Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pakistanis And The Bomb: Why They Don't Care

The jingoistic Pakistan Observer is dismayed by Pakistan's lack of fervor in celebrating Youm-e-Takbeer, a day set aside to observe Pakistan’s arrival as a nuclear power, when it tested its first nuclear device deep within the mountains of Balochistan.

Why the lack of fervor? The reasons are manifold, I suppose, the chief being that it has gained Pakistan little while costing it much. For many who thought having nuclear weapons would confer respect and prosperity on Pakistan are deeply disappointed. Pakistan continues to be poor, its economy anemic, where society is marred by crime and poverty, and government is hopeless, useless, and corrupt. The only difference today is that Pakistan now has the bomb, which makes Pakistan scarier, not respected.

And where is the peace dividend? Pakistan is swamped with militancy on its border with Afghanistan. Something called the Pakistan Taliban has controls a good chunk of the NWFP, while terrorists kill innocent Muslims with suicide bomb attacks at mosques all over the country. How are nuclear weapons going to stop this? Everyone knows that the sole reason Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons is India, and only India. Even with a first-strike capability, and multiple second-strike capabilities, Pakistan insists on keeping conventional military levels the same, commanding a lion's share of the federal budget.

Not to mention the idea of celebrating such a day as some sort of happy moment is the type of militarism that is not even seen in the United States, the only nation to use atomic weapons. Only idiots at the Pakistan Observer and the political elites are enamored enough to celebrate.

It was Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who got the ball rolling on Pakistan's nuclear program. He didn't care what it took, or what it cost. He said: "We will eat grass" but Pakistan must have nuclear weapons. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, but it is still eating grass.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Pakistanis Seek Greener Pastures

Interesting letter in Dawn that I have produced in full below:
THIS is apropos of Dr Imran Qureshi’s letter (May 17) in which he states that he has applied for Canadian immigration because he feels the Pakistani passport brings disgrace to him. It is unfortunate he used the pretext of security checks at airports being the reason for his action.

Moreover, he says: “I cannot change the system because I am nobody.” It is this attitude which contributes to the downfall of nations. Each individual in a nation has a role to play in its development no matter how small it is.

Instead of feeling ‘disgraced’ at being asked to remove our shoes and belts at airports, we need to understand why this is happening and how we can stop it. Besides, in today’s prevalent security situation, he would face the same security checks as long as he has a Muslim name.

So, probably, his next step would be to change his name to an English/Christian name, which might lead him to change his religion as well in a bid to improve the treatment he gets at airports.

One day when Pakistan would be prospering and the green passport will command respect, your head will be hung in shame for having ditched your motherland when it needed you the most.

United Kingdom
Perhaps the writer is right. A day will come when a Pakistani passport - the little green book - will be treated with respect. Just don't expect that day to be anytime soon.

There are many factors at play, of course, that need to go Pakistan's way before things improve. For one thing, stop producing passports that are easily forged. Much of the world is reverting to machine-readable passports and, in some cases, include various biometeric data. Pakistan still insists on issuing hand-written passports like the good old days, so it's not uncommon for criminals and terrorists to travel on Pakistani passports. Countless news items fill newspapers every year recounting harrowing tales of Pakistanis trying to enter countries, mostly for employment purposes, on bogus passports. This only makes it harder for legitmate vistors, who must pay the price for increased scrutiny at airports and denial of visas. Even Islamic countries like Malaysia are suspicious of Pakistanis.

And it doesn't help that Pakistan has been slow to respond, which only leaves many people frustrated and yearning for a passport of another color.

Monday, May 26, 2008

CSI: Guess Who's Coming Back

What the hell!
CSI boss Carol Mendelsohn wasn't pulling my leg when she told me last October that we haven't seen the last of Sara Sidle. Sources confirm that Jorja Fox has inked a deal to return for the show's ninth-season premiere next fall.

Specifics of her comeback are being kept under lock and key, but my CSI mole assures me that she "won't be appearing in a flashback." The likely scenario has Sara returning to Vegas to shag Grissom mourn ex-colleague Warrick, who was shot (and presumably) killed in last week's finale. I say "presumably" because in the current issue of TV Guide, Mendelsohn says Gary Dourdan will be back in the fall — and "not just in flashbacks."
This is so stupid! Jorja Fox leaves, ostensibly because she's tired of playing Sara Sidle, only to agree to return. The same with Gary Dourdan. They must have realized they have the acting ability of yams?

It is also sign a series that is in trouble. After eight years, CSI has reached the bottom of the barrel. Time to end it. Make the ninth-season its last.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Random Quote #3

The opening paragraph from one my favorite novels of all time, Around The World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne:
Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814. He was one of the most noticeable members of the Reform Club, though he seemed always to avoid attracting attention; an enigmatical personage, about whom little was known, except that he was a polished man of the world. People said that he resembled Byron--at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Appeasement Really Looks Like

On May 11, 2008, the secular government in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) finalized a deal with the Taliban groups for the implementation of shari'a in the province's seven districts. The Pashtun nationalist government in the NWFP, which came to power last month, had vowed to talk to the Taliban in order to establish peace in the region. The talks were held between the government, Pakistani Taliban and the outlawed Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e -Muhammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Shari'a).
If the NWFP government thinks it's going to get peace, they haven't given the devil his due. The Pakistan Taliban, like their Afghan brethren, are a wiley lot: you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. The Pakistani Taliban will never be content and will always demand more: today Shari'a in seven districts, tomorrow all of NWFP. Appeasment, as it's being practiced by the NWFP goverment, is the sure path to slavery.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Government Is Useless In South Asia

Khilado shares his impression of a typical government office in Pakistan:
You walk inside in the valley of the shadow of askew shelves groaning with files, all askew, stuttering fans stirring up yellowing pages under the light of flickering tube lights. People sit around listless, waiting for the next cup of tea and sms message, disturbed now and than by a visitor who mistakenly wanders in trying to get some work done, and sometimes by a peon shuffling around bulging files, in a endless cycle from desk to desk, sometimes only making the journey to the person sharing the same desk, other times all the way outside the room into an adjoining office.
Replicate this across every office, every ministry, at every level of government, from district to federal, and that's a lot of people sitting around pushing papers from one side of their desk to the other. It's a disease that afflicts every country in South Asia.

I happened to visit one government office in Bangladesh and I was horrified by what I saw: cheap, ramshackle desks, with decrepit plastic phones, no computers whatsoever and the closest thing to modern technology was a single manual typewriter. Files all over the place, and what they contained didn't matter since many haven't been touched in years. And then they were the people: listless, counting the seconds to lunch, then to tea time, and finally to go home.
The whole system would be so much more efficient if they just fired the bureaucracy and let the people who do the work anyways do it. The amazing part is that the system is so broken yet somehow the country still shambles on.
Alas, if it were only that simple. Khalido is right, though, the country shambles on because bulk of the work is done by a few key people. Khalido is also correct that bureaucracies are completely unnecessary. But people must be employed: so, through a system of political patronage, the government gives them meaningless jobs in return for passivity.

Left Front Loses Key Vote

The people have spoken:
In a jolt to the CPI(M)-led Left Front, Trinamool Congress defeated its candidates in trouble-torn Nandigram in the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal.

The Front also faced rout in three zilla parishad seats in Singur to Trinamool Congress candidates.

The polls are seen as a litmus test for the Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee government's farmland acquisition policy for industries.
The Left Front have consistently denied any wrongdoing or engaging in strong-arm tactics, blaming, as always, the opposition for its troubles. This is a typical tactic used by the Left Front to demonize its opponents and deflect responsibility. Alas, the citizens of Nandigram, ground zero, so to speak, didn't believe the Left Front and their lies and proved it by voting against them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bangladesh's Al Capone

When you want to take down a big-time criminal in a round about way, you convict him on a lesser charge. This is how Al Capone was taken down and this, hopefully, how Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamic political party, will be taken down as well.

Nizami is a war criminal, pure and simple. During 1971, Nizami sided with Pakistan in suppressing forces dedicated to Bengali independence. He formed a shadowy para-military group called Al-Badr, which targeted minorities (mostly Hindus), intellectuals, professionals, secularists, almost anyone with a pro-independence bent. Al-Badr was not above committing rapes, torture, or outright murder in order to smother a popular independence movement.

Al Capone was arrested, indicted and convicted for tax evasion. Nizami has been indicted for corruption. Hopefully, he will be convicted and spend his twilight years in a jail. It's not the exactly the justice his victims deserve, but it will have to do.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Has Happened To A.Q. Khan?

I'm currently reading Atomic Bazaar by William Langewiesche, which contains his two-part article about A.Q. Khan originally published in The Atlantic. The article concludes with the fact that A.Q. Khan, after he delivered the bomb, has ceased to be relevant to the Pakistani establishment, who placed him under house arrest after being caught red-handed selling nuclear technology to anybody who wanted it.

No one has heard from him since. A.Q. Khan is a proud man, and is probably wondering why he's being treated like a criminal when the common man considers him a folk hero for endowing Pakistan with the august status of a nuclear power. Who knows what threats the government has made against him, but I'm very sure A.Q. Khan resents it and is willing to spill the beans, so to speak, that the government knew of his activities and even actively encouraged them.

Red Sox On Top While Yankees....

Here are the standing for American League East as of this morning:

Hank Stienbrenner must be having fits of rage right about now, knowing that his all-star team is dead last.

Vinod Explains The Food Crisis

Vinod aptly explains what I've been wanting to say but didn't have the time or the eloquence to say it: blaming the West for the food crisis is nothing more than a red herring.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Circuit: Very Funny

Deepak Ananthapadmanabha-- yes that's his name-- hosts this funny and irreverent web-only series about technology.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

High Food Oil Prices: Who To Blame? Everbody

The developed world is accusing the developing world for higher food and oil prices; and the developing world is accusing the developed world for the same. The truth is not that clearcut, or simple. There is enough blame to go around, but no one responsible enough to accept it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Too Good To Be True

The only thing the PML(N) and PPP had in common, besides despising each other, was their mutual hatred of President Pervez Musharraf, which seems to be fleeting. So when these parties announced that they were forming a coalition government, everybody knew it wouldn't last long. Parties driven by cult of personality politics like the PML(N) and PPP don't like to share the limelight.

For now, the PML(N) is only withdrawing from the cabinet, but will continue to support the coalition government. But this is just a pretense. Another excuse will be manufactured to exit the government altogether. This will either mean new elections, or another intervention by the military. Either way, President Pervez Musharraf will be pleased as punch

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It's Not Worth The Paper Its Printed On

Zimbabwe has the world's worthless currency. In fact, inflation is so bad that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has issued the following banknote:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cyclone: Burma's End Or Beginning?

The United Nations is not happy with Myanmar:
The UN says it is extremely disappointed at the slow progress made in securing access to victims of last weekend's cyclone in Burma.

Humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters that Burma's response was "nothing like as much as is needed".
If there's to be one positive outcome of this cyclone it is for the people in Myanmar to finally rise from their stupor and overthrow the generals, an insular and paranoid bunch, who have been autocratically ruling this nation for years. Bangladesh would not have demanded independence from Pakistan if it weren't for the latter's lack of action during a devastating 1970 cyclone. And don't forget: Myanmar is another client state of China.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Was Or Became A Suicide Bomber

Interesting item:
A Kuwaiti man released from U.S. custody at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in 2005 blew himself up in a suicide attack in Iraq last month, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The question is: Did he become a suicide bomber as a result of his incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, or was he planning to be one all along? The answer we may never find out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is Obama The Winner?

The consensus seems to be to declare Obama the winner since destiny, and a little math, is on his side. Consensus also seems to be for an Obama/Clinton ticket. I don't know if that's such a good idea. Clinton is petulant, vindictive, and, not to mention, ambitious. As vice president, she'll try to undermine Obama as much as she can. Yes, she's capable of that!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Movie I'm Not Going To Watch This Summer

Rumors are floating around cyberspace that a character might be eliminated in Sex And the City: The Movie, which is being released later this month. Director Michael Patrick King says otherwise:
"It's a summer movie," he said. "Why would I want to kill anyone?"
Which is unfortunate because if there's anybody that righteously deserves to die it's one of the main characters (preferably all of them, if that's possible) from this boorish show: preferably some sort of a painful, miserable death. Sex And the City is basically a show about four nags bitching about their love lives. That's it. Nothing else to see. I don't know how I managed to complete the first season, which was repetitive enough, let alone later seasons. My guess would be the occasional nudity

Monday, May 5, 2008

England Turning Right? The Hindu Doesn't Like It

The Hindu offers its comments on Labor's recent troubles in local elections in England and, naturally, they're dismayed by the results. Nothing depressed them more then the loss of Ken "The Red" Livingstone, socialist member of Labor, who was defeated in London's mayoral election to whom The Hindu dubs as a "joke". I don't know who this "joke" is, but he still managed to beat Kenny boy. So you can say "joke" is on Ken, who will, no doubt, end up in some cushy E.U. job like other Labor leaders.

The prospects of Conservatives returning to power is giving The Hindu ulcers, in which they quip:
The Labour defeat is, however, not an automatic pointer to the next general election, which must be held by June 2010. Tory voters might well turn out in greater numbers from now on, but other voters will remember what 18 years of Tory government (1979-1997) were like.
From what I remember, those years were golden compared to the severe economic malaise, brought on by dubious socialist policies, when Labour was in charge from 1974-1979. The worse thing to happen in England during Conservative rule, in my opinion, was the foolish dumping of Margaret Thatcher for John Majors. The Conservatives have been wandering in the wilderness ever since.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cute Toddler Photo #1

This kid is not shy about his picture being taken. Dillan stood there and smiled while I snapped away.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Blaming RAW Yet Again

Yet another pointless article accusing RAW of being the boogeyman of South Asia, spearheading India's expansionist mindset (whatever the hell that means). A choice quote:
“RAW over the years has admirably fulfilled its tasks of destabilizing target states through unbridled export of terrorism.”
If you substitute ISI for RAW, the statement would be 100% correct.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

DailyLit: Reading For Very Busy People

I love DailyLit, a website that serializes books (both free and copyrighted) via e-mail or RSS. It's a great service that enables me to read books, in byte size pieces, in the free minutes I have in my busy day that is otherwise wasted.

I'm using DailyLit to read some of the classics that I've been meaning to read but never had the wherewithal to start. I'm reading four in particular:
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Hefty books all. I think I'm all set until 2010. :-)

Though DailyLit is a great source for classic literature, the selection of non-fiction books, especially history, is much to be desired. My ideal website would be to combine DailyLit's functionality with Project Gutenberg's vast library. The ultimate literary mash-up.