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Pakistan's Political Circus; Churchill on Whiskey

Pakistan’s Political Circus
30 Years War
Looking Smart
Changing Personalities
Churchill on Whisky
Think it Through

Pakistan’s Political Circus

Barely a year after winning a general election — and quite convincingly - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is besieged with demand to resign. Leading the protests are cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Canada-based Sunni cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri. The protest movement is what’s in our sub-continental politics, called marriage of convenience. Both led separate marches on Islamabad on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. Who could have devised this pincer movement but for that State within State called the ISI, who have pronounced sympathies for the anti-Sharif protests?

The twin marches have put Islamabad in lockdown. The so-called Z-zone has been breached. That is exactly how the wings of the previous civilian government led by Asif Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani were clipped. Then, the judiciary played a critical role in tying up elected leaders in knots. Will judiciary intervene again? Or, the Army will sort things out?

The military has ruled Pakistan directly for more than half its existence as an independent country. When they can’t govern directly, the military and its intelligence services still want to play a decisive role, especially over foreign and national security policies. At any given time, there are enough civilian politicians, media personalities or judges willing to do the military’s bidding for this manipulation to persist.

This time it appears the military wants Sharif to curb his enthusiasm about normalizing ties with India and turn away from Pakistan’s past policy of meddling in Afghanistan’s politics. It also wants an end to the treason trial of former dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

Couldn’t the real purpose be sorted out by methods other than the theatrics of protest — and not one but two - led by two persons who cannot work together for a day should they succeed.

The atmosphere in the Pakistani capital is at present surreal. It appears as if Pakistan and the rest of the world exist in “parallel universes”. And the leaders in our neighborhood remain preoccupied with the shenanigans thrown up by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri.

Meanwhile, no one has time to tackle with the real problems plaguing the Pakistani polity. A recent survey of 84 countries by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research service found that in 2012 Pakistanis were spending 47.7% of their income on food, the highest ratio of any of the countries surveyed. Inflation is set to rocket once more as CNG, used in more than 4 million vehicles in the country, is set to be replaced by costly LNG fuel. This will lead to an estimated increase in fuel costs of around 28%.

As I write this edition of the Dairy, the latest is the Supreme Court, which has played an influential role in Pakistani politics in recent years, has ordered Khan and Qadri to appear on Thursday to explain themselves.

This is after the supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) entered Islamabad’s high security red zone. “If Nawaz Sharif does not resign, we will enter into the PM House,” Khan thundered while addressing to protesters, outside the parliament.

30 Years War

I’m as confused as you’re about the goings-on in the Middle East, particularly the now-on, now-off war between Israel and Palestine. Stirring vigorously the Middle Eastern cauldron now is the Sunni-Shiite rivalry, which is at full boil. Torn by sectarian violence, the nation of Iraq no longer exists in its old form. Don’t you sometimes miss that tyrant, Saddam.

What’s happening of late is that the Middle East has begun to resemble what Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations once called the Middle East situation as the 30 Years War - an overlapping series of clashes and proxy wars that could go on for decades and transform identities, maps and the political contours of the region.

Looking Smart

Choose your own adventure: You’re at a party, trying to have a good time, when someone brings up War and Peace. Finding yourself caught in the middle of a conversation about Tolstoy’s epic that you haven’t read, do you: (A) listen quietly, (B) leave the area, or (C) say something about the book anyway, in an effort to look smart?

Accordingly to Atlantic Monthly, when 2,000 Britons were polled last year about tactics they’d have used to try to appear more intelligent, 62 percent of them confessed to having chosen option C. Indeed, according to the survey lying about having read classic books was the most popular strategy for appearing smarter. Another strategy identified by the survey, wearing glasses, appears to be surprisingly effective. Figures released in 2011 by the College of Optometrists, in the U.K., show that 43 percent of the people it surveyed believe glasses make a person look more intelligent.

But you may not need glasses if you’re beautiful. A Czech study found that certain facial features — narrow faces, long noses, and thin chins — correlated with both perceived intelligence and attractiveness. Interestingly, men who were considered smart-looking actually tended to have higher IQs; the same was not true for women.

Changing Personalities

All of us have what’s loosely called personality. Experts have found that the stability of personality increases through youth, peaks in mid-life and then gradually reduces again into old age, presumably in response to the variations in social and biological pressures we experience at the different stages of life.

Petar Milojev and Chris Sibley at the University of Auckland in New Zealand recruited 4,000 men and women aged 20 to 80 to complete a personality questionnaire twice, with a gap of two years in between.

The survey measured a person’s honesty-humility factor as well as five major personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience.

They compared how people’s scores varied between years, and analyzed how all of the participants’ personalities related to one another, depending on age.

Most people’s personalities were generally stable, they found, but the stability of those trait followed a bell curve over time, peaking at middle-age and then dropping again.

For certain traits — conscientiousness, openness to experience, and honesty-humility, the oldest participants’ personality stability matched those of the youngest.

Extraversion was the most stable trait and agreeableness the least.

People in their 30s, for example, showed high levels of neuroticism, but by the time they reached their 50s that had been replaced by conscientiousness, openness and honesty-humility.

The researchers said these “domain specific” variations in personality stability point to different environmental and social demands influencing different personality traits to varying degrees at slightly different times of life.

“This report further highlights the need to test ... the effects of events that might cause the lower stability [of personality] in younger and older adulthood,” the researchers said.

“In addition our finding of systematically different peaks in stability between different personality dimensions suggest the need to further investigate age-specific changes in environmental and social pressures that are associated with such domain-specific effects.”

Churchill on Whisky

A close friend of mine whose endearing habit of having a leisurely whisky-soda sun-downer I share sent me a grim warning. And that was Sir Winston Churchill’s position on whisky. He took it very seriously because he was, all said and done, the patron saint of drinkers. That’s what Churchill said:

“If you mean whisky, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fibre of my being.”

Understandably, it upset me a lot. And that evening I missed my shot.

Fortunately enough, my friend forwarded next day the second part of Sir Winston’s considered opinion:

“However, if by whisky you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean good cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life’s great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of pounds each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation… then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favour of it..!!!”

“This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle.!!!”

You can well imagine how relieved I was after the nagging thought had troubled me the whole night. So, if ever doubts assail you, read Churchill’s considered opinion. And by that I mean the second part.

Think it Through

There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, and that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all.
— Ogden Nash, poet (1902-1971)


More by :  Sakshi

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