Rehabilitation of the Flood Victims or….

When the floods hit Pakistan last year, everyone hoped that the government would cash on the window of the opportunity opened for it and go all out to rehabilitate those millions who lost their entire possessions when their mud houses crumbled and were swept away by those deadly muddy waves of flood water. The destruction started from the north, and continued down south over the next one month till it finally met the deep blue waters of the Arabian Sea.

As the water travelled down country, people watched helplessly as their possessions, their dreams and their aspirations were being swept away until lost forever. Young girls sobbed silently as their dowries so painstakingly prepared by their mothers were washed away along with their dreams of getting married one day. Little children lost their small fortunes, a few toys or the new shoes their parents bought them after years of savings.

All was gone forever and those “rich” people were forced into tent villages to live on as the government had other plans to make space for the “poor” who often have to go to the capital to attend the sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate. The Capital Development Authority had the land allocated for the brand new lodges for these “poor” representatives of the people, frequently “displaced” to attend the sessions while the PM inaugurates a Rs. 2,908 million project for the poor IDPs in Islamabad a few days back. The project entails construction of some 104 family suites, besides some 500 servant quarters on an area measuring 1.4 acres of land.

As per a rough estimate a simple house can be constructed for around Rs. 1 million and the funds allocated for the lodges could thus provide a shelter to some 290 people living helplessly at the mercy of the rigours of the weather and nature. But none of the people’s representatives have raised a voice about this since it concerns their welfare, not the welfare of the people they represent, a portion of which is rotting in the tents under open sky.

Strange are the ways the people of Pakistan are ruled. Had the same thing happened in a military dictator’s rule, politicians would have made an issue out of it. But now in a true democratic rule, everyone seems to be looking the other way, completely ignoring the promises they made when asking for the votes. Who should now the people of Pakistan turn to for help?

Save Earth – at your end

Efforts are well underway all over the world to save earth from the green house effect. Everyone is talking and attending conferences – world leaders are making pledges to reduce the heat by capping the outflow of harmful gases. But by and large, the large segment of the society is unaware of their obligations in reducing the heat they are unnecessarily generating or adding substances that argument to piling up of the hazardous gases. So isn’t it time for us – the ordinary people to do small things at home, which can add up in a collective effort to be really meaningful at community, country and the world over.

 

Here are some “small steps’ that can turn into “one big leap” for the rest of the people, humanity and the future generations:
  • Waste less water everyday and drink TAP water instead of bottled water (which is being consumed in huge quantity these days) as the wasted away bottles add to pollution. When washing or taking a bath, try cold or lukewarm water rather than hot water, for which your geyser would burn longer, consuming more gas and emitting more heat into the environment.
  • Walk when you can instead of going short distance in your car. A research says that keeping one car off road two days a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,590 pounds per year. So for picking up a few grocery items, jog up to the nearest store (or even stroll down) – it will do good to your health too.
  • When going shopping, pick up those products with least packaging as packaging when wasted (and if not recyclable) would be harmful.
  • Use energy saver bulbs that last much longer than a standard bulb and use at least two-third less energy.
  • Make your homes more energy efficient by using solar geysers and lights rather than burning gas. Put your geyser thermostat at pilot or at Low so that the entire night geyser doesn’t run like a bull for no useful requirement when you are asleep.
  • Turn off lights when not required as heat emitted from the unwanted bulbs adds up to raise the temperature all over the world.
  • A few words about driving. Ensure your car tyres are inflated properly. Under inflated tyres decrease fuel economy by 3-5%, which means more pollution. Likewise drive at a constant 90-100 kmph (around 60mph) as any higher acceleration will consume extra fuel and extra burning, more heat release in the atmosphere.
  • And one last thing, use less sprays of all kinds, specially those that emit CFC (chlorofluorocarbon), for these are deadly in depleting the ozone layer. Next time you go shopping, beware of sprays made of CFC.

So you see, with such a small effort, we can actually make a lot of difference in reducing the temperature that will add to our efforts to save earth.

A time of change, I swear it’s not too late!

Many many years ago, To everything turn turn turn was one of my favourite songs – song that carried many good things in it. Today, the political milieu of Pakistan reminds me of that song and I wish we change for its still not late (I have replaced “peace” with “change”).

Pakistan today faces yet another turning point of its history. Having been ruled by corrupt rulers for a long time, that finds no end to itself till date, we are at the crossroads once again – the crossroads that require an urgent change to put the miseries being faced by the country to a possible end. On every TV channel there is a debate going on what to do, but there aren’t any suggestions – just wild guesses. Some advocate martial law, others contend for change within the parliament. While the military option is clear (and dangerous), the change within the parliament is vague and ambiguous.

The Supreme Court’s orders and decisions are being disobeyed openly and there seems a clash of titans very soon. But the epic court can only give decisions – but if these are not implemented, then where goes the rule of law. The elected representatives insist all issues to be resolved within the parliament, while the Supreme Court insists implementation of its decisions. Both the parliament and the Supreme Court seem to be at logger head with each other.

Those politicians not part of the parliaments have loud claims, but they cannot do anything being out of the parliament. Dragging Army once again would be disastrous as if the Army also fails to harness the sorry state of affairs of the country, then what would become of all of us?

There is a need to have realization by everyone that the present situation is harmful for the country. The already fragile economy has been hit hard by the floods that have destroyed almost half of the country’s communication infrastructure, dislodges more than 20 million people and destroying millions of houses and buildings. And above all, the flow of foreign assistance is being hampered due to widespread corruption and resultant credibility issue. Due to bad governance and no hold on the affairs of the state by the government, corruption is rampant in the country. Even an elected representative of the ruling party claims openly that corruption is their right and words to that effect.

We are thus faced with a political, economic and social dilemma and yet find no solution to escape from it. The IMF and WB are out there demanding enforcement of stringent financial discipline that would create an unprecedented price hike in the country – which will only hit the poor and the middle class besides the flood victims more than anyone else. Those who have brought the country to this abysmal situation would never be harmed by the conditions of the country as they have the vaults full of money and villas in posh localities all around the world. If God forbid something happens to the country, they have all escape routes opened to them.

A time has finally come for change; I swear it is not too late. We can still keep the genie inside the bottle lest any delay would allow him to escape. To my reckoning, there are following four options to keep the genie inside the bottle and these be considered in the same order of priority to be followed one after the other if the previous one doesn’t materialize or fails.

1. The Army Chief, being a stake holder and part of the troika (President, PM and himself), should step in and use his weight on the former two to take stock of the situation, uphold the rule of law by implementing all decisions of the supreme court in letter and spirit, ensure good governance and resolve the credibility issue by taking corrective measures (and everyone knows what measures I am referring to).

2. The president should step down from being the party head of the PPP, hands over all powers to the PM and himself becomes a figurehead as is done in any parliamentary form of government, India being a fine example of it. Here it may be mentioned that any change inside the parliament by changing the PM would not resolve the issue. We need an impartial president who allows functioning of the government through a strong and powerful PM.

3. The Supreme Court to order the Army to step as per the relevant clauses of the constitution and take stock of the situation, especially till earliest rehabilitation of the flood victims and control over the economy. A timeframe be spelt out by the epic court, after which elections be held and government handed over to the new elected government.

4. If all three options fail, the last options would be that of martial law – but a stringent martial law to really cleanse the mess rather than prolonging it with devastating after effects.

I hope sanity would prevail and need to resort to options 3-4 doen not arises. This is the only way we can bail out of the present turmoil temporarily– what is being termed as a constitutional change.

Having said that, I would also add that we also need to analyze whether the parliamentary system is still a workable system for us? So far it seems that presidential form of government has been more suited rather than the parliamentary system we follow. Our past record shows that the country progressed more in the times when we had a powerful president rather than a prime minister. But at present we may not be ready for the system change. We need to deliberate more on it, lest we plunge into another nightmare.

Related Reading: Constitutional Change (By Syed Asghar Javed Shirazi)

Dr Afia’s Sentence – a case of (false) Pride and Prejudice

Yesterday an American court sentenced 86 years to a 38 years old neuroscientist Dr Afia Siddiqui on charges of “attempted murder”, which was committed in Afghanistan years ago. No one in the world gets 86 years for attempting to kill a person. Even the drama of “killing” the US soldier seems fabricated and seems to have planned only to indict the female doctor to settle some other scores.

 I would not go into the details of the attempted murder allegations. But would only say that no terrorist roams around in a city, infested with American soldiers and agents keeping an eye on every one, with a handbag containing maps of “sensitive places.” And when caught in the town of Ghazni, and taken to a police station, she picks up a rifle “innocently left by a marine” in the room where she was detained and opened fire on a US soldier and FBI agent. “Luckily” the Americans escaped the fire, but Dr Afia got injured instead by the fire they opened on her. Despite the fact that her finger prints were not found on the rifle she allegedly grabbed, she gets 86 years from the court of country always advocating upholding of justice. It seems as the verdict was just a ceremonious formality and the sentence had already been readied to be announced even if she was found not guilty.

Have a closer look at the photo of Dr Afia, as it appeared in the newspapers around the world, which speaks of a women fatigued, tired and seemingly tortured. One only pities those who had detained her and found a fragile woman to torture to “get the truth.” And when nothing could be proved, she was sentenced to rot and be humiliated in some dungeon like cell of a prison all of her life.

After yesterday’s verdict the judicial system of the USA has suffered a huge loss on moral, legal and logic planes. And if someone attempting a murder gets 86 years, what about those presidents and prime ministers who lied to the entire world that Iraq had amassed WMDs and an invasion by allies was essential to destroy those WMDs before the same destroyed the world? And in the process killed countless Iraqis, besides devastating a developed country and turning into a heap of rubbles. Shouldn’t they be held accountable for their deeds by this “supreme” law?

I abhor terrorism of any kind, whether by the so-called Al Qaeda or the social terrorism as committed yesterday in the USA. The verdict shows the false pride of a nation that is highly prejudiced and unjust. The verdict is a mockery of the slogans of Liberty, Justice and Freedom.

Weep, free world weep. One of your daughters has succumbed to the pride of nation and its prejudices.

Who was that virtuous man?

Yesterday, my friend Hamid Haroon sent me an SMS which was both awesome and soul shaking. It is about the funeral prayer of one of the most pious spiritual personalities of his times – Khwaja Bakhtair Kaki. When the saint died, a large  number of devotees and saints came from all over the then Indian subcontinent to pay homage to the man who was revered both by his friends/followers and even those who differed from him on his religious interpretations and beliefs.  It seemed as if the entire world has gathered to attend the funeral of this great saint. Just before the burial, his will was read which explained as to who should lead his funeral prayers. The will was both strange and demanding and when it was read, the entire gathering of thousands put down their faces with shame and utter despair.

The will read, “Let my funeral prayers be led by a person who fulfills four conditions: A person who has never skipped any of his obligatory prayers. He who has never left the four sunnahs before the Asr prayer. A person who has never left the Tahajjad, the late night voluntary prayers. And last of all,  the one who had never eyed a nah-mehram (a woman one can marry) woman after reaching puberty.”

This extraordinary will fell as bombshell and the entire gathering fell silent as there was none who could fulfill all these four preconditions. Even the most pious of the pious present found it impossible to declare the fulfillment of these four preconditions. It looked as if the funeral prayers would never be led, a shame for the entire community. The entire day went by and there was no one to come forward. Everyone looked with the corners of one’s eyes to see if there was someone. But seemingly there was no one.

Then after the Asr prayers (the third prayer of the day offered in the afternoon), there rose a man and started walking slowly towards the head of the funeral congregation. Everyone was stunned to see that man as almost all knew him very well. The man with his head bowed down extremely low as if the best of his well kept secret has been exposed. He had tears rolling down from his eyes, which had drenched his shirt. I t looked as he had been weeping since the time the will was read as he perhaps knew that his secret will be exposed which no one knew before that day.

The man led the funeral prayers and after he finished, he said with a broken voice and tears still falling from his eyes, “This pious man has on this day of his death has disclosed others secrets and piety.”

Do you know who was that that man. He was none other than Shamsuddin Altamash – the then ruler of India.

The anecdote has left me without any words. If today we try to correlate the same will, perhaps there will be no one like King Altamash. Even leaving aside one’s religious obligations and responsibilities, if we try finding a man to lead us with any of the following pre-conditions, we will be utterly dismayed:

  1. A man who had never evaded the taxes due to him.
  2. One who had never misused his authority for his personal gains.
  3. A man who has never usurped others rights or taken advantage of.
  4. The one who has never taken a penny more than due to him in lieu of his services.
  5. Someone who has never betrayed his electorate of the promises he made before being elected for a public office.
  6. A man of honour who had never lied in his life.
  7. And …..

The listing reminds me of the famous poem, God give us men a time like this demands and I find no one stepping forward.

Related Reading:  God give us men! A time like this demands

God give us men!

When I was a young officer, I would occasionally come across a poem, written by Josiah Gilbert Holland in the late 1800s, hung in offices, which impressed upon me with an everlasting effect. And I really wanted men of the following creed as dreamt by Gilbert Holland and most of the people around the world:

GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honour; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

Today, even after decades thereafter, I still wish to find a semblance of such men around me. But we do see many a demagogue who are in abundance everywhere. James Fenimore Cooper  (1789-1851) defined a demagogue as: “The demagogue is usually sly, a detractor of others, a professor of humility and disinterestedness, a great stickler for equality as respects all above him, a man who acts in corners, and avoids open and manly expositions of his course, calls blackguards gentlemen, and gentlemen folks, appeals to passions and prejudices rather than to reason, and is in all respects, a man of intrigue and deception, of sly cunning and management.

These charming people are all around us, making us fool and making us believe in them and we so easily fall in their charm and do whatever they demand of us for their sake and lose our own self somewhere. And then some of us who are disheartened, would once again wish the Almighty to Give us men, a time like this demands …….