Sep 30, 2008

Tina Fey Rocks.

Couldn't resist the pun when her show 30 Rock has won 7 Emmys this year, including one for herself as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.


Her words were:

"I thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate to my looks and abilities. Well done. That is what all parents should do."

She's an inspiration to all bimbos to be otherwise.

Sep 29, 2008

Tina Fey is my hero.

Like millions, I've been a fan of SNL for a very long time. But this is something that makes me just accept it out loud.

Tina Fey is my hero.


Sep 28, 2008

Pineapple Delight.


A really simple recipe. For dessert-lovers this is pineapple heaven.

Ingredients:

1 packet cream - Nestle, Haleeb, Olpers.
1 packet Pineapple Jelly - Rafhan etc.
4 tablespoons sugar
1 can pineapple tidbits.

Method:

Separate the pineapple tidbits from the syrups. Cut the pineapple pieces even smaller if you want the final dessert not to have big chunks. In a cooking pan, take pineapple syrup and add the packet of Rafhan Pineapple Jelly. Bring to boil and set aside to cool after cooking it for 2-3 minutes. Beat cream and sugar together in a separate bowl. Add pineapple tidbits and leave in the fridge to cool.

Once the jelly has set, through a fork or knife, make small portions of it by criss-crossing it. Gently fold in the cream-pineapple mixture with the jelly and put back in the fridge for another good hour or so.

Top a pretty raspberry jelly heart and serve.

Who are we to judge the Pakistani Psycho.

Sometimes I wonder if we're way too influenced by the media and it's galore. It's need for drama and it's persistent doomsday conspiracy theories. Are we so absorbed by this hyperreality that we have forgotten what it was to have an objective opinion?

Right now, it's certainly a dilemma for me as I browse through the statements of President Extraordinaire, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari.

"I mean business," he says, says he to Roger Cohen. He says he is changing things, replacing ISI bigshots, hugging Manmohan Singh, creating 'Friends for Pakistan', establishing a hardline on the US attacks and lashing out at them directly and simply at the UN meet. So what if he also flirted with the US VP. Pretty much all of America is calling her sexy. Why aren't we just glad he didn't use those words too while he was grinning there like Moose in front of Midge?


Whatever the case may be with his big grin and oily hair, I want to give him credit for saying what he did.

"Unilateral actions of great powers should not inflame the passion of allies."

You have to hand it to the guy. After the day you flirt with the US VP, stand next to Condi Rice and say that the world is a safer place because of President Bush, to go out and say you won't tolerate any more crap coming from the NATO helicopters on Paki soil - I'm impressed.

Cohen states what he feels about this as such:

"My impression? This guy's very smart, a wheeler-dealer in an area full of them, secular, pro-American, committed to democracy, determined and brave. I never heard Musharraf frame Pakistan's fight against terrorism with such candor."

For an analysis of Asif Ali Zardari, it is more critical who he 'befriends' internationally than who he sleeps with confidentially. It is probably more of a joke that he swooned over Palin if he continues to keep his head in his place in places like the UN meets and at 10 Downing Street.

The guy's a sleazebag, sure. He's probably not even a seasoned democrat. But he's got what it takes to take the seat. He did what it took him to elbow out a far more seasoned democrat than he was (hint, hint, he's far from the running now), capture the loyalties of JUI in one day, pocket the England-executed party of Pakistan and successfully stand in front of the international community, humbly asking for help.

How he's doing it is beyond me. What I do understand is that he's latched on good and strong. And when it comes to Pakistani democratic olympics - that's what makes you a winner.

Sep 27, 2008

Oh yum.

Eid is round the corner. Amidst the fear of bomb blasts and depressing headlines, we have something to celebrate. Festivals will always help humans survive pessimism, in my opinion, and why shouldn't they. We need something to celebrate, something to help us continue living, something to wake up to.

Barooq once said to me something that has been stuck in my head (he has a knack for saying stuff that sticks) about food. He said it when he was explaining his love for food. He called it a celebration for life. I don't know if he was quoting or being glib but he sure hit it spot on.

So this Eid, I plan to make some yummy stuff. I don't know if I'm like Monica who makes food when she's nervous or just plain happy I'm through Ramadan after burnt skin and abonimably-parched lips, but I plan to go nuts this time. Desserts are a no-no, after S's Mom, Dr. Y told me to lay off of sugary stuff (Mom had diabetes, her mom and dad had it too) and I'm already beginning to think I'm a 'buddhi khoosat' (as to-be-26 Mona wails) as soon as I'll hit the big 25 on January 1st (3 months and some days to go - YAaaaGH), metabolism begins to decline, calcium-production begins to go down, not to mention you begin looking like a 25-year-old. And ask any woman. The latter is worst than any of the former.

I know I sound like I've been looking at a Methuselah in the mirror or something - and I know I still look fine, I eat fine and I don't have a potentially damaging sweet tooth, so I don't need to worry about giving up a lot in that department. But 25. I'll be twenty-five. When I was seventh grade (I don't know why I have to measure everything through that kaliedoscope) 25 was senility. It seemed as if you could never reach that age even if you tried. My mind couldn't even venture that far a possibility of life and time and circumstance.

Yet here I am, planning a near-25 eid (I can hear Mona screaming somewhere) with recipes galore and moving to be 26.

I'll write some other day about how this year has been and what it gave to me and what I took from it - but today, I'll just think about how I'll celebrate Eid with dozens of yummy dishes. So who cares if all our family gathers at dadi's and all we do in three days is visit other people and relatives etc. Who cares if the only people stuck eating my food will be Mom, Dad and Ali - or maybe KJ, Nayyer Mama and Tariq Mama's lot, if I'm really ambitious. Who cares if I'm being neurotic - cooking because I'm trying to invest myself somewhere I can forget the noise in my ears or the chaos in the world. Who cares if there is a world much uglier than a cheesecake and far less delicious than an Afghani Kebab.

Who cares, I ask you.

I'm going to cook away my sorrows. Who cares if I'll only eat a bite out of every dish and relish the others eating it more than I'll my own palate.

I'm going to do it anyway.

These are a couple of good sites I've been hounding for the past three days. Mian Jee has a penchant for Mutton and these recipes sound deelish. Even if you're not a mutton lover as such, these websites are goldmines. Check em out. They are just plain too scrumptious.

Fauzia's Pakistani Mutton, Beef and Chicken Recipes.
This is what is on the agenda for today. If all goes well, my khandaan is getting fed soon. Next up are Shahi Mutton Qurma and Sweet and Sour Beef.


Khana Pakana Dot Com.
Stupid as the name may be - the website is truly wonderful. The recipes are in Urdu (no worrying over what is pimento and phyoll) and there are pretty inciting pictures to motivate the chef within you. My favorite happens to be the Steak and Singaporian Rice Recipes. Too good, I tell you!



Alta's Recipes.
You will honestly LOVE the chicken recipes. They're quick, efficient, easy-to-make, increasingly popular (Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken A la King - so simple!, Chicken Parmesan etc) and very handy for cooks new and old.

RecipeZaar.
This is another mother lode which has plenty of western-based recipes. One in particular that caught my attention was Russian Tea - which I'll be making for friends perhaps. Families are too creul to be used in experiments.

Indian and Pakistani Recipes.
Great stuff for this part of the Asian world. Stuff like Tandoori Chicken and Spicy Lamb with Onion can be just the thing for a killer desi menu.

And last but not the least.

The Cheesecake Website.

Aah, the cheesecake website.

For those of you who are still at the mercy of "Desserts" or "Kitchen Cuisine" to water your mouths, your begging days are over. Discover this is the chilled-cream cheesecake recipe and the topping recipe. This is your key to happiness.


So enjoy a great Eid everyone.

May you all have a lot to celebrate. Ameen.

Sep 26, 2008

"Chocolat"

Storyteller: Once upon a time, there was a quiet little village in the French countryside, whose people believed in Tranquilité - Tranquility. If you lived in this village, you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. And if you happened to forget, someone would help remind you. In this village, if you saw something you weren't supposed to see, you learned to look the other way. If perchance your hopes had been disappointed, you learned never to ask for more. So through good times and bad, famine and feast, the villagers held fast to their traditions. Until, one winter day, a sly wind blew in from the North...


The sly wind brings in Vianne Rocher and her young daughter who open up a patisserie in a conservative, orthodox town. What follows is a battle between the new order and the old, as Marie begins to sell the 'sinfully delicious' chocolate to the locals. The attraction is natural as more and more people begin to draw nearer to the unlikely character from abroad.


Marie doesn't just sell chocolates. Marie defies tradition. She doens't wear black shoes like other women. She doesn't have a husband. She doesn't fear in befriending the local nut (enter Olin) or greeting the 'pirates' of the time (enter Depp) or challenging the traditions of offering chocolate in the season of Lent.

The film is packed with a strong message for non-conformists and otherwise. It shows the resistance to change and it comes with a price (although is heavily chocolate-coated in this movie, in my opinion) which is never easy to pay. But like all good feel-good movies, this movie has that note of optimism, that bittersweet lesson that is so necessary to keep one's head sane at moments of despair and dejection. Being different isn't easy. But you've got to keep on going anyway.

Père Henri: Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create... and who we include.

"Dan in Real Life"

This story has been probably done a million times. Guy meets girl, guy finds out girl is brother's girlfriend, guy pines, girl pines, eventual family drama. You know how it goes.

What is refreshing about this flick is Steve Carell. Everyone who is anyone watching television in the past few years has to note that this guy is nothing short of a quiet, unassuming genius. Unlike Jim Carrey, who has the loud, rambunctious act to his personality (I like him anyway though) or witty, dead-pan humor like Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Carell adds that awkward, very-human, sensitive bit to comedy. He's extremely versatile though but his niche is in the roles he's done as the pausing-too-much kinda guy, the often-ignored, talking-to-self characters such as Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart and even Evan Almighty. Those were serious roles with the humorous edges to them and Carell did them extremely well.


The story revolves around Dan, an advice columnist for a local paper, living with his three daughters and struggling through each day after the demise of his wife. On a fateful weekend when he takes his daughters down to a family get-together, he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche). Playful, fun to be with and plenty of sparks that alight their conversation in which Dan finds himself talking about his most personal and deeply felt thoughts to a stranger.

What is more fateful is that the stranger isn't a stranger at all - she's his brother's girlfriend whom he's brought to meet the family.

Awkward.

Steve Carell, I repeat, has done this role remarkably well. A little too well in fact for a story that was basically cliched and not quite well executed. It lacked the pizzazz for the romcom and didn't really cut it as a slightly-poignant romantic tale. However if you see it the way I did - being a die-hard Carell and Binoche fan - you're bound to love it much more than if you'd seen the same flick with Delmort Mulroney and Sarah Jessica Parker.

"The English Patient"

The desert begins and akin to it, begins the journey of two lovers set in the Sahara. The story however begins much before it.

The English Patient is the burn victim of a plane crash. He has vague memory of who he is and what has happened to him. His scars do not tell his story, as most scars do; in fact they have vanished for him any traces of his past, any recollections whatsoever. One act that does not leave him - is that he hums. Constantly.
The film swings back and forth through the flashbacks of Count Laszlo de Almasy, under the care of a devoted, passionate nurse, Hana, played by Juliette Binoche in her Oscar-winning role. Most understandably so. Binoche's bohemian, careless-yet-careful portrayal is heartwarming and sensitive. It caters to the senses as she tries to find beauty and solace and hope in the arms of war and plunder, serving to a burn victim in an abandoned monastery.

It's a sad, romantic little love story with a cast so stellar and performances so solid that despite the slightly mindnumbing length of the movie, you'll find yourself riveted.

But only if you're not used to happily-ever-afters.

Because believe it or not - they don't have to happen for every single one of us.

Sep 25, 2008

I cannot understand testosterone.

I have been forced to confess it herewith.

I do not get it. Maybe men have same issues with oestrogen and progesterone, but come on. Progesterone isn't half the confusion as testosterone is.

Testosterone is so incredibly funny, it'll make nice, decent, intelligent people like my own darling brother, Ali, scream uncontrollably at a guy who merely cut in front of him at the CNG station a couple of days ago.

Don't believe me?

Alright, I'll elucidate.

While waiting for the ATM machine to work and observing the milling-arounders, one does get to notice interesting (and sometimes just plain gross) tidbits. For example.


Notice how the dashing old man stands.

Where the bloody hell does he think he's standing? His washroom, waiting for his kids to finish toothbrushing?

On roads where women walk like this, all covered and sour-faced ... :



Men actually have the nerve to stand around their hands up their waists through their kurtas. Like so. Notice it's not one but two intelligent species standing that way.




That's just too disgusting.

But no wait. Where there's disgusting, there's Zardari. And no one can refute he's not a good reason to be baffled at testosterone. Everyone's heard of his fawning over Sarah Palin. If I'm over the fact that we're slobbering as slavish puppies at the hands of the American government, I'm made to see him making sleazy innuendos at a remotely attractive female.

Your wife's been dead not a year and you're already grinning like a chipmunk.

I guess I should've taken the hint when you took over the party and ran for President, but you had to prove it to me, sir, eh?


And although I hate to use anything human in the same line as Zardari, I have to make an exception.

Then there are freaks who will insist on flirting with you despite your obvious display of the ring-finger. The freaks who think anything moving and female is worthy of their slimy attention. The freaks with their mad stares and creepy smile. Their bad teeth and slick (in their opinion, anyway) hairdos - do you actually think you're attractive if I see your knickers hanging out your pants? We're not blind, please. Or devoid of other senses either.

I'm sure the grievances are equal on the other side, the battle of the sexes will reign, never the twain shall meet, opposites will continue to attract, and so on and so forth ...

... but if it ever comes down to choices, I'd always choose oestrogen.

It's crazy, moody and maybe even bitchy at times.

But it won't flirt at every moving object in sight.

Sep 24, 2008

The Lady Snape.

Teaching is an odd experience. Most people who look at a twenty-five-year-old fresh graduate think it's oh-all-that for her, but she will tell you, that on most days ... it's just plain odd.

Firstly, people don't give you way to pass when you're in a hurry to get to class. Most of them consider you yet another youngling in the halls of younglings rushing to get a good backseat in the room. It's not until you run into ex-students who start stepping aside, which tells other students that it's a faculty member.

Secondly, respect comes with a price. In the over-one-year that I've taught, I've had to 'endure' as Alfred says to Bruce Wayne (yes, the Dark Knight has gotten to my head), many rumors and impressions of me such as "Dragon Lady", "Miss Strict" etc. The rest of the rumors aren't worth mentioning because most of the deranged population of my university isn't exactly high-ranking on the creative lot. But they'll get there, I hope. Soon.

Some colleagues advised me to go to the university picnic at Nathia Gali Beach so I could 'bond' with the students. I didn't really find that fascinating. I'm old-fashioned and quite probably born in the wrong century, so a beach with a DeeJay and crazy boys and girls jamming in the sun isn't my idea of fun. I politely declined, encrusting the nicknames, heightening the grievances of the minions of Satan.

My class is dead-quiet and most students are shit-scared of me. It's like a court-room drama. I don't blame the little humans for hating me, I suck the fun out of their frolicking. I'm focused on delivering the lecture, making sure people understood them and discussing latest political affairs, rather than Atif Aslam and SRK.

But that was Sociology and Psychology. When I began teaching Oral Communication this fall, I had to reach out to the kids on a more personal level. I had to bring them to an understanding of who I was and how I did things. Moreover, OC is a hands-on course. It's got plenty of talking, jabbering, discussing and joking around. Activities include skits, parodies, plays, songs, etc, so it's got a big fun element to it. Thus when I walked into the first class of OC, students actually stared at each other, flipping through their time tables if they had their periods marked out right. Miss MA.? Teaching OC?

Hell no.

So I began straightshooting. After I'd taken the attendance, I asked,

"Who's surprised to see me here?"

And needless to say, countless hands shot up in the air.

I began explaining to them how things worked with more serious subjects such as Sociology and Psychology and how a teacher needs to have a firm hand if he/she has any desire to complete the course. Things began going well and from some I heard, in the later weeks, that M. A. was a fun teacher.

Fun. Me.


People who know me personally abet that I'm a big ball of bubbles most of the time. It being a revelation for my students lead to me hearing a lot of interesting quotes and statements.

One of them I'd like to share with everyone at which I could not help suppress my laughter.

In today's assignment "Carte Blanche" in which students were asked to talk about anything they wanted, with no holds barred, a kid came forward and said the following,


"I want to talk about change. I'll use an effective example. Last semester we had a teacher who taught us Sociology."

He glances meaningfully at me.

"Oh it was you, right! So anyway, she came into the class - and it was hell. It was so quiet. It was like almost scary. In fact - she was so scary that ... ah, well, how many of you have read Harry Potter? ... Okay, well, she was just like Professor Snape. A Lady Professor Snape. But things changed after the midterm. I guess she was happier because pretty much all of us failed it. But now I see a change that she's brought now that she's teaching us OC."


He went on talking about what he'd learned from life about change etc. And I kept seeing myself in the eyes of students.


The Lady Professor Snape.







At the end of the Potter books, I began to thoroughly love the character, so I don't really think I was offended. Plus public opinion matters but little when it comes to doing the job right. I find it inconsequential most of the times. Overrated and negligible, especially when it comes to something I thoroughly believe in. And I thoroughly believed in delivering my lecture on time, covering my course targets, and challenging the students' capabilities in my course. It would have been actually quite the easier path had I chosen to let the students run loose in the classrooms like Cornish Pixies and act like Lockhart but my choices were clear before me. I know they hated me for keeping them quiet (and they probably still do, regardless of all the fun assignments I make them do now - students don't let go of impressions that easy), I know they hated me for failing them on substandard papers, I know they dreaded my class and I know they looked at me wishing I'd drop dead.

But I believe - and thoroughly - that when a time will come for them to understand something from a sociological or psychological perspective they'll look back at what they learnt and not what they hated about me.

And that's all that matters.

If they call me Snape in the bargain, I'm okay with that.

Snape was too.

Sep 21, 2008

There's no place like home?

After watching the pictures of the blast, after reading the political statements by the President, Prime Minister, the Interior Minister, the police officers, the survivors, the public, the youth, the media and the press ... I am left with nothing but fear. These threats are not being faced. I am taken back to January, this year, when there were over 15 blasts in one month all across Pakistan. These people are not waking up to smell what is going on. These politicians, the military, the international community does not understand that Pakistan is under a threat far too grave to be ignored anymore. We don't need, atop this, military raids from the US. We don't need stupid politicians to have petty issues. We don't need the media to show charred flesh everywhere. We don't need the blame game within the masses.

What we need is to take this threat very, very, VERY seriously. We need effective strategies, asap, to get rid of the Al-Qaeda threat, the Islamic militants who are not interested in anything Islamic (such as peace or dialog) whatsoever, to get rid of a horrific rampage that plagues the people everyday: fear and insecurity.

It's strange, though.

Just when you thought Zardari was the worst thing to happen to the country, something like this happens.

I don't think I'm out of the shock of the realization of what has happened to this country.

No.

I don't think I am indeed.

Sep 20, 2008

Little Mr. Sunshine.


It's so hard not to kiss him all the time.

Sep 19, 2008

Sep 18, 2008

Processing.

I am currently trying to set up here. Blogspot has given me enough hell for the time being. Look at my blog right now. The header's looming out from behind like an ugly monster. I like the orchids but I don't like the blatant and in-your-face size of it.

Nothing's official as yet, but as they say, third time's the charm and I've already tried migrating twice on wordpress.

I need feedback. Is moving to wordpress a good idea?

Sep 17, 2008

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

I had no idea that this movie would be so charmingly life-affirming. After 19May80 advised me to watch it after I saw A Street Car Named Desire, I had certainly put it in my to-see list. Had I but known what it would make me feel after it was over, I'd have watched it sooner.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the story of a family that stands at a critical turning point. "Big Daddy" (the Academy Award nominated role for Burl Ives), the father of the family is diagnosed with cancer and his two sons arrive for a celebrating of his birthday party. The elder married with a stereotypical breeding machine of a wife with four (or five, can't recall how many) kids and another one in the making, the younger Brick Pollitt (Newman) married to Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) and 'on the rocks' with each other. Big Daddy and Big Momma are both kept in the dark by the doctor about Big Daddy's terminal cancer and the celebrations of his birthday proceed as normal. The overall twist is the money Big Daddy shall leave behind after him which the elder son, Cooper (Jack Carson) along with is wife, are deeply interested in. Brick however has no interest in anything whatsoever, including his wife, his father's estate and his teeming alcoholism.

Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: We've still got one thing on our side. No, two things. Are my seams straight? Big Daddy dotes on you, Brick. He can't stand Brother Man and Brother Man's wife. That fertility monster, she's downright odious to him, I can tell. That's the second thing we've got on our side. He likes me. The way he looks me up and down and over, he's still got an eye for girls.
Brick Pollitt: That kind of talk is disgusting.
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Did anybody ever tell you you're a back-aching Puritan, Brick? I think it's a fine thing that a man on the doorstep of death can still look at a woman like me with what I call deserved appreciation.


Brick's story is only half tragic. He is an alcoholic ex-football player who has lost his will to live after the suicide of his close friend "Skipper" whom he accuses Maggie to have had an affair with. Maggie tries to talk to Brick about it but he does not want to discuss anything since his loss of faith in most things in life after Skipper, including Maggie and her love for him. Maggie, desperate for his attention, tries to seduce him, reason with him, yell at him in coming back to her and having her talk over the matter to no avail, is frustrated with her situation but continues to plow at it with all her might.
Brick Pollitt: What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?
Margaret "Maggie" Pollitt: Just staying on it I guess, long as she can.
The truth of the story isn't in Brick and Maggie's marriage however. It lies deeper and interconnects all of the Pollitt family. Cooper's dissatisfaction in finding him always second-best even when he has complied to each and every wish of his father from career to personal choices. Mae's persistence in showing just how perfect she is in producing heirs and thus deserving for a fair share of the estate. Big Momma's deniail that works with everything, her love of her husband and the family. Maggie's troubled and one-sided relationship with her husband. Brick's unique bond with his father that somehow includes estrangement and resentment as a key factor. Big Daddy's intervention that somewhat clears the air between Brick and Maggie. Big Daddy's own fight against life, against circumstance. These themes are powerful, universal attractors. They rivet in the watcher as he/she sees relationships strayed around all over the place instead of the cohesive whole that you expect a family to be. What's more important is how it starts from the opposite end: from dilapidated ties to a stronger bond.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: - It's easin' somewhat now. When you got pain, it's better to judge yourself of a lot of things. I'm not gonna stupify myself with that stuff. I wanna think clear. I want to see everything, and I want to feel everything. Then I won't mind goin'. I've got the guts to die. What I want to know - do you have the guts to live?
Brick Pollitt: I don't know.
Harvey 'Big Daddy' Pollitt: We can start by helping each other up this stairs.
So this movie has done a number of things that are good. It's got my faith back in some things. It's made me a Paul Newman fan. And it has put a smile on my face again. Granted not as big as one as Wall-E. But a smile nonetheless.

Sep 16, 2008

Conversation Among Ruins - Sylvia Plath.

Through portico of my elegant house you stalk
With your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit
And the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net
Of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back.
Now, rich order of walls is fallen; rooks croak
Above the appalling ruin; in bleak light
Of your stormy eye, magic takes flight
Like a daunted witch, quitting castle when real days break.

Fractured pillars frame prospects of rock;
While you stand heroic in coat and tie, I sit
Composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot,
Rooted to your black look, the play turned tragic:
Which such blight wrought on our bankrupt estate,
What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?

Sep 15, 2008

Once upon a useless morning.

I'm going to have to ask her to forgive me for sketching her son so badly but I was bored and I needed inspiration. Badly.

And then I thought of what was the last thing I saw which made the hair on my neck stand up. So I drew this.

And then I was just plain irritated.

Sigh. I never said I was a good artist.

Sep 13, 2008

"Adaptation"


The first two minutes of the movie are spent listening to Nicholas Cage say exactly what is coming to his mind. His random, completely digressive thoughts, that help us roll the credits onto the movie.

A movie which is about a digressing, ill-focussed screenwriter, aka Charlie Kaufman, given the job to write a script for the book written on Orchids. Kaufman says this film is going to be 'about flowers'.

What starts off as a languid-paced film ends up as a dramatic thriller. I didn't find it as great as the critics did but I did enjoy extremely convincing performances by the lead actors. The idea of the story within a story within a story got little attention amidst all the drugs and rare flowers. This movie isn't something you'd see to hear good dialogs (though some had a rancidly realistic punch to them) or believable stories; this movie is to be seen solely for its quality performances, especially by Nicholas Cage, who always does seem a little high to me throughout his movies, whether he's playing a law-abiding citizen or a car-theif. 

Something Streep fans will enjoy, Cage fans will appreciate and flower-lovers will watch expectantly. 

"Keeping The Faith"


This movie is the directorial debut of the critically acclaimed Edward Norton. The story is simple and straightforward. I don't see what much of a challenge Norton must have faced to make a movie with very basic a plot and really no room for dramatic achievement. It's a sweet romantic comedy with a theme of religious tolerance hovering in the background. Norton plays the priest, Ben Stiller is the rabbi and Elfman is the childhood friend who revisits just when Stiller needs to find a wife to get a promotion.

There really isn't much to be said about the film (which is a first considering Norton is in it) except for this dialogue:

Father Brian Kilkenney Finn: The truth is, I don't really learn that much about your faith by asking questions like that... because those aren't really questions about faith, those are questions about religion. And it's very important to understand the difference between religion and faith. Because faith is not about having the right answers. Faith is a feeling. Faith is a hunch, really. It's a hunch that there is something bigger connecting it all... connecting us all together. And that feeling, that hunch, is God. And coming here tonight, on your Sunday evening... to connect with that feeling, that is an act of faith. And so all I have to do is look around the room at this packed church... to know that we're doing pretty well as a community. Even if all of you failed my pop quiz miserably.

Sep 12, 2008

Disclaimer.

I do love google. It's a modern day miracle. It's the answer to a hurried assignment. It's the given for a ridiculous fact which can't be found anywhere else. It's a treasurechest of information. Really, I love Google with my whole and total heart.

But it can really SUCK at redirecting you sometimes.

This post is exactly about those poor, floundering, misguided souls who land on my unsuspecting blog looking for that bundle of information.

So I must disclaim the following.

For people who land here looking for "The Current Status of Ground Zero", I am very sorry but I am NOT hosting a site in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers. The previous header of the blog "Ground Zero" was just given for fun and for a deeply personal reasons. Maybe you should look into the NYC's government website. 

For people who come here looking for "Aeisha Varsey", I apologize deeply again that this is NOT an Aiesha Varsey homepage. I have asked her to host a site which she says she is working on.Varsey-design-hopefuls, I have yet another bit of bad news for you all. She will not be showcasing her designs online, she says she is against her designs going extremely public and common. All I can do for you is provide the contact information (which people often land up on due to searching for Aeisha Varsey Dubai or Abu Dhabi) which can be found here.

For people who come here looking for "Happy About Zardari Election" (I've lost the referral link but the search term made me laugh), I'd give up searching, if I were you.

For people who come here looking for more on the movie "Crowned and Dangerous", you sad, curious people have made me realize how pathetic some Saturday nights can get. We can watch movies that are incredibly, incredibly lame and then even Google them later on if the initial stupidity of watching it wasn't enough.

And for people who come here looking for this image, from the movie Charlie Wilson's War, I have nothing to say. You probably have an assignment due on it. 

So keep your faith in Google, people. But don't trust every search result. And don't think I wear Aeisha Varsey, am happy about Zardari's election and have my own stash of information coming directly from Mr. Bloomberg. I don't. And I'm pretty sure Google doesn't either.

Sep 11, 2008

I want my spaceship.


I want to follow suit of that big ship that deserted earth because it had become unlivable. It was home and it was unlivable. Tell me if that isn't torture enough and I'll tell you to inform me of what is not painfully obsolete.

The reasons are simple.

US is this close to a full-fledged war-on-terror in Pakistan. One wrong move and we're really looking at another 6 years of US's pathetic excuse for "counter-terrorism". Indeed. Millions of dollars, thousands of dead soldiers and women and children later, the US appetite of saving mankind from itself is still not satiated. How many more, I ask you? How many more to fill this oil-black-hole?

Another couple of billion dollars spent on atomic experiments. How about feeding people with all that money for a change? Help a kid get his eyesight back? Educate a couple of hundred beggars? Give blood transfusions to teenagers who might end up saving families in the future, if they can just have a better chance at life?

12 killed in Taraveeh prayers. Taraveeh prayers. Including children. Who are these human beings and what has gotten into them? But there. I cannot allow myself to ask these questions just as yet. Not when I have the following fascinating factoids outlined.

A teacher throws acid on a student's face. Acid. Saas and bahu suna tha. Teachers and students? And if that isn't bad enough for you to start saving for your ticket outta Planet Doom, hear this. Son kills 60-year-old mother declaring her kari. Kari. Your sixty year old mother.

But women deserve no sympathy. I'm almost mysogynistic after hearing about Ms. Gulzaran aka Bilo who claimed that the boy with the fractured hand that the police recovered was her son. The boy, Dilawar, 8, reports that he is not her son. He was kidnapped from Karachi and Ms. Gulzaran broke his hand with a hammer and forced him to beg. A hammer. An eight year old kid and a hammer to break his hand for petty cash.

And we are busy playing dosti-kut'ti, dosti-kut'ti. We're too busy fighting petty politics when we really ... and I mean REALLY ... need politicians who are as selfish about the nation as the US is about its foreign policy. We need the media to act responsibly and stop berating Pakistan for things we already know and get a move on already. If they can't do anything positive except to shake fingers and talk crap about problems we already know are there, then they should just shut their pieholes. If politicians can't just stop bickering then they don't deserve to be Presidents. If people like us can't take initiatives to do something about the environment, about the social dilapidation that is spreading like wildfire, we need to take a good look in that mirror and ask ourselves (f*** the fear of cliches) if this is the world we want our kids to live in twenty years from now.

I don't know how we do it and I don't care where we start. Let's just embark on this journey already before things get any worse than they already are. I'm in no illusion of removing world poverty but if I give in to disaster, that's probably just as stupid. 

Do what you can. Plant a tree, feed a child, write a blog, report a crime, speak the truth, teach the alphabet, keep the faith, love the land. 

The point is ... do ... because if this isn't heydey ... I don't know what the freaking hell is.


"Wall-E."


After a very long time a movie has been able to leave a smile on my face.

Even long after it was over.

Pixar doesn't fail. It just doesn't intend on disappointing. From the tales of inanimate toys to a monster that wants to become a comedian and a rat that wants to become a chef to now the robot who after 700 years of living alone on a deserted planet craves the human (?) connection, Pixar has proven that it is not going to be beaten on its winning streak any time soon.

Wall-E is one of the best movies of the year. Including the Dark Knight and Hancock and The Incredible Hulk, Wall-E takes my cake. Wall-E makes you laugh and feel and experience through the entire length the journey from space and back. Such is the impact of the movie that I find myself murmuring "Eeeeveeee" and "Waaalleeee" as my mind goes back to his drooping eyes and a loneliness that is desperately adorable.

It is a given how far animation has come. The story is sensitive and intelligent, the tone is light-hearted yet influential as it touches the globally critical dilemma of pollution. The whole movie is just plain darn fantastic and it gives Kung Fu Panda a good run for its money, though both are remarkable in their own right. A must-watch for anyone. Yeah, just anyone, anybody. If you're a human, a robot or on auto-pilot. Just watch the damn thing and go back to being human.

Sep 9, 2008

Playing in my head.

Hope For The Hopeless - A Fine Frenzy

Points to Ponder.

In a recent article, writes Andleeb Abbas (a consultant and CEO of FranklinCovey) that no country in the world exemplifies peace, prosperity and progress.

Pasting the whole article again seems like a simple enough regurgitation so let me just talk about the finer points:
  1. Concepts like globalisation which were supposed to make the world a better place have themselves become disputable.
  2. As the superpowers struggle in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, smaller nations like Pakistan and Zimbabwe struggle to shrug off dictatorships and corrupt politicians which have made them vulnerable to every form of socio-economic attack on their sovereignty and identity.
  3. Stronger nations, in pursuit of their philosophy of ‘we can only become stronger if the others become weaker’ have forgotten how to become stronger themselves.
  4. The political cost: Politics in the West is limited to being either pro- or anti-war. Americans and the British are choosing their leaders on this basis alone. Politics in lesser countries like Pakistan is also decided on the basis of whether the leadership is supporting the war in Afghanistan.
  5. The economic cost: Recession is the inevitable result of bad politics and indifferent economic management. Stock prices are tumbling, the credit crunch is expanding and consumer spending is at its lowest. Companies have only one survival strategy i.e. tightening their belt. This of course means downsizing and cost-cutting which have worsened unemployment. Inflation is at an all-time high and food prices are unaffordable. Economies like Pakistan have gone into a freefall. Exports are down, the rupee is the most worthless currency possible raising the import bill to a level which cannot be paid thereby leading to further debts and deficits of all kinds.
  6. The social cost: The pressure to live, and live up to, is so huge in today’s society that the ability to live for real values and principles has given way to adherence to social norms which result in artificial lives with no substance or character.
  7. American society has gone into its worst period of racism and materialism; family units in the UK are almost an alien concept as the country has the highest number of teenage pregnancies where the mother being a child herself is incapable of rearing children. In Pakistan we have a society where extremism in both modernism and fascism has undermined its balance as a place with a reasonable ideology and identity. The youth of this country vacillate between two ends: some are partly copies of their western counterparts, the others of the Taliban, thus causing social confusion and emotional devastation.
  8. The attitude of each one of us should be that we should not have to wait for the world to change but initiate the change at our own level, no matter how small it is, because as they say “what lies behind us, and ahead of us, is insignificant compared to what lies within us".

Sep 6, 2008

The Poor Little Rich President.

I am completely and thoroughly tired of hearing "Dila Teer Bijaan Allay" everywhere I go. What are these people celebrating? The advent of another plutocratic President who by the way happens to be the second-richest man in the country?


Are these people seriously deluded or what?


Everywhere I go I hear the intelligent factions of society condemning the arrival of the man with the thicker moustache and yet here he is with all the fanfare and glory ready to rock Pakistan into a potentially explosive future (literally, now that I read about the US attacks). I can only ask the people of Pakistan, beg them, beseech them, pray for them, to open their eyes.


Open your eyes. This is a country where peopel are dying for food and health. And these are the assets of your President:

1. Plot no. 121, Phase VIII, DHA Karachi.

2. Agricultural land situated in Deh Dali Wadi, Taluka, Tando Allah Yar.

3. Agricultural property located in Deh Tahooki Taluka, District Hyderabad measuring 65.15 acres.

4. Agricultural land falling in Deh 76-Nusrat, Taluka, District Nawabshah measuring 827.14 acres

5. Agricultural land situated in Deh 76-Nusrat, Taluka, District Nawabshah measuring 293.18 acres

6. Residential plot No 3 (Now House) Block No B-I, City Survey No 2268 Ward-A Nawabshah

7. Huma Heights (Asif Apartments) 133, Depot Lines, Commissariat Road, Karachi

8. Trade Tower Building 3/CL/V Abdullah Haroon Road, Karachi

9. House No 8, St 9, F-8/2, Islamabad

10. Agricultural land in Deh 42 Dad Taluka/ District Nawabshah

11. Agricultural land in Deh 51 Dad Taluka Distt Nawabshah

12. Plot No 3 & 4 Sikni (residential) Near Housing Society Ltd. Nawabshah

13. CafT Sheraz (C.S No.. 2231/2 & 2231/3) Nawabshah

14. Agricultural land in Deh 23-Deh Taluka & District Nawabshah

15. Agricultural property in Deh 72-A, Nusrat Taluka, Nawabshah

16. Agricultural land in Deh 76-Nusrat Taluka, Nawabshah

17. Plot No. A/136 Survey No 2346 Ward A Government Employee’s Cooperative Housing Society Ltd, Nawabshah

18. Agricultural land in Deh Jaryoon Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad

19. Agricultural land in Deh Aroro Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad

20. Agricultural land in Deh Nondani Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad

21. Agricultural land in Deh Lotko Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad

22. Agricultural land in Deh Jhol Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad

23. Agricultural land in Deh Kandari Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad

24. Agricultural land in Deh Deghi Taluka Tando Mohammad Khan

25. Agricultural land in Deh Rahooki Taluka, Hyderabad

26. Property in Deh Charo Taluka, Badin

27. Agricultural property in Deh Dali Wadi Taluka, Hyderabad

28. Five acres prime land allotted by DG KDA in 1995/96

29. 4,000 kanals on Simli Dam

30. 80 acres of land at Hawkes Bay

31. 13 acres of land at Maj Gulradi (KPT Land)

32. One acre plot, GCI, Clifton

33. One acre of land, State Life (International Center, Sadar)

34. FEBCs worth Rs. 4 million

SHARES IN SUGAR MILLS INCLUDE:

1. Sakrand Sugar Mills Nawabshah

2. Ansari Sugar

3. Mills Hyderabad

4. Mirza Sugar Mills Badin

5. Pangrio Sugar Mills Thatta

6. Bachani Sugar Mills Sanghar

FRONT COMPANIES IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES:

1. Bomer Fiannce Inc, British Virgin Islands

2. Mariston Securities Inc, British Virgin Islands

3. Marleton Business S A, British Virgin Islands

4. Capricorn Trading S A, British Virgin Islands

5. Fagarita Consulting INc, British Virgin Islands

6. Marvil Associated Inc, British Virgin Islands

7. Pawnbury Finance Ltd, British Virgin Islands

8. Oxton Trading Limited, British Virgin Islands

9. Brinslen Invest S A, British Virgin Islands

10. Chimitex Holding S A, British Virgin Islands

11. Elkins Holding S A, British Virgin Islands

12. Minister Invest Ltd, British Virgin Islands

13. Silvernut Investment Inc, British Virgin Islands

14. Tacolen Investment Ltd, British Virgin Islands

15. Marlcrdon Invest S A, British Virgin Islands

16. Dustan Trading Inc, British Virgin Islands

17. Reconstruction and Development Finance Inc, British Virgin Islands

18. Nassam Alexander Inc.

19. Westminster Securities Inc.

20. Laptworth Investment Inc 202, Saint Martin Drive, West Jacksonville

21. Intra Foods Inc. 3376, Lomrel Grove, Jacksonville, Florida

22. Dynatel Trading Co, Florida

23. A..S Realty Inc. Palm Beach Gardens Florida

24. Bon Voyage Travel Consultancy Inc, Florida

ZARDARI’S PROPERTIES IN UK ARE:

1. 355 acre Rockwood Estate, Surrey (Now stands admitted)

2. Flat 6, 11 Queensgate Terrace, London SW7

3. 26 Palace Mansions, Hammersmith Road, London W14

4. 27 Pont Street, London, SW1

5. 20 Wilton Crescent, London SW1

6. 23 Lord Chancellor Walk, Coombe Hill, Kingston, Surrey

7. The Mansion, Warren Lane, West Hampstead, London

8. A flat at Queensgate Terrace, London

9. Houses at Hammersmith Road, Wilton Crescent, Kingston and in Hampstead.

ZARDARI’S PROPERTIES IN BELGIUM ARE:

1. 12-3 Boulevard De-Nieuport, 1000, Brussels, (Building containing 4 shops and 2 large apartments)

2. Chausee De-Mons, 1670, Brussels

ZARDARI’S PROPERTIES IN FRANCE ARE:

1. La Manoir De La Reine Blanche and property in Cannes

ZARDARI’S PROPERTIES IN USA — in the name of Asif Zardari and managed by Shimmy Qureshi are:

1. Stud farm in Texas

2. Wellington Club East, West Palm Beach

3. 12165 West Forest Hills, Florida

4. Escue Farm 13,524 India Mound, West Palm Beach

5. 3,220 Santa Barbara Drive, Wellington Florida

6. 13,254 Polo Club Road, West Palm Beach Florida

7. 3,000 North Ocean Drive, Singer Islands, Florida

8. 525 South Flager Driver, West Palm Beach, Florida

9. Holiday Inn Houston Owned by Asif Ali Zardari, Iqbal Memon and Sadar-ud-Din Hashwani

ZARDARI’S BANK ACCOUNTS IN FOREGN COMPANIES ARE:

1. Union Bank of Switzerland (Account No. 552.343, 257.556.60Q, 433.142.60V, 216.393.60T)

2. Citibank Private Limited (SWZ) (Account No. 342034)

3. Citibank N A Dubai (Account No. 818097)

4. Barclays Bank (Suisse) (Account No. 62290209)

5. Barclays Bank (Suisse) (Account No. 62274400)

6. Banque Centrade Ormard Burrus S A

7. Banque Pache S A

8. Banque Pictet & Cie

9. Banque La Henin, Paris (Account No. 00101953552)

10. Bank Natinede Paris in Geneva (Account NO.. 563.726.9)

11. Swiss Bank Corporation

12. Chase Manhattan Bank Switzerland

13. American Express Bank Switzerland

14. Societe De Banque Swissee

15. Barclays Bank (Knightsbridge Branch) (Account No. 90991473)

16. Barclays Bank, Kingston and Chelsea Branch, (Sort Code 20-47-34135)

17. National Westminster Bank, Alwych Branch (Account No. 9683230)

18. Habib Bank (Pall Mall Branch).

19. National Westminster Bank, Barking Branch, (Account No. 28558999).

20. Habib Bank AG, Moorgate, London EC2

21. National Westminster Bank, Edgware Road, London

22. Banque Financiei E Dela Citee, Credit Suisse

23. Habib Bank AG Zurich, Switzerland

24. Pictet Et Cie, Geneva

25. Credit Agricole, Paris

26. Credit Agridolf, Branch 11, Place Brevier, 76440, Forges Les Faux

27. Credit Agricole, Branch Haute – Normandie, 76230, Boise Chillaum

Yes, Mr. President.


December 18, 1987.


1996. Mr. President of 2008.


2004. Release from jail.


2007. Benazir leaves for Pakistan from UAE.


2008. The future of PPP and Pakistan.



And the future unfolds.

Any discerning Pakistani would be asking themselves the same question. What, after this, is to ensue in this unfortunate series of events?

For a full article on Mr. Zardari's rise to power and all that in a situation where Pakistan must not afford anymore mistakes go here.

The only thing to fear is an American invasion.

Just when I was thinking that Zardari was just about the worst thing that could happen to this country, I find this in the news.

What disturbs me even more is the deja vu that surrounds this event. The denial from United States (they only deny when they've got plenty to hide in the Oval Room). The upper-northern borders of the country being heavily involved in military action. And an insurgence. An insurgence.

I am afraid.

I am afraid of what is going to happen to this country if these operations continue. And the US denying involvement in a military operation is just as bad as the fat lady singing.

I repeat. I am afraid.

Sep 3, 2008

Tagged by Mampi.

What kind of day would I be?

Bright and shiny. With a few clouds looming over. Little kids playing, birds chirping, a slightly chilly evening and a fantastic star-filled night.

P.S. That doesn't mean I'm fantastically starry, I just like starry nights.

Sep 2, 2008

What a bloody mess - by Ardeshir Cowasjee.

I'm not a big Cowasjee fan as such. His reputation for the NGO "Shehri" is bad enough for me to be blown away by pretty words. But this is too good to pass.

HOW ironic. Having reiterated time and time again over the past years that the then president of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, was (and remains) the best of the worst lot, it was highly amusing to read in a column headed “Musharraf’s Pakistan had true potential” printed in the Boston Globe of Aug 26: “The sad thing is that Musharraf was the best of the current lot.”

And how factual was an editorial in The Independent (London) of the same day which opened up: “Even by the notoriously low standards of South Asian politics, Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the PPP, is a compromised figure, dogged by corruption charges. So it is hard to be enthused by the PPP’s decision to nominate its leader as the country’s next president.”

This was one day after the Financial Times had broken the news of the medical reports compiled by two New York-based psychiatrists, which had been filed in a London court to support an application to delay corruption cases brought against him by the Pakistan government. The diagnoses were delivered in March 2007 and successfully served their purpose. The FT report opens “Asif Ali Zardari, the leading contender for the presidency of nuclear-armed Pakistan, was suffering from severe psychiatric problems as recently as last year, according to court documents filed by his doctors.”

The FT report has also been picked up and commented upon internationally. Pakistan is in the news again to its detriment. Presidential candidate Zardari has been diagnosed as suffering from “emotional instability”, memory loss and concentration problems, and major depressive disorder. These court papers have caused alarm amongst the citizens of his country who question his ability, and his fitness, to occupy the presidential chair.

In these past few days, I have been inundated with e-mails calling upon me to come to the aid of the country and save it from Zardari. Little do they know what a columnist can achieve — all he can do is save a few blind donkeys and some old trees. Even were I to approach the courts, under the present circumstances, my petition would be thrown out quicker than a wink of an eye. And the same goes for the Election Commission. Citizens of Pakistan are, these days, wary of ‘consequences’.

Now, constitutionally where does Zardari stand in view of the court-backed doubts about his mental state? The president, under Article 41(2) is required to be “qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly”. According to Article 63(a) a person is disqualified to be a member of the National Assembly if “he is of unsound mind and has been so declared by a competent court”.

The court in London accepted the psychiatrists’ certificates and acted upon them. Zardari, if he wishes to deny the diagnoses, must plead that the London court is incompetent and that the psychiatrists were falsifying. We must go with an editorial of Aug 28 which counselled that “It would be unwise to dismiss the recent revelations about the fragile state of Mr Asif Zardari’s mental health as irrelevant,” and asked “Does the country really need another potentially deluded individual to lead it through these troubled times?”

Dementia, as any psychiatrist will confirm, is a progressive disorder which usually does not remit with any known treatment. A combination of major depressive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder can hamper memory and judgment. This goes a long way towards explaining the recent Zardari string of dishonoured signed agreements and broken promises.

As if the Zardari mental health state was not sufficient unto the day, news broke in Europe and the US two days later about the release by Switzerland of assets amounting to some $60m which were frozen in 1997 by a Geneva court investigating allegations of kickbacks received by Zardari and Benazir Bhutto between 1994 and 1997 (her second term as prime minister). In June, our attorney general penned a letter to the Swiss prosecutor general informing him that neither husband nor wife had done anything illegal and that the charges were politically motivated (thank you, USA and Musharraf, for the NRO). The money laundering case was dropped and Zardari is now richer than ever having pocketed a dubious $60m, though the PPP leader vehemently denies receiving this amount.

The investigating judge in Geneva, Daniel Devaud, was flabbergasted. “It would be very difficult to say that there is nothing in the files that shows there was possible corruption going on after what I have seen in there. After I heard what the general prosecutor said, I have a feeling we are talking about two different cases.” The Swiss release should not in any way be interpreted as a sign of innocence.

Now, let us revert to our mutilated almost incomprehensible constitution which as far as Article 62 goes is clear. To qualify as a member of the National Assembly, and thus to be able to contest the presidential election, a man must be “of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions”, and he must be “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen”. No further comment is necessary.

We must wonder how our armed forces feel about all this. After all, the president is not only their supreme commander but he has his finger on the nuclear button. Zardari and his sycophantic supine political party must ask themselves if he truly qualifies to be a head of state. He has five days in which to prove himself a patriot and a democrat. Democracy, no matter what the party slogan may proclaim, is not a form of revenge and for him to carry through his ambition (which he has nursed ever since he made up his mind to rid himself of Musharraf) would be an act of vengeance upon his country and its people.

Of the three presidential candidates, Mushahid Hussain is by far the cleanest (the ‘best of the worst’). I have suggested to him that, as a directly affected party, he go to the courts immediately and at least attempt to obtain a stay order. The frightened people of the world and the people of Pakistan will undoubtedly support his move.

arfc@cyber.net.pk

Re: the genius of Zardari.

John Maszka left a comment on my post and since the comment was slightly equal to the post itself, I'm thinking it justifies a new post altogether.

He writes:

"An Escalation of the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a Very Bad Policy.

"Conservatives and liberals can argue the merits of the surge in Iraq , or the need to deal with terrorism now rather than later (or the genius of Zardari). I want to focus on something else: the impact of the perspective of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. I’m not implying that it is somehow homogeneous, just relevant; more relevant than my opinion at least.

"Taking the war on terror back to Afghanistan (and most likely Pakistan) is bad for a number of reasons: the perspective of the international Muslim community; the fact that a military solution has not worked thus far, so why keep kicking a dead horse (especially when it has the potential to trample you); the delicate balance of power in the immediate theatre and in the broader region; the likely negative reaction of other states; and last but not least, its potential impact on the price and availability of oil."

Democracy doesn't seem to be quite the stallion we imagined either. In a country where over 70 percent of people do not understand what it means to cast a vote or what it stands for, militant rule is almost as bad as a feudal democracy. I wonder why the West keeps pushing for a democratic solution when in fact leaders have failed to provide a democratic ground for leadership and representation to the people of Pakistan.

"Pakistan ’s reaction to the Bush Doctrine has been somewhat mixed. Musharraf was caught in the middle between pleasing the U.S. to ensure continued military and economic support, and the preferences of his constituents who resent the U.S. presence there. The region is already very unstable because of this tension between the US applying pressure from the outside and the internal desire of the populace to rid themselves of the unwanted American presence."

Pervez Musharraf had a lack of options, so to speak. On statements that read to 'be prepared to be bombed back to the stone age' and the famous 'are you with us or against us', a country which was already beleaguered by inter-provincial dividend factions and illiteracy, there was hardly a choice left. Hardliners couldn't have made the situation any better and the democratic leaders were too busy hiding behind foreign borders. People, deluded and fed with whatever mass-media and erring politicians shoved into their mouths, didn't know a war on terror from a war on oil. Musharraf was undeniably stuck between the devil and deep sea as the US pressure continued undeterred.

"We can say the exact same thing about Afghanistan , Karzai is in a very similar position as Musharraf was. In 2006, Karzai had to start rearming the warlords to maintain order. Similarly, in September 2006, Pakistan was forced to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan - a loose group of Waziristani chieftains, closely associated with the Taliban, who now serve as the de facto security force in charge of North and South Waziristan.

"If Senator Obama becomes president, and refocuses the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan , the best we can hope for is another five to six years of what we’ve seen in Iraq . But this best-case scenario is very unlikely."

If you're telling me that five-six years is a good bet for Iraq, it's probably worse than what can be imagined for Iraqis surviving suicide explosions and a crippled socio-political atmosphere. Where Pakistan will be when Obama is chosen is not a matter of speculation. US foreign policy is dominated chiefly by self-interest and so it shall remain. Pakistan is only crucial so far Obama remains interested in holding ties strong enough til the war lasts. Once that patch fades out, it's back to the nuclear sanctions for Pakistan.

"In addition to a multiple-front war, we would be dealing, not with a fallen state as with Iraq , but with two established states. This could possibly work in our favor as long as they continue to remain on our side. But as already mentioned, the tension is high, and there is a very delicate balance keeping Karzai in power. What if Karzai falls to a coup or assassination? And now with Musharraf stepping down, what happens if Musharraf’s successor plays to the popular demands of the people? We could find ourselves fighting the armies of the sovereign states of Afghanistan and Pakistan , in addition to insurgent forces there. If we consider the history of this region, we realize that this is not as far-fetched as it might sound on the face of it."

The People's Party's chief interests are different than that of Musharraf. They may have vied for the same country's premiership but their M.O.s are quite different as we have seen from the past events. Musharraf decided futures with his handful of diplomats and consults. Zardari and his party-mates have been promoting a coalition for long and they quite understand the crucial significance of the alliance of Punjab for it's stay in power. It is although critical to question what and how Zardari sways the decisions of the country remains subject to confirmation.

"As we all know, the Taliban was comprised of Sunni Islamists and Pashtun nationalists (mostly from southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan ). The Taliban initially enjoyed support from the U.S. , Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , and the United Arab Emirates in the early 1980s to fight the Soviets. By 1996, the Taliban had gained control of most of Afghanistan , but its relationship with the U.S. and most of the rest of the world became strained. Most of the international community supported the Taliban’s rival, the Afghan Northern Alliance .

"Still, even after the U.S. began to distance itself from the Taliban in late 1997, Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , and the United Arab Emirates continued to officially recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Even after 9/11 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates officially stopped recognizing the Taliban, Pakistan continued to support it. The Taliban in turn, had tremendous influence in Pakistani politics, especially among lobby groups- as it virtually controlled areas such as the Pashtun Belt ( Southeast Afghanistan , and Northwest Pakistan ) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

"Going back to the perception of the international Muslim community … When the U.S. demanded that the Taliban turn Bin Laden over, it initially offered to turn Bin Laden over to Pakistan to be tried by an international tribunal operating according to Sharia law. But Pakistan was urged by the U.S. to refuse. Again, prior to the beginning of U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan , the Taliban offered to try Bin Laden according to Islamic law, but the U.S. refused. After the U.S. began air strikes, the Taliban offered to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral state to be tried under Islamic law, but the U.S. again refused. This is important because in the eyes of the greater international community, the war in Afghanistan was justified (at least initially). But in the eyes of the international Muslim community, especially given the Taliban’s offer to turn over Bin Laden, it was an unnecessary war. This, combined with the preemptive war in Iraq , has led many Muslims to equate the war on terror with a war on Islam. Senator Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan will only serve to reinforce that impression."

Pakistan faces mountain criticism for harboring terrorists and fugitives and fundamentalists in the given years. Important factors must be understood that the Pakistanis have found themselves at the hands of facing agents which were never theirs to begin with. The Taliban culture which Pakistanis are being told to fight day in and day out are no more than the leftovers of the Afghan war. If the US expects Pakistanis to 'hand over' Bin Laden, it must remember that it is not talking to a state just as powerful to fight a proxy war.

"Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an Islamic political party in Pakistan , won elections in two out of four provinces in 2003, and became the third largest political party in the Pakistani parliament – with substantial support from urban areas (not just border regions). This speaks to the tremendous influence Islamic groups enjoy in Pakistan .

"This strong influence is fueled by the fact that the Pashtun tribal group is over 40 million strong. The Taliban continues to receive many of its members from this group today. In fact, the Pakistani army suffered humiliating defeat at the hand of these so-called “insurgents.” Finally, in September 2006, Pakistan was forced to officially recognize the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan. Many saw the Pakistani government’s acknowledgment of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan as not only a military necessity, but also a political one as well – a concession in response to the growing internal pressure on the Musharraf administration from the people of Pakistan who resent the U.S. presence and involvement in the region.

"Just consider the many, many public protests against the Pakistani government’s compliance with the United States . For instance, on January 13, 2006 , the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola , Pakistan . Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area.

"On October 30, 2006 , the Pakistani military, under pressure from the U.S. , attacked a madrasah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan . Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced the U.S. military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America !” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam. On November 7, 2006a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, without ever offering their condolences to the families of the slaughtered children.

"Last year troubles escalated surrounding the Pakistani government’s siege of the Red Mosque where more than 100 people were killed. Even before Musharraf’s soldiers took the Lal Masjid the retaliations began. Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center."

Agreed. All were results of an insurgent foreign policy rather than an insurgent militant operation. The suicide attacks, the destabilization of the government, the assassination of one of the most prominent leaders of the country are not results of Pakistan's war on terror. It is the result of the US pressure to fight a war, to fight a man we have never seen, to beat an enemy hidden beneath caves and mountains of Afghanistan. How many more women and children will bear the brunt of the war on terror?

What the US continues to fail to realize is how their political methodology is focusing on not understanding how the war is further and further destabilising the nation. No amount of democracy is going to solve the millions of Talibans it launched into the borders of Afghanistan.

Pakistan needs to be separated from the Afghanistan loop. This suicide-bombing legacy is only going to spurl further if the pressure doesn't back down. This is not a matter of war on a battlefield where a certain number of explosions do the trick. It is not going to be about when Bin Laden gets handed over (what do you suppose will happen if he does? Who's to say there aren't a dozen more Bin Ladens waiting to be drafted?).

"There are countless more examples; too many to mention in detail. Likewise in Afghanistan ; April 30, 2007 for example, when hundreds of Afghans protested US soldiers killing Afghan civilians. Why can’t the powers that be recognize that we’ve been in Afghanistan for nearly seven years, and in Iraq for over five; a military approach is not working. If we must focus the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan , let’s focus on winning the hearts and minds of the beautiful people of these countries, rather than filling their hearts with bitterness and hatred toward us. With their support, we can offer them the financial and technical assistance that they need to rebuild their infrastructure, their agriculture and their economy. With their support, we can offer them the needed resources to rebuild their human capital and start attracting foreign direct investment. But without their support, we cannot possibly have any positive influence in this region at all; our only influence will be that of brute force, bribery of corrupt officials, and outright coercion. It will be a long, hard, costly and bloody endeavor, and the people of these countries will continue to suffer.

"Let’s not forget that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Let’s not also forget that this is a highly Muslim-concentrated area, the Islamic concept of duty to come to the aid of fellow Muslims would no doubt ensure a huge influx of jihadists in this type of a scenario. Why on earth would we want to intentionally provoke a situation that would not only radicalize existing moderates in the region, but could also potentially cause the influx of a concentration of radical jihadists from elsewhere into an already unstable region (that has nuclear weapons no less)? We would be begging for a nuclear proliferation problem.

"We like to assume that we would have the upper hand in such a scenario. But we have been in Afghanistan since October of 2001. And we have yet to assume the upper hand. The fight in Afghanistan has the potential to become much more difficult than it already is. Nor would it be unheard of to expect other major powers to back these radical jihadists with economic and military assistance in much the same way that the US backed the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union . Beyond the fact that roughly 1/5 of the world’s population is Muslim (approximately 1.5 billion people- 85% Sunni, 15% Shia, Ibadiyyas, Ahmadis and Druze), we have to remember that Muslims are the majority in 57 states (out of 195). Most of these have Sunni majorities, which gives them added political power.

"China has traditionally backed Pakistan . What would China do if the US were to find itself at war with Pakistan?"

Pakistan can not afford wars any more than it can afford education and literacy and resolving the power crises. It knows far too much how to kneel than to stand in the face of the United States. With or without fundamentalist agendas, including JUI, Pakistan continues to fear the consequences of a out-and-out conflict with the most powerful country in the world.

"India has tremendous economic and security interests in the region. Let’s not forget that while India has been in nearly continual conflict with Pakistan , primarily over the Kashmir issue, it has the second largest Muslim population in the world next to Indonesia . What happens if India were to side with the U.S. in a potential conflict with Pakistan ? It will have a very difficult task justifying that position with its very large Muslim population. A U.S.-Indian alliance could also spark more terrorist attacks in the Kashmir region; it could also create added tension to the already tenuous relationship between India and Iran , which has a long history of support for Pakistan . Or, if radicals gained control of Pakistan ’s nuclear arsenal, a nuclear attack against India could spark a nuclear altercation between the two nuclear powers. Or, what if radicals then gained control of India ’s nuclear arsenal?

"On the other hand, what happens if India for some reason (either via a coup or due to Muslims gaining the upper hand in the long-running Hindu-Muslim conflict) were to side with Pakistan against the United States ? It seems unlikely now, but not completely unrealistic considering the on-again, off-again relationship between the U.S. and every country in that region. We constantly flip-flop in our foreign policy. An attack on Pakistani soil would be a perfect example of this type of wishy-washy foreign policy, as the Bush administration guaranteed Musharraf that the U.S. would never do such a thing (as much as Karzai wants us to). Speaking of Karzai, what if he is ousted and we find ourselves at war with Afghanistan . What would India do then, given its friendship with Afghanistan ?"

Again something that has a seldom chance of happening. The Kashmir issue is far from being resolved. Until that day comes political ties will continue to remain strained between Pakistan and India.

"Also consider the U.S. position on Kashmir , which has a predominantly Muslim population. Pakistan wants a plebiscite, as called for in a 1949 UN resolution, to essentially allow the people to decide which state the region should belong to. India refuses a plebiscite, claiming Kashmir and Jammu as an integral part of India . The U.S. is arming both sides through billions in aid to Pakistan and selective proliferation to India , but insists Pakistan stem terrorist activities flowing from inside its borders, and at the same time discourages India from attacking Pakistan . Yet an escalation of war in the area could backfire badly."

That might have its effects but I'm sure the United States will find a way to turn it into its favor. As a rule, it is the smaller country that suffers. I'm hoping Pakistan's militia and intelligentsia have both learnt this lesson.

"Beyond all that we still have to consider a slew of other states such as Saudi Arabia , Iran , and Russia – not to mention the central Asian states - all of which have economic and/or political and security interests in the region. How will they react to an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan?"

The same way they responded when the war on terror escalated in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. They'll cry and stomp and reject the war. But then eventually accept it.

"Finally, what would such a scenario do to oil prices and availability? I’m 100% in favor of America developing alternative energy sources, but again that’s my opinion, and the oil conglomerates have not been listening to me. Unfortunately, the facts are that the oil lobby is a very powerful entity. Even more to the point, our country could not ween itself off of oil overnight, even if it wanted to. We have to consider what such an escalation would do to oil prices, and the overall availability of oil.

"The oil embargo of 1974 (in support of Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur war against Israel ), in retaliation against the U.S. for its support of Israel had devastating economic and political consequences on the U.S. and much of Europe . Also, the more recent boycott of Danish products across the Muslim world, in retaliation for the 2005 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, demonstrates the ability of the international Muslim community to act collectively.

"Escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan would also demonstrate the fickle and hypocritical nature of America ’s foreign policy. We supported the Taliban when it served our interests (to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan ) in spite of clear human rights abuses. But now we condemn the Taliban (and much of the Muslim world) over the very same human rights abuses (against women … etc.), while we also continue to ignore similar or same human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia, Israel … etc., when it’s convenient for us to do so. We did the same thing with Saddam Hussein; arming him in spite of clear and egregious human rights abuses when he was our ally, and condemning the same actions when he wasn’t.

"The U.S. practices selective proliferation with India , and selective sovereignty with those it chooses (today Pakistan , tomorrow someone other than Pakistan ), while at the same time violating the sovereignty of other states- depending on its whim at the time.

"The United States government insisted that the Taliban turn over Bin Laden, but the United States itself has refused on several occasions to return foreign nationals (being held on death row in America) to their state of domicile because the U.S. wanted them to face execution, and the home state did not uphold the death penalty. We also continue to refuse to acknowledge the ICC because we don’t want American military personnel tried in an international court. How is that so different from the Taliban wanting Bin Laden tried in an Islamic court?

"Rather than blindly accepting that America holds some God-given moral superiority over the rest of the planet, we need to realize that everywhere, humanity has a God-given right to live, love and prosper. Our children have the right to grow up in an environment free of air strikes and constant assault from an external enemy. They have the right to attend schools without fear of being maimed and killed inside of them. And they have the right to be children, instead of orphans. No state has the right to take that away from your children, or from mine. Imagine now that Senator Obama is planning to escalate the war on terror where you live."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Much thanks to John Maszka for the insightful comment and for taking the time out to read the post so thoroughly and effectively.