Misguided Sense of Entitlement

Source: onlineindus.com

Source: onlineindus.com

Last few weeks have seen people coming together and protesting against the oppression of the “private school mafia”, or as one newspaper puts it, cartel. While it sounds really good to save the middle class from the rising prices of private education, most of us have started mistaking these private institutions as government subsidized utilities.

Probably it’s not really the fault of a misguided population, which does not like paying any taxes and expects government regulation to subsidize or, worse, enforce a price ceiling. However, this does not take away the notion that the government has no business in regulating the tuition fee rates. Instead of trying to demand a service that they are not able to purchase, people should try sending their children to more affordable private schools. Even better, they are always welcome to try public schools, which are not as terrible as many would like you to believe in major cities.

But then again, we have recognized education as a right in the Article 25-A of the cherished 18th amendment, promising the provision of free education up to high school. I totally support the idea, as cruel the joke maybe on the people of Pakistan. And though it is easy to say that we pay enough taxes to fund that, pretty much everyone would agree that public education would need more funding to work. Even those who consider funding public education an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer.

However, who knew that the right to free education now means the government forcing schools to lower their tuition fee? This sort of false sense of entitlement is unhealthy and unreasonable.

The best thing about the private sector is that it offers you such multitude of options. You don’t need to remain confined to any one choice. You could always reject a private school for its pricing, but those whining why a certain educational institute charges this much to admit students have other goals in mind.

You could argue about the greater need of education funding, but that would only mean paying for public schools, unless the government collaborates with NGOs. Apart from the mismanagement and lack of willing workers in remote areas, the public school infrastructure itself is lacking, requiring greater state funding for improved performance.

However, complaints about private schools ripping people off are understandable when so many urban citizens rely on private schools for quality education. Now some troublemakers may cite that as an argument against public education, but this does not mean that the public schools are any less popular among people with lower income groups.

As a matter of fact, tuition fee subsidies for private school student do not sound like a very bad idea under the circumstances. Though more progressive of commentators would like to see a rather regressive transition of the society entirely to the public schools.

But do we need to shove a standard public school system down everyone’s throats?

Again, the notion of establishing such social justice and standardization sounds very good to the ears. But it is like enforcing a system and curriculum of education on millions of unwilling people, and is a violation of personal freedom, freedom of education, and arguably freedom of speech.

What we need are democratic leaders standing up to this sort of nonsense that populist parties have been feeding to the public, especially if the matter come up for debate in the parliament. However, I hardly expect it from any member of the legislature, though I would be pleasantly surprised if someone did.

What we certainly don’t need in the legislature are the sort of recommendations a recent editorial offered, that is, the mandatory requirement for legislators to send their children to public schools in the wake of response to the private educational institute “crisis.” Whether serious or a dark satire in this context, as citizens of a democracy, we need to fight such political ideas of absolutism and utopian mandate in order to preserve individual freedom.

But maybe the legislators should be forced to send their children to school to public schools, because they passed the 18th amendment without giving a second thought to what it actually meant apparently. Especially when the national budget allocated for education does not provide for the colossal task. Probably to them it is just a common recurring election promise for all the parties so that they can win people’s vote for its pursuit.

Nevertheless, demands for regulating or even nationalizing private educational institutes are everything wrong about Pakistani politics today. This is why people need every service subsidized without paying enough taxes to back the spending.

But with political leaders like these, can you blame them?

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Just When You Needed Establishment GOP Candidates To Do Well…

Source: AP/ktar.com

Source: AP/ktar.com

Just when you needed the establishment GOP candidates to do well at this point in history, American conservatives seem to be having a populist Tea Party-like awakening. Well, sort of.

Despite the terrible run, not many people would have expected Senator Lindsey Graham to have come to the forefront in the second Republican debate. I personally believe he was in the wrong debate, and should have been in the prime time debate. Nevertheless, he lacks either the polling numbers or the popularity among the American public to have made it.

But hearing Senator Lindsey Graham in the September 16 Republican Presidential nomination debate makes you wonder what on earth went wrong. While he is not the sort of Republican who would greatly offend the liberals, Graham is not always the most popular person in the media, probably due to his uncompromising foreign policy views and reputation as a hawk. In my opinion, ironically, a hawk is what is needed to take on ISIS and the situation in Syria and Iraq.

However, there is a reason why Lindsey Graham and his relatively more accepted partner in crime in the Senate, John McCain, sound so dangerous to the American people. Because they almost always have war on their mind pertaining to the scenario in the Middle East, and sure it just sounds as evil as Dick Cheney. Nevertheless, right now the world needs moral leadership in the White House when it comes to the ISIS issue, and candidates from both the parties should be making a similar pitch, because it is a shame that the most unpopular candidate is making it.

Just when you thought that the Republican base needed to support more establishment candidates, such as Jeb Bush and Senator Graham himself, you would find the disillusioned voters polling in favor of Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, and lately Carly Fiorina. Of course, just about any Republican candidate offers at least some will to fight ISIS and these “political outsiders” are not any different. But are they electable?

Many voters, particularly those on the liberal side of the political spectrum are worried about Trump’s anti-immigration and perceivably xenophobic rhetoric, something further worsened by his refusal to correct an Islamophobic question from a supporter in his New Hampshire rally.

On the other hand, Mike Huckabee, popular with evangelicals, is strongly standing by the side of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis who refused to issue licenses for gay marriage. And the uncompromising and strong headed Senator Ted Cruz, who is urging the leadership to push the defunding of Planned Parenthood to the point of shutting down the government, following the release of controversial sting videos.

In the debate, Lindsey Graham thwarts the idea of shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, he thought that it was futile to pursue the idea during the term of President Obama. He was probably the only one acknowledging the good social welfare.

For all the criticism that the GOP is bombarded with by the Democrats and American progressive liberals, the establishment views of the party are nowhere near the sort of material the front runners are providing these days for political satires.

According to a new CNN poll, Trump is still leading, while another political outsider Carly Fiorina has dramatically jumped to the second spot, owing to her strong debate performances. Dr. Ben Carson, who just made a statement that a Muslim should not become the American President, is still in top three. And Lindsey Graham is still stuck at 1%.

Fortunately, many believe the primary system is designed to make people like Jeb Bush get the nomination, instead of people like Donald Trump. Despite the polls, mood of the Republican voters, and that he is a Bush.

I am not too sure about that.

This post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Saudi Authorities Need to Answer for the Mecca Crane Tragedy

Source: AP/Indian Express

Source: AP/Indian Express

There is a certain problem with dealing with Arab world in general and with Saudi Arabia in particular. You never really expect a complete, comprehensible answer about anything from them. Some would say the same is true for Iran, China, North Korea, and Russia, but you cannot help but observe that about Saudi Arabia, considering how closely they are allied to the Western democracies.

Now call me a bigot comedian, but that is almost always the case when the Saudis screw something up. No matter who the party that they are dealing with is, they never expect to get an answer from the Saudis, and they hardly ever get one anyway. That has been the sad history, and they really are hardly accountable to anyone. And I am sure it’s not because of the language barrier.

I am sure that the Saudi Kingdom is going to offer no explanations this time around either, or even any solid assurances, about the horrifying Mecca crane tragedy. I have heard that there is a probe going on though. Earlier in September, a giant crane fell into the massive courtyard of the Al-Haraam Mosque full of pilgrims on a stormy night, killing more than a hundred and injuring several. People of various nationalities died that day, due to an accident that clearly could have been avoided by removing all those cranes in the first place altogether, for example.

We all recall the time when scores of pilgrims used to die due to the regular stampedes occurring in Mina, where the ritual of the stoning of the Satan is performed. The administrators have made great arrangements to make the process become more organized, so that such disasters be avoided. Apparently, the measures have been a tremendous success as you hardly ever hear about such a problem anymore, and it is a tremendous relief.

It is unreasonable to doubt the concern and intentions of Saudi authorities about the safety and well being of the pilgrims and no one is doing so anyway, considering the billions they spend every year for the maintenance and upkeep of the premises of the mosque complex in Mecca and Medina. Of course, they cannot afford to risk their reputation for ensuring and promoting the safety, security, and comfort of the pilgrims, whether for religious or secular reasons. Surely, the religious pilgrims would not stop flocking to Mecca no matter how terrible the conditions are, as many of them would find it a blessing to die there without having any regard for the families they are leaving behind. But I hope the Saudi authorities do not share their religious fanaticism and would think otherwise.

They must ensure the world that the Hajj or the pilgrimage is safe, now that the great ritual for this year is only a few days away .

They need to explain to the world why they have turned the Mosque Al-Haraam into a constant construction site. And if they are hell-bent to do so, why are they allowing millions of pilgrim in the premises under such dangerous conditions.

Probably people in the administration have taken the advice of development and construction for pilgrimage safety a bit too literal, so much so that they have started exposing common pilgrims to the dangers that a construction worker in Saudi Arabia faces every other day.

I have always been skeptical of the safety of the entire process of the pilgrimage, though many would say that is precisely the point, always warning family members about it and anxious about their safety every time I hear someone is leaving for it or if one of those stampedes occurred. So yes, I know what it is like to come close to losing a family member to such a tragedy, not too different to learning about a plane crash that you suspect your relative is on. It’s not a good feeling.

So the Saudi authorities might want to assure the people of the safety of the construction-site like mosque they are offering for pilgrimage this time around, unless it is the theme for the year. They also owe an explanation not only to several countries the citizens of which lost their lives needlessly to an avoidable accident, but to the entire world.

But like always, there will be no one around to ask the question in the first place.

Besides, I have heard only Muslims are allowed to enter Mecca.

In any case, go at your own risk.

This post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Why Pakistan Must Stand Up Against ISIS

Source: ISPR/Dawn

Source: ISPR/Dawn

Just when you thought that the Obama administration is going to forsake the Middle East at the mercy of the menacingly destructive ISIS, there is finally a little ray of hope. According to a news report, the recent trip of the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice to Pakistan involved discussion of building an alliance against the Islamic State. In other words, the United States would be asking Pakistan’s help to deal with the situation, though it’s still wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, this offers Pakistan yet another opportunity to lead the world by example in fighting terrorism, as was the case in the global war against Islamist terrorism following 9/11. As a matter of fact, international military action against ISIS is far overdue. The silence of the UN Security Council on the matter has been shameful to say the least. Only Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan have retaliated weakly to the Islamic State, and that too, when their own borders and soldiers were threatened.

If Pakistan does respond to the call of the United States to join such a coalition, it would only be fulfilling its duty as a responsible member of the international community. No other country of the world should be an exception. As a matter of fact, all capable powers around the world should rise up to the challenge of ISIS.

There are a lot of people around the world who are blaming the Obama administration for being indirectly responsible for the current situation in Iraq and Syria. The Obama Administration with its half measures to depose Assad has helped turning Syria into a mass graveyard, and as the indirect consequence of which, ISIS has captured large parts of both Iraq and Syria, establishing its own state.

However, the most painful part of this story remains to be how the world has treated the Kurds. The 2003 Iraq War had finally given the Kurds an opportunity to found an independent state after decades of struggle and oppression by at least three major powers in the region. Even today, Kurds are still surrounded by enemies, with the worst of them all, ISIS, is barely being kept at bay by the Peshmarga. However, they cannot help but feel betrayed by their Western liberators, as their hopes of independence are in jeopardy again. Helping them, especially the Yazidi population, is almost a moral duty.

ISIS is slaughtering innocent civilians and is destroying the cultural heritage of the Middle East. It is simply a shame that not even a single nation in the world has decided to stand up to this challenge and tackle the growth of ISIS. As a matter of fact, the Iranians and the Syrians have been on the forefront to fight this menace. But this needs to change, if the world wants to see a substantial change in the current situation in the Middle East, which has given rise to probably the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

I know there are a lot of people who would warn against entering another of “America’s wars,” reminding of the wave of terrorist attacks that followed throughout the country. Wars are never without a cost, but staying out of one is not always the more peaceful and safest option. Taking action against ISIS is as important as it was to fight against the Nazi Third Reich. While we mourn the death of Aylan Kurdi, which in all seriousness may or may not have anything to do with the Syrian civil war directly, but it would be even better if we focus our attention to the elements that are destroying the homes of Syrian families, including their dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

The allies must ask themselves why Assad is still in power, and if he is to be tolerated in Damascus, then what is the point of continuing support for the Syrian opposition? And what is the point of fueling this fire from a distance when we know that Putin’s forces are now in Syria. Maybe, they could help offer some help against the IS militants after all.

Does this mean that the anti-Assad powers around the world had a part to play of depriving millions of Syrians of their homes? All this destruction for nothing? It would simply be irresponsible to leave the situation in its current state just because bad intervention had caused the deterioration. Faux doves must be resisted both in the West and in the Muslim majority countries.

But apart from the trouble that Syrian nationals have been facing, we must not forget that ISIS is a real threat to the Pakistani state as well. Evidence has been found of ISIS presence and influence within Pakistan, and the Foreign Office has recognized the group as a threat to the national security.

However, Pakistan is not unique in being threatened by the growth of ISIS. Pretty much every nation in the world that values freedom is feeling threatened by the existence of this group directly or indirectly, especially those close to the Middle East. Considering the inaction of the Sunni Arab states, it is also important to fight ISIS to avoid offering it the privilege and legitimacy of being the de facto force of Sunni resistance against the Iranian Shia political influence, especially in Iraq and Syria.

A lot of people in Pakistan and in other Muslim majority countries like to blame ISIS on the enemies of Islam, by which they are referring to the United States, the EU and the allies such as Israel. Even if that is true, it should give Muslim majority countries and Arab states all the more reason to come together and get rid of this dangerous group that has been effectively demonizing the faith that represents their identity. Of course, Israel must play its part in fighting the ISIS as well.

We should be proud that Pakistan has been the front line state in the war against terrorism after 9/11. We should continue this honorable tradition of eradicating terrorist groups. We have celebrated the valor and sacrifice of our servicemen and women on the Defense day. It is important that we prepare ourselves to take on the threats that are jeopardizing the survival of civilization in the region as we know it at the same time.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.