Iranian President Visits Afghanistan

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Reports from Xinhua

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TEHRAN, March 9 (Xinhua) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.

“It has been decided that the president will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday,” Mehmanparast told reporters in his weekly press conference.

The visit will mark Ahmadinejad’s first official visit to the country since the re-election of Hamid Karzai as Afghan president.

An unidentified Afghan official said Monday that Ahmadinejad has postponed visit to Afghanistan which is originally scheduled on Monday.

Afghan President to visit Pakistan for seeking help to hold talks with Taliban

ISLAMABAD, March 9 (Xinhua) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai will pay a two-day visit to Pakistan on Wednesday and is expected to officially ask Pakistan for its assistance in the talks with Taliban, political analysts here said.

They said that the president will also seek the extradition of the top Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from Pakistan to Afghanistan for a court trial.

Sources from Pakistani Foreign Office said that President Karzai will meet his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and some other civil society members.

Anti-terrorism battle, U.S. army surge, repatriation of Afghan refugees and progress in the war-ravaged country will also be discussed during the meeting with Pakistani high-ups, they said.

Analysts believed that Pakistan will raise the issue of border infiltration of militants from Afghanistan and of its missing persons while Afghanistan will seek details for the recovery of the abducted Afghan diplomat Abdul Khaliq Faraakhi.

Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar has asked for Baradar extradition when he held a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik in Islamabad last month. But circumstances changed when a Pakistani court ordered not to hand over Mullah Bardar to any country.

Saleem Safi, a leading journalist and expert on Afghan affairs, told Xinhua that President Karzai’s visit is very important because the situation has changed and American authorities have given a green signal for negotiations with Taliban, adding that Pakistan could play a crucial role in the negotiations with Taliban.

It is the first visit of Karzai to Pakistan after he won his second term as President in November 2009, Safi said.

“Approach in Pakistan’s policy towards President Karzai has changed too much but there is slight shift in policy towards Afghanistan,” said the expert.

Maryana Babar, an analyst on foreign affairs agreed that the visit is very important in the backdrop of the new U.S. policy for Afghanistan, in which Pakistan has asked for a role in the negotiations process.

Babar said that Pakistani Army Chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, in his recent trip to Kabul, told the Afghan government and U.S. authorities that Pakistan could provide training to Afghan troops.

She said that the Afghan president would bring a plan of action and will ask Pakistan’s assistance in the process of reconciliation and reintegration with Taliban as Karzai has openly asked Pakistan and the Saudi Arabia for assistance in bringing Afghan Taliban to talk table on the sidelines of London conference in January.

12-11

Iran, Syria Leaders Brush Aside US Call to Weaken Ties

March 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Two countries scrap visa requirements

By Roueida Mabardi, Agence France Presse (AFP)

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DAMASCUS: The presidents of Syria and Iran signed a visa-scrapping accord on Thursday, signaling even closer ties and brushing aside United States efforts to drive a wedge between the two allies.

“I am surprised by their call to keep a distance between the countries … when they raise the issue of stability and peace in the Middle East, and all the other beautiful principles,” Syrian President Bashar Assad told a news conference in Damascus with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We need to further reinforce relations if the true objective is stability. We do not want others to give us lessons on our region, our history,” the Syrian president said.

Ahmadinejad, who flew in to Damascus earlier in the day and later met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, stressed that ties between the two Muslim states, both outspoken critics of US ally Israel, were as “solid” as ever. “Nothing can damage these relations,” he said.

On the same day in occupied Jerusalem, the United States and Israel resumed an annual “strategic dialogue” for the first time since US President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, with Iran prominent on the agenda.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Assad said his country was always on the alert against Israel.

“We are always preparing ourselves for an Israeli aggression whether it is small or big scale,” he said.

Afterward, Ahmadinejad met Meshaal, Ahmed Jibril – leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – and other Palestinian leaders critical of the peace process for talks focused on “the Israeli threats made against Syria, Iran, the Palestinians and Lebanon,” a participant in the meeting said.

Ahmadinejad told the Palestinian leaders that “Iran places itself solidly beside the Palestinian people, until their land is liberated,” the participant said, and that resistance was the “likeliest path to liberation.”

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington has been pressing Damascus to move away from Iran

Questioned on Clinton, Assad adopted an ironic tone.

“We met today to sign a ‘separation accord’ between Syria and Iran, but because of a bad translation we ended up signing an accord on scrapping visas,” he quipped.

Assad said the agreement would serve “to further reinforce relations in all fields and at all levels” between the two countries, which have been close allies for the past three decades.

In the face of US-led efforts to slap new sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program, he also defended Iran’s right to pursue uranium enrichment.

“To forbid an independent state the right to enrichment amounts to a new colonialist process in the region,” he said.

The visit came after Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria was determined to help Iran and the West engage in a “constructive” dialogue over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Western governments suspect that the program in Iran is cover for a drive to produce a bomb.

Tehran vehemently denies the allegation.

On the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit, Clinton was blunter than ever about the bid to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

Testifying in the Senate, she said William Burns, the third-ranking US diplomat, “had very intense, substantive talks in Damascus” last week on what was the highest-level US mission to the Syrian capital in five years.

Syria is being asked “generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States,” Clinton said.

12-10

Gentle, Friendly Face of Indonesia and Islam

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Greg Barton, Theage.com

ABDURRAHMAN ad-DAKHIL WAHID, FORMER INDONESIAN PRESIDENT

2009-12-31T131642Z_1627607473_GM1E5CV1N0R01_RTRMADP_3_INDONESIA-PRESIDENT WHEN the former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid succumbed to a long battle with kidney disease and diabetes, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for seven days of national mourning. For many millions of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens, the mourning is very personal.

Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, although a controversial president, was deeply loved and admired. Even before becoming Indonesia’s first democratically elected president in October 1999, he had built a towering reputation as a progressive Islamic intellectual and as a leading dissident. In fact, many feared that his unexpected entry into political office would tar his reputation as a social reformer and religious leader.

They were right to be afraid. He was never meant to be a president. It wasn’t just that his style was too unconventional, it was that he refused to play by the rules of the game and to do the sort of deals that politicians need to do. Ironically, however, it was this commitment to idealistically championing reform despite a lack of political backing for which he is currently being remembered, as much as for his contributions as an Islamic intellectual and Muslim community leader. He was the wrong man for the job but it was the right man for the time.

Born into one of Indonesia’s most prominent families of ulama, or Islamic scholars, Wahid went on to lead Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) for 15 years from 1984 until 1999. He succeeded in transforming the culture and orientation of this traditionalist Islamic association; with a membership of about 40 million people, it is the world’s largest Islamic organisation. Along with like-minded colleagues he helped ensure that the NU pesantren, Islamic boarding schools known elsewhere as madrassa, completed a transition to becoming modern schools offering the secular state curriculum alongside religious instruction. This ensured that their mostly poor rural students were able to enter fully into modern Indonesia society.

Wahid’s two grandfathers, Hasyim Asyari and Bisri Syansuri, had been instrumental in establishing NU in 1926, and his father, Wahid Hasyim, was minister of religious affairs under Sukarno and one of NU’s most prominent leaders up until his death in 1952, when the car in which he was travelling with his son, the future president, skidded on a mountain road. As the eldest of six children, Wahid felt a heavy responsibility to follow in his father’s footsteps. His solid pedigree gave him a commanding position to call for reform within NU and to challenge the Indonesian military, including president Suharto, on human rights abuses, corruption, nepotism and abuse of power. Gifted with a brilliant mind and near photographic recall, he blitzed through his pesantren studies as a teenager while sneaking off to the cinema as much as he could.

He also developed a love of literature. His mental gifts, if not his personal discipline, meant that when he arrived at Cairo’s famous al-Azhar University to study Islamic studies in 1963 he quickly found the sort of traditional rote learning in place there to be a disappointment. Neglecting his formal studies he spent his time in informal learning, extending his earlier studies to include French cinema and Western literature (read in the library of the American University) as well as hours of coffee shop debates in the cafes of Cairo.

Wahid was working at the Indonesian embassy in Cairo at the time of the 1965 coup that saw Sukarno toppled and hundreds of thousands of alleged communist sympathisers brutally murdered. He translated diplomatic cables and letters reporting events from back home and was all too aware of the culpability of NU members in aiding and abetting the violence. This led to a lifelong commitment to speaking out on human rights abuses, including those linked to his own community. As president, he sought to rehabilitate former political prisoners.

Bored with al-Azhar, he moved to Baghdad University in 1966, where he completed a degree in Arabic literature. Back home to Indonesia in the early 1970s, he threw himself into NGO activism. Like his father, he enjoyed broad friendships across all communities and was an early proponent of interreligious dialogue. He was also a champion of the rights of minority communities, including Indonesia’s Christians and Chinese, and later as president sought to advance their interests.
His leadership of NU positioned him to fearlessly critique Suharto and his regime, especially when beginning in the early 1990s Suharto sought the support of the radical Islamist elements that he previously persecuted.

To oppose this Wahid joined Djohan Effendi and others in establishing Forum Demokrasi to openly criticise the president’s use of sectarian sentiment for political purposes. In 1994, Wahid and Djohan accepted an invitation from Shimon Peres to visit Israel; they participated in the inauguration of the Peres Centre for Peace. Later, as president, he sought to open formal relations between Indonesia and Israel. Despite this bold move his popularity among his support base in NU remained undiminished and he declared that he was now prepared to run for a third five-year term as executive chairman. Suharto did all that he could to block his re-election but Wahid’s triumph established him as one of the few people who could take on Suharto and get away with it.

Nevertheless, he was forced to seek a rapprochement with Suharto following the latter’s ousting of Megawati Sukarnoputri from the leadership of her own party in 1996 and the violent suppression of her supporters. But when the Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia in the 1997, he was again at the head of the movement for reform.

A near fatal stroke in January 1998 robbed him of what was left of his failing eyesight and meant that he spent the first half of 1998 in physical rehabilitation rather than in leading the push against Suharto. Still, following Suharto’s resignation in May, Wahid was able to establish a new party designed to garner the support of members of NU but founded on principles of secularism. The success of this party, PKB, in the 1999 elections set him up for role in government. No one, however, really expected him to become president.

That occurred because Habibie, who wanted to turn his transitional presidency into a full term through election, was thwarted when he supported the referendum in East Timor and Islamist elements and others within parliament moved to block the ascension of Megawati Sukarnoputri. She eventually became president in July 2001 when parliament effectively voted Wahid out of office.

Wahid is remembered today largely for his role as a reformist president, but history is likely to also remember him as one of the 20th century’s leading Islamic intellectuals and as someone who demonstrated how a traditional Islamic scholar can also be modern, democratic and humanitarian.

Professor Greg Barton is Herb Feith Research Professor for the Study of Indonesia at Monash University, and acting director, Centre for Islam and the Modern World. He is also the author of Gus Dur: the Authorised Biography of Abdurrahman Wahid.

12-2

Obama, the Anti-Churchill?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

winston_churchill_01 If you take out just one sentence, Barack Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week was all about focusing and limiting the scope of the U.S. mission in that country. The objectives he detailed were exclusively military: to deny al-Qaeda a haven, reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Kabul government’s security forces. The nation that he was interested in building, he explained, was this one.

And then there was that one line: “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” Here lies the tension in Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge — send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down — is his answer to this dilemma.

This first year of his presidency has been a window into Obama’s worldview. Once most presidents get hold of the bully pulpit, they cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate toward grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama is a realist by temperament, learning and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing resources to achieve them and keeping his eyes on the prize.

“In the end,” the president said last Tuesday, “our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.” He explained that America’s economic and technological vigor underpinned its ability to play a world role. At a small lunch with a group of columnists before his speech last week, he made clear to us that he did not want to run two wars. He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America’s long-term security. He explained that challenges at home — economic growth, technological innovation, education reform — were at the heart of maintaining America’s status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

It is clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious — to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial. That begins with narrowing the “war on terrorism”; scaling back the conflict with the Islamic world to those groups and countries that pose serious, direct threats to the United States; and reaching out to the rest. He has also tried to develop a better working relationship with major powers such as Russia and China, setting aside smaller issues in hopes of cooperation on bigger ones. This means departing from a bipartisan approach in which Washington’s role was to direct and hector the rest of the world, pushing regimes large and small to accept American ideas, and publicly chastising them when they refused. Obama is trying to break the dynamic that says that when an American president negotiates with the Chinese or Russians, he must return with rewards or concessions — or else he is guilty of appeasement.

For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.

Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

11-51

An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Before Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan Speech of December 2009

Dear President Obama, 

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do — destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they’ve always heard is true — that all politicians are alike. I simply can’t believe you’re about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn’t so. It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You’re fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption). So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea — "Let’s invade Afghanistan! " Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin. 

There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’ s nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don’t believe it, give the British a call. I’d have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev’s number though. It’s + 41 22 789 1662. I’m sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you’re about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line — and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds. Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones. 

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it. Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!" 

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning. We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can’t take it anymore. We can’t take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don’t you understand? 

Don’t be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn’t be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can’t change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge. The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can’t be won over by abandoning the rest of us. 

President Obama, it’s time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don’t need health care, we don’t need jobs, we don’t need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, ’cause we don’t need them, either." What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that’s what they’d do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines. 

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish — the full terror of which we scarcely know. When we elected you we didn’t expect miracles. We didn’t even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn’t even function as a nation and never, ever has. 

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God’s sake, stop. Tonight we still have hope. 

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON’T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother’s son.

We’re counting on you.

Yours,

Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol. com

11-50

Eid Mubarak from Pres. Obama

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The President released the following statement to mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid-ul-Fitr:

“As Muslims in the United States and around the world complete the month of Ramadan and celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, Michelle and I would like to extend our personal greetings on this joyous occasion. Eid is a time to celebrate the completion of 30 days and nights of devotion. But even on this festive occasion, Muslims remember those less fortunate, including those impacted by poverty, hunger, conflict, and disease. Throughout the month, Muslim communities collect and distribute zakat-ul-fitr so that all Muslims are able to participate in this day of celebration. As I said in Cairo, my Administration is working to ensure that Muslims are able to fulfill their charitable obligations not just during Ramadan, but throughout the year. On behalf of the American people, we congratulate Muslims in the United States and around the world on this blessed day. Eid Mubarak.” 

Over the past month, the President and several government Agencies participated in events to mark Ramadan – the President continued the tradition of hosting an Iftar here at the White House while the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted the first in their history. The Corporation for National and Community Service spearheaded “Interfaith Service Week” as part of the President and First Lady’s Summer of Service initiative and many other groups and individuals came together to make this month a time of giving and reaching out to our neighbors in need.

The President and the First Lady extend their personal greetings on this special day. May you be well throughout the year.

11-40

Musharraf Exit Brokered by ‘Foreign Powers’

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

PressTV

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has revealed that his predecessor Pervez Musharraf was given a “safe exit” due to a secret deal in place with foreign powers.

International and local powers were guarantors in Musharraf’s resignation, Zardari said at an informal dinner meeting with journalists.

The president added that he was part of the discussions that eventually led to the former military ruler’s resignation in August 2008.

“During those talks it was decided that after quitting power, Musharraf will play golf, but now he is doing other things,” Zardari said.

Musharraf, who left Pakistan in mid-April and has been living in London for more than four months, has delivered a series of lectures commenting on Pakistani politics over the past few months.

Although Zardari did not name any countries that guaranteed immunity deal, Pakistan’s main opposition party Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has said the UK and the Saudi Arabia were guarantors in the deal, the BBC reported.

11-40

Islam A. Siddiqui, Nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of US Trade Rep.

September 24, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Islam Siddiqui Islam A. Siddiqui is currently Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America , where he is responsible for regulatory and international trade issues related to crop protection chemicals. Previously, Dr. Siddiqui also served as CropLife America ’s Vice President for agricultural biotechnology and trade. From 1997 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqui served in various capacities in the Clinton Administration at U.S. Department of Agriculture as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Senior Trade Advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.  As a result, he worked closely with the USTR and represented USDA in bilateral, regional and multi-lateral agricultural trade negotiations.  Since 2004, Dr. Siddiqui has also served on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, and Health/Science Products & Services, which advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and USTR on international trade issues related to these sectors. Betwe en 2001 and 2003, Dr. Siddiqui was appointed as Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he focused on agricultural biotechnology and food security issues.  Before joining USDA, Dr. Siddiqui spent 28 years with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  He received a B.S. degree in plant protection from Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar , India , as well as M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology, both from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Carter Fasts with Gazans

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Carter, Religious Jews Fast With Gaza

Palestine Chronicle

jimmycarter

Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife fasted in solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip who are living under siege.

About going without for day Carter laughed it off and said, “I didn’t miss the food at all, but I missed water.”

He said, “I spent all day thinking of the people of Gaza and the harsh conditions of life imposed on them by the embargo.” The former US President said that he prayed for the Palestinians of Gaza while fasting for the first time in his more than 80 years of life.

Jimmy Carter said that he had received a call from Khahamat religious Jews in the United States who told him that they had already begun fasting once a week in solidarity with Gaza and its people, and asked him to join them, but he and his wife decided that they would do so alone and already had started to do so.

Carter’s speech came during iftar, the evening meal, held at the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah. It included members of the Elders, a group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, and a number of Palestinian intellectuals, businessmen and representatives of civil society institutions.

During the meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast, the group exchanged views. Desmond Tutu said, “I’ve heard many Palestinian and Israeli youth. I have heard things that are very impressive, but I felt the presence of hope in spite of the occupation and the suffering of the Palestinians that it causes, which is very important.”

Speaking of politics, Carter said, “We must not forget that all the Israeli settlements to the east of the Green Line are illegal, how can you talk about a settlement freeze” in a clear reference to what is being talked about these days from the current US administration led by Obama.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I37)

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Largest Ever Gathering At Houston Mayoral Iftar-&-Dinner

Picture L “This is my last term as well as Council Member M. J. Khan’s last term. My Descendant Mayor and other Elected Officials should learn that when you move an event from outdoors to indoors, the number of people gets tripled.” These were the words of Mayor of Houston Honorable Bill White, as he welcomed hundreds of Houstonians of all faiths present at the traditional Annual Iftar-&-Dinner by the Mayor. Prominent among them were several present and former elected officials & various candidates vying for City Hall Positions in November 2009 Election; Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem & his wife; Congressman AL Green, Houston Police Chief Harold L. Hurtt; City of Houston Councilpersons Pam Holm, Peter Brown, Jolanda Jones & M. J. Khan; President, Vice President and General Secretary of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), who were one of the major organizers of the event, Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, Hashim Badat & Kamal Husain; President & Former President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston Khalid Khan & Ghulam Bombaywala; President of Council On American-Islamic Relation Houston Chapter (CAIR-Houston)  Dr. Tarek Hussein; Hafiz Mohammad Iqbal and many others.

Sumptuous Food was catered by Mezban and Demasis Restaurants and served in a well organized by volunteers of Aga Khan Ismailia Muslims Community. This year saw record number of people attending.

Dr. Aziz Siddiqi and Dr. Tarek Hussein Faraz Khan, talked about the lessons learnt from Ramadan, as the month brings God Consciousness’ and an ingredient of thankfulness in a person. As such we need to be thankful to God for all the Blessings. God has informed us in Quran that if we do not thank human beings for their services, God will not be happy.

Mayor White and Congressman AL Green lauded the Muslim community for their societal service. Due to forecast for inclement weather, Councilman M. J. Khan moved the event from the City Hall Reflecting Pool to George R. Brown Convention Center. “Weather is good out there, but inside it is cool and we will have a nice and spiritual evening together.” Informed Emcee for the Evening Khalid Khan, President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) and one of the candidates to replace termed-out M. J. Khan for District “F”.

For more information, one can reach Councilman M. J. Khan Office at 832.393.3002 or E-Mail: Rabia.Taslim@CityOfHouston.Net

You Cannot Use Cellular Phone In School Zone In Texas

With the schools back in session in the State of Texas, new traffic laws have been passed by the Texas Legislature that will take effect September first. Experts are saying that a lot of these laws are improvements; and they do also raise awareness for motorists out there, who just sometimes need to be reminded about wireless devices or buckling up.

The new laws prohibit cell phone use in school zones, and require everyone in the car to wear a seatbelt, not just those in the front seat. Tough new penalties on DWI offenders, who are caught with children in the car; first time offenders will automatically have their licenses suspended, and reinstatement fees are going up.

There are also new graduated licensing rules for young drivers’ ages 16 to 19-year-olds. Also starting September first, some younger kids will find themselves back in child safety seats. New medical research shows children under the age of eight – or under four-foot nine – still need special restraints in the car. Tickets for this offense can’t be issued till next summer.

Here are some of the things to see in the new traffic laws:

HB 537: Requires all occupants of a vehicle to be secured by a seatbelt; not just those seated in the front seat.

SB 61: Amends the statute regarding child passenger safety seats. Any child younger than 8-years old or less than four-foot nine-inches in height must be in an approved child safety seat.

HB 55: Makes it illegal to use a wireless communication device in a school zone, unless a hands-free device is used.

HB 2730: Increases penalties for driving while intoxicated with a child passenger. First time offenders will have their license automatically suspended. Reinstatement fees will double.

HB 2012: increases penalties on those driving with a suspended license and without insurance.

11-37

Woman Serves as Mosque President

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jeff Swicord , VOA

salmenna sedique
Salmenna Sedique prays, at far left.

Toleda, Ohio–05 August 2009–Some in the West have long held negative stereotypes toward the Islamic faith, particularly when it comes to the role of women. But if one woman in Toledo, Ohio has her way, that is about to change. She was recently elected president of a local Islamic center. She oversees the operations of a community center, school, and mosque, including the activities of the Imam. Her goal is to show the non-Muslim world that women of Islam can do and achieve anything they want.

Like many Afghan women, Salmenna Sedique enjoys spending quiet time with her family in their Toledo Ohio home.

But unlike some of her counterparts, Salmenna also plays a prominent role outside the home, in Toledo’s Muslim community. 

She is the first woman president of the Masjid Saad Islamic Center, which includes an Islamic school and mosque.

“It is a hard position for anyone to run, Salmenna said. “It is a responsibility. And every single second I am thinking, am I going to fulfill it in the right manner, in the right way?”

Toledo Ohio is an old industrial city in the middle United States. The Masjid Saad center started as a small prayer area at a local University more than twenty years ago.

It has grown to a community of over one thousand people. Women play prominent roles in all aspects of the center’s life.

Salmenna wants to change the negative stereotypes held by some toward Islam — particularly, the role of women. She says rules that say women cannot be educated, or leave the home without the company of a male family member, or must be covered, are rooted in culture, not Islamic tradition. She says, in Islam, those issues are a matter of choice and points to the role women played in the household of the Prophet Mohammed (s).

“They were not hiding,” Salmenna says, “They were not behind the curtains; they were not behind the walls. They were going to battles, they were in business.”

Salmenna also plays a prominent role in the family business.

She keeps the books and maintains the computer system at her husband Ahmad’s auto dealership. It was her husband who pushed her to become president of the Islamic center. “We needed somebody in our community right now to work and organize it. And she is qualified for that,” Ahmad Sedique says, “And I am fully supporting her for that.”

Salmenna says leading by example is the best way to change perceptions. She encourages young people to get more involved at the center. Today, these young women are planning youth group activities, but were shy about talking with us on camera.

Salmenna wants to see more action from Muslims outside the center.  “We don’t have people in politics, we don’t have people to fill out the social working areas. They don’t look at it as a priority, but to me,” she adds, “it is a priority.”

Her appointment as president is for one year. She encourages women to educate themselves, get involved, and stand up for their Islamic rights.

11-34

Aurangzeb Khan, CEO, Everspin Technologies

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

55CB CHANDLER, AZ–Aurangzeb Khan is the CEO and President of Everspin Technologies which is a global leader in integrated magnetic systems.

The Chandler, Ariz.-based company designs magnetic random access memory chips, which use magnets to store data. The company started researching the MRAM technology some years ago as part of Motorola, which then spun out all of its chip operations as Freescale Semiconductor in 2004. Everpspin then spun out of Freescale the middle of last year.

Earlier, co-founded Altius Solutions and managed it through its merger with Simplex Solutions. He then served as executive vice president and general manager of the SoC Foundry business at Simplex through its successful initial public offering (IPO) in May 2001 and later acquisition by Cadence Design Systems in June 2002.

At Cadence, he served as corporate vice president of the Strategic Planning Group and, earlier, as corporate vice president and general manager of the Design Services business.

Khan held several engineering and general management positions at Cirrus Logic, Tandem Computers (now part of HP) and Fairchild. He helped deliver several industry-first systems and SoCs to market, including the Sony Computer Entertainment GS®I-32 and PlayStation®-2 Graphics Synthesizers, the Cirrus Logic 3Ci SoC and the Tandem Computers NonStop Himalaya and Cyclone series of massively-parallel servers. Several of the SoC and systems products achieved $200M to more than $1B in annual revenues.

Khan received a master’s in electrical engineering and a master’s in engineering management from Stanford University and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer sciences and nuclear engineering from University of Califonia, Berkeley.

11-31

TX Muslim Candidate!

July 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By ILyas Hasan Choudry, MMNS

 

Houston, Texas: I attended a fundraiser for M. J. Khan way back in 2003. This was the first time he was vying to become the City of Houston Councilperson. Many including myself doubted and did all kinds of analysis that M J has little chance to win the elections in the 4th largest city of USA (Houston). Due to the blessing of prayers of hundreds; his personal hard work; his family’s absolute support; the funds he received from his friends and community persons; and team of shrewd advisors, he surprised several pessimists.

khan21

M J Khan will be termed out as the City Councilman in December 2009. Before that in November 2009, elections to various offices will be held in Houston. M J Khan, who in 2007 got the “Outstanding American by Choice Award from the USCIS-U.S. Department of State”, has again shown his courageous character, by confidently entering into citywide election race to become the Controller of the 4th largest city of USA (Houston). The distinction for the Controller of Houston is that it is an independent position and his or her decisions are not influenced by the Mayor or City Council. The City of Houston has strong Mayoral Form of Government.  On behalf of the citizens of Houston, the City Controller is the person that brings the much needed check-&-balance to the Mayor and City Council (the executive and legislative branches) of City government.

The position of Controller of the City of Houston has a rich history of about 106 years. The Controller is the Chief Financial Officer of the 4th largest City of USA, making decisions that affect each and every citizen and businesses of the city. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the assets of the City are properly accounted for and expended in a manner consistent with applicable laws, policies, plans and procedures. To achieve this, the Controller conducts audits of different departments of the City. Controller processes and monitors more than $2.5-Billion Annual Budget.

As such a M J Khan win in November 2009 elections, will not be merely a personal triumph, but a landmark occasion for all the smaller communities of Houston, where they will proudly see someone most competent from diverse communes, making tough decisions for the betterment of all the Houstonians.

More information on his campaign (Theme: “Fiscal Responsibility for a Stronger Houston”), can be received by regularly visiting www.MJKhan.Com Contributions can be made to his campaign at the website by Citizens and Permanent Residents from anywhere in USA.

M J Campaign for Controller is Viable

Saturday, June 27, 2009, saw the Gala Fundraising Dinner of M J Khan for Controller Campaign at the impressive Westin Galleria Hotel. Reasonable numbers of people attended the fundraiser. Prominent among them were all the close members of M J Khan’s extended family; Former City of Houston Councilperson Gordon Quan and his wife; Counsel General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem and his wife; Director of Harris County Houston Sports Authority Board Haroon Shaikh; President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) Khalid Khan; Former President of PAGH Ghulam Bombaywala; President of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Dr. Tariq Hussein; President of Shifa Foundation Dr. Moien Butt; Chairman Executive Board of Ibna Sina Foundation Nasruddin Rupani; Attorney Noaman Hussain; Attorney Neiyar Izfar; Former Houston President of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) Dr. Asaf Qadeer; Entrepreneurial Zakaria Family; Media and Campaign Coordinators Ghulam Chisti and Azam Akhtar; and several representatives of community media.

Program started with heart wrenching recitation of Quran by young Hafiz Anis-ul-Haq, who recited verses about unity among the community and importance of calling people towards all that is good, while advising people to avoid doing evil. Following Hafiz Anis-ul-Haq recital, Dr. Attiya Khan, wife of M J Khan thanked everyone for coming and requested to support M J Khan for Controller Campaign.

Dr. Neelofur Ahmad was emcee on the occasion, while Ghulam Bombaywala, Dr. Asaf Qadeer, Dr. Abdul Kader Fustok; Attorney Noaman Hussain; Dr. Moien Butt; Dr. Mubashir Chaudhry; Faisal Ameen; and others helped with the fundraiser. It was informed that at the first fundraiser in 2003 for the City Council Election, M J Khan raised $250,000 from our community and six years later, several communities living in District “F” of M J received many dollars in grants to improve the living standards of people: As such the funds of our community, used in the election of the right person to the office of City Council, resulted in the betterment of whole of Houston. This positive investment also brought more than $5-Million to the Pakistani, Muslim and South-Asian Communities in the fields of health and social wellbeing.

It was further informed that the name of M J is not only restricted to Houston, but his name is heard in the Congressional Hallways in Washington, D.C. and Legislative Corridors in Austin, Texas.

More than $103,000 was received at this fundraiser in cash and pledges. M J Khan Camping for Controller already had more than $300,000 in the coffers before the fundraiser. It is projected that it will cost each candidate $1-Million to run for this position. With over $400,000 raised five months before the election, M J Campaign is in a strong position.

Before that, the former city councilman Gordon Quan, while introducing Councilman M J Khan also talked about the challenges he is going to face: “This is a city and not federal government, where one can print millions of dollars to come out of financial crisis. Here one has to balance the budget, show fiscal responsibility and take tough decisions for the future of this great city of Houston, which we and our children proudly call home. M J came up with the catchphrase that District F is the forgotten district and that after getting elected; he will make it the known and best district. With his persistence and hard work, he has brought several positive improvements to District F and we all need to applaud him for the excellent work he has done. With these six years experiences, his strong academic background having done MBA from the prestigious Rice University and having run a business, M J is one of the strongest and most capable candidates for this position. He will be a pride for all communities in these trying economic times.”

M J Khan in his presentation thanked his Sister Yasmin Khan, Wife Dr. Attiya Khan, all extended family members, friends and well-wishers and said his earlier win with Blessing of God due to sincere supplications by everyone in the community and requested for continuing prayers. He said in 2003, people did not give him much chance to win: That motivated him to persistently work and he did not win once, but three times due to the Grace of God. He said putting sincere and complete efforts with clean heart is what is needed; results are in the hand of God.

“I have worked diligently to serve all Houstonians including our community as the City Councilman and will work even more meticulously, if given chance by all Houstonians, to serve them as their proficient Controller:” Said M J Khan.

11-28

In Iran Election, Tradition Competes With Web

June 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post Foreign Service

2009-06-09T155641Z_01_AJS09_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-ELECTION

A supporter of Iran’s presidential election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, with her hair braided with green ribbons, attends a campaign rally in Tehran June 9, 2009. Green is the campaign colour of Mousavi.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

TEHRAN, June 8 — Supporters of both leading candidates in this week’s Iranian presidential election flocked to mass rallies here Monday, and the gatherings underscored the differences between the tactics of the two camps.

More than 100,000 backers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gathered in traditional fashion at a central mosque, arriving in buses organized by members of the baseej, Iran’s voluntary paramilitary force. The crowds were so dense that Ahmadinejad’s vehicle was unable to reach the stage.

Wearing a headband in the colors of the Iranian flag, the symbol of Ahmadinejad’s campaign, Leili Aghahi, 17, waved at the president. Ahmadinejad stood for a while on the roof of his sport-utility vehicle, immobilized by the adoring crowd, then left without giving a speech.

2009-06-09T154316Z_01_AJS04_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-ELECTION “Our supporters like to be close to the president,” said Javad Shamaqdari, a presidential adviser on the arts who is also the director of Ahmadinejad’s campaign movies. “The Grand Mosque is a good, central meeting place for us,” he added.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad’s main challenger, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, had to be more inventive to find a place for their rally. Over the weekend, a government organization refused permission for his campaign to use Tehran’s 120,000-seat Azadi Stadium for a rally originally planned for Sunday. But in less than 24 hours, using text messages and Facebook postings, thousands of Mousavi backers gathered along Vali-e Asr Avenue, Tehran’s 12-mile-long arterial road.

Many brought green ropes or strings, which they tied together to form a giant chain in Mousavi’s signature color. Groups wearing green head scarves or green T-shirts arrived from schools and universities. “This way, down here,” student organizer Mohsen Ghadiri, 19, called to about 40 students from the prestigious Elm-o-Sanat University, as they looked for empty spaces in the long line of people.

“Thanks to Internet and text messages, we can rally big crowds in a very short time,” noted Ghadiri, who wore a green shirt emblazoned with Mousavi’s portrait.
Shamaqdari, Ahmadinejad’s adviser, called Mousavi’s campaign tactics a form of “psychological warfare” copied from the “color revolutions” that swept away governments in Georgia and Ukraine.

“They place groups of 100 people wearing colors at several locations in Tehran. This disrupts traffic, making people think that something big is happening,” he said. “These are all the methods of a velvet revolution, but this one is only meant to get them votes.”

Reza Badamchi, manager of a pro-Mousavi Web site, disagreed. “If there are any similarities between our campaign and a velvet revolution, this is purely accidental. We don’t want a revolution. We want Mousavi to win,” he said.

Badamchi’s site, called Sepidedam.com, broadcasts speeches by Mousavi, who has repeatedly complained that state television favors Ahmadinejad. “So we still get our message out through the Web. And the best part is, it’s for free,” Badamchi said, adding that “these are the most digital and virtual elections ever” in Iran.

Shamaqdari portrayed Mousavi’s supporters as geeks who spend too much time at their computers.

“Even though it is bad for their mental health, Mousavi’s supporters spend hours on the Internet,” he said. “Our youths are more social. They like to hang out at baseej centers, on the streets or play sports. They like to meet in groups. Mousavi’s supporters are more solitary.”

11-25

What Now, Pakistan?

August 21, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Peter Symonds

2008-08-18T142847Z_01_ISL38_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-POLITICS-RESIGNATION

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf salutes as he leaves the presidential house after his resignation in Islamabad August 18, 2008. Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday in the face of an impending impeachment motion by the ruling coalition government. 

REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

Effectively abandoned by his domestic allies and international backers, Pakistan’s military strongman Pervez Musharraf formally resigned yesterday as the country’s president rather than face impeachment proceedings that were due to commence this week.

Musharraf’s resignation followed more than a week of behind-the-scenes manoeuvres involving US, British and Saudi officials as well as the Pakistani army to pressure the government to grant the former dictator immunity from prosecution. While Musharraf denied that he had been given any favours in return for his resignation, there is little doubt that a deal has been reached to allow him a “dignified exit."

The writing has been on the wall since Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) suffered a humiliating defeat in national elections in February at the hands of opposition parties—the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Musharraf is widely hated for his nine years of dictatorial rule and support for Washington’s “bogus war on terrorism” that has triggered what amounts to a civil war in Pakistan’s tribal border areas with Afghanistan.

For months, the Bush administration and its allies pressed the PPP-led coalition government to collaborate with Musharraf, which the PPP endeavoured to do. The PML-N and its leader Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted as prime minister by Musharraf in a military coup in 1999, sought to exploit popular opposition by demanding impeachment and the reinstatement of 57 supreme court judges sacked by Musharraf last year. Sharif pulled the PML-N ministers out of the cabinet in May and threatened to leave the coalition completely if agreement could not be reached on these issues.

Confronting a steady loss in support for the government, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari finally announced plans on August 7 to impeach Musharraf. Opinion polls showed overwhelming popular support—some 75 percent of respondents—for ousting the president, which was reflected yesterday in spontaneous celebrations in the streets of Pakistani cities. While Zardari declared impeachment would commence, no formal charge sheet was presented to parliament, however, allowing time for a deal to be worked out behind the scenes.

Considerable international pressure was bought to bear to end the impasse without initiating impeachment proceedings. While reluctantly recognising that the president had to go, the last thing that Washington wanted was any public airing of Musharraf’s crimes and anti-democratic methods. Any such probe threatened to expose the extent of US involvement with the Pakistani security forces in the suppression of Islamist groups inside Pakistan and war being waged against armed militia in the Afghan-Pakistani border areas supportive of anti-occupation insurgents inside Afghanistan. The CIA and FBI may well be implicated in the hundreds of “disappearances” for which Musharraf and the army are allegedly responsible.

Having relied on Musharraf since the US occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush administration was also concerned that the fragile Pakistani government would fail to continue to back military operations against Islamist militias in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). After winning the February election in part by branding Musharraf as a US stooge, the coalition government initially proposed to end the fighting by reaching peace deals with the various armed groups—a move that was sharply opposed in Washington.

Senior Bush administration and Pentagon officials have mounted an intense campaign to pressure the Pakistani government into taking military action in the border areas. There is every sign that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was issued with an ultimatum during his trip to Washington in July—either take action against anti-US guerrillas, or the US military would. In response, Gilani declared that the US “war on terrorism” was “our war”.
Just one day before impeachment proceedings were announced, the Pakistani military launched a major offensive into Bajaur agency. Intense fighting is now taking place in areas from the Swat district, through the Peshawar districts, to the Bajaur and Kyber agencies. After 12 straight days of air and ground bombardment, it is estimated that up to 300,000 people have fled the border areas. The timing points to a tacit understanding with Washington to initiate extensive military action in return for US backing to remove Musharraf.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was fulsome in her praise of the former Pakistani dictator yesterday. Musharraf, she declared, had been “a friend of the United States and one of the world’s most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism”. It was precisely Musharraf’s decision to withdraw Pakistani support from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and his backing for the ongoing US occupation that was one of the major factors in the collapse of his initial post-coup support.
British and Saudi officials have also been engaged in closed-door talks to secure a deal that would allow Musharraf to resign in return for immunity from prosecution and other assurances. Saudi Arabia’s powerful intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz arrived in Islamabad over the weekend and was reported to have threatened to withdraw oil subsidies worth $5 billion a year unless Musharraf was allowed to leave gracefully.
Likewise the Pakistani military, while publicly insisting that it would stay above politics, nevertheless quietly made clear its opposition to impeachment proceedings—a point underscored yesterday by the decision to give Musharraf a final guard of honour.

If Musharraf were to be tried for breaches of the constitution and other crimes, then the army top brass on which he rested during his nine years in power also risked being implicated. As Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan’s Daily Times, commented to the Guardian: “Nobody wants the Pandora’s box opened up. The issue of impeachment is really a non-starter.”

An unstable government

While Musharraf has now stepped down, the political crisis in Islamabad is certain to intensify. The two major coalition parties—the PPP and PML-N—are longstanding and bitter rivals. As a number of commentators have noted, opposition to Musharraf was the main glue holding their alliance together. Even on the immediate issue of Musharraf’s future, there is no agreement.

PPP officials have hinted that a deal was reached to give legal immunity to the former president as long as he agreed to go into exile. At this stage, spokesmen for Musharraf have indicated that he wants to remain in Pakistan and has plans to take up residence in a villa being constructed outside Islamabad. In his hour-long televised speech yesterday, Musharraf delivered a strident defence of his period in office, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and blaming the government for the deterioration of the country’s economy. The PPP certainly does not want Musharraf within striking distance as opposition grows to its rule.
The PML-N continues to insist, publicly at least, that Musharraf should be charged and prosecuted for his crimes. Last week Sharif told a meeting in Lahore: “How can safe passage be given to someone who has done this to Pakistan?” There are also differences between the two parties over the reinstatement of supreme court judges, in part because PPP leader Zardari fears that the judges may allow the revival of corruption convictions against him.

Another immediate bone of contention will be Musharraf’s replacement as president. He has been formally succeeded by the chairman of the Senate, Mohammed Mian Soomro, a close ally who was prime minister until the election in February. A new president will be elected via country’s electoral college—the national assembly and four provincial assemblies meeting together. Zardari is known to have ambitions to fill the post, but such a move will be forcefully opposed by Sharif. The constitution drawn up by Musharraf gives the president considerable power, such as to sack the government and to make key appointments, including the army commander.

More fundamentally, the government now faces the same dilemmas that confronted Musharraf. It is under intense pressure from Washington to intensify military operations in the border areas with Afghanistan where the army has largely lost control. Gilani faces the prospect of being branded a US puppet and rapidly losing support. Any retreat risks the prospect of unilateral US military action, which would also trigger a popular backlash against the government.

At the same time, the Pakistani economy is being hit by rising oil and food prices as well as weakening demand in the US and Europe for its exports. The annual inflation rate is running at a 30-year high of nearly 25 percent; the Pakistani rupee has fallen 22 percent against the declining US dollar this year; and in the past five weeks, the country’s foreign exchange reserves have dwindled by nearly $US1.1 billion to $10.15 billion, mainly as a result of the cost of imported oil. The trade deficit has ballooned by 53 percent to $20.7 billion for the 2007-08 fiscal year that ended in June. The share market has slumped by 30 percent since April.
Share values and the rupee rose yesterday on news of Musharraf’s resignation, but further political turmoil will rapidly reverse those gains. Rising prices will only fuel social unrest and opposition to the government. While Musharraf’s resignation is being presented in the Pakistani and international media as a step toward democracy in Pakistan, both the PPP and PML-N have a record of autocratic rule. Whatever its final makeup, the regime holding the reins of power in Islamabad will not hesitate to use anti-democratic methods to suppress any political opposition to its policies.

10-35

Clashes in Baidoa Province, Somalia

May 4, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Clashes in Baidoa Province,
of Somalia
By Ali Abdi Hussein, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Baidoa, Somalia— At least one person has beeen killed seven people has been wounded in clashes between militias loyal to Somali president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed and local militias in Baidoa, capital town of Baidoa on Tuesday. The cause of the clashes was continuing rivalry between the rival militias in Baidoa suburb last month.
Yusuf’s militia with Toyota pick up vehicle exchanged gunfire with local militias in central Baidoa town injuring seven people.
Two of the wounded were said to belong militias of president Abdulahi Yusuf, while one was of local militias.
“It was a short-term battle but it has an impact on the city activities, the people remained indoors fearing the stray bullets from the warring sides,” an eyewitness said.
“The president himself is creating an insecurity atmosphere because he deployed thousands of Puntland militias in the region,” one of Baidoa residents reported to the press, asking not to be identified.
One of Yusuf’s injured militia members was in serious condition after his bladder hit by a bullet.
Baido town, which is a temporary capital for the transitional federal government, has been relatively quiet for the past few days, but now it is becoming apparent that the security is getting out of control after the latest attack in the town. -

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