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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Robert Fisk’s World: When did we stop caring about civilian deaths during wartime?

He meant that something had happened to international law, to the rules of war. They had been flouted. Then came Kosovo – where our dear Lord Blair first exercised his talents for warmaking – and another ream of slaughter. Of course, Milosevic was the bad guy (even though most of the Kosovars were still in their homes when the war began – their return home after their brutal expulsion by the Serbs then became the war aim). But here again, we broke some extra rules and got away with it. Remember the passenger train we bombed on the Surdulica bridge – and the famous speeding up of the film by Jamie Shea to show that the bomber had no time to hold his fire? (Actually, the pilot came back for another bombing run on the train when it was already burning, but that was excluded from the film.) Then the attack on the Belgrade radio station. And the civilian roads. Then the attack on a large country hospital. "Military target," said Jamie. And he was right. There were soldiers hiding in the hospital along with the patients. The soldiers all survived. The patients all died.

Then there was Afghanistan and all that "collateral damage" and whole villages wiped out and then there was Iraq in 2003 and the tens of thousands – or half a million or a million – Iraqi civilians killed. Once more, at the very start, we were back to our old tricks, bombing bridges and radio stations and at least one civilian estate in Baghdad where "we" believed Saddam was hiding. We knew it was packed with civilians (Christians, by chance) but the Americans called it a "high risk" operation – meaning that they risked not hitting Saddam – and 22 civilians were killed. I saw the last body, that of a baby, dug from the rubble.

And we don't seem to care. We fight in Iraq and now we're going back to fight in Afghanistan again and all the human rights and protections appear to have vanished once more. We will destroy villages and we will find that the Afghans hate us and we will form more criminal militias – as we did in Iraq – to fight for us. The Israelis organised a similar militia in their occupation zone in southern Lebanon, run by a crackpot Lebanese ar

Marvi Memon - Politicking As Usual

On Monday, Jan 26, I presented a resolution for signature of senior political leadership of Pakistan which was worded: "This house resolves to ask US President Obama to send a US envoy on Kashmir or to include Kashmir's resolution in the mandate of the US envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan." I had the support of my party leadership and MNA Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, along with MNA G B Meher and MNA Attiya Innayatullah, signed it. The other senior political leaders to sign the resolution were firstly MNA Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F, MNA Syed Khurshid Shah of the PPP, MNA Asfandyar Wali Khan of the ANP, MNA Chaudhry Nisar Khan of the PML-N and MNA Sherpao of the PPP-S. Later FATA signed this version too. The MQM had certain reservations so they signed the following which got us the unanimous support needed to pass the resolution for which I am grateful: "This house underscores the importance of the peaceful and just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. And in this context expresses the confidence that the new US administration will, as stated by President Obama, give priority attention to this issue. The US special representative for the region will play an important role for the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue and have Kashmir included in his mandate."

However, once the prime minister had taken off for Davos, a certain minister and a certain top bureaucrat in the Foreign Office attempted to block the resolution on technical grounds and tried to change the wording. The wording proposed by the bureaucrat was: "This house underscores the importance of a peaceful and just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. We expect the international community to play its due role in the early resolution of this longstanding dispute. And in this context, expresses confidence that the new US administration will as stated by President Obama give priority to this issue." Clearly this was a watered down version. I was told that it was either going to be these words or no resolution was acceptable to the government. The rules that were thrown at me were that a private member needed to send resolution one week in advance. I agree but clearly this was not just from me; in fact, this was from a spectrum of the political leadership and thus the rules could be followed as per Rule 58(3) which said that the speaker "may allow to move a resolution of an urgent nature". After all, the consensus resolutions moved by the government had previously been allowed under similar circumstances without a week's notice.

Dying and Death: When You Sort It Out, What’s It All About, Diogenes?

Heraclitus, who believed that everything was in a state of flux, died, according to one account, of drowning in cow dung. The philosopher Francis Bacon, that great champion of the empirical method, died of his own philosophy: in an effort to observe the effects of refrigeration, on a freezing cold day he stuffed a chicken with snow and caught pneumonia.

As a philosopher dies, so he has lived and believed. And from the manner of his dying we can understand his thinking, or so the philosopher Simon Critchley seems to be saying in his cheekily titled “Book of Dead Philosophers.”

Mr. Critchley has taken as his thesis Cicero’s axiom “To philosophize is to learn how to die.” That is, to understand the meaning of life the philosopher must try to understand death and its meaning, or possibly its lack of meaning. And for Mr. Critchley you cannot separate the spirit of philosophy from the body of the philosopher. As he says, “The history of philosophy can be approached as a history of philosophers that proceeds by examples remembered, often noble and virtuous, but sometimes base and comical.” He adds, “The manner of the death of philosophers humanizes them and shows that, despite the lofty reach of their intellect, they have to cope with the hand life deals them like the rest of us.”

Bowen diary: Hitting home

Doctor's answer: Some people in Israel have suggested that the shells came from Hamas.

I climbed onto to an adjoining roof with Marc Garlasco, who is a weapons expert for Human Rights Watch. He found pieces of a high explosive anti-tank round.

From behind the building you can see through the holes the shells made as they passed through the flat and beyond it to a hill where Israeli tanks were deployed. It was a straight shot.

As Dr Izzeldeen stood in the wreckage of his family's life, I asked him if he still believed in peace.

He said he did, and so did his Israeli friends, but their army and those who gave it orders did not. I put to him Israel's argument, that it was a defensive war provoked by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

He answered like a doctor. Hamas and the rockets, he said, were the symptoms of a disease caused by a hundred years of conflict and the denial of freedom to Palestinians.

And his diagnosis? The correct treatment is not to kill innocent people in Gaza.

Every family has a story, here are some of them Eva Bartlett

There are many stories. Each account -- each murdered individual, each wounded person, each burned-out and broken house, each shattered window, trashed kitchen, strewn item of clothing, bedroom turned upside down, bullet and shelling hole in walls, offensive Israeli army graffiti -- is important.

I start to tell the stories of Ezbet Abbed Rabu, eastern Jabaliya, where homes off the main north south road, Salah al-Din, were penetrated by bullets, bombs and/or soldiers. If they weren't destroyed, they were occupied or shot up. Or occupied and then destroyed. The army was creative in their destruction, in their defacing of property, in their insults. Creative in the ways they could shit in rooms and save their shit for cupboards and unexpected places. Actually, their creativity wasn't so broad. The rest was routine: ransack the house from top to bottom. Turn over or break every clothing cupboard, kitchen shelf, television, computer, window pane and water tank.

The first house I visited was that of my dear friends, who we'd stayed with in the evenings before the land invasion began, with whom we had huddled in their basement as the random crashes of missiles pulverized around the neighborhood. I worried non-stop about the father. After seeing he was still alive, I'd done the tour, from the bottom up. The safe-haven ground floor room was the least affected: disheveled, piles of earth at bases of windows where it had rushed in with a later bombing which caved the hillside behind, mattresses turned over and items strewn. This room was the cleanest, least damaged.

Upstairs to the first level apartment, complete disarray. Feces on the floor. Broken everything. Opened cans of Israeli army provisions. Bullet holes in walls. Stench.

To the second floor, next two apartments, all of the extended sons and wives and children's rooms. More disarray, greater stench. This was the soldiers' main base, as can be ascertained, from the boxes of food -- prepackaged meals, noodles, tins of chocolate and plastic-wrapped sandwiches -- and the clothing left behind by the occupiers. A pair of soldier's trousers in the bathtub, soiled with shit.

F. tells me: "The smell was terrible. The food was everywhere. Very disgusting smell. They put shit in the sinks, shit everywhere. Our clothes were everywhere. The last time they invaded [March 2008], it was easy. They broke everything and we fixed it. But this time, they put shit everywhere: in cupboards, on beds -- my bed is full of shit."

Where a mosque once stood.
Land torn up by tank treads.

Eric Calderwood - An American on Al Jazeerah

I can understand why many people strongly believe that Al-Jazeera itself contributes to these regional hatreds. But after months of watching the network intensely, I can honestly say that I've never heard their newscasters frame an argument or a story in anti-Semitic or anti-American terms. And Al-Jazeera hosts one of the most ecumenical news programs I have ever seen on TV, anywhere: A morning spot called the "Press Tour," which shows images of newspapers from the United States, Europe, the Arab world, and (notably) Israel, and translates excerpts of the most important articles. Since the start of the current Gaza conflict, Al-Jazeera has expanded its coverage of the Israeli press into an entire nightly segment in which a newscaster reviews the lead articles in the major Israeli newspapers, with readable images of the Hebrew text they are translating. Many of them openly support the war and condemn Hamas, and some of them even condemn Al-Jazeera's coverage of the war. To think about how remarkable this is, imagine an American news anchor simply reading article after article from newspapers in Tehran, or Mosul, or even Paris.

The Power of a Declaration by Amartya Sen Making human rights real.

The long reach of the Universal Declaration can be seen in the diversity of struggles in which its approach and its reasoning make an important contribution. The grand vision of a world with universal rights may be detected in the fight against comprehensive violations by military governments in Latin America yesterday and in Burma and Sudan today. It can be seen as providing inspiration for movements for civil and political rights in China. It has played a role in challenging the policy of the American government to incarcerate alleged "enemy combatants" without recourse to civil legal procedures, and in agitating for the fair treatment of immigrants in European countries. Its influence can be found in the championing of the rights of ill-treated women in societies with deep gender inequality, and in the fight against persistent hunger in many parts of the world, including in booming but still grossly unequal India. It contributes to the battle against torture anywhere in the world, and to the gathering momentum against medical neglect and epidemics with known remedies, which are increasingly seen as violations of human rights.

One indication of the impact of the Universal Declaration is the extent to which authoritarian governments fear it. Just recently, as the Human Rights Defenders Center in Tehran, led by the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, was publicly celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Iranian police raided its offices, with the aim of closing down the organization indefinitely. And at about the same time, the Chinese government arrested a number of human rights activists who commemorated the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by making various immediate demands. And so the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with its powerful reasoning, continues to serve as strong ammunition for social movements and agitations that defend the lives and freedoms of the ill-treated, the excluded, the violated, and the wretched. The force of that visionary affirmation is still empowering. Its work is not yet done.


It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise — depths unplumbable!”

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mata: Meem Alif Tay Alif

Hum muwah'hid haiN hamara kaish hay tark e rasoom,
MillataiN jub mitt ga'een ajzaa e eemaaN ho ga'een
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib
Believers in one God, rituals we renounce,
Creeds, when dissolved, merge into one Faith.
Trans: K.C. Kanda

I travel a lot and one of the places I always make an effort to visit in the new city is the oldest place of worship, be it a church, synagogue, temple, mosque or shrine. I cherish the serenity and a certain peace I find in such places. Earlier I have written twice on this:What Kind of Muslim Are You and What Kind of Hindu Are You?

Hundreds and thousands of years of worshiping and incantations imbues a indescribable aura to the walls and the locale that can be felt in the air.

In places I have discovered churches in mosques -Damascus, mosques in churches - Istanbul, a church where you have to take off your shoes -Goa, a mandir with pews - Trinidad.

Today, I read in ToI about a visit to Pakistan by Manu Joseph. Describing his visit to the Clifton Mandir, he writes:

Sanjoy Ghosh
Kali idols in Karachi's posh Clifton area

Outside one such temple in the posh Clifton neighbourhood, on a distant Monday four years ago, stood a man in pathan suit. His name was Jayanti Ratna. He was wielding a stick and surveying the large crowds that were trying to enter the temple. "Jai Shiv Shankar," he kept screaming. Occasionally, he stopped some people by placing his stick horizontally around their chests. "Muslims are not allowed," he said to them. He stopped me too. "Are you a Hindu," he said, "Muslims are not allowed inside." That was the first time during the two month tour of Pakistan that my religion was asked. And it was outside a Hindu temple. He was shown the passport. His eyes softened. "Christians, too, are not allowed. But then you are an Indian." Outside a Hindu Temple in Pakistan - Manu Joseph

I last visited Karachi in 2007 and in my conversations with Karachites, young and old, was dismayed at how little they knew about Karachi's history. Except the odd well informed Karachite who knew about the Talpur fort on Manora Island, and the temples, churches or the lone synagogue, most had no interest nor an inkling about Karachi's past. The synagogue has been sold off to developers and part of Karachi's history has been lost for ever.

Karachi has lots of old mandirs. There are a few functioning ones I visited. There is one in Clifton, one across from the KMC building on M A Jinnah Road, one near the old Native Jetty Bridge, two in Soldier Bazaar and one in Amil Colony # 2 near Islamia College. And there is a crumbling one on the beach in Manora that ravages of time has turned into a crumbling structure.

Last year, late one night we were at Clifton. I asked my friends and an assortment of nieces and nephews if they would like to visit the Mandir. They agreed and I approached the keeper, who was also in shalwar kameez. He asked me if I was a Hindu. I smiled without answering and he waived us through.

For the Karachi friends and relatives it was an experience, and I hope a learning one.

The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir across from KMC building on M. A. Jinnah road is in a compound. When we visited it one afternoon, the mandir was closed and some boys were playing cricket nearby. One twelve year old asked us if we were Hindus. M smiled and said she is an insaan. The kid nodded wisely.

Another day we visited one in Soldier Bazaar. One thing that is imprinted on my mind is inside the sanctum sanctorium on the far wall the Urdu lettering, about two feet high, spelling meem-alif-tay-alif: Mata. Mata was written in multicolored glitter ribbons, the kind used in garlands and for decorating the bridal car.

(Above photo is the view of the mandir facing Arabian Sea. by Owais Mughal)

I had visited this mandir in 2004 and it was in appalling state. Plaster was peeling off and bricks were falling off. On Blogger Pakistan Sridhar had this comment to make on this mandir:

Hindu Temple Manora, Karachi - Johnny Stores Post Cards Karachi No. 26, ~ 1930

The architectural style is the Nagara style - seen in temples all over North India. Ancient surviving examples of that style includes the complex of temples in Khajuraho, dating from the 10th century. Most medieval temples in north India also followed this architectural style (or sometimes the Orissa style). It is characterized by a narrow tapered tower (called the ’shikhar’) with a square base, overlaid with sections of smaller reproductions of itself. The ’shikhar’ often has a circular structure on the top, called the ‘amalaka’. This particular temple in Manora is quite simple and not large or ostentatious, but typical examples of this style also include several layers of embellishments carved into the ’shikhar’. sridhar

The narrow street that led to the beach and this mandir reminded me of the street that led to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. Small shops selling trinkets, charms, sweets, posters and food with sea in the air.

The mandir in Manora was crumbling and in a dilapidated shape. The small chapel that we found on the naval base nearby was sealed off and appeared to be in a better shape. Perhaps the tourism department or another relevant government body should look in to this.

Tu Hindu banayga na Musalmaan banayga
Insaan ki aulad hay insaan banayga

Neither a Hindu nor Muslim will you be
A human you are, a human you shall be


KARACHI: Despite Pakistan’s rich heritage of historical and archeological sites, very little work has been done for their restoration and preservation. This became more apparent after Daily Times visited a small pyramid-shaped Hindu temple, the ‘Shri Varun Dev Mandir’ in Manora.

The temple looks westwards at the Arabian Sea. Its beautiful architecture and appearance is in decay due to a complete lack of care. Its walls and rooms serve as a toilet for the locals of Manora’s sandy beach. In addition, the humid winds are eating away at whatever is left of the structure. The rich carvings on the walls of the mandir are slowly eroding to vagueness. Manora mandir being used as toilet: caretaker By Shahzad Shah Jillani

Rafia Zakaria: Swat, Somalia and Sharia

Speaking of the former rickshaw and truck drivers reincarnation as PakTalibans Rafia Zakaria writes in today's News:
The hijacking and effective recasting of sharia as a populist tool meant to convert the poor into accepting violence and barbarity as emblematic of Islamic justice is a tragedy. Viewing it as such also reveals how populations who have been plagued by sense of inferiority owing to their illiteracy and poverty present fertile grounds for exploitation by groups such as Al Shabab and the Taliban. Reducing justice to a crude pantomime devoid of equity and education to an expression of un-Islamic elitism, these groups rely on the most decrepit aspects of human nature to assure their own ascendancy.
I have no love for these illiterate rascals passing off as Maulvis/Maulanas...they are an insult to real aalims.


The ground reality she ignores is that after the Wali of Swat was unceremoniously hauled away Swat was left with Political Agents who could not wipe their ass off stones and pebbles (as allowed and sanctioned under a certain body of hadiths...tayammoom....that are NOT attributed to renta-hadith Cat Lover otherwise known as abu Hureira)

That was circa Field Marshall Ayub...

So what happened to delivery of justice since then?

Zilch, nada, nothing.

As witnessed last year when ordinary non-gun carrying folks got pissed off at the absence of rule of law in Karachi and Lahore, who set thieves on fire...the climate was CREATED by the absence of rule of law whereby these uncouth, unkempt, illiterate bearded young men passed of as ShariaKeepers .... we witnessed this in Swat and Fata and other areas where rule of law is away on extended Umrah or Pilgrimage to some distant shores.

Ordinary folks are pissed off and are willing to extend their loyalty to anyone who can restore a semblance of law under any guise.

The nuclear armed Pakistni Army under Kiani has failed to grasp this. They can win over the people if they restore law and order...even if it be Sharia... as it used to be in that region under the deposed Wali.

Instead, they are betting on bullets to win over.

Pakistan loses.

And even if by along shot if Kayani wins, his army would lose a country.

Jesus in Gaza By Rassool Jibraeel Snyman

I met Jesus in Gaza last night
Nailed to a concrete wall
Impaled by shrapnel
Through hands and feet
Wearing a crown of barbed wire
And a countenance of sorrow
At his feet
A bloodied child
Tattered were her clothes
Ugly were her wounds
I wept for her
He wept for us
Soldiers with blues stars
And white apparel
Stared stonily
With no emotion on their faces
And death in their souls
Moonlight reflected on their guns
And their dead eyes
I met Jesus in Gaza last night
I’ve aged a thousand years
And died a thousand times

I met Jesus in Gaza last night
Life will never be the same

Spain investigates claims of Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza

A Spanish judge today opened preliminary investigations into claims that a bomb attack on Gaza in 2002 warranted the prosecution of a former Israeli defence minister and six senior military officers for crimes against humanity.

Judge Fernando Andreu agreed to ­investigate the deaths of 15 Palestinians, mostly babies and children, who died when the Israeli air force bombed a target in Gaza City.

He named the former defence minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, the former defence chief-of-staff Moshe Ya'alon, the former air force chief Dan Halutz, and four ­others.

Andreu, an investigating magistrate at the national court in Madrid, said evidence presented to his court showed the seven men may have committed the sort of crimes against humanity which Spain was bound by international laws to prosecute.

The magistrate accepted that the aim of the 2002 attack had been to kill Saleh ­Shehadeh, who he described as a suspected leader of "the terrorist group called Hamas"....

On Satta - By Siddharth Srivastava

Although satta is banned, it remains one of the most organized gaming forums in India, with millions (some say billions) of dollars changing hands every year.

According to police assessments, illegal betting on sport alone amounts to well over US$5 billion annually. Some police officials say the yearly volume could be as high as $20 billion, depending on the state of the economy, especially the stock exchange and real-estate prices, which can generate massive windfall gains for potential punters.

Usually, satta is at its busiest during cricket matches, when bets are placed on every aspect of the game and betting volumes during key one-day international matches (as opposed to the five-day ones), and which involve traditional rivals India and Pakistan, sometimes exceed US$500 million

Where is the Muslim Outrage Over Darfur? - Ali A. Rizvi

In a part of the world not far from the Middle East, there is a war-ravaged country whose government is supporting a brutal military offensive against a population of Muslims living on territory under its control.

According to UN estimates, 300,000 people have died in the conflict so far; the Coalition for International Justice put this number at almost 400,000 -- and that was in 2005.

The United States has officially termed it a "genocide."


Where are the large-scale protests and outrage from the Muslim community over the senseless deaths and rape of hundreds of thousands of poverty-ridden African Muslims?

Why is there such a glaring discrepancy between the Muslim world's response to the atrocities in Gaza and the atrocities in Darfur?

If the Darfur genocide was being carried out by Jews or Christians instead of Arab Muslims, would we see a different response?

Obama's arc of instability By Pepe Escobar

What kind of envoy goes to the Middle East this week but won't talk to Hamas or to the Syrian leadership? And will he see the Gaza wasteland for himself?

Obama the media wizard is taking no chances, carefully packaging all this to the Arab world as a major breakthrough. The punditocracy is offering incense, gold and myrrh to the heavens because of his "game-changer" interview to al-Arabiyya, where he declares himself "ready to initiate a new partnership" based on "mutual respect" and clearly announces to the Arab world that "America is not your enemy."

As'ad AbuKhalil, professor of politics at California State University, Stanislaus, goes deeper into it: "Al-Arabiyya is run by the Saudi King Fahd's brother-in-law ... The administration selected al-Arabiyya because it is 'friendly' to US interests and because on al-Arabiyya, US officials get softball questions ... Obama chose this station because he wanted to appease the Saudi royal family. This president talks about how bad dictators are, but he is signaling that he, like Bush, will coddle Saudi Wahhabi dictatorship - a key ally of Israel today."

Warning: Vietnam ahead
Then there's Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's all related, as Obama himself acknowledged, and "the central front in the war against terrorism and extremism".

The problem now is there is simply no US-NATO sharp-elbow military solution to the Afghanistan-Pakistan maze. There is no solution without a negotiation including the historic Taliban in Afghanistan, the neo-Taliban in the Pakistani tribal areas, and Pashtun leaders on both sides of the border. The monotone "radical Islamic insurgency" litany is gibberish; the real issue for Afghans is to fight and expel a foreign occupying force. Be they Soviets, Yankees, Europeans or Martians.

It gets worse.

This will be a long war, which happens to be another Pentagon denomination for the "war on terror". Envoy Holbrooke himself said so, in a Foreign Affairs article published before the US presidential election: "The situation in Afghanistan is far from hopeless. But as the war enters its eighth year, Americans should be told the truth: it will last a long time - longer than the United States' longest war to date, the 14-year conflict [1961-75] in Vietnam."

Syed Saleem Shahzad: ON THE MILITANT TRAIL, Part 2

In the second report in a series of articles exploring Pakistan's tribal areas, Syed Saleem Shahzad visits Malakand Agency to examine the differing natures and strategies of various Taliban groups. Malakand Agency is a region in North-West Frontier Province and covers one third of the total area of the province. The region is further divided into several districts - Chitral, Dir, Swat, Buner, Shangla and agencies like Malakand and Mohmand. Malakand Agency.

This is a translation (at right) of a letter written on the Taliban's letterhead and delivered through the post on January 22, 2009, to an ear, nose and throat specialist at a hospital in Batkaila in Malakand Agency.

Earlier, the names of five doctors were broadcast on the Taliban's local FM radio station, saying that based on public complaints, the Taliban had made some investigations and found that the five doctors had behaved arrogantly towards their patients.

The Taliban said that the doctors did not have any sympathy for their patients and that they just tried to make as much money as they could. Further, they were hand-in-glove with the pharmaceutical companies and prescribed very costly medicine.

The Taliban warned the doctors that they must "reform" their behavior, otherwise stringent actions would be taken against them. The doctors did change their behavior, and then each of them received a letter of "clearance", as above.

Welcome to Malakand Agency, where one can freely roam around and yet not see a single Taliban vigilante, even though they rule the roost.

Kishwar Nahid - Sud Haif in MubarakbadiouN Per

Is Ayaz Amir Faltering?

Veteran columnist Ayaz Amir admits his crystal gazing is not up to par. He wrote a whole column asking questions while ignoring the most obvious query - and did not mention NRO once.

Zina had to kill Zulfikar.

If Zulfikar Bhutto lived, Zina was toast (and a traitor).

The over hang there was the 1973 constitution.

In the case of Iftikhar Chaudhry and Co-chairman of the hand written will and President by accident (according to curmudgeon Cowasjee) NRO is the dark cloud. So the equation is simple - it is either Zardari or Chaudhary.

The lawyer's march?

They missed their best opportunity when Aitezaz called it off after a day. Their should be a judicial inquiry over why they called it off then.

Meanwhile, the neo Talibans have their sight elsewhere.

Kayani is bogged down.

Let the politicians make hay. And continue to make a mess of affairs of the state.

Can you imagine a day in the near future when people would garland the faujis and distribute sweets?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Overlooked $170 Billion of American-Muslim Spending Power

Such inclusion has been discussed within the ad industry, but little action has been taken. Yet consumer demand is there and (full disclosure) our company is responding to it. We'd be heedless to ignore Long Island radiologist Almas Abbasi. who told the New York Times "If Ramadan starts, and you see an ad in the newspaper saying, 'Happy Ramadan, here's a special in our store,' everyone will run to that store." Now, American brands indeed do this within primarily Muslim countries - Burger King in UAE, HP in Bangladesh, Oreos in Indonesia etc. Though to date, no Muslim holidays are seized as a sales opportunity within the US. Except perhaps in Dearborn, Michigan, a city with the highest concentration of Muslims and Middle Eastern folks in America. Wal-Mart has opened a store in Dearborn designed for this demo. Newsweek reports that:

Wal-Mart offers its standard fare, plus 550 items targeted at Middle Eastern shoppers....walk through the front door of the 200,000-square-foot supercenter and instead of rows of checkout counters, you find a scene akin to a farmers market in Beirut. Twenty-two tables are stacked high with fresh produce like kusa and batenjan, squash and eggplant used in Middle Eastern dishes... a walled-off section of the butcher case is devoted to Halal meats.

Ikea has taken measures to court Dearborn shoppers and the local McDonalds and KFC serve halal meat. On the national scale, Hallmark carries Eid cards and the USPS issued an Eid stamp in 2001. But that's about it.


The shortcut to peace Hasan Abu Nima

Because it is generally accepted by the so-called "international community" that Hamas is a major threat to Israel, and therefore to world peace and security, France has dispatched a frigate to participate in a new blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Sunday Times reported that United States naval ships hunting pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been instructed to track down Iranian arms shipments (25 January). Many other European states offered their navies to assist. Indeed, United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 emphasized the need to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.

Unfortunately not one European country offered to send its navy to render humanitarian assistance to the thousands of injured, hungry, cold and homeless people in Gaza rendered so as a result of Israel's attack. Perhaps helping children dying from white phosphorus burns, or just lack of clean water, would be seen as supporting "terrorism."

The perverse assumption behind all the offers of help to Israel seems to be that Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza fired rockets at Israel merely because rockets were available. Therefore, the logic goes, peace would prevail if the supply of rockets were curtailed.
Palestinians in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip huddle around a fire next to their home destroyed during Israel's 22 days of attacks on Gaza. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

There is a shortcut to calm, the elimination of violence and eventually peace. It is a lesson that should have been learned many years, and countless thousands of lives ago: justice.

Sara Robinson, - 'Moral Clarity'

That phrase "moral clarity" -- conservatives use it a lot. And it always sounds absurd to progressive ears, coming as it does from members of an administration that shredded the Constitution, deprived people of due process, committed horrific acts of torture and lied the country into the worst military debacle in its history.

This was brought home to me over the holidays, when I devoured J. Peter Scoblic's U.S. Vs. Them as part of my vacation reading. Scoblic's book looks at the way the conservative penchant for "othering" (a word I coined to describe their perpetual need for someone to project their own demons onto, and then hate on) has shaped U.S. foreign policy from the beginning of the Cold War through the Bush administration.

Throughout the book, Scoblic traces the roots of this recurring phrase -- "moral clarity" -- and discusses the very specific and narrowly defined meaning it has to conservatives.

"Moral clarity" is why conservatives hate summit meetings; why they've scuttled every attempt at arms control and nonproliferation; why every problem in the world can only yield to a military solution; and why defense is the only valid government expense.

Winning and losing in Gaza Richard Falk

Now that there is a cease-fire in Gaza, questions are emerging about what Israel has achieved. Of course, the lopsided casualty figures and Israel's military dominance certainly make it the battlefield winner. But such a "mission accomplished" assessment is as misleading in occupied Palestine as it was in Iraq.

There are also widespread reports that Israel has used legally dubious weapons like white phosphorus, dense inert metal explosives and depleted uranium. And finally, through its rigid control of exits, Israel has denied the people even the right to flee the fighting, a violation of humanitarian law that lends credibility to the claim that Israeli occupation policy essentially imprisons Gazans.

Winning militarily but losing politically should not surprise students of modern warfare. After all, the United States won every battle in Vietnam and yet eventually lost the war. The same was true for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and indeed it was the general pattern in decolonization struggles. In such wars the militarily dominant side not only loses the war but generates a deep crisis at home and experiences a tarnished international reputation.

Syed Saleem Shahzad: ON THE MILITANT TRAIL, Part 1

In this series of articles exploring the region that will examine the differing natures and strategies of various Taliban groups, Syed Saleem Shahzad begins his journey in Peshawar.

In December 2007, former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden installed an amir-e-khuruj (leader for revolt) in Pakistan, and since then the militancy has gone from strength to strength.

Against this backdrop, three significant and interlinked developments occurred:
  • Pakistan lost a significant amount of territory in NWFP to militants.
  • Al-Qaeda and Pakistani militants devised a scheme in late 2008 to cut off NATO's supply lines passing through Pakistan. The move has been highly successful.
  • The Taliban are gaining ground in Afghanistan. According to an influential British think-tank, the Senlis Council - now renamed the International Council on Security and Development - in 2007, 54% of Afghanistan was under the control of the Taliban. In 2008, the same think-tank said that 72% was controlled by the Taliban.

  • ***
    A meeting with al-Qaeda
    I received a call on my cell phone from a number I did not recognize, but the voice was familiar.

    "It is not possible to visit you at your guest house. You have to move away from the area," the man said, and then mentioned a famous landmark in the city where I had met the same person last year. I will call him Mohammad.

    I was delayed leaving the guest house and had to walk about 20 minutes to the meeting place. As I approached, Mohammad crossed the road and joined me. I followed him until we reached a waiting motorbike and rider at a crowded bus stop.

    Mohammad sat behind the driver and I squeezed on behind him. We must have been a sight. The front two had very long beards and robes, looking like prayer leaders, while I was wearing modern trousers and a coat. We drove for 10 minutes before reaching a big park.

    "You almost put us in serious difficulties," Mohammad chided me as soon as we got off the motorbike. ....

    CRITICAL SPACE: History denied By Niilofur Farrukh

    Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam by Allama Mohammed Iqbal, which has disappeared from the national discourse, needs to be revisited to understand the space it created for the discussion on modernity and religion in the personal and public sphere. Progressive Writers Movement that ran parallel to early Modernism in Pakistan offers many parallels in the assimilation of egalitarian and secular ideas that filtered through writings into society and art practice.

    No art history can be complete without a study of the evolution of form and content.

    Even a cursory glace at the art history of the last 500 years informs us of crucial transformations in the field. Five centuries would take us to the reign of the great Mughal ruler Akbar who stands among the greatest patrons of arts the world has known. His long rule, from 1556 to 1603 AD, made it possible to established ateliers with extraordinary talent....

    Controversial Bestseller Shakes the Foundation of the Israeli State By Joshua Holland

    What if the Palestinian Arabs who have lived for decades under the heel of the modern Israeli state are in fact descended from the very same "children of Israel" described in the Old Testament?

    And what if most modern Israelis aren't descended from the ancient Israelites at all, but are actually a mix of Europeans, North Africans and others who didn't "return" to the scrap of land we now call Israel and establish a new state following the attempt to exterminate them during World War II, but came in and forcefully displaced people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia?

    What if the entire tale of the Jewish Diaspora -- the story recounted at Passover tables by Jews around the world every year detailing the ancient Jews' exile from Judea, the years spent wandering through the desert, their escape from the Pharaoh's clutches -- is all wrong?

    That's the explosive thesis of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, a book by Tel Aviv University scholar Shlomo Zand (or Sand) that sent shockwaves across Israeli society when it was published last year. After 19 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list, the book is being translated into a dozen languages and will be published in the United States this year by Verso......

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Calamities of Exile Two books survey the embattled intellectual legacies of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Edward Said—and point up some surprising paralle

    Edward Said and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, dissident heroes of two sharply divergent political traditions, had a surprising amount in common. Both came from cultures that had been violently uprooted and dislocated; both were exiled, their lives threatened; both found refuge eventually in the United States—and became outspoken critics of this country. Both fought the regimes they opposed with words and the application of counternarrative. Both wrote famous accusatory tomes—Orientalism (1978), The Gulag Archipelago (1973)—that, through the sheer accrual of evidence, fundamentally altered the worlds they described.

    Most interesting of all, both lived to see their political projects succeed to a degree they could never have anticipated. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991; Israel acknowledged the existence of the Palestinian people, and their right to a state, in the 1993 Oslo Accords. And both writers were, immediately and thoroughly, critical of what had once seemed their fondest wishes: While the West celebrated the Yeltsin regime, Solzhenitsyn warned that it was in irresponsible free fall; at almost the same moment, Said denounced Oslo as “a Palestinian Versailles.” Both, sadly, were right.

    Click for more info.
    Click for more info.

    An attitude toward the Jews has long stood in for an attitude toward modernity. Said was postmodern and Solzhenitsyn was premodern, though it’s unclear which of their worldviews will dominate the century to come. (Solzhenitsyn’s civilizational account of the world had a lot in common with that of Samuel Huntington, the man on whom Said spent more time pouring scorn in the last few years of his life than anyone except maybe Ariel Sharon.) Both questioned the effects of the Enlightenment on the contemporary world. Solzhenitsyn argued for the centrality of a group of people living for a long time in a particular place; Said argued for the centrality of those who have been chased from their homes forever—a steadily increasing proportion of the globe’s population.

    If we are living, as we seem to be, in the last days of the neoliberal consensus, it means these kind of arguments, which the promoters of that consensus once dismissed or deemed permanently settled, will return again. Do we need a poststructuralist or a humanist Said? A merely anti-Soviet or a positively Russo-civilizational Solzhenitsyn? In the end, we’ll take what we need—but we should remember, as we build from a necessary base of solidarity, that some thinkers will forever be outside any camp, and there’s no use trying to enlist them.

    Mitchell's challenge By Sandy Tolan

    1. What does the unending march of Israeli construction actually mean for a "viable, contiguous" Palestine?
    The only way anyone can viscerally understand the thousand cuts inflicted on the two-state solution is by driving through the West Bank. I've crisscrossed this landscape a hundred times since 1994, and never has the hardware of settlements and Israeli military control been so dense. Since the beginning of the Oslo "peace process" in 1993, the West Bank Jewish settler population has jumped from 109,000 to 275,000 - and this doesn't include the Jewish "suburbs" in East Jerusalem, which bring the total settler population to nearly half a million. Some 230 settlements and strategically placed "outposts" are now strung along hilltops across the West Bank, towering above whitewashed Palestinian villages.

    2. How can a viable Palestinian state exist when a city of 20,000 Israelis sits in the middle of it?
    In 1978, Ariel, the city of Jewish settlers, was founded, over US and international objections, in the heart of the West Bank district of Salfit. Fully one-third of it juts onto Palestinian land. Israel's "security barrier" (known as the "apartheid wall" to Palestinians), which ostensibly follows Israel's border with the West Bank, in fact doesn't; at Ariel it veers east 17 kilometers to enfold the full settlement in its embrace. For this reason, Ariel's leaders say confidently that their settlement, essentially a bedroom community for Tel Aviv with its own university and industrial park, is "here to stay".

    Obama Al-Arabiya Interviewer On How He Snagged President

    BLITZER: How is it going to be received in the Muslim and Arab world?

    MELHEM: Judging by the first quick reaction that we got on our Web site and the letters, the first reaction, the Arab media and others, especially what he said about the Muslim world, the way he spoke about Islam as a religion, when he said, members of my family were Muslims, and I think that was his way of undermining those extremists, al Qaeda and others who are trying to demonize the United States.

    It's going to be extremely difficult for them. And he noted that -- laughing, that these people are nervous because of me, because they cannot demonize a man whose full name is Barack Hussein Obama, who has tried to say, I'm extending a hand honestly, who is speaking with clarity and honestly.

    And I think he's going to later on when he addresses the Muslim world from a Muslim capital -- even if he shows them some tough love, he would say, look at my deeds, closing down Guantanamo, getting out of Iraq, sending Mitchell to the region, these are deeds that -- can judge me by them.

    Bigotry And Hatred For Obama On Reported by Ellen

    You know how Bill O'Reilly complains about hate on the “far left websites?” He should start looking in his own backyard. Our reader, Dan, took a look at some of the comments on one of the threads. So much for the respect FOX News reportedly was going to show toward Barack Obama. Or maybe that doesn't apply to

    All comments are from this post whose headline seems designed to put this story of Obama's informal visit to the press corps at the White House in its worst possible light: “Irritated Obama 'Stares Down' Reporter During Press Corps Visit.” All grammatical and spelling errors have been left intact....

    John Updike, chronicler of American loves and losses, dies at 76

    John Updike, the prolific writer who was an enduring presence in post-war literature and a chronicler of the loves and losses of small-town America, has died of lung cancer aged 76.

    His publishing house, Alfred Knopf, announced the death in a hospice in Massachusetts, saying Updike was "one of our greatest writers and he will be sorely missed."

    In a writing career that began in the early 1950s at the New Yorker magazine, and kept on going like a literary powerhouse until the very end, Updike conjured up more than 50 books and explored virtually every form open to him. On top of a steady stream of essays, literary criticism and short stories, in addition to the more than 20 novels, beyond the poetry, there was a play Buchanan Dying and a memoir Self- Consciousness.

    At a Border Crossing, Drivers and Truckloads of Aid for Gaza Go Nowhere

    EL AUJA BORDER CROSSING, Egypt — France sent technical equipment to help Gazans draw water from the ground. The Swiss sent blankets and plastic tarps. Mercy Corps, a relief agency, sent 12 truckloads of food. And on Tuesday all of it, including dozens of other trucks carrying sugar, rice, flour, juice and baby formula, sat in the hot sun here going nowhere.

    Since the cease-fire, Israel has allowed some humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but the territory is still desperately short of the necessities. Israel closed all the crossings into Gaza on Tuesday after an Israeli soldier was killed in a bombing on the Israeli side of the border. But that changed nothing at this crossing, where the flow has been stalled for days.

    Officials and volunteers in Egypt blame the Israelis, saying that even before the passage stalled Israel had allowed supplies to pass through for only 19 hours each week. Israeli officials said that Egypt had not done enough to coordinate the flood of aid coming to Gaza, and that they hoped a system would soon be in place to remedy the problem.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Shalom, Salam and Hello

    "Why ... should I not dream and hope? For is not revolution the making real of dreams and hopes? So let us work together that my dream may be fulfilled, that I may return with my people out of exile to live in one democratic state where Christian, Jew and Muslim live in justice, equality, fraternity and progress...Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” Nobel Peace Laureate Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, UN Address November 13, 1974.


    Last week rumors floated suggesting Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister might be arrested to face war crimes, if she attended the Summit of European Foreign Ministers in Brussels.

    Mounting fear in Israel that the country's leaders face war crimes charges over their involvement in the recent Gaza offensive pushed officials into a frenzy of activity at the weekend to forestall legal actions abroad.

    According to Menachem Mazuz, Israel will soon face "a wave of international lawsuits".

    In response, the government is setting up a special task force to work on legal defenses, has barred the media from naming or photographing army officers involved in the Gaza attack, and has placed restrictions on overseas visits. Today, ministers were expected to approve an aid package to help soldiers fight warrants abroad for their arrest.

    The concern about war crimes trials follows a series of pronouncements by Richard Falk, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the occupied territories and a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University in the United States.

    He has accused Israel of gravely violating the laws of war during its three-week offensive, which killed more than 1,300 Gazans, most of them civilians, and wounded thousands more.

    There is a well-grounded view that both the initial attacks on Gaza and the tactics being used by Israel are serious violations of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law," he said during the final stages of fighting. Jonathan Cook

    In an attempt to make life more difficult for Israeli leaders, anonymous activists in Israel launched this website -- "outing" those it accused of war crimes, including Ehud Barak, the defence minister, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, and Ms Livni. It also identified most of the senior military command.

    This link in Hebrew could also have the support of the former, tainted politician Bibi Netanyahu and his party of right wing Likudniks in the hope of making gains in the forthcoming Israeli elections.

    Israel is the non NPT Signatory nuclear power in the region and it behooves it to extend to its neighbours, including those in the occupied territories, the same dignity, rights and respects that it demands from them. all the states, and occupied territories should also learn that force is not the solution to solve their problems, however rudderless they may appear at times.


    In a frank blunt assessment, unusual for the usually taciturn Saudis, Prince Turki al Faisal, former head of the Saudi Intelligence and then ambassador to UK, Ireland and the US, warned the Obama Administration that "the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk."

    First he speaks candidly about the Bush Administration:

    America is not innocent in this calamity. Not only has the Bush administration left a sickening legacy in the region, but it has also, through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza, contributed to the slaughter of innocents. If the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact - especially its "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia - it will have to revise drastically its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine.

    And then he proffers advise to Obama Administration without mincing words:

    First, President Barack Obama must address the disaster in Gaza and its causes. Inevitably, he will condemn Hamas's firing of rockets at Israel. When he does that, he should also condemn Israel's atrocities against the Palestinians and support a UN resolution to that effect; condemn the Israeli actions that led to this conflict, from settlement building in the West Bank to the blockade of Gaza and the targeted killings and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians; declare America's intention to work for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, with a security umbrella for countries that sign up and sanctions for those that do not; call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Shab'ah Farms in Lebanon; encourage Israeli-Syrian negotiations for peace; and support a UN resolution guaranteeing Iraq's territorial integrity.

    The Saudis believe in quiet diplomacy and almost never speak out like this. The royal family rules with consensus and these words from Turki reflect their current exasperation and fears. At stake is not only the fate of the warring factions in the the mid-east, but one can sense their own insecurities. Nobody can predict what may happen to their rule if the Kingdom's citizens rebel.

    (I owe an apology to readers of Baithak, where I had linked this article by Prince Turki and dismissed it derisively, bracketing him with the double speak that emanates from the usual suspects in the region and alluding a collusion of interests bandying the Saudis, the Mubaraks and the Abdullahs with the Olmerts.)


    Barak Obama in the first interview granted to a major network chose Al Arabiya. As every move by the his administration is keenly observed and analysed this first interview to Hisham Melhem when compared with his first phone call to a foreign leader (President Mahmud UncleTom Abbas of the near defunct and puppet PA) gave out mixed signals.

    He spoke of instructing Mitchell to "listen" lamenting that in the past the US started off by "dictating". He was careful to mention "Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan. These things are interrelated" while skirting around India.

    Obama reiterated the US support for Israel in no uncertain terms to his Arab and Muslim audience ..."... Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount." But almost in the same breath he spoke to a increasing lobby within Israel that has had enough of the mayhem and violence..."But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace." and added these encouraging words, "They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."

    I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith -- and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams. And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect.

    Steve Clemons of the The Washington Note notes that Obama's "first moves have been utterly brilliant." He also connected his Al Arbia interview with what he called "Prince Turki al-Faisal's warning in the Financial Times this week" that the Arab Peace Proposal offered by King Abdullah would not remain on the table indefinitely, and that the window could be closing in the wake of the Gaza crisis."

    After the previous administration's my way or the highway attitude, Obama's respect's for "words" was evident in this interview. He used "respect" four times in his interview which ran over from the initial 6-7 minutes to over 25 minutes. While ostensibly speaking to the Arabs and Muslims he also provided a parameter that his Secretary of State, Defense and National Security Adviser would find illuminating and illustrating of Obama's approach, beyond which they would venture at their peril.

    The sense that IDF and Israeli politicians could be hauled for War Crimes, the loathing and impotence felt in the Arab/Muslim Main Street articulated by a reticient Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal - and responding to them as well as the haughty disregard of the Bush era - Obama's reach out to the Muslims - will prove to be the seminal events that will cast their shadows for long.

    This Obama interview reminds one of Yasser Arafat's maiden speech at the UN. Now that the neoconzix era is over, let us hope this olive branch is cherished.

    Obama and Israel By Ian Williams

    Israel is far from being simply a U.S. satellite and base. In many ways, the United States orbits Israel. For domestic political reasons, the U.S. government in effect uncritically guarantees almost any act of any Israeli government. There are, of course, some limits, though not many. For example, it's clear that Israel either couldn't or wouldn't mount an attack on Iran without U.S. approval, which was likely withheld more because of its potential effect on U.S. forces in the region than any principled objection to the idea.

    This U.S.-Israeli relationship gives President-elect Obama, despite his distressing silence on the Gaza conflict, a unique window of opportunity. Domestically, he garnered the votes of almost 80% of American Jews, despite a furious campaign from Republican and Likudnik die-hard organizations questioning his attachment to the Zionist project and Israel's defense.

    Even after his kowtowing to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during the primaries, Obama won even more support from American Muslims than he did from Jews.

    Obama shouldn't listen to conservative Jewish organizations, who outshout the silent majority of American Jews who abide by their traditional liberal and humanitarian instincts. The overwhelming majority of American Jews voted for Obama, and the emergence of voices like J Street offers an opportunity for a new president who owes the "Israel Lobby" nothing.

    Israel's Leaders Are Frantically Trying to Prevent War Crimes Proceedings for Their Gaza Atrocities By Jonathan Cook

    Mounting fear in Israel that the country's leaders face war crimes charges over their involvement in the recent Gaza offensive pushed officials into a frenzy of activity at the weekend to forestall legal actions abroad.

    The urgency was underlined after rumors last week that Belgian authorities might arrest Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, if she attended a summit of European counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday. In an indication of how seriously the matter is judged, Ms Livni's advisers were on the verge of cancelling her trip when the story was revealed to be a hoax.

    Nonetheless, officials are braced for real attempts to arrest senior political and military figures following a warning from the country's chief law officer, Menachem Mazuz, that Israel will soon face "a wave of international lawsuits".

    In response, the government is setting up a special task force to work on legal defenses, has barred the media from naming or photographing army officers involved in the Gaza attack, and has placed restrictions on overseas visits. Today, ministers were expected to approve an aid package to help soldiers fight warrants abroad for their arrest.

    Allah hee Allah ker bhaiyya....Pervez Hoodbhoy

    The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.

    For 20 years or more, a few of us have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. In fact, I am surprised at how rapidly these dire predictions have come true.


    This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state used Islam as an instrument of state policy. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for academic posts in universities required that the candidate demonstrate a knowledge of Islamic teachings and jihad was declared essential for every Muslim. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – still in an amorphous and diffused form – is more popular now than ever before as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state.

    Villages have changed drastically; this transformation has been driven, in part, by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other sects, who they do not regard as Muslims. The Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than the Pukhtuns, are now beginning to take a line resembling that of the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from the recent decisions of the Lahore High Court.

    Akbar Naqvi on Bilal Maqsood - Sound and Vision

    Please do click on the link to view the paintings. Akbar Naqvi has written the authorative and exhaustive book on Art in Pakistan. Bilal you may recognise as one of the Strings ~~t

    Now that one has said a few words about Bilal’s musical power, one is faced with his intervention in the visual arts, particularly old-fashioned painting, with its humble tools like the brush, the palette knife and, in time to come, even his fingers. He told me that like a potter he likes to muck around with paints.

    This is a salutary breakthrough of a well known artist at a time when, but for a few painters, art students have forgotten how to paint. In the age of conceptual art and installations, we have left aesthetics behind and entered the phase of sociology and economics in art, which are art in name only. I will suffice with a quotation from my guru Robert Hughes: “One gets tired of the role critics are supposed to have in this culture. It’s like being the piano player in a whorehouse, you don’t have any control over the action going on upstairs.” What goes on in the name of arts is merchandising and speculation on investment, and the egregious Satchi, the advertiser, is its new Medici prince or medieval Pope.

    Bilal paints in more than one style, so forceful is his urge to muck around with paint, but I shall comment mostly on his crow paintings. He paints them because he likes them. They are not menacing like the swarm of crows Van Gogh painted flying over a field, before he shot himself. Bilal’s subjects are friendly pests that live on strictly their own terms....

    Book review: "Cycles of violence," US media and Palestine Shervan Sardar

    In a brilliant new book, Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Marda Dunsky analyzes the politics, culture and theory of coverage of the conflict in the United States. Dunsky, a former Arab affairs reporter for The Jerusalem Post and editor at the national/foreign desk of The Chicago Tribune, examines a wide array of news reports from television and print media, focusing on the recent history of the conflict from the Camp David peace talks in the summer of 2000 to the April 2004 meeting between then US President George W. Bush and then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The time frame was chosen because it allows an opportunity to examine what could be a typical pattern in the conflict -- beginning with intensive negotiations between the parties, followed by an escalation of violence, and then initial efforts to renew diplomacy.

    Pens and Swords argues that "mainstream reporting of the conflict itself rarely goes much beyond superficial details of failed diplomatic initiatives and intercommunal violence in the field -- leaving the American public without important contextual information about why the conflict remains so intractable." Dunsky presents a detailed content analysis of media reports in order to demonstrate "how, time and again, the media bypass important contextual aspects of organic issues, such as the US role in the peace process, the Palestinian refugee question, and Israeli settlements." The study is driven by the central conviction "that if Americans had a fuller contextual understanding of the key issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via the mainstream media, they would be better equipped to challenge US Mideast policy."

    Carter: on Palestine

    "If we look toward a one-state solution, which seems to be the trend - I hope not inexorable - it would be a catastrophe for Israel, because there would be only three options in that case," Carter said.

    One would be to expel large numbers of Palestinians, which he said would amount to "ethnic cleansing."

    The second would be to deprive the Palestinians of equal voting rights, which he said would amount to "apartheid."

    The third would be to give the Palestinians equal voting rights, and therefore the majority, he said.

    "And you would no longer have a Jewish state," Carter said. "The basic decisions would be made by the Palestinians, who would almost very likely vote in a bloc, whereas you would have some sharp divisions among the Israelis, because the Israelis always have different points of view."

    There can't be two suns in the sky - Roedad Khan

    I was present at the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Junejo at the State Guest House in Rawalpindi. He said all the right things in his speech and expressed the hope that he will have the blessing and support of the president in facing the arduous task lying ahead of him. Not a bad beginning, we all thought and heaved a sigh of relief. But in his very first meeting with the president, without expressing a word of thanks, he said abruptly: "Mr President, when do you plan to lift martial law?" Zia kept his cool, but realised that he had made a wrong choice. Relations between the two became frosty. They were soon on a collision course and a showdown was inevitable. Junejo was a democrat and made no secret of his determination to get rid of martial law and missed no opportunity to assert his independence. Zia resented this. What upset him most was that power was fast slipping out of his hands and flowing in the direction of the prime minister and he could do nothing about it. When I called on Zia at the Presidency in Rawalpindi a few days after Junejo was sworn in, deathly silence prevailed. There was not a scrap of paper on his table and he looked visibly under-employed and quite unhappy. Things had not worked out the way he had planned. He wanted Junejo to seek his prior approval in all important cases. Junejo was in no mood to oblige and was not prepared to be a puppet prime minister. Junejo's fate was sealed. His days were numbered. It was now only a question of time.

    No dictator, civilian or military, gives up power voluntarily or peacefully. That is the lesson of history. Anyone who thinks President Zardari will allow himself to be stripped of all power and transfer it to the prime minister must have his head examined. He should go home, take a nap, wake up refreshed and think again. Long ago, Trotsky wrote, "No Devil cuts off his claws voluntarily." Why should Zardari?


    THE PRESIDENT: -- what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.

    In my inauguration speech, I spoke about: You will be judged on what you've built, not what you've destroyed. And what they've been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction.

    Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.

    Q The largest one.

    THE PRESIDENT: The largest one, Indonesia. And so what I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I've come to understand is that regardless of your faith -- and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.

    And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task.

    But ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions. And I think that what you will see over the next several years is that I'm not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what's on a television station in the Arab world -- but I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure that I'm speaking to them, as well.