Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pakistan, A Malleable History

Last month, while other pyalas scuttled off to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's (PTI’s) Karachi jalsa with visions of free potty training seats in their heads, I stayed at home with a copy of Imran Khan’s Pakistan, A Personal History. I read it with the intention of reviewing it here immediately but, like certain Bufo toads that can, at will, secrete a noxious hallucinogenic substance that acts as a deterrent to predators, the book did not encourage further handling.



I revisited it today because I chanced upon Amir Zia’s review for Newsline last month. He succinctly articulated some of my biggest problems with the content of the memoir, saying:
“Khan’s personal analysis of the origin and spirit of the Pakistan Movement underlines his simplistic and superficial understanding of those times. In fact, it appears more akin to former military ruler General Zia-ul Haq’s distorted and twisted propagandist history, which still remains a part of our curriculum. For instance, Khan, in his zeal to promote the Islamic basis of Pakistan, equates Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s religious views with those of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by saying that both stood on the same page vis-à-vis the role of religion in politics.”
And…
“The tribal system, its code of honour and values are a constant refrain in the book. Khan maintains that the tribal areas were “crime free” before the upheavals of the recent years, ignoring the fact that before the start of the war on terror, the entire belt remained the epicenter of smuggling and gunrunning in the region. The known criminals and absconders used to take refuge in these areas and vehicles snatched from various parts of the country landed in the tribal belt. But Khan, in his zeal to glorify tribalism and the jirga system, shuts his eyes to all these facts. He makes a passing reference to the tribal practice of ‘honour’ killings which are being endorsed by jirgas in the rural areas. In fact, he views these jirgas as an “ancient democratic system.” The oppression, the backwardness, the myopic worldview and total alienation from the modern world, all of which stem from tribalism, fail to bother the Khan.”

Amir Zia did make an effort to balance his take on ‘the Khan’s’ personal history with references to the many good things in it, calling his recollections of cricketing life and building the Shaukat Khanum Memorial hospital ‘moving’ and ‘inspiring’. Mr. Zia is probably a better person than I am because I feel no such compunction. Whatever bright spark once lurked in the heart of this self professed Chosen One – his version of what happened to make an English jury return a verdict of 10-2 in his favour in the Botham libel case can be summarized with “As I was waiting, I got a message from a friend that Mian Bashir wanted to speak to me. I phoned him and found him in a cheerful mood. ‘Allah is changing the jury’s mind!’ he said – has long been obscured by a cloud of magic dust. Like in Pullman’s His Dark Materials, only without its fierce interrogation of dogma and ritual.

If you don’t like my words for it, take a few from the horse’s…er…mouth:

The Khan on what needs to be done to deal with the ‘10%’ of truly militant militants in the tribal areas (the rest apparently prefer crochet, only times are hard and the war blocks access to the market for doilies):
“I have spoken to General Pasha, head of the ISI about this, and he too believes that if we disengage from the US war, start a dialogue with the tribes, and withdraw troops from the tribal areas, we could eliminate this 10 percent in ninety days”.

The Khan on the need for enshrining the difference between a public face and a private face or, as some people might call it, hypocrisy:
‘The main difference Islamic sharia has from Western secular society is in the realm of public morality. This protects the family system, one of Pakistan’s greatest strengths…An Islamic society tries to protect the sanctity of marriage by creating an environment that affords the least temptation for people to commit infidelity. Secondly, it tries to protect impressionable young people from public immorality, the same concept behind the ‘adults only’ film classification…So apart from these vital provisions aimed at protecting the family, a true Islamic society would be no different from the democratic welfare states of Europe.”

Passages like this worried me because they indicate a rigid, conservative mind that thinks along the lines of 'my way or the highway'. It is the disproportionate power given to those who would be custodians of 'public morality', for political purposes, that has landed Pakistan in the soup it is in today. Passages like this also amused me because, for someone whose main vote bank so far seems to be young people, he really is pretty clueless about what young people really want and, more importantly, need. The life of the body, the life of the mind, these are fundamental human rights. And too many of the physical and creative freedoms required to have either would potentially face the chop if somebody decided to place the protection of 'impressionable young minds' above both.

The Khan, for example, only took about two decades of experiential learning to understand "there was a world of difference between happiness and pleasure-seeking".

The Khan on people who might disagree with him:
“…those at the other end of the extreme are called the ‘liberal fanatics’. To liberal fanatics modernization means westernization and Islam can only impede Pakistan’s progress…For them every solution to Pakistan’s problems is imported. Hence liberal fanatics have variously advocated Marxism, a radical version of women’s liberation, market economics and other Western beliefs.”
Yep. Damn redistribution of wealth (don't look now, Ali Shariati). And women voting in parts of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. And supermarkets. And mineral water. Especially mineral water.

The Khan on about half of the people who attended his Party In The Park:
“ The elite that consumes most of the country’s educational resources is incapable of providing the intellectual leadership needed to move forward either the religion or the culture. Western education simply does not allow them to do so.”
... Which would, errrr, make the Oxford-educated Khan singularly incapable of providing intellectual leadership, would it not:? But I digress...

Rants about this 'elite' function as periods throughout the memoir, punctuating his opinions on everything from environmental degradation to the need to overhaul the education system to his observations about the injustice of our judicial system. This is a real pity because they undermine the few things he says that actually make sense. Pakistan is indeed, as he hammers home again and again, saddled with a parasitic elite that has insisted on usurping, keeping and abusing power to the detriment of the many hovering around the poverty line; but his reductionist identification of them as people who have strayed from the one faith and become 'westernized' is sadly flawed. The powerful elite of which he speaks include the shallu-wearing landlords and industrialists that are now part of his movement for justice. They can also wear beards, uniforms and burqas as well as jeans and ape Saudi Arabia as well as Western pop culture, but apparently that isn't quite as bad. His position seems to be that if you are not part of the solution (in this case, his notion of Islam) you are part of the problem.

This debauched, rudderless, still mentally colonized elite has done Pakistan a world of harm, he says. For example, post 9/11:
"I have never seen Pakistanis so terrified of US anger as during this period. This is a typical example of how fear can be used as a weapon by the ruling elite to make the people fall in line; at the same time, it shows that policies based on fear always end up in disaster."
That previous nugget comes much before the point towards the end of the book where he says:
"...my biggest worry remains that if things continue as they are we could face a rebellion within the army's ranks, the ultimate nightmare situation for Pakistan."

I could go on, and quote verbatim other choice bits of text, such as his one sentence lament about how mean presswalas kept calling up his good friend Sita White for ‘lurid interviews’, or the paragraph where he mentions one Shah Mehmood Qureshi as an example of what is wrong with Pakistani politics, or how he lambasts the jamaati thugs he is now in bed with, or how it only took him five meetings and nearly as many years to understand Musharraf wasn't a good boy, or how my mother’s brother’s third cousin’s dog inferred a Madonna-whore complex from all the things Khan Saab’s book didn’t say about women in Pakistan when he accidentally sank his teeth into it but, really, what’s the point. Let’s not be liberally fanatical in our negativity and look at the plus points of it.

1) We have been asking for a PTI manifesto and lo and behold there has been one amongst us for a couple of months already, complete with Islamic Fabioesque cover and – just like his first book where the ghost writer really was a ghost - no mention of who actually wrote it.

2) In this book, we learn a lot about poetry. Well, Iqbal’s poetry. Well, those of Iqbal’s poems which fit into Imran Khan’s view of the world. In particular, the one about the shaheen. No not Khayaban-e-Shaheen, the other shaheen, the eagle, which as Khan Saab tells us is “an emblem of royalty which denoted a kind of heroic idealism based on daring, pride and honour.” (No mention of course of that of Iqbal's verse that calls, e.g., for burning down crop fields that do not feed the peasant, but I digress again.)

I was thinking of Khan Saab's fondness for the metaphor of the regal predator driven to hunt rather than scavenge when I read the inimitable Aakar Patel’s column in the Express Tribune today. In the column, the second in his examination of the army’s dominance in Pakistan today, Mr. Patel puts it down to a caste-driven obsession with the notion of ‘warrior’. His hypothesis…
“is that the division of the Punjabi nation in 1947 produced a Pakistani Punjab that was heavily weighted in favour of the martial castes. The trading castes, which tend to be more pragmatic and balance society’s extremism mostly left to come to India. This has produced the imbalance which explains Pakistan’s fondness for a state dominated by soldiers. Gen Pervez Kayani runs the state’s foreign policy, security policy and most of its economic policy because the majority of Punjabis are comfortable with the idea of a warrior being in charge.”

Mr. Patel’s insight into the veneration awarded to ‘leading from the front’- which in my book can also be considered a Pashtun trait- is driven home when, later in the column while mentioning Kayani’s recent statement that our nation’s “honour will not be traded for posterity”, he goes on to say that…
"Only a warrior would make that statement and only a nation of warriors would accept it."

You see the same kind of verbal posturing in Imran Khan's utterances (tsunami = destruction), and the same kind of frenzied, emotional response in his followers (tsunami? a massive tidal wave that kills indiscriminately? hell yeah!) that a popular general would get from his ranks. It is almost as if hundreds of thousands of usually pacifist people have suddenly decided to get in touch with their inner Spartan.

In Imran Khan's Pakistan though, there would be no loincloths.

My basic problem with the worldview that Aakar Patel is skewering and Imran Khan and other balding eagles seem most comfortable inhabiting is that Pakistan can no longer afford to be a nation of warriors. We need a narrative of inclusiveness, tolerance and unity based on achievable things like economic goals, not one that suggests identity is who you're not rather than who you are. Those who want to buy into the PTI’s ‘war' on corruption, the west (and mineral water) might want to stop and ask themselves what impulse, whose hand, they are really strengthening.

My other basic problem with men who think they are berserkers is their propensity for camp followers or, in less offensive terms, their demonstrated opinion of where women would be post-victory. Consider this clip follow up of an excellent Express Tribune report about what happened after Prime Minister Gilani was successfully driven off stage by the soldiers of the Lawyers' Movement at a Lahore Bar Association meeting a couple of days ago...





Incidentally, Imran Khan's last reference to the the Brotherhood of the Black Coats he mentions glowingly several times in his memoir is:
"Though the anti-status quo wave known as the lawyers' movement for genuine democracy was hijacked, it remains simmering beneath the surface; I am convinced the moment the next elections are announced, a 'soft revolution' will explode on our political horizon and sweep away the corrupt status quo from Pakistan once and for all."

Ladies, keep those Rose Petals handy.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

These lawyers come from underprivileged families in villages with extreme right wing upbringing. That's why it's not wise to expect anything rational or sane from them. They are only good at throwing petals at Qadri and watching Mujras. In a way, that really represent their lower/ lower-middle class's mentality, shoddy value system and inherent hypocrisy.

Gul Bukhari said...

The millions inspired by IK and wanting to vote him in can't see the fallacies integral to his thinking and his claims. What does this say about the intelligence or political maturity of all those swept off their feet by THE KHAN? That's my worry.

Magnum said...

@ Gul Bukhari
You mean to say, IK fans actually read? That is, read beyond fb status and Twitter rants?

Umair J said...

Enjoyed everything about this, except for the reference to Aakar Patel's terrible, essentialist, and, frankly, ahistorical piece on 'caste' and warrior theory.

Anonymous said...

Imran Khan is not the perfect human being.Who cares about anything once jobs are provided,health,education,water,electricity and gas are given to people,corruption ends....but ah,people will rant about ideologies of Imran Khan....sadly for the thinkers,a common man doesn't give a jack about ideologies ....he only wants basic utilities!blah,blah,blah.The thinkers will always have a problem even if God bestows an angel to create a system and thus,they will have problems with utopia too....

Anonymous said...

This post is proof that you are on the payroll of raw.
Imran Khan is a savior of pakistan sent by Allah himself to rid Pakistan of the shirk, crypto-jews & hindoos currently ruling & destroying our Pak Sarzameen on orders of the Jesuit CIA. In their attempt, they are employing traitors like you who have sold out your soul in return for dollars & green card, to attack the only remaining Heroes of Pakistan; our Militry [only Muslim Nuclear Superpower] & dervish like Imran Khan.
Zaid Hamid Sir is right. You people must be lined up & made to bleed a slow, agonizing death, that must be boradcast on all television channels one evening [when children are normally out playing or at the Madrassa]. This will send out the right message to all the munafiq traitors of your type.

SUHT UP YOU KHANZIR

IMRAN KHAN ZINDABAD

PAK MILITRY SALUTE

PAKISTAN PAINDABAD

YA ILAHA ILLALLAH!!!

Talha said...

@ anon
"Who cares about anything once jobs are provided,health,education,water,electricity and gas are given to people,corruption ends"

Errm ... and exactly how does he plan to do that? isn't this the whole point of the kind of flack IK has been getting. The man's a walking-talking contradiction and so are his fans.

Talha said...

Oops, sorry. I failed to notice your sarcasm. Hahaha. :)

Anonymous said...

@ talha: bro,if u can give zardaris,shareefs and faujis a chance when they rant roti,kapda aur makan,karz utaro mulk sanwaro etc and dont even tell how they will implement policies to give roti,kapra aur makaan and how they ll make policies to utarofao qarz.you can give a chance to IK...atleast if he cant even give jobs,education or health and contradicts the ''thinker's''policies of utopia atleast he is not a killer,he doesnt take bhatta,he has not got a swiss account,he doesnot have friends/relatives posted on important positions in Shaukat Khanam or Namal Colledge etc etc....otherwise apko phir sai Zardari/Shareef mubarik ho!PS:I apologize for PTI fans who spew baldedash and curses....this should not happen too.

Le Mystique said...

Lets get realistic shall we?
You probably ain't happy with the performance of PPP. As far as PML-N is concerned, they are quite today at a time when rumors of army's coup are ripe. Where as just 44 or so minutes ago Imran Khan's rejection of any unconstitutional means to remove the government have been printed in the papers.
We have given enough chances to other parties. Why not give a chance to Imran Khan.
If a person is ill-intentioned, he would never do the right thing and won't ever try to correct his mistakes. There is every chance that Imran Khan is well-intentioned and even if he ain't perfect, he is surely going to learn from his mistakes and improve his performance, correct his stance and polices on various matters.
Looking forward to your critique on other leaders like Zardari (Mr. Ten Percent), PM Gilani (whose wife got more than 500 million rupees lan waived off) and other vultures of a system in which Imran Khan looks like the closes thing to a great visionary leader.

Anonymous said...

@Le Mystique : You my good sir,are a legend....capiche.

PTIfacts said...

Honesty is at the core of inspirational leadership.

Study after study indicates - if you want people to get behind you, you need to be honest.

IK's surging popularity is explained by people's strong desire for honest leadership.

As for the religious references in Imran's politics, Imran's core religious-mission-statement is his emphasis on aspiring for an "islamic welfare state".

I'm not one to call for mixing religion and politics, or mixing religion and the state...however, of all the faults from mixing the two, one that steps in the direction of a "welfare state"...is one I'm willing to get behind.

In his recent speeches, IK has been calling on the people of Pakistan to take the best from the the faith and elect leadership that leads on those values (values he himself, on the surface of it at least, seems to practice): compassion, humanity, looking after the poor, justice, hard work, motivation, hope, fearlessness, yearning for knowledge/education, respect for minority rights, inclusivness etc.

Given Pakistan's current state, these are values I can get behind even if I'm an avowed liberal. Why?
Because there is a difference between a religious leader and a leader who is religious.

PTIfacts said...

Honesty is at the core of inspirational leadership.

Study after study indicates - if you want people to get behind you, you need to be honest.

IK's surging popularity is explained by people's strong desire for honest leadership.

As for the religious references in Imran's politics, Imran's core religious-mission-statement is his emphasis on aspiring for an "islamic welfare state".

I'm not one to call for mixing religion and politics, or mixing religion and the state...however, of all the faults from mixing the two, one that steps in the direction of a "welfare state"...is one I'm willing to get behind.

In his recent speeches, IK has been calling on the people of Pakistan to take the best from the the faith and elect leadership that leads on those values (values he himself, on the surface of it at least, seems to practice): compassion, humanity, looking after the poor, justice, hard work, motivation, hope, fearlessness, yearning for knowledge/education, respect for minority rights, inclusivness etc.

Given Pakistan's current state, these are values I can get behind even if I'm an avowed liberal. Why?
Because there is a difference between a religious leader and a leader who is religious.

Anonymous said...

This Taliban Khan is nothing more then a continuation of Ziast narrative.

Taliban Khan is a modern front face of ISI Zia group which includes senior on-service and retired buroctarts and generals like Roedad Khan, and Hamid Gul who along with on service senior and junior officers in military, burocracy, media anchor persons and writers like Shahid Masood and Haroon Rashid, top mullahs and upcoming religious propagandists like Prof Rafiq Akhtar and armed groups like LeT, Jaish e Mohammad, and many armed groups from FATA to Karachi.

Redford said...

@ above : another Musharraf supporter..hahahaha..Good effort...well tried....Why dont you go and take vacations in Israel at the time of elections,mate!

Anonymous said...

@Redford
I am not a musharraf supporter either as I also consider him a front man of ISI Zia group when it went hibernating after 9/11.

Musharraf beutifully took money from west and fed hibernating ISI zia group from these dollars, provided refuge to Osama and Taliban leadership and fooled the whole world by proving himself the most liberal and enlightened leader of Pakistan!!

I have a very firm opinion on Isreal's policies towards palistinian just cause and would never collaborate with unjust regime of Israel unlike your Godfather Zia and his ISI which took weapons directly from Israel and collaborated with Israel along with USA in their Cold war against USSR!!

So Mr. Redford go & play with Israeli weapons and take a daily quota of jihadi literature and hatred provided to you by US money and handed over to you by ISI zia group backed jihadi outfits and mullahs!!

Hurlykhan said...

Tired of this blog's obsession with IK, move on. Agencies just want to distract us with this circus show called PTI. I think NS has redeemed himself and can serve the country better. Honestly, NS now is what IK could be 20 years from now. He started with establishment's blessings and then turning against status quo. IK, please don't waste this nation's time with your Utopian talk, if your heart bleeds so much for us- come out on the street against the government. Holding concerts in parks would do us no good!

Redford said...

@the second last comment- Mr.Anonymous.........what a cry baby bro,you are!Your balderdash that you spew from your mouth just ends in the statements:Lets blame it on tha army,army is the agent of Isreal,ISI is funded by Isreal,Jihad is funded by Israeal...what happened in past is past....It's time to mend things in future...How many people have Imran Khan killed "by sending them to Jihad" or "through army or their agents",How many $s are in Imran Khan's Swiss Account,How many cancer hospitals have your liberal socialist PPP built...Bro,if you enjoy the taste of licking the boots of PPP,MQM,PML then enjoy licking!If,not then please stop crying over spilt milk...Khuda ka waasta Imran Khan ko choron,dakuon,bhatta khoron,qatilon,rishwatkhoron,rapists etc sai milana band karo...If Imran Khan will not deliver so what?It's better to get f***** by a handsome man than your ugly bosses...i think you like the way the mustache brigade Zardari,Musharraf,Altaf etc tickle your balls with their Mustaches!and by the way Your Daddy:Musharraf Jalsa was the Jalsa of the century...It's about time you shifted your setup to Your motherland :Israel!

Anonymous said...

http://tribune.com.pk/story/320193/one-off-grant-us-aid-to-sunni-ittehad-council-backfired/

Aid-gate scandal?



http://tribune.com.pk/story/320388/pti-will-contact-all-but-pml-n-imran-khan/

even with parties that are based in the mega city of pakistan?

Anonymous said...

@ above :khuda ko maan...teri salahiyat articles to deconstruct karnay ki bahut end hai....reham kar apnay ap pai aur hum ai bhi...teri meharbani

Anonymous said...

You say you want a revolution well you know we all want to change the world. You tell me that it's evolution well, you know we all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction. Don't you know that you can count me out Don't you know it's gonna be all right

Anonymous said...

@Redford
''If Imran Khan will not deliver so what?It's better to get f***** by a handsome man than your ugly bosses''

Really??

Retards like you, as you duly wished in your comment, are more then welcomed to get f*****by 60 year-old-ugly- faced-past-playboy & I can understand your craving to taste his old s*m*n comes from maternal side which appreciated the playboy's appeal back then.

I being hetrosexual imagine doing his ex-wife rather then imaging bang with him or other moustach clad notorious leaders, generals and his puppet playboy sort emerging leaders..

Rushdie said...

@Anonymous (above comment)

Well taken :-))!!

Londoner said...

If Amir Zia is a better man than you MSS then you are a better person that I because there is no way in hell I would waste my time with this moron's book. Apart from everything you mentioned, let me also add that nothing here is new---all the PTI supporters talk about how much he has learned and matured but it is the same rhetoric I heard from him in 1995. As for his talk about eastern families, that is so funny, because though I believe there is some truth in that--living in the West and seeing the family system here essentially break down in some ways--a major factor also in the rioting in London recently---what I don't understand is why a man who really thinks like that would marry a westerner?! So the walking-talking contradiction, as I think Talha said is absolutely true.
Gul Bukhari and Umair J also make good comments. Not impressed with Aaker Patel's piece---some of the comments to it were better. Not into categorising people like that---and MSS--that is the only issue I had with your piece---the idea that Pashtuns think a certain way is not true. Besides, Imran is not Pashtun. Pashtun means Pashto speaker, which he is not. Anyone whose ancestors come from the north in Pakistan say we are Pathan---which doesn't make any sense because Pathan is an English word for Pakhtun/Pashtun (which the British could not pronounce). Nobody in KPK considers Imran a Pashtun.

Redford said...

@anonymous....hahaha....mate,dont be so sour.go,take a vacation in ur motherland Israel,bow down in front of ur masters get deep throats from them....at least don't use the name ANONYMOUS over there....or if you cant then the mustache brigade zardari and gillani could tickle ur balls...sorry...my bad...your peas with their mustaches...i dont want to get more personal with u mate...i was talking about the country in general u became personal...khair i dont mind....weak little man u r...dont cry....now u ll attack me i know but i ll not respond because i know at least Imran Khan is better than you....now please vanish to your home country Israel!vamoose.....PS...apna naam tuo bata day....anonymous ban ban kay attack karta hai....coward....khair....good luck having sexy time with your bosses

XYZ said...

You know we try and keep a liberal outlook with respect to comments on posts and let people have their say. But sometimes things get really juvenile and silly and we have to put our foot down. Any more crude and adolescent name calling against other commentators will be deleted. We're particularly looking at you @Redford and @Anonymous432/ @Anonymous102.

Ashar said...

Pyala, you've become a tad obsessive about Imran Khan (kind of like a jilted lover stalking his/her ex on facebook) and it's getting a little sad now.

Anonymous said...

Pakistan, A Malleable History
Last month, while other pyalas scuttled off to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's (PTI’s) Karachi jalsa with visions of free potty training seats in their heads, I stayed at home with a copy of Imran Khan’s Pakistan, A Personal History. I read it with the intention of reviewing it here immediately but, like certain Bufo toads that can, at will, secrete a noxious hallucinogenic substance that acts as a deterrent to predators, the book did not encourage further handling.

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