Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The 10-year-old victim of Pakistan's 'forgotten war'


Gruesome and cowardly crime. Unforgivable act committed by unknown personals, most likely those who have positions in Pakistan's shadowy intelligence agencies and committing atrocities against the people of Pakistan.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gulf News’ Disgusting Attack on Pakistan Has No Place in Dubai’s 2020 Vision

By Dan Qayyum

I consider myself privileged to be able to live and work in one of the most dynamic and forward looking cities in the world. Dubai, if you’ve never visited, is a wonderful melting pot of different cultures, and a delightful example of how different nations can not only coexist in perfect harmony, but excel and contribute to achieve incredible feats. You could be stood on an elevator and find yourself sharing the space with ten different nationalities. Visit the food court of any of Dubai’s malls and you’ll find hundreds of nationalities consuming a variety of different cuisines representing all corners of the globe.

When Dubai won the rights to host the 2020 Expo last month, the news was received with jubilation across the nation – with Expats and locals hugging and congratulating each other as they watched the celebratory fireworks lighting up the Dubai skyline. Expatriates, including those hailing from Pakistan, took out massive rallies as a show of support to Dubai and to congratulate its efforts.
Imagine then, my dismay this morning when picking up Gulf News – the most widely read English daily newspaper in this region. The front page carries an editorial demanding explanation from Pakistan for its ‘betrayal’, as Gulf News calls it, for not voting for Dubai’s bid in the voting that took place last month to determine the winning bid.
Here’s why I think this is a disgusting piece of so called ‘journalism’ attempting to sow discord among the populace.

Firstly, Pakistan is an independent and sovereign nation, with its own foreign policy and interests. Voting is a democratic process, with each voter having the right to vote for whichever candidate it wishes, without having its motives questioned or explanations demanded. Gulf News obviously has zero intention to publish the full results of the voting and criticize others who haven’t voted for Dubai. Why target Pakistan? What is the motive?

Secondly, Pakistan committed its vote to another nation it has extremely friendly ties with – Turkey. Pakistan pledged its vote to Turkey months before Dubai made a late entry into the bidding process for Expo 2020 in late 2011. After fulfilling its pledge to vote for Izmir in the first voting round, Pakistan switched to Dubai and supported it in the next two voting rounds, leading to Dubai’s win.
Since its inception, UAE’s relations with Pakistan have been exemplary. Pakistanis constitute one of the largest and most diverse set of expat communities in the UAE, woven into the fabric of the local economy. Pakistanis own and run business, restaurants, retail outlets, educational institutions, and are the third highest investors in Dubai’s real-estate market. Pakistanis have also worked for decades as waiters, construction workers, delivery men, and taxi drivers. Pakistan’s government has been a key contributor to the UAE in setting up its vital national institutions since the late 70s, including Emirates Airlines which today stands proud as the World’s leading carrier.

Among the first aircraft flown by Emirates in mid 1980s were an Airbus A300 and Boeing 737, leased from Pakistan. Pakistani crew worked hand in hand with their Emirati counterparts in getting Emirates in the air. Even today Pakistani military and civilians contribute massively in training and assisting their Emirati counterparts in many technical fields.

The UAE has been appreciative of Pakistan’s contribution to the evolution of key institutions in the Emirates such as armed forces, police, health and education, and has reciprocated in the same friendly manner to the full satisfaction of Pakistan. It has been one of Pakistan’s key supporters diplomatically and is responsible for a number of development programmes in Pakistan. The UAE is among Pakistan’s most important economic and trade partners.

The above is a very tiny detail of the much broader exemplary relations enjoyed by thes two nations which have stood the test and trials of time. Which is why it is an absolutely shameful, if not criminal, attempt by Gulf News to create a rift between the two.
The reader’s comments section of Gulf News is filled with comments from outraged residents, not just Pakistanis, calling for action against those responsible for allowing such a bigoted, baseless, and despicable editorial to go to press. It goes against everything that Dubai’s ruler HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum has supported and promoted over the years – peaceful coexistence and inclusiveness leading to personal and social growth, which makes Dubai an example for the rest of the world.

The celebratory mood in the Emirate will continue, its Pakistani residents will participate wholeheartedly to continue to take Dubai to newer heights. Hosting the 2020 Expo brings a lot of attention from the entire world’s media and last thing Dubai needs is negative press. One only has to look across to Qatar to see how hosting a global event can backfire from a PR perspective. Thankfully Dubai has no such concerns that have bogged down the Doha World Cup campaign.
Which is why the shameful editorial by Gulf News has no place in the vision Dubai is working to achieve for 2020, and nothing short of a front page apology and the immediate resignation of those responsible will suffice.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Death of rationality

 By Babar Sattar
WE get readily inflamed on being accused of being a failed state or failing society. But can we fathom the reasons or logic to explain even to a sympathetic observer our policies as a state or our priorities or reactions as a society?
There is no denying the feel-good value of platitudes. To be told that you have tremendous hidden potential as individuals and untapped resources as a state, or that things aren’t as bad as they are made out to be can be uplifting. But are we not headed in a direction that is truly frightening?
This is no prophecy for doom. It is meant to consider what we would say to our kids 30 years from now when they ask us what we were thinking while merrily pursuing our suicide mission.
To love a country or society like you love your parents is one thing: unconditional love, gratitude for what they did for you, and lack of desire to change them. To love a country or society as you love your kids is another: unconditional love together with responsibility for the kind of people they become.
We were a country of 34 million in 1951. Currently, we are north of 180 million. If we actually begin to worry about producing incessantly, we’d probably be 270 m by 2050. If we keep thinking that more of us are God’s gift to humankind, we could be around 330m by then. Either way we would be the fourth or fifth most populous country in three decades. To state the obvious, our land or resources are not multiplying along with our progeny.
We are one of the most illiterate people in the world and even in our region, notwithstanding our constitutional obligation to educate all kids between the ages of five and 16. There are over 25m children in this age group presently not enrolled in school. If we keep reproducing at the current pace and given that we are a young population (the average national age is under 25 years), we’ll have over 60 m kids out of school in another three decades.
Imagine a country of 270 to 330m, a predominant majority of which is uneducated and consequently unskilled to meet their basic needs. Forget our miserable rural areas for a minute. Imagine cities twice their current size in 30 years with no urban planning and unmet housing, transportation and energy needs. Who will employ all these people? Where will they go to school? Where will they be treated when they fall sick?
We are being told now that we are almost out of water. Imagine a country of 270 to 330m without water. Are we building more water reservoirs to cater for our growing needs? No, we’d rather keep fighting about the poisoned Kalabagh dam. Are we writing laws to create catchment areas in rural and urban areas to harvest rainwater that we have in abundance, as devastating floods remind us each year? No, we’d rather unravel the conspiracy of the Indus Water Treaty first.
Whether the issue is creating a modern economy, preventing youth from engaging in crime or succumbing to violent and intolerant ideologies feeding terror, controlling population growth or enabling citizens to provide for themselves, the medium- to long-term solution to each challenge lies in education.
And what is our response? Our governments will not even commit enough funds to education to create the mirage that they are serious about upholding our children’s fundamental right to education under Article 25A.
The burden of facilitating education is increasingly been borne by our private sector. If we are half serious about creating educational facilities for the 60m additional kids who will need to go to school over the next 30 years, we will need to attract enormous amounts of private investment. We need north of $50 billion (conservatively speaking) to establish facilities for everyone of schoolgoing age and the state will simply be unable to cough up this money. And how is the state going about attracting private investment for education?
The Peshawar High Court has ruled that private schools must provide education on buy-one-get-one-free basis: if one of your kids goes to a private school, the second will go for free. The ingenuity is breathtaking. Ever heard of killing two birds with one stone, education and population both?
Our cities have no allocated spaces for schools. So where should schools be located? Out of cities or in bazaars, say the government and the courts. We’ll suffer beauty parlours and restaurants in residential areas but not the abominable commercial activity schools engage in.
The intolerance that has multiplied within our society and the bigoted mindset it has cultivated over the last three decades is suffocating. Killing Salmaan Taseer was fair game; how dare he stand up and claim that a poor Christian woman might not have committed blasphemy? What would have been Alvin Robert Cornelius’s prospects of being allowed to wear the robes if he lived today? Not satisfied with the declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims or the digging up of their graves, our judges have caught up with the plan and resolved never to appoint them as fellow judges.
We’ve blocked YouTube indefinitely to prevent access to one ugly video created by bigots in a far-off land. The video is still out there and accessible from Pakistan using proxies. Everyone agrees that most of YouTube’s content is legal and useful. There is only one reason to keep it shut: opening it will rile up our bigots.
And what is their logic? We must cut the nose to spite the face. It is the same people who dissect every word uttered by a 16-year-old kid, shot in the head by the beloved TTP, to establish what an evil she has become for this glorious country.
Let us recognise that an overpopulated, poor and illiterate society with a penchant for religious intolerance creates a toxic mix. It doesn’t take too long for societies to degenerate. Kabul a few decades back was a place Pakistanis went to for honeymoons. If we keep going the way we are, we’re headed for a train wreck.
The writer is a lawyer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Post Mortem at Abbotabad

I am incredulous!

This US Special Forces operation deserves a standing ovation for immaculate execution. Except, some details do get confusing.
Maybe I’m just slow, but truly, viewing the still pictures of the compound where Osama was shot to death that are being aired on local TV here, I am spell-bound by many odd contradictions.

First, the wall that encircled the compound, which was blasted through to allow entry to the US attackers, showed a humble charpoy next to a water geyser & a few odd household items stacked right next to the opening. Not a hair out of place, so to speak. It was all a little too orderly for my lawyerly taste. Wouldn’t something have been damaged or knocked over at least?

Second, the room where the crucial “fire fight” took place causing deaths of Osama, his wife and some others(but no American), showed what were very, very humble lodgings. My own servant’s room is posh in comparison . There are no marks of bullets ricocheting off the walls, and there’s no sign of damaged glass from the good-sized windows on one wall. The bed sheets on the two charpoys are so neat as to do a hotel maid proud. There’s just over 250 ml of blood on the floor between the two charpoys. It looks to me as though, rather more than a fire fight, Osama & Co. were simply sitting ducks for a hunting party! Wait, that’s not all. The glass in the window is see-through. How odd! Anyone could have looked in and seen the world’s most wanted man once night fell, and remember, it’s an open area.

The downed helicopter, miraculously, disgorged its crew like magic. Presto! All unharmed by the crash! Yet oddly, the three neighbors of Osama who rushed to the scene to help, and who would have been witnesses to what actually happened, all have gone missing and never returned home.
And hey, where are the other dead bodies? There were some, no? And why the rush, rush, rush to dump Osama in the ocean? Why not share the evidence to put a stop of rumor mongers? At least show the someone objective.

The picture of a dead Osama circulating on the web was bad photo shop job. Truly. Kids do a better job. Why not show the body or the DNA test results to the media, or ISI?

A friend wrote to me saying, “The USA is about to withdraw from Afghanistan. What better way than after 'Mission accomplished'? Obama is entering the re-election period. This will boost his ratings.

Pakistan’s army and the ISI are caught on the back foot because of their inability to detect OBL presence in Abbotabad. Pakistan is again on the defensive , after having gained the high ground on the (Raymond) Davis affair. The world once again views Pakistan as the terrorist capital of the world. Is this another step in its balkanization and an excuse for eliminating its nukes?”

But I find it just so hard to believe that this was not a mutually cooked dish.

As another friend said, ”We may be poor, we are not stupid.”