Archive

Tag Archives: pakistan

I have a piece of stale barfi in my fridge.

It has been there for six days. I know it is old. And I know, that every time I carefully unwrap it to take a tiny bite, and wrap it back up, I am probably risking a drastic case of food poisoning. But it is barfi, sweet, with the right amount of pista and badam. Each bite reminds me of home, of my father selflessly buying a small box of barfi so that we would eat some meetha, even though he is diabetic. It reminds me of the time that I turned my nose up at it, insisting that desi mithai was not worth risking obesity for.

Four months away from home changes everything.

.

There were mangoes, that were brought into the US. I had a box gifted as a present, courtesy of the Pakistan Embassy. On Monday morning, I opened the box, and inhaled the smell of the chaunsas, and then quickly looked around to see that no one was looking. Two hours later, another Pakistani friend told me that she had done the same thing.

.

A few months ago, I read this blog post. It seems crazy, right? Why would anyone, in a city in a first world country, forego sleep and the benefits of a thriving nightlife, and sit at home and watch a cricket match?

A few weeks after I moved to Washington, Pakistan and India played each other in a semi-final [that we will pretend never happened]. At 4AM, I dutifully woke up, found the shadiest website that was streaming the match, aware that this might be illegal, and began watching what turned out to be a massacre, but was part of the ritual that we call life as a Pakistani. Even know, the thought of Mohammad Aamir’s wasted career brings tears to my eyes. We stand united in our pain [and in our hatred for Ijaz Butt].

.

Today marks Pakistan’s 64th Independence Day. There is no other place I’d rather call home. Lekin iss mulk ka Khuda hi hafiz.

Advertisements

So I wrote a short piece about my visit to the Liberation War Museum for Express Tribune:

As a Pakistani schooled in a sanitised version of history, the museum makes one cringe with revulsion. Skulls and bones recovered from a killing field in Mirpur, Dhaka, stare at you from a glass cupboard. A black and white image shows vultures picking at the bodies of those left for dead. In another image, a snake is stretched out on the back of a dead body — an unknown victim of the cyclone that battered East Pakistan in 1970, and led to increased feelings of alienation amongst East Pakistanis with the slow aid response from West Pakistan. Lewd sketches of women are among the graffiti found in a Pakistan Army camp.

My tour guide turns to me, “You tell me, how can we forgive or forget this?”

You can read the entire article here. But I also recommend that you read the comment section. And after you’re done banging your head against the wall at the state of some Pakistanis’ perception of history and the extent of denial, please take a look at some of these photographs:

Sigh.

And bones.

The cyclone.

You can see the rest of the pictures from the museum here.

In retrospect, I’m not surprised that some people do think that the fall of Dhaka was due to an “Indian” or “international” conspiracy – after all, this is what they’re learning in their textbooks. But one would think – and this is very important – that if one has access to the internet and can spend their time leaving comments on say, Express Tribune’s website, surely they’d have time to, I don’t know, Google Bangladesh? Maybe read a bit of alternative history as opposed to the one they’ve been subjected to? Or is that asking too much?

This morning I woke up, remembered Shahbaz Bhatti was dead all over again, and was quite looking forward to spending my day in a good, old fashioned funk.

Then, I saw this on a pole in Zamzama, Karachi:

I actually don’t know what to say, or think. Does one laugh at and admire the creativity of this man? Do I bemoan how there are barely any avenues for men and women to interact in an environment apart from the familial or educational? Or does one just sit down and sob about what this generation is up to in their spare time? You can choose any or all of the above options, or suggest more in the comments section.

Shredded - 1

Its only when you fly across India to get to Bangladesh [formerly East Pakistan], that you realize how cruelly the lines that partitioned the Subcontinent had been drawn. Who, in their right mind, would believe that a country could be governed when it was split apart – or as Rushdie describes it, a moth-eaten country.

****
Hello Bangladesh.

The tigers!

Dishoom!

If there is one thing that has left me with an overwhelming sense of envy, it is the patriotism of the Bangladeshi people. I consider myself a patriotic Pakistani, and wouldn’t give up my green passport for the world, but the sense of pride here is something one must experience first hand. Arriving in Dhaka as the Cricket World Cup kicked off in the capital, you can feel how the people here are immensely proud of who they are and what their nation stands for, and this is fuelled further by being hosts of the CWC. Even though Dhaka is by far one of the most tourist-unfriendly metropolitans one has ever visited (the people are wonderful and helpful though); there are no signs in English, for example – and if you don’t understand Bengali, you might as well end up in another part of town [as I did, trying to get to the Liberation War Museum and ending up at the National Museum in another part of town]. One ends up feeling like a character from Scoop, “Anyone here speak English and knows a Prisoner of War?”

****

In Dhaka, there is no avoiding the past. Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman’s posters line the streets, and on walls, there are graphic representations of a member of the Pakistan Army snatching the dupatta of a Bengali girl. By the end of the visit, I had told so many people I was from India to avoid getting into a 1971 conversation, that the waiter at the hotel’s restaurant kept consoling me when Bangladesh’s batsmen hit fours and sixers against India in the first Cricket World Cup match.

****

The tiger.

As one travels around Dhaka, which really is quite a beautiful city, one feels a sense of irrevocable loss – we lost a beautiful city, and a wonderful nation with such rich culture and diversity, and we’ve left millions of people with a deep-rooted hatred for what happened to them at the hands of those wearing Pakistan Army uniforms – and for what?

I have never wanted to apologize so badly for something I wasn’t even responsible for.

****

You can see the rest of the pictures from Dhaka here

Eight days ago, Salmaan Taseer was shot dead.

Eight days later, Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin, is being hailed as a hero and speeches lauding Qadri are being publicly made. Threats are hurled at anyone who condemns the blasphemy laws. Sections of the Urdu press find ways to explain how Taseer brought this upon himself. The Pakistan People’s Party co-chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari may have condemned the public wave of support for Qadri, but it does not change anything. The Prime Minister has announced that the blasphemy laws will not be changed. And Aasia Bibi, the woman who’s languishing in jail? She’s still there, waiting for her appeal proceedings, while back in her village, her neighbours question, “Why hasn’t she been killed yet?”

Then, this pops up in the old city of Lahore (via @Mahraani):

Translation: We salute Mumtaz Qadri, the lover of the Prophet.

There is no escaping this fact: this is the country that we live in. As Feisal Naqvi put it in his op-ed yesterday:

“I do not want to live in a country where people can be executed for blasphemy. But I only get to choose my opinions. I do not get to choose my own facts. And the fact is that the people of Pakistan really want to execute people who they think have committed blasphemy. I can either accept that fact or I can seek to change it. But to act as if that fact does not exist is not sensible.”

As a Pakistani, I’ve never felt so defeated in my life. I really did believe in the resilience of this nation, how we got up, picked up the pieces and moved on. I thought I’d heard of and seen enough terrible things in the country, but I wake up every morning now, read the news, and lose my appetite. I don’t want to leave, but I do want to hide under the duvet and hope that when I finally resurface, it will somehow be a better morning. For now, as Faiz Ahmed Faiz put it, “yeh dagh dagh ujala, yeh shab-gazida sehar/woh intezar tha jis ka, yeh woh sehar tau nahi.”

This is Pakistan, reporting from the abyss it has just been pushed into.

Taseer’s assassination; even though assassination is too mild a word to describe it, the correct term should be cold-blooded murder at the hands of a Pakistani who has grown up and is continuously spoon-fed state and the right-wing religious lobby’s propaganda about Islam, blasphemy and secularism, is not the beginning of the end. This is the end. There is no going back from here, there is no miracle cure, there is no magic wand that will one day make everything better. Saying “enough is enough” does not cut it anymore, I think we can all agree that enough was enough ages ago, when the first murder under the garb of protecting Islam took place. With each bullet that deranged gunman pumped into Taseer’s body, with each person celebrating Taseer’s murder, with each person who has approved or justified his death on national TV, with each politician who promised that they would not change the law or allow it to be changed, the rape of humanity has been carried out, repeatedly.

Let me reiterate this: the Blasphemy Laws, in the form and shape that they are in today, are used as a tool for murder. For over 20 years, this law has led to the deaths of scores of people. Thousands have been persecuted under this law. Saying that does not make you any less of a Muslim, nor does it mean that you are insulting Islam.

But of course, as Ahsan at Five Rupees just pointed out : “Plenty of media personnel and right-wing politicians in this country contributed to this with their constant “wajib-ul-qatl” refrain, not to mention equating support for blasphemy laws to support for Islam. All of them could technically be dealt with as inciters to violence (illegal in our country, and basically every other one out there) but they won’t. You get to say and do whatever you want, act with as much impunity as you want — as long as you have God on your side.”

I’ll add to this – with every PPP politician who placated the religious right-wing and their former ally JUI-F that the Blasphemy Laws would not be amended: you have Taseer’s blood on your hands. Live with that.

I’d like to believe that Taseer’s death wasn’t in vain, that one day we will live in a country free of religious bigotry and incitement to murder, Blasphemy Laws and a right-wing that we’re held hostage to, but at this point, I think there’s a pool of blood at Kohsar Market that resembles the fate of those who would like to cherish this hope.

RIP Governor.

I have had my heart broken, day by day, over the last few weeks as floods have ravaged Pakistan. Most of the places I have had the privilege to visit over the last few years are now under water, or have suffered severe losses, both of life and livelihood. Dera Allah Yar, South Punjab, the KKH – these are not just dots on the map for me (covered now in shades of blue if one looks at the satellite images) – and nothing will ever be the same again. For more information on how to donate, please head over to Chapati Mystery or Changing Up Pakistan.

But the heartbreak is nothing compared to the rage and disgust I felt this morning, when I read this report in the Express Tribune:

“The government and local clerics refused to shelter around 500 flood-affected families belonging to the Ahmadiya community in South Punjab’s relief camps. Not only that, the government also did not send relief goods to the flood-hit areas belonging to the Ahmadiya community, The Express Tribune has learnt during a visit to the devastated Punjab districts of Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur.”

If it’s not bad enough that the government’s response for providing relief to the flood victims has been anything but remarkable, the President thought a trip to his chateau was more important as the floods hit the country or that fake IDP camps are being set up for the benefit of duping the Prime Minister and the media, let’s throw in some more state-sponsored religious persecution. Sigh – I would write more, but am at a loss for words as I decide whether to scream with rage or cry in frustration.