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Friday, August 31, 2007

AT THE PENTAGON - Eric Margolis

WASHINGTON DC - I was invited last week to the Pentagon to brief the US Air Force’s Strategic studies group – known as `Checkmate’ – on the Mideast and Southwest Asia.

I presented my views on developments in the Arab World, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan in an off the record seminar to a group of officers who were clearly up to date on the subject matter. They knew the Muslim World was headed for serious change and were clearly seeking answers on how to deal with the political and demographic earthquakes that are coming.

Pakistan’s Musharraf – Bhutto Deal - Javed I. Chaudry

The only thing that America could be interested to achieve through Ms. Bhutto is to de-Nuke Pakistan of its nuclear bombs as well its nuclear technology. At this point this is just a speculation, but time will tell what Ms. Bhutto can or will deliver to the Lord of the globe. In case Gen. Musharraf will no longer be the army commander, then who will be replacing him. It goes without saying that his replacement will be some one whom the American administration approve and some one who will be loyal to Ms. Bhutto, in case she does get elected as the new Prime Minister. With a little help from CIA’s Mighty Wurlitzer, it should not be a difficult feat to accomplish.

One can see that many senior armed officers will soon be sent to the pasture to make room for the juniors, inexperienced and eager to please the new regime to be created on the Pakistani chessboard. This is exactly what Ms. Bhutto’s father Zulifqar Bhutto did. He superseded a junior General Zia over many senior Generals to ensure loyalty. Alas, it did not work for him.

[for more click on the heading]

Nawabdin Electrician - Daniyal Mueenuddin

(a wonderful short story that appeared in the new yorker by a writer i had not read earlier-t)

Unfortunately or fortunately, Nawab had married early in life a sweet woman of unsurpassed fertility, whom he adored, and she proceeded to bear him children spaced, if not less than nine months apart, then not that much more. And all daughters, one after another after another, until finally the looked-for son arrived, leaving Nawab with a complete set of twelve girls, ranging from toddler to age eleven, and one odd piece. If he had been governor of the Punjab, their dowries would have beggared him. For an electrician and mechanic, no matter how light-fingered, there seemed no question of marrying them all off. No moneylender in his right mind would, at any rate of interest, advance a sufficient sum to buy the necessary items for each daughter: beds, a dresser, trunks, electric fans, dishes, six suits of clothes for the groom, six for the bride, perhaps a television, and on and on and on.

Another man might have thrown up his hands—but not Nawabdin. The daughters acted as a spur to his genius, and he looked with satisfaction in the mirror each morning at the face of a warrior going out to do battle. Nawab of course knew that he must proliferate his sources of revenue—the salary he received from K. K. Harouni for tending the tube wells would not even begin to suffice. He set up a one-room flour mill, run off a condemned electric motor—condemned by him. He tried his hand at fish-farming in a pond at the edge of one of his master’s fields. He bought broken radios, fixed them, and resold them. He did not demur even when asked to fix watches, although that enterprise did spectacularly badly, and earned him more kicks than kudos, for no watch he took apart ever kept time again.

[to read the story in full click on the heading]

Not remembering Plassey - Sankar Ray

Two hundred and fifty years ago, on 23 June 1757, the last sovereign nawab of Bengal (which included present-day Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Bangladesh) was defeated on the banks of the Ganga by an army under the command of the British East India Company’s Colonel Robert Clive. The battle came to be known as the Battle of Plassey, after the mango orchard of Palashi, near Murshidabad, on which it was fought. Clive’s victory and the subsequent annexation of Bengal allowed the East India Company to strengthen its military might across India, paving the way for it to make massive economic gains – some would say plunder.

[please click on the heading for the full article]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

edhi's dawn

as the lids gingerly parted
they ushered in the new light
and sounds - cooing and crowing
winds rustling leaves
children noisily playing
a wailing ambulance
stuck in traffic somewhere

baba had made tea and placed
yesterday’s news beside it
both tasted the same
tea fresh and soothing
the news, stale and ominous
death, misery and destruction
mixed with pompous declarations
and righteous indignation
all eating into crying trees

baba does not read papers
nor does edhi
both have work to do
from sunrise to sunset
and when they are exhausted
(their work is never finished)
they sleep fitfully

while self-burdened with assumptions
we wonder about lambs and stars
as the skies turn crimson, dark
and then orange

if we cease reading and listening
to the half-baked convictions
and begin to clean and wash
- a clean utensil, a clean dead body
we may stumble upon a new threshold

Will Bush Take Everything Down With Him? - Paul Craig Roberts

US puppet rulers in Jordan and Pakistan, and even the Saudis and oil emirates, report the ground shaking under their feet. America's puppet in Pakistan is in trouble, and his difficulties are compounded by US military incursions into Pakistan. The Bush administration is considering contingency plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event the American puppet is overthrown, delusional contingency plans considering the over-stretched US military.


Gul's election to the presidency by 76% of the Turkish parliament has upset Turkey's secularized military, long in the pay of the US government. On August 27 Turkey's military chief, General Yasar Buyukanit, declared that "centers of evil systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." The Turkish military, many believe at the request and pay of the US, has overthrown four Turkish governments since 1960, the last only 10 years ago.

With President Bush's rant about "bringing democracy to the Middle East," the Turkish military is less able to impose Western values on an Islamic people. Similarly, the American puppet in Egypt cannot as easily suppress the Islamic values and aspirations of Egyptians.

[click on the heading to read this in full]

Power without the people -Guardian editorial

If a deal is done between the Musharraf and Bhutto camps, it is by no means certain it will go through. Sharif is vociferously hostile, and could help turn Pakistani public opinion against it. Public opinion is a more weighty factor than it has been in the past. Musharraf's attempt six months ago to sack Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the supreme court chief justice, focused in a remarkable way the anger and unease many Pakistanis feel about how their country has been run. Chaudhry's resistance in turn led and shaped public opinion. The constitutional changes Musharaff and Benazir require may well end up before a supreme court which is very responsive to popular feeling. In a mood of popular empowerment unusual in Pakistan, it is that feeling which could make or break the political plans of Benazir and Musharraf.

[pls. click on the heading for the full editorial]

Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities - Noam Chomsky

Washington’s main concern is Venezuela, the leading oil producer in the Western hemisphere. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that its reserves might be greater than Saudi Arabia’s if the price of oil stays high enough for exploitation of its expensive extra-heavy oil to become profitable. Extreme U.S. hostility and subversion has accelerated Venezuela’s interest in diversifying exports and investment, and China is more than willing to accept the opportunity, as it is with other resource-rich Latin American exporters. The largest gas reserves in South America are in Bolivia, which is now following much the same path as Venezuela. Both countries pose a problem for Washington in other respects. They have popularly elected governments. Venezuela leads Latin America in support for the elected government, increasing sharply in the past few years under Chávez. He is bitterly hated in the United States because of his independence and enormous popular support. Bolivia just had a democratic election of a kind next to inconceivable in the West. There were serious issues that the population understood very well, and there was active participation of the general population, who elected someone from their own ranks, from the indigenous majority. Democracy is always frightening to power centers, particularly when it goes too far beyond mere form and involves actual substance.


Let us turn next to Iran and its nuclear programs. Until 1979, Washington strongly supported these programs. During those years, of course, a brutal tyrant installed by the U.S.-U.K. military coup that overthrew the Iranian parliamentary government ruled Iran. Today, the standard claim is that Iran has no need for nuclear power, and therefore must be pursuing a secret weapons program. Henry Kissinger explained that “For a major oil producer such as Iran, nuclear energy is a wasteful use of resources.”thirty years ago, Kissinger held that “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals,” and the United States acted to assist the Shah’s efforts. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, the leading planners of the second Bush administration, worked hard to provide the Shah with a “complete ‘nuclear fuel cycle’—reactors powered by and regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis. That is precisely the ability the current administration is trying to prevent Iran from acquiring today.” U.S. universities were arranging to train Iranian nuclear engineers, doubtless with Washington’s approval, if not initiative; including my own university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, despite overwhelming student opposition. Kissinger was asked about his reversal, and he responded with his usual engaging frankness: “They were an allied country.”15 So therefore they had a genuine need for nuclear energy, pre-1979, but have no such need today.

[click on the heading to read in full]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

converfession- buying that

the following is from the era when i was in a learning phase (correction: still am!) where i had to share my bed ... on a regular basis ... with M...

(in the pharmacy)

t: i wonder where you carry that?
(the pharmacist looks at me quizzically, first through his glasses, then measures me again looking over the lens, and i think he shook his head slightly)
p: what kind?

p: latex, lambskin or polyurethane?
t: (damn - how'd i know?)...can you please guide me to the shelf?
p: (i think he had a sly smile) it is behind the counter, so what'll it be?
t: (what was that brand name she mentioned?) errr...emmm...can you please show me one of each?
p: ok. what size?
t: size?
p: yes they come in different sizes, colors, textures.
t: is there a normal size?
p: yes. what flavour will that be?
t: flavour? (that damn prince charles' confession was about THIS?)
p: cherry, blackberry, rose petal....
t: (this is verging on the insane. she should have accompanied me) is there a plain, non-flavour one?
p: yes. do you want one coated with Nonoxynol-9 or an uncoated one?
t: (damn i should have gone to college) coated please.
p: straight, fitted, or flared?
t: (wtd is he talking about- this is worse than defending a thesis) straight.
p: normal or rear intrusive?
t: are we asking about er...that?
p: yes we are talking about condoms.
t: (sigh of relief) no sir, i want
p: ah, sanitary napkins! that will be aisle 4

(what happened at aisle 4 is for another time)

Kabir : The Man, The Myth, The Mystic, The Master and … More …by Maalok

We can safely say that Kabir lived during the 15th or 16th century. Even though his exact birth and death times cannot be ascertained reliably, it is quite likely that he lived beyond the age of 50. It would be reasonable to assume that he was not formally educated because his songs and couplets lack the erudite tone and have a refreshing rustic quality. That he may have been a weaver is evident from his songs and couplets that draw inspiration and metaphors from the weaving profession. It is also likely that he was born and brought up poor and continued to work throughout his life as he strongly upheld the working-to-earn way of life.

It is clear from his songs and teachings that he was a very observant and thoughtful person, who questioned everything that was taught or presented to him. It is likely that he spent considerable time observing nature, as his teachings also draw inspiration and learning from the trees, animals, birds and the ocean. Long-standing traditions of Kabir in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh1 indicate that either Kabir or his leading disciple(s) traveled to those parts, and/or his popularity drew seekers from these parts to come and learn from him and later returned to establish a following in their native areas.

[pls. click on the heading to read the full essay]

essay by george orwell on Nonsense Poetry

...the churchyard wisdom of the peasant. For instance:

Solomon Grundy,
Born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
And that was the end of Solomon Grundy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Qurratulain Hyder (Aini Apa), 1927-2007 - azra raza

t was a lovely winter evening in 1983 when I first met Aini Apa at the home of my beloved Misdaq Khala Jaan (Saleha Abid Hussain, the prolific Urdu writer) in Okhla (New Delhi). She looked even grander in person than I had imagined and by the end of that evening, I was completely ravished forever by her palpable charisma, her sharp intellect and her great good humor. She, on the other hand, thought I was a snob and said so to my dearest friend Sughra Mehdi (a famous writer in her own right and the adopted daughter of Misdaq Khala Jaan and Janab Abid Hussain Sahib). The reason she thought I was a snob is quintessential Aini Apa. My visit to Delhi, along with my mother, had been hastily arranged from Karachi, while I was home from the USA for two short weeks and our stay in India was going to be quite rushed. The dinner had been arranged by Misdaq Khala Jaan so Ammi and I could meet our friends and relatives in one evening. Aini Apa was living in Zakir Bagh at the time, being the first occupant of the Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Chair at Jamia Millia, and was a frequent presence at my aunt’s home. She considered Sughra Mehdi as her friend and confidant (Aini Apa bestowed the title of “Musheer Fatima” on Sughra as Sughra is forever being solicited for practical advice by the young and old alike).

[click here to read this in full]

Aristotle’s Email – Or, Friendship In The Cyber Age - Tim Madigan

In Book VIII of his Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle categorizes three different types of friendship: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of the good. Friendships of utility are those where people are on cordial terms primarily because each person benefits from the other in some way. Business partnerships, relationships among co-workers, and classmate connections are examples. Friendships of pleasure are those where individuals seek out each other’s company because of the joy it brings. Passionate love affairs, people associating with each other due to belonging to the same hobby organization, and fishing buddies fall into this category. Most important of all are friendships of the good. These are friendships based upon mutual respect, admiration for each other’s virtues, and a strong desire to aid and assist the other person because one recognizes their essential goodness.


Dour old Arthur Schopenhauer once sarcastically wrote that if you really want to know how you feel about a person, take note of the impression an unexpected letter from him makes on you when you see it on your doormat. I would amend this by saying that an unexpected email from a friend from the past can brighten up one’s day tremendously. As Aristotle reiterated more than once, we humans are social creatures. Email has added to the social realities of our lives.

[click on the heading to read this in full]

Monday, August 27, 2007

israfil and yama smile

mental indigence
a punctuation mark
a perdition milepost

jelly fish gulped
eagle picked off prey
insect crushed
under blinded chappals
homage to nature, but when
angels singled and singed
in post-coitus after thoughts
israfil and yama
the gods of after-life
smile at allah and bhagwan

dizzy spirals
of prickly thoughts whirlpool
innocence murdered before
it could flash that angelic smile

- a swim to the dark
bottom of thirsty sea - men
and women so self-destructive
even israfil and yama smile
- forlornly

The First Anglo-Afghan War

To justify his plan, Auckland ordered a manifesto issued on October 1, 1838, at Simla that set forth the reasons for British intervention in Afghanistan. The Simla Manifesto stated that the welfare of India required that the British have on their western frontier a trustworthy ally. The British pretense that their troops were merely supporting the tiny force of Shuja in retaking what was once his throne fooled no one. Although the Simla Manifesto asserted that British troops would be withdrawn as soon as Shuja was installed in Kabul, Shuja's rule depended entirely on British arms to suppress rebellion and on British funds to pay tribal chiefs for their support. Like other interventions in modern times, the British denied that they were invading Afghanistan but claimed they were merely supporting its legitimate government (Shuja) "against foreign interference and factious opposition."

[to read more click on the heading]

The Second Anglo-Afghan War

In October 1856 the Iranians siezed Herat, and the British, whose policy it was to maintain the independence of this city, declared war against Iran. After three months the Iranians withdrew from Herat and committed themselves never again to interfere there or elsewhere in Afghanistan. This brief war convinced the British that they should bolster the strength of Dost Mohammad in an attempt to enable him to meet future challenges by the Iranians. In 1857 an addendum was signed to the 1855 treaty that permitted a British military mission to go to Qandahar (but not to Kabul) and to provide a subsidy during conflict with the Iranians. Fraser-Tytler notes that as Dost Mohammad signed the document he proclaimed, "I have now made an alliance with the British Government and come what may I will keep it till death." Even during the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion in India, when British forces in the Punjab were thinned dramatically, Dost Mohammad refused to take advantage of British vulnerability to retake the Pashtun areas under British control.

[to read more click on the heading]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

perception / khayal


in the dark
had they
at high noon
it could have been
like the flicker
of smile
that i imagined
on your lips


sa'aye bhee
doob jatay haiN
andherON maiN
dO peh'r ki
dhoop maiN
saath choRhaiN
tou janaiN

labON per phailti
goom hoti
muskurahat ka
tasaw'wur bhee
meh'v e hairaaN
ker daita hay mujhay

Review: The subterranean life — Rafia Zakaria

The Western imagination is both intrigued and appalled by the lives of women shrouded in the anonymity of the abaya. Stories of oppression and misery describing life underneath the all-encompassing blackness have increasingly made their way into print and the bookstores in the West. The latest in this growing list is Raja Alsanea’s new novel, “The Girls of Riyadh”.

Written originally in Arabic, titled “Banat al Riyadh”, Alsanea’s book follows the lives of four close school friends as they marry, get divorced and become mothers. Details of romances conducted on cell phones, trysts with boyfriends arranged by complicit neighbours and surreptitious drinking of champagne at wedding parties so outraged Saudi officials that the book was officially banned in Saudi Arabia.

[click on the heading to read the full review]

Thinking Out Loud- Sunday Book Review by CHRISTINE KENNEALLY

In “Um...,” Michael Erard brings together two of humanity’s signature traits: using language and messing things up. The way we misspeak is endlessly interesting, but not because it is a sign of bad habits or unconscious feelings. Rather, interruptions and mistakes result from one of the fundamental properties of language, its linearity. Because speech is timebound and words can come only one after the other, the way we stall, stumble and start again provides clues to the way we render thought with sound. Indeed, what is stilted, stuttered and slipped on illuminates how we retrieve words from memory, how we plan ahead of speech, how we unite meaning and intonation in real time, and how we acquire language in the first place.

[for more click on the heading]

Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11 - robert fisk

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the "raver" bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive".

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard "explosions" in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let's claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA's list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

[for the full column click on the heading]


This writer has known Ms Bhutto for a long time and was often critical when she was prime minister. But you really only get to know people when they face adversity. I have watched Benazir face down crises with coolness and consummate political skill, and not give in to self-pity, even at the darkest times, a few of which I shared with her.

Benazir has grown in character and strength in exile and remains Pakistan’s most popular and capable democratic political leader. She has also learned a great deal about politics and human nature in the years since she was last a young prime minister surrounded by glowering older men and overtly hostile generals.


But wouldn’t a deal with Musharraf dismay her followers and tarnish her own reputation? `We must deal with reality,’ she politically answers. Power sharing with Musharraf, I asked? `We can get along with some generals,’ comes her cautiously reply. She used to accuse me of being too chummy with `your beloved Pakistani generals.’ Now, she is playing a dangerous game with them.

[for full article click on the heading]

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Boycott Of Israel: Something Has Changed - By John Pilger

The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel...

These initiatives have been backed by a British group, Independent Jewish Voices, whose 528 signatories include Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Eric Hobsbawm. The country's biggest union, Unison, has called for an "economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott" and the right of return for Palestinian families expelled in 1948. Remarkably, the Commons' international development committee has made a similar stand. In April, the membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted for a boycott only to see it hastily overturned by the national executive council. In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for divestment from Israeli companies: a campaign aimed at the European Union, which accounts for two-thirds of Israel's exports under an EU-Israel Association Agreement. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the agreement should be invoked and Israel's trading preferences suspended.

This is unusual, for these were once distant voices. And that such grave discussion of a boycott has "gone global" was unforeseen in official Israel, long comforted by its seemingly untouchable myths and great power sponsorship, and confident that the mere threat of anti-Semitism would ensure silence. When the British lecturers' decision was announced, the US Congress passed an absurd resolution describing the UCU as "anti-Semitic". (Eighty congressmen have gone on junkets to Israel this summer.)

[click on the heading for full article]

waltzing: a circle-in-a-square or a square-in-a-circle

rain of bewilderment on life's trapeze
she a prisoner in a circle, he incarcerated
in another fisher-price bubbly square

percussion of rain over the patched tin roof
reminder of steel drums at trini carnival
shallow lakes at their feet mirror ominous clouds

solitary prisoners - both - wet and cold
with time for hurling sharpened arrows
not enough pauses for reflection
smiles camouflage wayward drift as
feet waltz in poodle, destination a blur

children a post coitus inconsequence
unawares and uncaring of their morrows
splashing joyously in bacteria laden waters
the union of circle and square
shrouded in fate's mantra laden slogans
omnia vincit amor a mirage

US-Iran Policy Dynamics - Noam Chomsky

Surely no sane person wants Iran (or anyone) to develop nuclear weapons. A reasonable solution to the crisis would permit Iran to develop nuclear energy, in accord with its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not nuclear weapons. Is that outcome feasible? It would be, under one condition: that the United States and Iran were functioning democratic societies, in which public opinion has a significant impact on public policy, overcoming the huge gulf that now exists on many critical issues, including this one.

That reasonable solution has overwhelming support among Iranians and Americans, who agree quite generally on nuclear issues, according to recent polls by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, at the University of Maryland. The Iranian-American consensus extends to complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82 per cent of Americans), and if that cannot be achieved, a "nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include Islamic countries and Israel (71 per cent of Americans)." To 75 per cent of Americans, it is better to build relations with Iran rather than use threats of force.

[click on the heading for full article]

How to be in two places at once - ANNE MCILROY

A neuroscientist working in Britain has found a way to induce an out-of-body experience, a technique that makes people feel as if they are standing behind themselves, watching their own backs.

Surveys suggest as many as one in 10 people have a similar experience, often after a traumatic event such as a car accident, or after using hallucinogenic drugs. People who feel they've been outside their bodies sometimes say that paranormal or supernatural forces have been at work.

[click on the heading to read this in full]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the pause button ii

in a zillion second
chund sa'atiaN, really
all this will be over
na tum rahogay na hum
na shikway, na shikayataiN

the complainant nor the compliant
will survive the complains

haaN! yeh tO da’aimi such
ki woh kaRi jo da'anaouN kO
karti rahi hay paraishaaN her soo

yes, this is that eternal truth
that for ever pricks the wise

ba'jooz in baatouN kay

but, in spite of this
what stops us
from hitting that pause button
here, today, now?

--a child's innocent smile
the trepidation in touch
the quiver in voice
clouds, candles, music

--the fluttering birds
merrily seeking
seeds and straws
for the morrows

--the aching heart
bounded muscles (really)
bidding their time
not certain
if there is a morrow

jisay dekhni hO jannat
meray saath saath aa'aye*

if you want to experience heaven
come with me

* jisay dekhni hO jannat / meray saath saath aa'aye*
these lines are from an urdu sha’er. i forget who the poet was. if i hazard a guess, it probably was jagan nath aazad.

"InshaAllah" By Cindy Sheehan from Amman

Everyone that we have met stabs me in the heart again. We listen to their stories and we apologize on behalf of our country and they all, without fail, look at us with weary smiles filled with resignation of their fate and say: "inshallah" or "If God wills it." I wish I had that simple faith, but I can't believe that any God, except George's God of hatred, destruction, greed, and murder would "will" what is going on here in the Middle East.

I have already written about Bethena whose body and life were torn apart by an American mortar. When we promised to help her, her response was, "Inshallah."

I met a woman at a hospital yesterday who was kidnapped, tortured and held for a three hundred thousand dollar ransom. When I told her we were trying to help get a hospital for Iraqi people, run by Iraqis, here in Amman, she quietly said: "inshallah," through her tears.

[click on the heading for full article]

The diary of a border crosser - rehan ansari

If a young Indian journalist were able to be an intern, trainee, or get a job at a Lahore, of Karachi paper, say like for a year in '92 when a new paper had come to Lahore, called the Frontier Post, edited by Khaled Ahmed with young writers, Beena Sarwar, Bilal Minto, Aamer Ahmed Khan, Sunny Razvi, Nadira Iqbal (now Lady Naipaul), Farjad Nabi, and among the old that were persuaded to write were I A Rehman, Intizar Hussain, Ahmed Bashir, you would have been around a serious amount of talent, imagination and bloody-minded idiosyncracy. Or of course that year one could have spent in Karachi at the Herald with the magnificent Sherry Rehman as your Editor. I have not taken any of these names in vain, and only those who can be invoked on google, the rest lie with the best memorie...

[click on the heading for the full column]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Qurratulain Hyder - An Enigmatic Icon

Qurratulain Hyder Jan 20, 19260 – Aug 21, 2007: An Enigmatic Icon Passes Away

Qurratul Ain Hyder, Annie Apa to many, recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan died today in a Delhi hospital.

She was iconic, erudite, well read, intelligent, somewhat aloof and arrogant, when I met her many moons ago but had mellowed down lately. She was equally well versed in both English and Urdu. Born into an elite UP family where both of her parents were writers she began writing at age 11.

She wrote short stories, novels, travelogues and did translations: she was most known for her magnus opum novel Aag ka Darya which she translated into English as River of Fire. Praising the creativity of Qurratulain Hyder, Prof Aziz states that books like Kaar-e-Jahan Daraz Hai amply show her firm grip on history.

The [London] Times Literary Supplement wrote that "[River of Fire] is to Urdu fiction what A Hundred Years of Solitude is to Hispanic literature. Qurratulain Hyder has a place alongside her exact contemporaries, Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as one of the world's major living writers."

My friend Raza Rumi met her in Noida, some years ago and wrote this:

She recounts how her parents were born at least a hundred years before their time. Her father’s liberal outlook and her mother’s love for the arts were the inspiration for Ainee to devote her life to writing. She never got married; it was quite evident that she could not have met a man capable of complementing her. I suppose the rich inner universe makes up for the ‘loneliness’ syndrome in exceptional individuals.

Ainee is fluent in the language of music; she co-authored a book on Ustaad Barray Ghulam Ali Khan and in her heyday, played the piano and the sitar with equal ease.

We talk about her discovery of the first subcontinental novel written by Hasan Shah in 1790 – The Nautch Girl – which she translated in 1992. She is angry that no one bothered until she unearthed the manuscript from the Patna Library. We drift back into lost eras and she remarks that Dara Shikoh was a 21st century man. Small wonder that he was beheaded in the 17th century, I respond.

Her foreword to Javed Akhtar’s poetry collection Tarkash is an eloquent narration of some of the reasons for the divide. I will go into these factors in a separate article.

The world of literature will miss her physical presence. Her words, indeed as words that come from the heart, shall resonate with us for a long time

Stumbling Toward Another War - Uri Avnery

It is President Bush, again, who is pushing Olmert in this direction. As much as he wants tension between Israel and the Syrians, he desires positive news about his "vision" of a "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. Let them float virtual "peace processes", discuss documents for the time the Messiah will come, smile at each other, embrace. All to prove that Bush is winning after all, his "vision" is taking shape. That is good for Bush, good for Olmert, good for Abbas.

For whom is it not good? For the Palestinians, who are collapsing under the yoke of the occupation. The misery in the Gaza Strip deepens every day, as the plan unfolds to bring about a total collapse, anarchy and the fall of Hamas. The situation of the West Bank population is not much better. The roadblocks are staying where they are, and so are the settlements and outposts. The road network "for Israelis only" is getting longer, the construction of the wall is in full swing.

[for the full article click on the heading]

Monday, August 20, 2007

drifting fragrance/dabay qadmoN

drifting fragrance

in the solitude
of the cacophony
i dreamt of the quiet
of the rolling meadows
where the rustling
whispers of the wind
plays susurrant ragas
of your fragrance drifting

dabay qadmoN

yaad may ooski gharq
sar-sarata sukoon
jub hum aa ghosh hota hay
tou mudhoshi ki devi
hosh kho bethti hay
aur yaad t’ri
dabay qadmoN
phir chali ati hay

at times a nirvana
is achieved
what good does it do
when unawares
and unaffected we remain

Bush’s America By Paul Craig Roberts : No American President can stand up to Israel.”

Admiral Moorer knew what he was talking about. On June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the American intelligence ship, USS Liberty, killing 34 American sailors and wounding 173. The Israelis even strafed the life rafts, machine-gunning the American sailors leaving the stricken ship.

Apparently, the USS Liberty had picked up Israeli communications that revealed Israel’s responsibility for the Seven Day War. Even today, history books and the majority of Americans blame the conflict on the Arabs.

The United States Navy knew the truth, but the President of the United States took Israel’s side against the American military and ordered the United States Navy to shut its mouth. President Lyndon Johnson said it was all just a mistake. Later in life, Admiral Moorer formed a commission and presented the unvarnished truth to Americans. HERE [see also HERE and HERE and HERE

[Pls. click on the heading for full article]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

white lines

humidity and pollution
shrouding the air
cars, buses, trucks,
scooters and motor cycles
crawl and jostle
while the pedestrians
play russian roulette

road curtsy on furlough
signals and cops furtive
patience fleeting, fleeing
white lines with a straight face
in no hurry to arrive anywhere
distraught at this onslaught
for god’s acre

A New Approach to World Peace

All across India, thousands of children have been writing heartfelt letters to the students of Pakistan, and thousands of children from Pakistan have been replying. Friends Without Borders are now inviting every school in both countries to take part and join this historic heart-to-heart experiment.

From this original idea, sprang the World's Largest Love Letter. Written by the children of India to the children of Pakistan, this now famous collection of kind words is massive! Bigger than a football field, it measures 240 by 360 feet. It is so big that it would not even fit into its intended resting place the huge Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium so they had to leave the border pieces off.

[for the full article click on the heading]

Thursday, August 16, 2007


the bed-sheet is wrinkleless
and the pillow unhallowed
dreams a soul-twin vision
her laughter reverberating
and fragrance wafting still
enticing rain of memories

lums t’ra, mehak t’ri, her soo
rachi hay is kamray maiN
tasaw’wur t’ra her saaNs maiN
aur wajood t’ra hum aaghosh
m’gar kya kiji’aye yaad t’ri
taRpati hay shiddat say

her élan ardent
and bon mots fervid
her shadora* pullulating
spawns this wistpining**

*shadow + aura
**wistful pining

under the minaret ii

it is official, it is six decades!
of mutilation, bomb, immolation
k(h)akistocracy rains with a vengeance
tenuous expectancy administered
by the somber men in black on the bench
hope, rising again in hopeless hopefuls
- of a uniform strip show in full glare
- of the return of the prodigal three
the new found vigilance of rip von judges
groggily whirling with born-again zeal
may yet turn fledgling hope into dismay
abandoning again the forlorn public

the schism dividing the citizens
- a sahara wide impregnable fissure
too many dogs exercising one bone
too many quacks exorcising ghosts

but in a flash appears that child
in rags, slightly disheveled
playing in the streets
with a tonka truck - three wheels missing
his smile spelled hope is alive and well

* under the minaret i

The 'poor' neighbour - william darlymple

Moreover, the Pakistani economy is undergoing a construction and consumer boom similar to India's, with growth rates of 7%, and what is currently the fastest-rising stock market in Asia. You can see the effects everywhere: in new shopping centres and restaurant complexes, in the hoardings for the latest laptops and iPods, in the cranes and building sites, in the endless stores selling mobile phones: in 2003 the country had fewer than three million cellphone users; today there are almost 50 million.

[click on the heading for full article]

Another side of the story - kamila shamsie

We were so busy, in fact, considering the moments that weren't in evidence that we didn't pay sufficient attention to what was actually happening - the quieter successes, the gradual emergence of a national literature in English. In 1997, Oxford University Press, Pakistan, commissioned the literary critic (and my mother) Muneeza Shamsie to compile an anthology of '50 years of Pakistani writing in English.' No one involved with the project in its early days imagined that the anthology, A Dragonfly in the Sun, would gather together 44 writers. Not all were novelists, nor even prose writers, but, as the writer Aamer Hussein says when speaking of its significance to him, "When I read A Dragonfly in the Sun I felt I had been given a home. For the first time I could look at a collection of writing and say, yes, that's where I belong."

[pls. click on the heading for the full article]

(thank you TBS for sending the link:))

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

India's Agrarian Martyrs: Are you listening? - Jessica Long

The Republic of India is one of the top twelve nations in the world in terms of biodiversity. Featuring nearly 8% of all recorded species on Earth, this subcontinent is home to 47,000 plant species and 81,000 animal species. Simultaneously, India is home to the largest network of indigenous farmers in the world. Yet biotechnology has led to extreme environmental degradation in the region, threatening to replace its diverse ecology with corporate hybrid monoculture. The original Green Revolution was supposed to save 58 million Indian hectares. Today, 120 million of the 142 million cultivable hectares is degraded- over twice the magnitude that the Green Revolution attempted to save! In the Indian state of Punjab, 84 of the 138 developmental blocks are recorded as having 98% ground water exploitation. The critical limit is 80%. The result has had devastating impacts on the agricultural community, leaving exploited farmers with little choice of action. In the past six years, more than three thousand farmers have committed suicide in Andrha Pradesh, that is six to ten farmers everyday! When did this start? Why is this occurring?

[pls. click on the heading to read the full article]

A Policy of Genocide - Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Army Lt. Gen. Douglas, Mr. Bush’s war adviser says “the draft is worth a look” [ix]. In fact, much like everything else, such as curbing our freedoms, the draft will be upon us and 18-year olds will be dying for Halliburton and other Crusades. This is not the first time the draft has been seriously considered; in December 2006, the Pentagon announced that it was planning on testing the military-draft machinery, but to alleviate fears of parents of 18-year olds, it announced it would not be doing this until 2009[x]. Dick Cheney will not wait until 2009. Today, with Dick Cheney’s [old] company Halliburton safely in Dubai dodging taxes and criminal charges, he is eager to push for a military strike on Iran. The profits would make Iraq look like child’s play – as would the death toll.

[pls. click on the heading to read full article]

Oslo Revisited - Uri Avnery

More importantly: Israeli public opinion is moving slowly but consistently towards this solution. The concept of "the Whole of Eretz-Israel" is finally dead. There exists a national consensus about an exchange of territories that would make possible the annexation of the "settlement blocs" to Israel and the dismantling of all the other settlements. The real debate is no longer between the annexation of the entire West Bank and its partial annexation, but between partial annexation (the areas west of the wall as well as the Jordan valley) and the return of almost all the occupied territories.

[pls. click on the heading for full article]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

SWOT: Love and the Single Woman Over Thirty

swot .
–verb (used without object) 1. to study or work hard.
–noun 2. a student who studies assiduously, esp. to the exclusion of other activities or interests; grind.
3. hard study or hard work; concentrated effort.

SWOT is also an acronym – Single Woman Over Thirty. I came across this in a fortnightly regular column by Sahar Ali.

In her latest column she writes:

At my ripe old SWOT age, am I clinging to a Utopian notion of marrying for love rather than companionship and security? Have all the romantic comedies I love to watch created ‘great expectations’ that are unlikely to be fulfilled? Will I remain Rapunzel-like in my tower, slumbering like Sleeping Beauty, or choked on a cursed and poisoned apple like Snow White waiting for a prince who will never arrive? In this age of supersonic jets and instant messaging, there really is no excuse for tardiness!

Marrying for love perhaps is an ideal that has long since shed its utility. True love is Dodo. Perhaps. I am overstating the obvious? The Ideal Love belongs to the same corner in the museum as the Ideal Man and the Ideal Woman.

So what is that bird called Love that we mistake for a Dodo?

Are we influencing our dreams based on classics, films or harlequin romances? Or are we conditioned by hearsay? Could it be infatuation camouflaged as love? Or is it infatuation that matures into an adjusted relationship? Does adjusted mean compromised? If yes, then how does that state fare in comparison with the mythical perception of Love in most minds?

Love is over stated and under fathomed. Even if begun under dubious circumstances – infatuation, liking, chemistry, a dimple or a charming smile it often flounders when it confronts unadjusted stereotypical expectations.

Legends and myths aside, Love is a continuous alignment of coexistence with another person whom one understands, respects and cares for.

Love is daily reinforcement of the reservoir of mutual trust. Love is forgiving and forgetting. Love is caring. Love is not taking for granted. Love appears impossible, but is not!

A dear friend who is thirty something, single and looking for a partner to share her life with asked, “Will I ever find a person I would love and marry?”

Over the past years she has shared her travails and misadventures in her search for a suitable desi male. She is an articulate, intelligent, good looking, considerate, working and highly educated woman.

I cautioned her against Love. Told her to forget about Love, and focus on compatibility, work ethics, and similarity of interests. Love might follow.

On the dilemmas of finding desi male who will treat his potential life partner with respect and understanding, perhaps after I collect the funny and the macabre experiences of my friends. If the readers would like to share them please email me. My address is

Exit Wounds: The legacy of Indian Pankaj Mishra

But Churchill’s divisive policies had already produced a disastrous effect on the Indian political scene. Congress Party leaders had refused to share power with Jinnah, confident that they did not need Muslim support in order to win a majority vote in elections. These attitudes stoked Muslim fears that the secular nationalism of Gandhi and Nehru was a cover for Hindu dominance. While the Congress leaders were in prison, Jinnah, with Churchill’s encouragement, steadily consolidated Muslim opinion behind him. By 1946, this secularist politician had managed to present himself as the best defender of Muslim interests in a Hindu-dominated India. Religion was never so deeply and enduringly politicized in India as it was in the last years of imperial rule.

[for full article click on the heading]

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Different Emergency

Chief Justice: Holy Shit!
Missus: (sigh) If you had listened! I have been tying to tell you for two days now to do something about the toilet.
CJ: Sorry dear, that suo moto had been on my mind.
Mrs: Yeah, yeah, I ‘ve heard that excuse before.
CJ: So sorry dear.
Mrs: Am not nagging but you and your suo motos! Presidential Reference, Lal Musjid action, Sharif and Bhutto’s return.
CJ: The nation has entrusted me ….
Mrs: Nation! It will survive. It has for 60 years. But what of Pinky’s acne, the blocked toilet, the chowkidar’s brother?
CJ: Pinky has acne? Why is she moving the Courts? I thought she wanted the corruption charges dropped so she could return.
Mrs: Oofho! Our daughter Pinky’s acne!
CJ: Am so sorry, dear.
Mrs: Yeah, yeah. The toilet overflows, Pinky has acne, the chowkidar’s brother….
CJ: I will drop her at the dermatologist tomorrow on the way to the Court.
Mrs: (sigh) That would be tomorrow. What about the toilet. It is blocked!
CJ: Call the plumber. I cannot issue a suo moto notice to the builder for this!
Mrs: Will you forget about the Presidential Reference, the Lal Musjid fiasco…THINK toilet.
CJ: You do have a point dear. (Picks up the phone and asks the Registrar to issue a suo moto show-cause notice to the Chief Secretary on lack of public toilets.)
Mrs: (screaming) You should go and see a psychiatrist.
CJ: What, dear? You want me to take Pinky  to a pychiatrist for her acne?
Mrs: Oofho! Show your activism at home. Get this toilet fixed!
CJ: OK. I will call Musharraf.
Mrs: What does the President has to do with our toilet?
CJ: Not President Musharraf. I will call Musharraf the plumber.
Mrs: Call now. They are harder to come by than the surgeons.


(The phone rings - the President is on the line)

Mr. P: Hello Your Honour
CJ: Hello Mr. President
Mr. P: No hard feelings? Why don’t you come over for drinks?
CJ: Your camp office? With the Press on my tails that is not a good idea. Besides I have an emergency….
Mr. P: Wonderful, you read my mind, I have been thinking about imposing Emergency.
CJ: …our toilet is blocked
Mr. P: So I will see you at the usual time?...oh, your toilet is blocked? I will send Ijaz ul Haq. He is good at it. Good bye.


CJ: That was Mr. President.
Mrs: You want to resume drinking with him again?
CJ: You don’t understand these things, dear.
Mrs: What about the emergency here?
CJ: It is about the Emergency. He is sending Zia da puttar.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pakistan At the Precipice: I- Human Rights in Islam

Pakistan is at the edge of precipice. Ex commando President Gen. Musharraf is walking the divide-and-rule tightrope. That he may fail and fall, does not apparently bother him. That Pakistan may fail and fall is a thought oblivious to him and his Corps Commanders. This is an attempt to understand and explain Pakistan and Musharraf’s conundrum. Desicritics will present this in three parts on successive days.

I – Human Rights in Islam
II – MIF Kakistocracy: Military-Industrial-Feudal complex
III – Vision for Coexistence

We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism. - Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemala Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1992

Human Rights in Islam

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was voted on at the UN General Assembly on Dec 10, 1948 in Paris. It passed 48-0 with 8 abstentions (six Soviet Bloc states, South Africa and Saudi Arabia).

It was met with reservations by some Muslim states for its perceived failure in not taking into account the cultural and religious fabric of the non-Western nations.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference unanimously passed the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, August 5, 1990.

The West criticized it for its heavy reliance on Sharia.

Sharia is a way of devising laws based on the Qur’an, the Sayings of Muhammad (pbuh) and centuries of deliberations and precedents contributing to a wealth of Muslim Jurisprudence that encompasses all aspects of a Muslim’s life.

Article 1:
(a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. The true religion is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity.
(b) All human beings are Allah's subjects, and the most loved by Him are those who are most beneficial to His subjects, and no one has superiority over another except on the basis of piety and good deeds.

Creeping Fundamentalism

In the past thirty days, hundreds of citizens have been killed in Peshawar, North Waziristan, Islamabad, Balochistan and other places in Pakistan by both the suicide bombers and the government.

While the government was responsible for the greatest number of casualties in the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) fiasco, with allegations of the use of the controversial White Phosphorus incendiary bombs, the blame for the civilian deaths cannot be entirely apportioned to the Musharraf Administration.

Part of the land occupied by the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, billed as the largest madrasa (seminary) for women in the Muslim world, belonged to the National Book Foundation. Its Chairman had filed an FIR (First Information Report) against this illegal occupation for the record. The construction and encroachment over this land were also without proper permits and safeguards.

Informed circles who speak on conditions of anonymity tell us that the Ghazi brothers were ‘planted’ by the Agencies.

In 2002, arms and ammunition were discovered by the Islamabad Police at a check post. The two brothers, Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his elder brother Abdul Aziz were saved by the intervention of Federal Minister of Religious Affair Mr. Ijaz ul Haq. He is the son of former President Zia ul Haq, who also patronized the two brother’s late father Maulana Abdullah.

It should also be noted here that every major religious party head in Pakistan publicly denounced these two brothers’ attempt to create a ‘state within a state.’

Pakistan At the Precipice: II- MIF Kakistocracy: Military-Industrial-Feudal Complex

I – Human Rights in Islam
II – MIF Kakistocracy: Military-Industrial-Feudal Complex
III – Vision for Coexistence

Democracy becomes a government of bullies, tempered by editors."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, public philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

MIF Kakistocracy: Military-Industrial-Feudal complex

Ike’s military-industrial-complex can be modified to include the feudal lords. This Military-Industrial-Feudal complex has continued to prosper at the expense of the ever dwindling middle and poor classes.

While the poor have found an outlet in distorted religious values and increasingly blow themselves up in targeted killings, the not so poor resort to breaking laws, occupying land, robbing and stealing at gun point.

If the past governments had sincerely puts their resources at removing the causes of poverty, the poor and the disenfranchised would have been less susceptible to fall for doctrines of intolerance and hatred taught in the madresas in the guise of religious education. The belated government steps to reform the madresas are not supported by effective measures for poverty elimination and alternative educational opportunities.

The massive support for the lawyers’ led movement for an independent judiciary is seen as a movement to restore a check on the tilted executive and empower the manipulated legislative by the middle and not so poor classes.

A segment of the indoctrinated and brainwashed do not support this popular movement and want to take their fight directly to those in power. They find it easier to opt for change through violence and terror.

In the context of the rise of violence in Pakistan it will be of interest to also reflect on the second article of this declaration.

Article 2:
(a)Life is a God-given gift and the right to life is guaranteed to every human being. It is the duty of individuals, societies and states to safeguard this right against any violation, and it is prohibited to take away life except for a shari'ah prescribed reason.

It remains to be seen how a beleaguered and increasingly isolated Musharraf Administration can maneuver himself and the Army out of this stalemate.

The one thing that post colonial leadership of every stripe in Asia and Africa has learned well from its past colonial masters is the game of divide and rule. When seen through this prism, the rise in Mullah power in Frontier and in Balochistan, and the proliferation of ethnic and political parties and groups to offset the major political forces by the this Kakistocracy can be understood more clearly.

Political Stalemate

The Army backed President General Musharraf has his vision of ‘enlightened moderation’ for Pakistan. Co-opted by the US, he has maneuvered Pakistan to become a front line state in the fight against terrorism. This has earned his government the wrath of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani supporters of Taliban.

He sent the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League (N) into exile. Another former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Chairperson for life of the Pakistan Peoples Party, was already in exile facing corruption, money laundering, mismanagement and extra judicial killing charges.

Both of them have had two runs at governing the state in the 80s and 90s and squandered their chances. Now they yearn to get back into power and demand a ‘fair and free’ election under a caretaker government.

While in power, they paid scant respect for democratic norms and tolerance. Their usage of the word ‘democracy’ today appears to be a euphemism for the roll back of army intervention in state affairs: some of their suspicions are well grounded.
Over the last four decades the Army has increasingly acquired a stake in all spheres of state affairs. After the Government of Pakistan, they are one of the biggest employers in the country. They grab and award themselves prized real estate and haliburtonesque contracts at rock bottom prices. Inexperienced and inept serving and retired officers head ‘lucrative’ civilian jobs, ambassadorships, and are offered sinecures as chiefs of semi government agencies.

Both the Army and the politicians are suspicious and intolerant of each other and unwilling to agree to a power sharing formula. The judiciary, marginalized since 1954, is just showing signs of shrugging off the deep slumber.

This mutual suspicion and adamancy leads to an impasse. The US is exerting pressures on both to come to an understanding.

The Role of Politicians

The recently concluded, misnamed, All Parties Conference held in London at the behest of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared to be a photo-op of disgruntled politicians. Another former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in distancing herself from Nawaz Sharif, is making the right sound bites.

According to Zafar Abbas, Islamabad Bureau Chief of the Daily Dawn, Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf came close to a power sharing deal in April. These negotiations aimed at reaching an accommodative understanding for the forthcoming national elections are still going on according to reports attributed to the BBC and the Globe and Mail.

The Pakistani politicians demand:
* Free and Fair Election under a Caretaker Government
* An independent Judiciary to ostensibly check the Army’s power grab
* Army back under full Civilian Control

To goad the Army back into the barracks is a Herculean task. The politicians have to guarantee them immunity from past excesses and some checks against what the Army perceives as political corruption, misrule and ineptitude.

Can a fledgling democratic government, in alliance with the Army curb the violence and alleviate the causes remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Pakistanis brace themselves for more suicide bombers.

Pakistan At the Precipice: III – Vision for Coexistence

Pakistan At the Precipice: III – Vision for Coexistence

I – Human Rights in Islam
II – MIF Kakistocracy: Military-Industrial-Feudal complex
III – Vision for Coexistence

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. Aristotle

Surge in Suicide Bombing

The factors that gave rise to mushrooming suicide attacks are not easy to identify and discern. Some of the following have contributed:
* The support US gave to the Mujahideen to do their proxy fighting in Soviet occupied Afghanistan
* The cold turkey abandonment of the Mujahideen outfits after the Soviet withdrawal - a lesson not learned in Iraq
* Abject poverty that led the people to parcel off their children to the madresas, which offered free board and lodge in addition to doctrinaire teaching of the religion.

To remove injustice, corruption, and poverty in society, some of the madresas distorted the egalitarian message of Islam and started indoctrinating their students to demand imposition of Sharia laws in Pakistan as a panacea.

Their (Islamic) reductionist approach succeeded in brainwashing their charges. This was noted in the interviews of the students released from the Lal Masjid reported by the media. They were unabashed in their vehemence and expressed a desire to go back into the compounds of the Lal Masjid ostensibly to die with their colleagues.

In the aftermath of President Musharraf’s belated and heavy handed resolution of the Lal Masjid fiasco, the acts of violence unleashed primarily against the Army and security forces have claimed upwards of 160 lives all over Pakistan.

There is a dire need to take balanced and concerted measures immediately in consultation with politicians to redress the injustices. Otherwise these perceived injustices will snowball to more mayhem.

Blaming the Agencies

It is widely believed here that the Lal Masjid shenanigans were blessed by the euphemistically called Agencies. These Agencies, such as the ISI (Inter Services Agency headed by a serving Army officer), Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau are a power unto themselves, according to the Opposition Parties in Pakistan. They blame it for undue interference and meddling in the internal workings of the government.

This is also ironic. When these parties were in power they unabashedly used some of these very Agencies to subvert, thwart and pressurize their political opponents.

The Ulema (religious scholars), MMA (Muttahida Majlis e Amal – an alliance of right wing religious parties), Wafaqul Madaris (an umbrella organization of seminaries) and the assorted opposition parties cannot shirk off their responsibility and direct or indirect involvement. They have been a part of the social and political fabric of this nation of 160 million and cannot sit idly and blame the Musharraf Administration for the rise in religious intolerance.

One of the root causes for the disenchantment by the masses is their disenfranchisement. Corruption and kick-backs have assumed a built-in factor in all government spending. The Defense spending eats a large percentage of the national budget, leaving little for poverty alleviation, education, healthcare, judicial reforms, crime prevention, and law enforcement.

Pakistanis from all strata of life contribute heavily into charitable and philanthropic donations. Most of this remains un-audited and untraceable. It is common knowledge here that a majority of the poor, who cannot feed themselves, drop off their children at the mushrooming madresas which provide them with food, shelter and religious indoctrination. Their syllabus has remained unchanged for centuries. Critics of madresas say they want to push the baby back into the womb.

The majority is near or below the poverty line. They see the rich in cahoots with the military backed governments. Despite progress on the economic front, the estimated 17 % of the middle class is largely invisible. As the cliché goes the rich have become richer and the poor poorer.

Need to Develop a Vision for Coexistence

The politician led kakistocracy and the Army led k(h)akistocracy both have failed to address the core problems afflicting the country – runaway population growth, poverty, corruption, mismanagement, lack of basic healthcare, unavailability of basic necessities such as drinking water, electricity, decaying infrastructure and lack of trust in institutions.

Sane elements in the military see the bad influence of long term civilian rule affecting Army morale and efficiency. Some politicians privately also agree to the necessity of the Army’s role in curbing and checking the violent forces unleashed in the country.

A Pakistani version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed here to re-establish trust and to create a breathing room for the democratic traditions to take root.

There is a need for the Army and the politicians to come to an understanding on some power sharing formulae. A reinvigorated National Security Council moderated by a Constitutional Court along Turkish lines can allay the fears of both the Army and the Politicians.

The status quo of ad-hoc management of the affairs of the nation, and the policy of divide and rule should be abandoned in favour of national consensus and reconciliation.

There is a need for statesmen who can bring out in the open an understanding where both can co exist and govern Pakistan in the interim

Monday, August 06, 2007

the vagrant and the vagabond

the beaded vagrant,
slovenly squalid, glazed eyes
gap toothed smile
odious, oblivious demeanor
banging rhythmic staff
a bowl around the neck
chances upon this vagabond

at dusk
retracing his steps back to the hill
where he rendezvous
with fellow mendicants
lighting lamps under the flag post
offering prayers to saints invoking gods
eating from day’s offerings
smoking the clay pipe
and sleeping under indifferent stars
to replicate the wandering
next day

Israel’s Jewish problem in Tehran - Jonathan Cook

In the meantime, the 25,000-strong Iranian Jewish community is the largest in the Middle East outside Israel and traces its roots back 3,000 years. As one of several non-Muslim minorities in Iran, Jews there suffer discrimination, but they are certainly no worse off than the one million Palestinian citizens of Israel -- and far better off than Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Iranian Jews have little influence on decision-making and are not allowed to hold senior posts in the army or bureaucracy. But they enjoy many freedoms. They have an elected representative in parliament, they practice their religion openly in synagogues, their charities are funded by the Jewish diaspora, and they can travel freely, including to Israel. In Tehran there are six kosher butchers and about 30 synagogues. Ahmadinejad’s office recently made a donation to a Jewish hospital in Tehran.

As Ciamak Moresadegh, an Iranian Jewish leader, observed: “If you think Judaism and Zionism are one, it is like thinking Islam and the Taliban are the same, and they are not.” Iran’s leaders denounce Zionism, which they blame for fueling discrimination against the Palestinians, but they have also repeatedly avowed that they have no problem with Jews, Judaism or even the state of Israel.

[to read the full article please click on the heading]

A new scapegoat - Dilip Hero

Abdullah's persistent divergence from Washington's policy in the region has annoyed the Bush administration. This is hardly surprising. Historically, the United States has always preferred pliant allies - particularly in the Third World.

What American decision makers fail to realise is that it is unrealistic to expect that to expedite their national agenda, regional leaders would instantly abandon their own deeply held views and prejudices, political and religious.

[to read the full article please click on the heading]

A Young Marine Speaks Out - Philip Martin

Well if we have the power to help people why aren't we helping in Darfur where hundreds of thousands of people have died in the last 10 years. Saddam was convicted and sentenced to death for killing 143 Shiites who conspired to assassinate him. (I know all you "patriotic" Americans would be calling for the heads of anyone who conspired to assassinate supreme leader Bush). And yet we spend upwards of 1 trillion dollars and nearing 3,000 lives to help these Iraqis when they don't even want us there. Not to mention we don't have the legal justification to be there. I guess we should wait around for the omnipotent W Bush to decide who we should use our superpowerdom to help next. It's about time to throw him and the rest of the fascists out. Moreover it's about time to start educating Americans about their past and history, and letting them know that imperialistic leaders are not what the founders of this great country wanted.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thus Spake the Vagabond

Running an errand, doing a chore, I encounter this vagrant. He is short, lithe body, shiny dark skin, over dressed and over beaded, smiling but glazed eyes, with a staff with which he communicates with passersby and mother earth and father heaven.

He has a routine.

He appears content.

We have a routine too. A daily routine of our choice. Another one imposed - of a social construct, unwittingly.

Get up, brush teeth, bathe, change, eat, leave home: school, college, work. At the end of the day back to the nest. Repeat this life long.

In this journey we meet tribulations: happy, sad, angry, content, discontent, grieved. We smile, whisper, talk, yell, shout and cry.

This journey from the womb to grave is repeated endlessly all over the continents for the allotted three score and ten, give or take twenty. At the end of which our memories lingers for a few years. Soon after the transition, we become another spec of sand on the vast shoreline of history.

How does it all make the achiever vagabond different from the non-achiever vagrant?

This contentment, this happy state is not dependent on achievement, success or money. Education, that perhaps ought to have separated the wheat from the chaff, is not an effective yardstick any more. Consumerism? The third eye remains sealed and shut. Within the confines of abstraction we become legends in boundaries of our disposition.

This leads to another query: is there a legacy?

Is their an individual legacy that would last beyond a few years, hopefully? Again, a few years on a universal scale is merely a hiccup.

Is there a universal legacy?

Now look around and see violations: of Mother Nature, the abuses heaped on the environment, rights of man and animal, individual and state, colonialism under different garbs, the machinations to dominate.

What is the legacy of Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, Socrates, Asoka, Jesus, Mohammed?

What good is progress when ostensibly all efforts lead to domination and subjugation? What good do the charters of rights do?

In spite of all the queries, why some of us see the glass half full, while a majority cannot see a tree for a elephant’s legs? Or don’t have access to clean drinking water?

Discontent must be an ingrained part of our DNA.