Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zaradri has become delusional

Asif Ali Zardari.

Image via Wikipedia

President Zardari told the Independent from UK that Pakistanis were not angry with him because he was vacationing in Normandy, instead Pakistanis loved him so much and they were asking why he was not in the country.
I see a serious problem here. President Zardari has become delusional. All polls, online chatter, newspaper, men an women in streets, and doctors whose assessments of Mr. Zardari’s mental health were presented in a European court, are unanimous in their assessment of the President: not fit to rule. People's Party should take notice or else it will be driven into oblivion in the next elections.
From the Independent
August 24, 2010
Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, said yesterday that his country will need at least three years to recover from the worst floods in its history and warned that Islamist militants could exploit the "disarray".
In his first interview since the start of the crisis, Mr Zardari defended his government's response to it and his absence from Pakistan when he chose to press on with visits to London, Paris and his family's chateau in Normandy as the tragedy unfolded at home.
The weak and unpopular civilian government has been roundly criticised for failing to mount an effective response to the floods, but Mr Zardari said Pakistan never had the capacity to cater for such an eventuality. The floods, which began nearly a month ago, have destroyed or damaged 1.2 million homes, affected more than 17 million people and left 1,500 people dead, according to the United Nations.
The floods have increased fears that Islamist militants, chastened and scattered by military offensives mounted by the Pakistani army last year, may take an opportunity given by the state's failures to help the population.
That fear was underscored yesterday as three bomb attacks in northwest Pakistan killed at least 36 people. Two of the bombs exploded in the tribal areas along the Afghan border and the third in the city of Peshawar.
"I see always such organisations and such people taking advantage of this human crisis," the embattled president told a small group of reporters at the presidential palace in Islamabad. "It is again a challenge to not let them take advantage of this human crisis."
He said the "silver lining" would be if militants had also drowned. He said that he believed some of their armaments had been swept away by the waters. Mr Zardari declined to say whether the floods had closed off the possibility of an offensive in North Waziristan, the biggest militant hideout along the Afghan border and one that Washington has long wanted Pakistan to take part in.
"The army has not abandoned its posts along the border, it has probably just taken refuge under the mountains," he said. After the waters recede, "they will be there. The fight goes on on all fronts. If you're fighting for a cause and the fight becomes larger, or bigger, you don't give up".
Mr Zardari said he understood the anger that the floods, and the response to them, had generated, often heightening criticism of his government's sluggish response. Islamist charities, some with suspected links to militant groups, have rapidly provided relief to Pakistanis, already frustrated with their leaders' track record on security, poverty and chronic power shortages.
Mr Zardari, who is about to complete two years in office, warned of social disorder, while Pakistan tried to rebuild from the flooding, saying that "three years is the minimum" time to recover.
"There will be discontentment," he said. "There is no way any nation - even if it's a superpower, we've seen examples in Katrina, we've seen Haiti, we've seen examples everywhere else - can bring the same level of satisfaction that will be close to the expectations of people."
He added: "What can you tell a mother whose child drowned or the wall collapsed? She's hurting. What I can do for her that will take the pain away? All I can do is share the pain."
But he bristled at the mention of criticism of his failure to cut short a trip to Europe, particularly his decision to visit a family chateau in Normandy. "It gives me a reassurance that I'm so wanted," he said. "There is a question that I'm so wanted and so desired by the people that [they were asking], 'Why were you out?'"
"I have my own reasons for being where I was and at what time," he said. "This is a long term situation and one has to have the capacity to sustain yourself for three years, or even more, and not exhaust yourself immediately ... Anyway, that's part of the past and that's happened and that's gone and I'm here."
Officials defended the trip to Britain on diplomatic grounds after Prime Minister David Cameron's accusation that Pakistan was an exporter of terrorism.
Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN said the accusation had affected charity giving in the UK.
However, the British aid appeal yesterday topped £29m. The head of the Disasters Emergency Committee said public donations were "leading the way and shaming politicians across the world" after a slow response to an international appeal.
Mr Zardari, head of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, said he welcomed the $800m (£516m) so far raised from international donors, during a time of tough economic conditions.
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IMF and World Bank outline challenges facing post-flood Pakistan

IMF and the World Bank outline challenges facing post-flood Pakistan


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fertility, longevity, mortality, prosperity, and Islam

Fewer babies per family means healthy babies, healthy mothers, longer lives and prosperity for all. If it sounds like a commercial for family planning, remember buchay do hi acchay (two kids are enough), than you’ve guessed it right. There is enough global evidence from the past four decades to advocate lowering fertility rates in low-income countries. 

Using data from the World Bank and animation technology provided by Google, I illustrate below that life expectancy at birth increases with the decline in fertility rates. Also, as the fertility rates drop, the health of the society improves as is evidenced by a decline in infant mortality rates. Furthermore, societies become more prosperous with the drop in fertility rates.

Let’s look at the animated graph below that demonstrates the evolution of four human development indicators from 1960 to 2008:

  1. Fertility rate (total births per woman) plotted on the vertical axis,
  2. life expectancy at birth in years, plotted on the horizontal axis,
  3. infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births), demonstrated by the colour of circles representing countries,
  4. and finally, gross national income per capita at purchasing power parity in current international dollars represented by the size of the circles.

Click on the play button located immediately below the graph to its left to view development indicators evolve from 1960 to 2008. I have, for comparison, highlighted Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia on the graph so that you can visually track their performance over time.

You can also pause the animation at any time, and can use the horizontal bar under the graph to move to a particular year to see the indicator values.  You can also point and click on the graph to determine values for each individual country at any point in time.

The animation reveals a dramatic decline in fertility rates starting in mid eighties for most countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran, in fact experienced the fastest decline in fertility rates of the highlighted countries and ended with 1.8 births per woman in 2008. Bangladesh and India are also not far behind followed by Saudi Arabia.

So why is the fertility rate still very high in Pakistan? And can the sluggish socio-economic growth in Pakistan be explained by the abovementioned dependencies between high fertility and mortality rates, lower longevity, and less prosperity? At approximately four births per woman in 2008, the fertility rate in Pakistan is very high and is comparable to the one observed in very impoverished African states. As mentioned earlier, the fertility rates in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two primary religious influences on Pakistan’s Sunni and Shiite schools of thought, have declined sharper than that of Pakistan.

A key obstacle to lowering fertility rate in Pakistan is the religious establishment, which has opposed any such move by the state. Convinced that the Creator has guaranteed sustenance of every living organism, which I wholeheartedly believe as well,  the semi-literate mullahs preach against the use of contraceptives and consider birth control sacrilegious since such practices in mullahs’ interpretation of the faith may question the Creator’s ability to provide for its creations.

But the Creator has also blessed human beings with intellect and wisdom that encourage one to live within one’s means. And how would one explain the much steeper decline in fertility rates in Bangladesh, which until 1973 was part of Pakistan. The fertility rate in 1974 in Bangladesh was 6.83 births per woman against 6.96 in Pakistan. By 2008, fertility rate in Bangladesh declined to 2.34 births per woman, a staggering 41% lower than that of Pakistan.

While mullahs in Pakistan have thwarted any attempt by the State to lower fertility rates, Saudi Arabia and Iran have lowered their fertility rates at much faster rates in the past three decades than Pakistan.  The average number of births per woman in Saudi Arabia declined from over seven children per woman in 1982 to just over three in 2008. In Iran, the same rate drop from 6.6 births per woman in 1982 to 1.8 births in 2008.

The reason for this dramatic decline in fertility rates in Iran and Saudi Arabia is the improved access to contraceptives for females in their childbearing age. So why the mullahs in Pakistan are not learning from their mentors in Iran and Saudi Arabia?

It is not just that the lower fertility rates are correlated with longevity, which is evidenced by a simultaneous increase in life expectancy, but lower fertility is also correlated with lower infant mortality. Fewer births per woman result in healthier infants and mothers, thus increasing the chance of infants to survive beyond the age of one. Higher birth rates deteriorate women’s health, especially with poor food quality, and thus lead to higher infant mortality.

If you look at the bottom right corner of the graph, you’ll see big blue circles representing rich European countries with lowest fertility and infant mortality rates, and the highest life expectancy at birth.

However, if you look at the upper left corner of the graph, you’ll see mostly poor African countries with high infant mortality rates, very low life expectancy at birth, and yes, high fertility rates.

At the very top left corner is Afghanistan. With the highest fertility rate at almost seven births per woman, Afghanistan also has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest infant mortality rates at 165 deaths per 1,000 live births, and lowest life expectancy of 44 years at birth. Years of war in Afghanistan has left it as the most impoverished country in the world.

While Afghanistan may not be able to turn its fortunes in the short run, it can at least focus on lowering its fertility rate. The Afghan mullahs are of the same ilk as the one in Pakistan, who vehemently oppose any family planning. However, the mullahs in Afghanistan and Pakistan need to be educated, and not in the western traditions, but about the transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia and Iran.  If the Iranian and Saudi mullahs can consent to, or live with, family planning, then mullahs in Afghanistan and Pakistan should also acknowledge the evidence presented in the animated graph above, i.e., lower fertility rate means lower infant mortality, higher life expectancy, and yes greater prosperity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Floods raise specter of social unrest

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Floods raise specter of social unrest

Locals fight to get food donated by a local charity at Karamdad Qureshi village in Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab province August 21, 2010. – Reuters

Pakistan's misery is just starting | The Australian

Pakistan's misery is just starting | The Australian
BEFORE US senator John Kerry flew to Pakistan, he told reporters he hoped to help the world understand that the disaster was not just about floods.

"It's about Pakistan's ability to move forward and survive this difficult situation," he said.

The US and the Western world's most crucial ally in the fight against terrorism is on its knees and it has never been a more dangerous time for the already unstable democratic nation.

Pakistan, already overwhelmed by a serious economic downturn and spiralling Taliban insurgency, is facing the worst natural disaster in more than a century.

The government's stocks are so low as to be almost subterranean, such is the anger among the populace over its perceived failure to prepare for, then respond adequately to, the crisis.

Pakistan watchers have nervously noted the glorification of the military's rescue efforts in the past two weeks and the relentless attacks on the country's democratically elected President, Asif Ali Zardari.

No one has failed to notice the widespread presence of militant charities, among the first to mobilise aid across the worst hit and most remote areas of the unstable northwest. Or that three weeks into this crisis the increasingly desperate pleas for aid -- from the government, the UN, the US and from international aid organisations of all stripes -- are only now being heard.

The world has been slow to recognise the extent of the disaster and even slower to open its pockets, a combined result perhaps of a relatively low death rate compared with other disasters and an inherent distrust of a country racked by systemic corruption.

So far, donor nations -- led by the US -- have pledged nearly $US200 million ($213m).

The World Bank yesterday offered a $US900m loan to the debt-laden nation, already $US11 billion in hock to the International Monetary Fund.

One-quarter of the country is inundated. Billions of dollars of infrastructure, agriculture and homes have been washed away and will need to be rebuilt, at a cost the Pakistan government estimates at about $US15bn.

Twenty million people have been affected by the floods, two million are homeless and six million are reliant on government and aid groups for food and water.

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Maurizio Giuliano tells The Australian that relief agencies so far have managed to bring clean water to just one million of the six million people in need. "We're just not able to get enough funding," he says. "If you only have 30 per cent of the funds you need then how can we buy food and tents?"

While the Pakistan government refuses to acknowledge cholera outbreaks, aid workers say the potentially fatal water-borne disease is evident right across flood-hit areas and the country is facing a second wave of mass deaths. "The people that have been affected are so many that if you don't act fast enough we could very soon see many more people dying because of lack of clean water, medicines and lack of food," Giuliano says.

Right now the country cannot cope with a health crisis. Hospitals across flood-ravaged areas have been damaged and medical staff are under serious strain. In Pakistan's Himalayan region of Gilgit-Baltistan last week, doctors at the only local hospital were working by candlelight. In one case, a new mother's episiotomy wound was stitched by the weak light of a doctor's mobile phone.

"In the antenatal and post-partum . . . flies circle beds covered by soiled and wrinkled sheets," visiting doctor and postdoctoral fellow Emma Varley reports, adding that "without water or power the beds hadn't been changed in over a week".

"The pressures placed on this hospital by the needs of an estimated 1.5 million residents are profound."

On Monday, angry flood survivors in the President's home province of Sindh took to the streets in protest, demanding more relief. Many more such demonstrations will surely follow.

Food prices have already doubled in markets across the country and are tipped to rise further. Analysts estimate 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the country's agricultural production has been wiped out.

It does not take a particularly astute observer to understand the ground is ripe for serious political upheaval.

In Pakistan's short 63-year history there has only been one response to crises: a military coup. Analysts are now fiercely divided over the likelihood of such a scenario. Veteran Pakistan commentator and former military colonel Talat Masood says it is unlikely given the present circumstances.

"As if we didn't have enough trouble already. That would be a disaster for Pakistan," he tells The Australian, adding: "There's nobody thinking of challenging the government because of the floods.

"Obviously the government in the beginning was slow to respond but the magnitude of the devastation was such that even the best of governments would have had difficulty meeting the need."

Masood says the floods present an opportunity to rebuild Pakistan in a safer, more equitable way and concedes new leadership could well emerge out of the crisis to challenge Pakistan's moribund political landscape.

"The question is how to transform a great tragedy into a great opportunity," he says.

"This is an opportunity to build new infrastructure that's more solid, build houses that are much safer, bridges that are stronger and an economy based on indigenous production. People have gone through something they will never forget and only those governments who can deliver will last."

Former North-West Frontier Province secretary-general and analyst Rustam Shah Mohmand says a military coup can never be ruled out in a nation that has surrendered to army rule for almost half its history.

"The military is already in the driver's seat so why should they take over now and accept all the blame for the problems to come," Mohmand says.

But he adds: "In the past the military [has] brushed aside those calculations and taken over and ruled the country for a major part of its existence, so you can't completely rule it out."

A recent survey of 2000 Pakistani adults by the Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project found just 20 per cent of respondents approved of Zardari while 61 per cent viewed Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani favourably.

Pakistan commentator and editor of influential cyber-magazine Pak Tea House Raza Rumi also warns of systemic collapse if the needs of millions of poor -- and now destitute -- Pakistanis are not met soon.

"The people in southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [two areas known for militancy] are extremely angry and frustrated at the inability of the state to act in a timely and purposeful manner, he writes in a PTH blog.

"Jamast-ud-Dawa [the charity arm of banned militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba] is already at the forefront of relief efforts in the Punjab, while several offshoots of the militants' alliances in the northwest are capitalising on the extraordinary situation that we face today. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that these two parts of Pakistan, already poor, marginalised and victims of state neglect, would see a major swing towards Islamism."

The floods have caught Pakistan badly off-guard. A year of rolling military operations against Taliban and other extremists in the northwest and tribal border areas had finally started to weaken the insurgency.

The military successes in previous Taliban strongholds, and evidence the security establishment for once was unified in its efforts to rout the extremists, had won it increasingly popular support. But a Marshall plan for the conflict-affected areas had not yet been properly devised or implemented and the floods have turned the clock backwards.

And the hardship has really only just begun. Murtaza Haider, a professor in supply chain management and logistics at Toronto's Ryerson University, says the price of basic staples has already risen 100 per cent to 200 per cent in the past few weeks as food stocks run dangerously low.

About 7.3 million hectares of productive crop land has been wiped out and, thanks to the country's limited food storage capacity, it faces the prospect of having to import basic foodstuffs for at least the next year.

"We are going to see a situation where not just the low income but also mid and high-level income households will have a very tough time paying for the food they consume," Haider tells The Australian.

Even before the floods, the World Food Program assessed 50 per cent of Pakistan's 170 million people as being "food insecure". But the convergence of floods, the inflationary effect of the Islamic month of Ramadan and the wheat crisis -- which has caused prices to rise 90 per cent since June -- could "render a much larger proportion of the Pakistanis unable to secure basic food items at affordable prices".

"Pakistan has suddenly become even more food insecure while being armed with nuclear weapons," he says. Haider estimates it will be two years before the mainstream agricultural production cycle is back on track, "so people around the world are going to have to be very generous to Pakistan".

"The problem is those who were involved in agriculture have been uprooted and it will take some time to resettle them. Then you need time to get seed supplies, farm equipment.

"You look at the tsunami and the Haiti earthquake, the sheer human toll of those events was obvious so quickly, but in Pakistan its the other way around. You could not have saved the people who died in the tsunami but here at least we have a chance."

Press Release: IMF Statement on Pakistan

Press Release: IMF Statement on Pakistan

Mr. Masood Ahmed, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement today on Pakistan:

“The floods which have hit Pakistan in recent weeks and brought suffering to millions of people will also pose a massive economic challenge to the people and government of Pakistan. The scale of the tragedy means that the country’s budget and macroeconomic prospects, which are being supported by an IMF financed program, will also need to be reviewed. In this context, we look forward to meeting with Pakistani government officials in Washington next week to evaluate the macroeconomic impact of the floods, assess the measures they are taking to address this impact, and discuss ways in which the IMF can assist Pakistan at this difficult juncture. As highlighted by IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in his letter to President Asif Ali Zardari at the outset of this disaster, the IMF stands with Pakistan at this difficult time and will do its part to help the country.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do Muslims have an image problem?

Do Muslims have an image problem?  The western media is reporting that a poor image of Pakistan may be behind the lacklustre response to fund raising appeals to support rescue efforts.  The widespread coverage of violent protests against western countries on the streets of Pakistan has indeed helped generate a negative stereotype of Pakistan.

While we may not be able to quantify how the rest of the world views Pakistan, we may still be able to tell what people think of Muslims in general, who may have a high opinion of themselves, but the more important question to explore is how does the rest of the world see Muslims?

The Pew Global Attitudes Project conducts opinion polls about matters of global interest.  The opinion poll conducted in spring 2009 carried a question about what opinion people had of Muslims.  The question was put to 20,000-plus respondents in 25 countries, including some Muslim majority countries. I got hold of the raw dataset, which  I analyzed to determine if people held a favourable or unfavourable opinion of Muslims.

As expected, Muslims living in Muslim majority countries indeed had a very high opinion of themselves.  However, a very large segment of respondents from Muslim minority countries reported having somewhat or very unfavourable view of Muslims.  No fewer than 42% respondents hailing from Muslim minority countries reported unfavourable opinion of Muslims.  On the other hand, only 10% respondents from Muslim majority countries reported unfavourable opinion of Muslims.

The graph below indicates that Egyptians, Indonesians, Lebanese and Pakistanis have the most favourable opinion of Muslims, as is indicated by the green colour bars.  Over 90% of the respondents in these countries reported a favourable opinion of Muslims.  Not much surprise there.


On the other hand, the least favourable, or most unfavourable, view of Muslims was recorded in Israel where almost every four in five respondents reported an unfavourable opinion of Muslims.  Surprisingly, the second highest unfavourable view of Muslims was reported in China where 65% respondents held an unfavourable opinion of Muslims.  While the Pakistanis may think of China as a steadfast friend, only 16% Chinese reported favourable opinion of Muslims.

Also surprising is the fact that 56% Japanese held an unfavourable opinion of Muslims. India is another country where the majority (greater than 50% of the respondents) reported an unfavourable opinion of Muslims. Japan seems an anomaly because unlike China, India, and Israel, which have territorial disputes with Muslim minorities, Japan has no such outstanding disputes involving Muslims. Similarly, 48% South Koreans, who  hold an unfavourable opinion of Muslims, seem odd as well because South Koreans do not have any direct conflict involving Muslims. However, South Koreans could have been incensed by the fact that most Muslim countries, including Pakistan, have shoddy dealings with DPRK, South Korea’s archrival.

It appears that Latin American countries are the most ignorant of Muslims where 42% respondents in Argentina, 38% respondents in Mexico, and 20% respondents in Brazil did not have any opinion about Muslims.  Since a large number of respondents in Latin American countries expressed ignorance about Muslims, these countries therefore reported the lowest favourable (not necessarily unfavourable) opinion of Muslims amongst the Muslim minority countries.

France with 63% favourable opinion of Muslims had the highest favourable view of Muslims amongst Muslim minority countries followed by Great Britain, Canada, Kenya, Russia, and United States.  Almost 61% respondents in Canada and 59% respondents in the United States reported a favourable opinion of Muslims.  Unlike other countries listed here, Canada and the United States stand out for their favourable opinion of Muslims.  While France and Great Britain are home to sizable Muslim populations, the same is not true for the United States and Canada, and therefore a large proportion of population reporting favourable opinion of Muslims represents the views of non Muslims Canadians and Americans.

Amongst Muslim majority countries, Turkey and Palestinian Territories standout for having an unexpectedly high unfavourable view of Muslims.  Almost one in five respondents in Turkey and Palestinian Territories reported an unfavourable view of Muslims.  The determinants of this self hate phenomena could be of great interest to social scientists.

So the short answer to the question if Muslims have an image problem is yes.  This is evident from the fact that almost 42% respondents in Muslim minority countries reported unfavourable opinion of Muslims.  The long answer to the same question is also yes, but it comes with a caveat.  Whereas Muslims are, to a large extent, responsible for their poor image, those who create that image in the west also share some blame.

The electronic and print media plays a big role in shaping opinions in the west.  To a very large extent, western audiences form their opinions from what they learn from the mainstream news media.  Thus the 6:00 pm news telecast goes a long way in shaping public opinion in western countries.

It has always been convenient for the western journalists visiting Muslim majority countries to focus their cameras on fire-breathing, flag burning crowds of bearded, mostly unemployed, youths marching down the urban streets.  The fact that almost 50% of the population in most Muslim countries is under the age of 25, along with being unemployed, poorly educated, frustrated, and disenfranchised by political and military regimes, it should not come as a surprise that streets in Muslim majority countries routinely become scenes of violent protests.

But what about those who live in the heartland in the same Muslim majority countries.  To date, most Muslim majority countries are largely rural with fewer than 35% population residing in urban centres.  What do the rural youths in Muslim heartland think?  What are their aspirations, fears, and hopes?

We don't know the answer to these questions because finding those answers would require journalists to visit the rural landscapes in Muslim majority countries.  There they may not find violent protests against the west, but instead they may find daily struggle to survive in good times, and the hopes to one day be able to rebuild after natural disasters.

These scenes of struggle to make the ends meet may not generate the sensational footage needed for the 6:00 PM telecasts.

The claim that the western journalists stay cocooned in five star hotels and do not explore the countryside, where most Muslims live, may sound exaggerated. However, I have numbers to prove my case. Consider The New York Times, a premier news outlet that prints “All the News That's Fit to Print.” In 2009, NYT published 286 stories filed from within Pakistan. Out of those 286 stories, 63% stories were filed from the federal capital, Islamabad. Another 14% stories were filed from Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 8% stories were filed from Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. The correspondents for New York Times filed only 15% stories from places other than Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar, a fact I illustrate in the following graphic.

This is certainly odd. The combined population of Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar is less than 8 million in a nation of 170 million. However, the New York Times files 85% of its stories in Pakistan from a population base of just 5%. Other western media active in Pakistan is no different. I would call this lazy journalism, which has dreadful consequences as could be seen from the lack of sympathy in the west for flood-soaked Pakistanis.

So yes, Muslims do have an image problem, however it would help if the western journalists trek farther than the lobbies of luxury hotels in cities, and seek out the common Muslim man or woman in the rural heartland, rather than always calling on the demagogues in Muslim majority countries, who compete with each other in making the most outrageous statements against the west.

U.S, Pakistan warn of militant plots over floods |

U.S, Pakistan warn of militant plots over floods
Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:41pm EDT

By Alistair Scrutton

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a senior U.S. senator warned on Thursday that Taliban insurgents are trying to exploit rising anger over the country's worst floods to promote their cause.

More than four million Pakistanis have been made homeless by nearly three weeks of floods, the United Nations said on Thursday, making the critical task of securing greater amounts of aid more urgent.

Eight million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and many may not care where they get it.

The floods began washing away villages and destroying roads and bridges just after the government had made progress in stabilizing the country through offensives against Taliban.

Islamist charities, some with suspected links to militant groups, stepped in to help victims, possibly boosting their image at the expense of the U.S.-backed government, which is still accused of being lax nearly three weeks into the crisis.

U.S. Senator John Kerry, who visited flood-hit areas with Zardari, said action must be taken to prevent anyone from exploiting frustrations.

"We need to address that rapidly to avoid their (Pakistani's) impatience boiling over, and people exploiting that impatience and I think it's important for all of us to understand that challenge," Kerry said, in a clear reference to the Taliban. "We also share security concerns."

About one third of Pakistan has been hit by the floods, with waters stretching tens of kilometers from rivers.

In a small town in Punjab, people waved empty pots and pans at a military helicopter, wondering, like millions of others, when food supplies will arrive.

Aid agencies have been pushing for more funding as they try to tackle major problems such as food supplies, lack of clean water and shelter and outbreaks of disease.

The U.S. needs a stable Pakistan, which it sees as the most important ally in the war against militancy, especially in neighboring Afghanistan, where a Taliban insurgency is raging.

In a sign of growing concerns over the ramifications of the floods, Kerry said $200 million from the $7.5 billion U.S. aid package for Pakistan over five years, which he co-authored, would be diverted to the relief effort.

The bill was unpopular in Pakistan as it ties some funds to fighting militancy, to cooperation in stopping nuclear proliferation and ensuring Pakistani civilian government dominance over the military.

Kerry said he was shocked after seeing miles of destroyed homes and displaced people in camps in sweltering heat.

Floods have ruined crops over more than 1.6 million acres, hammering the mainstay agriculture industry. Aid workers say water could stagnate on the surface for months, making planting difficult.

The government also faces the prospect of food riots and social unrest.

Zardari, who drew a hail of criticism after he left on a trip to meet the leaders of Britain and France as the disaster unfolded, also said militants could capitalize on the floods.

"There is a possibility that some, the negative forces, would exploit this situation, this time of need," he told a joint news conference with Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"They would take babies who become orphans and then put them in their own camps, train them as the terrorists of tomorrow."

(Additional reporting by Faisal Aziz and Sahar Ahmed in Karachi, Zeeshan Kaider and Kamran Haider in Islamabad, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Rosemarie Francisco in Manila and Jonathan Thatcher in Singapore)

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

U.S, Pakistan warn of militant plots over floods |

Airbase near Jacobabad under US control, Senate panel told

Airbase near Jacobabad under US control, Senate panel told

By Imran Ali Teepu

Thursday, 19 Aug, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in the area is controlled by the US.

The stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday.

“Health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is with the United States,” Mr Lashari said while answering a question asked by Senator Semeen Yusuf Siddiqui of PML-Q.

Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, said: “Foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.”

The town has been evacuated and 500,000 to 700,000 people have been affected. People displaced from Jacobabad, Thul, Kandhkot, Kashmore, Ghouspur and Karumpur are camping in Dera Allahyar.

“It is very unfortunate that Americans can launch a drone attack from Shahbaz airbase but the government is helpless even in using the country’s base for relief operations,” Senator Semeen said while talking to this correspondent.

She said the health ministry should have requested the army to ask the US to allow relief operation from the base.

“I don’t know why the health minister failed to report the matter to the quarters concerned, specifically the Pakistan Army.

“The airbase, which I think the government has given on lease to the Americans, should be used to provide immediate health relief to the flood-affected people.”

The committee, headed by Senator Kulsoom Parveen, was briefed by officials on health-related operations in the affected areas.

APP adds: Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman has ordered PAF to form an air bridge of relief supply for Jacobabad which has been cut off from the rest of the country and make operational an airfield near Sibi for immediate supply of relief goods to flood-hit areas in the vicinity.

Presiding over a meeting, he asked the air staff to use all available human and material resources to provide timely relief to the affected people.

US envoy says billions needed for Pakistan

US envoy says billions needed for Pakistan

Thursday, 19 Aug, 2010
Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, told the Asia Society that the United States was the first and largest contributor, and he challenged other countries, especially Pakistan's close ally China, to ''step up to the plate.''

He spoke ahead of a high-level meeting of the U.N. General Assembly later Thursday to spotlight the South Asian country's immediate need for $460 million for food, shelter and clean water.

The floods have submerged tens of thousands of villages, killed around 1,500 people and affected more than 20 million others, authorities in Pakistan say. -AP

DAWN.COM | World | US envoy says billions needed for Pakistan

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Triple convergence of floods, Ramzan, and global wheat crisis threatens food security in Pakistan

The devastating floods in Pakistan, which have killed over 1,600 and displaced nearly 14 million individuals, have also adversely impacted the food supply chains. Nearly 17 million acres of cultivated cropland has been lost to floods. The loss of livestock may also be in millions. At one point, nearly one-third of Pakistan's landmass was affected by the devastating floods.
The loss of crops from floods alone can cause huge spikes in the price of necessary food items given the uncertainty about the supply of grains and livestock. At the same time, almost 75% of those affected by floods are the ones who rely on agriculture for sustenance. Even after the flood waters recede, it will take months, if not more, to resettle the internally displaced farm workers on the land they once tilled.
Compounding the devastating impact of floods are two additional factors, i.e., the start of Ramzan in Pakistan, which has always been accompanied with unexplained inflation, and the global wheat shortage that has caused the price of wheat to increase by 90% since June 2010.
The triple convergence of floods, Ramzan, and global wheat crisis suggests that low- and mid-income households in Pakistan may face huge price increases for staple foods. Already, the food markets in urban centres are reporting 100% to 200% increase in the price of food items over the pre-flood levels. Onions are selling for 80 rupees per kg and tomatoes are averaging around 120 rupees per kg in Islamabad alone, which has been spared by the flood waters.
Item Price after floods (Rupees) Price in week preceding floods (Rupees)
Tomatoes (kg) 120 40
Shimla Mirch (kg) 80 40
Lady finger (kg) 70 35
Green chilli (kg) 80 40
Lemon (kg) 80 40
Tori (kg) 80 40
Aubergine (kg) 60 30
Arvi (kg) 70 40
Bitter gourd (kg) 70 40
Even without the flood-related inflation in food prices, 50% Pakistanis were considered food insecure. The triple convergence causing further price hikes may render a much larger proportion of Pakistanis unable to secure food at affordable prices.
While the floods may be a new phenomenon in Pakistan, price hikes during Ramzan have been the norm in not just Pakistan, but in most Muslim majority countries, such as Indonesia and Egypt. In the past few years, flour, sugar, and other staple foods initially disappeared from markets and later emerged at inflated prices during Ramzan. This happens even after the governments' explicit promises to check hoarding and price inflation.
Consider the graph below that highlights the increase in consumer prices across 71 markets in Pakistan since 2001. The graph is derived from the Consumer Price Index maintained by the Federal bureau of Statistics in Islamabad. The index is based on a basket of goods and services consumed by an average household in Pakistan. This includes food expenses; shelter, fuel, and transportation costs; and recreation, education, and healthcare expenses.

Since July 2001, prices have more than doubled in Pakistan, as is evidenced by 128% increase in prices in July 2010 over July 2001. Since the graph represents national average prices, certain urban centres would have experienced even a greater level of price hikes. When we tracked wheat and rice prices across various urban centres in Pakistan, the spatial disparities became obvious that show certain cities in Pakistan are more expensive than others.
Consider the graphs below that show that highest rice prices have been recorded in Islamabad, whereas the lowest rice prices are observed in Sargodha. Wheat, on the other hand, was found to be most expensive in Karachi and Hyderabad and much cheaper in central Punjab. Also note that the graphs offer data for July 2010, September 2009, and July 2009 for both wheat and rice. Wheat prices are shown the highest across Pakistan in September 2009, which coincided with Ramzan, whereas rice, with the exception of prices in Balochistan, did not experience excessive inflation during Ramzan in 2009.

While the above graphs track only wheat and rice prices and thus offers a partial picture, one needs to see the change in consumer prices for a larger basket of goods and services to determine how prices change during Ramzan.
I have plotted an interactive graph below that shows the change in consumer prices from July 2002 to July 2010 over a 12-month period, which is also known as the annual inflation in prices. The obvious peak during August to October 2008 in the graph shows that consumer prices increased by almost 25% on a year-by-year basis, which was the worst consumer price inflation observed in Pakistan since 2002. This period coincided with Ramzan in 2008. However, 2008 is not an exception. Since 2002 the highest price inflation has mostly been observed during the months of October and November, which coincided with Ramzan.

If the previous trends in price hikes during Ramzan continue and are further exacerbated by the loss of livestock and crops due to floods, one may see a sustained price inflation of greater than 25% for the months to come in Pakistan. As noted above, and at least in the short run, the price of staples after the floods has already doubled.
The third force behind inflation is the global wheat crisis, which has caused the wheat prices to increase by 90% since June 2010.
The drought in Russia has caused Russia to ban all wheat exports. While Russia accounts for only 11% of the global wheat supply, the export ban sent shockwaves through the commodity prices. Compounding this even further is the loss of wheat crop in China and India due to monsoon rains. The shocking figures released earlier this month suggest that 17.8 million metric tons of inadequately stored wheat, which accounts for 30% of India's wheat supply and can feed 210 million Indians for a year, is rotting because of exposure to rains. Experts argue that India needs to spend at least $1.7 billion to develop warehouses for adequate storage of grains.
While the price of wheat in the global markets is much lower than $13 per bushel, which was observed at the height of global food price crisis in 2008, the short-run hike in wheat prices is certainly becoming a global source of concern even when bumper wheat crops in the United States, Canada, and Australia are being highlighted to calm the markets.
The triple convergence of floods, Ramzan, and global wheat crisis could spell disaster for Pakistan that has suddenly become food insecure while being armed with nuclear weapons. The excessive spending on defense over the past four decades to secure its borders has inadvertently left Pakistan food insecure. The food-starved, yet nuclear armed North Korea, should serve as an example for the policymakers in Pakistan who have preferred spending on ammunition than on grains. If the spending priorities are not changed from military security to food security, there will be not much left within Pakistan to defend at its borders.

FAO Media Centre: Urgent help needed for flood-stricken Pakistan farmers

FAO Media Centre: Urgent help needed for flood-stricken Pakistan farmers

Urgent help needed for flood-stricken Pakistan farmers


Millions affected, numbers rising

Photo: ©AFP/Arif ALI
Farmers leading animals through floodwaters at Mehmood Kot, Pakistan
11 August 2010, Rome - As efforts continue to save the lives of Pakistanis stricken by monsoon floodwaters, FAO today warned of serious threats to the livelihoods and food security of millions.

As of today, 13.8 million people are reported to have been directly affected by the disaster and numbers are rising. The devastation left by flood waters in the north and centre of the country may worsen as they continue to head southward.

One hundred percent crop losses have been recorded in many areas and tens of thousands of animals have been killed. Nearly 700 000 hectares of standing crops are under water or destroyed and in many cases surviving animals are without feed, FAO said. The upcoming fall season’s wheat crop is now at risk in a region that is the bread basket of the country.

Acute consequences

“Initial assessments by FAO experts and partners from the Agriculture cluster in severely affected areas indicate that the majority of standing crops and livestock have been lost. The consequences for the local populations’ food security are acute, as food prices have already started to rise sharply,” said David Doolan, Senior FAO Officer, in charge of FAO programmes in Pakistan.

“Over 75 percent of the affected population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. FAO’s immediate priority is to ensure that surviving livestock do not die,” he added.

Today, as part of the Pakistan Initial Flood Response Plan, the FAO-led Agriculture Cluster appealed for $5.7 million to kick-start time-critical livestock support activities. Livestock feed and essential veterinary supplies are urgently required to prevent animals dying of starvation or disease. Livestock’s importance in the local economy is huge not only because of their role as a source of food and draught power, but also because they often represent a family’s entire savings.

Immediate needs

FAO has already mobilized $1.6 million under existing projects to address immediate needs in anticipation of the coming planting season, reaching 25 000 households through distribution of agricultural inputs such as seeds, tools and fertilizers.

Ongoing needs assessments are confirming the unprecedented scale of the disaster and its severe consequences on agriculture. FAO and partners are currently working to scale up response plans and funding requirements to ensure that the urgent needs of Pakistani farmers are met on time.

Zardari talks to Americans and not Pakistanis

Asif Ali Zardari.
Image via Wikipedia
Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, has chosen the Wall Street Journal to explain why he continued with his foreign trip to France and England, including a visit to his Chateau in Normandy, rather than staying at home when 14 million Pakistanis experienced devastation at the hands of floods.

Why would Mr. Zardari chose WSJ to talk to his people in Pakistan? Or is he at all interested in talking to his people. I believe there may not be any more than 100 private subscribers of Wall Street Journal in Pakistan. The question then becomes: Why WSJ and not the local media?

The answer to this question lies in the massive anti-Zardari sentiment that now consmes all media in Pakistan. His supporters made the matters worse by attacking news media that reported on the incident in Birmingham where an irate Pakistani threw a shoe in protest at Mr. Zardari.

Lastly, I wonder how can a man with dubious academic credentials and poor grammar, which is evident from his incoherent speech, be able to write op-ed pieces that are published by the Wall Street journal and New York Times?  This is most likely an op-ed drafted by the lobbyists/lawyers hired by the Government of Pakistan, and paid for the drowning taxpayers of Pakistan,  to build Mr. Zardari's image in the United States.

Not so long ago two Washington-based lawyers wrote another piece in WSJ supporting mr. Zardari and accusing the Supreme Court of Pakistan of attempting to destabilize democracy. David Rivkin and Lee Casey, Washington, D.C.-based attorneys, who had served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, wrote the malicious op-ed piece, which is also pasted below.
I was completely disgusted by the Rivkin-Casey piece and sent the following letter to WSJ, which they opted not to publish.
Reference:, Feb 22, 2010
Dear Editor:
I am dismayed to read the misrepresentations made by Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey  about the Supreme Court of Pakistan. They have accused the Chief Justice of staging a judicial coup.  Their assertions are not based on facts and are biased to say the least.
The people of Pakistan see a champion of their causes in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and view Mr. Zardari as a political widower who do not have the decency to hold elections even within his own party. Mr. Zaradari is also in violation of the Constitution by simultaneously occupying the office of the President and holding the chairmanship of a political party.
Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey  have accused the Chief Justice of Pakistan of running an anti-Zardari campaign because a full bench of the Supreme Court (and not just the Chief Justice)  overturned the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was enacted by the former dictator General Musharraf to offer amnesty to approximately 8,000 individuals of which most were bureaucrats and some were politicians.
NRO has been one of the most unpopular legislations in Pakistan’s legislative history, and according to the opinion polls, NRO and its beneficiaries have been loathed by the ordinary Pakistanis. While the accused are considered innocent until proven guilty,  I wonder what details about these 8,000 cases are Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey privy to that led then to conclude that most receiving amnesty under NRO were not corrupt.
Furthermore, their concerns about Article 62 of Pakistan’s constitution is another red herring. President Zardari and the Prime Minister Gilani are free to legislate Article 62 out of the Constitution.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan the people have found faith and hope in the highest judiciary, which in the past have been subservient to military and civilian dictators. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is trying to ensure that arbitrary laws enacted by military dictators, which provide relief only to the rich and powerful,  are expunged from the Constitution of Pakistan. At the same time, the Supreme Court is trying to restore the basic human rights of ordinary Pakistanis some of whom have been imprisoned illegally for years by the coterie of intelligence agencies at the behest of the United States. I will term this not a judicial coup but a judicial reprieve for the 170 million downtrodden Pakistanis.
Pakistan's Project of Renewal by ASIF ALI ZARDARI
Pakistan, a nation beset by political tragedies for generations, now faces a new test of its national character: a natural calamity unprecedented in our history. Millions have been displaced and thousands have died in floods caused by unabated rain. The monsoons are destroying villages and exposing thousands to illnesses including cholera and dysentery. Apart from organizing immediate rescue and relief operations, our people and our government also face the challenges of rehabilitation and reconstruction.
As the floods hit the country, I faced a dilemma as head of state. I could stay in Pakistan and support the prime minister in our response to the floods, or I could continue with a scheduled visit abroad. I chose to use my travels to mobilize foreign assistance—money, supplies, food, tents, medical care, engineers, clean water and medicine—for our people. Some have criticized my decision, saying it represented aloofness, but I felt that I had to choose substance over symbolism.
As a result of my meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the plight of Pakistan's flood victims is receiving full international attention. The British government pledged $24 million in aid. The U.S. government, with which I was in touch by telephone, has pledged $35 million in relief funds and made helicopters available for rescue efforts. The NATO coalition, at war in neighboring Afghanistan, has also offered help, as have major European nations and Japan.
My visit to Britain, an important ally in fighting terrorism, also helped defuse potential political friction over Mr. Cameron's remarks in India ostensibly criticizing past Pakistani policy on jihadist militancy. And it allowed me to reaffirm to the relatively new British government Pakistan's commitment to fighting all terrorist groups.
After a decade of suffering the political, economic and social abuses of military dictatorship, Pakistan has spent the last two years re-establishing our democratic infrastructure and rebuilding our national character and cohesiveness.
Our project of national renewal is even more difficult because we are on the front lines of the battle against international terrorism. In particular, we live with the effects of the historical errors of the 1980s that have come back to haunt the world. The use of jihad in Afghanistan as the blunt instrument to destroy the Soviet Union certainly had short-term benefits. But the decision to empower the most radical elements of the mujahideen—and then to abandon Afghanistan economically, politically and militarily after 1989—set the stage for the dreaded clash of civilizations that has plagued the world since.
Whatever horror the Western world has faced at the hands of extremists acting in the name of Islam pales in comparison to the nightmare endured by the people and government of Pakistan. Terrorists have killed more Pakistani soldiers than NATO coalition troops fighting in Afghanistan. Pakistan has lost 2,000 police in the war on terror, more than all other countries combined. And we have lost almost 6,000 civilians, twice the number who died in the World Trade Center.
We have also lost our country's greatest recent political leader—my wife, Benazir Bhutto. My wife's death was even more shocking than the United States losing a president or Britain its prime minister, because she defined our democratic consciousness in the face of dictatorship. She was a symbol of hope to tens of millions in my country—and hundreds of millions around the world—that there could be a better future ahead for our children.

As I return to Pakistan, I bring back tangible results that will help the flood victims in the short run and lay the foundations for national recovery in the long run. I might have benefitted personally from the political symbolism of being in the country at the time of natural disaster. But hungry people can't eat symbols. The situation demanded action, and I acted to mobilize the world.

Now the work must continue. I call on the generous people of the United States to rise to this occasion as they have countless times over the last two centuries. Pakistan welcomes your contributions, as individuals and by your government.

Mr. Zardari is the president of Pakistan.
Judicial Coup in Pakistan

Once a democratic champion, the Chief Justice now undermines the elected government.

When U.S. President Barack Obama sharply challenged a recent Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address, prompting a soto voce rejoinder from Justice Samuel Alito, nobody was concerned that the contretemps would spark a blood feud between the judiciary and the executive. The notion that judges could or would work to undermine a sitting U.S. president is fundamentally alien to America's constitutional system and political culture. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pakistan.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the country's erstwhile hero, is the leading culprit in an unfolding constitutional drama. It was Mr. Chaudhry's dismissal by then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2007 that triggered street protests by lawyers and judges under the twin banners of democracy and judicial independence. This effort eventually led to Mr. Musharraf's resignation in 2008. Yet it is now Mr. Chaudhry himself who is violating those principles, having evidently embarked on a campaign to undermine and perhaps even oust President Asif Ali Zardari.
Any involvement in politics by a sitting judge, not to mention a chief justice, is utterly inconsistent with an independent judiciary's proper role. What is even worse, Chief Justice Chaudhry has been using the court to advance his anti-Zardari campaign. Two recent court actions are emblematic of this effort.
The first is a decision by the Supreme Court, announced and effective last December, to overturn the "National Reconciliation Ordinance." The NRO, which was decreed in October 2007, granted amnesty to more than 8,000 members from all political parties who had been accused of corruption in the media and some of whom had pending indictments.
While some of these people are probably corrupt, many are not and, in any case, politically inspired prosecutions have long been a bane of Pakistan's democracy. The decree is similar to actions taken by many other fledgling democracies, such as post-apartheid South Africa, to promote national reconciliation. It was negotiated with the assistance of the United States and was a key element in Pakistan's transition from a military dictatorship to democracy.
Chief Justice Chaudhry's decision to overturn the NRO, opening the door to prosecute President Zardari and all members of his cabinet, was bad enough. But the way he did it was even worse. Much to the dismay of many of the brave lawyers who took to the streets to defend the court's integrity last year, Mr. Chaudhry's anti-NRO opinion also blessed a highly troubling article of Pakistan's Constitution—Article 62. This Article, written in 1985, declared that members of parliament are disqualified from serving if they are not of "good character," if they violate "Islamic injunctions," do not practice "teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam," and if they are not "sagacious, righteous and non-profligate." For non-Muslims, the Article requires that they have "a good moral reputation."
Putting aside the fact that Article 62 was promulgated by Pakistan's then ruling military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, relying on religion-based standards as "Islamic injunctions" or inherently subjective criteria as "good moral reputation" thrusts the Pakistani Supreme Court into an essentially religious domain, not unlike Iranian Sharia-based courts. This behavior is profoundly ill-suited for any secular court. While Article 62 was not formally repealed, it was discredited and in effect, a dead letter.
The fact that the petitioner in the NRO case sought only to challenge the decree based on the nondiscrimination clause of the Pakistani Constitution and did not mention Article 62 makes the court's invocation of it even more repugnant. Meanwhile, the decision's lengthy recitations of religious literature and poetry, rather than reliance on legal precedent, further pulls the judiciary from its proper constitutional moorings.
The second anti-Zardari effort occurred just a few days ago, when the court blocked a slate of the president's judicial appointments. The court's three-Justice panel justified the move by alleging the president failed to "consult" with Mr. Chaudhry. This constitutional excuse has never been used before.
It is well-known in Islamabad that Mr. Zardari's real sin was political, as he dared to appoint people unacceptable to the chief justice. Since consultation is not approval, Mr. Chaudhry's position appears to be legally untenable. Yet Mr. Zardari, faced with demonstrations and media attacks, let Mr. Chaudhry choose a Supreme Court justice.
There is no doubt that the chief justice is more popular these days than the president, who has been weakened by the split in the political coalition which brought down Mr. Musharraf. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is now a leading opponent of the regime. There is a strong sense among the Pakistani elites that Justice Chaudhry has become Mr. Sharif's key ally.
The fact that Mr. Chaudhry was a victim of an improper effort by former President Musharraf to replace him with a more pliant judge makes his current posture all the more deplorable. His conduct has led some of his erstwhile allies to criticize him and speak of the danger to democracy posted by judicial meddling in politics. The stakes are stark indeed. If Mr. Chaudhry succeeds in ousting Mr. Zardari, Pakistan's fledgling democracy would be undermined and the judiciary's own legitimacy would be irrevocably damaged. Rule by unaccountable judges is no better than rule by the generals.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, Washington, D.C.-based attorneys, served in the Department of Justice during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.
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