Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greg Mortenson -A Role Model Humanitarian

Upright Opinion
Dallas, October 23, 2010
Greg Mortenson -A Role Model Humanitarian
By Saeed Qureshi
If you are one of those few individuals who still do not know as to who Greg Mortenson is, then let me straight away tell you that it is a singular honor and delightful privilege to know Greg Mortenson. He is ushering the remote regions of primitive and war- ravaged Afghanistan and Pakistan into an epic revolution and historic transformation by educating the youth particularly the girls. It is horrific and hair-raising to think of imparting modern education in a land where fanatic bands of Talibans burn schools particularly meant for the female students.
In the Swat valley of Pakistan, where the Taliban radicals as protagonists of a queer brand of islam, burned hundreds of girl schools , Greg’s success story in a similar social setting is too true to be believed. Nevertheless, it is a fact as bright as the daybreak that Greg has established over 150 schools in Afghanistan exclusively for the girls as old as 20 years. And behold and wonder that not one school has been torched or demolished.
Is Greg a magician, a demagogue, a master of spiritism, a shaman, an exorcist, a prophet endowed with miraculous powers, a wizard, or witch doctors? None of these. He is a simple person brimming with an unmitigating reservoir of dedication and an inexhaustible passion to spread knowledge. He is a down to earth American humanitarian dedicated to a Herculean task and a challenge that is indeed daunting. His philanthropy is producing such amazing results that fly in the face of NATO’s futile military adventures in Afghanistan. The NATO and American armies kill the people while Greg wins the hearts and minds of the oppressed and impoverished people of that war torn- country.
Mortenson is the Director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI), and founder of the educational charity “Pennies For Peace.” The Central Asian Institute is building and developing schools, literacy centers, and vocational training centers in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. Greg hands over the management and control of the schools to local residents particularly the cardinals or the custodians of the mosques called Imams (leaders in prayers). Those imams aided by the villagers give religious ascent to the establishment of the school and thus the Taliban’s approval comes handy.
This novel experiment has been delightfully successful. The educational institutions established by CAI are not only functioning in an environment of peace but are also being solicited elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Mortenson emphasizes global literacy for girls. In this regard his famous and widely quoted statement is, "fighting terrorism only perpetuates a cycle of violence and that there should be a global priority to "promote peace" through education and literacy, with an emphasis on girls' education. You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads, or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won't change,"
That phenomenal altruism and real social change in return gives birth to the reassuring perceptions of Afghans that not all European or all Americans were villains. What Greg needs is around 250 million dollars so that he can finance “all higher education in Afghanistan this year”. Most of those students when graduated could nurse favorable picture in their minds about such persons as Greg and his country America. Hopefully, some of these students might even migrate to America to play their part in promoting the American society in various domains, be it science, medical or education, to name a few.
Us army stationed in Afghanistan is reportedly taking a cue from Greg’s sagacious strategy and vital mission. It is understood that in the wake of tremendous success and popularity of Morteson’s charitable mission, the army’s top brass including General Petraeus and U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, view his accomplishments as collateral efforts to rebuild and develop war-ravaged Afghanistan. The “Three Cups of Tea” is a favorite book for American army in Afghanistan to imbibe lessons that they can also follow to achieve the coveted goals of reconstruction of pillaged Afghanistan and win goodwill of the distraught Afghanis.
Greg’s journey towards building educational institutions in the far-flung villages of Afghanistan has not been a smooth sailing endeavor in the beginning. He has been perpetually receiving hate mails from bigoted anti -Muslims fellow Americans. In 1996, he remained in the captivity of the offending Taliban for 8 days in Waziristan, understandably against the charge of building schools for girls. He faced many such incidents of harassment and intimidation but he remained undeterred from his sublime mission that is now being widely acknowledged by both friends and foes.
Mortenson is a co-author with David Oliver Relin of the bestseller book “Three Cups of Tea” that highlights and elaborates the philosophy and contours of his literacy mission in Afghanistan. In recognition of his marvelous and outstanding services towards spreading literacy, the Pakistan government conferred on Mortenson Pakistan’s highest civilian award “Sitara-e Pakistan” on Pakistan Day celebrated on March 23 2009.
The importance of Mortenson’s mission can be judged from the fact that several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and in 2010. The “U.S. News & World Report” magazine featured Greg Mortenson as one of America's Top Twenty Leaders in the year 2009. In Bill Moyers’ PBS TV interview conducted on January 15, 2010, Mortenson deliberated on the role of the U.S. military and Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, as well as education for girls as a pivotal catalyst in bringing peace and creating a favorable impact among the Afghan people.
Now here in Dallas the legendary Mortenson will be the chief guest in what has been described as Grand gala dinner in connection with the introduction of his new book “Stones into Schools”. The proceeds by way of tickets would go to the Central Asia Institute, the organization that is engaged in building schools in Afghanistan. Ayesha Shafi, Nadia Bashir, and Azad Khan the host of the popular radio program “Bol Kay Lab Azad hain Teray” are the members of the Dallas committee for the ceremony. The hosts include Abdul and Talat Jabbar, Karen and George MacCown, Sadia and Tauheed Ashraf.
• (The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Recipe for Peace in Karachi

Upright Opinion
October 20, 2010
Recipe for Peace in Karachi
By Saeed Qureshi
Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan is in the grip of an unremitting carnage. Residents are being killed indiscriminately. The brazen killers and trigger-happy shooters roam with abandon, kill point blank, and move away blithely. The law and order is shattered and social life is virtually paralyzed. People are as frightened as the Jews were during the 12 years (1933-1945) of Nazis’ ethnic cleansing spree before the Second World War in Germany. In Karachi, the movement of the public is strictly hampered and compounded. The city looks like what Delhi presented the gory spectacle after British soldiers ransacked Delhi, killed wantonly, and hanged 35000 residents alone in Delhi.

So one can make a comparison of this spine-chilling situation between Delhi of 1857 and Karachi of 2010. The political players and the government functionaries and even public knows who are responsible for this orgy of human blood. The Defense minister of Sindh audaciously claims that he was the biggest ruffian in the whole of province. He is the first one to be arraigned for his questionable conduct. Since he is the chum of president Zardari he is as safe as moon.
I have seen in the TV footage, corpses of innocent young bystanders and ordinary peddlers and stallholders strewn on the pavements and roadside reminiscent of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. These young boys and old men who were the bread earners of their families became the target of revenge killing.
Karachi as we know has several ethnic groups. These are Mohajars, the Pathans the Afghanis, the local Sindhis besides the minority Balochis, and Makranis. Additionally, there are unaccounted number of foreign immigrants (both legal and illegal) from Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. This roughly is the demographic complexion of the Karachi’s 20 million population.
Although the three parties namely, MQM, PPP, and ANP are coalition partners in the Sindh government, yet mentally and intrinsically they are hostile towards each other. The MQM considers Karachi as its citadel where bulk of them settled after migrating from India. The ethnic Pathans later joined by Afghans and even Taliban over several decades have been coming to Karachi for economic reasons and have become permanent residents here. Although most of them do small jobs but there are among them who have turned fabulously rich. The Pathan community has also gained political leverage and their candidates are elected in the local or federal elections. The Sindhis are dominant in the sense of being the sons of the soil and lay first claim to power sharing and economic bounties.
As such a simmering tussle and smoldering competition for power, pelf, and over-lordship is always running overtly and overtly between these groups. This cutthroat race spills over to physical elimination of the rivals as we can witness in Mexico where drug mafias and street gangs war against each round the year. Karachi’s extremely fragile, paralyzed breakdown of law and order and perpetual warring can be equated to some extent with Mexico’s border areas, although for different reasons.
Now how can this appalling situation be drastically curbed? The government both at the centre and at province is wary and opposed to handing Karachi over to the army control. The underlying fear is that this army control could be extended to the rest of the country and thus vacating the usefulness of a civilian government. On the other hand, there can be political reasons for keeping the Karachi caldron of violence and target killings boiling. However, the ominous possibility or sinister consequences can be that this unremitting disorder and mayhem may finally burst open into a civil war and there is free for all situation: everyone killing everyone.
I am not convinced that the federal government is either sincere or possesses the necessary muscle to deal with this snowballing trend of violence and lawlessness. So finally it devolves upon the army to step forward and take control of the fast worsening situation. If army moves in, it should first of all clamp curfew and arrest all the ministers and top bureaucrats in the provincial government. Those found involved clandestinely should be summarily prosecuted and awarded deserving punishments. The army should issue an ultimatum for surrender of weapons of every make and brand within a time frame, let us say 48 hours.
After that a house-to-house search should be mounted and those not complying with the orders to surrender the weapons should be summarily sentenced for long jail terms handed out by the military field courts. The people should be asked to pinpoint and report the names of the thugs and bandits, land grabbers and outlaws that are known to the residents. The army should swoop upon all the lawbreakers and criminals in every street and locality and put all of them behind bars or shoot them by the firing squads, depending upon the nature and degree of their crimes.
A list of all the foreigners should be compiled and those staying without any legal documents should be deported within a certain specified period. The religious militants, foreign agents, and clandestine saboteurs hiding in various safe havens of the city should be hunted down along with their protectors and abettors and sentenced, depending upon the intensity of their crimes. Any political figure and party member behind this unrelenting and diabolic yet undetected manslaughter should be shown no mercy.
The only obstacle in this whole projected plan is that the army moves on the order of a sitting political government, which for all indications, the PPPP coalition is not going to do. The alternate is that the army either moves in on its own volition or else is asked by the superior judiciary to do the job. The army should keep this operation for at least a year till harmony and normal peaceful life returns to Karachi.
Besides, the exploding civic problems should be resolved on war footing basis. From improving the public transport system, to provision of running tap water to an uninterrupted supply of electricity, to environmental cleanliness, to expansion of roads, to removal of encroachments on roads and other similar civic reforms should be put in place within the shortest possible time.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Pervez Musharraf’s Dallas Visit

Upright Opinion
October 18, 2010
Pervez Musharraf’s Dallas Visit
By Saeed Qureshi
I am not aware of Pervez Musharraf’s other engagements in Dallas Forth Worth but I do know that he spoke before an impressive number of audience on the evening of October 15. His address lasted a little less than an hour. Since I could not be a participant at the grand gala reception hosted at a local hotel, I am writing this report based mostly of what I heard from other sources and somewhat on my reckoning.
I also know this much that the event was on the card for several months. There were reverberations in the air that the former president of Pakistan was coming to Dallas to launch the local chapter of his newly formed political party, “All Pakistan Muslim League.” I am also privy to the information oozing out from time to time that Musharraf would unfurl his party’s manifesto in his epoch -making address here in Dallas.
I was enormously dismayed when the organizers did not feel like inviting me as a journalist to attend the assemblage, which I understand, was very meticulously organized. Yet according to several versions, the event was lack- luster and less than a jubilant or mirthful event. There were grim faces all over in the hall and even Gen Musharraf himself looked visibly sombrous and somewhat gloomy. I was told that the local convener of the function was so much swayed by emotions that he could not utter a single sentence of welcome and disembarked, visibly shaky, from the rostrum.
The stage and the surrounding areas where the chief guest sat with the local top-notches were cordoned off with a yellow ribbon signaling that no one could come near the stage. Perhaps this precaution and security measure had to be taken to ward off any untoward incident, like physical attack on the chief guest or exchange of hot words or sloganeering by the antagonists of the former president.
The question-answer session was not in the customary format of someone raising the hand and then shooting the question by word of mouth. It was done by written questions scribbled on chits and presented to the honorable guest for answers. According to eyewitnesses, the whole joyful exercise of launching a political party, turned into a drab, controlled, and regimented affair.
It is not possible by watching a two-minute “you Tube” footage, to figure out what was the salient issues that the chairman of “APML” enunciated in his address. Someone from among the audience claimed that Pervez Musharraf spoke very little about the program and the much-awaited manifesto of his newly established party. His speech was a generalized account or refrain of the previously mentioned issues that would better be categorized as rebuttal or defense of the charges and challenges that loom large against the former president of Pakistan.
Some events assume historical or lasting proportions that the people relish and recount repeatedly as memorable. The visit of Pervez Musharraf was essentially a closed-door convention whose impact may be of transitory import without any hallmarks to remember to be mentioned as watershed. His message was confined to around 500 guests at his welcome reception. I wish he could have addressed the Dallas Pakistanis in an open place like Fair Park where most of the immigrant Pakistanis would have listened to his thoughts, plans, and vision about the future.
I also wish that the former president of Pakistan with a laudable litany of accomplishments during his 9 years tenure in presidency should have articulated his party’s manifesto with soul-stirring parlance and thrilling oratory. None of these antics, usually used by popular leaders to rouse and sway public opinion to their side, were remotely employed by Mr. Musharraf. Altaf Hussain and late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are the epitome of such traits of fire spiting and earth shaking crafts to motivate masses.
Until the moment of writing this column, the local organizers has not issued a press release or a kind of information bulletin as to what transpired in that ground-breaking meeting. Those Dallas Pakistanis, who could not attend this function for any reason, should have been apprised about the outcome or impact of this important visit of a former top celebrity of Pakistan.
Outside the hotel intercontinental Addison, a protest rally was staged collectively by PTI, Baloch organization, Sindhi organization, and Dallas Peace Center. Besides other community members, women and children alike, protested against the former president by chanting slogans and by flaunting anti- Musharraf placards. Both the hall meeting and the outside protest remained peaceful and within the bounds of law.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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In House Change may be in the Offing

Upright Opinion
In House Change may be in the Offing
October 12, 2010
BY Saeed Qureshi
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a prominent member of PMLN and the opposition leader in the Pakistan’s National Assembly indicated to Karman Khan the host of GEO Television’s premier talk show, “AAj Karman Kay Sath” that the options for an in-house change against the incumbent government were being looked into. This indeed is a kind of breaking information in that one can obviously surmise that backdoor efforts premised on a constitutional modus operandi, were underway to foist another government in place of the incumbent PPPP-led coalition.
This strategy or option averts or obviates the much clamored demand or desire of the people for the army to capture power via a kind of coup that Pakistan has already witnessed and experienced four times in 63 years of its existence. In house change means the formation of a new coalition or realignments of the political parties with representation in the National Assembly to reduce the majority group to a minority group. The motion of no confidence can be tabled in the assembly for the government to obtain a new vote of confidence and to show its strength as the majority party.
Either already the PMLN is in consultation with other political parties having representation in the National Assembly or it is about to achieve that threshold where it would be in a position to challenge the legitimacy of the sitting government having majority in the Assembly. Otherwise, how could Nisar Ali Khan spell out this possibility on television, of the in-house change with so much emphasis and optimism?
By looking at the chessboard with various political parties out or in power, it would not be naive to speculate that MQM already seems to be a disgruntled party that has been openly slating the federal government for many policies that it thinks were not in the national or public interest. MQM is also distraught over abolishing the previous local bodies system run by mayors. Under that system, MQM has rather transformed Karachi metropolis into a relatively new city with a galore of modern civic infrastructure and facilities like overhead and under bridges, widening of roads and beautifying this largest city of Pakistan.
It is quite discernable that the fragile or tenuous alliance that exists between MQM and the PPP at the center might break any time. MQM is poised for a revolutionary change a la radical transformation in the body politic with feudalism to be abolished, real democratic order to be established, and moral and social virtues of justice and equality to be made universal in Pakistan.
On the other side of the isle, the partners that are components of the coalition at the center, the ANP under no circumstantces would abandon or part way with the PPPP. The reasons are obvious. President Asif Zardari has fulfilled a long-standing dream of ANP for changing the name of their province from NWFP to their chosen or recommended name, which is now Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.
Secondly, in the wake of Islamic militants’ violence, suicide bombing, target killing, subversion in the tribal belt and the Pashto speaking areas, the ANP government desperately needs the military and federal government’s support to face, fight, and fend off the tenacious militants. For ANP to forsake coalition with PPP is out of question and suicidal for this party.
As for religious parties with Maulana Fazalur Rehman in the lead, The PMLN will have to work overtime to win their support and wean them to the new dissident alliance that might defeat the sitting power partners on the floor of the national assembly. But keeping in view the time-tested fact that in politics there are always unpredictable possibilities, JUI may opt for a revolt to strengthen the anti- government bloc.
In the national Assembly, according to 2008 elections, the main party PPPP has 130 seat, PMLN 95, PMLQ 55, ANP 13, MQM 25, MML 6, PML (functional) 5, PPP (Sherpao) 1,National Peoples party 1 and Baluchistan National Awami party (BNP) 1. Besides, there are 18 independents. The coalition partners in the PPPP led government are, MQM, JUI (F) ANP, FATA members, PML (F), BNP, and four independents.
There are altogether 342 seats in the National Assembly including 60 women’s reserved seat and 10 for the minorities. Any sitting government needs a simple majority of 173 seats to remain in power. If by any chance, the proponents of the new alliance can muster over 170 votes in the National Assembly, the government can fall and thus can be replaced with the group having majority.
This can be done if MQM withdraws its support from the government and at the same time, all the Muslim leagues join hands to beef up the new alliance. Even without getting any seats from the women or minorities, the new alliance can defeat the sitting alliance by a few votes. However, if some women’s votes and of minorities can be acquired, then the new alliance would become a formidable force to stay at the helm until the new elections.
This kind of arrangement might be in the mind of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan when he hinted at bringing about the in-house change, which is not a tall order if seen in the backdrop of fast plummeting popularity graph of the sitting coalition government.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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Whither Hope: Whither Civil Society!

Upright Opinion
October 6, 2010
Whither Hope: Whither Civil Society!
By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan is a country where two young boys are lynched before a thrilled mob, where a law minister becomes law unto himself, where the custodians of law turn lawbreakers, where an eminent journalist is blindfolded, kidnapped, brutalized, and molested. It is a country where the rulers and the power wielders have no other penchant but to amass ill-gotten money. Should we still nurse a hope that this nation has a glorious destiny and a magnificent future?
Can we, by any stretch of imagination, console, cajole, or beguile ourselves that the flowering of a civil society is around the corner and sooner the people would bask in the modern comforts, enjoy a sublime life, and savor civil liberties.
While poor Pakistanis, majority being Muslims, suffer unspeakable indignities and stacks of miseries day and day out, their heathen and infidel counterparts in far off lands lead a style of life that can be rated as half of what one would find in the paradise: the eternal blissful abode. For those who die, and pass severe tests of morality and ideal conduct would be eligible to enter that idyllic place narrated to be symbolic of all the luxuries one can think of and whose enticing glimpses have been narrated in the scriptures.
Pakistan is in the midst of a multiplicity of crises and turmoils that make one wonder what ails this land so chronically and so endemically. Who is going to stem the burgeoning rot that is constantly caving into the foundations of Pakistan as a viable state? We are all struck with extreme despondency that aggravates as the time passes. I am rather stunned and mentally non-plused to witness the ugly row between the bar and the bench.
The most cherished and sublime form of government called democracy, has visited Pakistan after almost a decade of quasi-military rule. Yet the people are so much disgusted and upset with it that they yearn for the military to snatch the reins of the government again. All the political parties now in power must be forced to leave the power echelons for the conduct unworthy of the leadership that they were obligated to provide.
A nation is groping in darkness. People have been trying to find outlets in a maze of confusing routes and puzzling labyrinths of a mystifying jungle full of hazards and unforeseen dangers. The national unity has remained elusive all these 63 years of Pakistan’s existence as a sovereign and independent nation. The curse of linguistic malaise, the ethnic divide, the murderous sectarian fissures, and brazen toadyism by the rulers makes Pakistan a laughing stock and a stigmatized country around the world.
The lawyers and members of bar known to be an integral constituent of a civil society are horrifically out to undermine and wreck its integrity. Incredibly and shockingly, the police and lawyers are engaged in street brawls and inflicting injuries and indignities upon each other. A police contigent storms the courtrooms or the bar room and in return the roguish among the custodians of law beat them back with shoes and punches.
I would not vouch for the police onslaughts but I would shudder and condemn as strongly as I can the retaliation by the law graduates whose motto is to keep their calm and hold on to their sobriety and honorable stature. Woefully, in the latest street fights with the police, they not only dishonored their dignified profession but also came down to the level of a constable whose primarily job was to use force if the crowd turns rowdy. And this is what the lawyers deliberately did. If lawyers, instead of logic and argument, use force and vandalism to impose decisions then they are lost as honorable members of a civil society.
There are grave challenges to the very survival of Pakistan and the lawyers’ questionable conduct aggravates that frightening specter. While other dominant sections of society, the rulers, the feudal, the bureaucrats, the corporate heavyweights, the untouchable clergy are above law and accountability, the lawyers too are transforming themselves into a segment of blackmailers as they impose their decisions by roguish acts instead of pleading and through a civil movement. Thus, the accountability that is central for a responsible, lawful, and civilized conduct has been made an extinct commodity.
The president of Pakistan and all those who have piles of criminal cases pending against them, instead of fighting them out through judicial process, take shelter behind the immunities and other devious ploys. Thus, the Harris Steel mills bribery case, the NRO convicts or suspects, the Pakistan Steel Mills saga and similar other harrowing stories of loot and plunder are hushed up or their perpetrators go scot-free.
In the loan scandals, the influential robber barons, in collaboration and connivance with their managers, procure hefty loans from banks and financial institutions and get these written off later. The parasitical elite and aristocratic classes thrive on this windfall income. They wallow in public money and the people yearn for a morsel of bread. This stark contrast has been widening the gulf between the rich and poor.
The country is at the mercy of outlaws. The law and order is so precarious that this year in Karachi alone, 18 banks have been robbed and despite clear faces of the dacoits in the security cameras, very few offenders have been caught and punished so far. The street crimes are spiking by the day and people are being targeted due to ethnic or political vendettas or for money and precious valuables. Dacoits enter the houses freely, loot, and comfortably disappear.
The biggest threat is from Baluchistan where ethnic cleansing is going on. The ethnic liberation movements are on the rampage with the vicious motives to break that province from the rest of the country. The four provinces are like four gladiators vying each other for water, funds, and in blackmailing the federation.
The indolence, apathy, evasiveness, and indifference and rather inaction by the government runners is so manifest and write large as to defy any lavish description. All this mess and mayhem is being condoned and justified under the cover of democracy rather, exploitative, sham, and spurious democracy. In democracy, people have rights, obligations, and accountability. In this democracy, there are only sufferings, miseries, and no hope. A voter needs food and not solely pious platitudes and inane sermons about democracy.
The mammoth bribe scams and swindles, protection of the thieves of national exchequer and no respect for the judicial decorum, makes the democracy a good for nothing institution. The democracy in Pakistan is only in name and not on ground or in action, because it is being presided and overtaken by people who are bereft of any sense of propriety and sincere will to serve the country. They know they have no future in this country. So why should they care about the country’s future.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Musharraf may not return to Pakistan so soon

Dallas: October 2, 2010
Musharraf may not return to Pakistan so soon
By Saeed Qureshi
I do not think that Pervez Musharraf will visit Pakistan so soon to pursue his political ambitions. Nor would I recommend that he should step on the soil of Pakistan as a reincarnated Messiah for the hapless people that he ruled for pretty nine years. Power is a farce and an enticing charm that never goes away once one is addicted to it or atleast enjoyed it with absolute abandon.
If former president wants to rectify what he has done to that perennially betrayed nation for almost a decade then he should better stifle his ambition because there is a widespread negativity about his staging a return as a political candidate. He has been almost an unrivaled sovereign of the state of Pakistan with an upward popularity graph for pretty good time.
He has to his credit many accomplishments and yet many failures. Somehow, his image among a section of Pakistanis is that of head of state who is still cherished. Notwithstanding his half of a million Facebook subscribers, his real test of popularity or otherwise will come when he is actually wrestling with the political contenders in Pakistan.
In the United States, I have come across some very dedicated and enthusiastic supporters of Musharraf who do not entertain a logical dialogue or are prepared to listen to the drawbacks and deficiencies that he displayed during his prime time in Pakistan. These sentimental yet less discreet people are inadvertently trying to push him into an inferno that would be no less than a hell-fire. The underlying motive of his zealous supporters and fanatic fans is based on the assumption that presently, he is the only one among the whole lot, who can rescue Pakistan mired into unremitting turmoil and myriad crises.
In their opinion, it was only Pervez Musharraf who could perform this historic and crucial role of saving and salvaging Pakistan, as all other leaders were corrupt and inefficient. I must applaud the flight of their fanciful hopes and aspirations that they tend to overlook the bleaker side of Musharraf having many foes who are ready to pounce upon him, as soon he would land in Pakistan. As to how he would sail out of a sea of heavy odds and obdurate obstacles is too frightening a reflection to be entertained by tender minds.
Nawaz Sharif’s case is different because despite his failings, he was the head of a well-established poltical party. Same criterion applies to the stalwarts of the PPP and MQM because these are essentially political outfits with grassroots support: meager or abundant. But for a new political party to be lorded over by a person , howsoever, intelligent and efficient yet with an overwhelming ill will, both in both the political circles and the masses, to excel and to capture power seems excessively hypothetical and far-fetched and perhaps wishful musings.
Musharraf’s inaugural speech in London was run of the mill statement and was drab, insipid, and rather meaningless. He visibly lacked the passion and exuberance or intellect that a politician of even lower ranks possesses in abundance. He appeared to be reading his statement as if issuing a military order with constipated hiccups. He was not articulate, not rhetoric. His expression was shorn of pomposity and oration, that are imperative for a politician especially the budding one to demonstrate vitality and vigor with a view to swaying the public opinion in his favor or at least influencing the listeners in regards to his mission and intent.
Is he under the delusion that he is so popular that the road to recapturing power was merely a trifle? Is he really convinced that the moment he enters Pakistan or announces the formation of a political party, the people would rally around in countless droves? Does he believe that he a revolutionary who can in a second bid, change the destiny of Pakistani nation? Well, he had plenty of time to prove his leadership qualities and he prevaricated.
To beseech forgiveness of the people of Pakistan for his myriad follies would not endear him to the extent that his way is paved for winning elections and capturing the power citadel once again. The goals that he espoused to achieve are already there in the manifestoes of all the political parties and do not carry any novel attraction for the people who has seen him at helm for pretty nine years. What makes him different this time except that the trappings of power have nostalgic germs and keep one bugging for the rest of his life?
Former president may be an entirely atoned person. However, the fact cannot be obviated that he has become highly controversial. It is also a glaring fact that he does not enjoy a truly political background and that he has already been tried. In the backdrop of these shortcomings, the people predictably may not swing on to his side as to enable him to defeat other political parties and perch him on power throne. The ordeals in his path are formidable and rather insurmountable. As long, he commands his new party by staying overseas; he is safe both physically and legally.
However, as soon as he goes back to Pakistan, he would find himself like a bird in a cage. He will not be able to address the rallies, hold public meetings, lead processions, inspire, and mobilize the masses. All this inputs are sin quo none for changing the status quo. His confinement to four walls, his inability to move around, and the lurking fear of being ambushed are the monumental challenges that he should be aware of. I cannot draw any other conclusion except to maintain that he is not going to Pakistan so soon. Yet his right to play politics as a citizen of Pakistan is incontrovertible and must be acknowledged.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre?

October 1, 2010
Upright Opinion
Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre?
By Saeed Qureshi
Following the unwarranted missile firing by two NATO helicopters on Pakistani army posts in Kurram agency Waziristan, the situation has taken a very ugly and ominous turn. In what they claim as hot pursuit option of the militants, the NATO air force has arrogated itself the right to target even the Pakistani soldiers fighting on Pakistani soil in what ostensibly is NATO and American war.
While this is outright an egregious provocation, it lends a new grave dimension to the anti terrorism alliance between Pakistan and America a new bizarre twist. For Pakistan, there are two choices. She should either bear with this disgrace and willingly agree to be killed and come under wanton aerial bombing by the chasing NATO bombers or retaliate in a befitting manner. Being a world class and one of the finest armies, it would be difficult for Pakistan army command to swallow this insult and affront that could be repeated time and again.
The second course would be to withdraw, the Pakistan army from the embattled frontier and tribal regions to allow the NATO troops to deal with the insurgents directly. It is important to do so because NATO and particularly America is bent upon dealing severe blows to the insurgents and Taliban no matter it amounts to grave and naked violation of the territorial integrity of a country which is rendering huge sacrifices by fighting a proxy war for the foreign occupation forces stationed in Afghanistan. It is highly improbable that if NATO cannot succeed in a limited area of Afghanistan, how it can cope with a larger terrain.
Yet it clearly demonstrates that America and NATO are embracing a new strategy in their war again the militants in which the demarcation of boundaries and sanctity of the land do not hold any prominence. By that token, it would not be naïve to speculate that if the border regions of Pakistan can be bombed and intruded either by land or by air, the remaining territory of Pakistan can also be treated as a war zone for chasing the miscreants because there is every possibility of fleeing Taliban to spread across the land of Pakistan. Thus, they can also launch their forays against the NATO forces and retreat to save havens and sanctuaries interspersed all over Pakistan.
This overly alarming development has the seeds of pitting the two allies against each other. The Pakistan army’s top brass must be emergently seized of the freakish and sinister turn of the events and the changing paradigm of fighting and the latest tactics of the NATO forces for counter-terrorism. Hopefully, Pakistan army’s command would be able to persuade the NATO commanders not to indulge in such insane violations,, highly questionable conduct and desperate maneuvers that can deal a fatal blow to the cooperation between Pakistan and NATO in combating terrorism.
While Pakistan army would be mulling over the next step and is believed to be in consultation, it is laudable that the NATO supplies have been suspended by Pakistan as retaliation to this fiasco.
If NAT O does not have the requisite intelligence that can differentiate between friends and foes and militants and the Pakistan army personnel, then this negligence assumed very intriguing dimensions. In the future too, every time the NATO bombers can cross over to Pakistan’s territory, indiscriminately shell the Pakistani soldiers, and then justify it as an act of self-defense. The logic of self-defense is tenable if Pakistan forces infiltrate all the way into the Afghan territory and attack the NATO troops. This is not self-defense and there is no precedent that you can trespass the terrain of a friendly country without giving prior information based on proper and credible intelligence.
The hamstrung government run by the spineless and titular rulers in Pakistan does not have enough courage and dignity to order shooting down the intruding aircrafts or helicopter gunships. If the invaders do not observe any rules of the game then why should Pakistan be imposed with an explanation which is downright audacious, unconvincing and an open declaration for doing such violations even for the future.
The crossing of the international borders and firing upon an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan is either a sign of desperation or willful attempt to give the message that NATO can extend its operations to the Pakistani territory. According to a Pakistan army spokesperson, Troops present at the post manned by six soldiers "retaliated through rifle fire to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into our territory,”. "Instead of heading to the warning, helicopters went to fire two missiles, destroying the post. As a result, three FC soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and three have been injured."
These patently provocative actions would erode whatever the support and sympathy America and her NATO allies have at the moment in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps as a retaliation that brazen misadventure by the NATO gunships, the NATO containers were torched at Shiakpur Pakistan emanating a clear yet a portentous message that if such acts are repeated these can have their detrimental reactions in Pakistan’s mainland and perhaps elsewhere.
If United States thinks that the Pakistan’s territory should also be envisaged as the war theatre, a scenario that can prompt Pakistan to withdraw her troops from these war areas to leave the embattled terrain open to NATO and the insurgents, then it can be a good riddance by Pakistan army, fighting under duress. Or else Pakistan army can shoot down the intruding gunships, fight the land troops if these enter Pakistan’s territory and drive away or bring down drones by firing missiles at them.
This very horrendous projected situation neither suits Pakistan nor NATO and America. It would be, therefore, better if NATO leaves the military operations in the Pakistan’s territory to Pakistan army. They can continue focusing on Afghanistan as they are doing now. Pakistan indeed is a scapegoat in this so-called war against terrorism but there is a limit to find faults with such a trustworthy, competent, and brave ally as the Pakistan army is.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Arabs Bracing against Iran

Upright Opinion
September 26, 2010
Arabs Bracing against Iran
By Saeed Qureshi
The Arab’s conservative dynastic monarchies are bracing against Iran, an Islamic country with different racial and religious denomination. Four Arab monarchies namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and United Arab Emirates will buy military hardware from the United States by pooling $ 123 billion. The Arab countries are buying this assortment of weapons to counterpoise the Iranian emerging military prowess and its projected ambition to become a nuclear weapon power. Paradoxically, while Iran is working for a nuclear weapon or the attainment of technology, aimed at countervailing Israel’s threatening military might, the Arabs too feel threatened by the Iranian nuclear ambitions.
Under the massive arms deal, Saudi Arabia will receive 85 new F-15 jet fighters while another 70 of its fleet will be upgraded. But the analysts view this unprecedented shopping spree by these four Arab states as a plausible cover-up to give a boost to the failing American economy especially the aircraft and arms manufacturing industrial complex that would go sluggish after the termination of military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military garrisons in these four countries would be primarily maintained by the American and perhaps by Israeli pilots and technical staff. The deal is also interpreted to be hammered out under the American pressure.
The Arab and Ajam’s (non-Arabs, literally meaning dumb)) conflict particularly with Persia or the present day Iran is rooted in the past. Until the battle of “Ziwaqar” that took place during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, the Arabs remained under the tutelage of the Persian Empire.
Upon the first ever-historic victory against Persia in that battle, the prophet of Islam uttered a stunning remark, “This is the first day that Arab has taken revenge from Ajam.” That was a turning point and a milestone, in the perennially troubled relations between Arabs and the Persians. With this sentence, the prophet whose message of Islam is universal, in a moment of ecstatic triumph proclaimed himself to be an Arab nationalist.
He was indeed mindful of the Arab-Persian centuries’ old conflict and the racial cleavage between the two civilizations. It was during the caliphate of second caliph Omar that, after the battles of Kadessia, Maidan, Jalula, and Nehawand, that the whole of Persia passed under the Muslim domination. The armies of the final Persian emperor Yazd Gard II were conclusively routed in 661 A. D.
In the post-Islamic era, the main cause of rivalry is not only ethnic but also religious. The Iranians profess the Shia branch of Islamic creed while most of the Arab countries particularly Saudi Arabia are strict Sunnis. The cardinal dispute between Sunnis and Shias is about succession of Prophet Muhammad.
So the Islamic myth of universal unity has always remained in shambles and would remain so until eternity or until the time religions lose their significance. The sublime concept of Muslim fraternity that has been touted so frequently and so profusely by word of mouth by Muslim clerics, stressed in the holy book Qur’an and in the verbal sayings of the prophet of Islam, received its first jolt upon the assassination of the third caliph of Islam Hazrat Osman. Thereafter, the Muslim nation was clearly divided into two distinct clans: one of Banu Ommeyades and the other Banu Hashim both vying for caliphate.
This clannish rivalry was always simmering underneath, over the question of succession to the prophet Muhammad. Upon the demise of prophet, the cousin brother and son in law of the prophet had laid a claim to be the successor by virtue of the blood descent, which meant the tribe of Banu Hashim to which the prophet belonged. It erupted into full-blown feud after the murder of the third caliph Hazrat Osman a notable scion of Ommeyades.
Although till that time it was a common faith with no sectarian division but the ensuing battles raging for several years between the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali and Ummyad governor Amir Muawiyah led to a distinct and widening gulf between what was later called as Shias and those as Sunnis. This sectarian schism further snowballed with the time passage although the Ommeyade and Abbasid caliphs, though being heads of Islamic state, were secular, mundane, and ruthless. The massacre of Hazrat Ali’s son Hussain and his family at the desert of Karbala near Baghdad resulted into a group of supporters than later came to be known as Shias. The Shias all along believed that succession of Prophet Muhammad went to the wrong persons, which in fact should have been given to Ali and his successors for belonging to the family of prophet.
Since Hussain’s wife Shahr Banu was the daughter of the last Persian emperors Yazd Gard II, the Shias had developed a close affinity and blood relationship with Persians, who later embraced Shia Islam. The eighth Imam of Shias Imam Ali Reza, a descendent of Banu Hashim and having the blood of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali and his progeny in his veins, is buried in Iran. The Shrine of Imam Ali Reza is situated in the Mashhad city of Iran and is visited by 15 to 20 million devotees and pilgrims every year. It nurtures and sustains the spiritual fervor of Shia faithfuls besides assuming the symbol of Shia divinity attributed to their Imams.
So Islamic Ummah (nation) is clearly divided into two theological schools: the Sunni brand spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the Shia brand led by Iran. Ideologically poles apart and adversaries for centuries there is no possibility that they can develop consensus on one code of Islam. To great extent, this is akin to the sharp theological division in the Christianity between Catholics and the Protests, notwithstanding their further split into countless denominations in Christendom.
The religious rivalry has its spillover in politics also. The Saudis would never relinquish their leadership of the Sunnis sect, which is around 80 per cent of the Muslims population. Likewise, Iran the majority country with over 90 percent Shias would never compromise over her faith, national solidarity, and cohesion based on one religion and one language. Therefore, there is one Islam with two drastically and irreconcilably divergent interpretations or schools of Islamic theology. The virulent degree of antagonism between Arabs and the Persians (present day Iranians) stems not only from the unbridgeable religious chasm but also from the racial incongruity.
As such, the purchase of armament by these four Arab countries is a spillover of the rivalry from ancient to the present times. Israel, the Arabs, and United States are under the dangling specter of Iranophobia. The super duper arms deal is aimed at countering Tehran's growing influence in the region. The Arab countries particularly Saudi Arabia fear that a militarily strong and nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to their ideological leadership and territorial integrity.
In this framework of fear and phobia, otherwise from a member of Islamic fraternity, the dogma of Muslim unity repeatedly emphasized in the holy book Quran is rendered meaningless, save its rhetorical import. These four Muslim countries are ready to stand on the side of Israel, an inveterate enemy of Muslims, in opposing and even destroying Iran. As such, the regional, racial, and parochial priorities, Arab nationalism, and psyche have overshadowed the religious unity as variously emphasized in Quran. One of the verses exhorts the Muslims “And hold fast all together by the rope of Allah and be not divided among yourselves ;( Verse 013, Al-i-Imran).
Saddam Hussain too had tried to annihilate Iran at the outset of the clerical regime but had to enter into a ceasefire due to tenacity and fighting spirit of the Iranians against a foreign threat to their survival. It is therefore, doubtful that despite equipping themselves up to the teeth with arms and ammunition, the Arabs have the muscle and will to fight Iran. It is another scenario if America and Israel wage a proxy war on behalf of Arab countries. But keeping in view the dismal outcome of American and NATO wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hypothetical to surmise if the Iranians would ever be subdued by Arabs and their allies.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Pervez Musharraf is better than many Politicians

September 22, 2010
Dallas, Texas

Pervez Musharraf is better than many Politicians
By Saeed Qureshi
One quality that distinguishes Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf over other luminaries in politics is that while others usually take cover under the lame excuses and try to justify their misdeeds, he has the candidness to confess and acknowledge his wrong decisions. For instance, he has said many a time that his decision to first suspend and then sack the chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was essentially erratic. Also, he confessed publically too that the impostion of the state of emergency way back in November 2007 was not only unconstitutional but also politically incorrect.
It should be noted that it was a 12-member Supreme Court panel that on May 12, 2000 unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for 3 years from the coup date.
Again, in January 2004 Musharraf won a vote of confidence in the Electoral College of Pakistan, consisting of both houses of Parliament and the four provincial assemblies by receiving 658 out of 1170 votes. As such, his governance and remaining in office was legally and constitutionally justified.
Pervez Musharraf is coming to Dallas on October 15 to launch the local chapter of his political party, “All Pakistan Muslim League”. Here in Dallas he will meet various important people besides the media. He will also address a select gathering of his well-wishers, and party members. The announcement contained in a flyer says “DINNER WITH FORMER PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF AT 6:30 PM on October 15, 2010 HOTEL INTERCONTINENTAL ADDISON, TEX.” An additional line further elaborates the purpose of Musharraf’s visit to Dallas, which is “DINNER, SPEECH, and QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION.”
Barring a few controversial decisions, Pervez Musharraf has been successful in bringing about certain far-reaching reforms in Pakistan. Notwithstanding the urge to remain in power which human beings have in abundance because they are not angels, Musharraf’s era was relatively known as economically strong. His role in liberating media from the official strangleholds and empowering the women folks cannot be denied even by worst of his detractors.
Now as part of rooting out extremism and curbing separatist and fissiparous tendencies of regional leader like Akbar Bugti, he had to take certain unpalatable and tough decisions. In normal circumstances these decisions could have been appreciated but their positive side was eclipsed because of the extremely hostile propaganda whipped by his antagonist political parties and domineering clergy and fire-spitting religious circles.
Musharraf received the displeasure of the religious lobbies because of his 180-degree tilt and support for the American war in Afghanistan. Otherwise, these are the same religious elements that were part of the group that voted for him to keep both the offices of the COAS and the president of Pakistan.
If Pervez Musharraf were to make a plausible case for his return to Pakistan and take part in politics under the banner of his newly founded political party, “All Pakistan Muslim League”, his following achievements would stand in good stead for him.
1.He established 47 universities including the Virtual University, under the supervision of Higher Education Commission.
2.During his presidency, the poverty level came down from 34% to 24% while the living standards of the people improved considerably.
3.In early 2007, Mushrraf according to a survey was more popular than Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
4.It was during his time that “Women's Protection Bill”, was made a law in December 2006. The bill placed the rape laws under the penal code and removed the untenable condition of producing four male witnesses by the female victim to prove adultery.
5.His government increased reserved seats for women in both national and provincial assemblies. In the National Assembly, these were increased from 20 to 60. In provincial assemblies, 128 seats were reserved for women. This situation gave greater effective participation of women in elections and decision-making.
6.He abolished the separate electorate for the religious minorities and put curbs on extremist and sectarian groups.
7.According to Transparency International, Pakistan had improved its ratings during Musharraf's presidency, from being the 11th most corrupt country down to 41st, a significant image improvement.

In the backdrop of a hostile atmosphere in certain circles against him, former president will have to contend with formidable challenges both to his life and political career. It should also be seen how much public support he receives and which political parties would be ready to forge alliances with his party. He will have to go through an adjudication process, which can be prolonged. It is not possible to foretell if the courts would give him a temporary reprieve to indulge in practical politics or not.

The prime minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani sarcastically remarked the other day that Musharraf would be welcomed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. This is a very ominous statement. The Law minister known for his caustic sarcasm and pungent repartee said that those who want dictatorship were either in graveyard or in England alluding to former president Zia and president Musharraf, both army generals by profession.
But politics being a game of wits, scoring points, making alliances and shifting positions, no one can conclusively figure out whether Musharraf would be stuck in the roadblocks or move forward towards his political goalpost.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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