Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Death and Destruction Stalk Karachi

October 30, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

In Karachi, during the past few months, the factories are being targeted by arsonists and criminal gangs. Who are these arsonists? The government does not know, the law enforcement agencies are not aware and the people cannot find out where they come from. Even if the people know them, they cannot disclose their identities for fear of terrible revenge. This largest and port city is being economically choked by mafias that are enemy agents, racketeers, religious dissidents and robbers abetted and sheltered by power politicians, the feudal lords, the bureaucrats or the self proclaimed barons.

This trend of attacking and burning the industrial units is fraught with dreadful economic backlash both for Karachi and Pakistan. If the factories and mills are closed down or gutted by the avengers, then the people would lose jobs and there would be more poverty. The exports would suffer too.

The fleecing and blackmailing of the industrialists and mill owners is easy and more lucrative than robbing the shopkeepers and the common traders. What one could get from several retailers could be obtained several times more from one factory owner. If the factory owners refuse to oblige or delay in responding to the dictate of the pitiless ruffians, their factories are torched resulting in death of workers. We have seen many factories in the recent past gutted by the ruthless blackmailers. There burning was due to the deliberate foul play and not because of the other causes.

In September this year more than 300 people perished in two devastating factory fires in Pakistan. At least 280 people died at a garment factory in Karachi; in a horrendous blaze. Close on the heels another fire broke out at a shoe factory in Lahore resulting in the death of 21 workers. This Friday (October 26) a tissue paper manufacturing chemical factory in Karachi’s Shershah area was burnt.

 The lives of residents in Karachi have remained unsafe for many years now. Even today 7 citizens of this country lost their lives. These killing sprees carried out by power gangs, extortionists, outlaws and crime cartels have become a part of the daily life in Karachi. Those who wake up in the morning and set out for their work places would not be sure if they would return alive to join their families.

Death and destruction stalk the streets of the Karachi. The brazen and unrelenting extortion by multiple groups through telephone calls and paper slips is now a familiar pattern to rob people. If the demands of the thugs are not met, they kill or kidnap their targets. The ordinary people as well as the small and big businessmen in Karachi are at the mercy of the blood hounds and savage predators to play with their lives, honor and peaceful living of the citizens. Traveling has become hazardous in that city.

The city of Karachi remains under a pal of fear, harassment, intimidation and threats round the clock from rampaging and trigger free murderous gangs. At the end of the day, the rescue and relief teams start picking the dead bodies or the injured in full media glare. It is a ghastly recurring spectacle witnessed by army top brass, the ministers both provincial and federal, the president, the prime minister, the parliamentarians, the members of bureaucracy, and the intelligence services. Yet no one moves or seems to be serious to curb and contain this mayhem.

The bazaars, the shopping centers and the business markets are assailed and controlled by the merciless thugs whose brutality cannot be described in words. The decapitated, bullet ridden and tortured bodies of people are frequently found in the city. The people are kidnapped, the women raped and houses broken in. The properties are forcibly occupied and no power on earth can get those vacated without payment of the demanded price. The children and adults alike are kidnapped for hefty ransoms.

Police force being insufficient and ill-trained has utterly failed to cope with the Himalayan challenge of restoring order and normal life in Karachi. The members of police force also join the criminals in loot and robberies. They provide shelter to the criminals and do not arrest them even if they know them. In many crimes the policemen were discovered to be the accomplices of dacoits.

The political parties are mum and silent, including the powerful MQM and the ruling PPP. The religious doyen of Karachi Jamaat-i-Islami, the stray social factions, the peace makers all are either helpless or deliberately ignore this frightening state of affairs. The leaders who profess to redeem the people of Pakistan and turn this country into abode of peace and unit forget their claims and pledges when they step into power. Power grabbing has become rigmarole between the political parties.

The authorities are feigning to be deaf, dumb and unconcerned on these hair-raising happenings that carry ominous foreboding for the economic development of Pakistan already reeling under a continuous crisis of stability and social peace. The whole country presents the doomsday scenario with life getting degraded by myriad socio-economic problems and by dearth and obsolete civic amenities. There is endemic and acute shortage of potable water, the persistent curse of load shedding, and the archaic and insufficient road network. The education, health, public transport and other essential services are miserable and horrifically flawed.

The politicians both out and in power are crooks, urchins and a sleazy lot with shameless countenances. They are protected by bullet proof SUVs, hordes of security staff and travel with a retina of parasites and stooges. They travel on the roads like pharaohs of Egypt or emperors of Rome, and the richest rulers of a poor and directionless nation.

They have no shame, no honor, nor self-dignity. In fact they are caricatures as if to ridicule the poor and helpless countrymen with their display of galore, extravaganza and sparking style of life. Their glamorous life style stands in sharp and woeful contrast to the unsafe, listless and harassed live of their countrymen whose predominant majority is impoverished. The people find it hard to feed them and their children, seek justice or relief from police stations, the courts or from the government departments ridden by bribe and inefficiency.
I am at my wit’s end. May God almighty intervene and save this otherwise a magnificent, awesome and amazingly beautiful country. Ameen!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Israel and Iran Dominated the Third Debate

October 23, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

 President Obama and the Republican contender Mitt Romney spent pretty good time in sparring on Iran and Israel and the way America should deal with these two mutually adversarial countries. The topic of the debate was the Foreign Policy and as a matter of fact it was the most crucial theme as compared to those of two earlier debates.  The entire tone, tenor and emphasis of both the debtors was to prove emphatically that he was the best and most loyal friend of Israel and the staunchest and inveterate foe of Iran.

Mitt Romney has been inclined to, as unequivocally expressed by him in the October 22 debate, bludgeon Iran not only economically but militarily. He stressed that such a decision was imperative to reduce Iran to a stage of such debility that it remains neither as a potent threat to Israel nor to Saudi Arabia: a submissive surrogate of the United States and also of the west. The conflict of Iran with Israel is primarily riveted on Iran’s nuclear program that is not entirely known to the world at large.

Israel feels that Iran’s nuclear weapons that she might be able to manufacture in due course will be a dire threat to the security of Israel. Iran might be under the perception that her security could be ensured and absolutely guaranteed with the possession of a nuclear weapon. But before that happens, Iran has to wade through a sea of hostilities and impediments. The IAEC members, the United States and Israel and even some of the Sunni conservative regimes in the Middle East, would never tolerate or ignore or compromise on an Iran possessing a nuclear capability, notwithstanding the Iranian claim that it was for the energy generation.

President Obama vociferously claimed during the debate that he was the one president who has brought Iran under unprecedented, stringent multiple sanctions reducing her to a nuclear pariah state. He is right in his assertion. The fallout of those rigorous and oppressive sanctions is the devaluation of Iranian currency to an abysmal all time low level. Iran cannot trade or bargain and transact money to and fro the rest of the world within the international system of monetary exchange system.

It is in the backdrop of these  back-breaking sanctions, acute financial hardships, drastic drop in oil sale and sharp devaluation of Iranian currency that Iran’s chief pontiff  and supreme leader Ali Khameini has offered bilateral dialogue with the United States on nuclear issue.

While giving unconditional and unequivocal support to the most America’s trusted ally Israel, the president Obama looked rather discreet. Yet the pro-Israel partisan policy is not followed exclusively by president Obama, it is an article of faith also with all the regimes whether Republican or Democratic. His rival however, who recently toured Israel was unabashed in expressing his unstinting and partisan loyalty to the state of Israel and go to any length for her protection.

President Obama’s approach towards such thorny issues as dealing with Syrian civil war and Iran’s controversial nuclear issue is tagged with winning the international support for joint and decisive action to achieve the projected results. However, his opponent during the debate imprudently brushed aside the intentional consensus and vouched a hard hitting military response that might trap the United States in another war.

A discerning watcher of the debate would get an eerie feeling as if Mitt Romney was not adequately aware of the international affairs and the fast paced developments that burst out every day specifically in the tumultuous Middle East. On the question of nexus between Iran and Syria, he fumbled by pointing out that Syria provides sea route to Iran. The reality is that Iran does not have direct borders with Syria. It was an erroneous claim that was not noted by most of the viewers because they did not know the actual fact. The fact is that Iran has its own independent access to the Persian Gulf that it can block anytime either in peace or in war time.

 The American policy with regard to the Middle East is unilaterally poised in favor of Israel to keep that tiny state as a dominant military power in the midst of religiously and geographically hostile countries. The hostility between the Muslim Arab states and Israel stems out of Israel’s refusal to recognize the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians deserve such a state for two reasons.

One: that the land belonged to the Palestinians for centuries before it was turned into an Israeli state. Secondly the United Nations’ Resolution number 181(II) by which the State of Israel came into being also calls for the creation of a parallel Palestinian state. One part of that resolution has been implemented and strictly guarded while the other relating to the Palestinians is yet to see the light of the day.

So while exuding their overflowing fervor and abiding commitment to protect Israel the international arbiters and mediators must take into consideration the humanitarian dimension of this chronic issue. That gory dimension is that as a result of denial of a Palestinian state a whole nation is living as refugees on their own territory and is also isolated as Diasporas.

Secondly, there is always a cacophonous refrain on Iran’s or North Korean nuclear potential yet there has seldom been even a passing reference about the nuclear arsenal of Israel. Her stockpile of nuclear weapons too hangs over the Middle East like "sword of Damocles". 

Israel can launch preemptive strikes on hostile countries in the region in order to get rid of them. Since other states are not permitted to fabricate the atomic weapons the dice is clearly and heavily cast in favor of Israel. The best and lasting way-out of this impasse is that Israel should mend fences with the regional partners because it is not only physically small but also surrounded by other states both friendly and hostile. Use or threat to use weapons of mass destruction is not the answer for the security of Israel.

So to look non-partisan morally justified and in conformity with the established international obligations, some benefit of rights should also be given to the states braced against Israel. Otherwise America’s unswerving commitment to the security and safety of Israel looks farcical, artificially contrived, morally hollow and legally untenable.

The international relations cannot sustain on long terms basis if these are biased or driven by parochial or petty considerations. Somehow America and western countries should prevail on Israel to agree to the state of Palestine and amicably resolve the status of Jerusalem and halt new settlements on the Palestinians lands. Thereafter, there would be lasting peace and progress in the Middle East bedeviled by decades of deadly wars and internecine conflicts. Israel’s mentors must discharge this historic role. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

President Obama Shines in the Second Debate

October 17, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

There was a widespread skepticism as to how president Obama would perform in the second presidential debate that took place on October 16.  This skepticism or pessimism was an offshoot or spillover from the relatively poor or lackluster display of president Obama in the first debate that came off on October 3. 

President Obama rebounded in October 16 debate with amazing vitality.He maintained his dominance with exceptional poise and confidence throughout the debate. His rebuttal and repudiation of opponent’s frivolous argumentation were forceful and convincing. There was an incessant flow of articulation and oration that made the debate not only lively but intellectually meaningful.

From energy to immigration, education to Medicare, taxation to job creation, foreign affairs to energy, president Obama demonstrated that not only was he well-informed and truthful but that his policies have been on the right track during the past four years of his presidency. He effectively debunked Romney for his double standards on taxation, abortion and coal issue.

He remained focused on the questions and did not retaliate when pressed impetuously by Mr. Romney on certain issues. He was sober and logical in presenting his views and perceptions without any traces of bragging, conceit or arrogance.

The demeanor of Romney was as aggressive and raucous as in the first debate, yet this time he was disarmed by a rival who was phenomenally assertive as compared to his lackluster and docile performance in the first debate.
Romney tried to nail Obama by coming into direct confrontational posture with him with judgmental incrimination; the later dismissed him by asking him to continue his answers to the questions. For instance Romney’s accusation that he took two weeks to declare attack on American diplomatic mission in Ben Ghazi as terror act, Mr. Obama hammered him for not only being ill-informed but also politicizing that issue.

However Romney was caught into his own snare because he was factually wrong as even the moderator tried to remind him that the president declared that incident as a terrorist attack the next day in Rose Garden.
The first debate went in favor of Mitt Romney while the October 16 was a thumping victory by the incumbent president who is running for the second four years’ term. 

In the second debate, against a pre-determined list of 16 questions, only 11 could be asked due to paucity of time. President Obama answered five while Mitt Romney answered six question posed by the randomly selected 15 undecided voters.  Now both the candidates are poised for the third and the last debate scheduled for October 22, 2012 at the World Performing Arts Center, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida. It would be focused on the crucial topic of the American foreign policy.

This subject is much wider than domestic issues. It would certainly demand of the debaters to be fully conversant and abreast of the American external affairs that determine her relations with the outside world and that in fact propel America’s image as a dominant world power.

One can, in anticipation, conjecture that Mitt Romney would try to outbid president Obama on China, on the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. For Romney Israel is a holy cow and his partisan inclination towards Israel vis- a- vis Palestinians is as clear as daylight. His argument would be the same about China that he proffered in the second debate.

But rationally it would be an utter folly for any American regime to knock-out China in bilateral trade or political relationship. Any president, whosoever will have to tread a very cautious path while taking steps that could push China and trigger her hostile response.

On the Middle East, the United States cannot put all her eggs in the Israel basket. It is during Obama’s presidency that Iran has been subjected to toughest sanctions debilitating her economy to a great extent. Incidentally, it is during the Obama’s presidency the Arab spring swept across the Islamic authoritarian regimes. Obama has been irreconcilably very hard on Syrian regime.

Obama has already recalled American troops from Iraq and would be doing the same in case of Afghanistan. As such he has proven himself to be a pacifist. He plans to divert the saved money on social projects and for the welfare of the people within America. If elected, Romney, in line with the Republican mindset of bellicosity might start a war against Iran which America can hardly afford after two devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is apparent and self-evident that president Obama speaks for the middle class and downtrodden sections of the American society. Mitt Romney glaringly stands for safeguarding the interests of the affluent classes and special interest groups. In matter of taxation, Romney may exempt the rich classes and even millionaires, billionaires and robber barons from the high taxes that he wants to levy on lower classes. That might be a stumbling block in his way to get popular vote in a big way.

The immigrants mostly Latinos are hopeful of getting a legitimate stay in America because of Obama’s initiated immigration reforms. He can expect favorable votes from women, veterans and the African Americans. All these sections form the majority. It is hoped that he would replay his exuberant performance and still be vibrant and on the offensive in order to outflank and keep his opponent at bay.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pakistan in the Grip of a Diabolic Threat

By Saeed Qureshi
 Pakistan could be devoured by the merciless, ignorant and myopic religious networks, if their proliferation is not checked well in time and on war footing level. Pakistan indeed was created as an Islamic state and for the social, political and economic independence of the Muslims of the Sub-continent. The founders of Pakistan ought not to be blamed or berated for creating an independent homeland for the Muslims of India. Their vision to project Muslims as a separate nation was supported by the vast majority of the Muslims of India.
But what went wrong was the hijacking of this newly founded country by rulers, politicians and bureaucrats who did not possess the same level of commitment, integrity and passion as the founders and vanguards of independence were blessed with. Over a period of several decades Pakistan that was destined to be democratic, liberal, economically vibrant, socially modern and civilly advanced, has been turned into a heap of garbage, trampled with abject poverty, territorially truncated and politically a scarecrow.
It has remained dominated by the military adventurers owing to rampant and incessant political anarchy let loose by the incompetent, self serving, abject  and characterless leaders. Even during those stints when the political leadership was at the helm, the country suffered, in matters of  good governance, nurturing of democratic culture, establishment and consolidation of the nation building institutions, crafting of a civil society, bringing about cohesion among the ethnically divided regions and building it up as a stable country.
Yet the most devastating blow to Pakistan was the compromise of the political parties with the religious zealots to win their support for holding on to power. With the time passage, the religious outfits both in politics and out kept gaining clout, influence and authority. They became imperious and overbearing to such an extent that they succeeded in injecting such amendments in the constitution of Pakistan that pushed the country towards a theocratic state.
A county that was envisioned by the freedom fighters to be enlightened, democratic and a blend of both Islam and secularism drifted towards a course of medievalism, obscurantism and fundamentalism. The divergent religious sects aided by their cohorts in the political arena embarked upon a sectarian war of vendetta on each other as has been rife in the Middle East for ages. It continues unabated gaining more and more ferocity and rapidity as the time passes.
The latest version of religious extremism laced with militancy is the cult of Taliban. This conglomeration is neither part nor parcel of a political culture, nor bound by any territorial limitations, nor amenable to any law nor answerable to any government. They were given birth by the inept and shortsighted politicians and are now poised to swallow Pakistan.
We have seen their transcript of Islam and the fiendish manner they are determined to splash its sway across Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their model of Islam is drastically at variance with the format of Islam that is believed and has been practiced by the Muslims around the world all these centuries, notwithstanding the sectarian discords between the dominant sects.
These ignorant and myopic Muslim fanatics impose their model through brutalization and violent machinations. Killing someone even for not growing beard to a prescribed size or not wearing turban or using television, videos and watching movies is an unpardonable sin to be punished with death or rigorous incarceration. They are not afraid of death for the sake of advancing their weird creed and pattern of Islam that was never in vogue even in the worst of times and during the rigid theocratic eras.
A few years back, they were close to capturing Islamabad. Later they were successful in proclaiming their religious regime in Swat valley and adjoining areas of Malakand and Mardan where the people mostly are conservative. Their incursions were joined by other religious groups and militants and even political parties that wanted to convert Pakistan into a theocratic land. The lifestyle and political set up they want to enforce would  isolate Pakistan with the rest of world as an island of religious bigotry, ignorance, hair-raising punishments, persecutions and rigorously regimented codes.
Their religious fiat would make robots of humans totally riveted to mosques and busy in performing rituals.  Their edicts and injunctions would run counter to the established obligations, beliefs and teachings of Islam as enshrined in the holy book Quran and on which the Muslim scholars of all denominations have consensus. Even the enlightened and educated Muslims counseling moderation and middle way would not be spared by this freakish lot bereft of pristine Islam.
This is the most gubernatorial challenge, stupendous menace and impending tragedy to the survival of Pakistan as a liberal, democratic, enlightened and civil state. This would also be a travesty and perfidious distortion in the inviolable Islamic theology that is essentially rational, divine, tolerant, moderate, and without coercion or compulsion.
If these hard core Islamic freaks do not spare a teen age girl for advocating education for the girls how come they would tolerate more serious issues of our daily life: the way we eat, dress up, read and peruse legitimate venues of happiness. Just in case they take-over Pakistan, they would close all the female educational institutions, segregate males and females and put veils on the faces of women.
That would be the starting point towards turning Pakistan into a place where only beards and ignorance would grow: not leaning, education, research, innovation. In such a society liberty to use modern gadgets or even wearing western apparel would be banned. This is a sketchy portrait. The reality would be much worse and bleak. In that stifling situation there would be a civil war if the society and army reacts. It is better to nip this monstrosity and stem this diabolic tide presently before it is too late.
This onslaught by Taliban and other conservative forces cannot be dismantled by NATO or the armed forces of Pakistan alone. This threat can be effectively deflated and countered by a civil society. “Let a hundred flowers bloom”. The people have to be pulled out of the quagmires of illiteracy and ignorance and their livelihood and safely ensured. The courts, the police stations, the hospitals, the airlines, the railways, local governments and all state departments inter-alia should operate to give dignity of life to the people.
The public awareness has to be elevated through education and enlightened media. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (American Declaration of Independence) must be guaranteed. People should be liberated from the superstition, from the bondage of the abominable and parasitic institutions such as feudalism; shamanism false mystics, shrine runners (pirs), narrow religious cults and sects. A common code of Islamic faith or religious freedom should be evolved. It is imperative to separate church from state affairs.
This litany is not exhaustive. However it gives a rudimentary idea how should the landscape of Pakistan look like. The religious education should be imparted as part of the normal curricula in state run or recognized institutions or in mosques and not in privately run seminaries. The people with a hope in future, laced with the knowledge and feelings of being honorable and equal citizens, would resist and cast away reactionary forces.  
As such they would act as a formidable bulwark against any movement or mission that converts Pakistan into a closed theocracy or turn them into religious robots as the Taliban or the fanatic religious entities within Pakistan want to do.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Brave Daughter of Swat

October 12, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

My power of articulation has gone numb and I feel dumbfounded as if I am incapable of adequately venting the deep anguish and unrelenting agony that is nagging me from within. I am irrepressibly grieved about that remarkable, iconic girl Malala Yousafzai from the enchanting valley of Swat over-lorded some few years back by the savage pedigree of Muslims branding themselves as Taliban.  Of late I saw her lying motionless on a stretcher, wrapped in hospital attire and bandaged from top to bottom. Her face is still shining like a freshly blooming rose in the enlivening spring morning.

I had seen her several times before, vehemently pleading for the most coveted cause of literacy and education for the young girls of her mountain-wrapped region.  She was simply advocating the message of the prophet of Islam to seek knowledge even if one has to go as far as China. And those barbarians who claim also to be Muslims, brutally shot her because she was proving to be a strong, outspoken and undaunted advocate of education and learning.

She is silent on stretcher ensconced by the grim faced medicos and para-medic staff who look at her still tiny frame with minds assailed by torturous and horrid fears whether she would survive or not. The whole world is one in offering prayers for that angel that was the lone yet unflinching and intrepid voice for enlightenment and dissemination of knowledge, literacy and education for the girls from the far flung and remote villages of Swat.

She was spirited, articulate, fearless resolute in her noble mission and was vibrantly professing and spreading her message in the face of  those savages that had terrorized the whole valley. In the short takeover of the Taliban under their commanders Mualana Fazlullah and  Sufi Muhammad, this ferocious segment of antiquated humanity unleashed a reign of terror and manslaughter on the local population. They would chop the limbs and heads of the inhabitants and display them on trees or lamp posts to tame others.

They had perpetrated similar inhuman atrocities and harrowing barbarism in Afghanistan. As a result of their extreme savagery the whole nation was transported into dark ages. In the dark ages (500 AD -1500 AD) religious vendettas, persecutions and inquisitions were executed by the catholic papacy against the Protestants and other dissenters. So there is not even a thin line existing between the ignorant and merciless Taliban and their cohorts Muslim extremists on one side and those Christian executioners of yester-years on the other who brooked no compassion or tolerance for the religious dissensions.

These gun totting predators forgot that the first lesson imparted by the lord of this world Allah to his most chosen messenger and Apostle Muhammad was to read.  If there were some sentiments of support and sympathy for this callous and beastly lot of humans among the Muslim religious ranks, then these must be washed off because of their odious and dastardly attempt on the life of an innocent young girl who was not match to the ferocity of the Taliban. She did not fight with weapon or remote bombs but with pen and paper. She wanted schools where the children could receive education.

What kind of religion and Islamic virtues and teachings these moron believers in the distorted version and vision of Islam want to enforce in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world? They are defaming and denigrating the sublimity of Islam that till eternity is the only righteous path for the salvation of humanity and for earning the pleasure of God. If prophet had the infinite capacity and tolerance to forgive his tormentors then these boorish followers of his are doing just the opposite to his divine message, sublime creed, immaculate character and noble conduct.

I would rather keep myself away from the political debate as to whose war Pakistan is fighting and that Taliban are fighting against the enemies of Islam. My question is for which brand of Islam?  My point is with their bloodletting, hair-raising tortures, bomb blasts, killing their fellow Muslim believers, (instead of peaceful preaching) the Taliban are doing most loathsome and disastrous disservice to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Besides they are reinforcing the global perception that Muslims were terrorists and barbarians. If there is not an iota of Islamic mercy, compassion or forbearance among the votaries and practitioners of Islam then their beliefs are not worth a dime.

There is a dire need to inculcate a sentiment of broadmindedness and to raise the level of awareness among the Muslim societies. It is utterly imperative to educate them that their religion exhorts to keep pace with the advancing times through innovation (Ijtehad) and reorienting and reinterpreting the Islamic laws (not fundamental beliefs) to conform with the changing socio-cultural patterns of the modern times.

 The blind piggy-bagging of the narrow minded religious preachers and confiding in the clerics with half-baked knowledge must be discarded. The enlightened, liberal and educated people with no bigotry, bias and outdated strait jackets should come forward and harness the minds and visions of the Muslim populations to take them out of the moulds of obscurantism and conceptual backwardness.

It is a monumental challenge for the religio-political leaders, for the visionaries, scholars, intellectuals, educationists, and media to work together for a civil society in order to bury and eliminate such aberrations and monstrosities that bedevil most of the Muslim societies.

And one would pray and beseech the sustainer of this world who gives life and takes it away to redeem little Malala Yousafzai out of her trauma and awaken her from her deep slumber. If it is a miracle, let it happen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Next Government Would Also be of PPP

October 6, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

My assessment is that the next government, following 2013 general elections, would also be formed by the PPP in tandem with its present coalition allies. I base my reckoning upon the peculiar political culture of Pakistan and various compelling and inescapable factors that would bar other parties to be able to muster enough majority to come into power.

My studied argument is that the slots for the national or provincial assemblies are mostly traditional. These are monopolized mostly by feudal, big land lords, Sardars( tribal chiefs) , Khans( Pashto speaking notables), Pirs( spiritual or holy figures), clans( brotherhoods based on caste or ethnic consideration)  or on family basis( like Chaudhris of Gujrat).

Then religious parties and sectarian conglomerations also partake some seats. No party can snatch a single seat from MQM in those constituencies of two major cities of Karachi and Hyderabad where it is solidly entrenched.

The ANP and partly JUI have their firm hold in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly NWFP). The ANP as the regional party always bags its traditional national and provincial assembly’s seats with hands down. The red shirt instinct never recedes or fades in the psyche of the Pathans loyal to the philosophy of Bacha Khan and his son Khan Abdul Wali Khan.

The religious outfits and groups are quite influential in certain areas of Pakistan and their victories in those regions are guaranteed. For instance JUI always wins certain traditional seats in Dear Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Mianwali and Baluchistan. Jamaat-i-Islami captures a few seats in Punjab and Karachi.

The devotees of Pir Pagara cast their votes in favor of those candidates that the spiritual chief recommends or favors. Same is the case with other shrine custodians and saints. PML ((Q) would also take its share of seats that it is destined to win. The mainstream parties: PPP and PML (N), as usual, will have the first and runner positions respectively.

The Pakistan Tehrik-I-Insaf (PTI) is relatively a new entrant into the demarcated political turf of Pakistan. Its leader is an acknowledged honest and upright person with strict moral codes and ethical standards to believe and follow. But that quality or trait is not enough for political point scoring, browbeating the rivals and taking legislative lead in Pakistan.

Imran Khan is a vibrant revolutionary and a passionate patriot but he is not a rabble-rouser as ZA Bhutto was who with his oration would sway and enchant the public rallies and meetings. A reticent, less raucous and a leader with diminished rhetorical skill may be a hero but would not excel his counterparts having long background in the political arena.

It would be utterly difficult for nascent party like PTI to defeat the traditional political parties in Pakistan and come out with a clear-cut victory to propel and advance its revolutionary agenda aimed at transforming the destiny of Pakistan and its inhabitants. It would be nothing short of a miracle and an unusual and extraordinary event if PTI emerges as a party with a count of majority seats to form the government either at the center or in any province.

PTI”s bank vote is limited and confined to zealous and motivated lot of youth, college students, or disgruntled Pakistanis who may be intellectually, academically or socially on a very high pedestal. But their number is not as vast as to vote the PTI into power. The agitations and uproarious protests and violent processions by the sentimental and emotional youngsters and educated or conscientious citizens may look impressive. But such street outpourings have never brought the Jamaat-I-Islami or the religious parties in power despite their being past masters in such agitational antics to mobilize the people and bring them to the streets.

There can be a possibility for the PTI to win some seats in Punjab both for the provincial as well as the federal legislature. That is if somehow both the PML (N) and PTI can join hands to contests elections in Punjab by sharing seats and supporting each other. With that arrangement, the plan and projection of the PPP to replace PMNL’s government in Punjab, after the 2013 elections can be thwarted.  But PTI chief Imran Khan has ruled out such a possibility by announcing that that PTI will not form an electoral alliance either with JI or PMNL.

Let us now consider the post elections scenario for the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party).When the PPP chairman claims that PPP is going to take over Punjab also, it connotes and indicates that there must be some solid ground for a such a statement. He is not talking in the air or without some self-assured confidence. Now the question as to how the PPP can stage a return to power can be answered by taking various cogent and compelling factors into consideration.

First of all like other parties, PPP will retake and win its seats with an insignificant number to be lost. There is a probability that it gains more seats than what it obtained in 2008 elections. The strong indicator and plausible argument to support this contention can be found in the victory of Abdul Qadir Gilani. He won over his rival Mr. Bosan an equally  heavy weight in the by-poll for the National Assembly’s seat NA-151 (Multan-IV), vacated by his father the former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after being disqualified by the Supreme Court.

Despite a plethora of charges ranging from corruption to nepotism to inefficiency and incompetence, he won that seat. Same yardstick can be applied to other traditional seats that are unassailable or cannot be grabbed by other parties in the prevailing socio-cultural milieu of Pakistan.

As such the electoral strength of all the parties, by and large, would remain the same with minor alterations. The PPP would take maximum number of seats followed by the PMLN. The present coalition partners of PPP with their ensured quota of reclaimed seats would again join the majority party at the center and in provinces where possible.

Thus the existing paradigm of power sharing would remain intact in the new government. The same rigmarole with the Supreme Court would remain in play. The stringent accountability, rule of law, coveted dream of justice, removal of poverty, reinventing Pakistan and rebuilding its institutions would remain elusive for another five years.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Did Romney’s Tall Claims Sit Well with the Audience?

October 4, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

The answer is emphatic ‘No”. What the watchers marveled was that why president Obama a fiery speaker and an expert in the art of debating chose to be shy and unresponsive to the overblown arguments of his Republican rival. That unexpected change in an otherwise vocal and eloquent Obama's posture was a sheer disappointment for countless of his fans. But there could be a method in his studied oblivion and avoidance of stern retort that he could have easily whipped up.

Speculatively, he wanted Romney to dish out any amount of claims with a tinge of falsehood and distortions. He might have left it for the people to judge how ill-informed, deceptive and evasive his opponent was with regard to the grave and monumental national issues.

It would not be difficult for the perceptive citizens to figure out that Romney was making false and frivolous pledges that were simply unattainable. He was trying to vouch even those claims that were primarily on the agenda of the Democratic Party.

He made such catchy and rosy claims as to save 5 trillion dollars and tax cuts for the middle class and offer another version of Medicare that he tried to argue was better than that of the Democrats. In fact that five trillion would go to the rich robber barons because of low taxation on them.
In an inane rhetoric that rang hollow, he was trying to pamper the armed forces by offering a 2 trillion dollar trough which the discerning observers know was the token or down money for starting the war against Iran. He pledged to make the armed forces stronger. But the nagging question is: for what war that posed a danger to America? The irony is that the military has not even asked for that money.

Is he not aware that since WWII America has been involved in distant wars every single day and without any respite. These wars had remained inconclusive and counterproductive with regard to realizing the American dream of lording over new world order under its aegis.

The Korean War divided that nation into two hostile parts. The Vietnam War not only divided that small land into two ideological adversaries but culminated into a hasty and ignominious withdrawal from that country.

The Iraq war has been a lingering trauma and a bleeding sore for the Iraqi people. It cost American tax payers a mind boggling trillion dollars or more. At the end of the day the civil and sectarian strife has returned to that bedeviled country. The Afghanistan war can continue till eternity without any outcome in favor of the occupation forces.

So if Romney wants to engage Iran in another military conflict then he seems to be grossly detached with the history of America wars after the Second World War. Or he is simply playing with American people by exploiting the patriotism card that has been a favorable pastime of the successive Republican dispensations all these decades.

Or he is trying to curry favor with Israel to win the support of the unassailable Jewish lobbies within America for winning elections. Or else he wanted to perpetuate the clash of civilizations doctrine to attack and demolish another country that rivals Israel.

Despite a sluggish and low key display by Obama, the American people do not want to believe in the claims that Mitt Romney was blurring out. The people know a pervasive mess and chaos what the 8 years of Republican administration under a hawkish ultra-right Evangelist president Bush has landed this country into.

They also know that four years of Obama’s presidency have been like an oasis in a sizzling desert or a coveted spell of rainfall after a long phase of stifling drought and suffocating stagnation. All the calamities that befell America in recent times can be solely attributed to that era of G. W. Bush that ravished this country with uncalled-for jingoism and mindless saber-rattling in the distant lands either to cheer the radical Christian lobbies within America or to cajole and pacify Israel.

A lack-luster performance by President Obama

October 4, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

In his first presidential debate with Republican contender Mitt Romney, President Obama was dull, in low key and docile. He should have adopted an aggressive, stunning and attacking posture. By his lack luster response he has surely disappointed his well wishers, his enthusiastic supporters and his party members. From the start he appeared to be incoherent and missing the spicy and the hard hitting punch to rebut and disarm his opponent who in general reckoning was rated to be no match to an eloquent Obama.

It was not the Barrack Obama that we have seen all these four years disarming and dominating his interlocutors and political rivals in debates, eloquence or proffering the data and statistics that Romney did robustly and confidently.

He had been on the defensive to the extent that he ignored to debunk Romney for his erroneous and falsifying facts about such paramount issues as taxation, medicare and creation of jobs. He did not, even in passing, mention or criticize the offshore accounts of Mitt Romney, his Bain scandal, his tax evasion or less payment of taxes.

He forgot to draw a comparison between his four years’ brilliant presidency with the eight years dismal and ruinous performance of the Republican administration under G.W. Bush that wrought disastrous effects on the American economy as a result of which this country slipped under a staggering debt of 16 trillion dollars.
He did not outline his administration’s sterling achievements in rebuilding America from ashes, reinvigorating its battered economy, reviving the manufacturing sector revitalizing the debilitated auto industry and enlivening the sinking banking and financial systems.

He could explain his astounding Medicare plan that in effect is a boon for the poor, for the less privileged and those Americans with chronic diseases. He did not argue and emphasize his stupendous job creation record that was nothing short of an historic achievement given the fragile and ruined economy that he was handed over by his successor.

He mutely mentioned the recall of American forces from Afghanistan and Iraq that has not only saved billions of dollars but would be instrumental in sparing collateral human loss. Thousands of American troops have been killed or maimed in these futile wars besides putting an enormous strain and burden on the American economy.

He should have enumerated his phenomenal reforms benefiting the veterans and their families, legalizing the young immigrants, helping the students burdened with heavy loans, buoying up the housing sector, and eliminating many of the American enemies from among such bands as al-Qaida and others. The America’s prominent role in making the Arab spring succeed and democratic governments to be established in place of tyrants was also not taken up by president Obama.

How could he afford to skip all these glittering hallmarks of his regime that he achieved despite the glaring fact that when he assumed the presidency America was like a ship wrecked in stormy ocean of problems making this wonderful country as the most indebted nation?

As to why he was complacent and in dismissive mood can be one of the mysterious riddles hard to be untangled by his admirers and even by the antagonists. As to how his performance is going to be in the coming debates is a wistful speculation. One would wonder if it would be an assertive, lashing and robust Obama coming back or the same dispirited, submissive and fatigued Obama.

Would he in the next debates on which hinges his re-election, he would focus on  recounting  his accomplishments and highlight the glaring flaws, hypocrisy and propensity of the Republicans to benefit the special interest groups and big tycoons at the cost of the middle class, indigent sections and low income Americans? Let us wait and see.