People eat more in “Ramadan”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramadan. To be specific, I mean people in Muslim majority countries – well I mean Pakistan actually. It is possible that Muslims in places like Canada also eat more than their norm, but probably not to the same extent.
Every year without fail in this country the prices of all food stuffs go “up”:http://www.dawn.com/2005/10/28/local6.htm drastically come Ramadan. Every year the newspapers decry this and blame the moon, the government, UFO’s and just about everything else which they can think of. In drawing rooms around the country, people are doing the same thing as they eat and eat and eat…
One of the more illogical arguments advanced over iftars is that those damned shopkeepers know ramzan is here so they jack up the prices *becasuse people have to buy food for iftar!* Oh goodness gracious!! Good thing ramzan only lasts for a month, and people no longer *need* to buy food afterwards. Heads nod sagely over the iftar feast, mouths to full to speak.
Well, that was last ramzan. Another ramadan comes to an end – but this one was “different”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Kashmir_earthquake.
Every Ramadan, there are reports of hoodlums harressing people eathing before iftar. Someone, just back from the Northen Areas, told me of how some maulvis tried to stop them from preparing food for people who had gone without a -decent- meal for days. The maulvis had to be driven off by force of arms. Yet others, on national TV, including the leaders ofthe MMA (the ruling party in the NWFP) proclaimed that the earthquake was brought on by the wrath of God because of a gay marriage held a few days before the earthquake. Not to be outdone by the men, another mad woman, Dr. Farhat Hashmi proclaimed that every single victim of the quake was a sinner and deserved to die. So the madness continues, but from what I’ve heard such people have been sidelined by those actually doing work – no one has time for such inanities.
For example, Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, Secretary General of the MMA wants foreign relief workers, including pilots etc. kicked out of the country. Before the quake, going by the government’s track record, they would have at least paid lip service to this – they’ve given in to practically all his demands. Now, he’s been told to get lost in no uncertain words by the govt. In the good Maulana’s world helicopters can fly themselves and wounds can heal on their own. Perhaps he was just following his good friend Mushies example, who wanted Indian helicopters without pilots. It logically follows that all other helicopters should also be without pilots, along with scalpels and sutures without doctors – trained personnel are overrated in the big M’s world.
Traditionally, the weeks before eid are shoppers paradise, where people pull out all the stops and buy buy buy! The quake changed -everything- somethings. No shopping and no eating out by most. The newspapers have done a number of articles on how “people are just not shopping”:http://www.dawn.com/2005/10/28/local13.htm. Some shopkeepers are upset – Ramadan is their busiest month. Three guesses as to where that money is going. Karachi is the economic capital of the country – somewhere b/w 50-70 percent of the entire country’s economic activity takes place here. A decent portion of that is being put to good use. The whole country is astir.
!http://static.flickr.com/25/56862288_7032a3317f_m.jpg! In other news, “intensive negotiations” are taking place b/w India and Pakistan about “opening the borders”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4357006.stm to facilitate relief efforts and movement of desperately needed supplies. These negotiations should be taking place in Muzaffrabad, istead of Islamabad and Delhi – that just might speed them up. Practically, every family in the belt along the Line of Control has been divided. Thousands of families on either side of the LoC await final information about their relatives – as the Indian and Pakistani govts. continue wasting time politicking. Note the word *governments* – polls in both countries show that the majority of people want joint releif operations. Ironically, while both armies put together can’t stop militants crossing over, they are doing a great job of stopping aid workers and the victims of the earthquake. After all, people pose a far great danger to the status quo between the two nations than any militant group.
Still, on November 7, 2005 the “LOC”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_of_Control is slated to open at one point, with 2 more to follow. Hopefully they’ll make the visa process simpler, as refugees and aid workers will need to go through one of the most convoluted visa processes in the world to cross over. For most Pakistanis/Indians it is still impossible to get a visa for India/Pakistan.
The cogs grind slowly in Islamabad and Delhi, and one can hear them squeaking all the way down in Karachi.
Update: “BBC:Kashmir civilian crossing delayed”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4412004.stm
bq.. The deal struck between India and Pakistan a week ago was intended to allow Kashmiris divided by years of conflict to help each other following the 8 October quake.
The BBC’s Chris Morris in Islamabad says it now looks more like a symbolic gesture than a historic breakthrough. Both sides blame a range of logistical problems, as well as each other, for the setbacks.