Wednesday, November 14, 2007

General You are Tubed!

by Adnan Gill

Like mortals, political parties also go through life-changing events that can elevate their virtually unheard leaders into the stratosphere of prominence and idolization; similarly, it can throw a crown-bearer of a party into the dark depths of ignominy and oblivion. There was a time when it used to take a war or a catastrophe to bring a leader to fame and recognition, or contempt and disgrace. Now, fame and disgrace lay only a blog or YouTube away. In this day and age of satellite TV, cell phone cameras, and internet portals, political carriers are made or trashed at the speed of light.

Megastar Cricketer Imran Khan with global following of millions of fans was virtually an unknown in the cutthroat world of politics. Then came the May 12 Karachi carnage. Dozens upon dozens of MQM workers indiscriminately shooting their political opponents were caught by the prying eyes of digital cameras. Despite the government's best efforts to hide the reality by shutting down the cable operators, within minutes the bloodbath was viewed on YouTube by shocked audiences around the world. This time, MQM which prided itself for bringing a revolution through the wizardry of electronics was fatally stung by the wizardry of information technology. MQM and their infamous leader Altaf Hussain were effectively ‘Tubed’. Cognizant to the potency of YouTube, now MQM volunteers are trying to drown the information through coordinated spamming attacks. At regular intervals, they upload dozens upon dozens of short pro-MQM video clips on YouTube under every possible Tag related to the Pakistani politics. But despite their best efforts bloggers like and have marginalized MQM’s spamming attacks by providing an alternative portal for the Pakistani news and views.

Where YouTube drove the last nail in MQM's political coffin, it plucked Imran Khan from obscurity and pushed him into the every-day vocabulary of emotionally drained and frustrated Pakistanis who were waiting for a political messiah to lead Pakistan into an era of stability and prosperity.

Blogs and YouTube once again played a pivotal role when the Pakistani establishment tried to hide the truth through the news blackout when the police busted open the heads of lawyers and journalists in a brutal crackdown outside the Supreme Court. Countless video clips and still photographs on the Internet left no doubt in anybody's mind that the crackdown was premeditated. The global community was left flabbergasted to see how there were more policemen (both in uniform and civvies) than protesters. These well-armored policemen were not only armed with batons and teargas, but they had their pockets filled with stones that they showered on the protesters without any regard to age, gender, or profession. Within hours, the pictures of stone-throwing policemen shamelessly beating and dragging hapless women were flashed around the world. One such picture which stood out was of a policeman hurling a baseball size stone on a woman as she covered her head with her hands while desperately running away from her attacker. Arguably, the glory days of government’s monopoly on tailored information were long gone, and this time the Government was ‘Tubed’.

To the credit of MQM, it was quick at recognizing the awesome potential of YouTube to disseminate information at demand that is why it vainly tries to control the damage through the spamming attacks. However, the Pakistani establishment has not shown any signs of learning a harsh lesson from its mistakes. On November 3rd, once again, it fallaciously tried to gag the news and information about the latest crackdown on the Pakistani judiciary, lawyers, journalists, students, cherry-picked opposition leaders, human rights activists, and anyone else whom the General Musharraf deemed to be a hurdle in his lifelong rule.

The General did not realize that the Pakistani public stepped into the information age years ago. Despite government's best efforts to rob the truth from Pakistanis, the public circumvented the information vacuum through the satellite dishes, SMS messages, phone cameras, blogs, e-mail circuits, and most importantly through video portals like YouTube.

Whether intentionally or naïvely General Musharraf argued that the populace are supporting his second Martial Law, because they did not come out on the streets. What the General does not realize is that even people in the remotest areas, are busy carrying out a bloodless revolution against his regime through the magic of information technology. Thanks to this magic, once invisible politicians like Imran Khan are addressing the nation from hiding, and the expatriates are organizing protests all around the world. These expatriates are lobbying their respective governments to pressurize the General to, at a minimum, reverse his second Martial Law and most importantly to reinstall the pre-November 3rd judiciary. The outcries of expatriates are already bearing fruits. President Bush has already hardened his government’s stance from pussyfooting around to demanding General Musharraf to take his uniform off, and to hold free and transparent elections on time.

India tried to leash the bloggers, recently Myanmar tried to hide its brutal crackdown on the monks, only to realize that the information genie is out, and it can not be caged. It will be in the Generals benefit to grasp the reality that it is no longer possible to keep 160 million Pakistanis oblivious of the truth through censorship and threats of trials of civilians in the military courts. The historic crash of Karachi stock market is the living contradiction of the myth that information can be controlled.

Whether you realize it or not but General you are ‘Tubed’ too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A General to a General

by Adnan Gill

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Hello... Hello...

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Tony, I am calling to tell you something from a General to a General.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Yes, Mr. President, what can I do for you?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: O Baba, please don't call me Mr. President. Haven't you read my PCO? It clearly states, I am a Chief of the Army Staff. So call me Mr. General.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Yes, Mr. General, what can I do for you?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Well, I just wanted to let you know that I just declared the emergency. Some people are calling it the Second Coup.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: What do you mean? How can you go through a coup against your own government? And why are you telling me that? I retired from the service years ago. Why don't you call Ms. Rice to inform her?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: O Baba, what do you mean you are retired? How can a general retire? Was there a coup against you too? Yarr, I did not call Condi, because whenever I talk to her she gives me a lecture on democracy, freedom of expression, and tells me what I can and can not do. How can she expect me to listen to her when I don't listen to 160 million Pakistanis? Please don't make me talk to her; she can be really bossy sometimes.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Okay, Mr. General, was the coup approved by the White House?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: No. Not this time.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Sir, it may come as a surprise to you, but we have hundreds of years old tradition of retiring generals when their service time is over, or when their civilian bosses tell them to. But how can I help you?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: I will never understand how you guys can run a government when everyone retires at their expected time. Tony, can you please brief your President Bush that in the interest of fighting terrorism I have suspended the constitution and basic human rights, clamped down on judges, lawyers, human rights workers, journalists, opposition leaders, and you know every other kind of terrorists who questions my infinite wisdom.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Mr. General, you will have to be more specific about what you are up to now?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Yarr, if I had known that I will have to be specific then I would have called Gen. Powell. Since I don't have a choice, let me tell you why I have gone through the second Martial Law.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Martial Law?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: O Baba, it's the same. Call it whatever you want. There is no difference between Emergency declared under the PCO or Martial Law.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Please continue with your explanation.

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Well, I had no choice but to fight these terrorists with iron fist, because you know I am not scared of anyone.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Mr. General, I'm sorry, I did not realize that the Pakistani judges, lawyers, human rights workers, and journalists were exploding bombs in Pakistan.

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Yes indeed, did you know that the judges who refused to take oath under my PCO were releasing the suicide bombers? You know how your president says, either ‘you are with us or against us’. These judges were not with me, because they were about to give a ruling declaring that my Presidential candidacy was unconstitutional. Even though the Election Commission was merely supporting the war against terrorism by approving my candidacy without even looking at the papers or checking the Constitution, that doesn't mean these terrorist judges had any right to second-guess my edict. Oh, I am sorry; I meant second-guessing of the Election Commission’s decision. Even after 60 years of subjugation these terrorist judges still don't get it, that the word of man with the gun is the Constitution, and not the rubbish on some piece of paper. If that was not enough, these terrorist judges had the audacity of poking their nose where it did not belong.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Like where?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Yarr, they were investigating the misuse of farms around Islamabad allotted to the high and mighty of Pakistan, like it was any of their business. It's not like these farms were given at dirt-cheap prices to any one group or party. It was bipartisan loot for the Pakistani Big-Boys Club. Instead of bothering the elites these terrorist judges could have gotten a farm or two for themselves and everyone would have been happy. But no, they had to question us. The club members were asking me ‘what was I going to do about it?’ They were pestering me with questions like ‘why don't I take an action against these terrorist judges?’

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: But Mr. General, how does that make them terrorists?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Just between you and me, you know that we don't have time to catch the bad guys so we arrested 61 people at random to show my nation and the white house that we are doing something about the terrorism and nonexistent law and order situation in Pakistan. These terrorist judges embarrassed us and tarnished our image of a frontline state by releasing the 61 people on a silly technicality that they were extrajudicially imprisoned.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: What do you mean you don't have time? What could be more important than finding the terrorists?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: O Baba, we don't have supercomputers like you to monitor every phone call, SMS message, or go through the e-mails of these terrorists, so whatever manpower we have we had to assign them to snooping on these terrorists who call themselves judges, lawyers, human rights workers, and journalists. Besides, my intelligence chiefs have better things to do like negotiating a ‘you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours’ deal or ‘you get me reelected and I will forgive all of your crimes’ deal. I'm sure you must have heard of the NRO deal by now.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Yes Mr. General, I have heard of the infamous NRO. Now, what kind of terrorist activities were these journalist and the human rights workers involved in?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Yarr, these journalists are such a thankless bunch. Instead of praising me all the time for allowing them to set up private channels and breaking the monopoly of state media, these thankless terrorists started to report things as they were. If sharing the truth with Pakistanis was for their benefit don't you think we would have done it in the last 60 years? When I raised the slogan of ‘enlightened moderation’ these news junkies mistook it as raising the social and political awareness of the average Pakistani. Now these newly enlightened average Pakistanis are disrupting the war against terrorism by fighting for their rights in the courts and that too publicly with the help of terrorist media. What these media terrorists don't tell the Pakistanis is sometimes it's important to detain people at random with no due process to increase the odds of catching a terrorist by sheer luck. Just because we haven't caught or prosecuted even a single terrorist doesn't mean we should lose hope catching one by chance. Since our jails are overflowing with unaccounted political prisoners we had to make room by extrajudicially deporting some of them to Saudi Arabia and to the terrorist paradises like Guantánamo Bay. But these pesky reporters and judges don't understand that. I had no choice but to arrest them, beat them up, and throw them in jails to rot for the rest of their lives, because they were demoralizing and paralyzing the administration, which is not used to being answerable to anyone, especially the public. Now you tell me, am I right or what? How can a dictator function when the nosy reporters and judiciary constantly second-guess our dictatorial rule?

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Mr. General, I really don't know how to respond to that. But I'm sure you are doing good job at catching the Al-Qaeda and foreign mercenaries within your territory.

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Tony, I can tell, you haven't lost your sense of humor. I thought you always knew that there is no Al-Qaeda and foreign mercenaries, or wouldn’t we have had caught at least one by now? And even if by chance there are some of them on the Pakistani soil, why would we catch them? If we catch all of them then you guys will once again pack up and leave, and forget about us. Who is going to give us unaccountable $10 billion if the war on terrorism ends today?

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Mr. General, I am little puzzled. Then who are you fighting with in the Tribal Areas and Swat Valley?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Yarr, don't tell it to anyone, but they are our own people. We had to kill a few hundred citizens; because Karzai and the White House kept on saying we were not doing anything to fight the terrorists. So we had to put up a show, you know, what you people call collateral-damage.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: But Mr. General, we thought there were huge battles going on in those areas. Then who had been taking hundreds of your army men hostages?

GEN. MUSHARRAF: O Baba, don't get me started on that. During the last eight years the civilians had been corrupting my men. Now half of my men have started to think for themselves. They have joined the terrorists. They do not fire blindly on the civilians anymore. Can you believe that the discipline has become so bad that these men now refuse to obey my orders and spare the lives of their countrymen? They actually prefer to become hostages over killing even a single civilian. But little do they know that I have other tricks up under my sleeves. I tell my Air Force and Gunship pilots that Osama is hiding at such and such place. These fools actually believe me and end up bombing whomever I want them to. Beside, I am doing a favor to these civilians, because in the last eight years disparity among rich and poor has only increased, reasonable jobs are almost impossible to find, inflation and unemployment are record high, and it's not like we are producing additional food; so if you ask me, they are better off in heaven than living on this hell on earth.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Hmmn... Mr. General, I am lost for the words. I don't know what to say.

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Ops... Yarr, I was just joking. I didn't mean everything I said. Please forget everything I said. Please don't tell it to President Bush. It will look really bad. I promise I won't do it again.

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: Mr. General, please don't worry. Because I'm not sure if President Bush will be able to understand even half of what you said. Just keep on saying ‘water on terrorism’, ‘war on terrorism’, and I assure you, you will be A-Okay. I have to go now. Take care, Mr. General. I will talk to you later.

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Okay Tony. Goodnight. And Tony, you promised you won't tell everything to President Bush or Condi, right?

GEN. (Retd) ZINNI: I said, goodbye Mr. General.

GEN. MUSHARRAF: Thank you Sir. Oh, I mean, bye Tony.

Disclaimer: Above transcript is a political satire. All characters are fictional.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Greatest Game

by Adnan Gill

It is unfortunate that violence in Pakistan seems to have made us numb to suicide and bomb blasts. The blasts at the PPP rally will have immense political repercussions. Neither the motives nor the benefits from this tragedy should be hard to speculate. All we have to do is think who will benefit the most from it? Even though most of the casualties are sustained by the PPP workers, ironically the fruits of this tragedy will be reaped by the PPP. The PPP has gotten the trump-card of victimisation. Another ‘outfit’ that has a lot of interest in a destabilised Pakistan is the US. A destabilised and politically weakened Pakistan will conveniently play as puppet whose strings will be in the hands of the US through its proxies of Musharraf and Benazir. Is it a mystery why Osama bin Laden is still at large, even though we have been told for the last six years that he is hiding in a five square miles area on the Pak-Afghan border? To some, it is not a mystery because it serves the powers-to-be. What we are witnessing is only a small part of a ‘game’.

The Post

Price of a Jiala

By Adnan Gill

If Benazir Bhutto’s infamous mad dash that covered 15 km in 15 minutes to the sanctuary of ‘Bilawal House’ wasn't demoralizing enough; if the mobbing of the reporters by the fame hungry PPP leaders like Jehangir Badar, Sherry Rehman and others, immediately after the bombings, wasn't embarrassing enough; if the stampeding bigwigs of PPP literally driving over the dead and injured party workers/Jialas in their luxury cars, as their injured Jialas cried for help, wasn't cruel enough; BB had to rub salt on the wounds of her Jialas by giving them Rs.5,000 (US $83 per head) for their pain and suffering. It cost more than Rs.5,000 to even pay one month’s rent for a barely livable dwelling in Karachi.

Benazir Bhutto's stinginess and sadistic disregard for the sacrifices of Jialas wasn't lost on anyone, even international media took a note of it.

One cannot put a figure on the ultimate sacrifice of a person, but BB’s niggard act of putting a price of piddly Rs.5,000 was the ultimate insult to her Jialas who didn't think twice before sacrificing their lives for her. Her stinginess and sadistic disregard for the sacrifices of Jialas wasn't lost on anyone, even international media took a note of it. The New York Times noticed,
“Flanked by security guards carrying automatic weapons, she waved to dozens of supporters as she left Jinnah Hospital after she handed out envelopes containing 5,000 rupees, or about $83, to the wounded.”

Even a 5th grade student can estimate the price BB put on her Jialas’ heads:
145 Martyred Jialas x Rs.5,000 = Rs.725,000 or $12,083
400 Injured Jialas x Rs.5,000 = Rs.2,000,000 or $33,333
Grand Total = Rs.2,725,000 or $45,416 (note: all figures are approximation)

Ms. Bhutto often travels to New York from Dubai in First-Class/Business-Class. A round trip costs roughly $8,500. Price she put on her Jialas’ heads, 5 round trips.

Ms. Bhutto has been widely seen wearing diamond studded designer fashion glasses. They are estimated to have cost around $10,000. Price she put on her Jialas’ heads, 4 1/2 such glasses.

Upon her much publicized trip to Pakistan, Ms. Bhutto rode in her Mercedes S600 luxury-car to the Dubai airport. A Mercedes S600 costs approx. $134,000. Price she put on her Jialas’ heads, 1/3 of a Mercedes S600.

Recently Ms. Bhutto returned to Dubai. Her husband picked her up from the airport in their Bentley luxury-car. A single Bentley costs at least $264,000. Price she put on her Jialas’ heads, 1/6 of a Bentley.

Ms. Bhutto owns a pink family villa fringed by palm trees in an upscale Emirates Hills (Dubai) neighborhood overlooking a lake and with a view to a golf course. Average price for a villa in Emirates Hills is said to be $6,000,000. Price she put on her Jialas’ heads, 1/35 of a luxury villa in Emirates Hills.

As BB recuperates in the luxury of her Dubai Villa, her jialas lay in the hospital beds wondering how they are going to feed their families.

True leaders stand tough in the face of adversity for their followers. An immortal leader fearlessly jumps in the fire to save his/her followers. However, an opportunist puts the price on his/her followers’ heads. Benazir Bhutto, a leader or an opportunist? You decide!

Asian Tribune
The Frontier Post