Showing posts from January, 2011

What Arabs are not talking about?

Exit the Israel Alibi
By ROGER COHEN, NEw York Times, January 31, 2011

LONDON — One way to measure the immense distance traveled by Arabs over the past month is to note the one big subject they are not talking about: Israel.

For too long, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the great diversion, exploited by feckless Arab autocrats to distract impoverished populations. None of these Arab leaders ever bothered to visit the West Bank. That did not stop them embracing the justice of the Palestinian cause even as they trampled on justice at home.

Now, Arabs are thinking about their own injustices. With great courage, they are saying “Enough!”

The big shift is in the captive Arab mind. It is an immense journey from a culture of victimhood to one of self-empowerment, from a culture of conspiracy to one of construction. It is a long road from rage to responsibility, from humiliation to action.

The Muslim suicide bomber aims fury at a perceived outside enemy. Self-immolation, the spa…

Pakistan: Need for Focus on Policy

The need for policy
Ahsan Butt, Dawn, Jan 31, 2011

TodayIF General Kayani keeps his promise to not upend the democratic process in the next 24 months, Pakistani political parties will be in uncharted territory.

It will be the first time in our country’s history that the national and provincial assemblies will have completed their terms; the first time that our political parties will have participated in two consecutive (relatively) free and fair elections. To say this would be an important milestone is an understatement.

Of course such a development would bring its own set of challenges for these parties. Mainly, it would ensure that voters have parties’ recent records in mind, with nowhere to hide. Historically, this has not been the case. Our parties have generally mobilised vote banks either on the basis of patronage, or a sense of victimisation by highlighting real and perceived crimes against them.

Politicking as collective martyrs will still be a popular tactic in the 2013 elec…

Can Mubarak Sustain ?

How much longer can Mubarak cling on?

Robert Fisk reports from Cairo on the protests that refuse to die
Independent, Jan 31, 2011

The old lady in the red scarf was standing inches from the front of am American-made M1 Abrams tank of the Egyptian Third Army, right on the edge of Tahrir Square. Its soldiers were paratroops, some in red berets, others in helmets, gun barrels pointed across the square, heavy machine guns mounted on the turrets. "If they fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished," she said. "And if they don't fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished." Of such wisdom are Egyptians now possessed.

Shortly before dusk, four F-16 Falcons – again, of course, manufactured by President Barack Obama's country – came screaming over the square, echoes bouncing off the shabby grey buildings and the giant Nasserist block, as the eyes of the tens of thousands of people in the square stared upwards. "They are on our side," the cry went …

Inside Egypt's Army


Mubarak's appointment of military men to top posts continues Egypt's martial style of rule
By Janine Zacharia, Washington Post Foreign Service, January 29, 2011

CAIRO - The installation of military men into powerful new roles in the Egyptian government on Saturday reflected a martial style of rule unbroken in Egypt since Gamal Abdel Nasser and his young officers toppled the monarchy in 1952.

The newly designated vice president, Gen. Omar Suleiman, 74, has headed Egypt's intelligence service for 18 years. Along with a new prime minister who is a former air force commander, Suleiman is first among a troika of leaders on whom President Hosni Mubarak is relying in what appears to be an attempt to secure the regime, if not his presidency, after days of protests aimed at his ouster.

U.S. officials have long viewed Suleiman as a likely transitional leader, at minimum, after Mubarak leaves office. In a classified cable released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, a 2007 State…

Robert Fisk: A people defies its dictator...

A people defies its dictator, and a nation's future is in the balance

A brutal regime is fighting, bloodily, for its life. Robert Fisk reports from the streets of Cairo
Robert Fisk, The Independent, Jan 29, 2011

It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.

And as Cairo lay drenched under clouds of tear gas from thousands of canisters fired into dense crowds by riot police, it looked as if his rule was nearing its finish. None of us on the streets of Cairo yesterday even knew where Mubarak – who would later appear on television to dismiss his cabinet – was. And I didn't find anyone who cared.

They were brave, largely peaceful, these tens of thousands, but the shocking behaviour of Mubarak's plainclothes battagi – the word does literally mean "thugs" in Arab…

The Battle for Cairo

Egypt’s Military Is Seen as Pivotal in Next Step
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR, New York Times, January 28, 2011

Even as armored military vehicles deployed around important Egyptian government institutions on Friday for the first time in decades, it remained difficult to predict what role the armed forces might play in either quelling the disturbances or easing President Hosni Mubarak from power.

“Are they on the side of the nation or are they on the side of the regime?” a former senior Western diplomat with long service in Cairo asked. “That distinction had been blurred. We are now seeing a modern test of whether there is a separation between the two.”

The Egyptian military, the world’s 10th largest, is powerful, popular and largely opaque.

The military carried out the 1952 coup that overthrew the monarchy and has considered itself the shepherd of the revolution ever since; all four presidents in the ensuing years have been military generals.

But Mr. Mubarak, who led the Air Force before r…

Terror in the heart of Pakistan...

How Pakistan's Largest Religious Minority Has Come Under Siege
By Omar Waraich / Islamabad Friday, Jan. 28, 2011

For Pakistan's Shi'ites, the horrific scenes were depressingly familiar. On Tuesday, as thousands of Shi'ite worshippers solemnly shuffled through the medieval and narrow streets of Lahore's Old City, past its historic displays of Mughal grandeur, a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up nearby at a police checkpoint, killing 13 people and wounding scores. An hour later, in Karachi, a bomb exploded near a second procession, slaying two policemen. "It's very tragic," Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, tells TIME. "One can only despise the elements who are killing innocent people, people who are performing their religious duties." The marchers were marking the final day of an annual Shi'ite mourning period that recalls the seventh century martyrdom of their most revered saint, Imam Hussain.

Most traditional d…

The Blasphemy Law Politics in Pakistan

Clerics on the march
Ayaz Amir, The News, January 14, 2011

This is not about blasphemy or the honour of the Holy Prophet. This is now all about politics, about the forces of the clergy, routed in the last elections, discovering a cause on whose bandwagon they have mounted with a vengeance.

The blasphemy issue ignited by Aasia Bibi’s conviction was virtually over in November, the government making it plain that it had not the slightest intention of amending the blasphemy law, and no government figure of any consequence stepping forward to support Salmaan Taseer on the stand he had taken.

There the matter should have rested if Pakistan’s clerical armies were not masters of manipulation and cold-blooded calculation. They whipped up a storm in December, when the issue was no longer an issue, and fanned such an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred that it would have been strange if nothing terrible had happened.

There’s a danger of moaning too much. But what with the lionising of Salmaan…

After Tunisia, Egypt - Support The Winds of Change

2,200 Arab Scholars, Politicians, and Activists Issue Appeal for Human Rights and Democracy in the Arab World
Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), Jan 27, 2011

Washington - January 27, 2011 - In the Aftermath of the Tunisian revolution, and the beginning of a popular uprising in Egypt, more than 2,200 Arab scholars, politicians, and activists - from over 20 Arab countries - issued today an "URGENT APPEAL" for the defense and consolidation of human rights and democracy in the Arab World.

"The Casablanca Call has been endorsed by leading thinkers and politicians from the Arab World, from all political leanings and persuasions, from the leftists and secularists to moderate Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood, agreeing that democracy and human rights are an "absolute necessity" for the Arab world today", says Radwan Masmoudi, President of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), and convener of the Casablanca Conference on Human …

Who among Muslims are most likely to adopt terrorist tactics?

New Terrorism Adviser Takes A 'Broad Tent' Approach

by Dina Temple-Raston, NPR, Jan 24, 2011

January 24, 2011 There's a pattern to recent terror attacks in the United States: Americans — either citizens or residents — have been behind them. In the past two years, dozens of American citizens and residents have been arrested on terrorism charges.

In some cases, the suspects were young Muslims traveling overseas to train for violent jihad. In others, they're accused of actually trying to launch attacks. Attorney General Eric Holder said homegrown terrorism is one of those things that keeps U.S. officials awake at night.

Now there is someone new at the National Security Council who won't be getting much sleep: He's a former Rhodes College professor named Quintan Wiktorowicz, and he's an expert on, among other things, how some people decide to become terrorists.

"A number of years ago, before he went into government, he did some of the most path-breaking wo…

USAID's Priorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan

USAID: FRONTLINES Interview with Alex Thier, December 2010/January 2011
They are neighbors, divided by some of the world's most majestic mountains and a complicated history of shared borders and ethnicities. At USAID, Afghanistan and Pakistan share an office, and occupy all of one man's time. Alex Thier, assistant to the administrator and director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, joined the Agency in 2010 with a background spanning field postings with the United Nations and NGOs, and the Washington policy community. His work has focused on the two countries for many of the last 18 years. In fiscal year 2010, he oversaw a staff of nearly 500 Americans, a significant number of foreign nationals, and a $5 billion budget. Many U.S. foreign policy goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan share familiar undercurrents: building sustainable institutions, supporting and empowering civilian governments to provide for their people, and laying the groundwork for long-term stabil…

Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan: Javed Ghamidi's Views

Islamic scholar attacks Pakistan's blasphemy laws
In the wake of Salmaan Taseer's murder, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi declares Islamic councils are "telling lies to the people"

Declan Walsh in Islamabad, Thursday 20 January 2011

A prominent Islamic scholar has launched a blistering attack on Pakistan's blasphemy laws, warning that failure to repeal them will only strengthen religious extremists and their violent followers.

"The blasphemy laws have no justification in Islam. These ulema [council of clerics] are just telling lies to the people," said Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a reformist scholar and popular television preacher.

"But they have become stronger, because they have street power behind them, and the liberal forces are weak and divided. If it continues like this it could result in the destruction of Pakistan."

Ghamidi, 59, is the only religious scholar to publicly oppose the blasphemy laws since the assassination of the Punjab govern…

How to Meet Muslims ?

How to Meet Muslims: A (Cinematic) Primer
If you don’t know about some of these films, consider yourself uncultured.

By Haroon Moghul, rd, January 19, 2011

The most effective way to counter a prejudice is to know someone about whom the prejudice is supposed to apply. Those who personally know Muslims are far less likely to have negative thoughts and feelings about Muslims—but in a country of now almost 310 million Americans and only several million Muslims, this advice remains wishful.

Add to it that Muslims, unhelpfully, are not distributed evenly across the country, but concentrated in places like New York City, where almost one million Muslims live in our nation’s most crowded metropolitan area. (There is, astonishingly, no major cluster in Oklahoma, despite the obvious importance of that state to the global campaign to install Shari’ah law in random places.) Short of putting Muslims on buses and driving them around the country to be gawked at, talked to, and interacted with, what…

What Ails Karachi?

Karachi's disease is purely political
By Farrukh Saleem, The News, Jan 18, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Karachi is crying for de-weaponization, something that only the Pak Army can do. But the Army has no solution to problems, purely political in nature. Our largest city has become a triangular political minefield - PPP, MQM and ANP. Political problems can only be solved by politicians, not by generals.

Karachi has a bhatta mafia, land mafia, weapons mafia and drug mafia. So do Beijing, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Delhi, Dhaka and Jakarta. But, Karachiites are killing an average of 100 of their own fellow citizens per month every single month of the year. That doesn't happen in Beijing, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Delhi, Dhaka or Jakarta.

The weaponized bhatta mafia, land mafia and drug mafia are all symptoms of a disease, but not the disease. The disease is purely political - lack of political will and lack of political capacity. The Pak Army can suppress the symptoms but can never cure…

Why are Kartam Joga, Kopa Kunjam and Binayak Sen in Jail?

Human Rights, Sedition and State Repression in India
or, why are Kartam Joga, Kopa Kunjam and Binayak Sen in Jail?

January 18, 2011, 6:30-8:00 PM
Room 5409, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

Somnath Mukherji (Activist, Free Binayak Sen Campaign)
Peter Rosenblum (Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, Columbia University)
Meenakshi Ganguly (South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch)
Panel Discussion moderated by Vasuki Nesiah, Associate Professor, NYU

Who are Joga, Kunjam and Sen?

On December 24th 2010, a sessions court in Raipur, Chhattisgarh state in India convicted Dr. Binayak Sen, a medical doctor working for indigenous people for nearly 30 years and a renowned civil liberties activist. Dr. Sen was convicted under the IPC, the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Along with two others (alleged Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Gupta), Dr. Sen was s…

Pakistani Elite's reaction to murder of Governor of Punjab ?

Pakistan elite silent after Taseer assassination

By Mosharraf Zaidi, Special to CNN
January 11, 2011
(CNN) -- The assassination of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer by his bodyguard last week seems to confirm prejudices about Pakistan as a country where moderate voices are in danger, where violent extremism is widespread and where investors aren't very safe.

Taseer, ever the entrepreneur, the tycoon and the irrepressible Pakistani patriot, would reject that vociferously. If he could tweet his thoughts from heaven, the prejudiced would have hell to pay. His plain-spoken manner and blunt style were often a political liability. But for all his political faults, Taseer's was a rare courageous voice.

He was murdered for speaking out in defense of a poor, defenseless Christian woman in a village -- something few dared to do. It was Taseer's unambiguous morality in his speaking out for the weak that captured imaginations of those neutral Pakistanis keen to see reason as a dominant force…

Tunisia and the Arab World

Will Changes in Tunisia Sweep Region?
By KATERINA DALACOURA, Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 2011

Is the Tunisian "revolution" heralding widespread democratic change in the Arab world? Will there be a domino effect of authoritarian regimes toppling one after the other in the region?

Our thinking about these issues tends to be shaped by the Eastern European experience. But the democratic transformations in Eastern Europe occurred in short succession from one another because they shared an important element: the removal of the Soviet "hand" that weighed on their polities.

No such common outside oppressor exists in the Arab world. Change in Tunisia, to the extent that it will occur, may not herald democratization elsewhere in the region.

The Tunisian political situation may share common characteristics with those of other Arab states: rule by a centralized, authoritarian regime; a dominant family that exercises power through patronage and has become increasingly corrupt…

Intricacies of the US-Pakistan Relationship

Zardari-Panetta meeting `attended by ISI chief`
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, January 16, 2011

WASHINGTON: ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha attended an important meeting that President Asif Ali Zardari held with CIA chief Leon Panetta here on Friday, dispelling a perception that the government of Pakistan did not want to involve the military in its dealings with the Americans.

Diplomatic sources told Dawn that Gen Pasha was not in the presidential entourage which arrived here on Thursday. He travelled alone, participated in the president’s meeting with Mr Panetta but stayed away from other activities.

President Zardari left Washington on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the visit during which he also met US President Barack Obama along with Ambassador Husain Haqqani.

Although President Obama came with his entire national security and counter-terrorism team for the meeting, President Zardari did not take any other official with him, causing wild speculation in the media about the purpo…

The New Wave of Violence in Pakistan...

Silencing the voices of reason
By Sabin Agha, Dawn, January 14, 2011

The murder of my former colleague and journalist Wali Khan Babar has once again angered me. As a resident of Karachi, a citizen of Pakistan and as a journalist who has covered target killings – I feel an excruciating pain in my heart, as if someone has clenched it with an iron fist. I refuse to accept any other explanation for his death other than that it was a cold-blooded, premeditated murder! Babar’s murder sent waves of shock among all of us who knew him personally as well as professionally.

Soon after I heard about Babar’s murder, I switched on the TV to get updates. I heard a talk show host calling Wali Khan Babar, a Shaheed-e-Sahafat. We keep appeasing ourselves by giving our grief labels and tags. But the fact of the matter is that it was a cold-blooded murder, just like Governor Punjab Salman Taseer’s was, and like the other 1,400 innocent Karachiites who were victim of targeted killings last year. The bod…

Why Salman Taseer's murder is a setback for democracy - Hassan Abbas

A Bad Beginning for Pakistan in 2011
Why Salman Taseer's murder is a setback for democracy
Hassan Abbas, Asia Society, January 4, 2010

Amid political turmoil following key resignations from Pakistan's ruling coalition, the country received a jolt with the brutal assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer at the hands of a terrorist identified as Malik Mumtaz Qadri—his official security guard, who targeted Taseer on the pretext of his bold criticism of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.
Taseer called it "black law," and religious extremist elements misinterpreted this statement as anti-Islamic. His political opponents and some local media outlets also criminally used the opportunity to defame and discredit him with malice. Taseer was also a vocal critic of human rights violations, especially those pertaining to minorities. His barbaric murder is an attempt by bigots to silence all those who want free speech and are challenging intolerance in society. This…

Salman Taseer, Governor Punjab, assassinated by security guard over Blasphemy law

Salman Taseer assassinated in Islamabad
BBC, 4 January 2011

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool: "Police say it was one of his own security force that shot him"

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool, in Islamabad, says Mr Taseer was one of Pakistan's most important political figures and his death will further add to political instability in the country.

The PPP-led government is dealing with a political crisis that erupted after a coalition partner quit.

Mr Taseer had recently spoken out against the country's blasphemy law, prompting protests by Islamists.

He was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries.

His alleged assassin has been arrested.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool, in Islamabad, says Mr Taseer was one of Pakistan's most important political figures and his death will further add to political instability in the country.

The PPP-led government is dealing with a political crisis that erupted after a coalition partner quit.

Mr Taseer had recently spoken out against the …

Political Crisis in Pakistan - Temporary

Politicking in Pakistan
Paul Pillar, The National Interest, January 3, 2011

Americans observe the most recent political maneuvering in Pakistan—a withdrawal from the governing coalition by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), depriving the government of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani of a parliamentary majority—with perpetual nervousness about this South Asian nation of more than 170 million. The nervousness has intensified over the past couple of years. Clearly the multiple roles that Pakistan is playing in the conflict in Afghanistan are mostly responsible for this. Americans on different sides of the Afghanistan war issue agree that there is a problem of Afghan insurgents finding sanctuary on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line, and that there is a further problem of Pakistani officialdom retaining old ties with the Afghan Taliban.

Then there are Pakistan's nuclear weapons, which are frequently invoked as an even graver source of worry. In fact, the presumed causal relation…

Female Education is Skyrocketing in Pakistan...

As Pakistan nears bankruptcy, patience of foreign lenders wears thin
GRAEME SMITH, Globe and Mail, Dec. 28, 2010

ISLAMABAD: A terrifying kind of mathematics has become popular among aid workers, analysts and others who spend their lives tracking the fate of Pakistan. It’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation about how the country will get through the coming years without declaring bankruptcy: take the country’s foreign debt ($53-billion), add interest, subtract the $1.8-billion that won’t arrive as scheduled on Jan. 1 from the International Monetary Fund because Islamabad failed to meet loan conditions. Add the staggering cost, perhaps $10-billion, of rebuilding after summer floods.

The numbers seem bleak. The government floated the possibility last week of running a deficit for the coming year of $15-billion.

Islamabad’s latest plan to raise revenue, a reformed tax law, has become bogged down by stubborn opposition parties, front-page criticism and street protests. The cabinet’s econo…