Compassion

imageRob Lawrie is a simple man, who happened to feel a twinge in his heart. It is called compassion and it is a very human emotion. Lawrie knew this family in the asylum camps in Calais and he was attached to their little girl(Bahar). Over time the family had come to be his friends. His compassion almost landed Lawrie in prison.

How does one classify this situation. An Afghan family, whose fate had turned against them. They lived some sort of rural life in Afghanistan and I guess they must have called it normal. However, whatever the circumstances, they ended up in Calais in a camp. They were asylum seekers, with zero status, living at the Jungle camp. Not really able to go back to their previous home and stuck here in a veritable prison.

One cannot even blame the French Government or people. They, like others in Europe, are facing this refugee crisis. It is the sort of thing which requires a very big heart. The heart requires to be even bigger, if it is incessant and continuous. Attrition sets in, and peoples insecurity fires up. There is economic and emotional fall-out and it is very difficult for humans to face it. The French Government has been under severe pressure on refugees and more so after recent terrorist events in Paris.

Some of the pressure then translates into the quality of the facility. The budgets are stretched and so the Jungle camp is not exactly five star. Infact it is more or less like a slum. The cold makes it even more unbearable. Maybe it is deliberately kept that way, to discourage residents. This Afghan family like others, has been living there. In case we do not understand, this is really at the edge of existence; hunger, poverty, inadequate facilities. No one really desires this sort of existence. Especially the uncertainty and the lack of something to do. People are just there, all day long.

It is really the luck of the draw. A roll of fate and one who lives in a chateau in France could as easily have been born in Afghanistan. Or this very Afghan family, could have been born in Calais, spoken the tongue, had documents which were French, worked locally and may have been on the outside, looking into this very camp. That is the way fate dodges some and awards others. No achievement, just plain luck.

The Afghan father said at the trial that he had asked Rob Lawrie to take the girl to UK several times, but he had steadfastly refused. On his last visit, he came to see them one last time. Bahar slept in his lap. Even if a cat curls up and sleeps in ones lap, one feels attachment. Here was a small, innocent human. Lawrie must have felt a cascade of emotions. Guilt, sadness, love and plain old compassion. He succumbed and picked up the girl and took her with him to the UK. Its a dangerous place to be, when faced by emotions and doing an illegal operation. Lawrie got caught and landed up in court. But thank God for other compassionate humans. The court saw it otherwise. Lawrie’s life could have been ruined, instead he was let off. His interview post the trial, confirmed his emotional, compassionate nature. A decent human, who thought that doing equitable and right, is more important than doing just the legal thing. Unfortunately, despite Lawrie, the family is back in their camp and the young one still suffers.

The world has changed. For millennia people just traveled everywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled all over for 30 years and Marco Polo went to China for 25 years. There was no scarcity, no documents or nationalities. Within the last 50 years, as human civilisation advanced(?), our hearts have shrunk. We put up barriers and instead of thinking that the world and its resources were on lease to us for life, we now own them to the exclusion of others. We face a terrible period in the next few decades, as environmental damage and resource conflicts will create multiples of refugees, compared to the numbers now. As a reminder of compassion, I hark back to 1980, when 3 million Afghan refugees overnight landed up in Pakistan. The numbers peaked at 4 million and a majority of these have now faded into the local population. Others stayed for a quarter of a century before going back. Pakistan is a developing country with few resources and has probably paid an economic and cultural cost, but nevertheless opened its heart for its neighbours. In the case of Rob Lawrie, he showed this very compassion; I hope his actions are contagious and others follow suit.

Think of Those Children

imageOnce Crazy Horse the Oglala Sioux asked the question “how can you sell the land one walks on?” Modern Man has done much worse in the century beyond Crazy Horse. We have sold the good earth lock, stock and barrel. We are now about to pay a very heavy price for doing this.

Four recent events suggest we are gong to pay this heavy price.

A) this summer, scientist did a live research and review of the real danger of the melting mass of ice in Greenland, and it is aggressive and horrifying. (NY Times)

B) the Indonesian fire this September emitted more carbon dioxide in 3 weeks than Germany does in all year. This is one of the major environment disasters of our time, coming on top of aggressive Californian forest fires this summer.(Washigton Post)

C) Exxon-Mobil Corporation is now being investigated for putting the lid on climate science years ago. It is suspected that their own scientists warned them of the coming trauma – reminds one of the cigarette companies in the 1950’s. (NY Times)

D) Measurements now show that by next year we would have passed CO2 concentrations of 400 ppm. This is almost 50 per cent up from the Industrial Age – however the money people still deny Man has anything to do with it. (The Guardian)

Greed drives us. It seems that when we have enough, it is still not good enough. We need more. Allah only understands that motivation, It is so difficult to rationalise it. We cannot carry wealth to our graves and beyond. And really, once we are gone from this world, it should matter little what we leave behind for our children. But it does seem to matter to us, that we provide for our children beyond our graves. Keep hold of that thought for later.

Now we are bad enough as individuals. Make that a collective and we become a mob. Imagine a set of shareholders driven by the gain in share values on the stock exchange. It is vicious, unfeeling and basically follows mass trends. That trend drives the corporate world. It just devours all semblance of humanity from us humans. It is a juggernaut in motion, with an existence of its own, beyond humanity and it sets rules which are only for its own good. The employees in that corporate, are as much slaves to its needs and they will work for its existence and sustenance. The motto is “more at any cost”.

Fortunately in Pakistan we have been lucky, in that corporate culture has not reached the same levels, where feelings have disappeared. The individual still holds sway here and so somehow we have not seen the worst side of the corporate machine, yet.

Going back to my earlier statement. It seems we are hell bent as humans to provide for our children, even when we are gone from this world. There is no other explanation for us breaking our backs to possess more and more, well beyond our needs. That being the case, I do not then understand our blinkered approach to climate change. This earth is the biggest debt we owe our next generation. Its a working house, fully provided with sustainability. If humans do not tamper with it, it will serve us life long and go on to the subsequent generations. Its been proved through Earths history, that this self sustainability exists.

Yet despite breaking our backs and ethics to provide for our next generation, we continue to dismantle the very house we live in. Does not the logical question stare us in the face? What will my children do with the wealth accumulated, when there is nowhere to spend it. That last drop of water will be more precious to them, than all the gold in the world.

In Paris very shortly, a lot of important people will get together to deliberate the worlds future, at the Climate Summit. We are already in extreme danger and more is happening daily. The problem is that sincerity seems missing, when these rulers meet to discuss the fate of our children. They would do well to remember this American Indian saying.

“Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Think of those children!

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/27/world/greenland-is-melting-away.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/06/science/exxon-mobil-under-investigation-in-new-york-over-climate-statements.html

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/09/earths-climate-entering-new-permanent-reality-as-co2-hits-new-high

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/20/fueled-by-el-nino-carbon-emissions-from-indonesian-peat-fires-are-rising-fast/

*picture is from epa.gov

Reality check: Pakistan not a milk ‘king’

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imageKARACHI: To be honest, the milk crisis that recently gripped Karachi came as news to me. The media was quick to highlight the issue as news, but I realised that it is actually a question of perception.

Dairy sector professionals have been used to the situation for years. If anything, it is a chronic issue for people associated with the sector, but not a crisis.

Back in 2005 when the feasibility of Engro Foods was completed, it was based on researched figures. A basic input was the census of livestock and related milk production numbers.

In a country where we cannot count our population – the last census occurred in 1998 – it is quite strange that we have regular census numbers on our livestock. The government churns out these numbers annually and has projected Pakistan as one of the premier milk producers. Unfortunately, these numbers are flawed and the volumes could be dramatically lower.

I encountered this fact one fateful afternoon in February 2006. Imagine the shock when our own census, after much effort, suggested much lower milk numbers. One could immediately see that the battle to become a big dairy player was going to be much more expensive and difficult to achieve. The whole plan was re-calibrated and we went on a strategy to develop dairy, through corporatised farming. The idea was to quickly enhance milk production, akin to what China has tried to do in these intervening years.

Over the next 18 months, we spent a lot of time with other large players trying to resolve this issue. Considering the difficulty in doing a livestock census of a very fragmented population – of animals who looked alike and had no identity – we turned the method on its head.

It was easier to identify milk volumes being traded in the market. Tracking all the local Baras and milk-sheds helped get a fairly accurate volume of traded milk in Pakistan. By now, these milk numbers were familiar and had lost the capacity to shock us.

We then used our knowledge and experience to add two large amounts to the traded milk volume. These were volumes consumed in-house by the milk production areas and wasted due to spoilage. Due to lack of electricity, one will be surprised at the high numbers wasted. So the Milk Tree was born in 2007 and has since been used extensively by the dairy industry. Unfortunately, all the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan continue to ignore this in their statistics.

The upshot of all this is that real per-capita milk availability and consumption are both significantly lower than discussed. Hence, my personal drive for ten years is to encourage people to go into large scale dairy farming. The demand volumes are such that I cannot see the bottom of the well here.

Pakistan may have a shortage of over 4 billion litres per annum in 2015 alone. This calculation is based on the human population numbers multiplied by a reasonable per capita consumption, versus actual supply of milk.

Shortage made worse

The above shortage is made more acute because of an inverse demand supply curve.

In the months when the supply of milk is high – February to April – milk demand is at its lowest.

This is because the changing weather causes respiratory issues and immediately dairy usage comes down. People associate lung congestion with milk usage in Pakistan.

Between May and September, supply of milk is at its lowest and dairy demand at its peak. Think Lassi and Doodh soda during hot summer months. This causes endless variation in prices in Pakistan, with a peak in July. Eid now falls during this time further accentuates pressure on the prices.

So the only answer is to steady the supply through a change in the cow lactation cycles and to increase production volumes.

Large scale farming is the only viable solution. In the short term imports of milk powder may assist, but will not solve the issue.

The government should encourage the formation of farms. But to make farming work, we also need dairy technical knowledge and a viable route to the market. Dairy farmers in Pakistan need to get together and create such a value chain.

I am not speaking of forming a cartel, but rather a method where chilled warehouses, trucks and market tools are available, so that milk can be preserved and supplied to the market for consumers.

The issue of milk shortages will get worse as the human population increases. There are already some reports of malnutrition among the young in Pakistan. This will deteriorate further and in time become a chronic issue. Milk is an easy way to solve these pains. The farmers and the government should start looking at this now, rather than convincing themselves that we are milk kings. Being an ostrich is not going to help anyone.

The writer is the former CEO of Engro Foods

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.

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Stress Test

imageWhat is common between Karachi 1973, Edgbaston 1987, Karachi 2000 and Abu Dhabi 2015. Well if you want to have a real live stress test, with all its elements, you need to be alive and watching the events happen. I am one of those unfortunate few, who have actually lived and passed this stress test.

The commonalities are that its got to be a Pakistan versus England Test Match. The first innings of both teams have to be strong innings. It should be the fifth day of the match. Everyone considers the wicket is lifeless. All think it is a foregone conclusion, that the match is a draw. Pakistan is batting in its second innings (the third of the match, so England have still to play its second innings). Our batsmen and our dressing room is relaxed, maybe too relaxed. They think its a done deal.

Except that all hell is about to break lose. Pakistani batsmen will throw away their wickets, in a stupor of carelessness and apparent safety. Then pressure is going to be created and we will end up putting the game squarely in England’s hand and so will have to fight like mad to try and save it.

You really don’t believe this do you? But the truth is that this is exactly the way it turns out and we just don’t seem to learn from our history. So to recount.

Karachi 1973. With Majid as captain, this match is more famous for the three 99’s which were scored in the match. Majid, Mushtaq and Amiss (https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/the-99s-in-karachi/). Going into the fifth day with a 59 run lead and 105 for 2 before lunch, we looked safe. Then we collapsed to 129 for 8. A very brave partnership between Wasim Bari and Sarfaraz Nawaz rescued us and we were able to escape, what looked like certain defeat some hours earlier. The anger all of us felt was utterly useless and all one could do was watch and pray.

Edgbaston 1987. Imran as captain. We had just thrashed England at Headingly and for most of the match had looked good in this, which was the forth test of the series. Two big first innings and we were 79-1 at lunch on the 5th day. We seemed comfortable with Shoaib looking excellent. Post lunch we collapsed. Miandad, Malik et al. Imran dug in and resisted. We left England 124 to make in 18 overs. Simple in T20 days, but England with three run-outs squandered their chance and ended up 109 for seven. Phew! The close proximity to a mind blow out. I shall remember that late evening forever. I lost five years somewhere during it.

Karachi 2000. Moin Khan as captain. This was the Steve Bucknor match. The chase in the darkness of a Karachi evening. Again we looked okay. Match not in contention. Muhammad Yousuf and Saleem Elahi playing, 128/4. Then we collapsed to 158. Still the target looked unreachable at 176. But we reckoned without Steve Bucknor and his peevishness. He took exception to our slow over rates. So if you are angry, warn the captain. But no, he stretched the game to a time when no one could see the ball. Clearly a flagrant violation of the principle of bad light. England got to 176 in the darkness and Pakistan lost our 45 year old unbeaten record at the National Stadium. Most of our anger was directed at Bucknor. But this disguised the fact that we had lost a drawn match through our own carelessness.

Abu Dhabi 2015. Well you do not need details of yesterdays match. Suffice to say, that watching before lunch, I kept thinking of the three matches mentioned above. I promise you, that if I had Waqar’s number, I would have called him up to relate all the above to him. Might have stopped the sorry shots which emanated. Hafeez out to a needless runout. Younus and Misbah to awful heaves, which belie their experience and maturity. Asad Shafiq and Sarfaraz also not really thinking and adjusting for the changing situation. Awful. It was deja vu. A friend of mine shut his television as he could not take the stress.

Forty two years and they will not learn. I have come from school to retirement, a whole work-life. But, yet our people do not learn. In the future, I shall personally send this write-up to the Pakistan coach, before the next Pakistan versus England series. Please have a heart and think of us long time supporters.

*picture is from pictures.cricket.com.pk

Baby Aylan – a call of our conscience

imageI remember when Bosnia was happening in the mid 90s, the images on television were excruciating. Not just because of what one saw, but also because of ones own helplessness. Life was being murdered and here we were armchair humanity, feeling pain, but impotent. We could send money, but that did not stop the killing.

The present day image of baby Aylan lying face down lifeless on the beach is just so heart-wrenching. It reminds one of the Bosnian crisis. Innocent death and we sit in comfortable houses, feeling pain and doing nothing. Worse still, even if we want to do something, it just extends to money. I personally feel soiled in evil.

Just to put this in context, some refugee research numbers.

There were 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2014. 14.4 million under the mandate of UNHCR and the other 5.1 million Palestinian refugees are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In 2014, the country hosting the largest number of refugees was Turkey, with 1.59 million refugees.

By the end of 2014, Syria had become the world’s top source country of refugees, overtaking Afghanistan, which had held this position for more than three decades. These were hosted almost entirely by Pakistan and at one time were close to 4 million.

If we take the worlds population as 7.3 billion, then the 19.5 million total refugees are 0.27 per cent of the population.

What a travesty, where so many countries have per capita GDP over $ 50000 per annum (some as high as $97000). Even Greece, with all its issues and debts, still clocks $21,000.

We are really an appalling species! We abandon our own. We cannot open our hearts to 0.27 per cent of our own and help them. That we happen to be born in the right place and right country is our luck. We could well have been one of these refugees. Forced to abandon life and trek across borders. Borders which I may add have been artificially created by us. The land belongs to Allah and we are life tenants on it, we do not own it.

Worse still, instead of taking urgent action in the face of this crisis, the politicians are arguing about who is responsible. In this the beacon of light is the German Chancellor Merkel. She is leading efforts to approve a plan that would give refuge to people fleeing war and hunger. France seems to have agreed, but the other European countries are blocking this plan. One prays that humanity prevails and some plan is approved soon. Otherwise, the blood of Aylan and others like him shall lie at the doorsteps of all of us.

There is activation happening from Avaaz on the support of this plan. These politicians only get swayed by public opinion. So please get onto the Avaaz.org forum and pile the pressure of numbers onto these politicians, to force them to agree to this plan.

The Sacrifices for our Green

imageThis Ramadan among other talks, I heard one from Maulana Tariq Jamil, which resonated deeply within me. It was simply because of its similarity to my father’s history. I wrote about my father’s experience at the time of Partition in Newsline Magazine a few years ago, in the form of a letter to Pakistan.(https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=Letter+to+Pakistan)

Today, the sixty eighth Independence Day of Pakistan, I shall relate what the Maulana said, as it is a very relevant message for those who love Pakistan. I translate and paraphrase :-

‘When I was young, I used to listen to various personal stories about Partition and they were so earth shaking, that at times I felt that my heart would burst. This is the only country which was made on the base of an ideology, no cement or construction involved, just a foundation built on the bones of six hundred thousand people, who sacrificed their lives in a few weeks.

We are local people or have spent too many generations after the Partition, so we did not see or taste that sacrifice, unlike the original migrants. My father’s friend was one such migrant from Jullundur and once while sitting with him, he told us his own story, which I narrate now.

When he left Jullundur, his whole family had been separated, due to chaos and calamity all around. He was very young and the only one who survived. One single soul, in search of Pakistan; trying to hide in the fields during the day and traveling by night. One immediate and compelling objective; to survive the ire of the Sikhs, who were on rampage in the three bordering districts of the Punjab.

Eventually he approached the new border, at the banks of the Sutlej which in August was a raging monsoon river. In front was death by drowning or possible safety and at the back was death at the hands of the Sikhs. So, he grabbed a piece of wood and jumped into the river, risking drowning. As the torrent took him mid river, he saw that the whole Sutlej was full of bodies. Children, young, old, women and men. They had arrived at their final destination and their sacrifice was complete. Now the Sutlej had become a coffin and grave to their bodies. The same was true of the Chenab and Ravi in those few days, all three had become the bed of the migrant soul. But he (this particular young kid) managed to cross the Sutlej into Pakistan and survived to tell his story years later.

We should read our history. It tells us how we started and where we are going. This country was given everything – soul, soil, minerals and people. Unfortunately, it was just sucked into this one cancer. Its called insincerity and dishonesty. It could have been a Jannat on this earth. You know, this country has been bled dry, not by the little people, or the uneducated, or the workers. No, this sacrilege has been committed by very high class people, who are also well educated. Simply, they obtained degrees, but did not learn humanity.

Such big sacrifices in vain, by the many. All we are left with is thorns; we never really saw a spring. Had there not been some great humans, then the country would long ago have been sold. Fortunately, in the far corners there is still some light and it reflects in places. Somehow this caravan still proceeds on its journey due to these good people, despite the evil perpetrated by the so-called privileged.

One day those six hundred thousand will rise out of their graves, and demand restitution from all the insincere, whether they be here in Pakistan or settled abroad. There is no escaping this eventuality, because there has been ‘amanat may khayanat’ here.’

For my part I pray and say Pakistan Zindabad. The sacrifice of the many shall not go waste. In-sha-Allah.

*translated and paraphrased from Maulana Tariq Jamil. All credits are due to him. The figure of six hundred thousand death is presumably only the Muslim number, as many Hindus and Sikhs also perished. Total figures vary, reaching upto 1.5 mn in some estimates.

Namal University – reaches for humanity

imageAs they showed a video about Namal University, a student asked “do I not have a right to proper education, so what that I was born poor”. That is the crux of the matter. In a land made for righteousness, ninety plus percent people can only watch from the outside, while others less deserving waste an opportunity for learning.

Imran Khan met us today at a small brunch and told us his story of Namal University. It was good that he could give thought, time and effort to such a venture, while a major by-election in NA 246 was in the offing. He said, putting Pakistan right has been my mission, but my passion is to make the Namal project successful, so that people can acquire an education. A parallel was drawn with Oxford and Cambridge, where two great universities over centuries set the grounds for the British Empire. This is inspiration indeed! To reach for the stars, while we are all broken, down on the floor.

Two things Imran pointed out in his short speech, which are worth extrapolating on.

In 2002 as Imran was driving in this Mianwalli region, his car broke down. He spent the whole night there and the local people came to tell him that they were poor and could not afford a university. There were none in this region for a hundred kilometers. Imran felt an intense call to help. Something like he had in the years when the Shaukat Khanum Hospital was formed. But his vision went beyond this region to a much larger picture. This university will be a great one, which will educate the poor of all Pakistan. Should they not have equal rights to those born with a silver spoon, who could educate themselves much more easily? He thought of the likes of Oxford and Cambridge as comparison. Why not something like this in the eons ahead. As Imran mentioned, man is Ashraful Maqlooqaat. Where mans mind reaches, Allah has given him the wherewithal to reach that. Unfortunately, the sane and wise ones will always bring sanity and maintain status quo. But actually we need to dream big and believe in our cause. Once you believe, you will always win. One only loses, when we think we have lost (Philosophy which has also served me best in my life).

The second point was as telling. He said that in sixty seven years history of Aitchison College, they have produced just one test cricketer. Despite the best class facilities, comfort and resources. But on the streets of Lahore and Karachi, playing tape ball we have produced plenty of world class cricketers. This is the same story as the poverty stricken footballers of Brazil and Italy. Poverty produces a will, focus and drive as no other can. The same applies in education. The Namal scholars, living a hard life, have already climbed a peak. Their degree results in the first three graduating classes, on comparable standards of the UK universities, have been astounding. These young people are committed and have their heart in uplifting Pakistan. They will be an asset for this country. They can be our future.

Namal University has already arrived. In three years 134 students (mainly from poor families) have graduated and are already working in our country. It is reaching out for humanity. To do this, it needs to expand for the good of this country. This is not about politics, this is about Pakistan. In my capacity as a Pakistani, I testify that I have been involved with Imran Khan’s projects for over two decades. I have always found him honest and dedicated to the bone. Whatever your views about his politics, this is about all of us. Please go on the Namal University site and help monetarily, if you can. Every little bit will assist and bring that visionary future nearer.

Nations, don’t just happen

imageThe breaking news was as usual all about dire consequences of one event or the other. One gets used to it. This is the way of all channels and media, world over. Somehow, bad news travels fast, gets more attention and attracts people. Nothing like a good old disaster to get people animated. Anyway, here in Pakistan we have become de-sentisized, as we have plenty of bad news and on top of it, dozens of channels vying for breaking news. Grief!

All the bad news notwithstanding, I would like to add my two bits to the discussion of how things have deteriorated and we are in a mess. My personal take on it is that, it is nature taking its toll. Yes surprise, Nature!

In the past I have written on our nationhood and blamed our lack of belief in our vision. This lack of vision, a desire to be an aspirational Muslim homeland, got diluted and a desire to be a strong economic state took over. We got our wires crossed and really ended up doing neither. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=of+wings+and+visions) However, over time and after due consideration, while I still think we need a vision to take us further – otherwise there is nothing to hold us together – the reality is that nature is taking its toll.

Let me explain my statement, which I assure you is not an effort to be facetious. In the worlds written history, there have been nine great nations. There have been other good ones, but what we would classically call great, are those who have dominated their period in the world, added to knowledge and their traces are left in the working of the world even today. Historically they have lasted an average of two hundred and fifty years or more. Want me to count them out? Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Arabia, Turkistan, Britain, America; more or less chronologically and another interesting point; there have been no repeats. China might well turn out to be the first repeat.

Anyway, think of these nations. They were formed layer by layer. The Egyptians took thousands of years to come to a stage of absolute dominance. Same with the Romans. From the discovery of Romulus and Remus on the banks of the Tiber to Julius Caesar was several hundreds of years. These years comprise a coming together, a homogeneity of purpose, a gathering of strength, conquest and then respect follows from other nations, that you are the leaders. Having reached this peak, the decline starts and at first society declines, then economics and finally the military strength dissipates. That is the round trip of a nation. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/in-the-expiry-of-nations-2/)

Now think back to August 1947. When India obtained independence they had a memory. They remembered the Aryans, Alexander as he came through the Khyber Pass, later the Huns, Mongols and Babur. India owned the Red Fort and Taj Mahal. All these they took as their own. This was as much their history, as Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka or Ranjit Singh. Their culture was a melting pot of homogeneity and in economics they were working together against adversity. So naturally it is easier to bond as a nation and have one identity.

Then there was Pakistan. We had a seven year history (from 1940 resolution), two varying lands and cultures- apart by fifteen hundred miles-, a western part which comprised borderland tribes, who had only shared history of invasions in common and were diverse otherwise. We had nothing binding us, other than a great principle and we competed for the same resources. This was running uphill against the flow of history and nature. No wonder, we shall take time! 67 years is a minuscule time period in history, a dot in time. We are children as a nation and still learning. When we get to our teens our time will be different and hopefully we will mature. It might involve another hundred years for these layers to form. In comparison to other stages of development of nations, I would say maybe we are like the Wild West of USA just now.

We shall get there In-sha-Allah. Just require patience and faith. The good will come through. Nations, don’t just happen.

Leadership, Personality cult and Institutionalisation

imageAdam (as) came down a father and leader and so from the beginning, man has been cast into this mould.

From my years of witnessing, leadership really falls into two broad styles. The first is iconic and driven by the personality of the leader. The second type is one which is built into the fabric of the system, where the personality of the leader is less visible and the institution is important. Its not my wish to judge, as depending on the need, either could be right for that particular moment.

Personality driven situations happen a lot in developing countries. The reason is simple. There are not enough institutions in place and moreover, the mindset is not controlled enough to have it any other way. So the personality of the leader is dominant enough in the minds of the followers, to ensure they follow his/her direction. Emotions have to play a larger role; trust is the basis of the system. At its extreme demagoguery occurs. A crisis normally has to have such a leader. Pakistan/India politics is very much just such a game. Hence families have thrown up leaders (not necessarily competent) where the family profile has given them that thrust. The Gandhis, Bhuttos, Shareefs are very much from this mould. Imran khan, too is a personality cult. Though to be fair, an attempt has been made towards some institutionalisation. But the recent dharnas have stamped his personality very firmly over his party and this country. This also happened in his cricket days in the Pakistan team, where the gulf in personality between him and others, made his dominance inevitable.

Institutional leadership is something you see a lot in structured systems. The leader is an arm of the system. He/she derives their authority and power from it. The followers respect and follow the seat and system, rather than the individual. Change the leader and it should not make a difference. Many corporates have followed this regime and it has worked well for them. Its cold, calculating, systemised and sustainable. And that is why particularly, it is not ‘Us’ in Pakistan. An army is one institution where the rules of succession are such, that there is very little difference between one leader to another. So then institutionalisation of leadership occurs.

Now within these broad guidelines are variations of style. You might get authoritative people, softer people, people who are loved and people who are hated. This does not shift the eventual effectiveness of leadership, as long as control is practised on the direction and goal of the leader, there is sincerity of purpose and there is the backbone for perseverance. If all these happen, success will come eventually.

Within established systems you will get the odd outlier. Jack Welch of GE was one such leader who created a personality cult within the system. Others one can think of in recent years are Iacocca of Chrysler and Goizueta of Coca Cola. Typically, such outliers will rock the system and make things happen in the short term. But since they differ from the system DNA, they cause longer term damage and eventually the system reverts back to its institutionalised DNA.

Can a system migrate from one to another? Above examples are of those where a personalised leadership was foisted onto an institutional based approach. I have never really seen these work. Typically the system reverts to an institution over time or it will crash and disappear. Think of India and Indira Gandhi in the mid 70s. That attempt to create an authoritative leadership failed and India moved back into democracy mode.

The reverse migration of institutionalisation from a cult personality, almost always happens over time. Mao and China is one very obvious example. There are so many others. The Magna Carta is one very poignant example of how the cult of a leader was replaced by the participation of a system.

We in Pakistan are witnessing this very battle in so many places. The Supreme Court, the Army, the democratic institution and also in many local corporates. If we desire sustainability, then eventually we have to learn that dependence on the cult of a leader will always give us variability and uncertainty over the long term, not sustainability.

The picture is from Wylio.com a free picture site

Pakistan: I rant and I wait

imageWatching events last few weeks…I just want to rant in an unstructured, what comes to mind first, manner. At the end of this note I may have said enough, that I shall lose friends. Especially the logical and most educated kind. But truth be told, I just want to put down my random genuine thoughts and hope it resonates with the people who read it. Also this is generalised, SD 1, under the Bell Curve people. We still have many who are very genuine Pakistanis, giving their all.

We are a people fortunately, of that I am sure. Thats is the only thing one can guarantee, as it comes to the surface when we play sports at a National Level. Other than that…

We pass accidents showing curiosity, but are not willing to stop and help. People are killed willy nilly and we do not care. Significant portions of our population are illiterate; we are uninterested in this and mostly the victims do not care either. Most people are unable to put one square meal on the table. We dont follow road signs, going the wrong way on a one way. When this is pointed out to the so called educated perpetrators, they fight and abuse one.

We are Muslims mainly, but lie habitually, not realising that this is the definition of a munafiq. This particular behaviour seems to be our raison d’etre, its that prevalent.

Our leaders are not really elected. We run a sham of a democracy. Votes are cast mainly via thumbprints. Most votes are not free or are counterfeit. In rural areas the Thana forces voting for particular candidates. In urban areas candidates use muscle to counterfeit votes, also paying off the local authority.

Our courts are zero protection. There is no justice. Lets not fool ourselves.

Our free media blackmails its way through and most significant media personalities are biased because they are now bought off.

The bureaucracy is corrupt. They take bribe on anything where they have leverage. Where there is money to be made out of budget disbursements, they will also grab large portions of this budget too.

The elite are so called educated. Actually they are more elite in relative terms than most elites in the world. They party at home, imbibing all the expensive smuggled spirits. Their clothes alone are worth a few years house budget for the poor. Weddings and events are celebrated lavishly. Foreign trips and shopping in Dubai…NY…London. They take foriegn nationalities…Canada..Australia etc. Despise all others than themselves. Everyone is a fool to them…they are superior and above everyone. Unfortunately, I am as much a part of them as anyone else.

Our politicians; from landlords who think its their right to be elected, to former army people who have collected huge sums, to business men who take office for the sole reason to make wealth and transfer it abroad, are all in it for themselves. Even our technocrat has not got enough political wisdom to be able to rule. Where is our seasoned politician who thinks country first and rules accordingly? These politicians can and have sold our country to foreign powers before. We have plenty of Mir Jaffers sitting around.

Our religious leaders…yaani, what can you say. Most are under the pay and tutelage of foreign powers. Others are simply not educated and so can only think one tone. They guide a vociferous and charged following who can go to insane lengths. Fortunely, their percentage following is still low in numbers.

Our institutions…where are they. Army treats itself above this country, rather than vice versa. So they protect themselves first. The Supreme Court. Well really if anyone thinks they are effective then they are wearing rose tinted glasses. But I suspect its worse. Its not just capability….our people don’t trust them and challenge the equitability and intent of what they do.

Our characteristics…envious..dog in the manger..lack of teamwork…uncontrollable emotions…lack of patience and perseverance…selfishness.

Compare the above characteristics to what they were in the 1940s..led by that one person who gave us a grand vision. Those people who were giants of their time, must cringe to see what we have become.

Despite all the above one is hopeful. In the darkest and lowest period are leaders found and followers made, who rise to the occasion. There are a whole lot of potential followers and now we wait for the direction from some leaders. But please, stop thinking party politics. Otherwise you will never get Pakistan proper.

If you read history, and our own Islamic literature, you know it is not too far off. But it also comes with huge amounts of pain. Not a time for the uncommitted.

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