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Dispatches from Pakistan

Dispatches from Pakistan

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 320
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    Dispatches from Pakistan
    Book Description:

    Since 9/11, Pakistan has loomed large in the geopolitical imagination of the West. A key ally in the global war on terror, it is also the country in which Osama bin Laden was finally found and killed-and the one that has borne the brunt of much of the ongoing conflict's collateral damage. Despite its prominence on the front lines and on the front pages, Pakistan has been depicted by Western observers simplistically in terms of its corruption, its fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, and its propensity for violence.Dispatches from Pakistan, in contrast, reveals the complexities, the challenges, and the joys of daily life in the country, from the poetry of Gilgit to the graffiti of Gwadar, from an army barrack in Punjab to the urban politics of Karachi.

    This timely book brings together journalists, activists, academics, and artists to provide a rich, in-depth, and intriguing portrait of contemporary Pakistani society. Straddling a variety of boundaries-geographic, linguistic, and narrative-Dispatches from Pakistanis a vital attempt to speak for the multitude of Pakistanis who, in the face of seemingly unimaginable hardships, from drone strikes to crushing poverty, remain defiantly optimistic about their future. While engaging in conversations on issues that make the headlines in the West, the contributors also introduce less familiar dimensions of Pakistani life, highlighting the voices of urban poets, rural laborers, industrial workers, and religious-feminist activists-and recovering Pakistani society's inquilabi (revolutionary) undercurrents and its hopeful overtones.

    Contributors: Mahvish Ahmad; Nosheen Ali, U of California, Berkeley; Shafqat Hussain, Trinity College; Humeira Iqtidar, King's College London; Amina Jamal, Ryerson U; Hafeez Jamali, U of Texas at Austin; Iqbak Khattak; Zahra Malkani; Raza Mir; Hammad Nasar; Junaid Rana, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Maliha Safri, Drew U; Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Lahore U of Management Sciences; Ayesha Siddiqa; Sultan-i-Rome, Government Jahanzeb Postgraduate College, Swat, Pakistan; Saadia Toor, Staten Island College.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4194-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. What Does Pakistan Mean? Pakistan ka Matlab Kya?
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction Pakistan’s Futures
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    Pakistanis are alive. Sold by governments who should save them, killed by secret agencies who should guard them, bombed by American drones, “structurally adjusted” into starvation, beaten, rendered, tortured and disappeared, and yet, inscrutably, immutably, even joyously, they are still alive. In other places, other times, that may not be much. In Pakistan, that’s an extraordinary feat. It is, after all, a place so thoroughly reviled that the world watched pitilessly as a quarter of the country drowned in summer 2010 in one of the worst floods in memory. The great deluge swallowed up lands and homes and livelihoods, but...

  5. Several Dawns over the Indus Three Maps
    (pp. 1-3)

    Maps are not perfect copies of what lies on the ground. They are re-presentations, explorations: they harbor feelings as much as lines and curves.

    The first map, with English writing in stencil, names Pakistan’s largest administrative areas: Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan, and Sindh. The names leak across borders, following the trails of the people in their extended homelands: the Baloch cross into Iran, the Sindhis into India. These are historical boundaries, not identical to political ones.

    The second map juxtaposes the outline maps of Balochistan and Bangladesh. They are about the same size. Will they have the same fate?


  6. New Wine in Old Bottles
    (pp. 4-18)

    Following the sensational discovery of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbotabad in May 2011, it has become more difficult than ever to write about Pakistan without digressing into superficial narratives about religious militancy, the machinations of the country’s military, and the vagaries of regional geopolitics. It is true that much of what is projected about Pakistan—or not, as the case may be—can be explained by the fact that mainstream politics is so deeply riven by intrigue. Pakistan is easily misunderstood thanks to the ethnocentrism that runs through much “analysis” that originates in western metropolises, whose...

  7. The Neoliberal Security State
    (pp. 19-41)

    Between 2001 and 2003, 18 villages in the district of Okara in the Punjab were the focus of a violent crackdown by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers.¹ Villagers, regardless of age or gender, were subjected to a campaign of sustained harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and death. For roughly three months in 2002 and then again in 2003, the Rangers literally besieged these villages, blocking off all access roads and preventing the passage of food, medicine, and people to and from them.

    At issue was the refusal of over a thousand tenant farmers in this region to sign a new contract...

  8. The Modern Mixed Political Economy of Pakistan
    (pp. 42-52)

    The political economy of pakistan is Janus-faced. One face is feudal and pretends to look to the past, while the other is capitalist and attempts to ignore its twin. Both, however, are inextricably linked in the Pakistani context, existing side-by-side in the countryside, in the mines, and in the factories. They also operate together through democratic institutions, such as Parliament. According to the self-image of Pakistani capitalism—bolstered by the IMF and the World Bank—the zamindari or feudal system is allegedly the “really” exploitative one, while the capitalist system is more “progressive.” But this illusion denies that both economic...

  9. The Generals’ Labyrinth Pakistan and Its Military
    (pp. 53-63)

    In 2008, a popular perception was that Pakistan’s political military’s name was tarnished due to Army Chief Pervez Musharraf’s ten years of rule. Indeed, the 2008 elections brought a civilian government to power. Many saw a major shift in Pakistan’s civil–military relations. Analysts concluded that the military would never risk interfering in politics. By the end of 2010, however, the perception had begun to change. The role played by the military in combating terrorism in certain parts of the country, its standing up to American strategic ambitions in South Asia, particularly Afghanistan, and its providing assistance to people during...

  10. The Desperate U.S.–Pakistan Alliance
    (pp. 64-78)

    It is by now a familiar script for anyone following Pakistani politics on a regular basis. First, the customary gambit: Pakistan needs to maintain its sovereign rights as an independent nation-state. After all, that was the raison d’être for Pakistan’s formation and the partition of the subcontinent. Then, the rhetorical strategy turns to external interference from India, the United States, or foreign militants such as those hailing from Afghanistan. All the while there is the political give and take of an up and coming client state at the behest of foreign aid. At stake in this game of crying wolf...

  11. I’ll Be Your Mirror The Politics of Pakistan’s Populism
    (pp. 79-103)

    In 1972, when Imran Khan was still playing cricket, a commission set up by the Pakistani government to inquire into the causes for the loss of Bangladesh (then, East Pakistan) issued its report. Its conclusions were damning. The report described the military dictator, General Yahya Khan, the successor to General Ayub Khan, as a drunkard and called for the court martial of senior military commanders. By the time the report was issued, the General had already handed power over to a young politician who had served as foreign minister under Ayub Khan’s regime before resigning from the government in 1967—...

  12. Feminism and “Fundamentalism” in Pakistan
    (pp. 104-120)

    In pakistan, the “Islamic” movements seem to be more successful in mobilizing women of different classes than the mainstream women’s movement ever was.¹ These Islamic movements have enabled modest but noteworthy social transformations. For example, women of the middle and lower middle classes are becoming visible as factory workers, shop clerks, immigration officers, television program presenters, municipal representatives, and so on, while many elite women have become evidently conscious of their Muslim identity. This concerns Pakistani feminists.

    Some Pakistani feminist scholars advocate a reassertion of the strict separation of religion and politics in public life (Zia 2009). Others want to...

  13. Punjab in Play
    (pp. 121-134)

    Narratives of an overbearing punjab dominate discussions about Pakistani politics. Yet Punjab today is quite easily the most paradoxical and divided province of Pakistan. It was not always so. The current dominance of Punjab in Pakistan’s politics was not in evidence in the early years of Pakistan’s formation. Academic literature and public debates in national newspapers from the time highlight various other tensions, prominent among them the political dominance of the Urduspeaking Mohajir elite. From the leadership of the Muslim League to the opposition parties, including both the Pakistan Communist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami, to prominent positions within the civil...

  14. Blood on the Path of Love Faisalabad, Pakistan
    (pp. 135-149)

    At about 3:00 in the morning on the day I left for Faisalabad in 2010, where I was to investigate a strike of 250,000 workers demanding a 17 percent wage increase, I picked up a poetry book from the side table in my bedroom and soon landed on a poem by the progressive writer Ali Sardar J’afri, “Robe of Sparks”:

    Who is that

    standing in a robe of sparks?

    Body broken, blood spilling

    from his brains.

    Farhad and Qais passed away

    some times ago; who then is he

    whom people stone to death?

    There is no beautiful Shireen here,


  15. Balochistan Betrayed
    (pp. 150-167)

    Abdul wahab baloch is afraid to talk on the phone. In 2008, he was picked up by security agencies after leading a rally through Karachi protesting the tenth anniversary of Chagai-I—the notorious underground nuclear tests that polluted a Baloch district to serve Pakistan’s national security interest. After a post-rally search for a friend¹ ended in a brutal three-day torture fest involving baggings, beatings, and injections, Wahab is convinced that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is tapping his phone to keep an eye on his movements, carefully surveilling where he is, who he is with, and what he is saying. Another...

  16. A Tempest in My Harbor Gwadar, Balochistan
    (pp. 168-184)

    On first sight, Gwadar, a small coastal town in the southwestern Balochistan province, is a landscape of abandonment, a bit like a frame from a decaying movie reel that has suddenly wound to a halt and the objects have frozen in action. Skeletons of unfinished buildings, parks, stadium, hospital, and offices litter the landscape. Craters and potholes have developed in the middle of recently built wide-lined avenues and roads. In some places, the Shamal wind blowing from Iran has buried unused dual-carriage roads under big piles of sand that render them impassable. If one ventures outside the town, the windswept...

  17. Swat in Transition
    (pp. 185-202)

    Swat lies at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, and China.¹ Once the cradle of the great Gandhara civilization, Swat is now part of Pakistan’s Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. The “Switzerland of the East,” Swat attracted travelers and adventurers over the centuries.² In recent years, it has become famous for another kind of adventure: war. Since the 1990s, it has been home to the Tahrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), whose rebellion against the government resulted in armed clashes with the Pakistani military in 1994 and then again in 2007–09 (under the leadership of Fazlullah)....

  18. Inside Militancy in Waziristan
    (pp. 203-212)

    Heavy clouds covered the sun. Rain lashed the hard land of Mehsud. A car carrying a group of journalists made its way to Makeen, the headquarters of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan. Hakeemullah Mehsud, the new face of the TTP and aide to the militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, appeared from the shade to greet the media. “Welcome to our land,” he said.

    Not long after, on August 5, 2009, a CIA drone struck the region and killed Baitullah Mehsud and his second wife at her father’s home. Hakeemullah was crowned the head of the TTP. The Pakistani...

  19. Poetic Reflection and Activism in Gilgit-Baltistan
    (pp. 213-227)

    Poetry recitation has a prominent place in the social life of Pakistan, and especially in the northern, mountainous region of Gilgit-Baltistan. In the key administrative city of Gilgit, participants at casual gatherings, cultural celebrations, NGO conferences, or political seminars are likely to quote couplets in Urdu or in one of their local languages such as Shina. Mushairas, or gatherings dedicated to poetry recitation, are often organized in people’s homes, at hotels, and in public spaces, and are much valued as a source of pleasure and intellectual stimulation. While mushairas have been part of the Indo-Persian cultural landscape at least since...

  20. The Nature of Conservation Conflict and Articulation in Northern Pakistan
    (pp. 228-237)

    Since 1975, Shimshal, a small village of agro-pastoral people in Pakistan’s mountainous Northern Areas (now Gilgit-Baltistan), has been embroiled in a conflict with the government Forest Department over the establishment of the Khunjerab National Park (KNP) on traditional grazing grounds. The park was established on the recommendation of the famous American naturalist George Schaller, who in the 1970s visited the region and saw the land use practices of the local people as a threat to Himalayan wildlife and nature. Schaller was especially concerned about the plight of wild sheep and goats, particularly ibex, blue sheep, and the fabled Marco Polo...

  21. An Art of Extremes
    (pp. 238-254)

    Nationhood and identity; political tussles between the army, clergy, and politicians; gender roles “fixed” by society and state; a lack of infrastructure for art; the effects of globalization in general, and an India-fueled emerging art market in particular—these are some of the diverse issues that have shaped the course of recent art production and distribution in Pakistan. The “extremes” of the title to this essay refers to the two most vibrant strands of art-making in the country: innovating through tradition, as exemplified by the veritable army of young talent being produced by the miniature department of the National College...

  22. Will You Not See the Full Moon Kya Tum Poora Chand Na Dekhoge
    (pp. 255-256)
  23. Contributors
    (pp. 257-260)
  24. Index
    (pp. 261-288)