India, Pakistan and Peace

Raza Rumi

Little did we know that the imminence of war between India and Pakistan would once again become a possibility, howsoever faint or misguided? The ruling political junta in India is talking war following the media frenzy over Mumbai carnage. Once again it is time to be ‘tough’ with Pakistan. This is a surprise given that the interlude of peace under General Musharraf and all the offers of conflict resolution were either stalled by the red-tapism of Indian bureaucracy or a victim of political inaction. At home, we have the air-force planes hovering the wintry skies of Lahore causing consternation not only to the peaceniks, shrinking each day, but to the overwhelming majority of the common citizens. After all what have they got to do with the power game in Islamabad and Delhi, the media hysteria or even the terror cartels?

True that circumstantial evidence points to the fact that the metaphor of our times, Ajmal Kasai socially upgraded as the Urduised Kasab, is linked to the little Faridkot in the Pakistani Punjab. However, much of the international community has reminded India that there is little or no evidence of any direct involvement of the Pakistani state let alone its fragile civilian government. Yet, the rhetoric of unilateral strikes by the Indian foreign minister and now the venerable Sonia Gandhi is having the right effect here. Of war mongering, preparedness assessments and the much trumpeted security strategy through the nuclear option.

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Arundhati Roy and others in India, quite bravely, have urged the Indian state and society to look at the monster in the mirror and many observers in Pakistan have also taken an unconventional line in this dangerous game of legitimizing aggression, violence, the deadly nuclear weapons and their usage. But these are views that are in a minority and the monsters of jingoism and nationalism have unleashed their ire against such voices of sanity. Not surprising for the nation-state business in the subcontinent where we have three constructed nations armed with weapons and managed by the leftovers of the colonial bureaucracy.

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History will not be kind to such short- sightedness. More importantly, the future of generations is at stake. It is time to make it clear that war mantra has to be abandoned by the myopic, power-hungry elites of India and Pakistan.

Time to be confident. And to heal.

Being a citizen of Pakistan, and being a woman citizen of Pakistan I am so proud of this country. It has given me so much, the love, the warmth, the humanity, the neighbours, the streets, that we have progressed. In the journey from 1947 we have made a number of sacrifices but despite all the odds we have progressed beyond even our wildest imaginations

We are not tired even as yet, we have not given up hope, our people have potential and we will continue to move forward, some of the challenges thrown at us have been beyond comprehension, but our resolution to raise our head high will empower us to strive ahead.  We are defiant and Pakistan is a huge country, the only country in the world created for the Muslims out of a political struggle of Muslims. No wonder we have the toughest challenges.

We lost Bangladesh; with a sad heart we were forced to accept that as a fact. The People of Pakistan are united, sectarian, political, ethnical and regional differences make us Pakistan. It is this vibrancy that brings us different point of views yet we laugh together and join to celebrate our Eids, our Ramadan, our prayers and our faith unites us with whole of Muslim world.

Mumbai Terrorists Succeed

The Mumbai terror attacks have left some deep scars. In terms of numbers, perhaps more Pakistanis are dying every day; but as it is, Mumbai is turning out to be more significant. India and Pakistan are back to rhetoric, and indeed, back from the brink of a war! Progress made in the past few years are gone in a few days. That event is tending to divide the Muslims and the Hindus in India.  Many Muslims are apologetic about crimes that they did not participate in, and had nothing to do with except as a victim. Pakistani seems to have become an abuse. (Not so long ago Obama was “smeared” by the horribly offensive term- “Muslim,” against which he rightfully protested; but did not do the right thing by saying- “(No I’m not), but why would that be a bad thing?.”) We have these beer drinking terrorists- who they are, what they want we do not know. We have these people who are confused. We have other political entities who benefit from our loss and others’ loss. The terrorists seem to have won the battle. We have to win the war.

Du’a is the least we can do. Today, as three million Muslims stand at Mecca, we can make du’a for ourselves, and make du’a for them, and for everybody in the Ummah, and for every person in the whole wide world.

Eid Wishes, y’all.

[Image courtesy: Ron Gonzalez]

Karachi Burning

After Mumbai, it’s Karachi now. Riots and shootings are tearing Karachi apart.

 Karachi is bleeding again. More than a dozen dead. 80 injured. The Sindh Home Minister says “shoot to kill.” And everyone expects more blood to spill on the streets of Karachi. Fear rules the thoroughfares of Karachi.

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Everyone seems to know the script of the drama that is about to unfold, yet again, on the streets of Karachi. Except that the deaths will be real, not make-believe. Those who will be doing the killing have been arming up. Those who will be doing the instigation have already upped their rhetoric of hate, division and violence. Those who will be doing the dying, remain on knife’s edge, hoping that they will not be called upon to be sacrificed in the rituals of ethnic murder, so close to the Eid of sacrifice. The rest sit stunned in inaction as the politics of mayhem readies to raise its ugly head yet again. We see Pakistani kill Pakistani in the name of Pakistan. We sit afraid. Very afraid.

Our prayers are with Karachi.

[Image courtesy: fakhruddinusmani]

The Native Returns

Raza Rumi.

Twenty years ago, I left Lahore. Excited by prospects of quality higher education and the adolescent yearning for freedom, this was a moment that only with age I have understood. A flash that alters the life-path even when one is not aware of it. As I grew up and visited Lahore from a multitude of cities and continents, Lahore’s provincialism and inward-looking ethos irked me. However, the splendour of its lived history and multi-layered present fascinated me endlessly. A false sense of fatalism whispered that my exile was going to cover a life-span.

The last few years were spent abroad: so dejected I was that not living in Lahore would mean living just anywhere. When I decided this summer to return to Pakistan, I was astounded by the reactions from all and sundry. I was told that I am ‘mad’ to have chosen to return to a burning, imploding and crashing Pakistan. Such is the power of global corporate media that even the discerning and schooled Pakistanis have started to believe in the failed state mantra scripted outside Pakistan.

My own parents, temporary residents of Islamabad, scared by the blasts advised me against it. Others from the more indulgent school of thought were aghast with my decision to return to a country where power outages, crumbling urban infrastructure and pollution define urban living. Of all the nightmares cited was that who knows if the country would survive? Such cynicism and unmasked pessimism about Pakistan is always disturbing, yet familiar. My question is when was the country not about to unravel since 1947?

Continue reading.

[Image coutresy: fredericknoronha]

Remembering a Reformer: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

From Pakistaniat-

Today (October 17, 2008) marks the 191st birthday of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898).

In the history of Indian Sub-Continent, the role Syed Sahib played for Muslims of India deserves golden words. Sir Syed was the most influential leader and social reformer of his time. He felt that the socio-economic future of Muslims was threatened by their orthodox aversions to modern science and technology. He made significant contributions in this regard that had long term implications for the Muslims of India that eventually lead to creation of state of Pakistan.

Either it be his advocacy for Urdu to be recognized by British empire as second language of India & a symbol of Muslim heritage or establishment of a ‘Muslim Cambridge’ in form of MAO college at Aligarh, he is seen as a most vocal figure for the rights of Indian Muslims in the second half of 19th century under British Raj. At Aligarh, Sir Syed formed Scientific Society of Aligarh, the first scientific society of its kind in India that assembled Muslim scholars from across India, held annual conferences, disbursed funds for educational causes and regularly published a journal on scientific subjects in English & Urdu.

Living Lohawarana – a Lahori rambling

Raza Rumi’s fascination with Lahore. Did you know that the city was there as early as 150AD? I didn’t!

Later records, such as Ptolemy’s “Geographia”, written around 150 AD, refer to Lahore as ‘Labokla’, and locate it with reference to the Indus, the Ravi, the Jhelum and the Chenab rivers. Another readable account from the past is that of Hieun Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim who visited Lahore during the early seventh century AD. He described it as a large Brahminical city – mullahs beware! There is many a contradiction within these accounts, of course, but the important point is that Lahore was not built yesterday. Its ancient moorings explain its indomitable will, ability to survive the upheavals of time, and an innate life beyond the limits of recorded histories, fancy notions of urbanity and cultural evolution. Lahore is also about its centuries of residents. The mystique of the city thus is a personalised experience, as if a city were in permanent dialogue with its residents even while speaking to a newcomer.