The Rules of the Game

I was thinking about wars. I often do. It has become a part of the way we think. But the thought about war is never necessarily based on fear. It is even based on what life really is. On what human beings are and what the meaning of their existence is.

But talking about wars should not necessarily make you grim. Well the most you can do is to stay alive and stay out of the way of danger, like taking shelter from the storm. That is the sane thing to do. People die, like animals are slaughtered, and there is nothing much you can do about it, can you? Or maybe you can.

Nobody chooses to be in the path of war. We take a lot of things in life for granted, for example our homes. It makes sense but it is hard for people to leave their homes and settle elsewhere if you tell them that living in a coastal city is dangerous due to the ever-increasing threat of hurricanes.

The truth is that most people can barely make both ends meet, let alone the idea of relocating for survival. It is even harder for people to get out of the path of the storm called war, then the ones sent by nature. It is hard to find shelter when no one is prepared to offer you one. Not everyone is so lucky and politicians around the world thrive on spewing venom against immigrants and refugees.

The Fischer-Spassky Chess Games

Alright, everyone has their geographical, economic and political restrictions. But I was just wondering. Since we are the most intelligent species in the Universe, or so we think, can we not avoid casualties for something that is decided in the end anyway?

Why do we wage wars? For land and for money, and for power, the rest of the things are pretty much nonsense of course. Can we not settle that on a game of Chess (remember the Fischer v Spassky games in the Cold War years), or even better on a game of Diplomacy. Diplomacy, a “board game” created by Allan B. Calhamer based on the pre-World War I scenario in Europe involving seven European powers “fighting” for domination. The game is the best that I know of when it comes to geopolitical strategy among games.

The Standard Diplomacy Map

And it does not use dice like Risk, so you can be sure that it is not a game of luck. It is more suitable to decide wars than Chess, because it literally allows you to control the map as a Head of State, fight with other countries, make allies and enemies and use your Diplomacy skills to dominate the map.

The best thing about the game, like Chess, is that you can really make your enemy feel bitter and defeated without actually killing anyone.

We could decide which country gets what province over a game of Diplomacy, or Chess, whenever a war is declared. If only it were that simple. But states have fallen without any bloodshed whatsoever in the past.  It all depends on what your priorities are.

Yes, go ahead, call me an idealist, or insane.

But it nevertheless is an idea, which someone can take if they want.

I know it is unlikely to happen, but the possibility of its occurrence is as great as the possibility of someone being willing to do so.

If we ever wanted to avoid all those casualties I think.

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Because She Needs to be Heard

Posting an Asma Jehangir interview on a news channel talk show. I must say we need more citizens like her to put the things in order in Pakistan and she has been known to bravely speak her mind. The video is in Urdu and is strictly for Pakistanis, and sorry no translations available. If you consider people speaking like her as “traitors”, as she put it, then think about it yourself. If you are wondering what she is saying, she is only telling people to do their jobs. Not much comments needed, the video covers everything, with an interesting title too.

Speaking the truth is patriotism,  if it is such a good thing, not worshiping idols.

Any Ideas for Self-Reliance?

Nobody can deny the fact that a strong economy makes a strong country. Despite recalling Stanley Kubrick’s brutal quote that great nations have always acted like gangsters and small nations like prostitutes, I would really like to overlook all the realism, because after all the truth is that only self-reliance can help a country earn a strong place among the nations of the world.  Pakistan is quite large actually, so presuming that it could do a fairly decent job. This is why I think, like so many of the Pakistani “nationalist” parties, although I don’t share their vain fervor, that Pakistan should rely on its own resources instead of the US or other foreign aid.

Today, May 20, we received the good news that the Government of Punjab has finally taken the lead in doing so and have cancelled no less than 6 MoUs that were meant to help for health, education and solid waste management. I can’t recall myself being happier than I am right now because finally someone in Pakistan has some ideas to utilize local resources for resolving these troubling issues, which are among the greatest problem areas in Pakistan.  I appreciate that and wish the rest of the country would have such ideas as well. But is it really so?

Wait, isn’t the Government of Punjab broke? And why have they chosen the areas of health, education and solid waste management for canceling the aid agreements? Would that not have been useful instead, since they are not being able to properly offer those facilities otherwise anyway? Do the people of Punjab have good access to health services? Are the medical professionals in the province even being paid well? Why has not the Pakistani military, the defenders of the nation, ever graced the nation with cancelling the US military aid deals which we can very much do without? Even the US people would thank us for that. But why civilian aid, and why these particular areas of the economy?

Despite those troubling questions, let us be optimists instead of cynics. I really expect them to find a way out. Although they have little idea that acquiring additional loans is as disastrous to self-reliance as are the aid grants, but I still expect the Government of Punjab to mobilize local resources to arrange for funds for the needful area of health, education and solid waste management. The presentation of the federal and provincial budgets is just around the corner anyway. I hope they come up with something better than the “Sasti Roti Scheme“.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but this only looks like a political statement and nothing realistic. Don’t feel excited, Pakistani people, it is the same old story. But we can still change our minds if the Punjab Government can offer an alternative plan of financing the public service projects that the US aid was supposed to cover. Yes, we want to hear some solid financing plans and not just political slogans of “breaking the beggar’s bowl”. Well, guess what. The “beggar’s bowl” has not been broken, because the beggar is still there. Either admit that you are a nation that needs aid, especially from the United States, for building its infrastructure and providing basic necessities to its citizens, or stop with the self-reliance nonsense if you are not able to offer the people what they deserve, if you really want to offer them that, that is.

But isn’t it hopeless to expect any sense from a country which allocates only 0.7% of its GDP on health, which is only 0.26% of the budget expenditure (Rs. 7.3 b) and barely over 1% of the budget expenditure on education (Rs. 34.5 b). Check the Budget in Brief 2010-11. So does the United States Congress recommend us to compile and approve our fiscal plans? I don’t think so. We do that ourselves and these are the priorities we have for our people. That is all we can spend on their health and education. And the fact that a 12% increase is proposed in military spending this year (Rs. 495 b from Rs. 442 b, roughly 16% of the budget expenditure in 2010-11), only adds insult to injury. Don’t believe me, check this out. It may not be too accurate, but tells the story.

Also see how Pakistan ranks among the countries of the world as far as the expenses on defense, health and education are concerned. Not even in the top 100 in the education list. Maybe there is a problem with the people who are running the country, instead of with foreign aid.

Percentages never lie because they show what your priorities are, despite your volume.

OK, enough with the criticism. Let’s talk about the plans for arranging some revenue. Federal subject or provincial subject, how about taxing the rich? Even the United States, the country which supposedly violated our sovereignty is concerned about the way we collect our taxes. I mean, come on, at least they are honest, even if they violate your sovereignty every now and then. So would you tax the richest in Pakistan for generating more revenue? Do let us know if you can, because that principle is very much contrary to whatever you believe in? But there hardly is any other way of achieving sovereignty and self-reliance, is there?

The fact of the matter is that every politician or public figure should be required to present a feasible alternative financial plan whenever they are talking about self-reliance or taking steps like canceling aid agreements for civilian use, or else they should shut up or stop fooling the general public with the ideas of self-reliance and national sovereignty because their standard of living will suffer for their politics. Yes, accepting foreign aid and loans makes you vulnerable as a country, but in order to be self-reliant and independent, you need to have an income and a way to finance all your expenditure.

Alright, maybe I’m only as creative as Imran Khan in my ideals for nationalistic economic freedom, such as tax collection. Any ideas for Self-Reliance anybody? Anything concrete? Maybe it’s only good in theory.

Was our self-reliance not violated when we accepted the Chinese offer for aid and soft term loans? I’d say no to that as well, because it compromises your self-reliance. And what about those 50 JF-17 jets that we want to receive before too long? Defense, cool, but can we afford that? Pakistan faces a power shortfall of 6,000 MWs as I write these lines. Where did we get that kind of cash from?  Or is China “granting us those jets”, like aid.

Maybe we could sell those jets to buy furnace oil for our power generators, or even better to increase the health and education budget for the children of FATA, KP, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan.

We, the People, don’t give a shit about jets which will never be used to improve our lives.

Pakistanis: Why They Talk About Sovereignty?

Courtesy: The Nation

Every nation in the world is fed with lies in one form or another in order to control  them and to keep them united. No exceptions, I’d be glad if there was one. Some are fed with fear, some with vain pride. The lies of some countries are truer than others, while that of the others are falser. And no surprise, some lies have also been fed to the Pakistani nation.

Recently, some of the people have come to terms with the fact that their sovereignty is actually non-existent, especially after all the US drone strikes, which according to the Wikileaks are “quietly approved” by the Pakistani government itself, and now people are also offended at the United States Navy SEALs operation at Abbottabad against Osama Ben Laden, although their sovereignty was actually violated by none other than the most wanted terrorist in the world. Something that has embarrassed the Pakistani military in front of the nation (and the whole world) for a change, even if you consider local conspiracy theories. Anyway.

But still people talk about sovereignty, despite knowing there is no such thing. There are two reasons to that. Firstly, they would still not believe that their sovereignty is non-existent because of their conditioning. This is what the text books say, that Pakistan is a sovereign nation, the fortress of Islam and all that, and this is what they have been growing up believing in. What is happening right now to the beliefs and ideals of the Pakistani nation is a case of cognitive dissonance.

Secondly, because some of them, who realize that they actually have no sovereignty, aspire to attain it, which is every nation’s right I guess. They want to see their country sovereign, respected and powerful, like all the prominent nations in the world. But the question is how are you going to attain it? I am not a big fan of the nationalism crap but if they really want to do that, apart from stopping sheltering terrorists like Ben Laden, they should  start building themselves economically.

But then again, that is another story…