Boycott biofuels and ban speculation…. that is if you believe in humanity

The world is currently facing one of the worst food crisis in recorded human history…. it is at a boiling point but it can spill over at anytime.

Retail staple food prices have seen record inflation of up to 300% in the last three years across the world resulting in more and more people struggling to eat even once a day.

No.. it is not a doomsday scenario.. this is happening now and what we are seeing is an utter disregard from humanity .. almost 20% of crops in the US in now being harvested for bio-fuels which means 20% less crops for human consumption..

“Rice — a staple for billions of Asians — has soared to its highest price in 20 years, while supplies are at their lowest level since the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the global supply of wheat is lower than it’s been in about 50 years — just five weeks’ worth of world consumption is on hand, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. ”  (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html)

It is funny that people have been supporting bio-fuels which, currently, can only be produced by substituting food supply so the food that needs to go into people’s stomach is going into vehicles.. Okay… the situation is not dire but we are not far off. It is time to say No to bio-fuels, at least for now.

On the other hand, Oil speculators who have pushed the prices of oil from a stable $60 to $70 barrels to atrocious $105+ a barrel are minting money. There is literally no shortage of oil but these speculators made sure that they pushed the prices by going long on the market and continue to push these to maintain their profits. 

It’s not the oil speculators alone – “As always in a crisis, there are winners. The creeping fear that the world might actually run short of food — no longer simply the stuff of sci-fi movies — has led speculators to pour billions into commodities, further accelerating price rises. In a single day in February, global wheat prices jumped 25% after Kazakhstan’s government announced plans to restrict exports of its giant wheat crop for fear that its own citizens might go hungry” (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html)

As oil drives all transportation costs, everything is getting expensive including drilling and exploration costs for oil companies which in turn means no body in the oil industry wants to lose. But at the bottom of it, it is the speculators who are the culprit.

And with increasing transportation costs, the costs of bringing crops to the markets is skyrocketing.. prices of fertilisers is skyrocketing… which means increased costs of grain.

If oil speculation is banned for a few years, oil prices are going to drop to $50 – $60 dollars… I have no doubt but who is going to do it..  It is such a shame.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned on Friday that the food import bill for the world’s poorest countries will increase 56 per cent this year and civil unrest will increase if the international community doesn’t act vigorously to help. The World Bank recently estimated the food crisis will erase seven years of progress in reducing poverty in developing countries. Already, high food prices – the prices of wheat and rice are double what they were last year – have sparked riots in diverse hot spots around the world, including several African countries, Indonesia and Haiti.  Unlike famine in places like the Ethiopia, this situation is dispersed across the globe, from Asia to Africa to Latin America. FAO estimates 37 countries face food crises this year, requiring outside assistance for various reasons. The high price of oil is contributing to increased food prices and boosting inflation elsewhere in many economies.”(http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/yourbusiness/story.html?id=21cdf43a-5cf7-4054-b65a-a2e995b21605)

Unless action is taken, many people will die of hunger and food riots….  Take action, show your responsibility and boycott bio fuels as a start.

“In India last year, more than 25,000 farmers took their own lives, driven to despair by grain shortages and farming debts. “The spectre of food grain imports stares India in the face as agricultural growth plunges to an all-time low,” warns India Today magazine.” (http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2104849.0.2008_the_year_of_global_food_crisis.php)

People.. wake up now! Criminal speculation of commodities must be banned.. and stop using and advancing biofuels……. Give humanity a break!

Advertisements

How to strongarm a third-world country

Interesting stuff.. a little scary too! It is a recipe for disaster.

Read on!

Pakistan has given them bases and logistic support as well as intelligence sharing but what the US is now demanding from Islamabad has shocked the Defence and Foreign Ministries and the initial reaction has been a rejection of what are highly intrusive demands for the US military and auxiliary personnel in Pakistan.

This scribe has learnt of the latest set of 11 demands the US has put to the Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence. As one goes down the list of the demands, they become increasingly untenable.

The first demand is for granting of a status that is accorded to the technical and administrative staff of the US embassy. The second demand is that these personnel be allowed to enter and exit Pakistan on mere National Identification (for example a driving licence) that is without any visas.

Next, the US is demanding that Pakistan accept the legality of all US licences, which would include arms licences. This is followed by the demand that all these personnel be allowed to carry arms and wear uniforms as they wish, across the whole of Pakistan.

Then comes a demand that directly undermines our sovereignty – that the US criminal jurisdiction be applicable in Pakistan to US nationals. In other words, these personnel would not be subject to Pakistani law.

In territories of US allies like Japan, this condition exists in areas where there are US bases and has become a source of major resentment in Japan, especially because there are frequent cases of US soldiers raping Japanese women and getting away with it. In the context of Pakistan, the demand to make the US personnel above the Pakistani law would not be limited to any one part of the country! So the Pakistani citizens will become fair game for US military personnel as well as other auxiliary staff like military contractors.

The next demand is for exemption from all taxes, including indirect taxes like excise duty, etc. The seventh demand is for inspection-free import and export of all goods and materials. So we would not know what they are bringing in or taking out of our country – including Gandhara art as well as sensitive materials.

At number eight is the demand for free movement of vehicles, vessels including aircraft, without landing or parking fees! Then, at number nine, there is a specific demand that selected US contractors should also be exempted from tax payments.

At number ten there is the demand for free of cost use of US telecommunication systems and using all necessary radio spectrum. The final demand is the most dangerous and is linked to the demand for non-applicability of Pakistani law for US personnel. Demand number eleven is for a waiver of all claims to damage to loss or destruction of others’ property, or death to personnel or armed forces or civilians. The US has tried to be smart by not using the word “other” for death but, given the context, clearly it implies that US personnel can maim and kill Pakistanis and destroy our infrastructure and weaponry with impunity.

Effectively, if accepted, these demands would give the US personnel complete freedom to do as they please in Pakistan – in fact, they would take control of events in areas of their interest.

It is no wonder then that Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Law Ministry have reacted with complete rejection. But, as one official source feared, “This is just the opening salvo of demands and the US can be expected to bargain in order to seek the most critical of these demands.”

As he put it, “Any hesitation or weakness that the US senses on part of Pakistan will put us on a fatal slippery slope to total submission. This would result in increasing instability in the country.”

So, for those who feel there is bonhomie and complete understanding between the Pakistan military and the US military, and the trouble only exists at the political level, it is time to do a serious rethink. The first step in dealing rationally with our indigenous terrorist problem holistically and credibly is to create space between ourselves and the US. As the US adage goes: “There is no free lunch”. For Pakistan lunching with the US has become unacceptably costly. When US embassy in Islamabad was approached for reaction to this report, Elizabeth Colton, US Embassy Spokesperson, said, “We will not dignify this attack with a comment.”

http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=13430

Tyrant’s party eats the dust – a resounding defeat!

In what political pundits can term as pure revolutionary, the people of Pakistan have rejected the King’s party across the country with important puppet leaders ending up licking their wounds and some trying to flee to hypocritic West.

Even the threat of violence did not stop people show their full and total rejection of the despicable tyranny that ruled? this nation.

The demand to reinstate the nation’s independent judiciary is louder than ever!  The demand that the nation’s servants go back to serve it … not rules it!

So here goes the prediction!…

PML-Q or the King’s party is wiped out off history…….. full stop!

Punjab: PML-N i.e. Nawaz Sharif’s (the ex-Prime Minister who was shown the exit door by the will of might rather than the will of vote) party wins the largest province and takes the provincial assembly

Sind: PPP i.e. Benazir Bhutto’s party (Late ex-Prime Minister) wins most seats and forms majority

NWFP: ANP i.e. the socialist party rules the day and will probably form the government

Baluchistan: The only province in the country where the turnout was so low that the will of the people could not prevail (they really did not accept the farce elections under Tyranny) hence the King’s party PML-Q may take the majority with their ghost voters.

And what about the big prize… The National Assembly (Parliament)

The trend shows King’s party is almost wiped out to oblivion. PPP (Benazir’s party) and PML-N (Nawaz Sharif’s party) will split the vote and probably will be in a position to form a coalition government. There is also a possibility that alongwith ANP they’d take 2/3rd majority  ……… enough to impeach the Tyrant.

A Lost Opportunity

The saying goes.. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ – Benazir Bhutto’s murder provided Pakistan Peoples Party which claims to be the most democratic and progressive party to put its house in order. PPP’s main leader after Bhutto, Amin Fahim has done a lot for the party having associated with it for his lifetime was not chosen as the obvious choice for the party leadership.

But.. alas… the legacy rules. Bhutto’s son who is only 19-years and just starting his education in Oxford was made the party chairman…. It is really unbelievable that a progressive party would choose to rule by bloodline rather than by democratic means despite the fact that even Bhutto’s will said that Asif Zardari (her husband) should be made the chairman of PPP. Although it can be understood given Mr Zardari’s reputation (Mr ten percent etc. ) very well precedes him.

It would have been something thinkable if it happened in a Monarchy… not a democratic political party!!! It is just pure hypocrisy. 

And what’s more.. to encash the sentiments of the majority of Pakistani people which are obviously in Bhutto’s favour.. Bhutto’s son’s name was changed to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (formerly Bilawal Zardari) which is close to ridiculous in that culture.  It is traditional in that society and true for most in the world that lineage / family tree runs through father’s family… but given Zardari’s are associated only with corruption and nothing of any significance in the society, the party leaders and most probably Mr Zardari changed his son’s name to Bhutto Zardari…  it will not take long when the suffix Zardari will be completely removed from Bilawal’s name.

PPP as the most progressive party in the country had the choice to move the country from the politics of individuals/families to more of manifestos and vision… its leadership has chosen the former and it will definitely mean the country will continue to be governed by individuals and personalities than by political manifestos, visions etc which does not bade well for stable political structures in Pakistan.

Unfortunately it also reflects the sad thinking in Pakistani political ruling class that the ordinary people are very much gullible and can be swayed by family names and dynasties which mainly is a feudal thinking.

After-word: An interesting piece on dynastic versus democratic politics worth visiting is at http://lcyd.blogspot.com/2008/01/dynasty-isnt-democracy.html

Sad Day for Pakistan!!!

Former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto was killed in an attack on December 27, 2007. Whether we agreed with her way of politics or not, it was a truly sad day for democracy in the country as the powers of obscurantism and dictatorship have got a new lease of life.

May she rest in peace.

Someone has written an interesting piece on her life which is reproduced below:

Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007)

Benazir Bhutto excelled at asserting her right to rule. In a male-dominated, Islamic society, she rose to become her slain father’s political successor, twice getting elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan. She would also be exiled twice. In the end, Bhutto was better at rallying people to the idea of her power than at keeping them inspired by her use of it.

She was a child of privilege, and took the mantle of power from her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the fiery and magnetic founder of the Pakistan People’s Party, who himself would become a martyr for democracy when he was executed in 1979 by the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. She inherited her bearing and physical presence from her mother Nusrat Ispahan, from a distinguished Kurdish family from Iran. Educated at Radcliffe and Harvard, she would also study law at Oxford. Her family and close Western friends knew her as “Pinky.”

As a Muslim woman leader, Bhutto was almost an iconic figure in the West. But her actual career in office was one of great populist spectacles and little governmental achievement. It was a personna she parlayed. “I am not one of those leaders who sell lies and buy time,” she told TIME in the mid-1990s. “No leader, no dictator could do what I have done.”

However, in the final analysis, her career was an almost tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little. Jailed and then exiled after her father’s fall, Bhutto returned to campaign for office in 1986 after Zia’s military government gave in to international pressure to slowly restore democracy. (Despite his dictatorship, Zia was a key ally of the West, supporting the Mujaheddin against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.) In a scene reminiscent of her second coming in October 2007, she was greeted in April 1986 by hundreds of thousands of frenzied supporters, who enveloped her motorcade and staged a daylong demonstration that was the largest display in memory of discontent with Zia’s government. “Zia is a dog,” chanted the demonstrators again and again. “We love Benazir.”

Zia’s death in a plane crash in August 1988 helped to further loosen the military strictures around the country, and Bhutto became Prime Minister by December of that year. As a ruler, Bhutto got few favorable reviews in Pakistan. Her government passed no legislation except a budget during its first 14 months in power. Much of its energy was squandered feuding with the opposition. Among the first acts of Bhutto’s party after coming to power was a campaign to bribe and threaten legislators in Punjab. The goal: to overthrow Bhutto’s nemesis, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Punjab’s chief minister, a wealthy industrialist and a close associate of Zia’s. Worse yet, her Cabinet stank with corruption scandals, including allegations against her husband Asif Ali Zardari and her father-in-law Hakim Ali Zardari, who was chairman of the parliamentary public-accounts committee. With so much fractiousness and scandal, Bhutto’s first government lasted only until August 1990, dismissed by the country’s President for “horse-trading for personal gain.” Soon after, in November 1990, Nawaz Sharif, campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, became Prime Minister.

Bhutto returned to power in 1993, after Sharif was felled by his own corruption scandal. “This is my victory. It is a clear and decisive victory,” she declared after a bitter name-calling campaign between herself and Sharif. But despite her claims, she did not have a working majority in parliament and had to wobble through her next few years in office as head of a fractious coalition, beholden to contentious blocs of power. At the same time, Pakistan owed huge amounts to the International Monetary Fund as part of servicing its enormous $28.6 billion in foreign debts. Bhutto had raised taxes, which raised the level of discontent in the country. But even so, her government did not collect enough revenue. In an effort to appease the IMF, Bhutto gave up the finance portfolio she had held since retaking the government. “The debt servicing is breaking our backs — debt that I didn’t incur,” she told TIME. “But as Prime Minister, I have to pay it back.” Rumors soon spread that her government would be dismissed. “Rubbish,” she said. But that is exactly what happened. Soon, Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister again.

Sharif himself would be overthrown in a coup by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Musharraf would become an indispensable ally of the U.S. after Sept. 11, 2001, when he became the guarantor of the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan against the tide of Islamic radicalism.

And that is where Bhutto’s final chapter picks up — as the popularity of the Musharraf regime collapses and the world looks warily at the future of Pakistan and the threat of radicalism. In exile once again and with corruption charges against her, Bhutto struck a deal with Musharraf, who was under pressure to restore democracy. Washington smiled on it and Bhutto, now anointed as the West’s favorite to restore democratic credibility to a moderate Pakistani government, returned to retake what she always believed was hers. Thousands showed up to welcome her and more than 100 died when that welcome-back parade was attacked by still unknown bombers. The last quarter of 2007 was filled with political maneuverings between herself, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, who had also returned from exile. After one more stint under house arrest while Musharraf imposed a brief emergency rule, she seemed set for another triumph at the polls. But in the end, the violent cycle of Pakistani politics claimed another victim. And once and for all, Benazir Bhutto will rally people to her cause without being able to deliver on its promise.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1698498,00.html

The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military

In the interest of a balanced view (which I am afraid to say is not very tenable in these circumstances) … I have decided to replicate an article… read and form your own opinion.

 Editor’s Note:  See Steve Schippert’s comments to this entry

The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military

By Ahmed Quraishi

This is not about Musharraf anymore. This is about clipping the wings of a strong Pakistani military, denying space for China in Pakistan, squashing the ISI, stirring ethnic unrest, and neutralizing Pakistan’s nuclear program. The first shot in this plan was fired in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in 2004. The last bullet will be toppling Musharraf, sidelining the military and installing a pliant government in Islamabad. Musharraf shares the blame for letting things come this far. But he is also punching holes in Washington’s game plan. He needs to be supported.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—On the evening of Tuesday, 26 September, 2006, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy Central’s ‘Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president anywhere to dare do this political satire show.

Stewart offered his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking, “Is it good?” before springing a surprise: “Where’s Osama bin Laden?”

“I don’t know,” Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight of a strong leader apparently cornered. “You know where he is?” Musharraf snapped back, “You lead on, we’ll follow you.”

What Gen. Musharraf didn’t know then is that he really was being cornered. Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no hint of the betrayal that awaited him.

 As he completed the remaining part of his U.S. visit, his allies in Washington and elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall. They had decided to take a page from the book of successful ‘color revolutions’ where western governments covertly used money, private media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups, basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington’s agenda. 

This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

 In Pakistan, the target is a Pakistani president who refuses to play ball with the United States on Afghanistan, China, and Dr. A.Q. Khan. To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway: 

* A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role in Washington’s war on terror and predicting his downfall.

* Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.

* Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.

* A campaign waged on Internet where tens of mailing lists and ‘news agencies’ have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the Pakistani military.

* European- and American-funded Pakistani NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real jobs to work as a makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.

* U.S. government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding inflation and corruption.

* Some of Musharraf’s shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.

* All this groundwork completed and chips in place when the judicial crisis breaks out in March 2007. Even Pakistani politicians surprised at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers campaign, complete with flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media outreach.

* Currently, students are being recruited and organized into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web sites and ‘online hangouts’. The people behind this effort are mostly unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners, placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No major student association has announced yet that it is behind these student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most journalists covering this story. Only a few students from affluent schools have responded so far and it’s not because the Pakistani government’s countermeasures are effective. They’re not. The reason is that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local NGOs are mostly founded and run by rich, westernized Pakistanis.

All of this may appear to be spur-of-the-moment and Musharraf-specific. But it all really began almost three years ago, when, out of the blue and recycling old political arguments, Mr. Akbar Bugti launched an armed rebellion against the Pakistani state, surprising security analysts by using rockets and other military equipment that shouldn’t normally be available to a smalltime village thug. Since then, Islamabad sits on a pile of evidence that links Mr. Bugti’s campaign to money and ammunition and logistical support from Afghanistan, directly aided by the Indians and the Karzai administration, with the Americans turning a blind eye.

For reasons not clear to our analysts yet, Islamabad has kept quiet on Washington’s involvement with anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. But Pakistan did send an indirect public message to the Americans recently.

“We have indications of Indian involvement with anti-state elements in Pakistan,” declared the spokesman of the Pakistan Foreign Office in a regular briefing in October. The statement was terse and direct and the spokesman, Ms. Tasnim Aslam, quickly moved on to other issues.

This is how a Pakistani official explained Ms. Aslam’s statement: “What she was really saying is this: We know what the Indians are doing. They’ve sold the Americans on the idea that [the Indians] are an authority on Pakistan and can be helpful in Afghanistan. The Americans have bought the idea and are in on the plan, giving the Indians a free hand in Afghanistan. What the Americans don’t know is that we, too, know the Indians very well. Better still, we know Afghanistan very well. You can’t beat us at our own game.”

Mr. Bugti’s armed rebellion coincided with the Gwadar project entering its final stages. No coincidence here. Mr. Bugti’s real job was to scare the Chinese away and scuttle Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned visit to Gwadar a few months later to formally launch the port city.

Gwadar is the pinnacle of Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation. It’s a modern port city that is supposed to link Central Asia, western China, and Pakistan with markets in Mideast and Africa. It’s supposed to have roads stretching all the way to China. It’s no coincidence either that China has also earmarked millions of dollars to renovate the Karakoram Highway linking northern Pakistan to western China.

Some reports in the American media, however, have accused Pakistan and China of building a naval base in the guise of a commercial seaport directly overlooking international oil shipping lanes. The Indians and some other regional actors are also not comfortable with this project because they see it as commercial competition.

What Mr. Bugti’s regional and international supporters never expected is Pakistan moving firmly and strongly to nip his rebellion in the bud. Even Mr. Bugti himself probably never expected the Pakistani state to react in the way it did to his betrayal of the homeland. He was killed in a military operation where scores of his mercenaries surrendered to Pakistan army soldiers.

U.S. intelligence and their Indian advisors could not cultivate an immediate replacement for Mr. Bugti. So they moved to Plan B. They supported Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban fighter held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, and then handed over back to the Afghan government, only to return to his homeland, Pakistan, to kidnap two Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, one of whom was eventually killed during a rescue operation by the Pakistani government.

Islamabad could not tolerate this shadowy figure, who was creating a following among ordinary Pakistanis masquerading as a Taliban while in reality towing a vague agenda. He was rightly eliminated earlier this year by Pakistani security forces while secretly returning from Afghanistan after meeting his handlers there. Again, no surprises here.

SMELLING A RAT

This is where Pakistani political and military officials finally started smelling a rat. All of this was an indication of a bigger problem. There were growing indications that, ever since Islamabad joined Washington’s regional plans, Pakistan was gradually turning into a ‘besieged-nation’, heavily targeted by the American media while being subjected to strategic sabotage and espionage from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, under America’s watch, has turned into a vast staging ground for sophisticated psychological and military operations to destabilize neighboring Pakistan.

During the past three years, the heat has gradually been turned up against Pakistan and its military along Pakistan’s western regions:

* A shadowy group called the BLA, a Cold War relic, rose from the dead to restart a separatist war in southwestern Pakistan.

* Bugti’s death was a blow to neo-BLA, but the shadowy group’s backers didn’t repent. His grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti, is currently enjoying a safe shelter in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where he continues to operate and remote-control his assets in Pakistan.

* Saboteurs trained in Afghanistan have been inserted into Pakistan to aggravate extremist passions here, especially after the Red Mosque operation.

* Chinese citizens continue to be targeted by individuals pretending to be Islamists, when no known Islamic group has claimed responsibility.

* A succession of ‘religious rebels’ with suspicious foreign links have suddenly emerged in Pakistan over the past months claiming to be ‘Pakistani Taliban’. Some of the names include Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Baitullah Mehsud, and now the Maulana of Swat. Some of them have used and are using encrypted communication equipment far superior to what Pakistani military owns.

* Money and weapons have been fed into the religious movements and al Qaeda remnants in the tribal areas.

Exploiting the situation, assets within the Pakistani media started promoting the idea that the Pakistani military was killing its own people. The rest of the unsuspecting media quickly picked up this message. Some botched American and Pakistani military operations against Al Qaeda that caused civilian deaths accidentally fed this media campaign.

This was the perfect timing for the launch of Military, Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, a book authored by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, a columnist for a Pakistani English-language paper and a correspondent for ‘Jane’s Defense Weekly’, a private intelligence service founded by experts close to the British intelligence.

TARGET: PAK MILITARY

The book was launched in Pakistan in early 2007 by Oxford Press. And, contrary to most reports, it is openly available in Islamabad’s biggest bookshops. The book portrays the Pakistani military as an institution that is eating up whatever little resources Pakistan has.

Pakistani military’s successful financial management, creating alternate financial sources to spend on a vast military machine and build a conventional and nuclear near-match with a neighboring adversary five times larger – an impressive record for any nation by any standard – was distorted in the book and reduced to a mere attempt by the military to control the nation’s economy in the same way it was controlling its politics.

The timing was interesting. After all, it was hard to defend a military in the eyes of its own proud people when the chief of the military is ruling the country, the army is fighting insurgents and extremists who claim to be defending Islam, grumpy politicians are out of business, and the military’s side businesses, meant to feed the nation’s military machine, are doing well compared to the shabby state of the nation’s civilian departments.

A closer look at Ms. Siddiqa, the author, revealed disturbing information to Pakistani officials. In the months before launching her book, she was a frequent visitor to India where, as a defense expert, she cultivated important contacts. On her return, she developed friendship with an Indian lady diplomat posted in Islamabad. Both of these activities – travel to India and ties to Indian diplomats – are not a crime in Pakistan and don’t raise interest anymore. Pakistanis are hospitable and friendly people and these qualities have been amply displayed to the Indians during the four-year-old peace process.

What is interesting is that Ms. Siddiqa left her car in the house of the said Indian diplomat during one of her recent trips to London. And, according to a report, she stayed in London at a place owned by an individual linked to the Indian lady diplomat friend in Islamabad.

The point here is this: Who assigned her to investigate the Pakistani Armed Forces and present a distorted image of a proud an efficient Pakistani institution?

From 1988 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqa worked in the Pakistan civil service, the Pakistani civil bureaucracy. Her responsibilities included dealing with Military Accounts, which come under the Pakistan Ministry of Defense. She had thirteen years of rich experience in dealing with the budgetary matters of the Pakistani military and people working in this area.

Dr. Siddiqa received a year-long fellowship to research and write a book in the United States. There are strong indications that some of her Indian contacts played a role in arranging financing for her book project through a paid fellowship. The final manuscript of her book was vetted at a publishing office in New Delhi.

All of these details are insignificant if detached from the real issue at hand. And the issue is the demonization of the Pakistani military as an integral part of the media siege around Pakistan, with the American media leading the way in this campaign.

Some of the juicy details of this campaign include:

* The attempt by Dr. Siddiqa to pitch junior officers against senior officers in Pakistan Armed Forces by alleging discrimination in the distribution of benefits. Apart from being malicious and unfounded, her argument was carefully designed to generate frustration and demoralize Pakistani soldiers.

* The American media insisting on handing over Dr. A. Q. Khan to the United States so that a final conviction against the Pakistani military can be secured.

* Mrs. Benazir Bhutto demanding after returning to Pakistan that the ISI be restructured; and in a press conference during her house arrest in Lahore in November she went as far as asking Pakistan army officers to revolt against the army chief, a damning attempt at destroying a professional army from within.

Some of this appears to be eerily similar to the campaign waged against the Pakistani military in 1999, when, in July that year, an unsigned full page advertisement appeared in major American newspapers with the following headline: “A Modern Rogue Army With Its Finger On The Nuclear Button.”

Till this day, it is not clear who exactly paid for such an expensive newspaper full-page advertisement. But one thing is clear: the agenda behind that advertisement is back in action.

Strangely, just a few days before Mrs. Bhutto’s statements about restructuring the ISI and her open call to army officers to stage a mutiny against their leadership, the American conservative magazine The Weekly Standard interviewed an American security expert who offered similar ideas:

“A large number of ISI agents who are responsible for helping the Taliban and al Qaeda should be thrown in jail or killed. What I think we should do in Pakistan is a parallel version of what Iran has run against us in Iraq: giving money [and] empowering actors. Some of this will involve working with some shady characters, but the alternative—sending U.S. forces into Pakistan for a sustained bombing campaign—is worse.” Steve Schippert, Weekly Standard, Nov. 2007.

In addition to these media attacks, which security experts call ‘psychological operations’, the American media and politicians have intensified over the past year their campaign to prepare the international public opinion to accept a western intervention in Pakistan along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan:

* Newsweek came up with an entire cover story with a single storyline: Pakistan is a more dangerous place than Iraq.

* Senior American politicians, Republican and Democrat, have argued that Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran and merits similar treatment. On 20 October, senator Joe Biden told ABC News that Washington needs to put soldiers on the ground in Pakistan and invite the international community to join in. “We should be in there,” he said. “We should be supplying tens of millions of dollars to build new schools to compete with the madrassas. We should be in there building democratic institutions. We should be in there, and get the rest of the world in there, giving some structure to the emergence of, hopefully, the reemergence of a democratic process.”

* The International Crisis Group (ICG) has recommended gradual sanctions on Pakistan similar to those imposed on Iran, e.g. slapping travel bans on Pakistani military officers and seizing Pakistani military assets abroad.

* The process of painting Pakistan’s nuclear assets as pure evil lying around waiting for some do-gooder to come in and ‘secure’ them has reached unprecedented levels, with the U.S. media again depicting Pakistan as a nation incapable of protecting its nuclear installations. On 22 October, Jane Harman from the U.S. House Intelligence panel gave the following statement: “I think the U.S. would be wise – and I trust we are doing this – to have contingency plans [to seize Pakistan’s nuclear assets], especially because should [Musharraf] fall, there are nuclear weapons there.”

* The American media has now begun discussing the possibility of Pakistan breaking up and the possibility of new states of ‘Balochistan’ and ‘Pashtunistan’ being carved out of it. Interestingly, one of the first acts of the shady Maulana of Swat after capturing a few towns was to take down the Pakistani flag from the top of state buildings and replacing them with his own party flag.

* The ‘chatter’ about President Musharraf’s eminent fall has also increased dramatically in the mainly American media, which has been very generous in marketing theories about how Musharraf might “disappear” or be “removed” from the scene. According to some Pakistani analysts, this could be an attempt to prepare the public opinion for a possible assassination of the Pakistani president.

* Another worrying thing is how American officials are publicly signaling to the Pakistanis that Mrs. Benazir Bhutto has their backing as the next leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Mrs. Bhutto. If she is killed in this way, there won’t be enough time to find the real culprit, but what’s certain is that unprecedented international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country. A dress rehearsal of this scenario has already taken place in October when no less than the U.N. Security Council itself intervened to ask the international community to “assist” in the investigations into the assassination attempt on Mrs. Bhutto on 18 October. This generous move was sponsored by the U.S. and, interestingly, had no input from Pakistan which did not ask for help in investigations in the first place.

Some Pakistani security analysts privately say that American ‘chatter’ about Musharraf or Bhutto getting killed is a serious matter that can’t be easily dismissed. Getting Bhutto killed can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.

Having Musharraf killed isn’t a bad option either. The unknown Islamists can always be blamed and the military will not be able to put another soldier at the top, and circumstances will be created to ensure that either Mrs. Bhutto or someone like her is eased into power.

The Americans are very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out of their hands. They have been kicked out of Uzbekistan last year, where they were maintaining bases. They are in trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran continues to be a mess for them and Russia and China are not making it any easier. Pakistan must be ‘secured’ at all costs.

This is why most Pakistanis have never seen American diplomats in Pakistan active like this before. And it’s not just the current U.S. ambassador, who has added one more address to her other most-frequently-visited address in Karachi, Mrs. Bhutto’s house. The new address is the office of GEO, one of two news channels shut down by Islamabad for not signing the mandatory code-of-conduct. Thirty-eight other channels are operating and no one has censored the newspapers. But never mind this. The Americans have developed a ‘thing’ for GEO. No solace of course for ARY, the other banned channel.

Now there’s also one Bryan Hunt, the U.S. consul general in Lahore, who wears the national Pakistani dress, the long shirt and baggy trousers, and is moving around these days issuing tough warnings to Islamabad and to the Pakistani government and to President Musharraf to end emergency rule, resign as army chief and give Mrs. Bhutto access to power.

PAKISTAN’S OPTIONS

So what should Pakistan do in the face of such a structured campaign to bring Pakistan down on its knees and forcibly install a pro-Washington administration in Islamabad?

There is increasing talk in Islamabad these days about Pakistan’s new tough stand in the face of this malicious campaign.

As a starter, Islamabad blew the wind out of the visit of Mr. John Negroponte, the no. 2 man in the U.S. State Department, who came to Pakistan last week “to deliver a tough message” to the Pakistani president. Musharraf, to his credit, told him he won’t end emergency rule until all objectives are achieved.

These objectives include:

* Cleaning up our northern and western parts of the country of all foreign operatives and their domestic pawns.

* Ensuring that Washington’s plan for regime-change doesn’t succeed.

* Purging the Pakistani media of all those elements that were willing or unwilling accomplices in the plan to destabilize the country.

Musharraf has also told Washington publicly that “Pakistan is more important than democracy or the constitution.” This is a bold position. This kind of boldness would have served Musharraf a lot had it come a little earlier. But even now, his media management team is unable to make the most out of it.

Washington will not stand by watching as its plan for regime change in Islamabad goes down the drain. In case the Americans insist on interfering in Pakistani affairs, Islamabad, according to my sources, is looking at some tough measures:

* Cutting off oil supplies to U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials are already enraged at how Afghanistan has turned into a staging ground for sabotage in Pakistan. If Islamabad continues to see Washington acting as a bully, Pakistani officials are seriously considering an announcement where Pakistan, for the first time since October 2001, will deny the United States use of Pakistani soil and air space to transport fuel to Afghanistan.

* Reviewing Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Islamabad needs to fight terrorists on its border with Afghanistan. But our methods need to be different to Washington’s when it comes to our domestic extremists. This is where Islamabad parts ways with Washington. Pakistani officials are considering the option of withdrawing from the war on terror while maintaining Pakistan’s own war against the terrorists along Afghanistan’s border.

* Talks with the Taliban. Pakistan has no quarrel with Afghanistan’s Taliban. They are Kabul’s internal problem. But if reaching out to Afghan Taliban’s Mullah Omar can have a positive impact on rebellious Pakistani extremists, then this step should be taken. The South Koreans can talk to the Taliban. Karzai has also called for talks with them. It is time that Islamabad does the same.

The Americans have been telling everyone in the world that they have paid Pakistan $10 billion dollars over the past five years. They might think this gives them the right to decide Pakistan’s destiny. What they don’t tell the world is how Pakistan’s help secured for them their biggest footprint ever in energy-rich Central Asia.

If they forget, Islamabad can always remind them by giving them the same treatment that Uzbekistan did last year.

The views expressed herein are the writers’ own and do not reflect those of DesPardes.com

Imran Khan arrested; his sisters beaten badly when they went out to protest

We know that Imran Khan was arrested dramatically after he was trying to lead a student protest.

 On Thursday, his party supporters and sisters went out to protest and all were beaten badly including Imran’s sisters..

… This leader (Mushi) says he has empowered women… what a big farce.

Well – it is time for him to go – really go

Here is the news piece from The News:

PTI activists tortured by Punjab police    

By By Arshad Dogar and Zubair Azam

11/16/2007

FORTY PTI workers, including three sisters of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, were rounded up by police from a peaceful protest demonstration against Imran’s detention at Barkat Market, after a brutal baton-charge and thrashing by plain clothed security personnel, here on Thursday. 

The female PTI workers, including Imranís sisters were released later during the night. Imran was arrested by police outside PU on Wednesday after IJT activists kidnapped and tortured him for one hour inside the PU campus.

Mrs. Rani Hafiz Khan, Uzma Khan and Aleema Khan, sisters of Imran, along with PTI office bearers were proceeding towards Punjab University new campus from Barkat Market to protest against the detention of Imran and his manhandling by IJT, when massive police contingents armed with batons countered them.  PTI Lahore president Shabbir Sial and women wing president Saloni Bokhari were also present. The protestors carried banners and placards, hailing Imran and condemning the JI’s student wing. They also chanted slogans against the IJT. The PTI wanted to join a student procession in PU against IJT’s brutality. Meanwhile, more than 200 policemen equipped with batons and firearms under the supervision of SP Model Town Imran Ahmar and DSP Shams appeared and intercepted them. The protestors refused to stop rallying. Police on resistance thrashed male and female protestors and shoved them into a prison van.  In the absence of lady police, male police officials thrashed and manhandled the PTI activists. The lady activists started crying and shouting at their arrest which created panic in the market. The shopkeepers and their clients also came on road after witnessing police brutality. The leaders of trader unions gathered at the spot and appealed to the SP Model Town to leave the market as their business was being affected. Lady activists tried to save the arrests of male activists and formed a cordon around them but plain clothed security personnel bashed them as well. Later lady police were called who arrested more than 20 lady activists including three sisters of PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The arrested male workers were shifted to Garden Town police station while women were first shifted to Gulberg police station and later to the Model Town police station.

Sources in police said the Garden Town police have registered a case against 24 nominated male and female PTI workers and 10 unknown workers on the charges violation of section 144, 186 and 188 of PPC. The arrested PTI women were identified as Uzma, Nasim Zohra, Azhar Sajjid, Salma Ejaz, Dr Uzma Asif, Rabia Khan, Sadiqa, Samia Khan, Mrs Rizwan, Munazza Hassan, Talat Naqvi, Professor Shahid Fazal.  In a press statement the PTI spokesman alleged the PTI workers and activists including women had been thrashed on the special instructions of Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi by the plain clothed personnel. He added the brutal police actions would not stop the activists to denounce the autocratic rule of General Musharraf and demanded immediate release of their leader and workers.