A Quarter of a Century Since Chernobyl

A quarter of a century has passed since the worst nuclear accident in history. On April 26, 1986, the Nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the then USSR, exploded leaking nuclear radiation about a hundred times the Nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. I cannot think of anything more but to say that the day reminds us why we should be so proud of Nuclear technology. After all, it allows us to make great changes to the way things work naturally, something we consider a sign of human intelligence and intellect. And since it proves potentially dangerous and destructive to human life, this further affirms this notion.

It’s a pity that despite all our scientific advances, we turn to Nuclear Energy as a source of generation of power. Of course, Nuclear Technology is very safe. It rarely causes any casualties and how many accidents have we witnessed since the Chernobyl one? None. Until of course, a massive 9 magnitude earthquake hit the Japanese city of Fukushima on March 11, 2011, causing explosions in the Nuclear power plant in the city, resulting in the leakage of radioactive material to the extent that it is being compared to the Chernobyl incident.

One Nuclear accident caused by human error, the other by a natural disaster.

Either of that could happen at any time and at any Nuclear reactor in the world. We have been very lucky that this does not happen too often. But it very easily could. And we are dealing with Nuclear Radiation here. Its effects spread globally and do not remain confined to the borders of the country suffering such an accident. And let us not even talk about the effects of Nuclear Radiation from such accidents on life.

Even if we rule out the human error factor, or even the computer error part, in causing a Nuclear accident, as strict security measures have been taken in Nuclear plants the world over to prevent incidents such as Chernobyl (or so they tell us), the natural disaster risk factor would always remain there. We still have a long way to go when it comes to fighting the catastrophic effects of natural disasters, but we must not forget that the secondary disasters in their aftermath are usually a creation of our own.

Revisit Chernobyl after 25 years.

For The Effects of Chernobyl on the Wildlife After 25 Years, from National Geographic, Click here.

Not much use in generating power in a way which will not leave anyone who would need it in the first place.

Pretty short sighted for an intelligent species.

Worrying About Your Country

Are you one of the people who find it odd to carry out a long conversation with a stranger, or an acquaintance that you do not feel like talking to too much? Especially when it is intended to pass time and to overcome an instance of social awkwardness of one type, only to put you into another.

Whether you like it or not, but the only purpose worrying about your country is serving these days is offering a good subject of unwanted but inevitable conversation with a stranger or an acquaintance that you do not feel like talking to, but have to. Or maybe, have always been.

Always works.

However, you may always not get to say what you really want to say or think.

Depends on the person, and even the time and the place, and the stakes…

Oh well, have to live with it.

P. S. This post is dedicated to Pakistan

Pakistan Needs an Ambedkar

B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956)

This is to offer a tribute to one of the greatest figures in the History of India, B. R. Ambedkar, who was a political leader, a scholar and most of all a legislator and thinker, on his birthday. He was one of the people whose vision combined the various ethnicities, states, languages and religions of India. There is not much you can say to admire this great man, except for the fact that you recognize his services for the Modern Republic of India.

Even if I am not an Indian national, it gives me great pride and joy to even know that such a man served India, and I would be as much proud had I been one. His work pertaining to the untouchables and underprivileged castes of India has played a phenomenal role in at least earning them their rightful status as equal citizens in a badly segmented and segregated society.

He was the Chairman of the Drafting Commission of the Constitution of India, a secular, socialist and democratic foundation of the Indian state, which combined its various castes, creeds, cults and states under the flag of the Union. Ambedkar can be the source of inspiration not just for Indians, but for anyone around the world who believes in secular values, equality, justice and liberty. And perhaps no other country needs thinkers and figures like Ambedkar than Pakistan.

Pakistan, struggling with its internal conflicts of ethnic and religious nature, has been plagued by a community-oriented constitution. While making such a change would not fix everything overnight, but it would offer just the right start and the foundation to build a stronger and prosperous country.

Pakistan needs an Ambedkar.

The Bottom Line About the HEC

Well, the bottom line about the HEC is this.

An institution is never a problem in itself, the people who run it could be. So you get those people replaced and make them manage it in a better way.

You don’t dissolve the SECP, for instance, just because for some reason, the people who run it are not doing their jobs properly up to the required standards. The HEC is a regulatory and control authority of the education, just like the SECP is for business. If the SECP is not following better standards, the only way to go about it is making corrective measures instead of its dissolution.

But making that argument does not mean that I support the anti-devolution policies of some political parties in Pakistan. Of course, every province has the right not only to control, although how much they would coordinate with each other, given the level of national unity in Pakistan right now, is another matter. As we see with a number of other provincial subjects.

Of course, devolution should be promoted. But how is devolution not possible under the auspices of the HEC, I fail to understand. You could always restructure it. Even simple business organizations are restructured every now and then. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the HEC is an institution of the Government of Pakistan. It is a part of the government of the President and the Prime Minister, who could take actions in that direction.

While the federal control is wrong in theory as far as advocacy for provincial decentralization is concerned, I think it can be considered that it will bring order and discipline to the education system in the country, could provide arbitration in case of disputes over fund allocation from the federal government in liaison with the provincial governments, apart from provincial budgeting, and uniformity in the educational standards across the country, if that is what we are aiming for, hardly though.

You just cannot shut down an organization just because it is neglecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Of course, it would not be a part of the HEC charter that Sindh and Balochistan should be deprived. This shows that there is something wrong with the people running the HEC in that regard, who may be deliberately resorting to such policy, and that could happen with any other institute, which has to deal with the provinces on a federal level.

The argument here should be whether we can make the devolution possible within the structure of the HEC without abolishing it, how to minimize its practices that deprive some provinces as far as education is concerned and how to decentralize the control into provincial subsidiaries of the organization.

However, it is nevertheless the right of the people of every province to control their own matters pertaining to education, so if the recent changes offer a good alternative with this solution, well no one should really be upset, unless of course things start to turn out wrong and educational institutes start to suffer. Though, some people are of the opinion that the dissolution of the HEC was not really necessary for that.

The argument of HEC preferring quantity over the quality of the Ph. D. degrees is yet another example of how an organization is being managed instead of something being fundamentally wrong with the purpose of an organization. Well, you tell the chairman of the HEC to improve its standards to really achieve the standards it really boasts about, instead of shutting it down for it.

You do not shut down an organization because it is not working properly right away. You make corrective measures. So while I do agree that UGC could do everything that the HEC could, and it was rather unnecessary to form the HEC in the first place in a way, I think it still makes no sense to convert the HEC back to either the UGC or the provincial educational ministries or respective structures. I mean, why all the shuffling?

But that is not just the point.  Everything about the HEC episode has been political point scoring right from its creation to dissolution, apparently, with due respect to the constitutional amendments.

The truth is that this organization was created for political point scoring as well, as obviously the case with the dissolution, in which case I could be wrong, because the HEC has added value to the way education has been delivered in Pakistan, whether through foreign aid or not. But the point is, if something is working better than your average Pakistani institute, why shut it down?

Remember the “elected mayor (Nazim) or the district commissioner from the beauracracy” debate, and the subsequent decisions? Yes, that happened during the term of the current democratic government as well. Whatever happened to devolution at that time? But the Nazim over the Commissionerate System had one thing in common with the HEC; it was introduced during the term of the military dictator President Pervez Musharraf. So obviously, terminal problems with it.

And if my argument does not make any sense, then I would gladly recommend the federal government to suspend all similar other organizations on the federal level, which pertain to provincial subjects in the constitution, to create their respective provincial equivalents, so that we could devolve in a much better way. I am sure a lot of institutions are neglecting Sindh and Balochistan in a lot of other things too.

Why touch education only, especially when you do not even bother about it in any way otherwise and only spend no more than 2% of your GDP on it? And I have heard all the respected educational experts ranting frantically on the local TV that even that much is not spent fully or properly. According to a lot of them, funds are not as much an issue as the intent is. And I have heard the defense budget is recommended to be raised by an insane 18% this year, especially when you are broke as a country.

And Senator Raza Rabbani, who is doing an excellent job legislating by the way, is way too smart not to know all that. But I am happy about his clarifications and assurances in his latest press conference, and let us hope things will move in a better direction.

The issue with the people blindly supporting the decision of dissolution is that they do not want to see the matter the other way, since the decision about it has been taken by the party. Not that the supporters of other political parties are any better, especially the parties who signed the 18th Amendment without considering the possibility of the dissolution of the HEC and are complaining now, which speaks volumes about their incompetence.

But it is just not about creating hurdles to the provincial autonomy. Nothing too wrong with dissolving the HEC, and actually we should welcome the change if it is really positive, being optimists, but only if you have solid reasons for it.

However, if you are against the dissolution of the HEC, here is the other side of the picture by Marvi Sirmed, which is the best argument that I can find as yet, which clarifies that the problem lies in the federal control of the institution. Although I am still not convinced by the article how an organization like the HEC is all-evil.

Of course, the HEC is not the Schutzstaffel.

The Politically Religious

In the English language, the adjective “religious” is used to mean in one of its contexts, to quote Merriam Webster as one of the many possible sources, for being scrupulously and conscientiously faithful, or fervent or zealous.

Well, perhaps the expression “doing or following something religiously” is used because the religious adhere to faith without much reasoning. Similar is the case with some people in the political sphere, who may or may not have anything to do with religious political parties or a religion even (clarifying just because I used the term “religious” in the post, and also to exaggerate the fact that they are perfectly smart folks), but who would adhere to their political parties so religiously that they would even justify the obviously wrong actions that their parties have been resorting to.

And this happens in the case of almost all the political parties around the world, no one singled out. And let me be clear again, it is actions, or say even statements, and not ideology that is being discussed here.

They would justify actions that any sane man would question and would object to, just because of their affiliation with a party. I guess it would not be incorrect if I take the liberty to call them “The Politically Religious”.

They are either not sincere to their countries or humanity, or are more sincere to their political parties than their countries or humanity, which is perfectly fine and rather admirable, and the only way this behavior would make sense, well to me at least.

In either case, their principle, if there is one, is beyond my understanding.

In the end, to quote Mark Twain:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government (party?) when it deserves it.

Though the last refuge of a scoundrel…


NOTE: If you have been offended by this post, then let me clarify the fact that if you do criticize your political party for all its nonsense, then this post is not talking about you. If you are feeling offended anyway,  then you may or may not even know that what nonsense your political party is or has been up to, and I am glad that I successfully offended you. Nothing personal though and I support your freedom to uphold your opinion. If you know that you have been at it and have not been offended, then you are fit to become a politician, if you are not one already. I have been as general and discreet in my manner of putting forth my argument as possible. You will find your specific examples when you come across them and will not have to work as hard for finding them as you would have for reading these lines. However, my sincere apologies and respects to the genuinely religious folks, that is, only if you disapprove of suicide-bombers and preaching.