Reflections / 16.10.2012

By C. M. Naim On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, a horrific fire in a garment factory in the Baldia Township in Karachi killed at least 259 persons, male and female. As I read about it on subsequent days I was reminded of another fire that occurred a century earlier—to be exact, on Saturday, November 25, 1911—in New York City. It too was in a garment factory, and took 146 lives, mostly young females. Named after the shirtwaist factory where it occurred, it is known in American history as the Triangle Fire. To refresh my memory I took to the books, and soon realized that the Triangle Fire had a few lessons for the present day Pakistan.[1]
Development / 06.08.2011

By Dipankar Gupta If bribe giving is legalized will that ground the bribe taker for good? This suggestion was made recently by Kaushik Basu, the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisor. Sadly, such low cost, budget one-liners invariably fail to fly. Eager to clean up the corporate sector, Narayana Murthy, of Infosys, initially endorsed this suggestion, but later found faults with it. The bribe giver could rat on the bribe taker, but it would not be worth the halo. Word would go around and that person would be singled out forever in the real world of give and take. Under current conditions, but for a handful of companies in IT, telecom and financial services, it is hard for business to play clean and be above board.
Behavior / 21.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf I had been intending to explore why, throughout history, man has been the perpetrator of so much inhuman behavior and what, if anything, could be done about it. My plan was to substantiate the claim of inhumanity with some examples before moving on to a discussion of the possible remedies. It is a coincidence that between the intention and the execution, I chanced upon a poem by Josh Malihabadi (1898-1982), a poet held in high regard in Urdu poetry. This poem written in 1928 (Fitrat-e Aqvaam – The Character of Nations) makes a much better case than I could have and I offer it here (with a rough translation by myself) in lieu of the first part of the intended article.
Religion / 19.07.2009

By Anjum Altaf Religion is so central to life that its impact on society needs to be studied quite independently of the beliefs of the analyst. Religion has both individual and collective dimensions. At the individual level, it can provide a sense of meaning and predictability and be a source of comfort and solace. The individual dimension can cast its shadow on the collective depending on selective emphasis by those who interpret God’s will on the religious tendencies of resignation or revolt (qana’at versus jihad, for example). At the collective level, religion inevitably gets intertwined with politics and more often than not ends up as a tool subservient to larger political objectives. Any objective analysis of the history of religion has to record the terrible costs inflicted upon society by this combination. It was a realization of these costs that spurred the European movement to separate Church and State...

Development / 02.06.2009

By Anjum Altaf What have we learned from our discussion of the laws of inheritance? First, that laws pertaining to the same issue can differ across societies and over time. Second, that laws need not be divinely ordained and fixed for all times and places. The law of primogeniture was introduced in England in 1066 after the Norman invasion because the Norman knights who were awarded land grants did not wish their estates to be diluted by divisions. Third, laws can have negative and positive effects. The law of primogeniture was unfair because it deprived all heirs except the eldest son from a share in the wealth of the father.
Ghalib / 07.08.2008

This week’s she’r is the following: shar'a-o-aaiin par madaar sahii aise qaatil kaa kyaa kare koii Even on the basis of religious law and secular law What can anyone do with such a killer? An earlier she’r in this series on the subject of faith and faithfulness (Ghalib Says – 2) prompted a reader to refer to the Shah Bano case – was it right to be unjust while claiming to be faithful to a set of beliefs? We referred the issue to the scholar Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer who pointed out the distinction between Diin and Sharia’h – faith and law. In secular matters, it is law that should govern and the law should be in harmony with the changing times (see comments on Ghalib Says – 2). This exchange led us quite naturally to the she’r under discussion this week which refers to religious and secular law – shar’a-o-aaiin....