Pakistan Election Aftermath

Musharraf’s allies lose big in Pakistan but the Bush administration is still pro-Musharraf. A coalition government of PPP and PML-N is in the offing.

The elections are done and the results are out. Since I love maps, here is a map of the results by constituency, courtesy of Dawn. You can click on it for a larger version.

Map of Pakistan election results

And here are the results by party:

Party National Assembly Punjab Assembly Sindh Assembly NWFP Assembly Balochistan Assembly
PPP 89 76 64 17 7
PML-N 66 102 4 5 0
PML-Q 42 61 9 6 17
MQM 19 0 38 0 0
ANP 10 0 2 29 1
MMA 6 2 0 8 6
PML-F 4 2 5 0 0
PPP-S 1 0 0 5 0
BNP-A 1 0 0 0 5
Independents 28 33 6 6 11

The previous government in the center and in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan was by PML-Q which supports Pervez Musharraf and they lost badly. In fact, most of their prominent leaders, like Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Sheikh Rashid, etc., lost.

Also, the religio-political alliance MMA lost to the secular Pashtun Nationalist ANP in NWFP. Both ANP and JUI, the component of MMA strong in NWFP, have traditionally been powerful in the NWFP. In the last elections in 2002, ANP was defeated roundly by the MMA and this time the reverse happened.

In my opinion, the unpopularity of President Musharraf was one reason for the dismal performance of PML-Q. According to the IRI survey in January,

  • 57% say that Musharraf’s performance has lowered their opinion of the army.
  • 72% are dissatisfied with Musharraf’s job performance.
  • 75% want Musharraf to resign from the office of President immediately.
  • Only 8% think Musharraf is the best leader to solve Pakistan’s problems.
  • Musharraf’s favorability rating is 16%.
  • 62% will feel much better and 17% somewhat better about the future of Pakistan if Musharraf were to resign.

Let’s also look at the Terror Free Tomorrow survey also conducted in January.

  • Only 10% strongly approve Musharraf’s job performance and 20% somewhat approve while 18% somewhat disapprove and 50% strongly disapprove.
  • Musharraf’s favorability rating is 30%.
  • 47% strongly agree that Musharraf should resign immediately while 23% somewhat agree.
  • Only 16.5% think Musharraf is the best leader for Pakistan. When poll respondents were asked for a second choice of leader, only 3% chose Musharraf.

PPP and PML-N have agreed to form a government together. This should make for a stable government in that it won’t be hostage to small parties and independents. On the other hand, the two largest parties would naturally be each other’s competitors and have quite different priorities which might result in the coalition breaking down.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) brokered an agreement on Thursday to form governments at the Centre and the provincial levels and to sort out the modalities for the reinstatement of judiciary in parliament.

“We have decided to work together and move together for the future of the democracy in the country and to strengthen parliament,” said Co-Chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif while addressing a joint press conference here on Thursday evening at the Zardari House after holding two-hour-long talks.

[…] The breakthrough reached by the two major political forces of the country, who jointly share 70 per cent mandate of the people of Pakistan gained through the elections, was also important in the sense that Asif Ali Zardari showed flexibility, demonstrating his willingness to join hands with the PML-N for the reinstatement of the deposed judges.

The two leaders, who appeared jubilant and confident during the press conference, also announced that there would be no cooperation with the pro-Musharraf parties. “There is no pro-Musharraf group or political force in the country,” said Asif Ali Zardari when asked whether he was ready to extend cooperation to the pro-Musharraf political parties.

It was also agreed that parliament would decide whether it was ready to work with the president or not.

[… Nawaz Sharif] said both the parties would work together to form the governments and implement the Charter of Democracy in letter and spirit. “We accept the mandate of the PPP with an open heart and wish that the PPP completes its five-year term. We will wage a joint struggle for the restoration of judiciary and the Charter of Democracy will also be followed,” Nawaz maintained.

When asked about the modalities for the formation of the government, Zardari said that everything could not be discussed in a two-hour meeting and they would continue to meet to sort out all the hiccups in this regard.

When asked if he would move away from the commitment if the United States exerted pressure on the formation of government, Zardari replied that he had not submitted to the pressure that was put on him during eight years of jail, then how he could yield to the pressure exerted upon him from any corner.

To a query, Zardari said that he was thankful to Mian Nawaz Sharif who agreed that the very first order the government would pass would be concerning a request to the United Nations to help the Pakistan government to uncover the hands behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. “It will be the top priority of the next government,” he added.

[…] When Asif Ali Zardari was asked if both the parties intended to take the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) into the fold of the government of national consensus, he said, “We are looking for a broader government and there are reservations on the MQM. But we want to move ahead for the better future of the democracy in the country and we even want to talk to all those political forces whether they are in parliament or outside the parliament.”

Meanwhile, the PML-N party has designated Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif as its parliamentary leaders in the center and Punjab respectively. Since both of them were barred from election earlier, they will have to get elected in the bye-elections.

PML-N does not have a majority in the Punjab assembly but it is now wooing PML-Q members who broke away in 2002 to come back.

Since ANP is the largest party in NWFP, they would also be part of the coalition.

And the Bush administration seems to be as stupid as ever.

The Bush administration is pressing the opposition leaders who defeated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to allow the former general to retain his position, a move that Western diplomats and U.S. officials say could trigger the very turmoil the United States seeks to avoid.

U.S. officials, from President Bush on down, said this week that they think Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally, should continue to play a role, despite his party’s rout in parliamentary elections Monday and his unpopularity in the volatile, nuclear-armed nation.

The U.S. is urging the Pakistani political leaders who won the elections to form a new government quickly and not press to reinstate the judges whom Musharraf ousted last year, Western diplomats and U.S. officials said Wednesday. If reinstated, the jurists likely would try to remove Musharraf from office.

Bush’s policy of hanging on to Musharraf has caused friction between the White House and the State Department, with some career diplomats and other specialists arguing that the administration is trying to buck the political tides in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.

Zardari’s response can be seen here.

In the post-election government formation phase, Asif Ali Zardari’s first love continues to be the PML-N though both the presidential camp and Washington are pressurising him to go for an otherwise awkward coalition with the PML-Q and other pro-Musharraf forces.

Background interviews reveal that Asif Ali Zardari has been offered governments at the Centre and in at least three of the four provinces if he distances himself from the Nawaz League. However, he told those who approached him that he did not consider the Q-League a political entity. Despite reservations of some of the PPP leaders from the Punjab against the N-League in the central executive committee of the party that met here in Islamabad on Wednesday, Zardari endorsed the idea of making a coalition government with the political parties like the PML-N, ANP, etc. Asif Ali Zardari while talking to this correspondent on Wednesday night also expressed his confidence that the two top-most popular parties – PPP and PML-N – would sort out the issues to make a workable coalition, both at the Centre and in the provinces.

Although, Zardari did not talk of Washington’s pressures, sources in the party confirmed that the Americans had brought tremendous pressure on the PPP co-chairperson to make a coalition government with the likes of the PML-Q and MQM but not with the PML-N.

Alienating the major political parties in Pakistan is not something that the US should strive for right now.

Pakistan Elections

Pakistan is having elections today. Violence has taken its toll though in dampening any enthusiasm. There are also worries about rigging.

It’s February 18 in Pakistan now which means elections to the National and Provincial assemblies are happening today.

The last year or two have not been kind to Pakistan and more than the election results, there are worries of bombings like this one on Saturday in Parachinar (Kurram Agency, FATA).

A bomb explosion rocked a rally organised by the People’s Party here on Saturday, killing 40 people and bringing the election campaign to an unpropitious end.

The bomb, planted in a car parked near the election office of a PPP-backed candidate, went off even as a procession terminated at the place. Syed Riaz Hussain, the candidate, escaped unhurt.

Although the exact nature of the blast could not be ascertained, Political Agent Syed Zaheerul Islam told Dawn that it was a suicide attack.

He put the death toll at 37 and the number of the injured at 93.

Doctors said that 110 wounded people, 50 of them critical, had been brought to the town’s main hospital. Seven shops and 10 vehicles were damaged.

The explosion sparked riots in the town and a number of abandoned houses and shops were torched. Troops opened fire to quell the disturbances, injuring several people.

Polling opens at 8am (0300 GMT) and closes at 5pm (1200 GMT).

There are also fears of rigging in favor of the Musharraf-backed PML-Q, headed by the Chaudhries of Gujrat.

A spokesperson for Mrs Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which is leading in opinion polls, said the vote was “not going to be a free and fair election”.

The party accused the pro-Musharraf PML-Q of plotting to stuff ballot boxes.

Mrs Bhutto’s former rival, Nawaz Sharif, whose party is also ahead of Mr Musharraf’s supporters in polls, said a “massive rigging plan” had “been implemented”.

Mrs Bhutto’s widower and successor as party leader, Asif Ali Zardari, said in an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper that his party would have “no choice but to take to the streets” if the elections were rigged.

Two opinion polls, by International Republican Institute and Terror Free Tomorrow, conducted January 19-29 have been released. Here are their results for the different political parties.

Party Terror Free Tomorrow International Republican Institute
PPP 36.7% 50%
PML-N 25.3% 22%
PML-Q 12.0% 14%

As for MMA, or rather JUI-F as Jamaat-e-Islami is boycotting the elections, it is not expected to do well even in the NWFP.

In my opinion, the Terror Free Tomorrow poll is closer to the truth for the PPP share. Of course, in a first-past-the-post system, it is difficult to guess the number of seats each party would win from such country-wide opinion polls. Cynic that I am, I believe Musharraf is fighting for his political life and hence he (or his PML-Q surrogates) would not hesitate a bit in rigging the elections. The rigging need not be massive; only as much as is needed to result in a hung parliament and some large number of seats for PML-Q.

As to who to vote for, I am not in Pakistan, so I cannot vote. If Benazir Bhutto hadn’t been assassinated, I would have endorsed her PPP as the party to vote for. The reason is simple: PPP is the largest and really the only party with support all over Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto was a leader of stature. Yes, I lived through her earlier stints in power and am familiar with the large scale corruption and lack of any achievements of her government. But I don’t consider Pakistani politicians to be angels; rather the task of the voter is to choose the lesser evil and Bhutto’s party seemed like the best bet (among political parties only, of course) for a democratic Pakistan. Unfortunately, the way the PPP has handled Benazir’s succession has put me off. Appointing a 19 year old Bilawal as the boy king and then appointing Asif Zardari as his regent reminds me a lot more of absolute monarchy than of democracy. Plus voting for a party led by Asif Zardari is not something I can do.

Among the other major parties taking part in the election, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N is the only one that has made an issue of the large scale sacking of higher court judges done by Musharraf last November. I believe that to be worthy cause and so I recommend that everyone vote for the symbol “Lion” of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Group.

And finally here’s some fun at the expense of Pervez Musharraf when Jemima Khan interviewed him recently.

I’m also disappointed, I tell him. The corrupt got off scot-free. And now it looks as though he will shortly be doing business with the very same politicians he wanted to get rid of.

Disarmingly he agrees – something he does a lot of. And I sense it’s genuine rather than appeasement. He argues that he had no other choice but to deal with the existing leaders of the main parties. This is a little disingenuous. The national reconciliation ordinance which he passed in October 2007 effectively guaranteed lifelong immunity from prosecution to corrupt politicians such as Benazir Bhutto, her husband Zardari and others, and enabled her to return to Pakistan to contest elections. He asks if he is being recorded. I say yes. He hesitates, then answers tellingly, “Yes, I agree with you [that charges should not have been dropped]. But then Benazir has good contacts abroad in your country, who thought she was the future of the country.”

I press him further. Surely even in spite of pressure from outside, given his feelings about the effects of corruption on Pakistani politics, those charges should never have been dropped. There should have been a proper judicial process.

I put this to him. “No,” he replies, “because they would have all joined and then I would have been out.” At this point he looks a bit wild eyed. He quickly adds that, of course, being in power has never been his ultimate goal. How much easier it would be, he adds wistfully and a touch unconvincingly, if he’d just resigned to play golf.

[…] Later when I point out that his old opponent Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), has vowed that if elected he will reinstate the judges who were unconstitutionally deposed by Musharraf, he retorts incredulously, “It is not a dictatorship here! How can you reinstate judges if you become prime minister? How?” This rhetorical question comes from a man who on 3 November dismissed 60 per cent of the superior court judges, including three chief justices, in anticipation of their ruling against his re-election as President while still head of the army. Many remain under house arrest.

[…] When I ask about the deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who is still under house arrest, he denounces him as “the scum of the earth – a third-rate man – a corrupt man”. And the lawyers’ movement? The lawyers have vowed to continue protesting on the streets and boycotting the courts until the deposed judges are reinstated and the constitution is restored to its pre-3 November status. “With hindsight,” he replies solemnly, “it was my personal error that I allowed them to go and express their views in the street… We should have controlled them in the beginning before it got out of control.”

And so it is a fight only for Musharraf’s kursi, his staying in power for himself, just like it has been since that day in October 1999 when Musharraf first seized power in a coup.

Global Gender Attitudes

I count the reasons why I won’t raise my daughter in Pakistan. The attitudes of Pakistanis towards women leave a lot to be desired and women don’t have much opportunity there.

This could also be titled Why I won’t raise my daughter in Pakistan.

There was a discussion among the Urdu bloggers last month about women in Pakistan and especially the staring they have to encounter. Rashid started the discussion. Farhat gave some examples of the difficulties women have to endure and then explained her point of view. Qadeer gave some examples of how women are harassed. Badtameez talked about the reasons of this harassment and staring in his usual inimitable, meandering style. Mera Pakistan discussed the issue and then suggested some solutions. Qadeer also lamented how women are not given their due role in society in Pakistan. Mawra also pontificated on the topic of men staring women in Pakistan. My Dad gave some examples from his youth, discussed whether this problem is limited to Pakistanis and gave some final comments.

I am not very interested in the staring issue myself since I don’t live in Pakistan. However, the larger issue of the role and place of women in society interests me very much. As mentioned above, I do worry about my daughter and how she can have the best opportunities despite the fact that women haven’t achieved equality in any society. With that personal note, I’ll focus on actual survey data rather than anecdotes.

Let’s look at the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, specifically Chapter 5: Views on Gender Issues.

People were asked if it is more important to educate boys or girls or both equally. Here are the responses from a few select countries:

Country Boys Girls Both equally
United States 1% 1% 98%
Turkey 4% 9% 86%
Egypt 22% 4% 73%
India 6% 8% 86%
Pakistan 17% 7% 74%
Bangladesh 8% 3% 89%

Egypt is the worst on this question, but Pakistan is pretty bad too. Compare Pakistan to the rest of the subcontinent and Pakistan looks so much worse than even Bangladesh.

Another question is who makes better political leaders:

Country Men Women Both equally
United States 16% 6% 75%
Sweden 3% 6% 90%
Pakistan 54% 8% 32%
Bangladesh 52% 8% 41%
India 19% 17% 62%

It looks like Indians like Indira Gandhi much better than Pakistanis like Benazir Bhutto and Bangladeshis like Khaleda Zia or Haseena Wajid. It is strange though that PPP (which was led by Benazir Bhutto until her assassination on December 27) has a solid vote of a third of the Pakistani voters, but even some of them think men are better politicians.

The worst is yet to come though: There was one question on the survey asking who should choose a woman’s husband. The options given were woman or family. A lot of people in traditional societies, however, were intelligent enough to volunteer an answer of “both”, except of course Pakistanis.

Country Woman should choose Family should choose Both should have a say
Brazil 97% 1% 2%
Turkey 58% 9% 32%
Egypt 21% 26% 53%
Indonesia 64% 9% 27%
India 26% 24% 49%
Bangladesh 12% 36% 52%
Pakistan 6% 55% 38%

Pakistan was the only country where no one cares about the woman’s choice at all. In fact, they want the family to have exclusive rights to decide a woman’s marriage. Let’s look at it in more detail:

Only in Pakistan does a majority (55%) say that it is better for a woman’s family to choose her husband. Women in that country are slightly more likely than men to express that opinion – 57% of women and 53% of men say a woman’s family should choose whom she marries. This view is especially prevalent among married women. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) married Pakistani women say it is better for a woman’s family to choose, while about a third (32%) say both a woman and her family should have a say. Women who have never been married are more divided; 42% say a woman’s family should choose her husband and 42% say both should have a say. Pakistani women who have never been married are nearly twice as likely as married women in that country to say a woman should choose her own husband (13% of unmarried vs. 7% of married women).

Wow! Married Pakistani women don’t want their daughters and sisters to have any say.

Also, 61% of Pakistanis think that there should be restrictions on men and women being employed in the same workplace.

Let us now look at the Global Gender Gap Report 2007. Here are some choice rankings:

1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Finland
15. Sri Lanka
18. Canada
20. South Africa
31. United States
32. Kazakhstan
34. Tanzania
41. Uzbekistan
51. France
59. Azerbaijan
81. Indonesia
91. Japan
100. Bangladesh
114. India
118. Iran
121. Turkey
124. Saudi Arabia
126. Pakistan
127. Chad
128. Yemen

Yes, Pakistan is 3rd from the bottom. Let’s look at the detailed results for Pakistan. Pakistan seems to be really bad for women in terms of economic participation and opportunity (a measure which includes labor force participation, wage equality for similar work, income, legislators, senior officials and managers, and professional and technical workers), educational attainment (literacy rate, and enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education), and health and survival (sex ratio at birth and healthy life expectancy). On the other hand, Pakistan ranks 43rd for political empowerment of women (women in parliament, women in ministerial positions, and number of years with a female head of state).

سقوطِ ڈھاکہ

آج 16 دسمبر ہے۔ آج سے 36 سال پہلے پاکستانی فوج نے مشرقی پاکستان میں ہتھیار ڈالے اور بنگلہ‌دیش دنیا میں نمودار ہوا۔ چلیں اس تاریخ کو کچھ کھنگالیں کہ شاید ہم کچھ سیکھ سکیں۔

آج 16 دسمبر ہے۔ آج سے 36 سال پہلے پاکستانی فوج نے مشرقی پاکستان میں ہتھیار ڈالے اور بنگلہ‌دیش دنیا میں نمودار ہوا۔

Gen Niazi signing instruments of surrender

چلیں اس تاریخ کو کچھ کھنگالیں کہ شاید ہم کچھ سیکھ سکیں۔

پانچ سال پہلے جارج واشنگٹن یونیورسٹی میں نیشنل سیکورٹی آرکائیوز نے 1971 میں مشرقی پاکستان اور بنگلہ‌دیش سے متعلق کچھ امریکی دستاویزات ویب پر شائع کی تھیں۔ ان دستاویزات سے کچھ اقتباسات کے ترجمے پیشِ خدمت ہیں۔

دستاویز 1 مورخہ 28 مارچ جو ڈھاکہ میں امریکی قونصلخانے سے بھیجی گئی:

یہاں ڈھاکہ میں ہم پاکستانی فوج کے دہشت کے راج کے گونگے اور پریشان شاہد ہیں۔ شواہد سامنے آ رہے ہیں کہ پاکستانی حکام کے پاس عوامی لیگ کے حمایتیوں کی فہرستیں ہیں جنہیں وہ باقاعدہ طور پر ان کے گھروں میں ڈھونڈ کر گولی مار رہے ہیں۔ عوامی لیگ کے لیڈروں کے علاوہ سٹوڈنٹ لیڈر اور یونیورسٹی کے اساتذہ بھی ان کے نشانے پر ہیں۔

دستاویز 4 جو 30 مارچ کو ڈھاکہ قونصلخانے سے ڈھاکہ یونیورسٹی میں قتل و غارت کے متعلق ہے۔

ایف‌اے‌او کے ساتھ کام کرنے والے ایک امریکی نے ڈھاکہ یونیورسٹی کے اقبال ہال میں 25 طلباء کی لاشیں دیکھیں۔ اسے رقیہ گرلز ہال کے بارے میں بتایا گیا جہاں فوج نے عمارت کو آگ لگائی اور پھر بھاگتی لڑکیوں کو مشین‌گن سے مار دیا۔ اندازہ ہے کہ ڈھاکہ یونیورسٹی میں کل 1000 لوگوں کو مار دیا گیا۔

دستاویز 5 31 مارچ کو بھیجی گئی:

آرمی اپریشن کے نتجے میں مرنوں والوں کی تعداد کا اندازہ لگانا ابھی مشکل ہے۔ ڈھاکہ یونیورسٹی میں مرنے والے سٹوڈنٹس کی تعداد کا سب سے محتاط اندازہ 500 ہے اور 1000 تک جاتا ہے۔ پولیس کے ذرائع کے مطابق 25 مارچ کی رات کی شدید لڑائی میں 600 سے 800 پاکستانی پولیس والے مارے گئے۔ پرانا شہر جہاں فوج نے ہندو اور بنگالی علاقوں کو آگ لگائی اور پھر مکینوں کو گولیاں ماریں وہاں مرنے والوں کی تعداد کا اندازہ لگانا مشکل ہے۔ عینی شاہد ان مرنے والوں کی تعداد 2000 سے 4000 تک بتاتے ہیں۔ ہمارا خیال ہے کہ اس وقت تک فوجی ایکشن کے نتیجے میں مرنے والوں کی تعداد شاید 4000 سے 6000 تک ہے۔ ہمیں علم نہیں کہ کتنے فوجی مر چکے ہیں۔

دستاویز 6 بھی پڑھیں جس سے اندازہ ہوتا ہے کہ ہندو خاص طور پر پاکستانی فوج کا نشانہ تھے اور کیسے خواتین ریپ کا شکار ہوئیں۔

کچھ بنگالی بزنسمین جو عوامی لیگ کے حامی نہیں ہیں انہوں نے ڈھاکہ یونیورسٹی میں رقیہ ہال میں 6 لڑکیوں کی ننگی لاشیں دیکھیں جنہیں زنا بالجبر اور گولی مارنے کے بعد پنکھوں سے لٹکا دیا گیا تھا۔ یونیورسٹی میں دو اجتماعی قبریں بھی ہیں جن میں سے ایک میں 140 لاشیں پائی گئیں۔

امریکی سٹیٹ ڈیپارٹمنٹ کے ویب سائٹ پر آپ 1971 سے متعلق بہت سی امریکی دستاویزات پڑھ سکتے ہیں۔

جنگ کے اختتام کے بعد پاکستانی حکومت نے حمود الرحمان کمیشن قائم کیا جس کا مقصد اس ساری صورتحال کے بارے میں تفتیش کرنا تھا۔ اس کمیشن کی رپورٹ سالہا سال تک پاکستانی حکمرانوں نے چھپائے رکھی۔ پھر اگست 2000 میں اس رپورٹ کا ایک حصہ انڈیا ٹوڈے نے چھاپ دیا۔ اس کے بعد پاکستانی حکومت نے رپورٹ کے کچھ حصے حذف کر کے باقی کی رپرٹ شائع کر دی جسے آپ یہاں پڑھ سکتے ہیں۔ اس وقت اس کا اردو ترجمہ جنگ اخبار میں چھپا جس کا کچھ حصہ آپ اردو محفل پر پڑھ سکتے ہیں۔

حمود الرحمان کمیشن رپورٹ پڑھتے ہوئے حیرت ہوتی ہے کہ پاکستانی حکمرانوں نے اسے کیوں 28 سال تک چھپائے رکھا۔ ویسے تو رپورٹ اچھی ہے اور کئی فوجی کمانڈرز کو موردِ الزام ٹھہراتی ہے مگر کچھ لطیفے بھی ہیں۔

مثال کے طور پر پاکستانی فوج کے مظالم کا ذکر کرتے ہوئے رپورٹ حیرانی کا اظہار کرتی ہے کہ پاکستانی فوج 9 ماہ میں 3 ملین لوگوں کو کیسے مار سکتی تھی اور جی‌ایچ‌کیو کی بات ماننے میں عار محسوس نہیں کرتی کہ فوج نے صرف 26 ہزار بنگالی مارے۔ مگر ساتھ ہی یہ دعوٰی بھی کرتی ہے کہ فوجی ایکشن سے پہلے مارچ کے 24 دنوں میں عوامی لیگ نے ایک سے پانچ لاکھ لوگوں کو مار دیا۔ اگر 24 دن میں ایک لاکھ لوگوں کو مارنا ممکن تھا تو پھر فوج جس کے پاس بڑے ہتھیار تھے وہ 8، 9 ماہ میں 3 ملین کیوں نہیں مار سکتی تھی؟ تین ملین کی تعداد کو مبالغہ کہنا اور صحیح نہ ماننا ایک بات ہے اور اسے اس طرح ناممکن قرار دینا بالکل دوسری۔ خیال رہے کہ میں یہ نہیں کہہ رہا کہ 3 ملین کی تعداد صحیح ہے۔ جتنا اس سال کے واقعات کے بارے میں میں نے پڑھا ہے کوئی غیرجانبدار تحقیق اس معاملے میں نہیں ہوئی۔ بہرحال شواہد کے مطابق مغربی پاکستانی فوج نے یقیناً 26 ہزار سے زیادہ اور 3 ملین سے کم لوگ مارے۔

اب آتے ہیں بنگلہ‌دیشی بلاگز کی طرف کہ وہ اس دن کے بارے میں کیا کہتے ہیں۔

کچھ بنگالی بلاگز سے مجھے ڈھاکہ میں جنگِ آزادی میوزیم کے ویب سائٹ کا پتہ چلا۔ اس سائٹ پر فی‌الحال صرف چند بنیادی معلومات ہی ہیں۔

درشتی‌پت بلاگ پر 1971 میں بنگالی دانشوروں کے قتل سے متعلق دو پوسٹس موجود ہیں۔

یا کیسے میں نے پریشان نہ ہونا سیکھا بلاگ کے معشوق الرحمان نے تو بہت سے مضامین 1971 کے واقعات پر لکھے ہیں۔ ان میں سے قابلِ ذکر اس وقت کی اخباری رپورٹس کو سکین کر کے آن‌لائن لانا ہے: بنگلہ‌دیش آبزرور ، ڈان اور بین الاقوامی اخبارات ۔ اس کے علاوہ اس کا ایک مضمون جو ایک بنگالی اخبار میں بھی چھپا ہے وہ شرمیلہ بوس کے اس دعوے کی تردید میں ہے کہ 1971 میں مشرقی پاکستان میں پاکستانی فوج نے لاکھوں خواتین کی عزت نہیں لوٹی تھی۔ بلاگر کین یونیورسٹی نیو جرسی میں بنگلہ‌دیش میں ہونے والی نسل‌کشی پر ایک سیمینار کی رپورٹ بھی پیش کرتا ہے جس میں وہاں کے نسل‌کشی سٹڈیز کے پروگرام میں 1971 کے بنگلہ‌دیش کے واقعات پر ایک کورس آفر کرنے کی کوشش ہو رہی ہے۔ اس سیمینار میں 1971 میں مارے جانے والوں کی فیملی کے افراد بھی اپنے اور اپنی فیملی کے ساتھ ہونے والے واقعات بیان کرتے ہیں جو آپ بلاگ پر پڑھ سکتے ہیں۔ معشوق کے بلاگ پر بنگلہ‌دیش کی جنگِ آزادی کے متعلق بہت زیادہ مواد ہے اور میرا مشورہ ہے کہ آپ اسے ضرور پڑھیں۔

خدا کے لئے

شعیب منصور کی فلم خدا کے لئے میں میری کی زبردستی شادی اور حبسِ بےجا نے مجھے سب سے متاثر کیا۔ لالی‌وڈ کی عام فلموں سے بہت مختلف یہ ایک اچھی فلم ہے اور دیکھنے سے تعلق رکھتی ہے۔

آخر فلم خدا کے لئے دیکھی۔ اچھی فلم ہے۔

فلم کے متعلق تمام تبصرے موسیقی اور اسلام پر ہی پڑھے اور اس سے زیادہ بیکار بحث نہیں دیکھی۔ مگر فلم کا سب سے پراثر حصہ اس برطانوی پاکستانی لڑکی سے متعلق ہے جس کی زبردستی شادی کر دی جاتی ہے۔

مجھے اس بات پر بھی کافی دکھ ہوا کہ موسیقی کی ممانعت سے متعلق تو لوگوں نے اتنا چور مچایا مگر کسی نے یہ ذکر بھی نہیں کیا کہ فلم کے دوسرے مولوی صاحب زبردستی کی شادی کو بھی درست قرار دیتے ہیں۔

پاکستانی فلموں کی نسبت بہت بہتر فلم ہے اور دیکھنے سے تعلق رکھتی ہے۔ مگر اس میں کچھ خامیاں بھی ہیں۔ ایک تو ایمان علی کو برطانوی پاکستانی کا رول دیا گیا ہے مگر اس کا لہجہ بالکل بھی برطانوی نہیں۔ دوسرے فلم میں کئی لیکچر نما ڈائیلاگ ہیں۔

فلم میں سب سے متاثرکن حصہ ایک برطانوی پاکستانی کی زبردستی شادی اور پھر قبائلی علاقے میں اپنے “شوہر” کے ہاتھوں قید میں رہنا ہے۔ زبردستی کی شادی واقعی ایک مسئلہ ہے اور کچھ بیرون ملک رہنے والے پاکستانی بھی اس میں ملوث ہیں۔

فلم کا کمزورترین حصہ امریکہ والا ہے۔ شان موسیقی کی اعلٰی تعلیم کے لئے امریکہ آتا ہے اور وہاں آسٹن میری سیئر سے محبت اور شادی کر لیتا ہے۔ مگر ان میں محبت ہونے کا عمل کچھ ایسا پیش نہیں کیا گیا کہ سامعین اسے قابلِ یقین سمجھیں۔

پھر شان کو امریکی پولیس پکڑ لیتی ہے اور اس پر دہشت‌گرد ہونے کا الزام لگا کر تشدد کا نشانہ بناتی ہے۔ یہاں بھی معاملات گوانتامو بے اور ابوغریب سے نقل کئے گئے ہیں جو غلط نہیں۔ مگر اس سے یہ غلط تاثر ملتا ہے کہ امریکہ میں موجود پاکستانی یا مسلمان طلباء کے ساتھ ایسا کچھ سلوگ ستمبر 11 کے بعد ہوا تھا۔ اس وقت سینکڑوں لوگ پکڑے گئے جنہوں نے کسی قسم کی امیگریشن کے قوانین کی خلاف‌ورزی کی تھی اور انہیں مہینوں جیل میں رکھا گیا جہاں انہیں کچھ مارا پیٹا بھی گیا اور بعد میں زیادہ‌تر کو قوانین کی خلاف‌ورزی کی بنیاد پر ملک سے نکال دیا گیا۔ اس بارے میں امریکی حکومت اور دوسرے ادارے تحقیق کر چکے ہیں اور شاید میں بھی اس پر اپنے بلاگ پر لکھ چکا ہوں۔ بہرحال جیسے فلم میں شان پر شدید تشدد کیا گیا ویسا کوئی واقعہ نہیں ہوا۔

فلم کی موسیقی بھی سننے سے تعلق رکھتی ہے۔

میں اس فلم کو 10 میں سے 7 نمبر دیتا ہوں۔

Some Thoughts on Pakistan

This martial law is basically a coup against the higher judiciary. While lawyers are protesting, the politicians are still inactive. This might empower the militants. The US must reject dictatorship in Pakistan.

Further to my previous post on Pakistan’s martial law, here are some thoughts about the past and the future.

Here is General Musharraf’s speech after he imposed emergency/martial law.

Chapati Mystery has done an English translation of the whole speech so I don’t have to.

You’ll notice the “I” in Musharraf’s speech, i.e. “I did this, I did that” and his conflation of him and Pakistan and how everything he has done and is doing is for Pakistan. That is of course the staple of such speeches, I still remember Zia’s speeches.

Also, consider his reasons for his actions as given in his speech and the emergency proclamation.

Whereas some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the government and the nation’s resolve diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

Whereas there has been increasing interference by some members of the judiciary in government policy, adversely affecting economic growth, in particular;

Whereas constant interference in executive functions, including but not limited to the control of terrorist activity, economic policy, price controls, downsizing of corporations and urban planning, has weakened the writ of the government; the police force has been completely demoralised and is fast losing its efficacy to fight terrorism and intelligence agencies have been thwarted in their activities and prevented from pursuing terrorists;

Whereas some hard core militants, extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers, who were arrested and being investigated were ordered to be released. The persons so released have subsequently been involved in heinous terrorist activities, resulting in loss of human life and property. Militants across the country have, thus, been encouraged while law enforcement agencies subdued;

Whereas some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions;

Whereas the government is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and holds the superior judiciary in high esteem, it is nonetheless of paramount importance that the honourable judges confine the scope of their activity to the judicial function and not assume charge of administration;

Whereas an important constitutional institution, the Supreme Judicial Council, has been made entirely irrelevant and non est by a recent order and judges have, thus, made themselves immune from inquiry into their conduct and put themselves beyond accountability;

Whereas the humiliating treatment meted out to government officials by some members of the judiciary on a routine basis during court proceedings has demoralised the civil bureaucracy and senior government functionaries, to avoid being harassed, prefer inaction;

The terrorists and extremists were mentioned only a couple of times while most of Musharraf’s ire is towards the judiciary. A large number of the high court and supreme court judges have been thrown out now due to the requirement of a new oath under Musharraf’s latest Provisional Constitutional Order. Do remember that most of the judges serving now are those who took an oath under Musharraf’s earlier PCO in 1999-2000. So something has happened in the meantime to create this change in attitude.

It started with the Supreme Court taking independent positions and taking the government to task as a result of which Musharraf suspended the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007 and sent a reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council. This triggered a protest by the lawyers in Pakistan which snowballed into a major headache for the government. Finally, in July the Supreme Court reinstated the Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court then declared former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s exile null and void. Sharif returned to Pakistan in September and was promptly packed off to Saudi Arabia. A petition of contempt of court against the government is pending in the Supreme Court and it was widely believed that it would result in conviction for the Prime Minister and other government officials.

The Supreme Court also recently punished the law enforcement officials who manhandled the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry when he was suspended in March. Similarly, the Supreme Court was hearing petitions or taking suo moto notice of several government actions including the disappearance by intelligence agencies (or law enforcement) of terrorist suspects.

And then there was the issue of Musharraf’s reelection as President. The court allowed him to contest the election but still had to rule on Musharraf’s eligibility. It was widely expected that they would rule him ineligible soon.

All these matters resulted in a situation where the Musharraf government was pitted against the Supreme Court and the law community. Though Musharraf was wrong on most of these issues, the situation was unhealthy as a lot of political and policy issues were being decided not in the political arena but in the courts. And lacking an army the supreme court was bound to lose eventually.

Immediately after emergency/martial law was imposed, a 7-member bench of the Supreme Court declared it null and void and called upon everyone not to obey the government orders. And today the protests against martial law are coming from the lawyers and not the political parties, which just goes to show the bankruptcy of the political class in Pakistan.

It is also the talk of the town that Benazir Bhutto left Pakistan for Dubai on the eve of the imposition of emergency because she knew about it and has made a deal with Musharraf. While Bhutto has condemned the imposition of emergency and called it martial law, it remains to be seen whether her party PPP will actually oppose it on the streets. The government seems to be sanguine about the PPP though as none of the major leaders of PPP have been arrested despite more than 1,500 arrests of lawyers, politicians and human rights activists over the weekend. The only major PPP leader arrested is Aitzaz Ahsan who is the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who I might add has less cojones than Junejo, had earlier suggested that national elections might be delayed for up to a year but has now said that elections will be on schedule.

Pakistan’s prime minister says national elections will be held as scheduled, despite President Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of emergency rule.

Elections are planned for mid-January, but there were fears they might be abandoned because of the crisis.

The government had suggested parliamentary polls could be delayed by up to a year.

But Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that: “The next general elections will be held according to the schedule.”

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum was more specific.

“It has been decided there will be no delay in the election and by 15 November these assemblies will be dissolved and the election will be held within the next 60 days,” he told Reuters news agency.

But with restrictions on the Press and the constitution suspended what use could these elections be?

With the political parties not being active in their political and democratic duties and Musharraf being extremely unpopular, it is likely that the longer the martial law continues, the more the extremists and the Islamists will be strengthened.

While Musharraf is not at all justified in imposing martial law and these measures are not likely to help Pakistan, it is true that Pakistan is in dire straits right now as is evident by the title of my previous post.

The war in Waziristan has been going on for a while now. The terrain there is difficult and the locals are not at all in favor of interference by the Pakistani government. However, the militants haven’t been good to the locals either. If you look at the kill ratios in Waziristan, it is clear that the Pakistan army, which has 80 to 90 thousand troops along with an equal number of paramilitaries, is not doing too well. Plus soldiers were being captured easily by the militants, the most famous being the 300 soldiers led by a Colonel who surrendered in August and were released yesterday in exchange for 28 militants.

The tribal areas have always been on the periphery of Pakistan and the writ of the central government hasn’t mattered much there. However, the problems are spreading to settled areas such as Swat. The government looked on for a couple of years as TNSM leader Fazlullah ranted against polio vaccination, girls’ education, music and other such matters on an illegal radio station in Swat. Now the situation there is out of control and paramilitary troops of Frontier Corps, who are generally conservative Pashtuns, are surrendering.

In addition, there have been numerous suicide attacks against military and law enforcement targets this year. The latest was the attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus in Sargodha which killed 11. Even more surprising was the suicide attack against a commando unit at an army mess hall near Tarbela in September. The situation has gotten so bad that the army has been ordered not to move around in uniform.

All of these things must have affected morale of the army. While the killings must be laid at the door of the militants, Musharraf must share some blame for his ham-handed handling of the matter.

Finally, as a US resident, the question arises as to what the US should do. I agree with Chapati Mystery that:

Pakistan needed our help a year ago. It needed a genuine push for democratic processes back in March. We left unchecked, and unhindered, a megalomaniac
“enlightened moderator”. We keep insisting on our own interests ahead of the interests of the people of Pakistan. We remain steadfast in our belief that those people are not as developed nor as functional as we would like them to be. Pakistan needs a strong dictator.

And all the things that Obsidian Wings points out we could have done.

As for what the US should do now? It should make it clear that martial law is not acceptable and democracy must return. In addition, the US should not favor any specific politician or party. There is an impression in Pakistan that the Bhutto-Musharraf deal had the blessings of the US. We should not take sides for or against Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif. Instead we must insist on Pakistan lifting martial law and holding free and fair elections immediately. The more the elections are delayed and the US is identified with Musharraf, the worse it is for the future of Pakistan and Pakistanis and by implication for the US. And hence I second Chapati Mystery’s call to ask US Presidential candidates to take a stand against dictatorship in Pakistan.

The End of Pakistan

General Musharraf has declared martial law in all but name and Pakistan is headed for the dustbin of history.

This morning, I was sleeping as Amber told me that a state of emergency had been imposed in Pakistan. I wasn’t surprised since something was expected after the situation had deteriorated in Swat in addition to Waziristan. However, when I woke up and switched on Geo TV, I realized that what had happened was more like a martial law than a state of emergency. According to All Things Pakistan, the government-owned PTV announced:

The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order.

According to the emergency proclamation,

And whereas the situation has been reviewed in meetings with the Prime Minister, governors of all Provinces, and with chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, chiefs of the armed forces, vice-chief of army Staff and corps commanders of the Pakistan army;Now, therefore, in pursuance of the deliberations and decisions of the said meetings, I, General Pervez Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff, proclaim emergency throughout Pakistan.

I hereby order and proclaim that the constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan shall remain in abeyance.

So the constitution is no more and the so-called emergency has been imposed by the Chief of Army Staff and not the President as defined by the constitution’s emergency provisions. The text of the provisional constitutional order is available here. Whatever might be said, this is Martial Law, not an emergency.

Musharraf has given extremism as the main reason for his second coup, but the reality is that the Supreme Court was likely to rule against Musharraf’s election in the next few days.

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has defended his decision to declare emergency rule, saying he could not allow the country to commit suicide.

In a televised address he said Pakistan had reached a crisis brought about by militant violence and a judiciary which had paralysed the government.

The chief justice has been replaced and the Supreme Court surrounded by troops.

The moves came as the Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of Gen Musharraf’s October election victory.

The court was to decide whether Gen Musharraf was eligible to run for re-election last month while remaining army chief.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett reports from Islamabad that fears had been growing in the government that the Supreme Court ruling could go against Gen Musharraf.

The year 2007 has been very bad for Pakistan. In March, Musharraf tried to dismiss the Chief Justice and the lawyers came out against the highhandedness of the government, finally forcing Musharraf to let the Supreme Court reinstate the Chief Justice.

In July, there was the action against Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad after the extremist clerics there were given a free hand for months and as a result hundreds were killed. At the time, Amber called it the beginning of the end for Pakistan and to keep an eye on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan, we decided to subscribe to Geo TV. As it turned out, events spiraled out of control faster than we had thought possible. As Eteraz writes:

Musharraf’s act comes at a time when Pakistan has almost 100,000 troops in the Waziristan region, battling the Taliban. Meanwhile, the country is being hit by almost daily suicide bombings (since July, more than 450 people have been killed by terrorists). Islamist militants recently ambushed and held 250 solders hostage, and another 48 soldiers were paraded as a trophy by a Taliban commander.

Also, something like a war started recently in Swat.

Taleban fighters in Pakistan’s northern district of Swat have paraded 48 paramilitary troops they captured in fighting this week.

The soldiers said they surrendered when their positions on a hilltop were surrounded by armed militants.

More than 2,500 paramilitary troops were sent to Swat last week as fighting in the area worsened.

Nearly 300 soldiers are still being held prisoner further south in the Waziristan tribal region.

The militants in Swat want the imposition of Sharia law.

With suicide bombings occurring everywhere and FATA and Swat in open rebellion by extremists, Pakistan was in a precarious situation. Since Musharraf has been the dictator for 8 years, he must share some of the blame for the situation getting this bad. However, if he wanted to tackle it, he could have proclaimed a constitutional state of emergency which does contain provisions to suspend fundamental rights. But it did not allow him to get rid of the Supreme Court and the High Courts as Musharraf has done. The only reason of doing so is to save his own power.

And that brings us to “I told you so.” On October 12, 1999, I told everyone who would listen that Musharraf was not taking over for the sake of Pakistan or for saving the country from the corrupt politicians like Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto. He did not act when the country was in peril, but when his own position as Army Chief was threatened. I have always considered him a power-hungry army general in the mold of General Ziaul Haq.

Ziaul Haq sowed the seeds of Pakistan’s current troubles with his Islamization and jihadi policies and today Musharraf is reaping its rewards and acting like Zia II. Having grown up in Zia’s Pakistan and now watching Musharraf’s Pakistan from afar, both these generals look to be the worst nightmare for Pakistan.

I agree with Chapati Mystery here.

Next up? Martial Law. More bombings. And the eventual drain of all that capital that had accumulated in the country in the past 8 years. Zimbabwe, here we come. Unless, US and China can come to their senses and do some actual diplomacy. The status is bleak. Let us say that Musharraf resigns and leaves. The Supreme Court declares an election date, the new government solves the Baluchistan issue, th US redeploys significant troops to Afghanistan (and keeps them there), the Pakistani military combats within cities and mountains of Pakistan. War. Chaos. Uncertainty. And this, my gentle readers, would be the best case scenario. A more likely option is a military state somewhere between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe circa 2005 and Gandhi’s India circa 1976.

However, if I have to give my prediction, my guess is that the army will stay in power for a long time now, but Musharraf’s days are numbered.

Pakistan Political Poll

A discussion about a series of polls about political opinions in Pakistan. In short, Musharraf and the ruling PML-Q are very unpopular, Bhutto and PPP are losing their popularity too while Sharif is gaining. The religio-political leaders are losing too.

Whenever talk turns to Pakistani politics, the biggest problem I have faced is a lack of data. How do we know which politicians, parties and policies are popular? Most of the time, we have to make do with hand-waving and some guesstimates of political rallies and marches. So I was really happy to find the opinion surveys of International Republican Institute done over 2006-2007.

Their latest poll was conducted from August 29 to September 13, 2007 and has a margin of error of 1.58%. For some context, Nawaz Sharif arrived in Pakistan on September 10 and was promptly sent to Saudi Arabian exile while Benazir Bhutto arrived in Karachi on October 18.

The detailed results are here but I like the charts.

When Pakistanis were asked to name their top issues for voting decisions, they named mainly economic concerns: Inflation (37%), unemployment (20%), and poverty (11%). This was followed by law and order at 10%. Islamization was cited by only 2% of the respondents.

A majority (62%) does not want the army to have any role in government. More (76%, of which 70% have strong opinions on the matter) would like Musharraf to resign as army chief. Both of these numbers have increased over the course of this year.

Reports of a deal between Musharraf and Bhutto were around throughout this year. The poll shows that support for such a deal is down.


However, a majority of PPP (58%) and PML-Q (53%) supporters still favor the deal. When given an option between a deal with Musharraf and an alliance with the opposition APDM, almost half of all respondents prefer the PPP joining APDM. This is even true for PPP supporters, which is strange since they support the Musharraf-Bhutto deal too.

47% of Pakistanis think that this deal is for improving Bhutto’s personal situation while 27% believe it is for bringing democracy. These numbers are reversed among PPP supporters.

To anyone watching Pakistan, it is clear how things have taken a turn for the worse recently, what Amber called “beginning of the end” some months ago. Still the question about which direction Pakistan is heading was an eye opener with such a dramatic change over the last 6 months.


Government performance numbers have shown a similar trend, with the government being quite popular (61%) in February 2007.


Musharraf’s job approval rating has fallen faster and lower than Bush’s, with 70% now calling for his resignation.


A very interesting question is about which leader can best handle the problems facing Pakistan. No one gets a majority, showing both Pakistanis’ cynicism about their leaders and the divisions in society. But I found it very intriguing that Nawaz Sharif comes out of nowhere to suddenly lead the pack in the latest survey. Since that survey was conducted right in the middle of Sharif’s effort to return and his being packed off to Saudia again, it is premature to say whether he’ll hold on to his lead. My guess is that Musharraf is very unpopular right now and some of that has rubbed on to Bhutto due to her deal with Musharraf.


A province-wise breakdown of leaders is even more interesting, with the religio-political leaders trailing even in the province they rule, NWFP.


Looking at the favorability ratings of Pakistani political leaders, we see Musharraf crashing which was obvious but we also see Altaf Hussain of MQM going from 18% to 6%. Whether this will mean that MQM’s hold on Karachi will be broken is anybody’s guess. The religio-political leaders Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Fazalur Rehman peaked a year ago but have lost popularity since. And this was before the drama of Fazalur Rehman trying to hold on to power in NWFP at all costs during the Musharraf election in October. My prediction is for Fazalur Rahman to be even more unpopular in the next survey.


Coming to elections, 74% of Pakistanis opposed the reelection of Musharraf as President. The voting intentions for parliamentary elections by party track the leaders reasonably, with Musharraf being considered the leader for the ruling PML-Q. I was surprised at the PML-N performance though. I guess most of the anti-Musharraf, non-PPP vote is accumulated there.


In Punjab, PML-N (54%) does best followed by PML-Q (21%). In Sindh, PPP is at 64% followed by PML-Q at 8%. In NWFP, PML-N is at 27% while PML-Q and PPP are tied at 17% each (note that NWFP is currently ruled by MMA which polls even behind Imran Khan’s PTI). In Balochistan, it’s PPP at 29% followed by MMA at 15%.

Overall, it looks like Musharraf and the ruling alliance are very unpopular. So unpopular in fact that Bhutto’s PPP is getting tainted due to their willingness to make a deal. The religious alliance MMA is also not as popular as it was in the last elections in 2002. And in urban Sindh, MQM seems to be finally losing its stranglehold.

The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857

This is a great book about Bahadur Shah Zafar, Delhi and the events of 1857. It makes everything come alive. If you are interested in Indian history, it’s a must read.

The Last Mughal is about the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. It mainly covers the events of the Mutiny (or War of Independence) of 1857 as seen in Delhi.

The 1857 war of independence was basically a mutiny of Indian soldiers in the Bengal Army of East India Company. Almost all of the Bengal Army rebelled and a lot of them ended up in Delhi, nominally under the flag of the last Mughal emperor. Bahadur Shah Zafar wasn’t at all eager for the rebellion, but he did give them his blessing when the rebels came to Delhi. Interestingly, most of the soldiers were high caste Hindus from the eastern Hindi belt and not the so-called martial races of India (an idea which probably came later). The British retook India with the help of Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims, Pathans and Gurkhas etc. (here come the “martial races”) and then came the massacres and the hangings. Ironically, the British blamed Muslims for the rebellion when actually it had the support of both Muslims and Hindus.

William Dalrymple is a good writer and the book is a fun read. He creates an image of Delhi in 1857 in your mind and The Last Mughal is worth reading just for that.

For a more detailed and academic review, read Chapati Mystery where there is a great discussion in the comments too. And William Dalrymple replies to that discussion.

Angry Arab in Pakistan

The Angry Arab visits Pakistan and writes about lizards in his inimitable style. All his posts about Pakistan are worth reading.

The Angry Arab went to Pakistan a couple of months ago as a speaker at the International Islamic University. His blog posts about the visit were amusing and interesting. His experience of running scared from the lizards so common in Pakistan was especially funny.

Here is a list of his posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

Here are some of his concluding remarks about Pakistan:

Prior to my departure to Islamabad, my kind host called me from Pakistan and strongly urged me (for my own safety) to refrain from ever using the words “atheist” or “secular” or “communist.” Just to make sure I get the point, he always wrote to me making the same point. The political climate there was more liberalized than I expected: it is not that I met people who were critical of Musharraf. I did not meet any one who was NOT critical of Musharraf. But the liberalized political climate did not extend to the Islam question. I strongly felt that there was excessive obsession with Islam in a country that is overwhelmingly Islamic in religious affiliation. The term of reference was so Islamic in conversations and media that I was ready to embrace the secularism of the Turkish generals. It was always assumed that everybody was Islamic. After one talk, which coincided with the prayer time, my host quickly whisked me away because he did want the audience to notice that I don’t pray. I was quite bothered with the too many headlines and news items in Urdu newspapers about Salman Rushdie. Is this really the urgent matter of the day with the country suffering from extreme poverty and a military government? And in my Arabic talk at the Usul Ad-Din College, I made a side mocking remark against Ayman Adh-Dhawahiri, and I noticed in people’s faces that they were not pleased with that one remark, although they were quite pleased with my talk about the study of Islam. And I once was pissed. I am VERY bothered when somebody—anybody—tries to suggest that Palestine is an Islamic cause or question. One member of the audience in one talk said just that. I had to tell him: Islamic matter? You think that Palestinian Christians care less about Palestine than Palestine Muslims? I had to tell him that I knew Palestinian Christians who gave their lives for Palestine. George Habash cares less about Palestine that Mr. Muhammad Dahlan? That angers me when I hear it. I did not understand why a majority Muslim country can’t relax a bit about the Islam factor.

Mostly on the mark I would say, though of course the Angry Arab did not get to see the Westernized elite much, who are also making inroads into the middle classes.