Friday, January 27, 2006

Plight of the Pakhtuns

After having spent some dough on a home entertainment system the past weekend I started looking for a decent video library around my place, blockbuster just doesnt cut it for me. I eventually came across a gem in ZIP they have fantastic service with the deepest collection and the best part, I dont have to move an inch to look it up its all over the internet. I signed up for their 2 week trial but rest assured, I am checking in long term with these folks. So having come across a collection so deep, I started testing it out with random searches, putting in Keywords like Karachi and Pakistan. It was then that I came across a classic that I had seen as a child but had very little recollection of. It was called Traffik, a british mini-series about the heroine trail between Pakistan, Germany and England.
It was quite a treat watching the old 80s world. Its changed so much in the last twenty years. The funniest thing however was the Hollywood movie "Traffic" with Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro and Catherine Zeta Jones, is a complete copy of the original Traffik. Pakistan has been replaced by Mexico and the US has subsituted for Europe. Scene by scene, word by word, the movie is a redo of the mini series. Given that Sorderbergh made some revelant changes with regards to the cultures and geographies of his movie, but it still surprises me that a director of his calibre would copy so blatantly. Its Hollywood, not Bollywood!
The older version got me thinking. Replace heroin with terrorismt, replace the UK with most of the western world and replace Talat Hussain's character with one of the fundamentlist mullahs out there and we get pretty much the situation that prevails in NWFP at present. I dont think we or any one before us, may it be the British or the forces of Alexander, have really understood these people. I think that they have a talent, a talent of being able to utilize the sparse natural resources to make the most of it.
Take opium for example, who would have thought that the beautiful green sticks with a pinkish bud could produce heroine. Even to date, the best drugs or the raw materials for it, come from this part of the world. The Pakthuns basically cultivated the crop and then passed the bud onto people who would process it into heroine. Our governemnts response to situation was burning down the poppy crop and and forcing the farmers to grow seasame seed. Is it just me, or is that a massive economic blunder ?
Here we have one product, opium, thats known to produce the "soothing" effect to the mind. It sells for a lot more as well because it doesnt grow all over the world. So lets take a look at that supply chain and instead of killing the farmer, nab the people who process opium into heroine. If it can create heroine, then I am certain that it can be used in several medicines. Instead of wasting resources on setting fire to the crops, the government should have seriously considered researching other areas in which opium could have been used.

So now lets look back at these poor Pakthuns. They have lost their prize crop. They grow seasme seed which doesnt get them half the price of what they used to get with opium and right next door there is a civil war going on in Afghanistan. Any war needs two things, soldiers and ammo. And hence the cottage industry of arms and ammunition manufacturing gets a major boost. People start learning and making weapons and a new mafia evolves thats dealing in arms export. It doesnt take long for them to find international clients who would be interested in buying cheap good quality weapons on the black market and so it spreads. Now everyone can not make guns can they? So some people took to the maderssahs to get educated and have a safe shelter while they went through their education. Its no surprise that Maulana Sami Ul Haqs biggest Maderassah is not in the big cities of the country like Karachi or Lahore, but in a town near Peshawar. And hence their comes into being a supply chain for the Taliban which has multiple upstream feeds of figthers and arms coming from the same location.

Fast forward to present time, and these are the very institutions that the west has an issue with. The capability of the Pakhtuns to be the best at what they do. So the question that exists now, is should they Maderssahs be destroyed, should the Darra be raided and abolished or should those governing the country look at this region and its people as a competitve advantage that needs to be utilized and harnessed in a manner different than the present?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Back On The Blog

As I found myself sitting aimlessly in front of the my laptop on a lack lustre sunday evening, I thought it would be a good idea to update the good old blog. I am not sure for what or whom but its become an obligation of sorts to occasionaly spew something into the WWW.
So I put on some Noori, (Peeli Patti is a great album- aint it?) and pulled my thoughts together.

The last month or so has been quite happening. Ever since I sat behind the wheels of the U Haul in Windsor to pretty much last friday, life was taking constant turns at warp speed. Plans werent met, targets were reset and activities were realinged. Christmas saw mom coming into stay with me for three weeks and it was an awesome three weeks. I bonded with her like never before. Plus, it was the first time that she came to 'my house' so things had to be made perfect. Thanks to a couple of friends who helped me tirelessly in even till a few hours before her arrival, that the place looked ship shape and I earned awes for being able to put together a reasonably decent place. The concept of downtown living is still not that cool with my suburban mother. She kept putting ideas into my heads about moving into Mississauga (read Miseryssauga) but to no avail.

I was initially some what tense about her trip since it had been quite a while since she lived with me. But things went seamlessly, I guess both of us have to some extent understood the individual needs we have. I hope she is able to come live with me soon.

As for people living with me, my partner in crime, Adnan left for Pakistan for good. We were supposed to share the dwelling that I currently have to myself, but Adnans sudden decision to pursue a lucrative opportunity in Pakistan left me to be king of the hill. His absence has however created a certain void. Much like the past few years since I have known the bloke, our last few weeks together were all about love, hate, laughs and curses. I was rather sad when he left but I guess thats life, people come, people go, we learn somethings teach somethings and move our own sepearate ways with memories of the time well spent. But that bastard still owes me money, so Adnan, till you dont pay me off, I am not going to friggin glorify our friendship. You Suck!

Along with Adnan, my Montreal buddy Alina, took the jet plane back to Karachi. Our relationship had grown in the most unusual of ways over the past year and to some extent, I found her to be my twin in experiences and aspirations. Yet another good one of to home.

While my desi friends have been moving out of Toronto. My gora friends are heading back. For a bit I had felt that with all the people moving around, my social circle would contract drastically. Yet life has maintained a ying-yan of sorts. As my mother quipped one weekend during her visit when I took leave to go out with my friends, once a socialite always socialite!

So thats pretty much it. The new year has seen a new relational alignment. All I have to do now, is regain my focu on life, that I have felt slipping away lately. Play life, instead of life playing me and all would be back on track.

So till next time.

Rock On!