Thursday, May 30, 2013

The American Contradiction

Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
[Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826]

American people create abundant wealth. So, they are prosperous and happy. It is only because they are economically freer than many nations on earth. In consequence, that makes them politically freer. What makes all that possible is their declaration of independence, constitution, bill of rights, and their independent courts, which promptly ensure the continuance of rule of law, which in turn help a free media to exist, and it is this combination that guarantees personal freedoms to American people: to do whatever they like to do, of course, under the state and federal laws. Despite their state’s encroachments on their freedoms especially after 9/11, they are free to pursue economic, political, social, intellectual, philosophical, moral, spiritual, aesthetic enterprises, or whatever they like to seek.

In sum, it is their love for personal freedom that characterizes and distinguishes them from other people. In that they are unique. That should make them enviable to all other nations that lack this ultra-care for personal freedom. But this does not form the gist of America. It is something else.

Let me narrate a personal experience to elaborate on that point.

In Washington D.C. where the fate of smaller nations is written, what fascinated me most was the National Archives. It displays some original pages and initial facsimiles of the American Charters of Freedom, i.e. Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It also displays an original copy of the Magna Carta (1297): the document which foretold the spirit of the Charters of Freedoms.

All these documents have been placed in a building of highest grandeur in a way so that natural light is available therein. In order to protect (or to prolong) the life of these documents, artificial light has been avoided. Flash photography is not allowed either. That’s fantastic! But that’s American also! These documents are worth a museum, and they have rightly been archived. I don’t know if these documents are available in another building located a few miles away from the National Archives, i.e. White House. I don’t know if George W. Bush, Jr. has ever read them. I don’t know, either, if any congressman or senator has ever gone through them and understood them well. What I do know is that American government and especially its foreign policy has entirely drifted from what those documents signify and what they stand for.

Also, in the same building are displayed many a quote of the American founding fathers and other notables which belie what America means today to the world outside America. Not only in the National Archives, but in other places such as Jefferson Memorial all the quotes expose the reality of the present-day America. Here it needs not to go into the details of those quotes, since the principle of personal freedom is sufficient to make the point. Practically, this principle manifests itself in a negative assertion, rather than in a positive one as it appears to be. It may be worded thus: ‘You are free to do whatever you like until and unless you don’t encroach on my freedoms.’ That’s really an achievement of American society and government! I am all praise for that.

However, it’s not the whole story. You talk to American people what’s going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan; in the first instance, they are just oblivious of it. Or at best, they will offer a personal apology: ‘Oh that’s what I can do! I’m sorry for that!’ That doesn’t help much to dispel the impression that more or less American society is like an island in a world deeply involved in many such conflicts for which the responsibility rests on the American government. My argument focuses on that blatant contradiction.

No doubt, we can retreat to a hermitage, and live there in peace we wish to be in. But we can never be in such a retreat after harming others. May be we are forgiven once or twice. In case we continue harming other people, and presume that we will be safe in our retreat, that’s our forgetfulness, to use a euphemism. We need to know we are going to be chased, and paid in the same coin. In other words, if we think that rule A is only valid for us, and for other people there is another rule B, we are living in a contradiction. We know well we cannot live long in a contradiction. Someone is going to explode that contradiction. We are in the midst of that explosion.

So, the sort of a principled foreign policy of American government towards other people that “you are not free to do whatever you like whether you encroach on my freedoms or not’ contradicts its sort of a principled internal policy towards its own people that ‘you are free to do whatever you like until and unless you don’t encroach on my freedoms.’ The point of argument rests on the understanding that just like American people, every people on earth need a constitution that ensures them their inalienable personal freedoms, independent courts that take care of rule of law for them, and a constitutional democratic government to represent them. Sure, it’s no privilege of American people only. Naturally, it’s no privilege of American government to deprive other people of these necessities. Or for that matter, no nation or people can be allowed this privilege such as former Soviet Union tried its hand on against which American government fought both the cold and hot wars so passionately to secure freedom and human rights for the people in distress.

In this regard, no excuses, pretexts or expediencies can make for any allowance. It needs to be realized that 9/11 belongs to a class of effects; it’s no part of the list of causes. Moreover, whatever the war against terror requires never means abandoning the principles. How come that Pakistani people do not need a constitutional government, independent judiciary, rule of law only because their government has made their country a frontline ally of US government in the war against terror. Only because a dictator, who has trashed the Constitution, sent all the superior court judges home to keep himself in power, and made the country a fiefdom of the elites of Pakistan, pleases the US government, Pakistani people should have nothing of the sorts.

This is just outrageous: Kill one people to save others and for nothing. The saner Americans must realize that they are not going to win this war against terrorism. Beyond envy, religious fanaticism, historical animosity against US, there is something very real underneath it. It is that blatant contradiction. It needs to be addressed urgently, and until and unless it is addressed to with an open mind and heart, nothing is going to make any difference.

It is for both American people and government to realize that though American people create abundant wealth, but of course they are not going to create this wealth continuously if this is going to be spent on such useless wars. It may go on for another ten, twenty or at most fifty years that such wealth is available to American government, but in the end, as has been happening in history, such wars will drain all the resources and energies of the American people. This is how empires meet their fall. Wars and such whimsical wars without addressing the core issues resemble death wish.


That’s the issue. In order to survive both as an epitome and an emblem of personal freedom for all the people on this earth, American people need to rejuvenate their government with the fountainhead of Charters of Freedom. They need to go back to the basics. They need to rediscover those principles contained in the documents which have been archived. They need a refresher in their founding fathers’ teachings. They need to let there be equally valid principles for all the people on this earth. They need to make their government to win hearts of the people, not the heads of their government. That’s the only way to save America and not let it meet the tragic end of an empire.

[This article was completed on August 4, 2008, while I was staying in the USA.]

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pakistan’s crisis – its roots

Pakistan is in the grip of a deadly crisis. Whether it is political or economic domain, social or religious life, private or public sphere, the chaos is overriding. Watch for the utter disregard for social and moral values, and social norms on the one hand, and on the other for rules and laws, and the constitution, rampant at every level without any exception. That tells not only of the moral bankruptcy of Pakistani society but of the gravity of the deep moral crisis also.

This piece traces the roots of this moral crisis.

The morals of the ordinary people reflect those of the dominant elites of the society. In Pakistan, this broadly includes military, political, religious, and intellectual elites. These elites set the tone and tenor of moral quality and direction of our society. Since it is they who form the ruling class by way of election or military overthrow or other such routes, ultimately it is they who are responsible for implementing the constitution, laws and rules of the country. Thus, it is they with whom rests the responsibility of setting examples of moral uprightness and regard for the laws and rules. Being in a position of authority, or as a popular personality, it is for them to be icons of honesty, truthfulness, and dutifulness. Also, it is for them to be men of principle, as well as tolerant, consistent and considerate beings.

But the Pakistani elites utterly failed on all these counts. Rather, they defied and defiled all these norms, and more than that ridiculed them so much so that such arrogant behavior itself came to be regarded as a norm of pomp and power, and that made the ordinary people learn utter disregard for the rules and laws of the land. That fatally struck at the root, at the morality and value system of the society.  

Let us have a quick look at the role of each elite.

The Military elite is a monolithic entity. Throughout the history of Pakistan it played on the logic of ‘might is right.’ It was not one institution among others to serve the purpose for which it was created, rather eclipsed all the other institutions leaving the civil government in a wilderness. In one sense, this is the cart that was put before the horse in Pakistan. It did not entertain an iota of regard for the greatest value of the country, i.e. its constitution(s) and laws, and distorted and disfigured them at the will of this or that military ruler, as a result of which the greatest value of human society, i.e. ‘right is might’ just disappeared from the society giving rise to mafia groups and fake parties in every realm of social life. That was the end of social and moral values.

The Political elite comprises all the parties on the right and left with divergent interests. It is a heterogeneous entity but mostly without any substantial difference in their political philosophies. Power politics is the focus of their electoral and day to day activities. It is just now and then that one sees a major difference in their political opinion and goals. One such example is Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s struggle for the restoration of the deposed judges which can be set against the Pakistan Peoples Party’s position vis-à-vis the same issue.

The only contribution that the Pakistani politicians made is the constitution of 1973. But at the same time they are the main culprits who could not protect its sanctity. Their crime is more horrible as they always acted hand in glove with the military rulers in disfiguring the constitution. Also, on their own part they did not spare any opportunity to distort the constitution to strengthen their interests. To keep their grip on the political reins of the country strong, they too created various types of mafia.   

The Religious elite comes from a number of groups, and extends its presence to political and intellectual domains that help it multiply its influence many fold. Their singular ‘achievement’ consists of strengthening religious formalism, and weakening the religious spirit. That caused a divorce of morality from religion in social life. By also putting their political interests over and above the religious spirit and its moral ideal, they became part and parcel of the power politics. They have their share in disfiguring the constitution also, in complicity with military and civilian rulers by justifying their immoral, illegal and unconstitutional acts with the help of religious endorsement.    

The Intellectual elite, an amorphous entity, consists of academia, media, madrissa, think-tanks, free-lance intelligentsia and literary/artistic figures. Some take sides towards this or that elite, or towards this or that political or politico-religious party, or hold independent opinions like free ideologues. However, by virtue of their dealing in ideas they influence and drive the environment of public opinion to a great extent. Not only did they badly fail in achieving quality and excellence in their fields, but they suppressed independent opinion and committed the crime of not letting a hundred flowers blossom let alone allowing the truth to be regarded as the highest value to be sought for. This dried the font of knowledge in Pakistan. They also provided intellectual support to the political and military adventurers. Instead of being part of the civil society to safeguard the interests and fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, they rallied around the military, political and religious elites to grab the crumbs from their tables. Surprisingly, they too enjoyed the fruits of rent-seeking and claimed it as their right, being the servers of the nation. For instance, this or that poet or artist whom people loved and government showered with its favors, in the final analysis turned out to be a burden on the tax payers till he died.

In view of this quick survey, it is evident that in the totally morally bankrupt Pakistan there is no prospect of amelioration in any domain. This finds its proof in the fact of the independent-minded judges being denigrated, pressurized, and attacked not only by the ruling classes, but all the above elites directly or indirectly also. This also warns those of us who want to see the country come out of this crisis, to be on guard to protect the independent judiciary, which is the only hope in this darkest hour of our history. It is crucial because the only way out of the deep moral crisis is the establishment of the rule of law in Pakistan which can only be achieved if this independent judiciary survives.      

[This article was completed on March 17, 2010.]

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The future of PPP after Benazir Bhutto

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is reminiscent of the treacherous and callous murderings rampant under erstwhile monarchies where capturing and holding the throne was the only reigning value. No familial, human or personal relations could come in the way. The same has been happening in Pakistan since its early days. The brutal power politics took the lives of many politicians, to name a few, from Liaqat Ali Khan (1951), first Prime Minster of Pakistan, to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1979), the most popular leader of Pakistan.  One wonders whether we still live under the Mughal Kingdom where there was no constitution, no law, no independent courts or parliament to reckon with; where Aurangzeb Alamgir imprisoned and tortured his father Shah Jehan, and mercilessly killed his three brothers to win the throne.

The fear of murdering Benazir Bhutto was in the air from the moment she decided to come back home from her 8 year self-exile. She knew her life was in danger. But probably she rested assured that mighty Bush regime that subdued Musharraf’s enmity to her coming back, helped her cutting a deal most advantageous to her, and forced him to share power with her would protect her. That she did not know the Punjabi proverb ‘Who is nearer you, a punch or God?’ makes no difference to her death. However, as in her case, the punch proved to be nearer makes a lot of difference to her zealous supporters.

Let others contend who killed her; a question which will remain unsolved despite many a judicial inquiry. It happened with the debacle of Dacca, the greatest tragedy for a country, when in 1971 Eastern Wing of Pakistan dismembered itself to form Bangladesh. The fact is that in politics inquiry commissions and their reports do not count; here counts what people believe, and they act on what they believe. So what the PPP men and women believe raises fingers on the establishment of Pakistan for directly or indirectly causing her killing.

That her death is a great loss to the country many doubt because her political legacy is precarious. But sure it is an irreparable loss to her party and its followers. The party is in disarray and the followers are in a state of shock. It is not unwarranted that the coming years will witness PPP wither away.

That’s evident from the decisions announced by the central executive of PPP and the repercussion they cause. As she willed, Benazir’s 19 years old son, Bilawal, has been crowned as Chairperson and her husband Asif Ali Zardari Co-Chairperson of the PPP. He is the same man who is still known for his kleptocratic practices during her wife’s two tenures of government. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Vice Chairman of the PPP, will be party’s candidate for the premiership since Bilawal has six years to come of eligible age for a Prime Minister. Most important gesture that casts shadows over the PPP future is its unconditional decision of going for the polls scheduled for January 08, 2008, which are already on hold.

It seems for the post-Benazir PPP, it is business as usual, rather a spell of brisk marketing. Obviously, it means no change in the stance Benazir opted for. Whereas in view of the political edge and widespread sympathy generated by her death, it was quite pertinent that PPP should have demanded Musharraf government’s resignation, constitution of an independent election commission, release of all judges, lawyers, political workers, civil society and human rights activists imprisoned after November 3 emergency-cum-martial law, and above all, reinstatement of the deposed judges, a demand that was never on PPP’s agenda.

The present stance of PPP has caused a general resentment in the civil society as it argues it was the time that PPP could lead Pakistan to change really. They rightly foresee that if PPP in alliance with Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif) starts a movement for the ousting of Musharraf government, at least, and additionally if for the restoration of the judiciary, independent election commission, and it succeeds, even then it will be PPP that wins most of the seats both in national and provincial assemblies, and even then in the power game PPP will be the winner. But in the long run it will rid Pakistan of military dictatorships. 

This leaves PPP without aiming at doing anything for real change in Pakistan. Its past shuns us from such expectations. It was the PPP that in early 1970s nationalized almost all the production units, financial institutions, and turned Pakistan’s economy into a heavily controlled one. That ultimately destroyed all the past industrialization and future investment. The taking of educational institutions including schools into the state’s hand finally deprived the country of its educational base. It was during PPP’s governments that private property rights and hence market and competition suffered most. In the guise of people’s democracy, its politics has been elitist in its consequences, revengeful while in government, violent while in opposition, and collaborationist as regards military regimes.

In the face of recurring martial laws in Pakistan, law was never allowed to take its seat and course. PPP has got a major share to be blamed for that. In fact, Benazir Bhutto fell victim to what PPP gave to Pakistan: politics of disorder, violence and elimination. It was her father who initiated every form of unlawful reckoning with his opponents. He was awarded death sentence for ordering the killing of an opponent. The truth is that with her assassination, there is going to be no substantial change in the polity of Pakistan.  

[Benazir Bhutto was murdered on December 27, 2007. This article was completed on January 1, 2008.]                                           

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All rights reserved. No part of the contents published on this Blog – Notes from Pakistan may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of The Blogger.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mera Voat Itna Sasta Naheen!

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

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Intekhabaat Ya Riyasat Par Qabzay Ki Jang

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

Who is promoting the Sons and Daughters of politicians - 2

I read regularly The News, The Express Tribune, and Urdu daily Express.

The only reason I read The Express Tribune is that International Herald Tribune comes with it almost free. Just in Rs. 19 one can read both papers.

So, that’s my limitation. I keep an eye how prominently these newspapers place pictures / statements of the Sons and Daughters of politicians. Of course, it’s the prerogative of the administration and the editorial staff of these newspapers how and where they place the pictures / statements of the Sons and Daughters of politicians. But at the same time, as a reader it’s my right to judge what such coverage amounts to and why the Sons and Daughters of politicians are given such prominence. In most of such coverage, I don’t see any news value, relevance, or any such thing, which could justify their placement at such top places.

Here is what was published during the last few weeks in the above-mentioned newspapers:


[The News, Back Page, April 3, 2013]


[The Express Tribune, Top of the Page 5, April 4, 2-13]


[The Express Tribune, Top of the Front Page, April 8, 2013]


[The Express Tribune, Top of the Front Page, April 15,2013]


[The Express Tribune, Top of the 2nd Page, April 20, 2013]


[The Express Tribune, Top of the Front Page, April 24, 2013]


[The Express Tribune, Top of the Page 3, April 30, 2013]


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Intekhabaat Ya Siyasi Haanka

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