Monday, June 13, 2011

Revisiting Pakistan

Your ticket to the treasure. Pretty ok at Rs20
Upon entering the grounds I came across painters

The "Namda" being prepared

Welcome to Kashmir

Buy for a cause

Do the bhangra? this was fun by the way

You are a gem but these ones are from Hunza

Just a banner. There were no finger chips actually!!

Our fifth province!

Punjoo food. Saag ( vegetable) and Makai ki roti ( bread)

Recreation of a village home

Paper toys

Chimataa and dhol plus jugni

Mirror work. These hands can do anything

Ancient Sindh

Peshawari Kehwa

Sindhi musicians

Pick your pickle

And click!

Truck art

Sindhi artist

Delicious Balouchi food, sajjee

Taking a breather- Balochi folk dance guys

Kite , mirror and myself

Har kala rasha! probably means welcome in Pashto

Calligraphy ! What an art!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Expert Round up- Death of OBL

Even the two wars post 9/11 did not get the kind of attention that this story originating from Pakistan invited.Some called it the story of the decade.Pakistan - U.S relations have been at an all time low after Osama Bin Laden was taken out in a raid on his million dollar mansion in the scenic hill station of Abbotabad in the early hours of May 2. Pakistan has come under huge international pressure for coming up with responses to the many questions that are being shouted at her. Did Pakistan know about Bin Laden hiding ? If Yes, then why was he left unattended? If the reply is in the negative , then that raises more queries about Pakistan's abilities.The Opposition and people also have ended up being concerned if their country is capable of defending herself from foreign aggression inspite of the heavy defence budget. All of this pressure saw an in camera briefing to the Joint Session of Parliament on May 13 ,2011 take place in which military leaders of Pakistan took questions from parliamentarians. ISI Chief , Gen Pasha offered himself for accountability. U.S. Senator John Kerry,considered a fast friend of Pakistan has asked Pakistan to improve its policy towards fighting terrorists.

I obtained views on this historic development in my exclusive off air interactions with some renowned analysts and journalists. What they told me is reproduced below.

My sincere thankyou to them for giving me their valuable time.

Dr. Maria Sultan is D.G. South Asian Strategic Stability Institute SASSI. I asked her about the impact that OBL's death could have on the region. Dr. Maria Sultan is of the view that the killing of Osama Bin Laden should be considered an opportunity. This development provides U.S. with a chance of a relatively easier exit from the Afghan battle field.
At the same time, she is concerned about one aspect of the May 2 raid in Abbotabad . The fact that this operation was carried out in Pakistan could spell a dangerous phase for the country if it establishes the paradigm of similar operations in Pakistan going forward.

Col.(r) Inam Wazir is a defence analyst and has a keen eye on the developments in FATA. I asked him if the grilling that the miliatry chiefs faced in the Joint session of Parliament was something the army should be ashamed of and where did the intelligence failure lie in the entire episode.There is nothing wrong with the Army Chief and the ISI chief appearing before the Joint Session of the Parliament because the army is subservient to the constitution of the country. So, it is not in any way a sign of kneeling or of low morale of the Pakistan military.
Knowing Gen. Pasha very closely , Col. Wazir expected that confession from him that he made in the briefing to the Joint session of Parliament on Friday May 13.
Intelligence agencies are responsible for not knowing that Osama Bin Laden was living in that compound in Abbotabad - that indeed is an intelligence failure but not being able to prevent the U.S. operations on May 2 is not a mistake. United States used stealth technology in that operation and Pakistan, according to Col. (R) Inam Wazir lacks that technology.

Muhammad Hanif, Well known journalist and author of the critically acclaimed "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" gave his candid opinion when I asked him about his views on the Pakistan- U.S. relations post Bin Laden and Pakistan's reaction to that raid. Squabbling couple- that's what comes to Mr. Hanif's mind when he looks at Pakistan - U.S. relations over the last 10 years. Both have been doing things behind each other's back he says. In doing so,they fall apart but then also kiss and make up. If one goes by the results of this alliance its very clear that Pakistan would be better off away from the States and should start achieving results in the region with the help of its neighbours. A patch up with India is a good idea according to him.

He observes that there is nothing substantial in Pakistan's reaction to the U.S. Navy Seals covert operation in which Osama Bin Laden was killed. Pakistan's shouting about breach of its sovereignty does not make sense to him because this is something that's been happening for quite sometime now in the form of drone strikes inside Pakistan's territory.
"Let's continue with the work but lets make adjustments that do not get us bad PR" this is how Mr. Hanif sums up Pakistan's reaction .

Lt. Gen. ( r) has a keen eye on defence related developments. I asked him if the trove of info recovered from BinLaden's hideout in Abbottabad could spell trouble for Pakistan and how should Pakistan deal with the threat from India? Gen. Masood predicts that there would be some exaggeration based on the info recovered from bin Laden. This exaggeration he says would mainly be to exert pressure on Pakistan to correct its policies .

About Pakistan's future strategies he says there is no dispute over the idea that Pakistan should break away from militants totally.
Pakistan should instead focus on strenghtening itself. This can come about by making its people strong by providing them with education and implementing sound economic policies. Then, there will be no need to feel a threat from the Indians. If people are happy he says, all threats to any country die their own death. People are stronger than nuclear weapons.

Syed Ali was one of the first correspondents to reach the Abbotabad compound where Osama Bin Laden was killed. He described to me his experience.The compound appeared to be more of a safe house than a compound says Ali.
As a budding journalist he found himself reconciling the many different accounts that were available on the location. Different sources had different stories. To his surprise locals didn't have a clue what was going on around them. Foreign media teams did a splendid job covering the story. But what's the actual story, he says, no one knows!

This was a story he would never forget covering.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 April 1988

A scene as rockets exploded . Very little photographic coverage of Ojri Camp is available. It wasn't an era of mobile phone cameras or live tv news 24/7.
Diary Khan brings you the basics of Ojhri camp tragedy compiled from personal memories and different journalist reports.

What was the Ojhri Camp?
Ojhri Camp was an ammunition depot in Faizabad,Rawalpindi. This place is the junction of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.Most people did not know that there was a depot for storing ammunition right next to where they lived. This depot was being used , according to different reliable sources, to store US ammunition that was used against the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan.

Scenes of April 10 1988 in Rawalpindi and Islamabad
It was a normal day. It actually was my first day in my new school in Islamabad. Around 10 am I vividly remember , there were huge bangs that could be heard. But what was really terrifying was that these explosions would not stop. Blasts could be heard one after the other. Our teacher decided to distribute sweets to calm us down. Parents started turning up at the school gate to collect their kids. Our school was next to the Margalla hills so luckily we remained safe.

On the roads, traffic was in chaos. People were running in all directions to save their lives . They didnot know what had actually happened. All that people knew or could see were missiles in the sky. These missiles had unleashed havoc of the worst kind in the twin cities. People were being directly hit by missiles and properties being reduced to rubble. Some thought India had attacked. Others assumed it was the day of judgement.

Blasts countinued for a couple of days.
Unconfirmed reports , put the death toll at 5,000. Official sources at that time put the number of dead at 100 and over a thousand injured.

Why did it happen?
Reports say that there were sround 248 stinger missiles in the camp . All of these exploded. Some rockets fell in peoples homes and did not explode was because they did not have detonators.

Was it sabotage, an accident or an act to cover up the reported ammunition theft from the camp? That remains unanswered. But there were strong runours at that time that a US defense audit team was to visit Pakistan to look into the matter of arms and ammunition being sent to Afghanistan.

The government at that time had launched an inquiry. The elected government of Prime Minister Junejo was sacked by the then President Gen. Zia ul Haq in May that year who himself, later died in a plane crash in August 1988.

Surprisingly, not many people talk about the tragedy. This is never a topic of casual conversation as are so many other topics these days. Probably it took place at a time when there was no digital technology and very little influence of media. This a sensitive and secret issue.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Fantasy of Cricket Diplomacy

Pakistani Team arrives in Chandigarh. The players are required to give four hour prior notice if they want to go out of Taj Hotel where they are staying.

If you had questions on your mind such as what can a game of cricket do for two countries that are not friends and have been so insecure about each other’s intentions that they chose to become nuclear powers and have never had smooth diplomatic ties, then here is the answer: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to watch the 30 March Pakistan India ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Semi Final match. And that is not all. World leaders observe complicated diplomatic protocol to meet one another but Manmohan Singh has invited Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to come to the stadium and watch.

The two countries who have never played each other in India since 26/11 attacks in Mumbai will surely attribute the outcome as a diplomatic victory or defeat for themselves. The frustrations that both have developed towards each other eversince they separated in 1947 are often vented through cricket matches and so its not just a game of cricket that fans from both sides enjoy.
How Shiv Sena killed the astrologer parrot who had predicted Pakistan’s victory is just a recent example of what a Pakistan India clash means.

India might earn some more money by selling tickets, issuing around 5000 visas to Pakistanis and generating economic activity for hotels but then that’s the best this match can achieve. I doubt if Mr. Singh and Mr. Gilani might be able to persuade each other of their point of views on human rights violations in Kashmir.

Security concerns for Pakistani cricketers and the visiting fans remain very real ahead of the match on Wednesday. The fact that cricket fans on both sides celebrate each other’s defeat with no less happiness than they cheer their triumphs gives an impression there is another Pakistan India war in Mohali on the 30th.

I wonder what was it that led Shahid Afridi to fantasize about Pak India relations improving as a result of this match because both countries would have to play cricket almost everyday before they can sit down and tackle issues crucial to the security and survival of their people.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Ask Don't Tell!

A hurried attempt to answer the questions on fb page.....

Sara Rehman so you could be followed by those who r not journalist! tell us something about your family background, your hobbies! and would you like to suggest any special courses for those who are keen to join JOURNALISM but they are not journalist, have you done any such type of course or diploma to switch over journalism? waiting for your answer!

WR: I come from a Kashmiri family. I was born in Islamabad and studied there mostly. I always like to visit Islamabad. My hobbies? Well, In high school, I was the President of the hobbies' club. Every thursday ( last working day of the week in those times), all students who were members of that club used to gather in the last two periods and would exchange things about their hobbies. Some brought their stamp collection, others brought coins. Some decided to subject us to their singing. I have a personal collection of over 2000 postage stamps. In those days, I used to sit and admire my stamps for hours all by myself. The ritual also included counting and exchanging stamps.At the same time I liked to play the flute and so was a member of the college band!
Later, I became interested in news and so was lucky enough to get a chance on Pakistan Television. That was not an easy hobby to persue at all. There was a pressure of studies and training on the side. But I feel i kkind of grew up in those days. Learnt so much. Not only about this world but also got to know about myself. News was a hobby for which I would have to wake up at 5 am and report for call.

Hobbies keep on evolving. These days I like to read but I don't think I am doing much of that.

Sarah Munir have u ever felt like holding back your tears while reading any dreadful news?? if yes then when was it??

WR: There is nothing wrong in crying. Every human being is capable biologically of crying. When and where is it appropriate to cry, is a vast debate. For example, many would say its inappropriate to cry in public or that boys should not cry for its a sign of weakness.
I have been heart wrenched by many news items while on air. Frequent terror strikes , human rights violations such as a surge in child rape cases are all stories I wish wouldn't happen. How people lost so much in last year's floods was something that made me really sad when I reported from some of those areas.

A newsanchor is supoosed to be above emotions when on air. I guess, that trend is changing now.

Sara Rehman and would you like to suggest any special courses for those who are keen to join JOURNALISM but they are not journalist, have you done any such type of course or diploma to switch over journalism? waiting for your answer!
Hassan Hakeem so you have no formal degree in journalism?
March 8 at 10:12pm · LikeUnlike

WR:This is a FAQ. See, its very important to complete first what you are studying already. I mean if anyone wants to join journalism , I would never say that you leave your Master in Math degree incomplete and join journalism. Complete what you have started. Then see if you can get enrolled for a related subject. There is so much to choose from in social sciences. Mass communication is something that so many people study. Short courses is something more easily available abroad than in Pakistan. Independant institutions offering training journalists is something that is not easy to come across. I will get you more specific details if I come across them. Yes, I donot have a formal degree in journalism .

Aisha Zahid Khan how do people know so much about you???? do they stalk you or something????
March 8 at 10:21pm · LikeUnlike

WR:Do they know much about me? Really? What gave you that impression?

Mahnoor Sundas w0w gud chance for us to ask you you anithing ....many of question pple ve alredy asked you anihow....waqs tell me wot r da key elements to b gud friend of y0u:)??????nad did ever perform in dramas??

WR: You are all good friends already. I donot like to lie and don't want others to lie to me. Never, performed in dramas but did have an offer at one time!

Maroof Hussain Sabri I always wonder, why do girls ask so many perosnal questions???
March 11 at 5:13p
WR: This is for girls to answer..but may be because they are born journalists!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Who is next?

After the discussion was over. Lahore studio of Platform. With Mr.Mushahid Hussain

The latest episode of Platform that I hosted from Lahore was special in more ways than one. I had to host it not only out of schedule but also got to sit down with a very learned guest, Mr. Mushahid Hussain. A well known figure in Pakistan and abroad.

We had an extra minute on air before we wrapped up the show. And because we were discussing startegic policy shifts of the west in the Middle East because of the revolt there, I asked Mr. Hussian questions that many wanted answers to, eversince thye uprising in Egypt.

Can we see a similar upsrising in Pakistan?
To this he said that Pakistan has never been through the kind of suffocation and repression. Pakistan has always had this unique way of recovering from different crises. As a society we have a democratic political culture.

But he did acknowledge that there was a distance between the ruler and the ruled, corruption and unemployment in the youth that had the potential for getting people out on the streets.

In Egypt it was the middle class that got out on the streets and made history. Is our middle class without that spark and enthusiasm that is required for revolution?
His reply was interesting. Our middle class is coming of age politically he feels. Pakistan's middle class is very vibrant. Civil society, media and judiciary -all represent that vibrancy. Therefore, Pakistanis donot , literally, have to come out on the streets.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Photo Credit:WR
Well I had heard much about how the ways of celebrating Valentine’s Day had changed over these years. That special someone is no longer supposed to be the only recipient of your love and affection in the form of chocolates, flowers or teddys. Mothers, Grandmothers, brothers and sisters can all be on your list to bestow upon now. Acceptable.

A friend of a friend thought it was okay to kiss trees on Valentine’s because after all its about showing love to the living and that friend was of the view that trees had feelings too. I thought it was a bit too much but then I came across news of some taking this beyond that..

Some in Rawalpindi chose to show up at the jail where Governor Taseer’s killer is being kept and showed their love for the assassin by bringing flowers and greeting cards for him. Really confusing. Supporting the killer for what he did and celebrating Valentine’s is really something in the opposite direction to each other. I guess it shows the kind of cultural and religious confusion that we often go through as Pakistani muslims.

But these events that often baffle and disturbs most of us who are grown up, are in a way enlightening up those in their formative years. For example on the Holy Prophet’s (S.A.W) birthday I felt like uploading a naat on my facebook page. I was going through different options on you tube , when I came across one naat that had a good dose of music arrangement put into it with the renderer wearing a bright outfit. Just as I was about to upload it my cousin’s 14 year old son came up to me and stopped me from it. I was strangely surprised when he advised me to choose one with no music in it . There could be many with extreme views out there, he said who would definitely not like me uploading the musical naat.He then asked me to choose something that would be acceptable to all.

First I thought the child had been terrorized by what extremists are capable of doing. He was scared of expressing his choice lest he invited their disapproval.
But then I thought perhaps the boy was acting enlightened. He was perhaps being tolerant of the views of those who differed from him. He was willing to adhere to their choice as long as he was also able to get his self across as well. In this case, using a naat to express love for the Prophet (S. A. W).

I guess these difficult times that our country is going through are in a way broadening the horizon of our children and teaching them lessons that syllabi might not be able to explain to them ever.