Pakistan’s Pseudo-Revolution Marches on..

Pakistan is at an interesting (and dangerous) juncture today; in 2018 the military used the many levers it has at its disposal to get Imran Khan elected as Prime Minister and GHQ continues to strengthen its grip on power, but that is not the interesting part. That is just the normal Pakistani cycle of semi-civilian rule followed by a phase of more direct military rule, followed by another attempt at civilian government; what is interesting is that a significant section of the emerging Pakistani middle class (“Mehran Man”) has managed to convince themselves that this time there will be a revolution: the violent overthrow of one social order and its replacement by a very different order.

GHQ probably had no such revolution in mind when they promoted Imran Khan and made him prime minister. Some civilian leaders were to be sidelined and some military leaders planned to acquire more direct power, and in order to do this they activated their vast public relations apparatus and talked of revolution and grand transformations, as one does, but no Bolshevik or Chinese revolution was actually in the works. There was probably some fear that the “war on terror” dividend is over and hard times lie ahead, so the state should be prepared for a period of harsher authoritarian rule (i.e. the opposite of a revolution; not a desire to change things but a desire to harden the existing order to meet anticipated challenges). Of course every time GHQ think tanks notice that Pakistan is facing a crisis, they tend to revert to the old “Chakwal solution” paradigm all officers apparently learn during basic training. This PMA version of “how to fix Pakistan” has not changed since the 1950s and includes ideas such as :

  1. Pakistan needs a firm hand (“shoot 5000 people and the country will become an Asian Tiger”)
  2. Presidential system
  3. 22 provinces (to break up existing pre-Pakistani identities such as Pakhtoon, Sindhi, Baloch etc)
  4. Get rid of corrupt politicians (ALL politicians are corrupt, but some join military regimes and are therefore excused)
  5. Technocrat government, etc

So I do not doubt that some of the planners at GHQ did have such “reforms” in mind and just as the cart follows the horse, new policy disasters will no doubt flow from the naive implementation of such “reforms”, but even so, no real revolution was intended, just some “tweaking” of the system.

But while the planners at the top may not have intended more than that, their propaganda seems to have created a number of excited middle class social media warriors who sincerely believe a revolution is in progress. They are cheering every extra-legal step, every fake drug bust and every suppression of dissent. And because the geniuses at GHQ are also human, some of this excitement is filtering back to the bosses and even they may get carried away and imagine they are leading the 1949 Communist revolution in China and not some Sisi-level military coup.  Which will be a tragedy because this is not a revolutionary party, this cannot BE a revolutionary regime; the same elite that was ruling the country yesterday is ruling it today. The social media warriors screaming for a revolution and “across the board” cleanup are not interested in seeing Uncle Jimmy or cousin Mithoo go to prison; they expect the revolution to hit other people (preferably “corrupt politicians”, i.e. politicians who have not thrown in their lot with GHQ), they do not expect their own friends and family to face some revolutionary tribunal in D-chowk. The status quo is meant to be improved, not replaced.

But humans can get carried away and this lot may have misunderstood their own position rather comprehensively. They may imagine they really ARE carrying out a revolution: the violent overthrow of one class by another. Some of them are surely sane enough to know this is just one more round of military rule and after it fails (as it inevitably must) they will have to compromise again with “dirty politicians” and restart the merry go round at 1988 or 2008, if not at 1970 (i.e. controlled democracy, with continued military domination of the heights of the state), but some of them do seem to be getting carried away. We may end up with the worst of both worlds.. The viciousness and disruptive destruction of an attempted revolution, without the creative energy and opportunities created by any genuine overthrow of an ossified ruling elite..
And if that is the case, then the corrupt status quo will evolve into something even worse: a corrupt narrowly based authoritarian regime that has destroyed existing politics (corruption ridden, but still somewhat responsive to public pressures) and replaced it with naked military rule over an unhappy population with no political safety valves and a worsening economic crisis.  They may then find themselves facing an attempt at real revolution.. and that will not be good for anyone.

There is still time. They can step back and let politics take its course and maybe a slightly more competent regime can come into power once PTI crashes and burns. But just writing this sentence is enough to make one realize that they are not going to allow any such soft landing. This time, we will get the full Monty, the chakwal solution in all its glory. It will fail amidst much pain and suffering; you know this, I know this.. but they don’t know this and they will not learn until things fall apart.
Sad.

Image result for rana sanaullah
Rana Sanaullah, PMLN Punjab Chief, in prison

By the way, here is Brigadier Ijaz Shah, GHQs main enforcer in the Imran Khan regime, giving his side of the story.

And here is the full ISPR version of recent events:

0

Pakistani women, Chinese men, the continuing story….

The New York Times has a follow-up story with some nuance, She Thought She’d Married a Rich Chinese Farmer. She Hadn’t.

Now there is coverage of Muslim girls going to China. The model is the same as the Christian girls, rural Chinese men who aren’t as wealthy as they present themselves, go through nominal conversions or affirmations of faith, and take the women back. Here for me is the interesting part:

Then, after a four-hour drive past fields of wheat and corn, they arrived at Dongzhang village in Shandong Province, where she saw her husband’s duck farm. It was not the sprawling operation of a wealthy man that she had envisioned, but a modest family farm where he lived with his parents and two brothers.

The New York Times was unable to independently verify Mr. Zhang’s income. But on a recent visit to the Zhang family home, a Times’ reporter found a newly built housing compound with multiple bedrooms and shiny tile floors.

Outside the family home, Mr. Zhang’s mother, who is in her 60s, recalled being puzzled by Ms. Kanwal’s reactions.

“She is religious, so when she came here I went out of my way not to give her any pork,” she said, as a small guard dog barked nearby. “I stir-fried chicken and made egg omelets for her. But no matter what I served her, she just refused to eat.”

Some of the more sordid stories of prostitution are likely true. And, it seems from the story above that some of the girls who moved to China are pregnant, and reasonably happy where they are. But many of the stories are grayer and not so clear.

The mother-in-law above seems well-meaning, after a fashion, but one can see the perspective of a young Muslim girl from Pakistan, encountering a world filled with pork, dogs, and without the washing facilities she was used to. Additionally, the reporters seem to agree that the farmer was prosperous, if not necessarily wealthy. With no real linguistic common ground, it’s pretty easy to imagine that wires could get crossed her. The huge cultural chasm, where most Chinese do not take religion that seriously, is probably almost impossible for a Pakistani girl from a non-cosmopolitan background to fathom.

Right now these stories are exotic. But if more and more girls stay and settled down in China, that will result in positive word of mouth. The precedent with other Asian countries is tragic and horrible stories will continue. But that may not be the whole, or the main, story.

0

As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-

A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word “saffron“. It might stem from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which comes from the Latin word safranum, from the Arabic za’farān,[13] which comes from the Persian word zarparan meaning “flower with golden petals”.[14]
As an aside I pilfered this interesting piece from Kabir’s facebook

Continue reading “As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-“

0

This is why Pakistan is a shit country-

Continue reading “This is why Pakistan is a shit country-“

0

Browncast Ep 35: Tahir Andrabi on Primary Education in Pakistan

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…).

Tahir Andrabi

This week we have a twofer about education in Pakistan. In part one we talked to Dr Sohail Naqvi about higher education, and in this episode Omar and Zachary talk to Professor Tahir Andrabi. Tahir is the Stedman-Sumner Professor of Economics at Pomona College and is currently working as the founding dean of the school of education at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He has a professional interest in primary education and public policy and has written extensively on these topics. He shares his views about primary education in Pakistan. I was especially taken by his observation that the 10th grade examination (the “Matriculation” examination) in Pakistan is one of the reasons why primary education in Pakistan is so sub-par. And that the entire colonial era educational system is meant to identify “winners” (the top 1 % of the students) instead of meeting the needs of the majority of students (the modal student in Pakistan is headed for failure). His points about educated girls having sparked a revolution in (private) primary education in the rural areas, and lax enforcement being the reason (onerous and useless) state regulation of education has done relatively little damage in Pakistan, are also spot on. I hope we get Dr Andrabi on again to discuss some of these topics in greater detail.

We would definitely appreciate more positive reviews. Many of you listen to us, but don’t leave any reviews!

1+

Browncast Ep 34: Sohail Naqvi on Higher Education in Pakistan

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…).

Related imageThis week we have a twofer about education in Pakistan. In this episode Omar and Zachary talk to Dr Syed Sohail Hussain Naqvi. Dr Naqvi is currently the Rector of the University of Central Asia. Prior to that he has been vice chancellor of the Lahore University of Management Sciences, executive director of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission and Dean of electrical engineering the Ghulam Ishaq Khan institute of technology. He shares his views about higher education in Pakistan and his own experiences in that field. In the next episode, we speak to Dr Andrabi about primary education.

In the next episode, we talk with Professor Tahir Andrabi about primary education.

We would definitely appreciate more positive reviews. Many of you listen to us, but don’t leave any reviews!

2+

Why I hate the Hijab

The Hijab is a part of the Middle Eastern-Levantine cultural matrix so I don’t  have a problem when I see Arab women wear it . But it’s risible when Desi Muslims try to flaunt what is essentially an alien garment. If one wants to be modest why not just wear a salwar kameez and elegantly drape the dupatta?

After I ranted to V about yet another uppity Hijabi (the offending lady in question had secured herself a booth for 4 people in a crowded cafe); V made a profound remark.

V didn’t mind the Hijab per se; women should be allowed to wear what they want. However what she found to be so strange about the Muslim hijabi activists in the West is that they had no sympathy for their Iranian sisters who are dying for the right to dress as they please.

Continue reading “Why I hate the Hijab”

0