Posts Tagged ‘Osama’

Testing the Hypothesis of Sexual Repression in Pakistan

June 29, 2011

By Anjum Altaf

My response to Christopher Hitchens’ article in Vanity Fair was not well written because it got hijacked into areas that I did not intend to stress. In this post I will try and refocus the discussion on what I consider germane to the objectives of this blog, i.e., to examine a hypothesis critically in order to establish its validity.

The task therefore is to describe the hypotheses proffered by Hitchens and suggest how they may be fairly tested. As part of this exercise, I am not concerned with disputing or establishing the truth of facts; the emphasis is solely on the exercise of reasoning through the arguments assuming the facts to be true.

The central concern for Hitchens is the situation in Pakistan. This concern is well placed and thoroughly justified. The challenge that Hitchens assumes is to identify the most fundamental cause that explains this situation. (more…)

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Pakistan Unhitches Hitchens

June 26, 2011

By Anjum Altaf

Pakistan is like the spouse who makes one froth at the mouth and take leave of one’s senses. In the ensuing rant, it is possible to get almost all the facts right while getting the big picture almost entirely wrong, leaving one feeling, the next day, sheepish and deeply embarrassed – the real damage done, in any such fight, being to oneself. Pakistan’s latest enraged ex is Christopher Hitchens, who could not have done himself any worse damage than what he has accomplished with his ironically titled Vanity Fair blowup, “From Abbottabad to Worse.”

Hitchens delivers his verdict right off the bat: (more…)

Osama: What the ISI Knew?

May 23, 2011

By Anjum Altaf

Opinion is divided between those who assert the ISI knew where Osama was hiding and those who believe it didn’t. This way of framing the situation obscures what might be the reality.

Some months back, before the discovery of Osama, I was reading a book in which the author narrates a discussion with a Pakistani, now an ambassador, that took place towards the end of the Musharraf period when the interviewee was out of favor. A remark attributed to the Pakistani left such an impression that I repeated it to as many people as I had occasion to between then  and the discovery of Osama next to the military academy at Kakul. (more…)

Ghalib – 20: Leaders and Followers

January 24, 2009

How do we decide whom to follow? Ghalib has some advice:

laazim nahiiN ke kih Khizr kii ham pairavii kareN
jaanaa kih ek buzurg hameN ham-safar mile

it is not necessary that we follow in the footsteps of Khizr
we consider that we have a venerable-elder as a fellow-traveler

Hazrat Khizr is the most revered guide to the lost in Islamic folk tradition and Ghalib is saying that we do not need to follow in the footsteps of Khizr. Why?

Ghalib has faith in the individual; he wants every human being to use his or her mind first. Ghalib is not rejecting advice but he wishes the advice to be just another input into our decision-making as we proceed on our journey through life. A knowledgeable fellow traveler is fine, but a leader to be followed blindly is not recommended.

What do you think of the advice of Ghalib?

Well, it is clear that Ghalib would not wish us to follow his own advice blindly but to reflect upon it and use it as a venerable-elder’s contribution to our stock of knowledge.

So let us reflect upon his advice and see how we can interpret our recent past in its light.

Consider the advice of international agencies to developing countries. Almost all countries accepted the loans but only those that used the funds according to their own visions and priorities benefited from their use. Most East Asian countries that succeeded belong to this category – think of China with its prescription of ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. On the other hand, all countries that followed the advice uncritically and allowed the agencies to sit in the driving seat, Pakistan being the major example in South Asia, did very poorly indeed.

Or consider the time when many young idealists in South Asia became the followers of Karl Marx? They went into the countryside boxing people into Marxist categories like kulaks, middle-peasants etc., and declared religion to be the opiate of the masses. A little reflection might have suggested that the social conditions of Europe that gave rise to Marxism were quite different from those that prevailed in South Asia. Marxism could not be copied blindly; it needed intelligent adaptation to local conditions if its goals of social justice were to be achieved.

And now we have Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar as our modern-day Khizr’s. Is there a case for following their pronouncements blindly even if they argue they are relying on the highest authority for what they proclaim?

And do they even count as venerable elders? There was no doubt about the intellectual credentials of Marx but are bin Laden and Mullah Omar in the same category?

So we actually need to start a step earlier. We have first to decide whether we are dealing with a venerable elder as a fellow traveler or with a charlatan peddling snake oil. Only after we get past this test should we even consider the advice we are being asked to follow.

I feel Ghalib is giving us sound advice. What do you think?

On this theme, see also Ghalib – 9 on leadership. For a literary interpretation see the parallel post on Mehr-e-Niimroz.

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