Tuesday, April 13, 2010

There Is Violence In Abbottabad Because Punjab Is A Hot Girl

You can always trust Pakistani politicians to screw up a good thing. The historic passage of the eighteenth amendment last week was exactly that: a seminal moment in the country's political history, where our representatives in the National Assembly unanimously approved changes to the constitution that strengthened the hand of democracy and parliament. It was, almost unambiguously and without caveats, A Good Thing. It proved, or so I thought, that when push comes to shove, our leaders are capable of coming together and keeping the big picture in mind. Yes, there were some last-minute shenanigans from Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N, but all's well that ends well. Right?

Well, not exactly. Violence and riots in the Hazara division of the NWFP, er, sorry, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa has led to eight people being killed, more than a hundred injured, and businesses and homes damaged. What the hell is going on?

Let's backtrack for a second. When Nawaz Sharif took his infamous U-turn on the Raza Rabbani Committee package, nobody knew why, exactly, he did it -- was it because of its implications for the judiciary, or because of its implications on renaming NWFP? It is now clear it was most definitely the latter. Why? Well, the renaming of the NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa hasn't included a reference to the Hazara population, which is Hindko speaking. Evidently, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa wasn't enough of a mouthful, and the province should've really been named Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa-Hazara.

This, in turn, matters because Hazara is one of the few districts outside Punjab that the PML-N can actually claim some support. And so when Nawaz Sharif ended up backing the name change with concessions granted his way -- it was originally just supposed to be Pakhtoonkhwa, but the Committee decided to reward Sharif's tantrums and intransigence with "Khyber" -- his rivals in Punjab, the PML-Q, could step up and attack him for it, saying he sold out the people of Hazara in return for other clauses in the 18th amendment.

So, to recap, Nawaz Sharif opposes elements to the 18th amendment for parochial interests, is satisfied with concessions on those interests, the amendment passes, at which point the PML-Q steps in and makes a big deal about all this and pushes the PML-N into a corner, which, in a strange way, justifies Nawaz Sharif throwing a hissy-fit before the passage. The PML-Q's fanning of the flames has resulted in this violence, and has serious implications for the passage of the bill through the Senate.

You see, after a unanimous passage in the National Assembly where all parties supported the amendment, the PML-Q, PML-N and assorted others are reversing their view of this in the Senate. The PML-Q's U-turn is the big one, because they have 21 seats in the 100-member Senate, which requires a 2/3rds majority to amend the constitution. The PML-N has seven. If some from the PML-N end up supporting the Q's stance -- and by all accounts, some do -- it will make getting those 67 votes extremely difficult. More importantly, the JUI-F has ten seats in the Senate, and also appears to suddenly be against the bill after being for it a week ago.

And here's the thing: this is one of those pieces of legislation that needs to be supported by everyone to be effective. The very point about the painstaking negotiations conducted by the Raza Rabbani Committee over many, many months was that it would ensure support from all the stakeholders. When you are introducing changes to the country's constitution in such a sweeping and grand manner, you want to be able to say with a straight face that it was supported across the spectrum. Conversely, if it passes with significant opposition, it becomes a political hot potato rather than an instance of true and lasting reform.

So this is where we are now: thanks to the blatant opportunism and myopic conduct of the PML-Q, not only are innocent lives being lost and private property being damaged, but the passage of truly historic legislation is no longer a sure thing. One potential solution would be to de-couple the renaming issue with the rest of the constitutional reforms, pass the latter and worry about the former some other time. But there's no telling how much that would anger the ANP.

This also goes to show how being from Punjab really screws up one's ability to deal with the rest of the country. The conventional understanding of Pakistani political history in the smaller provinces is that Punjabis are bent upon domination and don't care at all about them and are evil etc. I don't subscribe to that view, I just think the political incentives are very skewed for Punjabi politicians that it ends up looking that way to the smaller provinces.

What I mean by that is that control of Punjab is so important and such a big deal in the context of Pakistani politics, that parties in and from Punjab are willing to sacrifice goodwill and popularity in other regions for gains in Punjab to too great an extent. It's all about trade-offs.

For instance, in this case, the PML-Q and PML-N know they look bad to everyone else in the country, but they don't care, because the stakes are so high (control of Punjab). But for parties and leaders from other regions, compromise is easier because the balance between goodwill in their small constituencies and goodwill in other small constituencies is more even, and so they wouldn't want to go too far in alienating either of those. The trade-off is more even for them. However, when it comes to judging political gains in Punjab versus political gains in other regions, it's not even close: you do what you have to win in Punjab, and forget everything else.

Think of a group of four or five girls, one of which is significantly hotter than all the others. The extent to which you're willing to work hard to impress the hot girl will be very different to your level of effort to impress the others. You'll probably be more willing to compromise on your morals and values for the hot girl than you are for the others because, hell, she's hot! Well, Punjab is a very hot girl when it comes to Pakistan's political structure. Because of its population and majority in parliament, and the fact that it is historically been the heartbeat of Pakistan, power in Punjab matters a lot. And, unfortunately, that's exactly what we're seeing evidence of right now.


karachikhatmal said...


is there a hint of the nash example in the beautiful mind here? didn't he say that everyone would be better off not going for the hot girl? i never got econ or stats, so i am probably wrong

Umair J said...

Its a bit of a catch-22 situation for the Hazara wings of the PML parties.

They could have ignored the obvious social current in the 5 districts regarding the name of the province and pushed for a clean passage of the 18th amendment bill through which they ran the risk of losing out on the trust of the electorate

Or they could have instigated reaction and thrown in a few more wedges during the consultation process of the Rabbani committee (which Nawaz did) and end up looking like narrow-minded instrumentalists or provincialists (which Nawaz did)

As far as the Punjab conundrum is concerned...the solution is straightforward enough. You break the province into two with the southern districts forming the new province with which you satisfy the demands of both the Seraiki population and the proponents of the Bahawalpur restoration. But everyone needs to understand that this will have no serious implication on the composition of the national assembly. The population is skewed heavily in favor of the northern and central districts of Punjab, the GT Road districts where you have the greatest urbanization and industrialization. The only serious implication will be on the provincial assembly where the southern districts will finally have their own chamber to play around in.

takhalus said...

The movement for a hazara province has definite roots in the region, a feeling of not wanting to be under perceived pakhtun domination (while the ANP has messed up in the buildup to this event and it's bungling has contributed to the deaths but it has always used peaceful democratic means to try and change the name). To get an idea of the vitriol this has created have a listen to the below.


Still it's not a straight forward case of Pakhtuns oppressing the Hindko speakers, hazara has a significant non hindko speaking population, it's benefitted greatly within the province.. of the total 19 chief ministers the province has had since independence, 7 have come from “Hazara". Similarly it's perceived sense of wrong doesn't come from deprivation either. if you check the deprivation index Haripur and abboatabad the main areas of protest are actually some of the richest districts in NWFP

In HDI terms Haripur has some of the best human development indicators in the country let alone the province.

Also many of the key leaders involved in the movement are pakhtun, ranging from gohar Ayub (who is almost repeating his role of 1964 again) to the Saifullahs and Amir Muqam.

While I am partial to the idea of new provinces, this could create a dangerous precedent, in the pakhtun belt it would imply that using democratic means is not an effective way of obtaining ones demands.

Also consider the media, between Shoasan's shadi and protests in hazara the brutal bombing in Tirah gets barely a side mention. This will aggravate a feeling

jhankarbeats said...

Damn, that was incisive UmairJ.

dishoomdishoom said...

@karachikhatmal: Now given some of what I've studied pertained to Nash Equilibrium, the analogy is a bit different. The question that was asked in that situation was something like this

"A few guys are interested in a few girls, of which one is the bomb! and the rest were just alright. Now the boys and the girls both are interested to get along with each other. If the hot boys hit on the hot girl, and if she rejects them, they would go for the just-alright girls. The just-alright girls aren't comfortable with being the second best options. The hot girl, being hot, would have more suitors (the boys would think) and hence the chances of them scoring with her are minimal. Hence, the boys bypass the hot girl for the just-alright girls"..

In this situation, the game setup is a bit different...

"The just-alright girls DO NOT like you for some odd reason (PMLQ and PMLN), (for example they only like guys with beards, and you don't have a beard, and I'm assuming you might not just grow one right there). So your only, or the most probable chance, to get hitched is only the hot girl! The just-alright girls are out of the picture then. Hence, you would do ANYTHING to get the attention of that hot girl"

I don't know if made sense, but here you go

Alpha Za said...

Let me simplify this for everyone.

You can't win anything of significance in Pakistan without Punjab. Punjab is the election decider, not Sindh, Balochistan or Khyber-Pakh-(who really gives a flying F what the name is)-tunkhwa

You win in Punjab, you win the Premiership.

Ahsan said...


Well, no, not really. First of all, the Beautiful Mind scene is NOT a correct demonstration of Nash equilibrium. It is the complete opposite, in fact. I'd explain it further if you're interested, but suffice it to say, that's a really stupid scene.


Staying on the game theory analogy, the 18th amendment is a classic Stag Hunt game for the PMLN and PMLQ. If only they could credibly reassure each other that they wouldn't take advantage of the other in Hazara, we would have a Pareto efficient outcome. But because trust is lacking, they reach an equilibrium, just one that's worse for all involved (i.e. they end up agreeing on OPPOSING the 18th amendment on the renaming issue).

On the redistricting, you're right. Punjab will have to be sliced and diced into a lot more areas than just two for meaningful reform.


I have a question for you, which I raised in the post itself. ASSUME that there is a consensus to de-couple the renaming from the rest of the changes, and they agree to pass the 18th amendment and come back to the re-naming later. How do you think the ANP will react to this?

Ali K. said...

I don't think ANP will react with any kindness to any suggestion of de-coupling. It will in their minds mean the death of any real chance to rename the province. What incentive do Q & N have to come to the table in good faith to negotiate renaming NWFP? Pushing the bill as it is, is probably the best chance ANP has to get what it wants and I think they realize this.

If assuming the 18th amendment fails, will there be violence on the streets of Peshawer?

Yasir Qadeer said...

It is sad and hurting to see the loss of precious lives on issues which could be resolved through dialogue rather than armed conflict. In other words, this clearly shows the fanaticism syndrome this nation has developed over the time. We must revert to more civic ways of protest.

ali hamdani said...

Let it be any province the job does not end at the 18th amendment. The provinces face a common threat of extremism and terror attacks. Punjab is surely facing a lot of heat but we people should not give up. We must support our leaders as well as be activie citizens ourselves to help the country out of this deep hole.

AKS said...

It is sick how the PML(Q) is milking this. Gohar Ayub and Saleem Saifullah can be seen on most channels most hours of the day (struggling with Urdu, reverting to power=paar English dialect); they're not putting an impediment in a historic bill or inciting violence, just standing up for what is right.

And no, they do not lust power, or see an opportunity to gain control of a whole new province. Its only coincidental that Gohar Ayub is one of the most prominent Hindko speaking politicians and his son just happens to be married to Saleem Saifullah's brother Anwar Saifullah's daughter.

Has there been more transparent grab for power than this? (Well, apart from Zardari orchestrating the assassination of BB, ousting Mush and rigging the elections, now that is a fact.)


Fuck you, the Beautiful Mind scene is awesome! Take your math and science bullshit somewhere else. Like Twitter.

karachikhatmal said...


thanks, but i am now more confused than ever. trying to imagine that punjab is a hot girl who hangs out with PMLs Q&N, who are her ugly friends, is making me confused. but basic male actions dictate that one isolates the hot chick form her uggles, and therefore perhaps this situation might make sense once the muslim leagues fuck off.

Ahsan & AKS:

i wouldn't mind the explanation. but having read AKS's comments, i am still laughing. also, AKS, i have never met an academic who didn't hate the BM scene, so maybe Ahsan was just playing the game. in which case we can't hate the playa, but banishing him to twitter sounds like a suitable punishment.

AKS said...

I'm all for more provinces by the way. Yes this fragmentation might lead to a weakening of the federation but hey a Greater Karachi will hopefully get rid of the waderas from defence streets and make us feel safer. Isn't that what it boils down to, security?

AKS said...


I firmly believe that nobody understands game theory, they just think they do. Ditto: chaos theory, string theory, etc. Think about it, would you place trust in a theory devised by a man who was a cuckoo ghost whisperer.

Anonymous said...

nice to know this blog is covering the killing of over 70 civilians in nwfp in a bombing by the pakistani government (and its subsequent cover up)...

had it been a 'taliban' bombing in lahore, we would have had all that self-righteous and fake 'sadness' for the plight of pakistan...

pssshh. go buy some morals, losers.


karachikhatmal said...

Anon 1523:

i know these guys wont respond cuz they've had a million like you.

but you make an important point - civilian lives and deaths outside the areas we know, have friends/family in have been largely ignored by the media, bloggers and drawing room conversationists ever since this whole shibang started.

and it is very important for people to get out there and get that information across.

which is why, the obvious question remains that why don't you set up a blog or a website which does exactly that.

you don't have to write it yourself - my college professor (an israeli) spends several hours everyday collecting and posting articles on israeli brutalities in gaza - something he has been doing ever since the gaza invasion happened. its probably what you can do as well, seeing that its what you did with your comment.

or you can be like my brother, who posts such news on his facebook status. its an alternative to a blog, and while no one ever "likes" it or comments on it, he keeps doing it anyways, to make sure we remember.

finally, when it comes to the acquisition of morals, you might appreciate that disparaging others and questioning their characters seems a bit hypocritical when one chooses to hide themselves behind the shield of anonymity. maybe these guys are your stereotype of pakistan-hating, limousine liberals. but when you make that observation behind a pseudonym, it undermines your entire argument.

(PS evidence also suggests that to get Ahsan's goat, you remind him that Barca suck, and AKS that the CJ was the savior he never chose to accept. the others are actually ISI agents who infiltrated the blog, before going on to infiltrate larger fish)

Ahsan said...

Actually, I was thinking of a post on it but didn't have the time to write one, and was planning on doing so tonight. But Khatmal's right, instead of having a go at our "morals", why don't you write something yourself?

bm said...

and what about the poor seraikis of TPFKANWFP? if the hazaras get their name in the province, why don't the seraikis?
slippery slope this one. we should have just come up with something neutral that everyone agrees with like "goat-fuckers-abad", or "where-women-dare" or better yet "you-got-your-catholic priests-we-got-our-pathans-istan"

karachikhatmal said...


if you believe that paedophilia (especially towards little boys) is restricted to kyber-pakhtunkhwa, i suggest you avoid the rest of the country

Umair J said...

this blog really attracts some of the finest pieces of gods work out there...sheeshh