Wednesday, April 24, 2013

[Elections 2013] The Establishment's Game

Establishment is a dreaded word in the political arena of Pakistan. Politicians equate it with something of an all-powerful and beyond reproach ghost that sits up top and runs the puppet show that is our government. Critical things like the budget and international relations are controlled by this ghost and the politicians dread its wrath.

For an average Pakistani, establishment is just a word. They listen to talk-shows and TV bulletins - wherever this word is mentioned, they take it superficially, without knowing what is behind it.

Officially and briefly, establishment is meant for continuation of policies and to keep the transitions smooth between the policies with changing government structures. It is comprised of bureaucracy (civil or military) and its siblings. It is independent of political influence.

Traditionally, across the world, they also try to manipulate the country politics besides their assigned
responsibility. It is a natural tussle between politicians and establishment. There are multiple factions of establishment. In some countries, civil establishment dominates and in some countries, military establishment dominates. Pakistan is perceived as a military dominant country. But the fact is that it is a civil bureaucracy setup and feudal system which actually strengthens the military influence and allow generals to rule when they take over. Another interesting fact is that there has never been a totally anti-establishment political party yet. Every political party opposes one faction of establishment while enjoys the support of other faction.

The military of Pakistan enjoys a popular public image. It is perceived as messiah thanks to the soft (read: paid) media. This is why after every other coup d'├ętat with which it overthrows an elected government, it faces minimal resistance from the general public. These coups are frequent, bloodless and successful for this very reason.

Political satirists, Begherat Brigade, after their hugely successful song Aluu Anday took a bold step and targeted the powerful oligarchic establishment of Pakistan in a new release. The song titled Dhinak Dhinak hits hard at the establishment of Pakistan and its unwelcomed role in the politics and interests of Pakistan.

The song faced considerable set-backs because of it targeting an influential division of Pakistan and it may never be released on mainstream television but it is a step in the right direction. It will make an average person more aware and circumspect of the shadow games being played in Pakistan.

On another note, if the song was powerful then the ending was even more powerful. It showed the group holding a placard reading: No need to like this video, we will be dead anyway. Powerful indeed.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Game of Thrones: Pre-Season 3 Boil-down

The 3rd season of HBO's epic saga, Game of Thrones, premieres in a few hours. And there is a fair chance that you people would have forgotten some of the main things that happened in the previous two seasons because GoT's plot is as intricate as they get. It is a multi-layered concoction of betrayal, revenge, magic, passion and otherworldly beings and remembering everything about it is a tad too tall a task. So here we present to you a terse refresher of all the major happenings in the Westeros during the past seasons:

Stannis Baratheon is defeated in the Battle of Blackwater thanks to the ingenuity of Tyrion Lannister and the timely arrival of the allies: The Lannisters and The Tyrells.

Lannister, on the other hand, is nearly assassinated on the battlefield by one of his own. Had it not been for his faithful squire Pod, he would have to deal with a lot more than a mere, facial scar.

Tyrion's father Tywin, in a bold move, replaces his son at the influential position of the Hand of the King.

The duplicitous widow of Renly Beratheon, Margery Tyrell, is
all set to become the Queen of the Realm.
Sansa Stark, promised to the sadistic King of the Realm, Joffrey Baratheon has finally wriggled free of the clutches of the latter. Clutches of impending matrimony that is. She is still held hostage by the queen, Cersei Lannister, at the King's Landing despite the fact that Joffrey ditched her for the influential Margery Tyrell.

Meanwhile, the sly Lord Peter Baelish after his surreptitious heroics in the Battle of Blackwater hinted to his interest in his one-time-lover's daughter, Sansa, as he offered to help her escape from King's Landing.

The eunuch Varys reignites his rivalry with Baelish when the latter gets a promotion. To attain an inside scoop on things he befriends one of Bealish's main prostitute, Ros.

The wicked sorceress Melisandre, who worships a certain 
God of Light, makes Stannis sea ominous visions in the fire.
Back in the island fortress of Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon falls deeper into the clutches of the red sorceress Melisandre. His has his doubting after the horrific defeat at Blackwater but it is put to rest when the Melisandre shows him some vision in the fire; a vision that probably reinforces the sorceress' claim of Stannis being the savior of Westeros.

On the other hand, Robb Stark, the self-proclaimed King in the North, is facing internal afflictions after giving the Lannisters every bit as much trouble as he is getting. He was doing well until his mother Lady Catelyn, in a moment of madness, released his trump-card: Jamie "The Kingslayer" Lannister, without his consent. The Kingslayer, is notorious among the Northerners after he attempted to kill Bran Stark when the little kid found out about his incestuous love-affair with Cersei Lannister. His release dealt a heavy blow to the Northern forces' morale.

Jamie Lannister is enroute to the King's Landing under the
guard of Brienne of Tarth.
After freedom from the Northerner's camp, Jamie Lannister, makes his way to King's Landing under the stern watch of Brienne of Tarth. The gigantic woman knight who pledged allegiance to Lady Catelyn after her master, Renly Baratheon was assassinated by Melisandre's black magic. She showed unwavering resolve in fulfilling Catelyn's wish of exchanging Lannister for the Stark girls. So much so that she didn't even stop at killing other Northerners that stood in her way.

Unbeknown to the the fighting Starks, one of their girls they assumed to be captive at King's Landing is actually quite free. Arya Stark was never really hostage as she escaped with one of her father's associate, Baelor, soon after the beheading. But she didn't go far and was taken in by the Lannister forces to work at the extensive ruins of Harrenhal which work as a makeshift prison and torture area for the Lannisters. However, later she escaped with help of a weird guy named Jaqen H'ghar who, at parting, gave her a coin a phraseValar Morghulis which were to be used if she wanted to summon him again. At the moment she is roaming the Riverlands with Robert's bastard son, Gendry and a fat kid.

After the announcement of general amnesty by Robb Stark,
Theon Greyjoy's own men pack him into a sack and
send him to the Northerner's camp.
Meanwhile at Winterfell, things took a turn for the worst when, after the departing of most of the Starks, except for the young Bran and Rickon, Theon Greyjoy took his chance and conquered the small fortress with a handful of men from Pike. Earlier, Greyjoy had made his way to Pike to regain his place at the royal court after the Starks of Winterfell had adopted/abducted him in an earlier battle between the two houses. He is jolted when his father, Balon, doesn't accept of his arrival and treat his sister, Yara, as the son of the family. He conquered Winterfell with the intent of proving his mettle to his father but his ambitions are shattered when his own men turn on him after seeing the implausibility of the task at hand.

Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell during the siege but then return and hide in the family crypt. Greyjoy's tried to cover this up by supposedly burning the two Stark children. However they are very safe and on their way to the Wall with Osha, the wilding, Hodor, the docile giant and the two direwolves.

The dragons of Dan Targaryen will play a key role in
this season.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, the last of the royal family that once ruled Westeros, is getting desperate to take back the Iron Throne. Flanked by the astute Sir Jorah Mormont, a handful of savage Dothraki warlords and a cradling a triplet of young dragons she made her way into the elite and mystical city of Qarth hoping to get some help for in quest. Once inside she is betrayed, a good amount of her Dothraki followers are slain and her dragons are kidnapped by the mysterious warlock, Pyat Pree. But she goes to great lengths to get back her  children and is successful in retrieving them from the diabolical House of the Undying. Following this, she and her people plunder what is left of Qarth to get enough money to buy a ship.

After they are captured by a group of wildlings, Snow and
his mentor, Qorin Halfhand put on a fight that makes
Snow look like a traitor. At the end of that fight
Halfhand is killed.
Beyond the Wall, Ned Stark's bastard son, Jon Snow, is well set to infiltrate the huge, wildling army of Mance Ryder. A former member of the Night's Watch, he proclaims himself the King Beyond the Wall. But much to the Night's Watch's horror they have got a lot more to take care of than just Mance Ryder - the demonic, undead White Walkers have awoken from their deep slumber. They make their decisive march to the Wall, and what lays beyond, in humongous numbers as the long Winter falls on the Westeros.

The White Walker chief that finds the cowardly Samwell Tarly hidden behind a rock
but surprisingly doesn't kill him.

The closing shot of Season 2.