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Some Problems with the Pakistaniaat Website

I just wanted let you all know that we recently have had some problems with the Pakistaniaat website and, due to some technical problems, have lost some of our data.

As of now, we have been able to restore most of the content but some of the submissions that we were working on have “vanished” from our servers, so we will need your help in adding those submissions to the editorial pipeline. I will be reaching out to individual authors and editors to see if they can share the most recent files with me.

You may also notice that the Journal’s “Current Issue” link is not resolving to the current issue. For now, you can access the current issue through the Archives link or directly from this LINK.

I apologize for this disruption and inconvenience, but please bear in mind that I run Pakistaniaat without any institutional financial or technical support. So, most of the times for updates and other technical stuff we rely on the goodwill and work of our hosting company, who are usually very generous with their help. This time, however, they simply could not update the site to the new version of Open Journal Systems.

We are hoping to soon move all our content to the UNT hosting system. When that happens, I hope we will not have to deal with such issues. Until then, please stay with us and feel free to point out out if you see anything missing from our published issues.

Please also feel free to offer us your help if you have any adavcned skills in programming etc.

Thank you so much!!

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Learning to Love my Kindle Fire

When it concerns serious reading, I am pretty old fashioned. I love the feel and smell of a book and enjoy annotating in the margins. Because of my training as a literary scholar, I cannot read a book without highlighting and commenting on the text. Because of these traditional reading habits, I never seriously considered reading on Kindle or on the Kindle app on my phone.

A few years back, however, I started traveling a lot for my work. And since my travel was mostly international and involved summer stays in Pakistan, and as I could not carry many of my books, I decided to give Kindle Books a try.

I realized that while I may not be able to enjoy reading serious scholarly books on my kindle, I could give fiction, especially popular fiction, a try. So, at first I started using the Kindle app on my phone. I love fantasy and science fiction, so my first few Kindle purchases included a couple of books by Robert Jordan and then Ursula Ke Le Guin’s Earth Sea novels. needless to say, I enjoyed having access to these books while traveling.

Pretty soon, I realized that I could enjoy this more if I had a larger tablet. So, after a little bit of research I decided on a Kindle Fire. It was the perfect choice for me, especially since I only needed it for reading and not for any other fancy stuff, even though I have occasionally watched movies on it.

The tablet cost me less than $30 because Amazon had some promotion going on, but even now a later version of Kindle Fire is still available for less than $50. 00. My Fire now has more than a hundred books and I have even added a lot of PDF articles and documents that I can access even when I am away from my office library.

Now that I have also learned  to use the digital annotating tools and know that I can actually look up words while reading from within the tablet/ app reading is no longer just for pleasure but also an educational experience. In fact, I now also have quite a few free downloads of political and philosophy books, through several websites and apps that allow free downloads, and and am often switching between a work of fiction and a book on philosophy or politics!

On the whole, I am happy to share that I have learned to love reading on Kindle and while digital books will never really replace the material paper books for me, I will Always be carrying a small digital library on my Kindle Fire.

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My Knitting Experience

A few months ago, I decided to start knitting again. I had previously knitted a scarf or two and had found the experience of actually creating a material “thing” exciting and deeply satisfying. My previous foray into knitting, however, was part of a different world: World of no Youtube tutorials or other helpful websites!

This time, though, I was able to research various patterns using helpful websites, like Ravelry, and then when I chose a pattern I was able to look up the basics, and even complicated things, on youtube.

I decided to knit a scarf for my wife using the two-colored Brioche stitch: This knitting stitch is all the rage these days! Of course, I immediately watched a few videos on Youtube and learned that for this pattern I would need double point knitting needles. So, of course, like everyone else these days, I looked up the cheapest available Knitting Needle Set and found it on Amazon. I ended up ordering a set of 75 double point Bamboo needles.

Now these bamboo needles might not be the best, but they offer really great value for a beginner. So, I have used a couple of different sizes for different projects, and they have worked fine. Since they are wood, the chances of accidentally slipping a stitch are much lower than using metal needles. I would certainly recommend these for beginners. Of course, if you are an experienced knitter then the best wood needles, in my opinion, are from Knit Picks. I bought a pair of no. 7 needles from our wonderful local Yarn Store, but those are meant for my long-term collection of knitting tools. For now, I must admit, I am really pleased with my cheap but functional bamboo knitting needles:)

Here are some pictures of my finished projects:

 

 

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Commentaries Uncategorized

Why Does the Pakistan Army Deserve our Support

It seems that deriding Pakistan army and maligning its efforts has become a finely tuned mechanism within the Pakistani public sphere. It would, however, be prudent to keep certain truths in our minds when we reach hasty conclusions and then share such easily formed opinions on the ubiquitous social media outlets. I write this neither as a former army officer nor as an international scholar, but rather as a diasporic Pakistani who has never actively severed his symbolic and material links with Pakistan.

As I write these lines, the young officers and soldiers of Pakistan army are fighting and dying for Pakistan’s very survival and security on various fronts. I have no doubt that they have the necessary skills, the leadership, and the material support necessary to continue defending Pakistan against all threats. But armies are never only about equipment and technology alone: at the end of the day an armed force is a trained body of human beings who voluntarily offer their services and, when, needed their lives to defend their nation. No amount of money can induce anyone to sacrifice their life: one must believe in the nobility of one’s mission and its intrinsic value to offer one’s life for a cause larger than oneself. When I was deployed at Sia Chin, I did not give my best to the nation because I was being paid a hard area allowance; I gave my best because I believed in defending Pakistan and would have died in the process. I could have such faith because at that time when I introduced myself as an army officer, no matter what the scenario, people treated me with respect and honor. As a human being I knew deep down that the nation for whom I was willing to sacrifice my life accorded me honor and respect. In other words, the public opinion of my service had an inextricable link with my morale, my self-worth, and my commitment to lay down my life for my country!

In the early nineties, only a fraction of Pakistan army was deployed at Sia Chin: at this time over eighty percent of our troops are deployed in one internal struggle for Pakistan or another. Just visit any cantonment and you will see that most battalions only have their rear parties in the cantonment, for rest of them are fighting in one way or the other. The soldiers and young officers, according to my sources, hardly ever get the one and a half month annual, staggered, leaves that happen to be their legal right. Besides this, about seven thousand soldiers have died just in FATA and the number of seriously wounded is even larger than that. In such a scenario, the least we can do for our troops is to offer them the kind of moral support that is absolutely essential for their morale and eventually crucial to Pakistan’s survival.

I live in the United States, an established democracy with strong civil institutions. Even here, from leaders to the average people, no one ever unduly criticizes the armed forces or troops. In fact, if every day Americans run into a military person, they often say to them: “Thank you for your service.” If we just adopt such every-day rituals, it means a world to the soldiers who are fighting for the very survival of Pakistan.

I understand that some politicians and their supporters find it easy to scapegoat the army, but if their politics can only sustain itself by unduly maligning the very integrity of their national defense force, then there is certainly something wrong with such politics. Of course, the politicians are well within their rights to insist on the civilian control of the institutions, but that does not mean that they should force their will upon the internal functioning of armed forces or make it their mission to malign their own armed forces.

I am not naive and am aware of the past political adventures of the Army elite. I am, however, also aware that soldiers, officers, and the current leadership is more interested in keeping Pakistan safe and secure and impugning any other motives onto them is dangerous and self-defeating.

So, your soldiers are fighting and dying for you. It is only fair to lend them your love and support, for if Pakistan loses this fight against the forces of destruction, then no amount of electioneering or democratizing will save Pakistan!

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The Bengal Kitten Scam by jonesbengalkittens.com

A few days ago, I almost fell for an online Bengal kitten scam. I am posting this here, even though it is a bit embarrassing, to report the website and their methods so that all of you animal lovers out there remain safe from these predators.

Our beautiful Bengal kitten sneaked out about a week age (he is safely back) and when I could not find him, I decided to look for available Bengal kittens online. After surfing the web and searching for the right kitten and an affordable price, I stumbled upon this site http://jonesbengalkittens.com.

[through an after the fact research, I have found out that this site also has a couple of sister sites (same kittens are listed on all the sites)

  • http://darlenebengalkittens.com

  • https://www.lovelykittenhome.com

  • http://www.jonesbengalkittens.com

From the write up, it seemed that it was a family owned small cattery and they also had an affordable shipping rate. They also explained as to how shipping pets was not all that bad. So, without thinking about much I sent them an email. (I have saved all my correspondence with them, just in case).

I soon got a message telling me that the kitten “Larry” was still available. They then sent me a contract, which I read and signed. The main clause in the contract was that they will “wait on shipping” until the payment had cleared.

Then they sent me a link to a “fake” shipping website: http://www.homelandshipping.com/

There was Larry listed as the one being shipped to us:

 

Now this felt pretty legitimate. The shipping “reservation” included an itinerary according to which the kitten was to be delivered to our house by 9:00 AM, the next day.

But then we came to the payment part: They wanted me to send them a payment through a Walmart/ Walgreens money gram. Now that is suspicious!!

Let me admit that I almost fell for it, but somehow the gods were watching over me and I did not lose any money:)

It has been three days since this happened and the kitten, of course, has not arrived yet!

So, please keep this in mind if you are planning to purchase a pet online. There are several websites that list scammers, but, I have learned, if the deal is too good to be true it is probably a scam.

Furthermore, do an image search on google and see where else the same images of the cats are listed. In my case, I googled “Larry” the cute kitten and found him listed on three websites. Hence, I can safely conclude that all three of these sites are scamming sites.

So, beware animal lovers!! I hope this would help someone who might be interested in buying pets online!! May the gods watch over you and your pets!

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Pakistaniaat Publishing Again

Dear All:

I just wanted to share the news that Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies will start publishing regularly from January 2018 onward. Due to various personal and professional reasons, we had put the journal on a long hiatus, but now, after reconfiguring our editorial team and after updating our software, we hope to start our regular publication soon.

while we will continue to solicit scholarly and creative writings about Pakistan, we have made only one major change in our publication schedule:

Beginning 2018 we will publish one continuous annual volume of the journal. The articles submitted, reviewed, and accepted will move through our editorial process and will be added to the running issue as they are finalized. Thus, our annual volume will continue to grow over the calendar year. Each volume will be closed at the end of the year. This will make sure that your submissions are published and available as soon as they clear the editorial process.

 

Please visit the journal website, create an account, and submit your writings.

We are also looking for dedicated members for our editorial staff; if you would like to join our team, please feel free to contact the editor.

Thank you all so much. We are looking forward to your support!!

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Welcome

This is the personal  website and blog of Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja and features his public work. Raja writes and speaks frequently on issues related to political Islam, US-Pakistan relations, and on other issues related to global social justice, equality, and democratic norm.

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The Incredible Pettiness of Mr. Trump

America has had its fair share of not too intelligent presidents, but in most of the cases when such people got elected they made up for their intellectual shortcomings by either being compassionate and kind, or by simply projecting a popular I-am-just-like-you-all persona. That Mr. Trump does not have the required experience and intelligence to run this country is fairly obvious, but what, in my view, is even more startling is his tendency to be petty, little, and mean.

In fact, this is probably the first time in post World War American history that a person with a foul temper, juvenile behavior, and petty attitude has won the nomination of a major political party. So, if he gets elected, America will, for the first time, have a president who is likely to stomp his feet and yell and scream when he does not get his way. And, being president, no one will be able to set him straight and send him on a time out or ground him. Some people believe that as he runs for office, he will, somehow, become more presidential. But no amount of coaching will ever make Mr. Trump “presidential.” He has, in the recent weeks, become even more childish in public.

His recent attack on Ghazal Khan, the mother of a fallen Muslim soldier, is yet another example of this cruel childishness. This is classic juvenile behavior: think of your school years, doesn’t his behavior remind you of the kid who always blamed others for his own failures. It seems, whatever goes on in the  world, it is always someone else’s fault and if you criticize Mr. Trump, then in his teen-age mind, you deserve to be called names or belittled.

His supporters believe that he “tells it like it is.” Not true. How many of the conservative families in America would accept their children to throw tantrums, yell at others, or call them names. How many Christians in America would be okay if their son or daughter derided the death of a fallen soldier by making his mother the object of his or her criticism. No, Mr. Trump may have a small following amongst the most uncritical and the most bigoted, but he, to me, does not represent the good Christian or conservative values; I know this because I have experienced the kindness and generosity  of my conservative and Christian friends over the past twenty years or so and not even a single one of them would behave the way Mr. Trump does!

So, the question here is not  whether America can afford to have an unprepared person as its next president: maybe that can be remedied with good advisors and with a lot of help. The questions here is whether America and Americans will be okay to have someone so petty as their president. After all, besides his or her policy, American presidents are also seen as as people larger than their parties and as people who can set some good examples for all Americans. American presidents, by and large, have always projected themselves as either being populist or, at least, being capable of working with grace and dignity even under the worst of circumstances. The office of the president is more than just what the president does; it is also about what kind of symbolics the president offers to the Americans and to the rest of the world.

Could someone so petty as Mr. Trump fulfill this symbolic function of the US presidency locally and globally? I don’t think so.

So, think twice before you vote America!

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We Need to Re-Read Iqbal More Critically 

A few years ago I presented a paper on Allama Muhammad Iqbal at a conference in Islamabad. It goes without saying that in Pakistan, Iqbal holds a larger-than-life status and is often remembered as the Poet of the East, the Poet Philosopher, and as Musawwar-e-Pakistan. Thus, my paper, encouraging a different and more nuanced mode of reading and interpreting Iqbal was slightly perplexing and alarming for the Iqbal fans in the audience.

What I had suggested in that paper, an opinion I hold even more strongly now, was that we need to start reading Iqbal’s work within its historical context and not as something transhistorical and immutable. For example, Iqbal’s Mard-e-Momin is one of the major tropes in his poetry. While this figure, according to Iqbal, can be “like silk amongst his friends” his major traits are always his zeal for Jihad, his uncompromising attitude toward modernity, and his desire for action. This here, therefore, is an ideal resistant subject for a colonized people. Read within the colonial context, Iqbal’s retrieval and mobilization of this action packed militant subject is absolutely understandable.

But under the current situation this militant figure, so deeply entrenched in a premodern past, wary of new knowledges and current modes of thought automatically points to the Taliban. I am pretty sure that Iqbal’s mujahid was nothing like a talib, but if we read Iqbal uncritically then the Taliban become the idealized mujahid that Iqbal could have imagined.

There are also instances of cherry picking Iqbal to suit our purposes. For example, when people want to deride democracy they rely on one verse that Iqbal had translated from Nietzsche:

جمہوریت وہ طرز حکومت ہے جس میں

بندوں کو گنا کرتے ہیں تولا نہیں کرت

(Democracy is a system of government in which

People are counted but not weighed)

A lot of journalists and political pundits in Pakistan quote this verse to offer a definitive answer about the failings of democracy. But what we need to understand is that there is something deeply important about the concept of one person one vote: it acknowledges at the very outset that all human beings are essentially equal and since they are all equal, they must vote as equals to elect their representatives. Quality, Human quality, is deeply subjective and if we attempt to decide the outcome of elections through a graded or weighted voting system, then we will not really have a democracy but an oligarchy. This is one instance where Iqbal is totally wrong and not acknowledging it can have disastrous consequences for the future of democracy in Pakistan.

Similarly, quite a few journalists also insist via Iqbal that a politics detached from religion or void of religion is barbaric. This actually is historically absolutely wrong. Wherever human beings have been able to separate religion from politics, their democratic systems are stronger and their cultures more pluralistic. In fact, in the current world, insertion of one dominant religion into state politics tends to be more problematic and destructive. Some examples of this can be seen in the negative impact of religion in India, United States, and Israel. The more religion enters the politics of these nations, the more intolerant become their cultures. Pakistan itself, of course, is yet another example of what happens when one dominant religion claims all politics.

These are few instances where Iqbal was either himself totally wrong or has been read incorrectly. Trust me there are many other things from Iqbal that can be and should be read differently. The choice, of course, is ours but a lot depends on our choices.

In the end if Iqbal cannot help us in developing a safe, tolerant, and pluralistic society then we need to find other, better narrative to articulate our national identity.

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Aamir Liaquat: Mullahs and Scapegoating of Ahmadiyya Community

AamirLiaquatIt seems that in the aftermath of Peshawar Massacre, now that the hate-mongering mullahs and their followers are facing the wrath of the Pakistani public, the mullahs and their follower have now started blaming and scapegoating the minorities. It is no surprise then that, once gain, the Ahmadiyya community, the most peaceful and patriotic “minoritized” group in Pakistan, is once gain being scapegoated.

In a TV show on December 22, the Geo TV host, Aamir Liaquat, invited three “scholars” to his show who went on to suggest that instead of the Taliban, the Ahamdis were a threat to Pakistan. This is wrong on so many levels, least of all under the normal journalistic ethic.

This kind of hate speech about already marginalized communities has gone on for too long and we as a nation are all to be blamed for not coming to the semiotic and material aid of these targeted communities. Not only have we as a nation minoritized the Ahmadiyya community through a constitutional amendment, we have also, having declared them a minority, often failed to protect their rights of citizenship as Pakistanis.

And now when it has suddenly become clear that our actual enemies are right in the open, killing our children and taking credit for it and even offering us bizzare religious justifications for the murders, we are being told by prominent media figures, and pseudo intellectuals, that it is, somehow, the fault of the Ahmadiyya community. This deplorable act of misrepresentation has already started claiming its victims, as a young Ahmadi man named Luqman Ahmad Shazad was gunned down days after the show.

It is salutary to see that the civil community in Pakistan is growing stronger after the Peshawar massacre, and these propagandist deflections and misrepresentations are a panicked response from those who have held sway in maintaining and perpetuating the hateful national narrative of exclusions and intolerance. We should be cognizant of these reactionary responses and challenge all kinds of hate speech and scapegoating by these so-called ulama.

As a nation, besides fighting the terrorists, we are also at a crossroads: we must decide as to what kind of nation we ought to be! Will we be a nation that tolerates difference and accepts all Pakistanis as equals or will we be a nation in which only certain groups claim the rights and privileges of full citizenship. In my humble opinion an exclusivist model of citizenship is irreconcilable with the times in which we live. We are led to belive that some kind of spiritual purity would solve all our problems, but such purity is a myth. And purity is always achieved through gross and monumental acts of exclusions. We are a diverse nation and only a diverse and tolerant approach to public life would assure us a future, or else we will become one of those nations where might rules and the weak and the different perish at the hands of an intolerant majority.

People like Aamir Liaquat and his ilk would have us belive that the Taliban atrocities are, somehow, not attributable to the Taliban themselves. That is why they are now trying to embroil the Ahmadiyya community in a conflict that belongs clearly to the Taliban and their salafi, wahabi sympathizers. We as people of Pakistan need to stand up and take the narrative back: we need to continuously insist that not only will we keep our eyes on the real enemies–Taliban and Taliban sympathizers–but also that we will not let anyone in the media, in politics, or in the public sphere deflect the balme on to peaceful and patriotic minority citizens of Pakistan.

With these thoughts in mind, I strongly condemn the actions of Aamir Liaquat and his supporters. Concerned Pakistanis have also started a petition against Aamir Liaquat’s show and I urge the readers to kindly follow the link below and add their voices against scapegoating of Ahmadiyya community.

Petition Link