Two Shorts

To the many “Pakistan” related things clamoring for your desensitized attention, may I add a couple more?

I. Artist and film-maker Sophiya Pandeya travels to Hingal, Baluchistan and visits “Nani Mandir” of Hinglaj Mata. This darshan tale is touching, illuminating and worthy of your time. You can watch it below. You can also see a picture gallery from KO of a trip to the same Park.

II. Sasti-Masti is a short made by director Ahmer Naqvi aka Karachikhatmal. A homage to Lollywood, to Lahore, to Ji-woon Kim’s Bittersweet Life, it works wonderfully on many registers – not the least being the tongue-in-cheek one.

Dominance Without Toleration

1. According to the 1998 census, there are slightly more than 2 million Christians (1.59% of total population) distributed roughly equally across urban and rural areas. As a minority the Christian community in Pakistan is predominantly located in the province (state) of Punjab. Although sizeable communities are found in the cities of Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar as well.
1a. The Objectives Resolution of 1949 stated that in the Republic of Pakistan “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their ultures;” The Objectives Resolution was made the preamble in the 1973 Constitution. The word “freely” was removed.

2. The Church of Pakistan was amalgamated from Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican churches in 1970.

3. The earliest recorded attack on Christian communities was in 1952, when a family of 7 were burned alive in the village of Matti. The criminals were caught, prosecuted and hanged.

4. During the first two decades of Pakistan, Christian communities were largely integrated. They had a political party and in the 1951 and 1954 elections, they won four seats (each) in the local Punjab Assembly.

5. The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan declared that “Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan” and restricted minority participation in government and politics.

6. General Zia ul Haq took over the state through a military coup in 1977 and the hung the deposed Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979. He also undertook a strict policy of “Islamization” through which laws and practices in the country were to brought in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence. Some of the most damaging new laws fell under the rubric of “Blasphemy”.

7. In 1980, he introduced Section 298-A under the Martial Law Ordinance which criminalized derogatory remarks against the earliest leaders in Muslim history, as well as the family and friends of the Prophet Muhammad. Section 298-B & C focused on disrespect to the holy book Qur’an as well as the declaration of apostasy towards the community of Ahmadis (a sect within Islam).

8. Section 298-A: Use of derogatory remarks etc. in respect of Holy Personages:

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife or members of the family of the Holy Prophet or any of the righteous Caliphs or companions of the Holy Prophet shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both

9. Section 295-B: Defiling etc. of copy of Holy Quran

Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.

10. Section 295-C: Use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet.

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

11. Furthermore, in 1980, General Zia ul Haq by constitutional amendment created the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) through Article 203-D which had the following powers:

The Court may, either of its own motion or on the petition of a citizen of Pakistan or the Federal Government or a Provincial Government, examine and decide the question whether or not any law or provision of law is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam, as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, hereinafter referred to as the Injunction of Islam.

12. In 1990, the FSC concluded that the “imprisonment for life” under Section 295-B and 295-C was unjust punishment according to Islamic law. The Sections were amended so that the only penalty remained was the death penalty.

13. The Blasphemy laws have become the main vehicle of prosecution and persecution of non-Muslims since 1980s. And, of ” other nonMuslims

14. In Gujranwala, Punjab, in 1994, three men (including a minor) were accused of writing derogatory remarks against the Prophet. The three Christians, Rehmat Masih, Manzoor Masih and Salamat Masih were arrested. Manzoor Masih was murdered while awaiting trial. The others were acquitted after two years.

15. In Faisalabad, in 1998, Dr. Bishop John Joseph publicly committed suicide. He shot himself in front of the court room of Justice Rana Abdul Jabbar Dogar in protest of a death sentence that had been passed out against a Christian Ayub Masih for blasphemy on April 27th, 1998.

16. A series of terrorist attacks occurred in 2001 and 2002 against Christian establishments, perhaps as a result of Pakistani cooperation with United States in the war in Afghanistan: In October 29th, gunmen killed 16 Christians in the St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church near Multan. A grenade attack on International Presbyterian Church in Islamabad on March 17th, 2002 killed five and injured 40. Unknown assailants attacked Murree Christian School on August 5th, 2002 and killed six people. Unknown assailants attacked the Mission Hospital in Taxila on August 9th, 2002 and killed 4 nurses, injuring 21 others. Seven Christian workers of the charity “Idara Amn-o-Insaf” were killed on September 24th, 2002.

17. In November 2005, three churches, two schools and hostels and several houses of the Christian community were burned by a mob in the city of Sangla Hill. The mob had mobilized on the rumor that someone had blasphemed against the Prophet.

18. On September 27th, 2007 the missionary couple Rev Arif Khan and Kathleen Khan were killed in their house in Islamabad on September 27th, 2007.

19. In August 2009, 60 Christian homes were burned in Gojra, 7 women and children were burnt alive. The accused were granted bail November 05, 2010.

20. Just on November 15, 2010, a man accused of blasphemy, upon release on bail, was shot dead by unknown assailants.

The inhumane legal treatment of so-designated “minorities” in Pakistan is starkly repugnant.

Sign your name.

update: The debased thinking that underpins the “blasphemy” consensus in Pakistan is fully at display in this column by one Professor Syed Asrar Bukhari.

Fake Talibothra

paleotalibothra2

Talking briefly on twitter with Joshua Foust (whose book Afghanistan Journal you need to purchase RIGHT NOW) I commented how draining the Af-Pak-Af world is now. I do not feel like I can respond to any outrage, any calamity, and new development, any more drone strikes. It all seems so pointless. We have all said everything so many times, what is left to say? I assume that the CM readers have places to go get their visceral outrage on.

Yet, even in that haze of muted anger, today‘s DexterFilkinia shone through in a startling way:

KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

Spy novel? No, this is not lifted from a spy novel, this is reality and we have been saying it is exactly this fucked up for a long, long time.

From WaPo:

American officials pursuing lower-level Taliban defections have also struggled with identifying who they are dealing with. The senior NATO official said that about 40 percent of the time the men turning themselves over to the government may not be the Taliban fighters they claim to be, but rather are looking for money or protection or something else.

“It’s hard to verify who they are,” the official said.

Afghan officials said they did not have the name of the man purporting to be Mullah Mansour.

“One would suspect that in our multibillion-dollar intel community there would be the means to differentiate between an authentic Quetta Shura emissary and a shopkeeper,” ssaid a U.S. official in Kabul who did not know about the particulars of the Mullah Mansour case. “On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It may have been Mullah Omar posing as a shopkeeper; I’m sure that our intel whizzes wouldn’t have known.”

YET.

We kill with impunity. Just from yesterday’s news:

A drone strike Sunday on a house in the village of Khaddi, also in North Waziristan, killed nine suspected militants including a local Taliban commander and two foreigners, the intelligence officials said.

The slain insurgent leader was identified only as Mustafa, and officials said he was linked to Sadiq Noor, a key Taliban figure in North Waziristan.

So, tell me, spy novel world, how is it that you cannot identify someone you give money to, someone you introduce to highest officials but you ask us to believe that you know without any doubt that someone you kill without any formal charge, any trial is the right target?

Yeah, it makes sense.

Coetzee on Empire

J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians, 1979.

Calf-deep in the soothing water I indulge myself in this wistful vision. I am not unaware of what such daydreams signify, dreams of becoming an unthinking savage, of taking the cold road back to the capital, of groping my way out to the ruins in the desert, of returning to the confinement of my cell, of seeking out the barbarians and offering myself to them to use as they wish. Without exception they are dreams of ends: dreams not of how to live but of how to die. And everyone, I know, in that walled town sinking now into darkness (I hear the two thin trumpet calls that announce the closing of the gates) is similarly preoccupied. Everyone but the children! The children never doubt that the great old trees in whose shade they play will stand forever, that one day they will grow to be strong like their fathers, fertile like their mothers, that they will live and prosper and raise their own children and grow old in the place where they were born. What has made it impossible for us to live in time like fish in water, like birds in air, like children? It is the fault of Empire! Empire has created the time of history. Empire has located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe. Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation. A mad vision yet a virulent one: I, wading in the ooze, am no less infected with it than the faithful Colonel Joll as he tracks the enemies of Empire through the boundless desert, sword unsheathed to cut down barbarian after barbarian until at last he finds and slays the one whose destiny it should be (or if not he then his son’s or unborn grandson’s) to climb the bronze gateway to the Summer Palace and topple the globe surmounted by the tiger rampant that symbolizes eternal dominion, while his comrades below cheer and fire their muskets in the air.

Both this book and Foe (1986) are worth your time.

“Waiting for the Barbarians” by Constantine Cavafy (1864-1933) , translated by Robert Pinsky:

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying their elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
There are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without the barbarians?
These people were a kind of solution.

We ♥ Lapata

LAPATA IS ON THE COVER OF PEN AMERICA, DUDE!

This is a moment of serious pride for CM. This issue is going to grace the neat stacks of pages and mail at the desk of Don DeLillo! I hope you join me in congratulating our very own, amazing cluster of sparkly-awesomeness Lapata.

More on Granta: Pakistan

Go read all of The Language of Developmental Literature by zunguzungu. But this brought smiles.

As I hope is clear, the appeal to the American example is specious on its own terms. But that’s what makes it such an interesting rhetorical move: however problematic it might be to declare that American literary history must be the model that Pakistan’s literary tradition should be expected to follow (and the answer is: quite problematic!), the fact that the “America” he’s holding up as exemplary isn’t actually the United States means we have to rethink what’s going on here even more fundamentally. He’s not only trying to impose a particular anti-historical model of “development” on Pakistani literature, but he has to first impose it on the United States.

I suspect that part of why James and Wharton are important to Freeman is that they allow “literary modernism” to become the origin point of a national literature (remember, Freeman “made a decision early on to focus on Pakistan writing of the modern nation, not of the region or of its languages,” a decision he neither defends or explains). Because the United States’ actual national literature originates in late-enlightenment and romantic era modes of identity,[1] the clock for American literature needs to be re-set to the moment that James lands in London or Wharton in Paris, thereby remaking “American literature” itself as the modernist, internationalist transcendence of the merely local, indigenous, national, etc. Which is the story Freeman seems to want to tell about Pakistan too: its literature doesn’t really begin until the moment it becomes modern. The fact that it had literature before that fabled and mythical clock-striking moment, therefore, is not so much denied as rendered irrelevant: such literature isn’t really national “literature,” because it precedes the nation, therefore anything that precedes the nation has to be quietly gotten rid of.

What I want to get at, in other words, is how the ahistorical nature of “development” discourse is its central feature. When Freeman declares that “when a nation declares its independence a different sort of clock starts…since the writing starts to help define borders as much as lines drawn up on a map,” he’s also talking about the old clock stopping, the necessity that we silently render the old histories silent. After all, to imagine that everything begins anew the moment you sign a declaration of independence (or whatever), you have forget that the old stuff still continues, to forget all the old stuff that characterizes the “pre-modern” state of things, and all the ways it still remains and evolves. You have to forget about Urdu, the same way F.O. Mattheissen had to forget about Royall Tyler. And we do this not by denying that they exist, but just by quietly passing over them. After all, to explicitly deny their importance would only recognize their importance as counter-narrative; better just to not talk about them. There just isn’t space, you see? And then, suddenly, there isn’t.

Cocoonistan

My post for the November issue of Bookslut goes up today. Here it is below, excerpted in full. The conversation has just begun, so please do join in the comments section.

I. Polemics
Years ago, when I was engaged in the pursuit of the Hindi PhD that I now have, I was approached for an interview by a reporter working for a local Hindi weekly. This was not because I was a notable scholar, but because my presence in the provincial city of Allahabad was odd enough to remark upon in print. At some point the reporter asked me how I liked Hindi literature in comparison to English literature, and if Hindi literature had even developed to a point that it could be compared to English. I tried to explain, in Hindi that was far from flawless, that if I thought Hindi literature was poorly developed, I wouldn’t have come so far to study it, and that in comparison to English it was perfectly good. When the article came out, the reporter had summarized my response along these lines:

Rockwell believes that Hindi literature has made great progress in its development and can even be compared to works of English literature.

The use of the kind of language we use to describe the economies and infrastructures of developing nations to discuss the literatures of so-called ‘third world’ countries is pervasive (pick up a copy of Aijaz Ahmad’s excellent book In Theory to read more about the third worlding of literature). How often do we hear about the development and progress being made in French or Italian literatures? This discourse is even endemic to the discussions about such literatures that take place among the very authors that write in them. Aside from the ludicrousness of talking about the development and progress of the novel or short story in the same style as one might discuss the building of bridges and the paving of roads, there is also the fact that very few literatures of the world are in their infancy. “Yes!” You might interject, “But surely the novel and the short story are quintessentially modern forms!” Indeed, perhaps they are (though there are many arguments to the contrary). Nonetheless, these forms date back to at least the late nineteenth century in most Indian languages. Other genres of writing in the modern Indian languages stretch back much further than that, some to the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, or even earlier, to say nothing of the antiquity of Sanskrit.

English, as the most powerful international language, dominates world conversations on just about everything, but wraps its native speakers in a cocoon that renders them increasingly unable to hear conversations that were not meant for their ears. The cocoon can alienate us from cultural diversity and deafen us to voices that are not speaking directly to us. In this way, as in many others, globalization both broadens our horizons and shrinks them dangerously. Nowadays, development discourse is often used to discuss the great progress that is being made on the front of new writing in English in India, and more recently, Pakistan. Besides the fact that this discourse infantilizes the literary output of writers in English, it paves over the very existence of literary traditions in other languages. As an English-speaking person who likes to read non-English literature from South Asia, I often feel irritable on encountering pronouncements about the extreme youth and great promise of Indian or Pakistani literature.
Continue reading Cocoonistan