Tag Archives: Pakistan

Sabeen

Sabeen Mahmud. Assassinated.

This is what she did:

She worked so hard to bring out the best in Karachi. She was the rare idealist who lived out her ideals, knowing full well that it made her unpopular in many circles.

I don’t know how, but I met her and T2F right at the beginning, and saw her occasionally ever since. She never budged an inch from her ideals, despite much pushback, occasional offers to sellout, and bitter cynicism and criticism from so many.

Yet first they laughed at her, then tried to shut her down, and finally they killed her.

So many empty platitudes in this country. Say rest in peace and move on? Its exactly the opposite of what Sabeen did with T2F.

Her pitch for your money is below – donate money now, for they will need it to continue:

Dear Friends,

Seven years ago, defying common sense and rationality, I abandoned my comfort zone and willfully walked away from everything I knew how to do. I had been constructing an alternative reality in my head for several months and the time had come to build it, in the real world.

I wanted to create a public space; a platform for creative expression, an incubator for emerging talent, and a community space for dialogue. I had all these grandiose ideas and unhealthy levels of naiveté and adrenaline. One room on the second floor of a filthy, nondescript office building was all I could manage with funds from family and fools, multiple credit cards, and a smattering of pixie dust.

Seven years later, the platform has been built. T2F is real. However, the path to living the dream, while rewarding beyond measure, has been one of extreme financial adversity. Like well designed software that protects its users from what goes on behind the scenes, it is our job to deliver a seamless user experience. Committed to that ideal, I have never really spoken about the operating system that powers the platform because I was shy and the timing never felt right.

Since 2007, we have delivered a steady stream of liberal arts programming without fuss and fanfare. We have enabled the creative fantasies of umpteen artists, actors, musicians, comedians, poets, and writers. We have been generous with our space and our time. We have remained fiercely independent.

We have come a long way, quietly. However, our operating system is now in dire need of maintenance and a massive upgrade. The easy way out is to fire a few people, switch off the air-conditioners, stop paying taxes, raise prices, ticket everything, and put an end to the honor code. An even easier way out would be to succumb to the lure of the almighty dollar. But the easy way out spells S.E.L.L.O.U.T.

So, we are reaching out to you, the community that powers T2F, to come together and help us with this year’s operating system maintenance and upgrades. If a lot of people contribute just a little, we can keep the dream alive and we are confident that we will get by with a little help from our friends.

Sabeen Mahmud
Founder, T2F

Links

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.

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.
Continue reading Five years of Zardari

Imran Khan wrote a book in 2011: Pakistan: A Personal History

Imran Khan is a figure writ large into Pakistan, and now with fifteen years of being out in the political wilderness behind him, Imran Khan is once again the talk of the country. I’d never imagined I’d ever be reading a book by Imran Khan, and that too a personal history of Pakistan, but here it is. Continue reading Imran Khan wrote a book in 2011: Pakistan: A Personal History

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.

Continue reading The VICE guide to Karachi

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:

Zulfiqar Mirza on the MQM

Was he drunk? Is he a non-closest bigoted raciast? Does he suffer from delusions of grandeur? Has the PPP lost even the little control it had over it’s many stooges, most of whom suffer from delusions of not being stooges in the first place? Is Zulfiqar Mirza a lion to Zardari’s whimpering poodle hiding in a corner behind five rows of containers and concrete barriers, as well as about ten percent of Pakistan’s security forces?

I think the answers to all the above questions is yes.

What is clear is that the gentlemen in the video above has upstaged Rehman Malik, the gentlemen who searches for terrorists and miscreants using google maps on his ipad while calling them “characters from star wars”, all without a internet connection on his ipad or even an app to connect the many security camera’s around Karachi.