Saturday, November 26, 2016

Struggles of a Conscientious Government Servant: Lessons Learned from Memoirs of Irtiqa Zaidi

I felt honored when I was asked to review the book of memoirs of Mr Irtiqa Zaidi that is about to go into publication. The book is exciting, enjoying, and often a thrilling account of his photographic memory of the events spanning the expanse from his childhood in Quetta to his rise as a senior official in Government, where he was involved in some momentous agreements of Pakistan related to trade and commerce. 


My first meeting with Mr Irtiqa Zaidi was in the early 1970s when he got posted in Islamabad and came to stay at our place while waiting for the allotment of a suitable government accommodation. Irtiqa Chacha is a close relative of my father, and also the elder brother of my brother in law.   During that first winter when he was staying with us, I remember listening to his stories with my father, mother and sisters huddled around coal fire with blankets wrapped around us. I remember listening intently to his wonderful and picturesque narrations that were and still are full of humor and suspense with dramatic turns and twists from among the huge collection of his encounters and personal experiences. I recall that this fully captivating story telling sessions would often seamlessly extend for hours. I had the pleasure of listening to such experiences throughout the seventies when he was among those few relatives that we had in Islamabad, with whom we would regularly meet every week or so. During 1980s and later when I had moved to Karachi,  I would lose no opportunity during my trips to Islamabad to get that warmth of his riveting accounts often starting around dinner time and extending deep into the night.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions

Political discourse in Pakistan is punctuated with allegations and counter allegations without a formal study of the economic implications of the various decisions that have been rocking the country from as early as 1950s. The series of posts in this thread of "At What Cost" is attempt to build a framework for researchers to explore the economic costs of each of these decisions. The title of this series is based on my extensive discussions with late Mr Fazle Hasan of IBA in 1986-87. My later reflections on the lessons that he was trying to convey and which I vehemently disagreed with at that time, but have now come to appreciate only recently have been put down as the first post in this "At What Cost!" series: At What Cost! Fazle Hasan of IBA and our Computation of Economic Costs


Connecting vs Disconnecting with Relations- Sila e Rahmi vs Qata e Rahmi

Over the last few years, misconceptions regarding disconnecting from the relations (relatives, neighbors, colleagues) seem to be spreading. Disconnecting from relatives and relations is not a part of our culture or tradition. Our guidance has been to mend fences and work towards establishing relationships. Ethical leadership in our tradition requires that we care for those who throw garbage on you, make fun of you, or even try to harm you. Mohabbat fateh e Aaalim.


Left hand column shows the basis of our culture and traditions, whereas
the right hand column shows typical messages being shared on the facebook/whatsapp promoting
misconceptions that stand in stark opposition to our culture and traditions. 


Monday, October 10, 2016

What does a Child Need? Mother's Teacher-hood vs Motherhood

I am forced to write this post as I increasingly encounter cases upon cases of children with shattered confidence, broken personality and with severe personality issues and most of them emanating from the tremendous desire of the mother to relinquish her "mamta' (motherhood) role and assume the role of a teacher for which she is singularly unequipped! A child needs his mother's motherhood more than her teacher-hood. In their enthusiasm to make their children smart, and under tremendous peer pressure and the pressure from schools, mothers in Pakistan are assuming more and more the role of a teacher, at the expense of  their motherhood role. This is disastrous for the confidence and feeling of self-worth for a child, especially, because motherhood is a natural role for the mother, however, role of a teacher has to be learned and does not come naturally to everyone. Teaching requires aptitude, attitude, soft nature, quest for knowledge, magnanimity and  hosts of teaching skills. These skills are in short supply even in those who have had formal training in teaching.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

How to Distort History through Prejudices of Today: Taj Mahal as a Symbol of Love

I often see people looking at history using today's prejudices and lenses. History can not be seen in the light of our current preferences and current philosophies. History has to be evaluated in the context of the prevalent norms and challenges of that day. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Why Students Fail in Semester System- Survival Guide

About 5%-10% of students entering the university are unable to survive the semester system. The following list of top 10 reasons is based on my observations as a student from 1980-1994 at NED, IBA Karachi and at Univ of Texas at Austin. These are also based on my interactions with dropouts as faculty member from 1995-present (FAST NU, IBA, KIET, IoBM) with eighteen years as Deputy Director and Dean. I have given counseling to countless students. Often the students come when it is too late. At times their behavior compels me to think that they were asking to be dropped! You will agree too after reading this list. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dr Wahab and IBA of 1980s and 1990s

Dr Abdul Wahab went to meet his creator on Sep 6, 2016 morning, inna lillah we wa inna ilaihi rajioon. The news brought flashbacks of several memories from my association with IBA; first as an MBA student from 1985 to 1987, and then during my stint as a faculty member from 1995 to Dec 2000, the last four years of which were spent as Deputy Director. I relate here the essence of Dr Ab Wahab's contribution to IBA from the period when he became director in 1978 till he retired in 1999. The contributions are pictorially represented in the graph below.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Youth Leadership and Dave Ulrich-Orientation for University Students

[Presented at IoBM Orientation Session for Fall 2016 intake on Sep 3]

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a workshop on leadership at Karachi Marriott by Dave Ulrich, who is considered as the father of modern Human Resource Management. Ulrich is a professor at the University of Michigan and a consultant to top companies of the world. With over 30+ books on HR and leadership, he was ranked #1 Management Educator and Guru by Business Week, and was selected as one of the 10 most innovative and creative leaders, and was named as the most influential thinker in HR of the decade by HR magazine.

Dave Ulrich ended this Karachi workshop on leadership by presenting the three questions on which he had based his commencement speech at the graduation ceremony of a US university some years ago.

I will start my orientation speech with those three questions which I think are so fundamental to youth leadership that instead of you grappling with these questions at your graduation, you should be asking them at the very start of your professional education. The three questions that Dave Ulrich briefly touched upon in about ten minutes were:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Engineering Students are Reluctant to become Entrepreneurs: Role of PEC and Universities

Presented at ICEE-2016, International Conference on Entrepreneurial Engineering: Commercialization of Engineering Projects and Research

There are several reasons why Engineering students in Pakistan have been found to be reluctant to opt for entrepreneurship in their engineering fields as opposed to other disciplines such as Computer Science. These reasons can be classified in five major categories; (i) cultural and family mindset, (ii) demographic pressures (iii) narrow focus of curriculum, (iv) teaching and lab methodology, (v) enabling and facilitation environment.  Pakistan Engineering Council has a major role to play in at least the last three areas. The curriculum design and enforcement of PEC has left no room for subjects that can broaden the vision of the students and open their minds to other areas. The recommended lab methodology is based on the use of trainers and fill-in-the-blank type of submissions that further constrains the work of the students in predetermined directions. The recommended teaching methodology focused on class-room type of work also leaves no room for out-of-the-box exploration of ideas. There is a need for the universities and PEC to join together to provide an enabling and facilitation environment that can help the students. There is a need to diversify the curriculum to other areas by reducing the number of technology intensive areas and more creativity and exploratory courses that can broaden the perspectives. There is a need to adopt new methodologies such as project based learning and problem based learning. The lab work needs to be liberated from the clutches of the trainers. A post graduation apprenticeship or internships in exploring new ideas is necessary for entrepreneurial engineering. 

The Case for Engineering Entrepreneurship

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Abuse of Presentation Slides in Classrooms: Ban Powerpoint Presentations

Problems with Powerpoint Presentations in Classroom

A couple of weeks ago I came to deliver a presentation in a seminar after four speakers who were delivering a technical talk to the business owners using powerpoint and speaking in English, which is the second or third language of the speakers and the audience. I could see the disconnect of the speakers with the audience. I could see the boredom. It was getting late after lunch and people were dozing. I came, junked the presentation that I had prepared, and made a presentation using our local language and talked with my heart. Immediately I got the attention and the audience woke up. Several from the audience later came and congratulated me for waking up the participants and making the session lively.

 For  over 10 years now, I have realized the futility of using the presentations. I have discarded the use of the powerpoint presentations, except very technical talks to very captive audience where there is enough time to intersperse talk with slides, in workshop type formats.
I had started with power point presentations much before they became a norm. It was way back in the mid of 1996-97 that I started with multi-media presentations using a laptop. Those were the time when powerpoint presentations and multimedia was a novelty. Somewhere along the line they became a ritual. They lost their power and became a drag on the presentation.Following are my reasons for urging people to ban the use of powerpoints:


Lights are on the Powerpoint Screen and
the performer is hidden in the dark

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Who has Greater Will and Resolve in controlling Karachi Disturbances: Dictators vs Civilian Governments

To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions

At What Cost? Costs of perceived strictness of military dictatorships vs the reality of civilian governments in Pakistan

This post studies the case of Karachi disturbances and rise of MQM from 1980 and the relationships of various governments with MQM. It is interesting to note that unlike military dictators with cozy relationships with MQM, civilian governments have been more focused and have shown greater political will and resolve in dealing with the disturbances. The poor dictators always seem to be busy trying to buy legitimacy through political wheeling and dealing. There had been five major operations in Karachi during this period interestingly enough every one of these operations were conducted during the civilian governments. In contrast, during the two dictatorial regimes of General Zia and General Musharraf, MQM was given a free hand to fashion the situation of Karachi as they pleased. In both of these regimes, MQM continued to amass more and more power, and acquired greater and greater control while the civilian and military agencies acting more like bystanders. Although the rangers had been deployed since late 1980s, but they seem to had only been "operational" only during the civilian regimes.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Traitor/Foreign Agent Production Factory of Pakistan

To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions

At What Cost? Costs of Branding a Politician as a Traitor

There is a traitor/foreign agent production factory in Pakistan that seems to be in full swing. It has targets that have been trained on most prominent elected politicians since mid 1950s and did not spare even the sister of Quaid-e-Azam, Madre-Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah.  The list has included former prime ministers (HS Suharwardy, ZA Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto), politicians who had been been blue eye boys of the establishment (MQM/AH, Akbar Bugti, Jehadists/Talibans) and political leader like Shaikh Mujeeb ur Rehman who was once with Muslim League and led the election campaign of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah a few years before he became a case of self-fulfilled prophecy! The factory efficiently converts good Pakistanis of yester years  into bad Pakistanis through a staged fall from grace. Then a time comes when they meet their ignominious end.

 Interestingly enough the official list of traitors never listed the Dictator Generals who were responsible for breaking half of the country, and who ensnared us in useless wars.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cyber Control and Cyber Crime: From Panopticon of 18th Century to Imprisonment in Technology Age

"Cyber Control and Cyber Crime : Big Brother is Watching Us" was presented at FPCCI Seminar on Media Security and Cyber Crime on August 17, 2016 at Federation House, Karachi.
Modern Times (1936) CEO monitoring washrooms

This presentation focused on the problems introduced by the pervasive cyber world of today at a higher philosophical level where the existence of human being and the concept of being human is being questioned by the "Internet of Things", and where people are willingly ceding their privacy and the personal control of their lives to external social networking platforms represented by googles and facebooks of today. This cessation of our relationships, our thoughts and feelings and what constitutes our personality to external agencies and allowing them to define who we are and what do we represent is much more sinister and a much greater concern than the issues of Cyber Crime and Cyber Bill that we are discussing today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Field Marshals of Pakistan: Costs of Sycophancy and Political Expediency

At What Cost? Costs of Self Proclaimed Field Marshals in Third World Countries

In Pakistan the award of Field Marshal rank has been a product of sycophancy and political expediency for personal gain and short term advantage. The case of Ayub Khan who self awarded himself the rank of Field Marshal is a case in point.

Currently, there is also the debate of awarding Field Marshal to the current COAS for every thing except any victories against enemies on the battle field.
“The prime minister is repeatedly asking the army chief to take an extension and become a field marshal because he [PM Sharif] fears him;”  Imran Khan


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Costs of Justice Munir's Doctrine of Necessity: 4 Martial Laws and 35 years of dictatorships

Doctrine of Necessity Decision by Justice Munir had been disastrous for Pakistan. Not only did this decision annulled the historic judgement of Sindh High Court that has disallowed the dissolution of assemblies by Gen Iskandar Mirza in 1954 [1], it also laid the foundation of subsequent usurpation of power by the saviors on the horseback leading to disastrous martial laws and their horrendous costs.

I recall a documentary that I saw in the late eighties celebrating 200 year celebrations of US Constitution in which ABC anchor Peter Jennings describes the incident of a Governor dissolving the assembly and the dissolution of assembly case goes to a court that holds the dissolution illegal. [I need reference for this] I remember Peter Jennings saying that this was a crucial time in the constitutional history of US. Had the decision gone the other way, the history of US would have been different. Unfortunately, in our history the supreme court overturned the Sind High Court decision and as a result we had lost 50 years until Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's bold decisions brought back the autonomy to our court.



Sunday, August 14, 2016

Costs of Military Dictatorships of Pakistan

Historic Failures of Strategic Doctrines by Dictator Generals in Pakistan

What happens when generals (military men) arrogate to themselves "strategy making" when at best they have been trained for obtaining tactical advantage? 

The table below shows the fiascoes in which our country had been led into: 
Dictator
Doctrine/Strategy
Major Areas Ignored
Consequences/Failures
Gen
Ayub
Unrestrained Development at the Expense of Have-Nots without representation
Ignored people’s power
Estrangement of Bengalis Surrender and Fall of East Pakistan
Created rich-poor divide; created ZAB’s rise
Created famous 22-Families Nationalization of all major firms that sent us back for fifty years
Defense of East Pak lies in West
Size/depth of enemy forces; inability to read enemy’s mind
Failure of Op Gibraltar → 1965 War
Gen
Yahya
Popular discontent in East Pakistan can be subdued by military force
Fierceness of Bengali resistance,
Indian forces all out support 
1971 war → Surrender of East Pakistan; 92,000+ Pakistani soldiers become PoWs
Gen
Zia
Army as Protector of ideological frontiers
Ideologies are not Concrete frontiers. Military is not in the business of ideological warfare
Created Jehadists → Increased sectarian polarization → → Led toSectarian killings → bomb blasts
US’ Afghan Jehad, Strategic Depth
Ignored US response in Clinton’s time & 9-11
Arms culture → drugs culture militancy → instability Talibanization
Gen
Baig
Bleed India in Kashmir
Ignored Indian capacity to strike back in kind; RAW infiltration in Balochistan
Baloch resistance, Baloch insurgency, Karachi disturbances
Gen
Mush
arraf
U-Turn: Good-Taliban-Bad-Taliban
WoT imported in Pak; Blackwater/RAW/BLA infiltration
Suicide bombers → War on Terror → Op Zarbe Azb

Costs of General Musharraf's Dictatorship

This post analyzes the continuing accumulation of long term costs associated with General Musharraf's dicatatorship 1999-2008 in the areas of ideological costs, economic costs, governance costs, foreign policy debacles and political engineering costs.

Costs of General Ayub's Dicatatorship

We typically look at General Ayub and the economic performance during his time, ignoring the long term economic and political impact of the decisions that he took and the processes that he set in motion. This post analyzed the long term costs of his dictatorship.



Friday, August 12, 2016

Blaming the Founding Fathers for Our Mistakes: Case of Pakistan

In the cozy environment of our drawing rooms, we often see the self styled intellectuals belong to the ilk of Hasan Nisar trying their best to put the blame of shortcomings of our nation on to our founding fathers. The venom in their opinions indicates their disdain for this nation and the founding principles. They lose no opportunity to take snipe at the founding fathers including Quaid e Azam and Allama Iqbal to vent their frustrations when the nation seems to climb out of impossibly discouraging situations.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Edhi, Old Home and our Bari Bi

I first met Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi in the early 1980s in a deeply emotional context. My mother had read a detailed motivational description of Edhi and his work in Urdu Digest (or was it Sayyara Digest?) and then she also gave that to me to read. Thereafter I was assigned the task to visit Edhi Center in Kharadar and evaluate the veracity of the published account and inquire about Edhi's Apna Ghar. I had disembarked from bus near Denso Hall and had walked to the center through the maze of congested streets. I recall an open space in the middle encircled by 3 to 4 storey  flats on all sides except a narrow opening providing for a driveway entrance. The operational areas of the center were on ground floor with a concrete bench outside an office and some work area. I went inside the office and inquired about Mr Edhi. I was told to wait as he would be there shortly. I sat on the bench and waited.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why Pakistani Democracies are a Sham? Costs of Controlling a Democracy from Outside

Why we had only sham democracies in Pakistan?
This post identifies eight fundamental tests on which our democracies fail to be called a real democracy. It identifies the forces and the compulsions that did not let them to mature into a real democracy. We will discuss the costs of sham democracies in a later post.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Costs of General Zia's Dictatorship in Pakistan

This post lists major cost elements of General Zia's Dictatorial 11-year rule from 1977-1988. It identifies five major cost categories: costs related to ideology of Pakistan, economic costs, governance costs, foreign policy costs and costs of political engineering. This post is in response to mostly naive comparison of dictatorial rules in Pakistan with some of the political regimes. Such comparison often ignores the long term economic and social costs accruing due to the polarization engendered by the dictatorial rule in which short-term agendas often dominate the long term strategic blunders:


To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions: Pakistan History 101

Costs of Sham Democracratic Governments in Pakistan

Sham Democracy vs Real Democracy: Discusses the question of whether we ever had a real democracy in Pakistan, and why our democracies have been sham. In this post we look at the costs of having a sham democracy. Total democratic constitutional rule in Pakistan had been only 4 years of ZAB from 1973-77; Please note that ZAB assumed power in 1971 as a first in the world Civilian Martial Law Administrator, which continued till 1973 when Pakistan's consensus constitution was promulgated. The musical chairs of prime ministership of BB and NS during the 1990, can only be termed as a quasi democracy as the Damocles sword of the 8th Amendment continued to hand over their two stints each of around 2 years each. Each of their rule was abruptly terminated by the establishment exercising the power directly or through the 8th amendment. AZ's rule after the end of 8th amendment was a dismal affair as his hands were effectively tied by the NRO and the existing arrangements with the establishment. NS3 rule since 2013 can be though as a more democratic regime, however, the unwritten rule is that ALL affairs with the neighboring countries would have a veto power from the establishment. It is for this reason, that the NS3 finds no need for a Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Work in Progress: WIP

ZAB:

ZAB was a product of Gen Ayub Khan and used to call him his daddy. He was foreign minister of Gen Ayub and was the one who gave assurance to General Ayub that India will not cross internationally accepted border before the start of formal war of 1965.

His assumption of power after the fall of Dacca is widely considered to be a muk-muka with the establishment that reluctantly handed over power to him after the attempted mutiny by some of the forces in Mangla against Gen Yahya [1]. The muk-muka with establishment stipulated that there would be no action on CJ Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report. This also protected him of his role in the fall of East Pakistan.

ZAB's rule first's misstep was the mass nationalization of business concerns without any planning, and development of infrastructure. The nationalized businesses simply stopped working creating country-wide shortages of essential items like ghee, sugar, atta, cement etc. Each of these things became scarce and ration cards were issued and only a limited quantity was available to the entire household. People had to run from pillar to post for getting recommendations for the precious quota of a few kilos for their marriage and other ceremonies. I know this because I had to stand in line often of hundreds of people just to get the ration of ghee or atta issue after wait for hours. I remember this because I was preparing for my 9th and 10th class exams and while waiting for hours used to revise my course books. For my sister's marriage in 1975 and another sister's marriage in 1977 had to go to National Assembly and meet a relative who was working in the budget department and the MNAs used to come to him for clearing their medicine bills. He used to manage to get us special quote of 5 kg approved through these MNA recommendations enabling us to arrange for the sweet dishes in that time.

  • Deterioration of government machinery with quota system, loss of merit and rampant provincialism and ethnic favoritism. 
  • Decline of the heavy mechanical industry, PECO and others
  • Decline of public schools and universities creating a massive vacum that was later filled by private schools creating another set of issues. 
  • Decline in efficiency of public departments: Firing of another tranche of around 1000 senior bureaucrats after teh 3not3 batch that led to the bureaucracy losing their spine and their independence and became a hand maiden in the hands of who ever was in the power. 
  • Establishment of FSF and the torture cells
  • Proclamation of emergency immediately after the passing of the constitution
  • Erosion of independence of judiciary through several successive amendments that clipped the wings of the justicies. These same amendments were used by Zia later on to swith the chief justices and then hand ZAB. 
  • Deterioration of the commercial banks, PIA, Railways, Pakistan Steel.
  • Atomic Policy
  • Islamic Summit
  • Abuse of slogan of Islamic Socialism; sidelining of his erstwhile socialist allies like Mairaj M Khan and JA Rahim. 
  • Language Riots in Karachi

BB1


  • Assumption of power after muk-muka with establishment. 
  • Installation of Governors of Provinces and President as representatives of Establishment. 
  • AZ as Mr 10%. 
  • Stories of corruption
  • Deterioration of public services
  • Deployment of rangers in Sindh. MQM vs PPP and Sindhis fights in Karachi and other areas. 

NS1

  • Assumption of power after muk-muka with establishment
  • Major operation in Karachi against MQM.
  • Stories of corruption
  • Easing of foreign exchange restrictions. 
  • Privatization of nationalized units became an art form for loot sale. 
  • The entire rein was punctuated with acrimonious allegations and counter allegations of corruption with BB. 
  • Public sector performance continued to deteriorate.   
  • Allotment of public land at throw away prices became the easiest way to earn tons of money. 

BB2


NS2


AZ


NS3



[1] Link to reference here

See Also: 


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sharing with Responsibility on Social Networks: Avoid Mass Dissemination of Lies and Ignorance

Reliance on unverified sources and unverified reporting and forwarding on social networks have made them a platform for the mass dissemination of ignorance and lies. See for instance some of the Fake Quotes making rounds on the internet: 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Growing up with Mohammad Ali's Legend

This is 1971 and I am in class IV in Islamabad. I find myself in the midst of young people animatedly discussing the impending fight of the century in  a charged environment. We in Pakistan are excited about a Cassius Clay who converted to Islam and became Mohammad Ali but was stripped of his Heavy Weight Champion title for refusing to join the Vietnam War or for having converted to Islam. He was going to fight Joe Frazier who was the reigning champion to reclaim his title. Both were undefeated and were going to enter a fight which has been hailed as the Fight of the Century.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Conclusion vs Assumption in Research Writing- Flipping the Thread of Argument in your PhD Thesis

Research especially PhD research is often not a predictable process. Starting with some assumptions we start moving in a particular direction, however, the direction may change a number of times during our journey. Initially, we may have started in a particular direction thinking about a certain goal, however, the goal may change not once, but often several times during our research. We continue modifying the goals till such time that we identify a possible conclusion which would be significant enough to merit the award of the PhD degree. This journey is shown in the figure with yellow lines moving in different directions.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Discerning the Forest from the Trees - The Insights from my PhD Supervisor JC Browne

In the acknowledgement section of my PhD dissertation in 1994, I wrote:
I appreciate the support and help of my advisor, Dr. James. C. Browne. His vision and ability to abstract away the details has taught me how to discern the forest from the trees. Working with him, I learned the full import of what it means to ask the right questions. His questions would often send me scurrying on a search path that would clarify my confusions and would lead me to a true understanding of the problem, and hence, to the solution.
As I contemplate on the above statement written over 22 years ago, I think I need to explain the full import of this insight from my five years of effort for PhD at UT Austin from end of 1989 to the end of 1994.

James C Browne, my Supervisor (Profile at the end of post)

Friday, May 20, 2016

From Lifestyles to Metaphysics

[By Hassaan Hyder]

In lay men's understanding metaphysics is the belief/ theory/ idea or thought which is the point of reference of and for anything.

Intention is the purpose/ the "why"/ the driving force behind anything. This intention is derived from the metaphysics.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Parenting Challenges of the 21st Century

Presented at the ERDC Seminar on 23rd March 2016 at Rangoonwala Hall, Karachi. Parenting challenges for the 21st century are growing in intensity and are going to become a major issue for parenting in general and for Muslims in particular.

Challenge of Becoming a Role Model of Self Organization and Self Discipline




Self organization is becoming a major challenge for survival in the 21st century. I think for parents to be a role model of self discipline and self-organization is the biggest challenge. Unlike the previous century, social, family and work structures that forced much of the organization in our lives are loosening and putting pressure on the parents as well as children to be self organized.

Previously our lives had a regimented existence typically structured around meal times and early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine, TV/entertainment time in the evening in the living room with everyone together, newspaper in the morning, office/school starting in the morning and ending in the afternoon. Today, TV and entertainment is available all the time. I think majority of homes no longer have strict meal times as meal is no longer being cooked at home regularly. Office emails, messages, and calls have penetrated 24 hours of time. early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine has not only been forgotten but have also led to further complications of health, wealth and wisdom.
Developing structures and rules for organization and discipline in life is a huge challenge.
We can't expect our children to become what we are not!

Challenge of Providing Unconditional Love in a Family

Parents especially mothers must have a supreme trust, faith and confidence in their children. It is through mother's unconditional love that a child would overcome his weaknesses and his deficiencies. Without this all encompassing love of the children, parenting can not rise to the highest levels envisioned by our religion where paradise is under the feet of the mother.

To understand that parenting is not a transactional relationship is also a challenge. All relationships are now increasingly becoming transactional in nature. But, the family relationships should not be allowed to become transactional. We should not allow the replacement of mother's time with the child for a day-care center, or time and effort to care for old parents for an old-homes, or to trade the interaction time with child in the evening with a tutor, etc.

Parents must appreciate that the parenting role is a gift from Allah and the parents are not transacting with the children in return of future favors and returns.


Differentiating the Parental Role from Other Roles

I have been increasingly observing that parents are arrogating responsibilities of roles that are either not theirs to assume or allowing some other roles to dominate their more important "parental" role. I have observed mothers ignoring the role of the mother, and assuming a role of a judge, role of a prison guard, role of a teacher, role of a "raaziq", role of "haadi" and others. I see mothers picking up on the kid's weaknesses all the time, trying to teach the kids in the morning, evening, afternoon, at meal times and late into night and not letting go of this obsession with studies and teaching and in the process completely ignoring the role of the mother.

I see this confusion regarding three roles taking over the parental role:
Assuming the role of teacher at the expense of mother's role
Not letting go of the role of a teacher. The role of teacher dominating and even eclipsing the role of the mother. I am now forced to say this:
bachay ko maa ki mumta ki zaroorat hoti hay, maa ki teachiri ki nahi
Child needs mother's love, not mother becoming a teacher.



There is an imperceptible role of mother as a teacher, where the child continues to see his mother as a mother even while she is teaching him. This type of collaborative learning environment with mother as a facilitator of child's learning is recommended. However, there is the other side where the mother puts on the crude, brutal role of of a teacher, where the motherly care and love gets replaced by the harsh, uncompromising, judgmental, vindictive and humiliating teacher who loses no chance to humiliate the child in front of his siblings or friends. This must be avoided.

However, many parents are unable to distinguish between the two. It is therefore recommended that they explicitly put on the teacher's role by donning a robe and putting that robe away once they have completed the teaching so that the child can take a sigh of relief when the ordeal is over and the parent also realizes that now the role of the teacher is over, and the parental role has begun.

Role of "Raaziq"

The way I see the parents worrying about the children's future is surprising. Forty years ago, in Karachi there were only two engineering colleges and two medical colleges. Today there are over 17 engineering colleges and around 15 medical schools, and there are over 30 universities. Today, any average student can get admission in whatever field he likes. The scenario is quite different from the exclusive opportunities available in the past. Yet I see the parents subjecting even a child age as small as 4-5 years with extended tuitions for preparing for admissions in God knows what school. I have seen of a kid of 4th grade being forced to attend tuitions after the school for 3+ hours and the parents paying over Rs 18000 to the tutor. This is extremely crazy. Robbing the child from his playtime, socialization time, and reflection time is criminal. I believe this attitude represents wavering of faith and eemaan in the creator being "raaziq". This craziness is coming from parents who are projecting their frustrations and "mehroomis" on to the children and are going overboard in their effort to give them a more prosperous future. They seem to be trying to assume the role of "raaziq" when they think that are determining the abundance that a child may have in future!!!!



Role of "Haadi"

I often see the parents taking on this role which even prophets were not given. That is, assuming the responsibility of ensuring that they give hidaya and guidance to the kids. In their zeal, they abuse and punish the kids when they feel frustrated at the youth not obeying their commands. The rule for tableegh is wa ma alina illal bilagh. Parents are only responsible to show the right from the wrong and use hikmah in trying to provide this guidance. They often forget the need to understand child psychology and need to have the faith in the potential of a child, and patience in the goodness that the child has and faith in Allah that he is the protector, and then try to do the best that the parents can. However, parents should not think that they can assume the responsibility which was not even given to the prophets.
Wa tu-izzu man tasha o wa tu-zillo man tasha o... [Al-Imran: 26]
Yudillo man yasha-o wa yahdi man yasha-o... [Ash Shura: 8]
The challenge for parents starts when they start taking the intransigence of their children personally and lose their composure and patience. This becomes a huge problem when parents are unable to understand their own psychology and what was going on in their mind when they got angry. This happens when they are unable to distinguish whether they are angry because their ego was hurt when the child refused their command, or whether they should feel sorrow about the child suffering in the hereafter because of the child's intransigence.

Challenge of Social Connection with Real People in Real Life

Inability to differentiate between real social interaction with real people and in real life with virtual social networks in virtual web world is becoming a huge challenge. People now are unable to differentiate reality from virtual life. For example, it is easy to "unfriend" someone in FB but hugely difficult to unfriend someone in the real world. Real world disconnection from a friend has emotional costs and social costs. There is actually no cost of time and effort in unfriending someone with a click of a button.
The move towards nuclear families living in smaller apartments in big cities has alienated the opportunity of children to socialize which was present in extended families with frequent get-togethers and scores of invitations to family weddings and other events. These opportunities providing extensive interaction interact with children of different ages, play, fight, resolve conflicts, and learn inter-personal issues and how to cope with the emotional pressures.

Alone-together phenomenon introduced by the cell phones has imprisoned the children and parents in the prison cell of their cellphones.



The challenge of writing and posting intimate pictures on facebook and writing of open diaries is a new challenge which was not present earlier. Earlier, reading some one's personal diary was a big no-no. Today this is not only common but encouraged by the writer (often a young, naive adolescent youth) himself or herself. They can't envision that as we mature and grow older, we change, our interests change and our likes and dislikes change; we learn from our mistakes, and build anew our lives. They forget that their lives once on the internet are into public sphere, constricting the space for them to grow, unlearn and start afresh, redesign their lives, and learn from their mistakes. The costs of this redesign of their lives becomes huge once intimate details are on public internet where the information never dies. Consequences of mistakes now made are exponentially higher and information on the net never dies and is never forgotten and may come to haunt decades later.


Self Learning and Customized Learning Experiences

Opportunity of learning and acquiring knowledge from any source and in any field, good or bad, are now limitless and available on a single click anywhere. This accessibility can no longer be constrained or censored.

Making Marriage Easier

Children are growing up much earlier and learning about things decades before their parents did. They are maturing earlier and hence obstacles for "halal" should be reduced from "haram". Marriage should be made easy. Illicit relationships should be made difficult. Waiting for the youth to be in job and established in life before marriage should be discouraged. There is a need for the parents to understand the psychological and social pressures that a child feels today and to facilitate the permissible.

Challenge of Studies vs Games

Once upon a time, there was a distinction between games and study. Study meant better job and self sufficiency and games meant not to be self-sufficient. This is represented by the famous poem:
khelo gay kodo gay ho gay kharab...parho gay likho gay banao gay nawab
All this has changed tremendously. People in sports and games are often earning more today. Games are increasingly becoming a vehicle for providing a learning experience for the children in all disciplines. I can see that in future, all learning would happen through software which would be more like exciting and engrossing games of today, where the child would become a player in different roles in the experiential learning of the concepts. Eventually, games would become a preferred mode of learning and acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Exposure of nature, physical exercise

Need for the parents to provide exposure to nature and physical environment would become great with the life in the virtual world becoming more and more exciting. The physical experiences of the nature would become a challenge with so many low cost virtual experiences abounding around us. A human being is human because he can appreciate nature and has experienced nature, has swam in rivers, climbed mountains, breathed in the fresh air of the country side, smelled the fragrance of rain drops after an extended drought. Closeness to such experiences are crucial for avoiding many of the depressions and psychological issues now plaguing the population and often afflicting the children.




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