Friday, August 31, 2007

The Power Of The Sugar Lobby

Here is the headline of a news item on August 28:
Local prices drop with arrival of Indian sugar

Here is the headline of a news item on August 31:
Govt decides not to allow import of sugar: record cane crop likely

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jinnah's Dead

Well he is and Pakistan needs to move on, if it means going through collective therapy, then so be it.

As it transpires I’ve been visiting government offices / courts quite often now, and I’m absolutely sick of seeing this man looking down on me. Not to mention the ubiquitous mention of his name by all and sundry, be it a politician, a journalist or even a fashion designer, Jinnah’s name somehow pops up everywhere. He wasn’t even that good a ruler, a good leader of the Pakistan movement sure but not of Pakistan itself.

I guess its because he was an “enlightened moderate” and hence someone the ‘silent majority’ of Pakistan could identify with – in fact, so enlightened and moderate was he, that he chose to cut off all ties with his daughter because she married a non-Muslim.

Then again maybe it’s because idol worship is embedded in the genetic memory of Pakistanis, most of whom were forcibly converted to Islam from idol worshiping religions. I of course remain free from the baggage of such a genetic imprint, as unlike these lowlife converts, I’m a Syed and hence a descendant of the Prophet, who to, by the way, was quite the enlightened moderate!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Feedback Needed

Ok it seems no one, least of all the contributors to this blog, is happy with these color schemes. So do you guys think it might be better to simply revert to the old color scheme, and instead use a larger font to make it easier to read? Please leave your comments below.

Is The Deal On?

According to the Associated Press, Musharraf and BB have reached an agreement on the issue of the uniform. A report in Dawn today laid out exactly what the PPP expects from Musharraf if a deal is to go through.
Sources said Ms Bhutto told the government side that her party’s parliamentarians would resign if Gen Musharraf attempted to get himself elected president in uniform from the present assemblies.

The PPP would, however, not resign from the assemblies if Gen Musharraf were to contest the election from the present assemblies after leaving his military post but would boycott the proceedings.

She is said to have offered to vote for the president if he were to offer himself for election without uniform by the new assemblies after the next general elections.

So basically getting elected from the present assemblies in uniform is bad, getting elected from the present assemblies out of uniform is less bad, and getting elected from new assemblies out of uniform is best. This much makes sense. What is also easy to understand is how BB, contrary to many people's expectations, is actually upping her demands now that Nawaz Sharif is a viable political player again. This is possible because BB sees Nawaz Sharif as a bigger rival to Musharraf than to her. According to Benazir, in other words, Musharraf is affected by Nawaz Sharif's return a lot more than she is. This is turn means that BB can afford to demand more from Musharraf, because the latter has lost even more bargaining leverage in the last two weeks and is more desperate to make a deal. This is why we have seen the PPP's demands go from "You must be out of uniform by the end of the year" to "You must be out of uniform before the elections".

Another element to consider is intra-party politics. Reports suggest the non-BB part of the PPP senior leadership is not terribly keen on bailing Musharraf out at this point. Whether this is due to genuine political beliefs or mere calculation is both unclear and irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact BB can not afford to be seen to be supporting a military man as President. This is another reason why, in my estimation, she is insisting on Musharraf doffing his uniform before the election. The AP report linked to earlier seems to confirm that Musharraf has now agreed to do so. We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Update: Shaikh Rashid, who for some reason thinks he's still Information Minister, is flapping away and has said that the deal is "80% done". He says that the issues of the uniform, the corruption cases against BB, and the extent of Presidential power seem to have been resolved. All that remains to be ironed out, it seems, is the law prohibiting two time Prime Ministers from running again. We've been through this deal/no deal bullshit a number of times the last few weeks so there is no reason to believe this is actually the case. As I said earlier, we'll just have to wait and see.

Experiment II

What about now? Better?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Really Didn't Need To Know This

Notwithstanding this little tidbit of information, this is a really good article on the Federer-Nadal rivalry.
Classic rivals Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova became fast friends. Once, before they met in a Grand Slam final, one of them had her period, and together they scoured the locker room for a tampon.


We're trying different color schemes and the like to shake up the blog a little bit. If you're a regular reader, or even if you're not, let us know what you think of the new style. Alternate suggestions are welcome.

Pakistan: Where We Don't Need A Jon Stewart, Our Reality Is Funny Enough

Sometimes, there's just nothing you can add. This is from a news item in the Karachi section of Dawn today.
KARACHI, Aug 27: The City Council meeting convened on Monday to discuss the traffic problem was put off as several members could not attend the session because of a massive traffic jam on M.A Jinnah Road.


If you were going to bet on a Hollywood star attempting suicide, Owen Wilson would probably not strike you as the guy you should be wagering on. Maybe it's just the retarded movies he's been in, but he just seemed to be a funny, happy-go-lucky dude. Well, that just shows how much we know.

I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around the front page news today. Maybe I'll write about it tomorrow, by which time it will, of course, be yesterday's news.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Photograph Of The Day

Photo credit: Metroblogging Karachi

A Prayer

Dear God,
Please don't let this fat, bald, low IQ, Shariah-supporting, power-aggrandizing, daddy's-boy-who-doesn't-know-anything-about-anything ride this wave to political power. Also, I know this might be a challenge, but since you are omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, you may be able to handle it: please remind Pakistanis that the same guy who's talking about respect for the constitution, democratic accountability and the rule of law sent his supporters to storm the goddamn Supreme Court last time he was Prime Minister. He also proclaimed himself Amir-ul-momineen. AMIR-UL-FUCKING-MOMINEEN!! For our western readers, amir-ul-momineen means "leader of the faithful" and connotes being more than simply a democratic leader of one country. It connotes, well, being the "leader of the faithful", the faithful of course being all Muslims, all around the world.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

News On The ICL

I was watching this program on Business Plus with former PCB head Arif Abbasi and some other random dude as the guests. Sallu, the chief selector, was on the phone in the middle of the show and seemed to intimate that the PCB will back down from its firm stance and allow players to play for Pakistan even if they played in the ICL. He specifically cited the case of Yousuf, and implied that it was his particular case that was causing the PCB to soften its view on the entire affair. For the record, the exact exchange was something like this:

Host: So are you confident that it will be possible for these players to play for Pakistan again?
Sallu: Yes, inshallah.

This is big news. I'm sure we'll hear more tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Quote of the day

Vaisay, I was thinking. During the whole Lal Masjid thing...what if those guys had a nuclear bomb with them in there. And what if they blew it up in the middle of of Islamabad. Would that really be thaaaaat bad?

Ali Kabir, co-contributor to Rs. 5, while sitting on my couch and gazing at the wall. (He was being serious, by the way).

On Chelsea, And Why They Shouldn't Have Any Fans

I was watching the Chelsea-Liverpool game on the weekend and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t understand how Chelsea have any fans at all. Seriously. Starting from the manager down, they’re a bunch of pricks. They really are. Every single decision taken by the referee is a cause for umbrage. Their reactions suggest that Chelsea players never actually commit fouls. The ball never actually touches them last before going out. They’re never caught offside, and they all volunteer at Mother Teresa’s homeless shelter in their spare time.

Ashley Cole is by far the worst. As if his off-the-pitch assholicness was not enough – remember him bitching out Arsenal before his move to Chelsea? – he’s a complete and utter dick on the pitch. Every time the ref blows his whistle against him – even when it’s absolutely justified – he throws his arms up, launches a blistering profanity-laced tirade at the ref, and makes it seem as if he’s been hard done by.

Here’s my question: why don’t refs punish this sort of behavior more often? If a player protests a decision – and I’m using “protests” in the loosest possible sense of the term – why doesn’t the referee give the guy a yellow card for dissent? After all, they would be perfectly well within their rights to do so. Plus, if more refs were willing to yellow card ridiculous behavior, it stands to reason that you would see less of the ridiculous behavior. If managers hate one thing, it’s their players picking up needless yellow cards. If Cole and his brethren were penalized more often by the men in black, you wouldn’t have to wait long for Mourinho and other managers to ensure that their players are better behaved on the pitch. Why the referees tolerate this nonsense in football, when officials in no other sport do so, is beyond me.

By the way, I’m not saying this because I have some sort of aversion to watching players swear at the ref (even though I do). I’m saying this because the pressure that teams like Chelsea exert on the referee is a very real phenomenon that has very real and tangible results. By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the atrocious decision that granted Chelsea a penalty against Liverpool. I don’t blame the ref for that decision, but the Chelsea players. They were all over the ref the entire game. What’s worse is that Mourinho, ever ready to complain when his side is on the wrong end of a penalty decision (which doesn’t happen often), said after the game he couldn’t pass judgment on the decision (even though a blind, deaf man could) and that the result was a fair one since, according to him, Liverpool played better in the first half and Chelsea better in the second (which was bullshit). So when Chelsea draw a game that they should have lost as a result of a horrible penalty decision, it’s a fair result. When, however, Chelsea have a player sent off unfairly, the referee receives death threats and has to retire. Nice, Jose. Really nice.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Shoaib Speaks

I swear upon my unborn child's life that Shoaib Akhtar, Donald Trump hairstyle and all, said the following things last night in an interview on Dawn News channel:
  • "I have been a good boy for the last three, four months." (He said this as if it were a major accomplishment)
  • "...Woolmer died, he quit, and he left with me all these controversies." (Basically, the worst part of Bob Woolmer's death was the fact that there was only one person left alive to answer questions on the Woolmer-Shoaib relationship)
  • "..this is not the way to treat your stars." (Question: don't you have to, you know, actually play to be considered a star?)
  • "Just because my servants got the letter doesn't mean I got the letter." (In other words, any breakdown in communication between him and the board is not his responsibility, but the result of a less-than-perfect domestic staff)
  • "Dafinitely, if the deciyen [of the board on his appeal] is not one I like, I will consider the ICL offer." (Please do. And don't let the door hit you on the way out. It'll probably cause you to miss nine months through injury)

There were numerous other highlights, such as him appealing to the masses to leave him alone (how can you complain about the spotlight when you obviously crave it so much?) and giving his exact address in Islamabad (he gave the area, street and house number) on national television. You know how I wrote a few months ago that Pakistan should say goodbye to Shoaib Akhtar? I take it back. His comedic value alone makes him invaluable and everything possible should be done to make sure he's around, if not actually playing.

The Deal (And The U.S.)

There was an interesting article in yesterday's Dawn by Zaffar Abbas. Abbas' central hypothesis was that the U.S. is playing a dangerous game by trying to bring the PPP and Musharraf closer to a power-sharing deal, and that such involvement in Pakistani politics is likely to backfire and be counter-productive in the fight against religious extremism. Here's some of what he wrote:
Most people were already convinced that it was Washington that had been pushing this thesis of a moderate-extremist divide in the country. Now with some of the official statements in Washington, and their more detailed explanation in the New York Times, has left little doubt about the level of their involvement in the matter.

This may certainly be embarrassing for the two Pakistani leaders. But more important, it is going to provide more ammunition to the Islamic parties and other anti-American groups to question the legitimacy of any future alliance of moderate forces in the country.

Perhaps what the so-called South Asia experts in Washington have not been able to figure out is that there is much more to Pakistani politics than the increasing gulf between what are perceived as ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ forces.


The problem emanates from the assumption that in the current political situation in Pakistan, the only fault line is between the so-called ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’. Those following developments in Pakistan know well that Pakistani society is divided in several different ways. Some of the fault lines of Pakistan politics are between the haves and the have-nots, or between supporters of democracy and military dictatorship, between progressive- minded social democrats and religious democrats.

And there is a clear difference between the religious groups like Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), or for that matter the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which believe in and support democracy, and the Islamic extremists who, like their Taliban brethren from Afghanistan, regard democracy to be a concept alien to Islam.

So by playing this dangerous game, the Americans just might be pushing everyone from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan, and some small Baloch nationalist groups, towards the religious political parties, and a host of other big and small pressure groups, into one big anti-American camp.

A few thoughts immediately jump out at me. First, no one is assuming that there is just one fault line in Pakistani politics. It is trivially true that in a country of 160 million people, with various ethnicties, differing socio-economic status and asymmetric power relationships, there will be myriad fissures dividing the society and the polity. "Moderate" vs "Extremist" is of course just one of these. The question to ask, however, is which is the most fundamental one? In other words, around what issue, or set of issues, is the political agenda of the day being set? There is very little doubt that the "Moderate" vs "Extremist" issue is of prime importance, especially after Lal Masjid. The Americans aren't acting under the assumption that the moderate/extremist divide is the only one in Pakistan today. They are acting under the assumption that the moderate/extremist divide is the most important one in Pakistan today. And they are right.

Second, Abbas says that "moderate" forces in Pakistani politics who hold the U.S. anathema will be forced to join the anti-American camp because they don't want to be - and don't want to be seen to be - pro-American. This assertion is born out of the misplaced notion of what constitutes "moderate". To Abbas, Imran Khan and the PML-N are "moderate". To me, they well right of center. If what Abbas says is true, and these parties are moderate but also anti-American, then we should see evidence of them voicing moderate opinions when it comes to issues that don't concern the U.S. and voicing extremist or quasi-extremist ones when it comes to those that do. Unfortunately, we have seen time and again these so-called moderate forces fail to step up for moderation. On the Women's Rights Bill late last year - covered extensively here on Rs. 5 - none of these "moderate" forces showed an iota of support. What about Lal Masjid? The leadership of these moderate parties had little condemnation for the goals, if not the methods, of the nutjobs perpetrating that lovely little operation. What about the secularism and the role of Islam in the country? These issues have little to do with foreign policy or Pakistan's relationship with the U.S. You can still be moderate on them and be anti-American. And yet, we have never seen statements in the press or substantive action that can convince us that Imran Khan and the PML-N actually support anything moderate in this country. What does this mean for Abbas' thesis? Well, it means that no one, least of all the U.S., Musharraf or Benazir, is pushing these parties into the hands of the extremists. Ideologically, they are already there, completely of their own volition.

For the record, and in the interests of full disclosure, my thoughts on the deal, Musharraf and BB are thus:

1. A slow and gradual transition to full democracy is more likely to be permanent than a rapid one. It is worth debating (but not now or here) what "slow and gradual" means.

2. The PPP is the only national party, along with I suppose the MQM, that is secular and progressive for its own sake, and not just for political expediency (unlike the Q-League, which isn't even a goddamn party).

3. The best antidote to corruption in power - a concern many people have when it comes to BB - is a relatively free press and a relatively independent judiciary. I think it is safe to say the last three months have shown Pakistan has both.

4. The most likely arbiter of intra-Pakistan politics, specifically Center-Province issues, is a national party with a foothold in each province. There is only one party in Pakistan that fits that bill, and it is the PPP.

5. The deal must ensure Musharraf taking off his uniform by the end of the year. We cannot have a military man as President for five more years. Enough is enough.

6. Elections cannot be rigged. Luckily for Musharraf, the PPP is easily the most popular party in Pakistan, recent surveys notwithstanding, and so he won't have to. In the rigged elections of 2002, they managed 30% of the vote. How much could they get in a truly free and fair election? 35%? 40%?

7. For the viability of democracy in Pakistan, parliamentary elections should precede, not succeed, a power-sharing deal. This is, of course, a pipe dream. But this is my blog, and I'll pipe dream if I want to.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Good News For Karachi's Roads

I read a report in Dawn's Karachi section today that made me rejoice. The Supreme Court, bless its heart, has told the city authorities to bar the entry of trucks during the day. Keep in mind that there is nothing prohibiting the movement of heavy vehicles within the city - it is only the case that trucks will not be allowed in between the hours of 6 am and 11 pm. If you are familiar with Karachi's traffic, this qualifies as good news. The traffic in this city is insane. My dad told me the other day that there are apparently 400 new cars on Karachi's roads every day. When you combine that with the lack of a viable public transport system, the digging up of roads for construction purposes, and the complete lack of civic sense, you can get some idea of how hellish it is to drive here. Hopefully this SC order might help a little bit.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I haven't posted much (or at all) recently. This is partly due to crappy internet and partly to my laziness. In any event, I no longer have crappy internet. The PTCL dude came to our house today and installed this high speed connection which makes me feel like I'm in Chicago. This means that, laziness allowing, I will resume posting regularly again. Stay tuned, and sorry for not writing anything all summer.