Hashwani’s book “Truth Always Prevails: A Memoir”

hashwaniThere is a severe shortage of books by the movers and shakers of Pakistan. Yes, there are some books out there now, but many are fiction, or hagiographies like Musharraf’s masterpiece of ego stroking or Fatima Bhutto’s rosy retelling of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (both men which feature in Hashwani’s life).

Hashwani’s book is a breath of fresh air. Here is a primary mover and shaker writing the story of his life and country. Every mover and shaker in Pakistan moves about in such a fog of half truths, rumours and outright falsehoods that if you are outside the mover and shaker circle it is impossible to know who they actually are and how they got there.

How honest he has been is another matter, what matters is that this is his opinion on his Pakistan, through the story of his life. And it is an impressive life – Hashwani has built an impressive empire from relatively humble beginnings.

As a story of Pakistan and getting to understand the viewpoints of a significant percentage of the elite and upper middle class, this book is great. There are legions of drawing rooms all over Pakistan which have been saying much of what Hashwani puts down on paper here, whether it’s the story about Zardari as a young man being kicked out of his hotel to blaming Zia for just about everything wrong with Pakistan today.

Hashwani says a few times that the books is for the youth of Pakistan – that left a slightly off taste in my mouth. Yes there is a bit about how Hashwani worked hard but if it is as easy to buy a hotel as saying I decided to buy the InterContinental chain and then I bought it then life would indeed be easy for the youth.

Be born to a good family, make sure they send you to school, have connections in the business community, get handed a job or a sales agency, combine that with hard work and grit and you too can make it. For someone who projects himself as so humble Hashwani stumbles to recognise that though he wasn’t initially from one of Pakistani’s elite business families, he comes from a family which put him squarely in the top one percent.

Hashwani glosses over a lot in his book – as a memoir, or to understand business in Pakistan I found it lacking. There is a lot of of text about how business is hard, but nothing about what Hashwani actually did to make it, besides the platitudes upon platitudes on hard work, honesty and pluck.

Hashwani lists his many accomplishments from working his way to the top of the cotton and grains exporting industry to become the hotel king of Pakistan, yet now while I know he became Cotton King, there is not enough there about the how, the whys and the circumstances.

Hashwani knows many Generals, from corps commanders to Chief of Army Staffs, and some are close personal friends – yet again the book is strangely lacking about these friendships. In a memoir, I expected more. There is hardly anything in the book about the many people who have helped Hashwani’s meteoric rise. Hashwani might be a self made man, but as he says repeatedly, business in Pakistan has many non-business challenges – and all I got from the book is that if you walk the straight and narrow path, and have powerful friendships with powerful generals, things will be ok.

What actually happened along his rise? How did he deal with the politicians and bureaucrats who he says hindered him so many times? It can’t have been just as simple as just saying I am a honest man over and over again. And if he is the rare case who did just that, that is amazing and all respect to the man, but even then I wish he had said more about his trials then just naming names and calling them corrupt.

I felt the book was a selected cataloging of incidents and challenges Hashwani faced, mixed in with his thoughts about Pakistan and the world, and missed out too much on his actual life and how he made it.

The more I think about the book, the more disappointed I am, yet I highly recommend it. I wish more people in the circles which Hashwani moves in write their memoirs. Regardless of how selective they are, it’s still fascinating reading and there is a lot in it.

Read it.

On Urdu, from Pakistan: A Hard Country, by Anatol Lieven

Pakistan, A Hard Country:

The official language of Pakistan is native to neither of its old halves. Urdu – related to ‘Horde’, from the Turkic-Persian word for a military camp – started as the military dialect of the Muslim armies of the Indian subcontinent in the Middle Ages, a mixture of local Hindustani with Persian and Turkic words. It was never spoken by Muslims in Bengal – but then it has never been spoken by most of the people of what is now Pakistan either. It was the language of Muslims in the heartland of the old Mughal empire, centred on the cities of Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Bhopal and Hyderabad, deep in what is now India. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, the language of the state education system, of the national newspapers, and of the film industry; but the only people who speak it at home are the Mohajirs, people who migrated from India after partition in 1947, and who make up only 7 per cent of Pakistan’s population.

Five years of Zardari

A milestone came and went past this year, bigger than most – an elected government in Pakistan completed its full term. The PPP government wasn’t thrown out by the army mid way, though it sure looks like the Army had a few half hearted attempts along the way. Even the Supreme Court got into the game of chucking the government out but only managed to get rid of the Prime Minister, who as everyone knows is just a little toady to the main man, Asif Zardari.

The puzzling thing about five years of the PPP government is how little of a main man Zardari was. That he survived five years is testament to his cunning, scheming, politicking and the many little duplicitous tricks he used to stay in power, but there is nothing else there. No signs of courage, of trying to do right by anyone not related to him, of honour, of attempts to change – nothing.
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A list of things Australian

I wished to find out more about Australia and hence this list.

Books

The VICE guide to Karachi

Added without comment, to be watched later. A scene report from the VICE dudes on the ground. It’s in five parts, all up on youtube and embedded below:

VICE Guide to Karachi: Pakistan’s Most Violent City (Part 1/5)

Vice, true to their name, sticks to all the vices of wherever they go, forgoing everything else, but that said, Karachi is changing from a city with a seamy underbelly to a seamy underbelly with huge slums and a urban jungle of a city hanging on for dear life.

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Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

Saw an interesting TED talk on happiness – says we work to achieve happiness – more pay, bigger house, etc etc – but research shows that the goal posts keep moving, so we never quite get there. The trick is to be happy first – and suddenly everything else gets better – including work – as you’re more productive, open to opportunities, and so on. The positive brain is more productive, smarter, creative, open to learning – the list goes on.

Some ways to apply this:
– Write down a positive experience every day in a journal. This allows your brain to relive it, and over time you learn to remember and and look for positive things every day – seems are brains are wired to remember mostly the negative things.
– Random acts of kindness – as simple as writing a nice email to someone
– meditation

Bangladesh finally starts up war crime tribunals for 1971

A blast from the past, from the 1971 past that is, where another Pakistan Army, which has moved on to raping entire governments not just it’s own women, did this:

“Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed an estimated 3 million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions to flee their homes. Pakistan has disputed the allegations.”

Wikipedia has lots more... sadly there aren’t many easily readable books on this period, but Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” is a good start to get interested in what happened then.

It is also interesting to note that members of Jamaat-e-Islaami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic party than and now, are behind bars for raping and killing their fellow citizens. Not surprising, because the Jamaat is still active in these areas, but still jarring to note that the Jamaat’s war against Pakistan dates back so long and is so consistent- from fighting against Jinnah, to using all the dirty tricks in the book to screw over East Pakistan, and nowadays supporting myriad terrorist organizations.

Senator Rehman Malik on wives, girlfriends and killings

“According to my personal experience in Karachi, if, let’s say, it is said that 100 people have died in target killings, when I did the investigation, I found that there were only 30 target killings,” Malik said.

“Seventy per cent were those people who wanted to be rid of their wives and girlfriends or girlfriends who wanted to be rid of their boyfriends. All the figures are with me, they killed them,” he added. #

Senator Rehman Malik. The truth published in Pakistani newspapers is often far, stranger than fiction.

Internet slowdowns, it’s not just your bad connection

I have noticed something fishy while using Google+ in Pakistan, over three different ISP’s in both Karachi and Lahore – that web browsing slows down a lot sometimes, and google+ especially crawls in fits and starts.

I suspect it’s something to do with Pakistani routers as turning on a VPN everything is blazing fast again. Of course, once the Pakistan Internet Ministry figures out how to slow down VPN links, they will do that too, until they decide to ban encrypted links all together!

Maybe VPN links are prioritized or ignored by the magical routers run by the wizards at the PTA as they solemnly inspect every internet packet for blasphemous or anti-state or anti-army or porn or anti-PTA or anti-Altaf bhai content? The list which they inspect is very long indeed.

It must be said, on behalf of the PTA, that they are doing an admirable job fending of the yobo’s at the high courts and supreme court who keep passing judgements to block ALL porn sites, facebook, and just about every other site on the internet where you might find blasphemous or anti-state content. Hence websites like rolling stone return this sad error message:

Access Denied

You don’t have permission to access “http://www.rollingstone.com/” on this server.

Reference #18.3a2a287c.1311324507.3b365b6c

It’s a fine line, blocking enough sites to keep the internet stone age morons at the courts and government happy, while not actually restricting internet usage. A happy fiction for all, though not for the rolling stone magazine, which I’m sure sells at least one copy a month at the Saeed book bank in Islamabad to the one music loving diplomat posted there.

In the future barter economy, who needs internet links anyways?

some blasts from the past on the same topic, which despite being old old pieces are still sadly valid today: