Thursday, June 14, 2007


I'm travelling for the next couple of weeks so I don't figure to be posting anything for a while, at least until early July. See you guys then.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Quotes of the day (Sir Garfield Sobers edition)
"It is a very different game now. In England, all the grass has gone from the wickets. In 1957 I went to Lord's and sat up on the balcony for 15 minutes, staring. Everton Weekes came to me. He said, 'Son, what are you looking for?' I said, 'Sir, I'm looking for the wicket'. He said, 'You won't see it until they put the stumps down'. I was used to wickets you could see your face reflected in. Now the green tops have gone."

Sobers was 31 not out at the end of the first day's play. Clive Lloyd then asked him if he fancied going for a curry at the home of some Guyanese friends. He went, had a good time, and then progressed to the Q Club, a London nightclub owned by Jamaicans, where he met a pretty girl he'd already encountered in Birmingham, and danced with her until 4.30am. She then gave him the slip, so he went with another West Indian friend to Clarendon Court near Lord's, for "a reminisce". "We drank until about 9 o'clock, then I got a cold shower, walked up to Lord's, got my pads on and walked out as the umpires called play. I took guard, but all I could see as Bob Willis ran up was arms and legs. The first five balls I missed, and I could hear Rohan Kanhai and everyone else up in the pavilion laughing. Anyhow, the sixth ball hit the bat, and I got to about 70, but then my stomach started giving me problems. I got my hundred, then walked over to [umpire] Charlie Elliott. I said, 'Charlie, I have to go'. He said, 'Go, what for? I haven't seen you get any injury.' I said, 'Charlie, I've held this in for 50 minutes, I can't hold it any longer. Put down whatever you like. I gone..."

One of the two greatest cricketers to ever play the game, letting us know what's up.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Public Service Announcement

I was reading this post on The Glasshouse when I came across this paragraph, which struck me as very strange:
The ‘Go Musharraf Go’ ring tone is resounding in Pakistan these days, mostly on the phones of those using the services of Mobilink. A senior Mobilink official in Islamabad, who did not want to reveal his identity, said that the number of anti-Musharraf text messages being sent and received every day runs into millions.
How, I wondered, does "a senior Mobilink official" know the content of people's text messages? I asked the question in the comments section and got this answer:
Anonymous said...


when i was in Supernet in KHI, i was reading every one's mails :D

Heck, I even knew who r after the cute recptionist, and what that seemingly innocent gal doing this and that evening

Lovely. Anyways, I just wanted to let you guys know that your emails and text messages are being read by other people. You're welcome.

Insult of the day

If you give [Jerry] Falwell an enema you could bury him in a matchbox.

Christopher Hitchens on the late evangelical leader Jerry Falwell. This line is so bloody brilliant, it's going up on our banner, even if we're insulting ourselves. It is simply too good to be allowed to go to waste.

A Fightback?

There's been some encouraging news on the clampdown-on-the-media front today. As some of you know, our government put in place some fairly draconian controls on the media at the beginning of the week. In effect, the laws signed by Musharraf would allow PEMRA to shut down any television station and confisacate their equipment at their whim. The next day, the new laws were challenged in the Supreme Court as well as the Lahore and Sindh High Courts. In addition, there were angry protests against the censorship of the media by civil rights activists and journalists which resulted in hundreds of arrests. So what happens today? In the face of protests, legal challenges and international condemnation, the government backed down and reversed the earlier decision. That's excellent news.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How Can I Not Post An Article That Begins With These Three Paragraphs?

It was said to provoke epileptic seizures. Someone compared it to a broken swastika or “some sort of comical sex act between ‘The Simpsons.’ ” The mayor was not amused.

The rollout of London’s new logo for the 2012 Olympics, in other words, has not been an unalloyed triumph.

Two days after it was introduced on Monday, the logo — a composition of subway-graffitilike, jagged-edged cutouts roughly denoting the figures 2012, in pink and yellow — has become front-page news. One newspaper, The Sun, ran a competition to discover whether amateur designers — two of whom it identified in its pages as a monkey and a blind woman — could do better.

Go read the whole thing.

Photo credit: Tom Hevezi/Associated Press

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Dear Faraz: This Is How You Make A Video

I'm the biggest Pearl Jam fan ever, but I have to admit, I have absolutely no idea - none whatsoever - what the hell Vedder is saying in Yellow Ledbetter. It sounds like he sang the song with inordinate amounts of food in his mouth and inordinate amounts of drugs in his blood. Anyways, someone gave it a shot, and it's better than anything I, or all other Pearl Jam fans for that matter, have managed to come up with.

The Irrationality Of Rationality (Or Is It The Rationality Of Meta-Rationality?)

You've all heard of the Prisoner's Dilemma, but have you heard of the Traveller's Dilemma? I'll let the creator explain it.

Lucy and Pete, returning from a remote Pacific island, find that the airline has damaged the identical antiques that each had purchased. An airline manager says that he is happy to compensate them but is handicapped by being clueless about the value of these strange objects. Simply asking the travelers for the price is hopeless, he figures, for they will inflate it.

Instead he devises a more complicated scheme. He asks each of them to write down the price of the antique as any dollar integer between 2 and 100 without conferring together. If both write the same number, he will take that to be the true price, and he will pay each of them that amount. But if they write different numbers, he will assume that the lower one is the actual price and that the person writing the higher number is cheating. In that case, he will pay both of them the lower number along with a bonus and a penalty--the person who wrote the lower number will get $2 more as a reward for honesty and the one who wrote the higher number will get $2 less as a punishment. For instance, if Lucy writes 46 and Pete writes 100, Lucy will get $48 and Pete will get $44.

What numbers will Lucy and Pete write? What number would you write?

Scenarios of this kind, in which one or more individuals have choices to make and will be rewarded according to those choices, are known as games by the people who study them (game theorists). I crafted this game, "Traveler's Dilemma, in 1994 with several objectives in mind: to contest the narrow view of rational behavior and cognitive processes taken by economists and many political scientists, to challenge the libertarian presumptions of traditional economics and to highlight a logical paradox of rationality.

Traveler's Dilemma (TD) achieves those goals because the game's logic dictates that 2 is the best option, yet most people pick 100 or a number close to 100--both those who have not thought through the logic and those who fully understand that they are deviating markedly from the "rational choice. Furthermore, players reap a greater reward by not adhering to reason in this way. Thus, there is something rational about choosing not to be rational when playing Traveler's Dilemma.

In the years since I devised the game, TD has taken on a life of its own, with researchers extending it and reporting findings from laboratory experiments. These studies have produced insights into human decision making. Nevertheless, open questions remain about how logic and reasoning can be applied to TD.

Common Sense and Nash
To see why 2 is the logical choice, consider a plausible line of thought that Lucy might pursue: her first idea is that she should write the largest possible number, 100, which will earn her $100 if Pete is similarly greedy. (If the antique actually cost her much less than $100, she would now be happily thinking about the foolishness of the airline manager's scheme.)

Soon, however, it strikes her that if she wrote 99 instead, she would make a little more money, because in that case she would get $101. But surely this insight will also occur to Pete, and if both wrote 99, Lucy would get $99. If Pete wrote 99, then she could do better by writing 98, in which case she would get $100. Yet the same logic would lead Pete to choose 98 as well. In that case, she could deviate to 97 and earn $99. And so on. Continuing with this line of reasoning would take the travelers spiraling down to the smallest permissible number, namely, 2. It may seem highly implausible that Lucy would really go all the way down to 2 in this fashion. That does not matter (and is, in fact, the whole point)--this is where the logic leads us.

What is the point of all this? As Basu says, there are two broad lessons to be taken from this. First, the assumption of classical economics that a society of selfish people acting in their self-interest will produce the greatest economic good needs to be challenged. In this case, the greatest economic good would come from both players choosing 100. The deductive logic, however, suggests both players should choose 2, leaving them considerably worse off than if they had behaved irrationally.

Second, because repeated experiments have shown that players don't choose 2, and that these choices aren't a reflection of stupidity or not understanding the deductive logic behind the game - even a group of game theorists, when playing this game, by and large chose numbers other than 2 - we must recognize the limits of game theoretic or logical reasoning to explain social scientific outcomes. According to Basu, we must somehow account for what he calls "meta-rationality," which contains an explicit rejection of formal rationality. Anyways, it's a really interesting piece and I highly recommend going and reading the whole thing.

Link courtesy Freakonomics

Pluralistic Ignorance

This may not have any particular relevance to the subjects recently under discussion on this blog, but I happened upon it and it's damn interesting. I'm posting some of it here, check out the rest if you have five or seven minutes to kill.
But I wonder whether this media distortion also persists because it doesn’t meet with enough criticism, and if that’s partially because many Americans think that what they see in the major political media reflects what most other Americans really think – when actually it often doesn’t.

Psychologists coined the term “pluralistic ignorance” in the 1930s to refer to this type of misperception — more a social than an individual phenomenon — to which even smart people might fall victim. A study back then had surprisingly found that most kids in an all-white fraternity were privately in favor of admitting black members, though most assumed, wrongly, that their personal views were greatly in the minority. Natural temerity made each individual assume that he was the lone oddball.

A similar effect is common today on university campuses, where many students think that most other students are typically inclined to drink more than they themselves would wish to; researchers have found that many students indeed drink more to fit in with what they perceive to be the drinking norm, even though it really isn’t the norm. The result is an amplification of a minority view, which comes to seem like the majority view.

In pluralistic ignorance, as described by researchers Hubert O’Gorman and Stephen Garry in a 1976 paper published in Public Opinion Quarterly, “moral principles with relatively little popular support may exert considerable influence because they are mistakenly thought to represent the views of the majority, while normative imperatives actually favored by the majority may carry less weight because they are erroneously attributed to a minority.”

What is especially disturbing about the process is that it lends itself to control by the noisiest and most visible. Psychologists have noted that students who are the heaviest drinkers, for example, tend to speak out most strongly against proposed measures to curb drinking, and act as “subculture custodians” in support of their own minority views. Their strong vocalization can produce “false consensus” against such measures, as others, who think they’re part of the minority, keep quiet. As a consequence, the extremists gain influence out of all proportion to their numbers, while the views of the silent majority end up being suppressed. (The United States Department of Education has a brief page on the main ideas here.)

Think of the proposal to put a timetable on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, supported, the latest poll says, by 60 percent of Americans, but dropped Tuesday from the latest war funding bill.

Over the past couple months, Glenn Greenwald at has done a superb job of documenting what certainly seems like it might be a case of pluralistic ignorance among the major political media, many (though certainly not all) of whom often seem to act as “subculture custodians” of their own amplified minority views. Routinely, it seems, views that get expressed and presented as majority views aren’t really that at all.

In a typical example in March, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported that most Americans wanted to pardon Scooter Libby, saying that the polling “indicates that most people think, in fact, that he should be pardoned, Scooter Libby should be pardoned.” In fact, polls showed that only 18 percent then favored a pardon.

Mitchell committed a similar error in April, claiming that polling showed Nancy Pelosi to be unpopular with the American people, her approval rating being as low as the dismal numbers of former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert just before the 2006 November elections. But in fact the polls showed Pelosi’s approval standing at about 50 percent, while Hastert’s had been 22 percent.

As most people get their news from the major outlets, these distortions – however they occur, whether intentionally or through some more innocuous process of filtering – almost certainly translate into a strongly distorted image in peoples’ minds of what most people across the country think. They contribute to making mainstream Americans feel as if they’re probably not mainstream, which in turn may make them less likely to voice their opinions.

One of the most common examples of pluralistic ignorance, of course, takes place in the classroom, where a teacher has just finished a dull and completely incomprehensible lecture, and asks if there are any questions. No hands go up, as everyone feels like the lone fool, even though no student actually understood a single word. It takes guts, of course, to admit total ignorance when you might just be the only one.

Last year, author Kristina Borjesson interviewed 21 prominent journalists for her book “Feet to the Fire,” about the run-up to the Iraq War. Her most notable impression was this:

“The thing that I found really profound was that there really was no consensus among this nation’s top messengers about why we went to war. [War is the] most extreme activity a nation can engage in, and if they weren’t clear about it, that means the public wasn’t necessarily clear about the real reasons. And I still don’t think the American people are clear about it.”

Yet in the classroom of our democracy, at least for many in the media, it still seems impolitic – or at least a little too risky – to raise one’s hand.

Monday, June 04, 2007

BB Speaks

Although she doesn't really say anything of substance. Whatever, it's a BB interview in the New York Times, and I'm linking to it.

By the way, this may sound a little weird, but doesn't she, uh, you know, look kinda hot? I know she's almost 55, but have a look at the picture in the article and tell me I'm wrong.

Photographs of the day

It's not all doom and gloom here on Five Rupees. We like to think we can appreciate the finer things in life, including photography. While I will leave our resident photography expert NB to cast the final word on these, they seem pretty cool to me! Anyways, if you want to see more pictures like this, go here. Many thanks to my friend/reader Faraz for sharing these with us.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fire Flip (Among Other Things)

Congratulations to the Cavs. They're in the Finals about three years ahead of schedule which, as Steve Kerr noted, might be indicative of a permanent power shift in the Eastern conference. A few thoughts:

1. Flip Saunders has to be fired. He simply has to. I didn't get to watch all the games but those I did left me with no choice but to conclude this fact: this guy is a horrible, horrible coach. Lost in the hullaballoo over Lebron's unreal performance in Game 5 was the fact that, with the game on the line, Detroit didn't double Lebron. They didn't double him! The guy had scored 27 of his team's last 28 points, was standing about five feet behind the three point line, keeping his dribble alive, working the clock and surveying the situation calmly. And Detorit let him do all this! Why they didn't send three guys and make someone, anyone, else beat them is completely beyond me. At that point (end of a second overtime), half of Cleveland's team was either injured or fouled out. The other half, save for Lebron, had not hit a goddamn shot in something like 20 minutes. You think a double team might be in order, smartass?

That wasn't his only mistake in the series; far from it. His substitution patterns were completely out of whack. He refused to run the old Rick Carlisle/Larry Brown plays for Rip, where he'd come off a bajillion screens and spot up from about 17 feet (I think Simmons talked about this too). And he never, not once, looked like he was in control of that team. I just don't think anyone on that team respects him the way did Brown or even Carlisle. The final nail in the coffin came at the beginning of the fourth quarter tonight, where for some bizarre reason he sat both Rip and Billups down and had Flip friggin Murray and Lindsey friggin Hunter playing at the same time. In about three minutes, Gibson hit 14 threes and that was that. I really want to give credit to Lebron and the Cavs, but as a complete neutral, I can't shake the feeling that Detroit would have won this series with a halfway decent coach. This guy has completely bombed with every single team he's led to the playoffs (this series makes me feel even worse for KG than I did previously). He'd make a great assistant somewhere but he doesn't deserve to be the head coach of a team, not one with championship aspirations anyway. Besides, he's actually capable of making facial expressions like this:

Do it, Joe. Fire Flip.

2. The Detroit era is over. It's not as dramatic as the Bulls run ending (6 rings in 8 years followed by a .300 team for the next five years) but, make no mistake, it's over. They lost their heart and soul last summer to Chicago, Billups is a free agent, Rasheed was outplayed by the Varejao/Gooden combination, Hunter's a year older and their bench sucked (just like last year). But that brings me to my question: how dumb does Joe Dumars feel right now? Through five years of exceptional health, a high quality team, a bunch of guys who genuinely like each other and like playing with each other, a weak conference, and just the right amount of stupid GMs around to make their life easier (that would be you, Danny Ainge), they won a grand total of one title and made the Finals twice. Does that sound like a fair return for a team of players who happened to be in their prime at the same time in a watered down league and never got injured? I don't think so.

Which brings me back to my question: how dumb does Joe Dumars feel right now? Can you imagine if Carmelo was on the Pistons, and Lebron actually had to play a little defense in this series? Or imagine if in last year's playoffs Wade was on their team, instead of tearing their collective heart out. Or imagine if they had another big body to battle Duncan in the '05 Finals - a guy by the name of Bosh. If Dumars hadn't made the Darko pick, this team could have rivalled the Bulls dynasty for league-wide dominance. Now? It's probably going to be judged, fairly or not, as a team that got lucky once but was otherwise merely very good. That's sad, and it's Dumars' fault.

3. The coaching matchup in the Finals is going to be really, really funny. It's going to be The Office combined with South Park combined with Jon Stewart combined with Chris Rock combined with Chaudhry Shujaat saying anyone criticizing the Army should be shot. As bad as Saunders was in this series, Mike Brown was just as bad. Now he's going to be matching up with the smartest coach in the league, a guy who speaks Russian and knows more Soviet history than Condi Rice (okay, maybe not, but he knows a lot), a guy who always has his team prepared, who never lets his team get too high or too low, who commands the respect of everyone on the team, who uses his timeouts correctly, and (gasp!) knows what situations call for particular types of players. In short, a guy who happens to be the best coach in the league. This is going to be like Malcolm Gladwell debating social psychology with Paris Hilton. And I can't wait.

4. Lebron James is 22. Just thought I'd state that for the record, in case anyone forgot.

5. Cleveland has no shot against the Spurs. None. Lebron, in his infinite brilliance, might get them one game on his own. Maybe, maybe, guided by the hand of God Himself, he gets them two. But that's it. This series is done, which is sad, because it hasn't even started yet.

6. Good luck with your new job, Steve Kerr. It's a pity for us fans, because there really wasn't anyone better behind the mike than this guy. He always had an interesting or funny comment to make, and always made the game more enjoyable simply with his presence. He will be missed. As for his new job, how about getting started with a Marion and Bell for Kobe trade? I know it appears Buss and Kobe have made up, but can't they do this, just for me? Please?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Futility Of Censorship

So there you have it. The military has, all too predictably, banned Ayesha Siddiqa's book Military Inc. Now, as Ejaz Haider says in this column, nothing could be better for the book than the military's ham-handed attempts at stopping it from widespread readership. I made the same point in a comment in response to the Supreme Court-Ibrar-Namkeen Parveen issue. I simply don't understand why the powers-that-be don't realize that banning a book, movie, painting, song or video game is the best thing that can happen to the producer of said book, movie, painting, song or video game. If you don't believe me, ask Salman Rushdie, who was known only among literary critics until the late 1980s and then suddenly catapaulted into fame and fortune following the Satanic Verses saga. Or ask the the companies that make those absolutely insane video games in which you have to shoot everyone and everything in sight. Those video games always provoke some sort of knee-jerk reaction ("our kids are being destroyed!") which, in turn, prompts their widespread popularity and huge profits for their creators. Or what about that movie about lesbians in India which was part of some trilogy that created a huge furore and made it a bigger deal than it ever deserved to be? And finally what about Ibrar? As I said in my comment, don't you think he's the happiest man alive right now? This needless controversy is going to make him a multi-millionaire. People who've never heard of him are going to buy his music if only to hear Namkeen Parveen.

The same dynamic applies here. Siddiqa's book is now going to be so bloody popular, you have no idea. And don't think that the ban is going to preclude the book finding its way into Pakistan somehow. Are you kidding me? I see Hollywood movies on DVD before they're released in the U.S. thanks to my movie-wala, Rainbow Center and Pakistan's completely wilful ignorance of piracy. Trust me: by next year this time, anyone who can read English in Pakistan would have read the book. So I suggest that Siddiqa graciously send General Musharraf a big fat box of mathai and a thank-you note printed on pink paper with hearts and kisses and glitter. He's earned it.

Banana Republic

How often does one hear the phrase "XYZ is at a crossroads"? I would say a lot. Well, loyal readers, do not despair - I will not be using said phrase here. For one thing, I harbor an intense distaste for cliches. For another, the subject matter of today's post - our very own Pakistan - is no longer at a crossroads. It passed that stage a while ago. It is my belief that our country is now on an inexorable path toward a breaking point, which will constitute one of two outcomes: (1) a massive and violent clampdown by the military on civil society, the likes of which Pakistan has not seen since 1971 or (2) the forcible overthrow of military rule. I will explain my reasons for this belief shortly, but before we get there, let's have a recap of the last ten weeks.

According to the Friday Times, some time during the first week of March, the heads of two intelligence agencies - my guess would be the ubitquitous ISI and perhaps MI - visited Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Chief Justice served them a typical high tea: samosas, pastries, cake, sandwiches and, of course, chai. At the meeting, the intelligence officers urged the Chief Justice to resign, and promised him that our Great Leader General Pervez Musharraf would grant him the ambassadorship to any city not named Washington or London if he "did the right thing". The Chief Justice heard them out and did not comment, and continued to talk about the mundane, including the weather. The intelligence officers were not discouraged, and turned the discussion to the weather in various European capitals. Eventually, ostensibly in an effort to tackle the issue head on, the Chief Justice said he would hand in his resignation to the President personally. Satisfied with their day's work, the intelligence officials set up a meeting date between the President and the Chief Justice: March 9th.

On that fateful day, Musharraf (in his army fatigues) told Chaudhry about the charges against him, including those of corruption and nepotism, and asked for his resignation. Chaudhry denied the claims, protested his innocence, and said that he would not resign. When Musharraf left the room, the heads of the ISI, MI and IB all attempted to pressure the Chief Justice to resign. When he refused, the head of MI reportedly told him, "This is a bad day. Now you are taking a separate way and you are informed that you have been restrained from working as a judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of Pakistan." Sure enough, Musharraf "suspended" the Chief Justice and rendered him "non-functional," even though under the laws of the constitution, the President has no right to do so, let alone the Army chief. In addition, the Chief Justice was not allowed to enter the Supreme Court building and was placed under virtual house arrest for the next few days with his telephone, internet and television access cut off.

Demonstrations and protests against Musharraf's actions started almost immediately. Though these rallies were initially only of and by lawyers and judges, political parties soon joined the fray. The protests and rallies grew in size and, conjunctionally, so did Musharraf's agitation at the entire episode. Don't politicise a legal issue, he thundered (Hey,'re the one who legalized a political issue. Stop telling people they shouldn't be mixing questions of law and politics). Soon enough, the issue had attracted so much support that a three hour drive from Islamabad to Lahore took the Chief Justice more than a day simply because there were so many people on the road in support of him and his cause. This was the first week of May.

I won't get into what happened in Karachi the next weekend. Those tragic events have been covered in depth on this blog already (NB posted the day before the killings; Ali Kabir and I did so the day after). What has passed under the radar, relatively speaking, was the targeted killing of Hammad Raza. At approximately 4:10 a.m. on Monday, May 14th, four men approached Raza’s house in the quiet G-10/2 neighborhood of Islamabad. They broke into his house, and made their way to his bedroom. Raza and his wife, Shabana, were getting ready for Fajr prayers when they heard a series of loud knocks on their door. Not wanting the noise to wake his elderly father up, Raza ran to the door and opened it. As soon as he came face to face with the intruders, he was shot in the temple. The four men fled immediately, and his wife's cries for help to the police patrol in the area went unheard as the assailants escaped. Raza was 37.

Why was Raza killed? It later emerged that the intelligence agencies were looking to dig up dirt on Chaudhry and looked to Raza to give them what they wanted. Seeing as how Raza was the additional registrar of the Supreme Court and good friend of Chaudhry, there were few more likely resources for the intelligence agencies than him. Only one problem: despite repeated requests and threats, Raza refused to cooperate. He paid for that mistake with his life.

Before we go on in this sordid and morbid story, just take a pause to consider what happened with Raza. The government essentially took out a hit on a member of the judiciary. Our government, in other words, has started to behave like the Mafia. If they have a problem with someone, they will either pick them up and make them disappear - as various journalists have found out - or will simply kill them and try to (disingenuously) make it look like a robbery or accident - as Raza found out. I cannot emphasize this enough: our government is behaving like the Mafia. They kill and imprison people they don't like. Our devolution to a full-blown Banana Republic is now complete.

While pressure on the military has continued to mount, it has reacted in the only way it can: with bumbling force. I woke up today to the news that the country's corps commanders met and released an ominous statement, including sentences like "Any attempt by a small minority to obstruct the aspirations of vast majority would only derail the nation from its path of progress and prosperity" and that it has taken "serious note of the malicious campaign against Institutions of State, launched by vested interests and opportunists who were acting as obstructionist forces to serve their personal interests and agenda even at the cost of flouting the rule of law". In addition, the military government has banned Aaj Tv and ARY from telecasting live feeds, in obvious retaliation for private media's coverage of the Chief Justice's speech a few days ago. It also forced Ayesa Siddiqa, author of the newly released Military Inc, to find a new place for the launching of her book by "convincing" the Islamabad Club that affording her the use of their auditorium was not a great idea. Hmm, I wonder what the military is so afraid of? Could it be that Siddiqa, in the first systematic and academic study of the extent of the military's tentacles in Pakistan's economy, has found the military is playing around with Rs. 200 billion in business and commercial dealings?

As I said earlier in this post, I believe Pakistan is now on an inexorable path toward a breaking point, which will result in either a massive and violent clampdown by the military or a fundamental shift in the power structure of the state. Simply put, a middle ground - if one ever existed - is no longer possible. I say this for two primary reasons. One, Pakistan's civil society has never been as united as it is now, and it seems to have finally become fed up with a military-dominated setup. All the major political parties, with the exception of the MQM, which isn't really a national party anyway, are on board. In the past, military regimes have been able to play off one foe against another, and practiced the old "divide-and-rule" strategy perfectly. It may have even worked this time, except Musharraf's callousness vis-a-vis Karachi on May 12th has ensured the PPP wants nothing to do with it any longer. Combined with the the leadership of a wide array of political parties (and it really is an array, with differing ideological, ethnic and class based parties joined at the hip), is a groundswell of public opinion swaying with the Chief Justice. This includes political activists, NGO types, lawyers, judges, the middle class and, most importantly, the independent media. This united front, all ostensibly with the same aim - the Army's exit from politics - means that it will be much more difficult for them to take no for an answer. Not without a fight, anyway.

The second reason for my belief that we are headed to a breaking point is that the military will do whatever it takes to stay in power. And I really do mean "whatever it takes". I remember talking to someone who worked for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington in the summer of 2005. Said person will remain nameless, but suffice it to say, he knew what he was talking about. Said person told me, and I quote, "The only thing the military is concerned with is staying in power. That's all they care about, and they'll do anything to make sure it happens." And this was in 2005, when there were no viable threats to the regime. Does anyone doubt that this fact is still true now? The government has already shown its willingness to imprison, torture, and kill innocent citizens if it believes said imprisonment, torture, or killing will help it. It has already shown its willingness to muzzle the press, with legal, verbal and physical attacks on various media outlets in the last few weeks. Most importantly, it has shown it is not afraid of escalation. One psychotic incident after another, the military has raised the stakes. Firing the Chief Justice? Let's do it. Didn't work out as planned? Let's attack the press and intimidate political opponents. Didn't work out as planned? Let's ensure carnage in Karachi and pin it on the Chief Justice and his supporters. Didn't work out as planned? Let's release a ridiculous statement after a meeting of the corps commanders, and try to bully people into shutting up. Let us remember that about thirty six years ago, our military felt no compunction in raping women, killing intellectuals and dissidents, and waging war on its own people only because of its incessant power hungriness. The result was the dismemberment of our country.

So what does this mean? The obvious answer is that when both sides have invested so much, only one side can win. So the more pertinent question might be: how might each side win? The anti-military forces might win by ratcheting up the pressure on Musharraf and the military to such an intolerable degree that, combined with continued U.S. disapproval of our government's efficacy in dealing with the Taliban problem, he faces no choice but to withdraw both himself and the military from politics. This last point is an important one. Anger at the military has gotten to the point where a mere change of personality at the top is no longer going to cut it. If, as it's being rumoured, my namesake Ahsan Saleem Hayat takes over, the pro-democracy forces are unlikely to be placated. It's all or nothing. I think the opportunity to turn the screws on Musharraf will arise, at the earliest, this fall when Musharraf finally carries out his promise of being elected by the existing assemblies and/or rigs the elections in the PML-Q's favor. Such political controtions will, in my humble opinion, ensure a mass movement on the streets and corridors of power that has never been seen in Pakistan's history.

How might the military win? To win, the military will have to do the following. It will have to completely stifle the electronic and print media, to the point where any coverage of these grandstanding speeches by Chaudhry et al is fraught with danger, both professional and physical. It will have to send a violent message to protestors by killing and/or imprisoning people and thus force the protestors ask themselves a question they have yet to ask themselves: do we really want to be out here on the streets? It will have to target intellectuals, writers, and leaders of civil society like human rights activists and heads of NGOs so that the snake of public demonstrations loses its head. And it will have to maintain unity in the ranks: if the public and/or political elite senses any factionalization within the military, they will move in for the kill. The final issue might be the most difficult. Already, speculation is rife that some in the Army are preparing to pull the rug from under Musharraf's feet. How long will they hold their tongue and keep their guns in their holsters, so to speak? Only time will tell.

I'll close with this sobering thought: I'm just twenty three years old, so this may not count for all that much, but I don't ever remember Pakistan in as acute a crisis as it is today. The centrifugal forces that can tear a country apart that our military elite have always been so fond of ascribing to India are actually omnipresent in the good old Land of the Pure today. Think about it: the rise of militant Islam, a rapidly growing population, trouble on our Western border, the low-level civil war in Balochistan, inflation, corruption, and, of course, the ongoing Chief Justice/military issue. This has the potential to end really, really badly and what's worse is that people like you and me can see it coming from a mile away. Unfortunately that's what everyone said about Karachi on May 11th and, well, I think we all remember how that one turned out.