Footnotes and Highnotes of a Meaningful Life

Robert Byrne

The purpose of life is a life of purpose

Arthur Caldwell

It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies

Albert Einstein

Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value

Mark Twain

It is better to deserve honours and not have them than to have them and not deserve them
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Thinking Response to an Irrational Act – The Charlie Hebdo Affair

Incidents of sacrilege, whether in the form of a Salman Rushdie novel or a cheapskate U-tube video or the Charlie Hebdo cartoon affair, continue to provide grist to the mills of the hardline Muslim clerics, who use it to whip up a frenzy amongst their ardent followers and influence many others along the way. The general collective response is mostly emotional and if the perpetuators get killed by self-righteous ideologues to avenge the slight to the Prophet’s honour, most of us heave a sigh of relief. ‘They had it coming!’ we say.
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Deceptive Narratives – Proxy War

In the wake of the horrendous attack on an Army-run Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, the question uppermost in peoples’ minds is whether we as a nation can finally turn the tide against this dire internal menace that hangs like the Sword of Damocles over us all. The short answer: yes, we can, provided we can let go of the false narratives that have been constantly injected into our collective psyches and which we have unreservedly embraced without questioning.
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A Tragedy beyond Belief

The horrific events of this bloody Tuesday(‘Murder most foul’), which has finally succeeded in rousing the nation from its decades old stupor, contained elements of unimagined brutality and unbelievable valour. It was arguably for the first time in recent memory that such a large scale massacre of innocent schoolchildren was orchestrated without any political objective in mind. On the other end of the spectrum are tales of unparalleled valour: the Principal going back into the school after being rescued in solidarity with her wards and of an intrepid young teacher who formed a human shield between the brutes and her students. Such should be our true heroes rather than those mindless animals who behead our soldiers and play football with their heads. Mind-boggling as to how many of us still can’t distinguish between the two.
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From Dharna to Ubharna

If nothing else, the ongoing  PTI and PAT Dharna (peaceful sit-in) now nearing its third month has raised public awareness about the major ills plaguing our society that people either took for granted or felt too helpless to do anything about. It has also resulted in sharply divided opinions: one that favours the status quo and the other that agitates for change. Instead of the debate centring around personalities and point scoring, should we not focus on issues for a change?
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Religion and Science: An Uneasy Co-existence

Can Science and Religion co-exist amicably? There is no reason to suppose they cannot, though for some odd reason, the two have always been at odds with each other. The debate that we keep listening to on the subject is between two incompatible extremes: one group holds that the only true and complete source of knowledge lies in the Holy Scriptures and all scientific pursuits are therefore meaningless and misleading; the other believes that valid observations and their analysis form the only basis for deriving scientific theories.

Far from being incompatible, the two are actually meant to complement each other. Religion strives to improve an individual’s moral fibre, while science enables one to better understand himself and his surroundings(much further than the eye can see) through reason.
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Quest for the Truth

The fact that a vast majority of individuals who inhabit our planet tend to stick to the religious beliefs of their parents is beyond dispute. A relatively small number do switch faiths: some because they find the new message appealing, some because they discern greater opportunities, some because of troubled backgrounds and some because contrived circumstances force them to. Those who get disillusioned for any reason tend to join the ranks of the atheists or agnostics.
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Historical Perspectives

Man Disposes and God………..(Cross-checks?)

Soon after the Pope declared the Albigenses, members of a catharist religious sect, as heretics(kafirs) and launched a crusade for their extermination, the first significant engagement took place with the siege of Beziers in Southern France in July 1209. When it was over, the papal ligate Arnaud-Amaury, under whose spiritual and military command the crusader army operated, proudly reported back to Pope Innocent(?) 3 : “Today Your Holiness, twenty thousand heretics were put to the sword, regardless of rank, age or sex”. Prior to the engagement, however, Catholic inhabitants of the city were offered the freedom to leave unharmed, but many chose to stay and fight alongside the Cathars. When the crusaders were about to enter the town, Armaud-Amaury, the Cistercian Abbot-Commander is supposed to have been asked how to tell Cathars from Catholics. His reply: “Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own”.
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The Family Way

While taking our daughter to the Airport to catch her flight to Scotland, where she worked, we decided, on her insistence, to briefly stop over at her Aunt’s place to enable her to say her goodbyes in person. When what was meant as a few minutes break was seen getting unduly prolonged, my wife sharply prompted her to hurry up and get in the car. My daughter’s smiling response: ” Can’t you see how wide her girth is? I have to hug her goodbye in installments, frame by frame.”

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State of Governance

The Pakistan Tehrik-e- Insaf has emerged as a progressive party in Pakistani politics and its founder President Imran Khan has touched the right chords and made all the right noises on all the vital issues the country is confronted with. There is possibly a single notable exception though. Has anyone wondered that while most of our countrymen were exercising their right to vote, those in some parts of the country weren’t : North Waziristan, because the writ of the government doesn’t extend there; Gilgit-Baltistan, because it doesn’t enjoy any constitutional status and till a few years back did not even have a name; Azad Kashmir, because it is supposed to be an independent entity, in name at least, with its own President and Prime Minister. So what do we see when we look analytically at Pakistan as a state: four provinces, one independent entity( in theory only), a large adjoining area without a proper status, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas(FATA) and even Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas(PATA). Whats more, the national elections of 2013 were the first to be conducted in FATA on a party basis; in all others, the independents getting elected were selling themselves and their constituencies to the highest bidder, which suited everyone admirably. The question we now need to ask ourselves is why after all these years we haven’t been able to integrate all the parts of Pakistan into a common system that grants equal rights and status to all its regions and all its citizens. What is most disturbing about this scheme of things is the silence that envelops it. No party worth its salt talks about such blatant inequalities, not even the morally-driven PTI. The first step towards change and a naya Pakistan is to get the basic governing structure right. Right??

Bottom-line.  For a start, all the regions should be woven into the fabric of a single system and be governed by the same rules, regulations and laws. No region should be federally governed, provincially governed, FCR governed, be without constitutional cover or enjoy extra-constitutional cover. As the saying goes, one country, one system. The next step can be to revive the defunct Divisions, with greater powers being gradually devolved to these divisions and districts. Formation of more provinces can then logically follow, the idea being to make the administrative, justice and security mechanisms more responsive and more accessible.

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