Which of your Lord’s Blessings Would you Deny?

There is one thing to be said for living in Pakistan – it really makes you appreciate the blessing in small things.

Surah Rahman is one of the most poetic sections of the Quran because it repeats over and over throughout the whole chapter “Fabi ayi Allahi rabbi kumaa tu kaziban” which means “Which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny?” 

Indeed in Pakistan it is difficult to deny the simple blessings in everyday living and at times it feels like God is forcing us to appreciate them by taking them away.

Coming from Australia where everything is available in ten different varieties and the land of plenty offers abundant food and resources, Pakistan is like a permanent boot camp. But there is even a good side to boot camps, and that is that the sweetness of gratitude when they end.

Here we have just been through a long summer of electricity loadshedding, where power is in such short supply that we only have it for two hours in every three. In some cities it is blacked out up to 18 hours a day, and in scorching 50 degree heat every day for months, living without even a fan really is torture. It is hard to believe that the government simply neglected to plan for the gradual increase in electricity usage, but that’s Pakistan for you. However the cheers of excitement and relief when the light comes back – many times a day – are really incredible. As Muslims we say “Al Hamdulillah” which means “Thanks be to God”. That kind of real, meaningful gratitude is rare to find in Australia. It is the gratitude that finally we can get on with managing the basics of our lives….cooking, cleaning, working on our computer and the millions of other little things that we take for granted but rely on electricity for.

It reminds me of when I took my young kids back to Australia for a holiday years ago from Pakistan and we visited Westfield Shopping Centre. They had never been on an escalator, because where we live in Pakistan there is no such thing, and their screams of delight at riding up and down like it was the most exciting thing they had ever seen attracted many passers-by who stopped and marvelled at such simple joy inspired by something that they used day in and day out but never thought twice about.

Likewise at around the same time, we went on our first grocery shopping trip since arriving back in Australia, and the kids were young enough that they rode in my trolley. As we rounded into the vegetable aisle, they began to scream “LOOOOK! Broccoli!!!!!! Mumma can we get some BROCCOLI?????? We LOOOVVVVEEE broccoli!!!” All of the women around me stopped and stared at these bizarre children who were screaming about broccoli like it was chocolate chip ice cream. One even asked me what my secret was. “Absence!” I said.

After almost a full year of electricity loadshedding, we all thought coming into winter that things would be easier. At least even if there wasn’t any electricity we wouldn’t boil….after all, the heaters run on gas. Famous last words! Now we have chronic gas shortages. Between 7 in the morning and 10 at night the gas pressure in the pipes is so low that we can barely run two burners on the stove, let alone heaters or geysers. It means no hot water, and cooking for our family of 15 is an absolute nightmare. Just boiling water for tea takes half an hour. To make matters worse, the electricity is still coming and going every two hours, so we spend an inordinate amount of our day freezing and waiting for the light to come back on.

And STILL, whenever it comes back, we all breathe an enormous sigh of “Al Hamdulillah”.

Which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny? Not electricity and gas that’s for sure. But what about water? When there is no electricity we can’t pump water from the underground tank under our house to the tank on the roof from which it feeds our pipes.  But that is when the water comes on its daily schedule from the town water supply into our underground tank. There was a month recently when the water just didn’t come. Nobody told us, it just stopped coming. Luckily, there is a healthy business here in Pakistan delivering water in tankers to fill these tanks, so for that month we had to buy our water in. Al Hamdulillah!

In the last year since I have been here the price of basic foodstuffs like flour, rice and dhals have more than tripled in price thanks to a combination of fuel prices, other input costs and opportunism by everyone in the chain (this is not the land of opportunity, it is the land of opportunism – people will take any chance they can of getting a bit more for nothing!) Unfortunately wages have not increased and have remained pathetically low, so that even buying basic necessities to feed their kids has become almost impossible. When the ordinary working people cannot afford to eat, it is a really bad sign. Yet still when food comes, the gratitude is enormous.

While my friends and family in Australia continue to question the decision we have made to live in this country that seems to present only hardship and inconvenience, I stand by my commitment that it is teaching my children the kind of lessons about life that they would not learn in a whole lifetime in Australia. True gratitude for even the smallest blessings in our lives is a precious gift and one that can probably be learned best through their absence.

Which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny?



What the hell is going on with India? I have kept my head down on the Mumbai “terrorist” attacks for a couple of weeks now thinking, perhaps naively, that before too long everyone would see it for the theatrical performance it was. But as I open up my newspaper and sit down with my morning cup of coffee in my suburban Pakistani home, I find that again India’s Pranab Mukherjee with the backing of Condoleeza Rice is maniacally threatening war.

Is it only in Pakistan that we can see what a charade all this is? I am astounded that my family and friends in Australia have heard nothing of the Mumbai attacks for a full week, while we sit in our homes here with war planes buzzing overhead every day, hear reports of Indian troops being deployed to the border, and listen to these threats daily. Why is the western media silent on all this? It can surely not be through lack of public interest as there are plenty of Indians and Pakistanis throughout the western world. The only thing I can think is that there must be some kind of cover-up going on –that the world has turned a deaf ear since Pakistan is Public Enemy Number One.

Here are just some of the anomalies in the accusation that Pakistan is behind the attacks. If even one of these has any basis (and many of the points are based on clear FACT, and reported in the Indian media) then India has a lot to answer for.

1.       First and most glaringly obvious is the killing of Mr Hemant Karkare and his team of investigators in a planned and until now mysterious set of events at the very beginning of the Mumbai events. Karkare was investigating the terrorist attacks at Samjohta, India previously and had unearthed the fact that it was not indeed perpetrated y Muslim terrorists, but by an Indian Army Colonel. How the information about his slaying has stayed out of the international media remains a mystery to me, but take a look on the internet and you will find plenty of information about him. His findings on the Samjohta attacks are no secret, nor are they fabricated by Pakistan to fuel their own defence – they are reported openly in the Indian media. The mystery is that there are at least four stories about how he came to be killed, and despite the clear evidence that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest at the time, the fact that he was shot in the chest.


2.       Just come to light is the astounding and mystifying performance of the police inside the Taj Hotel. A prominent Gynaecologist in Mumbai as well as a famous Indian designer have related how they and many others were trapped in their hotel rooms when the police came through their section of the building announcing that it was safe for them to leave because the terrorists had been isolated on a different floor. Around 20-30 of those who were trapped rushed out into the hallway to be immediately shot down by the terrorists who were waiting outside. There are now a number of Indians who are speaking out loudly about this incident and questioning whether it was a gross failure of the Indian police, or a strategy to raise the body count.


3.       There was a front page story in the Pakistani news last week about a lawyer from Pakistan who had been defending the case of Ajmal Kasab after he was arrested in Nepal in 2006 and handed over to India. Neither of them have been released. The lawyer was also arrested in Nepal  last year. Apparently it has happened before that Pakistanis have been kidnapped in Nepal and used for various dirty jobs in Nepal and India. Nepal has obviously refuted the fact that Kasab was ever arrested.


4.       Now India is claiming that Ajmal Kasab has written a letter announcing the fact that he is a Pakistani, and this letter has been handed to Pakistan through diplomatic channels. Note that this letter is the ONLY source of evidence that the Indians claim to have, and even Interpol is saying they have not yet seen it. This letter exposes gross inconsistencies, including the fact that it is written in Urdu, yet contains more than three typical Hindi words that are not used in Urdu. It is addressed to Kasab’s parents, calling his mother by that name, although in Pakistani rural communities a mother is never called with her husband’s surname and even the name Kasab is unheard of. Most glaringly, the letter is addressed on the 19th December, although the Indian media published the story on the 13th December. Ajmal’s name has not been found in any of the NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) records, nor has it been found in the electoral roll of Faridakot, where it is claimed he is from. Also in recorded conversations of the “terrorists” from the Taj Mahal Hotel, they frequently used Hindi words – these are still visible on YouTube.


5.       There is an emerging series of strange stories related to the Nariman House chapter of the Mumbai story. Nariman House is a Jewish safe-house and guest house in Mumbai that is run by the Chabad Lubavitch Zionist group. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the “terrorists” stayed there for a number of days  prior to the attacks, which refutes the idea that they arrived by boat the same night of the attacks and leads many to question how it is possible that muslim terrorists would be allowed to stay at a Jewish-only guest house. The night before the attacks more than 100kg of meat, alcohol and other supplies had been suspiciously brought in. In the weeks preceding the attacks, there were such a large number of foreigners passing through Nariman House that the local Indians felt it necessary to report it to the police. Then to top it all off, one of the police who entered Nariman House while it was under attack clearly reported being astonished to find that a number of the attackers were white, one sporting a “punk” haircut. There are many questions coming from these pieces of evidence that are calling into question the possible role of Mossad in the Mumbai attacks.


6.       In the photograph of Kasab that was posted all over the world’s media brandishing his weapon in the Mumbai subway, on looking closer he was wearing the orange string around his wrist which is a devotional symbol in Hindu culture to keep away evil spirits. Add to this the reports of them bringing in alcohol to the Nariman House and one must ask… if these boys were really jihadists fighting for Allah and were dedicated to this cause enough that they were prepared to become martyrs in the hope of being given a prominent place in heaven, would they really have pretended to be Hindus by wearing the orange band, posed as Jews in order to stay at the Jewish Guest House and drunk alcohol which is clearly sinful in Islam?


7.       There are many many questions being posed by an increasingly angry Indian community for which no answers have been given. Why did it take a full three days for the entire police/ military to bring 10 terrorists under control? How is it possibly that the Indian intelligence had no knowledge of such an enormous terrorist attack? How could these “terrorists” have brought such huge quantities of weapons from the port after disembarking from their boat to the center of Mumbai without being seen? And the list goes on.



Which leaves the question…Why? Why would India, the US, Israel and God only who else want to implicate Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks?


The popular opinion here on the streets of Pakistan is that this was Bush’s last-ditch attempt to destabilize and destroy Pakistan before leaving office. There are some very big reasons why he would want to do that, and none of them have anything to do with terrorism. Terrorism has been used as a convenient front for the US’s other political agendas and proxy wars throughout the Bush regime because it has become the perfect formula for generating unquestioning public support. Pakistan is after all the only (known) Muslim nuclear power, is becoming more and more closely tied with China, and sits at the axis of a number of major oil routes.


However if initiating a proxy war was the program, something has gone wrong. From the initial threats and worldwide condemnation of Pakistan, the chorus has diminished to just the manic gesticulating of the Indians.  None of us believe it will end here though. The Pakistani people still believe that the Indians will conduct surgical strikes on Pakistan to save face and deflect public attention away from the growing dissent about their ineptitude at handling the Mumbai attacks, not to mention helping the present government’s chances in the upcoming elections. However in Pakistan we have hosted a number of  international diplomats in the last few days who have all said basically the same thing – that Pakistan handled the situation appropriately. Clearly the agenda has shifted – possibly the incoming Obama management were unwilling to take on the burden of yet another futile and unpopular war.


The symbolic closure to the tyrannical Bush regime and his crusader mission was of course the gesture by the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at Bush’s head and the wild celebrating it generated throughout the Muslim (and indeed the whole) world.


It remains to be seen whether this new US regime will lead us down a different road or whether it will bring more of the same…

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