Pakistan – a banana republic?

February 19, 2008 at 12:30 am (Culture, Pakistan)

Someone I am very close to was telling me of a conversation he recently had with a senior advisor to the Pakistani government (part of a group of people who directly advise the prime minister and president). He was lamenting what America was saying about Pakistan, and he made a remark along the lines how stupid the Americans are: they’re calling Pakistan a banana republic. Which is stupid and shows they know nothing about Pakistan, because Pakistan in fact has to import bananas. How could it be a banana republic?

PJ O’Rourke made an amusing comment somewhere that Pakistani president Musharraf insisted Pakistan was not a banana republic. Whereupon he put on his uniform, declared martial law, and suspended elections.

And then the news breaks that Human Rights Watch has on record that the Pakistani attorney general admits the elections will be massively rigged. Let us not forget the many killings and attacks over the past few weeks.

When people go off on this, I have only one reaction: Meh. Read the rest of this entry »


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Mourning among South Asians

February 18, 2008 at 12:00 am (Culture, Pakistan, South Asia)

At about 7 pm CST, in Karachi, Pakistan, one of my father’s half-brothers suddenly died of a heart attack. He died en route to the hospital. (His family and ours became estranged when my then wife and I separated, which estrangement became permanent when we divorced. My ex was my uncle’s wife’s niece. Nevertheless, his son and wife spoke with us and were very pleased that we called. We called even though we did not expect them to talk to us. Turned out our call made a lot of difference.)

When someone dies, South Asian Muslims hold a Qur’ān khāni for the sake of the deceased. (There are a number of occasions when South Asian Muslims hold a Qur’ān khāni.)

In a Qur’ān khāni, the 30 volumes of the Qur’an (in Urdu: singular pārah and plural pāré; in Arabic: singular juz and plural ajzā) are set out. Guests come and read at least one volume, which are put in a separate pile. The goal is for all thirty to be read. If there are any remaining when the guests leave, the hosts will have to arrange to have the remaining volumes read (by others or themselves).

Associated with this is the dinner. It is customary for someone to bring food at a mourning Qur’ān khāni: the hosts, who are the chief mourners, should not have to worry about food at such a traumatic time. However, this does not always hold true, and dinner arrangements (whether someone will bring it or whether to be provided by the host) are finalized before the Qur’ān khāni. Some people, unfortunately, come only to such mourning gatherings to socialize and eat.

The choice of destination usually has to do with who and where the closest chief mourner is. Because my uncle died in Pakistan, someone closeby would have to be chosen. As my father is my uncle’s oldest brother around here, he became the chief mourner and so the Qur’ān khāni was held at our house even though a majority of our relatives live close to each other some distance away. And when they came, they offered their condolences first to my father.

It is believed that when the Qur’an is read or recited, merit accrues. This merit is like good points on one’s scorecard of deeds. In Urdu, this sort of merit is known as “sawāb”. The purpose of a mourning Qur’ān khāni is to transfer to the newly deceased the sawāb of a complete recitation of the Qur’an.

Dessert is not usually served at such an occasion. No one brings flowers either. Some will come dressed normally, others will be in black-ish clothes. Those very close to the deceased — spouse, children, and so on — wear simple, white clothes. Jewelry is usually not worn and make up is minimal if put on at all.

On a related note, those involved in the burial of the deceased (after prepared for burial) wear all white. In South Asia, white is the color of mourning. Nevertheless, black is considered inauspicious. (If someone dresses in all black to a joyous occasion, he/she is looked at with some trepidation: some may think he/she is trying to jinx the occasion.)

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February 16, 2008 at 8:18 pm (Culture, South Asia)

Here’s a video to one of my favorite songs. I have been listening to the sog for a long time, but today was the first time in decades that I saw the video again. I saw move as a child and it absolutely fascinated and enthralled me. You can say it enchanted me.

Some background: Why is that poor woman writhing? She is a nagin, a snake that turns into a human, a supernatural being or being with supernatural powers (in addition to being able to shapeshift). In South Asia, is it believed that a sapera (snake-charmer) can control a snake with a been (the flute-like instrument you see being played in the video). The sound of the been is supposed to influence and enchant the snake. Otherwise, the snake (especially a nagin) can enchant the human. Upon hearing the been, she can almost not help but to fall and show forth her true nature.

The main sapera shown is no ordinary sapera: he’s a master of magic and occult and all that jazz. Indeed, she says, “aaya hai jogi banke lutera” meaning “a yogi (which can refer to anyone with abilities or knowledge related to the mystic arts) has come becoming a thief”.

The fact that she’s supposed to be really a snake would explain why she moves the way she does.

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Wherefrom this impending utopia?

January 5, 2008 at 12:30 am (Culture, Idiots, Leftist idiocy)

Many people expect and hope for a better world. Such a world is characterized by peace, tranquility, harmony, coöperation, and so on.

But the way things are going, the world is getting worse: more violent, more unsafe, more unsecure, more ruthless. Evil is gaining strength while the good are being perverted by the philosophies of men mingled with scriptures. And even what constitutes scripture (sacred writings that dictate a people’s values and beliefs) is changing, to where Moses is reviled and Chomsky is hailed. What serves man’s baser instincts is lauded while those that challenge them are pooh-poohed. Read the rest of this entry »

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My vent on carb counting Pakistani food

December 30, 2007 at 12:30 am (Culture, Personal)

I have actually started to take care of my diabetes the way I should. That means counting carbs, because the number of carbs in a meal will determine how much insulin I should inject. (Before this, I just guessed how much would work. Now I actually have a formula.)

The problem is that there is a ton of information on Western food. If one tries, one can get the nutritional information on practically any item by anyone and even information on how to determine the carb content of non-professionally-made stuff (such as at home) where such information may not be available from corporations or websites. (Mom doesn’t slap on a nutrition label when she makes something, does she?) But very little exists for a Pakistani cuisine. Read the rest of this entry »

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Where are the terrorists?

December 22, 2007 at 1:20 am (Afghanistan, Culture, Pakistan, World War III) (, , , , , )

Karzai of Afghanistan hints that the terrorists are from across the border; that is, they are in Pakistan. Musharraf (and others) of Pakistan hint that the terrorists are across the border; that is, they are in Afghanistan. The same goes for where Usama bin Ladin is: each country accuses the other of harboring him.

The reality is a little more complicated. The terrorists are in the border region area of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are not in one or the other but, rather, in both. We consider it to be that they cross over the border with ease if not impunity. But that’s the problem: to the terrorists, there is no border. The whole area–the area of the Pashtuns–is one area, and its theirs. Read the rest of this entry »

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The “thookdaan” or spittoon

October 19, 2007 at 4:50 am (Culture, India, Pakistan, South Asia, The United States)

In old households, an interesting implement that existed was a spittoon (called a “thookdaan”). These were important because a common and traditional edible thing, “paan”, was and is often made with tobacco (called “tambaakoo”). Depending on the type, it would have to be spit out after one has chewed it and absorbed its high-inducing properties. To protect the walls and floors, one would spit into the aforementioned spittoon. Most of these were made of metal. (Obviously, the servants would empty and clean it. Almost everyone has servants in Pakistan.)

The need for spittoons can be easily seen by the conditions of the public streets and sidewalks in Pakistan: they are all marred by red stains, residue of people spitting the remains of chewed-up tobacco.

Because paan is not going away anytime soon — although the traditions and rituals around it are no longer as prevalent, eating it still is ubiquitous — perhaps there should be more widespread use and presence of spittoons. America no longer needs spittoons: might as well export them to Pakistan and India, eh?

Random language point: “daan” means “place or container”. A “thookdaan” is a “daan” (“container”) for “thook” (spit, here referring to tobacco-stained saliva). A “paandaan” is a container for the ingredients and acoutrements for making and eating paan.

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More on skin color and on me

September 27, 2007 at 3:42 am (Culture, Islamism, Personal, US Government)

WickedPinto wrote:

Though I have to say you are right, about the brown skin. . . . kinda, but not cuz of the skin, but because as you described your own ancestry, basicaly you don’t have one, right? Your father was from one nation, your mother from another, you were born outside the nation, and have become an American since?

Thats kinda hard to reconcile. (or am I thinking tushar?)

I answer:
My parents are from two different countries (and, despite this, are related). However, I was born in The United States. True, I lived most of my formative years abroad, but I always retained an American identity.

But you are right: it is not so much the color of the skin as much as the ethnic origins that matter. (It so happens that many “suspect” ethnicities give rise to darker skin.) If a red dot-bearing Hindu man from India or Nepal or wherever were in a sensitive position, I would have no problem whatsoever despite the man’s darker skin color. That said, an American-born man of American (that is, ultimately European) origins who hangs out with Muslims would be just as suspect, in my eyes, as a Muslim.

Recall the converts: they throw us off, which is why Islamists seek to convert them to Islam and then recruit them for Islamism (for one of their many battlefronts).

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A fallacy: we are tolerant

July 2, 2007 at 3:56 am (Culture, The West)

I believe a fallacy exists among the peoples of the world that Westerners are tolerant and permissive peoples. This is not true. We are quite a proud and intolerant people; so much so that rather than waste our indignation on others, we ignore them. Sure, we have our fringe elements that call the others out, but for the most part we are wont to ignore the others.

The progressives and so-called “liberals” do not represent The West’s people.

To the others who are malevolently disposed to us: Push us far enough — make us have to take notice of you — and we will utterly destroy you like we did the Japanese. Our hearts can harden enough that we will not shed a tear for your suffering.

I submit that the great sleeping giant has not awoken. The stinging bites of the Islamist insects have made the giant instinctively jerk and swat, but it has yet to awake.

If history has taught the world a lesson, it is that in the end The West is invincible.

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The Third World and its proliferation amongst us

July 2, 2007 at 3:55 am (Culture, Oriana Fallaci, Personal, The Rest, The West)

The prophetess of The West, Oriana Fallaci (of most blessed and revered memory), made a big deal about the population-based invasion and projected conquest of Third World peoples in the First World.

I have lived among Third World peoples. I am ethnically part of Third World peoples. In the logic of The West’s progressives and so-called liberals, this entitles me to announce with impunity that I have nothing but pity for Third World peoples. And this when I am not contemptuous.

It does not please me how some of these peoples have migrated en masse to The West and have sought, in their rejection of the land to which they have migrated, to recreate their Third World hellholes. Their Third World ways and societies are why they needed to migrate; their proliferation of their ways and societies makes no sense; their proliferation of Third World ways and societies in The West, and often at the expense of The West, is unacceptable.

Those immigrants have succeeded who have assimilated with the people to whose land they have migrated. Especially in America, we value hard-working and devoted people. We can look past a person’s origin and religion and ethnicity and values and even ways of life. Read the rest of this entry »

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S. Weasel teaches me that euthanasia is wrong

May 10, 2007 at 12:45 pm (A+ Reads, Blogs, Christianity, Culture, Religion)

Inspired by S. Weasel‘s post, “Elderly Aussies build clandestine drug labs“.

S. Weasel is an atheist: he does not believe in God. Whereas some time ago I would assume that this meant that he would be pro-choice and whatnot, as many “emancipated” people are wont to be, I have learned from atheists and agnostics on the dexteroblogosphere that it is just as likely that he would be pro-life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wherein I make a million enemies

January 9, 2007 at 2:11 am (Culture, History, Idiots, International community, Leftist idiocy, The Rest, The United States, The West, War, World War III)

(Note: If I later regret writing this post, it may magically disappear.)

It is time that we realized that war is a part of human society. It is part of our very being. We humans have been fighting wars since our beginning. If one believes in evolution, we have been fighting wars even before we were humans, competing for resources and whatnot. This tendency to violence continued as our species evolved; indeed, violence is how we became dominant and is how any species becomes and remains dominant.

But this is, of course, not an issue of species. It is quite common for beings to fight with others of their kind, especially for resources (whether food, water, mate, children, area of dominance, recognition in or advancement in the pecking order, and so on) or defense (of one’s resources or one’s self, or one’s descendants and/or mate, and so on).

Since we have been fighting from the very beginning, I see no reason whatsoever why we should expect humanity today to be any different. That we fight does not change; why we fight does change. Read the rest of this entry »

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Focus on Islamism

December 4, 2006 at 4:41 am (China, Christianity, Cold War II, Culture, Europe, History, International community, Islam, Islamism, Judaism, Military, Oriana Fallaci, Religion, Religions, Russia, The Media, The Rest, The United Kingdom, The United States, The West, Theology, War, World War III)

I may have said this before, but we need to establish what really is going on in the world rather than being distracted by certain elements of what may be a broader, wider, larger movement.

Consider, for example, our obsession with terrorism (specifically, militant Islamist terrorism). The problem is that terrorism is part of a larger conflict: a war between The West and Islamism. (Not all Muslims are Islamists, although “true Muslims” inevitably are.) Along with terrorism, Islamism uses other techniques, some of which are even non-violent. Efforts by Islamist activists to have a special status given to Islam, Muslims, and Islam’s dictates by the governments of The West are one such strategy to bring to pass the triumph of Islam over The West. It is quite interesting (and perhaps one may say, even ironic) that the very states that stripped The Church (whether The Lutheran Church or The Church of England or The Catholic Church) of practically all of its authority and influence and clout in society, have accorded to Islam and its authorities and buildings virtual autonomy and independence. Although church tribunals would have no authority, Islamist courts have been empowered. Whereas asserting one’s Christianity has become something frowned upon, something untoward, something in bad taste, someone asserting one’s Muslim-hood has become something novel, unique, lauded, and applauded. Simply put: rather than making all inhabitants equal, many Western states have made some more equal than others. This granting of autonomy to and even special status to Muslims (meaning, Muslims following the dictates and laws of Islam as interpreted by traditionalists) is all part of Islamism’s goals to triumph over The West. And, indeed, look how they have succeeded! The very people who are ashamed of their Christian past (or even current identity) applaud those who embrace their Muslim-hood to the exclusion of everything else.

Fortunately, confidence in American culture and civilization has been resistant to this pernicious wave of anti-Westernism. But the Islamists keep trying: they keep trying to delegitimize The West, trying to prove that Islam is superior to The West and to its religions (Christianity and Judaism), trying to assert its mission as the “savior” of The West, and of course trying to make the case that The West is utterly lost and needs Islam to be saved. We Americans tend to scoff as such nonsense, for nonsense it is. It doesn’t take someone who is extraordinarily intelligent to see which of The West or the Muslim world has been successful, more true to its values, and a boon to humanity. (For those who may be blinded by some irrational propaganda, the better one is The West.) Indeed, unlike in other Western states, America has proved to be a formidable adversary to Islamism. Rather than infecting The West, The West has been slowly innoculating various segments of the Muslim world in The West against Islamism.

This all means that Islamists, whether militants or not, whether terrorists or not, will try ever the more harder to bring us down. In their world, there can only be one triumphant victor, and they are trying to ensure it is not us.

In other words, we need to focus on the greater war between The West and Islamism. This is World War III, as this war, in terms of use of force as well as in terms of civilizational influence, is global. And we cannot lose focus on Cold War II. The two have become quite intertwined and interrelated. Just because Russia is not Muslim, not Islamist, and has its own problems with Islamists, does not mean Russia is not supporting Islamists. (Indeed, it seems almost irrational for Russia to be supporting militant Islamist terrorist networks, but perhaps in Moscow’s thinking Cold War II supercedes its role in World War III (wherein Russia is included in Islamism’s assault).)

Orianna Fallaci has been warning us of this state of affairs. It is about time that we listened to her and act accordingly.

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My people

November 27, 2006 at 3:48 am (Culture, History, Islam, Judaism, Languages, Oriana Fallaci, Personal, South Asia, The Rest, The West)

This is a bit of a personal post, but I hope you’ll indulge me.

For many years, I have been confused as to who my people are. By “my people,” I mean the people to whom I owe and freely give my allegiance, whose ways and values I adopt, whose civilization I seek to prosper further.

Most often, one determines one’s people by ethnicity. For people of Chinese origin or descent, the Chinese people is their people. For people of Russian origin or descent, the Russian people is their people.

Logically, I would then say that my people are the South Asian people. But then I begin asking: who or what is the South Asian people? And I realize that “the South Asian people” is comprised of many other peoples: Tamils, Malayalis, Rajputs, Rajasthanis, Maharashtrians, Sindhis, Balochis, Pashtuns, Panjabis, Kashmiris, and so on and so forth. I simply cannot call myself a South Asian. Just as there’s little in common between an Irish person and an Italian person, there is little in common between my relatives and Tamils, for example, or practically any other sub-people of the South Asian people. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pet peeve: apologies and demands thereof

November 27, 2006 at 3:24 am (Christianity, Culture, History, International community, Islam, Judaism, Personal, The Rest, The West)

This post reminds me of one of my biggest pet peeves: people apologizing or forced to apologize for actions not under one’s control. People around the world are constantly calling on The West, particularly The United States (and, regarding the liberation of Iraq, The United Kingdom) to apologize for horrible actions it has/they have done. Frankly (and I know many people, even those whom I respect, will strongly disagree), I see no reason to apologize for anything.

This is not to say that we should not admit something is or was bad when it is or was bad. Casting moral judgments on past actions is one key way we learn from history: we see the good and seek to perpetuate it, while we also see the bad and seek to avoid or mend it. But nowhere in this would apologies matter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Token effort or something else by Pakistan?

November 25, 2006 at 4:46 am (Afghanistan, Blogs, Culture, Islamism, Languages, Pakistan, South Asia, War, Websites)

Inspired by “More token efforts by Pakistan?” by geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions, wherein he quotes a Pakistani police official:

They were real Taliban fighters.

As opposed to fake Taliban fighters? (Just being sarcasting: most likely he meant that those captured were determined to be actual members of the Taliban rather than suspected members thereof.)

They could not speak Urdu

Strange. Most people who speak Pashto can speak at least a little Urdu. I’ll grant that some mnilitant Islamist terrorists of the Taliban could have been in an isolated all-Pashto environment.

and had no knowledge where they are

Where they are or where they were? I’d imagine a Taliban terrorist to be quite aware of where he is and why. Taliban terrorists are from that region.

These statements make me quite suspicious. It seems these were more like “Arab” terrorists (that is, terrorists from around the world allied with militant Islamist terrorist networks operating in and from the northwest and far western region of South Asia). These descriptions make it sound as if those captured were completely alien to the region when, in fact, the northwest region of South Asia, where the Taliban predominate, is adjacent to Balochistan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Defeating as-Sadr, defeating Iran

November 25, 2006 at 3:00 am (Arabic, Blogs, Cold War II, Culture, History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Islamism, Lebanon, Middle East, Military, Persian, The United States, US Government, War)

(Inspired by “Disenfranchising Moqtada al-Sadr the easy way” by geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions.)

We should have taken out Muqtada as-Sadr (سيد مقتدى الصدر, sayyid muqtadā aS-Sadr; titled: حجة الإسلام, Hujjat al-islām, meaning “proof or expert on Islam,” meaning he’s a middle-ranking Shiite cleric).

Within Iraq, one may say that there are two prominent factions: the activists, under as-Sadr, and the quietists, under Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani (السيد علي الحسيني السيستاني, as-sayyid ‛alī al-Hussaynī as-sīstānī; titled: آية الله العظمى, āyatullāh al-‛uZmā, meaning “Great Āyatullāh,” referring to the senior-most level of Shiite clerics).

After a period of time, the activist Shiites, who are organized in political parties and militias, gained control of and prominence in Iraqi politics. As-Sadr is certainly a person to consider. He’s no small fry. But one needs to also see why he seeks this attention. Read the rest of this entry »

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November 24, 2006 at 4:40 am (Blogs, Culture, History, Islam, Islamism, Israel, Military, The Internet, The United States, The West, Websites)

These days, we are somewhat wont to think of the Turks as friends of The West. What greater indication is there of their love of The West than their quite public desire to join us, via The European Union?

But there is more to Turkey’s relationship with The West than meets the eye. The state itself is very secular. The military, which essentially established the modern Republic of Turkey, is quite active in ousting Islamist governments or governments it thinks has not been secular enough. Even today, the Turkish military remains a very important and powerful part of the Turkish government. Compared to other Muslim states in the region, Turkey is very open-minded, liberal, and secular.

But, whether we or the Turkish military like it or not, Turkey has been going through an Islamization phase. Read the rest of this entry »

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World War III and Cold War II: northwest South Asia

November 18, 2006 at 12:07 am (Afghanistan, Blogs, Cold War II, Culture, History, International community, Iran, Islam, Islamism, Military, Pakistan, South Asia, The United States, US Government, War)

I don’t know if Dex‘s questions (at the end of “We learn from history” by Dex of ThinkTankers) were rhetorical, but I’m going to be pendantic and try to answer them.

So, I have two questions.

Asking questions is always good. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Hundred Million?!

October 18, 2006 at 5:49 am (Amusement, Blogs, Culture, The Internet, The United States)

A time to celebrate America, I think, rather than wring our hands in despair.

The above link (“Three Hundred Million” by Tim Blair) is one of the most hope-inspiring and life-affirming things I have seen in a while.

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