Desperate times

Everyone knows the story by now, how could they not? Its been blasted to us from every corner of our input receivers on all forms of media and has spiraled into something resembling a circus pretty quick. A well spoken man receives a large sum of money in a hotel room in England, allegedly to spot fix no balls in the next days innings in the last test match between Pakistan & England and lo and behold the balls are delivered as promised by our bowlers Muhammad Asif & Aamir and when the story is revealed by “News of the World” All hell breaks loose.

Such is the regular chagrin of a Pakistan cricket fan for over 25 years, that we expect the worst, but when it comes we cannot seem to handle it or accept the face being shown in the mirror. However after a couple of days having passed under the “lynch em all” bridge there seems to be a very conspicuous smell coming from the direction of this case and no I do not think this was engineered by our oft blamed neighbors, even if it is somehow in their advantage according to some theorists.

It has been now established and quoted on reputable news sources like BBC Sport that a sum of money ( 4000 pounds )found in Pakistan’s cricket players rooms matches the serial nos of the bank notes given to the alleged fixer. That should clear away any doubts held by any loyalist or knee jerk defender of the Pakistan teams honor for sure. It looks like the face in the mirror is ours but whether we are now being made scape goats by the International media for a bigger problem is the question that lingers in my mind.

First of all reporting about the case in all forms of media abroad have had a small lineage of arsenic underlying the tones from day one. What followed later can only be called selective reporting as the whole team was virtually trussed up and sent to the gallows even before the crime could have been established or verified. Suspension of the three players named does seem like the right step by the ICC but has the ICC done so in the past with other players of other teams when proved guilty? I distinctly remember a Shane warne being let off with a “fine” when he “admitted” to taking money from a bookmaker to report on weather conditions was it?

Reports now tell us that these same players were under the microscope of  the Anti corruption team of the ICC for quite some time. If this was the case was anyone made aware other than the players themselves of what was going on? When Mr Butt was named captain of Pakistan what part did the alleged 5 warnings he had received from ICC’s anti corruption unit come into play for the people deciding on a leader for our team?

Please note when we speak of bias and the ICC denies it and many reputed sportswriters in England pooh pooh it, the past shows us that people have been rather quick on the trigger when it comes to our country and team.  Remember oval gate? We were all called cheats back then but the long run saw the umpire’s forced retirement not of the players involved. That everyone just seems to turn a blind eye to the root of these issues and concentrates on  hanging whoever is caught with the packet at the end cannot be all coincidence or well intentioned.

Its not about the background let me assure you, from a village or a town every Pakistan boy who gets this far knows what is right and what is wrong. We ain’t exactly the tom sawyers people are projecting us as out there. However calling for suspension from test status of our team when it has not even been considered for other test playing nations when their own super stars were caught with their hand in the cookie jar is a bit laughable.

What is not laughable however is the point that sometimes these players are motivated by a lot more than greed when it comes to “fixing” This has been proven in Waseem Akrams case in the past as well when his family was threatened. Could this have been at play when the said transaction took place?

In either case, what needs to be done now is for the ICC to scrutinize each and every individual who is coming forth with the sudden urge to tell the world how they also were approached by bookies. This cancer is still rooted deep and in my opinion a shadowy parallel world for those in the spotlight in cricket. It is very much in action for all teams playing. We will need to make sure it is bombarded and cut off for ever or else cricket will die a very sad and painful death.

That and we should stop vilifying our entire team because certain individuals in it were playing for more than the honor of representing Pakistan out there. Team Pakistan will play on and recover from this, like we have from so many setbacks in our past. Aamir or no Aamir we do not have a lack of talent in the domestic setup and should not let this violation of the fans or the public trust go unchecked.

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As published in “The Friday times” on 24/9/2010

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Pk flood relief mission 2 live

When we got back from our last distribution in sukkur we  had gained not just experience & pics but a lot of on field contacts, which will be useful in the 2nd distribution mission which starts tomorrow..err make that today in 5 hours.

The plan

To take 7 trucks of food/water hampers (3500)  & 1 truck of tents (100) and get them safely to pre planned areas and distribute in smaller hiluxes and suzukis after storage in staging area warehouse. Will also drop enough hampers at our established little tent enclave.

Route : National highway

Security provided by local contact in sukkur and Pak rangers on the way, very generous of them i might add.

Team consists off : Offroaders, volunteers, Behbud Karachi, & 70 Ex servicemen group, PYR Pakistan, FLP Pakistan, CIO Pakistan & P@SHA

The trucks are on their way, we are pumped up and the spirits are high, last time we had just two cars and nothing to hope for, this time our whole team is with us. We also plan to go further than shikarpur and have liaised with  Local DCO  Office as well as Reflection’s school team and more, to get as much help to as many needy as we possibly can.

We also plan to scout out a possible location for a future medical camp, when we say future it usually means next week  so here is to the team, lets gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!

You will be able to view and track me here via live gps updates, when i switch it on that is..


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If that is not enough, you are either a blogger..or a dodgy..err no no then I recommend you hook into our live chatter box below where you can see our updates via twitter. Follow us and help us along our way, may god be with us all!!!

The Pakistani in the mirror

The people of Pakistan are a paradox. Faced with the insurmountable Taliban, the war on our city streets via suicide bombs or the staggering inflation and crushing economic debt , most would either run for the hills or try to stand up for what they believe in.  Instead, we see most of us living in a bubble of our own making, where the various peculiarities of our personas and financial circumstances make unwritten barriers of identity and thus we have become totally fragmented.

The “we” I refer to includes me as well, as I have started to feel day by day that I am perhaps not doing enough for my country. The “Who gives a shit as long as my life works?” mentality can only last so long. How long are we going to pretend that everything is fine and distract ourselves with the latest conundrums of the specific strata of society we identify with? Right now it seems like our entire society is divided into different groups, who come in all shapes and sizes and yes, all hate one another. Thus I thought I should attempt to sum them up for better explanation.

‘My Prado is bigger than your Prado crowd’

Entry level Politics 101: this section of society demands a Sindh club membership, a few SUVs and a distant political family affiliation with the requisite hanger-ons and goons that come with such a status in our country. Often seen cruising the city streets late at night with guards in tow these individuals live in an even more secluded pocket amongst the elite pocket. They must only make friends with scions of the “families that matter” and avoid discussing politics at all times as that is something the aam junta does. Favorite watering holes include the Sheraton and various other lobbies of over priced five star hotels which only they can afford to lounge in. Favorite pass times are shikaar, and routine disappearances to some distant lands on the pretext of fasal cutting and other manly activities. Level of interaction with minions like the rest of us? Bare minimum.

‘I’m liberal so listen to me’

The burgoise intellectual hippie type creative bunch which demands at least one apple device for entry (even if it’s a pair of headphones) and additional others to show off.  Must have some kind of creative outlet be it writing, blogging, painting, designing or photography and the various accessories that go with these fields of interest. They make friends with everyone but consider no one their equal unless they have some level of creativity in them, judged by random rambling on subjects of the pseudo intellectual variety. Do not know how to write a proper email but must communicate with the whole universe through intense use of all social media. Often heard saying things like BBM was so nineties. This group hangs out mostly at Espresso and T2F where they can sip lattes and decide the fate of the world or the management of the next 40 people protest at the press club. Nocturnal in nature, they also like to make routine disappearances to foreign shores either in the shape of conferences or on the pretext of immersing in some phoren culture.

‘Invisible and Judgmental’

The almost non existent middle class of Pakistan which demands shareefanabehavior as entry fees, this means keeping your head down and out of sight of any possible involvement in anything that registers in the public eye. This group of people cannot make friends with the Prado crowd and hate the liberal crowd so they prefer to mingle only with their own safaid-posh-selves. They are very articulate but never register in any forum anywhere as they feel it leads to trouble, eventually. Very happy in their existence and only interested in preserving their do waqt ki halal roti they prefer to hang out at Usmania and Bundu Khan and mid level eateries where no scum from the rich lot can trouble or notice them. Favorite passtimes are  reminiscing about everything in the glorious past and discussing how this country has gone to the dogs. They drive to Hyderabad sometimes but besides the Bombay Bakery there, they hate that whole city as well.

‘I do not matter and I will behave like it as well’

The rest of Pakistan, the ones who toil day in and day out to make ends meet. They cannot afford to buy more than a sewing machine, a tv and an iron. The only entry level requirement to this group is absolute helplessness in a medical emergency to arrange medicine or the looters – i mean - doctors, pre-surgery fee on time. The ones who actually suffer when petrol prices go up as bus fare increases. They will try to make friends with anyone who will have them, as they are starved of so many things they latch onto the slightest look of approval and try to make in-roads into one of the above three groups often to be sent back to the underworld they have emerged from. They hang out at dhabas as they cannot afford to enter posh  or mid level eateries and blame the other three groups for everything that is wrong with them, sometimes rightly so. Exploited and underpaid, they can disappear anywhere and are seen in every nook and cranny of this nation, a stark reminder of those that should matter but do not.

All said and done, we as a country are now in an identity crisis, we range from Honda hi lainsa to Blackberry hi  lainsa and do not know what to make of one another or how to coexist in a meaningful way. Thus all we do is just heap blame upon one another and not take action on things that really matter.  This country, which has given us the option to do what we do, the finances to achieve it and the freedom for me to sit here and write this is going down the drain. It is no use blaming leaders and bad morality when the same leadersship is voted into power by all of us. There is no point in crying crocodile tears at charity meet ups where people dance to the latest tunes and get smashed all in the name of doing good.

There are people among us who are actually doing something for this nation, for their environment in the fields of education,  poverty alleviation and social development of the common man. These are the people who have decided themselves that their only identity should be that of a Pakistani and their only mission should be its salvation. Do you think it is time we all joined them in their mission too?

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As published in the express tribune blog on 3rd July 2010

Discussion on unity, with Farah Pandith

On Tuesday me and some other members of the new media were invited to a discussion with Ms. Farah A. Pandith, U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities at Kurshid Mahal in Avari towers here in Karachi.

Karachi traffic being what it is due to V.I.P movement, the event started off at around 9 pm whereas me, the punctual moron that I am was awaiting everyone’s arrival from 815 pm, the actual designated time. In any case the discussion was quite robust and lasted for about 45 minutes.

The “change” which we had been hearing about by the Obama government in those white halls was to me pretty much in action in this discussion. As Farah an American Muslim herself was not just well spoken like so many other diplomats are, she seemed to actually give a hoot about unity. The inclusion of new media in the discussion was also a point well taken, as the Obama administration has mobilized social media in unprecedented ways right from the onset of their election campaign in the U.S and they believe in its power.

Is it important to have these discussions? Do they serve any purpose? Well if they translate into something actual on the ground yes, talk is just  talk till then. However some issues were cleared up for sure in this discussion. Contrary to what I had knowledge of before, the U.S consulate does seem to be running an effective outreach program to the many madrassahs in Karachi, they are hell bent on inclusion rather than isolation and do seem to be genuine in their desire to work with the lower income strata as well in this city. In short they are more than willing to help.

However there is much work still to be done. It was heartening to see that we have begun the process of dialogue rather than throw insults and conspiracy theories at one another, but there are some miles to go to bridge the trust gap yet.

I did suggest in this discussion and continue to stress on the fact that we the people of Pakistan and the U.S need to sit down across one another and talk. There is too much hyperbole and conspiracy in our respective  mainstream media’s for us to judge each other without any bias. We must break these barriers, because this alone will set us free and usher in a new age of cooperation. We and the American’s really cannot do without one another, so its best we join hands as nations and on a community level rather than just political alliances.

The bloggers familiar to me in attendance were: Dr Awab Alvi , Sana Saleem, Ammar Yasir, Naveen Naqvi, Huma yusuf, Sabeen & Kidvai Sahab. There were off course other people from new media, radio as well as op ed writers and journos present. The two facilitators from the Us Consulate were Ms Elizabeth O. Coltran (public affairs officer) and Mr  Mushtque A.Rajpur (media advisor) I thank them all for a memorable event & discussion.

Devils at your Door

A week back I was sitting in the waiting area of a popular pediatrician’s clinic with my 3 year old niece. This clinic is located in a very popular hospital in the Clifton vicinity and is always crowded. I was waiting and trying to entertain my niece who was very upset at being taken to the doctors. A little girl of around 5 years old comes to me and smiles at me. I couldn’t help noticing what a cute little angel she was. She extended her hand to me which I shook and then she very clearly said “Aunty mujhe uncle ne mara”. I assumed she was talking about the people who had accompanied her there and I asked her who had hit her to which she pointed to her genital area and said “mujhe uncle ne idhar mara”. I looked around for her guardians and I saw a man coming towards us, he came and took her away. I saw him walk towards a woman standing in the corner who was crying silently It made me wonder what had happened and why the girl had said what she had.
A little while later my niece went over to where the girl was standing and I walked over to the couple to get her. I smiled at the woman and told her what an adorable daughter she had which only made her cry more. I couldn’t help asking what happened to which she told me something that sent shivers down my spine. This little girl was molested by their driver. He had taken her to the servant room and had tried to force himself on her in the absence of her parents. She didn’t provide any further details and I was left there standing speechless.
I am pretty sure that incidents like these happen every day in our so called elite society but they are never brought to light, are not considered very important to talk about and most commonly are buried to avoid embarrassment and questions. What people don’t realize is that by bringing these incidents to light we are actually trying to put a stop on them happening in the future. Many of us read and hear about these incidents in print media, blogs, word of mouth and just shake our heads with a tut tut and “oh how sad”. The question we should be asking ourselves is what we are doing to prevent such incidents from happening.
The worst part is that we as a society are a contributor to these hideous crimes. We have becomes so “Status Conscious” that leaving children with servants has actually become a status symbol. How many times have we seen children outside shopping malls with drivers and servants waiting in the car, or how many times do we see children being left at home with servants so that their moms and dads can go out and socialize. I have seen pregnant women worrying about finding the right “chota” to look after their new born child. Why do we even consider having children when we cannot take care of them ourselves.
I have no sympathy for parents who cry and repent once such an incident occurs. Were they blind before that they could not see what is going on right under their noses? Why did they even bother giving birth to children when they could not take care of them? I remember seeing a young mother shopping in Sunday Bazaar with her servant carrying her daughter behind her. Every 5 mins the male servant would kiss the girl on her lips. God knows what sick pleasure that man must be deriving from this act of his but the mother was completely oblivious to this and was busy with her shopping.
Abusing a child sexually can result in both short term and long term damage. It can lead to poor self esteem, psychological disorders, behavior issues and worst of all turning them into child abusers themselves. I keep thinking about the little girl in the hospital, will she ever be able to forget the uncle who had hit her? Would she ever be able to feel confident about herself or her surroundings? Many a times the abusers blackmail children into silence and continue with acts of abuse by threats of telling their parents or by locking them in a room or by taking away their favourite toys. Children being the innocent things they are continue to silently get tortured and abused and the blind parents never know.
I am hundred percent sure that after reading my article people will only shake their heads and say this is so sad and then forget about it the next minute. We need to act and we need to act now. We should stop being dependant on servants and letting our children being given in their hands and leaving them to satisfy their sick minds. I shudder to think what that driver must have had in his mind when he was trying to satisfy his sick desires on an innocent little girl.
We need to stop focusing on our so called “Status quo” and start building a better future for our children. Having a child is not simply making sure they are fed, dressed and sent to school, It means we are completely responsible for their proper upbringing to turn them into confident and responsible adults.
Today this is just a girl you are reading about in my article. Tomorrow it can be one of your own children. Act now before its too late.

Let the street speak

December was a very scary month for the city of Karachi, thank god we are past it now but the scars will linger on for a number of years. The scars are obviously due to the horrendous attack on the 10th muharram juloos of the shiate community and the carnage that resulted thereof as 3 entire blocks of the precious real estate of Karachi was burnt.

As the initial shock wore off, the familiar faces surfaced on Tv to lead a campaign of tie the bell around whomsoever’s neck they could find. It started with shiates and taliban and ended on blackwater and then offcourse the old favourite MQM. Some papers even went as far as to say that blackwater and mqm were working togather under the cdgk to clear up unwanted shops so that new prime land could then be given to party favourites.

Sounds like something out of a movie script does it not? The sad part is that many people less aware of things are duped into absorbing some of it as the gospel truth by our so called fair and free media. The free part i certainly agree with as they can castrate whomever they feel like on that particular day but fair is a far cry from these gents. So after dragging MQM’s name through whatever muck they could get, everyone went “haw hai” at the city nazim’s livid response on TV. Well lets consider this, if say your office was on fire and you had been standing on the spot throwing buckets of water on it for 2 days and failed to save it and then were accused all over national tv of being involved in setting the fire itself what would you do?

If you ask me i would have smashed the bucket I had been supposedly using over the persons head close to me. Mustufa Kamal was gracious enough to use words to express his anger and helplessness. Yeah yeah i know politicians are supposed to behave in a cool manner always, well what about someone who really gives a shit about this city and saw it burn? You would expect him to be a little angry no? Obviously the fact that he was the only politician on scene during the whole crises and was present throughout the raging destruction going on, and was also the key provider of all the footage everyone was barking about was never mentioned. The fact that Altaf hussain was the only politican who demanded from the government the rights of the people affected in this carnage was forgotten and the reality that almost all the people affected are pro mqm supporters as well as members of the businessman community was also lost to the wind.

Instead every attempt was made to set off Karachi’s ethnic violence volcano once again. Muhajirs were repeatedly accused and tarnished so that they would lose control and plunge into the war on the streets which our media loves. vultures always need carcasses to pick you see and MQM’s past has been a point of contention with many. Things actually came to a point where members of the religious bodies of Shiate and Sunni clans had to issue warnings and calls for peace within their sects or else mayhem might have broken out.

Sadly our countries religious Jamaat was not far behind in all this incitement, and are now currently left with nothing to say as a group of terrorists(jhundullah) has accepted full responsibility for this blast yet again yesterday. Strangely the police and the rangers backed off as some sort of well planned scheme to let the looters do as they wanted whom after the arson melted quickly away. As for the  argument of MQM wanting land in that area? I find it totally silly and sorry but I do not buy it. If a shop is in violation of the building zones of the city a notice is issued against it, this does not mean whoever is in the city goverment want to do qabza on the shop. This means the tenant has been flouting the laws and if you dear reader have ever visited these areas you would know what i am talking about . Lets not go into that because even if many of the shop keepers were actual illegal squatters they lost their livelihoods and income so their cases are horrific as it is. Lets however accept reality and stop blaming one another for something which was too insidious to have been carried out by a party on its own followers. Today the Chamber of commerce has stated that they recieved more than 3000 claim forms out of which 1560 were termed bogus and will thus not be compensated. So if there are some 1440 true claim forms how can 3000 shops be torched? Get the picture?? If you still do not let me illustrate, the truth is not always as it is heard on tv, that is a version of the truth, the real version however exists out there on the streets, where no one bothers to go and do any reseach before they become “analysts” on tv.

The people left behind to pick up the wreckage and restart their lives can be asked who has helped them the most in this time of crises on them. Whose camps dot the boulten road and provide free food to the shopkeepers effected, whos workers are with them side by side as they whitewash their burnt shops once again to restart. The people on that street will tell you the truth, because it is the party of the street which backs them up, the party of the people of this city.

Life in the bomb lane

Its very very hard to stay focused in a country like Pakistan. Not so long ago in the ending weeks of 2009 I wrote a very upbeat cheery article about the incoming new year and how Karachi was going to celebrate it. On the 10th of Muharram, that article and any future hopes of celebration had to be shredded. Every one knows what happened that day during the bomb attack on a procession of our shia brethren and the horrible events which followed in which 3 city blocks of Karachi’s main whole sale markets were razed and torched to the ground. So I am not going to dwell on those horrible facts, I wont even mention the ghastly mistake made by our main stream tv media in showing as many grisly images as they could or trying to create some sort of morbid horror version of daily life in Pakistan to the International world.

When I say things like this people tend to turn around and scream “well life is like that here is it not” I agree there are days like the last ashura but then even on that day aside from those 3 blocks the entire city was not in flames so why was that impression given? Is it not the responsibility of an informed media to present views in a balanced manner on any crises instead of jumping from breaking news to breaking news like some sort of perverted vampire thirsty for ratings blood?

In any case new year was bound to come whatever hell we might live in and it did. With it came the realization that 2010 no matter how difficult to type and write is finally here. On the first day of the year I joined some people in a peace rally at the press club, this rally was organized by a loosely knit set of organizations including, women’s right activists, print media columnists, bloggers, social activists as well as a few celebrities thrown in for the glam of it. Plus lets not forget people like me who were there to see just what the heck all the hoopla was about?

The banner uniting all of these people from different strata’s of life is the AMAN ITTEHAD and it came about after a series of efforts from individuals in all facets of civil society holding a conference in murree to come up with a strategy and perhaps a modus operandi for registering and raising their voice against injustice. As to why that meeting was held in the leafiness of the hills is worth a chuckle if you consider the irony of civil activists replicating the actions of those they are strategizing against right down to meeting locations.

As for the peace rally? The first day of the year was officially decided as the “Solidarity day” and was registered with similar rallies in 37 different cities of the land all at 3 pm, though someone should have explained that to Karachiites better as in KST 3pm means about 4 or so. Thus people ambled in about an hour late and joined up throughout the marching throng which first gathered at the press club and then went towards the governor house (junction) to release a plethora of white balloons, after which everyone trooped back to the starting point amidst much chanting, singing and general air of merriment at having achieved something. I must admit it does give one a heady feeling to be part of something like this, but for me that feeling sank right after we released the balloons and waved our white paper doves as I overheard two policemen talking to each other as they walked by. The words of that conversation, although too crude to reproduce here were along the lines off “If balloons could restore peace what the heck are we doing all day”

See when you hear something like that, you begun to think as to what purpose did so much organizing, meetings, banner making, gathering and singing and chanting achieve? Does it really matter to those in power if civil society is mad at the way the country is being treated. Does any of this serve any purpose except for an extended photo op with the who’s who of the literary circuit and civil activist ranks?

That day thankfully my mind gave me a clear and simple answer. If we the people who live in Pakistan do not own up to the violence here and raise our voice against it who will? If we do not register our protest in a civil manner then do we have any reason to sit in our homes and complain when the shit hit’s the fan? No we do not! We must take action, be it by contributing in any manner possible on any forum. We must all unite for this country and demand from our elected representatives the basics of any societies needs, we must all ask for an end to violence and injustice in any shape or form, be it in the face of our brave army fighting the Taliban or a judiciary which can take action on injustice swiftly. Its no good blaming people for things that go wrong when none of us have even the decency to try and do something to support those we blame in any effort.

So here is to a year, where Pakistan and its people will inshallah come together and forge ahead into a future that is peaceful for our children!!

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As published in The Friday Times on 8th jan 2010

Offroading in Sorh, Baluchistan

I have often heard people talk of the “call of the wild”. A feeling so unique one has to actually be there to experience it. Till I took this off road adventure though these phrases seemed like hogwash to me. Still it troubles me that most of Pakistan cannot ever see what I have in the last 2 days. Problem being that its not easy for anyone to get to these places for off roading. Its not the distance  I am talking off when I quote inaccessibility here but the fact that most of this land “belongs” to someone else, meaning its private property so unless you are as fortunate as “The off Road Pakistan” group which includes Zulfiqar with his own immense stretch of mountains, streams, desert and terrain you are nowhere. Who knows though, there may still be unclaimed mountains lying out there for the adventurous whom I urge to tally forth and claim!!

I was invited to this adventure by my co conspirator on LBS Dr Awab Alvi, who is an avid off roader himself. So there I was on a Friday (very early morning) with my duffel bag and sleeping kit packed and sitting in his stickered vigo,  stickered to save it from scratches.  Even at this point I was scratching my head as to what the fuss was all about, but as soon as we went off the beaten path about an hour or so into our journey it began.

We started out with a dirt road which soon turned into a mountain trail, wide enough only for the width of a jeep with mountains broken by nothing but wind erosion in every direction and dust blowing up with every turn of the tires. At one point we came to an area immediately following the hub dam where 3 jeeps got badly stuck, one in the sand and two inside a very muddy pond. However the “Offroad Pakistan” group is well equipped enough to handle all sorts of mechanical and terrain difficulties as it carries winches, toe straps and mechanics on board (heck most of its members are extreme mechanics themselves) thus we muddled on and on. By nightfall and several stops later which serve the purpose of loo breaks as well as fuel and food re fillers our caravan had arrived at the previously mentioned off roaders farm. The facilities at the farm were to say the least brilliant, as it is a serving hunting lodge for Arabs and other people who want to chase game in the Sorh area. I personally cannot thank him enough as it gave an amateur a little civilized break from our further adventures. However there was at least one member of the group “Khan Sahab” who was adamant at us being wishy washies and opting to stay near indoor plumbing rather than do what we came here to do.

Khan sahab is a person who has been hunting for about 45 odd years and at the prime age of 70 +  is what we call a local Indiana Jones type. His views and stories are not only a delight (lined with choice expletives) but would require an entire article to themselves to do justice hence more on this later in the Friday times version.

The night spent at this farm was not without action either as after we had settled down we loaded up in jeeps and went off in the night for some “deer spotting”. A wildlife safari in the dark with floodlights which I can best describe as “terrifying”, what with Faraz driving the open jeep I sat in at breakneck speed through the dirt tracks, and the wind hitting my face along with showers of sand and dust .  A small part of this whole night though was indeed beautiful as we all stopped at one point, turned off the music and engines and looked up to see a canopy of millions of stars in the black void of the sky shining down on us through  zero pollution. I can safely say I have never ever seen a sky like this..

The second day we awoke to cold weather and much jostling to set off on the road again for our  mountain camping site. The highlight of the morning to me was Khan sahab roaring at people near the breakfast cooking area to “get your english muffin type breakfast away B.C as I cook some puris and parathas” which he most certainly did to everyone’s joy. After about 7 hours of more off roading (including a few peaks we went across) and my resignation to the backseat for some sleep (the vigo felt like a ship going up and down) we reached the campsite deep into the Sorh area, off course on another steep incline up from an alligator infested pond which we all took a bath in (yes we were that desperate)

Having set up our respective tents (which was surprisingly easy) we all gathered around different camp fires to talk, gossip, drink Sabiha Aunties fantastic soup and listen to roars of laughter coming from the Khan sahab, Taimur mirza, Saleem Khan area where the ageless wonder got a whole goat cut and went at it like a proper butcher to end up with a steaming pot of the most delicious mutton qorma and pilaw I have had in my life (no exaggeration here) After which on the insistence of the crowd we did the Laidback show by the campfire and got to hear many more stories of which my particular favorite was the “uncensored gamsoth one”

Suffice to say after that kind of food and company, not to mentioning Faraz’s helping spirits the eyes started closing and most of us trundled off to different corners in the now almost zero temps to sleep. I however had the distinct pleasure of the company of Doc, Nabil (blackhawk) and Rehan (an ent like sage) till about 3am after which I settled down in my own tent with a torch upright to write on paper, the last chapter of my now almost finished book which lasted an hour before I crashed.

So what is it like to sit under an open starry sky? Or to eat a goat cooked by hand and roti on stones heated from the fire, or to sing with spirits inside you till the wee hours of the morning and to listen to Taimur Mirza and Khan sahab pay ode to hunting and offroading with phrases like “sahab jidhar dekho teetar the”  Well I guess you have to go there with this bunch to experience it, this scribes words fail him too sometimes.

The worst part though of the whole expedition is the moment your cell phone signal comes online and the data stream of endless proportions re enters your life. Twitter, blogs, fbook, emails, smses all lined up for your perusal…a constant reminder of the beauty & the solitude you have left behind, where hawks dare tread and only off roaders roam!!

Into the unknown we goooo high ho a merry hoo Please click this pic to see entire gallery from the trip, all pics are taken with an Iphone 3G

A silver lining?

The whole world seemed to believe for the last year or so that the Pakistani government was about to fall down in face of the incoming hordes.  By hordes I refer to the militants  which are battling our army these days in south waziristan and as reports filter in are proving to be a tough cookie to chew for the khakis right now. The Pak army has up to last weeks count around 31000 troops as well as 500 sgs commandos and gunships & fighter jets while the Taliban have 15000 men and more than 3000 foreign warriors in the form of uzbek, chechen and tajik jihadis battling it out with one another.

Our  mainstream media is still half apologetic, half mumbling its familiar drone of foreign hands and Indian/Israeli nexuses. Even now many of our religious leaders do not dare openly condemn the Taliban as it goes against their very ideology to do so.  Even now many talk show hosts are rambling on about how this is not “our war” and how we are being led by the scruff of our necks by amreekis to do as they please. They support this with various cockeyed theories about black water and so called secret bases as well as the main anti christ “The Kerry Luger Bill” Obviously a bill for non military economic aid to help the people of pakistan has to be the main culprit in the whole equation. Nothing exposed our own insecurities as much in this regard as that now famous panel discussion with the visiting secretary of state Ms Clinton and many of our media super stars. Where she was calm and engaging they chose to act like she had intruded upon a vipers nest and in the end were pretty much humiliated by her proposal for us to “not take the aid, if it upset us so much”

Nothing is new about any of this to a Pakistani. We have never had honesty from our media, where lifafa journalism rules rather than investigation based reporting. Rumors are circulated daily and when there is no news, channels make up news and report it as breaking to  set off chain reactions among the other channels waiting to dig up more angles, more breaking news and rehash the whole sodding thing down our throats in an information overload. Supposed to be the voice of Pakistan, when it counts playing to the galleries and acting like medieval gladiators is more important. Ratings matter more than lives. When questioned they often retort with “we have to live also”

However amongst all of this something important has changed.  This is the public opinion of Pakistan.  From a mixed up bag of “do we or do we not support the Taliban” to a “will they bring an Islamic system which could be good” to “oh my god they are monsters” after the recent long string of deadly suicide attacks all over Pakistan. We have all come to realize that sadly those painted as our possible saviors are the most deadliest threat we have faced in our 62 year existence.  More so than the not so friendly neighbors or the economic ills that continuously plague us as a nation. This perception shift in my opinion is where the Taliban have really and totally lost their war for Pakistan. Mind my words this is a war for the control of this country, whether anyone chooses to admit it or not, the militants will not stop at anything less than total annexation.  However at least I am certain now that this cannot happen!

To come to this conclusion one needs to first realize the basic premise that even though the khakis are having a tough time, 15000 men and a ragtag bunch of ex secret service from the Russian states are not going to lay siege and destroy a 700,000 man strong army in the long run. So the only way they can really cause damage to the state of Pakistan is through what they have been doing which is guerrilla warfare. Basically hit and run tactics which can let them use their strength in pin point suicide attacks and ambushes all over the nation. However to win a gurrilla war the militants must have the support of the local indigenous population which they had up till now. In fact I would venture so far as to say that they really lost the fight when the bomb attack happened in Peshawar’s meena bazaar last month.

When that blast happened and scores of women and children died the national effect was quite obvious, people suddenly had their eyes torn open from the quasi religious, shariat enforced dreams they were living in. They now realize that in order for Pakistan to remain and for all of us to survive we have to exterminate these militants once and for all. Upon this realization we suddenly woke up to shut down our schools and put barbed wire around them. “Not even our children are safe now” stays at the back of our minds these days as the noise against the drone attacks has now lulled to a distant murmur where at first there was a torrent of outrage.

The fact is that an average Pakistani will now do anything, to keep his or her family safe and if that means  collateral damage endured to get rid of this menace we are even ready for that. In fact I have come across many an educated individual talking about napalm strikes and smart nuclear bombs as a solution, which is I daresay pure lunacy to say the least. About 600,000 Pakistanis live in the area where the war is going on and even though rural, their destruction is not an option for our security.

That being said the national perception having turned the corner should ensure that the militants grand plan will never succeed now.  For even if somehow they manage to hold up against the army  they still have to face opposition by locals in the very areas they are based in and there is no way that they can run a quasi government while carrying on a war with our army. Consider Sri lanka or any place in the world where militancy has waged war for a long time. Once the locals united with the forces battling it, the militancy had to run for the hills.

Now if only our political leadership can cross the differences they have and unite to understand that we are all behind them, if they want to take us out of this mess once and for all. The corner has been turned and now we need leadership to guide us on the road to survival.

War will stop in time, right now Pakistan needs a champion.