Requiem for the dying souls

September 24, 2008

As TV cameras zoomed into the heap of debris of Marriot Hotel suicide blast, my thoughts took me back to the casualty of Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar, where victims of a suicide attack were being rushed for treatment some days back. As the ambulances ambulance carrying victims blast rushed in, waves of anxiety swept through the journalist corps present at the occasion; photographer’s cameras flashed, cameramen pushed one another to film a shot of the victim and reporters scribbled some words in their notebooks.

When the victims stopped to arrive at the hospital, a hush seized the journalists and they engaged in low tone exchanges. Victims’ families started to arrive at the hospital to know about the safety of their near and dear, usually weeping and crying in desperation and if they found someone of their kin soaked in blood and motionless, a strange feeling of helplessness engulfed them.

I came out of the hospital with a heavy heart. Way back to my office life in the city seemed as usual with the story to be filed on my mind. Afterwards, over a cup of tea some friends gathered and discussion turned towards the militancy, but it remained inconclusive till end and we dispersed with more questions than answers.

To quote Obaidullah Aleem:

“Who I have name for these recurring calamities

My cities are burning and people dying

None else in behind this deadly manoeuvring,

We are being killed, we are the killers.”

I had seen too much blood and gore scenes over a period of two years as a journalist covering the militancy, which has ravaged the NWFP and FATA. But most of the time the futility of violence left me gaping for breath and this feeling has dawned upon me with more force that what is the purpose of this killing and what the killers wanted to achieve.

I consider them actors in an absurdist theatre, when they say that the bloodshed in this country is against America, as how one of us could believe that killing their fellow humans could entitle them to the riches of Paradise. The people roaming around wrapping themselves in lethal explosives are to me reminiscent of the pig tailed child who heralded the end of Garcia Marquez’s city of mirrors.

The Kafkaesque manner of terrorism and the stoicism of the majority of our population often puzzles’ me as our society fiddles like Nero when the Rome was burning. The war was initially limited to Waziristan and most of us remained silent, then it spread to whole of FATA and parts of Frontier and we are still silent and one does not need to be Einstein to foresee what tomorrow has in store for us.

Faraz has put these aptly:

You keep on poking every heart with spears of bigotry.

We’re the people of love, why are you raising daggers.

Let music resonate in the city; let us live in the city.

We take care of flowers and guard fragrance

Whose blood you are here to spill, we only preach love,

What then you find in this city, when word ceases to exist.

When swords cut through gentle tanner, when lyrics leave for ever,

When melodies got killed and voices died down.

Whom you stone, when the city turns to ruins

Then this very sight of your face will haunt you in mirrors.”


‘A mortal is God in all his might, This I will not write.’

November 21, 2007

“We had no funds, no files, no office, no dictaphone. And yet, with nothing in hand but a pencil, we wrote the most glorious chapter in the cultural renaissance of our people.”
                                      -Kirshen Chander (1966)

Media has a strong tradition of resistance in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. From the refusal of the father of Indian journalism James Augusts Hickey to bow before the British raj during the formative period of Indian journalism to the Karachi journalists’ arrests after the imposition of emergency in the country, media has been the custodian of a great tradition of resistance in this part of the world.

The journalists like Faiz Ahmed Faiz have always bear the burnt for saying nay to the unconstitutional steps of the dictators taken for their survival on the name of national interest.

Dr. Iqbal Ahmed recounts the tale of a Bosnian newspaper “Oslobodenje” in his essay, “Intellectuals Role in Society,” which is similar to the present ordeal being faced by the Pakistani media.

The Oslobodenje was the Bosnia’s largest daily; it was established during World War II as an underground paper by the partisans who fought the fascists and after the break-up of the Yugoslavia it supported the Bosnia as a country.

Dr. Iqbal writes, “ Oslobodenje practised what it preached. Its editor is Muslim, deputy editor is an incredibly brave Serb woman, the staff are mixed – Muslim Serb, and Croat. As such, the newspaper anti its staff became a target of Serb nationalists, an easy target because its offices are located in the ‘death alley’ of Sarajevo within range of Serb gunners, The newspaper and its staff sustained many miunes but did not miss a day of publication printing often a single page. Oslobodenje became a symbol of Bosnian resolve, Sarajevans’ will to live and, above all, of Serb failure to destroy the values for which Bosnia stood. “Why don’t you move the paper out of Sarajevo?” I asked Editor KemaI Kurspahic soon after he had survived a bomb, ‘we can’t”, he replied simply, “Oslobodenje is a lighthouse”.

The same is the condition of Pakistani media after the imposition of the emergency when the government attempted to gag the media and silence the dissent shamelessly. The president who used to brag about the exemplary media freedom closed two popular TV channels in just one go and let the other operate mutilated.

But unlike the past the lawyers and the civil society have rose and speaking the truth to the dictator hand in hand with the media as legendry Faiz puts it.

If pen and ink are snatched from me, shall I
Who dipped my finger in my heart’s blood complain –
Or if they seal my tongue, when I have made
A mouth of every round link of my chain?

Translated (A.W)


Neo-Cons on the Run

December 26, 2006

A BBC report narrates the waning influence of the neo-conservatives in US after Iraq debacles. In the words of the report, “The Project for the New American Century” has been reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website. A single employee has been left to wrap things up.”

Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was established in 1997 to spearhead the goal of US global leadership. Its main exponents include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Armitag Francis Fukuyama, Jeb Bush, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis Libby, and Paul Wolfowitz etc who were the main force behind the US attack of Iraq. BBC’s Paul Reynolds writes that, “They saw the war in Iraq as their big chance of showing how the “New American Century” might work.”

But the Iraq failures doomed them; in a recent issue of Vanity Fair the brains behind the plan even assailed the president Bush for the failures in the Iraq.


October is the cruelest month

October 21, 2006

October is traumatically eventful month in the wasteland of Pakistan’s history. The misfortune fell on the nascent nation for the first time on 27th October 1947, when units of Indian Army started landing on Srinagar airfield. It was birth of a tragedy which has persisted unresolved for sixty years and caused three wars, hunger and plagued the lives of millions with miseries.

Pakistan’s first premier Liaquat Ali Khan fell prey to a stray bullet in Rawalpindi on 16th October 1951 and we are still clueless about the motives and identities of the perpetrators of this crime.

On 27th October 1954 we entered what can be called an era of political intrigues, conspiracies and disregard for the constitution when governor general Ghaulam Mohammad dissolved the Constitutional Assembly. Thus he set precedent to emulate for the future adventurers and his legacy has been a core doctrine in the moves and edicts of our rulers.

7th October 1958 was another black day in the history of Pakistan when the Army made a formal entry into the politics and this time commander in chief Ayub khan toppled the government of Premier Feroz Khan Noon. Ayub ruled for 11 years and left the country at the mercy of a drunkard general who presided over its disintegration.

Again on 12th October 1999 general Musharraf overthrew the Nawaz Sharif government in a coup. Thanks to the America’s commitment to democracy and democratic ideals he has recently completed his seven years in office.

On 8th October 2005 a devastating earthquake of 7.6 magnitude jolted the northern parts of the country killing 80,000 people and rendering more than 3 millions homeless.