I have spent the last week reading two very interesting books. One I paced through, the other I picked up and couldnt let go of till I had finished it. It was the second one that left me shaken, that made me question quite a few things that I would elaborate in the course of this post.
Monday started with me reading through Musharaffs biography on the way to and while come backing from work. It is best to describe "In the line of fire" as a birds eye view of what Musharaff has been able to accomplish since October '99. I do commend him for agreeing to some of his short comings, for instance the referendum. He also openly identifies his role in the way he is shaping the modern Pakistani politics and he is justified with it reasons that at least I am willing to consider, but then again I am known to be a Musharaffist as one friend recently put it. At the same time he paints very broad stroke of some aspects that i wanted more detail on, things like the proceedings of the Agra Summit, the political situation of Karachi etc.
The book serves as a wonderful resume for President Musharaff to justify his continued role in his position, something that I am not opposed to yet something I am slightly wary of. Since with prolonged power comes the opportunities for those powers to be abused. That, as I see it, may lead to his downfall. I am also certain that a number of reflections that he has made about several situations are his own opinions and not necessarily the hard fact. At the same time, some events have been watered down probably in the interest of avoiding a further negative image of Pakistan or for not eluding too much information about an ongoing judicial process. In either case, the book serves two primary purposes and serves these purposes rather well on a macro level. The first one is to paint a more positive picture and a softer image of Pakistan. The second is to create a commendable well balanced resume for Musharaff.
The next book, that I started reading earlier today found a great segway from one chapter of Musharaf's book about war on terrorism. The book is called A Mighty Heart and is an account of the events surrounding the kidnapping and eventual murder of Daniel Pearl (A journalist from The Wall Street Journal) in 2002 in Karachi. Written by his journalist wife Marianne Pearl, the book is now also being converted into a film starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. There arent too many books that I have found captivating enough to read through till I am done with it. Furthermore there hasn’t been any that make me get out of my reading chair, at 4:30AM, pour my self a stiff one and light up a cigar. A Mighty Heart, did all that and more.
I must tell you that I ordered the book with the thought that it would be an account of a victimized westerner who is going on an anti-Pakistan and anti-Karachi rant. Going through the first few chapters I was still skeptical about the whole premise that Marriane seemed to be developing. However, by the time I had finished reading it I could not help but feel miserable about all that Daniel, Marianne, their family and friends had to go through. Added to this was the thought that all this happened in my hometown.
The book is by no means a westerners rant, all those thinking that way can be rest assured that it is not meant to stir up anti-Pakistani emotions. Its the story of a loving journalist couple who end up in Karachi in search of a news item. Its the story of their Indo-American Muslim friend who is trying to be a party of the cities social fabric but is being rejected. Its also the story of a few very dedicated law enforcement officers who despite all odds are giving it their best to recover a foreign guest who is missing in their country. It talks about people the whole of Pakistan and the whole of Karachi is familiar with. It brings out a certain level of truth about Karachi about Pakistan and the complex bureaucracy and corruption that exists here. At the same time, the most heartening aspect of it all is that Marianne Pearls continues to describe Pakistan as a battle ground of the war on terrorism where the soldiers who fight against the menace are less equipped against a much powerful and nimble group of terrorists.
All along the book, ever since Marianne described her husband as missing, I could not help but in my heart tell her that I am sorry it happened in Karachi. The funny part is that I was still there in Karachi when this incident occurred in 2002. I would cross the house where the Pearls were residing, almost on a daily basis, yet never did I know or even care as to what was going down there. It made me question how our nature has developed in the city. I remember everyone reading the Daniel Pearl was missing, but no one I knew give it a second thought that he is a foreigner missing in our own home. Our culture pays significant tribute and respects to guests. The Pearls were guests in Karachi and yet Marianne and her unborn child left Karachi with the worst taste in their mouth. It made me wonder when this would all come to a halt, for how long must we continue to suffer at the hands of terrorists who don a "religious" veil as an excuse to carry out some of the most heinous of crimes the world has seen. I also realized how dead we Karachites have become as a people. Human casualty has become a number to us, the botheration to care about anyone in trouble is followed by the thought of avoiding a messy situation. There arent too many people who are still willing to get their hands dirty for helping some one come out of a messy situation. As inflation, poverty, illiteracy grows, there would be more extremists who would unfortunately follow the path that has been blazed by negative elements like those implicated and absconding in the Pearl Case.
Daniel Pearl wasnt the last fallen foreigner in Karachi, there were quite a bunch before him and a good number after him as well. With this trend common there is no wonder that people from all over the world think twice about vacationing/investing in Pakistan. We have to make this better, the city and the country. However the most disappointing aspect in my opinion, was the fact that government knew about murder at least a week before the arrest of the key witness and yet decided to hold onto that information. Although Marianne never said this, yet it’s quite simple to draw this conclusion from what had been happening.
What I think I should have done a long time ago was to have extended my condolences to the Pearl family and friends. Your husband/brother/son/father has not died in vain, if anything, he has opened the eyes to severe incompetence in the systems. He deserves all the respect and gratitude for all those he helped. Even in his physical absence he is spreading the light of his messages and I hope that region could enlighten from it soon. Lastly, I do offer my deepest and most sincere respect to all those who stood with you in the tragic time. The aspect that leaves me even more remorseful is that you had to experience this all in Karachi and I truly most sincerely, as a Karachite, apologize for that.
Heres to hoping that the film does justice to the book, that no more Daniel Pearls happen any where in the world, that Danny's spirirt rest in peace and Karachi continues to progress and becomes a safe haven for all tourists from all the world.