One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Magnificent Delusions: Part 2

While reading the first chapter of the book, I felt like I am watching the "Games of Thrones TV series". I felt as Game of Thrones is not just a fiction. It is real and it has happened and is happening. The very familiar historic figures turned to appear mostly as the two characters of the series, Littlefinger and Varys. Varys who believes in the "Realm" and tries to protect it and Littlefinger who thinks of Realm as a shadow on the wall and has a Social Darwinian outlook. I felt as Littlefingers were the dominant drivers of the history in the Af-Pak region and it is just the combination of historical-geographical tragic continuity that provide a fertile soil for Littlefingers. There is a scene in the series, where Varys and Littlefinger has a conversation and Littlefinger tells Varys, “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but refuse. They cling to the realm, or love, or the gods…illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is. But they’ll never know this. Not until it’s too late.” I felt as Littlefinger's explanation describes very well most of the history and current situations (of course, the players)...

OK, let me come out of my feelings, and explain a little bit, why I felt so... Let me begin with Afghan story as chronologically, it comes first. This unfortunate land has never seen a period of peace. All her history, it was a battlefield. But why? The simplest answer is that, it is not a natural country, with a natural boundary. It was created via plays of superpower aka great games and is maintained by great games. Just the players have changed, nothing else. Haqqani briefly mentions the great game which created her modern boundaries: "......During the nineteenth century Britain and Russia competed for influence in Central Asia in what came to be known as the Great Game of espionage and proxy wars. Britain feared that the Russian empire would expand southward, threatening its control over India, the jewel in the British crown that had been progressively acquired at great expense over more than a century. The two empires settled on recognizing Afghanistan as a buffer between them, thus saving them from military confrontations with each other. Previously, the British had lost precious lives in their effort to directly control Afghanistan. But by accepting a neutral and independent Afghan Kingdom, they sought to pass on the burden of subduing some of the lawless tribes to a local monarch, albeit with British economic and military assistance...." Then Amir acted as a Littlefinger in subjugating the "lawless tribes" for strengthening his throne and used Afghani nations against each other which resulted into a historic animosity and distrust between Afghanistan's nations and it is still dominating her political landscape. It is the same mistrust that Afghan Loya Jirga approves US-Afghan Security Pact, to prevent the come back of Taliban and civil war, but Karzai acts as a Littlefinger and rejects their approval and calls US warning of complete withdrawal as a bluff (just for a little while to bargain for more: the ladder is real). Using the fear of Taliban for bargaining at home and outside is Littlefingers real bargaining tool both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In short, this region has been and is the real land of Westeros and Essos.

Mr. Haqqani mentions about ideological and economic troubles that baby Pakistan was facing but in lines also mentions about two early Varys and Littlefingers: "The need to justify their country at an ideological level was only one part of the challenge Pakistan's founding fathers faced; they also needed resources to sustain the country. Although some men like Liaquat and Abol Hasan Ispahani gifted some of their property to the new state and had no plans of returning to India, for several years after independence some of Pakistani elite acted as if their country was temporary. For instance, Jinnah told India's Prime Minister Nehru, through India's ambassador to Pakistan, that he wanted his house in Bombay kept in good condition so that he could retire there. Pakistan's first ambassador to India, Muhammad Ismail, assumed his responsibilities without migrating to Pakistan and at one point claimed that he had not ceased to be an Indian national by becoming Pakistan's diplomatic representative. And well-to-do Muslim politicians and officials went back and forth, trying to figure out where their careers might prosper more; some wanted to become Pakistani without losing the benefits of being Indian. It took several years for Pakistan to define its citizenship laws in regard especially to migrants or Indian refugees."....

And about US-Pak relations: "...After asking probing questions about Jinnahâ's plans for the new nation's constitution, Bourke-White sought his views of relations with the United States. Jinnah replied that America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America. He then told her: Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed, and went on to state, the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves . Russia is not so very far away. He spoke of America interest in arming Greece and Turkey and expressed the hope that the United States would pour money and arms into Pakistan as well. .......... This account of Pakistani thinking within weeks of its creation offers perspective into the vagaries of US-Pakistan relations over the last six-and-a-half decades. Amid frequent Pakistani charges of American betrayal, few Americans remember that Pakistan initiated the US-Pakistan alliance primarily to compensate for its economic and military disadvantages.".... Reading this commentary about the relation of Pak-US soon after her creation and reading today's Pakistani newspapers, I don't see anything has changed. Imran Khan (PTI) is protesting against US drone attacks by blocking NATO supply lines, launching FIR against recent drone attacks and unmasking CIA chief in Islamabad, BUT his government is also receiving aid from US more than any other province in the country.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Magnificent Delusions: Part 1

The first book that I chose to read in geology was "great geological controversies". Somehow, my gut-feeling told me that the best way to have an insight about something unfamiliar is learning about controversies in that thing. To Albert Camus, unfamiliarity is the absurdity and familiarity, however unreasonable, is meaningful. Ironically, the controversies that I am most familiar with are from, and about Pakistan, as not a day passes without some dosage of controversies that I like my countrymen get through media. In other words, I had a delusion that because of my long and regular overdoses of controversies out of Pakistan, I must have a deep knowledge of the country. However bitter it may be, I am not alone in that delusion. In fact, controversies are so familiar that we connect and communicate more through these controversies than anything else. It is how our history has evolved. Let me put this way, In the first Inaugural Meeting of the Pakistani Constituent Assembly, the founder of Pakistan promises (1) to all citizen of Pakistan: " Every one of you, no matter to what community you belong, no matter what your color, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State, with equal rights, privileges and obligations. . . .While you may belong to one religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the State. We start with the fundamental principle that we are all equal citizens of the State. We should keep that in front of us as our ideal. In course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Moslems will cease to he Moslems, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the nation." Well, the time has proved that this speech was no more than wishful thinking as Moslems have not only didn't cease to be Moslems but they have refined their faiths overtime to become specialized Moslems, such as Deobandi, Brelvi, Shia, Ahle Hadith and so forth .... all united on a single agenda of inventing new controversies.... A lot of people scratch their heads to understand, what we get out of these unreasonable controversies? I think, Albert Camus has the answer for it, and that is, we draw meaning from them (That why, each group strongly believe that only their way of life is worth living and even dying for)

The purpose of this introductory paragraph was to introduce Hussain Haqqani's book, "The Magnificent Delusions". Hussain Haqqani is a former Pakistani ambassador to US that became controversial over controversial memogate case. Just like my first book in geology, as soon as I saw Haqqani's book, I just started reading it. My gut-feeling was telling me that there is some new insight in it. I have just finished the first chapter of the book but I couldn't wait, to not share the following two excerpts from the book, one about founder of the country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (The nation has given him the title of Quaid-e-Azam: The great Leader) and the second about first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan (he is given the title of shaheed-e-Millat: The martyr of nation).

"Landlords in Karachi wanted American diplomats to rent their properties and pay in dollars. A job with the US embassy, as driver, clerk, or translator, was much sought after, and store owners pursued Americans as preferred customers. During a quiet picnic with US Ambassador Paul Alling, Jinnah and his sister Fatima suggested that the ambassador buy their property, the magnificent Flagstaff House, for his embassy. Alling politely informed the governor-general that the embassy had already obtained another property. The ambassador then sent Jinnah a gift of four ceiling fans after he complained about Karachi's sweltering heat."

"The Washington Times-Herald covered the secretary white-tie dinner on its social pages, boasting the headline, Came and Conquered. Separately, Assistant Secretary of State McGhee was impressed by Liaquat's ability to consume alcoholic drinks, forbidden by Islam, without appearing to have drunk at all. But Liaquat's social successes in Washington had to be kept a secret from his own people back home."

At the end of Chapter, Haqqani describes the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan,

"Then, in October 1951, Liaquat was assassinated while addressing a public rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. The lone gunman was a disgruntled Pashtun, motivated by what he perceived to be the prime minister un-Islamic attitude......"

Of course, these two excerpts are unfamiliar to us and they certainly look absurd, as the narratives of our history were composed of cherry picked events.... 

(1) Quaid's promise: Keesing's Contemporary Archive, Vol VI: pdf 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Oil Kingdom

There was a time, when the stories was simple. The world was divided into ideological blocks and countries were looked through those blocks. We live in a post-ideologue world, where contradictions make it really hard to make a sense of a country. For the time being, I am getting more convinced that exports of a country has more to say about a country than anything else. My guess is that this notion fits better to Saudi Arabia than any other country. We know only two things out of Saudi Arabia, salafism to Muslim world and oil to the rest of world . So, all I could imagine of Al-Saud family was of religious salesmen. Christopher Dickey's article blurred that perception by narrating King's long time messenger to Washington in these words, "Bandar bin Sultan smoked fine cigars and drank finer Cognac." CBS' 60 minutes documentary about oil kingdom blurs that common perception even further by showing an island of "free world" in the kingdom's conservative society where recently, the women's right to drive has become a buzz in the media. I thought, hmm, it seems interesting and I need to learn more. Meanwhile, I thought, someone else might also be interested to know more about the kingdom: 

Following is the first part of the report:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Comment

As far back as I remember, each year, the month of Muharram has been marked by mass movements in areas of world where people are aware and commemorate the events of Karbala. These movements run in both directions: there are those who want to commemorate the events of Karbala and those who react to them as per their capacities and interests either wishing demoralize them, to modify them or to limit them. One part of these movements are heated debates and interpretations. In short, irrespective of favoring or opposing it, one thing that makes this month spectacular is that, it makes all those who are aware of it, to react to it. These reactions are intellectual, cultural, spiritual and religious (and some are just habitual and psychological). Any individual, with a little sense knows that considering the depth and vastness of the reactions, it is only destined to grow and diversify. I don't want to pass any judgment on who is right or wrong. I just want to say that, you don't need to have a big-head to realize that once an idea, message or social movement reaches tipping point then it will just  grow and diversify.

There are personal experiences that shapes our instincts. I have a special soft corner for commemoration of month of Muharram and this soft corner has roots in my personal experience and this personal experience tells me that, whatever are the reactions and whatever are their levels, they serve one thing very clearly, and that is, an increase in levels of awareness (and in some, a level of commitment to the society they belong specifically, and to humanity in general). Let me give an account of this experience (on how a journey of awareness starts and how commemorating this month is so special for me),

I am not claiming that my study areas are really vast but I consider myself a voracious reader. I forget most of what I read, except the parts that are directly linked to my personal experiences and observations. In other words, reading gives me fresh eyes for my experiences and observation or make them coherent enough to become  something meaningful. What is the link of this introduction to the month of Muharram? For me, the most basic link to Muharram is:

If I had not experienced the commemorations of the events of Karbala each year, I may had a very shallow and bookish concept of justice, individualism, relation of individual to society, social trends and movements. The months of Muharram and knowledge of event of Karbala forces me to think deeper about current events and analyze them comparatively. Here, I would like to share one of the conclusions that I reached through month of Muharram:

In my early teenage, everyday, I had to bike from home to school forth and back. One thing that was getting my attention frequently was the stickers and screen prints of this handsome bearded guy, with long hairs, wearing a military beret that had a star on it, and was looking up, on the back of bicycles, motorcycles, rickshaws, cars and even walls. First I thought, he must be a local guy and wanted to have a sticker on back my bicycle too. Later, I learned that he was a revolutionary figure from Latin America known as Che . I had had to read about him to know, why he is popular in our part of world? Why people affiliate themselves with his pictures while they are mostly, either know very little or know nothing at all about him? When I learned that he was actually a doctor from Argentina, led the communist revolution in the Cuba, fought in Africa and was killed in Bolivia, then I realized, why a communist leader from Latin America is so popular in a traditional and tribal city such as Quetta (Where ethnicity, language, culture and religion are the cornerstone of identities). There were other communist leaders like Lenin, Mao and Fidel then why only Che is so popular among non-communist populations? I have a personal answer to this and I got this answer from my analysis that is coming from events in Karbala. The popularity of Che was because he was a master-revolutionary.

What do I mean by a master-revolutionary?

I borrowed the term master from fine art to elaborate an answer to one of MY BIG QUESTIONS that I have gotten from commemorating events of Karbala:

There have been countless rebellions but only very few have grown to become a revolution and majority had/have reduced into mere terrorist movements and campaigns. So, my biggest question to myself was, what directs a rebellion into a revolution and what reduces them to terrorism? I have crossed over prospects of ideology and religion a long time ago, as one can find terrorists affiliated with all sorts of ideologies (if you need references, let me know. I am avoiding them here just to keep this knol short and relevant). My conclusion is that, a rebellion led long enough by a master-revolutionary (ies) to mature, grows into revolution. Otherwise, they tend to be soon reduced to terrorism.

In art, you here the terms, old-masters and new-masters. Old masters were those renaissance artists who showed their unmatched skills in visualizing human experiences through their artwork. The new-masters on other hand are those artists who begin in footsteps of old masters and show their unmatched skills but then do not want to become just footnotes of old masters and break the rules of old masters to introduce a whole new art (that might not be pleasing but still are considered master-arts). In short, in order to become a master artist (both old and new) one must qualify to be a master artists, particularly for new masters, they have to show they qualify to break the rules (otherwise breaking lines doesn't mean anything).

Although, the actual battle of Karbala lasted only half a day, far away from any populated area, with 73 men (one survivor) at one camp and thousands of soldiers in other camp, still after 14 centuries later, people commemorate every detail of the events took place there. In a sense, it was a tiny rebellion but that rebellion never ceased to grow and it is still growing. It is growing because it was led by a person who was qualified from every perspective. Imam Hussein' grandfather (Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H) was a revolutionary man who founded Islam. His father was an Imam and Caliph and so His elder brother. He was educated by His grandfather, father and brother and actively participated in events that shaped establish this newly introduced religion into a whole system of governance. Though His rebellion was very brief but because earlier He had proved Himself in shaping this system of governance along with His father and elder brother, He was  the most qualified person to led this rebellion against the system that was going in a wrong direction. In short, if a rebellion is led by a qualified person (by a master), even if it is very brief like the day of Ashura, it still has the potential to grow.

In an age that is plagued with terrorism, my personal interpretation is that the rebellions that had reduced to terrorism, might have good reasons and even just causes but because they were/are led by people who did/do not qualify to led a rebellion, reduced them to terror campaigns, narrowed interests and policy of exclusions. Che didn't qualify because he was a trained physician but because after successful rebellion in Cuba, he didn't stick to power. He left power to take his rebellion into Africa and Latin America to liberate people there. We can disagree with his ideology but we can't ignore his qualifications that he earned by his actions.

In conclusion, the journey of awareness starts from personal experiences and study takes them into a next level of consciousness. Readings that do not have roots into personal experiences and observation end up into dustbins of unconsciousness and forgetfulness. I favor actual commemoration of events in Karbala as it provides basic experiences for those who really want to understand basic social, political and psychological events around them.

I am not just walking on clouds when I talk about the qualifications needed to lead a rebellion. I have observed/seen the conscious efforts of promoting some personalities to make them appear into having such  qualifications. If you remember the first time Obama, as first black American, with a slogan of "change" won US presidential election. The half red, half blue icon of Obama was an effort to make him appear a new revolutionary master (a new Che, if you like) and at the beginning he made efforts to outreach Muslim world. He was even awarded Nobel peace prize but by passage of time, he was consumed by politics at home and couldn't qualify to become a new master. The same happened to Ahmadinejad of Iran. His poor background, higher education, simple living and long service made him a good candidate to be promoted as a new master (against imperialism). Again he couldn't qualify as he was consumed by politics and deteriorating economy at home. A recent example is that of Mala. She is promoted by awards, a memoir and Malala day. These things are good at promoting a person but in order to qualify as a female master, she has yet to walk a long road of actual activism. I can only wish her best of luck (though my instincts do not tell me that she has an ecosystem to let her grow into a qualified person, still,  let's hope for the best).

I deliberately avoided psychological and cultural aspects of month of Muharram to keep it as earthly and neutral as I could do. The commemoration of this month has helped me to look at things beyond Platonic dialogues, to the events and collective consciousness of my own time. To me, it doesn't matter much, what are the reactions as long as they are non-violent and I do think that, these reactions do contribute to deepening and diversifying of awareness and that is in itself a great service to the relevant societies.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Even before typing a word on the screen, I started doubting my ability to write something that makes sense on the topic of doubt. Simultaneously, I doubted my inability and there were two doubts fighting with each other for domination of my head. To prove that I am "Mr. Positive" I gave myself  benefit of the doubt and started typing. They say, "Everything has a reason" and this saying is particularly "true" about the behavioral-traits, as behavioral-traits that we have inherited must have had a survival-value, otherwise it had long been perished. So, it must have been originated by hunters-gatherers groups as doubt must have allowed to check those ill-social behaviors that may have been leading to produce Mr. Negatives. But then I doubted this idea, as all Hominids form social groups and individuals in those groups struggle hard to maintain the social status and social order. "But" wait a minute, sociability is not just a great apes only trait. There are other social animals and insects among them have surpassed all others. Do ants doubt? I doubt it. But I also doubt that they don't doubt. If they farm, store food, wages wars and enslave other ants, they must also doubt as doubt is key to security and safety. What about bacteria? They also have colonies and makes slime to protect their colonies  that ruin beautiful smiles (teeth) and skins. Do they doubt? If they communicate, they must also doubt, right? Their doubts must be chemical (Yuck !!!). Then from yuck, I remembered that we also doubt chemically. As soon as we smell something foul, our doubt-system becomes alert and look for something unhealthy. We have visual doubts, anything appears disgusting from food to behaviors, our doubt-system alert us. That is natural. Does doubting the doubt is also natural?

May be doubting were easy earlier in history when people were not bombarded by information, ads and products. In our time, doubting is really expensive as it takes a lot of one's precious time in evaluating things and information that one receives and even after a lot of research one can still be in doubt that, if his decisions were right. On other hand, doubting the doubt is even more expensive as not evaluating things may cost both health and pockets.  I take a great looking piece of pinkish meat, with no visible fat in it, that is professionally sliced and then put it back, doubting it is healthy. My nose doesn't detect any foul smell, my eyes give it a thumb-up  in appearance but my brain doesn't accept these information. These meat are from vaccinated cows and they fatten you. The smell of freshly baked cakes attracts me and then I step back thinking of all those fat and sugar in them. Everything that is bottled, bagged or canned are suspicious. Even water flowing on streams that tickles my soul is doubted for some unknown contamination. These are not the biological doubts (as mentioned earlier senses do not detect something unhealthy) but are cultural doubts that we learn by learning the results of studies. Still these are the minor doubts, healthy and "approved" by the evolutionary-worldview and we can live with it.

The greater issue is however doubting the worldviews out there. As they say, three things, stupidity, language and religion have no boundaries and there are no limits to them. And no worldview is immune of these three things. They are either constructed to support them or oppose them and both in opposition or support, these three things obscure a worldview to unrecognizable level. It is a historic fact that any theology and theory that were adapted by people in power have resulted in burning books, cities and people. From religion to science to socio-economic theories, all have records of doing stupid things. In short, we have learned to doubt the worldviews more seriously than a canned food or piece of nice looking meat in a store. I come again to my "Mr. Positive" (still remember that stupidity and language have no limits ;) that culturally, we are in age of doubts and we learn to keep our doubts, but Mr./Ms. positive advises us that to give things the benefit of doubts (Reasons? that is something to.....)