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Talking Pakistan: My Anniversary Post

Posted on June 12, 2007
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, About ATP
32 Comments
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Owais Mughal

Yesterday ATP completed its firsr year. A year, that went past very fast and a year that I thoroughly enjoyed. My association with ATP started in late June of 2006; when I received an introductory email from a friend who was very impressed by the infant ATP site. In my first visit to the site, I immediately noticed that ATP was different from any other Pakistani web site I had ever come across. The difference was in the quality of material that was (and is) posted here as well as the unbiased views of its editor Adil Najam. From that day onwards, I was hooked on to this blog, whenever I got chance. Sometimes it was several times a day. Soon I joined the team of ATP editors along with Bilal. I must admit that Adil laid the foundations and did all the initial hard work wheras I joined ATP when it was time to reap the fruit of his hard work.


In the last one year we have made a conscious effort to keep up with our standard of research and homework that goes behind the scenes for anything we post here. We have views on things, as do our readers and we do not hide them. But above all we want to be fair. This is ‘All Things Pakistan’ and it is also ‘All Views Pakistan’ as long as they are presented in a decent manner that also respects alternative viewpoints.

We like Pakistan, we like Pakistanis and we like talking about Pakistan. But this is NOT a propaganda site. When we see something good we want to say it is good. When something is bad that should be improved we want to say that too. Ignoring things that should be improved will be as wrong as ignoring things that deserve to be praised.

Above all we have tried to keep up the tone of our posts simple. We want them to be like the way Pakistanis talk about common things that connect them to Pakistan. Long-time readers will remember that in teh early days the Header used to say “Speaking about Pakistan the way Pakistanis talk about Pakistan.” We still believe in that. As an example I want to present our discussions on tea, fountain pens, cap styles, coins, highways, politics etc which is just the way these things are discussed by common people in Pakistan in drawing rooms and streets. We have also made a conscious effort to mix-and-match our posts across a wide range of topic so that everyone gets to read their topics of interest.

Another thing that attracts me to ATP is the total freedom of choosing a topic here. I’ve been writing here for almost a year and Adil or Bilal have never directed me on any topic to which I should write about. We have tried to give teh same freedom to our many guest writers. As long as it is about Pakistan. We try to write from the heart and so far it has been making connection with our readership who also write their comments from the heart.
Now to talk about the disappointments. One big disappointment for me is that we are still learning the etiquettes of a ‘majlis’ while leaving comments. Sometimes it seems like people are shouting at each other instead of reasoning. Many people who used to write comments in our earlier days are now shying away on fear of being shouted at by those who do not agree with them. I guess we need to evolve as a community on how to be respectful and how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Before keying-off I also want to thank my dear wife who has always supported me in my writings. She herself being very busy with her schedule, has always made sure that I get enough time on my own to write. I also want to welcome Darwaish as our new addition to the team.

Thank you, all, for your continued support. ATP is your own website. Come here often and continue to leave your valuable comments.

32 Comments on “Talking Pakistan: My Anniversary Post”

  1. June 13th, 2007 2:11 am

    Owais: I look forward to continuing this journey under your leadership. I have learned much in the past year and it has been a sheer joy watching ATP grow. If I look back a year ago I could not have imagined that the type of discussions I used to have with Adil in person can now be had with a wider group of friends online. Adil introduced me to the word Pakistaniat and it is now a part of who I am. Thank you.

    At this occasion, I want to thank all those who have commented here on our posts because without your enthusiasm and contribution this would be no more than an evening newspaper. We have all agreed and disagreed in the past but truth be told, just the process of interacting with each other itself has been cathartic and healing during difficult times. As long as we maintain civility, I am sure we will only learn more about ourselves and our Pakistaniat.

  2. Aqil Sajjad says:
    June 13th, 2007 5:06 am

    Congratulations. It’s been really great here. Keep up the good work.

  3. June 13th, 2007 5:20 am

    Best of luck, thanx for blogrolling me.

    btw, this is just in..
    As Adil Bhai brought forward his video of Faiz’s great work, so has Geo but its more inclined towards the current context:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hzkb5gQAyk

  4. Phil says:
    June 13th, 2007 5:30 am

    Guutch… keep up the good work. The hard ‘behind the scenes’ effort does show in your (team’s) posts. I would recommend to keep the author’s group small, otherwise a whole bunch of authors will start writing for your page and the reader won’t be able to connect with them.

    Thanks, and good luck.

  5. June 13th, 2007 6:52 am

    Congratulations on a wonderful site.

    Anyone can make a site, the challenge is to bring together likeminded people on it to contribute positively.

    Good luck.

  6. ahsan says:
    June 13th, 2007 7:13 am

    “Anyone can make a site, the challenge is to bring together likeminded people on it to contribute positively”

    With all due respect, please allow me to change “like-minded” to “different-mindid” in your above statement. Thanks.

  7. Wasiq says:
    June 13th, 2007 7:45 am

    This is a good site and I appreciate the efforts of everyone here.

    My only comment is that it tends too much to reflect the approach of Pakistan’s drawing room elites when it comes to politics.

    Culture, development and nice feel-good pictures are all fine. In the end, however, the future of a nation and a state depends on politics. After all, “nation” and “state” are both political concepts.

    So, my suggestion for the second year is to open up fairly and squarely to political issues.

    Invite Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan to post occasionally. Ask well known, even partisan political commentators to voice their opinions here. Let us review some of our deeply held political convictions, which lead to flawed civilian rule followed by temporarily good but eventually bad military interventions.

    ‘All Things Pakistan’ should be more than a continuation of the conversations most well-to-do and foreign educated Pakistanis have in their living/drawing rooms. It should help bridge the divide between the educated professional who loves and grieves about Pakistan without being able to change it and the real players in politics who have the capacity to change things but lack the professional ability to understand how to do it.

    If that is not done, we will remain a collection of IT professionals, bankers, economists, physicians, scientists waxing nostalgic about our homeland and occasionally making contributions such as earthquake relief. But we will not be able to put our country back on track without constitutional democracy.

  8. Zehra Jan says:
    June 13th, 2007 8:15 am

    Well done Adil and team! This is one of my favourite Pakistani blogs and Adil’s personal integrity and excellent writing have had a lot to do with it.
    I agree with Wasiq vis-a-vis Pakistaniat’s political postings though. Politics has to be seen unemotionally and realistically and I do find a lot of drawing room discussions here and on other Pakistan related blogs….Maturity needs to come into our thinking and our analyis of political events and personalities. ZJAN

  9. Zehra Jan says:
    June 13th, 2007 8:15 am

    Well done Adil and team! This is one of my favourite Pakistani blogs and Adil’s personal integrity and excellent writing have had a lot to do with it.
    I agree with Wasiq vis-a-vis Pakistaniat’s political postings though. Politics has to be seen unemotionally and realistically and I do find a lot of drawing room discussions here and on other Pakistan related blogs….Maturity needs to come into our thinking and our analyis of political events and personalities. ZJAN

  10. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    June 13th, 2007 8:57 am

    Wasiq: You have made some valid points by saying that “ATP should be more than a continuation of the conversations most well-to-do and foreign educated Pakistanis have in their living/drawing rooms. It should help bridge the divide between the educated professional who loves and grieves about Pakistan without being able to change it and the real players in politics who have the capacity to change things but lack the professional ability to understand how to do it”.

    But Wasiq let us examine who are the “real players in politics”. What is their mettle. Most politicians in Pakistan are poorly educated bunch who are in politics just for the power and for personal gains. Could they be the kind of partners you are looking for.

    You also say that “If that is not done, we will remain a collection of IT professionals, bankers, economists, physicians, scientists waxing nostalgic about our homeland and occasionally making contributions such as earthquake relief. But we will not be able to put our country back on track without constitutional democracy”.

    You are right on that Wasiq. I suggest that we need not to wait for the politicians and get involved directly into the lives of every day Pakistanis. Let us start with education. Let us pick up one or few children from the poorest of the poor families in Pakistan and send them to the kind of schools we send our own children to; all expenses paid. If enough of us “well-to-do-drawing-room-type” do it, the change you are talking about will happen. Let it start us. Let us be the change we talk about.

  11. Zehra Jan says:
    June 13th, 2007 9:59 am

    Pervaiz:
    But, why are most politicians a poorly educated bunch……..because people like us do not want to dirty our hands by getting into the rough and tumble world of Pakistani politics….and therefore improve the situation. Yes, we should be educating kids and giving back in every way we can but that is not difficult is it. In fact, I see it as another drawing room solution. Get in and get involved. There are some educated folks in Pakistani politics like Aitzaz Ahsan, Benazir, Imran etc. Join them. Zehra Jan

  12. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    June 13th, 2007 11:54 am

    Zehra Jan: You are right. But I believe bringing quality education to the poor masses is the answer. I have found it to be a very rewarding and satisfying experience and it could be done rather easily. There was not much expected from Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, but Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto turned out to be a big disappointment. One must not expect too much from the politicians any way. Educate the masses and they will take what is rightfully theirs. If you are well to do, allocate one thousand dollars per year over a sustained period towards education of children from the poorest of the poor families and see the results yourself. You will be amazed by the results. You will see that you have uplifted the life of the whole family. You will bring hope where there was none. Please consider it.

  13. Zehra Jan says:
    June 13th, 2007 12:26 pm

    Pervaiz: You are quite right and it is doable as you say. Maybe you could write a piece on the benefits both social and personal to inspire others as well. I am going to do it. Thanks. ZJAN

  14. khairsoomro says:
    June 13th, 2007 1:00 pm

    Wish you the best of luck.

  15. June 13th, 2007 1:12 pm

    owais sahab,

    your posts about street cricket in Pakistan and empress market journey are my most favorite posts. Thankyou.

  16. Wasiq says:
    June 13th, 2007 3:12 pm

    Pervaiz,

    I agree with the need for quality education for the masses but may I add that political consciousness is not confined by academic education. Illiterate masses voted and got Pakistan, didn’t they? And are many of our venal politicians the products of good universities.

    Most of the politicians under Quaid-e-Azam and until 1958 were highly educated. Then Ayub Khan and Martial Law stepped in, politics was give a bad name and the argument was introduced that until the entire nation gets educated the country should be ruled by an educated elite (i.e. the army, the bureaucracy and some imported technocrats).

    Even now, instead of discussing the system, eduacated Pakistanis just go on about how bad the politicians are — a legacy of the Ayubian argument. There is arrogance amonmg educated Pakistani professionals about “what do the illiterate masses know” without recognizing that it was the wisdom of these masses and their vote that created our country, in the first place.

    Across the border, in India, they persisted with democratic politics and often with bad and semi-literate politicians. They got their share of Laloo Prasad Yadavs but they now have a Ph D in Economics as their Prime Minister.

    So, what I am calling for is a discussion of the system and process, including a call upon professionals to shun disregard for politics. Yes, in the first stage we will have our equivalents of Laloo Prasad Yadavs but involvement of educated people alongside them will pave the way for our Manmohan Singhs –educated as well as elected with the people’s blessings.

  17. Fahd says:
    June 13th, 2007 3:38 pm

    Interesting that you mention it, I came to this site through Google news; ofcourse searching for news on Pakistan. Good work guys and keep it up…

  18. Aqil Sajjad says:
    June 13th, 2007 4:22 pm

    While it’s true that most of us ATP valas come from a certain socio-economic background, getting people like BB, NS, Imran Khan etc to post here is hardly the way to make the discussions more representative of Pakistanis. Politicians already get plenty of space in the media. All kinds of statements by them (sensible as well as utterly idiotic) get more coverage than what is actually needed. It is the voice of the so called common man that is always missing and both politicians and the urban educated elites endlessly go on speaking on their behalf with their own assumptions.

  19. Aqil Sajjad says:
    June 13th, 2007 4:41 pm

    Dear Pervez sb:
    I agree with your point about education. However, please allow me to add that literacy and political awareness are not the same thing. As an example, just check the voting behaviour of educated urban Pakistanis. Many of them don’t even vote, and those who do don’t really demonstrate any greater maturity than the so called “jahil” awam.

    I am from Islamabad and have often wondered why the city does not have an elected local government under the devolution system and why Islamabadis are least bothered about it. We love to say that our ‘jahil’ awam are not fit for democrasy and our pet explanation for functioning democrasies for the west is that they have educated societies. But then, why is the largely educated population of Islamabad not pushing for an elected local government? What is their excuse?

    So while I fully agree with your point on the need to help others in their education, I don’t think that alone is the solution to our political problems.

  20. Wasiq says:
    June 13th, 2007 5:00 pm

    Good point, Aqil, about politicians getting enough space in the media laready. I take my proposal on that point back.

    All I want is more discussion of political issues here and with more and varied voices.

    Every now and then there is a good article on Pakistan’s politics in a less known journal or newspaper. Perhaps Adil can look out for these.

    Also, we can occasionally discuss well argued political articles from the Urdu press as most regular blog wallahs only seem to read Dawn, the Daily Times and The News. Even good arguments from ‘The Nation’ and ‘The Post’ are missed.

    Of course, on the point about elite not showing respect for the politically more astute “Jahil Awam” you and I are in full agreement.

  21. MQ says:
    June 13th, 2007 5:01 pm

    PMA and Zehra Jan,

    Your sentiments on educating the poor children of Pakistan are commendable. We are getting off topic, but I think the problem of educating the poor in Pakistan is a little more complex than it appears. (I am not talking of just literacy.) Let me share with you some of my personal experience in this area.

    I started a school for less privileged children in 1999 in the garage of my farmhouse in a village. My motives were more “selfishâ€

  22. Zehra Jan says:
    June 13th, 2007 5:18 pm

    Dear MQ:
    What can one do to help you incentivize the parents and students? ZJAN

  23. ahmed says:
    June 13th, 2007 11:08 pm

    Well, i have to say, this is one of my fav websites. Really like your blogs and also like people commenting, and best of all i like the name of your website.Very informative and keeps me connected with my
    Pakistan.

  24. Sridhar says:
    June 14th, 2007 12:40 am

    Owais:

    You first invited me to visit this forum and I have been hooked ever since. I have no hesitation in saying that this is the best blog on Pakistan that I have seen. It is active, has diverse contributors and a high level of participation in terms of comments from diverse visitors.

    I have particularly enjoyed your posts and the “slice of life” nature of topics they covered. While I enjoy the posts on political issues as well, your posts provide a welcome distraction, interspersing humor and nostalgia with truly informative content.

    Please accept my congratulations, on behalf of the entire ATP team, on an excellent first year and best wishes for the future.

  25. Kamala says:
    June 14th, 2007 8:16 am

    For those of you who feel that ATP should focus more on politics, I have this to say:please please spare a thought for us non-Pakistanis who also love this blog for its myriad views of Pakistan :-)
    While I agree that politics should be given its due importance, I cannot overstate the important role that ATP (in my humble opinion) has played in dispelling the cliche of Pakistan as a muclear-armed State, forever on the precipice of chaos.
    Posts on Faiz and Ghalib; about drinking Chai and eating luscious mangoes; and about the Temples of Katas Raj;all serve to inform the mind, stimulate the senses,and present Pakistan in colors,other than monochrome.
    Thank you ATP, may the force be with you!

  26. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    June 14th, 2007 8:48 am

    MQ: I am involved in a project similar to yours and we are having similar problems. These problems are tackled to some degree by expanding your program from purley educational to social and economical program. I know it is an undertaking but the socio-economic interests of the parents and teachers have to be considered as well to make your project a success. For teachers the job at your school has to be the best job they will get any where else and for parents; they have to be freed from the need of the meager income they would get from the labor of their child. And then there have to be regular visits to the homes of the students to ‘educate’ the parents about the virtues and long term benefits of education.

    Education of the poor is an involved and a complex process but not the one that could not be done. I commend you for your efforts. My disdain for the rich and the self preserving upper middle class Pakistanis come from the fact that they are least bothered by the miseries of the poorest of the poor. They will talk about ‘Allah and Rasool’ all day long and when tired with a dry throat will tell their ‘house servant boy’ to go fetch them a glass of water from the fridge. It never concerns them that this twelve year old should be in school and not fetching glass of cold water for them.

  27. Free_judiciary says:
    June 14th, 2007 11:30 am

    Owais,
    Congrats! Good work by you Adil and the rest of the team.

    I do have a few words of criticism, I hope you can take it without getting defensive. You guys started out quite well on the crisis in Pakistan. There were good blogs by you, Adil and others. Sometimes you guys would even post videos (Musharraf’s interview) and start a new discussion. However I feel that ATP has been gagged recently, and I suspect it is self-imposed censorship.

    By acting in this timid manner and by avoiding the current crisis you are loosing credibility as a bold and an independent minded blog.

    But please be open to objective discussions on this subject.

  28. Adnan Ahmad says:
    June 14th, 2007 2:59 pm

    MQ and PMA, Bravo!

  29. Adnan Ahmad says:
    June 14th, 2007 3:06 pm

    Free_judiciary, As you may gather this is not a news website and people running it have full time jobs just like the rest of the us.

    On a tangent MQM seems to be fighting with the rest of pakistan at the moment. There ways, however, have not changed. Here is what they are doing to the poor man who stood up against them.

    http://tinyurl.com/2rvj7s

  30. ayesha sajid says:
    June 14th, 2007 5:43 pm

    Owais

    many congratulations on the completion of the first year.
    brilliant work on the site.
    first hit and i was hooked !!

  31. thanos says:
    June 14th, 2007 8:54 pm

    Congratulations on your first year, I wish you many more years of blogging to come for you do a good job. Thanks kindly for your efforts, and sorry I missed this the day you posted it, (software headaches with a release at work.)

  32. Chief Sahib says:
    June 16th, 2007 12:39 pm

    Congratulations!
    Its by far my favorite blog. Thank you for all the articles, anecdotes and knowledge.

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