The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule: Don't believe in anything you read because most probably we don't believe in it either.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

About 500 Free Ebooks on Western Critical Theory, Philosophy, Etc.

The Cambridge Companions to A Very Short Introductions, to original works by major Western Philosophers, and some random books from English language manuals to Urdu works, here is a list of all the E-books that I have, which I would be willing to share with you if you need them.

You can access the list here:

List of Ebooks

The formatting of the list is not particularly fine, but it is searchable!

Now start reading!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A portrait of Karachi

It is dangerous
to fall in love
in a city where
cars don't have brake lights.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In Defence of Zardari

This is a piece by Abdullah Zaidi originally published at Kafila. Reproducing it here as it is.

In Defence of Asif Ali Zardari: Abdullah Zaidi

AUGUST 10, 2011
Guest post by ABDULLAH ZAIDI
What comes to your mind with the mention of Asif Ali Zardari? “A cunning, vile, and corrupt man,” said my 19 year old cousin. This was a good summation of what the urban middle-class thinks of him. The more I hear people talking about him the more I am convinced of the power of propaganda. “Give the dog a bad name and hang him,” Zardai once said about himself. That is what is at work here.
Despite what has been said about him, Zardari did have a political background. His father Hakim Ali Zardari entered politics well before Partition and was a member of the Khaksaar Tehreek in 1931. He was first elected to the National Assembly in 1970s. All this talk of Zardari as a political orphan who hogged the Bhutto dynasty upon marriage with Benazir, is a non-starter. In Benazir’s husband, the Bhutto family wanted someone who would remain loyal to her. That is exactly what they got in him. For Zardari, family would always come first. This was the case at the time of Benazir’s death, when he kept the family together. Benazir would often tell close aides that despite his failings, Zardari always remained loyal to the family.
During the ’80s and ’90s Zardari moved from the Prime Minister’s house to prison and back to the Prime Minister house again. All in all, Zardari’s time in prison comes to a total of 11 years. It is ironical that if convicted, all of the cases he is implicated in have a combined sentence of only 10 years. This easily makes him the biggest political prisoner of the country. In 1999, he was almost tortured to death, with the government alleging that he attempted suicide by cutting off his tongue. He developed spondylitis because of rickety police van rides from Karachi to Lahore for court hearings. He could either sit on a wooden bench or stand straight. He started walking with a cane and had to undergo physiotherapy. It is well within imagination that during this time, Zardari could have brokered a deal with the establishment, broken with Benazir and went into exile. Instead, what happened was that Benazir was murdered and Zardari took over a country divided on ethnic lines, on the brink of an economic meltdown, with a full-fledged insurgency in Balochistan and an ever growing militant threat.
Today, the greatest criticism of the Zardari regime is its massive involvement in corruption. While it is impossible to defend the regime’s corruption and nothing can excuse it, one is forced to think that the whole idea of corruption is inverted in this country. The narrative of corruption has two problems. The first is its singular focus on elected politicians. One hears a lot about politicians being corrupt but almost nothing about the enormous amount of corporate corruption. Corporate corruption is the most heinous form of corruption today. However, in Pakistan it would seem that every corporation is working well within its boundaries and is completely cognisant of its responsibilities. A major part of this corruption is related to the Pakistani military which has the greatest economic stake in this country. Are all these military-run business giants working cleanly? Is the military’s $17 billion business empire clean? Is the acquisition of 12 million acres of public land by the military clean?
Although it is the Government’s responsibility to weed out this menace, it would be wishful thinking to demand that a weak civilian government stand up to an overpowering army. Nevertheless, it is the parliament, and not the judiciary, which probed corruption in National Logistic Cell (NLC), a military-run organization, and indicted two Lt. Generals and one Major General. The Supreme Court today is in essence the anti-corruption regime of this country however almost all of the cases it has taken up involve civilian politicians. It does not receive much attention that the judiciary’s own performance with regard to disposal of cases and prosecution of terrorists has been questionable.
The second problem with the corruption narrative is the middle class’ concept of corruption. For the urban middle class a non-corrupt state would mean a laissez fair system which would leave the rural population at the mercy of the corporates. The Pakistani term for such a system is ‘meritocracy’ or ‘technocracy’. This is also why the urban middle class, which dominates the media, bureaucracy and military, fails to understand why the same ‘corrupt’ politicians come back to power through elections. Rural voters vote for people who they think can best connect them to the ‘English speaking state’. They are concerned with immediate issues such as tube-wells, canal lining, roads, employment, sanitation, water. They live largely aloof from the issues that the mainstream media raises. This is also the reason why Jamshed Dasti was re-elected despite a fierce campaign against him by the middle class.
The middle class rhetoric against ‘corruption’ is not unique to Pakistan. In India, a similar movement led by Anna Hazare calls for passing a Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill which would make elected representatives accountable to a committee of ‘good’, ‘clean’ but un-elected citizens. Unlike Pakistan, however, the Indian media has been very critical of this movement. It is also worth mentioning that corruption in Indian politics way surpasses the corruption here. To cite an example, just the 2G spectrum allocation scam cost the Indian exchequer $39 billion.
So while we castigate the current regime’s corruption, which we should, we should also be cognisant of the parallel narratives of corruption. In this country politicians have continually been booked for corruption while everyone else goes scot-free.
Finally, there have been substantially positive things that have been initiated by this regime but they need several articles to discuss. For now we can do with just noting them. The NFC award, the 18th and 19th Amendments, the Devolution plan, and the Benazir Income Support Program are all success stories to say the least. It is for the first time that we have a functioning Parliament (in which the opposition and government coexist), an independent and aggressive judiciary, and a free media, all at the same time in this country. All of these are institution-building measures which shall have a lasting impact on the country’s political dynamics.
(The writer works with a think tank in Islamabad. These are his personal views. His email is abdullah.muhammad.zaidi at gmail dot com.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Where else would Osama be?

To be honest the shock, furor and disgust at Osama Bin Laden being found in an urban centre of Pakistan is, to me at least, a little exaggerated. I will admit, I was a little shocked as I walked into my office on Monday morning and my colleague said “marwa dia Osama ko aap ne.” My mind had accepted that the manhunt for Osama would go on forever or that Osama was already dead. But as news trickled in about his hideout and the initial surprise wore off, I thought, if I were Osama I would be exactly where he was.

Many experts have been lamenting, for a long time now, the self-destructive policy, employed by the Pakistani military establishment, of fighting a halfhearted war against terror. It has been explained in detail by Ahmed Rashid and Zahid Hussain, how Pakistan pursues a policy supporting friendly Islamist organizations and fighting unfriendly ones. This is so, because friendly ones were perceived to be in line with Pakistan specific objectives while the unfriendly ones had their own pan-Islamic and sectarian agendas. The policy comes from the age of Zia regime, during which several extremist organizations like Harkat-ul-Mujahedin, Hizb-ul-Mujahedin, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami emerged. Having mastered the art of covert war the military started using these organizations to stoke the insurgency in Kashmir. This also caused our military to look towards Afghanistan as strategic depth. Therefore, bleeding India by keeping the Kashmir insurgency alive and cobbling up a friendly regime in Afghanistan was the modus operandi of the GHQ for more than two decades after Zia. However, the greatest flaw in this policy, as many have pointed out, was the assumption that these friendly Islamist groups are controllable and that they could be ‘managed’ to achieve Pakistan specific objectives. This policy started crumbling when most of these groups went ahead with their own Sectarian and pan-Islamic agendas. For instance, the Harkat-ul-Mujahedin, which was involved both in Afghan Jihad and Kargil operation, was concerned less with the military’s specific objectives in Kashmir and more with pan-Islamic Jihad. Later it also came to be widely implicated in promoting a sectarian agenda in Pakistan in 2000 which alarmed the military. So the military triggered a rift in it and formed the Jaish-e-Muhammad which was considered more responsive to its specific objectives in Kashmir. But, any hopes that the military had harbored in Jaish-e-Muhammad were thwarted when the group also pursued an independent sectarian agenda against Shia minorities in cooperation with the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.

After 9/11, the ISI embraced a two-track policy of handing over Al-Qaeda leaders and supporting Taliban and other friendly organizations. This is why after the January 2002 ban on these organizations many of them were allowed to operate under different names. The reason for this distinction was the same assumption that these organizations have a different character and objectives compared to Al-Qaeda. It did not appear to anyone in the GHQ that these supposedly friendly organizations, rooted in the same ideology of radical Islam, could pursue their own independent pan-Islamic agendas or at least collude with pan-Islamic organizations like Al-Q. The December 2003 attack on Musharraf was a clear indication of collusion between local and foreign militant. Rashid has detailed in his book how many of these groups were to abandon the ISI because they saw their true calling as fighters for organizations like Al-Qaeda. The problem with this distinction of good-Taliban (read Haqqani network, LeT, Jaish-e-Muhammad etc.) and bad-Taliban (Al-Qaeda, TTP) is that it does not account for the fact that there is massive overlap in the membership of these organizations.

So this long history of cooperation between ISI and militant organizations only increases the probability of Osama being found here in Pakistan. It is very probable that one of ISI’s favored militant organizations had sheltered him with knowledge of the ISI or someone from the ISI. Even if we concede, although the world will not, that the Pakistani military establishment was not directly involved in sheltering OBL, corruption in the intelligence sector cannot be ruled out and any rogue section within intelligence sector may have helped arrange for Osama to stay in that mansion for quite some time. The decades old cooperation within intelligence agencies and militants is a world governed by rouges and radicals. There are many precedents which show that the ISI has been working on its own despite the orders it was given. For example, in 2003 Musharraf had ordered the ISI to shutdown the Kotli camp, which sheltered Jihadis, but it continued to operate. So if Osama was found here, it makes perfect sense. What is better than hiding under the wings of the spy agency which is supposedly in charge of locating you? In any case it is clear that our intelligence agencies have been playing with fire for a long time now and the people of Pakistan have been paying for it.

This incident should be used to declare an all out war against all forms of extremism, whether directed at India or elsewhere. We should let this incident mark the failure of buttressing selective radical organizations because this policy of supporting some and prosecuting some has miserably failed. Pakistan will have to fight against all militants indiscriminately. We can only hope that some heads will turn. We hope that the civilian leadership will order its own inquiry along with the ‘internal’ inquiry ordered by the Chief of Army Staff. We can hope that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security or the Standing Committee on Defense will summon our intelligence agencies. The Pakistani military establishment is chagrined at this incident and the civilian leadership should use it to hold them to account.

The inability to get this article published anywhere forced me to post it here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Aadha Iman: Half of Faith

Cleanliness is half of faith: Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H)

Aadha Imad: Half of Faith

Mosque/public toilets in the our part of the world (including Middle East and South East Asia)
(Btw, this is much cleaner than usual. This post was inspired by an inevitable but unfortunate visit to a toilet of a mosque in Saddar, Karachi.)
Image courtesy: 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cause and Effect

Every event in life
is but 
a preparation for the next