Pakistani Bloggers

April 18, 2016

Strike while the Iron's Hot

I wrote this after Dr. Shakil Auj’s murder but forgot to post it:
My wife is a student at Karachi University. What follows is a synopsis of our discussion after teachers there went on strike due to Dr. Shakil Auj's murder (May Allah SWT grant him a place in the highest level of Paradise). We were wondering when strikes are morally okay (as in this case, the students suffered for no sin of their's) and when they are effective (Was the desired end achieved?). I shall discuss the latter only.
A few words about what follows: a) For the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to those on strike as strikers (in this case, the teachers) and those the strike is against as the strikees (in this case, the government/KU administration) and b) My discussion seeks to prove the following 2 statements:
1.       A strike is only effective when the service/product that is being removed by the strikers has value
2.       The strikers can only be defeated when the strikees remove a service/product that the strikers find of greater value than their own removed service/product.
Confused? Let's look at an example.
From 1974-75, British coal miners' union (National Union of Mineworkers) went on strike. The service being pulled in this case was coal, an essential requirement for the British populace, given oil's rising price after the 1973 crisis. Mines were shut down and coal production came to a virtual standstill. The British government instituted a 3 day work week with smaller working hours for the general public to reduce coal consumption to contest the strike. They failed and the government toppled.
From the above example, we see that the strikes are essentially a test of stamina and the ability to outlive the strikee. Both parties, the striker and strikee have reserves. The strikers have reserves of salaries which they get via subscriptions from their members so that they can pay the strikers when they are on strike. The government has reserves of coal. So in the end, the side that wins is the one whose reserves last longer. In 1974, the workers won. In 1984, the government did. The object of value was coal, something the population could not do without, leading to the government losing elections. But let's say the workers' reserves finished. Why couldn't the strike continue? Because no matter what principles one stands for, they all go down the drain when you're looking at starvation or a change in lifestyle, especially for those who depend on you. And those workers weren't exactly of the 1%. In 1984, the same NUM lost because the strikes outlasted the strikers, and the service removed was their salaries, something the strikers needed more than the government needed coal.
Often, our countrymen plunge headlong into strikes without properly calculating the practical consequences of their efforts. Let's look at political protests. When protesting, what product/service of value are they pulling? I can think of 2: the physical problems such as traffic caused by the protest and media coverage making the government look bad in the eyes of the international community. Both of these 2 types of value-pulling have not worked in the past because it doesn't really affect our government. It has very little bearing on the outcome of the next elections and 'the man' has no qualms about blocking roads for VIP movement anyway. Also, media coverage is too intangible an object of value. Will the media have the far-reaching effects strikers intend it to or does it just look good on paper?
Some political parties understood this and created what I term to be secondary services/products of value, i.e. when you have nothing of value, you create it. An example of secondary value is violence. Arming a political party to spread fear and using it as leverage creates value. People listen to them because they fear for their lives.
Now let's look at what value a student at a university has for the administration. What leverage can they garner when fighting for their rights? Unless said student is exceptional, none. Unless they can get the university grants through some brilliant ideas of theirs, the only object of value they have would be their fees. This works if the university is new and they need all the money they can get. But KU's fees are a joke and since it's an old established, economically feasible university, they won't ever be lacking for applicants. The only value that remains is that these students are future recruiters. They will go on to become leaders in their fields, putting their alma maters in a good light. However, this is too abstract and dicey a product of value. Besides, by the time these students go on to do great things, administrations would likely have changed by then, leaving the current administration no incentive to keep their students. Understanding this, many students form parties/unions or join political parties in school. This also explains campus violence.
Next I'll talk about civil disobedience movements. Keeping the above paradigm in mind, I believe civil disobedience will not work in today's world. Gandhi lived in a different world from ours. His India was a rural India, i.e. relatively self sufficient. Aside from modes of transportation and irrigation systems, what did the British do for India that would make the locals dependent on Britain? On the other hand, Britain needed fertile India's resources. Gandhi understood this and knew civil disobedience would hurt Her Majesty's coffers more than India's. The British government did not have a product/service of value that they could pull to hurt the largely independent Indian man without jeopardizing their own operation in India.
Fast forward to today. Urbanization dominates the country. We are miles deep in debt to the world. Globalization means we require Western products/services. Another intangible yet significant product of value is Western culture. Remember, there is only one Jessica Alba but many countries from where you can import cotton. Suddenly, the dynamics have changed. Taking to the streets to protest foreign interference in our country won't help much because frankly, my dear, we need 'em more than they need us.
I think that if we keep these few principles in mind, we as a nation can become wiser to when it's practical to go on strike and when it's just an ill-thought emotional response to injustice. Don't always strike while the iron is hot, or you may end up striking out.

December 30, 2014

Witch Hunting ka Zamaana Kabhi Hoga na Puraana...

First, the Malala post and now this. I hope to God I don't become the kind of guy who writes State of the Union speeches. But you knew this was coming, didn't you? Here goes:
So Junaid Jamshed said some stuff 2 years ago, and as a nation, we've got our second pair of panties in a knot. Once again, there are 2 groups warring, though interestingly unlike with the Malala case, they're not really sparring with each other. For once they're united in that they have a common enemy, Junaid Jamshed. They are baying for his blood, albeit for completely different reasons. Man, it sure seems like we just can't hear any piece of news and say, "Okay, that's interesting, I do feel strongly about this issue, perhaps a little angry too. But there maybe a side to it I'm not considering. Let's defer judgement till I breathe deeply for a bit and count slowly to 10." No, we have to immediately break into the chorus of "Fire, Water, Burn". So who are these two groups? One is the more religiously oriented group that says he was blasphemous and should be put to the death. The other is the more secular minded group that thinks his apology wasn't much by way of a mea culpa and that the hypocrite should be speaking up for Aasia Bibi and all the others like her  and why should he go scot free when those poor people are still on death row etc. Either way, "Burn, baby, Burn!"
I think this issue can be divided into 3 parts:
1)      Whether what he said was actually blasphemous in the first place
2)      Assuming it was blasphemy, should we have done a Salman Rushdie number on him?
3)      The power of social media (This isn't as much an issue as it is something we should learn from for ourselves)
Let's begin with issue one: Did Junaid Jamshed actually commit blasphemy? Interestingly, that's something everyone seems to conveniently be ignoring. Heck, it's a man's life we're talking about but let's go from this point onward like the man is guilty, guilty, guilty! We're gonna have us a lynching anyway! You can't take that from us! Heave Ho!
Well, I saw the video and besides him being guilty of talking in a disrespectful manner about a wife of the Prophet SAW and our mother Bibi Aaishah RAA, and coming across as a misogynist, one can't fault him for anything else and certainly not blasphemy. Besides the point, you say? Where did our sense of justice just fall off the end of the Earth? A man has to flee his country for fear of his life (and I'm going to play the emotional card here, the very country he sang so passionately about) and we say that's besides the point? Was the incident he narrated false? I'm not so sure regarding the authenticity of this incident in particular but other well documented and authentic incidents do show that the wives of the Prophet, being human, also felt human emotions including jealousy. They were still a million times better than us but they weren't flawless. And interestingly, this article
shows that from an Islamic jurisprudence point of view, even a crime as horrendous as blasphemy is a pardonable offence. But of course, that would mean no witch-hunt. Boooo. Yes, Junaid Jamshed needs to mind his P's and Q's when he talks about the wives of the Prophet SAW. But we also need to do just that when we crack jokes about Jesus, Moses and God. Just because the jokes use their Hebrew names doesn't make them any less our prophets. If anything, that's closer to blasphemy than anything Junaid Jamshed said.
Now let's suppose he did commit blasphemy. There's an excellent ten minute video on the issue by Nouman Ali Khan.

I highly recommend that you listen to it. If Abu Bakr RAA is being asked by Allah SWT to continue to financially support the relative who spread slander about Bibi Aaishah RAA (something far far worse than what Junaid Jamshed is guilty of), why can't we be the better persons and forgive him? Who died and made us Big Men on Campus? Regarding Group 2, blaming Junaid Jamshed for the plight of Aasia bibi and others in her situation is like blaming one politician for every problem in the nation. When apologizing, why didn't he speak up for them too? Why does he get off the hook so easy? This reminds me of my school days. Because of a few trouble makers in our class, we would all get punished because we didn't rat them out to the head master. Why can't we assume the best about anyone apologizing? Since when did we become such cynics? Even if he is part of a greater conspiracy to undermine Islam by talking flippantly about its greatest people, and it rightly offends you, the best thing to do is…spread the filth on Facebook? Hey guys, I am so offended by this video by this Pseudo-Muslim talking filth about a Mother of the Believers, I'm want you all to watch it too! Because in my mind, that will totally make a difference and bring him to justice and make the world a better place for all of us.
Also, there are millions of issues the world over. In whatever field one is in, there are issues. By the very same logic that Junaid Jamshed is damned and should suffer the same fate as Aasia Bibi for not using his TV presence to champion her cause, I as a student should be thrown in jail or worse for not championing the cause of a student molested in a school in Hyderabad. You as a chartered accountant should be fined for fraud because one of your contemporaries is money laundering and you aren't actively being the Van Helsing of chartered accountants. My mother should be separated from me for unfit parenting because she isn't knocking on my neighbours' doors and observing them for their parenting skills. Junaid Jamshed cannot change everything in the world, but he can change some of it. The same goes for all of us. Yes, I am not denying that we should be angry about the horrendous treatment of the other alleged blasphemers in our country and do what we can to get that very un-lawyerly worded law changed. I also think that we as a people should not stop till there is equal justice for all. But making Junaid Jamshed the patsy isn't very…just. Whether this hate is born of a generalized disdain of all things Mullah (who interestingly are human just like us and are not necessarily worse than the rest of us) or we just aren't over the disbanding of Vital Signs remains a mystery to me.
Now why are some prominent religious leaders calling it blasphemy then? It could be that I am wrong and it is blasphemy as they are more knowledgeable than I am. Or it could even be that since everyone is so angry about the issue and isn't thinking straight, going out and saying that would really hurt their cause and undermine these leaders' reputations among all of us rabid masses. I'm not saying that that's right, I'm just telling it like it is.
It's so easy for us to play the role of the armchair intellectual and sit in judgement of Junaid Jamshed. I know I run my mouth and say some very stupid stuff sometimes. Just read my blog. Junaid Jamshed has every right to make mistakes, just like I do. Except that he gets to do it on TV. Yes, when you're a celebrity, you have to be careful of what you say because people look up to you and hang onto your every word. Just like it is with Mullahs, who are as evil as the rest of us but just because they represent something (our religion), they have to be more careful of what they say or do or it'll be Islam that gets a bad name. However, we haven't our 15 minutes of fame yet but inshaAllah when we do and are leaders in our respective fields and we make a gaffe, we'll hope to God all our good work we'd have done by then wouldn't have been undone by a moment's brain failure. We'll pray that the world doesn't give us the treatment we gave Junaid Jamshed then.
Also, weren't we always taught as kids that no matter how bad things get, it's never too late or too useless to say sorry? In fact, it is common decency to do so?
Lastly, this video is 2 years old. If we are to learn anything from this whole circus, it's this: be careful about what you post online. It will always be there to stay. That porno you made in college to pay off your loans will come back to bite you in the rear end (porn pun intended) when you run for president. On a less extreme note, saying stuff in humourous vein about how cranky your patients are on twitter will get you into trouble when you finish medical school and want to apply for a residency and your potential employers decide to see what you really are like by browsing through your profile. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Something I think we've forgotten is the power of silence. If you are unsure about something, don't mention it. It is better to shut up than let your tongue wag ahead of you. I feel we do that a lot; know very little about an issue but yet have the urge to comment on it in an authoritarian tone like we just finished a dissertation on the subject. What if I told you…that not talking about it was also an option. No one would miss your Facebook post.*Mind Blown* We overestimate the effect and importance of our words to the general public. However, the very people you don't want looking at your profiles (boss, mum, NSA) are the ones with the best access and most interest (your mum knows your password is 'password' because she's realized that after 24 years of raising you, you clearly got dad's side of the family's brains). So before sharing anything online ask yourself the following questions:
1.Will it do more good than harm?
2. Will people benefit?
3. (This one is the toughest to answer) Are my intentions pure?
4. By sharing this, am I helping solve the problem?
If the answer is yes to all of them, share away. If nitpicking and finding faults in everybody will help humanity, go to town kids, knock ourselves out. If not, then let's shut up and go clean up our neighbourhood if we want to actually do something useful. Use our righteous anger well. Directing it at ourselves is a great place to start.
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