Monday, November 30, 2009

Blackwater in Pakistan

Jeremy Scahill (The Nation, US Magazine) recently published a piece alleging that Blackwater is conducting clandestine operations in Pakistan.

Ahsan(Five rupees)has written an excellent analysis on a)the validity of Scahill's claim and b)its political implications for Pakistan.

 Definitely something you should checkout.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poetry of the Day

I just came across some vids of my favorite spoken word artists Josh Healey and Kevin Coval

Josh Healey-Queer Intifada

Kevin Coval-Why I stopped going to Shul

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turning Up the Rhetoric, Tuning Out Reality

In a recent press conference, Shabaz Sharif (the better half of the Sharif duo) spoke about the importance of initiating talks with Baloch leaders to address their woes and to work towards ending longstanding anti governmental violence in the region. During this conference however, the economic and political grievances of the Baloch people took a back seat to anti-Indian rhetoric as Sharif went on record stating that the government had "proof" of Indian involvement in Balochistan and Waziristan. If Sharif's goal was to increase the appeal of PML-N among the Baloch, this was clearly not a way to do it. Moreover, this anti-Indian episode demonstrates that our political parties have not yet attained the level of maturity they require when it comes to governance.

It is easy to blame the Baloch insurgency (or rebellion, depending on which side you're on) on Indian RAW involvement. After all what gets us all incensed if not an Indian conspiracy against Pakistan, or even better a Jewish one against Islam. And as I'm sure our politicians are aware, it also has the tiny side benefit of ridding the capacity of logical analysis from the masses. Most important however is that fact that our appetite for political conspiracy as a nation proves our inability to take responsibility for our actions. It's easy to blame someone else for one's actions. It takes balls to admit to one's mistakes. And that's precisely what's wrong with Pakistani society.

It is a fact that for the past 70 years the Baloch people have been suffering under the rule of the central government. Balochistan remains the most underdeveloped region in Pakistan, with the lowest rates of literacy in the country. And despite being loaded with mineral wealth, it remains the poorest. Sui, the region in which the largest natural gas reservoir in Pakistan was discovered, still does not have access to natural gas. There is intense discrimination against the Baloch when it comes to employment. In fact, none of the top political or civilian posts in the province belong to those of Baloch ethnicity. So is it any wonder why there is an ongoing secessionist movement in the province. Would you be willing to live under a government that treated you like that?

This is not to say that the Baloch leadership does not have its fault. The leaders of the secessionist movement, the Bughti clan are by no means democratic. Leadership is based on hereditary succession, and it is likely that they're fighting for economic and political sovereignty for themselves, rather than the Baloch people (I'm just naturally suspicious of anyone who is a feudal lord). But I'm not sure how that's any different from any Sindhi or Punjabi feudal lord, whose actions we readily tolerate (if not approve).

The Baloch people deserve more than to have their legitimate concerns take a back seat to political rhetoric. It would be beneficial for the government to deal with Baloch grievances and come to a compromise over Baloch economic and political sovereignty rather than to deal with an ongoing insurgency. Not only will this inprove center-province relations,  it will also discredit secessionist organizations leaving the military to better direct its resources towards fighting the Taliban. But this is only possible if reality is favoured, instead of rhetoric.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song of the Day

When I heard this song, I knew I had to share it with everyone out there. Think of it as classical techno; fusing the classical baroque Canta 147 by Bach with old gameboy and Nintendo sounds within a techno beat (It sounds strange, but just play the vid. you  won't be sorry). If you're interested in hearing more, check out Omodaka. They're a Japanese band that have been experimenting with fusing Japanese and Western Classical music using gameboys as the primary musical instrument.

Canta 147-Omodaka (techno)

I've also posted the original  17th century version for those of you unfamiliar with Bach and his work. You can also read about Bach and his contributions to classical music here.

Canta 147-Bach

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interview with a Taliban Suicide Bomber

How does one go about gaining this worldview anyway?

The war we are losing

For the last four weeks, the Pakistani armed forces have been hard at work in South Waziristan  targeting the "roots" of Taliban insurgency. These weeks has also been the most violent  in this country's history, with more than 2000 civilian deaths alone from car bombs and suicide attacks in busy market places, army headquaters, a university and just recently an ISI building. And it looks far from over.

When the offensive began, I was doubtful of its success in dealing with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliated organizations. There had just been a brazen attack on the army GHQ in Rawalpindi and the airwaves had been filled with talk about the "Punjabi Taliban". At that point in time, many still believed that this was just a last ditch attempt by the Taliban to target the military forces. The last four weeks of violence have rendered this interpretation false.

Many questions are also emerging about the credibility of military intelligence. The South Waziristan offensive was launched on the basis of intelligence which indicated this region as being  "Taliban HQ". Following this logic one would expect there to be fierce fighting for Taliban strongholds such as Sararogha and Kotkai.  This is not the case. In fact Taliban casualties are nowhere near its 10,000 or so estimated fighters. Interestingly,  prior to this offensive regions such as Mohmand and Malakand were also considered as Taliban stronghold. But this was not the case as shown during rmilitary action.

There may also be doubts as to the effectiveness of the military strategy involved. In a pre-offensive briefing, military spokesperson remarked about its strategy to prevent cross-border hoping, noting that troops had been deployed to the border region to intercept militants on that end. When questions were raised about the possibility of militants escaping via North Waziristan, no concrete response was given.Considering  the geographical range of recent attacks, there is no doubt that the Taliban have moved on beyond the NWFP and FATA region. From Swat to Mohmand and Bajaur and then South Waziristan , the military seems to be one step behind, following the Taliban trail instead of predicting its next moves. In addition, it continues to engage in traditional warfare against an enemy employing guerrilla strategy. And it shows.While the army employs its might in South Waziristan, the rest of the country burns.

It is very clear that the TTP and its ilk pose an existential threat to Pakistan. However, we have yet to engage in intelligent warfareat a time when we can least  Only 1/3 of our troops are participating in this offensive, while the rest remain at the Indo-Pak border. And this is not likely to change anytime soon, despite the fact that Taliban attacks occur everyday. It has become readily clear, we are losing this war.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bomb blast in Charsadda

Scores of women and children were among the 34 people dead and 100 hundred injured when a car bomb went off in a busy marketplace in Charsadda, near Peshawar.

An absence in ambulance services and trained rescue teams led to a delay in the transportation of the injured to hospitals. Authorities were forced to rely on the government based in Peshawar and private organizations.

Hell hath no fury....

American LBGQT community boycotts the Democratic Party

Cartoon of the Day

I know I haven't posted these in a while, but I just couldn't resist sharing this

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ballsy Move!

A lone student at a gathering of the Iran's academic elite criticized Khamenei to his face. Mahmoud Vahidnia, a 25 year old mathematics student at Sharif University and a gold medalist of the national Mathematics Olympiad, spoke for some 20 minutes, critiquing state television and radio, the inability to voice criticism against the supreme leader and the power structure of the guardian council and assembly of experts.

I don't know why in this country it's not allowed to make any kind of criticism of you," he told Iran's most powerful cleric, who has the final say in all state matters. "In the past three to five years that I have been reading newspapers, I have seen no criticism of you, not even by the assembly of experts [a clerical body with the theoretical power to sack the leader]. I feel that if this doesn't happen this situation will lead to discord and grudge.

Wouldn't our system have a better chance of preserving itself if we were using more satisfactory methods and limited the use of violence only to essential circumstances?

Khamenei responded calmly to these questions stating
Don't think that I'll be unhappy to hear such statements. No, I would be unhappy if such statements are not made

Suprisingly, Vahdinia has not been arrested for his actions leading some to speculate the validity of this event. There is a great deal of tension across the Iranian blogosphere with some bloggers calling him the bravest student in Iran and others alledging that he was planted(read the comments) by the government.

I've posted a video of the event below. Please note that it is in Farsi as I was not able to find an English version.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Roti List: K'naan

While hip hop may have started out in the black ghettoes of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles over 30 years ago, it has now become a global phenomenon influencing music styles from Japan to South Africa. And no one personifies this more than K'naan (pronounced Kay nuh an). Born in Somalia raised in Toronto, K'naan utilizes traditional African beats and instuments with poetic lyrics focusing on the Somali immigrant experience. You can check him out at his website here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sararogha Seized

Pakistani Military forces have siezed the Taliban stronghold of Saraogha with few casualties. Over 24 militans have been reported killed, a number which is being disputed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). TTP spokesperson Azam Tariq has claimed that only 11 militants have been killed so far, referring to the military advancement  in the region as part of strategy to draw the army into a trap.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who else would it be?

Suprise! Suprise!

Pakistani Security forces have found proof of India's involvement in South Waziristan in the form of weapons and literature. However, no details reagrding the seized items were released to the public and they were sent directly to the Foreign Office.

It figures. Just as Pakistanis begin to hold their government responsible for the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) attacks, evidence for Indian involvement emerges.

But then again, what would Pakistan be like without conspiracy theories?

(As for the title,  please note that I'm being sarcastic)