And so comes to an end a year which can easily be described as a b-grade romantic thriller novel. With not so much of the normal romance that one would expect from these novels. Pakistan’s 2011 has been full of headlines from covert US CIA agents killing civilians to the extraordinary feat of our cricketers heroics in the world cup to reach its semis amidst the clouds of match fixing.
The topsy turvy ride of 2011 started with the killing of the then Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer at the hands of one his bodyguards. That there were sections of our country that actually cried in outrage at the killers arrest and detention was indeed a low point. Then towards the end of the same month the Raymond Davis fiasco ensued. The ‘Diplomat’ who was working as a covert CIA agent who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. Who then was freed from our prison after paying blood money to the victims families.
These two points would of course continue to remain thorns through the course of the year. Salman Taseer’s murder under the banner of Blasphemy was not an end to this unfortunate extremist mindset. The Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti was also gunned down for ‘Blasphemy’ in March. What was their blasphemy? They spoke against the abuse and misuse of the Blasphemy Law against minorities. Both these men were killed by extremists for saying the right thing. For saying what our mullahs should ideally be preaching: being just and fair. The rights of minorities are not exactly at their best in our country. It might not occur to us as much because they aren’t exactly reported as much as the happen in our mainstream media. There have been many cases where families have had to uproot from their home towns and flee to another one because the locals had started persecuting them for ‘blasphemy’.
What our mainstream media was and always has been more focused on is the soap opera-ish love affair between us and the Americans. Davis was just the start of a year which would prove to be really record dipping low point of the US-Pak relationship. He killed two Pakistanis in Lahore, was in jail for a little while and the US cried Geneva Convention. Somebody paid blood money to the families and the guy went back to the US without so much as another word on the matter. Then of course there was the whole OBL incident. Somehow a delta strike team of the US Army managed to make it all the way into Pakistan all the way to Abbotabad and take out Osama Bin Laden in the deep of the night. Apparently they were using the cloak from Lord of the Rings which Frodo used to hide outside the black gates of Mordor because surely our military capability is enough for us to see an intrusion like that and stop it. It was a debacle. Osama was in the Military’s backyard for 5 years apparently and we didn’t know? We were not informed of this strike before hand even thou we are ‘allies’ in the ‘war on terror’? Many questions but very few answers. Then American Military Chief of that time, Mike Mullen said the Haqqani Network was a ‘veritable arm of the ISI’ which was apparently taken in the wrong context but not out-rightly apologized for by the Obama administration. Then memo-gate and the NATO strike on one of our outposts as a response to which Pakistan avoided the BONN conference as a protest. It has really been one thing after another which has just been pulling this love affair down from rock bottom to rock bottom. Cyril Almeida puts it brilliantly in his article published on 31st December, 2011 in the Dawn:
‘The US doesn’t trust Pakistan and Pakistan is massively suspicious of the US. The US has fundamental doubts about both the will and capacity of Pakistan to fight the war against militancy. And the Pakistani Security establishment is convinced that the US was seeking to do more than just dismantle the Al Qaeda network’
Clearly the tone doesn’t look rosy for 2012 in all things Pak-American.
The internal political scenario hasn’t lagged behind from our media focus of course. I mean how else would the likes of Kamran Khan and Hamid Mir maintain their ‘mojo’. MQM’s walkouts and make-ups with the PPP government. Nawaz’s rants and playing the typical opposition party of Pakistan. The Q-league doing what it does best: shifting alignment as and where required without have any morals or actual ideology of their own. They did so again when the PPP required a message to be given to the MQM that they have other options for forming a majority Government and to bring an end to their dramatic walkouts and then making ups. The Qatil league happily accepted the role after being promised things like deputy prime minister and other cabinet positions. Those did not materialize but then most promises in the politicking are ever held. What they did manage to gain was the release of Moonis Elahi from prison and the end of the corruption cases against him in the NICL scam.
But the drama of MQM and PPP was hardly over. No one knows who let him loose –the liquor or Zardari – but Zulfiqar Mirza took it upon himself to create a storm in Karachi. It started with a drunk, fiery and uncontrolled speech at ANP Leader Shahi Syed’s house. But continued through the course of days and weeks. Speech after speech. Not just targeting the MQM anymore but also some PPP leaders as well especially Rehman Malik. To his credit Zulfiqar Mirza did entertain and keep those media ratings going through the roof. The words were bold. The accusations and poking was very much for all to see. It instigated violence in the the city by the sea. Target killings, ethnic violence and complete shut downs. But that didn’t stop him. For he had taken it upon himself to eradicate what he called the menace of Altaf Hussain, MQM and Rehman Malik. The PPP of course distanced itself from all that ZM was doing and eventually after a flying back and forth from KHI to ISL ZM has now gone to London. To this date leaving people unclear who gained what from that entire drama. Was it Zardari who wanted him to go up against MQM and time the Qaatil league handshake accordingly? Was it a reminder to Rehman Malik not to be too ambitious about where his sights may lie for the future? Or was it a case of ZM being redundant for the party and not really having control on his liqour? No one knows. There are theories of course. But no one knows for sure.
The months unfolded a trajectory in politics which bore a staunch resemblance of the Pakistani ‘democratic’ scene of the 90’s. The opposition party creating enough hue and cry for the incumbents to be eventually dismissed and then take their own turn in the opposition. It seemed the same. The ingredients were all there. But then, a new kid (well not so much new but more like a rejuvenated) arrived on the block.
With a inexplicable rise, Imran Khan started what he now calls the Tsunami for Pakistan. A tsunami which will only destroy corruption and all things bad for this country. Imran Khan and his PTI now boasting names like Javed Hashmi, Kasuri and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, started representing a hope … the only hope under the circumstances, for a change to come to this country. They used the social media and marketing tools at their disposal to very good advantage and to their credit they have managed to get the urban centres (especially the youth) more involved. If nothing else there will be change in the form of more voter turn out in the next elections. Gathering sizeable crowds in Jalsas in the hearts of PML-N and MQM in Lahore and Karachi respectively is also a change. It is a testament to the fact that people are really desperate for change. They are desperate for any thread of hope dangling in front of them. I am still sceptical of the PTI. Especially because Imran Khan has ‘had’ to induct into the party people with questionable pasts. Imran Khan himself of course cannot be questioned in terms of his will and desire to do something for the nation. His resume boasting of the Shaukat Khannam Hospital and the University are proof of this. Along with of course the more popularly discussed achievement of winning the word cup as our cricket captain. I will vote for him but as I keep saying not out of choice but by the lack of it. Nonetheless he has caused concern to Mian sahab, the chesire cat of Isloo and Bhai in London. And he does pose as a much better option than any of the other parties. We can but only hope that mine and a few others’ concerns are unfounded and that he will actually bring real change.
Our year in sports has gotten better as the year has progressed. For one thing the PCB has not been in the news much since the end of Butt’s tenure as Chairman. Afridi has returned to the One Day side after his self exile from national cricket over what he termed as mismanagement and differences with former coach Waqar Younis. We have played 4 series since the world cup and won them all. Given that 2 of them were against minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe which is hardly a test. And there was West Indies as well who are not the giants they were once. But we did also play Sri Lanka and completely dominated them in the tests and ODIs. Regardless of Sri Lanka being off their game it was still an achievement and credit to the team. The Feb-March world cup heroics were also something the nation should be proud of.
Afridi led a divided team to the semis where we lost to the India (the eventual World Cup winners) at Mohali. There have been negatives of course with the tussle between Ejaz Butt and Afridi. And the spot fixing scandal from Lords last year still looming over our heads. The three players involved had been slapped bans and fines by the ICC and now have also been sentenced to jail time by the courts for bribery. The constant switching of captaincy and continued policy of of not naming a long term permanent leadership setup for the team by the PCB remains a sore point. Mohsin Khan who is currently head coach of the side is not a permanent choice and there are still reports of Dav Whattmore getting the job. However the year has ended on a positive and we start 2012 against England with high spirits.
Apart from the major categories of Sports/Politics/Foreign Policy there have been other positives and negatives as well and well some just downright embarrassing stuff. Veena ventured for overseas work and twice made the media focus. Once with the whole Big Brother saga and then the FHM magazine shoot. It isn’t cute and well its just too much tabloid.
The brilliant geniuses at PTA actually tried to come up with (i say ‘tried’ in hopes that the idea has now been abandoned) a list of english and urdu words that would be banned for texting. The list was not small and clearly indicative of a llloooottt of spare time for the people at PTA. The bloody thing turned into a joke not only in our own country but some foreign channels also caught the speculation. In a gist their reaction was ‘Are you fucking serious? hhhahahahaha’
Pakistan was again hit by floods this year and the worst of it was in Sindh. The response and awareness for this was encouraging to see. The effort put in by some organizations was really good. I mean even if we are as a nation hypocrites and emotionally irrational by and large – the spirit to come together to help the fellow man in natural disaster situations. If only this same spirit would be so evident for other things as well. Civic sense for one.
The culture for theatre is on the rise in Karachi which is great to see. I have come across a few programs varying from teaching, to kids being involved in community work, the citizens archive has held various exhibitions on factual history of Pakistan and etc etc. Point is that the overall avenues for increasing one’s awareness has increased in the last year. At least that’s how I feel about it. Social Media has of course played its part. Imran Khan can be tied into this with getting the youth involved as well. That is also good to see. People motivated and pumped up and involved. Awareness before change.
I feel I have covered most of the important stuff. If I have missed out on anything please feel free to point it out.
Moving on to 2012 now. Looking at the way things have been in terms of the political scenario and still largely unattended matters like energy, employment and rising inflation one can only hope that there is some … SOME improvement in those areas. That there is actually some work in Public Development, education, energy. Better utilization of our natural resources and actually working towards making our economy self sufficient. That our political leaders will move on from just doing Jalsas where they make highly captivating and dramatic speeches and talk more about what needs to be done and HOW it needs to be done. I seriously do hope the army continues to stay out of the governing of the country (or as it would seem for no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors) and that the democratic setup is allowed to run its own course. Let the bad blood flow out of it naturally. What the army should actually do is focus on getting there own image corrected. The incidents with the Mehran Base attack, OBL raid in Abbottabad and the NATO strikes haven’t really left a pretty picture on the army. Including the memogate incident.
Let us hope that 2012 will be a better and more consistently positive year. Let us pray for the best of Pakistan.