Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pakistan: Weimar Republic of Asia?

More than 3 years ago I wrote a piece asking whether Pakistan is a failed state or the Weimar Republic? At that time, i was still an optimist and thought it was probably neither. But I did say at the end:  (the original article is at the end of this post, to see it with hyperlinks go to http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/03/pakistan-failed-state-or-weimar-republic-omar-ali.html#sthash.0aDDDW0f.dpuf  ).

So much for the optimistic version. Since this is a post about Pakistan, it cannot end without some pessimism. The most dangerous element in Pakistan today is not the Islamist fanatics. It is the rise of China. Not because the rise of China threatens Pakistan or because Chinese hyper-capitalism or cheap Chinese products threaten our industry or our social peace or any such thing, but because it may inflate the egos of the military high command to the point that they lose contact with reality and try a high jump for which we are not yet ready (and may never be ready). It’s not that the high jump will get anywhere, but that the attempt may lead us into more trouble than we can handle. Jf 17 thunder

 I say this because GHQ, for all its pragmatic pretensions, has been known to overestimate their skill and underestimate their opponents.  If China was not truly a rising power, and if Pakistan did not have some real assets and advantages, we might have been safer in the long run. But since there is an element of truth in the paknationalists notions about China and the changing global balance of power, they may lose their balance.  All I am saying is GHQ is prone to flying off on a self-generated hot air pocket even when the situation does not encourage such optimism. When the situation actually has some positive aspects, there may be no restraining them. But, I remain an optimist. I think our own weaknesses may protect us from the fate of a much stronger and more capable country (Germany in 1940).

This year, things have taken a turn for the worse. According to a report (written months ago, so not cooked up after the event), a plan was hatched in London to depose Nawaz Sharif and bring in a new government under the supervision of the army. Who knows what the real details of the plot are (it may be that the army chief, for example, was not involved, but only some generals and retired adventurers put the script together) but it hit a snag on 14th August when Imran Khan failed to deliver his promised 100,000 motorcyclists to the "Azadi March". But not to be deterred by poor crowds, he has kept up the show and the civilian institutions of the state have failed to establish their writ in spite of court orders and blatant violations of the law by Imran Khan and Qadri (including a raid on a police station by Imran Khan himself, to free PTI workers being held there). Whether this failure is due to incompetence, collusion or fear of the army (likely all three), the insistent drumbeat of speeches (and their 24-7 amplification by most news channels) in Islamabad continues and the central government looks weak and ineffectual in spite of the support of most established political parties. This is not necessarily considered a negative in Pakistan, where the government, the police, the courts and the political parties are all corrupt to varying degrees and all have their hand in robbing and insulting the citizenry on a daily basis. In fact, some leftists (and not just leftists) who are not necessarily fans of Imran Khan or Qadri cannot help but be delighted by the scenes of policemen getting beaten up and "high authorities" looking like fools.

"Malik sahab, sorry...go back"

"sorry....You should go back....You should apologise.... You should be ashamed...250 passengers have suffered....It is your fault, sir" ....."Malik sahab, you are not a minister any more....And even if you are, we don't care...Anymore".... 
..
It is the most refreshing news out of Pakistan today. Usually the golden rule is that the planes must wait, the traffic must halt, the queues must give way if you are an elite in South Asia. This is especially true if the man (it is usually a man) is a servant of the people. Thus it is a good day when common people take a stand against high-handedness. It will be even better if this causes elites to introspect ( a little bit). Bravo!!!
...
 ......
Angry passengers on board a PIA flight stopped former interior minister Rehman Malik and a Hindu lawmaker of the ruling PML-N from boarding the plane, accusing them of causing over two hours of delay.
..

The Islamabad-bound Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-370 from Karachi was delayed by two and a half hours yesterday as it kept waiting for the arrival of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) senator Malik and National Assembly member Dr Ramesh Kumar Wakwani.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Made (for India) in Pakistan

....Our actors work there...our musicians have been popular there.....does that mean we have to modify our content to suit their tastes?....If only the answer was a simple binary choice.....One cannot peel away all the layers of history within a single article....money is as real today as it was in 1947.....
...
Adi Abdurab (head screenwriter for the TV series Burka Avenger) has raised an important question which has implications on cross-border cultural exchanges (and the impact thereof).
...
......
[ref. Wiki] Burka Avenger is a multi-award winning Pakistani animated television series created and directed by famous Pakistani rock star and social activist, Aaron Haroon Rashid. The show features Jiya, an "inspirational teacher" whose alter ego is a burka-wearing superheroine. Jiya uses "Takht Kabaddi", a special martial art that incorporates books and pens, to fight crime. The Urdu language series first aired on 28 July 2013. 
.......
Our feeling is that Adi Sahib is unduly worried about Pakistani culture losing its way and getting merged with India, though we agree that Pakistanis have the right to be paranoid.  

The PTV serials which are making waves in India are doing so because of fascination with a conservative culture and old-fashioned Punjabi, which appeals to an older generation in North India (and may also appeal to youngsters looking for something different). As such these productions already meet the "something different to digest instead of the same drudgery" standard that Adi claims to be aspiring for.
....

TCS bats for (Saudi) women

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is making waves with their women-focused initiatives. In India it is the 200 Crore (3.27176 million dollars) Toilets for School Girls initiative announced in August (since then Bharti Airtel has also pledged 200C, many many thanks are due to all contributors).

In Saudi Arabia the goal is to help women (who are presently unable to step out of the house without a male relative) to be trained in "communications, presentation skills, corporate etiquette, global culture and MS Excel skills" and encourage them to join the brave new world of back-office workers who may not be male and who are not relatives (but presumably still virtual and kosher).
.....
Indian IT bellwether TCS Sunday opened the first all-women back office centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in partnership with GE and Saudi Aramco. The 3,200-square metre business process centre will offer jobs for 3,000 Saudi women for customers like oil major Saudi Aramco and the US-based General Electric (GE) in the desert kingdom over the next three years.  
...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The "rockstar" Gandhi

......Shiva, dressed in a burgundy sari and a shawl the color of rust....“We would have no hunger in the world if the seed was in the hands of the farmers....They want to take that away”.....Shiva argues that the prevailing model of industrial agriculture....places an unacceptable burden on the Earth’s resources....Shiva has contempt for farmers who plant monocultures....“They are ruining the planet.....They are destroying this beautiful world”....
....
The list of power ladies from India who carry high name recognition in the West (and the rest) reads as follows: (1) Arundhati Roy, (2) Vandana Shiva, (3) Sonia Gandhi, and (4) Mother Teresa. For people keeping score we have (3) christians and (1) brahmin, also (2) are naturalized citizens. 

How about the others? Indira Gandhi is probably fading from memory, even as Mayawati rises as a Dalit icon (she will need to capture the Red Fort for true greatness). We are guessing that not too many westerners know about Indra Nooyi and other corporate bosses.

Indian music and dance do not have (yet) a female Ravi Shankar, even though his first wife Annapurna Devi (born Roshanara Khan, daughter of Alauddin Khan) was more talented and stopped performing because of the unhappiness expressed by her husband. The Shankar progeny Geetali Norah Jones Shankar and Anoushka Shankar would (at most) be recognized as Americans with Indian influences.