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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hope is all we have ...

We sit and watch
In horror
As "their" Mumbai explodes.

We sit and watch
in horror
As "our" Karachi implodes.

We Sit!
And we Watch!

1.12.2008 4:32 AM

I fear that, soon, neither will remain theirs or ours.

Whatever happened in Mumbai is terrible, regardless of the deep causes or the origins of the perpetrators - and a mixed bag, they were, to be sure. But what now?

Fellow Pakistanis I spoke with - and I spoke with the educated, the politically conscious, the liberal, the peace activist - followed, for the most part, a similar pattern: Horror, disgust, sympathy. But soon, to a [wo]man, their mood changed to anger at the blame being laid upon them, en masse, by the Indian media. This attitude was triggered off by a rather quick official reaction that should not be discarded as merely knee-jerk. 

Why, thought many, should the Indian media say Pakistan did it? Where and how did they get the proof so early? Even if some or most of the culprits turn out to be Pakistanis, it does not mean that this country was/is involved, or that its people support this. Or even that an Army - trying to build its reputation back as a non-political entity (good luck!) - would encourage such a provocation. Or that the current government would have not prevented it if it could. Yes. If it could!

The fact is that the same people - what difference what passports they hold, for they are one nation in their own eyes - bomb and kill and maim people in Pakistan everyday. And blow up places all over the world.

So, let's be realistic.

The Indian public reaction was, totally understandably, one of absolute shock, disbelief, and fear. Anger is always a natural response. And there was a lot of it. Against a weak and failing government - and one that the BJP/RSS-infested Maharashtra would like to see the back of. Against a poor intelligence system that let so many terrorists in and recce the place and plan this dastardly act almost at leisure. Against a retaliatory force that just wasn't equipped as finely as the terrorists. Against the unfulfilled promises of security. And, yes, against Muslims and Pakistan. 

A quick bit of choreography is all it takes, on either side, to turn the focus of all our hatreds to the other side of the border. It helps avoid looking internally. There is a slight difference, though. Our ills (including the latest Karachi riots) are declared to be caused by 'Foreign Hands', but India comes in at 2nd place, after the USA-Israel (aka Jews ... aka Zionists) nexus. And the local Hindu population is never 'suspect'. In India, by contrast, it's always Pakistan. And the local Muslim population gets to bear some of that brunt. Read the recent Tehelka stories about SIMI that have angered many.

Even before one of the humans in these sad dramas dies, Truth is laid to rest, killed by that most potent of weapons: Rumour. Government officials, worried that their asses are on line, rush out to make several contradictory statements and a gullible, hungry-for-something public, instead of logically seeing that such mutually exclusive bits can only be lies, mixes them all up into one big conspiratorial khich∂ee and swallows it.
I recall that when a mandir was attacked by some militants in India, the terrorist gunned down was alleged to be a Pakistani because a Lahore cinema ticket was found in his shirt pocket. Why the eff do these idiots need to carry ID cards, passports, and other things has always puzzled me. But a cinema ticket? And that, too, of a movie house that closed down years ago? That's really pushing it. When I informed my Indian friends (I was in Dilli at the time) about the cinema house's non-existence, they laughed and said "yaar yeh to tüm bhi kartay ho!" ... True. But laughable? In the comfort of that merry drawing room, yes. But, do they not understand that, outside somewhere, some Indian Hindu, misled by this, is about to hit back at an innocent Muslim, whose family - in turn - will kill another innocent Hindu, soon.
While reporting/commenting on these incidents, the electronic media has another problem: It has to 'beat' its competition by reporting things before they do, accuracy be damned! And every rectoid in town wants 15 minutes of glory to be on TV, to be hailed as an analyst. This last word describes some of them better if  broken into two syllables. 

Flicking to an Indian TV channel, I saw a General from Kolkata ... (I assumed from the "Retd." on the ticker that he had retired, though listening to him I wondered if the abbreviation was for 'Retarded') ... holding forth, as they generally do. (Who, other than a Pakistani, can say this with authority gained from experience?)  --- After having watched the repeated images of the young gunmen - one looked like just a teenager - I found it incomprehensible when this nutcase suggested that these were all Pakistani Servicemen with years of training (the ticker said "7-10 years") who were probaly sent 'on leave' by the Pak army to take part in this. Aaargh.

Minutes later, I switched to a program on Dawn TV, where a panel of distinguished Pakistani journalists (in my order of preference: Talat Husain, Naseem Zehra, Hamid Mir) had a discussion on the Indian Media's reporting of the Mumbai tragedy. Agree with them on everything, or not, the discussion was worth hearing. Talat was lucid and clear. Naseem was honest and straight-forward. However, given that I rate HM as the lowest among them, I thought he was being just plain stupid when he stated that the reason some Indian media may have jumped to the conclusion that the Deccan Mujahideen were Pakistani was because they did not realize that Hyderabad Deccan was not the same as Hyderbad Sindh. "Aww. C'mon. Gimme a break!" I thought.  But my apologies to Hamid Sahab. What happened soon after would make me believe anything. A senior Indian Journalist from CNN IBN was asked via phonelink for his comments about this quick-to-blame game ... and he said that numbers on the terrorists cellphones had been traced to "Jalalabad and other Pakistani cities".
Talat was quick to point out that, until 30 minutes ago, when he last looked, Jalalabad was still in Afghanistan ;-)
Fact-checking is a no-no in neo-journalism - particularly the electronic media, where the reporting needs to be instantaneous. With mushrooming channels and minimal training, in a society where it is assumed that (and I was told this, by the head of a channel, in defense of a wrongly reported item) "Loag to jaldee bhool hee jaatay haeñ - no harm done! Ha Ha!", how does one alter these things? I find no ready answers.

"Media rarely pauses to analyse itself as it hurtles from one breaking story to another", says Kalpana Sharma, in Tehelka, whose editor, Tarun, continues to pay a heavy price for his bravado and commitment. (He is now accused by Hindutva assholes of being an ISI and SIMI collaborator!)

We all - on both sides - need to be clear that this is not merely a cross-border battle. It is part of a much larger game in which we are both victims. And the stakes are getting higher by the minute. As Nandita Das wrote at the very end of her email to some of us on the morning after:
We have to save ourselves from all this and have to find a way to understand, empathise and love. All these beautiful words I know have lost their meaning and sound either clichéd or pretentious. We have to reclaim these and make them part of our life, with all our might.
I'd like to point readers of this post to three other pieces: A Stratfor analysis that Awab has quoted in full. A post by Fawad which includes a bit by Deepak Chopra (he's not my kinda guy, but this is worth a listen). And this statement of concerned citizens across borders.


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Blogger sarahislam said...

Dear Zackintosh
Just like us here in India when we see only snippets of what happens in Pakistan, you too have seen selective coverage of the carnage in Mumbai. I would just like to say that instead of being so indignant about Indian 'biased' coverage please take a look at some of what the pakistani media people are saying. I agree that a blame game is the least productive of what we should do, but do you at least beleive that there are jihadi camps in Pakistan? if yes, then we can talk...take care!

02 December, 2008 21:47

Blogger Zakintosh said...

dear sarahislam - thanks for this comment.

i assure you that i am not speaking with a paki bias and am generally extremely critical of our government. i have, in fact, been often accused of an indian bias, at times, because of my frequent visits to that place and the praises i lavish for its cuktural heritage (which is a part of me).

i am not sure about the selective coverage bit, but i subscribe to the indian dish-tv smorgasbord and have umpteen indian news channels that i watch, along with our own. ndtv's news coverage has been pitiful, although it is one of my favourite indian channels. i also watch x-news - which has been doing a fairly good reporting job - and various dd and other channels. the mood is (under justifiable anger) really bad this time around. my problem is not with indian people but with it's govrnment using such a great tragedy to cover their asses. and with your media for being caught up in the frenzy and acting irresponsibly.

saying this does in no way make a defense for our highly biased and inflammatory media (especially the vernacular press that seems to be repeating fundo views directly or indirectly).

of course there are jihadi camps in pakistan. who but a nut would deny that? the people from those camps blow our citizens up all the time. in the past they have had a lot of support, too, i suspect, from our officialdom. my view is that - now - things were beginning to change. enough is enough is a cry that's not just an ndtv slogan. everyone wants peace. but this war-posturing by india is not the way to go. neither is the obvious reaction to it here.

sadly, this government - even with better intentions than the last one (or the one we'd get under nawaz) - is incapable of turning a tide that's been building up for decades. however, going to war with pakistan will not solve anything for india. people in the governments will not suffer on either side. humanity will.


02 December, 2008 22:23

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

My two cents on the subject are to be found at


02 December, 2008 22:45

Anonymous Anonymous said...


04 December, 2008 06:25

Blogger sarahislam said...

Dear Zackintosh
Thanks for replying. Please don't take me as being anti pakistan or anything, some of my best years were spent in Lahore. I am writing to you since yours is the only civilized blog where i can have some sort of a sane dialogue. My question was meant for popeple like Zaid Hamid some other TV anchors who seem to be taking all of this personally and openly indulging in India and Hindu bashing and no one seems to be protesting. Don't you think that people in Pakistan now need to tune out these kind of press wallahs and say 'enough is enough!' too? I know that the majority of Pakistanis are peace loving and are also the victims of terror like the Indians here but do you think that they feel good when their media shows such immaturity in the face of a crisis like this? That's what I needed to say. Hope we can keep talking:-) peace!

04 December, 2008 10:10

Blogger Zakintosh said...


I think being anti-Pakistan or anti-India is a stupid stance, either way. Almost as bad as being pro-either! Both are geo-political realities and likely to linger on - even in altered forms (as 1971 proved) - as long as the slowly dying nation-state concept holds sway. And I don't see it disappearing anytime soon ... though hope is all we have ;-)

If your question was meant for Zaid Hamid, believe me that protoplasmic bundle of conspiracy theories is unlikely to read my blog and see your views.

To say 'no-one seems to be protesting' is unfair. There is a protest almost every day, in every major city, albeit a lot smaller in composition than it should be. One reason for that: The Indian official stance. I am afraid, it has made people take sides and - in most cases - the stance one takes is coloured by the latent nationalism & religiosity, so bundled in our make-up on both sides. I see the Hindutva and its supporting media stoke fires against Pakistan, too, and can only feel sorry for the masses made to channel their enegies away from the real problems of poverty and bad governance.

I wish that instead of showing selected clips of our hate-spewing idiots on the Indian channels, the Indian government would allow free access to Pak channels where you could see that, in a sea of madness, there are sane voices, too. I have pointed out some of your crazies, but not without acknowledging that certain commentators and analysts also counter them on the same channels. This is only possible through the free access to info that, so far, we have. Who knows when our government decides, for all the wrong reasons, to clamp down.

While I stand in solidarity with the people of Mumbai and feel their pain, as I did for all victims of terrorism (including the state-sponsored variety that USA imposes), I can only pity the fact that the gullible populations of both sides are being misled by corrupt and weak politicians and are, both, allowing the neo-cons to use them as pawns. To paraphrase an old shayr:
'USA' say faqat saahab salaamat door kee achchhee
Nah ünn kee dostee achchhee, nah ünn kee düshaamnee achchhee

04 December, 2008 13:03

Blogger Bystander said...

India and Pakistan's is a peculiar case. We both love to hate each other; we cant live with each other and cant live without. It is not surprising that mutual media bashing started immediately after the attacks. This was most expected. I dont blame one over the other. We both have our own weaknesses. I dont know what makes people so upset at something so damn predictable.

It always happens that when the two countries start coming closer and increase cooperation, some such incident takes place that takes the entire peace process several steps back. We are seeing this for the last 60 years and trust me, will go on seeing it for as long we we live. Regardless of what is true and what is not, what is hard fact and what is mere allegation, it is the duty of sane people on both sides to take stock of the situation and stay at least 100 miles away from this circus. Then only we can talk sense and resolve our issues.

Else, we will only be furthering the objectives of 'those' who want to see both the nations figtht each other to death. Im sure you know who 'those' are. They are our those friends about whom we say,

Ham se poocho na dosti ka sila
Dushmanon ka bhi dil hilaa dega

and ....

Mujhay chorr de mere haal par tera kia bharosa hai charaagar
Yeh teri nawazish-e-mukhtasar mera dard aur barrha na de

04 December, 2008 14:51

Blogger sarahislam said...

Dear Zackintosh
I understand. your comment 'I can only pity the fact that the gullible populations of both sides are being misled by corrupt and weak politicians and are, both, allowing the neo-cons to use them as pawns' can't be truer. About your comment about the BJP and the saffron brigade, that IS the mani problem, Zackintosh. As a muslim living in India, that is the single most saddening thing happening. They are immature, irresponsible and their entire election plank is based on the hope that Muslims would always be 'other' they will unite against. Thanks again for your comments, thanks for being so honest. I can only hope that every one on both sides can calm down and there is no more talk of war. Peace! and my best wishes to you for your excellent blog:-) I am sharing this blog with every one I know here!

04 December, 2008 15:18

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear SarahIslam

Thanks for your comments. Dialogues between saner elements need to spread far and wide. Also, good analytical columns on both sides need to be shared, despite disagreements on some views in them that are bound to exist, as long as their purpose is to promote sense and reason and peace in the region.

For starters, read Beena's Dawn column

One of the people I admire most in history, Thomas Paine, said: He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression.

04 December, 2008 16:00

Blogger sarahislam said...

Thanks Zackintosh!
I have always liked what Beena Sarwar had to say and I am glad you sent me that link. thanks again:-)

04 December, 2008 20:03

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting piece, well written and articulate as always. A couple of things though

“Why, thought many, should the Indian media say Pakistan did it? Where and how did they get the proof so early? Even if some or most of the culprits turn out to be Pakistanis, it does not mean that this country was/is involved, or that its people support this.”

When the media, or anyone else for that matter, say that Pakistan did it, I doubt they mean that every man, woman and child from the country conspired collectively. Also if they do turn out to be Pakistani, it does not mean the country was involved, it just means India needs to build bigger walls.

But can one really blame the Indians for accusing Pakistan (the government, the army, the ISI, whoever happens to be running the show, it’s hard to keep track). Past experiences haven’t exactly given them cause to think otherwise.

You don’t blame them of course,

Anger is always a natural response. And there was a lot of it.
Against a weak and failing government - sure why not, it’s always fun to be pissed at the government
Against a poor intelligence system that let so many terrorists in – true (‘in’ from where exactly?)
Against a retaliatory force that just wasn't equipped as finely as the terrorists. – Extremely true

You do forget to mention the anger against India’s inability to strike against terrorist camp’s in PoK, much like the US does in other parts of Pakistan and their inability to assassinate known criminals such as Dawood Ibrahim and Maulana Masood Azhar (and then deny it till they’re blue in the face) who live with impunity in Pakistan , like the Israelis do when they are hit. An all out war helps no one and ends up hurting citizens from both countries who want nothing but peace with their neighbours. Surgical strikes and clandestine operations on the other hand are so much more discreet.

I do agree that the media shows lack of judgement by reporting that the terrorists were from Pakistan based on what the government said, with little regard for proof. But I guess one can also draw the conclusion (however naive), that they refuse to believe that their own country men could inflict such horrors on their own people. I might be completely wrong, but I’d rather the media said, “Hey, it’s people from our neighboring country, about who we can’t do much, who did it”, than , “ So we’re not sure, we don’t have proof, they might be from Pakistan, or they might have come from a neighborhood much closer to home”.

One thing I’ve always wondered, and it’d be great if you could enlighten me, how does one go about checking facts in a situation like this. I honestly don’t understand. I’m guessing when the Indian government says that the terrorist who was captured is from Pakistan and had ties with the LeT, that is not a fact. I’d be equally skeptical of the guy from LeT saying that they didn’t have anything to do with the attacks. Does it become a fact when the Americans say it? Also when Pakistan asks for proof before they hand over assorted LeT folks and Maulana Masood Azhar, do they need pictures with terrorists in LeT sweatshirts killing people? What exactly constitutes credible proof?

Contrary to the slightly aggressive tone of my comment, I am an eternal pacifist. I would like nothing better than people living in peace and harmony, and leave me alone to smoke (the incoherence and lack of flow can be blamed, to some degree, on the weed).

But really, why are they trying to kill me?

07 December, 2008 12:35

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Anonymous (though I wish I had a name to address):

Your points are well-made. Indian/Pakistani criticisms of each other, even when meant to be cool and collected and as unbiased as one tries to make them, are coloured heavily by the stuff one sees on the electronic media (print media is rarely available across borders). I would hate to commend censorship of any sort but - except for right-wing stations on both sides - I do expect the media to be a little careful about broadcasting some of the stuff and then hiding its contribution to the growing anger, as it often does, by saying that the views are those of the analyst. After all, they are not under any pressure to select such chootiaas in the first place.

Take the case of that totally cooked up broadcast by an Indian TV on the interview with a terrorist in the recent Mumbai case. I mean its so bad that one would, in less grave circs, laugh it off. However, the bulk of the diverse Indian population- with its plethora of dialects -may not be able to discern the fact that no Pakistani speaks that way. I have spent 61 of my 68 years here and am well travelled. Trust me on this.

Then, from this side, take the recent TV interview (now all over YouTube) of a Zaid Hamid - one of the most dangerous mindwarpers we have, for he (like Harun Yahya, in another context) can so seamlessly intermingle fact with fiction, that it seems almost plausible to minds whose bullshit filters have not been allowed to develop under a disgustingly authoritarian education-cum-indoctrination system.

I am not sure when you say that I don't blame 'them' do you mean our past Government or the ISI or the Fundos? I have been a critic of all of them, on these points, frequently. I do live outside the blog, too, so it may be that my activism and criticism are not always seen in their entirety. But, for you, I shall place on record that I do think Pakistan has had policies - and idiotic leadership from numerous internal and external agencies - that have played an important role in many such misadventures.

As for the causes of anger you say I don't mention, it is only recently I have had acccess to several Indian Channels, so I may not really be up to date on all views from that side, but I am not sure at all how to interpret your thought that you'd rather your media not accept that the culprits could be closer to home. With a little help from their friends, of course.

It's impossible to check facts. We're still wondering about who killed JFK and who was behind 9/11 (and, for those interested in such things, What really happened at Roswell?) But one can, imho, excercise - specially with the responsibility the media have - restraint and good judgement on not inventing facts just because they have to fill a time slot.

I do not think your comments are aggressive. My grief comes from coming across rude, meaningless, deplorable, violent comments by people from both sides - one can see them strewn across social-networking sites everywhere, in response to events that neither governments nor citizens have much control over. I wish that we'd all reserve our collective anger for all perpetrators of such acts instead of turning it into more personal hatreds that can only worsen the spiralling situation.


07 December, 2008 13:21

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Zackintosh, you seem upset that Indians 'jumped' to the conclusion that there was Pakistani involvement 'even if there was'. Are you saying there is some appropriate amount of time that people should wait ? Does the fact that these conclusions turned out to be hundred percent accurate and that there was and continues to be stonewalling (and initially actual lies from local officials who claimed to have looked into and ruled out Indian information about the identity of the one gunman taken alive) on the part of the Pakistani authorities have any relevance ? Do you blame Indians for being increasingly suspicious of Pakistani protestations of innocence ?

04 March, 2009 06:05

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Anonymous - I am always upset at and suspicious of Indians or Pakistanis (especially the media and the government spokesmen) who 'jump to conclusions', for it sets the very scenario that terrorists want to create.

It may seem idiotic from your pov but, yes, I believe that statements such as these from official sources must be made public after at least some nearly undeniable evidence comes to light, because the (expected) reaction on the street cannot be 'undone' even if later evidence proves the initial conclusion wrong. There is no harm saying that investigation is on. It would even be ok imho for such statements to say something like 'the pattern points towards ...'.

I was watching Indian Channels throughout and, even making allowances for the justifiable anger and mood, I think many media persons acted unprofessionally. I saw one channel air an entirely fake audio interview with a terrorist. Whether the 'terrorist' was 'faking' being a Pakistani (he certainly wasn't from any ethnic group here, judging by his accent or phrases!) or the TV Channel was making it up I do not know.

The fact that the conclusions 'turned out' to be right makes no difference ... for the phrase, itself, implies chance. There's always a 50-50 chance of any such conclusion turning out right. And, in the case of terrorists (not just in the Mumbai tragedy) having links to Pakistan, I'd be the first to admit that the chances are way higher than 50-50, but it is just a matter of principle that I feel that hasty conclusions, if wrong, have the power to do more damage than either country can bear.

In the wake of the disgusting Lahore attack (by some divinely misguided bastards) on the Sri Lankan team, yesterday, spokesmen here, too, jumped in to announce that 'foreign hands are involved' (Foreign Hands is the local euphemism for a Hindu-Indian-Jew-Israeli-Ahmadi-AgaKhani-Martian conspiracy). I equally vehemently spoke out against that, as do all sensible people here. (Yes, contrary to international/Indian perception and portrayal we do have many in Pakistan.)

I absolutely do not blame Indians or anyone from being suspicious of such protestations and proclamations by Pakistan. So is a large section of the population, here. Our successive governments, numerous 'agencies', and the armed forces have all been - for one reason or the other (and especially since USA's idiotic support of the forces of evil here for their own reasons) - responsible for this downward spiral in what is fast becoming our collective thinking.

As an individual who lives here I would like (entirely for selfish and personal reasons, for I am no nationalist) to see this region - and especially India and Pakistan - prosper in peace. As an 'active pacifist' I try to do what I can ...

Thank you for visiting the blog and your comments.

04 March, 2009 09:07

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Anonymous

With no name to address, not even a nick, I must clarify that i am addressing the one who wrote

I guess one can also draw the conclusion (however naive), that they refuse to believe that their own country men could inflict such horrors on their own people.

Naivete and stupidity (or denial) must never be equated. People from a country inflict horrors on their own people far more often than otherwise: Sudan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, even India ... the list is endless.

I might be completely wrong, but I’d rather the media said, “Hey, it’s people from our neighboring country, about who we can’t do much, who did it”, than , “ So we’re not sure, we don’t have proof, they might be from Pakistan, or they might have come from a neighborhood much closer to home”.

Sir, you ARE completely wrong if you'd rather be an escapist on such a serious issue ... It is this emotionalism and constant denial of reality that has led us all into a mire. If you seek the truth, you must be prepared to face it, too!

04 March, 2009 09:16


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