Friday, July 27, 2007

Smart Rock Stars

Brian May, guitarist and songwriter for Queen, is getting a doctorate in astrophysics; and to be referred as Dr. Brian May. Sweet! I always considered Queen to be one of the brainier rock bands out there; you can tell by their experimental sound, which is both complex and sophisticated. In fact, the band was formed during the member's university days. On the other hand, there are plenty of musicians who are dumb as dirt and it's often reflected in their music.

[via marginal revolution]

Monday, July 23, 2007

Idiotic Comments On India's New President

The Pakistan Observer has derided India's election of its first woman president as an act of tokenism since the post is mostly cermonial. Yes, the election of a woman president is indeed symbolic, but it's a powerful one; and it resonates loudly to the world that India is a democracy, no matter how flawed it is.

It's not suprising that The Pakistan Observer is saying this. It is one of the mostly stridently nationalistic and jingoistic newspapers in Pakistan. And spares no chance to malign India. It has carried water for every regime, democratic or non-democratic. And like many papers of its ilk, it mistastes facts and makes sweeping generalizations.

The office of the President is, therefore, rotated amongst deprived segments of the society in an effort to remove their sense of alienation. That is why India has both Sikh and Muslim presidents. But their election could not bring about any change in pitiable conditions of Muslims and Sikhs, who are considered as second rate citizens. The outgoing President Abdul Kalam is also a Muslim, elected to the top slot also in recognition of his contribution to the Indian nuclear and missile programme, but his bid to get second term was rebuffed by the ruling Congress party that wanted one of its loyalist as president.

Sikhs are doing well, economically and politically. In fact, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh. I'm sure this fact didn't escape The Pakistan Observer's notics. As for Abdul Kalam, he is leaving on his own volition. And given the fact that he is extremely popular and a Muslim (and thus "a second rate citizen,"), it is only natural that Congress would've liked him to stay on; if anything, to pamper its communal credentials.

There is one question I would like to pose to The Pakistan Observer, though: can a non-Muslim ever be a president in Pakistan? According to its constitution-- no!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Musharraf Rebuked By Supreme Court

It's nice to know that democracy is not a lost cause in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Supreme Court reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry on Friday, dealing a political blow to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Cheering crowds took to the streets in support of the judge to celebrate the court's ruling that found Musharraf's suspension of Chaudhry illegal.

Officials said the decision is a historic moment for the country and another victory for Pakistan's independent judiciary.

Munir Malik of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association hailed the "landmark judgment" saying the decision slammed Musharraf's grip on power that has long put him at odds with pro-democracy advocates.

Slamming Musharraf's grip on power that has long put him at odds with pro-democracy advocates, Malik referred to the president and military leader's "autocratic rule."

The government has sheepishly accepted the decision. How could it not? This is just another sign that Musharraf's grip on power, which he's been holding for seven long years, is slowly slipping: the Lal Masjid affair was more a defeat than a victory; uprisings in the tribal areas, where Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants are gaining strength; they're more suicide bombings in Pakistan than in Iraq; and the military, the main bulwark of support for Musharraf, is grumbling. All in all, it looks like a recipe for Musharraf's downfall. The question is: will he go quietly, or kicking and screaming?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Lost Archives

Wow! I didn't know that older versions of my blog are archived for perpetuity on the internet. Check them out here, here, here, and here.

I thought I lost them forever when I whimsically deleted them-- kicking myself for not saving the posts, but now I have easy access to them once again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Musharraf's 'Operation Blue Star'

The Hindu has the final say on the whole Lal Masjid affair, which ended rather bloodily:

It would be twisting the truth if Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf were to claim that he acted decisively to end the half-year-long confrontation with religious extremists and armed desperadoes holed up in Islamabad’s Lal Masjid and its two madrassas. While the denizens of the mosque-seminary complex offered plenty of provocation over that period, General Musharraf’s regime vacillated as no government setting store by the rule of law should. Even the final showdown happened only because of the force of circumstances.

While Pakistani papers heap praise on Musharraf for his brinkmanship, no one has asked him why this sordid event was allowed to reach such a critical stage in the first place. After all, innocent people were plucked from the streets and taken hostage, neighborhoods were terrorized, all while the government looked on.

The government was content to do nothing until Chinese nationals were kidnapped. By this time the whole affair was topping the news worldwide, giving Pakistan's already battered image another body blow. Only then Musharraf acted. Now he his celebrating, gloating over his defeated enemies like a vain prizefighter. He should not celebrate too loudly because it is a Pyrrhic victory.

Immortality: Is It Worth It?

I'm approaching the end of The Historian and have discovered that Dracula is not only alive and well (and undead), but is an avid book collector, a scholar and a historian; in addition to his duties as a bloodsucker and being the prince of darkness.

This begs the question: if you had the chance, would you want to live forever? After giving it much thought, like 10 minutes, I would! Imagine having the luxury of time to read the books you wanted to read, to listen to the music you wanted to listen to, to watch the movies and television shows you wanted to watch, and travel to places you wanted to visit.

Of course, living forever means, at times, there is no escape from boredom. Small price to pay, I guess.

Monday, July 9, 2007

In Defense of Feudalism

Here is something you don't see often: a letter, published in Dawn, in defense of feudalism. The writer, from New Jersey no less, seems to be unhinged because he starts off spouting conspiratorial nonsense:

Traditionally Muslims of the subcontinent did not engage in business. They were either courtiers or landowners. The socialist Nehru abolished the land holdings in India not because of some lofty Marxist or Gandhian motives, but rather it was a Patel-led conspiracy to destroy the Muslims in India. Most of the land holdings were held by the Muslims.

By destroying the land holdings of the Muslims, the Islamic centres of excellence in Delhi, Lucknow, Agra and Hyderabad were brought down. With no opportunities in employment or education, the Muslims of India were pushed to the ghetto and slums of India.

There is no evidence what Nehru undertook was some kind of an anti-Muslim pogrom; and contrary to what the writer may say, Nehru, idealistic as he was, was motivated by "Marxist or Gandhian motives". The British gave large swathes of land (and money for its upkeep) to nawabs in order to buy their loyalty. These lands are a product of a colonial legacy. The land was not for the British to give away, so Nehru, rightly, eliminated these huge estates soon after independence. I believe India was better for it.

If feudalism is so bad, then one needs to learn from the Mozambique horrors which stemmed from the abolition of large land holdings. The result was a sharp decline in food production, mass starvation and general chaos. Pakistani feudals for all their faults have kept a steady flow of food to our growing population and made it more or less self-sufficient in rice and wheat with huge exports in cotton. This is the backbone of our economy.

The writer seems to be confused. The argument is not about efficiency or productivity of large estates, but whether these estates, which their owners paid little or nothing for, conform to democratic norms. Nehru believed they did not. Now, I'm no fan of Nehru or his socialist ideals, but I believe he was right on this score.

...The Indian industrialists simply implemented a failed policy of import substitution and did not participate in the world market for decades.

Penury in neighbouring India had a huge impact on our economy. The BJP government was thrown out because it failed to look into the problems of rural India. The Indian IT field only impacts about six million Indians. The other billion eek out a living on farms with low productivity.

So what the writer is essentially saying is that Pakisan's economy stinks because India is so poor? But India's economy is doing much better now, just behind China in terms of growth. So logically, Pakistan should be doing better economically, which, of course, it is. The writer should be grateful to India, at least. :-)

Finally, the writer offers the following solution to improve Pakistan's moribund economy:

Pakistan has to encourage its feudals into doubling and tripling its productivity in food and cotton. No magic formulae will make Pakistan prosperous. Huge dams should redirect wasted water of the Indus to Balochistan and it must increase its arable area by developing the vast deserts of Pakistan.

Interesting. I don't know what the thought process was here, but it wasn't too deep. Much as the writer like to brag about fuedal estates, Pakistan has, from time to time, imported food items like wheat and sugar, especially during periods of shortages. And why is the writer insisting on Pakistan grow more food when there is such a glut of it that governments pay their farmers not to grow it?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Left's Anti-Indian Credentials

While the Left Front is busy celebrating 30 years of continuous rule in West Bengal, there is a great article in Pragati reminding us, as it should, the duplicitous and treasonous nature of the various communist parties that make up the Left Front.

Whether paying paeans to Moscow, or to Peking, communists took money, arms and even orders from their ideological patrons. The communists were more than willing (and with plenty of enthusiasm) to undermine Indian sovereignty, which included raising underground organizations and infiltrating institutions, like the armed forces, all in the hope of creating a worker's paradise (with Chinese help), a hopeless task and a fool's errand.

Update: Offstumped offers more details in this great post. I concur with him that the government should investigates these allegations and bring the perpretrators (those that are still alive) to book. If nothing happens-- which is highly probable with this government-- we should do it for the sake of history.