POSTCARD USA: All that floats on the Internet — Khalid Hasan 1

There are countless nuts on the loose on the Internet and the best way of keeping one’s sanity intact is to delete unread any messages they send

There is far less political commotion in Pakistan than there is on the Internet, and it makes you wonder. Have some people nothing better to do than to unload their thoughts on whatever is going on or not going on in Pakistan?

Rarely if ever are these postings funny. When they try to be funny, they are droll, often spiteful and generally in poor taste. Of late, a new parody of the national anthem has been in circulation, which I refuse to read beyond the first two lines because they are unmetred or “vazan se bahar”. Our national anthem, although it contains no more than three or four words of Urdu, is at least metred.

There are some really weird characters out there. One who is probably based somewhere around Boston calls himself “International Professor” and Earthman alternatively. He is a vicious person who is forever spewing anti-liberal, anti-America, pro-Al Qaeda passion. He is also fond of attacking mainstream politicians and journalists, often brutally because many of his writings are an incitement to violence against the people he targets, a crime in America that Homeland Security might care to investigate. Some of those he targets have asked him to reveal his identity if he wants his outpourings to have any credibility. But he is a coward. Whoever he is, he is a dangerous man who is nastier than poison ivy.

Then there is one Shafiq Khan who claims to operate out of Canada and who excels at posting abusive messages about Pakistan’s politics and politicians. The name under which he circulates his muck is obviously fake. I am not the only one who has asked him to remove my name from his list and been ignored. I have therefore placed his email address on my blocked senders’ list where he now resides with the likes of those who promise “member enhancement” in a matter of weeks.

Another big pest is a lady from Lahore — or so she claims — by the name of Yasmin Ali. If there is a competition running anywhere for the title Miss Nasty, she should win it hands down. However, since fair is fair, I must say that her English is not bad, but what she writes should not be read on a full stomach.

There is also someone by the name of Syed Jamaluddin who claims to operate from France and who is dying to divide Pakistan. In fact one of the addresses he uses is Who this fellow is and for whom he works is not difficult to guess, so I will leave it at that.

Then there are others. One mail I received a few days ago said that based on information given by “highly placed sources”, Gen Ashfaq Kayani was busy working on the draft of a speech he would soon deliver to the nation beginning (what else!) “Meray aziz humwatno”. My reaction was that in the most unlikely event that this indeed was going to happen, the Chief, being the well-read gentleman he is reputed to be, will have a more original opening.

There is one Indian e-mailer in London who is always rendering advice to Pakistan, while stressing that it is no match to India and should therefore realise its reduced position and not try to fly high as it does or box above its weight.

Another e-mailer who signs himself G Biswas hates Islam. He needs to be either put away or handed over to Mullah Omar for what the Chinese call “re-education”.

There are countless nuts on the loose on the Internet and the best way of keeping one’s sanity intact is to delete unread any messages they send. Their names should be put on the blocked senders’ list so that any email received from them goes straight to perdition in the deleted mailbox. Ask any 10-year-old nipper how that is done.

The Internet is home to all kinds of scams and rip-offs and millions fall victim to them because of greed or curiosity or both. The FBI has a section that monitors the Internet to warn people of the dangers that lurk there.

This week, the FBI said that its Internet Crime Complaint Centre, called IC3, has been receiving thousands of reports concerning the “hit man” e-mail scam. Dating back to late 2006, the messages claim that the sender has been hired to kill the recipient. Two new versions of the scheme began appearing in July 2008. One instructed the recipient to contact a telephone number contained in the e-mail and the other claimed the recipient or a “loved one” was going to be kidnapped unless a ransom was paid.

Recipients of the kidnapping threat were told to respond via e-mail within 48 hours. The sender was to provide the location of the wire transfer five minutes before the deadline and was threatened with bodily harm if the ransom was not received within 30 minutes of the time frame given. The recipients’ personally identifiable information was included in the e-mail to promote the appearance that the sender actually knew the recipient and their location.

The FBI advised email users not to get “knocked off” by these cyber criminals who would try everything they can to access the recipient’s money and personal information. Advising those who receive “hit man” mails to inform the FBI, the bureau advised Internet users not to respond to unsolicited e-mail or spam, to be sceptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting personal information via e-mail, not to click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail, and to remain cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses.

People should open attachments from known senders only and validate the legitimacy of the organisation by directly accessing the organisation’s website rather than following the given link to the site. And under no circumstances should they provide personal or financial information to anyone who asks for it.

However, since a sucker is born every minute, according to Mark Twain, such good advice is fated to be lost on the greedy, the curious and the chicken-hearted.

Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is

Source: Daily Times, 31/8/2008

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