For more than 2000 years, the Chinese political system has been built around a highly sophisticated centralized bureaucracy, which has run what has always been a vast society through top-down methods. What China never developed was a rule of law, that is, an independent legal institution that would limit the discretion of the government, or democratic accountability. What the Chinese substituted for formal checks on power was a bureaucracy bound by rules and customs which made its behavior reasonably predictable, and a Confucian moral system that educated leaders to look to public interests rather than their own aggrandizement. This system is, in essence, the same one that is operating today, with the Chinese Communist Party taking the role of Emperor.
WHAT was a Czech violinist Jaroslav Sveceny doing in Lahore recently?
Was he just another Raymond Davis-type of subversive, camouflaging his weaponry like an Italian mafia hit man in a violin case? Or was he something more sinister, a musical reactionary intent on disturbing our cultural complacency?
The moment Sveceny tucked his prized violin under his chin that evening and began playing, he reminded his audience (all graying and on the wrong side of 40) that he did not simply come from another country. He came from a different world, a world in which its citizens express themselves in sound, in colour and in musical notes. We in Pakistan by contrast are reconciled to thinking in silence. We view life in monochrome. We speak in a monotone. The only notes we recognise are bank notes.
It was not always like this. For thousands of years, we have laughed and sang and danced. One needs to remind oneself that the female figurine discovered at Mohenjodaro was a dancing girl, not some lacquered doll pouting on talk shows.
By Omar Ali
I wrote this comment on the SWJ site and I just thought it would be interesting to see what people here think of the American “strategy” (or lack of one) in Afghanistan.
The killings today, while tragic and awful, are themselves indicative of nothing new beyond one soldier going nuts…could and does happen in most wars and more likely when a war has stretched on for a while and more likely with soldier and locals being different people (not necessarily different nationalities..pakistani soldiers in Bangladesh or even some Indian soldiers in Kashmir could feel equally surrounded by aliens). It will have a huge propaganda effect though. Anyway, my comment is more about the US strategy: what is it? what should it be? What would it be if you were president?
Past present: Black mirror
History often helps in analysing the present day issues by reflecting on past events. Generally, this approach is adopted in a society where there is dictatorship, censorship and legal restrictions to express discontent in regard to government policies. The method is effective in creating political consciousness by comparing the present with the consequences of bad governance and disillusionment of the past.
After the independence[?] of Pakistan, the army and the bureaucracy emerged as powerful state institutions. In the absence of a constitution, the two institutions were unaccountable to any authority. Bureaucracy followed in the footsteps of the colonial model, treating people with arrogance and contempt. A strong centre allowed it to rule over the provinces unchecked. The provinces, including the former East Pakistan, greatly suffered because of this.
Sindh chose to raise its voice against the oppressive attitude of the bureaucracy and a strong centre. Despite the grand, national narratives which justified the creation of a new country, Sindh responded by presenting its problems and grievances by citing historical suffering of its people.
During the reign of Shahjahan, Yusuf Mirak, a historian, wrote the book Tarikh-i-Mazhar-i-Shahjahani. The idea was to bring to Shahjahan’s notice the corruption and repressive attitude of the Mughal officials in Sindh. As they were far from the centre, their crimes were neither reported to the emperor nor were they held accountable for their misdeeds.
Mirak minutely described their vices and crimes and how the people [Sindhis] were treated inhumanly by them. He hoped that his endeavours might alleviate the suffering of the people when the emperor took action against errant officials. However, Mirak could not present the book to the emperor but his documentation became a part of history.
When the Persian text of the book was published by Sindhi Adabi Board, its introduction was written by Husamuddin Rashdi who pointed out the cruelty, brutality, arrogance and contempt of the Mughal officials for the common man. Accountable to none, they had fearlessly carried on with their misdeeds.
Today, one can find similarities between those Mughal officials and Pakistani [civil & military] bureaucrats of the present day. In the past Sindh endured the repercussions of maladministration and exploitation in pretty much the same way as the common man today suffers in silence. But one can learn from the past and analyse the present to avoid mistakes.
The history of Sindh shows two types of invaders. The first example is of invaders like the Arabs and the Tarkhans who defeated the local rulers, assumed the status of the ruling classes and treated the local population as inferior. The second type was of invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali who returned home after looting and plundering. The rulers of Sindh defended the country but sometimes compromised with the invaders. Those who defended it were vanquished and discredited by history, and their role was not recognised.
G. M. Syed in his tract Sindh jo Surma made attempt to rehabilitate them. According to him, Raja Dahir who defended Sindh against the Arabs was a hero while Muhammad Bin Qasim was an agent of the Umayyad imperialism who attacked Sindh to expand the empire and to exploit Sindh’s resources.
Decades later, in 1947, a large number of immigrants arrived from across the border and settled in Sindh. This was seen by Sindhi nationalists as an attempt to endanger the purity of the Sindhi culture. In 1960, agricultural land was generously allotted to army officers and bureaucrats. Throughout the evolving circumstances in Sindh, the philosophy of Syed’s book is the protection and preservation of the rights of Sindhis with the same spirit with which the heroes of the past sacrificed their lives for the honour of their country [Sindh].
Jesters and destinies —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
– Whenever armies become unanswerable to the state and become a ‘deep state’, the irreversible rot sets in and results in the disintegration of the state they are supposedly safeguarding and protecting.
In his book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) tells about a Roman emperor who, angered by the actions of his favourite jester, orders that he be put to death. The jester, hearing this, mournfully shakes his head and says that a wish of his would remain unfulfilled. Inquisitive, the emperor inquires and after some persuasion the jester tells that he has the knowledge and the ability to teach the emperor’s favourite black stallion to speak.
The emperor asks how long would it take and is told a year is enough. The death sentence is temporarily waived and the condemned jester allowed to fulfil his promise. The jester’s well-wishers tell him that he has committed a great folly as there was no way that he could make the stallion speak. He replies, “There is a possibility that in the intervening time I may die a natural death or maybe even the emperor could die and I would be free. Moreover, a year is long enough a period; who knows, the black stallion may learn to speak.”
Sixty-three years are a long enough period to change destinies but it seems the jesters here who took up the task were incompetent, corrupt and dishonest to the core, whose concept of a tryst with destiny remained limited to accumulating power and pelf for their dynasties. They neither had compassion for the people nor the wisdom to understand that they were establishing the groundwork for the eventual catastrophe. They felt if they could muster the support of their various masters and mentors for undisputed authority and power to rule, then for all intents and purposes the masses and their problems were irrelevant. They simply ensured by deceit and fraud that loans would continue to pour in to make their lives luxurious even if that meant burdening the people with irredeemable debts. These jesters have brought this place to this pass and the only route open is the way down. …
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