Benazir Bhutto: The Eighth Queen of Shah Latif – by Suleman Akhtar

The aura of her was something most frightful for the mindset that had evolved over the later period of her lifetime – an unshapely blend of religious intolerance, jingoism, counterfeit cultural assimilation and hegemonic masculinity. She was abhorred, loathed and scorned like anything just as she was adored, esteemed and revered like a goddess. The disciples of darkness and hatred came out winners on that freezing evening of December when the beautiful blue around her body was replaced with the withered white. The tricolor, at the end of the day, served as her coffin as it had for her family and many of her people.

Pakistan was a different place after Zia-ul-haq’s eleven year long tyrannical rule. The phenomenon of radicalization of society, to the interests of handful, which had been contrived with the Objectives resolution and further substantiated by the Doctrine of Necessity shenanigan, had grown in full swing in Zia’s era. That was not only Z. A. Bhutto who paid the heavy price of breaching the sacred cloak of rogue state but the society, on the whole, underwent severe deterioration at the hands of a madman. Such was a hostile environment when BB swore in as first ever woman Prime minister of Pakistan with the words: “We gather together to celebrate freedom, to celebrate democracy, to celebrate the three most beautiful words in the English language: `”We the People.”  Soon this became evident who were the ones  entitled to call the shots when a military General, Aslam Baig, who had been conferred upon medal of Democracy by BB, was found as main perpetrator of operation Midnight Jackal – an alleged design to topple the democratic government. BB, notwithstanding, was as adamant for the supremacy of people’s rule against all odds as ever.

Dauntless and unshakeable BB never succumbed to pervaded ethos of predominant Mullah-Military mindset and always took the lead in calling out the bigotry. While on her trip to United Kingdom in 1990, Benazir Bhutto paid a visit to Dr. Abdus Salam, a Nobel laureate in Physics, where she had paid great respect to Abdus Salam. The act caused a fury of fundamentals against her and back home she was termed as Ahmadiya only for paying homage to an Ahmadiya scientist. She rebuffed comments made by Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq in May 2007 regarding the knighthood of Salman Rushdie, citing that he was calling for the assassination of foreign citizens. “I’m glad there was no cease-fire with the militants in the mosque because cease-fires simply embolden the militants,” She was heard saying this on Britain’s Sky TV after the Red Mosque Incident. Her undeterred stance on Lal Mosque fiasco lost her a significant support in Urban Punjab and made her a legitimate target in the eyes of bloodthirsty beasts.

BB had witnessed the horrific mayhem brought out to the society in the form of sectarian and religious antagonism by the messengers of darkness. She was well aware where the fault lines of contention lied. She dedicated last years of her life in unveiling the root cause of decline in Muslim societies in general and Pakistani society in particular – A no man’s land where the wings of intellectual and political dwarfs start burning. In her riveting and most insightful posthumous book “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West”, she candidly unraveled the quandary confronted by the Muslims. “One billion Muslims around the world seemed united in their outrage at the war in Iraq, damning the deaths of Muslims caused by U.S. military intervention without U.N. approval. But there has been little if any similar outrage against the sectarian civil war, which has led to far more casualties. Obviously and embarrassingly, Muslim leaders, masses and even intellectuals are quite comfortable criticizing outsiders for the harm inflicted on fellow Muslims, but there is deadly silence when they are confronted with Muslim-on-Muslim violence.”

BB had always maintained that this was not the society itself causative entity breeding intolerance and bigotry, but the handful of minority had hijacked the societal values to its vicious interests. She had unshakeable faith in the collective conscious of her people and never backtracked for her firm resolve. She went on publicly calling out the handfuls: “Who jin ke siwa sab kaafar heiN, Jo deen ka harf-e-akhar heiN, un jhootoN aur makaaroN se, Mazhab ke thekedaaroN se, Main bhagi huN main bhagi huN”. She was well aware of the universal truth that change, if any, had to come from within and couldn’t be imposed from outside. She had this proud relation with her soil that she had embarked upon to reclaim: “I am daughter of Indus, I am daughter of Taxila, I am an heir of this 5000 years old civilization”

BB belonged to the land of Sindhu – the land of Bhittai. The land of seven queens of Bhittai – the land of Marvi, Momal, Sassi, Noori, Sohni, Sorath, and Lila; who are valued for their bravery and courage to choose love and freedom over tyranny and oppression. In spite of succumbing to the vehement character assassination campaign run by the inventors of ‘Chaadar and Chaar-deewari” and ‘Hudood”, BB chose to stand to the misogynists who had refused to salute her for being the ‘woman’ Prime minister. BB’s was the struggle of a Muslim woman that had never been surpassed since the days BB Zainab (s.a) had delivered those historic sermons in the streets of Damascus. The skies on the land of the pure probably would never see the crowd of hundreds of thousands chanting and getting mesmerized by a woman. She recounts the day when her plane landed in Karachi in 2007: “A display of emotion by a woman in politics and government can be misconstructed as a manifestation of weakness, reinforcing stereotypes and caricatures. But as my foot touched the ground of my beloved Pakistan for the first time, I couldn’t stop tears pouring from my eyes…I felt that a huge burden, a terrible weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was home at long last. I knew why. I knew what I had to do.”

If Bhittai were alive today, he would write about her eighth queen of Sindh. He would make her the queen of all the seven queens and would ask them to bow down to her. If he were alive, he would write the Sindhu as the beloved of Benazir. He would mourn the death of Benazir along with his seven queens, if he were alive.

“Tell me the stories, oh thorn-brush, Of the mighty merchants of the Indus, Of the nights and the days of the prosperous times, Are you in pain now, oh thorn-brush? Because they have departed: In protest, cease to flower. Oh thorn-brush, how old were you When the river was in full flood? Have you seen any way-farers Who could be a match of the Banjaras? True, the river has gone dry, And worthless plants have begun to flourish on the brink.” – Bhittai

Source: CriticalPPP


Politics of change —Fahd Ali

Any attempt to transform Pakistan or bring a ‘change’ in this country must begin with the struggle against the military’s dominance in Pakistan’s political economy. Khan sahib’s PTI does not offer any programme against these challenges

If nothing else, Imran Khan has taken the media circus by storm! Since his famous jalsa (rally) in Lahore’s Minto Park, everybody seems to be taken with his politics of ‘change’. There is no doubt that after a long time in this country the youth is politically charged. They may not be able to articulate their support for Khan sahib’s politics very well but they do seem to see him as a leader who can meet their aspirations. Before I go further on whether Khan sahib can be an agent of much needed change in Pakistan, two points need further analysis. First, Imran Khan’s exclusive focus on the youth to form his support base, and second, why does the youth in this country support him.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) main support from within the youth mostly comes from 18-34 year-old age group. This age group makes up roughly one-third of Pakistan’s population. If we assume the total population to be 180 million, then this age group stands at about 60 million people — all potential voters. In the previous national elections (2008), the total registered voters numbered a little over 80 million and, with a 44 percent turnout, almost 35 million polled their votes. The 18-34 age bracket of potential voters is therefore extremely important for any party in the next general elections. This group again is not evenly spread throughout Pakistan. It is mostly concentrated in Punjab and parts of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Punjab has the lion’s share in the total seats in the National Assembly, with over 50 percent contested from this province alone. It, therefore, makes sense why Punjab figures so much in the politics of political parties with national aspirations. The answer to the second question is also linked to the first. This 18-34 year-old group has come of age in the past 15 years, particularly in the last decade. The youth in Pakistan, especially from the middle and upper classes (mostly concentrated in central and North Punjab, Karachi, and parts of KP) faces a severe crisis of identity. This demographic group has grown under the larger rubric of Islamic nationalism that Pakistan’s military establishment has enforced upon us through the state’s education system, the media and establishment’s supporters in various Islamic and jihadi parties. This nationalist identity that centred strongly on religion has come under attack in the last decade in the context of the ‘war on terror’. The youth wants to keep its broad religious identity intact but does not want to come across as extremists. It wants to have friendly ties with India but does not want to lose the establishment’s narrative on Kashmir. It wants to stay rooted in tradition yet look ‘modern’. Imran Khan’s personality seems to offer a prolific compromise between all these contradictory trends/tensions. In some ways, his personality epitomises the personal aspirations of the urban middle class youth. Hence, the nearly fanatic support for Khan sahib and his politics.

But the youth is not the only section from where Khan sahib’s support comes from. There are strong rumours of overt and covert support coming from our military establishment — a rumour that gets credence when one sees old and new establishment horses either joining PTI’s ranks or currently in talks with them. This raises serious questions about Khan sahib being an agent of change. One is forced to question whether tried horses whose politics has always been of reinforcing the establishment’s grip on Pakistan’s internal affairs can help change this equation. I think not. We have to understand why the establishment is preparing a new candidate/party to enter national politics and what it plans to achieve by it. Two reasons come to mind. First, old allies like the PML-N have chosen to go their separate way and intend to weaken the establishment’s power in national politics. Whether this actually happens remains to be seen but the threat of a conflict looms large over the horizons if the N-League comes to power in the next general elections. The current government of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is firmly ensconced in the establishment’s lap but remains an untrustworthy ally, especially because of its support in Sindh. The PPP, when under threat, uses the Sindh card quite liberally and effectively. Second, in the post-2008 election scenario a genuine coalition of anti-establishment political forces was built and, with the ANP, PML-N, and PPP joining hands, a hung parliament was converted into a parliament of two-thirds majority. This opportunity to challenge the establishment in any meaningful way was squandered largely by the PPP. The establishment, by supporting Imran Khan, wants to ensure that such a situation does not arise again. If the national vote is split four ways (between the PPP, PML-N, MQM and PTI mostly) in the next general elections, then neither of the two big parties will be able to form a government without Khan sahib’s PTI. And as it seems right now, a PTI dominated by old establishment’s horses will have little power to bring any meaningful ‘change’ in the country. In some ways we are back to square one; this has the politics of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) writ large over it.

People are prone to seeing PTI’s politics as radical or revolutionary. In reality, Khan sahib does not represent any break from the politics and class structure prevalent in Pakistan. His politics is limited to challenging the corruption of individual politicians but falls short of posing any threat to the permanent political establishment of the country. The Pakistani army is Pakistan’s foremost problem. Pakistan’s history shows that the army’s alliance with imperialism has wreaked havoc with Pakistan’s polity in the past and continues to do so even today. The rise of religious fundamentalism and extremism in the country must also be seen in the same context. Pakistan’s military has deliberately cultivated religious extremism with the aid of imperialism to pursue its own narrow objectives in the country and the region. After a 10 year long war on terror, religious extremism and its permanent patron, the Pakistan Army, have now come to represent the foremost challenge to the well being of the people of this country. Therefore, any attempt to transform Pakistan or bring a ‘change’ in this country must begin with the struggle against the military’s dominance in Pakistan’s political economy. Khan sahib’s PTI, much like any other mainstream political party, does not offer any programme against these challenges. It does not see the military as a main obstacle in Pakistan’s path towards a more just and equitable society. It sees the military as the victim of local and international political designs rather than as the perpetrator of what is mostly wrong with Pakistan. PTI seeks to protect the military and its privileges but wants to hold politicians accountable for all their acts. There should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind that politicians, both in the government and the opposition, must be made accountable for their actions. This process of accountability, however, must be extended to our ‘beloved’ military generals as well. Khan sahib’s PTI is woefully quiet on this issue.

There is another important issue where Khan sahib’s politics is found wanting. Perhaps the most important struggle against the military’s hegemony in Pakistan is being waged right now in Balochistan. The Baloch have long struggled against the state for their rights that are routinely usurped. Like all other mainstream political parties, Khan sahib also wants to make the Baloch feel part of Pakistan again — he just does not tell us how he might do it. The support for the Baloch struggle is of paramount importance since it is a struggle against the status quo and for a more just and equitable Pakistan. Any political party that wants to struggle against the status quo must firmly ally itself with the Baloch. PTI’s statements on this issue are no different from what is usually churned out by the establishment (and some mainstream parties). It wants the Baloch to become our ‘brothers’ again on terms that are set by the Pakistani military establishment. PTI fails to understand that this is precisely what the Baloch want to resist and oppose.

No matter how radical the rhetoric, in reality PTI’s politics is conservative and traditional and, I believe, until it addresses the issues above, it will remain an agent of status quo rather than of change.

The writer is studying towards his doctorate in Economics at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He blogs at and can be reached at

Source: Daily Times

Siasat ke rockstars

گزشتہ دنوں بالی وڈ کے نوجوان اداکار “رنبیرکپور” کی فلم “راک اسٹار “ ہوئی جس میں رنبیر نے ایک نوجوان گلوکار کا کردار نبھایا ہے جو کہ محّبت میں ناکامی کے بعد ایک “باغی” کے روپ میں ابھرتے ہوئے “سڈّا حق اُتّھے رکھ” کی صدا بلند کرتا ہے، اگرچہ فلم میں اے آررحمان کے ترتیب دیئے میوزک کوبہت پسند کیا گیالیکن فلم کو اس حد تک پذیرائی نہیں مل پائی اورباکس آفس پر سیمی ہٹ قرار پائی۔مرکزی کردارمیں باغیانہ جھلک کے حوالے سے ہندوستانی ویب سائٹ “فیکنگ نیوز” نے ایک سیٹائریکل فیچر چھاپا جس میں فلم کے مرکزی کردار اور ڈائرکٹر کی جانب سے یہ بیان دیا گیا تھا کہ بہت جلد رنبیر کپور باغی راک اسٹار کے روپ میں ٹی شرٹس اور پوسٹرز پر گوریلا انقلابی چی گویرا کی جگہ لے لیں گے۔

بھارت میں یہ تجربہ فلم تک محدود رہا لیکن پاکستان میں میوزیکل پرفارمنس ، ساٹھ اور ستّر کی دہائی کی انقلابی شاعری ، بائیں بازو کی اصطلاحات (جسے اب دائیں بازو کی جماعتوں اور سوشل نیٹ ورکس تک محدود لیفٹ کے تھکے ہوئے عناصر نے اپنا لیا ہے) کے سہارے عملا انقلابات لانے کا رجحان زور پکڑتا دکھائی دے رہا ہے

نوجوان گلوکار شہزاد رائے اپنی ایک میوزک وڈیو میں بغاوت پر آمادہ ایک نوجوان کے کردار کی منظرکشی کرتے “قسمت اپنے ہاتھ میں لینے کی دعوت دیتے ہوئے” خود کو میزائل حملے کا نشانہ بنتے دکھارہے ہیں اور اسی طرح کے میزائل حملوں پر سراپا احتجاج عمران خان کے جلسے میں “اٹھ باند کمر کیا ڈرتا ہے” گاتے ہوئے پائے جاتے ہیں، عمران کے اپنے لوگوں نے اسٹنگرز کے بل بوتے پرروس کے خلاف جہاد کیا تھا عمران نے “اسٹرنگز” کو ساتھ ملا لیا ہے اور علی عظمت اپنے فکری مرشد زید زمان حامد کی ہمنوائی کرتے دکھائی دیتے ہیں

سابق وزیراعظم نواز شریف کے فیصل آباد اور سندھ کے جلسوں میں بھی ہجوم اکٹھا کرنے کے لئے گلوکاروں کا سہارا لیا گیاسندھ کے شہر لاڑکانہ کے جلسے کے لئے لگائے گئےکیمپس سے لوگوں کو میاں نواز شریف کے جلسے سے خطاب سننے کی دعوت کے ساتھ یہ بھی بتایا جارہا تھا کہ اس موقع پر محفلِ موسیقی کا بھی انتظام کیا گیا ہے۔گانے کے لئے عوامی سطح پر مقبول گلوکار شمن میرالی کی خدمات حاصل کی گئیں تھیں، تاکہ لوگ تقریر سننے نہ سہی تماشہ دیکھنے کے بہانے ہی چلے آئیں

اب سیاسی عمل میں مقبولیت کی چانچ کا بنیادی عنصر تو بیلٹ باکس ہی ہے وہی اس بات کا فیصلہ ہوگا کہ کس کا شو زیادہ ہٹ رہا لیکن جب تک جانچ کا وہ مرحلہ آئے “سیاست میں میوزک” اور “میوزک میں سیاست” انجوائے کریں، ویسے بھی تماشہ کرنے میں اور دیکھنے میں کیا جاتا ہے

List of banned outfits: excision or exemption??

While Interior Ministry’s list of 31 organizations banned from collecting sacrificial animal’s hides include disused names of sectarian and Jihadi outfits. It misses two very important names. Jamaat-ud-dawa and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat. One can understand why JuD is missing in the list but ASWJ exclusion may raise a few eyebrows.

For starters let me remind that banned Sipah-e-Sahaba/Millat-e-Islamia and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are operating under a new name Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat. It is led by Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and is operating in cities of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Ironically the new adopted name is excluded from the list of banned outfits with restrictions on their fund raising and other activities. Is that a blunder, negligence or omission? Those observing their recent activities after the new embodiment can understand the reasons behind this excision.

The name of Sipah-e-Sahaba is synonymous to killing and obliterating lesser Muslims i.e. Shias, Ahmedis, Barelvis, lesser Pakistanis, i.e. Christians and Hindus and even lesser Deobandis. In the last two decades, while it has killed hundreds of Shias, it has not held itself back from killing dissidents in their own sect. Most of the attacks and bombings on security agencies personnels, offices and other places were carried down by the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and were involved in the attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team. The much reprobated Shahbaz Sharif call to Taliban for discontinuing attacks in Punjab was actually an appeal to the leadership of SSP/LeJ, which has not been let down by them.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) has many of its prominent leaders from SSP/Lej ranks. The present chief Hakimullah Mehsud, suicide bombing specialist Qari Hussain and one of their spokesmen Asmatullah Muawaia’s sectarian leanings are not a secret. SSP activists have jeered at Shias call of  “Salaam Ya Hussain” as “Salaam Ya Qari Hussain”, which I had seen an year ago on the shutters of a fair price shop of “Abdullah Enterprises” , a textile company located at 100 yard distance of Jamia Binoria SITE, and opposite to SITE Police station Karachi. In bughz-e-Shias they have cheered up a mass killer who is specialized in mass killings via his trained suicide bombers.

A new trend egressed since the political uprising in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the banned SSP leaders suddenly turned into patriots and admirers of Pakistan Army. They are openly carrying on public meetings in support of Pakistan Army’s decision to send troops to Behrain. In a meeting there in Karachi, their provincial head, Rab Nawaz Hanafi  was extolling Behrain king’s oppression of his shia population and aid by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan Army, saying “Behrain mey tau khoob pitaai horahai hei shiaon ki”.

Ahmad Ludhianvi, the man who was provided an opportunity of spreading hatred against Shias in Dunya TV talk show hosted by Asma Chaudhry too was full of extolments for Pakistan Army in their stance on the good Haqqanis, and offered 200 thousand volunteers in case of an encounter with United States.

And it’s the reason; its present leadership is enjoying political support and a free run in big cities of Punjab and in Karachi. Their central, provincial and lower leadership is conducting public meetings, processions and fund raising activities. Their flags, graffiti and slogans can be seen on the walls varying in their contents from place to place. One can see this variation by comparing what has been sprayed in Orangi and Baldia Town and painted near Asghar Ali Shah Stadium North Nazimabad.