In U.S., right to vote still threatened


CNN Contributor Donna Brazile

Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder delivers a major speech on voting rights at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. The location is significant: In 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that banned the worst forms of racial discrimination in American elections.

Over the past five decades, the VRA and other federal and state election reforms have greatly expanded access to the ballot box. As a testament to their success, the 2008 presidential electorate was the largest and most demographically diverse in the history of the United States. But the protections the VRA affords have not lost their relevance, or their indispensability. In the past year, lawmakers in 40 states have introduced legislation that would make it harder for all eligible Americans to vote -- and harder disproportionately for people of color, young Americans, and our seniors.

Some Southern states, like Florida, South Carolina, and Texas, have not only passed legislation restricting the right to vote, but also have refused to comply with their responsibilities under the VRA. The law requires certain states with histories of voting discrimination to submit any change in election law to the U.S. Department of Justice for "preclearance" before it can be implemented. Because these states for so long flaunted an obstinate refusal to allow African-Americans equal access to the voting booth, the VRA requires they demonstrate that new changes will not have a discriminatory effect.South Carolina and Texas both passed requirements that voters present restrictive forms of government-issued photo ID at polling places, even though 25% of African-Americans and 19% of Latinos lack the necessary form of ID. After passing their laws, both of these states filed preclearance letters with DOJ, but neither could explain how the new law avoided repeating an abhorrent history of discrimination.

Florida severely restricted voter registration drives, although minority voters register through drives at twice the rate of white voters. The Sunshine State also cut early voting, the process through which more than half of the state's African-Americans cast ballots in 2008. Florida implemented its restrictive bill in violation of the VRA and only submitted the legislation for preclearance after it was sued in federal court. When DOJ questioned the discriminatory impact of these changes, Florida removed the most controversial parts of its law from the department's consideration and instead asked a federal court to excuse it from its obligations under the VRA.

These states are seemingly unable and have clearly failed to craft election laws that will affect all equally. And, apparently, they don't even want to. Rather than work toward solutions that allow more eligible Americans to vote, some states have filed lawsuits arguing that parts of the VRA -- one of our nation's most successful pieces of civil rights legislation -- are unconstitutional.

Ensuring that all citizens can exercise their right to vote extends beyond just those states with significant histories of race discrimination. In 2011, many other states have embarked on voter suppression efforts. In a new report, "Defending Democracy," the NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense Fund examine the past year's assault on voting, demonstrating that the "onslaught of restrictive measures" was "designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color."

This is only the latest in a series of reports highlighting the wrongheadedness of this movement against voting rights. Earlier this month, the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute released a major report which said Republicans have undertaken this effort purely for partisan gain. Earlier this year, the Brennan Center for Justice and Advancement Project also released substantial reports.

Testifying before Congress in November, Holder said that legislation aimed at voter suppression is "inconsistent with what we say we are as a nation." I couldn't agree more. Johnson signed the VRA to ensure that the right to vote extended to all Americans, regardless of their race. The VRA was more than just another federal law; it was -- and remains -- the embodiment of years of struggle, resulting from countless sacrifices of brave men and women who built the civil rights movement.

We must not allow a new generation of restrictions to condition the right to vote on arbitrary qualifications and discriminatory rules. I welcome Holder's voice to the chorus of millions of Americans who have defended the sanctity of the vote. And I hope that DOJ will continue to move our nation forward and protect every eligible citizen's fundamental right to vote.

Balochistan: Constitutional limits and fundamental rights?

BY:Sana Baloch
daily times

Rather than counselling and redressing their grievances, the less harmful moderate Baloch activists are simply executed extra-judicially

The distasteful feature of Pakistani polity and disrespect for constitutional rights can easily be précised by a careful examination of the worsening human rights violations of non-core groups by dominant institutions.

Violation of human rights is a global phenomenon. The difference is one of degree. The violation of the rights of certain non-core groups by dominant security establishment is a permanent feature of Pakistani society, where in non-core group areas such as Balochistan, the violations of human rights are towering with mounting cases of enforced disappearances, a kill and dump policy, political assignations, targeted killings and systematic deprivation of socio-economic development — a common but institutionalised trend.

Despite a proclaimed independent judiciary, these violations are taking place under the shields of ‘uniform’ and ‘authority’, not to mention the fact that they are conducted with deliberate ‘negligence’ and ‘silence’ of national and domestic courts.

In October 2011, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, during his visit to Quetta, the capital city of the unfortunate Balochistan province, said that he would “soon constitute a larger bench on the unrest and violation of fundamental human rights in Balochistan to collect evidence and ascertains reasons behind the violation of fundamental human rights in the province”.

No doubt the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) larger bench in Karachi took plausible measures and decisions, but till date, there has not been any indication or initiation regarding the SC’s larger bench on human rights violations in Balochistan.

Mr Chief Justice, at the same occasion, categorically and unequivocally voiced that “we will go to any extent to safeguard the rights of the people”.

Recently, on December 9, 2011, the CJP determinedly reiterated that the singular duty of the apex court was not only to enforce the freedom of life of the people, but also to ensure that complete quality of life was provided to the citizens of Pakistan.

Elaborating his views, the CJP said, “The constitution has set limits for every institution, whether it is parliament, the executive or the judiciary, and by adhering to the dictates of the constitution, the nation can achieve political stability, economic development and attain rightful and honourable place among the nations of the world.”

He said that fundamental rights had so much importance that under Article 8, even laws made inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights could be declared as void. Theoretically, Pakistan’s constitution does talk about supreme civil liberties and guarantees; it empowers the apex court under articles 184, 187 and 190 to take cognisance in a variety of situations to enforce fundamental rights and do substantive justice. But in practice, none of these written guarantees are translated into practice to safeguard the rights of the oppressed.

Despite Himalayan assurances and well-versed statements of Pakistan’s top executive, the CJP, and repeated appeals of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), scores of mutilated bodies of marginalised Baloch activists are surfacing frequently.

In a statement issued on Friday, which was marked as the International Human Rights Day, expressing solidarity with the people of Balochistan and in support of their aspirations to realise their rights, the HRCP reiterated its grave distress at the absence of adequate measures to resolve lingering issues of human rights violations in the province.

The HRCP statement states, “It is a matter of grave alarm that 107 new cases of enforced disappearances have been reported in Balochistan in 2011, and the ‘missing persons’ are increasingly turning up dead. Bodies of 225 ‘missing persons’ have been recovered from various parts of the province since July 2010. It is scandalous that not a single person has been held accountable for these disappearances and killings.”

In fact, the traumatised, voiceless, unrepresented and helpless people of Balochistan are tirelessly gazing towards Pakistan’s SC, international organisations and human rights champions. But to no avail.

Pakistan is a multi-ethnic country and going through multifaceted crises and conflicts, such as fighting with extreme religious groups in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sectarian radicals in Punjab and Sindh and pro-self-rule Baloch movement in Balochistan, but there is evident inconsistency with regards to dealing with these dynamics.

The security apparatus seems very harsh and intolerable towards the Baloch people. Even though Baloch reprisals towards security forces is not as harmful and damaging as the Taliban and radical groups, the Baloch activists are facing extreme treatment — a trend that demands greater and careful understanding of Pakistan’s ethnically structured institutions and their subjective policies.

During the early days of the Swat operation, a few cases of ‘kill and dump’ of suspected Taliban combatants were reported, but suddenly this policy was confronted by sizable Pashtun policy-makers and military officials. The policy of ‘kill and dump’ was quickly replaced by Sabawoon: a new dawn for children in the Swat Valley — the UNICEF-funded and Pakistan Army-administered school that provides free religious education and psychiatric counselling to a large number of Taliban combatants, including trained suicides, to reintegrate them in society. However, in Balochistan’s case, the inhuman policy of collective punishment is seen to continue uninterrupted.

Since Balochistan is voiceless in Pakistan’s policy and decision-making corridors, the destiny of the Baloch political activists is bleak. Rather than counselling and redressing their grievances, the less harmful moderate Baloch activists are simply extra-judicially executed for their simple crime of disagreement with Pakistan’s colonial, discriminatory and exploitative policies.

The security establishment in Balochistan is operating like an outdated tribal entity that is pursuing a policy of an eye for an eye by killing and dumping political activists for the acts committed by militants.

The Gestapo-like modus operandi is only being committed against the Baloch people. A careful examination of cases revealed that in Balochistan, a multi-ethnic province, 300 cases of ‘kill and dump’ were recorded in a period of 12 months. All victims were ethnic Baloch — political activists, professionals and journalists — a massive loss for a community that is horribly discriminated against, and has a very small educated and moderate class.

The empirical evidence and carefully documented national and international human rights reports raise serious concerns over a ‘slow-motion’ wipeout of moderate activists in the province.

In today’s world, multi-ethnic states are the norm. However, dominant cultures in countries around the world, particularly in developing countries, still seek to impose their rule and identity on other groups with whom they share a territory.

Attempts to impose uniculturalism in multi-ethnic environments often come at the expense of minority rights. To avoid marginalisation, the minorities often intensify their efforts to preserve and protect their identity. The hardening of opposing forces –assimilation on the one hand and preservation of minority identity on the other — can cause increased intolerance, and in the worst cases, armed ethnic conflict. In such cases and in order to prevent escalation, the protection and promotion of minority rights becomes essential.

In fact, good governance plays a vital role in involving non-core groups (ethnic minorities) in societies and protecting their rights and interests. Through recognition, dialogue, and participation, all the citizens of a diverse society can form a greater understanding of one another’s concerns. Educational institutes and the media have important roles to play in this regard, as do political representatives and community leaders.

State authorities need to ensure that ethnic minorities enjoy the fundamental right to equality, both in written legislation and in society at large. The roles of the local government, civic organisations and NGOs are important in this respect. Police, prosecutors and judges need to be more aware of what constitutes racial discrimination and racially motivated crimes, and in some cases, changing the composition of the security structure to better reflect the multi-ethnic communities they serve may be appropriate.

The writer is a former Senator who resigned in 2008 against systematic discrimination and continued military operation in Balochistan. He can be reached at

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.

Thank you, Admiral Mullen!

Shamshad Ahmad

During my recant visit to the US, I found from a yard sale a book entitled ‘America’s Stake in Asia’ written in 1968 by Drew Middleton, a renowned foreign correspondent, first for the Associated Press, and later for The New York Times who covered the World War II from D-Day to V-Day before returning to New York in 1965 to become The New York Times’ chief correspondent at the United Nations.

A chapter in his book entitled ‘Pakistan: The Lost Friend’ gave an incisive account of how Washington’s total insensitivity to its close ally and partner Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns vis-à-vis India had generated a sense of alienation among the people of Pakistan.

While deploring Washington’s nearsighted policies, Middleton presciently called Pakistan the “pattern” for Asian nations of the future; independent, tough and opportunistic. In his view, Pakistan’s “geographical situation and a dozen other considerations made it virtually important to peace in the whole of Asia and the world at large.”

This old book on America’s stakes in Asia may have ended in the trash, but Pakistan, a fiercely independent country, has rarely disappeared for any length of time from America’s strategic radar screen. For more than 60 years now, it has loomed large in one form or another, either as a staunch ally and partner, or a troublesome friend, or even as a target. Now, for the first time, it is all of these things. The war on terror may have provided the rationale for the current US ‘engagement’ with Pakistan but this war neither limits the relationship’s scope nor exhausts the challenges it faces.

The Pakistan-US relationship is not about any particular incident or individual said to be based in our tribal areas or about any Afghanistan-related setback to the US-led Isaf forces. It is an old relationship that has survived many ups and downs, and yet remains fundamentally strong and enduring. As Drew Middleton said nearly half a century ago, Pakistan’s unique geo-strategic importance makes it indispensable to peace and stability not only in this region but also for the world at large.

Its location gave Pakistan an unrivalled relevance to the Cold War dynamics. The policy of containment in its final decisive phase was enacted on our soil. The post-9/11 situation yet again made Pakistan a pivotal US ally and partner in its war on terror in Afghanistan. The Afghans are not the only victims of the Afghan tragedy. Pakistan has suffered more in multiple ways in terms of refugee influx, socio-economic burden, rampant terrorism, unabated violence and protracted conflict in its border areas with Afghanistan.

And yet, one is bewildered at Pakistan’s demonisation by its friends and allies. With almost daily violations of its territorial integrity and sovereign independence in violation of the UN Charter, and regular accusations and slander hurled at it, our people wonder in anguish whether their country is America’s partner or target in fighting a common enemy. Coercive and sometimes accusatory and slanderous approaches towards Pakistan, its armed forces and security agencies have been counterproductive and have only fuelled anti-Americanism. Any perceptional differences could have been sorted out through mutual dialogue channels, not through media or military-led public diplomacy.

There is something fundamentally wrong with US public diplomacy when it comes to Pakistan. Our most distinguished frequent diplomatic interlocutors from Washington are not State Department officials but hardcore senior officials and military commanders from the Pentagon and the CIA. Leon Panetta, Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen Petraeus, and the likes of Bruce Reidel are now the ones calling ‘diplomatic’ shots when it comes to Pakistan. Ambassador Munter, poor he, is standing on the margins caught in this most undiplomatic CIA-led militarist volley against Pakistan. It is time to correct this approach lest the mastless US public diplomacy leads to total alienation of this country and its 180 million people.

Indeed, since 9/11, it is the US military or the CIA that communicates with foreign audiences, at times through missiles and drone attacks. American diplomacy in Pakistan, in particular, is a classic manifestation of this approach. According to a veteran US diplomat, this “mission creep” has gone way out of hand. Pentagon-led US public diplomacy is a dismal failure. Never in our history did we have so much public resentment against US policies and behaviour.

Critics all around, Washington insiders and the public beyond the Beltway, members of both major political parties, even America’s friends abroad, all recognise that US public diplomacy has had a great fall. A number of separate studies, reports and findings on American diplomacy prepared by academic groups and non-governmental commissions endorse this conclusion. The common theme in these reports is that the US now has totally different priorities in the world. US image-building is now left to the Pentagon, leaving very little to non-military institutions for articulation of America’s “ideas and ideals” overseas and advance its foreign policy goals.

Instead of continuing with the lamentable “blame game” using Pakistan as an easy “scapegoat” for their own failures in this war, the US and its allies must accept the reality that for Pakistan, Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic importance. If the Soviet presence in Cuba almost triggered a nuclear war in the early 1960s, India’s continued ascendancy in Afghanistan will remain a danger of no less gravity to the already volatile security environment of this nuclearised region. The risk of a Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan is fraught with perilous implications for regional and global peace, and must be averted at all cost.

Whatever the end-game, durable peace in Afghanistan will remain elusive as long as Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns in the region remain unaddressed. The US will need Pakistan’s active involvement in any Afghan-led political settlement if it is genuinely seeking one for its honourable exit from this unwinnable war. It seems over the last couple of years, the two countries have had no control over the growing list of unwanted irritants, some of which could have easily been avoided if both sides were guided by the concept of mutuality of interest in their relationship.

But let’s be honest. The problem is not the US-Pakistan relationship. The problem is its poor and shortsighted management on both sides. For Washington, it remains a transactional relationship. On our side, this relationship has been used by our inept rulers solely as their political and economic crutches, and for their self-serving notorious deals. It is time to make this relationship a normal relationship based on mutuality rather than one-sided transactions, conditionality-based aid packages or notorious deals impinging on this country’s sovereign independence and dignity.

The US may have a long list of its own unlearnt lessons, but for Pakistan and its civilian and military rulers there is only one lesson to be learnt now. There is a silver-lining in this current impasse. Throw your begging bowls and the crutches of foreign aid. America’s first president George Washington in his farewell address in 1796 had left some advice for you. Lamenting the fate of nations that leave themselves at the mercy of other powers, he said, “it was a folly to be the satellite of the latter or looking for disinterested favours from another” because “it must pay with a portion of its independence and its sovereignty for whatever it may accept under that character.”

Our foremost challenge at this critical juncture is not what we are required to do for others’ interests; it is what we ought to do to serve our own national interests. We need to regain our lost sovereignty, independence, freedom of action and national dignity. We should thank Admiral Mike Mullen for shaking us upside down, and giving us this opportunity to stand up again with our chins held high.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@

Back in the U.S.S.R.? After 20 Years, Many Russians Wish They Were

Sergei Veretelny was shot and wounded when he stepped forward unarmed 20 years ago to help stop a column of armored vehicles in central Moscow, one of the few casualties of the last, failed attempt to preserve the Soviet Union.

It was a moment when Russians, largely cowed and passive subjects of Soviet rule for 74 years, massed in the streets to support the future president, Boris Yeltsin, demanding democratic change.

The writer Vasily Aksyonov captured the enthusiasm of many at the time when he called the 60-hour standoff “probably the most glorious nights in the history of Russian civilization.”

But almost 15 years later, the man who now rules Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, called the fall of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Recent opinion polls as the anniversary approaches this Saturday come closer to the view of Mr. Putin than of Mr. Aksyonov. Few people said they viewed the events of 1991 as a victory for democracy.

“At that time in Russia, behind the iron curtain, we had only heard of democracy,” said Mr. Veretelny, 54, who was at the time supporting himself as a driver. “We really believed the magical, beautiful word democracy. But a lot of things turned out not exactly the way we expected. We began to ask ourselves what we spilled our blood for.”

In the decade that followed, chaotic social and economic changes and lurching attempts at reform gave democracy a bad name. Many people welcomed the stability Mr. Putin brought, even at the cost of some democratic freedoms.

Mr. Veretelny is just one voice among 140 million Russians, and while his disillusionment is widely shared, many people appear to accept Mr. Putin’s limits on political competition, civil society and the news media. An election that is set for early next year is unlikely to change the course of the country.

Mr. Veretelny was speaking a week before the anniversary at the home of Lyubov Komar, the mother of a young verteran of the Russian war in Afghanistan, Dmitry Komar, who was one of three men killed during the final night.

Mr. Veretelny was wounded when he tried to retrieve the body of Mr. Komar, which he said hung on an armored vehicle as it roared forward and back trying to dislodge a trolleybus that had been moved to block its path.

“I saw the guy hanging off the armored car,” he said. “I put out my hands to help and I was hit in the shoulder. I thought someone would come take the body off, but it drove back and forth until the body fell on the asphalt.”

The armored cars and tanks pulled back soon afterwards, marking the end of a coup that had attempted to hold back the tide of change. On Dec. 25, then-President Mikhail S. Gorbachev stepped down, bringing a formal end to the Soviet Union.

Since then, Mr. Veretelny has worked as an electrician, a police inspector and now as a small businessman on the fringes of Russia’s economy. Until recently, his wife, Svetlana, had a high-paying job as manager of a business and she said the couple lives comfortably.

Mrs. Komar, who works as a helper at a health club, still builds her life around the memory of her son and she echoes the view of Mr. Veretelny, saying, “If my son could have seen where the country was going he wouldn’t have been at the barricades.”

Sitting surrounded in her apartment by photographs that trace his growth from a boy to a soldier, she said she had given up on the political process.

“I haven’t been to vote for 10 years,” she said. “They’ll do fine without me. They choose whoever they want, so why vote?”

Like many Russians, she grew to despise Mr. Yeltsin for what she saw as his weak leadership, and is now part of a large majority of the Russian people in supporting Mr. Putin. But what she would really like, she said, is to turn back the clock.

“I felt more comfortable in the U.S.S.R.,” she said. “You always had a piece of bread. You always had work. Yes, sure, you can go overseas now, but you have to have money for that and you have to go into debt. Now, if you don’t have money you can’t do anything.”

A recent poll by the Levada Center, a respected polling agency, found that 20 percent of Russians share her wish for a return of the Soviet Union, a number that has bobbed up and down between 16 percent and 27 percent over the past eight years.

Among these, not surprisingly, was Mr. Gorbachev, who had tried to reform and preserve the U.S.S.R. but was thwarted by the coup and then by Mr. Yeltsin and the momentum of events.

“Some say over and over that the Soviet Union’s collapse was inevitable,” he told a news conference Wednesday. “But I keep saying that the Soviet Union could have been preserved.”

Addressing journalists, he said: “You criticize Gorbachev: weak, Jell-O, more or less in those terms. But what if that Jell-O wasn’t in that position at that time, who the hell knows what might have happened to us.”

According to the polling agency, those who wish to return to the Soviet past were mostly members of the vestiges of the Communist party, elderly people and people who live in small towns and villages.

The poll was conducted in person over five days in July with 1,600 people, with a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Other responses suggested that Russians do want democracy, but democracy of a particular sort, with a powerful central government, something closer to what the country has today than some, like Mr. Veretelny, had envisioned. More than half the respondents, 53 percent, said they placed a higher value on “order” than on human rights.

“We had so much hope, so much faith, so much inspiration for the future,” said Mr. Veretelny’s wife, Svetlana. “There was such a feeling of freedom and hope. We were all so happy seeing change ahead.”

But now, according to the polling agency, only 10 percent of respondents view those days as a victory for democracy. It said the number of people who called the events a tragedy had grown to 39 percent, from 25 percent at the last anniversary 10 years ago.

“It is what it is,” said Mr. Veretelny, who has slipped from hope into passivity. “We just have to figure that this is what we ended up with.”

August 14,1947 Sixty-four years of slavish independence


There was not one but two national liberation struggles. Their aims and interests were diametrically opposed. One was led by the local elites and the other was that of the workers, peasants and youth. The first wanted to keep the system intact and the other’s inspiration was a revolutionary transformation of the system of the imperialists

Sixty-four years after the bloody partition in 1947 the plight of about a quarter of the human race that inhabits this South Asian subcontinent is excruciating and awful. More than 40 percent of the world’s poverty torments this tragic land. While the ruling elites continue to multiply their billions, the rest of the population is in a dire state of existence. The condition of the masses has continuously been in a downward spiral and now life has become a living hell for the working classes. Living conditions today are even worse than under the British colonial rule for the vast majority of the population. In these six and a half decades the ruling classes of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other states of the region have failed to solve any single problem of society. The agrarian revolution is far from accomplished, parliamentary democracy is a farce and a deception. It is a democracy of the rich by the rich and for the rich. Instead of creating unified nation states, national and ethnic strife rages on with centrifugal forces tearing society apart. The Indian ruling elite boasts of a secular constitution and yet India has more religious riots and killings than perhaps any other country of the world. Pakistan, a country that was supposed to protect the rights of a certain religious community, today is being pillaged by the very same religious ideologies. The social and physical infrastructure is crumbling and the access to basic needs like water, electricity, health and education for the ordinary people is in a despicable state. The masses are bewildered and in anguish at this pathetic notion of independence.

This so-called independence and very hasty withdrawal of the British Raj was achieved through a conscious compromise and a negotiated agreement between the imperialists and the local Hindu and Muslim elites who were trained and propped up by the Raj. They manipulated the mass revolt by bringing religion into politics, in connivance with their imperial masters. It was to produce a cleavage in the national liberation movement that was rapidly moving onto the path of class struggle. The callous attitude of Gandhi and other leaders of the local elite to the assassination of Bhagat Singh in 1931 is a glaring proof of this treachery. With the red storm raging in China and throughout Asia, the imperialists were terrified of a national liberation that would have very quickly moved on to social and economic liberation. They were extremely fearsome of the class struggle that would overthrow capitalism and put an end to imperialist exploitation and extortion.

The mouthpiece of the British ruling class, the London Times, wrote in its editorial of January 29, 1928, “There is no real connection between these two unrests, labour and the congress opposition. But their very existence and coexistence, explains and fully justifies the attention, which Lord Irwin gave to the labour problems.”

There was not one but two national liberation struggles. Their aims and interests were diametrically opposed. One was led by the local elites and the other was that of the workers, peasants and youth. The first wanted to keep the system intact and the other’s inspiration was a revolutionary transformation of the system of the imperialists. The proletarian struggle was derailed by its traditional leadership at the helm of the Communist Party of India in the early 1940s. Their criminal blunder of capitulating to the British in the name of the anti-fascist war and supporting the imperialists was due to their slavish submission to the dictates of Moscow that prioritised its own national interests to those of proletarian internationalism. In this act, they handed over the movement on a platter to the bourgeois nationalists.

But such was the momentum of the movement that these bourgeois leaders could not control the raging struggle and ultimately tried to divide it on religious and ethnic lines. Despite this reactionary policy imposed on the national liberation struggle, there was the historic revolt of the sailors in the British Indian Navy in February 1946. It not only shook the British imperial military establishment in British India but gave rise to a militant strike wave of the workers in textile, railways and other sectors from Karachi to Madras, paralysing the whole subcontinent. The imperial Raj was shaken and the commander in chief of the British Indian Army General Claude Auchinleck sent a wire to Whitehall in London saying that if they were not given freedom in three days they will take it themselves. The Raj was stunned. The native bourgeois leaders again intervened to save the British by acting as scabs and strike-breakers.

The new reformist Labour government of Clement Attlee, which had come to power after defeating the Conservatives led by Churchill, were terrified of the bloodshed and massacres that would result in the wake of a partition. They sent the Cabinet Mission in March 1946 that convinced Jinnah against partition and settle for a confederation. But Nehru provoked Jinnah at the behest of Churchill, who manipulated him through Edwina Mountbatten and wrecked the deal.

As the elitist leaders in India and Pakistan were celebrating this moth-eaten independence, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were being slaughtered, especially in Punjab and Bengal in this ethnic frenzy. More than two million lives perished in this madness. Much more have been the victims of poverty, starvation, misery and disease ever since. They lost their lives long before their time. They were the victims of another economic genocide, which is going on unabated. The imperialists dictate every policy. The ruling elites, acting as their comprador agents, have their share of the plunder. In their extreme suffering, the toiling masses are being asked to celebrate this independence, the independence of the elite to repress and plunder, where the masses suffer and toil. The rulers celebrate their vulgar luxury; the masses have only their woes and misery to curse.

Ustad Daman expressed the plight of the ordinary people after partition in his famous verse:

“The freedoms that devastated us alike,

The redness of our eyes betrays, that wept we too have alike.”

The genuine independence of the masses can only be achieved through a socialist revolution. It was treacherously crushed in 1946. Conditions are intolerable for the masses in both India and Pakistan. The differences are superficial and secondary. Capitalist exploitation and the problems of the masses are the same. A mass upheaval can erupt instantaneously. Today if there is a revolutionary victory in any country of the subcontinent, like the Arab revolution; it will spread throughout the region. Victorious socialist revolutions do not only transform the state and society, they change the course of history and the divisions of geography.

It's the Leadership, Stupid

Wajid Ali Syed
Journalist and documentary producer

There is never a dull moment in Pakistan. You'll always find big news of one sort or another. If it's not extremists killing hundreds of people in broad daylight in a crowded marketplace, then it's a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a mosque or a shrine. If it's not supporters of extremists rallying in the streets of Lahore or Islamabad, then it's some kind of anti-America protest.

But this kind of political upheaval and violence happen in almost every country, more so if it's an epicenter of al Qaeda and Taliban activities. What distinguishes a failed state from the rest is their response to such upheaval and the ability to restore law and order according to the wishes of the people. This ability is ensured by the leadership of the country. It was the leadership of Abraham Lincoln that united different states. It was the leadership of Lyndon Johnson that implemented civil rights. It was the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah who lead a movement for the rights of Muslims in India. It was the leadership of Gandhi that got India freedom. Surely the standards of leadership have diminished in the last two decades. America was ruled by George W. Bush, and Pakistan is now ruled by a weak political establishment.

If you want to see an example of the sorry state of the current political leadership in Pakistan, consider the statements issued by government officials after the recent mayhem in Karachi. In just four days, as many as 100 people were brutally killed by rampaging gunmen in the streets. One would expect that the government would step in to put a stop to the carnage and vow to bring the killers to justice; instead, Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that the reported figures of deaths due to targeted killings was not accurate. According to the Minister, 70 percent of the victims died at the hands of their wives or girlfriends. It's not a joke that most Pakistanis wished Malik had a wife or girlfriend like that. Even if one were to accept Malik's creative explanation, wouldn't it makes sense to ask why law and order was not maintained? Are rogue-minded wives and girlfriends above the law?

Two days after the paramilitary was called in to restore calm in the city and the two political parties -- PPP and MQM representatives -- cooled down their ferocious war of words, the Interior Minister claimed that foreign forces were behind the unrest, saying that Israeli-made weapons were being used by "miscreants" in the killings. If one were to follow the Minister's explanations to their logical end, one would conclude that the aforementioned wives and girlfriends got ahold of Israeli-made weapons, or that Israel declared war with Pakistan and hired proxies to do its dirty work in the streets of Karachi. Such theories truly boggle the mind.

Baluchistan is a province that has been plagued by waves of kidnappings, killings, a separatist insurgency and sectarian violence. The situation there is also blamed on a foreign conspiracy, and the army is periodically sent in to quell the violence. Surely most politicians believe that army is not the answer and a political deal is required to resolve the issues within Baluchistan. Apparently a political resolution is not possible, because the Chief Minister of the province is busy dealing with his own "health issues".

The same chief minister, Raisani, has courted controversy before. A few months ago, the local media and members of a few political parties started identifying public officials who had fake degrees. Several were dismissed from their positions. Some of them even managed to get back into the political scene after their voters re-elected them. The issue turned into a national saga. Responding to the scandal, Baluchistan's chief minister remarked that "a degree is a degree, no matter whether it's authentic or fake."

These incidents reveal that Pakistan is not only facing serious terrorism threats on daily basis from insurgents and militants, but also a grave crisis of political leadership. The insurgent threat cannot be defeated with military force alone. Pakistan's political leaders have to demonstrate strong will and vision. The unfortunate reality is that Pakistan is suffering from a leadership vacuum and the politicians are neither serious about their jobs nor willing to act responsibly.

The Arab Spring.........Manufacturing dictatorship

Foreign intervention did much to prop up the Arab dictatorships currently under fire in the Arab Spring, writes Azmi Ashour

Will the Arab revolutions rectify the relationship between our societies and the world? Only rarely have our societies been the actor and not the object of action, and that occurred in those societies and at those times in which advances in modernisation and education afforded a certain degree of autonomy in their ability to interact with and influence their environment. While this applies to many Arab societies, the example of the modern Egyptian state best embodies this dialectic between the home country and the world abroad, as it offers a concrete illustration of the detrimental effects of two centuries of dependency and the manufacture of despotism.

Barely had Mohamed Ali (1805-1848) launched the Egyptian nation state as a rising power in the Eastern Mediterranean -- independent in all but name from the Ottoman Empire -- than the conflict began with the outside world, represented by the Euro powers led by France and Britain. These were bent not only on destroying this nascent project but also on occupying Egypt, which indeed occurred in 1882 under the rule of Mohamed Ali's grandson, the Khedive Tawfiq. Since that time, Arab societies fell under the occupation of either France or Britain, depending upon which of these two empires dominated the balance of international powers at the time. Yet, with the spread of education and modernisation at the turn of the last century, there arose an elite who not only spearheaded a process of enlightenment but also a drive to resist foreign occupation and demand independence. It was not long before this renewed burst of effervescence in society gave rise to revolutions, such as the 1919 Revolution, which was led by a political and intellectual vanguard whose minds had been shaped by modern education, in contrast to the uprisings of only a century earlier against the French, which had been led by Al-Azhar ulema. The influence of this modern-educated elite precipitated a qualitative civilisational shift in political life in Egypt. The transformation was embodied in the 1923 constitution, which provided the framework for a parliamentary democracy with a peaceful rotation of power between rival political parties whose ability to obtain a majority of seats in the legislature through elections would win them the opportunity to form a government. For its time, and in spite of the prevailing conditions of foreign occupation, it was a modern liberal democratic government in the fullest sense of the term.

However, a dangerous turning point in this experience came with the 1952 Revolution and the beginning of an independent national government led by the Free Officers. Henceforward, the influence of the outside would be felt in other ways. To begin with, there was an attempt to reoccupy the country, which took the form of the Tripartite Aggression of 1956. Had it not been for the new international balances of power at the time, Israel, France and Britain would have held on to the Egyptian territories they invaded. Instead, this war effectively brought the demise of the two great powers (Britain and France) that had ruled the world for two centuries. However, another great power was on the rise in the international political theatre. Since the end of World War II, the US has done little to conceal its dubious role in this region. It was one of the first countries to recognise Israel upon its creation in 1948, after which its alliance with this new entity grew steadily closer over time. Towards the Arabs, by contrast, it played numerous games of cat and mouse and endless variations on the carrot-and-stick approach to promote its interests, capitalising on the mistakes of Arab leaders to expand its influence in the region.

The ruling elites of Egypt may have played into this trap by giving the external factor excessive priority over domestic ones in their policy thinking in the 1950s and 1960s. Their approach to asserting themselves was to forge anti-American alliances, whether with the other countries that would come to forge the group of non-aligned nations or with the Soviet Union, now the second world power that was capable of deterring US imperialistic expansion. Washington's reaction was to strengthen its strategic alliance with Israel and to promote that country's regional expansionist project. The Arab leadership's failure to correctly assess the shifting dynamics abroad led to the defeat of the Egyptian and Syrian armies in the 1967 war and the Israeli occupation of the remainder of Palestine and portions of Egyptian and Syrian territory. At the same time, their policy of manufacturing "the enemy," which served to promote the prioritisation of foreign concerns at the expense of domestic ones, was a major cause of the growth of dictatorship in Arab societies, and in Egypt in particular, during this period.

President Anwar El-Sadat, who succeeded Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1970, opted for a more pragmatic approach to international realities and the superpower game at the time. By virtue of his reading of the dynamics and political cunning, he succeeded in staging a series of momentous surprises, beginning with the expulsion of Soviet experts from Egypt, signalling a sudden shift towards the US. He was now poised to launch the October War, a war with explicitly stated limited objectives in which Egyptian forces succeeded in crossing the Suez Canal and breaking through the Bar Lev line, that formidable barrier that Israel had been sure would ensure its continual hold on the Egyptian Sinai. Egyptian superiority in that war came as more of a surprise to the US than it did to Israel, which is why it did all in its power to support Israel and to halt the Egyptian advance. Washington's intercessions soon led to a ceasefire and negotiations, but on a much leveller ground than had existed before the war. Now, as a result of his victory in part of the battle, Sadat could negotiate from a position of strength vis-à-vis the Israelis who were under the American wing.

Sadat's second surprise was his historic visit to Israel in order to demonstrate the sincerity of his desire for peace. One suspects that this tendency of Sadat to astound the world with dramatic initiatives such as the October War and the trip to Israel did not go over well in Washington, which raises a question or two surrounding the assassination of this leader in 1981. Certainly, Sadat was not as easy to read as Abdel Nasser whose relative ideological consistency and predictability played into Israeli and US hands and helped them engineer their policies towards Egypt in 1950s and 1960s. Therefore, contrary to the opinion of many, the most salient characteristic of the Sadat era resides precisely in his ability to appreciate the subtleties of external conditions and to interact pragmatically with their restrictions. This is why Egyptian foreign policy in that time was able to achieve many of its goals; it acted neither as a manufacturer of "the enemy" or as a dependent, but as an equal to the other parties, capable of interacting with them on the basis of the actual balances of powers on the ground.

When president Hosni Mubarak succeeded Sadat in 1981 he soon emerged as the epitome of a head of state who would promote an interplay that would favour the external component and, specifically, the interests of the US and Israel in a region rife with problems and tensions. Indeed, his ability to capitalise on balances of power abroad was instrumental in perpetuating his rule for so long. Yet, as astute as he may have been at this game, it proved detrimental to Egyptian society, which plodded on through the decades of his rule without achieving a breakthrough in development, economically, socially or politically. In fact, he was rewarded for this by the external world in the form of a steady influx of US aid, which made Egypt the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel. In other words, Washington was instrumental in the manufacture of dictatorship in Egypt, in the form of Mubarak. It was also one of the factors that contributed to the deterioration of Egyptian social structures, since it protected this regime and, by extension, policies that were detrimental to Egyptian society, because it saw the stability and perpetuity of this regime as crucial to the pursuit of its interests in the region.

But Egypt was certainly not alone in being at the receiving end of the external power game of toying with Arab leaders. President Saddam Hussein proved the perfect target. With his special blend of megalomania and other foibles, he was deftly lured in to perform the US's interests. In the 1980s, the US built him up into a hero, a champion of the democratic West against Iran, even though Washington was more aware than others of the magnitude of Saddam's despotism and the horrific crimes he perpetrated against his own people. But once Saddam stopped playing by the rules and occupied Kuwait in 1991, the US turned against him, forged and led an alliance to defeat him, engineered a brutal economic blockade against the Iraqi people, and then, on the spurious pretexts of fighting terrorism and spreading democracy, launched another war to overthrow the Saddam regime and occupy Iraq in 2003. After eight years of occupation, not only has democracy not come to Iraq and not only has the country lost billions in oil revenues, it has become fragmented and torn between warring sects and ethnic groups. Similar processes have occurred in other areas in which the US intervened, not least of which is Somalia, which no longer can even be called a state since the US intervention there in the 1990s.

It is important to bear the foregoing historical background in mind when we consider that the success of the Arab revolutions, and especially the Egyptian revolution, was produced at home. Outside powers were completely taken off guard. The US, in particular, which had long imagined that it held all the strings, suddenly discovered, within the space of 18 days, that the man it had backed for so long was about to crumble in the face of a peaceful revolution. Bringing down a dictator did not require foreign troops, occupation, hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of displaced persons, and at a cost of billions of dollars, as it did in Iraq. Moreover, Egypt's home-grown civilised method of regime change terrified Israel, which had greatly benefited from the dictatorships in neighbouring countries, whether material in terms of territory or morally in terms of its economic, social and scientific standing on developmental scales.

If two Egyptians revolutions (1952 and 2011) were spared the ills of foreign intervention before they succeeded in toppling ruling regimes, the same may not necessary apply to other Arab revolutions sweeping the region today, notably those in Libya, Yemen and Syria. In Libya, foreign intervention is already a reality. As atrocious as Muammar Gaddafi's behaviour has been towards his own people, that does not constitute proof of the good intentions of the forces that have allied to impose a blockade and strike military targets. Nor does the foregoing favour the Libyan revolution itself, which forfeited the keys to the successes of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions the moment the rebels took up arms and, together with foreign forces, took the revolution over the brink into civil war. The same process may soon apply to the revolutions in Syria and Yemen, should the revolutionaries there forsake the style of peaceful resistance that is the major source of strength against brutal dictatorships and the guarantee against foreign intervention.

The history of this region over the past decades offers some very concrete lessons about the two functions of foreign intervention: it promotes and supports dictators and/or it works to weaken and fragment nations for fear of the influence and fanatics of their political leaders, who for the most part were extremists of the stripe of Nasser and Saddam Hussein.

Peshawar: A City Alive In The Shadow Of Death
Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and once a central city of the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara, is becoming known as one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Bombings, targeted killings, and kidnappings have left behind an acute feeling of insecurity. But in this resilient city of 1.5 million, a new reality is being born. As one local told me, "We can’t stop living out of fear of the Taliban."

The main road that links Peshawar with Hayatabad and then stretches ahead to Afghanistan via the Khyber Tribal Agency reflects the courage and perseverance of a city racked by militancy.

The road is home to the best restaurants and wedding halls in the city -- Shiraz, Balana, University Tikka, Jalil Kabad, Masoom, and the Sham Hotel, to name a few. These food outlets and gathering halls have become spaces of refuge for students, NGO workers, businessmen, and families, places to come together and celebrate with dance and music in defiance of a resurgent wave of crime and terrorism.

Over food, the conversation inevitably turns to the security, political, and economic situations in the region and in Pakistan broadly. Many of the people at the gatherings are noticeably middle- and upper-class citizens, relatively economically secure -- for now -- and, above all, engaged.

Lively discussions about issues like the global war on terror, Taliban brutalities, U.S. policy in the region, the role of the Pakistani security apparatus in state affairs, and the security situation dance around the room.

Cultural Wasteland

It’s not clear if this is a reaction to events or a newfound love by Pashtuns for their cultural heritage, but almost every educational institute has been transformed into a hub of cultural activities. In some cases, groups of young people have banded together to contribute funds for concerts, food festivals, sporting events, and fashion shows.

The people of Peshawar have learned how to live in the shadow of death and are trying to take back their city.

For the last decade, the city has slowly turned into a cultural wasteland. It started when the Mutahida Majlas-e-Amal (MMA) religious government banned music on public transport and closed Nishtar Hall -- the only cultural center in the city -- and devolved slowly from there.

Now, the provincial government has taken the initiative and opened Nishtar Hall. Every weekend, one can see city residents gather in their traditional shalwar kameez, passing through the security barriers, and enjoying music and shows with their friends and families.

There are also steps being taken to revive the area’s intellectual heritage.

I recently visited the Institute of Management Sciences in Hayatabad. Housed in a well-designed building mixing traditional and modern architecture, the institute is located on the border of the Khyber Tribal Agency, from where various militant groups coordinate their activities.

One wouldn’t know the institute lies in such a volatile region by looking at the courage and hope on the faces of the students and teachers of the organization. With two dozen Ph.D.s and 3,000 students, the institute focuses on socio-economic and cultural development in the volatile tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

It strives to produce indigenous professionals in the fields of development studies, public health, applied economics, business management, and the liberal arts, and regularly hosts video conferences with international scholars on the burning issues of the day.

"Despite bomb explosions and instability, we refused to close our institute for a single day," Javed Iqbal, coordinator of the Center of Public Policy and Research at the institute, tells me. "The institute is the first line of defense against religious extremism. Our spirits are high. We believe that we are contributing to our society in a positive manner."

Life Returns

As militant commanders bent on destruction roam the area, students and staff at the institute try to organize art exhibitions, poetry competitions, and fashion shows.

The ring road that leads from the main city to Afghanistan is the primary route for transporting food and building materials into Afghanistan. It is also the shortest route for NATO supplies. The road is regularly in the media due to the attacks on NATO oil tankers.

But the ring road has also transformed into a bustling marketplace. On both sides of the road one can see restaurants, kebab shops, and shopping malls dealing in Western dresses, cosmetics, and perfumes.

And due to a boom in media, combined with people’s interest in the lighter aspects of life, there are now six FM stations broadcasting music, live call-in shows, and debates on topics of general interest.

This is a big change from the days when militant leaders propagated fundamentalism through their FM radio channels in different areas of the province. According to one estimate, there were once more than 80 FM channels in Malakand and the adjoining areas of Peshawar city.

The vigor and enthusiasm of Peshawar is as alive as ever. The only thing this resilient city needs now is peace.

-- Shaheen Buneri

Shaheen Buneri is a journalist with RFE/RL’s Pakistan service, Radio Mashaal. He is on a monthlong reporting trip to Pakistan as a Pulitzer Center fellow