Let’s just do what favours us.”

The lawyer, bowing from the waist, grinned. “Are both women educated?”

“Yes, a little.”

“English-speaking?”

“Yes.”

The lawyer nodded sadly, feigning gloom.

“What difference does it make?” Hameed barked.

“Because we could say the transaction was a fake,” the lawyer sputtered. “The ladies did not understand what they were doing. We could make the plea that they didn’t know what was in the documents when they signed them.”

“But then wouldn’t I end up looking like a fraud?”

“No,” the lawyer said, “you weren’t present. We can say the ladies never sold the land and received no monies.”

Hameed looked as lost as I was. “Does the judge accept bribes?” he asked. “Can’t we just bribe him?”

“He does in some cases but not others,” the lawyer said, as if delivering an official statement. “But the other party can bribe too so it doesn’t matter.”

“Can’t we give them a little danda?” Hameed said, using the word for “stick” to mean a beating.

The lawyer smiled serenely.

“Can the property be put in my mother’s name?” Hameed asked, then mentioned she was a German national, which created other problems.

“Why don’t you get married?” the lawyer suggested.

“I have to find the right girl,” Hameed laughed. “When I do I’ll get married.”

We stood up to leave and the lawyer rose too, bowing.

Outside, Hameed lit a cigarette. Turning to me, he said bitterly: “Bloody feudal family disputes.” He seemed a little depressed and lonely.

In the car his lieutenant tried to convince him to get married. He said it would strengthen his position.

“If we lose in the court, how soon can they take control of the land?” Hameed asked, thinking aloud.

“We’ll go to a higher court,” the lieutenant said.

“And if we lose there?”

“They can take control of the land, but then we’ll bring it back to the lowest court on some excuse. Whole lifetimes go by and things remain unresolved.”

Hameed fell silent.

“You just get married quickly,” the lieutenant said, trying to arrest the gloom that grew in his master, “and then you’ll have a wife and an heir and at least they won’t be able to say ‘he’s all on his own.’ Your strength will improve greatly.” Strength was the right word: it was all that could make sense of the landscape around the Mango King. In the absence of a credible state, crude power, loose and available, was all there was. “Find a good relationship and get married. Aren’t I right?” the lieutenant asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“People are scared of my house,” Hameed replied. “Girls run away from it.”

“Why?”

“You know my pool in Karachi, right?”

“Yes,” I said, half expecting him to say it was having its water changed.

“Well, I had a party,” he said, “and a guy drowned in it. And my cousins said that I paid money to the police and to the guy’s family. Can you imagine? You have a party and a guy dies in your pool. It’s terrible. And they say it’s because I’m feudal. I think the guy was on drugs or something.”

***

That night I sat with the Mango King on his veranda drinking whisky-sodas and talking. Though occasionally I felt his pain, I didn’t understand his world; I didn’t think it was a world that could be made understandable to someone who wasn’t obliged to work by its arbitrary laws; its brutalities were its own.

It was India’s middle class, its growth and energy, more than anything else that set the two countries apart. The power of the middle class in India dismantled the old feudal structures. In Sindh, the cost of realising the purity of the Muslim state was the departure of the Hindu middle class. The muhajjir population that arrived in its place had not been able to replace its social function; the bonds that had held together the diverse society of Muslims and Hindus had not arisen among the co-religionists. And, without its middle class, Sindh was not merely unchanged from 1947, not merely feudal: it was lawless, divided within itself; town and country were divorced from each other; and even men like the Mango King knew insecurity; the society was dismembered.

The lieutenant, who had been sitting quietly on the edge of the veranda, now whispered slyly to me that he was a Rajput. This was another reference to the Hindu caste system, in this case a high caste. But the lieutenant didn’t know he spoke of caste. When I said to him that Islam, with its strong ideas of equality, forbade notions of caste, he became defensive and said that this was a matter of good and bad families.

“If you can have Rajputs, then you can have choodas,” I said, using the derogatory word for “low caste.”

“Of course you can have choodas,” the lieutenant replied.

“Would you let your daughter marry one?”

“Never.”

“Even if he was Muslim?”

“Even if he was Muslim.”

On the one hand, there was the rejection of India that made Pakistan possible, and on the other, India was overwhelmingly at play in the deepest affiliations of Pakistanis, sometimes without their knowing it. It made Pakistan a place in which everything just existed because it did, eroded haphazardly by inevitable change. The country’s roots, like some fearsome plumbing network, could never be examined to explain why something was the way it was, why the lieutenant, perhaps centuries after conversion, still thought of himself as a Rajput. And though I, with deep connections on both sides, could see the commonalities, they were not to be celebrated: we spoke instead of difference.

Before I went to bed, Hameed came to the end of the story of his kidnapping. Finally, after six months, the kidnappers gave him a bus ticket and released him in the Sindhi town of Sukkur from where he made his way back to his father’s house in Hyderabad. His hair had grown longer and when he got home, the watchman didn’t recognise him. Hameed said no ransom was ever paid.

When he was released they danced in the village. He went to get a passport photo taken, and the man in the shop had baked a cake for him. These were the details that remained with him after two decades. The whisky worked on Hameed, at once deadening his eyes and bringing up unprocessed emotion. He’d gone to get a passport picture because he was going to Germany to see his mother for the first time in 14 years. His separation from her was another secret in the life of the Mango King; I had a feeling it was related to the father who always had the right answer for everything.

The next morning I left the Mango King’s lands for Hyderabad. He was still asleep when I walked out and even at that early hour, the small, musty house was filling with heat.

If one looks at the cultural history of Muslims in India, its hard to ignore the festival of Nowruz: The spring festival of Persia and central Asia which marks the start of spring of the start of Persian New Year. For more than a thousand years Nowroz was an official festival of the imperial courts in Dehli and Agra. Later it enjoyed the support of the princely states like Awadh and Hyderabad. Most Indians may remember K.Asif’s epic Moghul e Azam , which shows Jashen e Nowruz of Moghul court.

Nowruz was not just a fashion of muslim elites of India, rather it had a multi-dimensional character. After the Arab-muslim conquest of Persia, the festival of Nowruz became the symbol of a cultural resistance against Arabization and Arab imperialism. With the alliance of the sunni clerical establishment with the Caliphate in Baghdad after the initial resistance of the great Sunni Imams like Abu-Hanifa , Imam Malik and others , the Persian metaphysics and culture came under increasing attack from the state in name of Islam.

imamalishahadat07kr8 The resistance movements in the conquered and converted lands of Arab empire took shape of an “alternative” understanding of Islam, one which was radically different from vision of Abbasids and their supporters the Sunni clerics. The converted people looked towards their traditional philosophies, mythologies and cultural symbologies to understand Islam. Result was development of mysticism and different shades of Shia Islam. It must be understood that the political movement of proto- Shia was predominantly an Arab phenomenon with no theological differences with the proto-sunnis. The theological shia emerged quite later just as the their sunni counter part as the result of looking at Islam through the rich metaphysical tradition of Persians, Coptics, Nestorians, Arians and Pagans. The constant friction between the Ismaili Fatmid and Abbasid Empire played a great role. Its easily forgotten today that what is today dismissed as “heresy” was once the official Islam of half of the Moslem world and its continuous dawa in Abbasid lands made it “people’s religion” in other. Many “sanits” or Sufis could very much be Ismaili dais. Sufism shows a great resemblance to Ismaili theology esp in its understanding of concept of “beyond”. An account of this process with the resultant dissent in Islam is explained here and here.

Haft Sen

Haft Sen

In this environment Nowruz, the ancient festival of Persia was re-invented by the Shia and Sufi theologians as a potent symbol of resistance against Arab cultural invasion as well as against the rigid and loyalist Islam. Since most of the resistance against Arab imperialism was surrounding one or another Alavite cause, Nowruz was linked with the Holy House of Muhammed, whose status was under attack by the Arab rulers, Against the de-mystifying attempts of Abbasid and their loyalist clerics against Muhammed and Alavites, the Sufis and Shia trends merged both of them with the ancient Gnostic metaphysics with which the conquered people were very familiar. Nowruz became the day when Ali was awarded the “wilayah” in time before Time began. It was the day of Muhammed’s declaration of prophet hood in the zone beyond time, it was the day universe was created, and the day when Mehdi will deliver humanity from tyranny

Through Sufi teaching and its accompanying Ismaili dawa the festival reached the Sunni lands of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakhtoonkhawa, India, Turkey, Albania and Bosnia. Kurds also adopted the day due to the esoteric mystic tradition which mostly had Ismaili relations. With formation of Pakistan and its increasing Arabaization and State sponsored Anti Shia militancy, festival of Nowruz has virtually gone into obscurity. Its not that Nowruz is not celebrated in Pakistan, it is widely celebrated but is ignored. Even Pakistan’s self pro-claimed progressives and secularists who have a mantra of tolerance and pluralism on their lips 24/7 are insensitive to an “alternative cultural expression”.

Shias make a sizeable population in Pakistan and they celebrate Nowruz as an “Eid”, special ceremonies and prayers are offered in the Imam Bargahs , sweets, fruits, perfumes, flowers usually mark the offerings of Nowruz. The Aga Khani Ismaili community also celebrates Nowruz in Pakistan. In certain Northern areas of Pakistan which have Shia and Ismaili majority Nowruz has a very potent cultural expression. All of this fails to find any representation in mainstream Pakistan, result is an average educated Urban Pakistani simply doesn’t know about Nowruz. The Pakistani intellectuals are usually busy lecturing India on tolerance and pluralism on issues like Varun Gandhi etc etc and usually don’t care about such small things. The Shia holocaust in Pakistan also goes un noticed by most of our secular-progressive-sufi- Elitist intellectuals. Thanks to them no one in Pakistan knows whats going on against Shias in Parachinar and other areas. A fellow blogger Abdul recently spoke about this criminal silence by those who have a claim to Alternative media in Pakistan. Here is the article by Abdul and other links about Anti Shia holocaust going on in Pakistan. Here , here and Here. Most of our protests on these issues are also met with the same response. Indifference

Pakistani Shias celebrated this Nowruz with an increasing awareness of Talibanization. Yet another Pakistani community celebrates Nowruz. It’s the Bahai community. Scattered through out Pakistan, the Bahai community leads life of invisibility due to “cultural holocaust and apartheid” which is order of the day in Pakistan. Bahai’s through out Pakistan celebrated Nowruz.

Bahai star

Bahai star

The Persian speaking people of Pakistan [this is yet another information for an average educated Pakistani, that there exist people in Pakistan whose mother tongue is Persian] also celebrates Nowruz. Darri speaking [Afghani Persian] Hazaras of Baluchistan also celebrate Nowruz. [Yet another victim of state sponsored holocaust]

Yet another Pakistani community which celebrates Nowruz is the Zoroastrian community commonly known as the “Parsi community”. The community is trying to preserve the ancient pre-Islamic heritage of Iran. Geographically Nowruz is celebrated with greater enthusiasm in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawer, Northern Areas of Pakistan especially Hunza valley, Gilget and Baldistan , Multan and Kashmir. In Pakistan the customs of Nowruz are different than those of Iran.

In Pakistan Nowruz is mostly celebrated as “Alam Afrouz” or the new day. People dress up and visit each other. There are special ceremonies and “aamal” and prayers in Imam Bargahs and Jamat Khanas. Hina, bangles and eidi are also part of Nowruz celebration. In villages the practice of burning wood logs and jumping over it was an established practice on Nowruz but now has almost died. Special sweets like “laddo”, ”rus malai”, ”gulab jaman” “cream rolls” and Suhan Halva are made on this day. These sweets plus roses and perfumes replace the tradition “Haft sen” of Nowruz,

Since in mystic and Shia theology Nowruz is the day to celebrate the wilayah of Ali and house of Muhammed , I have selected a “Ginan”, which are the mystic lyrics wrote of Saints of Indo-Pk , many of them were Ismaili dais [as the Ismaili history is slowly being de-mystified] in praise of the Imams who were in occultation in those days. Shamas the mysterious mystic was also an Ismaili dai who introduced Rumi to “Batin”, what lies beyond the words of Quran.

This particular Ginan is being offered by none other than Queen of mystic music Abida Parveen and it speaks about the “Raj”, the Millennium when charismatic Imams, the continuation of Koranic symbology of Noor-un-ala-noor will rule the humanity. The start of this was affirmation of Ali in realm of spirits an act which is symbolized in day of Nowruz. In modern times this Ginan is specially recited on coronation of the Aga Khan the “Hazir Imams”, the continuation of Ismaili Imamat and the most philosophical rich movement in Islam whose metaphysics contributed a lot in development of mysticism. The devotion of Abida Parveen is worth seeing, a truly spiritual experience. HE Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Hazir Imam can be seen enjoying the Ginan.


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