Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fake WikiLeaks Article Is Still Fake

Nice article by Azhar Abbas about WikiLeaks and right-wing elements in Pakistan that have used it for propaganda in the form of the fake WikiLeaks story:
Mohsin Baig, head of the Online news agency, has sacked the agency’s editor, charging him of “fabricating the story”. But, Makhdoom Babar, the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Mail newspaper that actually printed the report first, says that he stands by the story and defends every word of it. Babar accused those involved in printing retractions as being on the payroll of Indian intelligence agencies. These allegations are not new; the powers behind such act have been making such allegations in the past as well. The fact remains that so far the Daily Mail, or anyone else who is defending the cables, has not been able to present a single original cable.
Not only has the Daily Mail failed to produce the cables cited in their story (written by anonymous, perhaps non-existing, reporters), but claim their report will be vindicated by cables that are yet to be released! They either have full access to the cables other than the designated news entities (which begs the question: why haven’t they released all the cables?), or have the ability to predict the future. I’m betting on the latter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2nd Class By Government Writ

Daily Times columnist Dr. Manzur Ejaz writes the following:
Somehow, Muslims have convinced themselves that they are super-humans. They believe that the world should be very attentive to the Muslims’ religious and cultural sensitivities while they can persecute any minority. Religious minorities are persecuted in other countries as well (Christian persecution in India is widespread). However, the difference is that, unlike India and other countries, Pakistan’s constitution provides the grounds for minority discrimination. The Blasphemy Law has become a tool and rallying point for religious organisations for their continuous domination of the political space.
As a result, non-Muslims are automatic second-class citizens and subject to abuse with little or no legal recourse.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peddling Conspiracy Theories in Pakistan

Great video by the New York Times about the conspiratorial nature of Pakistan's media outlets.  The situation has been made worse, ironically, after the proliferation of nearly 30 television news outlets.  Instead of competing with each other for the race to the top, it has become a race to the bottom-- the crazier your conspiracy theories, the higher your ratings.

The problem with the Pakistani media as I see it is of two extremes: one one hand, we have a portion of the media who are subservient to the prevailing power structure that controls Pakistan; and second, we have the merry peddlers of conspiracies, gossip, and jingoistic nationalsim.   Somewhere in there is the truth.  Will Pakistan ever find it?

Friday, December 3, 2010

WikiLeaks and Conspiracy-Mongering Pakistani Media

The ongoing release of State Department documents on WikiLeaks has been a trove of material for Pakistan's conspiracy-minded media. Both Pakistan Media Watch and Café Pyala, both Pakistani web sites devoted to monitoring the foibles of their country's various news outlets, have published many posts detailing how Pakistani newspapers and television networks consistently engage in gossip-mongering, baseless journalism, and outright mendacity in reporting on the WikiLeaks documents.

Here is another of the same: a column written by Sultan M. Hali, who utilizes the WikiLeaks documents to promote the meme that 9/11 was preplanned. He writes:
The sensational WikiLeaks exposé has caused people to lend credence to the earlier rumour grist that 9/11 was an indigenous conspiracy, planned and executed by the United States to find an excuse for attacking and invading Afghanistan. The recent disclosure of the presence of precious metals in Afghanistan, the information of which the US had prior to 9/11, is a case in point. It has now come to the fore that The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. The previously unknown deposits—including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium—are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys. The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said. While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war. “There is stunning potential here,” General David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview. The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. However, it has now come to light that the US was in picture of the existence of the minerals before it invaded Afghanistan.
What has come to the fore, what has come to light? He doesn't say because he doesn't know. Since many of his readers are lazy as he is, and will eat up whatever is given to them by the media, Mr. Hali doesn't bother listing sources. But this is not the point since Mr. Hali, without proof, claims that the United States invaded Afghanistan in order to rape the country for its precious metals.

The United State invaded Afghanistan in 2001, soon after 9/11. So the United States knew well before 9/11 that Afghanistan was a mining bonanza and put in motion an elaborate plan, including killing over 3,000 of its own citizens, in order to keep Afghanistan all for itself. On top of that, spending nearly (if not over) a trillion dollars to occupy and prop-up Afghanistan. And if the United State knew beforehand, why wait till now to reveal this information? And why announce a hard withdrawal date of 2014? You would think the United States would continue to occupy the country until every last ounce of precious metal was extracted from Afghanistan. This is what imperialists do after all.

This is the exact same line of reasoning used for the invasion of Iraq, just replace minerals with oil. That war probably cost the United States two trillion dollars. If capturing a nation's mineral and energy wealth was the utlimate goal, there are a lot cheaper ways to do it than invading and occupying a country, including suborning dictators in Iraq or warlords and the Taliban in Afghanistan. If it sounds nonsensical because it is.
At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said. However, it is alarming that the US has orchestrated one of the oldest imperialistic façades of invading a country, it suspected contained rich minerals. It could thus be assured of having exclusive rights to mine the minerals and pocket the profits. If this is true, then the US has a lot to answer to the international court of justice, since its war machine has already slaughtered over 30,000 Afghans and despite suffering defeats at the hands of the Afghan resistance, it is reluctant to depart from Afghanistan.
China knew of the mineral wealth of Afghanistan as well, per this New York Times article:
The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.
China paid a bribe. No mention of this by Mr. Hali. Since he often carries China's water, I didn't expect him to mention it. It would raise inconvenient questions about the veracity of his columns. And speaking of veracity, it seems Mr. Hali sourced much of his information from the aforementioned New York Times article. A closer reading of the two will find many similarities, including the wording.

But since Mr. Hali is engaging in conspiracy theories, let me engage in one of my own. Let's put the shoe on the other foot. It is equally valid to say that China and Pakistan are just as keen as the United State to exploit Afghanistan's mineral wealth for their greedy needs. Pakistan and China are thick as thieves on this score. How do we know that Pakistan's end game in Afghanistan is not driving out the Americans in order to restore peace and stability on its border, but to a achieve clear path to Kabul to install a puppet government so both Pakistan and China can keep Afghanistan's mineral wealth all for themselves?

Sounds absurd doesn't it? Well this is exactly Mr. Hali's line of thinking. The last paragraph about "imperialistic facades" and "international court of justice" is just palaver to give Mr. Hali some moral cover for his thinly-sourced column. But Mr. Hali realizes that if the United States was brought to dock for it’s alleged crimes, it would be the International Criminal Court (ICC), not the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as Mr. Hali erroneously claims, that would oversea the trial?

The lack of details is another hallmark of the Pakistani media.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wishy-Washy With Mushy

The Pakistan Observer has, more than once, attacked former benign dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf for his intemperate remarks. Remember Musharraf admitting that Pakistan trained and sent militants into Kashmi​r? Well that was treasonous enough for a case to be filed against him in Lahore High Court. The Pakistan Observer, and other newspapers, also took him to task for his attacks on former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and calling the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, as a "characterless" person. It's all here in the Der Spiegel interview.

Yet the Pakistan Observer made an about face-- which it does often and without reason-- when Gen. Musharraf claimed that India was responsible for unrest in Balochistan. Finally, the good general said something worth printing. And the lovefest does not stop there, the Pakistan Observer writes:
Pervez Musharraf has indepth perception about security and strategic issues and therefore his assertion should be taken seriously but we regret to point out that the present regime seems to have adopted an apologetic attitude vis-à-vis India.
Y​et Musharraf had no idea what he was talking about when he admitted to getting down and dirty in Kashmir, but gets kudos for stating the freaking obvious. Selective praise, indeed!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Drone Attacks Are Extremely Effective

An editorial from the Nation asking for a cessation of all drone activity within Pakistan’s borders:
One needs to welcome the government decision to ask Washington to stop violating the sovereignty of Pakistan’s airspace with drone strikes conducted with the aim of taking out operatives of militant organisations, who, the US believes, are hiding in North Waziristan Agency. The pity is that the good news has come too late for about 2000 innocent human beings, ordinary men, women and children, who would have been living today, had the political set-up rescinded, immediately on assuming power, the permission Musharraf had granted to the CIA to make these raids.
Setting aside the lie that 2000 civilians were killed by drone attacks, the drone war conducted by NATO in Pakistan’s troublesome FATA region is highly effective and, contrary to what the Nation may say, has minimized civilian casualties, not raise them. I would recommend reading Peter Bergen’s piece in the latest issue of the Atlantic.
But the drone program has drawbacks. Perhaps the most worrisome is civilian casualties. According to our survey of reliable press accounts, about 30 percent of all those killed by drones since 2004 were nonmilitants, though that proportion has been decreasing recently because of better targeting, more intelligence cooperation, and the CIA’s use of smaller missiles. This year (through September), about 8 percent of those killed by drones were reportedly nonmilitants, though U.S. officials claim the rate is more like 2 percent.
Peter Bergen, noted expert on counter-terrorism, has a compiled a count of deaths resulting from drone attacks: the number of civilian casualties compared to militant casualties is very low. And for all the hue and cry by Pakistan about drone attacks, they have given their tacit approval, and then some.
The drones are immensely unpopular in Pakistan, and Pakistani politicians routinely claim that they violate national sovereignty. But many Pakistani officials are privately supportive, and much of the intelligence used to target the strikes comes from Pakistani informants. Indeed, the attacks were almost completely halted in the tribal area of South Waziristan after the Pakistani military launched an offensive there a year ago, suggesting a high degree of Pakistani-American coordination.
There you go. The drone attacks would not be successful without Pakistan’s input. For Pakistan, drone attacks is the lesser evil because the alternative would be much worse: thousands of foreign troops operating within Pakistan’s borders. Which would the Nation prefer?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Evidence Please, Ms Mizari!

The Nation, edited by the paranoid Shireen Mizari, is again engaging in innuendo, making claims without offering a shred of evidence. This editorial is another clear-cut example:
Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s retraction of his repeated observations that the government had ample proof of the involvement of foreign hand in terrorist activity in the country is as outlandish as it is incomprehensible. Talking to reporters at the Karachi airport on Sunday, he listed the outfits that are commonly labelled as ‘terrorist organisations’ for creating trouble in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan. One is really amazed how he has come to this categorical conclusion in the face of a pile of evidence to suggest that RAW, CIA and MOSSAD are engaged in this nefarious mission. The foreign occupation of Afghanistan has been facilitating their intrusion into Pakistan through the supply of weapons and funds to disgruntled elements, and even training and encouraging them to stir up trouble. Not only has the Minister, but also other responsible officials, including sources in intelligence agencies have been pointing their fingers at outside agents provocateurs. Mr Malik is on record having said that his Ministry possessed documentary evidence of Indian involvement. [Emphasis mine]
What is this pile of evidence the Nation is talking about? What is the source? Is it credible? Answering these kinds of questions would be inconvenient and just get in the way for the Nation editorial board in rumor-mongering. In fact, according to Pakistan Media Watch, the Nation engages in baseless allegation regularly.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Musharraf: ISI Has A Role in Afghanistan

In an interview with Voice of America, former benign dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf defends the military's and ISI's role in Afghanistan. He also insists the ISI has a role to play in Afghanistan:
Asked if any talks can reach a political accommodation in Afghanistan without Pakistan's input, Musharraf said it would be difficult - and that the ISI could play a positive role.

"ISI knows the environment, ISI knows the people, ISI understands the environment, much more than anyone else. So therefore ISI can contribute towards anything that we want to do," he said.

The former president dismissed the notion that the Pakistan army has not been sufficiently aggressive in trying to clear out al-Qaida and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas. He also accused the U.S. of failing to trust the Pakistan Army and the ISI.
It is like letting the fox into the hen house.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jinnah Wanted A Secular Pakistan

This editorial in The Nation is playing fast and loose with history:
GENERAL (retd) Musharraf seems to have lost any sense of propriety and is firing in all directions like an unguided missile. His statements not only undermine the national interests of Pakistan but are often distortions of facts...Now, in the first meeting of his party in New York, he brazenly distorted history by declaring that Islam was not the basis for the creation of Pakistan. Given how Pakistan was all about securing a homeland for the Muslims of India and how the Quaid-i-Azam referred to the principles of Islam in connection with a welfare state and the economy, Musharraf needs to revisit history.
The Nation is shamelessly distorting history to play politics, which is par for the course for its conspiratorial editor, Shireen Mizari. Musharraf is right: Jinnah never intended Pakistan to be an Islamic state. If Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be an Islamic state, as the editorial contends, he would have declared it one. One just has to read Jinnah's own words. In a speech on August 11, 1947, Jinnah said:
There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. I cannot emphasize it too much.
People have cited the following speech that Jinnah, indeed, wanted an Islamic state:
The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principle of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fairplay to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.
Like the creators of the U.S. Constitution, who were influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, Jinnah believed Islam would play an influence in the creation of Pakistan's constitution. In either case, there was no intention by the founders to establish a theocracy. A close reading of Jinnah's statement makes this abundantly clear.

Pakistan only became an Islamic republic in 1956, long after Jinnah passed from the seen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

India Wants Respect From the United States

The Hindustan Times has published India’s want list with the United States, hoping to reach some sort of accommodation on some of the items while President Obama is on an official state visit. The list is very high-level, but gives a good idea what India wants: an equatable partnership.

First, India wants the United States to unequivocally back India's demand for a permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council. This is the United States' position as well and will lend its support when the time comes, but cannot do so with the approval of other permanent members. Naturally, China will prove a hindrance. India realizes this, of course, but seems more keen on United States support in the short-term.

Second, India's demand for a role in Afghanistan is rife with issues. The first one, of course, is Pakistan. Much as I've criticized Pakistan in its imperialistic role in Afghanistan, past and present, I see no way around the fact that Pakistan must be intimately involved in creating and keeping the peace in Afghanistan. And naturally, India's role in Afghanistan will only rile Pakistan who has accused India of using Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan. This may be a no go depending on how big a role India wants in Afghanistan.

Third. Given that President Obama kicked-off his visit by speaking at the Taj Hotel, where the bloody Mumbai attacks occurred, is the most highly visible signal that the United States not only agrees that terrorism is a problem in the region, but is willing to join hands with India to fight it. I strongly believe there will be a deeper cooperation in jointly fighting terrorism.

And fourth, the United States and India are on the same page, for the most part, in the need to contain China's increasing hegemonic designs in the region. India's "look East" policy, combined with United States "look West" policy will enhance collective security in the region. .

All in all, it will be fruitful trip for both countries. Relations between the two countries will only deepen, in my opinion