Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks SHAKES the 'UMMAH'

ZARDARI- DIRTY, SHARIF- DANGEROUS

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower non-profit media organisation, has taken the world by storm once again. On November 28, WikiLeaks began publishing 251,287 US embassy cables from 1966 to February 2010. As per its website, these are “the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain”. These cables are not only a blow to US diplomacy but have also shattered many a myth, especially in the Muslim world. From a Pakistani perspective, the Saudi monarch’s remarks about President Asif Zardari were quite revealing. A cable from US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), James Smith, to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “King Abdullah firmly believes that Asif Zardari is the primary obstacle to the government’s ability to move unequivocally to end terrorist safe havens there (“when the head is rotten, it affects the whole body”).”

Now, this is quite rich coming from the Saudi monarch when the leaked documents report that Saudi donors remain the chief donors of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s obsession with propagating Wahabi Islam has led to strengthening the fundamentalist mindset in the Muslim world. During the Afghan jihad, the Saudis funded most madrassas (seminaries) in Pakistan and also monetarily supported militant networks. The Saudis continue to do that to date. President Zardari and the PPP government have actually been trying to quash extremism in Pakistan. This government has not only owned the war on terror but has also built up a public consensus against religious terrorism. Thus, it was not just an uncalled for remark from the Saudi monarch but also factually incorrect. Traditionally, we have been beneficiaries of Saudi petro-dollars, which has led to relative influence of the Saudis in our local politics. Back in 2000, it was Saudi Arabia that negotiated with General (retd) Musharraf in striking a deal with Mian Nawaz Sharif, who then went into exile in the KSA. Though the KSA was close to the PPP back in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s days, after General Ziaul Haq came to power, their loyalties have shifted to the Sharifs. On the other hand, the UAE is now much closer to the PPP. As per the leaked cables, in July 2009, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said that President Zardari was “dirty but not dangerous” while Mian Nawaz Sharif was “dangerous but not dirty” and hence he could not be trusted to honour his promises. It seems as if both the KSA and the UAE have their own interest in Pakistani leaders. Another interesting revelation made by these leaked cables is that Mossad chief advocated that General (retd) Musharraf be kept in power. So, it seems that Pakistani politics is not just of interest to the Arabs but Israel as well. When Musharraf was in power, there were reports that backchannel diplomacy was taking place between Pakistan and Israel. There are some within the establishment who think that we have not gained much by supporting the Arab cause and since India is close to Israel, we could benefit by recognising Israel. This idea did not go down well within the country and Musharraf had to give it up in the end.

On another note, many people in the Muslim world still believe in the erstwhile concept of a Muslim ‘ummah’. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the Muslim states are interested in protecting their own vested interests rather than looking out for each other. This was proved by a shocking revelation that Saudi Arabia had urged the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear programme. Apparently, Saudi King Abdullah told the US to “cut off the head of the snake”. Saudi Arabia’s enmity with the Shiite Iran is an open secret, but going so far as to ask the US to bomb Iran is a serious matter. The hypocrisy of the Saudis cannot be more obvious since they are themselves funding the hydra of terrorism. The so-called Muslim world has been up in arms against the US and Israel for threatening to bomb Iran but another Muslim country supporting and asking the US to go ahead with its plans should serve as a wake-up call to the Muslims that every country is out there to save its own skin.

Friday, November 26, 2010

GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE really DO EARN MORE

ANI
It is true – good-looking people do earn more than average-lookers.

The new illustrated version of Superfreakonomics, the world's No1 bestseller - written by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner, reveals staggering facts about modern life through economics.


It found that good looking people like Kate Moss earn five per cent more than average-lookers, who earn five to ten per cent more than below-average people, according to a study by economists Daniel Hamnermesh and Jeff Biddle.
Another recent study found that women who become men earn slightly more money after their gender swap, but men who become women make, on average, nearly a third less than their previous wage, reports the Sun.

Thought sharks are deadlier than elephants? The truth is that with a world of six billion people only around four a year are killed by sharks. But elephants kill around 200 people each year.

The book also reveals why a drunken walker is more likely to be killed than a drunk driver - The 237 million Americans aged over 16 walk 43billion miles a year. If one of every 140 miles is walked drunk - the number of miles that are driven drunk - then on a per-mile basis a drunk walker is eight times more likely to be killed.

And if you thought raw talent does exist – you may be wrong – for even Mozart didn't hit his stride until he had 10,000 hours of practice.

Dr Michael Howe, of Exeter University, estimates that by his sixth birthday Mozart had studied 3,500 hours of music.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

GIVE US AAFIA & TAKE AWAY AASIA

By Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad

USA and British governments, reportedly has offered asylum to Aasia Bibi while International and national NGO’s have expected to jump in, to ‘cash in’ the issue soon after. Aasia has already rejected the blames of committing Blasphemy while radical forces now busy in staging protests against the expected ‘pardoning’ from President Zardari- using his discretionary power.

The dejected looking family members of Aasia Bibi, who is allegedly found convicted of Blasphemy Law in Ittanwali village of Nankana Sahib, district Sheikhupura, met federal minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who assured them Ministry would protect Aasia as she according to his case study is innocent. The family members also hand over the mercy petition to minister on the occasion.

Talking to media persons on Wednesday (November 24) at his office where Aasia Bibi’s husband Aashiq Hussain Maseeh , 50 with his two daughters Sidra 9, and Eesham 18 met the minister, Bhatti said within a week he would submit a comprehensive report to prime minister that would also taken to President later on requesting the mercy plea.

Asia Bibi, who works as a peasant plucking ‘Falsa’ in filed and was sentenced to death by lower courts by dragging into blasphemy over a minor skirmish of fetching water, the minister said.

Minority affairs minister said his ministry is diligently working over the peaceful solution of the issue and use all legal and constitutional rights to fight for mercy of Bibi. “I am confident that President Asif Ali Zardari would pardon Aasia, a mother of 4 daughters, because she had been falsely accused,” he added.

According to ministry’s investigation, Bhatti said it was a personal dispute and she did not commit blasphemy. The Minister said president Zardari had commissioned him to investigate the case within three days and it has been made. “I will hopefully submit my report to the prime minister soon after he came back from abroad and recommend him to grant pardon to Aasia,” he added. “She is innocent and the case against her is concocted and baseless,” Bhatti emphasised.

The minister said blasphemous cases like this registered in the past many a times and every time lower courts sentenced the ‘culprit’ a death penalty whereas the Higher Courts acquitted the alleged person because of wrongly conceived and hurried made biased decision.

Bhatti said he has invited all stakeholders including political and religious parties’ members, rights and social activists, and lawmakers to amend the Blasphemy laws in country that is the product of Gen. Zia’s regime.

The minister said the president has taken notice of this case ... he is concerned on this issue," Bhatti said, adding that Zardari has the power to pardon her even ahead of the higher court appeal.

Replying to a question whether asylum is the only solution for salvation of Bibi as even if she is pardoned, the threats to her life wont get reduced, the minister said reports in media about asylum invitation from west is baseless. “Bibi is behind the bars in district jail, Sheikhupura and we are fighting for Aasia’s clemency- who is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

Talking to this scribe, spouse of Aasia Bibi- Aashiq Hussain said that his family members are under constant threats of lives from radical forces. “They are threatening my daughters and my siblings are terrified,” Hussain said.

He said everyday the protestors staged demonstration against Aasia with an urge to implement the courts’ order of death. “They abused Aasia and all of us and raised slogans against the appeals,” he said.

Hussain said he has 2 houses- one belong to him and in other his brother reside but now we have left that place as scary threats are making their lives hell on this earth.

He said when district court made the decision, none of us was given the opportunity to defend the case neither the court bothered to invite us.


My wife was sentenced in June 2009 and has been in jail for over a year. She has denied the charge of blasphemy, Aashiq Hussain said.

It started off over minor dispute when my wife was ordered by wife of Alambardar (Village Chief) of village Muhammad Tufail to fetch water for her. “When she did it the fellow female colleagues sitting with wife of Chaudhary refused to drink it and used derogatory remarks against Aasia Bibi- being a christian,” Hussain maintained.

He said later Muhammad Tufail also used foul language against Aasia. “Consequently, Aasia responded back that made Chaudhary outraged. Later on, he alongwith accomplices coloured this incident as blasphemous promulgating Aasia used derogatory words for Muhammad (pbuh) and Quran- the holy book,” Hussain narrated the sorrow tale.

He said none of us ever imagined to commit this act as we have been living there since ages and no incident ever occurred in the name of religion. “The day when case was registered Aasia was plucking the ‘Falsas’ in the field. But Qari Islam, (a qari of local mosue) filed the case against Aasia who was not on the scene and was hardly aware what actually happened,” he said.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NOTHING IS SACRED

In Pakistan, corruption seems to have become a way of life. However, even this jaded country has been appalled at the corruption that has hit hard the sacred act of pilgrimage, with the Hajj scandal unfolding in all its bitter irony. The government’s ministry of religious affairs (RA) is under fire, and rightly so. The 25,000 pilgrims who made it to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan for Hajj this year were not just inconvenienced by the lack of proper arrangements; they were left in a state of disgrace. Accommodation promised by the RA ministry consisted of some five maktabs that would not be located further than two kilometres from the Holy Kaaba. However, the poor Hajis who had paid for the privilege of the government’s Hajj scheme were given accommodation some three to eight kilometres away; in Mina they were not even provided with tents. It is reported that the RA ministry made a hefty amount of money from the Hajis by taking cash for accommodation and facilities that they were not providing. It is shameful for the country that the Saudi government has now felt the need to compensate for the misery suffered by the poor men and women who were carrying out a pious duty. The Saudis are providing 250 riyals per pilgrim for the non-provision of tents and compensation for the money embezzled by Pakistani officials.

The prime minister and president may have ordered probes into this matter that has damaged Pakistan’s image and Pakistan-Saudi relations. However, it is the prime minister’s call for the Foreign Office to handle all Hajj arrangements and organising of the pilgrims’ necessities that is noteworthy as this may serve to rectify in future the ills witnessed this year. There are reports that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Khalid bin Abdul Aziz sent a letter to the Chief Justice asking him to take note of the sham occurring in the name of the government’s Hajj scheme.

After this debacle, the ministry of religious affairs and its officials ought to be kept away from anything to do with this holy rite. As a matter of fact, so badly have they tarnished the country’s reputation that Prime Minister Gilani has given the RA Minister, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, a shut up call after Science and Technology Minister Azam Khan Swati said that without Kazmi’s connivance no corruption would have been possible by other officials. Former Director General Hajj Rao Shakeel was arrested by the FIA when initial reports of the pilgrims’ suffering broke out and his physical remand has just been extended. While the blame game goes on, with Kazmi stubbornly denying any part in the looting of the Hajis and officials pointing fingers at him and each other, the poor pilgrims are now returning after a sorry experience. For many of these ill-fated Hajis, they may never be able to make the pilgrimage again and their loss is irreversible. All those who have made these innocent men and women suffer must be brought to book for the mockery they have made of the religion, the people and their trust.

Whilst many suffered, a lucky few were given enviable privileges. Apparently, Interior Minister Rehman Malik charters a special Hajj flight every year for friends and their family members. Needless to say, these people enjoy the priciest of facilities. However, this year PIA has had to pay a hefty fine of 200,000 riyals to the Saudis because the flight failed to follow the Hajj flight schedule. It does not take a genius to guess that the public exchequer will be funding this abuse of office.

Monday, November 22, 2010

AASIA BIBI, BLASPHEMY, & CHIEF JUSTICE

The general apathy towards Pakistan’s minorities has invited harsh criticism and verbal castigation from the international community, with Pope
Benedict XVI and Amnesty International urging the country to release her immediately. The sentencing to death for the first time of a woman under the controversial Blasphemy Law is sullying Pakistan’s image. The entire world is appalled at this travesty and human rights activists are up in arms to get Aasia’s sentence overturned.

Aasia’s case has drawn such severe criticism that the president has personally looked into this sentence that was delivered by a lower court. There is even talk of a presidential pardon, of the kind that was granted to Rehman Malik some months back. However, in this case, the pardon seems absolutely apt. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer visited Aasia in jail on Saturday to get her signature on a mercy appeal to the president. The Governor promised to intercede on her behalf with the president. Not only could this be the outcome of the glare of the international media and rights groups but also because of the repercussions of being accused under the Blasphemy Law. Aasia’s case is set for an appeal in the High Court. But, like many cases before this, even if appeals do bear fruit, the accused have been killed outside the courts or in their homes. The president may very well have the foresight to see this eventuality and, hence, there is talk of a premature pardon, even before the judicial process is complete.

In another example of the state of our minorities, an attack on an Ahmedi house of worship on Eid day is cause for alarm. There is some doubt whether the worship place was intended to be targeted or whether it was two gangs exchanging fire outside, but the terror and panic generated betrays the sorry fact that minorities — real or declared — live in constant fear of their lives.

The social attitudes, prejudiced laws and intolerant world views that breed in our society need to be thrown into the rubbish tip of history. The Blasphemy Law must be repealed. Pakistanis must be made to realise that religious zeal that condones murder and indifference towards the faith and beliefs of others will relegate us to the Dark Ages if we do not reverse these terrifying trends.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

WE HAD JOY, WE HAD FUN, WE HAD SEASONS IN THE SUN, but...

A Page of my Diary
By MAHTAB BASHIR
Mein Teri Mastt Nigaahon Ka Bharam Rakh Loon Ga
Hosh Aya Bhi To Kehdoon ga Mujhay Hosh Nahi
Yeh Alag Baat Hay Saqi Ky Mujhy Hosh Nahi
Hosh Itna Hay Ky Main Tujhsy Faramosh Nahi
Kabhi Un Madbhari Aankhon Sy Piya Tha Ik Jaam
Aaj Tak Hosh Nahi, Hosh Nahi, Hosh Nahi
Today I can write maximum but I am numb. My pen is down and mind frozen. I’m virtually dead…. but I just want to write few words- the person is special for me, still in my head, in between my rib cage.
One song that I am crazy in love over, was by Terry Jacks, "Seasons in the Sun" resung by my all time favourite band ‘Westlife’. I am not sure what is / was going on here - is he dying or going to kill himself? (and / or Michelle? ). This was a Love Song! I have included the lyrics because this is a real haunting song that we were ecstatic thinking this was L-O-V-E! ...& I am humming it since the past couple of days!
Dedicated to THAT someone very special to me!!! It says it all to help reduce my words. Here it goes….
Goodbye to you, my trusted friend.
We've known each other since we're nine or ten.
Together we climbed hills or trees.
Learned of love and ABC's,
skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.
Goodbye my friend, it's hard to die,
when all the birds are singing in the sky,
Now that the spring is in the air.
Pretty girls are everywhere.
When you see them I'll be there.
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.

But the hills that we climbed
were just seasons out of time.

Goodbye, Papa, please pray for me,
I was the black sheep of the family.
You tried to teach me right from wrong.
Too much wine and too much song,
wonder how I get along.
Goodbye, Papa, it's hard to die
when all the birds are singing in the sky,
Now that the spring is in the air.
Little children everywhere.
When you see them I'll be there.
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.

But the wine and the song,
like the seasons, all have gone.


Goodbye, Michelle, my little one.
You gave me love and helped me find the sun.
And every time that I was down
you would always come around
and get my feet back on the ground.
Goodbye, Michelle, it's hard to die
when all the bird are singing in the sky,
Now that the spring is in the air.
With the flowers everywhere.
I whish that we could both be there.

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
But the stars we could reach
were just starfish on the beach …….

'The minute you think of giving up any relation, think of the reason why you held it so long."-