Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interview with Husain Haqqani

The Diplomat’s Sanjay Kumar speaks with former Pakistan ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani about his book Magnificent Delusions, the state of Pakistan, and its complex relations with India, Afghanistan, and the United States.

Some excerpts:

Can you conceive of Pakistan’s existence without the U.S.?

Pakistan will have to change direction. Its leaders will have to stop thinking in terms of seeking American aid forever in order to confront India. They will have to start building a series of relationship with their neighbors. Islamabad needs to think of its economy. It will have to think about rooting out terrorism completely and it should treat such non-state actors as the enemy. It cannot afford to think that some terrorists are good for Afghanistan and some are valuable for Kashmir and some are bad for Karachi and Lahore. Pakistan will have to realize terrorism does not have a color and its nature is to kill.
Pakistan is going through great political change. Do you look at the developments as a positive sign and a new chapter in Pakistan’s history?

Pakistan is at a crossroads. Jihadis have one narrative for Pakistan; democrats have their own. Among the democrats, there is a division among those who want to see Pakistan as a pluralistic state and those who want to adopt the old ideological paradigm of an Islamic state. The good thing is that the military has receded a little bit from politics but that doesn’t mean that they have given civilians complete freedom in decision making. How Pakistan gets through this stage of building democracy will determine its future. The most important thing for Pakistan is to overcome the ideological obsessions of the past.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pervez Hoodbhoy on Pakistan's water-powered car


The water car fraud

Published: August 2, 2012
Agha Waqar Ahmad deserves a medal from the people of Pakistan for his great service to the nation. In a few short days, he has exposed just how far Pakistan has fallen into the pit of ignorance and self-delusion. No practical joker could have demonstrated more dramatically the true nature of our country’s political leaders, popular TV anchors and famed scientists.
At first, it sounded like a joke: a self-styled engineer, trained in Khairpur’s polytechnic institute, claims to have invented a ‘water kit’ enabling any car to run on water alone. It didn’t matter that the rest of world couldn’t extract energy from water; he had done it. He promised a new Pakistan with limitless energy, no need for petrol or gas, and no more loadshedding. For an energy starved nation, it is a vision of paradise.
Agha Waqar Ahmad is now a national celebrity thanks to Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah. Federal ministers Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani and Qamar Zaman Kaira have added their commendations. President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his delight. The cabinet has met three times to discuss the water vehicle, and a fourth meeting is scheduled. Reports suggest millions may be spent on the ‘water fuel kit project’.
The media has rushed in to celebrate the new national hero. For TV anchor Talat Husain, thanks to Agha Waqar Ahmad’s invention, Pakistan’s image can go from a country ravaged by terrorism to one of boundless possibilities. Anchor Hamid Mir and Senator Parvaiz Rasheed drove around Islamabad sitting next to the inventor, wondering how to protect the man’s life from Western oil companies. Anchor Arshad Sharif was euphoric about the $14 billion Pakistan would save on oil imports.

Pakistan’s most celebrated scientists were not far behind. Asked by Anchor Sharif whether a car could run only on water, nuclear hero Dr Samar Mubarakmand replied without hesitation: “jee haanbilkul ho sakta hai” (yes, absolutely possible). For his part, Hamid Mir asked Dr AQ Khan if there was any chance of this being a fraud. The response was clear: “Main nay apnay level per investigate kiya hai aur koi fraud waraud nahi kiya hai” (I have investigated the matter and there is no fraud involved). The head of the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr Shaukat Parvaiz, went further: “hum nay bhi iss pay kam karaya tha” (we had some work done on this too).

So, what is the problem? It’s that the laws of physics, in particular a fundamental scientific principle known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, impose inviolable constraints. Every machine constructed anywhere uses the Second Law. This is something that I learned in my first year as a student at MIT and have taught for 40 years. No serious scientist would dream of challenging the Second Law. Agha Waqar Ahmad’s ‘water kit’, if one believes science to be right, simply cannot work. What the inventor, the ministers, the anchors and scientists claim on TV is wrong.
To his credit, the only person on TV that seemed to know this elementary principle was Dr Attaur Rahman, a chemist and a former HEC chairman. I have not agreed with all his actions and views in the past, but he alone rejected the claims about the new machine. Sadly, he was not able to hold back the tide of a nation desperate for any answer to its energy woes.

The water fraud will be exposed soon enough and, like a bad posterior smell, will go away. A simple experiment will make this happen faster. Here’s how: take an emergency electricity generator, of which there are thousands in Islamabad. Its engine is similar to that in a car. Remove the fuel tank and make sure the ‘water kit’ contains only water. Then ask the inventor to connect it up and run the generator. Let there be enough sharp-eyed witnesses of intelligence and integrity.

But this episode raises bigger questions. Scientific frauds exist in other countries, but what explains their spectacular success in Pakistan? Answer: our leaders are lost in the dark, fumbling desperately for a miracle; our media is chasing spectacle, not truth; and our great scientists care more about being important than about evidence. It is easy for them all to get away with this. As a nation, we have proven unwilling to do the hard work needed to learn to reason, to be sceptical, to demand proof, to understand even basic science. It is easier to believe the world is run by magic and conspiracies, to wish and wait for Aladin’s magic lamp. We live in the age of jahilliya.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

No census for Pakistan?

The Express Tribune reports:

LAHORE: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is caught between a rock and a hard place. Despite its eagerness to reap political dividends from holding the long-delayed sixth census, the ruling party has decided against conducting the population count for fear of unrest following its results. The country’s fifth and last census was carried out in 1998.

Sources privy to the February 10 meeting of the Council of Common Interests revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dropped the most critical feature of the council’s agenda after consultation with stakeholders. It was learnt by The Express Tribune that no major political party expressed willingness to have the population census. The ruling party asked Nawaz to defer the exercise to avoid ‘negative repercussions’.

The statistics division put the population census on the CCI’s agenda, but Nawaz issued directions to drop it for an indefinite period when almost all participants of the meeting requested a postponement to avoid political and national turmoil till a new mechanism is developed.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rule of the Congress

Supposedly it was the experience of Muslims under the first Congress provincial governments that led them to seek Pakistan.