Piety wins, work ethic loses

Piety wins, work ethic loses
MARCH 15 2015 VOL 9 NO. 181
Good news and bad
The right to disagree, without which democracy
would be a hollow shell, has been upheld in the
courts. In a ruling that sets a valuable precedent, the
Delhi High Court has clearly and explicitly elevated the “right to criticise and dissent” to the level of
a fundamental right. It has ticked off the government and directed it to expunge the word
“offloaded” from the passport of Greenpeace
activist Priya Pillai, who was prevented from flying
to London to speak to UK parliamentarians on the
plea that she posed a risk to national security. She
is now free to travel. In protecting the citizen from
arbitrary state action, the court has done its highest
On the same day, the same court spoke a different
tongue to stay the screening of the BBC documentary, India’s Daughter, until the appeal in the
Supreme Court was heard, on the ground that it
could prejudice the treatment of the case. “Judges
are not from outer space”, the court said, and
indeed they should not be. They should be grounded in the here and now, immersed in the relentless
stream of discourse in media and social media, and
in the public sphere, which has become a permanent feature of our reality. The human challenge of
our times — and judges are only human, not from
outer space — is to hear all, know all, and not be
influenced at all. What is the alternative? Electronic
monasticism? Sensory deprivation?
The stay on the screening of India’s Daughter is
inexplicable because it militates against the principle behind the direction in the Greenpeace case. In
that matter, the court had essentially told the government that it was free to ignore the message, but
it could not fetter the messenger. But simultaneously, it is fettering the right of the documentary-maker
to transmit her message. Perhaps the Greenpeace
case will serve as the seed for a body of case law in
which such contradictions are reconciled, and
which is based on overriding respect for the fundamental democratic idea of liberty.
Can do
Finally, one major economic legislation —
enabling 49 per cent foreign investment in insurance firms, up from 26 per cent now — has
pushed its way through Parliament. That it took
more than six years after the original bill’s introduction and nine months of the present government’s tenure to secure its passage reflects the
lack of genuine bipartisanship even on issues
where there is no real divergence of opinion.
While in opposition, the BJP did not allow the
Insurance Bill tabled by the previous UPA government to be passed. Till now, the Congress did
the same, despite claiming the proposed reform
law as “our baby”. Good sense and a bit of reaching out by the ruling party seems to have helped
seal the deal in the fractured Rajya Sabha. But
whether the consensus will extend to other legislation — especially on land acquisition, where
there is less agreement between parties — is difficult to predict.
The increase in the overseas investment ceiling
in insurance is a much-needed reform primarily
because this is an industry in which firms need
huge capital to expand their business and also
adequately provide for all claims against policies
issued. Such large-scale capital infusion can
come only from specialist foreign insurers. With
foreign equity limited to 26 per cent and most
domestic promoters in existing joint ventures not
in a position to invest the requisite additional
capital, the industry is struggling. One indicator
of the inability to grow is first-year premium of
life insurers, which in 2014, at Rs 73,777 crore,
was below the Rs 84,726 crore for 2013 and Rs
86,698 crore for 2012 — this for a country with
dismal insurance penetration. Just as tele-density
in India wouldn’t have reached the current levels
had BSNL or MTNL remained the sole operators,
well-capitalised private insurance and pension
players who can expand the market and give real
competition to LIC and the four public-sector
general insurers are needed.
The growth of the insurance and pension sectors — the higher 49 per cent foreign investment
cap will now apply to the latter as well — is also
important from the standpoint of channelising
long-term savings for infrastructure development. Bank deposits are seldom for more than
three years, whereas insurance plans stretch for
25-30 years, which is also the kind of money
needed for financing infrastructure projects with
long gestation periods. Parliament’s approval for
the latest reform is a win-win, both from the perspective of financial inclusion as well as for
boosting infrastructure investments.
Do the one thing you
think you cannot do. Fail
at it. Try again. Do better
the second time. The only
people who never tumble
are those who never mount
the high wire. This is your
moment. Own it.
- Oprah Winfrey
By: Khaled
he Supreme Court
of Pakistan is currently busy trying
to enforce piety in
Pakistan in the light of
Articles 62 and 63 of the
constitution. It is certain
that the judges will lean
towards Islamic jurisprudence and stay away
from the argument of
work ethic as opposed to
ritual worship. The government in Islamabad is
about to set up a uniform
system of namaz. Piety
wins, work ethic loses.
Most terrorists achieve
piety through beards, as
they kill women and children in the country in the
name of Allah.
Last month, retired chief
justice of the Supreme
Court, Nasim Hassan
Shah, passed away at 86.
He was on the bench that
handed the death sentence to Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto. Bhutto was sentenced by the Lahore
High Court and the apex
court rejected his appeal
against the decision.
After his retirement,
Shah declared that it was
a wrong decision, “as it
was a fit case for lesser
punishment”. General
judges, who had no love
for Bhutto, to do it,
because the latter was
sending threatening messages to him from prison.
Why did Shah confess to
a wrong sentencing after
he, as a member of the
bench, had validated
Zia’s martial law? Why
was he named “Man of
the Decade” for services
to democracy and the
rule of law by the
DC, on September 26,
He was short — only
four feet eight inches tall
— with a compensatory
instinct for competition
with “the normal guys”,
had a sense of humour,
and could give as good as
he took in repartee. After
a brilliant academic
career, he was appointed
as judge. He was named
one of Pakistan’s nominees to the Permanent
Court of Arbitration at
The Hague in 1959 and
served there till 1977. In
In reply to another question — “Was there any
pressure on the judges?”
— he said, “Justice
Haleem was under pressure. We had different
kinds of pressures. His
within most piety-based
religions. Ethic pertains
to the observance of
work-contract and is, at
times, called “work
ethic” to make it distinct
from “morality”, which
depth. He was not given
to reading books or he
would have come across
evidence to the contrary
in Hassan Zaheer’s The
Pakistan (1994). The
book, by a senior civil
the Supreme Court, he
allowed a Sindhi prime
minister, Benazir Bhutto,
to be dismissed by the
president, but saved a
Punjabi, Nawaz Sharif,
from being cashiered the
same way.
A book by journalist
Sohail Warraich, Adliya
key Arooj-o-Zawal ki
Kahani (Story of the rise
and fall of the judiciary),
has the following Q&A
exchange: Q: “Do we
have any other example
in Pakistan of a person
being hanged on the basis
of advice?” A: “No
never… During the case,
there was a view that
Bhutto was not directly
involved in the murder
but [that the] Federal
Security Force did it on
his advice… In my view,
reduced…” Anyway, he
didn’t dissent on the
only son lived in Karachi.
He said his life was in
danger and he was very
scared… basically, what
could the poor judges do?
There was one witness
testimony after the other.”
Q: “Couldn’t you have
been kinder to Bhutto as
he was ex-prime minister?” A: “The sentiments
at that time were different
and one has to do what
one has to do.”
“During martial laws and
under stress, he proved
himself to be a pliable
judge,” said a leader of
the Bar in Lahore about
Shah, “Otherwise he was
a good judge and a fine
human being.”
Like almost all judges in
Pakistan, he was a conservative man. He upheld
piety and had to be seen
abhorring impiety. But
piety doesn’t include
ethic, which remains a
profound contradiction
exclusively to correct
sexual behaviour in
Pakistan. That’s the only
way you can understand
why Shah behaved the
way he did.
He once got a plot of land
allotted to himself in
Karachi, saying he was
not comfortable staying
in the Supreme Court
resthouse when he heard
cases at the Karachi
bench. But instead of
building a house on it, he
allegedly sold it. He
Pakistani standards. In
2004, he regretted that
the national language of
Pakistan was not Arabic.
He referred to the language riots of 1948 in
East Pakistan and said
that had Arabic been suggested to “our Bengali
brothers”, they would
have accepted it as their
national language. Shah
was clearly out of his
servant who served in
East Pakistan, discusses
the “the most grotesque
enforcing Arabic in East
The idea was born in the
mind of a non-Bengali
education secretary of
East Pakistan, F.A.
Karim, who was able to
convince the Bengali
central education minister in Karachi, Fazlur
Rehman, to adopt it. It
also caught the imagination of the Punjabi governor of East Pakistan,
Malik Feroz Khan Noon.
Thus started the equally
grotesque scheme of
writing Bengali in the
Arabic script and, in
1952, there were 21 centres doing this in East
Pakistan with central
education ministry funding. The East Pakistan
chief minister didn’t even
know that this was hap-
pening outside the primary school stream, which
was a provincial subject.
Writes Hassan Zaheer:
“Such was the insensitivity of the ruling party to
popular issues that the
East Pakistan Muslim
League Council also recommended Arabic as the
state language. This was
not acceptable even to
the West Pakistan intelligentsia.”
What happened to the
Muslim League in East
Pakistan in the years that
followed is history. But
even in its heyday, the
party was a fragmented
entity, part of it striving
to keep Bengal united,
which was highlighted
prime minister of undivided Bengal in 1946. Its
demise happened when it
tried to impose separate
medieval attempt at separating the nation on the
basis of religion with
which Shah had probably
The modern state separated religious morality
from ethic and legislated
on the basis of the latter.
What you do with the
demands of piety is not
the business of the state.
Any humane penal code
is the repository of ethic.
Only a religious state will
make its constitution
Pakistan’s does with
Protestantism in the 16th
century broke from the
Church of Rome because
it saw religiosity overriding the socially more
important requirement of
work ethic. You could
actually buy “spiritual
exemption” from the
Church of Rome. The ritual of Hajj does that job
for us; even a qawwali
can do it to some extent.
And a cricket team can
win approval by praying
in public and by doing
prostrations on the pitch.
Vinod Mehta, A Prince among journalists
By: Saeed Naqvi
inod Mehta would
have been flabbergasted.
expected such a turnout
at his funeral - the most
journalists, writers, cartoonists, artists, everybody except... well, in
that exception possibly
lay the secret of his success. The fixers and their
patrons were not there.
The attendance at the
Lodhi Road crematorium
is not the only outpouring. Newspapers, magazines, TV channels
across the country have
not stopped looking at
what now resembles a
void. Arnab Goswami
went to extraordinary
lengths to pay tribute to a
regular participant. The
Times Now channel was
kept open the whole
morning for phone-ins.
I cannot remember an
editor ever seen off with
so much adulation.
The area for independent
discourse shrank totally
after the collapse of the
Soviet Union. The tectonic event was marketed
not as the victory of freedom but of market
forces. Editors became
promoters of neo conservative economic policies.
Not so much under Atal
Bihari Vajpayee's NDA
as under Manmohan
Singh's UPA, a new triangle of power emerged.
Earlier, the editor was
part of New Delhi's
power structure. The new
triangle sidelined the editor. The triangle consist-
ed of India Inc. in
Mumbai, the US ambassador and the Prime
Minister's Office. Editors
Emergency. He came on
the scene after the event.
And later, when the neo
conservative ideal was
journalism by upholding
the classical, adversarial
attitude towards political
power and its nexus with
"vilayati" dhobi mark on
a certificate stand the
London-bound Indian in
good stead? The Kolkata
were reduced to fixers.
They were out of the
loop on major developments - unless they
became promoters of
these developments.
What made Vinod's
funeral special, wholesome and popular was
the absence of a category
most common people are
beginning to have a
diminishing respect for Big Business.
In some senses Vinod
lived a charmed life. He
escaped the dilemma of
being identified either on
this or that side of the
ordered to be carried on
Vinod cheerfully found
himself an outsider.
Every publication of his
upto the crowning glory
of Outlook, Vinod had
virtually built up brick by
brick, with his own
hands. There was no
India Inc, no media
tycoon to tower above
him. The glory and the
brickbats were all his.
Outlook was not his
means to power and
wealth. In fact it was
quite the opposite. It was
his means to enjoy his
corporate India.
Like many men of greatness, Vinod was quintessentially self made. His
average, middle class
family had not bestowed
too much on him. Armed
with a second class
senior Cambridge and a
third class BA from
Lucknow, he turned up in
The recycled Oxbridge
elite was running out of
cash by the 60s. For a
new crop of Indians,
some even from public
schools, London still
held promise. Would a
boy, unlike the Lucknow
Boy, found his spiritual
Hampstead, demonstrating their mastery over
English, despite the
brown tint. The Lucknow
boy of our narrative settled down in Surbiton,
Surrey in the company of
Pakistan who spoke
Doolittle and Enamul
Haq from Bangladesh,
always in a dark suit,
waiting for weekends
when the au pair girls
Leatherhead transformed
Vinod's house into a
night club.
No, London was not
working out well for
Vinod. In the deep inside
packet of his doublebreasted corduroy jacket
I once found a card
which I put back immediately. It was Vinod's
employee ID card for the
catering department of
the British Railways. I
didn't mention it to
Vinod. It was not the sort
of job he would like his
oldest school friend to
know anything about.
The weekend social
clubs were his emotional
outlet, but week days he
caught the train to
Waterloo, seeking journalists in the Fleet Street
pubs or pouring over
newspapers, desperately
dreaming a paper of his
own in India.
Journalism had come in
his grasp after so much
struggle, that he was constantly afflicted by a nagging insecurity - that he
may lose it. Once he was
at the Outlook office,
family, friend, party an
evening at the movies,
nothing would lure him
away from the grind. The
"parcha", as he called his
magazine, was what he
lived for. The sincerity of
his professionalism came
across to his readers, as it
became clear at the
That is why the Editor
we said good bye to last
week, deserved every bit
of affection from the profession to which he had
given his all, without
ever expecting a reward.