Monday, September 30, 2013

My successes and my failures – a short note

Whatever I achieved is fruit of my own labor, hard work, sincerity and commitment!

I do acknowledge I learned a lot from two of my teachers: Lakht Pasha and Dr. Sajid Ali

But in another realm, where elitist roots, connections and PR (Public Relations) count, I am a total failure!

That is why all of my work which is focused on the fate of Pakistanis especially and human world in general remains unidentified and ignored and is nowhere part of the mainstream debate.

Sometimes my work was taken notice of; however, as I understand now, it may have been discarded since it was not supported by any elitist roots, connections and PR. I have a number of such stories to tell; and waiting for the moment when they ought to be told.

But: There's no regrets! 

Here is some of my work:


ـ پاکستانی کشاکش: تحلیل و تعدیل اور آگے بڑھنے کا راستہ (زیرِ اشاعت)


Almost all other articles and papers are available on my Urdu and English blogs and the websites of Alternate Solutions Institute.

Alternate Solutions Institute:
Institute’s affiliate Urdu website:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

This picture of a lone warrior will haunt you too!

This picture was published in the International Herald Tribune on the 1st of August. I kept this page of the newspaper in my loose-paper file. But this continued haunting me, and then finally made me to scan and post it in my Blog.

The caption reads as: A supporter of Pfc. Bradley E. Manning at a demonstration Tuesday night in front of the White House. The soldier now faces a theoretical maximum sentence of 136 years in prison.

I have been to this place where this lone warrior is waging his war, and I am all praise for such places and such lone warriors, and the spirit and determination of such lone warriors!

Hats off to all the Lone Warriors!

Popular Urdu columnist, “Javed Choudhry inventing stories and spouting nonsense”

A measure to measure a society’s level of culture and civilization is to see whom it rewards most. In Pakistan, Javed Chaudhry is one of the few Urdu columnists and television talk show hosts who are unimaginably highly paid. 

The quality of Urdu language he writes in his columns is precarious. The accent with which he speaks Urdu in his talk show and the way he pronounces words may never be approved by a refined taste. His arguments defy logic, his sources are un-scrutinized  and most of his information is misleading. Yet he is one of the most popular Urdu columnists!

C. M. Naim in his personal blog, has taken Javed Chaudhry to task regarding one of his columns, مذاکرات سے پہلے, which published in a national daily, Express, on September 17, 2013.

Here is C. M. Naim’s post:

Mr. Javed Chaudhry is a fairly experienced Urdu columnist in Pakistan. Presently he writes a column titled ‘Zero Point’ in the Daily Express. For all I know, he may also be anchoring some T.V. talk show owned by the Express Group. He has however published several volumes of his evidently very popular columns. A few days back he decided to write on the present abysmal state of governance in Pakistan and the proposed talks with the Taliban. A noble and timely task. But then he decided to open his column with a reminder of the fate of the last Mughal Emperor—to underscore his argument that when a state’s writ disappears the state itself soon disappears ignominiously. The column, sub-titled Mazākarāt se Pahle ‘Before the Talks,’ appeared in the Daily Express of September 17, 2013. Here is my translation of its ‘Historical’ prelude, a tour de force by any measure of rhetoric and fantasy.

“Captain Hodson was in charge of the operation. The last Mughal Emperor was alive. Twenty-five crore Indians held him in honor. But Hodson knew that though the State existed, the Emperor with his Prime Minister and advisors was present and the Mughal currency was still the coin of the realm, the ‘writ’ of the State did not exist. The Police had become ‘dysfunctional,’ the army had no life in it, and decades had passed since the country’s judicial system had breathed its last. People, first of all, didn’t go to the courts to seek justice, and if they perforce did then the judges took five or ten years to decide the case. And then, if a decision was announced no one put it into effect. The posts in the administration were auctioned off to the higher bidder. If you wished to become the Kotwal, then you contacted Mirza Mughal and made him an offering to get the job. If you wished to become a Munshi or Mir Munshi, then you had to contact the junior prince, Mirza Khizar and place a bag of gold coins in front of him. If you were someone powerful, you could go out riding in the city, kill a score of people, and then come home safe and secure. No one could touch you. But if you were powerless and poor, then death was your fate anyway. You died, whether due to indigence or under the hooves of the Turkish horse of some prince or government officers. It didn’t matter.

“Captain Hodson knew that when a state had become that powerless, even an army of millions couldn’t save the country. And that is exactly what happened on 22 September 1857. At the final moments of that War of Independence, the Emperor took refuge in Humayun’s Tomb. The princes were with him, as were six thousand soldiers and heavy artillery. The six thousand were ready to lay down their lives for the Emperor, but Hodson knew that if the Commander were weak and unwilling to take up arms personally then even the most loyal soldier would walk away from him. And so Hodson did something strange. He took only three native soldiers with him, and rode his horse to Humayun’s Tomb. The aged Emperor, sick and indolent from opiates, was standing, leaning on a staff. He was so weak that his shoulders could not bear the weight of the royal robes nor could his head bear the weight of the Timurid crown. The great state of Hindustan had collapsed at its own feet (sic).

“Hodson ‘presented’ himself before the Emperor, bowed and offered his ‘salaam,’ then made this offer: ‘If you surrender to me I guarantee the lives of you and your queen.’ The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was then 82. He was up to his waist in his grave but his lust for life compelled him to make the deal. He pulled out his two swords from their sheaths, and handed them over to Captain Hodson. One was the sword that Nadir Shah Durrani had presented to Emperor Muhammad Shah before returning to Iran; the second was the sword that had belonged to Jahangir and was traditionally given to a Mughal Emperor at his coronation. Hodson took the two swords, and walked out triumphantly. When the six thousand loyal soldiers saw the swords in Hodson’s hands they lost all will. They could see their own future in the Emperor’s swords.

“Hodson went and deposited the swords in the office of the Company Sircar, then took one hundred native soldiers and returned with them to Humayun’s Tomb. He then set ninety soldiers to that task of disarming the six thousand Mughal soldiers. The remaining ten he took with him and arrested the two sons of the Emperor, Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizar, and influential grandson, Mirza Abu Bakr. Placing the princes in an open buggy, he set out in Delhi. The people of Delhi followed. Within moments there were four thousand spectators walking behind the royal buggy. But not one man dared to raise a cry in support of the princes. The procession reached the Kotwali. Hodson ordered the princes to step out of the carriage and take off their clothes. They stood naked before four thousand people when Hodson shot them dead and walked away leaving their naked corpses in the dirt.

“The corpses of the three princes remained lying by the road for three days and vultures and beasts tore into them, but in the entire city of Delhi not one man dared to take the corpses away for burial and prayers. Meanwhile, the ninety troopers of Hodson disarmed those six thousand Mughal soldiers and marched them back to the Red Fort. There in the open, they hanged them one by one. Only those survived for whom no ready rope was available to the ‘gora’ force. Bahadur Shah Zafar’s two swords are still with the English Royal Family, and tell the owners every day that when a state becomes weak then kings surrender to just three enemy soldiers, despite having six thousand soldiers standing by. Hodson’s ten soldiers also proved that if the state had no life in it then only ten soldiers could force princes to strip, and then shoot them down in front of four thousand spectators. And the ninety soldiers of the British army sent a clear message to all the conquerors in the world that if a state had no strength in it then six thousand fully armed soldiers would throw down arms before ninety enemy soldiers, and then lose their lives instead of gaining safety.”

Whenever I read such ‘historical’ accounts, and it is sadly too often, my first impulse is to wonder: do Pakistani Urdu newspapers have editors and sub-editors? Or do they have only wealthy and privileged owners, with hordes of cowering minions, and a changing stable of fantasizing columnists? Some of the latter seem equally privileged, for many often describe the meals and trips they enjoy with assorted bigwigs of Pakistan. One of them, Abdul Qadir Hasan, only this week wrote a column on poverty in Pakistan by describing why his three domestic servants were not going home for the Eid—they could have more ‘meaty’ meals at his house!

Returning to the history lesson offered by Mr. Javed Chaudhry (henceforward JC), let me begin by pointing out that when the British took Delhi in 1803, the city was held by the Marathas, while the Fort itself was held by their French allies. Emperor Shah Alam, blinded by Ghulam Qadir Rohilla—in revenge for having been castrated by the Emperor earlier—had no say either in the Fort or in the walled city. Forget the rest of the country. The Mughals had along ago been abandoned by their erstwhile nobles who quickly had made their own fortunes. The most prominent being Nizamul Mulk and his descendents in Hyderabad and Burhanul Mulk and his descendents in Avadh. Neither cared a hoot what happened to the Emperor. In fact, the Emperor was delighted when the British moved in, for they gave him more money than the Marathas had. From 1803 onward, it was the British who governed Delhi. The Emperor was in name; he had no army or police, not to mention judges and magistrates. And his ‘writ’ was limited to the Red Fort, and that too in compliance with the Resident’s wish.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was not his father’s favorite. He gained the throne because the British forced upon his father their own rule of primogeniture. JC should recall that the traditional Mughal system was to kill all rivals, as happened from Jahangir to Farrukhsiyar, when the noble in power chose the Emperor. And the first thing any new Emperor did was to make sure the possible rivals were killed, blinded, or held in house arrest. Actually, in the good old days, Zafar would have got rid of both Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizar, for he wanted Jawan Bakht, the son from his favorite Zeenat Mahal, to be his heir. Not to the throne but to whatever the British were in the mood to give. The two princes made a bid for fortune during the Ghadar, and were despised by those who were doing the fighting. Prior to 1857, they had no say even in the Fort. The walled city was governed by the British. The Kotwal who sent Ghalib to jail for gambling was an employee of the British, and not of the Emperor.

Coming to the events of September 1857, here is what William Dalrymple tells us in his The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi 1857 (New York, 2007). No doubt some would call him a ‘Gora Kafir,’ but he also happens to be a meticulous scholar and quite sympathetic to Zafar. According to Dalrymple, Zafar, with members of his immediate family and some retainers, had escaped from the Fort by boat and took shelter in Humayun’s tomb on the 17th of the month. The place was full of soldiers—around three hundred—and civilians who had fled there with the same aim.  On the 21st, Hodson went there with a small contingent of native soldiers—they were probably Muslims and Sikhs from Punjab—and got Zafar out of the tomb complex. Hodson himself did not go inside; the Emperor rode out in a chariot—with the help of Hakim Ahsanullah Khan, Mirza Elahi Bakhsh, and Maulvi Rajab Ali. Hodson delivered the Emperor to the freshly established British civilian administration, and the Emperor and Zeenat Mahal were confined to quarters within the Fort. The next day, Hodson went to Humayun’s Tomb, and with his Indian helpers got the three princes to surrender. There were several hundred jihadis in the tomb at the time, plus hundreds more of ordinary men, women, and children. There were three hundred or so more jihadisnot too far away in Basti Nizamuddin. (Dalrymple’s total of six hundred became six thousand in JC’s piece.) But no soldier made any effort to challenge Hodson on either day, nor did any civilian. The three princes were killed in cold blood by Hodson, at a place now known as the Khuni Darwaza. And yes, they were stripped naked before they were killed. The corpses were then taken to the Kotwali in Chandni Chowk and cast on the ground for display. Three days later they were buried in unmarked graves. No soldier was taken into custody at Humayun’s Tomb and marched back to the city to be hanged from the gallows.

What happened at the tomb complex on two days clearly indicates the low esteem in which the Emperor and the princes were held by most of the civilians and soldiers who had sought shelter there. There was no issue of the Emperor’s writ, for the poor man never had any, not even within the Red Fort. And many of the elite and clergy of Delhi held him in much contempt before 1857 for his peccadilloes and his inclination towards Shi’ism.

JC should read Hasan Nizami and Rashidul Khairi again—they don’t indulge in fantasies—if he cannot be bothered to read Dalrymple, or Mahmood Farooqui’sBeseiged: Voices from Delhi, 1857 (New Delhi, 2010), an invaluable selection (translated) from the Mutiny Papers in the National Archive of India. He may be right about the two swords and their identities, but he is dead wrong when he talks of the Timurid crown. The first Mughal king to wear a crown was Zafar’s father, Akbar II; Zafar imitated him. And both had imitated the British practice, as had the Nawabs of Avadh when the British made them Kings. The Mughals in India, from Akbar onward had worn only turbans decorated with jewels and crests.

Finally, the British couldn’t have run out of ropes while hanging people. After all, the same rope and knot is commonly used over and over again. Of course, reality does not make for the rhetorical effect JC most desires. And so fantasy triumphs over reality. (September 19, 2013)

Here is Javed Chaudhry’s column:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

In Lahore, a lecture on Cosmic Dust

On September 2, in an Urdu daily, a small advertisement appeared. It was about a lecture on Cosmic Dust on September 3 under the auspices of the Khwarizmi Science Society in the Ali Institute of Education, Lahore.

I made it a point to attend the lecture.

Dr. Tayyaba Zafar delivered the lecture. She teaches at the Department of Physics, University of the Punjab. I wondered whether University of the Punjab every holds such events!

Dr. Tayyaba was very much conversant with the topic of her lecture. She dwelt at length on Dusty Cool Cosmos.

She explained: 95 % of the universe is invisible; and 4.6 % consists of atoms. The invisible universe is 72 % dark energy, and 23 % dark matter. Through telescope only 5 % of the universe is visible to us.

She told: Cosmic Dust is carbon and silicate grains – sub-micron in size. This Dust gives new life to everything.

At the end, in response to certain questions about the Bing Bang Theory, she said: As Muslims we believe God created the universe. Then someone asked how this Theory fits with this belief, and someone from the staff of the Ali Institute of Education declared: Allah can do the Bing Bang!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who is Drone-prone!

Here is a cartoon by Sabir Nazar, which exposes the fallacy of opposing the Drone attacks. The cartoon published in The Express Tribune on September 26, 2013.

See also two previous posts of mine on the issue of Drone attacks:

What about internal sovereignty?

Drone attacks is no issue, Sir!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to protect citizens from their killer governments

So Immanuel Kant already knew it!

See this article published in The News York Times on September 13, 2013.

The Duty to Protect, Still Urgent
By Michael Ignatieff

TORONTO — PRESIDENT OBAMA’S failure to get Congress to support airstrikes in Syria, coupled with the vote against military action in the British House of Commons, brings home a key fact about international politics: when given a choice, democratic peoples are reluctant to authorize their leaders to use force to protect civilians in countries far away.

In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, on which I served, developed the idea that all states, but especially democracies, have a “responsibility to protect” civilians when they are threatened with mass killing. For those of us who have worked hard to promote this concept, it’s obvious that our idea is facing a crisis of democratic legitimacy.

Let’s be clear what the problem is: it’s not just compassion fatigue, isolationism or disengagement from the world. It’s more than war weariness or sorrow at the human and financial cost of intervention. It goes beyond disillusion at the failures to build stability in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.

The core problem is public anger at the manipulation of consent: disillusion with the way in which leaders and policy elites have used moral and humanitarian arguments to extract popular support for the use of force in Iraq and Libya, and then conducted those interventions in ways that betrayed their lack of true commitment to those principles. To quote the Who, the people are saying they “won’t get fooled again.”

Rebuilding popular democratic support for the idea of our duty to protect civilians, when no one else can or will, is a critical challenge in the years ahead.

The first step is to re-emphasize that protecting civilians is about preventing harm, not primarily using force. The public knows an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It has no major problem with conflict resolution, foreign assistance, law and order training, or any of the other elements of prevention.

The real challenge comes when prevention fails, when force becomes the last resort. Here the public’s problem is mission creep, the way protection of civilians morphs into regime change. Many people who were prepared to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s slaughtering of civilians in Benghazi grew increasingly uneasy when that mandate was used to bomb Tripoli. We need to make sure that the military puts civilian protection first and last as its sole legitimate purpose.

The third challenge, most difficult of all, is how to protect civilians when the Security Council blocks the use of force. For all the talk about American exceptionalism, the American people don’t like using force if the United Nations is against it, and they are uneasy if allies won’t stand with them.

The reality, however, is that if the United States wants to stop atrocity crimes, it may have to go it alone. With Syria, the United States’ threat of force has played a role in the diplomatic breakthrough involving Russia that just might protect civilians against further use of chemical weapons. If there are rare cases like this where the threat of force may be “illegal but legitimate” (as an international commission on Kosovo called the NATO bombing), the American people want to know how to keep the use of force from getting out of control.

This is why President Obama’s decision — and Prime Minister David Cameron’s, too — to seek democratic authorization for the use of force was the right way to go, even though it hasn’t turned out the way they wanted.

As they’ve both discovered, when you go to your legislature for authorization, there is a price to pay. When democracy becomes the venue for testing the legitimacy of force, the bar of justification is set high. Democratic legitimacy is not a substitute for international legality, but it performs one of the crucial functions of law, which is to subject the use of force to strict control.

Democratic consent, of course, can be manipulated, as it was over Iraq in 2003. But when it is, democratic peoples have learned from the experience and have raised the bar higher.

Their reluctance to use force is not a passing phenomenon. Immanuel Kant was right that when the people bear the cost of war and get a chance to tell their leaders what they think, they are reluctant to authorize it.

Still, it is critical that they be willing, in the right circumstances, to do so. In the future, the Security Council may be deadlocked about intervening, and presidents and prime ministers will have to turn instead to their people for permission to save civilians. If the case for action is made honestly, if no one’s consent is manipulated, let’s hope the people say yes. We can’t fight genocide, ethnic cleansing and chemical weapons attacks unless they do.

[Michael Ignatieff is a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

With Taliban, talks or no talks - a self-created dilemma

With Taliban, talks or no talks seems to be a self-created dilemma!

Is it a tragedy or a farce . . .

See this cartoon by Sabir Nazar:

[The Express Tribune, September 20, 2013]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Kings Among Us

[When I wrote this piece, I titled it as, Saddam Hussein: A King of our Times, but The News carried it with a better title: The kings among us]

Once upon a time, there was a king. He was born in a city called Tikrit. He was brought up in a fatherless family with poor means of livelihood. He rose from a street fighter to be a Powerful King of Iraq.

It may be objected that the story of Saddam Hussein cannot be narrated in such a manner. Because the times are different! We are living in a modern or as is said in a post-modern age. But going through the details of Saddam Hussein’s life and career as a ruler makes one convinced that his tale may easily be narrated like the tales of Kings are described in story, history or semi-historical books.

Here is an attempt at that:

Saddam Hussein was born in Tikrit, Iraq. He was a fatherless child. His family was poor. With time, he rose to glory. As a result of a coup in 1968, he seized power under the banner of Pan-Arab Baath Party. In 1979, he became President. In 1980, he invaded Iran and fought an 8 years long war. In 1990, he attacked and got hold of Kuwait. This act of Saddam Hussein proved to be a crucial turn in his career, and was the beginning of his end.

After an abortive US war in 1991, during the second US war in April 2003, his rule of absolute power spanning three decades started crumbling. Finally, he was captured from an underground cell in December 2003. The Dujail trial began in October 2005, and his second trial on the charges of war crimes and genocide of Iraqi Kurds commenced in August 2006. The second trial never concluded and he was sentenced to be hanged in November 2006 on the charges of ordering the death of 148 Shiites, and was hanged on December 30, 2006.

After his downfall, there were still his supporters and there were blasts, killings, etc. allegedly committed by his supporters. There were many other crimes committed by him and his henchmen, and their trials were waiting to be heard in the Iraqi courts of law. But nothing could save him.

It is told he lived a life of wealth and luxury Kings used to live. To give an example: his bathrooms were fitted with gold taps, and sure there would be many more stories of his life of abundance. And, certainly, like most Kings, after his downfall, he came to live, from a life of luxury to, a humble life when he spent 3 years in a military cell under US custody.

This is the story of King Saddam Hussein.

Now after his death, there are fears that he is going to live as a martyr-cum-hero. And, there are people who have come to develop sympathy for him, if not for his cause (if any!). This has created great confusion and needs to be dealt with rationally and consistently: the two most important adjectives relevant to the post-Saddam’s Execution situation.

What makes things unclear, first and foremost, is our language. Secondly, there is the category of time as was mentioned in the start.

Our language has us believe that a King is essentially different from a President or a Prime Minister. And, lo we believe that. Since Saddam Hussein was designated as a President, he was not a King. Since in pre-modern times, there were no Presidents or Prime Ministers, hence there were only Kings. Thus, both language and time come to the rescue of not only Saddam Hussein but all the other Saddam Husseins and their likes, who in our times are designated variously but they are surely Kings.

Hence, what we should bother about is what is that makes a King a King, and a President a President. Sure, in pre-modern times there were Kings who cannot be termed Pure Kings; and there are in our times Presidents (Ah, where are they?!) who are difficult to be designated as Pure Presidents. But we are concerned only with Pure Kings and Pure Presidents. Not the mixed breed. Knowing about the unmixed breed will immensely help us to separate chaff from wheat rationally and consistently out of the present lot including Saddam Hussein, and thus we will be able to have a ‘who is who.’

The essential thing that makes a King a King is his own self as the source of law. As is told of many kings, or tyrants or despots, they were law unto themselves. Whatever they wished, said, or did, came to be known and written as law. This was the rule of one man, a monarch. In case of a monarch sharing his power with a clique of his associates, it was the rule of a few, an oligarchy. But substantially it was not different from Kingship since the source of law was those few who ruled.

Contrary to this, a President, or Prime Minister or in whatever way he is designated, is not a source of law. He is not law unto himself. Rather, and importantly, he is bound by law. Whatever he wishes, says, or does, is not law in any manner. This clearly implies that his words and actions are strictly in accordance with the law of the land. He cannot step over his powers assigned to him by law. Whatever the system of government, he is to act under and according to the law. He is never free like a King, and sure he is never powerful like a King. Only his duties and powers assigned by law differentiate him from ordinary citizens; and, at the same time, in the eyes of law he is not above and privileged from other citizens.

However, there are cases and examples that defy these criteria. Why Nausherwan or Anusherwan of pre-Islamic Iran is known as Anusherwan the Just? Wasn’t he like a President? Apart from the delicacies of differences amongst historians regarding the quality of rule of Anusherwan, we can safely assume that his fame of a just ruler depends upon this: he must have followed certain rules and laws consistently which amounted to justice in those times. That quality of Anusherwan doesn’t absolve him from the verdict of a rule of law. Obviously, he himself was a source of law, just or unjust. Thus, a benevolent dictator can never replace a ruler bound by law. Since, one of the greatest achievements of human civilization is a government where law rules. Here no ruler rules.

What about the recent case of Saddam Hussein? Wasn’t he a President? Wasn’t he bound by Iraqi constitution and law? Wasn’t he not a source of law? Wasn’t his word or action not law? Wasn’t he belonged to post-modern times? Doesn’t all this make him not a King?

Differences aside, he ruled Iraqi people like a King. He manipulated Iraqi law and constitution to suit his desires and interests. He usurped the rule of law and turned it into a rule of/by him and his associates. Whereas, even the act of softening law to make room for one’s self-rule negates the very essence of rule of law. Many a President and Prime Minister (or whatever their designations are) of our times are essentially Kings, if not totally, to a greater extent certainly. But that’s just a euphemism. In principle, any bungling with the rule of law, willful or otherwise, must be taken as an attack on the rule of law, and never be tolerated; because if it is tolerated, it will give birth ultimately to a Saddam Hussein.

Once again consider the case of those who have got sympathy with Saddam Hussein on his ‘tragic’ death. Of the many reasons for their sympathy cited by them the most important are: i) that he was not given a fair trial; ii) that he was hanged on the day of Eid-ul-Azha. In this case, the role of the internal politics of Iraq and regional/international politics cannot be under-estimated. And, sure if there were mistakes or say unlawful actions, they must be condemned and dealt with accordingly. But it is not clear what allows us to sympathize with one who in the capacity of a President acted as a King. Or, how could we be kind to one who in any constitutional capacity acts like a King.

This is the problem of consistency. Since we believe that a government is run by individuals, be they Presidents or Kings; we can’t differentiate between good and bad governments. For us, there are only good rulers or bad rulers; or there are only just rulers or unjust rulers like Anusherwan or other cruel tyrants. That is why we think, believe, speak, and act in an unprincipled manner, utterly inconsistently. It is this logic that permits us to side with good or bad rulers whether they are alive or dead.

The other problem that doesn’t let us think, believe, speak, and act consistently is the problem of rationality. We believe irrationally that certain persons are born to be Kings or Presidents. We believe irrationally that certain persons are above law. We irrationally believe that certain persons are privileged in the eyes of law. We believe irrationally that certain persons are capable of delivering everything such as food, clothing, shelter, etc. to others. We believe irrationally that certain laws are not for rulers; they are for those who are ruled. We believe irrationally that certain persons are there to rule others.

Whereas rationality requires us to believe that everyone is born with certain inalienable rights including the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. That everyone is free to be whatever he wishes to be. That everyone is equal before law. That everyone is capable of living his life on his own and as he wishes. That rules and laws are equally applicable to everyone be he a ruler or be he one of the ruled. That all the persons are born to rule themselves only and not others.

Thus, acting in a rational and consistent manner means to have and show regard for the inalienable rights and freedoms of others. Whoever violates these freedoms of others loses his right to these freedoms. The rule of law is the only means to protect these inalienable rights and freedoms of every person without any discrimination. It is rule of law that is the greatest supporter of ordinary people, have-nots and misers. Hence, one who plays with it, one who defies it, one who makes a travesty of it, never deserves any sympathy be he Saddam Hussein or someone else!

[This article was completed on January 10, 2007.]

Monday, September 16, 2013

A cartoonist's depiction of the Pakistan's economy

A cartoon worth more than a thousand words!

[The Express Tribune, September 16, 2013]

Financing the parasitism of Riyasati Ashrafiya

Tax reform agenda 
By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

The dire need in today’s Pakistan is to tap the real tax potential and make the country a self-reliant economy, stop wasteful, unproductive expenses, cut the size of the cabinet and government machinery, make government-owned corporations profitable or restructure them, accelerate industrialisation and increase productivity, improve agricultural sector, bring inflation to single digit and reduce inequalities through a policy of redistribution of income and wealth.

High rates of income taxes, capital transfer taxes and wealth taxes are some means adopted for achieving these ends in all democratic countries. In Pakistan, there has been a gradual shift from equitable taxes to highly inequitable taxes. The shift from removing inequalities through taxes to presumptive and easily collectable taxes has destroyed the fundamental principle of horizontal and vertical equity.

In Pakistan, the poor are subjected to heavy and cruel taxation to finance the luxuries of Riasti Ashrafiya — militro-judicial-civil complex and public office-holders who enjoy free perquisites, benefits, including expensive plots at throw-away prices at prime locations that belong to the state. The way they waste and plunder the taxpayers’ money is no secret. The country is surviving on bailouts from the IMF due to perpetual failure of the ruling elite to tax the rich and mighty that matter in the Land of Pure. Revenues worth trillions of rupees have been sacrificed by governments — civil and military alike — since 1977 extending unprecedented exemptions and concessions to the privileged classes. Gradually, the governments abolished all progressive taxes e.g. Estate Duty, Gift Tax, Capital Gain Tax etc.

The historic decision of taxing “agricultural income”, passed by the Parliament in the shape of Finance Act, 1977, was thwarted by the military regime of Ziaul Haq.  Through this law, the Parliament amended the definition of “agricultural income” as obtaining in section 2(1) of then Income Tax Act, 1922 to tax big absentee landlords. This was a revolutionary step to impose tax on agricultural income at federal level for the first time in the history of Pakistan, but ruthlessly foiled by a military dictator. 

During Zia’s rule of 11 years and that of General Musharraf for nearly 9 years, absentee land owners (including mighty generals who received state lands as gallantry awards or otherwise!) did not pay a single penny as agricultural income tax or wealth tax. Taxation of “agricultural income”, at present, is the sole prerogative of provincial governments under the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan. All the four provinces have enacted laws to this effect, but total collection in 2012-2013 was less than Rs2 billion against actual potential of Rs200 billion (share of agriculture in GDP was about 22 per cent).

No one has calculated how much tax loss Pakistan suffered perpetually since 1977 on account of non-taxation of agricultural income alone as suggested under Finance Act, 1977. If we add total loss of revenue through various exemptions, non-taxation of benefits given to state oligarchy (Riasti Ashrafiya) and through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) issued during the last four decades, the number comes to over Rs100 trillion — this explains how unprecedented concessions to the rich has made the state poorer rendering every citizen of this country to an enormous indebtedness. We would not have required any borrowing at all, if tax losses were not incurred.

How the governments were abusing taxpayers’ money can be judged from the decision of Supreme Court on April 17, 2013 suspending the March 14, 2013 notification issued by Interior Ministry granting former interior minister Rehman Malik and his predecessors lifetime perks and privileges. Hearing the suo moto notice case regarding unlimited perks and privileges granted to two former prime ministers, all former interior ministers, Sindh chief minister and other senior officials by the outgoing government, the five-judge bench of apex court sought a response from relevant authorities in this regard.

It is thus no wonder that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) posted shortfall of over Rs450 billion for fiscal year 2012-13. Very few people know that in the face of such shortfall, the FBR withdrew the biggest revenue spinner — 1 per cent withholding tax on manufacturing — resulting in a revenue loss of Rs18 billion. Drastic cut of federal excise duty on sugar to 0.5 per cent aimed at benefiting the influential sugar industry owners, causing a loss of Rs8 billion to the national exchequer. 50 per cent cut on sales tax for steel melters caused revenue loss of nearly Rs4 billion.

In the budget for fiscal year 2013-14, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is assigned a target of Rs2475 billion — nearly 25 per cent increase over the collection made for 2012-13. All experts are of the view that it is irrational and ambitious in view of expected growth rate and enforcement capabilities of the FBR.

Adding insult to injury, despite the dismal performance, the FBR gave bonuses to its staff and officers ranging from one salary to three salaries. This was shocking to say the least, especially as the country had been going through the worst economic crisis. It is not understandable why the FBR even gives double basic salary to its staff in addition to annual bonuses — they are government employees and should be entitled to normal emoluments like all other public servants.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the National Assembly should look into the affairs of the FBR asking them to justify double basic salary and undue “bonuses” — especially when 90 per cent tax collection comes through withholding or voluntary payments with returns, and revenue targets are missed every year.

At operational level, the challenge is creating a corruption-free, efficient and result-oriented tax apparatus. Though the World Bank and other donors gave a lot of money and consultancy to Pakistan, things have changed only for the worse. If the FBR wants to improve its efficiency, administrative pragmatic reforms are the immediate need of the day — a successful model of Mauritius Revenue Authority ( can be studied, debated and adapted after making necessary changes to suit our peculiar conditions.

At enforcement level, the biggest challenge is how to bridge the tax gap — collection by the FBR is one fourth of actual tax potential [Fiscal fiasco, The News, 12 May 2013]. Issues of documentation and tax compliance are lingering on for years even after completion of a costly $100 million World Bank funded Tax Reforms Administration Programme (TARP).

The only way to check massive evasion in customs, income tax and sales tax is implementing an integrated Tax Intelligence System, which is capable of recording, storing and cross-matching all inflows and outflows. All in-bound and out-bound containers should be scanned/x-rayed to check evasion of customs duties and taxes payable at source. However, no reform agenda can succeed unless FBR is insulated from outside political pressures. It should be made National Tax Collection Agency, responsible for collecting all federal and provincial taxes and should be run by an independent Board of Directors selected by National Finance Commission and/or Council of Common Interests.

It would facilitate taxpayers to approach one agency only and data sharing for all taxes would help in increasing revenues for the federation as well as the federating units.

[This article first appeared in The News on Sunday, September 15, 2013. The writers, tax lawyers, are Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).]

Note: Reproducing this article in my Blog does not amount to my agreeing with the authors' point of view.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Many faces of a shameless democracy

So someone had the guts to expose the brazen falsity of those outrageous praises showered on Asif Ali Zardari published in various newspapers on September 12.

The other day, one riposte appeared in The News.

Democracy must be hiding its face
By Ishaque Khakwani

ISLAMABAD: I am using my right to respond to Farahnaz Ispahani’s article in praise of Asif Ali Zardari published in The News. In any civilized country a person with Zardari’s credentials would have long been hauled up and in custody, leave alone qualified to enter the race for the office of the president of Pakistan. 

Getting elected and completing 5 long years in office is the biggest humiliation, which the coming generations of Pakistan will face. All because we were so subservient to the foreign dictates that the entire establishment and the large majority of political parties of Pakistan bowed down to their wishes. All this in the name of sham democracy. 

The worst is that We all knowingly succumbed to this bad advice to place Zardari not only in the President’s House but he actually was at the helm of affairs and ran the country through his most corrupt prime ministers ever to hold office in Pak-governments. 

The pity is that all the high and mighty wearing coloured uniforms and black sherwanis enjoyed the rape when it became inevitable, that too for five long years!! We were made the laughing stock of everyone internationally and a nuclear power with all its inherent resourcefulness put on a brave face as if nothing mattered. To salvage the country’s pride & honour was of least concern to all and sundry. 

Democracy must be hiding its face in shame to be so boldly associated with Zardari-led regime. The scams were more than a plateful, the killings all over, particularly in Karachi, were all time high; the law and order non-existent; violations of law by the people in office went unabated; Supreme Court order flouted to the maximum in our 67 years of checkered history and to top it all merit in all civil and military services ran aground. 

All in the name of so-called democracy!! The print media and some TV anchors went blue in the face bringing out all ills practiced in the name of democracy, but all was kosher with the strange logic purported to save the democracy in Pakistan. 

To top it all the new government of Nawaz Sharif rather than correcting the flaws and punishing architects of these scams, is seen honouring them. It is repulsive to see the Armed Forces presenting guard of honour to Zardari and Nawaz Sharif well perched on the same sofa with Yousaf Raza Gilani with an ear-to-ear smiles. Welcome to new Pakistan!!!

[The News, September 13, 2013]

And someone from The News staff had the guts to add this at the end of this riposte:

(The writer is a former MNA and minister in the Shaukat Aziz cabinet under Pervez Musharraf)

That highlights another shameless face of democracy in Pakistan, the dictatorship of General Musharraf!

Lying through the Asif Ali Zardari’s teeth

This post is in continuation of a previous post: Pakistani media’s alchemy – making a seer out of a crook

On September 12, various newspapers carried the following article:

President’s Zardari’s legacy
By Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

[The Express Tribune]

The same article was carried by The News with a different title.

Zardari’s legacy will be written in gold, the best leader ever

Compares ex-Pak president with former US president Lyndon B Johnson

The Zardari legacy
By Farahnaz Ispahani

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stepped down as the president of Pakistan. Many will write about this historic day as it represents the first time a democratically elected president completed a five-year term, followed by a peaceful transition to another democratically elected government. Most of Pakistan’s leaders have been removed from office in coups d’tat or have been forced to resign. Zardari is the only one to leave office with a formal lunch hosted by his political rivals. 

Although Zardari’s tenure in office was characterized by judicial activism and media opposition that often bordered on hatred, it will be remembered for its tolerance of that criticism. Since Pakistan’s independence 66 years ago, its politics have been intensely polarized. Opponents of the subsequent governments have been routinely jailed and even killed after being labeled “enemies of the state.” Zardari, however, chose to take the criticism, preferring the noise of a fledgling democracy to the enforced silence of superficial stability. 

Polarization in Pakistan has not ended but it has diminished, at least among the major electable national leaders and parties. Much of what it took to achieve this historic moment is publicly known, but there are many stressful and difficult moments known to just a few. Perhaps one day the entirety of the struggle to deliver democracy and strengthen Pakistan’s parliamentary roots will become public knowledge. 

What most people do know is that since the February 2008 parliamentary election, and especially after the resignation of former president and military strongman Pervez Musharraf, there has been a powerful lobby in Pakistan hankering for the “good old days” when the reins of authority were held solely by the country’s powerful generals, bureaucrats, and judges, who were assisted by powerful media barons and urban industrialists. 

When Zardari took office, many politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and citizens had very little idea of who he was. The picture painted by the country’s intelligence agencies and the permanent establishment thrived in a nation obsessed by rumors and hungry for conspiracy theories. 

Pakistan’s urban elite have often been more comfortable with military rule and historically, elected leaders have been denigrated as incompetent and corrupt. It was not always easy to muddy and blacken the image of democratic leader Benazir Bhutto, especially on the international stage or with her party members, who stood by her like a rock. But it was very easy to scapegoat Zardari, the businessman-consort of the leading pro-democracy politician. He was accused of many things over the past two and a half decades without any charge ever being proved in any court. Anyone who has spent time in political life knows well that once your public image has been defined for you, it is often impossible to change that image. 

As such, Zardari took little interest in restoring his personal image once he became president. He did not care that analysts and journalists tied to Pakistan’s establishment described him as an “accidental president” and repeated unproved past allegations against him. Instead, his focus was to redress the imbalance in Pakistan’s power structure. 

Unelected presidents and military dictators had, in the past, accumulated power in that office at the expense of Pakistan’s parliament and its provincial governments, the constituting units of the Pakistani federation. Zardari worked with the various parties in parliament to shape amendments that restored the constitution to its original form. Because of his efforts, Pakistan can now be a functional parliamentary democracy and a proper federation, with real authority in the hands of its provinces. 

Hardline opponents constantly claimed that Zardari and the PPP government, led by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, would be gone in three months. This was then consistently repeated by the sages on Pakistani cable television and by print columnists. The entire effort was to destabilize the government itself, but it didn’t work. Instead, it undermined the effectiveness of the government and deferred tough economic decisions. 

The relentless pressure from many quarters, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, eventually resulted in Gilani’s removal over a contempt of court charge, something unheard of in any democracy. This judicial activism and the discretionary use of the court’s suo moto powers paralyzed the executive branch of government. 

PPP cabinet ministers and administrative heads of government departments and agencies spent a lot more time answering frivolous petitions in court than they did in their offices governing the country. But with the May 2013 elections, which resulted in a new government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, the question of the PPP government’s performance is now history. 

Zardari’s legacy will instead be the strengthening of the democratic process. Out of office, he can now work on rebuilding the PPP so that the party can seek a mandate from the people during the next election to actually govern and deliver - something it was not allowed to do last time. 

While Pakistan’s constitution bars the outgoing president from running for elective office for two years, Zardari is not prohibited from generating ideas and direction for his party. Hopefully, he will reform the party by bringing in new blood not associated with allegations of corruption and inefficiency. The PPP remains a mass political party that needs to be rejuvenated to make the case for a liberal, tolerant, pluralist and fair Pakistan. Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto, who is co-leader of the party, has already spoken of that need publicly on social media. 

If the democratic environment, free of excessive polarization, which Zardari sought to create in the last five years, lasts for the next five, there will be room for Pakistani politicians to debate the country’s fundamental issues: terrorism, international isolation and economic reform. [The News]

[The author at present is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The author is former adviser to former President Asif Ali Zardari, former PPP MNA and wife of Pakistan’s ex-ambassador to US Husain Haqqani.]

The state is absent, let’s kill them all

A wealthy family’s arrogant young man kills another young fellow. The killer’s family is able to buy every instrument of the state which otherwise exists to protect life and property, and liberty, of the citizens without any discrimination. They do buy: they send their son abroad making travesty of every requirement, formality and legality of traveling abroad; though the father of the deceased is a high-ranking in-service police officer, registering a report of the murder with the police remains in doldrums.

Somehow, friends of the deceased bring out the cause of justice to the social media. Then the print and electronic media get hold of the case. An unprecedentedly independent and judicially active Supreme Court goes for a suo moto and oversees that the murder case proceeds according to the dictates of the law.

Overcoming all the obstacles and distractions money can create in Pakistan, the murder case reaches its logical conclusion. Out of the four accused, two are awarded death sentence and two life imprisonment.

Throughout the case proceedings, the accused behave arrogantly and without any sign of remorse on their faces and in their behavior. Instead, they bluntly ridicule everything this country has established to dispense justice.

It is actually their purchasing power that makes them believe they can buy the state of Pakistan, and go scot free. They do buy it: the government of the Sindh province, where Pakistan Peoples Party is in power, tries to get their sentences pardoned by the president, who happened to be the co-chairman of the Peoples Party also. That scheme somehow fails.

As the apprehensions were already flowing both on social, and print and electronic media, that on the pretext of Islamic laws of Qisas and Diyat, the parents of the deceased will be made to accept an out of the court settlement. That does happen. The convicted murderers are pardoned by the legal heirs of the deceased.

Once again, the Supreme Court takes notice of the pardon settlement. Let’s wait and see what’s in store for this case.

The most noticeable feature of this symptomatic case is the absence of the state in dispensing justice. Rather it plays the role of an accomplice.

The state is there to extort taxes but it is completely absent from its foremost duty of standing between two persons so that life and liberty and the rights of both of them are protected.

That’s why who are wealthy, resourceful, connected with the state, in the state, or belong to or connected with any layer of the Riyasati Ashrafiya (State Aristocracy), get away with anything be it murder.

Here is what’s important is being written in the national newspapers on this criminal absence of the state of Pakistan:

Murder and the state’s responsibility
By Ayesha Siddiqa

[The Express Tribune, September 12, 2013]

Death and dishonor
By Fasi Zaka

[The Express Tribune, September 12, 2013]

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jamat-e-Islami, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban

“A senior serving intelligence agency officer, who also led operations in which wanted al Qaeda figures Ahmad Khalfan Ghalani and Naeem Noor Khan alias Abu Talha were arrested, told The Express Tribune that JI (Jamat-e-Islami) has been directly and indirectly involved in providing accommodation to al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, supposedly No 3 in the al-Qaeda hierarchy was arrested in March 2004, from the house of a women’s wing leader of the JI in Rawalpindi, while another al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida was arrested in the same year from Faisalabad, and was given shelter by Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).”

[From The Express Tribune]

See the story which published in The Express Tribune on September 11, 2013:

Startling revelations: Nine al Qaeda suspects arrested

All the cartoons on the same page!

See this cartoon by Sabir Nazar carried by The Express Tribune on September 11, 2013.

Any guess: what’s the book all the parties are on the same page of!

Is it the Constitution of Pakistan! Or what else!

Plato’s dark forecast about Democracy without Rule of Law

Plato knew well democracy without rule of law in Pakistan will be dominated by demagogues, chaos will ensue, to reestablish order, the people will welcome tyrant, and tyranny will give to other evils!

See this article which appeared in The New York Times on September 11, 2013:

Democracy as chimera

The news from Egypt confirms Plato’s dark forecast about democracy. Early this month the ruling junta in Cairo arrested a labor lawyer and a journalist, raising concerns that the regime’s repression now targets not just Islamists but also secular critics.

As Plato warned, extreme freedom risks extreme slavery. He predicted that democracy — “people rule” — will quickly be dominated by demagogues. Chaos will ensue. To reestablish order, the people will welcome a tyrant. Tyranny will give birth to other evils.

One of America’s leading specialists on the Arab world, the late Ambassador Hermann F. Eilts, agreed with Plato. Having helped mediate the Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel in 1978, Eilts became a professor at Boston University. Before his death in 2006, Eilts often shared with me his misgivings about official U.S. support for “democracy.” Serving in many posts throughout the Islamic world — in Iran and Bangladesh as well as in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya (Muammar el-Qaddafi wanted to kill him) and Egypt, Eilts saw up close the pitfalls of authoritarian rule.

[From The New York Times]

He disliked Washington’s penchant for bribing dictators and for compelling recipients of “aid” programs to buy food, tools and planes made in the United States. Still, Eilts foresaw that “democracy” without the rule of law and respect for minority rights could lead to troubles like those forecast by Plato.

Representative government demands far more than formalities. Hermann Eilts’s father left the German diplomatic corps and moved to Pennsylvania just a few years before 1933, when Germany’s president, elected in a multiparty contest, appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany, expecting him to lead a short-term coalition government.

Hitler quickly changed everything. To gain power, he used and abused the country’s Weimar Constitution, established in 1919 — “the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had seen,” according to William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”

Why then did democracy collapse in Germany and prove short-lived in Egypt? Political malaise is often the product of the prevailing political culture, especially when a country is buffeted by cruel events. Weimar Germany, like Egypt today, was polarized. Left-wing parties fought both liberal and rightist forces. Their struggles, sharpened by worldwide Depression, produced a stalemate at the polls that helped Hitler to neuter democracy.

Egypt too is deeply split. For decades the Muslim Brotherhood was the only organized force resisting authoritarian rule. Banned from formal political life, it nevertheless enlisted millions of supporters. When Tahrir Square protesters managed to oust Hosni Mubarak from the presidency in 2011, many Egyptians wanted a secular democracy. But the secular groups had no political machine ready for action like the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate, Mohamed Morsi, emerged as the new president.

Like Hitler in 1933-1934, Morsi then acted to create a totalitarian dictatorship. Following weeks of protests, Morsi was unseated on July 3 by a council led by the defense minister, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the liberal leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayeb, and the Coptic pope, Tawadros II. Soon, General Sisi directed a crackdown against all opponents.

As Plato might well have expected, politics in Egypt has gone from bad to worse — from a moderate dictatorship to an elected but ideologically driven dictatorship to a much more violent and intolerant dictatorship. U.S. officials have been torn between concerns for stability and for self-rule. Washington usually offered its official friendship (plus more than $1 billion in aid each year since 1979) to whoever ruled Egypt. But it has also applauded each move — real or apparent — toward democracy, with very little to show for it.

See the full story which published first in the New York Times, and a version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 11, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune: