Friday, May 27, 2011

India Bans The Economist

This is a must read. The world's largest democracy has just banned the latest edition of The Economist magazine. I have always said that western media, and especially the American-British media, or what I like to call the Am-Brit media, treats India with kid gloves.

I mean, imagine the world's largest democracy becoming home to 21st century's first genocide: over 2,000 Indians burned alive in a matter of three days for being followers of the wrong religion?

It happened, in 2002, in western Indian state of Gujrat. Did you hear about it? No. Did the world, the United Nations, or the EU take note? Not at all. Why? One reason is that those murdered were Muslims. But also because the culrpit in this case was India, a country that the United States is grooming to replace American and British soldiers in fighting their wars in regions close to India. Indian soldiers are cheap compared to the yanks and Brits. And there are plenty of them so India can absorb massive human losses. And thus India gets away with stuff that no other country would. For example, in 2000, two young boys, less than 10 years old, and their father, an Australian missionary, were burned alive by a mob of Hindu extremists and fundamentalists. Nothing could save the kids and their father, not even the fact that they spent months distributing food for free among poor Indians.  Imagine this happening in China, or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, or Zimbabwe or Venezuela, or in any other country that Washington and London are not good friends with.  But since this happened in India, no one knows about it. There wasn't even a whimper from Australia when three of its citizens were murdered in the most brutal way possible.

So it is significant when The Economist writes that Pakistan and China are not as bad when it comes to censorship as India is. And it is more significant when the BBC seconds The Economist and accuses India of harassing the BBC and other media outlets operating inside India.

I have been saying for some time now that Pakistan is more liberal and tolerant than India is. For five years or so of Composite Dialogue, we receved groups of private Indian citizens in Pakistan as part of the people-to-people exchange between the two countries. Pakistani delegations that would visit India would freely interact with India media, criticize Pakistani policies where necessary and call for peace.  Surprisingly, we saw no such thing with the Indian delegations in Pakistan. They were all independent Indian activisits and citizens with no affiliation to Indian government, but they would dare not deviate from the official Indian position on any issue, be it Kashmir or concessions for peace. You could see they were all following the same talking points.

This and other points are explained in this excellent report titled, World's Largest Democracy Censors A British Magazine.

The Death Of Zardari Sr. & The Jokes On The President

On Tuesday, 24 May 2011, former senator Hakim Ali Zardari, the father of President Asif Ali Zardari, passed away in Islamabad. Since this is one of those moments where politics should make way for humanity and compassion, I posted a condolence message on my Facebook page, sharing the grief of the President's family.

I wanted to send a message. As a harsh critic of President Zardari, I wanted to show our younger generation that your politics need not be devoid of compassion and humanity. This is important because Pakistani politics are run by families and tribes where differences are lethal. Political parties are normally controlled by a strongman or a group of strong men who pass on their seats to their children. New faces are not allowed to raise their heads and competition is brutally suppressed, sometimes violently. This is why Pakistan has no real democracy but only a large number of fake democrats who claim they are fighting for democracy.

So my message was: Let's temper and civilize our politics.

To my shock, someone posted something to the effect, 'We hope the son joins the father soon.'  In a short time, the space was filled with variations of this comment, written in the style of jokes. I know that normally Pakistanis do not politicize the sad occasion when a politician has lost a close family member. But this time, you could see how frustrated and demoralized Pakistanis have become, especially when you have a man of questionable abilities running the government, having attained power through indirect means [through a political marriage and a secret deal sponsored by two foreign governments and a runaway dictator].

There were some intelligent comments too. Imran Ali Shamsi asked, 'I am realy surprised to see a politician who goes to UK/Dubai for their minor medical problems ... but his father died in PIMS with nobody around him.I cant digest it AQ.'

Good point.

Here is another by a Pakistani mother who is an American married to a Pakistani: 'If there is going to be publication and space for public condolences, I would rather it be for a Mother who just lost her little baby in a drone attack. Imagine her loss. You always expect to lose your parents, but your baby?'

Aside from the jokes, all of these are legitimate comments. I also understand the jokes and sympathize with my countrymen and women who are worried about the mess our nation is in because of a decade of supporting the US occupation of Afghanistan and because of the self-serving policies [if you can call them policies] of our ruling elite.

At the same time, it is important that we rationalize and civilize our politics. Let's learn to say all of what my friends have said above, in the comments to my condolence message. Let's say all of that. But let's also condole in this case.

Having said this, I do have second thoughts when I read a third comment-maker say he is sure President Zardari isn't much bothered about his father and so why should we.

It's Pakistani politics. It drove John Negroponte and Richard Boucher mad. Just ask them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Pakistani Sikh, A Globalist Sikh: Sardar Suran Singh, Avatar Singh Sekhon

In response to the excellent brief comment posted by Ms. Imaan Hazir Mazari yesterday on the PakNationalists Mailing List, titled Excuse Me, Is CIA Calling Us Terrorists?, I received this email from a prominent leader of the global Sikh community, Mr. Awatar Singh Sekhon. Those who closely follow the issues of Pakistan and the region would find this letter very interesting:

Piare Bhai Sahib ji

Piare Barkhurdar Ahmed Quraishi ji,

Aslaam O Alaikum!

Let them do it. Please keep on working for the progress, development and dissemination of information to the great citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistam. This is your duty to look after the Awam of Pakistan and their betterment.

You, the Pakistan, has to find its place in the World Arena of Politics. To do this, you need sincere and committed citizens of Pakistan.

I wish you the very best. May the Khudawand Bakhshinda shower His blessing on you all.

Warmest regards.

Your brother,

Awatar Singh Sekhon (Machaki)
Editor in Chief
International Journal of Sikh Affairs ISSN 1481-5435
In response to my dear elder brother Sekhon Saheb, I would like to share with him this TV interview in Urdu with a Pakistani Sikh community leader who joined thousands of Pakistanis in the anti-CIA and anti-Drones sit-in in Peshawar last week that succeeded in blocking NATO supply route for three days.  In this video, this Pakistani Sikh quotes a saying of Prophet Mohammad PBUH to reaffirm commitment to defend the homeland against future attacks and violations by CIA and US military based in Afghanistan.