Saturday, January 31, 2015

Shia-killing in Pakistan: Background and Predictions

In the latest gruesome attack on the Shia community in Pakistan a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded ImambaRa (Shia mosque) and killed over 60 people, including several young children. People are still picking up pieces of their loved ones (literally, see video here if you dare). Who are these killers? how do they convince young people (some reports say the killer in this case was a young man  named Abubakr) to go and blow themselves up in a crowd of civilians? For some background, see below.
One question i have not been able to resolve: what is the PROXIMATE cause of individual attacks like these? do the LEJ leaders send bombers to blow up people randomly? or do they have specific tactical objectives? by tactical objective I mean things like "release person X or we kill a lot of people" or "pay us X or we blow up shit"...things like that? Will some knowledgeable people from Pakistan comment? Thanks

On to the background: the following is a slightly edited version of an older post on 3quarksdaily. I have added a few words at the very end about how the response of the state looks ineffectual.

Shias (mostly Twelver Shias, but also including smaller groups of Ismailis and Dawoodi Bohras, etc.) make up between 5 and 25% of Pakistan’s population. The exact number is not known because the census does not count them separately and pro and anti-Shia groups routinely exaggerate or downgrade the number of Shias in Pakistan (thus the most militant Sunni group, the Sipah e Sahaba, routinely uses the figure of 2% Shia, which is too low, while Shias sometimes claim they are 30% of the Muslim population, which is probably too high).

Historically Shias were not a “minority group” in Pakistan, in the sense in which modern identity politics talks about “minorities” (a definition that, includes some sense of being oppressed/marginalized by the majority). Shias were part and parcel of the Pakistan movement and a central component of the ruling elite. The “great leader” himself was at least nominally Shia. He was not a conventionally observant Muslim (e.g. he regularly drank alcohol and may have eaten pork) and was for the most part a fairly typical upper-class “Brown sahib”, English in dress and manners, but Indian in origin.


He was born Ismaili Khoja but switched to the more mainstream Twelver Shia sect; a conversion that he attested to in a written affidavit in court. According to Jinnah-scholar Yasser Latif Hamdani, his conversion was due to the Khoja Ismaili sect excommunicating his sisters when they married non-Khojas.

The Pakistan Army 2014-15

Mr Hamid Hussein, one of the best and most well-informed commentators on the Pakistan army (and the British Indian army and it's other daughter armies) has sent in this piece:

Year in Review and Year Ahead– Pakistan Army in 2014-15
Hamid Hussain

“A general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing the disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service to his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”          Sun Tzu      

General Raheel Sharif was appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in November 2013.  He decided to work with the existing team of senior officers and didn’t embark on  a major re-shuffle right after assuming charge.  The responsibilities of COAS of Pakistan army are not limited to the army and he invariably gets involved in domestic politics as well as foreign relations.  The argument whether  the COAS pushes the door or politicians through their own incompetence opens doors as well as  the windows for him to enter the corridors of power is as old as  the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state in 1947.

In 2014, General Sharif worked to take control of his own institution, gently pushing civilians on some areas of interest of the army and mediated among quarrelling politicians.  This trend will likely continue in 2015.  General Sharif opted for a different approach and decided to work with  the senior brass put in place by his predecessor, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani rather than bringing about a new team immediately. This meant that he was first among the equals at the decision making table.  I was not expecting forceful decisions from General Sharif, but I was pleasantly surprised when he took  the decision about launching operation in North Waziristan quite early in his tenure.
In the last ten years, there has been a gradual shift in the thought processes of  the officer corps.  Earlier there was debate amongst the senior brass regarding  the balance between negotiations and military operations.  In recent years, there has been a decisive shift towards clearing all the swamps.  In the last year of General Kayani’s tenure,  the majority opinion among the inner core was in favor of clearing North Waziristan.   The army had completed all their preparations but General Kayani demurred due to reasons best known to him (since his retirement, many are now critical on many of  his decisions during his extended tenure).  Now with a new COAS, the consensus amongst the existing team and  the new chief being first among the equals at the table made the decision about  the operation easy.

In 2014, General Sharif used  the normal retirement process to bring about a new team.  This prevents friction amongst the senior brass and was  the correct approach.  Newly promoted officers were appointed to important command and staff positions, that included four Corps commanders.  General Sharif will be now be presiding at conferences where other members around the table are quite junior to him.  This will enable him to carry the team easily with him.

In 2014, there were three main areas of friction with   the new civilian government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif;  the decision on a military operation in North Waziristan,  the trial of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and  the large scale demonstrations in the capital by a cleric, Tahir ul Qadri and recently empowered political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan with  the clear goal of ousting the elected government.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sights & sounds of Cambodia

 I just tweeted a few photos of Angkor Wat-

It really is a spectacular complex and the Khmer are the ultimate originators of the Indo-Chinese South Eastern Asian Hindu-Buddhist-Muslim sub-culture that is both very hybridised but also very distinctive.

I find interesting to note that Cambodia (Kampuchea's) name ultimately derives from an Iranian tribe (The Kambojas) mentioned in the Vedas who ruled over parts of India (I could be wrong but the pallavas - Parthians- were also prominent in the South).

Iran, Turan & India go back a very long way prefigured by this intermingling even among the ancients.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Management of Savagery

 Ahmed Humayun, an analyst at the "Institute of Social Policy and Understanding" has a post up about the "management of savagery", a central text in the Islamist militant movement.

Read the whole thing here (at 3quarksdaily).


Yet it also outlines a clear, coherent worldview, a theory of geopolitical change, and, when it is not recycling superficial clichés about Western decadence, offers penetrating insight into how terrorist tactics can succeed, even when they appear to fail. It is a call to action that outlines a series of concrete, often diabolically clever steps that have been followed by a wide range of militant groups. -

..Such a transitional state prevails in the Muslim world today. Militant groups should therefore seek to 'vex' and 'exhaust' the enemy- the regimes ruling their societies, or their Western allies. This will catalyze the breakout of chaos - the weakening of political authority across the land, creating opportunities for militants to 'manage the savagery' successfully, so that the ultimate goal, an Islamic state, may be realized. -

..Finally, the West can try to live up to its values. The militants correctly identify that concepts like freedom, liberty, and justice resonate in Muslim majority societies, and see them as competing with the ideology they seek to implement. But when we unflinchingly back autocrats in Muslim majority societies instead of defending our stated values, when we support the stultifying status quo instead of encouraging critical political reform, we shrink the space for progressive ideas to emerge and expand opportunities for militant notions. We will never persuade the militants, of course but we might be able to persuade others if we tried. -

See the whole thing at 3qd. It is worth a read. I had the following "off the top of my head" comment on it:

I would add a few minor notes to this excellent analysis of the "management of savagery":

1. The authors of the Islamist narrative are not self-sufficient in their creation of this narrative. They rely on Islamicate tradition for a lot of their cherry-picked theological quotes and for historical references about events like the early Arab invasion and colonization of the “near East”, the crusades, the invasions of Europe and even the sea-jihad of the Barbary pirates, ..interestingly the Pakistani ones at least seem to make more references to the conquest and loss of Spain and the subsequent centuries of conflict in the Western Mediterranean region than to the Ottoman conquests and subsequent losses in South-Eastern Europe, reflecting perhaps the relative value of the two regions in the eyes of Islamists and in the eyes of broader contemporary audiences; Spain, France and Italy being worthy prizes and the Balkans being mostly a nameless mess. They (surprisingly) do not seem to use a lot of Islamic source material for their polemic about early 20th century European interventions. A lot of THAT narrative is lifted straight from Robert Fisk and other Western writers. SOAS seems to have contributed more to that story than the Ulama and authors of the blessed dar-ul-Islam. This is an interesting sidelight and worth at least one good PhD thesis someday.

2. The author’s final prescriptions (“But when we unflinchingly back autocrats in Muslim majority societies instead of defending our stated values, when we support the stultifying status quo instead of encouraging critical political reform, we shrink the space for progressive ideas to emerge and expand opportunities for militant notions. We will never persuade the militants, of course but we might be able to persuade others if we tried”) are boiler-plate left-liberal talking points, but depending on what actual steps the author has in mind, may be even more unrealistic than the Islamist’s dream of utopia-after-savagery. Of course, the author may have specifics in mind that are far different from what I have heard from other progressive friends. This is always the risk when one imagines details based on a few brief lines of text. But we all rely on such heuristic devices and I get nervous when I hear “progressive ideas” and American foreign policy mentioned in one paragraph. I may be completely misreading the author (and I apologize in advance if I am clubbing him unfairly with people who occasionally read Arundhati Roy as if she is a serious analyst), but these days, I get nervous easily :) ... I am afraid that the neo-cons half-baked, ahistorical, poorly thought out creation of neo-liberal Iraq was not far enough from “progressive ideas” for us to feel safe. American support for “progressive ideas” may turn out to be no more helpful than American support of the “stultifying status quo” if it is based on equally superficial notions of history and of the origins of states and of modern society (for better and for worse).   Just a thought…

3. There is no single correct thing to do everywhere and at all times and the answer (as always) is “it depends”, but the author’s desire that the US avoid militarily invading far away countries (to save them, or to destroy them) is one we can all agree with and say “Amen”.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blasphemy, blasphemy laws, Pakistan, Charlie Hebdo..

I just picked this out of a past post about the cruel blasphemy execution (by being burned alive) of a Christian couple in Pakistan. I am posting this here because blasphemy is in the news again and I cannot count the number of times someone has managed to say "colonial era blasphemy laws in Pakistan" in a misleading manner. I wanted to have a post handy where I could direct them, so here it is, a quick overview of the blasphemy issue in Pakistan (some thoughts about the Hebdo events are at the end of this post, you can jump to that if all this familiar to you):

A blasphemy law was part of the 19th century Indian Penal code as section 295.. It was not a bad law at all and the lazy habit of blaming it for later blasphemy law crap in the Indian subcontinent is just that: a lazy habit. 
Here is section 295 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860: 
 Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile­ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

The aim of the law was to prevent/punish things like someone throwing a dead pig into a mosque or a cow's head into a temple. An actual physical desecration is to be punished. 
This seems like an eminently sensible law  and cannot really be blamed for all the evils that came later. But in the 1920s there was a famous case in Lahore where a Hindu publisher was arrested by the colonial authorities after Muslims agitated against him for having published a book called Rangila Rasul ("merry prophet"). The British colonial authorities tried to prosecute him for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims, but the high court in Lahore (quite properly) found him innocent because there was no law on the books against just publishing a book, no matter how offensive it may be to some religious group. Fearing future communal discord from such provocations, the British then had the legislative assembly add section 295A to the law in order to criminalize deliberate attempts to "outrage the religious feelings of any community". This section states: 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Slaughter of blonde Muslims

"So, in Bosnia, the case was there were white, blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims who were being slaughtered and identified as Muslims. That really touched me."

The great brown hope for every British Pakistan, local Essex lad Maajid Nawaz, talks about how Animal Farm turned him away from extremism (he needs to join a post-apocalyptic book club).

Friday, January 16, 2015

The power of blasphemy

There is never a point to deliberately offend; in fact BP is a perennial victim of that.

There was a time in our first year when we were hitting a tipping point and then we became a target, which led to several website issues. Ever since we moved from WordPress to Blogger our user engagement is a fraction of what it was.

Who reads BP anymore?

Leave a comment if you do; I'm not expecting many to be honest even if we do have robust viewing figures.

The first couple years of the blog had an excellent comments section especially when we were WordPress.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Showering a white people thing?

After her comments, Rosie O'Donnell proceeded to call upon a stunned African-American woman in the audience, who insisted she is a "frequent showerer" before Rivera defended her remarks. 
"My mom is half black, half Puerto Rican. She showers every day, so I can say this. But I'm now married to a white man," she said, referring to husband Ryan Dorsey, whom she secretly wed in July 2014. "And he showers a lot, like two, three times a day.

Unreal Islam

The word “takfīr” (pronounced “tuck – feer”) is one of the most fearsome words in the Islamic lexicon. Deriving from the same root as “kāfir” – infidel – it refers to the act of declaring someone who is nominally a Muslim to be an infidel. And, of course, as the whole world knows by now, a Muslim who has become an infidel is worthy of being killed as an apostate under strict Islamic law. The institution of takfir is not new in Muslim societies, but it has generally been a marginal one. Today, it is at the core of the jihadi extremism that has set the world on fire from Nigeria to India and from Peshawar to Paris. The extremists do not kill based only on takfir – the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo were not Muslims to begin with – but this idea is central to their ideology, which specifically targets Muslims who, in their opinion, have lost the right to live because of their infidelity. Among these are numbered the 136 innocent children gunned down in Peshawar and the soldiers of the largest army of any Muslim majority country in the world. More broadly, its remit extends to entire sects, such as the Shi’as and the Ahmadis, who have been targeted repeatedly in Pakistan.

However, another version of takfir is now afoot in the world. Call it “reverse takfir”. Unlike the militant version, it is well-intentioned and self-consciously humane, but it is also dangerous. This “benign” version of takfir is epitomized by the idea that the acts of violence being committed by self-proclaimed holier-than-thou Muslims are not the acts of “real Muslims” and do not represent “real Islam”. In effect, it declares the terrorists to be infidels! The idea is widespread, and is espoused in four different contexts: By well-meaning non-Muslims (such as Presidents Bush and Obama) seeking to avoid stereotyping and the implication of collective guilt; by ordinary Muslims wishing to dissociate themselves from the beheaders; by Muslim sectarians wishing to separate their brand of orthodoxy from that espoused by terrorists; and – most ironically – by Muslim governments and security forces seeking an “Islamic” justification for attacking extremist fellow Muslims, thus implicitly buying into the central jihadi argument of apostasy as a capital offense. The urge to do this reverse takfir is understandable and not without factual basis: Most Muslims are indeed not violent extremists who wish to kill infidels. And it does help protect innocent Muslims from backlash, which is rather important. The problem, however, is that it also feeds the narrative of denial and deniability that allows the militancy to thrive.

As with most organized religions, the foundational texts and beliefs of Islam can support both peaceful versions and violent ones. Until people recognize and admit that all of these are, in fact, “real Islam”, the issues underlying the problem of jihadi militancy cannot be addressed. If the violence is “not real Islam”, the implication is that Islam – as practiced by most Muslims – needs no reform. But that is manifestly not the case. The scourge of violence in the name of Islam will be removed only when Muslims in general come to reject all instances of violence in the name of Islam, including those that are celebrated in scripture and history. When conquerors who killed “infidels” are regarded as heroes of the faith; when the world is seen as divided into the “house of Islam” and the “house of war”; when dying for God is considered better than living for the sake of fellow humans; when non-Muslims are regarded as morally inferior; when many standard prayers end by asking God for “victory against the infidels”; and when apostasy and blasphemy are regarded as capital crimes – how can jihadi violence be seen as anything but the logical conclusion of such ideas and practices? And yet, these are all part of “mainstream” Islam – some of them derived directly from holy texts. What the extremists are doing is merely taking these ideas more literally and acting on them. The main thing separating most ordinary believing Muslims from the extremists is not so much the narrowness of belief – which they both share – but the willingness to match that belief with action. Small wonder, then, that the militants see non-violent Muslims as hypocrites, which in many ways is worse than being an infidel.

 This raises a painful question: Can true Muslims only be either militants or hypocrites? Is there no other alternative? And that’s where the solution must begin. The only way to find an alternative – “third way”, so to speak – is to move away from literalism and absolute interpretations. Muslims must ask themselves why Jews don’t still stone adulterers or Christians still conduct witch burnings. They made these changes, not by rewriting holy texts, but by reinterpreting them for a different time and context. If Islam and its texts are indeed “guidance for all times” as Muslims believe, surely their interpretation must change with changing times, or they will become obsolete. What we see unfolding before us is the refusal of a whole faith to recognize the fact of such obsolescence and the need for reinterpretation, which has to be the first step on the path to reformation. And this cannot be done by outsiders preaching humanism at Muslims; it requires Muslims themselves to liberate their faith from the clutches of regressive clerics and begin viewing it more rationally. They can continue to be good Muslims and revere the unchanging words of scripture, but they cannot continue to be literalist reactionaries enforcing orthodoxy by force. That just isn’t compatible with the real world – especially the modern world. People will have to be allowed to make individual decisions with regard to their faith and live! In other words, religion will need to become a private matter, and certainly not something for the State to legislate or vigilantes to enforce.

The interesting – and tragic – fact is that this dilemma is mainly a modern one. For the first few centuries of Islam, Muslims were far less inhibited about practical reinterpretation. Indeed, much of what is regarded today as Islamic law (the shari’ah) is derived from the interpretation of holy texts by early leaders, jurists and scholars. They were certainly not liberal humanists by today’s standards, but they were eminently practical people. Over time, this practicality gradually gave way to rigidity, until the so-called “door of interpretation” was officially declared shut. Even so, Muslim rulers were seldom willing to be bound by rigid religious edicts, and significant movement continued, albeit at royal whim. Some among the royalty, such as Akbar and Dara Shikoh in India, went further, trying actively to move towards more syncretic and humanistic interpretations of Islam.

Prince Dara Shikoh with three sages (Ascribed to Dal Chand India, Mughal scool, c. 1650)

The roots of the current fundamentalism lie not so much in the early history of Islam as in its recent history of disempowerment and revivalism. As Muslim societies lost power in the face of modernity, the role of ruling elites in reinterpreting religious edicts (mainly for selfish political reasons) diminished or disappeared, and the process of reform became intertwined with Westernization and modernization. This produced various responses, two of which are especially relevant today. First, during the colonial period and immediately after, a re-emerging class of Muslim thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal, Jamaluddin Afghani, and later Sayyid Qutb and Mawdudi, sought a revival through variations on the same theme: Creating a semi-mythological and idealized version of a glorious Muslim past where near-perfect men acted as the instruments of God’s will. And, in their own ways, all of them converged on the notion of a single, ideal Islamic state – a “house of Islam” – ruled over by the righteous. One concrete result of these neo-revivalist ideas was the creation of Pakistan as an ideological Muslim homeland, though many ultra-orthodox Muslim scholars opposed it. Another was the emergence of trans-national ideological organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-e Islami. All this laid the theoretical framework for today’s trans-national militancy.

The second response was the empowerment of more fundamentalist schools of Islamic thought that already existed but had generally been held in check by Muslim rulers and societies. A fateful moment occurred when one such movement – led by the originalist cleric Ibn Abdul-Wahhab in Western Arabia – made a political alliance with a regional ruling family: The future House of Saud. Over two centuries, a nexus of mutually-influencing ultra-orthodox ideologies developed from India to Morocco, but remained largely without political or economic power. All that changed with the rise of Saudi Arabia as a rich kingdom with an interest in exporting both oil and ideology. The ideal opportunity arose – less by planning than chance – in the form of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which led to the revival of global Islamic zealotry as fuel for the Afghan jihad, the empowering of seminaries preaching ultra-orthodox ideologies, and the inevitable seeping of these toxins into the body politic of Muslim societies. The rest is a history that is too well-known – and painful – to repeat.

Today, the two threads generated in response to Muslim disempowerment and modernity have merged. The resulting movement has inherited the trans-national character, anti-humanist ethos and regressive ideology of its parent movements. It has also been strengthened by the strategic calculus of the Great Game that has been afoot in South and Central Asia for several decades. Some may consider it natural that the movement’s most vocal expression has occurred in Pakistan, given its founding vision. However, such an assumption would be incorrect. The areas that form Pakistan were, in fact, not very amenable a priori to an exclusivist ideology, and were pervaded by a much more syncretic and humanistic version of Islam. It took several decades and great geopolitical events – such as the Afghan jihad – to bring Pakistan to the point it is at today. All appearances notwithstanding, it is not a natural home for a militant, ahistoric ideology. Obscurantism? yes; militancy? no.

Which brings us back to the issue of “real Islam”. As someone in love with the cultural traditions of Islam and as a diligent student of its history, I agree that the acts of the jihadis do not represent the vast majority of Muslims today or in history. Humans are a violent species and Muslims have contributed their share, but it is completely asinine to think that Muslims have been, historically, any more violent than other groups. However, it is equally absurd to deny that the ideology underlying jihadism draws upon mainstream Islamic beliefs and is, therefore, undeniably a form of “real Islam” – albeit of a very extreme form. It is more accurate to say that this extremism is “not the only Islam”, and, by historical standards, it is a version very different from what the vast majority of Muslims have practiced. That’s why groups espousing such puritanical and rigid attitudes were traditionally called “khawarij” – the alienated ones. At the same time, Muslims should acknowledge that they have not constructed the logical and theoretical framework within which extremism can be rejected formally. If anything, the opposite has happened in the last century, with increasingly literalist attitudes gaining strength for political reasons. And that is the core problem: A literal reading of even moderate Muslim beliefs can, and does, lead to behaviors incompatible with modern society. Like Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, Muslims have to turn towards a less literal, more inspirational and humanistic reading of their sacred traditions, drawing from them principles that can stand the test of time rather than literal, ahistorical prescriptions. This does not require the invention of a “new Islam”, or the imposition of an “official Islam” by states. Nor does it require a rewriting of Muslim sacred texts any more than the Enlightenment needed a rewriting of the Old Testament – Thomas Jefferson notwithstanding. What is needed is a change of attitude, of how people relate to the texts and traditions. Strong strands of humanism, compassion, diversity of ideas and acceptance of differences already exist within the Islamic tradition – among Sufis, among poets, and even among scholars. The trick is to rediscover, re-emphasize and reinterpret them for our times. And even as we wring our hands in despair, brave individuals within Muslim societies are trying to ignite just such a change at great risk to their lives. The least we can do is to add our voices to theirs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What is wrong with the National Front?

It seems apart from the plunging price of oil the FT seems replete instead with warning about democracy. I intensely dislike and distrust nationalism (apathy/dislike for the "Other") while I condone patriotism (love of one's Own).

However I don't think Europe is going to slip towards fascism anytime soon in the forseeable future. I don't even think it's viable or tenable to deport illegal immigrants however there has to be a control on future entries and manage the process.

Immigration has to be revamped that the developed countries of the world (West + Japan) need to synchronize their borders. As an example how many Americans would really want to move to Japan and settle there, or vice versa. I once read an Israeli economies write in the International Herald Tribune (essentially the NY Times) that unless incomes were 3x greater most populations would not immigrate.

As borders become more fluid it makes sense to plan for the eventuality of a more federated and united world. We are leaving the age of a Single Hegemon (with mixed results) towards a more equitable system. Transnational cultural groupings will take on much more significance than before however we must also begin to have a much fairer system.

The West (& Japan) have aging populations and overloaded pensions as a upcoming crisis. The answer is not more immigrants (because they themselves will ultimately age) but for pensioners to start migrating Southward (to found their own OAP colonies so to speak). Desirable locations around the world can become huge hubs for aging baby boomers where they will also be able to take advantage of purchasing power parity. Tourism and other industries would be built on the back of that (as families come to visit etc) and it would create huge employment opportunities in the South (for carers, companions etc).

Other than that it would also have an excellent environment impact as these compact colonies would essentially transfer from high emission producing regions to lower emission producing regions.

This is the migration that needs to happen not the one that's currently occurring where the brain drain depletes the middle class in the Rest and squeezes the native middle class in the West. The first retirement colony will then start a wave (I know they are trying that in the Phillipines & Japan).

In this manner the West & Japan can ease into smaller more amalgamated populations (probably followed by countries that are becoming wealthier and aging) while also becoming much more capital intensive (and preserving high wages, low employment). The Rest will benefit from the spin-off of compacting Prosperity Sphere.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with declining populations as long as cultural coherency remains in tact. The mistake right now in the West is that natives have a low fertility rate coupled with immigration creates a huge amount of societal imbalance. In a globalising world high wages can eventually be found everywhere (and even where wages are not high PPP can ensure that it's more lucrative staying back rather than immigrating).

At that point support for the far-right will begin to precipitously decline as citizens and individuals begin to use globalisation to their advantage.

By now, the Philippines should have retirement villages for Americans because English is widely spoken. Instead, Americans are going to Spanish-speaking Mexico.

US Census 2010 estimates approximately 2.5 million citizens and legal permanent residents of Philippine ancestry.

One nongovernment survey claims 200,000 Fil-Am senior citizens would really like to retire in the Philippines, but they won’t.

Unlike Social Security, which you can take anywhere, Medicare stops at the border. Fil-Ams are afraid to return home without medical insurance. Another survey calculates that more than one million American seniors have homes in Mexico. The popularity of Mexico as a retirement destination is because you can simply cross the border back to the US for medical treatment.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My prospective Hindu father-in-law quoting Baha'u'llah

I recently read that as few as 5% of marriages in India are inter-caste and PK's message of religious tolerance in South Asia couldn't come anytime sooner.

I'm grateful that my Hindu father-in-law to be freely quotes Baha'u'llah. Touch wood mA.

Starting the week

Where do we see the markets go from here? Well I for one think that despite the plunging price of crude oil we are seeing an ongoing recovery. It's always puzzled me that just how quickly the world has forgotten the Credit Crunch of 07-09 and that any recovery (from what was at the time the end of the financial system) was going to be a decade long.

We are living in a new Imperial Age when the most exciting electoral prospect are Bush vs. Clinton (which Obama was only barely able to budge by 8years). At the end of the day the Central Banks are still continuing with the stimulus plans (especially in the Eurozone and GBP area where the Euro continues to weaken against the USD maybe all the way to parity?)

Other than that where do I actually see oil go? I think we may see it plunge down to $30 even before recovering to the $40-50 format. The commodity story isn't going to go anywhere and with the plunging price of solar power.

The chart below shows the price of energy sources since the late 1940s. The extreme outlier, of course, is solar, which only recently became an expensive blip in the energy marketplace. It will soon undercut even the cheapest fossil fuels in many regions of the planet, including poorer nations where billion-dollar coal plants aren’t always practical.
Source: EIA, CIA, World Bank, Bernstein analysis
As he did with oil & gas reserve once again Allah smiles on the Ummah as making it among the sunniest places on earth (of course there are elaborate geopolitical explanations on why that is the case but let's stick with the religious one for now as Muslims needs all the manna they can get atm).

It seems that the world is going to enter a new systemic bull cycle, low oil prices are going to compete with dropping solar energy prices to industrialise the Rest of the world.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Is caste system a curse

Friday, January 9, 2015

Whose fault is it?

This sentiment emerged in conversation with a fellow Pakistani where I said "it's not the fault of Pakistan, it's the fault of Pakistanis."

I've moved on with my life and live a fairly acculturated integrated life in blighty (where I think about rocks and climbing a bit too much for my own good). Even so I'm more interested in the pink pages of the FT than the broadsheets of the Daily Telegraph. However I have to see that we are simply seeing a meltdown in the Ummah.

Does it affect me personally? Not especially since I'm ensconced in the West and the only real connections I have to Islam are my surname, my descent from Hazrat Ali & the fact that the Baha'i Faith find it's ultimately origins in the Shakyh sect.

However I feel pity and sad that the mental shackles of the people of the Ummah blind them to the message of unity and peace that the rest of the world has already embraced (to varying degrees). It is the responsibility of Muslims in the West (who like all Diasporas eventually have outsized roles of influences) to really lead the drive to modernize tradition.

When children are being picked off in schools, when journalist offices are shot down with impunity and now the ongoing hostage crisis in Paris emerging it seems that things are only getting worse and worse. Maybe I am too idealistic, perhaps I should take off my rose-tinted glasses from time to time (but experience has taught me life has so much to do with perspective) and it is too late for the gradual ongoing cultural exercises I used to embark on a couple of years ago.

The BritPak community needs to cultivate home-grown, authentic leaders who can bridge the gulf between civilisations. I don't know who this cadre is but someone has to issue the call and it has to be a broad-based ecumenical effort. I'm on the UKIP-Tory spectrum because I believe in Britain & British values are resilient & adaptable enough for a modern world. However I always take heed in John Major's mangled Orwellian quote:

Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist' and, if we get our way, Shakespeare will still be read even in school.

Those who believe in the above are always welcome to join Britain and the British enterprise.

    markets today. 09.01.15

    Main news items for today being that Greek debt is set to rise in the wake of the expected election in late Jan. If oil breaches $40 per barrel than all bets are off. Also important to see the last oil crash in 07-08 where oil dipped a $100 in 6months and then recovered over the next 2years back to 70% of boom levels.

    Yesterday was a broad and strong rally throughout the markets we have retooled our portfolio to become coupon-heavy however we have taken very strong African risk (adding to our position) and at the same time taking advantage of the turnaround ongoing at Tescos (shares rallied 15%). Non-farm payrolls set to emerge today would provide the tone to the US recovery while the EU is currently weighing active stimulus programs in the form of bond purchase.

    Other news is the precipitous decline in EURUSD it may even reach parity. EURO against other assets has really held up but the eventuality is that with the Eurozone considering quantitative easing & the US talking about the tenor of the recovery, divergence is expected. Finally of interest is Santander's big announcement about slashing dividends, which is the right way to conserve cash even though it disclaimed any interest in Banca Montei Paschi (consolidation in Euro-financial sector ongoing).

    Bonus on OIL THOUGHTS:

    Are we going to see a similar type of pattern where the long-term structural trend is cheap energy (despite the plethora of oil suppliers, Saudi Arabia is home to 80% of proven oil reserves and as Oil Minister Naimi mentioned is more interested in keeping a sustainable market while weeding out unsustainable producers, conveniently those like Russo-Iran etc, goodbye Scottish independence?)

    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Good Nutrition Good Life

    The beautiful Samantha Gilbert lectures us on why we need to replace processed food with natural ones. I'm truly surprised by how little concern people take to nutrition.

    Understanding the power of religion

    RUSSELL: When I look back on my own career and the history of British and American diplomacy, one of our biggest mistakes has been to underestimate religion’s huge galvanizing power. We should not try to reduce religion to politics and economics and assume that people are doing things for reasons we immediately understand. We tend to think that fundamentalists will compromise, because they want more power. But some people don’t want power: They want to go to heaven! We underestimate the sincerity of their beliefs, and for that reason we underestimate the threat they can pose to the kinds of societies we might want to see.

    Inside the Middle East’s vanishing ancient religions (

    The interviewee has just had an article up in the FT (a long, harmonious history that Islamists deny), which I'm not able to link to at the moment. 

    However I'm also copying a snapshot, who knows maybe tolerance will one day flourish in the Ummah as it once did.

    Monday, January 5, 2015

    Power of the Monarchy

    If Baby Prince George has a daughter then potentially we could see British history repeating itself uniquely in one single family (the Windsors)

    Victoria - longest reigning monarch (Hanoverian)
    Edward VII - her son 10yr reign
    George V - his soon 20yr reign
    George VI - 15yr
    Elizabeth II - potentially longest reign monarch
    Charles III - say around 10yrs
    William IX - 15yr
    Baby George -
    First child of Baby George (either boy or girl will ascend to the throne regardless