Thursday, November 29, 2007

The story Of Argentina


"So the government said, you know, we care more about growth, employment, poverty, than we do about having a little bit more than having the lowest possible inflation rate. And that’s extremely important. I mean, they pulled eleven million people out of poverty in the last five-and-a-half years. They cut unemployment from 21.5% to 8.5%. And, of course, real wages increased by more than 40% during this period.
But also they had to confront the IMF in order to do this. The IMF was opposed to all of the major policies, including the debt default. I mean, obviously they couldn’t pay their debt. But the IMF was pressuring them enormously to pay more to the foreign creditors, and they didn’t do it, because they knew that that would hurt the recovery. And they were under a lot of pressure. They stood up to the IMF. They even defaulted to the IMF temporarily in September 2003, which was a very gutsy thing to do, and the IMF backed down."

Editorial Comment

Latin America is paving the way for a new Economic order, one in which the IMF in particular is obsolete. The Capitalist structures proposed by the IMF have been disastrous for emerging economies. The Argentine Example, in which they eventually wrote a check to the IMF and said we are done with you is historic.

The subsequent growth and prosperity of Argentina is worthy of study for all Emerging Countries. Any country which does not tackle Poverty and Unemployment as their most sacred task is doomed to be themselves poor and unemployed.

The IMF model of Privatisations, opening up the country for Foreign Investment and imposing a tax structure, which had no hope of being collected was a model for colonisation. The end result was always a country who became a permanent debtor of the IMF who could for ever be blackmailed into pursuing more policies of the wrong sort. To top it all these countries had foisted on them their own nationals, who has been trained at the IMF to become Governors of their Central Bank, Finance Ministers or better still Prime Ministers.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Argentina, where First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has become Argentina's first elected female president. Kirchner won with 45% of the vote, doubling the support of her nearest challenger. She takes office in December, replacing her husband, Nestor Kirchner.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is the second female to be elected head of a Latin American country in the last two years. The first, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, said, "It’s not a coincidence these two neighboring countries with similar characteristics have elected women to direct their destinies."
For more on Argentina’s election, I’m joined by two guests. Mark Weisbrot is on the phone from the Center for Economic Policy Research. Joining me in New York is Jocelyn Olcott. She is a professor of Latin American history at Duke University.
Let's start with you, Professor Olcott. Your response? The significance of the first woman elected president of Argentina?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, I think there’s -- you know, there are several ways to read this, but certainly two of the biggest ones is it’s clearly a rejection of -- the soundest rejection of the neoliberal project, right, and so it’s an endorsement of continuing with Kirchner’s program, which was an emphasis on social programs over, you know, the IMF project. I mean, Argentina has really aggressively rejected the IMF and structural adjustment project. And the only reason it hasn't gotten more attention is because people are so distracted by Venezuela. They haven’t really focused as much on Argentina. But Argentina has been very clear on that. And so, this is really a vote to continue with that project.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain exactly what Kirchner did and then what his wife, now the elected president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, will do.
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, it’s interesting because it’s part of what, you know -- she forms part of what some people are calling this “pink tide,” really a turn in Latin America toward -- as part of this new left. What distinguishes this left turn from former left turns really is an emphasis on gender issues, more recognition of LGBT rights, which is something that Kirchner has been involved with.
But then, also, Kirchner, like Chavez, has put a lot of emphasis on social issues, right, and so rather than leaving everything to market forces, really, an understanding that you have to have the government involved in creating social infrastructure in order to promote development. So, I mean, I’m not sure if this is where it’s going to go, but certainly the election of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is an endorsement of projects like what Chavez has done, in terms of promoting social programs. Chavez actually has a part of his constitution and legislation, is that women who are homemakers, if they demonstrate need, get paid minimum wage, right? So it’s a sort of wages for housework thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did Nestor Kirchner not run for re-election? He was enjoying something like 60% popularity.
JOCELYN OLCOTT: Yeah. I mean, you know, there’s a lot of speculation about whether or not they’re trying to kind of build a dynasty, right? He could run again, if she holds office four years, he could run again and hold office four years, and then she could conceivably run again and hold office for four years. So I think particularly a lot of the opposition is saying this is part of trying to build a dynasty, you know, in the way the people have accused the Clintons or the Bushes of trying to build a dynasty. So it’s -- you know, I think that’s part of it.
And she’s tremendously popular. She also -- I mean, I think it’s worth noting, she was a senator before he was a presidential candidate. I mean, she has a career in her own right. I think that people get distracted in cases like Michelle Bachelet or Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, by the fact that they’re women. And the fact is, they’re very accomplished professional women before they become politicians. I mean, you know, Bachelet was an epidemiologist and has a whole career behind her, in addition to being president of Chile.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, your response to the victory of the first elected woman president of Argentina?
MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think it’s true she was actually -- she had a more prominent political career than her husband did, actually, before he was elected president, so the comparisons to Hillary Clinton and Evita Peron are not really appropriate.
But I think the economy was a big thing. And, you know, the government did a bunch of things that they haven’t gotten, I think, enough credit for. You know, one was getting their basic macroeconomic policy right. And I think, you know, we don’t often pay much attention to these things, and I think we should, because it’s tremendously important. You know, the economy grew about 8.2% annually for the last five-and-a-half years, and a lot of that was just because they did the right thing in a lot of areas.
They had an exchange rate policy that was unorthodox, where the central bank targeted the exchange rate, which is something that, you know, you’re not supposed to do, and the neoliberal or even, you know, any orthodox central banks in this hemisphere wouldn’t do that. They’re only supposed to care about inflation. So the government said, you know, we care more about growth, employment, poverty, than we do about having a little bit more than having the lowest possible inflation rate. And that’s extremely important. I mean, they pulled eleven million people out of poverty in the last five-and-a-half years. They cut unemployment from 21.5% to 8.5%. And, of course, real wages increased by more than 40% during this period. So that’s why you had such an easy victory for Cristina.
But also they had to confront the IMF in order to do this. The IMF was opposed to all of the major policies, including the debt default. I mean, obviously they couldn’t pay their debt. But the IMF was pressuring them enormously to pay more to the foreign creditors, and they didn’t do it, because they knew that that would hurt the recovery. And they were under a lot of pressure. They stood up to the IMF. They even defaulted to the IMF temporarily in September 2003, which was a very gutsy thing to do, and the IMF backed down. And nobody knew really what was going to happen at that time, because they could have been, you know, punished very severely for that. So that was a historic move, as well, because it helped break the grip of the IMF and of Washington. Not only Argentina, but Latin America, was a major stage in that process of breaking up this creditors cartel, which had determined economic policy for so long in Latin America.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Olcott, what would you like to add to that?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, I think that’s exactly right, and I think that what we're seeing is really a dramatic turn, in terms of what Latin American countries are willing do to stand up to the IMF and to the Washington Consensus. I mean, this is really -- I think it’s hard to overestimate how important this is.
AMY GOODMAN: Hugo Chavez agreed to refinance $5 billion of Argentina's debt?
AMY GOODMAN: And Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's relationship with Hugo Chavez?
JOCELYN OLCOTT: I mean, that remains to be seen. I think that she’s been very savvy about being -- you know, kind of playing all sides. And so, she’s, you know, been pictured with Laura Bush and all this stuff. I think she’s trying not to take sides too strongly. But it’s clear that there’s a sort of counterweight developing in the Southern Cone that is supposed to outweigh the Washington Consensus, which is impressive.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you very much for being with us. Professor Jocelyn Olcott of Duke University teaches Latin American history there. And Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

Status of the Dollar as world currency threatened


"The prominent among countries planning to abandon dollar are Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and South Korea. The Telegraph reports that for the first time, Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates along with the US Federal Reserve. This is seen as a signal that a break from the dollar currency peg is imminent. The kingdom is taking `appropriate measures' to protect itself from letting the dollar cause problems for their own economy. They are concerned about the threat of inflation and don't want to deal with `recessionary conditions' in the US."

Editorial Comment

This is not a situation brought about by enemies of the US. This is a direct result of US policies themselves. Interestingly the US appears least concerned and is focusing on the opportunity to improve it's exports.
The shift in thinking that is taking place amongst countries with large dollar reserves is one which a decade ago would have been unthinkable. The question is no longer which will be a reserve currency, if not the dollar. The question is does the world need a reserve currency. There are today a lot of currencies which are strong and would be acceptable in a trade transaction. Banking and currency supervision in many countries is today stronger than in the US.
The type of capitalism practiced in the US, is making people realise that this is an opportunistic society who cares for nothing above making money. They are good qualities for a trader but not good qualities for a leader. The dwindling role of the leadership that the US can provide will automatically result in the dwindling role of the Dollar. We are looking today at the real possibility of 2 dollars to the Euro.



Status of dollar as world currency threatened

Thursday, November 29, 2007By Sajid AzizKARACHI:

Many economists are seriously thinking over the impact of a weakening dollar on country's economy. One thing is very clear that the already dwindling exports will suffer a major setback in case the US dollar collapses.

Besides economic experts the stakeholders in the forex market too, are really worried over the prevailing situation as the dollar is constantly losing value against Euro and some other currencies. Speculations are rife that a few countries are seriously considering abandoning US dollar as currency of choice for foreign trade. Most of them are oil-producing countries.

"It's no secret that the dollar is on a downward spiral. Its value is dropping, and a number of countries are considering a shift away from the dollar to preserve their assets and how they'll affect its value and the US economy," said a US economist.

The prominent among countries planning to abandon dollar are Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and South Korea. The Telegraph reports that for the first time, Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates along with the US Federal Reserve. This is seen as a signal that a break from the dollar currency peg is imminent. The kingdom is taking `appropriate measures' to protect itself from letting the dollar cause problems for their own economy. They are concerned about the threat of inflation and don't want to deal with `recessionary conditions' in the US.

Hans Redeker of BNP Paribas believes this creates a "very dangerous situation for the dollar," as Saudi Arabia alone manages $800 billion. Experts fear that a break from the dollar in Saudi Arabia could set off a `stampede' from the dollar in the Middle East, a region that manages $3,500 billion.

In 2005, South Korea announced its intention to shift its investments to currencies of countries other than the US. Although they are simply making plans to diversify for the future, that does not mean a large dollar drop is not in the works. There are whispers that the Bank of Korea is planning on selling $1 billion US bonds in the near future, after a $100 million sale this past August.

After already dropping the dollar peg in 2005, China has more trouble up its sleeve. Currently, China is threatening a `nuclear option' of huge dollar liquidation in response to possible trade sanctions intended to force a Yuan revaluation.

Although China "doesn't want any undesirable phenomenon in the global financial order," their large sum of US dollars does serve as a "bargaining chip. As we have noted in the past, China has the power to take the wind out of the dollar," economic analysts say.

Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has little loyalty US dollar. It is seriously thinking over trading oil with 12 Latin American countries and Cuba without using the dollar, shorting the US of its usual subsidy. Chavez is not shy about this decision, and has publicly encouraged others to adopt similar arrangements.

In 2000, Chavez recommended to OPEC that they "take advantage of high-tech electronic barter and bilateral exchanges of its oil with its developing country customers," or in other words, stop using the dollar, or even the Euro, for oil transactions. In September, Chavez instructed Venezuela's state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA to change its dollar investments to euros and other currencies in order to mitigate risk.

Reports suggested that Sudan is, once again, planning to convert its dollar holdings to the Euro and other currencies. Additionally, they have recommended to commercial banks, government departments, and private businesses to do the same.

In 1997, the Central Bank of Sudan made a similar recommendation in reaction to US sanctions from former President Clinton, but the implementation failed. This time around, 31 Sudanese companies have become subject to sanctions, preventing them from doing trade or financial transactions with the US. A decision to move Sudan away from the dollar is intended to allow the country to work around these sanctions as well as any implemented in the future.

Recently, Iran requested that its shipments to Japan be traded for yen instead of dollars. Further, Iran has plans in the works to create an open commodity exchange called the Iran Oil Bourse. This exchange would make it possible to trade oil and gas in non-dollar currencies, the Euro in particular.

Although the oil bourse has missed at least three of its announced opening dates, it serves to make clear Iran's intentions for the dollar. As of October 2007, Iran receives non-dollar currencies for 85 per cent of its oil exports, and has plans to move the remaining 15 per cent to currencies like the United Arab Emirates dirham.

In 2006, Russian President, Vladimir Putin expressed interest in establishing a Russian stock exchange which would allow oil, gas, and other goods to be paid for in Rubles.

Russia's intentions are no secret-in the past, they have made it clear that they're wary of holding too many dollar reserves. In 2004, Russian central bank First Deputy Chairman, Alexei Ulyukayev remarked, "Most of our reserves are in dollars, and that's a cause for concern." He went on to explain that, after considering the dollar's rate against the Euro; Russia is "discussing the possibility of changing the reserve structure.

" Then in 2005, Russia put an end to its dollar peg, opting instead to move towards a Euro alignment. They've discussed pricing oil in euros, a move that could provide a large shift away from the dollar and towards the Euro, as Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter.

Although it's not clear how many of these countries will actually follow through on an abandonment of the dollar, it is clear that its status as a world currency is in trouble, the report added.

But despite all such indicators, some of the economists do not foresee any big threat to the US economy in the near future as the prominent economist, Kaiser Bengali was of the opinion that all such assumptions is an exaggeration as the US dollar is very strong currency."It is true that the US economy will be extremely under pressure and the US government would be forced to cut imports". Bengali further said in such a situation, the economies such as Pakistan would be suffering most as its exports would be reduced massively.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The death of the two state solution

Annapolis is one of the least important things going on in the world today. Those of us who live in the US are being told this is important but even the media here is saying expect nothing to come out of this.
For a start both the parties are too weak to deliver anything that they agree upon. Mahmood Abbas does not enjoy the support of Hamas which is the properly elected Govt. of Palestine. Olmert is part of a Coalition which includes strong proponents of not giving any concessions and are against negotiating with Palestinians.

If this is so then why is there a summit with so much fanfare? This is apparently a Condelisa Rice Show. She is happy to go through the motions without much hope of a result. The White House has played down expectations by portraying themselves simply as hosts. Bush says, I have brought you two together, now sort it out amongst yourselves.

The most important event is the participation of Saudi Arabia, although they also participated in 1991. This is being given importance to isolate Iran and bolster the Arab group which is being set up to resist the spread of Iranian influence. There are small side shows going on. Clinton had made a major push to get a settlement, Bush in 7 years has done nothing. He needs to show something for the record. Similarly Condi who is more in touch with reality needs to show something for the books. Abbas needs a photo op to show that he is in charge. Olmert needs to recover from the shame of being beaten by Hezbollah.

There are no changes in the policies of either the US or Israel. Palestine will come out of this giving even more concessions, which will only strengthen Hammas. Annapolis will be a step backwards and not forward. There cannot be any solution which will last which is not based on being fair to both sides.

I have felt for sometimes that the two State Theory as a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict is dead. There is no more juice left in this sham theory. It has been milked for everything it was worth. The most reasonabe solution is to merge the territories into one state. Let the Jews and the Muslims live together as one nation. The US will have to spend less money to make this model a success then they do now trying to keep them separate. This the US will not do. It might just give the Shias and Sunnis some ideas about the possibility of living together peacefully.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Pakistan Fighters lose heart in the war on terror


The Bush administration plans to spend millions of dollars equipping and training the Frontier Corps. But for now, one Western military official said, the fighters are woefully unsuited for the tasks they are asked to carry out.

Editorial Comment

Amazingly the US will fund the training of the Frontier Corp. These are people who will one day fight the US. It is a sign of the desperation of the US in its disastrous war on terror. It is a policy full of short term fixes with no eye to the future.

The frontiers of the war now extend from Palestine to Pakistan and it is an ever expanding geographical area. The US spends billions of dollars a day and makes millions of new enemies a day. By any measure this is lunacy but one that is not understood by the general public in the US, who are too busy buying cheap Chinese product.

The Taliban, who were themselves trained by the US are fighting their own fight. They are standing up for their beliefs and values. For the Frontier Corp it is just a job. If the pay is not good or the working conditions poor they will move on to another job. The "war on terror", to them like to many others is an American paranoia. It is the sign of an aging Emperor who is easily frightened by his own shadow.


Pakistan paramilitary fighters lose heart
Desertion is becoming a problem as low-paid recruits are placed in risky situations with little ammunition and food.

By Zulfiqar Ali and Laura KingSpecial to The TimesNovember 25, 2007PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN รข€”

For one paramilitary soldier, the decision to desert came after his horrified parents saw a beheading video and begged him to quit the force.For another, it was the lack of food and ammunition at the front. For yet another, it was watching wounded comrades languish for days, awaiting medical attention.Desertion is becoming a serious problem in the ranks of the Frontier Corps, the locally recruited paramilitary force that has been on the front lines of Pakistan's fight against insurgents in its tribal areas.Neither the Pakistani military nor the Interior Ministry, which administers the Frontier Corps, would disclose the number of those who have fled the force. But it is thought to be at least 300 in the last three months, out of about 40,000 serving in the tribal areas.

Half a dozen deserters from the Kurram area, which borders eastern Afghanistan, told of morale and equipment problems during their service in North and South Waziristan, where the fighting has been centered.Thousands of paramilitary troops also have been sent to the embattled district of Swat in northwest Pakistan, but after a series of setbacks, the regular army was sent in to take the lead.

Khandan Gul served three years in the South Waziristan Scouts, a unit of the Frontier Corps. While on a one-month leave, he decided to desert and go to work as a produce vendor in his town's market."I firmly decided I would rather sell vegetables," he said.

In recent months, militants have seized on the tactic of abducting large numbers of paramilitary troops, who sometimes surrender without a fight. Most are freed, but some suffer a gruesome fate, including a soldier whose decapitated body was recovered Aug. 14.One soldier, now AWOL, said his family saw video of that beheading and pleaded with him to desert. Another tribesman said the incident prompted his brother to quit the force after 13 years.For tribesmen, serving in the Frontier Corps was once a point of pride, as well as a livelihood in an area where jobs are scarce. Now, recruitment is so difficult that the corps has dropped its rule that soldiers had to have graduated from the equivalent of high school."I don't want to waste my life for 4,000 rupees," said one deserter. That's about $65, the usual monthly salary.Another said that even under noncombat conditions he and fellow soldiers routinely went two or three days without food, and headed into battle with as few as 60 rounds of ammunition. Harder to bear was seeing the body of a dead comrade go unretrieved for three days."Who would serve under such conditions?" he said.

The Bush administration plans to spend millions of dollars equipping and training the Frontier Corps. But for now, one Western military official said, the fighters are woefully unsuited for the tasks they are asked to carry out."It's as if regular police walking a beat were suddenly expected to do what the FBI or a SWAT team could do," the official said.

The corps is made up mainly of Pashtun tribesmen, the same ethnic group as many of the militants. In addition to feeling ethnic kinship and Muslim solidarity with the militants, many soldiers believe the battle is at the behest of the United States, rather than in their own country's interest."They simply do not want to fight a war that is not perceived as their own," commentator Sohail Iqbal wrote in the Pakistani weekly magazine Pulse.

Field commanders recognize troops' reluctance to engage the militants, and standing orders reflect that. Soldiers are told to yell at militants to go away rather than shooting at them.They also have been instructed not to seize weapons from those passing through checkpoints, and to keep their own weapons stowed while traveling in convoys, deserters said."I don't want to send my son to be slaughtered and the video released for public entertainment," said the father of one deserter. "He's better off doing a menial job."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Being there

As parents we do nothing more important than Being There. Being There means being available if needed and then if the need is there to hold out our hand to steady the child.

Make no mistake, Being there is not easy. It requires Sacrifice, Patience, Generosity, Humility and a host of other qualities that we did not even know that we possessed or needed.

Children bring themselves up and we delude ourselves that we can in any way shape their future except by being role models, good or bad. Being Coach, Mentor, Business Manager, passers-on of our values and prejudices has some impact but way less than we give ourselves credit or blame for.

PS I say this after trying to be there for 34 years for my children. A few years ago my last child left the house and another chapter came to a close.


Monday, November 19, 2007


The life that we get used to, we mistake for reality.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Democracy, Human Rights, Secularism are buzz words which are not from the Muslim Vocabulary. They are not the last word in systems. They may be from a good system but the system is only as good as the intentions of their practitioners. We are seeing that practitioners with bad intentions can use these buzz words to serve their bad intentions.The challenge for the Muslims is to raise themselves to a higher level of purpose. The Challenge is to have the right Intentions.“Niyat", is a word straight from the Muslim vocabulary. Roughly translated Niyat is Intention but it is not truly translatable. Niyat is what is in your heart, not what is in your mind.


Amy Goodman interviews Asma Jahangir


People are rather awakened. People know their rights. And so, they are not going to accept a sham election anymore. They have to ensure not only elections, that they are free and fair, but that it is in an atmosphere where fundamental rights are there, people are out of jail, and leadership itself is out of jail, media is free. So I think that they will have to support steps towards democracy, rather than insist that Musharraf stay on regardless of his actions, which have been extremely unpopular in Pakistan. "

Editorial Comment

The awakening of the public is a positive sign for Pakistan. The free media revolution that Musharraf brought about has made people even more thirsty for the right information, for debate, for holding their leaders accountable in Public. Even the Mullas had to get used to explaining their beliefs to a sceptical public.
This is a genie that would be hard to put back in the bottle.
Allowing Asma to talk to the whole world and still be icognito under house arrest is amazing for a dictator who does not seem to understand that articles in the Guardian and New York Times can be more damaging to him than street protests.
Khomeini overthrew the Shah by using audio tapes and short wave radio.
When people like Asma Jahangir, Iftekhar Chaudhry and Aitezaz Ahsan are thrust into leaderdhip roles without asking for it, Musharraf may be doing another favor to Pakistan.


AMY GOODMAN: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto called on President Musharraf to step down Tuesday. She vowed never to serve under him in any future government. The announcement came as Bhutto remained under house arrest in Lahore, where she has come to lead a march to Islamabad to protest the state of emergency Musharraf declared on November 3rd. Bhutto said she could no longer work with a military ruler who had declared de facto martial law, locked up her supporters by the thousands, refused to resign as army chief and reneged on promises to put Pakistan on a democratic path.
Bhutto also reached out to her main political rivals, including Islamist alliance leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed and, as well, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, to form a united front to force Musharraf from power.
Bhutto’s announcement seemingly ends the hopes of a power-sharing deal between her and Musharraf that was strongly backed by the United States. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is scheduled to travel to Pakistan for talks with Musharraf later in the week.
Meanwhile, a dozen human rights groups on Tuesday urged President Bush to cut off military aid to Pakistan. The groups include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Carter Center.
Asma Jahangir is the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion. She was among the first people rounded up in the state of emergency. She joins us now on the phone from her home in Lahore, where she remains under house arrest.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe your circumstances? It looks like we have lost contact with Asma Jahangir. We’re going to go to a break. We’ll try to remake contact with her. Coming up after that on Democracy Now!, we’re going to be talking about what’s happening in Somalia. This is Democracy Now!,, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Asma Jahangir, chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you describe where you are now? And what does it mean to be under house arrest, Asma?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I was put under house arrest the day the emergency was declared, which means my house has been declared as a jail. I cannot go out, and no one can come and see me. And otherwise, I am alright, and I am at home. That is what it means, but, you know, obviously you’re cut off.
AMY GOODMAN: Are there military or police outside your home enforcing this?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Yes, there is police all around my house and inside the house, as well. They have to ensure that no one comes in and also that I don’t leave. There have been some people who have jumped house arrest, so they are particularly watchful.
AMY GOODMAN: Asma Jahangir, describe what is your reaction to what is happening right now in Pakistan.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Sorry, say that again. I couldn’t hear you.
AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction to what is happening right now in Pakistan.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I -- personally, I feel and I think that now political parties are more and more, and their leadership, looking at the pulse of the people and believing that it is no longer possible to have any kind of dialogue with General Musharraf, because he is not in a frame of mind to give up power at all. It’s now time for him to do so. His popularity is extremely low. He has been extremely ruthless with people here. And there is a kind of a resentment also here with the perception that the USA is micromanaging things simply to keep him -- give him the lifelines.
AMY GOODMAN: He says he is fighting the rise of extreme Islamist terror. Your response to that?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, that’s one of the reasons that a lot of the civil society that is out here in opposition to Musharraf, which is a very progressive civil society, by and large, lawyers who are secular-minded and progressive, journalists, and other people of civil society, we believe that General Musharraf’s policy on combating terrorism has been [inaudible]. It has not had any [inaudible] to it. And people resent the fact that in his last period, Talibanization in Pakistan has crept into our society and in many cities. We are of the considered opinion that he is too distracted and too busy amassing power, rather than having a courageous policy and taking public opinion with him to combat terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the sacking of, the firing of Iftikhar Chaudry, the Chief Justice? Why was he fired, and what is his significance in the rising opposition to General Musharraf?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, the Chief Justice, he was appointed by Musharraf himself, after Musharraf had kicked out the previous chief justice along with five very senior judges of the Supreme Court. And things were fine ’til, I think, the Chief Justice took up a few cases that were controversial.
The first one was the privatization of the steel mill. And very senior lawyers were representing the union. It was very apparent in open court that there had been -- nepotism had been used. So it was not just the Chief Justice, but the entire bench, declared that the privatization of the steel mill had to be regularized.
Subsequently, the Chief Justice took up the case of disappeared people, who were in hundreds, and that irritated the government even more, to the extent that when he took up this case, which was the main case on the 8th of March, he was removed on the 9th of March.
AMY GOODMAN: And the position right now of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, can you describe the stance that she is taking and what significance that has?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, she is, as you know, under house arrest, and I have not had the occasion to talk to her personally ever since she has returned. But there is obviously a general perception that she was talking to the general. She has now -- first, after having denied it -- she has agreed that she was. And we see that she was under a lot of pressure by the international community to forge some kind of an alliance with the ruling party so that there could be an easy transition to democratic rule.
Having arrived here, she has understood, because she’s a very shrewd politician, that the General and his core crew of people are in no mood to allow any other players in this system of politics. She obviously has had also personal threats. We don’t know whether they are genuinely by religious extremists or all being played out by the government itself. She also has realized that there is utterly dismay in the civil society, and they are not willing to have any more patience with General Musharraf, who has given commitments time and again and stepped back, only to come back and be more oppressive.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the role of the United States, the continued support by the Bush administration? Albeit late, there has been criticism from Condoleezza Rice of Musharraf. But the role of the US in supporting financially, and otherwise, Pakistan and Musharraf?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, let me say that people here actually believe that whatever goes over, when it will take place, it will be decided in Washington, which is rather unfortunate and sad, because it makes people very complacent. In the last two weeks, there has been more, you know, openness towards looking at US as a partner of people, rather than a partner of dictatorship.
So I think that if the US really now -- really is a player here, which is quite obvious, takes a more balanced approach, rather than go all out for Musharraf, regardless of his massive unpopularity, finds a solution to future democracy in Pakistan, because democracy simply doesn’t mean hollow voting and rigged voting. That is not acceptable anymore. People are rather awakened. People know their rights. And so, they are not going to accept a sham election anymore. They have to ensure not only elections, that they are free and fair, but that it is in an atmosphere where fundamental rights are there, people are out of jail, and leadership itself is out of jail, media is free. So I think that they will have to support steps towards democracy, rather than insist that Musharraf stay on regardless of his actions, which have been extremely unpopular in Pakistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Imran Khan, the cricketer, who has now been arrested?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Sorry, I can’t hear you at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Imran Khan --
ASMA JAHANGIR: [inaudible] repeat that.
AMY GOODMAN: The arrest of Imran Khan, the cricketer, who has now been arrested.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Yes, I only have secondhand information through media here and through my own daughter, who keeps coming in and out of the house. But apparently he did want to lead a student demonstration, where he was not really welcomed very much.
Imran Khan is a critic of General Musharraf. He has very little following in his own party, and sometimes he appears to, you know, not understand that religious extremism can be very destructive for this country. So he is a bit confused there. He is also a bit confused whether extremism and democracy can go together or not.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Asma Jahangir from her home. She’s the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She is under house arrest. She’s also the UN special rapporteur on the freedom of religion. Asma Jahangir, you have said in a letter from your home that General Musharraf “has lost his marbles.” Describe what you mean.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, if you look at his recent press statements and his interviews, I think anybody would agree with that statement. He, in fact, challenged lawyers to tell him whether he has done anything unconstitutional, a man who throws away the Constitution twice, insists that judges take an oath to his loyalty, and then he throws a challenge to lawyers in this country to point out to him where he has violated the Constitution.
Plus, he continues to say that this is his third phase and this third phase of governance is for democracy. And ironically, the people he arrests are those who are pro-democratic forces.
He continues to say that if he was not there, that the whole country would go to the dogs, in a way. And today’s statement, he has also said that he has done this measure because it’s a failed state or it’s getting to be a failed state. Well, he doesn’t realize that if the country is going to be a failed state, the people who are responsible for it are, first of all and primarily, those who are ruling. I mean, he certainly has ruled with an iron fist and been, you know, in charge of everything. So, who should go if the country is failing and it’s becoming a failed state? What action does he take? Doesn’t resign himself, but puts everybody in prison -- doesn't that sound to you very contradictory?
AMY GOODMAN: You have also written from your home that you are fortunate to be under house arrest, while your colleagues are suffering. Explain.
ASMA JAHANGIR: That is correct. I am fortunate that I -- only my liberty has been -- well, my liberty has been taken away and I must fight for it, but that physically I am at least in my own house. Many of my colleagues, I saw images of them being beaten up brutally on the roads, inside the coops, and this continues to happen every day. Every single day, lawyers are picked up. Even yesterday, very senior lawyers in Karachi, whom I know very well, were taken to jail. A large number of lawyers are underground. They are either in jail, underground or in police stations. So in that respect, I think that I find myself more fortunate in the position that I am.
AMY GOODMAN: I think it’s been unusual for people in the United States to see the video images of lawyers in suits by the hundreds and thousands taking to the streets in Pakistan. How unusual is it for Pakistan?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Sorry, how?
AMY GOODMAN: How unusual is it for Pakistan?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I think it is unusual. It’s not that lawyers have not protested, and lawyers have always been fighting for the rule of law. But the kind of unanimity and the kind of unity we saw this time was, I think, unprecedented.
Plus, this is the first time that a large number of judges have refused to take oath under the PCO, which has not happened before. The majority of the judges, in fact, have refused. This is the first time that any dictator in Pakistan -- and, believe me, they’ve done enough damage -- has actually arrested judges of superior courts.
So I think that General Musharraf has gone too far in indignifying people’s rights, and therefore I think the lawyers will continue to react. Plus, now, two days ago, he passed a law saying that lawyers’ licenses will be cancelled by members of the judiciary. Having packed the courts with his own judges, he now will use the judges to victimize lawyers. He has also again passed a law, which amends the Army Act, so that civilians, even when they express concerns about the government, can be tried under military court.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Asma Jahangir, there have been a number of groups that have called for the stopping of military aid to Pervez Musharraf, like Amnesty International, like Human Rights Watch, like the Carter Center. Do you think that the position of the United States right now could be compared to Iran at the end of the ’70s, with the continued US support of the Shah, before he fell, in Iran?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I wouldn’t exactly compare it to that, because every situation is different. I can assure you that in Pakistan, there is no Khomeini in the wings, in the first place. And secondly, there is more constructive civil society in Pakistan. But as far as the US is concerned, yes, it is in that way comparable, that they continue, despite seeing the writing on the wall, to support a dictator who is now absolutely unacceptable to the people, which means that as long as he stays, there will be a crackdown and there will be protest.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the US should cut off military aid to Pakistan?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, I don’t know. That is their decision. But, certainly, if this military aid is being used to suppress its own people, then I suppose that it should end. But if this military aid is used in a more positive way to deal with those who break the law, then I think that that should continue. But those who authorize and those who control it have to be very professional. At the moment, we find that all generals are playing golf, have deep pockets and are becoming less and less professional.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Asma Jahangir, chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, speaking from her home in Lahore, where she is under house arrest. Be safe.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Victim of the war on terror?

When you negotiate from a position of weakness, you better have moral clarity on your side. We see today a parallel between Musharraf and Bush both negotiating from a position of weakness, both relying on force rather than diplomacy and both trying to protect the status quo rather than bringing about any good or standing for principles.

After Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan this week has become the third victim of the "war on terror." All of them are the victims of unintended consequences. The US is not happy with the results any where but insists on "staying the course". As an ex Commando, Musharraf can be excused for barreling on, no matter what the consequences but the US cannot be excused for the untold damage to its own credibility and the total impoverishment of at least two countries.

One can imagine Dick Cheyne, in particular, going berserk with Musharraf. In one swift action Musharraf has blown away the case for attacking Iran. The media and even some senators are asking the question, why attack Iran who has only Nuclear ambitions, while Pakistan which is loaded with Nuclear weapons is about to fall into the hands of terrorists. So clouded is the thinking in America that not a single person except perhaps Pat Buchannan is able to say that the problem in America's Foreign policy is not Iraq but the "war on terror".

Will Pakistan become another Iraq or Afghanistan? Unlike both these countries, the saving grace for Pakistan are it's lawyers. When people speak for justice and maintaining the rule of law, even the gods come down from the heavens and listen. The leadership in Pakistan is being provided not by it's politicians but by it's lawyers. Twice in the last six months the lawyers have taken to the streets to demand respect for the legal system ( no matter how flawed it is). They have been beaten up, they have been jailed, their livelihood put in jeopardy but they keep coming back. While Imran Khan was hiding, the lawyers were courting arrest.

Amongst the lawyers are also the Human Rights activists. These are people with no armies behind them but the courage of their convictions. Then there are the media. These people are putting their lives on the line. They have found the confidence to see that they can play a major role in laying the foundations of a strong civil society. Pakistan can only become a strong nation if there are such elements in it. This crisis should be an eye opener for the rest that there are still people in the country who care to serve to build it's institutions.

Let us not forget the soldiers who refuse to fire on their own people. The hope for Pakistan is the brilliant light than shines from the actions of it's growing middle class. At this time even some of the elite are behind bars. They have ventured out of their drawing rooms, into the streets to say enough is enough. For the elite it is a huge step to become an active part of the process that says no to authoritarianism. The people who are taking to the streets are no longer paid villagers and unemployed youth, they are people who understand the cause for which they are out there. This is the difference between the crowds that brought down Ayub and the crowds today, who are much more aware of their rights.

Back in Sept 2006, when Musharraf had Akber Bugti killed in Baluchistan, I had predicted that Musharraf's days are over. In March, 2007 when he fired the Chief Justice, his fate was sealed. What Musharraf wanted and was not allowed to do was to become President for life. If Hosni Mubarak can be allowed to rule Egypt for 30 years, why can't Musharraf rule for 15 years. The great confusion in America's Foreign policy is that it speaks from both sides of it's mouth on the subject of Democracy. Musharraf was duped into believing that he could put on a facade of Democracy but continue to rule. His biggest mistake is of course in believing that what is good for Musharraf is good for Pakistan. America similarly believes that it has a sound Pakistan policy as long as it has a Musharraf policy.

As a country Pakistan has no future as long as it allies itself with America's war on terror. Pakistanis know that the people that America calls terrorists are not terrorists. The same tribals that Pakistan has lived with for sixty years, have suddenly become terrorists. The mild mannered Swatis have suddenly become terrorists, The 2 million Afghanis that Pakistan gave refuge to when the Russians drove them out of their country have suddenly become terrorists. These are people who respect and love Pakistan. They have their own grievances, most of them legitimate but they are not terrorists. The people that Pakistan sent into Kashmir and who are called terrorists by the Indians, are they terrorists?

Are 11 billion dollars enough to sell the soul of Pakistan. Are 100 billion dollars enough to sell the soul of Pakistan. That is the question Pakistanis should and are asking themselves.
Are they beggars and slaves of an Imperial Power or do they have any belief in their own nationhood. Musharraf and Benazir are simply middlemen, hawking the honour of Pakistan.

After sixty years Pakistan has yet to pass the test of being a nation. I believe this is the final test. Pakistan has much less to fear fromTalibanisation then it has from it's benefactor. This is the last call for the elite to rise to the occasion and join the lawyers on the streets. This is the last call for the business community to revolt. Otherwise suffer the fate of Iraq and Afghanistan.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Be the best that you can be

My father did not build a nation, he did not invent anything, he never wrote anything of significance except a few letters to me, he was not even successful at his job, yet he is my hero. Way above the philosophers, the writers, the nation builders. He inspired me to become what I am today more than any of the others. Not that I am any thing to write home about but without his inspiration, I would not be even half of what I am today.

He was typical of fathers of those days, loving yet strict, perhaps overly strict. Caring but protective, perhaps overly protective. I would not be allowed to leave home without a servant accompanying me until into my late teens. Yet in all his disciplining, in all his protecting, I never once doubted that he loved me, I never once felt insecure. He wanted me to have the highest standards. If I got a grade of less than being top of my class, it would be unacceptable. He sent me to the best schools and challenged me to become the best that I could be.

He died in April, 1966.


The challenge of Capitalism/Secularism

The aftermath of the great battle between Capitalism and Communism turned out to be a victory for Capitalism. So convincing was Capitalism’s victory that the Communists did not just withdraw, licking their wounds they converted to Capitalism. So successful has been Capitalism’s victory that today, Democracy, Human Rights, Multilateral ism have become servants to the goals of Capitalism rather than Vice Versa. Has mankind finally discovered the holy grail and we can all live happily ever after? There does not seem to be a competing alternative vying for our attention at the moment.

If you look closely at Capitalism it is simply the pursuit of wealth driven by greed, exploitation and self interest. As an example the exploitation of the American Indian by forcibly take away their lands, the African slave to grow cotton on it, the Mexican and South American laborer to build a railroad across the American continent, the Arab bedou, to literally steal their oil to provide cheap energy to them has resulted in the creation of the worlds most powerful and wealthy nation.
This exploitation was not simply a matter of taking advantage of the less fortunate but a ruthless, savage, demeaning, subjugating, terrorizing, sucking the last drop of blood from you, your family, your friends and any one closely connected with you, type of exploitation. Capitalism’s lesson is that to get best results out of exploitation the more ruthless you can be, the more juice you will get. The great Pyramids of Egypt were not built by being kind to the workers, they were built on their torn limbs , overworked bodies and dead corpses.

What about the exploited? It might well be a question that Karl Marx was asking but with the best of intentions he came up with the wrong answer. The exploited are destined to be exploited, if not by one party than by another. In a dog eat dog world if you are not going to be the dog who kills, you will become the dog who will get eaten. The American Corporate environment is littered with the bodies of Corporations who could not maintain their competitive edge and were eaten up by the competition. These are the rules of the game, that America lives by, that are the cornerstone of Capitalism. If the Arabs cannot stand up for themselves, the Americans will do the same thing to them that they did to the Red Indians.

Is Capitalism the answer we have all been looking for or is it the biggest threat the world has known since Hitler threatened to take it over? Unfortunately the fault is not Capitalism’s so much as man’s in putting no limits on tasting the forbidden fruit. Capitalism has assumed a life of it’s own and men have lost control of themselves. It is no coincidence that only 25% of Catholics now come from the affluent countries. 75% are from the exploited people. It is no coincidence that even a larger percentage of Muslims are from the exploited people. People who profess to believe in God have very little to look forward to except to be trampled on.

Today the Capitalist world and it’s friends are poised to say to the weak, the exploited, the unprotected, “ call your God to protect you because we are about to use overwhelming force to subdue you to our will. We do not fear your God because we can see He has done nothing for you and we have become strong after we took Him out of our affairs. Once we have subdued you, we will insist that you take Him out of your affairs also“. This is an unstoppable march of History. The Genie is out of the bottle, it will not be put back. The decision that each one of us has to take is not if we can stop this from happening, not why religion does not seem to have worked, not whether we are good Muslims or bad Muslims, good Christians or bad Christians but which side will be standing on when this ultimatum is thrown.


Multiple conflicts Bleed Pakistan Army.

Sample Post
As per our intelligence inputs, Pakistani officers are jostling with low morale among their troops. The abductions and killings of soldiers by militants have only added to the disenchantment among troops, which is being reflected in a large number of desertions, suicides and AWOL (absent without leave) cases,"

Editorial Comment

As I have said before the Pakistani army is no match for the battle hardened Taliban or it's Waziristan country men. It further has no stomach to fire on it's own people. The stage is set for a revolt, desertions are already taking place. The Coup if there is one this time, will come from the Colonels. These will be people who will be backed by the Taliban.

The anti American feeling in Pakistan is on a rising tide. It may be less evident in the Cities but it is certainly becoming vocal in places like Swat. The entire Wesern belt of Pakistan is now a place where the writ of the Govt. is being defied. The Taliban are popular not because people are turning fundamentalist but because they represent a leadership who wants freedom from foreign influence.

This is bad news for Musharaf and worse for Benazir. The USA can see the writing on the wall and there is much talk about Pakistan being the most dangerous country in the world.
Benazir has already flown out of the country, creating an anti climax to the " great homecoming". Meanwhile the Supreme Court is delaying giving any decisions and I suspect will not give any until the term of the present assemblies expires in two weeks time.

Pakistan will then have no Assemblies and no legally elected President. Declaring a state of emergency is now going to be unpopular not only with the public but also with the army . I suspect the army is angry about being put in a position of getting beaten up by tribals. They will not just blame Musharraf but the entire pro western high command.

If America has created the circumstances for a dangerous world by the way it has behaved in Iraq and the way it has behaved in Afghanistan , it is right in thinking that conditions in Pakistan are on the way to the world becoming even more dangerous. They of course do not see it as their doing.

This is the crux of the bigger "problem", the sole super power that is unaware of it's own excesses. In fact it refuses to accept that it has made any mistakes let alone blunders. In an attempt to remove the "misunderstanding' amongst the billions of Muslims in particular, it gave Karen Hughes $ 1 billion to put on a PR campaign. After having spent the money, Karen Hughes resigned today, leaving America more unpopular than before. She follows in the footsteps of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a pitiful trio loyal to Bush, right upto the last dollar of the tax payers money.

The US rhetoric is that they will initiate World War III if Iran gets any where near getting a Nuclear capability. This form of rhetoric is far more dangerous then any thing Ahmedinejad can come up with. However, what if Pakistan gets unfriendly. It already has several Nuclear bombs and Israel is within reach of these missiles. Right now the only thing stopping World War III is the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It's next decision, Nov 12 or perhaps Nov 15.


Printed from
The Times of India -Breaking news, views. reviews, cricket from across India
Multiple conflicts bleed Pak army31 Oct 2007, 0031 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit,

NEW DELHI: The Pakistani Army is "bleeding", and quite profusely at that, in its ongoing bloody skirmishes with extremists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, with a "high" casualty rate as well as "unprecedented" levels of desertions, suicides and discharge applications. This is the "assessment" of the Indian security establishment closely tracking developments in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas (FATA), especially the Waziristan region, as also the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan.

The embattled Pakistani Army may have managed an uneasy ceasefire with pro-Taliban extremists in Swat Valley in NWFP on Monday, after days of fierce fighting, but things would only get worse for it in the coming days, officials here said. The loud and clear indicator for this came on Tuesday, with a suicide attack near the heavily-fortified Pakistani Army HQ in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, killing at least seven people. The secure compound, incidentally, also houses President Pervez Musharraf's office. In recent days, Pakistan has been rocked by several suicide attacks and bombings, most of which are being traced back to Islamic extremists under attack from security forces near the Afghan border.

Under mounting pressure from the US, Pakistan has deployed well over 100,000 soldiers in the volatile tribal areas - inhabited by fiercely independent tribes who resist outside interference in their matters - to take on the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist outfits who have created safe havens there. "These outfits were once nurtured by ISI, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Our estimates show around 1,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Casualties in 'Operation Al Mizan' in north Waziristan have been particularly high," said an official. "As per our intelligence inputs, Pakistani officers are jostling with low morale among their troops. The abductions and killings of soldiers by militants have only added to the disenchantment among troops, which is being reflected in a large number of desertions, suicides and AWOL (absent without leave) cases," he added.

With the heavy operational commitment adversely affecting Pakistani Army's rotation schedule, the majority of such cases are being reported from FATA and NWFP. Between just October 11 and 16, for instance, 160 desertion cases were reported from these areas. In fact, reports of soldiers even refusing to obey orders have begun to emerge from Waziristan now, in what is being seen as a blow to the otherwise well-disciplined Pakistani Army.

While the tribal areas have always been restive, there has certainly been an upsurge in violence ever since Musharraf ordered troops to flush out extremists holed up inside Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July, which led to over 100 militants being killed in the week-long face-off. With the US virtually ordering the Musharraf regime to effectively tackle the problem of Taliban militants crossing over from Afghanistan into the tribal areas to recoup and re-arm, the Pakistani Army is now promising an "all-out military effort" to sort out North and South Waziristan "once and for all".

Pakistan, of course, has made such promises in the past too, in keeping with its "duplicitous" policy to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. But this time, big brother US is watching closely.