The story of
nut to crack
Banners and posters with provocative messages and slogans dot the cities while the authorities look the other way
By Saad Hasan and Aoun Sahi
Along both sides of the M.A. Jinnah Road, the oldest and busiest in Karachi, the signs of a never-ending conflict are obvious. The paan-stained and battered walls of the cinemas, schools and markets are staging points for different sectarian organisations. Provocative messages and slogans are written, whitewashed and rewritten here with impunity.
But this issue is not limited to a certain part of the city. The religious parties make themselves seen everywhere -- the nook and corners are littered with hate literature. It might not always be directly targeted towards followers of another sect. However, glorifying their own leaders and beliefs is enough to incite the opponents.
Authorities have all along looked the other way -- choosing not to see the writings on the wall! And this has encouraged banned outfits like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) to have their presence felt.
Thus, it is not surprising to see that these days it is the name of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, being exalted. It is true that religious sentiments have stopped many people from even discussing the subject. But where is the government?
“It has become so easy to lynch someone in the name of religion,” says Zohra Yusuf, a social activist. “Imagine a person who decides to clean the walls and take off intimidating posters. Someone shouts he is a blasphemer and a senseless mob gathers up immediately to attack.”
“In these circumstances when the religious elements in the society have become bolder due to the government”s expediency, it is up to the authorities to change their attitude and take a stronger stand,” she tells TNS.
“Leadership comes from the government,” she says. “Common citizens won”t be able to do anything unless the authorities step in with a strong arm.”
Not surprisingly, a commemorative meeting for Salmaan Taseer faced resistance. And organisers had to change the venue in face of threats from religious parties. “Unfortunately, we the representatives of society are small in number,” says Zohra Yusuf.
Attempts in the past to remove these posters and chalking from walls have failed in many parts of Karachi, especially in areas where sectarian tensions surface every now and then, government officials say.
Tuba Zareef Khan, Project Director of the “I Own Karachi” campaign, launched two and a half years back, says their workers have been threatened from painting the walls. “A year ago, we tried to remove graffiti from the walls in Saddar area. But activists of a religious outfit showed up and scared away the workers.”
There is a law in place that bars unauthorised painting of walls. “Anyone caught in the act of writing political or religious slogans on walls can be penalised with fine and put behind bars. But police is hardly serious in implementing it,” Khan tells TNS. “We did approach local police officials. But the response was something like, “we don”t look after the walls”.”
Nazim Haji, the former chief of Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), sees police as too weak to interfere in a matter where religion gets involved. “There is no will in the administration to put its house in order. This is because of the failure of the politicians in government.”
The effectiveness of police in countering lawlessness has been compromised by political appointees, Haji says. “Police as a whole will become completely dormant if political parities continue to distribute appointment quotas among themselves.”
In Lahore, the banners and the posters, portraying Malik Mumtaz Qadri, as a hero and asking the government to release him, is a common feature on several roads of Lahore including The Mall, Jail Road, Ferozwala Road and around Lahore Press Club.
Some of these banners have been hanging there for the last several weeks containing names, addresses and in some cases even cell phone numbers of those who have erected them. There are also some banners on different roads and streets of the city terming Aasia Bibi a blasphemer. Though Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Lahore, the agency responsible to take care of advertisement on roads and streets, has removed some of the posters, it has failed to remove banners hung by religious parities.
A few weeks ago some PPP workers erected posters on electricity poles of different roads of the city praising the slain governor. The posters were either torn by “unknown people” or removed by the concerned authorities within days.
According to rules and regulations of PHA, one must seek permission from the Authority and must pay a fee to display a poster, banner or hoarding along the roadsides. The Authority must also screen the content of banners, posters and hoardings.
An official of PHA deputed to remove illegal banners and posters tells TNS that removing banners and posters about blasphemy laws are not on the priority list of the Authority. “The banners and posters regarding Mumtaz Qadri and blasphemy laws are being treated as a “special case”,” he tells TNS on condition of anonymity.
Legal experts believe these banners and posters currently on display can be interpreted as incitement to hate. “It is the duty of the government to control such activities,” says Asad Jamal, a Lahore High Court lawyer. He thinks there are some provisions (section 109 to 115) in Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that address the issues of incitement to hate. “Though Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) is a bad law, section 6(1) of ATA can be used to sue the people who have hung such banners and posters,” he says.
A former director general of PHA tells TNS that 99 per cent of all banners and posters in Lahore are illegal. “In fact, the authority is scared of removing religious posters and banners.”
Once you get hooked on to it, there”s no stopping it
By Naila Inayat
It was in July 2007 that Twitter started gaining popularity globally and at present it is said to have 190 million users, yielding 65 million tweets a day. Today it is the next best thing in the world of social media after Orkut, Facebook and Buzz.
For many the entire twitter space is just as wispy as Facebook was initially, but if I were to describe this in two words it would be “modern-day pager” -- that one-way electronic device in the mid-1990s used for short messages? Basically, yesteryear”s Bleeper has been replaced by Tweeter.
The iconic blue twitter bird of Twitter has lured many -- school and college students and professionals from the field of politics, business, bureaucracy, media, sports, art, entertainment, philanthropy and even those antisocial characters, who are ruling the social network. How effective the 140 character-limit can be is what excites me; again it is just a Facebook status update that explains it the best.
So the question is: how you use Twitter in your personal and professional capacity?
@Nayyar “The most important things in life aren”t things.”
When Nayyar joined Twitter for the first time, he took it as a substitute for Facebook. He was disappointed; and signed out, tweeting “it sucks.”
“But to promote mainstream micro-blogging, I kept using Twitter and finally my earlier impression changed. It”s an escape from the mundane wallposts, rather it is a challenge -- to say it all in maximum 140 characters,” says Nayyar Afaq, 29-year-old poet and writer from Rawalpindi.
Nayyar feels a strange sense of happiness when people become his “followers”. “You feel valued when people read your tweets and they talk about it, debate it and take the discourse further.”
Like many Twitter users, for Nayyar too it was hard to learn the signs and symbols of the network. “I was unaware of the @ sign in people”s tweets, but later I learnt it means reply to someone else, whose name is written after this sign. Similarly, I came to know about (#) sign, which means group postings. One takes time to get used to the network and its overall working,” he says.
And once you get hooked on to it there”s no stopping the Twitter activity -- you can be counted in the golden group of twitteraholics. One such user is 25-year-old Tehmina, a banker and a frequent train traveller from Shiekhupura to Lahore.
@tehmina “I will soon make a movie titled “Ordeals of a Pakistani commuter, starring Sheikh Rasheed and Lalu Prasad Yadav.”
“For me Twitter has done wonders. We all know public transport is a pain, especially train. Waiting for it for hours… and sometimes it doesn”t even arrive,” she says.
But it was only in 2010 that Tehmina became a Tweeter. She tweets from her cell phone while commuting through the small towns. “When the view outside is boring I resort to technology. It saves me from the daily rigour. It is when I enjoy the Sanam Taseer vs Fatima Bhutto war of words the most. Interestingly, through Twitter I also found a group of youngsters who also commute by rail. We made a network for stranded rail users,” she says.
@zeeshanmustafa “My msg to all those kids who recently got political puberty: democracy means Voting with consent, not like JAGGA WARRIORS #Pakistan.”
For 28-year-old Zeeshan Mustafa, a technology entrepreneur from Karachi, Twitter has been a great cyber-socialising medium. “From cricket commentary to political activism it has proven to be one of the mostly widely used forms of information sharing after mainstream media,” he says.
Twitter has helped him make hundreds of new followers (friends) sharing mutual interests. “Importantly, it helped me find a nice gym, to get rid of extra fat. It helped me find cuisines of my choice in or outside Pakistan. And the best places to visit in Pakistan. It was in the last T20 World Cup when all the Twitter users in Pakistan together rallied for the green shirts and we lead the “#PakCricket hashtag” into the top 10 of Twitter trends. That was truly a victory and a great show of power for social media users in Pakistan,” he says.
@Sana “The media seriously needs to draw a line and define where reporting ends and interference with others lives begins!”
“It started off with following pages of a few news channels and papers on Twitter. Then gradually I started joining pages of various journalists, politicians and media personalities,” says 25-year-old Sana, a reporter at a news channel in Lahore.
Her interest in the network grew while following Salmaan Taseer. “His tweets were very interesting and of course intended to mean more than just what they said. And now it is just a routine to log in and quickly browse through newspapers and world headlines in just one window. If anything is interesting, my natural response is of reading the article/news in detail,” she says.
Dear Mr Davis
By Masud Alam
I hope my letter finds you lounging comfortably in a privately-owned farm house in the suburbs of Lahore, partaking of the famed hospitality that we reserve for our American friends, while the Punjab police pretend to interrogate or incarcerate you at an “undisclosed location”.
I still hang my head in shame and offer you an unreserved apology for the uncalled for and totally out of place efficiency shown by the traffic wardens who had you arrested, and for the uncivilised behaviour of some of my countrymen who are demonstrating in the streets against the possibility of you getting away with (double) murder.
By way of an explanation, let me assure you that the police didn”t mean to chase after you, neither are they capable of. It just so happened that your car was stuck in a traffic jam, leaving the cops with no option but to take you in, or you”d have been mobbed. As for the demonstrators, they don”t know nothing and mean nothing. While their real issues are runaway poverty, inflation, corruption, lawlessness etc. they demonstrated in large numbers all over Pakistan recently, and for what? In support of a law that can be used to hang any of them by the neck, any time, on the strength of public anger alone.
I understand and believe every word you have said so far and I am sorry for the half-wit police officers who didn”t let you off with a friendly salute after you explained yourself. What is a civilised white man, driving a Honda Civic, back from important business meeting in Anarkali bazaar, to make of two guys on motorbike, lifting their dress and showing him their … guns? If you ask me, they are asking to be shot in the nuts. You were too polite to aim at their chests.
On the surface you seem to be in big trouble, what with the courts acting tough, the politicians awkwardly muttering “let the justice take its course”, and your own government as clueless as ours. But my friend, this is Pakistan, the land where impossible is routine and where troubles come uninvited and evaporate on a phone call. We can do anything for friends and that includes breaking our own laws. Especially breaking our laws. Rest assured, you”ll be out of here before you, or anyone else in Pakistan knows, like your luckier colleague who ran over a pedestrian trying to rescue you and is now enjoying a home-cooked Sunday brunch on his artificially heated patio.
However, you must be terribly upset over the incident. Any decent guy surrounded by a bunch of uncouth, smelly men for hours would be. But please don”t, not for a second, burden your conscience with the thought that your act of legitimate self-defence killed two human beings. This riff raff that fills our streets is not the specie you belong to. Our own military and police routinely kill and torture them for fun. Fellows making bombs in the caves of Waziristan test their devices on these sub-humans. Heck, even our politicians” motorcades run them over every now and then.
They only have a value when America puts a price tag on them. We had a great time catching and shipping them away to be stuffed into Guantanamo. They wanted Afia Siddiqui, we gave them the woman along with her children. We were prepared to hand over Aimal Kasi too but then the CIA pouted and said “but there”s more fun in hunting him down”. So we put him in a hotel room and let a van full of CIA operatives pick him from there, bring him to their embassy in Islamabad, load him into an American plane and carry him away as a trophy.
We do anything for Americans because we love America for inventing the dollar. And gosh, do you guys know how to use this invention! We are titillated, swept off our feet, we swoon, we purr every time you show affection by throwing dollars at us.
Please ask your government to stop being silly with its claim of diplomatic immunity for you and instead be a bit more generous with money this time (I”ll text you Mr Asif Zardari”s overseas account details) and not only will you be a free man soon, you may be able to return to Lahore on a valid visa in near future and resume whatever business you have in Anarkali.
In the meantime please don”t hesitate to let me know if I can be of any service to you, your family or your dog (I hope you still have my dollar account details).
I am sorry again for being a Pakistani, but proud to be your friend.
Private detectives are here now to serve and spy on you
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Zubaida Jamil, 50, a resident of Walton Road, Lahore, is worried about the future of her only daughter. She wants to marry her off at the earliest, but is suspicious of every suitor who visits their house.
Her fears are not unfounded. She has learnt things the hard way: Twice in the past her daughter”s engagements were broken when they found out that the fiancées were not what their families had portrayed them to be. Being a widow and mother of only one child, she knows all her property will ultimately be transferred to her daughter. That”s why she is on the hunt for a financially well-established and morally sound boy for her daughter.
In one of the cases, she discovered that the car that the visiting family claimed belonged to their son had been borrowed from someone.
Zubaida is not the only one in our society who is wary of such cases of misrepresentation while looking for a suitable match for the children of marriageable age; especially when the traditional means to verify credentials are also unreliable, and so often offend those coming under the scanner.
Against this backdrop, the launch of a private detective firm in Lahore, with the name of Fact Finders, has come as a breath of fresh air for such people. Among other services, it offers premarital screening of individuals.
The related section on the firm”s website www.factfinders.com.pk states: “The purpose of taking a premarital investigation before your wedding is to help the two of you receive an objective assessment of potential problems and issues in your relationship.
“They (investigations) are NOT designed to tell you whether or not you should get married, but to help you realise and deal with differences in your expectations, family backgrounds, and personality traits. Ignoring these issues in your marriage could result in serious marital problems. Feel free to contact Fact Finders on this very important aspect before you fix the wedding date.”
The services on offer are not limited. Interestingly the firm claims it is adept in conducting investigations of all types. To name a few, it carries out identity verifications, infidelity investigations, probes real estate frauds, tracks movements of cheating/unfaithful wives or husbands, discovers the “other man” and the “other woman”, screens aspiring tenants on behest of landlords, facilitates recovery of money, helps recover vehicles for banks, verifies visa applicants” credentials for embassies, does pre-employment screening of jobseekers and tries to solve old (criminal/civil) cases which are not being followed properly.
Though the concept of private detective firms is common in developed countries, it is a new phenomenon in Pakistan. People are curious to know about this firm, its structure, its modus operandi and the local laws under which it is operating.
The firm in questions is a bit secretive in its operations and has not disclosed its physical location on the website. Clients can contact it only at the mobile numbers and email address given there.
Shahid Ghani Advocate, a Lahore-based lawyer and foreign education and immigration consultant, tells TNS there is a dire need of a reliable private detective firm in the country. “But what”s more important is that there should be constant monitoring of the firm to ensure that its sleuthing activities do not cause harm to people.”
To explain his point, he refers to the service called “Activity Report” offered by Fact Finders and says this is an individualised assignment that helps in determining a person”s day-to-day activities and the whereabouts and actions of a subject of interest.
He says the firm claims it can provide details of “what a person is doing, how, when and where a person spends his/her day and night in a given timeframe requested by the client.” Besides, the firm says it monitors all the movements of a subject including where the subject goes, whom the subject meets, which vehicle the subject is using etc, he says adding: “If this can help trap unscrupulous elements it can also lead to abduction of people if the client is out for mischief.”
Founding member of Fact Finders, Masood, tells TNS that changing times and trends in crime ask for adoption of modern techniques to investigate matters. “In the past parents were not worried about what their children were doing as they were always in their view. But now with the advent of mobile phones, internet etc the situation could be totally different. Parents are afraid that their children may come into contact with terrorists or fall in the hands of cyber stalkers who can abuse them.”
Masood dispels the impression that the sleuths working for them may cause undue harm to people and overstep the limits imposed by law. He says the firm is registered with the government and operates within the legal framework. “Our basic principle is that we should always be on the right side of the law.” He says they are also trying to affiliate themselves with detective firms in California, US and UK. “There are 150 firms in California alone and it is only the beginning in Pakistan.”
Not willing to share their modus operandi, he says, there is collaboration with the government agencies in some cases. “We are in talks with certain embassies who may ask us to do initial screening of visa applicants on their behalf.”
Masood says they have not publicised their postal address as they may become vulnerable to assaults by the aggrieved parties. It is the sensitivity of the work that demands such measures.
An Indian journalist follows the trail of terror within the geographical bounds of Pakistan in a manner that would leave even a Pakistani reader awe-struck
By Farah Zia
Kasab The face of 26/11 is indeed the most readable and comprehensive account of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai. The story is built round the person of Ajmal Kasab, who happened to be the lone survivor of the ten perpetrators of the terror strikes that left 166 innocent people dead and 238 injured; through his story, the trail of terror within the geographical bounds of Pakistan is followed in a manner that would leave even a Pakistani reader awe-struck.
The author, Rommel Rodrigues, has been a journalist since 1993. While he covered the events of 26/11 for his newspaper The New Indian Express, he had gathered a sufficient amount of sketchy information about Ajmal Kasab”s life. The scale of the attacks was such that the media was quick on the follow-up part: there was the usual television reports and newspaper coverage; a couple of books were published; many documentaries made and “there was even talk of a film based on Ajmal Kasab”s life.”
It was after some time, when Pakistan had accepted that the attacks were “planned on its soil and that the ten terrorists and their masters were its citizens”, that Rodrigues became, in his own words, curious about Ajmal Kasab, “the baby-faced monster”.
“How was he indoctrinated in the idea of jihad? Where all did he go before he landed into Lashkar”s arms? What was the terror outfit”s training process like? Where were all the camps located? How did the terrorist manage to reach the shores of Mumbai?” These are the questions that he goes on to address in the book.
An ordinary Pakistani may be familiar with the broad contours of both Kasab and terrorism”s story but the way the gaps have been filled and the details fitted in the narrative in this book have perhaps never been attempted before. The physical description of Pakistani villages and cities by an author who never came to Pakistan is uncanny. One is reminded of how journalists who rushed to Faridkot, Kasab”s village, were stopped and given selective information by the state”s arms. A recent newspaper account of Faridkot still finds it a ghost village. There are, understandably, a few factual errors in the book which one prefers to ignore in order to catch with the fast pace of the narrative. There are crude attempts at sensationalising the subject with chapter titles like “The Butchers” and “A New Butcher is Born” which could have been avoided.
Generally, the murky picture of the handlers and the perpetrators, the sketchy link between poverty and jihad, the sinister connection between the deep state and the madrassa in the Pakistani readers” minds will all find clear answers in this telling account of Kasab”s life that begins in his village in Okara with his father as a young man.
This book has a relevance for a Pakistani reader who has been a victim of similar terrorist attacks especially in the last four years. Like the attacks happening within Pakistan, Mumbai attacks too were most likely planned as a fight to the finish; the fact that Ajmal Kasab survived to tell his tale was an unintended consequence but this becomes our only chance to know what goes on in the mind of a suicide attacker. And also before that, how does one become a fidayeen jihadi.
As per the book, Kasab”s training in various terror camps in Pakistan took about a year in all. The details are eye-opening and clearly hint at the collusion of the state. State of the art training facilities with internet, googlemaps, firearms training in Lahore, Muridke, Rawalpindi and then in Mansehra and Azad Kashmir -- somewhere somebody knew what was going on. In this regard, the most ominous development seems to be the release of Hafiz Saeed, the man being blamed about as much as Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi in the book.
What reads like a chilly thriller in the first half suddenly turns into a tragic and painful narration of individuals” suffering many of whom ironically shared the same faith as the terrorists. The brainwashed perpetrators are pitched against the innocent victims and the inanity of life and the tragedy it breeds is relived quite effectively on the pages.
But wait a minute. This may all be a fictional account for all one knows. Yes there are instances one can corroborate from one”s reading of the newspapers but there are others one may have read for the first time. And there is nothing in the book, apart from a casual mention in the introduction that the details have all been gleaned from secondary sources, to confirm or attribute the facts. No bibliography or reference or source. If the facts have all been drawn from the newspapers or magazine articles, why not mention them as reference. It is this absence of referencing that may prove to be the undoing of an otherwise powerful book.
The author clearly lost a chance of adding value and making his work more authentic. Or was it designed to be a propaganda book in the first place? Chances are it will still be read with a lot of interest; only it may not serve as a valuable reference for any further works on the subject.
This grave omission apart, one feels this book could serve as an inspiration for investigative journalists on both sides of the border. It might be a great service if someone got even this not-so-authentic account translated into Urdu and other regional languages for Pakistani readers.
Finally, this book may make the job of the film-maker who wanted to make one on Kasab a lot easier.
The book is
available at Liberty Books, Karachi.
chilghoza is fetching premium price in the world, without benefiting the
By Tariq Iqbal
Chilghoza is an extremely popular dry fruit consumed by Pakistanis in winter season. Over the years chilghozas, also called pine nuts, have become a very rare commodity with prices flying to Rs3600 per kg at retail level this year. Only last year the prices were in the range of Rs1000 to Rs1500 per kg depending on the quality of nuts.
Amazingly the price increase has come at a time when the crop yield has marginally increased compared to last year”s produce. If there is no shortage then what is the reason? The answer is simple: its export has increased a lot with China taking the lead as major importer after Gulf region and Europe. China itself produces pine nuts in limited quantities. But the demand seems to have increased due to the use of these nuts in cuisine, tonics and herbal medicines.
Though a good indicator for economy, a point of concern is that this export has not really benefited the growers based in war-torn regions in the north. The middlemen and exporters have reaped the fruits of efforts done by these farmers.
Chilghoza trees naturally grow in the northwest Himalayan region and extend through Balochistan and Jalalabad (Afghanistan). They grow at altitudes from 5500 feet to 9000 feet on barren hillsides and can withstand tough weather conditions.
Rich in carbohydrates and proteins, it is one of the most important cash crops of tribal people residing in the northern areas of Pakistan like Bannu, Miran Shah, Zhob, Chilas, Dir, Chitral, Dera Ismail Khan and North and South Waziristan. Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan are the production centres of chilghoza where they are shelled and packed for onward movement.
Dr Ahmed, a nutritionist based in Lahore, says chilghozas are popular worldwide as they contain Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B3, and for this reason help boost the testosterone levels in men and promote red cells growth. “Besides, antioxidants present in Chilghoza help prevent cancer and cardio-vascular diseases. They are also good for skin, eyesight, immune system and relieving stress and anxiety,” he says.
President of Akbari Mandi Lahore Dry Fruits Merchants Association, Mahboob Anwar Boby, tells TNS that the production of chilghoza hovers around 140000 to 150000 sacks of 80-kg each, but this year it has surpassed the level.
He says the export phenomena is not new as major junk of the produce is being exported for the last 25 to 30 years in Girri (seed) form to Europe and Gulf States. With China becoming the prime importer, demand for the nut has increased pushing the price upwards.
“Another factor behind high prices is the role of middleman as no one dares go to areas like North and South Waziristan and beyond. So the Pakhtuns buy them from growers and then bring them to Lahore after keeping their margin. Then the traders in Lahore approach exporters and keep their margin as well. This increases the price too much. The situation would be different if growers of chilghoza can get in touch with exporters directly,” Boby says.
General Secretary of Akbari Mandi Traders Association Malik Azhar Iqbal Awan informs TNS that only the small-sized chilghoza of Bannu is available in the market whereas the fine quality chilghoza has been exported to earn huge profits.
Director Programmes WWF Lahore Hammad Naqi Khan tells TNS that the Suleman Range lies at the junction of three provincial boundaries of Pakistan -- KP, Balochistan and Punjab -- with a semi-arid climate. “The northern part of this range comprises the chilghoza forests in high density over an area of 260sq.km. These forests are owned by the Sherani tribe living both in KP and Balochistan.” He says this forest is luckily the second largest stand of “pure” chilghoza in the world, but unluckily faces deforestation at the hands of local people.
Director WWF Islamabad Dr Ejaz tells TNS that their organisation has initiated a conservation and development programme in the Suleman Range with the collaboration of area”s community. “The local people of Zhob and Sherani collect chilghoza from their mountain areas and sell it as kacha (raw) in the main markets of Bannu and D.I Khan at the rate of Rs800 to Rs1000 per kg. Then the middlemen bring it into Lahore Akbari Mandi and sell it at Rs1500 to Rs1600 per kg.”
He says the WWF is educating people through seminars in this locality to earn more money from this produce. “We are also helping them in computer and Internet use to contact foreign buyers.”