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Columns
Saturday, 30 August, 2014

In a pack of 52 cards, the joker is a perfect ‘Lota’. His card can be a part of any winning sequence but carries no points. In other words, it can propel the player to the victory stand but once there it is worthless. In Punjabi, the closest term is ‘Railu Katta’ (one that can play on either side). The use of the word ‘Katta’ has special significance. In villages ‘Kattas’ have no value as they are considered parasites who consume milk; a valuable commodity but with limited returns. Eventually they are slaughtered and consumed as young prime ...

The deepening crisis has thrown up a number of crucial questions.      Why does democracy fail to take root in Pakistan? Why do those hopes, raised after elections are held, start petering out on one count or the other and the country begin sliding back to square one? Is parliamentary democracy the right system for Pakistan? Why doesn’t it work satisfactorily for us?One has to go back to the early days. While it was indeed a people’s struggle for a homeland for Muslims in India, what kind of political assets and traditions did we begin with? Did we have ...

During the tense moments at Azadi Square yesterday, Arshad Sharif of Dunya News tweeted, “Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand“. He was referencing to Lady Macbeth who had assisted her husband Macbeth kill King Duncan in a rage of self-illusion created by his overheated brain and witchcraft. I retorted with a line from Macbeth’s soliloquy, just before the act of murder. “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so before. There’s no such thing”. Had Macbeth waited a few ...

When the establishment is backing a movement, it seems it is still possible even in today’s Pakistan to protest, sing and dance on the streets without fear of harassment or violence. If old pictures of fashionable Pakistanis are proof that Pakistan was a liberal paradise before Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamist regime took over – a narrative that has become nearly sacrosanct amongst English-reading Pakistani audiences – then pictures of Imran Khan’s ‘Azaadi March’ could equally be used as evidence that Pakistan in 2014 had public spaces full of revelling women ...

Friday, 29 August, 2014

We are only truly free in the moment before birth. As soon as we step into the world, society begins to shape us in its own constantly evolving vision. By the time we are mature enough to exercise self-determination, we have already conducted life, for years, in line with what was expected of us, and so, to deviate from a path carefully laid out is already beyond comprehension. Conversely, the aberrations that are few and far apart have essentially three options: to conform; to become outcasts; or to opt out of the system altogether, which means one of three things: death, an indifference to ...

It is to the credit of both Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri that their marches have lasted as long as they have, but it should be kept in mind that these marches represent a critique of democracy generally, and not solely as it is practiced in Pakistan. And all this without examining one of the main problems of modern democracy; that of campaign finance.Both the Azadi and Inquilab Marches show us one of the basic problems of democracy. What happens if one party does not accept the result? This is a phenomenon which Pakistanis have become increasingly used to, and have seen many safeguards ...

Fable reversing stuff is what Pakistani politics seems to be made of. Remember ‘Hare and the Tortoise”? Friends and foes of the government appear to be unified on a single point: PM Nawaz Sharif’s government was too slow to react to the storm visible on the horizon; it could have averted the disaster it faces today had it moved judiciously and nimbly. Yet, this unanimous verdict belies the conventional wisdom that lay in the stuff of fables. Remember ‘The Hare and the Tortoise?’ It holds no more. The Nimble shall inherit the world it seems.I was one of the first ...

The management of an economy is the most arduous task due to its connectivity with a myriad of economic and political variables, more so in developing countries where continued political instability has played a predominant role in decelerating economic progress. The result is that nearly 45.7 per cent of the population in Pakistan still lives below the poverty line, as per a survey conducted under the BISP programme during the last regime. And regrettably, our politicians continue to indulge in the politics of self-aggrandisement with criminal indifference to its likely impact on the economy ...

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

The situation in the Federal Capital is swinging pendulum-like to the brink of disaster and then back to the point where a glimmer of hope appears for a mutually acceptable solution. The pragmatists however, are right in saying that the positions taken up by the three direct stake holders in the crisis have left little or no room for maneuver, thus limiting options for a settlement. There can also be no second opinion that intervention by politicians to resolve the logjam will be governed more by personal political mileage than by anything else. These politicians would be cognizant of the ...

Just because Imran Khan is not leading it right, doesn’t mean that his campaign against our rigged democracy is not valid. Despite the gaping loopholes in his Azadi march, he’s managed to bring some of the most pertinent issues ailing our democratic process to the fore. The youngsters at his sit-in are happy to hear someone push issues close to their heart on to the discussion table, issues that the ruling party and its parliamentary friends would rather brush under the carpet. That’s why they are dancing.Imran might not be a revolutionary in the true sense of the word, but ...

I consider it a sheer stroke of good luck that I grew up in Lahore at a location which has been an eyewitness to Pakistan’s political, social, educational, and intellectual history, inclusive of all political movements that ever took place and that involved large-scale public participation. My family home at 5 Maclagan Road faced the red brick British Council building, now a bank. The Commercial Building was on its immediate left, and across the road was the YMCA. On its right side was the famous Pak Tea House, a minute walk from there, the Coffee House, and at a distance of 5 to 10 ...

Politics is about the big issues. About leaders, about the Constitution, about the laws of the land, international relations, trade links and much more. All this is important, but in everyday life, for common people, the big issues are often too big. It is the smaller issues that count; such as the prices of consumer goods, school fees and so on.I am sure that Khan and Qadri know that everyday issues are important, but why then is the focus on who should be Prime Minister and why the land needs a new Constitution? They want the PM to go; if he stays, they say there should be new proof that he ...

Wednesday, 27 August, 2014

Apparently divorce is on the rise all over the world, including Pakistan. Statistics about divorce are quite misleading—a data sample may include children, for example. Divorce statistics do not account for the finer aspects of the data either, such as whether the couples married in one year are the same couples that divorce later. It’s a pretty strange set of numbers all around.Dodgy numbers notwithstanding, divorce is a tricky and emotionally difficult decision. Couple that with the enormous brou-ha-ha one faces at the hands of our ever-hysterical haw-hai brigade and one has a ...

Pakistan’s economic model has essentially failed. Even aspirations about East Asia matching India’s or Bangladesh’s growth rates has been exposed as wishful thinking. Dreams of becoming a South Asian Tiger are giving way to the same old realities of poverty, water scarcity, energy crises, misallocated economic priorities, nepotism and graft. The growth of the early to mid 2000s seems a distant dream. No long-term visionary spending in power plants, human resource development, increasing industrial competitiveness, etc. A torrid global boom masked most sins, itself the result ...

Pakistan is once again in the throes of a crisis, as both the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) interalia are demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister. That is the true stumbling block. It is argued that such a demand has no constitutional basis and will give rise to many legal difficulties. However, possible ways out of the deadlock lie within the Constitution itself. The use of the provision for referendum in the Constitution as contained in Clause 6 and 7 of Article 48 reads as follows:48. (6). If at any time, the Prime Minister considers it necessary to ...

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

Dear Sir,I belong to the Butt community and have been associated with the container transport industry for more than a decade. The purpose of this letter is to condemn in the strongest possible terms the persistent negative portrayal of Butts and containers in your coverage of the ongoing political turmoil.Linguistically, the Butt community was among the greatest victims of the advent of the East India Company in this part of the world, becoming the butt of inappropriate jokes in English language. Recently, our entire community was blamed for the violent behavior of some of our individual ...

Some leftist friends are happily enjoying the televised Iquilaab being waged from five star containers by the ‘good elite’. In what they call an inevitable ‘break up of elite consensus’, is hidden the win-win situation for the oppressed proletariat. While being a chronic optimist, one is still caught between leftist profundity and realist naiveté.The debate, if there is any, is hardly in the context of the social democratic question. The shouting match, in fact, is happening under the classic exploitative framework of liberal democracy which has no commitment to ...

In a classroom setting, a liberal arts teacher should not aim to be a messiah or a guru. Perhaps later, the teacher can step into the public/private sphere and then debate political matters and there is nothing wrong with doing so, but within the institutional confines of the lecture hall, you need to be analytical; you need to present the available positions and you need to equip students with the critical tools that enable them to take up their own positions (without forcing your views on them, to the degree that its possible). Acknowledging the fact that this can potentially be extremely ...

The 2013 elections were hailed as historic for they had marked the first ever transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another; back then, it seemed that after more than six decades of political turmoil, Pakistan was finally maturing into a stable democracy. Hardly a year has passed, but the optimism in our polity seems to be dying down – except perhaps amongst the few thousand mesmerized protesters dancing to the tune in D-Chowk. Allegations of rigging have made the 2013 elections controversial, reminding us of the 1977 elections which brought Mr. Bhutto to ...

Monday, 25 August, 2014

Politics can be suppressed and shamed; yet it always finds a way-out. Political parties are trying to break the present political deadlock, created by Imran Khan (IK) and Tahirul Qadri (TQ), and we are waiting to see which way the wind blows. Both IK and TQ were together in 2002 in General Musharraf’s band-wagon, alongwith the Q League. Now the same bandwagon, including Sheikh Rashid, Ahmed Raza Kasuri and others, stands at the doorstep of the parliament, wanting it to be dismissed. The Pakistani nation initially felt amused with their movement for freedom through revolution, but now ...

He was a charismatic captain, leading Pakistan in 48 tests, winning 14, losing 8 and drawing 26 of them. Some of his teammates described him as a ‘benign dictator’ on the pitch (one of them comparing him to ‘Stalin’), but he became the first Pakistani captain to win the Cricket World Cup. At home, he was the lone male among five siblings, used to being pampered by his family. Sigmund Freud once wrote that “a man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother, keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror.” After raising funds to establish Pakistan’s ...

Going by the Indian tradition of stalling and subverting numerous peace processes with Pakistan on flimsy pretexts, Narendra Modi has failed his leadership test by cancelling a foreign secretary level meeting with Pakistan. The peace process is again thwarted, at least for the time being. However no one is really surprised, India was working this since Modi’s assumed power. The proximate cause of cancelling the talks is India’s anger over the preparatory meetings that Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India held with the political leadership of Indian Held Jammu and Kashmir ...

Hegelian Dialectic emphatically maintains that progress results from the clash of conflicting ideas in the sequence of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In every civilized society, the difference of opinion is generally encouraged, to be minimized through a healthy debate. Sometimes, some obstinate, insular or rigid tendencies prevailing in a system turn this difference into a conflict. Again, when a conflict is mismanaged, it tends to be a full-fledged confrontation. In order to avoid this, some effective strategies and techniques of conflict resolution are devised and employed all over the ...

Sunday, 24 August, 2014

My weekly column has reappeared after an absence of many days – an absence that was forced upon me by the rancid situation in the Federal Capital and the total lack of motivation to write something light and nostalgic. It was yesterday that my gardener appeared walking up the drive trailed by a cute little girl. I sat in the verandah watching the child as she picked up dead twigs from the flower beds and began building what looked like a tiny hut. And as I did so, the stresses generated by political uncertainty and the moral bankruptcy of a corrupt regime, were replaced by warmth and a ...

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