Liberty or death

Posted in history by jrahman on December 5, 2011

Earlier this year, Pakistani nuclear black marketeer AQ Khan created a bit of a storm over his observation that ‘the purpose of a nuclear weapon is to deter aggressions, such as the ones Pakistan faced in 1971’ — that’s my translation of what he says in the video below, Urdu is a foreign language to me and I’m happy to be corrected).

The cyberspace is, of course, as close to a free speech utopia as we can get.  Notice the hilarious (to me, at least) ape-like chest-thumping of the person who posted the video.  That vulgar Pakistani nationalism was matched by equally crude Bangladeshi (and I suspect Indian, haven’t checked) exercise of comparative phallic measurements.  In the process, sadly, an interesting discussion was missed.

What follows over the fold is an attempt at that discussion.


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The other March anniversary

Posted in fantasy by jrahman on March 24, 2011

This week, Bangladesh celebrates its 40th birthday — the country came into existence on 26 March 1971.  As it happens, this week as also seen the 71st anniversary of another seminal event — on 23 March 1940, the Lahore Resolution was presented at a meeting of the All India Muslim League by AK Fazlul Huq, the then Prime Minister of Bengal.   Popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution, it stated:

That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

Did the events of March 1971 nullify the resolution of March 1940?  Or was the earlier resolution realised by the later events? 

Beyond the chest thumping Bangla blogs and op ed columns, there is actually a very lively academic discourse that wrestles with these questions.  I strongly recommend the reader to writings of Ahmed Safa, Jatin Sarkar, Tazeen Murshid or Joya Chaterjee — a page of their average writing is much better than a dozen op eds by, say, Syed Badrul Ahsan (unless you read Ahsan for sheer entertainment value).

Personally, I prefer to see myself as a student of history, not a scholar.  So I don’t really have anything terribly original to say about that discourse.  Instead, let me indulge in ‘what if’ fantasies about a two-winged Pakistan surviving beyond 1971.


After the empire falls

Posted in sports by jrahman on February 18, 2011

After the empire falls, smaller successor states fight it out for supremacy.  A period of instability and chaos ensues.  Amid that chaos lies the possibility of a new power, a new paradigm.  That makes these very exciting times, especially if you are an underdog.

I could be talking about the Romans and Europe, or the Mughals and India, or the Gallactic Empire a long time ago, far, far away.  But I am really talking about cricket.

When I was young, the West Indies ruled the cricketing world.  Greenidge-Haynes opening, Richards and Lloyd in the middle order, and a series of pacers — Roberts-Croft-Garner-Holding-Marshall.  Blackwashing the English twice, unbeaten for 27 matches in the early 1980s — growing up in a left-progressive household in the pre-satellite TV Bangladesh, they along with Bob Marley were our anti-imperialist heroes, first superstars from the third world, master blasters!


Party like it’s 1969

Posted in politics by jrahman on February 13, 2011

SMS, e-mail, facebook — all forms of modern communication told me as I woke up yesterday that the Mubarak regime had fallen.  This had continued throughout the day.  And rightly so.  As my friend Naeem put it in a facebook conversation:

A 30 year regime’s figurehead has been ousted only through people power. Although there are many roadblocks ahead, including the presence of the army as broker, but still, still… can’t people genuinely feel happy, just for one day, get carried away, just a little bit. How often are there revolutions to celebrate in this tired, broken world?

Yesterday was the day of celebration.  Now for some analysis, which begins with noting that the upheavals sweeping through the Arab world is something that few pundits and experts saw coming — therefore, do take anything anyone (including yours truly) says with a grain of salt.  To paraphrase Dylan, writers and critiques who prophesise with our pens should keep our eyes open for the chance won’t come again.

I have certainly been keeping my eyes open — glued on the Al Jazeera mostly, but also on the pages of the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times.  And one common refrain I see from the punditry is this: will it be 1989 or 1979 in the banks of the Nile?

Of course, these parallels are simplistic.  No two countries are alike — circumstances differ, as do endowments.  And people who use these parallels know that.  Yet they use these simplistic stories to make sense of a complex world — it’s not easy to write a 800-word op ed, I should know.  So I don’t object to the simplistic parallels.  I do, however, feel that 1989 or 1979 are wrong parallels to.  Rather, over the fold, I argue that if we must indulge in simplistic historical parallels, the period to look to is 1969, the place — erstwhile West Pakistan.


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Pakistani flood and our casual bigotry

Posted in disaster, foreign policy by jrahman on August 26, 2010

Unless you’ve spent the past weeks in Mars, you’d have heard about the flood in Pakistan.  I’ve heard it described as worse than the Southeast Asian tsunami of 2004 in terms of the number of people affected, worse than Haiti’s earthquake in terms of intensity, and more crucial than Iraq in terms of geopolitical implications.

Make no mistake, this is bad.

And yet, when I look around in Bangladeshi discourse — mainstream media or blogs and facebook, government or NGOs, or even in private conversations — barring a few exceptions, I see nothing about this massive calamity.


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