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 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 have not yet abandoned their bhitey-mati (home and land) to follow in the footsteps of their brothers and sisters (who have found new life across the border). However it turns out that there are legal and extra-legal means to grab the land anyway. 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 move 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.

"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".... 
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A most refreshing bit of news out of Pakistan. The golden rule is that the planes must wait, the traffic must halt, the queues must give way for the elite class in South Asia. This is especially true if the man (it is usually a man) has taken a public vow to serve the public. Cheers are due when the suffering many take a stand against the high-handed few. It will be even better if this causes people to introspect. Bravo!!!
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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.
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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.....
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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).
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[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. 
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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.
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