Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guest Post: No Longer Safe At Home

A long-time reader and longer-time friend by the name of Nikhil, native of Mumbai and resident of New York, was in Mumbai during the terrorist attack on the city. Here are his thoughts:

I’m scared. And so are my parents, and my friends, and their friends. Because for the first time, our Bombay has been attacked; not Mumbai – but my Bombay.

For better or for worse, my Bombay consists of a very small part of the actual city - Bandra, Fort, Peddar Road, Malabar Hill, Nepeansea Road, and perhaps a couple of other neighborhoods, and my Bombay only has about 50,000 people in it, if that. For better or for worse, the affluent set here live in a city of their own – not physically demarcated as it is in Karachi (or as I imagine it to be from what I’ve been told), but separate enough in its own right. And today, for the first time, it was that city that was attacked. I don’t mean to lessen the horror of the train attacks of 2006 or even the bomb blasts of 1993, and I definitely don’t intend to discern between the value of a life that was lost at the Taj versus one that was lost on the railroad tracks two years ago – I’m just saying that this is the first time that I, personally, feel targeted.

Everyone I grew up with has some memory at either the Taj or the Oberoi. Everyone. After Honors Day (the day at the end of the school year when those that had excelled in academics were rewarded) every year, my parents took me to the Sunday brunch at Palms (a restaurant at the Oberoi) – an experience I treasured infinitely more than the actual prize itself (a certificate along with a Rs. 25 voucher to Strand Book Store). I’ve been for numerous birthdays to the Golden Dragon, Shamiana and the Sea Lounge. For years and years, Zodiac Grill was the single most expensive restaurant in Bombay, and as a kid, it was always a dream of mine to go there. It represented something special – something adult. Of course, when I finally did eat there, while the meal was delicious, it did not, and could never have, live up to the expectations my 8 year old self had set up. Regardless, it was an institution.

To focus on the more immediate, I landed in Bombay two Fridays ago. My first night, I went to the Yacht Club, Thams and Gordon House, all of which are within a 2 minute walk of the Taj. Two nights after, I was at Joss, five minutes from the Taj. A couple of days later, I watched a movie at Inox – the mall where people were evacuated to from the Oberoi. This past Tuesday, I played basketball a few steps from Leo’s. Putting myself aside, a friend of mine was at Leo’s till 8PM on Wed night. Two other friends were shopping at the Taj till around the same time. A former teacher from my high school lost her life. As did the parents of six kids that currently go there. And my parents’ friend’s uncle. Etc, etc, etc. While thankfully all of my close family and friends are safe, I can’t say the same for tons of acquaintances and their relatives.

To truly understand the toll the attacks have taken on this city, one really needs to differentiate between a bomb blast and what we’ve just been through. Again, I’m not saying bomb blasts aren’t horrific – of course they are, but this was a siege. It went on for three days. And every morning felt like a fresh attack, a new wound. People didn’t leave their houses for two days, and a lot of people still haven’t. I ventured out beyond my immediate neighborhood for the first time since the attacks today – but only because I’m leaving tomorrow. My family and I went to dinner at a restaurant which is normally packed most days of the week. Needless to say, despite it being a Saturday night, we had no trouble getting a table. The roads, while somewhat busy, seemed to lack Bombay’s bustle. This is a city where you could get stuck in a jam well past midnight – but at 9PM on a Saturday night, I didn’t have to yell angrily at an incompetent driver even once. Perhaps it is partly my imagination, but that too tells its own story.

People always talk about how it isn’t safe for girls to stay out in Delhi past a certain hour, and conversely, how Bombay is safe for everyone, practically any hour of the day or night. A close friend of mine is getting married and moving to Delhi soon, and her biggest fear has been just that – Delhi isn’t safe for girls past a certain hour, and when she has visited Delhi, she has physically felt it: that uncomfortable pit in one’s stomach when one is not at ease. She woke up crying this morning because, for the first time in her life, she felt it in Bombay.

I can’t stress enough how weird, and unsettling and scary this is, simply because we haven’t felt it before. What makes it even worse is the ease with which these 20 motherfuckers held the entire city at ransom. And the fact that we don’t know where anywhere between 2 to 5 of them are. What’s to say they aren’t hanging out in an apartment somewhere, waiting for this to tide over before they hit the Marriot, or the Sheraton or any one of ten different targets? Worse still, this attack has a face. With a bomb, one doesn’t get to see the perpetrator. In this case however, we have the chilling images of those two cunts dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, walking around with MP-6s – absolutely maniacal looks on their faces. That was one of the most chilling images I have seen in my life; I had to look away. I want to say that I felt hatred, but I think that’s too strong a word – because then I’m not really sure how to describe what he felt towards us.

On an entirely personal note, over the last few years, I have developed a strong desire to visit Pakistan. All four of my grandparents are from either Karachi or Hyderabad, and I’d really like to see their houses, or at least the sites where they once stood. I’d also like to see the places I’ve heard so much about from my friends – the many phases of Defense, Clifton, the beach, the restaurants and yes, even Nazimabad. I want to see it all so that I can picture what my friends are talking about when they relate stories from their childhood or the last time they were home. A few of my friends have been, and are, getting married, but for one reason or another, I haven’t been able to make any of the weddings thus far. But I pledged to make it soon – either this December, or next summer. Now, I don’t think I can. Obviously I know that my friends had no part to play in any of this, or that the Indian government has proved beyond doubt that Pakistani organizations, state sponsored or not, had anything to do with this, but if it does turn out that these terrorists were somehow helped / trained / funded / anything by a Pakistani organization, I don’t think I could visit until and unless significant steps are taken by the government to truly fight terror. It just wouldn’t feel right. I know that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it means something to me.

I know that the above is a little jumbled but I had a bunch of different thoughts that I wanted to put down, and I sort of just wrote them in that order. Moreover, the jumble sort of reflects the bizarre mix of emotions most of us have gone through – worry, terror, shock, and above all else, disbelief – a complete and utter lack of comprehension. In any case, I don’t have the patience nor the inclination to go back and edit this, because quite frankly, I don’t want to think about it anymore. I’m somewhat lucky, I guess, in that I get to leave this mess behind and resume my life in New York tomorrow – because that’s often what it feels like I lead: two parallel lives – one in the States, and one in Bombay. But the important distinction is that I always come back to this one, not the other way around, because regardless of how many years I spend in the States, or London, or anywhere, Bombay will always be my home. Sadly, I no longer feel safe at home.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Karachi Gets Jittery

The simmering tension between the ANP and MQM in Karachi seems to be nearing boiling pointm, with the terrible attacks proving to be a catalyst.

I had planned to visit the cinema today with SM, SM's siblings and friends. We'd been hearing reports of there being trouble all day, but the trouble seemed isolated and far away. We were planning on leaving at 7 p.m. but around 6.30 p.m. we started receiving frantic calls that there were riots and shooting in Saddar. I immdiately headed home. It seems, so did the entire city.

The car showrooms on Khalid bin Waleed road were abuzz, cars were being reversed inside and tents were being put up to hide the showrooms from site. There was a rush of activity at every petrol pump I passed, people unsure of what was happening were taking precautions. It's telling that such survival measures come to us so naturally.

My mother, SM, FM 103 and FM 107 updated me on the 'situation' as I inched my way towards home. There were reports of rioting in Orangi Town, Surjani Town, Baldia, Sohrab Goth, Al Asif Square, North Nazimabad, Gulberg, North Karachi, Saddar and Defence. It appeared that the whole city was under seige. Zulfiqar Mirza was on the radio, he tried to calm everyone's nerves, I'm not sure saying that he had issued "shoot at sight" orders to the police helped anyone.

I passed Marriott, things seemed normal. I reached Gulf and it was full of aunties, surely getting ready for the wedding season. Shops in Zamzama were open, quiet, but open. I saw more than a few dodgy cars bearing PPP insignia, but then that is the norm these days (one car even had a speech of BB blaring out of the stereo).

A reporter for FM 103 who had earlier reported on the "hangama arai" (rioting) in Saddar, now stated that it seems that there was no rioting but a rumour of rioting, which led everyone (including him) to panic and run like mad.

I just returned from sea view which was deserted, as are most roads in the city. Panic had spread wide and far and resulted in everyone staying home. Why?

Well as I stated earlier, things have been simmering for a while. The MQM has very conveniently characterised every single Pathan a Taliban has resorted to running them out of the city - I've even heard of Dry Fruit street vendors finding their stalls burnt over night in North Nazimabad. (Arif Rafiq speaks about the worst case scenario over at his blog.)

The attacks in Mumbai certainly upped the ante. Many Karachiites have always felt that there is an intimate link between the two cities - they are both port cities, financial capitals of their respective countries, have a short history and play host to some similar communities (Bohris, Parsis, Khojas and insider trading stock brokers are just a few that I can think of).

I don't know if its fair to draw parallels between the two cities as I haven't been to Bombay since I was five. What I do know is that many Karachiites do feel a certain kinship with the residents of Mumbai and the attacks on Mumbai have caused a great deal of anxiety and despair. Yesterday (Friday), a client asked us to send our 'rider' to pick up documents in the morning as everyone at their office was planning on leaving before 6 p.m., they didn't want to take chances owing to the situation in Mumbai.

With the MQM already using the Taliban card to oust the Pathan, one wonders they have now taken a policy decision to go right after them. I'm not certain that they have, or will; even in the best of times such a decision would be a scary thought, in these tense times, it is certainly a recipe for disaster.


Just another thought, I'm watching our Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on T.V., the guy seems like a real stuck up twat. Perhaps that's what works in diplomatic circles. And one year at Cambridge, I'm presuming 30 years ago, shouldn't result in that medieval aristocratic accent, should it?)

Links For The Weekend

Stuff to read:

A column in the Hindustan Times raises an excellent point regarding the difference between bombings and the Mumbai attacks, one that I had not thought of before:
Bomb blasts are painful, traumatic events. But this long drawn-out crisis is far worse in the damage it has done to the Indian psyche. The inability of the authorities to bring the situation under control in a few hours has worried and frightened Indians. With each hour that the crisis continued, we felt vulnerable, impotent and humiliated. It was as though we had lost control of our destiny. And we would never feel safe again.

Speaking of the Mumbai blasts, Pakistan makes a U-turn on its decision to send Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head honcho of the ISI, to help "investigate" the attacks. The government has now decided to send a lower level representative, which makes more sense in my view.

Last Mumbai-blast-related stuff for the day: for the non-Indians out there, I recommend reading Amit Varma's blog India Uncut and Prem Panicker's blog Smoke Signals. Both are reasonable guys who write well and have some interesting links. Check 'em out.

Recession? What recession? Russian oligarchs live it up (although less well than before):
"This clearly isn't a good time to invest. But we Russians have always got money hidden away somewhere, often in the refrigerator," Aivazov said, strolling off to look at designer skis. Nearby was a stand selling Gulfstream private jets; around the corner a property company was offering a private island. Other items on sale included an 18-metre yacht at £1m.

Welcome to Moscow's millionaire fair - a luxury goods and entertainment event in a giant exhibition hall on the edge of the capital. The fair is a sort of one-stop supermarket for the super-rich, where you can simultaneously purchase a beachside villa and a helicopter to take you there.

Practice? We talkin' about practice? Yes, AI, we're talkin' about practice.

An excellent post by Matthew Yglesias on the policy differences between Hillary and Obama. As he points out, thus far, almost all analyses of Obama's move to offer SoS to Hillary have been about the politics of it, not the policy of it. But Hillary occupies that gray zone between neo-conservative and liberal internationalist, whereas Obama is more realist in his view. Doesn't this matter?

A caption contest: George Bush congratulates Paul Krugman on his Nobel.

This is a post on Pakistan's wheat crisis from many months ago, but I found it to be a fantastic read so I thought I'd pass it along. Highly informative and pretty funny too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Mumbai Attacks: The Pakistan Angle

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and India blaming Pakistan for any militant activity that takes place on its soil. Here's an excerpt from Manmohan Singh's address to the nation:
We are not prepared to countenance a situation in which the safety and security of our citizens can be violated with impunity by terrorists. It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country.

Really? It's already evident that the group was based outside the country? To be perfectly clear, I don't know whether the attacks originated from an arm of the Pakistan state (the ISI, for example) - though I consider the probability of our involvement to be anywhere between fairly unlikely to highly unlikely. What I do know is that the Indian government doesn't know, and yet pretends to know. This is Arif's point when he says:

Incompetence has also plagued India. After failing to prevent this sophisticated attack and bungling the subsequent operations, New Delhi
has magically found out the origin of the terrorists’ vessel and even their hometown!

In blaming Pakistan, Indian officials are masking their own incompetence. India’s security establishment has, much like Pakistan’s, failed to protect its citizenry. States are reluctant to acknowledge that non-state threats are purely that; it is humiliating.

He goes on to talk about the domestic imbalances between Hindus and Muslims in India, a point which is echoed by a RAND analyst quoted by the NYT:

Christine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation, was careful to say that the identity of the terrorists could not yet be known. But she pointed to India’s domestic problems, and long tensions between Hindus, who make up about 80 percent of India’s population of 1.13 billion, and Muslims, who make up 13.4 percent.

“There are a lot of very, very angry Muslims in India,” Ms. Fair said. “The economic disparities are startling and India has been very slow to publicly embrace its rising Muslim problem. You cannot put lipstick on this pig. This is a major domestic political challenge for India."

Given that we cannot know at this early juncture which group exactly is responsible, it would make sense - in a perfect world, of course - to hold off on judgment and saber-rattling. As we know, however, we do not live in a perfect world. The fact of the matter is that with national elections coming up early next year, and Congress already viewed as soft on terrorism, there really is only one smart and obvious thing to do politically speaking: blame Pakistan and up the rhetorical ante. It is what any rational actor would do under the circumstances.

The PPP Needs To Hire An Ad Agency

The PPP is dedicating the month of December to the memory of Benazir Bhutto, the government has already announced that the date of her death anniversary shall from henceforth be a public holiday, and that this year the month of December will be a month of mourning.

In addition to the mourning, the PPP has also decided to celebrate the life of Benazir Bhutto and are doing their utmost to highlight and fulfill 'her mission.' In lieu of this, the PPP Karachi Divisioin has hijacked a large number of billboards on Shahrah-e-Faisal, and posted their own advertisements / posters on them. The text on these billboards is truly baffling.

Take for example the billboard situated outside my office, which spans the entire width of Shahrah-e-Faisal (dimensions 10 feet high, 75 feet long).
It displays the photographs of Benazir, Qaim Ali Shah, ZAB, Random Man and President Zardari. The photographs are accompanied by the following slogan / poem / statement:


And they haven't just repeated the same message on all the billboards, they've put some real thought into this whole exercise and have come up with plenty of other novel, equally absurd statements.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Barcelona 5 - Sporting Lisbon 2

What a strange, strange game. Thoughts from today:

1. Barca had a team that represented Pep Guardiola's dilemma: you don't want to put too much into tonight (for reasons I will talk about later) but you also want to ensure top spot in the group so you avoid the other group winners in the first kncokout round. So Eto'o, Puyol, Yaya Toure started on the bench but Messi (iffy thigh), Xavi (plays week in, week out and needs rest) and Dani Alves (probably covers more surface area per game than any other Barca player) all in. Funny team, with Hleb on the right, Gudjohnsen and Sergi Busquets in midfield and Caceres (finally getting a full 90 minutes) in defense.

2. The game started off scrappy with both midfields crowding each other and no team able to string passes together. By about the 10th minute, however, Barca hit their groove, found their spacing, got a measure of the surface and the opposition, which led to...

3. The first two goals came within three minutes of each other. The first was created by, who else?, Messi. Henry won the ball in the last third, fed it to Messi on the right side of the penalty area, who simply blew by the defender as if he wasn't there, squared it back to Henry who carried on his run and had a simple tap-in. Too easy.

The second goal came from a cross from the left to the far post. Gudjohnsen rose to meet it, but realizing that his jump and the trajectory of the ball would mean the ball hitting his left shoulder/arm, turned his back to it. It fell awkwardly for the defense, right in the middle of the six-yard box, with Pique able to get a touch on to a defender and in the goal. Two nil inside 17 minutes, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over (even though Barca were away).

As soon as the confusion-wrought goal was scored, I thought Guardiola should have taken Messi off. Look, the guy historically suffers one major injury a year, he's carrying a niggle, and when you're up 2-0 early, sometimes you can afford to be unorthodox in your substitution patterns. If he got injured for real at some point during the game, he really would have heard it from the press. I remember Rijkaard made a very similar mistake last year - playing the Messiah when he wasn't completely fit, and then not taking him off when Barca were comfortably ahead - but he actually paid for it, because Messi got hurt, and that was the end of Barca's season.

4. I can't think of a worse team than Barca for a team to go down early by a couple of goals (although I guess Milan five years ago would be in the discussion). They knock it around with such consummate ease, constantly ask questions, are technically brilliant, and leave you chasing shadows. It's hard to get back in the game when you can't even get the goddamn ball back. From about the 15th minute to about the 40th, Sporting looked completely lost. Just an awesome passage of play.

5. Barca scored their third cheekily. Dani Alves won a freekick from a handball right at the edge of the area, took it in about 0.3 seconds, fed Messi, who calmly rifled it past the poor goalie, who had no idea what the fuck was going on. The Sporting defenders were similarly clueless. Even the cameraman was caught by surprise; only on the replay from another angle were we able to tell what happened. I can definitely see how it's incredibly pissing off from the other team's perspective, but hey, it's not like it's against the rules, is it? Messi smiled his impish smile, crossed himself, pointed his fingers to the heavens, and promptly came off for Pedro (vote for Pedro!).

Set up the first goal, scored the third, and caused at least four heart attacks to opposition defenders: all in a day's (or 55 minutes') work for the Messiah. I'm pretty sure I love him more than the WTB.

6. The three minutes from the 65th to the 67th minute saw Sporting score thrice; however only two were in Barca's net. The game went from 3-0 to 4-2 in almost literally the blink of an eye. First the ref gave Sporting a freekick, evidently believing that Marquez's chest counts as his arm. That was the first (great freekick, by the way). For the second, Marquez decided to make the game more interesting by heading it in the direct path of a Sporting player making a run down the center of a pitch, left the defense and Valdes in an impossible position, and suddenly the game was wide open: 3-2 with 25 minutes to go.

The wind was taken out of the Sporting sails soon enough, however, as they scored an own goal with Caneira lobbing an attempted clearance above his goalkeeper's head under pressure from Pedro (vote for Pedro!). Just a really weird sequence...

7. ...which got wierder still around 5 minutes later, as Bojan was released and then brought down by the keeper by what can be best described as a clothesline. Penalty awarded, red card shown, and Bojan (barely) slotting in the spot kick past the substitute goalkeeper, who was almost twice his age (33 vs. 18). That was the final big moment of the game, except for a great save by Valdes from a point blank header, again proving that he's an excellent keeper when it comes to making difficult saves and a terrible keeper when it comes to keeping simple balls out.

8. Barca will be happy that they have the top spot in their group in Europe secured, because things in Spain are about to get real interesting. Despite playing sublime football for the first three months of the season, Barca's lead in La Liga is just three points. In fact, the top five teams in Spain (Barca, Real, Villareal, Valencia and Sevilla) are separated by five points. And you want to know who Barca's next four opponents are? Sevilla away, Valencia at home, Real at home, and Villareal away. Good times.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Now I'm No Economist, But...

I have stayed largely silent during the latest episode of the long running Pakistan-runs-to-the-IMF-with-begging-bowl-in-tow serial, mainly because I lack the requisite expertise to comment on the matter. However, I do have one very basic question in mind, and was hoping that at least some of our readers could clear up for me.

The reason Pakistan is going to the IMF, by all accounts, is that we are struggling to pay our international loans. The reasons, in turn, we are struggling to pay our loans are (a) our economy has ground to a halt in the last 12-16 months, (b) a crisis in investor confidence largely fueled by political instability and militant violence, and (c) a falling rupee which makes our essential imports (oil, for one) more expensive than what they used to be.

Now, we are getting a loan to help us pay our other loans. The precise amount of this new loan to help us pay our old loans is $7.6 billion. At some point, we will have to pay back the principal on our new loan, as well as the interest on it - which will run between 3.15% and 4.15%.

So here's my question: aren't the reasons that are at the root of our inability to pay our old loans - instability, militancy, a falling rupee - also applicable to our new loan? Is Pakistan going to magically become Luxembourg in the next two years - suddenly free of violence and a crisis in confidence - and thereby pay back its IMF loan? And if not, what the hell are we going to do when we can't pay back our new loan? Get a new new loan?

Does anyone have any answers for me?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pakistanis' Conspiratorial Views Of The U.S., And The Relationship With India

So this article in today's NYT was striking for a number of reasons, not least for its revelations about the views of the U.S. and its intentions in the region that exist among all stripes of Pakistanis - rich and poor, military and civilian, Shia and Sunni, Punjabi and Balochi. There are some remarkable but unsurprising tidbits in it, like this one:
“One of the biggest fears of the Pakistani military planners is the collaboration between India and Afghanistan to destroy Pakistan,” said a senior Pakistani government official involved in strategic planning, who insisted on anonymity as per diplomatic custom. “Some people feel the United States is colluding in this.”

Some commentators suggest that the United States is actually financing the Taliban. The point is to tie down the Pakistani Army, they say, leaving the way open for the Americans to grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

And, this, the kicker:
Recently, in the officer’s mess in Bajaur, the northern tribal region where the Pakistani Army is tied down fighting the militants, one officer offered his own theory: Osama bin Laden did not exist, he told a visiting journalist. Rather, he was a creation of the Americans, who needed an excuse to invade Afghanistan and encroach on Pakistan.

I've heard the OBL-is-a-CIA-agent one, but I have to confess, I have never heard the OBL-does-not-exist one. That's a new one for me.

As you can tell, I remain a heartfelt supporter of conspiracy theories. They always brighten up my day.

Be that as it may, I expect such conspiracy theorizing to gather pace in the months ahead as Pakistan destbailizes further - with the concomitant search for someone/something to blame - and as Pakistan's relationship with the U.S. deteriorates. The U.S., for its part, really doesn't help matters with its incessant drone/predator attacks in the tribal areas or with some fairly explicit threats against its purported ally:
On two other occasions, however, the situation could have gone out of hand as there was real worry over escalation of hostilities on the Durand Line border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once near Angoor Adda where South Waziristan is bounded by Afghanistan's Paktika province, Pakistan Army troops released artillery flares to light up the night-time sky and then the soldiers and the tribesmen fired at US jet-fighters and helicopters that clearly were intending to intrude into Pakistani territory for a possible ground assault. The magnesium-powder used in the parachute flares lit up the area with its whitish-reddish light and made it risky for the US Special Forces to attempt another ground operation in South Waziristan. The tribesmen, among them militants, used the Russian-made Dachaka guns to fire at the intruding choppers, which then landed in Afghan territory close to the border instead of crossing into Pakistani territory. A US Army brigadier contacted a Pakistan Army brigadier soon after the incident and threatened to send in B-52 bombers to 'plaster' Pakistani forces in the border area. The Pakistani military officer refused to be intimidated and asked his American counterpart to go ahead and do whatever he wanted. Later, senior US military officials contacted top Pakistan Army officers to calm down the situation and explain the circumstances in which the American brigadier made his provocative remarks to his Pakistani counterpart.

I just have one question: "plaster"?

Anyway, in related news, both the article I linked to earlier and Nick Kristof's op-ed call for the possibility of greater U.S. involvement in solving the Kashmir dispute with India. The argument is that easing Pakistan's concerns about its eastern border will allow it to do a better job of security on its western border. I said as much in a post around ten months ago, and I stand by my assessment today. Fortunately, I think the Obama administration is much more likely to take a holistic approach to questions of security and war and peace in the region. Unfortunately, I don't think it will matter a great deal, at least in the short and medium terms, primarily because:

1. It's unlikely that greater U.S. involvement in the Kashmir dispute is likely to morph into real pressure on India; more likely is the possibility that greater U.S. involvement = greater pressure on Pakistan.

2. Even if by magic some settlement on Kashmir is reached, our military establishment is still likely to conceive of its gravest strategic threats emanating from the eastern border, despite what anyone else may think about the matter. Put it this way: the perceived threat from India has only an indirect relationship to the Kashmir issue - what matters more is India's brute power relative to Pakistan (a heavy imbalance) and what appear to be the new strategic alignments in the region (China+Pakistan/U.S.+India).

The only way solving Kashmir is likely to affect Pakistan's strategic relationship with India is through the political process - that is, it is likely to make it less popular to hate India and more popular (or more easy) to say that warm relations with India are key to Pakistan's survival as a state (which, by the way, is my stance). But the political process, as it were, takes a long time to affect change, if ever. You could argue, for instance, that America's political process still conceives of Russia in 2008 as the Soviet Union in 1958, which helps explain their completely dysfunctional and blinkered view of the conflict with Georgia a couple of months ago. My point is that if your idea of optimism is based on the following causal relationship

Change in external environment (solve Kashmir)-->change in domestic politics (India=ok to like now)-->change in external environment (Pakistan cares more about Western border than Eastern border)

then you might have to wait a while.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Leaders We Deserve?

Two items of interest.

The first comes courtesy of Masood Haider's report on the UN Inter-faith Conference:

Every leader brought his speech with him, but Zardari's text was carried by an officer, who placed it on the dais while the president waited and then he read it. Then Zardari took a chewing gum or cardamom out of his mouth and put it on the dias, while cameras showed the awkward moment around the world.

By now everyone must have heard about the woman who left her eight children at the Edhi Foundation. What you may not know is the unique interpretation given by the Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro:

Describing the incident of handing over eight children to the Edhi Foundation as a ‘conspiracy’ against the elected PPP government, Sindh Law Minister, Ayaz Soomro, said that it was an illegal act and was in violation of the ‘Child Act’.

Soomro said that the government would take action against those responsible.

The Sindh law minister believed that whenever the elected government came into power, vested interests hatched conspiracies to destabilise the system.

Bankers Vs. Consultants

Don't know if you guys have already seen this, but the WTB alerted me to its existence. Brilliant.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Normal Politics

Amidst suicide bombings and an economic meltdown, it is almost reassuring - and I really mean that - to read about what I call normal politics. Normal politics is the stuff that makes the front page in countries where there is no war, and where most people can eat 2, if not 3, square meals a day. For instance, the other day, the National Assembly passed a bill on labor relations with most parties - led by the center-left PPP - supporting it (and with the obligatory PML-N hissy fit). Check out this report from The News:
The National Assembly on Wednesday approved the Industrial Relations Bill with majority voice vote despite strong opposition from the PML-N and a walkout. The bill aims to consolidate and rationalise the law relating to the formation of trade unions and improvement of relations between employers and workers.

The Senate had already passed the bill unanimously while in the National Assembly too all parties, including the PML-Q and the MQM, supported it except for the PML-N. Interestingly, the PML-N, which had supported the bill in the upper house, took a U-turn in the National Assembly, saying the bill should not be passed in haste.

Isn't that nice to see? Isn't legislative jostling over labor laws refreshing in this day and age? It's kind of quaint, isn't it? I don't know, maybe I'm crazy. But I was somewhat-irrationally happy over reading this report.

Another example of normal politics is the Jamaat-e-Islami railing against the imposition of a Western agenda on the women of Pakistan. You will note, I am sure, that the object of their ire is not a law resembling the French one that bans headscarves or decreeing alcohol legal. No, no. They're angry at...well, I'll let The News tell it:
According to a resolution passed by a meeting of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, JI women’s wing, Jamiat Ittehadul Ulema, and Women and Family Commission said that the recommendation of the CII making it mandatory on men to divorce their wives within 90 days on their demand was absolutely un-Islamic and an attempt to impose western culture on the country.

Imagine that! The nerve! What will the denizen of Western secularism and immorality that is the Council of Islamic Ideology think of next?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Salman Taseer Losing It

I don't want to tread on Bubs' territory here, but I couldn't resist posting this:
Salmaan Taseer said the entire country had come under the clutches of the media, as “it does not let any government work smoothly.”

He went on to say that anchorpersons of these TV channels think of themselves as some godly figures. He said if they (TV anchorpersons) were in the West, they would have long been handcuffed and arrested.

He said the private TV channels disseminate disinformation. He said the anchorpersons do not take care of others’ respect and talk non-sense. They made people dance in front of the camera.

He said in Pakistan there are no Madhuri Dixits, Amitabh Bachans and Aishwarya Rais and that was the reason why these channels are popular among the people.

I have three questions. First, does Salman Taseer realize that as the owner of the Daily Times, his railing against the "media" sounds a little odd?

Second, where, exactly, in the West would TV anchorpersons be handcuffed and arrested? A little specificity would do wonders for his argument.

Finally, on the Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh point: what?

Monday, November 17, 2008

So Madam, Exactly How Big Is Pakistan?

The World Health Organization recently sent a team of experts to Pakistan to hold a workshop on the relationship between Patents and Public Health. The central thesis of the WHO workshops was that the governments of developing countries have to give priority to public health and ensure that they don't unwittingly sign implement Intellectual Property measures that will restrict public health.

The workshop is part of a global campaign by the WHO to equip developing countries with skills needed to combat what are known as "TRIPS-Plus" Intellectual Property measures. 1) (2) (3)

The three speakers, a Professor from Argentina who is a consultant for various UN bodies, the Director of WHO on I.P. Affairs (a Brazilian now based in Geneva), and the Head of Drug Registration in Thailand, are experts in the field. They gave comprehensive presentations over the course of 3 days and used countries in Latin America and Asia, including their own countries, as examples and further highlighted that several INGOs and UN bodies, also oppose TRIPS Plus measures.

During a tea break on the third day, a fellow participant, Dr. KM, and I caught up with the head of the Pakistani Patent Office and started having a chat with her about the workshop. Both Dr. KM and I represent the Pakistani generic pharmaceutical industry and were in high spirits as the speakers support a position that we've been advocating for years.

We asked the Controller of Patents if she thought the workshop would have an impact; in particular, we asked her if Pakistan would follow the example set by other developing countries and develop the oppressive I.P. measures that are being proposed? The Controller’s remark left us speechless:

“Dekhain, yay speaker tho chotay mulkon say hain, Pakistan aik bara mulk hai aur in logon kay example yahan apply karna mushkil hoga.”


Since when did Pakistan become bigger than Brazil, or more economically powerful than Argentina or Thailand? I am convinced that the Controller wasn’t listening to a word what these guys were saying because one of the key examples they used was of India, a country that has time and again given priority to Public Health over suspect I.P. legislation that favours a handful of companies based in the U.S. and Western Europe, and no one can argue that India is bigger than Pakistan.

Well I guess the Controller of Patents can. So much for these gentlemen travelling from around the world trying to make some sense of a thorny issue, they might as well have spent their time having some delicious steaks, drinking sangria at a festival filled with dancing transsexuals, for all the good their workshop did.


"TRIPS = Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights" ainternational treaty that is part of the WTO regime. TRIPS plus relates to measures that are beyond the binding provisions of the TRIPS Agreement.

Oxfam report on TRIPS Plus measures in Jordan.

(3) TRIPS Plus measures are increasingly being pushed down the throats of developing countries, like Pakistan, by the U.S. and E.U. as requirements for Free Trade Agreements and Aid Packages. There are however dissenting voices from within the U.S. Congress who believe that TRIPS measures ought to be removed from FTAs as they jeopardize Public Health; click here for the statement by Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman.

One Guess Who Said This

Don't cheat by opening the link:

Sitting here in these chairs that I’m going to be proposing but in working with these governors who again on the front lines are forced to and it’s our privileged obligation to find solutions to the challenges facing our own states every day being held accountable, not being just one of many just casting votes or voting present every once in a while, we don’t get away with that. We have to balance budgets and we’re dealing with multibillion dollar budgets and tens of thousands of employees in our organizations.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

YouTube of the Day

What is with the South Africans and fielding? Watch Justin Kemp take one of the all-time great catches in the second final of the ICL.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's Good To See World Leaders Talk Like 14 Year-Old Schoolboys Behind The Canteen

Check out this tidbit from a story on a conversation between Putin and Sarkozy during the Russia-Georgia war:
With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia’s Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked. “Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?” Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah — you have scored a point there.”

I also love Saakashvili's reaction:

Mr Saakashvili, who was in Paris to meet Mr Sarkozy yesterday, laughed nervously when a French radio station read him the exchange. “I knew about this scene, but not all the details. It’s funny, all the same,” he said.
I have two questions. First, isn't Vladimir Putin supposed to have ceded power to Dmitri Medvedev? Why is Putin, and not Medvedev, the one promising to hang poor Saakashvili by his balls?

Second, how exactly would one go about hanging someone by the balls? Would the hangee have to be upside down and have his balls tied to the ceiling with some sort of rope/string? Or would the hangee be suspended horizontally (i.e. parallel to the ground) by a rope/string tying his balls to the ceiling? If any of our readers are from/affiliated with the ISI, I'd love to hear the answers on this one.

The Difference Between Messi And Ronaldo In One Sentence

Do you need to know more?
Messi has claimed that either Xavi or Sergio Kun Aguero should take the award [Ballon D'Or] from the 30-man shortlist, while Ronaldo has plumped for himself as the most deserving nominee.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Links For Thursday

Stuff to read:

Asif Zardari shows his empathy for the average Pakistani under 25% inflation.
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari insisted on Monday that there was no economic meltdown looming in Pakistan, but also defended turning to the IMF.

They start younger and younger these days, don't they?
Matthew Whoolery and his wife aren't blaming the school district for what happened on the bus but they do think all parents need to be careful about what they say and teach their children.

Whoolery and his wife couldn't believe it when their second and third graders got off the bus last week and told them what other students were saying.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," said Whoolery. "They were chanting on the bus, 'Assassinate Obama. Assassinate Obama.' Then adding in a name sometimes of a classmate on the bus, 'Assassinate Obama and Kate.'"

A great piece in Slate on Obama and Chicago, and what the city can expect now that its adopted son is President. For one thing, it's suddenly the favorite for the Olympics in 2016. For the rest, read the article.

It's funny how my cricket fan friends work. Both Zeyd and Faraz sent me different versions of this video within 24 hours of each other. Anyway, if you want to be grossed out by the sight of Shoaib Akhtar dancing with scantily clad Indian chicks, please go ahead. My only question is: how did he not pull a hamstring?

Speaking of cricket, please go through this hilariously schizophrenic thread on PakPassion. It was kicked off when Kamran Akmal dropped a catch. Of course, by the end of yesterday's game, Akmal was suddenly a hero. You can see the change in reactions to Akmal in real-time. I love the internet.

A top-ten list by Oxford University of the most annoying phrases in the English language. How is "absolutely" an annoying phrase? I don't understand British people sometimes. (Via India Uncut).

Keep dreaming, Ferguson. Keep dreaming.

Greatest Obama story ever.

Last and the complete opposite of least, please read this column in The News. It is by a Famous and Completely Loony Person. You will not regret clicking on it, I promise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

Conservative blogger John Hinderaker redefines the meaning of the word delusional:

Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly. He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed. If Obama doesn't raise his standards, he will exceed Bush's total before he is inaugurated.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Strange Case of the African Press International

In the spirit of charity, I’d like to state for the record that all right-wing bloggers are not liars. But I now have no doubt that they are absolutely fucking insane. An outfit calling itself the African Press International (note the domain) claimed, three weeks before the election, that it had received documents from an imam proving Obama was born in Kenya. It also clamed to receive an angry phone call from Michelle Obama, denouncing them for their negative coverage of her husband. Here’s what she allegedly said:

“African press International is supposed to support Africans and African-American view,. It is strange that API has chosen to support the racists against my husband. There is no shame in being adopted by a step father. All dirt has been thrown onto my husband’s face and yet he loves this country. My husband and I know that there is no law that will stop him from becoming the president, just because some American white racists are bringing up the issue of my husband’s adoption by His step father. The important thing here is where my husband’s heart is at the moment. I can tell the American people that My husband loves this country and his adoption never changed his love for this country. He was born in Hawaii, yes, and that gives him all the right to be an American citizen even though he was adopted by a foreigner.”

Please note the English in this tirade. Are we to believe that Michelle, in her anger, forgot that she had been educated at Princeton and Harvard, and spoke like, well, someone who would work for something called the African Press International.

Days passed and yet no audio of this conversation ever materialized, even though we were promised by the API that the tape existed. In a brazen move of staggering confidence, the API claimed that it had, on the advice of right-wing bloggers, sent the tape to Fox News. They also claimed that Obama’s campaign manager (who is not named) offered them three million dollars to suppress the tape. Fox denied ever receiving the tape, which, despite an ultimatum from API, was obviously never aired.

All of which leads to this brilliant Q&A today with the editor of API. The guy is obviously a liar enjoying his brief tryst with fame. He evades every question, claiming at various points that he is scared of what the Kenyan government might do to him and, hilariously, that Fox never aired the tape because they are too pro-Obama. For questions he cannot answer, we are told that his English is not very good. We also get a fascinating glimpse inside the psyche of the extreme anti-Obama section of the US. Among the questions posed to the editor, all of which show extreme paranoia:

Have you researched/read into BO being the antichrist in regards to the revelations and nostradomas? If so what are your feelings on this?

Did Saudi Prince Aliweed have anything to do with preventing the airing of tape on Fox?

In the tape with MO, is there anything that would indicate to the American public that BO is Muslim? Is there anything in the tape that indicates that his plans for America are less than noble?

Did Michelle Obama say anything of Sharia Law in her call to you?

Bomb Blast in Peshawar Targets Athletes

A suicide bomber targeted the Qayum stadium in Peshawar. It is being reported that 3 people have been killed and about a dozen injured; the dead include an athlete and a traffic police constable. Tehreek-e-Taliban Dera Adam Khel has claimed responsibility.

The bombing may not in itself be large enough to generate serious alarm or significant coverage but the target causes me to be severely alarmed.

For the past few days Qayum Stadium had been holding Inter Provincial Games with athletes from across the country participating in various sporting events. A majority of the athletes present at the Games were school and college students. Today was the closing ceremony of the Games and the bombing occurred almost immediately after its conclusion.

This is depraved and sad and terrifying. I don't know what more to say.

Mustafa Kamal: One Of The World's Top Mayors (According To Foreign Policy Magazine)

Correction appended below.

lright, so we're often accused of peddling only discouraging, distressing, and depressing news and views on this blog, and rightly so I guess. So I just wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the fact that Mustafa Kamal, Mayor of Karachi, has been declared by FP to be the one of the world's top mayors. It is important to note that this is not a ranking per se, but merely well deserved recognition for the immense work Mustafa Kamal has put into the city. (You can see their entire report on Global Cities here.)

There's a lot to like about Mustafa Kamal, but the one thing that stands out (for me anyway) is his pragmatic approach to problem solving. His entire tenure in Karachi has been about making the lives of its citizens easier, more prosperous, and less chaotic. He tries to stay above the political and ideological fray and just goes about his job. Is he always successful? No, of course not. But that has more to do with the way Karachi and Pakistan work than the way Mustafa Kamal works.

One of his best ideas was instituted this summer: his "I Own Karachi" program, which basically asked for common citizens to come forward and volunteer to work for the city (directing traffic, keeping streets clean etc etc). The brilliance of this idea was in its simplicity and effectiveness: all you have to do is give the do-gooders out there an avenue to make a contribution to their city. There's tons of people out there - across ethnic, gender and socioeconomic lines - who want to make a difference; Mustafa Kamal recognized that and simply facilitated it. (If you are a Karachi resident and would like to volunteer, you can register by going on the Sadistic Goremint's website and clicking on the "I Own Karachi" link on the lefthand side of the page.) He's always receptive of fresh ideas and new ways of doing things, and Karachi is lucky to have him.

If you are interested, you can read about a couple of encounters I had with the man himself in Chicago, while he was on his tour to the U.S. last spring (the second is more entertaining than the first).

UPDATE/CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly noted that Mustafa Kamal was ranked number 2 by FP among the world's mayors. As reader NA noted in the comments below, there was no ranking as such. However, the magazine does place him among "the world's top mayors," which is good enough if you think about it. I have corrected both the offending headline and sentence in the post.

The Governor and his Paper

Now that the US election is over, I can go back to one of my favourite topics: hating on Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. As always, the Daily Times, which just happens to be the paper Taseer owns, provides blow-by-blow coverage of the governor's day. Next time, however, they might want to ensure that they only print pictures of him hugging babies, and not give space to his moronic commentary.

Here's Taseer showing a complete lack of understanding of the lawyers' movement ( purposely?)
The governor said there was no reason for lawyers to continue their movement, as it was launched to dislodge former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s government and should be called off now that his government had ended.
Surely even a man of Taseer's limited intellectual capability understands that the movement was as much about restoring the chief justice and other deposed judges as it was about getting rid of Musharraf.

And here, appropos of nothing, is the governor's attempt to make a joke:
Taseer said Nawaz’s English had improved during his stay abroad.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Can She Slap?

Listen, will someone just answer this guy's question?

I can't decide if this video is the funniest or most disturbing thing I've seen this month.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


So the PML-Q could be breaking down into two factions. Personally, I have to say I'm quite surprised that questions about the Q League's viability have taken this long.
The party, the sources feared, might further splinter into pro-Chaudhry and anti-Chaudhry factions. “If this happens, it will be in keeping with the Muslim League’s tradition,” one of the observers quipped.

The minute the PPP decided against recruiting them as a coalition ally, this party should have dissolved. I mean, what do they have holding them together? Power (PML-Q from 2002 to 2008)? No. Ethnicity (ANP)? No. Ideology and creed (PPP)? No. Highly efficient organization (MQM)? No. So what gives? Why are they still around? I'm honestly perplexed. Is this just an instance of transaction costs still waiting to be paid? In other words, do we just have to wait?

The only wildcard in this entire calculation is Musharraf. Were he to decide to stage a Juan Peron-like return-after-a-forced-hiatus, all bets are off.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

YouTube of the Day

Gore Vidal's handlers forgot to feed him his meds before he went on BBC

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Night At Grant Park In Chicago

Tired as hell, in the middle of moving apartments, with strep throat on its way to wreak havoc with my sleeping schedule and two different sets of midterms to grade, the decision to make my way downtown not knowing what time I would be back was an easy one: it's not often you can be witness to history in the making.

What follows is a bunch of scattered notes and thoughts from the night of November 4, 2008.

We (the WTB and myself) headed down to the Congress Hotel on Michigan and Congress, which is situated right opposite Grant Park. A few of my friends from U of C had a room at the hotel, from where we could get a bird's eye view of the massive throngs of people in the area. Here's a picture my friend Sarah took from the room.

You will notice people basically walking east on Congress Parkway toward Grant Park. To get a better idea of the geography of the area, here's a map.

View Larger Map

This throng of people were basically the petty commoners, who did not have official tickets to attend the event. The picture above excludes the much bigger crowd to the south, that was making its way to the "proper" event. From my understanding, the Democratic Party provided only 60,000 tickets (with invitations to bring a friend or something). Those who had the tickets got to stand in the general vicinity of Obama. Those who didn't (like us) got to stand in front of the many giant screens placed all around Grant Park. The people you see in the picture above were all, like us, petty commoners. Sans-culottes, if you will. The picture below shows the line(s) to get into the main event, again taken by my friend Sarah who actually had a ticket.


When we made our way onto Congress Pkwy (the WTB, Lindsey, and myself) to find a good spot close to one of those big screen TVs, some breaking news was on the way. In particular, we were on the main walkway when we heard a LOUD roar. "Well, looks like they called it," I said. Sure enough, it was at that precise moment that CNN made its now-famous call. I couldn't get a great picture of the crowd in front of me, but I tried my best. It's come out a little shaky, but it'll have to do.

From the direction this picture is taken, we headed a little bit forward (i.e. east) and a little bit to the right (i.e. south) and nestled into a pretty good spot where we could watch and hear the rest of CNN's coverage for the night.

The air was filled with, at various times, expectancy, hope, confidence, jubilation, and - of course - pot.

A couple of commendations. First of all, to the massive crowds who had gathered for the night. There had to be around 500,000 people all told in the area. Yet everyone was well behaved, there was surprisingly little alcohol-related nonsense (to the extent that I thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that the police had forced bars and liquor stores to stop business at some pre-determined hour), and everyone was simply in good spirits (as you might expect). But good spirits can sometimes lead to widespread destruction, and the crowd didn't fall into that trap.

Second, to the city of Chicago and the law enforcement agencies. Security measures were almost non-existent, and yet no one felt unsafe. Everything was run smoothly. The CTA ran as many trains as needed (particularly important at the end of the night). Basically nothing went wrong, when there was the potential for so much to go wrong. So kudos to the city.

There were so many feel-good moments just standing there that I cannot recall them all. I saw a woman simply breaking down and crying on her boyfriend's/husband's shoulder. I saw a single mom approach a stranger (alright, me) to ask to lift her daughter on her shoulders so the little girl could actually see the big screen TV. I saw more smiles, hugs, and random jumping and down than I've ever seen in my life. It was just an uplifting experience to be around so many people who were so happy at the same time. Again, this picture isn't perfect, but you will notice, I am sure, the couple in the center of the frame making out to their heart's content and the general euphoria the crowd feels.


The difference in reactions to the two crowds - the one in Chicago, and the one in Phoenix - to McCain's concession speech was so telling. When McCain spoke and congratulated Obama, the crowd in Phoenix booed. "Fucking rednecks," someone (alright, me) said. The Chicago crowd, on the other hand, graciously applauded on all of McCain's applause lines.

Now, of course, that distinction had something to do with the differences in moods between the crowds. But I contend it also had something to do with the makeup of the crowds, whereby the Phoenix crowd had been trained to think (by the McCain-Palin-Schmidt campaign) that an Obama presidency was the telltale sign of the apolocalypse itself. McCain looked so pathetic trying to calm them down and be gracious. Hey,'re the one who let the dogs out. Now live with it.

Before Obama came out, the big screens were showing shots of people in the main non-sans-culottes crowd. Oprah always got a big cheer. So did Jesse Jackson (and his crying engendered a lot of awwwws). I even saw a girl who I am sure is in the class I TA on Mondays. Seriously. Small world and all that.

When the Man Himself came out around 11pm local time - after a soaking-up-the-moment delay marked by random patriotic songs - I turned to Lindsey and asked "What's the over/under on the number of times he has to say "thank you" to get everyone to shut up?" I went with 25, Lindsey had 14. Given that he said some variant of the words "thank you" and "thank you so much" a full thirty two times during his convention speech during the summer, I thought I was I on pretty safe ground. Except, uh, I wasn't. Dude didn't say it even once; instead, he began with the words "Hello, Chicago!" and simply dived into his speech. Unbelievable. Thanks to this Muslim Terrorist Marxist Leninist Child Rapist's ingratitude, I am now poorer by $10.

The two loudest crowds I've ever been around have both been at cricket matches. The first was at the Pakistan-England match in Karachi during the World Cup of 1996. Chasing a smallish target, the crowd erupted every time Pakistan lost a wicket, mainly because they wanted to see local hero Javed Miandad bat in what was his swansong. Every wicket was greeted with cheers of "Ja-ved, Ja-ved!". The walls of the National Stadium shook that day.

The second outrageously loud crowd was also at Karachi, during a spell by Shoaib Akhtar against New Zealand in 2002 (for some reason, I can't find the scorecard from Cricinfo). If my memory serves me correctly, he either took for 6-12 or 6-19 in one of the most devastating spells of quick bowling you'll ever see. The crowd would rise to a crescendo as Shoaib ran in, and with the length of his run-up, it was quite the crescendo.

The point is this: the volume of the entire crowd at Grant Park when Obama walked out was to the volume of those cricket crowds what the winter in Chicago is to the winter in Karachi. I've never heard anything like it, and I'm pretty sure I'll never hear it again. Watching the same thing on YouTube simply doesn't transmit what a roaring crowd sounds like. It was such a powerful moment.

Anyway, here's a picture taken by Sarah of Obama speaking. Again, it's kind of blurry, but what're you going to do?


While he was speaking, I turned to the WTB and asked her if we (Pakistan) would ever have someone capable of bringing out crowds like this. Of course, as soon as I asked the question, I thought of BB, who brought out 150,000 people on the streets of Karachi the day she returned to Pakistan last fall. And then I thought of her dad, who was so inspirational that he got millions of people to vote for his daughter simply based on their shared name. Though I suppose the true test of ZAB's inspirational qualities will be if he can get this dipshit elected.

The crowd(s) streaming home:

Yes, he did.

Obama Wins!

I'm sure Ahsan will be up here soon with a post on Barack Obama's historic victory, as soon as he recovers from what was likely a late night in Grant Park, Chicago. In the meantime, here are a collection of some links and videos worth watching:

Firstly, McCains concession speech. If you watch any of these videos, make it these two, and watch the man return to his good senses. After all the talk about Obama's supposed negative 'associations' with Bill Ayers, ACORN and Reverend Wright, he poignantly states that the association that has mattered to him the most has been the one he shared with fellow Americans. When the republican crowd boos Obama's victory, you can't help feel a little sorry for McCain as he pleads for them to stop. The guy really was stuck with the most idiotic of supporters.

And here is Obama's Victory speech in Grant Park. Ahsan will tell it better, but the crowd is just in rapture. CNN has an audio slideshow of the speech that I would recommend more than the videos I have posted below.

John Dickerson from Slate has a glowing breakdown of that speech.

Colin Powell tears up as he speaks on the significance of a President who happens to be African American (Highly Recommended)

And last but not least, the Onion gives its own misquotey perspective:
"Today the American people have made their voices heard, and they have said, 'Things are finally as terrible as we're willing to tolerate," said Obama, addressing a crowd of unemployed, uninsured, and debt-ridden supporters. "To elect a black man, in this country, and at this time—these last eight years must have really broken you."