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Monday, December 31, 2007

Reaction ...

One of the few characteristics that differentiates us humans from other animals, psychologists say, is our sense of humour. Perhaps this is what keeps us going through life, in the face of many tragedies.

I apologize to those who may be offended, but I'd like to close the year with an image that, despite the ever-present and haunting memory of the terrible death of BB, cannot but bring a momentary smile to our faces.

This image, taken from the Internet, shows the reaction of two great leaders, after a third had - in their opinion - gone overboard in his speech eulogizing Ms Bhutto.

May we all have a peaceful 2008!

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Waiting for Zola

For understandable reasons, every now and then in the course of our brief and tragedy-riddled national history, I am reminded of a piece of journalism that has been referred to, by many, as the greatest newspaper article, ever.

Written in defence of Alfred Dreyfus - falsely accused, tried, and convicted for crimes against the state in France (yes - neither we nor the USA hold a patent on this!) - its author was novelist Emile Zola, whom Anatole France called, “a moment in the conscience of man.”

Click on the image to read a webpage on the event
and here if you want to download a 15-page pdf
file of the annotated article itself.)

On January of 1998 France held a memorial on the centenary of J’Accuse, at which President Chirac said: Let us never forget the courage of a great writer who, taking every risk, putting his tranquility, his fame, even his life in peril, dared to pick up his pen and place his talent in the service of truth.

Zola's article, the stories that surrounded it, and his books - those available in English - were part of my partially enforced literary diet. I can still recall the aroma of the tattered special edition of Zola's J'accuse & Vérité that I was made to read, by my father, as part of a deal involving a strongly recommended trio of books. These were books he thought I, despite being a voracious and precocious reader, may not ever pick up of my own volition - though about one (Thoms Paine's The Rights of Man) I am sure he was wrong. I would have gotten to it sooner or later. The third was the massive Tilismé Hosh Ruba - an immense Urdu work of fantasy and fiction that I could not let go of once I started on it ... but would have probably avoided, at least at that age, without his egging me on. Thanks, Abi - for this and so much more!
ThE 'DEAL': We had come home after watching a re-run of the brilliant movie version of H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds (still worth watching ... and essential, in fact, to counter the disgust one is left with after seeing the recent remake) and Abi had finished his dramatacized re-telling - for the Nth time in my 17 years of life - of Orson Welles's famous radio broadcast, when I asked him for the key to his bookshelves. I was excited and wanted to read anything by Wells. And he said I'd have to read Zola first! Huh? I was suddenly and genuinely tearful (a state he could never bear to see) and he relented. But he made me promise that I'd read the three books soon. For the record, I read Zola immediately after reading The Time Machine the same week.
Is there anyone here who would be a Zola? There are many among the younger journalists - in print and on the electronic media - who have instilled hope in me that, yes, the time has come when, soon, someone will take up this challenge, albeit made much more difficult by the increased stakes.

This is not to say that we have not had courageous voices of dissent in the past, but I am looking for the one voice, the one piece of journalism that, a hundred years down the line, would be remembered with the same respect as Emile Zola and J'accuse.


By the way, this offer is unbeatable: All of Zola (in Hardcover) for $3.01!


Footnote: In 1958 Abi and I saw Jose Ferrer's portrayal of Dreyfus in a film that, though not extra-ordinary by any means, added to our combined admiration of this amazing actor.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

O' what a tangled web we weave ...

The conspiracy theories have only just begun.

What fans them? The general lack of credibility of all people in power is one element ... but it certainly helps when, in what looks to many as an effort to clear one's tracks, representatives of those in power make one statement, modify it, make yet another that contradicts the first ... and go on doing this ad nauseum. If you add to that, in the specific case of Ms Bhutto's killing, washing away all signs of forensic evidence (in much the same manner as the Lal Masjid evidence was destroyed, as General Durrani pointed out on a TV program today), people actually begin to wonder ....

Why don't they ever learn that Truth is best is beyond me. Maybe one needs to be a liar - or, at the very least, an actor - in order to become a spokesperson for all governments. But, surely, they can afford some seasoned ones, like Corporations do.

That who killed BB will never be known (with so many people gunning for her, as I had indicated in my modified MAD cover that now seems sadly ominous) was something I was prepared to accept - having been brought up on unsolved assassinations, from Pakistan's first PM Liaquat's to American President JFK's. But that we won't know what killed her has come as a bit of a shock, thanks to the government's bungling of everything.

Soon after the occurrence of what Air Marsall Asghar Khan rightly called the most dangerous event in Pakistan's history, we were informed that BB had received 2 wounds in her head and 1 in her neck from an assassin's bullets, shortly after a blast - which some referred to as a diversionary tactic - claimed several other lives in this great tragedy.

One can understand that the first reports are never absolutely accurate, since statements are given by people who are confused and in shock at the time. Slowly, though, clearer pictures begins to emerge. So I waited until the DAWN, in cold print, gave us the official Government version:
RAWALPINDI, Dec 27: An assassin’s bullet killed Benazir Bhutto on Thursday in what the government described as a gun-and-bomb suicide attack immediately after the former prime minister had addressed an election rally of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh park.
Also, in the same paper was a report that described how the hospital had dealt with the emergency.
A REPORT sent by the Rawalpindi General Hospital to the Health Department of the Punjab provincial government said all efforts by its doctors to revive Ms Bhutto failed and she was declared dead exactly 41 minutes after she was brought at its emergency department at 5.35pm with open wounds on her left temporal bone from which “brain matter was exuding”.

It said the PPP leader was not breathing at the time and her pulse and blood pressure “were not recordable”.

The report said “immediate resuscitation (process) was started” and she was taken to the operation theatre where the same was done by a team of doctors headed by Prof Musaddiq Khan, principal of the Rawalpindi Medical College.

“Left antrolateral thoracotomy for open cardiac massage was performed,” it said and added: “In spite of all the possible measures she could not be revived and (was) declared dead at 1816 (6.16pm) hours.”

The report said a post-mortem examination of Ms Bhutto’s body was not carried out at the hospital “because the district administration and police had not requested the hospital authorities (for this)”.
So, after more than a day of assimilating this, dispelling feelings of disbelief, and coming to terms with the horrible reality, for many people around the world (including international TV newsreaders who found it difficult to hide their incredulity) Brig. Cheema's revelations came as a total surprise, just as did Dr. Musaddiq's earlier press conference changing his own story. (I am not sure if surgeons hold such press conferences, unless "requested" to do so by the authorities).

With a straight face - and after labouring repeatedly over the fact that the government had provide Ms Bhutto with the best security possible - the obviously not-too-straight Cheema sahab informed us that BB had not been felled by a bullet, nor been hit by a pellet or piece of shrapnel. She had, he alleged, died while trying to duck back into her vehicle from the sunroof through which she had stood up and waved to the crowd, hitting her head against a lever in the process. This injury had caused a fracture that precipitated in her death. He then proceeded to show us a video of BB - courting danger, without doubt - and the sounds of the 3 gunshots and BB disappearing down the opening. Of course, the actual moment of her hitting her head on the lever was not captured on video, but that's a minor detail for him, I guess. Like much else in this pre-fab construction of the fable.

The spokesperson underscored the new theory by waving printouts of X-ray images clearly indicating the absence of any objects (bullets, pellets, ettc.) that could have caused such damage and distributed the images to all present, as if the journalists would have been instantly able to verify anything by looking at them, much less that they were, indeed, those of BB's head. And when were the X-rays taken, I wonder. Certainly not as she was brought in ... they had to start on saving her life right away ... and certainly not after she passed away, which would have been quite pointless.

Also, there were a couple of minor problems which could, in all fairness, be results of genuine misunderstandings: (1) Dawn's Update quotes him as saying, “The lever struck near her right ear and fractured her skull ...” , while the earlier medical report talks about injuries on the left side, and (2) He stated that the family had requested that no post-mortem be performed, while yesterday's press information indicated that it was not performed because the police had not requested it.

One amazing aspect of the conference was his insistence to call the tragedy an Al Qaeda engineered 'assassination'. Hello?!?!? This is no time for being facetious, but I do wonder that - with no bullet or bomb piece involved - what assassination are we talking about? Did Al Qaeda plant the lever?

Someone suggested to me, when I brought this up, that 'the explosion startled her and caused her to move in a way that led to the accident that, in turn, led to her death'. Hmmm. I wonder if a court of law would establish through this Rube Goldbergian route that the guy who caused the explosion was her 'murderer'. I mean I can understand that he could be caught for disturbing the peace, malafide intent, vaghaerah vaghaerah, but for her murder? I doubt it. I recall a cricket match in which a spectator died of a heart attack when our delightful Merry Max (whom some of the older Urdu-reading ones among you may also recall as the character, Maqsood Gho∂a, of Shafiqur Rahman's humourous books) was bowled out at 99! By this stupid reasoning Max - or even the Indian bowler - could have been charged with a crime!

But Monsieur Cheema was not done yet. He then decided to offer proof of Al Qaeda's role in the 'killing' by reading us the translation of a Pushto transcript of a conversation between a Maulvi and Baitullah Mahsood (of the Al Qaeda) that our intelligence agencies had taped. Listen to it carefully when you watch the video of Cheema sahab's conference - as soon as it finds its inevitable way to YouTube. I am unconvinced ... and my skepticism is based on the following observations:
1. Neither party mentions who has been killed.
2. They seem to be surprisingly unexcited about having assassinated someone who, to them, must certainly be a major victim.
3. Baitullah Mahsood, who
must know that his calls get tracked at times, provides information about who he is staying with, risking being caught.
4. The references to a killing in that call could be to any of the several that Al Qaeda are supposed to be engaged in. Even if the call can be proved to have taken place on the same day as BB's killing, there is no reason to believe that it was to her that they were referring. After all, there'd been another attack the same day.
5. The transcript of the Mahsood tape that's been handed over in English and is now on many websites has a phrase about "killing her". The actual video recording says "killing him" ... but Cheema has 'explained' in the conference that that was a mistake the caller made because Pathans get confused when speaking about gender. Yes, they do: in Urdu! But these two were speaking in their mother tongue, Pushtu, so there should be no confusion.

Since I could only assume that all these arguments presented by Brig. Cheema - especially those that dealt with the medical examination and reports - were full of more holes than a lawn-sprinkler, I decided to ask a neighbour, my friend Dr. Shamim. Over to him!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

At least SHE will rest in peace!

For this country,
things will continue to get
a lot worse before they get a lot worse!

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A plug for zEd News

Some of you may be aware that I send out an informal (and free) education e-newsletter, kind of irregularly, to a small list of subscribers - or those recommended by subscribers (with an 'opt out' option, of course). It is heartening to note (when I receive an occasional email, from the unlikeliest of spots, referring to it) that it is also forwarded by some to their own friends .

Aimed primarily at the K-12 sector, the content, over years, has featured links to websites, book reviews, introductions to major influential educationists and their ideas - especially the more radical ones - as well as articles culled from other Ed Mags. I have sought permission to include the latter - and received it often, but not always. When the request has neither been acknowledged nor granted, but not explicitly refused, I have gone right ahead and included the pieces (with a reference to the source) and will continue to do so until a cease and desist order finds its way into my Spam Box ;-) ... an unlikely happening, given that the readership is not large enough for bigwigs to bother with.

Starting in the new year, this free mailing will now merge my standard education newsletter (usually 1-4 pages long) and its similar sister venture, that focused on education technology, into a single weekly edition under the tongue-in-cheek zEd News masthead which hopes it'll leave its mark.

The first few issues will touch upon the following topics:
• Corporate Sponsorships & Ed Institutions
• Teaching Ethics & Values
• The ID Controversy
• The New Libraries

If you are not among the recipients and wish to subscribe to it, or recommend someone interested in education who may enjoy getting it, please email me and send me the names and email addresses or pass mine to your friends.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season's Greetings

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Bakray kee maañ kay naam!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Victory takes several forms, Sir ...

You may think you've won

but Majrooh doesn't think so!

The whole ghazal is now available
at my earlier post which is getting populated
fairly fast with links to some of the poets mentioned therein.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Jalib Session at T2F

The Habib Jalib evening at T2F was not quite what I'd expected it to be. No, it wasn't bad. Everyone else seems to have enjoyed it a lot, with many people discovering him anew and suddenly wanting to get hold of ATJ (to use Adil Najam's tarkeeb).

The kulliyaat has been ordered by some, and everyone wants a CD or two with his recitations (the CDs will be available at T2F after Eed, folks!) ... Surprisingly, many have also asked for a copy of the video that was shown that evening.

From my point of view there were two problems: I felt a bit unsatiated at the end - since very little was really said about him that we did not all know: He was honest. He was committed. He recited well. He had a lovely voice. The few anecdotes that were recounted were the best part and provided greater insight into the man who was - though in a very different manner - the avaamiest poet after Nazeer Akbarabaadi.

The crowd, too, was not as large as it usually is at such events - but that's because NAPA (Is the 'K' silent?) was staging a play, there were two political meetings the same evening, and APMC was screening Dilli-based Yusuf Saeed's Khayal Darpan --- a well-made documentary on Pakistan's Classical Music performers.

I wish a representative of WAF had been there to talk about his strong and encouraging presence at the protests in Lahore during the dark Zia days.

Despite the fact that everyone wanted a copy, it was the video really put me off. The TV channel 'edit' that the co-host, Mujahid Barelvi, had brought along must be among the worst examples of editing I have seen lately. The DVD contained all the broadcast material (badvertisements and that overwhelming Mujahid bit that appears far too frequently in his Doosra Pehlu) - with (aaaargh!) the permissions to FF or REW removed. The main documentary shows extracts from Faris Kermani's documentary, made for BBC's Channel 4 TV. Aitzaz Ahsan and Tariq Ali are among those who appear in it. (I have seen the Faris film, before it was hacked into this gruesome shape. Titled 'Habib Jalib - Poetry of Defiance', it is well worth seeing and appears in various net searches.)

To be fair, the 'mauled' video does feature a sprinkling of choice Jalib pieces recorded at a London gathering, with Zehra [Nigah] Apa presiding. Reciting to a theatre-style seated audience was not Jalib's style. It seemed too formal and incongruous to those of us who have heard him at his best when he recited at the Karachi Press Club, or at mushaeraas and protests that had thousands of attendees, many only coming to the event because he was going to be there.

One of my favourite pieces, Musheer, is included in the video - but I much prefer his very first recitation of it at a mushaaerah held in remembrance of poet Nazar Hyderabadi, with Faiz sahab presiding, while Ayub Khan was lording over Pakistan. My recording, made at that event - on a small portable spool recorder (remember those?) - may not be as good in quality as the professionally recorded version in London, but it does capture the electric atmosphere that Jalib always created with his presence. Incidently, the musheer in question is none other than Ayub's adviser (and author of our National Anthem), poet Hafeez Jalandhari - a loathsome man - who had threatened to 'report' Jalib to the authorities if he did not stop his critical writings against that Dictator-President.

The session ended with Shaeri's answer to Zakir Naik - Wajid Jawad, blogger Jamash (left), and myself reciting selections.

Come March 2008 I will organize another event around Habib Jalib's death anniversary at T2F. If any of you knew him well and can be present to share some insights and stories (or even email them to me - with a short audio/video bit, if possible - it'd be just great!).

Meanwhile, if you wish to hear another great Jalib piece - one that is probably the nazm he was most asked to recite - visit an earlier post of mine where I have begun to add the promised links for some of the poets mentioned in it.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of interests to Diabetics during the Holiday [and, in Pakistan, also the Wedding] Season!

Dr. Barnett offers the following tips to help people with diabetes enjoy a healthful holiday season:

1. Follow a regular exercise routine to help regulate metabolism. Don't have an hour to spare? Try 10– or 15– minute brisk walks at intervals throughout the day – they all add up. Remember, after a holiday meal, to wait 60 to 90 minutes before taking your walk.

2. Eat something at home before you go to the event or party. When you're hungry, you tend to overeat and are likely to choose foods that are less healthy. Grab a piece of fruit on the way out to the party to tide you over.

3. Enjoy those special holiday foods in moderation. Pass on the everyday foods like crackers and dip. Instead, take small portions of special holiday items. A small portion is less likely to upset blood sugar levels.

4. At parties and other social events, gravitate toward the veggies and fresh fruit.

5. Make water or diet sodas your beverages of choice. If you do choose to drink alcohol, be sure to have something to eat along with it.

6. Remember to monitor your blood glucose level, and be sure you don't skip meals.

7. Take extra care to be certain that your meals are nutritious, varied and balanced. If you do have a treat, make sure you substitute it for an equivalent item in your regular menu.

8. Be positive. Remember that you control your diabetes; it doesn't control you.

An estimated one–third of those affected by diabetes go undiagnosed for several years. Symptoms of diabetes include extreme thirst, frequent urination and blurry vision from time to time. Early symptoms of the disease include unexplained weight loss or weight gain, as well as fatigue.

And bookmark this site ... it is worth referring to, frequently.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Write your Memoirs, Rashid Bhai!

In my life of 67 years I have been fortunate to meet and know many leading personalities of the subcontinent - a privilege I owe to two things: (1) The accident of being born into a family which, though not financially well-to-do, was deeply involved with Poetry, Music, and Activism ... and, (2) Having run away from the Education system and, thus, spending more time mingling with some of the most wonderful minds of my time.

Among the many people I have met, is Rashid Latif Ansari (Rashid Bhai, to me, as he is 9 years my senior!). RB's penchant for truth and never shying from speaking it - a facet that I have admired immensely and marvelled at the shape it has taken at times - makes some of his eye-opening stories almost unbelievable in an age where Truth is an unwelcome stranger to most.

Our chance meeting took place when my uncle, Talat Mahmood, visited Karachi in 1961 for a memorable concert tour. RB - then at EMI and a great fan of Talat Mahmood, himself - came into our family's life and has been part of it ever since. However, I remain, among all my relations, probably in closest contact with him.

He entered the Govt service "as a lateral entrant on a two year contract". In a mail to me he wrote, "I never wanted to join the Govt of Pakistan and was actually scared to join it when BB offered that job."

Describing the BB meeting and what followed, he said:

I had met BB, along with Feroze Qaiser, only 15 days before I became Sec'y Information & Broadcasting. Not being interested in politics, I did not know her at all. When she asked us to be seated in her Bilawal House drawing room, while she could freshen up, I asked FQ who she was. I was then told that she was Benazir. My colleagues in the government never believed this true story. They often told me to my face that no-one could rise to the Secretaryship within 15 days of acquaintance with a PM.

When I met her she had returned from one of her election rallies. After she won the elections, the army was very reluctant to have a woman PM. It took a few days before they could come around to accepting her. They wanted a man from PPP to take that post. During the days that followed she kept on consulting FQ and me.

After she was sworn in as PM, I called on her in Islamabad and mentioned that I was returning to Karachi. She stunned me by saying, "Stay back I have a job for you". I replied, "I do not need a job". She said, "I know that you do not need a job, but we need you. Go to the Establishment Secretary, who is waiting for you with your letter of appointment as Sec'y I & B". I again said, "There must be a mistake. I am not a CSP officer, so I cannot be a Sec'y". She said, "Do not worry about that. I know what I am doing and you can be appointed by me as a Sec'y."

I was thinking of refusing that offer but a senior Secretary, Syed Ijlal Hyder Zaidi, a very old friend, who knew me very well advised me against that on two grounds:

1. One should not refuse a PM specially in our country, as the PM would take it as a personal insult.

2. In his opinion I was quite capable of handling that job and if I needed any help regarding Govt rules and regulations, he would help me,

I was also very friendly with the then Sec'y I & B, Yusuf, who was a Zia favourite and a Maulvi, so I felt bad and sought his views, as I did not want to take his chair. He told me that because of his views, he was bound to be replaced by someone. For him, it was much better if he was replaced by a friend rather than by anyone else.

So in November 1988, I took over as Sec'y I & B on a two year contract that was terminated in Sept 1990, about 3 weeks after her Govt was sacked on 6 Aug 1990."

Isn't that a delighful tale? I am trying to convince him to write his memoirs in his usual candid and conversational fashion so that we can hear many other such anecdotes.

The following remarkable exchange took place between Rashid Bhai and a friend of his who had sent him some questions and statements by email (to which I was a cc'd recipient). I asked RB for permission to place this on the blog and he said that I could, provided I do not name the Friend - who is quoted in Italics (while RB is in Bold)
F: I am not a supporter of Musharraf but merely represent those who have silently watched the present drama being played! Enough is enough! I am fed up! I am sure balanced people are also fed up with the shenanigans of the black coated honorable professionals and their 'political ploys and theatrical props' including those of present day politicians.

60% of silent majority is not interested in their cause, as during last 60 years justice has been denied to the broad masses, despite the rule of the politicians/ dictators in the past and their inspired 'activist' judiciary whose cause is now being taken up by present day agitators.

R: You have seen the working of the Pak Govt from close quarters and you know that in Pakistan the democracy only means that the players on the stage are not in Khakis but their strings are still in the hands of Khaki puppeteers. I have been in Govt for a much shorter period than you, but I have seen how Khaki ruled even when the world thought that Benazir was in power. In those days I acted as a go-between BB and Aslam Beg. She carried out GHQ instructions but on 21 July 1990 she turned defiant and refused to sack the four ministers that the GHQ had ordered her to sack (through me). [Incidentally one of the four was Aitezaz Ahsan].

On the 6th August 1990, she was removed as a corrupt and incompetent PM. So she was not even given the one month notice by GHQ that an ordinary worker receives.

I do not know how you have arrived at a percentage. Has any scientific method been used to arrive at 60% figure. The question is not about the past. The question is only of the present - and a very simple one: Should justice be perpetually denied simply because it has been denied in the past 60 years?

Why was the Judiciary not made independent of the Executive in the past? Why only now is Musharraf's Government being made the target? Albeit being a dictator.

My question is again the same, Is it desirable that judiciary should remain under the control of the executive? If your answer is yes, I have no qualms with you. You have every right to hold your opinion. My opinion is just the opposite. You know how close our family is to Musharraf, but it is not Musharraf, it is the army rule that I feel is the worst thing that could happen to any society. If some people have realised it now even after 60 years, I salute them, despite having a soft corner for Musharraf.

Who permitted the establishment of largest number of channels in Pakistan's history, which had the freedom to abuse the dictator ad nauseam? Who tolerated the same with equanimity?

Here some of the facts are not correct. Present Govt did not encourage the establishment of large number of channels. With satellite technology, circumstances changed and Sh Rashid took credit for proliferating something that he could not stop. The facts are just the opposite of what you feel. The revolution brought about by satellite technology meant 'media sans frontier'. More than 20 channels were operating from outside Pakistan, albeit by Pakistanis, while Sh Rashid was constantly taking credit for those. 8 channels of ARY, 4 channels of Geo and Hum TV were being up linked from Dubai while the Musharraf Govt was taking credit for those. Technically those were UAE channels and not Pakistani.

In any case, when shove came to push, even the UAE Govt was asked to take ARY and Geo off the air!

India has nearly 400 channels operating from its own soil, so if Pakistan could not have even 40 channels, Pakistanis would have been watching only Indian channels today. Musharraf Govt very reluctantly gave permission to Aaj and then to the personal friend of Sh Rashid, Taher Khan, to up-link from Pakistan. DTH licenses were auctioned and two parties (GEO and ARY) were declared successful on 21 Oct 2003. More than 4 years have elapsed and Musharraf Govt has not taken any further steps in that direction.

India has at least 4 well established DTH operators while Pakistan has none. Despite 8 years of dictatorial rule and enjoying absolute power, Musharraf has not kept his promise of allowing terrestrial TV stations. Instead of issuing a single license, he did just the opposite and nationalised the only semi-private Shalimar Television. He had promised that he will not allow PTV to take away private shares.

His confidante and long time friend who has again been appointed as Spokesperson for the President, Maj Gen Rashid Qureshi, had given his word to me that he would completely privatise SRBC, even till the last minute before the crucial meeting was held at GHQ, where Javed Jabbar and I represented SRBC's case and Yusuf Baig Mirza was representing PTV. [JJ was the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, and he was to present his case to Gen Aziz Khan --- what an irony!].

The "Soldier of Allah" not only went back on his words of giving full support to us but spoke vehemently against us. Both Javed Jabbar and I were absolutely shocked and stunned at this turncoat. I have never come across a greater cheat and liar in my life than Maj Gen Rashid Qureshi and yet the pious army puts all the blame on politicians (not that I hold any brief for them).

Who permitted complete freedom of the 'press' for the first time in Pakistan?

This is also a travesty of truth. The only person I know who has sincerely and consistently worked for the freedom of the press has been Javed Jabbar. His proposals were badly mutilated by various Governments that he served and then left in disgust. Musharraf also picked him but his junta hated JJ's ideas. Rashid Qureshi was deadly against him and whispered in Musharraf's ears against JJ's approach towards media freedom. Once he did that right in front of me.

One such example is PEMRA Ordinance, which was drafted under JJ's guidance. The president's secretariat (his generals) mutilated that to such an extent that when it came out it was a totally different animal to what was created by JJ. The first-ever freedom to press was given by JJ. Nawai Waqt was strongly against us and specially hated me for my anti-religious views. It had published an editorial against me. Six months after that Govt was sacked, the same Nawai Waqt wrote another editorial and praised me and JJ by name for the first-ever freedom given to the press by our team.

During my tenure not a single journalist received any so called "advice" from the ministry. Often the journalists would come to me and ask me for the "advice". I always replied to them to write whatever they felt was the truth. In the past the journalists used to receive payments for printing such "advice". I did not pay a single paisa to any journalist. Those on Zia's list of secret payments kept receiving their regular bonuses even in BB's rule. Imagine continuing with that list and returning Rs. 6M of un-utilised Secretary's Secret Fund (non-auditable). That secret fund now runs in Crores.

The freedom enjoyed by the press today is again due to the advancement in technology. With Satellites and Internet (Blogs, emails and mobile phone cameras) even the most powerful countries possessing sophisticated technology cannot curb this new-found freedom of expression. So the junta was not a lover of freedom of press ... it just could not gag it. It tried its best, but the cost involved was prohibitive. The press and the private channels could not afford to lose their clientele just for a pittance (remuneration for the "Advices"). They had much higher stakes now, when the world media was competing to be the first with breaking news, and could not be tempted to receive the "secret envelope" for complying with the Ministry of I & B's "requests".

Who allowed complete freedom to the Judiciary which became an activist judiciary?

You yourself point out that Iftekhar took oath under PCO. So was that act of Musharraf for an independent judiciary? An extremely forceful attempt was made to gag the judiciary in March this year. Musharraf like, Bhutto, thought that by promoting out of turn or bestowing favours, one could buy loyalty. It did not work in Bhutto/Zia case and it also back fired in Musharraf/Iftekhar case. In March Musharraf used brute force to straighten a PCOed CJ, but it did not work. His failure to cow down judiciary cannot be taken as his chivalry to promote freedom of the judiciary. He is the only dictator in the history of Pakistan who sacked himself for incompetence and then reappointed himself as the saviour of the country.

Who allowed largest participation of Women in the parliament?

On this point I agree that what BB should have done long ago was done by a military dictator.

During whose regime National Assembly completed it full tem, although the said assembly is being termed as flawed by the so-called agitators ...

The army used to sack the previous assemblies. When they themselves could have tenures of 11 years at a stretch, they could easily give 4 years to their hand crafted assembly. So, what is the big deal?

In the past the track record of Black Coated professionals is nothing to write home about. 'Doctrine of necessity' has been their creed and will remain so.

I have already dwelt on this subject. Present should be judged on its own merits and not on the Past. Christ was a Jew; Ibrahim was from the family of idol worshippers; Jinnah was a staunch nationalist and one who would have become the president of Indian National Congress, had he not been let down by Gandhi at the last moment; Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a colonel in the British Army who wrote verses, simply to advocate joining a mercenary force. (Remember: "Yeh A∂osan Pa∂osan Jo Chaahay Kahay / Maén To Chhoray Ko Bhartee Karaé Aaee Ray"... ?)

Can these revolutionaries be written off simply because of their past? If we accept this principle to blame an entire community because of one black sheep, Sharifuddin Peerzada, then Jinnah would also be bracketed with the black coats.

Where were the honorable professionals when Supreme Court was stormed during the so called civilian rule? The same leader is crying hoarse for the restoration of the so called activist judiciary!

I agree with you that Nawaz Sharif has no right to cry foul now, unless he admits that it was his gravest mistake and offers his unconditional apology to the nation for his sin. I was extremely sad and upset that day and still consider that day as the blackest day in Pakistan's history, but that does not mean that Pakistanis should never make any effort for the restoration of an independent and fearless judiciary.

Where were the honorable professionals during the Governments of civilians 1947- 1958? (Famous doctrine of necessity was adopted during this period by the honorable profession)

I have already written enough on this subject. My only questions are: "Is Rule of Law a bad thing?" And, "Is independent judiciary undesirable?" If your answer to either is "Yes", I have no qualms with you. If the answer is "No!", then why no should efforts be made to rectify the situation?

Where were the honorable professionals during the regime of the dictator Ayub Khan 1958-1969? Where were the honorable professionals during the regime of the dictator Zia 1977-1988? Did the honorable profession not join the disgruntled politicians and the dictator Zia in toppling the duly elected civilian government and derail democracy? Where were the honorable professionals during 1988- 1999? Have the agitators suddenly woken up. WHY?

It is not that we should ask the honorable professionals where they were. The REAL question should be, "WHERE WERE WE?"
What prompted me to write about him and quote him today was the DAWN advertisement, looking for a Prime Minister for Pakistan. I am wondering if the PM job is as easy to handle as was the IB Secy's ... If the deadline had not passed, I'd have proposed RB's name.

Kyaa khayaal hae, Rashid Bhai? aur agar PM naheeñ bantay to memoirs hee likh deejiyay, na ... :-)

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Having an effair? (PG-13: Kids, stay out!)

Got this ad in my email today, forwarded by someone who actually installed X-SPY in his office in the USA and was advised by his lawyers that he needs to inform his 9 employees about this installation, otherwise he could be sued for all sorts of invasion of privacy cases. (Wonder if this applies to home use, too.)

X-SPY to the rescue!

Do you know who your kids chat with whenever they get on to the Internet? Or your spouse's cybersex activities? Or what sites your employees visit on the Net on your time?

Even more scary: Are your employees emailing your business secrets to your competitors? Or sending confidential data to their private email addresses for later use?

If you do worry about these issues, worry no more. X-SPY (only $69 to download) runs in stealth mode where it is not detected by the user of the computer. It captures everything from chats and instant messages to email, web sites and much more.

Some STATS for you:
· 85% of WOMEN who feel they have a cheating spouse ARE correct.
· 50% of MEN who feel they have a cheating spouse ARE correct.
· 70% of MARRIED WOMEN do not know about their spouses' affair.
· 54% of MARRIED MEN do not know about their spouses' affair.

· 86% of CHILDREN can chat online without their parents' knowledge.
· 64% of TEENS do things online they don't want their parents to know about.
· 50% of TEENS communicate online with someone they have never met.
· 30% of TEENAGED GIRLS are sexually solicited inside a chat room.
· 58% of PARENTS monitor what their child does in online chat rooms.

So, if you are the perpetrator of a corporate crime, or are having effairs (as I prefer to call them, since they may not always lead to cybersex), be on the lookout for SpyKiller - a piece of software that's sure to follow, possibly from a sister company of the X-SPY guys - making money both ways off eSuckers.

Postscript 1: The person who forwarded the ad had this to say on stats #4 & #5: "... only 30% women know, but 46% of men do. This indicates that men are more tech-savvy and use this software ;-)" ... His wife added a footnote in the email: "Being less tech-savvy also means fewer of us have 'virtual affairs' and go for the real thing, unlike stupid males! Hahaha!"

Postscript 2: Had I written the copy for the ad, I'd have used the tongue-in-cheek pricing tab to greater advantage by using this ad headline: 69 keeps you from getting screwed!

Piece! Peace!

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sharing some treats and tidbits

The last two or three performances by Farida Khanum that I attended had saddened me at the rapid downhill slide in this great artiste's abilities. Shortness of breath - and the unusual brevity of the pieces she sang - left me wondering whether one should continue attending her performances as a respectful duty of an old fan or stop and remember her only as she was at her peak. At the last APMC Annual Conference in Karachi I recall saying to Khalid Ahmad: yaar - lütf haasil karnay kay liyay quvvaté sama'at say ziyaadah to müjhay yaad-daasht say kaam layna pa∂ rahaa haé! So, when someone invited Nuzhat and me to a concert by her last night, I admit to accepting it with some trepidation.

As the evening began, the fear of what could turn out to be a horrible night - and from which one could not escape, because our hostess (Ameena Saiyid) was sitting right behind us - began to be exemplified, given that the huge and impressive-looking sound system turned out to be faulty. A short test-run by brothers Ustad Idrees Hussain (harmonium) and the scintillating Ustad Khursheed Hussain (tabla), had gone well (despite the high audience-noise) ... so who was to guess that the microphone for one of our most respectable artistes would have been left unchecked and necessitate three replacements during the course of her performance. Maybe the recording team thought the hosts were called Saaz OR Awaz!

I can recall a couple o considerably younger performers who, under far less trying circumstances at two of the APMC Karachi concerts, had either walked off or given performances that were filled with equal parts of skill and irritability. It is to FK's temperament that the audience owes thanks. She made light-hearted comments on the mike situation on several occasions and, undaunted, moved ahead, perhaps having braved the fiasco of an evening in India.

Her first piece, an uninspiring but mercifully short Pürya Dhanãsri, fell far short of what one would want from someone of her stature. Shivers! Looks of disappointment and worry from Nuzhat. My face expressionless as my eyes and ears took in the not-surprising applause from an auntie-ful house.

Then, something started to happen and, soon, inspired by some inner muse, Farida Khanum began to become her wonderful self again, bringing to mind a piece of writing about her that described an earlier concert scene: That all-too-familiar coil and quiver of the lips, the relentless twinkle in the eyes, the poise and aplomb that can still send many-a-hearts reeling.

It has been years since I have heard her in such voice. With each piece (though many remained much shorter than what we have been used to from her - but, c'mon, she's 72!) she went a little way further until she became, in voice and gestures, almost indistinguishable at some point from the Farida I had always known and loved.

My earliest memory is of listening to her at the house of her amazing sister[?] Mukhtar Begum, whom my father - with me in tow - had gone to visit professionally. His profession, not hers! (He was a medical doctor and a tremendous lover of poetry and classical music). I recall him saying to MB that he loved (who didn't?) her rendition, in Raag Darbaari, of Agha Hashr's Choree Kaheen Khulay Na Naseemé Bahaar Kee --- and a live performance of the ghazal was the visiting fee he'd collect when she was back on her feet again. MB laughed and said, "Agar trailer (which she pronounced 'tayler') daykhna hae to iss bachchee ko suniyay, daaktar saaheb!" And, so, Abi and I were treated to the voice of young Farida. Unplugged!!! Beautiful. Haunting. Seductive. Especially because it was without the clatter of musicians - the best way to truly gauge a voice. To this day, whenever I hear her sing that ghazal, as I did yesterday, I am reminded of that first unique introduction to her singing.

Oh ... one more thing: Boy, was she stunning as a teenager! :-)

Last night's concert, with a break for snacks, lasted over 4 hours. A range of thumrees, ghazals, and her popular and catchy Punjabi numbers (Ballay Ballay and Baajray Di - almost party-anthems for us when we were young) were sprinkled over the evening. The post-interval session was devoted to farmaaishes and she graciously agreed to start with mine, a ghazal by Daagh Dehlavi in chhoti bahr - a form she always sings amazingly well (in contrast to that other marvellous grand old dame, Iqbal Bano, who - generally - excels at longer bahrs). Uff. It sent my heart aflutter again ... though not dangerously loudly enough for Nuzhat to hear ;-)

One piece brought back memories of a different kind, entirely. Movie memories. And memories of a more personal kind: It was the last movie I saw with my father who died later the same year. The film was Baji, directed by Suleman, brother of actors Santosh Kumar and Darpan. I am unable to find a video of the film, so if any of you spot a copy (vhs/vcd/dvd ... anything) , please email me. I just have to own it! Not just for the story, which was of the kind one usually finds in Bengali films (billed as 'social drama' in my childhood), nor for Nayyer Sultana's convincing performance, but for one of the finest musical scenes in the sub-continent's movie history. My memory isn't perfect but, as far as I can recall, the scene was packed with everything I could have wanted. Let me try and recall, as best as I can:
The wedding ceremony shows a spanning shot of the guests. Since the hero is (if I recall right) a character from Lollywood, he has invited hordes of stars as guest. Thus, the shot features a dazzling array of cameo appearances by any stars that were left out of an already star-studded movie. Name him or her - and you could catch a glimpse among the seated guests. (The people in the movie hall were outdoing each other at shouting out the names as the stars appeared.)

Unlike the usual style of movies then (has it changed much, I wonder), where everyone breaks into an aria, or prances about in the mistaken belief that s/he is dancing, at every opportunity - here was an occasion that actually demanded a song and dance sequence. The decorated stage came into view and two of our greatest classical singers, Nazakat & Salamat performed a superb long piece to the accompaniment of India's great Tabla player, Ustad Allah Rakha. Yes, things were different then. But not too different. The authorities decided that they'd not allow the visuals to feature him so (I think) we probably had pans and other shots while he played. EMI did release the brilliant solo, one that seamlessly bridged the Nazakat-Salamat performance and what followed, as a separate recording!

So what did follow? To the brilliant tabla sound that remained after the classical duo had ended was added the sound of ghungroos ... and from the stage wings, to the cheers of the people in the hall, appeared the two most popular dancers of the time, Amy Minwalla (whom I remember as a lissome lil girl - a far cry from her later appearances - at my first Christmas party in Karachi, at Hotel Metrople, where she performed a Ballet!) and the alluring Panna, the real-world wife of Director Sulaiman. In a well-choreographed dance sequence, they lip-sync'd to two playback singers singing Sajan Laagi Toree Lagan Sajna: Farida Khanum and Madam Noor Jehan!

Could any Pakistani filmgoer, then or now, ask for a better treat?
Back to reality!

Farida Khanum is set to perform again in Karachi, for an audience she loves. Don't miss her performance. I am not sure, but I think the date is the 8th of this month ... and the venue is the Karachi Arts Council. Check out Danka closer to the time. And while you are at it, bookmark the site or add it to your RSS feeds.

See you there ...

I apologize for not putting up more than short bits from FK's performance of last night on the 'net. To be fair, Saaz Aur Awaz - the society that hosted her for the evening - will be selling the professionally (:D) recorded CD set. My recordings are from way back, sitting in the audience, so they lack clarity and definition.

But, to make up, here's one more treat:

UPDATE: Adil Najam has posted this also on his very popular ATP blog. The reason I mention this is not because I feel honoured, which I do, but because - given the huge readership of that blog - you will find many more interesting follow-up comments and, hopefully, other people's reminiscences and recommended links, too.

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