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Thursday, July 31, 2008

C.I.A. Outlines Pakistan Links With Militants

A top Central Intelligence Agency official traveled secretly to Islamabad this month to confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new information about ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to American military and intelligence officials. The decision to confront Pakistan with what the officials described as a new C.I.A. assessment of the spy service’s activities seemed to be the bluntest American warning to Pakistan since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks about the ties between the spy service and Islamic militants. The C.I.A. assessment specifically points to links between members of the spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and the militant network led by Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which American officials believe maintains close ties to senior figures of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas. [for more click on the heading]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Four Suggestions by Nasim Zehra for ISI Reform and Control

The critique of the elected government's move notwithstanding, there are specific issues that need to be addressed regarding the oversight and management of Pakistan's premier intelligence agencies. Four are particularly important.

One, for more regular reporting to the prime minister a regularised system of the ISI and the IB reporting to the prime minister must be evolved.

Two, for greater control of the workings of the ISI and other intelligence agencies, these should be put under the parliamentary review and oversight through in-camera briefings to the defence committees of the National Assembly and the Senate. The creation of intelligence subcommittees of these two defence committees is long overdue. This would enable parliamentarians with security clearance to receive briefings on sensitive issues.

Three, greater coordination among intelligence agencies and the key policy makers are required.

Four, the elected government must arrive at a consensus to disband the notorious political department of the ISI's internal security wing. For decades this department has mutilated the political evolution of Pakistan.

Boumediene v. Bush: Why It Was a Great Victory

Boumediene v. Bush is one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in recent years.[1] The Court held by a 5–4 vote that aliens detained as enemy combatants in Guantánamo have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in American courts. The decision frees none of them, some of whom have been held without trial for six years, but it makes it possible for them to argue to a federal district court judge that the administration has no factual or legal ground for imprisoning them. If that judge is persuaded, he must order their release. American law has never before recognized that aliens imprisoned by the United States abroad have such rights. The disgrace of Guantánamo has produced a landmark change in our constitutional practice.

The case raised complex constitutional issues that I must describe, but the principle the Court vindicated is simple and clear. Since before Magna Carta, Anglo-American law has insisted that anyone imprisoned has the right to require his jailor to show a justification in a court of law. (The technical device through which this right is exercised is called a writ of habeas corpus. Addressed to the jailor, it announces that he has custody of a certain person's body and demands that he justify that custody.)

What Is Fatima Imbibing?

HIV-Aids is a serious and often lethal disease and this blog has been advocating for long a voluntary pre nuptial testing for the couples.

Read this news and wonder what Fatima Ahmed is imbibing:

"It undermines public health and it will further stigmatise and discriminate against people," Aids activist Fatima Ahmed told the BBC.

The proposal was made by opposition MP Maulana Rafeek Shah. He told the BBC the objective was not to discriminate but to educate the Muslim community about the Aids threat. "The objective is to remove the stigma and the mystery that is associated with HIV and Aids," the Democratic Alliance MP told the BBC's Network Africa programme. Mr Shah said the United Ulama Council of South Africa, which oversees Muslim clerics, was going to consider his proposal later in August.

But Ms Ahmed of South Africa's Aids Law Project said the move may be "well intentioned" but was widely unpopular. Promoting HIV tests during marriage, especially polygamous marriages, would be a better initiative as married women were under more serious threat, she said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hamid Mir and the Liberal Fascists

In his Urdu column today Hamid Mir uses a term "liberal fascists" and blames them among other things for considering him as an agent of al Qaeda and the Talibans.

If you can read Urdu, please check out the last paragraph.

[here is my not so literal translation]

The truth is the increasing religious extremism (in Pakistan) is the reaction of the increasing cruelty of the liberal fascists. If the liberal fascists do not stop making unmarked graves then the religious extremists would not refrain from creating anonymous suicide bombers. If we really want to become a free and sovereign nation then we should forthwith stop accepting the billions of dollars offered ostensibly as defense aid, for it is this aid that compels us to bomb our people. And when we bomb our people then we create unmarked graves which gives rise to anonymous suicide bombers. If to please "outsiders" we stop creating unmarked graves then it would not be difficult to create peace in Pakistan.

Reading this I would like to respectfully ask Mr Mir a few questions.

1: Who are these so called Liberal Fascists? Can you name a few? A straight answer with a few names would be appreciated.

2: In this column you mentioned "unmarked graves" repeatedly when you wrote of the infamous Bagram Jail. And then you suddenly switched to Pakistan. In Pakistan the majority of the graves are unmarked. (Only the rich can afford a tombstones.) Can you be more explicit in case of Pakistan?

3: Why your deafening silence over the "suicide bombers" operating in Pakistan who kill and maim fellow Muslims and fellow Pakistanis? Do you consider all those innocent bystanders killed "liberal fascists"?

4: And as mentioned in #2, in this column you described Bagram Jail but abruptly turned your ire towards Pakistan's "liberal fascists". Can you elaborate how they "make" unmarked graves? And how should they stop "making" them?

5: And what exactly is the co-relation between that and the violence against the unarmed civilians by the suicide bombers?

6: And one last question. Elsewhere you have mentioned it a few times that there is no justification for suicide bombings. Also you have admitted that it is a haraam act. Then why are you, in a way, justifying the haraam act here?

On Gilani in DC

Words from Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times:

A senior strategic analyst associated with a Pakistani strategic think-tank told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity that the security agencies were concerned over the foreign links of some cabinet members, prominent among them being Rahman Malik, the advisor to the Ministry of Interior. In an article on Gilani's visit on Sunday, the Washington Post noted that the US administration's patience with Pakistan's inability to end cross-border infiltration into Afghanistan was running out. The newspaper said the premier and his aides "should expect a testy reception on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue", meaning the White House and the US Congress. "I'm not sure they're ready for what they're walking into," a senior administration official told the Post.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Folly Follow Up: Whose Wings Would be Clipped? And Hamid Gul's Spin

Rehman Malik has repeatedly said on Pakistani TV channels that the president, the Army chief, the prime minister and Asif Ali Zardari were not only consulted but had agreed to the change of command of the ISI but each of these players, importantly the presidency and the GHQ, have said categorically that they were not on board. So, Malik has to do a lot of explaining on what was going on and why he was making misleading claims.

It is not the first time that Malik has been acting in such an arbitrary manner and his action of postponing the by-elections without consulting anyone, a decision which had to be reversed, was a similar attempt at exercising power that did not exist in the manner he wanted to use it.

The cryptic remarks of some of the military people made to important journalists about imagining a situation in which the ISI would be run by Malik indicate the level of mistrust and contempt about some of the unelected leaders in the PPP government. But they are thriving and it is a deepening mystery why. - Shaheen Sehbai


Former ISI honcho Hamid Gul has attacked this deal vociferously. In one clip I heard he said ISI is the primary tool of Pakistan's defence and should not be handed over to the Interior.

He thinks the people have short memory.

His contempt for the ordinary Pakistanis is well known.

Among other activities he has indulged in the past is the creation of IJI. That was a pure subversion and sabotage of the political process in Pakistan for which he should be court martialled. What temerity and what audaciousness this Fauji has!

Ex-ISI chief General (Retd) Hameed Gul, for instance, says ISI is the country’s premier strategic asset and its relocation would harm the country’s defence establishment. There were other remarks too made by officers affected by the transfer, like “the move will seriously undermine national security” and “it will lead to the ISI dabbling in the internal affairs while it is tasked with external security” and that “the armed forces personnel received the news with surprise”. LINK


Kangaroo Republic: Inside Track for Presidency & Papa Zardari Squeaks from Dubai

Raza Rumi's Fascination With Delhi

As I have ventured out to write, the enormity of Delhi -- the idea -- haunts me. Where do I start? The layered construction of Indian, and Muslim identities in the subcontinent emanate from the ridges and Hades of Delhi. The saints buried under its red-brown earth impacted the society and culture for times to come. Now viewed as a global 'problem', the Muslims augmented the diversity of an already wondrous India. What is known as the [north] Indian cuisine, albeit of the non-vegetarian variety, is a Muslim innovation and so are tunes of Hindustani, classical music, the strings of a sitar and the rhythms of tabla. Ten centuries of cultural hybridization resulted in Urdu and current day Hindustani the idiom for northern India and the much-celebrated Bollywood.

Delhi's history also underwrites the secular tradition. Save the unsavoury and brief spells of intolerance, governance was largely a secular feat. Whilst Europe was grappling with intra-Christianity fissures, Akbar was holding inter-faith dialogues and Dara Shikoh in his Delhi library was translating the Bible and the Upanishads in Persian.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rs. 60,000 for a HC appeal - Beena Sarwar

We need judicial reforms across the board Beena Sarwar

Faisal Siddiqi, a young advocate at the Sindh High Court in Karachi who often takes on pro bono cases, told me that those who are awarded capital punishment are usually "the poorest of the poor." Most of them are illiterate and have no resources or support. Along with the HRCP's Javed Burki, a grizzled older advocate, Faisal tries to help condemned prisoners in Karachi Central Prison. "In death penalty cases, the absence of an effective private counsel appears to be the difference between whether the death penalty is confirmed or set aside. Prisoners are condemned 'not for the worst crime but for the worst lawyer,'" he says, quoting a 1994 Yale Law Review study.

"Poor people lack access to competent counsel at both the trial and appellate stages," according to Human Rights Watch. "According to one study conducted in 2002, 71 percent of condemned prisoners in the NWFP were uneducated and over half (51 percent) had a monthly income below Rs 4,000 ($50 USD). The average fee for an appeal to the High Court in murder cases is around Rs 60,000 (about $900 USD). This creates an unequal system of justice, in which those with financial or political resources are able to obtain better legal services and avoid the death penalty."

Asking Ghazi Salahuddin

Ghazi Salahuddin writes: I concede that the challenges this government confronts are frightening and that it has assumed charge at a critical hour. It deserves sympathy and support. But a time of crisis demands resolute action and it can, proverbially, be an opportunity.

I would like Ghazi and any of his media associates in Pakistan who wield some public influence to also write about:

* who can be better at handling the "challenges" at this "critical hour"
* outline these "challenges" and "prioritize" them
* do not refrain from exposing past 'kartoots' of 'present' honchos under the guise of 'helping' democracy 'grow'
* when outlining "challenges" also spent half as much energy in discovering "solutions"

Kangaroo Republic: Inside Track for Presidency & Papa Zardari Squeaks from Dubai

This news report from L A Times says Omar Suleiman may have the inside track to replace the 80 year old Hosni Mubarak beause he is the Spy Chief. The insinuation is all too obvious. I thought of digging up this report whenI read in today's papers that the infamous ISI and IB both would be under the Interior Ministry. And that means the co-PM or Zardari's puppet behind the puppet could well maneuver himself to use the Interior as a launching pad for Presidency. Who should be more aware...or beware of this move - Zardari or Musharraf?

Pakistan’s interior ministry to look after ISI, IB KARACHI, July 26: Two of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will work under the interior ministry, a local television channel reported on Saturday. A report said a notification issued by the federal government said the interior ministry will look after the administrative, financial and operational matters of the ISI and IB. The notification was issued by the Cabinet Division in Islamabad. Pakistan's interior ministry to look after ISI, IB


By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer July 16, 2008
CAIRO -- He appears briefly on TV, not saying much, if anything at all, and then fades into the secrecy and quiet diplomacy that men like him prefer. One day he's in Jerusalem, the next in Gaza, then back to Egypt to whisper in the ear of his boss, President Hosni Mubarak.Omar Suleiman, the head of Egypt's foreign intelligence service, has been at Mubarak's side through triumph and crisis, including a 1995 ambush on the president's motorcade that killed two security officers. It is this loyalty to an unpopular president whose 26 years in power have been marked by emergency law that may lift Suleiman even higher: He is often mentioned as a possible successor to the frail 80-year-old Mubarak.

Zardari from Dubai: Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has claimed that the decision to place the ISI under the Interior Ministry is a step towards the civilian rule and also to save the Army from controversies and a bad name. Talking to The News from Dubai, Asif Ali Zardari said that a strong Army with non-political command was the need of the time and “we hope that positive results will come out from this historic decision”. He said that in future, the enemies of Pakistan would not be able to defame the ISI. “Nobody will say that this agency is not under the control of an elected government as the Interior Ministry will be responsible for responding to the allegations against the ISI.”

UPDATE: And the latest - now "they" have withdrawn this "news release" and say ISI will remain under the PM.

This smacks not of a banana republic, but more like a kangaroo republic...jumping from one mishap to another.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home Cooked Food, Ambassadorship & Brother Takes the Fall Also

From the Daily News: The government has decided to replace Pakistan’s Permanent Representative (PR) at the United Nations Munir Akram with former Sindh Assembly speaker Hussain Haroon, diplomatic sources told Daily Times on Friday. Akram was supposed to carry on as PR until 2009, but his meeting with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in March brought his downfall, sources said. They said that during the meeting Akram tried to convince Zardari about the “demerits” of referring former premier Benazir Bhutto’s assassination case to the UN, “but this displeased Zardari who decided to replace Akram with Haroon”. Haroon is a close friend of Zardari who won the PPP leader’s affection while he was in prison in Karachi. Harroon used to send Zardari home-cooked food routinely and met him and looked after his medical needs. Meanwhile, Akram confirmed to correspondents at the UN that he would be leaving his post. Separately, the government has decided to withdraw Akram’s brother Zamir Akram’s nomination as Pakistan’s ambassador to Beijing, sources said.

Ejaz Haider, Daily Times also chips in on this subject:

I am no idealist; if anything, I am a hardnosed realist. Political decision-making, especially in this country, happens close to the skin and often in disregard to larger-anything, call it national interest or what you will. Political governments bring with them political spoils; underhand appointments and deals abound, as do sinecures. Those who take seriously Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s homily about avoiding “nepotism and jobbery” live in the textbooks.

Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report - Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee last week that waterboarding is not torture. Ashcroft also claims waterboarding is more effective than other interrogation techniques and has served a "very valuable" purpose.

"I believe a report of waterboarding would be serious, but I do not believe it would define torture," Ashcroft testified. He added, "the Department of Justice has on a consistent basis over the last half-dozen years or so, over and over again in its evaluations, come to the conclusion that under the law in existence during my time as attorney general, waterboarding did not constitute torture."

Republican Representative Howard Coble of North Carolina asked Ashcroft, "Waterboarding, as we all know, is a controversial issue. Do you think it served a beneficial purpose?"

"The reports that I have heard, and I have no reason to disbelieve them, indicate that they were very valuable," Ashcroft replied, adding that CIA Director George Tenet indicated the "value of the information received from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques -- I don't know whether he was saying waterboarding or not, but assume that he was for a moment -- the value of that information exceeded the value of information that was received from all other sources."

[for the rest click on the heading]

Pakistan draws a bead on Baitullah - Syed Saleem Shahzad

There are reports of a 300 names hit-list floated by Baitullah Mahsud that includes the obvious and the not so...Pervez Musharraf down to Asif Zardari...and some un-named is a backgrounder by Syed Saleem Shahzad:

Mehsud called a meeting in South Waziristan of all powerful commanders from the Pakistani tribal agencies and announced that the minute any attack was mounted anywhere against militants, offensives would be launched against the Pakistani security forces in the tribal areas as well as on the federal capital, Islamabad, and on the leadership and allies of the leading party in the ruling coalition, the Pakistan People's Party.

Further, President Pervez Musharraf and his associates and anyone connected with the storming in Islamabad last year of the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), which was pro-Taliban, would also be targeted. Subsequently, the Pakistani security agencies advised the government to immediately withdraw the forces. The reasoning was that Pakistan could withstand pressure from the United States to act against militants, but it could not win a showdown with Baitullah. A high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed.

The Pornography of Power: Lust for Empire Has Weakened America

Robert Scheer has been a journalist for 30 years, over which time he has interviewed presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as well as other major political figures. For years a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and now for the San Francisco Chronicle, he's currently the editor-in-chief at and represents the left point of view on KCRW's political radio show "Left, Right and Center." In addition to print and radio, Scheer has also worked in movies: He played a reporter in Warren Beatty's "Bullworth" and was a project consultant for Oliver Stone's "Nixon."

Scheer is the author of eight books, among them, Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton -- And How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush (Akashic Books, 2006). His latest is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America. In it, Scheer takes on the United States' foreign policy, arguing that our military budget, which amounts to more than the rest of the world's combined, has gotten completely out of control. AlterNet writer Emily Wilson recently sat down with Scheer at a restaurant in San Francisco to hear his views on the federal government, the media's complicity in war, the rise of the neocons and how even Nixon got some things right.

[click on the heading to read more]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ayaz Mir's banalities and suggestions

Ayaz Amir never fails with banalities. In his latest column he has some of them but he also has come up with a very good suggestion on spreading the army largesse.

* On the sartorial inelegance of the present bunch:"... past-the-hill, gigolo-look-alikes expected to lead the Islamic Republic in battle against the austere Taliban."

* "It is a moot point whether senior ranks are more familiar with the finer points of real estate management than the art or the principles of war. "

I dare disagree with his assertion "While officers need houses on retirement, and no one begrudges them that, what the army command has done over the years is to turn a need into a scandal. "

That is not the government's business. Unless of course the state is rich enough to provide houses to every retiree.

And now the good suggestion:

* The present army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, is trying to improve matters. Let him give thought to this: anyone dying in battle, jawan or officer, his sons and daughters should automatically be admitted at state expense to the best institutions, Hasanabdal, etc. And any jawan or subedar dying in battle, his heirs should automatically get a piece of land in a defence housing authority. Defence housing colonies can serve no higher purpose than this.

As for this perhaps Mr Amir should re think:

* And the practice of doling out agricultural land in Bahawalpur to senior ranks should end immediately. Cato the Elder said that the perfect farm size was eleven acres, land that a farmer could till himself. Let agricultural gifts to army personnel be limited to this size but let this gift be bestowed only on those, whether officers or men, who die in battle. High time the unconscionable pampering of senior ranks came to an end.

The land should go to the landless farmers. The State looks well after the retirees and the fallen.

‘No one has power to dissolve assemblies’: PM

The real news is often behind the denials:

Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gillani Friday stated in unequivocal terms that “no one has the power to dissolve the country's assemblies.” He said unlike previous governments, the purpose of his scheduled visit to the US is not to strike any kind of deal. All the decisions will be made for the greater interest of the country, he added. The Premier said important issues including the scourge of terrorism will come under discussion during meeting with the US leaders. Replying a question regarding US and Saudi aid, he said the good news will be shared with the people as soon as the country receives it.

Somebody should give him a quick lesson in Constitution 101 - specifically article 58-2b. If the present chaos and uncertainty continues in the country then that day (god forbid) will come soon when the people would again be welcoming the khakis with garlands.

Good news?

Such as US to help upgrade ageing F-16s: $230m to be diverted from counter-terrorism funds ?

Seven Blasts Rock Bangalore

How the terrorists copy and learn from each other. This eerily reminds me of the recent cowardly attacks in Karachi. Civilians are mere pawns for those behind such attacks. The perpetrators shuld be hanged publicly.

"At least seven blasts rocked Bangalore. Nayandahalli, Madiwala, Adugodi, Koramangala, Mysore Road and Hosur Road suffered bomb attacks in a span of 15 to 30 minutes which were triggered by timers. As of now one woman is reported dead and twenty injured. All these are very crowded areas of Bangalore city. Madiwala and Adugodi are part of the Hosur Road which leads straight to Electronic City."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Turkish theater for World War III

This is an alarmist and far fetched speculation on Saudi efforts to "contain" Iran. Each country has its own interest at heart. The SaudiAmericans may want to export their brand of Wahaabi extremism around but who can tell if their own government will not fall in the next decades?

Terrrorism and extremism do not go hand in hand with peaceful world coexistence. And Chan Akya's thesis that the US is prepared to sell out the Turkish Generals is way far fetched.

[check the other links by the author listed at the bottom when you click on the headline]

The age-old rivalry of the House of Saud with Turkey, which saw the overthrown of the Ottoman Empire from the lands of what is now Saudi territory, helps create enough energy and urgency for the latest Saudi enterprise. It is no mere coincidence that the Saudis need a functioning Sunni army to counter the likely expansionism of Iran, a matter that they simply cannot risk leaving to the putative next president of the United States, Democratic Senator Barrack Obama.

The House of Saud, in its bargain with the Wahhabi establishment, needs to use its fabulous oil wealth to further Islamic - and more pointedly Wahhabi - causes. That is why it bankrolled Pakistan's military and intelligence services in fighting their war in Afghanistan against the Russians, and it is precisely why it needs to create a large fighting force to contain Iran.

Neither the timing nor the direction of these events can be considered fortuitous. America has in effect sold Turkey's Kemalist generals down the river, in favor of keeping the avowedly-Islamic Justice and Development Party in power. The fact that Turkey's modern military represents the exact opposite vision of Islamic rule, compared with the feudal Saudi clan, represents the key flash point here, a particular grievance given the largely Sunni nature of Turkey's Muslim population.

Fox News On-Air Racism Challenged by Huge Petition Drive and Hot Rapper Nas

It's sly Fox, cyclops
We locked in an idiot box
The video slots broadcasting
Waco Dividian plots
They own YouTube, MySpace
When this ignorant shit going to stop?
They monopolize and lose your views
And the channel you choose

What's a fox characteristic?
Slick shit, sins in, misinformation
Pimp the station, over-stimulation
Reception, deception
Comcast digital Satan
The Fox has a bushy tale
And Bush tells lies and foxtrots
So, I don't know what's real (what's real)

Watch what you're watching
Fox keeps feeding us toxins
Stop sleeping
Start thinking outside of the box
And unplugged from the Matrix stopped you
But watch what you say, Fox Fire is watching

Only fox that I loved was the red one
Only black man that Fox love is
in jail or a dead one

Hoori Noorani - Naushaba Burney

Her icon in the crowded poetic genre is Fahmida Riaz whom she describes as the greatest living poet. “We’ve done lots of her books including [the renowned] Badan Dareeda.” I repeat my earlier question: Having been an O and A level student, exactly how well-versed is she in Urdu poetry? She explains that she loves and reads Ghalib but is not that immersed in the long line of Urdu poets of earlier eras admired and quoted to this day by literary types.

She mentions a poetry book she published that was a departure from her usual fare. The English version of Attiya Dawood’s Sindhi poems titled, Raging to be Free. The book was beautifully illustrated by her husband, the artist Abro. “We are basically continuing with our old list. There’s so much to reprint, we’re kept busy.” She handles mostly classics and that explains why she doesn’t need to stick her neck out with new writers. Her best selling author by a wide margin is Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi. She describes him as a perfectionist. He keeps on reviewing and revising his manuscript over and over again until he is fully satisfied. He has been working on a new novel for some time now which, while it bears his trademark humour, is a little different from his other books. “There is nostalgia and sadness behind it,” Yusufi’s publisher clarifies.

Noorani studied philology in Moscow, her focus being literature. No, not just Russian literature, but European and American novels and poetry as well. “How funny it sounds today but, I read French, Spanish and American books in Russian.” What an experience it must have been, listening to lectures on the famous American classic, Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, in Russian. But she had taken a one-year course in Russian, so enjoyed studying in that language.

Noorani mentions doing a major comparative literary study of the short stories of Chekhov and Somerset Maugham. When she finally returned home to Karachi, she taught Russian for a while at Friendship House.

She agrees that, of course, Russia has now changed and its people too have changed. She recalls nostalgically how safe Moscow was then. She would travel in the underground alone, late at night without any worry. Even though her husband has business interests in the Soviet Union, they both find the country very expensive now. It is also quite unsafe.

Justice Party?

The lawyers' movement has polarized the nation and has little to show for its efforts. Its efforts to presents itself as a united 'all-parties' front is wearing off. While real judicial reforms are badly needed (the incarcerated accuse in jails cannot afford the 60,000 plus needed to even launch an appeal) by channelizing on an individual (Iftikhar Chaudhry) the movement has inadvertently placed itself against an immovable hurdle.

In a single horse stable one cannot have Musharraf and Chaudhry.

It is about time the eminent leaders, justices, lawyers sit down and decide on launching a nationwide Justice Party.


Joint struggle a must for social change: historian
ISLAMABAD, July 23: Eminent historian and scholar Dr Mubarak Ali has said that emergence of a political party from the lawyers’ movement can lead to a social change and help resolve the problems confronting the people....

You Know The Banking System Is Unsound When....

SR forwarded this piece : You Know The Banking System Is Unsound Mike "Mish" Shedlock:

24. There is roughly $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. $2.60 Trillion of that is uninsured. There is only $53 billion in FDIC insurance to cover $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. Indymac will eat up roughly $8 billion of that.

25. Of the $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits, the total cash on hand at banks is a mere $273.7 Billion. Where is the rest of the loot? The answer is in off balance sheet SIVs, imploding commercial real estate deals, Alt-A liar loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, toggle bonds where debt is amazingly paid back with more debt, and all sorts of other silly (and arguably fraudulent) financial wizardry schemes that have bank and brokerage firms leveraged at 30-1 or more. Those loans cannot be paid back.

Saudi-US Nexus to Divide Taliban Flounders

It is not the US only that is active in fighting the Talibans. The Saudi interests also converge and (together) they try to drive a wedge in the Talibans. You do not read this in Pakistani Papers. (As if criticizing the Saudi interference is against some divine law.) Saleem Shehzad writes in the Asia Times:

Along with the Taliban's ongoing progress in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda has strengthened its position in Pakistan's tribal areas, reinforced by a steady stream of new recruits from other countries and an expansion of its networks among local tribes. The situation reached a point where the Pakistani security agencies, in connivance with the Saudi establishment, felt they had to act. They hatched a plot to establish a proxy network in a newly formed Taliban group that rivals the anti-state al-Qaeda franchise of Baitullah Mehsud's Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban.

Al-Qaeda was wise to the ploy, though, and the proxies were last Friday wiped out before they could even gain a toehold. A senior Pakistani militant affiliated with al-Qaeda's setup told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, "Pakistan and the Saudi establishment tried to create a conspiracy, taking advantage of some tribal feuds between Taliban commanders coming from [tribal] Wazir and Mehsud backgrounds, and planted their proxy network to hijack the whole Taliban movement.

"But on Friday there was a clash in Mohmand Agency in which Taliban commanders close to Baitullah Mehsud terminated the leadership [of the proxies], including Shah Khalid, the local leader of the pro-government Taliban. The move to hijack the Taliban movement vanished into smoke," the militant said. [click on the heading to read the rest]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain's Iraq Pakistan Border and Brodner's Cartoon du Jour: Bump of the Day

John McCain, like all decent Americans, is concerned about the trouble on the Iraq-Pakistan border. Ali Frick, like a typical liberal, derides this on the grounds that there is no such border. But if she had McCain's years of foreign policy expertise and extensive conversations with John McCain she would have access to this double super-secret map of the CENTCOM AOR:


I won my school's geography bee, so I know what I'm talking about. Here's the last time I tried to help McCain out with a map. Iraq Pakistan Border - Matthew Yglesias


So Obama lands in Iraq and Maliki endorses his troop pullout plan. Then the DOD releases this footage of Obama, with GIs, making 3 points from Downtown. Next McCain tells an interviewer that you have to secure the border of Pakistan and Iraq (which, er, doesn't exist). A McCain adviser says, "We're f*cked."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

PPP-Z coined by Anjum Niaz ... and more on PM's speech

To the best of my knowledge Anjum Niaz gets the credit for coining the obvious - PPP-Z to denote the chairman of the hand written will's (soon to be faction of the) PPP.

Commenting on puppet PM Gilani's maiden speech to the nation she writes:

And this brings me back to the "Saturday Night Live" that turned into a disaster because someone somewhere bungled up badly. Should the blame be shared between the minister of information, the press secretary and the PTV boss? If not, then probably the government is already scapegoating some lowly technician at PTV. LINK

Sorry Anjum dear, you're wrong on all three counts!

As I wrote to Fatima Tassaduq in a comment earlier today: "President Harry S Truman had a plaque on his oval office desk that said: The Buck Stops Here

While the PTV may share blame for not doing a test run of the speech, the major portion of the blame for the farcical speech should rest with PM Gilani."


Hasan Nisar in his Urdu Column Choraha has dissected the PM's maiden speech HERE.

'Ten Commandments' of race and genetics issued

Even with the human genome in hand, geneticists are split about how to deal with issues of race, genetics and medicine.

Some favor using genetic markers to sort humans into groups based on ancestral origin – groups that may show meaningful health differences. Others argue that genetic variations across the human species are too gradual to support such divisions and that any categorisation based on genetic differences is arbitrary.

These issues have been discussed in depth by a multidisciplinary group – ranging from geneticists and psychologists to historians and philosophers – led by Sandra Soo-Jin Lee of Stanford University, California.

Now the group has released a set of 10 guiding principles for the scientific community, published as an open letter in this week's Genome Biology.

Friction over Fan Fiction

Fan fiction? It’s no secret that J. K. Rowling has a tremendous following. Unknown to most people, however, is the burgeoning online community of Harry Potter fans who amuse themselves by writing their own stories set in Rowling’s fictional world. And the phenomenon is hardly confined to Hogwarts. Fascination with the imaginary worlds of television shows, films and books has prompted devotees – the vast majority of them women – to respond with their own amateur creations. The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, X-Files, Xena: Warrior Princess, and of course, Lord of the Rings, are among the many works that have inspired fans to write their own stories using the characters and settings from the works they love.

This is fan fiction, and it’s all over the web, at sites such as, and Though its roots are in the science fiction book world, the phenomenon really took off with the TV series Star Trek. By the series’ second season in 1967, fans were writing their own episodes and sharing them with like-minded friends. Drawing on Star Trek characters and settings – referred to as the canon – they placed the characters in narratives not contemplated by the show’s writers, very often with subversive results. Most famously, these early fan writers perceived a repressed sexual passion between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk and began writing stories exploring this relationship. Thus was started a roaring sub-culture of fan writing, largely by women and for women, about homoerotic relations between ostensibly heterosexual male characters. Stories of such relationships – known as slash from the “/” used to connote a pairing (such as Harry Potter/Severus Snape) – continue to make up a major proportion of fan fiction.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The 50 outstanding literary translations from the last 50 years

The Translators Association of the Society of Authors celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion they have compiled a list of 50 outstanding translations of the last half century.

If someone does a better translation of River of Fire (sorry Annie Apa) it could have made a list of the top 50

Look at # 50. Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky, 2007) Buy the book

and # 35. Naguib Mahfouz – Cairo Trilogy (Olive E. Kenny, Lorne M. Kenny, Angela Botros Samaan, 1991-3) Buy the book

For the rest click on the heading.

The need for clear thinking about the war on terrorism - Khalid Aziz

The talibans have more chutzpah and more gumption and are more motivated than the Pakistan Army, which is more disciplined that the MQM cadres which is more disciplined than the Jamiat....

Facetiousness aside, their (misplaced) belief is unshakable. It is this belief that drives them, disciplines them and makes them a force that can confront any army in the world. They are motivated and willing to die for their cause.

This (misplaced) belief that they are right and others are wrong in the eyes of Allah. This belief cannot be bought with rupees or dollars. This belief cannot be shaken loose with power or prostitutes. This is the dilemma faced by their opponents.

Read here two excerpts from Khalid Aziz a former chief secretary of NWFP who now heads the Regional Institute of Policy Research.


The first thing is to be very clear about the nature of the threat facing us. It is convenient to say that it is the work of a religiously driven group. It is and it is more. What we have under the loose classification of Taliban is a group of diverse militant groups with separate histories. Their origins lie in state manipulation to undertake proxy wars and who have now coalesced into a critical mass. According to a report in early June, fighters from the Kashmiri Jihadi groups including representatives of Lashkar-e- Tayyaba, Jaish and Hezbul Mujahideen met and agreed to prioritize fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan rather than in Kashmir. This is a momentous decision for NWFP, FATA and Afghanistan; it will cause destabilization in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, since Pakistan has a larger institutional base it will be more harmful to Pakistan.

It is thus evident that the militants are neither fighting imperialism nor permitting peace to prevail; they are slowly destroying the only nuclear power in the Muslim world. On the other hand there is ambivalence, confusion and ambiguity within our security apparatus the like of which has never been witnessed before. The political leadership is too divided to arrest the downslide that is gaining momentum with each passing day. There is not only an absence of policy but a failure to realize the gravity of the situation; it is critical. One wonders if there can be any other outcome other then the de-stabilization of Pakistan. Thus the real question to answer is whether Pakistan ought to be sacrificed for Afghanistan? It is time for clear thinking and quick actions.

Who was Jamaluddin al-Afghani?

The following is part of an excerpt from chapter 5 of Ayesha Jalal's book. The Dawn Editors botched the credit. [thanks AJ]

Who was Jamaluddin al-Afghani? In some rare and insightful rhymed prose that anticipates later questions about his identity, he wrote:

The English people believe me a Russian [Rus]
The Muslims think me a Zoroastrian [Majus]
The Sunnis think me a Shi’i [Rafidi]
And the Shi’i think me an enemy of Ali [Nasibi]
Some of the friends of the four companions have believed me a Wahhabi.
Some, of the virtuous Imamites have imagined me a Babi.
The theists have imagined me a materialist.
And the pious a sinner bereft of piety.
The learned have considered me an unknowing ignoramus.
And the believers have thought me an unbelieving sinner.
Neither does the unbeliever call me to him.
Nor [does] the Muslim recognise me as his own.
Banished from the mosque and rejected by the temple.
I am perplexed as to whom I should depend on and whom I should fight.
The rejection of one requires affirmation of the other.
The affirmation of one makes the friends firm against its oppo site.
There is no way of escape for me to flee the grasp of one group.
There is no fixed abode for me to fight the other party.

On Poetry: Soldier Boy - David Orr

In a half-filled auditorium, a poet was reading a poem about the death of a child. Autumn leaves fell, night descended, the hours became slow and cold and endless; it was pretty sad stuff. Afterward, an audience member came up to say how much he’d enjoyed the reading and how sorry he was for the poet’s loss. “I appreciate that,” the poet responded, “but the thing is, I’ve never had any kids. That was just a poem.”

The point, of course, is that the news we get from poetry isn’t like the news we get from newspapers. Nor is it like the news we get from memoirs, which we assume (or at least hope) will be reasonably accurate about the facts. Geoffrey Hill’s elegy “In Memory of Jane Fraser” moves the reader despite the fact that Fraser never actually existed; Paul Muldoon’s “Cuba” makes a subtly potent political statement even though its main character — “my eldest sister” — is a fiction. To borrow an apt phrase from the unfortunate James Frey, poetry may not get the details right, but at its best it has “emotional truth.”

qadah: humaray siyasatdaaN aur awaam

apologise in advance for the roman urdu. hope the readers versed in urdu will enjoy this short poem

qadah: humaray siyasatdaaN aur awaam

(siyasatdaaN) - qadir
(awam) - muqaddar
awam - qadamcha

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nine Reasons to Investigate War Crimes Now

Retired General Antonio Taguba, the officer who led the Army's investigation into Abu Ghraib, recently wrote in the preface to the new report, Broken laws, Broken Lives:

"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Meanwhile, the evidence confirming not only a deliberate policy of torture, but of conspiring in an illegal war of aggression and conducting a criminal occupation, continues to pile ever higher. Bush's own press secretary Scott McClellan has revealed in his book, What Happened, how deliberately the public was misled to foment the attack on Iraq. Philippe Sands' new book, Torture Team, has shown how the top legal and political leadership fought for a policy of torture -- circumventing and misleading top military officials to do so. Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, reveals that a secret report by the Red Cross -- given to the CIA and shared with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice -- found that U.S. interrogation methods are "categorically" torture and that the "abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted."


Previous blogs on this subject in Baithak:

War Crimes: Abuses of power by the Bush Administration

Let Them Face the Music: First Omar al-Bashir then George Bush

Blaming the past administration

The puppet PM delivered a belated and faltering speech in which he took the predictable route by "blaming last govt for crises".

In Bullet or ballot? Humayun Gauhar writes:

The excuses being proffered for the government’s paralysis are nonsensical. “Everything will be fine if Musharraf goes.” Will inflation suddenly come down? Will there be an overnight end to terrorism, lawlessness and uncertainty? Will the steep decline in the economy be arrested? Will the State Bank’s reserves, heading towards zilch by end-September, start rising? Will America’s threats recede? “The People’s Party has become Musharraf’s party.” How did its leaders, touted as great democrats yesterday by today’s crybabies, sell out so easily to Musharraf if they truly are great democrats? Because their way of removing Musharraf by restoring the sacked judges will take longer than Nawaz’s quick-fix solution?

Sure 100 days aren’t enough. Did we foist this on them or did the prime minister’s desire to emulate all things American? Had pragmatism given way to populism? Why not emulate President Eisenhower and place the same sign on your desk prime minister �" “The buck stops here.” [Correction Mr. Gauhar: it was President Truman who had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office that reminded him where the buck stops.]

Inept, so inept, are we - Ardeshir Cowasjee & Irfan Hussain

This is one of the most pessimistic column from the Parsi Bawa ever. Coming from one who never lost hope, had always a twinkle in his eyes, these ominous words are full of foreboding - t

He aligned himself with some of the most distasteful political characters that this country has ever produced — and that is putting it mildly. He relied on them to keep him in power and it all fell apart, due to his own foolishness and his reliance upon the worst advice he could be given. By now, almost isolated, he has hopefully acknowledged their worth and his own errors. His job should have been to seek out, rear and nurture young, fresh, unpolluted, able and honest men and women and establish them in politics as his successors. That is what, as a good dictator with unlimited powers, he should have done. It is all too late. The present is doomed. We need governance to survive, and without governance we will remain lawless and directionless.Come the inevitable elections and he offered the country all he had to offer, all that was available to him — relics of his own reign which were roundly rejected by the electorate, and relics of the totally unproductive and destructive 1990s. What the country got, via the ballot box, was stale bread.

And as if the old curmudgeon's post was not enough, Irfan Hussain added to the pessimism:

A world without joy

A recent article in The New York Times shows how the authority of the Pakistani state has ebbed in recent years. Near Ziarat in Balochistan, a marble mine had been inactive for years due to a tribal feud. Despite the government’s best efforts, no stone was being quarried. However, the Taliban stepped in, enforced a truce, and got the operation going again. They received $45,000 for their trouble, and now get a fee for each loaded truck leaving the mine. The article went on to say how many of the state’s functions the Taliban had taken over, including running courts as well as a tax system. And yet I hear nobody complaining about a loss of sovereignty to the Taliban.

Let me be absolutely clear: the Taliban’s vision of how we should lead our lives is diametrically opposite mine. And since they do not believe in civilised discourse, they must be opposed by force. Just as I would not like to impose my views and beliefs on anybody, I will not have the Taliban (or anybody else) impose theirs on me. To think that we can make deals with them, as many in Pakistan do, is to live in a fool’s paradise.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle: Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report

Karl Rove Flees the Country, Skips Compelled Testimony Before Congress

Karl Rove failed to appear under subpoena for his scheduled July 9 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss the Bush administration's role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Instead of appearing in front of the committee, Rove left the country. His lawyer continued to claim that Rove is "immune" and protected by executive privilege, reminiscent of last year's episode when Rove ignored a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss similar politicization of the Justice Department. The House Judiciary Committee intends to vote later this month on whether to charge Rove with civil and criminal contempt for evading the most recent Congressional subpoena.

A few days after snubbing Congress, Rove somehow found a way to return from abroad in time to speak to reporters in Beverly Hills about his new TV show on Fox News Channel. When asked about his failure to comply with the federal subpoena, Rove told the assembled reporters "It's not between me and Congress. I've not asserted any personal privilege. This is between the White House and Congress." He added, "People talk about me a lot, and they don't see me very often."

Other stories:

* Schwarzenegger Calls Bush Administration Approach to Global Warming "Bogus"

* Antarctic ice shelf on verge of collapse

* Bush Library Fundraiser Solicits Cash for Access to Administration Inner Circle

* U.S. Terrorism Watch List Tops 1 Million Records

* Mukasey Suggests Officials Behind Torture Authorization 'Cannot and Should Not' Be Investigated or Charged

* McCain Adviser Phil Gramm Describes U.S. As "A Nation of Whiners"

* Arlington Cemetery Whistleblower Canned For Exposing Limits on Media Access to Soldiers' Funerals

* War Coverage Buried by Networks, Reporters Say

Tariq Ali on Ahmed Rashid (From Next Door to War)

Some light is thrown on the Afghan situation by Ahmed Rashid in his new book, Descent into Chaos. As a foreign correspondent on the Far Eastern Economic Review and subsequently the Independent and Daily Telegraph, Rashid has been reporting diligently from the region for more than two decades; when the publication of his book on the Taliban coincided with 9/11, he was projected to media stardom in the United States, repeating a pattern that introduced the Iraqi-American writer Kanan Makiya and the Republic of Fear to the liberal public during the First Gulf War. Both men became prize-cocks of the US defence establishment and the videosphere. Graciously received by Bush in the Oval Office, Makiya strongly backed the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and predicted that the US would be greeted as liberators, looking forward to the day his friend Ahmad Chalabi would be running a ‘liberated Iraq’. It didn’t quite happen like that, but fortune favoured Rashid. The first chapter of Descent into Chaos lavishes praise on his friend Hamid Karzai and the book is full of sentences like ‘On 7 December, with Vice President Cheney in attendance, Karzai took oath as Afghanistan’s first legitimate leader for nearly three decades. Many grizzled old Afghan leaders broke down in tears.’

Rashid’s real argument can be summarised as follows: the war after 9/11 should have been fought in Afghanistan and not Iraq, which was a diversion. A heavy armed presence was needed. Bush and his neocon advisers have let the side down badly by trusting Musharraf and the ISI. Karzai, a legitimate leader, was prepared to embark on reforms, sidelining the Northern Alliance, but the Taliban were allowed to regroup and create chaos, helped by the conspiratorial and ‘Bolshevik-like’ al-Qaida. The real problem is Pakistan, not a Western occupation gone badly wrong, and there is no point being squeamish about what needs to be done. Rashid’s views coincide with those of the Pentagon hawks who have, for the last year, been pressuring Bush and Rice to unleash Special Operations units inside Pakistan on the pretext that al-Qaida has grown substantially and is preparing new attacks on the West.

Rashid was a firm supporter of the Soviet intervention, although he is coy about this in his book. He shouldn’t be. It reveals a certain consistency. Afghanistan, he thinks, can be transformed only through war and occupation by civilised empires. This line of argument avoids the need to concentrate on an exit strategy. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are high and in the last two months more US and British soldiers have died here than in Iraq.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bin Laden's Soft Support: How the next president can win over the world's most alienated Muslims. By Kenneth Ballen

Kenneth Ballen is the president of Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which has conducted international polling in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Turkey and elsewhere. The results of the surveys are at

[Here is an excerpt: please also read the last three paragraphs - How We Can Help al-Qaeda Ruin its Own Reputation. While he rightly points out the reasons for Muslim angst at the US policies, he fails to spell out clearly how it would dissipate. In his essay he mentions "Israel" only once. "The prospect of the United States brokering a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians is distant, but if it became a reality, our surveys suggest that this would significantly change perceptions of America in the Muslim world, especially among Palestinians and Syrians. But right now in Saudi Arabia, less than a quarter of Saudis believe that a successful peace process would improve their opinion of the United States a great deal."

This is skimping over geo-political reality in an un-scholarly fashion. The Muslim perception of the US Administration as a knee-jerk supporter of Israeli occupation and intransigence towards Palestinians is the corner stone of this angst.

That it needed to built on Islamophobia after the demise of the USSR is not lost on Muslims either. 9/11 reinforced the perception on both sides.

The first steps this or any US Administration can take is to show its neutrality in mid-east. And then build on it. It will be a long journey. But if there is a genuine will it can be done. t]


Significantly, however, our polling indicates that there are steps that the United States can undertake that could dramatically reverse anti-American attitudes born of this sense of disrespect—if we ask first, rather than thinking we know what’s best. Indeed, these steps are relatively easier to take than more fundamental changes, such as an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan.

For instance, six out of every ten Pakistanis who have a favorable view toward bin Laden and al-Qaeda said their opinion of America would significantly improve if the United States increased educational, medical and humanitarian aid to Pakistan, as well as the number of visas available to Pakistanis to work or study in the United States. In fact, more bin Laden and al-Qaeda supporters said their opinion of the United States would improve with such American policies than did non-bin Laden supporters. Not everyone would change their mind: One in ten bin Laden and al-Qaeda supporters said that their opinion of the United States would not change no matter what America does. This is al-Qaeda’s real, far smaller core of fervent and intractable support.

War Crimes: Abuses of power by the Bush Administration

“After years of disclosures by government investigations,” wrote US Army Major General Antonio Taguba, “media accounts and reports from human-rights organisations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”

“The American people, who are good and fair minded, have been so inured with the false ‘debate” of over whether torture is acceptable from the neoconservatives and echoed in the media that they are only beginning to awake to the damage. There is no debate. Torture is wrong and should be banned,” said Nance. “The main issue is not if the administration ordered war crimes; that will be found out in time.”

Unless it won’t. Seven years after September 11, the US is all but a rogue nation, guilty of much of the behaviour it professes to abhor in its enemies: torture, disappearances, sexual humiliation, endless wars of aggression. But the US – like all empires – has never been good about learning its uncomfortable lessons. Rather than look at how US policies in the Middle East gave bin Laden a pretext to inspire others to terrorism, Americans preferred to believe they were hated for being virtuous, for being just, for being free. As agonising as the US descent into national criminality has been, the awful truth may be that we can’t handle the truth. That usually comes – as the post-imperial experiences of Britain, France, Japan, Holland and Spain indicate – only after the empire falls.

The PPP Under Attack - Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Lately there has been a well-orchestrated media blitzkrieg against Pakistan People's Party and its leader Senator Asif Ali Zardari. Even some senior journalists have started painting doomsday scenarios regarding the PPP's future casting doubts on its present. The overall picture has doubly confounded the confusion.

As a detached observer sitting over 3,000 miles away from Pakistan I have reasons to assume that besides everything that is being churned out is overly linked to divert the attention from the profound ramifications of the murder of martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the larger conspiracy behind the dastardly deed to obliterate PPP from the body politic of Pakistan – a long-standing objective of the establishment and vested interests. [for more click on the heading]


As a detached observer sitting over 8,000 miles away from Pakistan I have reasons to assume that Wajid Shamsul Hasan is "spinning" and skimming over the real reasons why PPP is losing the gloss.

People (I dislike using everyone's favourite expression "civil society") expected good governance from PPP (and Nawaz League).

The real issue for the nation was Economy - Power Generation, Prices of Basic Necessities, Curbing Terrorism, Law & Order, Employment.

The real issue for Asif Zardari, the co chairman of the hand written will was the NRO.

Zardari perceived the sidelined CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry as an opponent of NRO. Embracing the Chinese proverb - enemy of my enemy is my friend - it was natural that Zardari would seek alliance with Pervez Musharraf much to the chagrin of Nawaz Sharif.

In this pursuit, PPP, maneuvered by Zardari lost much of the goodwill it had earned.

Glad to be helpful Mr. Hasan.

The Women of Sind - Bina Shah

In my research for an upcoming project, I learned that the women of Shah Abdul Latif’s poetry are known as the Seven Queens, heroines of Sindhi folklore who have been given the status of royalty in the Risalo. The Seven Queens were celebrated throughout Sindh for their positive qualities: their honesty, integrity, piety and loyalty. They were also valued for their bravery and their willingness to risk their lives in the name of love.

It remains puzzling that while we celebrate the actions of Marvi, Sassi, Momal, Leela, Sohni and the other women of the Risalo, the real women of Sindh are made to pay the ultimate price for the same actions. We hold in high esteem fictional women and pay lip service to their tales of tragic romance but we enact upon our own sisters and daughters a worse kind of tragedy, all in the name of an honour that is in actual fact a euphemism for the most despicable kind of male chauvinism I have ever seen.

Benazir Bhutto, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, is the name at the top of the list but there are others who we can find as examples. Mehtab Rashdi, Hamida Khuhro and Anita Ghulam Ali are some of the most educated Sindhi women in Pakistan today, and with their years of hard work and dedication each has made an invaluable contribution to the cause of the liberation of Sindhi women everywhere.



You missed Shagufta Jabeen, Parveen Shakir, Fehmida Riaz, Atiya Dawood and many others.

[Digression: my definition of a Sindhi is one who is born/settled in Sind and who lives and dies in Sind - expats excluded]


I feel Shah ABdul Latif would wince every time a Sindhi woman is married to the Qur'an. Or is murdered in cold blood under Karo-kari. Which is worse than this:
‘Two girls declared Vani in Shikarpur’

Friday, July 18, 2008

11 Everyday Disasters And How To Fix Them

Not all setbacks are of epic proportion. Often, all it takes is a casual insult or silly faux pas to knock you off course. Those trip-ups can snowball--a barista snaps at you, leading you to be short with a coworker, which turns into a fight with your partner, and...well, you get the idea.

To help manage life's minor tragedies and prevent them from wreaking havoc on your world, we asked psychology and etiquette experts to share their own stories of everyday woe--and how they recovered.

Five Myths About Sleep and Insomnia

We spend a third of our lives asleep, and it's clear that without it our brains don't function as well, yet little is known about exactly why we do it. Even less understood? Why we don't. As many as 35 million Americans experience chronic insomnia, and yet in 2006 only $20 million was spent on research (Compare that with the $123 million spent on advertising the prescription sleep aid Ambien.)

In the six years that author, professor and lifelong insomniac Gayle Greene spent researching and writing her book "Insomniac" (during which, ironically, she says she got the best sleep of her life), she learned almost all there is to know about sleep and the lack thereof. Here are five common myths about how we get our shut-eye and why:

9 Ways Humor Can Heal

Of all my tools to combat stress-especially the stress of dealing with my illness or someone else's--humor is by far the most fun. And just like mastering the craft of writing, I'm finding that the longer I practice laughing at life (especially at its frustrations) the better I become at it, and the more situations and conversations and complications I can place into that category named "silly."

G. K. Chesterton once wrote: "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." And Proverbs 17:22 says that "a happy heart is good medicine." I'd add that human beings and their caretakers can heal and find joy again if they learn how to laugh. Here are just a few ways a dose of humor might transform something ugly and stressful to slightly entertaining, and, well, a tad less catastrophic.

[click on the heading to read the rest]

Is Rehman Malik a Dr.?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dormant Poets Everywhere

We were going to the other end of the town. There was chaos on the roads. Even though both of us had to be there on time there was no movement in sight. I suggested to the driver to pull over by a roadside shack and ordered some tea.

He was born in Karachi and his parents were from Swabi, in the North West.

Are you a reporter, he asked me. How do you conclude that? He pointed at my cameras and notebook. I told him I wrote poetry.

This shack was some distance from the road, locals call it a highway. Even though it was supposed to be winter, the heat was piercing and made worse by the pollutants and dust covering us in a haze. The flies were oblivious to the pollution and went about their business with zeal. There was this big fly that circled the driver every two seconds and then came to rest on his cup. He ignored it. I kept waiving them away, and they would fly away and settle on the hair, ear, even the back of hand - audacious little things. The ever present cacophonous noise pollution was present also. Some drivers actually believe horns assist in braking. And the rickshaws have no silencers. People get used to talking as if in a crowd. You tend to notice these things.

I could never write a poem.

The traffic was not moving as far as I can see. Even the two-wheelers that tried to maneuver through the cars and trucks had come to a halt. I called the person I was visiting to apprise of the situation. She told me to have faith. I told her I had misplaced it decades earlier.

Yes you could. Anyone can write a poem.

'Nahin saab, mazaaq mut karo.'

Have you ever made pottery? Made? Created? There are Picassos and Michaelangelos and there are Ramus and Dittas. Am seeing in my mind the clay toys from Harappa and Moen jo Daro. The line between an artist and artisan has a common beginning. Was Picasso not a craftsman par excellence? Where is the boundary? Is there a boundary between craft and art?

Are you married? No.
Did you love someone? No.
Why this smile? Yo can be honest with me.
Saab....saab...the last place I worked... I liked the chothi memsahib.
Tell me about her, I told him and opened my notebook.

I was the second driver. My duties were driving the memsaab and chotimemsaab around. Her laughter still rings in my ears. She had a dimple when she smiled. He body smiled. She smelled fresh, innocent. She would not talk with others, but she talked a lot with me. I am unread. She was attending University. We poor cannot even dream. Even in dream I could not touch her. But I liked her and her smile always hovered in my thoughts. This is written in my destiny.

I am poor and unread
but that stops me not
from thinking about her
dimpled smile, fragrance
I cannot stop this thinking
but I cannot dream of her
I cannot dream about her
this is written in my destiny

I read this back to him. He shook his head and said, 'Saab you wrote this, I did not.'

Suicide Bomber Part II

In Anjum Niaz - On Suicide Bomber July 08, 2008 I wrote:

Anjum Niaz:

You have asked the most pertinent query:

Instead of attacking people like Rehman Malik for having failed to prevent suicide attacks, we should be attacking the root of the evil. No Pakistani analyst worth his salt has the guts to blame these people who run the camps that train and indoctrinate these youths. We all know who these outfits are but like the NWFP government prefer to zip up instead of being bumped off by these crazy people who have successfully infiltrated into our environs and have threatened death should they be exposed.

Allow me to ask another.

Rehman Malik announced the other day a capture of five or seven suicide bombers alive, alongwith 350 kgs of explosives from the Islamabad vicinity. To this total, two more were added from Punjab, subsequently and from the tribal belt. By a rough reckoning Rehman Malik has at least 9-12 "suicide bombers" captured alive, all body parts intact.

The media is lax and does not pursue with probing queries. They should relentlessly pursue and find out who these potential suicide bombers are, and which outfit they belong to.

Bring them on the public media, let them name their Lashkars or Jamaats. And then go after the leaders and outfits of those groups or jamaats, with grit and determination. How many innocent civilian lives need to be lost, how much property needs to be damaged, how much Pakistan's image in the world needs to suffer before these spineless talking heads are moved to action?

Dire times call for stern measures. If Rehman Malik does not expose them and their groups it means only one of two things.

One, he is covering up. Two, if he is not covering up then the "Agencies" are. Either way, the innocent civilians are doomed and the terrorists are laughing here and in their hell. Surely, these deluded suicide bombers are destined for hell, not heaven.


What prompts this encore so soon? The reply is in the lead story from the News today:

Lahore: 3 terrorists apprehended; suicide jackets, weaponry recovered
LAHORE: Three alleged terrorists were detained from the Shahidrah Farrukhabad area in Lahore and 2 suicide jackets with other weaponry were recovered from them.

According to police sources, three militants including Muhammad Basit and Mulla Hazrat Meer were apprehended with important documents and weapons including 2 suicide jackets, heavy explosives, advanced weaponry, detonators and remote controls indicating a gigantic suicide plan.


Why does the media and investigative reporters pursue this?

What will it take for the government to expose the people and parties behind these suicide bombers?

Why don't they take stern action against the parties and leaders behind these suicide bombers?

If this is an elaborate cover-up then expose those covering up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Omar Khadr & India Pakistan Standoff

"How would the Republican base react to this?"

Andrew Sullivan pulls this editorial cartoon from David Horsey, and asks, "How would the Republican base react to this?"

Secret fund files stolen mysteriously from under Sherry's nose

ISLAMABAD: Struggling to counter bureaucratic conspiracies and moves since its inception in March this year, infant democratic government led by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) received another blow when seven secret fund files of Information Ministry (IM) were stolen in mysterious circumstances here on Monday. According to official sources in the information ministry, the secret files were containing names of all the journalists, writers and columnists, getting hefty funds under ministry’s secret fund heads. The incident took place on Monday in the office of Ali Suleman Abbasi, Additional Secretary, when officials learned that the 7 important secret files go missing. High ups of the information ministry immediately ordered to lock up the office area and launched an extensive search but to vain, said sources.

Freedom of Information Act 2002

In the interest of public service, the Freedom of Informatin Act 2002 should be given more teeth. Google and see how citizen groups are using it as a tool to keep the politicians and public servants in check in India, even though that Act is also far from perfect.

I was remined of this when I read this: Law ministry protecting Musharraf’s legal extravagance by Ansar Abbasi:

The PPP-led law ministry has refused to provide details of billions of rupees paid by the military regime of President Musharraf to favourite high-priced lawyers who represented the regime, arguing that the information would open a Pandora’s box.

The intent behind the Freedom of Information legislation is to keep the civil servants and the politicians honest.

If even some of the newly elected parliamentarians had sense (and spine) they could inititate a private member's bill or amendment enhancing and empowering this almost dormant piece of legislation.

The Current Oil Shock - No Relief in Sight By Dilip Hiro

Tomgram quotes from this article by Dillip Hero. It is from Dilip's latest book Blood of the Earth, The Battle for the World's Vanishing Oil Resources

Excerpt: When it comes to energy conservation, there is a far greater opportunity for saving in the affluent societies of the West than anywhere else in the world. An average American uses twice as much oil as a Briton, a Briton twice as much as a Russian, and a Russian eight times as much as an Indian. It was therefore perverse of U.S. energy secretary Sam Bodman to focus on the way the Chinese and Indian governments subsidize oil products to provide relief to their citizens -- and to urge their energy ministers to cut those subsidies to "reduce demand."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pee Aur Pee - Going the Muslim League Way: PPP-G, PPP-Z, PPP-F...

If the gloves are coming off will the knives be far behind?

Makhdoom Amin Fahim has openly declared his ambitions. “The party is being kept in habeas corpus by the incumbent leaders and the country’s overall situation is worsening,” he said. The Makhdoom went emotional while saying the party has been taken hostage by a few new entrants and elements with vested interest in its ranks. “If the party seems it fit, it should issue a show-cause notice to me and I will respond to it properly.” “The law and order situation is worsening, people are committing suicide along with their children, frontiers are unsafe, prices are rampantly rising and terrorist acts are increasing in the country.” Link

What wily Zina ul Haq could not do with all his cunning, is beginning to happen. We are witnessing the first crack in Bhutto's PPP armour. It is too soon to invoke the ephemeral (and ethereal) "agencies."

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Cover Shows Muslim, Flag-Burning, Osama-Loving, Fist-Bumping Obama

Who knows if they'll get this in Dubuque, but they sure aren't going to like it in Chicago: This week's New Yorker cover features an image of Michelle and Barack Obama that combines every smeary right-wing stereotype imaginable: An image of Obama in a turban and robes fist-bumping his be-afro'd wife, dressed in the military fatigues of a revolutionary and packing a machine gun and some serious ammo. Oh yes, this quaint little scene takes place in the Oval Office, under a picture of Osama bin Laden above a roaring fireplace, in which burns an American flag. All that's missing is a token sprig of arugula.

Artist Barry Blitt defends the cover, saying that "It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is." See his full statement (and previous covers) here.

Pregnant News Headlines

Karzai opposes U.S. use of Afghan soil against Iran: The bravado of the Mayor of Kabul who cannot safely venutre out of the Presidential Palace

Zardari to US: Avoid talk of rebel pursuit: Sorry, the US does so with an OK from the Security Council

Sharif: No return till judges back: Quit Punjab first and then talk

Taliban: Pakistan's 29 hostages to be slain if insurgents are not released: In the name of Allah, the Most Benificient, the Most Merciful.....

Four leaders enjoying PM’s protocol: They are Yousaf Raza Gilani, Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Rehman Malik. Rehman Malik the shadow PM?

PML regrets making move against Kashmala public: Yes in "in public" is always a bad ideal

PESHAWAR: NO ONE CAN CAST EVIL EYE ON PAKISTAN: PM GILLANI: Indeed NO ONE except the holy Pakistani politicians and the Faujis



The following two headlines appear one after another: therefore no comments!


Pakistan will not apologise to Bangladesh: Qureshi: An apology would implicate PPP's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Dichotomy: Hijab Not OK (France) - Marijuana is OK (Italy)

Rastafarians have always regarded Ethiopia as the promised land, but Italy could rank a close second after its Supreme Court ruled that smoking or possessing cannabis is not a criminal offence but a religious act when the person doing it is a Rastafarian. Last year, the same court declared that cultivating even a single cannabis plant was a punishable offence. But now Italy's Court of Cassation has said Rastafarians use marijuana "not only as a medical but also as a meditative herb. And, as such [it is] a possible bearer of the psychophysical state to contemplation and prayer". Rastas can use cannabis, Italian court rules


A French court has refused citizenship to a Moroccan woman, ruling that her practice of Islam is too "radical" and she is too submissive to be compatible with basic French values. The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest court, said her religious practices were "incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes". Until now, the court had rejected only Muslim applicants deemed sympathetic to fundamentalist groups. No French citizenship for veiled 'radical' Islamic wife

poetry: rictus *ab aeterno**


photo credit KKurl

perched on the crest
neck extended
the hawk scanned

wheels - 2,3,4...18
men and animals
vying for the tarmac

pathos aplenty
pickings slim
for the bird of prey

in that dissonance
of diesel's whining
exhortative blares
vendor's symphonies
pauper's piteous pleas
children's cackling chatter
into fickle silence

the lava of suspicion
blends with polluting
plebeian palliation
and flows undetected

a child with matted hair
runny nose, bloated stomach
locks eyes with the bird
and smiles

* ric·tus - noun, the gape of the mouth of a bird

** ab ae·ter·no - adverb Latin. from the most remote antiquity.

Media Watch: Proper Attribution

I have been linking here in depth investigative reports by Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. The Daily News Editorial Page Editor Omar Qureishi, writing under his by line in the News on Sunday, [A suicide bombing and Haji Namdar] quotes from this generic link for The Long War Journal.

In a professional journalistic sense, saying "Just read on the Long War Journal blog (, which quoted an Asia Times report as saying..." and then paraphrasing the investigative work of Syed Saleem Shahzad robs Mr Shahzad of due credit.

In my humble view, Qureshi should have credited fellow Palkistani Shahzad for the report.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is He Naive Or Are We?

Read this quote from Foreign Minister Shah Mamood Qureshi: "Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries. However, no foreign troops will be allowed to operate inside Pakistan."

The occasion was the 15-nation Council's debate on the situation in Afghanistan. LINK

Forget the construct of the quote for now. Let us examine the first part: Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries.

So India will heave a big sigh of relief. As will China. (Afghanistan does not count)

Since he said "other countries" perhaps he felt necessary to spell out that "foreign troops" (read NATO or US troops) will not be allowed to operate inside Pakistan.

If the honourable FM was present when Gen. Kayani briefed PM Gilani, then he should inquire from the PM. He will perhaps be surprised to learn that 'foreigners' (read whatever you want to here) have "depots, warehouses, bases and air corridors"

And they do "operate" in Pakistani land and air space...without impunity.

operate: from HERE
7.Military. carry on operations in war. give orders and accomplish military acts, as distinguished from doing staff work.