Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Pakistan

Pakistanis doing the “RSS special”. Can we all please grow up?

BJP/RSS is fond of fiddling with textbooks (particularly history books), largely with the implicit aim of increasing communal hatred among Hindus towards Muslims. Pakistan, too, has been altering textbooks to inflame Muslims sentiments against Hindus. Indeed, Pakistan text books blatantly write about Hindus "as enemies of Islam".

"Although an unbiased review of history would show that Hindus and Muslims enjoyed centuries of harmonious co-existence, Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam.

Hindu culture and society are portrayed as unjust and cruel, while Islam is portrayed as just and peaceful," USCIRF said in its report.

Pakistan's public schools and privately-run madrassas are not teaching tolerance but are exacerbating religious differences.

I must add that while I was in Los Angeles, my father was invited by a Muslim scholar who teaches comparative religion in one of the minor universities there, to talk about Hinduism. I attended the talk in which the students were first introduced to Hinduism through a totally biased and distorted video. Thereafter my father spoke and largely clarified the meaning of Hinduism and its philosophy. There is a tendency among many people to look very critically at superficial aspects of Hinduism. I'm afraid that approach doesn't do its philosophy justice.

Fortunately, there are people like the former Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court Mr. Mohd Ramde Khalilee who met my father some years ago and expressed considerable interest in the Vedas, particularly since these had originated largely in the area that is now in Pakistan. [Source

Mixing politics with the teaching of history – to distort the rich history of the sub-continent – is deplorable. 

There are both good and bad points in each religion, and in each nation's history. And no doubt there will be different opinions about what happened in the past. The famous story of Shivaji and Afzal Khan is a classic example. Some think that Shivaji was a "hero". Others perhaps think he was a terrorist.

But history books should not make VALUE JUDGEMENTS about such events, merely record them.

Teachers must explain that what Shivaji (or Afzal Khan) did does not matter today, in our life. They must emphasise that this incident occurred a LONG time ago, well before India (or Pakistan) became independent. What matters is what we choose to do with our life. Students need to be taught that they as INDIVIDUALS are responsible for their own actions. And merely because something happened in the past doesn't mean it should prompt any "response" from us today. 

Without such wisdom being imparted, the cycle of hatred and vengeance in the sub-continent will continue. 

The way out is for both the Islamic and Hindu fanatics to revert to the PHILOSOPHY of their religion, and aim for the good of all mankind.

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And now the unthinkable – Spring coming to Pakistan? The military chief mocked.

"In the wee hours of the October 17, the Beyghairat Brigade (BB) uploaded a video of a song called ‘Aloo-Andey’(Potatoes & Eggs) on YouTube." [Source]

This song – that mocks the military chief of Pakistan – has gone viral. 

I'm not sure whether The Dawn article which I've cited above will be allowed to continue in the future, so I'm copying it ENTIRELY below, so at least one copy remains on the internet.

A Pakistani lady hairdresser who sometimes cuts my hair (she is a very well read lady, btw!) tells me about the great unhappiness among people in Pakistan about their politicians, but more so about the Pakistan army and its generals.

Pakistan is currently sitting on a tinder box. Like Libya, a small spark can lead to a major conflagration. The military is despised. More democracy is the likely outcome should a mass revolt occur.

THE DAWN ARTICLE

Enjoying ‘Aaloo-Andey’ with the people BY NADEEM F. PARACHA ON OCTOBER 18TH, 2011

Just when one thought Pakistani pop music had eaten itself and choked on its own self-indulgences, comes a band called the ‘Beyghairat Brigade’ (the Dishonour Brigade).
 
The name says it all: A tongue-in-cheek take on what is called the ‘ghairat brigade’ (honour brigade), the band sarcastically embraces a title that the peddlers of ‘qaumi ghairat’ (national honour) spit at those who disagree with the
brigade’s conspiratorial rants and an almost xenophobic brand of ‘patriotism.’
 
In the wee hours of the October 17, the Beyghairat Brigade (BB) uploaded a video of a song called ‘Aloo-Andey’(Potatoes & Eggs) on YouTube.
 
It was not just another ‘funny song’ about a guy talking about his mom cooking some potatoes and eggs. Nor was it a ditty toeing the usual line taken by the many political spoof shows and social parody songs that have been doing the rounds of popular TV news channels in Pakistan in the last decade or so.
 
For years one has come to expect everyone from talk show hosts, to their ‘expert guests’ all the way to mainstream pop stars and actors to (as if on cue) roll-out a now much worn-out and self-comforting narrative about the awkward political and social ills besieging Pakistan.
 
This is how it goes: Politicians are corrupt, America is evil, Indians want to break-up Pakistan, acts of terrorism are either being carried out by US/Indian/Israeli agents or by Pakistanis trained by these agents, or by non-Muslims posing as Muslims, or even if they are Muslims they are not Pakistani and if they are really Pakistanis then they are .. errm … not circumcised.
 
In other words, the whole wide world (except Saudi Arabia and maybe China) wants to destroy Islam (and thus Pakistan, which is the ‘bastion of Islam’).
 
As ‘serious’ TV talk shows and drawing rooms ring with discussions revolving around such insightful understanding of the ‘new world order’ and as the oh-so-clever social and political satirists on TV base their uproarious creations on these same musings, BB’s ‘Aaloo-Andey’ simply digs out the questions being asked by those who are so endearingly being called ‘liberal fascists’ and beyghairat by the self-appointed keepers of Pakistan’s honour.
 
The mainstream English press, especially Dawn, The Friday Times and Express Tribune, have continued to pose these questions.
 
What has so far been contemplated by ‘liberal fascists’ in English, suddenly emerges in the shape of a highly catchy and jangly little tune fronted by lyrics sung in ordinary everyday Punjabi!
 
Things can’t get more interesting than this because the Punjab province (apart from the war torn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), has faced not only rapid Islamic and sectarian radicalisation in the last 15 years or so, but it now has perhaps one of Pakistan’s most conservative urban middle and lower middle-classes.
 
The young men in BB are all based in Punjab’s capital, Lahore and boast basic middle-class backgrounds.
 
After watching the video on YouTube, I was thrilled that DawnNews actually played it in its 6 and 9 o’clock news bulletins, and today as it ran the song again I was lucky to be in a place where groups of working-class men (drivers and gardeners) were also present.
 
Many of them let out a tired smile when the song kicked in with BB’s singer, in typical ‘Lahore Punjabi’, complaining that he didn’t want to have potatoes and/with eggs that his mom had cooked.
 
The tired smiles then grew a bit wider when the singer goes on to say that he instead wants chicken and roti(bread) but then wonders why the price of roti had suddenly risen.
 
This question, of course, finally managed to get working men’s more-than-a-passing–attention.
 
The roti reference then automatically led to the dilemma of the provincial government of the Punjab led by the PML-N (headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif).
 
Though both the brothers now have expensive hair pieces planted on their heads, they had precious little hair some six years ago.
 
This is why BB refers to them as ‘ganjay’ (baldies), who (after struggling to run a smooth administration in Punjab) were hanging on kites and Imran Khan (the Sharif’s new nemesis in Punjab), is looking towards the Chief Justice/Chief of Army (to intervene and make way for new elections).
 
One needs to understand well the current political discourse in Pakistan to fully appreciate the lyrics that are largely studded with allusions.
 
For example, when BB suggests that Imran is looking towards the ‘chief’ (as a bright light), the band means the CJP and the army chief but more so the army chief because the band alludes to the chief getting an extension (like the one the army chief got last year).
 
By now the people I was witnessing the video with couldn’t keep their eyes off the screen. Why? Simple. Here was a bunch of raw, early twenty-somethings poking fun at the military chief!
 
It’s easy making fun of politicians (because most of them do not bite back), but the military’s top brass has been one of the sacred cows that the media cannot touch, let alone mock. And let’s face it, there are many within the media who’ve been more loyal than the king in this context.
 
So, after lamenting the apathetic and confused state of the Sharifs, and winking at Imran Khan’s desire to see the ‘chief’ come in and light up Khan’s political career, BB then get to what are perhaps the most loaded and boldest lyrics of the whole song.
 
In a clean, unadulterated sweep that lasts not more than ten seconds, BB wonders about a country where killers like Mumtaz Qadri (who assassinated former Punjab governor Salman Taseer after accusing him of committing blasphemy) are treated as royals; and where Ajmal Kasab (the Pakistani terrorist who took part in the attack in Mumbai) is a hero; and where mullahs escape wearing a woman’s burqa (like the head cleric of the Lal Masjid); and how no-one ever mentions men like the Nobel-Prize winning Pakistani scientist Abdul Salam (just because he belonged to the outlawed Ahmadi sect).
 
I had no clue what was going on in the heads of the men I was watching the video with. They just kept staring at the TV screen, smiling away.
 
What the song was suggesting are simple, rational observations. Yes, but in a charged and tense country like Pakistan the rational can also mean anything from blasphemy to treason to being labeled as US/Indian/Zionist agent, and, of course, bayghairat!
 
These lyrics are the heart of the song. A heart that every Pakistani knows beats loudly but very few, if none at all (especially in the populist media), have the guts to follow, or worse, would rather like to rip out and replace with an artificial ticker they call patriotism/ghairat/et al.
 
As the song moves on, the singer can’t help but comment on yet another of our favorite excuses: the notorious Blackwater.
 
In a lyric that instead of absolving Blackwater’s many reported misdeeds in the world, BB instead suggests that we shouldn’t be worrying about Blackwater because the (suicide/terrorist) attacks taking place in our mosques, schools, shrines and markets are coming from within.
 
Again a rational observation, but a fact only a ‘liberal fascist’ is prepared to face?
 
There is so much more here that doesn’t get said by the singer. These appear as placards in the video and some of them are not only hilarious, but spot-on: 
 
‘Nawaz Sharif bye, bye, papa Kiyani no likey you’ (alluding to the schism between the once pro-military Nawaz and the army)
 
‘Free Judiciary = Hanged PPP’ (the PPP regime’s problems with the judiciary that wants to see it brought to book for corruption)
 
Tehreek-i-Insaaf = A Good Looking Jamat-i-Islami’ (or how Imran Khan is just a more good-looking fundamentalist); 
 
‘Your money + My pocket = We’re still enemies’ (a taunt at Pakistan army posing to be anti-America after pocketing millions of dollars worth of aid from the US); 
 
Mullah + Military = Ziaul Yuckee’ (the alliance between religious parties and the military that began strengthening during the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq).
 
Then halfway through the video, as if preempting what a majority of the ‘ghiarat brigade’ would be decrying about this video, one of the band members is seen holding up a placard with the words, ‘This video is sponsored by Zionists.’
However, the parody in this respect turns darker still when at the end, the singer pulls up a placard with the words‘If you want a bullet through my head, like this video,’ scribbled on it.
 
Hope not, but this song and video is certainly an apparently unassuming bolt of consciousness that, within a span of three minutes, has rendered all the conspiracy theorists, ‘analysts,’ talk-show hosts and robotic, contrary ‘patriotic’ show-biz exhibitionists as not only meaningless masters of chauvinist rhetoric, but apologists of lies.
 
As for the men who had gone through these three minutes with me, they were smiling widely by the end of the song.
 
Sure, it was more a smile of wonder than of complete acknowledgment, but in a country that is being torturously burdened by matters of faith, identity and its own history, a smile of wonder in this regard is good enough.
 
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.
 

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A much cheaper way to combat terrorism

Andrea Millen Rich has added up The Cost of Getting Bin Laden:

  • a total of 4,452 American soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq
  • a total of 1,566 U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan
  • the direct taxpayer cost of both wars had eclipsed $1.1 trillion
  • hundreds of billions have also been spent on homeland security and intelligence gathering efforts (the federal government revealed that it was spending more than $80 billion a year on intelligence gathering—more than twice the pre-9/11 amount. Tthe proposed budget for homeland security efforts in the coming fiscal year will top $71 billion)
  • the government has trampled the First, Fourth, Fifth Sixth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments—all in the name of safeguarding our nation from itself.
  • callous invasions of their privacy via intrusive pat-downs and obscene full-body scans at the country’s airports

Hans-Hermann Hoppe argued in The Myth of National Defense (ed. Hoppe, Von Mises Institute) that government monopoly over defence is ineffective and expensive. As illustration, even though US defence budgets are quite large, they have proved ineffective in protecting US interests. The US defence and policy machine keeps asking for more money but delivers ever less security. Hoppe believes that the World Trade towers attacks could have been prevented merely by allowing pilots carry a pistol costing $50. The $400 billion defence budget couldn’t prevent 9/11. 

Hoppe's argument is interesting but, as I show in DOF, it doesn't lead to the conclusions he arrives at. However, there is something that a state (e.g. USA) can do at a low cost to dramatically increased security – through persuasion and winning people's minds. 

Thus, the other day (4 May 2010) I wrote on Facebook that "They are often extremely naive and even stupid, these Americans. I also think their doctrine of national self-interest has been a BAD doctrine. The national self-interest is best served in the longer term through supporting GOOD, not evil. Each time they support a dictator, they harm America in the long run." 

This holds good for the British as well. When they supported Jinnah's demand for partition on religous grounds, they mixed religion and politics, went against their own liberal tradition, and created the monster of Pakistan that is now almost uncontrollable, and has become the hub centre for terrorism across the entire world.

For years I've been advocating abolition of foreign aid and its replacement with EQUAL AND HONEST relationships across all nations. That means looking at long-term self-interest, not just the short-term. This means focusing on (a) promotion of liberty and good governance across the world, and (b) calling a spade a spade (e.g. not supporting dictators). It also means NEVER giving charity unless there is desperate need.

As I wrote in my FF article on foreign aid:
  • Aid strengthens totalitarian dictators and increases genocides and global terrorism.
  • Genuine well-wishers of the poor should therefore stop all charitable work and become equal partners and friends of the poor. They can, as part of this role, teach poor nations about freedom and good governance. Taking this approach is not only ethical, cheaper, and far more effective, it will also ultimately protect the West from terrorism.
  • it is crucial that Western nations do not directly teach poorer nations; for that could be interpreted as racist arrogance. Freedom must be promoted through poor nations’ own nationals.

There is no doubt in my mind that many effective and cheap methods exist to promote freedom and good governance. They will work invariably better than hard, brutal actions that the West often undertakes without thinking through the long term consequences. If nothing else, these cheaper (but slower) approaches should be part of a mix of strategies. [Note, I'm not against hard brutal actions in principle. They may have a place as well, but should not be seen to be the primary method of engagement]

Currently the fist rules, the handshake is missing. There is no genuine goodwill. That can't work.

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Pakistan, there is no right to kill others and argue national sovereignty

National sovereignty is a convenient myth we create to avoid having to spend our taxes on other people's needs. And it is a reasonable approximation under normal circumstances, but this idea fails entirely when a nation harbours a major terrorist like Osama bin Laden in open sight of its army base in Abbottabad. Then it becomes meaningless tripe.

Always remember: sovereignty ONLY belongs to the individual. Nations are NOT sovereign, but servants of the sovereign people who choose to live inside the nation.

It is mischievous, frivolous, and irrelevant, therefore, for Musharraf to argue that US violated Pakistan's sovereignty when it independently attacked and killed Osama bin Laden.

Musharraf should not forget that Osama killed THOUSANDS of Americans and it was therefore the obligation of the American government to bring Osama to justice. That's what the American taxpayer paid its government to do. And the American government, after a decade of wasted effort, finally achieved this goal with a clean hit to the target.

In doing so, USA also provided conclusive proof to the world that Pakistan is a terrorist state that not only exports terrorists to India but to the entire world. 

India has always said that. Now the entire world knows.

And so, please forget your silly idea of national sovereignty, "nations". That myth is given to you for convenience, subject to your behaving well. It is not licence to kill.

There is no sovereign right of "nations" to support the mass killing of other nations' citizens and then hide behind their so-called "sovereign" borders. Rubbish.

Nations are purely man-made entities, part of a global social contract, and their boundaries can change (or be changed) overnight if they don't behave. ONLY individuals are sovereign. All rights emanate from individuals.

Pakistan, you can't keep killing or support the killing of thousands of people in other countries and expect the world to worship your alleged "sovereignty". That doesn't work.

It goes without saying that this American action establishes the clear model for India in relation to relentless Pakistani export of terrorists to India. I would not be fussed if, based on precise information, India were to launch a similar attack against Pakistani terrorist hideouts. No doubt there will be, in doing so, an almost certain risk of nuclear war, and so there will need to be some further strategic consideration given to this idea, but it is simply not good enough for India to tolerate the constant inflow of terrorism from Pakistan.

Evil must have consequences. In this lifetime.

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