OK guys, here is another of my occasional tales about interesting encounters. Just a recounting, does not indicate anything concrete – an ear to the ground indicator as it were.
I had a long conversation over dinner with a Pak acquaintance in a European coastal city few days ago. Businessman. Sort of rustic, but still a sharp and friendly guy making an effort to appear “westernized”. After a certain point, a Turkish female (early 30s – also an acquaintance, but better known to me than the Pak) joined in. It was over a seafood meze – all the components except the fish part of which I hate (squid/octopus/mussels, etc.).
The recollections below are as they occur to me…
Most of the conversation was about “Kraachi” – about how it is the sole and most important business hub, how it generates 67% of the tax revenues for the state, but gets in return only 7% of federal budget allocations (his numbers). The way he was talking, it was almost as if Karachi had already seceded from Pakistan.
Hailing from a mohajir Shiite family, his father had migrated in 1953 to Khairpur in interior Sindh, from Muzaffarnagar (UP) – he also mentioned relatives in “Jhansad” or “Dholdi” in UP (guy spoke with a heavy accent couldn’t tell whether he came from one or the other; and the names were not clear either – someone from UP may know better). He and his family have faced the full brunt of anti-Mohajir and anti-Shiite activity – from the Sindhis and from the Sunni tanzeems. He said 15 members of his extended family have been killed as a direct result over the years, of whom 4 individuals were close family members. He said that less than three weeks ago another member of the Shiite elite was killed, a businessman.
The guy is MQM to the core. His elder brother was a deeply involved activist, but has moved on to find employment in a fairly good position in Saudi. Another brother, less involved, and forbidden by his father to get personally involved in MQM activities, is working in Abu Dhabi. But they family as a whole are died in the wool MQM wallas.
He spoke of Karachi as if he owned it, and was full of praise for the city mayor – who is apparently another Mohajir or Shiite (shiehti – as he pronounced it) – is extremely efficient and is getting infrastructure into place quite fast. He also said the military is stalemated by the MQM in most of the Sindh cities including Hyderabad, etc. He said the military wants a stable relationship with MQM also because they don’t want any headches in Kraachi to screw up the already crappy situation. At least for now.
On the other hand, he said the military also wants to push the pashtoons into Sindh in order to gradually change the demographic balance. The recent counter attack by the MQM was designed to put paid to this, especially when pashtoon number started increasing in Kraachi. He added, ominously: we all have weapons, even I have. Everyone, everywhere… It will not be like before etc… (he was referring to the earlier clean-up under Gen. Naseerullah Babar). Looks like the chaps are seriously stockpiling, not just having the odd Klashnikov and rocket launcher (sensed this from what he said, he was not explicit about it). But he said they are “ready to fight”. It was also clear that they will fight. He said Taliban guys are already in Karachi but “we will not allow them”… whatever that means. He repeated that couple of times “we will not allow them”. I guess he means MQM will not allow them to try the talibanisation tactics.
He repeatedly referred to the Pashtoon’s as brainless idiots. “They are fool”, whereas Punjabis are idiots but they have a lot of money. He said the Punjabis are not thinking like Pakistanis, they are thinking like Punjabis and that is the problem. He said already two provinces are ready to break away – “Bloachistan” and NWFP. He said there are some ”rumours” about separating of the various provinces of Pakistan (exactly as we envisage it). I said nothing, didn’t need to nudge him to show his anti-Punjabi sentiment. He said, they refer to all urdu speakers as “bhaiyya” – presuming of course that they are all from India and still have loyalties. Which may not be too far off the mark.
This guy said his father has visited his ancestral home in India a couple of times, and family from India have visited them in Pakistan for a wedding. He said he will have to return the courtesy probably next year as part of “family responsibilities”. I told him bluntly he should not have migrated, without offering any explanation why. From the way he looked into the distance gently shaking his head, he knew damn well why.
At this point the Turkish female listening interjected and said “then you are Indian… your are not a Pakistani”… he laughed uncertainly said “I am Muslim”. It was uncomfortable for him, and tactless if innocent on her part. She had no clue about the back-story here. To lighten the atmosphere, I quickly pointed out to her that Musharraf, a Mohajir spoke Turkish fluently as he had been bought up there and respected Ataturk greatly
… I added that our Prime Minister was born in Pakistan too… (didn’t want the guy to clam up). He was shocked, did not know that. To rub it in, I also said Advani was born in Pakistan… His eyes bulged, literally. He could not believe it. I told him to ask Uncle Google. It seems Paks in general know the name Advani – and not in a positive light.
He was a big fan of our favourite little Pakisatan - musharraf. He said he was a good leader, improved relations with India (yup, that’s what he said), and “I think people in India also like him a lot”. I nodded neutrally without uttering a word. The f**king Omelette Slurpers have done their job well, it seems. He knew about the India Today conclave and the reception musharraf got. On the whole he viewed the whole thing as positive.
He is a hardcore Mohajir. I keep repeating this because of the strength of his statements on the subject, almost seemed to supersede his Shiite faith. Referring to the Shiite community, he stated openly that “life is hard for us in Pakistan”… “no skewrity”. He blamed the Lashkars. He pointed out that a lot of shit is going on in the area bordering NWFP/Bloachistan and Punjab… “too many Talibans”. He launched into a vicious attack on Qazi Hussein and Syed Munawwar Hassan – look at what they are saying “they are the talibans”. Blasted the qazi for saying this crap and sending his kids abroad, ditto Maulana Fazlur Rahman who apparently has a daughter involved in decidedly non-Taliban activities (couldn’t understand what exactly). I also wasn’t sure which of the two Fazlur Rahmans he was talking about. I’m thinking Khalil.
He named during the conversation a number of Pak individuals whom I knew just by their names and one or two I’ve met – and said they were all Shiite (I hadn’t known that, except in the case of one). It looks like a Shiite group controls much of the banking business in Pakistan btw. He was full of praise for the sindhi and gujju business acumen. He spared no venom while referring to Zardari, he says he is no longer dus percent .. he is mr. 100%... he said Zardari’s acolytes were openly demanding kickbacks almost like a protection racket. He hates the current government and is praying for the good old times of Musharraf.
He blasted Zia, said he was a Qadiani (an allegation we are all familiar with). He pointed out also that the Pakistani military leadership for the first time with Musharraf switched towards a non-Punjabi orientation if only cosmetically. He said Kiyani is a mohajir (he insisted with absolute conviction… have seen no verifiable info in this regard, as far as I know he was Rawalpindi born). He also said that Maj. Athar Abbas the current military spokesman is a Shiite. He told me to note that Abbas, probably in a press conference in Urdu, had stated that the military operation will “crash” (crush) the “deobandis”. This is the first I’m hearing of such a statement, but the guy said it with obvious satisfaction. His implication was that no Sunni officer would have made such a statement.
Regarding 26/11, the topic came up when he was going on about the peace, how musharraf had a virtual halo around his musharraf, etc… when I added yeah “until Mumbai happened”… He said yes. “I cannot understand it”… I thought he was referring to how he could not understand why the Paks do these things. Instead, he went on “how could the boat have left Karachi and come all the way to Mumbai without being caught – either in Pakistan or in India?... We don’t know about this” Basically, he was hinting at an Indian conspiracy, but he added “Kasab is from Pakistan”!!! I said yes, “apparently even his mother said so on TV”… he laughed.
Bottom line, the Mohajirs are on their own. The Shiites in Pakistan, especially the ones who are better off, are slowly getting ground into the dirt. But don’t expect any daylight from either side as far as India is concerned. The identity is focused around “I am Muslim” not “I am Pakistani” – not that we did not know any of this, but it’s been reconfirmed by one more individual from what is known now as “Pakistan”.
Not one word was uttered about Kashmir from his side or mine.