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Thursday, January 03, 2008

So it has come to this!

Yesterday I circulated an email to some friends, based on an AHRC release that really had left me and others mortified. It is only fair that I post a follow-up.

Not that the events described below are not obnoxious and grave, but this press release from HRCP (sent to us by Beena Sarwar) spells out the factual position, which is different from the exaggerated statements issued by the Hong Kong based AHRC that resulted in further panic, depression, and angst.

I have no idea where AHRC gets its 'facts' - but, unless there is a genuine explanation from them, I certainly will not be forwarding their releases to anyone any more. Crying wolf or toying with the truth - or reporting such incidents without adequate verification - is not something to be expected of such bodies.
HRCP assails vigilantes

Lahore, January 01: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)has called for immediate disbandment of vigilante squads maintained by the establishment or its favourite political party as their interference with citizens' normal affairs is not only unlawful it would lead to chaos. In a statement issued here today HRCP said:

On Monday night (Dec. 31) a most deplorable incident took place in Gulberg area. A few young girls, including Muneeza Jahangir, HRCP Chairperson's daughter and a well-known TV producer / reporter, accompanied by a couple of young men, decided to take photographs of some election posters. Suddenly a bunch of armed toughs pounced upon them, mercilessly beat up a young man, dragged the girls and shut them up in the office of the son of the outgoing Punjab Chief Minister.

The armed goons abused the girls and threatened them by pointing their guns at them, and offered the same treatment to Ms. Asma Jahangir when she arrived at the scene to rescue the girls. These men had no right or authority to resort to violence and imprison their victims in private premises.

Worse, the culprits seemed to enjoy local authorities' patronage and were reportedly backed by a couple of police constables in uniform.

HRCP calls for immediate disbandment of all such private storm-
troopers as their unlawful activities will pose a serious threat to citizens' life and security and plunge society into a total chaos.

The interim rulers must probe the matter and call the guilty to
account, that is, if they have the power to do so.

Iqbal Haider

While the original and much more frightening story has turned out to be untrue, the possibility of such an occurrence - especially in the case of lower-profile people than Asma's daughters - is not far-fetched unless, as demanded by the HRCP, privately run groups of ghoondas and their ring-leaders (without whose consent the 'locking up' could not have taken place) are caught and punished.

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Bhutto Death - Two analyses worth reading

Both pieces are from outside Pakistan and could have their own (US and Indian) agendas ... but they do state views other than the emotional, knee-jerk reactions many in Pakistan are still offering.

George Friedman - a typical Stratfor piece: scan through and add to the reader comments coming in fast.

B. Raman - an Indian POV that implicates ... wait for it ... Brig. Cheema of the (Mr. Bean directed?) Press Conferences fame!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A quiet beginning

The nation has never ushered in a New Year this quietly before. And never before has it, in such absolute solidarity, wished or prayed for its tragic history to be just that: history.

Even without all the controversy surrounding it, from the ever-changing official statements about the cause of death to the blatantly engineered Zardarization of PPP (which will probably end up destroying our largest political party over the coming year), the assassination of BB was an event that shocked Pakistan and forced all of its citizens to take stock. But it was not the only cause of the clouds of grief that hung over our land.

All year round, in 2007, we witnessed the deaths of countless people. Oblivious to guilt and innocence, uncaring of which views were wrong, which right, and which merely senseless, from every corner of our country the loud wails of mourning (in which all voices - regardless of belief systems, political ideologies, and ethnicity - sound the same) shattered the few remaining tiny dreams of the bulk of our population.

Pablo Neruda's "Come and see the blood in the streets ... ", once only a powerful line in a great poem (though a reality to Karachiites for years), transformed into difficult-to-ignore images on our TVs and the obsessed-with-gore vernacular press. (Download the poem in PDF, if you do not have a copy already.)

With each successive tragedy, the questions that Faiz asked of this land of the pure, came back to haunt me:

In case my handwriting proves unreadable:
Tüjh ko kitnoñ ka lahoo chaahiyay, aé arzé vatan,
Jo teray aarizé bay-rang ko gülnaar karayñ?
Kitnee aahoñ say kalayjah tera thandaa ho ga?
Kitnay aañsoo teray sahraaoñ ko gulzaar karayñ?

Here's a translation for those unfamiliar with Urdu:
How many people's blood d'you need, my country,
To bring a glow into your colourless cheeks?

How many sighs will cool your burning breast?

How many tears to make your deserts bloom?

Is there anything that we - as individuals - can do to make this year, and the years that follow, different? I believe that each of us, in our own varied capacities, can and must!

The Not-A-Greeting Card I sent out to my friends at Eed-X'mas-NewYear has a quote from Gandhi who - amply qualified in this regard - offered the following advice: Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.


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