Firing of Pakistan’s Defense Sec Raises Army Tension

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Salman Masood

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani fired his defense secretary, a retired general and confidant of Pakistan’s army chief, on Wednesday as the civilian government drew closer to a head-on collision with the country’s powerful military leadership.

Mr. Gilani accused the secretary of defense, Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a former corps commander, of “gross misconduct and illegal action” and of “creating misunderstanding between the state institutions.” He replaced the former general with a civilian aide, Nargis Sethi.

Military officials warned on Wednesday evening that the army would be likely to refuse to work with the newly appointed defense secretary, signaling the possibility of a serious rupture between the army and the civilian government. “The army will not react violently, but it will not cooperate with the new secretary defense,” said a military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation.

Tensions had intensified between the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and the army leadership after the publication of a controversial memo, purportedly drafted by the government shortly after an American raid last year killed Osama bin Laden, that solicited help in stopping a possible coup by the humiliated Pakistani military.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief, called an emergency meeting of his top commanders on Thursday.

The defense secretary is ordinarily appointed with the consent of the army chief and acts as a bridge between the civilian government and military. The role is more powerful than that of defense minister, a position that is filled by a politician from the governing party.

The firing came as the military warned the prime minister that his recent statements against General Kayani would have “serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”
Mr. Gilani had accused General Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, of acting as “state within a state” and reminded them they were accountable to the Parliament.

Those statements were seen as suggesting that they could be removed from power.

The defense secretary’s signature is needed for the appointment — or termination — of the members of the military leadership. By installing a secretary defense of its own choice, the civilian government appeared to be seeking greater leverage in dealing with the military.

Speculation about the government’s intentions to dismiss the two commanders were fueled by news reports in the stridently anti-American press in Pakistan, where many people view the United States as an arrogant adversary instead of an ally. That view has increased in the months since the Bin Laden raid last May and the deaths of 26 Pakistani soldiers in an American airstrike near the border with Afghanistan late last year.

Pakistani analysts said the firing of Mr. Lodhi could be a potentially ominous sign that the festering conflict between the army and the civilian government had reached a critical stage.

“It is a desperate measure,” said Ikram Sehgal, a defense analyst and former army officer. “They want the army to react and to make a coup.”

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military and political analyst, said the firing would only exacerbate the situation for the civilian government. “If the prime minister now tries to fire the army chief, it will have very dangerous consequences,” Mr. Rizvi said.

General Lodhi, who was only recently appointed defense secretary, became embroiled in a controversy last month after he submitted a statement in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Defense Ministry stating that the civilian government had no operational control over the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful spy agency. Mr. Gilani accused Mr. Lodhi of overstepping and objected to his blunt statement, a public acknowledgment that, while the intelligence services are technically under the control of the prime minister, they are widely perceived to act independently of the civilian government.

A military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said that the relationship between the two men broke down after the prime minister’s staff sought to pressure General Lodhi into contradicting statements by the army and spy chiefs about the controversial memo. The military commanders had told Supreme Court last month that the memo, written by a former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, was authentic and pointed to a conspiracy against the military. The government and Mr. Haqqani have said they had nothing to do with the memo, which came to light in October.

“The government had prepared a draft that stated that the Ministry of Defense does not agree with General Kayani and Genera Pasha’s opinions about the veracity of the memo,” said the military official, who was present during the discussions. “General Lodhi refused to sign the document, saying those were not his words.”

J. David Goodman contributed reporting.

14-3

Houstonian Corner (V14-I1)

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Lone Star State’s Economy Rebounding Faster than United States as Whole

As 2011 comes to an end, a variety of economic indicators point to the fact that Texas may be pulling itself up by its bootstraps and, despite a national recession, watching the state economy rebound.

Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs reports Texas unemployment is down and sales tax collections from retail businesses are up. Both point to a state economy whose health is improving even faster than the country as a whole. And looking ahead, innovative government solutions and new revenue sources such as gas production from Eagle Ford Shale could move the state out of the economic downturn even faster.

Earlier this month, Combs distributed $478.3 million in sales tax allocation to cities, counties, transit systems and special districts. Sales tax revenue for November totaled $2.7 billion, up 12.2 percent over the same month last year. But more importantly, the November distribution marked the 20th consecutive month for increases in Texas sales tax revenues.

Along with increased consumer spending, the state also is benefitting from employment gains. The Texas unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate for 58 consecutive months.

Local government subdivisions are dealing with budget shortfalls with innovative ideas aimed at saving money and making government more efficient. To avoid tax increases and cuts in services, some are sharing services – from public safety and 9-1-1 operations to human resources personnel and city/county equipment. Many are exploring bringing private sector entities into the picture to help fund necessary infrastructure and construction projects through public-private partnerships. Still others are looking at ways to cut costs by being more energy efficient, with energy audits, retrofits and installation of more energy-efficient products to trim skyrocketing energy costs. Installation of solar panels and wind turbines to generate their own power has become the norm.

The state and some local governments also will be keeping a close eye on the Eagle Ford Formation, dubbed “Eagle Ford Shale.” This rock formation is rich in oil and natural gas and runs approximately 400 miles from along the Texas-Mexico border in South Texas toward East Texas. Some officials estimate oil reserves at 3 billion barrels with an output that could be up to 420,000 barrels a day. Although controversial because of concerns about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as the means of producing oil and gas from it, the potential of Eagle Ford Shale could be a boon to both the state and to local governments in the areas in which it lies. State and local tax revenues could skyrocket.

DeWitt County already is making money off the formation, as that county is charging an $8,000-per-well fee from drilling companies seeking to tap Eagle Ford Shale inside their county lines.

A University of Texas at San Antonio study suggested that tax revenue tied to the formation may reach $1.65 billion a year by 2020, up from $108.5 million this year.

With the drilling come jobs. And with the jobs come people. And those people earn paychecks and spend their money locally, boosting both the state and local tax receipts. At the local level, that means improvements in transportation infrastructure, water and wastewater, construction of new schools and government facilities and other amenities.

With increased employment and more retail sales at the state level, 2011 will end on a high note for the Texas economy. And with the state and local government entities looking for efficiencies in government and new sources of revenue such as Eagle Ford Shale, it appears that economic uptick will continue into 2012.

Fervent Election Campaign in PCC-USA

Elections of PCC-USA
Elections of PCC-USA

Khalid Kazi is President-Elect

Houston, Texas (Staff Report): Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) is a leading association of Pakistani entrepreneurs in USA, with Chapters in Houston, San Diego, and New York. Fifty founding members Advisory Council, under the leadership of Dr. Ashraf Abbasi, established PCC-USA as a premier business organization in Houston, Texas, on August 14th, 1997 to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Pakistan Independence Day.

This Year 2011 became the first time, when some of the office bearers of PCC-USA got elected after actual voting. In the past, usually all the executive council positions used to be filled with only one nominating person per position; and as such getting elected unopposed.

PCC-USA runs on the basis of President-Elect system, where the president elected in these past December 2011 elections will be President in 2013, while will be called President-Elect in 2012; and Waseem Rahim, who was elected unopposed in December 2010 & was President-Elect for 2011, will be President for 2012. This way President-Elect gets to work side by side with the President (P. J. Khan Swati in 2011) and gets trained by the time his or her time comes to be President.

While talking to the candidates, who had insisted on participating in actual elections, despite being asked by many to withdraw their names, our correspondent learned that their idea to participate in the elections was not to win, but inspiration was to instill new life in this important association of the community. Near them organizations, where there is no culture of actual elections and no tolerance of listening to opposing but sincere ideas, such associations become dormant over a period of time (we have such examples in our own city of Houston). They pointed out that several inactive senior members of the community were seen coming out to vote and participate in this decision making process, plus the paid membership of the association has gone to some sort of records level. The new office bearers that have brought all these people out to vote and made new members, will now need to keep all of them involved with healthy activities and use their strength to develop programs for common business persons of the community & improve trade ties between USA & Pakistan.

According to Rashid Khokhar, Chairman PCC-USA Election Commission (other members being GulFaraz Khan and Zubair Ashraf), elections results were like this:

President-Elect: Khalid Kazi (Won) Vs Zafar Mansuri;
Senior Vice President: Sheikh Muhammad Awais Vs Pervez Iqbal (Won);
Director Finance: Ch. Mahmood Ahmed (Won) Vs Asif Ehsan;
Vice President – Administration: Nargis F. Ahmed (Unopposed);
Vice President – Liaison: Mian Aziz (Unopposed);
Vice President – Marketing: Zaki Mohammed Mirza (Unopposed);
Vice President – Media Relations: Mumtaz Khan (Unopposed);
General Secretary: Abdur Rauf Khan (Unopposed);
Joint Secretary: Iqbal Akhtar (Unopposed)…

14-1

Saudi Youth Unemployment Over 40 Pct

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

RIYADH – Unemployment among Saudis rose to 10.5 percent in 2009 from 10 percent a year earlier, and topped 43 percent among men and women aged 20-24, according to government figures cited by Okaz newspaper on Wednesday.

Despite continued economic growth on the back of a massive government spending program, 448,547 Saudis were without jobs, up by 32,197 from a year earlier, a report by the Central Department of Statistics and Information showed.

Joblessness among men was 6.9 percent, slightly up from to 6.8 percent in 2008. Among women, the rate was 28.4 percent compared to 26.9 percent.

The very high figures for youth underscore the problem of a rapidly growing population that, for complex reasons, is not getting jobs despite steady economic growth.

The jobless rate was 43.2 percent for men and women in the 20-24 category, rising to 46.7 percent for men alone.

The report did not give a figure for women in that age group, but said that for those between ages 25 and 29, 45.9 percent lacked jobs.

The study did not cover the eight to 10 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia — a third or more of the total population of 25.3 million.

The country heavily depends on foreign workers for everything from menial jobs, construction and the service sector to work requiring advanced skills like technology and hospital jobs.

Employers often say Saudis lack adequate training and skills, or demand too high salaries. The biggest employer of Saudis is the government, while foreigners dominate private sector jobs at many levels.

The country’s total population is growing about 2.4 percent annually, with the figure significantly higher for native Saudis.

The population is heavily weighted on the young side — more than half the population is less than 20 years old and 40 percent aged 15 or younger.

That places great pressure on the government to create long-term jobs for its citizens, and Riyadh has been pushing strongly a “Saudi-isation” policy to place native Saudis in jobs that foreigners hold.

To keep updated with the very latest news sign up to the Maktoob Business newsletter now.

12-18

Taliban for Peace?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Supreme Leader Signals Willingness To Talk Peace

By Stephen Grey in Kandahar

AFGHANISTAN/

Taliban fighters pose in front of a burning German military vehicle in Isaa Khail village of Char Dara district of the northern Kunduz Province April 3, 2010. Three German soldiers were killed and five others seriously injured in fighting in Kunduz, the German Army Command in Potsdam said on Friday.

REUTERS/Wahdat

April 18, 2010 “The Times” — The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the movement’s senior Islamic scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.

A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a “breakthrough” was possible. “There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process,” the source said.

At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.

“[Mullah Omar] is no longer interested in being involved in politics or government,” said Mullah “Abdul Rashid”, the elder of the two commanders, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

“All the mujaheddin seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution. We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

The interview was conducted by a reputable Afghan journalist employed by The Sunday Times with two members of the shura that directs Taliban activity across the whole of southern Afghanistan, including Helmand and Kandahar provinces. It was arranged through a well established contact with the Taliban’s supreme leadership.

Looking back on five years in government until they were ousted after the attacks in America on September 11, 2001, the Taliban leaders said their movement had become too closely involved in politics.

Abdul Rashid said: “We didn’t have the capability to govern the country and we were surprised by how things went. We lacked people with either experience or technical expertise in government.

“Now all we’re doing is driving the invader out. We will leave politics to civil society and return to our madrasahs [religious schools].”

The Taliban’s position emerged as an American official said colleagues in Washington were discussing whether President Barack Obama could reverse a long-standing US policy and permit direct American talks with the Taliban.

If the Taliban’s military aims no longer included a takeover of the Afghan government, this would represent “a major and important shift”, the US official said.

The Taliban objectives specified on their website had already shifted, Nato officials said, from the overthrow of the “puppet government” to the more moderate goal of establishing a government wanted by the Afghan people.

In the interview, the two leaders insisted that reports of contact between the Taliban and the Kabul government were a “fraud” and stemmed from claims made by “charlatans”. Up to now, no officially sanctioned talks have taken place, they said.

They laid down no preconditions for substantive negotiations, saying simply that the Taliban were ready for “honest dialogue”. Another Taliban source with close links to the Quetta shura said the movement was willing to talk directly to “credible” western politicians, including Americans, but not to intelligence agencies such as the CIA.

This source said that although the Taliban’s unwavering objective remained the withdrawal of all foreign troops, their preconditions for talks might now be limited to guarantees of security for their delegates and a Nato ceasefire.

According to a Nato intelligence source, Taliban representatives have established direct contact with several ministers in President Hamid Karzai’s government. But they refuse to have any direct contact with Karzai, whom they regard as an “illegitimate puppet”.

During an interview that lasted for several hours and was interrupted only by the coming and going of messengers on motorbikes, our reporter heard nothing from the Taliban leaders to suggest that the movement was weary of war, as some western analysts have claimed.

Instead, he was told that the Taliban believe they are winning and are able to negotiate from a position of strength. Asked about a forthcoming Nato offensive in the Kandahar region, a local Taliban commander who sat alongside the two scholars boasted: “We’re ready for this. We’re going to break the Americans’ teeth.”

The Taliban leaders said that lessons had been learnt from Nato’s last big offensive in the Marjah area of Helmand province earlier this year. When Nato gave advance notice of the operation, the Taliban were lured into sending too many fighters to the area, some of whom died.

The leaders said that in Kandahar a plan to counter Nato had already been prepared.

“There will be no surprise there,” said Abdul Rashid. “We have our people inside all positions in the city, in the government and the security forces.”

He added that America already had enough problems “to haunt her” and fighting in Kandahar would only turn more people against it.

“People don’t trust the foreigners because they are backing the warlords. People are fed up with crime and brutality and that’s a big problem for the Americans. We’re well positioned, with supporters everywhere.”

As they prepare for the traditional summer fighting season, the Taliban leaders are placing as much emphasis as Nato on winning the hearts and minds of the population.

Abdul Rashid said there had been Taliban commanders who had financed their campaigns by taking bribes to give safe passage to Nato supply convoys or from drug smugglers. But the Taliban’s leadership had ordered a halt to this.

“What we do is not for a worldly cause — it is for the sake of Allah. More important than the fighting for us now is the process of purification. We are getting rid of all the rotten apples,” he said.

12-17

White House Quietly Courts Muslims in U.S.

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Andrea Elliott, NY Times

When President Obama took the stage in Cairo last June, promising a new relationship with the Islamic world, Muslims in America wondered only half-jokingly whether the overture included them. After all, Mr. Obama had kept his distance during the campaign, never visiting an American mosque and describing the false claim that he was Muslim as a “smear” on his Web site.

Nearly a year later, Mr. Obama has yet to set foot in an American mosque. And he still has not met with Muslim and Arab-American leaders. But less publicly, his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.

Muslim and Arab-American advocates have participated in policy discussions and received briefings from top White House aides and other officials on health care legislation, foreign policy, the economy, immigration and national security. They have met privately with a senior White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to discuss civil liberties concerns and counterterrorism strategy.

The impact of this continuing dialogue is difficult to measure, but White House officials cited several recent government actions that were influenced, in part, by the discussions. The meeting with Ms. Napolitano was among many factors that contributed to the government’s decision this month to end a policy subjecting passengers from 14 countries, most of them Muslim, to additional scrutiny at airports, the officials said.

That emergency directive, enacted after a failed Dec. 25 bombing plot, has been replaced with a new set of intelligence-based protocols that law enforcement officials consider more effective.

Also this month, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim academic, visited the United States for the first time in six years after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reversed a decision by the Bush administration, which had barred Mr. Ramadan from entering the country, initially citing the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Mrs. Clinton also cleared the way for another well-known Muslim professor, Adam Habib, who had been denied entry under similar circumstances.

Arab-American and Muslim leaders said they had yet to see substantive changes on a variety of issues, including what they describe as excessive airport screening, policies that have chilled Muslim charitable giving and invasive F.B.I. surveillance guidelines. But they are encouraged by the extent of their consultation by the White House and governmental agencies.

“For the first time in eight years, we have the opportunity to meet, engage, discuss, disagree, but have an impact on policy,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington. “We’re being made to feel a part of that process and that there is somebody listening.”

In the post-9/11 era, Muslims and Arab-Americans have posed something of a conundrum for the government: they are seen as a political liability but also, increasingly, as an important partner in countering the threat of homegrown terrorism. Under President George W. Bush, leaders of these groups met with government representatives from time to time, but said they had limited interaction with senior officials. While Mr. Obama has yet to hold the kind of high-profile meeting that Muslims and Arab-Americans seek, there is a consensus among his policymakers that engagement is no longer optional.

The administration’s approach has been understated. Many meetings have been private; others were publicized only after the fact. A visit to New York University in February by John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, drew little news coverage, but caused a stir among Muslims around the country. Speaking to Muslim students, activists and others, Mr. Brennan acknowledged many of their grievances, including “surveillance that has been excessive,” “overinclusive no-fly lists” and “an unhelpful atmosphere around many Muslim charities.”

“These are challenges we face together as Americans,” said Mr. Brennan, who momentarily showed off his Arabic to hearty applause. He and other officials have made a point of disassociating Islam from terrorism in public comments, using the phrase “violent extremism” in place of words like “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism.”

While the administration’s solicitation of Muslims and Arab-Americans has drawn little fanfare, it has not escaped criticism. A small but vocal group of research analysts, bloggers and others complain that the government is reaching out to Muslim leaders and organizations with an Islamist agenda or ties to extremist groups abroad.

They point out that Ms. Jarrett gave the keynote address at the annual convention for the Islamic Society of North America. The group was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based charity whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling money to Hamas. The society denies any links to terrorism.

“I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates,” said Steven Emerson, a terrorism analyst who advises government officials. “These are the wrong groups to legitimize.” Mr. Emerson and others have also objected to the political appointments of several American Muslims, including Rashad Hussain.

In February, the president chose Mr. Hussain, a 31-year-old White House lawyer, to become the United States’ special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The position, a kind of ambassador at large to Muslim countries, was created by Mr. Bush. In a video address, Mr. Obama highlighted Mr. Hussain’s status as a “close and trusted member of my White House staff” and “a hafiz,” a person who has memorized the Koran.

Within days of the announcement, news reports surfaced about comments Mr. Hussain had made on a panel in 2004, while he was a student at Yale Law School, in which he referred to several domestic terrorism prosecutions as “politically motivated.” Among the cases he criticized was that of Sami Al-Arian, a former computer-science professor in Florida who pleaded guilty to aiding members of a Palestinian terrorist group.

At first, the White House said Mr. Hussain did not recall making the comments, which had been removed from the Web version of a 2004 article published by a small Washington magazine. When Politico obtained a recording of the panel, Mr. Hussain acknowledged criticizing the prosecutions but said he believed the magazine quoted him inaccurately, prompting him to ask its editor to remove the comments. On Feb. 22, The Washington Examiner ran an editorial with the headline “Obama Selects a Voice of Radical Islam.”

Muslim leaders watched carefully as the story migrated to Fox News. They had grown accustomed to close scrutiny, many said in interviews, but were nonetheless surprised. In 2008, Mr. Hussain had co-authored a paper for the Brookings Institution arguing that the government should use the peaceful teachings of Islam to fight terrorism.

“Rashad Hussain is about as squeaky clean as you get,” said Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is Muslim. Mr. Ellison and others wondered whether the administration would buckle under the pressure and were relieved when the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, defended Mr. Hussain.

“The fact that the president and the administration have appointed Muslims to positions and have stood by them when they’ve been attacked is the best we can hope for,” said Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

It was notably different during Mr. Obama’s run for office. In June 2008, volunteers of his campaign barred two Muslim women in headscarves from appearing behind Mr. Obama at a rally in Detroit, eliciting widespread criticism. The campaign promptly recruited Mazen Asbahi, a 36-year-old corporate lawyer and popular Muslim activist from Chicago, to become its liaison to Muslims and Arab-Americans.

Bloggers began researching Mr. Asbahi’s background. For a brief time in 2000, he had sat on the board of an Islamic investment fund, along with Sheikh Jamal Said, a Chicago imam who was later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case. Mr. Asbahi said in an interview that he had left the board after three weeks because he wanted no association with the imam.

Shortly after his appointment to the Obama campaign, Mr. Asbahi said, a Wall Street Journal reporter began asking questions about his connection to the imam. Campaign officials became concerned that news coverage would give critics ammunition to link the imam to Mr. Obama, Mr. Asbahi recalled. On their recommendation, Mr. Asbahi agreed to resign from the campaign, he said.

He is still unsettled by the power of his detractors. “To be in the midst of this campaign of change and hope and to have it stripped away over nothing,” he said. “It hurts.”

From the moment Mr. Obama took office, he seemed eager to change the tenor of America’s relationship with Muslims worldwide. He gave his first interview to Al Arabiya, the Arabic-language television station based in Dubai. Muslims cautiously welcomed his ban on torture and his pledge to close Guantánamo within a year.

In his Cairo address, he laid out his vision for “a new beginning” with Muslims: while America would continue to fight terrorism, he said, terrorism would no longer define America’s approach to Muslims.

Back at home, Muslim and Arab-American leaders remained skeptical. But they took note when, a few weeks later, Mohamed Magid, a prominent imam from Sterling, Va., and Rami Nashashibi, a Muslim activist from Chicago, joined the president at a White-House meeting about fatherhood. Also that month, Dr. Faisal Qazi, a board member of American Muslim Health Professionals, began meeting with administration officials to discuss health care reform.

The invitations were aimed at expanding the government’s relationship with Muslims and Arab-Americans to areas beyond security, said Mr. Hussain, the White House’s special envoy. Mr. Hussain began advising the president on issues related to Islam after joining the White House counsel’s office in January 2009. He helped draft Mr. Obama’s Cairo speech and accompanied him on the trip. “The president realizes that you cannot engage one-fourth of the world’s population based on the erroneous beliefs of a fringe few,” Mr. Hussain said.

Other government offices followed the lead of the White House. In October, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with Arab-Americans and Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., to discuss challenges facing small-business owners. Also last fall, Farah Pandith was sworn in as the State Department’s first special representative to Muslim communities. While Ms. Pandith works mostly with Muslims abroad, she said she had also consulted with American Muslims because Mrs. Clinton believes “they can add value overseas.”

Despite this, American actions abroad — including civilian deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan and the failure to close Guantánamo — have drawn the anger of Muslims and Arab-Americans.

Even though their involvement with the administration has broadened, they remain most concerned about security-related policies. In January, when the Department of Homeland Security hosted a two-day meeting with Muslim, Arab-American, South Asian and Sikh leaders, the group expressed concern about the emergency directive subjecting passengers from a group of Muslim countries to additional screening.

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, pointed out that the policy would never have caught the attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is British. “It almost sends the signal that the government is going to treat nationals of powerless countries differently from countries that are powerful,” Ms. Khera recalled saying as community leaders around the table nodded their heads.

Ms. Napolitano, who sat with the group for more than an hour, committed to meeting with them more frequently. Ms. Khera said she left feeling somewhat hopeful.

“I think our message is finally starting to get through,” she said.

12-17

US Puppet Cuts His Strings

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thwarted by the American government on compromise with Taliban, Karzai has begun openly defying his patrons

By Eric Margolis

2010-03-31T115509Z_01_BTRE62U0X4200_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-AFGHANISTAN-TALIBAN-OBAMA

U.S. President Barack Obama inspects a guard of honor with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, March 28, 2010.

REUTERS/Jim Young  

April 11, 2010 “Toronto Sun” — Henry Kissinger once observed that it was more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy.

The latest example: the U.S.-installed Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who is in serious hot water with his really angry patrons in Washington.

The Obama administration is blaming the largely powerless Karzai, a former CIA “asset,” for America’s failure to defeat the Taliban. Washington accused Karzai of rigging last year’s elections. True enough, but the U.S. pre-rigged the Afghan elections by excluding all parties opposed to western occupation.

Washington, which supports dictators and phoney elections across the Muslim world, had the chutzpah to blast Karzai for corruption and rigging votes. This while the Pentagon was engineering a full military takeover of Pakistan.

The Obama administration made no secret it wanted to replace Karzai. You could almost hear Washington crying, “Bad puppet! Bad puppet!”

Karzai fired back, accusing the U.S. of vote-rigging. He has repeatedly demanded the U.S. military stop killing so many Afghan civilians.

Next, Karzai dropped a bombshell, asserting the U.S. was occupying Afghanistan to dominate the energy-rich Caspian Basin region, not because of the non-existent al-Qaida or Taliban. Karzai said Taliban was “resisting western occupation.” The U.S. will soon have 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, plus 40,000 dragooned NATO troops.

Karzai even half-jested he might join Taliban.

Washington had apoplexy. A vicious propaganda campaign was unleashed against Karzai. The New York Times, a mouthpiece for the Obama administration and ardent backer of the Afghan war, all but called for the overthrow of Karzai and his replacement by a compliant general.

An American self-promoter, Peter Galbraith, who had been fired from his job with the UN in Kabul, was trotted out to tell media that Karzai might be both a drug addict and crazy.

Behind this ugly, if also comical, spat lay a growing divergence between Afghans and Washington. After 31 years of conflict, nearly three million dead, millions more refugees and frightful poverty, Afghans yearn for peace.

For the past two years, Karzai and his warlord allies have been holding peace talks with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia.

Karzai knows the only way to end the Afghan conflict is to enfranchise the nation’s Pashtun majority and its fighting arm, the Taliban. Political compromise with the Taliban is the only – and inevitable – solution.

But the Obama administration, misadvised by Washington neocons and other hardliners, is determined to “win” a military victory in Afghanistan (whatever that means) to save face as a great power and impose a settlement that leaves it in control of strategic Afghanistan.

Accordingly, the U.S. thwarted Karzai’s peace talks by getting Pakistan, currently the recipient of $7 billion in U.S. cash, to arrest senior Taliban leaders sheltering there who had been part of the ongoing peace negotiations with Kabul.

It was Karzai’s turn to be enraged. So he began openly defying his American patrons and adopting an independent position. The puppet was cutting his strings.

Karzai’s newfound boldness was due to the fact that both India and China are eager to replace U.S./British/NATO domination of Afghanistan. India is pouring money, arms and agents into Afghanistan and training government forces. China, more discreetly, is moving in to exploit Afghanistan’s recently discovered mineral wealth that, says Karzai, is worth $1 trillion, according to a U.S. government geological survey.

Russia, still smarting from its 1980s defeat in Afghanistan, is watching America’s travails there with rich enjoyment and not a little yearning for revenge. Moscow has its own ambitions in Afghanistan.

This column has long suggested Karzai’s best option is to distance himself from American tutelage and demand the withdrawal of all foreign occupation forces.

Risky business, of course. Remember Kissinger’s warning. Karzai could end up dead. But he could also become a national hero and best candidate to lead an independent Afghanistan that all ethnic groups could accept.

Alas, the U.S. keeps making the same mistake of seeking obedient clients rather than democratic allies who are genuinely popular and legitimate.

12-16

Book Review: Rounded Up

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Entrapment After 9/11
By Shamshad Ahmad, PhD
Troy Book Makers: 2009.
www.thetroybookmakers.com

Book Review by Karin Friedemann, MMNS

Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, was thrust into the media spotlight with claims that his name was allegedly discovered in an address book found in the pocket of a “terrorist” killed by US soldiers in Iraq. At the time, Aref was working as an imam at an Islamic center in Albany, NY. After it was exposed that the entire case against him was a fraud based on a mistranslation, the US government resorted to “secret evidence” to continue Aref’s prosecution.

“How can a trial be called fair if a defendant, or even a defendant’s attorney, cannot challenge the evidence of the accusation against him?” asks the author.

Step by step this book details the injustices suffered by Aref and the local community.

The legal atrocity starts when the FBI raided the mosque in the culmination of a sting operation. An accused felon serving as a cooperating witness hoped to avoid prosecution in return for fingering Aref and local pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain as dangerous Islamic terrorists. Such sting operations have been part of a larger strategy on the part of the Neocon-corrupted FBI and DOJ to justify selective surveillance and prosecution of Muslim Americans. A show trial based on secret evidence ended with a guilty verdict and an extremely harsh sentence handed down in 2007.

Dr. Ahmad describes how improper prosecutorial psychological tactics, US government manipulation or miscategorization of the evidence, and judicial misconduct gave the false impression the defendant was involved with terrorism when the actual albeit false charges pertained to money laundering.

Meanwhile, many supportive community members, media journalists, and cartoonists actively demonstrated their belief in Aref’s innocence. These American patriots bridged the gap between immigrant Muslims and the local community in order to preserve the freedom of an innocent man and to save what is left of America’s political integrity.

This book is an extremely painful and frustrating journey through the perversion of US law enforcement, which smears innocent people as terrorists in order for the government to save face for its failure to catch any real terrorists in the post-9/11 era.

It is too bad that every falsely accused person doesn’t have a friend like Dr. Ahmad to tell his story step by step, point by point. It is my hope that the evidence presented in this book will help win Aref’s freedom in his ongoing legal battle.

Those interested in learning more about the life and travails of Yassin Aref may wish to also read his book “Son of Mountains,” available at http://www.yassinaref.com/.

12-14

Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate.  The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan

11850

Jones Road

Houston, TX 77070

Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate.  The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan

11850

Jones Road

Houston, TX 77070

Final Destination Iran?

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Rob Edwards, The Herald (Scotland)

Hundreds of powerful US bunker-buster bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 Blu bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Irans controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons.

Although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is used by the US as a military base under an agreement made in 1971. The agreement led to 2,000 native islanders being forcibly evicted to the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The Sunday Herald reported in 2007 that stealth bomber hangers on the island were being equipped to take bunker-buster bombs.

Although the story was not confirmed at the time, the new evidence suggests that it was accurate.

Contract details for the shipment to Diego Garcia were posted on an international tenders website by the US navy.

A shipping company based in Florida, Superior Maritime Services, will be paid $699,500 to carry many thousands of military items from Concord, California, to Diego Garcia.

Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs.

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran, said Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran. US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours, he added.

The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel, Plesch argued.

The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely, he added. The US … is using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Irans actions.

According to Ian Davis, director of the new independent thinktank, Nato Watch, the shipment to Diego Garcia is a major concern. We would urge the US to clarify its intentions for these weapons, and the Foreign Office to clarify its attitude to the use of Diego Garcia for an attack on Iran, he said.

For Alan Mackinnon, chair of Scottish CND, the revelation was extremely worrying. He stated: It is clear that the US government continues to beat the drums of war over Iran, most recently in the statements of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

It is depressingly similar to the rhetoric we heard prior to the war in Iraq in 2003.

The British Ministry of Defence has said in the past that the US government would need permission to use Diego Garcia for offensive action. It has already been used for strikes against Iraq during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars.

About 50 British military staff are stationed on the island, with more than 3,200 US personnel. Part of the Chagos Archipelago, it lies about 1,000 miles from the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka, well placed for missions to Iran.

The US Department of Defence did not respond to a request for a comment.

12-12

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

kuwait28606_wideweb__470x311,0 The pages of history reveal the anguish, sweat and tears that women throughout the ages have suffered in winning suffrage rights from often male-dominated societies. Hard-fought, and eventually won, battles have been waged from the sunny coastlines of California all the way to the villages of France and back again. And, despite our extremely advanced technological age that has morphed the depths of our world into the palms of our hands, many women across the globe are still fighting for their rights.

One such country, where women have seen great progress in the area of women’s suffrage rights, is the tiny gulf State of Kuwait. Kuwaiti women won the right to vote and participate in parliamentary elections way back in 2005. However, it would take another 4 years for Kuwaiti women to circumvent political roadblocks intentionally put in their path and assert their right to participate in the inner workings of government. In 2009, Kuwaiti women cheered from their balconies and congregated in the streets to congratulate one another over no less than four Kuwaiti women being voted into the Kuwaiti parliament.

However, since that one sweet victory, women’s suffrage in Kuwait has come to a screeching halt. This past Monday, Kuwaiti women seized the opportunity of International Women’s Day to lodge a public complaint. The primary area of contention is the fact that Kuwaiti women are not allowed to become judges. And most are prevented from being promoted to higher positions in the government. Quite notably only 17 Kuwaiti women hold high-ranking government posts as opposed to 252 positions held by their male counterparts.

At a special symposium held to commemorate International Women’s Day in Kuwait, Kuwaiti women showed up in force to demand answers in an all too public forum. Kuwaiti women, ranging from lawyers to housewives, stood up to allow their voices to be heard. Gender discrimination was on the tip of all of the women’s tongues as the Kuwaiti government was branded too conservative and resistant to change. One speaker, a lawyer named Salwa al-Ajmi, told the symposium, “I have been working as a lawyer for the past 32 years but still I cannot become a judge. It is shameful that the government has accepted and signed international treaties banning discrimination against women and still bars females from becoming judges.”

The symposium also highlighted other areas where Kuwaiti females face gender discrimination and lack basic human rights which should be an embarrassment to a country that, at least on paper, purports to uphold the rights of women within its borders. For example, Kuwaiti women who choose to marry a non-Kuwaiti are legally barred from giving their children or even their husband the Kuwaiti nationality, which comes with countless financial perks and benefits from the government. Contrastingly, Kuwaiti males enjoy full nationality rights regardless of whom they marry. As a result, Kuwaiti women cannot receive a free home from the government or monthly social welfare payments for their children that, once again, Kuwaiti males benefit from.

All hope is not lost as a female member of parliament, MP Rula Dashti, used the symposium as an opportunity to announce her plans to draft a new gender equality bill that she will present at the next session of the Kuwaiti Parliament.  The timing could not be riper for Kuwaiti women to make headway with at least some of the rights they are after, as the Kuwaiti government is trying to amp up its global reputation as a beacon of human rights appreciation.

12-11

America After the Quiet Coup

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Edward L. Palmer, Robert N. Rhodes and Alice J. Palmer

“There has been a quiet coup in the US in which a financial oligarchy has gained hegemony over the government structure.” That seizure of power has resulted in devastation for Black America, where “48% of the children of middle class Black Americans border on poverty.” Among the general public, “70% of last year’s college graduates in the US did not receive job offers.”

“A financial oligarchy has gained hegemony over the government structure.”

America is on a path toward a savage capitalism that is already decimating the middle class and working people and swelling the ranks of the poor. Adam Smith never intended this.

The U.S. government has spent more than one trillion dollars of taxpayer money to resuscitate the financial services economy and restore the status quo while unemployment has grown by millions since January 2009, and all without developing the real economy: production, sustainable development, infrastructure, and social networks.

Unlike Germany, for example, where, faced with a similar economic downturn, Chancellor Angela Merkel, a conservative, chose to increase public spending on production, infrastructure and human capital. Or, as in Sweden, which took measures to reverse unemployment and the contracting gross domestic product by isolating bad debts, stabilizing their currency, and allowing some banks to fail.

Or, for that matter, the win-win strategy the Chinese favor, which pursues their national economic interests without seeming to threaten the national interests of other countries.

Americans should ask themselves the fundamental questions that Bob Herbert is asking over and over in his New York Times columns: How do you put together a consumer economy that works when the consumers are out of work, and when poverty, particularly among Black Americans, is alarmingly high.

“At least 30% of America’s children are poor; tent cities are now housing displaced and desperate families.”

The statistics about Main Street are distressing. At least 30% of America’s children are poor; tent cities are now housing displaced and desperate families. According to a recent Harper’s magazine monthly index, 70% of last year’s college graduates in the US did not receive job offers. Some 16% of the daughters and sons of White Americans are not as financially stable as their parents. Most disturbing is that 48% of the children of middle class Black Americans border on poverty as they earn little more than $23,000 a year. Their parents, whose incomes average $55,000, came of age in the 1960’s.

For decades, from the late 1940’s through the end of the 1980’s, Black men expected to find work in the plants that dominated industrial centers such as Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Steady work, no matter how initially back-breaking and low-level, afforded Black families adequate incomes to purchase homes and send their children to college from which a solid, often politically active, Black middle class emerged.

There is a “silent Black depression” in the United States, according to a 2008 report issued by the Institute of Policy Studies, in which 29.4% of Black households have zero or negative net worth as of 2004 compared with 15% of Whites; and Black males aged 16-19 have a 32.8% unemployment rate. People of color, in general, are more likely to be poor in the United States; yet, poverty is rarely discussed as an element of the country’s economic crisis.

“29.4% of Black households have zero or negative net worth.”

To gauge the consequences to America’s eroding consumer and family income economies we must look beyond spurious US unemployment and employment figures that do not adequately tell us how many new jobs are part time and how many workers are discouraged or under-utilized. Most European countries count the number of adults who are employed, which is a more realistic measure of consumer and family-economic well-being.

What does happen to a dream deferred? Job loss can also mean pension loss – a loss of family sustainability – which could cause a social crisis for decades to come, warns the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in its yearly report. During the vaunted 1990’s, employers, looking for savings to their companies, encouraged working Americans to choose market-driven defined contribution pension packages that hinted at easy-living wealth at retirement instead of the traditional defined benefit pensions that assured steady retirement incomes. In 2008, private pension funds lost more than 25% in returns; so thousands of retirees cannot make ends meet, and thousands of younger workers must start anew to build their nest eggs.

Yet corporate chief executives and their circle earn an almost unbelievable 400 times what the average employee earns; and, as we have seen recently, garner enormous bonuses in spite of failing companies.

If we say in this country that we believe in family values, then we should value the family with adequate and equitable work, education, pensions and health care policies that matter to their well-being.

The US is not just experiencing an economic crisis, this is a crisis of our social being; and there are no quick fixes. Simon Johnson, a former Chief Economist for the International Monetary Fund, pointed out that there has been a quiet coup in the US in which a financial oligarchy has gained hegemony over the government structure.

“In 2008, private pension funds lost more than 25% in returns.”

During the 19th century through c1929, it was common to experience economic panics roughly every 20 years, e.g., in 1819, 1837, and 1873. Since World War II, we have not had feast or famine years. Why? Perhaps because Keynesian principles were in practice that fostered the judicious use of government interventions to fine tune the economy to avoid crises that imperiled people and businesses alike.

At the start of the 1980’s, the size of the financial service sector, i.e., traditional banks, was 4% of gross domestic product; and the number of financial corporations on the stock exchange was 0%. It was against the law for the financial service sector to be listed on the stock exchange. The Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933, passed after the Great Depression, which prevented banks from underwriting stocks and bonds for companies, was annulled in practice during the 1980’s, and the practice became law in 1999. The financial sector, especially banks, became one-stop centers for selling insurance, questionable mortgages and other risky undertakings to an uninformed public.

What is the significance of this change? A recent Bank of International Settlement report from Switzerland shows that world GDP (the real economy of the world’s people) is about a tenth the size of the financial services sector alone, and the gap continues to widen.

Many respected economists are alarmed by such economic indicators, the direction the US is taking, and the toll on people’s standard of living. Joseph Stieglitz calls the present-day economy ersatz capitalism; Paul Krugman calls it crony capitalism. John Monks, Secretary General of the European Confederation of Trade Unions, calls the economy casino capitalism. By any name, ponzi schemes are proliferating.

“World GDP (the real economy of the world’s people) is about a tenth the size of the financial services sector alone.”

Of course America’s financial sector should be kept viable; but in the long run, its salvation depends upon the ability of Americans to participate in and benefit from the economy. Real capital uses money to buy raw materials and machinery, hire workers, and produce products that can be sold for more than the cost of their production. Moreover, investment in research and development should be ongoing as new technologies and new ideas lead to innovations and new productivity. Real capital does not hollow out the lives of the average American.

It is in the interest of the United States, its people, and its place in the world to promote a sustainable development model, which is comprised of a labor policy, deliverable industrial and infrastructural advancement strategies, and social policies that ensure human well-being in health, education, and the post-work and sunset years. Since these policies and practices are not self-generating, it is necessary for common-sense minded people to undertake decisive, principled, actions to forge the path to our well-being.

Edward L. Palmer is Senior Research Associate, retired, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois, palmeredward@ymail.com; Robert N. Rhodes is Political Science Professor, retired, University of Ohio; Alice J. Palmer, PhD, is a former Illinois State Senator and current Associate Research Professor, University of Illinois aapalmur@yahoo.com.

12-11

Women’s Reservation Bill: “Conspiracy” Against Muslims…?

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Congress-led government’s attempt to create history on March 8, 2010 by securing passage of Women’s Reservation Bill through the Parliament on International Women’s Day has failed. The controversial bill reserves 33 percent of legislative seats in the Parliament. Ironically, though the bill has support of the Congress and from ranks of opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left bloc, it is fiercely opposed by Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bahuajan Samaj Party (BSP).

Being celebrated across the world for almost 100 years, the global theme highlighted by United Nations for International Women’s Day this year was “Equal rights, Equal opportunities: Progress for all.” In India, the attempt made to reserve 33 percent of seats for women in the Parliament did not succeed on March 8. Rather, the dismal picture presented of the ruckus created in the Parliament, leading to repeated adjournments of both the Houses, raised questions on politicians playing a greater part in distorting legislative procedures than in contributing to actually creating history. Soon after the bill was tabled in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) by Law Minister Veerappa Moily, around a dozen members opposing it attacked the Chairperson, Vice President Hamid Ansari. They even threw tore the bill into pieces and threw around the paper, pen stands and microphone. The legislators opposing the bill shouted down the supporters to prevent a debate on the bill.

Justifying their opposition, the SP and RJD announced withdrawal of their support to the Congress-led coalition government. Demanding a quota within the reservation-quota for women, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said: “We are not opposing the bill per se. We want, and the nation wants, that the reservation should be given to backward women who don’t have resources. The real India should be empowered. Give them 50 percent reservation. We will not oppose that.” Taking the same stand, SP leader Mulayam Singh said that the bill should provide quota for minorities, Dalits and backward classes. Claiming that bill was a “conspiracy” against interests of Muslims and Dalits, SP chief said: “The interests of minorities and Dalits are being undermined. The reservation should be for Muslims.”

BSP leader Mayawati also opposes the bill without their being a “quota-within-quota” for women belonging to backward castes and the minority community. Incidentally, rifts are reported within the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) too, with one of its key allies Trinamool Congress led by Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee demanding reservation for minorities and backward classes in the bill. 

While the BJP pledged its support to bill, it expressed reservations on voting for it without a debate on the same. Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP legislator in Rajya Sabha said: “We want this bill to be passed with proper debate and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure this eventuality in the house. Let us try to trust the managerial ability of this government which is coming in to question with every passing hour.”

Meanwhile, as Women’s Day passed by with the government having failed to “create history,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “It’s wastage of the day (International Women’s Day). The Women’s Reservation Bill is a subject where the only question is when and not if. It is an idea whose time has come.” Criticizing the bill’s opponent, he said: “The thinking of a handful of people has been exposed…. This mentality brings shame on Indian democracy.”

In general, the Indian Muslim leaders and organizations are keen on a reservation bill for increasing minorities’ representation in the Parliament. The women’s bill, without any reference to Muslim women, carries little importance for them. They are opposed to it, fearing that it would further marginalize Muslims’ representation in the Parliament.

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) represented by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal in the Lok Sabha has opposed the bill, describing it as “simply unacceptable for minorities especially Muslims.” “The bill is actually an anti-minority bill in guise of empowerment of women,” he said. AIDUF claims that prominent political houses aim to use the bill to let women members of their families enter the Parliament. The bill thus is a game plan of a section of political elite to make a weak woman weaker and a strong one stronger, AIDUF said. With there being a “negligible minority representation” in the Parliament, the bill will lead to “no representation” for the minorities. Without any quota for Muslim and Dalit women, the bill is a “mockery at all minorities and Dalits and against the interest of Indian nationhood,” AIUDF stated. “If religion based reservation is unacceptable for majority when it comes to political empowerment of minorities, how can a gender-based reservation be viewed as rational,” AIUDF questioned.

Since 1996, the Women’s Reservation Bill has been introduced and re-introduced several times in the Parliament to have only faced strong opposition. With their political base emerging from the support of minorities and backward classes, SP, RJD and BSP are determined to fiercely oppose it. Describing the bill as “political dacoity,” which “won’t be tolerated,” Lalu Prasad told media persons in presence of Mulayam Singh: “We will use our democratic rights fully whatever the consequences. They (the government) can get us thrown out.”

12-11

The Road to Armageddon

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Craig Roberts

Armageddon The Washington Times is a newspaper that looks with favor upon the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neocon wars of aggression in the Middle East and favors making terrorists pay for 9/11. Therefore, I was surprised to learn on February 24 that the most popular story on the paper’s website for the past three days was the “Inside the Beltway” report, “Explosive News,” about the 31 press conferences in cities in the US and abroad on February 19 held by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, an organization of professionals which now has 1,000 members.

I was even more surprised that the news report treated the press conference seriously. How did three World Trade Center skyscrapers suddenly disintegrate into fine dust? How did massive steel beams in three skyscrapers suddenly fail as a result of short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires? “A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7,” reports the Washington Times.

The paper reports that the architects and engineers have concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided “insufficient, contradictory and fraudulent accounts of the circumstances of the towers’ destruction” and are “calling for a grand jury investigation of NIST officials.”

The newspaper reports that Richard Gage, the spokesperson for the architects and engineers said: “Government officials will be notified that “Misprision of Treason,’ U.S. Code 18 (Sec. 2382) is a serious federal offense, which requires those with evidence of treason to act. The implications are enormous and may have profound impact on the forthcoming Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial.”

There is now an organization, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth. At the main press conference in San Francisco, Eric Lawyer,the head of that organization, announced the firefighters’ support for the architects and engineers’ demands. He reported that no forensic investigation was made of the fires that are alleged to have destroyed the three buildings and that this failure constitutes a crime.

Mandated procedures were not followed, and instead of being preserved and investigated, the crime scene was destroyed. He also reported that there are more than one hundred first responders who heard and experienced explosions and that there is radio, audio and video evidence of explosions.

Also at the press conference, physicist Steven Jones presented the evidence of nano-thermite in the residue of the WTC buildings found by an international panel of scientists led by University of Copenhagen nano-chemist Professor Niels Harrit. Nano-thermite is a high-tech explosive/pyrotechnic capable of instantly melting steel girders.

Before we yell “conspiracy theory,” we should be aware that the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists offer no theory. They provide evidence that challenges the official theory. This evidence is not going to go away.

If expressing doubts or reservations about the official story in the 9/11 Commission Report makes a person a conspiracy theory kook, then we have to include both co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission and the Commission’s legal counsel, all of whom have written books in which they clearly state that they were lied to by government officials when they conducted their investigation, or, rather, when they presided over the investigation conducted by executive director Philip Zelikow, a member of President George W. Bush’s transition team and Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a co-author of Bush Secretary of State Condi “Mushroom Cloud” Rice.

There will always be Americans who will believe whatever the government tells them no matter how many times they know the government has lied to them. Despite expensive wars that threaten Social Security and Medicare, wars based on non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, non-existent Saddam Hussein connections to al Qaida, non-existent Afghan participation in the 9/11 attacks, and the non-existent Iranian nukes that are being hyped as the reason for the next American war of aggression in the Middle East, more than half of the U.S. population still believes the fantastic story that the government has told them about 9/11, a Muslim conspiracy that outwitted the entire Western world.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter to these Americans how often the government changes its story. For example, Americans first heard of Osama bin Laden because the Bush regime pinned the 9/11 attacks on him. Over the years video after video was served up to the gullible American public of bin Laden’s pronouncements. Experts dismissed the videos as fakes, but Americans remained their gullible selves. Then suddenly last year a new 9/11 “mastermind” emerged to take bin Laden’s place, the captive Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the detainee waterboarded 183 times until he confessed to masterminding the 9/11 attack.

In the Middle Ages confessions extracted by torture constituted evidence, but self-incrimination has been a no-no in the U.S. legal system since our founding. But with the Bush regime and the Republican federal judges, whom we were assured would defend the U.S. Constitution, the self-incrimination of Sheik Mohammed stands today as the only evidence the U.S. government has that Muslim terrorists pulled off 9/11.

If a person considers the feats attributed to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, they are simply unbelievable. Sheik Mohammed is a more brilliant, capable superhero than V in the fantasy movie, “V for Vendetta.” Sheik Mohammed outwitted all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies along with those of all U.S. allies or puppets, including Israel’s Mossad. No intelligence service on earth, or all of them combined, was a match for Sheik Mohammed.

Sheik Mohammed outwitted the U.S. National Security Council, Dick Cheney, the Pentagon, the State Department, NORAD, the U.S. Air Force, and Air Traffic Control. He caused Airport Security to fail four times in one morning. He caused the state-of-the-art air defenses of the Pentagon to fail, allowing a hijacked airliner, which was off course all morning while the U.S. Air Force, for the first time in history, was unable to get aloft intercepter aircraft, to crash into the Pentagon.

Sheik Mohammed was able to perform these feats with unqualified pilots.

Sheik Mohammed, even as a waterboarded detainee, has managed to prevent the FBI from releasing the many confiscated videos that would show, according to the official story, the hijacked airliner hitting the Penagon.

How naive do you have to be to believe that any human, or for that matter Hollywood fantasy character, is this powerful and capable?

If Sheik Mohammed has these superhuman capabilities, how did the incompetent Americans catch him? This guy is a patsy tortured into confession in order to keep the American naifs believing the government’s conspiracy theory.

What is going on here is that the U.S. government has to bring the 9/11 mystery to an end. The government must put on trial and convict a culprit so that it can close the case before it explodes. Anyone waterboarded 183 times would confess to anything.

The U.S. government has responded to the evidence being arrayed against its outlandish 9/11 conspiracy theory by redefining the war on terror from external to internal enemies. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on February 21 that American extremists are now as big a concern as international terrorists. Extremists, of course, are people who get in the way of the government’s agenda, such as the 1,000 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. The group used to be 100, now it is 1,000. What if it becomes 10,000?

Cass Sunstein, an Obama regime official, has a solution for the 9/11 skeptics: Infiltrate them and provoke them into statements and actions that can be used to discredit or to arrest them. But get rid of them at all cost.

Why employ such extreme measures against alleged kooks if they only provide entertainment and laughs? Is the government worried that they are on to something?

Instead, why doesn’t the U.S. government simply confront the evidence that is presented and answer it?

If the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists are merely kooks, it would be a simple matter to acknowledge their evidence and refute it. Why is it necessary to infiltrate them with police agents and to set them up?

Many Americans would reply that “their” government would never even dream of killing Americans by hijacking airliners and destroying buildings in order to advance a government agenda. But on February 3, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the U.S. government can assassinate its own citizens when they are overseas. No arrest, trial, or conviction of a capital crime is necessary. Just straight out murder.

Obviously, if the U.S. government can murder its citizens abroad it can murder them at home, and has done so. For example, 100 Branch Davidians were murdered in Waco, Texas, by the Clinton administration for no legitimate reason. The government just decided to use its power knowing that it could get away with it, which it did.

Americans who think “their” government is some kind of morally pure operation would do well to familiarize themselves with Operation Northwoods. Operation Northwoods was a plot drawn up by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism in American cities and fabricate evidence blaming Castro so that the U.S. could gain domestic and international support for regime change in Cuba. The secret plan was nixed by President John F. Kennedy and was declassified by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. It is available online in the National Security Archive. There are numerous online accounts available, including Wikipedia. James Bamford’s book, Body of Secrets, also summarizes the plot:

“Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman [Gen. Lemnitzer] and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.”

Prior to 9/11 the American neoconservatives were explicit that the wars of aggression that they intended to launch in the Middle East required “a new Pearl Harbor.”

For their own good and that of the wider world, Americans need to pay attention to the growing body of experts who are telling them that the government’s account of 9/11 fails their investigation. 9/11 launched the neoconservative plan for U.S. world hegemony.

As I write, the U.S. government is purchasing the agreement of foreign governments that border Russia to accept U.S. missile interceptor bases. The U.S. intends to ring Russia with U.S. missile bases from Poland through central Europe and Kosovo to Georgia, Azerbaijan and central Asia. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke declared on February 20 that al Qaida is moving into former central Asian constituent parts of the Soviet Union, such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Holbrooke is soliciting U.S. bases in these former Soviet republics under the guise of the ever-expanding “war on terror.”

The U.S. has already encircled Iran with military bases. The U.S. government intends to neutralize China by seizing control over the Middle East and cutting China off from oil.

This plan assumes that Russia and China, nuclear armed states, will be intimidated by U.S. anti-missile defenses and acquiesce to U.S. hegemony and that China will lack oil for its industries and military.

The U.S. government is delusional. Russian military and political leaders have responded to the obvious threat by declaring NATO a direct threat to the security of Russia and by announcing a change in Russian war doctrine to the pre-emptive launch of nuclear weapons. The Chinese are too confident to be bullied by a washed-up American “superpower.”

The morons in Washington are pushing the envelope of nuclear war. The insane drive for American hegemony threatens life on earth. The American people, by accepting the lies and deceptions of “their” government, are facilitating this outcome.

[Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House in March, 2008. His latest book, How The Economy Was Lost, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press.]

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Breaking the Chains of Labor

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan – MMNS Middle East Correspondent

DUBAI_WORKERS_(409_x_279) They say it takes a village to raise a child and, at least in the Middle East, that sentiment is taken quite literally. For decades, the wealthy denizens of the oil-drenched Gulf region have relied heavily upon an army of laborers numbering in the millions to help raise their families. Most of the laborers hail from the poorest nations of Southeast Asia, like India and Sri Lanka. They fulfill jobs that no one else wants to or seem beneath the wealthy elite class. Some serve as housemaids, nannies, cooks, gardeners and chauffeurs. Others have managed to crash through the ‘domestic servitude’ ceiling and work both in the private sector and public sectors as janitors, office boys and the like.

For many of the poor laborers, the jobs that they are contracted to do in the Gulf region are the only means of financial support for their families back in their homelands. And the support is often meager as the salary contracts are rarely enforced. The actual salary they receive is, typically, at least 60% lower than the original salary that was contractually agreed upon. Not only are the laborers exploited financially, but they are also often abused, both verbally and physically. Regardless of the drawbacks, the quality of life in the Gulf is a lot better than that in their poor homelands.

However, the result of the dependence upon such a huge force of laborers for so many years has come at a hefty price. There simply are not enough jobs for Gulf nationals. Well-educated and trained Gulf citizens are left redundant in most cases, as there are not enough of the highly coveted government jobs, with perks like obscenely high salaries and extra holidays, to go around. For this reason, many Gulf countries have little choice but to take drastic measures to release its dependence on a largely foreign workforce in order to free up jobs for their own people.

One such country is the State of Kuwait, who this week announced that the Kuwaiti government is initiating plans to replace its estimated 600,000 strong foreign workforce, in various sectors, at a rate of 10% per annum. The government also plans to ban hiring foreign workers, with the exception of those who are highly skilled, and will begin purging existing workers right back to their homelands.

The rationale behind the Kuwaiti government’s move is to cut spending and open new employment opportunities for eager Kuwaiti workers. According to a recently conducted study by the Kuwait Parliament, there are an estimated 60,000 foreign-held jobs today that could be handed over to Kuwaitis tomorrow.  The decision is also a preemptive strike to secure Kuwait’s borders as foreigners out number Kuwaitis 3 to 1. Other Gulf countries have already taken initiatives to break the chains of reliance upon a foreign workforce.

Further governmental plans include specialized training courses for Kuwait citizens so that they can step right into a skilled job previously held by a foreign laborer. And the government will also pay special attention to the Kuwait youth, which makes up a whopping 50% of the Kuwaiti population. Ignoring this segment of the future Kuwaiti workforce would be fatal as the next generation has the potential of meeting all of the employment needs of the country.

The impact of Gulf states sending much of their foreign workforce packing will have far reaching effects, most notably with the foreign laborers themselves. Once back in their homelands, there is little guarantee that they will be able to earn a quality living, as unemployment is usually high and community programming to help the poor is sparse. Being forced ‘out to pasture’ before their time is like a cold hard slap in the face for a foreign workforce that has helped build the Gulf region up to global contender that it is today.

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12 Officers Charged, Turkey Coup Plot

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Twelve senior Turkish military officers were charged on Wednesday over an alleged plot to topple a government that secularist hardliners fear is pursuing a hidden Islamist agenda.

Turkey’s top military commanders, who have seen the army’s role as ultimate guardian of secularism eroded under European Union-backed reforms, held an emergency meeting late on Tuesday and warned in a statement of a “serious situation.”

With tensions hitting investors’ confidence and feeding speculation that elections due next year could be brought forward, Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul will meet Turkey’s top military commander on Thursday, a government source said.

Turkish stocks closed down 3.4 percent and the lira weakened to a seven-month low against the dollar, while bond yields rose.

Adding to uncertainty, Turkey’s chief prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya said he was looking into statements made by deputies from the ruling AK Party, but had not reached the stage of opening a formal investigation against the party.

Yalcinkaya tried to have the party banned for anti-secular activities in 2008. Speculation that he could try again has prompted talk that the government could call a snap election.

The AK Party, first elected in 2002 in a landslide victory over older, established parties blighted by corruption and accusations of misrule, is also embroiled in a dispute with the judiciary — another pillar of the orthodox establishment.

The military has ousted four governments of various political hues since 1960, although the army says the days of coups are now over.

While the chances of another coup are seen as remote, anxiety is growing over what the generals might do next and what strains the situation might put on the armed forces’ leadership.

Turkey’s NATO allies, particularly the United States, want the overwhelmingly Muslim nation to mature as a democracy.

Its prospects of entering the EU depend partly on ending the special status that made the arrest of military personnel, still less a former force commander, by civilian authorities inconceivable until recently.

Tensions were triggered by an unprecedented police swoop on Monday that detained around 50 serving and retired officers.

A court late on Wednesday ordered five officers, four of them retired and including former Rear Admiral Feyyaz Ogutcu, to be sent to jail pending trial. Another two were released.

The most senior detainees, retired Air Force Commander Ibrahim Firtina and ex-navy chief Ozden Ornek, are being held at police headquarters in Istanbul and are expected to be brought to the court for questioning on Thursday.

The other seven officers charged in the early hours of Wednesday consisted of four admirals, two retired and two serving, a retired brigadier-general and two retired colonels.

Pending a formal indictment, the detainees are accused of belonging to a terrorist group and of attempting to overthrow the government by force.

Six officers were released from custody on Tuesday after questioning. It was unclear if they would face charges.

The army leadership has said previously that probes into a series of alleged coup plots is hurting morale in the ranks.

In a characteristically veiled and brief statement on its web site on Tuesday, the General Staff said its top commanders had met to “assess the serious situation that has arisen.”

“What do you mean? Are you going to carry out a coup?” said a headline in Taraf, a low-circulation newspaper that has broken several stories of alleged coup plots.

The current investigation into the so-called “Sledgehammer” plan, allegedly drawn up in 2003, was triggered by a report in Taraf last month. The military has said the plan was just a scenario drawn up for an army seminar.

Retired military officers are among around 200 people indicted over separate plots by a far-right group known as Ergenekon. Critics say that trial is being used to target political opponents, an accusation the government rejects.

(Additional reporting by Pinar Aydinli, Zerin Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara, Alexandra Hudson and Thomas Grove in Istanbul; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Ralph Boulton and David Stamp)

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The Manhunt of Epic Proportions

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

spy The scene plays out like something you would see in a chilling Hollywood thriller or spy movie. A team of seasoned assassins, eleven altogether, plots and plans a ‘hit’ to be carried out against an unsuspecting victim. In this case, the target was a Hamas official named Mahmud Al-Mabhuh and his death is not fiction but rather a stone-cold reality. Last January in the tiny Gulf nation of Dubai, the corpse of  Al-Mabhuh was found in his luxury hotel suite. The apparent mode of death was suffocation, however a coroner’s official report regarding the exact cause of death is still pending.

According to the lead investigator, Dubai police chief Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the team of assassins were composed of both men and women from various European countries. This past week, the Dubai government released a series of photos of the eleven suspects and began creating a timeline up until the point where the assassins completed their mission and fled the tiny Gulf emirate. Composed of six Britains, three Irish, one French and one German national, authorities believe that the team entered the country around the same time that Al-Mabhuh did and followed him straight to his hotel room.

Once there, hotel video cameras corroborate the intricate plot of the assassins, which included several hotel rooms, disguises and the tools necessary to deprive Al-Mabhuh of his life. According to Tamim, at least 4 of the assassins broke into Al-Mabhuh’s hotel room while he was out. They waited for him to come back and then took less than 10 minutes to kill him. Once the deed was done, the assassins executed an almost perfect escape plan, exiting Dubai on separate commercial airplanes in under 20 hours.

The release of the eleven suspects passport information, by the Dubai government, should have provided more answers than it did questions. Unfortunately, it has left even more unanswered questions. By all accounts, the Irish assassins do not even exist according to the government of Ireland.  The passport number for the supposedly German assassin is wrong. And a few of the assassins named are actually Israeli citizens who have ironclad alibis and have never even traveled to Dubai. The Dubai police have not revealed exactly how they obtained the information about the assassins. However, many Hamas-friendly political analysts have speculated that the assassination was a poorly carried out murder plot designed by the long arm of Israel’s Mossad, or Secret Service.

It’s no mystery that there was no love lost between Al-Mabhuh and Israel. Al-Mabhuh was one of the original founders of Hamas. Israel also accused him, in recent years, of participating in a 1989 murder of two Israeli soldiers. And Israel has, for years, blamed Al-Mabhuh for orchestrating teams of smugglers to bring missiles into the Gaza Strip to help Hamas to continue to fight the Israeli occupation. But according to former Mossad officer Rami Igra, in an interview with the Israel Army Radio, the plan looks professional but really “…doesn’t look like an Israeli operation.” The primary reason being the assassin’s total lack of regard for the hundreds and hundreds of security cameras all over Dubai, almost as if they wanted to be filmed so as to lay blame elsewhere. And according to some speculators, the real culprits might be too close for Hamas’s comfort such as in the company of their rivals found in the late Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Movement.

The government of Dubai has reached out to the global community for assistance in solving the murder and this week launched an international manhunt to bring the assassins to justice. It’s not surprising that Dubai is eager to put the murderers behind bars, as it is fast becoming the site of several high profile murders.

Back in 2007, the famous Lebanese singer Susan Tamim was slain in her luxury high rise Dubai condo by none other than a hit man for her estranged boyfriend.

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Egypt/Palestine : The Wall of Shame

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tariq Ramadan

2010-02-10T110526Z_497589140_GM1E62A1H2L01_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL

Palestinians tries to break off bricks from a building at an abandoned airport that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip February 10, 2010. Israel launched an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian rocket fire, an army spokesperson said on Wednesday.

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

It is common knowledge that the Palestinians have long been direct victims of the directionless, spineless and hypocritical polices of the Arab leadership. It is equally common knowledge that the State of Israel need make no effort to impose its vision, its methods and its objectives. Given the support of the United States, Europe’s guilty silence and the compliant passivity of the Arab regimes, we know what to expect. The foreign policy of most Arab states has been described with good reason as “pro-Zionist.” Their cowardice and treachery comes as no surprise.

Following last year’s murderous attack on Gaza by Israeli forces, we may have thought we’d seen the worst. That judgment failed to take into account the ingenuity of the “worse yet” scenario produced by the Egyptian regime and the “religious authorities” of al-Azhar. In the name of “national security”, of the fight against “terrorism”, and ultimately, of combating “corruption”, “smuggling” and “drug trafficking”, the Egyptian government is building a wall reaching twenty meters below ground level to stop the “Gazans” from carrying out their “illegal” activities and from digging “smuggling tunnels.” Of course, the Egyptian government has no intention of confining the inhabitants of Gaza to their hell; of course, the measure is dictated only by concern for national security! So persuasive is the argument that the committee of religious experts of al-Azhar quickly endorsed the government decision, declaring it to be “islamically legitimate” (“in conformity with the Shari’a”) for the country to protect its borders. (The al-Azhar scholars were responding to a fatwa issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars that had ruled the exact opposite, that the Egyptian decision was “islamically unacceptable.”)

For shame! So this is how justice is mocked, how power and religion are misused. The Palestinian people, and most of all the inhabitants of Gaza, are denied their dignity and their rights; deprived of access to food, to water and to basic health care. And now, the Egyptian government becomes the ally of Israeli policy at its worst: isolating, strangling, starving, and smothering Palestinian civilian life after having eradicated hundreds. The aim is clear: to choke off all resistance and to destroy its leadership. The Egyptian government has blocked convoys attempting to deliver badly needed aid to the Palestinian people in an effort to raise the siege of Gaza. The mobilization that brought hundreds of women and men from around the world to Rafah was met by refusal upon refusal by the Cairo authorities, along with a strategy of selective humiliation.

For shame! No wonder the Israeli government purring with contentment. After all, a new and “promising” start for the “peace process” has been announced! There will be something for everybody: the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt has spared no efforts to draft a new and “comprehensive” program. A splendid “peace process” indeed, in whose name civilians have suffered months of blockade before their leaders are invited to take their place at the “free” and “respectful” negotiating table. Israel can keep on purring: it can play for more time without making the slightest concession. Settlement activities are to be temporarily frozen—except for construction projects already underway. Finer negotiations would be hard to find!

It cannot be repeated often enough: the Egyptian “national security wall” is a wall of shame. The religious authorities that have legitimized it have behaved exactly like the notorious “ulama” (Muslim scholars) or “Islamic councils” that openly serve power, whether of dictators or the forces of colonialism, or of some self-styled Republic specializing in the manipulation of religion. What can possibly remain of their credibility after issuing a “political fatwa” that lends the Islamic endorsement of craven scholars to the power of dictatorship? Silence would have been far better.

We must condemn these unacceptable acts, and stand beside those who resist with dignity. If successive Israeli governments know one thing—with which we must agree—it is this: the Palestinian people will not surrender. For those who may still harbor doubts, we must add a second certainty, that of time: History is on the side of the Palestinians; it is they who represent, today and tomorrow, hope for the noblest human values. To resist oppression, to defend one’s legitimate rights and one’s land, to never yield to the arrogance and to the lies of the mighty. As for the power of the Israelis, the Egyptians and others, as for the fatwas of government-appointed ulama, these things too will pass; they will pass, and will be forgotten. Happily forgotten. For the duty of memory is transformed into forgetfulness when it comes to the names and the acts of dictators, traitors and cowards.

12-7

Syrian Singer Abu Ratib Pleads “Not Guilty”

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Islamic Examiner/Heather Laird

Abu Ratib January 26, 2010. In a Federal court hearing in Detroit on Monday January 25, 2010, singer Abu Raitb pleaded not guilty to the charges of making false statements to the FBI, false oath in a matter relating to naturalization and attempted unlawful procurement of naturalization.

Abu Ratib also known as Mohammed Masfaka is a beloved singer of Islamic songs. He has millions of fans throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and is respected by not only the common person but by government diplomats as well. He is considered by some Michigan residents to be one of the leading Islamic singers of all times, and is believed to have written more songs than the also popular Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Sami Yusuf.  He is the Chair of the International Union for Islamic Art.

After reading the nine-page indictment put forth by the FBI, one wonders what this case is really concerned with achieving. The document states questions asked and answered and some discrepancies in the answers. More specifically, the case mentions that Abu Ratib left off of his immigration papers a low-level job that he held for a short period of time. How many people in the United States everyday leave off previous employment on job applications. His other offense was not mentioning or mentioning incorrectly compensation. I am quite confident this happens everyday in the US as well. In fact, can everyone say Treasury Secretary?

All sarcasm aside, this is serious when it comes to immigration, and I would be on the first line of defense for my Country if you told me an immigrant left off their application that they were affiliated with some group that would harm United States citizens. But, this is not the case here. The government is saying that they knew he worked for an entity that was approved a 501(c)3 status – meaning an organization that already had some governmental scrutiny.  And, he did so here in the United States, so it was not covert or anything. How would or could he know that the government, because of its policies with Israel would change their opinion about their foreign policy? Holy Land Foundation was prosecuted and the first trial was declared a mistrial, the second received a conviction and now it is currently on appeal. So, we are prosecuting an individual because of guilt by association with a group that may or may not be considered affiliated with terrorism, but that the US Courts have not yet decided on, and not because we think “he” was a terrorist, but because he left off information from an application.

Why would we do this? The immigrant story is one that most of us are familiar with in folklore. People come to America to build a better life. They believe the will have certain unalienable rights that they do not have elsewhere. I am positive that the Masfaka family believed they would have in America what they could not find elsewhere. But, the reality for some immigrants is of another nature. Some immigrants are targeted as assets for the government. And because they are immigrants or of immigrant status can be intimidated or coerced into becoming informants or spies for the United States or have their citizenship revoked. They trust their new government. Aren’t we all raised to trust the authority in our midst – our police officers, our government. If you are a minority in the United States, a different reality exists. However, the majority is taught to trust government.

So, if you are an immigrant likely your first language is not English. You come to America wanting to be an American, and fill out your paperwork and then you are a citizen. The process is only not that simple. If the government at any time deems it necessary to use you, then they can very meticulously scrutinize every piece of paper and every conversation you have had to find a small detail left out here, a mistranslation there, etc., until an error is found or omission which to the government translates as a lie and you have now become a defendant.

What Masfaka seems to really be guilty of is not having legal representation with him at critical junctures in his immigration process. But, how many immigrants do not, and are not being prosecuted? We can presume many. This man was targeted, because of an Islamaphobic attitude that has been allowed to prevail in the United States. It is forbidden for Muslims to spy. For a man to take the stance of refusing to commit a sin in his faith is to stand for his freedom of religion. This is one of the positive rights that Americans are supposed to enjoy. It seems in this case, Masfaka may have taken that stand and is now being punished for it.

The result of this case has two very negative implications for the United States. First, it seems to tear at and shred our Constitution a little more. Not providing that blanket of freedoms that we promote as being unique to us. Second, this particular Defendant is Internationally known and beloved. And here we are again, post the Obama Cairo speech being seen as double-speak on the International scene. You say you want peace, but your actions appear to be targeting  and punishing people who do not fit the bill of terrorist.

Muslims will help their Country. No one wants corruption in the Muslim community. Why can’t we ask American Muslims to help in cleansing this Country of corruption instead of thinking the only way to do so is through seeming coercion and intimidation.

The Muslim community is praying for the Masfaka family that these charges are dropped. The American Muslim community prays for its Country in hopes that America can find a new approach and fight for all its citizens.

12-6

Indo-Pak Cricket Diplomacy Suffers

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy has been put to test again with the exclusion of Pakistani cricket players from the Indian Premier League (IPL)’s third season matches. Ironically, in the past, while Indo-Pak cricket has suffered because of bilateral tension, the game has also played a major role in adding a healing touch to the strained relations between the two countries. This time, even as some confusion still prevails as to who should be blamed for ignoring Pakistani players, the Indian government has spared little time in displaying its stand against this move. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “I think it is disservice to cricket that some of these players (Pakistani) were not picked. I don’t know why the IPL teams acted in the manner they acted. But certainly to suggest that there was a hint or nudge from the Government is completely untrue” (January 26).

Chidambaram’s stand assumes importance as it suggests that the Indian government does not want to be blamed for exclusion of Pakistani players from IPL’s Twenty20. It may be recalled that last year Chidambaram had warned the IPL against holding of the cricket tournament in the electoral season. His concern was providing security. The IPL boss Lalit Modi had then decided to hold the event in South Africa. The Indian government is apparently annoyed at exclusion of Pakistani players as it amounts to IPL adding tension to the already fragile Indo-Pak ties. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to be upset at exclusion of Pakistani players as, in his opinion, according to sources, this amounts to closing a “window of opportunity” to normalize the tense ties. Had Chidambaram refused to comment or had even restrained from criticizing the IPL, the Indian government’s stand would have carried little diplomatic or political significance. His statement that Indian government must not be blamed for IPL’s move, which he has also criticized, apparently is meant to calm the Pakistani government and appease the cricket fans waiting for the Pakistani players. Describing the latter as “among the best in Twenty20,” Chidambaram said: “These players were coming as individuals, it was not a Pakistani team.”

But the damage has been done. Reacting against IPL’s move, the Pakistani Cricket Board (PCB) withdrew the no objection certificates they had issued earlier to their players to participate in IPL. In the IPL auction held in Mumbai on January 19, 11 Pakistani players were included. None were bought by franchises leading to subsequent allegations, criticism and blame-game.  Launched by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on lines of United States National Basketball League (NBA), the IPL works on a franchise-system, which were put to auction for the first time on January 24, 2008.

An attempt has been made by some franchise owners to ease the tension by saying that “security” concerns prompted them to exclude Pakistani players. Angry and hurt, legendary Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan said in Karachi: “If the IPL franchises had any concerns about security and other issues about signing on our players they should have been clear about this and not invited them to the auction in the first place. But to include them in the auction and then to snub them was appalling and our cricket board and government should lodge a strong protest with the Indian government over this” (January 31). 

Bollywood superstar, Shahrukh Khan – who is co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)- team said that he would have selected a Pakistani player for IPL matches if his team had a slot. “Pakistani cricketers are champions and they should be selected for IPL. Their exclusion from IPL is an insult.” In the IPL’s first edition, KKR had five players from Pakistan. Referring to security concerns, he said: “If they were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully.” Giving emphasis to the need for India and Pakistan to have normal relations, he said: “We are great neighbors, They are good neighbors. Let us love each other.” “Let me be honest. My family is from Pakistan, my father was born there and his family is from there,” he said.

Shahrukh’s comments have provoked protests from Shiv Sena activists. In his editorial in party’s mouthpiece, Saamna, Sena chief Bal Thackeray wrote that Shahrukh deserves Pakistan’s highest civilian award “Nishaan-e-Pakistan” for supporting Pakistani cricketers’ inclusion in IPL. Sena activists demonstrated outside Shahrukh’s bungalow “Mannat” at Bandra. Suggesting that Shahrukh should go to Pakistan, they displayed a travel ticket for him from Mumbai to Karachi. They also tore down posters of Shahrukh’s new film, “My Name is Khan” and wrote to theatre owners asking them not to screen this move. Security was increased outside Shahrukh’s Bandra residence and a number of protestors were arrested (January 31).

Meanwhile, the Indian government is trying its best to repeatedly assert that it is against IPL’s exclusion of Pakistani players. “No one in the government wanted such a situation,” a senior government official said. Another said: “We had fast-tracked the visa process and issued them multi-entry visas in December and January so that they could take part in the tournament.”

Sports Minister M.S. Gill expressed the “hope that there will soon be an opportunity for these boys to play exciting cricket in India.” Criticizing the present fiasco, he said: “I trust that the IPL corporate owners have also taken a small lesson from it. Everyone must realize that sport is the bedrock of people-to-people contact, which we need to promote with our neighbors.” Indian government remains hopeful that Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy will be back on track soon, with the two countries’ players on one pitch!

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