Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Sense and sovereignty in Kafkastan

Published May 21, 2011 09:38am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

I just returned from Karachi, where the city was outraged at the unscheduled, endless power cuts. Everywhere, the energy crisis dominated the discussions. In certain areas, there is no power for the last three days!

But for Imran Khan and his supporters, the biggest issue appears to be drone attacks taking place almost a thousand kilometers north of the port city. Banners advising the citizens to join the protests against drones appeared almost surreal in a city where the criminal gangs, safely ensconced within the mainstream political parties, are perpetrating target killings. Even less worrying to Khan's supporters is the presence of al Qaeda operatives and underground don[s] who allegedly hide well in the multitudes of Karachi.

Are drones and war on terror really responsible for the plight of Pakistan? Amnesia is not uncommon in Pakistan especially when daily doses of violence have almost desensitised the society. Not to mention the fact that big cities have to function: people have to travel for work, earn livelihoods and find spaces for recreation and entertainment.

Drone attacks are reprehensible and arguably create more terrorists than they eliminate. However, the deeper question is why are we allowing them to happen. Khan's supporters argued passionately the night before the new WikiLeaks were revealed by DAWN, about how US was imposing these strikes and challenging our national sovereignty. Late Thursday night was a surreal moment at its best. While listening to a rant on Imran-Khan-is-right, Twitter started flashing the headlines of what is now public.

No, forget the corrupt civilians. The holiest of cows – Pakistan Army – according to the new cables was privy and a participant of drone planning. Pundits and 'informed sources' within the media have been hinting at the coziness between Imran Khan and the security establishment these days. In particular, how Khan has been sparing the Military Inc on the drone crisis and holding the inept civilian government responsible for these attacks on our collective honour.

Whipping anti-Americanism helps concerned quarters; and is popular given the narratives of being let down by the super power time and again. But it also misleads, misinforms and diverts the public attention from the militants and the cancer of extremism that has engulfed Pakistani society.

To read this in a city gearing for an anti-US, anti-drone protest was surely stuff that makes a black comedy eternally appealing: "In a cable dated February 19,

2009, Ambassador Patterson … writes: "Kayani knows full well that the strikes have been precise (creating few civilian casualties) and targeted primarily at foreign fighters in the Waziristans."

Dawn’s report on this issue also highlighted the gap "between private GOP acquiescence and public condemnation for US action" and spotted our favourite national pastime: double speak. The shrewd Patterson also wrote in that cable: "Pakistani leaders who feel they look increasingly weak to their constituents could begin considering stronger action against the US, even though the response to date has focused largely on ritual denunciation."

The ritual has been done to death now. Countless TV shows, media mujahideen and Imran Khan have been ranting and raving on the drone strikes. Of late hundreds of legislators joined the chorus against drone strikes in the recent joint session of the Parliament condemning the unilateral action taken by the US to kill Osama bin Laden.

Recently, a sizzling report by the British newspaper Guardian also indicated that action against OBL was part of secret understanding between Gen Musharraf and the US. Of course, the wounded General has initiated legal action against the paper. Let's hope that there is justice and truth comes out in its full form.

What is honour then? A game that the powerful play to dupe the people into accepting big fat budgets for security; expanding the nuclear programme when we beg the IMF for liquidity; and 'appeal' to the world community to manage our natural disasters. When the ungrateful international community asks us to raise taxes we cite the figures of how much Israel gets as US aid or how much is the US spending on the war in Afghanistan. God forbid, do we wish to be bracketed with Israel, notwithstanding the eerie similarities, or we want to be like the evil Amreeka – using war for private profit? Surely, the rich want no taxes and we need to expand our nuclear arsenal. How do we achieve this? By spreading xenophobia; and deepening the state of national insecurity.

As if this khaki enigma was not enough, the revelation that the PML-N's leadership may have been complicit in ways to get rid of the Chief Justice in 2009 was a strong dose of reality-check. US Ambassador Anne Patterson commented "no leader in Pakistan really wants an activist and unpredictable Chief Justice"; and that discussions took place as to how to find a face-saving solution to get rid of the good judge. Amazing stuff. All in a day's work!

True that these cables are diplomatic impressions often based on information gathered during conversations, they cannot be dismissed altogether. Anecdotes cannot be substitute for 'hard' data but the fact that such conversations take place in the Byzantine power culture says a lot about our civilian and military leadership.

Most importantly, will Imran Khan now do a sit in outside the GHQ? Or would he cite the WikiLeaks as another US conspiracy to defame and defang Pakistan?

Meanwhile, best of luck to Karachi wallas who will join the protests in scorching heat.


Raza Rumi is a policy advisor, writer and editor based in Lahore. His writings are archived at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

Raza Rumi is a journalist, editor and public policy specialist.

Currently, he is living in exile after escaping an assassination attempt, which killed his driver, in March 2014.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (27) Closed

narayana murthy May 21, 2011 03:04pm
Mr Raza Rumi, did you recently write an article on Pakistani textbooks also. Very good article by the way.
Mahesh Patil May 21, 2011 04:29pm
Nice and great article. We Indians and Pakistanis psyche is same. It is easy to bend our mind emotionally. There many intellectuals amongst you. Mr.Irfan Hussain, Mr.Nadeem Paracha,Mr.Kamran Shafi, Mr.Razi Azmi and so many. Their columns are never biased and are never afraid to say axe is an axe. Well I think apart from writing articles, you people should come together and form a forum and see what best you can collectively do to turn the tide around. I do not think writing Blogs in English, its message does reach to majority of Pakistanis. Talk to them in their own language, make them understand what follies Army and Government are committing. Why Taliban and foreign mercenaries are dangerous to Pakistanis itself. Try to bring change in syllabus of primary and secondary schools.
Zia Ahmad May 21, 2011 05:20pm
Excellent write up on the collective blindness posed by the powers that be and mass indoctrination that pits us poor Pakistan against a wily scheming big bad world. The need is paramount to distribute the voice of reason such as this in Urdu to the impressionable masses.
mirza hussain May 21, 2011 06:02pm
Raza Sb, you article sure makes interest reading. I only wish to add, that in the recent past, i have read so many articles, suggestions, even heard to my utmost displeasure 'Talk-Shows'. With one and only one conclusion. We really don't know who we are, and what is our goal/objective. Also where do we wish it to end. I don't wish to blame any one for the present situation faced by us as a nation. I strongly believe, its nature taking its toll for the evil that is so deeply in bedded in us, that no amount of regret or remorse can provide any form of relief. Lets just bow our heads in front of 'ALLAH' and this time with all sincerity/purity beg him for his forgiveness. I have firm conviction that should we surrender to our past mistakes, we definitely have a bright future. After all we believe he is the forgiving kind. Lets at least try. There are no levels to 'God's miracles. Thank You.
Pardeep Dembla May 21, 2011 06:47pm
wow,,,your blog is worth consideration bro but Mahlesh patel is absolutely, this is not gonna to give message to majority of Pakistani there must be Particular conversation to piss off everyone who is involved in all these bullshits..really, it hurts when we find every leader of our country being in violence, corruption etc...May we get a great leader in the future.
Bashir May 21, 2011 06:58pm
Due to lack of education in Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking majority of people of Pakistan can be easily fed on fodder consisting of lies, misinterpretations and conspiracy theories. One Urdu TV News channel translated "Shah Mahmood Qureshi told US Assistant Secretary of State Richard A Boucher that India-Pakistan relations could not be held hostage to the issue of Kashmir alone" as 'Qureshi said Kashmir cannot be de-linked from improvement of relations with India in other fields"!
Fersos May 21, 2011 07:08pm
They say if you repeat a lie a hundred times, it may get taken for the truth. Citizens must understand that those in Power can survive there by diverting the gaze from non performance elsewhere. We therefore find rulers pointing fingers East, West and elsewhere for the countries problems, in the process playing with peoples emotions resulting in the unwanted ailment of radicalisation.
Bashir May 21, 2011 07:12pm
God ONLY helps those who help themselves. Allah can give us Happiness. It cannot give us Education, Electricity, Petrol and economic prosperity. To be happy without economic properity we need to become like North Korea where the living political leader is god, or greater than god.
Abdul Waheed May 21, 2011 07:44pm
I endorse the comments of Mr. Mahesh Patel. The columns / articles of bloggers are communicated to very few people and are not effective. Not only their articles should be reprodeced in Urdu Newspapers but if possible discussed in talkshows of some major channels.
Ahsan May 21, 2011 07:58pm
Don't forget that Leaks are 100 percent CORRECT. You guys(Media) are trying to make people believe that everything revealed in cables are true.
Arman Zain May 21, 2011 08:41pm
Yes!! having no electricity is a big problem not but not bigger then loss of self respect. Drone attacks are insulting and humiliating for Pakistani Nation regardless of who are doing it and with whose will. As a Pakistani I fee bad about them and as a Pakistani it is our duty to do something about it, much more then writing a blog or commenting on it. Thus there is no point putting electricity vs Drone attacks. Both exist because as nation we haven't learned anything beside looking for way out (escape). To me this article is point less.
Rohith May 21, 2011 09:14pm
Honest article. Hope these thoughts are mitigated by a strong campaign.
Piyush Sharma May 21, 2011 10:13pm
Does nobody in Pakistan have the gall to quetion the Army ? Reportedly, the ISI chief admonished two politicians for doing so ! Unthinkable in India or any other country ! If it happened than there is definitely no democracy in Pakistan. Or is it embedded in the Pakistani psyche that they are surrounded by enemies and only the Army is their lone saviour.
Haider May 21, 2011 10:44pm
Pakistan is facing major problems on different fronts, drone attacks is one of them. Imran khan is doing his bit addressing one of these problems, i appreciate and fully support it. And i am afraid, i donot agree with Mr.Rumi's point that seems to suggest that drones might not be our major or immediate problem.
sharma May 22, 2011 08:19am
"Pakistan requests China to run Gwadar port" so much so for sovereignity!!!!!!!!!!!
ashish May 22, 2011 12:12pm
Well sitting in India i never realized that there are such informed voices as well in Pakistan. And i can say Pakistan fate is in his own people, who should not fall to bluffs spreaded by worst politicians. God bless Pakistan.
rubina May 22, 2011 02:23pm
I wonder why Dawn is so anti-Imran Khan . Every other day we have an article or a blog entry trying to undermine Khan's political accumen and struggle. This is being done quite persistently and I'm glad to say that most of the people who comment on these articles and blogs don't subscribe to such views. Still, it's very disappointing to see a newspaper of this stature doing such a thing.
Vineet May 22, 2011 02:38pm
Good Article! Hope more Pakistanis think this way and recognise the true nature of the world around them and the state of affairs of their politicians, Army and other institutions. Pakistanis need to focus more on their present and immediate problems rather than on perceived or other problems that do not even impact their daily lives!!
faraz May 22, 2011 04:09pm
well done raza, you have explained everything so well that picture is clear now. we know where we are standing right now.. may Allah help us to come out of it..
Anonn May 23, 2011 12:12am
Imran Khan is the only honest and sincere leader Pakistan has and is its last hope. The rest from Zardari to Kayani are just fooling the masses.
Ravi Singh May 23, 2011 07:51am
Encouraging article. Never a good idea to allow the Military to run the country. Without wanting to appear to be lecturing anyone, It will greet when the Pakistani people take back their nation. Our best wishes are with you
sameer May 23, 2011 08:10am
I wish there was someone like you in Egypt,who would told people to march in front of military headquarter rather than in Tahrir squar
Sheikh Chilli May 23, 2011 12:14pm
ok fine, wat u want firstly, stop the drone attacks or power ON??? Hope u get the rite answer.
Raoul May 24, 2011 12:54am
Pakistan has become a nation where everyone loves their country, but, possibly, not their fellow man. hence all become emotionally charged at "country in danger", but no one cares for people's welfare/lack of it!
John May 24, 2011 11:33am
Great article. Illustrates the most important and glaring problem in Pakistan. The priorities of the politicians including Imran Khan are so messed up, it's ridiculous. As a Pakistani I am sick of the socio-economic collapse of this country. Why aren't people demanding basic necessities such as 24 hour electricity, hot water as fundamental rights of citizens. If this happened in any other developed country, city officials would be fired and held accountable, yet in Pakistan, we think it's the norm so we begrudgingly live w/ it. Nonsense. Where is the priority in Pakistan on education? We need Islam into the brains of children, yet, we neglect them of common sense. Something is very wrong in Pakistan.
Paul May 24, 2011 11:34am
To Americans, Pakistan politics, pride, and conspiracy theories are setting their country back by decades each year. I recommend getting out of Pakistan for a few years and realize how the world sees you. Khan will set you back decades with his blame the outsider roadmap, because the problem is inside.
Jason May 24, 2011 03:35pm
Interesting article, having lived in Pakistan on and off I really do think that the people of Pakistan are some what trapped in a religious bubble and banter. The people need to get their priorities right, 1st of all sort the electric problems along with corruption, then 2nd teach people to respect each other and then talk about the war on terror! Pakistan is going down the road of disaster when the problems that are occurring on a day to day basis are easy to sort out (example would be of Lahore Defence residence complex). When I travel around the world I always meet up with Pakistani people whom are both successful and knowledgeable but coming to the land of the people leaves me stumped the majority of times. Sad Sad Sad.