Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biblical Level Event - III

In terms of Pakistan, a biblical level event is one which creates millions of refugees. It has been my experience, in relation to Pakistan (and South Asia's) history, that the incompetent governments of this region only concentrate their minds and put their shoulders to the wheel, when faced with devastation that has rendered millions homeless, or worse, created an unexpected refugee crises.

In five years, Pakistan has sustained three events of Biblical proportions. I am designating those events Biblical, in which millions are displaced and turned into refugees. I do not know how to measure the psyche of a nation which suffers so many refugee spewing crises in five years. One has to re-evaluate a lot of what one believes to deal with these events.

In 2005, the earthquake that killed 80,000 and displaced 3 million. Then in 2009 there was the War on Swat and South Waziristan which led to 3 million displaced and somewhere around 5,000 dead. Now we have the floods, which have affected 21,000,000 people, rendering them homeless, injured or destitute (by the loss of their crops or livelihood). Pakistan has no choice but to come back

If anybody would ever like to argue with me on this, I am willing to defend the point that it was the refugee crisis created in West Bengal by Pakistan's March 1971 military operation in East Pakistan, that forced the Indian government to intervene. The incursion of millions of refugees is what forced India's notoriously inefficient government machinery to get serious about attacking, aiding secession and dismembering Pakistan. The purpose was so that the refugees would return. That was a Biblical level event for India, and India was deadly serious about resolving it. Before the current US invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan had faced two Biblical level events of it's own which forced the entire government to come around to a central policy and stick with it. The first was partition which led to the largest mass migration in human history, and the second was the Afghan Refugee crisis, where within a matter of months, 3 million Afghan refugees had arrived and settled in Pakistan; in the process destroying the fabric of the local culture.

The results of these Biblical scale refugee movements are well known; in the case of partition, it created a two generations long hatred with India, compounded by the Kashmir dispute, and extended another generation by India's assistance in the creation of Bangladesh.
In the case of the invasion of Afghanistan, we were left with a state that was angry and obsessed with driving out the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. This objective was pursued by the state, even at the cost of Pakistan not returning to democracy, losing it's social fabric, creating a rabidly Xenophobic officer corps, and spawning what has become, a dragon's den of Islamic extremist murder and mayhem.

These are the traumatic effects of a Biblical scale refugee crisis. The effects of this 21,000,000 displacement is incredibly difficult to foretell, but it will play out over the next few years. How can it possibly not with headlines like:

Jacobabad is a city of nearly a million people. But to a lot of those outside it, watching the rising tide build over the course of a week, like a God sized Chinese water torture, and the alert going out "Evacuate Jacobabad", an entire city....well, that's a phrase people familiar with Pak-land's geography are not likely to forget.

When a medium sized city in a country gets submerged by a slow but steady wave of water that one can see coming, day after painful day, or three million plus children suddenly become susceptible to infection, one expects that these memories will stay with ordinary people for a very long time. It will change the way those from that place, and those who know of it, look at the world, at their society, at their homes and at their rulers. Just ask the citizens of New Orleans.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Granta Does An Entire Issue on Pakistan

Hello Again, Friend of a Friend,

I Knew You When

Our Common Goal Was Waiting For The World To End

Now That The Truth is Just a Rule That You Can Bend

You Crack the Whip, Shapeshifting Trick, The Past Again

Granta, a literary magazine, has done an entire issue on Pakistan. I was touched. Then I read Kamila Shamsie's description of her adolescence in Karachi during the late 80's and really early nineties, when Pakistani pop exploded onto the scene. It's a story she's heard and read a million times over, from so many of us; and *she* had the chance to tell it to the entire world. It's a beautiful story; called Pop Idols. If you're from Pakistan and can read English, it just might be your story, too.

The observations on generations is insightful and appealing, and the journey she makes to recognising Nusrat Fateh Ali, Abida Parveen and Arif Lohar, albeit in her twenties, is something that a lot of formerly adolescent Pakistanis, are embarassingly familiar with.

Now there's a new generation of songsters coming up. Natasha Khan, aka Bats For Lashes, is one who's bypassed the pop route to go straight into profoundly beautiful music:

"Daniel" is nice but if you want Bat For Lashes at her best, it's got to be her cutesy/creepy song "What's a Girl To Do"

I think I'm going to buy this issue of Granta.

Granta: Pakistan from Granta magazine on Vimeo.

Repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation? How Does That Convince Pakistani MP’s to Stop Dodging Random Artillery Strikes for Fun and Honour?

I was going to recommend that maybe repealing the FATA’s frontier crimes regulations (FCR), to try and bring the place into the ambit of some sort of regular economy or politics, I then remembered – oh Shit, this is FATA and there are stories like the ones Declan Walsh found of a crazy Member of Parliament. Him and his tribal posse dodged stray arty shells by the Pakistan Army to attack a family clan whom they were feuding with. An excerpt by Foreign Policy magazine’s Afpak channel of Declan Walsh’s story “Arithmetic on the Frontier” is nothing but hardcore action of tribal vs tribal World War II style mountain warfare, anti-aircraft weaponry deployed for fortress defence, and multiple kills in every which direction. The description is so hardcore, that it scares into quiet a regular anti-Pakistan troll on the Foreign Policy website. Wow.

So when faced with balls dropping tales like these, it makes one think, that mere policy regulation, and law amendment is not going to be enough. They’ll have to backed up with howitzers to make the policy fly. So as everybody calls for repealing the FCR, and for allowing regular political parties and regular commercial law to operate in FATA, we should read tales like these and relish them while they last. Because as civilization encroaches upon FATA, stories like these may become rarer and rarer:

Arithmetic on the Frontier

By Declan Walsh, Wednesday 22 September, 2010 - 12:33 PM

The following is an excerpt from an article by Declan Walsh, the Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent for The Guardian newspaper. It appears in the current issue of Granta, which in this issue features original art, fiction, and reporting from Pakistan. The full article is available for purchase here.

There are, by his own admission, two Anwar Kamals. One is the ‘polished gent' of Peshawar, a leading member of the Pashtun elite with a taste for frontier bling. His pied-à-terre is a spacious house in Hayatabad, the city's best suburb, where he frequently dines with his three university-educated sons. He drives an imposing white Japanese jeep with dashboard television (and prayer counter for Islamic recitations), carries the latest mobile phone and, being a qualified pilot, keeps a small plane at the local aerodrome. Some years back he imported a pair of greyhounds from England for the purpose of hunting boar on the family lands. A fading portrait of a serious-looking man on his living-room wall is testimony to his rich political pedigree. Khan Habibullah Khan, Kamal's father, was a minor star in the early decades of Pakistan, serving as Home Minister in the 1960s and chairman of the Senate in the 1970s. At one point he was Acting President of the country. Kamal has had a less prominent, yet also distinguished, career in public service. He was a provincial minister twice and a national senator once; in 1990 he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, during which time he lodged at the luxury Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan.

The second Anwar Kamal emerges when he jumps into his jeep and heads for Lakki Marwat, a bumpy four-hour ride to the south. Lakki is his constituency, but also his land, his power, and his identity. Here, Kamal sleeps with a rocket launcher under his wood-frame bed, in a sprawling, draughty fortress guarded by dozens of tribesmen, spends his time in lengthy confabulation with bearded elders and generally acts in a manner that seems to contradict everything the other Anwar Kamal stands for.

The first time we met, in June 2007, we were sitting in his living room in Peshawar, which is adorned with pinkish, flowery wallpaper. On the table between us was a photo album, the sort that might contain snaps of foreign holidays or grinning grandchildren. Instead it was a gallery of war: dozens of images of fierce-looking tribesmen, bristling with weapons, against a harsh backdrop of arid hills. Kamal featured in several of the pictures; in one he sat at the controls of a long, menacing weapon. It was an ack-ack, he explained: a 12.8cm anti-aircraft gun of the kind used by the British to fend off German bombers during the Second World War. A most satisfying weapon, he added, recounting its most recent use.

‘You see, we were being fired on from three sides by some individuals who were hiding in a burj,' he said in his gravelly voice. ‘So I called up my driver, Akhtar' - a smiling young chap I'd met earlier - ‘and I said, "Bastard! Get that ack-ack and fire back!" So he grabbed it and gave it a burst of seven or eight rounds. What a noise - the whole ground started shaking! The bullets went right through that burj, killing two of those individuals who were sitting there.' He paused for effect, and then chuckled.

‘Within a split of a second there was absolute silence. Everyone was calm and cool.'

This dramatic exchange had taken place in 2004 at the height of some particular aggravation with the Bhittanis, the Marwats' nearest neighbors and oldest rivals. A row had erupted and for the next year hotheads from both sides engaged in the usual needle tactics - tit-for-tat shootings, kidnappings, hostage executions - when things got out of hand. In a brash upping of the ante, the Bhittanis snatched two Marwat women. Kamal was outraged. ‘Now, kidnapping men we don't mind. That is usual. But taking our ladies - that was totally unprecedented!'

In retaliation, first the Marwats kidnapped six Bhittani women and three children. Then they roused a lashkar - a tribal fighting force - with the aim of sweeping into the Bhittani lair, retrieving the abducted damsels and teaching their insolent neighbours a sharp lesson. Kamal led from the front, binoculars in one hand and pistol in the other. It was, by several accounts, a messy affair. The Pakistan Army, which was conducting operations in the nearby tribal belt, mistook the tribesmen for al-Qaeda fugitives and fired a few artillery rounds at them. ‘A genuine misunderstanding,' said Kamal.

Combat was sporadic. The most dramatic confrontation occurred when Kamal's guards shot dead a pair of Bhittanis racing towards them on a motorbike. ‘Two hundred bullets in each!' he recalled with relish. And the hostages were less lucky. One of the abducted women was burned alive with lamp oil (some said it was suicide, others murder); the second was spirited deep into the tribal belt. When the matter was finally resolved a year later, an inter-tribal jirga ordered the Marwats to pay 16 million rupees - about $260,000 - in blood money. It was expensive, Kamal admitted as we polished off our tea, but worth every cent. ‘It's not about money. The question is: "Did you restore your honour?" And we did.'

A Minor Piece of Good News

In the face of a combined strike by the Vice-Chancellor's of 71 universities, the government did what it does best and backed down on it's attempt to cut the funding for the public sector research universities. The faculty of the universities also got the pay raises they've been asking for, for the past few months.

Maybe those vice chancellors can get together again and address the real issues Pakistani education face; barely existent primary education for the country's children, a debilitating, backward looking syllabus, and a shortage of trained teachers.

At least in the face of this one, minor victory for sanity, Ayaz Amir could call his drunken, prematurely defeatist editorial off. I like the guy, but the tone of this editorial he wrote called Who Needs Higher Education, seemed hysterical, and mildly drunk. Even if he did write it under the influence of one whiskey too many, the toast to inevitably expected defeat seems a little too over the top. And the answer to his question, "Who Needs Higher Education", well it got answered; apparently the universities and the government. Ah well. At least this reconfirms one thing we have realised by now; direct action in Pakistan, works. Now if it wasn't only the religious fundoes who were applying it most consistently.

The Meteorology of the Pakistani Floods

The flooding witnessed in the Indus Valley is unprecedented in the country’s modern history and was caused by a combination of increasingly warm ocean water and a mysterious blockage of the jet stream, which drew warm, water-laden air north to Pakistan, over which it burst in sheets of raging liquid. If the floods that followed prove a harbinger of things to come, then they are a milestone in our experience of global warming, a big story in its own right.

This is the story as reported by Professor Juan Cole in his excellent article for anybody outside Pakistan:

The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened: Don’t Tune In, It’s Not Important

There you have the entire article, on Juan Cole's writings can be read at Informed Comment.

Pakistan Aid by Cameron Carow

Why is Qari Hussain Ahmed Still Alive?

Seriously? Does this mean we have to kill to get our political agenda across in Pakistan? Why is Qari Hussain still alive after everything he's done?

Imran Farooq may have been killed as the establishment wanted him; but his killing serves the purpose of a worse organisation, and a worse ideology than that of the MQM's; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the TTP and Al Qaeda.

Five Rupees recently had an interview with Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch who spoke out on how HR Watch managed to get the Army to stop its policy of summary executions. I think that was wrong. People like Qari Hussain Ahmed and Hakimullah Mehsud deserve summary execution. I wonder how many deaths these murderers will rack up before the entire Pakistani system puts these people in Riaz Basra category where they are just discovered and simply killed.

And apparently Riaz Basra was killed because he made the mistake of being discovered as a bunch of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi fanatics in a Shia village. Which means that if you want your political voice heard in Pakistan, you better have a few sticks and bullets to start with.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The US Has An Elite Unit of 3,000 Afghans That Has Covertly Entered Pakistan as Well, and Obama May Want to Weaken Pakistan

Yawn. They would've done something like this. My reaction is "So What?" Nine years and all you have is 3000 men? When the Soviet Union had the entire Democratic Republic of Afghanistan's Communist Army on our heads during the 1980's, mixed in with the Soviet Red Army? Bah. Athar Abbas is no Baghdad Bob (that would be Rehman Malik). He got the phrase right for anyone who enters Pakistan when we don't want them, "Anyone found doing so will be fired upon". Indeed.

As for the whole idea of sovereignity, please. The border on the FATA area is porous. The Americans should mine it if they want to stop anything. And, I would like to [sarcasm] congratulate America on their standards of information security [/sarcasm]. They've done a better job undermining their own military security than wikileaks. Who indeed talks to that ancient tool, Bob fucking Woodward in this day and age? Who cares about this old geriatric's opinion? Washington tools, that's who.

And as for this "elite" unit, thanks Woodward and Obama White House. Now Pakistani intelligence and the religious militants (maybe in conjunction, maybe separately) will start trying to gather their names, and eventually hunt and kill these people. Pakistan caused the ripping apart of the Afghan Communist Army. If there is a dedicated unit that enters Pakistan, it is very likely that it will not be shown any mercy, either in Pakistan or Southern and Eastern Afghanistan.

And as for Obama's analysis, this is what he thinks about "victory" in Afghanistan:

"He didn't think about the Afghan war in the "classic" terms of the United States winning or losing. "I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?" he said."

So my guess is that he wants to leave Afghanistan stronger off and Pakistan weaker off? I don't know if he's getting what he wants in Afghanistan, but he sure as hell is leaving Pakistan weaker off.

Especially when around the time of the 2009 South Waziristan operation he used phrases like "The Cancer is in Pakistan". Cancer? What, is the president of the United States suddenly Anonymous? Sheesh, Obama is such a troll.

My Overview of US Operations Inside Pakistan as Laid Out By Jeremy Scahill

I just re-discovered this (and my responses to it), but this article shows how really difficult it is to keep secrets in Pakistan from people who well and truly want to find out about them. Jeremy Scahill is one such person, and he lays out the Pakistani domestic support structure for Blackwater`s operations in Pakistan. Strangely (but understandably) it consists of Pakistani businessmen, provincially relevant politicians from Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP, and Pakistan`s civilian agencies. Guess who`s missing from this picture? The army. That 800 pound gorilla is not there possibly because either Blackwater (and the [ex?] SOCOM people it consists of) would demand a steel iron command chain. Simultaneously the Pakistan Army is insane about it's own internal command chain. So if you had two stubborn psychos working with each other, someone would get broken. Either the Pakistan Army would get bent Blackwater's will, or Blackwater would have it's own objectives undermined and compromised by the Pakistan military. Anyway, here's the article on Blackwater ops in Pakistan, and here are my responses to it:

I would like to point out five things:

1) The low hundreds of people who would know about Blackwater are located in Pakistan. Scahill is operating in the US and thus he can only access American sources, of which there could only be scores. Of those scores of senior officer types and veteran NCO Americans, maybe he could only tease this out of a few (i.e, three)

2) Scahill will/might have difficulty now operating in Pakistan to get access to the hundreds of Pakistani sources because he might be stepping on a few toes too many with this article. Which brings me to...

3) Could there be a deeper analysis of the character of this Liaquat Ali Beg who owns/runs Kestral. I googled him and all I got was this strange videmo video of him on some Quran TV type channel. Might this man seriously be a relation of former COAS General Mirza Aslam Beg.

Looking for a picture of him I came up withthis strange collection of QTV interviews and Chinese corporate looking website pictures.

And the third google reference for this man after Kestral trading and Jeremy Scahill's article, Liaquat Ali Beg was referenced in an Ideas Pakistan posting. This is serious. For those who do not know Ideas Pakistan is an annual Weapons trade show, showcasing Pakistan's military industrial complex's newest inventions. If this man Beg and his company have a reference on the Ideas page, he is a serious member of Pakistan's Military Industrial Complex.

4) The Interior Ministry. The Frontier Corps comes under Rehman Malik. Our unelected Interior Minister is cited by none other than Tariq Ali as being the go-between for the PPP high command and Western intelligence services.

Notice how there is no direct mention in the article of the ISI, MI or the Pakistan Army. My guess is that the Pakistan Army under Kiyani, in the exigencies of fighting its own war in the North West has become some what of its own institution. Notice the current rumour mill to depose the president. More than that, the Army does not trust the Americans as far as it can throw them. It is possible it has its own eyes and ear amongst the retired soldiers and spies in Kestral. That explains why it was feeding the Shireen Mazari/Zaid Hamid faction tales of mythical, but difficult to detect Blackwater.

But where does the Interior Ministry come in? The Blackwater guys controlling drones over FATA and possibly training and fighting with Frontier Corps soldiers can be secreted in via this para-military agency without angering/alerting the general military, the soldiery of which might not take kindly to seeing foreigners operating independently on Pakistani soil.

5) And Jeremy Scahill has alreeady got into trouble for this article. He received an unsolicited call from Admiral Mike Mullen's office.

Scahill Talking to Amy Goodman Part 1

Scahill talking to Amy Goodman Part 2

That's like a Pakistani getting a direct call from General Kiyani's office in Pakistan. The call to Scahill was completely unsolicited.

So we have a very dangerous picture.

And here's where it can get controversial. What exactly is this special unit of Blackwater upto? Not political or security implications, or diplomatic niceties, but actual action?

This unit that goes on border raids with the Frontier Corps and does Assasination by drone. The article lays it out as much. But Snatch and Grab operations are what its prime directive looks more and more like.
Scahill never directly says snatch and grab kidnapping is what the Special Planning Cell does. Thats because he can't directly prove it. But his sources broadly hint that organising kidnaps is the "skill" that has become rare within the US military. Did you see the list of locations these soldiers have been in? Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia. The last three is no problem for US soldiers, but might I remind you that Chechnya is within Russian territory? These operators have entered and left a war zone on Russian territory. They are the best of the US best. They aren't involved in hits. If they are doing anything in Pakistan, it could likely involve their Sindhi political contacts (mentioned in the article) or Interior ministry people in FATA trying to (and maybe not suceeding too often) to kidnap Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Or at least simply locate their general area.

If the idea of US operatives kidnapping people seems strange, I would like to divert your attention to the Herald issue of October 2005, in which the case of missing persons was covered. One case of a Mr Paracha who is now serving time in Camp X Ray, Guantanamo Bay is that he had met Bin Laden a few years before 2001. He was grabbed, literally grabbed in a layover at Bangkok airport. And as far as can be told he is still in Guantanamo Bay.

These cases happen very rarely, but they do happen. And Blackwater's Planning Cell is on the prowl for direct enemies of the US. Probably those who threaten their Afghanistan command; especially in light of the fact that Scahills piece directly mentions McChrystal's influence, his role as a progenitor of JSOC itself. So yeah, JSOC/Special Planing could be dealing in Sindh with kidnapping and smuggling kidnappees out.

Coming from Karachi i can assure you that Sindhi politcal families have a reputation in being skilled at kidnapping/holding for hostage.

That covers Sindh.

In a book called "The Way of the World" Ron Suskind mentions Raisani (the politician) as receiving regular stipends of money fromthe UK and US as well as France. I can also inform you from an Indian source I have that the US has sort of muscled out/made subordinate the Indian control over Baloch resistance groups like the Baloch Republican Army and the infamous BLA. The Afghan side handlers of these men are trying to re-orient them towards hunting Al-Qaeda/Taliban and recoinnoitring the Iranian frontier. Thats Balochistan. Of course these networks aren't necessarilyeffective otherwise they would have gotten some results. But they're there.

That leaves FATA. Which is where the Frontier Corps and SBlackwater/Kestral's political contacts in Sindhi/Baloch political circles and the Interior Ministry come in. This is where they would likely be doing their assasination via drone/but also intel gathering for the Afghan occupation plus attempts at interdicting the Taliban plus training up the Frontier Corps. And this is where they try to act sometimes as boots on the ground, likely out of either boredom or necessity or even both.

It also becomes obvious that the Pakistani state is decayed.
This degradation will have to be corrected over the coming decades.

I think there's a turf war aspect within the US military that feeds into the presence of Blacwater as well. Scahill covered this in his piece where he mentioned that JSOC seemed to be subservient to Centcom.

JSOC has permission to operate in Pakistan, coming directly from Dick Cheney's office, when Centcom tried to directly intervene like in Angoor Adda September 2008, it was shot back at by the Pakistani military. JSOC is literally welcome. The regulations binded Centcom is not.

And now the head of Centcom's mission in Afghanistan, McChrystal, is the former head of JSOC.

Lastly, I have to point out a summary on this entire affair, and the functions of the unit in Pakistan:

The US military and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe) are running a kill-squad in Pakistan, seeking out people perceived as a threat to America and kidnapping and/or killing them. They're pretending that the operation is clandestine, but of course, you can read all about it in The Nation and there's no reason to believe it isn't well-known among Pakistanis. Folks tend to find out when their friends, family, or townsfolk are murdered or kidnapped, but of course, the project isn't "clandestine" in Pakistan, only in America. You're the people who aren't supposed to know.
Dick Cheney would be so proud. Heck, maybe Cheney's involved — it has his scent, and other than moving out of the Vice Presidential mansion there's been little evidence that he's actually gone from US government. The article claims, improbably, that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command might be in the dark about the program's existence.

Imran Farooq and the Concept of "Hiding" in Pakistan

An interesting part of the poor, murdered Imran Farooq of the MQM (in London, no less) is the story of how he was in hiding in Karachi from 1992 till 1999. Seriously. If you don't know, this was a man who went into hiding when Pakistan's military, intelligence and the Sindh police were searching for, capturing and killing key members of MQM. If this guy could stay in hiding in Karachi, with a sufficiently dedicated network, one could go into hiding in Pakistan, and the authorities and establishment would be incompetent and incapable of penetrating your support "netowrk" to find where you are. And mind you, this "hiding" was in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan.

So what this means, is that if you want to go into hiding in, let's say, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, or not ecen Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but the under developed Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and you want to make sure that you aren't caught, it may be a trick that you could eventually pull off.

Just ask Ayman Al Zawahiri.
Or Hakimullah Mehsud.
Or Qari Hussain Ahmed.
Maybe ask Maulvi Faqir Mohammad or Mullah Omar Khalid?

What's that you say, you can't find them? Maybe that's because a guy showed, in the most populated city of Pakistan, that you can hide out in ANY part of the country if you have a dedicated (or fanatical) enough support network.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salaam to the Brave Kids of Kashmir

Where the Pakistan government, militant organisations, and the entire Pakistan Army has failed, a few rock throwing kids have succeeded. They’ve dragged New Delhi kicking and screaming to the negotiating table over.... K A S H M I R . Let me savour that feeling for a bit.

Oh yes.

And Yeah – if Azad (Pakistan Administered) Kashmir should wish to join with Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir in independence, they should; to teach our state bureaucracy a lesson. In the meantime maybe all the Pakistani Bloggers would like to write something for the protestors of Kashmir, whilst our slowpoke politicians do get around to pledging support to the kids on Kashmir’s streets. Good on them for doing the right thing. And lol, India’s politico’s threw a hissy fit.

It doesn’t matter what the result of this revolt is, and may it be whatever the kids of Kashmir want it to be, but the fact that they’ve made those arrogant buggers budge, that those pontificating blowhards have had their cherished illusions of every-body-in-India’s-borders-is-happy-to-be-there shattered, that a hubris has been laid low, is a thing of beauty, a joy sublime. And apparently Indian women are immune to South Asian ego syndrome. Praise the lord and pass the street ammunition.

Azad Kashmir Zindabad

Ay Kashmir kay Bahadur Bhaiyon, Bhenon aur Pyare, Pyare Bachon,

Tuj Ko Mera Salam

What`s Been up With The News`s Website?

I've been wondering what's been the situation with The News's website, ever since Jang groups electronic assets were forced off the air for going apeshit over Zardari's not being in Pakistan during the floods. After the pipliya's (diehard PPP supporters) burnt copies of Jang and The News, and forced cable operators to stop running Geo TV, what scared Jang group into letting their website go offline for a week or so? Were they threatened by the PTA (Pakistan Telecommunications Authority) or did they just do so in a fit of panic?

The opinion archives, which I used to read people like Zaka and Ayaz Amir, amongst The News's more "exotic" selection, is unavailable, and only one op ed piece ever appears. Will The News please leave this strange Java dependent design they have and go back to their old pre-July HTML website, with if necessary a sturdier security arrangement?

We need The News website in working condition again.

The Killer of Russian Pensioners Leaves Obama

Uber-chooth Larry Summers, the man who orchestrated the bailout of America's financial system, when it was facing a near death experience in the dying days of Bush and the beginning of the Obama presidency, has just stepped down. Good.

Soulless Tool

He created the era of deregulated finance in the late nineties, along with Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan which has bought us to this current impasse, where we may be staring the death of capitalism in the face. However, in his previous job, as Undersecretary of the Treasury, advising consultants to Yeltsin's reformers in post Soviet Russia, Summers was amongst those who pushed hardcore market reforms, that slashed the government's social expenditure, and sent the lives of millions of Russian pensioners into free fall and early death. If we recall, yes the Soviet economy after the early nineties was in dire need of shedding expenditure, but the length and breadth of expenditure cut was so long and so deep, that beyond non-productive spending in military and foreign Soviet aid, the deeply extensive social safety net of the Soviet economy was torn to shreds, and with no private economy to fall back on, millions of Russians who were dependent on government spending were sent into bankruptcy and an early grave. This was added to the fire-sale, bargain basement privatization of Russia's infrastructure which suddenly created the infamous oligarchs, a collection of wealthy and democratically unaccountable kleptomaniacs, the constant humiliation of Yeltsin's incompetence and boozing, and the extreme privation created by cutting the near maximum of government expenditure. Please remember, in Russia during the mid-nineties Life Expectancy Collapsed. Larry Summers is the part of the reason why. And in response to that shitstorm encircling Russia, a group of upper mid ranking security bureaucrats in the Kremlin decided to ease Yeltsin out with promises of no investigation into the corruption and embezzling Yeltsin and his family were involved in (sound familiar?). In exchange that group of slick, nationalist, intelligent, intelligence operatives would be allowed to govern Russia. Enter Vladimir Putin, to the sound of multiple "Muslim Terrorist" bombs going off all over Moscow in 1999. The Russian experiment in free-market, open politics democracy was wrapped up in favour of a more "managed democracy" with a muzzled media, that we still see trundling along today. A very familiar story for citizens of a currently waterlogged nation in South Asia. And that "managed" democracy is trundling as opposed to it's pre-2003 bumbling, thanks to high oil prices. Thank you Bush Administration and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sometimes one should be grateful for stupid enemies. We know Vladimir Putin is.

Larry Summers, is in the circle of responsibility for the premature deaths of millions of Russian and the subsequent rise of Vladimir Putin. He peddled the advice that led to the rise of a right wing strongman in a former Cold War superpower. This man is horrible and an idiot.

Source: Comments on

In his current job, what Summers insured was that the financial/banking sector was not reformed, but rather that money was funneled into the system, so that Goldman Sachs, and the few survivors of this catastrophe would emerge even more powerful than before the crisis. Basically, once the dust settled, the surviving banks, which had already been powerful pre-crisis, would emerge untouchable. Anybody hear the threat of Goldman Sachs being nationalized? No you don't? Maybe broken up for its role in the crisis? No? Well that's because Larry Summers has done his job very, very well. For Goldman Sachs and Wall Street.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Flood Level Dropping? Maybe. Food Shortages and Refugee-dom? Real.

Over the last week, I've been looking at the news with the expectation of seeing the next place flooded.

This time when I've looked around, googling didn't seem to turn up any new place flooded, rather the level from Manchar lake started to drop. Interesting.

Manchar Lake is the purple dot. It would be strange if this is the only tale of water level dropping. I doubt if water level is rising anywhere, but who knows? I would doubt it this late in the game though.

However, the tales of near starvation and mis-nutrition leaking out of camps are serious, and food must be gotten to all people. Food is more important than war.

Here is the horrifying Associated Press article that inspired this blog post:

Kids Without Food in Pakistan's Flood, Face Death

It should be mentioned that all these pictures were taken in a hospital ward in Sukkur. The stories of patients in hospital wards in Pakistan are generally a collection of medical disasters before being admitted to the hospital.

Here is Dawn talking about the same problem of hunger and diseases targeting kids, and the threat and spread of Diarrhoea, Malaria, and Cholera those still living in the displaced peoples camps.

But yeah, Pakistan is on the danger list of just seven countries, who together contain two thirds of all the planet's under-fed/hungry/malnutritioned of the world. The other six are alphabetically Bangladesh, China, Congo, Ethiopia, India and Indonesia. It's telling that this piece of news is in the "Business" section of Dawn newspaper. What this might indicate, is a realisation amongst the wealthy, and the money-making, is that a less hungrier, fairer world, would ultimately be a more stable and inevitably richer world as well. We can hope they at least realise this.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Civilian Governments Cut Short - Quoting Numbers to Emphasise the Strength of Pakistan's Military-Bureaucratic Elite

This is a direct quote from Kamran Shafi's column of 26th January 2010, where he begins with citing the length of time that various governments in Pakistan's history have lasted. The column was called Of This and That:

Below, without comment a list of Pakistan’s various governments and the approximate periods of their rule, or misrule if you will. ‘Caretaker’ governments or those such as Mr Mohammad Khan Junejo’s, Mr Zafarullah Jamali’s and the Private Banker’s have been excluded from the list because army dictators ruled the roost then. The periods of dictatorships are in italics:
Liaquat Ali Khan: 1,500 days; Khwaja Nazimuddin: 900 days; Mohammad Ali Bogra: 840 days; Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: 390 days; I.I. Chundrigar: 60 days; Malik Feroz Khan Noon: 300 days; Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan: 4,745 days; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: 2,205 days; Ziaul Haq: 4,015 days; Benazir Bhutto: 635 days; Nawaz Sharif: 880 days; Nawaz Sharif: 56 days; Benazir Bhutto: 1,125 days; Nawaz Sharif: 970 days; Pervez Musharraf: 3,285 days; and the present one whose several obituaries have already been written: 720 days.

Major Kamran Shafi is a Retired Officer of the Pakistan Army.
In the nineties, he worked as a speechwriter for Benazir Bhutto, and subsequently is a PPP supporter.

Although, with the degeneration of the Pakistani state's capacity to deal with various crises, one has to wonder how much strength the state has in comparison to say, the Islamists, who seem to have set as their goal the destruction of Pakistan's military and police forces so that they may eventually rule parts or all of the country. We know that the state's bureaucracy/military is powerful in comparison to the political parties, but it would be fascinating to get a firm number on how much more powerful than the state the combined Islamist forces are.

The Military Has to Stop Influencing Domestic Politics and Focus on Human Security

I know that this is a bit of a duh post, but it must be emphasised that the Pakistan military must not become involved in choosing winners and losers in the civilian Pakistani structure. The situation is slightly better than the nineties, where the military was involved indirectly in kicking out three civilian setups and then in directly ousting a fourth government.

Right now of course, the military is not interested in directly running the country, maybe we can hope that some realisation of their limitations in power are entering the officer corps mind, but rather in influencing select sections of policy. Those select sections of course being defence and the country's relationships with India, Afghanistan and the United States.

To influence these factors the military uses its media tools, who openly parrot the military's line, the worst offence being during the Kerry-Lugar bill negotiations; negotiations that had been turned into a crisis for no discernible ends. The furore created over that bill was not just about destabilising the government just to show "Who's boss", may or may not have been about scuttling the damn thing, but it showed that the army does things utterly impetuously without thinking the consequences through to the end. What if the Kerry-Lugar bill is scuttled and you've shown the civilians "Who's boss?". Then what? What about the money to run the country? What about mending relations with the other non-Republican faction of the United States government? What about not giving in to your various personal insecurities and prejudices and thinking about the lives and securities of the People of this country? And yes the people of this country....the rather battered people of this country.......they relate to the human velociraptors sending out suicide bombers throughout the land. These are the fringe of the military's "civilian partners". The terrorists. The Islamic Extremists. The unelectable trained killers of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam, Harkat-ul-Islam, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and all the other aging Jihadis of the nineties, with nowhere to go and a crop of young, eager, willing to die kids coming up, and nowhere to send the psychopathic little fuckers.

So obviously the enterprising anti-government Jihadis of the Waziristan have put out the all points bulletin for any young Muslim with a hankering for God and Guns, who was raised in an environment ready to kill Indian (read Non-Muslim) soldiers, but has found the Pakistani government unwilling to send them across into Kashmir. The setup across non-Frontier Act ruled Pakistan is still there to bring up the next crop of Jihadis, the local police has been too slow, too weak, or too hampered from stopping the cyclical rise of a new crop of violence prone youngsters. The military protects the Punjabi ones who still promise to "eventually get to Kashmir". In the meantime, the young ones head up to Afghanistan independently. They then become more sectarianised and decide that it's time to purify Pakistan too. Some people begin to feel that it may be time to round up these groups, but have they become too evolved, too large, or too organic to uproot? The military still thinks it can use some of these people, if not for external warfare, then maybe to intimidate various local politicos, if the times require it. And the local violence machine keeps humming along as usual.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Machiavelli, Pakistan and the World

Nobody talks about the author of "The Prince", but this is the de-listed, yet simultaneously required political handbook for anybody who wants to enter politics. In Pakistan, one sometimes feels that Machiavellian behaviour is second nature amongst many. In more developed countries though, an attempt is constantly made to banish Machiavellian behaviour from public, and even private lives. That no such effort is made or acknowledged in Pakistan, even when neighbouring India at least attempts to do it, is telling of what one could generally describe as "Pakistani" behaviour.

P.S Freedom of Information acts are a decidedly anti-Machiavellan thing. I am pretty sure if Niccolo was a political consultant today, he would advise him not to allow any FOI Act to exist, if the politician could get away with it.

Angelina Jolie is Hardcore

And I mean that in the best possible way.

When Pakistan still used to attract tourists, (now that's more a source of parody than anything) we used to boast on how it was adventure tourist types who would come to Pakistan as opposed to the let's-lie-down-and-just-forget-the-world types who would go to India.

Angelina Jolie is an action star. Somewhere, it feels karmically appropriate that an action star would be the Hollywood celebrity most associated with relief work in Pakistan.

A Thank You to Five Rupees for Recommending my Blog

A thank you to Five Rupees for recommending my own blog and even recommending me on twitter.

On the short and snappy, that's been a constant attempt of mine. I know twitter takes short and snappy to a completely new level, but personally long before and it's 140 word limit, I kinda bought into the idea of getting my point across in the shortest and most concise way possible. Of course, what this also meant was that my writing style began to differ from the sometimes pompous, excessively ornate and florid style Pakistani officialdom loves to use, and by derivation, Pakistani blogs sometimes tend to use. That's why I like to keep things as short as possible on this blog.

Save the theses for a book, my friends.

Maybe someday I should write about why I decided to begin writing this blog, as well as what motivated its name. I think I'll do that in a few weeks time, with the addition of the names of a few blogs as well. The blogs that motivated me to write were those, who at the least, got their facts right, but were pushing a very, very negative agenda.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Can We Please Cut This Defence Budget Now?

Seriously. With a defence budget that refuses to go down (and a new-found propensity for neo-liberalist debt repayment amongst those who once associated with Marxists) whilst people build their houses in dried up river beds (which kill when they're no longer dried), the Pakistani elite continues a state of affairs that melded negligence with the worst sort of prioritisation.

Criminal misallocation of resources is why the population of Pakistan is now some uncountable number north of 180 million, why this number will continue to grow without let or hindrance, and why it was some of the most underprivileged people who had to bear the brunt of this flood. The practise of a near aparthied level of informal classism by the Pakistani elite has led to this state of affairs. The contempt shown for the daily disenfranchised shown casually by members of the elite, is mirrored in national policy, a tendency magnified manifold during military rule which has now led to this state of affairs. If these floods are not enough to change attitudes, then I don't know what is.