New Book: Sindhi translation of Awaami Falaahi Riasat Ki Kahaani, Becharay Jonathan Ki Zabaani

Alternate Solutions Institute has released Sindhi translation of Ken Schoolland’s The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey. The Sindhi translation made by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Rahujo, General Secretary Liberal Forum Pakistan, is based on Dr. Khalil Ahmad’s Urdu translation of the same book that was published in 2003. Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Pakistan very generously funded the project.


Alternate Solutions Institute has released Sindhi translation of Ken Schoolland’s The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey. The Sindhi translation made by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Rahujo, General Secretary Liberal Forum Pakistan, is based on Dr. Khalil Ahmad’s Urdu translation of the same book that was published in 2003. Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Pakistan very generously funded the project.

Title: Awaami Pilaai Vari Riasat Ji Kahaani, Vecharay Jonathan Ji Zabaani (Azaad Mandi Ji Vatej Vapaar Ji Baaray Hik Naavel) Author: Ken Schoolland Urdu Translation: Dr. Khalil Ahmad Sindhi Translation: Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Rahujo First Edition: 2007 Pages: 197 Price: Rs.100 For more information, please contact Mr. Azeem Hafeez on the following addresses: Email: info@asinstitute.org Office: Room No. 32, 3rd Floor, Landmark Plaza, Jail Road, Lahore Postal: P. O. Box No. 933, GPO, Lahore-54000 Cell phone: 0321-4963467

New Booklet Argues Pakistanis Desperately Need Rule of Law

New booklet titled “The Greatest Battle for the Rule of Law in Pakistan” was published last month. It dwells on the importance of the ongoing struggle of lawyers’ for the rule of law in Pakistan.


This new booklet titled The Greatest Battle for the Rule of Law in Pakistan was published last month. It dwells on the importance of the ongoing struggle of lawyers’ for the rule of law in Pakistan. The book consists of three articles by Dr. Khalil Ahmad, which have already appeared in top national English dailies. The writer argues that the fiefdom of Pakistan is ruled by an alliance of various elites under the leadership of the most powerful clique which include special political, religious, judicial, economic and military interests. These interests use every resource of the state for their own welfare and for furthering their rule, and thus have deprived the people of Pakistan from their fundamental rights ensured in the Constitution. They are like an abandoned nation.

But after a suffering of sixty years, there is silver lining in the form of lawyers’ struggle for an inviolable constitution, rule of law and an independent judiciary. The writer is of the opinion that in this decisive battle for the rule of law and independent judiciary, the onus is on the shoulders of honorable judges. The fate of this battle and the fate of Pakistan also will be determined by their integrity. Whether they stick to the Constitution and its Spirit is important to decide this battle. But, if they don’t, there will be widespread discontent. That is why this battle is decisive. This is decisive also because the most learned section of our society cannot stop short of what they have stood for now, i.e. rule of law, not the rule of anything else.

Title: The Greatest Battle for the Rule of Law in Pakistan
Author: Dr. Khalil Ahmad
Publisher: Alternate Solutions Institute, Lahore
Date: June 2007
Pages: 48
Price: Rs.45

To order a copy from within Lahore, send Rs.60.00 [Rs.15.00 courier charges] and within Pakistan Rs.95 [Rs.40.00 courier charges]; if you want the booklet to be delivered via ordinary mail, send Rs.50 on the following address:

Office Executive, Alternate Solutions Institute,
Room No: 32, 3rd Floor, Landmark Plaza, 5/6 Jail Road, Lahore

New Book: Fighting the Diseases of Poverty

UN, governments’ policies cause avoidable disease and suffering Many health policies promoted by intergovernmental bodies and governments in less-developed countries are counterproductive and lead to unnecessary suffering, according to a new book, Fighting the Diseases of Poverty launched here by Alternate Solutions Institute, a partner organization of Campaign for Fighting Diseases.


UN, governments’ policies cause avoidable disease and suffering

Many health policies promoted by intergovernmental bodies and governments in less-developed countries are counterproductive and lead to unnecessary suffering, according to a new book, Fighting the Diseases of Poverty launched here by Alternate Solutions Institute, a partner organization of Campaign for Fighting Diseases. In it, global experts challenge conventional wisdom about the diseases of poverty and set out pragmatic approaches to fighting disease.

The book’s editor, Philip Stevens, says:

“Too often governments and international health bureaucracies promote grandiose and politically-motivated schemes that prove unworkable and lead to increased suffering and death. This is what happened with malaria and HIV/AIDS. Meanwhile, millions of children die every year from simple things like diarrhoea or chest infections. Governments need to prioritize their work better and get back to basics if there is any hope of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.”

The contributors to the book show how:

  • The explosion of counterfeit medicines in less developed countries gravely damages the health of the poor and is encouraged by a lack of enforceable property rights and weak rule of law.
  • Endemic corruption in the health systems of less developed countries imperils the health-related Millennium Development Goals.
  • Government attempts to plan and control universal healthcare systems result in rationing, inequitable access and entrenched corruption.
  • The structure and funding of the World Health Organization leads it to focus resources on the modish health issues of wealthy countries instead of its core business of fighting the diseases of poverty.

Order Fighting the Diseases of Poverty from Amazon.com.

Click here for the full text pdf (1.6 mb)

Raising Taxes Is Not Reducing Government Spending

December 20, 2010

The fundamental question is, who is the owner of the funds paid in taxes? Is it the citizens, who have earned the funds and who turn them over to the government under the threat of being fined or imprisoned, or even killed if they physically resist the government, or is it the government?


By George Reisman
Sunday’s (November 21, 2010) New York Times carries an article titled “The Blur Between Spending and Taxes.” The author is Harvard Professor N. Gregory Mankiw. [The article appeared on p. 5 of the Business Section of the November 21, 2010 issue.] The essential theme of the article is that the government is spending when it decides to forgo tax revenue that it otherwise could have collected. Indeed, tax revenues forgone in the enactment of tax deductions, such as for interest payments on home mortgages or charitable contributions, and tax credits, such as for first-time homebuyers or adoptions, are now commonly described as “Tax Expenditures.” The thought is that the government is spending money in deciding not to take it in taxes and to allow the taxpayers to keep it.
The underlying assumption of those who hold this view is that the government already owns the funds in question whether it has collected them in taxes or not. The government is the alleged owner of funds that belong to the taxpayer and which it abstains from taking. It allegedly spends these funds in allowing the taxpayers to keep them.
The fundamental question is, who is the owner of the funds paid in taxes? Is it the citizens, who have earned the funds and who turn them over to the government under the threat of being fined or imprisoned, or even killed if they physically resist the government, or is it the government?
To the supporters of the principle of individual rights and limited government — the principle on the basis of which the United States was founded — the obvious answer is that the people own the tax revenues and, in paying them, financially support the government. To the supporters of an omnipotent government ruling over a citizenry of rightless serfs, the government is the owner both of the people’s possessions, which, allegedly, are theirs in name only, and, indeed, of the people themselves. It is on the basis of this belief that it follows that the government financially supports the people in not taxing away their wealth.
The defenders of individual rights need to remind the government that it does not pay or enrich anyone by allowing him to keep what is already his.
This truth has major implications for the subject of tax reform, which the Times‘ article was written to address. Tax reform needs to consist exclusively of reductions in government spending and in taxes. It should not be based on massive tax increases resulting from the elimination of existing tax deductions and credits. It is actual government spending that must be reduced, not what people have up to now been able to avoid having to pay in support of that spending.
The notion of tax expenditures provides the pretext for massive tax increases in the name of reducing government spending. This notion must be cast aside, so that the target of tax reform will be reductions in actual government spending, which then must be followed by reductions in taxes. This is what must be done on a truly massive scale. To the extent that it is accomplished, the income tax can be progressively reduced, until it is ultimately eliminated altogether. At that point, all questions of income tax deductions and credits will have disappeared.
As matters stand, the notion that the absence of taxation constitutes government spending is setting the stage for the total perversion of genuine tax reform. It is being used in an effort to impose as much as a trillion dollars a year in new taxes disguised as a trillion dollars a year of reduced government spending. In the words of the Times‘ article,
Erskine B. Bowles and Alan K. Simpson, the chairmen of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission, have taken a hard look at these tax expenditures — and they don’t like what they see. In their draft proposal, released earlier this month, they proposed doing away with tax expenditures, which together cost the Treasury over $1 trillion a year.
This is the sum and substance of the concept of tax reform held not only by the Obama administration but also by cowardly Republicans and conservatives. Simpson was a Republican United States Senator from Wyoming for eighteen years. Mankiw, the author of the Times‘ article, was chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors from 2003 to 2005.
In sum, the danger exists that Left and Right are about to unite to accomplish a colossal political fraud in the form of enormous tax increases sold to an unsuspecting public as reductions in government spending. The American people need to stand up and refuse to accept any form of the absurdity that in not taxing them, the government is spending their money and that the path to lower spending and taxes is raising their taxes. The basis of tax reform must be reduced government spending, not higher taxes.
George Reisman, Ph.D., is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics and the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996). His web site is www.capitalism.net. This article was submitted in Pakistan by Alternate Solutions Institute Syndication Service, Lahore.

PEMRA: Regulating the Taste of People

The institution of government was founded to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens from the usurpers be they individuals or conutries. Or, what purpose could or does it serve? Surely, people did not and do not need somebodies to rule them? But, with the passage of time, various ambitious individuals, elites, representatives of this or that class, and organized political/religious parties, monopolized it to rule the people, to regulate their lives according to their philosophies, ideologies, visions, wishes and tastes. Thus, the institution of government started losing its rai-sons d’e-tre.


by Dr. Khalil Ahmad

The institution of government was founded to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens from the usurpers be they individuals or conutries. Or, what purpose could or does it serve? Surely, people did not and do not need somebodies to rule them? But, with the passage of time, various ambitious individuals, elites, representatives of this or that class, and organized political/religious parties, monopolized it to rule the people, to regulate their lives according to their philosophies, ideologies, visions, wishes and tastes. Thus, the institution of government started losing its rai-sons d’e-tre.

In Pakistan too, the institution of government has become a tool in the hands of such utopian adventurers. As regards the electronic media, first there was the tyranny of the state-sponsored Pakistan Television. People had to watch or listen to what the government wanted them to watch and listen to. Then, there was a bit of liberalization. One or two other channels made their debut under the censorship of the government. But, the advancement in technology played its role in empowering people to have their choice. Dish antenna gave them more freedom, but this freedom was restricted to those who could afford its high price and the license fee levied by the government. It was an innovation on the part of small business people that they started operating various channels available on the dish through cable and brought them within the reach of many a people. This was illegal. As creation is always followed by regulation and taxation, so, the people in the government thought of taxing and regulating it. This is how Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) came to be established on March 1, 2002.

It was mandated to:

1. Improve the standards of information, education and entertainment.
2. Enlarge the choice available to the people of Pakistan in the media for news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector concerns, music, sports, drama and other subjects of public and national interest.
3. Facilitate the devolution of responsibility and power to the grass-roots by improving the access of the people to mass media at the local and community level; and
4. Ensure accountability, transparency and good governance by optimizing the free flow of information. [http://www.pemra.gov.pk/index.html]

But, the way PEMRA is behaving goes starkly against its mandate. Instead of improving, it is deteriorating the standards of information, education and entertainment. Instead of enlarging, it is restricting the choice available to the people of Pakistan in the media for news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector concerns, music, sports, drama and other subjects of public and national interest. Instead of facilitating, it is blocking the devolution of responsibility and power to the grass-roots by restricting the access of the people to mass media at the local and community level. And, instead of ensuring accountability, transparency and good governance by optimizing the free flow of information, it is thwarting this process by obstructing the free flow of information.

In addition to the unwelcome requirements for obtaining Cable TV license comprising 8 categories ranging from B-1 to B-8 based on the number of subscribers, PEMRA controls the Cable TV by manipulating the tariff structure. For inclusion of new channel in the list, all the interested parties are required to have to make formal request to the PEMRA followed by a presentation by local agents or channel holders about the contents of program. The most sinister part of PEMRA is its banning of various foreign or particularly Indian TV channels on this or that pretext, and that too totally against the wishes and demand of the people. But, the most glaring example of its going against its own mandate is its ‘List of 54 Cable TV Eligible Foreign Channels’ [http://www.pemra.gov.pk/list_.html] which lets no Cable TV operator act freely to meet the demands of its clients. This is not only a setback to the Cable TV business but an encroachment upon the freedom and choice of the people also.

This list is tagged by conditions such as: that Cable TV operators will have to apply mosaicking to eliminate undesirable segments/parts of the program (parts of programs that are not in conformity with PEMRA program and advertisement codes from eligible channels). The channels in the PEMRA list include 2 religious, 9 news (out of which 2 are in Arabic and 7 in English), 8 educational/information (all in English), 6 kids (all in English), 12 sports, 17 entertainment (out of which 9 or 10 are in English, two in Chinese, one in Bengali and one in Turkish and others) channels. As to Chinese, Turkish and Arabic channels, no doubt people in Pakistan won’t be interested in watching them even if they are given the opportunity to choose to do so. These languages are beyond their comprehension. Although, a little number of people may understand and enjoy most of other news, educational/information, kids, sports and entertainment channels in English (more than 30) but majority of people can have no interest in them.

As this selection of channels by PEMRA does not include Pakistani Urdu and other regional languages channels and which means that people are free, or in this case, forced, to watch them, one is at a loss why other international Urdu channels have not been considered for this list? Clearly, they must have been part of this list for the sole reason that the language spoken and understood on the both sides of the borderline, i.e. in India and Pakistan, is same. But, probably because of the fact that most of such international Urdu channels are based and being telecast from India, and, information ministry of Pakistan has a history of banning the Indian channels on the pretext of countering the cultural invasion, political propaganda, and protecting our national values, all of these channels have been banned. This is inadvertently described by information policy makers in Pakistan as an act of patriotism.

But, on the other hand, we have a very different story to relate. When during the 80s first ever Indian movie was to be telecast from an Indian channel and which could be viewed in the city of Lahore, there was shortage of TV sets and antennas in the market of Lahore, and there were too many people in Lahore landed from other cities to watch that movie. Months back when this time the ban on Indian channels was imposed, people especially women launched a vehement protest campaign to assert their right to watch channels of their choice. Not only are people to suffer this ban due to the unavailability of entertainment they want to have but this time it is affecting badly the business of cable TV operators also. They lodged their protest by issuing statements to the press and making representations to the concerned quarters, and striking and closing down the telecasting of any channels whatsoever.

All of this has proved in vain and the information policy bosses seem in no mood to lift this notorious ban on Indian channels. And, all of this is happening in the face of present SAARC summit and unprecedented friendly gestures on the part of both governments. In view of the ongoing attempt at normalization of relations between India and Pakistan, keeping this ban imposed is unintelligible. Not only this creates an impression that the government of Pakistan lacks a consistent and coherent policy towards its neighboring country but lets the doubts lurk as to its sincerity and trust in the ongoing process of normalization.

Most of all, this ban on Indian or, for that matter, on any other media, is a stark violation of the freedom of individual citizens to enjoy their lives as they wish. This forces them to watch and listen to what the busybodies of PEMRA want them to and amounts to imposing a special ‘taste’ in them whereas it is the people the taste of whom these busybodies of PEMRA should follow. As no regulatory body has the right to regulate the life of people but they themselves, controlling the taste of people for this or that reason is quite fascistic an act and is clearly beyond the mandate of PEMRA. What PEMRA needs to do is to look after the interests of the people such as: that Cable TV operators are providing what they promised to their clients and the quality of their service; and to redress the grievances/complaints of the people against the Cable TV operators, etc. Other than this, PEMRA has no right to regulate the taste of people; rather it should regulate its own taste to meet its mandate.
————

Khalil Ahmad is president and founder of the Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free-market think tank.

War Against Virtue

May 02, 2009

Our share of the terrorists or Taliban has perfected what we have been suffering in our country at smaller or somewhat larger scales for the last six decades: the moral policing. Sometimes it was individuals or well-knit groups, and sometimes it were governments that resorted to moral policing. However, now in the shape of Taliban, the moral policing has reached its climax, i.e. it has become top most duty of the Taliban type state.


By Dr. Khalil Ahmad

All coercion is part of the war against virtue unless morally and legally justified.

Our share of the terrorists or Taliban has perfected what we have been suffering in our country at smaller or somewhat larger scales for the last six decades: the moral policing. Sometimes it was individuals or well-knit groups, and sometimes it were governments that resorted to moral policing. However, now in the shape of Taliban, the moral policing has reached its climax, i.e. it has become top most duty of the Taliban type state. The use of force has found its ultimate end. The annihilation of every trace of freedom has been attained. As a result, every semblance of virtue has been destroyed. In sum, with the advent of Taliban rule in parts of the NWFP, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.

From the most private details of one’s life to his public behavior, every thing has been taken over by the Taliban state to make it happen via its use of brute force. The men who wield this power of the state have no legitimate claim to it, since no moral or political theory justifies it but the naked force. It is on the part of the Taliban that they have assumed this power by virtue of their gun-holding. It is on the part of an already existing state that its authority has been ceded to Taliban on the pretext of peace. One thing is common in both states: they have forsaken the individual and his rights. In effect, they have deprived him of his natural right to freely choose his destiny.

It’s just for argument’s sake that under any system of justice statements of confession made under duress are outrightly set aside as unacceptable for the simple reason that they do not issue from a free agent and thus are unworthy of any use in fixing responsibility for one’s alleged acts. Likewise, what one does under oppression, whatever name we give to it, can NEVER be considered virtue. It’s all because virtue grows and flourishes in an environment where freedom is abundantly present in the air.

Conversely in an environment of un-freedom what freely prosper are lie, malice and hypocrisy. That is what we have our whole society from top to bottom infected with incurably. No realm of life be it public or private, political or economic, social or spiritual, religious or secular, learning or teaching, or any other, is immune from it. In such a society the gravity of the crisis manifests itself in a concept of virtue bereft of all meaning of virtue. The only purpose left for virtue to be adopted as a way of life is its usefulness in earning social recognition of one’s virtuosity. It loses its worth as a means to civilize, moralize and humanize one’s self. It metamorphoses us into a conscienceless being. It’s all vice that enwraps itself in the guise of virtue. Virtue acquires the status of one of the ploys of vice itself. Morality is taken hostage by ideology/faith.

The most distinguishing feature of this local war of ours against virtue is its flagrant self-contradiction: it claims to establish a state of virtue whereas instead of letting virtue grow naturally freely it is trying to impose/enforce virtue politically and administratively, and of course militarily also. This should bring the process of our moral fall to a finish.

This is not without precedent. Only that now it is programmed to reach its logical conclusion. Since day one we have had political groups, parties, institutions, and what not which in the name of moral policing were up to achieving this Taliban state like arrangement. In addition to that, we have had both civil and military governments which aimed at setting up such a moral police state. It is out of question here what their intent was. What came to happen as a result is what is important. It is what we have before us right now.

It may be the last war against virtue in Pakistan if we allow our last embankment to be swept away by this hilly torrent. This embankment is our constitution. It seems the enemy has crossed over all the ditches we have dug for our safety. It has run over all the forts and fortresses we have built to protect us. It has penetrated inside us. It has found allies from amongst us. And now it is up to take head-on to our last stronghold, our constitution.

It’s time we realize the importance and significance of the constitution. It’s like life to us, our people, nation and our country. We are in one word this constitution. Pakistan has no other meaning. If this meaning is lost to the Taliban brand of virtue, Pakistan will lose its meaning. The losing of the constitution is tantamount to losing the security of the fundamental rights to every citizen. The losing of the security of the fundamental rights means losing the freedoms of every citizen to live in accordance with his conscience. That in turn amounts to the losing of all possibility of virtue in our society. Let us save virtue! Let us save the constitution of Pakistan!

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free market think tank.

Let Us Kill Each Other!

April 20, 2009

Under the present circumstances where the perpetrators of terror have unleashed a most brutal war the hidden agenda of which is ultimately their own political supremacy, we have two options clearly open to every one of us: kill each other, or live in peace with each other.


By Dr. Khalil Ahmad

For us living together requires neither love nor mercy, but rules of conduct; everything be it ideology, faith, or any system of thought, comes after that. Anything short of it is at the same time inhuman and anti-human, and is like putting death before life.

“Hey, Mr., you are different. Your skin color is different. You wear clothes different from mine. Sometimes you use shorts or just rags. You eat things different from mine. You play different games. You sing and dance. You make and watch movies. You have places of obscenity which you call freedom and enjoyment. You call them art, fashion, and what not.

Your women live like you. They behave like you. They wear dress like yours. They go out like you. They do everything like you do. They sing and dance like you. They sing and dance in public like you do. You treat them like your equals.

You have installed a society and system which is different from mine. You hold elections and make a representative government which is different from mine. You have evolved representative institutions different from mine. You have a system of political parties which I don’t approve of. The world you live I don’t like at all. Why are you different?

You or most of you abandoned your beliefs. You adopted the religion of freedom instead. You give religious freedom to all and sundry. You make them or let everybody believe as they wish. Practice their faith as they wish. To me it’s just non-sense.

You have evolved philosophy and seek truth. You have developed innumerable sciences and a lot of knowledge, technology. You call it freedom of thought and expression. You believe in freedom and free society. You live in freedom and live for freedom. I don’t approve of it.

You are completely different from me. I can’t bear it. Listen! Be like me. Or I will make you to be like me. And, mind it, I will kill you if you don’t do that. Be like me or I will kill you.”

Our world is populous with different individuals, communities, and people. No one is similar to the other. We have as many differences amongst us as many men and women there are on the face of our earth planet. Thus if anyone sets out on a journey of unifying them all – different individuals and their different individualities and their individual differences – into the image of his own liking, no doubt every one of us in that case will be constantly at war with each one of us. A killing spree will follow.

Until and unless we learn to live in peace with different people, their different individualities, their individual differences, their different beliefs, and their different systems of thought, there will be no end to it. That is what human civilization is all about. We have laws and rule of law and protection of fundamental human rights to honor each one’s life and his freedom and to remain within the limits of our own life and freedom. That is what human existence is all about.

Under the present circumstances where the perpetrators of terror have unleashed a most brutal war the hidden agenda of which is ultimately their own political supremacy, we have two options clearly open to every one of us: kill each other, or live in peace with each other.

We know every war ends at total or partial annihilation of enemies, or most often at a truce. However modern wars could never accomplish what ancient wars did though in very few cases only: total killing of enemies. Thus modern civilization tried to transform the old war into strictly an instrument of policy and succeeded in confining its scope also, and it tried to rewrite the old truce into a permanent settlement. That is, agreeing on the minimum conditions for a policy of peaceful co-existence for all human beings regardless of the differences of caste and creed, so to say.

On another plane, a little while back we were in the process of reaching a universal agreement as to the realization, recognition, security and protection of fundamental inalienable rights and freedoms to all the individuals living on this earth. The terror war has negatively impacted on its progress. It needs to be conscious of that to make this world mutually livable. Life is a mutual social phenomenon, we need to appreciate that.

Along with it, we need to appreciate that as Nature and God made every people and individuals different and as all the people and individuals too want to be and remain different, let them be all different. That’s the beauty of life! Whoever is after destroying it is enemy of both life and its beauty! Let us not kill each other! Rather, let us enhance this beauty by not denying freedom to all!

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free market think tank.

My Mean Pleasures And The Facebook

May 27, 2010

Now after the banning of the Facebook and Youtube I feel extraordinarily passionate about the watch-dog living inside me. I am feeling nostalgic how I brought this watch-dog up, how I institutionalized it into The Watchers. Alas, in my absence The Watchers could not survive long. But now I see how many The Watchers have sprung up in Pakistan. The courts too are playing The Watchers. I am happy how people campaigned against the Facebook, and finally got it banned.


By Dr. Khalil Ahmad

I still remember I was a child of six or seven and I felt sort of satisfaction when on my complaining to elders this or that kid was punished for this or that wrong done by him. In school, I was known for my unsparing habit of constantly watching everyone lest he should be doing something untoward. They named me a “watch-dog.” It was only when I started learning English that I came to know that “watch-dog” is something positive. At about the same time, I was now 14, I found out that by nature I was a “watch-dog.” I was happy to relish this nature of mine instead of hiding or bringing it under control; I devoted myself wholly to bringing others to be in my control.

Thus by the time I was in college, I was a full-blown watch-dog. I was always looking for something which could be transformed into an issue. Somebody was reading a bad novel; somebody was reading other than the text book things while in the class; somebody was having in his pocket indecent pictures or cards; somebody was talking bad things about this or that teacher; such things were my favorite “bones of contention” to cause a bout of punishments to the deviants.

Reaching university was really a fun. I was popular and came to be leading my ilk. We were a good many and thought of organizing ourselves really into a moral watch-dog. So were we: ‘The Watchers’ – our group was named. Though, no doubt, we were spies also, as most of our ways were secret. I am convinced two heads are better than one; our group consultations were quite fruitful. We were five, I mean the core group. It was at this time that we thought of expanding our operations from beyond the university affairs.

Our first target was newspapers. We made it a mission of ours to scan daily all the contents of the papers, underline, cut and get its photocopies and distribute to the teachers and students of our department. With time, we added other departments to our distribution list. This created no stir. All went well, to our dismay. Again one fertile mind suggested writing letters to the editors of those papers printing objectionable material. Now and then a few letters were published, and generated one or two letters in response. We were happy our mission was appreciated by some readers of the papers.

However, that was not what we wanted as the outcome of The Watchers’ efforts. Everything that we pointed out as objectionable in the papers continued appearing as usual. How come that? If it was objectionable it must be banned, simply banned. Once again in a strategic meeting of The Watchers the issue was deliberated and of course as I was the head, my “Direct Action” proposal was accepted.

Actually, the resistance against this proposal did not focus on the substance, but they had reservations as to its implementation. The Watchers needed enough human resource to carry out this “Direct Action” to show results. No doubt, we were not that popular to attract wide support from the students, let alone the teachers from various departments.

As I took the responsibility to make our Direct Action a success, I set myself on a hunt for some sensitive issue to make use of. I poured myself into it, spent days and nights scanning once again the recent newspaper files that The Watchers maintained. Finally, I got a statement by an American state department official that could prove to be good bait. I don’t remember what its exact wording was, it said something like that, ‘Pakistanis would sell their mothers to come to settle in the US.’

As a preparatory measure, we got this statement photocopied in hundreds and distributed throughout the university. We saw many a student and teacher was angry at that. We wrote a rejoinder to that statement, a provoking one, denouncing the US and our own government as a follower of US dictations. This leaflet inflamed a lot to flare up. It was time to hit the nail. The Watchers announced a protest call to stage a demo and procession to the National Assembly building. A series of press releases were issued to media exhorting people to participate in large numbers to protect their national honor. We were surprised by the number of people volunteering to help us in this good work.

Our demands included severing both diplomatic and trade relations with the US. Again, it was a big surprise when some high-ups from the government contacted me to discuss the matters. They wanted me not to push for the demands of severing the relations with US, and promised that the government would support their cause of protecting national honor and issue a statement asking that US official to withdraw his statement.

Our Direct Action call went very successful. We were in the newspapers, and known to all. I remember after that many of our objections raised with the newspapers were heard and accommodated, and the editors/owners of those papers started fearing our nuisance value, as they dubbed it. It helped me make a network of contacts with influential people. I was now a connected person. Lest you think I was an opportunist, no, not at all. Let me clarify. I never thought of such things. I was a watch-dog at my heart, an ardent watch-dog. Actually, a new horizon opened before my eyes. When I complete my studies here, if I go to US, I will be in a better position to fulfill my role of a watch-dog, I thought.

So it materialized. A few years later I was in US, and then again after a few years I was well off to spare time and money to do my natural job, watch-dogging. I was not in Pakistan but I kept my eyes focused on what was happening there and equally on what was happening world over which could have something to do with Pakistan. That gave me immense pleasure to guard my country and countrymen from going astray.

Now after the banning of the Facebook and Youtube I feel extraordinarily passionate about the watch-dog living inside me. I am feeling nostalgic how I brought this watch-dog up, how I institutionalized it into The Watchers. Alas, in my absence The Watchers could not survive long. But now I see how many The Watchers have sprung up in Pakistan. The courts too are playing The Watchers. I am happy how people campaigned against the Facebook, and finally got it banned.

Here my colleagues argue with me why ask government to ban this or that site for this or that ‘offence,’ why we people do not behave freely and responsibly: if we feel, for instance, that Facebook or some other network/website has done something that is offensive to us we should better boycott it, we should put an end to our account on it, we should abandon using it, why we want it to be banned. They say it is just unintelligible. They say I and others of my ilk actually derive mean pleasure out of such bannings. They say we are not free and responsible people. We are governmental beings, sort of GIs.

Let them cry wolf. We should not be distracted by such criticism. I remember one of my college teachers advised me: Don’t be a watch-dog for others, be your own watch-dog! I could not forget this line, but I never heeded it. We should be resolute. Our final achievement will be the banning of everything we don’t like and with the banning of last such thing our mission will be accomplished. You know after that there will be no need to watch-dog anything!

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute. The article was carried by Pakistan Observer on May 27, 2010.

A Stinted Mindset

December 1, 2010

We are not a normal nation and live down inside the proverbial well made of our own presumptions. Thus we are a perfect subject matter for psychologists to study. In addition, we are never ready to admit that, instead declare others abnormal. That makes us own a stinted mindset in our heads. What’s wrong with this mindset is that it never allows us to live normally, to have introspection, to see ourselves in a critical mirror, to identify our mistakes, to understand our inconsistencies, to grant others the same rights and freedoms that only we rightfully claim to possess and enjoy. It is this mindset that does not let us come out of our obsession of a charismatic nation (for whom things will happen on their own without any effort), and finally it is this mindset that never permits us to move ahead and improve ourselves.


By Dr. Khalil Ahmad
We are not a normal nation and live down inside the proverbial well made of our own presumptions. Thus we are a perfect subject matter for psychologists to study. In addition, we are never ready to admit that, instead declare others abnormal. That makes us own a stinted mindset in our heads. What’s wrong with this mindset is that it never allows us to live normally, to have introspection, to see ourselves in a critical mirror, to identify our mistakes, to understand our inconsistencies, to grant others the same rights and freedoms that only we rightfully claim to possess and enjoy. It is this mindset that does not let us come out of our obsession of a charismatic nation (for whom things will happen on their own without any effort), and finally it is this mindset that never permits us to move ahead and improve ourselves.
Forget the present crisis and the moral bankruptcy which is more than self-evident; let’s have a look at some crucial evidences. It was in 1870 that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan complained: “When in the courts of Hindustan Hindus come to give evidence, the judge even though he be a Muslim, has to think about the truthfulness of his evidence, but when comes a Muslim witness and he tells his name and the judge is almost certain that he will be lying and giving a false evidence until and unless by some other manner his truthfulness establishes. Muslim merchandise sellers as compared to other nations lie a lot, and cheat. They would never reveal the original price of an item and remain intent upon charging as much price from the buyer as is possible.”
Furthermore, in 1895 Sir Syed again resents: “For people to take part in trade depends on many a factor. Most important of them is that they are totally honest, and with all their truthfulness wholly dedicated to the flourishing and expansion of this factory of trade. My friends will pardon me if I say that Muslims are rarely endowed with this quality.”
And if not Sir Syed as we do not honor him the way it is due to him, here is Sir Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, our hold-all sort of thinker/philosopher. In his Stray Reflections, A Note-Book, he writes and it is in the year 1914: “Of all the Muslim communities of the world they (‘Musalmans of India’) are probably the meanest in point of character.”
Additionally, one most recent evidence: Dr. Israr Ahmad of Quran Academy, Lahore, repined in 1999, “On this earth the most hypocritical nation is Pakistani.”
What greater evidence is required to convince us that we need to change this mindset if we want to go ahead and make progress in any field of life! As I have written elsewhere the first pre-requisite for this process to begin is to create an environment where the existing set of laws and rules are able to be strictly implemented without any let or hindrance, absolutely with a blind eye.
Also, it is crucially necessary that a process of accountability be set in motion with retrospective effect and for this purpose an independent commission consisting of judges and prominent intellectual figures of impeccable integrity, with no political affiliation, and with proven commitment to the constitution of Pakistan be set up. Its mandate should not be less than investigating the constitutional and financial irregularities since the date the constitution of 1973 came into force and recommending trial in the courts for due punishment. This point in time may be August 14, 1947, but then a frame of reference will be needed for the inquiry commission to help with. Not only will that help sift the lawless and corrupt elements from the life of Pakistanis but discourage future adventurers also. That’s a long-standing demand too.
Last but not least, to break the iron-shell of this mindset, academic and intellectual freedom at any cost be ensured to each and everyone. That again brings us back to the strict enforcement of fundamental rights secured in the constitution. These rights especially freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly need to be promoted and fully protected. That will let a hundred flowers blossom and search for truth to take its due course without any fear of persecution and stopping on this or that pretext by this or that lobby claiming to be the sole possessor of Pakistan and its ideology. This may put us on a track leading to a new Pakistan with an open, tolerant and absorbing mind the essential preconditions for change and improvement in our society.

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.

Reliving Pak Tea House

By Dr. Khalil Ahmad

April 24, 2011

The demise of the Pak Tea House is symptomatic of the crisis of intellectual independence and private initiative in Pakistan. The premises is still there, existing with its symbolic glory, waiting for someone with entrepreneurial spirit to make use of its huge potential, who would turn it once again into Pak Tea House? Let’s see who reinvents and relives the Pak Tea House!


Sharing the lament on the death of Pak Tea House in Lahore, this responds to Ayesha Siddiqa’s Pak Tea House (The Express Tribune of January 2, 2011) and Ahmad Rafay Alam’s Tea, anyone? (The Express Tribune May 8, 2010).

They heap together those circumstances which they think hastened Tea House’s demise. Ms. Siddiqa writes: ‘According to him (Ahmad Rafay Alam), the death of the place was inevitable due to problematic urban development. I would just like to add that the famous chai khana could not escape extinction because it had become intellectually stale and unviable before it tuned financially burdensome.’

It’s debatable that the circumstances singled out by both writers added to the Tea House’s downfall. Do such places which acquire symbolic significance die “soulless,” as Ms. Siddiqa argues? This loses weight as both writers agree that those who used to flock to and populate Tea House after its closure dispersed and found new places, though not matching to Tea House’s symbolic status. Ms. Siddiqa laments more than Tea House the corruption of intellectuals and men of letters by Gen Zia’s dictatorship. To me, that seems to have nothing to do with Tea House’s closure.

As a matter of fact, when the business of Tea House’s proprietor suffered or he thought of bettering his lot, he took to doing something else instead of entertaining the literati. The known literary figures visiting Tea House at the time intervened and the decision was sort of put on hold. Again as the enterprise was not sustainable, a cut-off date was announced.

This spurred a flurry of hectic efforts on the part of certain Tea House ‘fans’ to save it from the hands of its business-minded proprietor. Significant is the fact that litigation was also resorted to involving the proprietor. Whatever the details of the Save the Tea House Campaign are, finally the Tea House, a private business, and at the same time a historic place of literary significance closed down.

Ms. Siddiqa probes: ‘One wonders if the provincial government could think of buying it from the owner and dedicating it to the intellectuals of the country.’ This is where the present writer differs most. As some bureaucrat-writers were also on board the Save the Tea House Campaign and they used their clout, but whether such an attempt was made or not is not known to the present writer. However, what came out of this Campaign is a place called ‘Chaupal’ erected in Nasir Bagh to accommodate the displaced writers. No doubt, all this was done at tax-payers’ expense. Also, there is a hall in Al-Hamra meant for them.

For sure, such and other such ideas seeking government to act were floated and tested during the Save the Tea House Campaign. Also, for sure, no such thing as private initiative was witnessed then. Instead, the fans of the Tea House trampling its proprietor’s right to use his property as he wished tried to force him morally, socially, and legally not to put his property to any other use but of their choice. They wanted the government to stop the Tea House’s proprietor from putting it to no other use, as Ms. Siddiqa too wonders.

Couldn’t the intellectuals and literati pool and offer the Tea House owner a price lucrative enough to refuse? They could purchase it, run it as a trust or partnership, and turn it into a tourist attraction by reinventing it as home to intellectual and literary icons of the sub-continent! There should have been more than hundred ideas which could save the Tea House and run it as a financially viable business, if the intellectuals and men of letters had cherished and inculcated an independent mind in their heads and a spark of private initiative in their endeavors! Ah, the same had already been corrupted by their dependence on government (and tax-payers’ easy money), as Ms. Siddiqa explains.

The demise of the Pak Tea House is symptomatic of the crisis of intellectual independence and private initiative in Pakistan. The premises is still there, existing with its symbolic glory, waiting for someone with entrepreneurial spirit to make use of its huge potential, who would turn it once again into Pak Tea House? Let’s see who reinvents and relives the Pak Tea House!

[The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.