Sunday, December 28, 2008

Q and A....not the Vikas Swarup one though

(which reminds me that I have to watch Slumdog Millionaire sooooon)

Around the World in 80 Questions - the News Quiz of the Year!

The Questions

The Answers

Friday, December 26, 2008

From a Pakistani ...with love

Even in my remote bit of paradise, news of distant disasters filters through: above the steady sound of waves breaking on the sandy beach in Sri Lanka, I was informed by several news channels about the sickening attacks on Mumbai. My Internet connection is erratic and slow, but nevertheless, I have been bombarded with emails, asking me for my take on this latest atrocity.

Over the last few years, I have traveled to several countries across four continents. Everywhere I go, I am asked why Pakistan is now the focal point of Islamic extremism and terrorism, and why successive governments have allowed this cancer to fester and grow. As a Pakistani, it is obviously embarrassing to be put on the spot, but I can see why people everywhere are concerned. In virtually every Islamic terrorist plot, whether it is successful or not, there is a Pakistani angle. Often, foreign terrorists have trained at camps in the tribal areas; others have been brainwashed in madressahs; and many more have been radicalized by the poisonous teachings of so-called religious leaders.

Madeline Albright, the ex-US secretary of state, has called Pakistan 'an international migraine', saying it was a cause for global concern as it had nuclear weapons, terrorism, religious extremists,corruption, extreme poverty, and was located in a very important part of the world. While none of this makes pleasant reading for a Pakistani, Ms Albright's summation is hard to refute. Often, the truth is painful, but most Pakistanis refuse to see it. Instead of confronting reality, we are in a permanent state of denial. This ostrich-like posture has made things even worse.

Most Pakistanis, when presented with the fact that our country is now the breeding ground for the most violent ideologies, and the most vicious gangs of thugs who kill in the name of religion, go back in history to explain and justify their presence in our country. They refer to the Afghan war, and the creation of an army of holy warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Then they go on to complain that the Americans quit the region soon after the Soviets did, leaving us saddled with the problem of jihadi fighters from all over the Muslim world camped on our soil.

What we conveniently forget is that for most of the last two decades,the army and the ISI used these very jihadis to further their agenda in Kashmir and Afghanistan. This long official link has given various terror groups legitimacy and a domestic base that has now come to haunt us. Another aspect to this problem is the support these extremists enjoy among conservative Pakistani and Arab donors.Claiming they are fighting for Islamic causes, they attract significant amounts from Muslim businessmen here and abroad. And almost certainly, they also benefited from official Saudi largess until 9/11.

Now that government policy is to distance itself from these jihadis,we find that many retired army officers have continued to train them in camps being run in many parts of Pakistan. A few weeks ago, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a prominent (and very loud) minister under both Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf, openly boasted on TV of running a camp for Kashmiri fighters on his own land just outside Rawalpindi a few years ago. If such camps can be set up a few miles from army headquarters,what's to stop them from operating in remote areas?

Many foreign and local journalists have exposed aspects of the terror network that has long flourished in Pakistan. Names, dates and addresses have been published and broadcast. But each allegation has been met with a brazen denial from every level of officialdom. Just as we denied the existence of our nuclear weapons programme for years, so too do we refuse to accept the presence of extremist terrorists.

For years, it suited the army and the ISI to secretly harbour and support these groups in Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan. While officially denying that they had anything to do with these jihadis,money and arms from secrest sources would reach them regularly. Despite our spooks maintaining plausible deniability, enough information about this covert support for jihadis has emerged for the fig-leaf to slip.And even if the intelligence community has now cut its links with these terrorists, the genie is out of the bottle.

Each time an atrocity like Mumbai occurs, and Pakistan is accused of being involved, the defensive mantra chanted by the chorus of official spokesmen is: "Show us the proof." The reality is that in terrorist operations planned in secret, there is not much of a paper trail left behind. Nine times out of ten, the perpetrators do not survive to give evidence before a court. But in this case, one terrorist did survive,and Ajmal Amir Kamal's story points to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. The sophistication of the attack is testimony to careful planning and rigorous training. This was no hit-and-run operation, but was intended to cause the maximum loss of life.

Pakistan's foreign minister said that Pakistan, too, is a victim of terrorism. While this is certainly true, the rest of the world wants to know we aren't doing more to root out the training camps, and lock up those involved. Given the vast un-audited amounts from the exchequer sundry intelligence agencies lay claim to, their failure to be more effective against internal terrorism is either a sign of incompetence, or of criminal collusion. Benazir Bhutto's murder, after an earlier attempt and many warnings, is a reminder of how poorly we are served by our intelligence agencies.

And while the diplomatic fallout from the Mumbai attack spreads and threatens to escalate into an armed confrontation, the biggest winners are those who carried out the butchery of so many innocent people. It is to their advantage to prevent India and Pakistan from coordinating their fight against terrorism. Tension between the two neighbours suits them, while peace and cooperation threatens their very existence.

The world is naturally concerned about the danger posed by these terror groups to other countries. However, the biggest threat they pose is to Pakistan itself. Until Pakistanis grasp this brutal reality and muster up the resolve necessary to crush them, these killers will tear the country apart.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

First Day, First very first EVER!!

Ghajini,Aamir Khan,8 packs..........3 hour (yawnnnnnn) salmagundi of twaddle, kitsch, savagery,vulnerability, uninspired edit job,one splendidly choreographed song (what a riot of color), tortuousness (torture at times) and some superlative histrionics. It is Aamir and Aamir ONLY who could have so potently lugged (note the word usage) the movie along (on his very expansive & recently framed frame.....which DOES NOT distract only beefs up).

p.s.1: A longgggggggg movie begs for a short review!
p.s.2: Would recommend the sophisticated hollywood "inspiration" ( anteretrograde amenesia and revenge, then they part ways) Memento anytime!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CREDIT CRUNCH.....courtesy Jay Leno :)

1. The US has made a new weapon that destroys people but keeps thebuilding standing. Its called the stock

2. Do you have any idea how cheap stocks are ?? Wall Street is now being called Wal Mart Street

3. The problem with investment bank balance sheet is that on the left side nothing's right and on the right side nothing's left.

4. I want to warn people from Nigeria who might be watching our show, if you get any emails from Washington asking for money, it's a scam. Don't fall for it

5. Bush was asked about the credit crunch. He said it was his favourite candy

6. The rescue bill was about 450 pages. President Bush's copy is even thicker. They had to include pictures

7. President Bush's response was to meet some small business owners in San Antonio last week. The small business owners are General Motors, General Electric and Century

8. What worries me most about the credit crunch, is that if one of my cheques is returned stamped 'insufficient funds'. I won't know whether that refers to mine or the bank's.

9. The difference between a pigeon and a London investment banker --The pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW.

10. What's the difference between a guy who lost everything in LasVegas and an investment banker? A tie!

Dear Mr. Thackrey,

Mr. Bal Thackrey,do put your resources (manpower/lackeys/faithfuls and monies) where your mouth (piece) is and actualize the genesis of professional elite "hindu terrorists" who will successfully foray across our borders in the north /northwest to surgically cauterize the rabid training camps and perhaps assist in putting a hold on the infiltration across our very "porous" border in the east.

Please,PLEASE ,do consider it is a fantastic opportunity to provide employment for your sena with the attractive dividend of having your detractors eat their words!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Template Regularly used while Responding by our "friendly" Neighbourhood

p.s.: This is not my original work /CAT
Dear Prime Minister Manmohan Singh/Atal Bihari Vajpayee /Narasimha Rao /Rajiv Gandhi,
Pakistan strongly condemns / is shocked by / is pleasantly surprised with the success of our "freedom fighters" in the loss of dozens / hundreds / thousands / millions of innocent lives in the bomb blasts / sniper attack / hijacking / religious riots / other disaster that occurred in a busy marketplace / train / housing colony / Indian parliament building / an upper-class hotel / temple in Mumbai / Delhi / Kashmir / Assam / Punjab / Gujarat / Other. The Pakistani citizens / soldiers / "freedom fighters" / "friendship agents" / students who were caught red-handed / found dead at the scene of the crime / convicted of the crime are actually undercover Indian / American / Israeli agents.
Any Pakistanis proven to be guilty of terrorism will be rewarded handsomely / dealt with severely / promoted to Lt. Colonel / given a new Indian passport and sent back to India / handed over to the Americans as proof of our commitment in the war on terror.
There are no Pakistani army-funded training camps / terrorist camps / madrasaas in Azad Kashmir / Afghanistan / Nepal / Bangladesh. The satellite images / photographs / eyewitness accounts / videotaped confessions obtained by the Indians is fraudulent / fake / inconclusive / are actually from Indian terrorist camps and part of a larger RAW / CIA conspiracy to destabilize the Pakistani government by stalling democracy / encouraging sectarian violence / undermining Pakistani institutions / causing the next military coup in Pakistan. A destabilized Pakistani government / mafia could cause Pakistan to become a dangerous nuclear WalMart / Target / Seven-Eleven and a terrorist breeding ground / university / research lab that would be worse for the world.
We hope this will not derail the peace process started with the recent India-Pakistan cricket series / Lahore bus yatra / Muzafarabad- Srinagar road opening / Bollywood peace concert / open borders initiative / other confidence-building measures.
We look forward to justifying further attacks against innocent civilians / resolving the core issue of Kashmir / developing best-of-breed plausible deniability defenses.
We stand by / are plotting against our Indian brethren in their hour / days / years / decades of pain.
Asif Ali Zardari -President, Pakistan / Chief Operating Officer, Taliban Inc. / General, Pakistani Army

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oui, c'est moi avec le violon (picture coming later!)

A pat on my back...a diminutive trifle,a minuscule ripple of achievement but a first for this 42 year old (going on 32 :))!!

My little 5.5 year old angel (a.k.a. brat) has been learning the violin past 2 years in the western classical genre under competent guidance through the Suzuki Method of music education. One very imperative ligament in this methodology is active parent participation. To say that this journey past two years has been laborious for mommie and some for baby would not be far from truth. She will graduate from her Book 1 next April ! Yaaaay!!!! But more on that when she does.

Now spotlights back on mommie.... :)

So around 2 months back , after a suitable period of spurring by kiddo's teacher, I decided to venture into learning to play the violin myself :), following exactly the same syllabus which kiddo is following.

Now TODAY a group of kids at an advanced level were graduating from their book levels and as is the norm there was a public concert showcasing their repertoire and skills. And the SURPRISE, in the words of the presenter, of the day was a group performance by 6 mommies who are taking baby steps into the world of violin just like me.(was kidding with other moms that THE surprise would probably have to be me passing out on stage :))

So to cut to the chase....2 simple short songs, no casualties, fair amount of applause!!! MY VERY FIRST VIOLIN PERFORMANCE IN PUBLIC.
(after negligent and in diligent practice sessions, moi guilty:( )

Am taking a bow :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Romila Thapar ,Arun Shourie, Hinduism, History of India, what insanity bug has bitten me.....????

I am no student of history nor a dabbler with an occasional "nose deep in popular history tomes". (actually was mighty glad to see the last of my history books in class X, those many moons ago)

So what am I doing reading the 300+ pages "History of India, Volume One" authored by Romila Thapar who seems to have a formidable reputation as a marxist historian as well as several detractors,Arun Shourie for one.

As I mentioned someplace else, I need to exorcise the devils of confusion about this rant about "communal" interpretation of Indian history. So what better place to begin than with an impulsive buy(confession:had certain questions about indian history pre internet is GOD insanity phase and thought this book would answer the questions BUT post purchase promptly forgot the reasons for the purchase )gathering dust in the library.

So when I am in a state of "illumined consciousness a la Indian History" I would probably share a few of those thoughts with my non existant readers :). Till such time.........