ATP Commenters: Birds of a Feather …

Posted on July 21, 2007
Filed Under >Mast Qalandar, People, Society
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Mast Qalandar (MQ)

This post is about the “posters”, that is, the people who regularly post comments on ATP. In other words, my mental sketches of the persons I come across on the ATP discussion board.

One of the things I do early in the morning, after checking my e-mail and the news updates, is look up ATP for new posts and comments – especially comments.

The comments and the commenters on ATP remind me of the birds that flock around the birdbath outside my house in Islamabad. They are attracted to the water and the feed that I place there every day. I wake up to their chatter. And I can even recognize it by the different sounds. Sparrows chirp and twitter, mynas engage in a loud and quarrelsome chatter; bulbuls whistle short and sweet notes; and sometime crows descend on the feed with their harsh and discordant cries that scare away the smaller birds.

Watching these birds, I have noticed that some would nervously peck at the feed, dip their beaks in the water, let out a note or two and fly away. Others would keep flitting back and forth twittering and chirping. Still others would take their time and stay around longer. Occasionally, an ‘exotic’ bird would come visiting, peck at the feed, splash in the pond, deliver an unfamiliar but nice tune and go away.

The ATP commenters and their commenting habits are not too dissimilar to those of the birds gathered around the birdbath I just described.

Most of us – the commenters – don’t know each other. We have never met, nor are likely to. But I am sure we all have mental pictures of each other. Interacting within the ATP community is somewhat like living in a large condominium where you don’t know the other residents personally but you form an opinion about them based on your short encounters in the elevator or elsewhere in or around the building. Some, you begin to like and look forward to meeting them and talking to them. Others, you would rather ignore or even avoid.

So, here are my impressions. I have selected only a few names, mostly from the “old community” and have tried to list them alphabetically. I am aware of the risks involved in this kind of an exercise but I hope my comments will be taken in the spiritof community in which they are made:


I always read his comments and find them thoughtful and well written. His occasional contribution of an Urdu verse adds color and value to an ongoing discussion.

There are more than one Adnans in the ATP community. In case you are wondering, I am talking of Adnan Ahmad.


He was Ahmed before he morphed into Ahmed2. His new name reads more like a computer command, but I am sure he must have good reasons to have changed his name.

He has the knack of quoting most appropriate verse according to the occasion, be it Ghalib, Shelley or Walter Scot. I must confess that it was he who re-kindled my interest in Ghalib and made me dust off my old and forgotten copy of Diwan-i-Ghalib. I haven’t put it down since.


My guess is he is a mathematician or a physicist or, more likely, a teacher of physics or mathematics. I say this because he always builds his argument like a mathematical equation, using the symbols A, B and C for different elements of his argument. Since I was never good in mathematics or physics I have difficulty in following his logic sometimes.

Since Ahsan is a long time French citizen (he said so in his comments) I suspect he thinks in French and then translates his thoughts into English. I remember, in one of the very early discussions on something political, he took exception to my spelling of ‘Merde Momin’ (popular title bestowed upon General Ziaul Haq). I didn’t think it was important because it was transliteration of an Urdu word but he insisted that the way I spell the word has nasty connotation in French and that the word be spelled as Mard-e-Momin. Frankly, I fail to see the difference.

Akif Nizam:

I look forward to his pithy comments. He adds value to a discussion. He can vent his frustration without sounding angry. In one such comment that I recall, he echoed my feelings — and I am sure of many others’, when he responded to two persistent commenters who were not only reinforcing each other but also outdoing each other in being unreasonable. He wrote:

“[You two] are a match made in heaven (or should I say Paradise!). It’s great that you found each other. Victimhood and denial can breathe easy now. ” I couldn’t have put it better.

Aqil Sajjad:

He does not hide his political likes and dislikes. Provides informative and interesting links. He deserves the ATP “Pulitzer” for providing that most hilarious video clip “Chooran kha” . Those who have missed it should request him to post the link once again.


He is a polite person. Never looses his cool. He may occasionally get worked up, like most of us do, but does not get offensive.

His messages drip with religiosity. He never forgets to prefix or suffix the holy acronyms with the holy names. He reminds me of the young, bearded Tableeghis, dressed in knitted skullcaps and above-the-ankle length trousers, who sometime come knocking at my door in Islamabad in the late afternoon. When I answer the door one of them, after the initial greetings, would start delivering a sermon while keeping his gaze to the ground. His companions would quietly listen, also keeping their eyes to the ground. They never look you in the eye. They are soft spoken and polite. They would deliver their message and go away — to come back next week. Their message is always about the Life Hereafter — never about this world — and ends with an invitation to join them at the mosque at maghrib time.

Omar R Qureshi:

Omar Qureshi appeared like a meteorite on the ATP horizon spreading his incandescence as long he lasted. In the process he also introduced the ATP readers to the op-ed page of his paper, The News.

I personally liked his forthright and acerbic comments as long as he took on the persons I thought belonged to the “shararti” category. But then it turned out that he was truly an ‘Equal Opportunity’ person, which means his barbs were directed in all directions without discrimination of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. He took pains to explain to the philistines of ATP that addressing someone as an idiot did not mean that he/she was actually an idiot. It only meant that his/her argument was idiotic. His last duel, if I remember correctly, was with Olive Ream. It ended in a draw, for both of them never appeared on ATP afterwards.

Pervaiz Munir Alvi:

PMA is a serious commenter — never frivolous. Nor does he encourage frivolity in others. His comments are careful and measured. He is the Old Faithful of ATP. Like the famous Old Faithful, the hot water geyser at the Yellowstone National Park, PMA’s outpourings are predictable — in their timings if not contents. I always look forward to his comments.

He comes across as excessively patriotic, sometime parental. I remember, once, when he hauled me up like an erring child for something I had written that he did not quite approve of. He admonished me in words to the effect: “Ok, I forgive you this time, but be careful in future.” It took me sometime to muster enough courage to write my next post.

Saadia Khan:

I haven’t seen her on ATP for a long time. She used to be a regular commenter at one time. If I remember correctly she was based in Germany and said she was a Pathan, and her family traced their genealogy all the way to Moses. The real Moses, that is. (I don’t know why, but whenever I think of Moses, Charlton Heston comes to my mind.)

We had sort of agreed — I mean Saadia and I, not Charlton Heston — to do some research on a possible Semitic connection between the Jews and the Pathans. But then she disappeared from the scene.


I wish she would write her name with a capital T. My computer keeps auto-correcting it. Her comments are always well written and well reasoned. After all, she is a professor of literature, even if not tenured.

Siddiqui, Adnan:

I always try to read his comments. Of all the commenters he is probably the most profuse — and persistent. He is not shy of calling a spade a spade. Problems arise when he calls it a goddamn shovel.

His specialty is religion. He is the first one to rise to defend any perceived attack on religion. I wish he would make less use of the words ‘cabal’, ‘dude’, ‘rant’, ‘pissed’ and some similar words. It becomes tiring after a while. And his comments would become more readable.

There are other commenters, and of course, the editors and posters, whom I read regularly. I will comment on them in a separate post, that is, if I survive this post.

Among the different comments that I come across I always find some new information, some new insight, some humor, and sometime a nugget or two of Urdu poetry that lights up a whole new view hitherto hidden from my eyes. Without these commenters and their comments — whether on the Right or the Left, conservative or liberal, secular or religious — ATP would be flat. Flat as in flat beer, which, beer drinkers tell me, is no fun drinking.

59 responses to “ATP Commenters: Birds of a Feather …”

  1. Karim says:

    prof. Najam read your article in THE NEWS thursday and then this news about BB-Mush meeting. seems liek you knew that was coming!

  2. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    Aqil Sajjad: You put smile on my face. For me you are up there in the ‘cool’ list. Right next to MQ and OM (Owais Mughal that is). Your little story above deserves to be a post by itself.

  3. mazhar butt says:

    Don’t hate pigeons: their is something really esoteric about these birds. I have had experience of their esoteric display on atleast two occasions and believe me it was frighyening to see how they behaved !

    I love them see flying and somersaulting in the sky. Sometimes, even Hawks have hard time catching these mysterious birds which fly at no lesser speed than falcons.

  4. Arguably, one man’s pigeon might be another man’s dove.

    “Morals of the story:
    1. Everyone who craps on you is not your enemy.
    2. Everyone who takes you out of shit is not your friend.
    3. When you are warm and comfortable in shit, just keep your mouth shut.”

    Totally agree with you, Aqil bhai.

    “And sometimes we make too much noise in reaction to our frustration and end up being annoying ourselves, with even our valid points lost in the rage.”

    Very true. And I have on more than one occassion been a pigeon myself, at which I look back and feel ashamed of myself and disgusted with myself for having lost my cool, mercilessly pecked at those who disagree with me, etc [when I read your comment, I got the creeping suspicion that you’ve read either my group blog Pass the Roti and/or other blogs where I’ve pooped/misbehaved/incessantly driven home the same point on the threads… have you? :) ]

    And now I am acutely self-conscious that I am beginning to be a pigeon here on this thread. Anyway, I should fly around to do some work before I head back to my nest (which is shoddy, falling apart, completely inhabitable, and is under the ownership of a new hawkish landlord who is living in feudal times and as such is terrorizing all of the birdies that used to harmoniously get along before she got into the picture.)

  5. Aqil Sajjad says:

    haa haa

    Well, I used to feed pigeons with bread crums back in the good old days when I was small. :)

    As for the objection about the pigeons dropping their waste on people, I feel tempted to relate the following story.

    Once there was a little sparrow. One winter, it got extremely cold and the sparrow just fainted while flying and fell on the snow. It was going to die due to the cold, but a cow that was walking by, dropped its you know what on it.

    Since the cow’s crap was warm, it saved the sparrow’s life. It soon regained consciousness and started loudly chirping. Soon a cat heard the chirps, followed the sound, found the sparrow, picked it up and ate it.

    Morals of the story:
    1. Everyone who craps on you is not your enemy.
    2. Everyone who takes you out of shit is not your friend.
    3. When you are warm and comfortable in shit, just keep your mouth shut.

    On a serious note, part of growing up is to learn how to deal with annoying people in a mature way. There are times when we give such people more attention than they deserve. And sometimes we make too much noise in reaction to our frustration and end up being annoying ourselves, with even our valid points lost in the rage. If the unpleasant presence of pigeons on blogs can make us learn that, then there is a silver lining. Personally, I am still in the process of learning how to deal with pigeons without becoming a pigeon myself.

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