The Woes of Social Networking

The last two weeks of my life have been filled with an extremely exhausting influx of human interaction – a process that has led me to realise the degree of reliance I have upon my PC to keep me connected to what I see as the ‘real world’ and how utterly incapable I have become of real-life social networking.

For me, it all began with a simple email sent to me from a friend asking me to check out her “profile”. Intrigued, I followed the web link and before I knew it I had promptly signed up to what was about to become the biggest social phenomena known to man – it was a site called Facebook.

Like most people, I too started off with four or five friends, most of whom sadly seemed to be my own family members, but the list rapidly grew, and it grew, and grew, and grew. Today, my total ‘friend’s list’ has exceeded a hundred; something which is not uncommon to most Facebook users. My fascination with telling people about every little thing happening in my life grew, I started adding applications that would analyse my personality and reveal all, and there remain no stoned unturned, no question unasked, no fact kept secret. But, unknown to me, I had subconsciously slipped into a world of complete revelation and openness. There remained no mystery to me anymore, the world, it’s wife, and children knew who I was. I was being poked, super-poked, “x-d” and then even “desi-poked” by strange people I had met randomly, or worse, didn’t even know.

Social networking sites often have this effect on most people. Indeed, you might even be experiencing it right now; it becomes a drug, the need for constant attention, for love, respect and acknowledgment – a trait inherently familiar to human beings. It had indeed offered me, a person who already has such little time to share with others, the opportunity to be a social butterfly. But cracks quickly emerged when I realised that my Facebook life had not heightened my social profile, but instead, it had in real terms, reduced it. Friends who would once meet for lunch or coffee now thought ‘wall posts’ and ‘virtual hugs’ could equate to dinner on a Friday night; birthday presents and phone-calls would be received as ‘igifts’ and an ‘ilike’ song dedications; and the worst one I think had to be the number of users methodically stalking each others “profiles” and “friends lists” to add on people who they were introduced to once for five minutes ten years ago.

But this week I was obliged to attend a number of social events which, in effect, forced me to emerge from my web-cocoon once again, to interact with real people, to meet, sit, talk and exchange verbal communication – it was refreshing, but it has equally been one of the most tiring week’s of my life. Needless to say, in this day and age, we have become addicted to instant relationship management; we are so addicted to these virtual connections to maintain our relationships that we forget the purpose of building ties in the first place.

We have become a nation who expects instant acknowledgement and gratification; we make ties in a second and break them even more quickly, through an IM, SMS, ‘e-comment’, or even an email. We forget that although an x-me hug can be delightful, it cannot replace the reassurance of a real hug; that although a wall post can be enough to tell someone you remember them, it still can’t give the familiar emotion heard only through voice and tone; and that although friend’s lists can exceed a hundred, of those, only one or two are real friends. It just goes to show, social networking is all well and good, just so long as you don’t get lost in the luring white light of a rather distorted virtual world – and remember the chances of bumping into your so-called e-friends in this era, is considerably high.

Muslims Celebrating the Achievements of Muslims

Last week, I was invited to attend two Awards ceremonies that brought together talented British personalities (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to celebrate the work of those who, through the written word, or creative industries had contributed to British society. The events were a hub for young Muslims to mingle, exchange experiences, and most of all, to be noticed – and to be honest, I do not think I have ever seen so many Muslims network their hearts out under one roof in my life. But although the purpose of both events may have been the same, I could not resist the temptation but to compare the two.

The Muslim News Awards held at Grosvenor House this Tuesday was a star-studded evening, but if it hadn’t been for my fellow blogger and friend Alam, I doubt I would have had the energy to sit through it, let alone be guided and introduced to a number of fascinating people (I am told this is usual in networking-savvy “Muslim” circles and a necessary part of the “getting noticed” process). The purpose of the night however confused me somewhat. The Awards ceremony applauded the work of established personalities (both Muslim and non-Muslim) – to mark excellence within the Muslim community. These people, in my opinion were already celebrities, and I wondered why we were using a “Muslim” event to recognise activities they were partaking in which actually contributed to British civil society, and not just Muslim communities.

The Muslim Writers Awards established by Innovative Arts however was held at the prestigious ICC in Birmingham and came together to celebrate the work of ordinary Muslims who had taken their first steps (and I must say, they are very big steps for the likes of me) in the media world; be that through blogging, short-story writing, or poems, the evening brought together a variety of people from all backgrounds who it seemed, have no other outlet which will recognise their achievements. It was refreshing to see so many young, unheard of faces and voices have the chance to be seen and heard, to be valued, and most of all, to be rewarded for a talent that for me at least cannot be equalled.

But the most stark realisation for me was why do we need “Muslim” events to celebrate talents that are much the same as non-Muslims? Why do Muslims feel an urge to establish their own awards and bodies to help aspiring young Muslims? I wondered whether there really aren’t enough avenues or opportunities for young Muslims to have their voices heard, or whether it is simply a confidence-building issue amongst those who see themselves as a minority group. The reality however, whichever way you choose to look at it, is that there is still a long way to go in what I’d like to term as “media acceptance” of Muslim (and minority ethnic) voices. As one writer quite eloquently put it, “unless I am writing about honour killings and hijabis, publishers just don’t want to know“. Let’s hope that initiatives like Innovate Partnership enable more, young and talented voices, from all ethnic backgrounds and religions to be heard. Bravo!

The New Enlightenment: Theories in Islamic Reformation

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Madhavi Sunder at the London School of Economics. An expert on women’s human rights in Muslim communities with a formal background in law, Sunder had been invited to speak about “The New Enlightenment: how Muslim women are bringing religion out of the dark ages“. Her views about international human rights laws fuelled her to write an article on women’s rights activism in the Muslim world, titled “Piercing the Veil“, which opens with the rather provocative statement, “human rights law has a problem with religion“. The dissertation looked at the failure to address women’s rights under even the most oppressive regimes because such law is reticent to interfere with religion and culture. 

In her lecture, Sunder begins with an analysis of pioneering work being undertaken by a group called Sister’s in Islam (SIS), a group which was set up to lobby and reform Malay family laws affecting disadvantaged groups, namely women. She hails the work of its Executive Director, Zainah Anwar, a former member of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission. Her work, she says, has enabled the reinterpretation of the Quran, and allowed women to question the norm, and through the process of osmosis, has also filtered into other countries where Muslim women are a disadvantaged group, and refers to it as “universal lobbying” of Muslim women who are “making a difference”. 

Quoting figures from a recent study by John L.Esposito and Dalia Mogahed entitled “Who speaks for Muslims: What a billion Muslims really think“, Sunder claims that over one billion Muslims globally anticipate equal rights in Islam, and then goes on to describe human rights as “rights guaranteed in a secular political world” – the audience gasp and the implication of her statement is clear; Muslims want to embrace secular human rights. But I am not entirely convinced and I start to wonder what this actually means and how is it different to Islamic human rights, if indeed there is such a notion, and whether these groups welcome equal right within Islam, or if these simply are basic human rights – above and beyond religious or cultural boundaries. 

The study Sunder relied on was based on researching around 50,000 Muslims globally via Gallup over six years, and it is difficult to say how representative this is of the majority view of Muslims, whose numbers presently exceed 1.3 billion. Contrary to Sunder’s claim what the research actually states is that “Muslims across the world want neither secularism nor theocracy. They want freedom, rights and democratisation … however, they claim that society should be built upon religious Islamic values and that the shari’a (Islamic law) should be a source of law. Simply put, the majority of Muslim women and men want rights and religion, and they don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive” – a direct contradiction to Sunder’s thesis.

In one of her slides, Sunder picturises two women sitting together in an organisation called Sisterhood is Global Institute (SiGI). The woman on the left is shown to be wearing traditional Islamic attire (the hijaab and jilbaab*), whereas the lady next to her is dressed in western clothing, she is not wearing the hijaab. Sunder points to each woman and highlights the distinct difference in appearance, making reference to their socio-economic background, “the first lady is from a poor background, whereas the second lady (without a headscarf) is from the city“, insinuating that the poor, uneducated lady is donning the hijaab due to lack of education and exposure to ‘progressive’ city-life.

This point seems the most relevant and I ask Sunder the extent to which she believes socio-economic deprivation limits progression in human rights. In answering my question, Sunder gives a somewhat vague response, and relies on her hypothesis about culture and religion being the causal factors in oppression and limitations to human rights for women. This seems like an easy answer. The Muslim world is currently predominantly based within the war-torn, third world – countries with high corruption, high unemployment, low skills, inadequate basic provisions, and civil unrest, to name a few. Secular countries on the other hand, are largely first world countries where human rights, equality and democracy flourish – those who live in these countries are comparatively at an advantage in terms of quality of life. So the two societies cannot be weighed side by side because the baseline is unequal. Probing Sunder further, I ask her whether she really believes that human rights are of primary concern to those living in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, who often lack basic amenities, things that the western world take for granted. Her response is again blurred by her continuous subjective reliance on theories of culture and religion hindering progression. I am still not satisfied.

After the lecture I approach her and ask her to explain her theories in more detail, she explains that she is more interested in the process of change and “operationalisation of the new enlightenment“, i.e., the methods by which change takes place – which to me seems she wants to have an observational and analytical role in the reformation process, but her presentation instead implied that she is at the very centre of the change, implementing it herself. The problem with this approach is that non-Muslim theorists, although well within their rights to encourage and help promote change within a particular society, are seen as a threat or simply put “fire-starters”, who lack knowledge and intricate understanding of Islam and wider causal factors that contribute to the state in which Muslim countries are living today.

Recommended texts:Piercing the Veil – from the Yale Law Journal, 2003, by Madhavi Sunder
http://www.yalelawjournal.org/pdf/112-6/SunderFINAL.pdf
 

Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed
http://www.amazon.com/Who-Speaks-Islam-Billion-Muslims/dp/1595620176

*Translations
Shariah = Islamic legal system
Hijaab = Covering of the head
Jilbaab = Loose fitting dress

In the name of honour, marriage …and force

Yesterday the BBC broke a story about thirty three girls who have apparently disappeared from schools in Bradford – authorities suspect that the girls have been taken abroad to be forcefully married. The story is not new to the Asian community, particularly to those living in the North of England, but it is one that is slowly being acknowledged and responded to by the community, and to some extent, the current government. There are two problems, firstly the issue of force – be that implicit, or explicit; and secondly, the use of violence to protect honour.

Late last year the BBC aired a programme about honour killings and forced marriages – the content was shocking, and included a number of interviews with prominent Asian community leaders and Muslim figures; highlighting the degree of importance now given to this issue and engaging in discussions which until now have been silenced. The programme alone prompted around thirty referrals in Wales, which usually only gets around two per year, and the message was clear – We recognise this as a problem in our community, and we are willing to face up to it.

The most shocking part however was that it was not only the traditional mindset of first generation immigrants, but one that has infiltrated into second generation British Asian and Muslims – citizens who have been born and brought up in this country. Crimes against young men and women who refused to marry out of force, or worse, against those who ‘fall in love’ with someone outside their own caste, sect, or family – people who are then likely to be ostracised by their own community for rebellion. Estimates by Reunite are that around 1,000 women are subjected to forced marriages annually in the UK (and these are just the reported cases amongst the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi community and do not include the large proportion of men helped by the Foreign Office’s Forced Marriages Unit.)

A few days after watching the programme I decided to catch up with Nazir Afzal, Director of West London Crown Prosecution Service. Nazir’s work in this area began in 2004 when he held his first conference on honour-based violence; his aim was not merely to raise awareness about this issue, but also to develop strategies to deal with such crimes. The resulting interest was phenomenal, “victims hadn’t heard a man speaking out against this issue, and once I’d done this conference, they wouldn’t let me go”. Being tactically placed, with access to senior police officials and Ministers, Nazir has not only been in a position to prevent these crimes from taking place, but also to help prosecute perpetrators guilty of such acts of violence.

But the question is why do young British Asians and Muslims who have grown up in such a multicultural society agree to partake in acts of violence and forced marriages? Without wanting to justify the motives or actions of those responsible, Nazir claims that the perpetrators are often victims of society themselves who succumb to social, cultural and family pressure. Nazir disagrees that the problem is linked to strict religious ideologies within the Muslim community, “this behaviour by no means makes this a religiously induced problem, the causes range from ignorance to a lack of information” he assures me, “mosques are now beginning to talk about it, but even they feel threatened by the community. Men often suffer from identity politics which is infused into them from an early age.” The concept of ‘man being a piece of gold and women being a piece of silk’ is largely believed by young Asian men – who choose to stick to “tribal values” more so than their parents.

But why then is the problem so apparent within the Muslim community? Is this problem linked to a school of thought which promotes forced marriages and justifies violence for the sake of honour? In order to get a better picture of the problem we must examine the demographics of the Muslim community – Around 74% of Muslims are of Asian origin – predominantly Pakistani at 43% – of this community, the majority are originally from Azad Kashmir (including Mirpur and Kotli), equating to around 50% of the British Pakistani community – these are often groups who have undergone chain-migration, live in silos, and try to emulate a particular lifestyle from the Indian Subcontinent.

Second, there is the issue of low attainment and high unemployment which both contribute to overall social well-being and liveabilty (or quality of life). The Muslim community, makes up around 1.5 Britain’s today and has one of the highest unemployment rates at almost 18%. Together, the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community is estimated at around 1.8 million people, of which around 60% is of working age. Of that the unemployment rate is around 17% amongst Pakistanis and approximately 20% amongst Bangladeshis (the current UK unemployment rate being 4.3%).

Educationally, around 33%, that’s one in three Muslims have no qualifications. Out of this group, Pakistani and Bangladeshi boys have the lowest rate of basic, entry-level qualifications (such as NVQ Level 2, GCSEs or O’Levels) at round 22%. Approximately 48% of Bangladeshi women and 40% of Bangladeshi men have no qualifications, compared to 40% of Pakistani women and 27% of Pakistani men with no formal qualifications. The percentage of those with no qualifications in the UK is around 15%.

To add to these factors, Asian and Muslim communities tend to group together and often reside in shared accommodation – this continues after marriage to maintain the traditional “joint family system”, though around 32% of Muslim households experience overcrowding, with Hindu and Sikh households experiencing around 22% and 19%* respectively.

These are all are interlinked causal factors and contribute towards general social status, acceptance, awareness, honour and cohesion – not being fully integrating into British society or accepting the “system” because they are not a part of it. In terms of marriage, Asian communities tend to group together, to maintain social and religious cohesion and a sense of identity. – this ultimately leads to less integration, and the preservation of one’s “natural identity” – they are often seen by the younger Asian generation as an obligation towards an ageing, yet very alive elder generation who they are still somewhat indebted to or bound by cultural ties. Women are more often than not seen as the “honour” of the family and are encouraged to nurture a sense of cultural identity – and so if they do decide to lead a life independent of cultural restrictions and limitations, they are seen as a disgrace and their actions are a crime.

These are all factors which undoubtedly add to slow-progression and ago-old feudal mentality amongst some within these communities. Until these social causal factors are addressed, little can be done to change the perceptions amogst young Asians – but we must acknowledge that this problem is not one that is linked to religious ideology with its roots in Islam or any other established religion.

Later this year, the government will bring into force the Forced Marriages Act 2007 – a rather ‘delicate’ piece of legislation which aims to protect “individuals against being forced to enter into marriage without their free and full consent and for protecting individuals who have been forced to enter into marriage without such consent” – the Act does not limit itself to force through means of violence, but also through coercive methods which include psychological pressure – a problem faced by a large proportion of young British Asian adults, the majority of whom are bound by perpetual indebtedness and ‘honour’ in the UK today.

Although welcomed by many enforcement bodies and community leaders, the Act is essentially looking to reduce the number of immigrant-marriages by force, a strategy which seems more in line with current immigration limitation plans, than to reduce forced marriages. It will not abolish the long-standing tradition of emotional pressure, nor will it, in my opinion, prohibit or deter crimes committed in the name of honour.

If you fear you may be forced into an arranged marriage, are suffering, or know someone who may be, you can contact:

FCO Forced Marriages Unit: 020 7008 0151
Southall Black Sisters: 020 8571 9595
International Campaign Against Honour Killings: http://www.stophonourkillings.com/

*Data has been sourced from National Statistics Online.

Scaremongering about Shariah Law

It has happened again – someone says something about Islam, Muslims, law, Shariah, UK, etc, etc, etc, the media starts it’s god-forsaken scaremongering, the ignorant public jump to their own ill-informed conclusions and go into a frenzied panic. Actually, Muslims should have been anticipating this for a while now, the media did seem a little thin on the Muslim-bashing side recently (oh, aside from the “bugs-under-Mr Sadiq Khan’s-table” of course).

This morning I woke up to news that the Archbishop of Cantebury called for measures to incorporate parts of Shariah law* into the British legal system. His comments have been faced with harsh criticism from politicians and media moguls alike. Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips reacted with the following statement: “implication that British courts should treat people differently based on their faith is divisive and dangerous“. Has the man finally lost his mind?

Then you have No.10 officials who apparently claim the Prime Minister “believes that British laws should be based on British values” – How on earth does this statement mean the Prime Minister is opposed to aspects of Shariah law being incorporated into the current legal system? The PM himself has been the Keynote speaker at virtually every Islamic banking conference since 2003 as the then Chancellor. If anything, he very much welcomes Shariah compliant law and has gone so far as promoting it as an alternative method for British Muslims. The simple truth is that people just aren’t aware of the facts.

One newspaper (commonly read by most London commuters) ended their coverage on this topic with a rather disturbing statement “the Islamic legal system can dictate the dress-code” – what? This is absurd and totally inaccurate. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs and comments, the Muslim dress-code is not defined by Islamic jurisprudence and is instead a “suggested” approach, which many Muslim men and women choose to adopt through their own free will. It is precisely this kind of incompetent and irresponsible journalism that prompts turmoil within communities which usually live in perfect harmony for the most part of their lives.

Speaking to a couple of non-Muslim colleagues this morning (who approached me about the issue) I found that they felt the same – “what is all the fuss about? Shariah courts already exist right?” was what they asked – and they were right. Shariah laws are already practised amongst British Muslim families today – the issue here is whether civil law should be flexed to adopt to Islamic law for Muslims living in this country and not whether the Islamic penal code should be adopted – which is what is frightening everyone. I think I can safely say that the majority of Muslims do not want to see a change in the penal code in the UK – they merely want a more adaptable system which permits and recognises Islamic legal rulings on things like marriage, divorce, banking, and so forth.

The mere fact that a non-Muslim has brought up this issue should be enough of an indication that British Muslims are not looking to take over the world. This debate should be welcomed and thrashed out in a reasonable and sensible manner through knowledge and common sense, not through poorly informed scaremongers.

*Shariah law = Often translated as the “Islamic way”, based on Muslim principles of jurisprudence.

Musharraf’s dictatorship spreads to the UK

Last Friday the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf was asked to give a lecture at London‘s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) about Pakistan‘s domestic and regional challenges. The lecture was described as an “embarrassment” by a number of notable British Pakistanis. I was unaware of the extent to which Musharraf had gone to limit the rights of free speech until Friday, when he supposedly downgraded and accused a senior journalist, M.Ziauddin for “casting aspersions” and “undermining our forces and your own country”.

Having heard the speech and the question put forward by Ziauddin, I must say that I do not think that what he asked was unreasonable. The exact exchange was as follows:

MZ: “Ziauddin from Dawn newspaper, Pakistan. You talk very highly of our law and order agency’s skills in the case of Benazir’s I mean it’s for the foreign… (inaudible) …and then you have talked very high(ly) of our custodial control of our nuclear assets but when high profile suspected terrorists like Rashid Rauf give us a slip and escape, then (then) the people here as well as in Pakistan start suspecting of a skills in these matters. Your comments on that please.”

PM: “Yeah sometimes it is people like you who cast such aspersions and reinforce such views. unfortunately. Er, it is…”

MZ (distant voice): “What am I to do about that?”

Chair (clearly): “What is he to do about that?”

PM (speaking to one of his staff in Urdu): “Yeh Ziauddin hai? Huh?” Okay, ya.”

(Rant begins) “Yes, yes indeed. Er, my remark stands. It is, it is, it is, er it is such aspersions that are cast when we highlight such aspersions and bring undermine our own forces, our own Pakistani forces, your Pakistani forces, your country, such things happen everywhere, and if we start casting aspersions that it is the intelligence which has probably left them, and that is how the foreign media also takes it up, and they think that our intelligence is mollified, our armed forces are with the Taleban, this is what happens. Now actually it happened, yes indeed, it is indeed very sad, it is indeed we trying, we are going to try people under court marshall, for anyone who has not looked after this man and allowed him to escape. So this, these things happens, it happens. So what is the issue? Now you are trying to cast aspersions that it is the intelligence and therefore it is all mollified, and therefore and good name of army, I shouldn’t have praised the army, I shouldn’t have praised my intelligence organisation because they are involved in the escape of Rashid Rauf. I don’t think that is true, and please shake these notions away, it is an incident which we need to address.” (End of rant)

Now, from this exchange, you can see that the question posed by Ziauddin was in fact an open question – it asked for Musharraf’s comments on suspicions within the Pakistani community against the law and order agencies, which I assume in this case means the Pakistani intelligence (ISI) – it does not seem like an allegation towards the President himself. Musharraf’s rant however makes him (and the whole incident) come across as very conspicuous to say the least. Some bloggers, journalists and academics have accused Musharraf of insulting Ziauddin during the event by his dismissive remarks. David Blair of the Telegraph writes:

“As soon as Ziauddin, the Islamabad editor of Dawn, a Pakistani daily, rose to ask his question, Musharraf visibly bristled. Instantly, his demeanour changed from being relaxed and confident to tense and hostile … (his) disgraceful response to an entirely reasonable query spoke volumes about Musharraf. He will question the patriotism of any Pakistani critic – betraying his essential intolerance of dissent. I wonder whether Musharraf would have responded with such rage had a British journalist asked precisely the same question? I suspect he would have answered firmly but politely. Musharraf treats his fellow Pakistanis with contempt while oozing charm for the benefit of foreigners.”

But this has not been the only report about the incident which took place on Friday. Speaking to a senior acquaintance earlier today I came to learn that after the event Musharraf was well and truly frazzled by Ziauddin’s question, palpitating and swearing about the journalist, and throwing around remarks such as “he must be dealt with” and inciting British Pakistani’s to “beat up Ziauddin”. Insiders also claim that Musharraf’s cronies (including Commerce Minister, Akhtar Khan) are now “losing even the shred of respect they had for him after insulting such a senior academic and journalist.” I decided to check other sources to back up this story, and I found a few other shocking statements from people who were with Musharraf in the moments following this lecture.

Musharraf’s dictatorship no longer limits itself to Pakistan, but has now spread it’s wings to the West, he is now freer than ever to incite others and openly threaten anyone he believes is being unpatriotic (against his regime). In Britain, we are given the liberty to speak freely, we are able to question and criticise our country for what we believe is right or wrong. Musharraf says that he believes in democracy, and a society that is equal and just. But where, I ask, is the freedom and justice in this?

[Added 29 January 2008]:

Not surprisingly, Musharraf’s irrational approach to this incident has now provoked questions from Gordon Brown at No.10 earlier today and a media investigation (I use the term intentionally) into the disappearance of Rashid Rauf. Today, the Guardian published a two-page spread on the missing person and raises questions about the involvement of the Pakistani intelligence.

I would love to know the President’s reaction.

And so the nation weeps at the fading hope of a new future

I thought long and hard about whether or not I should write a blog in tribute to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (former Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic Pakistan), but in the end I decided that if I truly believe in democracy, freedom of speech, and equality – then I have no choice but to write a blog dedicated to the dire events now unfolding in front of our very own eyes.There are some who may indeed contest the integrity of Benazir, but I am not here to debate that, but rather to reflect on the tragedy of a failing state.

Wedneday 27 December 2007 is not only the day that we mourn the loss of the first female leader, who at only 35 years of age, led a Muslim nation, but we also bid farewell to any attempt to restore democracy and fairness in Pakistan; an attempt to finally stand up to the probbing eyes of the west, by raising our hands and saying yes – on this day the state of Pakistan will allow it’s citizens to choose who they want to represent them, as their leader – through their own free will.

When I first heard this news, my initial thoughts were not for the loss of a political leader, but of the turmoil that was to follow on the streets of Pakistan – and with it, the scenes my family would have to face that same day. As we sit here in our comfortable homes and our air-conditioned offices, riots have begun to take over an already chaotic country. It is unlikely that elections will go ahead, with Nawaz Shariff “boycotting” the impending elections (which makes me wonder how much of this was a deliberate attempt to destroy this process). This is a country under seige by its own government; a government who although I cannot blame for this awful event, should by some means, be held to account.

Today, the death of Benazir marks another backward step in the progression of Pakistan, politically, economically, and socially. It marks a heart-felt tragedy for three young children who lost a mother. It is on this day that we reflect about what the nation of Pakistan has become instead of what it should have been.

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