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Pakistan Press (07 Apr 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Case Study of Militancy in Swat By Mohammad Jamil: New Age Islam's Selection, 07 April 2018





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

07 April 2018

Case Study of Militancy In Swat

By Mohammad Jamil

KSA-Israel Rapprochement & Beyond

By Tariq Niaz Bhatti

Malala and APS

By Imran Khan

History’s Shackles

By Irfan Husain

Hail the Pakistani Woman

By Abbas Nasir

Changing Algorithm of Democracy

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Case Study of Militancy In Swat

By Mohammad Jamil

April 7, 2018

TODAY, people of Swat are living without trepidation and fear. One can see smile on their faces, which is result of the resilience of people of Swat and army’s contribution towards bringing peace in the region. All the schools that were destroyed and burnt by the militants have been reconstructed. Swatis’ businesses are flourishing today and tourism is increasing. Expressways are linking Swat with motorways, which helped the residents increase their incomes. In September, 2017, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa inaugurated the Army Public School and College at Kanju Garrison, Swat Cantt., and declared it as one of the best Army Public School in entire country. Not only people of Swat but people of all regions of Pakistan also remember that the Army stood by them when they faced natural calamities like floods and earthquakes, and man-made calamities like militancy and terrorism.

Many theses have been written by the researchers to examine the causes of extremism, militancy and terrorism in the world. One case study of militancy in Swat revealed inequalities and inaction in its foundation. Of course, people of the area had grievances against the system; and wished to see police and justice system independent of political influence, strong institutions, realization of local concerns and strong weapon control system. However, once the militancy had erupted, it was imperative to take clearheaded and timely decision to get rid of the spectre of terrorism. If the governments in Province and Centre had taken timely decision for military operation, big losses could have been avoided. Swat’s case should offer us a future path correction, if similar situation emerged elsewhere.

The objective was to identify the causes that led to militancy, and the measures suggested for avoiding recurrence of such phenomenon. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences had published treatise by Murad Ali, Professor of Development Studies University of Malakand, Pakistan under the title “Factors Responsible for the Rise of Militancy in Swat Underdevelopment or Ideology: Exploring the Undercurrents behind Religious Militancy in Swat, Pakistan.” The paper argued that the rise of militancy in the Swat Valley of Pakistan was the product of various factors, events and processes. It will be naïve to attribute escalation of religious insurgency in this once peaceful region to just one cause or factor. Issues such as underdevelopment or sense of deprivation coupled with lack of good governance and administrative reforms as well as ideological and political factors all played due role in exacerbation of situation.

There are various issues including ideological, constitutional, judicial, administrative and political factors that led to the escalation of religious extremism and militancy in the Swat Valley. The author summed up: “Along with ideological factors, lack of judicial reforms and bad governance were mainly the key causes that developed frustration among the people who were accustomed to a completely different mode of governance, judicial and administrative system during the era when Swat was a princely state.” The paper illustrated that it was an entirely different scenario after the end of the status of Swat as a princely state. New mode of governance, particularly the dispensation of rapid and reasonably inexpensive justice disappeared with the arrival of new judicial system, which was extremely cumbersome, slow and expensive. The author concluded that “the crisis was very much the result of bad governance as the situation was exacerbated by inefficient administration. Based on all this, it is wrong to hold underdevelopment or religion as the single and exclusive cause of militancy and extremism in the Swat region of Pakistan.”.

As a matter of fact, the problem was compounded by the apologists of Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah because whenever the security forces went into action against the militants with a view to establishing authority of the state, some political parties and leaders started crying hoarse that they were killing their own people. They held the view that the government should negotiate and conclude peace agreement with the militants. In July, 2008, Swat operation was re-launched. After February 18 elections, Awami National Party (ANP) formed the government in KPK (then NWFP), and signed a peace agreement with the Tehreek-i- Taliban, and even allowed Fazullah to enforce Sharea in the areas they held sway. But on the instructions of Baitullah Mehsud, militants wriggled out of the agreement. Once again, Pakistan Army and other security forces were in a state of war with the militants who in the past had been attacking their convoys, training camps and check posts.

After the national consensus was reached to eliminate terrorists, militants and enemies of Pakistan, there was a swing in the national mood. Tribal people that were earlier scared of the militants of Tehrik-i- Taliban Pakistan in Waziristan and people of Swat, terrorized and traumatized by Fazlullah’s thugs and his fighters, had picked up the courage knowing full well that army would support them. Of course, Mullah Fazlullah had a free hand to indoctrinate the people of Swat for years, and he carried out his campaign through illegal FM radio. The then NWFP government, instead of putting up a brave face, had buckled under his pressure to enforce his version of Sharia. Political leadership was also found wanting when Charsadda was attacked by the thugs, and leader of the ANP Asfandyar Wali left his abode to find a safe haven in the President House in Islamabad. On May 16, 2009, operation in Swat was initiated, and within months paradise was regained.

Source: pakobserver.net/case-study-of-militancy-in-swat/


KSA-Israel Rapprochement & Beyond

By Tariq Niaz Bhatti

April 7, 2018

SAUDI Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in an interview, published in Atlantic, talked about recognition of Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospects of diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. His vision indicates a major shift in Saudi thinking, and those of Israel’s immediate neighbours in the Middle East (ME). This interview has come in the wake of rapidly evolving geopolitics of the region. Lifting of UN sanctions against Iran in 2015, ongoing war in Syria, instability in Iraq, widening Shia-Sunni divide, unrelenting extremism and growing economic and military cooperation between Iran and Russia seems to have worked towards this mega change.

Ben Gurion concept of “Operant Conditioning” of hostile Arab neighbours remained a key to subsiding the existential threat to the Jewish state since its inception. Upon creation, Israel needed manpower and weapons. Defunct Soviet Union took this chance to create a friendly state in the ME by allowing massive immigration of Jews from its buffer states and funnelled much needed arms for its immediate defensive needs. Following Truman Doctrine, US helped Israel grow as its watchman in the ME effectively restricting the Soviet Union influence to Syria only. Israel fought three major wars with its neighbours and added much needed space like entire West Bank to its territory. It managed the internal uprising of the Palestinians using brute force with the unswerving support of US. Today most of its neighbours have accepted its right to exist.

Post 1979 Iran stands opposed to US presence in the Gulf and existence of Jewish State. Under new regime, Iran’s animosity with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is multilayered involving political and religious issues like custodianship of two holy mosques and enforcement cum export of Wahhabism in the region. Repression of Shia majority population in Bahrain on the behest of KSA is another contentious issue. Israel consider Iran an existential threat due to its support to proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Alevite Shia minority government of Syria. Israel considers Iran’s nuclear and missile program specifically aimed against it. Prince Mohamad views as shared in his interview points towards Iran as regional bully trying to undo the regional peace with global implications. Prince Mohammad perceptions of Iran has brought both KSA and Israel on a common platform of resisting the regional hegemony under the auspices of the US In the growing thaw in KSA-Israel relations, the US will have an additional benefit of checkmating the expanding influence of Russia, a revisionist power in US perception, in the region.

KSA and Iran animosity has religious overtones too. Wahhabism v/s Shia theocracy has over the years infected most of the poor Muslim states of the region specially Pakistan. Religious extremism facilitated most violent clashes between the opposing ideologies in and outside the region. Pakistan own war against the religious extremism is more than two decades old. Foreign ideologies and sponsorship both official and private has turned the country into a battlefield. Pakistan’s Operant conditioning of extremists is ongoing and the effort to cleanse the country is extracting a heavy toll on men and material. Moreover, Pakistan has also dispatched 1000 troops to KSA for training and advisory missions as part of bilateral security pact. Their overall size and future employment in defending KSA against Yemeni incursion is not clear.

Prince Mohammad vision of the region points towards a fresh realignment in the regional geopolitics. Emerging KSA-Israel rapprochement with most likely delayed settlement of Palestinian issue, will pose serious challenges to the entire region and Pak-KSA relations. This has brought India in the loop as is evident from KSA allowing Indian Airlines planes to overfly its airspace to connect with Tel Aviv. Indian Premier Modi visit to KSA in April 2016 saw major bilateral economic breakthroughs. Viewing the Indo-Israeli cooperation both in economic and defence fields, the recent alignment will further strengthen the India’s economic involvement in the ME region and may dwarf the Pakistan’s solitary military cooperation with KSA by a wide margin. Violent struggle between Wahhabism and Shia theocracy is going to widen in the years to come.

Pakistan will continue to be its most favoured battlefield due to its poor economic performance, exploding population, massive illiteracy and lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Under Israeli advisors and trainers, India has changed tactics to suppress the Kashmiri freedom struggle by using weapons like pallet guns and talks of cross border surgical strikes. This change of tactics bears an Israeli footprint as was extensively employed by Israelis against the Palestinian protesters within Israel and across border. In the wake of emerging realities Pakistan need to reconsider its foreign policy initiatives in the ME keeping its national interests foremost. Towards this, economic revival under able economic managers will be the first stepping stone.

Source: pakobserver.net/ksa-israel-rapprochement-beyond/


Malala and APS

By Imran Khan

April 7, 2018

Malala came back, and so did her haters. Scanning through any Facebook post on Malala’s injury or achievements, one could see the irreverent ‘laugh’ or ‘angry’ emoticons taking over the ‘like’, ‘sad’ or ‘love’ emoticons. A cursory glance at the profiles of this lot revealed quite a diversified group when it came to appearances.

What united them, however, was their penchant for coming up with ridiculous conspiracy theories to discredit Malala. While they have failed on every account, the only success they have had so far is to disprove Malala’s faith in education as the cure for hate and intolerance. On that front, the educated among this lot disprove Malala with their mere existence.

This hate for Malala lies in our pre-APS narrative on terrorism, where the Taliban were portrayed as ‘our people’ fighting us because we were a part of     ‘Amreeka ki jung’ (US’s war on terror). These were the days when Imran Khan would assure us that the Taliban would disarm as soon as we disassociated ourselves from that war. Similarly, Shahbaz Sharif was reminding the TTP of common foes and, in doing so, making a case for them to spare Punjab. The only solution proposed by this lot was to conduct ‘Mazakrat’ (negotiations) with the Taliban.

The attack on Malala challenged the narrative of this Muzakrat group of political parties. A helpless 15-year-old girl was shot point blank and the TTP was proudly taking the responsibility for it. She was not attacked because she supported drones nor was she a politician allied with the US. All she wanted was an education. In that, she was the dream child of every parent across Pakistan. Introspection at the national level would have been a natural consequence, probably resulting in calls for a reprisal against the TTP. But then the negotiations narrative was at stake and that was to be the vote-winner for the 2013 elections. And out came its defenders with conspiracy theories and slander campaigns.

We have come a long way since those days. Ever since the group of parties that wanted negotiations won the 2013 elections, Malala has been vindicated over and over again. She was vindicated when the PML-N, PTI, JI and JUI-F, agreed to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the TTP. Malala’s 2011 insistence on the need to punish Fazlullah was a timely warning, well ahead of Fazlullah’s massacre of the APS children in 2014. Malala’s 2011 plea against the high-handedness in the Swat operation is presently being echoed by thousands in Fata. Today, most Malala-haters would agree with what she stood up for in 2011. Yet, their selective amnesia compels them to still call her a drama and question her achievements.

To understand Malala’s achievements, one has to understand the concept of ‘common good’. The term refers to interests that are shared by everyone in society, whether it is the freedom of speech, religion or, for that matter, the freedom to acquire an education. It is the adhesive that holds society together, as these common interests represent overlapping incentives. A contribution to the common good could be volunteering to clean up areas of one’s city, or in the case of Malala, taking a bullet for one’s right to be educated.

If you are someone who thinks that education is a waste of time, then you are absolutely right about Malala; she has not contributed much. If you are a parent who thinks that education is important for your children, imagine how much their education means to you. What would you do if a band of armed thugs stopped your children from going to school? Would you encourage them to speak openly for their rights at the risk of their lives? Would you have the courage to speak up?

If you were an adult Pakistani back in 2012, it is very likely that you chose to remain silent, mostly because of fear. There is no shame in admitting that, but then it is shameful to not recognise the courage shown by Malala and her parents when they chose to speak out against the menace that the Taliban had become in Swat. They did not do this only for themselves, as they too had the option of remaining silent like the rest. Instead, Malala, backed by her parents, took a bullet for the common good. She took a bullet so that young girls were not forced to stop pursuing their education. Malala took a bullet to highlight the danger that children like Waleed Khan faced for their ‘crime’ of going to school.

We recognise and appreciate displays of courage, especially when done for the common good. Malala’s global recognition was not for her intelligence or the severity of her injury, but for her bravery. It is indeed bewildering that many of those who, back then, didn’t even let out a whimper out of fear of the Taliban, now fail to understand what makes Malala special.

Malala-haters need to resolve their internal contradictions. A prerequisite for mourning the APS massacre would be apologising to Malala. That is because her ‘drama’ warned us about the dangers the likes of Fazlullah posed. The TTP claimed responsibility for not only the APS massacre but also the attack on Malala. Do Malala-haters imply that both those incidents were ‘dramas’? That would be one way to resolve the problem of inconsistency here. The other would be to accept the fact that those were attacks on our children – children who paid the price for the follies and fearfulness of their elders.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/301482-malala-and-aps


History’s Shackles

By Irfan Husain

April 07, 2018

STATES can choose their friends, but not their neighbours. In an existential sense, geography is destiny.

But while we can’t change our neighbourhood, we can at least try and make it less dangerous. Located in an area that has witnessed invasions and massacres without end, we are at one of the world’s deadliest focal points of conflict and human ambition. However, if we allow ourselves to become prisoners of history, we can never get out of the hole we have dug for ourselves.

When we started out with a clean slate in 1947, our early leaders looked to the West for help in facing the perceived threat from India. Despite all the criticism levelled at them for signing up to anti-communist pacts like Seato and Cento, the fact is that at the time, only the United States had the cash and the equipment to arm the newly formed Pakistan Army.

Also, many of our founding fathers had received their higher education in England, and had a pro-West bias. Indeed, Jinnah is on record as promising to provide our ex-colonial masters with bases in return for support for the creation of Pakistan.

American hardware supplies in the mid-1950s gave us a misplaced sense of military superiority, and our position on Kashmir hardened into rigid anti-India dogma. I recall my two-month attachment with a Punjab infantry battalion as a fresh civil servant in the late 1960s. When I mentioned the Indian army’s preponderance in numbers to the commanding officer, he answered in all seriousness that one Muslim soldier was equal to five Hindus.

And this despite the 1971 war, and the Kargil misadventure which was yet another reminder that the small guy doesn’t always win. A friend recounted a recent chance encounter with a serving brigadier in which he brought up the subject of the growing military and economic imbalance between India and Pakistan. The army officer replied heatedly: “We will embrace martyrdom if necessary! We will never surrender!”

The point of this historical detour is to suggest that we had options other than the path of confrontation with our huge eastern neighbour. Until the mid-1970s, ‘parity’ was the official mantra in our Foreign Office as our diplomats demanded equal treatment with India.

Now, of course, we watch major statesmen and industrialists visit India while skipping Pakistan. Even friends and allies like China and Saudi Arabia no longer mention the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir, and urge us to negotiate directly with India instead.

As the gap between the two neighbours grows, we appear to have made things more difficult for ourselves. By refusing to open up trade with India, we have restricted our economy’s potential. For all his faults, Nawaz Sharif saw the flaws of our current India policy, and tried to improve relations. His opponents have used this as a stick to beat him with.

We need to realise that Kashmir will not be handed over to us on a platter. One can also question whether many of the protesters rebelling against the Indian yoke are doing so in order to join Pakistan; their demand is for azadi.

It is a reality that India will continue to move ahead in both military and economic terms. And the links between Washington and New Delhi will become closer, no matter who is the president of the United States is. For them, India is too important a market to ignore, and is the only country in the region that can counter the growing Chinese clout.

Add to this factor Kabul’s growing dependence on India for help to build up its infrastructure, as well as for military training. Given Pakistan’s ability and willingness to halt overland trade as a political lever, more and more goods will reach Afghanistan via Iran.

With Iran, our relations have worsened over time due to our siding with Saudi Arabia in the Shia-Sunni conflict. There was a time when Iran was one of Pakistan’s closest friends and allies, but short-sighted policies and the desire to be on the right side of Riyadh have alienated Tehran.

As we grow more isolated, the chances of improved ties with India have grown ever more remote. Over the last decade, attitudes towards Pakistan in New Delhi have hardened; and we have delayed action against militant groups that have committed acts of terrorism in India.

So here we are, impoverished, alone and insecure in a hostile region. Our military needs increasing funds to fight the monsters created to further our regional agenda. If we want to emerge from this dead end, we will have to cast off the shackles of history.

Sourcea: dawn.com/news/1400111/historys-shackles


Hail the Pakistani Woman

By Abbas Nasir

April 07, 2018

IT is indeed a huge tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Pakistani woman that we continue to see her survive and thrive as an individual and a professional, given the obstacles in her path.

Just read a report this newspaper carried last Wednesday, which was accompanied by a photograph of the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar snapped with three stewardesses on board a PIA plane. The news item reported on a ‘light-hearted’ conversation between the chief justice and senior counsel Naeem Bokhari, who was appearing before him in the Supreme Court. Predictably, this exchange had to do with the chief justice being photographed with three women.

Mr Bokhari mock-threatened to lodge a complaint against the chief justice on account of the photo and the honourable chief justice said the counsel appeared to be jealous. The matter was settled when the chief justice explained that he could not say no when the stewardesses, who were like his daughters, asked for a photo. Naeem Bokhari agreed.

When I tweeted my unease that such an unnecessary conversation took place at all in this day and age, there were a number of ‘C’mon, be a sport’ type of responses. Believe me, I am a big sport and have no issues with light-hearted banter but does it have to focus on women as an object? How many jokes do we tell where roles are reversed? Not many, even for the biggest ‘sport’ among us, must be the honest answer. That lies at the core of the issue.

When the PML-N has given hundreds of reasons to its opponents to take it to task, what does the brightest new entrant in PTI ranks do? Amir Liaquat Hussain’s timeline on Twitter will let you see the precise words he used to attack Maryam Nawaz. Words that can’t be reproduced here. And, no, I don’t agree with those who say this is karma, while mentioning the then Nawaz Sharif-led opposition’s malicious personal attacks on PPP leaders Benazir Bhutto and Begum Nusrat Bhutto in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

What is wrong is wrong at any point in time and regardless of who the perpetrator is and who is/was being targeted. One need not be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Equally, despite his often self-righteous indignation at one and all, it is extremely repugnant to target Imran Khan’s spouse whatever the compelling (self-serving) reason advanced as some have recently.

Those in positions of power and authority need to set an example by treating women on a par with men, along with the need for a sensitisation programme involving the media to drive home the message.

The armed forces parade this last March 23 was another example where the commentator, demonstrably with the best of intentions, mentioned the women’s contingent as being ‘our mothers, sister, daughters’.

Again when someone objected to this on social media and drew criticism for always seeing things in a ‘negative’ light, someone else asked how many times have the all-male contingents taking part been bracketed as fathers, brothers and sons.

Why bracket women as such when men are not? Admittedly, the armed forces have taken a hugely positive decision to induct women in roles as varied as communications specialists to fighter pilots; it should be drummed in though that they are soldiers doing a job as are men.

When you still hear in the media major male players in all fields using phrases such as ‘crying like women’ how can attitudes change elsewhere when opinion moulders are so unaware of what is acceptable and what is not.

Earlier this week in these very pages, Asad Hashim clinically dissected the misogyny and other factors leading to some of the nastiest comments on Malala Yousafzai, one of Pakistan’s proudest daughters ever since she survived a Taliban bullet to her head and went on to earn global acclaim for being an iconic symbol of women’s right to education and equality.

A similar diatribe has been hurled at the late Asma Jahangir, a giant of a woman and an indefatigable torch-bearer for our fundamental rights. Frankly, I know no man who faced so much malice and slander with such fortitude for merely vowing to safeguard our collective freedoms and liberty.

Allow me to say that not just indiscretions by men but even their crimes are often papered over because they are men while lies are invented to mock women and deny them their hard-fought and well-earned place in their professions and in society at large.

It is indeed incredible that despite such bias, that so many of us aren’t even aware is so deeply ingrained and that we display at the drop of a hat, Pakistan has had a woman prime minister, speaker of parliament, leaders of opposition in both houses, generals in the military (even if so far only belonging to the Medical Corps), surgeons, professors, scholars, editors just to mention some in merely one breath.

Women have excelled in more areas as professionals than I can count. Yes, you could argue that most falling in this category largely come from privileged backgrounds. But let me ask you if you are aware of what contribution the unpaid woman makes to our agricultural output as she works alongside men in the fields?

As the pre-election battle heats up, would it be asking for the moon to expect all contesting political parties to sign up to a code where isolating women and attacking them is seen as repugnant and against the norms?

And this code must extend beyond the elections. After all, to progress we cannot continue to maintain the status quo. In any democratic order, equality must be the norm and discrimination of any kind should be frowned upon as unacceptable.

Source: dawn.com/news/1400109/hail-the-pakistani-woman


Changing Algorithm of Democracy

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

April 5, 2018

Is democracy around the world perishing before our eyes? Is it the point where the narrator’s voice in dulcet tones marks the end of freedom as a reality? Is it that time when free choice becomes all but an illusion for our kind? These questions are of critical import in the age of growing infestation of strongmen and borderline authoritarian demagogues. Two shocking developments in recent weeks are already hinting heavily in favour of such a possibility. If you failed to notice them, you need to pay more attention to these lines for whether you appreciate or not they have a lot to do with your lives, your country and your future.

These questions are also important because they pertain to the changing nature of our societies owing to technological breakthroughs. And while in the following lines I will try to limit myself to a cursory glance at the technological advancements, make no mistakes, we are firmly on the turf of those I call prophets of science and you know them as science fiction writers like Asimov, Philip K Dick and why, even Orwell.

When Karl Popper wrote Open Society and Its Enemies he certainly wasn’t thinking of Cambridge Analytica or Sinclair Broadcast Group. Popper died in 1992, in the infant years of the public internet. Likewise, when Nobel laureate Milton Friedman penned his acclaimed book Free to Choose he had no means to foresee how personal data generated on Facebook or other social media apps would compromise the very personal freedoms they professed to represent. He died in 2006 when Facebook was learning to crawl.

On 16th March, Facebook announced it was suspending the accounts of Cambridge Analytica (CA), a London-based firm meant to “to deliver data-driven behavioral change”. The move was intended to preempt the damage done by a New York Times report claiming that despite its pledge otherwise CA had retained private data of some 50 million US citizens obtained through a 3rd party app ‘thisisyourdigitallife’ developed by Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan. CA is accused of generating psychographs predicting the choice patterns of each individual and then generating targeted Facebook ads for the Trump campaign which exploited his/her personal fears, likes and dislikes and ensured Trump victory in 2016. But this is not the end of it all.

In a 5-part series of exposes aptly titled ‘Data, democracy and dirty tricks’ British Channel-4 revealed the true extent of CA’s nefarious activities. The undercover reporting is available online (https://www.channel4.com/news/data-democracy-and-dirty-tricks-cambridge-analytica-uncovered-investigation-expose) and I absolutely insist you watch the small video clips made available. Using a free range of dirty tricks (data harvesting being a small part of them) the company’s various office-bearers claim to have influenced various elections around the world from Africa to India.

The second shock came when a video cleverly edited by sports news site Deadspin (https://theconcourse.deadspin.com/how-americas-largest-local-tv-owner-turned-its-news-anc-1824233490) revealed how dozens of TV anchors belonging to America’s largest network of local stations Sinclair Broadcast Group were made to read the same scripted editorial verbatim as their own opinion. The ostensible purpose of this piece-to-camera was to discredit Trump’s critics in media as ‘fake news’. It is Sinclair which is credited to help Trump win the 2016 election by passing his campaign generated content as news. The overall impact of the Deadspin video is quite chilling. Here is the largest network of US local stations which currently owns 192 outlets and may soon increase that number to 233 using its on-air talent to brainwash its conservative audience. Such attempts to curb and undermine free flow of ideas and information were quite visible elsewhere in the world simultaneously. Malaysia recently passed a law to punish ‘fake news’.

The Indian government very nearly passed a similar order seeking to punish journalists found guilty of spreading ‘fake news’, which was hurriedly withdrawn after a media backlash. Who gets to decide which news report is fake and which is not in these countries would reveal the true purpose of such misguided efforts. We are seeing the partisan political elite of these countries leading the efforts to curb dissent.

The story of Cambridge Analytica, the company acquired by Robert Mercer, a billionaire backer of both Trump campaign and alt-right news website Breitbart News, when viewed together with that of Sinclair reveals the perils to democracy right now. Add to it the controversies surrounding online platforms like Facebook (which incidentally also owns Instagram & WhatsApp), Google (also owns YouTube & operating system of most of your smartphones), Amazon and Apple and you start believing that there is no hope left for democracy. These companies have become a critical part of your lives and the information you gift them for free can be used to influence your choices. And with traditional media outlets like Sinclair joining the fray, can you be sure that your own country’s networks are not silently being bought by the same interests?

In his celebrated book Political Order and Political Decay, Francis Fukuyama introduces a term called repatrimonialisation, representing the ascendency of lobbyists, special interest groups and big business that leads to political decay or deinstitutionalisation. Now such groups have new tools to exploit. In his work Thank You for Being Late, Thomas Friedman highlights the significance of year 2007 when iPhone was launched, Twitter grew, Airbnb was born. Using Moore’s Law, which states processing capacity of microchips will double every two years he shows how this revolution will affect our lives. An incorrigible optimist, Friedman sees great hope in these technologies and the future of human civilisation.

The truth is we still have to see if it all will lead to a crash of democracy and the civilisation. If an enduring pushback against the above-mentioned totalitarian tendencies emerges democracy may prove to be what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls antifragile or the things that gain from disorder. But for now there is a clear and present danger to democracy. If you want to know how things can unfold you need to read first chapter of Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark.

For a nascent democracy like Pakistan the challenges are only piling. The trouble is that democracy has left the realm of political science and has become an inextricable part of the world of algorithms. But since we lack in basic understanding of technology, our elite refuses to partake in what Stephen Covey once called sharpening the saw future of democracy here looks bleak. The elite here somehow believes that acquiring a degree from a prestigious institution ends their quest for knowledge. This ludic fallacy can lead to great disruption. Malcolm Turnbull of CA after all claimed that elections are won on emotions not on logic. Companies like CA are pretty adept at exploiting emotions and our polity has known only emotions in the past decade.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1677506/6-changing-algorithm-democracy/


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