My Two Cents for the Separatists

A few days ago, I saw a comment on a friend’s wall on facebook. It had stuff about provincial autonomy, injustice, inequality and separatism in Pakistan. I replied to that and here are my responses.

Actually, Pakistan does not make any sense without Islam. Seriously consider this fact that if a large Muslim majority did not exist in this part of the world that we now call Pakistan, Jinnah’s ancestors could not have conceived Pakistan even in dreams. The only sensible idea for Pakistan to exist is Islam. No Islam, no Pakistan. And I would be happy to join India as I would find better ways to thrive, excel and be happy in a united India as at the end of the day I belong to the Rajput community and I really do identify with the land and culture of the Indian subcontinent. My forefathers were kings on this land. After creation of Pakistan that prospect of myself or my descendants becoming kings and emperors on this piece of land that belonged to Indians has diminished to a great deal actually. Consider the Islamic ideas of equality and lack of racism, they snatch away something from me what could be called my eternal right to rule.

You talk about a thousands years of tradition and heritage of Pakhtuns in this region. But please consider what was here before that. Exactly a thousand years ago there ruled a king named Jayapala on the land you want to call Pakhtunkhawa and have it as yours. The dominion of Jayapala stretched till the borders of Ghazni and included Kabul. When Jayapala attacked Sebektegin, he actually invited a barrage of attacks by his son Mehmood. Mehmood, in his successive attacks and battles, took away from Jayapala all the region that you now call KPK. Mehmood was not a Pakhtoon. He was a Turkik Mamlook. So Pakhtuns never owned or ruled this place. As a matter of fact, although they have been living here, they have at times even been persecuted. Consider the genocide of Pakhtuns that was committed by Babar (who was also not a Pakhtun and was of Mongol descent by the way) in what why now call koh-e-Hindukush. 

The same kind of argument goes about Balochi people as well. I have lived a lifetime listening, praising and admiring Balochi and Pashtoon tradition, valor, and values. There is a bit of a legend about these two identities. Akbar Bugti was once asked about his identity. And he said, I am a Pakistani for 60 years, a Muslim since 1400 years and a Balochi since, I don’t know, 2000 years (maybe, perhaps even more than that). Akbar Bugti (and all the rest of the Bugtis and Baloch people) tend to make a great deal out of their Baloch identity. But when should ask this great more-than-two-thousand-years-old proud Baloch, where did he live before 1400 years (i.e. before converting to Islam). It turns out that where ever he did, he either did not live in the land that we now call Balochistan or even if he did, he was not only not a proud ruler over there, he was actually a subject, and most possibly an abject one. The fact is that before the advent of Islam Balochistan was a dominion of Indian rulers and kings. This is a fact that when Balochistan was conquered for the first time by Muslims, it was during the era of Hazrat Umar (RA) and the ruler of Balochistan was Rai Chach (an auspiciously Indian name).

Given all of this one feels a great deal of an urge to ask our dear Pakhtuns and Balochis, who are so fond of tradition, this question that where did they practice these princely traditions before that. Some of their traditions are very princely indeed. I had a Baloch friend who had a really long shalwar. I think its circumference would be 25 meters at least, I am not exaggerating. When asked the reason why he wore such a huge shalwar, his answer was that the tradition compelled him to do so. So the question is that where did such traditions come from? And I am sure that the true answer cannot be that they originated in the land of KPK or Balochistan. And even if they did, it wasn’t the time the Indians were ruling the place. It was most possibly when Muslims were in command that such liberal traditions could evolve.

The reason for writing all of this is that the land of Pakistan makes sense (to me at least) with Islam. If we take Islam out of the question, there is no point in having Pakistan. Then merge everything with India. And the merger would also include those landmasses of KPK and Balochistan.

Yes, there is misfortune in our country. There is not enough equality. We are not even close to the equality preached by Islam. Our justice system is poor. But a solution to these problems is not divisions. The solution is to improve. Things are improving too. Now the speaker for NA is from KPK. There are oher notable top-notch politicians who hail from Balochistan. Divisions are not the solution. Because in a divided Pakistan, each of the piece of land will begin to belong to someone who is not currently living there. And their case is as legitimate as your traditions and heritage.

Well the thing is that there are surely problems. Why don’t you achieve more autonomy now through a constitutional process in this new setup. You guys have your own speaker. And you should pitch a bill of your demands. Why don’t you go constitutional? This is your government. Even the PM is Pashtun and takes great pride in being so.

What exactly did we achieve with the Muslim state? I really don’t know. But we lost a lot. I mean India lost a lot. India lost KPK (which is ruling since 320 BC, since the reign of Chandra Gupta Muriya) and Balochistan. What did we gain? Well, I guess independence. The independence to write this kind of stuff. I think it means a lot. 

On a separate note, Taliban should never have demolished those Buddhist temples and religious emblems. Islam does not allow that. And they were emblematic indeed. Those emblems tell us that once upon a time there was Budhism in that part of the world. This is a very profound idea about who belongs where in the world.

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The Era of Blindness

The decade of 40s has a very special place in my consciousness. I personally think that it was in this decade that the humanity radically shifted its course of history. Before these years, humanity lived in the old age. After this, the humanity began to move toward an advanced age. Before the 40s, the world was quite backward. After that, a lot of progress was made. Wars were the norm before the 40s. Civilized life became vogue after that. Technology that was being developed before that, gave a voice to many art forms. Music, drama, films, speeches, news, sitcoms and talk shows could be heard and seen on television screens. Belligerence subsided, oppression ceded, poverty alleviated, abjection vanished. Instead of all of these many world countries and their citizens started observing affluence and cornucopia in their lives.

One of the reasons I think like this is because of the great war. I am talking about the second world war. This was the greatest of the wars that happened on planet Earth. Almost every country in the world was drawn into it, willingly or unwillingly. And almost every country suffered. Even the victors suffered. It is said that the war caused bankruptcy to the British empire. Similarly, other colonial powers like France, Spain, and Italy also suffered huge financial losses. Germany surely lost the war, but the Russian economy bled badly too.

It is said that the only true victor of the war was the United States. This is quite right. The US joined the war quite late and stole the show when everyone else was really tired and exhausted with the war. But this is not the complete truth. The US was not the only victor. In my personal opinion, there were other victors too. And these were the countries that were colonized before the war. The Indian subcontinent was a victor, for instance. It gained independence from the British Raj in 1947. It is said that the British left India on its own as they could not afford its budget any longer. The bankruptcy caused by the great war had drained Britain so badly that she had to abandon her Indian ambitions altogether. Same is the case with the middle east. They colonizers retreated in the 40s. The Republic of Ireland, for another example, gained it complete freedom in 1949 from the British after almost a millennium-long hegemony. So that’s the kind of story the history has about the era of 40s. One thing we often fail to acknowledge is that although the US emerged as the sole victor from the great war, not all countries were losers. The colonized countries gained a lot. Primarily, if nothing else, they gained their freedoms. Their freedoms came as bounties for the colonizers’ financial losses and crippled economies.

Wars ceded to a great degree after that. Or at least we should believe that they have not happened at the scale that used to happen before that. There has not been a single war after the great war of the 40s that was equivalent in magnitude to previous wars that have happened in human history. Before the 40s, war was an enterprise. After that, even though wars involving superior technology happened, they did so much out of necessity. The cold war, even though a much wider and technologically intense event was not nearly as epic as the battle of Hydaspes. Instead of large-scale organized wars, technical apparatus proliferated in every sphere of human life including war and civilization. Villages, towns and cities evolved and thrived with huge buildings, hospitals, schools, banks, cars, transportation systems, political ideas and shopping centers with all sorts of goods, confectionaries, groceries, drinks and technical gadgets that mankind had never seen before. The ordinary man who could have had to struggle to buy a bunch of candles during the nineteenth century would be highly discomforted if the electricity of his house was shut down for five minutes only. Such are the expectations of today’s modern man about his life and from the society.

Humanity has progressed a lot ever since the decade of the 40s. It is the kind of progress humanity has never ever seen before. And most of this progress has been observed in countries who suffered in the war. Excluding the US, the sole victor, these countries include the Western European countries, the UK, the Scandinavian countries, Japan and China. The good thing about these countries is that most of these countries while making economic and technological progress, have also aspired to become welfare states, even if they have not been able to become so.

What remains are the countries that have not done so well. If you look at the world map closely, these are middle eastern, central Asia, and subcontinental nations. Consider UAE for instance. It has developed a lot of infrastructures but has poor labor laws. Consider India for another example. It boats to be the largest democracy in the world, but it has not been able to straighten up of caste oriented hierarchical society where one bunch of human beings are superior to another through a divine ordinance of some sort.

And now consider Pakistan. Ever since its independence, she has been suffering from tragic episodes of one kind or another. Despite all the resources she has, and despite all the progress she has made on various fronts, her people are suffering from poverty. The total population of Pakistan is of the order of 193 million as of this writing. Even in the midst of the 21st century, her people face a lot of problems. Basic amenities of life that have become hackneyed in the developed world are not accessible to most of the people of Pakistan. People have issues concerning basic housing facilities, healthcare problems, schooling of children, public transport, inflation and a sham democracy.

Above all, the major problem all of us have is that we love to blame a foreign nation for all of our problems. Most of those problems do not have anything to do with a foreign nation intervening in our domestic issues at all. It is true that foreign influence has indeed been a cause of retardation of our progress. However, to blame everything on a foreign nation is not only mistaken, it is very much a cause of our backwardness. For instance, consider the piles of filth that are accumulating on our roads and streets. It is definitely not a conspiracy of the US, India or Europe. It was supposed to be our responsibility to come up with an economically viable idea to clean the filth off the streets.

Similarly, attributing every religious, sectarian and ethnic quarrel to a foreign nation is not impressive. It was our job as a nation to elevate the standards and functioning of our institutions to a commendable level. Institutions that dispense justice, equality, and fairness to its people should have been put in place right from the onset. A culture of research and development should have been fostered right from the beginning. And even if we have failed to develop our country on progressive lines from the very start, its never too late. There is still a lot of margin and room for development. With prudent and scrupulous planning, we can raise the standard of living in our country to a level that matches that of the developed world. Currently, we are walking on lit streets like blind men. I wonder how long we would be able to walk like this.

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Internet of Guns

It is really not my type of a thing to be talking about guns, working with them or even wondering about them. I like to think about and work on projects that can improve the human condition in our society. And guns, as symbols of terror, don’t quite fit in this bracket. However, guns can have many positive uses as well. If you are not sure about why guns make a lot of sense in ordinary citizens’ hands, read this argument of Sam Harris about gun licensing.

The Riddle of the Gun

Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America. On the one hand, many gun-rights advocates reject even the most sensible restrictions on the sale of weapons to the public. On the other, proponents of…

The security situation in Pakistan can be grim from time to time. Given this, a lot of companies hire security guards and gunmen to scare the hell out of any possible intruders and persona non grata. Mostly they succeed only at scaring ordinary citizens from day to day. After putting up this scary act for so long, they do not have much energy left to confront any serious terrorists. Think about the fact that in an ordinary enterprise, a security guard has to sit in a small cabin for the whole day to watch out for undesirable people. During the summer days of Pakistan, the small cabin functions like an oven. This kind of a living environment is deeply hazardous for the health and well-being of the watchman. But we only like to think in terms of the contract of the salary.

Having an Internet of Guns could be a good alternative for people seeking high security. You could have your guns mounted outdoors. Whereas your guard could sit in a computer cooler computer room from where they could detect unwanted intruders and bring them to justice. High profile companies opting for such solutions could be happier and might as well keep the computer rooms cooler not for the sake of their guards but at least for their computers. Yes, we value our computing machinery more than human life as we are an educated bunch.

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On Money and Motivation

A great debate is about to erupt nearby about whether monetary rewards can have a positive or a negative impact on academic research and scholarship. There are purists who believe that giving monetary rewards for publishing in top ranking academic journals can spur a rat race. They believe that research and scholarship should be carried out due to intrinsic motives. There are others who argue that extrinsic stimuli such as money could lead to better quality of research. There is Alfie Kohn who argues against monetary rewards. You can read up his stuff here.

Punished by Rewards – (Book)

(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993 / 1999) (Tantor audio, 2017) 1999 edition features a new Afterword by the author Our basic strategy for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you’ll get that.

Following is a rebuttal of Alfie Kohn’s aforementioned work; Punished by misunderstanding. In this the author argues how Alfie Kohn’s arguments are shallow. Especially he notes that much of the subjects of Kohn’s work were rats and pigeons. Kohn also considered the children involved in his work to be passive agents. He also argues that the subjects were exposed to rewards for a very short time. For a lasting impact of rewards or to see their impact as a whole, he argues, the subjects should have been exposed to them for weeks or even months.

Punished by Misunderstanding: A Critical Evaluation of Kohn’s Punished by Rewards and Its Implications for Behavioral Interventions with Children

Despite the growth of behavior analysis over the past 30 years, misunderstandings of behavioral theory and practice may threaten its continued growth and application. Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes (1993) offers a view of behaviorism that, if accepted uncritically, could hinder efforts to disseminate behavioral interventions, particularly those involving children.

Then there are other well-crafted arguments in favor of monetary rewards for publishing as well. Please peruse the following.

Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research

How much should people earn? Even if resources were unlimited, it would be difficult to stipulate your ideal salary. Intuitively, one would think that higher pay should produce better results, but scientific evidence indicates that the link between compensation, motivation and performance is much more complex.

Here is what Scientific American has to say about such matters.

For the Brain, Cash Is Good, Status Is Better

New research shows for the first time that we process cash and social values in the same part of our brain (the striatum)-and likely weigh them against one another when making decisions. So what’s more important-money or social standing? It might be the latter, according to two new studies published in the journal Neuron.

Why cash and copyright are bad news for creativity

Today we kick off our series devoted to creativity – examining what it is, what we know about it, and why it’s so important. Imagine you were asked to write a law that encouraged creativity. What would it look like? Whatever your answer, it’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t look like copyright.

This is a great argument.

Cash is Bad for Creativity? Yeah, Right

A discussion once again erupted this month, fuelled by rapid re-sharing of the headline, “Why cash and copyright are bad for creativity” and a post on The Conversation by Dan Hunter. The premise put forth by Hunter, based on studies by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and Teresa Amabile, is summed up nicely here: “…artists produce their worst work when they’re commissioned to produce it, …

The Psychology Behind Gift-Giving and Generosity

A few weeks ago psychologist Dan Ariely, inspired by the holiday frenzy, pondered the hows and whys of gift-giving. Reading his piece-an endorsement of a behavioral economics view that challenges the rational economic contention that gift-giving is a largely irrational dilemma-at once brought to mind the story that has to me (and, I suspect, to many others) always epitomized the spirit of gifts and generosity: O.

For those who think if monetary rewards associated with scholarship would deteriorate the quality of work due to shifting focus of the mind instead of work, following is a nice argument.

Motivated Multitasking: How the Brain Keeps Tabs on Two Tasks at Once

The human brain is considered to be pretty quick, but it lacks many of qualities of a super-efficient computer. For instance, we have trouble switching between tasks and cannot seem to actually do more than one thing at a time. So despite the increasing options-and demands-to multitask, our brains seem to have trouble keeping tabs on many activities at once.

It can also be argued that rewarding certain people in an organization could spur emotions of professional jealousy. People of our country are especially really good at developing such feelings. For them, the following article is a good motivator to develop a generous personality.

Generosity Is Its Own Reward

Most of us have felt the satisfaction that comes from spending money on another person, whether it be a gift for a friend or a donation to disaster victims. Now an international team of psychologists report that the relation between generous spending and happiness holds around the world, even in countries as impoverished as India and Uganda.

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The Age of Modern Institutions

I am a diehard fan of George Friedman. I really love the way he writes. For me, he is a very profound writer who has the ability to stretch fantastic imaginations, blend them with reality and eventually translate them into a nice write-up. I have been reading him for around sixteen years now. For me, he has always been a great source of inspiration, information, and knowledge.

Recently I have begun to wonder how he really leads to his write-ups. I wonder when he wakes up in the morning, he thinks about a topic or a situation. He probably talks to expert friends about that. He travels to places where events that intrigue him happened and talks to people over there. Then, by the end of the day, he returns to his solitude, reflects on the whole conversations, books he has read, ideas he has contemplated, problems he has pondered about, and eventually writes them all.

George’s enterprise, namely, StartFor now maintains a coterie of seasoned writers. All of them write so well. Their basic theme is to inform humanity about geopolitics. The way they write about issues is unequivocal.

Recently I read an article written by one of the writers at StratFor, Ian Morris, titled, The Age of Modern Warfare. This article has a beautiful theme. That is to reflect on how warfare happened in ancient times? How its methods and tools evolved over millennia? And how it works now or would work in the future?

The central idea of this article is that right from the beginning of humanity until the first world war was conducted by employing a hierarchical chain of command. Orders would flow in a top-down fashion from the commanders all the way down to the soldiers who would execute them. Things changed in the first world war when Germans, for the first time, allowed the soldiers to plan and act independently as smaller units. Soldiers had broader views of tasks, tactics and especially the strategy. How they would accomplish their missions, what tactics they would apply was totally up to them.

For me, this is a very nice example of self-organization. It is an especially interesting case for almost every person, organization or institution in the developing country to take heed from. In our country, we still educate our people to learn to obey orders at best. A result of that is that our twenty-first-century man is incapable of thinking beyond what his boss may have in his mind as a next step. This leads to a lot of mental stagnation in our society.

Our institutions should especially take heed from this example. The West began to abandon the ideas of centralized command as early as the dawn of the twentieth century. Now you can find independent-minded people working almost in every Western institution. People like to find ways to get their work done all by themselves. As a result, the modern Western man is capable of achieving a lot more than a bunch of men stuck together to merely follow orders in olden times.

Our institutions, on the other hand, are still following primitive systems that glorify a culture of command and control. We like to have a strong authoritative head sit on top as an institutional head. As he delivers his orders, they are obeyed readily. For the rest of the time, the institution is idle and stalemate. And most of the times the orders are quite whimsical.

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