Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Revolutions only bring down walls; building anew comes afterwards

Or, as I was saying in one conversation: Revolutions by definition only open the door to new possibilities; what follows is shaped by those who seize the moment. Russia, Iran, China...they all have taught us that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Revolution in Pakistan? As in the Systemic Kind?

After my intemperate outburst yesterday, maybe it is time to finish up and post something that's been hanging out in my draft folder. I mentioned that post yesterday that my opinion is that if and when a revolution comes in Pakistan, given that the country already has an imperfect democracy in place, it will be on the basis of a revolt against the conditions of people's lives and a dysfunctional system.

The point to note that is there's a lot of  "there's a revolution a-brewing" rhetoric in Pakistan today. But it's not just since the Arab Revolts broke radio silence; it's been around for a while. Here's something adapted from a reply I sent a journalist here in the US before January:

People like Daniyal Mueenuddin dismiss it with a point of view held by quite a few people: the "Oh, these/us Pakistanis don't have it in them/us." But, the parallels to the time in which Chekhov and others wrote in Russia cannot be ignored. [See this for what I am talking about: and the whole series at: ]

But consider these factoids:

From Musharraf talking about the need for "a stronger distribution plan of wealth between the rich and poor" (in a Facebook status), to a nationalist blogger tweeting about Via Campesina, to Imran Khan and the MQM separately claiming to have "have always had a Progressive (taraqqi-pasand)" agenda. This in a country where commie thought has been anathema almost more than in the US.

Worth noting also is that each of the people/groups I just mentioned are those casting around for a way to connect with and build a broad base across the whole nation. On the other hand, as an uncle of ours here in California observed the other day, the professional politicians, the opportunists on the inside, so to speak, can often be found on talk shows opining that if we don't find a way to "make things better", then "inqalaab", revolution, could break out.

Flash back to the period when Musharraf was on his way out, and when Benazir was assassinated. One of the questions that kept coming up was "Is Pakistan, will Pakistan become another Iran?" And the best answer I heard was from the intellectual who is now Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, when he said (paraphrasing here) "Not right now; but if the people of Pakistan keep getting kicked around and dissed for another 10 years, then, yes; Pakistan will become another Iran-in-the-late-70s."

Now do the math; how many of those years have passed since?

Will it really happen? Suddenly, with the rolling revolt moving our way from Tunisia, who knows?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Pakistani Rants Intemperately

Apologies if the following is not too coherent. But I have just had it with people who have no skin in the game—or who think they have not skin in the game—talking down Pakistan and Pakistanis. Here's a rant I just posted on Facebook:

What is pathetic about Pakistan is not Pakistanis in Pakistan, it is those of us (yes, us) who are snug as a bug in a rug in the bosom of corporate America, happy to put out software and hardware used to repress, capture and deliver human beings to torture and worse.

On Pakistani civil society read the quote and, if you care, follow the link to the interview with Amartya Sen. I consciously am quoting a person with a "First World" stamp of importance and an Indian background:

And read on to:

and check in to Pakistan's largest blog aggregator at

My apologies for being so blunt, but only Islamists (not all Muslims), expatriates, Indians (again, not all of them, cf: Amartya Sen above), and people who think CNN is "news" think that Pakistanis are depending on Islamists or the Western and Corporate world to come fix their lives—any more than Arabs were before the last month or two.

By the definition of people who consider Pakistanis a lost cause, as of January 24th, 2011 Egyptians were worse than Pakistanis. We had pushed out a military dictator barely 3 years ago and then forced our elected government to restore a semblance of normalcy to our judiciary—the Egyptians (God bless them; their Youth have redeemed the Muslim and Arab World's honor) hadn't managed anything for nigh onto 60 years. What changed? Not the Egyptians, just the fact that people like Mona Eltahawy and Wael Ghonim (and that's just counting people from our English-speaking circles of technology, online activism, etc.) were not on your radar one day and they were the next. Mona had been talking of what would start on January 25 before that. (Listen to the segment with her at 45 minutes of this.)

In each of the three military dictatorships we've had in Pakistan, we have had people ready to go up against the jackboot (often with a "Made in USA" label on it and manufactured with American corporate technology):
  • In the 2000s, our youth used social media to organize everything from a nation-wide "Long March" to flash mobs against Musharraf's emergency—not long after Silicon Valley's OPEN was lapping up his and his ministers' speeches;
  • in the 80s Asma Jehangir and the women of WAF were being dragged by their hair by Zia's thugs; and
  • in the 60s the sister of our founder herself (the closest thing we have to acknowledging a "Founding Mother") stood as the presidential candidate against our first dictator. (That first presidential campaign, by the way, had such wide-based support that the Jamat-e-Islami—the Muslim Brotherhood's fraternal party in South Asia—had to issue a fatwa saying it was okay to support her as a woman running to be president of the world's 2nd largest Muslim country.)
About today, you ask? Well, Pakistan is boiling and bubbling. Our struggles against three dictators have brought us to where we have now have a rickety form of democracy. And because a lot of us want democracy to evolve in an organic fashion (while keeping the pressure on; like we did with the issue of the judiciary) is what seems like we're not reacting.

But be careful what you ask for. Because of the conditions in the common Pakistani's life, Pakistanis are frustrated and not a bit hot under the collar. And when it comes, the Pakistani Revolution will not be about one man or even one institution. When they explode, it will be about the conditions of their lives, the system that the British left and we compradors have been complicit with, and it will challenge a whole world order. Don't be surprised if it, or it's reaction, touches you in Santa Clara County.

And, if you do want to get involved, check out this little movement (on Facebook, of course) that a couple of kids have started here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Why he won't leave; The Messiah Complex, Je suis l'etat and all that, old chap

The angst of the day, as we all follow "Al Thawra", the rolling revolution "فی کل مکان", as the slogan goes, is the regime in Egypt turning ugly and starting to break heads. "Why doesn't he leave now? The writing seems on the wall?"

A couple of things go through my head on that. Firstly that kind of person has a psychosis all their own. The Messiah Complex (a phrase often used when Musharraf was in power); "Je suis l'état. L'état c'est moi." or what have you.

Secondly, people keep asking "Who will negotiate from the other side?" Well the crowds ARE negotiating. The people set up the table. Appointing a Vice President was Mubarak's opening gambit. The people didn't blink. Agreeing not to run again was his next gambit; one, of course, also backed by one of the folks that, as we say in the US, "brung him" to the dance. Now we see him trying to follow through on that gambit by seeing if he can't last out till September—however unrealistic that might be, he's not got much to gain by going right now in his ken, I think. And the aim might be to enable the next layer of this regime (which, after all, means the power structure, not just the man at the pinnacle of it) to dig in and even start to ingratiate itself with all the stakeholders (from the people to the patrons).

What are you thinking?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

…and Obama makes a last ditch effort to bolster Mubarak

As I was just saying the Israelis are really supporting democracy by embracing Mubarak in public, so the people dump him as a traitor.

By the same coin, Obama is now making a last-ditch effort to bolster Ol' Hosni by showing the Egyptians that he's not someone America loves after all.

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Why is Israel Supporting the Dictator Hosni Mubarak? Best-Case Conspiracy Theory

Have you considered that maybe the Israelis, "the only democracy in the Middle East" secretly wants to support democracy in Egypt and they know that the fastest route to getting Hosni dumped by any group of Arabs or Muslims is for them, the Israeli Government, to embrace him in public?

Update/Breaking News: …Obama has now made a last ditch effort to bolster Mubarak