Saturday, November 17, 2007

Geo Taken Off the Air by the UAE...but how is this surprising?

The word going around about the Dubai/UAE government forcing the Geo Television Network (or parts thereof) off the air is "shocking"...

Miriam Webster defines "shocking" as " extremely startling, distressing, or offensive".

Offensive, yes. But startling? Unless you were--and most of us were--in denial, how is this startling? Distressing, well, if your world view was built on absolute monarchies doing the right thing more often than not, than yes, I can see how it would distress you to see them do othewise.

Startled I am not. My dear mother would have loved for me to live and work in the Gulf and I always said “Pinjra pinjra ho tha hai; chahay sonay ka ho.” [A cage is a cage, even if it is made of gold.] The places are absolute monarchies and they have always had very good relations with Pakistani governments, especially absolute Pakistani governments.

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On Greg Palast on Hillary and Musharraf

There's an article going around by Greg Palast whose operative paragraph is:
You’ve seen all those creepy photos of George Bush rubbing up against Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, the two of them grinning and giggling like they’re going to the senior prom. So it’s hard to remember that it was Hillary and Bill who brought Pervez to the dance in the first place.
To me, the point that article makes is that bad foreign policy that most often flies in the face of democratic ideals and the best interests and aspirations of the "natives"--not to mention the longer-term interests of America and its people--is a bi-partisan epidemic in the US, and we shouldn't forget that. Venting all our frustrations at placards of George W. Bush might feel good but is not going to help anybody in the medium-to-long term. What we need to do is to try and help the whole US establishment see the light...

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thoughts from a tired, but joyous activist

Folks I need to get some sleep. I have installed Picasa and will get more functional on the Wiki and lists and so on tomorrow. Promise.

Shab Bakhair, as the traditional greeting goes; a good night to all--and may the Subha, the morning, be even brighter. I am not kidding when I say that my pride and joy in all the activism and engagement we are seeing today far, far outweighs my pessimism over where our country and our communities (South Asian, Progressive, Muslim, ...) find themselves today. At least for this one moment in time, it is good to be part of something.

I haven't yet gone to a gathering where I can open up and just scream some naa'ray, but that might change this weekend. I leave you with something that's a work in progress and an attempt to update the chant of the late 70s when the people borrowed Bhutto's "Jamhuriyath kay theen nishaan; Talba, Mazdhoor aur Kisan" [Democracy (has its) three symbols; The Students, The Workers and The Peasant] and chanted:

Talba bhee maangain Azadi
Mazdhoor bhee maangay Azaadi
Kissan bhee maangay Azaadi
Is Martial Laa say Azaadi
Is General Zia say Azaadi
Azaadi, Azaadi, Azaadi....

The Students demand Freedom!
The Workers demand Freedom!
The Peasants demand Freedom!
From this Martial Law; Freedom!
From this General Zia; Freedom!
Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! ...

Like I said, we need an update, please help me finish this by finding something to rhyme with "Mazdoor" and complete the picture on who's involved:

Talba bhee maangain azaadi
Wukla bhee maangain azaadi

Mazdhoor bhee maangain azaadi
Akhbaar bhee maangain azaadi

Kissan bhee maangain azaadi
Jawaan bhee maangain azaadi
Imran bhee maangay azaadi

Is Martial Laa say Azaadi
Is General Sia say Azaadi
Azaadi, Azaadi, Azaadi....

The Students demand Freedom!
The Lawyers demand Freedom!

The Workers demand Freedom!
Newspapers demand Freedom!

The Peasants demand Freedom!
The Soldiers demand Freedom!
Imran demands Freedom!

From this Martial Law; Freedom!
From this Black General; Freedom!
Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! ...

Good night, and good luck.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fixing my Odeo Channel

Just trying to fix my Odeo Channel (odeo/1fd0971260f4b11c); it wasn't updating right

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Into the marketplace with bejewelled limbs we go...

... so said Faiz Ahmed Faiz, probably the most popular poet of revolution in the latter half of the 20th century in South Asia; Pakistan, India, and particularly on the Left.

South Asia has a very rich tradition of poetry, one which draws on both the spiritual tradition that gave the world Rumi and Khayyam, and the revolutionary spirit of the last century or two. And because of the Sufi tradition it is steeped in, allegory, depth of meaning, and multi-faceted verbiage is the norm, rather than the exception. The words "Aaj bazaar main pa-bajaolaan chalo..." are probably some of the most recognized word. The "jewels" being described are, for the uninitiated, the ball and chain of oppression. Here's the poet himself reciting the poem, with English sub-titles, followed by one of the best renditions of the poem with music, in this case with an overlay of dramatic video:

[You can read the piece by Dr. Adil Najam, where I first found this video, here.]

But wait, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has sent out a poster that puts these words above a poster that just needs to be seen to be believed. You couldn't, as we say, make this stuff up:

Please check in regularly at WikiPakistan's Emergency 2007 pages:

for updates. And contribute what input you can, participate in whichever way you can.

[My previous post on the issue, introducing the Emergency 2007 wiki pages, by the way, is here.]

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I have been away from blogging since September 19th or so, except of very short and situational pieces. I was back in Pakistan for family reasons this last week. When I left Pakistan Friday evening local time, Emergency was just a rumour. I had just attended an event the evening before with some journalists, bloggers, activits, and other members of Civil Society titled "Take Back Karachi". (Details at: -- they've added a graphic about the emergency.)

When I got off the plane at JFK, I saw a typically short report on CNN that Emergency had been imposed and immediately started Facebooking with a couple of journalists on the ground in Pakistan. Since then, it seems like Pakistanis are starting to step up to their moment of truth.

But first here's a flashback for those who missed it; it's a former head of Pakistan's much-mentioned ISI saying, the day before "Da Proclamation", that if Martial Law is proclaimed--and he points out that a constitutionally-mandated "Emergency" is not an option--civil society should step up and push back:

I attended just such a meeting of civil society via Skype Saturday night (Pacific Time)/Saturday afternoon (Pakistan Time) and by morning, had been pulled in to talk about the Emergency on WNYC, New York Public Radio:

And, well, what else can I say.? Here's a comment from Dr. Adil Najam, dipped in revolutionary verse:

As Adil says, people see a picture and all they feel is shame for the 5 policemen beating up a lawyer; I feel nothing but pride, for I see one Pakistani putting his self on the line for his principle. People see a media blackout; I see journalists that a dictator has no choice but to ban.

As with the earthquake in 2005, we have started information collection at:

this includes trying to monitor and check up on the status of detainees:

and a bulletin board of sorts for events:

(By way of background, WikiPakistan is an Information Database about Pakistan, Pakistanis and the diaspora hosted by Wikia, a community destination supporting the creation and development of wiki communities and run by a lot of the same people who run the Wikipedia. The site is at and background information can be seen at . It is an open database that anyone can edit and is developed under a Free Document License. [Contributors should be aware that if they choose to post material there directly, they are agreeing to release it under the GNU Free Documentation License. Please see and WikiPakistan for further details.] Contributors are encouraged to click on the “Create an account or log in” link in the top righthand corner of every page and create an account. You do not need to provide any personal information.)

You can read more, and find links to more, on the pages referred to above. More later.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

News on Pakistan...where to go

A quick update:

As of 11 am Eastern, before I got on a plane to SFO all electronic media was down in Pakistan. There is talk of a Code of Conduct being put in place for media. For unvarnished updates out of Pakistan, here's where to start:

Metroblogging Karachi
While the blog is constantly being updated about the events as they unfold, I am sure there would be concerns about law and order situation in the city.


and, generally:

PS, 7:10 pm Pacific/7:10 am Pakistan ST: We're all assessing what's going on. The words "Martial Law" keep being used. Technically, the government is trying to pass this off as a constitutionally-defined "Emergency". There's a difference.

For Civil Society in Pakistan--the media, the human rights activists, the lawyers, and the bloggers--this is our moment of truth and the folks on the ground need all the help, support, encouragement and recognition they can get.

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