Friday, May 28, 2010

LONG LIVE THE KING (of Ghazal)

By Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad

Shunning the notion federal capital as culturally dormant city, a flood of Islooiites at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) received 85 years old ailing Mehdi Hassan- a living legend in ghazal singing known as ‘King Of Ghazal’, and a former playback singer for Lollywood.

Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) arranged three day ‘Ghazal Festival’ and hosted a red carpet reception on Saturday night in honour of Mehdi Hassan, to pay tribute to his illustrious career in ghazal singing and to promote ghazal singing for generation to come.

Filled with euphoria, people from all walks of life majority of them included singers, actors, musicians, writers, poets, diplomats, government officials and students, received Shahanshah-e-Ghazal (the King of Ghazal) in a ‘Royal Reception’ who entered PNCA premises riding in a traditional Buggy.

Culture secretary, Moinul Islam Bokhari, PNCA chief Tauqir Nasir, Lok Virsa ED, Khalid Javed and CDA official Mustafain Kazmi were among the prominent persons on the occasion.

Scores of girls and boys dressed in a variety of regional costumes showered rose petals with a welcome tunes in a background ‘Ye Watan Tumhara Hay- Tum Ho Pasbaan Iskay”- a national song sung by Mehdi Hassan, who was on wheelchair. A number of flower bouquet were presented to Khan sahib from member of various organizations.

Addressing in a 412-seated packed auditorium, Secretary culture, Moinul Islam Bokhari in his inaugural address said that culture ministry has arranged this ‘Ghazal Festival’ to pay homage and tribute to Ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan who is an asset for the country. “With the bad health, Mehdi Hassan managed to come here and it is indeed an ecstatic moment for all of us, and made this night a memorable,” Bokhari said adding Mehdi Hassan is the undisputed master of the Ghazal, who has left such an indelible mark in the field of Ghazal gayaki that almost all the ghazal singers of today are influenced by him.

PNCA Director General Tauqir Nasir said that it was a dream of PNCA to host a reception to pay tribute to the services of living legend Mehdi Hassan made in Ghazal singing. “It is a dream come true and Khan sahib are among us as he is the hero (groom of the night),” Nasir said.

He said today we would also celebrate the recovery of health of Mehdi Hassan as well. “He is an asset for the nation and we must acknowledge, respect and recognise the classical singing and expertise of Khan sahib. He is one in a millions,” PNCA DG said.

Paying rich tribute to the services of the music maestro, Nasir said that Mehdi Hassan has given a unique style to ghazal- singing in the sub-continent, and his rich voice has touched the hearts of all listeners through decades. “Khan sahib is like a stream and the flow of that stream makes way for itself. We have to let that stream flowing and make it sure our next generation would take benefit out of the water of this stream, Nasir concluded.

CDA member administration, Syed Mustafain Kazmi on the occasion said that CDA is proud to announce that Shakarparian Theatre is going to be dedicated by the name of Mehdi Hassan- a classical music prodigy.

Later, Sara Raza, Barar Niazi, Javed Niazi, Ali Raza, Muhammad Ali, Nadeem Abbas Loonewala, Asid Mehdi, Humaira Channa and Ghulam Abbas sung classical ghazals previously sung by Mehdi Hassan. Over 30 ghazal singers all over the country, performed ghazal recitation at National Art Gallery (NAG) during three day festival. ‘The Ghazal Festival’ concluded on March 24 (Monday).

It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2008, announced Rs 50,000 per month life-time assistance for the legendary singer Mehdi Hassan, who is still suffering from ill health caused by a paralytic stroke, terming him an asset to the country who had earned a great name for Pakistan and the people and the country.
Courtesy DAILY TIMES

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

THE LIFE OF A MAN DEPENDS ON A PAIR OF SOCKS

Socks play maybe not the most, but a very important role in men’s life. Men’s socks were honored in an episode of Sex and the City TV series, when Carrie Bradshaw presented her philosophic views on this piece of men’s apparel. This seems to be quite surprising because socks may often drive women mad when they see or smell them. Socks may also become the reason of family scandals.

Socks play a very important role in the life of every man. His professional career or romantic achievements may often depend on a pair of socks. A woman may find out a lot about her man if she takes a closer look at his socks.

Needless to say that women, just like men, pay a lot of attention to men’s tastes in clothes. A pair of socks is a very important accessory in men’s clothes, just like ties, watches, sleeve buttons and wallets.

Indeed, a pair of socks can tell a lot about its owner. Rational and practical men mostly choose black socks for black is a universal color that fits everything. Gray or brown socks would be the choice of conservative men who do not welcome changes in their lives. Green socks attract military men and those who associate themselves with Greenpeace activists. Blue socks indicate the romantic nature of a man. White socks are the best choice for those men who like sports and those who go on holiday. White socks give a lounge look to a man, especially when he wears them with jeans or shorts. White socks are out of the question when it comes to wearing business suits.

If a man wears red socks, it means that he has his own sense of style. Red socks may also mean that he does not care a thing about style.

World’s leading designers scratch their heads over the appearance of men’s socks. Socks are quite familiar with modern-day fashion trends. Socks can be adorned with various ornaments which may also point out men’s character traits.

Ornaments of rhombs or lines indicate that a man is searching for his place in this life, or maybe for the point of this life. Flowers, little suns and rabbits may expose a playboy or just a man with a good sense of humor. Those who prefer classic style choose pinstripe and checkered socks.

Socks have a glorious history. They evolved from leather shoes that covered the sole, the heels and the toes. Greek women used to wear those shoes to keep their feet warm during sleep. Afterwards, people began to put pieces of fabric inside clodhoppers to protect feet from calluses and scratches. Socks celebrated their triumph in Rome 100 years later when they covered both the foot and the shank, slowly turning into stockings. Ancient poets began to glorify socks as the best clothes that human feet could have.

Knitted stockings appeared in Spain only in the 16th century. Those were very expensive and hard to find garments – a pair of stockings could be an excellent present to noblemen and even kings.

Stockings turned into socks during the second decade of the 19th century when men donned tight pantaloons. Finally, socks became even shorter during the First World War to economize fabric.
Courtesy PRAVDA

People more likely to ignore mobile phone calls from loved ones than strangers

People are more likely to ignore calls from close friends and family than they are colleagues and strangers, claims a new study.

The new research has revealed that nine out of 10 Britons deliberately ignore their mobile phone, and then lie about the reason why.

Surprisingly, scientists at the University of Salford have discovered it is close friends who are most likely to suffer from being ignored, while calls from work colleagues or the bank are nearly always answered.

Favourite excuses include "I didn't hear it ring" and "I was driving", but more wacky responses ranged from "feeding the cat" to "losing the power of speech".

Three per cent of respondents even claimed they were too busy "in the bedroom" to pick up the telephone.

The research suggests that best friends and loved ones are ignored more because they will involve more effort and a longer time to talk to.

But then people feel guilty and so make up an excuse to cover up their rudeness.
Dr Ashley Weinberg, a psychologist at the university, said: "It is natural for people to make excuses for not answering the phone, because they are actually breaching an unwritten psychological contract.

"In other words the caller expects to receive an answer and if they don't get one, whether we pick up or not, we have broken that bond.

"For the sake of our own self-image and the other person's perception of us we feel obliged to live up to that expectation. The rest is down to how plausible the excuse actually is."

The research was carried out for mobile phone recycling company Mopay.

A spokesman for the firm said: "We've all been there and told a white lie to let ourselves off the hook. Many people like the idea of being contactable all the time but can't deal with the consequences.

"Modern technology like Blackberrys and iPhones mean we are constantly in demand. This has its advantages and disadvantages and it seems that when it comes to answering a simple phone call from a friend many choose to ignore it.

"One respondent to our survey said, 'I sometimes use the excuse that I'm on a trampoline so can't pick up'.

"I'm not sure anyone can get away with that."

The Top 10 excuses for not answering a mobile phone are:

1. Didn't hear it ring
2. I was driving
3. Couldn't find my phone
4. Was in a meeting
5. Pressed the wrong button
6. Was in the bathroom when answering
7. Didn't recognise the number
8. Didn't feel like talking
9. Dislike people eavesdropping
10. Busy in the bedroom
Courtesy TELEGRAPH

Friday, May 21, 2010

TRUST ME, I'M A JOURNALIST

Trust in the media promotes health. A study of people from 29 Asian countries, reported in the open access journal BMC Medicine, has shown that individuals with high levels of trust in the mass media tend to be healthier.

A team of researchers led by Yasuharu Tokuda from St. Luke's International Hospital and Takashi Inoguchi from Chuo University, both in Tokyo, used data from a survey of 39,000 people to investigate the relationships between trust and self-reported health. Tokuda said, "This study is the first to analyze this relationship. Our findings suggest that mass media programs can contribute towards better health, especially among those people who have trust in mass media. The media need to recognize the importance of their important social role in terms of public health".

Slightly over 50% of the Asian participants reported that they 'trust a lot' or 'trust to a degree' in mass media. The group that reported being healthiest were young, married, high-income, and highly-educated women with a high trust in interpersonal relations as well as in the healthcare system and mass media.

People in Brunei reported the highest levels of health, while those in Turkmenistan had the lowest opinion of their own wellbeing. People in the Maldives reported the highest level of trust in mass media while Hong Kong residents were the most cynical.

According to Tokuda, "One potential pathway from high trust in mass media to better health is increased acceptance of health-related messages and the resultant dissemination of good behavior related to health throughout communities".

Article: The Relationship between Trust in Mass Media and the Healthcare System and Individual Health: Evidence from the AsiaBarometer Survey, Yasuharu Tokuda, Seiji Fujii, Masamine Jimba and Takashi Inoguchi, BMC Medicine (in press) http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmed/
Source: BioMed Central

Excuse ME! How most people believe manners are unimportant in 21st century Britain

They say that good manners cost nothing. So you'd think that even in these credit-crunch times, we could still afford to be polite. Apparently not. For researchers have found that fewer than a quarter of us think that common courtesy is important today. Those simple acts of kindness, such as giving a stranger your place in the queue, or writing a thank-you letter to Auntie Jane, are also in decline.
According to the survey, which investigated attitudes towards courtesy, just one in three of those polled have ever given up their place in a queue.

Almost one in ten sometimes forget to say 'please' and 'thank you' - and one in 50 said they had 'too much on their minds to worry about other people's feelings'.

But although the majority thought that common courtesy just isn't a must these days, it seems that plenty of us appreciate it when someone takes the time to be kind.

Everyday acts that made us smile included paying a compliment - the gesture that made men and women happiest.

This was followed by sharing a chat with a stranger - and receiving good customer service.
For those feeling the pinch in the recession, it will be welcome news to find that flowers were further down the list.

Just eight per cent said being given a bunch was the act of kindness most likely to cheer them up.
And only 14 per cent liked it best when someone remembered a birthday or anniversary.
Courtesy isn't a trend that's necessarily helped by modern technology, it seems.

The carefully crafted thank-you letter has been overtaken by electronic mail for many, with 40 per cent admitting they preferred to use digital methods, such as social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, to send their appreciation.

On the other hand, there are those of us who want to show our thanks, but never quite manage to get that handwritten note in the post box.

And 20 per cent found new technology actually made it easier to be considerate to others, revealed the survey, from the bank First Direct.

But it seems that most of us think a recession is a good time to bring back traditionally British characteristics such as respect and honesty - something on which 64 per cent of those polled agreed.

Dr Gary Wood, a social psychologist and author, explained that manners are an easy way to make others feel better during the economic crisis.

'There's great power to be found in the fine detail. Good manners and social courtesy cost nothing and can have a profound effect on other people.

'We can literally make someone's day, and help to reduce their stress by paying attention to these little things, which then has a knock-on effect in our own lives.

'A smile or a kind word can actually set us up for the day, making it more likely that we focus on the good things rather than the doom and gloom.'
Courtesy MAIL

Monday, May 17, 2010

HOW THE MIGHTY FALL

BY ANDLEEB ABBAS

Organisations without a true purpose, mission and values are always in danger of losing their way in their fanatical obsession for more and more growth and profits

The lethal combination of money, power and sex are age-old recipes for failure. Nearly every fall from grace, be it individual or organisational, can be traced to their mad pursuit. Yet, history repeats itself repeatedly. From the corporate world to the world of politics and sports, human nature keeps on displaying its amazing ability to destroy those very foundational bases on which they launched their platform of growth and progress. From Tiger Woods to Shashi Tharoor and from IPL to Toyota, the sad story of individuals and organisations indulging in negligence, deception and arrogance, leading to their disgrace and downfall, keeps on reminding us that unbound success is perhaps more dangerous than limited failure.

Sustainable success is based on the basic principles of hard work and an honest pursuit of worthy goals. Tiger Woods was perhaps the classic example of this path to progress. With total perseverance and persistence, he did the undoable. Golf being for the rich, for the white and for the famous saw in Tiger a new hero who was neither white nor rich and famous, but through sheer hard work and single-minded focus he became a symbol of genuine success. This image of disciplined behaviour was what brought him the billion-dollar sponsorship deals from Nike, Gillette, Rolex and many more. As they say, the true test of a person’s character comes on two occasions: one when he is successful and the other when he is a failure. People without the foundational strength of character find it very difficult not to become slaves to their ego. They get so used to living an image that they forget who they really are. The Tiger image has now become more sheepish with story after story of his less than mortal flings with every woman in sight. With his image cracked, he is losing billions in sponsorship despite his PR team’s carefully crafted re-branding effort of the repentant family man and the rejuvenated sportsman.

Another type of star personality comprises those who use their urbane sophistication to climb the political and organisational ladder. These are people who apparently have a smooth demeanour, wonderful communication abilities and seemingly charming personalities. Shashi Tharoor, the Indian junior minister, fits this bill very well. Having worked for most of his career for the UN, he has perfected the art of saying the politically correct thing, yet committing a morally corrupt action with equal ease. At the UN he had climbed to the level of being an under-secretary-general of Kofi Annan and, at one time, was tipped to take over the secretary general’s role. However, his involvement in a sexual harassment case and the oil-for-food Iraq misappropriation led to the end of his career at the UN. Similarly, his tenure as a junior minister has been riddled with question marks. The recent scandal on his IPL commission dealings on money and favours to his girlfriend are familiar stories for those who have known about his chequered past.

IPL was expanding its range by bidding for new teams for the next year’s tournament. Kochi was one of two successful bidders to expand the immensely successful IPL to 10 city-based teams. Shashi Tharoor was dragged into a public spat when Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, revealed details of the Kochi franchise ownership via his Twitter account, saying a girlfriend of Tharoor had been given equity without paying for it. Tharoor had earlier been accused of receiving a hidden stake in the team. Meanwhile, Lalit Modi himself had been accused of trying to derail the Kochi group so that another group of bidders could take its place. Finally, the uproar was too much and Shashi Tharoor resigned, ending perhaps his last chance to make it big. With intelligence and charm oozing all over him, it is his lack of character and principles that have repeatedly brought about his downfall.

Similarly, organisations can only sustain themselves if their foundations based on principles and values are strong. Organisations without a true purpose, mission and values are always in danger of losing their way in their fanatical obsession for more and more growth and profits. IPL, with its spectacular rise, had become a global model of money spinning, star power and sheer entertainment. Organisations that experience fame and fortune with such lightning speed become so used to propelling growth that they develop this blind belief that their size and glamour will save them from any adverse reaction. IPL’s own blazing pace has burned its image.

IPL may be blamed for being a nouveau riche, upstart organisation. But how do you explain one of the world’s most legendary and reputed organisations involved in a serious compromise on product quality in pursuit of mindless growth. Yes, we are talking about the most quality-oriented organisation in the world, Toyota. The shocking revelation that most of the car models of Toyota have faulty accelerators, leading to life threatening accidents, has shaken the auto world. Despite warnings by its quality department on the lack of safety, Toyota was again carried away by its desire to occupy market share left open by tottering American giants like GM and Chrysler; in this race for being the biggest they forgot how to be the best. The result is that they had to recall eight million cars for replacement and repair of the faulty parts. The cars may be repaired in a few weeks but the dent to its reputation may take years to return to the level where people can swear by it once again.

When the truth becomes false and falsehood becomes true, the search for what is and should be becomes as vague and confusing as this sentence itself. A world which believes that anything and everything can be bought, where good looks or goodwill are just a cosmetic surgery away, where loyalty and sincerity have a price tag, where being big and famous at all costs is the real mantra, it is inevitable that success is only a matter of time and failure a consequential reality. It is an erosion of values at the individual and organisation level that has caused the mightiest to crumble and fall. The only sustainable recipe for enduring success is an almost religious adherence to the age-old fundamentals of integrity, fidelity, quality and humility. Without these values, individuals and organisations are bodies without a soul destined to lose their identity, self-esteem and dignity, and fall into the abyss of ignominy.

The writer is a consultant and CEO of FranklinCovey and can be reached at andleeb@franklincoveysouthasia.com
Courtesy DAILY TIMES May 2

Sunday, May 16, 2010

'PRETTY WOMEN CAN BE BAD FOR HEALTH'

Meeting a beautiful woman can be bad for your health, scientists have found.

Just five minutes alone with an attractive female raise the levels of cortisol, the body's stress hormone, according to a study from the University of Valencia.

The effects are heightened in men who believe that the woman in question is "out of their league".

Cortisol is produced by the body under physical or psychological stress and has been linked to heart disease.

Researchers tested 84 male students by asking each one to sit in a room and solve a Sudoku puzzle. Two strangers, one male and one female, were also in the room.

When the female stranger left the room and the two men remained sitting together, the volunteer's stress levels did not rise. However, when the volunteer was left alone with the female stranger, his cortisol levels rose.

The researchers concluded: "In this study we considered that for most men the presence of an attractive woman may induce the perception that there is an opportunity for courtship.

"While some men might avoid attractive women since they think they are 'out of their league', the majority would respond with apprehension and a concurrent hormonal response.
"This study showed that male cortisol levels increased after exposure to a five-minute short social contact with a young, attractive woman."

Cortisol can have a positive effect in small doses, improving alertness and well-being. However, chronically elevated cortisol levels can worsen medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and impotency.
Courtesy TELEGRAPH

PM GILANI'S FLIP-FLOP

On the one hand Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani says that parliament is being disgraced by the issue of fake degrees of parliamentarians, on the other he feels no qualms about addressing an election rally on behalf of a proved cheater Jamshed Dasti, who had admitted before the Supreme Court of Pakistan that his degree was fake and had resigned from his seat in the National Assembly. What is even more regrettable is that the Pakistan People’s Party’s parliamentary board, which does not seems to care about its party members’ character, again decided to field Jamshed Dasti for a by-election.

While defending the PPP’s decision to award the ticket to Jamshed Dasti, Prime Minister Gilani called on other parties not to give tickets to those holding fake degrees. Can there be a better example of double speak? What high moral ground does Mr Gilani have to call upon others to do what his own party is not doing? Perhaps he had better set his own house in order first before lecturing others.

While one does not agree with the condition of a bachelor’s degree for contesting elections for national and provincial assemblies, which tends to limit universal franchise, it was incumbent upon the contestants to follow the election rules and not resort to unfair means. Also, the Election Commission (EC) was expected to verify the academic qualifications of all the candidates to ascertain their verity, given the ease with which forgeries are commonplace in Pakistan. Failure to do so has landed the EC in an unenviable situation, where it still has to deal with 46 election petitions pertaining to fake degrees, filed after the 2008 general election. Moreover, allowing madrassa degree-holders to contest elections further complicated the situation, because neither is the madrassa degree equivalent to the bachelor’s degree issued by our regular education system, nor is there any way to ascertain independently whether the concerned holder had indeed completed his education in a madrassa or not. Thus the ‘graduate assemblies’ plan of General Musharraf was highly flawed, conceptually, in principle, and in implementation.

Although the condition of academic qualification had been lifted in 2008, for future all the political parties, including the PPP, should at least ensure that their respective elected representatives do not have a proven fraudulent character.
Courtesy DAILY TIMES Saturday, May 15

Saturday, May 15, 2010

BIG PLAYERS & HUMAN RIGHTS VALUES

BY ANUM RAZA HASAN

Acknowledging its structural loopholes, even if the international human rights regime were to be reformed to make it more applicable in the current political situation, the question remains if it will ever be able to enforce itself against a superpower like the US

The deterioration of the human rights situation in much of Asia can be termed as the most imminent outcome of the war on terror. Uncontested in truth and undeniable through evidence, human rights violations perpetuated by the US foreign policy stand as the central characteristic of the post-9/11 world order, which has further highlighted the need to question the credibility, efficacy and influence of the universal human rights regime. The blatant abuse of human rights can be seen through the widely reported incidents in the Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan, used as a torture facility by the US, which reflects not only the US hegemony and unilateral stance over international affairs but the inability of the universal human rights regime to serve under the current world order. It is, in effect, constrained by the notion of state sovereignty and the lack of an enforcement mechanism. Other dilemmas hindering the capacity of the international regime to function as per its original claims include the flexibility of choice to ratify crucial international conventions as well as the fact that the UN Security Council gives the most powerful states the veto power against decisions pertaining to the world.According to estimates by human rights organisations, the US is holding at the Bagram Air Force Base north of Kabul in Afghanistan more than twice the number of prisoners held at Guantánamo. The prisoners are compacted into wire cages, forced to sleep on the floor and only given plastic buckets for latrines.

According to Human Rights Watch, prisoners held at Bagram, which is being expanded to hold up to 1,000 detainees, have no right to a lawyer, no access to the courts and barely any right to challenge the grounds for their detention. The mistreatment of detainees violates the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which the US has ratified. Moreover, according to article five and nine of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights respectively, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

In the wake of 9/11, dominant voices in the Bush administration’s inner circles subscribed to the idea that if ‘coercively interrogating’ prisoners could provide intelligence to save American lives and win the war on terror, then ‘quaint’ laws should be no obstacle. The top advocates for torture and other extra legal policies were Vice President Dick Cheney and his brain trust. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) produced a series of secret memos stating that the president, as commander in chief, has unrestrained powers to wage war; any efforts to subject executive discretion over interrogation and detention policies to federal, military or treaty laws would be ‘unconstitutional’; prisoners designated as terrorists by presidential fiat (rather than status review by a tribunal) should have no habeas corpus right to contest their detention and no right not to be maltreated. Hence, making the world safe from terrorism quickly came to be seen as antithetical to strong international human rights institutions. It would be worthwhile to question whether human rights have irretrievably lost their status in international affairs and national policy making in the wake of the war on terrorism.

The Bush regime termed Afghanistan an ‘exceptional state’, under which circumstances the nature of its intervention and actions were justified, as if giving them the license to act independently and chart Afghanistan’s destiny. The US was thus able to chart its own path through a unilateralist policy with little regard to other states’ — even the United Nations’ — discontent over its intentions. It should be understood that international law has often been moulded more by the structural demands of the US than by the latter’s outright retreat. This is reflected in US reluctance to accept strong mechanisms which have been part of a general tendency to maintain international law in its traditional state, meaning in a primitive state, characterised by indeterminate primary rules, few and weak institutions for lawmaking and enforcement and a strong fragmentation without a defining centre. The most convincing example of maintaining the flexibility of international law is the US reluctance to subscribe to supervisory mechanisms or to accede to treaties that have such mechanisms at their core, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The US not only indulges in liberties and privileges in establishing a legal order it is not entitled to, enforcing law without having to conform to it, on several occasions it only considered accepting treaties if they mirror US domestic law. In other words, in the US view, international law is subject to US governmental powers and subject specifically to the US constitution. To this end, the US has been able to secure inequality in international law and retain flexibility to perpetuate US national interests. These characteristics have rendered international law as a tool for the powerful in their self-interest, who then take advantage of the lack of clarity in laws that should be equally applicable to all.

There is a precarious law and order, political and security situation in Afghanistan and the inability of the international human rights regime to deliver, coupled with the US’s hegemonic ambitions and unilateral foreign policy decisions, has further aggravated the situation. This has had made the grave human rights implications of the war on terror pretty much inevitable in Asia and beyond. Bush’s legacy of unilateralism and disregard for human rights is being closely followed by Obama, despite grand promises of positive ‘change’.

Even though Guantanamo Bay has been partially closed — even Bagram has become part of a handover plan to local authorities — but regular reports of US army abuse in foreign territories, be it Afghanistan or Iraq, are increasingly receiving condemnation from human rights organisations the world over, reaffirming global scepticism over the US desire to reverse its regime of abuse. It needs to be understood that upholding human rights values as defined in international conventions will serve the long-term interests of the US as well. Acknowledging its structural loopholes, even if the international human rights regime were to be reformed to make it more applicable in the current political situation, the question remains if it will ever be able to enforce itself against a superpower like the US. Would big power players ever feel compelled to uphold universal values at the cost of political self-interest?

Anum Raza Hasan is a freelance journalist and human rights activist with an academic background in International Development. She can be reached at anumhasan@dailytimes.com.pk
Courtesy DAILY TIMES April 30

Friday, May 14, 2010

IT'S MORE ABOUT MORALITY MR. PRIME MINISTER

Thank you Mr Gilani for enlightening us
BY SAEED MINHAS

ISLAMABAD: At last Premier Gilani has chosen to speak on the issue that currently dogs political discussions around the country, namely that fielding and supporting a convicted cheat like Jamshed Dasti in a by-election in Muzaffargarh is bringing a bad name not only to the prime minister, but his party as well. The PM broke his silence by telling the House on Thursday that there was nothing wrong in him supporting Dasti, since two wrongs can make a right in our polity.

Well, thank you Mr Gilani for enlightening us on the fact that qualification has nothing to do with one’s political acumen, but sir you seem to have missed the whole point of the criticism, its not only about pitching an under-grad or eighth grader in the election foray, but its rather about picking up a person who has just been proven to be a con. It’s more about morality than obeying or disregarding the orders of the Supreme Court. Let us hope that next time His Excellency explains whether morality has anything to do with holding a public office or if it too is just another making of the establishment to give a bad name to our pious politicians.

Wise-babus and Bajis, ranging from 17 to 21 grades, surrounding the premier all the time were of the opinion that it is the responsibility of the Election Commission to look after the qualification clauses and since Mr Dasti had been cleared by the EC, then why blame the innocent premier who had not even been the one to decide on handing a party ticket to J Dasti. Rather, one should be appreciative of the magnanimity of the premier, who went to address Dasti’s campaign rally despite getting a no from the party’s core committee for his own brother on the same seat. It proves how respectful he is towards the decisions taken by the party’s co-chairperson and his party cabinet.

However, another thing that the clarification of these babus implies is that the premier is bound by the core committee of the party, which is working as a parallel cabinet these days. Issues ranging from sorting out the mess on Value Added Tax (VAT) implementation of General Sales Tax (GST) collection, strategic responses to the enraged judiciary, bubbling Obama-Clinton duo or contemplative khakis, decision of retreating against MQM’s solidarity on the Hyderabad issue or nomination of candidates for by-elections now fall under the preview of the core committee of the party, where the premier is just another participant, revealed the officials privy to these developments.

It shows the democratic principles adhered to the fullest by the largest political party of the country where even a premier is not above party discipline. Certainly there is nothing wrong with that because it is better than those days when a five-member kitchen cabinet used to guide, groom and sometime even broom the two-time premier throughout the 1980s and 1990s, or even better than sole-wolf-shows of Zia and Musharraf.

Since the premier believes in this whole set up and plans to live happily ever after the 18th Amendment, then the perplexity is on why he rides on the explanatory voyage every now and then. We all know how supreme and wise our current parliament is, because with its collective wisdom it directed the government to follow a path on the Swat situation, then took a firm stand on Drone attacks and the list goes on and on. It remains an anomaly why none of those recommendations matched the ground realities.

The reason might be too much work that all these wise men have to carry out by attending the sessions of parliament. Even on this pretext, facts bely all logic and one cannot lend them any support because throughout this session, and even the ones held in the past two years, there has hardly been a day when more than 30 members were seen at the start of the session, while an equal number were seen present towards the closing bell.

Returning to the core committee issue, neither the premier nor the babus mentioned that all the burning issues are decided by the party’s core committee or the central executive committee because for all those grumpy characters out there, even this minute thing is an issue. Since we don’t want to get into this debate on how those boastful 6-As of the small screen gang up, saddle their horses and announce the opening of the flood gates of sensationalism, despotism and of course, criticism, therefore just leave it for our babus/bajis and instead look towards the EC matter.

Again the paucity of space has left us with only a few lines to tell you about the grade 66 officer who is still enjoying a high profile office in the federal secretariat. Like many others he has been the blue-eyed guy of Zia and then of course Sharifs, but like some others he is still a linchpin in the ongoing war on terror and a vital source for all internal and external players for that matter. Hopefully, one day Bilawal or Bakhtawar might know how to play and stay in the house of cards or maybe the core committee is aware of this already and working on it, whispered some concerned party sources.
Courtesy Daily Times, May 14

Saturday, May 8, 2010

FACTS & FICTION

BY GULMINA BILAL AHMED

The man himself certainly does not fit the textbook, conventional profile of a bomber. His looks and persona, as reflected in the pictures, is more of a model than an alleged bomber

Another week and another challenge for Pakistan. The week has been filled with reports about the New York City suspect bomber, Faisal Shahzad. Faisal has perplexed political analysts and psychologists alike. Faisal is what is termed to be a member of the social-political elite of Pakistan. He is a member of, in the words of Mohsin Hamid, the writer of Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, part of the ‘air-conditioned’ section of Pakistani society. Members of this AC Club, according to Mohsin Hamid, are cushioned from the harsh realities of not only the Pakistani summer but also factors like economic and social poverty. Having a father who was an officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and then worked for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after retirement, a paternal uncle who retired from the army as a general and among his many positions, also served as the inspector general of the Frontier Corps (FC). A father-in-law who was well settled in Karachi and a wife who studied in the US, has an accounting degree, is active on online social networking sites, posts beautiful pictures of herself and her husband, professing openly her love for him by stating “he is my everything” and says that her passions in life are, “fashion, shoes, bags, shopping and of course Faisal”. Not the profile of the wife of a man desirous of bombing New York.

The man himself certainly does not fit the textbook, conventional profile of a bomber. His looks and persona, as reflected in the pictures, is more of a model than an alleged bomber. He left the country at the age of 18, has studied in the US and worked on Wall Street. His house was up for foreclosure by J P Morgan, but during the present times of recession this is the challenge that a number of families are facing. He buys a licensed weapon legally and leaves a paper trail a mile long. The material that he bought consisted of six to eight boxes of 36 Silver Salute M88 fireworks, which according to firework experts “would not damage a watermelon. Thank goodness he used that”. However, the point is not what he used. His choice of material may reflect lack of technical knowledge, not lack of intent. Faisal has apparently made a full confession and has waived his right to a lawyer.

Given Faisal’s and his family’s profile and, most importantly, his circumstances, it is perplexing why he did it. This is not to say that such violent actions are undertaken by only a certain economic or educational section of society. The man who masterminded the failed rocket attacks on the Army House during the time of Musharraf was the son of an army brigadier. His accomplices were also retired personnel from the PAF. The ‘Shoe Bomber’ was also considerably educated and economically comfortable. The spokesperson of one faction of the Pakistani Taliban at one time used to be a converted Muslim American. However, there is one common factor in the profiles of all the above-mentioned cases. All of these individuals deliberately and clearly, at some point in their lives, underwent a shift in their mindsets and thinking. This does not appear to be true in Faisal Shahzad’s case. Yet, he himself has confessed to the crime.

Every attempted and successful act of terror is terrifying in itself. It paralyses reason and is aimed at creating a fear psychosis in society. The acts of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Asian Tigers and al Qaeda are all aimed at paralysing society and imposing their own viewpoints and mindsets. What Faisal was trying to impose is unknown presently, but perhaps will be known at a later stage. Presently, we are dealing with an additional challenge. The challenge of the conspiracy theorists.

One has written about Taliban apologists in the past. These are individuals who, in varying degrees, depending on the space that they have, try to make a case for the Taliban on the grounds that while their actions are incorrect, their stated cause is correct. That is the cause of political Islam. These people are present across Pakistani society. As mentioned earlier, these individuals advocate their cause with various intensities. If they have public space, they utilise that. However, there is also a small section of society that subscribed to a paranoia theory of Us vs Them, i.e. Pakistan vs the Western world. Any and every action of the Western world is considered to be designed to persecute Pakistan and they see in every political act of various governments a conspiracy to alienate Pakistan.

This is prevalent even in the matter of the analysis of the causes of Faisal Shahzad’s alleged act. The theory of Faisal Shahzad’s alleged bombing as a fabrication by the US to “pressurise Pakistan to agree to their demands” is being put forth by some quarters. Would the proponents of this theory bother to share what are those ‘demands’ of the US? Pakistan has been a US ally on this war for peace since 2001. This partnership has had some tough spots and readers would recall calls on the Pakistani government and its security agencies “to do more”. However, for a year now, this urging of doing more has quieted down and people like Holbrooke and Hilary Clinton have acknowledged that Pakistan was pulling its weight in the partnership. The recent Pak-US Strategic Dialogue is a case in point. Thus, what ‘demands’ is the US allegedly using to promote hype and stir not just among its own citizens but around the world?

Also, I am amused that this same lobby that is putting forth this theory is self-contradictory. On the one hand, this lobby/section of society declares that Pakistan is at the beck and call of the Western world and that they are calling the shots. This is the main argument behind the anti-American, in fact anti-Western sentiment that this lobby propagates. However, if this were true, then why would the big bad Western world create this drama of defaming Faisal Shahzad?

We have to distinguish between fact and fiction. This difference is very fuzzy presently. Let us accept it as such instead of making it even fuzzier by clumsy conspiracy theories.

The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant. She can be reached at contact@individualland.com