Thursday, July 12, 2018


Terrorism and money laundering are grave issues for Pakistan, but so are shortage of water, low literacy levels, and poor government education, the only education that the masses can afford. Yet the biggest problem of all, which impacts all these issues, even terrorism, is the phenomenal growth of the country’s population.
The size of an average household in Pakistan as of last year was 6.45 persons. That means almost seven persons to feed, clothe and keep in health; and if the family includes an elderly grandparent, around four to educate. Given that this is a third world country with low incomes, that is not good news. The first thing any new government must pay attention to therefore is controlling the population, since such a burgeoning population is a much worse threat than any neighbouring country.
Other countries have tried controlling their population by enforcing policies to lower it, foremost among them China with its one child policy, which three years ago became the two child policy. But the mind boggles at the idea of such a policy being implemented in Pakistan. Pakistan requires a firm hand, but there are factors to be taken in mind here which did not exist in Mao’s China.
One of those factors is the presence of extreme right-wing religious groups. Following this tampered election, the religious right has been unleashed onto an uneducated public with permission to stand for election. That segment of society is henceforth likely to be stronger than ever, although one would be extremely grateful to be proved wrong. That is the main segment opposed to population control, women’s welfare, and education. Only a concerted effort and meticulous planning can counter it, not a strong point with any of the governments in this country.
Other than right wing ignorance and bias, and the government’s lack of planning, there are other factors against population control.
Effective population control costs money. Also, aside from a lack of general education, there is a lack of knowledge specifically about what population control involves. There is also the cultural bias against living with a married daughter, which makes it the major reason why people hang out for a son, even at the risk of producing an entire cricket team until a male child arrives on the scene. Parents fear the future and what will happen to them if they do not rear a sufficient number of children to look after them in their old age. Yet in Pakistan, there is the distinct possibility that even if one has several children, only a few might survive the infant and child mortality rate in this country. It is a valid fear in a society that lacks facilities to support the elderly, where even if such facilities existed, most people would not be able to afford them.
The billions that would go towards the Kalabagh dam should be diverted towards family planning. It would pay for contraception, and better facilities for the aged who have no family to take them in
According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the worst infant mortality rate in the world. “The differences are stark,” the report in one of the newspapers says. “A baby born in Pakistan — the country with the worst newborn mortality rate — faced a one in 22 chance of death, while a newborn in Japan had only a one in 1,111 risk of dying.” The UNICEF report also says that more than 80pc of those deaths can be prevented.
Which means that for the average Pakistani couple, after producing that entire cricket team, there is a great and definite risk of just the captain surviving at the end of the day. A dire prospect indeed.
There is not much attention being paid to the issue of population control, although most people agree that something must be done. What that ‘something’ is, and how it is to be paid for is still up in the air.
Instead of population control, the issue being more generally discussed is how to ensure water for the coming years, especially with the prospect of a much larger population in the coming years. The idea of constructing dams is popular, although there are some very valid arguments being offered by the other side.
Think about it.
Building the Kalabagh dam is likely to cost billions of rupees. There will also be the additional billions in cost in damages to the more than million people displaced as a result. It is doubtful if these people will ever be adequately recompensed and resettled. In Lahore, to give a small example, with all the construction currently taking place in DHA, cards and bouquets were sent to the residences inconvenienced along the route but there was no provision for the commercial sector that lost business in the process.
Kalabagh will cause damage to the environment. Thousands of acres of agricultural land will come under water. Wetlands and agricultural land lower south are likely to be adversely affected.
So, although effective population control costs money, it would cost less than building a massive dam and have almost no adverse effects. It if works, and the population growth is controlled as a result there is the prospect of a smaller population requiring less water.
Besides, there are also other ways of obtaining and storing water, an issue which should by no means be ignored. Dealing with the matter should include a concerted drive to change agricultural practice so that crops requiring less water are planted. Currently Pakistan relies heavily on sugar cane and rice, two crops that need a lot of water.
The billions that would go towards the Kalabagh dam should be diverted towards family planning. It would pay for contraception, and better facilities for the aged who have no family to take them in. The media too can play a huge role in this, as it has shown itself capable of doing during these elections, by changing the current mindset that is wary of contraception, and ignorant about what it involves.
At the end of the day though, none of this can take place unless the powers that be are less corrupt than they have hitherto been, unless they are better organised and unless they plan with the best interests of the nation rather than themselves in mind.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Banking, otherwise a dry subject, has spawned some interesting ideas, such as micro finance, a system of loans to the less wealthy who would not normally be able to access the facility. The concept has been around for a while, predominantly in Germany, but modern microfinance was pioneered by Muhammad Yunus the founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank. It runs counter to what Robert Frost said that banks lend you umbrellas in fair weather and ask for them back when it rains.
There is also the controversial cryptocurrency such as bitcoins, a digital currency which few people understand, myself included.
And then there is the concept of time banks, which is worth understanding.
Time banking, also known as time trade is based on five basic values as defined by wiki: 1) Everyone is an asset 2) Some work is beyond monetary price 3) Reciprocity in helping 4) Social networks are necessary 5) A respect for all human beings.
The idea of time banking has been around for a couple of centuries, but in modern times, time banks exist in at least 34 countries, predominantly in countries such as Japan, the US and the UK. Australia has the largest single timebank with well over 6,000 members.
There are opportunities in this class for fixing roofs and mending taps on a reciprocal basis, for fixing motorbikes and stitching clothes. And an important currency here is literacy
The currency used by bank members is skill, and since every person has some skill, every person has assets and something to offer. These skills, when used for the purpose of time banking are timed, and can then be exchanged for the appropriate skill that someone else has banked in a similar way. The exchange is not necessarily made with the same person or for the same skill.
So, for example, if you put in an hour fixing someone’s door, you ‘earn’ an hour of help in return. Someday, when you need about an hour’s work in your garden, someone who lives around your area, who is a time banker and knows gardening puts in that hour for you, and the cycle goes on. It is community cooperation with a difference, the idea of helping someone in the expectation of a return – not necessarily from that person – but from whoever else, at some other time.
Members come from all walks of life, but often they tend to be older people, who bank their donations for when they need help in return, since in the west older people tend to live independently.
In Pakistan, the elderly live mostly with family, but there are exceptions.
There are the elderly who have no family to live with.
And, there are the elderly who despite possessing family, even family that is happy to look after its elderly members, would rather live independently while they can, for various reasons. Many people for example have children living overseas, and they do not wish to live overseas themselves. Many people are happier living in their own home, and would prefer to carry on doing so. And that number is growing.
There are issues with adapting this system to Pakistan. In a poor country, with the majority of its population uneducated, people are less able to understand concepts, which is what this is. There is also the fact that the majority is poor. That segment of society, when it works, would rather be paid in cash. There is a kind of time banking which earns actual currency, but that is limited, and does not seem usable for a poor third world country, but who knows what can be achieved with some ingenuity?
Another issue associated with Pakistan and its well-to-do segment of society is that it is able to pay for help. And in fact if it did not, it would have adverse effects on the economy.
That leaves the middle class, a segment of society that is literate (quite often), that needs to regulate its expenses, and which – given careful explanation – would grasp the concept of time banking.
There are opportunities in this class for fixing roofs and mending taps on a reciprocal basis, for fixing motorbikes and stitching clothes. And an important currency here is literacy.
If I have a child that needs to be taught to read, but I cannot send that child to school because he or she works, or even if he goes to school but the teaching is abysmal as it often is, I can stitch a teacher’s clothes, and she can give some coaching to my child.
Given Pakistan’s problems which almost all of them are grounded in a lack of education, anything that can be done to improve the situation would be welcome. This is one way of doing it, and it sounds like a good way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


  • And then some…
The unofficial ban (there was never a law forbidding it) on women driving in Saudi Arabia has come to an end, although, because women must still be accompanied by a male relative when they travel, you will probably still not see a female driver on her own in a car. Perhaps this rule too will come to an end in time, as will the rule that women cannot marry (or divorce) without the consent of a male guardian — or obtain a passport, or open a bank account without similar permission.
Before the ban on driving came to an end, a handful of courageous women defied it in Saudi Arabia. They were arrested and face a stiff punishment, because in the absence of a broken law — the charge against them is that of treason. It is hard to figure out how that works. This of course is what happens if the law is not uniformly applied because it is left to the whims of separate qazis and their individual readings of shariah.
In Pakistan it is legal for women to possess a driving license, but this freedom seems to apply to cars alone. The restriction against driving other vehicles is grounded in culture, and has no connection with the law, and none at all with reason. Women drive cars, but almost never do they drive motor cycles, bicycles, trucks, rickshaws, or buses. Not only do they not drive motorbikes, but as passengers they almost never sit astride one as safety demands. It is a common sight to see a woman sitting ‘sidesaddle’ behind her husband on a motorbike, carrying a couple of children in her lap. It is a practice so hazardous it takes one’s breath away. Given that such a small percentage of the population can afford cars, this makes the situation almost as bad as Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan does not lack its own activists who strive for change. Other women break these norms despite all the obstacles, simply because they have little choice. Both these groups are the real heroes of this country, women who battle against the sordid mentality that surrounds them and holds them down.
The leader of this major political party (and all the millions of others like him) speaks of feminism ‘degenerating motherhood.’ Just as it is unclear how driving a car is treason, it is unclear what he means here
Asia was widowed at the age of twenty-one. She was left with two small children to support. She bought a van, and started driving it as a school bus for girls in Faisalabad, in this country where almost all the drivers of large public vehicles are men. I say ‘almost’ because there is a women who drives a truck. Hats off to her, and to Asia, who has been doing this for the past thirty-five years.
The Pink Rickshaw Scheme in Lahore enables women to purchase rickshaws and drive them, to carry women passengers only.
Another initiative in the Punjab subsidises women from lower income groups enabling them to buy motorbikes, and provides training to drive them. In the absence of a car, these bikes enable women to move around without being dependent on a relative or on public transport.
Such initiatives make a difference. Women currently form almost half the population of Pakistan. If they are uneducated and without means of transport, their chances of earning a living are restricted. At present only a very tiny percentage of women in Pakistan participate in the workforce. This does not include agriculture where women play a huge role.
In Saudi Arabia, where at present the ratio of men to women is nearly the same, there is again a very small percentage of women working as opposed to men (although it is larger than in Pakistan, which goes to show the difference education can make). Now that women are allowed to drive, those figures might change.  More women in the workforce would mean a greater contribution to the economy of the country, and more financial stability for families.
The media has a responsibility to give at least as much time and space to such issues, because what happens to half the population of a nation matters. Women — and this is not speaking of the romances and sartorial agonising of film stars – matter, as much as men. Women’s empowerment matters. Feminism is a wonderful thing. Women’s slavery is of very grave concern. When a woman is murdered, the case is crucially important from start to finish, not because of photogenic value of grieving families’ tears, but as an example of injustice. The role of the law in the case matters, and it matters that we know what happens to the killers even if it takes them years to come to justice – or if they never come to justice, as is often the case.
The affairs of the leaders of the country are important too, such as when the head of the judiciary butts in where he is not supposed to, and when he behaves like a petty schoolmaster and tears the dignity of other judges to shreds on camera, behavior that is damaging to an entire pillar of State. It is also important when the leader of a major political party speaks ill of feminism, showing his complete ignorance of the movement, its history and struggles, and of what it stands for. People with a mindset such as this, and they are to be found in every political party and throughout society, are what feminism continues to struggle with.
The leader of this major political party (and all the millions of others like him) speaks of feminism ‘degenerating motherhood.’ Just as it is unclear how driving a car is treason, it is unclear what he means here. If he is speaking of the problems that arise when both parents work, that is a matter for legislators. You cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. Feminism is what has enabled women to ask for and obtain equal rights as men, rights which have been denied but to which they are as entitled. The alternative is slavery and ‘honour killings’.
The right to work without the guarantee of maternity leave, and one of a decent period, as for example in the US, does create major problems. But that is a matter for lawmakers.
Without her courage and determination to be independent, and to bring up her children well, Asia would have spent her life as a helpless woman dependent on relatives, who nice as they may be, have their own commitments to cater to. Who – other than politicians – is rolling in money these days? Instead, Asia has been able to educate both her children – and one of them is a daughter. If that is degenerating motherhood then our political leader has missed a few crucial points in life.

Monday, June 18, 2018


  • The majority of the population of Pakistan is illiterate
Ramzan is over. Eid Mubarak everyone, although Eid too is over by this time. But not before the usual inter-beardal warfare conducted from atop a tower. Really, that warfare has become as much part of Eid as shir qorma, only without the shir. Would the Muslim world know itself if some day by some miracle sanity prevailed?
There are quarters where sanity already prevails, most visibly in the person of Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, may God bless him. It is Ghamidi sahib who explained the issue best:
You know it is time for prayers by looking at your watch now, he says, and no longer at the sun. You check the position of the sun only if a watch is not available.
So how do you know if it is Eid tomorrow? You look at a lunar calendar, which has been compiled using a telescope and mathematics, and it is now possible to compile a lunar calendar until the end of whenever.
The ones on the tower do not agree with this rational approach, because if they did, they would be deprived of their bi-yearly moment of glory. What is deeply mystifying is, why, if they must sight the moon with their biological eye, they use the metallic version as well?
Meantime, there is the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, in Canada. The mission statement of this cultural centre, loosely quoted here, states that it is a place where Muslims can come together regardless of sect, ethnicity or gender; where the diversity of the Muslim world is viewed as a source of beauty, not division.
This is not just doom and gloom and negative speak. Pakistan is faced with an emergency right now, very much in reality, an emergency that is already impacting every single person in this country
At this centre the Quranic injunctions of learning and reflection are upheld as universally and eternally applicable, encouraging an intellectually vibrant community unfettered by ignorance, prejudice and bigotry, and understanding is fostered between people through discourse and discovery.
At this cultural centre Muslims and people of other faiths can find the means to “know one another” (Quran: 49.13)
Eid prayers are held at this cultural centre and this year a woman gave the Eid qutba. I am not aware if this was a first or if a woman gives the khutba every year.
The khutba was an intelligent discourse about environmental issues today, and our place as Muslims in a world dominated by these issues.
An approach such as this may be the only way to deal with the environmental disaster that Pakistan is well on its way to facing.
Every year, farmers in Pakistan and India burn the stubble of the previous crop before they plant the next one. The haze of carbon hangs over the region, adding to the other pollution the people of these countries live with.
Pakistan is a beautiful country, blessed with spectacular mountains, streams, deserts and beaches. While the last three are accessible and have been almost destroyed, along with forests, you’d think that the mountains, being mountainous, would be out reach. But they are not.
According to an AFP report, Mount Everest now has the distinction of being the world’s highest rubbish dump, with ‘climbers paying little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.’ Environmentalists are concerned that the pollution on the mountains will affect the water down below in the valleys.
Since climbers are not exclusively but more often from other countries, this goes to show that where there is no enforcement of standards, and no provision of facilities, few persons, whether from here or there, will go the extra mile to pick up after themselves.
Of course, Everest is not in Pakistan but Nanga Parbat and K2 are, and the situation could not be any different here.
Among the many ways of destroying the environment, there is the pollution of rivers. According to a United Nations report earlier this month, nearly 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year of which eight million tons is dumped into rivers which flow down into the oceans. Just ten of these rivers carry as much as 90pc of plastic rubbish. The majority is carried by the Yangtze river in China, and the second highest quantity of rubbish by the Indus in Pakistan.
Water is threatening to become scarce in Pakistan, and underground water in Pakistan already contains dangerous heavy metal contaminants. Yet the population of the country is growing so that it is likely to double by 2025. This will be unsustainable unless there are some serious changes made.
Also, despite this scarcity, farmers are growing water intensive crops such as sugarcane and rice, and exporting them. It takes 2500 litres of water to grow 1kg of rice. which translates into exporting water itself. Yet how are farmers to know otherwise without education, guidelines or encouragement to change their strategies.
This is not just doom and gloom and negative speak. Pakistan is faced with an emergency right now, very much in reality, an emergency that is already impacting every single person in this country. What’s more it is an emergency that will not disappear by means of supplications. We are supposed to understand these issues and change the misconceptions within ourselves so we can deal with them. The Quran says: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Quran 13:11
This is where places such as the cultural centre in Toronto come in.
The majority of the population of Pakistan is illiterate. The majority of the population of Pakistan also calls itself Muslim. Therefore, the forum most readily available to the people is that provided by the mosque. This where people can be educated about the hereafter, but also about the right now. The persons speaking from this vantage point must be educated, must themselves be aware of environmental issues, and they must impart this information to the people who come to listen to them in an informed, inclusive, interesting manner.

Monday, June 11, 2018


  • Some things can only happen in a society with low rational expectations
“There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am.” 
Lewis Carroll
Why don’t we think before we condemn something? Or not.
There’s a thought provoking observation on the ‘net which says that if it is a sin for people to eat and drink in front of people who are fasting in Ramzan, it is equally a sin for people to wear nice new clothes in front of those who cannot afford them.
Whether it is a sin or not is up to God, but in Pakistan (and in some other Muslim countries) you can go to prison for a few months and be fined a hefty sum if caught eating or serving food in public in Ramzan.
But the bit about clothes is not illegal, which is strange, considering that the first is.
Why is that so?
There are several answers to that, the most obvious that the wives of the people who make these laws would have something to say about nice new clothes being illegal at any time. That probably occurred to the law makers right away, if they ever thought about the issue at all, which is doubtful.
Such things are moral, ethical matters and not crimes, and they should not be penalised. But if one must, it is easier to grab a person scarfing down a samosa in public in Ramzan, and not as easy to find out if a jora is new, and of course nice is a matter of opinion.
These kinds of foolish laws have a purpose. To quote Carroll once again: “No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.” The ability to arrest and penalise gives those in authority a feeling of power which is always appreciated. Otherwise, in any kind of rational society, the best you can do is hope that people have the decency not to flaunt something attractive in front of those who cannot have it. In this argument, if the people who are fasting are set upon obtaining something to eat, they have the option of not fasting, or of breaking the fast, which is their problem, and is a matter between them and God. The sight of a samosa should not break down such commendable religious resolve, such as a sight of a woman should not break down a man’s decency. Just saying.
Yet another reason for such laws is that focusing on trivial matters pushes other, much more important, matters into the background. You need not focus, say, on getting innocent Pakistani citizens out of prison in a foreign country even though they have been there for fourteen years, and have been wrongfully accused to start with.
He was a man she knew, a fellow student, who had been pressuring her to meet him. The pressure included threats, hacking her social media accounts for a smear campaign, culminating in the attack with a knife
But the biggest reason is that one is not taught to reason, most particularly in matters of religion. Logic and rational thought are frowned upon under the brand of Islam popularised by mullahs, and labelled with all sorts of derogatory names. It is taught that religion is a matter of the heart alone, and everything else is western influence, which is considered to be the most derogatory label of all.
If reason were taught, then would the slogan ‘vote do jannat lo’ (give a vote, gain paradise) ever see the light of day? That is the electioneering slogan being used by one of the most dubious right wing, extremist, ‘religious’ parties in the country. It basically says that if you vote for this party you go to paradise. All others will go to hell. If the slogan had meant to encourage people to vote per se, it would have said ‘vote karo’. Not that that holds any promises for paradise either.
There is also the case of Khadija, who was stabbed twenty three times on a busy road in Lahore. She saw the attacker’s face. He was a man she knew, a fellow student, who had been pressuring her to meet him. The pressure included threats, hacking her social media accounts for a smear campaign, culminating in the attack with a knife.
The attacker was given a seven year imprisonment sentence only – hardly sufficient given the gravity of the crime. Later that sentence was reduced to five, and a few days ago the attacker was allowed to go free altogether. So here is another exercise in reason: whereas it is un-Islamic, and a crime to eat a samosa in public in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and you can go to prison for the offence, you are allowed to walk free after stabbing a woman. Is that right? Of course, that the young man has important connections might have overridden reason to a great extent.
Such things can only happen in a society with low rational expectations.
“We’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.” Lewis Carroll.
God bless his cotton socks.

Monday, June 4, 2018


  • Right intentions?
FATA could well be spelt with an L at the end, if its merger with KP is handled the way the rest of the country is being governed these days. The region has such a tumultuous history and such a violent present that there is little scope for blunders.
FATA has always been viewed as a barrier, a buffer between the region that is now Pakistan and the troubled tribal areas of Aghanistan, a source of arms and ammunition, and of persons skilled in their use. It has never been treated as a place requiring hospitals, schools and above all peace. Which is why all these things are sparsely available there, and FATA is even worse off than the rest of Pakistan. FATA, it seems, has one hospital bed for almost 2,200 persons — the rest of Pakistan has almost double that. It has about one doctor for more than 7,500 persons — Pakistan has about seven times that number of doctors.
Less than half of the people of FATA have access to safe drinking water.
The literacy rate in FATA is 22pc. Only 7.5pc of its women receive an education. Pakistan’s overall rate is 56pc, and 44pc of its women receive an education.
Not surprisingly, the region is crawling with violent, militant groups. It will be extremely hard to govern, and that job falls to the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The government of KP will require tact and employ meticulous planning and tread carefully around the customs of the region, which in this tribal society are more than usually important to the people. Neither planning nor tact have been a strength of any government in this country.
The people of Orangi, a squatter settlement, were motivated to finance their own facilities, to develop them themselves
The merger has a timeline of two years. Until then FATA will continue to be governed by a set of interim rules. If FATA continues under separate rules after that period and if its advancement continues to be ignored, its merger into the mainstream will not be a full and honest one. Yet, if it becomes as free as it needs to be, the border of the country will be more porous than it already is.
If the current government of KP wins the elections, is it the best candidate for this job? Keep in mind some of the people supported by this government, people such as those who advocate the regular beating of women as a means of keeping them happy (That is not fake news. The person may be viewed saying so, quite seriously, on a video freely available online). Persons with this attitude are not likely to give female literacy any importance at all.
FATA’s is a tribal, agrarian economy. Less than 4pc of the population lives in urban areas. Its major crop is opium, and the manufacture of arms its major industry. It has plentiful natural resources, but there is no foreseeable likelihood of those resources being mined, or used in any viable sense, because of the volatile nature of the place.
It is no coincidence that the two most troubled regions in the country, Baluchistan and FATA, are also the most undeveloped and ignored. The army has and is playing a major role in both regions. In FATA it will need to continue doing so for some time, ‘in aid of civilian power’ as the constitution puts it, because the level of unrest in FATA requires a firmer hand than civilian organisations can provide. The army is not new to this role.
You cannot expect a people who have no experience of democracy or peace, however pathetic that democracy and peace, to make the change easily, and unless civil groups are able to move around and work in safety the region cannot be provided with the facilities the region requires.
Unlike the rest of the country, where the military runs counter to the government and conducts its own covert campaigns, operations in FATA will need a concerted effort. There must be an end to the chaotic tug of wars, here as well as in the rest of the country.
The army must ensure safety while schools, health facilities and jobs are being set up. In FATA, a doctor who was trying to vaccinate the children of the area came up against an anti-vaccination campaign waged by a local imam. The doctor’s car was blown up and that was the end of his campaign.
The army’s role in FATA will need to be a different one, geared to different goals, under the guidance of the civilian government. The army must ensure the necessary peace, until education and enlightenment kick in, and bring with them their own, intrinsic peace. Then the army can bow out, if that does not sound like an oxymoron.
The government of KP has examples it can follow in providing facilities to a desperately impoverished region.
There is the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) In Karachi, pioneered many years ago by the late Akhtar Hameed Khan. The people of Orangi, a squatter settlement, were motivated to finance their own facilities, to develop them themselves. The project was extremely successful and has been copied around the world. But Orangi was much smaller, and less violent.
Following the progress of FATA will be an interesting exercise, but hopefully not a tragic one if the right people approach it with the right intentions.

Monday, May 28, 2018


  • Is peace even an objective?
Many appalling things occurred in the last few days, as appalling things do with exceptional regularity. Two of them however were so equally ‘bad’, to use Donald Trump’s intelligent adjective, that it was hard to choose which one to write about. Therefore, this is about both.
Interesting that Donald Trump should show up so early in the piece, because he is automatically included in the observation that a nation does not need external enemies to destroy itself. The enemies that arise within nations, the chosen, popular and elected ones, they cause far more damage and are much harder to dislodge, which is what this is about.
More than a quarter of a century ago, in Ayodha, in Uttar Pradesh in India, the Babri mosque was pulled down by Hindu mobs. It was an old mosque, built in the sixteenth century at the time of the first Mughal emperor, Babar. Naturally, the act resulted in riots between the Muslim and Hindu communities of India. More than a thousand people died in these riots, the result of tensions created by old wounds. That wound remains open today. The rise to power of the political party the BJP, is a manifestation of that festering sore, and also an example of an enemy within. In this case, within India.
Ten years after the Babri masjid was demolished, mobs attacked and pulled down the Manchaji mosque in Ahmedabad, also in India. It is said that the BJP government allowed the mobs to get on with the destruction, and that the police and military stood by without interfering.
Ten years after the Babri masjid was demolished, mobs attacked and pulled down the Manchaji mosque in Ahmedabad, also in India
Narendra Modi, then the chief minister of Gujrat defended the violence, and refused to allow investigations into the incident.
On both these occasions, public sentiment in Pakistan was roused to fever pitch. There was anger and resentment against the violence done to the Muslims of India and to their places of worship. Demonstrations took place here, and there was much fist pumping and sloganeering. You’d think that the public in this country was averse to all forms of religious discrimination, but of course we know otherwise. As if to reiterate that, just a few days ago, in Sialkot in Pakistan, a rabid mob attacked an Ahmedi place of worship.
Predictably, said rabid mob was composed of members of the Tehreek e labaik ya Rasool Allah (TLYR), and sadly of the PTI (rapidly becoming Pakistani Tehreek e Idiots). The actions of these people were facilitated by the Tehseel Muncipal Administration (TMA), which allowed the mobs to get on with the destruction, as authorities had in India.
It was seen, thanks to a video that is available for anyone to view, that at least one member of the mob was a member of the PTI, Hamid Raza, thanking the big guns in the TMA on this video for their support. Mr Raza also suggested that mobs should now go on to pull down other places of worship, in other places. If for nothing else, this man should be arrested for incitement to violence.
The PTI has not yet kicked Mr Raza out of the party. So now, whoever supports the PTI should know exactly what this party stands for. They should also know now that anger and resentment in Pakistan against similar acts elsewhere is meaningless.
Is it worth living in a country where large political parties and authorities both support actions that are not only blatantly unconstitutional but also so terribly inhumane?
The other event concerns guns.
In the US recently, where gun violence tops the world, an attacker and bystanders were all armed, so that when a man opened fire in a restaurant and injured three persons, two armed bystanders shot and killed him. Rather than penalise this vigilante action, the police praised the bystanders.
Similarly, in Sindh a couple of years ago, the Inspector General (IG), a Mr Khwaja, awarded a Rs50,000 prize to a citizen for his “valiant” efforts which consisted of shooting (men who were as yet only suspected of being) robbers. In fact, he said, citizens should continue to make similar efforts to help the police fight crime in the metropolis. Once again, courts and the police were bypassed when civilians took justice and the law into their hands, while the Inspector General incited the public to violence. There is a penalty for that particular crime.
In Islamabad just a few days ago, the ban on arms licenses for non-prohibited bore weapons was lifted. The ban had been imposed in 2013 when the government made a move towards de-weaponisation. According to The Dawn newspaper, non-prohibited bore weapons ‘include non-automatic or semi-automatic shot guns and revolvers or pistols.’ That list, the report adds, is not exhaustive. Now, apparently, licenses for ‘non-prohibited bore weapons’ will be issued after completion of formalities. In other words, you must now follow ‘standard operating procedure’ aka SOP to obtain that license, not that it was ever hard to get arms without or without an SOP.
Anyone who has tried to obtain any kind of a license in Pakistan will know what that means. It means a great consumption of chai panni, and ‘burp!’ the license is issued.
Chai pani has become a way of life, from the top of the ladder down. SOPs rarely work.
In Sindh, there was a restriction on owning more than four guns, a number that is four too many. But now that rule has been done away with and you can, with official blessing, own any number of guns in Sindh. The only thing not allowed in that province is a toy gun, which means that scaring someone is illegal, but killing someone several times over is okay. I suppose soon, bystanders will shoot other shooters dead here as well – if they don’t do that already – and it will all be put down to progress, right up there with the presence of Malls and McDonalds.
It seems like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, with several contenders for the Mad Hatter.
In the US, the NRA enjoys such power that even the death of thousands of people is explained away and brings no change. You need to check who benefits in Pakistan, because we have seen no change either. It seems we too need worry about no external enemies. The internal ones are enough to bring us down, and you can’t condemn them as they deserve to be condemned either, thanks to censorship, and to certain blasphemous laws.
It’s bad. Very bad, because you cannot have peace with weapons this easily available.
But perhaps peace is not an objective?