Free Dorothy; Osama; ‘agencies’; and some great links

Post sent earlier to my yahoogroup

Dear all,

I’m on the train to New York where Aman ki Asha has been nominated for an award at the International Newspaper Media Association (INMA) annual congress. Group Director Jang Group Shahrukh Hasan will be there and so will Laleh Habib, the Aman ki Asha coordinator.

The train left on the dot at the scheduled time, 11.13 am. And it has wi-fi, so I can catch upon things. This is a year of reunions for me. My 25th college reunion in two weeks, and this past weekend many many fellow Niemans at occasions honouring the outgoing curator Bob Giles. Many journalists requested everyone to keep the pressure on for the release of Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz (Nieman ’09) who has been missing for over two weeks now, since she entered Syria…
Syria is believed to have deported her to Iran (she is an Iranian, Canadian and American passport holder). Iran has not confirmed this. Here’s a report about the campaign to ‘Free Dorothy’ : “I first noticed it when some of my Facebook friends swapped out their profile pics with a ‘Free Dorothy’ avatar” – which is something I have done too. | twitter @freedorothy | facebook page: Free Dorothy Parvaz

Much has happened in the two weeks since I last posted to this group. The Osama drama in Abbottabad, for one thing. I don’t think anyone believes that he could have been there for that long without someone in the Pakistani establishment not only knowing, but facilitating his stay there. When we heard the news, we were with Michael Semple (who modestly describes himself as a ‘taliban expert’), his wife Yameema Mitha and kids. Michael’s first response was “This gives USA ideal opportunity to play its role in responsibly resolving Afghanistan, Pakistan conflict”. He wrote a piece in the Telegraph the next day: ‘Osama bin Laden: death marks end of phase in war with Afghanistan’ saying that “the post- bin Laden conflict may even move away from the issues of international terrorism and back to the challenge of Afghans finding a way to live together.”

This is also the time to overhaul Pakistan’s intelligence agencies – whether they were too incompetent to know that OBL was in Abbottabad, or complicit in harbouring him – and to show unequivocal support for the democratic political process. This is not about the incompetence or corruption or weakness of our elected representatives or of President Zardari, but about ensuring that the democratic political process continues. In the long run, this is the only way to ensure that the ‘agencies’ and security establishment finally become accountable to the government elected by the people of Pakistan. We are currently facing a crisis that is also a unique opportunity to belatedly do something about a situation that has caused much harm and suffering to Pakistanis also, besides its global repercussions.

The security establishment is so used to dictating policy along the lines of its own out-dated perceptions (pro-jihadi, anti-India) that it is having a hard time falling in line with the government’s policies which are decidedly anti-Jihadi, and pro-peace with India. There’s much talk about the accountability for the politicians – how about some accountability for the sector that has the biggest budget in the country? Link to my paper outlining my thoughts).

Of course other forces were also responsible for creating this monster of jihadis-cum-intelligence agencies, including Saudi Arabia and America. Until the 2008 general elections, the security establishment and government were pretty much one thing. When Musharraf made that u-turn, he allowed some cells and homegrown jihadis to continue doing what they wanted… including fingering India. They are still in that cold war mentality, upholders of the ideology of Pakistan – no one knows what that is, except for them and Majeed Nizami who owns the Nawa-e-Waqt group (which outed the CIA station chief’s name both times).

Over the years, it is Pakistani that these elements have harmed the most. The truth will eventually prevail. The trial of David Headley (the Pakistani-American involved in the Mumbai attacks) in Chicago will be very interesting – he’s become a key prosecution witness and claims he was paid by the ISI. See NYT report by David Rohde and Ginger Thompson, ‘Key witness or desperate man?’ (reproduced by The Hindu)

For those who can read Urdu, do read this opinion piece in the daily Sahara, India – on Osama, education, Muslims, and leadership – by Shesh Narain Singh

Here’s a short video titled ‘The Empowered’ – on girls’ education in Pakistan by 10-year old Rehmat, daughter of Samina and Dr Zafar Mirza (currently working with WHO in Zurich) – she did it for a school project:

On another note, it was great to see some news reports focusing on other aspects of Pakistan. Maybe this is also the time that a more nuanced picture of the country and its people can emerge. Some must-reads:

– Andrew Buncombe’s excellent short piece in The Independent about a family in Abbottabad he met: ‘Bin Laden’s green-fingered (and utterly charming) neighbours

– And  ‘Abbottabad neighbour refuses to let Osama’s death spoil his wedding’ (AFP report)

Also must see: Scottish actor Atta Yaqub discovers cosmopolitan Karachi

To end on a really positive note: here are links to two awesome guitar performances:
Musical prodigy Usman Riaz is the subject of a new short film showcasing his talent and particular style of guitar playing, playing it as a part-string, part-percussion instrument. Riaz, 20, deferred his admission to Boston’s Berklee School of Music to explore Pakistan’s music and culture scene (report in Newsline)

Mesmerising performace by a student at the first talent competition organised at the Harvard Kennedy School – this performance was the talk of the Harvard community. He got a well-deserved standing ovation and first prize at the show

And to end on a hilarious note – read Nadeem Farooq Paracha’s hilarious
AND see this (unrelated) spoof of a spoof: Kate & William’s Big Fat Punjabi Wedding (my title), ripped off a T-Mobiile ad  – it had me laughing out loud 🙂

One Response

  1. […] Free Dorothy; Osama; ‘agencies’; and some great links […]


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