NAWAIWAQT GROUP
Columns
Tuesday, 29 July, 2014

Terror struck at the heart of Pakistan on the eve of the traditional Muslim Eid festival, as millions feared waking up early in the morning to go to the mosque and endure relentless and unforgiving hugs from millions of other people, many of who experts believe, lack basic hygiene and are shockingly unaware of fundamental concepts of personal space.“Eid greetings are like a video game. The more people you hug, the faster new ones begin to arrive,” explains one survivor. “At one point, greetings also begin to arrive on your mobile phone. You hug people, exchange pleasantries ...

Majid Nizami’s sheer longevity as Editor of Nawa-i-Waqt ensured that his death would cause a quake in Pakistani journalism. The figures speak for themselves: he was Editor since 1962, for over half a century. When he became Editor-in-chief of this newspaper in 1986, he had been Editor of Nawa-i-Waqt for almost a quarter of a century.But as the accolades flow in, it becomes all the more necessary to remember that Majid Nizami took over at a bad time for Pakistani journalism, with Field Marshal Ayub Khan at the height of his power, firmly entrenched, with his reforming zeal tapering off. ...

Eid Mubarak, dearest reader. My wish for you is one of peace and prosperity in your family, town, country, and beyond. The holy month of Ramazan, with fasting, prayers and reflection, as well as joy and togetherness, has made our destination clearer; we have come closer to God and fellow human beings. Yet, the proof and purpose of our faith is seen in the journey: in how we live our everyday lives. In certain ways, faith can be likened to poetry, music and beautiful hymns. Everyday, life is more prosaic; it has all that is good and positive, but it also has what is sad and difficult. If we ...

Nepal’s gradual but violent journey from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional government and then a people’s democracy seems to carry some important lessons for Pakistan.Going back in history, Pakistan’s ill-conceived experiment with the One-Unit plan by amalgamating the federating units created discord between ethnic communities as a (probably) unintended consequence. In Nepal, on the other hand, the unitary government before the uprising of 2006 was seen as subsuming or at worst, excluding, various ethnic and caste identities from the mainstream in favor of a minority ...

Monday, 28 July, 2014

Pakistan has one of the most ineffective and corrupt bureaucracies in the world. It doesn’t produce anything, other than lots of paper work, seldom carries out effective regulatory functions and is reactive (a characteristic of our overall political system). Be it law enforcement, tax collection, the provision of social services or utilities, today our bureaucracy is the biggest impediment in the way of our national development.The public sector is plagued with corruption, absenteeism and red tapeism. Most of the procedures and rules of business are archaic, records are still manual and ...

On 16th July, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice rejected with a majority vote, a bill presented by PML-N MNA Marvi Memon that sought the status of national language for regional languages.The regional languages included Balochi, Balti, Brahvi, Punjabi, Pushto, Shina, Sindhi, Seraiki, Hindko, Urdu and others that the National Language Commission of Pakistan had to establish through clear criteria, as being national languages of the people in Pakistan.A report in Dawn stated that the Special Secretary of the law ministry said that there should be just one ...

This is the worst of times for humanity, and those facing the brunt of the Israeli war machine in Gaza have proved to be the bravest people. Their suffering is mounting and so is their perseverance. They are not mere figures falling, but the slow systematic destruction of humanity. They include babies, the unborn, children, the old, women.With all the firepower at their disposal, with fighter planes, tanks, missiles and soldiers battle hardened to face hostilities, Israel has waged a war on the unarmed, underfed, defenseless people of Gaza, and to avoid complete, unresisted slaughter, the ...

In 1967, when Zulfizar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) launched his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), he had developed a brand name for himself as Ayub Khan’s young and dashing foreign minister. He coined appealing slogans like “Kashmir kay liay hazaar saal larain gai,” (For Kashmir, we will fight a thousands years). He combined his personal popularity with a progressive ideology, thereby increasing his appeal manifold. Politically, he was not taken seriously till he swept the elections in the western wing in 1970. Islamic socialism with promises of “Roti, Kapra Aur Makan” came to ...

Sunday, 27 July, 2014

Excitement washed over me as we mounted the steps leading to the Nadkarni residence opposite the Diyal Singh Mansion on the Mall.  The good Nadkarnis were family friends, and their son Sudhir was the fourth pillar of our staunch fellowship, whose other two members were Pervez Nisar and Mansoor Cheema. Our excitement stemmed from a historic invitation; we had been asked to watch live, the advent of television in Pakistan.The year was 1964, and the ‘tube’ was launched in Lahore, going on to become an instant hit. They were happy days and the moving images on the small screen ...

The recent decision of the Indian government to ask the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to vacate its office in New Delhi has evoked severe criticism. “Closing down the UN observers’ office in New Delhi is a glaring example of growing arrogance and fascism in the behaviour and attitude of Indian rulers,” said Muhammad Yasin Malik, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson said: “As long as the Kashmir dispute is not resolved, the UNSC mandate remains. These measures are ...

Politics is messy business.  For retention of power and fulfillment of partisan objectives, politics frequently stretches the bounds of reasonability and logic.  It bends the arc of law and justice.It subverts dogmas and undermines fragile national ideologies (such as ‘constitutionalism’).But subscribing to a democratic ethos entails that, even in the darkest of political hours, one maintains a certain faith in the virtue and viability of politics.  That, regardless of how desperate the days become, political forces, for the sake of their own partisan power, will ...

"Anti-western propaganda was often unleashed precisely so Pakistani officials could argue that the United States had to support Pakistan against India, so as to preserve its alliance with them. Few Pakistanis knew how much their country and its armed forces had become dependent on US assistance.” (Husain Haqqani, Magnificient Delusions) One of the most important planks in Pakistan's political history is the role that Pak- US relations played in affecting Pakistan's fortunes domestically and abroad. Two recent books, one by former Ambassador Husain Haqqani (Magnificent Delusions: ...

Saturday, 26 July, 2014

If you have lived in Lahore long enough, you may agree with me when I say that there is something very uniquely evocative about Gulberg. Even people who have resided there for periods as short as a year, and spent much of their lives moving from one city to another, sometimes remain for years after endeared to the locality – on occasion to a degree sufficient to probe others who no longer live there, ‘Waisay, don’t you miss Gulberg?’Now, if you feel as slighted as I do when people suggest that residential areas are merely collective entities of houses, often alongside ...

The PML-N captured power at the 2013 polls. It won a large majority in the National Assembly. As a seasoned third-time Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif was expected to perform well.Yes, he had to face formidable problems. The economy was on the verge of collapse, and law and order deteriorating by the day. Unchecked violence and disorder in Karachi and Balochistan had to be addressed. Two more daunting issues had to be faced with imagination and determination; the electricity shortages and the menace of terrorism. To begin with, politically-wise moves were made in letting the Nationalist party in ...

The country knows them by their names; I call them tele-warriors.  Every day, they wage war on boredom, truth, democracy, sanity and other secular ideals corrupting the minds of my Pakistani bretheren and sisteren. They are determined, organised and willing to get paid for their beliefs. While armchair analysts brood over trivialities like objectivity, these barstool soldiers go for victory and they look damn comfortable doing it. Below, some fundamentals of their game:1. The (bitter versus the better) Truth:They report and report furiously, undaunted by trivialities like whether ...

Pakistanis glorify the role of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah but ignore the limitations time imposed on him to create a nation. What followed was Inventive Nationalism based on debatable symbols. Many who joined the League did it for an interest and not a cause. Even today, many who join a popular party do it because of an interest. Though a state and Constitution exist, the nation is confused, divided and politically inbreeding. The politics of Muslim separatism had dark Trojans in feudal support from Punjab and rich businessmen from Bombay. The Pakistan that was visualised in the first ...

Friday, 25 July, 2014

The senior PPP leader and deputy speaker of the Sindh assembly, Shehla Raza’s bold revelation about a ‘silent clause’ in the now annulled National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) not only caused serious ripples in the country, but also invited a stinging reaction from within her own party .Her remark that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and senior party leaders were in the US to remind ‘stakeholders’ of their past ‘promises,’ reinforced the reality that Pakistan’s corrupt political elite still looks up to its foreign masters to manipulate ...

The Israeli operation in Gaza has shown that the Muslim world is still unified by the Palestinian cause. It is worth noting that there is no trace of anti-colonialist rhetoric that prevailed when the Palestinian cause first arose, and now the call for solidarity has extended to not just common Islamic identity, but to the special place that Palestine has in Muslim hearts as the Qibla-i-Awwal. Pakistani politicians have had to pay the operation particular attention, because it has caused a revulsion of public feeling that they have had to address. Two factors have magnified the crisis. First, ...

When an able government fails to provide in a timely or responsible fashion, people crib and complain in the hope of corrective action. When the same process plays out in the presence of a corrupt, moth-eaten government, the lack of results only lead to more despondency and nothing is achieved. In fact, we are all worse off.The latter is true for Pakistan where the narrative is simplified and broken down between two stakeholders – the voiceless victims and the nincompoop government, respectively classified as ‘us’ and ‘them’. We hurl abuses at the nincompoops ...

All states who are signatory to the Declaration of Universal Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, guarantee those rights in their respective constitutions. However, there is consensus amongst the legal community and advocates of human rights, that these rights were not absolute as their enjoyment was contingent upon the citizens owing unqualified allegiance to the state and the constitution. The state can suspend or limit the exercise of these rights in the interest of public peace, to prevent the violation of the rights of others by individuals and groups, and to ...

Thursday, 24 July, 2014

I have often been criticized for my scathing remarks on what we have become as a nation. I can only offer my sympathies to these critics, for they appear to be suffering from the ‘Ostrich Syndrome.’ For those who are not familiar with this phrase, let me explain what it means. When confronted with unavoidable danger, the ostrich seeks safety by burying its head in the sand on the assumption that if it cannot see the threat, the threat cannot see it.One of the most difficult things in human existence is to face the ugly side of one’s person, to take stock of blemishes and ...

The unrelenting massacre of children and unarmed civilians in Gaza, and the failure of so many powerful people, of so many powerful and not-so-powerful countries comprising the United Nations, to stop it, makes one convinced that the end is nigh. But beyond the impending end of this barbaric world order that is clearly written on the wall, silhouettes of a new and better world are gaining definition on the horizon.I must admit that the spiritually debilitating images of children killed and injured in Gaza, and the feeling of helplessness one experiences when they keep pouring in, day after ...

As this year’s Ramazan is coming to an end and Eid ul Fitr will be celebrated by Muslims, with members of other religions living in the same communities, we all pray for peace. We pray for peace in our hearts, the right relationship with God and fellow human beings. Let my article today be a prayer for peace, an attempt to contribute to a world where, irrespective of faith, we can all live better in our religions and in the communities we share with others. My prayer for peace goes beyond religion, suggesting that the basis for morality and ethics, indeed for peace, is not only to be ...

The recent Herald/SDPI survey on how Pakistanis are thinking about political parties and issues one year after the 2013 elections has many provocative findings. For instance, it claims that if elections are held tomorrow, then ‘33 percent of people surveyed’ would vote for PTI, 19 percent for the PPP and a mere 17 percent for PMLN. The ethnicity breakdowns are even more interesting; with 45 percent of Punjabis saying they would vote for PTI versus 25 percent for the PML-N and 5 percent for the PPP. The primary issue which concerns people is the energy crisis (64 percent) – ...

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