What do Hitler, OBL and Stalin have in common?

“God bless Mujahid bin Laden”

“God bless Sheikh Mujahid Osama bin Laden, and no consolation for the ignorant (Jahil) parrots of the West”

These were the comments I read under the following (liberal?) image I came across Facebook… so here is some food for thought (or not depending on how indignant people get in the comments).

The poster/picture was shared by a Jordanian friend and the commenters below were mostly Arab, (though I think Pakistani readers would have similar reactions). Now the general sentiment of the comments was agreement with the captioning of the personalities, all except for Osama bin Laden. What makes the goal of  killing for religion (OBL), better than killing under Communism (Stalin)?

Here is another comment: “First: Hitler was a disbeliever, originally did not believe in Christ, Second: Osama bin Laden, a man who acted when the world sat idle” (Hitler’s religious beliefs are actually not conclusively proven unreligious, however Nazism and neo-nazism today is heavily grounded in Christianity)”

What does this mean? Do people outraged at Osama’s presence on the above poster support suicide bombing? Do all these people not see killing as a crime whether it is Americans or Jews or Muslims?

Its not only us Pakistanis with masses of extreme wight-wingers, upset with liberalism, secularism, feminism and everything left of centre. Most of the religious world is rife with such destructive sentiments. The way a mass of us has been celebrating Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of  Salmaan Taseer, the same type of type of support groups popped up on Facebook for the neo-nazi Norwegian killer, Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 92 people in 2011. And it didn’t ened here. In an act of provocation the Thor Steinar clothing company, associated with the neo-Nazi scene, has opened a store in eastern Germany called Brevik, a name almost identical to Breivik. Neo-nazi parties and grops exist across Central and Westen Europe and are condemnable. There are many many examples of music groups, hate groups, individuals and churches that are know for being anti-Semite, pro-white and Christian. The difference is maybe in the quantity of support for these groups and national laws that does not give them space for great national and international impact.

So when people who share the viewpoint of the image, say that OBL is evil, or a murderer, or just an all round bad apple, its not because he was Muslim or that they are pro-West/USA, its because of his actions. Anyone who has such a disregard for human life is evil. That is why we have law, and criminal codes and prisons and punishment, so that a Mumtaz Qadri does not wake up one day and go on a rampage because he does not agree with what you are saying.

But is there a correlation between religion and ethics? Are religious people more moral than atheists or agnostics?

Studies have found no difference between religious and non-religious individuals on unethical behaviors such as dishonesty and cheating, while a negative relationship was found between use of illegal substances and individual religiousness*. Kidwell et al in 1987 found no relationship between religiosity and ethical judgments of managers. Religion may not be the key to making you a good (or a bad person), and there is no conclusive study to say otherwise.**

The picture also seems to show a (weak) correlation between mustaches and ethics. Get over it.

Notes

*See Hood, R. W., B. Spilka, B. Hunsberger and R. Gorsuch: 1996, The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach (Guildford Press, New York). Also see Khavari, K. A. and T. M. Harmon: 1982, The Relationship between the Degree of Professed Religious Belief and Use of Drugs, International Journal of the Addictions 17, 847–857.

** See Parboteeah, Hoegl and Cullen: 2008, Ethics and Religion: An Empirical Test of a Multidimensional Model, Journal of Business Ethics (2008) 80:387–398.

Pak Tea House, August 2012.

Pakistan meme

I’m doing some research on memes and internet culture in Pakistan, so if you are here and reading this click this and help me by filling out this survey if you are a young Pakistani (and tweet/Facebook it too if you like it). Will post findings here soon.

Survey: http://memecloud.treebark.org/64147

And here’s a hilarious image from the Facebook page Sarcasmistan

World Values: What makes nations happy?

The unprecedented wealth that has accumulated in advanced societies during the past generation means that an increasing share of the population has grown up taking survival for granted. This means that priorities have shifted from economic and physical security to more subjective concerns of well being like self-expression. Thus modernisation and economic progress is not a linear process, once a society moves towards high levels of economic growth, there are only incremental changes in quality of life. However, attitudes towards wellbeing continue to evolve.

Figure 1: Survival and Well Being as related to per capita GNP.

The World Values Survey (WVS) is one such piece of research that tries to find evidence that orientations have shifted. Since the 1990s, results from the World Values Survey have been noticing a shift from Traditional toward Secular-rational values in almost all industrial societies. The Survey is a global research project that explores people’s values and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have, carried out by a worldwide network of social scientists since 1981. The WVS is the only source of empirical data on attitudes covering a majority of the world’s population (nearly 90%). Data from the World Values Survey have for example been used to better understand the motivations behind events such as the 2010-2011 Middle East and North Africa proteststhe Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the Yugoslav wars and political upheaval in the 1990s. The survey is conducted every few years and is in the final phases of its 2012 research.

Two dimensions dominate the picture in the WVS analysis: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations.

According to the WVS website, the Traditional/Secular-rational values dimension reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not with a wide range of other related orientations. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of parent-child ties and deference to authority, along with absolute standards and traditional family values, and reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride, and a nationalistic outlook. Societies with secular-rational values have the opposite preferences on all of these topics. The second major dimension of cross-cultural variation is linked with the transition from industrial society to post-industrial societies-which brings a polarization between Survival and Self-expression values.

Each country is positioned according to its people’s values and not its geographical location. To a large extent the two coincide, but the map measures cultural proximity, not geographical proximity. Thus, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain are cultural neighbors, reflecting their relatively similar values, despite their geographical dispersion. Figure 2 and 3 provide a comparison of world values between 2004 and 2008. The nature of the values on either axis is explained by Figure 4.

Figure 2: The World Value Survey Cultural Map 2005-2008

Source: Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, “Changing Mass Priorities: The Link Between Modernization and Democracy.” Perspectives on Politics June 2010 (vol 8, No. 2) page 554.

Figure 3: The World Value Survey Cultural Map 1999-2004

Source: Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005: page 63.

Figure 3: Scatter chart of Authority and Survival or Well Being
Source: R. Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization (Princeton, 1997).

The shift from survival values to self-expression values includes shifts in child-rearing values, shifts from hard work toward emphasis on imagination and tolerance as important values to teach a child. This is supplanted with a rising sense of subjective well-being that is conducive to an atmosphere of tolerance, trust and political moderation. Finally, societies that rank high on self-expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust.

Happiness: Religion and national pride

The WVS has often been used to measure happiness in states. Data from representative national surveys carried out from 1981 to 2007 shows the extent to which a society allows free choice has a major impact on happiness.

The WVS finds that that national pride had a strong zero-order correlation with attitudes towards well being but it was closely linked with strong emphasis on religion.  When included with religiosity in the regression, national pride did not have an independent impact. Both religion and national pride were stronger in less-developed societies than in developed ones, which helps explain why some low-income societies had relatively high levels of “happiness”. For example, the contrast between the Latin American societies and the ex- communist societies shown in Figure 5 may be due in part to the fact that virtually all of the Latin American societies surveyed at that time were strongly religious and had strong national pride, whereas the ex-communist nations were not religious and did not have national pride: 76% of those surveyed in Latin American countries stated that ‘‘God is very important in my life’’ (placing themselves the top of a 10-point scale), whereas only 27% of those surveyed in the ex-communist countries and 42% of those surveyed in the remaining countries did so. In addition, 77% of those surveyed in Latin American countries said they are ‘‘very proud’’ of their nationality, as compared with 39% of those surveyed in the ex-communist societies and 57% of those surveyed in the remaining countries.

Figure 5: Happiness and GNP

So while we started off by saying that more democratic and prosperous countries have values that encourage self-expression, and people in those countries are not worried about survival, happiness is something that exists even is non-industrialized and conservative states. These countries score high on traditional values as well as having good scores with regards to self expression (Figure 2). Thus it is choice and self expression that makes for happiness, regardless of traditional values. Secular-rational nations are only happy, when they are not worried with survival. Thus countries like Denmark are Sweden are “happy” and post-communist countries are “unhappy”.

WVS Methodology: The World Values Survey uses the sample surveys as its mode of data collection, a systematic and standardized approach to collect information through interviewing representative national samples of individuals. Samples are drawn from the entire population of 18 years and older. The minimum sample is 1000. In most countries, no upper age limit is imposed and some form of stratified random sampling is used to obtain representative national samples. The survey is carried out by professional organizations using face-to-face interviews or phone interviews for remote areas. Each country has a Principal Investigator responsible for conducting the survey in accordance with the fixed rules and procedures.

Pakistan Policy Group, 2012.

Corruption and fundamentalist movements-Discussions from Africa

Published at Pakistan Policy Group

Lets start off by looking at the logic of corruption in society. This ‘logic’ come outs of experiences of systemic corruption, and is not just visible in Africa.

1.    Corruption is wide ranging, affecting many types of transaction;
2.    Corruption has become the norm;
3.    Everybody hates corruption; Nobody will denounce the corrupt;
4.    Corruption corrupts, and once the rot sets in little can be done to stop it;
5.    All political systems are prone to corruption (democracy offers no easy cure);
6.    Corruption is considered “fair” by its perpetrators, but not by its victims.

We have taken this description of corruption from a paper titled, “A moral economy of corruption in Africa” (De Sardan, 1999). The general conclusion drawn by the author  is that the most likely outcome of conscious and generalized corruption is a fundamentalist revolution. The description of corrupt practices, and our discussion to follow, is very relevant to the case of Pakistan.

Pakistans Corruption Rankings, Transparency International

Corruption is diverse in practice and is not marginal or sectoral  and ranges from petty corruption to major (state elite corruption). It is generalized and banalised, and a central part of civil discourse. However, everybody knows who is corrupt, but it would be unthinkable to denounce a relative or acquaintance to the police. Similarly, “Important individuals” are all compromised and dare not denounce each other, giving rise to a loose network of solidarity. Corruption is expanding, and seems to be irreversible due to its pervasiveness and “normalisation”. In the case of Africa this inability to regress comes from state failure, massive unemployment, unproductive civil servants, an irresponsible ruling elite and underpaid civil servants. Additionally development aid and income from illegal drugs trade and demands has caused clientelism favorable to corruption.

Single institution/sector perceived to be most affected by corruption, overall results. Source: Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2009. Percentages are weighted.

Such a situation offers dismal prospects for political solutions. De Sardan writes that, “There is no obvious correlation between the extent of corruption, on the one hand, and the types of political regime, their degree of despotism and their economic effectiveness, on the other.” Thus the type of government may affect the type of corruption in vogue, but not its scale. Secondly, corrupt practices are consider legitimate by perpetuators, it may sometimes only be exclusion from the gains of corruption that causes criticism and awareness- “A minister may think it fair to use government resources to build a villa, because he is far from being properly recompensed for his services.” Predatory authorities may even consider these gains a right of office- a mindset modeled on colonial relationships. Corruption is also necessary for social acceptance and the logic of solidarity requires linkages from school or family or middlemen, and bargaining patters or gift giving between them, to get things done.

What facilitates the acceptance and fuels the banality or ‘everyday-ness’ of corruption? Within traditional cultures there exists a practice of over-monetarisation. By over-monetarisation De Sadan means the social pressure to give gifts, especially in cash (e.g. marriage gifts, birth announcements, religious holiday gifts etc.) These social relations can form an “excuse”, or a vehicle, for corruption practices like bribery, concessions etc. Shame or guilt of not helping and acquaintance with the manipulation of the system is also a reason for acceptance of corruption and a legitimization of ones own actions. A study of civil servant corruption from Malawi says that three sets of rules intertwined- official rules, kinship rules and the unofficial code of conduct, are what encourage corrupt behavior (Anders, 2002).

Coming to the issue of a “fundamentalist revolution”, a major proposition in anthropological studies of corruption say that it is not realistic to combat corrupt practices as long as the people who take part in them view them as acceptable, thus systemic reform will be difficult. For success an almost utopian change at the administrative level will be needed. As long as political elites are unwilling to give up some of their privileges and to reform, changing the general public’s attitudes may ultimately take the form of ‘puritanical’ or ‘fundamentalist’ movements based in the ‘grassroots’ (Fjeldstad, Kolstad and Lange, 2003).

References
Anders, G, “Like Chameleons: Civil servants and corruption in Malawi”, 2002, La gouvernance au quitidien en Afrique, 23-24.
De Sardan, J P Olivier,  “A moral economy of corruption in Africa?, Journal of Modern African Studies”, 37, 1, 1999, pp 25 – 52
Fjeldstad, O, Ivar Kolstad and Siri Lange, “Autonomy incentives and patronage: A study of corruption in the Tanzania and Uganda revenue authority”, 2003, CMI: Norway.

The ‘F’ Word

Published today at Pak Tea House. Ruffled a lot of feathers. 

You tell a male that this day forth he must not go out to work, he must marry to support himself, he must take permission from his wife or parents before he goes out, that he doesn’t need education… he would find such restrictions ridiculous. When a female has the same sentiments, she is thought to be ridiculous.

The sentiments of the sexes can be the same, because as humans we are similar and equal. This notion of gender equality is what has been riling up conservatives, stirring up traditions and changing cultures for centuries.

The strongest counter argument against feminism is based on physical traits. That men are physically stronger and so must go forth and earn. Women are weak and must go forth and be a tool of biological production.  Thus men and women have some pre-assigned roles, and this physical design is cemented into culture, religion and politics. This whole she-bang is part of traditional conservatism, and the doctrine is ancient (demise in the late 1800s). Many conservatives in the west do not even subscribe to this gender-separation view at all. This is of course not true for many other societies like ours.

Feminism is not an ideology based on female superiority. Just like racial justice or religious tolerance are not doctrines that advocate racial or religious supremacy. Formally it arose in the late 1700s as a rights-based liberal reaction to conservative political philosophy and a revision of liberal thought. The grand-daddy of liberalism, a man called John Locke in the 17th century premised the role of the state on the provision and prevention of natural rights of humans. Humans are free and self-governing because they are naturally rational and able to make decisions.

This was a radical challenge to dominant conservative thought; like the divine right of kings, feudal aristocratic supremacy, political representation for only the moneyed, educated and pedigreed, and an unquestioning faith in the clergy. Versions of which exist here and now. A hundred years later, a lady (called Mary Wollstonecraft, mother to Mary Shelly of ‘Frankenstein’ fame) put up her hand and added to the liberal shift saying: “Hey Locke talked of natural rights of humans. Is only the male a human being? Are women not as rational, intelligent or mentally capable? Should we also not work, be allowed to own land, vote, and contribute to society and economy.” How radical/unacceptable/scandalous/wrong!

So it was ironic to read this extreme conservative viewpoint by a girl called Paras Abbasi who has the opportunity to study at one of Karachi’s best institutes and has the opportunity to voice her concerns publicly. Let me quote from this article that represents the prevalent feminophobic position:

“What favor are you doing to the woman (specifically) and a human in general by brain washing her to work rather than letting her take care of her house and bring up her children?… And coming back to those who think women need the very same rights as men… How about dragging all the daughters to the borders to fight for the country if any war breaks out, just like we do to the sons of our nation? The reality is we cannot afford it…respect what importance both of us have been given naturally.” 

Feminism does not blame the male solely, it’s the female as well that perpetuates her own role in the patriarchal drama. As Nabiha Meher puts it: “Mothers collect dowries and makes sure their daughters are always presentable, always ready to impress any eligible… when these young women do want to work they are held back by their… If sisterhood did exist, wouldn’t their mothers fight for them?”

I hear you Paras Abassi. I hear you everyday. Telling me that its okay to say that I want to marry rich, that I deserve to live off a male, that I must have children to be a successful and complete human being, that I can’t serve my country as a soldier, that I cant travel without amahrem, that my career comes second to the happiness of my husband, that my children will be wasted if am a working mother.

It is not okay. If my rights and life is based on the fact that I am physically different from a male, the logic of the anti-feminist argument is no different from that that of a racist or of a creationist.

Must the female be boxed up in such spaces or can we allow for her to have the potential to be much more? It is not a debate for me. Political and social equality is my right, regardless of my sex.

*The title is borrowed from my colleague Qursum Qasim who wrote a similar themed article back in 2007.

If famous books were written by Pakistanis

  • Begum Chatterjees Whipping

  • Allah of all things (small and big)

  • Chanda’s Web

because this is what happened to trees when spiders couldn't find refuge during the 2010 floods.

  • Songs of Blood and Sword ….oh wait Fatima Bhutto already ripped that one off from George RR Martin

Please compare

Did anyone know theres a Cambodian-Psychedelic band called 'Dengue Fever'?

Did anyone know theres a

Cambodian-Psychedelic band

called ‘Dengue Fever’?

  • Puttar Haris and the Search for Halal Ham

    Oh God, where do I even dig up these disturbing images from??

            Oh God, where do I even dig up these disturbing images from??

Because her face will cause massive sex riots.

  • The Devil wears Bata

  • Exploding Mangos of Wrath

  • Where the radical Islamists are

  • The Kite Ban-ner – and other stuff Shabaz Sharif banned in Punjab

Doesn't everybody miss this?

Doesn't everybody miss scenes like this?

Our apologist athlete and his students

(Published on Pak Tea House on 1st July, 2011)

Last week in class, two of my students were to present the impact of the War on Terror on the Pakistan economy.

My young freshman students missed the point of the presentation, to focus on the economy, and economic policy in light of a war. Rather they delved into Pakistani politics and said that the War on Terror was Americas war, nothing to do with Pakistan and we should have stayed out of it (as if we had a choice or wanted to do that) and the only politician calling this spade a spade was Imran Khan.

They ended their presentation with this video clip, where repeatedly Khan says that the military was wrong to go into Wazistan… the military by attacking its own people had ‘created’ the Taliban said the apologist athlete. The presentation ended with the whole class clapping and nodding in agreement.

Fasi Zaka write for the Express Tribune (June 14, 2011), “Many Pakistanis clamour for an independent Pakistan free of corruption, yet they balk at the idea of supporting Imran Khan.” I find myself among the ‘balkers’ and agree with Mr Zaka. But why so? The man has established himself to be honest, generous and uncorrupt, which is more than we can say for the gahirat brigade or President Zardari. Recently Nadeem Piracha has also written about Imran being a creation of the establishment. And then Raza Habib Raza on PTH has commented that the youth’s love affair with Khan saying it’s all about a lack of other options. I think it runs deeper than that, students like his ‘blame rhetoric’, the idea that he’s the only politician that hasn’t mucked up yet.

After two years of teaching classes in political science and economics, to well near a thousand students in a private sector college, all but a handful actually have a critical understanding of politics. Our youth does not read papers; they read top rated blog posts and top tweeted news stories. They go to the news anchors for their information and none of them know their Islamic history from their political and cultural history. The general sentiments are pro-Imran Khan and either apologetic about terrorism and radicalization or pro-Taliban, views that are hard to change in one semester and that belong to both liberal and conservative students. These are dangerous ideas to adopt and give forces like the Taliban a semblance of legitimacy. For me much of my face-palm reaction at Imran Khan and his student supporters is because his simplistic rhetoric spells trouble in case he ever gets elected.

Fasi Zaka is spot on when he says that Khan is Jamaat-e-Islami 2.0, “Imran blamed the death of Salmaan Taseer on the war on terror. As if blasphemy related murders never happened before 9/11… he suggested a ceasefire, negotiations and compromise. That’s exactly what happened in 2009 in Swat and Malakand, with the government going further and giving the extremists legal cover”… gaping holes in his 2.0 ideology sprinkled with progressiveness.

But we will only know what Imran Khan can actually do if he has political success in elections. His competition has hardly handled the country well. Is there room for optimism that he can whip Pakistan into shape? Many fear he will blunder through foreign policy and make a fool of Pakistan.

Today as well, while debating corruption in class, a student asked what viable political option did we have? ‘Well Tehreek-e-Insaaf of course,’ replied another student. But what must the youth do? Blame the military, USA and the corrupt system of politics? “Yes why of course, Miss Gardezi”. But blame militant groups themselves for turning buildings into rubble and killing Ahmadis, Shias and anyone else who acts different… “Oh no Miss Gardezi, militants only blow up stuff because USA invaded Afghanistan and is now invading Pakistan.”

What an open letter from a terrorist group looks like (Link)

What an open letter from a terrorist group looks like.

Must read. People who are apologists about militancy and attacks on other sects need to open their eyes… a direct attack on human rights and human dignity. Shameful and sad.

This post is from http://afghanistananalysis.wordpress.com/

Pakistan Budget 2011-12: Expenditures

Basically the total Rs 2.767 trillion is going to be spent as:

Expenditures Rs in Billion
Interest Payments 791
Defence affairs and services 495
Federal PDSP 300
Grants and transfers 295
Repayment of foreign loans 243
Running of civil governmnet 203
Subsidies 166
Other development expenditures 97
Pension 96
Development Loans and grants to provinces 55
Provision for pay and pension 25

Thats means 39% or so of the expenditure is debt servicing.

More on this later. Just wanted to post the colorful pie made for The Friday Times.

(Please credit if you copy-paste)

‘The spectre of Islamist infiltration’

The Friday Times, May 27th, 2011
In the wake of recent events, the faultlines in Pakistan’s defence forces need to be identified and tackled- Raza Rumi

The recent attacks on the Karachi naval base have once again sparked a debate concerning the much-feared radicalisation within the armed forces. Declan Walsh writing in The Guardian (May 23, 2011) says how the “spectre of Islamist infiltration has haunted the army for decades”. This should be a major concern for Pakistanis. At the same time, Pakistan’s defence forces are well-known for their internal discipline and the overarching ‘unity of command’ that all commanders take pride in.

Nevertheless, radicalisation in the junior ranks has been observed and reported by the national press. In particular, the attempts to kill the former president and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf revealed the shifting ideological frontiers of the military complex. In June 2009, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) confirmed that it had arrested or dismissed from service at least 57 employees in connection with botched attempts on the life of the former president. Abdul Islam Siddiqui, a soldier of the Pakistan Army was hanged in 2005 after an in-camera military trial for his alleged involvement in the December 2003 attack on Gen Musharraf`s convoy.

Siddiqui was charged with receiving terrorism training at Bhimber in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) during August 2002 at a Jaish-e-Muhammad training camp. He further defied military orders to fight in South Waziristan against fellow tribal citizens. It was alleged he remained associated with the Shuhada Foundation, an organisation of the PAF, several of whose officer-bearers wanted to kill Musharraf (Outlook, October 19, 2005).

The plethora of cases relating soldiers influenced by Islamist ideology point to the reported gap between top army leadership and the soldiers. This gap increased as in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks because of Musharraf’s half-hearted attempts to give the Army a liberal outlook.

Earlier, cases of disciplinary action against radicalised soldiers were also reported. In 2003, Major Adil Qudoos, brother of Ahmad Qudoos (who had given protection to Al Qaeda leader Sheikh Ahmad) was arrested in a surprise raid (Dawn, March 23, 2003). In 2005, a military court ordered the dismissal of six officers including Major Adil Qudoos (Daily Times, September 19, 2005).

Another recent case is illustrative: On December 10, 2009, one Col Bashir was arrested by the Pakistani military police along with Squadron Leader Nadeem Ahmad Shah, a retired air force fighter pilot and a former professional JAG lawyer and civilian advocate, and Awais Ali Khan, a civilian mechanical engineer who served with the military’s Air Weapons Complex. Col Bashir had contacts with the Hizbut Tahrir group (Dawn, May 13, 2009). In 2010, Faisal Shahzad was reportedly in touch with an officer of Pakistani Army’s Signal Corps, moments before he parked the bomb-laden SUV at the Times Square (pak-watch.blogspot.com, July 18, 2010).

Radicalised soldiers have also been reportedly creating informal networks. Arshad Sharif’s report in Dawn (14 Sept, 2010) revealed how a disgruntled junior non-commissioned officer formed Jundullah, a militant group with alleged contacts with Jaish-e-Muhammad. Impressed by calls to jihad, 30 other personnel from various army units stationed in Quetta Cantonment joined the new organisation. Some of these officers were also involved in planning botched attacks on Jacobabad Air Base in 2003, in addition to planning two separate assassination attempts on Gen Musharraf. In addition to PAF, Jundullah also tried to establish its influence within different units of the armed forces.

These cases are not confined to the last decade only. In 1995 there was a military attempt to overthrow the government in an ‘Islamic’ coup to reestablish the Caliphate. Maj Gen Zahirul Islam Abbasi, a former commander and officer of the Pakistani Army, was accused and convicted for a period of 7 years for being party to the coup d’état. A total of 40 army officers, including one brigadier and five colonels and 10 civilians were rounded up.

New cables released by Wikileaks reveal how the “elite” groups of “colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU [National Defence University] training with no chance to hear alternative views of the US”. Anti-Americanism within the armed forces is an oft-cited reality though one has no empirical basis to assess its impact and coverage within the institution.

All these reported cases demonstrate that there is a problem with middle and lower ranks. However, it is also clear that the top leadership within the armed forces is cognisant of such trends and has been taking strict action against the errant officials. In the wake of recent events such as the intelligence failure (some say cover-up) with respect to bin Laden’s hideout and now the attack on the naval base, the fault lines within Pakistan’s key institution need to be identified and tackled. Perhaps, it is also time for the command and control mechanisms instituted for nuclear installations to review the situation given how the world is viewing Pakistan’s nuclear assets as ‘unsafe’. These claims may be exaggerated but cannot be ignored.

Shahid Saeed and Saadia Gardezi contributed to the report.

Raza Rumi is a writer and policy expert based in Lahore. Follow him on twitter: @razarumi

Free Burma Now- Propaganda Sunday (but its Wednesday, I know)

You can probably see that the artist is Shepard Fairey of the Obama “HOPE” poster fame. It refers to the struggle against a military regime for the freedom for political change and freedom from imprisonment of many of the would-be elected political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi (a Nobel Peace laureate). Though multiparty elections were held in 1990, the military regime ignored how Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won with an overwhelming majority. The military has been in control since 1962.

I suppose this is the ‘good propaganda’ poster… if one can call it that. Fairey’s work is always beautiful and politically and socially charged and has entered into the canon  of pop culture and internet memes.

The media and the manhunt

The media buzz around the death of OBL on May 2, 2011. Published in The Friday Times, 6 May, 2011.

With the first five months of the year, a plethora of changes have happened making world politics unrecognizable from one year before.  One of the biggest was the on May 2 when news of the capture of Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad exploded on TV screens and in newspapers. The facts that Western media has focused on have been that the US led operation focused on one of Bin Ladens trusted couriers and a protégé of one of the architects of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (New York Times, ABC News, US Government). The compound where Bin Laden was hiding was valued at $1 million and had 12 to 18 foot walls with barbed wire. And was 8 to 10 times larger than surrounding houses.

Senior US officials initially told news agencies that Bin Laden’s body would be disposed of in accordance with Islamic tradition, which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours, and Bin Laden was buried at sea (LA Times, Washington Post). The Guardian was of the view that US concern over Bin Laden’s burial place turning into a shrine were probably unfounded, since the Wahhabi/Salafi tradition rejects such things. “Burial at sea is rare in Islam, though several Muslim websites say it is permitted in certain circumstances. One is on a long voyage where the body may decay… The other is if there is a risk of enemies digging up a land grave and exhuming or mutilating the body – a rule that could plausibly be applied in Bin Laden’s case,” reported the paper.

The news was celebrated in many foreign capitals with crowds gathering outside the White House to celebrate and spontaneous celebration all over the US. French Foreign Minster Alain Juppe called it a “victory for all democracies fighting the abominable scourge of terrorism”. British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would “bring great relief to people across the world” (Express Tribune). The US had warned of possible threats of retaliation (CNN). In UK Heathrow airport has stepped up security and many other countries fear protests. In Pakistan US and UK embassies have put their citizen on high alert.

Headlines across America and Europe on May 2 were ‘The most wanted face of terrorism’ (New York Times), ‘A day for justice’ (Chicago Tribune), ‘An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth’ (Der Spiegel) and ‘Born to privilege, he dies a pariah (Wall Street Journal). Local newspapers however have been skeptical of the facts (Dawn News), and the Television media will undoubtedly resort to more fact digging and speculation.

The Taliban in Afghanistan had no immediate official reaction, though a local commander in Paktia said the killing “will affect their morale and will trigger the violence” and a commander in Baghlan promised revenge (NYT, Guardian). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula confirmed bin Laden’s death and called it a catastrophe (AFP).

Reports say that officials in the Middle East did not have immediate reactions, and responses were “mixed” on the Arab street (CNN, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times). However Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the killing and described bin Laden as a “holy warrior” (CNN).

The coming weeks will of course clarify more facts about the operation as well as create more controversies. Dawn News for example said on May 2 that Bin Laden might not have been killed by US forces but his own guard. The paper quotes a Pakistani official who visited the site after the US assault team left, “From the scene of the gun battle it doesn’t look like he could have been killed at point blank range from such a close angle, while offering resistance.”

The western media sees the proximity of a military academy to Bin Laden compounds as an obvious proof of Pakistani military and intelligence being involved in hiding him and other leaders of the Al-Qaeda (BBC, CNN). This reaction is not just isolated to the media but world leaders as well. Israel has called this the “liquidation” of Bin Laden. India lashed out at Pakistan, saying that terrorists find sanctuary in Pakistan (Express Tribune, AFP).

There will again be a reevaluation of the US-Pakistan relationship not only but the respective governments but also by the media. Shuja Nawaz writes for Foreign Policy saying that the Pakistani military’s official reaction to the death of Bin Laden will be telling. If the operation was carried out in close cooperation then the trajectory of this declining relationship may be reversed. Even though Obama has acknowledged the role of Pakistan in the war against terrorism, it is not clear what that role has been with regards to the capture. Foreign media has generally reviewed Pakistan unfavourably and credit for the capture has solely been awarded to the US.

The general consideration of the western media is that only one of head of the Al-Qaeda hydra has been cut off. Der Spiegel is of the view that Bin Laden has left behind one of the most resilient and effective terrorist networks the world has ever seen. The death will weaken Al-Qaeda but for some time now others have been in charge of planning global terrorism. “I suspect the al-Qaeda senior leadership will splinter… this will create a vacuum,” said Marc Sageman, a former CIA analyst as when Al-Qaeda leaders became consumed with mere survival, other groups will try to pick up the slack.

The future of terrorism may still be secure. The Taliban is entrenched in Afghanistan and Pakistan, terrorist groups in Yemen, Algeria and Iraq have adopted the Al-Qaeda brand and in Somalia, al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists are growing. Ayman al-Zawahiri is expected to be number one on the FBI’s most wanted list (ABC News). Reports say that the power balance will shift to Yemen (Der Spiegel). John Brennan, US Chief of Counterterrorism may have spoken too soon when he said that that “Al-Qaeda is something in the past.”

Everybody hates Raymond

Raymond Davis has been the subject of widespread speculation since he opened fire on two men who had pulled up in front of his car at a red light on 25 January. Pakistan’s authorities have charged him with murder but the Obama administration insists he is an administrative and technical official with diplomatic immunity. US government has admitted that he is a CIA contractor and was keeping this information secret for his safety. As a security contractor and not a CIA employee, I doubt he has a valid recourse to diplomatic immunity… but I guess its a matter of politics and not of law (!). And check out the bling on these guys. ‘Rational’ is not how Pakistani’s roll.

The revelation may legally complicate American efforts to free Davis, who insists he was acting in self-defence against the pair of suspected robbers who were both carrying guns. There is no doubt that Davis’ reaction was excessive in light of the threat. He fired 10 shots and got out of his car to shoot one man twice in the back as he fled.

Nice training CIA!

Davis is confirmed to have served in the US special forces for 10 years becoming a security contractor. He is also believed to have worked with Xe, the firm formerly known as Blackwater (Guardian, Feb 19) (The plot thickens!). The New York Times (Feb 20) reported that Davis was part of a CIA operation tracking Islamic extremists in eastern Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The babies in the Obama administration have threatened to withhold $1.5 bn in annual aid, but fine, its your money USA. “This is not the work of a diplomat. He was doing espionage activities,” said the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah.

The drama has been getting increasingly intense with Foreign minister Qureshi losing his job, the widow of the victim killing herself with rat poison, Obama himself asking for Davis’ return and cries of revolution (everybody wants one) against Pakistan’s weak government and America’s imperialistic arrogance.

 

 

Shah Mahmood’s circus

In his emotional speech at a rally in hometown Multan on February 20, ex-minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that he had been punished because of telling the truth that Davis’ did not enjoy diplomatic immunity. “I was told that taking a stand on this issue can deteriorate relations with US, but I cannot make any compromise on the honour of my country… We’ll not bargain the country for the sake of aid. We’re Muslims and it is our belief that Allah Almighty opens 100 new doors if one is shut,” he said. Qureshi expressed his astonishment at the fact that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had hinted that Pakistan-US relations had strained in the wake of this issue.

Qureshi’s grandstanding has created a niche for him to develop as a leader. There are those of the view that in a party rife with allegations of corruption, he is clean, educated and articulate and in an ideal world, he is eminently qualified to be a leader of his political party and the country (The News, Feb 18). Other media pundits are more cautious; things may not be what they appear. The Davis case has become part of a larger political game and may be a symptom of the problem of harsh terms of reference within which Islamabad is dealing with the US. Talat Hussain (Dawn, Feb 21) looks at Qureshi as having committed political suicide but personally redeemed himself by his speech.

The man who had never criticized drone attacks went further, saying that the US had ignored the energy crisis in the country, “If they can strike a nuclear deal with India why can’t they see the energy crisis being faced by Pakistan?”

Oh the trouble one bungling secret agent can cause…

 

Pakistan’s economic underbelly

I was recently researching the extent and measurement of the informal economy in Pakistan for a colleague and the econometric methods used to estimate the shadow economy are pretty interesting and intuitive. For every Rs 100 in taxes, the government receives only Rs 38 and the rest is eaten up by the tax payer, the collector and tax practitioner.

The official description of the shadow economy is ‘unmeasured and untaxed economic activity’ taking place in a country. And this is obviously poorly reflected in official measures of national income and output. Pakistan can very easily fall into the description of the ‘shadow state’ where decisions and actions are taken by an individual ruler and do not conform to a set of written laws and procedures, although these might be present. A history of our politics and the way constitutions and have been torn ad taped together with new paragraphs added here and there is a testament to this fact. In a shadow state rulers ‘manipulate external actors’ access to both formal and clandestine markets, by relying on the global recognition of sovereignty, and are thereby able to undermine formal government institutions’. This weakens bureaucratic structures and manipulates markets. These “informal commercially orientated networks” are created that operate alongside government bureaucracies (The Shadow State in Africa: A Discussion,  Nikki Funke and Hussein Solomon, 2002).

A State Bank of Pakistan study last year (Arby, Malik and Hanif, 2010) makes use three different methodologies to measure the informal economy of Pakistan. The first is the monetary approach based on the idea that higher tax rates induce people to use currency for transactions to avoid tax reporting (known as the ARDL model). The assumptions of this approach are that informal economic activities are the direct consequence of high taxes. Since such transactions are mainly carried out by currency, the overall currency in circulation in the economy has two components: currency used for informal economic transactions and formal transactions. Thus the transaction velocity of money in both the informal and formal economies is the same.

The second method, the electricity consumption method is even more novel. Electric-power consumption is regarded as the single best physical indicator of economic activities in a country. Overall economic activity and electricity consumption can be observed and move together with GDP. By exploiting this relationship, one can have a proxy measurement for the overall economy and estimates of the hidden economy can be found by subtracting official GDP from the estimated overall GDP.

The last method they use is an economic model (MIMIC model) that whereby the informal economy is taken as a latent variable which on the one hand caused by a set of variables and affects other variables on the other. The model they select consists of three causes of the informal economy including tax/GDP ratio, M2/GDP and the regime durability as well as two indicators including currency in circulation (as ratio to M2) and growth in electricity consumption.

The ARDL results show that the informal economy has increased its share in the Pakistan’s economy until end of 1990s and has a declining trend since then. In the 1960s and 1970s it was below 30 percent and increased to 33 percent in the 1990s, and declined to 23 percent in current decade of 2000s. Results of MIMIC model show that the informal economy has been around 30% of the total economy in Pakistan. The growth path remains steady irrespective of the initial values. It is evident that ratio of informal economy to the recorded economy has been fairly stable in Pakistan. Thus we can conclude that the informal economy has grown with almost the same rate as the recorded economy. The electricity approach, on the other hand, shows that the extent of the unmeasured economy was less 5 percent during 1970s which then increased sharply until 1990s and then remained stagnant. However, this approach may not reflect the actual performance of the economy as official numbers of electricity consumption do not incorporate self- generation of electricity by economic agents in the mid 1990s onward due to crisis in official sector of power generation and distribution in Pakistan.

The results are generally close to those obtained by other studies on Pakistan but their remain some concerns as other studies show a rising trend up to the end of 1990s while some show a declining trend. M. Ali Kemal (Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, 2007), writes that if there was no tax evasion, budgets balance might have been zero and positive for some years and we would not have needed to borrow as much as we have.

The impact of the underground economy is significant to the movements of the formal economy, but the impact of formal economy is insignificant in explaining the movements in the underground economy. In the long run, underground economy and official economy are positively associated. Kemal (2007) estimates that the black economy ranged between Rs 2.91 trillion and Rs 3.34 trillion (54.6 percent of GDP to 62.8 percent of GDP respectively) in 2005 and tax evasion ranged between Rs 302 billion and Rs 347 billion (5.7 percent of GDP to 6.5 percent of GDP respectively) in 2005. Underground economy and tax evasion were increasing very rapidly in the early 1980s but the rate of increase accelerated in the 1990s. It declined in 1999, but reverted to an increasing trend until 2003. It declined again in 2004 and 2005. This supports Arby, Malik and Hanif’s ADRL model.

A study conducted by The Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2003 showed that the Rs 720 billion collected in tax in 2005-06 was only the 38 percent of the Rs 2 trillion that could have been collected. Two-thirds of the income earned in the shadow economy is estimated to flow into the official economy. The growth of the informal economy affects everyone.

The State Bank of Pakistan study can be found here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers

%d bloggers like this: