A Journey Through Pakistan
Nasik Elahi

Pakistan is a country that defies ordinary explanations.  After spending six weeks I am still confused with an equal measure of negative and positive sentiments.  

A good measure of a country is in its traffic.  In Pakistan traffic is a state of functional chaos:  congestion compounded by disregard of the basics of courtesy and rules.  The structure of roads and traffic lights is basically overwhelmed in most urban centers.  Police traffic control is virtually nil; the few police present are routinely ignored and even issuing traffic summons can make cops lose their jobs.
Law enforcement is the vital aspect of national life that is teetering on the edge.  Crime is rampant, police corruption is endemic and many police stations are better described as torture chambers where few citizens dare to enter.  The professionalism in police ranks is best described as pathetic.  Nearly sixty percent of the force is employed as security guards for the VIPs and their extended families while the ranks of the officers are politicized to answer to their political overlords rather than perform as professionals. 
A good example of such dysfunction is the forensic program in the country.  The government of Punjab has spent nearly $30 million to establish an unfunctional program, most of which was spent on a kickback scheme involving Cleveland;  the Cleveland connection was jailed by the local US authorities but the Pakistani players continue with no threat of accountability.  I had specifically warned against such developments in my capacity as a national consultant on forensic programs some six years ago.  My advice was ignored by Punjab and other provincial and central authorities and they continued to develop their schemes.  There exist a paltry forensic program at the national level and provinces like KPK, Baluchistan, Karachi and Sindh have made little progress over the past six years.
As a result, policing cannot address the challenges of either crime or terrorism.  The forensic evidence is nonexistent and cases are so badly prepared that they fail the basic standards of acceptability.  The court system is equally politicized into a state of ineptitude where few cases are adjudicated;  there also exist functional disparities between the lower and higher judiciary that is similar to the police ranks.
The economy of Pakistan is a mystery to many experts.  The country is faced with a chronic shortage of energy that makes both the industrial and social sectors underperform.  The government has become an employment agency;  both bureaucracy and state owned institutions have become unwieldy because of the bloat imposed by successive governments.   The spotty energy supplies have forced people to resort to highly expensive alternatives;  those who can afford it have generators others use lead acid batteries that is a public health disaster.  The country is kept afloat by billions of dollars in reparations by overseas Pakistanis, loans and grants from US and other countries.  Pakistan has the distinction of one of the lowest ratios of tax paying citizens in the world.
Despite the underperformance of the economy and government the most striking feature is the wealth gap and the conspicuous consumption of the haves.   The country is full of malls with imported luxury products and restaurants teeming with customers.  Another arena of excess is to be found in the marriage halls where people expend beyond their means on clothing, accessories and food.  The main source of such wealth is crony capitalism. corruption that siphons off resources from the national enterprise,  underground economy, drugs and smuggling.  A lot of such wealth is parked in places like Dubai and is also used to spark real estate booms in virtually every city in the country. 
Speculative and unplanned developments are placing huge strains upon the poor infrastructure.  Rampant corruption further saps the creative energies and cost overruns that stall rather than further projects.  The catalog of such misadventures, from setting up energy plants to the airport in Islamabad, keeps growing and yet there exists no accountability of either the government or officials.  The power elite are oblivious to the larger national interests and have managed to profit without being responsible as leaders. 
Ironically, Pakistan has a thriving media.  The content is mostly entertainment with little public service.  There is a lot of one-sided commentary about what is wrong but there is no effort to build either consensus or hold people responsible.  The Imran Khan wedding got more coverage than Peshawar school massacre or the army campaign in the tribal area combined.
The Pakistan army is a behemoth the country cannot afford in its current form.  It is equal parts economic and fighting force.  It has the choicest real estate and industrial holdings in the country that provides significant benefits to its ranking officers.  Strategically, it is fighting on too many fronts and losing them all and yet continues to guide foreign and domestic policies.  The campaign against the militants in the tribal belt has been ramped up but the gains and strategy remain a mystery because they are among the taboo subjects that cannot be discussed in public forums.  The army remains focused on India as its main theater in most conflicts ranging from Afghanistan to the insurgent movements in Sindh and Balochistan and look with considerable concern at the actions of the Modi government and its increasingly close relations with the US after the Obama trip to India.

Politically, Pakistan is at the cross roads.  The conventional makeup of political parties like Muslim League, PPP and MQM with their entrenched familial leaderships are being challenged by Imran Khan and his dharnas.  His movement has eroded some of their influence but since he offers no comprehensive national program beyond his civil disobedience, the canny politicians have come together to ride out the dissident.  The next episode to the political drama has yet to develop.
The country is also faced with a highly tenuous situation between state rights and central authority;  Baluch and Sindhi issues are being ignored by the Punjab centric central government.  A long simmering near civil war between intelligence agencies,  militants, criminal and political forces that range from nationalists, waderas, radicals and Indian agent has gone on for years.  The political parties are vested only in their areas and pay little heed to coherent national interests or policies;  PPP runs Sindhi government while Karachi is controlled by MQM with other areas under the control of the religious militants.  Such dysfunction feeds into the violence that has divided the nerve center of Karachi into battle zones that exact a daily toll of dead bodies and businesses.

People are benumbed by the challenges.  They are tuned off to the daily catalog of calamities as a trial by God.  They find solace in an obsessive exercise of religion while dispensing with the ethics or morality associated with it.  Self righteousness by sect and belief is the norm;  those who disagree are deemed guilty of blasphemy and a fate prescribed for nonbelievers.  Since the problems are all deemed as divinely guided individual responsibility is notably absent at all levels of society.  The sense of innocent helplessness is further explained by conspiracy theories for major events as manipulation by some foreign foe; India and US head the list. 
Education in Pakistan has undergone a prolonged period of degradation.  It started with the Bhutto nationalization program in the seventies and continued with the increased defunding during the Zia era.  The existing centers of education for the middle class became hollow shells while the education of the poor masses shifted to madrassas funded largely by Saudi and ultraorthodox sources.  The Musharaf era denationalized education but turned every college into a university and further loosened the standards.  Today sham universities registered through paper affiliations hand out degrees in various parts of the country.  The more expensive teaching institutions are extended employment schemes for teachers who augment their incomes as after hour tutors rather than teach during regular classes.  As I have discovered in working to establish a genuine teaching institution for forensic and law enforcement you are encouraged to take shortcuts instead of establishing the appropriate standards.   Despite these profound shortcomings a fair proportion of bright students still come through.  Imagine the results if the system were to be streamlined with better standards.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Pakistan is that despite all the problems the country is mired in it is still intact.  The country has the necessary human capital to move forward but it is being constantly hampered by its existing political, social and religious leadership. The dharna disobedience is giving rise to a challenge to the existing order.  It can either provide a way to remove the abusive excesses in the system towards better governance or it can open the floodgates to even sharper conflicts.  The future of Pakistan remains to be decided.

‘We are adding to our( Pakistan) nuclear arsenal to the point where it has become dangerous’

Excellent article by Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui in Dawn on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Recent co-operation agreements between USA and India may make matters even worse. ( F. Sheikh )

KARACHI: What are the perils of nuclear competition? Does amassing nuclear weapons add to the quality of stability in the region? Is there an alternative model of nuclear deterrence? These are some of the hard questions that need to be asked about Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence policy, said Sadia Tasleem, lecturer at the department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

She was speaking at a talk on ‘Contemporary security landscape and the perils of nuclear competition in South Asia — is there a way out for Pakistan?’ on Wednesday organised by the department of International Relations, University of Karachi.

Ms Tasleem in her presentation pointed towards changing trends in Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence posture. “Recent developments in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and missile capabilities indicate a shifting trend in its doctrinal thinking. Many in the west call Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal the fastest growing This might be debatable. However, it is certainly one of the rapidly growing arsenals. Security policy-makers strongly feel that they cannot afford to cap Pakistan’s nuclear ability.” In other words, Pakistan is moving away from minimum credible deterrence posture to full-spectrum deterrence posture.

Explaining this further, she said: “Pakistan publicly adheres to minimum credible deterrence [No to a No First Use of nuclear weapons] to placate international forces. But through ISPR statements we know that Pakistan is diversifying its nuclear arsenal under full-spectrum deterrence. This means deployment becomes essential. Hence, tactical weapons such as Haft-IX with a range of 60kms have been developed and test-fired meant to deter Indian advances in Pakistani territory.”

In her opinion, this deterrence posture is problematic. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence posture is constantly linked to India’s nuclear and military developments. “This means we cannot set a bar to our nuclear arsenal whereas India has two-faced threats in China and Pakistan.”

Another problem is Pakistan needs to have a large number of deployable tactical weapons placed at several places. “Pakistan has limited short-range missiles and it is important to have fully deployable capable readiness that means Pakistan needs to take out its weapons from wherever it is hiding in caves or tunnels and deploy them swiftly. The enemy can calculate the time gap and based on that calculation inflict damage.”

Nuclear competition versus arms race

She also said questions should be asked that nobody seemed to be asking. For instance, is Pakistan doing the right thing in its national security strategy? Can’t we do without Haft-IX? Will we be annihilated if we do so? Are we engaging in nuclear competition? Is it a folly to enter in such a nuclear competition?

Pakistan is moving towards nuclear competition and not an arms race. It is not the arms race seen during the Cold War years between the US and the Soviet Union. “They had a similar power symmetry and had the resources to engage in such an arms race. The power dynamics were similar between these two countries and they could follow each other.”

This is not the case between Pakistan and India due to asymmetric power dynamics. Consequently, they are developing and modernising their arsenal differently. “India is developing ballistic defence system and Pakistan is spending more on cruise missiles.”

Technology itself and the scientific community’s stake are the factors that are driving nuclear competition. “Since there is psychological pressure on the country to expand its nuclear programme, there is induction of more sophisticated weapons. Hence, technology becomes a driver behind competition.”




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Faten Hamama, Famous Egyptian Actress and ex-wife of Omar Sharif

Faten Hamama , famous Egyptian actress who stared with Omar Sharif in many films died on January 17, 2015. Omar Sharif converted to Islam to marry her.Omar Sharif never remarried; he stated that since his divorce, he never fell in love with another woman, although he lived abroad for years.


Youssef Wahbi, an Egyptian actor and director, recognised the young actress’s talent so he offered her a lead role in the 1946 film Malak al-Rahma (ملاك الرحمة, Angel of Mercy). The film attracted widespread media attention, and Hamama, who was only 15 at the time, became famous for her melodramatic role. In 1949, Hamama had roles in three films with Wahbi: Kursi Al-I’etraf (كرسي الاعتراف, Chair of Confession), Al-Yateematain (اليتيمتين, The Two Orphans), and Sït Al-Bayt (ست البيت, Lady of the House). All were successful films.[11]

The 1950s were the beginning of the golden age of the Egyptian cinema industry and Hamama was a big part of it.[11] In 1952 she starred in the film Lak Yawm Ya Zalem (لك يوم يا ظالم, Your Day will Come) which was nominated in the Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. She also played lead roles in Yousef Shaheen’s Baba Ameen (بابا أمين, Ameen, my Father, 1950) and Sira’ Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي, Struggle in the Valley, 1954) which was a strong nominee in the 1954 Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. Hamama is also known for playing the lead role in the first Egyptian mystery film Manzel Raqam 13 (منزل رقم 13, House Number 13). In 1963, she received an award for her role in the political film La Waqt Lel Hob (لا وقت للحب, No Time for Love).[12] Hamama was also able to make it to Hollywood; in 1963 she had a role in the crime film, Cairo.[13]

In 1947, Hamama married actor/director Ezzel Dine Zulficar while filming the Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالي) film. They started a production company which produced the film Maw’ed Ma’ Al-Hayat (موعد مع الحياة, Date with Life) in which she starred. This particular film earned her the title of the “lady of the Arabic screen”. She divorced al-Faqqar in 1954. One year later, she married Egyptian film star Omar Sharif. Hamama continued to act in films directed by her first husband.[7]

Hamama and Omar Sharif in a scene from the 1957 film Ard el salam (“Land of Peace”).

In 1954, while filming a Youssef Chahine film, Struggle in the Valley, Hamama refused to have the Egyptian actor Shukry Sarhan as a co-star, and Chahine offered Omar Sharif the role. Omar had just graduated from college then and was working for his father; Hamama accepted him as her co-star. Hamama had never agreed to act any scene involving a kiss in her career, but she shockingly accepted to do so in this film. The two fell in love, and Sharif converted to Islam and married her. This marriage started a new era of Hamama’s career as the couple made many films together.[11] Sharif and Hamama were the romantic leads of Ayyamna Al-Holwa (أيامنا الحلوة, Our Sweet Days), Ardh Al-Salam (أرض السلام, Land of Peace), La Anam (لا أنام, Sleepless), and Sayyidat Al-Qasr (سيدة القصر, The Lady of the Palace). Their last film together, before their divorce, was Nahr Al-Hob (نهر الحب, The River of Love) in 1960.

Sharif’s first English-language film was in the role of Sharif Ali in David Lean‘s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. This performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. Following this breakthrough role, Sharif played a variety of characters, including a Spanish priest in Behold a Pale Horse (1964) and the Mongolian conqueror in Genghis Khan (1965). In the same year, Sharif reunited with Lean to play the title role in Doctor Zhivago, an adaptation of Boris Pasternak‘s novel.

Over the next few years, Sharif starred as a German military officer in The Night of the Generals, as Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in Mayerling and as Che Guevara in Che!. Sharif was also acclaimed for his portrayal of Nicky Arnstein, husband to Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, though some thought he was miscast as a New York Jewish gambler. His decision to work with costar Barbra Streisand angered Egypt’s government at the time due to Streisand’s support for the state of Israel. Streisand herself responded with “You think Cairo was upset? You should’ve seen the letter I got from my Aunt Rose!” Sharif reprised the role in the film’s sequel, Funny Lady in 1975.

In 2003, he received acclaim for his role in the French-language film adaptation of the novel Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, as a Muslim Turkish merchant who becomes a father figure for a Jewish boy.

At present, Sharif resides mostly in Cairo with his family.[16] In addition to his son, he has two grandsons, Omar (born 1983 in Montreal) and Karim.[16] Omar Sharif, Jr. is also an actor.[20

( Wikipedia)