Saturday, May 29, 2010

Women Are Superior to Men!!!!

Tim Sebastian, famous BBC correspondents’ this week Doha Debate series was hilarious & thought provoking, it was not about politics rather topic was “women are superior to men”.
You must be wondering what is Doha Debate “The Doha Debates are a unique venture in the Arab world, providing a battleground for conflicting opinions and arguments about the major political topics of the region .They engage in time-honored rivalry – where the only weapons are words. They practice the art of peaceful disagreement: understanding and respecting different views”.

This time Doha Debate was bit hilarious, it talked about merits of men and women from beards to shopping to mother in law and everyone walked away with big laugh. Two competing teams were part of debate and topic was “women are superior to men”.

It was interesting that debate revolved around intriguing questions such as many women asked “why it was that behind every successful man was a surprised woman and why, when the doctors’ waiting rooms were full of women, the mortuaries were full of men”

Can you guess what debate conculsion was? Majority participants voted in favor of women’s’ superiority i.e., 67% vs 33%.

One of the participants was Maysoon Zayid, a Palestinian American actress she made a point that "Men," she reminded members of the evenly-divided male-female auditorium, "you wouldn't even be here if it weren't for us. We brought you into this world and we can kill you".

It is so true and she also explained that "men in the West have to beg women to marry them, men in the East have to pay them because no (woman) would do that voluntarily."

Another participant Usman made an awesome point that women are "kinder, nicer, gentler and smarter" than men. "They are more attractive and beautiful while men are...disgusting."

You know what made me laugh, when Usman kept mentioning that people believe that Muslim men are terrorists and oppressing women, he reminded such people to visit Muslim household!!!! They may find exact opposite “the woman is the terrorist and oppresses the man”!!!!

It was a pleasant surprise for me to see an open and candid debate in closed Middle Eastern society. It was awe inspiring and hilarious; Doha Debates have changed my perception of Qatar.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Reign of Terror in Lahore!!!!!

It was Friday evening I was at work, as usual I was in weekend mood, before leaving I scanned through news on web, stunned to hear killing of more than 80 innocent people in Pakistani mosque. As per reports attackers fired guns, threw grenades and three militants blew themselves up with suicide vests.The victims belong to Ahmadi sect it is “a minority Islamic sect founded in 1889, Ahmadis believe their own founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, who died in 1908, was a prophet”, they were declared the sect non Muslim in 1974 by the government of Pakistan. Historically they have been subject to sectarian attacks and persecution in Pakistan.

Numbers of religious minorities’ persecution in Pakistan is alarming, a country created in the name of religion. Islam talks of peace but one could easily see intolerance and religious extremism both created for political motives during cold war and irresponsible role of right wing political parties. There are various groups spread hatred, preach violence but they are left alone and in some cases it is blamed that security agencies use them for their political gains. In the end innocent Pakistanis suffer and social fabric gets destroyed.

It is unfortunate, instead of curing the malaise of intolerance, right wing political leaders and media promotes the idea of conspiracy theory ‘apologetic’, some group blame India other blame non state actors supported by US. It is sad; no one talks about the roles and responsibility of state and its lax behaviour towards hate mongers.

It is also unfortunate we as nation always blame West for not allowing scarf, minarets and denying religious freedom. I am witness to grand mosque in southern biblical belt in US, also read that grand mosque is approved near destroyed twin towers in New York.

Minorities are persecuted in Pakistan. Let us put our house in order, get out of barbaric intolerance then compare ourselves with others!!!!!! Wake up Pakistan!!!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Facebook shame !!!

Facebook ban fury lead me to write a blogpost to record my protest. In my blog i shared views of group of people who are against facebook ban, blog heading is SAY NO TO FACEBOOK BAN, unfortunately if one reads comments, instead of intellectual discourse all 6 replies are insane, emotional, irrational and naive. However, my upbringing and values do not allow me to reply them with similar insulting tone.

I am glad to read one of the interesting and rational response published in todays THE NEWS newspaper by my University "LUMS" Professor Ahmed Rafay . I am sharing it here and expect rational intellectual discourse, instead of emotional and ill mannerd outcry.
"There's a new joke doing the rounds: what's the difference between Facebook and the Lashkar-e-Taiba? Answer: Facebook is banned in Pakistan.

The Lahore High Court's un-technical appreciation of social networking sites, the mechanics of the Internet and its order to enforce a ban on Facebook are matched only by ludicrousness of the petition seeking the ban and the offensive prank that started this entire episode.
Here's another joke doing the rounds: Facebook has nothing to worry about. It can always re-appear under another name (Jamaat-ul-Facebook, anyone?).

In Muhammad Mahboob vs The State (PLD 2002 Lahore 587), Mr Justice Ali Nawaz Chohan, dismissed evidence that had convicted a man of blasphemy as "unbelievable". While doing so, the court quoted an article, "What is Blasphemy", by Ayaz Amir on February 27, 2002 (when Ayaz Sahib wrote for another paper): "The greatest blasphemy of all is a child going hungry, a child condemned to the slow death of starvation. The miscarriage of justice is blasphemy. Misgovernment is blasphemy. An unconscionable gap between rich and poor is blasphemy. Denial of treatment to the sick, denial of education to the child, are alike examples of blasphemy.

"My friend Adil Najam posted the following on ("Facebook Fiasco: What would Muhammad (PBUH) do?": "The one thing I am absolutely positive of, is that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would not have done what we are doing now: making an international public spectacle of ourselves. Most likely he would have just walked away and ignored (as he did those who threw garbage on him), he might have negotiated with Facebook on the basis of their own stated rules (the Hudabia model), he might have reasoned with the detractors. Nearly certainly Muhammad (PBUH) would have handled it with grace and with composure. Most importantly, the Prophet (PBUH) would have kept focusing on his own actions and proving his point with his own deeds rather than with slogans and banners.

"One thing about this entire banning Facebook ado is the level of organisation displayed across the country. I may not agree with what they have managed to do, but I do appreciate that they could use Facebook (as many did) to organise their protests. Today I learn that the women's wing of the Jamat-e-Islami is organising a protest against Facebook. Never mind that it has just been reported that a teenager was raped for four months in Lahore, the ladies of the JI (women's wing) have something to protest on this sunny May day.

We are a country entirely devoid of a sense of irony. Just before the PTA got around to enforcing the ban, someone I know updated her Facebook profile to inform people how pleased she was that Facebook had been banned.

I have used Facebook over the last year and a half to promote a cycling initiative aimed at raising awareness about sustainable urban planning, public transport and the importance of public space. Each week, friends and I would post onto our Facebook page, Critical Mass Lahore, inviting others to come join us for our trips through and around the city. In Islamabad and Karachi, too, urban activists used Facebook to promote similar cycling events in their cities. At the beginning of this year, the Shehr section of this paper's News on Sunday pages, voted Critical Mass Lahore and Zimmedar Shehri as two of the best things to have happened to Lahore in 2009. Zimmedar Shehri also used Facebook to launch and manage its incredibly popular campaign to get your hands dirty, literally, and clean up the country. Rise Pakistan, another social activism organisation with over 10,000 Facebook members, is also rendered paralysed. Someone I know runs their business on Facebook. Well, her business has been halted by the High Court order.There is simply no justification – legal, ethical, moral, religious – for the High Court to have ordered a ban on the social network page. Our law is crystal clear: A person's rights cannot be impinged upon without notice. There are well over 40 million Facebook users in Pakistan. The alleged blasphemy is supposed to be taking place in the United States. Under what legal framework is it permissible for the rights of the overwhelming majority of lawful users of Facebook to be affected in this way? As a lawyer, I fail to understand both the petition and the High Court's order.

This morning, via a text message sent to me by my mobile phone provider, I was informed that, on account of the High Court decision, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had also ordered the shutting down of Blackberry's messenger service. What common sense is being applied here? I have a contract with my mobile phone provider which, to my knowledge, neither my provider nor I have violated. I am at a loss to understand what legal justification exists to deprive me of my contractual rights. And it's not just about me: what legal sense is there in taking an action that has an immediately detrimental effect to the work of thousands of Pakistanis.

There is now news that the free open-source encyclopaedia Wikipedia, has been shut down. There are also rumours to the effect that Youtube, which is a website which I use to watch television programmes and download the intellectually stimulating Ted Talks, have been blocked by the PTA as well.

Our response to the derogatory and blasphemous acts of others has been to harm only ourselves. The Lahore High Court is party to this shoot-yourself-in-the-foot approach. As someone said, banning Facebook is just like taking to Mall Road with Molotov cocktails. Except, in this case, the protagonists came from the gates of justice.

Manuel Castells once said that technology can be determined by political ideology. He referred to the ENIAC as an example: if Soviet Russia had the same technology as the scientists at MIT, they would not have used that technology to come up with an iPad. They would have used the technology, for sure, but their political ideology would not have directed in the direction of personal communication devices.

Taking Castells' example, I often remind people that, in Pakistan, we still do not manufacture televisions (we do assemble them, but bear with me). This is despite the fact that we have the technology to do so. The reason we don't is because we are still stuck in a political philosophy that believes that television is a medium by which "alien culture" is allowed to infiltrate our own. We will never be able to achieve technical capacity unless our political ideology allows us to. Now, with the High Court joining the chorus of misunderstanding on the issue of Facebook, I wonder how we will ever progress".
To conclude, let me share following facts, simply alarming;
"Facebook has 400 million users. Only 2 million are from Pakistan. That is 0.5% of the total Facebook audience.The offending Facebook page that the Pakistan government banned had about 30,000 members 3 days before May 20.Following the complete ban of Facebook in Pakistan, the offending page has 80,000 members and growing as of Thursday evening".

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Say No to Facebook Ban

On behalf of the "Defenders of Internet Freedom Protest Against Nationwide Government Ban of Facebook" we say no to facebook ban.

"On Wednesday 19th May 2010, the Lahore High Court ordered the banning of Facebook across Pakistan. Facebook is the world's most popular social media network and is used by over 400 million globally. In Pakistan, over 2 million people use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family, conduct business, manage events, and share photos, news, and other content. A few days ago, a page called "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" was created on Facebook asking users to submit drawings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on 20th May 2010. This page, interpreted as blasphemous, has triggered a nationwide ban on the entire Facebook domain.
While we recognize that sites on the Internet are used to spew hatred and incite violence, we steadfastly believe that governments have no right to control access to information. We believe that every citizen has an inalienable right to freely access information and by censoring Facebook, the Government of Pakistan has taken away that right. This action will have a very negative impact on Pakistan, especially considering that countless small businesses, nonprofit organizations, restaurants, art galleries, magazines, and media outlets use Facebook to conduct day-to-day business and share information with their stakeholders.
In 2006, the Supreme Court of Pakistan banned the entire domain for over 18 months over a similar incident where only one blog carried blasphemous cartoons. Thousands of Pakistani bloggers were deprived of the freedom to express themselves and interact with others. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority now has the ability to block specific pages on the Internet and could have banned just the single blasphemous page. As members of civil society and professionals who depend on social media networks for our daily communications, we demand the immediate restoration of Facebook and an end to Internet censorship by the Government of Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Civil Military Relationship in Pakistan!!!

Civil military relationship in Pakistan has never been cordial, democracy & dictatorships’ musical chair always dominated the helm of affairs. Civil military relationship discussion is intriguing topic and dominates most of our drawing room gossips.

Today I was invited at media round-table with an American intellectual/expert on Civil Military Relationship. Dr. Daniel N. Nelson is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and he is also President/CEO of Global Concepts & Communications, Inc. based in Alexandria, Virginia. He is an author of many books, famous one is “After Authoritarianism: Democracy or Disorder? “

It was an interesting and interactive session on much talked yet sensitive subject. At times we use the term “Civil & Military” specifically in the context of the government and men in uniform but Dr Nelson explained both terms well, term civil refers to “President, Prime Minister or Parliament and civil society” & military refers to “men in uniform, intelligence agencies, private military companies and military industrial complex”.

Referring to various case studies, he shared five interesting points that are used in other countries to strengthen democracy; if one looks at these, there is a lot one can learn.

Firstly, “LAW” law or constitution should be in place that defines the chain of command & civilian authority over military. Secondly “CHANGE IN CULTURE”, culture refers to norms, values and beliefs & it is necessary for society to have belief in rule of civilians in the context of military and society. Thirdly, “STRUCTURE & PROCESSES” clear cut structure and processes to be laid down to ensure chain of command. Fourthly “OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY” freedom of information is vital so that everything is open to public and civilian leadership. Lastly “BUDGET”, all budgetary controls be under civilian authority.

Above points may sound interesting but during discussion it was evident that it may be difficult for a weak civilian authority to assert, influence change in culture, ensure processes are followed and ensure transparency in budgeting.

To move forward, an interesting point came up, the role of civil society is important to influence and define future of civil military relationship!!!

There was a lot of discussion on the role of historical US support to dictatorships in Pakistan, it was shared that it was not desired to partner with dictators during cold war or after 9/11, however it was out of compulsion.

Unfortunately most of the discussion was focused on historical wrong doings, for a while it was felt, rather it was a reality check that as a nation we are too much focused on past or history.

Dr Nelson sounds hopeful that civilian democracy will continue and military is too much engaged and focused on their professional responsibilities.

No doubt Pakistan’s case is unique, civilian government lack will and capability to lead the country; however, it is believed that democracy is at evolutionary stage, will take time to evolve.

To move forward and strengthen the democracy one could learn a lot from Dr Nelson’s five points.

It is difficult task for Pakistan to focus on country’s security, handle non state actors, militancy and economic slow down. Tough but one could learn from others experiences.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Acid Attack on Three Sisters in Balochistan!!!!

It was Saturday morning, I was getting my car fixed at Toyota motors, got an opportunity to talk to one of my close friends who lives in Quetta. As victim, we “Baloch” do not talk about parties, cricket match or fun and frolic but always end up talking about disappearances, killings and atrocities.

My friend shared one the most gruesome incident of three sisters aged between 14 and 20 years old, two unidentified men on a bike threw acid at them and sisters suffered serious facial burns. As per reports political activists lodged protests and every one in Balochistan condemned this gruesome act.

Few weeks ago an unknown group The Baloch Ghairatmand Group (The Honorable Baloch Group) claimed the responsibility.

We fail to understand whose honor is this to throw acid on innocent girls; such acts in Balochistan had never been witnessed in the past.

Another interesting story I came across, majority of people in Balochistan believe that anti Baloch groups are behind such action, goal is to malign the Baloch struggle for economic & political rights “for some its freedom struggle”

As per BBC report, “same group warned Baloch women to wear hijab “head scarf” and not to visit markets unaccompanied by men from their families”.

Historically, Baloch society had been tolerant, religion had always been part of culture, most of them honor BALOCH HONOR CODE. Politically Baloch have always been secular and leaning towards left during cold war. It is lament to see acid attack and women are forced/warned to wear hijab.

Lately, I came across a report published in THE NEWS/Daily Tawar/Blogs, it says that “as per plan religious groups are deeply penetrating in Baloch societies to malign present political struggle and leave ugly footprints” ( also read Malik Siraj's article on same subject titled How Panjgur is losing the battle? )

I am not sure how true it is but people in Balochistan fail to buy the claims of so called The Baloch Ghairatmand Group (The Honorable Baloch Group).

Whoever is behind such attacks, it is states’ responsibility to provide security to daughters of Pakistan. Is anyone listening??? Knock knock !!!!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Times Square Terror Plot; Toxic Schooling & Irresponsible Media!!!!

The guy who tried to set off a car full of explosives in Times Square New York, Faisal Shazad is a Pakistani. The image of country has already been tarnished by jihad mongers, suicide bombers, anti American rhetoric in the media and to an extent apologetic middle class supporting Taliban list includes Zahid Hamid, Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat, Maria B etc

As student of International Relations, it is generally observed that majority of Pakistanis' are made to believe that whatever ills of Pakistan are because of west, only way to address is to live in isolation and destroy west or USA. To kill or hate rhetoric is fueled in the minds through education system, right wing political groups and an irresponsible media.

Be it 7/11 in UK, 9/11 in US, Mumbai attack, Pakistan is always in the news, initial denials but later everything gets connected to groups or individuals operating in Pakistan.

Experts such as Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy believes that it is hate based education system developed during Zia era; toxic schooling and media tutoring are the reasons behind act of Faisal Shahzad and like.

The result of hatred campaign resulted in extreme hatred all across, a private survey carried out by European Embassy based in Islamabad found that only 4% of Pakistanis polled speak well of American and 96% against. In the midst of hate campaign, someone speaks well of US, he or she is labeled an agent.

Dr Hoodbhoy believes that people believe that New York incident is response to drone attacks, drones have killed some innocents but they have devastated militant operations in Waziristan while causing far less collateral damage. It is noticed that we blame everything on US; we never talk about our responsibilities towards democracy, good governance, rights of women and ‘religious & ethnic’ minorities, rule of law, justice and accountability.

How long we ignore basic issues and blame everything on West. Can we afford to live in isolation? Will we benefit if our country becomes Yemen or Afghanistan, producing more Faisal Shahzad!!!!