Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Asghar Khan Case and the Campaign Funding

The decision (the Decision) in the Asghar Khan's case is a welcome one. Without going into the moral and legal implications of the decision, I would like to consider this an opportune time to open a debate on the public and private funding to the political parties.

The Spending Limits

Presently, the legal provisions on this area are contained in section 48 of the Representation of People Act, 1976. This section limits the election spending to one million for a provincial and, one and half million for a national constituency.

For starters these limits are unrealistic and are not followed. This creates a handicap for the law abiding who wants to follow the law. But those who have no regard for the law, have no care for the limits set and openly exceeds the limits set.

Accordingly, it would be better to either remove these limits or to increase them to realistic level so that the law abiding can compete with the law breakers without the fear of attracting penal consequences.

These limits encourage corruption and the corrupt and does the opposite for the law abiding as is clear from the Decision.

Since the experience has proven that there is no way to regulate the election expense thus it makes perfect sense to create a level playing field for the corrupt and the honest.

Private Funding

Another aspect of keeping the present limits is that the parties and the candidates hide the sources of funding that they receive. This allows the hidden hands of the mighty, who can escape the law, to play their part in the electioneering but discourage those who have sympathy for one political party or the other but do not donate because of their respect for the law.

By removing the limits and allowing the donations to the political parties and the candidates, we can remove this distortion in our political system.

It would also make sense to treat such donations as donations to charities for the purposes of income tax. That is to say such donations should be excluded from the income chargeable to tax.

Public Funding

The third aspect of the Decision is that the state sometimes feels the need to fund the political parties in order to provide a true choice to the voters. However, because of the lack of legal cover for such funding this is done underhand and behind the closed doors.

It will be far better to introduce a system of public funding for the political parties than to find ways to break the law.

Such a system will remove and/or limit the influence of the big money on our politics. A middle class party will be able to follow its ideals without compromise.

There are many models which we can choose to follow.

However, the best approach in our current scenario for 2013 elections will be to fund all the political parties in proportion to the number of candidates that they validly field.

After the 2013 elections the system should be changed to fund the parties in proportion to the votes that each receives.

These reforms are necessary to remove the distortions from our system and will encourage the people to follow the laws.

I end by stating an ancient principle of law making: 'only such laws should be enacted which are to be followed'!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Black Men's Burden: Drone Strikes and Obama

When Barrack Obama got elected as the President of the USA, I thought that he will be dogged by a clear dilemma with no strategic solution, namely he would have to decide between saving the US economy or continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • If Obama was to continue the wars and with increased defense spending, the American economy would have been stretched to the limits and could have collapsed.
  • If Obama was to pull out of the wars and cut defense spending, he would have been labelled as unpatriotic and his African American credentials would have put a question mark over the patriotism of all African Americans in the USA. Thus weakening the US polity.

As it happened, Obama tried to save the economy and, limit the wars and curtail the defense budget to manageable limits. Obama refused to engage Iran and Syria militarily or go alone over Libya; Obama tried to invoke the Eisenhower model of military alliances thus sharing the costs with other countries. And it is no surprise that Obama is labelled as soft and apologetic in foreign policy matters by the Republicans, which are gentle words for being unpatriotic or a traitor!

However, perhaps cognizant of the aspersions on his patriotism Obama has not been able to take decisions to change the policies which are not effective and inhumane but which had lesser economical impact such as the drone strikes in Pakistan's Tribal Areas.

The drone strikes have clearly been counter productive in winning the hearts and minds battle are inhumane and ineffective but the American government has been unable to put an end to an this ineffective policy.

The explanation for this failure perhaps lies in the dilemma that Obama faced on getting elected and continues to face: he needed to save the American economy without being branded as unpatriotic or weak, especially since he is the first African American President. Only solution to this dilemma was to end the expansive wars and continue the policies with low economic impact but deemed supremely macho and which Obama could wave as the symbols of his patriotism! Drone strikes is just one such policy unfortunately for Pakistan and the children and the parents of the Tribal Areas.

The good news is that if Obama is reelected the pressure on him to be seem to be tough and patriotic may lessen along with the black man's burden that he has been carrying!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Lack or the Breakdown of the Family in Arabs and Terrorism

At the bottom of the terrorism in its suicidal form is an individual who does not value his life as much as  his cause. In other words such person's self esteem is low.

Now it is a well known fact that the children from broken families have a low estimation of their worth unless there are other factors to bolster their self image.

The prevalence of would be suicide bombers or the number of those willing to fight for a cause at great personal risk, in the Muslim and especially the Arab world makes me wonder if there is a link between the familial structure in those societies and the propensity of under valuing their lives in those populations.

It is norm in the Arab world for men to take more than one wife simultaneously and have children from them. I would suspect that the children brought up in such families would have considerably less attention from their fathers than may be necessary for the modern times.

It is also prevalent in these societies to award the women a lesser status and hence the children who are left with their mothers due to the fathers having multiple wives (or being dead) face the double jeopardy in terms of forming the image of their relationship with the outside world: fathers absent and they are left with lesser beings namely their mothers. In my opinion this should clearly leave a child brought up in such environment with a view that his life is not the foremost thing in the world and accordingly the notion that he will put his self-interest above all will be lost upon him.

Such children should be more susceptible to take grave risks for causes which they would consider more worthy than themselves.

Accordingly, all things being equal, societies with polygamy and lesser rights for women, are more prone to answer the call of duty through most self-endangering means than the societies in which monogamy is prevalent and women have more rights.

The evidence of this theory can also be seen in Afghanistan. 

Therefore, a long term aspect of more humane and worthy societies, should be to encourage monogamy and/or more and equal rights for women. Failing these, single mothers or fathers should be given a star status in the societies so that the children have a higher sense of their self and hence are less keen to be reckless with their lives.