No Ayaz and other morons, civil society isn’t going to take a rest

A lot of stuff written in Pakistan english newspapers is written in a language which is not exactly english, so here’s my translation into simple english of Ayaz Amir’s latest, in which he first accuses people clamoring for a change for the better for being powerless fools than asks than to stop speaking as the government, courts and army can’t function faced with all that noise. Onwards to the ill-logic which passes for opinion pieces these days:

The lawyers’ movement fostered many illusions, none more powerful than the myth that there was something called civil society in Pakistan, good people out to do good and inspired by the best of intentions. Retired bureaucrats, professors of academia in search of a cause, society girls and begums, and frustrated politicians – a politician who fails to get elected or who has nowhere to get elected from is a study in frustration – became the standard bearers of civil society.

Ayaz here says that tis no civil society in Pakistan, and only self serving washed up has-beens try to achieve any good. The cynical worldview and lack of ethics is disgusting – Ayaz says here that all of the many people involved in Pakistani society who tried to make a difference either didn’t exist and throws a bucketful of scorn on them anyways.

At the end of the day, whoever fights for a good cause, in whatever fashion, is more worthy than people like like Ayaz who make fun of them.

Read moreNo Ayaz and other morons, civil society isn’t going to take a rest

Of Weblog software and twitters

This is the 500th post on that blog! There have been more but various bloggy housekeeping deleted a bunch some time ago..

It is only fitting that 500th blog post is actually a “twitter link.”: This weblog runs Movabletype, which died a while back and now I’m sick of the rotting smell. So until I get around to modernizing it, that thar twitter feed below is the new microblog…

In case you missed it, here it is again: “”:

Read moreOf Weblog software and twitters

Illiteracy meets high finance

In Shikarpur today, the govt handed out prepaid visa cards to ppl who don’t understand them in places where they can’t spend them.

Yes, really. They gave them out. Riots ensued. UBL regional chief clutched his head in despair. Some interesting numbers jumped up out of the whole affair, though not the numbers the card holders wanted:

*Number of ppl who managed to get money out:* Zero.

*Number of shops or anything for that matter in a 45km district accepting cards, or even having telephone lines to connect card machines to:* Zero

(46km to the nearest store accepting visa cards in Sukkur. It’s a seperate issue that their machine doesn’t work and they sell chocolates and pastries, not atta.)

Read moreIlliteracy meets high finance

Fatima Bhutto: Songs of Blood and Swords

I gave this book a huge margin for the fact that it’s not a work of history, as the author states right in the beginning, rather it’s her attempt to make sense of and come to terms with her own family history. So the following is my attempt to be less critical and hold the book to a different benchmark than my norm…

The book conveniently cherry picks a bunch of facts, true though some are, made up as others might be, to present a lopsided and sometimes made up view of history. The book is about Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his family, but switches over to dry facts and lots of omissions when convenient – in this case, Zulfi’s large role in instigating and supporting the civil war in East Pakistan, and his sheer meglomania throughout in not willing to accept a party which had won more seats and more votes than his own.

There is much history written about this era, some good, many bad, and having read much of it the gloss and spin in this spin makes for painful reading.

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The twin countries of Greece and Pakistan

While Micheal Lewis’s “most recent article is on Greece”:, it has many parallels for Pakistan. Some excerpts below which could have been written about Pakistan as well:

bq. After systematically looting their own treasury, in a breathtaking binge of tax evasion, bribery, and creative accounting spurred on by Goldman Sachs, Greeks are sure of one thing: they can’t trust their fellow Greeks.

Just replace Goldman Sach’s with the local big shots…

Read moreThe twin countries of Greece and Pakistan

Benazirabad and beggars

The “Karachi Relief Trust”: has 10 camps managed from a central location in Sakhrand. So my team got here today, liasoned with the old team we’re replacing, the people on the ground, than made our way around all the 10 camps distrubuting food and here we are in Benazirabad waiting for some food ourselves now.

Nawabshah is now called SBAG – Shaheed Benazirabad Abad District something. The benefit of naming your town after her, and all other towns should follow this great idea is that everyone you can imagine a sign you have a sign. This is a great relief for people like me who can’t find places without signs.

The only problem is that every place is called SBAG now and depending on the photoshop skills of the signmaker there are pics of Benazir in all sizes, ranging from Madame Tussad wax quality pictures to horrendous pale faced caricatures the likes of which are only seen in horror movies.

There has been some hue and cry in the twitterati, facebooking and bloggy circles about a billion rupee monument being build to Benazir somewhere or the other, but they missed out on the multi-billion signage being put up everywhere else!

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Of flood, duds and places in between

The newest saga in the ongoing tragedy which is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is much better reported elsewhere, but within that reportage, a few things which stood out:

Burqas, chadors, hijabs and baggy shalwars aren’t conducive to survival in a flood or while wading through the aftermath of a mudslide.

The common citizen has spent his or her entire life with no help from the government, yet for some reason expect the government to morph into a all beneveloent government during crisis and behave effectively. There is tragedy all around, but so many people seem to be just waiting for someone else to do something. Which isn’t to bellittle the many heroes all around, but their seems to be a sense of entitlement which has no basis in reality or recent history.

The moving image is so much more powerful than print to convey the unfolding tragedy yet the majority of the talking heads, the editorial people and a bunch of others working for the TV media need to be fired, right away. Journalism isn’t entertainment, though it might entertain at times, and it certainly isn’t about vaccous half formed opinions. The print media, though not much better at least isn’t standing around mouths agape trying to cover up the silence within with a machine gun rapid fire of drivel.

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ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

There have been a lot of books on the recent economic crisis, but most of them address only small parts of the systematic failures which caused the crisis, and they don’t do a good job of explaining what the financial system looks like before moving onto the crisis itself. “ECONned”: is a really good overview of both the systems in place and the crisis.

The book isn’t about just the crisis, but rather the current financial system and the regulatory, personal and economic interests which shaped it. The author’s “blog is really interesting”: as well.

Other books, like Micheal Lewis’s “The Big Short”: do a good job of telling a small part of the story, but completely fail to deliver on what actually happened.

Read moreECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

Getting from A to B

bq. Zegras observes that fundamentally, people do not desire travel …. they wish to have accessibility. Travel is a derived demand, prompted by our activities. If we could make better use of telecommunications, or, if our cities were more compact, perhaps we would find less need for vehicle trips.

Chris Zegras on “transportation in urban areas:”:

It’s interesting, especially in light of the choices most Pakistani cities have opted regarding transport infrastructure – which in light of just about all recent academic research looks horribly wrong.

Read moreGetting from A to B