Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Out of Sync

5000 People have so far been killed in clashes between protesting masses and tyrannical Asad regime in Syria. The government is using the iron fist to put down the uprising but has failed to do so until now. Arab league has approved sanctions against Asad government in Syria and has repeatedly appealed to Aasd to stop the military action but to no avail. Despite repeated requests from the leaders of protestors NATO and Europe have until now have shown no interest in intervening, though they have been using other means like resolutions in security council to pressurize the government to stop the atrocities and human right violations.
Nobody in Pakistan is interested in killing of 5000 thousand people in Syria by the government and obviously they should not be, as we have our own problems to cater to. But if by any chance, NATO and American or anyone else will decide to intervene, pseudo intellectuals, columnists, Mullahs and religious parties in Pakistan will at once start criticizing the action as an American conspiracy to destabilize Middle East. It will be termed as Jewish agenda to over throw Muslims rulers. In fact different writers have already termed ‘Arab Spring’ as western conspiracy. Nobody will try to understand the simple fact that people of Syria, like the people of other Middle Eastern and Arab countries, have turned against their dynastic oppressing rulers and don’t want to carry on with them. We will call the protesters agents of America, West and Jews. Intellectuals in Pakistan, like rulers of the Muslim world, are failing to read the writing on the wall and are paying the price.
Pakistan was only country in the world where columnists were writing columns in favor of Gadddafi of Libya and religious parties were taking out processions in his favor and against NATO attacks. While on the other hand people of Libya were engaged in fierce and bloody struggle against the dictator. Thousands were killed in the bloody clashes which forced Gaddafi tit un for his life and hide in hole in a far flung town. His last video showing him begging his captors for mercy told the whole story of his popularity.
The mood in Pakistan about the Libyan revolution was a just a continuity of the long tradition of misguided and ill informed movements about the happenings in Muslim world. When Turks were busy in kicking out their Ottoman Caliphs, our elders were advocating with the British for safeguarding caliphate. One words of a popular Urdu writer, it is difficult to imagine a more sincere yet a more useless movement. When Afghans were themselves going through the worst crisis, our religious scholars were declaring united India as land of conflict and war (Darul Harab) and motivating Muslims to migrate to land of Islam (Darul Islam). What happened to those who headed to the advice and migrated to Afghanistan is now a bitter part of our checkered history. We in Pakistan still consider the termination of Ottoman Caliphate as a conspiracy by Jews and Christians where as Turks themselves have never bothered to look back and remember those incompetent rulers.
When students and masses were gathered in Al-Tahrir square for agitating against Husni Mubarak of Egypt, we were looking for the hidden hands of America in the uprising. I wonder what our religious leaders would say now about the change in Egypt, when AlIkhwan and Salafis have won the first round of elections. Will they also be calling Al-Ikhwan and Salafis the American agents?
Why is it that we always fail to understand what is going on in other Muslims countries and as a nation take wrong sides? We always side with the dictators and not with the people of those countries who are struggling to rid themselves of those tyrants? Rather we term these movements of the people as western and Jewish conspiracies. From Indonesia to Morocco, we have never been able to objectively analyze the ongoing people movements and public sentiments.
What is the reason behind this mindset of ours and this intellectual failure? The fact of the matter is that we doubt all these movements and struggles because of the experiences which we have had at home. Our political, social and even religious movements have a long history of foreign funding, sponsorships and backing. If our Madrassah was and is getting financial support from Arab world, then our leftists were getting equal support and patronage from Moscow which was their beacon. Our political movements to get rid of popular leaders like Bhutto were sponsored by C.I.A. Our Jihad was fully funded and sponsored by Pentagon. Our NGOs working on human rights are blamed for working on western agenda for American dollars. Even the movement for the restoration of Chief Justice is said to be heavily funded by parties interested in achieving some other goals. The opinions of many journalists have known to sway with sway in fortunes of governments or with the fatness of envelops which they receive. We are never sure whether a politician is actually popular in the masses or the show of power have been orchestred by hidden hands to force other parties to follow their agenda.
With this metal baggage and background, it is difficult for our analysts and intellectuals to imagine the some movements can be indigenous and can gather momentum without foreign invisible hand and support. This makes our analysts look at the movements in other Muslim majority countries with doubt and suspicion. Whenever our masses managed to get rid of some people at the helm of affairs, afterwards they came to know that ouster was not result of their struggle; rather decisions had been made somewhere else even before their struggle had started and that their struggle actually meant nothing and they were mere pawns on the board.
While trying to analyze these movements in other countries, we need to overcome these mental and psychological barriers and look at them objectively. We should also try to have a look at the history and background of these countries and societies. Most of the Muslim world countries across the world are rules by families or persons who have been at the helm of affairs for very long time. Most of the rulers who have been thrown away had been ruling their countries for at least two decades. This situation is very different from Pakistan, where democratic governments do not manage to last for four years and even military dictators with all their might cannot go beyond ten years. So the discontent of the people in other Muslims countries with their rulers and the desire to change is not surprising. In few Muslim countries where there is regular change of faces and rulers, the situation is quite stable. Many Muslim countries are ruled by dynasties or by individuals trying to convert democracies to dynasties. Husni Mubarak and Gaddafi both were grooming their sons to take their place which causes lot of resentment. Though Bashar ul Asad claims to be an elected president, his rule is nothing but a continuity of regime of his father Hafiz-ul-Asad. Same is the case in many other Arab countries and sooner or later we can expect to see similar movements emerge in those countries as well. It is not a matter or ‘if’, it is only matter of ‘when’. Term these movements ‘Western or American conspiracies’, is in fact like insulting the commitment and struggle of the people of those countries.
So my request to respected analysts in Pakistan is to stop looking of hidden hands in the Arab spring and other similar movements and try to understand the changing dynamics of the Muslim world which is on the brink of a major shift.  People living in the Muslim countries are fed up with the archaic and outdated systems and want change. They want to enjoy the benefits which are being enjoyed by the people of  developed countries and this is not possible till our countries are ruled by these corrupt to the core rulers. Failure to understand these shifts will leave us stranded and alone even in the Muslim world. It will not be long before we shall be witnessing the same uprising in our own country and then we shall not be able to able to explain or understand that either. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hot Features: Such Gup

Hot Features: Such Gup
How could Mush ever think that he going to be welcome in Pakistan. Why do people lose all their contact with reality. Didn't he read any news papers or listen to any news channels. Only if our leaders have a look into the headlines of the one Urdu and one English paper daily instead of listening to only their cronies, they would be able to get a much better understanding of what is really going on.
Arbab ghulam Rahim! What a precious addition to the members of PTI. Just the kind of person Imran needed. didn't he?

10 things I hate about ET blogs

10 things I hate about ET blogs

Samurai who refuse to learn - Ayaz Amir

Samurai who refuse to learn - Ayaz Amir

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This will happen some day


Hypocrisy in Action

Our media as usual has gone into a frenzy over Veena Malik shoot in India and her nude pics. May be it was good enough for a few fun posts and some jokes on social media sites. But was is it a big enough issue to merit prime time shows and discussions? Do we have no other issues left to talk about in the prime time shows. As one of my friends right said that when almost half of the population is living below poverty line and is not able to afford clothes to protect them from cruelties of winter, it is criminal to discuss some one shedding clothes for millions of rupees.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

De-coding Development Jargon

This is a sampling of actual posts on Twitter on “de-coding of aid/development jargon” .

“beneficiaries” : the people who make it possible for us to be paid by other people

“bottom-up” : don’t ask someone what might work, just make something up instead

“civil society involvement”: consulting the middle class employee of a US or European NGO

“community capacity building” : teach them what they already know -

“empowerment” : what is left when all the quantifiable variables give non-significant results -

“experienced aid practitioner” : has large number of air miles in account -

“expert” : I read a book about the place on the plane

“field experience” : I can’t bear DC anymore

“gender” : counting how many women attend your meeting

“Global North” : White academics; “Global South” : Indian academics

“innovation” : we’re sexy, you want to be associated with us

“leverage” : we’re not paying for all of this

“low overhead” : volunteers run headquarters

“low-hanging fruit”: we were already going to achieve this anyway

“mainstreaming” : forgetting

“meetings” : our grant said we had to host an event

“per diem”: what we have to pay local officials to attend our meetings

“participatory stakeholders” : people who should solve their own problems

“participation” : the right to agree with preconceived projects or programs

“political will” : I have no comprehension of the incentives faced by the people who I wish would do stuff I want

“practical solutions” : photogenic solutions

“pro-poor” : the rich know best

“RCT” : research method yielding same results as qualitative work at 10 times the cost

“outreach” : intrude

“ownership” : we held a workshop

“raise awareness” : no measurable outcome

“scale-up” : It’s time for follow on grant

“sensitize” : tell people what to do

“sustainable” : will last at least as long as the funding

“tackling root causes of poverty” : repackaging what we’ve already done in a slightly more sexy font

“UN Goals”: making up targets for problems we don’t understand paid for with money we don’t have – (in honor of current UN meeting on Non-communicable diseases)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Feeding on Disasters

Disasters and emergencies have now become almost a regular feature of a typical Pakistani calendar. Sometimes these are natural disasters like floods, which have once again devastated large parts of the country and on others there are emergencies like internal displacement due to armed conflict with extremists in northern parts of Pakistan. These disasters and emergencies bring immeasurable sufferings and agony with them for the poor masses that have to face them. Often the poor people have to flee their homes and take refuge in temporary camps and shelters. They have to fight for the morsels of food and beg for supplies. Women have to forget their culture and values and scuffle with each other to snatch aid goods and children face exploitation, separation, violence and abuse. Media gets into a frenzy to cover all this and to give us a blow by blow account of the worsening situation.

Yet there is another group of society for which these natural disasters and emergencies open the doorway of prosperity and affluence. Disasters open the floodgates of opportunities for this group to amass wealth and riches and to change fortunes overnight. It is not a very large group but not a small one either. It consists of manufacturers of certain products, suppliers, wholesale dealers, transporters and of course development and aid agencies or so called humanitarian organizations. This group awaits disasters as eagerly as a child might wait for the birthday to receive gifts or for Eid to get Eidee from elders. They welcome disasters and emergencies with sparkle in their eyes and smiles on the faces knowing very well that in the next few months they are going to have a field day. Though media covers all the aspects of misery and plight of the poor people suffering the disasters, yet the activities of the second group are hardly ever mentioned in the media, be it print or electronic.

The exploitation bonanza starts right in the beginning with the evacuation of population in the wake of emergency or immediately after the disaster has struck. Transporters start charging exuberant fares from the affected populations trying to get away from the scene of disaster. We are not just talking about doubling or tripling of fares or transport charges, but about hundred fold increases in fares and transport charges. The same transporters then also charge phenomenal prices for transporting the relief goods to the affected areas. Tents which are in great demand for establishing camps and shelters suddenly disappear from the market, only to reappear with doubled or tripled price tags.

Suppliers of food items, medicines, and sanitary items frantically try to get in touch with the procurement sections of the international and national aid and humanitarian agencies. They know very well that this is time when all procurement procedures and guidelines will be shelved and huge orders will be placed disregarding all standard operating procedures in the name of emergency response and immediate needs of the affected populations. These suppliers are not the only beneficiaries of this practice. The personnel of the procurement sections of many humanitarian organizations and aid agencies are also known to have gone through a sudden inexplicable improvement in their life styles over the last few years. It is no surprise therefore, when we learn that a ten kg flour bag which costs around three hundred rupee in open market, sometimes mysteriously costs around seven hundred rupee when it is procured by some international aid agencies for free distribution in the camps.

Next comes the phase of establishing offices and starting emergency response projects. The few remaining houses of the area are rented at rates which their owners had never even imagined in their wildest dreams. How could a man living in the far flung union council of Dera Ghazi Khan ever have imagined that his one room Kutcha house would one day bring a rent of fifteen thousand? You might also find some residents of small town of Dera Allah Yar, district Jafferabad living quite confortable lives in Quetta after having rented their mediocre houses to international organizations, at rents which would make owners of big houses in Karachi and Lahore envious. Of course all this is not just because of lack of knowledge about the local market; it is in fact a mutually beneficial arrangement between the owners and those awarding the contracts.

Local organizations, which had not been seen in action for the last many years, suddenly come to life. They start feeling an urge to help the suffering humanity, the like of which perhaps they had never felt before, probably because it had never been so profitable in the past. They dust their portfolios and start the pilgrimage to offices of international agencies. No doubt having a brother, a sister, a cousin or some friend in the program section of the international aid or donor agencies helps a lot in advancing the humanitarian agenda of these seasonal nongovernmental organizations. If there are no relatives in the international development agencies, even then it is not a big deal. Commissions and percentages have been invented only to overcome such hurdles.

When permanent or temporary project offices will be set in the affected areas, some new actors will come into play. The local vendors, office equipment suppliers, suppliers of electronic goods, computer and laptops will now jump the band wagon. Why should they be left behind when everybody is making hay and the sun is shining? All the sub standard equipment which had been gathering dust in the warehouses for last couple of years will now be sold at hefty profits. Sometimes even substandard supplies will not even be required, just the invoice would be enough to fill the files and bank accounts of both the parties. Even small vendors and hotels would benefit from this extravaganza. Workshops, meetings, consultations will be organized with nauseating regularity to discuss the plight of the affected populations and these will also require space, lunches, dinners and tea breaks. The revenue generated by all these hotels and vendors increases considerably because sitting in Badin and charging the rates of four star hotels of Karachi and Lahore is always fun. These can even be ghost workshops and consultations on the pattern of ghost schools with which all of us are quite familiar.

The politicians and government officials are also not hindered by the fact that international community no more trusts the government to give it any direct financial support. The trust deficit in government means that often government officials at the forefront of the disaster response have no financial resources at all at their disposal to embezzle. It does not bother them a bit, because the local development organizations working in their area can always be harassed and intimidated to succumb to their demands. They can be forced to distribute goods to favorites, share the earnings or to employ the good for nothing siblings, cousins or friends at lucrative salaries.

You might ask that what happens to the people affected by floods during all this time. Well, who cares? They were already poor, marginalized and disadvantaged. If anybody had cared for them, they would not have gone through all this suffering and agony in the first place. But worry not, they also get their share. With our mismanaged, unplanned and haphazard disaster responses, we have created a whole new breed of beggars, who are always waiting for someone to come and distribute alms and charity among them even when situation is stable enough to return to their homes and lands. In fact we have turned whole populations of affected areas into beggars with no self respect left in them. They will attack, loot and plunder the trucks and other transport vehicles carrying relief goods and sell them in the markets. They will mob those who want to distribute something to them and they will stay in the camps for months and months just to keep on receiving free food and other items.

It usually happens that disasters and emergencies bring the best out the individuals and nations facing them. Nations rise to the occasion, forget their differences and unite in the face of emergencies. Individuals overcome their self interest and display tremendous examples of selflessness, sacrifice and bravery. But for us, it seems even this process has been reversed. Disasters and emergencies only seem to be bringing the worst in us, which keeps on getting worse. My question to my readers is that if we cannot be responsible and honest in the face of such calamities and disasters, will we ever be?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Attack on Naval Base a Cowardly Act: Are you serious?

The Prime Minister of Pakistan yesterday said that attack on the naval base by the terrorists was a cowardly act. I would like to ask the worthy PM that if attacking a fully functional naval base, capturing it, destroying two very expensive and high tech aeroplanes, holding the fort for sixteen hours, killing many trained army personnel including officers and escape of two two terrorists is a cowardly act, then what constitutes a brave act in his opinion.

Another gem of information was shared by the Defence Minister Mr. Ahmed Mukhtar, who while talking to the media, said that attack was very well planned and the terrorists were fully prepared. Thank you Mr. Mukhtar! All of us were thinking that few terrorist were just strolling around and when they saw PNS Mehran, they suddenly decided to attack on it on a whim. We know that you minsters are incompetent but at least don't try to make us realize that you are also proud of your incompetence as well. Is there nobody to tell these idiots to keep their mouths shut when they don't know what to say.

Resorting to empty rhetoric instead of openly accepting our failures has become a national habit for us. Instead of sacking those who are responsible for the gross neglect of duty and breach of security, or at least demanding resignations from them, we are busy in signing praises of their bravery and eulogizing their sacrifices. The attack on naval base in Karachi is the worst that can happen to any military installation and yet we are not ready to put the blame where it belongs.

We know that war on terror is is our own war and and its that the war of our survival, but if the war is being fought by such incapable people we have no hope of winning it.