Friday, October 17, 2014

On bearing with a Noble Malala......

We have to bear with Malala whether we like it or not. There are lapses in her story, so are controversies associated with the prize. But the fact is that neither the controversy associated with politicization of noble peace prize can undermine Malala’s heroic deeds nor can the lapses in Malala’s story destroy the prize nor her own internationalized charm. What circumstances actually convinced the jury to choose her, as the rightful recipient needs a deeper insight.
She has got it, and no one else from Pakistan did it this time. Long live Abdus Sattar Edhi and his untiring love for humanity, Imran Khan’s service to cancer patients, Mukhtaran Mai for voicing against Mubashir Luqman or Junaid Jamshed for his line of kurtas, but so did Mahatma Gandhi. The list of omissions is quite long and the selection process itself is potentially not free of biases and errors. So, move on Pakistanis, or live with it, she is the one.
Her father choose to publish her diary by the pen name of Gul Makayi, then chose to disclose her identity which potentially put her life in danger. She suffered an eventual attempted murder and had to undergo surgery, survived but living in exile. She vows to come back and partake in politics, a potential future candidate for the premier slot… Quite a long way to go..
So what projected Malala that high is interesting to dissect. Although there are many similar stories in the war torn region that made highlights, only one of them could be taken to the highest praises. There is a particular psychological reason behind that. The horror stories that describe one person with an identifiable name and identity make greater impact on people/audience when compared to a mass horror story with no names. The reason that such an impact is needed is because it lends legitimacy to the wars and adventures going on in a country. As published elsewhere that no wars are fought to bring peace, democracy or prosperity to a country. Wars are meant to capture resources, widen the area of influence in international politics and impose one’s economic policies. All wars, thus, are said to be bankers’ wars. These goals are, however, not out rightly stated in public. What is told in public is picked up carefully and narrated in a telling way in order to win support for the wars. The definitions are bent, or broken, in order to suit one’s own narrative. In our case it is Malala. In another case, it was Barack Obama.

Next time it may be Narendra Modi, Bashar-al-Assad or Benjamin Netenyahu, depends upon who serves the cause, who serves it better, or perhaps best. For the moment, it is our own Malala Yousufzai, a swati school going child who braved the brutal and oppressive terrorists (don’t mentions anything about their impact on American benefits in the area) who grow beards and hang people in public, eventually meeting the supreme drone justice enforced from another time zone.

Malala, a young and aspiring kid, needs all our love and affection. She is our pride and a national asset. Her international persona will inspire many parents to take brave decisions to send their daughters to schools. Her friends will always feel good for having her company. She rises, and touches glory. May the acknowledgement that she received be translated to the real change and conspiracies hatched under the shadow of distraction caused by her prize never materialize.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Visit to IDPs camp, Bannu, KPK

A human crisis, or one of the several human crises born on this unfortunate land, displacement of North Waziristan residents on account of military operation has taken a heavy toll on over all wellbeing of the residents. It has been decades since people of this and adjoining areas had sustainable peace. The law and order situation has been frail since the invasions and wars started off many years ago and generations have passed without an end to the misery. The latest in this story have been the internal displacements to enforce writ of the state, and in this particular case, writ of Pakistani state. Few years back it was Sawat and Buner where military operation had to be launched, this time it is North Waziristan, allegedly a safe heaven for terrorist for long time. The people are asked to vacate their houses and move to another safer place where camps are established to house them and provide them with necessary modalities of life. Being a far-flung area, education and health facilities are not sufficient in the first place, and such displacements destroy the existing social structure, stress coping skills and monetary savings of the people if they had any. By all means life never comes to the normal after such large-scale movements.

Dr. Asma Humayun has taken the camp initiative. She has been doing unprecedented things in practice and academics in Pakistan. The drugs selection and the preparation of data collection questionnaire were done through discussion on a very active group of psychiatrists, through social media. It is worth mentioning that no financial benefit was taken from any pharmaceutical company, with zero sponsorships and advertisements. The provincial government of KPK has recognized Dr. Asma's tireless efforts. Pakistan Army hosted the camp for visiting team of psychiatrists in the Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital Bannu. They also organized our stay in circuit house Bannu. It was 2nd in the series of camps for psychological help for IDPs, 1st one for myself. Psychiatrists from Islamabad and Peshawar were invited to participate in the camp. This camp was a particular success as over 170 patients were seen on one day. The information w1as spread on radio and banners in the area. People were informed about the arrival of expert psychiatrists and psychologists from Islamabad and Peshawar. Many of them showed up for consultation regarding their issues. Children in particular have been affected by the adversity in the worst manner.

Patients at Khalifa Gulnawaz Teaching Hospital presented with psychiatric problems that were precipitated or worsened by the displacement in addition to those which were pre-existing. It was a blessing that a child psychiatrist, Dr. Ambreen and a psychologist Miss Ruhi also accompanied the team. Children got specialist’s advice and prescription as did the adults. Psychiatrists from Peshawar made their presence felt and contributed in terms of exchange of ideas as well as handling major turn out of great number of patients in the limited time slot. 

Unfortunately the political thermometer in our country has gone up at a time when military operation is in full swing and displaced persons are left in vulnerable situation. The mainstream media has been busy covering sit-ins in Islamabad and a very little time has been devoted to the human tragedy taking place not far from the capital itself. Although the situation in the hospital where the camp was hosted looked good, we couldn’t actually visit the campsite so the exact situation couldn’t be seen.

Army is doing a great job in the war-hit area. By virtue of their presence as an organized and resourceful institution, they have handled the displaced people efficiently. Their treatment of civilians as we saw by the way a whistling lead car escorted us, however, needs some humanizing.

Overall, it was a fine two day break from the routine days at NUST. It was my first visit that deep in KPK, Bannu, discussed political and social issues with the team, passed by KUST, Kohat, bought some guavas from vendors by the roadside, took tea at roadside chhapper hotels, quite an impressive scenery all the way and a hospitable night stay at circuit house rest house locked from outside. The human side of the travel was priceless.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Imran Khan is made up of...!

Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy where the sitting prime minister is taking a third term. His past two terms as prime minister failed to complete. Once he was over run by his political rivals and the other one was overthrown by the military. Punjab, the most-populated province, however, has been under his party's rule during 5 of last six political changeovers. He heads a faction of Muslim League named after him (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz The major opposition party, the Pakistan people's Party (PPP), has largely softened towards PMLN owing to their mutual realization that fighting only leads military interventions and weakening of democracy. During last five years, PMLN played a friendly opposition to PPP regime which led to first ever democratic transition in the history of this country, a political party completing its term and handing over government to another political party. PPP being the 2nd largest party in the country has their leader of the opposition in the parliament and they vow to stand by the PMLN government in all foreseeable crises. Quite a rosy situation to rule, until we realize the dark horse of Pakistani politics, the infamous bad boy of glamour and cricket, the philanthropist turned politician, Imran Khan, abbreviated as IK and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).

Imran Khan led the Pakistani cricket team to their famous world cup victory in 1992, in Australia. He immediately retired from cricket and focused on construction of a charity based cancer hospital following his mother's lost battle against the deadly disease, naming it after her, Shaukat Khanam Memorial Trust (SKMT). Few years later, he established his own political party. Continuing with his philanthropist work, he established Naml college (associated with Bradford University) and trying to establish more branches of SKMT cancer hospital. He won a National Assembly seat in 2002 election but resigned, and boycotted 2008 election. Finally in 2013, his party appeared to have broken the stereotype of one seat and came up as 2nd most popular party in the country. But that was not part of the plan, wasn't it?

Tired of their rival politics benefiting the military, PPP and PMLN decided to sign a charter of understanding promising each other not to destabilize their governments in future. Popular name of the charter is "Charter of democracy" and it is known as a charter of taking turns, 5 years each. The plan, of course, was based on the fact that no other party will be able to challenge the two working for strengthening of democracy. What has come out in reality is that they are working together to promote democracy as well as their own family politics and scratching each other's back in corruption as well.

So, the dark horse rose out of nowhere. Many blame establishment for forwarding their pawn, others believe it is more to the bad governance of both PPP and PMLN that has given IK the political mileage that he possesses. So far, IK has been an impulsive, emotional and somewhat misinformed person about his perception of Pakistani public's political discourse. But so are others... so what makes IK special?

IK was the dark horse of Pakistani politics which was not accounted in signing of charter of democracy, or say the bigger parties didn't foresee his rise. The miltablishment (term coined by Najam Sethi for military establishment) might have played its role but it is more likely to be attributed to bad governance in the country than the conspiracy theories. The extent of running a country like a family business have been evident in the ongoing and the concluded political terms. As investigated by Rauf Klasra, as many as 84 people of Nawaz Sharif family are posted on important political and administrative seats across the country, many other lying vacant probably due to the unavailability of talented family men and women. Far from the public interest, the government is spending billions of rupees on mega projects overlooking the plight of health education and availability of household modalities for people. The infamous metrobus project has been alleged on using iron products of the industry run by PM's family. His indifference to state of affaires of the country speaks for itself. During his parliamentary year, he has been to the senate only once. Not even a single bill has passed both houses of the parliament in the first year. The ruling party never holds intra-party elections and even their own MPs have to wait to wait to shake hands with PM.

Imran Khan, on the other hand, has come forward as a man who has spent a glamourous life of his own. With the persona of a sports icon, he has had a life as glamourous, enriched and accomplished that many politicians of the country can only wish. With the same, he is educated (Chancellor of Bradford) and have been given honorary fellowship by Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh for his services and running of the cancer hospital. Major component of his political strategy has been to involve youth into the political process. It was co-incidental that the age to vote has been reduced from 21 to 18 in Pakistan. With no political background and no business or other potential conflicts of interest, he has been critical of other political personalities of running the affaires of state like a family business. Major target of his campaigning has been Punjab where he has been utterly vocal against the sitting CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of the current PM. He has highlighted their business conflicts with the government policies and the allegedly abnormally fast growth rate of their enterprises. He has been somewhat impulsive and taking extreme positions in politics, uncompromising and solo flyer, things that don't make a seasoned politician, but that he is actually, an angry young man, a bad boy of Pakistani politics, a rebel. More than everything, he hasn't sold himself for any petty benefit. No one has ever pointed a finger at him for any financial corruption so far. For general public, he has presented himself as a third option. His politics is based on middle class dynamics of the country with an opinion on international affaires. He has got the attention of right wing, young, middle class, educated class, women and students alike. Recent siege on the capital against the alleged corruption has been his latest political adventure. He has blamed the outwent and sitting governments to have rigged the election in their favor, as they signed a memo years back. He has demanded an overhauling of electoral process, re-designing of election commission and an end to family politics. The sitting PM, due to many of the allegations being true, feels succumbed under pressure. While IK might not actually opt to start a civil disobedience movement as he threatened, he has actually brought the government on back foot all alone. From here onwards, if he can achieve the target of an independent election commission and then concentrates on the development process in Khyber Pakhtunkha province where his party heads the provincial government, he can positively look forward to next election as a potential upsetter.

So the current is not a crisis in itself. Its a challenge to the family politics, feudal lords' oriented and favored parties and a society where corruption is used as a tool to perpetuate one's dominance, typical of third world countries. Khan's gains are people's gains. Last year Supreme Court ordered to remove a heft 44% percent of the votes registered with the election commission for being bogus. An electoral reform this time may well mean a 360 degree change in political spectrum of Pakistan. It is a show of integrity and perseverance that he stands there not selling himself for cheap benefits where everything has been offered from a backdoor. And don't think that the number of people he has gathered in the D-square is little, there are silent admirers of him, sitting somewhere else, but their hearts beat for him.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A sad generation of Palestinians

Be it people of any given faith, habitants of Palestine are particularly unfortunate that their sufferings have come at a time of history when no body is interested to support their cause. For a globally connected social world, it is a very saddening sequel of a tragedy which is awfully one-sided and terribly terrible in its description. Confined in an open prison by a ruthless and run amoke military might, they have very limited options including breathing, which is at the mercy of their forceful occupant. Sometimes, they are allowed, other times they are suffocated.

Lets not debate the dispute of whom the land actually belongs to. Lets not get ourselves lost in the history books to find out whether christians or muslims or jews are the rightful masters of the country. Lets not discuss its geographical aspects. Lets just consider that the people living on the Gaza strip are humans. They have been forced out of their homes and prisoned in what is referred to as the biggest open jain in the world. There might have been disputes about their forefathers' times but the children of the current generation found themselves living on that soil.
An artist's imagination of creation of Israel in France

The strong military force of Israel and its tactical hit-back-hard policy has left them virtually at the mercy of death. The humanly modalities even the medicine are scarce in that place. International laws and practices are violated frankly yet no one can dare challenge the oppressor. The UN acts like a castrated body with no real impulse to force the ethics and war-laws or war-crime laws against the occupant.

When I say that this is a sad and unfortunate generation of Palestinians, I mean to say that it is perhaps the wrongest time of history for them to be in this hapless situation. The middle east, despite being of the same religion and faith as theirs, doesn't give a damn about them. The UN under influence of USA hasn't been able to pass any resolution against Israel in rememberable past. The geographical location of Gaza of Palestine doesn't interest any other super power. The journalists world over and their editors have their own priorities. The social media and micro-blogging websites are full of content that cannot be independently verified, and even if it is verified, no one cares. The current episode of ethnic cleansing and genocide has so far taken more than 1500 lives, with an awful proportion of almost 50 Palestinians for 1 Israeli (80% of Palestinians being civilians while all Israeli military men).
So much for the change Mr President

Instead of any support, USA has openly stated that Israel has full right of self defense. I mean, what kind of self defense is it? Bombarding schools, shelters, civilians, rehabilitation centers and other such facilities, killing children and women, in a people who have been prisoned for years, whose land has been confiscated, who don't have any military, weapons or power to inflict any significant wounds, what laws do justify this kind of self defense? In a more pathetic and cowardly way, President Obama invited Israeli ambassador to the annual iftar dinner at white house where all invitees were Muslim leaders, and there, he, the President of USA, reiterated Israel's right to self defense. Real bad joke.. And then, despite all the reporting of genocide and war-crimes, USA gave its billions of dollars worth ammunition to Israel, to continue its self defense... Bravo.. The presidency that began with an aim to "put day light between American and Israeli interests" is ending biting the dust....

The Arab-spring didn't bring any good news for them. The regime that came in power in Egypt seemed to have something on their mind but the overpowering Saudi Arabia USA and Israel planned to overthrow it before it did anything relevant. Even the rebels everywhere are motivated by their vested interests but no one cares for Palestine.

The genocide continues, with the whole world outside Palestine sharing the war crimes, some for aiding the killing, some for endorsing it and others for keeping silence. The sad generation of Palestinians is a witness on us all.