Lalu Yadav as King Lear?

“How can we live, without our lives?”                                                                                                             -John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath

 I have borrowed the title of this column from a recent article by Uttam Sengupta, Consulting Editor of the National Herald, India.  It is fascinating to understand why Sengupta has symbolically compared Lalu Yadav, a popular Indian politician, to King Lear.

 King Lear is William Shakespeare’s 1605/06 play set in England.  The King wants to retire from duty as king, and decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, but the biggest share to the one who loves him most.  The two older daughters flatter the king, but the youngest doesn’t know how to express her love. So, the king gives the flatterers half the kingdom each, and in anger disowns the younger daughter. In due course, the king goes mad because of the mistreatment he receives from his two elder daughters, and finally dies of sadness and depression.

 Lalu Yadav’s eldest daughter is a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, and two of his sons are legislators in Bihar. Lalu Yadav, himself, is in jail now, sentenced by an anti-corruption court on corruption charges. What will become of Lalu Yadav in the end is the drop scene of this real-life play – one can only guess. Continue reading


A Note to the Sitting Prime Minister

Many are the things that man                                                                                                              Seeing must understand                                                                                                                        Not seeing, how shall he know                                                                                                          What lies in the hand                                                                                                                          Of time to come?”                                                                                                                                    —Sophocles, the Greek playwright

“That moment will never come. The moment to give yourself to your art (dreams, political ambitions, public welfare plans) is now.”

Prime Minister: What Pakistan needs is a Soft Revolution – but I will come to that a little later in this column.

First, let me go back a little, though not too far, to December 27, 2017, to your interview with Nadeem Malik on a Samaa Television Talk Show.

It was a pleasure to watch you: a confident, calm, calculated, articulate, decisive-looking and well-prepared Prime Minister responding with assurance and personal conviction to the questions asked while sitting comfortably in your own private home in opulent surroundings and explaining to the nation your government and party’s political ideological premise and discourse in the prevailing critical circumstances. It was, indeed, a good performance.  In my professional capacity and analytical judgement, Prime Minister, you appeared to be a person in complete control of yourself.  Indeed, your articulation, optimistic attitude, controlled behavior and ability to communicate effectively must have been noted and admired by many of the listeners.

However, as a common citizen of this country, among millions of others, I am encountering several conceptual difficulties in understanding the full extent of your ideological paradigm explicitly stated in the said interview. Consequently, many questions come to mind and need to be raised for clarification purposes. Continue reading

Conduct Yourself with Spiritual Politics!

“Who dwells in a glass house must not invite the hostile sentiments of pebble throwers!”

As she was quoted verbatim on the front page of the Express Tribune, Ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s angry, anguished and defiant daughter, Maryam Nawaz, reacting to the recently held APC in Lahore said, “All PMLN opponents are worth a used tissue paper.”  One simply wonders about the use of such language. Did things have to sink so low in the so-called democratic Islamic Republic of Pakistan?

I count myself one among the millions of Pakistani common folks, the awam, who are PMLN leadership’s opponents on the basis of political, ideological, philosophical, historical, analytical, and above all, moral-ethical reasons based on factual arguments and verifiable authentic evidence. However, let us consider for the sake of argument, the possibility that all of us, the PMLN opponents, may be absolutely flawed in our reasoning and the understanding of the entire political, economic, social situation in the country at the moment. The question that arises is: Are all of us “used tissue papers” worth nothing? Continue reading

Understanding Americans!

If you wish to understand Donald Trump, the US President, you will have to understand the collective consciousness of the common American populous in the context of an overall national psyche.  There are two fundamentals to the American psyche, that is, of the majority of Americans, barring a few of them invaded by multi-culturalism and a global wave of wider and expansive universal political awareness.  But, this is a rare commodity in America and, by and large, the entire nation is “one-dimensional,” sharing rigid and determined social and political attitudes that have remained untiredly unchanged over the decades of American existence as a nation, specifically in the aftermath of the Second World War and the emergence of the US as the dominant global military and economic power.

The first fundamental of the overall American national psyche is that the majority of Americans are overly obsessed by the idea of “appearance,” and this is of a psychological-political dimension: Americans wish to be seen as generous, kind and charitable, democratic and tolerant, politically correct and global in their political-cultural outlook. Hence, America has a culture of social-cultural conformity that is unshakably voluntary – nearly everyone shares the same views and attitudes over almost every social and political norm: “We’re Number One!” There are hardly any diametrically opposed opinions on most political or social issues. Continue reading

Why I Read Books & Yet Illiterate!

In an age of digital technology that controls our daily existence — mutual communication and human relationships by Facebook, Twitter, and above all massive electronically manipulated messaging by sophisticated telephones and other digital means — someone like me with a doctorate from an Ivy League university in the US is utterly and absolutely illiterate in the said field.  And, mind it, this illiteracy is by choice – completely self-imposed.  It is not, I must say, because of any mental-psychological impediment or intellectual disability. In fact, it may sound quite foolish, but I tend to enjoy my ignorance of the subject and the non-practice of it.  The truth is that there is implicit uncomplicatedness and simplicity in not being involved with digital communication; it is this personal innocence that I cherish.

My philosophical and conceptual view on the subject is that I do not wish to snap myself away from the intimate community experiences that I have grown up with, known and encountered.  No way! I cannot substitute digital messaging for real face-to-face conversations. Call me, if you wish, out-of-sync with contemporary civilization, but I have no desire to lose myself in this digital chimera that replaces intimate human relationships with an addiction for a vast global network of auxiliary acquaintances that exist only in an abstract sense through Facebook, Twitter and other digital interconnectedness without phenomenological and contemplative reality. Continue reading

But Why? Why? Why?

“Will you kill me or your father if it turns out that your family is at war with ours, in the current struggle for political power?”

“I listened…thinking what it must be like to a termite, forever busy tearing apart, eating into the foundations which others had built.”

from Search, Farah Nuruddin

There is a rage in my mind and heart burning like a fire. There is an uncontrollable anger in my body and soul. There is a tremendous anguish stretching over me like an entire horizon – just the way millions of Pakistani people are feeling these days over the killing of 6 innocent citizens and a policeman (latest report, 11 killed) at the Faizabad Interchange protest.

Why did Zohaib, Jahanzeb, Irfan, Adeel, and other innocent human beings along with a policeman hit in the head by a brick have to die?  For what reason? What purpose? And then, we have conveniently granted these innocent lives “martyrdom” so that their souls can ascend to Heaven while their families left behind suffer on this earth where human life exists. Ask a widow, an orphaned child, a father, a mother, a brother or a sister what it is like losing a dear one and enduring endless sorrow for the rest of their lives.

I believe it is about time that our so-called democratic leadership and national managers understand that democratic governance is all about compassion, empathy with the people of the nation, and caring for them. It is about providing safety, security, stability and service to the masses. And in a democratic system of governance, the common people have to be listened to. They are not simply pawns that provide votes to put some shady characters in political power. In the context of the protest, the writ of the government and “ego” of the powerful rulers should have been of secondary importance. The foremost element of a democratic regime is to steadfastly follow the ethical-moral norms that stipulate that the people’s right of “freedom of expression” is not to be responded to with the application of lethal state force when there is a clash of opinion between the political managers and a section of society.  There must be a willingness on the part of the state functionaries to negotiate, first and foremost! Continue reading

Not Who but What

Machiavelli, the 15th century Italian philosopher, observed the following in his political treatise The Prince: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

Indeed, Machiavelli’s observation is absolutely accurate; that is what the modern systems experts and management gurus also testify.  On top of that, global history tells us that making a political systemic change in the ongoing political chronicles of a nation is a most difficult task. It is one of those experimental exploits that is loaded with explosive possibilities going either way because of “the nature of the beast.” Human beings as “political animals” are most often unpredictable in fluid situations.

And yet, in spite of the accuracy of Machiavelli’s historical observation and its contemporary validation, today’s Pakistan will have to make a fresh start in its ongoing voyage to commence a struggle to attain a truly democratic political systemic change in this country. It is a difficult, in fact, arduous and toilsome task – yet, we, the Pakistani people, have no choice – no other option. At the moment, Pakistan is facing an existential threat from the forces of the political status quo that are hell-bent on bringing this nation to the ultimate and absolute political, economic and social abyss.

Pakistan has to be saved from the clutches of “political vultures” and “political wolves” who have torn it apart through a vicious self-serving 8 years of “muk-muka” divisive democracy that has brought this nation to the brink of possible political destruction. Continue reading