Thursday, February 9, 2012

Duckworth-Lewis makes no sense

We should read the paper, and discuss it. The method can be improved and made more relevant to cricket. We can incorporate team and player rankings, so that they actually matter.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bankruptcy 2012!


Bring it on, I say, bring it on! Had to happen some time. Let's just hope everybody stays on course. 

Impossible, of course. This will all blow over, and in a few weeks Kayani and Hillary will sit over a pint and laugh about all this silliness...


Always pictured chief of army as a Scotch guy. Neat.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Here's one..

So I was thinking about what's probably been going on in our power structure since the NATO attack last night. Two things I can think off. Zardari is probably dancing from one end of the Presidency to the other in celebration because of the spot the whole situation puts Kayani in. Kayani has most probably had to change underwear... several times during the day.

Its really no secret that Kayani is probably the least popular Chief since Yahya Khan. The Americans seem to think that since he's their boy, the army is all under control. However, if they're not careful, their boy may soon find himself the target of a coup within the army. Alternatively, he might find the pressure too much and do the one thing Army chiefs do best in desperate times - take over. He might actually go into cornered tiger mode and decide one sure way to regain popularity is to dispose of Zardari! I mean, putting up with him for so long has to pay off eventually, and the whole country will actually celebrate.

Of course, I'm getting way ahead of myself. There's a long way to go till any of this happens. But if these stupid Americans keep turning up the heat like this, something unexpected might actually give.

I don't think the country will celebrate if Zardari is removed via coup... there seems to be a lot of excitement in democratic politics in Pakistan. People do want to see whether PTI can come into power or not. If the army takes over now, they'll rob the people of a good show. And we won't stand for that!

So Kayani won't replace Zardari... he's on the way out. (Might encourage rigging, bring Zardari back into power, enraging people, then declare democracy dead, and then a coup? How's that for a conspiracy?)

I didn't know people expected Kayani or the military to stand up to the Americans. When has the military ever done that? Where is this sense of disappointment vis-a-vis army-doing-what-America-wants coming from? Were expectations different? If there should be any resentment/disappointment, it should be towards the civilian government. So, why is Kayani under any pressure?

An internal coup can only come as America is preparing to leave, and since they're not going anywhere till 2015, Kayani will be just fine. I think that any general replacing Kayani via force will have to promise a different approach to Kayani's path. And frankly, they can't. So... why step into Mr. Kayani's shoes? Now, if the American war was winding down in northwest Pakistan, a new general can emerge as a saviour to replace both Kayani and the civilian government. For now, the timing doesn't work.

All this raises a question in my mind... Who is the public more pissed at for the war in the northwest - the army or the civilian government?

I think you're right about the PTI factor. I'd say that's the one safety valve on the entire situation - the idea that the government is on the way out anyway. But there does seem to be a showdown brewing, probably to keep the heat up and ensure that elections come sooner rather than later. But as I say, its a delicate balancing act. If something happens that's drastic enough for people to not even tolerate another year of this government, something might happen. Unlikely, sure, but every time the Americans go cowboy in Pakistan, or try to play hardball, that increases the chances.

Another factor that's interesting is that it seems the US are moving away from their support of Zardari (probably because of his ineptitude). That means they deal directly with the army, and the competition is eased somewhat. I had something in mind about this when I started this paragraph which I can't remember now... I'll come back to it.

With regards to expecting the army to stand up to the Americans, that's never happened. But then, nobody ever felt the need for that to happen before this war. People take a lot of pride in their army and expect it to put up a fight at least when it is directly challenged (if not when the US takes out Pakistani civilians). And behind this perception is the carefully crafted legend of the Pakistani military. Ironically, the army in Pakistan has always been much more concerned with its image than the politicians - and they have the means to ensure this image stays relatively untarnished, by hook or crook. As a result people hold much higher expectations from the army than from the civilian government. This, incidentally, is why they are able to hold on to power much longer than any civilian party.

The army has always tried to portray itself as the benevolent hand that keeps the country afloat while the politicians loot and bicker. So expectations from the civilian government are low anyway. They'll be blamed for most of the day-to-day screw ups, but when something hits this close to the domain of the army, then people don't expect the government to have any involvement in it.

And this is just from the civilian population. Much greater pressure is going to come from within the army. Military personnel naturally have an even lower opinion of the government and a higher expectations from their leadership. A Chief that bends easily to the whims of the government has little respect. A Chief that has no ability to protect the soldiery has even less respect. Plus, it's no secret that this whole war was highly unpopular within the army when it began and its popularity has only plummeted ever since. So, if Kayani is seen as a stooge forcing his soldiers into America's war, tolerating Zardari's antics, and not standing up for his subordinates, he loses a lot of respect... and consequently control. Losses that may need to be made up for with a drastic measure that shows that he is in control of the situation.

If he doesn't take such drastic steps (which I think he is trying to with this whole drama over the helicopter raid) he risks elements within the army challenging his authority. This has never happened in the Pakistani Army, but given the right amount of pressure, who knows! You're right about the fact that Americans sitting next door is a huge deterrent to any such adventurism, but where once it was beyond the realm of possibility now it is remotely possible. And as Morgran Freeman said... Time and Pressure.. that's all it takes!

Bear in mind, the kind of coup I am talking about is not a power-play, to take over the country. This is going to be someone who feels the country needs to be saved. Also bear in mind, from the public perspective, Martial Law starts looking much more attractive the longer a civilian government screws up. Just as Ijaz Butt managed to completely exonerate Naseem Ashraf, so has Zardari played his part in reminding people of the good old times of Pervez Musharraf. Of course, the memory is still not distant enough to be completely whitewashed, but a few more years perhaps...

With regards to blame. People should be blaming the army. It was Musharraf that started this whole fiasco. Actually, they blame both, but the question then comes to who is to get the lion's share. There, I think whoever is seen as the bigger lackey of the US wins. Here again, the army's game of not openly wagging their tails and following the Americans serves them well. As do all the complaints from the US about the Pakistan army not cooperating completely with NATO forces. As a result, Zardari and co. look like the traitors who force the army's hand.

Of course there's a flip-side to all this. The whole pro-war group. But I think their numbers are slowly dwindling down.

We said short posts, right?

Yes, we said short posts. Good job. 

How do you like this color coding scheme? Also, I found a website that tells me if a webpage updates... I've set it to my main blog page. Seems to be working. By the way... how are your skills in Java?

I do think PTI's impact is that we will have an election. If there is a coup, elections will be held shortly. People will only tolerate a coup when they've lost all hope. Even if everyone's not ready to back Imran Khan, he is a serious candidate and represents hope and change and everything nice. 

That said... army's best play might just be to remove Zardari, hasten elections, and redeem yourself. At this point, there is nothing more noble you can do than remove Zardari from office. If they delay elections, people (led by PTI) will come to the streets. 

There was a whole pro-war group? 


Okay, I've changed the colour scheme again. Your colours were too bright. Feel free to try new ones though. And my Java skills are nonexistent. Never did Java.

So yes, I think we've come to a final verdict on this one. The PTI factor deters the coming of a serious martial law. American pressure on the army increases the chances of a coup. However, if a coup does take place, in the current climate, it will have to give way to an election very soon.

And to answer your question. Yes, of course. There still is a fairly large pro-war group. About five to six years ago, there were no two ways about it. Pretty much everyone was pro-war. Imran Khan was going around saying this is a mistake, and people such as myself were shaking their heads and saying. "O Imran, you poor fool!"

To be fair I sort of remember you were anti-war at that point as well. So basically it was just you and Imran Khan. 

And then the military operations stepped up, and there was blowback in our cities. Then we all took the American route and started saying these bloody Taliban are enemies of civilisation and about to take over the country, they must be exterminated. And of course everybody anti-war was immediately labelled a terrorist sympathiser and a danger to the country. 

These days only die-hard "liberals" (as they like to call themselves for some inexplicable reason) are still enthusiastic about "fighting extremism" (again, whatever that means!)  and the forces of darkness for the sake of our future. These people are to be found writing for the New York Times in Pakistan, which you may know as the Express Tribune. Some of them are on Dawn or Pakistan Today. Basically, the very English English dailies. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A little bit of Politics is all I need...

I'm a little disturbed by your recent idealistic reverence of Imran Khan.

To be completely honest, so am I. I've been reassessing it since the day after the jalsa - what with the recent flow of turncoat politicians into the PTI and with his spokesman for Religious Affairs allegedly showing up at Jamaat ud Dawa rallies. But I'm sitting waiting for it to all make sense some time in the near future.

So, I wrote off Imran Khan as an idealist and basically an idiot for most of the time he's been in politics. This went on up until a few years ago, when, while trying to analyse why Pakistanis are inherently so aggressive and confrontational, I came to the conclusion it was because there was a lack of basic social justice in our society. Then I started looking around and realised that this was at the heart of a wide range of our other problems as well - Social, Political, Economic... the whole gamut. And that's when it hit me - Imran Khan's being saying this for 12 years. So that's when I started listening to what he was saying.

Around that time, I also read this book called Flight of the Falcon by Sajjad Haider who was a PAF pilot during 1965 and 1971, and I realised how spectacularly the various governments have been screwing up over the years. Quite apart from the history in that book what was even more interesting was what he wrote in the epilogue. Basically talking about Asghar Khan, he said the problems with Pakistan were the faults of it citizens because there were always honest people around, but nobody ever voted for them. So I started thinking about honest politicians in our time... guess who came to mind!

I think the root of all evil in Pakistan lies in an obsession with money and power and the ensuing corruption. This needs to be tackled head on, without pussyfooting around the issue. A lot of good people went into the PPP as well, thinking that it was okay to give the devil his due if the overall good was being achieved. But it doesnt work like that. Pretty soon, they found themselves either having to leave or having to justify the outrageously immoral. The system starts changing them and incorporating them into itself. This is the part that's worrying me now. So far, Imran Khan had been trying not to compromise on this issue. Recently, it seems he might be considering selling out a little bit, probably hoping he can still keep a handle on things. Let's see how that works out for him.

I know there are issues with him and I'm not sure I agree with his strategy, but I think he'll give it all he's got. And although a lot of our issues are complex ones without simple answers, I think a greater number are not too complex and simply require someone with the determination to take them on. I think he could be the one to do that. One thing I've learnt so far is that obsessives generally trump prodigies. Remember Gattaca?

I could go on and on and on... as you well know... perhaps you could highlight what exactly it is that's troubling you.


How do you know he'll deliver? I'm not saying he's dishonest, and I understand that he's hit the button on the nose (social injustice) and has been on the money for quite some time now. But at this time, I am willing to cast my vote for Imran as a protest vote against the establishment parties. I don't see how I or anyone else can go beyond that.

Yes, he is leading the country to the right discussion against corruption, but how do you take the next step? Faith? He has no policy or any vision in place beyond winning the election. You seem to be ignoring all that.

On a side note, here's an idea for Imran Khan. He should declare all his and his immediate family's personal assets and sources of income before taking power. He should make a show of being audited by an independent accounting firm, and for every year he remains in power. A statement of transparency. And he should require every PTI MP to do the same. Let's see how many of the old guard join. (I'm sure they will find a way around, but that's where an auditor can step in and stake their reputation when giving a clean bill to an MP.)

Question is... if he hears of this idea, do you think he will consider it?


Well, I am very worried by the fact that there is no detailed plan yet. I'm hoping that it will be presented at some point before the election, once he's got the team he wants. Bear in mind, among the controversial entries there is an influx of people who previously didn't want to waste their time with a lost cause.

And when I say plans, or policies, I'm not talking about anti-corruption measures. I think that's going to be a very slow process that is essentially going to flow from having an honest man at the top, who is not immersed in moneymaking himself. I'm worried about security policy, economic policy etc etc.

Like you said, even in a worst case scenario Imran Khan is still the best option in a bad lot.

As for your idea. The Election Commission is supposed to be doing just that. And actually does. Imran Khan has been arguing for it to be made an autonomous body for a long time. His assets, that he declared to them before he contested the last election, are already doing the rounds and are already the subject of some controversy as well.

I think he's already playing around with a similar idea. The trouble is, I don't really understand what he's playing at at the moment. Obviously a lot many of the old guard would never join a party that was so anal about their finances. And, of course, creating the perception that you're going to win is half the battle. So one can only hope he's hoping to hit that critical mass before he starts pruning his party.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amin should go to business school, not graduate school.

An MBA is not a walk in the park. You will learn hard technical skills in Economics, Finance, and Business that a graduate degree in Economics will not teach you. Learning abstract ideas in mathematical language is not going to make you smarter, just less prepared for what you want to achieve.

Also, if you think you should not work for someone else but start your own business, then you need business school. If you choose not to start your own business but work for someone else, you will have less trouble finding a job that you like.

You might enjoy the two years of graduate school in terms of curriculum and your aptitude, but after you leave the confines of the academic world, life in the real world will be less fulfilling.


I didn't realise this was an ambush! I was thinking more along the lines of an Argument Clinic scenario.

However, since you bring up the point. I have no illusions as to the MBA being easy- I'm sure it's a spectacularly challenging experience. But the issue is about what I want to achieve. The more I think about it, the more attractive a life in academia seems. I think it would suit me. I like living a relaxed life, spending my time thinking and learning rather than running around dealing with real world problems. Plus I think I'd enjoy teaching.

Of course, if at any point I realise things arent working out, and that I dont have what it takes to make it in the world of academia - a strong possibility, I must confess - I can always shift gears, put on a suit and jump into the fast lane and apply for an MBA. 30 is the cutoff date for that plan. But I have to give plan A a serious shot first!

And make me an admin on this so I can edit your posts.


You always went for the "Shoot the Moon" option, didn't you?
Fact is... academia is exceptionally hard to get into. Are you planning to teach in the US, Canada, UK or Pakistan?


Well, I always idealized it, didn't go for it, and regretted not going for it. That's the pattern so far, lets see if we can change that.
And you know I'm going to have to end up in Pakistan.

Having a dream is great. In fact, that's what you should have. But I think you're idealizing the wrong field. Combine your passion for academia and civic responsibility and go the way of BK and UCL. Open Pakistan's first truly prep school.

Get a master's and/or a Ph.D. in Education/Teaching/School Administration/Public Administration, and then start your own school. Running a school would be better than toiling away in academia in several ways - first, you'll find it satisfying to run a program that focuses on building ethical leaders for tomorrow. You can indoctrinate students with some patriotism, ethics, morals, civic responsibility, etc. Second, you get to run a business in Lahore and make some money. In Pakistan, its a foolproof business.

P.S. I'm liking this system of discussion less and less. I want something that notifies my that you've updated the post.  Like Google Docs. But I want it as a blog that we can post online.


You shut up. You try to confuse! (Remember kickdog?)

Well, that's MBA out anyway. At the moment I'm just going to get my diploma, get my academic record up and then think again about what I'm going to do. I thought Economics was a safer option considering my lack of entrepreneurial skills. These degrees youre mentioning seem much more risky in terms of jobs. But I'll start thinking about it once I'm done with my diploma.

I understand what you're saying about the format. One thing we can do it switch it around? Put the reply on top? And look into the options on the blog. Maybe there are notifications we can enable?