issue
The American
nightmare

Hundreds of Pakistanis in the US face tough time as American immigration and customs enforcement personnel hound illegal immigrants
By Wajid Ali Syed
Kamran (not his real name) came to the United States in the late 1990s. Sponsored by his maternal uncle, who had also promised his daughter’s hand in marriage, Kamran imagined he would follow the same path as the other Pakistani immigrants he had heard about: Rich, living among “goris” and owning townhouses in Los Angeles or New York. He now says that he had a “delusional” view of America.

The fight goes on
Not many people know that the gallows where the legendary Bhagat Singh was hanged were in Lahore’s Shadman area. Activists are only demanding his due place in history
By Haroon Khalid
March 23, 1940, is an important date in the history of Pakistan. Just nine years before that, this date marked another watershed event in the history of freedom struggle of South Asia.

Yeh Woh
All is well
By Masud Alam
When things can’t get any worse, it’s time to rejoice because they can only get better from here. Look at Balochistan, the province that was on the brink of secession after the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti is a prosperous and peaceful land today — a shining example of turning challenges into opportunities. Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan was, in retrospect, a visionary bit of legislation that weaned Balochistanis off violence by providing thousands of jobs to locals, boosting infrastructure and profit margins of government contractors, and creating conditions for ethnic cohesion to take root. The Baloch who couldn’t sleep before killing a non-Baloch, and the soldier who couldn’t end his day without kidnapping a Baloch, are hugging each other tightly all through the length of Saryab Road. Those charged with treason have been pardoned and those who were made to disappear, are reappearing. And the province’s financial health is evident from the fact that the richest legislators in the parliament come from Balochistan.

controversial
Rewardingly yours
And the national award goes to — objectivity and merit or loyalty and cronyism
By Sarwat Ali
It was George Bernard Shaw who said that if you do not blow your own trumpet no one else will.
Of late one has seen the tendency to give national awards to those that are part of the ruling setup of the country. If I cannot give myself the award, who else will — the logic based on pure pragmatism cannot be faulted on this very count.

A contented man
An informal chat with Asfandyar Wali Khan who spells out his party’s future outlook
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
As a politician, Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan is a contented man.
“We have achieved all our objectives and fulfilled promises that my party made during the 2008 general election campaign. We have renamed North-West Frontier Province as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to give an identity to the Pakhtuns, won maximum provincial autonomy and closed the doors on the construction of the controversial Kalabagh Dam project,” he said during a recent meeting with this scribe.

While the
match is on

Watching cricket today has become a different ball-game
By Naila Inayat
One ball and four runs was the equation in the Pakistan vs Bangladesh Asia Cup 2012 final, amid some tense moments. I recall the last T20 against England where Pakistan required 6 off the last ball and it was Misbah facing Dernbach — life couldn’t get worse than that, I thought. But that was then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

issue
The American
nightmare

Hundreds of Pakistanis in the US face tough time as American immigration and customs enforcement personnel hound illegal immigrants
By Wajid Ali Syed

Kamran (not his real name) came to the United States in the late 1990s. Sponsored by his maternal uncle, who had also promised his daughter’s hand in marriage, Kamran imagined he would follow the same path as the other Pakistani immigrants he had heard about: Rich, living among “goris” and owning townhouses in Los Angeles or New York. He now says that he had a “delusional” view of America.

The reality came as a shock to Kamran — a reality that bore no resemblance to the American Dream he had seen on television. He was alarmed to discover that the uncle was not a successful import-export businessman, but a front desk manager at a local clothing store. Rather than paving the way for his future son-in-law, as he claimed, Kamran’s uncle made it clear that when it came to making money it would be sink or swim.

Unlike many Pakistanis who boast that they came to the United States with just ten dollars in their pocket and made a success of their lives, Kamran was empty handed and remains “unsuccessful”. Hence, like hundreds of immigrants, he had to take odd jobs, from driving a taxi cab in the suburbs of Virginia to working at an Indian restaurant and helping his cousin in his property dealing business.

His dream of making millions and transferring the dollars to Pakistan to lead a comfortable life was shattered when his marriage to his cousin did not work out. He blames it on the cultural differences. He later became a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), but after the separation had to move out of his uncle’s place. For the next several years, he lived in the suburban area and shared a small two-room apartment with four fellow countrymen — all well educated and all struggling. They had to work, clean, cook and sleep in different shifts.

Kamran eventually tied the knot with a distant relative and had two kids. He moved to a new place and started working as a street vendor selling hot dogs at a local mall in the suburbs of Virginia and got a job at a gas station near his house. Just as his life was getting settled, fate dealt him a blow. On his way back from work, he mistakenly violated a traffic law. He was arrested and released after paying a fine. But the story did not end here.

In late December of 2009, in the middle of a dark and cold night, a few people showed up at his place, knocking the door and screaming, “This is the Police. Open up.” The four-member family was terrified and decided not to respond. The very next morning, he was picked up by representatives from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), whose agents have broad powers to arrest without a warrant. Apparently, they had been waiting for him to come out. Kamran was detained immediately and was sent to an immigration jail.

ICE is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that was established by the Bush administration in 2002. The DHS’s mission is defined as making “a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimise the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.” Its subsidiary departments like ICE and USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) have been doing the dirty work — detaining and deporting residents and non-residents.

“Detention is used to deter immigrants from coming to the United States. The US policymakers see the process as a political “quick fix” to broken immigration policies,” says Detention Watch Network, a Washington-based organisation that considers detention a dire human rights issue. “Immigrants in detention are regularly denied basic due process rights. ICE frequently refuses to share information or allow visits to facilities, resulting in the public having little knowledge of harsh conditions and rights abuses within the system,” the DWN website points out.

Even though ICE was established by President Bush, deportations have reached a record high under Barack Obama. In 2001, the US detained approximately 95,000 individuals. Former President George Bush deported about 30,000 undocumented immigrants in his final year in office. By 2011, the number of individuals detained annually in the US had grown to approximately 400,000. “Overall, in fiscal year 2011, ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations removed 396,906 individuals — the largest number in the agency’s history,” said ICE Director John Morton in a statement. “Of these, nearly 55 per cent or 216,698 of the people removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanours — an 89 per cent increase in the removal of criminals since FY 2008,” the agency director added.

Part of the reason for the explosion of arrests is a programme called Secure Communities. It is a federal immigration enforcement programme according to which fingerprints from individuals booked into local jails — many on minor infractions — are sent to the DHS for an immigration check, triggering arrests. Top ICE official John Morton called Secure Communities “the future of immigration enforcement” because it “focuses our resources on identifying and removing the most serious criminal offenders first and foremost.”

The programme has come under controversy, however, for misrepresenting who is being picked up and what is expected of law enforcement partners. Secure Communities was created administratively, not by congressional mandate, and to date, no regulations have been promulgated to govern the programme’s implementation.

A new report points out that large numbers of US citizens are also getting caught in the dragnet. A study released by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law found evidence of wrongful arrests, detentions and strong indications of racial profiling. Approximately, 3,600 US citizens have been arrested by ICE through the Secure Communities programme even though citizens, by definition, should not be subject to immigration detention. Around 88,000 families of US citizens have been affected by Secure Communities through the immigration arrest of a family member.

Among the thousands removed over the last three years were Pakistanis charged by US authorities with a variety of offenses including overstay, illegal entry, failure to comply visa conditions, fraud, moral turpitude and aggravated felony, according to the Pakistani Embassy documents. “There were 9 cases of deportation in the Washington metropolitan area, the same number in Los Angeles and Houston, 10 in Chicago and 44 in New York. The number of Pakistanis deported raised to 94 in year 2010. Last year some 17 individuals were sent back to Pakistan from Washington DC area, 5 from Los Angeles, 9 from Chicago and Houston and 38 from New York. This list included male and female deportees. All were issued temporary passports to fly back.”

It’s almost impossible for the Embassy to compile such a data since the Embassy is approached by the US authorities when the process is complete.

There were many who were picked up by the ICE from their work places, Kamran shared with TNS, saying that “they would round people up and ask for the identification, and if you failed to prove they would throw you in jail.”

“The deportation process usually begins when an individual is taken from his house or work and put into immigration detention. It continues with a hearing in front of an immigration judge. Normally, the first hearing is set around 5 to 10 days after the individual is placed into detention,” says California-based immigration lawyer, Brian Lerner. “There are no government-appointed attorneys for individuals in deportation proceedings, basically forcing the individuals to take volunteer deportation option.”

After ICE arrested Kamran, his wife faced an ordeal that has become a familiar torment to families trying to find their loved ones who have been swallowed in the deportation machine: Determining his whereabouts. Immigrants jailed and awaiting deportation are routinely moved from one facility to another, sometimes across the country, with no warning and no notification to the families.

By the time Kamran’s wife had hired an immigration attorney, Kamran had already been moved several times. When after two weeks of incarceration his case was heard before an immigration judge, Kamran discovered that the local police who had arrested him for his traffic violation had shared the information with the ICE, who determined a document was missing from his file that could prove he was a legal resident. He got released on a bond and straightened his paper work with the help of his ex-in laws.

During the weeks that Kamran was away, his family had to borrow money from relatives for day to day expenses. He was fired from his second job at the gas station. Although his immigration status is resolved, he has been suffering from the trauma of his incarceration. He has no resources to relocate to another country, as he puts it. He has no choice but to try to make his life better in the land of opportunities, once again.

 

The writer is Jang/Geo correspondent in Washington

 

The fight goes on
Not many people know that the gallows where the legendary Bhagat Singh was hanged were in Lahore’s Shadman area. Activists are only demanding his due place in history
By Haroon Khalid

March 23, 1940, is an important date in the history of Pakistan. Just nine years before that, this date marked another watershed event in the history of freedom struggle of South Asia.

That night, just after midnight, Bhagat Singh, along with his comrades Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged in the Lahore jail. That jail still exists, however, it has been reduced in size now. Earlier it spread all over Shadman, today a populated area in Lahore. The gallows, where these three freedom fighters were hanged, was near the Shadman Chowk. On the base of a fountain in Shadman Chowk, red spray paint reads ‘Bhagat Singh Chowk’ in Urdu and English. Another graffiti says ‘Long live revolution’.

The demand to rename the Chowk has gained considerable momentum in recent years, with various organisations participating regularly every year. A few of them are Institute for Peace and Secular Studies, Punjab Lok Rehas and Labour Party. The attendants are increasing everyday and it seems that soon the government will have to concede to the demand. Like last year, Indian delegates, including the famous author Kuldip Nayyer and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, also came to the candle light vigil arranged at the chowk.

Bhagat Singh was a dedicated communist, inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. He was born in a small village called Banga, Tehsil Jaranwala, District Faisalabad, a little more than an hour’s drive from Lahore. His ancestral house still exists there, occupied by Advocate Sanaullah, who makes every effort possible to preserve it as it was. Nearby is also his primary school, now in a dilapidated condition.

Singh came from a family of freedom fighters. His uncle Ajit Singh supported the Ghaddar Movement, a Punjabi dominated movement meant from the early 20th century to overthrow the British government and establish a local one. Singh was inspired by this movement.

Later, he became inspired by the non-violence movement of Gandhi, but became disillusioned when Gandhi called it off at the peak of its success after acts of violence, known as the Chauri Chaura incident. Singh got inspired by more radical ideas of overthrowing the government, which required a forceful struggle, as he considered the oppressor to be brutal.

He moved to Lahore, where he joined the National College, situated in the Bradlaugh Hall on Rettigan Road. This building stands locked near the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences. This college was founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, a member of the Indian National Congress, dedicated to the freedom of India. A revolutionary college, Singh adopted a lot of his ideas from here. He also met his compatriots here, with whom he later set up his own political party called the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, with its office in Mozang, Lahore. The party believed that a violent oppressor like the British government cannot be faced with a non-violent resistance.

Singh was a part of a delegation that opposed the arrival of the Simon Commission at the Lahore Railway Station in 1927. This was an all British commission meant to recommend constitutional reforms in the country. All the major Indian political parties were opposing the commission because of its all British constitution. During the protest, Lala Lajpat Rai was injured by the baton-charge of the police, which eventually resulted in his death. This police charge was ordered by the Superintendent of Police (SP), James A. Scott, whose office was the same as the current SP office opposite the Islamia College, near the Government College, Lahore.

Singh vowed to take revenge for the death of his mentor. On 17th October, Singh along with Sukhdev stood outside the SP office, hiding behind a Neem tree, to kill Scott. In a mistake of identity, they killed his subordinate John P. Saunders. Years later when Singh handed himself over to the authorities, he was trialed for this murder for which he was awarded death.

However, by this time Singh had become a legend. “On The Mall, near the Lahore High Court, one could get small pin-ups of Bhagat Singh that could be put up on shirts. They were very popular and everyone used to wear them at that time,” recalls F. E. Chaudhry, a 103-year-old photographer, who resides in Lahore and witnessed the time when this was happening.

“Bhagat Singh had become a law and order situation for the British by the time he was captured. The jail manuals say that one can only be hanged at 4:00am. However, to avoid a violent situation the British hanged him sometime after midnight, against their own rules. They couldn’t find any magistrate to witness the assassination, another requirement of the law; such was his popularity. No local judge wanted to take over that responsibility. They found one Honourary Judge from Kasur,” says Iqbal Qaiser, an expert on Punjab’s history and culture.

And yet so many years after his persecution, it seems as if the ghost of Singh still haunts the city of Lahore, where he spent the founding years of his life.

The demand to rename this chowk started during the Zia era. A number of political representatives have over the years promised to officially recognize the roundabout as Bhagat Singh chowk; however nothing has happened in so many years. The Governor of Punjab during the Musharraf era, Lt. General (Retd) Khalid Maqbool, conceded to rename this chowk. Last year, the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, Asif Hashmi, also promised to have the roundabout renamed after the freedom fighter, but nothing has happened.

For the activists and the lovers of Singh, this chowk is already Bhagat Singh Chowk.

 

Yeh Woh
All is well
By Masud Alam

When things can’t get any worse, it’s time to rejoice because they can only get better from here. Look at Balochistan, the province that was on the brink of secession after the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti is a prosperous and peaceful land today — a shining example of turning challenges into opportunities. Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan was, in retrospect, a visionary bit of legislation that weaned Balochistanis off violence by providing thousands of jobs to locals, boosting infrastructure and profit margins of government contractors, and creating conditions for ethnic cohesion to take root. The Baloch who couldn’t sleep before killing a non-Baloch, and the soldier who couldn’t end his day without kidnapping a Baloch, are hugging each other tightly all through the length of Saryab Road. Those charged with treason have been pardoned and those who were made to disappear, are reappearing. And the province’s financial health is evident from the fact that the richest legislators in the parliament come from Balochistan.

Now that the government has confirmed that there is no Taliban shura in Quetta, and the army has confirmed that there is no military operation being carried out anywhere in the province, prospects of peace have never been brighter. Dividends of peace and harmony in Balochistan will be shared by Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi too when hundreds of billion dollars’ worth of natural resources in Reko Diq and Chamalang are fully exploited.

War against terror in Fata is meeting one after another success. Terrorists are being targeted by Pakistani troops on the ground and by US drones in the skies. They are on the run but are not being allowed to cross the Attock bridge, thus forcing them to blow themselves up in the suburban mosques of Peshawar and Kohat rather than hitting the prize targets in Islamabad and Lahore. Simultaneously, opening up Fata for political reforms has been a stroke of sheer genius, in that it has provided militants an opportunity to control tribal areas as armed politicians rather than as armed rebels. This strategy is sure to transform Fata into a thriving and peaceful environment like that of Karachi.

People’s Party has always been in the forefront of providing present and future leadership to the democratically minded Pakistanis. The former chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, gave us both Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as her own replacement. The current prime minister gave us his two sons and a brother as our future leaders. Not to be outdone in this important public service mission, the opposition N-League has offered up not just sons and sons-in-law of Shareefs, but their family friends and their progenies as well. And Q-League, that has served the country equally well under the thumb of a military and a civilian president, has its own humble contribution in the persons of young Chaudhrys eager to pick up from where their elders left off. With this bustling pool of young talent, Pakistan has enough leadership to last us another lifetime.

Having suffered discrimination and violence for generations, the Pakistani woman is now safe from harassment at workplace and from acid attacks, thanks to landmark legislation done by the existing parliament. These laws have discouraged men to treat women as a commodity and given every woman the confidence to walk alone all over Margalla hills, wearing kilos of gold, without fearing sexual harassment or robbery. The legislation builds on the initiatives taken by the former government of Gen Musharraf to raise the profile of women in parliament by asking male politicians to bring their womenfolk to fill the reserved seats. Having empowered women both inside the parliament and on the street, the human development index of Pakistan is set to rival that of Scandinavian countries.

An unprecedented spirit of cooperation and mutual respect between army, higher judiciary and the executive is the most visible sign of maturity in the state institutions. The judiciary hauling in prime minister and the army alike, the army seeking justice through the courts, and the executive alternately respecting and disrespecting the highest court, is proof enough that the system has come of age and each institution is capable of defending itself and kicking others in the teeth.

Based on these observations, Pakistan is headed for an era of political stability which in turn will yield economic and social progress, and will make us part of the civilised world, if only we re-elect the current governments for another five-year term. It is not difficult to imagine and foresee this outcome, especially on April Fool’s day.

 

[email protected]

 

 


controversial
Rewardingly yours
And the national award goes to — objectivity and merit or loyalty and cronyism
By Sarwat Ali

It was George Bernard Shaw who said that if you do not blow your own trumpet no one else will.

Of late one has seen the tendency to give national awards to those that are part of the ruling setup of the country. If I cannot give myself the award, who else will — the logic based on pure pragmatism cannot be faulted on this very count.

If one goes through the list of the names of those given awards in various categories, it is a who is who of the ministers, figures belonging to the ruling parties and even secretaries serving in various departments of the government. Some of those given the awards are even members of the committee entrusted with the national responsibility of deciding the issue purely on objectivity and merit.

The awards in Pakistan have been a subject of controversy and there have been cases when it was seen that merit had not been rewarded. But in this year’s list, the number of such entries is overwhelming.

It has also been seen that this government is particularly generous with rewarding and dispensing awards. Hardly a day passes when some reward is not announced for someone inside or outside the country. It is also likely that the member of the committee or the convener is fully deserving of the award, but humankind has not accepted the rule or the principle that the person decides for himself or herself on one’s greatness. It may be said that even if the member or the convener is richly deserving of the award, the stature of the reward is diminished if granted by the same committee.

Proverbially, even God needed the prophets to communicate to the world His omniscience. It is well within His powers to do so, but He chose the prophets to add objectivity to a self-evident truth.

The brightly-lit glare is tainted by the member deciding on himself/herself as being worthy of the award, thus questioning its objectivity and rejecting its merit. Even if the person fully deserves the award, he or she should invariably say no for the sake of one’s own reputation and stature. The impartiality of the national awards in theory implies that the nation is honouring its most outstanding citizens or those foreigners who have been particularly helpful to the state. Needless to say, the services of these citizens should be above reproach and known to most or at least those who are part of the small group of specialists. The integrity and fairness of the award has to be maintained at all costs.

But over the years, under successive regimes, the impartiality and fairness of these awards have been questioned and it seems that many are rewarded unfairly for either their connections or some service they might have performed for an individual which does not have any impact on the national or international stage. The question of national awards all over the world is a contentious one. Kings and mighty monarchs rewarded those who were loyal and faithful to their dynasties and it was not always that an independent soul was glorified.

During the communist era, the awards/prizes were awarded on being ideologically sympathetic to the cause for which the state stood. In the West, awards are more biased in favour of values like human rights and free society, though they leave it to themselves to define it so.

There has been no shortage of rulers who have self rewarded themselves. Ayub Khan made himself Field Marshall. The only war he fought was the 1965 war for which he should have been court martialled. Actually, it was a comedown for him because Qudratuallah Shahab had sincerely advised him to proclaim himself a monarch. He in his humility settled for something as minor as a Field Marshall. And every now and then, a leader is seized by the idea of becoming an amir-ul-momeneen. Many have just been a whisker away from claiming for themselves this title of being Absolute Rulers and there was this African ruler who had decorated himself so much that he had no place left to hang his medals on. They started from his neck right down to his ankles and there were still some left in his closet. And one should not forget Napoleon who, when about to be crowned monarch by the Pope, wrested the crown from his hands while bowing down and wore it himself. He said nobody was good enough to crown him not even the Pope as was the custom, but he himself.

The awards should be just and given to those whose services and contributions are seen to be above reproach. And there should be some criteria that has to be upheld, some benchmark that has to be maintained. Any person winning the award should be respected and looked up to, the recognition shared by all or at least those in knowledge or privy to the significance of the person’s contribution.

The stature of any award is judged by the fact that it should be seen to acknowledge merit. This quota system mentality has usually done more harm than good to the people or the area that it is supposed to look after.

Even the most prestigious awards like the Nobel Prize are not seen to be transparent and voices are raised against it. It has been observed that usually the peace or literature prizes do not always really measure up to the highest standards of critical judgement. When President Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize, it was followed by plenty of derisive hue and cry.

But an effort should be made to keep the award impartial, meeting some high standard and not distributed like dime a dozen. Only then these awards will have some value and worth, otherwise they will continue to be seen as payback gesture for loyalists and cronies.

 

 

A contented man
An informal chat with Asfandyar Wali Khan who spells out his party’s future outlook
By Rahimullah Yusufzai

As a politician, Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan is a contented man.

“We have achieved all our objectives and fulfilled promises that my party made during the 2008 general election campaign. We have renamed North-West Frontier Province as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to give an identity to the Pakhtuns, won maximum provincial autonomy and closed the doors on the construction of the controversial Kalabagh Dam project,” he said during a recent meeting with this scribe.

Referring to his late father Khan Abdul Wali Khan, he recalled that the founder president of the ANP had highlighted these three issues during his last major speech at the party headquarters, Bacha Khan Markaz, in Peshawar. “For us it was his last will and the moment brought tears to our eyes because it was Baba’s parting wish before he died. He wished our province was renamed, he wanted provincial rights and autonomy and he hoped the Kalabagh Dam project would be scrapped as it was harmful to the interests of the Pakhtuns and their province,” he recalled.

The 63-year-old Asfandyar Wali was relaxed and forthright as he spoke at the official residence of Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, who happens to be his nephew (his sister’s son), in Peshawar. The party’s provincial president Senator Afrasiab Khattak and the ageing Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, the federal minister for the crisis-ridden railways, were also present.

Asfandyar Wali, born in Wali Bagh, Charsadda on February 19, 1949, studied at the Aitchison College, Lahore, Islamia Collegiate School, Peshawar and the University of Peshawar. He was active in students’ politics from the platform of the Pakhtun Students Federation and was arrested for taking part in the countrywide agitation against the military regime of President Ayub Khan. He was jailed in 1975 along with other ANP leaders by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government after the assassination of PPP leader Hayat Sherpao in a bomb explosion and later sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Hyderabad Tribunal. He was released early in 1978 by General Ziaul Haq’s regime, but stayed away from electoral politics until 1990 when he was elected an MPA.

He won election as an MNA from Charsadda in 1993 and 1997, but was defeated in 2002. He again won his home seat from Charsadda in 2008 while losing from Swabi. Asfandyar Wali was first elected the ANP central President in 1999, resigning in 2002 after losing his National Assembly seat. He was re-elected the party chief in 2003 and is still occupying the office.

The ANP leadership is confident that it would do well in the coming general election on the basis of performance of the provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The ANP is not only the senior partner in the coalition government with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), but it also dominates the policy-making in the province.

As the ANP leaders believe the forthcoming polls could take place in October this year, they are already considering plans to reach out to the electorate keeping in view the threats posed to them by the militants belonging to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The Hakimullah Mahsud-led TTP has been attacking ANP leaders and their public meetings and has repeatedly threatened to launch more such attacks. The ANP has lost scores of party activists, including lawmakers, in these attacks, but its leadership is defiant and has pledged to continue to fight the militants.

Asfandyar Wali, who survived a suicide bombing at his hujra in Wali Bagh in Charsadda district on October 3, 2008 when he was receiving party workers and well-wishers offering him greetings on Eidul Fitr, said he was aware of the threats and would have to devise a strategy to safely run the ANP election campaign. “We could hold corner meetings in walled compounds. We have to find a way to approach the voters without exposing anyone to harm,” he added.

The ANP head pointed out that his party held some big public meetings recently after a long time not only to show its strength but also demonstrate that the security situation in the province had improved. “I spoke at huge public meetings in Charsadda, Swabi, Mardan and Peshawar. The one in my native Charsadda broke records in terms of attendance. The ANP also managed to organise public gatherings in Swat and other places in Malakand division despite threats,” he pointed out.

When asked about his party’s chances in the next general election, Asfandyar Wali was candid enough to concede that it may not get the same number of assembly seats as in 2008 due to the incumbency and other factors. He argued that the ANP had performed well while in power by undertaking unprecedented development work and winning provincial rights and identity for the province, but ruling parties are often affected in Pakistan by the incumbency factor. He felt the province would have a coalition government again as parties would have to join hands to gain majority in the provincial assembly.

Regarding the possibility of an electoral alliance between the ANP and PPP for contesting the coming polls, Asfandyar Wali said no decision had been made yet, but all options are open. “We could preferably contest the polls separately and join hands after the election as we did the last time,” he opined.

On his relations with President Asif Ali Zardari due to the general belief that the ANP has been the most steadfast supporter of the President and the PPP these past four years, Asfandyar Wali reminded that his party never betrays allies. He said President Zardari accommodated the ANP viewpoint and his party backed him at crucial times. “Zardari sahib is a friend of friends. We are grateful to him for using Pakhtunkhwa as the name for our province at home and abroad even before the constitutional amendment for formally changing its name,” he added.

When asked about his relations with his stepmother, Begum Nasim Wali Khan, following the rejection of her application for the party ticket recently to contest the Senate election, he explained that she in the end accepted the decision of the ANP parliamentary board and didn’t appeal against it. “Our relations are okay. I also try to help Lawangeen Khan, the son of my late brother Sangeen Wali Khan, and this is having a positive effect on our relationship,” he said. He recalled that Begum Nasim Wali’s brother Azam Hoti had also told her before the Senate polls that she should not become a candidate due to her old age and poor health. “The parliamentary board gave the ticket on the reserved seat for women to the daughter of our martyred ANP activist and my university colleague Sher Mohammad Khan who lost his life in a bomb explosion,” Asfandyar Wali added.

Conceding that security reasons had kept him away from his constituency in Charsadda, the ANP President stressed that he tried to stay in touch by meeting party workers in Peshawar and Islamabad and doing whatever was within his power to meet their needs and those of his voters. “I have helped sanction record development projects for Charsadda. I have also devised a system under which the families of old Khudai Khidmatgars who offered sacrifices as freedom-fighters for the nation and the party are assisted in finding jobs for their young members. We need to reward our diehard workers and martyrs,” he said.

When questioned about charges of corruption against him and his party’s government, Asfandyar Wali maintained that no evidence had been presented by those making the accusations. “They could look at my passport and see how many times I have travelled to Malaysia where I am accused of having bought property. It isn’t true. Due to security reasons, I asked my son to relocate to Dubai and do some work there,” he said.

By the way, his son Aimal Wali Khan recently travelled to Charsadda with Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti due to the improved security situation. He is beginning to dabble in politics with an eye on a future career as politician. Aimal Wali got married to the daughter of the newly elected ANP Senator and the party’s Sindh President Shahi Syed last week. Asfandyar Wali hosted a wedding reception in Charsadda for around 6,000 guests and then arranged the walima in a five-star hotel in Islamabad.

These are happy days for Asfandyar Wali and his family and that is the reason for him to describe himself as a contented man.

 



 

While the
match is on

Watching cricket today has become a different ball-game
By Naila Inayat

One ball and four runs was the equation in the Pakistan vs Bangladesh Asia Cup 2012 final, amid some tense moments. I recall the last T20 against England where Pakistan required 6 off the last ball and it was Misbah facing Dernbach — life couldn’t get worse than that, I thought. But that was then.

What if Aizaz Cheema bowled a no-ball? What if a thin edge from Shahadat Hossain’s bat took the cup across the boundary line? A plethora of thoughts rushed my mind as I tweeted, “On the verge of a heart attack. Kom on #Pakistan!”

The tweet did release some pressure off me but it was the ball after that did the magic. We saw team Pakistan win the Asia Cup after 12 years.

The Pakistani fans went berserk all over the social media. Congratulatory Facebook statuses poured in and tweets applauded:

“Geoff Boycott asked prior to the tournament, does anybody really care about the #asiacup. The tears at the end answered that question” @Saj_PakPassion. “Great team performance Green shirts.

You finally did it despite so many of our crossed fingers, toes, limbs etc…” Husain’s FB status read.

This is what closing doors of international cricket on Pakistan has done to this cricket crazy nation. Watching cricket today has become a different ballgame altogether. Now you are not in isolation as all those ‘Friends’, ‘Acquaintances’, ‘Group Lists’, ‘Followers’, ‘Contacts’ and ‘Tweeters’ are in the ground with you.

The entire experience has changed. It’s not just watching the game and having an opinion about it. It’s multi-tasking, watching the game, forming an opinion and venting out your anger, frustration, highs and lows on the social media while the match is on.

Many fans believed it was Wahab Riaz who cost us the match against India on March 18. The cricketer was stormed by angry fans on his twitter channel; the tweets were offensive and forced Wahab to get into what can be called a ‘twitter spat’. One of his tweets read, “Listen guys you can talk about my performance, but don’t put up vulgar comments” @wahabviki.

Later, the player was so hurt by the nasty tweets that he deleted his twitter account in protest. Howzat for a reaction?

If you ask Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis, they’ll certainly envy this lot, as way back in the 1990s the players’ homes were attacked after crunch games like the 1996 quarter-final defeat against India or the 1999 World Cup final loss against Australia.

There is humour and sarcasm in the posts that the fans place on their walls. Our captain Misbahul Haq, the man who was first appreciated for his cross-bat sweeps and cool temperament is now best known as ‘Quaid-ul-TUK TUK’ in social media circles.

The latest edition to this string of posts is ‘Misbah Plays Took Took With My Heart’ a masterpiece by Danish Ali featuring a helpless Afridi and a sorry Misbah along with a guest appearance by Rameez Raja. The video uploaded on YouTube already has 73,401 hits and you have got to watch it.

If you are a Misbah-fan, I would suggest relax because these Facebookers, Tweeters, YouTube users are ruthless and unforgiving to say the least.

Only if PTV Sports could measure their love for the game, it would not have spoilt it the way it did: “PTV Sports, who asked you to show Asia Cup matches? Turning 6-ball overs into 5 balls” wrote Amna. “Bhai yeh Toyota apnay pass rakho aur humay match dekhnay du,” read Alisha’s status.

There were some who didn’t approve of PTV Sports not showing the presentation ceremony properly. “The ending was corrupted by the placement of patriotic numbers by the pathetic #PTVSports! Random paindos dancing.” @adl_hsn.

Well, if for some live action was spoilt, there were others who didn’t like PTV’s post-match analysis with Nauman Niaz and Aamir Shohail. “Nauman Niaz needs to learn from International broadcasting, he is just a pesky masi trying to pump up Sohail against Afridi.”

Pakistanis are one of the fastest growing population on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. With over four million Facebook users today, the cricket fans now have a voice of their own — something they are rightly proud of!

 

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