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.

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.

Balochistan remains in the grip of a violent agitation even on the fourth day of the tragic incident which involved murder of 3 Baloch nationalist leaders and the mutilation of their bodies allegedly by Pakistani secret agencies.090412101204_quetta_protest283

The agitation which started spontaneously after the news spread of these murders is now looking very robust and organized. Political commentators have noted that the agitation which occured on the death of Mir Akbar Bugti and Mir Ballaj Marri was more spontaneous and less organized. On the other hand, the agitation going on now appears to be very organized , the full political support is being given by the Nationalist parties which are  some of the most secular, organized and grass root political organizations of Pakistan.

The result of this kind of political organization was that a complete general strike was observed in Balochistan even on the 4rth day. [It is contrasted  by the fact lawyers movement and PML-N failed to get a single general strike even in Punjab on a political agitation which was backed by the “whole” nation as it was claimed]

What is more astonishing and encouraging that “wheel” was jammed in Balochistan as planned. A call for wheel Jam strike has become a cliche in Pakistan. Since 1968 revolution , actual wheel jam has not been achieved especially the one obtained through the conscious and organized political effort. I am not including in this the spontaneous “wheel Jam” which took place after murder of Benazir Bhutto. It was an expression of spontaneous might of Pakistani class which bowed the Pakistani state on its knees. Peoples Party’s refusal to give direction or to own the agitation resulted in failure of the movement which had the revolutionary potential.

090412101206_balochistan_protest226A call for Wheel Jam strike was given by Balochistan National Party [M] and Baloch National Front. According to BBC the wheel jam strike was a success.  Surprising development which took place that Pashtun base Islamic fundamentalist Party  of Molana Fazul-ur-Rehman supported the call of wheel jam strike. This party is considered traditional ally of establishment in Balochistan. What was disturbing that Pashtun Nationalist Party PKMAP of Mehmood Khan Achackzai which were part of NAP and traditional allies of Baloch nationalists were no where to be seen.

Pakistani establishment has classically played Pashtuns of Balochistan against the Baloch in the classical tactic of “divide and rule”. With Mr Achackzai’s closer relationship being developing with establishment due to his affiliation with Right Wing in APDM has resulted in his greater distances from Baloch resistance.

According to Dawn more than 16 people have died so far in violent riots , BBC is confirming 12 deaths so far.

We want to assert that ethnic violence will be counter productive for Baloch cause. What needs to be done is to immediately form a political alliance with Pashutns of Balochistan and spread the political agitation through out the province

It must be understood that Bloch’s rights could only be won if agitation spreads to Sindh and Balochistan. This will not occur on ethnic or nationalist bases. “class” solidarity is needed. Baloch organizations should try to unite with working classes of Punjab and Sindh, only than state will come under threat. with Peoples Party in government , its difficult but not impossible but Baloch leadership needs to spread this agitation or it will die out. State will give it an ethnic touch and than kill it. What will follow? A bloody reaction

Whats missing? a figure like “Molana Bhashani or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto”. Bhasani was able to link Bengali nationalist question with class consciousness of West Pakistan. His slogan “Jalo Jalo Aagan Jalo”. “Burn Fire” brought the state to its knees in 68.  The fire must be spread only than Light will prevail over darkness——-

Shaheryar Ali

Qul Erzun Erz e Kerbala—-Kul Yom-un-Yom-e Aashura

Every land is Kerbala and every day is day of Aashura

Muhammed Baqir

“Its the story of a night , of murder ,of army invasion , of mutilation of bodies , of imprisonment of ladies, of fire, of suppressed cries , of lashes, of torture, of hangings, of resistance—this is common between Kerbala and 4th April and thats why both have merged as a symbol in Urdu poetry”

On 4rth April , this state took revenge from the people for threatening its existence during the revolution of 1968-69. The dark night which started still continues. The evil still rule. Party once again under threat. One after one they put daggers in our heart. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto , Shahnawaz Bhutto , Murtaza Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
Asif Ali Zardari is besieged in presidential palace repeating the mistake which killed each of our leaders. The mistake of reconciliation with alien classes. From his death cell Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wrote “i made a fatal mistake , that tried to reconcile the two classes , there can be no reconciliation between the oppressed and oppressors. Asif Ali Zardari its time to read the “foundation documents of Pakistan Peoples Party”. Its time to enter in final struggle or you know as you yourself said “you are sitting on the chair of martyrs”. The ruling classes have not allowed a single chairman of PPP to live—
Ahmad Faraz wrote this revolutionary poem about our great Army. What have it done to us , from Bengali Genocide to Balochi genocide. What it is doing today. A masterpiece of resistance poetry , it speaks of imperialism both British and American and their mercenaries “our Army”
The initial remarks about Faraz in the video should be understood in context of “inter-left” sectarianism between NAP and Bhutto otherwise Faraz always stood for oppressed nationalities, this very poem is its proof. It should be “war cry of the people”

This second poem is “Mohasra”. “The Siege”. It was written on murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia’s fascist dictatorship. Considered one of the best pieces of Resistance poetry ever written in Urdu and truly captures the dark ages of Zia and the most heroic struggle of Pakistani Left. A sharp criticism exist in the poem on opportunism shown by a section of writers from the Left who attended “Ahel e Qalam” conference under Zia.
Faraz called them “gadagaran e sukhen” and it contains those great lines which gave hope of revolutionaries in death cells.
“usse maloom nahi tareekh kiya sekhati he
keh raat jub kisi khursheed ku shaheed kare
tu Subah ik naya Suraj tarash lati he—-“

These are the days of unprecedented decline of Journalism in Pakistan. The rapid capitalization of the Media Industry has snuffed out the already feeble Journalistic standards in Pakistan. These are the days where one of the most highly paid journalist who has the reputation of being a scholar and “researcher” does programmes on end of days, which are nothing but a nauseating combination of sensational Hollywood movies, the Evangelicalmillennial fever and half baked conspiracy theories linked with Islamic Apocalypse . These are the days where we read personal columns full of ideological rant, wishful thinking and petty sensationalism and conspiracy theories as “Lead News stories” on front pages of Urdu Dailies . Ansar Abbasi, Rauf Kalasara and Saleh Zafar being on top of this “great journalism” In this situation its really pleasant to have Nadeem F Paracha around. At least he talks about “old fashioned politics” which has completely died in Pakistan and is replaced by “de-politicized trade unionism” like Lawyers movement, journalist movements etc. The moral buffs of journalism and academia are lamenting the decision of lifting the ban on student unions saying it caused “violence”. Nadeem.F.Paracha has remind them the forgotten history SA Dawn ,Pakistan

SMOKER’S CORNER: When doves cried

BY NadeemF. Paracha

The violence that made the Zia dictatorship ban student unions in 1984 was not due to student unions, but rather the handiwork of the dictatorship. I’m afraid those bemoaning the revival of student unions in Pakistan have only little knowledge of the subject’s history; especially when they suggest that student unions and student organisations were the root cause of violence in colleges and universities. The truth is that violence that made the Zia dictatorship ban student unions in 1984 was not due to student unions but rather the handiwork of the dictatorship. The early roots of the violence that gripped the country’s student politics in the 1980s can be traced to a crucial event that took place in 1979 at the University of Karachi. The year’s student union elections saw an alliance of progressive student groups, led by People’s Students Federation (PSF), National Students Federation (NSF), Liberal Students Federation (LSF) and Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) defeating the powerful Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) on a number of important seats at KU. This is when the first ever incident of students using AK-47s at the university occurred when soon after the 1979 union elections, some IJT activists opened fire on a progressive students’ rally on campus. Emboldened by its mother party, the Jamat-i-Islami’s growing influence during Zia’s martial law regime, the IJT started devolving from being a democratic-conservative student group into a group with increasingly violent tendencies. The PSF, under tremendous pressure from arrests and harassment by the Zia dictatorship, too became a lot more violent, but for different reasons. Many of its members were jailed, tortured and even flogged, sometimes simply for raising a Jeeay Bhutto slogan. However, it was at the Peshawar University that some PSF leaders saw IJT members receiving AK-47s and TT pistols from Afghan traders who had started to arrive into the NWFP after the takeover of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. These IJT members then got the same traders to meet the IJT workers arriving from Karachi. And since arms from the United States had also started to pour in for the so-called anti-Soviet mujahideen groups, many of them were sold at throw-away prices by Pakistani middlemen and related Afghan traders to the visiting IJT workers. The pressure-cooker situation then saw the PSF activists getting in touch with the same Afghan traders in Peshawar who had been supplying arms to the IJT. A group of PSF activists from the University of Karachi bought themselves a cache of AK-47s and TT pistols as well. This group was led by the notorious PSF militant Salamullah Tipu, a former member of the NSF, who later joined the PSF. Then in 1980 an NSF worker was killed in a clash with the IJT. When a major’s jeep arrived at the University of Karachi, members of the PSF, NSF and the BSO, aggravated by the military regime’s support for the IJT, set it on fire. The next day Tipu and a group of PSF militants emerged on campus, roaming in a car with a PPP flag (a crime of sorts in those days), and shouting anti-Zia and Jeeay Bhutto slogans. A senior IJT leader whipped out a TT pistol and fired at Tipu’s car. He fired twice, but missed. Tipu braked, rushed out of the car with a recently bought AK-47 and fell the IJT member with a burst of bullets. In response to growing IJT violence and government harassment, a senior NSF leader, Zafar Arif, pleaded for a new alliance of progressive student groups. In 1981, a meeting was held at Zafar Arif’s home and the United Students Movement (USM) came into being. The new progressive coalition included the National Students Federation, Peoples Students Federation, Democratic Students Federation, Baloch Students Organisation, Pashtun Students Federation, and the newly formed, All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation. A two-pronged strategy was chalked out by the USM. The first involved the alliance to work as a new united electoral group against right-wing student parties like the IJT in student union elections. The new alliance also decided to take the IJT head on in other matters as well and for this the USM planed to arm itself as much as the IJT had already done. Whereas the IJT was aided in this pursuit by its Jamat-i-Islami connections with mujahideen commanders like Gulbadin Hykmatyar, the USM had to struggle to generate funds. Groups of the PSF, NSF and the BSO travelled to the NWFP and Balochistan again and brought back caches of AK-47s and TT pistols. The USM’s strategy also included working against the government which was believed to have let lose intelligence agents suspected to have been working with certain IJT members. Then, as expected, unparalleled violence erupted on the day of the 1981 student union elections in Karachi that saw the progressive student groups sweeping the elections in most Karachi colleges. Advisers to the Sindh government under the governorship of General Abbasi warned the regime that even though the Jamat-i-Islami had been supporting the Zia dictatorship, the 1981 and 1982 student union elections proved that the IJT’s influence was receding. The advisers also warned that student violence may turn outwards against the government.Just before the 1984 student union elections in Karachi, the government announced the banning of student politics, citing violence. The truth was, the decision was based on reports that anti-government student alliances like Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (in northern Punjab) and the USM (in Karachi) had gained great electoral and political momentum and might in the future be in a position to initiate a students’ movement, the sort that helped topple the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1968-69. The regime’s plan to repress progressive student groups and its encouragement of the IJT had successfully managed to generate the reasons the regime wanted to use to prove the “violent nature of student unionism”. In reality it was a resurgence of progressive student groups which became the reason to clamp down on student politics.