Monday, October 28, 2013

Drones: confusion or clarity!

See this cartoon by Sabir Nazar, and try to find what's the issue behind all the fuss over the Drone attacks inside the Pakistan's territory!

[The Express Tribune, October 27, 2013]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pakistan – victim of a dangerous theory of knowledge

I completed this article on April 2, 2007, after about a month when on March 9, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, refused to budge before the mightiest generals of Pakistan.

Like millions of other Pakistanis, I too was excited; yeah there was a way out of the quagmire Pakistanis have been put into by the Riyasati Asharafiya (State Aristocracy). However, I was trying to see this development on the political horizon of Pakistan from a very different angle: from the perspective of a theory of knowledge. The title I gave to this article was: Pakistan – victim of a dangerous theory of knowledge

I sent this article to The News, which carried it by a different title:
Judiciary’s first ever NO

Here is this article:

Pakistan – Victim of a Dangerous Theory of Knowledge

He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
[George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950]

People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge.
[Lao Tzu, 604 BC - 531 BC]

Underneath our views of everything lies a theory of knowledge.

We have views about the world, and what exists in and beyond the world. We have views about man, his nature, his destiny, and his place in the society and the world. We have views about society, about people and about the things people believe in and do not believe in and about things people do and do not do. We have views about everything. Sometimes we are aware of the implications of our views and sometimes not. But most of the time we are never aware of the theory of knowledge lying behind our views.

We make a cultural conviction: The onslaught of Western media is ruining our values. We express an economic view: Concentration of wealth in a few hands is dangerous for the society. We utter a political statement: People of Pakistan are not fit for democracy; they are worth a dictatorship. All these statements are based on certain theories of knowledge.

Let’s analyze the political statement. Just as most of the elder people in Pakistan believe that younger ones must not be allowed freedom, they need to be dictated in everything; because they will make mistakes, harm themselves, and will be misled. Likewise, the intellectual, economic and political stalwarts preach that people need not be given free choice; it will put them in the way of harm, and they will not be able to use this freedom positively and constructively. And the governments in Pakistan practice this philosophy.

The political statement derives its strength from this knowledge: that people are incapable of living life independently and responsibly; so they need to be supervised and controlled in their choices and behavior. Further, this presupposes that some people are endowed with higher reason while most of the lot have no grain of reason. They will harm and kill themselves. Thus making use of this theory the few selected ones seize the freedom of others. 

I remember a chat with a graduate student that surprised me to the utmost; but it helps us realize the social stratification embedded in our mindset. Also, it is this thinking that makes us believe and think and practice that this stratification must be kept in place at any cost. This is sort of intellectual elitism. The student was contending that individual freedom will lead people astray, they need supervision and control. My view was that freedom will ultimately make them learn and behave responsibly. He was sharp enough to derive the conclusion: Then, they all will become wise. . . The fear he was in was not that all the people will become wiser, but that he, a wise one, will no more be wiser than others.

This is just one aspect of the theory of knowledge in vogue in Pakistan. On one level, this theory states that elders are know-it-all. Sure, by elders are meant those who are older in age. This cliché also helps keep the authoritarian structure intact. Respect and obey the elders! Why only elders? Why not everyone, be he a kid or a young one or an old one? Everybody needs and deserves respect irrespective of his age, gender, status, or any distinction or discrimination.

This theory of knowledge, on the one hand, implies that age and particularly life-experience make older people wiser, they must be respected and obeyed; on the other hand, it defies the facts of experience of humanity that reason, understanding, wisdom, knowledge are not characteristic of age or life-experience. These faculties may be attained in any age (of course, not in childhood) and with little or no experience at all. Or, it may be added that, as almost all of the elder people are not wise or knowledgeable, only a fraction of them could be counted as such.

Another aspect of this theory of knowledge, and the most dangerous one, is that the one who is powerful is right. It is fatally implicative. That the powerful is the wisest one! That the powerful is the most knowledgeable one! That the powerful is the omniscient one! That the powerful is the Truth!

Be it known here that powerful is not only the one who is the mightiest, but he is one also who happens to exercise any authority, rightfully or wrongfully. This authority may be derived from age, or claim to life-experience, or social or monetary status, or degreed knowledge, or power, be it military or physical, or any such things, or even to claimed honesty and piety.

As political leaders and dictators issue declarations that they honestly want to help the poor; or as generally people opine in Pakistan that our country needs some honest leaders and rulers; I am forced to thinking that as ‘with fine sentiments bad literature is made,’ with fine feelings bad government is made. This is yet another aspect of the theory of knowledge under discussion: that the honest and the pious one is right; he is knowledgeable; he is wise; and, he is the possessor of Truth. 

Actually, all these and other theories like these try to base knowledge on the source from where it is issuing, emanating, and endow the source a status of authority. Its argument goes thus: because the authority says so, it is right. In political arena, the most glaring example from the recent history of Pakistan is the doctrine of necessity. Since a powerful one has done the act X, the act X is not only right, but it must needs be righted. This opens the way to a life of might is right. What we are experiencing today in the form of rule of the influential elites is this life of unreason and unfreedom.  

The implications and consequences of such a theory of knowledge are far reaching and most destructive. In the first instance, this blocks the search for Truth in every domain of life and learning. This confines knowledge to some individuals and to some cliches. This kills the urge to a happy life. This sows in people an unyielding appetite to live the life of others and not their own; and as a result, they are intent upon controlling and dictating other people. This creates an oppressive state inside every individual within an oppressive state. They become a reflection of the state they live under. This is the most dangerous state of affairs since this turns every individual at war with other individuals.   

The theory of knowledge that can bring us out of this inhuman situation is actually no theory of knowledge. This is a better option because that theory will be competing with the other theory and basing one’s ideas and behavior on such a theory the status of which is yet to be determined is dangerous too. This no-theory-of-knowledge is just a way of living; or it may be termed a theory of conduct. This is like agreeing upon some initial code of doing something before setting out to doing that something as a learning experience.

American pragmatist, John Dewey, was right when he said that the ‘most pressing problem of humanity is living together.’ Unless one renounces social life, he is bound to live among people very unlike him. Personally, I think that the most difficult learning we obtain the most difficult way is that people are different from our own selves. To reconcile with these differences and accommodate with these people with theses differences is what we need to learn to live a happy life.

All this entails a theory of conduct: that we ought to behave in a manner that does not interfere with other persons’ freedoms. In other words, this amounts to saying that every individual is endowed in himself with certain freedoms that no other person can lay claim to other than he himself alone. For sure, every one of us has a claim but to his own life; that no person owns life of other person/s unless they authorize him to do so. Likewise, everyone is free to live as he wishes and do as he likes provided he does not intrude into such freedoms of other persons. This theory of conduct holds true in every domain of life, be it social, political, economic or any other. Indeed, this leaves undisturbed the state of other theories of knowledge, lets them compete with one another, and to be discussed, debated, refuted and adhered to by its proponents and opponents alike. But one thing it does not submit to is encroachment upon these freedoms of any person irrespective of his age, gender, beliefs, status, and distinction or discrimination.

Of course, now to protect these freedoms of every individual we need an authority. This authority is nothing but Law. This law provides for these basic and inalienable freedoms to all equally. The law that curtails or limits these freedoms in any way is repugnant to its own purpose. This kills its own spirit. The people who are invested with the authority of using these laws are bound by the same laws. They are not free to act and behave as they choose. They are not kings, or rulers; they are simply in a contract with the people whose freedoms they are supposed to protect. This makes them responsible and liable to the lawful authority instituted by the law of the land. In case of any violation, they are to be tried by the same laws like everyone else. Sure, they are not accountable to the people they have been obligated to serve. They are the offender of the law and it is only law that can put them to any trial.

Now it is these laws that provide for the establishment of various institutions and see to it that these institutions run independently and within their mandated jurisdiction, and that no outside influence intervenes with their functioning. Actually, these institutions form and determine the life and soul of a society, its overall health. If the institutions are made to bow down before the rulers, be they dictators or democrats or any other individuals or groups, or if the institutions play to the whims of the powerful, this is definitely symptom of a sick society where a happy life is not possible. Probably, it is this context that helps explain why an individual cannot live happily even in isolation under such circumstances.

Till this March 09, Pakistan has been a chronically sick society produced unseemingly by a dangerous theory of knowledge discussed briefly in the above paragraphs. But after this March 09, Pakistan is a patient with the hope of a fast recovery. I say hope, because if this hope dies, the patient will lie dormant for a long time to come. Isn’t it the clearest silver lining that sixty years’ history could not cite an instance of “NO” to the rulers from the most important institution of Pakistani society, the Judiciary; and now there is a “NO”, the first ever “NO” form the Judiciary of Pakistan and lo that has been taken up like a symbolic flag first and foremost by the community of lawyers and mediamen secondly? As it is beyond the pale of power politics that is why political parties are in the process of being exposed on this issue of “NO.” They know very well they too cannot afford this “NO” from the Judiciary, and sure they do need a subservient judiciary.

But there are other lessons also: first of all, people have forsaken the fear of saying NO; they have come to know that there is a community clad in black coats and another community with pens and mics in hands and cameras on shoulders that can face the powerful elites ruling over Pakistan exclusively; they have come to realize that it is the emancipation of the Judiciary from where the process of rebirth of a new Pakistan may set in motion; they have come to feel the importance of the moment as has been phrased as the “defining moment.” It may be noted here that these lessons kindle another hope that will survive the death of the Judiciary in Pakistan if it happens.

So, if the Judiciary emerges triumphant out of this battle, it will have to take up many tasks to help a new and truly free Pakistan to be reborn. The first task is to ensure rule of law in Pakistan. The second is to ensure to the people of Pakistan their fundamental rights provided in the constitution of Pakistan. This is what people in return expect from the Judiciary: it must protect their life, their property, and their basic inalienable freedoms both in the first instance from the encroaching state, and then from encroaching groups and individuals. Not only this, people also unawarely want such changes in the constitution which will ensure to them their inalienable freedoms such as freedom to think and express themselves, freedom to earn and spend as they wish, freedom to pursue happiness as they choose, and freedom to live freely. It will be an uphill task for the Judiciary to protect people from elite groups of various sorts: social, cultural, intellectual, religious, political, and economic.

In fact, the Judiciary will have to show clearly that it is no part of any theory of knowledge, this one or that one; or it is no accomplice in the promotion or pursuance of any theory of knowledge whatsoever. If it happens to be a party to any theory of knowledge, it will be a fatal blow to the spirit of humanity our society is already short of because since 1947 Pakistan has been a victim of above-discussed dangerous theory of knowledge that deprived its people of all what was human in human beings, and made them a people with no values at all. This means that the Judiciary will have to stick to the theory of conduct instead. It will have to make sure that this theory is taken and implemented in letter and spirit fairly and strictly. In other words, it will have to protect the inalienable freedoms of the people of Pakistan. It should get ready and prepare for the same!      

[This article was completed on April 2, 2007.]

“How the Pakistan Railways was won?” – Boots replacing books

The following news story tells how Boots are replacing Books [Also compare the British Rule with the Pakistani Military Rule (including the Pakistani Civilian Rule)]:

ISLAMABAD: Cycles of military dictatorship have left behind their fair share of legacies – amendments to the Constitution, controversial changes to school curriculum, the list can go on.  Some of these bequests have not only caused confusion, but also severely damaged national intellect and heritage.

Against this backdrop, the demolishment of libraries and recreational areas established during the British era at railway stations, more often than not to turn them into police stations, is one such example.

According to records, libraries have been shut down in the name of sanctity, sensitivity and national interest, to give way to more thanas. Consequently, even during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s ‘moderate’ military rule, countless precious books were discarded.

Tracks to Rawalpindi

The railway station in Rawalpindi, a garrison city, was built in the 1880s by the government of British India to facilitate trade.

According to Mian Naveed, the welfare secretary at this station, it was during Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi’s tenure that the library and the club (which even housed a bar) were turned into a police station. Earlier, all kinds of facilities, including indoor games, were provided inside but now everything in the possession of the ‘wardi walas’.

“Before Partition, passengers and staff alike would have a wonderful leisure time,” recounts Naveed. “Afterwards, libraries only existed at the divisional level. Now, just one or two libraries exist across the country, and those too are in a shambles.”

A retired official recalls further details about the Qazi’s era.

“One day, the minister for railways called us and ordered us to immediately throw out all books in the club which was then called the Railway Institute,” he remembers. “We had to throw all the sports accessories out too. The very next day, there came an order to set up a police station there.”

Thousands of important books were dumped in the verandas at railway stations. Countless of them were stolen.

Mushtaq Ahmed, an aged librarian at Rawalpindi station agrees.

“There is no audit and no one wants to take care of our national assets,” he murmured quietly. 
“Interestingly, five rupees are still deducted from the salaries of lower staff as ‘library fund’ every month.”

Volumes wasted

Wizened and retired, Ahmed holds preservation of libraries close to his heart. He has managed to get a small room at the station. In that room, he attempts to preserve some of the discarded books. He works as a volunteer librarian.

“Some of the books thrown out of the library still remain with us. Many have been stolen. There is no record of stolen books,” says Ahmed. “About 45,000 books are still with us, some of them are extremely rare.”

The librarian expects that one day there will be an order to shift this small library elsewhere but when he does not know.

“The library serves a purpose. Retired employees visit here when they come for pension or other matters. Eight to ten people can easily sit here, and read books and newspapers,” he states proudly.

“We keep the library open twice a day, from 9am to 11am and, from 4:30pm to 6:30pm,” he said with a modest smile.

[The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2013]

Did you invest in education, Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif?

The Express Tribune of October 26, 2013 placed a tweet of Maryam Nawaz Sharif on top of its front page. Here it is:

“Education could be your wisest investment”
Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Twitter

One may ask: did your investment in education prove wise?

Or what else proved wise?

Is it because of your education that this newspaper highlights your tweet on its front page?

Or it is something else?

Such as Riyasati Ashrafiya’s (State Aristocracy’s) clout? And, Pakistani Media’s complicity with the Riyasati Ashrafiya?

Whatever it is, it is not your education, Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, that the media is trying to make you another leader for the hapless citizens of Pakistan!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Drone warriors

There are tribal citizens who favor Drone attacks!

“. . . interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.”

See the following news report by The Economist:

A surprising number of Pakistanis are in favour of drone strikes

NATIONAL surveys find that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly opposed to CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in the tribal badlands close to the Afghan border. The strikes are seen by many as an abuse of sovereignty, a symbol of American arrogance and the cause of civilian deaths. So when Sofia Khan, a school administrator from Islamabad, travelled with hundreds of anti-drone campaigners to a ramshackle town bordering the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) last October she was stunned by what some tribesmen there had to say.

One man from South Waziristan heatedly told her that he and his family approved of the remote-controlled aircraft and wanted more of them patrolling the skies above his home. Access to the tribal regions is very difficult for foreign journalists; but several specialists and researchers on the region, who did not want to be identified, say there is at least a sizeable minority in FATA who share that view.

Surveys are also notoriously difficult to carry out in FATA. A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.”

American claims about the accuracy of its drone attacks are hard to verify. The best estimate is provided by monitoring organisations that track drone attacks through media reports, an inexact method in a region where militants block access to strike sites. However, the most thorough survey, by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suggests a fall in civilian casualties, with most news sources claiming no civilians killed this year despite 22 known strikes.

Though there is ample evidence that the Pakistani government has given its secret blessing to the CIA programme, it still allows anti-drone sentiment to blossom. Domestic anger over drones can be a useful negotiating chip on other issues, says one former American official. The government also fears reprisals from militants.

Supporters of the drones in Pakistan’s media are even more reluctant to speak frankly. Many commentators admit to approving of drones in the absence of government moves to clear terrorist sanctuaries. But they dare not say so in print.

In 2010 a group of politicians and NGOs published a “Peshawar Declaration” in support of drones. Life soon became difficult for the signatories. “If anyone speaks out they will be eliminated,” says Said Alam Mehsud, one of the organisers, who was forced to leave Pakistan for a time.

As for Ms Khan, she has had a partial rethink. “I still want the drones to end,” she says. “But if my government wants to do something they should do it themselves, without foreign help.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Zubaida Khanum - an icon of real Pakistan

The real Pakistan finds a mention only when it dies. It's trash all the way that glitters in Pakistani media!

See copied below some of the examples of this mention:

LAHORE  - Renowned singer Zubaida Khanum passed away in Lahore on Saturday night. Her funeral will be held at Westwood Colony Raiwind Road on Sunday (today).

Zubaida Khanum was introduced in film Billo by Baba Chishti in 1951 and got breakthrough from famous film Shehri Babu in 1953.

She sung (sang) lot of super hit songs in films during her short but valuable stay in the industry. Zubaida Khanum's Pinjabi songs are still very popular since she is known as an evergreen singer, and would remain so.

Legend Zubaida Khanum also sang popular naat 'Shah-e-Madina' decades ago.

Zubaida excelled singing for Punjabi and Urdu films. Composers like Rashid Attre, Safdar, Saleem Iqbal and Chishti were definitely in the forefront for giving the best of Zubaida Khanum in films like Saat Lakh, Hameeda, Sarfrosh, Hatim, Yakey Wali, Sheikh Chilli, Mukhra, Naji, Kartar Singh and even all-time box office disaster Jatti where she sang the ultimate tragic song 'Meri Chunni Diaan Reshmi', filmed on Musarrat Nazir and bringing many men and women to tears.

[The Nation, October 20, 2013]

LAHORE: Zubaida Khanum, the much-loved voice behind naat ‘Shaah-e-Madina’ and hits like the 1953 film ‘Shehri Babu’, passed away from prolonged illness in Lahore on Saturday, news channels reported.

Back in the 1950s, Khanum was the top female singer in Pakistan for both Urdu and Punjabi.

She was first introduced in the film ‘Billoo’ in 1951, but it was her playback singing in ‘Shehri Babu’ in 1953 that took her to the heights of stardom in the Pakistani film industry. What followed were various hit songs including ‘Teri ulfat mein sanam dil nai buhut dard sahey’ and ‘Kaise kahoun mein alvida’ that defined not only her career but earned her a place in the hearts of Pakistani film and music aficionados.

The well-known naat ‘Shaah-e-Madinah’ was also originally rendered by Zubaida Khanum.

Besides singing for many popular and classic films like ‘Sarfarosh’, ‘Hameeda’, ‘Sath Lakh’ and ‘Baghi’, Khanum was cast as a second heroine in ‘Patay Khan’ with Zarif alongside Madam Noor Jehan, the lead heroine.

Zubaida’s parents had migrated from Amritsar and settled down in Lahore after partition. Unlike many singers, Khanum did not belong to any musical ‘gharana’ and singing was not part of her family norms. It was purely her passion and talent plus financial need, which made her enter films and then turned her big in the film industry.

Before Noor Jehan changed the concept of playback singing in the 60s, Zubaida Khanum ruled the Urdu/Punjabi playback singing from her Lahorian loftiness for a large part of the 50s.

Zubaida’s thrillingly adventurous vocals which sang of love and life without regrets, filled a vacuum in Pakistani playback singing when Nazir and Swaranlata signed Zubaida Khanum for ‘Shehri Babu’.

Although she could sing all type of songs with equal ease, it was her frothy and sensuous songs where she had no equal.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has expressed deep sense of grief and sorrow over the sad demise of Zubaida Khanum.

In a condolence message, the chief minister said that the late singer was an asset of Pakistan and in her death Pakistan has been deprived of a great artist.

He prayed that Allah Almighty may rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant strength and courage to the members of the bereaved family to bear the irreparable loss with fortitude.

[Daily Times, October 20, 2013]

LAHORE: Popular playback singer of Punjabi and Urdu films Zubaida Khanum died of cardiac arrest Saturday night. She was 78.

Zubaida was born in Amritsar, East Punjab. Her family migrated to Pakistan after the 1947 partition and she stepped into the music industry in the early 50s to fulfill her dreams. Her singing talent impressed famous musician Baba GA Chisti who introduced her in film ‘Billo’ in 1951.

In 1953 actor Nazir and actress Suran Lata signed Zubaida for the film ‘Sheri Baboo’. Rashid Itray was the music director for the film and he used Zubaida’s talent for playback singing in many films. Most of her songs were picturised on Musarrat Nazir and Sabiha Khanum.

While she was very popular playback singer, she also tried her luck at acting in the film ‘Patay Khan’. 
Her popular songs include asan jan ke meech lai akh way; aaey mausam rangeelay suhanay and tere dar te aake sajna way. She also recited a naat Shah-e-Madina.

She married cameraman Riaz Bukhari when she was at the zenith of her career. She ended her singing career due to family engagements.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his condolences at the demise of Khanum. She was a great singer and her songs are a national asset, he said. Showbiz celebrities, including Mustafa Qureshi, Shahida Munni, Syed Noor, Ghulam Abbas, Qavi Khan, Perwaiz Kalim, Suhail Iftikha(r) Khan and Asif Javed, described her death a great loss to the showbiz industry.

Her funeral will be held in Miami (Miani) Sahab graveyard of Lahore at 10 am on Sunday (today).

[The Express Tribune, October 20, 2013]

LAHORE: Renowned Pakistani singer Zubaida Khanum passed away on late Saturday night, Geo News reported.

She was 50. Khanum, who has been staying with her sons, died after protracted ailment in Lahore.
She started her career in 1951 from a movie Billo and sang for numerous Punjab and Urdu language films.

[The News, October 19, 2013]

ISLAMABAD: Renowned singer Zubaida Khanum passed away after a long illness in Lahore, private television channels reported on Saturday night. 

Zubaida Khanum started her career with a song in 1951. She earned fame after singing a number of rhythmic songs for Urdu and Punjabi films. She also played role in a few Pakistani films. People belonging to all segments of society have expressed profound grief and sorrow over sad demise of Zubaida Khanum. 

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid Saturday expressed profound grief and sorrow over demise of Zubaida Khanum. He stated that passing away of the great singer was a loss to the nation. He said services of late Zubaida would always be remembered in good words. He also conveyed his condolence to the members of the bereaved family.

[The News, October 20, 2013]

LAHORE: Renowned playback singer and one of the best singers from Lollywood's golden era Zubaida Khanum breathed her last on Saturday night after a fatal heart attack.

The 78-year-old singer was suffering from prolonged heart ailments for a few years and was living with her sons in West Wood Colony in Lahore.

He condition turned worse on Saturday after which she was taken to a hospital near her residence where doctors pronounced her dead.

At the height of her career, Ms Khanum married renowned cameraman Riyaz Bokhari and left playback singing for good. Her son Faisal Bokhari is also a known cameraman. Coincidentally, Oct 19 was the death anniversary of her husband.

She was born in 1935 in Amritsar. Her family migrated to Lahore after partition. She did not belong to any traditional music ‘gharana’. Singing was her own passion with an additional factor of financial constraints she was facing.

Khanum began her career as a playback singer in Lollywood in 1951 from the film Billo and was recognised early on for her melodious voice.

She also worked as an actress on a number of films in the 50s but stopped performing after settling down. However, she continued her singing career.

One of her most remembered song 'Assan jaan ke meet liye ankh wey' from the movie Heer continues to charm Punjabi music lovers.

Yet another famous song of her's was 'Dilla ther ja yaar da nazaraa lein de' which was picturised on Musarat Nazir.

In a condolence message sent to the deceased singer's family, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif expressed regret at Khanum's demise and called her a national asset.

President Mamnoon Hussain in his condolence message recalled her services for performing arts in the country and said that they were unforgettable.

Meanwhile, MQM chief Altaf Hussain also sent a condolence message to Khanum's family. He said that Pakistan has lost a talented artist.

Her funeral prayers will be held on Sunday morning at 10am on Raiwind Road in Lahore.

[Dawn, October 20, 2013]

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Pakistan's greatest politician headlined by Pakistan's greatest newspaper" . . . !

Without any comments:
"Pakistan's greatest politician headlined by Pakistan's greatest newspaper" . . . !

[The Express Tribune, October 19, 2013]

Friday, October 18, 2013

All’s not praise for General Kayani

Nadir Hassan stands apart from the courtiers in weighing up the achievements of General Kayani, ‘the political animal.’ See this article by him which The News carried on October 10, 2013.

By Nadir Hassan

The bar for a successful chief of army staff is very low in Pakistan. So long as you don’t show so much disdain for democracy that you do away with it altogether you have done better than most. This is why, in the six weeks left before he retires, there will be many odes to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the man who could have grabbed absolute power but chose not to.

Ignore this hagiography. Kayani is without a doubt a very shrewd and calculating man but his net benefit to the country is in the red.

The first stint seemed to go so well. After the Musharraf nightmare, Kayani seemed like a new breed. He had no interest in wielding power; just in carrying out the instructions of the elected government. When the civilians unadvisedly pursued the Nizam-e-Adl agreement with the Swat Taliban he stood by quietly. After they decided that it was just a ploy to forestall armed intervention, Kayani took the army into Swat and scored a decisive victory. Sure, he ended up getting the credit for action ordered by the PPP but that didn’t make the achievement any less impressive.

But then came the end of 2010 and retirement beckoned. Suddenly everyone, primarily the US, thought Kayani was indispensable. That, needless to say, was a mistake. If the military truly is the only institution that works in the country (it isn’t, but let’s play along for the sake of argument) then it should never be dependent on one individual.

The extension Kayani was given not only ended up hurting his carefully-crafted image but, more importantly, did a lot of damage to the country. That image was one that Kayani cultivated perfectly to the point where every profile in western publications had to point out that this man’s man rolled his own cigarettes but was less interested in exploring his ideology. It is only after the extension was secured that we truly got to know Kayani the political animal.

It is no coincidence that what Kayani is best remembered for now are the controversies. He is the one who, as a supposedly pro-US COAS, whipped up fervour against the Kerry-Lugar Bill. No one cares about the terms of that package now; we just enjoy its benefits. But at the time the army made it seem like our sovereignty was being obliterated.

The original military disapproval of the aid package was transferred, almost as if by osmosis, to reliable anti-American allies like the religious parties. Soon protests were being held around the country. Kayani didn’t end up winning but the military got its point across.

Kayani was similarly inflexible after the Salala attack, to the point where he ensured that Nato supplies across the country were stopped. And yet soon after we saw a sudden U-Turn and the army started cooperating with the Americans on matters small and large. This was the key to Kayani’s supposed indispensability. He could play along with anything long as it suited him at the time.

Of course, he never could have performed this circus trick had the PPP government not been so cowardly that it decided it was better to see out its term rather than ever challenge military hegemony over the country. This was the government, even when Kayani was fresh in power, so fearful of the men in uniform that, back in 2008, it took back its notification that the ISI should be placed under the interior ministry within two days of army protests. It also took only a day to withdraw its order to send the ISI chief to India after the Mumbai attacks.

No surprise, then, that in his three-year second term Kayani was able to get so much “done.” In the Memogate scandal, true that Hussain Haqqani scored an entirely avoidable own goal in his foolish interactions with Mansoor Ijaz and then compounded the error by being so shifty about his actions, but the way Kayani’s army swept into action so speedily and took advantage was truly a sight to behold. And they got his scalp.

Make no mistake about it, the Pakistan Army under Kayani was entirely his army. Having alienated many senior officers who had to forgo promotions after he secured his extension, Kayani moulded the military in his image. He was perfectly content being the silent powerbroker while men like the ISI’s Pasha took the flack but all orders flowed from him. The decision to not take any action against the Haqqani Network, all Kayani. Start releasing Afghan Taliban prisoners to satiate the Americans, again Kayani.

So preeminent was Kayani in the minds of Pakistanis that it seemed almost predestined that he would stick around in some capacity or the other. That he chose retirement is to his credit, but it isn’t nearly enough to undo the damage he did by spending another three years as the COAS.

He should also, had he truly cared about civilian supremacy, have allowed the Nawaz government to make the announcement about his departure. That he chose the ISPR as the vehicle for his retirement shows that even to the bitter end Kayani wanted to show that he was the master of his destiny. Pakistan, if it is lucky, will have a successor to him who isn’t quite as convinced of his infallibility. But our experience with men in uniform makes that extremely unlikely.

[The writer is a journalist based in Karachi.]

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

Taking care of their elders

Two pictures, one from Multan and one from Lahore, tell how the elders are still loved and taken care of in a society where moral and social values are in disarray.

[The Express Tribune, October 2, 2013]

[Daily Jang, October 12, 2013]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's sacrificial offering day . . .

It's sacrificial offering day today. See it through the eyes of Sabir Nazar:

[The Express Tribune, October 16, 2013]

Friday, October 11, 2013

In violent Pakistan, violent birth of an island

Here is the story of an island’s violent birth in an earthquake:

By Henry Fountain

A small island that appeared in the Arabian Sea off Pakistan after an earthquake last week most likely formed when the shaking released methane gas and water trapped in undersea sediments. The gas and water forced part of the seabed to the surface, experts said.

[The New York Times]

“It looked as if a section of shallow seafloor had simply been pushed up,” said Game McGinsey, a volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey. Photographs of the island, which measures roughly 100 feet by 250 feet and rises about 60 feet above the water, showed a rough-textured surface suggesting that the seafloor had risen and cracked, he said.

Dr. McGinsey said the way the island was created was similar in some ways to that of a so-called mud volcano, in which gas and water force mud up through vents to the surface. In those cases, the flow of mud normally continues for some time, similar to the way lava flows from a conventional volcano.

There are some long-lived mud volcanoes in the region, Dr. McGinsey said, but this one appeared to be a one-time event, with no sign of continuous flow. “It’s not a mud volcano in the classic sense,” he said.

The magnitude 7.7 quake struck Tuesday, killing more than 500 people and flattening homes in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. It was followed by a 6.8-magnitude aftershock on Saturday that killed at least 15 more people.

The initial quake was centered about 40 miles north of the city of Awaran and about 250 miles from the port town of Gwadar, where the new island appeared in shallow waters about a half-hour later. Townspeople and scientists who visited the island told news agencies that it was muddy and rocky and was emitting flammable gas. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is highly flammable.

The quake occurred in the Makran subduction zone, a vast and complex tectonic feature stretching from Pakistan to Iran where three plates, the Indian, Arabian and Eurasian, meet. As the Arabian plate slides under the Eurasian, sediments containing water and methane are compressed, said Michael Steckler, a geophysicist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a part of Columbia University.

“In subduction zones you get a lot of overpressure,” Dr. Steckler said. Even a relatively far-off earthquake can produce enough shaking to fracture the sediments and release the gas and water, he said.

The methane is created through the action of bacteria on organic matter, and would have been trapped in the sediments as free molecules of gas. The Arabian Sea is also home to large quantities of methane hydrates, icy cagelike structures of water molecules with methane molecules inside, and immediately after the island formed there was speculation that hydrates, not free methane, had been released.

But hydrates form only under high pressure and low temperatures, and Carolyn Ruppel, director of the survey’s hydrate research program, said water in the area was too shallow, and temperatures in sediments far too high, for hydrates to exist.

Similar islands formed in the Arabian Sea after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake in 1945. (A recent study by scientists in Germany showed that that quake set off the release of free methane from sediments, releases that continue today.) Islands also formed after quakes in 1999 and 2010.

Such islands eventually disappear, eroded by the action of tides and waves. Dr. Steckler said that the one that formed in 1999, for instance, was gone in a few months, a victim of monsoon surges.

“This one’s coming up after the monsoon,” he said, “so we’ll see how long it lasts.”

[A version of this article appeared in print on October 1, 2013, on page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: A Quake Shakes Loose an Island.]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

But, who is the accomplice, and the culprit?

Isn’t the accomplice, and the culprit the federal government, which gave consent for this scheme? Isn’t it the ruling party, i.e. Pakistan Muslim League (N)? Aren’t they the politicians of Pakistan, who allow such usurpatory schemes?

So, who is the main culprit? The answer is: the politicians of Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD, Sept 14: General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is retiring in November after completing his six-year tenure as Chief of Army Staff, approved a few months ago a scheme for allotting agriculture land to serving and retired army officers.

After the approval, the Welfare and Rehabilitation (W&R) Directorate of the General Headquarters circulated on July 31 details of the scheme to all the regiments, corps centers, station headquarters, ministry of defence and other relevant quarters.

According to a former officer, retired Colonel Mohammad Sajjad such schemes are announced after certain periods of time and army officers can get farmhouse land at nominal rates. If the market value of a property is Rs10 million, under the scheme one can get it in less than Rs1m.

Such schemes are introduced by the army authorities with the consent of the federal government, he said.

July 15, 2013, was fixed as the date for launching the scheme.

For General Officers “form will be dispatched, handed over to eligible General Officers by Director Work and Rehabilitation (DWR) directly”.

The officers of the level of Brigadiers and below “will apply through respective units / Formation Headquarters. Formation Headquarters will forward these applications to W&R Directorate, GHQ.”
The retired officers and widows of the deceased officers have been asked to “send their application form directly to W&R Directorate through Urgent Mail Service (UMS) or by dropping at the entry gate of the GHQ”.

Under the scheme, the eligible serving officers should have completed minimum 21 years of service in the army.

The officers who have been compulsorily retired on disciplinary grounds or have already obtained an agriculture land, stud farm land, a GHQ plot allotted by the Quarter Master General / Adjutant General, including Capital Development Authority (other than service benefit, less Brigadier), are not entitled to apply.

The officers whose retirement period exceeds 10 years are also not entitled to apply for allotments under this scheme.

Comments (3)

September 15, 2013 9:29 am

Scripts from Justice Hamood ur Rehman commission report after fall of Dhaka, its self explanatory "The report accused the generals of what it called a premature surrender and said the military's continued involvement in running the government after 1958 was one reason for the corruption and ineffectiveness of senior officers. 'Even responsible service officers,' the report said, 'have asserted before us that because of corruption resulting from such involvement, the lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had lost not only their will to fight but also their professional competence."

September 16, 2013 7:13 am

Why is the scheme limited only to officers? Do they sacrifice more that the jawans?

September 16, 2013 4:30 pm

Khan saab is completely correct, The excessive distribution of wealth in the army ended up attracting the wrong sort of people in the army. People who were paid by the awam to fight and die for defense of the nation were not interested in either fighting or dying when war came. Rather they were interested in amassing wealth and looting. We must learn from the past or we will be doomed to repeat it.
Furthermore do senior officers need more such perks? don't they already have enough relative the awam? If anyone should get this land its the landless and those who have nothing. The average Jawan in the army is probably more deserving.

[Dawn, September 15, 2013]

Softcore Taliban in action

The real strength of the hardcore Taliban lies in their softcore allies!

[The Express Tribune, October 7, 2013]

But who is she!

See how one member of an elite family is being showered with praises for her real degree and distinction in the LL.B. examination by a senior journalist! Though his story tells about her family, but her belonging to an elite family is not highlighted.

Also, the journalist writes: “Ayesha was elected member of the National Assembly on the reserved women’s seat on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket along with others after the May general elections.” It may be mentioned here that no elections are held for the reserved seats, only nominations are made.

Poor Pakistani media!

By Tariq Butt

ISLAMABAD: While lawmakers dubiously take pride in possessing fake degrees, getting or giving out of the way favours to their cronies and exploiting their positions, a female novice among them has earned a rare distinction that is reserved only for exceptional people. 

Ayesha Raza Farooq stands out for her academic brilliance as she topped the final examination of the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), announced a few weeks back by the Punjab University.Not only this, she had also captured the first positions in the examinations for the first and second years of the professional qualification. The LL.B. degree requires three years study and an equal number of annual examinations. 

Ayesha was elected member of the National Assembly on the reserved women’s seat on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket along with others after the May general elections. 

Currently, she is abroad as part of a parliamentary delegation, led by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, to attend a conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.Ayesha is the widow of Raza Farooq, who suddenly died at a relatively young age a few years back due to cardiac arrest. He had served as the Advocate General of Punjab. 

Raza Farooq was the son of former Attorney General Chaudhry Mohammad Farooq, who was brother of Justice (retd) Khalilur Rehman Ramday, and Chaudhry Asadur Rehman, who was elected as MNA on the PML-N ticket from his native Toba Tek Singh in the last general polls. 

As luck would have it, Ayesha’s late husband was also the gold medallist of the LL.B. examination held way back in 1992, according to Justice Ramday.The lady did her MBA from the Lahore University of Management (LUMS). She had been teaching at the Lahore School of Economics. 

After her spouse died, Justice Ramday’s son, Mustafa, who is now Advocate General of Punjab, suggested to her to do the LL.B. She agreed and started attending evening classes, and excelled. Her father had served in the income tax department while her mother was a professor at the Fatima Jinnah Medical College Lahore. 

Her family sources said that when she was preparing for the final law examination and appearing in it, she was also busy in meeting the mandatory requirements like filing of nomination papers etc., to indirectly contest the special seat. Later, she had also to rush to Islamabad again and again for the elections of the speaker and the prime minister. 

It may be the first time that a sitting lawmaker consecutively topped a professional examination. On the other hand, there have been many instances to show that several legislators, government servants and lawyers got bogus degrees through fraudulent means. Cases of a large number of present and former lawmakers are still pending in courts in connection with their fake educational certificates. 

At the same time, there are also examples to cite where a legislator used unfair means in educational examinations. In addition, different lawmakers have been found trying to overawe others unlawfully. Ayesha’s academic career especially her position in the LL.B. examinations is certainly a clear departure from the humdrum routine.

[The News, October 10, 2013]

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Defending Pakistan the Pakistan way

Sabir Nazar best explains what it means to defend Pakistan the Pakistan way!

[The Express Tribune, September 29, 2013]

Riyasati Ashrafiya's "Insider trading"

Some of the issues are not political. Maybe one party which is in power toady will be in opposition tomorrow. So better be considerate regarding one's political trading! Also, they are all brothers in arms after all!

See this news item regarding such an act of the Riyasati Ashrafiya's (State Aristocracy's) "insider trading":

ISLAMABAD: Deafening political rancour apart, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has approved “compulsory” acquisition of a huge piece of land, 1,000 acres (8,000 kanals), for the Namal College Mianwali of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan at a throwaway price but several key PML-N figures are loudly protesting the decision. 

Top officials of the Punjab government and Namal Education Foundation (NEF), which runs the facility, confirmed to The News that the chief minister has sanctioned acquisition of 1,000 acres of land from local landowners under the 1894 Act, which provides for enforced procurement by the government. 

The NEF has paid an astonishingly low price of Rs1,500 per kanal, meaning a total of Rs15 million including the essential acquisition charges for the entire piece of 1,000 acres. Way back in 2009, the Shahbaz Sharif government imposed a complete ban on compulsory land acquisition for societies, trusts, private companies etc, on the ground that some land grabbers were exploiting this permission. 

An official said that as a special dispensation for Namal College the ban was relaxed by the chief minister as Imran Khan, at least twice, recently requested his personal intervention in the matter. 

“Thus, Shahbaz Sharif and Imran Khan teamed up for the Namal College.” When contacted, a Punjab government spokesman said “for the chief minister furtherance of education is a noble purpose and has to be bipartisan. Hence, he ordered the provision of land for the Namal College, sponsored by the PTI chairman. Development and welfare has to be above politics in the same spirit as Nawaz Sharif had provided prime land for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital Lahore when he was the chief minister of Punjab two decades ago.” 

The NEF Director of Marketing Abid Hussain told this correspondent that the Namal College submitted the request to the Punjab government for land acquisition in 2008 and it was pending since then. He said the price of Rs1,500 per kanal was not very low because the land comprised hills and uneven tracts. 

He said all the legal formalities have been completed and the district price assessment committee Mianwali fixed its cost that the Namal College has paid. Some PTI leaders contacted by The News for comments refused to speak on the subject saying that the Namal College has nothing to do with their party. 

The PTI chairman has been criticising the Punjab government for non-cooperation in this aspect. However, the chief minister got the land acquired at a break neck speed within a matter of days and got it transferred in name of Namal College. 

The downside is that Shahbaz Sharif has attracted intense criticism of landowners and PML-N rank and file of Mianwali. They have conveyed their anger to the chief minister. Obaidullah Shadikhel, who was elected in the recent by-polls from NA-71 Mianwali, the seat vacated by Imran Khan, and former MPs Humair Rokhari and Ali Noor Niazi scoffed at the Punjab government for its decision to allocate a huge tract of land for the project. 

They dubbed it as a “land grab” and said that the Atchison College Lahore is spread over 200 acres; Military College Jhelum over 100 acres; Cadet College Hasan Abdal over 120 acres; Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur over 150 acres; and LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) over 170 acres. They questioned the provision of such a colossal piece of land to the Namal College and said this is the prime land due to its proximity to the scenic Namal Lake on Talagang Mianwali Road. 

However, the criticism has not changed the chief minister’s mind. Since he refused to review his decision, the critics have approached a court of Mianwali and got stay order. They said the Punjab government has already given a 16-room hostel, a complete academic bloc, and 12 official residences of a government college to the Namal College. 

A landlord of the area, Malik Akhtar Awan, who is also a practicing lawyer, told The News that the Namal College was presently functioning on 50 kanals while it has an additional 350 kanals of piece that is sufficient for its expanded activities. He said he was not associated with any political party, and claimed that 1,000 acres of land acquired for the educational institution at highly cheap rates has the actual price of billions of rupees. 

Imran Khan’s message on the NEF website reads “in 2002, on a social development tour across Mianwali, I came across an appalling reality that haunts most of Pakistan” high level of unemployment amongst the youth. I resolved to set up a technical college so that the youth could become employable. 

However, two things made me change my mind and instead, I decided to build a world class university. First was the beautiful location of the site (donated free of cost by the villagers), which made me dream of a knowledge city like Oxford. 

Secondly, when I was offered the Chancellorship of the University of Bradford, I realised that I had access to an enormous academic support to pursue this dream. I am under no illusion that it is a huge challenge to set up a centre of excellence in such a remote though beautiful location. It will require a huge amount of funds to make it a university of international standard. I want to see over half the students in the university coming from less privileged backgrounds through scholarships, who in our present elitist education system cannot dream of having access to high quality education. I once again look forward to your help to shoulder the responsibility of educating our youth and paving the path for their brighter futures.” 

Namal College is located in Rikhi in district Mianwali. It is very near to Namal Lake. Imran Khan is poised to build the educational institution on the pattern of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital Lahore.

[The News October 02, 2013 ]