Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homecoming of American Troops

June 28, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

At long last, the American soldiers would start returning to homeland. The end of a decade long war on the soil of Afghanistan seems to be in sight. The return of the American fighting force from Afghanistan is markedly different from that of Vietnam.

Although both these wars were triggered to defeat the enemy without any conclusive outcome, yet the comeback from Vietnam was sheer humiliation and complete disaster.

The American troops coming back from Afghanistan are definitively in a more gratified situation as it is not a retreat in haste or the result of a rout or panic but a peaceful draw-down.

The enemy in Vietnam was egregiously tenacious, lethally ferocious and highly organized and nationally motivated to brace against a mighty war machine unleashed by a super power to annihilate the ranks and file of the communism and to check the advancing menace or bulwark of the ideological enemies.

Because the Vietnamese people’s army, both uniformed and civilians were aided and beefed up by both China and Soviet Union, the impossible feat that America wanted to accomplish had remained elusive.

The Vietnam fiasco that must be metaphorically defined as historic was one of those rare debacles that America suffered in her two hundred years of existence as a nation. The Vietcong victory against the best well equipped and well trained army was incredibly stunning and phenomenal that perhaps has no parallel in the war history, because a tiny county, whose land and jungles were subjected to carpet bombing, finally prevailed.

In Afghanistan the fight was not against a matching militarily powerful county and it was not an ideological war. It was to avenge the 9/11 tragic mayhem and to destroy the arch perpetrator Al-Qaida.

The United States, in these ten years, has been impressively successful in dismantling and destroying the network of an outfit that could wreak havoc all over the globe through their highly motivated and organized cadres.

The United States with her NATO partners started Afghan war on October 7, 2001, codenamed “Operation enduring freedom” with the stated objective of dismantling the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization in Afghanistan as well as removal of the Taliban regime to be replaced by democratic set up.

While makeshift democratic government has been in place ever since, the Taliban presence has not been totally liquidated. Rather Taliban have gained more strength during the last ten years.

The cost for such an undertaking has been enormous. The casualties both dead and wounded run into thousands. The financial cost has been staggering and stands somewhere near two trillion dollars. The psychological burden on American people has been exacting.

The overseas spending on war efforts have its telling impact on the indigenous quality of life, undermining development plans and projects that had to be slashed and put off for want of funds. The richest country of the world at the end of day stands more mired in debt to the alarming level that is equal to its GDP.

The United States strategy now is to negotiate and reconcile with Taliban and make them fight against those factions of Taliban that would remain hostile to United State.

Nevertheless, United States has been markedly successful in dismantling the al-Qaida network not only in Afghanistan but elsewhere albeit at a huge cost both financially and in human loss. The death of Osama Ben laden also warrants sending forces back home.

On June 22, President Obama announced that 10,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2011 and an additional 23,000 troops will leave the country by the summer of 2012. The United Military strength stationed in Afghanistan is 103700 comprising all cadres.

This projected withdrawal primarily would be confined to the troops that were sent Afghanistan as surge troops numbering 30000. The actual drawdown would merely be 3 000 soldiers.

While withdrawing, concurrently US would maintain its military presence in a different way. It is busy in building several big and small military airports where bulk of the US armed forces would maintain permanent presence. The bases being built in Herat, Helmund, Mazar Sharif, Bagram, Sheen, and Dund are scheduled to be completed in ten years’ time.

It means that out of 100,000 plus troops and personnel, some 70,000 would still remain behind in Afghanistan. Huge cargo airplanes would unload merchandise and weapons and soldiers directly without land routes such as through Pakistan.

United States would not completely vacate Afghanistan militarily for the following objectives. It wants to outbid China in exploiting the trillion dollars precious mineral deposits discovered by American geologists in 2010. Afghanistan has oil and gas deposits also. Secondly, it could keep close watch over the region including both China and Russia.

The possibility of deployment of missiles that America wanted to install in Poland could now be installed in Afghanistan. From Afghanistan America would be in a much stronger and ensured position to watch also Iran and beyond the Arab countries.

Let us keep in mind that the United States’ war against Al-Qaida has not yet ended.
It would continue and no one can guess how long It could also annihilate the al-Qaida and adversarial Taliban via a prolonged tussle and confrontation. So there are multiple advantages for the US to remain in Afghanistan where it has invested so heavily.

Moreover, United States is visibly lifting its anchor from Afghanistan but the withdrawal of forces is simply piecemeal for the time being. The bulk of the NATO and American forces would stay in Afghanistan for quite some time. As to when the total drawdown would be completed is hard to forebode.

As already stated United States is not leaving Afghanistan lock, stock and barrel. This country is going to prove a prized strategic location to America that would be like a watch tower and a gubernatorial military base enabling her to supervise the region from Nile to Central Asia.

It would be another Saudi Arabia that would facilitate United States for exploring and utilizing Afghanistan’s enormous minerals and oil deposits. It is also going to be a precious meeting point between Europe and Asia.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Zardari’s Sudden Outburst

June 24, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The hard-hitting, outburst of president Zardari against media and his chief political rival Nawaz Sharif was both stunning and entertaining. The occasion was the celebration of the 58th birthday of Benazir Bhutto at Naudero, in Sindh.

I had been pondering, since his advent in power, that he is a crafty and foxy person who has been outwitting his contenders in the political arena of Pakistan. But the perception seldom crossed my mind that he could be stinging and scornful as well.

Perhaps he was trying to mimic his illustrious father- in-law Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in browbeating the political opponents with derisive, sarcastic and amusing phrases and anecdotes. His utterances were of the type of cheap jargon and run of the mill parlance that the street urchins exchange while playing marbles.

But despite his satirical and overly aggressive and outrageous outpourings we must admit, it was a daring display of courage and confidence in assailing not only media but also his frontline adversaries.

He did not suffer from any inhibitions or restraints in pouring out scorn on the media by throwing gauntlet that he was not afraid of the bold headlines against him.

He roared and fretted that some of the news analysts and political commentators on the media channels were political actors and therefore, would be replaced by veritable intellectuals. How would he do this is hard to fathom.

It was indeed a manifestation of the pent-up revulsion, fury and frustration that was released by the president of Pakistan without any compunctions and diplomatic or political reservations. He presented himself more like the aggressive head of his political party than the head of state.

In one salvo, he tried to portray Nawaz Sharif as the cohort and rather accomplice of Taliban and radical Islamists. At the same time he tried to win the armed forces by showering accolades on the army generals.

His implicit and covert message was that Mian Nawaz was dangerous to the interests of United States and would also prove to be a strange and hostile bed fellow for the army as he was in the past.

By using the stigmatic nickname of Mualvi, he dubbed Nawaz Sharif as an extremist or hard-line Islamist like the other religious outfits who were engaged in sabotage and terrorist activities in Pakistan. He tried to establish and make a case that Nawaz Sharif’s coming into power was detrimental to both army and the United States.

Mr. Zardari is a past master in forging and breaking alliances with other political parties. He practically watered down the Charter of Democracy signed between Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto on May 14, 2006 in London.

On March 9, 2008, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari signed another accord known as Murree Declaration for coalition government and restoration of judiciary which practically remained unimplemented till the PMLN ministers quit the coalition government. But even out of power PMNL always supported the PPP government for survival of democracy.

Mr. Zardari has been very successful in keeping United States satisfied with Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism. Despite his infamy because of corruption and illicit hoarding of money, he has remained safe and likeable for America that ignored this aspect of his character. Even a rogue is acceptable to United States if he can fulfill the agenda of curbing al-Qaida and Taliban bands.

Mr. Zardari in his Nuadero fiery speech arrogated to himself the right of being a political maverick from which the novices like Nawaz Sharif can learn the lessons to graduate as good and clever politicians.

While he has held the thinking or mindset of people like Nawaz Sharif responsible for the assassination of Ms Bhutto also his wife, he ignored to reveal the real assassins that he has many a time claimed to know.

From his waxing undue eloquence for army and flattering the army generals, one can detect some kind of tension or estrangement that might have, of late, cropped up between the army top brass and the PPP government.

This proposition can be based on the assumption that the army’s three wings as well ISI have come under enormous pressure and censure due to setbacks witnessed in attacks on naval and air force locations in Karachi besides, the Abbottabad episode.

The army might be feeling that the government in power was trying to defame and defile the army and to keep it under tab and away from backdoor machination against the political government.

President Zardari’s argument that public uproar over electricity crisis was not justified, rings hollow. He questioned that in economically strong countries like Britain and India load-shedding and power shortage was also taking place, but the people there do not agitate.

First of all we are not sure if the power outrages happen in Britain. If that had happened there entire system based upon new technologies such as computer based services would collapse. About India there could be power breakdowns but not to the extent as these take place in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the leadership there is not as felonious and discredited as we have in Pakistan. If in Pakistan, there was a bond of trust between the leaders and the people, this public pique against the rulers would not be that intense. People think the government was not sincere in finding remedies to their sufferings including the power shortage.

President Zardari should take it for granted that he cannot walk in the footsteps of the founder of the PPP. Despite ZAB’s weaknesses and pitfalls, he still reigns in the hearts and minds of the PPP workers and supporters.

The main reason for that adoration is that ZAB was not corrupt although he was a man of super ego that brought his downfall. On the contrary Zardari’s record is stained with copious corruption.

Barring a few pockets in the interior Sindh, President Zardari is extremely controversial and unpopular for his ill gotten money scams, various criminal cases, scandals, pending against him.

Once he out of power or leaves the presidency, with presidential immunity gone, he will face a new situation that would be horrifying.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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Desi Restaurants in DFW

June 22, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

It is difficult to run a restaurant business unless it is a franchise or one has a background in this field. But patently there is no franchise for Desi or Indo-Pak cuisine in the United States of America. All food eateries are run on exclusive ownership basis in all the cities of USA.

I do not harbor a charitable view about the DFW Desi restaurants for a variety of reasons. There must be around a few dozen restaurants serving the oriental cuisine. Incidentally, the hasty way, these restaurants are opened; they are closed with the same speed.

If we think of comparing Desi restaurants serving Desi or Indo-Pak cuisine in Dallas Forth Worth (where I have lived for nearly a decade or so) , with those back home, one would find a huge difference in taste, service and quantity served. Such a comparison would be simply a mismatch.

Here is DFW; First of all you would walk into restaurant or more appropriately a dark and dingy room with dirty, greasy tables. The lights are switched off to save the bill on electricity. The food would be same that you ate last week.

The table would be too small to accommodate four persons at one sitting. The napkins would be so tightly stuffed into an 18th century tin box that if you extract or draw one paper there would be 19 coming along.

Every restaurant opens with big bang slogans, boastful claims, and mouthwatering pledges about exotic food and great variety of culinary dishes. They would indeed keep up that aura of glamour for a few days and then relapse into the lowly and exceedingly disappointing paradigm.

There are only a few restaurants that are still holding on to their businesses. The reason is that they are providing good services. They survive on the orders of catering for parties and festivities.

There are also a few others that mix up their restaurants with the grocery stores under the same roof. So naturally those who come for buying grocery items once in a while, eat at the restaurants even if these serve only Chaat or Samosas.

A few months ago, a restaurant was launched in Irving, with exceptional fanfare for the grill and barbecue delicacies that it did serve with the promised tempo and gusto for some time. But then, all of sudden it plummeted to the ground. If you walk into that restaurant now, you will undergo an irksome aversion of your life.

What I encountered was the gnawing looks of the novice waiters without the kind of courtesy and welcome that could have been even artificially put up. The food items were undoubtedly left-over of the past one or two weeks, that were preserved over and over again by warming these. The plates were small perhaps ostensibly kept so to deter the customers from putting more on those plates.

The spoons and forks and knives were all placed in one big hole and every one would pull these out with labor to take away in their bare hands. Every spoon must be touched by several hands in a day or during the eating session.

Normally these set of spoons, forks, and knives have to be placed separately in open flat pots to be easily picked. I cannot vouch if these were washed and cleaned by adopting proper heigenic procedures.

The same stuff of lintels, the biryani, and the cold chicken pieces that are the routine items in every restaurant were on display. There should have been some warming device under each food tray to keep the food hot, as is customary in non-Desi restaurants. But what was frustrating was the cost of $ 13 per person for that cold and stale buffet.

I would have not seen any restaurant in the DFW for almost 9 years that would charge 13 dollars for a buffet. The famous Mexican restaurant Palominos, East Buffet, Mongolian BBQ, Golden Corral, Mediterranean restaurants, and other similar famous buffet chains charge from 6 to 9 dollar per person. There the food is plentiful, freshly cooked, fuming and nicely placed. There are no prying eyes staring at you for taking a second plate.

Can you imagine that this much-hyped restaurant charged 10 dollars for five pieces of chicken boty (piece) that we paid? And when we ordered a few nans to take away, each Nan was $ 1.75. But the most shocking part of this story is yet to come.

All these nans were burnt and given under the firm malicious understanding that the customer cannot detect it unless opened at home. These are outright dubious and dishonest business malpractices that hasten the closure or slowing of business at these restaurants.

The tumblers that were placed for drinking water were so enormous in size that first you need a strong fist to lift them. Better call these lassi utensils. Besides they covered a lot of space to leave little place for the plates or the quarter plates to be kept. It is good to serve the plates, glasses and spoons made of paper than these antiques as the former are at least clean and hygienic.

But, since in most of the Desi restaurants, the porcelain quarter plates have vanished, the cutlery has to be placed on napkin. The jug of water is clumsy, with not very cold water and occasionally something either at bottom or at the surface kicking a vomiting revulsion.

And there is the restroom behind your back and table. You enter and find that either the tissue papers rolls are missing or these are unkept or unattended. There is the soap bottle with no liquid inside. There is a nauseating stink around.

The people who come out or go in the rest rooms rub their legs or shoulders with the person sitting near to the entrance of the toilets. It is discomfiting to sit within a foot or a meter out of the restroom while eating. There should be screen between the sitting area and the rest room enclosure.

Of late the lights are switched off to save the energy bill. So you eat in a murky atmosphere engulfed by the irritating dimness. The airconditioning system is off and substituted by a mega size fan that creates sound pollution of horrendous scale and sends the tornadoes of winds right through the aisle.

The stinginess in food, the untidiness, the sluggishness in service by the staff, the staleness of the food, and lack of d├ęcor or finesse in service make most of Desi restaurants dreary and forbidding places to enjoy food once in a while.

On Indian and Pakistani Television channels we see very enticing ads and commercials that show exotic food being served at restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Washington DC, Chicago and other American cities. The butlers are properly attired, with apron and head covers, and busy preparing various dishes (some with flashes of fire).

The tables in those bewitching ads are also covered with nice draperies, and food looks sizzling. How far those pictures reflect the truth but if these are factual then we should be proud of those exalted standards.

If our Indian and Pakistani hoteliers and restaurant owners in DFW can take a cue from those high standards, we can have a food culture here too that would be adored and relished not only by the Desi community but also from other ethnic segments thus enhancing their businesses which is exactly the purpose of their opening the restaurants.

Presently, we can find some decorum and touch of delicacy both in serving and quality of good besides modesty of prices in Almarkaz Restaurant and Roma Palace, to name two out of the whole lot. Roma Palace has the added advantage of having a spacious hall, a bar, and a huge grocery store that maintains low prices.

However, if smaller restaurants offer fresh, well cooked, dainty dishes at modest prices, their business can also flourish and they can remain in the market longer than closing it sooner.

Additionally they should maintain a reasonable standard of cleanliness and keep a watch on the good manners of their staff who should be humble, polite and forthcoming in assisting the customers. To prepare the staff for professional behavior it is necessary to train them and send them to the city training centers for service orientation.

Moreover, instead of serving the same dishes over and over again it would be desirable if a fresh menu is offered from time to time with the addition of new dishes. For the sake of good impression and tidiness, the table where the customers sit either should be cleaned on top or covered with a piece of cloth or so.

Thus the poor impression about most of our restaurants being thrifty, stingy, and substandard and wanting in good food and hospitable atmosphere could be washed off.

Finally, only those individuals should go for restaurant business who have its experience and have enough cash to maintain the quality and high culinary standards and also can sustain the losses for some time. Those who falsely dream that the moment they open a restaurant the money would start pouring down better take an ensured job and enjoy life.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Khaliq Qureshi is a Saintly Figure

June 16, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Saints are in human garb and so is esteemed Muhammad Khaliq Qureshi Sahib. I have known him for eight years now and during all this time, I never saw him speaking ill of others. He has good word for everyone. He is incapable of hurting any one’s feelings.

Miracles are attributed to holy men and saints. Khaliq Qureshi is not a man of miracles but he is undoubtedly a saintly figure. I must emphasize that had you met him you would have come to the same conclusion that I have formed by observing and meeting with him for all these years.

I would not be exaggerating if I portray his personality by saying that God has endowed him with a kindly and sympathetic disposition and an ingrained predilection to be, chaste, virtuous and forgiving.

Once or twice I have been frank enough to talk to on him on subjects that were exclusively privy to him and which in other situations would have earned me wrath and rebuke from others. He simply looked at me and to my utter disbelief, readily said that he forgives me for those unwarranted remarks.

His belief in God is unshakable like a rock as he considers God his friend, his savior, his guide and his counsellor who provides him peace and bliss whenever he is under strain or in stress. He remains virtually in conversation with almighty the lord of all being, the sustainer and seeks his guidance and succor in solitude, distress and grief.

He observes fasting from time to time round the year. Besides he fasts for the full month of Ramadan. He is an embodiment of self abnegation, self-restraint and suppresses the humanly urge for extravagance, lewd pleasure and unrestrained luxury.

A devout Muslim with a glorious heart, Mr. Qureshi possesses a glow of religious sublimation that he earnestly combines with the untainted morality charactering him as a model human.

He is not familiar with ill manner of shouting at others, raising his voice or talking in a jarring tone. His voice is low, draped in courtesy and emitting a kind of sweetness that is not affectation and spurious but genuine, spontaneous and natural.

In the face of scathing outrage by others he would seldom respond with a matching vitriol or malignancy that the people usually display when provoked or disparaged.
He is above petty repartees and frivolous point scoring and prays for those who speak ill about others. If I am asked to sketch him in a brief sentence, I would say, “Thy name is humility”

As a truly selfless and temperamentally altruistic person, he is in the habit of helping the needy and less privileged as far as he can. Beside the religious obligations of taking out Zakat, He goes out of the way to readily respond with contributions and donations and charitable offerings to the deserving and the people in need of dire and urgent financial relief.

Although, himself, a man of meager income, it would be seldom that he would refuse or turn away from helping someone that approaches him.He is generous and it is my empirical observation that he shuns love or liking or greed for money. He has already bequeathed his property and assets to his family members.

He abhors accumulation of wealth and would be last to be stingy in giving a donation or responding to the community calls for participating monetarily in social welfare ventures or feeding someone or for relief of natural calamity stricken people.

He takes the domestic and external pressures and challenges as the will of God and as his test for the faithful to see if they stand firm and remain steadfast in the face of trials and rigors. He believes in complete submission to the will of God and in the inescapable destiny that is divinely ordained for every human being.

As such he never complaints about the anguish and afflictions that he has been copiously facing in his life but has always accepted them in good grace and with fortitude and forbearance.

Mr. Qureshi invites his friends and acquaintances for eating together in consonance with the glorious traditions of the Muslim forbearers and great Sufi saints. He believes that sharing of meals fosters goodwill, understanding and feelings of fraternity besides erasing misunderstanding and bitterness that might be there for some reasons.

Nonetheless, he trusts that eating together was a great virtue and broadens knowledge and understanding by sharing opinions and ideas.

While his life is a combination of simplicity and piety, he spends his later part of the night in prayers and meditation. Thereafter, he opens the mosque, says Azan (call for prayer), dusts and cleans the premises both inside and outside and thus fulfils his obligation of maintaining the house of God.

Now such an exuberant passion to maintain link with creator, and also to serve with coveted dedication was the exclusive life pattern of such mystics and saints as Hazrat Khawaja Moinuusin Chishiti, Nizamuddin Aulia, Baba Farid Ganj Shakr, Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh , Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Sarmad, Sachal Sarmast and others.

Mr. Qureshi’s heart goes out for the sufferings of the Muslims all over the world, particularly in the lands of Chechnya, Kashmir, and Palestine, where they are intimidated and live under extremely humiliating and oppressive conditions.

To project the pitiable plight of the enslaved Muslims in these regions, Mr. Khaliq Qureshi wrote a book entitled, “A ONE MAN MISSION FOR MUSLIM UNITY”. A monument of industry, the book, contains letters written to several heads of states and governments.

Through his letters Mr. Qureshi very passionately and effectively pleads for the liberation of the Muslim territories and ending the humanitarian catastrophes besetting those lands.

He is a zealous and steadfast advocate of the Muslim populations that are still living a life of servitude and are being denied their inalienable right of independence and homeland.

He is still busy writing these letters and communications to the decision makers of the world and convincing them of the miseries of the captive Muslims in various parts of the world.

He writes every address on the envelope with his own hand keeping a typed memorandum inside. He scribes 1600 or so addresses on large size envelopes and then mails them in lots every day. It is a stupendous task that takes several weeks and during this time he works feverishly day and day out till he finishes it.


But on the human level he loves all mankind belonging to any religion, cast creed, region or background. He is a true humanist and a pacifist. He is free from any kind of bias, prejudice, bigotry and intolerance.

He loves human beings because as he explains, they are created by almighty God. Like we love God we must also love his creations (humans are the finest of all the creations). In his view such a belief was also a befitting tribute to the greatness of the lord of the universe.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wars and American Roads

June 11, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The disastrous impact of the decade long distant wars is writ large on the deteriorating roads of the United States. Bumpy, pot-holed, eroded roads are now an eye sore for the commuters and drivers who hurl curses when rudely jerked by a road with a ditch or that is crudely plastered. These roads used to be sparking, soft, and smooth and properly lined-up a decade ago.

In downtown or interior of cities such a Dallas, Fort Worth and various counties and cities, the roads are coming off and remain so for weeks and months without being repaired. The city administration's departments looking after the roads send inexperienced and technically unfit contractors or the workers to fill the gaping holes.

They simply dump lumps of coal-tar or similar material on the pothole without leveling it off. The bump or the protruded mound gives a jerk to every car or vehicle that passes over it.

I have been traveling on 408 spur road (linking loop 12 and I-20) for quite some time. There was a cleavage on the location where the link road would join with the I-20 highway. The fissure was quite irritating as there was a sharp iron ingot that imbedded on one side of the cleavage.

That cleavage was there for almost a year and had been shattering every vehicle that would pass over it. The sharp steel portion would erode or shave off the tire bit by bit if one has to per force travel on that road two times a day.

It was after almost a year that it was repaired by plastering it with a one foot wide layer of asphalt but it still is uneven and keeps the drivers in a state of alert when approaching it.
The Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex that is a conglomeration of several cities and counties is infested with worn out and decrepit roads both two-way and one-way. The upper layers on most of these roads are corroding for years now but the municipal authorities have never thought of repairing or resurfacing these.

One can cite the roads in Arlington and in Grand Prairie in such poor conditions that one would simply recall the period before the world war second or when America had not attained the astonishing level of modernity, wealth and prosperity.

The interstate highways and motorways were constructed in America during the great depression of 1930s when people were ready to work even for a penny an hour. The labor was as cheap as dust or the running water in rivers. A few highways were later added but there is a dire need to expand these interstate autobahns to cater for the burgeoning traffic.

Inside the cities the lane delineation marks have faded on many roads and it would be quite hazardous to keep the vehicle on the right track to avoid accident. At night, because of the insufficient light, the danger of safe driving on these dilapidated roads heightens. Most of the roads in Texas and perhaps in other states are in a state of acute disrepair.

There used to be signboards indicating the next road in order for the drivers to be able to take right or left turn or remain in the middle. On most of the city roads those signs are missing and it becomes quite an ordeal at the fag-end to turn to the extreme left or right depending upon one’s location on the road.

The traffic lights that should reflect after sunset so that the names of the streets can be read are, dim or opaque on countless roads making the drivers crazy and desperate. In their bid to focus on the road name by looking up, there are possibilities of accidents that have happened and are still happening.

Comparing the worsening and dilapidated conditions of roads in many cities and localities, one is reminded of the poor third countries where such road mismanagement prevails and there is always a mess and mayhem on the roads. The examples of such countries are Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia to name a few.

The paramount question is why this decline and decay is taking roots and spreading ominously. The reasons are not difficult to figure out. The United States has been funneling money to distant lands to wage wars after the World War II and there is no respite in it except a brief interregnum after the ruinous Vietnam War.

The adverse fallout of spending abroad in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan at the cost of the welfare and upkeep of its own people is dreadfully manifest in deteriorating civic and socio-economic conditions within America. The United States is building roads and highways and schools and hospitals in Iraq but not doing it for their own population who pay taxes for a decent life.

The burgeoning bill on wars is gradually robbing the splendor and glitter on the face of United States as a super power that we see in the Hollywood movies and that was factual a few decades ago. In commercial movies and in documentaries we would think of America as a wonderland.

Even from statements of the visitors to this magnificent country, we would come to know with awe, about the high-rise buildings, the sky-scrappers, the wide roads sparkling with profusion of lights, glittering wide bodied cars and carefree citizens kicking around with glare of happiness on their faces.

That period of bliss has gone and now the American citizens find the Kroger closed at midnight, the Walmart opening one or two registers at night and the shoppers making long queues wasting their precious times.

The larceny and thefts and crimes have been on the rise. The psychological and mental pressures and depression, due to financial hardships and unable to sustain and pay bill on times and go out for vacation breaks, are visible on the faces of countless citizens that we come across.

The social security is under pressure as are the health and human services. The request for unemployment wages are escalating. The educational institutions and hospitals are curtailing their services and staff thus negatively impinging upon the marvelous standards this glorious country was famous for.

The inflow of foreign students has drastically slowed down if not halted altogether. The research and scientific inventions and discoveries are on the backburner as there are not enough funds to cater for these highly vital enterprises.

In a nutshell, United States is being pushed backward because the wealth that it creates is being wasted on counterproductive pursuits, projects and ventures. Ironically United States is running its war machine on the credit given by ideologically and economically global rival China. With this credit America is keeping its distant war tempo intact. It is like burning money in a furnace getting ash in return.

How long United States can maintain these fruitless wars and keep its own people suffering from and deprived of the benefits and comforts of a modern society, is a stultifying projection.

The Western Europe that was rebuilt and rehabilitated after the Second World War with America’s financial support has created societies that are resplendent with abundance of the modern civic amenities and galore of social benefits.

Has the decline like great empires of the past,started earlier in the Unites States than it should have been?

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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The Cruise Mushaira Fiasco

By Saeed Qureshi
This year’s cruise Mushaira organized by Al-Noor international, turned into a nightmare due to what can be explained as the cruise ship’s company’s utter neglect and demonstration of pathetically unprofessional conduct.

The ship was ready to lift anchor and sail off in the Lewisville Lake that goes in curve for about 20 miles and offers a great deal of entertainment and fun to the passengers by way of cruise trips and fishing.

All the passengers and guests had boarded the ship after a great deal of hassle encountered in the scorching heat from the shore to the final step into the ship. They had taken their seats and were waiting for the vassal to move. But to their utter shock it did not move and still remained anchored.

The unbelievable horrible discovery was that the power generating system had gone dysfunctional. As such not only that ship did not embark on its journey of a few hours, the indispensible air-conditioning system and even the fans stopped working. It was mayhem as if hell was let loose.

The passengers waited with their fingers crossed that the ship would start sailing any time. The stuffy atmosphere and the darkness inside were fearsome. The passengers were profusely sweating. They could not clearly see each other, the dinner could not be served orderly and visibly, and the drinkable water was warm.

The children’s plight was woefully miserable. With their parched tongues they could not express their anguish and agony. The infants would not understand as to what was happening around. The toilets were closed as the pumping of water for flush has stopped, the taps ran dry and there was complete mess and disorder in both the upper and lower births.

The organizers and sponsors of the much coveted Mushaira were in a state of paralysis and utter frenzy. They had invited a diverse array of foreign guests and local people, the poets, the celebrities and the notables most of whom had bought tickets to attend this unique function.

The chief guest Gopi Chand Narang had arrived from India to preside over this yearly function. He is one of the most illustrious scholars of literature and poetry and author of seventy books, besides being the recipient of the highest awards for his meritorious services. It was heart-breaking to watch him huddled in a corner without food and water till midnight. Same was the pitiable situation with other poets.
The most agonizing dimension of this ugly episode is that the ship crew did not come forward even once to offer any explanation for this most loathsome dereliction of their responsibility that caused torment to about two hundred individuals including the women and children.
No one came forward to explain as to what has gone wrong and why the ship was still stationary and what could be the substitute for suspension of the toilet facilities turning the ship into a kind of concentration camp with filth spattered all over.

The more pertinent question is that why the ship owners did not check, before the cruise tour, if the ship was technically in good order to sail. The million dollar question is: why no prior inspection was conducted to find out if the ship was technically fine to be used for cruise.

There cannot be any earthly reason or pretext to evade the objection that why all of a sudden the generator went out of order? The fact is that the generator was already dead and nobody checked it before commissioning it for trip in the lake.

Now let us picture another scenario. What If the ship had sailed for a mile or a few miles and was stuck up in the middle of the lake with the pitch darkness and without water and utilities amid the sweltering environment and no way to get out.

How the passengers could be rescued and brought to the shore? Was there a rescue plan to be put in place in such sudden emergencies? There could be a panic and a fright that is so peculiar in such situations, particularly with those afraid of water (hydrophobic).

If the boats had to be marshaled for rescuing the stranded passengers would it not look the waters of Somalia where the pirate hijack the ships. How long it would have taken for the enough number of boats to be around?

But was it not appropriate and in order if another ship would have been ready to replace the dysfunctional one and thus save the much-awaited evening from being spoiled in that callous and most non-challant way? It would be desirable if the company managers take some remedial measures to put some modicum of responsibility, grace and accountability for cruise operations.

It would be instructive for the shipping company to pinpoint the technical staff or managers responsible for this glaring, outright, and bizarre show of inefficiency, negligence and indifference.

In this regard an enquiry should be instituted to find out why the operators and the technical staff failed to provide immaculate and trouble free service to the cruise lovers.

As if to rub salt to the wounds no apology was tendered by any official of the company for such a colossal discomfort and distress that is like a black stigma on the record of the company running this cruise business.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
To unsubscribe or for comments please write us at qureshisa2003@yahoo.com
You can read this and other articles at www.uprightopinion.com

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pakistan will Stay and Prosper

By Saeed Qureshi

We all know Pakistan is in deep quagmire. Yet I believe Pakistan will come out of its daunting challenges with flying colors. Since its inception, Pakistan has witnessed and gone through several conceivable trials and tribulations because of both internal and external factors.

Barring the cataclysm of the cessation of East Pakistan in 1971 that truncated Pakistan into two parts, the rest of the problems were of similar import as encountered by nascent nations.

Pakistan’s strength lies in the patriotism of its people, its untapped natural resources, its hardworking manpower, its fertile and vast land, its strong armed forces, resilience of its people to overcome one crisis after another and undying will to survive against odds.
I cannot side with the skeptics and dooms day despondents who claim Pakistan was moving towards disintegration and collapse. Such people are either enemies of Pakistan or paranoid. Or else they don not have the intention to wish well for Pakistan.

The refrain on this setback and that tragedy is the favorite pastime of such individuals who with their trumped up apprehensions sow dejection and despondency to weaken or break the will of the people to live together.

Admittedly there are myriad problems such as bad governance or alloyed democracy or delicate law and order, religious militancy, sectarian strife, poor civic facilities, socio-economic irritants and so on. But does that mean that we should disown the very country and start tolling the bells for its demise?

These problems are much more ferocious and bounteous in several other countries but no one talks about there about the end game or the disintegration.

Look at whole Africa from North to South and Asia minor immersed into a doom’ day stranglehold. Is Pakistan not better than the horrendous conditions prevailing in those states?

Granted that in Pakistan the law and order is fragile and there are murders, kidnapping, assassinations and vendetta killings, bomb blasts and suicide bombings.
But can these incidents be compared with what is happening in the entire Middle East and the civil war raging and ravaging in African countries, like Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda , Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea ,Ethiopia, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Western Sahara.
No matter how flawed the system of government in Pakistan is but fundamentally there is a democratic form with three branches of state functioning relatively free, albeit not as immaculate as we can find in West Europe or the United States.

Those countries reached the stage of mature and accountable systems and good governance after great tragedies and crises and a prolonged period of time. The American civil war alone is a grim reminder of the destruction and horrendous manslaughter and instability that took place during those wars.

Have we forgotten the ideological tussle between the Catholics and Protestants after the onset of Reformation era entailing the spine chilling barbarities perpetrated by the Catholics against the newly emerging breakaway Protestants?

My vision is that Pakistan despite its countless problems including the oft repeated skepticism about its viability and survival will stay and in due course move steadfastly on the way to becoming a modern state with all attending hallmarks.

The brighter side of the present the present day Pakistan is that the women are more empowered, and there is some kind of accountability although the executive has not moved fast to take action against the culprits.

A stage would arrive when civil society would be vibrant enough to press for dire action against the defaulters, outlaws, delinquents, bribe takers and so.

Notwithstanding the personal objectionable character or the villainous volition of the individuals in power in Pakistan, the fact cannot be ignored that it is essentially an elected government. Still it is a democratic dispensation that retains some semblance of accountability and censure as exercised by media and judiciary.

Instead of condemning or berating the government for every major and minor fault, let us see it in a broader context. At least it is being run by the people’s elected representatives. Let us strive and wish that the incumbent government can move away from its mistakes and follies, corrects its rudder, and drives the country out of dire straits. The “worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship”, goes the adage.

The grassroots revolution that is much wished seems to be a far cry at the moment because there is no leader that can motivate the people to come out in the streets and create havoc against the privileged classes. The army basically in Pakistan is not for people friendly change as it comes in power to serve the interests of its own cadres.
Starting from Imran Khan, down to a labor leader no one has the charisma and the caliber to spur a revolution that should be ruthless or if peaceful must be thunderous to root out the morbid status quo.

The socialist or proletariat revolution would be tenaciously resisted by the rightist groups and the conservative bands. Similarly, the religion based change a la Taliban would be narrow and would be hotly contested by the rival groups professing different faith from the mainstream torch bearers.

We cannot see a religious revolution in the contemporary history. But if it takes place, then such a society turns the clock back and remains far behind the developed nations, in social and political terms. Saudi Arabic is one example. Iranian revolution is not essentially a religious change but bears the character of a nation state.

Undeniably, there is an acute yearning for the change and a burgeoning urge to crush the elite classes. But such a pursuit cannot be attained as this is not the era after the World War I. The communist or people’s revolution that started from Russia at the turn of the 20th century failed.
Therefore, its replay would be fatal and futile in the present times when ideology hardly matters and nation states have their own peculiar image and complexion to stay and survive.

If a miracle happens and the genes of the present Pakistani puppet rulers undergo transformation, and they disassociate Pakistan from the ongoing war in northern tribal regions of Pakistan, then that would be the real day of deliverance for Pakistan.

This war that is thrust upon Pakistan by the western countries has turned Pakistan into a traumatic land where the criminals roam free to kill the people and get away.
The Pakistan’s administration demonstrates callous indifference towards the lawlessness and contemptuous disregard of the people’s woes, recasting the institutions and the crucial task of nation building and aversion for the civil society and rule of law.

Doing good things for the welfare of the citizens is alien and an anathema to the rulers who have entered the realm of power by strange coincidence.

But if God is kind and gives them some modicum of care for the Pakistan they should evolve and make such plans that bring a turnaround in the economy of Pakistan. Pakistan can learn and follow in the footsteps of South Korea and Singapore and go headlong for reconstruction of economy and make it booming.

Unlike South Korea and Singapore, Pakistan geographically and demographically is a large country. By recalling the army from the tribal belt and gearing up a stupendous economic activity and reconstruction, Pakistan has the ability and potential to outclass many developing economies of the world?

Why Pakistan cannot do things that serve the people well and make the country strong both economically and socially? Why have Pakistan earned the stigma and odium of a crony and client state of the United States, though we were always forsaken when the job was done?
Pakistan can survive without foreign aid and alms. If we persist and adhere to our national honor and work assiduously for economic uplift and a civil society and functional genuine democracy, no country how overbearing that might be, can harm us.

If Taliban remain confined to Afghanistan let that government deal with them. At best we can stop and block the infiltration of the militants into Pakistan for which not the armed forces but our tribal population is enough and effective.

It is foregone that once we wind up our partnership in regional wars, the radicals and extremists would call off their anti-Pakistan operations and activities. They can later be persuaded to join the nation building task by democratic and civil means.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
To unsubscribe or for comments please write us at qureshisa2003@yahoo.com
You can read this and other articles at www.uprightopinion.com

The Cruise Mushaira Fiasco

By Saeed Qureshi

This year’s cruise Mushaira organized by Al-Noor international, turned into a nightmare due to what can be explained as the cruise ship’s company’s utter neglect and demonstration of pathetically unprofessional conduct.

The ship was ready to lift anchor and sail off in the Lewisville Lake that goes in curve for about 20 miles and offers a great deal of entertainment and fun to the passengers by way of cruise trips and fishing.

All the passengers and guests had boarded the ship after a great deal of hassle encountered in the scorching heat from the shore to the final step into the ship. They had taken their seats and were waiting for the vassal to move. But to their utter shock it did not move and still remained anchored.

The unbelievable horrible discovery was that the power generating system had gone dysfunctional. As such not only that ship did not embark on its journey of a few hours, the indispensible air-conditioning system and even the fans stopped working. It was mayhem as if hell was let loose.

The passengers waited with their fingers crossed that the ship would start sailing any time. The stuffy atmosphere and the darkness inside were fearsome. The passengers were profusely sweating. They could not clearly see each other, the dinner could not be served orderly and visibly, and the drinkable water was warm.

The children’s plight was woefully miserable. With their parched tongues they could not express their anguish and agony. The infants would not understand as to what was happening around. The toilets were closed as the pumping of water for flush has stopped, the taps ran dry and there was complete mess and disorder in both the upper and lower birth.

The organizers and sponsors of the much coveted Mushaira were in a state of paralysis and utter frenzy. They had invited a diverse array of foreign guests and local people, the poets, the celebrities and the notables most of whom had bought tickets to attend this unique function.

The chief guest Gopi Chand Narang had arrived from India to preside over this yearly function. He is one of the most illustrious scholars of literature and poetry and author of seventy books, besides being the recipient of the highest awards for his meritorious services. It was heart-breaking to watch him huddled in a corner without food and water till midnight. Same was the pitiable situation with other poets.

The most agonizing dimension of this ugly episode is that the ship crew did not come forward even once to offer any explanation for this most loathsome dereliction of their responsibility that caused torment to about two hundred individuals including the women and children.

No one came forward to explain as to what has gone wrong and why the ship was still stationary and what could be the substitute for suspension of the toilet facilities turning the ship into a kind of concentration camp with filth spattered all over.

The more pertinent question is that why the ship owners did not check, before the cruise tour, if the ship was technically in good order to sail. The million dollar question is: why no prior inspection was conducted to find out if the ship was technically fine to be used for cruise.

There cannot be any earthly reason or pretext to evade the objection that why all of a sudden the generator went out of order? The fact is that the generator was already dead and nobody checked it before commissioning it for trip in the lake.

Now let us picture another scenario. What If the ship had sailed for a mile or a few miles and was stuck up in the middle of the lake with the pitch darkness and without water and utilities amid the sweltering environment and no way to get out.

How the passengers could be rescued and brought to the shore? Was there a rescue plan to be put in place in such sudden emergencies? There could be a panic and a fright that is so peculiar in such situations, particularly with those afraid of water (hydrophobic).

If the boats had to be marshaled for rescuing the stranded passengers would it not look the waters of Somalia where the pirate hijack the ships. How long it would have taken for the enough number of boats to be around?

But was it not appropriate and in order if another ship would have been ready to replace the dysfunctional one and thus save the much-awaited evening from being spoiled in that callous and most non-challant way? It would be desirable if the company managers take some remedial measures to put some modicum of responsibility, grace and accountability for cruise operations.

It would be instructive for the shipping company to pinpoint the technical staff or managers responsible for this glaring, outright, and bizarre show of inefficiency, negligence and indifference. In this regard an enquiry should be instituted to find out why the operators and the technical staff failed to provide immaculate and trouble free service to the cruise lovers.

As if to rub salt to the wounds no apology was tendered by any official of the company for such a colossal discomfort and distress that is like a black stigma on the record of the company running this cruise business.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
To unsubscribe or for comments please write us at qureshisa2003@yahoo.com
You can read this and other articles at www.uprightopinion.com

Where is that Leader?

By Saeed Qureshi

Two indispensible features have all along been lacking in the political landscape of Pakistan. One is selfless, motivated and patriotic leadership. The other is the institution building. The newly born country had fallen prey to the vandals of worst pedigree.
It has been wantonly and relentlessly pillaged financially and crippled institutionally, by self-perpetuating people and rapacious groups that had scant concern or interest in its welfare, stability and its evolution as a modern nation state.
From the dawn of independence, it remained lorded-over by creepy bureaucrats, ravenous feudal classes, insidious dwarf politicians, hypocritical religionists and murderous mafias that kept exacting their pound of flesh throughout.

There has always been severe and acute famine of leaders with nobility of character and sublimity of spirit to serve this county for its greatness and glory.

The foundational and structural flaw was its two wings that were poles apart in every manner except the religion. Religion failed as a cohesive and uniting force between Former East Pakistan and the present West Pakistan. The dismemberment of Pakistan was destined to happen sooner or later.

The egalitarian and democratic spirit of the Bengali nation was a check on the parasitic and fiefdom mentalities of West Pakistan. However, after 1971, when East Pakistan seceded, the left over western part had become an exclusive grazing ground for all exploitative classes and greedy ruffians to turn it into a barren land politically, socially and economically.
The search for a great leader has been elusive so far. It is a dismaying coincidence that the perpetual crises in Pakistan have not produced a leader of sterling integrity and high caliber with powerful intellect, iron will and lofty ideals to lead Pakistan towards a splendid destiny. There have been mediocre, mean-spirited, self-centered, exploitative, oppressive individuals grabbing power by trickery, deceit and ignoble machinations.

The leaders on the whole, were infected with the undying desire of self fortification in the power citadel, loot of national wealth by every conceivable devious means, destroy or dibilatate democratic traditions and nation building institutions.

The political parties and their stalwarts depend more on intrigues and back door maneuvers to dislodge and depose the sitting governments and not by established democratic traditions of fair and free elections. The political anarchy that interminably hovers over Pakistan has been the dirty and loathsome work of the politicians than the army.
The generals always stepped in at the behest of the selfish political cronies or as a result of a totally collapsed system of governance. If politicians would have behaved and adhered to and promoted democracy culture, the army could have never ruled Pakistan for half of its post independence period.

The accumulated mess of six decades has to be cleared by someone or else Pakistan’s survival as a viable state is at stake. You name one institution and you would lament that it is dysfunctional due to incompetency, kickbacks, bribery, and lack of funds or malafide intentions not to make it efficient.

The Parliament, Senate, ministries, police, airlines, railways, courts, municipal administrations, industries, presidency, Prime Minister House, education, health, social services, law and order are being run on borrowed time.
The state or national institutions are in a state of complete or near wreck. The worst sufferers are the majority of the people of Pakistan. The elite classes, the aristocracy, the ruling cliques, the big businessmen, and snobbish bureaucarts are immune from the myriad predicaments and day to day tragedies and hardships that a common man encounters.
So let us talk about a unique leader who can address this morbid situation and redeem Pakistan from a colossal drift and national calamity that if remained unchecked could push it towards an irredeemable decay and terminal disintegration.

Such divinely gifted leaders have appeared in history who changed the destiny of their nations from total collapse to resplendent redemption. Let us indulge in a fanciful utopia, and subjective reckoning and wishful reflection.

Let us ponder that if we have one like Hazrat Omar, Mamun-ur-Rshid of Abbasid dynasty, Salahuddin Ayub of medieval Iraq, Kamal Ataturk of 20th century, Imam Khomeini of Iran, Li Kuan of Singapore, Fidel Castro of Cuba, founding fathers of the United States, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, De-Gaulle of France, Mau Zedong or Ding Xiaoping of China, Hochi Minh of Vietnam and so on.

Bhutto was a dazzling flash in the chequered and tumultuous history of Pakistan but it extinguished for his own temperamental flaws and by the external forces in league with the local quislings.

His achievements are distinctive and excel his failings.He was a trendsetter but fell victim to the work of local intriguers and the foreign string pullers. On the political horizon of Pakistan there is no other lofty figure (leave the founder of Pakistan) who could be portrayed as a leader of true national stature.

Pakistan needs a radical progressive, reformist, a firebrand, iron willed revolutionary, chivalrous and visionary leader. He should be a leader who is incorruptible, astute and farsighted. He should be the one who can keep his nose to the grindstone and never budge or bend on matters pertaining to national honor, sublime mission for change and reconstruction of Pakistan as a modern, developed state.
He should be the enemy of status quo, of sectarianism, of vested interests, of selfish pressure groups and cartel, corruption, nepotism, feudalism, comprador classes, and the false and exploitative sainthood.

He could lay down his life but would not dither nor compromise on his lofty ideals of nation building. He should be a person hating self aggrandizement, wealth, personal galore and glorification, live a simple life and shun ostentation.

He should speak and plead for the masses He should mobilize the downtrodden and intellectuals and intelligentsia for a gubernatorial change. He should stand for consolidation of healthy and efficient institutions, for equality, unalloyed justice and social services for all on equal basis.
Am I asking too much for a leader to rescue this harassed nation from a catastrophic abyss of sufferings? Well if it is a wishful thinking then let it be so. There have been such matchless and legendry leaders who led their nations in the most critical periods and drove them out of the dire straits of untold afflictions and rejuvenated them from the ashes of annihilation. Can this miracle happen in Pakistan too?

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
To unsubscribe or for comments please write us at qureshisa2003@yahoo.com
You can read this and other articles at www.uprightopinion.com