Asher Gilani

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Benazir Bhutto…Welcome?

So a date has finally been set. Fireworks have crackled and mithai has been distributed among the more eager PPP stalwarts. It’s as if Eid were already here. Our ex-prime minister is finally on her way home.

Benazir Bhutto is a name that has done nothing short of creating waves across the media. Whether we love her or hate her, we can’t ignore her. That, and she has no qualms about making herself heard. Whether it was stridently announcing that Musharraf should make a public apology to the Chief Justice back in April, or recently denouncing the ban on Imran Khan’s return home, Benazir has never been afraid to express her opinion. Clearly, she doesn’t need to hold office of Prime Minister to make her presence felt.

And now, the ex-Prime Minister is homebound. But if we have learnt anything from recent events, we should know to be skeptical. How do we know Bhutto won’t be turned away by the Government once she arrives? Yes, the Government has pledged it won’t oppose her arrival. But it doesn’t take a cynic to know that that pledge has no guarantee. Zia-ul-Haq similarly ‘pledged’ to hold transparent elections within 90 days of imposing martial law back in the 70’s. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ‘promised’ the poor food, clothing and shelter when he took power. Even President Nixon promised the people of America that he would end the Vietnam War upon his election in 1968. None of these promises were met.

“Politics,” minister Chuadhry Shujaat Hussein is quoted to have said, “is like a game of cards in which sometimes you have to call bluff.” Yes; politicians lie. Governments can lie. Are we to blindly trust the Government to hold back this time? Certainly not.

But what about the general populace of Pakistan? Do we want her back? Some do trust Bhutto’s shrewd insight. We admire her dedication to a true democracy. But in today’s day and age, democracy is a vague ideal. Our first democratic Constitution in 1973 has systematically been amended, clipped, chopped and refuted. In our third world country, we no longer know what democracy is. She says she will commit herself to restoring democracy. But let’s not be naive. The only thing Benazir seems keen to restore back to position is her self. In a ‘you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours’ political maneuver, Benazir pledged to support Musharaff’s re-election…if he promised to withdraw all cases against her. But if she upholds Democracy as she claims, why would she consider negotiating with a military dictator?

And then of course, are the allegations that she has been corrupt. But then corruption, like democracy, is yet another vague term. It is used so lavishly – and readily – with politicians that we’ve become desensitized to the word. What does it mean to be corrupt? As with democracy, we just don’t know anymore.

The return of Benazir may be a God-send for many factions of Pakistan. Musharaff’s time bomb is ticking and is set to explode any second. As his popularity decreases, hers rises. As he fails to keep his promises, the people look increasingly towards Benazir to grant them the ideals of democracy and freedom. Yes, the word ‘Bhutto’ seems almost to be synonymous with the word ‘corruption’. But that certainly hasn’t stopped them from being popular!

“Fashion is a bourgeoisie pastime.” Benazir once said icily to an Indian reporter. Yes, Benazir has given us her share of memorable quotes. But will she give us democracy? Only time will tell.

Minal Khan

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14th August

The streets of Karachi light up with jubilation as a people are bound together. Flags mark each street corner , road and car whilst banners uphold the 60th anniversary of the nation. It is that special day of the year where people from different segments of society and walks of life are united with the zeal of patriotism. And perhaps just for one special moment , we are one people , one nation with one leader.

The Celebrations of August 14th mean a great deal to me. It reminds me of Jinnahs ever ambitious plan to create a secular state. However the thing we all must realize is that we do have a long way to go before fulfilling this dream. The one reason why muslims were compelled to demand a separate state was because of religious intolerance. The 1930’s Congress rule was a testimony to the oppression felt by many muslims from their Hindu counterparts in the government; an oppression they would continue to experience unless there would be drastic change in the system of government. 60 years on , our “secular” Pakistan still suffers from this kind of intolerance. Pakistan remains to be one of the only nations in the world where an individuals religion is branded on a passport. It is also the only nation that requires you to denounce a religious sect to obtain a passport. We are a nation plagued by religious fundamentalists who press for radical demands. Religion is really Opium for the masses and serves as the best vote-catcher in elections. Pakistan has deviated a long way from the course initially set out by the Qaid in 1947. In many ways we still await to liberate ourselves from this hopeless episode of theocracy. We can never taste the true freedoms of independence until this happens.

Perhaps a more significant independence in this context is the liberation of the subcontinent from the British Raj. The origins of this liberation date back to the revolt of 1857 after which the British stronghold over India began to crumble. The subsequent Independence 90 years later went a long way to show that the people of the subcontinent are a strong and worthy people who deserve their own space in the world. As both India and Pakistan continue to weather the odds , their economies develop and progress – the people of the subcontinent continue to prove their worth to the world. India and Pakistan not only exist as two independent nations , but they are key players in today’s political scenario. We have come a long way from our past history of subservience to the Western world and the white man. The nations of the subcontinent with their giant strides in the spheres of economics , world affairs and science have marked their place on the globe. We only await to emulate the glorious state of our Mughal past.

Behind the grandeur of those fluttering green flags , there is an underlying tone of a much needed reconciliation. It is important to remember that both nations worked tirelessly to secure their mutual independence from the British. Both Gandhi and Jinnah put tremendous effort into obtaining liberation from the British Raj which had gripped the subcontinent for over a century. The people of both nations must identify with this common goal that was once shared between the two nations. We must look back and remember that their was indeed a united struggle. It is vital that India and Pakistan put behind the Kashmir issue and develop better relations. Too many lives have been wasted settling old scores. The Jammu Kashmir issue must be dismissed from any further diplomatic negotiations between the two nations. The people of the subcontinent are one independent people

With events such as the Lal Masjid fiasco casting a dark shadow in the background , Pakistans future hangs in the balance. A nation torn apart between liberals and fundamentalists , democrats and dictators can only be described as chaotic at best. As the celebrations fizzle out and excitement dies down a glowing nation degenerates into its former self. Corruption , greed and indifference begin to slowly grip the darkening roads of Karachi once again. The time for thinking ahead and patriotism slowly evaporates. Religion and ignorance envelope the country like two sinister clouds. A storm awaits.

Shahryar Kamal Malik

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United Nations: The Only Security

This is a response to a previously written post, ‘United Nations: A False Security.’

Many have attacked the United Nations for its debilitating veto powers. Some may go so far as to cite examples of the failure of the United Nations. They may point to conflict torn regions such as Kashmir, Congo and Iraq. It is true that there cannot always be a consensus on affairs. It is also true that the United Nations was seemingly powerless at the brink of nuclear devastation in the form of the threat posed by the Cold War. However such critics fail to see the valuable contribution of the United Nations to our World.

To start with the United Nations goes further than its predecessor the League of Nations which faltered before the outbreak of war in 1939. History is not repeating itself because this new peace body has the essentials necessary to prevent conflict. The United Nations has a peace keeping force which is and has been active. We can consider the example of the peace forces going to enter Darfur alongside the African Union forces. The various peace patrol missions and skirmishes in Kashmir also compliment such claims. There efforts are concentrated against insurgents and warlords who promote further instability in these regions.

There would be no room for diplomacy and negotiation without the United Nations. The purpose of the organization is to unite nations by bringing them together in the form of council meetings and assembly style meetings. In other words nations are presented with a uniform viable platform for them to discuss matters of interest. This reduces the margin for misunderstanding and suspicion greatly. We’ve all seen the Cold War with the United Nations , but what we need to ask ourselves is could there be a Cold War without a United nations. Without effective communication the world would have slipped into the bowels of nuclear catastrophe. So when the allies sat down at Potsdam and Yalta in 1945 ;not only did they sow the seeds for a future Cold war , they set the boundaries for that very war by establishing the United Nations. They ensured that this war would never become too severe. They secured a Cold war – a word of wards and terror rather than weapons and confrontation.

The United Nations protects the very rights that we live by. It guarantees us the right of property, religion and self determination. We are protected by the International code and are given rights that no tyrant, dictator can rightfully deny us. The United Nations has prepared a more liberal, open world for us. We can breathe without the fear of some government robbing us of our rights and dignity. There is that assuring promise of someone above holding criminals accountable. And Indeed the The Hague in Holland serves as a court to international crimes. Terrorists such as Bin Laden are a concern for the international community at large rather than just one nation. On similar grounds intellectual property and patents are protected by the WTO, IMF and other such organizations. War criminals are brought before a court and held responsible for the various atrocities. A free world exists where justice and human rights is extended to all.

When we think about the United Nations we must embrace it as a savior and protector. It would be unfair to dismiss it as a biased puppet of any nation or regime. The U.N brings peace, justice and freedom to every corner of the globe. It links us and firms the bond of one people, one world and one struggle. We are bound together with love and respect for humanity. In my opinion there could be no greater service to mankind.

Shahryar Malik

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The Growing Divide

Over the last year the divide between Russia and the West has been steadily increasing. Matters have come to a head just recently when party leader Vladimir Putin suspended Russia’s involvement in the CFE agreement (Conventional Forces In Europe). This was a key post cold war settlement and Putin’s decision has been seen as a dangerous political message. It is quite obvious now that the brief meetings between Putin and President George Bush did not amount to much. Can we see the escalating situation as a renewed Cold war?

Whether or not we are seeing history repeat itself, a re-occurrence of “containment” or just some claims for equal treatment from Moscow; this matter is bound to have some serious repercussions. The United Nations Security council for one is going to fall victim to this new political episode. Important matters such as Iran, Korea and the future of Kosovo are currently being pressed through the UN negotiations. If Vladimir Putin’s aggression continues than we may see the re-emergence of the notorious and infamous Russian veto vote in the United Nations. The political stand off or stalemate as we may call it will only produce harmful effects which will hamper peace efforts in the United Nations. Having said this we must also be aware of the weakened state of the Russia.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the country shrunk in size, strength and power. It lacks the ability to play the war of words with the United States. This new aggressive Russia also lacks the much needed allies to pursue such a policy. However what we are seeing here is definitely a renewal of will. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Russia backed of from the political limelight. It focused more on cooperation with the West alongside peaceful co-existence.

As party matters collapsed into internal affairs with Boris Yeltsin and the following presidents – Russia’s problems became more internalized. The international scene became a smaller sphere of influence for Russian affairs. Now Russia stands up to the West for the first time, in a very long time. We find ourselves asking questions of the past. Can there once again be two power blocs? Will there be a balance of terror? Is this the beginning of a second Cold war?

Shahryar Malik

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The ‘Rushdie’ Attack

So how many of us have really read the book, ‘The Satanic Verses’? Yes, we’ve been told its ‘blasphemous’, we’ve read about it in the newspaper, maybe heard it mentioned at the dinner table. We all know it’s a ‘bad book’, but do we know why? No we don’t, and neither do the thousand or so street protestors in Iran and Pakistan. Chances are that they hadn’t even heard the name Salman Rushdie prior to this.

So what makes this book so ‘sacrilegious’, so heretic? Why is it condemned, banned, and denounced across the Muslim world? My answer to you is: I really don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s an opinion. An extreme opinion, I’ll give you that. But still an opinion. Charles I of England was executed for defying Parliament and instigating a civil war. Prime Minister Bhutto was hanged in the 1970’s against charges of rigging elections and plotting to kill his political opponents. You don’t issue a death sentence against someone for holding a perspective. There’s a word that describes such an act; it’s intolerance.

Despite this, one might (and rightly so) consider the fatwa a serious matter; one that should be looked into. After all, you don’t have every author being issued a death sentence against. Let us consider the basis of this fatwa. In 1989, Supreme Leader of the Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, calling for the assassination of Salman Rushdie. He deemed the assassination a ‘religious duty’ for Muslims. In other words, us Muslims were given a ‘license to kill’ the author because he was…well, blasphemous. Why then did Khomeini fail to issue a fatwa against a group of Iranian students that seized the United States embassy in Tehran, taking 63 American citizens as hostage in 1979? Why was no fatwa issued against them? Khomeini supported the hostage takers, declaring ‘America can’t do a damn thing.’ So when a fatwa is issued by a leader who sat back during an emergency crisis, one should only regard it in one light: by not taking it seriously.

But we have taken it to heart. We were outraged that Salman Rushdie was knighted. None of us considered his contributions to Literature, his great writing, the numerous awards he’s achieved for his work. We only kept the weighty fatwa in mind, a fatwa that is not binding, and has no basis. So he said something disparaging about Islam. He wasn’t the first one to do it. He certainly won’t be the last. There are many more cartoons to come! Will be issue a fatwa against them all? Or will we just bomb or murder them, like Van Gogh’s grandson was by a Dutch Muslim? The Chinese didn’t broadcast celebrations of the Year of the Pig recently. They did it because they didn’t want to offend the Muslim community. But ultimately, they did it because they were scared of how we would react. We’ve instilled fear not only in the Western world, by in our own neighbors. When does it stop?

The real deserver of a fatwa isn’t an Indian-born author with an opinion. It isn’t tourism minister Nilofer Bakhtiar for hugging her parachute instructor. It isn’t tennis star Sania Mirza for failing to adhere to the ‘Islamic dress code’. The real deservers are the instigators of violence; a fatwa should be declared against the AK-47 armed students of Lal Masjid, and the burqa-clad miscreants from Jamia Hafza.

Salman Rushdie is innocent. Let’s try dolling out death sentences to the real criminals.

Minal Khan

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My Little Green Notebook

“Stripped of my name and identity?
On soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Job cried out
Filling the sky:
Don’t make and example of me again!
Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don’t ask the trees for their names
Don’t ask the valleys who their mother is
From my forehead bursts the sward of light
And from my hand springs the water of the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!”

By Mahmoud Darwish

Today thousands of brilliant over–achievers are turned away from foreign education. At first they were denied their visa, now they are denied admission. The Pakistani passport is the deep cause of all of this. Events such as 9/11, 7/7 and Virginia Tech have made foreign applicants seem dangerous, and committed to spreading terror. Why should any university risk the lives of competent students and its prestige for a forgone conclusion? They cannot be blamed for having such simple concerns. It is policy makers of the day who have bred this new form of discrimination: The Green passport discrimination!

Although the long chapter of black discrimination and gender based discrimination have come to an end , one dangerous type of discrimination prowls the earth this form of discrimination to me really encompasses all forms of discrimination. It is a violent atrocity against justice and the bedrock of human rights. The deep green passport today serves as the labeling brand or chain any slave would wear before the abolition of slavery. Its effect is frighteningly similar to that of the star badge worn by the Jews prior to the holocaust. It has the alien like capability to horrify college admissions officers and customs officials. Whatever we may familiarize it with, it is bound to us. Not even tremendous efforts and funds can free us off this doom. It is our past, present and future. It is our curse.

The most ironic feature of this discrimination is that it comes from nations who have fought hard and long wars to free themselves from discrimination. The Western world has freed itself from the tyrannical communism. Now they fight wars for equality and democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. The history of this struggle dates back to the stories of female and black emancipation. My question here is simple, if wars have been waged against oppression and tyranny – why do these liberators turn their backs on this new genre of discrimination.

The crux of my argument lies on one key pillar. It is wrong to stereotype or generalize about nations and people. A simple green passport or one unified religion are not binding factors that bring people together to do the same deeds. This simple green color does no good in bridging the gap between the intellectual and civilized class of Pakistan with the fundamentalist and extremists such as the Mullahs and the Taliban. Why are we expected to posses the same beliefs, life experiences and influences just because of a shade of green.

I am neither afraid nor ashamed to carry a Pakistani passport. In fact I treasure it as my identity set out by Qaid-e-azam, The Muslim league and the struggle of the Indian Muslims. I prize my heritage and my culture. Pakistan was chartered to be a secular state. Why is it than that my passport reeks of Talibanization, fundamentalists and extremists. Each time I am honored with a customized checking at the airport terminal, it is a crime against the very bedrock of what my nation was built to stand for. I feel a mighty un-doing of our country and our great patriotic flag. Each time a green passport holder is randomly screened for possible weapons of mass destruction our flag deteriorates a little more. The green symbolizing peace fades to a violent aggressive red. The white outlining toleration flickers to a faint decayed brown of ignorance. And the marvelous crescent and star solidify into the skull and bones logo. The long and short of it is that the more we are discriminated on the basis of our passport, the more integrity we lose as Pakistanis committed to peace, tolerance and discipline. The more you blame someone for committing a crime, the more guilty he or she will feel. The effect is obvious here. As Pakistanis are condemned terrorists they will lose track of their true identity.

The world owes the Pakistani community an apology for its harsh stereotypical attitude. Just as illegal immigrants from Mexico and Haiti are pardoned for their violations; Pakistanis too must be forgiven for a crime they did not commit. As outlined true Pakistanis would never do such inhumane acts of violence. It is against the code of the nation on which the true identity of every Pakistani rests.

Shahryar Malik

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The New Great Game

Since the 19th century there has been a battle raging in Central Asia. Russia urged on by Napoleon fumbled for imperialist possessions in the region. In fact the Tsar and Napoleon came to an agreement to conquer and divide the world together. However the splendid British Raj in India was to play a pivotal role in Britain’s desire for the status quo in the region. Both super powers were therefore forced into a battle which has become famous as “The Great Game.”
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 a power vacuum has once again engulfed the region. There is an opening with key players such as the fundamentalist Taliban.

The U.S has tried to fill the gap as they see fit. The truth of the matter is that today’s current state of Afghanistan is really a legacy of the Cold War. The “Afghan Miracle” as we may call it here in Pakistan was a disastrous campaign for the Soviet Union. Funds were poured in from left right and centre to bolster the Taliban regime against the Russians. As the two new super powers confronted each other in the effort to install puppet regimes – a divided and un-stable Afghanistan began to emerge. This legacy would toil on for another century producing terrorism, war and conflict in the region. It was this very legacy that would give rise to the notorious Osama Bin Laden and guerrilla warriors of the Middle East. It’s surprising to me that when people talk about the end of the Cold War we always look back at the remains of the infamous Berlin Wall. What we all should be looking at instead is the situation in Afghanistan; right at our own doorstep.

There are many differences between the old great game and the new great game. The former was fought for glory and the quest for an Asiatic empire. However today’s great game is far pettier. Its motives lie in the abundance of oil and mineral deposits in the region. We have seen the game manifest itself in the U.S invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Were these countries really thriving with the alleged weapons of mass destruction or was there just another obvious power vacuum? One thing is for certain, the more the Bush administration commits itself to war in the region: more and more illiterate locals will be forced to take up arms in the form of terrorist plots and suicide bombings. The tragedy of September the 11th could not have happened without the attack on Afghanistan. Similarly the invasion of Iraq will only act as a fuelling agent in the force of anti-U.S global terrorism. It is a simple case of cause and effect.

The Afghani people share a common hatred for foreigners or “khar.” They could not tolerate the Russians for their atheist beliefs. How can we truly expect them to accept an American presence in their homeland when even Pakistanis are dismembered from the Afghan fraternity? My answer to this Middle Eastern problem is that the Afghani and Iraqi people should not be provoked further. Just like the once divided Berlin, this legacy too can only be solved with time and patience. If the Western world and the United States just back away from the region they will have more to gain than to lose. Peace and stability will descend upon a region which has been torn apart by chaos and turmoil for not decades but centuries. The Afghani people should be left alone to resolve their problem. If they choose to end up in a world veiled by Talibanisation than that is their choice in the free world. The United States government is walking a tight rope. It cannot afford to make any more enemies in the region with the imminent threat of Iran and the Uranium enrichment programme. So in a nutshell, if there is this “problem” in Afghanistan, it is a problem for Afghanistan and the Afghani people alone. Continued American presence in the region will only encourage and not deter terrorist factions.

In the end this new great game has created a very volatile Middle East. The issues of Israel/Palestine are spilling over into Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Gone are the days of isolated wars and battles between nations. The next major upheaval in the region will send a shockwave of domino effects through the region and at once all the powers big and small will be involved. There will be no more room for diplomacy with factions such as Al Qaeda, Hammas pushing matters to a head. There will be no room for peace negotiations. The cause will be long but forgotten and mankind will sprawl into a hopeless war where missiles and suicide bombings will rule supreme.

Shahryar Malik

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A Freer World

If Democracy means extending government for the people, by the people and a parliament aims for unanimous decision: should we really include those who limit the functions of a democratic process in a democracy? In every other third world country Islamic fundamentalists seem to be stemming the tide for reform and progress. They call for the full implementation of the Shariah or Islamic law. For them this is the sole approach to politics and the only way ahead. Recently the regime in Egypt is seriously considering the removal of Islamic fundamentalists from the parliamentary process. This might just be a wise decision.

The one essential thing we must understand about this position is that the Shariah law cannot be implemented in a modern day’s society. The full Shariah law in its entirety would call upon acts of punishments such as Stoning to death, castration and flogging. This can only be seen as crude and primitave rationale in the 21stcentruy. And if you may ask why refer to such punishments as un-fit, the answer is simple. Mankind has progressed beyond that stage in evolution. The French revolutionaries in 1789 marked a turn from the gruesome means of torture prevalent under absolutism. The revolution conceived the guillotine. Although this may seem horrible today, it was perhaps the most forgiving way to punish someone in that century. The iron blade would come clambering down on the criminal and within an an instant he was killed. Within an instant he was set free. Therefore humanity should not stand in oblivion to the progress they have so skillfully made over the centuries. We must accept developments and move with the times rather than idealize about turning back the clocks.

Islamic fundamentalism is a dangerous threat to regimes and coalition governments in the third world. It is almost tradition for each party to have at least some elements of fundamentalism on their agenda. This is particularly prevalent in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Both conservative and liberal parties appropriate Fundamentalism into their campaigns to boost popularity and support. The reason for this is evident. These countries have a narrow middle class electoral participation rate. With the majority of the lower groups of society remaining illiterate, it is only the religiously minded who jump to the call to give in their votes in the polls. Inevitably they chose to vote for the fundamentalists and their extremist propositions. Governments find themselves walking a tight rope. On one side they have their agenda and policy to consider. And on the other hand there remain those unfulfilled promises of bringing Islamic reform into the constitution.

These act as curbs on the entire government process. The government is forced to appease its poll supporters and cannot carry out simple policy. Even the most basic of reforms must be submitted for the approval of the fundamentalists. This makes us question as to who is really in power of the government. Martial law administrators are no exception to this. General Zia and General Pervez Musharraf have both followed a tight policy aimed at pacifying the fundamentalists. Terrorist cell activities and the works of A.Q khan have all been defended for this fundamentalist end.

When we hear pleas from Amnesty Internationals to Egypt to re-consider its move against fundamentalists we really wonder what the basis of their argument is. Are human rights being violated by banning fundamentalists from the parliament or are rights being violated by allowing them to be there.

Shahryar Malik FY

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The Israelli Paradox

Most people consider the new Middle-East a more stable region compared to that of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The changes in the balance of power in this geography have probably been the most significant developments of the last decade. However, it is likely that to this day the region remains as volatile as it was in the past, as claims one professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “Within the last nine years there has been an undeniable restructuring in the state of affairs of the Arab East, but the extent to which these changes have brought progress is difficult to evaluate… There still remains a Hegemonic Nuclear Israel surrounded by non-nuclear antagonistic Arab states”.

To suggest that the situation today is superior to that of ten years ago would be of little value, without investigating the Middle-East conflicts of 2006-2008. For that purpose I present a précis of where the world was headed almost a decade ago.

As the ‘War on Terror’ raged on it became evident that Iraq would not escape civil war. Former President of the United States of America George.W.Bush made one last attempt to stabilize the situation with an added 30,000 troops, raising the levels to 160,000. Unfortunately, the anarchy continued and the Americans remained unwilling to accept that their strategy of intervention had failed. No WMDs were ever found.

The end of the war correlated with the end of the Republican term in the White House and the beginning of the First woman President of the United States’ term, President Hillary Rodham Clinton. Furthermore, in 2006 the Israel-Lebanon conflict had left Israel reeling from its poor performance against Hezbollah. The country suffered further diplomatically when the President was put on open trial for allegations of sexual wrongdoing and ethical misconduct (a first in Israeli history).

In Lebanon civil strife had begun, the political party Hezbollah openly challenged the democratically elected government. The government remained defiant despite paralyzing strikes and the country continued to recover from damage done during the Israeli-Lebanese air-strikes.
In Palestine serious conflict broke out between the Hamas group (legitimately elected) and the Fattah group. The EU was keen to play an important role, and former President Jimmy Carter (Nobel Prize laureate) released the critically acclaimed book ‘Peace not Apartheid’, a significant stepping stone on the way to resolving the Palestinian conflict. The book later became a voice for the Palestinians in the international forum.

Today little remains the same. It wasn’t soon after Iran tried to develop its nuclear potential that the United States and its allies moved in to redraw the map of the Middle-East. In Clinton’s first year as president we saw the reorganization of the Iraqi state in to 3 sub-divisions, namely New Iraq, Greater Baghdad and Kurdistan. The divisions were made according to religious sects; the Sunnis hold majority in New Iraq and the Shias in Greater Baghdad, while the Kurds are the majority in Kurdistan. Many Middle-East analysts argue that this separation was unneeded as the violence almost completely came to an end with the withdrawal of the coalition forces. Today the three states share a common foreign policy and defensive strategy but have independent democratically elected rulers present. Today more visits are made by Greater Baghdad government officials to Iran, than to its neighboring country New Iraq. Today we see more segregation than ever before. “Ask the common man and he will tell you that even Saddam Hussein’s regime was better than this” says Middle-East analyst Riz Khan from the Al-Jazeerah network. Mr. Khan strongly believes that the Iraqis don’t actually like the state division but are apathetic towards it, as what they remember from before the division was much worse. At the least we must acknowledge that the Iraqi state federation is no longer in the shape it was in 2006.

Moving further west we have the second Israeli-Lebanese conflict in ten years. The Israeli government attacked the southern border of Lebanon in June 2009. It claimed its legitimacy over this attack as a hunt for terrorist organizations creating unrest in Tel Aviv.
Initially, Lebanon was carved out by the British in its de-colonization period. Since then there has been perpetual conflict between the two countries. This was the third attempt by Israel in the occupation of Lebanon’s southern territories and finally one that seems permanent. Greater Israel today comprises of territories once considered a large portion of Lebanon. 7 years after the conflict came to an end and no significant terrorist groups were uncovered, 30,000 Israeli troops still remain in the southern region bordering what remains of Lebanon today.

The greatest celebration in the Middle-East lay with the long awaited independence of Palestine, finally recognized by Israel. Some say that this had to do with mounting pressure from the EU. Others say it was because Israel had then recently captured significant Lebanese territory and felt it must give up one to gain the other permanently. Today the Palestinians share a legitimate seat in the U.N and although they celebrated independence officially in late 2009 there is still recognizable Israeli influence in respect to the military and administration, not allowing significant anti-Israeli elements to enter the Palestinian government.

Israel has undoubtedly been the largest cause of change in the Middle-East in the last decade. It was Israel that finally headed the anti-Iran military campaign. Although not done at ground level, it was Israeli pilots that were marked for actually having bombed the Iranian Nuclear Reactors. The unrest that followed was probably the worst to date and there is no doubt that today Iran is considered a member of the Axis of Evil ‘neutralized’ by the West. The Iranians on the other hand, will not forget this ‘injustice’ that easily, as their nuclear aims did not violate the rules and regulations of the NPT or the IAEA. We can rest assured that the passivity of the Iranians today will not last. Iran has had its Nuclear program completely dismantled and is going through the vestiges of the stringent U.N sanctions that have lasted almost six complete years.

Has the Middle-East become more stable in the last decade? The answer to that question lies in rather indirect factual information. Firstly, the United States enjoys a strong military base in the United Arab Emirates. A document was declassified last year claiming that they have a well-secured and stable energy policy in place. Secondly, Israel significantly dominates the region with no close competition. It seems Iran will never successfully develop a nuclear energy program as it has been classified as a rogue state. Thus by linking the causes to the initial instability in the region we can conclude that today there is little threat of war. A success in the form of Palestinian independence pacifies others that may have been a threat to peace. However, there is still no balance of power. Perhaps it is not possible to attain balance in the world’s most volatile region. “It won’t be soon till the Iranians retaliate, and then the Lebanese soon after that” says Riz Khan. “It’s only a matter of time”.

Eman Niazi FY

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A Sad Day for the World

I watched the news closely as it became clear that Saddam Hussein’s hanging was imminent. Charged for crimes against humanity and sentenced to death on one of the many allegations, he was hung on the 30th of December at the Khadamiyah intelligence centre in Baghdad at 6:00am. I woke up to see the Footage of Saddam, as he walked himself to the gallows, staring down the masked Men that surrounded him. This footage was then followed by clips of footage that portrayed Saddam at the pinnacle of his oppressive tyranny and the interviews of many Kurds celebrating his death, and a new beginning for Iraq.

It couldn’t have been further from the truth. There are no denying Saddam’s crimes and few will take the indefensible position of doing so. However, the situation in Iraq is one that deteriorates day by day, December now officially the worst month of the war since it began-the monthly death toll at its highest.

A minister from Saddam’s government appeared on Sky news within recent days and began his interview by stating that Saddam was a terrorist, but the current Prime Minister (Maliki) and cabinet that govern the country are no less than tyrants. “They are not politicians, they are businessmen getting rich on oil money” he said, as he was cut short by the Sky news correspondent. A figure known by few is that oil leaves the country at $ 18.00 a barrel to the United States and Britain, while international prices fluctuate in the sixties. Yet these statistics and others such as those about Iraqi casualties rarely hit our screens. Few know the real figure of Iraqi casualties since the war began, as numbers of Allied forces increase by the digit.

Many are criticizing the court for not following proper procedure in Saddam’s trial. The law states that in cases regarding capital punishment, a defendant may not be punished till he is trialed on all accounts. The trial was said to convict Saddam by the 27th of January. Yet it happened a month earlier, in what seems a hurried attempt to finish ‘unfinished business’ before the exit strategy is in place.

Libya announces 3 days of mourning, and a CNN middle-east analyst justifies the ‘lack of celebration’ or rather silence as a common norm amongst the Arab world. Another car bomb kills 30 in Kufa. Perhaps that’s why they are still quiet.

In this hour, watching footage of the man undoubtedly guilty of the deaths of over 180,000 Kurds I question if the world has ever so slightly progressed. France used a similar foreign strategy in the 1700’s, invading countries on account of ‘defending the homeland’ and establishing a republic so that the people of that country could enjoy the basic freedoms they deserved. Napoleon had the King of Spain executed at the steel scaffold like a common criminal in front of thousands, promising a brighter future to the people. The French soon had to leave Spain, just like the Americans and the Brits will soon leave Iraq. One questions that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Iraqi people, as the anarchy continues and the tyrant is executed a martyr on the holy day of Eid.

Extracts from Saddam’s hand written letter after being convicted of the death sentence:

“Here I offer myself in sacrifice. If God almighty wishes, it [my soul] will take me where he orders to be with the true martyrs, If my soul goes down this path [martyrdom] it will face God in serenity……..I call on you not to hate because hate… makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking. I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us.”

“Dear faithful people,” Saddam added, “I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any honest believer.”

Eman Niazi FY

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