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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pakistan Not Getting Any Love

The Pakistani commentariat is extremely upset over two key points regarding President Obama's forthcoming trip to India. First, he's not visiting Pakistan, a major non-NATO ally mind you, on this trip, which was standard practice in the past. And second, President Obama will not intervene with India on the issue of Kashmir, reneging on an election promise.

A recent Washington Post article sums up Pakistani concerns rather nicely. An excerpt:
Among the Pakistanis' chief concerns are the Obama administration's apparent unwillingness to get involved in the long-standing dispute over Kashmir; the blossoming U.S.-India civil nuclear partnership; and the symbolism of Obama starting his visit at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, site of the 2008 siege that killed 173 people and has been blamed on Pakistani militants.
I have discussed before about Pakistan's credibility gap over Kashmir. It plays a factor why President Obama is not visiting Pakistan in November. As the commentariat correctly states, President Obama is going to India to cement economic deals, including selling defense equipment, airplanes, things a growing economy needs. The United States also sees India has a regional bulwark against an increasingly hegemonic China. Everyone knows Pakistan is China's stooge and a wishy-washy partner in the war on terror.

In essence, what I'm saying is that the United States sees a fruitful relationship with India. Like a married couple, they see a future together. Pakistan, on the other hand, the relationship is mostly a short-term affair. There's no future with an economic basket case like Pakistan. Once the war on terror ends (or, most likely, shift) and the money spigot is turned off, Pakistan will be left in the cold like a jilted lover.

The short version: The United States is not going to divorce India to marry Pakistan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Morning After...

The mid-term elections are over and the results are finally in:

Source: CNN

The results, as we can see, were not all that surprising, the Republicans were expected to do well, but not this well. The margin was simply huge. Republicans control the House, the Democrats retain control of the Senate but only by a slim majority.

How do I feel about the results? I have mixed emotions about it.

I'm happy that gridlock will make its return to Washington. As we've seen under President Bush, one party controlling everything is a recipe for disaster. If anything, President Obama's profligate ways will be checked. I hope the fights are bloody. For me bipartisanship is a dirty word. And I eagerly await the return of the filibuster in the Senate.

I'm disappointed by the results in my state of Massachusetts. It seems voters were not keen to see the incumbents go and voted them all back in. Yes, Massachusetts voters are mostly sheep, but there's little organized opposition against Democrats in one of the bluest states in the country. The Republicans, for the most part, are brain dead and ineffectual. They couldn't get elected dog catcher if they tried.

The Tea Party candidates did well. I supported them for the most parts, especially those keen on smaller governments, free markets, and more personal liberty. On the other hand, I'm glad Christine O'Donnell, who vigorously opposes masturbation, lost her bid for a U.S. Senate seat. Her winning would make her the second-coming of Rick Santorum, the former gay-bashing senator from Pennsylvania. She's a faux small governmental anyway, the type of person who would like government to intrude on the private lives of citizens and curtail civil liberties.

All in all, a good election.

Coups Are Part of Pakistan's Nature

Only in Pakistan does a standing Prime Minister has to constantly downplay talks of a military coup. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani addressed the National Assembly on this score:
The Prime Minister on hand some people are talking about Charter of Pakistan while on the other hand they are talking of martial law. He made it clear that those who desire for a martial law will never succeed in their designs as Pakistan Army is pro-democracy and will never impose martial law. He said the people having thought of martial law should keep in mind that Pakistan Army will never indulge in conspiracies to impose martial law. He said those who desire dissolution of national assembly are not sincere with the nation and the country they are in fact conspiring to dismantle the country.
All due respect to the Prime Minister, he would be the last to know if there was a coup afoot. The coup often happens late at night, while the Prime Minister is sleeping, when he is suddenly jostled from his bed by soldiers and told he’s longer Prime Minister, and promptly put under house arrest. The generals then go on television announcing that they are in charge. There’s a hue and cry, but life, for the most part, moves on.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pakistan's Best Friend In India

From an editorial in The Nation:
KNOWN for her objective and unbiased approach to issues that concern human existence and for upholding the cause of the oppressed, India’s noted writer, Booker Prize winner and human rights activist Arundhati Roy has, in a few words, not only demolished New Delhi’s contention that Kashmir is its integral part, but also castigated it for replacing ‘British imperialism with Indian colonialism’.
Unbiased? Objective? Human rights activist?

Only a fool would take someone like Arundhati Roy seriously. The woman likes to throw verbal hand grenades, if anything to remain in the spotlight and mask the fact that she's a pseudo-intellectual whose only claim t0 fame is writing one novel and a handful of political screeds and pamphlets. She is, in fact, an India-hating harpy who likes to cavort with Maoists; and, let us not forget, despises democracy.

In a way, she is the perfect tool for Pakistan, whose embrace of her proves how desperate they are for allies to to their cause. They are essentially grasping at straws here. In fact, if Pakistan wants her, they can have her. Make her a citizen and let her make a fool of herself there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Crazy Aunty Saying Crazy Things

Shireen Mazari reminds me of that crazy aunt who says nutty things to get attention. She is tolerated because she’s family, but no one really takes her seriously.

Anyway, Pakistan and the United States are currently holding a ‘strategic dialogue’ in Washington to put their relationship back on track. Dr. Mazari is well known for her rabid anti-Americanism—often bordering on incoherence—and considers any concession by Pakistan as an affront to its dignity. So as a patriotic Pakistani, she takes up her pen, she is an editor of a prominent newspaper after all, and scribbles a list of demands the United States must unconditionally accept before Pakistan agrees to anything.
First, it needs to write off Pakistan’s debt and ensure that this happens with its allies and the international financial institutions. The US has done this before when it has seen other states like Egypt as its strategic partners. Surely, the role being played by Pakistan today is as strategic as any for the US in its so-called war on terror in Afghanistan.

Second, if the Dialogue is to be truly “strategic”, it cannot ignore the nuclear factor. So we need to demand from the US that it give the same treatment to our nuclear status that it is bestowing on India. In this context, the issue of non-proliferation is a non-starter, as India’s documented record on the issue is no better than ours or the US’s itself in connection with Israel!

Third, the US needs to immediately fulfil its past commitments on ROZs and market access for our textiles.

Fourth, Pakistan must be welcomed in any talks to resolve the Afghan conflict. Now that the US has conceded that Iran has a role to play in Afghanistan, it should wake up to the reality - however distasteful it may be to it and its ally India - that Pakistan has a role to play also in the future of Afghanistan.

Fifth, the return of Dr Aafia should not simply be a postscript in the Dialogue, but some action sought immediately.
The first four demands are negotiable, but the fifth? Is this even a serious request? Is Dr. Mazari willing to risk US-Pakistan relations demanding Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s release? The presumption here is that Dr. Siddiqui is some innocent—an MIT-trained neuroscientist and mother of three, we are repeatedly told—railroaded by a callous American judicial system. I agree that her sentence was overly harsh, but she is not as innocent as she appears: she is an unrepentant jihadist and a supporter of Al-Qaeda.

No time to go into details here, but Dr. Siddiqui’s behavior, before and after her arrest, adds credence to her guilt.

That Dr. Mizari would demand her release trivializes US-Pakistan relations, which is key in eradicating terrorism and militancy in Afghanistan. But like the crazy aunt, hopefully nobody listens to her.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lui Xiaobo Is Not A Criminal, You Moron!

Ever since Shireen Mazari took over as editor of Lahore-based Nation, the quality of the newspaper has gone down exponentially, to the point that it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on. Take, for example, this opinion piece by one Sultan M Hali. It’s abundantly clear that this article is complete nonsense, and any editor worth his or her salt would never publish such drivel.

Sultan M. Hali calls himself a political and defense analyst. He is nothing of the sort. In reality he’s a professional hack, and a very lazy one at that. His latest analysis, for instance, is so shallow, it’s an insult even to the barely intelligent reader. Hali doesn’t waste time sounding stupid, he starts in straight away:
The 2010 Nobel Prize for peace has been awarded to China’s Liu Xiaobo, a criminal, convicted by Chinese judicial authorities for dissidence and attempting to spread insurgency. The decision to award him the Peace Prize is not only controversial, but runs contrary to the testament of Alfred Nobel, the founder of the century-old Nobel Peace Prize.
To be honest I didn’t even know who Liu Xiaobo was until he won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, but even a cursory Google search would educate Hali, and everybody else, who Liu Xiaobo was. From Wikipedia:
Liu Xiaobo is a human rights activist who is little-known inside China. His writing is considered subversive, and his name is censored. He has called for democratic elections, advocated values of freedom, supported separation of powers and urged the governments to be accountable for its wrongdoings.
By China’s standard, anybody who challenges the government, controlled by the Communist Party of China (CPC), is a criminal. All Liu Xiaobo asked for was democratic reform (like elections!) and freedom. And Mr. Hali calls him a criminal and an insurgent! The last is such laughable. What insurgency is Hali referring to aside from the one floating around in his empty head?

I won’t even bother with rest of the article it’s so bad.

Did Hali do any research at all or is he just parroting what the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad is telling him, which he has shamelessly done in the past.

What Hali needs to do is to get a clue. His analysis is shoddy. He’s more sycophant than analyst. In the end, he comes off as an idiot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Jobs, More Housing

Interesting graph. There's a clear correlation between unemployment and housing starts. Lower the unemployment rate, higher the housing starts. Housing and employment booms usually start at tail ends of recessions when interest rates are low, but it's not happening this time around. Is it possible that the recession isn't really over, contrary to what many economists are saying?

Regardless, the key factor is to create jobs, and this means letting the private sector do exactly that, but the President Obama thinks that profligate government spending, raising taxes, and more regulation is the way to go. It's not.

For more on the aforementioned graph, check out this post at Calculated Risk.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bin Laden and Zawahiri LIving The High Life?

I know people like to believe the worst about Pakistan (I'm one of them), but even I find this absurd:
WASHINGTON: World's most wanted terrorists Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri may be hiding close to each other in houses in northwest Pakistan, protected by some members of ISI, a media report said on Monday.

The two top al-Qaida commanders may not be together and are not living in caves as forseen by American experts to evade detection, the CNN reported quoting a top NATO officer based in Afghanistan.

"Nobody in al-Qaida is living in a cave," said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the intelligence matters involved, CNN said.

Rather, al-Qaida's top leadership is believed to be living in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani intelligence services ISI, the official said.
Has anyone asked why? What's Pakistan's interest in protecting bin Laden and al-Zawahiri? There's nothing for Pakistan to gain in protecting these yahoos except earning the opprobrium of harboring terrorists intimately involved in 9/11! And what use is bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to anyone these days, Al-Qaeda included?

In fact, if I were Pakista and had bin Laden and al_Zawahiri in custody, I would hand them over to the United States without thinking twice. If anything, to curry more favor with the United States.

A very funny article, in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Neo-Liberals Can Write Too...

Swedish leftists are appalled that this year's Nobel Prize for Literature went to Peruvian writer Mario Llosa Vargas. Spiked-Online has a nice article about it here. To leftists Vargas just doesn't fit the mold of what a writer should be, which is, first and foremost, a socialist:
People who never voiced any concerns about the politics of other Nobel Prize winners like Wisyawa Szymborska, who wrote poetic celebrations of Lenin and Stalin; Günter Grass, who praised Cuba's dictatorship; Harold Pinter, who supported Slobodan Milosevic; José Saramago, who purged anti-Stalinists from the revolutionary newspaper he edited thought that the Swedish Academy had finally crossed a line. Mario Vargas Llosa's politics apparently should have disqualified him from any prize considerations. He is after all a classical liberal in the tradition of John Locke and Adam Smith.
For those leftists who are keen on diversity such parochialism is hypocritical. And that only leftists write literature worth reading is snobbery, pure and simple. Vargas proves that non-socialists like him can write literature that not only win prestigious prizes like Nobels, but are works of high artistic merits, which is reason enough to read them. These leftists forget that Vargas won the Nobel for his literary contributions, not his politics.

But this is not the only thing that bothers these leftists: for one thing, Vargas was once one of them.
He was a convinced Communist who supported the Cuban revolution. He moved on not because he was no longer able to sympathise with the poor and oppressed, but because he still did when others began to identify more with the revolutionaries than with the people in whose name they made the revolution. He saw that Castro persecuted homosexuals and imprisoned dissenters. While other socialists kept quiet and thought that the dream justified the means, Vargas Llosa began to ask himself the difficult questions about why his ideals looked more like prison camps than socialist utopias when realized.
Like a religious fanatic who cannot fathom someone leaving a faith as perfect as his, leftists wonder why Vargas became such an apostate, supporting rubbish like free markets and free trade.

[via arts & letters daily]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kashmir: Pakistan's Credibility Gap

Interesting editorial in The Pakistan Observer:
KASHMIR, which received little attention of the global community during the last few years, is now once again on the world agenda, thanks to the sacrifices of Kashmiri people. In the past, India was able to hoodwink the international public opinion with the force of intensive propaganda equating the freedom struggle of Kashmiri people with terrorism, an issue of serious concern to the world these days.
If this is the position of the Pakistan government as well, delusion has completely set in. Pakistan strongly believes that it has the diplomatic muscle to "internationalize" Kashmir, when in reality it's still treading water (and has been for years). There are good reasons why Pakistan has yet to reach the tipping point on Kashmir.

First of all, Pakistan faces a serious credibility gap on Kashmir. Pakistan says it's for the self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but this will require Pakistan give self-determination to people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (also absurdly known as "Azad" Kashmir, or "Free" Kashmir). A nice idea except for the fact that Pakistan tightly controls "Azad" Kashmir. It's occupied by military and security forces. Media access is also tightly-controlled: allowing Pakistan to stage-manage "Azad" Kashmir to show to the world a Potemkin village of happy and content Kashmiris. The world community should ask why there's no media access to "Azad" Kashmir. The world community should also ask why Pakistan ceded "disputed" territory to China in abrogation of the same United Nation resolution Pakistan likes to tout.

Second, is the lie that Pakistan did not train Kashmir freedom fighters, but only offering political and diplomatic support, and send them to Kashmir. Recently, former Gen. Pervez Musharraf admitted that Pakistan indeed trained militants (Pakistan calls them "freedom fighters") to create mayhem in India-occupied Kashmir, ostensibly to bring India to the negotiating table, but also to lay the groundwork for an eventual Pakistan annexation. Many of these militants weren't even Kashmiris, but Pakistan jihadists contracted to kill not only Indian military, security and police forces, but civilians as well. The militants specifically targeted pro-India and moderate Kashmiris, especially those who opposed Pakistani interference. This has also been clearly established.

Third, the use of militants has been Pakistan's playbook since the days of battling with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Pakistan created the Taliban to control Afghanistan after the Soviet Union withdrew. It has been using militants in Kashmir since 1989. These same militants have connections not only to each other, but to Al-Qaeda as well. It's good to note that some prominent members of Al-Qaeda have been Pakistani as well, including Sheik Khalid Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, both of whom are in American custody. These same militants are responsible for killing of countless innocent Pakistanis through suicide bombings, shootings, and outright murder, all under the protection of the Pakistani military. It's also interesting to note that many of these militant groups hold massive rallies that are well-attended by government functionaries and prominent political leaders. These are the very same leaders who head the government and are pushing for Kashmiri rights to self-determination. People do take notice.

And fourth, Pakistan is weak with little international influence. It may have a first-rate military and nuclear weapons, but it's a near-failed state with a corrupt political system, weak democratic institutions, and an economy that constantly teeters on failure. Pakistan constantly carries a begging bowl. Honestly, do beggars have any influence other being pitied. Not even the vaunted Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) cares about Kashmir. Yes, it has issued statements, communiqués, etc, but it has done little beyond that. Members of the OIC, though sympathetic to Pakistan as a fellow Islamic country, are not willing to take on India over Kashmir.

This is not to say India is completely absolved from its role in Kashmir. I believe this and past governments have often acted in a ham-fisted manner in Kashmir, and should correct its behavior. But if Pakistan wants to have final solution on Kashmir, it should get its entire house in order, top to bottom. Pakistan should realize that having nuclear weapons and a big army is not enough to be a player on the world state, but strong democratic institutions and a stable, growing economy will give it more creditability.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gen. Musharraf Arming Of Terrorists

Former president/general/chief executive/benign dictator Pervez Musharraf made some revelatory comments in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, which can be found here. Some key excerpts:
SPIEGEL: When Pakistan's rulers lose power, they traditionally get imprisoned or murdered by their rivals. Why are you founding a party to, once again, get involved in politics instead of enjoying retirement in London, which is at least a safe place?

Musharraf: No risk, no gain. We unfortunately have a culture of vendetta and vindictiveness in Pakistan. But there is no case of corruption or fraud or anything against me at the moment. My political opponents, especially Nawaz Sharif, would love to create a case against me -- that I am corrupt or have committed fraud or some such. They do their best to achieve that, but they haven't succeeded. Even if they did, I would reply in court. Risks need to be taken.
Gen. Musharraf is still bitter about Mr. Sharif. I suppose I would be to if someone tried to kill me. Mr. Sharif nearly got Gen. Musharraf killed, and his fellow passengers, when refusing to let his plane land in Pakistan. And the feeling is mutual. Mr. Sharif is no doubt peeved about his banishment from Pakistan after Gen. Musharraf seized power. It will be interesting to see how Gen. Musharraf's feud with Mr. Sharif will play out during the next election.
SPIEGEL: Why did you form militant underground groups to fight India in Kashmir?

Musharraf: They were indeed formed. The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.

SPIEGEL: It was the Pakistani security forces that trained them.

Musharraf: The West was ignoring the resolution of the Kashmir issue, which is the core issue of Pakistan. We expected the West -- especially the United States and important countries like Germany -- to resolve the Kashmir issue. Has Germany done that?

SPIEGEL: Does that give Pakistan the right to train underground fighters?

Musharraf: Yes, it is the right of any country to promote its own interests when India is not prepared to discuss Kashmir at the United Nations and is not prepared to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.
Not surprising. Gen. Musharraf confirms what was long suspected. As was discovered, many of the Kashmiri "freedom fighters" weren't even Kashmiri, but Pakistani jihadist armed and trained by the Pakistani military (mostly through its intelligence agency, the ISI). Many of these jihadist now consort with the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, or some other outfit. Pakistan never learns; it likes to play with fire.
SPIEGEL: And how can a nuclear arsenal be safe when high-ranking officers support proliferation or even personally profit from it, as has been alleged? The nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan claims that the Pakistani army monitored and organized deals with countries like North Korea and Iran.

Musharraf: That is wrong, absolutely wrong. Mr. Khan is a characterless man.
Attacking Dr. Khan has been modus operandi since day one, but it's mostly a smokescreen to cover Gen. Musharraf's own shady involvement. The Pakistani military not only knew exactly what was going on, they sanctioned it, with or without the approval of the government. The military, like Pakistani politicians, are kleptocrats. Officers like to line their pockets as much as the next thieving politico, and selling nuclear technology to anybody with an unyielding bank balance is par for the course. Gen. Musharraf may not have personally profited from the deals (who really knows), but he either looked the other way or condoned it. When Pakistan was caught red-handed, Dr. Khan was made a scapegoat. I'm sorry but Gen. Musharraf lacks credibility on this score.

Reading the interview, Gen. Musharraf clearly shows his lack of political refinement. He still carries himself like a soldier, speaking his mind without caring what anybody thinks about him. This will be his undoing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

France Needs Economic Liberty

Frontline has a good article highlighting France's pension crisis. Not that I agree with the article's leftist slant, but it does clearly illustrate the bankruptcy that's the socialist welfare state, and should be a signal to the United States to get its own welfare system in order.

France, like the rest of Europe, is facing a demographic crisis that threatens to imperil its pension system.
The hole in the public pension system has come about because France has an ageing population where there are more pensioners than active workers who pay into the pension fund. If not tackled in time, the present system is expected to ratchet up losses to the tune of 50 billion Euros by 2020. In 1945, when the system was introduced, there were roughly four workers for each retiree in France; today the ratio has shrunk to 1.5 workers per retiree.
Assuming demographic trends remain unchanged, the French government wants to raise the retirement from 60 to 62 for the short-term, eventually raising it to 67 by 2018. This will put France on par with the rest of Europe. Of course, France can add more workers in the short-term by increasing immigration; or increase the birth-rate in the long-term. But given the anti-immigrant sentiment in France, the short-term solution is not an option.
Two factors have upset this balance: the fact that longevity has increased – the life expectancy for men is 85 and for women is 87 now – while the birth rate has dropped. The age pyramid in the developed world has been inverted, with old people far outnumbering the young. At the same time, technological advance has meant that in many industries men have been replaced by machines, leading to persistently high rates of unemployment and placing an additional burden on state-funded unemployment benefit schemes.
The writer blames high unemployment not on France's anti-business policies but on capitalism's obsession with replacing human beings with technology for the sake of more profit. This is typical leftist dogma Frontline is known for.

Naturally, France's trade unions are opposed to any reforms. They agree changes are needed to keep the system solvent, but the sacrifices need to be made, not by them, but elsewhere.
"We are opposed to Sarkozy's specific proposals because they are unjust. We understand that because of changing demographics the system has to be changed, adapted and we accept that. What we reject is this particular reform. The government is adamant about raising the retirement age. But other solutions can be found. Sarkozy has consistently given tax breaks to his rich friends and business supporters. We can look at other means of financing. This proposal is unjust because it penalises two categories of workers who find themselves on the lowest rung of the ladder – manual workers and women,” said Francois Chereque, the leader of the CFDT, one of France's eight major trade unions.
Raising taxes in a country where taxes are extremely high seems suicidal. Soaking the rich is always a populist theme, but punishing those with capital to invest in jobs is hardly productive. Capital will go where there is money to be made, not taxed.
“"I am a 52-year-old divorced mother of four. My husband had a modest job and it was a struggle to make ends meet. I abandoned my job to stay home, to cook and clean and bring up our children. Six years ago I returned to work. My age meant that it took a long time to find a job, and as an office cleaner I make barely 900 euros a month. I am tired, used-up, paid less than my male counterparts. In this situation to ask me to carry on until 67 is an ignominy."
I feel for this woman, but its France's statist economic policies that are to blame. Its anti-business environment make creating jobs difficult in a country with a history of chronic high unemployment. Not only are the unemployed not working, thus not contributing to the pension system, but are themselves receiving generous welfare benefits. It's a doubly-whammy that is clearly unsustainable.

What France needs is a free-market economic regime with less regulation and taxation and more pro-growth policies. What France needs is more freedom.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

US Needs Pakistan More Than Pakistan Needs US

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan reminds me of two drug addicts whose co-dependency put them on a mutual path to self-destruction. And like drug addicts, they enable each other in ways that feed their respective addictions: Pakistan gets money to fund its military and line the pockets of its politicians; and the United States-led NATO force gets a secure base in order to eliminate terrorism in Afghanistan (which it hasn't done despite being in that blight of a country for nearly a decade).

One can argue who needs the other more, but I would place my bet on the United States. For the United States, Pakistan is the only game in town. Iran is not an option; and the central Asian republics are unreliable. This dependency was brought to light when Pakistan closed its border to NATO resupply columns after its sovereignty was violated by NATO jets. The United States couldn't do anything about it except to agree to work it out with Pakistan.

What would happen if, for example, Pakistan got a backbone and told the United States to take a hike? Meaning, no use of Pakistani territory-- air, land, or sea-- to support operations in Afghanistan. No cooperation. No sharing of intelligence. No troops in FATA or Waziristan. No diplomatic or political support. Nothing whatsoever! This scenario is wholly plausible if the Pakistani government gave a shit about their country.

But they don't

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Political Murder In London

Until I read about his murder, I didn't even know who Dr. Imran Farooq was, or the fact he was a founding member of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a political party representing the Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from India after partition. They took up residents in Karachi, a polyglot city of 18 million people, which is also their political base. The MQM is very conspiratorial, with a penchant for violence and, as many Karachites will attest, for general mayhem. The leader of the MQM is one Altaf Hussein, who is both autocratic and paranoid. Though he resides in London as a political refugee, he runs the party he help found with an iron grip.

So when the particulars came out, the brutal death of Dr. Farooq was put in its proper perspective. In fact, a number of prominent MQM leaders have been killed in Karachi. By whom, no one really knows, but this is how the serpentine world of Pakistani politics often works. So the murder of Dr. Farooq was a cold-blooded political assassination, pure and simple. A list of possible suspects would be a long one. The question to ask, of course, is: what is to gain form by the murder of Dr. Farooq?

Admittedly, he was an easy target. His killer laid await from him as he left his residence and stabbed him multiple times. Dr. Farooq had no protection. He wasn't active in politics anymore, but was leading a normal life in a London suburb. Like Altaf Hussein, he, too, was a political refugee.

Altaf Hussein believes Dr. Farooq was killed to intimidate him, and that he well may be next. Altaf Hussein claims foreign intrigue as well, whatever that means. Some have claimed that the current Pakistani government, let by the PPP, an avowed enemy of MQM, ordered the hit to scare Altaf. Lately, Altaf has called for a military takeover and the dismantling of the feudal system that controls Pakistan. Given that the PPP derives its power from the feudal lords who reside in the Sindh hinterland, such talk would not really be welcomed.

Some are claiming that it was Altaf Hussein who ordered the assassination. News reports claim that Dr. Farooq, sick of the ethnic factionalism of Pakistani politics, was planning to join Pervez Musharraf's new political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League. That someone of Dr. Farooq's stature was to join would have been a betrayal to Altaf Hussein's. So he silenced Dr. Farooq as a signal to other MQM dissidents, to think twice about crossing him.

It's good to note, however, that Altaf Hussein likes to dance with the devil. He doesn't mind turning Karachi into a powder keg to suit his political purpose. In fact, the murder of Dr. Farooq would fit nicely into his plans to launch a "French revolution" in Pakistan. There is little chance of this happening as the MQM is despised outside of Karachi.

Will the killer ever be found? Who knows. But things have gotten a bit dangerous; not even London is safe anymore.

NOTE: Great article about the murder here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Islamaphobia Or Genuine Fear

I've been reading Robert Spencer's off and on since it started. Recently, Spencer's been part of a movement that, rightly, opposes the Islamic center/mosque being built near Ground Zero in New York. For his efforts, Spencer has been branded an "Islamaphobe" and a bigot by his opponents, even though his targets are Islamists, jihadists, and other extremists who incite violence, not law-abiding Muslims.

The charge of "Islamophobia" is a canard used by critics to claim that the United States intrinsically hates Islam and Muslims. This is patently untrue. Americans have been very accommodating of Muslims well before and well after 9/11. Anti-Muslim sentiment is a recent phenomenon and its root lie not in Americans themselves, but the actions of certain Muslims. As Robert Spencer writes:
It is not at all established that "Islamophobia" really is growing. In fact, the FBI has recently released data establishing that hate crimes against Muslims are comparatively rare. But if there is any actual suspicion of or negative feelings toward Muslims in the United States, it is solely and wholly the responsibility of Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihadist; Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas underwear jihadist; Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who killed one soldier and murdered another in a jihad shooting outside a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark.; Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square jihadist; Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden on 9/11; the London jihad bombers of July 7, 2005; and so many others.
These attacks were not committed on foreign soil but right here in the United States, some by United States citizens. So it's only natural many American feel ill at ease about Muslims in their midst, but, please, don't call it "Islamaphobia."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pakistan Attacks Critical Journalists

According to this New York Times article, Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies routinely threaten, arrest and torture journalists who displease them.
An investigative reporter for a major Pakistani newspaper was on his way home from dinner here on a recent night when men in black commando garb stopped his car, blindfolded him and drove him to a house on the outskirts of town.

There, he says, he was beaten and stripped naked. His head and eyebrows were shaved, and he was videotaped in humiliating positions by assailants who he and other journalists believe were affiliated with the country’s powerful spy agency.

At one point, while he lay face down on the floor with his hands cuffed behind him, his captors made clear why he had been singled out for punishment: for writing against the government. “If you can’t avoid rape,” one taunted him, “enjoy it.”
If you think about it, it's not all that surprising. Rarely does the Pakistan press carry articles that put the military or the intelligence agencies (mostly the I.S.I) in a bad light. In fact, the opposite is true, there are way too many articles that praise the military to the sky: they can do no wrong, the only worthwhile institution Pakistan has, give it all the money it needs, etc. Why?
One reason for the deference, according to a Pakistani intelligence official who has worked with the media cell of the ISI, is that the agency keeps many journalists on its payroll.
Again, not surprising. Some journalists took the money willingly. Some, I'm sure, were forced to take it after being threatened, knowing full well they could be blackmailed later on.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pakistan's Case For Debt Relief

Zahid Malik, Editor-in-Chief of The Pakistan Observer, the most jingoistic of Pakistan's English-language dailies, admits that Pakistan, which possesses both a world-class army and nuclear weapons, is an economic basket case. He wants Pakistan to ask the world community, after taking into consideration the devastating floods ravaging the country, to "write-off" $53 billion in foreign debt. Mr. Malik didn't use the word "forgive" because that would mean Pakistan is begging the world community, which, according to Mr. Malik, they are clearly not.

It is a very interesting article that highlights both Pakistan's image problem and the writer's delusions. Before we go on, it's good to note, however. that Mr. Malik does makes a good case for debt relief:
Now that it is recognized internationally and by the UN that losses from the unprecedented floods were more than the 2004 tsunami, 2005 Pak earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, therefore, I think Pakistan needs much more than just assistance for relief and rehabilitation. The losses to infrastructure alone are so high that Pakistan would not be able to recoup in the next five years. Almost the entire Kharif crop of the country has either been washed away or adversely affected by the floods translating into losses worth trillions of rupees to the farmers and the national economy
No one can argue with this line of reasoning, but the question is: is anyone listening?
If we look to the response of international community received so far, though we do not want to make any comparison, it is like peanuts to the assistance given to Haiti. We have been pledged just over $ 815 million as against $ 5.3 billion aid to Haiti. The international community went in a big way for Haiti because two former American Presidents Clinton and Bush pursued the case of relief and reconstruction of the tiny Island State.
Interesting comparison. Haiti is one of the poorest countries on this planet; so wretchedly poor, in fact, that it possesses little or anything of value except people, and most of them live in abject poverty. Pakistan, on the other hand, is no Haiti. It is rich in natural resources, fertile agricultural land, and has an industrial base. Pakistan is definitely richer than Haiti. For example, Pakistan spends like a drunken sailor to buy weapons for its military. Currently it is shopping for a contract to buy radar systems for its new JF-17 fighter aircraft, a deal estimated over $1 billion. In fact, defense spending is the second biggest line item of Pakistan's annual budget, behind debt servicing. This from a country that not only has nuclear weapons, but affirmed the right to use them (against India, who else?) as a first-strike weapon.

Mr. Malik thinks that not only should the world community write off Pakistan's foreign debt, but compensate it for being on the front line in the "global war on terror":
Therefore, what I am talking about is building a case quantifying the facts by the experts and with input from the Provincial Governments and endorsed by the DNA of WB and ADB about the huge flood losses. Aid for the flood damages should also be accompanied by a demand of $ 60 billion which according to my assessment Pakistan suffered in the war on terror and the resulting losses of human lives, infrastructure and so many other expenses. In fact Pakistan has been suffering continuously since 1979 when we joined the civilised world to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
Mr. Malik does not say how he arrived at the princely sum of $60 billion, but given how much money the United States has given Pakistan since 1979, and will give in the future, it sounds like something an extortionist or a blackmailer would demand. Let's, for the sake of argument, we forgive Pakistan's foreign debt and "compensate" it to the tune of $60 billion, what guarantee do we have Pakistan will spend the money on human development and rebuilding its infrastructure? How much of it will be squandered, stolen, or handed over to the military to maintain an army it doesn't need?

Because ven in the best of times, Pakistan was a beggar country. Almost every Pakistani leader begs China, Saudi Arabia and the United States for money on a regular basis. Yet it has the temerity to demand equal treatment, like a partner or friend-- an equal. What do you call a "friend" who keeps borrowing money from you and never pays you back even though he can? A moocher. A freeloader. Haiti, at least, admits its poor, but Pakistan is poor but doesn't want to admit it.

Will the world community forgive Pakistan's foreign debt? I don't think so. Pakistan just cannot be trusted: specifically, its leadership cannot be trusted. At best, the debt will be restructured in some fashion so Pakistan can use the savings for flood relief. The world community would be more amenable, in my opinion, if Pakistan agreed to certain conditions, but Mr. Malik makes it clear that Pakistan's sovereignty is not negotiable.

Pity. Hope Mr. Malik realizes 'beggars cannot be choosers'.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cut Chemist: Spinner Extraordinaire

Cut Chemist is one of the best hip-hop DJs around. His name is spoken in the same breath as DJ Shadow, Q-Bert, etc. His collaborations with Jurassic 5 was just sweet. URB magazine, which I use to read back in the day (the late 1990s), has a nice interview with him:

Grand Master Citizens: Cut Chemist from Society Theory on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pakistan's Leadership Deficit

Asif Ali Zardari has to be one of the worst (if not the worst) president in Pakistan’s brief history! The man has a set of brass balls to behave the way he does, and say things, that illuminates his incompetence.

For one thing, while Pakistan is facing one of its worst natural disasters, Zardari is on a grand tour of Europe. While visiting Russia, he made the following statement:
“Pakistan will come out of this a stronger nation,” Zardari said at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. “We have... the capabilities, we have the people, and all tragedies always unite nations. This tragedy will again unite us,” he said. President Zardari called upon the international community and the regional partners to help Pakistan out of the difficult situation caused by floods.
It beggars the belief he would say such a thing, but it does display his leadership style: He doesn’t have any! He should be in Pakistan, doing all he can, providing succor and relief to the victims. No. Zardari can’t be bothered to mingle with the riff-raff.

While asking the world community for donations, Zardari, the billionaire, was visiting his various properties around Europe, estimated to be valued at over $1 billion. And God only knows how many millions are tucked away in secret bank accounts. Zardari could easily sell a fraction of his holdings to fund flood relief and still have plenty left to indulge his hedonistic lifestyle. But we know Zardari’s history all too well: the man is greedy.

This is bad enough, but the man also has no sense of national honor. When British Prime Minister David Cameron bad-mouthed Pakistan on Indian soil, protocol dictates a vigorous and visible protest. For example, Pakistan should have cancelled Zardari’s forthcoming trip to England. After all, national honor is at stake. Zardari not only went forward with the trip but was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Cameron like a couple of university chums. It was a shameful display.

Pakistan, in my opinion, faces a serious leadership deficit. Is there one decent fellow in Pakistan who can lead this country out of darkness?

Friday, August 20, 2010

ESPN Adds A Much Needed Nice Touch

ESPN has added a cool new navigation feature on its front page. Instead of clicking on the sports to go to that particular page, a mouseover event gives the user a neat little dropdown box, listing all the key links for that page, hence saving a step. Take a look:

I visit ESPN multiple times a day, so this is a welcome step. Cool thing is that the dropdown box also displays your favorite teams for quick access to their respective pages. Nice design touch, ESPN!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Lady Gaga Is A Superstar!

Lady Gaga is on the cover of the September issue of Vanity Fair.

I presume this is what she "really" looks like, without the excessive make-up, outrageous costumes and teased-up hair. I honestly never seen her in a "normal" way.

In spite of her overpowering flamboyance, I love her music. She's pure pop. Closest thing we have to a superstar since Madonna, who Lady Gaga shamelessly emulates, from style to sound. Like Madonna, Lady Gaga is a product of the dance club scene, where she absorbed countless hours of disco-inflected music. It is this glue that binds her music together into high-energy dance anthems.

Is Lady Gaga a genius? These days the word 'genius' is used to describe anyone with a modicum of talent. Geniuses are defined by their uniqueness, as much by their eccentricities. In my opinion, Lady Gaga has both. Her skills as a singer, musician, and producers are so unfathomably great, that it's not much of a stretch to call her, well, a genius.

This is only my opinion, of course. I don't have to justify them to anyone.

What Lady Gaga has done, like Madonna before her, is she made dance music cool again. I've been a dance music fan since I first heard my first disco song in the late 1970's (Most probably the Bee Gees, but I can't remember the specific moment or song). The arrival of Madonna and Michael Jackson made the 1980's cool. Can Lady Gaga do the same for the post-internet era?

I hope so

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Reminder Why Air Travel Sucks

Whether or not his actions were justified, Steven Slater has become the poster boy for our collective disgust with air travel. The problem with air travel is not just the airlines, which is a given, but passengers, who demand too much for too little.

For me, anyway, air travel should be a simple affair: get me from point A to B safely and on time; don’t lose my luggage (especially if I pay for the privilege); no need to feed me or slake my thirst (airline food sucks anyway, and I can bring my own bottle of water); and no need to entertain me as I can either read a book or listen to my iPod.

Other than that, I will gladly pay the stated fare plus fees and taxes to fly wherever I want.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Libertarians Are True Believers In Small Government

I don’t often listen to conservative talk radio: I find them to be mendacious, the hosts to be total jerks and repetitious, but I especially save my contempt for the people who call these shows, claiming to know what they’re talking about when they're not; most of whom are total idiots, mere mouth-breathers, in my humble opinion.

One so-called conservative caller made the spurious claim that libertarians believe in no government at all, whereas conservative believe in small government. Libertarians are not anarchists! We believe in the rule of law as much as conservatives (probably more), which require specific institutions to carry them out—which, of course, is enshrined in government.

And since we’re on the topic of small government, libertarians can claim, unequivocally, that they, not conservatives, are the true torchbearers of small government. As we have witnessed, from Reagan to both Bush presidents, conservatives (and liberals) have increased the size of government through a combination of profligate spending, burdensome regulations, and limiting of civil liberties.

For all intents and purposes, conservatives have abandoned small government altogether. Is it any wonder that libertarian ideas are gaining wider currency in the Republican party? It’s time for conservative to walk in the wilderness for awhile and think about what a small government-type is.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How Toy Story 3 Is About Freedom

The libertarian Adam Smith Institute opines that Toy Story 3 is an animated allegory on the pitfalls of socialism. I never thought about Toy Story 3 in stark political terms, but I’ll be damned if it’s not true!

However, there are more movies that harp on the evils of capitalism. One clear cut example is Chicken Run, an animated film about a group of chickens plotting to escape from the clutches of an evil farmer, who is bent on turning them into chicken pot pies in order to maximize profits. The chickens, acting collectively (like good Marxists), manage to thwart the farmer’s plans and fly the coop, so to speak. On the surface, it is a fun little movie, but the underlying theme is more insidious. On this score, Toy Story 3 is a welcome antidote.

Whatever the political themes, both films are a joy to watch.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Art Of Reading: Take It Slow

A very interesting article in the Guardian about the benefits of “slow reading":
So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, "we're losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we're in perpetual locomotion".
People were reading less even before the boon (or curse) of the internet. All the internet has accomplished is to accelerate the process, turning most of us into a gaggle of professional skimmers. Defenders claim more can be read in the same amount of time. In essence, volume is king. Time, valuable as it is, is to be commoditized, its benefits maximized.

I’ve suffered from this malady for a long time. I use to believe that I needed to cram my head with all the knowledge that I could get my hands on in the shortest possible time. I realize now how much time I wasted with such nonsensical thinking. I learned that acquiring knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge is pointless.

Knowledge needs purpose. What that purpose is depends on the individual: it could be internal, external, or both. For me it is a bit of both: internally, for self-improvement; and externally, so I can better understand the world. And the only way to do that is to process the knowledge. And this takes time. Skimming bypasses this process all together.

We need people to think, not just consume.

[via arts & letters daily]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reading Update Cuz I Have Nothing Else

I haven't written anything in awhile so I thought I post a reading update. As is my habit, I'm reading several books at once. This time, however, the volume is much higher and the selection a bit more eclectic:
  • The Best American Crime Writing: 2004 Edition
  • The Best Technology Writing 2009
  • The Death of Achilles
  • The Secret World of American Communism
  • The Red Flag: A History of Communism
  • Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
  • The Best American Science Writing 2009
  • e Squared: A Novel
  • The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded
  • The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World
  • Spies of the Balkans
  • Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
This should cover me till the end of August; but at the clip I’m currently reading, I might finish much earlier than expected.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's All AQ Khan's Fault!

In this angry editorial, the Nation accuses the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) of discrimination against Muslim countries, specifically Iran and Pakistan. The focus of the editorial's ire is the recently concluded civil nuclear agreement between Canada and India.

Pakistan's anger is misplaced. Pakistan's treatment can be attributed to the actions of one man: Abdul Qadeer Khan. Google for details. Suffice it to say, Pakistan, through Khan, sold nuclear technology to anybody who wanted it, as long as the price was right: North Korea, Libya, and Iran. No wonder the NSG is so suspicious of Pakistan!

In addition, why does Pakistan seek these nuclear deals when its patron -- China -- will give Pakistan whatever nuclear technology it wants? Sour grapes would be my guess.

It's all about status. Pakistan delusionally believes that it is an equal to India in all respects: hence what India gets, Pakistan should automatically get. This is all nonsense, of course; and the reasons are obvious.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No Justice For Bhopal Victims

Naturally, the Indian media has come down hard on the recent verdict of eight former Union Carbide executives for their involvement in a chemical leak in Bhopal that resulted in the deaths of thousands and injury of countless more.

I’m not going to quibble about the light sentences the former executives received, this is not the point of this post. What I would like to talk about, however, is how the Indian government betrayed the victims through its inactions.

First of all, that it took 25-years to reach this verdict is mind-boggling. I know justice in India is a very slow, creaky wheel, but even by its own standards, India’s judiciary system has outdone itself! This is a classic example of justice delayed is justice denied. And on top that, such weak sentences! One wonders why the courts even bothered.

Second, the Indian government did not have the victim’s interests at heart when they settled for a paltry $470 million from Union Carbide. This was the 1980s, after all, Nehruvian socialism was still in vogue yet after hectoring both the United States and Union Carbide, it settled for mere peanuts. I have no doubt, in my mind, corruption played a part. Key players were paid off in exchange for indemnity.

The shame of Bhopal and its outcome should be put in proportion, and the Indian government should get the lion’s share of it.

ADDENDUM: Perhaps the victims should sue the Indian government since it failed -- through shear criminal negligence -- to protect its citizens. The multi-billion dollar settlement should come from its coffers and not from Union Carbide, or the United States, who, in my opinion, acted in good faith.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Faisal Shahzad is Pakistani Taliban

The Pakistan Observer claims the Times Square bomb scare was a hoax - and Faisal Shahzad is a dupe - and the whole thing is a conspiracy (which includes India) to malign Pakistan. The thing is, Pakistan's wounds are mostly self-inflicted; there's no need for the United States and India to rub salt in them.

I would consider the Pakistan Observer to be a dangerous newspaper, but the writing is so bad, and the analysis so superficial, I strongly believe people who buy it use it for reasons other than self-edification.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another Chechyan War in the Offing?

It's really nice when terrorists owe up to their acts of terrorism, like this Chechen fellow:
Chechen rebel leader Dokku Umarov claimed that he personally gave orders to attack the Moscow subway this week, according to a Chechen rebel Web site. [CNN]
Usually terrorists remain faceless and speechless, letting the imagination take hold on what they look like and meditate on why they did it. The attacks on the Moscow subway system, it seems, was a simple act of revenge, with a challenge to Moscow to "bring it on", a phrase made famous by President Bush.

Will Moscow "bring it", so to speak? Given that they wrecked Chechnya twice already, another drubbing is in the cards. Russians are well-known for their cruelty and their lust to blow everything in front of them -- men, women and children -- to smithereens.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Google: A Simple Choice

This whole China-Google troubles is rather irritating in that choices, for Google, are rather simple: comply with the law and make money in the world's biggest online market or leave the country and keep a clean conscience.

China is not a democracy. We know this. China does not respect, which we in the free world, call human rights. We know this. Yet the expectations for China are the same as a democracy. It's an incongruity that seem to be overlooked by some critics. China is a sovereign country, whose laws we may not like but nevertheless must comply. We would expect the same of any Chinese company operating in the United States.

That Google is wringing its hands over the matter is just drama to me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Tiger Woods Is Like Kobe

How will the Tiger Woods story play out? If the tabloid media has its way, the story will end badly for Tiger—his total and complete destruction. I doubt this will happen. Tiger Woods will survive this setback stronger and better, albeit with plenty of scars.

The tabloid media is treating Tiger like he’s a child molester, who also likes to club baby seals in his spare time. But what was his crime? Honestly? He cheated on his wife and then he lied about it? Wow. Another celebrity/athlete caught in an act of infidelity. Nothing novel about this! In fact, a scientific argument can be made that infidelity is a character trait, or even a genetic flaw. Yes, he looks like a jerk because he is a jerk, but being a jerk is not a criminal offense.

If there is a relevant example we can look at, it is the triumph of Kobe Bryant. He, too, was caught cheating on his wife. He, too, faced the music, so to speak. He, too, lost endorsement deals, public adulation, resulting in a seriously tarnished reputation. This was in 2003. Today, no one cares or talks about that dark moment. Now Kobe sits atop of the NBA like basketball royalty, making money and hawking products. In fact, he face was splayed on a recent issue of GQ magazine. Oh yeah, before I forget, he was also accused of rape. Tiger Woods has been not accused of rape yet the tabloid media is treating him as if he did.

I have no doubt Tiger Woods will rise again. Like Kobe, he’s an unflinching competitor who thrives on winning.

But first, he must get his life in order: get his head on straight, make a decision on his relationship with his wife, and, ultimately, just play the damn game of golf and win. And like Kobe, people will forgive his transgressions. But only if he wins. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Toy Story 3 Trailer

The official theatrical trailer for Toy Story 3:

The movie rocks!!! I will definitely go see it, and bring my 4-year-old nephew along.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trailer: Chloe

Check out this trailer for Chloe:
It has a Fatal Attraction sort of flavor to it. Very intriguing.