Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Lahorites take to the streets for ‘change’ photo courtesy THE LITTLE MAN HAS WON --PAKISTAN -LAHORE
The chaos that gripped Pakistan this week was an important step on the road to democracy
By Farouk Rana, Citizen Special

Russian scholar Yuri Gankovsky believed that there are four nationalities in Pakistan: the Punjabi, Sindhi, Pakhtun, and Baluchi. In a conversation with me in 1989, when I was posted in Moscow, he laughingly dismissed the official point of view that there was one Pakistani nation united by the bonds of Islam and the glue of the national language, Urdu: "You and your four provinces have nothing in common besides a fondness for cricket."
If Gankovsky was alive today, I would have told him that as it turns out, we also share a commitment to an independent judiciary, and by agreeing on the need for this fundamental value, i.e., the rule of law, we are closer to becoming a united nation despite our disparate ethnicities. That is the true significance of the victory of the lawyers' movement for the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
It needs to be recalled that Justice Chaudhry was unconstitutionally dismissed by Gen. Musharraf in 2007 because of:
a) his proactive stance on human rights issues and his insistence that the Interior Ministry produce 60-odd "missing persons" -- persons who were being kept in secret custody without being charged or tried in a court of law;
b) his insistence on transparency regarding the privatization of national assets and his blocking of the sale of Pakistan Steel Mill; and
c) Gen. Musharraf's apprehension that the chief justice would question the legality of his election as president by a parliament whose term was expiring in a few weeks time.
Despite repeated promises, the current Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government led by President Asif Ali Zardari procrastinated on the issue of the reinstatement of the chief justice.
The popular perception is that Zardari feared that if reinstated, Iftikhar Chaudhry will declare unconstitutional the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated by Gen. Musharraf which resulted in the withdrawal of corruption cases against Zardari. Zardari has also not initiated any steps toward surrendering his presidential powers to dismiss the Parliament and send the elected prime minister packing home.
And it was his hand-picked judges in the Supreme Court who disqualified the Sharif Brothers, Nawaz and Shehbaz, from holding any public office, thus precipitating a political crisis in Punjab which led to the dislodging of Shehbaz Sharif from premiership and imposition of Governor's Rule. The question everyone was asking: How is Zardari any different from Musharraf?
The lawyers had no choice but to announce the "long march" on Islamabad. The march was joined not only by opposition parties, but also by young middle-class professionals belonging to no particular party -- the YouTube Generation of Pakistan who have shaken off their apathy and indifference and risen up in defiance to say "No, you cannot."
The primary motivation for the young and restless to join the march was the fact that if the chief justice of the Supreme Court was not immune from being summarily thrown out of his office, manhandled by the police, put under house arrest and shamelessly maligned in a web of manufactured scandals by the officially inspired image goons, then what protection do the little people have? In fact, what protection does anyone have?
Despite the declaration by the prime minister that the protest march was the democratic right of the opposition and will be allowed to proceed, roads to Islamabad were blocked with thousands of steel containers on the orders of President Zardari and the police force deployed to arrest its leaders and disperse the march. Curbs were also placed on the popular GEO television's reporting of the unfolding events and its bold criticism of Zardari for reneging on his written agreements with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif regarding the Charter of Democracy.
Zardari's heavy-handedness led to vocal criticism from within his ruling party. His Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, resigned in protest.
The situation started to spin out of control when many police officers refused to carry out the "illegal" orders of the governor and higher-ups.
Rumours are afloat that field commanders in the army too had indicated their distaste, if not their unwillingness, for getting embroiled in a situation where they would be pitched against their own countrymen.
And so Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani took matters in his own hands and announced on television not only the restoration of the judiciary but also the government's willingness to sort out the modalities for the implementation of other components of the Charter of Democracy agreed upon and signed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in London in 2006. Zardari was nowhere to be seen. The little man has won. And this feeling is priceless.
Of course impediments remain. If Zardari's hand-picked replacement judges -- inducted into the courts over the last few months despite their questionable merits and qualifications -- are allowed to remain, then with Musharraf loyalists they will overwhelm and perhaps even neutralize Justice Chaudhry and his reinstated colleagues. This anomaly needs to be corrected.
The restoration of the 1973 Constitution and getting rid of the distortions introduced by Gen. Zia ul-Haq and Gen. Musharraf to increase the power of the presidency also needs to be realized. Until that happens, the bona-fides of President Zardari will remain suspect and will continue to cloud the political horizon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Friday, March 24, 2009

Bhai Salo was a "Sewak"(in service of the Guru) of Guru Arjan Dev. His duty was to collect wood from the jungle for 'Langar' (Community Kitchen).
Once in the early morning hours while returning from the jungle he falls into the deep well. The news spreads like wildfire and Guru Arjan dev and others reached the well.
A Rope is thrown inside the well to help Bhai Salo to come out. But Bhai Salo first tied the wood which he collected from the jungle and afterwards helped himself to come out of the deep well with the help of the rope.
He was asked why he first tied wood instead of helping himself to come out, Bhai Salo replied -SEVA- or Service towards community –is the most important. On hearing this, he was blessed by Guru Arjan Dev. The Guru declared to devotees that whoever visits his place, has to visit Bhai Salo's Place for fulfillment of his 'pilgrimage'. The Guru also is known to have said that wishes of prosperity in family would be fulfilled of whosoever visits the place of Bhai Salo to offer prayers. It is popularly believed that if a holy dip is taken on 'five' Sundays consecutively in the holy pond at Gurdwara Bhai Salo, the wishes of the person are fulfilled. Sunday is also fixed for 'Langar'. Close to Kesar Dhaba the Gurdwara is a must visit if touring Amritsar.


Rode Village (Amritsar) March 2009
In Rome --Bacchus the God of Wine may have countless lovers, bedfellows and followers through the ages, but nothing could quite beat his craziest fans …in a tiny hamlet of India. As spring arrives, 'Bhoma' also Popularly referred to as Baba Rode village, just 20 Kms from Amritsar in Punjab prepares for its annual cocktail. With huge drums some even fitted with indigenous taps and stirring ladles, to be filled with the fiery liquid to be poured in steel glasses for devotees.
Strange as it may sound, liquor finds its way as a holy offering at the 'Samadh' or 'Mazar' (tomb) of Baba Rode Shah in this tiny village. Not only, is it the only offering acceptable at the shrine but is also given as ‘Parsad’ (return offering) to devotees.
It is one of the strangest sights in the world perhaps, to watch women, children, share glasses of spirit with men in their sozzel-ed worst in a 3-day soiree from March 22 , during the Baba Rode Shah Mela (fair), as guzzlers are consumed by the spirited cocktail.
While consuming liquor is considered the ultimate sin in some religions, it hardly finds any respect in societal acceptance due to Health Issues, but flows in merriment at Mehfils, pubs, clubs or fashion parties and Page 3 dos.
However undeterred by its notoriety, the liquor has found an iota of acceptance and even 'reverence' during the 3–days of its unabated flow in "holy -glory".
Lakhs visit the tomb during the fair while hundreds of thousands throng the site even before the start of the 3-day "Binging" on alcohol. Devotees at Mela flock for an ardent Wish or at Wish-fulfillment in a gesture of Thanksgiving …carrying …lo & behold !!…bottles of the finest wines and whiskies or even pouches, polythene bags- shopper bags, buckets, cans filled with even country brewed liquor, that find their way into a mixing drum, as holy offering.
All the liquor offering is then mixed in a container, irrespective of its foreign origin, kind, expense or emergence-- into a heady potion and distributed as ‘Prasad’.
Mind you! No policewalla dare stop or cause any inconvenience during the drinking revelry that follows, for fear of incurring the wrath of the holy ‘Baba’.
People having faith in Baba Rode are seen offering prayers for jobs, resolving legal and court cases, marital happiness, to have a child, wishing to go abroad, find a seat in an institution and many weird wishes to come true.
The scene near the Samadh is seen to be believed with homo sapiens strewn around the place as if a great battle has taken place.
Devotees report that the stink of liquor can be felt from miles. It is the only time when a tiny tot boy or girl will call cheers with their father …although not so blatantly.
This time, amongst liquor revellers and drummers who played the drums at the mela the catchy Punjabi Pop Number by Hard Kaur ..."Ek Galasi, Do Galasi, Teen Galasi CHAR..." found some crazy puppets and rag-doll dancing by devotees swinging limbs in all four directions in wild abandon, while less sozzeled --laughed and laughed holding their stomachs in pain before joining the weird groups .
Along with this mumbo-jumbo dancing, Devotees get to enjoy some of the choicest and mouthwatering roadside delicacies during the ‘pilgrimage’ , with the likes of chicken Tandoori, fish Amritsari and Mutton Tikkas Stalls --.The most delicious and famous cuisines of this entire region crop along roadsides, during the festivities.
Though rationalists pooh-pooh the claims of miracle cures at the shrine, the Mela at the tomb of Baba Rode draws a big crowd.
Interestingly, it is a little kept secret that some leaders from various political hues too are ardent followers of the Bacchus –Baba

Legend has it that Baba Rode, the son of Sham Singh, a farmer, belonged to a Jat Sikh family and was a “teetotaler”.
The ancestral village of Baba Rode was Dhiman (Damodar) in border area of Gurdaspur district.
It is believed that Baba Rode moved to a village near Bhoma in 1896 and lived on the outskirts. His sister was married in this village.
People believe Baba Rode started blessing to help people in distress.
It is believed that once a devotee of Baba Rode offered him liquor in gratitude for a wish fulfilled and the Baba who distributed all offerings to his disciples also distributed the liquor offering among his disciples.
Later, this became a big tradition though Baba Rode died in 1924.
To the delight of villagers here, the tradition is still alive where drinking is considered ‘macho’ among men , after the hardworking Punjabi farmer turned into Landlords, lording over the migratory labor from poor states of Bihar and Orissa, who toiled in the fertile soil of the region to make the Punjabi farmer prosperous.
The once hardworking Punjabi farmer became lazy and fell into “aiyashis” of all kind including consuming liquor in groups in the evening. For these villagers at daily 'Mehfils' .....Baba Rode Shah’s Mela is indeed ‘Godsend’ having holy blessings to match!