Friday, October 14, 2005

And so we duck for cover, take a deep breath, and plunge into making sense of the madness that has descended upon us.

The Pakistani people have given with open hearts. And yet the distribution bottleneck means that up north in Kashmir and the NWFP, people are starving, and wet, and cold. There are no tents to be found in the city of Lahore. We can only hope this means that they are already on their way up north. The more cynical amongst us fear that it's more a case of hoarding to drive the prices up. A tent usually costs about Rs 4000 (that's roughly $65). Right now, they aren't to be had for Rs. 15000. Manufacturers say that they are working as hard as they can.

In the meanwhile, the winter descends in the mountains, and the 2.5 million who are homeless have already had to contend with hailstorms. Hailstorms severe enough that the camp set up in the grounds of one of the nation's better medical colleges simply collapsed under the force of the storm. Then there's the rain.

Then of course, there is the mounting anger, and simple, human, desperation of those who are starving while transporters gouge those who attempt to send donations north. Odd people, us humans. So noble, so mean.

6th graders at my school gave up their lunch money at the first announcement that the school was starting a fund. The premises look like a relief camp. It's affords me a great deal of pleasure to see overprivileged young Pakistani women organizing, mostly on their own, mountains of goods that have come in, pellmell, from families and friends of students.

This isn't particularly coherent. But my thoughts simply aren't that right now...

Friday, October 07, 2005

How could I fail to write about the brilliant erudition of President Mush. Maybe being in Washington does that these days. The Bush effect. No president may make sense while speaking in the US...?

So our dictatorial tendencies are beginning to show. No longer quite so media-savvy. No longer quite as forthright as on the 12th of October 1999. Six years can do that to a person, I suppose. So dissent has become anti-Pakistan. Criticism of human rights abuses has only one explanation: the critics are out to get Pakistan. Bah!

And of course I take it far more personally just because he was talking about rape. There's a kind of relief in him having made that statement publicly. However embarrassing it is that the head of state of the country I currently live in holds such asinine views, I have to admit that he isn't the only one holding those views. It's interesting to see a public reaction to the kind of views about which a lot of Pakistanis have no clue that they are incredibly offensive.

It's another reminder of how uncomfortable Pakistan, as a nation, is with the women's rights movement. And no, it's not because of Islam. The world of Islam has become extraordinarily sexist, but it's also classist, racist, etc. I don't like admitting that openly. But the reasons lie in a decision made 1000 years ago to actively forbid further evolution of social practice. The religion started out, like most religions that actually take root, with a vision of social justice. And it worked towards creating that social justice. It set things up so that slavery gradually eliminated itself in the Muslim world much before the Western world. It guaranteed women's property rights, etc. And then it was taken over by the power-hungry, as so many movements are, and, indeed, as virtually all faiths have been. So the dominant dogma has fossilized. There are still scholars doing a great deal of work on the logical evolution of Islamic law to match current social realities, but they are not part of the mainstream. Besides which, what fun would it be for the Islamophobic media to admit to the existence of educated, enlightened, believing Muslims, when it's so much more colourful to imagine us all wrapped in turbans or veils of backwardness and bigotry?