Eye on Pakistan

BBC Audio slideshow: in Karachi

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on June 23, 2009

BBC audio slideshow in Karachi, includes a visit to an IDP camp. See here.

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More anti-IDP propaganda

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on June 17, 2009

The steady stream of alarmist articles about the effects of IDP movement and settlement within Pakistan continue to be spewed forth from the press. The latest is this article on professional beggars posing as IDPs. In the bigger scheme of things, begger-gang impersonation of IDPs is irrelevant. In terms of professional (and non-professional) begging, the numbers pretending to have fled the miltiary action is miniscule. Similarly the issue of this impersonation (if, indeed, one sees it as an issue) fades into insignificance in the face of the displaced persons crisis. The ‘criminalisation’ of begging is a well-studied and remarked upon phenomenon for the Indian case (see this powerful article). In the case of the article noted above, the author is forming, in the minds of his reader, a triangular link between begging, the IDPs, and criminal activity. This link does not exist, and we should not allow the people of Pakistan to believe that it is of any significance.

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Jemima Khan in Pakistan

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on June 11, 2009

Jemima Khan has recently published in the Sunday Times a long article on her recent trip to Pakistan. She (sensibly) avoids any attempt at political analysis, I was struck by the juxtaposition between a westernised and decadent upper class (this is not quite the portrayal she was aiming for, I am sure), the 2 million or so in refugee camps, and the common man’s denial that it is Muslims who are oppressing fellow Muslims in FATA. The pick of the article relates to this last point:

The next day I set off for the refugee camps close to the Swat valley, where the army is fighting the Taliban. Before I leave, Imran’s chowkidar (watchman) tells me that the newspapers in Pakistan are all funded by Yehudis (Jews). His Kalashnikov-toting commando…nods, adding that there are no Taliban. They are a fabrication by Jews and Hindus to destabilise Pakistan. He adjusts his belt of bullets.

She links this point, in the following paragraph, to her (cliched) belief that “Pakistan pulsates with conspiracy theories”, and misses the actual point, which is the unwillingness to accept that Muslims, pious Muslims, can do wrong.

Lastly, it is worth noting that she has written out the poverty, deprevation, class divison and ethnic tension. She is either blind to it, or thinks that it pales into insignificance in comparison to the current military action and the disastrous consequences for the populations of the affected areas. Probably a bit of both.

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Controlling Refugees and the Ethnic Politics of the “IDP”

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on June 1, 2009

Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and the MQM has been agitating for a while against IDP settlement in Karachi. See for example the following Dawn articles: “City Council offers support for IDPs”, “Northwest exodus prompts strike in Karachi” and “MQM wants IDPs restricted to special camps”. Karachi’s journalistic elite have joined the chorus of disquiet.  One journalist has warned that “Pakistan could be plagued with a polio epidemic” as the “Swatis fleeing the military operation in their valley spill across the country. The fact is residents of the Malakand division are extremely vulnerable to a polio outbreak.” The vaccination of refugees is thus to become a project of social and ideological control; a project to protect Pakistan (and here particularly, implicitly, Karachi) not only against poor diseased refugees but also “Talibanisation”: “One wishes there were a vaccine to counter ideological brainwashing. In the absence of one, the government and international community will have to put health on the agenda as part of any ‘winning hearts and minds’ campaign.”

It is little wonder that the The Awami National Party has responded with the charge that there is a “conspiracy to subject Pakhtoons living in Sindh to atrocities although they had nothing to do with the Taliban.”

We now see this pattern repeated (though no strikes yet) in Lahore: “The provincial government has now decided to continue extending help to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) at their camps in the NWFP instead of setting up temporary settlements for them in Punjab.”

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