Posts Tagged ‘pakistani affairs’


The Plight of a Pakistani Bowler

August 8, 2010

By Zain & Zainab Jeewanjee

Consoling the Pakistan Side

Consoling the Pakistan Side

On the second day of a five-day test match between England and Pakistan, picture yourself as a young bowler, just out of your teens and already being anticipated as the next Wasim Akram. You represent a country that’s flooded by pain and suffering of natural disaster, plus the torment of an unnatural flood of arms, and terrorism. To top it off your home turf is off limits because of lacking security and you’re playing cricket on a foreign ground; in a country who ruled you in colonial grip for over 200 years, a tinge that might linger 63 years later.

The stage is set. The batting lineup has already let you down, and your bowling is expected to carry the team to a respectable outcome. But the angels above have arranged for ideal weather conditions and a pitch perfect for your deadly pace. The Gods are giving Pakistan an opportunity for redemption.

You take to the pitch and imagine sending a fierce, fast, reverse swinging bowling onslaught on the opponent. They’ve already overtaken your score yesterday, so you’re aiming to contain them, preserving the scant runs your side managed, and bowl the opposition out as soon as possible. You take a run up. Jogging 20 yards toward the batsman; you release the ball and he is confounded. You feel a rush of excitement. Batsman nicks it, sending the ball aloft for the simplest of catches. Your excitement steadily intensifies and you think to yourself; the Gods are on my side. You watch the ball elevate into the sky, higher, and higher and slowly descend. The Gods have arranged for it fall directly in front of first slip, and you eye your teammate’s hand intently. The ball falls directly into his palms and you feel relieved; this is the one job you can count on first slip to do. He also happens to be a top order batsman who should be longing to save face and take this crucial wicket to make up for his less than sufficient run rate. You take into account the team has already let three catches go, optimism pervades and you think, “we definitely have this one”.

Pakistan another Drop Catch in Cricket vs England - August 2010

Pakistan another Drop Catch in Cricket vs England - August 2010

Every millisecond feels like miles as the ball falls into first slips hands. Fielders jump in victory and the crowd cheers but simultaneously, first slip drops the ball as it falls dead into the still green grass.

For a second maybe no body saw it, but the bowler is crestfallen. Excitement deflated. With a tear that never fell, he looks at the young man at slip. Slip stares back at him and with words he can’t muster, the bowler bravely smiles. His heart is racing with a million emotions but zero time to reflect on any of them, the bowler desperately focuses. His brain wants to let something out to his teammate, on his team who didn’t score enough runs, and dropping no less than 4 catches squandering opportunities the Gods laid out in this match.

As he turns and looks around at the crowd, he attempts to recuperate energy but his mind can’t help but settle in on the millions of Pakistanis suffering from floods, the war on terror, political volatility and economic insecurity and he knows that Cricket is what Pakistanis look to for hope.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and made myself tea. Even thousands of miles away from England, even farther away from Pakistan, I didn’t want to face the complexities of what that bowler might have felt. So I raise my hands in prayer to whoever controls the world around us and say please, give Pakistan a break.

It reminds me of Earnest Borgnine in the Poseidon Adventure when he looks up to God in the middle of disaster and cries: “What more do you want of us? We’ve come all this way on our own no help from you. We did ask you to fight for us but damn it, don’t fight against us!”

Give Pakistan a break. I urge everyone who reads this article that as the brave bowler took strength to smile, recuperate and move forward, if you do nothing else, donate to the flood victims. Pakistan needs hope right now, and every contribution, big or small, will go a long way for those in need.


Oxfam America

Relief International


Edhi Foundation

Hashoo Foundation


Unfair & Unlovely

May 28, 2010

OMG Shahrukh Khan "Fair & Handsome" -  Seriously?

OMG Shahrukh Khan "Fair & Handsome" - Seriously?!

I’ve very intentionally avoided this subject despite its relevancy to South Asia, but it’s close to summertime and now that Shah Rukh Khan is involved it’s borderline political, so it’s within my jurisdiction.

“Fair and Lovely” face cream is so pervasive in “desi” culture that it’s a household name amongst both Resident and non Resident Pakistani’s. International diplomats, the United Nations, countless non profits have all failed to get India and Pakistan to agree on nukes, trade, cricket, religion (the list goes on) but when it comes to the primal issues of attraction, both have consistently been on the same page. Visit the Fair and Lovely website and you’re confronted with images of a woman’s face growing progressively lighter and the slogan: “Gorepan se kahin ziyada SAAF GORAPAN”  Translation: “Even more Whiteness than Whiteness”. I kid you not, that is an accurate translation literally and contextually speaking, and yes despite this, we are still in the 21’st Century.

So this week Shahrukh Khan’s face is seen promoting the creams male counterpart, “Fair and Handsome”. The Telegraph reports “despite doubts of the effectiveness, the sight of Khan’s chiseled features endorsing the cream has angered campaigners, who say it’s “racist” to promote lighter skin as superior”

Shahid Afridi's Pretty Chiseled

Shahid Afridi's Pretty Chiseled

Alright, first off Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t from any angle I can see have “chiseled” features. Shahid Afridi is more chiseled than him. But, that’s besides the point and doesn’t invalidate the fact that billions of men and women around the world idolize Khan and find him very attractive, hence the lakhs of rupees I’m sure he’s receiving for this endorsement. But with such immense fame, comes responsibility and his endorsement of Fair & Handsome cream is justifiably being labeled “racist” by angry campaigners.

I grew up in California where girls lay out in the sunshine all summer to quite frankly, try and get skin like mine. When sunshine isn’t an option, they confine themselves into what are nothing shortof human frying pans, lids closed in tanning beds as they do their best to maintain my shade of golden brown all year long. So it’s no surprise that I love my mocha skin. Always have. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Tan skin is part and parcel of being a Californian. Just listen to Katy Perry or the Beach Boys. In this part of the world, tan has always been undeniably sexy.

Maria & Zainab - Perfect Beach tans ;)

Zainab & Maria - Perfect Beach tans

Which is why the angered campaigners in India are correct in denouncing the Shah Rukh Khan endorsement; it perpetuates an unhealthy, yes racist fascination with fair skin. The reason it’s racist while the the girls in California wallowing in tanning beds isn’t is because “Fair & Lovely” occurs in a post-colonial context. You’d think that as oppressed subjects having suffered and struggled to fight of massive injustices of colonialism until Partition wherein India severed itself into two as a result (the birth of Pakistan) looking like the oppressor would be unpopular. But instead fair skin is the ultimate desire in desi land, and it’s mind boggling because European skin tones are not naturally attainable in South Asia.

Sure evolutionary biology will tell you that humans are innately attracted to beautiful people. According to biologists, we’re attracted to relatively youthful characteristics because they’re indicative of heightened fertility (i.e. lustrous hair, hourglass figures, large eyes and clear skin) but a preference for skin color really is only skin deep. South Asians naturally have darker skin and there’s no reason it should be touted as inferior.

Out of chance I happened to have grown up in a particular part of the West that values darker skin, but had I lived in Pakistan I might not have been so lucky. It’s a sad realization, because skin color is not in our control, which is why it’s problematic when corporations like Fair and Lovely seize control in attempt to create preferences where none should exist. They’re preying on insecurities to peddle their products which is done by all advertisers, but this one goes too far because it’s racist.

Shame on Shah Rukh Khan for endorsing Fair & Handsome cream; it’s not a “fair” or “handsome” move on his part.  It’s Unfair and Ugly.


Welcoming the War – Drones in Pakistan — Part 3

February 11, 2010
Are the Drones Worth the Cost of Compromising Cooperation ?

Are the Drones Worth the Cost of Cooperation ?

Read Part 1 – Reconciling CIA Drones In Pakistan

Read Part 2  – Concessions & Collateral Damage

The most provocative piece I’ve seen on drones in Pakistan was published last week. Not the most detailed, well researched article (the New Yorker takes the cake so far) but certainly the most confrontational. Farhat Taj writes in the Daily Times that International media, including American and Pakistani reports critical of drone use are totally unfounded. Vehemently, Taj writes:

The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda. It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and al Qaeda”

It’s a grand, almost inconceivable statement given that Anti Americanism is on a rapid rise and India / Pakistan are widely considered notorious Arch Nemesis in international relations today.  Taj says inhabitants of Waziristan actually “welcome” drone attacks and dismisses all accusations of civilian casualties as Taliban propaganda. Basing this on the idea that almost no media are allowed in the area, she concludes there is no verifiable evidence, and therefore no reason for concern of civilian casualties. But mere logic would indicate otherwise. Although surgical, drones are not so precise to as to obliterate one individual at a time. When they strike, the range of damage inflicted by any drone is bound to cause peripheral damage, destroying more than just a singular terrorist.

Taj also too vehemently dismisses the concern that drones infringe on Pakistan’s sovereignty. She says greater Pakistan is oblivious to the more pressing priority of wiping out Taliban. And while I agree the Taliban is inflicting profound, perpetual and grave damage on Waziristan, greater Pakistan’s perceptions are important and not to be overlooked so easily.

Waziristan is but a fraction of Pakistan. If the majority of Pakistani’s see drones as an infringement of sovereignty, future cooperation with strategically poised Pakistan can become difficult. The alliance is already waning and one of politics’ golden rules is: perceptions matter. Whether or not there are exact numbers of civilian casualties, Pakistani’s are strongly against unmanned aircraft dropping bombs in their territory. Regardless of circumstances, the perception of an alliance with America, and our War on Terror is endangered by the drones. Hence arguments that drones are counter productive.

At what cost are we using drones to wipe out a few key leaders from militant and extremist groups? Might we accomplish the same success in hunting down terrorists by employing Pakistani forces to take these guys out themeslves using close cooperation with our counter terrorism, intelligence and military operations?

Some already argue that Islamabad tacitly works with the United States on drones in the north, however, the official and public stance of the Pakistani government is of staunch disapproval of drones. It’s a fair argument because without Islamabad’s approval, the United States would be in violation of international law, and protocol in using drones in Waziristan minus Pakistsan’s approval. So I buy the argument that Islamabad works closely in using drones in the north. But the fact that the government goes to the extent of constantly assuring its public that they disapprove of drones on record, is testimony to how offensive the use of unmanned aircrafts are in Pakistan.

So while our heightened use of drones might be effective in obliterating key leaders from the Taliban ranks for success in the immediate term, the consequences of drones entail potentially riling further anti Americanism which could compromise our interests in the future.

Cooperation is key, and I’m not convinced increased use of drones will help us engage Pakistan in the future.



The Hawk Some Didn’t See Coming : Obama’s Pakistan Policy

January 26, 2010

Bush & Obama : Identical Policies to Pakistan?

Bush & Obama : Identical Policies to Pakistan?

Similar to his ratings drop at home, abroad President Obama is being accused of not living up to expectations. In DAWN news this week there’s an article entitled: “Obama’s Changing Tone” suggesting our President is reverting to foreign policy reminiscent of the Bush administration on Pakistan, and to an extent, the greater Muslim World. The idea is that Obama’s planned troop surge in tandem with ever toughening rhetoric post the Fort Hood Massacre and the Christmas Bomber, reflects leadership that’s not much different than former President Bush’s.

But on the contrary, our escalating presence in Pakistan is exactly what Obama promised. During the campaign trail, he made clear that his main focus was Al Qaeda and  destroying terrorists in Pakistan (militants having spilled over from Afghanistan into Pakistan). The rhetoric was so hawkish, it actually became a sticking point before the primaries that Republicans and Democrats like Hillary criticized. Also, the media publicized his staunch rhetoric at length, so

Obama really has not changed tone on Pakistan: an intensified war matches his rhetoric from the start.

Plus is it fair to expect something radically different than the previous administration in the first place? Let’s not forget that it is often the political system and circumstances that drive leadership, and not vice versa. The fact is, America was already deeply engaged in two very problematic wars at the inception of Obama’s Presidency. He inherited an intensely worsening situation in Afghanistan that rapidly spilled across the border into Pakistan. President Obama anticipated this and is thus living up to campaign promises: a more hawkish foreign policy to Pakistan.

Which of course then raises the question: is hawkishness the right approach to Pakistan at this time? Pakistani’s certainly don’t think so.  CIA drones have the entire country in an uproar, while Islamabad isn’t taking well to DC’s tacit encouragement of rapidly increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan, and even billions in aid from America is frowned upon with unprecedented magnitude. And it’s not that the Obama administration isn’t aware of skepticism. Rather, toughening policies are a matter of practicality.

My guess is that the President is thinking: we’re already in Afghanistan, the war is deteriorating into Pakistan, what’s the best way to mitigate the situation, secure the region just enough to exit in the next couple years while leaving behind more cooperative players in the region so as to ensure our energy and geopolitical interests in South/Central Asia.

Phew. Now there’s a dilemma. And when looked at from his possible perspective, the Pakistan quagmire is revealed as tremendously complex. It’s such a multifaceted, sweeping, consequential and changing situation that involves so many players who work within the confines of political systems that only history should be the best judge of whether Obama’s stance on Pakistan is constructive or progressive. And that itself is relative. So let’s not be surprised at his hawkishness. It was naive of anyone to expect otherwise in the case of Pakistan.



Where the War on Terror Is

December 29, 2009

The War on Terror has most definitely shifted: terrorists are massacring Pakistani’s.

I churn each time I hear of terrorist attacks since 9/11, and mostly since then, those attacks have been on Pakistan. This weeks suicide bombings on religious processions in Karachi during the month of Mahurrum, (a somber time of reflection, considered sacred for many Muslims) are particularly unnerving.

I’ve lived in Karachi and was there until 2001: suicide bombings were unheard of before 9/11 and even though Karachi is a relatively chaotic city, never has it been victim to such consistent horror. In my lifetime, Pakistan has never suffered such widespread violence and insecurity. I’ve already written about the deteriorating state of affairs post 9/11, so today i’ll share a links to a BBC slideshow and article capturing the recent atrocities :

SLIDESHOW: Karachi March Attacked

ARTICLE : Pakistan’s Recount Horror of Suicide Attack

When the Economist, pundits and politicians declare Pakistan the most dangerous place in the world, important to remember is that it really is the most dangerous place: for Pakistanis.



Who “Meddles” in Pakistan ?

December 28, 2009

“Before we begin to upbraid the world for “meddling in our internal affairs,” it is vital for us to put our own house in order.”

Says a writer for Dawn News (Pakistan’s premier Newspaper). It’s an increasingly heard argument as cooperation between the United States and Pakistan deepens. In fact, it seems many Pakistani’s either fall into the category of calling for less meddling if not suggesting a total end to the alliance.

But shouldn’t we clarify what exactly “meddling” is? Does the author mean to encompass everything from drones, the Kerry Lugar Bill, Obama’s Troop Surge, and Secretary Clinton’s Pakistani media rounds / policy recommendations are equivalent to meddling?

Because the inherent problem with referring to any of those issues as “meddling” is that they all require the compliance of Pakistans government. Without the concession of Pakistani politicians, American interventions, assistance or policies could not be implemented.

Of course one might suggest realist theories on international relations wherein leaders, and ultimately states are subject to an international system actually dictate policymaking. In the case of current U.S. Pakistani relations some say cooperation, at any cost, is inevitable given American hegemony. It’s an argument echoing former President Musharraff’s description of why Pakistan didn’t remain neutral post 9/11:

‘Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age’,” is the threat Musharraf said Pakistan received if it didn’t cooperate in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001’s invasion of Afghanistan.

So why wasn’t neutrality an option? One might look back in history and cite an unremitting reliance on international assistance as the main cause of why Pakistani politics might seem inevitably subject to foreign interference.

During the Cold War, while countries like India declared themselves Non Aligned, Pakistan bandwagoned with the United States forming an alliance in desire to expand militarily. I won’t argue whether that military expansion was necessary or not, because there are fair arguments on either side. But military cooperation during the Cold War, and then the Soviet Afghan War set the stage for inevitable cooperation in today’s War on Terror.

Never forming viable democratic social and political infrastructure from the ground up may have fated Pakistan to rely on foreign assistance, or what some consider “meddling” for the sake of basic security and development.

The author is then correct to some extent: before whining about foreign interferences, Pakistan might consider constructing it’s own security first.



Transactional Ties: U.S. Foreign Policy to Pakistan

December 22, 2009
U.S. Pakistan Cooperation

U.S. Pakistan Cooperation

One difference between valuable information and balderdash is that the balderdash is sometimes louder than the valuable information. Case in point are two articles criticizing our dealings with Pakistan. The first article offers valuable insight on why it’s imperative we revamp foreign policy to the country since it’s likely becoming the “most dangerous place in the world”. The article outlines offers 5 well- founded reasons for this and is authored by Dr. Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army World college and published by the Strategic Studies Institute. The other article is written in the online magazine by Chris Hitchens author of God is not Great: how Religion Poisons Everything. His piece entitled “Why does Pakistan hate the United States” like Dr. Goodman’s, criticizes our foreign policy but inaccurately attributes Anti-Americanism to a sliver of Pakistani elites who irrationally and diametrically oppose the United States. Let’s compare both assessments:

Hitchens says the:

“Pakistani elite hates the United States because “it is dependent on it and is still being bought by it. It is a dislike that is also a form of self-hatred of the sort that often develops between client states and their paymasters. (You can often sense the same resentment in the Egyptian establishment, and sometimes among Israeli right-wingers, as well.) By way of overcompensation for their abject status as recipients of the American dole, such groups often make a big deal of flourishing their few remaining rags of pride. The safest outlet for this in the Pakistani case is an official culture that makes pious noises about Islamic solidarity while keeping the other hand extended for the next subsidy.This is, and always was, a sick relationship, and it is now becoming dangerously diseased. It’s not possible to found a working, trusting, fighting alliance”

Conversely, Dr. Goodson explains:

“The United States is Pakistan’s far away, fair weather friend, locked in a decades long transactional relationship that satisfied neither partners desires. Pakistan is the dark side of the moon to the average American who cannot tell you one salient fact about the country, its people, their customs or history. So we use Pakistan as a bulwark against whatever goes boo in the night in that part of the world, paying their price of the moment and then walking away when the crisis is resolved”

Both authors describe what former Pakistan to United States Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi called a “transactional” relationship between the countries, but differ in their assessment of that situation. Hitchens concludes U.S. Foreign Policy is doomed for failure, ultimately insisting a complete severing of cooperation is imperative. It’s a wild recommendation that assumes various security, and economic interests can just be overlooked. His suggestions are simplistic and recommendations reckless. Severing ties with a long-standing, highly strategic ally like Pakistan is absurd. Balancing relations in South Asia is in our interest and requires maintaining an alliance with both Inda and Pakistan, not one for the other. In fact, Hitchen’s doesn’t even address the crux of the issue :U.S. Foreign Policy is problematic in that it’s viewed as merely “transactional”. Instead, he jumps to an implausible conclusion that cooperation is doomed for failure.

To contrast, Goodman suggests understanding Pakistan’s complex demographic, history and then engaging them for the long haul, especially with the Chinese sitting in Pakistan’s backyard eager to replace an American absence. His piece addresses such ground realities and offers a plausible prescription for change in what’s increasingly seen as “transactional ties”.

So although Hitchens is loud and published mainstream, he’s unfortunately inaccurate. Dr. Goodson’s work is more obscure, but it’s pragmatic with a well spelled out assessment and recommendation. his article concludes with detailed recommendations for long term engagement for development in Pakistan while Hitchens outlook puts a damper on an already dire Af-Pak situation.

Presenting problems isn’t enough. Elucidating complex situations, offering accurate insights and practical solutions separate valuable information, from journalistic balderdash. Kudos to Dr. Goodson for a well written assessment of U.S. Foreign Policy to Pakistan.


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