Split down the middle

Pakistan has been going to the dogs for the last 20 years, and by the ways things look today, the process has sped up. Still, like everything else this country does, it’s going to take 20 more years before people will be saying that Pakistan has gone to the dogs. There’s still hope, but it doesn’t lie with Musharraf, and it certainly doesn’t lie with any of the current lot of politicians (and their numerous offspring).

bq.. Where does the country stand today? Better and stronger than ever, says the “boss” (to use a Jamali description). In the pits, shouts the opposition.

Where lies the truth? One way to get to know the truth is to see where we stood in 1999 and where Pakistan is today.

Macro economically there has been appreciable progress. As for the human condition: are the poor and the deprived better off? The answer is in the negative.

Politically the country has regressed. There have been elections accompanied by a lot of unprecedented political engineering.

>> The News – Jang Group

International Connectivity Failure

This happens at least once a month. It’s quite sad that the entire country’s bandwidth is on this one cable, which “PTCL”:http://www.ptcl.com.pk/ is unable to maintain properly. The internet was down for the whole day, yet PTCL didn’t see fit to even mention it on their website.

All the International Circuits on SEA-ME-WE-3 cable were down at 3:36 p.m. today, i.e. Monday July 7, 2003, due to the power failure at Submarine Cable Section, PTCL Exchange.

>>”Cybernet”:http://www.cyber.net.pk/news/detail.asp?id=56

Should Pakistan send troops to Iraq for “peacekeeping”?

This debate is going to go on for a while. Before the war in Iraq, the US had asked Pakistan for support. The General would have happily supported the US, and perhaps even sent some troops along, but it was so obvious that about 99.5% of the population was opposed that he had to declare quite a few times that Pakistan did not support the Iraq war. I wrote earlier about “Musharraf”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_08/musharraf_self_styled_saviour_stuck_in_a_rut.html, and while he’s the best leader the country has had in the past 30 years he is not as popular as he used to be.

When it comes to sending troops to Iraq, while some of the liberal intellegentsia will support it (all 10,000 of them), about a 135 million other people will not. Pakistan is a largely illiterate Muslim country. With illiteracy comes intolerance, and the abuse of religion by a powerfuly theocracy to control large numbers of the population. There might possibly be a few religous leaders who would support sending troops, but they dare not say so publicly. The religious beast has been dormant so far, but even then they’ve casued enough problems. They already want Musharraf to step down, and if he sends troops, things here are really going to go down the drain. There is so much hatred of the US amongst the talibanized Mullah’s, and Musharraf toadying up to the US even more is going to cross a line and turn them against him. While they might be warring with words right now, it could easily turn violent. We don’t need no Al-Queda here, our locals are fully capable of running bombing campaigns against soft targets just to make their displeasure known.

Musharraf has been talking about a countrywide debate about sending soldiers. He must be planning to talk to his cronies all over the country, as it’s quite obvious what the majority thinks of the whole affair. I read the top two english papers, and there are about 50 articles against sending soldiers to every one for. In the Urdu papers, I’m not sure there has been a article published which supports sending soldiers.

bq. General Pervez Musharraf says that Pakistan is agreeable in principle so long as certain conditions are met. But predictably, some ultra nationalists in Pakistan disagree. Earlier, General Musharraf’s statement had drawn two major objections. First, that by sending troops to Iraq, Pakistan would be overtly accepting the US war on Iraq as “legitimate”. But this, said the critics, was unacceptable since Pakistan had long opposed the war. Second, that this issue, given its policy dimensions and gravity, could only be decided by parliament and General Musharraf cannot take a decision without first developing a consensus through democratic procedures. Now two additional arguments have been articulated by critics. The first is accusatory: it claims that General Musharraf is primarily concerned with remaining in power and is prepared to do anything – especially US bidding – to that end. The second holds that Pakistan is an essential part of the Muslim ummah and in that capacity it cannot be seen to do something that undermines the interest of the ummah. The argument is that by sending troops for peacekeeping to Iran, Pakistan will upset and undermine the ummah.

>> “Daily Times Editorial”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_5-7-2003_pg3_1

*Update:* “Reuters”:http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DEL112365.htm: India cannot send soldiers to help U.S. forces in Iraq because it it too busy fighting Islamic rebels in Kashmir, a senior Indian defence official said on Friday, 12 September. This basically means more US pressure on Pakistan to send troops.

*Update:* “ABC Interview of Musharraf, Sept 22nd”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_09/musharraf_takes_a_stand.html. This is the diplomatic answer, and it screams no. The actual answer to for a sizable minority of the population is edging towards sure, send in the troops, long as they fight the Americans!

bq.. *JENNINGS:* If you were to decide openly to contribute troops to a peacekeeping operation in Iraq, how popular would that be in Pakistan?

*MUSHARRAF:* Unpopular, at the moment.

*JENNINGS:* And how popular ? or unpopular in the Muslim world?

*MUSHARRAF:* At the moment, unpopular.

*JENNINGS:* And does that mean you cannot do it?

*MUSHARRAF:* The environment has to be changed, and then when I say environment, there has to be a yearning by the people of Iraq, asking for Muslim troops. ? When this urge or yearning for Muslim troops, from within the Muslims, and within Iraq, comes up, that will change the environment.

*JENNINGS:* This administration badly would like to have Pakistani troops in Iraq. This would give you at the moment some considerable leverage, would it not?

*MUSHARRAF:* [It would] leverage externally, but not domestically. One has to balance both out.

Pakistan tackles web porn

Earlier this year, the authorities blocked more than 1,800 websites, which were described as a “corrupt and evil influence”.

“This is a continuing process and we will keep on blocking such sites,” Zahir Mohammad Khan, a senior official at state-run Pakistan Telecommunication told the Reuters news agency.

>> “BBC News”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3041022.stm

What the BBC is missing out on is that earlier this year the government blocked a South Asia news website running a story critical of the Musharraf government. As these fools get really going, they’re going to be blocking most of the internet, and in the process slowing down the net. The only thing they will accomplish is to end up making themselves a laughing stock.

Here is the important bit:

bq. And religious hardliners in Iran are increasingly concerned about access to information from the outside world. On Tuesday, it said it had blocked access to more than 140 websites with pornographic content and anti-government material.

Pakistan has mullahs just as hardline as Iran. The only reason the two provinces governed by the MMA haven’t done anything about the internet is becasuse they have no idea what it is. Once they have accomplished “this”:http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/editorialdetails.php?editorialid=59 : “Curbs on music and videos, destruction of posters featuring women, and a complete ban on alcohol”, they will be moving on to everything else.

Pakistan News Links

* “Chowk”:http://www.chowk.com/ has been around forever it seems, and is going on stronger than ever. It is chock full of content. A lot of the content is mediocre, but there are many good articles also.

* “Pakistan Facts”:http://www.pakistan-facts.com/index.php is run by a diverse group of individuals from across the world, sharing a common concern regarding Pakistan’s continued support for terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Articles on Pakistan form all over the net are collected and posted, along with editorials. A good resource, though a bit too westernised in its outlook.

* “The Google Directory”:http://directory.google.com/Top/Regional/Asia/Pakistan/News_and_Media/?tc=1 has a complete listing of News and Media websites on Pakistan.

* “Pakistan News Service”:http://paknews.com/ is another popular news portal.

h4. English Newspapers

* “Daily Times”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk

* “The News International”:http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/index.html

* “Dawn”:http://www.dawn.com/

Pakistan will have a crisis if poverty persists: NHDR

bq. ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is at a crucial point in its development where it could either face social and economic disaster or make a comprehensive strategy that addresses the problems of the poor, according to the National Human Development Report 2003.

>> “Daily Times”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_2-7-2003_pg7_1

These reports have been coming out for many years now, but this one may just be right about the crucial point in its development.

When The U.S. Says Jump, It Wants Pakistan To Jump

A good overview of Musharraf’s visit to the boss.

Musharraf’s pleas to Bush to help resolve the Kashmir dispute – the world’s most dangerous crisis that risks nuclear war between India and Pakistan – were ignored.

“Take your money, go home, arrest more militants, and don’t cause trouble,” was Washington’s sendoff message to the general.

>>”Commondreams: Eric Margolis”:http://commondreams.org/views03/0629-05.htm

An overview of the years since 911:

Obey, Washington warned Islamabad, or we will foreclose your loans, impose trade sanctions, cut off spare parts, and give India a green light to go after you. Tough Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan’s last military ruler, would have stood up to American bullying. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto would have cleverly managed to somehow finesse Washington’s threats. But Musharraf, with a near-bankrupt nation, and faced with what he viewed as a Hobson’s choice between obedience and ruin, caved in to Washington’s demands and became, overnight, its compliant servitor.

>>”Commondreams: Eric Margolis”:http://commondreams.org/views03/0629-05.htm

It’s a good summary, but even Zia would have wilted under the pressure. He would have made a lot more noise, but would have done mostly the same. Now if 911 had happened in the days when Benazir was on the cover of magazines around the world we would have gotten a lot more than a measly 3 billion dollars. Even if she had succeced in her quest to become Queen of Pakistan, it would have been a lot harder for US commentators to just label her off as another general/dictator, and we would have gotten a friendlier press. In America winning the press is 90% of the battle, so this country would have been a lot better off.

4×4 Offroaders Club Karachi

August 17 2003: The 4×4 Offroaders Club Karachi “picture gallery”:http://offroadpakistan.com/pictures/ design has been changed. There are now over 134 comments and 200 pictures online. The articles site should be up by the end of August.

The 4×4 Offroaders Club Karachi “picture gallery”:http://offroadpakistan.com/pictures/ is now finalized. There are already a hundred pictures online right now, with a lot more on the way. The problem is that there are too many pictures! Now if Moveabletype had subcategories I could post them all.

The Articles site is also up and running “over here”:http://offroadpakistan.com/index2.html. Right now it is still in the design and devolpment stages.

Edit July 6 2003: The picture gallery is now definalized. A new, more improved design is on the way.

Time Magazine: Karachi

Time magazine has an extermely sobering “article”:http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501030616-457408,00.html on Karachi:

bq. Kidnappings, bombings, assassinations, extortion, bribery? Just another week in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and most populous city.

“Karachi today,” says Tariq Amin, a fashion stylist and prominent social commentator, “is like Chicago in the days of Al Capone mixed in with the Middle Ages.”

You know things are really wrong when Time magazine is writing about them. General Musharaff is none too pleased about it. This article is in many ways better written and covers more ground then almost all of the stuff which I have read in the local magazines and newspapers. A must read to understand where Pakistan is going.

Along with the article is a “Photo Essay: To Live & Die in Karachi”:http://www.time.com/time/asia/photoessays/karachi/index.html.

Continue reading Time Magazine: Karachi

Balochistan, yesterday today and tomorrow

Taimur Mirza sent me this:

bq.. Having travelled all over Pakistan, I have finally come to the conclusion that Balochistan is one of the least explored and most fascinating place on the blue planet.

An archaeologists paradise, a geologists dream come true, Off-roaders, camping enthusiasts, trekkers, star gazers, nature buffs, desert roamers, history diggers, miners, prospectors, in short every one who is associated with or loves the out doors would find this land pulling like a magnet if once visited.

Mansur the Doc., Homer the industrialist-cum-inventor, Kaleem Omar the journlist, Khan Sahib the old guard, Wazir Ahmad the lawyer, Ismail Sahib the paratha master, and off course me the organiser; but not forgetting the number of “boys” ever ready to lend a helping hand in setting up camp, getting firewood, washing dishes, disposing off garbage, and keen audience to the numerous tales around the campfire, are a group always cribbing about each other, yet always ready and waiting for another “Jeep trip”.

How long will we be able to see the ‘yesterday’ we now observe, as today’s technology is gradually creeping forward? Maybe you’ll find a McDonalds at Nani Mandar tomorrow, and then where will the charm be?

p. This will be going up on the “main 4×4 website”:http://offroadpakistan.com/. So far I have decided that the “picture gallery”:http://offroadpakistan.com/pictures is fine as it is, but the main site needs to have something there and fast.