Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stray points - 1

* Governments, i.e. ruling elites kill their own citizens, sometimes by their unwise vested policies as in Pakistan, and sometimes using the same weapons they manufacture or purchase with their citizens' money as in Syria.

* Growing up beyond the boundaries of his own culture is the first precondition of a thinker.

* If your passion starts paying, it means it has the potential of becoming your profession.

* When fascism pervades the air, Philosophy is there to give solace.

* A government does eat our money; it eats our time also.

* When we read a book, and write about it, we try to recreate it, by negating it or by affirming it.

* A nation is known by the values which it not only espouses but follows both in letter and spirit.

* Presently a fierce fight is going on in the Human Mind - to broaden or not to broaden.

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Daulat Kaun Takhleeq Karta Hay - Hukoomat Ya Shehri

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

PEMRA: Regulating the taste of people

So, this time Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is on a mission to define Obscenity. It may be a political ploy and what's the story behind the curtains the managers of TV and Radio channels must be knowing well. Also, the issue of Obscenity may be a covering fire and the intended target is something else, such as editorial independence of the electronic media in Pakistan. Better the electronic media should regulate itself and before the PEMRA comes in to strangulate its freedom!

Many a questions need to be raised about the character and mandate of PEMRA, and a 10 year report card is required to view its role as a facilitator.

The following piece was written in May 2004 and is still relevant:

PEMRA: Regulating the taste of people

The institution of government was founded to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens from the usurpers be they individuals or countries. Or, what purpose could or does it serve? Surely, people did not and do not need somebodies to rule them? But, with the passage of time, various ambitious individuals, elites, representatives of this or that class, and organized political / religious parties, monopolized it to rule the people, to regulate their lives according to their philosophies, ideologies, visions, wishes and tastes. Thus, the institution of government started losing its raison d'etre.

In Pakistan too, the institution of government has become a tool in the hands of such utopian adventurers. As regards the electronic media, first there was the tyranny of the state-sponsored Pakistan Television. People had to watch or listen to what the government wanted them to watch and listen to. Then, there was a bit of liberalization. One or two other channels made their debut under the censorship of the government. But, the advancement in technology played its role in empowering people to have their choice. Dish antenna gave them more freedom, but this freedom was restricted to those who could afford its high price and the license fee levied by the government. It was an innovation on the part of small business people that they started operating various channels available on the dish through cable and brought them within the reach of many a people. This was illegal. As creation is always followed by regulation and taxation, so, the people in the government thought of taxing and regulating it. This is how Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) came to be established on March 1, 2002.

It was mandated to:

1. Improve the standards of information, education and entertainment.

2. Enlarge the choice available to the people of Pakistan in the media for news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector concerns, music, sports, drama and other subjects of public and national interest.

3. Facilitate the devolution of responsibility and power to the grass-roots by improving the access of the people to mass media at the local and community level; and

4. Ensure accountability, transparency and good governance by optimizing the free flow of information. [http://www.pemra.gov.pk/index.html]

But, the way PEMRA is behaving goes starkly against its mandate. Instead of improving, it is deteriorating the standards of information, education and entertainment. Instead of enlarging, it is restricting the choice available to the people of Pakistan in the media for news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector concerns, music, sports, drama and other subjects of public and national interest. Instead of facilitating, it is blocking the devolution of responsibility and power to the grass-roots by restricting the access of the people to mass media at the local and community level. And, instead of ensuring accountability, transparency and good governance by optimizing the free flow of information, it is thwarting this process by obstructing the free flow of information.

In addition to the unwelcome requirements for obtaining Cable TV license comprising 8 categories ranging from B-1 to B-8 based on the number of subscribers, PEMRA controls the Cable TV by manipulating the tariff structure. For inclusion of new channel in the list, all the interested parties are required to have to make formal request to the PEMRA followed by a presentation by local agents or channel holders about the contents of program. The most sinister part of PEMRA is its banning of various foreign or particularly Indian TV channels on this or that pretext, and that too totally against the wishes and demand of the people. But, the most glaring example of its going against its own mandate is its ‘List of 54 Cable TV Eligible Foreign Channels’ [http://www.pemra.gov.pk/list_.html] which lets no Cable TV operator act freely to meet the demands of its clients. This is not only a setback to the Cable TV business but an encroachment upon the freedom and choice of the people also.

This list is tagged by conditions such as: that Cable TV operators will have to apply mosaicking to eliminate undesirable segments / parts of the program (parts of programs that are not in conformity with PEMRA program and advertisement codes from eligible channels). The channels in the PEMRA list include 2 religious, 9 news (out of which 2 are in Arabic and 7 in English), 8 educational / information (all in English), 6 kids (all in English), 12 sports, 17 entertainment (out of which 9 or 10 are in English, two in Chinese, one in Bengali and one in Turkish and others) channels. As to Chinese, Turkish and Arabic channels, no doubt people in Pakistan won’t be interested in watching them even if they are given the opportunity to choose to do so. These languages are beyond their comprehension. Although, a little number of people may understand and enjoy most of other news, educational / information, kids, sports and entertainment channels in English (more than 30) but majority of people can have no interest in them.

As this selection of channels by PEMRA does not include Pakistani Urdu and other regional languages channels and which means that people are free, or in this case, forced, to watch them, one is at a loss why other international Urdu channels have not been considered for this list? Clearly, they must have been part of this list for the sole reason that the language spoken and understood on the both sides of the borderline, i.e. in India and Pakistan, is same. But, probably because of the fact that most of such international Urdu channels are based and being telecast from India, and, information ministry of Pakistan has a history of banning the Indian channels on the pretext of countering the cultural invasion, political propaganda, and protecting our national values, all of these channels have been banned. This is inadvertently described by information policy makers in Pakistan as an act of patriotism.

But, on the other hand, we have a very different story to relate. When during the 80s first ever Indian movie was to be telecast from an Indian channel and which could be viewed in the city of Lahore, there was shortage of TV sets and antennas in the market of Lahore, and there were too many people in Lahore landed from other cities to watch that movie. Months back when this time the ban on Indian channels was imposed, people especially women launched a vehement protest campaign to assert their right to watch channels of their choice. Not only are people to suffer this ban due to the unavailability of entertainment they want to have but this time it is affecting badly the business of cable TV operators also. They lodged their protest by issuing statements to the press and making representations to the concerned quarters, and striking and closing down the telecasting of any channels whatsoever.

All of this has proved in vain and the information policy bosses seem in no mood to lift this notorious ban on Indian channels. And, all of this is happening in the face of present SAARC summit and unprecedented friendly gestures on the part of both governments. In view of the ongoing attempt at normalization of relations between India and Pakistan, keeping this ban imposed is unintelligible. Not only this creates an impression that the government of Pakistan lacks a consistent and coherent policy towards its neighboring country but lets the doubts lurk as to its sincerity and trust in the ongoing process of normalization.

Most of all, this ban on Indian or, for that matter, on any other media, is a stark violation of the freedom of individual citizens to enjoy their lives as they wish. This forces them to watch and listen to what the busybodies of PEMRA want them to and amounts to imposing a special ‘taste’ in them whereas it is the people the taste of whom these busybodies of PEMRA should follow. As no regulatory body has the right to regulate the life of people but they themselves, controlling the taste of people for this or that reason is quite fascistic an act and is clearly beyond the mandate of PEMRA. What PEMRA needs to do is to look after the interests of the people such as: that Cable TV operators are providing what they promised to their clients and the quality of their service; and to redress the grievances / complaints of the people against the Cable TV operators, etc. Other than this, PEMRA has no right to regulate the taste of people; rather it should regulate its own taste to meet its mandate.

[This article was written in May 2004.]

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Darmiyani Raastay Ka Qanoon

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Finished reading: The Elements of Moral Philosophy

This evening I finished reading, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, by James Rachels (McGraw-Hill College, 3rd edition 1999; previous editions 1986, 1993).

I have read a number of books on Ethics; it’s quite different from all others. Though written for the students, it retains the philosophical tenor well. Not only Rachels discusses important arguments put forward by the important schools of moral philosophy, he contributes towards devising a new Moral Theory also.

Distinctively, he equates Morality with Reason. “It is an offense against morality because it is first an offense against reason.”

Have a look at the scheme of the book, not the contents of the chapters. Rachels starts each chapter with a relevant quotation which is enlightening. Copied are these quotations also along with the title of the chapters:

1. What is morality?

We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.
[Socrates, as reported by Plato in the Republic (CA. 390 B.C.)] 

2. The challenge of cultural relativism

Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits.
[Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (1934)]

3. Subjectivism in ethics

Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice . . . You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward this action. Here is a matter of fact; but ‘tis the object of feeling, not reason.
[David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)]

4. Does morality depend on religion?

The Good consists in always doing what God wills at any particular moment.
[Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative (1947)]

I respect deities. I do not rely upon them.
[Musashi Miyamoto, At Ichijqji Temple (1608)]

5. Psychological egoism

But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded.
[Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)]

6. Ethical egoism

The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.
[Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (1961)]

7. The utilitarian approach

Given our present perspective, it is amazing that Christian ethics down through the centuries could have accepted almost unanimously the sententious doctrine that “the end does not justify the means.” We have to ask now, “If the end does not justify the means, what does?” The answer is, obviously, “Nothing!”
[Joseph Fletcher, Moral Responsibility (1967)]

8. The debate over utilitarianism

The utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being desirable as means to that end.
[John Stuart Mills, Utilitarianism (1861)]

Man does not strive after happiness; only the Englishman does that.
[Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (1889)]

9. Are there absolute moral rules?

For many who have never heard of philosophy, let alone of Kant, morality is roughly what Kant said it was.
[Alasdair MacIntyre, A Short History of Ethics (1966)]

10. Kant and respect for persons

Are there any who would not admire man?
[Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486)]

11. The idea of a social contract

The passions that incline men to peace, are fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles, are they, which otherwise are called the Laws of Nature.
[Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)]

12. Feminism and the ethics of care

But it is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex; naturally, this is so. Yet it is the masculine values that prevail.
[Virginian Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)]

13. The ethics of virtue

The concepts of obligation, and duty – moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say – and what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of “ought,” to be jettisoned . . . It would be a great improvement if, instead of “morally wrong,” one always named a genus such as “untruthful,” “unjust.”
[G. E. M. Anscombe, Modern Moral Philosophy (1958)]

14. What would a satisfactory moral theory be like?

Some people believe that there cannot be progress in Ethics, since everything has already been said . . . I believe the opposite . . . Compared with the other sciences, Non-Religious Ethics is the youngest and least advanced.
[Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (1984)]

All in all, it’s a worth-reading book (232 pages).

And here are the last lines by Rachels:

“As the Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit has observed, the earth will remain habitable for another billion years, and civilization is now only a few thousand years old. If we do not destroy ourselves, moral philosophy, along with all the other human inquiries, may yet have a long way to go.”
Rachels has published another book: The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy (1999).

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Karachi Ke Saudagar

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How to reduce high electricity tariff?

It is no gainsaying that the government has completely failed the citizens of Pakistan by mismanaging the electricity generation and distribution. This government-made crisis is immeasurably hurting every aspect of the society. But there is no sign of any realization of the magnitude of the crisis on the part of the present government which through its 5 years of rule did nothing to resolve it.

The electricity tariff is directed upwards with no reason why it is being increased day by day. Somehow back in 2003 at least there was a bit of sense that it needed to be reduced, and a Task Force was formed to see into it. The Alternate Solutions Institute submitted a paper presenting its view on the nature of the crisis and suggested certain long-term policy measures. I wrote that paper, and afterwards also I wrote a number of articles on the electricity crisis. 

In this post, read that story first: 

HOW TO REDUCE HIGH ELECTRICITY TARIFF?

The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is one of the monopolies which have made a hell of Pakistan. A few months back, a responsible official of WAPDA admitted that: power rates in Pakistan are very high. On another occasion, Secretary Federal Ministry of Water and Power stated that: pubic concern is increasing due to unaffordable electricity tariff whereas life is now dependent on cheap and reliable energy. He admitted that: high electricity tariff is badly affecting general public and industrial and agricultural sectors of the country which demands an immediate need to bring the tariff down. 

In view of this situation, Federal Government constituted a Task Force to study the issue of High Electricity Tariff in full perspective and formulate concrete proposals/recommendations for possible reduction in the Tariff. The Task Force is required to submit its report within two months. As the Task Force wished to associate the experts/specialists as well as general consumers by ‘soliciting public comments,’ an ad to this effect was published in the daily newspapers inviting members of the public to give their opinions/suggestions on the possible measures to reduce the Electricity Tariff by July 31, 2003

Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Alternate Solutions Institute, Lahore, submitted its view of the problem of High Electricity Tariff in which an end to the monopoly of WAPDA and KESC was suggested and the role of market in bringing the tariff down is highlighted. 

Givenbelow is the text of the paper submitted to The Chairman Task Force, Private Power &
Infrastructure Board, Islamabad.

In response to your ad in the newspapers dated July 6, 2003, Alternate Solutions Institute, Lahore, is pleased to offer the following opinions/suggestions on the issue Electricity Tariff.

1. No economics has as yet discovered or devised a method to determine the price of a product or a service in the absence of a market where an open competition exists. Or, the monopoly determines the prices arbitrarily since it cannot know the price at which customers will willingly be purchasing its product or service. Under a monopoly, customers have to buy perforce the product or service provided by the monopoly at any price. As, a monopoly exists beyond and outside of the market; the prices of its products and services are not determined by the market and in the market, rather it determines, and, thus, distorts the make-up of the market. Same is the case with WAPDA and KESC.

2. So, the question of ‘suggesting possible measures to reduce Electricity Tariff’ is an uneconomic one. 

3. However, as far as the high electricity tariff is concerned, let us first look at the causes existing outside and within WAPDA and KESC.

a. MONOPOLY of WAPDA and KESC over generation and distribution of electricity.

b. Absence of competition.

c. Non-billing or non-payment of bills in most of the areas of the country which include especially NWFP, Azad Kashmir, and Baluchistan. ‘Kundi System’ (stealing of electricity) in many areas with or without the connivance of the WAPDA and KESC staff.

d. Unskilled and incompetent staff.

e. Top to bottom corruption in WAPDA and KESC.

f. Running of WAPDA and KESC unlike a business.

g. Taxes, surcharges, etc. other than the electricity tariff.

h. Unjust contracts with IPPs (Independent Power Producers) to buy electricity at a fixed non-market rate.

4. Removing these causes may result in reducing the high electricity tariff. Although, it is not easy to do away with the present scenario because so many interests are vested in it, but a policy of de-regulation for power sector might be a good step to start with.

5. In view of the above considerations, it is suggested that:

I) As a first step, the distribution of electricity be privatized at small scale. The parties that distribute electricity in their respective limited areas will ensure billing and its payment. This will extraordinarily minimize electricity theft and non-payment, and by making the staff accountable and efficient, will result in better customer services. 

II) Private parties be allowed to generate and distribute electricity independently of WAPDA and KESC. This will create an environment of competition forcing WAPDA and KESC to provide cheaper electricity and better service to the customers.

III) Government be asked to eliminate or reduce the taxes and surcharges on the use of electricity by WAPDA and KESC customers.

IV) The contracts with IPPs be declared null and void, and WAPDA and KESC be stopped from purchase electricity from IPPs and they be asked to sell and distribute electricity on their own. Though, this will incur WAPDA an immediate loss but in the long run by creating competition will result in reduced electricity tariff.

[This paper was written and submitted in July 2003.]

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hukoomten Aag Mein Kab Jalen Gi?

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Army Chief Ka Falsafiyana Iqdaam

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

A taxonomy of human intellect

My reading room is 11 X 9 feet. The wall on the left contains built-in-wall shelves measuring 10.5 X 3.4 inches. Against the front wall are placed two steel almirahs. They are all full of books, old, new, and on various subjects. Their number is irrelevant to the purpose of the present writing. Apart from technical subjects such as relating to physical, scientific and technological disciplines, I have books about many subjects and disciplines.

Let me make it clear: my passion is Philosophy, Literature and History. So, books on these subjects abound.

All these books were there randomly stuffed in various shelves. Not most of the times, but some of the times when I required a book, it used to take undue time to find it out of the heap. Also, my mind did not display all the books I had in my personal library, and when looking for a book I came to know I have already got this or that book was a surprising discovery, a pleasant finding.

But time matters (though philosophically I am all for Space), and I thought of arranging them or as the librarians say, cataloguing them. It was not possible as they do it in libraries where sufficient space is available, and of course, my personal library does not contain books on all or most of the subjects and disciplines.

Then, I thought of creating a new classification or categorization of these books, or a new way of cataloguing them.

My love for books is unquenchable and given a chance I would like to collect all the good books on philosophy, literature, and history. And, no doubt, on many other subjects which may attract one now and then.

However, for a number of reasons, this is neither advisable nor possible. There are great public libraries which one may take advantage of; though not a single such library exists in Pakistan. And, now there are electronic books. As I am a very backward and conservative reader, I still like books in PDF format. In the case of e-books, the issue of space has lost its genuine thrust; now as much space can be created as we need.

Haven’t we succeeded in creating a space of our own? We have created a “virtual space” which is infinite, unlimited, as we can create as much space as we require or wish. And, if words and punctuations were creatures, they would be bound to think, ‘We live in an infinite space.’

Also, as we have created History, or better say, Plane of History, on which or upon which we live, create and procreate; thus, in turn, we continue creating and re-creating History, and ourselves.

Back to the point:

It was easier to sort out books on literature, and I put a label, LITERATURE on the shelves collecting poetry and fiction therein.

For instance:

Doctor Faustus, by Marlowe
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

کلیاتِ میر
کلیاتِ غالب
توبہ توبہ، واجدہ تبسم

As for the books on philosophy, there was no issue; I put them in one place under the tag, PHILOSOPHY.

Such as:

Indian Philosophy, Volume I & II, by Radhakrishnan
Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine
An Autobiography, by R. G. Collingwook
The Dialogues of Plato
On Liberty & Utilitarianism, by J. S. Mill

The 3rd clearest category is HISTORY.

Though, for my own convenience, I put books on ARTS & LITERARY CRITICISM separately, but I bundled them under PHILOSOPHY.

Likewise, there are shelves labeled as MARXIST STUDIES, and LIBERTARIAN STUDIES. They belong to PHILOSOPHY.

And, due to my special focus, one shelf contains books on the FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND THE CONSTITUTION OF PAKISTAN.

Similarly, a shelf contains books on ISLAMIC STUDIES, another on PAKISTAN STUDIES. And, yet another is labeled as HISTORICAL STUDIES.

I think books arranged in all the above shelves fall under PHILOSOPHY or HISTORY or both.

A good many number of books are on economic science, and other social sciences, and also some on physical sciences such as biology, e.g.:

The Human Mystery, by John C, Eccles

But they cannot be termed books on these disciplines; they deal with Problems which are linked to many disciplines.

Let me quote Karl Popper here. He said something like that we are not students of subjects or disciplines, we are students of problems and problems can overlap right across many disciplines.

I tend to put all those books mentioned above under PHILOSOPHY, as all such disciplines somehow originated or were derived from PHILOSOPHY, or take inspiration and guidance from PHILOSOPHY.

In addition to these books, there were some which I found difficult to put under this or that label, such as PHILOSOPHY or HISTORY. Neither can they be relegated to LITERATURE, though they possess literary merits.

To explain well, here are instances of them:

The Lights of Bhagwad Gita, by Baij Nath Khanna
The Holy Bible, (New International Version) The New Testament
Psalms (New International Version)

خرد افروز، جلد اول و جلد دوم، مرتبہ: حفیظ الدین احمد (اردو)
آکھیا بابا نانک نے، بابا گورو نانک (پنجابی)
جامع الحکایات ہندی، شیخ صالح عثمانی (اردو)
روزمرہ آداب (روزمرہ آداب جن سے انسانی معاشرے میں حسن پیدا ہوتا ہے)، پروفیسر ارشد جاوید

Creative Coping – A Guide to Positive Living, by Julius Fast
The Psalm of Peace – An English Translation of Guru Arjun’s ‘Sukhmani’, by Teja Singh

These books and others like them put me in a fix: where to categorize them? After intense thinking trying to focus on the human intellect, I came to decide to label them with entirely a new nomenclature: WISDOM.

During and in this process, I was very much clear about one thing: whatever human beings have produced is a manifestation of human intellect. Thus I thought of categorizing books in my personal library under a classification based on broader manifestations of human intellect.

To me, LITERATURE is a great manifestation of human intellect. Arts, poetry and fiction, and many other forms of literature present a separate category, different from PHILOSOPHY, and HISTORY.

No doubt, since by virtue of being manifestations of human intellect they all meet at certain points, however, it is human intellect itself which see them as qualitatively separate entities.

It may be surmised: everything relaxes back to from where it originates. That is as true of all the manifestations of human intellect. That is why no absolute separation can be effected between them.

ARTS AND LITERATURE here and there face PHILOSOPHY, or walk with HISTORY.

WISDOM derives inspiration from all other manifestations of human intellect.

HISTORY is helped by ARTS AND LITERATURE, and PHILOSOPHY also.

This is how I thought of arranging my books, and after devising this taxonomy I arranged them accordingly. What prompted me to think in this way was the limited space available to my books!

Though presently there have appeared electronic books, talking books, etc., but human beings’ fascination with the traditional books printed on paper, I think or I wish, is not going to vanish with time, or with technology. No arguments! Let’s see what comes out!

This is the last point, at least for now, in my thinking on this taxonomy of human intellect that put me again in a fix: Technology is shaping or transforming the shapes of the books to come, and Technology itself is such a subject or discipline, or with whatever name it may be denoted, which is in a flux, one like that of Heraclitus. The important thing about Technology is: not only is it changing everything, it is itself a-changing. What to categorize it with, then? With PHILOSOPHY? Or with what? Or it needs inventing a new nomenclature to be classified with!

I feel inclined to put it under HISTORY. Why? Because I see that it is here and it is past now.

What ultimate role Technology plays or is playing determines its status: it is accelerating HISTORY.

It is turning the “slow motion picture of human life in this world,” the kaleidoscope of olden times, into a “fast moving video.”

It has changed the character of HISTORY altogether. From appearing on celluloid, HISTORY now slides on digital media.

On this, these are my initial thoughts, not final in any sense. The case of Technology is a tough one; it defies traditional way of classification; it is more than a boundary line case!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Takhayyul Ki Maut

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

War against virtue

As the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has recently clearly identified who are extremists and who are terrorists, and as these extremists and terrorists are waging a war in Pakistan to impose a world view of theirs on the people of Pakistan through the use of gun, this war in its truest meaning is a war against Virtue. Here are the arguments:

War against virtue

 All coercion is part of the war against virtue unless morally and legally justified.

Our share of the terrorists or Taliban has perfected what we have been suffering in our country at smaller or somewhat larger scales for the last six decades: the moral policing. Sometimes it was individuals or well-knit groups, and sometimes it were governments that resorted to moral policing. However, now in the shape of Taliban, the moral policing has reached its climax, i.e. it has become top most duty of the Taliban type state. The use of force has found its ultimate end. The annihilation of every trace of freedom has been attained. As a result, every semblance of virtue has been destroyed. In sum, with the advent of Taliban rule in parts of the NWFP, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.


From the most private details of one’s life to his public behavior, every thing has been taken over by the Taliban state to make it happen via its use of brute force. The men who wield this power of the state have no legitimate claim to it, since no moral or political theory justifies it but the naked force. It is on the part of the Taliban that they have assumed this power by virtue of their gun-holding. It is on the part of an already existing state that its authority has been ceded to Taliban on the pretext of peace. One thing is common in both states: they have forsaken the individual and his rights. In effect, they have deprived him of his natural right to freely choose his destiny.

It’s just for argument’s sake that under any system of justice statements of confession made under duress are outrightly set aside as unacceptable for the simple reason that they do not issue from a free agent and thus are unworthy of any use in fixing responsibility for one’s alleged acts. Likewise, what one does under oppression, whatever name we give to it, can NEVER be considered virtue. It’s all because virtue grows and flourishes in an environment where freedom is abundantly present in the air.

Conversely in an environment of un-freedom what freely prosper are lie, malice and hypocrisy. That is what we have our whole society from top to bottom infected with incurably. No realm of life be it public or private, political or economic, social or spiritual, religious or secular, learning or teaching, or any other, is immune from it. In such a society the gravity of the crisis manifests itself in a concept of virtue bereft of all meaning of virtue. The only purpose left for virtue to be adopted as a way of life is its usefulness in earning social recognition of one’s virtuosity. It loses its worth as a means to civilize, moralize and humanize one’s self. It metamorphoses us into a conscienceless being.  It’s all vice that enwraps itself in the guise of virtue. Virtue acquires the status of one of the ploys of vice itself. Morality is taken hostage by ideology/faith.

The most distinguishing feature of this local war of ours against virtue is its flagrant self-contradiction: it claims to establish a state of virtue whereas instead of letting virtue grow naturally freely it is trying to impose/enforce virtue politically and administratively, and of course militarily also. This should bring the process of our moral fall to a finish.

This is not without precedent. Only that now it is programmed to reach its logical conclusion. Since day one we have had political groups, parties, institutions, and what not which in the name of moral policing were up to achieving this Taliban state like arrangement. In addition to that, we have had both civil and military governments which aimed at setting up such a moral police state. It is out of question here what their intent was. What came to happen as a result is what is important. It is what we have before us right now.

It may be the last war against virtue in Pakistan if we allow our last embankment to be swept away by this hilly torrent. This embankment is our constitution. It seems the enemy has crossed over all the ditches we have dug for our safety. It has run over all the forts and fortresses we have built to protect us. It has penetrated inside us. It has found allies from amongst us. And now it is up to take head-on to our last stronghold, our constitution.

It’s time we realize the importance and significance of the constitution. It’s like life to us, our people, nation and our country. We are in one word this constitution. Pakistan has no other meaning. If this meaning is lost to the Taliban brand of virtue, Pakistan will lose its meaning. The losing of the constitution is tantamount to losing the security of the fundamental rights to every citizen. The losing of the security of the fundamental rights means losing the freedoms of every citizen to live in accordance with this conscience. That in turn amounts to the losing of all possibility of virtue in our society. Let us save virtue! Let us save the constitution of Pakistan!

[This article was completed on May 1, 2009.]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brij Narayan Chakbast Ka Aik Sheyr

Please note: This post has been shifted to the Urdu Blog - Civil Pakistan. To see it, click the link below:

Waiting torture in Pakistan

Yesterday's Pakistan Print Edition of International Herald Tribune contains Why waiting is torture, by Alex Stone.

A very good piece which discusses our psychology of waiting in line and how we respond to various waiting situations.

Alex Stone writes: "Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line."

I wonder, how much time Pakistanis spend waiting in lines here and there, both at private and public establishments! I do not know about any such study for Pakistan. Actually, it's no "issue" at all here. No guessing - how much time Pakistanis spend in waiting. But no doubt their life is full of suffering related with waiting.

And apart from this, what is important to see in the case of Pakistan is that often and time there are fights on breaking the queues. The queuing culture has no roots here.

Surprisingly, the multinational food chains which have already landed in Pakistan do not bother with this; whereas I read somewhere that McDonald's open new counters when just 3 or 4 customers are seen standing in queues. In Pakistan, usually they keep closed the already opened counters.

Here the psychology is different: keep the long queues standing, and that proves your business is flourishing. Also, saddist strains run deep. They would make dozens of people remain standing in scorching heat outside, and keep themselves busy in drinking tea and chatting with their fellows or guests inside.

One thing is conspicuously noticeable here, and it is which Stone also points out to: "Perhaps the biggest influence on our feelings about lines, though, has to do with our perception of fairness."

That perception is dominantly present here; however, as opposed to it, there is another common practice which uses reference, contacts, influence, bribes, forcefulness, to make its way through the  waiting lines.

Having said that, I would like to add: here the issue is that long waiting hours may be reduced considerably, but for the lack of will; rather 'let these "bastards" waste their life waiting in lines' is the best choice practiced in Pakistan!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pakistani Siyasat Ka Keechar

Please note: This post has been shifted to the Urdu Blog - Civil Pakistan. To see it, click the link below:

Army Chief defines extremism and terrorism

Usually I do not read statements and speeches given by government officials, elected or nominated; but only when due to the interest in a certain issue it requires to go into its detail.

It was on September 2 that I was going through the op-ed pages of The News that these lines used as teaser caught my eyes: “The preparation of violence with a clear conscience is a delight to ideologues who distort the teachings of religion. This was what General Kayani had in mind when he had said that a person who imposes his views on society is an extremist.”

I stopped on this article, The defeat of extremist ideology, by S. Iftikhar Murshid.

Then I searched for this speech of the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. I thought it must be available on the website of ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations). As it was the first time that I visited the ISPR website, I was amused to see it has gov.pk: www.ispr.gov.pk.

The said speech was delivered on the Independence Day of Pakistan, and is available on this page, both in English and Urdu:


He says:

“Today, extremism and terrorism present a grave challenge. We can claim that this menace is not of our making. This approach, however, will not solve the problem. It is important for us to clearly understand, what is extremism and terrorism. Misconceptions about these two terminologies, can prove catastrophically divisive for the nation.”

Well-said! The misconceptions about the extremism and terrorism facing Pakistanis have already proved catastrophic! Despite it, a whole section of the society, mostly from the Right and a few from the Left, and Imran Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehree-e-Insaaf, they all still believe it’s a war imposed on Pakistanis by the US, it’s not their war.

Then the COAS tries to define who is an extremist:

“Any person who believes his opinion to be the final verdict, is an extremist. The perfect or universal intellect, is only attributable to Allah. Man, a temporal being, is born with an imperfect intellect, beset with limitations. A human claim to be the final word in judging right from wrong, is tantamount to a claim to divine attributes, or shirk.”

It’s amazing and at the same time interesting to see the COAS going philosophical! Remaining inside the religious tradition, he makes a point against the infallibility of human intellect, and thus against those who claim perfection and finality for their views. For scientists and philosophers, it’s no different: they too believe so, but stand focused on seeking more and more knowledge using the concept of Truth as a regulative principle.

As for the term, Extremism, on the face of it, it points towards the absence of moderation, temperance. That amounts to negating and annihilating any space for others to hold different views.

Here it is evident that when the COAS says, ‘any person who believes his opinion to be the final verdict, is an extremist,’ he tries to define Extremism philosophically. He also refutes Extremism in a philosophical manner by denying it finality and infallibility.

It may be argued that if there is such extremism which keeps to itself, and does not exclude others from holding views of their choice and understanding, it’s not dangerous.

As his argument progresses the COAS is insightful enough to point out that:

“As a human being, it would be wrong for me to give the verdict that today's parade was the best in the world. I have not witnessed all the parades in the world. More importantly, can my criterion for this judgment be considered final? If I cannot give the final verdict in such a small issue, then how is it possible to do so in the intricate issues dealing with religion and life.”

Again that is very philosophical!

And with this, he concludes that where extremism leads to: “It becomes blatant extremism when one not only insists upon finality of personal opinion, but tries imposing it on others. More so, if one tries to enforce his opinion through use of gun, it becomes terrorism. That is why Islam does not allow anyone to claim to be a know all, and flirt with divinity.”

Though he does not succeed in establishing “the missing link” between extremism and terrorism, or what circumstances help extremism to transform into terrorism, but as he has in his mind the extremism and terrorism devastating Pakistan, which the Pakistan Army is fighting now, he correctly states that when extremism arms itself, or when it is armed, it becomes terrorism.

Reflect on this philosophical attempt at defining extremism and terrorism, two things come to the fore: claiming finality to one’s opinion and imposing it on others by violent means.

That is what Extremism and Terrorism in Pakistan stand to!

In one word, that touches the borders of Fascism.

The COAS does not stop short of relating this “philosophical retreat” to the current intellectual state of Pakistan:

“If this is the correct definition of extremism and terrorism, then the war against it is our own war, and a just war too. Any misgivings in this regards can divide us internally, leading to a civil war situation. It is therefore, vital that our minds must be clear of cobwebs on this crucial issue.”

No explanations needed. It’s all crystal clear, what the COAS states.

And, sure, now all those, who believe themselves to be in the company or imagined company of the establishment, need to heed to this speech by the COAS. There is enough philosophical contemplation to cause to explode their extremism and terrorism and / or its support.

“The war against extremism and terrorism is not only the Army's war, but that of the whole nation. We as a nation must stand united against this threat. Army's success is dependent on the will and support of the people. So far, Army and the people have rendered great sacrifices in this cause, for which I pay homage to the Shaheeds, Ghazis and their families.”

And, then coming back from a philosophical sojourn to the maze of present senseless politics, the COAS has the following soft advice to make:

“However, these sacrifices will be meaningful, if the civil administration is able to administer the affected areas without the Army's assistance. This may take some time, but it must remain our ultimate objective. It is also crucial that appropriate laws are passed to deal with terrorism. Since 2001, many countries in the world have formulated special anti terrorism laws. Unfortunately, our progress towards such legislation, remained very slow.”

In the end (which of course should have been: in the first instance), it is for the civil administration, or the ruling politicians, to see and to reflect and to come forward to control, to legislate to exterminate this menace of extremism and terrorism, which finally the COAS has clearly defined and resolved to fight to the end.

Saturday, September 1, 2012