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Opinion

Live and Die with Dignity

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By Spahic Omer

So difficult and complex is the predicament of Muslims nowadays that it, perhaps, has no equal in history. The problems and challenges are ubiquitous and global in character, encompassing all aspects of life.
However, the most critical and so, most systematically targeted are such aspects as are related to spirituality, morality and education. The much-talked-about notions of Muslim unity, culture, economy and politics are but corollaries of the former.
There are many entities in the world which seem to be happy only when Muslims are kept ignorant, divided, disoriented, subdued and when they shed each other’s blood.
To them, it is almost an international crime if a Muslim nation becomes genuinely independent, visionary and start doing well (the recent dramatic and hardly fathomable economic troubles in Turkey are the case in point).
To them, furthermore, it is a convention that Muslims should be perennially impoverished and needy, depending on their support and wherewithal.
Muslims and their countries are to be turned into the dumping grounds for such people’s cultural, intellectual, military and industrial leftovers, and in the worst-case scenario, outright waste.
Muslims are to dominate the news for all the wrong reasons. The dark side of history is to be inscribed predominantly by Muslims and their societies.
Hence, the only way forward for Muslims would be in following especially the West and its cultural and civilizational model. It is there that the end-point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government will come to pass. As a political and philosophical concept, the “end of history” has thus been increasingly articulated.
Unfortunately, the creators and advocates of this agenda come as much from within Muslim societies, in the form of a myriad of hypocritical and corrupt governments, institutions and NGOs, as from without, in the form of certain hostile and internationally influential governments, institutions, and media together with business establishments.
Being what they are, they all thrive in the environments of fear, uncertainty, mistrust and manipulation. They and their existential identities are the antitheses of the true meaning of justice, freedom and the well being of humankind, even though they exist ostensibly for the sake of upholding those beliefs.
The condition is so dire that one can easily sink into despair, knowing that very little can be done. The unholy schemes are so sophisticated and multi-tiered that they cannot be matched, even partially, by any sincere efforts and strategies of any sincere individuals, groups and governments.
No sooner is a genuine threat detected, than it is emphatically and in unison pounced upon till it is neutralized (again the case of Turkey comes to mind and its carefully crafted and orchestrated “impending destiny”).
Of course, the “pacified”, “docile”, “reformed”, “modernized” and “moderate” Muslims are left alone. Moreover, they are encouraged to carry on and try to win over as many other Muslims as possible.
Numerous local and international institutions and bodies are created, and endless funds and awards provided in abundance for the purpose.
In consequence, being constantly praised and presented with accolades and awards by certain Western entities is anything but a good thing. It may yet signify a certificate of betrayal and “treason”.
Whereas being constantly criticized, condemned and ostracized by the same entities may not necessarily be a bad thing. It may yet denote a certificate of a true form of struggle and sacrifice.
The whole of Islam’s and Muslims’ being is targeted in the process. However, one gets a feeling that the Islamic comprehensive concept of education (epistemology), and everything it entails at all levels of its conceptual and functional presence, is aimed at most.
All that is one of the chief reasons why — for example — since the rapid decline of Islamic culture and civilization, and the rise of Western imperialism and colonization, the subjects of pseudo or theosophical Sufism, metaphysical philosophy steeped in some questionable sources and traditions, and excessive scholastic theology (‘ilm al-kalam), became most important and so, most popular among many Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
However, the same was not the case with those authentic sciences and themes of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Shari’ah, which embrace plentiful implications for living and applying Islam as a total code of human existence.
While the former, when dealt with in accordance with a prescribed set of methods and objectives, renders Muslim thought and action impractical, desolate and insipid, the latter does exactly the opposite, due to which it is often regarded as inappropriate, yet risky.
The former contributes to subjugating and controlling Muslims and their thought, while the latter contributes to withstanding and defying the same.
Thus, for instance, dwelling on such legitimate and, at the same time, pivotal subjects as the creation of Islamic state, application of Shari’ah including its Penal Law, jihad, da’wah, islamisation, Muslim Ummah and universal brotherhood, is habitually deemed anomalous and aberrant.
As a result, the curricula in the Muslim world have been designed and re-designed accordingly for centuries. Their goal was the serial production of generations of “compliant”, “submissive”, “one-dimensional” and “myopic” Muslims as the obedient servants of the imposed visions and regimes.
However, the situation is not all doom and gloom. There is still much that can be done by everyone.
Optimism, yet excitement and contentment, coupled with creative thinking and constructive action, should be the raison d’etre. Being overly pessimistic and despondent is certainly not the way. It only plays into the hands of the perpetrators and sustainers of the status quo.
All that is happening is only because Almighty Allah so wills. It is all part of His divine plan for His creation in general, and Muslims in particular.
No earthly, or otherworldly, power, or scheme, can thwart in the slightest His plans. He is the Creator, Lord and Owner of creation. He does what He wants.
He is also just and does things only for just purposes and ends.
Nobody does anything, nor does any event take place on earth, without His infinite knowledge and permission. It is all part of divine providence.
In the end, the truth and the true servants of Allah will be victorious. That is an ontological law and principle as powerful and constant as everyday physical laws.
When it comes to dealing with others, there should be no room whatsoever within Muslims for the inferiority complex.
The proponents and followers of the truth need to be patient and do only that which is in their capacity, for Allah does not burden anyone beyond what he can bear.
They do not have to change anything. It is Allah who changes things, events and people’s overall conditions. Their job is only to convey the truth and live it honorably as much and as effectively as possible.
Why the things are the way they are, and why they are prolonged as such, Allah knows best. There must be in whatever befalls Muslims a profound wisdom and hidden blessings. Things are not to be judged superficially and in haste.
Allah loves His servants and does only that which is eventually best for them in both worlds.
Muslims ought to hold their heads high, and practice, as well as promote, their belief and value systems peacefully, confidently and wisely.
Everyone also needs to enjoy an appropriate level of activism and involvement. Neither of passiveness, escapism, indifference and deadening formalism is the answer. In their own ways, they are all suicidal.
The intentions, processes and strategies, rather than results, should be the worry. The results are within the purview of Allah’s sovereignty alone.
The best way to convey the truth and invite people to it is to be its living example. That is so because the best antidote for falsehood and sin is the personification of the truth and goodness.
The two cannot coexist. The former is always bound to be extirpated by the latter.
The mere existence of the latter spells adversity for the former. And the stronger and more conspicuous the truth and goodness, the weaker and more indistinguishable falsehood and sin becoe.
Nonetheless, keeping the truth in the realms of words and abstract ideas is insufficient.
A person in the Hereafter will be held accountable only for what he did and tried to do, rather than for the general conditions of the world and people.
Even the holy prophets will not be held answerable for that. Everyone is responsible for his own choices and spiritual destiny.
It is a heavenly injunction that a person should worry most and take care of his very self and his family members first. As for the rest, the matter is proportional to a person’s abilities and the scope of his relationships and interactions.
But one thing is certain.
Everyone must be conscious and knowledgeable enough so that evil and falsehood and their agents are identifiable, loathed and worked against as much as feasible.
The world consists of individuals. It is affected and reformed to the same extent as individuals, the basic and most fundamental constituents of the world, are influenced and reformed.

 

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Opinion

Why EVMs must go

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By G. Sampath

The recent Assembly elections — the last major polling exercise before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls — were not devoid of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) malfunctions.

Though the discourse at present makes no distinction between a ‘malfunction’ (which suggests a technical defect) and ‘tampering’ (manipulation aimed at fraud), there were several reports of misbehaving EVMs. Alarmingly, in Madhya Pradesh alone, the number of votes polled did not match the number of votes counted in 204 out of the 230 constituencies. The Election Commission’s (EC) explanation is that the votes counted is the actual number of votes polled — a circular logic that precludes cross-verification.

 

A discrepancy of even one vote between votes polled and votes counted is unacceptable. This is not an unreasonably high standard but one followed by democracies worldwide. It might therefore be helpful to briefly look beyond the question that has hijacked the EVM debate — of how easy or tough it is to hack these machines — and consider the first principles of a free and fair election.

The reason a nation chooses to be a democracy is that it gives moral legitimacy to the government. The fount of this legitimacy is the people’s will. The people’s will is expressed through the vote, anonymously (the principle of secret ballot). Not only must this vote be recorded correctly and counted correctly, it must also be seen to be recorded correctly and counted correctly. The recording and counting process must be accessible to, and verifiable by, the public. So transparency, verifiability, and secrecy are the three pillars of a free and fair election.

Regardless of whether one is for or against EVMs, there is no getting away from the fact that any polling method must pass these three tests to claim legitimacy. Paper ballots obviously do. The voter can visually confirm that her selection has been registered, the voting happens in secret, and the counting happens in front of her representative’s eyes.

EVMs, however, fail on all three, as established by a definitive judgment of the German constitutional court in 2009. The court’s ruling forced the country to scrap EVMs and return to paper ballot. Other technologically advanced nations such as the Netherlands and Ireland have also abandoned EVMs.

If we take the first two criteria, EVMs are neither transparent nor verifiable. Neither can the voter see her vote being recorded, nor can it be verified later whether the vote was recorded correctly. What is verifiable is the total number of votes cast, not the choice expressed in each vote. An electronic display of the voter’s selection may not be the same as the vote stored electronically in the machine’s memory. This gap was why the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) was introduced.

But VVPATs solve only one-half of the EVMs’ transparency/verifiability problem: the voting part. The counting part remains an opaque operation. If anyone suspects a counting error, there is no recourse, for an electronic recount is, by definition, absurd. Some believe the VVPATs can solve this problem too, through statistics.

At present, the EC’s VVPAT auditing is restricted to one randomly chosen polling booth per constituency. In a recent essay, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, a former IAS officer, demonstrates that this sample size will fail to detect faulty EVMs 98-99% of the time. He also shows that VVPATs can be an effective deterrent to fraud only on the condition that the detection of even one faulty EVM in a constituency must entail the VVPAT hand-counting of all the EVMs in that constituency. Without this proviso, VVPATs would merely provide the sheen of integrity without its substance.

The third criterion is secrecy. Here too, EVMs disappoint. With the paper ballot, the EC could mix ballot papers from different booths before counting, so that voting preferences could not be connected to a given locality. But with EVMs, we are back to booth-wise counting, which allows one to discern voting patterns and renders marginalised communities vulnerable to pressure. Totaliser machines can remedy this, but the EC has shown no intent to adopt them.

So, on all three counts — transparency, verifiability and secrecy — EVMs are flawed. VVPATs are not the answer either, given the sheer magnitude of the logistical challenges. The recent track record of EVMs indicates that the number of malfunctions in a national election will be high. For that very reason, the EC is unlikely to adopt a policy of hand-counting all EVMs in constituencies where faulty machines are reported, as this might entail hand-counting on a scale that defeats the very purpose of EVMs. And yet, this is a principle without which the use of VVPATs is meaningless.

Despite these issues, EVMs continue to enjoy the confidence of the EC, which insists that Indian EVMs, unlike the Western ones, are tamper-proof. But this is a matter of trust. Even if the software has been burnt into the microchip, neither the EC nor the voter knows for sure what software is running in a particular EVM. One has to simply trust the manufacturer and the EC. But as the German court observed, the precondition of this trust is the verifiability of election events, whereas in the case of EVMs, “the calculation of the election result is based on a calculation act which cannot be examined from outside”.

While it is true that the results come quicker and the process is cheaper with EVMs as compared to paper ballot, both these considerations are undeniably secondary to the integrity of the election. Another argument made in favour of the EVM is that it eliminates malpractices such as booth-capturing and ballot-box stuffing. In the age of the smartphone, however, the opportunity costs of ballot-box-stuffing and the risk of exposure are prohibitively high. In contrast, tampering with code could accomplish rigging on a scale unimaginable for booth-capturers. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to detect EVM-tampering. As a result, suspicions of tampering in the tallying of votes — as opposed to malfunction in registering the votes, which alone is detectable — are destined to remain in the realm of speculation. The absence of proven fraud might save the EVM for now, but its survival comes at a dangerous cost — the corrosion of people’s faith in the electoral process.

Yet there doesn’t have to be incontrovertible evidence of EVM-tampering for a nation to return to paper ballot. Suspicion is enough, and there is enough of it already. As the German court put it, “The democratic legitimacy of the election demands that the election events be controllable so that… unjustified suspicion can be refuted.” The phrase “unjustified suspicion” is pertinent. The EC has always maintained that suspicions against EVMs are unjustified. Clearly, the solution is not to dismiss EVM-sceptics as ignorant technophobes. Rather, the EC is obliged to provide the people of India a polling process capable of refuting unjustified suspicion, as this is a basic requirement for democratic legitimacy, not an optional accessory.

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Opinion

Doctor to serve the Humanity but ……….

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By Sheikh Umar Ahmad

Doctors profession is regarded as a noble profession world over and is given due dignity and honor in global community for their selfless service to humankind.Every educated person aims to become a doctor in order to serve humanity in best and better of their capacities, but as it is, everybody can’t become a doctor and there are other professions as well to serve the humanity in general. Among all other professions, the medicine is regarded as one of the coveted both in terms of requirement of its service as well in terms of monetary benefits. This profession is only among existing ones that cater to global community involvement as well as service dissemination. Every person has expectations from doctors to deliver in close coordination anytime, rather 24*7 when the need arises without any internal or external excuses, including personal ones. There is a deeper dissatisfaction & grudges when any person from medicine community refuses any other person of consultation when it is time for them to serve. If they are unable to deliver to society with utmost satisfaction, then their purpose of serving the society through this profession only does not hold any merit. A similar kind of episode some days before than happened at state’s premier maternity hospital, so called as Lal Ded has shaken the whole Kashmiriyat that is otherwise known world over for their hospitality and generous behavior but some doctors who in literal sense are there to grab the greater public shearing and for their mere monetary benefits, have deceived and decimated the expectations of one of economically, socially and educationally backward section of our society who yet hold equal weightage at the measures table when it comes to Kashmir diversity and harmonious ethnicity.

Their refusal to admit a women in labor pain and then her parturition at a roadside, has shackled the immediate conscience of whole educated lot of Kashmir who now think that there should be a humanity course for every doctor before only he is allowed to practice medicine. A doctor in true essence should be ready to work in any society, with any person, and to serve any other person in need irrespective of his caste, creed, colour, religion, sect and above all ethnicity. If a doctor is unable to work in any multi-cultural society, he loses his position in the eyes of society to be called as a doctor. This person dashes the hopes of weaker section of society as they think that such persons can never pay attention towards them being economically and culturally senile. The death of a newborn on the roadside at Srinagar area speak volumes about those gross irregularities that still exist in best of our essential & emergency services. This should not have been the case and nothing such things happen in world over but are common in Kashmir only and there is a greater need to overhaul the whole system so to debug these bogus and nefarious elements in society that tarnish the whole image.

 

There should have been a commission in place to look at those gross malicious activities thatdiscord the whole organisational setup. Now as we know, the enquiry will be put in place and at the end what will be seen, nothing but the ball will be put in the court of victim by falsifying & negating the whole episode. The little one has gone now and no one on earth can bring him back. This episode brings this message forth, that doctor being the representative guardian of life our earth, protect lives every day in every part of world and there is a greater sense of satisfaction and this dealing makes the person feel happy internally & eternally for this greatest benefit to mankind. But for us, it is high time now, that we repent of our past sins and relook at our duties to disseminate it properly at every time it is required. Every person will be suitably rewarded for his good deeds and kind gestures that he has done on humanity and doctors are none as exception.

They are the best representatives of selfless service and moral attitude, and kind reflection of ultimate hope. State administration in Kashmir at the helm of affairs need to reaffirm their responsibilities and duties, so that utmost discipline is maintained in hospitals both from public & doctors end. If public outrages over anything that may be the reflection and agony of intermix of pain and grief. It is the responsibility of doctors on duty to deal with those situations quite humbly and morally, so that the professionals deliver their duties in its true essence and totally error free. There should be limited biasness in dealing with culturally and economically down-centric groups of society. We need to be first ambassadors of humanity before guardians of life through practising medicine to protect the lives of people. We need to safeguard the hopes and expectations of our ethnic groups before we deliver our best to save the lives.

These episodes nevertheless should be repeated in the times to come, else this profession will loseits dignity and honor world over for not withstanding with the requirements of and fulfilling the criteria of being a doctor humanely. There are doctors who treat animals even, this never mean that we need to make an animal human first to be treated by a human doctor as animals are animals, rather we need to be real doctors to understand the physiology of animals before only we can treat them. This is the only message I can conclude with… ! Hence a change is imperative.

(The author is Doctoral Research Scholar, currently working as DST INSPIRE Fellow at CSIR Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine Jammu)

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Opinion

The angry Pakistani

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By Arifa Noor

IT takes an outsider to point out the anger within us. Last week, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, spoke at an event, arguing that our anger prevents us from telling the good story about Pakistan to the world.

It reminded me of an interaction that took place nearly 20 years ago. Back in 2000, a soft-spoken Indian professor from Delhi had asked why the Pakistani people were always so pessimistic about their country — present and future — despite the fact that till the 1990s, Pakistan had always enjoyed better social and economic indicators (including a higher growth rate) than India. It was a question I had no answer to. The hostile questions about Kargil and military rule were easier to answer during that trip to India than this gentle insight and a sense of bewilderment about our state of being.

 

But since that morning in New Delhi, there have been so many moments when the professor’s question has come back to mind. Countless memories that came spilling out echoed what former ambassador Munter said. Some as clear as the question asked by the Indian professor; some a little less sharp. But each one testifies to our despair, anger or lack of confidence in what is known as Pakistan.

We have been living in an age of anger, decades before Pankaj Mishra wrote about it.

Fast forward from 2000 to the last months of 2007 or the beginning of 2008: a faded memory, I am unsure of the exact month, but it was during the days of that heady yet difficult transition from dictatorship to democracy. Musharraf was fighting for his survival. Benazir Bhutto and the Sharifs were clawing their way back to relevance (followed by the devastating assassination of the former). A lawyers’ movement had caught Pakistan’s imagination. And there were terrorist attacks galore.

In the midst of these trying yet hopeful times, an op-ed had discussed Pakistan as a possible failed state. I was told that the writer had gotten a call from an amused friend in Afghanistan who said that despite all that had happened in and to Afghanistan, no Afghan would ever call his country a ‘failed state’.

We, of course, have used this term so often for the country that many of us believe it is a failed state — despite the term’s problematic origins as one used by Washington to describe countries it ‘disapproved’ of rather than an empirically established concept.

Then there are jumbled up memories of various track II dialogues. Each such seminar or conference is coupled with at least one discussion (on the sidelines) of how the Indians (and more recently the Afghans) present a united stand unlike Pakistanis. There is always a sense of frustration at how we end up helping ‘their’ cause rather than supporting our interest.

Why do we do this, as the professor asked?

Perhaps it stems from our long bouts of dictatorships. Denied their due and rightful say in policymaking has made entire swathes of the populace angry, hostile and critical of the state. They are angry at being left out: it’s an anger that is accompanied by a sense of helplessness at the direction that the country and society have taken. And in recent times, too, there is a sense of outrage because course correction (if there is any in their opinion) has not included their input. Hence, many refuse to believe that there has been any course correction, or criticise it for moving too slowly.

This is why perhaps the anger is most palpable when it comes to foreign policy, especially relations with India, and the radicalism that has engulfed state and society.

Being denied a voice, there is little left to do but express rage at the state, what it has come to stand for and to also conclude that there can be little hope for the future. (Pakistan has not just been at the crossroads ever since I can remember, it has also forever been in danger of being torn apart).

The rage has gotten worse post-2008, for the hope that accompanied the transition then has turned bitter. We thought that the worst was over, that ‘true’ democracy had returned to Pakistan and politicians would now rule — fixing all that had gone wrong. The 10 years of exile and powerlessness had also given the politicos a sheen of competence and maturity. But it was yet another shab gazida sahar (night-bitten dawn).

Ten years later, the anger has grown for it seems that decision making was never transferred. But because the hope this time was greater, so has the rage been too. And perhaps because the urban middle class fought for this transition in greater numbers than before, the disappointment is greater. They are angry for they cannot see the change they had fought for or protested against.

The judiciary turned out to have feet of clay. The military didn’t really share as much as they had promised. And the politicians didn’t deliver the reform or show any inclination for democratic norms once in power. And we continue to rail, against all of them or the one we had placed most hope in, or the one we hated most.

In addition, the rage has turned into hatred of the institution that has disappointed us the most. Indeed, the anger is expressed with malicious glee at times: the Sahiwal incident is a case in point, as was the controversial statement by a former high court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, or any terrorist attack which reveals chinks in the armour of the security forces. And, of course, the various JITs revealing the shenanigans of our political ruling class.

It is as if we have no option but to express our rage, so all energy is poured into it.

But expressing outrage, however cathartic it may be, is not a strategy, which is what Cameron Munter was trying to say.

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