Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Appeal for Alan

Even if we are a bit too cynical and feel that (a) the appeal for Alan Henning by British Imams and muslim organizations is an exercise in public relations (not in my name etc.) and that (b) the Caliphate folks are unlikely to listen to anyone (heck, even Al Qaeda has requested them to let the hostages go free), the important point still remains that a man is (maybe) alive now, he will certainly be dead later. If it helps we are for sorcery and magic as well (not really).

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It is a terrible time for his family as they live in zero hope from day to day. Our sympathies would be meaningless, so the best we can do is watch and wait in silence.
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Henning, a taxi driver, was kidnapped within 30 minutes of crossing from Turkey into Syria. He had volunteered to drive an ambulance full of medical aid as part of a community-funded charity trip organised by volunteers from Bolton, England, and the UK Arab Society.


The UK is Greater India


God save the Queen & her United Kingdom on this momentous day. Niall Ferguson makes a wonderful point that Scotland is AfPak (Afghanistan is the highlands, Pakistan the theocratic lowlands) and England is sort of India. Who knows maybe one days we can re-confederate and Scotland staying demonstrates the precedent, Unity is the principal principle of this new age of mankind.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bangladesh forgives Jamaat

Delwar Hossain Sayedee is the Nayeb-e-Ameer (Vice President) of Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh and has been accused of war crimes (mostly against Hindu civilians) in 1971. He was awarded the death penalty which has now been down-graded to life in prison.
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This, in our opinion, is a good (but not fair) ruling. Bangladesh urgently needs a working compromise between people who swear by Partition-I (freedom from Bengali Hindu oppression) and those who are loyal to Partition-II (freedom from Punjabi Muslim oppression). People (Bengali Muslims) need to forgive and forget the past, else more people are dead and broken in the present (total death count from last year's riots was in excess of 100).
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What about the (Bengali Hindu) minorities? To our infinite regret we have to agree here with Professor Sharmila Bose (Oxford University). These people are so irrational that they are still clinging on to their bhitey-mati (home and land). However time is not on their side- legal and extra-legal means have been used to grab an estimated 2 million acres as of date (45% of all Hindu owned land). As Professor Abul Barkat (Dhaka University) observes "when it comes to land there is no secularism."

The recorded change in Hindu-Bangladeshi population: 22% (1951), 18.5% (1961), 13.5% (1974), 12.1% (1981), 10.5% (1991), 9.2% (2001) and 8.5% (2011), see below for more details and links. We have faith in history as a (persistent) teacher, the Hindus will eventually get the message and clear out. 
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The lives of peasants

The boy comes out at the sound....Nitai is quick, he has the energy and focus of an animal filled with itself and itself only.....pushes him against the mud wall and drives the curve of the blade with all the force in his combusting being...This time the blood, a thin, lukewarm jet, hits him full on his face...
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Earlier it was feudalism. Now it is globalization. Even the so-called elites have very little control over their lives. If you are looking for a profession where you will never run out of clients (and money) try being a psychiatrist. The ones we know have one mile long queues in front of their office- clients suffering from unbearable stress of having great expectations (from ourselves, from our near and dear ones) in an uncertain and unforgiving world.
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None of the above excuses the utterly horrific conditions in which peasants continue to lead their lives. If we enjoy living in a liberal democracy (however flawed) and not suffer from armed revolutions the elites will need to share. Every man, woman and child must be guaranteed dignity of life (and labor). To take just one example, all communities (and local governments) should learn from the example set forward by the Sikhs and adopt a no beggar policy.

The days of dividing and misruling are mostly behind us, as the BJP has discovered in the recently held by-poll(s) shocker - losing 9-2 to Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and 3-0 in Uttarakhand and 3-1 in Rajasthan to a Congress party which is supposedly dead and buried. We live in hope for a better tomorrow, but there will be many a (non-fictional) Nitai Das who need help now and are unable to wait.
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A third of the way through the half-mile walk from the landlord's house to his hut, Nitai Das's feet begin to sway. Or maybe it is the head-spin again. He sits down on the lifeless field he has to cross before he can reach his hut. There isn't a thread of shade anywhere. 
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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.