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Archive for December, 2007

Najam Sethi writes in the Daily Times, Pakistan,

Most Pakistanis are by instinct inclined to believe that the “agencies” did it. This is the easy explanation for anything that happens in this country which is either inexplicable or unpalatable. All political assassinations in Pakistan remain inexplicable since the truth about them has never been investigated or investigated but not made public. But the truth of Ms Bhutto’s assassination may also be subliminally unacceptable to many Pakistanis because a religious or “Islamist” element may be at its unpleasant core.

Very true.

It is natural that the first fingers of blame have been pointed at Musharraf. After all, he is the man in charge, and he failed to provide adequate security to a leader who has been repeatedly threatened with assasination since she returned home and who barely survived another suicide attack a month ago. Nevertheless Musharraf, though scheming and dishonest, is no fool and the question I’d like to ask those who believe he plotted this is: How on earth does this assasination benefit him?

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After much empirical evidence I have come to the following conclusion:

Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP sucks. It is insecure, clunky and really slow. And it actually gets worse with time. Go with Firefox any day.

Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista rocks (and is arguably superior to Firefox 2).

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Benazir Bhutto is dead.

The history of the Bhutto family is a tragic one and the assasination of Benazir, who recently returned from exile so that she could take part in the elections, is emblematic of the deep quagmire Pakistan is in.

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Shiv Sainiks vandalise paintings in Hussain exhibition.

This couldn’t have been a surprise -the exhibition was initially suspended due to vandalism threats and opened only after additional security was provided.

I’ll make an exception from my usual distaste for such measures and propose a new law. One that will provide for immediate non-bailable arrest and expedited trials – with a mandatory jail term if found guilty – against those who commit violent acts infringing upon others’ freedom of expression . That would include all these acts that our moral police prides itself on – harassing lovers, vandalising art, burning theatres.

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Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, in an excellent article on Cricinfo, says that Dravid’s painstaking innings and the subsequent Indian batting collapse is just the latest evidence for an old truth: the wait-and-watch approach does not work against Australia.

Sixteen years ago Sanjay Manjrekar came to Australia as India’s best batsman. He had enjoyed a wonderful series in Pakistan and possessed the technique to counter any kind of bowling. He ended the five Tests without a single half-century and was never the same force since.

Four years back he revisited that trip. “I spent quite a lot of time at the crease, and never once felt uncomfortable,” he wrote in Wisden Asia Cricket. “My weakness was that I didn’t have the game to score off good balls. So I’d spend two hours scoring 30 before a good ball would get me. If I had managed to hit a few more fours, I could perhaps have got 60 in that time. The wait-and-watch approach is never going to be profitable in Australia. To succeed as a batsman, you should be able to create scoring opportunities, because there is little point in waiting for loose balls which never come.”

 

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The VHP mob has been killing Christians, burning churches in Orissa.

I have an idea. Let’s explain to the VHP that they should go to Iraq. After all, Iraq currently has Christians and Muslims. Whats more, they are already killing each other every day. The VHP can just go and kill a few more. It would be the perfect outlet for all their hatred … and no one will suspect skinny Indian men.

As for me, I would like to sneak up to heaven with a macho machine gun, bed a few of those promised virgins (I hear they dig guys with guns) and then … walk up to God’s chamber and kill Him. However I have a hunch that God will be disappointingly easy to bump off. By all accounts He is extremely old. Also, I doubt He has seen a machine gun in his life.

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I was a young lad once and like most kids was susceptible to the perceived infallibility of the written word. To give a relevant example, it wasn’t apparent to me that our civics text-books were less fact and more a bunch of Nehruvian platitudes. But even then, I often wondered about the role of the Constitution in a democracy. It seemed to be – contrary to the importance my book seemed to give it – little more than just a symbol or a guidance, not of much more significance than Gandhi’s “My experiments with truth”. After all, if the real authority was the democratically elected government, what role could a bulky book which no one reads have?

I was both right and wrong. I was wrong because I failed to realise that a Constitution is intended to be a check on what the government can do; it is a well thought out document that lays down certain core values which no law can violate. By its very nature it is much harder to amend the Constitution than it is to pass a law. In the US and other Western democracies, many laws – passed by the government of the day – have been deemed unconstitutional and overturned. The American government will find it impossible to ban a controversial book – without repealing the First Amendment, an unthinkability. Indeed the Constitution is a device for freedom, a vital muscle that makes a democracy tick strongly and prevents it from turning into a tyranny by the majority. We all know that mobs can be manipulated and fooled, not all of them and not for all time, but certainly temporarily. The Constitution keeps the flag of freedom flying at those times – it prevents the passage of parochial laws by extremist parties, it curbs populism, it can arrest collectivism.

Unfortunately, I was right in that none of the above is true in the Indian setup. The freedoms granted by our Constitution were peppered with so many caveats as to render them almost useless and successive governments have further eroded it through amendments that have taken away much of what remained. Today our Constitution is truly what it once seemed to me and probably seems to most other Indians – a mere symbol. And the real tragedy is that most people are unaware it can be anything else.

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