Sunday, 23 June 2013

Is there a Shia-Sunni conflict brewing in the Middle East?

In times of conflict, religious, ethnic, linguistic traits are accentuated and the sectarian dimension is no exception. With the direct involvement of Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, the Syrian conflict accelerates towards becoming a sectarian one and small skirmishes along the sectarian line have already occurred across the border in Lebanon. The Shia axis of Iran, Hezbollah, and the Alawite regime is balanced by the Sunni dominated rebels, supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the Gulf states. Assad is no more an Alawite Shia as was Saddam Hussein a devout Sunni, both subscribed to the doctrine of socialist orientated Arab nationalism, devoid of Islam. A dubious ideology when you consider that Arab civilisation began with the birth of Islam.

The US intervention in Iraq and the subsequent altering of the balance of power has resulted in the Shia-Sunni tensions; a dominant Shia-led regime emerged replacing the Sunni denominated Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein bringing a long line of Sunni rule to an end. The end result is seen through the tit for tat bombings between Shia and Sunni killing many innocent civilians. Across the border Iran has been building up its military capability to its credit, increasingly asserting itself as a regional power.
The US stance has shifted from a pro-Sunni position during the heyday of Ayatollah Khomeini, when Shias were the extremists, to a more pro-Shia stance in Iraq, against the militant Sunni inspired Al-Qaeda type movements of the post 9/11 era. It is reminiscent of a former British Prime Minister’s remark - no nation has permanent friends or enemies but only its interests.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Internet Porn – Women, Children & Pets

“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.” (Jeremy Bentham, the utilitarian philosopher)

About 15 to 30 % of the World Wide Web’s traffic is porn and that is quite substantial when you think in terms of sales revenue from a global product, for example Coca Cola. In this case, the profit margin is far greater, because unlike a perishable item, a porno film is like a piece of software that can be consumed multiple times as new, and does not need to be reproduced after consumption. This lucrative income makes Internet moguls like Google reluctant to curtail the easy access to porn that the Google Search Engine is renowned for. As the old adage says, money makes the world go round; accordingly it makes the World Wide Web spin faster. And it becomes a tornado when combined with the catalyst of sex.

The internet filter could be applied easily, with the option to bypass it by filling in a consent form for example. However, this would only partially address the problem of very young children gaining access to porn unwittingly; the source of the problem would remain as people would easily get acquainted to bypass the filter, and the older children would pass this knowledge to the younger ones. In any case, increasing censorship and legislation is not enough, this problem has to be tackled from the root, and we literally need to go into the heart of the problem.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The True Cost of the Afghan War and the Colonial Mindset

“I prefer land to niggers” Cecil Rhodes

There is constant talk of evolution as the answer to the age-old question: what is the purpose of life on Planet Earth. The answer points to the conclusion of a purposeless life - we are another breed of species that follows the same cyclical pattern of birth, consumption, growth, procreation and death. Do the animals also ponder on the meaning of life and subjects like the beauty of art? I leave that to the evolutionists. The fact is, unlike the animal kingdom, human society is in a state of flux; our thoughts, ideas, values, and the food we harvest, deliver and consume using various modes of transport and the means of production are constantly changing. 

However, does this change or evolution constitute progress? For example, our ability to kill thousands using high powered technology, and the last century has been the bloodiest in human history; even a feeble soldier can zap an entire town with his forefinger. We hail the internet to communicate and engage in global trade with ease, yet, it is also used to disseminate porn, making up 15 to 30% of the web traffic that includes child porn (abuse) and violent rape and other unspeakable things.  

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pakistan Election – What does it mean for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Relationship?

In the old days of Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, the slogan was roti, kapra and makan (food, clothing and housing), in this election it was neya Pakistan (new Pakistan); a new Pakistan that is free of corruption. It was the hope and aspiration of many, especially the younger generation, who are exasperated seeing the decade of corruption within the two dominant parties, PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) and PML (Pakistan Muslim League) and their failure to eradicate the wider corruption in society that has manifested itself in nepotism, bribery and the influential feudal system.