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Wednesday, January 2, 2008
TO LT. GEN (R) HAMID NAWAZ KHAN,
Government of Pakistan
I write to congratulate you and the Interior Secretary, Brig (R) Iqbal Cheema, on your masterful press conferences following the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. First we had the privilege of hearing the secretary’s expert assertions on behalf of the Ministry, conclusively blaming a terrorist sunroof lever as part of Al Qaeda’s sinister plot to assassinate Mohtarma. What a masterstroke! I would never have been able to come up with something so Sherlock Holmesian! But when video ‘evidence’ unfortunately proved that brilliant theory to be incorrect, your “apology” yesterday in defence of your subordinate was even more impressive - “We are faujis, and not as articulate as you journalists.”
Allow me to salute you, Sir! A cynical and less enlightened Pakistani would have dismissed this apology as ridiculous, and concluded that if Faujis are inarticulate or incapable of handling the truth, they should maybe restrict themselves to taking orders from those who possess these skills, and do something more mundane – like defending the country’s borders. Some deceitful souls, not having the National Interest at heart, might even conclude that Pakistan would be best served if all military personnel, serving and retired, from General (R) Musharraf downwards, were to go home, and leave the administration of this country to elected representatives.
Thankfully, however, these cynics have not won yet – and as long as the silent majority of the country can be kept confused by your googlies, General Sahib, you and I are safe.
A MODERATELY ENLIGHTENED PAKISTANI
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Source: Globe and Mail
Mirpur Bhutto, Pakistan — The head of the Bhutto tribe, a founding member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has rejected the appointment of Benazir Bhutto’s husband and son to lead the group and predicted that it will split the party.
Mumtaz Bhutto’s comments threaten to reopen the deep fissures in the family, Pakistan’s foremost political dynasty. The Bhuttos started to fall out after the 1979 execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the nation’s first elected prime minister who turned the Peoples Party into its most potent political force.
“The party has come into existence on the name and the sweat and the blood of the Bhutto family,” said Mumtaz, 74, a long-time critic of Benazir who lives on a grand country estate in Mirpur Bhutto, the original family village in Sindh province. “Therefore, the leadership should either have gone to Sanam or Murtaza's son or daughter.”more
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American commanders and diplomats, however, say the battlefield gains against insurgents such as al-Qaida in Iraq offer only a partial picture of where the country stands as the war moves toward its five-year mark in March.
Two critical shifts that boosted U.S.-led forces in 2007 — a self-imposed cease-fire by a main Shiite militia and a grassroots Sunni revolt against extremists — could still unravel unless serious unity efforts are made by the Iraqi government. more
Never buy Land Cruisers or any vehicle with sun roof becoz it has lever that can hit your forehead pressing the bone and blood will go to throat and u cant breath, and u will die before reaching General Hospital and your family will not permit the post martum, also that there will be strikes and no availability of fuel to your vehicles.
Your well wishers
Pak Camel and Donkey Cart Association.
PAKISTAN: Daughters of Asma Jehangir assaulted and threatened by gunmen of the ruling party
The two daughters of Ms. Asma Jehangir, a well known lawyer, human rights activist and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief, were assaulted and illegally held for several hours along with their friends by armed persons of the Pakistan Muslim League Q (PML-Q); they were beaten severely and threatened to be killed. One of the girls was pushed into a room and this was only prevented due to the intervention of their mother. Ms. Asma. Ms. Asma herself was also threatened by the gunmen who used very filthy language against her. When police were called to the scene they took the side of the gunmen who claimed to be police officers. However, only two out of this group were policemen and the 20 other gunmen belonged to the PML-Q.
This incident happened at 1.30am when Ms. Muneeza Jehangir, Asma's eldest daughter along with her younger sister Ms. Sulema Jehangir and other friends, were making a video clip for her television channel, the Geo TV. She was filming the ripped posters and banners of the political parties in Lahore city, Punjab province, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former premier who was killed on December 27.
When they were filming the torn posters of the ruling party, which contained photographs of President Musharraf and other party leaders, some armed men arrived and held the two sisters and their companions at gun point. They were then ordered to follow the gunmen and when they resisted the gunmen beat them in public and dragged them to the PML-Q main election office of the province. At the office they were once again beaten and the men trained their guns on them. Someone then told the gunmen that the girls were the daughters of Asma Jehangir. The leader revealed that he was aware of their identities and then four of the gunmen started dragging the youngest one into a small room.
When she heard about this incident Ms. Asma Jehangir reached the party office but was refused entry as they physically restrained her and threatened her with their guns. Fortunately she managed to climb the iron gate of the party office and she saw that her eldest daughter and her friends were detained by more than ten armed persons and her youngest daughter was being carried by some other persons to a separate room. She immediately informed the Ghalib police station who reached the scene after some time. The police took the side of the armed men and pressurized the parents of the friends of her daughters to hand over the video tape which they did. The police then threatened the parents that they should not report this incident otherwise the girls would be kidnapped, raped and killed. The police also pressured the parents to stop Ms. Asma Jehangir from making this incident know and claimed that she would bear the responsibility for whatever might happen in the future.
The Asian Human Rights condemns this incident of kidnapping, the illegal holding and threats of violence against the daughters of Ms. Asma Jehangir by the armed elements of the PML-Q. This incident is an attempt to harass human rights activists and their family members for speaking out against the military regime.
The AHRC condemns this attack and calls upon the government of Pakistan to conduct an inquiry into this matter and to arrest the culprits. However, at the same time the AHRC is quite skeptical as to whether any inquiry will be made into this matter unless there is pressure from the civil rights movement in the country and the international community. In the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto it is quite likely that the military regime and the ruling party will attempt to silence the human rights and democratic activists. As the judges who defied the imposition of the state of emergency have been virtually dismissed from their posts there is little to be expected from the present judiciary of Pakistan by way of protection to citizens against acts of the regime and the ruling party. The AHRC calls upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to cause an inquiry into this incident and to take other appropriate action.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Sunday December 30, 2007
The place felt as though it might be the weekend retreat of a particularly flamboyant Latin-American industrialist, but, in fact, it could have been anywhere. Had you been shown pictures of the place on one of those TV game-shows where you are taken around a house and then have to guess who lives there, you may have awarded this hacienda to virtually anyone except, perhaps, to the Prime Minister of an impoverished Islamic republic situated next door to Iran.
Which is, of course, exactly why the West always had a soft spot for Benazir Bhutto. Her neighbouring heads of state may have been figures as unpredictable and potentially alarming as President Ahmadinejad of Iran and a clutch of opium-trading Afghan warlords, but Bhutto has always seemed reassuringly familiar to Western governments - one of us. She spoke English fluently because it was her first language. She had an English governess, went to a convent run by Irish nuns and rounded off her education with degrees from Harvard and Oxford.
'London is like a second home for me,' she once told me. 'I know London well. I know where the theatres are, I know where the shops are, I know where the hairdressers are. I love to browse through Harrods and WH Smith in Sloane Square. I know all my favourite ice cream parlours. I used to particularly love going to the one at Marble Arch: Baskin Robbins. Sometimes, I used to drive all the way up from Oxford just for an ice cream and then drive back again. That was my idea of sin.'
It was difficult to imagine any of her neighbouring heads of state, even India's earnest Sikh economist, Manmohan Singh, talking like this.
For the Americans, what Benazir Bhutto wasn't was possibly more attractive even than what she was. She wasn't a religious fundamentalist, she didn't have a beard, she didn't organise rallies where everyone shouts: 'Death to America' and she didn't issue fatwas against Booker-winning authors, even though Salman Rushdie ridiculed her as the Virgin Ironpants in his novel Shame.
However, the very reasons that made the West love Benazir Bhutto are the same that gave many Pakistanis second thoughts. Her English might have been fluent, but you couldn't say the same about her Urdu which she spoke like a well-groomed foreigner: fluently, but ungrammatically. Her Sindhi was even worse; apart from a few imperatives, she was completely at sea.
English friends who knew Benazir at Oxford remember a bubbly babe who drove to lectures in a yellow MG, wintered in Gstaad and who to used to talk of the thrill of walking through Cannes with her hunky younger brother and being 'the centre of envy; wherever Shahnawaz went, women would be bowled over'.
This Benazir, known to her friends as Bibi or Pinky, adored royal biographies and slushy romances: in her old Karachi bedroom, I found stacks of well-thumbed Mills and Boons including An Affair to Forget, Sweet Imposter and two copies of The Butterfly and the Baron. This same Benazir also had a weakness for dodgy Seventies easy listening - 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree' was apparently at the top of her playlist. This is also the Benazir who had an enviable line in red-rimmed fashion specs and who went weak at the sight of marrons glace.
But there was something much more majestic, even imperial, about the Benazir I met when she was Prime Minister. She walked and talked in a deliberately measured and regal manner and frequently used the royal 'we'. At my interview, she took a full three minutes to float down the 100 yards of lawns separating the Prime Minister's house from the chairs where I had been told to wait for her. There followed an interlude when Benazir found the sun was not shining in quite the way she wanted it to. 'The sun is in the wrong direction,' she announced. Her hair was arranged in a sort of baroque beehive topped by a white gauze dupatta. The whole painted vision reminded me of one of those aristocratic Roman princesses in Caligula
This Benazir was a very different figure from that remembered by her Oxford contemporaries. This one was renowned throughout Islamabad for chairing 12-hour cabinet meetings and for surviving on four hours' sleep. This was the Benazir who continued campaigning after the suicide bomber attacked her convoy the very day of her return to Pakistan in October, and who blithely disregarded the mortal threat to her life in order to continue fighting. This other Benazir Bhutto, in other words, was fearless, sometimes heroically so, and as hard as nails.
More than anything, perhaps, Benazir was a feudal princess with the aristocratic sense of entitlement that came with owning great tracts of the country and the Western-leaning tastes that such a background tends to give. It was this that gave her the sophisticated gloss and the feudal grit that distinguished her political style. In this, she was typical of many Pakistani politicians. Real democracy has never thrived in Pakistan, in part because landowning remains the principle social base from which politicians emerge.
The educated middle class is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. As a result, in many of the more backward parts of Pakistan, the feudal landowner expects his people to vote for his chosen candidate. As writer Ahmed Rashid put it: 'In some constituencies, if the feudals put up their dog as a candidate, that dog would get elected with 99 per cent of the vote.'
Today, Benazir is being hailed as a martyr for freedom and democracy, but far from being a natural democrat, in many ways, Benazir was the person who brought Pakistan's strange variety of democracy, really a form of 'elective feudalism', into disrepute and who helped fuel the current, apparently unstoppable, growth of the Islamists. For Bhutto was no Aung San Suu Kyi. During her first 20-month premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, killings and torture.
Within her party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her. When he persisted in doing so, he ended up shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside the family home. Murtaza's wife Ghinwa and his daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir's mother, all firmly believed that Benazir gave the order to have him killed.
As recently as the autumn, Benazir did and said nothing to stop President Musharraf ordering the US and UK-brokered 'rendition' of her rival, Nawaz Sharif, to Saudi Arabia and so remove from the election her most formidable rival. Many of her supporters regarded her deal with Musharraf as a betrayal of all her party stood for.
Behind Pakistan's endless swings between military government and democracy lies a surprising continuity of elitist interests: to some extent, Pakistan's industrial, military and landowning classes are all interrelated and they look after each other. They do not, however, do much to look after the poor. The government education system barely functions in Pakistan and for the poor, justice is almost impossible to come by. According to political scientist Ayesha Siddiqa: 'Both the military and the political parties have all failed to create an environment where the poor can get what they need from the state. So the poor have begun to look to alternatives for justice. In the long term, flaws in the system will create more room for the fundamentalists.'
In the West, many right-wing commentators on the Islamic world tend to see the march of political Islam as the triumph of an anti-liberal and irrational 'Islamo-fascism'. Yet much of the success of the Islamists in countries such as Pakistan comes from the Islamists' ability to portray themselves as champions of social justice, fighting people such as Benazir Bhutto from the Islamic elite that rules most of the Muslim world from Karachi to Beirut, Ramallah and Cairo.
This elite the Islamists successfully depict as rich, corrupt, decadent and Westernised. Benazir had a reputation for massive corruption. During her government, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International named Pakistan one of the three most corrupt countries in the world.
Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari, widely known as 'Mr 10 Per Cent', faced allegations of plundering the country. Charges were filed in Pakistan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to investigate their various bank accounts.
When I interviewed Abdul Rashid Ghazi in the Islamabad Red Mosque shortly before his death in the storming of the complex in July, he kept returning to the issue of social justice: 'We want our rulers to be honest people,' he said. 'But now the rulers are living a life of luxury while thousands of innocent children have empty stomachs and can't even get basic necessities.' This is the reason for the rise of the Islamists in Pakistan and why so many people support them: they are the only force capable of taking on the country's landowners and their military cousins.
This is why in all recent elections, the Islamist parties have hugely increased their share of the vote, why they now already control both the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and why it is they who are most likely to gain from the current crisis.
Benazir Bhutto was a courageous, secular and liberal woman. But sadness at the demise of this courageous fighter should not mask the fact that as a pro-Western feudal leader who did little for the poor, she was as much a central part of Pakistan's problems as the solution to them.
· William Dalrymple's latest book, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, published by Bloomsbury, recently won the Duff Cooper Prize for History
Source: Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Elections will be delayed by one month following the turmoil sparked by Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, despite opposition threats of street protests unless the crucial vote is held Jan. 8 as originally planned, a top official said Tuesday.
A senior Election Commission official told The Associated Press that the commission has agreed on a new date. He indicated it would not be before the second week of February, but refused to disclose the exact schedule before the formal announcement on Wednesday.
Opposition parties accused Pakistan’s government of delaying parliamentary elections to avoid likely defeat and said Wednesday they feared the move could lead to more violence in a country still shaken by Bhutto’s assassination.
Many believe Bhutto’s party would get a sympathy boost if the vote takes place on time. Bhutto had accused elements in the ruling party of plotting to kill her, a charge it vehemently denies.
“We reject this delay outright,” said Sen. Babar Awan from Bhutto’s party, the most powerful opposition group. “(President Pervez) Musharraf fears outright defeat. If this election process is jeopardized, they (our followers) may protest again and there is a chance of riots.” read more
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