Panama Papers verdict to be in favour of people, hopes JI

TAXILA: The secretary general of Jamaat-i-Islami, Liaquat Baloch, has expressed the hope that the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panamagate case will be in favour of people.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday, the JI leader said that the nation was desperately waiting for the verdict, adding that the judgement would help bring corruption to an end.

“Eyes of the nation are fixed on the verdict of the Panama corruption case. The people who laundered billions of rupees need to be brought into a court of law and held accountable,” the Jamaat leader said.

He said that after the announcement of the verdict, a number of people would be put behind bars, adding that in case the verdict was not up to expectations of the masses, the fate of the country would be decided by the people on the streets.

He said that election reforms were necessary to bring good people to parliament, adding that without electoral reforms, parliament would remain an abode of influential people only.

He said that establishment’s interference in election must come to an end and that fair and free elections were not possible unless the Election Commission of Pakistan was made independent. He said criminals and plunderers were reaching assemblies by exploiting weaknesses of the electoral system.

In the prevailing system, he said, the elite indulged in the sale and purchase of votes due to weaknesses of the electoral system.

Coming down hard on both the PPP and PML-N, the JI leader said that a group in these parties was behaving like slaves of East India Company, whose major task was to plunder the national wealth.

The JI leader supported capital punishment awarded to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who, he said, had killed several innocent Pakistanis

In reply to a question about lynching of a student in Mardan University, the Jamaat leader said that this incident was the result of failure of the government to stop misuse of social media.

Is Fast and Furious 8 another mindless action movie? I think so

Last night I went to watch the eighth installment of The Fast and the Furious. Normally, with so many parts of the same series, I would lose count – and interest – of how many films the franchise has released (does anyone even know how many Transformer movies are out there?). But I decided to go anyway.

Two reasons: I had free tickets — and a chance to take a date along (though everyone I asked gave me a resolute ‘NO!’ and I hope it was the film that turned them off and not the idea of going to the movies with me); and I like The Fast and the Furious films (except for the last one, but that’s because it was shot in Abu Dhabi and I’m not a fan of the city).

The Fate of the Furious contains all the usual ingredients of the franchise: big, fancy vehicles, lots of car chases, over-the-top stunts, explosions, guns, close-up booty shots, and some very vanilla love scenes (I heard some disapproving groans in the audience during these scenes, as well as the oft-heard instruction “ankhon par haath rakho”). Whatever happened to the redeeming qualities of steamy sex scenes in mindless action movies? And of course, the film has a story line that you probably won’t even remember when you wake up the next morning.

Spoiler alert!

The plot, as always, revolves around Dominic Toretto (played by Vin Diesel). As usual, family honour is on the line. Will Dom, once again, teach us the importance of not turning one’s back on family?

It doesn’t look too promising at the start: Dominic Toretto has gone rogue (I say this in the same tone as Agent Hobbs, played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, with all the heavy breathing and brooding). He seems to have been turned into a mindless zombie by the bewitching cyber-terrorist named Cipher (played by Charlize Theron) after she finds him during his honeymoon in Havana and shows him something on her cell phone.

Cipher's plan to destroy the world is unimaginative as ever.
Cipher’s plan to destroy the world is unimaginative as ever.

During a mission to steal an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device in Germany, Dom turns his back on his crew, almost kills Hobbs, and races away with the EMP straight to Cipher. Hobbs is arrested by the German police and extradited back to the United States, where he is sent to prison. In jail, he is reunited with his nemesis from the previous film, Deckard (played by Jason Statham).

But the two won’t stay behind bars for long, especially when an international terrorist has gotten her hands on a menacing device.

Covert operations head Mr Nobody (played by Kurt Russell) gets Hobbs and Deckard out (but not before a fair amount of bad-mouthing between the two, which will remind you of Dwayne’s wrestling career, and certainly not before both of them beat up almost all the prison guards, in what will surely get you excited if you’re 12) and teams them up with the rest of Dom’s crew. Their job is to figure out what in God’s name is Cipher up to.

If I tell you more about the plot, I’d be giving away too much and spoiling it (if a linear storyline can ever be spoiled). Also, I don’t have the writing powers of Tolstoy to describe some of the most ridiculously impossible manoeuvre the movie has later on.

As for the movie’s villain, her plan to destroy the world is unimaginative as ever: she wants to steal a nuclear bomb and set it off. It is 2017, but Hollywood’s Cold War mentality still hasn’t worn off.

What I can say though is that the audience really seemed to love cheesy stunts, action heroes, and strong men beating people up in spectacular fashion; they erupted in cheers on two such occasions.

The movie fails in its attempts at creating a complex plot — whereby one would understand the deep reasons why Dom behaves the way he does — but given the nature of the Fast and Furious franchise, it was never going to succeed at that; it’s not the Matrix where there is both action and existential philosophy.

As usual, family honour is on the line.
As usual, family honour is on the line.

There is surely intrigue but let’s not confuse it with complexity. I genuinely wanted to find out what had happened to Dom, but once his predicament becomes clear, the film loses that suspense. The rest of the script then becomes a needlessly-long foreplay to a predictable climax. It was like being on a date where the other person was trying hard but was miserably failing at impressing you intellectually – and after an hour or so, you started to wonder why can’t we just get to the action, get it done and over with, and never think about it again.

I was also unable to sympathise with Dom. Normally, I side with characters who are in difficulty and are facing tough emotional dilemmas but Vin Diesel, as an actor, is macho and lacks emotional depth. If you compare him to actors like Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, who are action heroes in emotionally haunting films like Logan and Batman, Diesel comes across as an extremely uni-dimensional artist (if I could be generous enough to call him that).

It really is about (white) male pride. We could do with less of such movies, especially in the time of Trump. If this is the last installment of the franchise, I’m not going to complain.

As for the movie’s villain, her plan to destroy the world is unimaginative as ever: she wants to steal a nuclear bomb and set it off. It is 2017, but Hollywood’s Cold War mentality still hasn’t worn off. Yes, you guessed it: the nuclear bomb that Cipher wants to steal belongs to the Russians, who just aren’t responsible enough to take care of their toys.

There’s also the issue of race. The movie’s two main black characters, Tej (played by rapper Ludacris) and Roman (played by Tyrese Gibson) are the film’s main jokers. Can we get black characters who are not there for white people’s entertainment? Also, can these movies please stop fetishising black men and no longer have references to the size of Roman’s penis? More importantly, for the Pakistani audience, how many of them understand these problematic racial dynamics?

All of this combined with strong emphasis on loyalty to one’s family and prominent display of Dom’s faith, Christianity, the film actually has very disturbing undertones. It really is about (white) male pride. We could do with less of such movies, especially in the time of Trump. If this is the last installment of the franchise, I’m not going to complain.

Did The Fate of the Furious have any redeeming qualities?

There is a tribute to the late Paul Walker at the end, just as in the last film, which you might find touching. I used to like the franchise, but after this one, and thinking about the rest of the films again, I think I’m done with them.

Cancer with purpose

ACCUSATION is evidence, trial is by ordeal, and the sentence is always death. This is how it went with Mashal Khan and this is how it has been with the countless others who have preceded him. His final words do not matter, it does not matter that he professed his love for the Prophet (PBUH) as he lay dying from gunshot wounds inflicted by his pious tormentors, all that matters is the accusation and the accusation is evidence.

It doesn’t even matter that his murder seems to have nothing to do with his actual words, that it is likely that it was his vocal stance against the university administration that prompted the campaign against him. It doesn’t even matter that the university administration has displayed its complicity by forming a committee, not to investigate the killing, but to investigate the alleged blasphemy committed by the murdered Mashal Khan.

It doesn’t matter that after his death fake accounts bearing his name have cropped up like poisonous toadstools aiming at providing post-facto justification.

And so here we stand, bending over backwards to ‘prove’ that he was not a blasphemer, that he was a ‘good’ Muslim and did not deserve the fate that should, by implication, be reserved only for the not-so-good. But none of that matters either, because evidence is accusation, is a death sentence to be carried by public acclamation in some dark, murderous perversion of democracy.

It has always been so, in just about all such cases. Take Salmaan Taseer, for example; you’ll find countless people – their eyes blazing and their lips spewing venom – who will justify his killing. Ask why and you will be told that he was a blasphemer. Ask what blasphemy he committed and you’ll be met with stunned disbelief at the temerity of your question. Don’t you know that accusation is evidence?

The harvest of hate has ripened.

It was the same with the (in)famous ‘bloggers’. We still don’t (officially) know who abducted them or why or what treatment they were subjected to. What we do know (somehow) is that they are blasphemers. We’ve heard it from TV screens, from pulpits, from Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. And that’s enough. Accusation is evidence and … well you know the rest.

We have nurtured our own disease, have fed this cancer of the soul, this cancer which has a mind of its own; this cancer with purpose. The fault lies with a society that sups on hate and willingly butchers its own children at the devil’s altar, mutilating their bodies and crushing their skulls like some kind of ritual sacrifice.

But let’s be fair; it’s not just us, impotent and exhausted as we are. The fault lies with each and every crumbing pillar of the state, every diseased branch of it. It rests with TV anchors and print columnists who lie in every breath, who condemn innocents to death for a salary raise and a bump in ratings.

It lies with those shadowy operators who use the fig leaf of blasphemy to mask the crushing of dissent. It lies with ministers launching witch-hunts for blasphemers as if there was some sort of epidemic under way, as if anyone was mad or suicidal enough to actually commit blasphemy while knowing the consequences. It lies with state agencies who aid and abet this madness to serve their own ends.

Last, but never least, it lies with those preachers who measure their strength in the amount of killers and madmen they can rally to their cause. And for the rest — politicians and the prominent — what does it matter if they did not attend the funeral of Mashal Khan? What does it matter if they release a mealy-mouthed statement of condemnation or remain silent, hoping that the storm will pass them by?

The corpse we planted in our garden has come to full bloom, the poison tree has borne fruit, and the harvest of hate has ripened.

Yet here we sit, begging like whipped and frightened curs waiting for a scrap to fall from our master’s table; grateful for a piece of gristle, a shard of chewed bone. Anything we can hold on to in the hope that the hand that whips us may absentmindedly one day stroke our mangy manes; desperate for any fragment we can shore against our ruin.

But we wait in vain because they are not just cowards, but complicit. And such is the level of their degradation, such is the shortness of their sight that they do not see that the noose they have fashioned will one day be fitted around their necks, snug and suffocating. They do not see that the fire they have started, the flames they have fanned, may first burn our huts and homes, but will one day reach their palaces too. And what will they rule over then, but an empire of ash?

The writer is a journalist.

Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

How I discovered the hidden springs of Khuzdar in Balochistan

Curiosity can be a powerful driving force; the need to constantly seek and discover. The one thing that travel does is keep your senses sharpened — you are constantly exposed to new stimuli. With every step, you are seeing, breathing and experiencing something new. And with every journey, you grow. No wonder then that some find travel to be highly addictive.

“I’m not afraid,” says photographer Sohaib Roomi talking about his proclivity to simply get behind the wheel and let the road guide him to newer adventures. “I just don’t feel any fear when I go anywhere,” he adds.

It was on a visit to a site that he and a group of like-minded individuals (together they call themselves khanabadosh or gypsies), ‘discovered’ Moola Chotook sometime in March last year. Photos of green waters among scalding hot rocks of Khuzdar, in Balochistan, appeared on all the major travel groups in Pakistan resulting in one unfortunate, but unpreventable, consequence: Moola Chotook became one of the ‘must-visit’ places on this side of the country.

Camping out at Moola Chotook.
Camping out at Moola Chotook.

As the weather cooled, ‘independent’ tour operators offered trips and this ‘secret’ place no longer remained a secret. On his last visit there, Sohaib noticed all the litter that the tourists had left behind — an unfortunate consequence to the rising tourism industry in Pakistan.

Nestled in the dry, rocky and barren terrain of southern Balochistan is a stunning oasis

It is not easy to get there. The drive from Karachi to Khuzdar takes five hours. Going a little further and you come across an off-road track which is so rocky that no car can be driven on it. The only option is to switch to a 4×4.

“The Jhal Magsi racing track goes through the Moola River,” relates Sohaib. It takes another 35-40km to finally reach Moola Chotook. “It took us six hours of off-road driving to get there,” says Sohaib, “You have to cross the river, rocks and climb small hills. At times your vehicle will be climbing angled at 45 degrees.”

The waterfalls at Chota Chotook.
The waterfalls at Chota Chotook.

However, if he thought Moola Chotook was beautiful, he was in for a surprise. A local man who often acted as Sohaib’s guide told him of a place that was far more magnificent. “You have to see this place,” the man said about Chota Chotook.

“It is two hours from Moola,” relates Sohaib. “There is a route to get there that the locals know of. We didn’t know we had to climb. We were in our slippers but they made us climb these massive rocks and boulders.”

The local guide standing under the largest waterfall in Chota Chotook.
The local guide standing under the largest waterfall in Chota Chotook.

“At first it seems like there is nothing there. You don’t see anything. Then you climb for about 20 minutes and turn and suddenly you see the first pool and such greenery, and a waterfall. We weren’t expecting anything like that at all. It was like a hidden oasis,” Sohaib recalls.

There wasn’t just one waterfall or one pool — there were several smaller ones. Follow the rocky path around them and you come across the biggest one — it towers over you. “The water was clearer than at Moola Chotook,” says Sohaib. “This place is crazy beautiful. It’s hard to describe in words.”

The sacred fish of Pir Chattal.
The sacred fish of Pir Chattal.

How do you even find a place like this? “The only way you can get to places like this is by talking to the locals,” comes the response.

The saint at Pir Chattal and his ‘holy’ fish

Somewhere in the area, Sohaib came across another pool, albeit one reinforced artificially by the caretakers of the shrine that was built next to it. “The shrine belongs to the saint of Pir Chattal — the biggest of all saints in Balochistan,” relates Sohaib.

“This pool is actually very big. They have routed fish away from it, to protect them. Some of the locals say that, ‘The fish are baba’s bhains (buffaloes) and that if anyone eats one, it comes out of them alive’,” he chuckles. “No one can touch the fish, but people do go to feed them.”

All photos by Sohaib Roomi

Misbah’s legacy

Illustration by Feica
IllusFeicatration by 

On the lawns of Aitchison College, a game of schoolboy cricket is developing. Saeed is batting at number four. His proud parents casually watch on, grazing on fruits while engaging in idle chit-chat with some other respectful middle class couple.

“Saeed hits his cover drive like Brian Lara.”

“Your son reminds me of Sachin when he hits straight.”

“That hook shot reminded me of a young Ricky Ponting.”

Finally Saeed succumbs to the realities of an infant technique facing a swinging ball.

The most successful captain in the history of Pakistan cricket has announced his retirement. How will he be remembered?

“Oh dear. He leaves the ball like Virat. We better work on that with him.”

Like at most places with high expectations, the young men are pigeon-holed. That swing bowler will be the next James Anderson. The left arm version is Wasim. Everyone in Pakistan wants to be Wasim.

The match continues. Saeed watches on from the sidelines as the wicketkeeper puts down a sitter. The parents giggle as they compare the gloved child to Kamran Akmal.

Yet no one is compared to Misbah.

Misbah doesn’t have a shot. Misbah doesn’t have a signature swing of the bat. Misbah doesn’t have a slower ball. There is no relationship scandal. There is no stench of corruption.

No child wears Misbah’s number on their back. They wouldn’t even know what number he wears. He has made the most ODI runs of any player never to have made an ODI century. Both a massive success and a massive failure.

No child wants to be Misbah.

However, it matters little for what Misbah lacks, for he has what many others do not.

The gift of leadership.

The most boring of all the cricket traits. The most important of all the cricket traits.

Like the wind, you can’t touch it. But you can feel it and witness its dramatic impacts.

A gift not necessarily held by the team’s best player, but a gift held by its most important.

Courage. Honesty. Doing what’s right. Owning the moment. Enthusing your men.

These are Misbah’s hooks and cover drives. They are more powerful and longer lasting than any blow to cow corner.

Misbah doesn’t have a shot. Misbah doesn’t have a signature swing of the bat. Misbah doesn’t have a slower ball. There is no relationship scandal. There is no stench of corruption. No child wears Misbah’s number on their back. They wouldn’t even know what number he wears. He has made the most ODI runs of any player to have never made an ODI century. Both a massive success and a massive failure. No child wants to be Misbah. However, it matters little for what Misbah lacks, for he has what many others do not. The gift of leadership

August 2016.

The turf at Lord’s is experiencing a 40-year-old man doing push-ups on it during a Test match.

It has never been seen before. It’s possible that these push-ups are the most meaningful and iconic statement made in cricket in the last 20 years.

A century just made at the Home of Cricket. In itself, nothing remarkable. Top order Test batsmen are designed to make hundreds.

A leader can mark his influence by a vast array of methods. In this instance, the sound of creaking, aging pectoral muscles is louder than anything his men have heard before. The message is clear.

‘Let them come and challenge us. We can beat them. No matter what they say.’

Pakistan cricket is a monster that can never be tamed. But it can be herded. Only for short periods of time. And only by magicians.

Imran demonstrated his sorcery in 1992.

Misbah proved he was a cricketing wizard in 2016. A wizard who casts his spells by doing push-ups.

That he guided this team to a series draw in England is no small achievement. Both countries were playing to be the number one ranked team in the world. England didn’t necessarily choke. Misbah’s team didn’t necessarily dominate. But it didn’t lose the series either. Under Misbah, Pakistan rarely lost.

For his efforts during this series, Wisden was concluding that both he and his partner in crime, Younis Khan, would be recipients of the coveted Wisden Cricketer of the Year award.


Not since Greenidge and Haynes has there been a more iconic batting partnership. One that defined the spirit of a nation.

Had Younis been born in Australia, we would be comparing him to Ponting. If he had been born in England, he would have no historical peer.

Yet, no one compares Misbah to anyone. His deeds with the bat were good. But it is his deeds as a leader of men that were of greater significance.

Unfortunately, there are no statistics for leadership.

A few days after the English series ended and after some rain in the West Indies, Pakistan became number one. It united a country like no event before.

Misbah had taken a rabble and moulded them into conquerors of the world.

There are people who hate Misbah. These people probably gain pleasure from drowning puppies.

A man who hasn’t been able to play at home since 2009. A man who overcame the egos of Afridi, Malik and multiple Akmals to gel a team. A man who formed one half of the all powerful Younis-ul-Haq dynamic batting duo.

A man with values. One who stood up against the reintegration of spot-fixers — a stance that after the recent Pakistan Super League appears to have been the right one.

A man who made the hundreds when he had to.

A man who has decided to leave the game while on the other side of the world. Compare that with Sachin, who had schedules manipulated so he could retire in a place that would stroke his ego.

While cricketers can be labelled great players or even legends because of their play, Misbah is an immortal based purely on his leadership. Not because of what he did with a piece of willow in his hand, but because of the man he is.

It doesn’t matter what happens in Misbah’s final Test series.

He may make more runs than ever before. He may fail like the majority of batsmen do. Whatever comes, it doesn’t matter.

History has written Misbah’s opus. His story is not of batting accomplishments or trophies won.

It is about making young men into better men. It is about goodness and values and family and trust. A fable about leadership through adversity and of a great human gently stroking a beard.

But Misbah won’t tell you about it. His grandchildren will not hear about his legend from their grandfather. This is not who Misbah is.

Pakistan will miss Misbah. Cricket will bemoan the loss of Misbah.

Saeed and his parents are enjoying a post-match meal.

“Father, I want to be like Misbah.”

This father smiles with pride. A mother realises her son is attracted to the right values. The world has just gained a better man.

This is Misbah’s legacy.

A great player. A leader of cricketers.

A maker of men.

Dennis Freedman is a cricket writer and host of Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw Cricket Show heard on Australian radio and globally via iTunes. Find him or @DennisCricket_