Saturday, October 20

Transfer Money via mobile phones back home

Mobile phones are about to become the simplest and quickest way to transfer money across borders, under a deal announced yesterday by Western Union and GSM Association, the main mobile phone operators’ body.

The agreement could have a big impact on global cross-border remittances, worth an estimated $300bn a year, and provide a springboard for mobile carriers and Western Union to offer other mobile banking services using “mobile wallet” technology.

Cross-border money transfers valued at up to $100 in countries such as India, the Philippines, Mexico and China – which have large volumes of remittances from migrant workers – will be an early priority of the deal.

Brilliant idea, see how it will work:

Under the scheme, mobile operators will connect to Western Union’s existing global money transfer system, which processed some 17 per cent of the world’s remittance volume in 2006.

Once connected to the Western Union service, mobile operators will be able to use their own “mobile wallet”’ software to enable person-to-person mobile money transfers over Western Union’s cross-border remittance network.

Very interesting news indeed!, I love it. But what do global banks do to cater for this? Between this and the hawala, they are missing out on the micro payments industry.

Mind you, this will have another very big impact on counter terrorism and will make it easier for the terrorists to transfer monies.

Who killed off the BBC?

From children’s programmes to sports broadcasts, the BBC swung an axe on at least 10 per cent of its workforce on Thursday in an effort to push through £1.7bn in savings over the next six years.

Announcing his controversial “reprioritisation” plan, director-general Mark Thompson told staff that those who survived would be working for a smaller but fitter and more flexible BBC.

I am following this story over the past few days and I have to admit that I am gobsmacked. I am proud of the BBC but not at any cost. And I have to point fingers at the BBC management as well as the politicians for mismanaging this British Jewel so horribly.

I am reminded of the old Jeremy Clarkson TV show where he tries to find out who or what killed the British Motor Industry. What do you think are the chances of another TV show being made in 10 years time? Entitled, "who killed the British Broadcasting Corporation"? I know who will be blamed!

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Pfizer profits tumble on diabetes drug flop

Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, was forced to take a $2.8bn writedown after scrapping its highly-touted inhaled insulin drug, Exubera.

Hmm, I am wondering if there is a better way to go about doing this entire medicine business? if a drug doesn't work, then it should be caught way way early, in any case, much before it hits this gobsmacking $2.8 billion level.

I am not an expert in pharmaceuticals but I do know manufacturing and banking. Where are the trip wires? how about distributed development?

How about creating an eco-system where patients, scientists, companies, testers, animals, software etc. etc. come together and have a rigorous way of winnowing out bad drugs quite early. But then again, never forget the propensity of large groups of people to make humdinger of mistakes!

Don't know, just idle rumination here!

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Stop moaning about the English CGT Tax!

Alistair Darling slapped down business demands for a U-turn on capital gains tax on Thursday, insisting the contentious pre-Budget report increase was “the right thing to do”.

Pressure on the chancellor to rethink continues to mount. In a letter in Friday’s Financial Times, 50 entrepreneurs – including Jason Gissing, the Ocado co-founder, and Tamara Mellon, founder of the Jimmy Choo shoe chain – call for the government to “listen to business before implementing this damaging measure”.

I have to admit I don't understand why the business is getting all het up about the change in the CGT. It has simplified the tax regime clearly. And if you do have to tax capital, then you might as well as do it at one rate.

But I wouldn't worry if I was Alastair Darling. Go for it, stick to the 18% tax rate. What did the business groups expect? that the rate will be reduced? Why? I mean, I am all for reducing the tax rate but then say that.

Demands for reducing tax rate are legitimate, but to say that it will impact entrepreneurs and people who want to sell their business doesn't stack up. You pay VAT, don't you? So if you don't squeal when there is value added tax on your products, why would you moan when the company which makes them is taxed when its sold?

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Beijing backs media listings

China has fully opened the way for local newspapers, publishing groups and even government and Communist party news websites to issue shares on domestic and overseas exchanges, according to the industry’s top regulator.

In an interview with the FT, Liu Binjie, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said Beijing was backing listings by a raft of publishers and newspapers as part of its broad reform of the industry.

Woof, woof, another impressive step by Beijing. I do not think they quite realise what they have done because if you open up ownership to outside investors, you lose control over the firm. And this is a small step to greater freedom of speech!

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China keeps 3G schedule on hold

China has no timetable for issuing third-generation mobile telephone licences, a senior regulator announced on Thursday, saying 3G services still lacked a clear business model.
The comments by Lou Qinjian, vice-minister of information industry, make clear officials are in no rush to introduce 3G wireless services in one of the world’s most important markets for telecoms equipment.

I am impressed, somebody with a great pragmatic idea. Why give away expensive and valuable public assets such as spectrums when it is unclear whether the firms will make money out of it or not? The country has learnt from the example of how the European firms overbid for the licenses few years ago or the absolute chaos in India.

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China halts rail freight to N Korea

China suspended key rail freight services into North Korea last week after 1,800 wagons carrying food aid and tradeable goods crossed into Kim Jong-il’s hermit state but were never returned.

Absconding with Chinese wagons would be a strange move for North Korea because Beijing is Pyongyang’s closest political ally and biggest provider of food, goods and oil. Analysts monitoring North Korea said Chinese officials had privately complained to them that the North Koreans were dismantling Chinese wagons and selling them back as scrap metal.

This is the height of chutzpa but sadly typical of that country, lol, but I cant feel a bit childish and go, "nanananana" to china. After all, its China who is North Korea's backer and as I mentioned before, it is the support of China that is allowing that nutcase Dear Leader to continue.

If China pulls the plug, humpty dumpty will come tumbling down. But China will learn that it is not worthwhile supporting dictators and other assorted gangsters and autocrats. France learnt that, United Kingdom learnt that, America has not learnt it, but well, its imperialism is still young. They will learn and it is better to stay away from these dictators at worst and kick them out at best.

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Why is Israel so good in Information Security?

Very good question and this article tries to explain why. Some quotes from a very long article:

Nir Zamir, vice-president of marketing for Yoggie, agrees that “Israel’s tremendous wealth of knowledge” about information security is in line with the “strong army and military might of Israel”. He adds: “The industry is growing as the face of the battleground does. We apologise that our technological advantage comes from our army, but at least it’s something good that comes out of the conflict.”

In Israel, at the age of 18 most men and single women are inducted into the Israel Defence Force (IDF), women for two years and men for three. Many IT security experts in Israel agree that this is where the thirst for innovation and need for security is embedded into Israeli citizens. “There are lots of people that come out of the army qualified in security, and develop start-up companies,” says Yaacov Sherban, chief executive for Applicure. “The Israeli government and army have a tremendous need for security and put investments into it – not just IT security, physical security too.”

“We have a culture that knows how to understand the needs of people and security,” says Eyal Adar, founder and chief executive of White Cyber Knight. “The entire architecture of Israel is drawn from risk assessment, a unique ‘know-how’ when it comes to understanding risks. We just engineer security solutions to match each risk.”

The political situation in Israel requires forward planning and a state of high alert, explains Batsheva Iluz, vice-president of business development for Sdema. Iluz argues that an organisation can heighten their security and profitability by creating an inclusive and efficient environment for security, rather than buying one security solution product at a time. “Technology is only part of the solution,” she explains.

Avishi Wood, chief technology officer and co-founder of AlgoSec, says that education rather that the army is the reason for strong research and development and numerous security start-ups. “The army is a melting pot,” he explains, “an effective filter of people. The high-tech units separate the young, intelligent and driven children, they take on responsibility at a very young age and go to university later because of their service in the army.”

“Education is taken more seriously here,” Wood continues. “Students are older and therefore more focused and driven. And this is why we’re seeing so much talent and superior R&D – it’s not just about the military. The industry is booming out here, and all of the innovation coming out of Israel has led to major US companies positioning their development teams out here.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Israeli government offered funding to many start-up companies, and Almog Aley-Raz, chief executive of PerSay, believes that to some extent this was the drive for innovation in the IT security sector. Government promotion had a significant impact on the Israeli information security industry, and encouraging start-ups with financial help aimed to keep talent in Israel. “Otherwise, all of the talent would have gone and done this in the US,” says Aley-Raz.

At 4.8% in 2005, Israel claims the highest rate of research and development investment in the world, and reckons it ranks third in entrepreneurship. Large technology companies have opened R&D centres in Israel. Bill Gates explains why Microsoft has established an office in Ra’anana: “For Microsoft, having an R&D centre in Israel has been a great experience…the quality of the people here is fantastic.” With reasons such as motivated staff and an innovative atmosphere enhanced by government-funded research and development programmes, Cisco, Motorola and eBay have also invested in Israeli technology.

Although Eyal Katz of CheckPoint argues that telecommunications has been the largest market to emerge from Israel in the last 12 years in purely economic terms, the success of the information security industry is undeniable. “The thing about Israel is that the cultural influence shines through – Israelis see a huge task and just want to overcome it,” says Katz.

“The security market is only rising”, says Daniel Giron of the industry ministry, but adds: “It’s just a pity that we need it so much.”

And this is the crux of the matter: the Israeli people know that their technology, especially in the information security sector, is among the best in the world. They know that their researchers and developers are amongst the most talented. But they are still burdened with the perhaps unjustified need to have to apologise for it. And that’s what makes this story of growth and success just a little bit tainted.

For those who want to boycott Israel, you could start by boycotting Microsoft, they have invested in Israel. So do not use any Microsoft Products! :) Stop faffing around with Israeli Dates, that's tiny, now if you go after Microsoft, that's a big one.

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Benazir Bhutto - what do people think?

Now you know what I think of Benazir Bhutto, the great white hope of Pakistani Democrach. I was told that I am being way too hard on her.

But here's some examples of what people said, and more importantly, what did people think that others think is important. BBC was asking people what they think of the bomb blast and Benazir. And people wrote in their responses and others voted on the responses.

So it was not just me, my friends, she is a crook and despite her being foisted on Pakistan by the Americans, and being thought of being the only great secular hope, she isn't, she is a crook and be warned!! she will not change her corrupt behaviour at all. Have you ever heard even a single word about apologising for her corruption? nope.

Read and Weep!

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Charter / Vouchers in American School System

Schooling is a very emotive subject and down history, it has always been kept under a beady eye. With further globalisation, your country's schooling is now under relative examination and ranking. Given the importance of the knowledge based economy, a good productive citizen can only come out from a good schooling system!

So this book (RHETORIC versus REALITY: What We Know and
What We Need to Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools) by RAND is actually very timely as it provides a good overview of what's happening in the crucible of American Schooling. Some extracts:

Academic Achievement
• Small-scale, experimental privately funded voucher programs
targeted to low-income students suggest a possible (but as yet
uncertain) modest achievement benefit for African-American
students after one to two years in voucher schools (as compared
with local public schools).
• For children of other racial/ethnic groups, attendance at voucher
schools has not provided consistent evidence of either benefit or harm in academic achievement.
• Achievement results in charter schools are mixed, but they suggest
that charter-school performance improves after the first year of operation. None of the studies suggests that charter school
achievement outcomes are dramatically better or worse on average than those of conventional public schools.

• Parental satisfaction levels are high in virtually all voucher and
charter programs studied, indicating that parents are happy with
the school choices made available by the programs. In the experimental voucher programs that have been studied for two
successive years, levels of parental satisfaction declined slightly
in the second year but remained substantially higher than those
of public-school comparison groups.

• Programs explicitly designed with income qualifications have
succeeded in placing low-income, low-achieving, and minority
students in voucher schools.

* In most choice programs (whether voucher or charter), however,
students with disabilities and students with poorly educated parents
are somewhat underrepresented.
• Education tax subsidy programs are disproportionately used by
middle- and upper-income families.

• In communities where public schools are highly stratified, targeted
voucher programs may modestly increase racial integration
in that they put minority children into voucher schools that
are less uniformly minority without reducing integration in the
public schools.
• Limited evidence suggests that, across the nation, most charter
schools have racial/ethnic distributions that probably fall within
the range of distributions of local public schools. In some states,
however, many charter schools serve racially homogeneous populations.
• Evidence from other school-choice contexts, both in the United
States and abroad, suggests that large-scale unregulated-choice
programs are likely to lead to some increase in stratification.

Civic Socialization
• Virtually nothing is yet known empirically about the civic socialization effects of voucher and charter schools.

But there is MUCH UNKNOWN and the authors talk about what people do not know.

And they provide policy options, which are indeed good enough for me to quote here.

How might policymakers maximize the likelihood that voucher/
charter schools will be academically effective?

• Include existing private and parochial schools
• Enforce requirements for testing and information dissemination
• Do not skimp on resources

How might policymakers maximize the likelihood that systemic
effects on nonchoosers will be positive rather than negative?
• Establish communication among schools
• Impose consequences on schools that do not perform at acceptable
• Give public schools the autonomy to act competitively
• Require open admissions
• Require all students to choose
How can policymakers ensure that a substantial number of autonomous
schools will be available?
• Permit existing private and parochial schools to participate
• Provide generous funding
• Avoid overregulation
• Create multiple chartering authorities, including but not limited
to the local school board

How can policymakers ensure that autonomous schools will serve
low-income and special-needs students?
• Actively disseminate information about schools
• Target specific students
• Forbid tuition add-ons
• Provide generous funding
• Use a direct funding method rather than funding through the
income-tax system
• Provide supplemental funding for students with special needs
• Require open admissions

How can policymakers promote integration in programs of autonomous
• Require open admissions

• Target communities with racially homogeneous public schools
• Include existing private and parochial schools
• Reward integration financially

How can policymakers ensure that voucher/charter schools will
effectively socialize their students to become responsible citizens of
our democracy?
• Disseminate information about mission, values, curriculum, and

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The Indians are coming!

Now this is an interesting paper. A review of an Indian Bank's (ICICI Bank) application to open up a full service branch in the USA was carried out by the Federal Reserve System.

Check out the review if you so wish, just 9 short pages.

I think it is a good sign that the Indian Banking System is linking even more into the global financial system. Not only would it better be able to serve Indian companies but also allow foreign and American companies to transact business with India.

And when the time comes for Indian Banks to purchase American Banks, this history would come in use very well. And for that matter, the quid pro quo will also be there in terms of American Banks expanding in India.

Good Stuff!!!!

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Entrepreneurship Rates and Countries

I read this very very interesting article in the Economist which made me go Hmm. The article was talking about Innovation and referred to this graph.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Economist graph was simplified but the original graph shown below is much better as it provides more information.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Based upon the curve fitting line, you will see that as countries grow and become richer, their rate of entrepreneurship reduces, and that too pretty steeply. Now why would this happen? I can hazard some guesses but no certainty. The first would be that as and how you get richer or the welfare safety net becomes better and better, the hunger for creating value progressively diminishes. The second would be that it would be easier to get jobs rather than worry about raising capital and push for a difficult enterprise. The third factor which I could think of is that as a country becomes richer, it makes it progressively difficult for entrepreneurs to be entrepreneurs, by making it more difficult to fire people, putting in more and more onerous conditions such as Health and Safety, etc. All these combine to make entrepreneurship a losing proposition.

Also, at a particular point in time, they seem to either get stuck or struggle with the next stage which seems to be more difficult. This seems to be the natural trough and despite quite a lot of efforts, the hunger is simply not there. Or it would take superhuman efforts to break through the thicket of regulations. I can well agree to this, while starting up a company is simple in European Countries, the other rules and regulations simply make it way too difficult for a person to embark on entrepreneurship.

But then there are some countries which do make a breakthrough, which is the curious aspect. To what do you ascribe the success of USA and Australia in pushing to develop entrepreneurs? Is it the national ethos? Or the innate hunger? Or their financial system? Or their education system? Why are they so much more risk taking? Or perhaps their time limited welfare system forces them to go about generating value themselves if they do not have a job?

Entrepreneurship is good, it is generating value, creating jobs and ensuring that assets are churned and made use of. Some percentage figures of population engaged in entrepreneurial activity: Indonesia has 19% of its population between 15 and 64 years as entrepreneurs, China 16% and Thailand 15%. India, Malaysia, Australia, USA, Argentina at 10-12% and then Czech, UK, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan at about 5% or below.

So Mr. Gordon Brown of the UK, what do you have to say about the fact that UK is only showing 5% of its population as entrepreneurs? What is stopping you from doing the same as Australia, USA, India (they are your ex-colonies, my friend - the child excelling over the father?)

As for Mr. Manmohan Singh of India, you need to think deeply, because you are below and behind the curve. You need to make it easier for people to start their own business. Others are leaving you to lag behind!

Can you trade water on an exchange?

Can you trade water? why not? you pay for water, do you not? you pay for water at home, you pay for it in bottled form (still or sparkling / gas or no gas for our continental friends). So there is a price on water. And if you ask me, it makes perfect sense. After all, while water is a crucial element in sustaining life, it is not free.

People keep on forgetting that nothing is free and whenever something is free, it is free to YOU, somebody else is paying for it. Also, unfortunately, most of the times, the "somebody else" is the poor who pay for it either in terms of bad water or water that is way too expensive.

So this interview of Craig Donohue, the chief executive of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was very much along these lines. Some quotes:

Seismic shifts in the demand patterns of commodities around the world were, he said, creating “dramatic” transformation of the trading scene. The increasing use of corn as a fuel for cars, he said, was creating a “tremendous convergence” between energy and food markets.

Large corporations like Coca-Cola are already vowing to achieve “water neutrality” in their operations by replacing the water they use to make their products. Australia, which suffers from extreme drought in large portions of the country, has already created a vibrant market for buying and selling water entitlements.

Some believe that a water futures market could be set up to mirror carbon emissions markets, incentivising efficient use of the precious resource.

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Press Freedom #2

Further to my note about the challenges of measuring Freedom of Speech, here's another survey sent in by Phil (thanks, mate!). This is to do with Freedom House. Looks like these are all reputational surveys and thus have challenges galore, but can only provide some guidance on what people "think" about press freedom in a country.

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Durga Puja

Today was Nobomi, the 9th day of the 10 day festival of Durga Puja. We went to the local puja temple and they had done it up really nicely.


It was nice to be back and worship the Goddess again.


I used to love dancing with the dunuchi (the earthnware pots filled with aromatic herbs and coconut husk) when my knee was not bunged up, going into the trance and being one with her was one of the best times.

DSC01291But no longer, now I am old and gray, sitting with my little girl and telling her stories about how the Goddess conquered Mahishashura the Demon, the significance of the Buffalo and Lion, her children (Ganesh, Kartikeya, Saraswati and Lakshmi) the myths and stories.


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Go Jonny Go!!!!

May God bless his eyes and that rocketing foot.

England Expects Every Man to do his Duty! :)

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Christian Terrorism again raises its head

Here's another Christian Terrorist attempted bombing an Abortion clinic in USA. Why is it that all these religions get so violently excited about women? Abortion is legal, live with it. Sheesh. I quote:

Paul Evans, 27, left a nail-packed bomb in the parking lot of the Austin Women's Health Center on April 25, but it failed to go off.

41 abortion clinic bombings have occurred in the last 20 years, with the last one reported in 2001.

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Cool, divide and rule still works

Further to my note about Sarko's fight against the ossified and fossilised French State, he has negotiated with one union and they are happy. That leaves the rest of the unions hanging in the wind. And as you know, according to law, if one union agrees, then rest have to fall in line!

The Trip to Swansea

I went yesterday to lecture at the Swansea University of Business and Economics at Swansea. I always thought it was grotty in Wales, but its a nice little town. But I took some photo's on the way with my dinky little camera phone. Its an ok camera, you can take some reasonably good photo's with it, but only web quality.

Here's Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, it has loads of fond and loving memories for me specially with shaking hands! :). Paddington Station also has a statue of one of my hero's, Isambard Kingdom Brunel! He is the chap who designed this station and many others. We no longer have men like that :(


Here's a Virgin Balloon over the Oracle building


another shot of the balloon


Rolling landscapes


filled with smoke and factories...

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strange railway stations

DSC01239 DSC01248 DSC01253 DSC01261 DSC01266 DSC01276

Some beautiful Church's and buildings

DSC01240 DSC01249 DSC01241

Some railway equipment....


a muddy stream


strange juxtaposition of new and old buildings


some boring houses...

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a war memorial


a view of the university car park


my friends, Professor Christian deCock and his lovely girlfriend, Christina.


And while I was sitting inside the train


Working away


How sad is that?

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The unique Chinese definition of democracy

This made me chuckle. So Democracy is "a political system in which "the people can safeguard their own interests and voice their appeals in an orderly manner". "It represents the people's attitude toward the state, and the latter's commitment to its people."

It is this kind of definitions that make me cynical about promises such as this.

But you might be interested to see the Wiki article on Democracy. While there is not one definition, some elements are clear about what it means by democracy. And I am afraid most if not none, are not in China.

Here is another very interesting article on China by the Freedom House.

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Thursday, October 18

Challenges in measuring Press Freedom

A very interesting paper. (Thanks, Arul!).

This is further to the recent World Press Freedom Index 2007  survey published by Reporters without Borders.

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Sex, Nazi, burrito and Viagra: Who Googles what?

How funny! You can do some serious cross cultural research on this itself!!!


Internet users in Egypt, India and Turkey are the world's most frequent searchers for Web sites using the keyword "sex" on Google search engines, according to statistics provided by Google Inc.

Germany, Mexico and Austria were world's top three searchers of the word "Hitler" while "Nazi" scored the most hits in Chile, Australia and the United Kingdom, data from 2004 to the present retrievable on the "Google Trends" Web site showed.

Chile also came in first place searching for the word "gay", followed by Mexico and Colombia.

The top searchers for other keywords were as follows (in order from first to third place):

"Jihad" - Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan

"Terrorism" - Pakistan, Philippines, Australia

"Hangover" - Ireland, United Kingdom, United States

"Burrito" - United States, Argentina, Canada

"Iraq" - United States, Australia, Canada

"Taliban" - Pakistan, Australia, Canada

"Tom Cruise" - Canada, United States, Australia

"Britney Spears" - Mexico, Venezuela, Canada

"Homosexual" - Philippines, Chile, Venezuela

"Love" - Philippines, Australia, United States

"Botox" - Australia, United States, United Kingdom

"Viagra" - Italy, United Kingdom, Germany

"David Beckham" - Venezuela, United Kingdom, Mexico

"Kate Moss" - Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden

"Dolly Buster" - Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia

"Car bomb" - Australia, United States, Canada

"Marijuana" - Canada, United States, Australia

"IAEA" - Austria, Pakistan, Iran

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Round VI in France

So they have gone on strike as I talked about here. This promises to be interesting as the public doesn't support the strike to any great extent and technology is changing the life of the public transport, the only line running in Paris was the one which was fully automated, something like the Docklands Light Railway in London.

Ignorant racist monkeys at a cricket game

See these ignorant racist moronic monkeys?

These are the monkeys who are screaming racist abuse at Andrew Symonds at the WANKhede Stadium in India during the Australia - India One Day International Cricket Series. Don't they realise that they are the monkeys?

Blithering morons!

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The link between Female education and fertility

It is pretty much accepted that more educated a woman is, the lower is the fertility. Here's a paper which checks out this relationship for Nigeria.

Osili, Una Okonkwo, Long, Bridget Terry, Does Female Schooling
Reduce Fertility? Evidence from Nigeria, Journal of Development Economics (2007),

The literature generally points to a negative relationship between female education and fertility. Citing this pattern, policymakers have advocated educating girls and young women as a means to reduce population growth and foster sustained economic and social welfare in developing countries. This paper tests whether the relationship between fertility and education is indeed causal by investigating the introduction of universal primary education in Nigeria. Exploiting differences in program exposure by region and age, the paper presents reduced form and instrumental variables estimates of the impact of female education on fertility. The analysis suggests that increasing female education by one year reduces early fertility by 0.26 births.

Another quote from the conclusion was very interesting:

Results from Nigeria suggest that the change in education policy had a significant impact on both female education and fertility decisions. At the mean, for each additional 100 naira per capita spent on primary school classroom construction in 1976, we estimate a 2-year increase in educational attainment...........Using a Solow growth framework, Knowles et. al. (2002) estimate that a 1- percent increase in female education would increase average GDP levels by 0.37 percent.

A City Leader Speaks - worthwhile to read

Here is an interview of Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi. Delhi is a very very old city, has 13 million people currently living there with 500,000 moving in every year! you can imagine the challenges of managing and administering that city!. Ken Livingstone or his successors think they have a problem, HA!, they should try this city.

Anyway, here are some extracts if you do not want to register to read the full interview.

Delhi is straining under the weight of a vast and growing population. More than 13 million1 people live there, and half a million more move in every year. Decision making can be excruciatingly slow, especially since her administration shares authority in the city with elected municipal leaders and a lieutenant governor appointed by India’s president.

We have people with outstanding and very innovative minds. This country is not short of wealth. This country is not short of skills. This country is not short of brains. What we lack, and I think what we always have lacked in this country, is effective management in the government.

I can give you a very interesting example. Government schools in Delhi were performing very badly. The pass percentage on standardized tests was 35 to 37 percent. We looked into it and found that the government spent 900 rupees per child per month, while nongovernment schools, which were performing better, were spending a maximum of 700 to 800 rupees per child. We brought the teachers together and asked, “Obviously, you are the best paid, so why are you not delivering? What do we need to do to motivate you?” And when the teachers got motivated, children performed better. Today the pass percentage has risen to 82 percent, half a percentage point more than nongovernment schools.

I can give you another example concerning the problem of exporting. There were 17 different forms that had to be filled out to export something. So we had a talk with the relevant authorities and said, “Please, let’s reduce this.” Other countries have 2 or 3 forms, and it’s done with. So they set up this committee, and when they came back with a solution, instead of 17 forms, 25 forms had to be filled out. So you see it’s the mind-set, especially in administration, that needs to be changed. We are addressing it, but I don’t think we are addressing it seriously enough.

I was in Himachal3 just about four weeks ago. One panchayat,4 which is the lowest level of government, told me that several years ago they were poverty stricken. They couldn’t get even two square meals a day. In the past three years they made nine crores5 exporting flowers. So they’re beginning to learn. Where the income of 60 to 80 families was virtually zero it came up to nine crores. They’ve tasted it. And there’s going to be no stopping them from becoming role models for the rest of the panchayat—year round.

The Quarterly: Has infrastructure been able to keep pace with growth in the city?

Sheila Dikshit: It is keeping pace now, but we should be ahead. The fact that we have been able to cater to the half million people coming into the city each year in everything except housing is the good point. The bad point is that it’s slow. For me, it’s not fast enough. With the technologies we have today, we should be able to build infrastructure much faster.

Archaic systems and a great multiplicity of authorities in Delhi are slowing us down. You have the federal government. You have my government. You have the municipality. We are a state government without, for instance, the power of owning land. It’s a great problem. We have a lieutenant governor here representing the government of India, which no other state has. We work with our hands tied. It’s very unique.


The Quarterly: How can other Indian cities follow Delhi’s example?

Sheila Dikshit: They should be made into city-states,11 and we should start with five cities: Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and so on. I am sure politically no one would agree with this, but I think administratively it would be good for the country’s development. Create city-states and give them the power to undertake development. They should not be under the state governments but rather under their own chief minister or chief administrator or whatever you want to call the position. They would collect their own revenues, maybe sharing a percentage with the other states. You have to develop your cities, especially if you’re envisaging that in the next 20 years 55 to 60 percent of India’s population will be urban. You just can’t do it with the same old administration where you’re dependent on various constituents for every penny.


Somebody taking the mickey out of marketing people

Take a look at here and here. So amusing indeed. Let this be a lesson for people who arent clear in their communications! :)

Take a look at this Plain English Campaign here in the UK. Some examples of complete bollocks!!!!:

Crafts Council of Ireland for a circular letter
'The re-writing of the vocabulary of intemporal Irish heritage is a possible vector for submissions on the condition that this transposition is resolutely anchored in the 21st century through a contemporary lens that absolutely avoids drifting into the vernacular.'

Germaine Greer for a column in the Guardian
'The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold.'

Wheale, Thomas, Hodgins plc for a job advertisement
'Our client is a pan-European start-up leveraging current cutting edge I.P. (already specified) with an outstanding product/value solutions set. It is literally the right product, in the right place at the right time… by linking high-value disparate legacy systems to achieve connectivity between strategic partners/acquisition targets and/or disparate corporate divisions. The opportunity exists to be the same (i.e. right person etc. etc) in a growth-opportunity funded by private equity capital that hits the 'sweet-spot' in major cost driven European markets.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies for a website document description
'While the literature on nonclassical measurement error traditionally relies on the availability of an auxiliary dataset containing correctly measured observations, this paper establishes that the availability of instruments enables the identification of a large class of nonclassical nonlinear errors-in-variables models with continuously distributed variables.'

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Benazir Bhutto's hypocrisy is breathtaking

The lady is amazing, she is banging on about how much she is looking forward to going back to Pakistan here. She ends with:

The forces of moderation and democracy must, and will, prevail against
extremism and dictatorship. I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the
tarmac in Karachi in a few hours not to complete a journey, but to begin one.
Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the
fight against it.

Not a word about what I talked about yesterday.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Europe doesnt seem to like democracy very much, does it?

So polls are saying that the new EU constitution (sorry, the EU Reform Treaty!) should be put to the people in a referendum: I quote:

An overwhelming majority of people in the European Union’s five biggest
member states want the bloc’s treaty on institutional reform to be submitted to
national referendums, according to an opinion poll published on

According to the poll, 70 per cent of those questioned in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK want a referendum, 20 per cent do not, and 10 per cent are unsure. Some 76 per cent of Germans want a referendum, 75 per cent of Britons, 72 per cent of Italians, 65 per cent of Spaniards and 63 per cent of French.

You know what I hate? is being taken for an idiot by these politicians. Gordon Brown and other assorted European leaders, do not think that I am not able to make an informed judgement. And when you are talking about my country's sovereignity, I do not trust you at all. Plus you promised. So besides being elitist, you are also a liar, a promise breaker and frankly incompetent to boot.


All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

A peek at France from an American

This was brilliant, i was chuckling away to myself. Some particularly good sentences quoted here:

In an interview, Lagarde says that more than two decades at a U.S.
corporation taught her: “The more hours you worked, the more hours you billed,
the more profit you could generate for yourself and your firm. That was the
The equivalent mantra in the French bureaucracy might be: the fewer
hours you work, the more vacation you take, the more time you have to grumble
about the state of the universe and the smarter you feel, especially compared to
workaholic dingbats across the Atlantic with no time for boules.

But all joking aside, France has to do something about it and between Sarko and Legarde, I hope France does wake up. We here in London have the largest population of very high earning French expatriates. Why are they here? because they are taxed out of their trousers in France and it is almost impossible to get good people to work in France.

Take the 35 hour week for example, yesterday, the FT reported some shocking news. I quote:

Introduced 10 years ago last week, the 35-hour week was a flagship
policy of the former Socialist-led government, which had hoped the policy would
generate more jobs. While the shorter work week has given many people more
time off, its effect on lowering the country’s rate of unemployment – which
still hovers at around the 9 per cent mark – has been less
Instead, the bold social experiment has been blamed by its critics
for everything from throttling the country’s growth to destroying its work
ethic. Workers also complain of wage stagnation and a more stressful work
environment as they are asked to do more in less time for the same pay. The result, says Yves Riesel, founder and owner of the Paris-based company, is that white-collar workers, many of whom have the means to take advantage of the extra weeks of holiday, benefited from the 35-hour week. By contrast blue-collar workers who are paid by the hour found themselves odd
shifts with little opportunity to increase their earnings through overtime.


All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Wednesday, October 17

Inconsistencies in the great European project

Now here is an interesting question for you. But first a bit of a background. The European Union, EEC and other great and good European institutions are based around the idea that there is an European identity.
Within that, people and other "bits" are fungible (more or less). So a Spaniard can come work in London, while a Brit can go purchase a flat in Athens, while a Norwegian can setup a company in Italy. And so it works by and large. There are many exclusions and limitations such as Romanian workers not allowed to work in England for a long time or Spanish professional degrees not recognised in the UK etc. etc.

But now here is an interesting proposal from the EC. If you are a Brit who is unable to find good dental care in England, you would be able to nip over to France and get your teeth fixed rather than go through the nice challenge of pulling them out with a pair of pliers. So if you were entitled to treatment in England but were not able to get it due to very long waiting times, then you can go anywhere else. What England then has to do is to reimburse France for the cost of the dental services.

You can guess the challenge. Where healthcare is rationed such as in the UK, you will have a flood of people nipping across the channel to get healthcare, just like they do to get cheap ciggies and drinks from France.
But unlike the drinks/fags issue, the British Chancellor would not mind as the cost of British Healthcare is now being met by the French Taxpayer, and secondly at a much cheaper price as the cost per medical issue is much lower and stingy in the UK compared to France.

And given the fact that generally the median age of Europeans is moving inexorably upwards, the need for medical services is going to rise, rationing is going to become more and more, cost of medicines is going to rise and people are going to shop around for medical care more and more!

this promises to be a very interesting situation going forward. Watch the fireworks!

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Another example of total immigration mismanagement

Read this report and just wonder about how on earth people can assume that a million immigrants will land up and they will be absorbed seamlessly?. India went to war when few millions immigrated from Pakistan (just joking!)

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Delivering newspapers pays more than journalism in Norway

How strange and counter intuitive but unfortunately very economically simple. You have more journalists than delivery boys, that's why you have this amusing situation! Talk is cheap!, so more expensive to walk the talk than to talk the talk (if you excuse the mangling of the pun!)

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95 percent of Swedes cheat the welfare system

Now there's a surprise. Sweden is considered to be one of the most fair countries, with the least inequality, the progressive economy and taxation system, the highest rights for children and women, highest in all human development indicators and so on and so forth (well, if not the highest then near the top).

Now we see this report which says that 95% of Swedes abuse the country's public services and benefits system.

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Is Intelligence related to your ethnicity or race?

Now this is sure to put the tiger amongst the chickens. Here is a report in the Independent. I quote from this Nobel Prize Winner's extraordinary statements as reported:

One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

Curious, no? Before people climb up on the universality of human rights and all that and berate me, yes, I agree on that. But ability is different and you cannot mandate it. That is why I am a piss poor sportsman and Michael Jordan is a superstar. But earnings wise, I am in the top quartile of earners and presuming that link between earnings and ability, there is a reason for the difference.

Now nutrition has been shown as a direct contributor to intelligence. We also have direct links and studies for Ashkenazi Jewish Intelligence. (see abstract at the bottom for one research paper) We also have direct links and studies which show that a child of an educated person is more likely to be educated than otherwise.

Given this, the presumption that every human being is equally intelligent or able is not correct. But is this up to the melamine content in your skin? This professor thinks so!

Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(8):1118-31.
Related Articles, Links

Head size and intelligence, learning, nutritional status and brain development. Head, IQ, learning, nutrition and brain.
Ivanovic DM, Leiva BP, Pérez HT, Olivares MG, Díaz NS, Urrutia MS, Almagià AF, Toro TD, Miller PT, Bosch EO, Larraín CG.
Public Nutrition Area, Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile, Avda. Macul 5540, P.O. Box 138-11, Santiago, Chile.
This multifactorial study investigates the interrelationships between head circumference (HC) and intellectual quotient (IQ), learning, nutritional status and brain development in Chilean school-age children graduating from high school, of both sexes and with high and low IQ and socio-economic strata (SES). The sample consisted of 96 right-handed healthy students (mean age 18.0 +/- 0.9 years) born at term. HC was measured both in the children and their parents and was expressed as Z-score (Z-HC). In children, IQ was determined by means of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Adults-Revised (WAIS-R), scholastic achievement (SA) through the standard Spanish language and mathematics tests and the academic aptitude test (AAT) score, nutritional status was assessed through anthropometric indicators, brain development was determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and SES applying the Graffar modified method. Results showed that microcephalic children (Z-HC < or = 2 S.D.) had significantly lower values mainly for brain volume (BV), parental Z-HC, IQ, SA, AAT, birth length (BL) and a significantly higher incidence of undernutrition in the first year of life compared with their macrocephalic peers (Z-HC > 2S.D.). Multiple regression analysis revealed that BV, parental Z-HC and BL were the independent variables with the greatest explanatory power for child's Z-HC variance (r(2) = 0.727). These findings confirm the hypothesis formulated in this study: (1) independently of age, sex and SES, brain parameters, parental HC and prenatal nutritional indicators are the most important independent variables that determine HC and (2) microcephalic children present multiple disorders not only related to BV but also to IQ, SA and nutritional background.

Richard Lynn and David Longley, On the high intelligence and cognitive achievements of Jews in Britain, Intelligence, Volume 34, Issue 6, November-December 2006, Pages 541-547. Abstract: A number of studies in the United States have found that Jews obtain higher average IQs than white gentiles. This paper examines whether this is also the case in Britain. Three early studies are summarized that found that Jews in Britain have mean IQs in the range of 110-113. New data are presented for two nationally representative samples of 7-16 year olds in which Jews had mean IQs of 108.5 and 107.7. Taking all five studies into account, it is proposed that the best reading of the IQ of Jews in Britain is 110. It is proposed that the best reading of the IQ of Jews in the United States is 109.5. Data are presented for the numbers of Jewish Fellows of the Royal Society in relation to their proportion in the population. It is found that Jews were over-represented by a factor of 3.7 in the years 1901 through 1940 and by a factor of 7.6 in the years 1950 through 2003. Data are also presented for the numbers Jewish Nobel prize-winners in Britain and the United States for 1901 through 2003. It is shown that Jews are over-represented among Nobel prize-winners by a factor of 8.0 in Britain and 12.3 in the United States. It is proposed that the over-representation of Jews among Nobel prize-winners can be partly explained by the higher average Jewish IQ.

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Inflation up to 8000% in Zimbabwe

Welcome to the magic kingdom of Zimbabwe. This 8000% figure is year on year. So if last year a loaf of bread cost 1Zim Dollar, then today it would cost 8000 Zim Dollars. So if you are a middle class fixed salaried employee like a teacher, policeman or a nurse, what would you do? you will leave the country.

Which is what 3 million Zimbabweans have done and Angela Merkel thinks that His Great Stupid Moronic Highness Robert Mugabe is to be honourably invited to the EU-Africa summit.

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Another angle on a city's contribution to the national economy

Here's an interesting view on how to measure a city's contribution to the national economy. Londoners are perenially moaning about the low amount of investment in London (such as transport, water, etc.) and point to the high amounts of tax raised by London. I quote:

"There's no question that London is vital to the UK economy. But when talking about London and the rest of the UK, too much attention is being focused on London's tax contribution - when the real story is about trade. UK plc benefits hugely from two-way trade between London and the regions, for example high-tech manufactured goods imported from the Midlands, or financial services exported from the City to the rest of the UK.

"The amount of money flowing between London and the regions as the result of trade is more significant than any tax transfer - London exports over £120 billion in goods and services to the rest of the UK, and imports over £100 billion. Research we'll be publishing at the end of this month shows that cities and regions across the country should work to support their trade links with London - to achieve their economic potential, and to boost UK plc."


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A Brave Pakistani!

Here is an email from a fellow desi who is now based in London. Very Brave Man!. One of his articles is attached at the bottom of the email. And the grand mandarins in the Court of St. James will simply shrug and think of this as business as usual. These things happen all the time, no? What happened to the moral foreign policy that we were supposed to follow, you blithering idiots?

Read his email and weep.

From:Ghani Jafar
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:27 AM
Subject: My update

Dear all,
I am resorting to the not so polite a manner of sending out this joint message to you all since addressing it individually would have been quite time-consuming. Please accept my apologies for that.
The present is meant to be an update on what has transpired in my personal as also professional life over the past month or so.
Rather, the countdown should perhaps start nearly six months ago. As most of you may know, I had since early 2000 rejoined the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad, as a research analyst after remaining in the wilderness for nearly a year subsequent to my summary dismissal from the job there. As now, the place even then was headed by a retired Pakistan Army general. My crime? The same as now: writings in the print media that the then government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, particularly his close adviser of the time, Mr Mushahid Hussain Syed, did not quite approve of.
Now, fast-forward to April 2007. I had ever since getting back to the IRS seven years earlier tried to avoid writing in the media on Pakistan's internal affairs; but could no longer suppress the urge to put some of my thought to paper as things started getting hot politically in the homeland once again. The particular incident that had provoked me was the storming of Geo offices in Islamabad by the police and the time-tested administrative ploy of hushing up the whole affair.
My article on the subject appeared in "The News" on April 10 ('Déjà vu, but vicariously'). Although I had been careful in narrating my own experience of 1992 in the third person, the message was not lost to 'them'. The feedback was both encouraging and, understandably, otherwise.
My next piece ('Battlelines') was carried by "The News" in its edition of July 23. That was written in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid showdown. The feedback was again mixed – but stronger at both ends.
Then came 'Hijacking of Pakistan' in "The News" on August 21. The scales went further up both ways a few notches. Finally, what blew 'their' top was the one that appeared in the same daily on Saturday, September 22: 'Reclaiming Pakistan'. Some of my close friends were quick in expressing their surprise that I was still well and alive! But, 'they', too, were not late in responding. The same evening, somebody dropped an undated official notice of vacation of the premises I was living in "within 24 hours failing which action… to take over the possession by force will be taken".
The notice was addressed to Mr S. Iqbal Hussain, a senior official in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, who is married to my elder sister, Sajida, currently serving as Minister (Press), Pakistan High Commission, Dhaka.
When they and their son were leaving for her to take up the position in Bangladesh more then three years ago, I was requested by them to move over from my rented house in Islamabad to the said premises allotted officially to my brother-in-law who had opted to take leave from his job for the family to be together in Dhaka. The idea was for me to take good care of their place and belongings in their absence. I agreed.
Now comes this notice; alarm bells are sounded here, there and everywhere. 'They' had timed it well, as they usually do. I could not even get a court stay order over the weekend.
At any rate, the Secretary, Housing and Works, Mr Rauf Chaudhry, agreed to intervene to stop the process on Monday morning (September 24). He met me promptly at his office early in the day and reassured me that he would have the 'forced action' delayed by a week during which period Mr S. Iqbal Hussain must report back for duty to his Ministry. Armed with that guarantee, I had barely reached back my office with the intention of conveying the good news to my family members in Dhaka, when my mobile telephone rang. The number was that of my residence. "We are terrorists," said a serious male voice. I, too, had had enough; and told him to do with himself whatever he liked. "Alright, then vacate the house," came the cool reply before he hung up.
I rush home to see the place littered with police, armed ones included; and the labourers they had brought along were throwing each and every thing in the house out in the open.
Alarm bells again, but to no avail. The Secretary Housing or any of the high-ups in the Islamabad Administration continued to make themselves unavailable to some of the most senior and respected names in the federal bureaucracy till late in the evening.
I will leave the details of the trauma to your imagination.
There is a God above: even as I was still trying to put my life together yet again, there showed this light at the end of the tunnel. As I checked my e-mail account late in the evening on October 2 – a week after being thrown out of the house – there was this message from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, stating "We are very pleased to offer you a place to study at SOAS." No; bless you, SOAS, the pleasure is entirely mine!
True, I had applied for admission there, but had despaired of that as the classes for the 2007-2008 academic year had already started. No worries there, either. The message went on to state that I still had time to enrol.
As luck would have it, I still had a valid visit visa to UK. If I were to go for a student visa, the processing time would have denied me the opportunity to join the course. So, I decided to travel on my visit visa, get enrolled, and then fly back home during the winter break to get the student visa.
I was pretty certain of getting a year's study leave from IRS together with my dues by way of earned leave and gratuity for the seven-year-plus period I had put in there. After all, one of the reference letters for admission was from none other than the President, IRS, Maj. Gen. (retired) Jamshed Ayaz Khan. My getting admission at the prestigious SOAS would be a matter of honour for the IRS and its head as well.
No, I must quit the job if I wanted my lawfully earned money, I was told. I did exactly that; it's a different matter though that what I did get at the end was a good hundred thousand rupees less than the amount the office accountant had worked out for me on the quiet before I had resigned.
Meanwhile, I had already booked myself the first available flight to London that brought me here on October 7.
I went to SOAS last week with the request for a deferral of my admission to the next semester starting January next year as I realised after reaching here that starting my studies on a visit visa would not entitle me to even campus jobs. So, I thought it best to brave my dear homeland to get the student visa and only then get started with the SOAS course. But, they could only defer me to the next academic year starting September 2008; and that is what I have done.
I have rented out a cosy little studio apartment in a quiet West London neighbourhood from where I write these lines to you.
Boundless are His Blessings. I am pleased to report that only this afternoon I got the glad tidings that He had bestowed yet another Mercy upon me: One of my three daughters had given birth to her second daughter in a London hospital. I have been with them to plant a kiss on the cheeks of the mother and her angel of a daughter; both of them in perfect health. I intend to continue working as a freelance journalist and researcher.
All of you are free to use the above information as you may like – spread it round on the internet, publish it or, should you feel like it, help me connect to opportunities in journalism (both print and electronic) and research to make the going easier on me. I can be reached at the e-mail address I am now using.
Ghani Jafar October 15, 2007.


Reclaiming Pakistan
By Ghani Jafar
It was heartening to learn from a news report early last week that somebody had at long last mustered the courage of moving the Supreme Court for setting right a few of the distortions in the basic scheme of democracy inherent to the 1973 Constitution. The petitioner, Joseph M Francis, chairperson of the Pakistan Christian National Party, has challenged a number of constitutional provisions in this regard.
While nothing can at this stage be obviously stated about the outcome of his groundbreaking initiative, it has come as a breath of fresh air in a political atmosphere polluted heavily by the wild scramble for power by individuals seemingly incapable of seeing beyond their self-centred noses.
The petitioner has based his plea on the contention that the articles of the Constitution challenged by him violate his equality as a citizen, specifically with regard to his right to contest elections to the office of president. To that extent, therefore, the scope of the issues raised by him for adjudication by the Supreme Court is rather limited, even in terms of our history of legislation for so-called Islamisation of Pakistan's state and society.
Noble as the attempt may be, mere patchwork on our constitutional framework would simply not suffice. What needs to be done, instead, is for a workable new social contract to be enacted that, first and foremost, restores Jinnah's liberal, democratic, secular Pakistan where citizens are equal.
What is being proposed here is the formation of a constituent assembly to frame and adopt the basic law that not only incorporates the above principles but also brings the federal structure in line with the aspirations of the smaller units vis-à-vis provincial autonomy.
The scheme of the 1973 Constitution on the latter count, even though not infringed upon to the disadvantage of the constituent units in the past 34 years, has proved not to be tenable any more.
"Islamisation," on the other hand, has been given a major boosts not only during General Zia's dictatorial era but also by Nawaz Sharif's elected government in 1991. We were mercifully saved from the latter's attempt to establish a totalitarian caliphate of sorts through the abortive 15th Constitutional Amendment in 1998.
Starting with Liaquat Ali Khan right down to Nawaz Sharif, Ayub excepted, each and every ruler of Pakistan has not left the seat of power without adding some more weight to the burden of inequity on the corpus of law in the name of "enforcing" Islam.
Jinnah declared in his celebrated August 11, 1947, address, "You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state." Within six months of his death, Liaquat Ali Khan set out as the objective of Pakistan the establishment of a polity in which the religious minorities were to be relegated to the status of second-class citizens. At one stroke, democracy had been dealt a fatal blow.
The "Objectives Resolution" moved in the Constituent Assembly by the first prime minister on March 7, 1949, and adopted after a five-day debate, took away sovereignty from the people. "Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone . . ." read the opening of the document. That may very well be understood in the metaphysical sense, and in conformity with the Islamic belief system, at that, but how in heaven's name are the poor mortals on earth to determine His Will in worldly affairs?
Therein lay the catch. His Commands have most exhaustively been laid down in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, but their "correct" understanding and interpretation is the exclusive preserve of the few "learned" among the mass of ordinary Muslims.
Republicanism was totally alien to this scheme of things. Democracy had been given a new definition in the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" now envisioned for the state: government of the mullah, by the mullah, for the mullah. Even as the Muslim population of the country had been denied their inalienable right to rule over themselves, the fate of the religious minorities was to be even worse.
Society had come to be divided into three classes: the privileged lot of the mullah was to be first-class citizens, ordinary Muslims second-class citizens, and non-Muslims third-class citizens. It was on the same basis that Pakistan was declared an "Islamic Republic" through the coming into force of the first Constitution in 1956.
In came General Ayub through a martial law two years later, and abrogated the Constitution. While further restricting the democratic rights of the people, the Constitution he enforced in 1962 took away the "Islamic" infringement in the earlier document. Pakistan, henceforth, was to be a "Republic," plain and simple -- but on his terms of severely limited franchise through the mechanism of "basic democracy" contrived by him.
The eastern wing of the country broke away to form Bangladesh in 1971. The new constituent assembly for Pakistan that had been elected in 1970 now met on April 14, 1972, comprising 144 of those elected from West Pakistan alone (together with two who came from what had been East Pakistan). Bhutto had majority support in this assembly of what had remained of Pakistan. Efforts started anew to draft a constitution.
Realising that their only value was that of nuisance, the mullahs were now clamouring for even more "Islamisation" than that in the 1956 Constitution; and Bhutto was only too glad to oblige. Pakistan not only became an "Islamic Republic" once again in 1973, but also one in which not just the ceremonial office of the president but also that of the all-powerful prime minister were reserved for Muslims alone.
Through the "Constitution (Second Amendment) Act" the very next year, Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims. The legislature of the "Islamic Republic" thus came to arrogate to itself the celestial role of judging matters of faith as well.
That proved to be the beginning of sectarian warfare for power in Pakistan. Which of the sect within the main body of Muslims should be the next target for disenfranchisement? We had come to relive history, not in the earlier context of the Hindu-Muslim divide, but in the unending framework of intra-Muslim violence.
The details of further "Islamisation" in the post-Bhutto years of the Zia era and then during Nawaz Shairf's days in power are too numerous to be recounted here.
If the terrorists of today are out to kill all those -- women and children included -- who do not subscribe to their skewed understanding of Islam, we are nothing but reaping the blood-soaked harvest of hatred and intolerance sowed, and so very carefully tended to, over the past half century.
No, any further tinkering with the Constitution would just not do. We have got to structure our polity on the firm principle that religion is a matter totally private to the citizen. The state has no business with that, whatsoever.
Let the parties go into an election to create a constituent assembly with clear-cut positions on that core issue, together with all other contentious matters related to the federal scheme as well as to the form of government.

The writer is a senior journalist working at present as a research analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad. Email:

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!