The myriad voices of Pakistani blogosphere

Pakistan's growing blogosphere presents a kaleidoscope of the complex, contradictory developments within the country. The country is in the grip of a major movement for upholding the rule of law. Some say it is the finest moment in our history while others term it as yet another agent of instability. Thousands of lawyers and political activists have commenced a long march to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to pressurize the parliament and the government to restore the judges dismissed by now ubiquitous and beleaguered President Musharraf. We take our great neighbour China's history and Chairman Mao, quite seriously.

Pak Spectator welcomes the long march with these words:

Gallant lawyers from all over the Pakistan have started their Long March towards the Islamabad where a dictator lives who tried to demolish the country's justice system to appease his vested interest to stick to the power forever. These lawyers are upholding the flags of supremacy of law and the upper hand of constitution with full liberty to the judges of higher and lower judiciary.

In a similar vein, moans the skepticism about the lawyers’ long march:

What a wretched country this is. The march should have given goose bumps to every person with an iota of romance. Instead, it has raised the hairs on the back of the neck for the many who fear what confrontation will bring. Not for decades have ugly reality and dreaminess collided so forcefully. The sceptics believe they are on the right side of history. But there is no joy in parting with the lawyers. Unfortunately, there are no Hollywood endings in Pakistan, only bitter truths.

An alternative view, again at Pak Spectator urges that legal matters cannot be brought to the streets:

Court business is conducted in Courts only. Staging of a protest or arranging a Long March on any pretext by a bunch of lawyers out side of the courts, in order to pressurise and influence the Parliament to give a favourable verdict is sure absurdity because; Munsib ka Mut-manni khain hota hey! If at all there is a need to do some March; that is an inward cleansing March; a March toward lower and High courts system; where Justice is a far cry and common man experience; corruption, corruption and corruption of Judges only. Long March; it is more of a Leisure Ride.

Putting the recent stage in the lawyers’ movement in a political economy context by arguing that the real agenda of the Long March appears to be frustrating the newly elected government of the slain Bhutto's party. This is what Haq's Musings has to say:

So why are the judges and the lawyers being elevated to such high stature by the “civil society” … and their media and politician cheerleaders? The answer probably lies in their obsessive need for vengeance against Musharraf by the PML(N), the lawyers and the journalists.

It probably goes beyond that. The real agenda appears to be to frustrate the newly elected PPP government and make it impossible for it to deliver on the PPP promises to the people in terms of their basic needs of roti [bread], bijli [electricity] and paani [water]. Such a failure would likely result in the ouster of the PPP, early elections and the “restoration” of the pre-1999 situation with PML(N) government led by Nawaz Sharif.

And where is the march headed to – the Pakistani capital. Islamabad, vilified by the corporate media as a haven of terror and bigotry. Thus a refreshing account of an Indian traveler has been posted at the Pak Tea House:

Islamabad is surely the most well-organised, picturesque and endearing city in all of South Asia. Few Indians would, however, know this, or, if they did, would admit it. After all, the Indian media never highlights anything positive about Pakistan, because for it only ‘bad’ news about the country appears to be considered ‘newsworthy’. That realization hit me as a rude shock the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered Islamabad's plush International Airport, easily far more efficient, modern and better maintained than any of its counterparts in India. And right through my week-long stay in the city, I could not help comparing Islamabad favourably with every other South Asian city that I have visited.

This unconventional wisdom is furthered by these lines:

No sooner has the visitor stepped off the plane in Islamabad and drives into the city than he is forced to realize that whatever the Indian media says about Pakistan and its people is basically bogus…
No, Pakistan is not a ‘fundamentalist’ country, teetering on the verge of a take-over by ‘religious radicals’. No, Pakistan is not a ‘prison-house of Muslim women’, who are allegedly forced into wearing tent-like burkhas. No, Pakistan is not a ‘failed state’ that produces nothing. Flowing beards and skull-caps are conspicuous by their rarity in Islamabad as are burkhas. Women drive and shop and work in government and private offices. Most basic consumer items are produced within the country.

Lahore Nama has a post on the contradictions of urban Pakistan and its post-colonial ethos, not unlike the not-so-loved neighbour, India:

Speaking of golf courses, it seems a contradiction to me that Lahore boasts three eighteen-hole golf courses and two full-fledged polo grounds in the middle of the city, while at the same time there is a low-income housing shortage and elite residential housing developments have all picked up the cheap land at the outskirts of the city. As a result, there is precious little land for low-income and middle-class housing. Interestingly, this phenomenon is not unique to Lahore. Delhi has several golf courses and a couple of polo grounds in its bowels. Several other cities that hosted the Raj are similar. Something tells me this may have to do with a sustained post-colonial mentality that prioritises golf and polo over the accommodation of the poor.

The hugely popular blog All Things Pakistan is also celebrating its second birthday with this reflection:

On these pages we've tried to cultivate this community of Pakistaniat as best as we could. But we have also tried to remain true to our name – All Things Pakistan.We have focussed on all things related to Pakistan and stayed away from things that are not directly related to Pakistan. We are not, and do not wish to be, a newspaper or even a new site. But we cannot ignore the unraveling of society and politics and economy in Pakistan. We have had to write on news too often – much more often than we would have wished to write about it – simply because it would have been dishonest to ignore the great news events of our times.

Moving from the local to the global, the eager Teeth Maestro has posted a discussion at Asia Society where the eminent Pakistani author, Ahmed Rashid discusses his new bookDescent Into Chaos: the United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia”. This book is about the troubled globe in the context of 9/11 and the subsequent disasters:

Rashid talked about complex geopolitics of the region in the aftermath of 9/11, focusing on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, sharply criticizing the Bush administration's policies, arguing that after 9/11 the US squandered a tremendous opportunity to engage with the region in a constructive way.


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