Original Articles

Medium Double Double – by Bahadar Ali Khan

Canada with its family immigration policies turns out to be a rather unique and interesting country in the world. Geographically it occupies the second largest land mass in the world after Russia. Due to severe winters and arctic weather condition, the majority of its cities and towns are tipped on the South along the US border. US obsession is high, to the extent that Canadians know and have seen more of the US than the US citizens theirself. They plan their vacations and shopping mostly from border US cities. Canadians are so obedient that they are one of the top oil producers but their crude oil first travels to the US, the big brother refines it and sell us back the gasoline at a cost 30 percent more than what they charge from their own public. Canadian weather networks predict equally the forecast of US and Canadian cities but our Southern neighbour, actually we have only one neighbour beside Santa in the North, don’t care about us. Having said so, Canada and its neighbour is not my subject today. Today I am focusing on a special community among Canadians.

The community under consideration starts their Canadian journey with small French Vanilla and matures it with the medium double double at one of the popular coffee chain called Tim Hortons. At this point their kids touch adolescence pushing back nervous parents with Tetley brand of karak chai (tea) and sleepless nights. You have guessed it right I am alluding to, the Pakistani-Canadian immigrant community. By the way, the term Pakistani-Canadian is not a fair term, it is something like (4 x Pakistani)-Canadian.

A Pakistani-Canadian, becomes Canadian only to get the passport to travel freely around the world. And interestingly the big dreams tied with this passport; they use it only to travel between Pakistan and Canada, which they could have done even without it. Also, Desi, a term used for South Asians, would only travel to places where he/she has some friend or relative, so travel to exotic locations like Rome, Greece, France, Caribbean and Egypt is out of question, because unfortunately they seldom have any relatives there.

This community is the biggest patron of small grocery stores and construction industry here in Canada. We’ll analyze that in a moment. But first, the members of this community get polished in terms of their dressing, eating and language. But here a caution must be observed. Please never be fooled with their English language mastery or branded clothing, the head they carry remains as pure; as untouched, as it was brought here from Pakistan. It only further gets enriched with a plethora of conspiracy theories about 9/11 and a thought process coupled with unique intellect level that never takes any cultural buoyancy than their fellow homosapiens living in Gujranwala or Lala Musa has.

Among culturally very diverse society they still stand out by the display of their religious fervor. Just for instance among all the communities, i.e., Christians’ Christmas, Hindus’ Divali and Holi, Jewish Sabbath and Yom Kippur, Buddhist Vesak never heard of having any issue with the day of celebration but Pakistani community’s intensity of religious respect stretches beyond one single consensus day; two Eids, almost always, and even three Eids is also not uncommon in one city. During this course they never worry about the fact that our neighbours, the US, launched their first man on moon in 1969, which this community struggles every year just to get a glimpse of it!

The religiosity is never confined to the celebration only, rather this community for the enrichment and purification of their soul keeps calling holy Islamic men and women by providing them first class plane tickets and then on their arrival mutual showering starts. The holy men and women from Pakistan shower their hosts with blessings only to be showered back with Canadian goodies and dollars. So both parties get what they lack! After the holy guys depart and under the spell that they casted upon them, the lesser mortal’s change of heart procedure starts taking place. Do they become good human beings? May be, as good is a relative terms. But they definitely become more attentive to the ‘nasty designs’ of the New World Order, pull new threads out of the existing conspiracy theories about 9/11 and attributing Tsunami disaster to the mischief of under ocean US nuclear tests. They start paying even more attention to one of its kind, the Aamir Liaqat Hussain’s program Alam-Online and become avid follower of Zahid Hamid’s Ghazwa-e-Hind scheme. I am not sure, under the teachings of the imported holy men, they ever become better with neighbours or colleagues but for sure their progeny ( kids ) never like the holy guys pilgrimage to Canada. Specially girls, as this would only add one more layer to their hijab and for boys one more nimaz, specially nimaz-e-fajar.

Talking of kids upbringing, the parents of growing age children spend their life in a perpetual struggle to keep their kids away from the harmful effects of ‘mother-pidar azad’ society. They devise many techniques in this regard. Some of them, specially for girls, before they touch adolescence send/take them to Pakistan; only add to the confusion of an already confused kid who spent their entire childhood living and observing with the contradictions of all sort. To ward off the cultural invasion, others start praying more regularly and swap Indian music tracks in their cars and homes with the religous sermons of Farhat Hashmi or Maulana Tariq Jamil which the intended audience, their kids, finds more soothing to catch up their sleep which they lost during the night long mobile phone conversation with their respective boy/girl friends. Parents try to infuse a religious-culture in their homes for teen age kids which they theirself hardly could comprehend after the age of 50 years and through this they expect that kids would stay immune from the impact of the society outside. An unsuccessful fight against human nature and instincts ensues. Or more appropriately living in a bubble phenomenon starts. The character building phase focuses a close watch on the physical activities because that is how character is defined back home. One is a person of impeccable character if pray, holds no promiscuous behviour but no worries about fibbing, dishonesty and lack of integrity. The young lads, fully follow this character syndrome. They do what is needed and then don’t accept it. Parents get relieved that their hard work payed off. After all, they came here for the sake of their children, at least most of them want you to believe that. Nobody would say, that they came here to kill the inherited hunger and poverty, which the great state of Pakistan offered them back-home.

( Continued … )

About the author

Taimoor Kashmiri


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  • Thanks, Bahadar, for writing this most insightful post which will be of interest to not only Pakistani Canadians but also to Pakistani immigrants living in other countries.

    In particular, I like your para on religiosity in which you write: “They start paying even more attention to one of its kind, the Aamir Liaqat Hussain’s program Alam-Online and become avid follower of Zahid Hamid’s Ghazwa-e-Hind scheme. I am not sure, under the teachings of the imported holy men, they ever become better with neighbours or colleagues but for sure their progeny ( kids ) never like the holy guys pilgrimage to Canada. Specially girls, as this would only add one more layer to their hijab and for boys one more nimaz, specially nimaz-e-fajar.”

  • Cowasjee writes on expatriate Pakistani community:

    Of hats and shawls and dubious deals
    By Ardeshir Cowasjee

    THE expatriate community is all at sea. Its members cannot comprehend or work out exactly what is happening in their homeland. They are puzzled, they are confused – as are most of us right here sitting in the homeland. They are also disgusted. One e-mailer writes : “Having spent almost all my life as a second class expatriate, I have no home to come back to. The Pakistan that my forefathers created has no room for me as now I am a complete misfit. I cannot lie, cheat, bully or kill – the supreme criteria for being a true Pakistani. I just want to know how long are we going to survive like this as a nation? I just want to know what it is that keeps us going? Each time I visit the country I find my fellow Pakistanis in increased misery.”

    What can I tell the man? How long? At the rate we are going, it should not be too long. What keeps us going? Well, who wants us 170 million belligerent, illiterate ‘nanga-bhookas’?

    A correspondent from Down Under asks me “frank questions about the Chief Justice issue.” “Is the clamour of the legal brigade against the suspension of the CJ based on the premise that the CJ is above the law? Is it a politically convenient excuse for them to demonstrate against Musharraf? Is the honeymoon over? Is the suspension justified or is it just a political ploy on the general’s part?”

    Well, the honeymoon may not yet be over. The legal brigade is parading the streets, exercising its members’ right to violence, to foolish behaviour and to childish pranks – wielding staves and beating up suspected masqueraders, bashing up the car of a senior lawyer appearing for the government, tearing down the signboard outside another lawyer’s office, and removing the Jadoogar of Jeddah’s photograph from the Karachi Bar Association’s room.

    As to whether the suspension is justified, that is for the Supreme Judicial Council to decide. Another thing that is for sure is that the treatment meted out to the Chief Justice of Pakistan on March 9 is, in all ways, unjustifiable. It was disgraceful – and shamed this nation, as was the manner in which he was treated on March 13. It was all wrong, very wrong – and above all, foolish in the extreme. But this does not justify the behaviour of the legal fraternity and their total irresponsibility towards the rights of their clients.

    One rather amusing – “galgenhumor” as the Germans have it, gallows-humour – message had attached to it a photograph which appeared in the national press earlier this month when President General Pervez Musharraf visited the Petaro Cadet College. It depicts him, in his military uniform, with a Sindhi embroidered hat on his head and a knee-length colourful Sindhi shawl draped around his shoulders, receiving some sort of plaque from two gentlemen in naval uniform.

    “What Edward VII of Britain wore,” wrote my correspondent, “is no match for our Mr Uniform. Do you note the disgrace to the uniform? And this is not the first time he has deviated. I have seen him in Punjabi and Pakhtoon turbans while in uniform. This can only happen in the God-gifted state of Pakistan. As far as street politics is concerned and the actions of the legal community, I agree with you. But these are pent up grievances and not love for the Chief Justice. He also needs to act like a Lordship and not a politician.”

    Sadly, while Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is being conducted around the country to speak in various Bar Rooms. We have also been regaled with a photograph of him wearing a funny hat and draped in a multi-coloured shawl. This he should not allow. He should indeed distance himself from the political antics as practised in Pakistan (and the general would do well to do the same).

    There has also been much mailing about what has come to be known as the ‘deal’ – whatever that may denote. What a sad situation it is that in troublesome times Musharraf has no other choice but to fall back on Benazir Bhutto (if that is what he is doing). It is distressing that Pakistan can offer no other options.

    Musharraf is desperate to hang on to power, however it has to be done, and Benazir is as desperate to get her flat foot back in, whatever that may take, even at the risk of undermining her “political credibility,” as she told an audience at the London School of Economics on April 24. The point here is that all things being equal, her political credibility is zero minus, after her two stints as prime minister of this country when she ran it into the ground.

    A column in The Times (London) asked earlier this month whether Benazir is the answer to Pakistan’s problems. The writer made a rather pithy understatement : “Her record as prime minister does not give cause for great confidence. In her first stint, from 1988 to 1990, she was penned in by the army and intelligence services and can legitimately claim that her hands were tied. But in the second, from 1993 to 1996, she had fewer excuses. Her government did push through some of the liberal reforms that she intended but was also plagued by a cloud of accusations of financial mismanagement (from which Musharraf’s government has been comparatively free).”

    Now that Musharraf reportedly is about to allow Benazir off the hook in the courts of Pakistan and in courts of other land does not speak well for his commitment to justice and the rule of law. If she has committed crimes, she must be held answerable for them in courts of law. The dropping of cases against her merely to satisfy Musharraf’s expediency is another disgrace and a shame for this nation.

    According to a member of the audience at the LSE, Benazir spent most of the evening lecturing, not on the “current political situation in Pakistan,’ as her lecture was titled, but on the past glories and achievements of her life from1977 to 1996. She apparently made no mention of a deal and sidestepped questions put to her on the subject. She did state her intention to return to Pakistan, in the national interest of course, and as it would benefit the country’s “democratic, constitutional and development interests.”

    Avoiding mention of the deal, she touched upon her future cooperation with the military-led government purely in the interest of the “restoration of democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law ….”.

    Two days later, in Ukraine, lecturing before an audience at a conference on Peace and Tolerance, she again expressed her intent to return home after her ten years of self-exile “as part of her search for a representative and accountable society, and to support my country’s movement for the restoration of democracy through the holding of fair, free and impartial elections.”

    What she, or for that matter anyone else, means when they talk about the ‘restoration’ of democracy is not clear at all. When has this country ever had democracy? It has not, so there is nothing to restore. We have to start. Musharraf claims he has given us the “essence of democracy”, whatever that may denote. But there is no democracy now and there has never been. As for free and fair elections, Benazir should know all about that. She has been through four of them and all were stage-managed. What makes her think anything in this troubled and difficult year can be different?

    It should be lonely at the top. But the problem with Musharraf is that he seems to be surrounded by imbeciles whom he heeds. His and our bad luck.



  • Dr. Taxi
    POSTED BY GUEST ON 04 30TH, 2010 | COMMENTS (29)

    Canada: Some say it’s not a country, it’s winter. In some parts of it, for about eight months of the year, the dog shit is too frozen to worry about. But what worries me most is that my fellow Pakistani taxi drivers are on the road all year round. The time has gone when Sikhs used to dominate the taxi business here; now it’s the Pakistanis who rule. From Yellowknife, a city near Arctic Circle, to the eastern cities, I can’t recall a single major city where I haven’t come across Pakistani taxi drivers.

    Many of these drivers are those who jumped to the north of the border after 9/11. But a majority of them are highly qualified professionals who migrated to Canada during the past decade for a “better future for their children”. They include doctors, engineers , lawyers, professors, students, journalists and retired civil or military officers.

    I also have some friends in the taxi business and many of you might not agree with me on how I see their lives. A majority of these skilled professionals came to Canada on the point systems, also known as the skilled category. Then, there is a large number of those who came here to study and ended up driving cabs. These skilled immigrants wait up to five years to obtain resident visas. However, the moment they land here, their degrees become worthless and the immediate need for survival changes their priorities. There can be no denying the fact that most of these professionals do not get a job even if they have the requisite skills and qualifications. And many of them with a Canadian Masters degree or even a PhD can be seen driving cabs.

    The stated reason: No Canadian experience. So, what is Canadian experience? For most employers, it means exactly what it says — you do not have work experience in Canada. But it can also mean that an employer does not know how to evaluate the work you did outside of Canada with how it is done in Canada. It can also mean that an employer doesn’t think you’ll fit into their corporate culture. Or, it can even mean that the employer is discriminating against you. “If you are a person of color, you are seen differently,” an immigrant worker, who knows several skilled migrants engaging in “precarious” temporary employment, told me.

    While employment in different fields requires fulfilling some kind of criteria, it seems rather unfair that employers insist on Canadian experience as opposed to thoroughly evaluating and examining a prospective employee. This is also why several skilled immigrants end up driving cabs instead of doing what they have been trained to do. Once, on a -35 degree Celsius cold winter day in Saskatchewan, a taxi driver pulled over near me and greeted me saying: “In Pakistan people call me “Dr. Iftikhar”, but here I am “driver Ifti”. Seeing a Pakistani doctor driving a taxi in freezing prairies was certainly not pleasant for me. Although, this was not the first time I came across a case like this: my first roommate in Canada who was a university professor in Pakistan was forced to work as a cab driver here.

    One of the North America’s largest Pakistani communities, of nearly 350,000 people, lives in Ontario. Most of these people live in Toronto and on its outskirts, in Mississauga and Brampton. In Toronto, the Thorncliffe Park Drive area is the hub of Pakistanis and is also called the “Taxi Capital”. Interestingly enough, residents of this area also have one of the highest average years of education attained in the whole country.

    Then, there are those who arrive in Canada with almost no command on the English language and they do not bother to work on their linguistic limitations while blaming Canada for not giving them enough opportunities. I know many who could have achieved so much more but couldn’t wait. They wanted to own big houses and drive lush cars and they wanted it fast. Their families hosted parties that got started and never ended. Their real reason for taking this course was mainly greed: earn quick cash by driving cabs and not worry about paying taxes.

    But then again, despite the employment downside, Canada offers several social and educational benefits for newcomers, but certain regulated procedures are to be followed in order to gain from them. People who do not choose to follow these procedures are therefore sure to miss out on the system’s positives. I remember translating for an agricultural university professional at a clinic who was injured doing a cash job under the table right after he landed in Canada and therefore had trouble claiming workplace injury benefits. This would not have been a problem had he followed the proper procedures, such as paying taxes out of his income. I wish people immigrating to Canada would use some of the years waiting to obtain their visas to understand the Canadian system and keep the patience they developed while waiting for their visas after landing in order to tailor their skills. Recertification might take many years in Canada but please do not give up. It’s never too late.

    Also, mostly, the newcomers are misled by some of our own Pakistani real estate agents. These agents put the newcomers under the burden of heavy mortgages which leads them into driving cabs and working overtime shifts at McDonalds, coffee shops, and sometimes under-paying biryani houses owned by our own desi folks.

    Working odd hours is not easy. And when working means driving, it is even harder. It leaves the taxi drivers with no choice but to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle. They also get very little time to spend with their children and many of them often have troubled relationships with the members of their families. Health risks are also of much concern: A physician told me that South Asian cab drivers were increasingly suffering from heart diseases. Worst of all, I recall community radio stations collecting funds for the funerals of taxi drivers who died in horrific car crashes.

    Much has changed in the past decade or so. There was a time when people in Canada referred to Pakistan as an agricultural country and the Pakistanis here as doctors and engineers. But this perception has now been replaced by the image of taxi drivers. Every time I joke to my Ukrainian immigrant friend Lonny that his country is famous for producing prostitutes, he shouts back “and your country is good for taxi drivers”. Well, both work on street and it’s not easy.

    Mohsin Abbas is a freelance journalist based in Canada. He blogs at http://www.mohsinabbas.info

    The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.