Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Americans, Beware of the Economic Doom!

January 10, 2010

By Saeed Qureshi

The statistics are hair-raising. The national debt of United States currently stands at $ 12 trillion which if divided on a population of 300 million comes roughly to $40,000 for every man, woman and child in America. The budget deficit for the year 2009 is estimated to be an all time high at $1042 billion. The cost for both Iraq and Afghanistan war in 2010 would be around $ 1046 billion. In 2014 America’s debt-to GDP ratio would reach 108 percent. By 2019 payments on the federal debt would rise to $799 billion.
China and Japan are the two biggest creditors of United States, thus far holding 798 billion and 751 billion worth of U.S. Treasury securities. The trade deficit that was zero in 1991 soared to 763 billion in 2006. If this trade deficit is not checked, by 2030 it will rise to 15 percent of the GDP or $ 5 trillion annually. By November 2009 the mortgages of 16 million Americans were upside down. So far 100 banks have close their business, 416 are at risk of bankruptcies. By 2013, the projected losses on account of bounced real estate loans will be 600 billion. The acute economic downslide places the United States in a risky situation of losing reserve currency status of dollar as well as its superpower status.
There is growing loud thinking that the United States has already lost its superpower status. It is being feared that America’s economy that is in extreme dire straits, would impinge on its superpower status. Besides, its leadership in the field of science and technology would be prodigiously hampered due to the paucity of funds. It is surmised that the China and Japan will outpace United States in the scientific research. There is also a very potent apprehension that since United States would need more credits from Japan and China; these countries could also influence America’s foreign policy and her conduct of external affairs.
The European Union, a conglomeration of 27 countries is emerging as a strong economic contender or rival of the United States. EU’s common currency Euro is 1.5 times stronger than the US dollar. It means one has to pay 1.5 dollar to buy one Euro. EU is world’s single largest market with a population of 500 million individuals.
United States war bill will astronomically soar if it decides to expand its war on terrorism to Yemen and those pockets where the terrorists are resettling. A military action against Iran preceded by clamping of sanctions and embargoes on that country would not be a one sided affair. Like the Somali pirates a similar kind f blockade can be mounted by Iran in the Strait of Harmus which might lead a calamitous conflagration in the area between the United States and west on one side and Iran on the other. Bu the paramount question is that in the face of a crumbling economy and much dependence on foreign loans, would this be a rational or the prudent course to adopt? Will not the armed standoff, if not the actual engagement, spell further disaster for the American economy?
Should United States still push for opening more armed conflicts around the world, despite the stalemated war situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the domestic economic decline with closure of such giant enterprises as Chrysler and General Motors, complete mess in real estate and closure of elephantine financial institutions,? We can chase the Al-Qaida all around the globe with our forces and huge military potential but is there is an iron clad guarantee that this pursuit would end at some point of time with absolute success.
Besides these economic disasters, it is being conjured that with the unfunded liabilities and payments to the million of retiring baby boomers in the coming times, not only would create chaos in social security, Medicare and Medicaid but also push up the American national debt to a horrifying level of 50 trillion.
So what is the prudent and safe way-out of this treacherous marshy situation in which we can further sink instead of jumping out of it with a victorious banner in our hand? The enemy is not stationed or concentrated at one place. If it is defeated in one part of the world, it slips to another part, thus forcing the United States to move to the new places and sactuaries as well.
A better, pragmatic or discreet strategy could be to assign the task of hunting, combating, and eliminating the terrorists to the countries from where they operate or are based. This strategy is paying its dividends in Pakistan where Pakistan’s army has earned the singular distinction of subduing the radical militants and terrorists in various parts where they were well entrenched since the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989. The bulk of the miscreants and their local abettors have been exterminated or forced to surrender or flee.
The incumbent U.S. administration was passed on the cataclysmic war hysteria by former Bush administration manned by extreme right radical wings commonly known as neo-cons. Imbued by a misplaced fervor to conquer the anti Christ nations, in this case the Muslims, they launched their mighty military forays against Iraq which was a blatant transgression of the international norms governing the interstate relations. Saddam was a person no less than a devil. He was sinister both for the region and for his own suppressed people. But merely to remove him at a huge cost was such a grievous blunder whose baneful and ruinous repercussions continue to this day.
The United States should have withdrawn once the tyrant was fallen. The tyrant however never gave an impression that he was an adversary of the United States. If United States mounted that gubernatorial military adventure for the safety of Israel then it should be understood that by saving Israel, America ruined itself economically, militarily and even morally.
I would like the United States to make the world and United States safe havens by killing all the terrorists and the anti American elements. But this cannot be achieved by fighting unnecessary and self destructive wars on foreign soils. What United States have not achieved at the cost of making it economically broke, could have been achieved by giving a fraction of the war funds to the countries where the terrorist elements were hiding.
A mighty and majestic country, a well deserved superpower after the defeat of communism is beset by rampant and escalating unemployment, huge debt burden, and trade imbalances. There is in the making a doom’s day scenario exacerbating with every passing moment. The streets of United States look run down; the roads cannot be repaved for want of funds, and are instead resurfaced with ugly uneven patches. The bridges are old, the signboards are obsolete. The loans are scare and not easily available; the air travelling is turning into a nightmare. The educational institutions don’t get the adequate funds; the hospitals are overcrowded and handicapped because of insufficient budget allocations and so on.
The social-civic sector that was an exemplary hallmark of American society is now in the throes of decline and decay. Name one sector that is financially sound and stable in the face of the ongoing economic meltdown. A realistic reevaluation of the prevailing frightening situation that is devouring the wealth of this great country is called for. Concurrently the war on terror can be won with much less hassle and loss and at much less cost and without committing the American troops to fight in foreign uncharted and inhospitable terrains. Moreover, they look like occupation forces.

America’s Predicament

January 7, 2010

By Saeed Qureshi

For a score of years, the world has become such a tense and inhospitable place to live and this trend is inexorably continuing. The scary security syndrome of United States has caught up with the rest of the world and particularly with the Islamic countries. The future of the globe is fraught with unforeseen anxieties and phobias. America is no more a place where the air passengers could walk up to the aircraft without any inhibitions, strict body searches entailing human indignities. Don’t forget you cannot remain immune even in your own country once you come under suspicion of being even remotely or inadvertently connected with Islamic radicalism, euphemistically called Islamic terrorism. Terrorism is abhorrent whether on a small or big scale. But it was a rare commodity or almost nonexistent some two decades ago.
It’s distressing to see long queues of the passengers at the airports who are inevitably obligated to pass through the scanning machines, subjected to rough body searches, with shoes or other belonging held in their hands or placed in a basket. The bewilderment better be called harassment would be writ large on everyone’s face as to why the humanity has come under such a frightening specter of fattening fear. The Islamic fascism according to western version is on the rampage against the civilized world with America in the lead. The latest incident involving a young Nigerian has fueled the already anti Muslim leaping fires of hatred and suspicion.
This is a real clash of civilizations happening before our eyes. Inside the aircraft, the Caucasians and the white skinned along with yellow skinned passengers look, at the bearded, turbaned or non white fellow passengers, with suspicion and a tinge of paranoid lurking on their tense faces. Henceforth the toilets would be watched while the passengers are inside. This in an encroachment upon the privacy of humans but more than the human dignity, the security is decidedly indispensible. These developments are no doubt evils but terrorism is the paramount evil.
The pious platitudes of president Obama in regard to build bridges of mutual understanding, respect and equality with the Muslims around the world seem to be in great jeopardy. Contrary to his claims and lofty ideals of pacification with the Islamic bloc, Obama instead is being sucked into a position of belligerency towards the Muslims. Every time, a Muslim is caught in the nasty plot of killing Americans, correspondingly the noose is further tightened around the neck of the entire Muslim world. This time 13 Islamic countries have been picked up for intense and rigorous search at the airports of their incoming or outgoing passengers.
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other founding fathers must be turning in their graves and their souls restlessly hovering in the purgatory on what has happened to their lofty ideals enshrined in the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence which were so sagaciously written by them with a vivid prophetic vision of the future. But while these sublime documents are imperishable for their contents, the times have radically changed. Every word of these eternal documents is like a pearl pleading and protecting the inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, among others. The Bill of Rights, stipulates that, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrant shall be issued but upon probable cause and supported by oath or affirmation…” It further underlines, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of state….”
The past ten years and more specifically the period after the 9/11 tragedy, the American nation has remained tied to the tenterhooks of perpetual fear, unmitigating paranoid and a woeful trauma so much so that a young black Nigerian can upset the apple cart of the already foolproof security apparatus of United States. With such events taking place, not only that the Americans suffer but the rest of the world too receives its ruinous fallout. The incident of bomb in the shoes, the episode of anthrax and the implicit danger in combustible lotions kept prompting the authorities to introduce more and more stringent restrictions on the air travelers. The size and weight of the baggage has been considerably reduced as well.
Without question United States is a super power and a leader of the world but look at its predicament. With such a dazzling economic and military might, it looks like a beleaguered country with a lurking fear in every mind for some dreadful thing to happen. The world looks like a war theater with United States fighting against the faceless and stateless perpetrators of suicide bombing and sabotage.
Someone should reckon and try to find out why the conflagration of 9/11 happened that changed the entire complexion of America: from a paradise on earth and an abode of tranquility, peace, liberty, freedom and human rights to a mini concentration camp, in which one has to enter after strict search and inquiry. Before 9/11 there was no social suffocation that one feels now. The immigrants were not dreaded nor treated to be a different and dangerous species. Before 9/11 the Muslim crusaders that fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan were the most sought after and revered humans.
Then what went wrong? It's a 6 million dollar question. How long United States would squander its resources, lose the precious lives of American soldiers, and clamp on the world and its people a pall of constant phantom of further tragedies. The security apparatus would one day reach its extreme limit and if still something dreadful happens then what next. Is there a peaceful way-out from this most oppressive climate and fright ridden pattern of life? Can Muslims, Jews and Christians become friends and dismantle their barriers erected on frivolous jingoism, faith or race based hatred and loathsome bestiality. Can we discard the dogma of Armageddon for the sake of humanity, gregarious survival and mutual peaceful coexistence? It should not be overlooked that the future of human race is common and integral. Humanity has a shared fate both in death and life.

Destabilizing Pakistan

January 4, 2010
By Saeed Qureshi
The cracks are once again appearing in the national cohesion fabric that somehow was sustained in Pakistan despite immense upheavals including the cessation of the eastern wing of Pakistan now known as Bangladesh. In the aftermath of the truncation of Pakistan in 1971, it was believed that the remaining part, West Pakistan being a geographical contiguity would, henceforth strengthen and prosper. The brief leadership of ZA Bhutto rekindled the hope and recharged the will to move forward and reorient Pakistan as a vibrant and viable country.
There were those who erroneously thought that the separation of East Pakistan was a good riddance and a blessing in disguise. Even Islam a strong binding force has remained debilitated to keep the nation together. On the contrary it has emerged more as a divisive force as witnessed in pervasive religious extremism and the resurfacing of the sectarian antagonism with added ferocity between Sunni and Shia sects.
There seem to be invisible hands and hidden forces trying to choke the economic viability of Pakistan as evidenced by the latest incidents of burning the Bolton market in Karachi. The flurry of suicide bomb blasts that have incessantly rocked the length and breadth of Pakistan were carried out mostly in busy Bazaars, trade centers and hotels.

Now the power grid stations and gas supply lines are being targeted and that frightening dimension would spell disaster and cause incalculable loss to the already fragile economy of Pakistan. With power shut off or being supplied piecemeal, the industry is moving towards a standstill situation. The Minister of Water and Power has lately recanted from his earlier claims that by December 2009 the load shedding would disappear. Now with a straight and remorseless face, he says that his earlier pledges and claims were wrong or false and that in future he would never lay such phony claims. With his loathsome statement of atonement the future of power looks dark and with that the country getting darker shadows as well.

The situation is Faisalabad became desperate when the laborers who were rendered jobless due to closure of the textile mills, turned into a rowdy crowd chanting anti government slogans and demanding resumption of power supply. Similar unrest is mushrooming in other parts of the country. It doesn’t forebode well for a country sunk up to neck in a civil war situation thrust on it by the foreign imperial powers. The inability and impotency of the respective Pakistani leaders to come up with a befitting response and posting a big no has to the foreign dictions has brought this beautiful country to such a nightmarish pass.

The armed militancy raging in Balochistan is the biggest danger to the federation of Pakistan. This insurgency is evidently being aided and abetted by India, a sordid fact widely acknowledged. The rebellion in Balochistan has its roots also in the indifferent way this sparsely populated yet profusely rich land mass has been treated by various governments in Pakistan. The foremost ingredient that fomented a prolonged climate of confrontation between the center and this province is the scourge of peerage or "Sardari Nizam" that is hell-bent to ferret out of the federation of Pakistan.

The Bhutto crackdown on Baluchi resistance and later ratcheted up by Musharraf are the display of state‘s bids to impose its fiat on the renegade province. The death of Akbar Bugti in a combat with the army turned out to be last nail or a potent cause to openly cross swords with the center. The elements that want the Balochistan province to be independent state are hard nuts to crack and they can be subdued only by use of brute force. The pliant or patriotic Balochis can be talked to for reconciliation. Thus far that murky standoff has been markedly instrumental in generating a paradigm of destabilization.

The army’s onslaught against the religious militancy is another monstrous factor that has catapulted Pakistan into a war being fought for others. Had Pakistan come under threat from the Tribal warriors without the apron string of America and the west, Pakistan was within its legitimate rights to curb and eliminate thus threat. But the ongoing military action is not aimed at saving Pakistan from the onset a theocratic Islamic empire, but to kill the enemies of America. This so called war on terrorism is being waged at the bidding and behest of foreign powers for which the blood of Pakistanis is being spilled on its own soil without any compunction.

The simple corollary is “we give you money and you kill our enemies even if they are your citizens and kith.” And by the way the enemies are the Pakistanis, who could be cajoled or persuaded peacefully to desist from their militancy, not to challenge the state authority and instead join the mainstream national milieu. It is foregone that Pakistan would not be able to finish insurgents to the last and wind up its operations by announcing “the mission accomplished”. Mind it, this civil war is not going to end so soon. Pakistan army would remain bogged into this filthy quagmire for quite some time.

At domestic front, the disillusionment of the people of Pakistan is reaching a breaking point, from where it might turn into a civil disobedience movement. Logically, if people have no jobs, no morsel of food to eat, no electricity to light their houses, no gas to cook or boil water, or petrol to run their cars and buses, no medicines for the sick and no fee to pay for schooling of their children, no orderly traffic to reach their destinations, no enough public transport to travel on time, no drinkable water, then what option is left with the people: either to die in silence or challenge the rulers and come out in streets.

The other grotesque dimension is the genie of corruption that has charmed every mind in power corridors. The state institutions and government departments look like heaps of filth and diabolic models of incompetence and inefficiency. These are invariably manned by individuals with long blood licking fangs that spare no one and get grafts for their official obligations. The police supposed to be the shelter for the oppressed and harassed citizens are a cabal of rapists, collaborators of criminals, rogues and rascals. The legal minds have no other penchant except to make money by using the rod of justice against those who cannot pay.

The ministers and top brass are past masters in deception, falsehood, mockery, and creating hoaxes for better days. One provincial minister from Sindh conditions his loyalty to Pakistan with the loyalty to his chum Asif Ali Zardari. In one of his latest unforgettable, outrageous outburst, he thundered, “if today Asif Zardari says Pakistan "Na Khappey" (we don’t want Pakistan), we shall too reject Pakistan.” Do someone need any evidence of how treason is committed and that too so insolently. Pakistan to these guys, who are perched on top positions of power ladder, is like toilet paper that can be thrown away after rubbing filth to it.

No wonder then, the prodigious drift towards destabilization is picking up momentum. Pakistan army is a savior, albeit of geographical frontiers. It cannot prevent the whole nation marching on the streets and demanding justice and revenge the wayward and derelict leadership. If the aristocratic or wealthy classes are ransacked and their citadel like mansions pillaged then who is to blame? At the saturation point, the public wrath like the divine retribution visits upon such individuals and leaders who incorrigibly project themselves as Roman emperors.

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Give a Break to President Zardari

January 2, 2010

By Saeed Qureshi

All said and done, Asif Ali Zardari is the democratically elected president of Pakistan. He did not achieve this status from the back door. Politics is not a game of strict moral standards. He is corrupt or not, let the courts decide it. His ministers are accused of corruption let the court find out. But his speech in Nodero on the second death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto absolves him of the blame that he was working at the behest of the foreign string pullers or at the bidding of the so called omniscient establishment.
He roared at the army and lambasted the Americans particularly with reference to their dirty role in Iraq. He mentioned the anti Bhutto forces and vowed to fight for the solidarity of the country. That was a fresh breeze and a dazzling demeanor that was hardly expected of Mr. Zardari who is heaped with all kinds of unsubstantiated insinuations under the sun. To challenge the army and the establishment with such outspoken courage and in so daring a manner underscores the new garb Mr. Zardari is putting on.
Once again, Addressing a gathering at the ground-breaking ceremony of ‘Windar Dam’ at Lasbela, on January 2, he repeated his charges, that undemocratic forces in the country are conspiring to remove him from the presidency because of his facilitating the oppressed Bloch masses. He did not specify which these forces were but putting together his December 27 Nodero speech with that of Lasbela it is quite clear that no other forces in Pakistan have the power or the resources or the oppressive apparatus to remove any head of head of state except the armed forces. So one again he seems to brace him against the army that is known for removing the democratic governments in the times of severe poltical crises.

It’s one of those rare moments that an elected head of state picks up enough courage and confidence to challenge the forces that he fears were active to remove him from the political stage. There seems to be in making a climate of confrontation in Pakistan that generally gives an impression as if the PPP government and particularly president Zardari feels threatened by the army and the intelligence agencies that have earned the dubious distinction of king makers. But apparently there are no indications from the army or the tenured actors or elements as pointed out in his two speeches to challenge the authority of the incumbent democratic coalition government.

If the overt or concealed reference is to the judiciary then it should be understandable that this branch of state doesn’t have the physical power to get its verdicts translated into observance. The implicit hint is directed at the army. Even the rival poltical forces have no material means, unless they are covertly in league with the army, to stage a street coup against the sitting government.
However, the bravado and the courage betoken an exceptional change of politicking on the part of a president so far exhibiting a profile of docility. It’s possible that behind the curtain the president might have been advised to resign and if he doesn’t the other options could be explored.
Otherwise, there is no way that he can so outspokenly burst out publically against the anti Bhutto and anti government forces. This could as well be the use of the much debated Sindh card and of late the Balochistan card to muster enough public support to resist any attempted ouster by the forces poised against the sitting government. President Zardari in the same breath is talking of the confrontation between the institutions which perhaps he means between the army and the government on one side, between the executive and the judiciary on the other. But the explanation offered by his wizard spokesman instead of clarifying the already befuddled situation further complicates it. The anti Bhutto forces have to be clearly defined. By merely saying that this is a mindset is not going to pacify the discerning minds and the nation at large. The army must be busy in an exercise of scanning and interpreting the meaning of the president’s words and the motives for their utterance, for apparently there is no visible tension between the army and the government.

But the rhetoric of Zardari still a novice in the realm of politics must be overlooked as still his party is the symbol of a political and democratic government which despite all its drawbacks must be allowed to carry on. What is imperative for the PPP leadership is to repair and restore their links and alliance with the opposition for hammering out a broad national consensus. The first step towards this direction is to revoke the 17th amendment by whatever mode and mechanism it is possible to do. President Zardari and his colleagues must understand that even to brace up against the army or other forces that he pointed out in his Nodero and Lasbela, he needs support from broad poltical spectrum.
Additionally the government must address emergently the countless problems of the masses such as scarcity of basic food items and spiraling prices. The electricity, water power, gas and a host of other problems driving the people mad must be tackled on war footing urgency. Finally corruption of the ministers and affiliates of the government must not be side-tracked and those among cabinet ministers must be asked to resign till the cases get a verdict from the courts or from the National Accountability Bureau. Otherwise any mischief can happen and the harassed people would see from the sidelines and with folded hands, another government being dismantled.