Russia can find correct position in world

Opinion:By Zhong Sheng (People's Daily)

The West believes, "Russia has never made certain its correct position in the world" and has therefore always been concerned about the future choices of Russia. After Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is expected to become Russia's next president, proposed to bring ex-Soviet states into a "Eurasian Union," Western media said that it is a "challenge to the West" and believed that "a new battle for hearts and minds begins in the former Soviet Union - and it runs the risk of losing the West."

The responses of the West are full of stereotypical ideologies. The ironies are apparently aimed at Putin and virtually at Russia's political system. Some Westerners assert that Putin should not have the opportunity to become the president again. Otherwise, Russia will face the "restoration of the Soviet empire." Such groundless judgments are very common in the West.

It is unrealistic to require the West to go beyond its own limitations to view non-Western political systems in a calmer manner. The West will not give up its own paranoiac criteria and embrace rational and fair criteria.

Calm observations will help people to have a better understanding of the West's complicated mindsets: Under the leadership of Putin as a strong politician, Russia is unlikely to initiate the reforms that the West expects.

The West is certainly unwilling to deal with an antagonistic Russia. If Russia cannot accept the arrangements made by the West, the "polar bear"
had better stay aside or even enter into a state of "hibernation for the winter."

However, instead of going into hibernation, Russia is becoming more active on the international stage. It has developed its own plans for establishing a new international political and economic order and setting up a geopolitical chessboard in the region of the former Soviet Union and has recently vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Russia, which has made major mistakes in choosing its development path, should carry out reforms according to its own conditions. The country will neither take the old path of the Soviet Union nor advance in a way as the Western world expects. Western countries’ worries reflect their unwillingness to see a multi-polar world.
In order to achieve national rejuvenation, Russia has to solve many tough problems, such as the weak economy, excessive dependence on energy, negative population growth and low administrative efficiency. To solve these problems, the country must first create a stable social climate for major reforms.

Russians are somewhat conservative and tend to view the outside world with great skepticism. In order to eliminate the negative effects of these ideological traditions, Russia should keep pace with the times in fostering its cultural development, and more actively participate in the economic globalization process and the transformation of the global economic governance system.

A major power cannot just rely on energy to maintain its status. Russia is facing some historic choices, such as whether or not to join the World Trade Organization and participate in Asia-Pacific regional integration.

Russia's effective participation and open attitude will be crucial to resolving global issues and building a more balanced world order. A major power is bound to place itself in a right position, and Russia is bound to continue to play a unique and significant role on the world stage.

The Kalash: Conversions threaten Pakistan’s “Macedonian” tribe

Nestled among the valleys of Pakistan’s mountainous northwest, a tiny religious community that claims descent from Alexander the Great’s army is under increasing pressure from radicals bent on converting them to Islam.

The Kalash, who number just about 3,500 in Pakistan’s population of 180 million, are spread over three valleys along the border with Afghanistan.

For centuries they practiced polytheism and animal sacrifice without interference from members of Pakistan’s Muslim majority.

But now they are under increasing danger from proselytising Muslim militants just across the border, and a hardline interpretation of Islam creeping through mainstream society —as Pook Shireen discovered.

After falling unconscious during a car accident, the mid-20s member of the paramilitary Chitral Scouts woke to find that people with him had converted him to Islam.

“Some of the Muslim people here try to influence the Kalash or encourage them by reading certain verses to them from the Quran,” said his mother, Shingerai Bibi.

“The men that were with him read verses of the Quran and then when he woke up they said to him, ‘You are a convert now to Islam’. So he converted.”

The conversion was a shock for his family. But they were lucky compared with other religious minorities under threat from growing religious conservatism that is destabilising Pakistan.

In May 2010, more than 80 Ahmadis were killed in attacks on two worship places in Lahore.

Then in March this year, the Christian minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, whose job it was to protect groups like the Kalash, was assassinated outside his home in the capital, Islamabad.

Smooth co-existence
The lush green Kalash valleys, which sit below snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush, have been a magnet for tourists, both for the scenery and for the people, who are indigenous to the area.

Most are fair and with light eyes, which they say proves their descent from the army of Alexander of Macedonia that passed through the area in the 4th century BC to invade India.

The community brews its own wine and women are not veiled.

But the smooth co-existence between the Kalash and Muslims has been fading in recent months and the area is suffering from many of the religious tensions marring the rest of Pakistan.

The conversions are causing splits among the Kalash —converts become outcasts overnight, described by many as “dead to their families”.

“When a Kalash converts we don’t live with them in our houses anymore,” said farmer Asil Khan, sitting on a neighbour’s balcony.

“Our festivals and our culture are different. They can’t take part in the festivals or the way we live.”

Some in the area are so concerned that they believe segregation is the only way to protect the Kalash.

“We should move the Muslims out of the valley to make more room for the Kalash,” said Shohor Gul, a Kalash member of the border police who lives in Rumbur valley.

“This area should be just for us. We dislike these conversions – it disturbs our culture and our festivals, and it reduces our numbers.”

The subject of Kalash festivals is raised often in these narrow valleys, where carefully cultivated corn crops cover what flat land exists, and the Kalash community’s distinctive wooden houses terrace the valley walls.

Held to usher in seasonal change or to pray for a good harvest, Kalash festivals include hypnotic dancing and animal sacrifice, fuelled by the grape wine with which the Kalash lace their gatherings.

Converts to Islam say, though, that these rituals quicken the decision to leave the Kalash.

“The main thing wrong in the Kalash culture are these festivals,” said 29-year-old convert Rehmat Zar. “When someone dies the body is kept in that house for three days.”

Muslims usually bury people the day they die. Zar added of the Kalash: “They slaughter up to a hundred goats and the family are mourning – but those around them are celebrating, beating drums, drinking wine and dancing. Why are they celebrating this? That’s wrong.”

Not all Muslims
Not all of the area’s Muslims feel this way. Qari Barhatullah is the imam, or priest, at the Jami Masjid in Bumboret valley’s Shikanandeh village.

He stresses that many of the valley’s Muslims value the Kalash’s contributions to the area’s tourism industry and contends that Kalash festivals run parallel to their own.

He admits though that there is tension between the two communities. Unveiled Kalash girls in colourful homemade skirts and head-dresses grow up alongside Muslim women covered by the all-enveloping burqas.

The Kalash girls are also free to marry who they chose, in a country where arranged marriages are common.

Pakistan: Politics without vision

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

The latest reports on socio-economic development in Pakistan show that the percentage of the households living in poverty has increased, crossing the figure of 40 percent. If overseas Pakistanis do not financially support their families, the number and ratio of the population facing economic distress would increase. Some financial support to such people becomes available through individual and organisational donations. It may be mentioned that the Benazir Income Support Fund, a welfare project of the federal government, gives Rs 1000 per month to the poorest of the poor families. This gives them some hope to live.

It is not difficult to conclude from the above facts that Pakistan’s economy is unable to create enough job opportunities to enable half of its population to lead normal life with an assurance of some regular income to cover the bare minimum cost of food and shelter, not to speak of education for children and health care.

The major blame for this failure of the state and the government is on the political leaders and parties. Most political leaders make long and passionate speeches for improving the quality of life for ordinary people and often accuse their political adversaries of betraying them. They play up these issues merely as a propaganda tool against their rival political party or leadership rather than seriously making efforts for socio-economic development.

The political disposition and conduct of most Pakistani political parties and leaders is inimical to socio-economic development and human welfare. They are unable or unwilling to recognise that they are their own worst enemies because their politics is alienating the people not only from them but also from the democratic system. The ordinary people are losing hope in the capacity of the political leaders to improve the quality of their life.

Politics in Pakistan is detrimental to human welfare for three major reasons. First, most political parties and leaders lack a clear vision for the future. They talk in vague and general terms about the welfare of the people or make unrealistic promises for improving the quality of their life. For example, the opposition parties will promise to bring down prices of essential commodities without outlining the plan of action or measurers to achieve this goal. They never offer a new plan of action as an alternate to the ongoing policies. The focus is only on criticism. Currently, the people are fed up with electric power shortages and the federal government faces serious criticism on this issue. The PML(N) encouraged and led street agitation on this issue in Lahore and other cities but it has never given a practical plan of action with various steps clearly noted for overcoming power shortages.

Second, the political parties often find it difficult to function as a political machine for addressing the problems of common people. They experience factionalism based on differences among leaders, local rivalries and personalised management of the party by the top leader and his close associates. The party often functions as a personal fiefdom of the leader and dissent is not tolerated, although the dissenter may not be expelled from the party. The rise and fall of local leaders depends to a great extent on the party position of their mentor in the party’s national leadership. Internal party politics often makes it difficult for the party to undertake a dispassionate analysis of the problems and suggest practical solutions.

Third, the major political parties are engaged in politics of confrontation. The PML(N) and the PPP are not competing with each other for improving the quality of life for the common people. The PML(N) is trying desperately to pull down the PPP-led federal government. It also hopes that somehow the Supreme Court or the military or both will knock out the federal government. The PPP-led federal government is engaged in the politics of deflecting the PML(N) pressure and staying on in power. Its alignment with the PML(Q) and the MQM has strengthened the position of the federal coalition that also includes the ANP and some independent members. Most energy of the two major parties is being spent on this unfortunate power struggle. If the PML(N) stages a sit-in outside the President House, the PPP responds by doing the same outside the Punjab Chief Minister’s office.

Under the present political arrangements in Pakistan, all major political parties have to share the blame of poor governance. If the PPP is leading the coalition government at the federal level and in Sindh, the province of the Punjab is ruled by the PML(N). The performance of the Punjab government is no better than the federal government. Both have demonstrated a poor capacity of governance. However, both are engaged in a propaganda war of attributing failure to each other.

The PML(N) does not have enough votes in the National Assembly to move a “vote of no confidence” against the PPP-led federal government. It is endeavouring to launch street agitation to remove the PPP-led federal government. It does not want the Senate elections to be held in March 2012 because under the present political dispensation the PPP and its allies are expected to perform better. The PML(N) therefore wants to paralyse the federal government so that either it is removed or new general elections are announced which will postpone the Senate elections. It is also targeting the MQM. On October 13, the PML(N) activists picked up a brawl with the MQM members in the National Assembly.

It will not be an easy job for the PML(N) to ignite a nationwide agitation because it does not enjoy the support of any other party. No single party can start nationwide agitation. Recently, the Punjab government has attempted to win over the Jamaat-i-Islami by allowing its student wing to hold its annual three-day congregation in the premises of the Punjab University despite strong opposition by the University Administration. This was a Jamaat-i-Islami political show whose leadership obtained permission from the Chief Minister. The university had to be closed for one-day to accommodate the political meeting.

All political parties, in power or outside, should understand that their brute struggle for power is self-destructive for them and the future of democracy. Pakistan faces serious internal threats due to economic problems and internal insecurity. These two problems cannot be addressed by street agitation or by pulling down federal or provincial governments. The major political parties should work towards addressing these problems rather than pulling each other’s legs. All of them can lose in this dangerous game.

Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest


Parents of infants and toddlers should limit the time their children spend in front of televisions, computers, self-described educational games and even grown-up shows playing in the background, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned on Tuesday. Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing, the group said.

The recommendation, announced at the group’s annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a “media history” for doctor’s office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.

“We felt it was time to revisit this issue because video screens are everywhere now, and the message is much more relevant today that it was a decade ago,” said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Tex., and the lead author of the academy’s policy, which appears in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Brown said the new policy was less restrictive because “the Academy took a lot of flak for the first one, from parents, from industry, and even from pediatricians asking, ‘What planet do you live on?’ ” The recommendations are an attempt to be more realistic, given that, between TVs, computers, iPads and smartphones, households may have 10 or more screens.

The worry that electronic entertainment is harmful to development goes back at least to the advent of radio and has steadily escalated through the age of “Gilligan’s Island” and 24-hour cable TV to today, when nearly every child old enough to speak is plugged in to something while their parents juggle iPads and texts. So far, there is no evidence that exposure to any of these gadgets causes long-term developmental problems, experts say.

Still, recent research makes it clear that young children learn a lot more efficiently from real interactions — with people and things — than from situations appearing on video screens. “We know that some learning can take place from media” for school-age children, said Georgene Troseth, a psychologist at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, “but it’s a lot lower, and it takes a lot longer.”

Unlike school-age children, infants and toddlers “just have no idea what’s going on” no matter how well done a video is, Dr. Troseth said.

The new report strongly warns parents against putting a TV in a very young child’s room and advises them to be mindful of how much their own use of media is distracting from playtime. In some surveys between 40 and 60 percent of households report having a TV on for much of the day — which distracts both children and adults, research suggests.

“What we know from recent research on language development is that the more language that comes in — from real people — the more language the child understands and produces later on,” said Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University.

After the academy’s recommendation was announced, the video industry said parents, not professional organizations, were the best judges. Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association, said in an e-mail that the group has a “long and recognized record of educating parents about video game content and emphasizing the importance of parental awareness and engagement.”

“We believe that parents should be actively involved in determining the media diets of their children,” he said.

Few parents of small children trying to get through a day can resist plunking the youngsters down in front of the screen now and then, if only so they can take a shower — or check their e-mail.

“We try very hard not to do that, but because both me and my husband work, if we’re at home and have to take a work call, then yes, I’ll try to put her in front of ‘Sesame Street’ for an hour,” Kristin Gagnier, a postgraduate student in Philadelphia, said of her 2-year-old daughter. “But she only stays engaged for about 20 minutes.”

In one survey, 90 percent of parents said their children under 2 watched some from of media, whether a TV show like “Yo Gabba Gabba!” or a favorite iPhone app. While some studies find correlations between overall media exposure and problems with attention and language, no one has determined for certain which comes first.

The new report from the pediatrics association estimates that for every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play. It recommends that doctors discuss setting “media limits” for babies and toddlers with parents, though it does not specify how much time is too much.

“As always, the children who are most at risk are exactly the very many children in our society who have the fewest resources,” Alison Gopnik, a psychologist at the University of California, said in an e-mail.

Pakhtun's status in Dubai
BY: Jehan Sher Yusufzai

Pakhtuns are famous for their tribal system and traditional culture. But this unfortunate nation has been the victim of internal and external intrigues since the British colonial period.Their land is green and fertile but without enough employment opportunities. This is because the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has never been given its due share of the developmental projects launched in Pakistan.There is no dearth of talent among the Pakhtuns, but prejudiced politicians and elite have kept the community away from development. To survive in this situation the people have spread throughout the world to earn their livelihood. The Pakhtuns have some special qualities and habits for which they are respected not only in Pakistan but throughout the entire world, but one cannot find those qualities by studying Pakhtuns working in the UAE. The complaint is not for all the Pakhtuns but is focused on those who are uneducated, hailing from the far-flung areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.I have been working in the UAE since 2005. I feel very sad to see the ever-decreasing cultural values of Pakhtuns. In the 1970s, the construction boom of the Gulf countries attracted huge manpower from the South Asian countries. To benefit from the employment opportunities a large number of jobless Pakhtuns turned to the Gulf countries especially to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.According to a rough estimate more than 500,000 Pakhtuns are currently employed in the UAE. They are engaged in different professions — about 70 per cent of them in the transport industry and the remaining 30 per cent are employed in construction companies and odd jobs.Technology has revolutionised the world and the job market demands highly qualified workforce. But the Pakhtun youth who come to the UAE do not possess the required skills. Thus they cannot compete with other expats in this much advanced job market.Another problem is that the community members have to work in a multinational environment in the UAE, but few of them know how to deal with other staff members.It has also been observed that the people working here in various companies are not into nurturing healthier relationships for their own development. As a result of their inappropriate attitude, companies do not favour Pakhtun candidates at the time of recruitment.The financial position of the community is also not good as one can see huge businesses of Indians and Arab expatriates in the UAE market, whereas Pakhtuns only know how to drive taxis.Unfortunately, a Pakhtun generally does not have a financial plan to keep a balance between his income and expenditure. He earns money but does not know how to save it. Even when he sends money to his family back home it is without any specific schedule. It has also been noted that Pakhtuns spend lavishly on unnecessary things when they go back home on leave.The economic situation in the region has made their position weak and the salary structures of the workers are not very satisfactory in today’s recessionary environment. It is said that Pakhtuns are famous for their social contacts, but when it comes to those working in the UAE, the matter is quite different. They have developed a poor social system. The famous codes of Pakhtunwali such as hospitality, respect of the elderly, helping the sick and the needy no longer exists in the community here.Their joint accommodations (called dhara in the local dialect) are ruled by jealousy and they have failed to keep the inherited community values in their life in the UAE.Those elderly members of the community who have been living here since many decades do not help those who seek jobs although they can request their bosses.The community should have welfare organisations to assist its people in time of distress like other communities have in the country.A branch of AVT Khyber TV channel exists in Dubai but unfortunately it has never concentrated on problems confronted by the community. Its anchor focuses only on showing high-rise buildings and organises music shows which attract the Pakhtun youth to Dubai but they do not know the ground realties. The anchor has never pointed out the grievances and difficulties faced by the community.It is mentioned here the purpose of my description is not to devalue Pakhtun culture, rather I want to inform the ANP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government of the problems the Pakhtun community isfacing in various Arab countries, particularly in the UAE. It would be better if the local government of the province appoints a commission of experts in Peshawar to examine the job markets in these countries and then evolve a comprehensive strategy to train the youth according to the job requirements. Also, the commission should be set up a small institute in Peshawar where the new overseas workforce will get preliminary information about the countries they wish to go before leaving the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Only then, they can regain their lost image, preserve their jobs and revive the traditions of Pakhtunwali. Now, with the advent of two Pashto TV channels -— the AVT Khyber and Shamshad TV – both can play a pivotal role in restoring the centuries’ old Pakhtun culture. The programmes, especially the cultural ones which are run on these channels are extremely fruitful for our new generation. This is why the channels are becoming popular among the Pakhtuns by leaps and bounds. I would like to remind their distinguished anchors to initiate such programmes which could create awareness among the expatriate Pakhtuns to cope with the challenges faced by them in the Arab Gulf countries.To make a long story short, lack of modern education, English language proficiency, latest job skills, rude attitude and ineptness at social interaction and dealings are the impediments being faced by Pakhtuns not only in the UAE but throughout the Mideast.

Occupy Protests’ Seismic Effect

By Peter Beinart

This past weekend, in 900 cities across the world, tens of thousands demonstrated against unregulated capitalism. Something fascinating is growing, and by the time it ends, I suspect, politics will be different in the United States and a lot of other places as well.

In a great many countries, especially in the West, the political grass is dry. Huge numbers of young people are unemployed, governments are launching harsh and unpopular austerity programs, and the financial elites responsible for the global economic meltdown have almost entirely escaped justice. Millions of articulate, educated, tech-savvy people are enraged and desperate. And they have time on their hands.

To understand this movement’s potential, it’s worth comparing it with the other spasms of global leftist activism in the past half-century. The last time we saw anything on this scale was the late 1960s, when anti-government protests broke out from Berkeley to Paris to Mexico City to Prague. What spurred those protests was the war in Vietnam, the threat of nuclear holocaust, and the way in which both superpowers—in very different ways—used the cold war to enforce conformity and repress dissent.

The protests of the late 1960s helped end the Vietnam War and usher in the era of reduced superpower tension known as détente. But especially in the United States, they failed to push politics to the left.

One reason is that the existence of a powerful, global, communist adversary made it difficult for New Left activists to criticize American foreign policy and American capitalism without being branded communists themselves. A second reason is that the protests of the late 1960s coincided with massive cultural upheavals: revolutions in the relationship between whites and blacks, men and women, gays and straights, young and old, and a rising sense of disorder in America’s families and streets. The protesters of the late 1960s became a symbol of this disorder and thus became culturally threatening in a way that transcended their actual political demands.

Finally, the protests of the late 1960s came after several decades in which government had grown bigger. While leftist demonstrators were denouncing American capitalism, many ordinary Americans were starting to chafe against taxes and regulations that had been growing since the New Deal. Although few realized it until Ronald Reagan’s election, the relationship between government and the economy in the late 1960s and 1970s was actually more conducive to right-wing than left-wing change.

The anti-cold war protests of the 1960s resurfaced in the early 1980s, when left-wing Europeans protested American missile deployments and left-wing Americans took to the streets in support of a nuclear freeze.

But the first left-wing protest movement of the post-cold war era was the anti-globalization movement, which in the 1990s began besieging meetings of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization. Those protests are a lot like today’s: a transnational, non-communist rebellion against the social and environmental effects of unregulated capitalism. But the 1990s were a period of relative prosperity in the West, which helps explain why much of the protesters’ anger was focused on globalization’s impact in the developing world. Today, by contrast, the protesters in America and Europe are primarily focused on what unregulated capitalism has done to their own societies—societies where there is much greater anger and pain than there was 15 years ago. Therein lies the movement’s greater potential to create political change.

The final, and most important, precursor to what is happening today is the movement that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Starting with Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004, a younger generation of web-savvy liberals congregating around websites such as DailyKos and groups like MoveOn, began using their fury against the Iraq War to create a leftist activist movement inside the Democratic Party. What distinguished these “netroots” activists from the anti-globalization activists was their willingness to work inside a major political party. That pragmatism (which stemmed partly from the memory of Ralph Nader’s 2000 independent presidential campaign, which had helped elect George W. Bush), was a source of the movement’s strength. And it was in the Dean campaign that many younger activists learned the organizational skills that helped power Barack Obama’s campaign in 2000.

But in retrospect, the netroots movement’s focus on candidates as a vehicle for change left it unprepared for the aftermath of Obama’s election, when Obama failed to articulate a story about why the financial meltdown had occurred—and why America’s regulatory system and welfare state needed to be rebuilt—that could compete with the Tea Party’s narrative of a government grown so large that it was stifling both economic growth and personal liberty.

Today’s Wall Street protests represent the left’s decoupling from Obama and the Democratic Party, something that the global nature of the movement will only reinforce. That doesn’t mean the movement has a clear critique of unregulated capitalism yet, let alone a concrete agenda for reform, but it means that the left finally is forcing those questions onto the public agenda. By confronting Wall Street, it is creating the populist energy that Obama himself has not.

What we are witnessing in Zuccotti Park actually represents an improvement over the Obama campaign. That campaign was largely about faith in one man. The Occupy Wall Street movement, by contrast, represents a direct reckoning with the most powerful forces in American life, forces that are not voted in and out of office every two or four years. And it represents a belief that young Americans must force that reckoning by themselves. No politician will do it for them. Those instincts are exactly right, and we’ve never needed them more.