Sunday, 30 December 2012

Things I overheard..

Originally published under the title Things Overheard on a Gulf to Peshawar Flight on
December 30, 2012 ed note

by JibbyD

If you have ever taken a flight from the Gulf states to Peshawar, you have no doubt encountered a distinct group of Pakhtun men on that flight. The plane is mostly full of Pakhtun workers who are going home to see their families.

First off, I have immense respect for these people. They leave their families behind, work long hours in horrid conditions, and are still able to laugh at life. They earn an honest living, which is more than I can say for many of the “enlightened” people in this world. Most of these men are uneducated, and it gives them an endearing simplicity that is impossible to find in the rest of the world.

The following is a collection of things said during my flights from the Gulf states to Peshawar over the years, with some additions from friends and family. Many of these things are said by these people for comical effect, while some are borne out of naivety.

All of these are obviously funnier in Pashto, but I’m providing a translation anyway.

1) Upon settling down in the plane, “alaka, jaaz kho kha garam de kha.. jorhey Pekhawar key yukhni da” -dude, the plane is real warm, seems like it’s cold in Peshawar

2) The air-hostess was giving out headphones in little blue pouches, and this conversation ensued.

Guy 1: Alaka da sa di? -What is that?

Guy 2: Daa jorhey da zrha kharaabeydo golaye dee -Seems like it’s anti-nausea medication

3) During turbulence on the plane. ”walaka, da sa kayee, jorhey jaaz calendar chalayee khaa” -dude, whatsup with that? I think the conductor is piloting the plane.

4) Dala maal parey sarey ey keynoley yum, tol grhabeygam -dammit, I’m sitting by the wing, and the ride is too bumpy

5) Dimaagh mey crash de.. baikhee kaar na kayee, raaka yo naswaaro choondaye. -my brain has crashed completely, hand me over some naswaar.. This was followed by a packet of naswaar distributed throughout the plane.

6) Some guy got up to go to the bathroom, but was walking hands-in-pockets, with a bounce in his step.. “oh khair eee.. ogarza.. ogarza warta de jaaz key naigh naigh” -go on, go on and walk all over this plane

7) Guy 1: Da sheesha laande ka, zrha mey kharaap de -can you roll the plane’s window down please, I’m nauseated

Guy 2: wrak sha botala laakho, daa sa da baarhey bus de che sheesha ba ey lande keygi? da siraf pilot laande koley shee (dude, this isnt some local bus that you can just roll the window down in, only the pilot can do it).

8) Upon landing in Peshawar while it was raining outside.

Guy 1: alaka, jorhey bahar kho baraan de kha -hey, it seems like it’s raining outside

Guy 2: na marha, baraan na de, da nawey maadal taarkol dee, da da shpey chamak wakhee -no, it isn’t raining, this is just the new charcoal that shimmers at night.

9) I almost always have to fill out Disembarkation Forms for the people around me. The most common theme among them.

a) First name: Ziaullah. Last name: Nothing. So I have to improvise and put First name Zia/Shams/Hamid, Last name: Ullah/Urrehman.

10) This happened to a friend. He was sitting next to a dude wearing two watches on the same wrist:

Friend: Kaka, da waley? da dwa garhaye sa ta? -Why are you wearing two watches?

Guy: Da yo key da Pakistan taime de, ba de taime mey kor wala telapoon kayee, o de baley key da Saudi Arab -One has the Pakistani time, that’s the time my wife uses to call me, and the other one has Saudi’s time.

-the writer tweets as @JibbyD and blogs here

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Quetta: When a city crumbled

original title Thirty Seconds at Quetta: a belated book review! published in May 2009 -ed note
by Khadim Durrani 
Author: Robert Jackson
Book Title: Thirty Seconds at Quetta
Date Published: 1960
Publisher: Evans Brothers Limited. London.
Format: Hardback
Number of Pages: 248

Thirty seconds at Quetta is a book for anyone who is from Quetta or is interested in its history; most importantly it’s about the aftermath of the deadly earthquake of May 31st 1935 that razed Quetta and other earthquake stricken areas to the ground, killing between 30 and 60 thousand people and injuring thousands more. Never has this devastation been more vividly told than in this riveting, movingly fascinating book. It is also about a sub-chapter in the history of British colonial rule – a time when a large community of Indian migrants were living in Quetta! Furthermore, it highlights the historical setting of British military and civilian bureaucracy that was running the affairs of the region from its administrative seat in Quetta.

Coming from Quetta myself I can say the material presented in the book, with a few exceptions, seems to have been well researched and in this regard Mr Jackson gives a detailed list of documents and the names of officials that he consulted before writing the book. Besides describing at length how the rescue operations were conducted, the author focuses on the individual cases of courage, dedication and heroism of doctors and nurses, of rescuing soldiers and survivors, and on the courage of victims’ families; the author also recounts in some detail how the agent to the Governor-General Sir Norman Cater (the head of the Government administration) and General Karslake had to deal with a very difficult task of organizing the rescue operations in the wee hours of the morning – on the Residency lawn (now Governor House). Another interesting character that emerges in the story is that of Harkbir Tharpa (see Chapter 6, The Gurkhas). Tharpa was skinny but a strong Rifleman from Gurkha Rifles; he was gifted with possessing a range of hearing beyond the normal and could hear cries so faint that they were inaudible to others. On several occasions, he helped save people who were trapped in the rubble/debris. Later on, he was awarded the Albert Medal for his services during the earthquake.

In order to make it worth reading the author has beautifully blended the core facts with the touch of fiction, humour and in places with sarcasm. Given that he has never been to that part of the world, I would say he has definitely managed to weave a remarkable story – a story that becomes surreal when it starts sinking in that those who helped build Quetta (even called it Quetta) were not native people but foreigners and that they are no longer living amongst us! Only this book can give you that feeling, provided you are from Quetta.

The danger however for presenting the cocktail of facts and fiction is that people who do not have an in-depth knowledge of the region, about its history, traditions and its people, will believe blindly certain sweeping statements that the author has repeatedly made, on purpose, to exaggerate the situation and make the book worth reading. Perhaps his stereotypical perceptions are based on what he was told by the British Army Officers who were stationed in Quetta at the time. For example, a few odd cases of robbery or theft doesn’t mean the whole communities of ethnic Pashtoons, Baloch (or Baluch) and Brahui (or Brohi) should be labelled as thieves or robbers as has been alleged by the author. This kind of uninformed generalisation is very misleading and the author, in my opinion, has not been fair to the people of the region. I am sure the locals, as they are called these days, will find those derogatory passages very offensive and insulting; in my opinion this is where this marvellous narrative gets spoilt and tainted.

Perhaps the author was not mindful to the fact that at the time the British Imperial Forces were considered as the occupying forces in the region (that is the way they are now rightly perceived in Afghanistan and Iraq) and the attacks on them or any random acts of looting/robberies, if ever took place, could and should only have been explained in that context, and not by portraying the whole communities as bad people! Moreover, it is difficult to say whether Mr Jackson intended to use such a negative language against the tribesmen as part of his writing strategy to attract more readers by means of exaggeration or was he simply presenting the information that was communicated to him by the British Forces stationed in the region.

Furthermore, except for a few passing remarks about the native Pashtun and Baloch tribes of Quetta region and their location in Quetta (e.g., Kassi & Shahwanis) it is very ironic to find almost nothing about them in this book or what role did they play in the rescue operations, if at all! On the contrary, wherever the indigenous people were mentioned, they were presented in a bad way. The absence of material about the natives therefore renders this narrative a biased one. Had the author done a little bit more of a research to find out more about the lives of the local ethnic tribes who were unlike Indian migrants not part and parcel of the British colonial caravan but who strongly felt they were under occupation, the book would have done justice to the natives of Quetta and the region, and, would have acclaimed equal appreciation by them. Interestingly in a recent BBC Radio 4 programme that aired[i] the comments of the British survivors of the 1935 Quetta earthquake, a caller (an old lady) – who was in Quetta at the time of earthquake – was singing the same mantra about ‘Pathans’ that the author Robert Jackson mentions in the book. This shows clearly the extent to which people can get influenced by false propaganda.

In the end, despite its shortcomings, I would highly recommend this book[ii] to Quetta lovers and say this book is worth reading; it presents the most remarkable understanding of Quetta of 1930s. For controversial and provocative statements regarding tribesmen the author can be forgiven for being ignorant. It would equally be unfair, on our part, if we do not acknowledge the contribution of the author in preserving part of Quetta’s history that our elders so proudly called as ‘little London’.

- Khadim Durrani has Ph.D in Geology from France; he is currently residing in the UK and tweets under @KhadimDurrani.


[i] The programme was broadcast in 2007 I happened to listen to it in May 2008 when I was searching for some historical material to write an article about Quetta earthquake of 1935. Had I listened to it on the day (I don’t know whether it was live or a pre-recorded programme) I would have definitely phoned in and communicated my concern about the sweeping generalisation that the old lady was making about ‘Pathans’.

[ii]By reading the book and other literature about Quetta one gets the impression as if the local – the indigenous Pashtoon and Baloch tribes – did not play any role during the rescue operations that followed the earthquake. It seems as if we the locals did not contribute much to the development of our city. The British Raj not only designed the city to meet the needs of their troops but they also brought in the skilled labour from various parts of Indian sub-continent: masons, carpenters, craftsmen, iron smith, mechanics etc. Most of these men and women chose to stay in Quetta even after the partition. A significant number of the migrated Indians were non-Muslims, of Hindu, Sikh and Christian creed. Though majority of Hindus and Sikhs left Quetta after the partition but many Christian families remained behind. Important thing to note is that they were free to practice their respective religions under the British Raj and they continue to enjoy the same religious freedom even today when unfortunately the Pakistani society has become less tolerant towards not only non-Muslim religious minorities but also towards one another!

The flipside of the story is the book did not and does not benefit a large section of Quetta residents as a) it is in the English language; b) because of that not known to the general public, hence, c) inaccessible to the general public. A good translation of this book would be indispensable and a great service to the people of Quetta, even 49 years after its publication.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Benazir Bhutto's Assassination report

-on the 5th anniversary of Benazir Bhuttos death the writer critiques the Scotland Yard report.Did Scotland Yard Cover Up?-ed note

by Khalid Munir

I will focus my observations, not on UN report but on the vehicle used by BB (Benazir Bhutto) and whether there has been a cover up. Mr. Rehman Malik is on record saying that BB wanted a vehicle with an open roof and that is why such a vehicle was purchased. This was a serious security lapse and BB’s adviser should have told her that having a sun roof in an armored vehicle defeats the basic purpose of having an armored car. BB was a brave lady and flouted security measures by appearing in the open, un-guarded amongst the crowds. She did this outside Karachi airport, when she stood in front of the bullet proof glass rather then standing behind it. She was seen standing and waving to the crowd in Sukkur and finally on that fateful day at Liaqat Bagh. That was her style, but the security advisors should have known their job. So purchasing a vehicle with an opening at the top was a blunder even if BB insisted on that, as she did. The UAE based firm that carried out the armoring of the vehicle, confirmed to the writer that BB insisted on having an opening at the roof .Which as per their claim was not acceded to and vehicle without an opening was delivered to BB. Surprisingly he asserted,” I believe she was not in our vehicle."If the version of the UAE based firm is correct, then when was the other vehicle purchased? or if it was the same vehicle then where and when was the roof opening made , and more importantly on whose instructions? Every one called it a sun roof till the time Scotland Yard came up with the clarification that it was not a sun roof but an emergency escape hatch.

Scotland Yard team presented its report on February 8, 2008. The report goes out of its term of reference on two accounts. Scotland Yard, while giving its opinion regarding the construction of the vehicle, went out of its term of reference to state, “It is an unfortunate and misleading aspect of this case that the roof escape hatch has frequently been referred to as a sunroof”. Why did Scotland Yard emphasize on its not being a sun roof. Would it make any difference had there been a sun roof or an emergency escape hatch? Then why did Scotland Yard include this in the report? Was it an attempt to cover up for someone? I am certain there are many like me who have yet to see an armored vehicle with an emergency escape hatch opening at the top.

Scotland Yard further stated that there was only one assassin. Now the question is that why would an assassin with a suicide jacket on, waste time in firing three shots when BB was standing being vulnerable to the hundreds of ball bearings he was carrying. Did he intend to miss and provide an opportunity for BB to duck down? Presence of more than one suicide bomber, both ignorant of presence of the other would have meant that the assassination was carefully planned and not an inviduals effort. “The footage does not show the presence of any other potential bomber,” Scotland Yard goes on to say. What is a potential bomber? How does one differentiate between an ordinary man and a potential bomber in a crowd? Only Scotland Yard can explain this.

The most dubious part of the Scotland Yard report is the UK home office pathologist Doctor Nathanial Cary’s remarks. Please note that in the whole report Scotland Yard refers to BB as Ms Bhutto, however the doctors sitting in UK uses the words "Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto". Now even in Pakistan before her assassination only PPP sympathizer used the title ‘Mohtarma’ for her. A Doctor who was not a politician, a UK resident, uses the word which Scotland Yard had never used in the whole report. So, was that dictated by a Pakistani? Secondly he, in the same paragraph uses the word “escape hatch”. Now till the Yard’s report got public, every one called it a sunroof. Logically, doctor’s opinion must have been taken before the finalization of the report so why did the doctor called that an emergency hatch?

The purchase/conversion of a vehicle with opening at the roof can be termed as a gross security lapse. It may have been on insistence of BB herself as confirmed by the UAE based firm. So it was an opening to facilitate BB to stand up and respond to crowd. That is a simple explanation. Why Scotland Yard declared it as an emergency escape hatch does not seem that simple. Is it possible that it may have been under pressure from the British government? We are not aware of existence of such pressure, but the circumstances prevailing at that time do not rule out the possibility.

USA and UK had brokered a deal between BB and Musharaff. The war on terror was too important for both the countries and BB’s assassination disturbed the equilibrium, both countries wanted to achieve in Pakistani politics. With one player of their game plan gone, was it not logical to at least protect the other player? This could have been the cause of the cover up by Scotland Yard. Do we have to wait till 2038 for answers, when UK will declassify its documents of year 2008?

-The writer is a retired army officer who served in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. This article was first published on his blog in 2010 / He tweets under @khalid_munir

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Malalas diary : Part 2

 translated into pashto -ed note 

د ملاله یوسفزي ډائري (دویمه برخه)
چار شنبه، ۷ جنوری
ته سکول ته تلو په وخت یریږي نه؟
زه د محرم الحرام رخصتي تیرولو د پاره خپلي کورني سره بونیر ته راغلي یم. یونیر مي ډیر خوښ شو. دلته هر اړخ ته غرونه او شني دري دي. زما سوات خو هم ښائسته دي خو هلته امن نشته. دلته امن او کلاری ده. نه د ډزو غږ او نه ویره شته. مونږ ټول کور واله دلته ډیر خوشال یو.
نن مونږ د پیر بابا زیارت ته لاړ وو. هلته د خلکو ډیره ګڼه ګوڼه وه. هغوئ خو منتونه غوښتلو له راغلي وو او مونږ سیل سپاټي له. دلته بنګړي، لښتي او لاکټي خرڅیږي. ما د سودا خیال و خو څه مي هم خوښ نه شول خو مور مي لښتي او بنګړي واخیستل.
ما یوه جیني ولیده چي سکول ته روانه وه. هغي په شپږم جمات کښي سبق ویلو. هغي ته ما غږ اوکو او تري مي اوپوښتل چي ته سکول ته تلو په وخت یریږي نه. *د چا نه؟* هغي پښتنه اوکړه. ما ویل *د طالبانو نه*. هغي ځواب راکړو *دلته طالبان نشته*.

جمعه، ۹ جنوري
مولانه شاه دوران په رخصتي لاړو
نن مي خپلو ملګړو ته د بونیر سفر په اړه اویل. هغوي ویل چي د ستا دا کیسو سره به زمونږ غوږونه کانړه شی. مونږ په ایف ایم ریډیو باندي تقریر کوونکي طالب مشر مولانه شاه دوران د مرګ په اړه خپور کړي شوي خبر باندي ښه بحث اوکړو. هم دغه کس اعلان کړي و چي جینکي به سکول ته نه ځي.
ځینو جینکو ویل چي هغه مړ شوي دي. ځینو ویل چي هغه ژوندي دي. د هغه د مړګ اوازه ځکه خپره کړی شوي وه چي هغه بیګه شپي تقریر نه و کړي. یو جلکي اوي چي هغه په رخصتي تلي دي.
جمعي په ورځ زمونږ د ټیوشن رخصتي وی ځکه مونږ نن ناوخته پوري لوبي کولي. هم دا اوس چي ما ټي وي اولګولو نو خبر راغلو چي لاهور کښي چاودني شوي دي. ما ویل، یا الله په دنیا کښي تر ټولو زیاتي چاودني په پاکستان کښي ولي کیږي.

چار شنبه، ۱۴ جنوري
کیدي شي سکول ته بیا رانشم
نن زه سکول ته تلو په وخت ډیره خپه وم ځکه چي سبا نه د یخني رخصتیاني شورو کیږي. هیډ ماسټري د رخصتیو اعلان خو اوکړو خو سکول ته د بیرته راتلو ټاکلي نیټه یئ نه اوښودله. داسي اول ځل اوشول. مخکي به تل مونږ ته د رخصتیو ختمیدو نیټه ښودل کیده. هغي د دي څه وجه خو نه اویله خو زما خیال دي چي د طالبانو له خوا د ۱۵ جنوري نه پس جینکو باندي سکول ته د تلو بندیز په وجه داسي وکړل شول.
دي ځل خو جینکي هم د پخوا په شان سکول نه چټیاني ملاویدو باندي خوشاله نه وي ځکه چي د هغوئ خیال و چي که طالبانو په خپل اعلان باندي عمل اوکو نو کیدي شي دوئ سکول ته بیا بیرته راتلو جوګه نشي.
ځیني جینکي هیله مني وي چي انشاالله فروري کښي به سکول بیا خلاصیږي خو ځیني ورکښي داسي هم وي چي د هغوئ تعلیم جاري ساتلو په خاطر د هغوئ مور او پلار سوات نه کډي کولو فیصله کړي ده.
ځکه چي نن د سکول اخري ورځ وه نو مونږ ملګرو فیصله وکړه چي نن به د سکول ډګر کښي ناوخته پوري لوبي کوو. زه هم هیله لرم چي انشاالله زمونږ سکول به نه تړل کیږي خو بیا هم چي زه کله سکول نه بهر وتم نو ما ورباندي داسي یو نظر واچولو ګواکی زه بیا دلته نه شم راتلي.

زیارت، ۱۵ جنوري
د توپو ګړز ګړوز نه ډکه شپه
ټوله شپه د توپو سخته درزا وه چي له وجي یئ زه دري واري د خوبه پاڅیدم. هم دا نن د سکول چټیاني هم شورو شوي نو ځکه زه ښه په ارام لس بجي اوچته شوم. وروستو زما یوه کلاس فیلو (د ټولګي ملګري) راغله او ما سره يئ د سکول په کار خبري اتري اوکړي.
نن نیټه د ۱۵ جنوري وه، مطلب دا چي د طالبانو هغه ګواښ اخري ورځ چي ویلو يئ و جینکي دي سکولونه ته ځي خو زما کلاس فیلو په داسي ډاډ خپل سکول کار کوي لکه چي څه هم نه وي شوي.
نن ما په ځايئ اخبار کښي په بی بی سی باندي زما ډائري هم ولوسته. زما مور زما فرضي نوم *ګل مکئ* ډیر خوښ شو او پلار ته مي یئ ویل که زما نوم بدل کړي او ګل مکئ یئ کیږدي نو ښه به وي. ما هم دا نوم خوښ شو. ما خپل نوم ځکه نه دي خوښ چي مطلب یئ *غمجنه* دي.
پلار راته اویل چي څو ورځي وړاندي هم چا ورته د ډائري پرنټ اباسلي او ښيلي و او ویل یئ * دا اوګوره د سوات یوي سکول طالبي څومره ښائسته ډائري چاپ شوي ده*. پلار مي اویل چي ما په مسکا ډائري باندي نظر واچولو خو د یري مي دا هم نه شو ویل چي *دا زما لور ده*.
ژباړه: ازاد پشتون    

-writer tweets as @azadpashtun 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Peshawar airport: behind the tattoos

originally titled  Choosing confusion over clarity -ed note

By M. Taqi

Each time Pakistan and its leadership are at a fork in the road, they choose the path to confusion over the one that could ultimately lead to some clarity. They may even take a long, arduous detour to chaos if they have to. Chances to build consensus against terrorism are squandered almost impulsively now. Alternatively, great pains are taken to muddle up a situation where lucidity is shouting at the top of its lungs. The national pastime of conspiracy mongering morphed into a national creed and now appears to have become the national instinct.
picture via ANP web site

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base Peshawar and the attached Baacha Khan International Airport run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) came under a brazen terrorist assault this past weekend. The western perimeter of the airport was attacked by a group of terrorists — some of Uzbek origin as per the ISPR — armed to the teeth, including with suicide vests. But even before the guns went silent the debate over the attack had degenerated into a spat over the hillat or hurmat (permitted or forbidden, respectively) of a tattoo in Islam!

More elaborate than the tattoo found on the terrorist(s)’ back(s) were the arguments put forth by those who saw an anti-Islam force at play in the ‘un-Islamic’ impression. For them the imprint was proof beyond any reasonable doubt that the man was a non-Muslim sent by the Indians, Zionists or Americans — or a joint venture thereof, take your pick — to attack the citadel of Islam. The tattoo became an instant Rorschach test of the Pakistani national psyche that was seeing an array of conspiracies unleashed against it in the picture. That a convert to Islam may have had a decoration done in an earlier, ‘decadent’ life to celebrate a birthday, mourn a breakup with a girlfriend or perhaps just for the heck of it, and could not have it undone it after finding the ‘light’, conveniently did not pass through their mind. No matter how many ways the Rorschach could be interpreted, here it only meant an ‘impure’ plot against the land of the pure.

Let us face it, the PAF base Peshawar and the airport are a very high profile but relatively soft target, a proverbial low hanging fruit for the terrorists. But before I go any further I must give a bow to the civilian and military personnel who defended the base and thwarted an attack that could have resulted in many more casualties, including civilian lives. The audacity of the terrorists was matched, nay drowned, by the resolve of the police and armed forces. If only the fickleness at the top could mirror the resolute rank and file. I may be going out on a limb, but the Peshawar airbase is no Kamra. Certainly, an operational base and home to the Northern Air Command with fighter and surveillance aircraft stationed there but not much of the aeronautical and strategic significance associated with the Minhas base at Kamra. The air traffic in and out of the airstrips is overwhelmingly civilian, the bulk of which, in turn, is international with the overseas Pashtun workers travelling on these flights predominantly. Still, the airport is surrounded by the PAF facilities on its eastern, southeastern and southern sides, including the PAF officers’ mess, hospital, offices, residential facilities and the good old PAF School and College, now rechristened as the Fazaia College. The point is that each one of the facilities is a prime — yet soft — target for a determined attacker.

Unlike the PAF bases at Mauripur (Masroor), Samungli and Badaber, developed originally outside the cities, the Peshawar airport and the PAF base have been part of the Peshawar landscape for the longest time. A gingerly stroll across the Mall Road, up the Squadron Leader Sarfaraz Rafiqui Shaheed Road past the PAF officers’ mess, college on the west and Air Head Quarters (moved to Chaklala circa 1985) and hospital at the end leading up to the airbase, with the Quaid-e-Azam M A Jinnah’s Dakota plane on display at one of the aprons, was something one looked forward to on the 7th of September — the PAF Day — each year. The village of Pawaka towards the western periphery of the airport, where the terrorists came from and the village of Tehkal Bala to the north where one of the CAA airstrips ends, were always where they are. It is not the geography that has changed. The terrorists take sanctuary not merely in the villages and towns but in the ideological space afforded them by the squabble over the tattoos.

The jihadist contagion that Pakistan had let loose on the world had boomeranged on it with a vengeance a good two decades ago. Harbouring Chechens, Uzbeks, Uighurs and the Arabs was never going to be without consequences. Devolution of jihad to individuals and outfits — read transnational terrorism — as an instrument of foreign policy was bound to have a blowback. The most unfortunate part is that many in the security establishment do actually subscribe to the jihadist nonsense they have fed impressionable young minds. And others were reverse-indoctrinated. They are still gung ho about neatly boxing the killers as the good, the bad and the ugly Taliban. And the political appendages of the security establishment faithfully oblige by swiftly creating a fog around every Shara-e-Faisal, Kamra and Peshawar attack. These ITMs — ideological teller machines — return fatwas for cash. But the way they spring into action also suggests that it is not just that the powers that raised the jihadist proxies are flippant about dismantling this infrastructure of terror; they are actually very serious about preserving it.

Nothing has undermined Pakistan’s sovereignty like sharing it with the transnational jihadists like Osama bin Laden and his mentor, Abdullah Azzam, right to the Uzbek Tahir Yuldeshev. To restore it to its people would take a tectonic shift in the thinking of the security establishment, which does not seem be on the anvil. After dragging its feet on the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) operation, where many of the current legions of the transnational jihadists are, the Pakistani brass seems to have ‘successfully’ shelved it. It would not be a surprise if the Peshawar airport attackers were traced to their cohorts in NWA. But more ominous than any shelved operations, which, even when successful, are tactical victories at best, is using confusion as a strategy where clarity should have been demonstrated. But again, to many the dastardly terrorist attacks at home are merely the cost of doing business.

-This article was originally published by the Daily Times on Thursday, 20th December 2012. The writer can be reached at He tweets @mazdaki

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ghani Khan and I

as we grow and mature we sometimes discover those we put on pedestals are not perfect. Sometimes that is because we judge them by present day standards and others it is because life teaches us that the human condition is by nature imperfect -ed note

Everyone knows I love Ghani Khan to the point that he's my favorite intellectual of all times. I've even hesitated to read his work more critically and to read more about his life and interactions with others, especially women, because I have this great fear that I can't overcome: what if, God forbid, there's a line in some poem of his where he says something about women that has the potential to be offensive--or a line where he hints at women's perceived weakness, stupidity, lack of intellect, etc.? And then my worst fear regarding Ghani Baba's work actually saw life some months ago when I sat down and paid real close attention to one of the lyrics of a song the poetry for which was written by Ghani Baba. The poem is "Ey da lewanyano neeka." (The version by Takar can be heard here, but translation is available with the first link only. The lyrics alone can be found here, with no English translation.) Let me explain by first giving the context of the poem, then giving the verse with neighboring verses, and then my explanation of the verse--and, of course, the problem with it.
Ghani Khan with his granddaughter (1990) copyright

The poem is a conversation between two individuals, an elderly teacher-figure--a sage, a philosopher--who is full of wisdom and thought and a young person who's either in his late teens or early 20s. The youth asks the elderly different questions about love, life, spirituality, religion, people, and the elderly responds wisely. Let me share a stanza from this conversation to illustrate:

O' wise one! Which option is better, sainthood or worldly desires?
The flower of a pine tree, or a beloved's castle?
O' my child! The mountain peak is best for the eagle
A flower is best for the pine tree, the pine tree for the flower!

(From 2:56 - 3:28 here.) 

As you can see, the youngun presents two options or scenarios to the saintly figure and asks him which is better; the saint replies with something that'd be generally considered a moderate choice without giving an exact answer, sort of reminding the youth that there's a time and place for everything, a context for everything--or even that what works for one person may not necessarily work for everyone else. I recommend a read of the rest of the poem as well; it's too beautiful not to be read in its completion.

Then there's the last line ... of the verse that's trouble the qrratu out the me! Here's the whole stanza, from 4:10-end in the above link:

O' great philosopher! Which is better, ministry or imprisonment?
Self defense by my own small sickle or by a rented arsenal?
O' my child! The desert is the best place for crying for a beloved,
The throne of the villain isn't good - being tortured by a beloved's nose stud is better!
The friend of Yazid is not good, being a martyr of Karbala* is great!
Even woman is better than the man who is dependent on others!

[Note: Yazid is the tyrant who brutally murdered Prophet Muhammad's grandson Husain, the third Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shi' branch of Islam and a highly revered figure in Islamic history. Yazid thus symbolizes all tyrants and tyranny, while Husain symbolizes the oppressed--the righteous. Karbala, located in modern-day Iraq, is the place where the murder of Husain took place, and the city thus represents any battle field especially of a war against humanity or righteousness. Reference to Yazid and Karbala/Husain appear several times in Ghani Khan's poetry.]

So, you noted the last line above? It's the part from 4:52-4:56 in the song, BUT the translation there is actually quite incorrect, I'd say. They translated it as: "Dependent on others, feminist is better than such machismo!" 

Ghani Baba is referring to the man as the dependent one, which most probably means someone who's subjugated by someone else, a person who bows down or submits to another person or to an organization, etc.

And then he says "EVEN woman is better than the subjugated man!"... and a part of me asks, Ghani! How could you!

In Pashto: "Waak ye che da bal wi da dey nar na zanana kha da!"

What does it mean? It means that the woman is naturally weak, naturally dependent on others (which means man, of course), naturally incompetent, and men are by default better than women. BUT the one case where men are lower than women or are less worthy than women is when the man is dependent on others, when the man is subjugated by others. In that case, "even" woman is better than man. And not a specific type of woman--but woman in general, any woman, whether weak or strong or competent or incompetent or stupid or intelligent.

And so, I shared this dilemma with a Pashto poet I know on Facebook who is a huge fan of Ghani Baba and we have great conversations on the philosopher's life and poetry. This poet, named Nawaz, wrote something Ghani-related once that made me want to open up about this dilemma (and I’ll share his response in the second part of this post). Look, the thing is, everyone I know loves Ghani -- and I do, too. Even this line hasn't been successful enough for me to start disliking Ghani Baba. But what I mean is that it's almost unacceptable to express criticism for someone as revered as Ghani. Unfortunately, many people believe that you can't disagree with someone you respect. I tend to disagree with this thinking: I can disagree with people while loving and respecting them very much. In Ghani's case, it's not about disagreement - it's more than that: it's a perspective that has some unhealthy and dangerous implications, even if it is a reflection of already-upheld and societally-rooted views of gender norms and relations. But that doesn't mean it's not wrong or that it needs to be discussed or that it's potentially offensive.

As I mentioned above, all these years,  every since I have been introduced to Ghani Baba's work, I have deliberately avoided reading more of and more into Ghani's works because of the deep fear that he might have said something that I might read as offensive to women or any other gender or to any race. (Ghani Baba does value white/light skin to dark one, and that's troublesome, too. But we'll talk on that another time.) Really, that's like one of my worst fears with all people I like and think highly of: what if, despite their brilliance and power, they're actually no different from everyone else, from their society, when it comes to how women are viewed? For other, ordinary people, we can just say, "Oh, they don't know any better. Oh, they're slaves to their society and they're children of their society like we all are." But Ghani Baba wasn't like everyone else. He's not a "child" of our society. He transcended everything our society and people and religion and culture stood for, and so ... why did he say that? He was a social critic. He criticized our society and our religious leaders for their hypocrisy. He openly wrote about the crimes of our society, of our people. He said things that few would dare to say openly. He's most likely the first Pashtun to have been brave enough to tell us in our faces that "Hey, look, you Pukhtuns! Look at our hypocrisy: we love music but we hate the musician! We think lowly of the musician while enjoying music to death!"

So the explanation that he was just expressing the view of the society, of our people, of South Asians, of most cultures is, I think, far from being correct. Ghani Baba is the kind of man who would have easily said, "Screw you for thinking that women are inferior to men or to any other gender. Screw you for having the word nar for "man"! (In Pashto, the words for "man" are sarrey and nar, and nar also means "brave"; the words for "woman" are khaza and zan --and zan in Persian also means "woman" ... and "to beat," hah. A classmate of mine pointed this out to our Persian teacher when we were studying these words, and the teacher was really surprised to see that.

So that one line has been bothering me for some time. It is bothering me because Ghani Baba is the one who wrote it. If it weren't from someone as powerful, as influential, I wouldn't be concerned; but it is from him ... everything he says is right! Everything he says is wise!

I did when I first read him, and I do today even after having read an offensive (okay, okay, a potentially offensive) line from his poetry. And this poem I wrote a long time ago, "Weeping at Ghani's Grave" -- all of it still applies even after this! Because I want to believe that there's wisdom behind what he said. And there must be.

So I have come up with only two reasons for why Ghani must have written that line.

A poet's thoughts are a reflection of her/his society's norms, which may or may not be shared by the poet her/himself. Some of my own poetry has been such that I don't feel or think or agree with, but it's a certain thought that crosses my mind at that very specific point in time in which I'm writing, or it's something I imagine, or it's something my friends/other people are going through or believe or say or want. And so I imagine what it'd be like, and I write it down. This is common in poetry (although this is not to claim that I'm a poet at all).

Remember: Ghani was no conformist. He had criticized society, unjust, harmful, backward social norms and practices with ease. So he was not really a product of his time and place. He was above it all, he did not submit to anything. He had no problem and no trouble criticizing even certain religious practices that hinted at the practitioner's hypocrisy. Why and how would he then adopt any societal beliefs that contradicted whatever he stood for, such as equality and justice? Besides, his father, Ghaffar Khan, strongly believed in gender equality and fought for women's rights to things like equal access to good education--he even built schools for girls and made sure that females were being educated... and this was in the 1930s when education for females was hardly acceptable anywhere else! And here comes a Pashtun male leader fighting to educate girls and boys equally because he understood and appreciated the importance of female education. So, no, Ghani Baba was not a conformist by any means and really had no reason to write something as offensive as "women are naturally stupid, weak, incompetent, and dependent on others."

The whole poem is a conversation between two people, both of whom are representatives of certain thinking/lifestyles/ages/people. It is the mystic/philosopher who's telling the youngun that waak ye che da bal we da de nar na zanana na kha da (even woman is better than the man who's dependent on others).  Even if it were the youngun, it wouldn't matter to me anymore. What matters is that Ghani is not the speaker here! In much of his other poetry, the reader feels like Ghani is the speaker. Think of his "che masti wi ao zwani" or another random poem. Especially one he wrote while in prison. The reader senses that Ghani isn't just the poet of that poem but also the speaker. He's literally writing down his feelings into words and those words become a poem. So if he says anything "potentially offensive about women" or non-Muslims or any other group of people, then, yes, I'd have a reason to feel upset! But he doesn't. At least, none that I have come across. And I'm now certain I won't come across it, either. Ghani is really too humble to think lowly of anything--if anything, he sometimes seems to suggest that he thinks he's a worthless soul, which hurts my heart!


Who do you think represents the philosopher, the saintly figure, the elderly personality? It is, of course, Ghani Khan. Ghani Baba is the speaker of most of his poems, and he is the speaker in this poem. I'm not suggesting Ghani Baba claimed himself a holy figure, full wisdom and all. No, not at all. He expresses much humility in his poetry, in fact. But I'm suggesting that Ghani Baba is the speaker here - after all, how else is he able to answer such important questions being posed by the youngun? He's asking the questions from the perspective of, really, anyone, anyone who's looking for some lessons on love, life, spirituality, and Ghani Baba is offering those answers through the "mashar lewanay" (the philosopher, the elderly, the saint). 

-The writer is a PhD student of Islamic Studies with emphasis on gender relations in Islamic law and the Pashtun society. She blogs at and tweets @qrratugai.

- a poem I wrote reflecting on Ghani called "Weeping at Ghani's Grave" that can be accessed here:

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Peshawar: Enemy past the gate

Originally published by the News
Saturday, December 08, 2012, re-posted today after the recent attack on Peshawar airport-ed 

How do you tell the difference between apathy and fatalism? This is the question a few concerned citizens of Peshawar often ask themselves every time they hear of another rocket attack or suicide attack or another story of a piece of the city’s heritage being lost.

This attitude reminds me of the story of a king who defeated a proud opponent. The cruel king wanted to teach the man a lesson and killed one of his three sons. Inviting the father to dinner, he served his enemy the remains of the man’s son to him. As he saw his beaten enemy, eating he told him the gruesome truth and ordered him to keep eating. The elderly man briefly paused and with a sad face continued to eat. Afterwards the king’s minister, revolted by the king’s actions, asked the poor man how he could continue eating. The man replied, “I had three sons. Two are still living.” Such is fatalism....

The terrorist attacks in Peshawar rarely get much attention and it is even rarer for the effects of these attacks on the city to be reported. Geographically the city covers 1,257 square miles and four National Assembly constituencies. It is unique in that it borders three tribal zones – the Khyber Agency, Darra Adam Khel and the Mohmand Agency.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has suffered 166 suicide attacks, with 1,930 dead and 4,502 injured, from 2006 to 2012. In the first three months of 2009, there were 200 kidnappings for ransom in Peshawar, from 599 in 2006 of which only three led to convictions. The city suffered a staggering 120 incidents of terrorism in 2011 averaging ten per month.

In all this, one would expect the government to have invested in the Frontier Constabulary (FC), and the police, by recruiting extra manpower and intelligence operations. Instead of that, from 31 police stations in Peshawar in 2006, there were 30 in 2008. There have been 235 policemen killed and 496 injured; the killed include well known figures like the late Safwat Ghayur and Malik Saad. Breaking it down, two DIGs, three superintendents of police (SPs) and a number of DSPs and station house officers (SHOs) have been killed since the last quarter of 2006.

With one fourth of the Frontier Constabulary deployed outside the province, 119 men have died with 247 injured. Despite this, an official of the federal interior ministry informed the Peshawar High Court that a quarter of the force was deployed outside the province. While 367 FC platoons were deputed within the KP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), only 78 were assisting provincial police and 109 were active in different army operations and another 95 FC platoons deputed outside KP of which 45 were deployed in Karachi, 35 in Islamabad and 15 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

To add insult to injury, the city’s plight is not due to a lack of political representation – out of the two ministers in the federal cabinet both Ghulam Bilour and Arbab Alamgir hail from Peshawar. Within the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly, both the speaker and deputy speaker are from Peshawar, while one senior minister and three provincial ministers are from Peshawar. Their collective inability to mobilise the federal government or build support for the battered city in the country speaks volumes about the failure of leadership. There is also a lesson for the rest of Pakistan in the plight of Peshawar, as the attacks this Muharram have shown – a problem allowed to fester somewhere in the country will eventually become a problem everywhere.

The writer is founder of the site and tweets @qisskhwani

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Cultural balance

-originally written 9th Decemeber 2012

by Peymana Assad

Many Afghans living in the west would class themselves as political refugees, forced to leave their homeland because of continuous war. We came here in the hope of finding peace, education and the freedom to practice our religion without being persecuted. That is exactly what we found but there have been a few things that we have had to fight harder to keep, our culture. Culture is not just confined to speaking an Afghan language or following the customs set by it, according to Afghan tradition it is also marrying an Afghan. Marriage in the Afghan community in the west is slowly starting to bring up different problems, though some may see this topic as controversial , let us not deny there are underlying issues here that is our duty as Afghans to uncover.

A continuing number of Afghan girls and boys are returning to Afghanistan and choosing a life partner from there, bringing the problems of their partners finding it difficult to assimilate into British Afghan culture. Whilst others choose to marry a non Afghan putting into question the importance of culture as a whole. Whether you see these two occurrences as problematic or not, I want to ask why is this happening?

Speaking to the parents of these children and the children themselves they claim there are no well educated and cultured Afghans left in the west. The boys claim the girls living in the west have lost their culture and become too westernised, whilst the girls claim the same problem in the men. However this is not true. Afghans are not behind other ethnic communities living here, we are just as educated and cultured as them, if not more. Then why are those claims so difficult to ignore and who is to blame?

The blame falls on us, the Afghan community as a whole.

The problem is not that we are losing our culture living in western countries. It is because we are failing in moderating between our culture and western culture. Parents don’t know how to find the balance. They are either extremely demanding of their children or not at all. Those parents who are strict, have high demands in education and social conduct from their children, risking pushing them away from embracing Afghan culture and pursuing successful professions of their own choice. In comparison to those who are very relaxed with their rules, who fail to teach their children the importance of holding onto culture and its significance for the future of their community.

Living in Britain, Afghan children have the opportunity to be something other than a doctor, engineer or teacher, leading a comfortable lifestyle is no longer confined to a certain profession. They also want the opportunity to use social networking sites, go out to the cinema with friends and interact with classmates, which are of the opposite sex, without being punished for it. You cannot expect your child to pursue the career choice you want nor can you expect them not to want the same freedoms as other children their age.

It is these social pressures that confine Afghan youth to seeing Afghan culture as suffocating and western culture as liberating. Leading to a wave of youth that dislike their culture, only pursue education to a satisfactory level rather than the ability they could have and push for more social freedom by causing friction with their parents. And this adds up. In the future it is these children that are sent to Afghanistan to find a life partner or end up themselves choosing to marry a non Afghan, bringing a wave of other problems.

If we want the next generation to admire Afghan culture then we must find moderation between ourselves and the western society that we face. Balance is essential, not only for the health of a community but for the mind of the community.

A Chinese proverb says that if you hold a fish too tight it will fall out of your grasp and if you hold it too loose it will also fall out of your grasp. The Afghan child is the fish we are holding. We need to grasp it in such a way that it stays with us but is also content being there. For if we fail in this test, any hopes of future generations one day returning to their homeland will also fade.

- The writer recently completed my MA at Kings College London and tweets at @PeymanaAssad
- Original BBC Pashto Column

- Translated BBC Urdu Column

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dilip Kumar: A legend by any definition

originally published by the Daily Times -ed note

By M. Taqi

Born in Peshawar on December 11,1922 Mohammad Yousuf Khan marks his 90th birthday today. To the millions of his fans around the world he is known as Dilip Kumar – the Last Emperor of Indian cinema as his biographer Sanjit Narwekar had put it. To us, the Peshawarites – or Pishoris as we like to call ourselves – he remains one of the four prodigious sons we had gifted to the Bombay film industry – Prithviraj Kapoor, Ranbir Raj Kapoor aka RK Saab and Zakariya Khan ‘Jayant’, being the other three.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Malala's diary

In a QK first one of our contributors has translated Malala Yousafzai's diaries into Pashto . Please let us know in the comments section your views on this effort -ed

د ملاله یوسفزي ډايري

سنیچر، ۳ جنوری
زه وېرېدم نو ژر ژر روانه شوم

پرون مې ټوله شپه داسې وېروونکې خوب ولیدو چي ټول ورکې فوجیان، چورلکی (هیلي کوپټري) او طالبان ښکاریدل. په سوات کښې د اپریشن شورو کیدو راهسی هم داسې خوبونه بیا بیا وینم. مور مې د ګهیځ ډوډۍ راکړه او بیا زه تیاره شوم او د ښوونځی په لور روانه شوم. ښوونځی ته تلو په وخت ډیره وېرېدم ځکه چې طالبانو اعلان کړی و چې جینکۍ دی ښوونځی ته نه ځي.
نن د ښوونځی په غونډه (اسمبلي) کښې هیډ ماسټری وویل چې د طالبانو د وېره ښوونځی یونیفارم ختمیږي او په وړندې نه د کور جامو کښې راځئ. هغې مونږ په دې هم پوهه کړو چې که په لاره کښې طالبان راشي نو څه کول پکار دي.
نن زمونږ ټولګۍ ته په اوه ویشت جینکو کښې صرف یوولس جینکۍ راغلي دي. دا شمیر ځکه کم شوی ده چې هغوي د طالبانو د اعلان نه پسته وېرېدلې دي. زما درې ملګري خپلو کډو سره پیښور، لاهور او پنډي ته ولاړو.
پاوَکم پہ یوه بجه ښوونځی نه رخصتي و شوه. د کور په لار ما د یو سړی غږ واوریدو چې ویل یي  *زه به تا نہ پرېـږدم*. زه وېرېدم او چټکه روانه شوم. چې لږه مخکی لاړم نو شاته مې اوکتل او پوهې شوم چې هغه بل چا ته دړکی کوي. ما خو ویل که ما ته لګیا دی.
اتوار، ۴ جنوری
سبا ښوونځی ته تګ دی، زړه مې درزیږي

نن رخصتي ده ځکه زه په شل منټه کم لس بجی پاڅېدم خو پاڅېدو سره مې پلار راته دا بد خبر واورولو چې نن بیا په ګرین چوک کښې درې مړي موندلی شوی دي. د دې پيښې په وجه د غرمی په وخت زما زړه خرابیدو. کله چې سوات کښې فوځي عملیات نه وو شورو شوي، هغه وخت به مونږ ټوله کورنۍ  مرغزار، فضاګټ او کانجو ته پکنک له پاره تلو. اوس وضع دومره ورانه شوي ده چې دوه کاله اوشول چې مونږ پکنک ته نه یو لاړ.
مونږ به د ماښام ډوډۍ نه پس هم چکر ته وتلو. اوس خو د حالاتو د لاسه خلک ماښام وختي کورونو ته ستانه شي. نن ما د کور چاری لاری وکړی، د ښوونځی کار مې اوکو او څه وخت پس مې وړوکي ورور سره لوبی وکړی. سبا بیا ښوونځی ته ورتګ دی او زړه مې د اوسه نه درزیږي.

ګل، ۵ جنوری
برګوترګو جامو کښې مه راځئ
نن چې ما د ښوونځی جامی راخیستو له لاس وغزاوه  نو ما ته رایاد شول چې هیډ ماسټرې ویلې وو چې بیا نه ښوونځی ته د کور جامو کښې راځئ. ما خپل زړه پوری ګلابي جامې واغیستی. ښوونځی کښې ټولو جینکو د کور کالي اغوستي وو نو ښوونځی د کور په شان ښکاریده.
په دې وخت کښې زما یوه ملګری چې وېرېدلي وه  زما خوا له راغله او بیا بیا يي ما ته د قران قسم راکولو او پښتنه یي کوله، *د خدای د پاره رښتیا رښتیا اوایه! زمونږ ښوونځی ته د طالبانو له غاړی خطره خو نشته؟* ما به ښوونځی د پاره پیسی د یونیفارم په جیب کښې کیښودی خو نن چې ما خپل لاس جیب ته اچولو کوشش کولو نو زما لاس به لاندی اوخوئیدو ځکه زما د کور جامو کښې خو د سره جیب شته هم نه.
نن مونږ ته د ښوونځی اسمبلي کښې بیا اویلی شول چې په ډیرو رنګینو جامو کښې دې نه راځو ځکه چي په دې باندی هم طالبان خپا کیدی شي.
د ښوونځی رخصتي نه پس کور ته راغلم او ډوډۍ خوړلو نه پسته مې د ټیوشن سبق اوویلو. ماښام مې چې ټي وي اولګولو نو په هغې کښې اوویل شول چې شکردرې نه پنځلس ورځني ګرځ بندیز (کرفیو) ختم شو. زه ډیره خوشاله شوم ځکه چي زمونږ د انګریزې استاذ هم د دغه ځای دي او کیدي شی هغه سبا پنځلس ورځو پس درس ورکولو د پاره ښوونځی ته راشي.
ژباړه: ازاد پشتون  

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A leaf from history: The London conspiracy?

By Shaikh Aziz

During the second year of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, one fine morning the news media flashed a report titled London Plan. Since then the term has become synonymous for intrigues and sedition. Was it a fact or a drama that was staged to malign the Pakhtun leader Wali Khan and his National Awami Party (NAP), or an attempt to extend PPP rule to the province where the NAP had a coalition government with Mufti Mahmood’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI).

The government claimed that the discovery of an arms cache from Iraqi Embassy in Islamabad was a part of the conspiracy to break Pakistan and create a greater Balochistan by annexing Iranian Balochistan with Pakistani Balochistan. The arms were reportedly meant for the separatists of Pakistani Balochistan. Later it was added that the NAP was working for independent Pakhtunistan.
The NAP Baloch leaders, Bizenjo, Mengal, Gul Nasir v Wikipedia

It started in September 1972 when Kausar Niazi, the information minister and a close confidant of Bhutto, claimed that NAP chief Wali Khan and his colleagues had hatched a conspiracy to break Pakistan into semi-independent units. He alleged that this occurred when Wali Khan visited London for eye treatment. It was claimed that then Balochistan chief minister Attaullah Mengal and Balochistan Finance Minister Ahmad Nawaz Bugti met Bangladeshi prime minister Shaikh Mujibur Rahman in London and discussed the plan.

This was corroborated by a speech by the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti at Mochi Gate, Lahore, on January 31, 1973, claiming that Wali Khan and Attaullah Mengal had told him about the ‘Greater Independent Balochistan’ plan through which Balochistan would gain independence. He also claimed that the assistance for implementing the plan was coming from Greater Balochistan Centre in Baghdad. (We have never heard of any such centre in Baghdad, Iraq. It was all an orchestrated plan by ZA Bhutto to dissolve the Balochistan’s (non-PPP) government at the orders of Shah of Iran).

The reports about the London Plan appeared in news media in Pakistan as well as in the UK, which created a stir among the general public as they were just coping with the shock of separation of Bangladesh. Bhutto asked for an explanation from Bizenjo to which he reaffirmed loyalty with Pakistan but could not satisfy Bhutto. Subsequently, the Balochistan government was dissolved on February 14, 1973, while the KP government resigned in protest the next day. Wali Khan, Attaullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Khair Bukhsh Mari, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, Habib Jalib — in all 52 activists were arrested.

The situation became very intriguing as NAP leaders rejected the government claim and said that the ploy was hatched by the then Interior Minister Abdul Qayyum Khan. When the story broke out in a London newspaper, Shaikh Mujibur Rahman on his own told The Times that the news was baseless and that it was engineered by the central government which wanted to create an excuse to dissolve the NAP-led KP government.

On the face of it the whole episode appeared to be a well-planned fiasco. It appeared true that the arms cache was meant for the Baloch activists but who would have distributed it? This could not be established. An open debate in the National Assembly was not allowed on the ground that it was a sensitive issue and involved a foreign Muslim country; this closed all possible explanations that could have surfaced.

One proposed argument sounds plausible: the Bhutto factor. The experience of the past 10 months proved that Bhutto did not like two border provincial governments in partnership of the NAP. Despite the Tripartite Accord with the NAP and JUI the centre did not fulfil many conditions that were agreed upon on March 6, 1972. Both the provincial leaders had been complaining about it but nothing was being solved. The interference in provincial matters was irritating both the governments. All that the NAP wanted was greater provincial autonomy and less interference in the working of the provincial governments.

Hyderabad Conspiracy trial via Doc Kazi flickr
In the light of these developments, what was the truth about the London Plan? As the scheme of things unravelled, the plan seemed a well-conceived mechanism to slander the NAP leadership and its partner JUI. This was achieved. With the Presidential rule clamped, the ruling party had been able to break the party structure.

Later, a Hyderabad Tribunal was set up to investigate the allegations and prosecute those found involved in seditious activities. Since prosecution did not have ample evidence the proceedings remained almost dormant. Soon Bhutto got entangled in such a political mess that it led him first to become a hostage at the hands of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) and later his hand-picked army chief Gen. Ziaul Haq who overthrew his government and sent him to the gallows. The Hyderabad Tribunal was wound up and all detainees were released, but only after rotting in jail till 1979.

-originally published by the Daily Times of Pakistan 31/10/12 . republished with permission for information purposes

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Forbidden Love: Tales From Pashtunkhwa

By SesapZai and Shaheen Buneri

Love is the emotional, psychological and spiritual need of every human being to survive among the harsh realities of life. It is not a socially limited phenomenon, for people also find love in societies that are marred by war and political instability. If, on the one hand, certain people want to spread hatred and promote violence on the basis of religion, colour, ethnicity, political ideals and economic interests, there are others who believe in the beauty of the human heart and advocate love, humanity, and a peaceful co-existence.

The Pashtun dominated region along the Pak-Afghan border is a land of beauty where snow-capped mountains, gushing rivers, alpine forests, fascinating meadows, and a rich Buddhist cultural heritage make an ideal environment for poetry and love.

Yet, at the same time, the Pashtun society is passing through a transitional phase. The whole region from Swat to Waziristan is in the grip of unprecedented violence, where military operations are in full swing and natural disasters displace families from their ancestral homes. The slow phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction further erodes people’s trust in the State institutions. Confusion, fear and an acute sense of uncertainty prevails, and centuries old Pashtun social values, cultural traditions, and customs are confronted with serious challenges for their survival. A network of militant groups and organizations want to impose their extremist version of Islam on the local communities that is resulting into stifling delicate emotions of the heart.

Further, romantic love is considered taboo – it is a revolt and an attack on the established moral and ethical system. Not only is romantic love wholly discouraged and condemned, but it sometimes results in the loss of precious human lives. Hence, Pashtun romanticism is deep, fierce and devastating!

There are characters in Pashtun social history like Adam Khan, Durkhanai, Yousaf Khan, Sherbano, Sher Alam and Mamonai, who followed the call of their hearts and refused to surrender to the exploitative customs and traditions of the society. Perhaps, at that time, Pashtun society condemned and persecuted these revolutionaries; but for the modern Pashtun youth, they are celebrated as heroes and heroines. Such is the power of the human heart! These romantic tales thus craft the very soul of Pashtun arts and literature, and inspire generations after generations to pursue their dreams and build their own worlds.
Although, Pashtun romantic folk tales are the stories of unfulfilled love, of betrayals and of immense human sacrifice, it is important to note that romantic love is rarely practiced and showcased openly for the reason that it is considered “forbidden.” This is primarily due to religious and cultural practices, especially if exercised outside the sanctity of marriage. Most Pashtuns have their marriages arranged by their families, and people commonly marry within the tribe or close knit family circles. Any type of love before marriage is considered “taboo,” and commonly ends in tears, broken hearts, lost familial ties/disownment, and perhaps even death. Hence, the idea that “love comes after marriage” is every so often accepted as the norm.

Conversely, this study will attempt to examine the idiosyncratic concept of romantic love and what it means, especially in the Eastern/Pashtun context. It will also take a close look at how romantic love was secretly practiced, among the Pashtun locality, not only in past history, but also in the most recent and current time.

A recent interesting account is that of Pashtuns who were internally displaced (IDP) not only during the rise of Taliban extremism, in 2008, especially in Swat, but also due to massive flooding that occurred in parts of Pakistan, including Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in 2010. Albeit, extremism and flooding itself had extremely negative impacts, this was also a time when love was in the air; for young Pashtuns attained the opportunity to meet and fall in love in an open space, unlike that to which they were originally accustomed. Even during the flooding, war, and violence that had forcefully enveloped the region in despair, many Pashtuns were able to escape their horrid realities by creating a separate world in which they lost themselves in the euphoric solace of romantic love. It is no wonder that there was an influx of marriages once the IDPs returned back to their respective homes.

Moreover, this study will document romantic love stories of thirty Pashtun couples who have managed to overcome taboos of forbidden love. They are the modern Adam Khans and Durkhanais of our time for they, too, like the historical star-struck lovers, had to struggle through a plethora of religious and cultural obstacles to be with the one they love. One will quickly learn, through these personal narratives, how these star-struck couples have stopped to no end to achieve love, even if it meant putting their lives at risk.

However, it is also important to note that despite the positive element of romantic love, not all love stories necessarily have a happy ending; and this topic will also be covered in the study.

All in all, this study strives to examine the changing patterns of romantic love in the modern Pashtun society. Readers will get a first-hand peek into the hearts of those Pashtuns who want to keep the flame of love alive in a society devastated by decades of war and violence.

- The writers tweet at @Sesapzai and @shaheenbuneri 

© November 2012