Miscellaneous / 15.08.2011

By Hasan Altaf There is, I imagine, no one on earth whose understanding of the past is completely without bias, but this problem must be particularly acute when it comes to those who, once upon a time, were responsible for creating that past: those who could change, in ways however small, the course of events, who could, or imagined they could, control whatever forces were in play, who could and did shape history. Maybe it would be best to take their versions of events with not just a grain of salt but also a pinch of pity, because for them, the stakes of this game must be higher than they are for the rest of us. They made the world we have today; all we have to do is live in it.
Miscellaneous / 26.03.2011

By Anjum Altaf Cricket is emblematic of South Asia. It distinguishes the region qua region from almost anywhere else – East Asia, West Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe. So at this time when three of the four teams in the World Cup semifinals are South Asian, it is opportune to wrap some thoughts about risk, strategy and design in the metaphor of cricket. In an earlier article (Achievement and Risk-taking) written quite some time back, I had used illustrations from cricket to make the point that the propensity of an individual to take risks is not a function of personality but an outcome of strategic calculation. In other words, individuals are not born with a given attitude towards risk; they can decide when it makes sense to be cautious or bold. I have now found an academic presentation of this perspective. In A Primer on Decision Making, James...

Miscellaneous / 09.11.2010

By Ibn-e Eusuf Sometimes I wish I could afford a few assistants devoted to scouring the Pakistani media on a daily basis. In short order one could have a book called Bizzaristan comprised of the fantastical workings of the minds of Pakistan’s rulers and managers. Alas, I can’t so I will confine myself to reporting on the occasional item that is particularly revelatory of the way in which we are ruled and governed. A news item informs us that following a charge of incompetence, the principal administrative officer (DCO) of the leading district in the leading province of the country has been transferred and appointed as the Chief Economist of the Provincial Planning and Development Board (PDB).
Miscellaneous / 08.08.2010

By Azhar Ali Khan A slogan is a sort of battle cry which usually carries in it an appeal to sentiments of a particular group of people and the repetition of this battle cry is intended to arouse people into taking a certain desired action. If the slogan is well-worded, short and sweet and easily pronounceable, its appeal becomes more effective. But for the people to take the desired action, it should be physically possible and, invariably, the slogan has to be backed with some force. When they say “Buy British” in England, it works because almost every article of daily use required by an average person in England, or anywhere else for that matter, is ‘made in England’, and it is physically possible to ‘Buy British’. But even in England, when Japan dumped in the East End of London ready-made shirts at 6/- per dozen...

Miscellaneous / 08.08.2010

Composed by Azhar Ali Khan on the occasion of the All Pakistan Cottage Industry Conference held in May 1950 Editor’s Note: We are reproducing two essays by Azhar Ali Khan written 50 years ago. While they are extremely dated they retain their value as historical documents providing a commentary on the trajectory of Pakistan. In them one can identify what has and has not changed in the culture of Pakistan over the ensuing decades. These essays are part-serious, part-satirical, part-tongue-in-cheek. They were penned as a challenge in alliteration - to see how long an essay on a serious topic could be written using most words beginning with the same letter. This is the ‘C’ essay. The ‘P’ essay would be reproduced later.
Miscellaneous / 11.02.2010

This is going to be a long explanation for why we will be posting something that is more than eighteen months out of date. Some of you who have been with us for a while might remember A Modern Fable by Ibn-e Eusuf. We posted that in June 2008. We discovered Ibn-e, thought he was a good satirist, in the tradition of Manto and Ibn-e Insha, and gave him his first break in print (digital or otherwise) with A Modern Fable. We had hoped Ibn-e would continue writing for us but we were right that he was good, with a razor sharp pen. He was immediately picked up by the Herald with an offer to reproduce A Modern Fable in their forthcoming issue (which they did). When Ibn-e asked our permission we were torn – Herald paid and we didn’t and Ibn-e needed the money.
Miscellaneous / 10.10.2009

By Ibn-e Eusuf I still wish India success but now without much hope. The point of the story is different from what the sentence seems to convey; and thereby hangs a tale. Let me explain. When I was young I desperately wanted India to succeed. Looking at Pakistan, I could see it was a basket case, the quality of its leadership decaying at such a dizzying pace that the prospects of internally driven progress were non-existent. The only hope was in a miracle or in a dramatic breakthrough in India. The latter development would make Pakistan’s citizens see the light and make them demand change from its leaders who kept feeding the myth that Pakistan was doing better than India. Or so I thought, and so I prayed for India’s success.
Miscellaneous / 29.07.2009

The South Asian Idea began in the very last days of 2007 and January 2008 was its first full month in existence. I had intended it to be one-year pilot. The fact that it is still around means that, on balance, I feel optimistic about its utility. This post is an attempt to take stock of the successes and the failures and to chart out a vision for the future. First, I think we got the basic model right. Given the gaping holes in the social science education of most of us, we needed a mechanism to start repairing the damage. But given the limitations of our comprehension, themselves a function of our imbalanced education, this could not have been achieved by making available expert opinion on any subject – we would have been setting ourselves up against Wikipedia which was freely available to all. We opted for a different model:  original content structured around issues of local interest and designed to be conversation starters – the learning, if any, was supposed to occur during the ensuing conversations as we argued with each other
Miscellaneous / 14.01.2008

The New York Times carried an article on Pakistan (Ghosts that Haunt Pakistan) in its January 6, 2008 Week in Review. It contains some interesting perspectives and unasked questions. A few quotes can highlight the issues:  For 60 years since its founding in the partitioning of British India, Pakistan has seesawed between military dictatorships and elected governments, and now new hope for stability is being placed on the chance that democracy there can be revived. But while attention is currently focused on the failings of Pervez Musharraf, the latest in a long line of military rulers, Pakistan’s civilian leaders, too, have much to account for in the faltering history of Pakistani democracy. Over the decades, their own periods in office have been notable mostly for their weakness, their instinct for political score-settling, and their venality.  Note the unstated assumption that democracy can work anywhere.  And the thrust of the...

Miscellaneous / 10.01.2008

This is really worth pondering over.  The January 7, 2008 issue of the New York Times has a front-page article entitled “In Musharraf’s Shadow, a New Hope for Pakistan Rises.” This includes such brilliant gems of analysis as the following: “Over the last several months, a little-known, enigmatic Pakistani general has quietly raised hopes among American officials that he could emerge as a new force for stability in Pakistan, according to current and former government officials.” “As he has risen through the military, General Kayani has impressed American military and intelligence officials as a professional, pro-Western moderate with few political ambitions.” “Kayani throughout his career has shown little in the way of political inclination,” said a senior American military official who has worked extensively with him but did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivities of Pakistani politics. “He is a humble man who has shown a...