Category Archives: pakistan

On and Around the Pakistan-India border: birds flying high, you know how i feel

Dear Readers,

I’m writing to you from the cavernous insides of the Golden Temple complex in Amristar, Punjab. A pilgrimage site for Sikh’s, it is beautiful. A vast square, mirror like pool in its midst, a walkway beset in white marble, crowned on four sides with striking gates, and scores walking barefoot, around and around. In the middle of it all, a golden temple, reflecting itself in the eyes of the head covered seekers and, of course, the water.

From here its about a half hours journey in a gutted out Tata white minivan to Pakistan, via the Wagah border. I was there yesterday, along with thousands of other Indian’s, Pakistanis, and foreigners. We all gathered to bear witness to the famed flag ceremony, where Indian border security and Pakistanis border security posture for the masses, as they take down their respective flags for the day.

Soldiers on both sides, tall, strapping, dressed to the nines. India a military green, red accents, gleaming chaps, a champions belt and plume stiff gorgeous. Pakistan a black flowing kurtha, all black, head to toe, even their plumes, had inches on India’s, mercenaries, desert riders, extra flair, head snaps, plumes this way and that.

Chango dances like this.

Heads kicked high, rooster crow cry, plumes, exhume the truth of the matter is that we are brothers and sisters, both sides. Both sides chanting, Pakistan-Zindabad!, India-Zindabad!, music blasting over carnival in Brazil on the street in heat sized speakers. National fever pitched, sold, and bought, at bargain basement prices. Rooting for our side. Is harder. When it comes to white people and their companies. Easier like this. Amongst immediate family.

At the Wagha border it is gladiator like stadiums on both sides, two gates inches apart one painted with green and white, crescent moon so bright, the other an orange, white, green, wheel. There is a VIP section reserved for important Indian folks and foreigners. The VIP section is closer to the action, cordoned off by baby blue rope, less crowded, less policed. At this junction there are at least three borders in visible operation. The border between Pakistan and India. The border between nationals and foreigners. The border between men and women. And maybe a fourth. A border between the fervent nationalists and the nation-state questioning.

Us vs. Them. Us is. Them.

Looked up from the breath defying guard, who called out positions in long, classical notes, vying for sound space with a man in the crowd who wanted to do exactly what you do, when you call this way, the soldiers respond. When you call this way, the crowd cheers. When you call this way, Pakistan’s soldiers can hear.

Looked up from the breath defying guard into the sky was a plush clouded blue, ever dimming at this sunset flag ceremony, and the birds were laughing above us. Flying free over these arbitrary lines. Natural plumes cut speed through the air up there looked good. Looked free.

Would the British love to see this? The fierce posturing, the rivalry, the chants. Perhaps not, maybe its not bloody enough for the divide and conquer post-partition eyes that watch and steer and guide, for this, Gandhi Ji died. Or maybe there’s plenty of blood, and the wounds are all inside, perception, media, politics, games, influence, propaganda, the people’s plight stays the same. Is this how it was the day Bhutto was assassinated? Or was there, please god, more diplomacy in the air?

What are we watching at this border ceremony?

The truth. About something.

Stay tuned for more, as your favorite political poet keeps her solo journey going through India along the border of Pakistan.




december/remember: a week in the life/pakistan and immigrants rights

Dear Readers,

 Its December, month number 12, end of line, time to look back?  Is there time to reflect?  

There is time to reflect, if we make it, melt them clocks down till their slinking down stairs to nowhere in a desert, like salvador dali did, like how our bodies do when we making love, sliding off the ends of beds, pounding a bridge between the floor the whore the freewheeling ceiling dreaming of a new dawn, a new year, a new era for time itself. 

Do you give a fuck about labor, immigration, the lawyer’s uprising in Pakistan?  Me too.  Here goes a bit of prose based journalism for that time taking ass.

Read on, dear reader, read on.

December 6, 2007

its december/i remember/what i’ve done this week/ended the semester/don’t speak/no doubt/poignant/first university class/picture/on with/a few days in the life of a movement/december/remembered…. 

Immigration and Labor Panel at SEIU: Where Do We Go From Here?

Panel at SEIU: December 4, 2007

the day is brick, ice cold, eyes blinking under the streaming lights of times square, but even the sharpest gusts of wind aren’t getting through my trench length coat.  its nyc, 2007, december, a tuesday, two main kinds of winter coats out there for women.  the 1940’s, slim fit, wool coat.  and the who’s that eskimo lady variation on the puff coat.  i got the puff.  sometimes it feels like a down blanket with arms.  and on a day like today, that aint so bad.

open double doors wide to warm air, inside SEIU benefits headquarters, elevators, press PH, get off at the penthouse, immediately connect with a homie I met at the U.S. Social Forum.  we head to the bagels, last dregs of coffee, he reminds me, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights,  big conference, this January, Houston, TX. 

damn, i breathed, i would go, too.  but its my cousin manu’s wedding in india.  im there for all of january.  psyched.

but if i was in the states i would find some how some way to get to houston.  it’ll be one of the first movement convenings of of national scope since the Forum, and, no doubt, much urban renewal of the best kind will be happening, we are stacking momentum up like cash, can you feel it?

we both head into the crowded seminar room, is that chair taken, the greying man shakes loose his eyes from the panel and replies, only by you.  cool. 

i’m impressed.  its a star studded panel.  but im a labor movement nerd like that.

Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice-President, SEIU, Ana Avendano, Associate General Counsel and Director, Immigrant Worker Program, AFL-CIO, Cecilia Munoz, Senior Vice President, National Council of La Raza. 

Labor and Immigration Panel Stand Out Moment #1

when ana avendano was asked by steve greenhouse of the new york times, ah, yes, steve greenhouse here, new york times, id like labor to respond to my perfectly wavy silver hair and all important air, and so steve brings up the guest worker aspect of immigration reform’s stall in the senate and ana with vivacity and strength responds y’all lied! it went something like this:

steve: elaborate on the guest worker issue that so occupied labor and immigrants rights groups. 

ana:  you and the media mis-reported on our stance, the guest worker program was not our primary issue with h.r. 4437 and s.2611, but you all made it seem that way.  let me break down exactly why neither of these attempts on immigration reform floated our proverbial boat.

and then ana avendano proceeded to break it the fuck down.  till all i knew was that somewhere in between the marches, the front pages, i, and the public, had been mislead, sidetracked, distracted by the guest worker issue, left in the dark about what labor and immigrants rights groups were truly concerned about: inhumane provisions, disasterous red tape, a never ending purgatory for undocumented workers, and a host of other concerns.  why distract us with the guest worker issue, why focus on that almost exclusively? 

Labor and Immigration Panel Stand Out Moment #2

when ana and cecilia got into it, arguing between themselves, a bit of a blaming here, a pinch of shaming there, and ultimately its no ones fault that immigration reform aint what it could be, but to see these two powerful women up there, representing two sisters like two factions of the movement, kinda hurt my heart, to see us, the heart of the movement, women of color, divisive, divided, publicly.  aaargh!

Rebellious Lawyers, The Lawyers Movement in Pakistan and its Ramifications

Talk at Columbia Law School: December 5, 2007 

there’s more.  tell them about last nights talk on pakistan’s lawyer uprising at columbia university law school.  professer osama siddique, head of department, law and policy school, lahore university of management sciences, speaking truth.  tell them how he broke down pakistan’s lawyer uprising, where corporate lawyers and peoples advocates, together like the suits and laborers were together in the streets of argentina post-2001 economic crises, mixed class, together, lawyers put their bodies behind their beliefs, where lawyers became their own clients, pressing a greater case against general musharaff and military rule’s clench on pakistan’s throat. 

tell them about the way your hands got ice cold right before you asked him a question, ask them rhetorically why is it still such a challenge to be publicly intellectual for me, a woman of color, of confidence, of street and school credential, who is otherwise bold on dancefloor.  let them know a bit of background, how he had taken the time to remind us that lawyers have long time played a real active role in movement building in the south asian diaspora’s freedom struggles, ghandi, jinna, only a few examples of warrior lawyers who chipped in with clips loaded, who helped to win independence from british rule. 

tell the readers then, about your question, professor, thank you for sharing your on the ground information, because ever since the uprisings first broke out, technicolor pictures of lawyers in their suits, crisp collars, billy club beat and tear gas weeped, we aint heard a lick.  flavor of the day aint us no longer, so thanks for spreading news we need to know.

so, i asked, how can we take a look at the lawyer uprisings in a macro sense, you made one link to independence with reference to activist lawyers, but how can we link relative chokehold of military rule in pakistan back to independence and partition, shouldnt we examine the ingredients that were cooking this moment up even before general and prime minister musharaff started wiling out? 

and he said, that’s a complex question, but the fact is, we inherited weak political structures post-independence.  and we are still learning our way out of these inherently weak systems that were handed down to us. 

tell them how he kept trying to convey the insecurity of pakistan’s current government, that the more weak the government feels, the more law they try to write into and over the standing constitution. 

what makes a government feel insecure?  what are our best sovereingty strategies as post-colonized nations and diaspora’s? 

things that make you go: hmmmm. 


dear reader,

i wanna leave you with some thing that makes you go hmmmmm on a lighter note.  here goes one of my all time favorite google image finds (above).  and here goes a palindrome for the movement, provided by my girl kiran nigam (thanks for attending my desi’s rising workshop at the forum!).  remember, a palindrome is a word entity that is the same backwards and forwards.  i love this one, it speaks volumes, in its content and structure, to what we need in the movement now, integrity. of the head to toe sort.  check it, double check it, front to back, it stands the same:

are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

like it?  stay tuned for more, of “all the news that’s fit to flip,” a new kinda news, from ya girl, NaXaL.