Tick Tock VII

Nawaz SharifThe Supreme Court has ruled that Nawaz Sharif can return to Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif, you may recall, was the Prime Minister who tried to kill The General by refusing to allow The General’s plane to land in Karachi and immediately succumbed to the coup soon thereafter. He then fled to Saudi Arabia clutching a suitcase filled with gold and agreed not to return for 10 years. That’s what The General said, at least. Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, maintains that he was ousted, forced to sign an agreement at gun-point to stay in exile, and should not be denied his rights to return.

The Supreme Court agrees with Nawaz Sharif. Exile is bad.

In the meantime, Bhutto has given details of power-sharing discussions which include two elections, one with The General as The General and one with Pervez Musharraf as The Artist Formerly Known as The General.

Both exiled ex-PMs Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif will be back in Pakistan by October and running for re-re-re-election in December. And that, gentle readers, couldn’t be better news – the election, ie, not Bhutto or Sharif in power again! But as I have said many times, let the people choose.

What does it all mean? In terms of internal politics of Pakistan, this is tremendous news for the resurgent democratic movement in Pakistan. The full participation of the many political parties – including the Bhuttos and Sharifs – will guarantee that Pakistan start recovering from the despotic military regime. However, that is easier said than done. The military, under Musharraf, has become the largest land-owning, asset-controlling entity in Pakistan with ex- and current military officials serving across the civil and social landscape. How can that military be coaxed “back into the barracks”? It is quite probable that there are forces within the military eager to curtail their political vulnerabilities. The popular image of the military in Pakistani society has underwent tremendous change in recent years – from a highly valued and respected institution (the only “corruption-free” one) to a hegemonic and undesirable presence. I could argue that the military’s own interests lie in withdrawing from the political realm and re-burnishing its image and standing. Of course, the defense budget remains the highest expenditure in the country and no successive civil government will change that. By and large, the military cannot lose by “giving democracy back” to the country. That was, after all, what Musharraf claimed when he took control.

In terms of oft-mentioned “Talibanization” of Pakistan and the wider conflict with extremism, the answers are less apparent at the moment. Some certainties do exist: any civil government will continue to fully cooperate with the US efforts. In fact, the efforts in Waziristan would be strengthened by the participation of Baluchistani leaders at the Federal level [Baluchistan has always been a Federal/State controversy]. The elections will not result in any rise-to-power of Mullah Omar in Islamabad. And a democratic Pakistan will surely be a far valuable ally within the Muslim world. The uncertainties largely hinge on the nature of the elections – the participation of various groups and their freedoms to do so. It will also be a chaotic period which can make Pakistan vulnerable to further attacks and incursions.

However, the bottom line is that Pakistan needs full and immediate US support through the next six months. UN should take an interest in insuring fair elections. And the subsequent government should be cultivated and nourished throughout the full term.

See VI, V, IV, III, II, I for our journey so far.

غربت نسيب

صبا سے کرتے ەيں غربت نسيب زکِر وطن
تو چشمِ صبح ميں انسو ابهرنے لگتے ەيں
عرصەِ دەر کي جُهلساي ەوي ويرانە ميں
ەم کو رەنا ەے پر يوں ەي يوں نەيں رەنا
کب نظر ميں اي گي بےداغ سبزے کي بەار
کبهي کبهي ياد مين اُبهرتے ەيں نقشِ ماضي مٹے مٹے سے
اجنبي خاک نے دهندلا ديے قدموں کے ُسراغ
ميرے دل، ميرے مسافر
ەوا پهر سے حکم صارد
کە وطن بدر ەوں ەم تم
ديں گلي گلي صداييں
کريں رُخ نگر نگر کا
کە سراغ کوي پاييں
کسي يارِ نامە بر کا
ەر ِاک اجنبي سے پوچهيں
جو پتا تها اپنے گهر کا
سرِ کوەِ ناشياناں
ەميں دن سے رات کرنا
کبهي ِاس سے بات کرنا
کبهي ُاس سے بات کرنا
تمهيں کيا کهيں کە کيا ەے
شبِ غم بري بلا هے
ەميں يە بهي تها غنيمت
جو کوي شمار ەوتا
ەميں کيا برا تها مرنا
اگر ايک بار ەوتا
لحاظ ميں کوي کچه دُور ساتھ چلتا ھے
وگرنه دهر ميں اب خظر کا بهرم کيا ەے؟
کيا بهي فيض تو کِس بُت سے دوستانە کيا
تيرا غم ەے تو غمِ دەر کا جهگٹرا کيا ەے
ليکن ميرے دل، يە تو فقط ايک گهڑي ەے
ەمت کرو، جينے کو ابهي عمر پڑي ەے

Qurratulain Hyder

1193232402_e9649e9048_m.jpgNaim Sahib just emailed that the renowned Urdu author – Qurratulain Hyder has passed away at the age of 80.

“There was no one like her when she was alive. Future generations will place her above Ismat and the rest. She was the best writer of her generation, male or female. And said more and more profoundly than any of them. Her place in Urdu literature is secure beyond anyone else’s, except Manto.” — Naim

Some links: You can read Naim Sahib’s introduction from A Season of Betrayals: A short story and two novellas – a collection translated by him – which contains full biographical notes on Hyder; an excellent recording of her reading at LOC’s South Asian Literary Recordings Project; a recent post about her work by Hirsh Sawhney; an essay on Aag ka Darya by KumKum Sangari.

Questioning Jinnah

From the Gujarati literary journal Visami Sadi [may the internet gods smile upon whomever digitized it], May 1916, comes this nugget of a Q&A with Mohammad Ali Jinnah [link and translation via Daily Times] :

Q: What are the qualities a man should be admired for?

A: Independence (swatantrata).

Q: What are the qualities a woman should be admired for?

A: Taking care of the elderly (vrudhdha-dari).

Q: What do you think is true success in life?

A: To be admired and loved by people (lok-no chhah melavva-ma).

Q: What’s your favourite pastime?

A: Horse riding (ghode-savari).

Q: What’s your favourite flower?

A: Lilly.

Q: Who’s your favourite writer?

A: Shakespeare.

Q: What’s your favourite book?

A: Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas).

Q: What’s your motto?

A: Never be depressed (kadi nirash na thavu).

“To be admired and loved by people.” That does explain some things.

Sunday Reading for Post-Partitioners

Ah, the second week in August, when every wizened old editor’s attention turns to the “Partition of 1947”. Thoughtful pieces are commissioned on the violence of Partition, the communalism that brought about the horrible violence of Partition and the horrendous culpability of the British in bringing about the terrible violence of Partition (to add some topicality, Fred Kaplan unhinges about Iraq and India, this year). It does appear, to the casual reader of news in these here United States, that the only thing worth telling about South Asian history is that decade in the 40s and the communal killings.

  • Pankaj Mishra leads the pack with a rather starchy and frustrating article in the NYer, Exit Wounds. I can overlook that preciously Marie-Antoinettesque opening. I can even ignore that he faithfully reproduces the post-imperial narrative which robs Indians – any of them – of all their agency (Independence happened because Britain was weakened and US put pressure. Killings happened because British fueled separatism). But I just cannot let go of his conclusion which as usual ignores history and reduces analysis to simply spotting every recursion of the word “Islam” and then connecting the dots.1 More Mishra & Mishra & Mishra.
  • A random story about change and growth in Pakistan since 1947: The House of Kazmi
  • Khushwant Singh has a list of the dozen most significant novels about India by authors of Indian origins in the past 60 years. Jhumpa Lahiri?
  • I couldn’t agree more with Ahmed Rashid’s Musharraf’s State of Emergency. You can see my agreements down below or in my unpublished op-ed, Getting Pakistan Right.
  • Abir informed me about Jashn-e Azadi – a documentary by Sanjay Kak about Kashmir. I am curious to see the documentary and judging from the comments on the blog, there is a pretty harsh reaction to it from our beloved nationalists.
  • And finally, I link to this map, Terrorism on the Rise, not to make any political point but to highlight what Edward Tufte would herald as “beautiful evidence”. I am a design geek. Yes. In fact, I am such a geek that this NYT article on Highway sign typography is the best thing I have read in weeks.
  • update: William Dalrymple’s got Pakistan’s back.

Things will be slow and low on the CM front. Enjoy the dog days of summer.

  1. “Meeting Mountbatten a few months after partition, Churchill assailed him for helping Britain’s “enemies,” “Hindustan,” against “Britain’s friends,” the Muslims. Little did Churchill know that his expedient boosting of political Islam would eventually unleash a global jihad engulfing even distant New York and London. The rival nationalisms and politicized religions the British Empire brought into being now clash in an enlarged geopolitical arena; and the human costs of imperial overreaching seem unlikely to attain a final tally for many more decades.” []