Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The truth about Iqbal Masih's tragic death

Iqbal Masih
Iqbal Masih was full of promise and courage. He stood for the rights of the children in Pakistan. Even at a young age, he spearheaded a campaign against child labour in Pakistan. He achieved much more in his short life than most would in a lifetime.

Iqbal Masih's tragic murder in April 1995 sparked a movement against child labour in Pakistan where millions of children are forced to work because of abject poverty. The Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) a not-for-profit in Pakistan spearheaded the campaign against child labour. Iqbal Masih was BLLF's leading campaigner. 

Mr. Ehsan Ullah Khan, who headed the BLLF, accused the carpet industry in Pakistan for orchestrating Iqbal Masih's murder. He told Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press that the 12-year old Iqbal was murdered by the 'carpet mafia' for campaigning against child labour. Kathy's story from AP was carried by hundreds of newspapers across the world. However, her subsequent story that corrected the false allegation was ignored by most newspapers.

A detailed investigation by the fiercely independent and globally respected, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) concluded the following:
  1. Iqhal Masih's murder was accidental.
  2. The accused killed Iqbal Masih to cover up his guilt [of being caught committing bestiality.]
  3. There was no conspiracy [by the carpet mafia] behind the killing.
  4. The age of the deceased given by BLLF was disputed by those close to him.[Iqbal's baptism certificate put his age at 19]

The campaign against child labour in Pakistan reached Canada where the media and others accused the carpet industry in Pakistan for murdering Iqbal Masih. Despite reports by the Associated Press and Reuters that Iqbal's murder was not orchestrated by the carpet industry in Pakistan, consumers and retailers were pushed to boycott textile products from Pakistan. The campaign against Pakistani exports cost a $37 million decline in textile exports to Canada in 1996, while the exports to the United States continued to increase during the same period. The drop could be attributed to the bad press generated in Canada against Pakistan in 1995 and 1996 based on the false account of Iqbal Masih's death.


Canadian news media  led the count in the 416 news stories reported between 1995 and 2010 in which Pakistan's carpet industry was falsely accused of orchestrating Iqbal Masih's murder. The Toronto Star with 30 stories, The Hamilton Spectator with 17 stories, CBCA with 10 stories, and The Globe and Mail with 9 stories are examples of the frequency of stories that accused the carpet industry in Pakistan.

Publication Stories
 The Toronto Star  30
 Associated Press Worldstream  29
 The Patriot Ledger  23
 Agence France Presse - English  18
 The Associated Press  18
 The Hamilton Spectator  17
 The Associated Press State & Local Wire  12
 Canadian Business & Current Affairs  10
 Inter Press Service  10
 The Globe and Mail  9
 The Independent  9
 Bangor Daily News  6
 The Christian Science Monitor  6
 Herald Sun/Sunday Herald Sun  6
 Portland Press Herald  6
 San Jose Mercury News  6
 Toronto Star - Metroland Newspapers  6
 UPI  6
 CBS News Transcripts  5
 Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph  5
 Global News Wire  5
 The Guardian  5
 Kirkus Reviews  5

Soon after Iqbal's murder, Kathy Gannon of AP, Tahir Ikram of Reuters, and other journalists from the foreign press corps in Islamabad visited Iqbal's family in Muridke. Tahir was the only journalist in the team who spoke Punjabi and hence he translated the interviews for the rest of the team. Following is his account of what caused Iqbal Masih's tragic death.

Reuters story filed on April 20, 1995, but ignored by the global media.

Pakistan boy activist's killing not plot - police.

Tahir Ikram

MURIDKE, Pakistan, April 20 (Reuter) - Pakistani police said on Thursday the killing of a 12-year-old Christian campaigner against child labour did not seem to be a plot.

The police view of Iqbal Masih's killing, which has provoked an outcry both at home and abroad, contrasted with that of a labour reform group of which the boy was a member.

All reports point to a plain murder by an individual, said police inspector Muhammad Ashraf of Ferozwala police station, in whose jurisdiction Masih was shot dead on Sunday.

"Iqbal Masih did not have enemies -- he did not become a target of the carpet mafia," Ashraf said, referring to a widespread belief the boy was the victim of carpet-industry owners known for employing child labour.

Masih worked as a carpet weaver from the age of four, after being sold by his parents to a factory, until he was 10 -- much of the time shackled to a loom, according to an account he gave to an international labour conference in Sweden last November.

The incident's first information report (FIR) recorded by police says Masih was shot by a man whom the boy and two relatives had seen having sex with a donkey.

"The FIR is factually correct and that does not suggest it was a case of a planned murder," Ashraf told Reuters.

The FIR, filed by Masih's relations Liaqat Masih and Faryab Masih, said they had seen the man engaged in an act of bestiality and admonished him. The man fired at them and then ran away. Iqbal Mashi's mother Inayat Bibi, a domestic worker, said she did not believe any carpet manufacturer was behind the murder.

"I don't know who killed my son and why but I cannot blame carpet manufacturers," she told Reuters at her small home at Muridke village, about 30 km (18 miles) west of the Punjab province capital of Lahore.

But Ehasnullah Khan, president of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front of Pakistan (BLLFP), said the boy had been a target of feudal landlords and carpet-industry owners and had received death threats.

"Iqbal was not killed in his area and he did not have enmity with anybody except for his fight against the bonded child labour," he said. "Iqbal had repeatedly said he had received threats."

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has ordered payment of compensation to Masih's family and has called the killing an outrage.

In Geneva, members of a U.N. Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery hailed the boy as a symbol of the fate awaiting many human-rights fighters around the world.

"This courageous former child slave's tragic fate highlights the risks faced by those in many countries who reveal grave human-rights violations," said Professor Clare Palley, British representative on the Working Group.

(c) Reuters Limited 1995
The Globe and Mail in Canada indeed reported on the controversy surrounding Iqbal's death on November 20, 1996. 

Stories surrounding death of 'child' activist prove false

When young Canadian Craig Kielburger launched his crusade against child labour last year, he said his inspiration was the killing of a Pakistani child worker named Iqbal Masih.

But Mr. Masih turned out to be an adult, and his death had nothing to do with child labour.

While alive, Mr. Masih became a celebrity in the fight against child labour. The short, soft-spoken carpet weaver, who was supposed to be 12 years old, was flown to Europe and the United States to explain to audiences how he had been exploited by the carpet industry. He even won a $10,000 U.S. Youth in Action award.

Naturally, when Mr. Masih, a Christian, was shot to death in his Punjab village in April of 1995, there was an international uproar. Pakistan's Bonded Labour Liberation Front claimed the carpet industry had assassinated the boy, and it demanded government action.

A judicial inquiry, however, came up with some very different findings, as did investigations by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and several Pakistani journalists. They concluded Mr. Masih was shot by a fellow villager whom he had caught in a compromising sexual act.

The investigations also uncovered a baptismal certificate showing Mr. Masih's true age at death to be 19, not 12, and evidence of a birth disorder that stunted his growth.

Although the carpet industry claims it lost $10-million (U.S.) in orders because of the initial uproar over the death, the case has become valuable fodder for Pakistan's government and private industry.

They say child labour is far less rampant than human-rights groups claim, and they now have more evidence to prove their point. The International Labour Organization, which this year conducted the most extensive survey yet of child labour in Pakistan, estimated that only 3.3 million Pakistani children under the age of 14 are full-time workers.

The Human Rights Commission, however, stands by its estimate of 14 million child labourers -- one in five children.

"The fact is what we see all around us," commission director Aziz Siddiqui said. "The entire informal sector, the entire agriculture sector is full of child labourers."
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Afghanistan’s development indicators

As NATO is getting ready to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, a spin game is on: those who would like NATO to be seen in a positive light, are focussing on positive anecdotes, such as girls attending school, others point to the chaos and destruction that has unfortunately plagued Afghanistan fort he past three decades.

Here is how Afghanistan fares on human development indicators. See the graphs and come to your own conclusions:

Life expectancy

The average number of years a newborn is expected to live with current mortality patterns remaining the same.



Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births)

Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year. Source: Harmonized estimates of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Bank, based mainly on household surveys, censuses, and vital registration, supplemented by World Bank estimates based on household surveys and vital registration.



Mortality rate under 5

The probability per 1,000 that a newborn baby will die before reaching age 5.



Availability of contraceptives

Contraceptive prevalence rate is the percentage of women who are practicing, or whose sexual partners are practicing, any form of contraception. It is usually measured for married women ages 15-49 only. Source: Household surveys, including Demographic and Health Surveys by Macro International and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys by UNICEF.

Average number of births per woman


Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months)

Child immunization measures the percentage of children ages 12-23 months who received vaccinations before 12 months or at any time before the survey. A child is considered adequately immunized against measles after receiving one dose of vaccine. Source: World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund.


Primary completion rate, total (% of relevant age group)

Primary completion rate is the percentage of students completing the last year of primary school. It is calculated by taking the total number of students in the last grade of primary school, minus the number of repeaters in that grade, divided by the total number of children of official graduation age. Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Slitting throats never a good proposition

Every year, on Eid-ul-Azha (3 days long annual Muslim Festival, starting in a few days, during which animals are sacrificed to please Allah), I feel as if I am living in one of the ancient civilizations, in which offering of blood was a way of pleasing the gods. I see potential Taliban in all kids who gather with joy and amusement on the nooks and corners of the streets to watch the killing of sacrificial animals in the open, with their helpless struggle and gush of blood spurting from their slashed throats. It is like a fun show for them --- but also a first lesson of slow beheading of living beings. No wonder one day some of them do the same to other humans...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The misguided priorities of Pakistani academics

 When one thinks of the grave challenges Pakistan has faced in the past three decades, Chemistry, Zoology and Urdu literature do not come to mind. One sees poverty, income inequality, food security, water shortages, infrastructure deficits, illiteracy, violence, wars, religious fundamentalism and sectarianism as some of the challenges that threaten the survival of the society and the State. It is hard to comprehend why academics in Pakistan would avoid focusing on the immediate challenges, but instead focus on subject areas where their impact will, at best, be marginal because researchers in Europe and North America have significantly more capital, infrastructural, and other intellectual resources at their disposal than their counterparts in Pakistan...

The misguided priorities of Pakistani academics | Blog | DAWN.COM
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Suicidal despair of Pakistani father

It is perhaps the bleakest time in Pakistan's history. A hungry, unemployed man burns himself to death in front of the parliament in Islamabad and nothing changes.

Apathy runs supreme in Pakistan.

BBC News - Suicidal despair of Pakistani father

Time to take on Pakistan’s jihadist spies -

Time to take on Pakistan’s jihadist spies -

October 10, 2011 7:58 pm

Time to take on Pakistan’s jihadist spies

Early on May 9, a week after US Special Forces stormed the hideout of Osama bin Laden and killed him, a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned me with an urgent request. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, needed to communicate a message to White House national security officials that would bypass Pakistan’s military and intelligence channels. The embarrassment of bin Laden being found on Pakistani soil had humiliated Mr Zardari’s weak civilian government to such an extent that the president feared a military takeover was imminent. He needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup – and fast.
Gen Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, and his troops were demoralised by the embarrassing ease with which US special forces had violated Pakistani sovereignty. Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s feared spy service, was charged by virtually the entire international community with complicity in hiding bin Laden for almost six years. Both camps were looking for a scapegoat; Mr Zardari was their most convenient target.
The diplomat made clear that the civilian government’s preferred channel to receive Mr Zardari’s message was Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff. He was a time-tested friend of Pakistan and could convey the necessary message with force not only to President Barack Obama, but also to Gen Kayani. In a flurry of phone calls and emails over two days a memorandum was crafted that included a critical offer from the Pakistani president to the Obama administration: “The new national security team will eliminate Section S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan.”
The memo was delivered to Admiral Mullen at 14.00 hours on May 10. A meeting between him and Pakistani national security officials took place the next day at the White House. Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs, it seems, neither heeded the warning, nor acted on the admiral’s advice.
On September 22, in his farewell testimony to the Senate armed services committee, Admiral Mullen said he had “credible intelligence” that a bombing on September 11 that wounded 77 US and Nato troops and an attack on the US embassy in Kabul on September 13 were done “with ISI support.”Essentially he was indicting Pakistan’s intelligence services for carrying out a covert war against the US – perhaps in retaliation for the raid on bin Laden’s compound, perhaps out of strategic national interest to put Taliban forces back in power in Afghanistan so that Pakistan would once again have the “strategic depth” its paranoid security policies against India always envisioned.
Questions about the ISI’s role in Pakistan have intensified in recent months. The finger of responsibility in many otherwise inexplicable attacks has often pointed to a shadowy outfit of ISI dubbed “S-Wing”, which is said to be dedicated to promoting the dubious agenda of a narrow group of nationalists who believe only they can protect Pakistan’s territorial integrity.
The time has come for the state department to declare the S-Wing a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of “foreign governmental organisations”. Plans by the Obama administration to blacklist the Haqqani network are toothless and will have no material impact on the group’s military support and intelligence logistics; it is S-Wing that allegedly provides all of this in the first place. It no longer matters whether ISI is wilfully blind, complicit or incompetent in the attacks its S-Wing is carrying out. S-Wing must be stopped.
ISI embodies the scourge of radicalism that has become a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. The time has come for America to take the lead in shutting down the political and financial support that sustains an organ of the Pakistani state that undermines global antiterrorism efforts at every turn. Measures such as stopping aid to Pakistan, as a bill now moving through Congress aims to do, are not the solution. More precise policies are needed to remove the cancer that ISI and its rogue wings have become on the Pakistani state.
Pakistanis are not America’s enemies. Neither is their incompetent and toothless civilian government – the one Admiral Mullen was asked to help that May morning. The enemy is a state organ that breeds hatred among Pakistan’s Islamist masses and then uses their thirst for jihad against Pakistan’s neighbours and allies to sate its hunger for power. Taking steps to reduce its influence over Pakistan’s state affairs is a critical measure of the world’s willingness to stop the terror masters at their very roots."
The writer is an American of Pakistani ancestry. In 1997 he negotiated Sudan’s offer of counter-terrorism assistance to the Clinton administration

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Musharraf hires US lobbyist for $25,000 a month

Kudos to the Dawn's correspondent in Washington, DC, for revealing the $175,000 PR services retained by General Musharraf.

WASHINGTON: Former chief of the army staff Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, currently visiting North America, has hired a firm for $25,000 a month to lobby for him in the US capital.

A copy of the contract obtained by Dawn shows that a formal agreement between Mr Musharraf and the Advantage Associates International Ltd. was signed on Sept 1.

The contract letter identifies the firm as a specialist in “helping clients with governmental, political and international matters.” Raza Bokhari, a prominent member of Mr Musharraf’s party in the US, will work as “point of contact”.

“For purposes of this agreement, Mr Bokhari and the office of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf shall retain joint rights,” the letter says.

The Advantage Ltd will work with Mr Bokhari to “develop a strategy to represent the interest of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the US” and the firm will assist Mr Bokhari “in any other area that would be of benefit to Gen (retd) Musharraf”.

The agreement, which began on Sept 1, 2011, ends on March 30, 2012.

The parties “acknowledge awareness and stated preference that this is an agreement for services as an independent contractor. The parties will exert all manner of good faith and take all reasonable efforts to ensure performance and prevent repudiation by other parties connected with its activities which could affect its performance under this agreement”.

The total fee for the services to be provided to by Advantage is $175,000.00. A monthly payment in the amount of $25,000.00 will be made to Advantage for a period of seven months beginning on Sept 1, 2011. All monthly payments must be made on the first of each month. However, for the last two months and the first month, $75,000.00 was paid upon the signing of this agreement.

Mr Bokhari also agreed to reimburse Advantage for all reasonable expenses arising out of this agreement, with any expenses over $250.00 approved in advance.

Meanwhile, Mr Musharraf’s office in the US issued a statement on Friday, noting that the relationship between Pakistan and the US was on a declining trend due to many reasons.

To explain Pakistan’s position, Mr Musharraf met a number of senior US lawmakers in Washington, the statement said.

“As a member of diaspora community, we all feel compelled to play our roles in improving the bilateral relationship between
the two countries,” the statement said.

He was scheduled to meet the former speaker, and a senior member of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi, on Friday.

Musharraf hires US lobbyist for $25,000 a month | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

Pakistan contacts Saudi Arabia, Yemen to repatriate Bin Laden’s wives: Report – The Express Tribune

The real question about OBL's hideout is how 10 children were convinced to stay silent about their dad for over so many years. It simply can't be.

Pakistan has contacted the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen for the repatriation of the three wives of Osama bin Laden, CNN has reported.

According to the report, officials confirmed that Pakistan had decided to send the wives back to their home countries.

The Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) had taken custody of Bin Laden’s widows, two Saudis and one Yemeni, and around 10 of their children after the May 2 US operation in Abbottabad and the commission had barred authorities from handing them over to any other country without its permission.

Initial efforts to repatriate the women and children ran aground when the commission in July ordered them to remain in Pakistan until further notice, indicating that it wanted to question them in relation to its inquiries.

The Abbottabad commission investigating the raid lifted travel restrictions after recording their statements.

Pakistan contacts Saudi Arabia, Yemen to repatriate Bin Laden’s wives: Report – The Express Tribune

Friday, September 23, 2011

پاکستان میں مچھر مارنا زیادہ مشکل اور شیعہ مارنا آسان

Mohammad Haneef of BBC has the courage to identify those behind the sectarian warfare in Pakistan. He is rightly pointing out the fact that it is easy to eliminate Shias in Pakistan than mosquitoes.

پاکستان میں مچھر مارنا زیادہ مشکل اور شیعہ مارنا آسان

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where are the women tax payers in Pakistan? | Blog | DAWN.COM

Nowhere else is the gender gap more pronounced in Pakistan than in the income tax rolls where more than 99 per cent tax payers are listed as males.

With almost 50 per cent of the population, women account for less than 1 per cent of all income tax payers in Pakistan. The reason for women’s absence from income tax rolls perhaps lies in the manner women are integrated in the workforce. Women’s labour force participation rate in Pakistan is rather dismal at around 14.4 per cent. Bangladesh, on the other hand, reports a three-times higher rate than Pakistan for women’s participation in the labour force. Furthermore, women in Pakistan are often employed in low paying jobs or jobs that do not compensate monetarily. However, the above arguments fail to explain why fewer than 1 per cent income tax payers are women.

It is not that Pakistan lacks affluent women. There are several empowered, influential, and wealthy women in Pakistan such as Begum Abida Hussein (who represents the landed gentry), Sharmila Farooqi (who represents the new breed of female political mavericks), and Dr. Maleeha Lodhi (who represents the intellectual elite). Could it be true that this very visible minority of enfranchised women obscure the fact that despite their prominence they belong to a very small cohort which accounts for fewer than 1 per cent of the taxpayers in Pakistan. Or it is true that women are reluctant to file income tax in Pakistan.
Where are the women tax payers in Pakistan? | Blog | DAWN.COM
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Half a dollar a day 'adequate', says panel

Half a dollar a day is "adequate" for an Indian villager to spend on food, education and health, the country's main planning body has said.

Critics say that the amount fixed by the Planning Commission is extremely low and aimed at "artificially" reducing the number of poor who are entitled to state benefits.

There are various estimates of the exact number of poor in India.

Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line.

But one estimate suggests the true figure could be as high as 77%.

The Planning Commission has told India's Supreme Court that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in the villages.

BBC News - India: Half a dollar a day 'adequate', says panel

Friday, September 16, 2011

Expatriates of the world, unite!

Expatriates of the world, unite! | Blog | DAWN.COM

In the last fiscal year alone, overseas Pakistanis remitted over $11 billion, which accounts for almost 7 per cent of the national economy. On the other hand, total tax revenue generated in Pakistan accounts for 10 per cent of the GDP. Since expatriates contribute such huge sums to their motherland, it may be prudent to formalise expatriates’ role in securing Pakistan’s faltered economy.

One can propose reserved seats for expatriates in Pakistan’s Senate or the Parliament, or permanent representation in the Planning Commission or the State Bank to secure their sustained contributions to the economy. If this proposition seems farfetched, then expatriates may consider launching a development bank or a credit union to gain more control over remittances to Pakistan, which are expected to hit $14 billion next year.
Remittances pouring into Pakistan far exceed the social sector spending by the federal government. In the recent federal budget, the development expenditure is approximated at $5.2 billion, which is again much less than the $11 billion in remittances. Furthermore, remittances are an order of magnitude higher than what Pakistan receives in aid from development banks and donors for social sector spending...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

“They killed my husband for no good reason” | Blog | DAWN.COM

“They killed my husband for no good reason” | Blog | DAWN.COM

David Barkway’s remains were never recovered. The site of former World Trade Centre in New York became his entombment where he died in the North Tower on September 11, 2001.

David and I worked on the trading floor of BMO Nesbitt Burns. David was one of the traders on the fixed income derivatives desk where I served as a data analyst. For more than a year, I sat across from David with a row of computer monitors between us.

I joined Nesbitt Burns in 1995. There were four traders on the desk of which three were oddly named David. With a shy smile and a polite demeanour, David Barkway was unlike any other trader on the then Canada’s largest trading floor. Whereas most traders were self-centered egotists, David, on the other hand, was the humble, caring, gentleman type with thoughtful brown eyes partially obscured by his glasses.

On the fateful morning of September 11, 2001, David went for a meeting with a bond trading firm, Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices were located between the 101 and 105 floors in the North Tower. Cantor Fitzgerald’s employees got stuck in the building after the plane struck at a lower floor. The firm lost 658 employees on September 11...
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bartered in marriage: The bride exchange in rural Pakistan

Your urban feminist sensibilities (even if you are a man) may be offended to learn that two economists from the World Bank have determined that women married in watta satta (barter) marriages face less marital discord than the rest in rural Pakistan.

Barter marriages involve the simultaneous marriage of a brother-sister pair from one family to a sister-brother pair in another family. Thus, when a man marries a woman, his wife’s brother simultaneously marries the man’s sister. The practice is common in rural Pakistan.

Barter marriages are often despised by the urbanites, who consider the practice to be a reflection of tribal customs common among illiterate and low-income households. There are numerous reported cases of women (and men) married off in watta satta exchanges against their will, and who were later subjected to domestic violence. The literature on gender equity holds a disparaging view of barter marriages and considers such unions a violation of womens’ basic human rights. How then can two leading economists from the World Bank, Ghazala Mansuri and Hanan Jacoby, conclude that the likelihood of marital discord in barter marriages is lower than in non-barter marriages? ...

Bartered in marriage: The bride exchange in rural Pakistan | Blog | DAWN.COM

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Religious tolerance in Pakistan

Religious tolerance in Pakistan | Blog | DAWN.COM

Imagine first the bustling streets of Anarkali in Lahore or Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar. Now imagine a Hindu or a Jewish person praying on the roadside. If religious tolerance had prevailed in Pakistan, this would be a non-issue as people would simply walk by the praying person.

While I can only speculate how Pakistanis would behave around a non-Muslim praying along the street, I need not wonder how Americans would react to a Muslim praying along the street side.

Just outside the store window in uptown Manhattan (New York), I see a Muslim hawker performing his Afternoon (Asr) prayer on the street side at the intersection of 7th-avenue and West 35th street. He sells DVDs and children’s books in the heart of Manhattan. As he prays, women in shorts and men wearing T-shirts walk by his kiosk. No spectacle is created, or worse no insults or taunts are hurled.

The killing fields of Pakistan | Blog | DAWN.COM

The killing fields of Pakistan | Blog | DAWN.COM

The bloodbath in Karachi continues. The death toll in the last week alone has reached over 100. A glance at the online tally of dead bodies in Karachi leaves not much room for hope in Pakistan’s largest city. The citizens appear helpless, the government looks impotent, and the future looks grimmer by the day.

While the resurgence of violence in Karachi is a recent phenomenon, the rest of Pakistan had been engulfed in senseless violence since 2003. No fewer than 36,000 Pakistanis have died in violent deaths in the past eight years, making Pakistan the hotbed of religious, political, and ethnic violence

Exploring the fault lines | Blog | DAWN.COM

Exploring the fault lines | Blog | DAWN.COM
Almost 37,000 violent deaths due to communal, sectarian, and political strife in a mere span of eight years suggest that somewhere something has gone awfully wrong in Pakistan. There are at least two ways to react to such dismal circumstances. One can either look for scapegoats and blame others for one’s misery; or one can indulge in much needed introspection.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How bad was the recent recession

With a 6% decline in jobs and a 5% contraction in economy, the recession in 2007 was one of the worst in the past 60 years. See the graphical display by the Bloomberg



Thursday, August 18, 2011

International Development - JICA, Gates Foundation Partner Against Polio in Pakistan

"The Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are joining forces to help eradicate polio in Pakistan through a new strategic partnership that will support the country’s campaign against the disease.

Under the partnership, which was announced Wednesday, Aug. 17, Japan will provide a 4.9 million yen ($63,956) loan to support polio eradication activities in Pakistan through 2013. The loan will be repaid by the Gates Foundation if the projects it finances are successfully implemented by the Pakistani government.

Japan started considering this partnership with the Gates Foundation in July and is also reportedly looking at providing similar loans to help decrease maternal deaths in Bangladesh."

International Development - JICA, Gates Foundation Partner Against Polio in Pakistan

"above mother there is no other"

How desis have desify English.

English as ‘goodly spoken’ in South Asia | World | DAWN.COM

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mick Jagger discovers ragas

Mick Jagger has recently embraced ragas. His soon to be released album with the famed Indian musician A R Rahman will showcase songs in Sanskrit and Urdu.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gender equity in terrorism

While there remains a large gender gap in labour force participation, women in Pakistan have been making strides towards reducing, if not eliminating, the gap. Thursday's suicide bombing attack by a reportedly teenaged female bomber is not the female participation many in Pakistan had hoped for.

According to the local police, a female bomber first lobbed a grenade and then later blew herself up in Peshawar. The suicide bomber's age and gender makes the incident even more concerning than many similar attacks in Peshawar, which were often orchestrated by young boys, often in their early teens.

The social fabric in Pakistan is slowly disintegrating. Young boys and girls belonging to Pakistan's economically depressed areas are becoming ready recruits for merchants of terror and death. What is more troubling is the fact that Pakistan's civil and military leadership is totally inept to cope with the economic, social, and political rot.

More on this is available from the Express Tribune.

The Bali bomber found in Pakistan

The globalization of terror becomes fairly evident by the arrest of one of the suspects of Bali bombing from the tribal areas in Pakistan.

It is no longer the Uzbeks and the Chechens who found Pakistan's tribal areas as the perfect place to hide and launch their attacks within Pakistan and in Russia, now even the Indonesian militants are springing up in Pakistan. As if Pakistan needed any help on this front from others.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Saudis Use Oil to Punish the Iranians - BusinessWeek

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - APRIL 06:  U.S. Ambassa...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe Arab (Saudi)-Iranian rivalry is centuries old. rom fighting wars in the ancient times to the last battle fought between Arab Iraqis and Iranians, the Arab-Iranian relationship has been a struggling one to say the least.

The latest episode of this age old rivalry involves trade where Saudis are trying to hurt Iranian oil exports to India! More on this from Bloomberg below:

The Saudis Use Oil to Punish the Iranians - BusinessWeek
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Super flood blamed on lasers, a cruel Pathan – The Express Tribune

Pakistanis fall for conspiracy theories even when more plausible explanations exist. The case of last year's devastating floods is no exception. Many believe in Pakistan that the government deployed lasers to melt glaciers resulting in floods . . .

Super flood blamed on lasers, a cruel Pathan – The Express Tribune

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stop Drone Strikes: Former Intel Chief | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

"Former US intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday the US should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Blair said the CIA’s unmanned aircraft operation aimed at al-Qaida is backfiring by damaging the US-Pakistan relationship."

Stop Drone Strikes: Former Intel Chief | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

Gunmen kill seven Shia pilgrims in Quetta – The Express Tribune

The Al-Qaida affiliates in Pakistan continue killing minoroties in Pakistan. Once again, Shiites in Quetta fell victim to the Sunni extremists, which are supported by other hardline groups.

Gunmen kill seven Shia pilgrims in Quetta – The Express Tribune

Monday, July 25, 2011

Victims of last year's floods in Pakistan

For more photographs of children still stuck in camps one year after the devastsating floods in Pakistan, please cllick on the link below:

Pakistani Perspective: Not a care in the world – The Express Tribune
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Killing continues in Karachi

The last two days in Karachi has witnessed violent deaths of another 30 people in the poorest parts of town. My friends in the wealthier part of Karachi, which has seen almost no violence, are surprised at my concern about the spread of violence in the poor parts of town.

Unless the violence and its systematic causes are not addressed in the poor parts of town, the wealthier Karachi will not remain immune for long.

Karachi turmoil: Two days of violence leave 30 dead – The Express Tribune

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Conflict spreading in Afghanistan over time

Based on the data retrieved from the Wikileaks it appears that the conflict in Afghanistan has spread over time.  The following series of images present frequency of attacks in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009. Notice that in 2004 (the upper left corner), most attacks were concentrated along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which is home to the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. This would also make sense since most Afghan Taliban are ethnic Pushtuns.

However, as one moves from 2004 to 2009, one sees a dramatic spreading of attacks along Afghan border, even along the Western border with Iran. The distribution of attacks in 2009 (lower right corner) suggests both an increase in the number of attacks as well as spreading of the conflict to parts of Afghanistan that were immune to the violence earlier.

It will be interesting to see what the latest numbers suggest in the post-surge Afghanistan.

Another interesting sidebar on the maps presented below is that the data analysis and the generation of the maps was done using R, which is a freeware stats software enabling social scientists to paint pictures with data that was not possible earlier.

Click on the image below to see the original post and a larger version of the image.


The above graphic has been produced by Drew Conway, who is a PhD student in political science at New York University. Drew studies terrorism and armed conflict; using tools from mathematics and computer science to gain a deeper understanding of these phenomena.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

McGill scholar’s computer seized by US authorities

A doctoral student whose research focuses on the Shiites of Lebanon had his computer confiscated by the US authorities as he travelled in May 2010 from Montreal to his home in Brooklyn, New York.

Under the new rules, the US authorities are permitted to seize computer and other digital equipment of visitors at any port of entry.

Listen to his story in his own words where he explains how he was detained as he travelled to the US with his mother on the Mothers’ Day.

Note that as of July 2011, more than a year after the event in May 2010, McGill University has no reports listed on its website of the ill-treatment of its student by the US government.


Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Laptop Seizure, Search at Border Challenged by Student’s Suit

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. judge is weighing whether to halt a lawsuit filed by a graduate student whose laptop was seized by customs agents as he crossed the border from Canada and found to contain pictures of rallies by Hamas and Hezbollah.

U.S. District Judge Robert Korman in Brooklyn, New York, yesterday put off ruling on whether to allow the case to go forward. Pascal Abidor, a 27-year-old U.S.-French dual citizen, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, seeks to force border guards to show a “reasonable suspicion” before searching laptop computers and other devices.

Abidor brought the case against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Janet Napolitano, in September, saying such seizures violated the constitutional rights to free speech and to protection against improper searches.

“There are lots of burdens people are subject to in order to protect their own security and the security of others,” Korman said at a hearing yesterday. He said people can choose to travel without sensitive information if they fear it will fall into the wrong hands, just as they did 20 years ago before personal computers became commonplace.

“Not everyone has the choice to leave behind confidential information,” said Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the ACLU, citing attorneys and journalists.

More than 6,500 people, around half of them U.S. citizens, had electronic devices searched in a 20-month period starting in October 2008, according to Abidor’s complaint. In an eight-month period, 220 electronic devices were held, lawyers for Abidor said.

Broad Policies

Broad policies grant border guards access to information even if it enjoys medical, legal or journalistic privilege, and those policies don’t set limits on how long authorities can keep electronic devices, the lawyers said.

The U.S. said only one in 90,000 people coming into the country is searched, a necessary practice to detect drugs, child pornography and money laundering. The Supreme Court in 2004 found that the belongings of people entering the U.S. can be searched without “reasonable suspicion, probable cause or warrant,” lawyers for the U.S. wrote in court filings. Electronics such as laptop computers and mobile phones fall under that rule, the U.S. said.

Abidor, an Islamic studies graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, was taken aside by U.S. officials on a train on his way home to Brooklyn in May 2010. Customs agents searching his laptop found images of rallies by Hamas and Hezbollah, both designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S State Department.

Doctoral Thesis

The pictures were downloaded from the Internet as part of his research into Shiites in Lebanon, the topic of his doctoral thesis, Abidor said he told the agents. He said he was patted down, handcuffed, taken off the train and held in a cell for three hours before being released without charge.

Abidor said he didn’t get his laptop, with the sole copy of his graduate work, for 11 days. When he did, there was evidence that his files, including research, personal photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched, he said.

The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, some of whose 7,000 members have been subject to searches and seizures, according to court papers.

The case is Abidor v. Napolitano, 10-cv-04059, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Democracy in action in Afghanistan

Two female MPs in the Afghan Parliament embellished their freedom to debate by throwing water bottles, shoes, and hurling punches. Democracy is in safe hands in Afghanistan.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Osama Bin Laden's 'intriguing handwritten notes'

BBC has reproduced an image of handwritten notes recovered from the building in Abbotabad, Pakistan, which reportedly housed Mr. Bin Laden for years. There is debate about the authenticity of the document.

Without knowing much about the content in the text below and also pleading ignorance of OBL's handwriting from the past, I can certainly say one thing: there are too many harakaat listed in the document that gives the impression that the document was produced by or for a non-native Arabic speaker who would need the harakaat to know how to pronounce the words in Arabic correctly.

BBC News - Osama Bin Laden's 'intriguing handwritten notes'
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Millions of Afghans to go hungry

Logo of the UN World Food Programme in SVG formatImage via WikipediaAs the NATO starts to wind down its operations in Afghanistan, the humanitarian organizations also start planning their exist. An unfortunate development in Afghanistan involves the World Food Programme (WFP) who announced recently that owing to insufficient funds, it will be unable to feed millions of Afghans.

This is a repeat performance from the last US exit from Afghanistan. As the Americans deserted Pakistan and Afghanistan in the mid eighties, the aid agencies followed the suit. WFP is perhaps offering a repeat performance.

International Development - WFP Downsizes Afghan Food Aid Operations
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A billion without water and sanitation by 2015

figure01Image by Image Editor via FlickrThe U.N. Millennium Development Goal on expanding access to water and sanitation services by 2015 is likely to be missed as donors increasingly shrink away from funding water projects and are instead focusing more on health and education-related initiatives, according to new research by the World Bank and Water Aid.

“We are way off track, and 1 billion people will be let down. The aid flows are very small compared with what is needed,” the Guardian quotes John Garret, a senior policy analyst at Water Aid, a U.K.-based non-governmental organization focused on providing water and sanitation services to people in developing countries.

Among those who will be hardest hit by this projected failure to meet the MDG on water and sanitation are women and girls, the World Bank said in a report it released in May, the Guardian notes.

Water Aid is due to publish a new report next month that is based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Guardian says the NGO’s analysis has shown that water and sanitation programs shrank in number as compared to the total projects funded by donors in the last 20 years.

“In the mid-1990s, water and sanitation made up about 8 percent of global financial aid, putting it ahead of issues such as reproductive health and population growth,” the Guardian says. “But between 2007 and 2009 – the last year for which comprehensive figures are available – it was just over 5 percent.”

Julia Bucknall, the World Bank’s water chief, said this decline maybe due to donors’ and the public perception of water and sanitation as an unglamorous policy area.

“It just does not attract donor funding,” Bucknall told the Guardian. “It seems to be easier for people to talk about disease, and ignore sanitation.”

International Development - Water, Sanitation MDG Off Track – World Bank, Water Aid
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Uzbek couple bombs Pakistani police station

Uzbek in Hojent with his son.Image via WikipediaFor years it was known that the militants from the Soviet Caucasus were active in Pakistan, getting trained to target Russian interests. It is becoming increasingly evident now that the Uzbeks and other militants are in fact being used as beachheads in Pakistan by the local Pushtun-based militants.

Earlier, an Uzbek husband and wife team blew themselves up in a coordinated attack on a police station in Kolachi that involved six other militants. This should be sufficient evidence for defence strategists in who have also spoken about Pakistan's strategic depth and have justified rearing militants from Pakistan and abroad.

No one is more vulnerable to such attacks than the Pakistani themselves. The misguided policies followed by the so-called defence experts in Pakistan have turned the country into a tinderbox. This is certainly not a sustainable state for Pakistan who is now becoming the biggest victim of the militants it has reared over the past three decades.

Pakistani Taliban threaten husband-and-wife bombings | Pakistan | DAWN.COM
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

U.S. Image in Pakistan Falls No Further Following bin Laden Killing | Pew Global Attitudes Project

U.S. Image in Pakistan Falls No Further Following bin Laden Killing | Pew Global Attitudes Project

"Most Pakistanis disapprove of the U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, and although the al Qaeda leader has not been well-liked in recent years, a majority of Pakistanis describe his death as a bad thing. Only 14% say it is a good thing.

Moreover, many Pakistanis believe the U.S. raid on bin Laden’s compound – which was located about 35 miles from Islamabad – will have a negative impact on the already strained relations between the U.S. and their country."

Monday, June 6, 2011

I was ignorant about tax procedure: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan – The Express Tribune

Member FBR Khwar Khurshid Butt should have known that ignorance of law is no excuse. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's plead ignorance of the tax laws as his reasons for not filing taxes. Rahat should have been fined heavily for his ignorance and should have forced to pay unfiled taxes with penalty. The FBR official instead let a tax cheat go scott-free!

I was ignorant about tax procedure: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan – The Express Tribune

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lawrence Solomon: Pakistan would work better in pieces | Full Comment | National Post

Sindh Arts College now renamed as D. J. Scienc...Image via WikipediaLawrence Solomon in Canada's The National Post presents one of the most reductionist and naive analysis of the challenges in Pakistan. It appears to me that he perhaps has never visited the places he now wants to split as independent countries.

He argues that the province of Sindh would prosper as an independent country because "Sindh would be a coherent country that could develop without the many contradictions that come of needing to live within an incoherent federal structure."

Mr. Solomon is most certainly unaware of the bloody ethnic/linguist/cultural wars that are taking place in Sindh, which have claimed the lives of hundreds in the past six months alone. The fact that Sindh is made up of the Urdu/Pushto speaking urban areas and Sindhi speaking rural areas is lost on Mr. Solomon.

Given the complexities involved in analyzing the challenges faced by Pakistan, one hopes that newspapers may want to consult those who may know a thing or two about the place.

Lawrence Solomon: Pakistan would work better in pieces | Full Comment | National Post
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chmosky criticises operational details of the attack on OBL

Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

By Noam Chomsky

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.
It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like