Tragic and Shambolic Pakistan

(10AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

In almost every way, human tragedies play out in Pakistan just like anywhere else.

There isn’t much difference between this house, which floods destroyed in Pakistan yesterday, and similar rubble in Gaza or Afghanistan…


…and likewise as a surge of flood-water descends dam by dam along the Indus River, and these guys join more than 42,000,000 other refugees all around the world.


42,000,000 refugees right now, and now 3,000,000 more in Pakistan, and almost all of them fighting for food and water in miserable camps like this camp in Peshawar.


But as soon as we move beyond the level of universal human experience, the politics of Pakistan exhibits its own more or less uniquely shambolic individuality, as brilliantly illustrated by the following shambolic two-step.

Zardari visits French chateau as floods rage

A French air force helicopter deposited Zardari in the grounds of the Manoir de la Reine Blanche (Manor of the White Queen) for a two-hour stopover in the 16th-century chateau, built for the widow of King Philippe VI.

The house has belonged to Zardari’s family for 24 years and the president’s father, Hakim Ali Zardari, is a regular summer visitor. “He’s a neighbour with whom we have excellent relations,” said local mayor Jerome Grisel, who owns a farm immediately adjoining the estate.

In response to vehement indignation from almost everybody in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari adroitly passed the buck to Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani!

The government insists that the overseas tour was important and that the prime minister, not the president, is responsible for running the government, including its response to natural disasters.

But this ploy immediately merged into the usual shambolic freak-show of Pakistani politics when Prime Minister Gilani’s televised visit to a medical camp for flood victims in Mianwali was exposed as a total sham!

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered an inquiry into an embarrassing episode when officials set up a “fake medical camp” for a photo-op during his visit to flood affected areas in Mianwali on Wednesday. Media reports said the local officials hurriedly managed to put together a fake medical camp and also fake patients when Gilani visited the area.

Critics also pointed out that even on Wednesday when Gilani flew to Mianwali, he was immaculately dressed and wearing gold goggles!

Meanwhile Western media have busily analyzed the Zardari-Gilani fiasco in terms of a hypothetical conflict between military and “civilian” authority in Pakistan, although this division isn’t much more than a convenient talking-point about otherwise incomprehensibly shambolic political manoeuvring, while real “civilian” authority only extends to 15 or 16 feudal families which have dominated the civilian interludes of Pakistan’s government ever since Partition, including multi-generational wheeling and dealing among both the Zardaris and Gilanis.

Thanks to their division into two subcasts, the Gillanis hold to both the opposition and the government simultaneously. One group of this family supports the PPP, while the rival group backs the Pakistan Muslim League.

So the Gilanis play it both ways against the middle, and there is no middle!



  1. Photocredits: B.K. Bangash and Mohammad Sajjad.

  2. For anyone unfamiliar with British slang, it may help to know that the usual French translation of “shambolic” is “bordélique,” as in a (cheap) whore-house, and one of the few literary occurences of “shambolic” more or less confirms this equivalence.

    “The pub was empty of all but the most dedicated drinkers, shambolic figures huddled over bottles.”

    …from Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville, a writer who should be much better known in the USA than he is.

    China Tom Miéville is an award-winning English fantasy fiction writer. He is fond of describing his work as “weird fiction” (after early twentieth century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigones. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He has stood for the House of Commons for the Socialist Alliance, and published a book on Marxism and international law.

    His second novel, Perdido Street Station, won the 2001 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2001 British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Locus and British Science Fiction awards.


    Perdido Street Station is the second published novel by China Miéville, and the first in a series that is set in the fictional world of Bas-Lag, a world where both magic (referred to as ‘thaumaturgy’) and steampunk technology exist. Perdido Street Station is set in Bas-Lag’s large city-state of New Crobuzon.

    And what, you may ask, is “steampunk technology?”

    Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes fictional works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era Britain – but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, often featuring futuristic technology as the people of this historical period would have envisioned it to look like, i.e. based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc.

    And that brings us back to “democracy” in Pakistan, which resembles a functioning democracy in about the same way as a steam-powered “flying city” resembles a 747.

Comments have been disabled.