Category Archives: Columns

Securing religious decree against pollutors

By Riaz Missen

In the deep countryside of Punjab, on the upper fringes of the Rohi (part of Thar), a village recently looked for a prayer-leader. The vacancy had emerged after the laborer/ mullah demanded either his salary should be increased or he must be relived from his duties so that he could take care of his growing livestock back in the nearby village. After failing to persuade him to stay, the villages contacted a nearby religious seminary and could avail an 18 years old Talib (student), who had learnt Quran by heart, for the job.

Out of the hundreds and thousands of mosques in the countryside of Punjab, only the Jamia mosques have regular Imams (prayer leaders). These mosques enjoy the distinction that group prayers are offered five times a day. Otherwise each hamlet has its own mosque where the people, mostly of older age, say prayers at suitable times. On Friday, they head for a ‘greater’ mosque to perform religious rites.

About the village I am talking about, it is situated in the green belt of Bahawalpur that constitutes the floodplain of the Sutlej River. Inhabited by the immigrants from Shikarpur (Sind), who had accompanied the Abbasids centuries back, the village has never hired an Imam on salary till half-a-decade back. A family of mullahs had been nominating one of its members to serve the community and collecting in return the bread two-times a day from the village.

I met the first employed prayer-leader, Maulvi Altaf, about five years back in a ‘smoker’s corner’ of the village. He belonged to the traditional family of the mullahs which I have mentioned earlier. He had not agreed on traditional arrangement and had come to the mosque only when the villagers agreed to pay him for his services in cash. His salary was half of the present one.

Soon Maulvi Altaf invented new ways to get his income increased. He undertook constructing a seminary and collecting animal hides. Having good voice he started practicing on the mosque’s loudspeaker the art of speech. The fact of the matter was that he had never attended any madarssah in his life.

On Eid days the maulvi would start early in the morning. His favorite job seemed to persuading people to spend in the ways of Allah and warning the people of hording wealth. After sometime, he started warning the people of burning fire for they did not offer their prayers regularly.

“Look, you are not a scholar. So don’t venture into the field of oratory,” I said and cautioned him about the excessive use of microphone. But my ‘advice’ did not fall on receptive ears. He would make long speeches in morning and night.

Soon, as understandably as one can imagine, the signs of resentment appeared. A team comprising youth formed undertook investigation whether the maulvi fulfilled the criteria of piety he had been suggesting to the common and ordinary folks so loudly. The results were widely shared and openly discussed. One day they held meeting with Maulvi Altaf and apprised him with evidences they had collected. The next day he did not come to the mosque and remains ‘absent’ till today.

Frankly speaking I have not personally met the present prayer-leader though have said funeral prayers for number of times behind him. I have not yet bothered to undo my confusion whether the person I have seen is the same who delivers sermons on Friday as well (I have also spotted there a fully grown bearded youth in the mosque as well). Probably the seminary has provided sermon-services as a matter of courtesy.

Whatever the case, I plan to secure a fatwa against a potter family of my village. Against the traditional practice of firing their earthen pots once in a year they are doing this job every month, surely under the market compulsions. Interestingly the village is not a market proper for their goods as few people now use the earthly devices to cook food or preserve water. The customers of the potter family are unknown: the send a truckload to the nearby city in the interior of the nearby desert. What the villagers consume, as well as the prayer leader, is dangerous gases which ‘bhatti’ emits regularly.

Through my keen observation during last two months, I have noticed that during the times the bhatti remains on fire my family suffers from asthmatic problems. I have concluded that the same is not due to seasonal variation but the polluters around me. The solution of my problem is not the doctor. Inviting attention of the health department can not provide an easy answer as well. I have decided to seek the help of a religious scholar instead.

I anticipate little bit ‘confusion’, if not embarrassment, on the side of the religious lot for environment does not usually fall in their purview though there is no dearth of brick-kilns and a sugar mill is fully operative in the areawhich hosted last year the president during his first-ever visit to Bahawalpur in the recent past. Being a journalist par excellence I assure the readers to share the story about the course I pass through while persuading a religious scholar to issue a decree against polluter and also to the extent the same proves effective in solving the problem my family is confronting.

Courtesy Weekly Pulse

 

Advertisements

I’m just playing, my lord!

By Riaz Missen

Once, a child was digging a hole in the sand. A passerby asked him as to why he was doing such a labor. “It is for the one who will dig a hole for me,” was the reply. “If no one digs a hole for you ……,” the stranger enquired. The child smiled and said: “I am just playing, my lord”

But the children neither have the energy nor do they have interest in digging the sand too deep. Such games are associated with the youngsters living near beaches. Many times it is great fun; other times tides of the sea cause accidents, as well.

In this wonderland of Pakistan, the premier dug a hole in the sand of Punjab this March by showing the intention to reintroduce the ‘Saraiki province’ riddle in country’s politics. He, in his share innocence, disturbed not only Takht-e-Lahore but also sent shocking waves to the other provincial capitals as well. Reaction to the idea of creating more provinces can be gauged by the situation in Karachi where ethnic tensions have pushed the city on the verge of anarchy.

While the premier remains faithful to the two-nation theor, he showed a determination to challenge the four-nation idea (by adding Sariki to it) that has, rightly or wrongly, gained enough grounds since 1969, when Yahya Khan nursed the rebirth of the existing administrative units.

Creating provinces is the job of the federation. The countries around Pakistan have taken such steps without creating any ripple in the politics. India’s example is there. This neighbor has multiplied the number of its federating units by four. The Punjab it had at the time of partition has been divided into three provinces. Iran and Afghanistan with lesser population have more provinces than Pakistan. Then what the whole fuss is about?

Actually, the very act of recreating four provinces is still to be rationalized. The legitimacy of the decision of a dictator to add the princely states to the then NWFP, Punjab and Sindh has to be scrutinized in details. Why Baluchistan States Union was welded with the Baluchistan Commissionerate, is a question that has to be answered. Such mysteries need to be understood in the backdrop of the proposal of GM Sayyed to merge Rahimyar Khan district into Sindh. Too, there is question as to why general elections were not held after the dismemberment of the country. Why the country did not went to polls after signing the Constitution?

Yahya Khan certainly pleased four ethnic groups that were active in politics by adding princely states to the territories they claimed. This step laid the foundation of the four-nation theory which is still operative in the country. The so-called consensus constitution (1973) also accommodated the concerns of the religious right by retaining the Objectives Resolution as its preamble blocking the way of the country claiming a secular and pluralist identity.

The question as to why the present administrative units were created is still to be answered. Had Yahya Khan such brains to understand the consequence of the action he was taking? Certainly, he did not. Pakistan, due to ethnicity gaining grounds, has not been able to have a kind of nationalism that the neighboring powers practice. The people take pride in their ethnicity, based on linguistic affiliations, rather. Some important development projects have been postponed due to the reason that some provinces oppose them. Crime, extremism and corruption are other evils that the bigness of the provinces has bred.

Coming to the hurdles in the way of Saraiki province, the first and foremost is that it is not easy to amend the constitution. Provincialism does not allow the governments to sign their death warrants. The kind of support Saraiki nationalists extend to the Sindhis and Blauchis, their counterparts are too ineffective to make their dreams come true. Yes, it is a big leap forward that the PPP has, for the first time, endorsed the idea of a Saraiki province, but it has no say in Punjab affairs and does not command absolute majority in the Parliament.

Every talk about creating more provinces in the country, especially in Punjab, has caused ethnic tensions in Karachi — as the case is right now. So PPP is inherently not the right party to take forward the idea of dividing Punjab. The Baluchistan assembly has cast away any proposal of dividing it given the demand of the ANP to attach Pushtoon districts and regions to the KPK as a condition to include DI Khan in the proposed Saraiki province.

Probably the PPP has realized that the idea of Saraiki province is impractical. Gilani met Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore, after returning from Saudi Arabia (where he performed Umrah). So when he visited Multan recently to inaugurate newly constructed bypass, he did not mention Saraiki province at all. Rather, he talked about South Punjab — the idea which the PML-Q supports.

PM’s U-turn on Saraiki province may disturb the nationalists of the Southern Punjab but he knows very well about their strength — not a single gathering has taken place in favor of his statement in Jalalpur Pirwala. The politics is art of the possible. There is no use of digging holes in the sand. So the premier may go ahead with his amended idea. He may even look toward the more practical one — the Multan province.

Multan offers no choice, either

Premier Gilani , perhaps, believes that after spending the whole funds of Southern Punjab on Multan, his city now qualifies for the position to be the centre of regional politics. Gossips are there that his son has started receiving the protocol of the chief minister of the province his father has proposed.

By Riaz Missen

Does someone among you remember the times when Shahbaz Sharif used to sing the verses of Habib Jalib? He used to warn of bloody revolution if the problems of the commoners were not duly addressed.

Sharifs as well as the rest of the political clans that emerged successful in the 2008 general elections have prolonged their rule without bringing any positive change in the lives of the people.

Not only the opponents of the General Pervez regime have entered into the corridors of power, but also his staunch ally is also in the ruling camp.

For all this, everybody should be thankful to the reconciliatory politics of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, who proudly says he is a businessman and wants to make the country a hub of regional trade, for taking all and sundry on board while he is in the driving seat.

One of Zardari’s unique choices is premier Gilani, who has been tasked, other than heading cabinet meetings and taking hold of the seat of the House of the Leader in Parliament, dealing with Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the province which he belongs.

Lahore and Multan both have benefited during last three years. At least Rs.32 billion has been spent on the premier’s home town. How much Lahore has consumed? You just imagine. The lions deserve more share than any body in the jungle. Does any body have statistics of the expenditure on the Ring Road?

One is not sure whether Multan needs more next time. All the efforts of the premier are now for Southern Punjab, which understandably has suffered during past sixty-four years as well as during the times Sharifs are in-charge of the province.

God knows what came into his mind that he announced this March the plan to create Saraiki province, in Jalalpur Pirwala, a town on the northern bank of the Sutlej River that falls in the constituency of his brother. The first and immediate reminder came from nowhere but from the other side of the river: “Bahawalpur will go its own way”.

Premier Gilani thinks, perhaps, believes that after spending the whole funds of Southern Punjab on Multan, his city, now qualifies for the position to be the centre of regional politics. Gossips are there that his son has started receiving the protocol of the chief minister of the province his father has proposed.

Mr. Gilani has amended his stance a little bit on August 14 when he was in his hometown to inaugurate a project completed in record time of one year. He did not mention ‘Saraiki province’ in his speech, but repeatedly talked about Southern Punjab. He did say that the politics of reconciliation will continue, but it should not be taken as the sign of his government’s weakness.

How Takht-e-Lahore has responded to the call of dividing Punjab? The PML-N has come up with a plan to create four provinces rather raising hopes in Potohar, Thal and Bahawalpur. Besides that, it has started paying more attention to Sindh where PPP-MQM alliance has become a cause of outrage among the Sindhi nationalists and they are up in sleeves in Karachi and elsewhere in the province.

I am not against Multan or Multanis, but it is fact that I belong to the other side of the Sutlej River where people are trying to adjust with the ground realities that have surfaced after the drying up of this perennial stream.

Being pressed hard by the hot winds blowing from Thar Desert, which Bahawalpur makes a part, does not mean that we will cross over to Multan, for it will take enough time to undo our belief that Multanis are swindlers. Why they simply don’t talk about ‘Multan province’? If politics is about material interests, why it should be done in the name of language/ ethnicity?

Saving ecology, agriculture in Bahawalpur

It is time for the politicians (I am specially talking about of the souls belonging to Central Punjab and upper Sindh) to get out of the useless politics they are now involved in. If you don’t want new dams and can’t afford to have smaller units ( so that they can look after their own developmental needs) play your role in making your cities and waterways clean and let the scientists undertake their noble task they have taken up to themselves to make available the water required for the wheat crop .

By Riaz Missen

 The attempts of the South Punjab’s politicians to make the link canals flowing down from Chashma and Taunsa headworks perennial (as a step to compensate the southern part of the country for its losing of three eastern rivers) has caused uproar in Sindh. Pervez Musharraf era did bring a relief in terms of the opening of these canals but it is not possible as long as the PPP remains in power and PML-N depending for its support in Punjab. Even if these canals remain open for, at least three months of the winter, the damage done to the water table on the both sides of the Sutlej River (it has become brackish due to constant pumping from the farmers to water the wheat crop) is irreparable.

 The human settlement on the left bank of the Sutlej River witnessed an upsurge 300 years back when some tribes fled the anarchy of Sindh, brought by raiding Afghans, and made the region their abode. The Abbasids who had led them there were wonderful agriculturalists. They allotted lands to their followers, sunk wells and dug canals to ensure their survival. The formation of the state was yet another miracle they brought in the no-man land where Sutlej meandered in the times of plenty. A long spell of peace and stability helped the growth of culture and civilisation. But all changed after 1947: the state was first merged into Pakistan and then into Punjab.

 The Sutlej River gradually dried up due to its selling by the Ayub regime to India through the fateful Indus Basin Treaty (1960). The huge amount the defunct princely state had paid to construct water reservoirs on the Sutlej River (Head Sulemanki, Head Islam and Head Panjnad) was almost rendered wasted when India started exercising its complete control on the perennial river.

 The cotton boom of 1980s made mud houses vanished and the cemented houses were lit up with electricity. A road was constructed during the Musharraf era. The cotton boom is over as the crop has been constantly hit by deadly virus for last eight years. But this did not discourage the farmers to sow cotton for many years: they needed stems to burn them as a fuel. During a whole decade, the farmers had not planted trees on the heads of their fields wrongly assuming that they reduced the per acre yield. Now they have no cotton but don’t have trees either.

 At the very time the per acre yield of cotton had started dropping the government had offered one-window facility to farmers to get loans from Zari Taraqqiati Bank (ZTBL) instead of probing into the reasons as to why the farmers were suffering the loss. Actually, the mindless use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser had disturbed the ecological system and it had become unfit for the proper growth of this crop.

 As I have mentioned earlier the farmers not only did not planted new trees but also sold the existing ones to the kiln owners.  The mechanisation of the agricultural sector sent the bullocks to the slaughterhouses; the short-term prosperity made them feel no urge of raring goats and sheep. The animal dung was now not available to replenish the soil fertility. They used chemical fertiliser but it eroded the fertility of the soil. The pesticides not only killed the crop friendly insects and birds but also proved hazardous for human health.

 

The authorities responsible for taking care of the environment remained silent spectators as the farmers treaded the suicidal path. I don’t know exactly whether the cotton produce did bring foreign exchange for the country. Even it did so but who will pay the cost the farmers have suffered in terms of both health and ecological system (1.8 percent of GDP is spent on the treatment of water-born diseases) ? About the loans given to the farmers, the fact of the matter is that these loans were given at the mark up higher than the market. The Mobile Credit Officers (MCOs) and Patwaris made billions for facilitating the farmers to get the easy money. When the reversal course started and crop failures became a reality, farmers’ lands were put on sale. No political party stood by farmers during the 1990s when all this happened.

 Now what is the fate of the small farmers? Their children now travel to the far flung areas in search of jobs because the few ginning factories and cotton mills can’t cater to the employment needs of the growing population. The region is not supplied even with its due share of canal water. When the cotton crop has failed farmers’ dependency on wheat crop has increased. But the problem is that this crop needs water in days when there is no water at all. So the water has to be pumped out. Now think about the mounting energy rates. The profitability is on decline with the every passing year. No industry, no agriculture.

 The mindless pumping of the ground water is turning it brackish besides making it slip downward (more diesel/ electricity consumption). A day is not away when the people will know the cost of sowing wheat, too. They will have to buy it up to quench their thrust. Will they migrate in search of water? I don’t know exactly if people are thinking about such option (politicians, are you ready to lead the people on the trail of tears!). The ex-Chief Minister of Punjab evolved the habit of sacrificing the water of Bahawalpur to earn good will of Sindhis. The situation changed only when a delegation of Cholistanis travelled to Lahore and told him that the Sindhis used the very water to have a good crop which they (Cholistanis) needed to quench the thirst of their children and livestock!

 Irony is that Punjab has double the cultivable area than Sindh but the lower riparian gets canal water nearly equal to the former. The will of the Punjab to get its due share is paralysed in the face of the fact that the Central Punjab is catering to all its needs by the canal water. The northern regions can’t have a canal system but only on a smaller scale. In the southern belt (except Bahawalpur), the owners of the large tracts also manage water for their crops anyhow. Only the small farmer is deprived of this facility.

 Against all these odds, a rare breed of agricultural scientists has brought ahead a solution that should galvanise the political parties to action: It is about the cost-effective treatment of wastewater through bio-remediation techniques, to cater to the agricultural needs of the country. As per estimates, the total size of the wastewater (used by household and industry) is 32 MAF which, if managed properly, can cater to the needs of the entire wheat crop. The project is ready with the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) for its implementation throughout Pakistan by its National Institute of the Bio-remediation (NiB) and it can turn up a ray of hope for the small farmers of the dry regions of Pakistan, particularly the South Punjab, which is predominantly an agricultural belt but lacks the political vigour to get what is due to it. Sindh and Central Punjab cater to their 95% needs through canal water.

It is time for the politicians (I am specially talking about of the souls belonging to Central Punjab and upper Sindh) to get out of the useless politics they are now involved in. If you don’t want new dams and can’t afford to have smaller units ( so that they can look after their own developmental needs) play your role in making your cities and waterways clean and let the scientists undertake their noble task they have taken up to themselves to make available the water required for the wheat crop .

Status-quo is, of course,  not acceptable because it is darkening the future of the country and its people. Times have changed and it is time for politicians and the political parties to change as well. Try to understand that the future of the country and politics lies in understanding the nature and adjusting our ways according to its dictates — remember flash floods of 2008?

-The Post 

Not a zero-sum game, at all

During my recent visit to this mega-city, I collected some impressions — the first and foremost is that Lahore has expanded too much. It is such a large city that one can’t be sure where it begins and where it ends. It has so many facilities but its problems are also gigantic.

By Riaz Missen

Frankly speaking I have not seen most of Lahore. Many historical places that I had read about in school days still remain a mystery for me. Reason is that Tahir Baig is too much busy with his ‘Red Woods’. Last summer he confined my movements to the Karim Block in Gulshan-e-Iqbal where he was painting his shop red. This time he was thinking about establishing franchises in other cities of Punjab, including Bahawalpur.

I have not visited Lahore frequently though it is the capital of the province I live in. My fifteen years in Islamabad did not make me a frequent visitor of this city, for trains and buses plying between Bahawalpur and the federal capital have found short cuts to escape it.

That the city is hundred of miles away from Bahawalpur is not an issue now when district government being are in place, Lahore has devolved some powers to Bahawalpur, but there is lot the people of this far off region have to seek in Lahore. I mean by this jobs, promotions and justice.

During my recent visit to this mega-city, I collected some impressions — the first and foremost is that Lahore has expanded too much. It is such a large city that one can’t be sure where it begins and where it ends. It has so many facilities but its problems are also gigantic.

 The suburb of Lahore is as underdeveloped as many areas of Punjab. A little ran could make life miserable. It is what I had seen when I was returning to Bahawalpur. It was daytime and I could see a glimpse of the towns of my own region in the suburb of Lahore. The industrial units were surrounded by filth. Poverty was flourishing under the shadows of skyscrapers.

To my understanding city ended where a link canal is flowing southward. I saw its waters keenly for I had once seen a report in Multan based daily that industrial waste of Lahore was being flown to the Sutlej River. I don’t know whether it is the same link canal that empties itself in the Sutlej but I am sure that its water was polluted.

 While passing through Lahore’s suburb I remembered the claims of the ex-chief minister that his government had allocated record funds for the uplift of Southern Punjab. The projected figure is Rs. 130 billion. I have not seen rest parts of the region but what I know is that my own village has got its streets brick-lined and a network of mettle roads is in place.

 Too, the Bahawalpuris have found health infrastructure operative now after a neglect of decades. The Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) is serving patients free of cost (almost). I myself had the opportunity to visit a nearby Basic Health Unit and found both the staff as well as the patients satisfied with the newfound love of the government with public health system.

Education was another passion of the Punjab government for last five years. It deserves the credit of making it free up to the High School level. That it was gender sensitive adds more to its achievements. Many parents have put their girls in schools due to the reason that not only it does disturb their budgets.

 The happiest moments this time in Lahore were those in which I had opportunity to chat with Tahir’s school going daughters. They want to become teachers — nay, educationists! I don’t know what their third sister, Fatima, really thinks about her career. But I know Tahir since last ten years. He will encourage them to make their way through life on their own choice.

The next day when he was on the road to drop me on the bus terminal, he was ready to give credit to the last government for road expansions and a better-managed traffic system but still he thought it necessary that the ‘Lion’ should come out of its den. Too much ‘cycling’ has badly affected the cultural side of his city.

Lahore has developed specific civic norms, which it can’t now compromise. When Tahir said this I clearly understood that Lahore is looking not around but on itself. “Do you think the next elections will be fair?” I asked. He was quick to remind me of the statement of Ghulam Mustafa Khar: If Moonis Elhai wins his seat from Lahore the elections are rigged, for sure.

The journey to Lahore was a happy exercise. It is connected with all major cities of Punjab with motorways. The buses running at more than 100 km/ hour take now fewer hours to reach Lahore from any part of the province. From Bahawalpur the promised hours are six but it takes more than seven. The situation is far better when the figure used to be 10.

“Lahore has the potential to even grow more if it just takes care of itself.  It should not expand further and contain itself to certain limits. It should also think about getting smart and slim, if possible,” I thought loudly when the bus was crossing over the Sutlej River. By that time night had fallen. There was some water in the river but I can’t tell exactly whether it was polluted or clean.

The Post

Social scientists have a role only in open societies

Social scientists have played a crucial role in helping the states to resolve problems standing in the way of peace and prosperity. When people and their standards of life make the subject of the study, they would come out with excellent solutions. Now, if political leadership has nothing to promote except its factional interest, only astrologers and palmists have got a good business in the polity
 
By Riaz Missen
 
The ex-governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Ishrat Hussain, has taken up the task at Higher Education Commission (HEC) of not only promoting social sciences in Pakistan but also making it a relevant discipline. To his judgment the future of social sciences is bright as the polity abounds in the problems that can only be resolved by its practitioners. Let’s pray for the success of the dear doctor, for the truth that comes from the mouths of the social scientists hardly pleases the sorts of the ruling elite we have.
 
Pakistan is fortunate enough to have social scientists of high stature. They strive for truth regardless of its implications for the interest of the powerful. They speak it without the fear that it will backfire. Dr. Inayatullah of Islamabad Social Science Forum (ISSF) is such a soul. When he emphasises on self-criticism as a method to improve the performance of the academia many faces turn pale. Dr. Tariq Rahman insists that Pakistan is a pluralist society for more than sixty languages are spoken from Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. His suggestion to demarcate the provincial boundaries to preserve this diversity does not auger well with the powers-that-be. Too, let us not forget Dr. Mubarak Ali’s consistent efforts to correct the history being taught in schools and colleges. 
 
Social scientists have played a crucial role in helping the states to resolve problems standing in the way of peace and prosperity. When people and their standards of life make the subject of the study, they would come out with excellent solutions. Now, if political leadership has nothing to promote except its factional interest, only astrologers and palmists have got a good business in the polity.
 
What hunger generates responses in individuals? What do people do when something untoward happens to them? What is the difference in their behaviour in happiness and grief? There are certain traits associated with humans. They react in the socially prescribed ways. They weep, moan and cry in the moments of grief and sorrow. They smile, laugh and dance when happy. Also, they turn mum and find it difficult to express their feelings in a particular environment.
 
Your approach can be termed anything but scientific if you are not dealing with an observable phenomenon. If you are obsessed with fate and waiting for miracles to happen so that some favourable development should occur, social scientists are not the right people to visit. Pick up any Urdu daily and see who else is promising to change your life overnight.
 
Believing in some phenomenon or rejecting it is the same thing in its essence. Both are done on the same principle: scientific reasoning. You only mean altercation if you don’t want to support your argument with concrete evidence. The whole building of knowledge rests on accepted reasoning modes. So, for any advancement in knowledge there should exist a consensus among the parties on the methodology to recognise the truth.
 
Successful polities of the world take the welfare of their people as their main task. They would concentrate on justice, health and education — employment as well. They not only want material and social welfare of society but are also concerned with how to make growth sustainable. Academia is always busy in conducting research, assessing successes and pointing out failures. The government comes out with a strategy which the opposition has the right to criticise. The debate does not take an ugly turn, for academia is there to intervene.
 
Now take the case of developing states. Leadership makes promises but fails every time. There are policies in abundance, but the means to carry them out exist nowhere. When the government starts to the west, the opposition heads to the east. Leaders talk about changing their lives overnight; they promise a future where all and sundry will stand equal in terms of privileges and honour. Academics will only laugh away their ambitions.
 
A country where 72 percent people live on $ 2 a day while chronic monopolies, in both the social and economic realms, hold sway in politics, talk about equality of people is only part of rhetoric. When perpetrators of violence stand for peace and stability, it is just a tactical move to bag votes. Would the rich change their hearts? Will they pay taxes and stop financing their luxurious existence from the national exchequer?
 
Science has no future in a society that is living on dreams. Sometimes people buy them. Other times visions, no matter how faulty and incorrect, are thrust on them. The vested interests outwit the majority through institutionalising their power. Their ill-gotten money is used to buy the loyalties of the people who are supposed to guard the interests of the common man. They support extremists that can flout the law and scorn legality at will. So they impose their will on people and none dares to stand in their way. One may cry, one may weep, but there is no way out. In this world of ours some have got the responsibility to write the fate of others. Criticism is taken as rebellion — opposition is not tolerated at all.
 
“The nation will eat grass to have its nuclear programme,” one of the premiers of Pakistan said. He had a vision to create an Islamic bloc. What did he mean? A social scientist would certainly have wondered what course he would adopt to realise his objective? How Pakistan, economically fragile and politically unstable, would lead a scattered and divided Ummah? Why the monarchs, autocrats and dictators should come under a central authority? Who has got the worth to become a caliph?
 
Turkish leader Mustafa Kamal refused to revive Caliphate system when he got his land freed from the clutches of the enemies. Earlier, the maulanas of united India had issued a decree declaring Hindustan under the British rule the abode of infidels. A large number of people set out for Afghanistan. Denied entrance into this poor country, many died on their way back due to cold and hunger. Even the mighty Moghuls had not entertained such an idea. They knew well how little role religion had in sustaining their empire. The Arabs, the first torchbearers of Islam, don’t think unity of the Ummah politically possible. Why is Pakistan’s leadership fascinated with the idea to lead the Ummah? Just keep on wondering — when you have nothing to do, engage yourself in fantasies.
 
When you don’t believe in science, you don’t belong to the world of knowledge. Think about luck and be ready about grabbing at a chance the circumstances offer you. Don’t believe in the notions called ethics and morality. Be unpredictable in your ways. Be ready to take the law into your own hands when it suits your interests. Don’t think of consequences of your actions if they are inspired by the dictates of the ‘law of necessity’.
 
If you are a ruler, you need not to go beyond promises of peace and prosperity for the commoners. Go to mosques and seek the blessings of mullas. Term madrassas as the biggest NGO network meant for the betterment of the poor. Perform Hajj and Umras frequently at the expense of the national exchequer. Import luxurious limousines on zero duty. Don’t listen to the voices of reason. If you want to succeed, just act in ‘your own way’ and don’t let social scientists roam freely on the face of earth you happen to rule.
 
Postscript: President Niyazov died a natural death recently after ruling his nation, Turkmenistan, for 25 long years. He made the opposition flee the land and became ‘father’ of his nation. He named ports, buildings and even months after the names of his parents. He did not pay any attention to the healthcare system. He got his included biography in the syllabus of schools and colleges. His legacy is intact till now. Another Turkmenbashi now holds the reins of power. He needs everybody to run the country but not social scientists.