Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PTI”s Eid Milan Dinner: a Magnificent Function

August 26, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

The Edi Milan dinner hosted by the DFW chapter of Pakistan Tehrik-e- Insaf (PTI) on August 25, in a local hotel, turned out to be a splendid event. The food was excellent, plentiful and decidedly sumptuous and delicious.
The banquet hall of Kasra an Iranian restaurant in Richardson was bustling with the guests mostly families. Some of them had come with their children.
The main event was to update and enlighten the DFW audience about the plans and manifesto of the PTI that it would implement if voted into power. The president of the PTI for this region Mr. Nadeem Zaman made a brilliant and passionate presentation about the PTI’s activities during the past year in DFW particularly and elsewhere in the United States generally. He spoke about the PTI’s marked progress and great strides toward its expansion and increasing its membership both in DFW and beyond that.
He informed the guests that from its one single chapter, the PTI has grown now to 70 chapters. This amazing expansion he said was an incontrovertible testimony and evidence to the fact that the PTI’s revolutionary program for transformation of Pakistan into a great and developed nation was in sync with the aspirations of the People of Pakistan.
He talked of the dedicated team that was working very hard to popularize PTI and disseminate its watershed agenda that was indispensable and long overdue for changing the destiny of Pakistan and modeling it into a modern state. He said that Imran Khan would be coming to Dallas sometime in October.
Another speaker Mr. Ali Farooq (PTI Dallas Information Secretary) also dwelt at length at reforms and changes that PTI would bring about in Pakistan if it comes into power. He hoped that the people of Pakistan would overwhelmingly vote for the PTI so that they can get rid of a corrupt lot of leaders and decadent system that have ruined our magnificent country of origin in various ways.
He disclosed that in order to ensure that voting would be fair and honest; a contingent of ten members from the PTI would be posted at every polling station.  It means that some one hundred thousand volunteers would undertake this onerous task. He mentioned about the declaration of their assets by the top leaders of the PTI which so far has not been done by other parties to notches.
Ms. Anjum Anwar(member PTI Dallas Organizing Committee) a famous radio host was the compere of this great and awesome evening resplendent with a sumptuous dinner studded with Iranian cuisine, music, tableau by the young children. All the speakers unfurled the curtain raiser of a vital political force emerging on the political horizon of Pakistan, i.e., Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf under the stewardship of its illustrious chairman Imran Khan.
The children stage show was a stunning combination of prayers, national anthem and Allama Iqbal’s (poet of the East) famous poem (Lab pay Atee hay Dua).The children were awarded souvenirs for their well prepared stage tableau.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Minorities under Attack in Pakistan

August 23, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

What happened in Astor? On the road leading to Gilgit, three buses were waylaid at a place near Babusar pass by the heavily armed fanatic Muslims. The passengers were disembarked, and lined up. Those discovered to be Shias were gunned down. The spine chilling tragedy is so ghastly as to make one speechless. It’s difficult to describe the barbaric enormity of this carnage that spatters blood on the already bloody face of Pakistan.

This is one of those umpteen ugly manifestations of bigotry, sectarian hatred and prejudice based vendetta that are now fast mushrooming all over Pakistan. If this frightening intolerance and bigotry is allowed to escalate, Pakistan would turn into battleground for sectarian Armageddon. Can the Sunni radicals liquidate all the Shias and vice versa all the Sunnis could be eliminated by Shias?

The teenage Christen girl Ramsha’s case and her arrest for allegedly burning the papers with Quranic writings is so pathetic and heart wrenching. It shows how the people turn wild on such gossips without pondering that their reaction does no good to Islam and the Muslims. Islam is larger than life and if it can be desecrated or threatened by a young girl with no knowledge of Islam or the papers she might be burning, then we must lament our vision of Islam.

The most persecuted minority is that of Ahmadis who are constitutionally declared as non Muslims. They are killed and their worshipping places are attacked from time to time. Of late their grave yards were ransacked and the inscriptions written on the graves were erased.  Minarets of their worshipping places were demolished and Arabic writings white-washed. This community is becoming Diaspora and seeking asylums in other countries.

The Hindus mostly inhabited in Sindh are also not safe as a religious minority. The statements of certain Hindu pilgrims to India indicated the maltreatment and discrimination they were being subjected to by powerful majority religious sections. They alleged incidences of kidnapping of Hindus, and their forced conversion to Islam. Even otherwise we have been reading about their houses attacked and rampaged with casualties.

 Islam enjoins security and other rights to the minorities. Unfortunately we Muslims suffer from a lurking paranoid that Islam is always in danger and prone to be desecrated. Deplorably the Quran is being used by the unscrupulous Muslims to settle their scores with non-Muslims or with the challengers of their vested interests. No Muslim not even the enlightened are ready to take Ramsha’s word as credible and forgive her when that innocent soul swears that she did not know if she was doing something wrong.

This year in September, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s gunmen stopped a bus and killed 26 Shia pilgrims travelling on a bus in Balochistan province. The attackers were reported to have checked the identity cards of all the passengers before removing the Shias and shooting them. In February gunmen killed 18 Shia bus passengers in a sectarian attack in the northern district of Kohistan.

Five security personnel were killed in suicide attack in Quetta. On the morning of August 16, religious Militants attacked Pakistan Air Force Kamra Airbase at Kamra near military headquarters in Rawalpindi and remained engaged in a fierce gun battling with security forces for several hours. Precious lives were lost.

Elsewhere in Pakistan in a continuous orgy of blood and inextricable cycle of violence citizens are losing their lives because of sectarian strife. Side by side citizens are killed by robbers, bandits and extortionists. One can walk into a shop with a gun and rob the shopkeepers at free will. Invariably the houses are broken in, the inmates held hostage, the women raped and the assailants decamp with money and jewelry.

More deaths accrue from the revenge killings between the feuding groups associated with political parties and regional roughnecks filled with hatred for their fellow citizens. Karachi and Quetta, among other cities rank highest in the target killings of marked individuals and groups. Hazara Shias are wantonly murdered in Balochistan by premeditated shootings and ambush attacks.

These are some of the latest events that suggest how fragile the law and order situation has become in Pakistan. One would tend to draw an inescapable inference that a nasty and diabolic game is being orchestrated and staged by the parties that want Pakistan to be rendered totally dysfunctional and crippled. Patently the sectarian, regional, ethnic fires are consuming this country and paving way for the renegade forces to balkanize it.

 The religious frenzy and sectarian hate is assuming frightening dimensions as to render the human life as insignificant as a worm. Humans are known to turn barbarians but that stigma was exclusive to the past societies. The recurring massacre of Shias can be consigned to the sectarian madness, but what about the surging violence, devouring the lives of the people for other reasons. The hopes and aspirations of the residents are fading away about the sanctity and security of their life, limb and properties. But did ever any government or its functionaries seriously try to stem the raging tide of sectarianism and the religious right’s bulging influence over the society.

Customarily, there have been bland and   inane vows by the law enforcement bosses with regard to hunting the perpetrators and salvaging the society from their bloody clutches. As a matter of fact the hateful culprits are gleefully having a good time in carrying out their monstrous feat. It is the worthless people of Pakistan who are living in an inferno and constantly exposed to a thousand dangers.

The interior minister, Rehman Malik possesses the inimitable knack of amazing composure after each and every tragedy that swallows precious lives. While making such farcical statements there is always a slight smile hanging on his faces that not even the best expert in physiognomy can decipher.

That begs the serious question about the incumbent government’s ability and even intention to provide a modicum of worthwhile governance for social peace and enforcement of law. The exacerbating situation bears no visible indications of being arrested or contained. The law and order has gone to dogs, the country is in the throes of a civil war and the society is infested with all brands of clandestine terrorists and saboteurs. The law enforcement network is broken, rather over-worked and utterly incapable of dealing with even small emergencies.

The people are starving, the prices are sky rocketing, the gas is being switched off; the commodities are scarcer and getting out of the purchasing ability of the citizens. The sanctity of life has become a laughable cliché. Living in the presidential mansion or prime minister’s well guarded palatial residence presents a detestable contrast with the life of a common man. 

The citizens come out of the houses with a mind torn by the phobias of lurking suicide bombers to strike him in a nook, on a bus stand and in a shopping center.

 Democracy sans safety and accountability is a base coin with no worth. The leaders and the rulers better give security, accountable, efficient, and people-friendly governance to the citizens and take away the charade of democracy that survives on the blood of the citizens.

There is a pervasive and growing disenchantment with the viability of the country. If at all anyone can be pointed at as anti-Pakistan or unpatriotic, it is not the public but the powerful and the privileged classes. The harassed people and paralyzed intelligentsia are not to blame if they pose questions as to how the country was being run and whether this downward calamitous drift would ever be checked or that country’s survival was at stake.

The cronyism, the foreign intelligence outfits and their insidious plot to destabilize Pakistan may be roses to the rulers but not to the traumatized people of Pakistan. How could the sublime ideal of national solidarity glow if the callous extinguishers are bent upon blowing it off?

Let us all candidly admit that Pakistan is in a mess, a mammoth and deep mess. The leadership consists of money grabbers, the shameless opportunists, the rank liars, the pledge brokers, the political dwarfs, the spineless foreign agents and fifth columnists. The people are flabbergasted, dumbfounded and losing their sense of proportion in the face of a dancing Dracula of death everywhere. 

If the prayers can matter, let there be peace in Iraq and in Afghanistan or at least Shia procession must have been spared by their divinities from the repeated nightmares. Then what’s the way-out: honestly I don’t know. I am dizzy and losing my sanity.

Before an open civil war breaks out, the government should move fast to hand over the task of restoring peace in Karachi to the army. The rangers and the police have failed in rooting out the crime and violence from Karachi. Invariably the action by the law enforcement agencies is to cordon the affected areas after the incidence of crime and then leave after some time. It would be ridiculous and futile to expect of them to sincerely put out the flames of ethnic and sectarian killings and stamp out deadly feuding, if the criminals, mafias, murderous gangs, terrorists and sharp shooters are being aided by the politicians and rogue feudal classes.

The army has been so far sitting on the sidelines. The army has an organizational structure, the array of weapons and is chartered to fight. It can therefore effectively neutralize the anti-state elements within a short time as they did in Swat.

It has the capability to clear the Karachi metropolis from the thugs, killers, mercenaries, the illegal immigrants, the warring gangs, the drug and weapon mafia, the sectarian terrorists and similar enemies of peace and for that matter of Pakistan.

The army knows how to deal with such a volatile situation. If required it can impose a curfew with intervals, for a limited period of time (say two months) and set up military courts for speedy trials. The whole country or at least main cities should be deweaponized. The citizens should be encouraged to send their anonymous reports about the whereabouts and names of the criminals and rogues in their areas. This strategy would equip the army with most of the data about saboteurs, outlaws, bandits and outlaws making easy their job of purging them in Karachi and elsewhere in the country.

The known criminals with incontrovertible evidence can be dealt with by summary trials and put to death by firing squads. The suspects can be kept in custody, interrogated and if proven guilty should be given heavy jail terms or shot depending upon the nature and severity of the crimes.  The politicians and powerful individuals if found accomplices of the outlaws, should also be dealt with the similar unsparing yardstick. They should also be given death sentences or incarcerated for their complicity.

In order to avoid the above recourse to military action to curb lawlessness, the government should convene all parties’ conference to hammer out a permanent solution to establish durable peace and order in Karachi particularly and elsewhere generally. The government should stop churning out false pledges to stamp out violence.

It is indispensible to rein in exploding sectarianism for the integrity of the country, survival of the civil society, effective governance and safety of the people. It is imperative also to reestablish writ of the state that is being eroded inter alia by militants, holy warriors, miscreants, anarchists, crime mafias, gangsters, regional militias, external string pullers and so on.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Paul Ryan is a Featherweight Partner

August 15, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
 So finally Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has overcome his dilemma, confusion and prolonged search by choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate for the vice presidential slot. Paul is a diehard conservative and believes in capitalism as an article of faith. He is unswervingly motivated by the philosophy of Ayn Rand who vehemently supported laissez-faire capitalism. Born and educated in Russia Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She was a novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. Laissez-faire is commonly known as free market economy that props up a no holds-barred economic paradigm with least government interference and regulations.
As such Paul Ryan stands for special interest lobbies and overarching corporate sector in the United States. Therefore, no wonder if he opposes officially sponsored welfare programs like Medicare, Medicaid, social security and food stamps. He wants to do away with these essential benefits and replace or change these with his half-baked recipes and utopian alternatives. For instance he wants Social security to be privatized and thus thrown open to the economic predators for grabbing their pound of flesh.
Already in American society, the divide between highly privileged and affluent sections and those of poor and financially is yawning. On one hand the Republican leadership wants to keep the wealthiest both individuals and conglomerations unleashed from higher taxation. On the other they want to inflict the unkindest cut on the marginalized and indigent segments by snatching from them the federal humanitarian support programs for their bare minimum survival. With this mindset that is patently partisan in favor of the privileged individuals and profit driven corporate sector, would the Republican candidates be still sanguine to carry the day and win the November elections. Visibly such a perspective appears to be a far cry and a frivolous hope.
Mitt Romney is kicking around cajoling and flattering the robber barons of this magnificent country and disregarding the woes of the indigent and hard pressed sections of the American society. This attitude brings home the bizarre reality that how far-removed and unmindful he is from the real issues.
We want capitalism in this country but not a naked, ruthless; fleecing kind that pulls downs the huts but spares and safeguards the palatial mansions. By taking away or curtailing such basic relief and social benefits as social security, healthcare and food stamps to buy grocery, we would be creating a huge class of have-nots and plunging into the pits of misery those who are already surviving on these.
As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan authored the documentThe Path to Prosperity: a Blueprint for American Renewal in March this year”. In that document he has proposed replacement of Medicare with a voucher program, privatizing the social security and handing over food stamps program to the states as block grants. These measures would hit hard the veterans, the retired, the middle class, seniors and lower-income Americans. Thereafter, there would so many bottlenecks for the economically hard pressed and poor Americans to buy grocery and medicines, as well as pay their utility bills.
Whilst a worthwhile system is already in place what could be the guarantee that the new system envisaged by Congressman Paul Ryan would excel the previous one. The private managers of this program would not give away the social security to the eligible and deserving people as easily as the government is directly doing.
It is time that the American economic paradigm is restructured and it should be a blend of both capitalism, free economy and state sponsored social benefits and safety nets. One may call it a stitch of socialism with the capitalism. The cut and dried capitalist system with an underlying concept of lasses-fair that the congressman Ryan wants to introduce does not offer desirable relief to those Americans who are left with no other option except to get the federal or state assistance for living and sustenance.
Paul Ryan is aggressive, a self-made hard worker who has climbed up the ladder of power by dint of incessant struggle from a scratch.  In his early years while working on Capitol Hill, Ryan buttressed his earning by working as a waiter, as fitness trainer and doing similar menial jobs. He should therefore, be in the best position to understand and comprehend the sufferings of a common man. He should devise and enunciate such economic plans that help in quashing poverty, levying taxes on the affluent and high income sections.
Instead he is vouching and propping an economic system that would deprive the poor and needy Americans of the benefits they receive to survive. His motivations are in sync with the themes of the Tea party which is hard on poor and soft on the opulent.
 As the media is already dishing out opinion on his joining the Romney team, there is less optimism being expressed about his future role in streamlining the murky social economic milieu. His approval rate in the public opinion is neither promising nor robust as to nurse hope that he would beef-up Romney chances for a victory.
To be a fanatic in America is a discredit because the people here judge a candidate by his sobriety, the strength of his moral character and the viability and efficacy of his agenda for uplift and advancement of this country. Paul is not that spectacular orator or an intellectual who would move the crowds and motivate them. He may play to the far right Christian galleries and corporate magnates but his real worth would be gauged if he also speaks for the downtrodden of this country and for the economically oppressed classes.
He is less logical and more aggressive, less confident and rather incoherent when speaking before a gathering. He is made that way. His response to the questions is invariably disjointed, a kind of knee jerk reaction that falls short of the pitch. He is indeed very sincere and totally committed to his conservative creed and ideals. But his plans and projections must also impress and influence the public opinion as well. In Madison where he was the featured speaker a limited but defiant crowd jeered Rep. Paul Ryan with such despising expletives “Shame on you, Paul Ryan, you Are an embarrassment to the State.”
If this is the bumpy and inauspicious beginning of his political journey, more severe and unruly situations may come in his way that could adversely impinge upon his political future as well. How would Romney view this initial setback and rebuff that Ryan has been exposed to at his debut public meeting? Is it a liability or an asset for Romney who too lacks the charisma and passion to sway the American public opinion in his favor in a big way?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Please Remove this Picture

August 14, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Every time the daily Jang blog is opened, a half page photo of Amir Liaquat Hussain pops up. In a similar display at the home page of daily “The News”, his picture is also splashed on the whole page. If GEO television is switched on, his picture covers the whole screen with all the regalia and glamour of expensive dress and elegant attire. In this life size photo, he wears a broad honeyed grin on his face with prying and inquisitive eyes.
He is dressed in a custom-tailored creamy-colored sherwani, wearing sophisticated rimmed glasses and exuding an innocent childlike face as if to view his picture is to view a sage, saint or a holy man. It is the most lavish manner to wish the viewers a happy Ramadan. He could have done it by giving a brief message with a small photograph. His message could have
been conveyed in a modest and less flashy fashion. But even this felicitation message looks phony when seen in the light of his sordid remarks and unguarded filthy private conversation with a group of youngsters, saved by someone in a video.
Now if he is paying a hefty amount to Jang and the News publications and the GEO TV network as the advertisement cost, the question stares right in our face why is this man doing all this brazen publicity. Is it to refurbish his tarnished image? The second question is why on their portals, a magnificent media giant is going out of the way and in an unusual manner to thrust upon the readers and the viewers this disgraced person. Now even if someone clicks “skip this ad” it does not go so soon and hangs on for a while. By doing so the Jang and GEO are rubbing their own nose in the mud.
This is a callous and bizarre joke of The Jang and the News administration with the people who read and view their blogs and channels. After all why is the Jang’s prestigious publication giving so much of publicity to this guy who by his nasty utterances, has watered down, his public image and prestige that he has been having for several years as a preacher of Islamic teachings?
Can his blemished image and his besmirched conduct be restored or rehabilitated by forcibly hammering these gaudy mega sized photos and patently superficial antics upon the people of Pakistan?
This repugnant exercise is going on for several days now. While it has been appearing for many days, a good number of readers have stopped reading the electronic editions of both Jang and the News and also viewing the GEO television.
The eye sore picture of this gentleman strikes a nauseating reaction in the minds of the readers because it is a cheap way to resurrect and restore the honor of a person who has been dishonored and nakedly exposed by his double standards and dual character. Dr. Amir was shown in a video using most foul and filthy language and churning out despicable remarks about some Indian guy by profiling him as a person who was fond of girls and sleeping with them. In the same video he was using dirty and sleazy slangs and expletives that only a most vulgar street urchin can resort to.
He has, therefore, by his own volition, forfeited his right of being a truthful Muslim. He has also proven himself to be an imposter with impious mind who pays only lip service to the Islam but practically behaves otherwise. In his publicly delivered sermons, he exhorts others to imbibe the golden principles of Islam; follow the Sunna of the prophet and to be a good Muslim. In his private life, however, he talks cheap and portrays a hypocritical demeanor by violating the tenets of Islam.
From what he was talking and the detestable jargon he was using, it is irrefutably clear that in media he preaches a sublime Islam and in his private life he contravenes and contradicts that.
And despite this loathsome paradox in his character, the Jang and the News have taken it upon themselves to redeem and anoint this duplicitous person by projecting him with a full page photo that further infuriates and displeases the viewers.
I would even doubt if he is a scholar of Islam or is sincere to this great religion. He has been counseling in his sermons only the ritualistic face of Islam and quoting such Hadiths and sayings of Prophet Muhammad that show his ignorance. Some of these quoted sayings have whipped more controversies than clarifying the dogmatic confusions among the Muslims.
His degrees and testimonials were reported to be counterfeit.  All these aspects establish that he was putting on a false and hollow cloak of divinity, religiosity and knowledge about Islam. In fact he possesses superficial and rudimentary knowledge that even a common man knows.
However, notwithstanding his knowledge, it is the chicanery and hypocrisy of his character and treacherous personality that paint him in lurid colors and demonstrate how slanderous and hollow this man happens to be.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The American President

August 8, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Perhaps the most vigorous yet most vulnerable office is that of the President of the United States of America. The American Presidency is the most awesome of all the presidencies in the world, because the president presides over the most powerful country of the world which, of late, has also donned the mantle of a sole super power. Yet paradoxically, American President is both weak and strong.
A bill in America becomes a law for implementation after the signatures of the President. He can declare war against any country, start even star war, spur space exploration and offer aid of any volume to any country. He is the commander- in-chief of the armed forces. He is authorized to declare a country as a friend or an enemy. American president can place any country under embargoes and lift those already imposed.
The American President is the chief custodian of the country’ interests. No lapse in this regard is expected of him. Be it welfare of the people, the indigenous prosperity, the defense, the resources, the agricultural production or the scientific or the technological exploration: America reigns supreme.
In strong economy, high per capita income and near invincibility in defense, America wields unparalleled influence over the world. America dictates its decisions that carry more weight and command more compliance than the United Nations. So it is the one country equal to about 180 countries and still heavier than them.
Although there are many checks and restraints on the functioning of the President, yet despite this he unquestionably enjoys a vast array of powers. But the checks on him primarily relate to his internal policies, upright behavior and moral standards. By declaring war against any country in the name of security, patriotism and national honor, he can rally the nation behind him. After all Americans are as patriotic as others are.
But they are more sensitive about their identity and security. For this reason American citizens, cannot be prosecuted abroad for any crime or illegality. It is the American government, which will take action against their own citizens, and not the country on whose soil any minor or major crime is committed by an American citizen.
On the other hand a national or citizen of any other country, whom US thinks should be tried for criminal activities against American interests or security, will have to be handed over to the US government. Such are the norms and patterns of the disparities between mightier and the weaker nations.
An American President is perennially sitting in a glass house being carefully and closely watched for every move, action and decision that he takes and every word that he utters. In American history four presidents were killed while attempts on the lives of some others were made, the latest being President Ronald Reagan.
The American President is the most protected person yet occasionally he is exposed to attacks. While the assassins of Abraham Lincoln was identified that of J.F. Kennedy remains shrouded in mystery. Although an individual named Lee Oswald was named as the shooter, yet before he could be put to a rigorous investigation, he too was killed.
The building where President Kennedy was killed is like a holy shrine, visited by both Americans and foreigners in droves every day. The Elm Street has assumed an historical significance and anyone who comes to Dallas must also visit the J.F.K. Museum now set up in the same building from whose window Oswald fired at President Kennedy.
As already mentioned, the American Presidency is not a bed of roses but a thorny throne, on which he has to sit with extreme care and vigilance. The moment he vacillates, wavers, is inattentive, is forgetful, makes a mistake or resorts to a slip of tongue, he is checked at once and then a sordid process of incrimination, vilification, reprimands and censure starts.
It is seldom that he can get out of such a tirade with flying colors. Multifarious lobbies, including the special interest groups and the rival political party are always on the look out to take to task an errant president and subject him to severe probe and rigorous censure. In case of prosecution or enquiry, there is no escape and no reprieve for a president. The judicial process takes its own course and there is no easy way to get out of it unless one is proven not guilty.
As for the choice of their President is concerned, the American people tend to be idealist. Nothing short of an angle in the garb of a human is the prerequisite of the people to be a President. This is the image that the Americans nurture about their president, a faultless and flawless individual. The society may be afflicted with serious moral lapses, but a president is supposed to be an icon of virtues .He should be the paragon of all qualities that can be attributed to a human being.
A President’s past is thoroughly scanned and dug out to ensure that he did not break the law and was not involved in major or minor crimes such as driving under intoxication, tax evasion or concealing his actual income. Briefly an American president ought to be a kind of Jesus Christ re-incarnate or an embodiment of rectitude and absolute ethics.
This is why every President during elections and after assuming the presidency remains under the microscopic observation of the people. The people may still ignore his minor human lapses that don’t impinge upon his performance in national affairs.  Yet the interest lobbies and strong pressure groups that may still be antagonized for one reason or another pounce upon him like birds of prey.
They rest and recoil only when either the President is removed disgracefully or surrenders before the interest lobbies or else makes compromises with his antagonists. Invariably, there are reasons or motives behind the smear campaign against a president, otherwise big holes in the moral fabric of a president are sometimes ignored or concealed.
The press and media is America is always ready to analyze and lay bare the personal character of a president or merits and demerits of his policies. The American press has its bias and slants for or against a president. Such a bias comes out of the tilts either towards the Republican or the Democratic Party.
This tendency of the press is healthy in a way that both sides investigate and analyze threadbare the personality and policies of the high-ups including the president. The panelists, analysts and commentators freely discuss and debate with blistering critique against or for a person depending upon the sympathy or inclination of a media person.
Once a president is out of office or he is forced out of office, he falls into oblivion. He is back to the status of an ordinary person who has to eke out his living with pension or by taking up some job or assignment like business, lecturing or teaching, a consultancy or at best writing his auto-biography. If he is already a businessman, he may fall back upon his previous business forgetting that he was once the occupant of a strikingly glorious and most coveted status of the president of the mighty United States.
One may occasionally peep into the life, health or other accounts of the former presidents, although in their days of splendor, they were always on the front pages of the newspapers or the prime topic of the discussions for the electronic media. They won’t have time for interviews to the press. For instance, of late and among living presidents, President Jimmy Carter is back to his peanut business and Clinton is trotting the globe giving lectures.
President Ronald Reagan (Republican), one of the successful presidents in whose tenure the Soviet Union disintegrated, sustained on his pension, until his death. In contrast, in the third world countries, the former heads of states, aristocrats and bureaucrats, lead luxurious lives after their retirement because they amass huge money through unfair means during their incumbency and stash it abroad.
Those who would fall from grace but had marveled during their stay in the Presidency were among others, President Richard Nixon followed by President Bill Clinton. These are the recent examples but otherwise every President had to suffer some sort of disparagement, censure, pressure, scrutiny or a trial for mishaps or mal-practices depending upon the nature of their follies. President Nixon‘s Watergate Scandal initiated by the press was excessively publicized and grossly blown out of proportion by Democrats.
President Nixon (Republican Party) was one of the most outstanding and brilliant presidents after the World War II. It was he who started the process of retrieving US from the quagmire of Viet Nam war, which had deal serious setbacks to the U.S. militarily. Despite the use of most advanced and sophisticated weapons, the US had to finally negotiate for withdrawal .He was the President who also opened dialogue and established link for the first time with the hated China.
The policy of appeasement and overtures for co-existence with communist China was not liked by a fanatically anti-communist lobby in US. Moreover, with peace in many parts of the world, how could the arms industry in America flourish? He had to resign despite the fact that the evidence about his personal involvement in the Watergate scandal was not stronger.
But some strong moral ground and a high sounding pretext had to be made out to oust President Nixon from the office and that too with humiliation. His misfortune was that a journalist initiated the case of misconduct so the press community on the whole turned against him. As such he received a biased and totally negative publicity.
The succeeding president Gerald Ford pardoned him and thus the campaign of diatribe and character assassination against him came to an end. It is very seldom that President Nixon, who rescued US’s prestige from complete sinking, was thus removed from the political scene and forgotten .He is still not liked by most of the Americans who think that he was a criminal and a crook.
What an accountability but certainly it was tinged with ulterior motives! The nation failed to distinguish between the good and the bad deeds of President Nixon. There is no pardon in US law for offenders. There is no second chance for the violators, no matter how meritorious their past services would have been.
Let us look at Bill Clinton’s case. President Clinton (Democratic Party) despite his human and personal shortcomings and obsession for sex had been an outstanding President .In his 8 years’ stint in the presidency; he gave a monumental fillip to the U.S. economy. The surplus money in Clinton presidency ran into billions of dollars. The jobs were plentiful; the industrial sector making great strides, the business class was all delighted. The American people were and are still fond of him.
But perhaps somewhere there was an uncanny lobby which disapproved his Middle East Peace Process. In the hindsight one would wonder to see the Late Israeli Prime Minister Ralph Rabin standing by Yasser Arafat, the PLO chief and shaking hands with him. President Clinton was there in between with a broad smile on his face exuding his triumph and sense of achievement of a feat, which looked impossible otherwise.
It was an historic moment both for the Palestinians and the Israel to agree to co-habitat. Immediately afterwards one of the signatories to the Oslo Accord( Sept. 1993), Yitzhak Rabin was killed by an extremist Israel youth, while Clinton dragged into an extremely embarrassing moral imbroglio which ended with a nerve shattering investigation .For quite some time his fate hung in balance: to  stay in that exalted office or disgracefully removed.
If impeached, he would have gone down in history as a condemned and immoral person. He may have made compromises here and there but the whole episode speaks for the ascendency and vibrancy of a civil and free society adored with the hallmarks of strict accountability and unassailable system of checks and balances.
 The episode of Mona Lewinski although is the episode of an average American, yet it was splashed beyond limits as it involved a president. The nation weighed his purely private forays in sex with his outstanding achievements in the national service making the former as the only issue and overlooking his marvelous feats.
One of his outstanding achievements was not only to rehabilitate the battered US economy after the Middle East’s military adventure( Desert Storm) launched by his predecessor President George H. W. Bush, but filling of the national exchequer beyond expectations.
Clinton’s was one the most prosperous periods in the American history. The poignant reason is that he opted for and worked for peace around the world. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were involved with Russians in Afghanistan, while the senior Bush’s main penchant was Middle East and to reverse the Iraq’s uncalled-for invasion of Kuwait.
Those were chaotic and turbulent times as both the cold war and the hot war had mingled with each other. But Clinton remained away from such upheavals. G.W. Bush a successful governor but an ambitious crusader against the terrorists with a knack to take snapshot decisions. He embarked upon a calamitous course of wars, although it was not of his making but born out of the unexpected and harrowing events of 9/11. During his presidential tenure (2001-2009), he remained riveted on two wars: one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq.
 His ruinous slogan of dividing the world “you are with us or not with us,” kept the world in perpetual turmoil and unremitting tension. His penchant for war mongering not only depleted the coffers of American wealth but weakened the moral grandeur, the strident integrity and sublime stature of the United States around the world. Internally it brought about a colossal economic collapse that had rudely shaken every household and business upside down.
Resultantly, the Republicans suffered defeat at the hands of a brilliant black democrat. The American people gave their unprecedented historic verdict to Democratic Barack Obama which speaks for the sparkling beauty, exquisite strength and glorious spirit of American democratic culture. The American people are the real masters and arbiters of America and their empowerment is derived from its adorable democratic system.
With no transparent policy or clear vision on the Middle East and with the murky Afghanistan situation at hand, the U.S. economy sinks and buoys up in a pool of uncertainties. In an unbridled and uncertain situation overshadowed by distant wars, the economy moves backward and forward alternately. A leadership quality called statesmanship is missing in US policy on the Middle East, which is to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But despite this pro-Israel partisanship, various American governments have not been totally blind or unmindful of the ground realities in the Middle East. They would occasionally talk sense and emphasize the necessity of peace via negotiations between the inveterate adversaries. Nevertheless; the present leadership has failed to bring about thaw and a meaningful breakthrough in the stalemated crisis and to disengage the combatants.
The M.E. plan of President Bush did not throw up a successful modus operandi for an end to the deep bitterness and chronic hostility between Israel and the Palestinians. It does not give the Palestinians what has been promised to them in the Oslo accord.
Mediocrity spoils even the brightest chances of success .It is another matters if U.S. wants to keep the inferno of the Middle East blazing. But if the intention is to make peace then exhortations of any sort should be for both the sides and outpourings of condemnation should not be exclusively heaped on one side only. Similarly, the flames of war in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be doused and withdrawal of American troops must be accomplished sooner than later.
America at present has serious balance of payment problems. The costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought American economy under unprecedented strain and burgeoning pressures. The Iraq war has not only eroded the concept of the invincibility of American military, but gave it an image of an unprovoked aggressor. The wars in Iraq and for that matter in Afghanistan did not have any moral or other legitimate justification as to prompt President Bush and his cabal of war mongers triggering these mindlessly and without exhausting diplomatic avenues.
The world looks at these wars as a manifestation of neo-colonialism which may contradict the American ideals of democracy freedom, equality, peace, respect for territorial integrity of other countries and the norm of equal status of all the members of the United Nations. If at all Iraq was involved in criminal activities such as making of biological or chemical weapons, then it should have been the combined headache of the entire world community and not that of US alone. Yet later that pretext also proved to be fallacious and forged.
The outgoing President G. W. Bush at the outset considered to be as one of the most popular Presidents, finished as the most derided, failed and reviled president of the United States. The history will pass a very harsh judgment on President Bush for his grave wrong doings, involving this magnificent country in futile wars, sullying its image and plunging it into the worst economic morass. But once the chickens come home, the United States has the potential and resilience to rebound once again as a formidable economic power, maintain its super power status and its hallmark as an enviable welfare society.
Barack Obama is neither rash nor temperamental or whimsical. He is a pacifist and believes the efficacy of parleys and dialogue even with the worst enemies of the United States. He looks sober which is just the opposite trait of G. W. Bush who was in the habit of talking tough and was cast in a mould of belligerent. At a critical and demoralizing juncture of American nation, president Barrack Obama is the one who seems to be the right choice because of his composure and professed sincerity and vivid action plans to restore America its prestige and economic strength.
During all these four heady years in office, he has been exposed to formidable and poignant challenges that were bequeathed to him from the former administration. Obama received a shipwrecked vessel to steer it to towards the safe shores. The overhauling of the massive damage to American soci-economic fabric and its body politic is a gigantic task that he is trying to address, to the best of ability. This president is conscious of the arduous path he is treading.
He has been cautious, cool, sagacious, discreet and absolutely focused on the vital undertaking of damage control and crisis management. With his team he is engaged in straightening the unwieldy state of affairs. But deep scars inflicted by an erstwhile rash and irresponsible administration would not be healed so soon.
The four years of Obama’s first term may not be enough to bridal the galloping drift that have deeply caved into the American society. He deserves and so does America need, that he should return to the presidency for another four years to bring to fruition his indispensible task of rebuilding America.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Syrian Flashpoint

August 5, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

It is evident that the Syrian president Bashar-al-Assad has not learnt any lesson from the ignominious and tragic end of the former ruler of Libya, Col. Muhammar Al Qaddafi. Patently, he refuses to acknowledge that the authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen have disappeared. He knows he is fighting a desperate and losing battle. He is relentlessly busy in suppressing and killing the Syrians as to be bereft of the least concern about the fast approaching doomsday descending on him.
The insurgents and the fighting opposition forces want an end of nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party’s rule in Libya. They also demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. President Bashar Al-Assad belongs to the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shia sect in Islam. Alawites’ population in Syria is 12 per cent against the rival sect of Sunnis that are 74 per cent. 
His several military generals and high ranking military officials have abandoned him and gone into exile or joined the Syrian Free Army. His close loyalists, the Syrian Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, former defense minister Hasan Turkmani and the president's brother-in-law General Assef Shawkat were killed by a bomb attack in the city. 
The Syrian intelligence chief Hisham Bekhityar who was injured in the same explosion later succumbed to his wound.  The ferocious fighting is raging in Syrian towns and cities, including the three main cities Homs, Aleppo, and Damascus. The government forces are retreating on many fronts and there could be a reverse situation of slaughter soon to emerge.
The Syrian civil war or war of liberation has divided the Arab world broadly into two parts.  Iran, Hezbollah and Palestinians are siding with the incumbent regime of Bashar al-Assad. Besides the Syrian regular armies that are fighting for the regime, armed bands are also fighting against the Syrian liberation groups. These pro-regime bands are the Palestinians staying as refugees in Syria, the Iraqis, the Hezbollah and some Iranians that sneak into Syria to lend support to the tottering Alawite regime.
In the opposition group, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are the leading countries that want a regime change in Syria now in the grip of deadly and horrendous civil war for 17 months (since March 15, 2011). They support the Syrian Free Army (SFA) and those factions that are fighting against a brutal and unyielding regime and its strong military. Bashar’s regime is staunchly allied to Iran and Lebanon's armed Shiite Hezbollah movement. However it is not on good terms with Turkey, most of the Arab world and particularly the states like Saudi Arabia and her Sunni-ruled Gulf partners that are friendly to the United States.
Interestingly while otherwise, Saudi and Turkish government are regional rivals, on the question of Syria they are united and supporting the anti Bashar insurgency. Saudi Arabia wants the regime change in Syrian because she wants the end of the Shia minority population government there. The Saudis are diehard Wahabi Sunni Muslims. There is centuries old spillover of religio-regional discord between Iran and Arab Sunni regimes. While Turkey is friendly towards Iran, on the question of Syrian upheaval these two Muslims countries are poles apart. There have some skirmishes between the Kurd rebels and that of Turkish army in the wake of the Syrian fighting.
Tehran is the staunchest ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey bordering both on Syria and Iran is maintaining a discreet posture focused on diplomatic efforts to find out a peaceful resolution of the bloody conflict. Nonetheless, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while urging international response to this terrible crisis, has declared that it was not possible for Turkey “to remain a spectator" to the government offensive on Aleppo. Turkey has reportedly set up a base in the city of Adana with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the purpose of directing military and communications aid to the Free Syrian Army.
There have been some brighter chances for Bashar-al-Assad to honorably wriggle out of this bloody quagmire in which he is persisting only by slaughtering his people with all those heavy weapons that are used in fierce battles against the regular enemy armies. The number of dead and injured on both sides in this terrible war runs into thousands and the casualties are soaring by the hour and the day.
Kofi Annan the former UN Secretary General and the international peace envoy for Syria demanded that Assad should step down. He urged Syria’s allies Russia, China and Iran to persuade Bashar to embrace political transition. But it appears that the Syrian president wants to fight to the last and go down like Qaddafi with the same tragic and degrading end.
The Russian and the Chinese’ vetoes in Security Council in support of Bahar Al Assad regime have blocked attempts for a peaceful transition and to hammer out a negotiated solution of the ongoing fratricide. In the meantime as a show of solidarity for its close ally Bahar, Russia is sending 3 warships to the Syrian port of Tartus.
The U.N. member states last Friday overwhelming voted (133 in favor And 12 against) to condemn the Syrian government at a special session of the 193-nation General Assembly that “Western diplomats said, highlighted the isolation of Assad supporters Russia and China”.
 There are reports that Turkey has supplied the armed groups in Syria with surface-to-air missiles. The USA and Turkey are also coordinating their efforts to speed up a political transition in Syria. The United States government while clearly in favor of ousting Bashar al Assad has allocated $  25 million for non lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. At the same time 48 Iranian pilgrims have been abducted by anti regime gunmen in Syria last Saturday. Previously on many occasion the Iranian pilgrims to Syria and Iraq have been abducted.
The Iranian immediate and stern response to the abduction of her citizens cannot be predicted as that country is already under heavy pressure for USA and Israel for her nuclear development program. If the Iranian forces enter Syria and fight in support of the Bashar government, the other countries braced against Syria might also join the fray. That might engulf this volatile region into a bigger conflagration giving the most coveted chance for Israel to launch a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear sites.
The raging civil war allover Syrian has led to a horrendous humanitarian and refugees’ crisis that is swelling with the time passage. Thousands of Syrians refugees are living in makeshift tents in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Kurdish territory. The displaced Syrian families continue to pour into neighboring countries. 
 Of late, the rebels including the Syrian Free Army are closing in on Damascus where bloody clashes have already started. If this war shapes-up as a replay of what happened in Libya when Col. Qaddafi was killed, Bashar could meet the same hair-raising end. In that ghastly eventuality the minority Shia community mostly Alawites would be put to a terrible slaughter in reprisal  to what they have been doing to Sunnis ever since the start of Syrian Spring and even earlier.
It would be prudent for President Bashar- al- Assad to comprehend the sensitivity and urgency of the fast deteriorating situation against him. Without further loss of time he should solicit the goodwill of his international allies namely China and Russia to initiate renewed drive and efforts for a dialogue with the leaders of the Syrian Free Army, the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution (SCSR), the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs)) and Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC)) and other opposition leaders and hand-over power in a peaceful manner as was done in Tunis and Egypt and also in Yemen.
Iran should also join these efforts for halting this grisly war that might finally come to end but at the cost of countless more lives and disaster of that beautiful country. If Russia, China and Iran oppose the global efforts to halt massacres in Syria and keep abetting a brutal inhuman regime, they would be isolated and even slated. It is highly probable that Bashar if captured would be dealt in the same savage manner as Col Qaddafi. If captured alive he would face a merciless trial like Saddam Hussain.