Monday, April 23, 2007



Please stop giving sermons about peace, equality, prosperity and global village when for all intent and purpose these policies are aimed at killing, loot and plunder and If this is a futuristic version of colonialist greed (read white man burden) in modern India , sugar coated theories of “World is Flat”, we do not want it . Thanks but no Thanks.

Nowadays there is a lot of promotion of so called new ideas by a number of thinkers championing market economy, Trade liberalization and globalization,the internet age out sourcing, china sweat shop theories.

All these so called THINKERS (notably among them one former New York times reporter) are sympathetic to neo conservatism - although not as blatantly as Dick Cheney Klan- taking their inspiration and futuristic vision from a world where America will be the perpetual boss, and the evil Kingdoms of thy Lords (Fundamentalist Bush KKK and usa-ma bin laden) shall remain for ever.

The Gurus of Politics and industry quote these new czars of futurology, namely Mr Thomas L Friedman(NYT reporter) and Mr Alvin Toffler( the futurologist),
in their articles and speeches and policies as if these are the new testament gospel for the 21st century.

I can agree with jest of these predictions about the future of internet,global village and media, which no one can deny.
My argument is about the flaw in their theories, whether work from home or prosumer theory (Toffler) or World is Flat (Friedman), my issue is with the arrogance ( criminal negligence) in their assumptions about the world. They do not want understand (for that matter interpret) the dynamics of geo politics, strategic nature of information technology and its relation to the poverty in the third world.
World is flat is essentially a view from fortress America. The "haves” Americans and the way they look at “have nots” of third world. Unfortunately this mentality reflects in “highly intellectual” columns that Mr "well informed" Friedman(being the self claimed middle east analyst) writes about Middle East and Muslim world and his favourite subject “ the terrorists”, as according to him they(terrorist- read muslims) are hell bent on destroying his world and his life style.
These pseudo Intellectuals portray America and Israel as forces of construction and Arabs and Hezbollah as forces of destructive anti americanism. this is the same “US Vs. rest of the World” attitude that neo con philosophy is all about. Professor Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilisation” is one such evil ideology being the bible for right wing white supremacists and their Governments.

Information Technology is transforming the lives, no doubt, but its effects and benefits are yet to reach farmers, peasants, urban poor, tribal and aborigines of our third world countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australian pacific. The biggest problem is that Technology savvy multinational corporations want to keep this digital divide or technological apartheid between first and Third world, all their efforts and energies are spent-in form of copyrighting bio technology, patent DNA for crops and intellectual property for even the simple student & educational software for third world- on making it harder for the poor to bridge this divide.

Even in India, the blue eyed boy of technology outsourcing industry, the Sparkling clean High tech development centers of Microsoft and IBM with six figure sum salaries exist only in Bangalore, Hyderabad or Mumbai. These visions of future are million miles away from the common man/woman ,the workers and peasants,of India. information technology has changed little in his/her life.
No common man can even dream of getting education or employment for his kids in these Oasis of American consumerism bubble . BPO in india doesnot create a flatter world it only increases the gulf between rich and poor.Merely a modern version of 18th century workhouses or sweat shops.

I have observed the out sourcing industry at very close quarters, unfortunately American corporate greed can be seen at its worst ,with poor Human and employment rights for Indian IT executives (read data entry clerks), which Mr Friedman describes as "equal opportunities" for all, hardly ,let me say.

If this is a vision of colonialist greed for loot and plunder, sugar coated theories - white man burden in modern India- "world is flat" we do not want it, Thanks but no Thanks.
Frank fukayama still advocates -despite "end of history" egg on the face- enforced globalization through Military industrial complexes and multinational corporations in developing counties. I think the fizz has already gone out of the talk about his "change of heart" after the ebarrassing Iraq war fiasco and his flop theories of liberal democracies , with self correcting mechanism much like no-frost refrigerators, They may be a hit in home appliances but not in politics or geo strategics I am sorry.

Toffler or Friedman and many more like Senator Hillary Clinton are blissfully unaware of the miseries and hardships created in this world by American policies of stubbornness in Kyoto, WTO, Third World Agricultural exports and non tariff barriers against Fairer Trade. Giving subsidies to American farmers for producing low grade and high priced surplus agriculture products which kills any chance of survival for poor farmers in third world countries.

World Bank and IMF with Neo con Paul wolfowitz's blessing squeeze the last drop of blood from third world economies -the poorest of the poor suffer heavy indirect taxes on utilities and food items (two of the most basic things for survival)- in order to extract interest on loan and conditionalities are imposed by IMF the shylock in the name of development.

Mr Presidents & Premiers of G-8,Please stop giving sermons about peace, security,terrorism, equality, prosperity and global village when all for intent and purpose the policies are aimed at killing, loot and plunder.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid’s new novel, his second, has hit the No 1 spot on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. This, according to the New York Times, happened “virtually the moment it was published in this country.”
In an interview with the newspaper, Hamid, who comes from Lahore but lives in London, said that he may now be able to quit his job as a consultant with a branding firm in London. Asked if it is fair to describe the novel as a Muslim’s critique of American values, he replied, “That’s oversimplifying. The novel is a love song to America as much as it is a critique.”

Told by the interviewer that he did not find it “so loving” as it takes place on a single evening at a cafe in Lahore, as a charming, well-educated Pakistani in his 20s recounts his life story to an unnamed American stranger, who seems suspicious of him, Hamid replied, “The American is acting as if the Pakistani man is a Muslim fundamentalist because of how he looks - he has a beard.” The author in real life has a beard.
Told that the Pakistani narrator of the story also brings certain fears and preconceptions to their conversation and in an act of reverse ethnic profiling, he suspects the American to be an undercover agent who might arrest him, the author replied, “Yes. But he could be just as freaked out as the rest of us are in this world when we see an American with that kind of build and imagine he is a CIA agent. The novel is not supposed to have a correct answer. It’s a mirror. It really is just a conversation, and different people will read it in different ways.”

Asked by the interviewer if he, an American, could also be a CIA agent as their conversation, as in the novel, was taking place between an American listener and a Pakistani man with a beard, Hamid answered, “If you had short hair and a bulge in your jacket, I might assume you were.” When told that it was “unsettling” to learn that Hamid’s protagonist felt a rush of genuine pleasure when the World Trade towers were attacked, the author replied, “Some part of him has a desire to see America harmed. In much of the world, there is resentment toward America, and the notion that the superpower could be humiliated or humbled or damaged in this way is something that gives satisfaction.”
Asked if that was how he felt when the twin towers were attacked, Hamid replied, “No. I was devastated. A wall had suddenly come up between my American and Muslim worlds. The novel is my attempt to reconnect those divided worlds.”
When reminded that much like the narrator in ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist,’ Mohsin Hamid grew up in and was educated at Princeton, he replied, “I was one of two or three Pakistanis in the class of ’93, and I didn’t feel homesick for a second. I took two writing workshops with , and I wrote the first draft of my first novel in a long-fiction workshop with , both of whom encouraged me.” He said in answer to another question that from Princeton, he had gone to the Harvard Law School but decided that he did not want to be a lawyer because “it bored the pants off of me”.

Reminded that the only one who speaks in the novel is the Pakistani, while the American is silenced, Hamid answered, “For me, in the world of media, particularly the American media, it’s almost always the other way around.”

When told that no one is silencing him as he goes on a book tour across America and his book has already sold 100,00 copies, the author replied, “But there are not many of us from the Muslim world who are getting heard over here. And the ones who are mostly seem to be speaking in grainy videos from caves.”

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Guest Post : Remembering 10th April 1988, Mass Murder in Pakistan

Mass murder in Rawalpind and Islamabad
Remembering Ojhri
by Tariq Mehmood
19 years ago, on the 10th April 1988 Ojhrii dump in Rawalpindi was blown up. This was a deliberate act of destruction. Hundreds upon hundreds of missiles rained down on Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Over 5000 people were killed. Many, many thousands more were injured.

I was working as a journalist for the Frontier Post and along with a colleague, Imran Munir, went into the camp, early the day after the explosion. Every now and again, a rocket or missile would take off, and land somewhere, causing yet more deaths and destruction.

All manner of rockets and shells were going off. People were sitting around shell shocked. The houses close to Ojhri were reduced to mere shells. I went into one house. A man in his late 20s was sitting amidst shattered glass and broken wood. He was rubbing his hands in the glass. Blood fr om his shredded hands was spreading across the floor. He had a little child’s shoe. He turned to us. I looked into his bloodshot eyes. He said, ‘this is where my son was martyred.’ Imran was about to take a photograph of him, but he lowered the camera. We could not snap him in this position. We stood there for a while, we wanted to lift him up but the man wanted to stay with the memory of his child. Out side his door I saw a dog. It stood in front of us. It was a healthy black and white mongrel. It must once have been a loved pet. I can still see the dogs eyes, filled with unspeakable terror, asking me why? Why? Why? I did not know what to say to the creature. I did not know what had happened. Had I known, I would have sat down and told the dog, that this is the way those that rule, hide one crime by committing another.

Some people I talked to said they saw a missile cut through a buffalo’s stomach. I have found some of my notes from that time. Many people said that the police just ran off, even from major traffic junctions and students took over the posts, directing traffic.

Era of Darkness

This was another dark period of military rule in Pakistan. A time when the military rulers danced to American tunes. This was not the era of ‘Enlightened Moderation’, but that of militant jihadism acceptable to the Americans. This was the era of General Zia’s Raj. This was a time when Pakistan was once again a ‘Front Line state’ and the West, particularly America and its allies were supporting the Mujahidin groups, and when of course Osama Bin Laden America’s most favourite freedom fighter was leading the Western inspired Jihad against the Soviets. Hundreds of millions of dollars were given to the Pakistani military to manage the Jihad in Afghanistan, and hundreds of millions of dollars was also spent on providing weapons and logistical support for the Mujahid groups through Pakistan. Who then were of course freedom fighters.

The weapons were sent mainly by American, but also, by other alleys of the US, including Britain. These where shipped to Karachi and from there taken North. They were stored in dumps all over country. One of the biggest central dumps was Ojhri. This dump was directly controlled by the ISI. It was an open secret that the ISI was not even answerable to the GHQ in Rawalpindi, but directly to General Zia himself.

Some people at the time said they thought the day of judgement had arrived.

I have found three eye witness accounts from that time. I only have their names and do not remember much more of them.

‘I was going towards Faizabad when I heard the explosion. There was a huge fire. Many people were running towards it, while the police were running away from it. Missiles started flying in every direction. I saw about 12 young men sheltering under a tree. Then they were all dead. The road going towards the CDA (Capital Development Authority) colony was littered with hands and feet of little children. Such great injustice. The world seemed to have died. Whilst the police ran off, students started directing traffic.’ Bagh Hussain.

‘It was raining missiles and bombs. Everyone was running for their lives. The area was full of explosions and screaming. What the bombs did not destroy the police took.’ Mohammad Ishaque.

‘Four thousand have died. It was like Qiamat. Even when all hell was let loose, when bombs were spread around liked chopped pieces of wood, these people (pointing to policemen) were robbing – such injustice.’

What the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad did not know was that the reason their world was because someone was trying to cover up a simple fact. American stinger missiles which had been given for fighting in Afghanistan, had found their way into the hands of the Iranians. They were stored in Ojhri dump, and it was pretty obvious that those looking after the dump had sold them on to the Iranians, pocketing the money. A team of American navel investigators was in mid-flight, on its way to Ojhri to investigate. They had entered Pakistani airspace, when the dump was blown up.
Two days after the explosions at Ojhri, General Zia compared what happened to the disasters at Russia’s Chrenobyl and India’s Bhopal. He refused to admit that Ojhri was a transit dump where weapons were destined for Afghanistan. The deed was blamed on foreign agents. But General Zia and those close to him knew full well that this was a lie. This was an inside job.

The foreign Hand theory could not hold ground, as many Pakistani papers at the time questioned. Stinger missiles do not just go off, they had to be primed. Army ammunition dumps, are built in such a manner an explosion should not affect the other. But here were truckloads of the stuff over ground, and much more underground, all going off. By the time the Americans arrived, 5000 people were dead. What was incredible to believe at the time was that even General Zia would not let people know what sort of weapons were stored underground.

We went into the grounds of Ojhri and a senior Pakistan officer, whose rank and name I forget now, saw us. He was holding a small Quran in his hand. He was shaking with anger at what had happened. He explained that in the underground networks, there were so many unexploded munitions, and they had no idea how to defuse them. They were learning by trial and error. Each error cost the life of an army Jawan. Over 1000 died in this process alone.

In the shadow of the horror there was much confusion. Some people thought at the time that India had attacked. Some thought, including some in the military, that this was a cloak under which the US was going to knock out the nuclear plant at Kahota. For those who lost loved ones, 10th April 1988 will for ever be a burning horror. With the death of 17th February 2007 of two workers in Rawalpindi from unexploded munitions from Ojhri dump, the living are reminded about the callousness of the rulers who stored so much weapons in side a major city like Rawalpindi, and then those who colluded to blow it up.

One of the fallouts of Ojhri was that the military dictatorship of General Zia had lost all credibility in the eyes of peoples of Pakistan, in particular the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. General Zia’s regime had become a liability; it could not long be trusted by its foreign masters.

The people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad deserve a full account of who did what in Ojhri. All internal reports should now be published. The citizens of Rawalpindi and especially those who lost their loved ones in the Ojhri disaster deserve a permanent memorial to this crime against humanity. Let us hope the present General’s “Moderate Enlightenment” to acknowledge Ojhri as a crime against humanity and publish a full and frank account of the how and why it happened and promise a memorial to honour the dead.
I used to live with Feica in Peshawar, and he made a cartoon of General Zia’s wife, sitting on a donkey, laden with diamonds, on the way to London. General Saab was very upset and his office let us know of his displeasure. But perhaps General Zia should have listened to the whispers of his masters and the screaming of the streets, and left. In true Pakistani style, General Zia Saab was deaf to the demands of the people to go and did not see how much his masters were also irked by him. As we know, he came and went with a bang.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

From rural Punjab to outback Australia —Guest Post by Razi Azmi

Nearly all the cameleers were from the western parts of British India (present-day Pakistan), most being Punjabis, the rest Pathan (Afghans), Baloch and others. However, the appellation Afghan was stuck to them and has stayed ever since
One of the great train journeys of the world is the famous ‘Ghan’, which runs from Adelaide in the south of the Australian continent to Darwin in the north. It is a journey of 2979 kilometers across some of the most inhospitable terrains in the world.
The word Ghan is derived from Afghan, and is a tribute to the camel drivers who helped with the transportation of goods and the development of the overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin in the 19th century.

The first cameleers arrived in the 1860s and remained a part of the Australian rural landscape for over 60 years, until the railway track to Alice Springs was laid in 1929 (it was extended to Darwin in 2004). Their numbers are estimated to have been three thousand. Most were unmarried; others had left their wives and families behind. Some married aboriginal women. They lived in settlements called ‘ghantowns’, complete with halal butcher, imam and mosque.

Nearly all the cameleers were from the western parts of British India (present-day Pakistan), most being Punjabis, the rest Pathan (Afghans), Baloch and others. However, the appellation Afghan was stuck to them and has stayed ever since, although it is a misnomer insofar as it attributes the cameleers’ origin to Afghanistan.
The fate of one white woman of extraordinary grit, Winifred Steger, became intertwined with that of the cameleers, first as the wife of Ali Ackba Nuby (Ali Akbar Nabi) and then of Karum Bux (Karam Bakhsh), both Punjabi Muslims from near Lahore.
Winifred was a prolific writer. Her best-known is a fascinating book titled Life with Ali (first published in 1969 as Always Bells). Here the author mixed fact and fiction and embellished her account. Fascinated by Winifred’s life and writings, Hilarie Lindsay wrote The Washerwoman’s Dream; The Extraordinary Life of Winfired Stegar 1882-1981 (Simon & Schuster, 2002). After meticulous research, including interviews with Winifred and some of her children, Lindsay was able to sift fact from fiction. Here’s the life of Winifred as it emerges from the two books.
Born in 1882, Winifred Stegar (nee Oaten) had migrated with her father to Australia when she was not quite ten, leaving behind her mother. Virtually abandoned by her father, who suffered from depression, Winifred fell in love with a German immigrant, Charles Steger, married him, and had four children over nine years. But he was rough, rude, drunken and violent. When Winifred left him, she was forced to leave her children behind.
For seven years Winifred worked in a hotel-cum-bar run by a kind English lady. After the latter returned to England, she found work in a hotel in Mungallala in Queensland. On 10 March 1915, she noted in her diary: “There’s a hawker who calls Indian. His name is Ali. He comes into the kitchen and I make him a cup of tea. He’s one of three brothers...His older brother came here in 1884 and stayed for 18 years and then he went back to India and Ali came to take his place. He’s been here for thirteen years. He drives a horse and cart and hawks things around”.
The next day she wrote: “Ali came in again today. He has the most beautiful brown eyes and white teeth. He calls me mem-sahib and treats me with respect.... He speaks English but with an a tilting tone. He talked about his home in India and his little mother and his brothers and sisters. I had tears in my eyes listening to him. He doesn’t go into the bar with the other men. I watch him sometimes from my bedroom window. He is a Moslem. He prays, kneeling and prostrating himself on the ground. He always comes to the tap in the yard to wash himself first. Sometimes he wears a turban and baggy pants and a waistcoat. He looks different from the drovers... Some of them don’t like him and call him ‘that bloody Afghan’”.
Six months went by. One day Ali walked into the kitchen. “Come,” he said, holding out his hand. “Come with me and be my wife”. He took her to a room he called home, where they had a wedding with only Allah as witness. “First we must bathe and then ask Allah to bless our union.” He stood beside her and with his arms raised above his head called, “Allahu Akbar”. Ali then thanked Allah “for giving me this woman”.
Lindsay notes that “for the first time in her life [Winifred] felt herself truly loved. ...Suddenly, she was afraid. She knew that if she ever lost him it would be more than she could bear. ‘Allah,’ she whispered. ‘Keep my Ali safe’”.
Soon they had a son, Yousef Deen, followed by another, Rhamat (Rahmat), and a daughter, Pansy. Ali decided to go where the real money lay, in the camel caravans. He settled in Oodnadatta in South Australia, the terminus for the railway and the starting point of the camel trains, which set off when the fortnightly train arrived from Adelaide. For a start, Ali became a cameleer’s “companion driver”. “Some days later,” Winifred recounts, “the camel train moved out, and I went too. Ali was in charge of twenty loaded camels with a native or two [aborigines] to help.”
“We never traveled on a Friday, the camel men had five sessions of prayer that day.... The rule prescribed prayer five times a day for other days as well, but when on trek it was reduced to three — at sunrise, sunset, and noon. Ali never stinted when asked for any charitable purpose, he spoke ill of no one, tolerant to all other religions and strong in his own.”
“It was a rough life, walking in the sun, heat, and blinding dust, but I did not let it worry me”, Winifred recalls. “We were young, happy and in love, each morning was a new, happy day. I was overjoyed to be with him; I had eaten my fill of lonely years before I met him, so I thrived on this rough, romantic life”.

One day a letter arrived from India. Ali’s parents wanted him home to settle a land dispute. He had lucrative contracts to fulfill but, he told Winifred, “it is my duty as a son. I must go to my mother”. Ali left, promising to return soon, “before our camels return.” With a heavy heart, Winifred bid him goodbye.

Weeks turned into months and there was no news of Ali. Worried, Winifred caught a train to Adelaide, a thousand kilometers away, hoping to get some news at the mosque there. Ali, the imam told her, had died with many others when cholera struck his village. Her happy life had been cut short.

Later she asked the imam about inheritance. “You are not one of us,” he replied. “You do not know the Islamic code. You have no claim on your husband’s estate because there is no record of your marriage.” “How will we live?” Winifred asked. “I will find you another husband’” the imam assured her.

With Ali no more, Winifred mustered the courage to return to Oodnadatta to carry on the trade as before, only to find that all their camels had been stolen by the other cameleers. Ali’s wife and children had been left in the lurch by his erstwhile friends.
The writer may be contacted at

Article first appeared on Daily Times, 08/03/2007