Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Getting to Know: Nawaz Sharif

0 comments
Someone's been using Rogaine!


With less than a week left before Pakistanis vote for their next government I've decided to do some research on the important candidates and parties in the election. This should help all of us try to come to a conclusion on who we think is the worst (hint: Nawaz Sharif...no Bilawal Bhutto...no....everybody?)

Nawaz Sharif is, according to most opinion polls, the front runner for the position of Prime Minister of Pakistan, a post he's held previously. Numerous times. But what do we really know about Pakistan's once and future Prime Minister? The following information is brought to you by Wikipedia and some other sources

Name: Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Born: December 25, 1949 (OOOH A CHRISTMAS BABY!) in Lahore, Pakistan. He is Punjab de sher or something along those lines, I don't speak Punjabi.
Religion: Nawaz Sharif is a Muslim, as are all the major candidates in the election. He is a conservative Muslim and during his time in office he enacted the Shariat Bill which established the Quran as the supreme law in Pakistan. Unfortunately he refused to repeal any discriminatory laws against women and minorities and also tightened up censorship all in the name of Islam. No wonder the Taliban has taken him off their list of targets. By the way, the fact that the Taliban has taken him off their no-kill list is worrying. If the Taliban is all "this guy is A-OK!" then maybe he's not A-OK?
Education: Sharif went to St. Anthony's High School in Lahore which is a private school that has produced several notable alumni including Rameez Raja. I imagine it's similar to the school the bad guys from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander went to. Not Model College but the other one. For college he went to Government College and graduated with a degree in Art and Business. I bet he's a lovely singer, he looks like he could sing some Qawali. Finally, he got a law degree from the University of Punjab but he slept on the day they explained corruption was illegal which led to some confusion on his part.
Family: Nawaz Sharif comes from an impressive business family. His father started Ittefaq Group which became one of the largest steel companies in the country. His family's wealth is valued at $1.2 billion, making them the fourth most wealthy family in Pakistan. His brother, Shahbaz Sharif, is an accomplished politician in his own right, serving as Chief Minister of Punjab several times. His wife, Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, is the granddaughter of The Great Gama who was "the greatest Pehlvani wrestler of all time" having never lost a match in fifty years. His daughter, Maryum, is the only one of his three children who is active in politics, playing a leadership role in his party.
Political Origin Story: In the 1970's Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People Party led government enacted a policy of nationalization. The government nationalized the airline, they nationalized the energy industry, they also nationalized the steel industry including the Ittefaq Group's steel holdings. Essentially having his family business stolen by the PPP led government, Sharif joined the Pakistan Muslim League to try to get his steel company back. Before he could though, Zia-ul-Haq hanged Bhutto. Sharif ended up supporting Zia's government and he was given back the steel mills the government had seized all while rising through the ranks of the Punjab provincial government. Apparently Sharif is still a little salty about that whole government seizing his steel mills business and he never forgave the Bhutto family. At least that's what Wikipedia tells me, although he has joined the PPP in coalition governments before so it's probably not true.
Political Career: Sharif was Chief Minister of Punjab in the late 80s, leader of the opposition against Benazir's government in the mid 90's, Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1990 to 1993 and then again from 1997 to 1999. As Chief Minister of Punjab, Sharif was responsible for modernizing the economy of Punjab and turning Punjab into the wealthiest province in Pakistan. As Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sharif was responsible for modernizing the economy of Punjab and turning Punjab into the wealthiest province in Pakistan. The latter accomplishment led to violent clashes with MQM and PPP workers in Karachi due to accusations that Sharif neglected Sindh. Apparently he's still hated by the MQM and there are accusations that he was behind some disappearances of party workers. The clashes in Karachi were so bad that the President at the time fired Sharif and appointed an interim Prime Minister. I don't know how or why the President is able to do this but the more I read about it the more I realize that the Constitution of Pakistan is just a jumbled incoherent mess. I was under the impression that the Presidency was a figurehead position except for the times where the President says it's not? I think I'm having an aneurysm trying to figure this out. Regardless, to diffuse the situation the Army stepped in and convinced both Sharif and the President at the time to resign from their posts. After he resigned, Benazir came back (she was Prime Minister before he was) then when she was forced out for corruption (again) Sharif came back and won elections in a landslide fashion. He immediately enacted the 14th amendment to the constitution which is so stupid it confuses me. The fourteenth amendment gave party leaders the power to dismiss any legislator within their party who voted against party lines even though they were democratically elected. Sharif's PML controlled the majority of the Parliament so he could get rid of almost anyone he wanted if they voted against him. This was a horrible idea because that is the opposite of what a democracy is supposed to be. Anyways! Sharif went on and conducted nuclear bomb tests the day after India tested their's and he was popular again because when it comes to politicians Pakistanis have collective amnesia. Sharif's government then declared a state of emergency because the economy bottomed out. There's nothing entertaining about that tidbit except for the Wikipedia section that says Nawaz Sharif had to suspend the Space Program due to the economy (getting a little ahead of ourselves aren't we Nawaz?). Sharif also had issues with the judiciary because the judges in Pakistan do as bad a job as the constitution does of upholding law and order at the highest levels of government. Essentially the judiciary struck down the ridiculous fourteenth amendment and gave power to the President to dismiss Sharif (they also held Sharif in contempt which is just something that happens to Prime Ministers in Pakistan I guess) and when the President ordered the military to remove Sharif from his post the military instead backed Sharif and the judge and president were both fired because life's funny like that sometimes. At some point during Sharif's second tenure Pakistan and India fought the Kargil war and due to reasons I don't feel like looking up Sharif and his generals beefed. Sharif decided to fire General Pervez Musharraf during a time where the economy was tanking, Pakistan had just lost a war to India, corruption was rampant, and law had deteriorated all around the country. Musharraf wasn't having it and he decided to overthrow Sharif and send him into exile in Saudi Arabia. Sharif came back about 10 years later in 2007 and now Pakistan is looking at repeating it's old mistakes. That was a long section. He's been very active throughout his life.
So what should Pakistanis do on Saturday? DON'T VOTE FOR NAWAZ SHARIF! At least not for Prime Minister. He seems like a lovely Chief Minister but man, you already saw what he's done. Why do Pakistani politicians get multiple chances to lead the country? Ugh, this election is dumb. So is the constitution and the judiciary. Also the parliament. They all are stupid. Don't vote for Nawaz because he already got a chance, it's not fair to the rest of the candidates. Everyone deserves a turn.

Pakistan Election Primer

0 comments
The Pakistani General Elections are set to occur at the end of this week and in an effort to educate myself on some of the background and people involved in this election I've decided to write up a few posts about the election because...Knowledge is power? I don't know why exactly but this is what I'm going to do. As always my information comes primarily from the Internet, mostly Wikipedia, also BBC and Al-Jazeera with the occasional Pakistani news source.

Mr. Ten Percent is the real nickname of Pakistan's president. He is so corrupt people gave him a nickname about it. He's the president. 

The Pakistani General Election is supposed to happen on May 11th provided it isn't disrupted by a coup or a terrorist attack or something equally plausible. If the election is allowed to continue uninterrupted then this will be the very first time in Pakistan's 66 year history that a democratically elected government will be able to finish its entire term. Usually the military steps in but they've been able to restrain themselves these past five years although I don't know how, it has been a horrible five years. Which brings me to my next point. It has been a horrible five years. 

Pakistan has been facing serious issues for a few decades now but it seems like everything has only gotten worse the past five years. Some major issues are, as always, corruption and crime. There's also provincial strife, particularly in Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (Which for my money is the ugliest name in the word. The "kh" sound just reminds me of poop. Just horrible, should have stuck with North-West-Frontier-Province. Or like Nebraska or something. Just...ugh, can we vote on changing that name?) Other issues are the economy (obviously), terrorism, and load shedding/power shortages. Unfortunately minority rights, women's rights, actually just all human rights across the board do not seem to be major issues in this election. 

The election, by the way, is for the National Assembly, lower house of Parliament (I have no idea what they're responsible for), and the provincial assemblies. The Prime Minister is the chief executive of the country and is responsible for creating a cabinet and making executive decisions. He or She is elected by the National Assembly and generally the head of the party with the most National Assembly seats is elected Prime Minister. As an aside, the previous Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf was known as "Rental Raja" for being known to take bribes during his time as the head of the wildly inefficient Power Ministry. So to recap, both the Prime Minister AND the President were widely known to be corrupt and were even given cute nicknames in reference to that corruption before they were elected to the highest offices in the land. I'm so glad I live in the United States. Anyways, the election is being contested by just about every party and crooked bastard in the country but the major players are Pakistan People Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami. They are all horrible horrible choices. God help Pakistan. 

All of these parties are fighting for the votes of 86 million registered voters. Punjab has the most registered voters of all the provinces at 48 million, more than twice the number of voters in Sindh which has the second most voters. Karachi has (unsurprisingly) the most registered voters of all the cities at 7 million voters. That is more than the entire province of Balochistan has which explains why they get shafted year after year by the federal government. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems activities in Asia (IDIFESAA) helped the Election Commission of Pakistan create a computerized voter database which removed 35 million bogus voters from the previous database. THIRTY FIVE MILLION FAKE VOTERS! So hopefully this election will at least be fair. 

On Saturday millions of Pakistanis will participate in the election of the 14th parliament of Pakistan. They will go to polling offices with probably equal amounts of hope and cynicism as they decide whose hands they should put their futures in. The government has taken steps to ensure a freer and fairer election than Pakistan has had in the past but doubts still exist and with many of the usual suspects campaigning all along the country so do fears that nothing will change for Pakistan. At the very least though, we can at last say goodbye to Asif Ali Zardari. God I hate that asshole. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fat Tuesdays: Nihari

1 comments
Nihari, like all desi foods, does not photograph well

Welcome to Fat Tuesdays everybody! This is where, every(ish) Tuesday, I will write about a food I either love (Nihari) or loathe (Paya).

Nihari is a spicy thick beef stew usually paired with naan. It is delicious and wonderful and I love it. According to nihari's insightful wikipedia page it was developed in the late 1800s when the Nawab of  Delhi would eat it for breakfast and then slip into a food coma until the afternoon. Later, after partition, Muslim cooks from Delhi migrated to Karachi and soon Nihari became "the national dish of Pakistan" because it's awesome.

Nihari is a complicated dish, it takes 6 hours to make (I think, I've never made it before so what do I know?) and can be served a variety of ways. Once when I was in Karachi my cousin asked me if I wanted to go get Nihari. Obviously I said yes and we went to a restaurant that was so popular that people would wait behind your chair while you ate so they could get a seat when you left. Once there, my cousin asked if I wanted "maghaz ki nihari" I didn't know what that was but he assured me that it would make the nihari thicker and spicier and everyone knows I likes mah nihari like I likes mah ladiez so that's what we did, we got maghaz ki nihari. A few minutes later we got a plate of wonderful smelling nihari and I was beside myself with joy. Then a 7 year old scooped a fully formed goat brain out of a metal pail he was carrying and dumped it onto this plate of pristine nihari. That's when I learned that "maghaz" is the urdu word for brain.

In addition to brains, which is apparently a thing people have with nihari, you usually are provided with a selection of condiments including; fresh cut ginger, sliced green peppers, chaat masala, fresh cilantro, and fresh cut lime. My life changed the day I decided to put some chaat masala in the nihari. I still remember I was probably around 8 or 9 and we were having lunch at Farzana Chachi's house and I hated nihari but then, through a stroke of genius, I decided to throw some chaat masala in there and to this day I take off of work on November 17th and celebrate national chaat masala appreciation day. Personally, I like my nihari simple. I usually only take two small pieces of meat and fill the plate (no bowl) with the salan (gravy). Then I sprinkle out a little chaat masala and that's pretty much it at that point. Lately I've been throwing some pieces of green peppers in there and maybe topping off with the cilantro but in all honesty it's just superfluous. Nobody's ever missed having cilantro with their nihari. The lime juice, that's a trap. Don't use lime juice, trust me. Everyone squeezes out half a lime into their nihari but that's just due to subliminal messages from Big Lime. Be a nihari purist and savor the natural flavors of the nihari.

There are pitfalls when it comes to eating nihari. First, there's that whole maghaz thing, which in all honesty was not that bad and you probably won't ever come across someone serving maghaz ki nihari. What you will come across though is paya. I hate paya with the ferocity of a thousand splendid suns. You will go to a dinner and the hosts will put out nihari on the table and build up your spirits to unknown heights only to crush them when you realize that instead of a thick luscious gravy with tender melt in your mouth pieces of meat, you're actually spooning water and bones into your plate. The mood swing that you will experience is so immense and rapid that you will be convinced you're bi-polar. It's a goddamn crime against humanity and I won't stand for it anymore! I HATE PAYA. If someone says that they're serving you nihari but all you get instead is a plate of water and cow hooves that is so bland that it somehow sucks happiness from your soul, you are eating paya and it is your right to throw that plate right back into their face and burn down their house. Then you can come over to my house and I'll make sure you get a good, real, plate of nihari and you'll live happily ever after with heart disease.

Even with the whole paya situation nihari is still the greatest food on the planet. It's kind of like a high risk high reward thing. On the one hand you might end up with paya and explode into a ball of rage kind of like I did in that paragraph up there. But, if you end up with nihari....man...I need to get some nihari.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Aww, Fank You!

1 comments

Adele is the most adorable person on the planet heavyweight division and her acceptance speeches are the highlight of any award show. For that, I fank her.