Archive for category Politics
By M. S. Najam FY-W
We, as a nation, are obsessed with conspiracy theories. It’s become our national pastime. It’s fashionable to attribute everything from the floods to the cricket scandal to a global conspiracy against Pakistan.
It’s suprising to see the number of ‘educated’ individuals of the bourgeois who think that the world as we know it is run by a group of Zionist Jews who sit in a secret room deep in the Pentagon and conspire against Pakistan. There, this cabal wearing black robes and holding bloody daggers thinks of ways to undermine our nation. They used HAARP to cause the floods. And Photoshop to incriminate our cricketers. And don’t forget how the lasers they had hidden in the Margalla hills shot down the Air Blue jet.
9/11 must have been a conspiracy and the suicide attacks that bleed Pakistan continously could never have been done by the Taliban. It must be a Zionist-Hindu-American-Blackwater-Xe conspiracy. Haven’t you heard that the bombers were actually Sikh RAW agents in disguise? It’s all India’s doing. They are the ones causing agitation in Balochistan. They are the ones who fight us with ‘water terrosism’, whatever that is. Pakistan is under developed because of the Illuminati and Freemasons. Not because of years of military dictatorship that left only one viable instituition in the country: the army.
Democracy is an evil, ‘Western’, ‘forgein’ concept. And how can it work in a country where the ‘masses’ are illiterate? And since politics is dirty and democracy clearly isn’t for us, let’s have ‘enlightened despotism’. We are an idiotic nation that needs a dashing ruler on horseback (and in his khaki uniform). Oh and give him a big stick to keep us in line.
This is the kind of garbage that is floated about in our drawing rooms and by our civil society.
But why are we so vulnerable to these ‘theories’? Conspiracy theories offer an easy way out. They seem to reduce the complex, chaotic social earthquakes of our world into a managable, nay, fantastic framework that is as spectacular as it is sinister.
These theories speak of a deep insecurity. They speak of a deep-seated desire to know that social ripples are not random but are systematic, thought-out, long-term strategies by a cabal of men. Psychologists attribute this belief to a need by some to know that man isn’t adrift but part of a scheme. This belief further implies that the evil group can be defeated (or joined).
Conspiracy theories are an easy way out. Unfortunately, we are at a stage where there are no shortcuts, no ‘quick-fixes’. Instead of looking outward, it’s time for us to look in and see what we have become. It’s easy to place the blame on outside forces and that is exactly what we are guilty of doing.
Enough of this nonsense! Enough of this intolerance! Enough of this myopia! Instead of sipping coffee and bemoaning the state of the our ‘becharay’ proletariat, Pakistan’s ‘educated’ class would do well to get up and help Pakistan achieve it’s rightful place among the civilised nations of the world.
This requires constructive critisism, not blatant pessimism. It requires us to use our common sense. It requires tolerance of those who are different in religion, ethnicity and political ideology. It requires us to actually listen to the other person’s point of view before agreeing or disagreeing. How someone who does not know and practice this can claim to be ‘educated’ is beyond me. But Pakistan is full to the seams with such educated illiterates.
Although it’s now clichéd, Kennedy was right on the mark when he said that ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what YOU can do for your country’.
In the mid nineteenth century, Karl Max published The Communist Manifesto, which bought communist parties into the limelight. China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba soon followed suit, the major reason for this being that these developing Third World countries were striving for national independence and social change.
Communism appealed to these countries since they experienced a polar society, where most of the resources were controlled by a few people from the upper class. In his book, Marx declared that communism would consist of a classless society. He believed that the society would work on the principle of “from each according to his ability,to each according to his need”. Communism therefore appealed to the masses, as it promised to level the playing field by offering everyone equal opportunities in life.
Marx believed that capitalism would choke on its own wealth and collapse, which would be followed by the working class rising up and establishing a new, classless society.This anti-capitalist society lead to hoards of propaganda against capitalism, with catch-phrases like ‘capitalism is the source of all evil” being widely adopted by communist revolutionaries.
Ironically,however, none of the countries which adopted communism suffered from the conditions which Marx described.Rather than choking on over consumption and over production, these countries lacked infrastructure and a solid industrial set-up.Cuba is an excellent example of such a country. The Cuban economy was struggling, but the popular consensus was that the economy would never improve unless American control over it would not end. This idea was exemplified by the fact that in 1962, the USA controlled 60% of the sugar production in Cuba. Coupled with this, Fulgencio Batista, with American support, overthrew the Cuban government in 1934.Batista became a symbol of American dominance. Discontent against Batista’s rule gradually grew over time, until he was inevitably overthrown by a nationalist leader in the form of Fidel Castro.
Thus, communism found its roots not in developed countried, but rather,in developing nation like Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam. History has been a witness to the bare starking realities of communism, which have been far remote from its ideologies. Rather than saving the masses from oppression, it was a tool used by dictators to establish a more corrupt and non-accountable system. The two-faced nature of communism was summed up by the Cuban poet and statesman, Jose Martini when he said:
” Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand. ”
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?
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
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
Former US President Bill Clinton was chief guest at the Labour Party Conference 2006 in Blackpool. He addressed the party making what turned out to be a truly inspiring and momentous speech. What stood out was his presentation of vast ideologies in short phrases that not only delivered tremendous and stunning impact but captured the audience and gave a clear message. He began by praising the Prime Minister Tony Blair, his cabinet and the Labour Party for their successes, especially at battling the problems of poverty, instability and global warming and for preserving the UK’s alliance with the USA. Clinton then began the main part of his speech addressing many current issues and challenges. “It’s a different world. This world has been a really good deal for many of us,” he said. “But fundamentally the fact remains that the modern world is unequal, unstable and unsustainable.”
The world remains unequal because of problems such as economic incongruity, poverty, social contrast and racial prejudice. These problems stem from our failure to realise the principle of equality among all human beings. The former President addressed this problem recalling the day when, during a video conference with Tony Blair, there was news of a breakthrough by scientists in human genome research. It was discovered that all human beings were 99.9% genetically identical. Furthermore if, for example, a genetic sample was taken from one person from an interbred tribe in the Middle East and a genetic sample was taken from a person from an interbred tribe in South America, the two samples would be more similar than two samples from the same tribe. He also presented the fact that most people spend 99% of their time thinking about the 0.1% difference between themselves and others. Therefore we should realise our similarity and equality and try to achieve reduce disparity. “We really believe our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences,” he said. He then continued, “We know that half a world away, trapped in poverty, there’s some little kid … who’s just as smart as our kid and just as deserving of a decent life.”
The world remains unstable because of problems such as political insecurity and terrorism. These problems can only be tackled if their roots are addressed because if they are not then these problems will only resurface. Fighting a war does not address the roots of these problems and therefore it is more appropriate to use more sensible approaches that would save lives and would be less costly. “Since we can’t kill, jail or occupy all of our enemies… we also have to spend some time and money making more and more partners and fewer enemies,” he said. He went on to explain, “It is so much cheaper to alleviate poverty, put kids in school, fight disease, build government capacity and economic capacity in a poor country than it is to fight a war.” Clinton also expressed regret at missing his opportunity during his term to send aid to Pakistan to develop education along with aid he had sent to support Pakistan militarily and now the country was threatened by terrorism as many children who could not afford education went to madrassahs and at some children were taught a twisted version of their faith.
The world remains unsustainable because of problems such as the depletion of resources and global warming. Finding cleaner alternative sources of energy is not only an environmental issue, it has economic implications. The result would be less reliance and demand on non-renewable resources and generally less instability which would be the key not only to future growth but it would be the key to protecting ourselves and the environment from the harmful effects of global warming. He promised that a full commitment to finding cleaner and alternative energy sources would not only prevent natural disasters, save lives, and sustain and protect the environment but would also bring about a fresh round of economic growth.
Clinton’s speech was, to say the least, admirable. It was hopeful and courageous yet clear and precise and despite the fact that in many peoples’ eyes the shadow of the infamous scandal still looms over him, I am sure that the speech itself gained him the respect and appreciation of many.
Walid Sharif FY
The US Congressional Elections are scheduled to take place on November 7. Hearing of these elections reminded me of the closely contested Presidential elections of 2000 between George W Bush and Al Gore and while 2004 pitted Bush against John Kerry. All 435 seats will be contested in the House of Representatives with the Republicans holding a clear advantage of 231 to 203 over the Democrats with 1 seat being held by an independant. The Democrats are favoured to gain control despite the large differential for this part of congress. However the senate race seems to be much closer with the Democrats making a firm push to regain a majority, something they last had in 2003. As of now the GOP(republicans) have a 55-44 edge over the dems with 1 independant member. 33 seats will be contested(18 of which are held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans) and forecasters predict that 8 seats have been all but wrapped up by the dems (of which Hilary Clinton’s New York seat is included. This will surely be a stepping stone for a 2008 presidential bid) while the GOP have 6 certain wins. Out of the remaining 19 races 13 seem to be leaning towards the democrats while just 3 are leaning towards the GOP with 3 being completely unpredictable. Out of these 3 the dems would need to win one to reach the magical 50, hence gaining control of the senate. This might seem as a surprise to most people as the GOP intented to spend $60 million on this campaign, nearly $48 million more than the Democrats.
All this aside it was the ’00 and ’04 elections that really made me numb. I’ve compiled some of George W Bush’s famous sayings before and after he became President to help everyone reading this understand why.
“It isn’t pollution that is harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”
Pinpointing one of the many problems that we are facing today.
“Do you have blacks, too?”
To Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Nov 2001.
“Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.”
Highlighting the problem with the United States education system.
“This foreign policy stuff is a little bit frustrating.”
Telling us the down side of Presidency.
“If the terriers and bariffs are broken down, this economy will grow.”
I’m not sure what bariffs are(tariffs)! But killing dogs will surely help the US economy.
“One word sums up probably the responsibility of any governor, and that one word is ‘to be prepared.”
At least his maths isn’t that bad.
“I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don’t always agree with them.”
I hadn’t realized that he was such an intellectual.
“I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn’t here.”
Wow this guy’s superman.
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people and neither do we.”
That’s why the public voted for you George.
“I would still invade Iraq, even if Iraq never existed.”
Perhaps less money would have been wasted with this scenario.
“A lower voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.”
Best of the Rest
“We’re concerned about AIDS inside our White House – make no mistake about it.”
“If you’re sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign.”
“The most important job is not to be Governor, or First Lady in my case.”
“We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe.”
“For NASA, space is still a high priority.”
“[It’s] time for the human race to enter the solar system.”
“I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican”
“The primary component of gasoline is crude oil.”
….and summing it up quite nicely
“I admit it, I am not one of the great linguists.”
These quotes were spoken by a man who got a B.A from Yale followed up by an M.B.A from Harvard. He is the current President of the United States and received more than 50 million votes by the American public in 2000 and got more than 62 million votes in the 2004 race. This is indeed a strange world.
Asher Gilani FY
Pakistan’s president has warned the West would be “brought to its knees” without his country’s co-operation in the so-called war on terror.“If we were not with you, you won’t manage anything,” said President Pervez Musharraf in a BBC Radio 4 interview. He said the Taleban, not al-Qaeda, was now the focus of the struggle against militancy in the region. “The greatest danger today is if the Taleban movement gets converted into a people’s movement,” he warned. Earlier this week Tony Blair assured Gen Musharraf a leaked paper condemning Pakistan’s intelligence service did not reflect his government’s view. In the leaked report, a naval commander at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, had indirectly helped the Taleban and al-Qaeda. In the BBC interview Mr Musharraf rejected these claims and said ISI’s support was vital.
“You’ll be brought down to your knees if Pakistan doesn’t co-operate with you. That is all that I would like to say. Pakistan is the main ally. If we were not with you, you won’t manage anything,” he said. “Let that be clear. And if ISI is not with you, you will fail.”
He also claims the US and Britain had a historic debt to pay as Pakistan had helped “win the Cold War” for the West. He argued that the West’s strategy in Afghanistan towards the end of the Cold War helped to create the conditions which led to al-Qaeda’s rise. President Musharraf said mujahideen fighters went into the area from all over the world and the West armed and trained the Taleban. He said Pakistan was then left “high and dry”. His comments develop arguments he has made over the past few days at meetings with US President George W Bush and Tony Blair and a speech given in Oxford. Gen Musharraf said the Pakistani government’s aim in the country’s tribal border areas was to “wean the people away” from supporting the Taleban, pointing out that while al-Qaeda was mainly comprised of “foreigners”, the Taleban’s support was more locally based. He denied the suggestion that the tribal elders with whom the government has forged a recent agreement are a front for the Taleban. He said the tribal elders were the “only way” to establish support from the local population: “The army cannot get them on our side”.
Gen Musharraf also strongly denied allegations by the human rights organisation Amnesty International that some alleged terror suspects had vanished without trace. “I don’t want even to reply to that, it is a nonsense, I don’t believe it, I don’t trust it,” he said. Gen Musharraf said the authorities had detained some 700 people, but all of them were accounted for. Of the leaked MoD paper, British defence officials claimed it was written by a junior official, was unfinished and had not been seen by anyone who actually makes government policy. After two hours of talks on Thursday Downing Street said Gen Musharraf had accepted Mr Blair’s reassurances.
An interesting article to say the least. Please comment!
Taken from BBC News.