Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thinking about Public Reasoning – The Engine of the Democratic Process

AA Khalid

On PTH we were blessed to have a thoroughly engaging and nuanced discussion on the nature and scope of religion in a democratic society thanks to Feroz Khan’s intersting post. I took a lot of points away from the debate and realised that when we are discussing the prospect of faith in society we have to consider a vast array of issues.

There is no one model of secularism, so we must have a separate debate on what type of secularity do we wish to see. In conjunction with a discussion on secularism, we need to debate the prospect of liberalism and what it’s relation to democracy must be.

Linked in with this crucial point there has to be a discussion on what type of ‘’State’’ does Pakistan need. Throughout the debate, a very illuminating point made by poster Krash was that in order to justify the sort of secular model I was proposing I had to logically accept a libertarian State in the classical liberal tradition. But there were other points aswell to be made. But there were other points aswell, such as the notion of what it is to be ‘’modern’’ and is religion necessarily against modernity or can it foster modernity? There were other critical questions raised in that thread aswell such as the history of Muslim political thought and political ethics. We also need a discussion on civic virtue and what does it mean to be a good citizen, in short a wholesale debate on the ethics of citizenship. Continue reading


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Nazeer Akbarabadi: The Hindustani Poet

This is a very interesting article sent to us by Ms Razia Hussain. Apart from a brief biography of the poet, it is an excellent analysis of language as well as the social circumstance prevailing at that time. It talks about a language which later on evolved into two major languages, i.e. Urdu and Hindi. A must read for language buffs and also for those who want to have a look at history through a completely different perspective

By Razia Hussain

Nazeer Akbarabadi (1735-1830) was one of the first ‘Hidustani’ poet – unfortunately he turned out to be the only one.

In early 1700s a new language was emerging in and around Delhi. This language was a mixture of some local dialects (Hindvi and Bhaashaa) and Persian, the language of the royal court. There was no formal script, grammar and no prescribed rules for this language. The formation of this un-named language was as organic as the formation of the society at the turn of eighteenth century in the northern sub-continent. There were Hindu aristocrats, eager to learn Persian to gain favor of the court. There were people of Persian and Mongolian decent already rooted in the culture of the sub-continent. Presence of East India Company was ever more felt in larger cities. Political tensions were high, there were many players and the balance of political power hung precariously between them all. At this precise juncture in history, when the fates of a society, a polity, a nation and a language were hanging in a balance, a linguistically gifted genius happened to be taking lexical snapshots of these accounts in his poetry.

Axes of Hindustani

The claim that Nazeer was the first and only Hindustani poet requires some explanation. There is no definition of Hindustani language. It is probably this hypothetical ideal of a language –the mother of modern Urdu/Hindi registers. As mentioned earlier, Urdu/Hindi are a result of an organically evolved language from local Sanskrit based dialects and Persian. One axis of Hindustani is, therefore, along the various languages it has evolved from: Sanskrit on one end and Persian on the other, with various local dialects in-between. The few foreign words of Portuguese and Latin come through the dialects (absorbed from Portuguese traders) whereas Turkish and Arabic come through Persian.  Second axis of Hindustani ran along the social status of the speaker. Persian was the medium of instruction of higher education, and viewed similar to how English is viewed in modern day subcontinent. Education, though not always, also reflects the economic status of people because it is a luxury only the rich can afford. Therefore, in 1700s, a wealthy and/or educated person was more likely to use Persian vocabulary than not. Third axis of the language depicted the religious affiliation of the speaker. Islamic terms did not have Sanskrit words and Hindu terms did not have Persian counterparts. Therefore Hindus were likely to resort to Sanskrit based words whereas Muslims had more Persian vocabulary at their disposal. The third axis, however, was the weakest because as mentioned earlier, wealthy Hindu families routinely acquired formal Persian education.

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VIEW: The Ilam Din fiasco and lies about Jinnah

 —Yasser Latif Hamdani

Courtesy Daily Times

In the recent debate over the blasphemy law, a group of Jamaat-e-Islami-backed right-wing authors have come up with an extraordinary lie. It is extraordinary because it calls into question the professional integrity of the one man in South Asian history who has been described as incorruptible and honest to the bone by even his most vociferous critics and fiercest rivals, i.e. Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The lie goes something like this: ‘Ghazi’ Ilam Din ‘Shaheed’ killed blasphemer Hindu Raj Pal and was represented by Quaid-e-Azam at the trial who advised him to deny his involvement in the murder. ‘Ghazi’ and ‘Shaheed’ Ilam Din refused and said that he would never lie about the fact that he killed Raja Pal. Quaid-e-Azam lost the case and Ilam Din was hanged. Continue reading


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Naturalizing’ Blasphemy Laws

Nadeem A. Butt

If you have wrapped some thing like fruit, samosa or sweet in a newspaper, if you deliver (throw) or print a newspaper which has any Quranic Reference or the names like Ibrahim, Kareem, Wakeel, Shafi, Ismail or even Dera Ismail Khan, Lala Musa, or Fazl-ur-Rehman, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh etc. (because they have direct or attributed holy names in them), or you some how express that Muhammad (SAWW) was a “Bashar” and not “Noor” or otherwise, then you should be worried, very worried, because it may cause you to be put to death or at least death trial which may haunt you for years. This is not just an assumption, this has actually happened to several people, Muslims or Non Muslims alike! Any crooked mind can go to police station and gave the meaning of his choice to the situation and lodge an FIR against you under Blasphemy Laws. Police do not really want to get into any controversy in religious matters so they normally file a case. Like wise local courts do not want to be at any mob’s watch, so either they delay or they normally announce punishment, then the accused has to go to the High or Supreme Court to get relief. This takes years out of someone’s constructive life – without bothering anybody!!!  Is that what is really meant by any Religion of Nature or Laws in Its name? Continue reading


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The Giant in the East – I

By Adnan Syed

This three part series examines the rise of India as an economic giant, the threats that India faces in this remarkable rise, and implications for Pakistan.


Before the Twenty First Century

As the twentieth century dawned, the world had continued to consolidate the technological boom during prior two centuries. This technological progress started with the invention of the printing press in fifteenth century. This invention quickly enabled mass availability of knowledge. Man began exploring the world around him more intently, by compounding the knowledge already gained by the earlier pioneers. As the scientific renaissance kicked in, man began accumulating more wealth by producing, discovering and innovating further. With the arrival of the scientific renaissance, the human output growth rate that had remained close to zero for thousands of years before, started rising  at a good multiple of its population growth rate.

The arrival of scientific renaissance coincided with incremental social awareness that began permeating the human consciousness. The United States came into being right in the midst of the great human renaissance that was exploding across the western world. The renaissance had begun moving forward in fits and starts towards institutionalizing the ideals of human liberty and freedom. The United States, with its rich natural resources and eager migrant entrepreneurs, began taking a lead in the social and scientific revolution that had begun sweeping the western civilization.

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A prominent Pakistani scientist is stoking conspiracy fires

Salman Hameed

On my recent visit to Pakistan, I was amazed at the number of conspiracy theories floating there. Everything was blamed on a shadow conspiracy. And I heard these statements from very very (yes, the second very is not a typo) educated people – and many of these people have close connections to policy makers. Some of the craziest things I heard was that the recent crash of a commercial plane, despite the fact that the weather was bad and the plane was flown by a pilot two years beyond his retirement age, was actually caused Blackwater agents trying to crash it into Pakistan’s nuclear facility at Kahuta. That American President Harry Truman, soon after the end of World War II declared that we may think that Soviet Union is our (United States) enemy, but our true enemy is Islam. And that the catastrophic floods in Pakistan were actually caused by an American experiment in Alaska – that can control weather and earthquakes. Now all of these things are absolute nuts – not much different from many Americans believing that the astronauts never landed on the Moon, or the Kennedy conspiracy theories, or that the Pentagon was actually hit by a missile and not a plane on 9/11. Continue reading


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Indian circus comes to town!

Courtesy Express Tribune

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is famous for his research on conditional reflexes, though he did much else to serve the cause of scientific inquiry. The phrase “Pavlov’s dog” has come to describe someone who merely reacts to a situation rather than using critical thinking. Famous English writer, Aldous Huxley, used the idea of Pavlovian conditioning as a major theme in his dystopian novel, Brave New World. Continue reading


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