Tuesday, September 7, 2010

REBUILDING A LOST CAUSE

By Andleeb Abbas

The real crisis is not of floods or recession but of the deterioration in the moral fabric of society due to corrupt leadership, no law to punish criminals and no justice for the deprived and marginalised of society

Not too long ago the word Rwanda was synonymous with genocide, bloodshed, political chaos and economic ruin. It was quoted as an example of how a nation has driven itself back to the Dark Ages without any hope of recovery. The economy was in shambles, the infrastructure in ruins and law and order were words taken out of the Rwandan dictionary. It was written off as a country that would never recover from its bloody past and would never have a rosy future. However, Rwanda has proved its critics wrong and is now being quoted as a miraculous example of how even the worst of circumstances and events can be overcome and overturned by the will of a few committed people who lead the renaissance with their vision and passion, and become a force to be reckoned with as other people share belief in the resurrection of a lost cause. Today, from the think tanks to the donor agencies, it has become the darling of investors and donors.

The transformation is remarkable, considering the history of barbaric events in the country in the last 16 years. 800,000 people were hacked to death in three months, an event almost unparalleled in its scale and brutality. This was the result of years of ethnic strife between the Tutsi minority and Hutu majority. The country is not blessed with natural resources and is landlocked in the centre of Africa, thus not really enjoying any coastline geography like some of the other tourist countries of Africa. To make it worse, nothing moved in the country without payoffs and corruption.

However, the country has totally transformed in the span of a few years, presenting a complete contrast to the rest of Africa. Roads have been built that are clean and with strictly adhered to speed limits. Transparency International rates Rwanda as one of the most honest places to work in Africa. The World Bank terms it as one of the fastest improving places to do business.

All this transformation has been one man’s doing: President Paul Kagame. He changed the country from a savage nation to a disciplined example by his vision and determination. Kagame adopted the Singapore model where corruption and law breaking were severely punished regardless of rank and position. Discarded bottles and bags are banned and severely fined to maintain a uniquely clean look on its African streets and countryside. He also realised that they needed to discover how to compete in this ruthless, globalised world and concentrated on building the economy on the core competence of scant Rwandan resources. He decided to focus development in three local industries, i.e. tea, coffee and tourism. In 2001, he launched the Rwanda National Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative and developed a ‘National Coffee Strategy’, which is the main produce of Rwanda. The objective was to build a world-class brand and thus he invested millions of dollars to improve coffee washing, production, capacity and marketing. This paid off in 2006 when Starbucks gave Rwanda Blue Bourbon brand of coffee beans its Black Apron award and introduced it in its caf├ęs.

For tourism the president discovered that Rwanda has a unique feature to market — gorillas. Rwanda is home to approximately two-thirds of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and they are a tremendous source of national pride. The Volcanoes National Park is a highlight of tourism in Africa where the gorilla population in the natural environment has been preserved to protect an endangered species; hence it has become a spectacle of interest for visitors. Most foreign visitors to the park apply more than a year in advance for a tracking permit and the visits are strictly regulated. This unique eco-tourism has played a major part in the rebirth of Rwanda as a place to visit rather than avoid.

The lesson is that if Rwanda can come back from a political funeral and become a case study in renaissance in just a decade and a half, so can Pakistan. In many ways, its critics have written off Pakistan, like Rwanda, as a failed state with the economy on the brink of bankruptcy, and ethnic conflicts and terrorism resulting in mass killing. Pakistan, with its abundance of natural resources, needs a man at the top with sincere vision and a passion to rebuild the country.

Pakistan is a very vibrant and viable nation with an abundance of natural resources and the raw talent of a young population. What we need is one man whose integrity to change the destiny of the nation is unquestionable. If a genocide of almost a million people can become a passing nightmare in just a few years and decades of civil war amongst two ethnic groups can be controlled, Pakistan’s problems of terrorism and target killing are also a matter of making local and foreign policies linked to our national interests, and then a disciplined approach of ensuring implementation with ruthless persecution of all violators of these policies regardless of position and rank.

The real crisis is not of floods or recession but of the deterioration in the moral fabric of society due to corrupt leadership, no law to punish criminals and no justice for the deprived and marginalised of society. In Rwanda, to overcome the mass killing and differences between the two opposing groups, the president launched a mass drive based on two values: reconciliation and forgiveness. Based on these two values, committees and structures were created to resolve conflicts while, through laws and rules and strict adherence to these values, procedure was ensured.

You need to select and promote the people who uphold the principles you value. If as a nation we feel that the values of integrity, peace and sovereignty are the most important foundations for this country to pull it out from its multiple disasters, then we need to value and select people who adhere to these values. The typical answer to this question is that there are no more people of this character left in the country. That is not exactly true. They may be a dwindling minority but they are there and it is our responsibility to, instead, do whatever we can to promote them and facilitate them in whatever little way to abide by our own principle of integrity. Having faith in your own ability and faith in the nation’s ability to bounce back are mandatory prerequisites for rebuilding a lost cause.
The writer is a consultant and can be reached at andleeb@franklincoveysouthasia.com
Courtesy Daily Times Sep 5, 2010

CRICKET, YOUTH & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

The state is expected to fulfil its obligations towards the citizenry by providing security, basic services, facilities and economic opportunity. On the other hand, the reciprocal obligation of citizens to the state is weak or non-existent. An individual is more committed to the notion of the Muslim ummah

Three Pakistani cricket players are under investigation in the UK on charges of ‘spot fixing’ in cricket matches during the current series. Even if these charges are not fully substantiated, the fact that such charges surfaced against leading Pakistani cricketers is a major disappointment to cricket fans in Pakistan.

This is not the first time that Pakistani cricketers stand accused of malpractice. In January this year, Shahid Afridi was caught biting a ball in the Perth One-Day International (ODI). He later claimed that he resorted to this “in the heat of the moment as the match was a close one”. Prior to this, Pakistani players have been accused of ball tampering or match fixing in collaboration with betting bookies or their agents.

An incident of unfair means relates to the game of golf. In May 2010, Pakistani golfers were found guilty of deceiving the organisers of a world amateur golf competition in Malaysia.

All cricket players know what constitutes an offence in cricket. The key question is, why do they get involved in such affairs without paying any attention to the negative fallout for Pakistan? Immediate and quick material gains may be one important consideration, but how come the ‘self’ becomes more important than society and the nation-state they represent?

Material gains are important considerations but these incidents represent a far deeper crisis in Pakistani society, caused by the failure of the Pakistani state to socialise the youth into the notion of social responsibility and the citizen’s obligations towards the nation-state. This leads them to ignore the negative implications of their behaviour for the image of Pakistan and fellow countrypersons, especially those living outside.

Take the example of Faisal Shahzad who attempted to explode a bomb in Times Square, New York. He never gave any consideration to the implications of his action for Pakistan’s image and its social consequences for the youth with Pakistani backgrounds living in the US and other western countries. These considerations were not a part of his orientation.

Such incidents can be traced partly to the shift in the Pakistani youth’s mindset over the last two decades from social responsibility and societal good to religious obligations. The Islamic orthodoxy-dominated worldview emphasises an individual’s obligation to God Almighty (Allah) as the primary concern. This requires the strengthening of ties with Allah by pursuing prayers and other basic rituals of Islam. The obligations to the community are secondary and flow completely from an individual’s obligations to Allah. The notion of humanity is replaced with the idealisation of the Muslim community (ummah) and the scope of societal responsibility is articulated with reference to Islam. All matters relating to individual and collective life, and domestic and international politics are viewed as a function of religion.

The Islamist worldview manifests an ambiguous attitude towards the nation-state. On the one hand, the state is expected to fulfil its obligations towards the citizenry by providing security, basic services, facilities and economic opportunity. On the other hand, the reciprocal obligation of citizens to the state is weak or non-existent. An individual is more committed to the notion of the Muslim ummah (trans-national Muslim community) and the political discourse is dominated by phrases like “We, the Muslims” rather than we, the citizens of the state. The state is relevant to the extent it helps to achieve individual and collective ideals as articulated in orthodox Islamic discourse.

The loyalty ladder has two dimensions. The primary loyalty of an individual is to Allah whose closeness can be achieved by following the teachings and prayers of Islam. The other rung of the loyalty ladder is from an individual to Islamic movements and then to the trans-national Muslim community. The state does not figure except as a facilitator for achieving these goals. Further, most Islamists question the legitimacy of the rulers of Muslim states on the grounds that these rulers do not serve the cause of Islam. Rather, they function as agents of the west.

This perspective views the world as a dichotomy: the Muslims and the rest of the world, and that the Hindus, Jews and Christians continuously conspire against Islam and the Muslims. In other words, the state and its rulers are viewed as illegitimate and there is a negative disposition towards the non-Muslim world.

Such a skewed worldview of the Pakistani youth has been shaped gradually by the policies of the Pakistani state, going back to the early 1980s. It was not merely the madrassa education that socialised the youth in a uni-dimensional worldview derived from Islamic orthodoxy and conservatism. The state education system also instilled in the young people these values. For over two decades, starting in the early 1980s, the military government of General Ziaul Haq promoted Islamic orthodoxy and militancy through state education. The state apparatus, the media and patronage were also used to strengthen these perspectives. The US supported General Zia’s efforts to promote religious orthodoxy and militancy because it served the American agenda against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Any review of high school and college education between 1983-84 and 2004-2005, especially the course content of Pakistan Studies, will make it easy to understand why the notion of citizenship of Pakistan as a nation-state has been replaced with religious obligations as a Muslim, and societal good has been diluted in favour of Islamic activism.

The intellectual and emotional linkages of this generation with Pakistan are ambiguous, viewing domestic and international developments within the parameters of Islamic orthodoxy. The emphasis is on a display of religiousness and they tend to live in a self-created world of religious illusion that distorts or rejects the realities of domestic and international politics.

With such a blinkered worldview there is nothing wrong in engaging in activities that cannot be condemned from a purely religious point of view. There is nothing wrong in match fixing or ball tampering if it does not dissuade an individual from fulfilling one’s obligations to Allah. Further, a victory in sports against the non-believers is a desirable goal and, thus, the rules of the game take a back seat in their priorities.

The cricket issue is going to be resolved soon in one way or another. However, the biggest challenge is how to retrieve the Pakistani generation that has been lost to religious orthodoxy and militancy. There is a need to underline the primacy of the nation state and emphasise social responsibility and societal good as the foundation of a stable society and world order.
The writer is a political and defence analyst
Courtesy Daily TImes Sep 5, 2010

SHYNESS CAN LEAD TO MARITAL PROBLEMS

Here's a piece of information for introverts: Shyness can negatively affect the quality of your marriage.

A key question in psychology, and everyday life is the extent to which a person''s personality determines the shape and quality of his or her social relationships.

In two studies, researchers explored the specific impact of shyness on marital quality. In one of the studies, researchers Levi Baker and James K. McNulty found that shyness was linked both to more severe marital problems among newlyweds and to overall lower marital quality.

Shyer people reported more problems with issues like trust, jealousy, money, and household management.

In the second study, the researchers explicitly showed that it was prior shyness that was linked to marital difficulties later—even declines in marital satisfaction—and not early marital difficulties that were linked to later shyness.

The authors suggest that shyness makes it more difficult for people to enter into social relationships and, because shy people feel more social anxiety, they are less confident in dealing with the inevitable problems that marraige entails.

"There is hope even though shyness itself might be resistant to change. People can be taught to have more efficacy in how to resolve the specific marital problems they face. As a consequence, any marital difficulties prompted by personality can be prevented by explicit training on dealing with marital problems," the authors said.

The study has been published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Courtesy ToI