Monday, September 18, 2017


‘We always underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten years. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.’ (Bill Gates)
It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic the way nature appears suddenly intent on conducting a one-sided tirade against people who claim that climate change does not exist. Foremost among those who make this incredible claim is the POTUS, who tweeted in 2012 that ‘the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese, in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.’
Oh please.
Three years later, he tweeted (there really should be another platform for Mr. Trump’s utterances, called ‘Grunter’ or ‘Squealer’): ‘It’s really cold outside, they’re calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming.’
Well, he got it, this man who squinted up at the sun during an eclipse, never mind that millions were watching, including children, for whom he should be setting an example. The spate of hurricanes in the US recently, were among the worst that country has seen in decades. There are still at least two other hurricanes said to be brewing out there. Although these hurricanes are not caused by climate change, rising sea levels and warmer oceans make them much worse than they would have been.
And Irma has not been the only natural disaster the world has seen this year.
An 8.1 magnitude (on the Richter scale) earthquake struck the Pacific coast of Mexico on the 7th of September, followed by a Tsunami warning for the area.  Mexico was also hit by a tropical storm in August.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a landslide killed at least 150 people in August. In the same month heavy rains triggered floods and a massive landslide in Sierra Leone.
Cameroon experienced severe floods and mudslides. There were floods in Ghana, Myanmar and Guinea in July, and an earthquake in the Philippines, all in the same month, and drought in Africa. Both floods and drought are one as disastrous as the other.
That is only part of the list. It seems that far from being a Chinese conspiracy, climate change and global warming are a fact. What can be done to minimize these changes in the earth’s atmosphere?
The David Suzuki Foundation works to conserve the environment and provide solutions to climate change by means of research, education and policy. It recommends ways in which the public can help. 1: by choosing its leadership wisely 2: by using energy efficient appliances 3: by using renewable power where possible 4: by eating organic food, and less meat 5: by trimming down waste 6: by slapping a carbon tax on polluting concerns, and providing tax breaks to the energy efficient 7: travelling less by air and more by buses and trains, and walking or cycling wherever possible 8: keeping oneself informed about climate change and global warming and about how to make a difference.
Pakistan can help prevent global warming and minimize climate change. The first would be to convince those who do not believe in it that the issue is real, and neither a conspiracy nor a figment of someone’s imagination.
One of the more sensible things the PTI has done is to launch a campaign for planting a billion trees across the KP. Although it has been criticized by some people who say the trees are the wrong sort, it is a start, and a great effort to reverse the deforestation that is taking place in Pakistan at an alarming rate. Reuters reports that according to a 2015 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report ‘years of tree felling have reduced Pakistan’s forests to under 2 percent of its land area, one of the lowest levels in the region.’ It seems about 40 percent of the country’s remaining forests are in the KP where the PTI’s tree planting effort is supposed to hit its goal of a billion trees by the end of this year. Trees hold on to soil, and prevent landslides. They absorb the carbon released by industry into the air, and give out oxygen instead.
Although Pakistan makes a less than 1% contribution to the total greenhouse gases produced in the world, this is no thanks to considered policies or any organised effort. With the glaciers in the north, the country is very vulnerable to climate change, with the potential of floods when those glaciers melt, which, given current trends is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’.
Just as the construction industry in the country conforms to no safety standards, other industries such as transport and energy do not follow any guidelines or procedures to minimize waste or pollution, either of the waterways, the soil, or the atmosphere. Nor does the agricultural sector follow any guidelines at all, laying the country open to disaster.
Water is of crucial importance for Pakistan, a predominantly agricultural economy. A lack of water is just as much bad news as is a flood. And yet there is no attention to sustainable farming in this country. There is no reliable system of water storage and supply, and tube wells are overused, they play havoc with the water level of soil. Crops such as rice and sugar cane use a great deal of water, yet they are among Pakistan’s major crops. Most of the rich and powerful landowners in the country, many of them influential politicians from every political party, own sugar mills. What’s more, these men also possess Direct Outlets (DOs) from the waterways, which are extremely wasteful of water. These DOs are not allowed except by special permit, but are given to people who possess sufficient clout.
It is short sighted in the extreme not to concentrate on this issue. The next ten years may be ten years coming, but they will be upon us before very long. Even if the public is able to achieve something, it is likely to be washed away if a handful of people are able to flout the rules. This has always been Pakistan’s curse that this is allowed to happen.

Monday, September 11, 2017


In a world where people struggle to ‘posh up’ their accents, there is one man who worked at getting rid of his to remove all traces of his privileged background.  That man is Carne Ross, who makes an interesting study. More interesting than the man is what he believes in: anarchism.
The most common reaction to the word ‘anarchy’ is to confuse it with a state of chaos. Anarchists protest this is an inappropriate pairing of the two words, yet this is how it remains in common usage. Oddly enough, the word ‘chaos’ is said to be obsolete, whereas a state of chaos is not obsolete at all. Witness Pakistan.
The reason for confusing anarchy with chaos is that anarchy means the state of not possessing a central authority, no authoritative governing body. And since a central authority, an authoritative governing body, is said to lead to a state of organised bliss, the opposite is labelled as chaos.
If science is based on the proof of evidence this label of ‘chaos’ is seen to be unscientific right away since while some authoritative governing bodies do dispel chaos, most contribute to it. As do authoritative bodies and hierarchal systems other than governments. Once again witness Pakistan, and this time its system of feudal hierarchy, a rigidly organised hierarchal system based on the ownership of land, that allots defined roles to every member of society to prevent chaos, but in fact creates it.  As Will Durant said, ‘Civilisation begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.’ True again. Witness the increasing absence of civilisation in this country.
Having by such negative means pointed out the failure of a non-anarchic state, what then is anarchism? What, for example, does Carne Ross have to say about it?
Ross was a British Diplomat who ceased to believe in the class system because he ‘felt that the system he battled for and believed in wasn’t working.’ So, although it had been his ambition to be a diplomat since he was a boy, he quit the diplomatic services in 2004. The main events that made him change his mind were the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war. In fact, Ross gave evidence against the Blair government, regarding its role in misleading the British public about the threat posed by Iraq.  That is when he resigned as a diplomat, and founded the world’s first non-profit diplomatic advisory group, which is called Independent Diplomat. You wonder what that is.
Governments seek diplomats to advise them on various matters. According to Andrew Hudson, Executive Director of Crisis Action “Independent Diplomat fills a critical diplomatic deficit. Its advice and strategic counsel provides its clients – mainly those that struggle to be heard – with the tools to navigate the often closed world of diplomacy.” Describing itself, Independent Diplomat says that it ‘comprises experienced former diplomats, international lawyers and other experts in international relations. It has no allegiance or affiliation to other governments or institutions, and it works with a broad network of individuals and organisations, including law firms, commercial consultancies and universities, who support and assist our work on a pro bono basis. Independent Diplomat holds itself and its clients to strict ethical standards.’
Anarchism, as a political philosophy is ‘a condition of life’ based on principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In fact Independent Diplomat requires its client to be committed to those principles, which may sound like more of what already exists, politically speaking, only Ross feels that democracy has failed to deliver on its ideals, that it has ‘created conditions in which people are beginning to voice their disapproval of the status quo.’ In an interview with The Guardian, he said that ‘Aberrational political events such as Brexit and Trump, are functions of this frustration.’
Anarchism as a political philosophy recommends self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions, or groups. These are often described as ‘stateless societies’, or institutions based on non-hierarchal free associations. As far as anarchism is concerned, a State, in the conventional sense is an undesirable, unnecessary, and even harmful institution.
Just as one studies comparative religions for a better understanding of religion as an entity, it would be a good idea to study anarchism, to compare and contrast its ideas with the conventional models of politics in the world today, since the conventional models have clearly failed, not just in Pakistan but in many countries of the world. A system, for example, that can bring in an individual of the calibre of Donald Trump and place him in a position of power, a position and power that impacts on the entire world much to its distaste and horror has to be questioned. Whether anarchism provides solutions and viable alternatives poses an interesting question. Certainly it appears to be a system that requires greater education than this country possesses. But even an uneducated population can come up trumps, please excuse the pun.  Maybe it is better to say that even such a population can come up with a few pleasant surprises. That has been the experience of for example organisations that provide microfinance which are loans often to the poor uneducated segment of society, very often women. In this experience the loans have generally produced far reaching, positive change, alleviation of poverty, better education, and a resultant increase in earning power, sometimes by as much as 200-300 percent. The borrowers almost never default on their loans.
It may be interesting if nothing else to look into the work an organisation such as Independent Diplomat does around the world. The group has been involved in working with refugees by facilitating refugee participation in policy decisions regarding refugees around the world, by advising refugee activists and groups. They are trying to pave the way for peace in Syria by working with groups and individuals working for the advancement of human rights, democracy and accountability in that country, and by supporting the Syrian political opposition, and are involved in many other similar ventures around the world.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Last year, the first ever official report on multidimensional poverty in Pakistan was released. It was compiled with technical support from the UNDP and the University of Oxford.
According to this report, nearly 39 percent of Pakistanis live in ‘multidimensional poverty,’ which is a term that defines poverty by examining more than just income and wealth. It reflects the deprivations a people experience with respect to health, education and standard of living, pointing out more effectively the areas in which help is required by means of government funding and private donations.
Every year, the Muslim world spends millions of dollars in animal sacrifice on Eid. More than a million animals are sacrificed in Saudi Arabia alone after Haj. Prescribed portions are consumed by the family performing the sacrifice, distributed amongst neighbours to promote communal goodwill, and donated as charity to the poor.
It was difficult to obtain figures regarding the number of people who own a fridge in Pakistan, but eventually a figure was available in an interesting blog by a Mr. Riaz Haq. According to this it seems that just 47% of people in this country have access to a fridge. This matches fairly closely the figures mentioned with regards to poverty. It means that very, very few of the poor in Pakistan possess a means of refrigerating their food. Therefore the donation of meat in this country can be translated to feeding a family once. That’s it. Any more will not keep.
Is it possible for this massive outpouring of charity to be restructured so that the effects are comparatively long term, more effective, more durable?
The four pillars of Islam include fasting, prayer, zakat and Haj, the last only if it is financially possible. Unlike these, the sacrifice of an animal at Eid ul Adha is mandatory only as the last component of Haj, and therefore it is mandatory only for those performing Haj. For the rest of the people it is an optional ritual, and its method is open to consideration, in other words to Ijtehad, which is the use of one’s judgement in applying a principle recommended by Allah to better suit different times, and varying circumstances, if the Quran fails to present a solution.  The Quran often does present a principle for our consideration, and therefore the word ‘principle’ is underlined above because that is the main aspect of any ritual.
Qurbani or sacrifice of an animal, a (highly) recommended ritual, is prescribed, as we all know, as a reminder, a way of keeping a very important event in history alive in the minds of Muslims; to ensure that people do not forget the great, the very important sacrifice where the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) showed himself willing to unquestioningly sacrifice what he held most precious, his child, in the name of God when the sacrifice was demanded of him. Not only this, but his child, the Prophet Ismael (pbuh) was as willing to be sacrificed for that same reason. Muslims are asked to sacrifice an animal in commemoration, as eventually once both Abraham and Ismael had indicated their willingness for the deed, Ismael was taken away and a sheep took his place on the sacrificial spot.
It is recommended that to recreate the original event as closely as possible, the person making the sacrifice should attend the animal, spend time with it, and strive for a certain affection before the animal comes under the knife.
Feeding the poor and increasing communal goodwill are the other aspects of the sacrifice.
If this is how the ritual is to be performed, it is unfortunate that there is no infrastructure to support it. The absence of storage facilities in this country has already been mentioned. In Saudi Arabia sacrificial animals were burnt or buried until recently when they have started flash freezing them, and the meat is now distributed around the Muslim world.
In Pakistan, streets are awash with blood, gore and carcases after the event, which makes this a health hazard.
A benevolent God does not prescribe waste, either of the money or the animal. If this meat – or the money – is unable to go some way towards helping the poor, or reinforcing the faith behind the sacrifice, there is something lacking in the way it is done.
Getting ‘close’ to the animal is hardly possible now, the way we live. This is no longer a nomadic society, or a small one where cattle lives close to or among humans. In places where they do, those are the places that are the recipients of charity, not those performing the sacrifice. So we have a cow or a goat tethered to someone’s gate being fed by the servants, until it is slaughtered by a butcher. The owner’s interaction with the animal begins and ends with the dispensing of cash to buy it. At present, obviously with many exceptions, the main thrust behind the ritual appears to be to demonstrate one’s financial capacity to spend an increasingly fantastic sum on the animal/s, and to eat as much meat as possible on the day. That, indeed is now the high water mark of the event. The principle behind it, the feeling of a sacrifice, the regret at the death of this animal is entirely absent. If there is a regret it is at the loss of the money that went towards the purchase.
If that point is taken into consideration, it is clear that it is the money that needs to be sacrificed, rather than an animal. It is a quieter, more considerate way of achieving the same purpose
For those who wish to sacrifice an animal in the traditional manner better sanitation facilities must be made available, as they should be available anyway. This manner of sacrifice would also benefit greatly by storage facilities so that the meat might be stored and then dispensed appropriately, in some kind of planned, rational manner.
For those who are willing to consider an alternative, it is worth considering how much difference this huge annual sum would make if it were spent in better maintaining existing government hospitals, and particularly schools in the country. An educated person who is able to stand on his own feet no longer requires charity. The charity initially given would go much further, and so would the memory of the two men whose sacrifice this ritual commemorates.
Eventually, to keep that narrative alive is up to us. And so is the way we do it.

Monday, August 28, 2017


It is only after you have effectively dealt with the past that you can move on to a meaningful future.

 Earlier this month, Donald Trump tweeted, as he does, that “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it.” He carried on to say that he was “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart.” He was speaking of confederate statues being pulled down around the country following the recent riots in Charlottesville, and probably his sadness was based on the fact that the confederate heroes whose statues were pulled down were his heroes too.
It is probably the one occasion upon which the current President of the United States made an interesting argument, although when the rest of his arguments following this event are taken into consideration, the argument is revealed for what it is: the tweeting of a raving racist.
It is possible to learn from history, particularly when it is visibly preserved in the environment in the shape of buildings, monuments, statues, names, even though they may not celebrate what is currently accepted as ‘good’, but something that was once considered praiseworthy.
Viewed in the present these names and structures simply point to a historic event or fact, bringing that past – which may otherwise be forgotten, to our notice with the question: “What do you think about this thing that once existed?”
The only reason to tamper with the past is an intention to mislead.
In Pakistan where history is regularly distorted and changed, and the names of places, roads, localities, institutions are replaced with ‘Islamic’ versions, a vacuum is created. This vacuum is filled with misinformation such as the controversy surrounding Muhammad bin Qasim, who invaded Sindh in the seventh century AD who was referred to by speakers at a function organised by the Jamat e Islami (JI) as ‘the First Pakistani’. This of course is part of the struggle in some quarters to disassociate ourselves from our Indian roots and move closer to the Arabs, a kind of putting up an ‘Al-Bakistan’ number plate, as it were.
In one of his engaging articles on the subject, Nadeem Piracha points out the two narratives surrounding the subject, the first in which Muhammad bin Qasim was sent here because the governor of Sindh, Raja Dahir, would not control the plunder of Arab ships by pirates belonging to his region. In this narrative Muhammad bin Qasim is said to have ‘brought Islam to the region’.
The second narrative, says Piracha, fails to find adequate evidence to support the first.
It does appear that Qasim came to Sindh, and established a government, but only briefly. There is no proof to support the popularly accepted reason for Qasim’s invasion of Sindh. That it was plain plunder of a rich province of India has not been disproved. What’s more, the Islam that Qasim supposedly brought to the region was short lived. Most converts reverted to whatever religion they had converted from very shortly after his death.
In 1976, during the rule of that great Al-Bakistani Gen Zia ul Haq, who of course subscribed to the ‘First Pakistani version,’ an act of Parliament was passed that dictated that school curricula should ‘Acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan’; they should ‘Make speeches on Jihad,” ‘Collect pictures of policemen, soldiers, and national guards,’ and of ‘India’s evil designs against Pakistan.’
There, right there, were some expenditures guaranteed.
Following debate, and criticism, a new curriculum was put in place in 2007 that acknowledged a few glaring facts such as diversity of culture and religion, and mentioned Jinnah’s views on inclusiveness. Efforts are also visible in this curriculum to eliminate prejudice against ‘the non-Muslims of pre-Independence India.’
The damage of course has been done. The country is well and truly infused with the ‘Al-Bakistan’ mindset which will take a much greater and prolonged effort to undo. It is a mindset that other than disowning its roots, insists on everyone falling within a flawed identity, the boundaries of which are topped with barbed wire tipped in poison.
But what should be done with those monuments, roads and names if they celebrate values that are no longer considered ‘right’?
It is difficult to decide what is ‘right’ because what is right for one group is very wrong for another. Besides, who is to adjudicate the matter? But once that is determined, or if something is clearly unacceptable to the bulk of a population, ought these monuments to be removed?
In the case of the statues in Charlotte, Carolina and elsewhere in the US, they were not statues celebrating ideologies such as capitalism or Marxism where there can be debate regarding the positive points of either. They were not statues of religious figures. They were statues of confederate heroes, monuments that celebrate racism, and racism never fails to hurt, damage and destroy. It is something that is now mercifully universally unacceptable, except by some people, and we saw them represented recently on the streets in Virginia. So yes, they should be removed if the public demands it.
Once removed though these monuments should be housed in a museum, not destroyed as was the statue in Durham, North Carolina. They should be preserved where people are still able to view a history that is no longer visible on the streets. People ought to witness and be aware that there was a time when such people were respected, and what resulted from their actions.
Of course museums are in short supply in Pakistan, where also the people have their hands full dealing with the present without going out of their way to check out the past. But that is a separate story.
Someone suggested that the pedestals on which the removed statues once stood should remain where they are. It is a good idea. Also a good idea is to place information on those pedestals about the statues that once stood there, with pictures, and a bit of history. It is after all only after you have effectively dealt with the past that you can move on to a meaningful future.
George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher said: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Truer words have seldom been spoken.

Monday, August 21, 2017


…and find no difference

Anyone who incites violence in the name of what is right possesses a personal agenda
There is always something to love about every country. There is an America one can love, a United States not raised on the murder of its original population, an aspect that is not political, not based on wars, just as there were three sets of people, one (in the minority) segment that voted the current President into power in the last elections, one that voted for someone else, and one that did not vote at all.  This side that you see now makes you want to weep. It is like finding a friend humiliatingly, stinking drunk, lurching from one end of the room to another, screaming inanities. This is not the America of warm people, not the America that was nurtured on ideals, the America that gave the world some of the greatest technology it has seen in modern times, or the America that took man to the moon. It is an America that saw the moon and leered at it, and said it was like…fill in whichever part of a woman’s anatomy here…and slobbered.
But then again, which part of the world is preferable? The world has become an insidious place, full of treacherous agendas and hatred. There are those who will read the paragraph above and will scoff and ask who it was that killed millions in Iraq and Afghanistan, that killed millions more in Vietnam, and Japan and Korea, but tell me, who is it that is working its way up to killing another large number in sectarian violence, in mindless political gatherings, in abductions? Who is joining alliances that are equipped to kill, based on ideological differences alone? Pakistan today…and for a long time now…has made its people weep.
One hears what people say in this country, and their tone is supremely sanctimonious when they criticise what is currently happening in the US, the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the riots, the murder of Heather Heyer, the violence following the pulling down of the confederate statue, and the inane threats tossed around between the POTUS and Kim Yong-un. But it is in our own interests to see the carefully nurtured conflict between India and Pakistan for what it is, to realise that sectarian violence here is the same as Neo-Nazism and White Supremacist groups and riots elsewhere. It is as wrong for the judiciary to function under an agenda as it is for the Mooch to kiss the President’s butt, or for people to stomp with so much venom on the fallen confederate statue. Where is the difference between the shouted rhetoric of anyone atop a container, bearded, un-bearded, fat, capped, or good-looking…and a man who trumpet’s his prejudice and vulgarity into the ears of an astounded world that has long strived to move away from the values he defends?
It has been a long, hard slog that attempt to pull oneself out of the depths into which for some reason humans love to wallow. In Pakistan the greatest victims have been the Hazara people, the Shias, the people of the Ahmadiyya faith, Christians and Hindus, the poor because their issues and all other issues have received no attention, and the entire country in their wake. We have a long way to go. One mocks the Sadiq and Amin clause in the constitution, and questions who, after all, is Sadiq and Amin. It bears thinking then: who after all is Muslim? Does anyone know, or is this the business of God alone? So what does it matter who has a white skin and who does not? I know people who are ‘white’ but who are a shade darker than I am. Where do they fit on the scale of supremacy? Does it matter? Is this insistence on proving yourself Muslim and who knows what else a bid for attention on the part of some people, for power on the part of others, and sheer dumb ignorance on the part of others? And yet everyone is drawn into the resultant tide of violence and vituperative rhetoric.
It needs no telling who the victims were in the Jewish holocaust in Germany, and as a result of the white supremacy hallucinations, that people such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lincoln, and Rosa Parks amongst so many others fought to dispel.
Such things will only and only ever be defeated by rational dialogue, by planning and education. They can never be defeated by slogans, by waving fists in the air, stones, sticks or bullets. Anyone who incites violence in the name of what is right should instantly be known for possessing a personal agenda, which takes down many people, from the President of the United States who advocates police brutality and endorses racist violence to almost every prominent politician in this country. All such people from one end of the world to the other have a lot in common. They all shoot their mouth, they all yell into the mike, they all wave a self-righteous finger into the air and pump their fists. Each one of them appeals to emotion alone, and to the lowest of base instincts in the people they profess to govern, and never, ever to reason.
Given rational education and only then can there be less violence and hate in the world, and on television. If it weren’t for Coke Studio, the tube would self-destruct. On which ridiculous note this had better end.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


May God bless the people of Pakistan
 …it isn’t the leaders who make us proud. It is people like this. 

The common people of the country.

 Seventy years into the creation of Pakistan, it may be a good time to remind ourselves of the national anthem of the country. Since it is written using words that are gobbledygook to the bulk of the population, here it is in English, which is also gobbledygook to the bulk of the population.

Blessed be the sacred Land:
Happy be the bounteous realm
Symbol of high resolve
Land of Pakistan
Blessed be thou citadel of faith
The order of this sacred land
Is the might of the brotherhood of the People
May the nation, the country, and the state
Shine in glory everlasting
Blessed be the goal of our ambition
This Flag of the Crescent and Star
Leads the way to progress and perfection
Interpreter of our past, glory of our present
Inspiration of our future
Symbol of the Almighty’s protection

Jinnah said, “I have lived as Mr Jinnah, and I hope to die as Mr Jinnah. I am very much averse to any title of honours, and I would more than happy if there was no prefix to my name.”
Next month, on the 11th of September is the sixty-ninth death anniversary of the man we prefer to call Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It would take too long to enumerate all the things he hoped for that have been dashed to the ground. Let’s just say: long live the Pakistan of Mr Jinnah’s dreams, and may the one which promotes exclusivity, discriminates against its citizens, and is riddled with corruption of every kind mend its ways, never mind what the rest of the world does. Amen.
The foundation of neither Jinnah’s Pakistan nor Nehru’s India was based on walls and exclusion. Yet earlier this year, General Bajwa announced the building of a fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan had commenced. And India last year activated eight virtual laser walls along the border with Pakistan, and had plans to activate four more.
India and Bangladesh share the fifth longest land border of the world, and half of this border has been fenced. Upon this the impaled body of a fifteen year old girl was once discovered.
All these walls and fences divide people who are culturally one.
Elsewhere in the world, Israel has been building a wall for more than a decade, and the US has plans for another. Saudi Arabia not to be left behind by its greatest buddy, is building a six hundred mile wall cum ditch in the north, to separate itself from Iraq.
As for discrimination, there is no need to look further than the blasphemy law.
The Islamabad High Court recently suggested that the blasphemy law should be amended to make it as punishable for a person accusing someone of blasphemy as it is for a person committing blasphemy. The problem is of course, that if people are falsely accused of committing blasphemy, they can also be falsely accused of accusing someone of committing blasphemy. It isn’t hard, and in this country where there is little recourse to justice quite tempting for people that way inclined. Would it not be better to remove the law completely? Such a law is discriminatory and has no place in any society.
Meantime, a couple of months ago, a Christian man was arrested in Lahore, for alleged blasphemy. And a Christian man was tortured in Sheikhupura by a Muslim woman’s family, for being ‘friends’ with her. They saw no irony in their actions, much less the inhumanity.
Meantime also, the latest PM unable finish his term is back home in Lahore. He was not accompanied on the way there by his tweeting daughter, or his tweeting sister in law. You wish someone would close down Twitter, which would have the added advantage of giving the POTUS a bellyache.
Jinnah would firmly request to be put back in his grave if he ever returned and witnessed the corruption in Pakistan. The Sharif family is not the only one riddled with corruption, although the relationship between that and Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification was nebulous enough to point towards corruption in other quarters.
This is rather a negative tirade on the occasion of Pakistan’s seventieth anniversary. But tell me, what should we celebrate? Although wait, there is this:  There are people such as the Edhis, Adib Rizvi – whose SIUT provides free medical treatment for kidney and liver disease and cancer, Parveen Saeed – the three rupee lady, who provides meals for that price to the poor at Khana Ghar, and many others like them. As long as people like this can call Pakistan home, this country can hold its head up in the world.
Yes, it isn’t the leaders who make us proud. It is people like this.  The common people of the country. May God bless the people of Pakistan, for it is from among them that we obtain our pride.

Monday, August 7, 2017


This country often seems close to a destruction brought about by its own people.
The PTI women’s wing’s challenge shows how little justice is understood, how seldom people think, how unable they are to relate one thing to another and arrive at a rational ‘therefore’, and how confused they are in their values and priorities.
A small Pakistani child was treated for a rare heart disease in India recently. This specialised surgery could not be performed in Pakistan which lacked the expertise. Of course in Pakistan in the Punjab, young doctors have repeatedly been on strike over the years. This Sunday was the fifth day of their current strike. 46 doctors have been suspended.  Jail Road in Lahore was the scene of riots. Water cannons, batons and tear gas were used to disperse protestors and members of the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA). You wonder whether things might improve if there were some organised efforts by the relevant Ministries to discuss demands.
Pakistan also appears to be on the brink of a communications blackout. Underwater cables that provide most of Pakistan’s bandwidth have been damaged near Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Businesses are the first to suffer due to poor connectivity, which impacts the entire country. The Profit – a magazine of this newspaper – reported that ‘Planning on the part of relevant authorities seems to be myopic. Pakistan has the least number of submarine cables providing internet connectivity, just six, five of which have been laid in the last 14 years. Are the planners aware of the repercussions of their lack of planning?’
Another important question is: do they care?
Meantime, this newspaper also reported that while power shortage and subsequent load shedding continues in this country, the journal ‘Science Advances’ has warned of “summer heat waves with levels of heat and humidity that exceed what humans can survive without protection.” About 30 percent of the population in the region would be exposed to these harmful temperatures, and the densely populated farming regions of South Asia could fare the worst, because workers cannot escape into air-conditioned environments. If air-conditioned environments existed for them, that is, which they don’t.
In Skardu, torrential rains have flooded several areas, and destroyed homes. Roads are blocked due to floods and people there are in need of aid. Relief operations are said to be underway.
While all this and much more takes place in the country, those that ought to be immersed in solving these issues, and the public, have been spending much of that damaged bandwidth on following little more than the latest on Ayesha Gulalai. And here’s the funny thing: The PTI women’s wing has recently issued a warning to Gulalai, asking her to ‘apologise or face the Jirga.’
That is a challenge which says a lot.
The Jirga/Panchayat system of Pakistan is based on old tribal custom where a group of village elders passes judgement on any matter that requires adjudication.
This system exists in the presence of the mainstream judicial system of the country. While it is impossible for two separate systems to co-exist, much as it is for two deities, there have been arguments for the Jirga to continue, since the mainstream system is seen to have failed the country. This might be disputed in some quarters, particularly in the light of the support received by the recent judgement against the Prime Minister, when actually it is in the light of that very judgement that the mainstream system has shown itself once again, to be in need of an overhaul. But the solution to treating your daughter’s disease is not to allow her to die and to produce yet another daughter to replace her. It is to try and cure that disease.
The last persons to tout the Jirga should be women.
Which is what would make the PTI women’s wing’s challenge so funny if it were not to sad. Their challenge shows how little justice is understood, how seldom people think, how unable they are to relate one thing to another and arrive at a rational ‘therefore’, and how confused they are in their values and priorities.
The Jirga/Panchayat system had until earlier this year no validity according to the constitution, but it is allowed to persist because tradition is harder to override than other things, and because the alternatives are pathetic. Therefore, better the devil you know. In February this year the National Assembly passed a Bill that gives that tribal system constitutional cover. It came into effect immediately in the Capital and was to be extended gradually throughout the country. The Sindh High court has not accepted this move and banned Jirgas from passing judgement in that province.
Women are the greatest victims of Jirgas, which shows how much the PTI women’s wing is in touch with reality. Jirgas and Panchayat are entirely composed of men. Since Jirgas exist in areas which are also overwhelmingly biased against women, this bias is invariably reflected in its decisions.
Not only are Jirgas composed entirely of men, but these men belong to the influential segment of society. Which, in this country, means the landowners and feudal lords. That is damning not just for women, but for women from the downtrodden, oppressed segment of society since landowners and feudal lords do not have the best track record, neither in their attitudes towards women nor in their dealings with the less fortunate segment of society.
Given all this, when a biased judgement is passed, and it invariably is, a Jirga system provides no means of appeal. You accept that your daughter, sister, mother is responsible for causing the man to rape her and she pays the penalty, when in fact you know that her rapist was a cad of the first water who knew who would get away with his crime. And did.
Last year, a nine year old girl in the Punjab was handed over to settle a murder case decided by a Panchayat. She was the sister of the murderer who was ordered to be married to the murdered woman’s uncle.
In a similar case this year a three year old girl was ordered to be married by a Jirga in the Neelum Valley to settle a dispute in the family.
Also last year, ‘a Jirga of notables’ in Mirpurkhas settled a case of rape with thirty maunds of wheat. The victim’s father said he was forced to accept the judgement by the Jirga.
In Gujrat, a women set herself on fire and died after a judgement passed by a Panchayat. In her case her father was accused (and later released) on a charge of raping a minor girl. The Panchayat ordered that the accused rapist’s daughter (the woman who set herself on fire) should be raped in turn by the minor girl’s father.
These are only some of the decisions passed by Jirgas and Panchayat in this country. And the PTI woman’s wing has threatened another woman with a similar brand of ‘justice’. This is a political party that was also vociferous in its praise for the recent Supreme Court verdict. Hoist by your own petard, PTI.
I’m not sure I want the fate of this country which already hangs in the balance to be anywhere in the vicinity of such a group of people, not that other groups are any better.
Maybe Asma Jahangir – who makes a great deal of sense in what she says but lacks the appropriate manner in which to convey herself – should start a grassroots effort to communicate her views on justice to the common people of this country. Because lacking such views as hers, this country will be destroyed, and its own people will have brought about this destruction.