Train to Pakistan

Khushwant Singh (2 February 1915 – 20 March 2014) is no more. He was born in (pre-partition) Pakistan and always retained his fondness and love for his native land. His great novel was the “Train to Pakistan” which elaborated on the injustices (faced by common people) of that time. He will be missed.

who was a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986, was awarded with the
Padma Bhushan in 1974 but returned the decoration in 1984 in protest
against the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Indian
Army. He is survived by son Rahul and daughter Mala.

It is the summer of 1947. But Partition does not mean much to the Sikhs
and Muslims of Mano Majra, a village on the border of India and
Then, a local money-lender is murdered, and suspicion falls
upon Juggut Singh, the village gangster who is in love with a Muslim
girl. When a train arrives, carrying the bodies of dead Sikhs, the
village is transformed into a battlefield, and neither the magistrate
nor the police are able to stem the rising tide of violence. Amidst
conflicting loyalties, it is left to Juggut Singh to redeem himself and
reclaim peace for his village.



NASA-NSF predicts collapse of civilization

Plus the important (and novel) assertion that Maurya, Gupta and Han empires were equal to (if not better) than the Roman Empire. Since these are “western scholars” we must take their erudition for granted and their claims as sacrosanct.

But what if the underlying conclusions are actually true? Are we all set-up for a mass collapse? When is this due? The wise people need to be brave and tell us clearly what they know (and dont know). Otherwise its all (cheap) talk and (free) publicity for fairy tale spinners (like Jared Diamond).

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has
highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could
collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation
and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that
warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the
study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that
“the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found
throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to
“precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary
‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied
mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science
Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center,
in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study
based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the
peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds
that according to the historical record even advanced, complex
civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the
sustainability of modern civilisation:

“The fall of
the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan,
and Gupta Empires,
as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are
all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and
creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of
collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors
which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the
risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture,
and Energy.

factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial
social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed
on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification
of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These
social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the
process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are
linked directly to over-consumption of resources,
with “Elites” based
largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but
rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population,
while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by
elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to
raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource
extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption
often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”

increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has
come from “increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,”
despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude
that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world
today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” In the first of
these scenarios, civilisation:

“…. appears to be on
a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal
depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the
Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among
Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.
It is
important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an
inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a
collapse of Nature.”

Another scenario focuses on the
role of continued resource exploitation, finding that “with a larger
depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the
Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse
completely, followed by the Elites.”

In both scenarios, Elite
wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental
effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the
Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the
impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain
how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to
be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in
the Roman and Mayan cases).”

The two key solutions are to reduce economic
y so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to
dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive
renewable resources and reducing population growth:



Who betrayed whom?

Carlotta Gall is a New York Times correspondent

The book – “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014”
penned by NYT correspondent Carlotta Gall – claims that former Army
Chief Gen Ashfaque Pervez Kayani and then-ISI chief Gen Ahmed Shuja
Pasha were aware of Osama’s presence in the country. 

Ms Gall, who covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for The New York Times
from 2001 to 2013, has also claimed in her book that the ISI ran a
special desk to handle Bin Laden, which “operated independently” and was
“led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a
The officer “handled only one person: Bin Laden”, she wrote.

In effect, Gall’s charge is that Pakistan betrayed America by knowingly hosting OBL.

Here are the official rebuttals: A
spokesperson for the military’s media wing denied the allegations.
“Nobody in Pakistan knew about the presence of Osama bin Laden,” said a
text message sent out by the ISPR to correspondents on behalf of the
ISI. “There is no truth in the New York Times report,” it said.

foreign office on Thursday also rebuffed the claims. “These are
baseless allegations and the ISPR and former PAF chief have already
denied these,” said a spokesperson at the weekly briefing of the Foreign

What is far more interesting IMO are the comments from (the above noted former PAF chief) Air Chief Marshall (retd) Rao Qamar Suleman.

“General Kayani phoned me at 2:07 am and informed me that two foreign
helicopters have been detected and to please check this movement,”
Suleman told
at the M.M. Alam airbase in Mianwali, recalling
the incidents that happened that night. 

“I have told the Abbotabad commission all the facts about the
incident in which Osama bin Laden was killed, including the record of
phone calls and maps,” he said.

To a question, he said that US
Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen rang up General Kayani
at 5:00 am on the same morning and informed him that US soldiers had
conducted the operation and killed Osama inside Pakistan.

former air chief said Pakistan Air Force (PAF) radars were working well
at the time of the intrusion by US Navy SEALS but were not set at low
altitude because Pakistan did not consider US as its enemy.

radars at the Pakistan-China border, Pakistan-Iran border and the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border have not been on low altitude because there
have been no threats to our security from these countries.“According
to Pakistan’s security policy, USA has never been an enemy. Rather, it
has been our friend so we never alerted our radars towards the western
borders,” he said.

“After the Abbottabad operation, the entire
national security policy has been revised and now radars on all borders
monitor every movement,” he said.

In effect Suleman’s charge is that America betrayed Pakistan and abusing the trust vested in a (presumed) friend.

If the underlying claims are true then presumably both the accusations of betrayal would stand as well.



The billion dollar candidate

From Rs 200 to Rs 7700 crores. The richest Lok Sabha candidate (as declared so far).

An inspiring (true) story. The IITs have given much to the nation but much more is expected (and from other elite academic institutions as well). It is also to be hoped that Mr Nilekani’s charitable donations will be focused on improving education of all stripes (engineering, medical, liberal arts, K-12 etc).

what would perhaps make him the richest Lok Sabha candidate, ahead of
officially declaring his assets, when he files the nomination papers
here on Friday, former UIDAI chairman and Bangalore South Congress
candidate Nandan Nilekani
on Thursday announced that his wife Rohini and
he were worth Rs 7,700 crore.

“I started out with Rs 200 in my
pocket, when I graduated from IIT. We founded the Infosys with Rs
10,000,” Nilekani and Rohini said in a statement issued to declare their

Nilekani said of the Rs 7,700 crore, almost 80% of the
wealth remains in Infosys shares, where he still owns 1.45% and Rohini
1.3%. “This wealth was created, while Infosys brought lakhs of jobs to
Bangalore. The company also shared a lot of wealth with our employees
through ESOPs,” he added.
Apart from the huge assets, Nilekani
said: “The biggest thing the money Infosys brought me is the freedom to
do what I want.
And what I want, is to give millions more the
opportunities I had.”

According to him the Infosys story,
inspired a generation of young Indians to start something on their own,
to take risks that created wealth for the country, as well as millions
of new jobs.

In the statement, the couple said they have
donated almost Rs 400 crore of their wealth to various causes and

“‘I am proud of the fact
that my wealth is completely transparent.
I haven’t made any of my money
illegally, or hid it in investments outside the country. Nothing is
hidden in someone else’s bank account. It is all completely transparent
and tax-paid,” Nilekani said.


Another Day, Another Shia Doctor Killed…

This is the second time in about a year that they have struck within our circle of friends. First it was the universally loved Dr Ali Haider, famous retina surgeon, our junior in college, son of the great Professor Zafar Haider and Professor Tahira Bokhari, killed in broad daylight in Lahore along with his young son. This time, its Dr Babar Ali, our friend and senior in King Edward Medical College; He was the DHO (district health officer) and head of the anti-Polio campaign as well as practicing physician in Hasanabdal (I am not sure but I think that would be DHO Attock, but I have to check that). He drove out of Hasan hospital at night after work and “unknown assailants” stopped his car and shot him 5 times. He died on the spot. No one has been nominated, much less arrested. 
Shia killing portals have reported his death. They refer to him as an “active Shia”, with the best of intentions, but that is somewhat misleading. It may imply to people that he was an activist, a known Shia partisan in some sort of active political/sectarian struggle. But he was nothing of the sort. He was a quiet, unassuming, pleasant man. Friendly to all. Totally apolitical. Its reported that he sat on the board of the local Imambargah, but that should be totally unremarkable. He was a well known physician, a pillar of the community, why wouldnt he participate in the affairs of his local house of worship? But he was no activist. That is worth pointing out because it is important to realize that this is not some sort of war in which active soldiers from “both sides” are being killed.
He leaves behind 3 young daugthers (all in college or high school) and one son (second year of medical school). Countless friends and family were at his funeral and are at his home right now. But no TV channel or  major news outlet has reported on this murder. Such deaths are now too routine to make the news.
That should scare everyone.


Trapped at the border of impulse and conscience

hat sort of a Pakistan was this that had entered their village like some maddened bull, trampling humanity under its hooves and turning everything upside down?” wonders an anguished man in Savage Harvest: Stories of Partition by Mohinder Singh Sarna (1923-2001), translated from Punjabi and introduced by his son and diplomat, Navtej Sarna. On both sides of the new western border between India and Pakistan, an orgy of violence had broken out in towns and villages. It was Hindus and Sikhs vs. Muslims, with both sides pillaging, raping, and killing, leaving a million dead, 12-18 million refugees, and a still-poisoned well of politics in the region.
Over the decades, Partition has produced many popular and critical narratives: its causes, villains, avoidable mistakes, its defining features and aftermath. While such narratives can never be immune from subjective perspective, much of it — despite notable work from scholars like Gurharpal Singh, Ian Talbot, Urvashi Butalia, Perry Anderson, Gyanendra Pandey, and Jan Breman — remains mired in crude nationalistic politics, taboos, and mythologies of India, Pakistan, and Great Britain.
In 2011 for instance, when Jaswant Singh, former defense minister of India and a senior member of BJP, wrote a book in which he blamed Nehru more than Jinnah for Partition and even praised many aspects of Jinnah’s personality, the BJP expelled him from the party and banned his book in Gujarat. This happened despite the fact that Singh was articulating an increasingly common view among scholars. Recent scholarship has also shown that a lot of Partition violence, such as that of Rawalpindi massacres, attacks on refugee trains and foot convoys, and ethnic cleansing of villages, was carefully planned and executed — with ample collusion of state agents — by extremist groups competing for political power. This is why the violence of Partition was so much more brutal and genocidal than the violence of “mere” communal riots. Such groups included Muslim para-militaries, Hindu volunteers of the RSS, and Sikh jathas and princely rulers. In other words, much of Partition violence in Punjab did not erupt “spontaneously” among mobs and hotheads, an idea that still rules the popular imagination.

“there is a chance my parents are still alive”

Poor kid. Fat chance of anything like that happening.

The net has now been cast wide from Kazakhstan to the north to the Southern Indian Ocean near Perth, Australia. The main suspect are now the two pilots (and other crew). The co-pilot is known to be a ladies man who has on an earlier occasion entertained passengers in the cockpit.  

The plane was confirmed to be flying for seven hours after contact with civilian radar was lost.
Malaysian police have begun searching the home of the pilot at the helm of
the missing Malaysia
Airlines flight MH370, after the country’s prime minister confirmed that
the Boeing 777’s communications were deliberately disabled by “someone on
the plane”. Police officers arrived at 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s home on
the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur shortly after the PM, Najib Razak, finished his
dramatic press conference,
during which he told reporters new satellite data
indicated that MH370 last made contact roughly seven hours after it vanished
from civilian radar one week ago.

While the raw satellite footage has helped investigators determine that the
plane was still flying long after it lost contact with air traffic control at
1.22am on Saturday 8 March with 239 people on board, it could not discern the
aircraft’s exact location, Najib said – putting it anywhere along two possible
flight corridors: a northern corridor stretching from Kazakhstan, in central
Asia, down to northern Thailand; and a southern corridor stretching from
Indonesia towards the southern Indian Ocean.

authorities had initially focused their investigation on the missing plane on
four possible explanations, including possible hijacking, sabotage, or the
personal or psychological problems of the crew or passengers,
the “new
information” that had come to light was forcing investigators to rethink
their strategy, Najib said. “In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have
refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” he
told reporters on Saturday.

The satellite data indicates that the plane was flying far longer than had
been initially believed, and is likely to instigate what may be the biggest
hunt ever for a missing plane. Some 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are
already involved in search and rescue efforts, but the two new flight corridors
will necessitate the assistance of the countries underneath those corridors –
including, possibly, Burma, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, China,
Nepal, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The hunt for the plane will therefore require military and diplomatic
co-operation as investigators attempt to piece together, through civilian,
military and satellite data, what the exact fate of the missing jet may be.
It is unclear if police had also begun searching the homes of the other 11
Malaysian crew on board, including co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, who is known to have entertained passengers on board a previous flight
in the cockpit during a Phuket-Kuala Lumpur flight in 2011.

Another report emerged on Saturday indicating that MH370 may have turned
south towards the Indian Ocean, where it is believed to have last been
identified some 1,000 miles west of Perth in Australia, according to satellite
“pings” that recorded the plane’s data, Bloomberg reported.

While it is not clear how much fuel the Boeing-777 was holding, there would
have been enough to fly it at cruising altitude to its scheduled destination,
Beijing, a nearly six-hour flight. It is believed, however, the missing jet may
have been flying at a higher altitude, which would have allowed it to carry on
for longer.

The news is likely to fuel further speculation over suspected terrorism
although no person or group has come forward to disclose why the plane may have
been hijacked, or if it even was. For some relatives of those missing, however, the news the plane was still
flying at 8.11am last Saturday is an indication that there may be hope for
their missing loved ones. “It means there’s still a chance my parents are alive,” Eric Chen
Zhi Yang, 15, told Malaysia’s New Straits Times. Both his mother and father
were on board MH370.