Crazy Party, Of Course

Posted by sepoy on May 03, 2009 · 1 min read

I actually have a post on the cinemas of Pakistan, including the Capital hall and the insane cultural war they represent. (No, it's not what you'd think). In any case, Sabrina Tavernise in the NYT on the contradictions of Pakistan.


Blake | May 03, 2009

" On a spring night in Lahore, I came face to face with all that is puzzling about Pakistan.' What atavistic urge causes people to write banalities like this when South Asia comes into the picture? That old riff on Asia, Land of Contrasts. Which a reporter can apparently capture perfectly after spending a couple of days there. Ah well. "So which is the real Pakistan? Collapsing state or crazy party?" I'll choose C. And somewhere between the "old man sputtering" that the U.S. supports dictators in Pakistan and the "old man sputtering" that the U.S. supports dictators in Pakistan lies a story.

S.N.Rao | May 03, 2009

Interesting article. I think the following comment “Once you bring Islam into politics, it's hard to handle,” Mr. Naqvi said. “You don't have the tools to control it.” should have been Once you bring religion into politics, it's hard to handle,"..... “You don't have the tools to control it". I am worried that most of right wing political parties in the world are using more of religion to gain power like B.J.P in India, Republicans in U.S. to name a few.

elizabeth | May 03, 2009

Odd, given that her reporting from Istanbul generally avoided the "land of contrasts" shtick (which is endemic to so much western media coverage of Turkey....) Still, it is good to see the sentence "Pakistan is not a collapsed state" in the pages of the NYT--would that someone would tell the editorial board. (and congrats on yr continuing takeover of the media, sepoy)

Qalandar | May 03, 2009

Gotta love cinema art. My two image-additions:

Long Time Chapati Lover | May 04, 2009

Hmm. Did Tavernise comment on this.

sepoy | May 04, 2009

Low blow! You are no lover of Chapati! More seriously, I have major issues with this contradiction biz but Blake stole my thunder so I will leave it be.

Sanjeev Bery | May 04, 2009

"There is rural Pakistan, where two-thirds of the country lives in conditions that approximate the 13th century." This was the sentence that irked me the most. I can deal with the Fascinating Contradictions of The Mystical East. But what bugs me about lines like this -- which I also read regarding Afghanistan -- is that they take modern, present-day poverty and make it a living fossil drawn from the past. The Pakistani military's land grabs, as well as long-standing issues of elites opposing land reform, both speak to me of modern society elites making collective decisions that enforce modern rural poverty. A more accurate and useful sentence would be: "There is rural Pakistan, where two-thirds of the country lives in conditions that approximate 21st century poverty in developing nations across the planet."

Sanjeev Bery | May 04, 2009

Nice catch!

Conrad Barwa | May 04, 2009

Great, I had to google Sabrina Tavernise to find out who exactly she was, never heard of her till now. I feel so much better now I know, I thought it was some major academic I should have heard of. Well done long time chapati lover, in keeping track of sepoy's little foibles and crushes :D

Yes man | May 04, 2009

As of 2006, Pakistan's Human Development Index (HDI) is 0.539, higher than that of nearby Bangladesh's 0.530, which was formerly a part of the country itself. Pakistan's HDI still stands lower than that of neighbouring India's at 0.611. Incidences of poverty in Pakistan rose from 22—26% in the fiscal year 1991 to 32—35% in the fiscal year 1999. They have subsequently fallen to 25—26% according to the reports of the World Bank and the UN Development Program reports. These reports contradict the claims made by the Government of Pakistan that the poverty rates are only 23.1%.[1] According to estimates by international NGO's, 74% of Pakistan's population, or 122 million people, live under $2 a day, compared to 72.2% for Sub-Saharan Africa.[5], --- actually, “There is rural Pakistan, where two-thirds of the country lives in conditions that are worse than 21st century poverty in developing nations across the planet.”

Sanjeev Bery | May 04, 2009

Thanks for the info/perspective.

m. | May 05, 2009

a 21 century construction, yes, but i still think describing societies as a constellation of contradictions works--generally speaking - applies well to the us society.

sarahjane | May 05, 2009

My favorite bit: "Pakistan has a national airline that sells tickets online, and highway rest stops with air-conditioning and packaged cookies." You know you're civilized when ... Congrats to Sepoy. Let the media takeover be swift and painless!

omar ali | May 05, 2009

Amidst all this happy backslapping about the ignorant western media, its easy to miss that the country they are talking about is actually in rather bad shape. I am willing to bet a Chinese dinner with anyone who thinks that they can visit Swat for vacation this year without getting permission from the holy warriors. Or who thinks the civil war in Pakistan is not about to get uncomfortably hot. The following are excerpts from two emails from a friend who is sympathetic to the islamists.....I trust his opinion much more than any professor whose last visit to the islamic emirate of Waziristan was in the days of the good old british empire (the context is easy to guess in both emails): This "survey" is the biggest crock of S.... posted yet. (of course it is Farhat Taj and not you.) I was there on some business recently and I assure you this dude is not even close. Ignoring the "statistics" for a second, I even doubt the ability of the surveyors to conduct this "research" in Miranshah or Razmak. I even challenge Mr.Taj to just walk around the bazaar in Miranshah. This bazaar is bustling with Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Bosnians, some from EU countries and of course our Arab brothers. According to MY survey the foreign population is a little less than a third of the total . Any Waziri or Mehsud I spoke to seemed grateful to God for the priviledge of being able to host the "Foreign Mujahideen", Everyone, without exception, loathed the Drone attacks, as 90% casualties inflicted by them have been of civilians, mostly women and small children. "Anti-American" fellings are a little over a 100%. Regarding Pak Army's ability to carry out ANY incursion (most people laughed when I asked them this question) in this area, the question simply does not arise. The Pak Fauj has pulled back some 110 km from this area, near Bannu. While driving through this area I saw scores of abandoned check posts that were previously manned by the Army.They were full of pock marks from automatic fire and frequent car bombings. I witnessed a convoy of the Pak Fauj moving outside Bannu and you could see the terror in their eyes. They stopped all civilian traffic and had the drivers step out of the vehicles for fear of a car bomb attack. As they drove by they kept pointing their LMG's at the local populace till they had moved a good distance away. The foreign fighters, I was told, come here for some R&R while waiting to join the fight in nearby Afghanistan. Veg and fruits are cheaper than Lahore but flour is twice as expensive. Drones can be seen and heard almost constantly overhead and people have learned to live with it. These are a very Independent minded and fearless people and I cant imagine the Taliban or anyone else "forcing" themselves into their houses or hujras. Such a statement can only come from some soft idiot, totally oblivious to this culture and divorced from reality, writing from the safety of his air-conditioned office, far, far away. I am afraid I will have to disagree with Ms.Naqvi. Nobody views this struggle as "Good vs Evil",(except of course the Pentagon), least of all the soldiers themselves, who are being finagled into fighting their fellow country men to generate maximum U..S. aid. Desertions are a common and almost daily occurence. Many of the soldiers, at least in Waziristan, gave advance warning to villagers before attacking them, prior to the present cease fire. The ones that were "sincere to duty" didnt fare very well either. The entire 7 Baluch surrendered to less than a dozen people. There is a video of it. The Waziri's suggested a cease fire to the Army and asked them to retrieve their dead bodies after they had been left behind for more than a week under the open sky. I have seen videos of dogs feeding on them and some with maggots crawling out of their eye sockets. Yet the media shows this army as "gung ho" to "wipe out" extremism in the NWFP, the army that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Kargil, who never took back one inch of Kashmir (ironically the "Azad" Kashmir we have now with us was also captured by the same tribesmen we are trying exterminate now and NOT the Pak Army), who were unable to save East Pakistan, who lost the Siachen Glacier. So dont believe the hype. It seems that all their "valour" is reserved for ill-equipped, bare-footed (some of them) Muslim opponents. These are the folks on whom 155mm Howitzers and tanks and F-16's and Gunships are used. This is an army of cowards and mercenaries, fighting to forward the agenda of their American masters. You know, its so sad, a few days ago when I heard on GEO news the Pak Fauj had captured Lal Qila, for a fraction of a second, I thought (or hoped) it was the Lal Qila of our ancestors in Delhi and not the location near Lower Dir, but immediately came to my senses. This Army will never fight India again. After shedding so much innocent Muslim blood all that is in store for them now, is humiliation. (Like they never had it before). They should take off that emblem on their uniforms which states their motto as," Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabeelillah". It seems like a sick joke. So, no, I wont be tying any "Yellow ribbons" for these killers.

Yes man | May 05, 2009

So let's examine the "foreign" element, in the Pakistani militant islamist movement, or whatever you want to call it. You have millions of pushtuns in NWFP, Waziristan, FATA as Pakistani citizens. It's not clear if they even care about being citizens of pakistan or what have you, im sure most are educated about the Durand Line. Furthermore, you have millions more in Afghanistan coming and going through the porous border. And by the way, are pissed off at the americans... Then you have the uzbeks, who come from a country that is ruled by a vicious dictator. Islam Karimov has banned political parties and has killed numerous islamists. So now Pakistan is taking in these hard line islamist political actors, who can't go back to their country or risk getting killed... then you got the arabs. From algeria to iraq, armed with Saudi money and hoping to fight and hopefully die in battle. They fought in afghanistan in the 80s and they'll fight in pakistan now. Real bad guys, nasty. No political motivation for their struggle, just faith in the afterlife. You can't appease these types. Then you got the bosnians. Instead of traveling a couple miles west and making a living in france or germany, they travel halfway across the world to fight in NWFP. What can you say? Doesn't look good guys

Akbar | May 05, 2009

"Then you got the bosnians. Instead of traveling a couple miles west and making a living in france or germany, they travel halfway across the world to fight in NWFP. What can you say?" Hey Yes man, There are some other foreign elements in Afghanistan also worth pointing like Americans and their cousins from England and Australia and also the distant cousins from France/Germany/Poland/Denmark etc etc. Ever heard of AMERICAN/NATO/ISAF PRESENCE THERE Now I wish only if they were sane enough to think of "traveling a couple miles west and making a living in france or germany,"

Akbar | May 05, 2009

and here is an example of charity work these foreigners are doing for AF-PAK "HERAT, Afghanistan - Villagers brought truckloads of bodies to the capital of a province in Western Afghanistan on Tuesday to prove that scores of civilians had been killed by U.S. air strikes in a battle with the Taliban. The governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said about 30 bodies had been trucked to his office, most of them women and children. Other officials said the overall civilian death toll may have been much higher, with scores of people feared killed while huddled in houses that were destroyed by U.S. warplanes." Who would not cross non-borders to save their life?

omar | May 05, 2009

Akbar sahib, civilian deaths are civilian deaths. Whether killed by the Americans or the taliban or the glorious pakistani armed forces. It is indeed wrong for americans to go so far away to bomb wedding parties, but its still not OK for the taliban to blow up innocent school children (video available on youtube) as they march to school near a checkpoint on the road... or for colonel TM to push Balochis out of the open door of an MI-8 helicopter. Somehow, I do suspect a lot of it would go on irrespective of american presence there. I suspect that when the Chinese run the place, they too will bomb wedding parties, but its true that I cannot prove it yet. The holy warriors, for example, have already crossed borders many times to kill infidels in faraway places. And why cross borders at all? Modi did it in his own state. so did the taliban in Bamyan and Mazar e Sharif. in fact, we can go back in history and read about the tens of thousands killed in dozens of expeditions across so many borders. The Americans are only the latest empire to do the needful. Somehow, I dont think the empire of the holy warriors will be that much of an improvement (some people think they will kill less people because they are so primitively armed, but people with machetes killed half a million in Rwanda, I am sure the holy ones can make an impressive effort when they get their chance). Of course, Allah SWT has given us the blessed chance to stay out of the way of such crude brutalities. for now. The story about colonel TM is really true. Colonel sahib admitted to it after being accused of such "harsh steps" during a drinking session in Pakistan. Neither he, nor his drinking partners (I was too young to drink then) were too bothered by the unfortunate necessity of throwing people out of helicopters when you are doing counter-insurgency work. Its not work for the faint of heart.

Akbar | May 05, 2009

"Akbar sahib, civilian deaths are civilian deaths. Whether killed by the Americans or the taliban or the glorious pakistani armed forces." Omar, I do not know where you get the impression that I am "Taliban "sympathizer or condoning any deaths as a result of "Taliban "actions. I was pointing to an obvious omission while counting foreigners in the AF-Pak muddle. Another reason for my sarcasm may be that 'Civilized Nations" are doing the same as "Taliban" does then what is the difference.Infact there were no Taliban in AF-PAK before Russian invasion( as Z.Brzezinski boasted , how America goaded Russia into invasion) and subsequent grand Jihad by caolition of "People of BOOK' . So America and Pakistan Army is in killing/oppression business long before Taliban came on horizon. At least there should not be confusion about cause and effect . "Somehow, I do suspect a lot of it would go on irrespective of american presence there. I suspect that when the Chinese run the place, they too will bomb wedding parties, but its true that I cannot prove it yet." You are absolutely right if local people do not understand cause and effect, are not well prepared and well informed, there would be many more invaders with their mouths watering at the prospect of conquest.( As Robert Novak said before Bush re-election "Who is going to challenge GW BUSH, the conquerer of Iraq and Afghanistan?") "The holy warriors, for example, have already crossed borders many times to kill infidels in faraway places. And why cross borders at all?...." Now by throwing in Modi , you can conflate the extremists of all religious persuations but if you look carefully the motives may be to get more political control rather than either exterminate or convert all who disagree. Also people who are willing to give their own life might have different motives than what we assign to them i.e; irrational hatred. To begin with there are a couple of good books by Robert Pape (University of Chicago) titled "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism." and "Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War " I got better informed about American military and economical designs by reading the following 1) Blowback, The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (American Empire Project) by Chalmers Johnson 2)The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project) by Chalmers Johnson 3) Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (American Empir Project) 4)American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy by Professor Andrew J. Bacevich 5)The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by Andrew J. Bacevich 6)The Irony of American History by Reinhold Niebuhr and Andrew J. Bacevich and on economical front 7)Super Imperialism : The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominanc by Michael Hudson Now on Taliban Ahamad Rashid's book Iread. But on Neo-Taliban AKA Pakistan Taliban if you are anybody has suggested readings Iwill appreciate that,

Enafpak | May 05, 2009

Two great articles on TIP- Pakistan's Troubled “Paradise on Earth” by Kamran Asdar Ali Who are the "Taliban" in Swat? by Humeira Iqtidar

Begam Samru | May 05, 2009

Mysterious East, Contradictions of;...NYT Girl Getting Her Head around it all...RP Jhabvala stylee...and thus to Begam's main Frontier Beef: This latest Rendition of Pakistan as infant, "young State," epitomized in last sentence re: the lawyer with his "giant silver rattle"....Perchance time for "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

omar | May 06, 2009

Akbar sahib, My apologies, I was arguing with imaginary people. I just hope the "most important strategic front in the world" moves elsewhere in the next few years. Right now, things are not looking good from any angle.

Salman | May 06, 2009

Add this to the "Af-Pak muddle." Yikes! "Military officials at Bagram are caught on tape urging US soldiers to evangelize in the Muslim country." "The fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera guarantees that it will be seen throughout the Muslim world. It is likely to add more credence to the perception that the US is engaging in a war on Islam with neo-crusader forces invading Muslim lands."

Salman | May 07, 2009

Thanks. Great articles indeed.