Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mirpur influencing British elections

Watch an amazing BBC video in Urdu on how the one-million strong Mirpuri community in England is influenced, and at times it appeared coerced, by the family elders back home in backing one candidate or the other in the British elections.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pakistan’s internally displaced

The United States’ war on terror in the Pakistani tribal areas has displaced millions of low-income villagers who were facing hardships even before the hostilities between the militants and Pakistan’ armed forces. However, since the war broke out, the villagers were displaced and have now become destitute in refugee camps in Pakistan.

BBC is reporting that the millions of dollars promised in aid for the internally displaced in Pakistan has yet to reach the needy who are without shelter, water, healthcare, and education. The plight of IDPs in Pakistan may no longer make headlines in the United States as the focus there has shifted to Goldman Sachs, Haiti, and the Obama care.

Pakistanis should not wait for the American handouts. Those waiting for help in refugee camps are Pakistanis. The rest of the nation should come to their rescue with haste. Otherwise, another generation of suicide bombers may end up being raised in these refugee camps

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Collateral murder at the hands of Pak Air Force

The details of a massacre of civilians in the Pakistani tribal areas are emerging slowly. Independent sources have confirmed that a jet fighter (some eye witnesses remember seeing two planes), probably belonging to Pakistan’s Air Force has bombed a village by mistake killing 73 civilians including women and children. The military has reportedly paid (blood money) off the villagers to buy their silence.

The increasingly unpopular war on terror in Pakistan will become even more untenable for the fragile government after the murder of 73 civilians who fell victim to a trigger happy pilot. It was claimed that the Americans lacked credible intel on ground in Pakistan. It appears that the Pakistan’s Armed Forces are not faring any better.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Heart diseases more pronounced than TB in India

As Indians get richer, they get rich folks’ ailments. Cardiovascular diseases are now more common cause of fatality than TB or waterborne diseases.

'Lifestyle' illnesses overtake 'poverty' disease in India reflecting growing middle class

'Lifestyle' illnesses, such as heart disease have overtaken the so-called 'poverty' diseases of tuberculosis and diarrhoea as India's biggest killer, reflecting the country's growing affluence.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi

Published: 7:28PM BST 12 Apr 2010

According to the government survey of mortality in the country, more than a quarter of 130,000 deaths analysed between 2001 and 2003 were caused by coronary heart disease. But in the same period, more than one in 10 died from TB and just four per cent from diarrhoea-related conditions.

The figures from the Registrar General of India and the Indian Council for Medical Research reflect the sedentary lifestyles among India's growing middle class, the rise of motorcycle and car ownership, and a growing fondness for food fried in clarified butter ghee and sweets soaked in syrup.

The study is the most comprehensive of its kind carried out in India - and its backers say it is the largest analysis of causes of death in the world.

Its findings have alarmed health specialists who assumed poverty diseases claimed most lives, especially in rural India.

Their findings will now be used to review the country's health priorities and improve the lifestyles which claim so many of the nine million lives lost in India every year.

"The changing lifestyle and prosperity of Indians which began a decade ago has reduced the physical activities of people, particularly in urban India," said Dr Shikha Sharma, Senior Dietician at the Wellness group.

Dr.Vanita Arora, of the Cardiological Society of India, said while Indians had a genetic predisposition to heart disease, poor lifestyle is a factor in its increase.

"The sedentary lifestyle, over stressed life, bad eating habits and smoking are the other factors which have made heart disease an epidemic in India," she said.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

When Cricket wedded Tennis

The April 15 wedding between the Pakistani Cricket star, Shoaib Malik, and India’s tennis sensation Sania Mirza has captivated Pakistani society, state, and the media. While both are celebrities in their own right, Malik the former Cricket captain, and Sania ranked 90th in Tennis, it is however Sania who appears to be a much bigger celebrity on the Internet than Shoaib.

A quick review of the searches conducted on Google suggests that Sania Mirza commands a much higher web presence than Shoaib Malik (see the graph below). On April 10, 2012, Sania Mirza was 11 times more popular on the Internet than Shoaib Malik.

Also intersting to note is that both are popular in different regions of South Asia. Shoaib Malik is more popular among the Internet surfers in Karachi, Lahore, and Abu Dhabi respectively. Whereas Sania Mirza is most popular in Lahore, Bhopal, and New Delhi respectively. Toronto and London also show up as places where Shoaib has some following.

Top searches by City for Shoaib Malik
Top searches by City for Sania Mirza
image image

It will be interesting to see how the power-couple manages the imbalance in their celebrity where Sania has a large lead over Shoaib. The important question to ponder is whether Shoaib will be able to manage his Sialkoti male ego and accept the fact that he is not as big a star as his wife-to-be?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

John Butt on renaming the Frontier


A lunge into obscurity?: new name for NWFP

The name ‘The Frontier’ has already put the Pakhtuns on the map. There are hundreds of ‘frontiers’ around the world. But mention ‘The Frontier’ anywhere in the world, and it is one Frontier -- the Frontier province that lies on the border of Afghanistan -- that springs to mind. What more does one want to be ‘on the map’?

Far from propelling the Pakhtuns to international renown, there is danger that the new name will consign them to the obscurity they do not deserve. The NWFP is very far from being the full extent of the land of the Pakhtuns. Pakhtuns also inhabit large swathes of Afghanistan, as well as of Balochistan. Don’t those Pakhtuns also deserve to be part of this newly recognised ‘Pakhtun nation’? Even right under the noses of the newly named province, there are a huge number of Pakhtuns living in Fata.

Khyber, which inexplicably has given its name to the new name of the province, is not actually part of the province to which it has lent its name: it is part of Fata.

Probably, Khyber has been added to the new name in order to give the name a certain degree of international resonance and recognition. The word is not easily rendered into English. Difficulties in pronouncing the letter ‘kha’ have already led to the Pakhtuns being known internationally as Pathans. The new name has two ‘khas’ in it. So be prepared, Pakhtunkhwa lovers, for people calling your province Pathankhwa, Paktunkwa or even Pathankwa.

The difficulties of spelling the new name are not confined to spelling it in English. The very people who have promoted this new name even spell it incorrectly in Pashto. The champions of Pakhtunkhwa consistently spell the word with a Arabic kha (.) instead of with a Pashto khin (ลก), as it should be spelt.

The self-avowed followers of Bacha Khan seem to have forgotten the words he pronounced when he gave his last speech in Peshawar in 1987: “A nation that loses its language, itself becomes lost.”

The name change is a useful distraction from the pressing problems the province is facing. These problems have been brought into stark focus over the last few days, with the bombing of a rally aimed at ‘celebrating’ the new name.

Instead of building bridges between the religious and nationalist lobbies in the province, the stewards of the province have concentrated on a change of name which only exacerbates existing tensions.

The only people who have reason to rejoice at the new name of the NWFP are the Afridis who inhabit Khyber. Their valley has been projected to become the name of an entire province. Pity that they are not part of that province.



Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nothing short of a revolution in Pakistan

The Pakistani nation and its national assembly (lower house of the Parliament) has taken a giant step towards parliamentary democracy by unanimously passing the 18th amendment that restores the balance of power in Parliament’s favour and expunges from the constitution dictates of military rulers who usurped power from the people.

This could be the first step towards progress, prosperity and peace in Pakistan.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Collateral murder

WikiLeaks have just made available a video showing indiscriminate firing in a civilian area in Baghdad from American helicopters. 12 individuals were killed including Reuters’ staff photographers. The American army claimed that this was done according to the strict code of conduct.

Watch this video, which the New York Times confirms authentic, of trigger happy pilots shooting at will from a helicopter killing and wounding civilians, including two children. The video also shows thshameful and blatant cover-up after the incident by the Pentagon.

This video offers sufficient answers for the famous rhetorical question that Americans often ask: Why they hate us?”

Most Americans are not indifferent to the carnage that unfolds daily in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The overwhelming majority of the comments posted on the New York Times website expressed deep disgust with these senseless murders. “I cried. Is this the face of America in Iraq?” wrote Jennifer from Austin Texas in comments to the New York Times.

Peshawar attacked, yet again

Peshawar has came under attack by the militants yet again. The Sunni extremists in Pakistan, mostly Pushtuns, are reportedly behind the attack on the American Consulate in Peshawar. The death toll has surprisingly be low: eight are confirmed dead. It has been reported that no American has been harmed in the attack.

A few hours earlier, an attack on a rally by the secular Awami National Party (ANP) in Timirgira left 43 civilians dead. The rally was called by the ANP to celebrate renaming of the Frontier Province to Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The Sunni extremists, though Pushtuns, no longer see themselves as Pushtuns and are allying themselves, culturally and ideologically with the Arabs. Why else would not every Pushtun in Pakistan celebrate the new name of the province that acknowledges the Pushtun heritage of the Frontier Province.

Months earlier, the Pakistani Taliban attacked the headquarters of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which was located in the same neighbourhood as the American Consulate. The attack in November 2009 killed scores of intelligence officials while completely destroying the ISI’s headquarters in Peshawar. The US Consulate, on the other hand, has been well-protected against such attacks. Apart from a collapsed boundary wall, not much damage has been reported to the Consulate’s infrastructure.

The battles on the streets of Peshawar are now being televised throughout the world. The veracity and frequency of the attacks has increased tremendously in the past few years, suggesting to some that the violence in Pakistan may not secede for decades to come. 

These pessimistic outlooks about Peshawar and Pakistan could have been avoided had there been a proactive response to the Pushtun-led the sectarian violence in Pakistan. While the global attention was focused elsewhere, the Pushtun tribesmen routinely attacked these Shiite minority in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.  In the summer of 1992, while a student at the Engineering University in Peshawar,  I witnessed one such attack on the Shiites of Peshawar when hundreds of tribesmen landed in the valley killing Shiites, destroying their businesses, and desecrating their graveyards by blowing up graves with grenades. 

Similarly, the attacks on the Shiites in Parachinar (Kurrum Agency) have gone unabated over the past few decades.  Only last week, six Shiite drivers of a truck convoy carrying a essential supplies to the Shiites of Parachinar were killed by the Sunni Pushtun extremists.  Parachinar, a town of 20,000 Pushtun Shiites in the tribal areas of Pakistan adjacent to the Afghan border,  has been under siege from the Pushtun extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The supply of food, medical supplies, and electricity has remained suspended to the town for over three years. The Wazir tribesmen, followers of the Deobandi school of Islam, block all access to Parachinar from settled areas of Pakistan. The Wahabi inspired Pushtuns do the same from the Afghan side of the border.

If the above were isolated incidents, one could have not been so firm in holding Pushtun extremists responsible for the indiscriminate violence that plagues Pakistan today.  However, the past few decades of Sunni extremist violence in Pakistan against the Shiites, which has been as frequent and bloody as the one observed lately in Iraq, deserved the immediate attention of the authorities in Pakistan, as well as that of the international law enforcing agencies. 

Had the Pushtun extremist been checked earlier, the world, and of course Pakistan, could have been a safer place. However, with the trigger-happy American forces killing civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is not just the militants who are peeved, to put it mildly, at the Americans. The more the “collateral damage”, the more the suicide bombers. Pakistan just happens to be the epicentre of this bloody arithmetic between the Americans and the Sunni extremists.