Category Archives: BLOGS

Living the good life in Alaçatı, Turkey’s chic seaside town

That’s the question most people ask me after “Where is Alaçatı?” when they learn of my seaside holiday. They list a number of other popular and beautiful destinations in Turkey — Antalya, Konya, Bodrum, and so on — that would have “offered more”.

But that’s exactly why Alaçatı (pronounced ah-lah-chah-tuh) appealed to me; it’s a place where you don’t have to think too much about what to do and where to go.

The whole feel of the resort town is relaxed, almost lazy, and no one seems to be in a rush — neither the residents nor the visitors.

Colourful windows and doors are a common feature among the town's stone houses.
Colourful windows and doors are a common feature among the town’s stone houses.

I met my friend who flew in from Doha at the Izmir Airport, from where we took a car to our hotel in Alaçatı.

Two flights and an hour’s drive later, we arrived at the 1882 Butik Otel, our home for the next three days.

Some of the hotels in Alaçatı are named after the year the structure was built; the stone house where we stayed dates back to 1882 but was renovated recently and launched as a boutique hotel in 2010.

One of the many chic cafes in Alaçatı.
One of the many chic cafes in Alaçatı.

We set out to discover the town centre, which could only be explored on foot or on a scooter as no cars are allowed.

The pink and purple bougainvillea, stone houses painted in pastel hues, and sidewalk cafes drew us in further into this picturesque town.

Alaçatı’s history is reflected through the Grecian-influenced architecture and the Santorini blue that’s painted over doors and furniture.

Greek immigrants from nearby islands founded the village, located on the Çesme Peninsula near the Aegean Sea, in the mid-17th century. These Greeks settlers called the town Agrilia, and established vineyards and grape processing factories there.

Pink and purple bougainvillea add to the town's beauty.
Pink and purple bougainvillea add to the town’s beauty.

During the population exchange in the 1920s, Turkish Muslims from the Balkan countries moved to the village whereas the Orthodox Greeks in Turkey moved to Greece.

Most of the old stone buildings were abandoned and for years, Alaçatı remained unnoticed.

In early 2000, renovation of the old houses began, alongside construction of new houses, modelled after the classic architectural characteristics of Çeşme-Alaçatı.

An arts and crafts supply store.
An arts and crafts supply store.

The weather in September suited us perfectly, as a light breeze was signalling winter’s arrival with the summer coming to an end.

Strolling through the town, it was refreshing not to bump into throngs of tourists at every shop and gallery.

Still a low-key destination, Alaçatı is the new, chic summer getaway for affluent Turks, mostly from Izmir and Istanbul, as well as a favourite spot for windsurfing due to its year-round winds.

The town wakes up late and slowly comes to life as most people head to the nearby beaches in the daytime.

The pristine ılıca beach is a 15-minute drive from the town centre.
The pristine ılıca beach is a 15-minute drive from the town centre.

Around lunchtime, more people can be seen visiting the shops and restaurants and by evening, the town centre comes alive with music, lights, and chatter.

We came across chic boutiques, designer jewellery, and modern art galleries, which were part of the upscale lifestyle local visitors enjoy.

If you’re looking to buy a few tokens to take back home, head to the shops near the windmills for variety and good rates.

For fresh local produce, spend some time at the Saturday market or stop at the homemade jams and pickled vegetables stalls set up around town.

A stall of pickled vegetables.
A stall of pickled vegetables.

For your culture fix, admire the art at the many galleries that dot the small alleys; our favourite was the colourful Kirli Çıkı Sanat Galerisi, where artwork of local artists adorned the furniture, entrance door, and courtyard.

In contrast to the rushed Istanbul life, where there are street food vendors at every corner, food in Alaçatı is a leisurely experience that is not to be rushed.

You can spend hours sitting at a streetside café sipping on Turkish tea, enjoy an assortment of mezze over lunch that extends into the evening, or have dinner in one of the hidden courtyard gardens.

The breakfast at our hotel was a delicious spread of white and yellow soft cheese, eggs, tomato and cucumber salad, a variety of jams (plus Nutella!), biber salçası (red pepper paste), black and green olives, and toasted pita with oozing cheese.

Enjoying traditional Turkish mezze at Asma Yaprağı.
Enjoying traditional Turkish mezze at Asma Yaprağı.

Greedy to try as many gastronomic delights as we could, we moved from one eatery to another for lunch, tea and coffee, dinner, and dessert over three days.

You can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants as long as you are willing to try something new and outside the box, but here are my top picks: Asma Yaprağı, where you’ll be taken inside a homey kitchen to choose from a number of traditional mezze (definitely try the special pumpkin) and meaty main courses, which are served in a stylish garden outside; Café Agrilia for inventive dishes (the lamb with red bean salsa and chocolate comes highly recommended) that can be savoured in a beautifully lit courtyard; and Furun Cafe & Patisserie for, of course, desserts, which are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat.

Three days later, it was time to say hoşçakal (goodbye) to the sleeping cats and dogs of Alaçatı, who seemed to appreciate the town’s gift of time more than anyone else.

Having tea at the Kirli Çıkı Sanat Galerisi.
Having tea at the Kirli Çıkı Sanat Galerisi.
A beautifully lit courtyard at Cafe Agrilia.
A beautifully lit courtyard at Cafe Agrilia.
Outdoor seating area at Asmalı Restaurant.
Outdoor seating area at Asmalı Restaurant.
A street side cafe in Alaçatı.
A street side cafe in Alaçatı.
Strolling through Alaçatı's cobbled streets.
Strolling through Alaçatı’s cobbled streets.
A stall of pickled vegetables in the town centre.
A stall of pickled vegetables in the town centre.
Turkish köfte and kebab at Orta Kahve restaurant.
Turkish köfte and kebab at Orta Kahve restaurant.
Traditional windmills.
Traditional windmills.

All photos by the author.


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Zahrah Mazhar is a freelance writer based in the United Arab Emirates. You can follow her on Instagram @zeeinstamazhar

My trip to the dreamlike, wondrous Faroe Islands

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to visit some of the most remote 18 islands in the world, called the Faroe Islands. They are located off the coast of northern Europe, between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.

Ever since I read an article on Faroese life, I had an insatiable desire to visit this archipelago of volcanic islands. The more I started reading about the islands, the sooner I started looking for flights. I just couldn’t resist visiting this place.

With unscathed landscapes and singular architecture, the islands provide wild scenery and unfathomable beauty. It’s almost a feeling of being divorced from reality as I made my way through winding roads that lead to small hamlets all across the islands.

With a population of sheep that outnumbers people significantly, this place remains one of the most untouched destinations.

Lake Sørvágsvatn — Lake sitting above an ocean?

As I began my journey, I came across one of the most amazing sights ever. Situated on the island of Vágar, this serene lake appears to be significantly higher than the ocean just below. I was astounded and wondered how this was possible.

This optical illusion creates the impression that the reservoir is located hundreds of feet above sea level. In reality, the elevation difference between the lake and the ocean is only about 30 metres. However, steep elevation changes in the surrounding hills give the lake its seemingly impossible look.

An optical illusion makes Lake Sørvágsvatn look absolutely incredible above the Atlantic Ocean.
An optical illusion makes Lake Sørvágsvatn look absolutely incredible above the Atlantic Ocean.
The calming beauty of Lake Sørvágsvatn leading to a cliff called Slave's Edge.
The calming beauty of Lake Sørvágsvatn leading to a cliff called Slave’s Edge.
The reflection of a hill near Lake Sørvágsvatn in Sørvágur.
The reflection of a hill near Lake Sørvágsvatn in Sørvágur.

Gásadalur village

Located in the western part of the Faroe Islands is the village of Gásadalur. Its few inhabitants have grown accustomed to the luxury of a slow life and the daily scenes of the magical fog setting in above the cliffs. This is a place that has its own pulse, puffins and mainland view of Mykines Island in the distance. The mountains of Gásadalur can inspire poets and writers, especially those who love solitude.

Waterfall off a cliff that leads into the Atlantic Ocean with the mountains of Vágar in the background.
Waterfall off a cliff that leads into the Atlantic Ocean with the mountains of Vágar in the background.
The road that cuts through the tunnels of Mountain of Vágar.
The road that cuts through the tunnels of Mountain of Vágar.
The quiet road leading to Gásadalur village.
The quiet road leading to Gásadalur village.

The beauty of Saksun

As I continued my journey across the north, I reached a small hamlet situated in the island of Streymoy with a population of 30 people. The beauty of this place left me speechless.

The town is perched on a cliff nearby a tiny church, a museum, and a lagoon surrounded by high cliffs with a passage that opens up to the Norwegian Sea.

The entrance to the village is a stunning lake surrounded by magical cliffs, a summer house, and waterfalls on both ends. I named this place God’s corner. I doubt I’ll ever witness a more beautiful place.

A summer house in the ancient village of Saksun.
A summer house in the ancient village of Saksun.
The scenic view of Saksun Lagoon.
The scenic view of Saksun Lagoon.
The highest museum in the Faroe Islands in Saksun.
The highest museum in the Faroe Islands in Saksun.
A mysterious house I saw on the way to Saksun.
A mysterious house I saw on the way to Saksun.

The mystery of Kalsoy

On the eastern side of the Faroe Islands, the mystery gets deeper as you enter the town of Mikladalur (great valley).

Once I arrived, my mission was to find the Legend of Kópakonan, one of the best known folktales in the Faroe Islands.

I drove across the breathtaking scenery and idiosyncratic architecture on this isolated island, which led me to a bronze statue of the Seal Woman. Seals in Faroese culture were believed to be former human beings who voluntarily sought death in the ocean.

The winding road that leads to Klaksvík.
The winding road that leads to Klaksvík.
Waterfall in Kalsoy.
Waterfall in Kalsoy.
A spectrum of light on top of a mountain in Borðoy that I saw from a ferry ride.
A spectrum of light on top of a mountain in Borðoy that I saw from a ferry ride.

There are some places that move you. The Faroe Islands is one such place.

It’s an alluring and mystical place for those who are looking for something different. There are no large shopping malls or endless souvenir shops selling items you don’t need.

If you are looking for tranquillity, a sense of wonder and escape from the hustle and bustle of life, this is the place to go to.


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Masood Mumtaz is a writer, photographer and a traveler currently living in Toronto, Canada. He grew up in Beijing, Dubai, Hartford and San Francisco and enjoys traveling around the world.

Celebrating Heer, the medieval heroine who challenged patriarchy in Punjab

The legend of Heer-Ranjha is believed to have played out in real life on the banks of the river Chenab, way back in the second half of the 15th century. This was the site that many poets chose to tell the tale of the lovers.

For instance, scholar Muhammad Sheeraz places it thus: “For centuries, the Chenab River has been flowing through the soils of the Punjab, the land of five rivers, and its fast and furious waves have told tales of love and romance. Heer-Ranjha is one of the tales told in unison by the waters of the Chenab.”

It was the rendition by Sufi poet Waris Shah, completed in 1766, that captured the imagination of the Punjabis. His Qissa is an all-time classic and a bestseller. Chandigarh-based historian Ishwar Gaur, who sources his writing of Punjab’s history from folklore, Sufi poetry and Gurbani, said about Waris’ text:

“It is a complete socio-cultural text of the turbulent 18th Century Punjab and truly secular in nature and it is time we acknowledged its value and not treated it as mere erotica.”

Lahore-based Punjabi writer Zubair Ahmad echoed Gaur’s sentiments, saying: “Waris was loved across borders, and is one of the most significant poets of Punjabi, who stood for unity and assertion of women’s identity. That is why famous modern poet Amrita Pritam called out to him in her immortal poem on the Partition, ‘Ajj akhan Waris Shah nu…’ (Waris Shah, I call out to you today).”

The text is quoted as part of spontaneous everyday conversations in Punjab, so it was not surprising that litterateurs chose to celebrate 250 years of Heer Waris, as the legend is popularly known. A call for celebrations was sent out through social media, on the cross-border literary group ‘Kitab Trinjan’.

London-based Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan said on the Facebook page of Kitab Trinjan that he wished for a celebratory Indo-Pak literary event, at the mazaar of Waris in Malka Hans village, near Pakpattan in Pakistan, and postage stamps commemorating Heer-Ranjha in both countries.

Star-crossed neighbours

Image credit:  Abdul Rehman Chugtai
Image credit: Abdul Rehman Chugtai

Of course none of this happened. As the year progressed, India-Pakistan relations grew tense. The establishment chose to stay away from celebrating this legend of love and revolt, but poets, writers and historians chose to mark the year regardless, with literary and art events in the two Punjabs, separated by the barbed wire of the Line of Control. They held readings, discussions at the SOAS University, London, with scholars from India and Pakistan. Jasbir Jassi and Madan Gopal Singh sang Heer in Delhi.

It has been refreshing to assess the medieval heroine who dared to transcend social bounds for her lover Ranjha, whose first name was Dheedo. Another prominent Sufi poet of the 18th century, Bulleh Shah, described intensity of her passion, in first person, as Sufi poets are known to do when speaking of love:

Ranjha Ranjha kardi hun main aape Ranjha hoyi Sakhiyo ni mainu Dheedo Ranjha, Heer na akho koyi (Chanting the name of Ranjha I myself am Ranjha now My friends call me Dheedo Ranjha not Heer anymore)

Gaur, who had authored a book in 2008, called Society, Religion and Patriarchy: Exploring Medieval Punjab through Hir Waris, chose this year’s anniversary to mount an exhibition at the Panjab University Museum, a rare collection of the depictions of Heer-Ranjha in popular art. He collected visuals from the copies of Qissa sold at fairs and festivals over a quarter of a century, as also from magazines and journals.

Laying emphasis on the spirit of Heer, Gaur said, “Not only does Heer fall in love, but she fights for her right to love and marriage as per her wish.”

The exhibition includes three graphics in which Heer, the daughter of the soil, is shown beating Ranjha when she finds him resting in her boat by the Chenab, with her villainous uncle Kaidon and the Qazi, the religious head.

“The text of Heer-Waris confirms only her beating Kaidon, the rest are folk perceptions,” Gaur said. “She does confront Ranjha when she sees him the first time, asleep in her boat, until their eyes meet and they fall in love. She argues with the Qazi forcefully, and the folk view is that she has beaten him for his bigotry. In fact these works celebrate the spirit of Heer who has ruled the hearts for so many centuries.”

Worthy to note, as one salutes the spirit of the medieval maiden and the poet who penned her 250 years ago, that Heer’s name was once never given to a girl child, lest she develop the independence and fearlessness of her namesake. However, over the past decade or two, some young parents have named their daughters Heer even though their number is few. May the tribe of Heers multiply.


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Nirupama Dutt is a poet, journalist and translator based in Chandigarh. She writes in Punjabi and English. Her published work includes Ik Nadi Sanwali Jahi (A Stream Somewhat Dark), a book of poems, for which she received the Punjabi Akademi Award. She also edited an anthology of fiction by Pakistani women writers, Half the Sky, and a collection of resistance literature from Pakistan, Children of the Night.

What they never tell us about Ayub Khan’s regime

Pakistanis are a forgiving lot. They are even more forgiving of the dead. Civil and military dictators, fascists, hate-spewing clerics, and vigilantes end up with disciples, and at times, even with a shrine.

Military dictators are slightly more fortunate. An army of repute defenders, in uniform and civvies, continues singing the praise of the golden era when the ‘General Sahib’ once ruled.

They reminisce about the days when honey and milk flowed in ravines and open drains, and when the economic growth rivalled that of South Korea or some other Asian tiger or cat.

October 27 marked the 58th anniversary of the Martial Law imposed by General Ayub Khan.

Given that we have the advantage of hindsight, we can revisit the ‘golden days’ to test the veracity of the claims of bounty and harmony that are usually retailed, yet seldom verified.

Political leaders of all stripes and tenor must envy the good repute General Ayub Khan continues to enjoy almost 50 years after he reluctantly relinquished power.

The popular discourse about the Ayub era (1958 – 1969) is that of economic growth, prosperity, and the growing stature of Pakistan on the world stage.

However, the economic realities of the time are much less glamorous, if not dismal.

An objective review of General Ayub Khan’s policies and actions suggests that his primary motive was to sustain and prolong his rule as his regime sowed the seed, and generously watered the plant, for Bangladesh’s separation that came years later.

He empowered the religious fundamentalists as he sought their support against Fatima Jinnah.

The economic growth, which many cite as his singular achievement, promoted the income inequalities resulting in the rise of the 20 influential families who controlled the nation’s resources and amassed ill-gotten wealth, leaving the rest poor, hungry, and resentful.

Also read: Exit stage left: the movement against Ayub Khan

A Chief Martial Law Administrator is born

General Ayub’s dramatic ascent to power in 1958 came after a decade of political turmoil.

From 1947 to 1958, Pakistan was governed by four heads of state and seven prime ministers.

The political jostling for power incapacitated the then president, General Iskander Mirza, who suspended the parliament and appointed a new cabinet with General Ayub Khan as the new prime minister.

However, within days, Ayub Khan turned the tables on General Mirza forcing him into a pensioned exile in London.

General Ayub Khan declared himself the president of Pakistan on October 27 while he simultaneously held the office of the Chief Martial Law Administrator. In the General’s words:

“Major General Iskander Mirza, lately President of Pakistan, has relinquished his office of President and has handed over all powers to me. Therefore, I have this night assumed the office of President and have taken upon myself the exercise of the said powers and all other powers appertaining thereto.”

Too illiterate to vote, but literate enough to create a homeland

From the time he assumed control, General Ayub resented the public and the democratic process.

For him, the public was too illiterate and poor to be trusted with adult franchise.

So he created an electorate (“basic democracy”) of a few thousand of whom 95% elected the General as their leader.

That the same illiterate and poor people of Pakistan were wise enough to have voted earlier with their hearts, minds, and feet to create a new country that elevated the same General to the office of the army chief was not sufficient for them to have earned the General’s trust for adult franchise.

General Ayub Khan held the politicians squarely responsible for the “chaotic internal situation” and accused them of being willing to barter the country “for personal gains”.

He was keen to imprison leading politicians in East and West Pakistan.

The military dictators that came after him have held a similar contempt for politicians.

The economics of inequality

Shahid Javed Burki, a former World Bank economist, rightly identified the fundamental disconnect between the public and the Ayub Junta that celebrated 10-years of being in power by highlighting GDP growth and other inflated macroeconomic indicators.

The general public, however, cared less of the aggregate statistics as they struggled without much success against price inflation and spatial income disparities.

Burki points out that the so-called economic growth was rooted in income inequality, which worsened over time between regions and among people with the growth in the macroeconomy.

The result was evident: half of the industrial wealth accrued to Chinioties in Punjab and the immigrant Memons, Bohras, and Khojas.

At the same time, General Ayub opened the door to foreign experts who were ignorant of, and alien to, the political economy of Pakistan.

Yet they came armed with policies that might have worked elsewhere but were ill-suited for Pakistan’s challenges.

General Ayub’s economic prowess need not be discounted entirely. His penchant for central planning is evident in the second five-year plan.

The inflow of foreign capital, at twice the rate of that of India, sparked growth in industries that supported consumer goods.

One must also review what drove the growth and what industrial sectors blossomed as a result.

A close look at what transpired reveals that there was nothing organic about the growth.

It was primarily driven by foreign aid, the same way General Musharraf’s rule was buttressed by American aid after 9/11.

By December 1961, foreign aid was more than twice the size of foreign loans. With the second five-year plan in 1964, foreign aid was responsible for 40% of the total investment.

And that’s not all. Foreign aid covered 66% of the cost of imports. One must give credit where it’s due, and it’s mainly foreign aid.

Read next: Religious orthodoxy during Ayub regime

Despite the foreign investment as aid and credit, and the aggressive public works programme pursued by the regime to generate new jobs, unemployment persisted, and even worsened during the second five year plan from 5.5 million man-years in 1960-1 to 5.8 million man-years in 1964-5 in East Pakistan.

The regime allocated twice as much for atomic energy than it did for technical training.

What about the rapid industrialisation undertook by the Ayub regime using foreign aid? As soon as the industries started generating revenue, the regime disposed of them to private investors.

During 1964-65, the loans and advances by the government to the private sector were twice the size of the direct investments by the industry.

However, profit-making units that should have been set up by the industry in the first place should have not been handed over to the industrialists as an unearned reward.

Those who defend General Ayub Khan’s reign also hold false memories of peace and harmony. Do such claims withstand empirical scrutiny?

Raunaq Jahangir, quoted by Burki, demonstrated that violence, especially in Bangladesh (East Pakistan), increased tremendously during the Ayub era.

If there was peace and tranquility in the sixties, why did the unrest in 1968-69 reach such a feverish pitch?

It was not the economic growth, but the increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few that irked the have-nots and fuelled violence.

A critical report by none other than Dr Mehboobul Haq, the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, revealed that a coterie of just 20 families controlled two-thirds of the industry and three-fourth of the banking.

Pakistan’s poet laureate, Habib Jalib, could not ignore the injustice. His poetry galvanised the public as he recited poems at gatherings where tens-of-thousands heard him denounce the 20 nouveau riche, who became even richer at the cost of keeping millions poor. Jalib wrote:

Biis gharanay hein abaad / Or karorron hein nashaad / Sadar Ayub Zindabad.

Related: Land reforms in Pakistan

General Ayub’s global fan base

There was no shortage of the high-profile admirers. From de Gaulle of France to President Johnson of the United States, Western leaders were singing praise for the economic growth in Pakistan.

Even Robert McNamara, the then World Bank president, proclaimed that Pakistan under General Ayub was “one of the greatest successes of development in the world”.

However, experts were quick to point out that de Gaulle, Johnson, McNamara and others focused solely on growth and ignored the distribution of wealth resulting in income inequalities that sowed the seeds of discontent, violence, and ultimately caused the splitting of East and West Pakistan.

The Bangladesh debacle

An oft-cited criticism of the former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971 – 77) is that he engineered Bangladesh’s succession to avoid sharing with, or worse losing power to, the demographically dominant East Pakistan.

However, it was General Ayub’s years of preferred treatment of West Pakistan that irked East Pakistanis, who couldn’t ignore the sustained rebukes when General Ayub placed three of the largest legacy projects, i.e., the construction of the new capital (Islamabad) and the two large hydel projects (Mangla and Tarbela) in West Pakistan.

Furthermore, General Ayub never kept a confidante from East Pakistan as all the King’s men belonged to West Pakistan.

The government of best intentions and worst implementation

Land reforms were one of the cornerstones of General Ayub’s socio-political reengineering that restricted the maximum size of land holdings to encourage a more equitable distribution of land and resources among the landless peasantry.

The land reforms, however, achieved little in limiting the size of land holdings and limiting the political clout of the landed gentry. Instead, power and wealth concentrated further in the hands of the notorious 20 families.

The Ayub regime decided to limit land holdings to 500 acres of cultivated land, 1,000 acres of dry land, and 150 acres of orchards. Over 6,000 landowners exceeded the newly defined ceilings, owning 7.5 million acres of land.

The landowners though outsmarted the regime by transferring the land in advance to relatives so that ownership remained with the landed gentry. Thus, not much land was transferred to landless peasants.

Ayub Khan and Islam

Unlike General Ziaul Haq (1977-1988), who spent 11 years of his dictatorial rule to revert Pakistan back to a 7th-century medieval utopia, General Ayub was more of a modernist who was wary of the attempts to convert Pakistan into a desert kingdom of a bygone era.

While addressing a seminary he articulated his views:

“This I consider a great disservice to Islam, that such a noble religion should be represented as inimical to progress … In fact, it is great injustice to both life and religion to impose on twentieth century man the condition that he must go back several centuries in order to prove his bonafides as a true Muslim.”

General Ayub’s most significant and long lasting contribution is the promulgation of Muslim Family Laws Ordinance in 1961 that empowered women, especially in the matters of marriage and divorce.

Though the commission that drafted the recommendations was constituted in 1954, the Ayub regime took steps to implement the laws empowering women.

Before the family laws were enacted, neither marriages or divorces were required to be registered with the state.

This created severe hardships for divorced women, some of whom eventually remarried.

Their former husbands could, and some even did out of malice, accuse them of adultery since the women lacked proof of divorce from the first husband.

The new laws also required men who desired a second wife to seek formal consent from the first wife.

In summary, the acts and ordinances introduced by the Ayub regime discouraged polygyny, “protected the rights of wives and granted the rights of inheritance to grandchildren.”

On the same topic: A secular man?

Despite his belief and the desire to modernise the society, General Ayub was quick to give into religious orthodoxy as long as the policy about-turns prolonged his control over power.

Sarfraz Husain Ansari documented the policy flip-flops as the General reinstated the restrictive clauses of the Objective Resolution in 1963, which had been expunged from the Constitution earlier.

Furthermore, while the 1962 Constitution used “Pakistan” as the official name, the General yielded to the religious forces and changed the country’s name to “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” in December 1963.

Finally, the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, which does not miss an opportunity to embarrass Pakistanis by its archaic, and frequently misogynist, interpretations of Islam, is also a gift from General Ayub that keeps on giving.

Ab raaj karey gi khalq-i-khuda

Regardless of how efficient a military regime becomes, in the end, the protagonist has to surrender to the political process in the theatre of governance.

General Ayub was no exception.

Despite his misgivings about politicians and the political process, he joined a political party, the Conventional Muslim League, a version of which has always been available to Pakistan’s military rulers as they struggle to transition out of the uniform.

General Ayub knew that joining the political party was no win for him. He explained the reason he acceded to a party was because he had “failed to play this game in accordance with my rules and so I have to play in accordance with their rules — and the rules demand that I belong to somebody, otherwise who is going to belong to me. So it is simple. It is an admission of defeat on my part anyway.”

One wonders if Generals Zia and Musharraf, who followed in General Ayub’s footsteps, ever knew or understood his words.

At the end of the day, the right to rule belongs to the people, and it reverts to them regardless, for eternal victory belongs to them, and not to civilian or military dictators.

If it were not for his health issues, would General Ayub still consider abdicating voluntarily? In January 1968, he caught a viral infection followed by pneumonia that developed into a pulmonary embolism.

By the fall of 1968, his health deteriorated even more.

At the same time, the opposition by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gained strength. On February 21, 1969, General Ayub threw in the towel declaring he would not seek re-election in 1970. By March, General Yahya Khan took control as the Chief Martial Law Administrator.

On the same theme: Objectives Resolution: the root of religious orthodoxy

The repeated failed experiments of military rule in Pakistan make it abundantly clear that unlike other developing countries in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia where military dictators have enjoyed tremendous longevity, Pakistanis love independence and will not tolerate for long attempts to curb their political freedoms.

At the very onset of General Ayub’s Martial Law, Justice M. R. Kiyani, the then Chief Justice of the West Pakistan High Court, articulated the very aspirations of freedom and independence of the people as he addressed the Bar Association in Karachi:

“There are quite a few thousand men who’d rather have the freedom of speech than a new pair of clothes and it is these who form a nation, not the office hunters, the license hunters, even the tillers of soil and drawers of water.”

Just two days later, the Chief Justice was forced to tender an apology for offending army officers.

Pakistan, despite its struggles with rule of law, violence, and crumbling infrastructure, is stronger today because no one can dare force a Chief Justice to apologise for upholding the Constitution and the principles of democracy.


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Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of Regionomics.com.

He tweets @regionomics

TV, film bans in India, Pakistan won’t affect our cultural bond

Friday nights, the oldest and youngest members of my household sit and watch one of their favourite TV shows together. It is the weekend and my eight-year-old gets to stay up late with her grandmother; an age difference of sixty years bridged over an hour of CID, the Indian rendition of a crime show.

Now splintered into individual screens and devices, Friday nights are a throwback to when television was watched as a collective family experience. They remind me of my own childhood in Lahore, evenings spent watching Chitrahaar on a snowy Doordarshan together with grandparents, cousins and aunts.

CID’s pseudo-forensics, absurd chases and improbable plots are a little better than Scooby Doo, but it is innocent entertainment. There is something comforting, reassuring, when ACP Pradhyuman grimaces before saying his signature dialogue, “Kuch toh garbar hai”.

But last Friday, when we switched to Geo Kahani, there was no CID. Obviously, the Pemra ban on Indian content and dramas had begun even before the announced cut-off date of October 21. We shrugged. There is always YouTube on a smart TV; we thought, at least YouTube was unbanned.

And so it will be. Even as cable operators shut down the Indian songs, dramas and movies churned out by myriad TV, Direct-to-Home satellites and FM channels, YouTube, torrents, illegal streaming sites and DVDs offer an alternative. Indian songs are still the soundtrack to our weddings, their actors and actresses are still our pinups, their dialogues and characters will remain our cultural references. That’s because culture inevitably percolates through boundaries.

We’ve been here before; nothing to see here, move along. Culture has never been magicked through government notifications.

There is some logic to the ban, of course. For one, a lot of the content is illegal. For example, cable operators broadcast multiple in-house channels from pirated CDs, giving them far more time than Pemra sanctions. Local channels can give foreign content 10% of airtime, of which 6% can be Indian. Meanwhile, digital satellite services offered through smuggled DTH sets like Tata are similarly illegal, costing Pemra revenue.

But that is beside the point, because Pemra could’ve launched the crackdown years ago. It isn’t as if all this illegality has suddenly come to light.

What has prompted all this? An eye for an eye. Green and white over the Indian tricolour.

If you ban our talent, threaten violence against theatre owners who show films featuring our people and drop our dramas from your TV screens, so shall we. If Karan Johar can put his country first, so can we.

Jamaat-i-Islami and numerous other groups have tried to de-Indianise Pakistani media but never succeeded. It has taken the Hindu right-wing to prompt Pemra and cinema owners to purge screens.

About the prohibition on screening Indian films in Pakistani cinemas, founder of Mandviwalla Entertainment which produces and distributes films, Nadeem Mandviwalla told me, “It’s not good business but what can we do? They started it.”

Except it’s not just about legality, or business, but a surface nationalism shorn of civilisational roots. Neither Indian nor Pakistani culture is the enemy.

Enough damage has been caused by the never-ending cycle of proxy wars for this to now degenerate into a proxy culture war. If there was one hope, it was the officially sanctioned exchange of culture. It never stopped the cold war, the hostile news media, the exchange of firing along the Line of Control, the spies, the hyper-nationalistic rhetoric. But it remained the calm beneath layers of hostility.

But now that this calm has been disturbed, it feels that something is truly rotting, because it signifies capitulating to ultra-nationalists whose view of the world is black and white, even violent.


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Amber Shamsi

Hosts news and current affairs magazine show Newswise on DawnNews, formerly working for the BBC, Herald and The News on Sunday. She tweets at @AmberRShamsi