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