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”


Short Note on “outsiders”

I’ll write a short note since my name has been taken in vain repeatedly in the past few days (I only believe we should take Muhammad the Pedophile’s name in vain).

Our resident hero, Kabir, writes:

 The demand for Persianization/Arabization is not coming from Pakistanis but mainly from outsiders on this blog. I fail to understand the logic of trying to change a country’s national identity when there is no grassroots demand for it.

Addendum: What have Pakistanis accomplished or achieved in the English language? I can only think of Kamila Shamsie, who won an award for Home Fire. Decolonisation must begin with the gradual displacement of English from prestige to merely technical.

Continue reading “Short Note on “outsiders””


Our most popular categories

I’ve given myself the thankless task of “tagging” all my past posts. I noticed that we don’t have a tag on “Kashmir” (the only sub-region we do have is NWFP). It sparked a thought that for a Desi blog we really don’t discuss Kashmir all that much (even though it was going to drag the region into war earlier this year).

This mirrors the larger discourse on Kashmir where Indians & Pakistanis don’t seem as animated or defined by it as before. Two reason comes to mind: Continue reading “Our most popular categories”


Did the Brits “Indianise” the NorthWest?

I was picking up the comment thread on the linguistics podcast. To my mind there are some inconsistencies about modern-day Pakistan:

(1.) Ever since MBQ conquered Sindh in 712; Sindh has remained under Muslim rule. When it did have local rule it was essentially a tussle between the Baloch and Muslim Rajputs, which has replicated itself to this day. Benazir Bhutto is of Rajput ancestry (Bhatt) while her husband Zardari is a Baloch. The Hindu minority were either merchants or serfs and as far as I know the caste Hindus of Sindh are a basically heteregenous lot (there is only one Brahmin surname among the Amils and the castes tends to have strong geographic regions).

(2.) As for Baluchistan and KPK; It’s basically seen the incursion of Iranian speakers the past millennia or so.

So the real question left is Punjab (the 5th major Indus region Kashmir is out of scope). Continue reading “Did the Brits “Indianise” the NorthWest?”


Pakistan is home to the most frenetic education reforms in the world

EVERY three months, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, gathers education officials around a large rectangular table. The biggest of Pakistan’s four provinces, larger in terms of population (110m) than all but 11 countries, Punjab is reforming its schools at a pace rarely seen anywhere in the world. In April 2016, as part of its latest scheme, private providers took over the running of 1,000 of the government’s primary schools. Today the number is 4,300. By the end of this year, Mr Sharif has decreed, it will be 10,000. The quarterly “stocktakes” are his chance to hear what progress is being made towards this and other targets—and whether the radical overhaul is having any effect.

For officials it can be a tough ride. Leaders of struggling districts are called to Lahore for what Allah Bakhsh Malik, Punjab’s education secretary, calls a “pep talk”. Asked what that entails, he responds: “Four words: F-I-R-E. It is survival of the fittest.” About 30% of district heads have been sacked for poor results in the past nine months, says Mr Malik. “We are working at Punjabi speed.”

Reformers are trying to make up for generations of neglect

Continue reading “Pakistan is home to the most frenetic education reforms in the world”


Pakistan’s tourism industry

Sharing this here as she’s an ally not a Coloniser:

We just wrapped a couple of podcasts this week (I have to write shownotes) but we started the “Brown CamCast” (sounds like a Sunny Leone video) last night to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh.

I was always having difficulty finding podcaster since I’m not a prominent Twitter personality but it’s dawned on me that being in Cambridge and “being married to gown” (we were lucky Vidhi had time to join in yesterday’s podcast) allows me access to intellectual capital at my doorstep.

Razib stepped in as soon as Vidhi exited (I think there was a technical issue since I’m rubbish at hosting) but we had a good ongoing discussion.

Vidhi wants to do a podcast on “the evolution of Bollywood” and why it doesn’t get the acclaim/acknowledgements that say Iranian cinema gets.

MJ is doing a write-up on the BJP manifesto for his blog the Bengal Chronicle and we’re probably going to do an election podcast soon.


Pakistan, the lost country-

I’ll add a very short thought here. What happens to Pakistan when they interact with other Muslims (especially Arabs, Persians & Turks) is that all of the national identity issues come to the fore.

Pakistanis obviously do not spring from those cultures and as a people virtually all of our holidays are Islamic in origin. Pakistan may seem as an Islamic culture in South Asia but it’s profound “Hinduness/Indianess” refracts in a Muslim setting.

That is a core reason as to why Pakistanis do not garner respect. For instance the Persians (who anyway are the leaders of their own sect of Islam) will always emphasize their own identity and festivals in all contexts. The Turks are supremely proud of being Turkish and the Arabs are of course the archetypal Muslims.

Pakistanis should have been incorporating the “colourful” Hindu festivals (Diwali, Holi, Cheti Chand, Basant) into our cultural matrix and even looked towards appropriating Sanskrit and the Vedas (as Bollywood has done to Urdu). Unfortunately this lack of perspective means we have only substracted from our cultural base as a “tit-for-tat” response.

Pakistan is not only an insufficiently imagined nation but furthermore a hollow one. Many gods have lived on the Indus and unless we welcome them back home, Pakistan’s psyche will be always be on the verge of psychosis (no other nation has happily condemned an innocent Mother of 5 for a decade and kept quiet about it).


Alliance with Pakistan matters more to China than terrorism

For years, many Americans and some Indians have voiced hopes of enrolling China’s support in modifying Pakistan’s behaviour in relation to Jihadi terrorism. China’s recent decision to block efforts at the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, as a terrorist in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack points to the futility of such efforts.

China’s outlook is strategic. It has invested a lot of time, energy, and resources in assuring Pakistan that Beijing is Islamabad’s ‘all-weather friend’ and international partner of last resort. Pakistan’s establishment viewed India as a permanent enemy long before assurances of China’s support helped cement that hostility.

From the perspective of Pakistan’s establishment, it can continue to confront its ‘permanent enemy’ without risk of international isolation or significant retaliation as long as China remains on its side. For China, Pakistan serves as a low-cost secondary deterrent to India. Pakistan keeps hundreds of thousands of Indian troops tied down, making it difficult for India to join American-led efforts to contain China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific.

Alliance with Pakistan matters more to China than terrorism


In memoriam: Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir.

From Dr Hamid Hussain. I would add that I interacted with Brigadier Munir on social media and found him always polite, inquisitive and open to many different points of view. We had talked about meeting the next time I was in Islamabad, but sadly that will not happen as Brig. Munir took his own life on March 15th (and blamed harassment by the National Accountability Bureau in a suicide note). Rest in peace. Very very sad news.

Brigadier ® Asad Munir

Hamid Hussain

 In early hours of March 15, 2019, Brigadier (R) Asad Munir committed suicide. In his suicide note, he mentioned harassment by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Thus, extinguished the flicker of light of a fine officer and gentleman.  I have known Asad for about ten years when in 2009 he contacted me.  Few years ago, I spent a whole day with him at his apartment in Islamabad where he committed suicide. We periodically interacted and discussed issues of regional security. On my last visit to Pakistan in 2018, due to my hectic schedule, I could not meet him. 

 Asad joined Ist Special Short Course (SSC) of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) and commissioned in 1972 in Baluch Regiment. He commanded an infantry Brigade where his division commander was General Pervez Musharraf.  The other brigade commander under Musharraf was late Major General Amir Faisal Alvi (Alvi was assassinated in Islamabad in November 2008).  Asad served as head of Military Intelligence (MI) of North West Frontier Province now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).  Asad was close to General Ehsan ul Haq then serving as Director General Military Intelligence (DGMI). In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there was a major shuffle of senior brass.  Ehsan was brought in as Director General Inter Service Intelligence (DGISI).  Ehsan then brought Asad as head of ISI detachment of KPK.  In this capacity, Asad was instrumental in coordinating with Americans to catch fleeing al-Qaeda leaders.  After retirement, he served as member of Capital Development Authority (CDA) Islamabad and deputy director National Accountability Bureau (NAB).  He continued his efforts about reforms in tribal areas.  In early 2018, army chief met with a dozen Pashtun retired officers including Asad for their input about reforms in tribal areas.

Related image
Continue reading “In memoriam: Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir.”