Friday, August 27, 2010
Too much has happened this past week, I just do not know if I can take it. I had despaired of my 22-year old Mona ever marrying. She was getting too old for suitable rishtas. Assad and I kept trying and found potentials – a couple of them were very good, but she rejected them all. One was a doctor living in the United States! His salary was great, so we could forget we hate Americans. Anyway, he was very impressive. Another was an engineer who came from such a good family in Islamabad – such good people, you know Journal, they have donated much to the flood victims. Ohh that story I cannot bear to watch on tv for too long. Hamid Mir knows that we are very sensitive. He obliges by spending most of his airtime blasting the government. Honestly, what are Zardari and Gilani doing to stop the water? Nothing, that’s what.
Anyway back to Mona. She now tells me she has rejected all the suitors we have found for her because she has a boyfriend and wants to marry him! Imagine this! What would my two best friends, Jugni and Shaista, say? Mona sat down at dinner yesterday and told her father and I. Assad knows the boy, or rather the boy’s family. They are businessmen. His name is Faisal Sheikh, an heir to the business. He doesn’t really do much, but then he is an heir. Assad said he didn’t have a problem – we probably would have found him for Mona anyway. He will meet with Faisal’s father soon. After I realized I would suffer no public humiliation, I quickly realized I had a wedding to plan! I rushed to tell Nona, my 17-year old son, who by the way is a star student at Aitchison. He seemed happy for his sister but not very enthusiastic when I mentioned all the work ahead for this elaborate wedding. He looked at me and said, “You’re going to spend something like half a crore when there are millions homeless because of the floods?” and then he walked out.
“Naveed, come back here this instant!”
I heard the door slam. Children today are so opinionated. It’s really just rude.
Chalo, I have to call Jugni and Shaista. Shaista has a 21-year old daughter…still unmarried.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Years of living under brutal dictators did not stop Pakistan’s push for democracy. As a democratically-elected government gingerly gained its footing, there was real hope that it would be first administration to finish its term. Pakistan was, and is, very close to setting this all-important precedent. But the floods have created what President Zardari calls the “ideal hope of the radical,” that the disaster has discredited the civilian government and paved the way for potential chaos.
It should be noted that though terrorists across the Islamic world differ in strategy, their common denominator remains their ability to exploit political disunity to their advantage. The President defended the country’s response to the floods, arguing his government is rising to its duty and doing the absolute most it can in the face of such devastation. This begs the question, is any government ever prepared to see one-fifth of its country underwater or incur damages reaching $43 billion? The destruction of the floods is almost beyond comprehension. Funds specifically allocated to a myriad of projects -- building schools, health clinics, paving roads, assisting the poor – have been redirected to relief for flood victims, slowing the efforts to focus on those crucial problems. Pakistan requires years of continued development and assistance to recover from what the UN Secretary General describes a “slow-moving tsunami.” The UN described the floods as a test of “global solidarity.”
For Pakistan, then, this is a test of national solidarity. The floods are yet another national crisis the country must meet head-on. The crippling generational-poverty keeps education and opportunity from the masses. Families are forced to send their children to work, depriving them of a change of improving their quality of life. In a country where labor-laws are either non-existent or not enforced, this is a tragedy the country suffers every single day.
The social attitudes are another aspect that keeps Pakistanis from progressing. The nonchalant acceptance of discrimination of minorities is an ugly truth in today’s Pakistan. The internal cancer of extremism has been alleviated in the northern areas – thanks to the sharp leadership of Gen. Kayani – but it is by no means abated and has spread to Pakistan’s cities.
This is a time for national solidarity and unity. Our leaders must have a cogent plan going forward, with no gaps extremists might slink through. Already there are reports of extremists providing aid and recruiting the flood victims to their agenda. We have a wonderful example set by the PPP and PML-N. At a press conference last week, Prime Minister Gilani and Nawaz Sharif announced their plan to work together towards the full and complete rehabilitation of the 20 million affected by the floods. That is a shining example of leaders coming together to generate ideas on how to better lead the people.
Pakistan’s leaders are all united in agreement against the gruesome lynching of two brothers in Sialkot. The grainy video footage captured by an eye-witness has horrified the nation. The public’s reaction is clear: surely we must hold on to our humanity in the midst of difficult times, surely we are not bereft of humanity. Leaders across the political stage, from Governor Salmaan Taseer to CM Shahbaz Sharif, have declared the perpetrators will be brought to justice and that such acts must never be allowed to happen again.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have people who haven’t learned a thing from history. Leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussain called for “patriotic generals” to impose martial law upon the country. This, he declared, would be the best way to help the country out of this disaster. Mr. Hussain fails to realize that the harsh periods of martial law in Pakistani history are seen as the worst for development and education. To debate the merits of democracy versus martial law is to waste the country’s time. We cannot fill the airwaves with a smokescreen issue that so cruelly takes away from many other pressing matters.
Pakistanis must reject the cacophony of the ignorant, continue to fortify democratic institutions and most of all, tackle the crises with true patriotic zeal. Political point-scoring and delusions of martial law’s grandeur must have no place in our narrative. Whenever any Pakistani feels angry, he must only stop and think of the consequences. Anger is what feeds the extremists, who have no respect for innocent lives, and even in the face of natural disaster choose to unleash violence upon a suffering people. Anger is what divides our leaders and fails our people. These are the millions of people who are desperate for help. We must rise to do our duties by them, and rise together, as one nation.
Kindness has never weakened a nation and true patriotism has never hurt it. Only by banding together can Pakistanis effectively overcome the severe crises it currently faces.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
My mother is every bit a Pakistani woman. Her stern demeanor tries to hush up her inner tenderness. My siblings and I were raised on a rigid routine, almost army-like, but what I remember most about my childhood are my mom’s smiles when I made her happy. I like to think I’ve inherited her smile, something she hides at first but can’t suppress, until it lights up her entire face and the whole family. I have seen her face when she is hurt and upset, and it pierces my heart. As Pakistanis, we love our mothers fiercely. It is them who we think of in pain, and it is them we credit for our accomplishments. A favorite saying, “no success exists without a mother’s blessing” rings true.
These thoughts ran through my mind as I read about women in the “tent cities.” Women sat and stared at the walls, without speaking. Many of these women had watched their children die or had lost them somewhere along the evacuation and settling into camps. This level of trauma is beyond comprehension. Of the women blessed enough to have their entire families with them, the lack of food, clothing or a dry place to sleep kept them anxious and desperate. They say that a mother is the soul of a family. Then these women are the soul of Pakistan.
We need their blessing.
Once all the flood victim efforts are underway and we are helping to set up the families, we must begin with the women. They will know how to do the most with the supplies given and waste nothing. They will put their entire families ahead of them, as Pakistani mothers do. They will never complain but comfort their loved ones, promising to take care of them. We have to do what we can for them, so they may do what they can for families.
It is the job of the government to step up and do as much as it can, but this crisis is bigger than that. It requires every single Pakistani to do his or her part. This is our country, and she is our responsibility. The devastation of the floods has not received the international coverage other disasters have, but there is one glimmer of hope. Stunned Pakistanis all across the world, expats who had left 20, 30, 40 years ago, have donated supplies and money. This is a beautiful spirit of nationalism and a very genuine love for Pakistan. We all must do our part, nahin, we must all do more than we can, and we should start with the mothers. Perhaps it is their prayers alone that can bring about the peaceful future Pakistan deserves.
Monday, August 16, 2010
President Zardari Must Attend the Sochi Summit.
Diplomats and development experts have long anticipated the upcoming Sochi Summit. The recent politicization of President Zardari’s foreign trips threatens to derail this vital meeting of the Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Russia where comprehensive projects are on the main agenda. One thing is clear: cooler heads must prevail and President Zardari’s attendance at this Summit must be regarded as an important step in securing Pakistan’s future.
Last year’s summit, held in July 2009, was deemed an enormous success. The four countries laid the groundwork for projects ranging from hydropower plants, transmission lines and general internal infrastructure. President Zardari agreed with Russian President Medvedev, Tajik President Rahmon and Afghan President Karzai all publicly agreed that economic ties needed to be strengthened and trade had to be increased in the region. What would be better for Pakistan than to have support from the countries geographically hugging her, laying a foundation that will benefit the nation for generations?
Critics of President Zardari’s attendance should open their history books (nothing of the revisionist variety), and recognize that Pakistan can once again gain access to the old trade routes into Central Asia and Russia that were long ago closed off. Russia and Tajikistan would have access to Pakistani ports. Needless to say, when Pakistani goods are promoted, Pakistan’s economy stands to profit and there is no limit to what this partnership could achieve.
President Zardari (the man voted in democratically to be head of state) should carry out the functions of his office, attend the Sochi Summit and return with good news for Islamabad. The argument that there is no need to attend Sochi is ludicrous, and narrow-minded to the point of being self-defeating. Working with the Central Asia nations to increase trade and economy will empower Pakistani business, bolster the economy and enable profits of billions of dollars a year. The real mistake is to allow the Zardari bashers to stop Pakistan from improving relations with her neighbors.
Those countries are keen to invest in Pakistan; though presently Pakistan is mired in colossal challenges, the world sees the strength and determination of the Pakistani people. It is a testament to the Pakistani people and their courage that the Summit is happening, and there are many offers of help, from all corners of the globe. We must start with our neighbors. We must use them to fight the extremists who would kill innocents; we must make decisions that will benefit generations to come. And we must never allow politics to get in the way of honoring and governing those people. Pakistan has made enough devastating decisions in the past due to cheap political stunts. Someone has to step up and do the right thing, and it may very well be President Zardari who does so. He may have to brace himself against a myriad of attacks but in the end, it is these steps and the rewarding results they will inevitably reveal that will alleviate many of Pakistan’s problems.
Pakistanis cannot afford another tragedy. Sochi needs to happen.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
As a Pakistani abroad, the images from the impoverished and ravaged regions bring tears to my eyes. I see fathers, with shalwars rolled up to their knees and children sitting atop their shoulders, carrying what is left of the family’s possessions. I see women with anguish etched in every line of their faces, staring at the cameras with bitter eyes, as if to say “Did we need this?” Most cutting of all are the images of children, in torn clothing, cold and crying. I feel helpless.
The Prime Minister has set up a relief fund. Members of the government have given one month’s salary. Donations are coming from all over the world, the United Nations, the
We cannot drop the ball on this crisis. Through the heartbreak, I know that the best way to serve the victims is to work towards a concrete plan for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. We have to understand that entire villages are submerged under water. People have lost everything. We have to provide them with a safe place to live, enough healthy food to eat, clean water to drink and warm clothing. We should seriously consider the fact that the list of the missing increases daily and different news outlets are reporting wildly varying numbers. We have to have an account of the survivors and set up a system of tracking people down, perhaps even paving the way for families to be united. A comprehensive list of all the people we can help would help greatly, not only with helping people finding each other but as a way for the government to know exactly what is going on on the ground. In the weeks ahead, we have to provide more permanent places and livelihoods. Medical teams must be dispatched, and supplies should be continuously provided. There are terrifying fears of cholera outbreaks or people dying from the cold or hunger. We absolutely cannot let that fear become the expected outcome.
This is a chance for the country to come in and take care of her future. This is a chance for Pakistanis to forget the political squabbling that is mistaken for substantial issues and focus on a very real, very immediate crisis. We have to realize the vital task ahead of us and do our best, as a duty to the country and to the people.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Political Stunting at Its Best: Media Bosses Enjoy Travel Abroad While Demanding Pres. Halt His Duties
The Jang&Geo leaders can currently be found out and about in London. The Dawn Group leaders find themselves in New York City. This socializing goes on whilst newspapers call for the President to cancel his diplomatic trips. If the papers call for the President to stop his duties as head of state so that he may travel to the flooded areas, why are these media elites not held to the same standard?
President Zardari is the man elected by the people of Pakistan to represent them to the world. Unfortunately, the Pakistani media is either ignorant of this or they simply wish to keep him from doing his job properly - which is not surprising as the media is now a tool to manipulate the minds of people against their elected leaders rather than to inform them of what is going on in with their country. The sad fact is that instead of meeting their own responsibilities of reporting on the issues, the media has devolved into a manipulative, obstructionist machine.
Khud bhi nahin kaam karte aur doosro ko bhi nahin karnay detey.
A post by the fact-checking website, Pakistan Media Watch
exposed how some in the media are heartlessly exploiting the flood victims. By using the tragic circumstances to score cheap political points against the federal government, these individuals have proven that nothing is sacred. What Pakistan needs is a media that serves the people in its own capacity, and does not try to become another political party.
In this time of national grief, the journalists in Pakistan should be at the front lines of the disaster. Shouldn’t the media serve as the medium that shows the rest of the country and the world what the flood victims are suffering through? Isn’t there a political pundit brave enough to leave his or her comfortably dry studio and record their show from Pakistan’s impoverished & flood-ravaged regions? President Zardari’s administration has granted Pakistanis a free press. But when can we have a media that does its job?
We have more than enough political parties. We need pundits and journalists whose main goal is to serve the people, not play politics.
Monday, July 26, 2010
The much publicized leaking of several thousand classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan may have provided the war’s American critics an opportunity to press their objections. It does not, however, make the case against military and political cooperation between the governments of the United States and Pakistan, made necessary by the challenge of global terrorism.
Under elected leaders, Pakistan is working with the U.S. to build trust between our militaries and intelligence agencies. In recent months, Pakistan has undertaken a massive military operation in the region bordering Afghanistan, denying space to Taliban extremists who had hoped to create a ministate with the backing of al Qaeda. Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have been enhanced to an unprecedented degree. And exchanges of intelligence between Pakistan and the U.S. have foiled several terrorist plots around the globe. The WikiLeaks controversy and the ensuing speculation about Pakistan’s role in the global effort against the terrorists should not disrupt the ongoing efforts of the U.S. and Pakistan to contain and destroy the forces of extremism and fanaticism that threaten the entire world.
Pakistan is crucial for helping Afghanistan attain stability while pursuing the defeat of al Qaeda led terrorist ideologues. For that reason the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have denounced the leaking of unattributed and unprocessed information implicating Pakistan in supporting or tolerating the Taliban. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a Democrat, warned Monday against judging Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war by “outdated reports,” adding that Pakistan had “significantly stepped up its fight against the Taliban.” Most Americans and many Pakistanis agree on the need for improvements in Pakistan’s efforts, but that is not the same as suspecting lack of cooperation.
The tragedy that has unfolded in South Asia is the product of a long series of policy miscalculations spanning fully 30 years. The U.S., in its zeal to defeat the Soviet Union—a noble goal indeed—selected Afghanistan as a venue. Pakistan became caught up in an ideological battle between communism and a politicized version of our Islamic faith. The most violent and most radical elements of the Mujahedeen resistance were empowered to fight the surrogate war against the Russians. Concerns—such as former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s warning in 1989 while visiting the U.S. that the world had created a Frankenstein monster in Afghanistan that would come back to haunt us—were generally ignored.
Alliances and relationships forged among supporters of the Afghan jihad 30 years ago have not been easy to dismantle within Pakistan. But they have been dismantled. After 9/11, Pakistan made a deliberate and courageous decision to confront the terrorists as the civilized world’s first line of defense. Since the return of democracy in 2008, Pakistan has paid a terrible price for its commitment to fight terrorism. More Pakistanis have been killed by terrorism in the last two years than the number of civilians who died in New York’s Twin Towers. Over the past nine years more Pakistani than NATO troops have lost their lives fighting the Taliban. Two thousand Pakistani police have been killed; our mosques and hotels have been savagely attacked; scores of billion dollars of foreign investment were frozen; and tens of billions of dollars of funding for education and health have been diverted to the battlefield against the extremists.
We cannot undo the past, but we can certainly alter the course of the future. The democratically elected government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has followed a clearly laid out strategy of fighting and marginalizing terrorists, even when that decision was less than popular with a public still cynical because of what it believed was the political manipulation of the past. The course laid out by Pakistan’s democratic leaders has been executed brilliantly by Pakistan’s military and intelligence services.
The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not even remotely reflect the current realities on the ground. For example, a retired Pakistani general is named as the master planner of the Afghan Taliban’s strategy. But this is a man who hasn’t held any position within Pakistani intelligence or the military for more than 20 years. For its part, Pakistan’s current leadership will not be distracted by something like these leaks. We have paid an unprecedented price in blood and treasure over the last two years. We will not succumb to the terrorists.
As we speak, the military of Pakistan is engaged in a bloody battle, taking enormous casualties, in the mountains of South Waziristan to purge the tribal areas of terrorist sanctuaries. Our intelligence forces are gathering information across the country and targeting terrorist cells in North Waziristan to thwart their designs for destabilizing our government and terrorizing our people.
This is Pakistan’s war as much as it is a battle for civilization. Pakistan’s very existence and traditional way of life are at stake. We fight alongside our friends from all over the world to protect freedom. The U.S could not have a more committed ally in this defining battle of the third millennium than the people, the government and the military of Pakistan.
Written by Ambassador Husain Haqqani.