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Sunday, August 31, 2008

What a bloody mess! - Ardeshir Cowasjee

The FT report opens “Asif Ali Zardari, the leading contender for the presidency of nuclear-armed Pakistan, was suffering from severe psychiatric problems as recently as last year, according to court documents filed by his doctors.” Presidential candidate Zardari has been diagnosed as suffering from “emotional instability”, memory loss and concentration problems, and major depressive disorder. These court papers have caused alarm amongst the citizens of his country who question his ability, and his fitness, to occupy the presidential chair.

Now, constitutionally where does Zardari stand in view of the court-backed doubts about his mental state? The president, under Article 41(2) is required to be “qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly”. According to Article 63(a) a person is disqualified to be a member of the National Assembly if “he is of unsound mind and has been so declared by a competent court”.

The court in London accepted the psychiatrists’ certificates and acted upon them. Zardari, if he wishes to deny the diagnoses, must plead that the London court is incompetent and that the psychiatrists were falsifying. We must go with an editorial of Aug 28 which counselled that “It would be unwise to dismiss the recent revelations about the fragile state of Mr Asif Zardari’s mental health as irrelevant,” and asked “Does the country really need another potentially deluded individual to lead it through these troubled times?” Now, let us revert to our mutilated almost incomprehensible constitution which as far as Article 62 goes is clear. To qualify as a member of the National Assembly, and thus to be able to contest the presidential election, a man must be “of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions”, and he must be “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen”. No further comment is necessary.


5 Steps to an Environmental Revolution - Bill Vitek

Here's a short "to-do" list:
1. Reduce the industrialized world's carbon footprint 80 percent by 2050.
2. Prevent the projected 3 billion increase in human population over the next 30 years and actually reduce population by 2110 without famine, disease or war while preserving human dignity.
3. Revise the scientific method so that it better balances the goal of discovery with moral considerations and precaution.
4. Switch our economy to sustainable energy: solar, wind, hydro.
5. Make that economy one in which happiness and success do not require increased consumption.

BOOK REVIEW: The inside track on Afghan wars by Khaled Ahmed

BOOK REVIEW: The inside track on Afghan wars by Khaled Ahmed

Descent into Chaos:
How the War against Islamic Extremism is being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia;
By Ahmed Rashid;
Allen Lane London 2008;
Pp484; Price £12.99

Today, the Taliban and Mullah Umar continue to live in Balochistan, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are in the Tribal Areas where they wrested possession of a large territory from the army that favoured them. The US and the EU are under threat. George Bush and Musharraf and Karzai are the most unpopular men in the region. It is clear who has won the war

The greatest compliment one can pay to a writer is to say that his latest book is his best. It indicates a rising graph of excellence rather than descent from the peak. Ahmed Rashid’s best book without a doubt is his latest, Descent into Chaos, a critique of the policies of the United States and Pakistan, the two countries who worked together and separately to convert their war against terror into chaos. President Bush is about to lurch out of the scene next year never to be remembered as a saviour by the West. Pakistan’s ‘schizophrenic chief executive’ President Musharraf is out of his office, universally condemned in Pakistan for having ruined the country in all sorts of ways. Four chapters in part three of the book contain the most comprehensive indictment of the US policy in Afghanistan the reviewer has ever read.

Ahmed Rashid’s friend Hamid Karzai is the president of Afghanistan today. He lived in Quetta starting 1983 and fell foul of the Taliban in 1999 when Mullah Umar had his father assassinated in Quetta, with the help of the ISI, according to Hamid. Ahmed had something in common with him. Both had criticised the Taliban, and in the case of Ahmed, it was his bestseller book Taliban (2000) that had ‘led to threats from the ISI and their extremist supporters’ (p.4). Hamid was in the Mujaddidi government after the Soviets left, but the US had left the Afghan policy in the hands of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the latter looking at Afghanistan as its fifth province.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Maxim & Zahoor

Maxim Cartoon

Mohsin Hamid on Musharraf

Musharraf spoke in favor of tolerance, women's rights and moderate interpretations of Islam. He liberalized the media, allowing dozens of private television channels to operate and freely criticize the government. And at first he seemed prepared to allow the judiciary to challenge the government. Unfortunately, Musharraf seemed unable to accept the logical conclusion of the project he had begun: his own departure. He spent the second half of his rule battling the very democratic forces that he had helped unleash.

Extract from Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia, published by John Murray

When at last I reached Pakistan, it was to map these layers of history and their impress on modern society. During the past sixty years, Pakistanis have been brutalized by the violence of military dictatorships, enraged or deceived by the state's manipulation of religion, and are now being terrorized by the West's War on Terror. But Pakistan is more than the sum of its generals and jihadis. The Indus valley has a continuous history of political, religious and literary ferment stretching back thousands of years; a history which Pakistanis share with Tibetans and Indians. The intertwining of those chronicles, memories and myths – that is the inheritance of the people who live in the Indus valley.

This book recounts a journey along the Indus, upstream and back in time, from the sea to the source, from the moment that Pakistan first came into being in Karachi, to the time, millions of years ago in Tibet, when the river itself was born. Along the way, the river has had more names than its people have had dictators. In Sindh it is called 'Purali', meaning capricious, an apt description of a river which wanders freely across the land, creating cities and destroying them. Sindhis also know it as 'Samundar', ocean, a name evocative of the vastness of the river within their landscape and civilization. For Pashtuns on the frontier with Afghanistan the Indus is simultaneously 'Nilab', blue water, 'Sher Darya', the Lion River, and 'Abbasin', Father of Rivers. Along its upper reaches these names are repeated by people speaking different languages and practicing different religions. Baltis once called the Indus 'Gemtsuh', the Great Flood, or 'Tsuh-Fo', the Male River; here, as in Ladakh and Tibet, it is known as 'Senge Tsampo', the Lion River. Today, in spite of the militarized borders that divide the river's people from each other, the ancient interconnectedness of the Indus still prevails.

Shaista Zaidi's letter in Urdu

This letter in Urdu written to Irshad Hussain Haqqani is worth a sobering read.

Another claimant to Jinnah House -Anshika Mishra

MUMBAI: The Indian government is faced with yet another challenge to its claim over the sprawling Malabar Hill bungalow, Jinnah House, built by Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Napean Sea Road resident, Mohamed Rajabally Ebrahim,72, who is Jinnah’s grand-nephew, has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court stating the government has “no right to squat” over Jinnah House after the repeal of the Displaced Persons (DP) Act in 2005.

According to Ebrahim’s lawyer, Yusuf Muchhala, the bungalow was acquired by the government in June 1955 under the DP Act 1954 for the public purpose of rehabilitating and compensating persons displaced during Partition. However, since then, Jinnah House has not been allotted to any displaced persons and has not been used for the purpose of rehabilitation of displaced persons.

Interventions -. by Noam Chomsky - P D Smith

A prophet is rarely respected in his own country. The pieces in this collection by one of the world's leading public intellectuals have been published in newspapers around the world, but largely ignored in the US. Peter Hart, who works for the media watchdog FAIR, says in the foreword that dissenting voices are not welcome in American op-ed pages today. Given America's superpower status (Chomsky notes that the US spends as much on its military as the rest of the world combined), this is worrying. More so because what Chomsky is saying is common currency outside the US. These succinct, punchy essays from 2002 to February 2008 represent a sustained attack on America's international role under George W Bush. According to Chomsky, the tacit assumption guiding all US foreign policy is now "we own the world, so what does it matter what others think?". From Iraq and the war on terror, to Iran's nuclear ambitions and US support for Israel, he accuses Washington of accelerating the race to destruction.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Israel continues to burrow beneath the foundations of the Aqsa Mosque in the heart of East Jerusalem, reports Khaled Amayreh

A network of tunnels beneath the Aqsa Mosque, dubbed by the Israeli media as "tourist sites", has already caused conspicuous cracks in superstructure of the Haram Al-Sharif esplanade which houses many historical sites, including the Dome of the Rock. "I have no doubt the Israeli government has the will and desire to destroy the Aqsa Mosque. They only want to do it in a way that would make the demolition look as if it was a result of natural causes," said Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, head of the Supreme Muslim Council which oversees the Jerusalem Sanctuary, considered the third holiest place in Islam. "Everything they do here shows they are hell-bent on destroying this Islamic shrine. It is time that Muslim peoples, Muslim governments and Muslim organisations across the world move to stop this blasphemy. Maybe tomorrow it will be too late."

Palestinian and Muslim officials, including the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), have issued numerous warnings about Israeli excavations in the vicinity of and beneath the mosque, but to no avail. Last week Jordan, the legal custodian of the Jerusalem sanctuary, asked Israel to stop sabotaging the foundations of the Aqsa Mosque, warning that, "this sensitive issue could set the whole region on fire."

The international community, including Israel's closest ally the United States, does not recognise Israel's annexation of Eastern Jerusalem which followed the occupation of the city in 1967. Not that this has prevented successive Israeli governments from building huge Jewish settlements in and around the occupied Arab town, reducing East Jerusalem to a virtual ghetto and effectively cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank. The isolation of East Jerusalem has been completed with the construction of the gigantic "separation wall".

A Guide To Geothermal Energy

Maybe you've been hearing more about geothermal energy lately -- it gets mentioned more in the mix with solar and wind these days, especially when politicians are listing off, quickly as possible, all the forms of renewable energies they can think of. In case you don't know much about it, HuffPost Green has compiled this little FAQ.

What is geothermal energy?

Geothermal energy is a cheap and largely untapped natural energy resource. It's an intriguing sustainable energy source due to its unlimited supply, 24-hour availability and ability to decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

The EPA defines geothermal for us:

Geothermal energy is produced from the constant temperature of the earth. This can be accessed by drilling into the earth and extracting that heat and turning it into usable energy. Geothermal energy is an enormous underused resource that provides clean renewable energy in virtually unlimited supplies.

News Analysis, Electronic Media and Journalistic Integrity

News Analysis

Journalism is a vast field. I wish to examine a sub genre called News Analysis. Good Analysis demands objectivity and fairness in reporting. In brief, be truthful and factual. While complete objectivity is not entirely possible to achieve, good analysts (and journalists) recognise it by being open, by being fair and by being guided by their conscience.

A good host or anchor wears many hats simultaneously. S/he has to be a good listener, a sharp analyst, a diligent investigator, fair and balanced and above all, given the time constraints, should be quick on foot.

When reporting or interviewing, they stick to facts, research them diligently, offer insights, counter points and counter-claims with references to balance the assertions and claims of the interviewee or the guests and are quick to explore misuse of facts and the biases, tilts and spins of their subjects or guests.

Electronic Media

The electronic media in India and Pakistan is still very much in its infancy. The anchors and reporters have still a long way to go. In some you can see the influence of print media. They repeat incessantly - oft times repeating verbatim nano seconds later what their guests had just uttered.

They speak on TV as if they are on radio - or worse - in a classroom. The anchors discuss subjects with their expert guests on which their knowledge is scant or non existent and oft times their homework is shoddy or non-existent.

The elements of journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

  1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. It must protect and enhance the rights and responsibilities of citizen

Should networks and their anchors be neutral?

It is not possible to be entirely neutral. We see with our eyes and hear with our ears. The moment we hear we, our, I, me -- the neutrality is gone the way of Dodo bird.

We bring our personal take, our prejudices, our slant into what we say or write. While this is largely and universally true and applicable to the bloggers, netjournos and the media world over, the best in the media stand out because they try harder. They make that extra effort to compensate for their inherent shortcomings by listening fairly to the other view point, by being diligent in their research, by being fair in their comments and analysis.

Not every network or media person fits this portrayal. That is where one can sift between the wheat and the chaff - between the genuine and the erstaz - between the authentic and the wannabee - between the fair and the agenda driven media person.

The best in the media see the issues and persons as coins - they examine the contours, shape, metal, markings and symbols discernible on the coin - and - they also examine the other side of the coin similarly. And they try to do so with utmost fairness and integrity.

Obama DNC Speech Reactions

It was a deeply substantive speech, full of policy detail, full of people other than the candidate, centered overwhelmingly on domestic economic anxiety. It was a liberal speech, more unabashedly, unashamedly liberal than any Democratic acceptance speech since the great era of American liberalism. But it made the case for that liberalism - in the context of the decline of the American dream, and the rise of cynicism and the collapse of cultural unity. His ability to portray that liberalism as a patriotic, unifying, ennobling tradition makes him the most lethal and remarkable Democratic figure since John F Kennedy.

What he didn't do was give an airy, abstract, dreamy confection of rhetoric. The McCain campaign set Obama up as a celebrity airhead, a Paris Hilton of wealth and elitism. And he let them portray him that way, and let them over-reach, and let them punch him again and again ... and then he turned around and destroyed them. If the Rove Republicans thought they were playing with a patsy, they just got a reality check. Andrew Sullivan:

[click on the heading for more]

Aakhir Kyun? Is liyay kay hum bay hiss haiN bhai!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Maxim Cartoon

Not in this century! —Nadeem Ul Haque

I need more ideas. Could you please send me your questions that could fit this answer. Please note that there are still 92 more years in this century. That is three generations! How sad!

I am hoping to develop a new quiz show and I need your help. The point is to think up as many questions as you can that can be answered with the headline of this article — “not in this century!”

Listed below are all the questions I can think of that can easily be answered by the title of this article — “Not in this century!”

Governance and leadership

When will we have statesmen and learned men in leadership positions, people who are more interested in policy, reform and change, than just protocol?
When will our leaders value their tryst with history over merely running around, collecting banquets and wasting time on photo-ops?
When will our leaders stop using inane and childish remarks like “I am not scared of anybody!”?
When will policy be made by our technocrats in positions of power, as opposed to merely aping what the donors tell us or relying on ad hoc committees comprising businessmen who benefit from the policies they design?
When will we have a serious professional civil service?
When will educated accomplished people get elected to parliament?
When will appointments be made on merit and not on one’s relationship with political bosses?
When will dynasties end?
Please note that there are still 92 more years in this century. That is three generations! How sad! I need more ideas. Could you please send me your questions that could fit this answer.

An Interview with Samuel Huntington - Amina R Chaudary

For 13 years, three words have dominated the discourse on cultural, international, and religious affairs as they relate to foreign policy in our times. The “clash of civilizations,” as argued by Harvard University Professor Samuel Huntington, has stirred heated debate across the globe, but particularly among many Muslim nations. His theory is often interpreted to proclaim a fundamental incompatibility between the “Christian West” and the “Muslim World.” The scale of impact it has had on global politics is sometimes difficult to comprehend. A Google search of “clash of civilizations,” for example, produced 2.62 million hits, and to this day, this famous phrase is quoted in newspapers, books, journals, and articles from around the world. One of the most recent global acknowledgements of Huntington’s theory is from the United Nations, which under the patronage of Kofi Annan, launched an initiative called the “The Alliance of Civilizations” — presumably as a means of countering this “clash.” The influence of Huntington’s ideas is readily apparent, and will most likely continue to remain at the forefront of international relations for decades.

I had the opportunity to sit with Professor Huntington and ask him to elaborate on this controversial theory. His home is small and quaint, a historic relic tucked away on a quiet brick-lined street in downtown Boston. One wouldn’t imagine that behind such a controversial and combative theory is someone so quiet and soft-spoken. He introduced me to his wife, kindly offered something to drink, and asked me about the weather. We then began to discuss politics of the day. [for more click on the heading]

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University and author of many renowned books including “Political Order in Changing Societies” (1968), “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century” (1991), “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” (1996), and “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity” (2004). He is a graduate from Yale and Harvard universities.


Amina R. Chaudary is a graduate student at Columbia University earning a master’s degree in human rights policy as well as a master’s in liberal arts in government from Harvard University. She has worked in the field of human rights for over five years at organizations such as Oxfam, Women Waging Peace, and others

Ikram Sehgal: Wily Zardari Will Backout

Will Zardari risk the declaration of his assets, a must for the presidential office? If he declares all his wealth, and the taxes on it paid inside and outside Pakistan, the question will arise how he accumulated all this wealth. Transferring of wealth by clandestine means can bring international charges of money-laundering. And if he does not declare all his assets, he will be subjected to intense scrutiny by the western media – and even investigators, the most lethal being the free-lance ones. The Financial Times has already unearthed something scathing about his mental health. While Asif Zardari exudes confidence in brazening this out, my guess is he will opt out. He will not risk it! Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui has no such albatross around his neck to contend with, on those counts alone, honesty and integrity, he will give Zardari a run for his money (no pun intended). In the crucial meeting on Aug 25, PML-N legislators forced Mian Nawaz Sharif to dump the deal with Zardari, not only because of foot-dragging on the judiciary but because of the "stigma" of voting for him. What happens with Talpur fronting and Zardari having the remote control? He can then tell the PML-N he sacrificed his own plan in the face of overwhelming support in order to save the Coalition and satisfied his brother Mian Nawaz Sharif.

"Journalist" or "Crusader"? - Hamid Mir Justifies His Inflexibility and Imbalance

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why Not Better Relations With Everyone?

In his inimical way Patras Bukhari, I think, wrote, "Pakistan has no foreign policy. It has foreign relations."

Pakistan has excellent relations with China, and then on a sliding scale with the US, Turkey, Iran, India....and somewhere way down the line Russia.

Brian Cougley writes in the Nation

Russia has never been a friend to Pakistan, but that is no reason for any government in Islamabad to avoid movement towards more cordial relations with an increasingly important country. As has been shown in Georgia recently, the Russians are in no mood to take any nonsense from anyone, and are intent on once again being a power to be reckoned with. The declaration by the psychotic Dick Cheney that the recent Russian operation in the territory of South Ossetia "must not go unanswered" was silly bluster, and the remarks by Bush and Condoleezza Rice about Russian "aggression" and so forth are equally absurd. In early August Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, an erratic US-educated, US-backed demagogue, ordered his US-trained, US-equipped troops to rocket villages and then invade the enclave of would-be independent South Ossetia, whose largely Russian-origin inhabitants were being protected by Russian soldiers. His soldiers fired thousands of rockets from multi-barrelled launchers into villages and towns, killing hundreds of civilians. The Russian army went in and thumped the Georgians.

So who does much of the West blame for the conflict? Why, Russia, of course. The hypocrisy of Western reaction to Russia's justifiable involvement in Georgia is ridiculous. Washington's condemnation of Moscow is bizarre, and for Bush to state, as he did on August 15, that "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century" is preposterous to the point of fantasy. Bush pronounced that "We insist that Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected" which is rich, coming from a man whose drones continue to violate Pakistan's airspace to fire missiles that have killed scores of Pakistani civilians. Because of George W Bush there is an ongoing US military occupation of Iraq, a country which posed no threat whatever to the United States and which on his orders was invaded illegally and mercilessly subjugated. His soldiers, outside the NATO command system (such as that is), have killed hundreds of Afghan civilians, resulting in futile protests by Afghanistan's President Karzai. Sovereignty, anyone?

Russia is going places. It is no pussy cat: it is an increasingly powerful bear, and a welcome counter to the self-righteous Imperial Eagle that so enjoys demonstrating its ferocious doctrine of Shock and Awe. Confrontation is the thrust of Washington's foreign policy, but it has now been met with determination on the part of a proud nation that refuses to be intimidated. There is a lesson here; and it would be wise for other countries, and especially for Europe, to decide where to place their own interests.

Ten-year cycles of political change - By Shafqat Ali Shah Jamote

PRESIDENT Musharraf’s resignation marks the end of his rule and the end of an era. His departure on Aug 18, 2008 confirms a puzzling theory that I have been contemplating for some years now as a political scientist: every 10 years there is a major change in the direction of Pakistani politics. The years 1938, 1948, 1958, 1968, 1978, 1988, 1998 and now 2008 are significant starting and ending periods of this change. The number eight seems to occupy a critical position, as do the months of August and October in this matrix.


Also, personalities have dominated most cycles: Jinnah was the dominating figure during the 1938-48 period; Ayub Khan(1958-68); ZA. Bhutto (1968-78); Ziaul Haq (1978-88) and Pervez Musharraf (1998-2008). But during the periods of 1948-58 and 1988-1998, though Liaquat Ali Khan, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were all well-known leaders of their times, no one leader had a meaningful impact on Pakistan’s political scene. The political process played out until the end of the 10-year cycle. We will have to wait another 10 years to see if history repeats itself once again.


My problem with Jamote's last assessment is: can Pakistan survive this decade of rudderlessness?

Soon to be available on the Web: Dead Sea Scrolls

JERUSALEM: In a crowded laboratory painted in gray and cooled like a cave, half a dozen specialists embarked this week on an historic undertaking: digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file - among the most sought-after and examined documents on earth - available to all on the Internet.

Equipped with highly powerful cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have real scholarly impact.

The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.

Another Dimension: Left Right Divide? Syed Saleem Shahzad

With Sharif's move, ideological divides between liberal-secularists (PPP) and right-wing conservatives (PML-N) that had been blurred during Musharraf's nearly nine-year tenure have resurfaced. This fragmentation has blown apart Western plans to make Pakistani domestic politics useful in the "war on terror" as the opposition, which is also opposed to Pakistan's involvement in the "war on terror", will provide strong resistance to Islamabad's decision to increase military operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Zardari, with the Americans breathing down his neck, will be expected to control the often defiant secret service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as well as the military, regularly accused by the West of not doing enough against militants, if not supporting of the Taliban. Neither task will be easy, if not impossible. [for more click on the heading]


Forget about the more immediate pressing problems faced by the citizenry. If Zardari fails to divide the ISI and Army, he would not only be signing his own political death warrant, he will be cementing them further.

And for adamant and obtuse Sharif the rewards may be a land locked Punjab.

And then, there is an ever present scepter of the Faujis, who are perhaps in a strategic withdrawal and would emerge if conditions deteriorate sufficiently.

Uncle Sam would love that.

Sher Aaya, Sher Gaya & Love Is In the Air

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jinnah Was a Parsi? - By: Ayesha Ijaz Khan

Sherry had left the studio and I was still waiting for my ride. As I waited, Dr. Shahid and I continued our conversation. Dr. Shahid, I realized quickly from speaking to him, had an extremely right-wing bent of mind. The conversation drifted to Partition, and then Jinnah, to which I heard the most bizarre remark from Dr. Shahid. “Jinnah was a Parsi,” he said. Not that I think there is anything wrong with the Zoroastrian faith, but Dr. Shahid was clearly misinformed and I felt I must set him straight.

“Jinnah was a Muslim. He married a Parsi woman, but he was Muslim,” I told him matter-of-factly.

“No, Jinnah was a Parsi, I think,” Dr. Shahid still doubted my knowledge, and possibly his own.

“Jinnah was born in an Isamili household,” I told him, thinking perhaps that Dr. Shahid may be confusing one minority group for another, odd as it sounds, “but, as an adult, chose to espouse mainstream Islam.” Dr. Shahid appeared confused at my statement and did not respond but looked on disbelievingly. Shortly after that, I left the studio but found it very difficult to fathom that Jinnah, whose name appears in the greatest Muslim leaders of all time, who created a homeland for millions of Muslims, would be mistaken as a non-Muslim by anyone, leave alone a Pakistani. I had met Pakistanis before who belittled Jinnah’s contribution or doubted his wisdom but never before had I met a Pakistani who actually thought that he was not Muslim. Dr. Shahid sure was special.

Short as our interaction was, I never forgot Dr. Shahid’s words and was hence never able to take him seriously. When he got his own show on ARY, I found it little different from Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News. He was good at only one thing—sensationalizing issues, most often in the context of Islam versus the West or religious Muslims versus secular Muslims. Certainly there are issues in both those areas, but Dr. Shahid’s shows, barring occasional exceptions, lacked cogent analysis or appropriate cross-questioning, and played only to peoples’ emotions. I was therefore quite surprised when GEO took him on in a senior capacity. But I suppose sensationalism works and ratings attest to it.

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Maxim Cartoon

U.N. Envoy’s Ties to Pakistani Are Questioned

WASHINGTON — Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari, a contender to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan. Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts, a senior United States official said. Other officials said Mr. Khalilzad had planned to meet with Mr. Zardari privately next Tuesday while on vacation in Dubai, in a session that was canceled only after Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, learned from Mr. Zardari himself that the ambassador was providing “advice and help.”

Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a longtime friend of a leading Pakistani politician.

“Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing?” Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. “What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?” Copies of the message were sent to others at the highest levels of the State Department; the message was provided to The New York Times by an administration official who had received a copy.

Art That Intervenes - Niiloer Farrukh

I recently had an encounter with the work of two artists who deal with issues of dispossessed people. Coming from two different parts of the world, to them, poverty, human rights and war are not abstract ideas to be handled at arms length with a conventional formal vocabulary, so they seek new strategies to communicate the palpable suffering that can only be given a human face with deep engagement.

The current exhibition at Power Plant Gallery in Toronto shows Walid Raad’s images which were taken by the artist as a 15-year-old through a telescopic lens, during the 1982 Israeli siege of Beirut. They are of a sky ablaze with falling bombs and explosions and triumphant conquerors on tanks. Marks of age visible in haziness and scratches remind us of a conflict that today, has added many recent chapters to the life of a resilient city that has been repeatedly built and destroyed.

The concerns of Mumbai-based artist Sharmila Samant in the two video pieces screened in Toronto focus on the insidiousness of corporate greed. “Art to me is the conscience, a kind of awareness and a reflection of my experiences,” she confesses. Her first video investigates the high rate of suicide deaths among young cotton farmers of India’s Gujrat province which, in recent years, has multiplied due to unbearable debts. The causes of crop failure are traced to the introduction of Monsanto seeds that makes the plants more vulnerable to disease and its bio-genetic make-up deprives them of seeds for future harvests. In documentary style, the artist interviews cotton crop experts and follows them to funerals of farmers who are mostly under 40 years of age, allowing the emotions and hardship speak to the audiences.

Kishwar Naheed's Open Letter to Ahmed Faraz

Dear Faraz,

We met back in 1964, in the Peshawar office of Yousuf Lodhi (the great political cartoonist who died a few years ago). That night we talked about politics, literature and made small jokes about contemporary writers. That was the start of our friendship. You and my husband Yousuf Kamran grew closer. You were both too glamorous. I know the way girls used to write letters to the two of you. The phone was not common then. Yousuf was presenting PTV’s popular programmes such as “Sukhanwar” and “Dastan Go”. You were being introduced on TV as the Hero Poet. When a famous singer sang your ghazal “Yeh Alam Shouq Ka Dekha na Jai’, viewers still remember you looking like a shy adolescent, the singer with her ring-studded fingers, looking proud of her achievement. Yes, it was a small spark, which was quickly put to ashes by her mother.

Photo: S. Arneja

Ahmed Faraz: Poet and a man of the world.

Faraz, You have had a tendency to create controversies about either yourself or about different issues. Remember you spoke against marriage and said this is also a sort of prostitution through a contract on paper. How many newspapers and fundamentalists spoke against you? Another controversy you started was about the Urdu language. You said Urdu is a dying language. The entire Muttahida Qaumi Movement (a party that represents Urdu speakers in Pakistan) and many writers got angry with you. You also spoke against the army but then changed your words saying “I am against the ruling junta, not against a sipahi”.

[click on the heading to read this in full]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Crying Censorship - Stanley Fish

Salman Rushdie, self-appointed poster boy for the First Amendment, is at it again. This time he’s not standing up for free expression on his own behalf, but on behalf of another author, Sherry Jones, whose debut novel about the prophet Muhammad’s child bride had been withdrawn by Random House after consultants warned that its publication “could incite racial conflict.” This little brouhaha has been widely reported and commentators have tended to endow it with large philosophical and political implications (the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005 and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh are often referenced). A story in The Times of London online edition describes it “the latest showdown between Islam and the Western tradition of free speech.” One respondent declared bravely, “I will never buy another book published by Random House,” and added, in a frenzy of patriotism, “We are Americans. We are free to choose what we want to read.”

It is censorship when Germany and other countries criminalize the professing or publication of Holocaust denial. (I am not saying whether this is a good or a bad idea.) It is censorship when in some countries those who criticize the government are prosecuted and jailed. It was censorship when the United States Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1798, stipulating that anyone who writes with the intent to bring the president or Congress or the government “into contempt or disrepute” shall be “punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.” Key to these instances is the fact that (1) it is the government that is criminalizing expression and (2) that the restrictions are blanket ones. That is, they are not the time, manner, place restrictions that First Amendment doctrine traditionally allows; they apply across the board. You shall not speak or write about this, ever. That’s censorship.
So what Random House did was not censorship. (Some other press is perfectly free to publish Jones’s book, and one probably will.)

[thanks A]

How real is your politik? - Shandana Minhas

I have not read anything by Shandy so overtly political as this column:

And as a human citizen of a proud sovereign country currently embroiled in serious economic, political and ideological crises that cannot be resolved without selfless, visionary leadership, I think Zardari for president is the worst idea since poodle clipping as an Olympic sport (seriously, Paris, 1900, 128 ‘athletes’ competed to see who could clip the most poodle’s fur in a two hour period).

My reasons for this are simple: He has no political legitimacy; a representative democracy means power is conferred through election not (un)natural selection. He has a dodgy track record; his stints as minister for the environment and investments under previous PPP governments were marred by allegations of corruption that still refuse to go away. He lacks consistency and hence credibility: The judiciary is not a real issue…Sure we’ll restore the judiciary…We’ll restore it right now…We’ll restore it later…Judy Who?

Roll of dice _ Zahoor


Mr. P L Desi*

born free
singly and collectively
pile and hamper
tint and prejudice

Mango Man*

born free
large family
no school
street smarts
to prejudices
also without

You and I

also born free


* P. L - Pyare Lal, PaRha Likha, Pervez Latif, Parmjit Ludhianvi
* Mango = Aam, Man = Aadmi

Roget's II: The New Thesaurus
Main Entry: hamper
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: To restrict the activity or free movement of.
Synonyms: chain, fetter, hamstring, handcuff, hobble, leash, manacle, shackle, tie, trammel, basket, block, clog, confine, container, cramp, crate, curb, embarrass, encumber, fetter, foil, frustrate, halter, handcuff, handicap, hinder, hobble, impede, inhibit, load, manacle, obstruct, pannier, restrain, restrict, shackle, slow, stymie, trammel

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to improve your memory


Recalling sequences Tony Buzan, the mind guru, uses vivid stories. To remember the order of the planets, he pictures a thermometer next to the Sun; the Sun gets so hot that the thermometer bursts, leaking mercury (Mercury); a beautiful goddess comes to see what has happened (Venus); she picks up a globule of mercury and hurls it into the ground (Earth), and so on.

This memory-link system uses both hemispheres of the brain: the left for order, logic and reasoning and the right for imagination, colour and emotion.

Eventually the neural pathways associated with this type of memorising become strengthened, making recall easier.

Recalling numbers Remember this sequence: 2, 1, 9, 0, 4, 1, 10, 99, 72, 31, 22, 0, 2, 5, 7. How many numbers could you recall? Probably no more than seven.

Now try this technique devised by Dominic O'Brien: Think of the 2 as a swan, 1 a telephone pole, 9 a balloon on a string, 0 a football, 4 a sailboat. For 10 think of the Prime Minister, for 99 think of Mr Whippy. When you get to 72, break the number down into letters corresponding to their place in the alphabet. 72 is G and B, the initials of George Bush. Do the same for the rest of the numbers, then invent a story in sequence: a swan bumps into a telephone pole, at the top of the pole is a balloon on a string, it has a picture of a football on it, and so on.

Recalling lists Use the Method of Loci: imagining a familiar journey, place or building and creating a story around it. Mentally position the things you want to remember at points along the journey, then link them together in your mind. You could use rooms in your house. If you need to remember milk, bread and sausages, visualise the milk spilling out over your doormat, soaking an enormous loaf of bread in the hallway. Haul yourself up the stairs using a string of sausages and so on. Retrace your steps to recall each item.

Recalling faces Use visual associations. If the person is called Taylor, picture them with a tape measure around their neck. If the first name is Carol, imagine them singing Away in a Manger...

The world’s largest collection of cricket books

AS HEAD of the corporate-finance department of Goldman Sachs in London, Tim Bunting could boast that he had visited New Zealand three times without staying the night. But he found himself burnt out by his mid-thirties; he quit his job after attending 27 dinners on consecutive evenings. Fortunately, he retired quite wealthy, and decided to spend much of his time and money on his collection of cricket books. His collection soon became an obsession. Cricket books, he says, account for one-half of all books written on all sports. He owns more than 25,000 of them—the largest collection of cricket books in the world—and he built a library in an old rectory in rural Hampshire to hold them. The best-known of all cricket books is “Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack”, which has been published annually since 1864. Mr Bunting has two complete sets, but his greatest prize is a third, which belonged to (and was annotated by) W.G. Grace, a legendary English cricket player who died in 1916.

Deadline: Thaali Ka Baigun

The Billionaire Twins are again at it. You must have learned by now that there is yet another deadline for the restoration of judges.

Yeh deadline na hui thaali ka baigun ho gaee - kaheen tikti hee nahi;)

You must have heard the old adage: do not put all your eggs in one basket.

Yet for the past year, or so it seems, this nation of 160-170 million is being held hostage to restoring Iftikhar Chaudhry to the office he was forcibly removed from. I wish Mr Chaudhry long life and good health. For a moment, suppose he meets with an accident and is unable to perform his duties as a Chief Justice.

What is more relevant and important for the nation? Restoration of a judiciary with guarantees for its independence or the same with Iftikhar Chaudhry as a Chief?

An independent and functioning judiciary is far more relevant and important or the nation than any individual.

Why should the focus on one individual be used by vested interests to fool the nation. This deliberate distraction has already caused many deaths.

Perspective From the Other Side

Here is M J Akbar's Perspective from across the divide.

Is resurrection possible for a dictator? Always possible. Time is a great restorative. All you have to do is await that moment when your successor has made an even bigger mess than you left behind.I should imagine that the currently-reviled ex-dictator of Pakistan should be back in some demand within a year or so, given the pace at which his tormentors, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, have begun to torment each other. Having set aside Musharraf, they have begun the far more vicious process of trying to eliminate each other. This is a power-play in which there can be only one victor. Musharraf was the semi-finals. Islamabad is not a big enough town to find space for both Zardari and Sharif.The final resolution of this conflict will only come after another general election.

Sharif has his sights on the Supreme Court, which has become the only reserve bank of credibility in a nation where the Constitution has been amenable to the doctrine of necessity — in simpler words, where the judiciary has legalised events rather than law being the determinant of fact.

Zardari is more audacious, seeking the supreme office in the land, that of the President, since he is surely convinced that he will not get office through a popular vote. Even time has not been able to eliminate the reek of corruption and worse that clings to his reputation.

The only discipline that Musharraf needs to restore his credibility is silence. Given the garrulous ex-dictator's penchant for shooting from the lip with a silver gun, this might be asking for too much. But nothing will serve Musharraf better than a spell of silence while Zardari hogs the national microphone and Sharif waits with growing impatience for Zardari to self-destruct.

Sharif's ideal moment, the point at which he would hope to strike, would be when the PPP had become much weaker and Musharraf had not yet been lifted by the bounce of nostalgia. There will come a time when people will remember the stability and economic growth of the best of Musharraf's tenure.

BOOK REVIEW: Roy on France and Islam by Khaled Ahmed

Roy seeks new thinking among Muslim intellectuals, most of whom live abroad, Muhammad Arkun, Abdul Karim Soroush, Khaled Abu El Fadl and Abu Zayd, who believe that early Islam was a free-wheeling adaptive Islam that was gradually arrested by a specific Arab-dominated culture that makes the faith impervious to modernisation. Looking at Pakistan in the light of this observation one can say that it is not Islam that is destroying Pakistani culture through Talibanisation but a certain interpretation frozen in Arab culture. Iranian intellectual Abdul Karim Soroush actually appeals for a contraction of religion (qabz-e-din) away from the political sphere as well as culture.

Roy speaks of aporia when he discusses the advocates of the modern Islamic state. (Aporia: a figure of speech in which the speaker professes to be at a loss about what course to pursue, where to begin to end, what to say, etc.) From Maududi to Khomeini to Muslim Brotherhood, he finds Muslim thinkers drawing the definition of the Islamic state, not from the sharia or the political traditions of the Islamic world, but an Islamic reading of modern political concepts (p.63). This takes him to the next step of seeing the separation of religion and politics proclaimed by Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq.

BOOK REVIEW: Roy on France and Islam by Khaled Ahmed

Secularism confronts Islam;

By Olivier Roy;
Columbia University Press 2007;
Pp128; Price $19.60;
Available at bookstores in Pakistan

The author has already written elsewhere about the failure of political Islam because of the non-compatibility of the Islamic imaginary with the structure of the modern state. A political agenda based on Revelation will be bound to coercively suit society to law rather than the other way around

Saturday, August 23, 2008

War and Peace: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East By Kenneth M. Pollack

Interesting Review of A PATH OUT OF THE DESERT: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East By Kenneth M. Pollack. 539 pp. Random House. $30 by Max Rodenbeck who is the Middle East correspondent for The Economist.

Pollack commits errors that, despite his years in the corridors of power and some 70 pages of footnotes, betray a lack of genuine intimacy with his subject. It is not true, as he asserts, that education in the Persian Gulf emirates is largely private. Nor is it true, any longer, that virtually the only foreign investment in Arab countries goes toward pumping more oil: real estate, tourism, banking, telecoms and even heavy industry now lure investors, too.

It is an outdated generalization to state that “Arab bureaucracies . . . create interminable delays with customs regulations, inspections and other red tape.” Try telling that to Dubai Ports World, a company that runs 45 container terminals in 29 countries, or to the operators of the giant, state-of-the-art transshipment hubs in Egypt and Morocco that are set to dominate Mediterranean trade. It is even more misleading to assert that “the Arab regimes have implicitly or explicitly backed a range of terrorist groups.” Pray, which Arab governments does he mean, and which groups is he talking about?

Pollack also shows a shaky grasp of history. We know that the Ottoman Empire declined and fell, but to have endured for five centuries, and for half those as the biggest state in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, does not make the Ottomans “unsuccessful.” Elsewhere he tells us sagely that “over time, the stagnation of the Arab economies has created considerable poverty,” as if there were no poor Arabs before, and as if one of the most startling modern examples of mass impoverishment was not the Clinton-era sanctions on Iraq, which destroyed its middle class and set the stage for postwar chaos.

America gets off rather lightly in gen­eral, in Pollack’s account, compared with the sad Arabs whom we must help to be like us. We are told, for instance, that the United States only grudgingly became involved in the grisly Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s when it nobly undertook to reflag oil tankers in order to protect the flow of oil. No mention here of Donald Rumsfeld’s back-slapping with Saddam Hussein or the supply of satellite intelligence to him or the exchange of American weapons to Iran for hostages — all of which helped prolong the slaughter.

Pollack seems oddly unaware of history’s motivating forces. To assert that “what triggers revolutions, civil wars and other internal unrest is psychological factors, particularly feelings of extreme despair,” is plain silly. The Boston Tea Party could not have been prevented by Prozac. Similarly, he ascribes feelings to broad categories of Middle Easterners, devoid of any context or explanation. They are “angry populations” who suffer “inchoate frustration” and “a pathological hatred of the status quo.” We repeatedly hear of “Arab rage at Israel” and “Arab venom for Israel.” Nowhere is there a hint that such attitudes might bear some relation to the plight of the Palestinians, the agony of military defeat or the humiliation of life under Israeli occupation.

In fact, the book’s most salient distortions stem from Pollack’s protectiveness toward Israel. He makes some absurdly cockeyed assertions, like, “America’s support for Israel over the years has even been a critical element in winning and securing Arab allies.” He offers misleading false alternatives, declaring, for instance, that there is “absolutely no reason to believe that ending American support for Israel would somehow eliminate” the risk of Islamist zealots taking power and cutting oil exports. How about making aid to Israel, and not just to Arabs, conditional, or aiming at mitigating, rather than eliminating, such risks? Pollack makes a peculiarly acrobatic effort to prove that hostility to Israel is not a prime motivating factor behind militant jihadism, repeating this assertion no fewer than four times in two paragraphs. Has he not bothered to listen to Osama bin Laden’s addresses to the American people, where he said that what converted him from dreamer to murderous activist was Israeli bombs falling on Beirut in 1982?
Even more disingenuously, Pollack repeats the myth that Al Qaeda has never attacked Israel.
One might argue that its bombings of synagogues in Djerba and Istanbul, and against Jewish targets in Casablanca, in which dozens of people died, were anti-Semitic rather than anti-Israeli.

But the November 2002 attacks in Kenya were aimed specifically at Israeli tourists. Thirteen people, among them three Israelis, died in a resort hotel, and had the missiles fired simultaneously at an Israeli charter plane with 261 passengers aboard not missed, this would have been Al Qaeda’s goriest “success” since the twin towers. This may seem like nit-picking, particularly since Pollack is, after all, on the side of those who believe it is in America’s own interest to make peace between Israelis and Arabs, or at least to pretend to try.

What is troubling about Pollack’s view, which is fairly representative of his fellow liberal interventionists, who are likely to be in power soon, is its lack of clarity. Can’t we just admit that American support for Israel is strategically burdensome and is driven by the passion of several domestic constituencies rather than cold cost-benefit geopolitics? Can’t we see that the temptation to intervene in places like the Middle East arises as much because “they” are weak as because “we” are just and noble? No matter what good will America’s “policy community” proclaims toward the Middle East, this mix of blinkered indulgence of Israel and disdain for the rest of the region, as well as a predilection for Wilsonian dreams over achievable goals, suggests we will remain in the wilderness for some time to come.

Pakistan is at last finding its voice. The US would be wise not to gag it

Mohsin Hamid writes: The US, for its part, will need to adjust to a Pakistan in which anti-America sentiment could seriously undermine US interests. The US can best do this by offering Pakistan not the appearance of an alliance but the equality and mutual respect that constitutes the substance of one. Pakistan's people have already demonstrated through the ballot that they reject the Taliban worldview, and the number of Pakistanis who died in terrorist attacks last year alone exceeds the number of Americans killed on 9/11. Pakistan should be allowed to determine how best to fight extremists on its soil. Pakistani solutions are likely to be slower and more cautious than US ones, but also, crucially, more sustained and popular, and therefore more effective in the long run.


Through ballot they have, for now. But the key question is whether the people can withstand their bullets? After all the chaos in Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal the Afghanis did welcome Mullah Omar's Talebans the first time around.

Will it be repeated in Pakistan? WIll there be a rural urban divide? One embracing the neo-Talebans the other rejecting them?

Robert Fisk's World: A region boiling with tales of kings, gangs and war

This is one reason why journalists are often more interesting to talk to than to read. The other reason is that American reporters are so fearful of being criticised by Israel that their work is bland to the point of incomprehension; if you want to know what The New York Times or The Washington Post knows, you've got to talk to one of their correspondents. But I'm tired of these conventions. When I hear something in Dubai, then I hear it again in Qatar and then, a week later, over lunch in Beirut – and then on the phone from a friend who's just returned from a holiday in Casablanca – you, the reader, should hear the same.

Takfiris? - Syed Saleem Shahzad

Up until 2007, under Musharraf, Pakistan made a clear distinction between the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Takfiris (those who believe non-practicing Muslims are infidels) among al-Qaeda and criminal gangs who became a part of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

However, the Takfiris, who include aging Egyptian Sheikh Essa's group, are a different story. Pakistan has made a clear distinction with them, including Uzbeks under the command of Qari Tahir Farooq (Tahir Yaldeshiv) and has gone after them with its proxies in the tribal areas. The same went for Pakistani criminal groups such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, who joined the Takfiri camp, or camps under Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Mehsud, who is very close to the Takfiris. Pakistan's relations with the Pakistani Taliban have depended on which leader they followed. If they were part of Mullah Omar's or Jalaluddin Haqqani's groups, they were left alone; if they were part of the Takfiri groups, the treatment was different.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Take That, Stupid Printer! - Farhad Manjoo

I bought a cheap laser printer a couple years ago, and for a while, it worked perfectly. The printer, a Brother HL-2040, was fast, quiet, and produced sheet after sheet of top-quality prints—until one day last year, when it suddenly stopped working. I consulted the user manual and discovered that the printer thought its toner cartridge was empty. It refused to print a thing until I replaced the cartridge. But I'm a toner miser: For as long as I've been using laser printers, it's been my policy to switch to a new cartridge at the last possible moment, when my printouts get as faint as archival copies of the Declaration of Independence. But my printer's pages hadn't been fading at all. Did it really need new toner—or was my printer lying to me?

To find out, I did what I normally do when I'm trying to save $60: I Googled. Eventually I came upon a note on posted by a fellow calling himself OppressedPrinterUser. This guy had also suspected that his Brother was lying to him, and he'd discovered a way to force it to fess up. Brother's toner cartridges have a sensor built into them; OppressedPrinterUser found that covering the sensor with a small piece of dark electrical tape tricked the printer into thinking he'd installed a new cartridge. I followed his instructions, and my printer began to work. At least eight months have passed. I've printed hundreds of pages since, and the text still hasn't begun to fade. On, many Brother owners have written in to thank OppressedPrinterUser for his hack. One guy says that after covering the sensor, he printed 1,800 more pages before his toner finally ran out.

How a Jihadist Curtailed a President’s Authority - Jonathan Turley

When Salim Hamdan was born in 1970, the horizon of his life extended little beyond his poor Yemeni village and a life (if he was lucky) as a farmer like his father. He was anything but lucky. His mother died when he was 7, his father when he was 11, and he soon found himself living on the streets of Mukalla. He eventually found work as the driver of a dabab, a beat-up minibus stuffed with riders — making just enough to rent a mattress in a flophouse and a daily supply of the mild narcotic khat to chew away his problems.

46 Activists Hope To Sail From Cyprus To Gaza In Bid To Break Israeli Blockade

LARNACA -About 46 activists from 16 countries are hoping to sail from Cyprus to Gaza today to try to break an Israeli blockade on the territory. The Free Gaza Movement hopes the voyage will draw attention to the plight of 1.4 million Palestinians suffering shortages of everything from fuel to food since an Israeli crackdown began last year. Plans had been repeatedly delayed by rough seas in the eastern Mediterranean. The Free Gaza movement says it wants to establish a permanent sea link between Cyprus and Gaza. Activists on the boat include Israeli citizens, Hedy Epstein, an 84-year old Holocaust survivor, and Lauren Booth, half-sister of Cherie Blair, wife of the former British prime minister.

The More Things Change The More......Ayaz Amir

Meanwhile, we can all take note of the fact that while faces have changed and a wave of jubilation has swept the country, the substance of policy remains the same. In American eyes Musharraf's principal virtue was that he was pro-American, staunch and often unthinking guardian of American interests in this part of the world. The new setup – from Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani to Rehman Malik and the foreign minister, down to our man in Washington – is as America-inclined as anything Musharraf could offer.

The United States can thus congratulate itself on a smooth transition from a dictator and military man who had outlived his utility to a civilian set-up following the same policies but enjoying popular support.

Musharraf's unpopularity was hindering the "war on terror". The Americans think that the popular base of the new arrangement in Pakistan will facilitate the "war on terror". This is where the rub lies. The American-imposed "war on terror" has brought nothing but misery for Pakistan. Terrorism, instead of being contained or eradicated, has spread and now threatens to spread deeper into Pakistan. We need to rethink this war and the philosophy underpinning it, but this revision won't happen under the new order of things emerging in Pakistan.

Najmuddin Shaikh on Pervez Musharraf

What he will be remembered and reviled for, however, is:

* The “selective accountability” process and the consequent unsavoury political alliances.

* The “hunting with the hounds and running with the hare” on the Taliban Al Qaeda question.

* The apparent kowtowing to the US even while being accused by the Americans of playing a double game.

* The concessions to India on Kashmir even while progress on issues of interest to Pakistan — even those apart from Kashmir remained in limbo.

* The dubious referendum.

* The manipulation which allowed the MMA to secure power in Balochistan and NWFP in 2002 and of course provided the votes needed for his election as president.

* The sacking of the chief justice.

* The gross mismanagement of the Lal Masjid situation and the deliberate ignoring of other madrassas which should have been placed under siege during the crisis.

* The carnage of May 12 and the terming of this catastrophe as a show of “political power” on par with the assemblage of paid participants in the PMLQ’s show of strength in Islamabad that fateful evening. (For me, it was the breaking point. Setting alight the powder keg that is Karachi jeopardised Pakistan’s lifeline and was far worse in historical terms than Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.)

* The admittedly unconstitutional actions of November 3.

* The washing away of all evidence at Liaquat Bagh after the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

* The recent revelation of his phone conversation with Bhutto in which he told her that the level of security she would get in Pakistan would depend on the level of cooperation she extended to him.

* The sky-rocketing cost of living and the revelation that Pakistan’s budget deficit and current account deficit had touched unprecedented levels as the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

* The perception that the role of foreign aid in the economic development was not sufficiently acknowledged and that cronies if not the principal players drew huge benefits from the development process at the cost of the common man.


Najmuddin Shaikh on Nawaz Sharif

* This was the prime minister whose supporters in full public view had sacked the Supreme Court building and thrown out the chief justice of the day, setting the precedent for March 9, 2007.

* This was the prime minister whose massive mandate came when between the closing of the polls and the declaration of results, voter turnout climbed by 15 percent amid charges of massive ballot box stuffing.

* This was the man who was going to become the “Amir-ul Momineen” once Senate elections had been held in March 2000 and requisite majority obtained in both houses to make the required changes in the constitution. The powers he would then have enjoyed would have dwarfed even the powers Musharraf enjoyed during his one-man rule.

* This was the prime minister who had frozen foreign exchange accounts causing business confidence to crumble and occasioning a flight of capital.

* This was the prime minister who perforce, as some accounts suggest, or because he was suffering from delusions of grandeur allowed the Kargil Operation to commence or to be continued by the selfsame General Musharraf.

* This was the prime minister who, after the Kargil fiasco and after the humiliating visit to the US, sought, without adequate preparation, to assert control over the armed forces in what was a legally dubious and pragmatically unsound manner.

* This was the prime minister who imprisoned dissenting journalists and who brooked no opposition to his despotic rule.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tariq Ali's Way Out of Pakistan's Impasse.

There is a way out, but the political and military rulers and their Western backers have always ignored it: serious land reforms, the creation of a proper social infrastructure and the establishment of at least a dozen teacher-training universities to lay the basis for a proper educational system. Malaysia has done so. Why not Pakistan?

Give Him a Break, Will you?

Give this man a break. He cannot count

Police in Saudi Arabia have arrested a man working for the country's vice squad who is accused of having six wives, two more than allowed under Islamic law, a newspaper reported yesterday. The 56-year-old Saudi, detained in the southwestern province of Jazan near the border with Yemen, is being questioned over charges that he is married to three Saudi and three Yemeni women, Al-Watan said. The man is an employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the religious police commonly known as the Muttawa, which is in charge of enforcing a strict Islamic moral code in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom. He has denied the charge, claiming he has divorced two of his spouses, the newspaper said. The governor of Jazan has ordered the formation of a committee to look into the case. Muslim men can keep up to four wives at a time under shariah, or Islamic law, which is applied in Saudi Arabia.

America Is Better Off Without Musharraf - Hussain Haqqani

These are the op ed words of a man who wore many hats - from the Nawaz League, he jumped to PPP, marrying Nahid Khan's sister, then divorcing her to marry Farah Naz Ispahani, teaching at Boston, joined neo-con think tanks, got close to Bibi in exile and landing the plum ambassadorship in DC. He is also alleged to be a neo-con if not a neoconzix. Media savvy, always glib, never at a loss for words in both Urdu and English:

The U.S.'s primary concern in Pakistan remains the ongoing war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, mainly in the country's northwest region bordering Afghanistan. With Mr. Musharraf gone, the war against terror will in fact be pursued with much more vigor and much less political manipulation. Anti-Americanism among Pakistan's people may ease, now that Washington is not seen as backing an unpopular strongman. That should make it easier for the elected government to fight terrorism without being accused of doing America's bidding in return for economic and military assistance.

(Am not sure what dreamland Mr Haqqani lives in. Musharraf is gone but replaced by another of their point man, Kayani, now seen unburdened with political considerations - t)

The assumption that dealing with a single, authoritarian leader is the best way to do business with a foreign government is erroneous. In a nation of 160 million, the U.S. should not count on only one man as its ally. Those who are American allies by conviction and a shared belief in democracy, tolerance and free markets are bound to be better allies than an ally of convenience seeking only aid and political support.

(Mr. Haqqani should read more history - the US talks about democracy from one corner of the mouth but when it comes to working, preponderately in the years since 1945, the US has preferred to work with dictators, shahs, kings and not with democratically elected leaders in the third world - Egypt, Iran, Iraq, is along list. Further, the US is NOT counting on one man in a nation of 160 million. He is insulting the reader's intelligence. - t)

For Hamid Mir Also

Dear Hamid Mir:

You write of complete independence not partial independence here. Restoration of CJ is a top priority for you. Can you tell us why the bench under CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry repeatedly ignored the appeals to do something about this case when he was the chief justice? If he had deliberated over this then the whole nation would have gained and we would have been spared many a corrupt leader now in and near power.

#1-July 21, 2002
#2-Aug 04, 2002
#3- Aug 11, 2002
#4- Aug 18, 2002
#5 - Aug 25, 2002
#6 Aug 05, 2002
#7 Aug 12, 2007
#8- Aug 19, 2007
#10 - Sep 02,2007

Now the Hard Part - Ikram Sehgal

Wise words: The patience of both the PPP and the PML (N) will be tested, there is a far freer media than that they were used to in governance. With Musharraf no longer their bogey, it will ultimately turn on them and their known weaknesses. Restoration of the superior judiciary will be the first test; the media will hold them to this solemn pledge. Subsequently, will the NRO stay or was the rule of law rhetoric by CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry only lip-service? Musharraf should have at least given these to us as a parting gift, would this have compromised the "arrangement" for indemnity?

To tar and feather the uniform may be the real intention of those who want the Army as a truncated force engaged in internal policing duties in a de-nuclearised Pakistan. The send-off from the Presidency was complete with a guard of honour from all three Services as befits their Supreme Commander, a strong but subtle message. With Musharraf no longer a "problem", the Coalition has no further excuses in finding solutions for the many crisis confronting Pakistan.

Quoting "The singer not the song", as far back as October 11, 2007, "For me personally Musharraf still matters, the song he is now singing does not, it is out of the sync with the ideals he once professed". Those in power seldom want to leave power, Musharraf was no different. In the end he at least exercised good sense and judgment in not dragging the country through another debilitating crisis. Discretion being the better part of valour, the most difficult military operation is not "attack" but "withdrawal". For whatever it may be worth, Musharraf withdrew gracefully. Whatever his detractors may claim and/or would have hoped otherwise, it was a dignified exit.

Fasadi, not Jihadi - M J Akbar

When I read this excerpt I thought of Baitaalh Mahsud, Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden and thier likes. Are they Jihadi or Fasadi?

The Quran makes a very clear distinction between legitimate war, a jihad, and illegitimate violence that spreads havoc among the innocent, a fasad. A fasadi is one who "spreads mischief through the land". The Quranic word entered our language and is used commonly for a communal riot. The Urdu-English dictionary in my office lists some of its meanings as "disturbance, trouble, outbreak of rebellion, dissension, mischief...."

It appears in the Quran, in Verse 32 of Surah 5, in the context of the first murder, when Cain killed Abel, his brother, who had done no harm. The verse is a powerful indictment of anyone who kills innocents: "That if anyone slew a person (through fasad) it would be as if he slew the whole people. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people." An innocent’s death kills something in the whole community; protecting an innocent individual is akin to saving the whole. The worst mischief is, in the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, "treason against the state, combined with treason against Allah, as shown by overt crimes." For this crime, "four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to circumstances, viz., execution, crucifixion, maiming or exile". I have used Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation and notes because they are accepted internationally. The message is supplemented by other verses (as for instance Surah 30:41).

Nayyar Zaidi Missing

Veteran journalist (daily Jang & Geo TV) and broadcaster (with VOA at one time) Nayyar Zaidi is missing acording to a report filed by another veteran journalist Khalid Hasan from DC. Nayyar also had a history of launching a multi-million dolar suit against the FBI.

WASHINGTON: Nayyar Zaidi, the well-known US-based Pakistani-American journalist, who has been a citizen of the United States for more than 30 years has been in US custody for the last four months on what are said to be terrorism-related charges.According to one report, Zaidi is being held on the charge of “obstruction of justice”, a very serious offence. He is also said to be awaiting a trial. [more here]

While pursuing this story I came across this hand written note by Nayyar Zaidi from Federal Detention Center, dated August 8, 2008.

There is also another blog entry by Irshad Salim which alleges that Nayyar Zaidi was arrested by Ohio Police for "teen sex" charges.

Caveat: While confessing to know little about the truth of the matter before the courts, I can hazard an opinion based on FBI and CIA and Homeland Security's past "misadventures". The tussle between Nayyar zaidi and FBI has been going on since 90s and a "frame-up" is not beyond these Agencies.

It ITime for a defence review - Major-General (R) Syed Ali Hamid

The views of this retired major general provide a different perspective of the army's needs. Itis worth a read, even though some might say it is a bit out dated.

With the aim of reducing expenditure, the Armed Forces have themselves conducted many studies in areas which consume a substantial amount of the defense budget such as the system of forces, organization, training, maintenance of equipment etc. These studies could form the basis for an opening dialogue.

In many developed nations of the world, this exercise is carried out on a regular basis and culminates every three to four years in a Defense Review which includes the national defense strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure, budget plan, and other elements of the defense program and policies of the country. It is done in consultation with the military and acts as a bridge between the civil and the military by closing the gap between expectations and capabilities. The interim government of Moin Qureshi set a milestone by giving the Armed Forces a Defense Policy. Can the government of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani give the Armed Forces of Pakistan a Defense Review?

US faces up to life without Musharraf - Syed Saleem Shahzad

"Musharraf had lost his utility as a useful asset for the 'war on terror'," retired general Hamid Gul, a security analyst and former director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), told Asia Times Online. "The Americans had been putting pressure on Islamabad since February for him to get its act together against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Pakistan's foreign minister [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] and Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, always told Washington that the government could not move forward independently because of Musharraf," Gul said. "Hence, Musharraf was politely told by Washington through various channels to gracefully resign, but he remained defiant and ultimately Washington pulled its support of him and the ruling coalition moved for his impeachment, which forced him to resign," Gul said.

(Haqqani, mentioned in this report is an Neo-con - t)

"Now the Americans will have to use the two remaining national assets for their interests - the political parties and the army chief [Kiani]. Washington abhors Nawaz Sharif, so they will distance themselves from him and focus on Asif Zardari [the widower of Benazir Bhutto and head of the PPP]. "Zardari, because of corruption cases [that have been leveled against him] can be easily manipulated and therefore he will act obediently on their advice," Gul maintained, adding that the crucial role is that of the army chief, so the Americans will focus on him. "I suspect that Kiani is already part of their game."

Bush buried Musharraf's al-Qaeda links - Gareth Porter

One of the major reason for withdrawing support from Musharraf is/was to bring ISI under US control. As long as Musharraf was at the helm, that was not a possibility. This raises the possibility that Kayani is a genuine "democrat" and does not object to ISI under civilian (read CIA if you will). Or he is just playing the ball, putting a reasonable distance and letting civilian bungling and misgovernance get out of hand. The downside to this is the talibans may beat him to this. Read on this analysis and read between the lines also:

The problem faced by the Bush administration when it came into office was that the Pakistani military, over which Musharraf presided, was the real terrorist nexus with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. As Bruce Riedel, National Security Council (NSC) senior director for South Asia in the Bill Clinton administration, who stayed on the NSC staff under the Bush administration, observed in an interview with this writer last September, al-Qaeda "was a creation of the jihadist culture of the Pakistani army". If there was a state sponsor of al-Qaeda, Riedel said, it was the Pakistani military, acting through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

The judiciary: our last hope? - Huma Yusuf

Dear Huma Yusuf:

You wrote:

"The judiciary should also be allowed to indulge in the "activism" that so scared Musharraf, and now reportedly rattles Zardari. Inquiries into the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Lal Masjid showdown, the disappearances of thousands of terror suspects, the blocking of television channels, and other issues highlighted on the PPP's infamous charge sheet, should be launched by the judiciary. Findings from such inquiries should then be shared with the public by figures such as Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who is now widely trusted and respected. Action taken by the government on the basis of an independent judiciary's findings can then help address the militancy in the north-west, quell the low-level insurgency in Balochistan, and clarify the terms of US-Pakistani collaboration in anti-terrorism efforts to ensure that our government is not transgressing legal bounds in its crackdown on terror suspects."

Can you tell us why that "judiciary" - the one everyone and their nanny wants restored today remained silent over this?

#1-July 21, 2002
#2-Aug 04, 2002
#3- Aug 11, 2002
#4- Aug 18, 2002
#5 - Aug 25, 2002
#6 Aug 05, 2002
#7 Aug 12, 2007
#8- Aug 19, 2007
#10 - Sep 02,2007

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Goodbye Musharraf, hello Taliban - Syed Saleem Shahzad

The whole of NWFP, except for the Peshawar Valley, is in the hands of militants and Asia Times Online contacts confirm that al-Qaeda headquarters in the Waziristan tribal areas have developed a plan to step up attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan to stir up the masses and exploit the current difficulties in Islamabad following Musharraf's departure. Asia Times Online's contacts in Pakistan's strategic quarters maintain the militants' action is a response to a recent meeting of a tripartite commission in Kabul comprising representatives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Afghan army and the Pakistani army, at which a coordinated plan was drawn up to take on militants across the region. The militants want to step up attacks on Pakistan to force it to reduce its cooperation in this fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.


This is clearly a government of disunity, destined to endless feuding and paralysis - a situation militants will exploit to the full, as they have since Musharraf shed his uniform last November. One of the key tactics of Islamic militants is to exploit political power vacuums, economic crises or any other problems to push a country towards disintegration. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, this process is underway. In Zardari's case, his presidential pardon through an ordinance could be withdrawn by the courts, and his political career would be over

Who Controls the Nukes?

It has been two days since Musharraf quit.

I have been scanning news sites. Not a peep about who controls the Nukes.

Expect the western danishwars and pundits to start their speculations very soon. If you don't read any speculations it would mean one thing only.

Whoever controls it now (read Gen. Kayani) is firmly in their camp.

Caveat: this does not mean the West has relented on defanging Pakistan.

How Many More Iraqis Can You Throw Behind Bars Without Trial?

Reports that U.S. and Iraqi government jails hold nearly 100,000 prisoners, most of them languishing there without trial and proof of wrong doing, are appalling. Most arrests in Iraq whether by U.S. or Iraqi troops are arbitrary, carried out with little or no evidence. The U.S. was most vociferous in its condemnation of the former regime for its arbitrary and summary arrests and inhuman conditions of its prisons. But for many Iraqis this so-called 'beacon of democracy' has even surpassed Saddam Hussein in human rights violations. U.S. troops can do almost everything with impunity in Iraq. They have the right to seize any one in the country merely on suspicion of 'terror' which no authority in the world can define what it really means. And to provide enough room for its Iraqi suspects, the U.S. has built numerous prisons in the country -- perhaps its only post-war reconstruction feat.

You Pick the New President