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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MQM facing extinction

Diversity of political forces is an element of strength for political culture while monopolization of political space by dint of force initially begets fear and ultimately leads to widespread discontent. The survival of a ‘political’ entity that has developed private militias and established links with armed groups to display its strength through spreading terror is a source of serious concern as it jeopardises the flourishing of a democratic ethos- tolerance and peace. For the furtherance of the democratic project, there are two options: either such entity must mend its ways and adopt the ways of genuine political struggle or it would face extinction in due course. Over the past two decades, MQM has refused to go down the first path and the grinding wheel of time has now caught up with it.

Read more on MQM: http://pakistan-posts.blogspot.com/2011/08/letter-by-patriotic-pakistani-leader.html

The difficulties for the party started when Imran Farooq was murdered in London and the Scotland Yard took up the investigation of the matter. Then followed separate investigations into allegations of money laundering, raids at the Edgware headquarters of MQM, the arrest of Mr. Altaf Hussain, his interim bail and extension on two occasions. The most vulnerable point of an organisation built around the cult of a personality, is that the whole structure collapses when the ‘strong man’ is seen as falling. Another weakness is that there is no second tier leader who has been trained to legitimately take over in the event of vacuum of leadership. Therefore, the embattled Altaf Hussain in London failed to maintain his grip over the party as his feet of the clay exposed. In September 2013, Declan Walsh published in New York Times, reporting, “For two decades, Altaf Hussain has run his brutal Pakistani political empire by remote control, shrouded in luxurious exile in London and long beyond the reach of the law. He follows events through satellite televisions in his walled-off home, manages millions of dollars in assets and issues decrees in ranting teleconferences that last for hours — all to command a network of influence and intimidation that stretches from North America to South Africa. This global system serves a very localised goal: perpetuating Mr. Hussain’s reign as the political king of Karachi, the brooding port city of 20 million people at the heart of Pakistan’s economy. Now, though, his painstakingly constructed web is fraying.”(Italics for emphasis)
At home, the MQM always claimed itself to be and it really was the third largest political party in the parliament, controlling the financial hub of the country. The successive provincial and national governments found it expedient to include MQM as coalition partner because they were apprehensive of the latter’s blackmailing tactics in case of exclusion. In developing countries, because of patrimonial political culture, participation in government is considered as having access to a pie of resources that could be used at will without any chance of accountability. Thus the consistent strategy of PPP and PML-N during the 1990’s has been to secure peace in Karachi through handing over the city to MQM, which gradually strengthened its hold. General Pervez Musharraf found a natural ally in MQM as he excluded the two mainstream political parties out of active politics. It became proverbial that not a sparrow could stretch its wings in Karachi without permission from nine-zero. The capacity of diehard followers of Altaf Hussain to close down the city at a single call was on display every other day. During the lawyers’ movement, the party let loose a reign of terror and killed above 40 people in different parts of the city to block the entry of then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary.
The political realities for MQM changed in the wake of 2013 general elections. The PTI replaced it as the third big political party by securing 35 seats in National Assembly. Imran Khan and his party men did what was earlier considered unthinkable. They openly talked on national media about the intimidating tactics of MQM employed to secure his support base and urged Karachites to come out to bring to end the atmosphere of fear. For the first time in bye-elections of NA-246, the MQM felt the need of door-to-door canvassing to ensure its victory. Thus the role of PTI in challenging MQM on its turf is laudable.
Besides a diminution of its political clout, because of the rise of PTI, the MQM landed in serious trouble with the decision of the federal government to cleanse the city of Karachi of network of criminals and militants. MQM raised hue and cry against the arrest of its affiliated criminals but the operation went on with unabated intensity. The PPP supported the operation at initial stage, as Asif Zardari could not foresee the clean-up operation against its maladministration and corruption.
Now when the BBC report reinforcing the public perception of MQM to be receiving funds from India and engage in terrorist activities, has come to the fore, MQM’s current leadership is in dire straits. The possible handing over of three people involved in planning and executing murder of Imran Farooq at the behest of Altaf Hussain, will add to the worries for him in London and consequentially the influence of the MQM will further weaken. The party might survive but, without the present leadership, it will only be a shadow of its former self.

The writer is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of law from the University of Oxford.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

12 Signs of Anxiety Disorder By Amanda MacMillan

What's normal?

Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time—when speaking in public, for instance, or when going through financial difficulty. For some people, however, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so forceful, that it begins to take over their lives.

How can you tell if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line into a disorder? It's not easy. Anxiety comes in many different forms—such as panic attacks, phobia, and social anxiety—and the distinction between an official diagnosis and "normal" anxiety isn't always clear.

Here's a start: If you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to talk with your doctor.

Excessive worry
The hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—the broadest type of anxiety—is worrying too much about everyday things, large and small. But what constitutes "too much"?

In the case of GAD, it means having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week, for six months. Also, the anxiety must be so bad that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue.

"The distinction between an anxiety disorder and just having normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction," says Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland in Towson.

Sleep problems
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is associated with a wide range of health conditions, both physical and psychological. And, of course, it's not unusual to toss and turn with anticipation on the night before a big speech or job interview.

But if you chronically find yourself lying awake, worried or agitated—about specific problems (like money), or nothing in particular—it might be a sign of an anxiety disorder. By some estimates, fully half of all people with GAD experience sleep problems.

Another tip-off that anxiety might be involved? You wake up feeling wired, your mind is racing, and you're unable to calm yourself down.

Irrational fears
Some anxiety isn't generalized at all; on the contrary, it's attached to a specific situation or thing—like flying, animals, or crowds. If the fear becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and way out of proportion to the actual risk involved, it's a telltale sign of phobia, a type of anxiety disorder.

Although phobias can be crippling, they're not obvious at all times. In fact, they may not surface until you confront a specific situation and discover you're incapable of overcoming your fear. "A person who's afraid of snakes can go for years without having a problem," Winston says. "But then suddenly their kid wants to go camping, and they realize they need treatment."

Muscle tension
Near-constant muscle tension—whether it consists of clenching your jaw, balling your fists, or flexing muscles throughout your body—often accompanies anxiety disorders. This symptom can be so persistent and pervasive that people who have lived with it for a long time may stop noticing it after a while.

Regular exercise can help keep muscle tension under control, but the tension may flare up if an injury or other unforeseen event disrupts a person's workout habits, Winston says. "Suddenly they're a wreck, because they can't handle their anxiety in that way and now they're incredibly restless and irritable."

Stage fright
Most people get at least a few butterflies before addressing a group of people or otherwise being in the spotlight. But if the fear is so strong that no amount of coaching or practice will alleviate it, or if you spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about it, you may have a form of social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia).

People with social anxiety tend to worry for days or weeks leading up to a particular event or situation. And if they do manage to go through with it, they tend to be deeply uncomfortable and may dwell on it for a long time afterward, wondering how they were judged.

Social anxiety disorder doesn't always involve speaking to a crowd or being the center of attention. In most cases, the anxiety is provoked by everyday situations such as making one-on-one conversation at a party, or eating and drinking in front of even a small number of people.

In these situations, people with social anxiety disorder tend to feel like all eyes are on them, and they often experience blushing, trembling, nausea, profuse sweating, or difficulty talking. These symptoms can be so disruptive that they make it hard to meet new people, maintain relationships, and advance at work or in school.

Panic attacks can be terrifying: Picture a sudden, gripping feeling of fear and helplessness that can last for several minutes, accompanied by scary physical symptoms such as breathing problems, a pounding or racing heart, tingling or numb hands, sweating, weakness or dizziness, chest pain, stomach pain, and feeling hot or cold.

Not everyone who has a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but people who experience them repeatedly may be diagnosed with panic disorder. People with panic disorder live in fear about when, where, and why their next attack might happen, and they tend to avoid places where attacks have occurred in the past.

Reliving a disturbing or traumatic event—a violent encounter, the sudden death of a loved one—is a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which shares some features with anxiety disorders. (Until very recently, in fact, PTSD was seen as a type of anxiety disorder rather than a stand-alone condition.)

But flashbacks may occur with other types of anxiety as well. Some research, including a 2006 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, suggests that some people with social anxiety have PTSD-like flashbacks of experiences that might not seem obviously traumatic, such as being publicly ridiculed. These people may even avoid reminders of the experience—another symptom reminiscent of PTSD.

The finicky and obsessive mind-set known as perfectionism "goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders," Winston says. "If you are constantly judging yourself or you have a lot of anticipatory anxiety about making mistakes or falling short of your standards, then you probably have an anxiety disorder."

Perfectionism is especially common in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which, like PTSD, has long been viewed as an anxiety disorder. "OCD can happen subtly, like in the case of somebody who can't get out of the house for three hours because their makeup has to be absolutely just right and they have to keep starting over," Winston says.

Compulsive behaviors
In order to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person's obsessiveness and intrusive thoughts must be accompanied by compulsive behavior, whether it's mental (telling yourself It'll be all right over and over again) or physical (hand-washing, straightening items).

Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior become a full-blown disorder when the need to complete the behaviors—also known as "rituals"—begins to drive your life, Winston says. "If you like your radio at volume level 3, for example, and it breaks and gets stuck on 4, would you be in a total panic until you could get it fixed?"

Persistent self-doubt and second-guessing is a common feature of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. In some cases, the doubt may revolve around a question that's central to a person's identity, like "Do I love my husband / wife as much as he loves me?"

In OCD, Winston says, these "doubt attacks" are especially common when a question is unanswerable. People with OCD "think, 'If only I would know 100% for sure, either one would be fine,' but they have this intolerance for uncertainty that turns the question into an obsession," she says.

Source: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder: http://flip.it/r3S4Z

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why India has never seen a military dictatorship?

A true story: In 1957, the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, visiting the office of general Thimayya, the chief of the army staff, saw a steel cabinet behind his desk, and asked the general what it contained.

The general replied that the top drawer contained the nation’s defence plans. And the second drawer contained the confidential files of the nation’s top generals.

And what about the third drawer, enquired Nehru.

Ah, said the general with a straight face, the third drawer contains my secret plans for a military coup against you.

Nehru laughed, but there was apparently a tinge of nervousness to his laughter.

Military dictatorships have been a common phenomenon in the post-colonial states of Asia and Africa, and in the 1950s and 1960s, a dictatorship in India was not an impossibility. In fact, while covering the 1967 general elections, The Times correspondent, Neville Maxwell, prophesied that these might well be the last elections ever in the country. And he was not the only one who believed that sooner or later, India would fall under military rule.

But that eventuality, of course, never happened.

Why not?

The question why the Indian Army never attempted to seize power has sometimes been attributed to the fact that it is disciplined, highly professional, and steeped in proud 250-year-old traditions inherited from the British. But this theory doesn’t work, because the Pakistani army was born out of the same traditions and that didn’t seem to stop it from assuming power.

Indeed, one could argue that it was precisely because the Pakistan army was such a highly professional force that there came a time when it felt it could no longer stand by and watch the country slide into chaos, and felt it was its duty to step in.

So clearly this is a question one needs to look at more closely. Which is what political scientist Steven Wilkinson has done with his excellent new book, Army and Nation.

In order to understand what didn’t happen in India, it is perhaps useful to first look at what did happen in Pakistan. The military dictatorship in Pakistan has had an interesting pre-history. It begins in undivided India, where the largest single component of the army was drawn from the undivided Punjab. Hence at the time of Partition, of all the institutions that Pakistan inherited, the most substantive was its army.

Moreover, while in India the Congress Party was a highly evolved, durable organisation, in Pakistan the Muslim League was not much more than “Jinnah and his Private Secretary.” Hence, there was a dangerous structural imbalance in Pakistan, especially after Jinnah’s death in 1948.

Mashallah ho gaya

The military dictatorship in Pakistan did not come out of the blue. In the early 1950s, for example, there were riots in Lahore that raged on because the civilian authorities were unable to control them. Finally the army was called out, and it swiftly and firmly put down the trouble.

Then the commanding officer made an unusual request: He asked for another couple of days before withdrawing his troops to the barracks. In those few, quick days, the army proceeded to clean up the city, paint public buildings, repair roads, pull down unauthorised structures and plant trees. Then, having performed all these long neglected civic tasks, the army quietly withdrew, leaving Lahore looking as clean and well-ordered as an army cantonment.

This earned the army a great deal of respect among the public: It had managed to do for the city in a few days what the civilian authority had failed to do over the years. Hence, when in 1958, the governor-general of Pakistan responded to a state of political chaos in the country by declaring martial law, and calling out the army, there was a section of the public that rejoiced at the news. In fact, a saying that went around at the time was, “Pakistan mein ab toh mashallah ho gaya,” playing on the term ‘martial law,’ and translating, roughly, as “By the grace of God, things in Pakistan are well now.”

What followed over the next few years was a period of remarkable national development in Pakistan, under the presidency of General Ayub Khan—before the military government began to get corrupted by its own power (as always, inevitably, happens in such a system).

Ring-fencing the Indian Army

The Indian Army was born out of the same tradition as Pakistan’s. In British India, the army enjoyed a prominent position in Indian life, and even played a role in policy matters. The commander-in-chief, was also the de facto defence minister, and was the second most powerful person in the hierarchy after the viceroy himself. But after Independence things began to change.

Prime minister Nehru believed that the new India needed to rethink the role of the army, and initiated a policy that would firmly subordinate it to the civilian authority. One of the first things that happened after Independence, for example, was that Teen Murti House, traditionally the grand residence of the army chief, was assigned instead to the prime minister: A small matter by itself, perhaps, but a clear indicator of the way the wind was blowing.

Next came a series of budget cuts (resulting, among other things, in hefty cuts in army officers’ generous Raj-era salaries). And when India’s first army chief, field marshal Cariappa, publicly criticised the government’s economic performance, he was immediately rapped on the knuckles, and told not to meddle in matters that did not concern him.

Over the years a systematic programme was pursued to ring-fence the armed forces, and their influence in Indian society—a programme that was given fresh urgency in 1958 by the military coup in next-door Pakistan (an occurrence that was worryingly praised by field marshal Cariappa, who had recently retired as army chief). A highlight—or, rather, lowlight—of that ring-fencing programme was the appointment of Krishna Menon, a powerful, abrasive, leftist intellectual, as defence minister. It was an attempt to put the armed forces unambiguously in their place. Unfortunately, it also had the unintended side effect of leading to the stinging defeat of 1962, but that is a different story.

An unrecognised achievement

By the 1970s, the Indian armed forces had finally been rendered ‘coup-proof’ by a comprehensive system of checks and balances that had been put in place. And that might be considered to be one of the major achievements of the Nehru era: Ensuring the durability of Indian democracy. It’s an achievement that is not sufficiently recognised; an achievement underscored by the fact that all our South Asian neighbours—Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka—have experienced military coups, actual or attempted.

Wilkinson explains how this ‘coup-proofing’ was implemented, through a package of carefully thought-out measures, ranging from diversifying the ethnic composition of the armed forces to setting up rugged command and control structures, re-casting the order of precedence between civil and military authorities, paying close attention to promotions, disallowing army officers from making public statements, creating a counter-balancing paramilitary force, and topping off this entire effort with little touches like ensuring that retired chiefs of staff are usually sent off as ambassadors to faraway countries.

The end result of all this is that when, in 2012, newspapers breathlessly reported that there had been a coup attempt, with army units being surreptitiously moved towards Delhi in the wake of the general V. K. Singh affair, people like you and I, merely shrugged, said, “What nonsense,” and turned to the sports page.

"We perhaps don’t realise what a luxury that kind of certainty is.
Why India has never seen a military dictatorship"by Anvar Alikhan, qz.com