Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: Pakistan on the Brink

Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and AfghanistanPakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan by Ahmed  Rashid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent book on why Pakistan is about to become a failed state.

The policy of fostering terrorism is destroying the internal fabric of the country. India isn't the greatest threat to Pakistan. The greatest threat to country's existence is Extremism.

The author rightly says that Pakistan should a policy of befriending neighbours. The country is on a verge of economic collapse, but the military or the political elite doesn't consider this a big problem.

Paranoid foreign policy goals of overwhelming the region and over-exaggeration of India threat is a basic fallacy in Pakistan foreign policy.

The book presents an excellent overview of the last ten years United States spent in Afghanistan and talks about why a mutually agreed regional framework is necessary for the Afghan endgame in 2014.

Pakistan has to stop differentiating between good Taliban and bad Taliban. The Swat counter-insurgency operation should be repeated in South  Waziristan. The policy of considering Afghanistan should be dissolved.

The author gives an extensive history of Taliban-US talk right from the when they started in Germany till the latest developments which occurred in the autumn on 2011.

The author rightly consider extremism and not India to be the great threat to Pakistan as a state.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 21, 2012

ہزاروں سال نرگس اپنی بےنوری پر روتی ہے
بڑی مشکل سے ہوتا ہے چمن میں دیدور پیدا
علامہ اقبال

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: Tahzeeb ki Kahani

Tahzeeb Ki Kahani  by Dr. Mubark Ali
Tahzeeb ki Kahani is a history of civilization written by Dr. Mubark  Ali - an eminent historian and a RUHR Ph.D.

The book is in Urdu and contains many pictures illustrating the different phases of civilizational progress. The history starts from early Stone Age and ends up at Iron Age.

The book answers many questions. For example, Why do men and women wear cloths? When did men started to cultivate and why? How has fire changed the framework of human life? Why did the Indus civilization met a downfall? The book also covers the  rise and fall of Roman civilization.

The ancient city of Mesopotamia is also visited by the author. The architecture, and the administrative division in this ancient world allowed human to survive all along the ages.

The book discusses about the great Persian king Koresh. Koresh was a great figure in the ancient world. He changed the perspective of how a ruler should rule. The document presented by Koresh can be called the First Deceleration of Human RightsKoresh, although a Persian king, ruled over the Arabian people. He never tried to forcefully implement Persian language over the conquered. This makes him a peculiar man in ancient history.

The Indus valley civilization is a peculiar civilization in ancient history. Historical digging sites reveal interesting information about the lifestyle of this civilization. No big temples are found nor are religious structures in abundance. Neither are mansions excavated from the digging sites. No murder is reported in the criminal records of the civilization. With all these traits the civilization triumphed from 2600 BC to 1900 BC. Historical records are spread out from Mehar Gahr, Balochistan to Rajaistan in India. This shows that wars aren't necessary for a civilization to survive. Neither is a centralized king necessary nor any Authoritarian federal system. Records also provide evidence for existence of trade between Mesopotamia and Indus Valley Civilization.

The Egyptian civilization is also discussed by Dr. Mubark. A new perspective is elucidated on the Egyptian pyramids. Rather than seeing these structures as marvels of human architecture, we should see them as an epitome of forced labour. Thousands of men, women, and children were killed during the construction of the pyramids. Slaves were forced to death through starvation, and no stipends were given for the construction of the pyramids. The priest had a central role in the Egyptian civilization. Pharaohs used to take their advices on important matter. Hence, it can be said that the Egyptian system of government wasn't secular as the Indus Valley. The priest also had a central role in the burial ceremony of the Pharaohs. It was only the priest who knew the exact position of a Pharaoh's grave as only he was allowed to return back once the burial ceremony ended. All slaves were killed by his holy decree. The killing of slaves fulfilled two purposes:

  1. It allowed the grave to remain a secret. As gold and silver was buried with the Pharaoh, secrecy was kept so that no thief could steal it.
  2. According to Egyptian religious order, the slaves who are buried with the Pharaoh would remain his slaves even in the after-life. Hence, this killed would allow Pharaoh to have slaves even in the world hereafter.
The rise of Roman civilization is attributed to the use of iron. The Romans were able to set up a senate, which was a quasi-democratic system. The story of Remulus and Remus is an interesting read. It is the oldest piece of world literature and a story of love which is beautifully summarized by Dr. Mubarak Ali.

The Greek and Chinese civilization are also discussed. Many inventions are attributed to Chinese, e.g. paper, compass, and ship construction. Unfortunately, the civilization remained a closed civilization for many centuries. Confucius was an eminent figure in Chinese civilization. He introduced civil examination system for the first time in history. Confucius has the same stature in Chinese civilization as St. Augustine in Christian Civilization. 
                      On the other hand, democracy is a system developed by Greek world. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the great men of this civilization. 

To sum up, Tahzeeb Ki Kahani  is an excellent book for anyone who interest in history. It contains intriguing details and summarizes the evolution of civilization over time. One message which the book give oft-repeatedly is that humans have always opted for progress when given a choice between progress and regression. In this sense, we can always hope for a better tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

ایک ممکنہ ملاقات کا احوال

یہ مضمون میں دوران انتظار لکھ رہا ہوں۔ انتظار ہے ایک صاحب کا جن سے مجھے ملاقات کرنی ہے۔ لیکن پاکستانی عادات و رسمات کے مطابق یہاں پر بھی وقت کی پابندی نہیں کی گئی۔ وہی 'میں نہ مانوں' والی عادت۔ حضرات نے مجھ سے فرمایا تھا کہ 10 بجے تشریف لائیے گا۔ میں نے غلطی سے وقت کی پابندی کا گناہ سرزد کردیا۔ میں ٹھیک 10 بجے پہنچ گیا۔ وہاں پہنچا کر پتہ چلا کہ حضور ابھی تشریف ہی نہیں لائے ہیں۔ دس منٹ انتظار کیا، اور پھر ان کو فون کردیا۔۔
میں نے کہا، "سلام علیکم"
"وعلیکم سلام"
"سر میں کمیل بات کر رہا ہوں، آپ نے مجھے 10   
بجے    آنے کو کہا تھا"
"جی کمیل صاحب، لیکن آپ نے confirm نہیں کیا"
"جی confirm نہیں کیا؟"
" جی، آپ کو چاہیے تھا کہ آپ مجھے دوبارہ کال کرتے کہ میں دس بجے آؤں گا"

یہ جملہ سن کر میں دل ہی دل میں اس 'جھگاڑ' پر ہنس پڑھا۔ بجائے یہ کہ وہ معذرت کرتے یا کوئی اور علت فراہم کرتے، حضرت نے سارا ملبہ میرے سر پر ہی ڈال دیا۔ اگرچہ حضرت ملٹی نیشنل کمپنی میں ملازمت کرتے ہیں لیکن یورپ کی طرح پابندی وقت کی عادت ان میں پیدا نہ ہوئی۔

خیر میں نے ان کی یہ بات سنی انسنی کردی اور پوچھا، "اب ملاقات کب ہو سکتی ہے؟"

"میں تو ابھی مرکزی دفتر میں موجود نہیں، ایسا کریں کہ آپ میرے دفتر میں بیٹھ جائیں، میں آپ کے پاس 11.00، 11.30 تک پہنچ جاؤں گا۔"
میں کیا کہتا، "ٹھیک ہے سر، خدا حافظ"
"اللہ حافظ۔" 

گفتگو شاید دو منٹ جاری رہی اور اب میں کراچی کی دھوپ میں کھڑا سوچ رہا تھا اب کیا کروں۔

وقت کی پابندی ایسا کون سا مشکل کام ہے، کون سا کوئی علمِ ریاضی کے فارملوں کو استعمال کرنا ہے، کون سا کوئی کشمیر فتح کرنا ہے۔ یہ کام تو میرے خیال میں امریکہ، اسرائیل اور بھارت کو تباہ کرنے سے بہت آسان ہے جس کا خواب پاکستانی قوم روز دیکھتے ہیں۔ لیکن شاید فارسی کا مقولہ صحیح ہے:
' مرد باید کار آسان مشو'

یعنی مرد ہرگز آسان کام نہیں کرتا۔ واقعی، وقت کی پابندی جیسے "آسان کام" پاکستانی قوم کو زیب نہیں دیتے!

دفتر کیونکہ پریس کلب کے پاس واقعہ ہے اس لیے کچھ وقت تو احتجاجی بینروں کو پڑھتے پڑھتے نکل گیا، اس قوم میں احتجاج بھی اب پرسکون انداز میں ہوتا ہے۔ زمیں پر کالیں سجے ہیں، سر کے اوپر ٹینٹ، اور بیچ میں پانچ دس آدمی جو کے چھوٹے جھوٹے ذاتی مفادات لے لیے جمع ہو گئے پیں۔ کسی وزیر کو اس کا وعدہ یاد دلوا رہیے پیں، کوئی نوکری کے لیے رو رہا ہے، کوئی نوکری پکی کرنے کے چکڑ میں ہے، وغیرہ۔کوئی ایک احتجاج بھی پاکستان کے بنیادی مسئلے -یعنی جاگیرداری- کے خلاف نظر نہیں آیا، یا جو روز معصوم لوگوں کا قتل عام ہو رہا، نہ اس پر کوئی احتجاج۔ اخلاقی اقدار بلکل ختم ہوچکے ہیں۔

کراچی پریس کلب کا بیرونی منظر

اس ڈرامہ کو دیکھنے کے بعد میں نے قریب ترین چائے کا ھوٹل تلاش کیا۔ تلاش کرنے میں کچھ وقت لگا، لکین پھر مل ہی گیا۔ چائے پی اور قریب ایک تاریخی عمارت نظر آئی۔ سوچا اندر جاکر دیکھوں، یہ کس کی عمارت ہے، قریب جاکر معلوم ہوا یہ سندھ کے جنگلی حیوانات کا مرکزی دفتر ہے! دفتر بیرون سے ہی سے تباہ حال لگ رہا تھا، معلوم ہوتا شاید جانوروں نے قرون وسطی میں اس پر حملہ کیا ہو۔ نہ دروازہ صحیح، نہ کوئی ہرا درخت نظر آئے، دفتر کے باہر کینٹین کی وجہ سے رش تھا، ورنہ اندر تو نہ کوئی آدم نا آدم زاد۔ اچھا یہ بھی عجیب اتفاق ہے کہ میں بھی ایک مرکزی دفتر آیا ہوں، اور یہ بھی ایک مرکزی دفتر ہے! ایک دفتر جانوروں کا ہے اور دوسرا سماجی جانوروں کا۔

(حواشی: ابھی 12.21 ہوئے ہیں اور کال آئی ہے کے ابھی حضرت مصروف ہیں، آدھا گنٹا اور لگے گا۔ تیسری دنیا کا تیسرے درجہ کا سماج۔ ایسی اوقات کی بے اوقاتی سے بے روزگاری لاکھ اچھی!!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Zardari's years in office

It has become more of a hobby to make caricatures of President Zardari. Social and electronic media has become more of  circus which had made the art of criticism disgusting. The use of words and satire are not only illogical but also don't conform with facts. Frugal words and taunt is all what anchors have against the president.

I consider Zardari to be the best post-Bhutto civilian president in Pakistan. Analytically speaking, he solved a nexus of problems confronting the country; problems ranging from constitutional labyrinth to provincial despondency. I'll be proving this claim in the article below.

We should first know about pre-Bhutto civilian presidents of Pakistan:

Mr. Fazl ilahi became the president after the 1973 constitution came into being. The president only had symbolic value and couldn't interfere in the working of the democratic system. Mr. Fazl ilahi was only a dummy head president with no real power whatsoever.

Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Mr. Farooq Laghari respectively became president in the post Gen. Zia period (1988 onwards). Gen. Zia-ul-Haq made the office of the president extremely powerful. The general added the infamous article 58(2)B into the constitution, giving president the power to dissolve assemblies at his own will. The office of the president was protected by Article 248 of the constitution which gave these president total immunity for any action he are she performs in office.

The 1988-1999 era was a period of musical chairs in Pakistan's politics. Article 58(2)B - the sword of Damocles - was repeatedly used to oust democratic governments:

  1. Ms. Benazir Bhutto's PPP led government (1988-1990) ousted by Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan
  2. Mr. Nawaz Shareef's PML led government (1990-1993) ousted  by Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan
  3. Ms. Benazir Bhutto's PPP led government (1993-1996) ousted by Mr. Farooq Laghari
  4. Mr. Nawaz Shareef's PML led government (1996-1999) ousted  by Gen. Pervez Musharraf
Such were the times faced by Pakistan. There was no political certainty, hence forth, no economic certainty. Governments were formed and expelled by undemocratic means. The balance of power favoured the president making him the agencies 'man in office'. Right wing politics took an exponential boost and situation never came under control. Whenever political stability was observed, the president toppled the civilian system and never allowed democratic ideals to flourish. Even Mr. Laghri -Ms. Bhutto's right hand in office- was tempted by the power of 58(2)B, consequently ousting his own prime minister from office.

Mr. Waseem Sajjad became twice the president of Pakistan in an interim setup. No major politcal decisions are made during interim governments. In 2002, alleged corruption cases were made against him, but he wasn't proved guilty.

Mr. M. Rafiq Tarar was a benign president in Mr. Shareef's 2nd term. Although he had the power of 58(2)B with him, but couldn't use it. It was an army coup which ousted Mr. Shareef for the second time from prime minster-ship. 

As we can see, the presidential office has always played an evil role in the constitutional history of the country. Weak bureaucratic and governmental mechanism allows corruption to flourish. This is what we are experiencing today.

Asif Ali Zardari
With this background, we can analyses how Mr. Zardari has been for Pakistan. 

  1. When President Zardari ran for office, the province of Sindh loudly chanted the slogen 'Pakistan na Khappay' (We don't want Pakistan). The situation was extremely delicate and non-Sindhis living in interior Sindh could easily conjure the consequences of such an atmosphere. Sindh was on fire, and independence from Pakistan was the prime objective. At this point, President Zardari successfully turned the tide from the slogan of  'Pakistan na Khappay'  to a new slogan, something like 'Amreiyat na Khappay' (We don't want military rule). It was an historic occasion, as a single spark could had created problems for the existence of Pakistan. PPP being the strongest federalist party had the power to do anything with the federation.
  2. Mr. Zardari started reconciliation with Baloch groups, MQM, ANP and with PML(N). This again was an unprecedented move. In Pakistani politics, it's near to impossible to let down one's ego. PPP being the largest federalist party started the process of reconciliation, while according to rule, there was no need for such reconciliatory behaviour. After Ms. Bhutto's assassination, PPP could easily had won the election if they had chanted Anti-PML(N) slogans in Punjab. As we have seen, it is easy to mobilise people on emotional rhetorics. Mr. Zardari abstained from such tactics.
  3. Just a week after he became the president he successfully held a mutli-state meeting named 'Friends of democratic Pakistan'. Pakistan got a massive amount of aid. US also paid 'democratic' dividend to Pakistan which positively affected Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves.
  4. The NFC (National Finance Commission)  awards is one of the greatest milestone for the present government. NFC was in dormancy for the last 30 years as a feasible formula for monetary division couldn't be reached by the provinces. Awarding the NFC allowed the long standing prejudice against Balochistan to be resolved. The demand of adding the 'inverse population' variable to the NFC award formula was accepted with consensus. This was due to the reconciliatory attitude of Mr. Zardari.
  5. Mr. Zardari was able to get back the Pakistan Scientist Mr. Chisti who was in jail for the last 20 years in India. No president or prime minster was able to do this. This again is a mammoth achievement for Mr. Zardari.
  6. The Benazir Income Support Program, initiated by President Zardari, distributed $2.25 billion  amongst the poorest of the poor. The distribution mechanism was made transparent by allowing the opposition to distribute money in their respective constituencies. Hence, no one has challenged the transparency of  the support program. This is a small step towards a future welfare state.
  7. The sword of Democles - Article 58(2)B - was handed back to the prime minister of Pakistan. Such an act of trimming once ego in extremely rare in Pakistani politics. It takes courage to hand down legal power to someone else. 
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

The downsizing of presidential  power has ushered a new era of parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. Rusted and formerly rubber stamp prime minister is now in full control of the rudder. The office of the president has again became ceremonial as per the 1973 consitution guidelines.

With all theses achievements,  President Zardari needs a big hand of applause from the nation. It's not bad having enemies, as Churchill rightly said:
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.