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Death in Pakistan

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The Guardian has some truly gruesome details regarding yesterday’s suicide attackin Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

At least four gunmen stormed into the mosque on Parade Lane, a five-minute drive from army headquarters, firing guns and throwing grenades at a crowd of at least 150 men, women and children.

The crowd scattered for cover but the militants singled out some for murder in cold blood, according to witnesses. “They took the people, got hold of their hair and shot them,” a retired officer who survived the attack told a local television station.

The attack comes as a surprise, as Rawalpindi is one of Pakistan’s most heavily-guarded cities, and one of its holiest.

More than 400 Pakistanis have died since early October in attacks on UN offices, security installations and crowded bazaars. The capital, Islamabad, increasingly resembles cities such as Kabul, with rising sandbagged walls, checkpoint-clogged streets and shopping areas bereft of foreigners and, increasingly, Pakistanis.

It is important to realize that prior to 2007, Pakistan had zero suicide attacks per year. It’s rapid and precipitous rise in suicide bombings coincided directly with the ouster of Musharraf and the escalation of drone attacks in Pakistan.

At least the victims seem to have an idea of what causes these attacks:

The violence also feeds anti-Americanism. After the bombing some Rawalpindi residents blamed the US presence in Afghanistan for fuelling militancy.

Perhaps someone might inform President Obama of this.

Written by pavanvan

December 5, 2009 at 9:44 am

A Lesson in Tolerance

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“Oh, you can’t trust the Muslims,” a coworker of mine informed me, “They follow their own rules. They act as one. I mean, look at their religion! No morality whatsoever! If you want to have five wives, well, go right ahead. If you want to blow yourself up, just be sure to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ beforehand.”

He continued: “We Hindus, on the other hand, when can you point to a single instance of violence originating from us? Where can you point to a single Hindu trying to convert someone by force?”

Meekly, (for I knew how hot emotions run during times such as these) I mentioned the Partition Riots that took place in 1947, or the periodic bouts of ‘communal violence’ which seem to crop up every two years or so.

“The communal riots, that’s something totally different!” he barked, “Those are usually started by the other side anyway. Are you saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves? Anyway, can you point to a single Hindu suicide bomber?”

I could not. Yet it seemed pointless to mention at that time the danger of the views he espoused, that by perpetuating the “Us vs. Them” mentality he did damage of a far more insidious sort than quite a lot of suicide bombers together.

I mention this episode because it was so similar in nature to many other conversations I have had with Hindus regarding Hindu-Muslim relations. Perhaps it is a symptom of the unspoken segregation that exists in India that I have not yet had the chance to get a Muslim view on the subject, though I suspect such a conversation would go quite the same, only in favor of their “side”.

Unspoken though it may be, Hindu-Musilm segregation is quite real, and it stands apparent even to a foreigner such as myself. The city in which I stay, Hyderabad, is famous for the peace with which its population lives, despite being an almost fully hybrid city. Hindu temples dot the sidewalks in one district, and merely a few kilometers away one can hear the local Mosque’s ringing call to prayer. Yet one sees very little commingling between Hindus and Muslims. The city is pocked with Hindu or Muslim enclaves, and their residents rarely venture to the other side. And it is an undeniable fact that the Muslim neighborhoods are worse off in almost every respect to the Hindu boroughs. The few Muslim neighborhoods I visited were crowded labyrinths of squeezed-together houses and suffered from a lack of fresh water, lack of access to sewage systems, poor and irregular food delivery and almost no sanitation to speak of, while the neighborhoods I saw with all the ‘modern amenities’ were populated almost exclusively by Hindus.

“India will never solve its problems,” a pessimistic friend of mine once said, “because India will never get along with itself. If you had a stone in the middle of the road and were trying to organize people to help move it to the side, it just wouldn’t happen. One person will say we should move it to the right. The other person will insist on moving it to the left. They’ll form parties over the issue, hold elections, even. Whatever the outcome, no matter how well monitored, the losing side  will insist that it had been cheated, that the elections were fraudulent. Then there will be recounts, runoff elections. One faction of the ‘right side of the road’ party will splinter off, saying it is no longer represented by party leadership, and form its own party – say, the ‘further down the road’ coalition which states that the rock should neither be moved to the right nor left. Hindus will insist on taking leadership positions in the moving of the rock, Muslims will howl at the injustice of it all. Perhaps they’ll agitate for their own rock, to move in a fashion they see fit.”

At that point he ran out of examples, but I could continue for him if he wished: “Then, a language controversy would erupt. Marati speakers would insist on writing their language on the rock; Hindi speakers will make the same demands, and so will the Tamils. The lesser represented languages will join together in a coalition which, of course, will subsequently break apart.” And so forth.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. “In such a country,” my friend concluded, “It’s impossible to believe that anything gets done.”

It is clear, however, that things are getting done, and one need look no further than India’s new crop of billionaires to see it.  But one wonders if India will ever move beyond its communal mentality, if it will ever see itself, and its problems, holistically. There is much evidence that this is already happening, however slowly.

On the other hand, I have even heard the overpopulation problem blamed on the Muslims.

Written by pavanvan

November 19, 2009 at 10:45 am

Fresh Horror in Pakistan

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Some grim news today in Pakistan – more than 38 civilians and security officers  met their grisly end in coordinated attacks around Islamabad. This is the seventh such attack this month, each growing more vicious than the last. The story was sixth-page news for the American and European journals, but east of Suez it gained considerably more attention. Which is a shame, because except for Pakistan and India, there is no one for whom these developments mean more than the United States. Between President Obama’s escalation of the bombing campaign and his $7.5 Billion military-bribe package, the US has placed more than one bet on Pakistan.

But it is a curious feature of our discourse that these developments will invariably be framed as a suggestion that we keep on investing in Pakistan. “If we stop now,” the argument would surely run, “then we’d be explicitly condoning these acts, and would probably invite more.” Left unexamined is the possibility that our efforts to slow or stop terror attacks have actually had the opposite of their intended effect.

A definite strain of thought exists among policy circles that US troops are all that stands between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chaos – it forms a “conventional wisdom” from which our leaders never diverge. The fact that Obama refuses to even consider withdrawing troops from Afghanistan stands in full evidence of this. However it is not yet clear that US efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan are having any effect on the rate of terrorism, except perhaps one of encouragement. When one considers that post-9/11 US policy has led to a sevenfold-increase in the rate of fatal jihad attacks or that Pakistan’s epidemic of terrorism began only after we enlisted them as a serious ally, the question assumes significant importance.

In particular, it is important to remember that most of the targets in this recent spate of terrorism have been military targets – barracks, training centers, etc – specifically of anti-Taliban forces armed by US aid. The United States can hardly be said to have such scruples; their attacks fall largely upon the village population of Pakistan, who are blasted by unmanned missiles from across the border with Afghanistan.

If the United States were actually concerned with the rate of terrorism in Pakistan, they would take a long, hard look at their current strategy and ask themselves if it might be to blame. The “drone” bombings, which occur weekly to the tune of 20 or so dead villagers, cannot seriously be thought of as reducing “terror”. Similarly, our continuous “aid” and bribery to leaders who are viewed as corrupt and incompetent, who routinely steal elections, and who receive our support against the express wishes of their population, do not have an easing effect on terrorism.

On the other hand, if the United States were only interested in new bases for its military, an expanded presence in the oil-rich Middle East, and unquestioned military dominance, they would not only cease their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in fact expand those efforts. Which is, of course, exactly what they are doing.

America and Pakistan: A Love Story

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The Boston Globe picks up on a massive new influx of US cash into Pakistan, a story which the New York Times and Washington Post considered beneath their purview. All told, an extra $7.5 Billion will be bestowed upon that poor desert.

While the bill promises that:

The aid would seek to strengthen Pakistan’s legislative and judicial systems; its public education system, emphasising access for women and girls; its healthcare system; and its human rights practices with particular attention to women as well as ethnic and religious minorities,

it also authorizes “such sums as are necessary” for military purposes, provided they use them to “combat terrorism”. A veritable blank check.

This new influx of aid comes on the heels of a previous $10 Billion to the disgraced Musharraf government, and seeks the reduction of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. But if that be the case, our strategy planners might have done well to check this opinion poll by the International Republican Institute.

In it, one finds an overwhelming rejection on the part of Pakistan’s citizens, not only to US bombing of their country, but of the US as an ally against terrorism.

Fully 80% answered “No” to the question: “Do you think that Pakistan should cooperate with the United States on its war against terror?”, whereas 76% said “No” to the question: “Should Pakistan partner with the United States in conducting drone attacks against extremists”? 50% of those responding thought religion should play a “dominant role” in politics.

Amid such dismal approval ratings, it is easy to see why our policy planners should wish to buy off the Pakistanis off. But that we should force military aid and assistance against a people who so manifestly do not want it is still rather puzzling. As best as one can tell this aid influx appears a half-hearted apology for our continued attacks on Pakistani villages (close to 15 villagers per week die by our Predator Drones), and would likely serve to insure further cooperation, should ground troops prove necessary.


Written by pavanvan

October 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Even More on Blackwater

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New Blackwater Crimes Surface

Jeremy Scahill’s journalism on Blackwater has been indispensable to the average man trying to make sense of this shadow organization. Now, in addition to Nisour Massacres, an assassination scheme with the CIA and illegal deployment to Mexico for the “War on Drugs”, it turns out that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.”

This has been independently confirmed by several ex-Blackwater USA employees. Mr. Prince really believes himself to be a “Christian Crusader”

Score one for religious extremism.

Written by pavanvan

August 29, 2009 at 3:26 pm