Privatization, Authoritarianism and Democracy

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

Nothing has aroused my curiosity about the Constitution of Pakistan as much as the plethora of executive decisions issued out of the Prime Minister House and the Federal Cabinet. Is that even democratic?

Whatever the answer, most people do not even bother about that.

There is no surprise that a parliament that unanimously voted to pass the 18th Amendment containing the Article 63 (A) would find excessive executive power the least of its problems. It goes without saying that most Pakistanis are not only happy with that, but many of them have no problems with authoritarianism in general.

There is no shortage of people approving excessive executive power all around the world, even in the United States, since things get done faster this way. Who wants to waste time in stupid voting procedures when the executive can get everything done with the stroke of a pen?

Well, there is a right way of doing the right thing, and then there is the wrong way. Which by the way, is what you think is the right way. It could really be a solution, or not.

This is why a lot of people think that a lot more things get done when dictators rule the country. Well, that is true, but their unchecked progress is also matched by unchecked tyranny and no accountability. This is why such authoritarian measures should have no place in a democracy.

Take privatization for an example. Consider the news report of the approval of the sale of 26% of shares of national airline PIA by the Privatization Commission Board and the relevant Cabinet Committee. Note how it reports that the decision of the Privatization Commission Board would be final. While it seems logical that experts are making the decision, it makes no sense politically.

Even if the Constitution allows for this channel of decision making, it would be largely flawed, in my opinion.

There is hardly any doubt that privatization is the need of the hour for Pakistan. I am all for it. Not only because of the burden of massive losses, but because the government is not supposed to and is unable to run corporations. Simply because these corporations are supposed to be managed like businesses and governments would not do that.

However, it matters how the process of privatization is carried out. It cannot simply be the decision of one man, or the Privatization Commission Board or ministry bureaucrats to convert ownership of the shares of an institution from public to private. The parliament must vote on the motion, in both the lower and upper houses.

As a matter of fact, the Constitution of Pakistan does provide that a Money bill should originate in the lower house, as per Article 71 (I), if I am not wrong. The sale of share of PIA or any other public entity could easily be considered a matter pertaining to money, as it would concern the change in capital, if not revenue, of the state at the federal level.

A lot of people would argue that referring the matter to the parliament would be another way of killing the issue at hand. That voting in the legislature encourages obstructionism. It may be so, but that is the right thing to do.

I am worried that Pakistani federal and provincial legislatures hardly ever vote for important issues, other than electing each other. Which makes me think they are not doing what they are hired to do.

And this, along with many recently introduced constitutional provisions, hint toward increasing trends of authoritarianism among democratic legislators in the country. Though it was never absent, arguably.

Allowing obstructionism is necessary for upholding democratic values.

Serving the Servants

It is often said that Pakistan was created for Muslims. This statement should be amended to replace the word Muslims with Muslim government servants.

And for a good reason. Because government servants, especially the ones in the military and some particular departments of the civil bureaucracy (of course, some government servants are more equal than others), get the facilities from the state that even most millionaires in the country cannot dream of.

I know Pakistan is not the only country in the world in which such practice is prevalent. As a matter of fact, there would be very few countries in which government servants are not being offered special treatment of some sort. But then again, in many of those countries, the people are offered as good facilities as the ones the government servants are availing.

We, the people of Pakistan, have been taught since childhood, most probably by the same government servants, that Pakistan was meant to be an Islamic welfare state. So what exactly does a welfare state do? It provides for the welfare of the general public. Very few signs of that in Pakistan.

The military and certain civil bureaucrats get guaranteed free medical and healthcare insurance and facilities, almost-free, if not free, housing from the state and many many more perks.

Then there is this perception of government servants being superior to common people or civilians. Though not politically correct, you can hardly consider this perception false, as in every way, power, authority, security protocol, preferred treatment and luxury, these government servants, and their friends among civilians, seem way superior to other ordinary people.

This is why middle class children like me are strictly instructed to become a government servant. So that I can be granted entry into the echelons of power, luxury and authority, and not to forget, money, that the rich and lucrative powerhouses of government service offer. Doesn’t everyone want to live an exclusivist dream? Sour grapes for someone who would try and fail, but even if I got there, I would have only become guilty of doing the same which I criticize. But then again, is there something to feel guilty about at all?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with enjoying the perks that come with a certain professional position. But what indeed is wrong is being neglectful of the responsibilities towards the people that those offices sanction. What indeed seems inappropriate to me is the way these personnel are trained to treat “common people”, who they are actually supposed to answer to and serve, and who are actually paying for their lifestyle.

Not only have I been in contact with such people at one time in my life or another, but I have even seen the world from their viewpoint. They are welcomed into their training academies with the realization that they are the best among the people they have been chosen from, and certainly have a reason to be proud of themselves. Or at least have a right to consider themselves superior to their former equals.

Of course, there is no doubt that these personnel work very hard for their country and deserve all the care they get. My point is not really to deny them of their pleasures, but to at least provide just a fraction of that to the general public, who like it or not, are paying for their housing authorities, medical facilities, education, foreign tours and even their salaries.

It certainly does become frightening when people start making a distinction between the state and the people. Because after all, there is a distinction. Through very elementary observations, you would find that there is hardly anything in common between the state and the people, in which the former plays the captor, while the latter, the enslaved.

I am not even morally pissed off at the rightful arrogance of these able and qualified professionals. First of all, it’s meaningless to object to it, and secondly, a third person could possibly extract little to no pleasure to take their special attention away. All I am asking for is free health and education for the general public of Pakistan.

If a little girl living in Lodhran or Badin needs a surgery for a transplant, why cannot the state pay for that, if it can pay for the surgery of an army officer’s child?

Why is that the domain of the corrupt and incompetent politicians?

Putting a Price on Food

Source: shc.edu

Maybe we are missing something as humans. What we are really missing is realizing that we actually are animals and that we started out in the wild. Agriculture was not always there and neither were sophisticated cooking techniques. No doubt that resorting to the wild survival instincts would be frowned upon in the civilization. But why in the world would anyone do that when you have no other choice? After all, you need to survive.

Maybe it is a little audacious to declare that it is something humans are missing. Well, not all of them are. Maybe it is taken for granted in the civilized world, where food is abundant.  But it doesn’t matter as you could always get the food in the wild, unless you are living in a desert, or worse, a drought-stricken land. Hey, people have been surviving in the deserts for centuries. All you have to hope is that life exists there in one form or the other, because that is all you can eat. You eat life.

After all, animals eat and survive too and why expect that humans would be any different? No one is supplying them food, or even caring about how they get them. They survive, or they die.

Why do people get to the point of starving to death anyway? Why do they let themselves get to that point of no return? The point when someone from the civilized world has to come to them and feed them and photograph them and to publish the pictures around to collect funds for paying for their food? Why don’t they simply go hunting in the wild like their ancestors and eat anything that moves.

I think food is the most basic necessity that you could think of. It is the most basic of the basic human rights. Wait, not just human rights. Food is the right of any living entity, even bacteria. Nature, that is anything that is beyond the control of humans, provides for that right. It is just that humans have enough power to take that right away from their fellow creatures.

Yes, human beings are the only creatures who put a price on food.

Alright, I am not implying that those who grow and produce food must not get their share . Certainly, I don’t mean that the farmers who grow their food and the traders who sell it should be deprived of their rightful share of money, no doubt about it. But that does not take away the responsibility of those who have willing created a system that deprives millions of humans of enough food.

Just imagine that for a second. People starving to death. What good is a government if it cannot feed its people? To my mind any government that is not able to feed its people or offer them peace, freedom, medicine and security, has no reason for its existence. What other justification do we have for a government?

Humans are certainly not the only creatures to hoard food. We are just the only ones who hoard to deprive others of it and to store much more than the needs of a particular group of people responsible for it.

What we must remember are the most fundamental things and stop confusing ourselves with the completely unnecessary complex concepts that we are bombarded with everyday. Every human being is important, no matter where they live and every human being deserves food.

Food is more important than ideology.

Food is more important than politics.

If you are not feeding people, do not expect them to behave in a civilized manner. Because behind every civilized being is a wild creature who would do anything to survive.

But feeding people, like the ones starving in Somalia, is just not a priority of our species. Our priority is to pay for filthy, unnecessary and completely avoidable luxuries, but not feeding the starving. Imagine that, as a species, we do not have spare money to feed those who are dying of hunger and would surely fall prey to dangerous epidemic if no action is taken.

Source: bellirosa.com

We could fund to send man to Mars. Yes, we have money for that. We also have the funds for building a supersonic jet that travels from London to Sydney within an hour. Yes, we have money for that. We even have money to build the most useless and the most ostentatious, tallest building in the world. You know where it is. It is like an erect penis, but sterile. Yes, a lot of money for that. Alright, I would not even mention wars. it is more or less a justifiable expenditure, wouldn’t you think. At least it relieves a lot of people of their misery.

Without any difficulty, the entire population of the world can be comfortably fed for a sum making up a very tiny fragment of the entire wealth of the world and only just a little more can be dedicated to agricultural research to boost productivity. If a unified global effort is made in this direction, not a soul in the world will go hungry, ever. You don’t even need to go and check any statistics to verify this fact. However, what you should go and verify is whether the leaders of the world have any intention to put this matter on their priority list.

It just simply isn’t there.

This means that we actually want people around the world to be hungry. To starve to death. There are initiatives like the World Food Program from the United Nations which is doing an excellent job but yet not doing enough. But then again, who runs the WFP? We do and it is anything but one of our top priorities. That is just one way. There are several others and providing food is just one little dimension. But at the end of the day, it is food that matters.

Then there are naïve questions such as why people live in barren lands where there is no hope. Actually the question makes sense but not a single answer to it would. The questioner should be told that relocating costs money, that no one likes to leave their home even if it is barren, and if they do, who would accept those people? Which country in the world would accept a migrating population of starving people? If even a single country actually does that, I would be pleasantly surprised.

Also, they don’t figure out that conditions have deliberately been created to cause the hunger in the first place. They would rather choose to die in their homes with dignity and peace by avoiding insult to injury. Furthermore, it is a myth that hunger is the problem of countries going through drought in Africa only. The problem is actually worldwide and even seemingly prosperous countries have considerable starving populations.  The severity, however, varies.

But it seems that it is in our interest to create conditions that lead to the starvation of certain populations in the world. Politics remain the greatest hurdle and it will continue to be in the future. Not that anything can be done about it. We cannot even agree on simple objective facts, let alone solving any complicated and difficult problems. Maybe we should try eliminating the starving population once and for all by creating a great war instead. But wait. We are actually doing that, but it is a slow and painful death.

The face of war has changed, or maybe it has not. Maybe people never realized the kind of war that has been waged on them for centuries. It is the war of inequality, deprivation and injustice. Not that there is any justice, or ever will be, but at least people can be provided with their fundamental rights, which fellow beings, just like them, with no other superior evolutionary characteristics except for money and power, enjoy for no other apparent reason.

We all share responsibility for the fact that populations are undernourished.

                                                                                – Pope John XXIII (May 3, 1960)

We are responsible for it. We have created it. Not some God, unless humans are one.

So it seems.

It is just another ugly fact which we may choose to overlook, and we will.

It is genocide. It is ethnic cleansing. And of not just one race.

A Holocaust that has been going on for centuries.

It is mass murder. It is a crime against humanity.

We commit it every day.

We are putting a price on food.

We are putting a price on life.

Cape Fear

Source: tompaine.com

Fear is the new Law.

In fact, it is anything but new.

It has always been the Law.

It is something that keeps things in order.

It is something that prevents chaos.

You know, the fear of chaos.

It paralyzes your brain.

It changes the way you think.

Board the boat before the ship sinks.

…From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

                                                                                         – Niccolo Machiavelli 

This is how they rule the world anyway.

Fear is your religion.

Fear is your wars.

Fear is your knowledge of the stars.

Fear controls the way you think.

 

Fear controls you.

 

 

Fear even controls how you spend your money, or how you hoard it.

Fear will make you do things you never thought made any sense.

This was particularly well illustrated by a well researched blog post in the “Washington’s Blog”. It certainly is worth reading every word. Revisit it if you have already read it, and read it again.

I am not a regular reader of this blog, or of any for that matter, and found it accidentally on twitter and am glad I did. It is an old article but every word of it is worth reading and is as relevant today, in the July of 2011, as it was in the November of 2009, and perhaps will be in the next hundred years to come. It is titled:

Investor Psychology: Fear Turns People into Sheep 

I post this link with due respect to the sheep folk.

Source: tolweb.org

The Unattainable Human Rights

Human Rights.

If you keep on repeating these words in your head, over and over again, not to fall asleep, but to really understand what they stand for, then the feeling that you will experience will lie somewhere between amusement and disappointment. But if you find the slider of your emotions tilting towards the disappointment part a bit more, then you can make yourself laugh by focusing on the fact that we are talking about ourselves.

You know that we have people known as Human Rights Activists. They are the people who work actively for the basic human rights for certain groups of people all over the world and you cannot have anything but admiration for these brave individuals with great integrity. But isn’t it a shame that they have to do what they do?

The very fact that these people need to engage in such activities is laughable and had there been any extra-terrestrial species watching over the proceedings of what is going on in the earth, they would been laughing themselves to orgasms for the entertainment value. Think about it. There are people in the world who need to speak out for Human Rights. That’s ridiculous.

Currently, there is a logo design competition going on for the International Symbol of Human Rights. Artists and wannabes from around the world have produced some wonderful designs and I am sure that the judges will have a hard time choosing the best and the most appropriate one. But if I were to offer my suggestion, then I would have symbolized Human Rights with the Holy Grail. Pardon the choice of religious symbolism, but we all know what the Holy Grail stands for and to me, its use has never been more fitting.

Source: retardzone.com

Who knows. Maybe the Holy Grail is the Human Rights.

But then again. The most fascinating aspect to it is that the Human Rights are relative as well. The set of values dear to one group of people are entirely meaningless and sometimes even shocking to another. Like morality. So, you can imagine what happens in the aftermath. Same old, same old. Conflict.

But given the cultural confrontation haunting the idea of Human Rights, we can at least single out a few,  broadly speaking, to which everyone would agree, to which of course a lot of people will disagree, which is alright and could be even valid. But let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Let us say for a moment that the most essential Human Rights are the right to live in peace.

To some, that would be oversimplifying things, but let us consider it anyway. The rest of the Human Rights such as clean drinking water, health, education and even freedom of expression are relevant only when a person is able to survive. The conflicting standards of human rights create a political dilemma (hardly) when you have to violate some human rights in pursuit of others, or at least that is what they tell you.

But the fact remains that mostly human rights are something only attainable with money. As for the aspirations to Universal Human Rights, such noble ideas are in direct conflict to the economic interests of the governments of the world. These ideas could even be considered absurd by some and could be rejected altogether by others being labeled an idealist’s or a mad man’s dream.

The Holy Grail.

The Unattainable Human Rights.