Archive for September, 2009

South Asia Poses Many Challenges to Policy Makers

Bernanke declares ‘recession is very likely over’

Recession is Over CartoonAlmost two weeks ago on September 16, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that “From a techincal perspective, the recession is likely over at this point.”

Bernanke had added that there is a risk that labor markets will remain weak through 2010 because growth will be too anemic to create jobs. Many economists now expect the labor market to recover slowly, he noted.

“Implying the recession is over is like saying, ‘Yes, there’s been a nuclear detonation, but it’s over now, so relax – and never mind that we’re living in a post-apocalyptic world of unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies,'” said Ann Marie Spinosa of Astoria, Queens , who’s on a panel of New Yorkers who blog about coping with hard times on the Web site, NYDailyNews.com.

“For me, the recession would be over when working people are no longer sweating how they’re going to manage to pay their bills,” said Tony Virardi of Bath Beach, Brooklyn, who’s also unemployed and job hunting. To Americans like Virardi and Spinosa, the recession is far from over and an assessment from the Fed Chairman Bernanke does little to reassure a nervous and anxious public.

America, The Land that I Love~

Statue of Liberty with Flag

Orlando, FL- As the founder of the Facebook group by the same name and the website PakistanisforPeace.com, I know I may come under some inevitable criticism by some conservative Pakistanis, some Pakistani Americans, or even others elsewhere as part of the worldwide diasporas of my community globally, due especially to the title of this article! “America, the land that you love?”, they may ask. 

How could you both call yourself a Pakistani, let alone also be the leader of a group for Pakistanis and at the same time profess your love for another country such as the USA? An imposter, a charlatan, a fake, they would say! He is bought by them, probably on their payroll to have such a pro stance and publish an article professing his love for his adopted country!

They simply would not understand that the freedoms enjoyed in the United States are not enjoyed in any other country in the world. They would not understand that the local police escorts and provides assistance every Friday outside every Muslim place of worship across the USA to help the departing faithful from their mosques an easy passage back on to the main roads and through fares.  Despite eight heart wrenching years after 9-11 and two wars in Muslim countries, Muslim Americans enjoy a higher level of religious and civil freedoms that is unmatched by Muslims in Europe or elsewhere.

They would not understand that across Europe, Muslim girls raised religiously to wear the hijab are banned from attending classes while dressed in the religious garb that covers all their hair for modesty reasons. The fear is rampant of the Arabization or the Islamization of the old continent. In America, the average person is curious and asks “Doesn’t it get hot wearing that all the time?” Shrugs, and then goes about their day. They are more concerned about whether you are sane and not a terrorist here to do us harm again, rather than your attire, no matter how different to them.

Maybe due to simply the size of this country or for the sheer number of differnt groups and ethnicities from around the world, that make America truly a melting pot. Muslims from Morocco and Tunisia don’t dot every square inch of the territory as it appears to many a Frenchman in France. There is not a chicken and curry shop on every corner in the US as you may see in London. You will never see this many Turks in all the US as you will see in just a few cities in Germany. Yet in their small spread out numbers of 4-6 million out of a population of 300 million, the small Muslim minority of the US enjoys much more freedom and protections than others in much larger proportionate numbers in Europe.

They would not understand the background and experiences of a young Pakistani man, boy really, as I was not yet 15 years old when I arrived in the US. They would not realize that within me resides the best of both worlds. The American cultural and social traditions that have become second nature to me, that tend to go hand in hand with my Pakistani Muslim need to worship  as I did this past Ramadan.

As I fasted the entire month of Ramadan, for the nearly the first time in my adult life, I realized the cherished life that I live in this great country we call the United States of America. I truly appreciate an open and accepting country built by generations and waves of immigrants that all contributed and continue to do so to make it the best place in the world!

As a naturalized citizen, I have taken the following oath: (oath of citizenship- Wikipedia)  “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies , foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. “

Despite my cultural, historical, and familial ties to Pakistan, The United States of America is to whom I have and continue to pledge my allegiance. This is where a boy of 15 years grows up to become his own man and realizes that the constitution Is the greatest living document in history. In fact, after the Torah, Bible, and Koran, it is next in line to sacredness to someone like me.

To pledge allegiance to this document, this system of governance, checks and balances, representation, due process, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the beauty of America and why I am proud to be a Pakistani American.

As I tell people all the time, “ I may not have been born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” 

 

Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Washington pledges $1.5 billion of annual assistance to Pakistan Today

Cartoon Pakistan Aid Package from US

Pakistani minister promises to revise blasphemy law despite death threats

PD*30407144

 Islamabad, Pakistan- The minister for minority affairs of Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti,  promised to work to amend the blasphemy laws used to target non-Muslims in Pakistan such as Christians and Hindus and said he was ready to die fighting for this cause.

A Member of Parliament and head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), Shahbaz Bhatti was visiting Washington DC at the invitation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which awarded him a first-of-a-kind medal for championing the rights of minorities in Islamic Pakistan.

A Catholic member of President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration as a federal minister for minority affairs, he took over the job last year when it was made a cabinet level position in Zardari’s cabinet.

Bhatti said he has received threats for his work on numerous occasions. Earlier this month, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister was wounded in an assassination attempt in Islamabad that left his driver dead.

“I personally stand for religious freedom, even if I will pay the price of my life,” Bhatti said. “I live for this principle and I want to die for this principle.”

Pakistan’s law against blaspheming Islam carries the death penalty. While no one has ever been sent to the executed for the crime, activists say the law is used to exploit others out of personal vendettas by some in the Muslim community against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhist minorities in Pakistan.

A 25-year-old Christian jailed on blasphemy allegations earlier this week died in prison. Authorities said he committed suicide but civil rights activists suspect that he was tortured by the police.

The death came several weeks after an angry mob killed seven Christians in an arson attack that destroyed about 40 houses in the town of Gojra in central Punjab province.

Christians and other religious minorities have a long history of persecution and discrimination in all walks of life in Pakistan by the Muslim majority. This is a sad reality and a country such as Pakistan that was founded for religious freedoms for the Muslims of India in 1947, has to do a much better job at protecting the 3 to 5% of the population that does not share the Islamic faith.

Unfair, subjective and antiquated laws such as Pakistan’s blasphemy laws need to be urgently amended so that the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan do not live in fear of an upset neighbor calling the authorities and falsely claiming an individual blasphemed the religion of Islam. Furthermore, if an individual is indeed ever guilty of blasphemy, the death penalty is a rather harsh punishment for simply stating one’s opinions, no matter how offensive to the faithful.

Although he may face strong resistance by some of the extremist and ultra religious members of Parliament in Pakistan, many moderate and enlightened Pakistanis support the minister for minority affairs and hope that he is successful in amending this archaic law.

Christian Pakistani Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

9-11 Remembered

September 11 cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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September 11 cartoon 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11 cartoon 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York, New York- It is the 8th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people in the United States mainly at the World Trade Center Towers in New York, but also at the Pentagon in Washington and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania in separate airplane crashes.

The world changed that day when the 19 terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden inflicted the worst attack on American soil and forever changed the course of history. Eight years later, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are still raging as the US is fighting the terrorists and militants on their soil. Osama Bin Laden is still at large and has not been caught. There is now a clear understanding in the US of who is the enemy.

The problem is that in many Muslim countries such as Pakistan and elsewhere, the fundamentalists are intimidating the population into their version of Islam. Although the Taliban have been on the defensive due to the pressure from the Pakistan army in places like the Swat valley and elsewhere, there is still reluctance by the government to go after the fundamentalist leaders of various groups that are not militant but espouse hatred and intolerance that incites others to violence.

The First Amendment allows for the freedom of speech in the United States. But hate speech that incites violence and where the threat of violence is imminent, becomes criminal. In the same manner, Muslim countries where clerics are giving sermons and preaching violence against various countries and peoples should be dealt with harshly. Leaving these individuals unchecked allows them to spew their hatred and jihadi beliefs on to a younger generation that becomes indoctrinated into this contempt and inevitably some follow through on it and act out violently against the West.

One sad but important outcome of 9-11 is the realization that we must take the war to the terrorists instead of waiting for them to bring it to our shores as George W. Bush famously put it days after 9-11. A vital part of that strategy must be not just militaristic actions but also a  precisely executed strategy to counteract the vile and hate filled sermons that perpetuate from many clerics mouths in the Muslim world. To do this requires the assistance of the governments of the countries where this problem is presently in abundance such as in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It requires winning the hearts and minds of the citizens who have only seen bombs raining down on their lands and not enough flowers and goodwill. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are desperately poor countries. American goodwill and economic development assistance and real jobs for citizens of these countries will go a long ways in improving the situation and in making the US safer from such very tragic and horrific attacks of September 11 eight years ago.

Also vitally needed to end terrorism around the world is a real solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis of the last 60 years. As long as there is not a peace between Israel and Palestine and the other Muslim countries in the region, and also between India and Pakistan to a lesser extent, the militants such as the Taliban and the terrorists such as Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba are going to continue their violence in order to reach their objectives. But if there was peace in the Middle East and peace between India and Pakistan, most of the fuel that burns the fire of these fundamentalists, not to mention the arms race between Israel and  its neighbors such as Syria and Iran and between Pakistan and India would come to a screeching halt.

Eight years after going to Afghanistan and making war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the strategy in Afghanistan has come into question by both the US military and members of Congress. Ask a returning soldier from Afghanistan and he will tell you that the situation has gotten worse over there 8 years and countless lives and dollars later, the country is far less safer for both American troops as well as the average Afghan civilian. Clearly the situation is becoming difficult to manage and quietly the whispers of Afghanistan becoming a new Vietnam are beginning to surface. In the coming weeks and months, the Obama administration will have some difficult decisions on the course of the strategy in Afghanistan. It is hoped that on the anniversary of that tragic day 8 years ago, the powers that be realize that to truly win and defeat the terrorists, we must get to the root of the problem and deal with the difficult task of making peace instead of continuing to make war.

September 11 cartoon 5

Pakistan Army Continues to See India as Enemy #1 and Not the Taliban

Cartoon Pakistan Army concerned about India and not Taliban

Pakistan accused of modifying US missiles in violation of US Arms Control Act

Harpoon

Islamabad, Pakistan- According to a recent New York Times report, Pakistan is being accused by the United States government of illegally modifying American made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets.  Many assume the target of Pakistan is and always has been India, its archrival since independence of both countries from Britain in 1947.

If these allegations are true, they represent a serious breach in trust that the United States has placed in Pakistan in helping it fight the growing militant threat posed by the Taliban and other militant groups inside Pakistan. The US sold Harpoon missiles to Pakistan during the height of the Cold War in the mid 80’s. The Harpoon missiles were designed to be anti-ship missiles capable of striking targets on the sea and it is believed that Pakistan has modifies these missiles to be capable of striking targets on land, a clear indication of its intended use against India in any conflict with Pakistan. The modification of these missiles sold in the 80’s only recently came to light when in April Pakistan carried a discreet test of the new modified missile and was detected by US analysts.

There are also accusations that Pakistan modified the PC-3 aircraft, an anti-submarine aircraft for land attack missions. The government of Pakistan has denied that they modified the Harpoon missile, which would be a clear violation of the US Arms Control Export Act.  

Many experts believe that this modification is not surprising for countries such as Pakistan which depend on foreign military assistance in upgrading its weapons infrastructure due to arms control and bans against them as was the case against Pakistan after it tested nuclear weapons. This is what happens in countries that are dependent on foreign technology,” says Ayesha Siddiqa, a military expert and author of Pakistan’s Arms Procurement and Military Buildup, 1979-99. Siddiqa adds that this is not the first time that Pakistan has been accused of reverse engineering or modification. A U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile that had strayed into Pakistani territory during strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in August 1998, was recovered intact by Pakistan and is widely believed to have provided the basis for its Babur cruise missile built by Pakistan.

The seriousness of this report cannot be understated as Congress is set to debate a new aid package for Pakistan next month and the report will only make it difficult for the Obama administration to convince Congress to a healthy military and economic package for Pakistan to help fight the Taliban if it is deemed that the funds and technology is being diverted towards a possible confrontation with India.

Despite the obvious threat to Pakistan’s stability by the Taliban, the powerful military brass of Pakistan is certain that India represents the main threat to Pakistan. They are angry at the unresolved dispute of Kashmir and the refusal of the US to help mediate or kick start the stalled peace process between India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir.  Pakistan is also concerned about the rising influence of India inside Afghanistan and also a water conflict with India that is getting worse.

To the military of Pakistan who have been and continue to be the actual holders of power inside Pakistan, despite the ever change in civilian leadership, India is enemy number one and always has been. The war against the Taliban has always been fought in a half hearted manner as the Taliban and the militants were often used by the Pakistan intelligence service as instruments of covert war against India.

The only solution to the problem lies in a durable and lasting peace process between India and Pakistan. This can only be resolved when the issue of Kashmir is solved. Until then, any alleged deception by the Pakistan government towards its benefactor the United States will continue to go on in regards to weapons and money being diverted by the military for preparation in another armed conflict with India.

Pakistan has also been rapidly developing its nuclear arsenal and experts believe it now has 70 to 100 warheads and quickly building more at facilities throughout the country. The missile technology in Pakistan is now capable of striking nuclear warheads deep inside Indian territory.  It is imperative that the peace process be restarted and negotiations reinstated between India and Pakistan before the situation spirals out of control and leads to another war. A conflict between the two nuclear armed border nations with years of hostility will lead to catastrophic results that are a thousand times worse than the Taliban threat to the region and the world.

Peace is far less costly than war and especially when it concerns nuclear powers that are capable and ready to use the deadliest force against one another in the event of a war. The Taliban threat is real and needs to be stamped out in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But an even bigger problem for the region and the world is an increase in tensions between India and Pakistan and there needs to be a focus on treating the disease ( the Kashmir conflict) and not the symptoms (the arms race between India and Pakistan).

India Pakistan Peace Process Derailed Cartoon

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