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Showing posts from September, 2015

Hail to the Chief !

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THE image of a mustachioed man with peaked cap and a chest full of medals is becoming hard to avoid in Pakistan. It is splashed across the posters of a politician competing in a by-election in the eastern city of Lahore. It looms large on giant billboards in the port city of Karachi, apparently paid for by adoring citizens. And it is a rare day when Pakistan’s chief of army staff is not pictured on a newspaper front page. He has even entered the colourful repertoire of artists who decorate the nation’s trucks and rickshaws.The apotheosis of General Raheel Sharif (pictured, wearing beret) makes it harder than ever for his unrelated namesake, Nawaz Sharif, who is prime minister, to claw back powers from an army that has directly and indirectly controlled Pakistan for most of its history. Nawaz Sharif’s election victory in 2013 resulted in the country’s first transfer of power from one civilian government to another. But the extent of his authority is debatable: the army is reasserting …

Jews & Christian Extremists Justify Killing others

Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller claim that Islam is more violent than other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity.  To prove this, they argue that the Islamic holy book, the Islamic prophet, and the Islamic God are all uniquely violent–certainly more so than their Judeo-Christian counterparts.We proved these claims completely bunk by showing the Bible to be far more violent than the Quran,the Biblical prophets to be far more violent than the Prophet Muhammad, and Yahweh of the Bible to be far more violent than Allah of the Quran.  (See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-i, 6-ii, 6-iii, 6-iv, 7, 8, 9-i, and 9-iiof LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.)Instead of defending their initial claim (which they simply cannot), the Islamophobes quickly shift gears and rely on a fallback argument: they argue that “the Bible doesn’t actively exhort its believers to commit acts of violence, unlike the Quran.”  I refuted this argument in part 6 (see 6-i, 6-ii, 6-iii, 6-iv) in an…

Democracy in danger, by whome?

جمہوریت کو کس سے خطرہ ہے؟Democracy, in its shallow form where it only serves the interests of the ruling groups or dynasties, has been wrapped up many times around the world. The pseudo-democracy of Pakistan has been replaced four times by military regimes. Interestingly, a good number of the same political families that formed the core of ‘democracy’ jumped the lines and joined the military governments. This shows very little commitment to democracy and strong attachment to power and political patronage, no matter what the source of this patronage is, who the deliverer is and what the personal agenda and character of those wielding power are. That is the sad history of our public representatives who have formed ‘representative’ governments as part of military and/or civilian regimes. The question to probe is whether threats to democracy have emanated from outside its constitutional order or from within?The simplest and ever-ready answer to this is that there is and always has been a …

`White` and `black` Jews who decided to stay back in Lahore Pakistan

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It might seem strange in these trying times to suggest that in the land of Pakistan we have always had a small, very small, Jewish population. This was truer of Karachi, though Lahore also had its share of Jews. Today their number you can count on your fingers.
The very few that remain after 1947 are very poor Jews, a surprising condition for this sturdy group of people. They live in obscurity in our city, more so in the walled city of Lahore. During a research exercise I was going through official figures issued by the Government of Pakistan for the 2013 elections, and was pleased to know that it showed 809 adult Jews enrolled in the last election. As a researcher dedicated to researching Lahore in particular, and Punjab in general, let me tell you that I have visited a few in Lahore. Only six such families live inside the walled city, they are two `white Baghdadi Jews` and four `black Cochin Jews`. Their total number stands at 32humans, and very fine humans at that. In this piece l…

Pakistan’s phoenix complex

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Wanted is a superhero at all times. Our hero complex is like the Phoenix, a mythical creature that gets burnt but rises from the ashes again and again. It’s an emblem of immortality, rekindling hope and optimism. Pakistanis, the majority of whom are semi-literate, ignorant and poor, have, since their country’s independence, found and lost their Phoenix-like leaders who have cyclically fooled, hoodwinked, cheated and tricked them, only to perish and be reborn with a different name and a different face.
October 12, 1999 arrived with the sacking of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by then army chief General Pervez Musharraf. Then came the famous Referendum of 2002. On a blustery April morning, we went to Pakistan Consulate General in New York to vote ‘Yes’ allowing Musharraf to continue as president for five years. He promised that he would banish the “corrupt duo”, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, forever. We believed him. Musharraf broke his promise.
General Kayani succeeded Musharraf as the …