Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pakistan’s First Twitter Prime Minister

After heated election campaigns, fiery tweets, anxious pleas and rigging complaints the first elections for Pakistan Twitter Parliament concluded. No member got a clear majority to win the elections, a time of 24 hours was awarded to announce coalitions and gain maximum number of votes to form government.

After much making and breaking, confusion, queries and questions the coalitions were announced. Tweeple Scorpioyas was declared the first ever Prime Minister of Pakistan Twitter parliament with coalition partners AbidBeli, NaeemShamim, Omair_Khalid and Rectified_guy with total vote count of 595 votes. The other coalition is now in opposition with BonBonDude as Leader of Opposition and members Kursed and Guppu, a total vote count of 370. This is Pakistan’s first virtual Prime Minister after the more successful Musharraf’s Facebook President episode, effectively forming the virtual leadership of the country.

With a Prime Minister in place the process of appointing Ministers began as interested Tweeples were contacted and word was spread to file nominations for ministries. One Tweeple, IrfanQazi2010, was interested in the ministry of Nepotism, Corruption, Misgovernance, Misinformation and Injustice. He was conveniently ignored.

Tweeple AadilPitafi formed Facebook page for Pakistan Twitter Parliament and in short time it was liked by more than 100 people, showing effective Twitter and Facebook marketing and general audience interest in this unique twitter phenomenon. The first issue Parliament faced was the use of non-Parliamentary language which was effectively explained as “too tarakh” language and banning its use during session. It simply means if you are using #PKTP in your tweet, don’t be frank as “chaddi friends” because while parliament is in session, no one wants to be in his “Chaddi”.

Self-proclaimed President abidifactor ended up arguing in every which direction with the opposition leader who questioned everything, from neutrality to presidential voting and finally an offer of vote of confidence in return for a week of neutrality along with general reminder that they’re not friendly opposition; meanwhile Prime Minster kept banging his head in choosing Chief Justice, COAS and ministers and the first appointment came in the form of Deputy Speaker and Tweeple ShaikhRafia was awarded with this position.

Later on rumors spread that Prime Minister has already set out on his first Virtual Foreign tour (to Pakistan it seemed, since he physically resides outside the country), probably wasting much of new Parliament’s virtual money on Swiss accounts, buying castles and hotels, gambling in Casinos and acquiring personal jumbo jets … all virtual (obviously). It is yet to determine the extent of accuracy of these rumors and possible virtual expenditure; meanwhile self-proclaimed President, Bureaucrat, Intelligence Agency, Media and Establishment abidifactor continued to facilitate the curious visitors and agitating opposition.

Twitter Parliament faced its first crisis when member abidbeli threatened to leave coalition and join the opposition. After much hyper tweeting by concerned members and constant poking, it was announced that the coalition is still intact and abidbeli decided to stay with the government. Then Prime Minister showed up and announced that any problem should be directly discussed with him and not left to speculations.

As of yet the ministries are not complete and preparations for Presidential elections are underway which will be held in coming days. The #PKTP daily has some interesting insights that would give general information regarding Twitter Parliament updates every 24 hours.


Twitter Government of Pakistan

An unusual amount of activity on Twitter caught my attention. A constant stream of tweets regarding parliament made me think some new drama unfolding in Pakistan’s already disastrous political scenario. A quick check on news channels, blogs and news tab on Google did not reveal anything significant, so I checked the tweets more closely.

There was no news about the current parliament of Pakistan but it was a discussion amongst very active Twitter users of Pakistan on forming a Twitter parliament. Ideas were flying, heated discussions with each other, sharing of concepts and philosophies, method and rules for voting and countless other topics were under debate. Finally a new hastag (#pktp) was used for Pakistan Twitter Parliament which became an active part of Parliament formation. Parties were formed, manifestos written and I believe I saw a tweet that might have included election banner (if that was even possible).

In less than 24 hours, #pktp has thousands of tweets about everything regarding Twitter Parliament election and polling started after a member (@abidifactor) became President to oversee the voting. 11 tweeters stood for Prime Minister election, only one being “Independent Candidate” while remaining associated with virtual parties that seem to have little or no resemblance with real political parties of Pakistan.

The whole affair has generated strong interest as random comments appeared at regular intervals from Pakistani as well as non-Pakistani tweeters. Some considered it as a joke, some applauded, some confused over the whole thing while some asked for party manifestos from the contestants. Some seemed in dilemma to call it a “Brainless Activity to Kill Time” or “Cyber Revolution from Farigh Tareen Pakistanis”. All in all there has been great display of vigor by a large number of tweeters and the activity keeps on increasing. A twist in story came when during voting on twtpoll for Prime Minister, the Independent Candidate was accused of “Rigging” as large number of IPs from various different countries were observed voting in a very short span of time. No story of election is ever free of politicians favorite “Rigging” activity that has become symbolic representation of polling in Pakistan (including cyber world it seems).

With Twitter President and soon-to-be-Prime Minister, we would be moving on to forming of Twitter Parliament, write and enforce “Twitter Constitution of (Probably Islamic) Pakistan”, design suitable Ministries and then appoint Ministers, Ambassadors, hire Civil Servants, bureaucrats, Policemen, Military, form committees, enforce land reforms, resolve Kashmir issue, end war in Afghanistan, liberate Waziristan, eliminate Taliban, increase water supply in River Indus, give autonomy to all provinces, launch space shuttles, bring scientific revolution … the list goes on and on and on.
When students all over the world can act as representatives of different countries in Model United Nations then why not die-hard Twitter fans kill time by forming Cyber Government of Pakistan. After all, everyone deserves the chance to lead the country, one way or the other. I wonder what twitter addicted politicians like Salman Taseer and Rahman Malik would have to say as their very power is being hijacked through Twitter revolution.

The Woes of Business Education

Published here on Express Tribune.


It came as a shock to me when I read somewhere that Tokyo city alone had over 200 universities. If we check the list of most populace cities in the world, Karachi is included in the top 5 while Tokyo not even in top 10. Considering the huge difference in the population and education facilities, no wonder we have so many fake graduates ruling us.

When deciding to apply for graduate and post graduate programs, the youth find themselves extremely limited with the available choices. If we consider the business schools only, the top business school in Karachi doesn’t really live up to its name as the top, however the environment provided and the competitive nature of class tends to keep their students sharp. Having a 50 year history of producing business graduates who now dominate the market also greatly impacts with recruitment drives from known and respectable brands.
If you fail to get in due to competitive test, there is still a college and an institute that have developed reputable standing over the past couple of decades in business studies. They have their own specialties to offer and some of the program structures are not found in any other institute. There has been a growing number of people who actually target these institutions for admission rather than going for the best due to cost, location, environment, studies and various other factors.
Practically all other business schools position themselves after them, to catch those who fail to get into the top 3 of Karachi. Many might offer some argument in defense of their institutions but being a graduate from a “Navy” university myself and having a wide social network that spreads in all business schools of Karachi, I say with sadness that number of business schools can be counted on fingers irrespective of their quality level.
With such a low ratio of institution to students, no wonder business schools fail to take market studies and updating coursework seriously. Majority of them have teachers who had long ago memorized the text books to pass their exams and now follow the pattern to teach their classes, ever improving the art of “rattafication”. Some institutes are hell-bent on hiring those who recently graduated from that very institute, effectively killing the possibility of including fresh perspective and experienced faculty staff. The students are now so thoroughly trained in memorizing that even slight deviation becomes a nightmare, especially critical analysis. Teachers favoring free thought, open ended discussions and questions in the tests and exams end up receiving negative feedback from the class, nailing the coffin of ‘creativity’.
The institutions still have course books written by American, Canadian and British authors that are focused on business markets of their respective countries. Pakistani market, being an amalgamation of East-meets-West on many fronts (or simply compare Clifton with North Karachi), requires market understanding at an entirely different level. With the western coursework we are trying to imitate western market philosophy which does not properly apply to our business needs.
No local author has come up with satisfactory work in any sector of business which could be used as course book by local institutions. The business schools fail to take in market experts and leading companies as focus groups to understand market demands, improving quality of graduates, increasing depth of their major courses, draft conclusions, take in recommendations, implement them, perform follow-up meetings, check progress and call upon new focus group to understand the current market trends, gauge the effectiveness of previous focus group and asses the need for future.
There is a greater need to increase the number of higher education institutions in the country, let alone in a single city, but that is something which requires time and risk management. We still have current problems to face and resolve them somehow. Until the institutions take it seriously to improve their curriculum with the help of market experts and greatly enhance their graduates abilities, the students will always find a great disconnect between what they were prepared for and what they ended up facing in job market. If the talented students want to study and work abroad and immigrate to western nations on first chance, who can blame them when we ourselves are responsible for ongoing ‘brain drain’?

Politics: “Personality Based” or “Party Based”?



Published here on Express Tribune.


Politics in Pakistan is a well known tangle of confusion, lies, deception, favoritism and broken promises. Anything that goes wrong, be it your boss really angry at you when a colleague revealed your secret or you’re next in line for team’s captaincy and someone ‘less worthy’ is favored over you, politics is to blame.

In my experience of both urban Karachi and rural Sindh I came across two distinct forms of commercial politics (politicians are contractual employees, aren’t they?). The personality based politics has strong roots in the countryside where, in a given area, a certain landlord will hold most influence. No matter which party he chooses or even decides to stand as an independent candidate, the votes in his locality will go to him (debatable if it’s by love or by force). This gives the candidate bargaining power and he chooses party that benefits him the most or to whom he’s most loyal.

In similar fashion the party based politics has strong base in Karachi and maybe urban centers like Lahore as well. The party chooses its candidates and probably the seats as well on which they fight during elections. How much the people have their say or how much the candidates have the bargaining power, it is debatable since every party has its own rules and policies. Whether in your locality an unknown person rises up to participate in elections or a personality you know very well and respect, it is up to the party to nominate the candidates.

We have seen effects of both political styles on local, national and international level and have examples to show who people vote and who they would not when given the choice. We have seen ‘Jamshed Dasti’ winning election from Southern Punjab again after resigning despite having fake degree, and we have seen an unknown figure ‘Syed Mustafa Kamal’ rising out towards fame when MQM nominated him against the veteran politician ‘Naimatullah Khan’. Despite having no distinguished record of politics and Naimatullah’s recent completion of term as Mayor Karachi, Mustafa Kamal became second mayor of Karachi in an era of construction blitzkrieg which he further sped up, resulting in a change of face for several areas of the largest city of Pakistan.

Both politicians were supported by their respective people that prove the distinct forms of political practices prevalent in their respective constituencies. Comparing to other countries we often find some similarities and many differences to the way politicians are recognized. Very few people must have missed ‘Barak Obama’s’ rise to presidency where he had charmed the American people so much that he earned victory against ‘Hillary Clinton’ to become lead nominee for ‘Democratic Party’ and faced the ‘Republican Party’ nominee ‘John McCain’ in the final showdown. From his early days as community organizer and civil rights attorney to state senator and then President, a clear line of political ascendance can be traced down to its roots. The U.S political system comprising of Senators might be slow but has the clarity to rip the politician down to his/her bare essence.

In Pakistan however, our Presidents are military usurpers, backdoor entrants, puppets and ceremonial figureheads chosen to smile and nod to show ‘aal iz vell’ in the country. Can there be a possibility for evolution of Pakistani politics where politicians are ripped to their essence and their worth is judged by 180 million (and counting) Pakistanis? If so, will it be the urban ‘Party based’ or rural ‘Personality based’ that will dominate the field?

People of Pakistan: Anyway to Satisfy?

Recently a friend asked me:


“waka, bhai mere tell me ONE way Pakistan can run and people wud be satisfied. I don’t say happy or delighted just satisfied”

The question put me in a difficult position. Most of the literate and educated youth are, sadly, ignorant of ground realities of Pakistan. They might be well versed with Democratic definitions, latest fashion trends, technology changes, industrial development, government corruption and situation of corporate market. Most of these youth probably spent 500 to 5000 rupees a week and their awareness radar operates as far as limits of their urban centers allow.

Beyond that, these youth are dependent on whatever news is brought to them through internet and media. It is good to see youth getting vocal on national issues which is the macro vision of Pakistan, however majority of the youth fail to understand the micro level when asked about tribes, villages, towns, peasants, farmers, landlords and countryside bureaucracy. The latter constitute above 60% of Pakistan geographically, a huge reality that cannot be ignored yet the cage of their cities don’t allow them to properly explore what majority of their country offers to them.

Therefor, with a heavy heart, I gave him the following answer.

People will NEVER be satisfied. Rural side wants traditional PPP and PML governments, they want to have government jobs, they want development work and agricultural friendly policies. Last but not the least, they want Education even though it’s their least priority.

Cities want diverse groups in government, they want more opportunities, private sector seeks growth, industrial expansion, business safety, urban center development, investment friendly policies, fair market practices, law and order safety and more privatisation of government assets.

Human rights groups want more emphasis on basic rights, provision of water and electricity to furthest corners of Pakistan, reduction in human rights abuses including household “zulm” on wives and daughters in our male dominant society, improve police attitude and cooperation, abolition of laws violating or hurting humans in anyway and public awareness campaigns from the government.

The Expats want our currency to remain devalued enough so that they can send sufficient money to their families in Pakistan. The exporters also want the same so that they can export more to foreign countries.

The importers want increased value of money so that they can import more.

The west, quite frankly, wants us to remain beggars with their constant support of military dictators which hurts Pakistan in the long run.

The Indians wants us to forget Kashmir and be happy buddies forever.

The Chinese wants us to stay supportive all time and help us with everything from small needle to Nuclear reactors. US, Japan and India do not like China and that’s a fact hard to miss.

The average urbanite in Pakistan wants beer, booz and every ‘Haram’ thing to enjoy the adult life.

The Mullahs want Shariah and complete Nakaab culture.

The Taliban wants beheading of every person they deem un-Islamic.

The non-Muslims want a greater share in governance, possibility of having a non-Muslim President, safety of life, freedom to practice their religion and equality on all fronts.

Shia Muslims want their fair share in religious practices.

Sunni sect itself has various sub-sects as contenders to dominant Sunni faction.

Punjabi wants greater availability of water for better agriculture.

Sindhi wants more water in River Indus for the crops of Sindh.

and the list goes on and on and on …

Tell me, can ANYONE even possibly satisfy half of them?

It is a sad reality, one that we cannot ignore. No matter what we do, there is no way to satisfy everyone. However, we can compromise for national interest and compromise comes through consensus. Dictators do not compromise. They either bow or crush, there is no middle ground to track on and this is the result of their life long military training.

Our political parties, even if corrupt, at least represent the far flung areas of Pakistan where few, if any, urbanites have ventured. Unless people and youth of urban centers venture out of their concrete cages, spend some time with nature, speak with people in regional languages of Pakistan (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Hindko, Balochi, Saraiki etc), understand them and their plight and work accordingly to educate them and their children, Pakistan cannot progress and will remain in suspended animation of a wounded falcon that can neither fly, hop or crawl and wait for a slow death.

Let Me Dance The Sufi Way

This post was included in the first e-magazine of Rationalist Society of Pakistan.

I stepped up to the open space, gazing at the sky filled with clouds. It was noon, yet it seemed late evening. The cool air ruffled my clothes and attempted to dislodge my cap. It should have known the Sufis don’t break off that easily. They adapt to the change, like water that fills up the cup or take the shape of palm in your hand. Sufism is the flow of Allah’s beauty through your mind and soul, the appreciation of His creation and feel of His divine blessings throughout your existence right to the core.

The cool air ruffled my clothes again. Maybe it was telling me about its existence, that air is also Allah’s creation and not a distraction. I let it pass from my conscious mind and felt the flow. It was moving in a pattern, a pattern of serenity, of flowing beauty and grace, of power and tranquility, of love and insanity. The air had stories, long forgotten and badly remembered, biased and accurate, peace and war, love and hate. I took it all and felt the ages and their stories, the rise of empires and their crumble to dust, the might of sword and the boom of canon, whisper of seductive lie and sound of bitter truth.

I took it all and let it flow, and in the confusion of ages and the stories … I heard him.

It was Rumi, recitation of poetry that has survived centuries and still lives in the hearts of millions world over. The air vibrated, swirling around my focus on Rumi, trying to gauge me to listen more to its stories. I ignore it and kept on listening to Rumi and the tranquility his words brought.

And then the rhythm began, slowly as Rumi words flew like a boat gliding over the silvery surface of a calm river. Energy welled up to strengthen my body as it began to flow like water, like the Dervish of the old who would move to the sound of nature and love, of peace and tranquility, of heart and soul for Islam. And like the Whirling Dervish of the old I tilted my head to right with my eyes closed, my right hand raised at sky and left facing the Earth and began the chant of life, circling, whirling, flowing like water caught in the whirlwind. I flowed in all forms and none, I embraced life and death and gathered love and despair, I was the earth and the sky, I was the bird and the ant, the leaf and the larvae. I was a thing of living and thing that never took breath. I was solid as rock and soft as flower. I was the essence of this world and bathing in the blessing of my Lord Almighty.

But the wind wasn’t done with me. It was whispered and circled around my focus. It lied and uttered truth. It blew from Sahara and blew from Antarctica. It was the tornado and the poisonous fume. It continued to blow and swirled around me, countering the way I moved until it said what my conscious could not pass and I collapsed in a heap.

I heard the cries and wails of the devastated. I heard the anguish of the educated and misery of the illiterate. I felt the bleeding of the onlooker and bewilderment of concerned ones. I felt the hunger of the greedy and patience of hungry. I experienced the luxury of rich and discomfort of poor. I felt disinterest of powerful and hope in weak and I could not bear it anymore.

I asked the wind to tell me whose story it whispered. It blew around me in mocking; playing for it finally got my attention. I pleaded begged and wiped tears that flowed down my face. I asked the wind to tell the story it whispered for it was too new, its greed tainting, its anguish cutting, its hope burning, its despair slicing, its hate scorching and its pity insulting. It was too new to be a story of the old, too entangled to be of simple mortals, too narrow to be of progressive, too wide to be of zealots. It was tiny as pin and wide as a mountain. It was a story of sweetness of the greatest scent and bitterness of the foulest medicine. It was of valor and heroics, of cowardice and backstabbing. It had believers of Islam and liars with the hands on Quran. It had fathers seeing their daughters leave with husbands after marriage and it had brothers pimping their sisters away without an ounce of shame. It was a story of construction and destruction, of falling sky and cracking earth and it was all searing my soul away.

I asked the wind where the story happened. It blew silently around me. It didn’t say anything for a long time. I kept on waiting, it kept on blowing. Finally, it whispered…

I tell the story of love and despair, of hope and anguish, of rose and thorn, of life and death, valor and cowardice not of forgotten times but present. I tell of thieves becoming lords and lords vanishing in abyss. I tell of nameless enemies and unknown friends. I tell of legends and myths, of right and wrong, justice and injustice …

I tell you of Pakistan.

You cannot dance Sufi, you cannot dance. You dance for the joy of your Lord when Sufi shrines in Pakistan get destroyed by nameless enemies. You dance for love when woman is rendered as a commodity than a human being. You dance for the sky when fire falls from it to kill Muslims daily. You dance for freedom when countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters cry, wait and plead with lords of the land asking about the whereabouts of their loved ones. You dance for your Lord Almighty when followers of Islam kill each other without an ounce of remorse. You dance like flowing water when devastation of water submerged half the nation. You dance for power when Lords of the land ignored the plight of the weak, left them like vulture feed and buried their women alive like the Pagan customs before Islam.

You cannot dance Sufi, for while you dance the destruction continues and it will soon devour the whole humanity of the nation. For while there is hope, there is possibility of light in the darkest corner.

Then what should I do if not dance. How can I bear this anguish you whispered me? How can remove these poisonous clouds off my brethren?

You cannot do anything except pray, whispered the wind. They are beggars, made this way through decades. Let them find the strength in their feet, the iron in their will, the rod in their spine, the height in their spirits, the truth in their hearts and destiny in their hands. Let them find their way of which they went astray.

They have the strength of Maula Ali in their arms yet they feel not. They have the knowledge of Abbasi caliphate but they are clueless. They have poetry of Rumi in the hearts yet they find darkness in wait. They have strength of Quran in the soul yet lies and deceit guide their lives. They have Iqbal’s guidance but rolled off to opposite path. They have words of Jinnah but they heed of utters of foreign lords. They have role model of Prophet Mohammed yet they bow down to thieves. They are beggars waiting for pity and pittance. They have to rise and be what they are meant to be.

Until then, you cannot dance Sufi. You cannot dance.