the-south-asian.com DECEMBER 2002
DECEMBER 2002 Contents
Islands - in 1884
Letter from Pakistan
Markets – For whom the Bulls Toil .
But, all is not lost. Our reserves have crossed $ 9 billion – the highest ever in our history. The stock market is at an all time high around 2300 - one of the best emerging [previously submerging ? ] markets in Asia, and in the world, having risen from 1100 around September 2000. The motorway is planned to be extended up to Peshawar. Malakand III Hydro - Power project is underway ,; so too is the new Port at Gwadar; also the coal deposits in Thar and the copper in Baluchistan , with Chinese help. The American Oil companies are pushing for the gas pipeline from Central Asia via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India .
Out here in the land bordering the Indus river , where between 1890 and 1960’s the Imperial powers once played the "Great Game " in the days of the British Colonial Empire, and later right up to the days of the break-up of the Soviet empire in 1990 , the game of oil and everyday survival continues. This time it is the American Oil companies " UNOCAL" , etc . These days the generals in their labyrinths [ bunkers ? ], the politicians in their parliaments, the terrorists and the oil & gas underground with the seven oil sister’s crawl, march, swoop or gush up as is the mark of their species .
There is a fighting chance here to shake off our lethargy and negativity. The problems to be overcome are immense – the most difficult one will be, as Arundhati Roy said when she came here a few months ago in August, "that of teaching 400 million people …" and "not making an Atomic bomb…"
Gunter Grass the German writer and Nobel Prize winner ["The Tin Drum ", etc.] and perhaps the only writer to pit himself against the current hyper-capitalist logic of the supreme imperial power of USA says capitalism is bent upon a suicidal course , with no other wisdom than that of making profit. Grass says it is absurd to see a company that lays off thousands of workers, and then sees its stock share price rise on the stock exchanges.
The "long duration" was the parameter by which Ferdinand Braudel the French historical sociologist evaluated societies and civilizations. The average age of an empire [be it the Spanish, British, Roman, Islamic or Moghul empires] is about 200 to 300 years – after that it is curtains……..] .The famous management guru, Peter Drucker, the relentless contrarian as some describe him, has spoken and written of the rise and fall of business empires such as the Fuggers bankers in Germany , the Medici’s in Florence, etc . In the last 200 years, one can think of the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers and the Fords and in the more recent history, the rise and fall of the Silicon Valley and the Telecom billionaires.
There is an old Bedouin proverb that says this about the rise and fall of generations – my father rode a camel, I shall ride a pick-up and my son will drive a Cadillac; however my grandson will drive a donkey……"
A friend of mine who has spent a career teaching aeronautical engineering and mathematics in the Air Force maintains a bleak and grim view of the future of this country/ area …… he maintains correctly that the future is in the hands of the educational system .
He says " ……….. As long as there were engineers who worked on projects and great works of civil engineering such as the Warsak Dam on river Kabul, the Mangla dam on river Jhelum and the Tarbela dam on the Indus rivers, there was real progress in the country, its infrastructure and Irrigation systems remained healthy and strong . Now he says-- surveying the current social educational landscape-- , there are nothing but Internet cafes with young kids playing mindless games ….. there are no mega -projects that can provide work to the thousands of young graduates streaming out of the newly formed "colleges & universities";
Does he have a point ?– basically these dams that he speaks off, brought surplus wealth /value into our society ; they provided value addition all the way to the poorest farmer by harnessing the resources of water and electricity and being able to distribute them to areas that never had them before . In a way the textile industry too provides value addition – as cotton is produced by the farmer and processed into yarn, this yarn eventually gets value addition by being processed into cloth , woven into knitwear and bed linen, towels , socks ,T-shirts, etc and other such products.
Meanwhile, just as Switzerland added value to imported stainless steel by making watches , the craftsmen of Sialkot have made Pakistan the World’s number two supplier of Surgical goods after Germany. [See the Sialkot article in the The-South-Asian of 2001]. It remains to be seen if the people of Pakistan can become specialist craftsmen to the rest of the world in their own modest humble fields.
With the above parameters and reference points we leave the worthy reader to ruminate over the current state of affairs in this part of south Asia and also perhaps to take time to ponder deeply over the fate of our great civilizations that started with the experiments of Mohenjo-Daro, and at Taxila, Patliputra under the Kushans, Mauryas, Moghuls , etc . People here seek to work as equals and with some reasonable level of freedom and dignity with all the rest of people in south Asia.
The Urs [ annual death anniversary ] of Lal Shah Baaz Qalander at Sehwan Sharif, Sindh took place in September and October ; our people are deeply spiritual – no one pays homage to the graves of our dead generals and politicians; the passionate Qawalis resound at the mazaars of the tombs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and Saleem Chishti in Ajmer and Fatehpur Sikri, India
Oh yes , our Squash players finally got their visas for Belgium after Jehangir Khan who was recently elected the President of the World Squash federation and the local press and the Belgium Squash authorities guaranteed that the players would not disappear in the bowels of Belgium or Europe .
Gunter Grass said, no power on Earth can stop a hungry people from entering the city gates. It’s the demographics, stupid …….. Meanwhile as the drama of history unfolds, Buddha’s words reverberate:
Everything is on Fire
"Monks, everything is on Fire . What All is on fire ? The eye is on fire . Forms are
on fire . Consciousness at the eye is on fire . Contact at the eye is on fire . And
whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye -- experienced
as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain -- that too is on fire .
On fire with what? On fire with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of
delusion. On fire , I tell you, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows,
lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. ……………………… "
[ the Fire Sutra ]
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