Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Unbridgeable Shia-Sunni Cleavage in Islam

December 6, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

This year too, all over the world and particularly in Pakistan, the Shia community observed the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the prophet of Islam, in a nerve-racking environment. In Pakistan they entered their congregational holy places as if entering a nuclear arsenal. Each and every person was subjected to body pat down by the security staff posted at entry and exit points. The entire country was placed under high alert with thousands of military and semi military personnel guarding the processions. Practicing of one’s faith is becoming extremely arduous in Islamic polities.

From the day Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) left the transitory abode of this world, the Islamic polity has remained divided into two unbridgeable branches: Shia and Sunni. Shias believe that the three successors of Prophet Muhammad were usurpers as the succession was the right of the blood relations of the prophet.

Shiite muslims also believe that the true leadership comes through the prophet's bloodline and his cousin and son in law Ali-ibne-Abi-Talib was the divinely ordained successor. They claim that Allah and his prophet had clearly designated Ali as the only legitimate successor. The Sunni sects believe that the four successors of Prophet Muhammad or caliphs were legitimate as they were chosen by the community in accordance with the custom of those times.

This cleavage sharpened when Imam Hussain, his entire family (excepting women and one male) and accompanying followers were massacred in the desert of Karbala near Baghdad by the troops of then Ommyad caliph Yazid the son of the founder of Ommyad dynasty Amir Muawiyah. Yazid to Shias is like a devil while Sunnis treat him like other caliphs. The Islamic unity has therefore remained a mere myth and elusive goal for all these fifteen centuries.

Imam Hussain’s death commemorated each year by a passion play or the world-wide mammoth collective mourning has become the rallying point for the shia fraternity and identity. The martyrdom of Hussain nurtured the shia cause under the Ommyads and became the harbinger of the downfall of their dynasty.

With the exception of a few common beliefs and traditions Shias and Sunnis differ on a whole plethora of beliefs with regard to Sharia laws encompassing both juridical and ecclesiastical. The Shias believe in a lineage of twelve divine imams or spiritual leaders. Sunnis have four Imams but they are primarily interpreters of the Islamic Sharia law.

Historically, Sunnis and Shias have been at loggers head with each other from the martyrdom of Hussain to this day. Shia and Sunni division in Islam is so drastic and hard that they do not pray together in one place. Shias do not pay Islamic tax Zakat while in Islam it is considered to be one of the five principle obligations.

They have been so irreconcilably hostile to each other that Islamic history is replete with their mutual annihilations and massacres. It is a colossal tragedy within Islam that this great faith is torn apart into two domains that can never reconcile or converge on several matters of faith till eternity.

While in the past they killed each with swords, in the present times they resort to mutual slaughter by suicide bombing, target killing and bomb blasts. The Shias are branded as infidels by the majority Sunni sects and therefore, their murder is justifiable to them as if they were killing a non-Muslim.

In Islam a heretic or apostate person or sect is more condemnable and liable to be punished with death than a non-Muslim who has clear denomination of not being a Muslim faithful and has come under the protection of the state as a zimmi or dhimmi.

A famous Muslim historian Shahrastani commented on the Sunni-Shia schism of creed in these words, “Never was there an issue than brought more bloodshed than the caliphate.” The sack and pillage of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongol hordes was the result of the rivalry between a Sunni caliph Mustaasim and a Shia vizier Mohammad bin al-Kami who invited the Tartars to come to Baghdad.

In the present times Saudi Arabia and Iran are hostile competitors in upholding the Sunni and Shia creeds respectively. The Saudis are aligned to the Christian West and America to browbeat and even contain the growing leverage and influence of Iran in the region. This antagonism is entirely faith based besides the historical rivalry between the Arab and non Arab Muslims (Ajam).

Some of the Shia spiritual leaders migrated to Iran during the Ommyad and Abbasids dynasties while the others were killed by these powerful family dynasties. As such the discord between Shias and Sunnis is not only of faith but also regional, ethnic and political.

In all the Middle Eastern Islamic regimes there is always a simmering tussle, between the Sunni and Shia populations. For instance in Bahrain, the Sunnis are in minority but ruling. Conversely in Syria the Sunnis are in majority and Shias are in minority but are at the political helm. Same division and cleavage prevails in Iraq where most of the Shias religious and spiritual leaders are buried.

So to bridge the doctrinal and theological chasms between these two main sects within Islam would always remain a tall order unless the Muslim clergy decide to live in harmony despite their mutual differences of faiths and Sharia laws. Would that be possible within an Islamic state cannot be fathomed because both would vie for political power.

However if the islamic polity turns secular wherein all shades of faiths are allowed to practice freely without harming each other, this most coveted goal can become attainable. The example of such religious harmony can be witnessed in western societies where they pray in the same mosque and never fight.

Americans should vote for Congressman Ron Paul

December 5, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

It can be only congressman Ron Paul who is endowed with enough courage and conviction to retrieve the United State from the sucking quagmire of wars that it has been caught in for six decades now or precisely after the WWII. In his speeches, comments, interviews and debates, he has been conducting himself in a pragmatic, balanced, rationale and dignified manner.

The cutthroat corporate sector and special interest groups in America would want to keep this great country entangled in an interminable and perpetual war situation. The wars fought on the strength of catchy slogans like security, honor and sovereignty are whipped up to keep the flow of the capital to the greedy upper classes and ruthless robber barons by way of manufacturing and trading of weapons, provision of logistics, transportation and security contactors and for countless other reasons.

American wars have divided the globe during the past six decades pitting the same people against each other. Korea was divided into North and South Korea, and so was Vietnam.

The American forces fought in Iraq twice, and are engaged in rooting out Taliban and Al-Qaida in rugged Afghanistan for almost a decade now. Earlier, with the help of radical Muslims it ousted the communist Russia from Afghanistan in 1989. Later America was caught in a similar viscous, bloody and ruinous rigmarole for all these years starting from 2001.

Ron Paul is the only American politician who has been forcefully pleading for winding up the distant wars that not only scuttled the blooming economic prosperity of the this great nation but made it a debtor nation to the extent of 25 per cent of its GDP. It is bizarre and certainly shameful that it is a debtor of China that ideologically is opposed to America as was Soviet Union before her defeat in Afghanistan.

Ron Paul is a one sincere leader who does not raise hollow slogans or show red herring about the overplayed security issue. He is not in the viscous habit of double speak. He wants America to eschew the doctrine of confrontation built up upon flimsy and farcical reasons as was done in case of attack on Iraq. He wants America to be leaning predominantly on moral values and abide by the constitution and treat other countries with the same yardstick of equality and dignity that it expects from others.

Ron wants America to adopt a non-partisan role between Israel and the Palestinians and the other Middle Eastern countries that support the rightful Palestinian cause. Ron postulates that the term or cliché of terrorism was deliberately coined by privileged classes in American to justify wars abroad and to create paranoia within United States. He wants to uphold the constitution of the United States that enshrines fundamental and inalienable rights to the citizens.

Ron Paul’s assuming the presidency of the United States will herald the much awaited and direly needed change of the status quo that serves the ambitions of the elitist and privileged citizenry but undermines those of the working and lower classes. If he is elected then it would be a new beginning for the United States after the Second World War. A new America would replace the old one with hallmarks of global peace and collective advancement of the world community under the benign leadership of the United States.

The United States desperately needs to break the gridlock of the wealthy and overbearing classes that feed the Americans on fabricated phobias and imaginary fears one of which is that all Americans were perpetually in a state of insecurity and under attack from terrorists.

If per say, America instead of shoving 3 trillion dollars in the aimless wars, had given 10 billion dollars each to a few Muslim countries to uproot the al-Qaida in their lands, the purpose would been served in a more fulfilling manner and with absolute accomplishment. That would have spared America from sending the occupations forces and fighting in uncharted turfs at huge and irredeemable cost of human casualties, untold sufferings and financial breakdown.

The aim and objectives of Ron Paul are to reverse the insidious mindset of the affluent classes in America which want to keep the America armed forces in perpetual war situation. The victory against the Soviet Union in 1989 was achieved by the Islamic militants and not by the NATO troops. So to expect that there can be a final and conclusive victory by NATO and ISAF in Afghanistan is simply a wishful dream and divorced of the reality.

The stark reality is that in view of the situation that one can witness in Afghanistan, an ultimate triumph over the faceless enemy such as Taliban would always remain unachievable. And even otherwise there was no overwhelming reason and indispensible motive to fight in the battleground of Afghanistan as Taliban were appeasing and conciliatory towards United States on the demand of handing over Osama to latter.

They simply asked for a proof of his involvement in anti-American activities and for 9/11 incident which was very easy for America to furnish. But America chose the war path instead and mobilized the army to defeat Taliban.

So militarily and morally there was no justification for United States to enter into a battlefield that was never conquered by any invader. The United States made a profound mistake of preferring war over a peaceful option. Ron Paul wants American citizens to have a break from the war psychosis and breathe in the smokeless air. He wants them to come out of an erroneous notion as to who was next in the line to be knocked down and bludgeoned. Ron Paul does not believe in the imperious dictation “Either you are with us or not”.

If Ron Paul becomes the president of United States then this country would usher into an era of prosperity. The eroded American economic might and its lofty image as the leading donor country with an enviable democratic system would be revived. The history is a witness, that all the great nations in the past declined and vanished because they busied themselves in wars due to hegemonic and occupation obsessions. With Ron Paul as president, the American society would ease and this spectre of unknown fear from the lurking terrorists would wither away.

Ron Paul is in favor of maintaining a just and decent equilibrium between Israel and her detractors and questions as to why Israel is such an indispensible holy cow that America simply overlooks her 200-300 nuclear missiles. He argues that these nuclear weapons can be as dangerous for the world peace as that of Iran. As such he has laid bare the duplicity and partisanship of the United States’ foreign policy perpetuated and spawned by succeeding administrations.

If we Americans want a real salubrious change in our country and revive the moral grandeur, the constitutional ascendency, America’s splendid social welfare image and an atmosphere of peace at home and abroad, we should vote for Ron Paul for a change.

Ron Paul would certainly use the armed forces if there were real dangers to the American interests abroad but not for concocted or puffed up reasons proffered and pedaled by the powerful lobbies that always want to reap a lion’s share in national wealth by creating grounds that have proven spurious and fabricated.

I shall conclude this piece with a fabulous and inestimable quote of Congressman Ron Paul. “The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people.”

America is Burning Money in Afghanistan

December 1, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The United States has spent roughly 800 billion dollars in Afghanistan on a war that seems to be interminable and futile. This amount spent or wasted over a period of almost 8 years comes to 2 billion dollars a week. A gallon of gasoline or petrol costs 100 dollars to reach Afghanistan. America spends a colossal amount of money for transportation of supplies via two overland routes for its forces and that of NATO and ISAF to continue war. These routes are one via Pakistani territory and the other through central Asian states.

After 8 years with thousands of collateral casualties both dead and maimed, the aim to completely clear Afghanistan of Taliban and al-Qaida militants looks elusive. The Taliban are resurging and al-Qaida seems to have gone in the background or in the oblivion to wait for better times to strike again.

Their activities are replicated and echoed elsewhere on the globe particularly in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and, Syria and Mauritania. The electoral victories of the religious radicals in Tunisia and Egypt are indicative of the forthcoming political scenarios in these countries.

While the conflagration is still raging in Afghanistan and United State with their western partners are trying to neutralize the impact and presence of anti-American forces namely Taliban and Al-Qaida militants, America has opened another front against a powerful country Iran for the same reason that impelled her to invade Iraq with a mammoth military extravaganza in 2003.

It was the weapons of mass destruction alleged to be possessed by Iraq which later proved to be a hoax. Libya remained under innervating sanctions for several years but survived despite living under the stigma of a pariah state till the peoples uprising removed the dictator Qaddafi. So the sanctions not only hurt the victim but also the imposer because the latter is also deprived off certain lucrative benefits and privileges.

Because of sanctions the international trade seldom stops and there are always other avenues available for transactions between the target country and the outside world. If it is desired that Iran’s economy would cripple and the country would be isolated, then such strategy is fallacious and runs out of steam in due course. The imposition of sanctions by United States against Iran is patently at the behest of Israel and also due to their strong and invincible supportive lobbies within the United States.

Coming back to Afghanistan, the latest ugly episode of NATO air strikes on Pakistani check posts has caused massive impairment to the already strained relations between a very earnest ally Pakistan and indeed the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been tremendously helpful to the American endeavors for keeping the anti American Taliban and radical militants at bay for all these years. But when you bite the very hand that feeds you, what could be the reaction from the bitten party.

If the relatively easier supply route that runs through Pakistan remains closed even for a month or so, the NATO and ISAF troops that are fighting in Afghanistan would start starving and the helicopters and tanks, armed cars and SUVs would come to a partial standstill.

If Pakistan is bombed and coerced to open the route, NATO would be deprived of the cooperation from Pakistan that is still there. If all the merchandise is arranged via the arduous and long Russian route then it would put additional enormous burden on NATO partners and the United States particularly as the main financier for war in Afghanistan?

So the strategy of blowing hot and cold and giving carrot and kick on the back of a friend is a double edged sword that can hurt both the parties: the wielder as well as the victim. Instead that Pakistan should be appeased and consoled with all possible nice words, the NATO is caught in nuances and jargons of merely regretting and not apologizing for an act that is murderous and outright massacre of the Pakistani soldiers fighting for America.

Now if the United States and its apron strings NATO and ISAF do not withdraw from Afghanistan, the status quo would linger on without throwing up a clear and desired outcome in consonance with the wishes of the United States. With that the budget on war and even to maintain presence in this barren land would soars astronomically. That would heavily undermine and negatively impinge upon the American domestic economic situation now sliding down terrifically.

The United States is frittering away her money on a war that is meaningless. It is like burning the tax payers’ money in furnace. To eliminate or keep the radical militants under the tab and dysfunctional or debilitated, United States will have to maintain a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. How long that state of affairs would continue and how long United States would keep footing the colossal war bill at the appalling cost of its domestic priorities?

Afghanistan does not possess oil reserves. The minerals deposits of Afghanistan cannot be utilized unless these are tapped at a huge cost over a prolonged period of time. Would United States wait interminably for the day when it could benefit from the precious minerals and other hidden natural resources of Afghanistan?

Would not in the meantime a national liberation army come into being to fight against the foreign occupation forces that might also be joined by Taliban and other militants now fighting with NATO for almost over a decade? In a nutshell, to stay in Afghanistan is solely a shattering liability and unsustainable undertaking that would become more burdensome in the longer run.

Instead United State should focus on the formation of a union of the regional states of Pakistan Afghanistan, neighboring central Asian states as well as India and Iran, to maintain peace, undertake and carry out the reconstruction, foster and protect a democratic set up, and act as a bulwark against the fundamentalist or radical forces to capture power.

It is time for the United States to change its tracks from armed belligerency and war mongering to peace efforts that would be of lasting value and would be lauded and supported and welcomed by the people of Afghanistan and the regional states. In the present scenario United State is neither here nor there. The outcome of Afghan war is murky and fraught with unpredictable ramifications, one of which could be an unceremonious exit of NATO from Afghanistan.

The United States should avoid that day when it will have to leave Afghanistan with a legacy of hostility and bitterness. It can earn enormous good-will if she calls off war efforts and substitutes it with reconstruction of Afghanistan and rehabilitation of its destroyed institutions and by putting in place a genuinely elected government as it has belatedly done in Iraq.

NATO Attack has heightened anti-Americanism in Pakistan

November 29, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The NATO attack on two Pakistani military check posts in Mehmand Tribal Agency on the Pak-Afghan border was presumably to lure Pakistan into retaliation for sparking a wider confrontation annihilating the bulk of the Pakistan army’s presence in the tribal regions adjoining Afghanistan.

It was rather prudent by the Pakistani military authorities to not respond by a counter military action and wait for the world to judge the enormity of the violation and the immensity of the unprovoked transgression that the NATO forces have committed against its own ally.

The brazenness and audacity of the ISAF and NATO has become so daring as to penalize Pakistan army that is an easy target for its visibility, its locations, military posts, that are well within the knowledge of NATO intelligence network. The murderous attack also signals to Pakistan that there was the parallel option available for the NATO in the form of directly dealing with the militants if Pakistan was not doing that on her own volition.

It is an unbelievable possibility that NATO was unaware that it was Pakistan army’s military post and that it remained ignorant even during its attack continuing for over two hours. Even the Pakistan military authorities must have come to know about the attack within matter of minutes but perhaps they remained silent for the reasons mentioned above? Or were they in connivance with the attackers is not clear! But the connivance possibility is not credible. It would be treason for the Pakistan army bosses to remain silent spectators on the massacre of its own soldiers.

The NATO might also be gauging the reaction as to how the Pak armed forces would respond if they could be bracketed with the armed militants by launching air strikes against both. It could be interpreted that now when the NATO and American troops are destined to leave Afghanistan, they might try to make some big mischief by targeting Pakistan troops and claiming some kind of victory through a volte-face and treachery against their own ally.

The most deleterious counterproductive outcome of this mind boggling attack has been that the entire population in Pakistan has come out in streets to protest against America. Thus whatever good will was left in Pakistan for the United States has been washed off. Not only that the civil society is up in arms shouting slogans against NATO and America but the marginalized sections too have joined to pour out there hate and fury against a gruesome military onslaught.

This uncalled for military adventure is being taken as gross aggression against the territorial integrity of an ally that has gone out of way to fight for America against latter’s perceived enemies which in this case are Taliban and al-Qaida bands. But if Taliban as an enemy and Pakistan army as an ally are treated alike and dealt with militarily and killed, then how it would be possible for Pakistan to keep taking this humiliation and senseless massacres of its soldiers?

The American and NATO forces have erased the bold line between their friends and foes and thus given a justification to Pakistan to withdraw her forces from the positions where they are susceptible to be swooped upon with deadly sorties.

This wanton and inexplicable yet most callous operation has given courage and the confidence to the radical Islamists to mobilize people whipping up revenge and retaliation against a country that is otherwise deemed as friend.

This mindless act has untied the disparate sections of society into one monolithic nation, irrespective of their religious, political, ethnic and regional difference and to stand by their national honor and face the aggressor. Thus a new spirit of unity, togetherness and patriotism is infused into the divergent ranks of Pakistani nation which is like a silver- lining on the dark clouds.

United States should remember that Pakistan can prove to be an asset for America when the occupation armies vacate Afghanistan. The United States should realize and spread this cardinal perception among the NATO and ISAF coalition members that it is only Pakistan that can serve the role of a distant custodian and safeguard the unattained interests of the United States.

Where the combined might of ISAF and NATO has failed to subdue the rag tag small force of Taliban fighters and hunt down the entire rank and file of al-Qaida, Pakistan alone can do that job, although it has no reason to do so.
But if America wants to be remembered with some good name, it would be only Pakistan that can create such an environment for her.

The reconstruction of war- ravaged Afghanistan cannot be carried out alone by India or Afghanistan or the central Asian neighboring states without Pakistan’s cooperation and help. India is not geographically linked with Afghanistan unless Pakistan gives her the rights to travel overland.

Pakistan has been involved in Afghanistan’s imbroglio for over two decades now. Pakistan hosts 3 to 4 million Afghan refugees for the same period of time. Pakistan is ethnically and religiously closer to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan enjoys goodwill and respect in Afghanistan.

Finally Pakistan has an army that is the strongest and knows the terrain so well even if there was ever any need to utilize it. With these precious and invaluable assets Pakistan deserves to be treated with esteem and its sacrifices and its superb performance of the last two decades must be generously acknowledged, appreciated and admired.

Those right wing Republicans and hawkish Democrats that talk of tough attitude towards Pakistan, cast doubts about her atomic assets and doubt her sincerity, are doing great harm to the United States by their inane and subjective statements.

They talk ill of Pakistan and teach her frightening lessons as if it was a protectorate of the United States and was under an irresistible and undeniable obligation to dance to the tune of NATO and America like a puppet. They forget Pakistan has sacrificed more than 5000 of her soldiers and 40000 wounded for a war that could not be termed as her own but a proxy war for America.

The War of America in Afghanistan was the grave blunder committed by former American president George W. Bush and not of Pakistan. Pakistan did not drag America into this futile and aimless war that achieved nothing except a disaster for American economy and ultimate return from Afghanistan without achieving any tangible or desired objectives.

Pakistan should be thanked that it was behind America for providing intelligence and other services besides plunging its armed forces into an unpredictable and most inhospitable inferno of Afghanistan for no pressing reasons except to support America. And now such a loyal and time tested ally is being bludgoned with missiles and deadly airstrikes. Does Pakistan deserve this mal-treatment?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Suggestions to Imran Khan

November 26, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Imran Khan has suddenly shot up like a meteorite on the murky horizons of Pakistan. He is a different Imran Khan from that flamboyant and temperamental of yester years. This new Imran Khan is talking a lot of sense. He looks prudent and cool while expressing or explaining his point of view.

It is a reincarnated and rather rejuvenated Mr. Khan who has, in the recent past, made giant strides in the realm of politics in Pakistan throwing up wonders one after another. One such wonder was the mammoth crowd at the Minar–e-Pakistan Lahore, addressed by him.

As a senior journalist I had been holding a particular perception of Mr. Khan ever since he made his debut in politics, that he is a non-starter. He has been fretting, fuming, and flexing his body muscles and then disappearing with lightening speed from the political scene of Pakistan. He has been aggressive and petulant. Till recently his party PTI has been a one man show.

He was docile and energized at the same time. During his political journey of fits and starts, he has been changing his opinions and recipes about fixing Pakistan’s perennial and multitudinous problems. But of late he has come of age. He spells out his programs for changing the nauseating status quo in Pakistan with exceptional candor, absolute conviction and amazing cool. He is not fuzzy anymore nor ambivalent about grave issues and monumental challenges that one witnesses on the unpredictable political chess-board of Pakistan.

He vehemently talks of changing the loathsome status quo which means shaking the society upside down not in the physical sense but in cultural, economic and political connotations. And that is what is squarely needed in Pakistan. He is determined to launch a merciless crusade upon the self-serving, greedy and exploitative, privileged classes whose one ugly face is the centuries old feudalism and the so called abominable elitism or aristocracy. He aims at upholding the supremacy of law, the writ of the state and the dignity for the denizens of Pakistan.

He aims at bringing about a social revolution that is what late ZA Bhutto initiated but then recoiled from it in the later part of his rule. The refashioning of Pakistan ‘s foreign policy with hallmarks of dignity , territorial integrity, independence as well as self reliance in economy are the cornerstones of the agenda that Imran Khan has variously reiterated in his speeches and in front of the media.

Imran Khan should always keep in mind the reasons for Mr. Bhutto’s’ decline and his tragic end who otherwise was the brightest, most charismatic, endeared and lofty politician of Pakistan and who rebuilt the remaining Pakistan with marvelous astuteness and magnificent brilliance. His main drawback was that he would not accept dissent. He was highly egotistic and turned revengeful against anyone who would offer a piece of good advice or oppose his policies.

He forsook his pioneering companions one by one after humiliating them. While the PPP gradually was depleted from the dedicated ideological pillars, Mr. Bhutto started courting the parasitic classes and individuals against whom he raised the banner of change and revolution. He tried to rule by his personal charm and fear at the same time. When he landed in trouble because of his defiance and untimely resistance to the powerful rivals one of which was army, his public image had dwindled enormously and people’s support waned.

Mr. Khan pledges that no one would be allowed to contest elections from his party’s platform unless he or she declares his assets and comes clean in matter of paying income or property taxes. If he can succeed in forcing everyone in the county to declare assets without exception, he can change the economic destiny of Pakistan.

But while assets would be furnished and declared by the wealthy and rich citizens of Pakistan, it should also be applicable to everyone in the country which means from a vendor to a factory owner and an army general to a bureaucrat and a politician to a parliamentarian.

Those who falsify their assets and submit wrong information should be heavily penalized both by fines and jail terms. The assets that they would conceal should be confiscated by the government. Thus a true and transparent picture would emerge and the national exchequer would be filled to brims by way of income tax and property tax.

Far-reaching and radical changes must be made in the income tax regime obviating the slimmest chances for the tax collecting staff or the tax payers to dodge or swindle the government. The existing tax collection system in Pakistan needs to be thoroughly overhauled and computerized for proper and correct record keeping as is being done round the world. Secondly, it should be made simple and easy to follow. The people should be encouraged to solicit help from the professional tax specialists to prepare proper tax returns.

Since everyone will be forced by law to file tax returns, those such as small shopkeepers and vendors can get tax refunds that can help offset their overspending beyond their earnings. Even if the low income individuals or families do not need to file a return as they have no taxable income still they should do it to remain in the loop of income tax records.

One of the principle revenue generating sources for America’s federal administration, local governments and counties is the property tax. There is no way that anyone can evade payment of property tax for which the invoice or ther bill is sent well in advance. The property and income tax staff is always skeleton in counties here in America. In Pakistan there are excessive and surplus tax inspectors who mostly remain in unholy league with the tax payers.

If along with these momentous tax and property reforms, the civic and municipal system is transformed into city and country governments, Pakistan can have a real grass-root democratic system that would ensure people’s participation in decision making from the lowest rung to the highest level. With that if the independent school districts are created to be run and administrated by cities or the counties, the schools and colleges in Pakistan would never be starved of funds as a portion of each county and city’s income would be allocated to the educational institutions.

The civic system in America is mostly run by the cities and can be effectively duplicated in Pakistan. The greatest outcome of that change would be that cities would become clean and there will be order in traffic and more roads would be correspondingly built at the city or county level with the increase in traffic.

Then the people would get water round the clock as each city would have plenty of funds to have water reservoirs and an immaculate water supply system, without reaching out to the central or the provincial governments for help or to beseech the parliamentarians from their areas to provide such facilities which they seldom do.

The department of land administration and revenue merits emergent transformation. This is one department where bribe and grafts are the order of the day and exchange in broad day light like drawing buckets out of water well. There are touts that operate between the needy citizens and the officials. The vacation of the land or house grabbed by mafia or influential individuals is one of the most hazardous and impossible tasks in countless instances unless a demanded price is paid to the rogue occupiers.

A separate cell needs to be created which should deal with the cases pertaining to the illegal occupation of properties on war footing basis. The owners with genuine documents should be restored their grabbed property and liberated from the powerful land mafias and fearsome grabbers. Those so called land mafias that are behind forcible grabbing of land and properties either of government or of the private citizens must be dealt with mercilessly.

The existing land department must be reorganized on most modern lines with computerized record and data saving systems. The obsolete legacies of the past, Patwari, Girdawar, the Tehsildar, and other minions that present a chain of corrupt command have got be replaced with a small section of professional officials that we find in the United States, in West Europe or even in China. The transfer of properties should be computerized, transparent, and fast and backed by law in case someone does not comply with the procedures. We can copy and follow up what the modern and developed societies have done in this regard.

Without further delay, a plan for creating network of highways and motorways between major cities should be unraveled. The funds that would come by the reformed revenue system and bolstering of industrial sector should be channeled towards constructing these over- delayed yet most indispensible modes of traveling.

I would recommend making free and compulsory education in Pakistan up to matriculation or senior schooling level. All children until the age of maturity or adulthood that is 16 years must go to school depending upon the age level. They should get free lunches and the building must be built that no one can enter at free will or encroach upon the internal class rooms. One can pick up a model of a school from any developed country and build replica of that gradually replacing or remodeling the existing ones.

No child should be seen alone in parks or in restaurants serving as a waiter or in auto workshops as trainee mechanic. This should be punishable by law. These young boys and girls should be getting education and not wasting time at work places before the adult age.

The roving teams should check the bazaars and markets if adulterated products were being sold. Such surprise raids should also be conducted on hospitals if spurious and outdated drugs were being used or the patients overcharged or the staffs were absent or derelict in their duties. This strict checking and accountability should be enforced both in the public and private sectors.
Strict codes of conduct and standards should be implemented and there should be no exception or leniency for the government hospitals or private clinics to bypass or infringe those codes and guidelines.

So there should be a team of honest, daring, strict and uncompromising checkers and inspectors in every public department to enforce the codes and rules and regulations and ensure their compliance in letter and spirit. Such a system would be a part of rule of law that is inevitable for clean, efficient and good governance in Pakistan.

I shall offer more suggestions for good governance and for changing the appalling status quo and stagnant social life in Pakistan. These suggestions are being doled out under the presumption that Imran Khan might be the next to sit in the power saddle.

Hats off to Congressman Ron Paul

November 23, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The only saner voice in the CNN’s Tuesday’s live debate on National Security of United States was that of Congressman Ron Paul’s who spoke the objective truth and an impartial yet bold analysis which to the jaundiced Republicans must be unpalatable and difficult to digest.

While Jon Huntsman, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum went out of the way to stand by Israel despite her brazen provocations and even supported her projected attack on Iran nuclear sites, Congressman debunked such bias. He instead cautioned America not to undermine her own interests for a country that has become a burdensome liability for United States.

By his unalloyed and categorical answers on national security and other grave issues, he looked dignified and truthful as compared to other participants looking unrealistic, and dishing out subjective and run of the mill answers.

Ron is a libertarian and has the courage and bluntness to call a spade a spade. He did not mince his words or showed his preference for certain countries because they were the allies or protégé of America. He pointed out that while American administration was concerned and focused on Iran’s nuclear program and wanted to destroy that with the help of Israel, no one talks of the two to three hundred nuclear missiles that Israel possessed.

He hit right on the nail when he espoused that United States should leave Israel alone to settle her affairs on her own. Also he questioned why America was involved in useless wars fighting on the foreign soils for trumped up reasons undermining its domestic priorities resulting into a battered economy. In this regard his argument was, “we should leave Israel to fend for itself”. He called for “disentangling ourselves from Afghanistan and even for an end to the war on drugs.”

He warned that it would be a great folly to attack Iran as it would spell disaster for the entire region. The implied message of Ron was that destroying Iraq’s and Syrian nuclear facilities or plants was far easier for Israel. But this would be an extremely dangerous venture in regards to Iran that was more powerful that those countries.

“His most stunning yet realistic criticism dwelled on blindly putting all eggs in the Israeli basket, Mr. Paul said, “And then they decide they want to bomb something, that's their business, but they should, you know, suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the '80s, I was one of the few in Congress that said it's none of our business and Israel should take care of themselves.”

“Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles. And they can take care of themselves. Why should we commit -- we don't even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we're going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they're quite capable of taking care of themselves.”

When asked by the moderator if he would support Israel’s attack on Iran, he bluntly answered, “No, I wouldn't do that.”He further elucidated his point by saying that, “There would be good reasons because I don't expect it to happen. Because, you know, the Mossad leader that just retired said it would be the stupidest thing to do in the world. And it's a big argument over in Israel. They're not about to do this. They’ve just polled 40 major experts on foreign policy here by the National Journal.”

“Not one of them said there should be a unilateral attack on -- on the sites in -- in Iran. So that's not going to happen. And if it did -- you're supposing that if it did, why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. I mean, we interfere with them. We interfere with them when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us.”

He vehemently defended the rule of law and the civil liberties by arguing that “But why I really fear it is we have drifted into a condition that we were warned against because our early founders were very clear. They said; don't be willing to sacrifice liberty for security. We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh."

"Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights”

Defining terrorism and the wrong interpretation of this term he said that,” I am convinced that needless and unnecessary wars are a great detriment. They undermine our prosperity and our liberties. They add to our deficits and they consume our welfare. We should take a careful look at our foreign policy.

“I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty. I'm concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh was a vicious terrorist. He was arrested. Terrorism is still on the books, internationally and nationally, it's a crime and we should deal with it.”

Mr. Gingrich made a comment about stringent laws and preference of security over the liberties by saying that, “Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don't want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we're sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you.”

Congressman Ron’s answer was, “This is like saying that we need a policeman in every house, a camera in every house because we want to prevent child-beating and wife-beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms. And we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don't do it so carelessly. That's digging a hole for ourselves.”

He further explained that, “I think we're using too much carelessness in the use of words that we're at war. I don't remember voting on -- on a declared -- declaration of war. Oh, we're against terrorism. And terrorism is a tactic. It isn't a person. It isn't a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You're the judge and the jury? No, they're suspects. And they have changed the wording on the definition of al-Qaeda and Taliban.

"It's anybody associated with organizations, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated so that makes all Americans vulnerable. And now we know that American citizens are vulnerable to assassination.So I would be very cautious about protecting the rule of law. It will be a sacrifice that you'll be sorry for.”

About Taliban he explained that those were the people who were fighting against a foreign invader that has occupied their country. Buffeting his answer he put a counter question that if someone attacks America would the American not fight against the aggressor in every possible manner? Thus he justified the insurgency or the fighting by Taliban as legitimate to oust an invader that has occupied their country.

His words were, “And I worry a lot about people never have come around to understanding who the Taliban is and why they are motivated. “Taliban doesn't mean they want to come here and kill us. The Taliban means they want to kill us over there because all they want to do is get people who occupy their country out of their country, just like we would if anybody tried to occupy us”.

About Al-Qaida he said, “Al Qaeda is inspired by the fact that we had bases in Saudi Arabia. So if you want to inspire al Qaeda, just meddle in -- in that region. That will inspire the al Qaeda. So there is a response. Al Qaeda responds to that and they -- they are quite annoyed with us. So if you drop -- if you have a no- fly zone over Syria, that's an act of war. What if we had China put a no-fly zone over our territory? I don't think -- I don't think we would like that.”

Advocating a policy of non-interference in other countries, Congressman Paul espoused, “And I think we should practice a policy of good will to other people. What about saying that we don't do anything to any other country that we don't have them do to us? When we have a no-fly zone over Iraq, it was for -- meant to be regime change. And evidently, some want to have regime change.”

He strongly advocated the recalling of American forces from Afghanistan and elsewhere stressing that these wars have proved to be futile and instead tarnished the image of America that has been waging wars one after another for decades now.

What is our business? Why should we spend more money and more lives to get involved in another war? That's and -- that is the internal affairs of the other nations and we don't want -- we don't need another nation to start nation building. We have way too many already. So this is just looking for more trouble. I would say why don't we mind our own business?”
Commenting on wars that America has been waging for decades and the urgency to wind these up and the way they were weakening the American economy he warned that, “I think we do detriment -- just think of all the money we gave to Egypt over 30 or 40 years. Now, look, we were buying friendship. Now there's a civil war, they're less friendly to Israel.”

“The whole thing is going to backfire once we go bankrupt and we remove our troops, so I think we should be very cautious in our willingness to go to war and send troops without a proper declaration by the U.S. Congress. I think the aid is all worthless. It doesn't do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country and you end up giving it to rich people in poor countries.”

“And they're used as weapons of war so you accomplish nothing. We should export some, maybe some principles about free markets and sound money and maybe they could produce some of their -- their own wealth. But this whole idea of -- of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we -- we're in big trouble and -- and -- and nobody wants to cut anything.”

So if you're going to keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don't have to declare and -- and go into Libya without even consulting with the Congress, the biggest threat -- the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition. And this is just aggravating it.”
When Mitt Romney pointed out that defense budget was being trimmed by a trillion dollars, Ron Paul shot back, “Well, they're not cutting anything out of anything. All this talk is just talk------believe me. They're cutting -- they're nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases. There's nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because they're not going -- the budget isn't going up as rapidly as they want it to. It's a road to disaster. We had better wake up.”
About controlling the inflow or drug trafficking from Mexico to the United States, he ridiculed all such claims and efforts mounted by the relevant authorities and even the claims made by other participants in the debate. He outlined that massive amount of money has been spent on checking such illicit drug trade besides the anti narcotics agencies operations but still the Americans were smoking marijuana and this trade was as robust and flourishing as ever.

He suggested that it should be permitted so that those who smoke this intoxicant can do it openly and freely. He further remarked that it would benefit the patients with serious health problems such as cancer patients who are even now diagnosed marijuana as a treatment.

“The drug was mentioned. I think that's another war we ought to cancel, because it's...... to nobody's benefit. And that's where the violence is coming from. But, yes, we do have a national responsibility for our borders. What I'm, sort of, tired of is all the money spent and lives lost worrying about the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan and forgetting about our borders between the United States and Mexico. We should think more about, you know, what we do at home.”

When the moderator interrupted him by remarking that,”But I just want you to clarify. When you say cancel the war on drugs, does that mean legalize all these drugs? Ron Paul quipped, “I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure.”

You can -- you can at least let sick people have marijuana because it's helpful, but compassionate conservatives say, well, we can't do this; we're going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and they're being helped with marijuana, if they have multiple sclerosis -- the federal government's going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison.”

Why don't we handle the drugs like we handle alcohol? Alcohol is a deadly drug. What about -- the real deadly drugs are the prescription drugs. They kill a lot more people than the illegal drugs. So the drug war is out of control. I fear the drug war because it undermines our civil liberties. It magnifies our problems on the borders. We spend -- like, over the last 40 years, $1 trillion on this war. And believe me; the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn't worked.”

About the illegal immigrants his views were candid and squarely objective. He said that, “We need better immigration services, obviously. But, you know, if you subsidize something or give people incentives, you get more of it. So if you give easy road to citizenship, you're going to have more illegals. If you have a weak economy, which is understandable and we should have prevented, that's understandable.
He continued by pleading that, “Giving -- mandating to the states and to Texas that we have to provide free medical care and free education, that's a great burden. It's a great burden to California and all the Border States. So I would say eliminate all these benefits and talk about eliminating the welfare state because it's detrimental not only to here but the people that come because that's the incentive to bring their families with them.”

Each time Congressman Ron Paul finished his statement, it was followed by a warm applause from the audience. No other speaker was applauded and cheered as much and as many times as Ron Paul for his straight and earnest talk and answers.


Pak Government and the Memorandum Issue

November 21, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Mansoor Ijaz an American businessman with Pakistani descent has claimed that Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani requested him to deliver a secret memorandum on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari to the US, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen for seeking help to prevent a probable military takeover. Admiral Mullen was known to have good equation with General Ashfaq Kiani, the COAS of Pakistan army.

In the aftermath of the Osama Ben laden’s assassination by US Navy Seals on May 2 this year, President Zardari feared that the military may stage a coup and oust him from power. In a state of urgency or panic he reportedly, tried to solicit the help of the Pentagon to stop Pakistan army from such a projected action.

All other grave issues that have been jolting Pakistan from time to time during the last some four years of PPP government, the latest is the most horrendous. The government as usual is ducking the fallout and fruitlessly endeavoring to make it look like a non issue or at best a sinister conspiracy against the PPP government.

But unless the chickens come home to roost and a plausible outcome emerges from the crossfire, the uproar would continue to rage. The immediate follow-up of such a phenomenally serious issue should have been to send the incumbent ambassador of Pakistan in USA, Hussain Haqqani on leave till the matter was decided by a competent and credible authority.

Such an authority could be a high powered commission to be composed of the members both civilian and military. If the government dithers and want to buy the cooling off time as it has been doing on other issues it would earn more flake.

The eye catching aspect of this issue is the mistrust about the army that has been highlighted in the note alleged to have been sent by Mr. Haqqani through Ijaz Mansoor to the then Admiral Mike Mullen. As the memo spells out, shameful concessions have been promised to the United States if Mike Mullen would prevail upon the Pakistan army chief and other top military brass to not dislodge the incumbent PPP government.

Mansoor Ijaz reportedly handed over this memo to a former US National Security Advisor James Jones to be further passed on to Admiral Mike Mullen. James Jones has acknowledged that he was the intermediary who delivered the memo to the Admiral Mike Mullen on May 10 this year. The secret memorandum was purportedly dictated by ambassador Haqqani on telephone and typed by Mansoor Ijaz.

In a telephonic interview to Imran Khan the well known Geo TV channel anchor, Mansoor Ijaz reiterated that ambassador Haqqani dictated the memorandum to him on the phone on May 10 at about ten o’clock and that he has proof of that on his black berry. To a subsequent question Mansoor said that when he asked Mr. Haqqani if he has the approval of president Zardari, the latter told him that he as his authority and approval.
With these contradictory statements, the matter seems to have become quite complicated and it is rather difficult for the neutral observer to find which side was right. From the clarification that was issued by the Pentagon says that indeed the admiral received the memorandum and even saw it but set aside it because it did not carry the signatures of the sender.

In the meantime Mr. Haqqani who is now in Pakistan has to explain his side of the story to the high ups of the Pakistan army who may accept or reject his explanation.By a stroke of luck and with consummate articulation skill that Mr. Haqqani abundantly is blessed with, even if the army may take a lenient or softer attitude, the matter would not completely die out.

The political parties mostly notably the PMLN has declared to file the case in the supreme court of Pakistan for a thorough probe with a view to finding the truth. The issue of memo has gripped the whole country and there are diverse projections about the fate of Ambassador Haqqani whether he would stay or leave the prestigious office.

Since his arrival in Pakistan he has met the president of Pakistan and would also brief the army on this thorny issue that has been variously described as treasonous act on the part of the ambassador if proven.

Side by side with the explanation of ambassador Haqqani, the president of Pakistan should also make it clear whether he gave or not the green signal to the ambassador to go ahead with the delivery of the memo that has caught the government unawares.

Rationally the writing of a letter to the American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not a big issue nor can it be tagged as a treasonous or treacherous or even a criminal act.

Rather it was a sagacious and objective and even correct approach of the incumbent Pakistan government to prevent a military coup that would have ditched a democratic government chosen by the people.

This should rather be deemed as an appreciable step that the Pakistan government thought of resorting to save a democratic form of government no matter how worse, but is still hundred times better than a military regime.

But what looks rather irksome is the clumsy way it was done. Ambassador Haqqani instead of hiring a medium and intermediary should have himself approached the American State Department or even Pentagon requesting them to intercede and prevent the possible or the apprehended military take over. That would have been a more graceful and face-saving approach than asking a mediocre middle man to do the momentous needful.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Confederation of Pakistan and Afghanistan

November 9, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Afghanistan strategically is, phenomenally important as it links the Central Asia with the Indian sub- continent. Its irresolvable drawback is being a landlocked country. All the invaders that descended on India marched through Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s culture is a mix of Iranian, Central Asian, and the tribal regions of Pakistan with mostly Pushto speaking population. The Afghanis treat the founder of Mughal dynasty in India Zaheeruddin Babar as a foreign invader since he came from the Central Asia.

During the rule of Sikhs over formerly NWFP, a sizeable number of Sikhs settled in Kabul and other cities of Afghanistan. The business is partly shared by the Sikhs in Afghanistan and they are married with the local females irrespective of religious differences. From that point of view Afghanistan used to be a liberal country and the kind of religious galore one can see in the Central Asian states has not been so overwhelmingly pronounced in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has been hostile towards Pakistan for reasons that have yet to be explicitly spelled out by the students of history. This hostility was born during the partition of the British India between Pakistan and India. As a result thereof some of the territories became part of Pakistan that even to this day Afghanistan claims to be hers.

Pakistan has twin border settlement problems: one with India and the other with Afghanistan on the western front. The Durand line being an artificial demarcation of borders is accepted by Pakistan but not Afghanistan. The Durand Line agreement was signed in 1893 by the then British foreign secretary H. M. Durand and Afghanistan ruler Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, to fix the limits of their respective spheres of influence between Afghanistan and what then colonial British India (now Pakistan) was.

As a result of that agreement a new province NWFP was created out of the annexed Afghanistan territory. Multan, Mianwali, Bahawalpur, and Dera Ghazi Khan that were part of the Afghan Empire from 1747 until around 1820s, were also annexed by the British. It is precisely for this annexation that Pashtoons and Baloch do not accept the Durand Line as the permanent borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This was a part of British ‘divide and rule policy’ to bifurcate the ethnic Pashtoons and Baluchis on both sides of an artificially created line. All these areas are now part of Pakistan. Pakistan is not to be held responsible for inclusion of these areas into its federation. However, this boundary line would remain porous, fragile and imaginary till the settlement of permanent borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan with acceptable alterations.

It would be an historical injustice to keep the Baloch and Pashtoons separate because of this line that was created by the British not to have any war with Afghanistan in which they were always defeated. There was a political exigency that was behind the creation of this demarcation of boundary line.

But after almost 125 years of its existence it would not be possible for Pakistan to go back to the original divisions of territories between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan has inherited these lands and did not annex these or forcibly occupy them.

Simultaneously any Afghan government would not disavow their claims of these territories although the partition plan of 1947 called for the inclusion of territories that actually existed within the British Indian dominion. But to silence Afghanistan on this question as India on Kashmir would be least productive.

The historical links between Indian sub-continent and Afghanistan have been there from time immemorial and particularly after the succession of forays of the invaders and conquerors from Central Asia such as Babar and Mahmud of Gazni from Central Asia and Nadir Shah Durrani and Ahmed Shah Abdali from Afghanistan.

However, the onslaughts of these Muslim invaders created an indissoluble religious bond between the population of India and that of Afghanistan and beyond that with Central Asia. In a way although not territorially, a common linkage through Islam had been established in these lands. That could be viewed as a rudimentary ideological confederation between the countries spread over a vast land incorporating Central Asia, Afghanistan and present day Pakistan.

As such a confederation of states between Afghanistan and Pakistan can be made possible if given serious thought. There can be a host of factors and variety of reasons that should form basis of such a confederation between these two neighboring countries which though are politically apart but profess the same religion.

Pakistan cannot complain of the past invasions carried out by the Afghan or Central Asian invaders. Similarly Afghanistan should not blame and force Pakistan to return the lands that became part of it as the successor state of British Empire in India.

With the confederal arrangement, the controversy over the legitimacy of the Durand line or the division of the ethnic Pashtoons and Baluchis would dissipate as they would be able to freely move across the borders without the restrictions they are exposed to after 1947.

In case of confederation coming into being in actuality, the two paramount bottlenecks of both these neighboring countries would be automatically resolved. The Afghanistan would no more suffer from the perennial sense of deprivation of being a landlocked country. Pakistan would be gratified by way of having a strategic depth that it has been aspiring for ages.

With the total areas under a combined system of government with virtually two independent administrations, the threat from extremist and radical militants would be easier to deal with. Pakistan being a regional state with a strong military network could effectively curb and debilitate the radical insurgents.

But in all probability, once the foreign occupation forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban and other militants may call off their fighting and even join the government in some form and under mutually acceptable conditions. Once a truly democratic system is set in motion, the sharp divisions along pro-Russians and pro-American, socialist, secular or radical Islamists lines would gradually melt down.

If the decades old dynastic regimes can crumble in the Middle East and give way to the pluralistic dispensations, why cannot it happen in Afghanistan to emerge as a modern democratic state? Pakistan is already embarked on a democratic path no matter how fragile or faulty it might be. Afghanistan too is having democratic set since December 2004 though with a load of ifs and buts.

One can visualize the level of prosperity that both these countries can attain under a confederal system. There can be a safe land route via Afghanistan for overland transportation of merchandise between Europe, central Asia, and Russia on one side and Pakistan and India and even from Bangladesh on the other. The huge deposits of precious minerals in both Pakistan and Afghanistan can be tapped and utilized for economic boom that can catapult them to the dizzying heights of modern developing states.
The United States and the wealthy West should sponsor, coordinate and encourage the concept of confederation between these two countries that have been through mutual distrust and bellicosity for ages. The United States and the Western Europe, China and Japan should lend economic assistance for this land to shape up as an economic bloc that should be the envy of the world.

Presently, Afghanistan is perhaps the leading country in growing poppy and exporting such lethal drugs as heroin and marijuana, to the world at large. It would be pretty easy for both the states under a confederal arrangement to curtail and eliminate this most dangerous drug business and instead take to growing crops and corn, vegetables and fruit that can feed their own population and even export abroad.

One of the most salubrious developments would be that after almost over 100 years of break, the Pashtoons and Baluchis would join together as one ethnic entity. Predictably, the insurgencies and liberation movements going on in Pakistan since its inception would lose their import and ultimately die out.

A mechanism needs to be evolved by which the preliminary parleys between the parties can be initiated towards that ultimate formidable goal to convert this most volatile region into an abode of peace for the first time in the history.

If Europe can become an economic bloc, or there can be an Asean group and other regional blocs around the world, let there be one in the form of a confederation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It can be joined later also by India and Bangladesh if it is desired to be expanded with the mutual consensus of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More than Youth, Imran Khan Needs Young Turks

Note: I was motivated to write this article by a perceptive email sent to me by one of my esteemed readers. The email sent by Mr. Wequar Azeem is reproduced at the end.

Saeed Qureshi

November 12, 2001

By Saeed Qureshi

Metaphorically, Young Turks signify a group of young soldiers and societal activists who replace a moribund status quo and stifling autocracy with democracy and civil society through a revolution.

To bring about an all encompassing transformation in Pakistan and to break the abominable system, a revolutionary and patriotic group of young military officers is needed. Such young middle order cadres changed the complexion of Turkey under the command of inimitable Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk during the first three decades of 20th century catapulting Turkey from the stigma of the ‘sick man of Europe’ to a modern democratic state.

Ideologically, the obscurantist and the reactionary forces foster on past fables and spurious promises of a golden era. They oppose the kind of amazing change that Young Turks under the epic command of Kamal Atta Turk brought about. They had preferred caliphate that was draped in cronyism for the west and which let loose a reign of ghastly oppression on its own people and had surrendered the Turkish lands to the foreign invaders.

Mustafa Kamal Ataturk the architect of modern Turkey led that epoch making and astounding revolt and laid the foundations of a new modern state and society of Turkey. That was a unique moment for Turkey saying good bye to the old obsolete order and embracing the one resplendent with the hallmarks of a great newborn modern nation.

They overthrew a moribund, decadent, fraudulent and repressive rule and replaced it with the one that infused a new life and spirit of nationalism and dignity. The Young Turks’ movement liberalized the Turkish society, ended the religious absolutism, created a new constituent assembly, framed a new democratic constitution and abolished the caliphate. The religion got separated from the state affairs. All these phenomenal changes were completed by March 1924.

The Young Turks’ movement started secretly under the name of “Committee of Union and Progress” (CUP). It was conceived in the military college of Istanbul by the dissident young soldiers and gradually spread among other sections of Turkish society such as college students, writers, journalists, and artists.

In 1908, the group succeeded in forcing Sultan Abdul Hamid II to restore the parliament, which he had suspended in 1878. The restoration of legislature is called the second constitutional era and is symbolized as the Young Turks’ Revolution that continued from 1908 until 1919.

For a purely political crusade, the Turkey’s illustrious incumbent prime minister comes to mind. Can Imran Khan be another Rajab Tayyab Urdegan, a matchless genius, a remarkable revolutionary and a valiant leader? But in the backdrop of traditional sleazy politicking in Pakistan, even angles cannot outpace the veteran political tricksters.

Pakistan definitely needs a break from the sordid and manipulative political format that hinders free and fair franchise and ensures the stay of privileged classes in power and misuses it for self-enrichment. Imran Khan the clean-handed chief of PTI cannot achieve a landslide victory. I wish he could. With the kind of impediments with which the political landscape of Pakistan is strewn, despite his best intentions he may not be able to bring about the change that he aims at.

Predictably, all the political parties would win their share of national assembly seats. Unless Imran Khan can sweep the elections and attain clear-cut majority, he will have to bend over backward for a coalition with another party which presumably could be either PMLN or the PPP.

With the PPP, he might not find an easy bed fellow. With PMLN, he cannot sail along smoothly because of the overbearing demeanor of Mian Nawaz Sharif. In his company, he cannot take independent decisions that he direly needs for a much needed promised change in Pakistan.

In a coalition, he cannot exercise a free will to enforce his agenda for change. The loathsome culture of horse trading and favoritism would again step in. Imran Khan can contest elections but cannot force fair and transparent electoral process.

Imran Khan would be in lurch and thus fall into the traditional paradigm of quid pro quo which in simple jargon means you scratch my back and I shall do yours. Imran Khan would be hamstrung in launching and implementing his agenda in letter and spirit.

So the public euphoria would start melting into despondency. The inability to make country awash with his thrilling and spectacular manifesto for changing the morbid status quo, Imran Khan would gnash his teeth but would find himself utterly helpless to move forward.

The country would continue to decay and the people would remain victim of a rapacious system that brooks no mercy for the downtrodden and common crushed citizenry of Pakistan. Even if he is propped up by the powerful ‘make and break’ forces notably the ISI, his capacity would remain limited and his cherished dreams to serve the people with a difference would remain unrealized. That would be a situation defined literarily as “back to square one”.

In was perhaps with this historical precedent of Turkey and the prevailing dismal situation in Pakistan in view that a visionary reader of my articles forcefully advocated the change in Pakistan through a revolution by the young soldiers in the armed forces of Pakistan. His depiction and articulations is hugely impressive and unassailable, let me produce his narrative here.

Mr. Wequar Azeem from New Jersey writes,
Janab Qureshi Saheb,
“Your article under the above caption contains couple of drastic suggestions similar to the Arab Spring in Egypt and the French Revolution. Wouldn't it be better if the mid-level commissioned officers like the Colonels and Brigadiers staged a military coup and interned all the Senior Generals, all the Politicians, Religious Leaders including heads of Madressas, the Sajjada Nashins and infrastructure of militant organizations like L Te, Jhangvis, and such others. Have them investigated for any wrong-doing and sorted out with exemplary punishments. Declare Martial Law for six months; arrange elections on non-party basis with each contestant for public office undergoing scrutiny of military's selected committee to determine each candidate's suitability in respect of education and reputation. The elected representatives to reframe a Secular Constitution as envisaged by Jinnah repeal Zamindari, Sajjada-Nashineen, Beradari system, Sardari System. Make friends with India and sign Peace-Agreement and transform the Indo-Pak border into a friendly US-Canada type of border. Decide Kashmir as divided territory between Pakistan and India according to LoC. Reduce the army to 50,000 soldiers as border-guards and peace-keepers. Disband the Income Tax department and hire outside contractors for collecting taxes and Customs' & Excise tariff levies, and taxes on agricultural incomes. Appoint an Inspector General in all Govt. offices on permanent basis to check the daily functions against corruption and guard against bribery and nepotism.
To my mind, this is do-able if you motivate the mid-level military officers who are sincere in serving the country, to make it happen.

Wequar Azeem,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shahnaz Bukhari: an Adorable Women’s Activist

November 5, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Shahnaz Bukhari is in Dallas this week. Those who have not met this renowned and illustrious lady are indeed less fortunate. Her name is associated with the epic struggle that she has been valiantly waging for the rights and rehabilitation of the abused and oppressed women of Pakistan. She founded Progressive Women’s Association for alleviation of women’s sufferings and for their rights as equal and dignified members of society.

She founded the PWA at a time when merely asking for the rights of women was labeled as sinful by the ignorant custodian of religious dogmas. Women in Pakistan have been discriminated and traumatized under the Sharia laws distorted, improvised and misinterpreted by a wide section of ignorant and intolerant Muslim clerics.

Contrary to what Islam ordains and extols honors of the females in a Muslim society, these bigots with a tongue sharper than razor and keeping saber under their arms preach to treat Women as they were the meanest among the humans and were slave concubines of the men.

Overly male dominated as many Islamic societies and polities are, the women are not only lesser equals but are treated as scum of the earth by the uneducated and narrow minded people brainwashed from the pulpit. Their behavior towards women is patently in complete and callous disregard of how the last prophet of Islam treated her own wives and gave women respect in the society.

Here are a few examples as to how the women in Pakistan in generally are mal-treated and exposed to unbearable conditions while living with their husbands or generally in the society.

Rape, the most heinous crime in any civilized society, is rampant in Pakistan. Ironically in the last 14 centuries of Islam’s existence, there is not one instance of a single rapist ever punished for this most despicable offence against the chastity of woman. The reason is that the victimized woman has to provide evidence that she was raped by so and so. But the matter does not end here. The burden of such a proof is utterly impossible to produce.

A defenseless and frail woman captured by a physically strong predator cannot produce witnesses to convince the court of the perfidious crime committed against here. First of all for fear of shame and calumny, she would not dare tell anyone that she has gone through a harrowing trauma. Secondly would a rapist commit his crime in the public as if a circus was going on?

But what boggles the mind is not one male individual that is needed as a witness but minimum four who should be pious and of credible good character and must have seen one by one the entire loathsome act to which the poor victim was being subjected to.

It is not written anywhere in the Sharia injunctions that these onlookers should also make an effort to rescue the helpless creature from the clutches of the depraved perpetrator. As such the religiously needed evidence can never be solicited and the rapists have free hand to commit such a crime. Is this not a license for rape without any punishment?

The evidence that is needed in the court in legal matters is yet another aspect of a cultural milieu in which two females are treated equal to one male. In simpler words it means that in matter of evidence one woman is not trustworthy unless there are two.
So while man enjoys full right as a witness, a woman has half of the rights of a man. This is a blatant inequality between the genders that is quoted by the religious interpreters as an important injunction of Sharia laws.

Thirdly, the wedding dowry that means the provision of household things from a bed to a car is the responsibility of the bride or her parents. Now countless women have remained without marriage because either due to poverty they could not arrange dowry or it was insufficient or was rejected by the groom’s side.

Thus the marriage would abort or end in separation or in murder of the bride. If she survives she has to live in an atmosphere of domestic violence and torture for the rest of her life from a greedy or low-minded husband.

In case of rape, or under the allegation of that, a woman is sent to jail and if a child is born from that rape she is treated as the mother of an illegitimate child and thus remains in jail for years together. The male is seldom reprimanded in such brazen crime because he is not known.

She remains vulnerable to the lust and sexual urges of the jail staff and even rotated between the affluent jail inmates through the pimps and touts mostly the jail staff. Thus the life of a chaste and innocent woman is destroyed forever.

If a man wants to get rid of the wife for monetary reasons or for second marriage or because of small dowry, he burns her or kills her, in many instances with the tacit approval and active connivance of her family members.

If someone visits the section in Pakistan’s hospitals reserved for the burnt cases, he will find there mostly the women patients. The flimsy excuses such as exploding of cooking stoves are concocted to prove the case as an accident.

In Sindh and Punjab provinces the women who do not submit to the sexual desires of local feudal lords or the demand of her husband to marry another woman, is charged for infidelity and is killed with no questions asked.

This is the odious culture prevailing in various parts of Pakistan and is reported in the press from time to time. Even a male is tagged with her and both are put to death in the darkness of night.

Now the physical beating of a woman is one religious injunction that is clearly and emphatically allowed to the males. Although the permissible beating is not as harsh but it so happens that cruel husbands maim and cripple their wives and invariably beat them almost on daily basis without a whimper of any protest or retaliation from the persecuted female.

And in case of marriage a male enjoys a dominent status. He can, if he wants, marry as many as four women subject to certain conditions such an s good financial standing to feed all of them and equal treatment meted out to them.

But equal treatment is a charade in case of violent, lecherous, greedy and overbearing husbands. And there is no mechanism to ascertain that the person concerned has been fulfilling the underlying conditions or not.

It goes without saying that in the male dominated societies like Pakistan, women cannot be treated equal to men. Why the women are not allowed to marry more than one man if the man can? It clearly gives an upper edge to a male in satisfying his wild sexual urges.

In the western societies a male can marry any number of times he want to but can keep only wife at one time. He has to divorce the first wife and then go for the second or subsequent marriages. But in doing so he has to give enough money to his divorced wife and for the children for their ensured and comfortable living.

Why can’t we have such system in Pakistan and in the Islamic societies, which is more humane? Unfortunately in societies like Pakistan a cleric or religious rabble rouser is more powerful than politicians or a judge?

Now the case of a Christian woman Asia Noreen is instructive who has been charged with blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad. Now the Christians and other religious minorities have none or perfunctory knowledge of even their own religion because they are backward, mostly uneducated, are working men or women, domestic servants or farm laborers in the villages.

They remain afraid of the local Muslim religious preachers. So the blasphemy is a word simple alien to them. But she is in jail for years together for a crime that she does not know she ever committed. But the entire legion of religious bigots and fire spitting orators are moving earth and heaven to get her the death punishment. No amount of any logic and reasoning can dissuade them from their farcical obduracy about interpreting Islam the way they like.

Now these are the suffocating, oppressive, diabolic, inhuman, fiendish conditions and atmosphere of utter intolerance and distortion of religious teachings that Shahnaz Bukhari has been working in for decades for equality, dignity and honorable treatment for the women of Pakistan.

A thousand threats were hurled at her life. Vicious smears and vilifications were attributed to her character from fanatical religious demogogues in Pakistan. An inexorable character assassination blitz was whipped up against her for a cause that was so sublime and divine.

Her mission is so lofty and noble as to entitle her to a grand reward, national recognition and meritorious decoration. She has been active without fear from the religious zealots in providing legal, financial, moral and social support to the abused women folks of Pakistan languishing in jails or putting up in families that treat them like maid servants or slave woman to be recipients of all the indignities and horrifying torture.

It is this speechless, unprotected and forlorn segment of Pakistanis society that remains on the receiving end of barbarities and religious persecutions and cultural taboos. These are the tender, fragrant, sophisticated and delicate creation of God, whom the “Poet of the East” Allama Iqbal paid tributes in the following immortal couplet:

“The universe is colorful and attractive because of the existence of women. She is like an instrument that gives birth to life’s inner sublimity and lyricism.”

Shahnaz was unbearably harassed by the narrow minded tormentors and ignorant religious persecutors. Her life was endangered to the extent that ultimately she had to leave Pakistan. She is living in Florida Miami. She is still in the forefront of advancing her exalted mission for the cause of the suffering women in Pakistan.

Her current focus is on providing wheel chairs to the women crippled and physically disabled in Pakistan by their ferocious husbands or the incorrigibile and revengeful ideoilogical hounds or the rogue elements in the society. Anyone who may offer her any support in this regard can contact her email on her email:
B.shahnaz@gmail.com.The website of Progressive Women Association is: pwaisb@hotmail.com. He telephone is: 3057931344

Also you may visit Wikipedia to know more about Shahnaz Bukhari’s sterling profile, her phenomenal achievements, her incessant crusade for women’s equality and rights that she fought for under extremely trying and unbearable conditions.

Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif may join hands

Upright Opinion

October 30, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Despite a visible saber-rattling and verbal jingoism, there is a possibility that finally Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan may come to terms with each other to brace against the combine of PPP and the MQM.

In his statement that he made before his departure for China, Imran Khan feebly hinted at forging a kind of alliance with PMNL provided the Sharif brothers declared their assets.

Now declaration of assets would not be a tall order for the stalwarts of PMLN as they desperately need a cohort and an ally who could beef up the political prowess of these Punjab based parties in their own citadel of power.

Ideologically, there does not seem to be much antagonism or variance between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif as both are vociferously speaking against the rampant corruption and bad governance of the ruling PPP.

While they may be a little mild towards Prime Minister Gilani, they are on an all out war of recrimination and condemnation against president Zardari who is the real force calling shots from the presidency.

It appears there is going to be a bitter and venomous war of words, tongue lashing, uproarious smear and slander bouts between PPP and MQM on one side of the isle and the PMLN and PTI on the other.

In the wake of the muck-racking and vituperation spewed out and the challenges thrown at Zardari by the chief minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the battleground is predisposed for stinging attacks and counter attacks on each other’s character and moral conduct.

These parties are poised to wash their dirty linens in the public and thus would stand exposed with no cloths of dignity and a veneer of modesty on their public postures.

There is a shared public perception that the PPP leaders both in power and on the sidlines were riveted on taking maximum advantage and mileage in regard to amassing as much wealth as they can.

This penchant was in stark contrast to the gross insensitivity and utter neglect they apportion to the welfare of the people and towards ameliorating their aggravating sufferings.

A president who seldom comes out of his well fortified presidential mansion and a prime minister who excels in the shady indulgence of nepotism and the ministers styling themselves as cronies and shameless toadies, the political zodiac of the ruling party is getting murkier.

Until there is massive fraud and mammoth manipulation in the elections, the chances for the PPP to re-emerge as the majority party are decidedly slim. The Bhutto euphoria and the fervor of jialis (diehard fans), notwithstanding the supporters of the PPP are getting disgruntled especially with the widespread stories of the corruption of their leaders.

The support and sympathy for the PPP in all the four provinces is dwindling and it may be left with limited pockets of zealous supporters who still are in romantic kinship with a charismatic Bhutto, BB and the family.

The public meetings of both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have been stunningly impressive in Punjab. Even Nawaz Sharif’s public addresses in various cities of interior Sindh unfurled the change in perceptions and attitude of the people of that province.

A Punjabi leader known as the leading adversary of the PPP, had made an impact demonstrating that old and blind traditional loyalties were evaporating.

It is foregone that MQM would win majority of seats in the both provincial and general elections from Karachi. But there is also a possibility that some seats might also be bagged by ANP, JI and even PMNL. The PPP will be a formidable contender as well.

The direct and inhibited personal attacks that are being traded between the PPP shenanigans and the PMNL samurai warriors would get further diabolic and may even trigger physical attacks and brawls. The burning of PMNL office in Sindh and the murder of their local president in Punjab are the indicators of what sinister future is ahead.

If the bad blood and bellicosity accentuates and the violence overtakes a sober and decent political debate, the possibility of postponement of elections cannot be ruled out. At the same time if the acrimony and tussle enter the phase of retaliatory bloody skirmishes such as torching each other’s offices and murderous assaults, the army may step in.

In that scenario though remote, both the belligerents would lose and the army would have moral leverage to step in, disengage the rivals and hold the reins of government: no one predict for how long.

What United States should do about Afghanistan!

November 1, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Frankly, mighty United States made the same mammoth blunder that the Soviet Union had made by sending forces to Afghanistan in 1979 to invade that country and for fighting the resisting Afghans mostly the Islamic militants against a communist puppet regime.

The first epoch-making victory scored by the United States in February 1989, against a communist super power was made possible by the Islamic militants who fought and paved way for United States to fashion her as the sole super power and leader of a new world order.

United States drunk by that historic victory left Afghanistan in lurch as if a ferocious storm had come and passed away after uprooting everything on the way. The United States did not visualize of streamlining the chaotic land that was devastated by the Russian onslaught and later by a civil war.

It staged a comeback in 2001 to that war-torn country with a grandiose military show along with NATO. But by that time the situation on the ground had drastically changed with Taliban scourging and stalking the country after annihilating the feuding war lords.

The former American president G.W. Bush a stubborn right winger hawk refused to have any interaction with Taliban and ordered them to hand over Osama Bin laden or face a military avalanche. That was a cataclysmic turning point whose ruinous repercussions United States has been witnessing and facing for ten years.

To defeat and destroy Haqqani network would be a stupendous undertaking and gubernatorial risk and would be self defeating and futile when ten years flexing of military muscle and unrelenting fighting have remained non-starter. Haqqani group has been formerly a fighting partner of United States in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Now if Haqqani and even other bands of Taliban have remained untamed despite colossal upheavals and survived the combined military might of ISAF and that of America how would it be possible to spring a miracle and the Taliban including Haqqani can vanish in the air or sink in the dust. Not even Pakistan which is being pressured to move into North Waziristan to perform this impossible feat can do this.

The latest initiatives undertaken by USA on Afghanistan including the trilateral summit hosted by Turkish president Abdullah Gul in Istanbul on November 2, is a significant step forward for cultivating cooperation between two mutually indignant neighbors: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Besides Turkish president, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai would participate.

It is foregone that United States wants to quit Afghanistan without destroying and dismantling the militant’s network including that of Haqqani. It has therefore fallen back on making peace with Taliban. The heavy loss of lives, countless crippled soldiers, and a trillion dollar financial wastage is what the USA has reaped from this patently aimless and fruitless war.

It is therefore, a salubrious development that United States has mounted new efforts to initiate negotiations with Haqqani and Taliban through Pakistan as an intermediary. There would be no end to this interminable nightmare for America even if its drops an atomic bomb on Afghanistan. So the belated choice of leaving Afghanistan after hammering out peace with Taliban including the Haqqani group is the right strategy.

It is only Pakistan that can bail-out American and ISAF from this yawning predicament and redeem her from the quick sand that it is sinking into. It is also propitious sign that the castigation of ISI and Pakistan army has been toned down and the task of establishing contacts and process of dialogue has been predictably assigned to Pakistan.

Pakistan can act as a very useful go-between bridge between the United States and Taliban. And it is only Pakistan that can ensure that Afghanistan remains a stable country under an establishment that should be unanimously approved by all the parties concerned.

There could be one pernicious dimension that would be a throwback of pre-American presence in Afghanistan. It is that the Taliban may re-establish they brutal sway on Afghanistan again. In that situation America can maintain its links with Pakistan, India and other regional countries to jointly resist if an orthodox and intolerant, oppressive religious regime is forced upon Afghanistan by Taliban.

Once NATO and United States leave Afghanistan, it would be pretty easy for the people of Afghanistan and the neighboring countries to rein in shrew militants and extremist Taliban. The insurgency of Taliban was primarily directed at the United States and the occupation network of NATO. Once they leave Afghanistan, the rationale of Taliban for further fighting would lose its ferocity, momentum and force.

At that phase it would be easy and even justified for Pakistan to launch military action against Taliban and other disparate militias if they continue to pose threat either to Pakistan or a consensus government in Afghanistan.

Evidently the predominant population in the tribal areas is famed for its guerilla fighting. They remained on the sidelines because first they thought Taliban were fighting against a foreign occupation force that had no right to occupy Afghanistan.

Secondly they were not harmed or suffered as much they have in these years after 2001. These tribal people are capable of engaging Taliban in straight fights because the Taliban would then be confined to Afghanistan territory.

If Taliban fight against the Pakistan or the local tribal population they would have to leave theses areas that were their sanctuaries and hideouts for a decade and from where they launched their forays and terrorist attacks on the NATO forces.

Drones cannot kill all the Taliban leaders or those of al-Qaida. If drones would be helpful in liquidating the rank and file of anti American elements from Afghanistan then United States would need to conduct millions of such attacks that kill more civilians than their perceived targets.Moreover, if a few militants are killed more are born. This wild goose chase is not going to be result- oriented and in the meantime the American battered economy would come under more rigors.

The saner course is to entrust the vital task of restoring peace to a body that comprises the Afghan government, the regional countries from the central Asia including Iran and even India to take up the rehabilitation of ravaged Afghanistan, restore its infrastructure, help establish a populist government and oversee it future course.

It would be utterly impossible for the dogmatic Taliban to wage a war of faith against the local mediators and solicitors as they would be isolated and would find very hard to establish their existence within Pakistan. Moreover, they would be shorn and divested of their legitimacy to fight any further when their principal foe would have left Afghanistan.

The United States and the West however can keep supporting the new set up in diverse ways as it would be doing in Iraq after withdrawal of American troops by the end of the current year?

The United States can give financial aid for rebuilding of roads and damaged buildings and other mauled infrastructure and also to create a decent civic system and establishment of civil society institutions. Education, health, water, power sectors can be revived under a modern rehabilitation plan.

With these and other constructive measures, it would be possible for United States to refurbish its bruised image of an invader that wanted to subjugate Afghanistan for no cogent reasons.

The Taliban were friendly at the outset towards America but later turned enemies due to unbending arrogance of the then US president George W Bush who pushed America into two aimless and unwinnable wars resulting in a depleted domestic economy and tarnished image abroad of that otherwise a magnificent country.