In our Life & Times

What a complex global society exists today! From several perspectives, it seems to be hurtling at incredible speed towards eventual self-destruction. From another perspective there is hope that out of the present volatility will emerge an era of great global harmony and prosperity.

Overly, even foolishly optimistic, the ‘another’ perspective, many will say. Where do I stand? Well, truth be told, I am not really sure! Perhaps somewhere in between the two points of view…. I do support the optimistic perspective because I believe that there will always be people, individuals, in societies across the world, who

are visionary and selfless doers and achievers, making a difference every single day of their lives. Such people are major game-changers. For my list of Top 10 such people of Pakistan, please go to:

Over to the topic – In our Life & Times. Thoughts currently circulating in my mind, in no particular order:

1.Social Media

One day, I will do a dedicated post on social media, a virtual living animal! Here, one thought. Powerful as most of us regard the social media to be, my observation is, (1) it is great for generating widespread awareness / publicity of whatever (positive or negative) in a very short time, but it is largely ineffective as a call to action, popularity of signing petitions et al notwithstanding. And (2), discussion / debate / prominence / attention on social media to an issue is almost invariably short-lived. Two, perhaps three weeks max, typically. Then the social ‘mediaites’ move on, focusing their attention, indignation, eulogizing, criticism, praise, or simple comment to some other issue or topic.

2.Disgraced cricketers

One news this past week was that the ICC has revoked the ban / eased off on the punishment, on the 3 Pakistan national cricket team players who were found guilty of spot-fixing about 5 years ago and were given jail terms, besides fines and bans. I also read in the papers a statement by Javed Miandad that irrespective of ICC’s leniency, this trio should be ostracized and not allowed back into the national team, irrespective of all apologies made and remorse shown.

I am in full agreement with Miandad. There is absolutely no justification for taking back individuals who premeditatedly and willfully committed a crime and brought disgrace on the whole nation. Forgive them but don’t take them back. If nothing else, it will be a gross injustice to the other players now in the team, who have worked hard to get into the team, and who are consistently justifying their selection through good performance. Let us be honest, scrupulous and fair.

3.The Kasur Crimes

Both the mass media and the social media have vigorously taken up the Kasur case of sexual abuse of innocent young victims in recent weeks. Rightly so, although talk on social media on this subject is already waning; (my 2-3 weeks attention span of social media point 1 above). What surprised me though was the apparent ignorance of people in general of the rampant sexual abuse of children in this country, ongoing forever, well beyond this well publicized Kasur case.

Deeply disturbing as it is, lurking largely undocumented and in the dark recesses of public consciousness, is the dismal fact that child sexual abuse is and has been for a long, long time, widely prevalent in this Land of the Pure. It takes place in madrassahs, boarding schools, tuition centers, children’s homes and elsewhere. There was a story just a few days ago in the papers about a tuition center tutor admitting to raping 20 young girls, mostly age 13 and below. And if memory serves me right, Express Tribune Sunday magazine once did  a cover story of rampant sexual abuse of young boys in the public transport sector; the ‘cleaners’ and conductors you see in every bus and minibus.

Then I recall an officer in the police service once telling me in confidence, that in jails the ‘senior’ prisoners, all hardened criminals, are provided with young prisoners for sexual abuse, and these young prisoners are called ‘bardashtis’. I don’t need to tell you why.

Repulsed at all this open exposition of matters you would rather not know or think about? Too much of a shock to your comfort zone of blissful blind-eyeing the filth in this society? Sorry, but like I said, if the Kasur case has shocked and angered you, you better know what we are truly up against. Kasur, to state the obvious, is just the tip of the iceberg. But who cares? The victims invariably are from the Great Unwashed masses. Can you really relate to them?


Banjosa Lake (NXPowerLite)

The long Independence Day weekend over August 14 found me with a large office group in Rawalakot district of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) on a company Retreat. We in fact never made it to Rawalakot city itself, bypassing it to spend 3 nights and 3 days near Banjosa Lake, and also making a day trip in this period to the higher altitude tourist spot of Toli Pir.

A great time we all had. The whole area was verdant forest; something which is rare now by comparison say in the Murree Hills. But this is not about the Nature we experienced.

What struck me hard, in spite of the mind attempting to not register this stark fact, was that few if any of the locals seemed to be enthused about August 14! No Pakistan flags were fluttering anywhere. A hotel employee told us that they prefer to hoist their own AJK flag when required.

Banjosa Lake, swarming with tourists from all over the country on the public holiday, had no Pakistani flag on any building or structure. I saw a group of youth, apparently on vacation from somewhere in the Punjab, gathered on the Lake’s shore, playing Pakistani national songs loudly on a music system, waving a huge Pakistan flag on a long pole, and every so often belting out the cry of Pakistan Zindabad. I was on a bank across the lake from them, but could see and hear them clearly. And then, to my shock and dismay, I heard a local person, sprawled on the grassy bank close to me, say to his sole companion in an unmistakably derisive tone and referring to the youth group: “Fools. Every 10 minutes Pakistan is zindabad for them.”

Can you imagine my utter shock and dismay on hearing this? So much for ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’, I thought.

I am not sure if this mind-frame regarding Pakistan among the locals is uncommon or common, or if it is prevalent only in this part of AJK, whereas in other parts – for instance Muzzafarabad and Neelum Valley, the locals were rejoicing with Pakistanis on August 14. I would certainly like to believe the latter conjecture.

I tried to discreetly broach the topic with some of the locals, but by and large they were non-committal and guarded about their views, practically about anything! One person, perhaps in an unguarded moment, told me that a number of Kashmiris really desire to be with neither Pakistan nor India, but be an independent Kashmir comprising of both AJK and Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Not directly related to the above, but noteworthy nevertheless is this news in Express Tribune of August 24: “One of the main beneficiaries of (bank) loans waived off between 2012 and 2014 was Azad Jammu & Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Yaqoob Khan. The Premier’s Kashmir Polypropylene’s loans worth Rs. 9.009 million were waived off in 2012, a year after he came to power.”

5.Houbara Bustards

HB 2 Fuert 11 Feb 10_990

The happiest news in recent days has been the banning by the Supreme Court of the hunting of the migratory bird, the Houbara Bustard, by Arab ‘dignitaries’. Well, in actual fact there has been a ban in place for several years but with the connivance of the Foreign Office and the provincial governments of individual, Aamir Zahoorul Haq. God knows who he is, but God bless him!

I suppose for many the hunting or conservation of this winter visitor from Central Asia is of little consequence, given all the other grave issues this nation faces. However this issue has multiple dimensions. One, decimation of any species, bird, mammal or even insect, has substantial (if not often measured) negative impact on the whole ecosystem. Second, while the Arab royalty spent many millions on building infrastructure in various places to facilitate their own movement on hunting trips, and spent more millions in hunting fees and handouts to all locals who served them, their yearly hunting practice also embedded a strong sub-culture of sycophancy, corruption of government officials, bending of laws, plain beggary, illegal trapping of falcons for the Arabs and yet other ills.

The argument that the Arab royalty has created infrastructure like the Rahim Yar Khan airport, roads, schools and hospitals, all as largesse for the hunting privilege, is if you think about it, an admission of our own failure to generate enough revenues within the country to meet such expenses, and instead rely on baksheesh as a way of life. Not that there is not enough money in the country. But if 0.5% of the population pays taxes, with our parliamentarians being the most notorious and recorded tax cheats, then obviously there will not be enough funds for anything.

A long time ago, the Arabs also pursued this vile slaughter of bustards in Indian Rajasthan. But the Indians stopped this as far back as 1979 after public protests in Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai. There too it was the Court that took the lead. Are the Indians worse off for this? By no means. Not even in their relations with the Arabs, for there are many more Indians earning a living in Gulf countries today than Pakistanis.

Something to think about.

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