I Fell Among Doctors

Posted on July 7, 2008
Filed Under >Mast Qalandar, Humor, Pakistanis Abroad, People
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Mast Qalandar

Last week, I went to Washington, DC on personal business. I stayed at the Marriott Hotel, on Woodley Road, off Connecticut Avenue.

When I arrived at the hotel, and was taking out my luggage from the car, I could sense a commotion in the hotel — a kind of that you see at Penn Station in New York during the rush hours or, if you are not familiar with New York, at Islamabad Airport during the Hajj flights. People were milling around, dragging their luggage behind them, going up and down the escalators, and lounging around in the lobby of the hotel or wherever they could find a seat. They were mostly Pakistanis — men, some in their ethnic dresses; women in their usual colorful dresses; and a lot of children, from toddlers to teens. I soon found out why.

APPNAAAPNAAPPNAAPPNA

The Association of Pakistani-American doctors, APPNA, was holding its annual get-together at the hotel. Hundreds of doctors of Pakistani origin from all over the US, along with their families, had descended upon the hotel. They do this thing once every year in different cities.

Khalid Hasan, in one of his columns, describes APPNA gatherings as mela-i-mawaishiaan (cattle show). Even though the impact, initially, is a bit overwhelming, but I don’t quite agree with Khalid Hasan’s description. On the contrary, after the initial “shock and awe”, I started enjoying the energy and diversity of the scene.

Majority of the families who had converged at the hotel came from small-town-America where the total population of their respective towns, in some cases, did not exceed the number of people gathered at the conference. Therefore, the exuberance of the delegates and their families was understandable, even though it seemed to spill over at times.

Among the many helpful signs installed in the lobby to direct the delegates to different areas of the hotel and meeting rooms, there was also one indicating the timings of the five daily prayers. Presence of religion in the hotel was palpable.

APPNAAPPNAAPPNAAPPNA

While I was walking down the corridor in search of my room, a man, obviously a Pakistani, with a sparse beard, emerged from his room. His trousers were rolled up above his ankles, water was dripping from his hands and arms, and droplets of water could be seen hanging from his beard. It was maghrib time. He asked me if I knew which way the qibla was. Without a second thought, I pointed to what I thought was the west, since in Pakistan the qibla is always to the west. He thanked me and quickly retreated into his room, presumably to say his maghrib prayer.

It was a little later that I realized that in the US the qibla had to be generally towards the east. I felt a bit guilty in misleading the good doctor, but consoled myself in the knowledge that I had given the information in good faith. To further pacify my conscience, I also reminded myself of the verse that says “to Him belongs the east and the west; so, whichever way you turn your face doesn’t really matter…” 2:115

The APPNA managers had also arranged a delightful bazaar in the basement of the hotel. It catered to the needs of the delegates and their families, not only their worldly needs but also their spiritual needs. There were many stalls selling clothes and jewelry, and also many selling spiritual books and advice on cleansing the soul as well as the body. There were also stalls selling property in Dubai and advice on managing your money. The variety of products and services on sale was amazing! The women folks thronged the bazaar most of the time.

On the second day of the conference or the mela, there was a political forum to discuss the ongoing judicial crisis back home. APPNA had invited prominent politicians from Pakistan for this purpose. These sessions were open to everyone. Panelists included: Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed, Ahsan Iqbal of PML-N, Farooq Sattar of MQM, and Pakistan’s new ambassador in Washington, DC Mr. Husain Haqqani. The hall was full. All seats were taken. Many people stood in the back and on the sides of the hall.

APPNAAPPNAAPPNAAPPNA

It was clear that the audience was politically divided along the same lines that are etched so deeply on the political landscape of Pakistan. They expressed their views with the same emotions and anger that have been visible in Pakistan since March 2007, when General Musharraf sacked the Chief Justice. A large and vociferous section of the audience was for the restoration of pre-November 3 judiciary.

Aitzaz Ahsan was heard in pin-drop silence and received a standing ovation from the audience, both before and after his speech. He was even hailed as “Obama of Pakistan!” by someone in the audience.

Ahsan Iqbal of PML(N) was heard patiently. Farooq Sattar was occasionally heckled but managed to say what he had to say. However, all hell seemed to break loose when Mr. Husain Haqqani got up to speak.

Mr. Haqqani is a smart man. He speaks and writes well. I have heard him speak on TV and was always impressed by his clarity of thought and coherence of speech. He has written a great book, Between Mosque and Military, which, according to Stephen Cohen, is ”brilliantly researched and written book that should be required reading for anyone who wishes to understand this increasingly important state.” But on stage, in front of a crowd, Mr. Haqqani looked and acted more like a fighter rooster. He would try to put down his “opponents” with a sharp rebuttal or repartee. This technique might win him points in a school debate but did not win many friends among the APPNA doctors in the hall.

The acrimony generated in the political debate, however, seemed to disappear in the evening when, during a musical show, young Amanat Ali sang some fast paced songs, and the doctors broke into a wild bhangra in the hall that lasted past midnight.

I checked out of the hotel a day before the APPNA mela ended.

APPNAAPPNAAPPNAAPPNA

While going up to my room to collect my luggage, I entered an elevator, which already had some people (apparently Americans or Europeans) going up. Just when the doors of the elevator began to close, an exuberant Pakistani mother, in her colorful dress, accompanied by 3 or 4 excited kids, ranging in age from about 7 to 12 or 13, rushed in. We squeezed ourselves and pulled our tummies in to accommodate the woman and the kids. When everyone was in, and had pushed his/her floor buttons (the children having pushed more than one) the doors closed, and that usual awkward silence fell in the elevator. The mother broke the silence by loudly asking the children in English, like a schoolteacher would ask a class, “hey, let’s sing Pakistani national anthem”. The children bashfully looked at their mother with question marks on their faces. They didn’t seem to think it was a great idea to sing in such a closed space with strangers around. But the mother wasn’t deterred. Like the conductor of a choir, with one hand raised, she piped up with a full-throated ‘Paaak sar zameeen shadbaad … The children simply stared at their toes in embarrassment. The strangers in the elevator, more perplexed than bemused, slipped out of the elevator at the first stop. I listened to her solo performance in silence. Had she not been so out of tune I would have possibly joined her.

I guess patriotism, like nostalgia, affects you at odd times — and at odd places.

Overall, it seemed that the doctors had a good 3 days of R&R — recreation and religion, that is. What they need to do is, I guess, inject a bit of Renaissance and Reformation into APPNA to make it a really meaningful organization, both for the country of their choice as well as of their origin.

Photos for this post are by the author himself and the full collection can be seen here

72 Comments on “I Fell Among Doctors”

  1. ShahidnUSA says:
    July 8th, 2008 12:07 am

    I wonder what the bathrooms looked like after they left :-)

    Oh my god! Do I have to say something on this.
    Let me put it this way, the moment I introduce myself as pakistani, I see the expressions changes on peoples faces.
    Dont give me that I have an inferiority complex.

    Lets just leave this on this note:
    There is a LOT and LOT needs to be done, before any foriegn investor (decent investor) or tourist would even consider to invest or visit to pakistan.

  2. Sherbano says:
    July 8th, 2008 12:58 am

    R&R….Very well said!!
    Reaction and Religion vs. Renaissance and Reformation.

    I have attended APNAA gathering twice in the past and came to a humble realization…the general Pakistani crowd in America is as reluctant to question religion as is our perception of the majority at home.

    So I take my “aik eent ki masjid” elsewhere.

  3. Khalid R Hasan says:
    July 8th, 2008 2:03 am

    Interesting and very readable post. Why shouldn’t docs and their families let their hair down and have a good time every now and again?

    The mention of qibla reminded me that I thought it was south east when I was visiting North America. I’ve since been informed I was wrong – it is actually north east, along the line of the great circle over the north pole! One lives and learns all the time…

  4. Arisha says:
    July 8th, 2008 8:01 am

    A Good description of APPNA can be found in this article in The Daily Times.

  5. Nadeem Zafar (Jogi) says:
    July 8th, 2008 8:10 am

    Very interesting reading as it is well-written and I have been to every APPNA summer meeting for the last 5-6 years. Just a disclaimer, I am an active APPNA member and I pray towards the north-east, though I do not carry a compass with me and do not get depressed if I have accidentally prayed occasionally towards the west in error. It is good to find Mr. Hasan here as well. If I pass a link to this blog to the “mawaishis”, which I would for the heck of it, some of them would flock to this blog to share their energy, mercurial/chaotic with everyone who is a reader here.

    I would not sing the praises of my organization (actually I may), as it has many many weaknesses. But it has some strengths which few diasporic bodies of Pakistani origin have. It holds regular yearly elections, transparent, and occasionally (almost always) bitterly fought- comes with the energy. This body has undertaken many social welfare projects all over the world, though not enough in my opinion. It offers ACCME-approved category 1 (highest category) continuing medical education to it’s members, which I assure everyone is not easy to set up, or administer. Soon after the earthquake, it sent teams of Pakistani and American physicians to the earth-quake zone and sent in supplies/money valued at around $8-10 million. It’s volunteers, including myself, took time off from work here and volunteered about 20 hours/day to keep the physician groups and supplies moving from around the states, from vendors and warehouses through the good offices of Fed-Ex, which graciously airlifted and ground moved thousands of pounds of equipments, tents, jackets, medicines etc. And this body is providing skilled physicians to train Pakistani physicians through the medical colleges through a scheme called APPNA-MERIT, and has set up the first hospice in Pakistan under the title of APPNA-SUKOON. APPNA has helped established two centers of excellence, one in Karachi ( a cytogenetic state of the lab in the public sector) and one in Rawal Pindi (a burn center). In addition, APPNA members run many community clinics here in the US, have set up organizations like Human development Foundation (HDF) and socio-political bodies like Pak-Pac, APPJD, AANA, and are active in IMANA and ISNA. While the body is secular in nature, the members are essentially all muslims (just like Pakistan is), enriched with some members of the minority communities including Christians and Hindus. And yes, the main gatherings always commence with the recitation of Quran and the singing of the national anthems of US and Pakistan. The “balance” if you may, is found through parallel activities of those who practice (and preach) religion and those who flock to the bars after having eaten or enjoyed a very heavy dose of bhanGra at the musical evenings. What keeps these people together are common values like their profession, their origin, their religion and their clear commitment (as a body) to democracy and human dignity. The member are neither always successful nor always well-intentioned, but by Fareed Zakaria’s description of democracy, they represent the true essence and chaos that so beautifully constructs democracy. No other Muslim or Pakistani forum better allows open display of ideas and emotions than APPNA.
    I would invite both the blogger and Mr. Khalid Hasan to come to San Francisco, July 1-4 2009, to attend our next summer convention. And if you want to enjoy the meeting in it’s spirit, go around and talk to members and follow the heated discussions and the late night singing sessions and you would feel the love and anger, that you would have never before. Our mission of helping humanity, mainly in Pakistan and the US, and to be professionally enriched, cannot work without the support of you all. Despite our weaknesses, your investment of time with this body and it’s members would not be wasted- I promise.

  6. Saima says:
    July 8th, 2008 8:42 am

    Interesting.

    The Pakistani physician community have organized themselves well and APPNA serves a social function that is important to keeping the Pakistanis in USA feeling like a community. That is why you see the families there together. I think it is a good thing that this is so.

  7. Hina says:
    July 8th, 2008 9:50 am

    First time I hared about Appna was in mid 1990′s. I had just immigrated to US and was camping at my Chaacha’s house. My uncle is the ‘ Quintessential county doctor’ that MQ mentioned in his article. For more then twenty years he practiced Internal Medicine in a small Midwestern town ( Population 5,000). For the then 21 years old me, who had grown with the vision of sky scrapers and flashy cars, courtesy of Knight Rider, You again, Full house, Perfect strangers ( All American sitcoms they used to show on PTV in 80′s,90′s) I was bummed to wake up my first morning in Umreica and see cows lolling around the field from my bedroom window.

    Don’t quote me on the year, I believe it was 1995-1996 and Appna or was it Icna ( I always mix up these organization) wa holding its conference in Chicago. Chaacha Jan along with Chuchee Jan and their two kids in toe left town. I was to stay home with my daady Jan. Hey no hard feelings! I have just came from Pakistan and had thus far not felt the ex patriots desire to see familiar faces.. Plus, I was too busy ‘MOOJing out on $200 emergency fund that Chacha left with me,not to mention the use of Chaachi’s compact Red Chevy .

    My apologies, I know I am going totally out of topic here,it’s just that the mention of APPNA brought back my earliest memories associated with the word.

    In conclusion, I remember that Chachi brought me a beautiful Shalwar Kameez ( MQ is not fibbing when he mentions the ladies thronging the stalls) and what my Uncle and Aunt talked most was the lecture they attended about “How to find suitable spouses for your children”. As for my cousins aged between 12-15, the brats giggled for months about the the “No Mixing of the Sexes” part of the session.

  8. Indscribe says:
    July 8th, 2008 10:09 am

    That’s wonderful reporting done by you :) Good to see people of South Asia organising such events.

  9. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    July 8th, 2008 11:09 am

    Hina (Hanaa): Your recollections are funny.

  10. Akif Nizam says:
    July 8th, 2008 11:53 am

    I have also been part of a few APPNA meetings and the main theme of these seems to be how the ‘doctor parents’ can get their ‘doctor sons’ to find potential ‘doctor daughter-in-laws’.

  11. Rehan says:
    July 8th, 2008 12:00 pm

    I believe APPNA is one of the few pakistani organizations which are better funded and oraganized. Wish they can develop into a more influencial organization.

    MQ: Although I agree with this, “I also reminded myself of the verse that says something to the effect that to Him belongs the east and the west; so, whichever way you turn your face doesn

  12. Eidee Man says:
    July 8th, 2008 12:57 pm

    Good post by MQ; I feel like I’ve felt the same way at the PIA counter at JFK and O’hare. It’s very interesting to see people speak to PIA employees with a demeaning attitude, and then all-but bow down to the barking homeland security staff nearby.

    One thing that I think is very rarely brought up is how the Pakistani diaspora in the U.S. tends to lag at least a generation behind contemporary Pakistani society. There are obviously lots of differences, but I think the most important one is that the diaspora tends to be significantly more conservative and active in their religiosity. I’m not a physician, but I know the culture of Pakistani physicians well enough to say that there is no gender segregation at conferences.

  13. Ibrahim says:
    July 8th, 2008 1:08 pm

    And MQ and such think others are obsessed with religion/Islam. Of thousands of things that could have been talked about regarding such meetings, MQ made religion one of the focal points of his narrative. Good job. MQ almost seems upset that there was a prayer hall and some Islamic stalls. If this is his condition, he will have a heart attack if he goes to an Islamic convention.

    As the commentator Jogi mentioned there were other stuff going on, but since they were normal for MQ and display of religion was repulsive and offending to him, he became obsessed with it.

    One thing I learned though: Never ask MQ for directions, for he seems to be one of those inconsiderate people who don’t know what they are talking about but still give instructions. Instead of simply saying ‘I don’t know…ask the organizers’ he proceeded to give the direction of the qibla.

    Reciting Qur’an and then proceeding with national anthem…there couldn’t be two more contradictory things done one after another. But, this is nothing uncommon. It’s common in Pakistan to recite Qur’an and then proceed with the evening that would involve singing and dancing. Once a guy told me with a lot of pride that he forced the organizers of an event to recite Qur’an before they proceeded with the evening involving sketches, mixing of sexes, singing and dancing!

  14. Riaz Haq says:
    July 8th, 2008 2:31 pm

    Isn’t APPNA a professional organization of physicians of Pakistani origin in America? Or is it a political lobby for PML(N)? What business does it have in taking partisan political positions on the internal national politics of Pakistan? Shouldn’t they be more concerned with their professional and humanitarian mission?
    I am a charter member of TIE, the organization of Indian entrepreneurs. I have never seen Indian politics discussed and political positions taken at their events. Their main mission and focus is on promoting entrepreneurship and help their countryman to reap the fruits of economic development through entrepreneurship.

  15. Shaji says:
    July 8th, 2008 3:14 pm

    “…Reciting Qur

  16. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    July 8th, 2008 3:42 pm

    Brother Ibrahim: You say that the acts of recitation of Qur’an and the national anthem of Pakistan at the same occasion are contradictory to each other.

    May be you have a point there.

    The anthem professes that the system of the state is based on the power and brotherhood of its people regardless of their religion. It does not say that the system of the state ought to be Islamic whereas Qur’an is the religious book of the Muslims only.

    So may be at the non-religious events only national anthem should be recited and not the both. That would remove the contradiction. Would it not?

  17. libertarian says:
    July 8th, 2008 4:55 pm

    Riaz Haq: good to hear your opinion. TiE Charter Membership is no small <i>cheez</i>.

    Seems like the difference between TiE and APPNA is one of purpose. TiE is very definite entrepreneurs forum and has stayed generally true to its mission (I get TiE event updates at least twice a week!). APPNA sounds more like a social club – with some “successes” (that Nadeem talked about) for the mandatory warm fuzzies.

    As far as the religion-thing is concerned that’s a natural outcome of putting a group with common beliefs together (and not having a real agenda besides socializing).

  18. shahran says:
    July 8th, 2008 4:56 pm

    Although APPNA has been doing a number of initiatives which the young team of doctors such as ypprc.com where young doctors from Pakistani origin can get help in getting acceptance at a number of hospitals in US.

    APPNA HAYAT is doing breast cancer awareness programs in Pakistan.

    Although I really did not like the way they do organize a convention where they have fashion shows, dance concerts.

    I know that a number of participants complained about the a large number of young guys were found drunk were engaged in questionable activities, when the participants complained it to the organizers, they did not do anything to address this.

    As someone mentioned that it is more of get together to develop new contacts among the phyisicians so that their sons and daughters can get married which is infact a dilemma which expatriots face here in the US.

  19. shahran says:
    July 8th, 2008 5:00 pm

    Some videos from the 2008 convention especially with our very own Ambassador.

    http://m.youtube.com/details?v=IxC7umO3xOA&warned=1&v2=1&locale=en_US

  20. Saira says:
    July 8th, 2008 5:49 pm

    Most of the APPNA events I have been to have left a distinctly bland after taste. The emphasis on materialism which pervades the Pakistani community in general and the physician community in particular is quiet disheartening. Finding a doctor son in law/ daughter in law seems to be the most important objective of a sizable amount of participants of APPNA.

  21. Jogi says:
    July 8th, 2008 5:58 pm

    I would like to interject every now and then when I can add to the discussion since I am a firm believer in democracy and in the peoples’ drift to what their needs are and what they are made up of.

    Life is not exclusionary. APPNA members have their desires and needs. I was with the current president-elect at the last APPNA meeting in Orlando after he was just elected. An elderly gentleman came and congratulated him and with teary eyes told him and I quote “I voted for you. Please help me. I have two daughters who are unmarried and I would like to get them married. I ask for your help”. Should we turn him away because we should not be helping our members with their genuine needs?

    Think of it this way. Pakistan is 61 years old and is yet to find it’s direction and the best form of governance for the best people to govern it. APPNA is barely 1/2 that age but at least it has found the best way to be governed. There are many many needs and lacunae that APPNA can fulfill. We are very slowly filling these up but like any true democracy, three steps forward are followed by a couple backwards (Farid Zakariya). But we have stuck to true democracy and transparency in our governance.

    Comparing as to TIE is not a valid comparison. We should be compared to AAPI, which is a bigger and better organized body of Indian physicians. But then again there are differences between Indians and Pakistanis- Indians typically never criticize India. As for Quran and national anthems, we got much bigger issues to tackle but yes, amongst many of our quirks, this is one small one. May Allah forgive us for all other conduct that is much more divisive and destructive. We are humans, can do a much better job, but we are improving at least 3/4 years :)

  22. Ibrahim says:
    July 8th, 2008 6:33 pm

    PMA: You raised a good point about the contradiction between Qur’an and the wordings of the anthem. But, the point I was making was more basic: Qur’an is supposed to teach us about what Islamic spirit is, which includes rising above nationalism, tribalism, ethnicities, etc. On the other hand, a national anthem is symbolic of pure nationalism. And, what is done during the singing of anthem is even more horrific…standing up and bowing one’s head or placing one’s hand on the chest.

    So, even in non-religious events national anthem breeds the same nationalist views. National anthem, independence day, this day, that day are all living reminders of the policy of divide and rule. Don’t get me wrong…there is nothing wrong in my view to favor your country in sports or to feel more for one’s people….it’s only natural nor it’s wrong to define a common enemy like India, which it is. What’s wrong is to promote the so-called nationalism amgonst Pakistanis at the expense of the Islamic spirit.

  23. Aamir says:
    July 8th, 2008 6:49 pm

    “Qur

  24. Ibrahim says:
    July 8th, 2008 9:29 pm

    What about

  25. Abdul Hai says:
    July 8th, 2008 10:13 pm

    I see there is a lot of discussion about Qibla direction. Now you do not need to worry about it. Just click the website below and type the address of the house/building you are in. The computer screen will show you the direction of the Qibla.

    http://www.qiblalocator.com/

    As far as APPNA is concerned, I am impressed by some of the welfare activities this organization sponsors. You can blame the defficiencies in the organization to the sudden wealth syndrom. These Paki doctors come here after getting almost free education in 17 years of schooling as compared to 20 years of school for an American trained doctor who has spent close to $200,000 in loans. After working hard (100 hours a week)for 3 years on meagre salary, suddenly they start earning $200,000. Naturally it goes thru their head and you cannot blame them. In fact, currently, young pakistani doctors are the best export commodity of pakistan. They should thank their American colleagues who has a strong lobby and keep medical school enrolment low to maintain their income.

  26. MQ says:
    July 8th, 2008 11:17 pm

    Purpose of the post was not to be judgmental but simply to describe what I saw at the convention, as best as I could. Naturally, every one sees things through one

  27. Hyder says:
    July 9th, 2008 1:22 am

    Man this way really enjoyable article. You wrote it very well and it was funny, especially the lady who started singing the Anthem in the elevator. I bet you just made that up but it is funny. Thanks

  28. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    July 9th, 2008 9:25 am

    Brother Ibrahim: Your point of view on Nationalism vs. Religion is in line with Asama & company and other Islamists. Pakistan has tried the route of Pan-Islamism and Ummah. It just did not work. It does not work. The world has not organized itself on the basis of religions. If that was the case then all Buddhists or Christians of the world would be one nation constituted of their coreligionists only. You know that is not the case. Then why Muslims of the world should be one nation. You say nationalism is a divisive force. And religion is not?. Historically more killing has gone on in the name of god than any other cause. You say that India is an enemy of Pakistan and I agree with you. Any Pakistani who thinks otherwise is a fool in my opinion. But what about the Muslims of India. Where would you place them. Friends or foes? We Pakistanis need to put things in perspective. Religion is a personal belief and must be kept that way. The sooner we separate religion and state the better it is for us.

  29. Shaji says:
    July 9th, 2008 12:23 pm

    @PMA

    1. “You say nationalism is a divisive force. And religion is not? Historically more killing has gone on in the name of god than any other cause.”

    Couldn’t agree with you more…

    2. “You say that India is an enemy of Pakistan and I agree with you. Any Pakistani who thinks otherwise is a fool in my opinion.”

    Couldn’t agree less…

  30. Riaz Haq says:
    July 9th, 2008 2:08 pm

    It’s telling how any discussion about any topic among Pakistanis quickly turns into a debate about religion. Politics is not far behind. And then, of course, the mixing of religion and politics with all other aspects of life quickly creates mass confusion and the whole point of the post is lost. Are we capable of compartmentalizing our profession, religion, politics, business etc? Is the mantra of “complete deen” inescapable? Can we ever learn to think clearly? I have seen only one example which comes close to being focused on one thing without adulteration: OPEN Silicon Valley Forum 2008, not withstanding the unsuccessful attempts by some to politicize it.

  31. libertarian says:
    July 9th, 2008 2:16 pm

    PMA: You say that India is an enemy of Pakistan and I agree with you. Any Pakistani who thinks otherwise is a fool in my opinion. But what about the Muslims of India.

    The current generation is India is quite comfortable with Pakistan’s existence – no-one questions it, honestly few younger folks really care. A stable internally reconciled Pakistan is in everyone’s interest. Who likes to live in a neighborhood of drunks and rowdies? That’s not to say that the Indian state won’t fish in troubled waters – like Balochistan and Karachi – maybe interior Sindh. That’s just quid pro quo for Kashmir. Let’s leave the states to doing their silly death-dance and let the people get on with their lives.

    As for your point about the Muslims in India: it contradicts your earlier stance of nationhood above religion. By your reasoning Muslims in India are Indians first, Muslims next.

  32. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    July 9th, 2008 2:30 pm

    Shaji: We both are entitled to our respective opinions. On your first point. Religion, region, ethnicity, tribe….and one could go down the line…..are some of the many common denominators used to define nationalism. Any one of these denominators would be acceptable if it works for the good of the common man. Look at Israel; it has successfully used religion to define its nationhood and hence justification of its existence, may that be at the expense of wretched Palestinians. Whereas the union of East and West Pakistan was based on commonality of majority religion between the two wings but it did not work and finally Pakistan of 1947 fell apart, no less thanks to the hostile India. A common religion alone could not save the union. The problem with religion as a common denominator is that religions are based on the empirical concept of divinity. Pre-prescribed divine laws as system of governance allow only minimum input by the citizens. Under such system the clerics become the interpreters of the words of god, not the citizens. An example would be theocratic Iran. Therefore Pakistan must have a system based on common laws and not based on religious laws. That brings us back to the debate of national anthem vs. Qur’anic recitation at secular gatherings. On your second point, the facts on ground prove my contention and not yours. But you are welcome to expound on yours. Lets hear what saith the.

  33. Pakistan walla says:
    July 9th, 2008 2:57 pm

    I think this conversation is being highjacked into something that has little relevance to the post itself and about something that this post was certainly not about. Why can’t we just let a nice read be just a nice read, please!

    By the way, really witty writing. Thank you to the author.

  34. ShahidnUSA says:
    July 9th, 2008 4:13 pm

    @ Pakistan walla

    I dont think its hijacked into something else my friend.
    Its very related to pakistan.
    I enjoy it I am sure others too, specially who are responding and I see authors are more relaxed and honest here in the comments area which I like :-)

    If you dont like it, dont read it IMHO.

  35. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    July 9th, 2008 5:18 pm

    @ShahidnUSA,

    yes, pind di panchayat,
    kia baat ai, sab achacha aiy, apni gal aiy ji !!

  36. Shaji says:
    July 9th, 2008 5:37 pm

    @PMA: Again I will not disagree with you on your first point, regarding recitation and singing.

    Regarding India however, to be brutally honest, I’m quite apathetic to the history of Pakistan as is a lot of younger generation who for the fear of being called ungrateful or traitors won’t admit it. I rote every bit of Pakistan Studies they could throw at me in school and I have long forgotten the anthem and have no particular wish or desire to memorize it again. I was born there and grew up there, and I love it, maybe not as much as you or other readers might. If that makes me any less of a Pakistani or a patriot then that would be an opinion I’d like to discuss some other time. But do I hate Indians, no. Why would I?

    India is our excuse to feel important in this world. To show that we’re not as pathetic as the news puts it. That we’re not war mongers and that we’re not full of bearded mullas who have no other wish but the destruction of Amreeka.

    We hate India for what they have accomplished and what we couldn’t despite our best efforts and with God being on our side. We don’t hate India, we hate the idea that a nation of non-muslims whom we have so much in common with have managed to become an economic giant and we’re still struggling to cope with the decisions to choose the honest and worthy amongst us. India is not the enemy… we are our own worst enemies.

  37. RT says:
    July 10th, 2008 1:37 am

    Good morning from India.

    To say that India is an enemy of Pakistan is utterly wrong. I was in Chandigarh few years back when many people from Pakistan came over to see the cricket match. The next day news paper were filled with their appreciation about local people behavior with them and their impressions about similarity of India with Pakistan. Most of the people here in India understand that we used to live happily before partition and had a common culture and respect for others. Its was the politics that divided people in 1947 and is doing the same to date. My grandfather were from current Pakistan and I hope to visit Pakistan some day(please don’t treat me like enemy then :) ).

    FYI Baitullah is not Indian agent. Most of the problems of Pakistan are its own. Even after 60 years of independence its hasn’t been able to decided what its right course of action is (Democracy or Sharia) and that’s why its still confusing nationalism with patriotism.

    Cheers

  38. jusathot says:
    July 10th, 2008 2:47 am

    APNNA like Karachi is a microcosm of Pakistan

  39. ShahidnUSA says:
    July 10th, 2008 3:20 am

    @ Mr Rafay
    Whatever you said, I hope its nice :-)

    Arz kia he
    It always works better
    When people put their heads together
    (Inspired by Rafay)

  40. aydee says:
    July 10th, 2008 4:49 am

    same essay in The News ‘Opinion’

    Mast Qalander = Aziz Akhmed ??

  41. AHsn says:
    July 10th, 2008 4:58 am

    Dear MQ,
    I enjoyed reading your post as usual. Your post has given an opening to many interesting discussions. If you ever fall among Pakistani lawyers, scientists, engineers or …, please let us know your observations. Thanks.

  42. Aqil Sajjad says:
    July 10th, 2008 7:56 am

    Yes, MQ, I was also thinking keh MQ = Aziz Akhmed? Having been used to seeing your posts with the name MQ, somehow, Aziz Akhmed fit nahin lug raha. Mind na keejiay ga, nothing against you; just that I wasn’t used to your real name.

  43. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    July 10th, 2008 8:57 am

    Shaji: You are taking this discussion to a different direction. This discussion is not about love and hate. I do not think Pakistanis hate or envy their neighbors. Neither the subject is accomplishments and failures of any country. The point is that for the last sixty years, on all international levels, India has played the role of an enemy of Pakistan. One does not have to rely upon the high school books for that. The history has documented it. Unfortunately you have not presented any facts contrary to that. Is India the only enemy of Pakistan. Certainly not. Pakistanis have played their part too. About the cordiality between individuals. Most people in life are kind to others. Regarding your personal negative feelings about your country of birth. Well that is your prerogative. I do not wish to debate on your feelings.

  44. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    July 10th, 2008 1:02 pm

    @ Kia ajab itafaq, is blog par hogaya hay,
    Aik Azizi jo ab kehlata hay Akhmed,
    Hasan Abdal parh kar araha hoon,
    Yeh Qalandar to ab Mast hogaya hay
    Rafay Kashmiri

  45. MQ says:
    July 10th, 2008 1:05 pm

    I realize it

  46. Edward says:
    July 10th, 2008 8:29 pm

    I was hoping the article talked more about Pakistani Doctors [why they work in small towns, what reception is there, what is the goal of these large conferences?] than your remorse at telling someone the wrong way to pray. It was an article with potential but it unfortunate lacked that quality.

    Also I’m sorry to say that mentions of Pakistan quickly turn into a mention of Islam.

  47. Ibrahim says:
    July 10th, 2008 9:54 pm

    PMA: I can assure you Pakistan did not try pan-Islamism no matter how much the propaganda against it is fed to people. Plus, even if Pakistan had truly tried, it takes two sides to make brotherhood work. So, you are right, whatever Pakistan tried didn’t work. However, you are wrong to say it doesn’t work. It works on so many levels. You are looking through political prespective only. For example, the exchange of Islamic scholarship (scholars going from one country to another to teach/learn) between different Muslim countries is still going strong. There are other examples.

    You say “…Then why Muslims of the world should be one nation.” Because, the prophet (saw) said: Al-mo’min akhoo al-mo’min. A believer is a brother to (another) believer. And, there are other ahadith. It’s not a new concept that Islam puts more empahsis on brotherhood than other religions.

    Most of your objections are political, and what I had mentioned was more basic. It’s an individualistic responsibility to shun the symbols of nationalism that were mentioned. It doesn’t matter if that pans out worldwide or not.

    You say nationalism is a divisive force. And religion is not?.

    We’re talking about Muslims here. So, nationalism is and religion is not. If you meant sect then yes, the Shai-Sunni divide is as divisive as nationalism, but divide amongst other maslaks isn’t. You give them a common target and for a while they forget their differences.

    What about them (Indian Muslims)? The duty to rise above nationalism is same on them as it’s on Pakistanis. What it means is that that they should take a position different than their govt. on, for example, Kashmire, Palestine, etc.

    The sooner we separate religion and state the better it is for us.

    This call for secularism can never work for a Muslim country, for it’s kufr. Look at Turkey; it has to have a brutal, oppressive army to keep any semblance of secularism, and if not for the army secularism would be long gone. It’s not in the fitrat of Muslims. The sooner the liberals, secularists or modernists understand this the better.

  48. Sceptic says:
    July 11th, 2008 8:43 am

    If one is to believe Ibrahim, and I have no doubts on his religious scholarship, Islam is pretty much unworkable in this age. No wonder he

  49. Aamir Ali says:
    July 11th, 2008 9:18 am

    Sceptic:

    What you regard as a “tragedy”, Pakistanis regard as their country. Until the time Pakistanis also view their country as a “tragedy”, please keep your Indian-taught bitterness to yourself.

  50. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    July 11th, 2008 11:28 am

    @Sceptic,
    Sir,
    If you don’t mind, please take some anti-biotics.,
    its good for anti-Islamic pains.
    Can I come back with few verses in Urdu ?

  51. PMA says:
    July 11th, 2008 11:51 am

    Sceptic: I am afraid this discussion is, one more time, deteriorating into silly India vs. Pakistan nonsense. I will like to point out that what existed prior to 1947 was not India and not Pakistan but a British Indian Colonial Empire. Muslims of North Western areas of the empire which borders with Iran and Afghanistan, and Muslims of Bengal saw no great advantage in remaining in this colonial empirical set up so they opted for a homeland of their own. What is so unique about that? Historically empires do split up into constituent states and regions. Unfortunately Indian children are fed the story you have repeated here. It is an Indian problem and they have to resolve it themselves and reconcile with the reality of Pakistan. As for as Pakistanis are concerned they are happy in their own country and have no problem with this division of the empire. The best recourse for the two countries is to move on and try to solve the multitude of problems besieging their respective populations. I hope you pay heed to what I am saying. Lets move on. As for as Ibrahim’s arguments are concerned. His is an Islamist point of view. Most Pakistanis do not subscribe to that nor do most of the Muslims world wide. Rest easy.

  52. Lal Salaam says:
    July 11th, 2008 11:52 am

    Bro Ibrahim,
    if history is any guide, pan-islamism (inshahallah) will NEVER come to fruition. If the concept of Ummat (oops sorry Ummah) has any relevance in this age, then please explain the creation of Bangladesh to me.
    The sooner we Pakistanis stop being bastardized versions of the Arabs, the better. We are South Asians with a completely different heritage than the majority of the Muslim world (barring the Indian Muslims and the Bangladeshis). The sooner we come to terms with it, the lesser will be the angst all around.
    I must add though, that all this Islamism talk makes me want to to bring my kids up as agnostics.

  53. libertarian says:
    July 11th, 2008 1:23 pm

    PMA: Lets move on.

    Yes.

    Unfortunately Indian children are fed the story you have repeated here.

    No, that’s unsubstantiated and not correct. That’s an ideological standpoint that Indian kids don’t struggle with – not in school at least. Maybe they get doses at home, or from the media, but the schools don’t teach it.

  54. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    July 11th, 2008 3:32 pm

    @Lal Salaam,
    Huzoor,
    problem is not Arab or non, considering time-factor,
    cultural adherence is imperative for any
    social advancement, which was systematically
    murdered by totalitarianism like secularism or
    Stalinism and all the sorts, we are all capable of
    converting anything to the extremes, even you yourself
    can opt for Agnosticism, in case, if…. thats too a
    reactionnary culture !
    I think, the remedy is only ” Meyanna-rawi ” Golden rule
    which many of us totally ignore, human nature !!
    You can find this subject largely discussed by Iqbal in
    his Shikwah and jawab-e-Shikwah.

  55. PMA says:
    July 11th, 2008 5:04 pm

    Kashmiri Sahab:

    Cultural adherence is imperative for any social (or societal) advancement? Really? Don’t you think absence of infusion leads to cultural stagnation. What the world would be like if one only adheres to his or her own culture and there was no exchange between cultures. Look at the decay that has set in Muslim societies today. We have shut out all other cultures and the result is that we are the most backward people on the earth. When did you see or hear a live opera or a symphony on Pakistani soil. We been adhering to our culture for the last three hundred years. Look where are we today. Please let some fresh air in. It is too stagnant in here in this ‘Islamdom’.

  56. ShahidnUSA says:
    July 11th, 2008 5:42 pm

    @ PMA
    I am very pleased to read your comments, a breath of fresh air!
    I love your bold comments, Its about time

    Give these insecure men some sense.

    Many countries in the world are freeing themselves from religion and tackling vulgarity through laws and rules.

  57. Ibrahim says:
    July 11th, 2008 6:51 pm

    PMA, I appreciate your arguments, but I think this discussion might have run its course. But, let me just add this. I’ll agree with you that most Pakistanis don’t hold views similar to mine (i.e. no secularism) if it was true and a reality. Here is an extensive survey done by Gallup: http://tinyurl.com/6bxg98 The results belie what you have to say on the views of Pakistanis. I’ve results of other surveys as well (Pew Research), but don’t have the links for them. You can also check out a new book called “Who speaks for Islam”, which is basically the results of different surveys and shares one of the pollsters from the Gallup survey. It also supports the Gallup results. An overwhelming 80%+ dismiss secularism. And, I am understating this number. In fact, the results read: 60% for shariah to be only source of legislation; 21% for shariah to be the source of legislation but not the only source; 15% refused or don’t know and 4% only called for secularism. If we split the 15% down the middle, it will read: Only 11.5% calling for secularism vs. 88.5% dismissing it. And, this is giving a lot of benefit of doubt…I’m certain majority of those 15% won’t fall on the secularism side. I’ve been around in Pakistan and I think these number are close to reality.

    You might be extending the views of people you associate with to all Pakistanis. To avoid this pitfall, I actually try to talk to all sorts of people to know what’s the reality. I’m on ATP, aren’t I? You should do the same. If you already do, then I’m surprised how you could’ve said what you said. So again, the sooner people realize what the reality is the better.

    It gives me immense pleasure that people like Sceptic and Lal can only make small talk, pray against “Islamist” (orientilist-coined term) views and make fun. This proves it that they have nothing to say. Nothing.

  58. MQ says:
    July 11th, 2008 9:54 pm

    May I butt in with an additional tidbit about the convention that I forgot to mention in the post? (And, by the way, the post, if you look below the title, is filed under humor — not religion.)

    Ahmad Faraz stumbled out of the mushaira, which was going on in a different room parallel to the bhangra show. It was way past midnight and the mushaira had just ended. He went up to his room and after a few minutes came down to the lobby, looking totally lost. One or two

  59. Adnan Ahmad says:
    July 12th, 2008 12:24 am

    “Ahmad Faraz stumbled out of the mushaira..”

    I can imagine that.. :) suna hey rubtt hey uss ko kharab haaloa’n sey– so apney aap ko barbaad kurr key daikhtey hain.

    I heard he is not feeling well these days and is admitted in a hospital.

    I enjoyed your question about the lack of use of science when citing moon. Perhaps Dr. Israr or someone like him standing on the roof with doorbeen is more credible than weather.com.

  60. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    July 12th, 2008 3:59 am

    @PMA,
    Jenaab,
    Sorry, may be I missed your point,
    lets stay with the nearest, period, say, Mughals !! as
    you talked about last three hundred years,

    - you think it did not infused enough ? Akbar ?etc.
    Din-e-Ilahi, any founder of new religion was never hanged.

    - the Muslims in the subconti, speak, eat, wear, traditions
    music, art grammer living style, suffism ALL IS INFUSED.
    what else you want ?
    Pakistanis are just following ” others” since the departure
    of colonials.

    - Military defeats, conquests, invasions, crusades, inquisitions,
    forced conversions to evangilism, Catholicism, Marxism,
    Socialism and now Secularism presenting Suffism as
    alternative to Islam, Americanism etc etc. what not !!

    - ” Talibanisation, Al-Qaidaism, Islamism ” is it not bringing
    back that ‘ infusion’ you are referring to ??
    Why opposing only, exclusively, ‘ ARAB’ infusion ??
    - lets move further, yes colonialism was collosal !!

  61. MQ says:
    July 12th, 2008 10:00 am

    Adnan, glad to see you back. We desperately need some good poetry here. I thought perhaps you had migrated to some other ‘birdbath’.

    Yes, I read that Faraz is recovering somewhere in Chicago. He looked quite good in the Musharia in DC, and was the last one to recite his poem, after Aitzaz Ahsan, at around 3 in the morning — barely short of fajar time. I really marvel at the stamina of these poets.

  62. PMA says:
    July 12th, 2008 11:08 am

    Rafay Kashmiri:

    I tend to agree with you on certain levels. I agree with you when you say that “the Muslims in the subcontinent speak, eat, wear, traditions, music, art, grammar, living style, sufism, ALL IS INFUSED”. I look at this phenomenon as earlier ‘synthesis’ of Hindu-Muslim cultures that was bound to happen once the two cultures were placed next to each other. Purist Hindus of India do not like this ‘fusion’ any more than the purist Muslims do.

    Early Sufism, not just in the Indian Subcontinent, but in other traditionally non-Muslim lands as well, was a product of this synthesis. However today’s ‘Sufism’ is of a different brand. We could discuss this at an other time at an other post. May be we could invite our friend Raza Rumi, whom I respect very much, to join in at that time. But I do agree with you when you say that ‘Secularism is presenting Sufism as an alternative to Islam’. Such efforts are true or honest neither to secularism nor to religion. On the other hand Talibanisation, Al-Qaidaism, Islamism are the reactions to the other extreme.

    But let me point out some thing to you. The Hindu influx and the Arab influx into Pakistani society are still very much ‘local’ phenomenons happening due to the cultural vacuum created by us. On one hand we have failed to develop and promote our own culture and on the other hand we have shut out all other cultures to reach us. Our lethargy makes us to copy what ever vulgarity next door Bollywood dishes out and our reactionaries try to look towards Arabs for answers to our social problems.

    This is why I say there is a cultural stagnation in Pakistan. There is a wide open world out there beyond Hindustan and Arbastan. Why we do not reach out, and by that I do not mean only West, to newer vistas and have cultural exchanges with the world beyond these self imposed limits. We have lot to offer and our capacities to learn are limitless. Let some fresh air in.

  63. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    July 12th, 2008 1:30 pm

    @PMA,

    In your second para, I am sure you referred to Mysticism,
    rather than Suffism, I remember I had discussed on
    Suffisim with historical references, on Sialkot’s new airport’s
    blog on ATP.

    I agree with your point in the third para, the vacuum been
    created by epoch of darkness, post-Mughals, when the
    subconti muslims thought wrongly that ijtihad’s doors were closed. So the socio-cultural vacuum increased by large,
    and they kept on filling it up with superstitious believes,
    I call them extra-terrest batman, then emerged the true
    conflictual, paramount differences between the two, i.e.
    Monotheisim and polytheism(pantheism) and unfortunately,
    we could’nt gain the same scenario that history witnessed,
    the total conversion of Roman civilization to Catholicism.
    Must remind you that just 80 years ago the civilized world
    believed in the formula
    Arabs = Muslims and Muslims = to Arabs
    today the Arab religio-cultural world represents less than
    27 % of the total Muslim world ( according to UNO about
    1.5 billion muslims )

    I would’nt say there is a cultural stagnation in Pakistan,
    61 years of “survival” from major agressions by ‘outsider’
    neighbours, and our own disregard of the value of our culture, brought a certain lull in the advancement to
    achieve more or less a ‘healthy culture’ or even ‘ cohabit’ with it.
    Indian (Hindu) culture always resisted and opposed
    Islamic ‘ culture’. One should ask, is the cultural transition
    has already ended or its just the begining of a new battle for
    survival, I think Pakistanis are not willing to give up.
    Cohabitation is never eternal.

    There is nothing wrong with healthy cultural exchange,
    Islam has no fixed cultural dimensions, it simply does’nt
    impose any. It revendicates decency and respect in any
    society,colour, region, continent, religions.

  64. PMA says:
    July 12th, 2008 3:59 pm

    Good points Kashmiri Sahab. Now that we have completely ruined the original post by MQ, let me get off here before Owais and Adil come after us with sticks.

  65. Aamir says:
    July 12th, 2008 4:53 pm

    “An overwhelming 80%+ dismiss secularism.”

    How many of these 80%+ can actually read and write and know the issues involved?

    I rest my case.

    A survey of educated people is more relevant and as can be seen by the responses from countries with higher level of education they are less in favour of mullahism. No wonder it suits Mullah to keep public jahil.

  66. QASIM says:
    July 13th, 2008 6:26 am

    Nice writeup

    The fact is that APPNA doctors at least try to do something and something is better than nothing. So, either other grops actually start doing something, otherwise its just jealousy.

    What do Pakistani Engineers or Lawyers or MBA people do to organize themselves?

  67. OBSERVER says:
    July 13th, 2008 7:47 am

    The pictures are even more interesting than writeup. Shows that the divisions amongst Pakistanis in America are exactly same as of Pakistanis in Pakistan.

    Go, buy a nude painting or buy a quranic caligraphy. Maybe buy both!

  68. Lubna says:
    July 30th, 2009 10:37 pm

    This year I happen to be in the APPNA conference 2009 in San Francisco it was extremely interesting, more like a mela with an American touch. There were well-dressed, educated people keen to socialize. I was impressed with the turn out and then I heard the organizer complain that not enough people had come due to recession etc.

  69. Lubna says:
    July 30th, 2009 10:37 pm

    This year I happen to be in the APPNA conference 2009 in San Francisco it was extremely interesting, more like a mela with an American touch. There were well-dressed, educated people keen to socialize. I was impressed with the turn out and then I heard the organizer complain that not enough people had come due to recession etc.

  70. Watan Aziz says:
    July 7th, 2010 2:04 pm

    Ohhh, let me join the pinata party just as well.

    I have long maintained that the greatest strength of Pakistanis in US are the Pakistani doctors. And, the greatest weakness of Pakistanis in US are the Pakistani doctors.

    Interested in getting their name published high up on every organization, they have managed to mess up every single one of them. Some of these organizations can have their own local chapters of APPNA.

    The problem is that they think that they are really, really intellectual and able to handle any issue, any problem.

    Ah well, they are entitled to their fun too.

    PS. MQ, great writing. But you did not share with us if you stood straight and tall in the elevator?

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    November 13th, 2010 1:45 pm

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  72. MQ says:
    November 13th, 2010 6:54 pm

    @Watan Aziz: I just noticed your comment made quite sometime ago.

    To your specific question if I stood straight or tall in the elevator, I simply stared at my toes like those kids until the elevator door opened on my floor and I quietly slipped out “like a field mouse, not shaking the grass”.

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