Friday, December 15, 2017

An Indecent Obsession: Of War and its Futility

Reflections on "An Indecent Obsession" a movie and book by Colleen McCullough (author of "Thorn Birds" which I read in Pakistan around 1985-86). This is a page from my diary written on September 25, 1987. I was 25 and this was my first semester at UT Austin, and was residing at Riverside Apartments.
For the first time after reading the "Purple Plain" by HE Bates, I again experienced the trauma, shock, feelings and tragedy that are associated with war. Lest we forget! It has been a long time since World War 2 which was around 20 years before my birth. Somehow, I think I feel or may be I imagine that I can feel the experience of what it is like being in the war, and witnessing its sufferings; all that dying, all the misery, and the in-consequence and futility of it. But wars are a real permanent feature of life. War has always remained a permanent feature of life. I think it is long overdue for our generation.
The sufferings, joys, and determination associated with it. How does it ruin the normal human beings, or make them or break them. What one feels and experiences in education  in itself. All our efforts, our preconceptions, and our business, and our longings and wishes seem pointless and meaningless. We love and suffer. Our associations seem to us to be permanent but they are simply our illusion. What is duty, morality, love. Every thing gets mixed up in the war. To come out of it unscathed, normal human being is really a tribute to the determination of man and his resilience. All dying and futility till you realize there is "All Quiet on the Western Front"!
  • See also: Must see All Quiet on the Western Front
I feel in myself an emptiness. An inability to share what I feel. I am unable to express what I mean to say and am incapable of doing it. The effort is pointless as its product is disheartening and without the depth and feeling I think there is.

I really feel myself old, haggard, hoary. My age hundreds of years. I was born long ago as I seem to have experienced so many events in so many places and in so many times. I rally think I need to know what is my real age.

Note written while posting this on blog:
  • I am trying my best to recall whether I read the book or saw the movie. I typically do not forget these things, but I have certainly did in this case. I can't even recall the story. Although I do recall reading Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough as well as having read another book by her,  but which one I had forgotten. It was only while looking at the reflections written in my diary that I am beginning to recall. 
  • This the diary page was written at 1402 #104, Riverside Apartments, S. Lakeshore Blvd, Austin Tx, 78741. I have produced it as is without editing. 

See Also: 

  1. An Indecent Obsession: Of War and its Futility - 
  2. How Education System is Promoting Non-Readers and "Functional Illiteracy": Top Ten Reasons
  3. How Language Acquisition is Made Difficult for Children: Eight Lessons from an Urdu Acquisition Case Study
  4. How Readers are Created. Ecosystem that Produces Readers
  5. How to find "Buzurg" and "Wali" of Allah
  6. Importance of Literature in Law: A Case Study of the Panama Case Supreme Court Judgement
  7. Last Emperor of China and Mughal Empire of India - 
  8. Most Effective Way of Cutting a Nation from its History and Ideals - Imposing a Foreign Language
  9. Mukhtar Masud's Awaz-e-Dost and Love for Literature and History
  10. Sad Ending of Abdullah Yousuf Ali - the Translator of Quran
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird: A Personal Journey - 
  12. What Legal Questions Perry Mason would have raised in SC Panama Case Disqualification of PM

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird: A Personal Journey

I was around 10 when I saw the movie "To Kill a Mocking Bird" on PTV in 1971-72. That was the time when I didn't focus on the dialogues but used to only concentrate on the emotions and feelings depicted. We didn't have access to Internet or magazines with briefs about the programs or movies being shown on the PTV. There used to be a flyer but often it only listed the titles but not details. However, I could sense even at that early age that what I had seen is not a typical run of the mill movie, but I had gone through a tremendous and profound experience. It would be a decade later when I would find out about how much acclaim the movie had won through a book that I issued from the American Center library. This was an attractive pictorial history of cinema and from there I discovered that this movie had won the Oscar for the best picture in 1960, and Gregory Peck had won the Oscar for the best actor.  One of his three roles that made him my all time favorite actor (the other two were in Roman Holiday and Guns of Navarone). I also read the book on which this movie was based around the same time. The book and this movie had a tremendous impact on me as described here:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What is Meant by Rigor of PhD Research

The rigor with which your hypothesis are tested and the methodology that is pursued differentiates a PhD from an MS/MPhil [1]. A PhD is held to higher standards of meticulousness and scholarship which becomes evident from the rigor of the analysis of conditions, constraints, variables that influence the experiment, and may have an impact observations, and use of established theories for justifying their inclusion or exclusion.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Is Justice Munir's Doctrine of Necessity Dead or Alive?

Is Doctrine of Necessity dead and buried as proclaimed by Supreme Court in its decision of March 2012? Wherein it stated that "deciding cases on the basis of likely consequences will mean reverting to the malignant ‘doctrine of necessity’ that has been buried by the people with their valiant struggle" [1].
Or, is doctrine of necessity alive and kicking?
On November 27, 2017, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui proclaimed in his censure of military that “Everyone should know that there are no followers of Justice Munir in the courts anymore,” he said, referring to the former chief justice who gave legal cover to the dissolution of Pakistan’s first constituent assembly." and simultaneously "Justice Siddiqui raised many eyebrows when he remarked that he could be assassinated, or may end up joining the ranks of the missing persons, but it was his duty to speak the truth" [2]. However, the same day, Lahore High Court was quick to commend the role of military in saving the country from a huge catastrophe [3]. The difference in opinion is very much clear from a comparison of censure by Justic Siddiqui of IHC, and appreciation by Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmad of LHC about the military role in the Faizabad Dharna and its removal. It is clear that the judges are split on the issue of Justice Munir's Doctrine of Necessity. LHC judge feels that the role of military is justified at the altar of the necessity of saving the country from a huge catastrophe. Whereas, Judge of IHC is concerned about whether the letter of the law is being followed or not.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Last Emperor of China and Mughal Empire of India

I always recommend people to see "Last Emperor" movie about Pu Yi, who was the last emperor of China. His rule was only in name and restricted to only the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City). The movie won nine Academy Awards including that for best picture and best director in 1987. 
It depicts how Britishers manipulated the emperors of China in late 19th and early 20th century. The plight of an emperor restricted to just the palace, not allowed to meet the people or even to peep outside the palace is so poignantly depicted. It evoked an eerie comparison with our history of 1750-1857, during the twilight of the receding control of the Mughal Empire in India. Last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was also confined to his palace (Lal Qila).  His rule was only in name and its jurisdiction was limited to only the Lal Qila. The broader narrative of the two last emperors needs to be compared. Pu Yi and Bahadur shah zafar were both captives of their palaces. Both may have wanted to do some thing for their nations but were raised singularly unequipped to take over the emerging challenges. China was the action replay of subduing several proud nations with illustrious history including that of India. Bahadur Shah Zafar met with an ignominious death in exile in late 19th century. 
Yearning to do something but utterly powerless. How British colonial masters destroyed the pride of nations subjugated by them.

Why I am a Faculty Member

Why I am a faculty member:
(1) Meeting a student who graduated a long time ago and who comes over and tries to make me recall  him and his batch. Then reminds me of one of my lesson that he remembers to this day and that has changed his life.  This is the great fulfilling experience that can never be gotten elsewhere.
(2) Company of youth keeps me focused on future and gives me hope for the future. Reason I am an optimist.
(3)Aspirations of youth keep me young as I help them achieve their visions. Gives energy
(4) Youth keeps teaching me new things, dealing with new ideas, and how to innovate.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Narratives Designed to Dishonor Popular Choice and Support Neo-Colonialism

There are several narratives that have been fed to the masses to serve the interests of neocolonialism in developing countries. Neocolonialism enables the super-powers to maintain their hegemony on developing countries during the post-colonial world through dictatorships and kingship. The narratives are crafted to serve the political and economic interests of super-powers through exploitation of  resources and people of developing countries.  Primary objective of these narratives is to rob the power of decision making from the people, and to stultify the evolution of democratic aspirations and to stop the growth of self-governing and self-improving institutions. These narratives help in  perpetually destabilizing the developing countries   by supporting dictators, kings, or autocrats, and creating turmoil through civil strife or wars,  and installing weak unrepresentative heads of governments. These meta-narratives enable the neo-colonial unelected elites to maintain their hegemony on the resources of the country in the service of the super powers. Here is a list of 10 top major Neo-colonialism Supporting Narratives that have promoted political instability, rule of dictators and un-elected elites in Pakistan since independence and have stultified democratic evolution: 
Colonialism: White master exploited the poor people.
Neo-colonialism: White Master + Black Master together exploit the poor people.

Recollection of an Unforgettable Recitation of Majaz's Nazr-e-Aligarh

Today on Facebook I saw a video of some old students of Aligarh University reciting the official anthem in New York with a great deal of energy and lilt. This brought a recollection of a day in 1990s when I was dusting the bookshelf of my father Syed Ahsan Hyder and picked "Aahang", a collection of poetry by Majaz.  My father was an aligarian of 1930s, and a contemporary of Majaz, who also used to frequent our family gatherings at Masood Manzil, hostel of our family in Aligarh, where several of my father's cousins and relatives used to stay and study at Aligarh University. My father picked up the book, took out the poem  "نذر علی گڑھ"  and started reciting it in such a beautiful manner that its rhythm and fondness still resonates in my mind. He would sometimes do this in times when he was in "vacant and pensive mood". I can still see him vividly deriving so much pleasure  from the recitation. The recitation was full of fondness of memories of an era long gone, a time well spent, friendships often recounted. I could see this recollection bringing to him that "bliss of solitude" which is associated with time and experiences associated with cherished memories. To me this recollection fills my heart with pleasure and sways with the emotions and aspirations and ethos of that time. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to Create Love for Poetry: A Tribute to Sir Ghalib Raza of ICB

Over the last 25 years as I desperately try to connect my students with the joy of reading and poetry, at universities and at schools , I realize the worth  of what Sir Ghalib Raza was achieving in my school days. He was making us "feel" the poetry, not "understand" it. Poetry is meant for "feeling" the emotions which are being expressed by the poet. You kill the poetry by trying to "explain" it. This is the story of how Sir Ghalib Raza imbued love of poetry in me and other students. He would not make us labor with "explanations"  but would rather focus on evoking the "feelings". He knew that once a loving association is developed, understanding will follow naturally in good time. He would enjoy reading the poetry immersed in the emotions being expressed. He loved poetry and he infected us with that love.  Thank you, Sir Ghalib Raza, for cultivating in me this love for poetry and literature.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why Dictator Generals are Weaker than Civilians Rulers in Withstanding External Pressure

There is a widespread "myth" that what Pakistan needs is a "strong leader" (a savior on horseback) who will come and conquer all our issues and problems in no time. There is a mythical belief that Pakistan is stronger in withstanding external challenges and pressures when ruled by military dictators than when it is ruled by the civilians. This post describes a tale of two encounters that belies this myth. First is the situation arising from India's nuclear explosions in 1998 when a civilian was the prime minister and the second is the situation arising after 9-11 when a dictator was in power.
As can be seen from the comparison of the two situations, a civilian PM was better able to withstand the US pressure than a military dictator who made a u-turn on a single call for Assistant Secretary of State. Whereas a civilian PM did not buckle under intense international and US pressure, a military dictator easily submitted to all the demands in no time. Analysis of these two situations can help us in understanding why neo-colonialism requires dictators and monarchs in developing countries; rulers who can easily be brow beaten into submission. Neo-colonial demands are difficult to achieve in a civilian democratic (even a sham) dispensation. Developing a democratic consensus among large diverse populations is messy and takes a lot of time. However, dictators provide an easy way out for getting the things done by the powers playing the great game.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Doctrine of Necessity from CJ Munir to Judge Khosa: Role of Judiciary in the Service of Neocolonialism

We need to compare the Doctrine of Necessity version 2.0 of SC Justice Khosa (2017) which states "To do a great right, do a little wrong" with the Doctrine of Necessity version 1.0 of  SC CJ Munir (1954) which states "Necessity makes lawful that which is unlawful". As per SC decision of March 2012 "deciding cases on the basis of likely consequences will mean reverting to the malignant ‘doctrine of necessity’ that has been buried by the people with their valiant struggle" [1]. It is clear that both version 1 and 2 are relying on the "likely consequences" emanating from a "great right" and "necessity". Since 1954, Doctrine of Necessity Version 1.0 has been responsible for sending home 15 prime ministers, imposition of 4 martial laws, and slapping of dictatorial rule of over 35+ years. Effectively over the last 63 years, the doctrine seems to have only served the interests of neo-colonialism, and has neither served any great necessity or delivered any great right (see Costs of Justice Munir's Doctrine of Necessity: 4 Martial Laws and 35 years of dictatorships). As per the comments of Justice Khosa and Justice Ejaz Afzal, Panama Case Judgement would be remembered for decades and centuries. Hence, the questions raised by Doctrine of Necessity version 2.0 are  (i) How many PMs will this decision depose? (ii) How many martial laws will it germinate? (iii) How many years of dictatorial reign will it perpetuate???

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Myth: Government Universities Cost Less than Private Universities

This post explores the myth that Public Universities Cost Lower than Private Universities. I think the average cost per student per year of a public university is much more than that of a private university. Given below is a preliminary analysis. A more detailed analysis is required.

2005-2006 Analysis of Public sector universities indicates that:
  • HEC funding per student (2005-6) ~ Rs 75 k 
  • Additional fees paid per year per student
    • Typical fee: ~ 25 k (For universities like KU) 
    • Exorbitantly: ~ 150 k (IBA, NUST) 
  • Total Average cost per year = 100k – 225k 
  • Land acquisition and capital investment through PC-1s and other external funds would be extra and would amount to hundred of millions of rupees of funding per year to each public sector university.
Private Sector HEIs in 2005-06 in Karachi were typically costing a student less than Rs. 100 k. Mind you these universities took not a single penny from the tax money collected from the poor!

In 2012, the average cost per student per year had climbed up for many public sector universities to over Rs. 200k. Whereas, many private sector universities in Karachi had fees around half. Remember, this would include operational costs as well as capital costs. Whereas the Rs.200k per student per year operational
costs of public sector universities does not include capital and development costs, which is an additional tab to be picked up by the poor taxpayers.

According to the budget documents Rs 79.5 billion has also been earmarked for Higher Education Commission (HEC) including Rs 21.5 billion under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) and Rs 58 billion on account of current expenditure, showing an increase of 13 percent as compared to Rs 51 billion earmarked for 2015-16. [1]

The amount comes to around Rs 200k per student for on-campus students of government universities. Please note that this does not include the land grants and other allocations. This is directly from the federal budget.

The per student cost of a government university must also include the cost of all the officials of all the ministries responsible for making the government universities work. This cost should also include:
  1. Cost of HEC personnel, administration, staff and operational costs responsible for calculating, approving, sanctioning, monitoring of any funding requirements for the government universities.
  2. Cost of all the accreditation bodies for Engineering (PEC), Business (NBAEC), Computer Science etc. I think currently there are over ten such bodies and many others are in the process of formation. Their operational costs must be computed and distributed over the public universities. This function in US and other countries is typically performed by independent professional bodies with little or no tax money involved. 
  3. Cost of Ministry of Finance, AGPR, Planning Commission and other ministries responsible for disbursements of operational budgets, pensions, sanctioning and monitoring of PC-1s and their funds, decision making etc. 
  4. Cost of provincial departments and Governor secretariat's responsible for sanctioning of leaves, appointments, projects planning etc. 
  5. Cost of all the capital investments through land allocations, grants, funds through other government agencies. 
  6. Cost of all the USAID and development funds loans and advances along with their interest payments
You add up all these costs and you will find out that the total cost per student per year, can come out to be at least ten times the per student cost of the private universities. Please note once again the private universities are not using the tax money of the poor people.

Now the justification of all these costs is on the basis of social equality and equal opportunity for the poor people of Pakistan. There are two major arguments:
  1. There are many public universities whose fees are much more than several private universities. This should not be allowed. Example, IBA's cost is Rs 150k per semester which is much more than most private sector universities. 
  2. Why can't the government calculate all the money that it is spending on the public universities divide it by the number of poor students that it wants to support and give that as a hardship scholarship vouchers to the poor students. Let the poor students shop around for a university that would let them study with that voucher. I think this may be a more equitable distribution of money. It would then be channeled to the more efficient universities who can give the best quality for the least amount of money. This is how the market dynamics play out. 

[1] Report

This write-up is an extended rehash of the ideas presented in a talk on "Five Major Myths of Higher Education" made at the CIO Conference, March 2009 at Sheraton, Karachi. See another link

Presentation originally made at CIO Conference, March 2009 at Sheraton, Karachi.
The links and write-up below is an extended rehash of those thoughts:

5 Myths of Higher Education in Pakistan

  • Presentation originally made at CIO Conference, March 2009 at Sheraton, Karachi.
  • The links and write-up below is an extended rehash of those thoughts:
Myth #1: Our backwardness is because we lag behind in Science and Technology
Myth #2: There is mushrooming of Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan
Myth #3: Impact Factor research measures real impact
Myth#4: Public universities cost lower than private universities 
Myth#5: Bigger infrastructure (land, building, equipment) means better education