Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nawaz Sharif's Opportunity: Divide and Conquer Pakistani Taliban

Talks offer by Prime Minister Sharif has caused a significant rift in the  Pakistani Taliban leadership.  While Punjabi Taliban's leader Asmatullah Muawiya has welcomed the offer, leaders of the Pashtun Taliban have rejected it. The split has become more serious with the Pashtun Taliban's decision to remove Muawiya from his position as the leader of the Punjabi Taliban.

"The Taliban decision making body met under Commander Hakimullah Mehsud and decided that Asmatullah Muawiya has no relation with the TTP," Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told news agency AFP. In response, Muawiya  has told The Associated Press that the Taliban shura had no authority to remove him because the Punjabi Taliban is a separate group. He said his group has its own decision-making body to decide leadership and other matters.

This split among the Taliban leadership should be seen by the Nawaz Sharif government as an opportunity to further divide and eventually defeat the various terrorist groups operating under the banner of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

As a first step of this divide-and-conquer strategy, Pakistani government should proceed with identifying numerous TTP factions who are ready to negotiate and begin talking with each of them separately.  Instead of making concessions, the government should prolong these separate negotiations to plant seeds of distrust and discord among the Taliban factions and let them fight and weaken each other.

As a second step, the government should selectively use the Pakistani military to attack various TTP factions one at a time to  reduce the TTP movement from a potent force to a mere nuisance which  can be managed and ultimately made irrelevant.

During this process, the government should disregard any Taliban sympathizers among politicians, military and bureaucracy who will try to influence the process in favor of the Taliban in the name of Islam to pursue their own selfish agendas.

Such a strategy will require deep thinking, persistence, good negotiating skills and selective use of decisive military force to end the scourge of terrorism from Pakistan's national landscape. It will  also require broad public support.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

PTI and JUI-F Losses in By-polls; Musharraf Indictment; Inaction Against Terrorists

Last week in Pakistan was eventful.  By-elections were held. Former President Pervez Musharraf was indicted. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation and laid out his plans.

Pakistan By-elections:

 By-elections were held for 41 national and provincial assembly seats. PTI and JUI-F lost key seats, while PML (N), PPP, MQM and ANP did much better than PTI, JUI (F) and JI. Are KPK voter sending a warning to PTI to shape up?

Musharraf's Indictment:

Former President Musharraf was indicted for Benazir Bhutto's murder. The indictment rests entirely on Mark Siegel's statement about Benazir Bhutto's fears.

In a piece published this week in Foreign Affairs journal, UN Assistant Secretary General Heraldo Munoz looked at all the facts surrounding BB murder and allegations against Pervez Musharraf, and concluded as follows: "But all that does not constitute proof of culpability. Even Bhutto, despite her e-mail pointing a finger at Musharraf, did not believe that Musharraf wanted her dead--only that some people around him did."

Meanwhile, most media commentators and pundits are playing up the fact that a former general has been brought before the court to answer. There is no discussion of the substance and merits of the case.

Gallup Poll on Musharraf:

At about the same as the former president was being indicted, a Gallup poll showed that Pervez Musharraf remains a popular figure with 59% of Pakistanis having a positive view of the former president. 31% favorable and 28% satisfactory.These high positive ratings of Musharraf are specially surprising given the hostility of the media and relentless attacks by the judiciary and the politicians against the former ruler.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Speech:

Sharif addressed the nation to talk about his plans to tackle economic crisis and talk with terrorists without insisting on a ceasefire. He also threatened to use force if talks don't produce results.

Sharif also made the fantastic claim that Pakistan was on its way to "become an Asian Tiger" when he was removed in 1999, ignoring well-documented data showing that Pakistan was bankrupt and heavily indebted with a stagnant economy at the end of Sharif's last stint as prime minister.

Sharif also talked about Pakistan's current debt situation as being worse than ever. This, too, is false. As percentage of GDP, the debt situation in 1999 was far worse. Pakistan's debt was 80% its GDP in 1999, worse than the current 60% of GDP, and far worse than the debt-gdp ratio of 55% when Musharraf left office in 2008.

As to Sharif's reference to Pakistan becoming as Asian Tiger under his leadership, it's important to remember  the historic fact that Asian Tigers did not become Asian Tigers under "democracy". Democracy came only after Asian Tigers became Asian Tigers.


 Are voters losing patience with Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI)?

Do MQM's big wins in Karachi under military supervision debunk PTI's earlier rigging claims in May elections?

 Is Musharraf's indictment in Benazir Bhuto murder case justified? Or is it a part of the continuing judicial vendetta against the former president?

 Will government inaction against the Taliban and their sectarian allies embolden them? Will democracy survive the terrorists' growing onslaught?

 Will the military stand by and watch Taliban take Peshawar and then move toward Islamabad?

VPOS host Faraz Darvesh discusses these and other questions with Sabahat Ashraf, Ali Hasan Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq.

PTI, JUI Losses and ANP, PPP Gains in By-polls; Inaction Against Terrorists from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

UN Malala Day

Treason Trial of Musharraf

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Blowback of US Drones in Pakistan

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube

Saturday, August 24, 2013

India Suffers Rapid Loss of Investor Confidence

Plummeting Indian rupee is the most obvious symptom of the world losing confidence in India. The crisis of confidence is so great that Jim O'Neill, former Goldman Sachs executive whose BRIC acronym made India an attractive investor destination in 2001,  has recently said that “if I were to change it, I would just leave the "C"" in BRIC.

India has long run huge twin deficits. India imports a lot more than it exports, and its government spends a lot more than its revenue receipts. India has so far been able to finance its trade and budget deficits with foreign capital inflows. Such flows have been driven mainly by the easy money policies pursued by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks in Europe and Japan in recent years. Over $170 billion of India's $390 billion foreign debt is due for repayment within a year. India's current foreign exchange reserves are $278 billion, and repaying $170 billion debt will dramatically deplete its reserves causing further panic in financial markets.

The US Fed in Washington has been buying $85 billion worth of bonds with a few computer key strokes every month to stimulate the US economy.

Many investors had been borrowing money in US dollars at extremely low rates to invest their borrowings for higher returns in emerging markets like India.  With  US economic recovery beginning to take hold, the US Fed has signaled that it may reduce or end these bond purchases. As a result of this change, foreign investors are retrenching from the emerging markets to take advantage of better returns in US and frontier markets.

In contrast to big declines in emerging markets like India and Indonesia, some frontier markets such as the UAE, Bulgaria and Pakistan have returned over 50 percent this year in dollar terms, according to Reuters. Unlike in the big emerging economies, listed companies in Kenya or Pakistan tend to be true plays on the emerging market consumer. Earnings growth estimates for this year have risen sharply almost everywhere to 10-15 percent (versus the 9.8 percent average in emerging markets)

In addition to the stellar performance of Karachi's KSE-100 this year, Pakistani euro bonds listed on the Luxembourg stock exchange are also doing well, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.  In the last four months, these bonds have surged by more than 10 per cent (excluding coupon payment), which places them among the best performing in emerging and frontier markets. During this period, yields on the bonds have declined by more than 300 basis points.

India and Indonesia have been specially hard hit because both are dependent on significant foreign inflows to fill their current-account gaps. Foreign investors have already sold a net $11.6 billion of Indian debt and equities since late May, sparking fears of continued weakness, according to Reuters. As a result, Indian rupee and major Indian stock indices have both suffered double digit losses this year. Weakness in the Indian currency, which tumbled almost 15 percent this year, could further fuel inflation, and hurt consumers in an election year. Compared to 2011-12, the Indian GDP has declined by more than $200 billion to about $1.65 trillion this year.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country's central bank,  has said it plans to buy long-dated government debt to  stabilize markets after rising volatility threatened to hurt an economy that is already growing at  the slowest pace in a decade. But the BRI actions appear to be too little too late.

There does not appear to be any quick fix to the falling rupee and declining investor confidence. The longer term solution lies in containing both the budget and the trade deficits. It will require strong political will to cut spending and reduce imports in the immediate future. Such actions will make the situation worse before it gets better. Will India's ruling politicians muster the courage to swallow the bitter pill so close to the upcoming elections in 2014? I doubt it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Hyphenation: India-Pakistan or India-China?

India's Share of World's Poor Jumps as World Poverty Declines

Forget Chindia--Chimerica Will Rescue the World

World Bank on Poverty Across India

Superpoor India's Superpower Delusions

Are India and Pakistan Failed States? 

India Home to World's Largest Number of Poor, Hungry and Illiterate

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

India Tops in Illiteracy and Defense Spending

Indians Poorer than sub-Saharan Africans

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

US Investigating Microsoft Bribery in Pakistan's Punjab

Executives of Microsoft Pakistan are facing allegations of bribery in Punjab, a violation of US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Reports in US media indicate that an unnamed provincial minister in Punjab government and his wife traveled to the United States in December 2009 to close a $9 million deal for Microsoft Office software. The trip was booked by a travel agent working for Microsoft. Microsoft paid the costs of business class fare and stay at a luxury hotel in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A similar investigation is underway by the US Justice Department into allegations of kickbacks given by Microsoft to officials in Russia.

Microsoft says it has also started an internal investigation into the corruption allegations which it takes very seriously.  It is the result of an email tip to Microsoft.

Under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), all American companies are required to provide details of illegal payments made in foreign countries.

Similar allegations surfaced in FCPA cases relating to Siemens, Paxar and other foreign entities in Pakistan. Paxar Corporation, a New York listed company acquired by Avery, acknowledged paying $30,000 to bribe Pakistani customs officials in 2008 through its local customs broker. Avery, a California-based company, manufactures and markets various office products in several dozen countries around the world.

Raymond Baker, author of "Capitalism's Achilles Heel", has detailed billions of dollars worth of bribes received by government leaders in several developing countries including Pakistan.  Here's a brief except from Baker's book on Sharif family:

"At least $160 million pocketed from a contract to build a highway from Lahore, his home town, to Islamabad, the nation’s capital. At least $140 million in unsecured loans from Pakistan’s state banks. More than $60 million generated from government rebates on sugar exported by mills controlled by Mr. Sharif and his business associates. At least $58 million skimmed from inflated prices paid for imported wheat from the United States and Canada. In the wheat deal, Mr. Sharif ’s government paid prices far above market value to a private company owned by a close associate of his in Washington, the records show. Falsely inflated invoices for the wheat generated tens of millions of dollars in cash."

Baker mentions the use of several offshore entities in British Virgin Islands and Channel Islands controlled by the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launder billions of dollars received in bribes.

Similar details are offered in the book that explain how Bhutto-Zardari family have siphoned off money from deals made by Pakistan government. Here's a more extensive excerpt from Baker's book:

Upon taking office in 1988, Bhutto reportedly appointed 26,000 party hacks to state jobs, including positions in state-owned banks. An orgy of lending without proper collateral followed. Allegedly, Bhutto and Zardari “gave instructions for billions of rupees of unsecured government loans to be given to 50 large projects. The loans were sanctioned in the names of ‘front men’ but went to the ‘Bhutto-Zardari combine.’ ” Zardari suggested that such loans are “normal in the Third World to encourage industrialisation.” He used 421 million rupees (about £10 million) to acquire a major interest in three new sugar mills, all done through nominees acting on his behalf. In another deal he allegedly received a 40 million rupee kickback on a contract involving the Pakistan Steel Mill, handled by two of his cronies. Along the way Zardari acquired a succession of nicknames: Mr. 5 Percent, Mr. 10 Percent, Mr. 20 Percent, Mr. 30 Percent, and finally, in Bhutto’s second term when he was appointed “minister of investments,” Mr. 100 Percent. The Pakistan government’s largest source of revenues is customs duties, and therefore evasion of duties is a national pastime. Isn’t there some way to tap into this major income stream, pretending to fight customs corruption and getting rich at the same time? Of course; we can hire a reputable (or disreputable, as the case may be) inspection company, have the government pay the company about a one percent fee to do price checking on imports, and get multimillion-dollar bribes paid to us upon award of the contracts. Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), headquartered in Switzerland, and its then subsidiary Cotecna, the biggest group in the inspection business, readily agreed to this subterfuge. Letters in 1994 promised “consultancy fees,” meaning kickbacks, of 6 percent and 3 percent to two British Virgin Island (BVI) companies, Bomer Finances Inc. and Nassam Overseas Inc., controlled by Bhutto and Zardari. Payments of $12 million were made to Swiss bank accountsof the BVI companies. SGS allegedly has paid kickbacks on other inspection contracts around the world. Upon being accused in the inspection kickback scheme, Bhutto sniffed, “I ran the government to the best of my honest ability. And I did it for nothing but acknowledgment and love.” Then there was the 1994 deal to import $83 million worth of tractors from Poland. Ursus Tractors allegedly paid a 7 percent commission to another of Zardari’s Caribbean companies, Dargal Associated. Bhutto waived import duties on the tractors, costing the Pakistani government some 1.7 billion rupees in lost revenues. Upon discovery of this scheme the Poles hastened to turn over 500 pages of documentation confirming the kickback. The Polish tractor deal was just a warm-up for the French fighter jet deal. After the U.S. government cancelled a sale of two squadrons of F-16s, Bhutto dangled a $4 billion contract for Mirages in front of the French—Dassault Aviation; Snecma, the engine manufacturer; and Thomson-CSF, producer of aviation electronics. Without missing a beat they allegedly agreed to pay a “remuneration” of 5 percent to Marleton Business S.A., yet another of Zardari’s British Virgin Island companies. This would have generated a tidy $200 million for the Bhutto-Zardari couple, but unfortunately for them she was driven from office before they could collect. Ah, but the gold deal gave some comfort to these aspiring kleptocrats. Gold is culturally important in the Asian subcontinent, in particular as a way for women to accumulate wealth. Upwards of $100 billion is invested in this unproductive asset in Pakistan, India, and surrounding countries. Smuggling is big business. Ostensibly to regulate the trade, a Pakistani bullion dealer in Dubai, Abdul Razzak Yaqub, asked Bhutto for an exclusive import license. In 1994, yet another Zardari offshore company, M.S. Capricorn Trading, was created in the British Virgin Islands. Later in the year, Jens Schlegelmilch, “a Swiss lawyer who was the Bhutto family’s attorney in Europe and close personal friend for more than 20 years,” opened an account for Capricorn Trading at the Dubai branch of Citibank. According to a 1999 U.S. Senate report: “Mr. Schlegelmilch did not reveal to the Dubai banker that Mr. Zardari was the beneficial owner of the PIC [private investment company], and the account manager never asked him the identity of the beneficial owner of the account. . . . Shortly after opening the account in Dubai, Mr. Schlegelmilch signed a standard referral agreement with Citibank Switzerland private bank guaranteeing him 20 percent of the first three years of client net revenues earned by the bank from each client he referred to the private bank.” In other words, Citibank was contracting to pay a finder’s fee for millions brought in from dubious sources. Citibank went on to open three accounts in Switzerland for Zardari, with Schlegelmilch as the signatory. In October 1994, Citibank records show that $10 million was deposited into Capricorn’s Dubai account by Razzak Yaqub’s company, A.R.Y. International Exchange. In December, Razzak Yaqub received an exclusive import license and proceeded over the next three years to ship more than $500 million in gold to Pakistan. Additional deposits flowed into the Dubai and Swiss Citibank accounts, and funds also were shifted to Citibank Channel Island subsidiaries. The original ceiling on the accounts of $40 million was reached quickly.

 Related Links:

Haq's Musings


Avery Acknowledges Bribing Pakistani Officials

FCPA Violations Involving Indian Entities

The Story of Graft

Anti-Corruption Day, Blagojevich and Zardari

Bhutto Convicted in Switzerland

Corruption in Pakistan

Transparency International Survey 2007

Is Siemens Guilty?

Zardari Corruption Probe

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Harvard Genetics Study Finds Most Indians Are Not Indigenous

"To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."   Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar,  leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)  
Debunking the myth of "the purity of the Race" pushed by  Hindu Nationalist leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, a Harvard study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics has found that vast majority of Indians today have descended from a mixture of two genetically divergent populations--Ancestral North Indians (ANIs) who migrated from Central Asia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Europe,  and Ancestral South Indians (ASI), who are not closely related to groups outside the subcontinent.

Source: World Values Survey and Washington Post

Geographically, Ancestral North Indians (ANIs) tend to be more concentrated in the northern and western parts of India closer to West Asia, while Ancestral South Indians are found mostly in southern and eastern parts of India.

The paper, titled "Genetic Evidence for Recent Population Mixture in India" confirms that North Indians ancestors started migrating to India from outside thousands of years before the advent of Islam. ANIs and ASIs routinely intermarried between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago until the imposition of strict segregation by the Hindu caste system, according to the study.

Lactose Tolerance Map
With segregation strictly in place, the Indian society moved toward endogamy—the practice of avoiding intermarriage or close relationships between ethnic groups—which reached its most extreme form in the creation of the caste system which remains in force to this day. A 2011 report found that in “40 percent of the schools across sample districts in Uttar Pradesh—India’s most populous state, with 199 million people—teachers and students refuse to partake of government-sponsored free midday meals because they are cooked by dalits (untouchables).”

The paper is based on the work of researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the CSIR-Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India. They conducted what they call the “most comprehensive sampling of Indian genetic variation to date,” using samples collected from 571 individuals belonging to 73 “well-defined ethno-linguistic groups.” The data allowed the authors to trace not just the genetic mixture between these groups but how long ago this mixture occurred.

World IQ (Intelligence Quotient) Map (Source: Richard Lynn)

Similar genetic studies of Pakistanis published in the American Journal of Human Genetics have found very diverse ancestral origins of the people in the country. These range from Balochis with origins in Aleppo (modern Syria) to Brahuis who are indigenous Dravidian, and Baltis of Sino-Tibetan ancestry to Pashtuns of Jewish or Central Asian origins.

These genetic studies offer strong rebuttal of Hindu Nationalists' claims of "racial purity" of Hindus. Genetics confirm that most Indians (and Pakistanis) are, in fact, people of mixed or foreign ancestry regardless of their faith.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

World Values Survey Finds Indians Most Racist

Indians Admire Israel and Hitler

Caste Apartheid in India

Religion, Caste and Politics in India by Christophe Jaffrelot

Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India

Who Killed Karkare?

Procrastinating on Hindutva Terror

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs

Hindutva Government in Israeli Exile?

Growing US-India Military Ties Worry Pakistan

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Friday, August 16, 2013

Critics: Muslims Have Few Nobel Prizes; Muslims Are Killing Muslims

Are today's Muslims fratricidal low-achievers? Are Muslims unique in their lack of achievement and propensity for fratricidal violence? Are there other religious and racial groups which share these traits with Muslims?

It has become fashionable among Muslims and non-Muslims alike to bash followers of the Islamic faith for their lack of achievement and propensity for fratricidal violence. Some criticize Muslims for having won only 10 Nobel prizes since the prize was launched in 1901. Others lambaste Muslims for killing each other. Let's examine both of these charges in some detail below:

Muslims as Low Achievers:

Renowned atheist scholar Richard Dawkins has recently disparaged Muslims by pointing out that the entire Muslim world has had fewer Nobels (10) than Cambridge University's Trinity College (32).  He is not alone in attacking Muslims for their lack of achievements; I have heard this from many Muslim critics for many years.

What Dawkins and other critics, including well-meaning self-critical Muslims,  fail to mention, according to Christian Science Monitor, is the fact that other large (billion-plus) religious, gender and ethnic groups have won even fewer Nobels than ten won by Muslims: Hindus (four),  Chinese (eight) and Africans (nine).  Or the fact that women have only won 44 Nobel Prizes, compared with 791 for mostly white men.

It is important to note that today's Muslims and other ethnic-religious groups with very few Nobel prizes have grown up under the shadow of colonial and neo-colonial rule which followed the Industrial Revolution and preceded the launch of Nobel prizes in 1901. Going back in history, it was the Industrial Revolution that created technology which led to the ascendance of the West and the colonization of the East. It marked the beginning of a major shift in economic, military and political power from East to West.

Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor explains it as follows:

"Dawkins, as an educated man, should be well aware of the legacy of colonialism and of simple poverty…. When the Nobel Prize was founded in 1901, the vast majority of the world's Muslims lived in countries ruled by foreign powers, and for much of the 20th century Muslims did not have much access to great centres of learning like Cambridge. The ranks of Nobel Prize winners have traditionally been dominated by white, Western men - a reflection of both the economic might of the West in the past century, preferential access to education for that class of people as well as a wonderful intellectual tradition ."

Dawkins' tweet did acknowledge that "they (Muslims) did great things in the middle ages". Clearly,  the history of humanity is not just 100 years old. It did not begin with the launch of Nobels in 1901. It stretches much further back. The defining work of Muslims in earlier centuries (8th to 13th century)  built the foundation on which modern science and today's Nobel Laureates stand. It included development of decimal number system (still called Arabic numerals), Algebra (Al-Khwarizmi), the concepts of scientific method (Al Biruni)  and algorithms (Al Khwarizmi), first camera (Al Haitham), Medicine (Avicenna),  first human flight (Ibn Firnas), astrolabe (Al Frazari) etc.

In "Lost Discoveries" by Dick Teresi, the author says, "Clearly, the Arabs served as a conduit, but the math laid on the doorstep of Renaissance Europe cannot be attributed solely to ancient Greece. It incorporates the accomplishments of Sumer, Babylonia, Egypt, India, China and the far reaches of the Medieval Islamic world." Teresi by his description of the work done by Copernicus. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, a Persian Muslim astronomer and mathematician, developed at least one of Copernicus's theorems, now called The Tusi Couple, three hundred years before Copernicus. Copernicus used the theorem without offering any proof or giving credit to al-Tusi. This was pointed out by Kepler, who looked at Copernicus's work before he developed his own elliptical orbits idea. A second theorem found in Copernican system, called Urdi lemma, was developed by another Muslim scientist Mu'ayyad al-Din al-Urdi, in 1250. Again, Copernicus neither offered proof nor gave credit to al-Urdi. Columbia University's George Saliba believes Copernicus didn't credit him because Muslims were not popular in 16th century Europe, not unlike the situation today."

Fratricidal Tendencies Among Muslims:

Muslims are killing Muslims, say the critics. This begs the question: Is this something unique among Muslims? Who kills 30,000 Americans each year? Is it not Americans? Who is responsible for the 40,000 reported homicides in India (actuals are likely much higher) every year? Is it not fellow Indians? Mostly Hindus?

Who killed Gandhi? Was it not Nathuram Godse, a fellow Hindu? Who killed Yitzhak Rabin? Was it not  Yigal Amir, a fellow Jew? Who killed Abraham Lincoln? Was it not John Wilkes Booth, a fellow American?

The fact is that almost every nation-state has had periods of excessive violence such as civil wars.  Fratricidal deaths have accounted for the great bulk of deaths in almost every nation since the beginning of time. Such deaths have occurred in great numbers in almost every society since Adam and Eve's son Cain is alleged to have killed his brother Abel. Every period of great change in human history has been almost always been accompanied by massive violence that Muslims are experiencing now.

Anti-Muslim Bigotry:

Dawkins' comments appear to be motivated by growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the West, especially because he prefaced them by saying "Who the hell do these Muslims think they are?"  But the fact that he singled out Muslims for criticism and ignored other groups who have achieved even less seems to indicate that he holds Muslims to a higher standard than others, including Blacks, Chinese and Indians who are almost as numerous. I'd prefer that Muslims see as a challenge rather than be offended by it. At the very least, it signals that Muslims are not being subjected to what George W. Bush once described as "soft bigotry of low expectation".

The Challenge for Muslims:

Are Muslims taking the challenge thrown by Dawkins seriously? The answer is a qualified yes. They are beginning to do it.

Pakistan has had an impressive 50 per cent increase in the number of research publications during just the last two years, going up from 3939 to 6200. This has been the second highest increase worldwide. SCimago, the world's leading research database, is forecasting that if this research trend from Pakistan continues, then by 2018, Pakistan will move ahead 16 notches in world ranking, from 43 to 27, and for the first time ever, will cross Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand in Asia, according to a report in The Nation newspaper.  Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Malaysia are other Muslim nations which figure prominently on SCimago rankings.

As to the violence, it is likely to continue for a while longer as vast swaths of the Muslim world sort out their differences on fundamental questions of the role of religion in society and government and settle on a model that delivers what the Muslim world needs most: good clean and responsive governance. Fortunately, there are successful models within the Muslim world in countries like Turkey and Malaysia.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Obama, Islam and Science

Educational Attainment in India and Pakistan

Biotech and Genomics Advances in Pakistan

Pakistani Students Studying Abroad

Pakistan Manufacturing Tablet PCs

Military's Role in Pakistan's Industrialization

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistan's Defense Industry Goes High-Tech

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line at Kamra

Pakistan Going Mainstream in IT Products

Pakistan Launches 100 Mbps FTTH Access

Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

Pakistan's Software Prodigy

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Pakistan Graduation Rates Higher Than India's

Pakistan Conducting Research in Antarctica

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Higher Education Reforms in Pakistan

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Border Skirmishes Mar 67th Independence Day Celebrations in India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan are preparing to observe their 67th Independence Anniversary amid growing tensions at the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Kashmir region. The current dangerous escalation between two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors is a reminder of the 66-year old conflict rooted in continuing denial of basic rights to the people of Indian-held Kashmir.

Indian occupied Kashmir is described by the Guardian newspaper as "the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world." The paper adds: "With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killings fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet. In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the valley's 4 million Muslims are exposed to extra-judicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises".

Instead of acknowledging the reality of the world's most brutal occupation, the Indian government and media are engaging in whipping up anti-Pakistan hysteria to divert attention from it by periodically sparking border incidents with Pakistan.  There have also been violent protests orchestrated by Indian politicians outside Pakistani High Commission building in New Delhi. Such tactics raise the fears of escalation and obscure the core issue of Kashmir which underlies the tensions.

Pakistan's Women Rangers on Duty at Wagah Border

The rising Kashmir tensions and Pakistan-bashing help Indian politicians take the focus away from the daily indignities suffered by the ordinary Indians:

1. India as home to the world's largest population of poor hungry and illiterate people.

2. Multiple fierce insurgencies in North East, North West and Central India.

3. India's growing twin deficits,  falling rupee and shrinking GDP in USD terms. At current exchange rate, India's GDP is down to $1.66 trillion, more than $200 billion less than it was in Fiscal 2011-12.

4. India leading the world in open defecation.

5. Over 200,000 Indian farmers' suicides in the last ten years.

6. Tens of millions of  missing daughters in India.

7. India's high disease burdens and high rates of premature deaths.

Tensions initiated by India to divert attention from its problems also take Pakistan's focus away from its most pressing issues of domestic terrorism, economic crisis and energy shortages.

The result of it is that the ordinary people of the South Asian twins bear the brunt of the long festering problems which get in the way of improving their daily lives. As the two nations celebrate their Independence Day, it's time for their leaders to assess how much damage the continuing confrontation has done to both and resolve to end this conflict through sincere and sustained dialogue.

66 Years of Pakistan's Independence; Standoff in Islamabad from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Here's a video by Pervez Hoodbhoy putting Kashmir in context:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India Home to World's Largest Population of Poor, Hungry and Illiterates

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Farmers' Suicides in India

Are India and Pakistan Failed States?

Please Don't Forget Terror Victims

India's Shrinking GDP

Disease Burdens and Premature Deaths in South Asia

Indian Government and Media Whipping Up Anti-Pakistan Hysteria

Kashmir in Context

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Eid Mubarak; Please Don't Forget Terror Victims

Thousands have died in terror attacks around the world since last Eid-ul-Fitr. They are no longer with us. Tens of thousands have been orphaned, widowed or left disabled with serious bodily or brain injuries. In countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, almost everyone knows someone whose life has been devastated by extreme violence.

Focusing specifically on Pakistan, about 4000 people have died in terror attacks so far this year, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal. Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi are among the worst affected cities in Pakistan. Minorities, particularly Shias, have been singled out by Taliban's sectarian allies for the most vicious attacks in Quetta and elsewhere.

These figures do not include tens of thousands who have been injured, orphaned or widowed. Many families have lost all their possessions, homes and breadwinners. 

Pakistani security personnel, including soldiers and policemen, have paid with their lives in the line of duty for their fellow citizens. They are the unsung heroes of Pakistan who have received little recognition by the Pakistani leaders and the national media. An exception is a recent Associated Press news story which features several Pakistani soldiers who have lost their limbs or suffered brain injuries in fighting the Taliban.  Here are a few excerpts from it: 

Captain Qasim Abbas had finished a six-month stint fighting the Taliban close to the Afghan border and was heading home to get engaged when the militants struck, ambushing his convoy, pitching his vehicle off a 90-foot cliff and leaving him with brain injuries that make speaking and walking a daily battle. Abbas and the other soldiers recovering at Pakistan's only military rehabilitation hospital are a testament to the human toll from Pakistan's fight against Islamist militants. Their plight receives little attention from Pakistani politicians, possibly because they are afraid of associating themselves with an unpopular fight that many citizens see as driven by the United States. "Fight, fight, keep fighting," Abbas said slowly but with purpose when asked if he had a message for his colleagues still battling the Taliban. He raised his fist in the air to drive home his point.

Captain Kaleem Nasar was part of an operation elsewhere in the northwest in January of this year when he stepped on a bomb. The explosion blew off one of his legs, and the other had to be amputated below the knee. He visited the rehab hospital recently so doctors could work on his artificial limbs. Despite his injuries, he does not regret going to war against the Taliban and hopes he can return to active duty. "I am satisfied I have done something for my country," said the 27-year-old soldier. "If I can go back to that area and serve my country, God willing I will." 

But Waheed, the head of the hospital, is worried that Pakistani troops wounded in battle don't receive enough recognition in the country. None of Pakistan's civilian leaders or other politicians have visited the hospital in the five years he has been running it, he said. 'They need much more recognition because they have done so much sacrifice for the cause,' said Waheed. Waheed contrasted the lack of political attention in Pakistan with a visit he made to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. in April. He was there for only five days but saw a stream of officials and reporters come to the facility to meet with U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. 

Unfortunately, Pakistani news media have failed to shine the spotlight on individual human beings who have suffered terribly from the savagery visited upon them by the Taliban and their sectarian allies. The journalists  have reported on incidents of terrorism and the statistics of violence with little follow up on its consequences for victims' lives. They are failing to do their duty, as are the politicians who are refusing to own up the responsibility of protecting Pakistani citizens from the terrorists.  Pakistani religious leaders, too, are failing to remind the people of the huqooq-ul-ibad, their responsibilities for the well-being of their fellow human beings, especially during the month of Ramadan. 

As Pakistanis celebrate Eid this year, it's time for them to focus on the victims of terrorism. They should keep the victims of terror in their thoughts and prayers. More importantly, they should forcefully demand that the country's leadership discharges its fundamental responsibility of providing security to all of the citizens of the country regardless of sect, religion, political affiliation or ethnicity.  

Related Links:

The Prophet I Know

Is Ramadan Just a Break From Work?

Does Nawaz Sharif Have a Counter Terrorism Strategy?

Obama Hosts Iftar Dinner at White House

American Muslim Reality TV Breaks Stereotypes

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Muslim Santa Claus Commercializes Ramadan in Pakistan

"At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us Ramadan is a really special time so it's really important to make people happy and reward them." Aamer Liaquat Husain, Popular Televangelist and Show Host of Pakistan's GeoTV 

Aamer Liaquat Husain's Amaan Ramzan is the highest rated TV show in Pakistan. It attracts sponsor-ships and advertisements from successful companies in Pakistan which are willing to pay top dollars for a slice of its viewers' attention and business. These advertisers see the festive Ramadan and Eid season as crucial to boost their annual profits and sales.

Downplaying the commercial success of his show, Aamer Liaquat insists that "it is not commercialization, it is not showbiz. It is real Islam. I am the religious icon of television" according to an AFP report

Aamer Liaquat's show is no ordinary TV production. The show is set in a massive wedding hall at a Karachi hotel. It is bedecked with advertisements for a variety of products competing for space with pictures of camels and palm trees. Its a variety show featuring Islamic quizzes, Quran recitations, cooking, religious songs, and lots of prizes and Iftar dinner for over 500 guests, including hundreds of women and children. 

GeoTV  Host Aamer Liaquat (L) and  ARY TV Host Junaid Jamshed (R)
Prizes given away at  Geo's Amaan Ramzan show include consumer electronics, motorbikes, microwave ovens, washing machines and refrigerators. But eyebrows were raised around the world last month when Aamer Liaquat gave away an abandoned baby to a grateful childless couple on live TV. It was arranged by an NGO which insists that it followed the law. Critics called it a "publicity stunt" to boost show ratings. 

ARY TV, a competitor of Geo TV, has responded to Ramzan Aman show by its own show which features  Junaid Jamshed, a celebrity rock star who  gave up his singing career and grew a long beard as a sign of religious piety. 

Source: Aurora Magazine

Pakistan's rising middle class has helped spawn a mass media revolution in the country. It is driving consumer spending and advertising. Television ads capture 56% of total advertising revenue in Pakistan. TV ad revenue for 2011-12 added up to Rs. 21.6 billion (US $210 million), up 16% from the prior year, according to Dawn's advertising Aurora magazine. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class has expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future". Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to Bloomberg.  

Many in Pakistan cringe at the thought of crass commercialization of occasions like Eid and Ramadan both of which have special religious significance for Muslims. To me it is just an indication that the corporate-owned media business in Pakistan is evolving along the same commercial lines as its western counterparts have decades ago. It is, of course, a matter of grave concern to me and others who see the combined power of money and media as an unwelcome influence in shaping public opinion and government policies. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Rights in Ramadan

Is Ramadan a Break from Work?

Media Revolution in Pakistan

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Gangster Politicians of Pakistan

Gangs of Karachi

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is Imran Khan Presumed Guilty by Pakistani Supreme Court Judges?

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" asked Joseph N. Welch in responding to the accusatory US Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950s as part of the Army–McCarthy hearings.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry
The conduct of many ongoing hearings by Pakistani Supreme Court reminds me of the McCarthy era which is still remembered in America as a shameful period of  US history. It was characterized by an unrestrained Senator Joseph McCarthy who used his broad subpoena powers to order people to appear before the committee. The Senator and his colleagues then proceeded to insult and intimidate people who were presumed guilty of being communists by the committee.

McCarthy's victims included mostly innocent people from various walks of life including writers, authors, soldiers, journalists, government officials and politicians whose views were found to be unacceptable by the committee's rabidly anti-communist members. The committee's relentless pursuit of innocent victims began unravel with the questions asked by US Army counsel Joe Welch, a courageous man indeed.

Can Imran Khan be the man to do what Joe Welch did more than half century ago? Let's wait and see.

If Imran Khan does take a stand, he might find himself convicted of contempt of court and disqualified from holding any office for several years. However, Imran's defiance and punishment might actually help him divert attention from major governance failures in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. The most recent failure was a well-planned jailbreak by the Taliban of the Dera Ismail Khan. Hundreds of  hard-core terrorists freed in the jailbreak will now swell the Taliban ranks who will mount even more devastating attacks on innocent civilians in KP and elsewhere.  What is even more disturbing is that KP government failed to act in spite of early intelligence report warning of the attack.

For now, it seems that Imran Khan and his colleagues in PTI have their heads in the sand and failing to own responsibility to fight the terrorists. It's huge failure of leadership on their part.

It's taken five years for Imran Khan to realize that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has become "controversial" after the Arsalan case. The fact is that the reference filed by President Musharraf against Justice Chaudhry was mainly about his abuse of office to assist his son Dr. Arsalan Iftikhar.

Since Justice Chaudhry's restoration, he has continued to protect his son's corruption while he has pursued suo moto cases against many he dislikes.  He is an unelected and unaccountable judge who removed a duly elected prime minister from office in what is being called a judicial coup in Islamabad. In fact, it could be persuasively argued that the judiciary is now a bigger threat to democracy than the military.

Will it take another 5 years for Imran Khan to recognize the seriousness of the threat posed by the Taliban? It might be too late by then.

Some of Imran Khan's detractors have called him "Im the Dim" (naive and clueless) while others refer to him as "Taliban Khan" (allied with the Taliban). Only time will tell whether or which of these monikers fit the great Khan. It could be former, latter or neither.