Archive for August, 2009

With the Death of Teddy Kennedy, Is this the end of Camelot?

Boston, Massachusetts- Senator Sir Edward “Teddy” M Kennedy of the famed Kennedy clan of Massachusetts died late Tuesday night on August 25, 2009 after a brief battle with a cancerous tumor in his brain. Senator Kennedy was 77 years old and the third longest serving senator in US history at the time of his death having been elected to the US Senate nine consecutive terms.

Aside from being the younger brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Teddy was a larger than life figure who ended up carrying the mantle of the family name for nearly 50 years in the US Senate and became a standard bearer of the Democratic Party. Teddy Kennedy is viewed as one of the most accomplished senators in US history having authored or co-authored many important bills and laws in Congress including landmark laws concerning immigration, cancer research, health insurance, apartheid, disability discrimination, AIDS care, civil rights, mental health benefits, children’s health insurance, education and volunteering.

A masterful negotiator, Senator Kennedy was known as a lawmaker who consistently went across the party lines and reached out to gain compromise with his counterparts in the Republican Party on numerous bills in order to gain consensus and hammer out agreements to pass legislation.

There was a time right after the assassination of his brother Robert Kennedy 40 years ago, when it appeared that Teddy Kennedy would become President someday by right of succession due to his family’s history and the brand mystique behind the Kennedy name. Teddy would never reach the White House as he was politically damaged due to the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident which resulted in the death of his automobile passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the accident and not reporting it for over 12 hours, an incident that severely hampered his chances to ever by President of the United States, according to historians.

Despite not becoming a President, Senator Kennedy went on to become one of the most accomplished Senators in US history. He had a hand in everything from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, COBRA health benefits that allow for the portability of health insurance, Medicare and FMLA Acts, and many other important legislation over the years. Throughout his career in the Senate, the major lifelong dream of Teddy Kennedy was to enact universal health care for all Americans. Many people believe that with his death, the stalled overhaul of the US healthcare system and the debate over Obama’s healthcare initiative will get a boost just as the Civil Acts Rights did after the death of JFK who had championed its passage.

Teddy Kennedy was known as the Lion of the Senate. The staunch liberal Democrat who was proud of that label and was for decades the de facto head of the Democratic party and all its ideals. As a member of the rich and powerful Kennedy clan, he cared more about the plight of the common man than many lawmakers of less distinguished and privileged backgrounds. With his death, the Senate has lost an elder statesman, a shrewd negotiator, and successful policymaker. But America has also lost the last link to the great generation of the Kennedy family that was John F and Robert F Kennedy’s legacy and the mystique of the Camelot Clan of the US. Teddy has added an important and distinguished chapter to that legacy. The policies of JFK, RFK and Teddy Kennedy resemble the basic values of the Democratic Party. It is fitting that a historian recently remarked that the next generation of the Kennedy family is a guy named Obama.

Obama and Teddy Kennedy pic










Reported by Manzer Munir for

Three of These Things Are More Likely to Exist than the 4th, Guess which one is not?

Sri Lanka to Train Pakistan Army in Counter Insurgency Operations

Colombo, Sri Lanka- The government of Sri Lanka has stated that it has accepted the request of the Pakistani army to assist its personnel in training for counter insurgency operations against militants after the success of the Sri Lankan army in defeating the Tamil Tigers.

In May of this year, the Sri Lankan government announced victory over the rebel Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka who had waged a civil war in the northern and eastern Sri Lanka against the government forces. The Tamil rebels wanted a separate country for the minority Tamil population of Sri Lanka from the majority Sinhalese population. The conflict between the rebels which lasted over 25 years and killed over 80,000 people was one of the longest and most brutal insurgency in all of Asia.

After mounting impressive ground offensives against the rebels earlier this year, the Sri Lankan army captured and killed Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) who had founded the rebel group in 1976.

The LTTE was instrumental in developing child soldiers, women bombers and inventors of the suicide belt and were notoriously effective in their activities and very well organized, hence the lasting of the conflict for almost three decades. Due to the success of the Sri Lankan army in winning the civil war against the Tamil Tigers earlier this year, many nations including the United States, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, and now Pakistan have sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan army in fighting insurgents.

It should be noted that earlier this year the Sri Lankan cricket team came under attack while in Pakistan to play a cricket match by Pakistani militants in a highly embarrassing incident for the Pakistani government in providing security to visiting sporting teams from other countries. Both countries have historically enjoyed warm relations and the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team was wholly unexpected by the authorities and only the heroics of the Pakistani bus driver avoided mass casualties.

It is commendable that Sri Lanka has offered to help Pakistan in strategies to fight militants in its own country and also a positive sign that the government of Pakistan is willing to ask for assistance of other countries that have had both experience in fighting militants and also demonstrable success over the militias and terrorists in their own countries. Pakistan can use all the help it can get in its fight against both the Taliban as well as many other militant and terrorist groups within its borders who appear to attack at whim.

Reporting by Manzer Munir for

Afghanistan Turning into a Policy Nightmare for Obama Administration

Cartoon Afghanistan Tribal Rubicks Cube

Happy Birthday Pakistan! May You Reach Your Full Potential~

 Islamabad, Pakistan- 62 years ago, Pakistan and India gained their independence from Britain after a long struggle for freedom and self determination. For centuries, the Hindus and Muslims of India had lived together as part of one country under multiple rulers, from Hindu princes to Muslim emperors. But once the British came and colonized the country, religious differences became more evident as oppressed Indians of Muslim and Hindu backgrounds became keenly aware of their differences.

Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to the division of India into two countries. However that is exactly what happened as Pakistan was the country designated for the Muslims of India.

One of the oldest civilizations in the world with more than 9,000 years of history, became newly independent modern day states of Pakistan and India on August 14 and 15 1947, respectively. Although other countries in history have been founded on freedom of religion, most notably the United States, only Pakistan has been specifically created as a nation for Muslims, carved out of India.

Even though he advocated for a homeland for the Muslims of India, the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was a secularist and wanted a nation that was democratic, moderate and a model for other Muslim nations. However the last 62 years of the country’s turbulent history has shown that true religious freedom and democracy is still a concept that is trying to get a solid foothold in the country as over half its existence has been dominated by military dictatorships and coups as well as allegations of corruption by the elected leaders.

A country founded on religious freedom for the Muslims of India also finds itself struggling with religious espressions between Muslims as routine violence between Shiites and Sunnis as well as violence against the minority Christian population is not uncommon.

One of the most populous yet poorest countries of the world, Pakistan is an enigmatic and perplexing country for many analysts and observers. A country that has a literacy rate of just 49.9% according to the CIA fact book also happens to have the 7th most engineers in the world! A nation that does not possess abdundant clean water for all its citizens, yet is one of only a handful of nations that possesses nuclear weapons and technology. One of the few nations of the world  to have elected a female as a leader of the country, only to watch in despair as she was tragically gunned down in December of 2007 as she ran for the top spot in the elections of 2008.

Pakistan has tremendous potential that has not been and is not being realized. A surplus of manpower, vast quantities of resources such as natural gas, coal, hydroelectric power, iron, copper and fertile land for crops. It is also situated in a very strategic location of the world at the mouth of the Persian Gulf in the Indian Ocean near the oil rich countries of the Middle East and busy shipping lanes between Asia and Europe and Africa.

What Pakistan is missing is strong and competent leadership that needs to focus on eliminating corruption, disbanding terror groups and militias, and fostering a long term peace process with its neighbor and arch rival India. Once that is done, the rest of the issues will be easier to solve such as illiteracy, health improvement of the people, economy and security.

One more important ingredient Pakistan is not lacking is a strong sense of patriotism and pride among its citizens throughout the country and around the world. Pakistanis have high hopes and aspirations for their homeland and on this independence day they look forward to better days ahead in achieving the kind of state that the founding father Jinnah had hoped for when the country became independent from Britain on August 14, 1947. Let us hope that this dream lives on and becomes a reality as a stable and prosperous Pakistan is vital for the region, the Muslim world and global security and prosperity.

Reporting by Manzer Munir for

Former President Musharraf of Pakistan Charged with Illegal Detention of Judges

Islamabad, Pakistan- Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled Tuesday that former President Pervez Musharraf acted illegally in detaining and dismissal of judges in 2007 during Pakistan’s political crisis and now faced arrest if he returns from exile.

Musharraf, who now lives in London, could face up to three years in prison if he is convicted. This charge against him is the latest setback and although he could post bail if arrested, many analysts doubt that he would come back to face the charges.  The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, one of the 60 judges sacked by Musharraf during the national state of emergency, concluded that Musharraf violated the constitution when he dismissed the judges and now is charged with violating the constitution.

Musharraf’s actions at the time were widely seen as an attempt by him from preventing the Supreme Court from declaring him ineligible to holding the posts of president and head of the army at the same time.  He ordered the detention of 60 judges including Chief Justice Chaudhry at their homes, a move that is now seen as being illegal by the courts and the Islamabad police.“He is formally charged now,” said Hakim Khan, a police official in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. “If he comes to Pakistan, he can be arrested.”

Experts are further stating that this ruling also opens the door for Musharraf to be charged with possible treason, a crime that is punishable with a death penalty. The Supreme Court has left it up to the Pakistani parliament to decide whether to pursue the charge against Musharraf.

The two main political parties in power in Pakistan are split on whether to pursue a charge of treason against Musharraf.  The party of President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has not shown much interest in pursuing a treason case against the former president. The opposition party of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League-N party (PML-N) wants to have charges of treason brought against Musharraf.

Musharraf’s harsh dictatorial rule along with his actions against the lawyers and judges in 2007 led to a grass roots movement of lawyers that became crucial in forcing Musharraf to give up his role as the army chief and then eventually drove him out of office as the president also leading to elections won by the widow of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari.

Musharraf was wrong in dismissing the judiciary and in curtailing many institutions of Pakistan that seemed to be a danger to his rule. He had come to power in a bloodless coup that was supported by many people of Pakistan as he went up against a corrupt and ineffective administration of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He did make some positive changes in the country including backing the US war on terror after September 11 attacks and stepping up and bringing pressure on the Taliban in the country which to that point Pakistan had supported in neighboring Afghanistan.  However, he undoubtedly made the biggest mistake of all when he took on the judicial branch of the government and decided to dismiss anyone who disagreed with him or seemed to be a threat to his power.  Now it seems that this ruling will prevent him from coming to Pakistan as he at the very least faces three years for breaking the constitution and possibly the death penalty if charges of treason are brought against him.

Reporting by Manzer Munir for

Pakistan Poised to Finally Outlaw Domestic Violence Against Women

Islamabad, Pakistan- The Pakistani legislature is poised to at last outlaw domestic violence as a bill has passed the lower house of parliament and needs passage by the Senate prior to signing into law by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Those individuals that are found guilty of beating women and or children could face a maximum six month in jail and also be fined up to 100,000 rupees  or a little more than $1200 US , a considerable sum for the average Pakistani.

The law will classify domestic violence as any act of physical, mental or sexual assault, force, harassment, hurt, confinement, and deprivation of economic or financial resources. For years, many Pakistani and International Human Rights groups have complained that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, violence and “honor killings” where a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing any perceived shame or dishonor to their family. In many villages rape is commonplace and used as a form of punishment against a family or clan by ones who have been “wronged” to settle scores.

Women have been increasingly isolated and marginalized by the spread of fundamentalism in many parts of Pakistan where the Taliban have brought a strict and narrow minded interpretation of Islam and the roles of women in it.

“This is very good news. Introducing a law against domestic violence was long a demand for this country’s women,” said Farzana Bari, a women’s activist who told a reporter for the Associated Press that as many as one in three women were subject to domestic violence.  “We want to put pressure on the government to implement this legislation in the true letter and spirit, despite social, feudal and tribal norms which do not facilitate women’s empowerment,” she said. “In our society, many women and children are not protected even inside their houses, this law will help them,” she added.

The passage of this bill is long overdue and necessary as Pakistan’s society needs to enact what is considered a basic law in many countries and one that treats women and children as individuals rather than the property of men. It is hoped that the Senate of Pakistan quickly passes the bill and Zardari signs it into law as women in Pakistan need to be protected by the rule of law in this very paternal and still very much feudal society.


Reported by Manzer Munir for

If Only the Beer Summit Would Work for the Middle East Peace Process

Cartoon Israel and Iran

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