Sail the 7 seas (on iceberg rafts)

…the evolutionary
history of ostriches, emus and rheas does not match the break-up of the
continents….scientists believe that their common ancestor could fly…..New
World monkeys rafted
to South America on a clump of earth…..these three groups
represent 73 percent of the land mammals living there…..

It was Darwin who first suggested that wolves arrived on the Falklands Islands by floating on icebergs. For making such an extraordinary speculation the greatest biologist ever was criticized in the strongest terms. Now there is fascinating evidence of snakes swimming 120 miles across the open ocean (and many others). Forget the boring old stories of human colonization, this is the exciting new story of animal colonization of the the planet we all call home.

We are reminded here of Jurassic Park (the novel) where female dinosaurs had escaped from their habitat and had found a way to breed. Nature – it was famously said – will always find a way. And nature has found a way for creatures as immobile as snails to migrate from one continent to another by clinging on to the feet of birds.

In June 2000, Alan de Queiroz became curious about an enormous,
ragged-looking garter snake that lived on the tip of Baja California.
Like many other biologists of his generation, de Quieroz had been taught
that species traveled the Earth to new habitats on slowly drifting

This snake had relatives on the other side of the Sea of
Cortéz on Mexico’s mainland, and de Queiroz assumed that this population
ended up on Baja 4 to 8 million years ago, when the peninsula split
from the mainland.

But using a new method based on genetic
sequencing to estimate when the two populations split, he found that it
had occurred in the past few hundred thousand years. In other words, one
or more pioneering garter snakes had probably floated across 120 miles
of open ocean.

As de Queiroz prepared to write up the surprising
results of his snake study, he discovered that the reptile was not an
outlier. Biologists were finding that even after continents drifted
apart, plants and animals somehow hopped between them.

“Obviously, the
continents had moved — nobody was claiming that the theory of plate
tectonics was wrong — and obviously, they had carried species with
them,” he writes, “but somehow, these facts did not explain nearly as
much about the modern living world as we had thought.” Chance ocean
crossings did.

In his engaging new book, “The Monkey’s Voyage,”
de Queiroz makes the case that the vibrant and distinctive biological
communities we see today were created by organisms rafting across oceans
and soaring through the atmosphere.
“The large number of these
colonizations tells us that, in the long history of this living world,
the miraculous has become the expected,” he writes.

To understand how contentious this notion is, de Queiroz takes us back
to the 1950s and ’60s, when a wealth of new information emerged about
continental drift. Geologists had long recognized that the coasts of
South America and Africa fit together like puzzle pieces and had
theorized that they were once a single landmass. 

But now measurements
from the ocean floor revealed several ridges, including one in the
middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where the sea floor was spreading before
the scientists’ eyes. These discoveries provided a clear mechanism for
how the continents creep along. Geologists determined that,
approximately 180 million years ago, there was an ancient uber-continent
called Gondwana, which sat on the equator and was composed of what are
now South America, Africa, Antarctica, India and Australia. 

Gondwana was also a revelation for evolutionary biologists. Its
break-up, they surmised, was probably etched in the history of life. For
instance, ostriches, emus and rheas, closely related birds found in
Africa, Australia and South America, became a textbook example of this
continental drift theory. Another famous example were southern beech
trees, which are found in South America, Australia and other smaller
pieces of Gondwana.

This theory was attractive because it was elegant and sensible, but,
as de Queiroz colorfully describes, its proponents became a little too
dogmatic about it. Léon Croizat, a self-trained botanist of French
heritage who lived in Venezuela, coined the phrase “Earth and life
evolve together” and believed that continental drift explained
everything about plant and animal distributions. To him, the idea that
plants or animals crossed oceans on their own was outrageous and

He characterized Darwin as “congenitally not a thinker,”
in part because of Darwin’s suggestion that wolves may have reached the
Falkland Islands on icebergs. Croizat came in for criticism himself. An
eminent American paleontologist called him “a member of the lunatic

Indeed, there had always been evidence that, over the
long history of life on Earth, plants and animals made remarkable
journeys. Consider, for example, that young spiders are carried on the
wind by their silky threads and land on the decks of ships far from the
coastline. Freshwater snails cling to the feet of migrating birds. And
fishermen on the Caribbean island of Anguilla once watched a natural
raft of logs get washed onto shore with 15 green iguanas on it, a
species that had not previously existed there.

Proof of how
important these journeys are in evolutionary history finally arrived in
the late 1990s with genetic-dating studies, such as the one de Quieroz
conducted on his garter snakes. We now know that the evolutionary
history of ostriches, emus and rheas does not match the break-up of the
continents. Some scientists believe that their common ancestor could fly
and that they became flightless only after settling on their respective
continents. Among the other creatures de Queiroz considers are New
World monkeys and two other groups of mammals, which apparently rafted
to South America on a clump of earth. Today, these three groups
represent 73 percent of the land mammals living there.





“My dad is from Jullundur”

….the President was
relieved to have at least one Indian person in the receiving line…..Prime Minister looks at me, and says oh you are Indian, I said
yes…the President nodding approvingly….Prime Minister
Singh asks: Where are your
parents from? I said…Punjab. my dad is from Jullundur…..The Prime Minister said, “Oh, his father and I are from the same place….”

The Viceroy-elect to India has been declared after long months of intense deliberation:  Richard Rahul Verma is a very close associate of the next-in-line-to-the-throne. 

In our opinion this is quite a master-stroke by our overlords. While “yellow” China and Japan are promising filthy cash, here is truly a bonding of souls, “white” and “brown.” If proof was ever needed on this point, we point to Exhibit #1: US Congressman Curt “Bollywood lover” Clawson (Florida-19) who got confused by brown skinned officials representing the United States of America.
But think about the nature of Clawson’s goof. Sitting across a
congressional hearing room from Nisha Biswal, an official at the State
Department, and Arun Kumar, who works at the Department of Commerce,
Clawson addressed the two Indian-Americans
as if they were representatives of the government of India.
Which is to
say: He had trouble recognizing that two Americans who trace their
ancestry to the developing world are really American.


Nisha Desai Biswal (immigrant from Gujarat, married to an Odiya) is the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, and now we have an Indian-American ambassador to India as well. The cup of joy will surely overflow if/when the future Madam President selects Dr Amerish Babulal “Ami” Bera (Gujarati immigrant, Congressman representing CA-7, Sacramento County- East, California) as Vice President. That will be the day….

The only problem will be if/when a fire-breather like Preet Bharara is
given a “sensitive” posting….indeed this would be a scenario with
maximum scope of amusement.

We are not sure whether to be proud (first time an xx-American has been appointed to an xx country) or parochial – why not a Bong or Mallu ambassador, why do Punjus…and Gujjus always get to be first?

Then again we are given to understand that appointments to important government posts (also university faculty positions) in the USA require checking for prior communist associations. As we know, one cannot be too careful these days.

Verma remembers the time when he was a little kid, seeing his mom in
her sari waiting for a bus to go to work in sub-zero centigrade
temperatures in blowing and drifting snow.
His father had emigrated from
Punjab, arriving in New York City in 1963 with $24 in his pocket, and
his mother and siblings had followed a few years later.

“The times were
hard. We had no money. The kids could be mean in school to this new
immigrant family. But they persevered,” he recalls.
“They showed us what
it meant to be strong, what it means to stay together, and confront
challenges as a family, and they taught us to be proud of our roots.”

On Thursday, the proud son of Indian immigrants who personify Indian
enterprise and academic excellence — his parents were the first ones in
the family to be educated; his father went on to earn a PhD — was
nominated by US President Obama to be the US ambassador to India. He
will be the first Indian-American to take the job if (or when) he is
confirmed by the Senate; indeed, he will be the first Indian-American to
get an ambassadorial appointment to a major country, not counting the
sinecure (to Belize) Obama’s bestowed on his collegemate Vinai

Richard Rahul Verma is from a different stock
from the entrepreneurial Thummalapally, who now has a key job in the
Department of Commerce; the Indian-American of Punjabi stock is himself
no slouch when it comes to academic and professional accomplishment.
While there is an element of surprise in his nomination given his south
Asia background and India roots, his formidable resume (including an
ongoing PhD program at Georgetown University) and the Washington roadmap
he has traversed for two decades make him a shoo-in for the New Delhi
job, despite reservations in some quarters about whether an
Indian-American is best suited for the post.

Verma is a
consummate Washington insider who has worked in both the legislature and
the executive; in fact, his last post bridged the two — he was the
Assistant Secretary of State for legislative affairs during Hillary
Clinton’s stewardship
of Foggy Bottom — and that job came to him by
virtue of his years as a chief foreign policy aide to Senate leader
Harry Reid. Before that, between clerkships and stints at law firms, he
worked with the legendary Pennsylvania lawmaker Jack Murtha, learning
the ropes on the Hill.

In fact, in a farewell to Verma when he left the US state department
job in 2012, Clinton recalled in a very personal way how much Verma
guarded her back and how much he meant to her. “My mother lives with us
in our house here in Washington, and I was saying goodbye to her this
morning and she said, ‘What’s wrong, you don’t look very good.’ And I
said, ‘Well, I know, I am not just in a very good mood today.’ And she
says, ‘Well, you know, there’s so much going on in the world, all over
the country, and the economy.’ But I said, ‘No, it’s not it; it’s Rich
Verma (leaving).'” Clinton related.

Of course, Obama would know — also
personally. Verma assisted him in debate prep during his 2008
Presidential campaign, and like the President and his wife, Verma and
his wife Pinky are also legal eagles, a power couple with law degrees
from American University and UPenn respectively. When he arrives in New
Delhi later this year or early next year, Verma will bring with him not
just legalese, having worked on a ton of legislation and international
treaties (including some New Delhi is not particularly fond of), but
also a smattering of Hindi, which he is said to have kept up with.

Doubtless, much more than that will be needed to elevate the US-India
partnership. But despite his relatively modest vintage (he’s only 45 and
of Asst. Secretary rank; previous US ambassadors have been heavyweight
political appointees like David Mulford and Tim Roemer; or foreign
service veterans such as Frank Wisner and Tom Pickering), Verma will
bring to the table impressive range of work, from national security
legislation to international treaties on non-proliferation, to bilateral
agreements, including the US-India Civilian Nuclear deal, which he
oversaw from the Senate side.

But most of his, he will bring an
India connection, the likes of which is unprecedented, as is evident
from this story he relates: In the fall of 2009, Verma was invited to
the White House arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. When
he told his father about this, his dad was very excited “because in my
dad’s words, ‘we are from the same place’ in India.” 
With my dad, says
Verma, no matter what Indian person we meet anywhere in the world,
shopkeeper, waiter, restaurant owner, doctor…it doesn’t matter, he
always say you are from the same town, went to the same school, from the
same village. “I said Dad, there are 1 billion Indian people, it is
mathematically impossible that all of you can be from the same
place….he said well, I’m telling you, you should tell the PM. Thanks,
dad, but I’m not doing that….”

“When the day comes, and I am
getting my turn in line, and there is the President, and he says this is
Rich he works at the State Dept (you could tell the President was
relieved to have at least one Indian person in the receiving line…).
The Prime Minister looks at me, and says oh you are Indian, I said
yes…the President nodding approvingly. What do you do? Prime Minister
Singh asks: Oh I work at the State Dept Great, he said. Where are your
parents from? I said, Northern India, Punjab. He asked where … and I
said my dad is from Jullundur. The Prime Minister turned to the
President and said, “Oh, his father and I are from the same place….”


Link (1): timesofindia Richard-Verma-new-US-envoy-to-India

Link (2):



“Price of every tear will be paid”

….Biswas’s lawyer said…..the “honour” of Biswas, Indian diplomats
and India has been “vindicated” with the court order….settlement acknowledged that Biswas was an “honor student” at the time of her “false arrest”…. 

First off, we are very happy that Krittika Biswas has been pronounced innocent and has received civil damages that will go towards restoring her faith in the justice system. However the background story is a bit dark and it should serve as a cautionary example to others.

As a stereotype this is at least half true, Indian students in the USA (and elsewhere) will be focused on grades and are expected to do well in studies, while Americans will look at high-school and college as more of a (enriching) life experience.

Indians are unlikely to be familiar with US harassment laws and zero-tolerance codes and the fact that the criminal justice system will not hesitate to take action against elites (unlike in India where things can be hushed up).

As a daughter of a diplomat Krittika Biswas is not a typical case.  She benefited from strong support from the Indian diplomatic establishment and (we presume) did not lack in financial backing. This will not be true for middle class Indian kids in search of “US degree” who may be wholly destroyed by their own thoughtless actions or malicious behavior forthcoming from fellow (american) students.

We understand the need for emotional closure (and lawyer-ly hyperbole) but we are uncomfortable about all the drum beating about violated honor being restored of Ms Biswas, Indian Foreign Service and India (it is a bit like how Dr Aafia Siddiqui is described by patriots as a daughter of Pakistan….also unfairly targeted by the Americans). It was a false case against a civilian who was not representing India officially, and the “crime” was probably upgraded due to zero-tolerance principles adopted by US schools. 

The (most important) question remains, why was the student who actually committed the crime not charged? Without any other exculpatory information it does lend credence to the charge that the indictment (and arrest) was driven by “ethnicity” and/or a “tragic rush to accuse.”
Incidentally it is only in rare cases that a white male american student will suffer such extreme prejudice from the police and courts. The most memorable recent example is the Duke lacrosse case which was initiated in 2006 and whose aftermath can be felt even seven years later in 2013-2014 (!!!) when the falsely accused students settled their lawsuits against Duke University and the city of Durham and a rogue policeman who used to disproportionately target Duke students committed suicide. Even in that instance it so happens that the false accuser was never brought to justice for her horrific actions.

In March 2006, Crystal Gail Mangum, falsely accused three white students, members of the Duke Blue Devils men’s lacrosse team, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the team’s captains in Durham, North Carolina on March 13, 2006……On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper
dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper
stated that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and
David Evans – were victims of a “tragic rush to accuse.”

On May 16, 2014, the three accused lacrosse players and the City of
Durham settled their long-running lawsuit. Under terms of the
settlement, Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans received no monetary
compensation, instead they requested that the city give a $50,000 grant
to the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission…..On February 21, 2008, the families of 38 of the lacrosse team’s 47 members who were not accused filed a 225-page lawsuit
against Duke University. The lawsuit against Duke University was settled out of court in 2013.
Both the University and the players declined to comment on the details
of the settlement….
In early July 2014 Sgt. Mark Gottlieb committed suicide in Dekalb County, Georgia where he had worked as a paramedic…..

In a
significant legal victory for the daughter of an Indian diplomat, the
city of New York has agreed to pay her USD 225,000 to settle a lawsuit
she brought against it after she was jailed for a day and suspended from
school on suspicion of sending obscene emails to her teacher.

Krittika Biswas has in turn agreed to dismiss all the claims against the
city, Board of Education and the officials of the New York Police
Department who had arrested and detained her in 2011.

District Judge John Koeltl in the Southern District of New York said in
his order that the City of New York agrees to pay Biswas USD 225,000 in
“full satisfaction of all claims” and in consideration for the payment
Biswas “agrees to dismissal of all the claims” against the defendants.

He said that the parties in the case “desire to resolve the issues”
raised in the litigation “without further proceedings and without
admitting any fault or liability.”

Biswas’s lawyer Ravi Batra
said in a statement to PTI that the “honour” of Biswas, Indian diplomats
and India has been has been “vindicated” with the court order.
The settlement acknowledged that Biswas was an “honor student” at the time of her “false arrest.”

He said Biswas joins him in “thanking” the Indian- American community,
former ambassadors Prabhu Dayal and Meera Shanker and her former
classmates and teachers whose “emotional and moral support” helped her
in her legal fight.

Biswas had filed the lawsuit seeking USD
1.5 million in damages for her wrongful imprisonment and suspension from
school. She was detained and arrested in February 2011 on the grounds
that she had sent “offensive and sexually threatening” emails to her
teachers in Queens’s John Browne High School.

Biswas is now in
India. The defendants had moved to “dismiss” the entire lawsuit but an
appeals court had last month refused to throw out the lawsuit saying the
arguments by them were “without merit.”

Biswas’s lawsuit had
detailed the circumstances that led to her being handcuffed and
imprisoned forcibly approximately 28 hours “for nothing.”

Biswas was “forced to be processed through the criminal justice system,
and spent over 24 hours in jail
without being allowed to meet her
parents or visited by senior Indian diplomats. All of this occurred,
despite her actual innocence as this was a case of mistaken identity.”

It states that she was discriminated against and falsely accused of sending offensive e-mails because of her ethnicity.

An investigation after her arrest had found that another student had
sent the emails but that student was not arrested or criminally charged,
which Batra said is “proof of foul discriminatory disparate treatment”
of Biswas “despite her actual innocence.”

Citing the India-US
relations, particularly in the wake of the upcoming visit of Prime
Minister Narendra Modi, Batra said he advised Biswas and her family that
a “just resolution” of the case would be an appropriate move to
“enhance the bilateral relationship.”






Naw beats Aye

The British have always loved partition…for other people. In each case the justification was that the sub-nations are unable to co-exist side by side. This is when the British played not an insubstantial role in stoking the communal fires – the (in)famous divide and rule policy.

The two nation theory which is best summarized as “our heroes are their villains” has no doubt been hugely successful….in compounding misery of all the communities involved.. The wrongs of the past should have been dealt with a truth and reconciliation commission (just like in South Africa).  

The irony is that separation did not reduce the rancor one iota: Pakistan-India and Israel-Palestine have fought four (official) bitter wars, things are not too much better in Northern Ireland.

But when it comes to Britain herself, the answer was made clear today. Partition is never a solution to the problems, it also makes all of us poor as people. The cultural lines are never clearly drawn and purity is over-rated. Speaking of India specifically, the answer to a prosperous future is to encourage more secularism (and mixed marriages aka love jihad) not to create more ghettos and breed intolerance.

The bad blood that has been created over this partition fight will not (easily) go back into the bottle. The polls are clear on this point: the English now resent the Scots just as much as the Scots look down upon the English. The dividing lines will be sharper once a vote is announced for a Brexit from the European Union. Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage are smart ambitious politicians, they are unlikely to take no for an answer.

All that said we are happy for the Brits. Yes, it is certainly better together.
Scottish voters have rejected independence, deciding to remain part
of the United Kingdom after a historic referendum that shook the country
to its core.The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year
union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British
political establishment. Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.

majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex
Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the
security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.

conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign”
and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote. He said the voted “has been triumph for the democratic process.“

that is the result for the referendum then clearly I am deeply
disappointed,” Scottish National Party (SNP) deputy leader Nicola
Sturgeon told the broadcaster. Votes cast for and against
Scotland’s independence in a historic referendum were running virtually
neck and neck, but leading “No“ campaigners had suggested that victory
was in sight.

Secretary Alistair Carmichael, a “No” supporter, told AFP: “It’s early
days but it’s looking fairly good.“ Michael Gove, Conservative former
minister and confidant of Prime Minister David Cameron, told Sky News
that “fingers crossed”, the union appeared safe. “The result looks
disappointing,” admitted Patrick Harvie, a member of the Scottish
parliament for the Green Party and “Yes” campaigner.

gathered for all-night parties in Glasgow and Edinburgh, draped in the
blue-and-white Saltire flags of Scotland and setting off flares. “We
are going to stay out till the result,” said Dylan McDonald, 17, one of
Scotland’s 16- and 17-year-olds who have been able to vote in a
referendum for the first time after the qualifying age was lowered.

historic decision gripped many Scots who previously took little
interest in politics, igniting passions and raising the prospect of deep
changes to the governance of the union no matter the result. Cameron
promised greater powers for Scotland’s parliament in a last-minute bid
to convince voters to stay in the union, prompting politicians in his
Conservative party to call for the same treatment for England.

will speak on the future of the United Kingdom as soon as the referendum
outcome is issued, and if independence is rejected he is expected to
announce plans to change the division of power in the highly-centralised

Some ballot boxes were brought by helicopter and others by boat from
remote islands to be counted after polls closed, with the final result
predicted to arrive in the early hours of Friday.

The closure of the airport on the Isle of Lewis due to fog meant ballot boxes would have to travel by slower fishing boat.

the counting centre in Scotland’s oil city Aberdeen, boxes of postal
votes were tipped out onto tables at the stroke of 10:00 pm when polls
closed, and officials immediately began sorting the ballots.

officials in Glasgow said they had contacted police over a handful of
allegations that people had turned up to vote only to find their names
already crossed off the ballot sheet.

The question for voters at
Scotland’s more than 5,000 polling stations was “Should Scotland be an
independent country?” and they are asked to mark either “Yes” or “No”.

media descended on the Edinburgh venue where the city’s ballots will be
totted up to witness a count that could have repercussions from Spain
to Canada.

The SNP has said it hopes for full independence by 2016
if it wins, and a range of separatist movements sent representatives to
Scotland to learn from the election.

“Scots, please, vote yes,
for yourselves, but also for us,” Daniel Turp from the Parti Quebecois
said at a press conference in Edinburgh where 29 European separatist
movements also signed a declaration calling for self-determination.

Leaders of France and Spain warned that separatism risked undermining Europe in the run-up to the vote.
A palace spokesman told Sky news Queen Elizabeth II was following events from her family home Balmoral Castle in rural Scotland. She is “kept abreast of information… from her team of advisers in London and Edinburgh,” the spokesman said.

Many people in the rest of the United Kingdom are concerned about the
prospect of Scottish independence, which would sever a deep bond and
cut the UK’s surface area by a third.

“At last the threat we have
over Scotland’s future may be lifted if people vote the right way,” said
pensioner Alistair Eastern, 60. “We just have to hope that it turns out
with the right result and Scotland isn’t ripped out of the United
Kingdom by the nationalists.”






An Appeal for Alan

Even if we are a bit too cynical and feel that (a) the appeal for Alan Henning by British Imams and muslim organizations is an exercise in public relations (not in my name etc.) and that (b) the Caliphate folks are unlikely to listen to anyone (heck, even Al Qaeda has requested them to let the hostages go free), the important point still remains that a man is (maybe) alive now, he will certainly be dead later. If it really helped we would recommend sorcery and magic (not really).

It is a terrible time for his family as they live in zero hope from day to day. Our sympathies would be meaningless, so the best we can do is watch and wait in silence.
a taxi driver, was kidnapped within 30 minutes of crossing from Turkey
into Syria. He had volunteered to drive an ambulance full of medical aid
as part of a community-funded charity trip organised by volunteers from
Bolton, England, and the UK Arab Society

It is believed he was abducted by the Islamic State (IS) in Al Dana, a town 38km from Aleppo.

Reports suggest he was separated from Muslim counterparts by masked
men. Friends who traveled with him said they made desperate attempts to
get him freed before returning to the UK.

Video footage of Henning, filmed before he was captured in Syria, has shown him describing his trips to the country. He said: “It’s all worthwhile when you see what is needed, as you get where it needs to go. That makes it all worthwhile.”

Henning had appeared at the end of the video released on Saturday in which Haines was beheaded by IS.

Letter by British Imams and Muslim Leaders appealing for release of Alan Henning

the undersigned British Muslim Imams, organisations and individuals,
wish to express our horror and revulsion at the senseless murder of
David Haines and the threat to the life of our fellow British citizen,
Alan Henning.

Mr Henning was a volunteer who travelled to Syria to help innocent civilians. Acts
of humanitarianism are an essential element of religious practice for
all Muslims, and of course they are just as significant to other people
too. Islamic teachings call for charity and selflessness. …

importantly, acts of beneficence do not, and cannot, exclude
non-Muslims. In Islam, concern for fellow humans and the
duty to help everyone is a religious obligation. Anyone undertaking a
humanitarian act is paving his or her way to receive help from heaven,
should be commended and held in the highest esteem.

contrast, the senseless kidnapping, murder and now the despicable
threats to Mr Henning at the hands of so-called ‘Muslims’ cannot be
justified anywhere in the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions).

un-Islamic fanatics are not acting as Muslims, but as the Prime
Minister has said, they are acting as monsters. They are perpetrating
the worst crimes against humanity. This is not Jihad – it is a war
against all humanity.

The Holy Quran says that: “Whosoever
kills a human being… it is as if killing the entire human race; and
whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race.” We
plead with those holding Alan Henning to see the errors of their ways.
To embrace the word of the Quran and accept that what they are now doing
constitutes the worst condemnable sin.

We appeal to them
to release Mr Henning immediately. The Quran states that “repentance is
not accepted from those who continue to do evil deeds.” In
the name of the Almighty All Merciful God, we beseech Mr Henning’s
kidnappers with the words of our Prophet Muhammad – “Show mercy to those
on earth, the One in the Heavens will have mercy on you.

Muslim communities have done a great deal to speak out over the evils
of terrorism over many years. We will continue to do everything within
our power to prevent any other young man or woman getting caught up in
this poisonous ideology.

Sheikh Arif Abdulhussain, Director, Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham, @AMIOutreach
Imam Khalid Hussain Abdullah, Lecturer and Imam, KQZ Institute & Masjid Tajdar Madina, Nottingham & Leicester
Mohammed Afzal, Councillor, Birmingham
Mufti Fazal Ahmad, Chief imam, Central Mosque, Derby
Dr Husna Ahmad OBE, CEO, Global One, London
Akeela Ahmed, London
Sughra Ahmed, President, Islamic Society of Britain
Usma Ahmed, Councillor, Birmingham
Muddassar Ahmed, Patron, Faiths Forum for London
Shakil Ahmed, Principal, Ayesha Community School, London, @_ACE_School
Dr Khurshid Ahmed CBE, CEO, Bahu Trust, Birmingham
Maqsood Ahmed OBE, Director of Community Welfare& Development, Muslim Hands, @maqsoodajmedobe
Rushanara Ali, MP for Tower Hamlets
Hafiz Javed Akhtar, Imam, Central Mosque, Manchester
Salah Yusuf Al-Ansari, Imam, Palmers Green Mosque, London
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Hilli, Imam, Noor Trust, London
Abubakar Ali, Chairman, Somali Bravanese Welfare Association, London
Asif Ali, Imam / Head Teacher, Karimia Institute, Nottingham
Azhar Ali, County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing, Lancashire County Council, @azhar4pendle
Nawaz Ali, Councillor, Birmingham
Mahmoud Ali, General Secretary, Hosseinieh Foundation, Bristol, @HosseiniehSahibzada
Mufti Akhtar Ali, Chief Imam, Sheffield
Haider Alkhateeb, Manager, Centre for Islamic Shia Studies (CISS), London, @halkhateeb25
Kerrar Al-Khayat, Trustee and Vice Chairman, My Voice Project, London, @Kerrar_
Sayed Yousif Al-Khoei, Director, Public Affairs, Al-Khoei Foundation, London
Haytham Ali Alsahlani, Imam, London
Abu Sayeed Ameer, Dawatul Islam uk & Eire, Dawatul Islam uk & Eire London
Ali Amla, Vice Chair of Preston Faith Forum, Founder of Global Village,
Founder of Christian Muslim Encounters, @mohammedaliamla

Anjum Anwar MBE, Dialogue Development Officer, Blackburn Cathedral, @AuntyG
Dr Qari Muhammad Asim, Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds, @QariAsim
Maulana Dr Ather HussainAzhari, Imam, Birmingham
Mufti Mohammad Yousuf Azhari, Imam, Leicestershire
Mohammed Azim, Councillor, Birmingham
Maulana QamaruzzamanAzmi, Secretary General, World Islamic Mission, Manchester
Kalsoom Bashir, Co-Director, Inspire
Yahya Birt, Executive Committee, Public Policy and Community Debate, City Circle, London, @ybirt
Dr Mamadou Bocoum, Director, Interfaith Through The Arts (ITTA), London
Maulana Syed Fida Bokhari, Imam, Manchester
Imam Tayeb Mustapha Cham, Chairman, Tayba Foundation
Makhdoom Ahmad Chishti, Chairperson, Social Unity Foundation of Innovation Trust, Birmingham
Maulana Hafeezurrahman Chishti, Imam, Leicester
Irfan Chishti MBE, Imam, Light of Islam Academy, Rochdale @ichishtiM
Aslam Choudry, Elected Councillor for Dudden Hill Ward, Brent Council, London
Gulamraza Datoo, Vice President, KSIMC of Birmingham, Birmingham
Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, Imam /Resident Alim, Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat, Portsmouth
Shaykh Muhammad Amin Evans, Imam       
Mustafa Field, Director, Faiths Forum for London, @mustafafield
Rabiha Hannan, New Horizons in British Islam
Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE DL, Chair, Chase Against Crimes of Hate, Stafford, @hhi1
Dr Mohamed Adam Hassan, Chairman, Somali Youth Forum, London, @Hafiz
Moulana Shamsul Hoque, Chairman, Council of Mosques – Tower Hamlets, London
Mahmood Hussain, Councillor and Former Lord Mayor of Birmingham
Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam, @DilwarH
Rizwan Hussain, Chief Executive, Jawaab, London, @JawaabUK
AKIpaye, Director, Dairatul-Amni, London
Zafar Iqbal, Councillor, Birmingham
Mohammed Iqbal, Councillor, Leader of the Labour Group, Pendle Borough Council, Lancashire
Ali Jaffri, Trustee, Idara-e-Jaaferiya, Mosque and Community Centre, London, @mralijaffri
‎Dr Husein Jiwa, President, The Council of European Jamaats, London, @CoEJ
Belgacem Kahlalech, Director, WAMY UK, London
Mohammedraza Kanji, Secretary, Wessex Jamaaat, Al Mahdi Centre, Fareham
Dr Majid Katme, Ex-President, Islamic  Medical Association/UK, London
Nagina Kauser, Councillor, Birmingham
Zahra Kazmi, Co-Founder, Save Muslim Heritage, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Changese Khan, Councillor, London
Mariam Khan, Councillor, Birmingham
Hamzah Khan, Manager, Al-Mustafa Trust, Bradford, @almustafacentre
Mohammed Khan, Chair, Council of Bristol Mosque, Bristol
Sara Khan, Co-Director, Inspire
Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Sectretary
M Afzal Khan CBE, MEP, Manchester, @akhanmep
Imam Tahir Mahmood Kiani, Lecturer, Birmingham, @tmkiani
Farzana Kosar, General Secretary, Centre for Spirituality & Cultural Advancement, Feltham, @csca_uk
Riyaz Laher, Chair, FMO Leicestershire, Leicester, @FMO_Leics
Maualana Safraz Madni, Imam and Chairman, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board, Birmingham
Majid Mahmood, Councillor, Birmingham
Khalid Mahmood
Shabana Mahmood, MP, Birmingham
Mufti Helal Mahmood, Coordinator, Oldham Mosques Council, Oldham
Imran Malik, General Secretary, Blackheath Jamia Mosque Trust, Blackheath
Shaz Manir, CEO, Amirah foundation, Birmingham, @directoramirah
Salim Mbaruk, Chair, Bilal Education, London
Dr Asghar Moledina, President, The World Federation of KSIMC, London, @wfksimc
Ghulam Moyhuddin, Head Imam, Ashton Central Mosque, Ashton
Fiyaz Mughal, Director, Faith Matters and the TELL MAMA anti-Muslim Monitoring Project, London
Zubaiar Muhammadi, Afghan Isamic Culture Centre
Gul Muhammed, Imam and Senior lecturer, Jamia al Karam, Retford
Maulana Farooq Mulla, Imam, Leicester
Aamer Naeem, Editor in Chief, British Muslim TV, Yorkshire
Suleman Nagdi MBE, Public Relations Officer, Federation of Muslim Organisations, @fmo_leics
Maulana Syed AbbasNaqvi, Imam   
Maulana Syed Najm ul HasanNaqvi, Imam, Manchester
Ifath Nawaz, FFL Council Member, Faiths Forum for London
Maulana Farogul Qaadri, Imam, Glasgow
Maulana Farogh Ahmed Qadri, Imam, Glasgow
Qazi Abdul Latif Qadri, Chief Imam, Central Aylesbuy, Aylesbury
Ali Qureshi, Secretary General, Union of Muslim Organisations UK&EIRE
Murad Qureshi, London Assembly Member   
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East
Fazal Rahim, Coordinator, Oldham Interfaith Forum, Oldham
Ayub Rashid, Imam and Chaplain, Muslim Community of Essex
Syed Ali Abbas Razawi, Imam and International Speaker, Majlis Ulema-e-Shia, London
Maulana Shahid Raza, founder trustee of the British Muslim Forum, and Senior Imam, Leicester Central Mosque, Leicester
Maha Rida, Social Affairs officer, Al-Kawther, Al-Kawther, London
Ali Raza Rizvi, President, Majlis Ulama-e-Shia, London
Allama Pir Syed Zahid Hussain Shah Rizvi, Jamia Mosque, Birmingham
Maulana Syed Hassan Abbas Rizvi, Imam & Finance Officer, Majlis Ulema-e-Shia, London
Asif Sadiq, President, National Association of Muslim Police, @asifsadiq
Raheed Salam, All Faiths and None, London, @raheedsalam
Mufti Ghulam Sarwar, Senior Imam, Hanfia Mosque and Educational Institute, Huddersfield
Mufti Imran Sarwar, Secretary, Kirklees Imams & Mosques Advisory Board (KIMAB), Kirklees
Dr. Shuja Shafi, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Mohammed Shafiq, Chief executive, Ramadhan Foundation, @mshafiquk
Cllr Chauhdry Shafique MBE, Chairman, Council for Christian Muslim Relations, High Wycombe, Bucks
Amjad Shah, General Secretary, Idaara Maarif-e-Islam, Birmingham
Shafique Shah, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Birmingham
Maulana Syed Sultan Shah, Imam, Leicester
Ismael Lea South, Director, The Salam Project, London & Manchester, @thesalamproject
Amir Taki, Director & Executive Producer, Ahlulbayt TV, London, @AmirTaki
Sh Talat, Board of trustee, MCEC, London
Imam Ghulam Rasool Tipton, Principal, Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust Sandwell & executive member of MINAB, Sandwell, @grashgr
Waseem Zaffar, Councillor, Birmingham
Allama Hafiz Muhammad Sadiq Zia, Jamaia Masjid, Birmingham
Maulana Dr Mohammad Rashid Zia, Imam, London
Maulana Azmat Abbas Zohairi, Imam, Majlis Ulema-e-Shia, Burnley






The UK is Greater India

God save the Queen & her United Kingdom on this momentous day. Niall Ferguson makes a wonderful point that Scotland is AfPak (Afghanistan is the highlands, Pakistan the theocratic lowlands) and England is sort of India. Who knows maybe one days we can re-confederate and Scotland staying demonstrates the precedent, Unity is the principal principle of this new age of mankind.

Bangladesh forgives Jamaat

Delwar Hossain Sayedee is the Nayeb-e-Ameer (Vice President) of Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh and has been accused of war crimes (mostly against Hindu civilians) in 1971. He was awarded the death penalty which has now been down-graded to life in prison.

This, in our opinion, is a good (but not fair) ruling. Bangladesh urgently needs a working compromise between people who swear by Partition-I (freedom from Bengali Hindu oppression) and those who are loyal to Partition-II (freedom from Punjabi Muslim oppression). People (Bengali Muslims) need to forgive and forget the past, else more people are dead and broken in the present (total death count from last year’s riots was in excess of 100).

What about the (Bengali Hindu) minorities? To our infinite regret we have to agree here with Professor Sharmila Bose (Oxford University). These people are so irrational that they are still clinging on to their bhitey-mati (home and land). However time is not on their side- legal and extra-legal means have been used to grab an estimated 2 million acres as of date (45% of all Hindu owned land). As Professor Abul Barkat (Dhaka University) observes “when it comes to land there is no secularism.”

The recorded change in Hindu-Bangladeshi population: 22% (1951), 18.5% (1961), 13.5% (1974), 12.1% (1981), 10.5% (1991), 9.2% (2001) and 8.5% (2011), see below for more details and links. We have faith in history as a (persistent) teacher, the Hindus will eventually get the message and clear out. 
……over 9 lakh Bangladeshi Hindus have vanished from the country during the past decade. This has been reported officially by the Bangladesh Statistical Bureau (BSB) and the National Population Research and Training Institute (NPRTI).

Currently, Hindus account for 8.5 per cent of the total population of the country. However, in the 2001 census, the Hindu population of Bangladesh was 9.2 per cent. The Muslim population was 89.7 per cent in 2001, but increased to 90.4 per cent.

The two census reports identified 15 districts in the country where the Hindu population has decreased alarmingly. The institutions were quoted by the speakers as having claimed that the ‘missing population have not shifted anywhere in the country’…..

Professor Abul Barkat of Dhaka University’s Department of Economics, in
his survey on the status of Hindus since independence, found that the
Vested Property Act was the single largest cause of migration of Hindus
from Bangladesh.
The law, which allowed the government to possess
property abandoned by those who fled during Partition, soon
metamorphosed into something abused by both citizens and the state.

The study found that 2.01 million acres, comprising 45 per cent of the
land owned by Hindus, was lost due to this Act.
Though there were
attempts to amend the law, little has changed. Sustained campaigning on
the issue led to the Awami League government passing the Vested Property
Return Act 2001. 

But this law to return appropriated land is caught in
bureaucratic and legal tangles. “When it comes to land, there is no
secularism. All parties have been involved in land grabbing and no one
is keen on implementing this law,” Hossain said. 


While fingers will point many different ways in order to diffuse (or deny) the blame for the ongoing ethnic cleansing, we prefer to characterize this process as a tribute to the two nation theory. At least the Hindus have an escape route north, west and east, across the border, do spare a thought about the Urdu speaking “Bihari” Muslim minorities rotting away in Dhaka slums, neither the Islamic Republic of Pakistan nor the secular republic with Islam as state religion Bangladesh have time or space for them.

An important side-effect of TNT may be observed in the recent by-polls in India (held after the Lok Sabha elections in May).  In most cases the BJP lost miserably all across India – Bihar, Uttar Pradlesh, Uttarkhand, Rajasthan and Karnataka. Even in Gujarat BJP has under-performed. But there is a bright spot: victories in Basirhat Dakshin in West Bengal and Silchar in south Asom. Both are regions bordering Bangladesh and the rise of the BJP shows that the migrant Hindus have abandoned the “secular” formulations (Trinamool Congress and the Communists) and voted in favor of the Hindu-Hindi party. In its own way (and in not a good way) this is a sign for the times to come.
Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of Delwar
Hossain Sayedee, a top Islamist preacher whose sentencing last year
triggered the deadliest political violence in the country’s history, ,
to life term.

In a surprise ruling, the court said Sayedee
should spend “the rest of his natural life” in jail, attorney general
Mahbubey Alam said. “We had expected that the court would uphold his death sentence,” Alam told reporters.

Lawyers for Sayedee said they were not satisfied with the court’s
ruling on the 74-year-old, who was convicted last year on eight counts
including murder, rape and persecution of the country’s minority Hindu
community. “He should have been acquitted of all charges as the
case was tainted by a number controversies,” Khandaker Mahbub Hossain
told reporters.

Last February’s judgement by a war crimes court
triggered weeks of bloody protests left more than 100 people dead and
plunged the impoverished nation into a major crisis.

was tightened nationwide ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, with thousands of
police, the elite security force, Rapid Action Battalion, and the
paramilitary border guards being deployed in major cities and towns.

Sayedee, vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was one the
country’s most popular Islamic preachers with millions of followers. In his heyday he would draw hundreds of thousands to his preaching sessions, and CDs of his speeches were top sellers.

He has said the original judgement was influenced by “atheists” and pro-government protesters who wanted to see him executed.

Link (1):

Link (2):

Link (3):

Link (4):



The lives of peasants

The boy comes out at the sound….Nitai is quick, he has the energy and
focus of an animal filled with itself and itself only…..pushes him
against the mud wall and drives the curve of the blade with all the
force in his combusting being…This time the blood, a thin, lukewarm jet, hits him full on his

Earlier it was feudalism. Now it is globalization. Even the so-called elites have very little control over their lives. If you are looking for a profession where you will never run out of clients (and money) try being a psychiatrist. The ones we know have one mile long queues in front of their office- clients suffering from unbearable stress of having great expectations (from ourselves, from our near and dear ones) in an uncertain and unforgiving world.

None of the above excuses the utterly horrific conditions in which peasants continue to lead their lives. If we enjoy living in a liberal democracy (however flawed) and not suffer from armed revolutions the elites will need to share. Every man, woman and child must be guaranteed dignity of life (and labor). To take just one example, all communities (and local governments) should learn from the example set forward by the Sikhs and adopt a no beggar policy.

The days of dividing and misruling are mostly behind us, as the BJP has discovered in the recently held by-poll(s) shocker – losing 9-2 to Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and 3-0 in Uttarakhand and 3-1 in Rajasthan to a Congress party which is supposedly dead and buried. We live in hope for a better tomorrow, but there will be many a (non-fictional) Nitai Das who need help now and are unable to wait.
A third of the way through the half-mile walk from the landlord’s house
to his hut, Nitai Das’s feet begin to sway. Or maybe it is the head-spin
again. He sits down on the lifeless field he has to cross before he can
reach his hut. There isn’t a thread of shade anywhere. 

The May sun is
an unforgiving fire; it burns his blood dry. It also burns away any
lingering grain of hope that the monsoons will arrive in time to end
this third year of drought. The earth around him is beginning to fissure
and crack. His eyelids are heavy. He closes them for a while, then, as
sleep begins to take him, he pitches forward from his sitting position
and jolts awake. Absently, he fingers his great enemy, the soil, not
soil any more, but compacted dust. Even its memory of water has been
erased for ever, as if it has never been.

He has begged all morning outside the landlord’s house for one cup of
rice. His three children haven’t eaten for five days. Their last meal
had been a handful of hay stolen from the landlord’s cowshed and boiled
in the cloudy yellow water from the well. Even the well is running dry. 

For the past three years they have been eating once every five or six or
seven days. The last few times he had gone to beg had yielded nothing,
except abuse and forcible ejection from the grounds of the landlord’s

In the beginning, when he had first started to beg for food, they
shut and bolted all the doors and windows against him while he sat
outside the house, for hours and hours, day rolling into evening into
night, until they discovered his resilience and changed that tactic.
Today they had set their guards on him. One of them had brought his
stick down on Nitai’s back, his shoulders, his legs, while the other one
had joked, ‘Where are you going to hit this dog? He is nothing but
bones, we don’t even have to hit him. Blow on him and he’ll fall back.’

Oddly, Nitai doesn’t feel any pain from this morning’s beating. He knows
what he has to do. A black billow makes his head spin again and he
shuts his eyes to the punishment of white light.

All he needs to do is walk the remaining distance, about 2,000 hands. In
a few moments, he is all right. Some kind of jittery energy makes a
sudden appearance inside him and he gets up and starts walking. Within
seconds the panting begins, but he carries on. A dry heave interrupts
him for a bit. Then he continues.

His wife is sitting outside their hut, waiting for him to return with
something, anything, to eat. She can hardly hold her head up. Even
before he starts taking shape from a dot on the horizon to the form of
her husband, she knows he is returning empty-handed. The children have
stopped looking up now when he comes back from the fields. They have
stopped crying with hunger, too.

The youngest, three years old, is a tiny, barely moving bundle, her eyes
huge and slow. The middle one is a skeleton sheathed in loose, polished
black skin. The eldest boy, with distended belly, has become so
listless that even his shadow seems dwindled and slow. Their bones have
eaten up what little flesh they had on their thighs and buttocks. 

On the
rare occasions when they cry, no tears emerge; their bodies are
reluctant to part with anything they can retain and consume. He can see
nothing in their eyes. In the past there was hunger in them, hunger and
hope and end of hope and pain, and perhaps even a puzzled resentment, a
kind of muted accusation, but now there is nothing, a slow,
beyond-the-end nothing.

The landlord has explained to him what lies in store for his children if
he does not pay off the interest on his first loan. Nitai has brought
them into this world of misery, of endless, endless misery. Who can
escape what’s written on his forehead from birth? He knows what to do

He picks up the short-handled sickle, takes his wife by her bony wrist
and brings her out in the open. With his practised farmer’s hand, he
arcs the sickle and brings it down and across her neck. He notices the
fleck of spit in the two corners of her mouth, her eyes huge with
terror. The head isn’t quite severed, perhaps he didn’t strike with
enough force, so it hangs by the still-uncut fibres of skin and muscle
and arteries as she collapses with a thud. Some of the spurt of blood
has hit his face and his ribcage, which is about to push out from its
dark, sweaty cover. His right hand is sticky with blood.

The boy comes out at the sound. Nitai is quick, he has the energy and
focus of an animal filled with itself and itself only. Before the sight
in front of the boy can tighten into meaning, his father pushes him
against the mud wall and drives the curve of the blade with all the
force in his combusting being across his neck, decapitating him in one
blow. This time the blood, a thin, lukewarm jet, hits him full on his
face. His hand is so slippery with blood that he drops the sickle.

Inside the tiny hut, his daughter is sitting on the floor, shaking,
trying to drag herself into a corner where she can disappear. Perhaps
she has smelled the metallic blood, or taken fright at the animal moan
issuing out of her father, a sound not possible of humans. 

instinctively rubs his right hand, his working hand, against his
bunched-up lungi and grabs hold of his daughter’s throat with both his
hands, and squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until her protruding eyes
almost leave the stubborn ties of their sockets and her tongue lolls out
and her thrashing legs still. He crawls on the floor to the corner
where their last child is crying her weak, runty mewl and, with
trembling hands, covers her mouth and nose, pushing his hands down,
keeping them pressed, until there is nothing.

Nitai Das knows what to do. He lifts the jerrycan of Folidol left over
from three seasons ago and drinks, his mouth to the lip of the plastic
canister, until he can drink no more. His insides burn numb and he
thrashes and writhes like a speared earthworm, thrashes and writhes, a
pink foam emerging from his mouth, until he too is returned from the
nothing in his life to nothing.






Pakistan: Weimar Republic of Asia?

More than 3 years ago I wrote a piece asking whether Pakistan is a failed state or the Weimar Republic? At that time, i was still an optimist and thought it was probably neither. But I did say at the end:  (the original article is at the end of this post, to see it with hyperlinks go to  ).

So much for the optimistic version. Since this is a post about Pakistan, it cannot end without some pessimism. The most dangerous element in Pakistan today is not the Islamist fanatics. It is the rise of China. Not because the rise of China threatens Pakistan or because Chinese hyper-capitalism or cheap Chinese products threaten our industry or our social peace or any such thing, but because it may inflate the egos of the military high command to the point that they lose contact with reality and try a high jump for which we are not yet ready (and may never be ready). It’s not that the high jump will get anywhere, but that the attempt may lead us into more trouble than we can handle. Jf 17 thunder

 I say this because GHQ, for all its pragmatic pretensions, has been known to overestimate their skill and underestimate their opponents.  If China was not truly a rising power, and if Pakistan did not have some real assets and advantages, we might have been safer in the long run. But since there is an element of truth in the paknationalists notions about China and the changing global balance of power, they may lose their balance.  All I am saying is GHQ is prone to flying off on a self-generated hot air pocket even when the situation does not encourage such optimism. When the situation actually has some positive aspects, there may be no restraining them. But, I remain an optimist. I think our own weaknesses may protect us from the fate of a much stronger and more capable country (Germany in 1940).

This year, things have taken a turn for the worse. According to a report (written months ago, so not cooked up after the event), a plan was hatched in London to depose Nawaz Sharif and bring in a new government under the supervision of the army. Who knows what the real details of the plot are (it may be that the army chief, for example, was not involved, but only some generals and retired adventurers put the script together) but it hit a snag on 14th August when Imran Khan failed to deliver his promised 100,000 motorcyclists to the “Azadi March”. But not to be deterred by poor crowds, he has kept up the show and the civilian institutions of the state have failed to establish their writ in spite of court orders and blatant violations of the law by Imran Khan and Qadri (including a raid on a police station by Imran Khan himself, to free PTI workers being held there). Whether this failure is due to incompetence, collusion or fear of the army (likely all three), the insistent drumbeat of speeches (and their 24-7 amplification by most news channels) in Islamabad continues and the central government looks weak and ineffectual in spite of the support of most established political parties. This is not necessarily considered a negative in Pakistan, where the government, the police, the courts and the political parties are all corrupt to varying degrees and all have their hand in robbing and insulting the citizenry on a daily basis. In fact, some leftists (and not just leftists) who are not necessarily fans of Imran Khan or Qadri cannot help but be delighted by the scenes of policemen getting beaten up and “high authorities” looking like fools.

But unfortunately (or fortunately, if you happen to think that the demise of Pakistan is in fact a desirable outcome and the sooner the better) this humiliation is not being meted out to bring about more democracy or a Bolshevik revolution (itself a most undesirable event as far as I am concerned, but i am sure many friends disagree with that) but to bring in a new cycle of military rule (this time using the “Bangladesh model” of technocrat govt to mask the “military” part) and Paknationalist cleansing. This is an old dream. Since Pakistan does not seem to conform to the dreams of “true Pakistani nationalists” (too much “disorder”, too many dirty politicians, too much “provincialism”, too little discipline and too few white rings on trees) there is a recurring desire to try and clean the place up (the “Chakwal solution”). Shoot the corrupt politicians. Bring in “clean people”. Break up existing provinces with their linguistic and cultural identities and replace them with “more efficient smaller provinces” and “pure Pakistani culture”. Get rid of “Indian culture”.  etc etc….of course there isnt just ONE dream. In actual practice, the dreamers have many different dreams. Some want an end to “fake democracy”. Others want an end to democracy, period (“no political parties in Islam”). Some want Swedish Social Democracy but with more Islam and fewer naked women. Some want organic farming (with “extra people” being exported elsewhere perhaps, so that some sort of Vandana Shiva paradise can be re-established with a pre-1960 population level) while others want modern progressive agriculture (Jahangir Tareen). Some want to cut off the hands of thieves (with future troublemakers, but not the current lot, having their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, as per Quranic recommendations) while others just want more handouts. But the dreams converge on the desire to destroy the current “system” and replace it with a better one. Oh well, I guess the phrase I am looking for is “useful idiots” and lets leave it at that..

But thats not what triggered this post. What triggered this post is the notion that all this is itself a symptom of that good old social phenomenon “things fall apart”.  It used to be the case that a general would just poke the president in the ribs and send him on his way (Sikander Mirza, literally poked in the ribs to encourage him to leave) and the political class and civil service would (overwhelmingly) fall in line and take orders. That was in “old Pakistan”. That fell apart in 1971, but new Pakistan retained the institutional characteristics and ideological peculiarities of old Pakistan (in fact, they became more concentrated once the inconvenient Bengalis exited Jinnah’s dream palace). General Zia conducted his coup without any fuss. Sure, he then had to hang Bhutto and flog tens of thousands to keep the show on the road, but at least the civil service remained fully loyal (Roedad Khan rising to become secretary general of the interior before retiring and writing about dreams going sour and now joining Imran Khan!). Generals Aslam Beg and Waheed KakaR did their thing via President GIK but by 1999 things were messier. At least one general went along with an attempted pre-emptive strike on the army by the prime minister before the old ways prevailed. But even that was smooth sailing compared to this farce. Now the army chief may not even be the main conspirator! Retired generals and (perhaps, if even half the rumors are true) some soon to be retired ones are trying one thing, the chief is trying another. The good old bureaucracy has long since splintered into various camps. The police is looking shaky. Old reliables of the deep state are present on all sides of the “revolution” and cannot seem to agree on one deep state script. The corrupt politicians are proving surprisingly resistant to “positive change”. Journalists are in opposing camps. Media houses are openly fighitng each other. Even the main actors (Imran Khan and Qadri) dont seem to be on the same page. And to top it all, Punjab has one set of priorities and all the other provinces seem to have very different ones, not just amongst the people (where it was always thus perhaps) but even among the leaders of those provinces. Even the Taliban are not united any more. Is this a good sign or a bad sign?

In the short term, it must count as a bad sign. Whatever your politics (and if you are reading this in English on the internet, your politics are likely to be either paknationalist or leftist…or both; cognitive dissonance is not just a river in Egypt) the country as a functioning state needs certain institutions to function at bare minimum levels. Last year there was even hope that in Pakistan those institutions may be strengthening and may now include a superior judiciary, an election commission and a parliament, but thanks to Imran Khan and his “youthful” supporters, all that has been delegitimized very thoroughly. Still, that is India-level dreaming, forget about that. What about having a police force and a civil adminstration? what if you no longer have those either? that has not happened yet, but both are being battered as we speak. No big deal you say. They are corrupt, incompetent and useless anyway…mostly true, but then, they are all we have. What happens when they are gone? Some army officers and their cousins (which covers most of the Punjabi middle class) are probably going “you forget the army”, but no, I didnt forget them. The army is the pride of Pakistan. Still disciplined, united, well armed, etc etc. But there has NEVER been a martial law in which they actually ran things at the local level. The country has always run (and never run too well, but it is what it is) using the civilian instittutions of the British Raj. Ideally, the aim would have been to remodel them over time into improved versions suitable for an independent democratic country, but what with ideological confusion and martial laws, that never really happened. So OK, they are pretty bad by now, even compared to British Raj standards. But they are all there is. Lose them and its over, Even if root and branch replacement is someone’s aim, no replacement actually exists, so the question is academic.
Are we heading for that point? Please give your opinion in the comments.
My own feeling: we are headed that way and if this goes on, it could become irreversible. I am an incorrigible optimist, so I dont think its too late yet. If MNS survives AND actually learns some lessons and rules a little better (less reliance on police and gangsters, more inclusive and responsive government) AND his victory pushes intelligence agencies a little on the back foot, then institutions may come out a little stronger and more secure. But that seems increasingly unlikely (perhaps it always was, I dont know). If he does not survive this and we are to host the Bangladesh model, then things will look better for a few months (at most), then decay much faster than before as the emperor is seen to have no clothes. That will then lead to Paknationalists “doubling down”, with the possibility that the full Chakwal solution may finally be attempted. Provinces will be broken up, political parties will be decapitated. “Bad journalists” and intellectuals will be arrested or exiled. The ideological vacuum will be filled with Paknatinalism, which is just too shallow and confused a construct on which to base a successful state. Chaos and/or war with India will follow as the cart follows the horse.
Too pessimistic? What do you think?

The old article from 2012 follows.


by Omar Ali

I recently wrote an article with this title that was triggered by a comment from a friend in Pakistan. He wrote that Pakistan felt to him like the Weimar Republic: An anarchic and poorly managed democracy with some real freedoms and an explosion of artistic creativity, but also with a dangerous fascist ideology attracting more and more adherents as people tire of economic hardship and social disorder and yearn for a savior. While the Weimar comparison was new to me, the “failed state” tag is now commonplace and many commentators have described Pakistan as either a failed state or a failing state. So which is it? Is Pakistan the Weimar republic of the day or is it a failed state?  For my initial answer, you can read the article in the News, but when that article was circulated among friends, it triggered some feedback that the blog format allows me to use as a hook for some further discussion and clarification.

Some friends disagreed with my contention that Weimar Germany was too different to be a useful comparison. Germany and Pakistan may indeed be apples and (very underdeveloped) oranges, but the point of the analogy was that the current artistic and creative ferment in Pakistan is not sustainable and just as the Weimar Republic fell to fascism (not to state collapse), Pakistan’s current anarchic spring is a prelude to fascism.

It’s a fair point, but I think the crucial difference between Pakistan and Weimar Germany that I should have highlighted is the decentralized and broken up nature of the polity, with so many competing power centers that it is very hard to imagine a relatively modern fascist takeover (which, I assume, is the danger we are being warned against).

To make this point clearer, let’s look at the power that is supposed to be the agency of incipient fascism in Pakistan; Liberals who fear a fascist takeover almost universally regard the military high command as the center of this fascist network. They may regard the Jamat e Islami, with its long history of organizing thuggish student and labor wings, its close alliance with the jihadist faction of the army, and its systematic (islamicized) fascist ideology, as the ideological center of such a takeover. But they expect the army and its intelligence agencies to be the actual executors of Pakistani fascism.  Thus, they point towards army apologists like Ahmed Qureshi and Zaid Hamid as propagandists who are preparing the ground for this supposed takeover.

But a closer look reveals a vast gulf between anarchic and incompetent reality and slickly presented “paknationalist” propaganda. The army’s “Islamist-fascist” wing has been pushed back by 10 years of American vetting of the high command that makes it hard to imagine a successful Islamist version of fascism. Of course, some leftists accept that, but believe that the threat was never from “Islamo-fascism”, but from good old fashioned fascism in the German and Italian mode, led by army officers in Western uniforms, not by the beards and their gangs. But that leads to two other problems; one is ideological, i.e. what will be the ideology of this fascist takeover? In Germany and Italy it was German and Italian nationalism, but Pakistani nationalism minus Islam is still too incoherent to be useful for this purpose (which is why the small sliver of educated westernized paknationalists who flock around army websites are so ineffectual and confused). But the critical missing component is not ideology (which can be created from very thin gruel if needed), the critical missing component is capacity; the army cannot even control its own agents in the tribal areas and South Punjab. It could not fix the electrical grid after running the system unchallenged by civilians for almost ten years. Its ministers and trouble-shooters ran a semi-functional Pakistan Railways into the ground during a similar period of direct military control. Even during martial law, they are forced to make deals with corrupt and useless politicians to keep other corrupt and useless politicians at bay. This, in short, is the gang that cannot shoot straight. They may be more capable in some areas than their detractors imagine (witness the efficient handling of the Raymond Davis families by the ISI or their ability to make nuclear bombs or advanced aircraft) but they really cannot make the trains run on time even if they do take over again. Their strong points are limited to a few areas (very good at milking their foreign patrons, for example) but their weak points are far too many and are getting worse. The threat is less serious than imagined.

 A lot of feedback comes from the opposite extreme: the people who are convinced that Pakistan is on an unstoppable slide to disaster. To these people, the army is less capable than I indicated. Since they believe that all other institutions have already become junk, the army is the last wall standing between the current disorder and total state collapse, and the army is not immune to decay. Since the army has been ruling the country in one form or the other for decades, it has become politicized and discipline, morale and professional competence are deteriorating. Add to that the fact that the army is now fighting a civil war against the very elements it created and lionized for years and is doing so without any ideological framework beyond conspiracy theories about Hinjews and CIA agents. This situation is not sustainable and the army itself will crash and burn at some point, with horrific consequences. Meanwhile, the country is splitting further on ethnic and sectarian lines and is always one step away from economic chaos. No one, not the army, not the mainstream political parties, not the intelligentsia, has a coherent framework in which they can disengage from Islamist millenarian dreams and rebuild the country as a more normal country “developing” country.

Again, some of the points are fair points, but I think the doom and gloom may be exaggerated. First of all, it is very hard to break up a modern post-colonial state. It’s been done, but it is not easy and it is not the default setting. The modern world system is heavily invested in the integrity of nation states and while some states do fail in spite of that, this international consensus makes it difficult to get agreement on any rearrangement of borders. In most cases, distant powers as well as surrounding neighbors find it more convenient to find ways to compromise within existing borders. Even a spectacular failure, like the collapse of the Soviet empire, actually ends up validating already existing borders rather than creating entirely new ones. The supranational structure of the Soviet Union collapsed, but its component nations remained almost entirely within their existing borders. In this sense, Pakistan does not have 4 separate ethnically and culturally distinct units joined by weak supra-national bonds. Even an extremely unhappy component like Baluchistan is not uniformly Baloch. In fact, Balochis are probably no more than half the population of that province. Sindh contains large and very powerful Mohajir enclaves that do not easily make common cause with rural Sindh. More Pakhtoons live in Karachi than in the Pakhtoonkhwa capital of Peshawar. Economic and cultural links (especially the electronic media) unite more than they divide. If nothing else, cricket unites the nation. In addition, the reach of modern schooling and brainwashing is not to be underestimated. Even in far flung areas, many young people have grown up in a world where Pakistani nationalism is the default setting.

Economically, the country is always in dire straits, but agribusiness and textiles are powerful sectors with real potential. More advanced sectors can easily take off if law and order improves a little and irrational barriers with India are lowered a little bit.  The nation state is not as weak as it sometimes appears to be.

 So much for the optimistic version. Since this is a post about Pakistan, it cannot end without some pessimism. The most dangerous element in Pakistan today is not the Islamist fanatics. It is the rise of China. Not because the rise of China threatens Pakistan or because Chinese hyper-capitalism or cheap Chinese products threaten our industry or our social peace or any such thing, but because it may inflate the egos of the military high command to the point that they lose contact with reality and try a high jump for which we are not yet ready (and may never be ready). It’s not that the high jump will get anywhere, but that the attempt may lead us into more trouble than we can handle.

 I say this because GHQ, for all its pragmatic pretensions, has been known to overestimate their skill and underestimate their opponents.  If China was not truly a rising power, and if Pakistan did not have some real assets and advantages, we might have been safer in the long run. But since there is an element of truth in the paknationalists notions about China and the changing global balance of power, they may lose their balance.  All I am saying is GHQ is prone to flying off on a self-generated hot air pocket even when the situation does not encourage such optimism. When the situation actually has some positive aspects, there may be no restraining them. But, I remain an optimist. I think our own weaknesses may protect us from the fate of a much stronger and more capable country (Germany in 1940).

– See more at:


“Malik sahab, sorry…go back”

“sorry….You should go back….You should apologise…. You should be ashamed…250 passengers have
suffered….It is your fault, sir” …..
“Malik sahab, you are not a minister any more….And even if you are, we don’t care…Anymore”…. 

A most refreshing bit of news out of Pakistan. The golden rule is that the planes must wait, the traffic must halt, the queues must give way for the elite class in South Asia. This is especially true if the man (it is usually a man) has taken a public vow to serve the public. Cheers are due when the suffering commoners take a stand against their high-handed overlords. It will be even better if this causes people to introspect. Bravo!!!

Angry passengers on board a PIA flight stopped former interior minister
Rehman Malik and a Hindu lawmaker of the ruling PML-N from boarding the
plane, accusing them of causing over two hours of delay.


The Islamabad-bound Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-370 from
Karachi was delayed by two and a half hours
yesterday as it kept
waiting for the arrival of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senator Malik
and National Assembly member Dr Ramesh Kumar Wakwani.

When they finally came, the passengers stopped them from boarding the aircraft.

According to a video clip repeatedly shown by the local media,
passengers were shouting at Malik who was filmed going back hurriedly
when confronted by the passengers.

“Malik sahab, sorry. You should go back. You should apologise to these
passengers. You should be ashamed of yourself…250 passengers have
suffered because of you. It is your fault, sir,” a passenger was heard
saying in the clip.

“Malik sahab, you are not a minister any more. And even if you are, we don’t care…Anymore,” he said.

The clip, which has gone viral online, showed passengers booing and ridiculing the lawmakers as the crew also joined them.
Kumar was not shown in the video but Dawn reported that he was also not allowed to board the plane.

PIA spokesperson Mashood Tajwar speaking to Dawn denied the flight was
delayed because of Malik and said that shift manager Nadeem Abro and
terminal manager Shehzad Khan have been suspended due to the delayed
take-off of PK-370.

“PIA does not promote VIP culture…But this flight was delayed an hour and 30 minutes due to a technical reason,” Tajwar said.
After the initial delay which was due to technical reasons, the plane
was delayed for a further 15 to 20 minutes and they have been suspended
for this delay, he claimed.

“The delay had been conveyed to passengers via SMS. Some passengers who
had given the contact details of their travel agent may not have been
conveyed the message by their agents,” Tajwar said. He said the plane
took off at 8:55 pm last night.


“The flight was not delayed because of Rehman Malik. We are looking into
what actually happened but after the delay, the flight departed when
it was meant to,” he added.

Meanwhile, Malik today denied on Twitter he was responsible for the
delay while Wakwani told PTI he only reached the airport after informed
by PIA staff when the flight was going to take off.

“I had confirmed before leaving for the airport if the flight was on
time and when it was delayed, I adjusted my plans accordingly,” Wakwani