Wednesday, December 27, 2006

English - What you don't know might hurt you

One needs to add that even non-English speaking "tiger" economies (South Korea, China, Japan et al.) are investing a lot to make their population learn English langauge. One of the most promising jobs for foreigners in these countries is being an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher - and only native English speakers are considered eligible for that job.

Extract from Khalid Ahmed's article in today's Daily Times:

The language of learning has often been ‘foreign’. Khayyam wrote his poetry in his mother tongue but did his twenty odd tracts in mathematics in Arabic, the imperial language of his times. The same went for a large number of great Persian writers, including Ibn Sina and Imam Ghazali. They also went to ‘privileged’ schools endowed by the aristocracy for their own children.

In Khurasan, Persian was the imperial idiom and the Mughals took it although it was not their mother tongue. Babur insisted however on writing his Tuzuk in Uzbek.

Language is an asset no matter how acquired. And if it happens to be global then it is sheer good luck to have it as a past colonial experience. The Internet is 90 percent English and all exporting countries are struggling to learn the language to increase their wealth.
Liberty vs. Security

As the saying goes, those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither. According to a recent survey on the issue of State and Democracy in South Asia, people in the region overwhelmingly support democracy, except in Pakistan. From today's editorial of Daily Times:

But one must understand what the people are saying in the survey. They are rebuking the politicians but not embracing military rule in principle. The fact is that in the Islamic world, authoritarian regimes permit political and social liberalisation without building any transitional institutions that would ensure its durability. Thus there is no way that a state can survive by adopting military rule in principle, but again and again, it is the threat posed by the Islamists to hurt the people and the world after coming to power that is allowing ‘liberal’ authoritarianism to have its day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christimas and Happy New Year

Ironic as it may sound, many non-Christians celebrate Christ’s birthday with as much enthusiasm as Christians and irony upon irony, it’s not Christ’s birthday at all. If they were alive today, perhaps Solis Invictus gods might have sued Christ and his Churchmen for stealing their trademark. :)

I think Christianity, among all the world’s religions, stands out as a masterpiece of - what needs to be said- “theological plagiarism”. Try finding any “cardinal” belief or ritual in Christianity that happens to be original and one will be left looking for a needle in the haystack. Trinity, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, baptism, Crucifx, - it's truly amazing how successfully Church “hijacked” pagan symbols and gave them a Christian flavor as ransom. It's hard to imagine if Christianity would have become the world's largest religion today without this knack for "dogmatic adaptability", not to mention successful marketing by "God's men" (and women). :)

Pedantic nitpicking aside, Christmas today no longer remains the prerogative of Christians. If the Christians of the yore stole this festival from heathens in an attempt to overshadow paganism, the adherents of "Marketism" are playing the same trick with Christianity today. As things stand, Christmas has become the most commercialized of all religious festivals the world over - and consequently, it has lost much of its religious appeal under the hubris of secular consumerism. Many devout Christians rightly resent the commercialization of Christmas. Not to be outdone, many devout adherents of non-Christian religions look askance at the proliferation of Christmas in their households - which has been possible only because of its massive commercialization. :)

Enough of these boring thoughts! At the end of the day, Merry Christimas and Happy New Year to all the friends... (and to foes as well? ) :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Technology, without Science

Goranson has put it very rightly here. Muslim world is enthusiatic to come by the technology without mastering the underlying sciences.

Recently, a desire for greater political respect has spurred Islamic nations to invest in technology, which is most visible in Pakistani and Iranian nuclear ambitions. But while such weapons carry political weight, the science behind them is mundane and old.

More meaningful is the respect that comes from incubating insights, rather than the products of past discoveries. Imagine the influence that would be generated by a Pakistani institute that was the world leader in cancer research. Would the political rhetoric shift if researchers in Oman discovered a key to suppressing AIDS?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Indian judiciary and VIP "culture"

Nice to see Indian judiciary flexing it muscles and putting a dent to "VIP culture". India seems to be going ahead on its way to establish rule of law in the face of terrible problems. Let's hope Pakistan takes a leaf of its Eastern neighbor's book. It's still not clear if the justice will be served in the case of Nirala Sweets owner's son who killed 2 month old baby while racing in is Porsche in DHA Lahore.
God is NOT winning??

Optimism is a essentially a matter of perspective rather than of facts. Glass is half-full or half-empty, only the observer decides. Here's a case of secularist expressing optimism about the future of secularism in the face of religious assertiveness across the world. I think in the long haul, he may turn out to be right - just not sure how long this "long haul" lasts.
Chinese Interrogators at Guantanamo

So Chinese interrogators also tried their hands on inmates of Guantanamo! New face of "outsourcing" in "war on terror".
Philippines then, Iraq Now

In the words of Santayana, those who forget the history are condemned are to repeat it.

There are important differences between Iraq and the Philippines a century before. But also surely there's been a wasted opportunity to learn lessons, by an America that, for all its virtues, does not enjoy examining the past. Mark Twain, who stood up against the Philippine occupation, wrote that, if the past does not repeat itself, it at least rhymes. Sadly it seems the more influential view was Henry Ford's, who declared history 'more or less bunk'.

The pursuit of happiness

Why we fail to realize what makes us happy! Dan Gilbert talks
2006: A Year in Review:

A funny animation:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Dilemma of Pakistani Liberals Today

Pakistani liberals are indeed on the horn of dilemma - given the groud realities!

It is a cruel irony of fate and the terrible paradox the liberal extremist faces, that the only one capable today (given the ground realities) of implementing rapidly and effectively the new and liberal agenda is the institution that has got us into the mess in the first place

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

1971 War

A Pakistani military-man recalls the horrors of 1971 war.
America's religious right: God's own country

In the words of Bertrand Russell:

"I am sometimes shocked by the blasphemies of those who think themselves pious."

They hate gays and abortion, and love George W Bush. They worship in churches the size of shopping malls, and dominate the nation's - and the world's - political agenda. But is the Christian backlash finally starting against America's religious right?

Pity the "Zinda Dilan-e-Lahore"

"Moral" Police in action. Zinda Dilan-e-Lahore, better run for cover.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

In the Land of Hidden Imam

Some inside news about the citadel of Islamic "anti-imperialism".

Mr. Ganji, who recently emerged from six years in jail, expressed amazement that American institutions like the Council on Foreign Relations and "60 Minutes" on CBS News let Holocaust denial completely overshadow the government's repression.

During a 90-minute September meeting with council members in New York, for example, participants said they could only recall a single question put to Mr. Ahmadinejad about limited elections and shuttering the opposition press.

He was not pressed on rising unemployment, nor on the violent suppression of striking bus drivers protesting low wages, nor on arresting bloggers and confiscating satellite dishes to stifle debate, nor about censoring classical literature. Nobody asked about rioting by beleaguered Iranian earthquake survivors who resented giving money to Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon to rebuild houses destroyed by Israel. Mr. Ahmadinejad could have written the questions himself, the Iranian analysts argued.

And a glimpse into "freedom of speech" in "Islamic Republic":

Every delegate I interviewed congratulated Iran on its commitment to freedom of speech which they said was absent in the West where their comrades were in jail for denying the Holocaust.

They all paid tribute to their new hero, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. I asked them if they knew about the journalists and students who have been jailed in Iran for pushing the limits of freedom of speech in this country.

They were vague - happy to whitewash Iran without knowing the facts. As a journalist living and working in Iran I found it particularly galling to be told that I had freedom of speech by these people.

Eventually I found one of the movers and shakers behind the conference - a friend of President Ahmedinejad and asked him why there was freedom of speech to deny the Holocaust but not to criticise the Iranian government.

He told me there was complete freedom but the Western media was in the pocket of the Zionists and sent spies to undermine Iran's national security.

Presumably he meant all the students, bloggers, journalists and human rights lawyers who've been jailed here are Zionist spies.

Then he went on to say that the very presence of a BBC correspondent in Iran proved there was freedom of speech. Another twisted logic.

But when all the delegates were taken to see President Ahmedinejad for a mutual admiration session, the BBC, unlike other foreign media, was excluded from covering it. So much for Iranian freedom of speech.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pashtuns want an image change

It remains to be seen how large is the constituency of these "moderate Pashtuns" among their kins.
HEC Programs: Necessity or Luxury?

All criticism of HEC aside, what irks my mind is whether it is reasonable to invest so heavily in higher education for a country where the status of elmentary education is far from satisfactory. Kinda looks like trying to fly aircraft with a motorbike engine.

The HEC needs to re-examine the worldview that inspires it. Will it be prepared to undertake such an exercise? The chances look quite bleak because of its belief in its infallibility as manifested in the following example

Monday, December 04, 2006

School Day 24: India-Pakistan

Indian students are linking up with pupils at a Pakistani school to share perspectives about their countries' past and look at the differences in their respective history textbooks about the period before 1947 when both nations were one.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dr. Ghamdi's reservations about Women Bill

Dr. Ghamdi's has some reservations about Women Bill. I'm getting confused what exactly is the "historic achievement" of His Enlightened Moderation if even the so-called "Women Protection Bill" does not challenge "half- witness" status of a woman. As I see, all this Bill does is that rape cases are to be tried under Pakistan Penal Code, not Hudood ordinance. Even on this point, the Big Chaudary of Gujrat Sharif has got cold feet and started calling for its "re-amendment ".

I'd like to know how many Muslim countries have Hudood laws on their statute books and if any version of Hudood laws makes distinction between the offenses of rape and adultery.
Pakistan in a state of AIDS denial

That's just one among the long list of issues about which Pakistanis love to behave like "ostrich's head in the sand".


Pakistan in a state of AIDS denial: UN official

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is in a state of denial about the extent of its HIV/AIDS problem, and political leaders need to understand the reality, otherwise it will be very difficult to contain the epidemic, said a United Nations AIDS official.

The Pakistani government has reported about 3,500 cases of people with HIV, 367 of whom have developed AIDS, but the true number of HIV cases could be as many as 210,000, said Aldo Landi, the country coordinator of the UN AIDS agency in Pakistan.

“There is still a state of denial for many reasons, but it’s not only in Pakistan,” said Landi.

“Unfortunately in many countries, it’s a major problem. It’s the reason we are not successful in containing HIV. Political will is the first thing ... if there is no real strong political will, it is very difficult to contain the epidemic,” he said.

He said that Pakistan had a major heroin problem, and studies had found that about a third of injecting drug users in Karachi were HIV positive.

The official said that the virus was also being spread through sex, and “the sexual part is also very important”.

“We know that 30 percent are positive,” he said of Karachi’s drug users. “They are young, jobless, 40 percent are married, which means they infect their wives through sex,” he added. “Your political leaders have to understand what is going on,” he said.

Landi said that nobody knew the true extent of the spread of HIV as surveillance for the virus was only beginning in Pakistan, but the figure was not the issue. “The problem is not the number ... the problem you have already in the country is that there is an epidemic,” he said.

The official was speaking on the sidelines of a news conference to announce the setting up of a network of groups to help people with HIV, to mark World AIDS Day on Friday. reuters