Funniest Lad Mad Cover in Pakistan of the Day

Pakistani actress Veena Malik just appeared nude on the cover of FHM India sporting ink on her left arm saying “ISI”.

This is a reference to the Pakistani intelligence service which has been accused of supporting terrorists in South Asia, and they are not amused:

In this month’s issue of FHM India, an international men’s magazine, Pakistani actress Veena Malik made worldwide headlines with a risqué nude photo shoot. While much of the attention has been on what Malik wasn’t wearing, one of the most powerful elements of her photo shoot was what she was sporting: a big, bold tattoo on her left arm, stating very simply, “ISI,” for Pakistani’s secretive Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

The cover headline: “Pakistani W.M.D. Veena Malik Shows You How to Throw a Grenade!”

Indeed, the cover has been explosive;, for instance splashed a headline on its blog: “India and Pakistan Are Going Nuclear Over Provocative Political Tattoo.” And the photo has elicited a furious reaction in Pakistan’s media and in its living rooms.

In one fell swoop, the enormous tattoo on a bare woman’s body managed to demystify, emasculate and parody the ISI — something most people have been afraid to do in public since the inception of the agency a year after the birth of the nation in 1947. Founded with a mission of coordinating intelligence in the country after Pakistan’s loss to India in the 1947 war in Kashmir, the agency has become a feared, though privately mocked, enterprise, its hands allegedly in every back-room Pakistani deal; rigging elections, training militants for battle in India and Afghanistan, and monitoring its own citizens. The tattoo’s location on Malik’s body takes on special meaning in light of retired Adm. Mike Mullen’s statement in September that the militant Haqqani Network, considered by most Western analysts and experts to be based in the tribal areas of Pakistan, is a “veritable arm” of the ISI.


Kabeer Sharma, editor of FHM India, says the ISI tattoo was meant to be a sardonic reflection of India’s own conspiracy theories about the intelligence agency. “In India, you say, ‘The milk has gone bad. The ISI did it,’ They blame all of their problems on ISI,” says Sharma.

Sharma, the son of an Indian satirist and New Delhi bookstore owner, says that a dilemma on the subcontinent is that folks don’t laugh enough over the absurdities of politics. “The problem,” he says, “is that we all blame our problems on this imaginary force. Who is this ISI?” Meanwhile, on the Pakistan side, everything is blamed on RAW. “We collectively have no sense of humor. We have no sense of irony,” he says.


But this isn’t just a conspiracy hatched in India (though the magazine was produced there), feeding the siege mentality behind so much of the rhetoric in Pakistan. In a country where the “ghairat brigade,” or honor squad, of talking heads takes regularly to the airwaves to defend Pakistan’s honor against enemies — perceived and imagined — the photo shoot was a victory for a new movement that is emerging in Pakistan: the beghairat brigade, or the squad “without honor,” or more aptly the “shameless brigade.”

To many, the beghairat brigade offers a counter to the conspiracy theories that so permeate debates in Pakistan. Josh White, a scholar on Pakistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says, “I think the significance of the small but interesting beghairat movement is that it is trying to forge a way of being genuinely nationalistic without accepting the narrative that all of Pakistan’s problems are the result of someone else’s meddling.”

I am sure that there are some deeper sociological points here, but this tempest in a teapot also amusing as hell.

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