How to spot a lying Dictator? It’s the percentages, stupid.

A lot of numbers are flying around in the media nowadays. Opinions have become polarized on every subject after financial crisis, Arab Spring, War on Terror etc. To give weight to their arguments, opinion makers quote made up (or so it seems) statistics to give credibility to their side of the story.

Most recently, King Mohamed VI of Morocco held a referendum to seek approval for  his proposed reforms. His proposal was approved by almost 99% of voters. From Huffington Post:

Moroccans on Friday overwhelmingly approved a new constitution their king says will bring the country much-needed democratic reform, the Interior Ministry announced.

The preliminary results showed a 98.94 percent approval rating and 72.56 percent turnout and appeared to indicate strong belief by Moroccans in the king’s promises of reform just months after hundreds of thousands marched throughout the North African country calling for more democracy.

98.94% approval rating and 72.56% turnout. Now where have I seen such numbers and referendum on such unilaterally proposed reforms before? There are no points for guessing that Pakistan would be the correct answer. We have a history of holding such referendums by military dictators.

When Ayub Khan appointed himself ruler of Pakistan, he carried out referendum to give legitimacy to his rule after deposing Iskandar Mirza in a bloodless coup. From Wikipedia

In 1960, he held an indirect referendum of his term in power. Functioning as a kind of electoral college, close to 80,000 recently elected village councilmen were allowed to vote yes or no to the question: “Have you confidence in the President, Field Marshal Mohammed Ayub Khan, Hilal-i-Jurat?” Winning 95.6% of the vote, he used the confirmation as impetus to formalise his new system.

The next referendum was carried out by next military dictator Gen Zia after deposing Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a coup (it wasn’t bloodless as he had Bhutto hanged).  And the question asked by him was

Whether the people of Pakistan endorse the process initiated by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan, for bringing the laws of Pakistan in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and for the preservation of the Islamic ideology of Pakistan, for the continuation and consolidation of that process, and for the smooth and orderly transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.

Say what? Come again?

From Wikipedia

It was reportedly approved by 98.5% of voters, with a turnout of 62.2%.

Finally, it was Musharraf’s turn and he carried out another sham referendum. (Since this happened in my life time, I have seen with my own eyes military bringing in people from interior Sind by truck loads at one of polling stations half an hour before election commissioner visited the place at NIC building, off Sharae-Faisal, Karachi). The question posed in the referendum was

For the survival of the local government system, establishment of democracy, continuity of reforms, end to sectarianism and extremism, and to fulfill the vision of Quaid-i-Azam, would you like to elect President General Pervez Musharraf as President of Pakistan for five years?

From Story of Pakistan

According to the Government there were 78 million eligible voters. Eighty seven thousand polling stations were set up, including booths set up at prisons, hospitals, petrol stations, workplaces, and markets. However, there were no voter lists or constituencies, and anyone who could prove his identity and age could vote at any polling station. According to the Government estimate, around 98 percent of the counted votes backed General Musharraf continuing in office and the turnout of the referendum was said to be around 70 percent.

What’s with the obsession of dictators with approval ratings reaching almost 100%? And when voter turnout has normally been less than 50%, how come voter turnout in referendums reach 70%? Don’t they know that this puts the credibility of the results into question.

Once these usurpers have legitimized their rule for the said period promising reforms, it turns out that by the time they leave (rather “forced to leave”) and take their reforms with them, the country is worse off compared to when they took over.

Based on this history, I will give King Mohamed VI of Morocco a maximum of 10 years of sham reform before he is booted out or is restricted to his palace.

Whereas these dictators create an infrastructure of polling/votes before quoting statistics, we have an Interior Minister who has taken to quoting percentages like a magician creating them out of thin air at his whims. But that is for another post.

Military rule in Pakistan: same old shit

I had received the following videos earlier but someone resent them to me today. They are circa 1959 and have an interview of Ayub Khan. Despite the upbeat nature of the report (the west and western media has always supported our military rulers) what is amazing is how Ayub Khan’s talk reminds of similar talks made by Musharraf. More than that, it begs the question that if military rule is so good for Pakistan why is it that when the ruler leaves us, we find ourselves in worse situation despite their claims of bringing true democracy instead of sham democracy or claims of democracy does not suit the genius of people.

The reporter is neither sarcastic nor there is any hint of cynicism when he says that 95% of Pakistanis favored Ayub Khan which begs the question is the reporter was naive? If not, I want to smoke what he is smoking. Doesn’t it remind you of 97% affirmation that Musharraf received in his referendum.

Ayub’s rhetoric in the report reminds me of Musharraf as he used to say the same things.




Is democracy unislamic? Is Khilafat only form of government acceptable in Islam?

Other day a friend of mine was talking about Khilafat being a solution  as democracy has not been able to solve our problems. He was probably influenced by Hizb-ut-Tahrir propaganda. Having met a few of these Hizb-ul-Tahrir aficionados, I find them educated, intelligent and much more world-wise than what passes for liberal-educated class in Pakistan (but then this is just my opinion). However, whenever I ask them how will they choose their Khalifa (will it be a democratic process, will Khalifa nominate himself, or have they already decided on a Khalifa but he is invisible/underground like the 12th imam etc) I have always drawn a blank. Lets assume that some how Khilafat is established and against all odds we accept a Khalifa. Will he be Khalifa for life? Once he steps down, how will we agree upon the next Khalifa?

I have heard some people (mainly liberals) criticize the Prophet that he left his companions without telling them how to choose their leader. Its my belief that the Prophet was Divine messenger and the Divine had given us a choice of whatever method we deem suitable for selecting who rules over us. Obviously certain things are common sense that the leader should be of clean character, just in his dealings etc. I am sure that if some method had been suggested or recommended by the Prophet for selecting a leader, the liberals would have hounded it as another example of rigidity of Islamic rules even if it had been democracy. Another so called secular liberal had said that democracy does not suit the genius of [Pakistani] people and later words to similar effect were uttered by the last dictator but that does not bother the liberals.

Since none has been divined, I believe all methods of ruling whether it is Khilafat, Monarchy, Democracy are fine as long as they don’t usurp on anyone’s rights and work towards the betterment of people. If democracy does not work, replace it with Khilafat but then there needs to be a system in place for choosing and replacing the Khalifa which is not clear or which has not been made clear to us by the proponents of Khilafat. Even if the monarch is just, I would not mind living under his rule.

Couple of years ago I remember surfing the channels and I chanced upon Zaid Hamid being interview by Lucman. The Commando was ruling us at that time. Someone, probably a Zaid Hamid fan, telephoned in the show and he wanted Zaid Hamid to say that democracy is un-islamic. The guy calling in sounded educated. However, the reason he wanted democracy to be labelled un-Islamic was that movement for removal of Musharraf and restoration of democracy had gained momentum and he wanted a justification for his support of Musharraf. One of the most ridiculous way for justifying a dictatorial rule.

US citizens were celebrating 4th of July few days ago and I had a chance to read through their declaration of independence. What a marvel of human thought.

This comes from the second sentence of declaration:

….Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Here they do not talk about democracy or any other form of government. They just say that if the system government does not deliver, they can throw away the system and put in place a new one. However, they add a little qualifier that prudence should taken when making such a decision.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

What beautiful prose and ideas. I could not have said it better myself :).

I don’t consider the takeover by military or military rule removal of a despot or change of a system. They are as much a despot as the despot they are replacing. A game of musical chairs between democratic despots and military despots is played and we are the spectators.

The way things are moving, a time will come that our troubles will become insufferable, we will need to walk out and demand our rights even if it means changing the system. We have done it before (most recent example being restoration of Judiciary which showed two things: 1) if we get together we can get the military man to remove his uniform and even give up his seat and 2) that sometimes there is no difference between military and civilian despot _ both refusing to reinstate the judiciary) and when the time comes, we need to do it again.

Watch out Mr. President

From Dawn

LARKANA: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that they will not take revenge for the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Who does he think he is helping by not bringing the killers and murderers on trial? This is the third prime minister that has been killed in this country and he believes that he is doing the nation a favor by letting the murderers go.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Rather in this case, by not bringing the murderers to the book (Zardari has claimed on numerous occasions that he knows the culprits) Zardari is keeping the door open for future prime ministers as well as civilian president (watch out Mr. Zardari) to be killed without any fear of getting caught or punished. He is not doing anyone any favors least of all himself.

Despite the fact  that two people who stood to gain the most by Benazir Bhutto’s murder were Zardari and Musharraf, I like to believe that he is a bereaved widower. However,  by making such statements he is not helping his case.

UPDATE: Someone posted an SMS that she got

Bilawal to Zardari, “dad its been 2.5 years since we became maskeen, when would we catch the murderers?”

Zardari,”Maskeen to pehlay hi ho, qatil pakarwa kar yateem bhi hona chahtay ho?”