A Country of 106 Provinces

Original File Source: Wikipedia

This is not a satirical post.

These days, everybody wants their own province in Pakistan. And why not? Everyone wants to have a say. It is perfectly democratic and with the introduction and passage of the 18th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution, the existing Pakistani provinces are enjoying quite a bit of “control” over things. Nevertheless, a particular provision in that amendment about a rather obnoxious name of a particular province has also triggered a (not much of a) debate over the creation of a new province, joining the longstanding demand of a new province in the Southern Punjab. Even better.

While the legislature of Pakistan is shortly expected to propose recommendations for the creation of new provinces, consensus on the issue, as with most issues in Pakistan, has not been reached. Some people are wondering, and so is my observation,  why people in Pakistan have to think with such an ethnic-centered approach. Let us not consider it a moral question or even a matter of principle, because the rationale for creating new provinces is better administration, the rights of people in certain parts of the country, decentralization and the delegation of authority to smaller administrative units. What does that have to do with ethnic groups?

This actually turns the attention of an observer to a rather harsh reality. Pakistan has been very severely ethnically polarized. Pakistan is actually a state with several belligerent ethnic nations who would do whatever is in their power to tear each other apart. Though thankfully, most of them do not have the means to do so, other than politics. Due to the irregular distribution of power and a highly centralized autocratic government in the country over many decades, these feelings have grown even worse. But getting back to the issue of the new provinces.

The questions to ask are these.

Will Pakistan find more reasons to be divided with the new provinces or will that prove useful to the unity of the state?

Will creating new provinces cut down costs?

The answer to the first question is important but no one really knows it. The second question can only be answered with an emphatic no. With additional governors, chief ministers, cabinets and God knows what, costs are only bound to rise with the current unreformed parliamentary system, which can be a great blow to the state with its economy on a lifeline and with a deficit in budget and declining current account balance and growth rate.

However, I have a very good solution to both the problems of conflict between different ethnic groups in the country and to the increasing costs without sacrificing decentralization and the delegation of power to smaller administrative units, away from an autocratic center. Each district of Pakistan should be declared a province, or call it a district if you will. What this apparently insane idea means is that the districts should be delegated their own budget with their own governors and the privileges of these officials should be no greater than that of the mayor of a city or whosoever is considered the head of the local legislature.

A Country of 106 Provinces.

It is an unorthodox idea, particularly to those who blindly believe in Westminster Parliamentary System of the Commonwealth of Nations, but don’t tell me that it is not workable.

If taking such measures is unnecessary for the prevalence of goodwill in the country and for reducing ethnic polarization, then so are the provisions taken in the constitutional amendments in the recent years that promote decentralization.

Drugs Should Be Free

The highly specialized urban society in our world comes with a price. The price of stress and depression out of the lack of freedom that a person would like to have to control his or her life. It would actually be a little unfair to say that this disadvantage is exclusive to the highly specialized urban society, though I considered it important to mention, because such stress would also be experienced in a close-knit homogeneous society, perhaps in a different form. But it would be safe to say that both the kinds of societies offer their own challenges and disadvantages.

The stress and depression have the power to take away the will of living from individuals. While this statement may appear a little exaggerated, I have reasons to believe psychologists would find no hesitation to support it, as it is one of their most frequent observations anyway. This drives most people to find an instant psychological and neurochemical distraction to curb the feeling, which leads to the consumption of drugs. Strong or mild, dangerous or lethal, but some sort of drugs. This again depends on access, which would cause further stress in case of deprivation.

While you may have anticipated a left wing rant in the post from its title, it is not really the case. The vicious title to this post actually makes one point. Having access to the drug of choice, once initiated, should be a human right. But then again, there are economic factors behind access. But if that argument be accepted, then the same is true for food, clean drinking water and some other commodity that is considered indispensable to human life. A critic would assert that such an analogy would be flawed since those are basic necessities and a drug is not, but in most cases, drugs do become a necessity than a luxury, once initiated. The social imbalance and the human nature can be and are actually used as means to a form of slavery.

While some people on the left would not find this possibility perfectly harmonious to their views, drugs can easily make people dependent. No wonder why Karl Marx used the analogy of opium for religion. However, what needs to be understood here is that drugs are not just confined to chemicals that affect your consciousness. Every person can choose their own drug and adapt to it as per the availability constraints. The availability constraints can either be social or legal such as alcohol in a dry country, or even personal. But dwelling on that too much is immaterial to matter at hand.

Sex is not really a drug but does involve neurochemical and hormonal reactions in the body which actually involve pleasure, something that addicts seek in a drug. Pleasure brings relief from stress and depression and that is why some people become sex addicts, while others simply become obsessed with it. It is all pretty much understandable, though not socially acceptable. Most drugs are not socially acceptable too. Caffeine is, and perhaps nicotine, or may be it used to be, and alcohol, and maybe some other drugs depending on the particular society.

The idea that the access of drugs should be a human right and that they should be free is neither a demand nor an assertion, but a thought to be examined by the philosophers, the politicians, the moralists, the theologians, the humanitarians, the medical experts, the realists, the idealists and above all the policy makers of our world wherever they are. I don’t care which drug you consider, what drugs you allow, what drugs you take away. But I want the possibility to be considered. I know some drugs can kill people and I don’t think people should take such drugs. But if they do, they should be offered help, and demanding money from them is not really helping them.

In one way or another, every drug works like a slow poison. But so does oxygen. And besides, no one ever gave a second thought to the health threat that drugs pose when they started consuming them. But maybe some of them do. I am not arguing here about how risky or safe drugs are. We all know the medical and scientific facts about them and you can ask any physician or a psychologist about any drug you want and you will get a good deal of information about what a drug can do to your mind and body. Please read this post with an understanding that all the risks of drugs are understood while we consider the idea that drugs should be free and that their access should be considered a human right.

Once you start considering the matter just like you consider things like food, water, healthcare and education as the rights of every individual and that they should have free access to them, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or any other attribute that can be attached with a prejudice. It sounds like a socialist dream but it is a thought worth considering and exploring. If only, to be rejected. We reject the ideas of food for all and healthcare for all and education for all anyway. It would not be something unusual if we reject this idea as well. By the way, if you anticipated the post to be talking about free drugs, as in free medicine for all, I would be really delighted as I really support that idea even strongly.

But why do people need this neurochemical distraction in the first place? This brings us to the point from where we started. To fight stress and depression, but most of all, to extract pleasure. While there are a number of things which people can find pleasure in, drugs seem to be an option that does not involve other people, does not involve intruding into the lives of other people and involves changing their state of mind in a way that they cannot be achieved in any other way. Not implying that drugs should be recommended for these reasons. Just saying that people are more likely to use drugs than go for anything else which may appear any saner to any other person for these reasons.

So what do we establish. Should drugs be free?

Or maybe, Pleasure should be free.

Getting Offended By Inhumane Things

A new episode in the theater of America’s global war on shadows has been the appearance of a video showing a group of US marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban militants. As often is the case with such videos, the world has expressed its shock and disgust. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called it “inhumane” and “dehumanizing” and Leon Panetta, the US Secretary of Defense, has called it utterly deplorable. Similar comments were made by the US Secretary of State and the spokesperson of the Taliban.

I agree with them. It is a bit inhumane and I have actually just learned that doing so can be considered a war crime as per the Geneva Convention. I have also noticed that the Afghan President, the US Government and Military and the Taliban have finally agreed upon calling something inhumane. This is a great event in the recent history of the world I can tell you. We have finally established that urinating on corpses is more inhumane than killing people, and that it is more inhumane than wars.

I am not really defending the troopers who urinated on the dead Taliban militants but I am surprised to see people who support wars to be disturbed by the unpleasant things that happen in them. Urinating on corpses in my view is a pretty harmless action, or a harmless “war crime”, if you will, if it is a war crime at all. That has more to do with the respect those soldiers have for the dead, but not anything more, I have to say. Quite frankly, I am not sure what politicians and generals expect soldiers to do when they send them out for a war.

I wonder why urinating on dead people is more offensive in our world than killing alive people. Why be so selective about what you find offensive.

Radio host Dana Loesch said that she would join the soldiers urinating  on the Taliban herself and that it’s a war after all.

While her decision to join the urinating company is purely her own to make, there is little doubt about the fact that it is a war, after all.

She has been criticized for voicing her honest opinion. What she said on the radio was a bit insensitive, even if that is the truth, as truth sometimes is. But I have more respect for her than the heads of state and statesmen condemning this gruesome act, which I do not approve of or endorse and, which will have no significant impact on the history of the world whatsoever.

Taseer Assassination: What Have We Learned?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

                                                                                                                          – Voltaire

Source: AllVoices.com

A year ago, on this very day, the Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by one of his guards. Allegedly, the guard killed Taseer for calling the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan a Draconian law and for advocating Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who is still under arrest on charge of blasphemy.

What have we learned from this shocking event so far?

Although nothing can make up for the loss of the person of Salmaan Taseer and his role in the Pakistani society as an entrepreneur and a leader but on the bright side it made a rift in the Pakistani society. Many among Pakistani people realized for the first time that the monster of religious fanaticism was getting out of hand, despite several incidents of violence against minorities over the years.

Why is Salmaan Taseer important? He was just another politician who was probably more hated than admired, so why his death should cause such an outcry?

The reason why Salmaan Taseer mattered, and still matters, is because as funny as he was in his witty speech, he ended up touching some of the most serious and sensitive issues in Pakistan. He was the only politician, apart from Sherry Rehman, who challenged the authority of the Blasphemy Law.

Furthermore, his actions and especially his death has strengthened the beliefs of many that the remedy to Pakistan’s rapidly multiplying religious fanaticism is nothing but a secular constitution and brutal state action against hate preaching, something which most Pakistani politicians would give anything to block, even the so-called Pakistani secular parties.

There are people who would tell you that we should carry on the mission of Salmaan Taseer so that his blood does not go wasted. I would just say that Salmaan Taseer is not among us any more to care a little bit about what we think or do about what he stood for in the months before his assassination.

It is a matter of survival and progress of the Pakistani nation if it chooses or not to adopt the values that Taseer advocated pertaining to the Blasphemy law and Asia Bibi. As long as Pakistanis keep discriminating on the basis of religion and persecute its minorities, they will continue to build their society on the foundation of hatred, discrimination and inhuman values and further threatening the lives of its very own citizens, regardless of their community.

What we learn from the Taseer Assassination is that we have a long way to go as far as attaining civil rights is concerned. We have also learned that none of that would have happened if Pakistan had a secular constitution. We can prevent many more assassinations of brave persons like Taseer who would stand up against religious fanaticism if only we make a few adjustments in our textbook ruling the state, so that at least the state would offer protection to the persecuted.

But what has changed since Taseer’s assassination? Nothing. Actually, his assassin was garlanded. Asia Bibi is still in prison and perhaps it is better this way unless she finds asylum in a safe place where her life is not threatened. The Pakistani state seems least bothered about the Blasphemy Law, the persecution of the minorities and religious fanaticism. It is up to the Pakistani youth and teachers to take on this challenge and to propagate humanitarian values in the society.

The actual motive behind Taseer’s assassination can be debated but not most people’s insensitivity. Actually why be shocked if the assassin of Salman Taseer is showered with petals and hailed as a hero. That is all what we have taught our people and expecting them to act otherwise would be just like expecting a field of wheat when you have sown the seeds of poppy. When religious beliefs begin to overshadow humanitarian values, far worse things can happen. So what have we learned?

Maybe said a thousand times before.

The answer lies in humanitarian education and a bit of courage to question the absurdities of religion.

The answer lies not in despising people, but connecting to them.

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