Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The soundtrack to the descent into chaos?

To complement Londonstani's excellent reporting over at Abu Muqawama on what's happening the other side of the Durand Line, this New York Times video feature on how Pakistani pop stars and the educated youth regard the TTP and the West is worth 9 minutes of your time.

Money line at about 3:40:

You talk to a musician over here and you ask him what's the problem, he won't come out with the most fantastic insightful answer for you. He'll come out with the most rhetorical, most cliched crap.

If only that was limited to Pakistani pop stars. Or musicians.


  1. Whoa, wait a minute... is this the MK?

  2. Back from the belly of the pale blue monster, my friend.

  3. LOL.

    How is it that some musicians can write the most beautiful lyrics, and yet, are so completely inarticulate? And goofy? Well, I suppose that's awfully common; skills don't always "cross-over".

  4. MK, I didn't know you existed. Nice to meet you.

    Really depressing clip. Do these young educated Pakistanis even know how their intelligence/security establishments used terrorists to mass murder former Soviets (especially in the Stans and Chechnya which Pakistan saw as its sphere of influence), Iranians, Shiites, Afghans, and Indians?

    Seriously, do none of them blame the Pakistani Army, ISI, and Pakistan's civilian leaders?

  5. Wow, some of these bands have groove!... Well, when was Pakistan independent again? Hmmm... I think 1947, with the Partition. And all this time, the tribal areas have been left to their own devices--with no state sovereignty over them? This is worse than the Congo, as they have nuclear weapons (though Seymour Hersch claims there are US rapid intervention units in-country to seize nuclear arsenal in case the Taliban seized power: good luck)!... This means that the Taliban, though relatively novel, had developed a modus vivendi with the Pakistani central government... until Western interference! So, the analyses of these guys aren't out of the realm of lunacy. If musicians are expressing the majority opinion, then why blame them?... In the meantime, no one is talking about the Naxal Maoist rebels who operate freely along a huge corridor in eastern India. The whole place is gonna blow one day!

  6. Do you think the Naxal Maoist rebels in India are a big deal? Have they become a big deal recently? Or are they isolated to a few places and don't affect rail lines, roads, tourism and commerce.

  7. Anand:

    The Naxals are now a real major headache for the Indian army who've recently launched a major assault on them. The army and the government are so out of their wits that they started funding and arming local militias, which has only worsened the situation. The Naxals have also turned deadly, with beheadings of cops and other atrocities. I'd recommend this book, Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country (2008) by Sudeep Chakravati, which I saw an Indian friend read recently... I saw detailed maps of the areas of operations of the Naxalites in that book, which I still haven't read (I'm reporting what my Indian friend told me)...I think you could also contact the writer via his blog.

  8. Alex, you're eliding the differences between the tribes and the TTP in the Tribal Agencies. Both are socially conservative, but to differing degrees; they've got different power structures, different agendas, and unlike the tribes, the TTP have ambitions beyond the Agencies. Recall the 2007 Lal Masjid crisis? What did 'arresting' Chinese masseuses have to do with 'Western interference'? The idea that 'Western interference' alone* was the cause of Pakistan's current instability doesn't hold water.

    But I agree with you about the Naxalites - they seem to be stepping up their attacks on Indian security forces considerably.

    * And of course, most 'Western interference' is arguably in response to 'Pakistani interference' (if we're going to call it that) across the border into Afghanistan. Seriously though, the whole concept of 'interference' is pretty quaint in a world of globalized media, weapons trade, financing for non-state groups, economic interests etc., and always selectively applied. Especially so when discussing the Durand Line.

  9. In 2007, they didn't seem to be a big problem when I travelled in the Eastern and Northern parts of India to see temples and old archeological remains. I did see Indian troops though. Maybe the Naxalites are a bigger factor along less widely used railway tracks.

    The major pilgrimage areas in Bihar (including Bodh Gaya and Gaya in Bihar), in Bengal, and Guwahati Assam seemed safe.

    I don't remember any Indians talking about the Naxalites either. They were talking about Takfiri extremist terrorism, Kashmir, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

    Perhaps this Naxalite problem has substantially increased since 2007? Or perhaps it was happening then and I was oblivious to it. I learn new things everyday. :-)

    There has been a widely held perception in India for many years that many parts of Bihar are unsafe, poor, uneducated and chaotic. But this seems more related to Gundas (unsophisticated organized crime ruffians), and crime, than some type of resistance movement. By the way, have you guys heard of Rabri Devi? She became the Chief minister of Bihar even though she literally didn't complete 4th grade, and seemed oblivious to what was happening around her. It was suspected that she hadn't a clue about a lot of the Bills and administrative orders she would sign with her thumb print.

  10. MK:

    Thanks for the info. I only know the situation in Pakistan thru the news, hence my conflation of entities and situations.


    I forgot to mention that these guys have their own blog called Naxalite Maoist India. I don't know if it's the work of a fan or of an insider. But it has lots of archives on the movement and is constantly updated.
    The movement used to be mostly rural. Now it seems to have spread to urban areas. The upper-class minor writer Kobad Ghandy was recently arrested (in Mumbai I think) for being a member of the leadership of Naxal.

  11. And just to preempt the inevitable teasing, I'll post something today.

  12. Noticed this article with maps in the latest economist regarding the naxalites:

    I still find it difficult to take the Naxalites seriously. They obviously lack popular support, or they would field candidates in elections. They would probably fold "double quick" as are British blokes like to say if the Indian security forces were ordered to go after them. Are they just a bunch of organized crime groups? With the Indian economy growing 8% a year, India has the resources to go after them. Why would some villager support Naxalites versus make money in the private sector? Who is paying for the Naxalites?

    I was in Orissa in 2007; didn't observe any security challenges in Orissa.

    I have heard that the Naxalites committed a bunch of terrorism in the 1960s in India. The vast majority of Indians detested the Naxalites. Still do.