Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nidal is Muslim But Breivik is Not Christian?

Taking his cues from the usual Hindu Nationalists' anti-Muslim rhetoric, Norwegian terror suspect Anders Breivik believed there were conspiracies to suppress evidence of a “Hindu genocide” in India. In support of this contention, he quoted verbatim from a Hindu conspiracy theory website in his manifesto, one of many Indian websites that he cited and quoted from, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A Christian Science Monitor report said that a Hindu nationalist leader B.P Singhal, while condemning the shooting, didn’t condemn Mr. Breivik’s ideas. The Monitor quoted Singhal as saying, “I was with the shooter in his objective, but not in his method.”

Singhal was quick to add that he has not corresponded with Breivik, nor does he see much need for alliances to counter Islam’s spread.

The Hindu Nationalists are not alone in distancing themselves from Anders Breivik. It's interesting to see how the Muslim-hating Christian Right in America is also trying to distance itself from the Oslo killer. It's the same people who routinely blame the entire Muslim faith for the violent actions of a few who claim to be Muslim.

For example, Fox Cable TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly has said it was “impossible” that Breivik is Christian just because he claimed to be one. John Stewart took the opportunity to catch O’Reilly's hypocrisy in a recent episode of his popular Daily Show, pointing out that O'Reilly was quite comfortable calling Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting, a “Muslim terrorist” because he had a business card that said “Soldier of Allah.”

“See. That guy printed up a "Soldier of Allah" business card. The other guy only printed up an "Army of Christ" manifesto,” Stewart said on his Daily Show. “I guess the only connection is both psychos, for some reason, spent the day at Kinko’s.”

Stewart concluded by offering that "the Fox News rapid-response team distinguishes violence in the name of a religion from the practitioners of that religion -- as long as it's Christianity".

Here's a video clip of The Daily Show With John Stewart on the subject:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Norway Terrorist Inspired By Hindutva Rhetoric

Islam 101 According to FBI Guide

Exposing King's Hypocrisy

Saudi Funding Hate in America

Radical Hindu Government in Exile in Israel

Hindu Nationalists Admire Nazis

Can India Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

Israeli Approval Ratings Highest in India

India's Washington Lobby Collaborates with Israel Lobby

Enraged Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf

Gandhi Opposed Creation of Israel

Hitler Memorabilia Attracts Young Indians

Hindutva Terror Can Spark Indo-Pakistan War?

India-Israel-US Axis

India's Israel Envy\

Anders Breivik's Manifesto

Eropol Terror Stats 2011 Report

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

India- The World's Biggest Oligarchy?

Is India an oligarchy controlled by its 55 recently-minted billionaires whose wealth equals one-sixth of their country's GDP?

The answer to this question came when, as part of India's 2G scandal revelations, the Billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani was quoted as bragging that the ruling Congress Party is "Apni Dukan" (our shop), implying that he owns the ruling party. The scandal also produced evidence of collusion of India's corporate-owned mainstream media in their deliberate attempts to impose a blackout on the whole affair until it was finally broken by the relatively obscure Open magazine.

Here's an excerpt from today's New York Times story that captures the essence of crony capitalism and the rise of Indian oligarchy as being among the world's largest:

"India’s billionaires control a considerably larger share of the national wealth than do the superrich in bigger economies like those of Germany, Britain and Japan. Among the Indian billionaires included on the most recent Forbes rich list, a majority have derived their wealth from land, natural resources or government contracts and licenses, all areas that require support from politicians."

Among India's powerful billionaires, the New York Times story particularly features Gautam Adani whose cozy relationship with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has made him the tenth richest man in India. It says that "Mr. Adani has benefited from various governmental approvals and also bought coastal land from the Gujarat government at very low prices — in one instance paying as little as $540 an acre. Once he completed infrastructure, Mr. Adani sold land at a handsome profit to corporations locating inside the economic zone, including one parcel to Indian Oil Corporation, a state-owned firm, for $54,000 an acre."

The New York Times compares India's new billionaires with America's robber barons during the Gilded Age, a period of rapid economic growth which preceded the deep depression of 1893-1897.

The extraordinary power and influence of India's super rich has played out to the detriment of ordinary Indians who make up the world's largest population of poor, hungry, illiterate and sick people. It poses a serious challenge to India's democracy, often claimed as the world's largest, to meet the very basic needs of its people in whose name the rulers supposedly govern the country. It also raises the specter of significant social strife which could spark a bloody revolution shaking the Indian society to its core.

Back in 1988, Pakistani economist Dr. Mahbub ul Haq said that "our system has all the worst features of oligarchy and democracy put together." It now appears that India's system today is not much better than Pakistan's which has less inequality between the rich and the poor.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's 2G Scandal

Bloody Revolution in India?

Is There a Threat of Oligarchy in India?

Political Patronage in Pakistan

India at Davos 2011: Story of Corruption and Governance Deficit

Challenges to Indian Democracy

India After 63 Years of Independence

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway Nazi Breivik's Hindutva Rhetoric

It appears that the Norwegian white supremacist terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto against the "Islamization of Western Europe" has been heavily influenced by the kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric which is typical of the Nazi-loving Hindu Nationalists like late Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906-1973), and his present-day Sangh Parivar followers and sympathizers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who currently rule several Indian states. This Hindutva rhetoric which infected Breivik has been spreading like a virus on the Internet, particularly on many of the well-known Islamophobic hate sites that have sprouted up in Europe and America in recent years. In fact, much of the Breivik manifesto is cut-and-pastes of anti-Muslim blog posts and columns that validated his worldview.

"It is essential that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible. Our goals are more or less identical," Breivick wrote in his manifesto. The Christian Science Monitor has reported that "in the case of India, there is significant overlap between Breivik’s rhetoric and strains of Hindu nationalism – or Hindutva – on the question of coexistence with Muslims. Human rights monitors have long decried such rhetoric in India for creating a milieu for communal violence, and the Norway incidents are prompting calls here to confront the issue."

Hindu nationalists in India have a long history of admiration for Adolf Hitler, and his "Final Solution". In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) wrote, "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." (We, p.35/p.43)

Here's an excerpt from an Express Tribune story on Norwegian terror suspect Breivik's anti-Muslim manifesto:

"While Breivik’s rhetoric against Muslim immigration into Europe is not unusual, he cites many names that might be familiar to Pakistanis, including Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, as well as prominent human rights activist Hina Jilani and Dawn columnist Irfan Hussain.

He seems to believe that Iqbal, in particular, was sympathetic to communism and views multiculturalism as a Marxist concept. He quotes Iqbal as saying “Islam equals communism plus Allah.”

Breivik also claims that Pakistan is systematically annihilating all non-Muslim communities. He claimed that Hindu girls are being forced to convert to Islam in Sindh. In this context he even quotes Hina Jilani as saying: “Have you ever heard of an Indian Muslim girl being forced to embrace Hinduism? It’s Muslims winning by intimidation.”

He goes on to describe the situation for Christians in Pakistan as being no better, citing Father Emmanuel Asi of the Theological Institute for Laity in Lahore as saying in 2007 that Pakistani Christians are frequently denied equal rights.

Jamaat-e-Islami founder Abul Ala Maududi is also quoted in the manifesto, though in a manner that would imply that the stated objective of an Islamic state is to kill or subdue all non-Muslims around the world.

Breivik seems to be a fan of Daily Times columnist Razi Azmi, whom he calls “one of the more sensible columnists of Pakistan”. He mentions one of Azmi’s pieces where the columnist asks whether it was possible to imagine a Muslim converting to Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism in a Muslim country, using it to support his view of Islam as an intolerant religion.

He also cites Dawn’s Irfan Hussain’s column criticising Hizb u-Tahrir’s vision of a caliphate.

His ire against Pakistanis and Muslims seems to have at least partial origin in personal experience. He speaks at length about his childhood best friend, a Pakistani Muslim immigrant to Norway who, despite having lived several years in Europe still appeared to resent Norway and Norwegian society. “Not because he was jealous… but because it represented the exact opposite of Islamic ways,” Breivik conjectures.

The inability of Muslim immigrants to assimilate into European society seems to bother him, which he blames on Muslim parents not allowing their children to adopt European ways. He also asks why Muslim girls are considered ‘off-limits’ to everyone, including Muslim boys, and why Muslim men view ethnic Norwegian women as ‘whores’.

He also seems to believe that the Muslims in Europe who collect government benefits view it as a form of jizya, a medieval Islamic tax charged on non-Muslim minorities."

Today, the Internet is swarmed by many hateful Hindu Nationalist posters who liberally quote from Islamophobic blogs and hate sites like Gates of Vienna and Jihad Watch.

Golwalkar died in 1973. But Nazi memorabilia, including Adolf Hitler's biography Mein Kampf, are continuing to grow in popularity in India, according to the BBC. The marketing chief of Crossword, a national chain of book stores in India, told the BBC that Mein Kampf has "been a consistent bestseller for us."

At Mumbai bookstores located in upscale neighborhoods, the Hitler book sales have risen sharply from 40-50 copies a year to several hundred copies annually in each store. It's not just the autobiography - books on the Nazi leader, T-shirts, bags, bandanas and key-rings are also in demand. A shop in Pune, called Teens, says it sells nearly 100 T-shirts a month with Hitler's image on them.

In the United States, Charles Johnson is among the first post-911 bloggers who have inspired other "anti-Jihadists" to join the blogosphere, including people like Pamela Geller who led the Islamophobic campaign against what she calls "Ground Zero Mosque", and Johnson helped broaden the audience for blogs like Gates of Vienna and Jihad Watch. Hindu Nationalists regularly post comments on some of these sites and frequently quote from them on other websites to promote their anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agendas.

After the tragedy in Oslo, however, Johnson is worried that his "anti-Jihadist" blogging campaign has inspired various violent xenophobic and extremist groups to promote their own agendas. He now says that these bloggers have "blood on their hands." He is quoted by Slate magazine as saying: "I don’t think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore. It’s all a bunch of kooks. I’ve watched some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts."

Here's a video clip about Hindutva inspired terrorism in India:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Radical Hindu Government in Exile in Israel

Hindu Nationalists Admire Nazis

Can India Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

Israeli Approval Ratings Highest in India

Europol's TE-Stat 2011 Terrorism Stats

India's Washington Lobby Collaborates with Israel Lobby

Enraged Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf

Gandhi Opposed Creation of Israel

Hitler Memorabilia Attracts Young Indians

Hindutva Terror Can Spark Indo-Pakistan War?

India-Israel-US Axis

India's Israel Envy

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Pakistan's economy is suffering from stagflation, a very unhealthy combination of very slow growth and high inflation, since 2008. These three years have also seen significant turnover in the nation's top economic management team.

Pakistan is now on its third finance minister, Dr. Hafeez Shaikh, in three years. Mr. Shahid Kardar, the third central bank governor since 2008, has just quit amid serious policy differences with the PPP-led government. Kardar is the second central bank governor to leave in just over a year and the third senior policymaker to quit in less than 18 months. During this period, the IMF has also suspended its loans to Pakistan on concerns about lack of progress on budget deficit reductions through revenue enhancements committed by the government in 2008.

"Differences of opinion on policy actions and on the implementation of certain directions that I, in my best judgment, did not consider to be judicious have compelled me to resign from office," Kardar told Reuters in response to questions about the reason for his resignation less than a year after he was appointed.

"Such differences are impeding the State Bank from discharging its mandate to safeguard its own integrity and autonomy, to ensure prudent conduct of monetary policy and to maintain the safety and stability of the banking system."

In simple terms, the biggest problem Mr. Kardar had with the government was sustained and excessive borrowing from the central bank to fill the large gap between revenue and spending. This has fueled inflation, and made a mockery of the central bankers' tight monetary policy. Rather than accept the advice of his own team of experts, it seems that President Zardari has essentially been following his own economic policy of "print the notes", a quote attributed to Mr. Zardari by the New York Times in a 2008 story.

In February 2010, there were rumors that the ruling PPP politicians, particularly President Zardari and his inner circle, ignored former Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin's key recommendations to address the acute power shortages in the country. Zardari's insistence on pushing rental power projects, rather than fix the huge circular debt problem in the energy sector first, specially frustrated the outgoing finance chief, when he first reportedly threatened to quit 2009.

To put it all in perspective, let's recall how late Dr. Mahbub ul-Haq, the renowned Pakistani economist who is credited with the idea of UNDP's human development index (HDI), explained the corrosive impact of political patronage on economic policy in Pakistan.

In a 10/12/1988 interview with Professor Anatol Lieven of King's College and quoted in a recent book "Pakistan-A Hard Country", here is what Dr. Haq said:

"Growth in Pakistan has never translated into budgetary security because of the way our political system works. We could be collecting twice as much in revenue - even India collects 50% more than we do - and spending the money on infrastructure and education. But agriculture in Pakistan pays no tax because the landed gentry controls politics and therefore has a grip on every government. Businessman are given state loans and then allowed to default on them in return for favors to politicians and parties. Politicians protect corrupt officials so they can both share the proceeds.

And every time a new political government comes in they have to distribute huge amounts of state money and jobs as rewards to politicians who have supported them, and short term populist measures to try to convince the people that their election promises meant something, which leaves nothing for long-term development. As far as development is concerned, our system has all the worst features of oligarchy and democracy put together.

That is why only technocratic, non-political governments in Pakistan have ever been able to increase revenues. But they can not stay in power for long because they have no political support...For the same reason we have not been able to deregulate the economy as much as I wanted, despite seven years of trying, because the politicians and officials both like the system Bhutto (Late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) put in place. It suits them both very well, because it gave them lots of lucrative state-sponsored jobs in industry and banking to take for themselves or distribute to their relatives and supporters."

To summarize, there is insufficient revenue collected by the state of Pakistan, and the diversion of this very limited revenue to political patronage fosters dependence on foreign aid and impinges on the nation's sovereignty. It also seriously harms Pakistan's ability to invest in education, health care and infrastructure development in terms of school and hospital buildings, roads, rails, and water and energy projects for Pakistan's future.

Discussing the politics of patronage in Pakistan, Professor Lieven, the author of "Pakistan-A Hard Country", sees a silver lining to it by describing the difference between Nigeria and Pakistan in the following words:

"Rather than being eaten by a pride of lions, or even torn apart by a flock of vultures, the fate of Pakistan's national resources more closely resembles being nibbled away by a horde of mice (and the occasional large rat). The effect on the resources, and on the state's ability to do things, are just the same, but more of the results are plowed back into the society, rather than making their way straight to bank accounts in the West. This is an important difference between Pakistan and Nigeria, for example."

I personally see no better explanation for the boom under President Musharraf in 2000-2007, followed by current economic crisis since 2008, than the prevailing system of political patronage continuing to trump good public policy almost 23 years after late Dr. Mehboob ul Haq described it so well.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin Resigns

Musharraf's Legacy

US Fears Aid Will Feed Graft in Pakistan

Pakistan Swallows IMF's Bitter Medicine

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Power and Patronage in Pakistan

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saudi Prince Funding Hate in America?

The cynical exploitation by Rupert Murdoch of the extraordinary power of his media empire has received much attention in parts of the British press recently. The reports in media outlets not owned by News International show how Mr. Murdoch influenced British elections, intimidated top politicians, bribed government officials, and made a lot of money doing it. However, there has been little talk about Saudi Prince Walid Bin Talal, the News Corp biggest shareholder, who is at least partly responsible for funding Murdoch owned media's hateful agenda against Muslims and other minority groups in America and elsewhere.

Murdoch's Fox News is home to some of the most bigoted TV hosts in the United States. Recently, Fox News Cable channel took the lead in promoting an Islamophobic campaign of hysteria against what it calls the "ground zero mosque" project, also known as Park 51, in New York City. The fact is that "ground zero mosque" is not at ground zero. Nor is it just a mosque. It’s in fact an Islamic cultural center containing a prayer room.

One of the main rallying points pushed by Fox News against the proposed project has been the possibility of partial Saudi funding of it. Such an objection is clearly hypocritical given the fact that Fox News itself is partly funded by Saudi Prince Walid as a major investor, as are some other large US media corporations, including Walt Disney which owns ABC, and Time Warner which owns CNN.

The relationship between Murdochs and Prince Walid is quite close. According to a December 2009 Variety article, Rupert Murdoch struck a deal giving News Corp. a 10 percent stake in Al-Waleed's media conglomerate, Rotana. Variety reported that the deal "deepens the strategic partnership between Rupert Murdoch and Prince Waleed, who is a substantial investor in News Corp." and that Fox and Rotana "have a long-standing relationship."

As the News International cell phone hacking scandal has unfolded in Britain, Prince Walid has now also emerged as one of the biggest defenders of the Murdochs. The Prince has been quoted by the BBC as saying about Rupert and James Murdoch: "Speaking of my dealings with them there has been nothing but high ethics for the past 20 years."

The current revelations about the behavior of Murdoch's media operations in the UK are now beginning to raise questions of similar practices by the company in the United States and elsewhere. There are reports that News Corporation newspapers tried to obtain phone records of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001. I hope a serious criminal investigation by the US Justice Dept into these allegations will also help expose the venal nature of The News Corp and its cynical strategy to get high ratings for profit by promoting hate against minority groups in America.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Exposing King's Hypocrisy

FBI Entrapping Young Muslims

Duke University Study on Muslim Americans

How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation

Early Anthrax Probe of Pakistani-Americans

Violence Against Indians in Australia

First Haji in US Congress

Inside the Mind of Times Square Bomber

Home-grown Terror Plots Seen as FBI Entrapment

Milgram's Experiments on Obedience to Authority

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pakistan Building 1000 MW Wind Farms

Pakistan is prepared to approve a Norwegian company’s plan to build a 150-megawatt wind farm, the first part of a $1 billion plan that could boost by a third the announced capacity for clean-energy power plants, according to Bloomberg News. Joar Viken, the CEO of NBT, a Norwegian company focused on building wind farms in China, Norway and Pakistan, said he plans to tap financing for his project from one of three Chinese turbine makers that his company is talking with about supplying machinery for the facilities in Pakistan.

Wind Farm at Jhimpir, Sindh, Pakistan

Pakistan has about 1000 MW of wind power plants at various stages of planning and construction, and another 498.5 megawatts of wind programs announced, mostly in Jhimpir, Gharo, Keti Bandar and Port Qasim wind corridors along the Arabian Sea coast in Sindh. The output from these plants will provide much-needed additional power for Pakistan, improve the country’s energy security, and lower reliance on natural gas and furnace oil. It is estimated that the Gharo to Keti Bandar corridor alone could produce between 40,000 and 50,000 megawatts of electricity, says Ms. Miriam Katz of Environmental Peace Review who has studied and written about alternative energy potential in South Asia.

Pakistan's First 2.5 MW Nordex Wind Turbine in Sind 

Other major wind energy projects in Pakistan include American AES Corporation's 150 MW farm, Turkey's Zorlu Enerji Electrik Uretim's 56 MW farm, and Pakistan's FFC Energy's 50 MW farm.

Pakistan is fortunate to have something many other countries do not, which are high wind speeds near major population centers, according to data published by Ms. Katz .

Near Islamabad, the wind speed is anywhere from 6.2 to 7.4 meters per second (between 13.8 and 16.5 miles per hour). Near Karachi, the range is between 6.2 and 6.9 (between 13.8 and 15.4 miles per hour).

In Balochistan and Sindh provinces, sufficient wind exists to power every coastal village in the country. There also exists a corridor between Gharo and Keti Bandar that alone could produce between 40,000 and 50,000 megawatts of electricity, says Ms. Katz who has studied and written about alternative energy potential in South Asia. Given this surplus potential, Pakistan has much to offer Asia with regards to wind energy. In recent years, the government has completed several projects to demonstrate that wind energy is viable in the country. In Mirpur Sakro, 85 micro turbines have been installed to power 356 homes. In Kund Malir, 40 turbines have been installed, which power 111 homes. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) has also acquired 18,000 acres for building wind farms.

In addition to high wind speeds near major centers as well as the Gharo and Keti Bandar corridor, Pakistan is also very fortunate to have many rivers and lakes. Wind turbines that are situated in or near water enjoy an uninterrupted flow of wind, which virtually guarantees that power will be available all the time. Within towns and cities, wind speeds can often change quickly due to the presence of buildings and other structures, which can damage wind turbines. In addition, many people do not wish for turbines to be sited near cities because of noise, though these problems are often exaggerated.

Pakistan has a goal to generate at least 5 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030, according to Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB). Last year, 53 percent came from natural gas, 30 percent from oil and the rest from coal, nuclear and hydropower, according to data from BP Plc. The London-based oil company didn’t measure any sources of renewable energy there.

The country’s electricity shortfall reaches as much as 3,628 megawatts per day, according to demand-supply data available on the ministry of power and water website.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Launches Wind Farm Projects

Renewable Energy to Solve Pakistan's Electricity Crisis

Electrification Rates By Country

Wind Turbine Manufacturing in Pakistan
Pakistan Pursues Hydroelectric Power Projects

Solar Energy for Sunny Pakistan
Wind Power Tariffs in Pakistan

Pakistan's Twin Energy Shortages

Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technology

Renewable Energy for Pakistan

Abundant Cheap Electricity From Pakistani Coal

Pakistan Policy on Renewable Technology

Sugarcane Ethanol Project in Pakistan

Community Based Renewable Energy Project in Pakistan

Friday, July 8, 2011

Land For Landless Women in Pakistan

The PPP-led Sindh government is granting over 212,864 acres of government-owned agriculture land to landless peasants in the province.

Over half of the farm land being given is prime nehri (land irrigated by canals) farm land, and the rest being barani or rain-dependent. About 70 percent of the 5,800 beneficiaries of this gift are women. Other provincial governments, especially the Punjab government have also announced land allotment for women, for which initial surveys are underway, according to ActionAid Pakistan.

The land is high-risk government land that runs alongside rivers and tributaries. It was previously designated as government-owned flood runoff, but was used by local landlords.

The initiative includes various RSPs (Rural Support Programs) to develop support packages for availability of water and other inputs such as seed and fertilizer. Depending on geographic contiguity, the beneficiaries will be organized in cooperative mode for enabling them to access agricultural implements, farm machinery and micro credit on collective basis. The government will provide support for at least a period of two years through an institutional support mechanism for enabling each household to move to a level where they are able to generate sustainable living.

Here are the stories of how the lives of two women beneficiaries of land distribution are changing for the better as reported by various media:

Oxfam Report:

Mother of five, Sodhi Solangi, can’t stop smiling as she shows me her new eight acre plot of land. Cotton crops are growing and, a little further away, building work is almost finished on a large new house overlooking the fields where her family will soon settle.

Just a few years ago, 42 year old Sodhi, who lives in Ramzan Village, Umerkot district, in Sindh, Pakistan, was landless. She and her husband used to work on others’ lands, earning a share of the crops as payment. Daily life was a struggle.

“We often had problems”, Sodhi recalled. “Sometimes we had money, sometimes not. It was very hard for us. We’d spend all our days working on someone else’s farm and our children would be at home.

“We wore torn clothes. But now things are very different. When you like something, you can go out and buy it. Before, we would have to ask the landlord to give us money if we wanted anything, but now we have money in our hands and we can buy things whenever we want.”

“Now we have our own land and are working on our own land. It feels so good when we work there. When we used to work for others, we would have to drag ourselves there.”

Her family’s luck changed when Sodhi was awarded eight acres of land, under a programme run by Sindh’s provincial government, which in 2008 began redistributing swathes of state-held land to landless women peasants. The landmark scheme was an attempt to lift more people out of poverty in the province, where more than two-thirds of the population work the land, but where bonded labour is still widely practiced and most land is still held by wealthy and political influential elites.

Sohdi and her family grew wheat and cotton on their new land. And they managed to earn enough profit to buy another eight acres.

“We were so happy when we go our land. Now, things are so different”, said Sodhi. “Whenever we want to eat anything, we can just buy it. Before, we used to eat dal and potatoes. Now we can buy all sorts of things – mangos, even chicken.”

“Everyday, we have a lot of food. It’s like a festival of food for us every time!” she said, laughing.

Christian Science Monitor:

When the fields are cleared, Nimat Khatoon, a 50-something peasant farmer who has worked for the wealthy owner of these fields since her childhood has something worth the wait: a four-acre slice of land to call her own.

"It's something I couldn't dream of seeing in my lifetime. We're so happy," she says with a toothy grin, as her children play around her home made of wooden slats and a thatched roof.
Khatoon's family still owes some 40,000 rupees ($470) to the landlord her family has worked under for generations – a princely sum, which could still take another year to clear – though thanks to her newly acquired land, she's hopeful that for the first time ever, the cycle of debt won't begin afresh next year.

As expected, the rich landlords are fighting back by making threats of violence and by filing legal challenges via local peasants in their employ, to take back land that was in their de facto control. Sharaeefa Gulfazar, a recipient of 4.5 acres of land, told Oxfam's Caroline Gluck: “The landlord sent officials to threaten the women here saying, "We will destroy your homes and take your tractors". He also threatened to send the police to our home”.

The women, however, are also receiving help from various NGOs and activist groups to assert their rights. An example of this is Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI) who are fighting through the courts for the women.

Farm land has long been the main source of wealth in rural Pakistan, and the allocation of land to women is a powerful symbol of women empowerment. Genuine implementation of the good intentions of the Sindh government initiative is an absolute must to send a message in patriarchal society that women deserve higher status in society to ensure a brighter future for all of Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Status of Women in Pakistan

Pakistan's Rural Economy

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance in Pakistan

Ode to Feudal Prince of Pakistan

Who Owns Pakistan?

Pakistan: Helping the landless become landowners

Feudal Slavery Survives in South Asia

Owning Land is a Distant Dream For Many

Agriculture and Textiles Employ Most Indians and Pakistanis

Female Literacy Lags Far Behind in South Asia

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pakistan Demographic Trends Worry MQM

Why did the Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) react so strongly to the PPP's aggressive stance in the recent Azad Kashmir elections that it decided to pull out of the ruling coalition? Why has the MQM leadership replaced "Mohajir" with "Muttahida" in its name? Why is the MQM so eager to expand its base from the exclusively Urdu-speaking urban Sindh to other provinces and regions?

To answer these questions, let's look at the changing demographics in the energy-rich Sindh province. A combination of rapidly declining birth rates of mohajirs and the rising tide of migration of northern pathans into urban Sindh is causing increasing concern among the leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) about their party's future as an ethnic and regional political force. This concern has been further reinforced by the influx of new Pathan and Sindhi migrants into Karachi after the massive 2010 floods.

Pakistan's National Census data from 1981 and 1998 showed that the proportion of Urdu-speaking Muhajir population in Sindh declined from 24.1% to 21%. During the same period, the Sindhi-speaking population of Sindh rose from 55.7% to 59%, with the rest made up of Pathans and Punjabis. Given their higher level of education and consequently lower birth rates, it is expected that the 2011 national census now underway will show the proportion of Urdu-speakers in Sindh will go down still further to below 20%.

In his recently published book "Pakistan-A Hard Country", Professor Anatol Lieven of London's King's College has described Mohajirs as passionately believing in "Muslim nationalism on which Pakistan had been founded, and for the sake of which they had sacrificed so much."

I think we should all, including MQM, take serious notice of the above description of the native Urdu-speakers (aka Muhajirs) in Pakistan.

If MQM is really serious about appealing across ethnic lines to become a truly national force, it needs to start by genuinely reaching out to all ethnic groups in Karachi, a cosmopolitan urban center which represents a true microcosm of all of Pakistan.

I also think that MQM's genuine pursuit for the mantle of a national party should, therefore, be seen as a positive rather than a negative. It should be supported by all those who believe in a united and harmonious Pakistan which helps every Pakistani, regardless of ethnicity, achieve his or her dream of peace and prosperity as one people striving to make Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Pakistan a reality.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Needs More Gujaratis?

Karachi Tops World's Largest Cities

An Indian's View of Iqbal, Jinnah and Pakistan

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performace

Eleven Days in Karachi

Citymayors website

Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia

Energy-rich Sindh Province

Karachi: The Urban Frontier

Do Asia's Urban Slums Offer Hope?

Orangi is Not Dharavi

Climate Change Could Flood Karachi Coastline

Karachi Fourth Cheapest For Expats

Karachi City Government

Karachi Dreams Big

Pakistan Census 2011

Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

High Cost of Failure to Aid Flood Victims

World Memon Organization

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia