Archive for April, 2010

Arizona Becomes The Racial Profiling State

Afghanistan Is Feel-Good Element in Twenty20

By Huw Richards for The New York Times

Cricketing contrast rarely comes more vividly than it will Saturday when India plays Afghanistan on day two of the World Twenty20 tournament on the West Indian island of St. Lucia.

India is cricket’s economic giant, generating around three quarters of its income. Its players count both their fans and their personal fortunes in millions. They have just been playing in the India Premier League, the hugely lucrative competition that has brought unprecedented riches — accompanied by allegations of corruption — into the game.

Afghanistan is the tournament newcomer, taking its first steps on the game’s biggest stages. It is cricket’s almost-too-good-to-be-true story.

A team from an impoverished and war-torn nation with no real cricket history has risen with incredible speed. That this success is a bizarre byproduct of those wider sufferings, with Afghans learning the game in refugee camps in Pakistan, only adds to the joyous unlikelihood of the whole story.

Saturday will be Afghanistan’s first competitive meeting with any of cricket’s established giants. Its players bring with them not only the fearlessness of youth — none admits to being older than 26 — but whose life experiences put mere sporting disappointment in context.

As Graeme Smith, captain of South Africa, the third team in the same initial pool, said when told that an Afghan batsman had declared himself unafraid of paceman Dale Steyn: “I wouldn’t be either, if I had grown up in a war zone.”

Afghanistan, a fifth-division team in the International Cricket Council’s league system only two years ago, should, logically, have finally reached the limit of its abilities. Yet that has been said of it at most stages in its rise. India will be wary. It remembers its elimination by Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup, the last major tournament played in the West Indies. Lose to the Afghans and it will be tough for India to find a way back — it plays its second pool match only 24 hours later against South Africa, traditionally a fast starter in big tournaments.

There is nothing like an early shock to animate a championship. Ireland, the other qualifier from outside the 10 test-playing nations, will hope to provide one before Afghanistan even takes the field, when it plays host West Indies on Friday.

The West Indians will be seeking success on and off the field. It needs the 12-team, 27 match, 17 day tournament — the final is May 16 in Barbados — to be everything the 2007 World Cup was not. Then, overpriced tickets and heavy-handed crowd control seemed expressly designed to eliminate the distinctive ambience of Caribbean cricket.

It also needs its team to play with the vibrant spirit shown by Trinidad and Tobago in the Champions League competition for regional and national title-holders. Trinidad contributes four men to its 15-strong squad including the volcanic hitter Keiron Pollard.

In the tournament opener, Sri Lanka, runner-up in the 2009 World Twenty20, takes on New Zealand. The Sri Lankans field a 40-year-old member of Parliament, Sanath Jayasuriya, and a clutch of unorthodox but highly effective bowlers.

Predicting Twenty20 matches is notoriously tough. The short length of matches — only 20 six-ball overs apiece — and the limited number of international contests make for the unexpected.

There are, though, indications that Australia — which has won the World Cup, in which teams have innings of 50 overs, three times in a row — is coming to terms with the shorter format. It has won four of its last five official matches, drawing the other. Its teams dominated the Champions League. Paceman Doug Bollinger has emerged as a real force. On the other hand, it lost its warm-up contest against Zimbabwe.

This is the third Twenty20 World Cup. Pakistan won last year and was the runner-up in 2007. It comfortably has the best winning percentage in this format.

Pakistan should, by logic, be a prohibitive favorite. Logic, though, is in short supply in Pakistan. Several of its winning team, including inspirational captain Younis Khan, have since been thrown off the team following internal disputes.

Afghanistan owes much of its aggressive playing style to examples set by Pakistan. It must be hoped it will take its administrative models from elsewhere.

The pool stages might see Bangladesh trouble Pakistan’s traditionally slow starters. Two weeks beyond that, it would be no surprise to see Australia and Sri Lanka reprise their roles as finalists in 2007 World Cup in the 50-over format.

France Pushes Ahead With Controversial Law To Ban The Veil in Public

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has ordered the French government to draw up legislation that will allow for the total ban on the Islamic veil or niqab. This includes not just state or government offices or buildings, but in fact it will make it illegal anywhere in public. The government of Sarkozy is pressing ahead with writing and planning to enact this law despite many legal analysts in France and in Europe stating that it could eventually prove to be unconstitutional.

Despite having Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, France was one of the first to enact laws outlawing the veil in government buildings and schools in 2004. The move comes after a French driver was stopped last week for driving while veiled in the French city of Nantes. She was penalized a 22-Euro or $29 fine as police cited her for posing a “safety risk” while driving.

French government spokesman Luc Chatel said that the proposals for a full ban on the niqab and burqa would be submitted to parliament in the coming months and could theoretically be made into law by this summer.

The plans to ban the veil, he stated, were “in line with the wishes of the head of state”, who has made clear on numerous occasions his opposition to face covering garments prevalent in the Muslim culture. “The ban on the full veil must be total in all public places because women’s dignity cannot be watered down,” said Chatel, as he kept to the official view that a ban would be in keeping with “republican French values of gender equality and secularism.”

He added: “Everything must be done to ensure that no one feels stigmatized because of their faith or religious beliefs. The president and the prime minister have asked all members of the government to commit to this point.” Clearly, these are contradicting actions to many Muslims across France and Europe as they feel signaled out for the differential treatment. There is no attempt to include other religious articles of clothing from being banned such as the turban for Sikhs or the habits for the Catholic nuns.

Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party and other groups within France have been lobbying for well over a year in support of the ban. The French Council of State, a body made up of legal experts and is a part of the executive branch in charge of giving the government legal advice, has said that the burqa ban may be unconstitutional under French and European law as it violates the protections for religion. In fact, the French Republic is based on the principle of “laicite” or freedom of conscience preserved in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Undeterred, French president Sarkozy is pressing ahead with his attempts to push the law through in the next few weeks.

The Muslim veil has become the symbol of a cultural clash between a secular France concerned with preserving its Christian and Western identity, with the rise of a Muslim population that is estimated at roughly 5 million people, making 1 in 10 Frenchmen, a Muslim. Although the presence of Muslims in France started in the 8th century when Muslims had conquered Spain and pushed into France. But Islam then totally disappeared from France until the 20th century. After World War II, many people emigrated from former colonies in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and elsewhere, putting Islam in a distant second place as next most practiced religion after Catholicism which is roughly 85% of the population. Of France’s estimated 5 million Muslims, only as little as perhaps 3,000 women wear the veil, according to French government estimates.

The ban on the veil is not constitutional as it conflicts with the country’s freedom of religion and conscience that are ingrained in the French constitution and indeed psyche. Furthermore, to explicitly single out the Muslim religious articles of clothing, the law is blatantly discriminatory and certainly therefore unconstitutional. There is a big concern in France and indeed across Europe over the Arabization or Talibanization of Europe.

Many people in France see the Muslim religion as being repressive towards women and the veil is the symbol of that oppression. It may even seem commendable that France is standing up for the rights of oppressed Muslim women. However, the banning of the veil will certainly be seen by the Muslims of France as a direct assault on their personal and religious rights of expression. In a country where the majority of Muslim women do not wear the veil and have successfully assimilated into French society, the ban will actually serve to further divide and alienate the Muslim population already feeling stigmatized in France and across Europe since 9-11.

Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani hold the key to South Asia’s progress

By Sanjaya Baru for The Business Standard

The world is convinced that the 21st century will be Asia’s century. The only question is whether it will be only East Asia’s century or South Asia’s as well.

China’s great moderniser Deng Xiaoping famously told the late Rajiv Gandhi that “the 21st century can only be the Asian century if India and China combine to make it so”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can well tell his Pakistani counterpart this week that the only way South Asia can become a vibrant element of the new Asian century is if India and Pakistan combine to make it so.

As leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meet later this week in Bhutan, they must all ask themselves where this important part of Asia is headed, even as Asia to our East moves relentlessly forward.

Do any of Saarc’s members have a future that can be truly independent of their South Asian identity? Hardly. Can Pakistan hope to be part of a dynamic and rising Asia without resolving its problems at home and with India? Impossible. Can India sustain high growth for long, like China, without a more cooperative relationship with its neighbours, including Pakistan? Unlikely.

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, South Asia stands once again at a cross roads. It can go forward, along with the more dynamic economies of East Asia, and emerge as the second engine of global growth by the middle of the century, or it can remain in a low-level equilibrium of poverty, conflict and perpetual instability.

If there are any political leaders or strategic analysts in any of the South Asian countries who think that their country can break loose from the neighbourhood and have a rosy future irrespective of what happens in the region, they live in a world of make believe.

The region has had such leaders before. Many in Pakistan thought they could delink from South Asia and attach themselves to the richer Arab and Islamic world to their west. Some in India thought New Delhi too can delink itself from its neighbourhood and “Look East” for prosperity. South Asia’s smaller countries also had fanciful notions of their individual autonomy. Some, like the Maoists in Nepal and the Sinhala chauvinists in Sri Lanka, still see a future for themselves independent of the “Mother Continent”.

The saner lot, even in Pakistan, recognise that what geography and economics propose, mere politics cannot dispose.

If Saarc has to be revived and made a more dynamic regional organisation, then India and Pakistan must get their act together. Both countries have huge internal problems and there are constituencies for peace in both countries, just as there are constituencies for exporting domestic problems across the border in both. Pakistan has used terror to thwart India’s progress, but the elephant moves on at a handsome pace of 8 per cent and more, even as Pakistan has slowed down to 2-3 per cent growth in recent years.

The last few years have, however, shown that the two neighbours owe it to their own people and their region as a whole to amicably resolve their differences, if each of the two countries and the region as a whole have to move forward.

The starting point of any meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan is for the two to recognise each other’s concerns. Pakistan must demonstrate much greater understanding of India’s concerns about cross-border terrorism and the need to convince Indian public opinion about its sincerity in dealing with the planners and perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and several other terrorist attacks.

Equally, India must address Pakistan’s genuine fears about river water utilisation and deal convincingly with the issue of Kashmir. Pakistan must rid itself of baseless fears about Indian attempts to destabilise it because any destabilisation of Pakistan can only hurt India even more.

The dialogue between Dr Singh and former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf began with the mutual acknowledgment of these realities and each other’s concerns. It reached a critical point of mutual agreement when President Musharraf got dethroned.

It appears Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is fighting shy of picking up the threads from where President Musharraf had left them off. Much water has flown down the Indus and US President Barack Obama’s AfPak policy has muddied the waters. It has certainly encouraged Pakistan to overplay its hand.

Dr Singh should remind his counterpart that despite all the money the US is pouring into Pakistan, its economy is in doldrums, with mounting debt, 3 per cent growth and 9 per cent inflation. Pakistan has itself become a victim of the jihadi terrorism and internal conflict.

If realism on Pakistan’s part implies getting a reality check on India’s relative size and success, realism on India’s part implies coming to terms with Pakistan’s power to be a spoiler. Dr Singh and Mr Musharraf came around to getting a balanced and correct view of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They worked out a realistic modus vivendi. Mr Gilani and his friends in the Pakistan army must catch up and get real.

A realistic and pragmatic leadership in the region is one which tries to resolve cross-border issues so that domestic problems can be handled better. The challenge for every Saarc government is at home and unless domestic problems are tackled, the region will not progress or congeal.

India and Pakistan bear a special responsibility to revitalise Saarc as the region’s biggest nations. The India-Pakistan quarrel has made Saarc non-functional. A resolution of the disputes between the two is vital to the region’s development.

It was in April 2005 that Dr Singh and Mr Musharraf began writing a new chapter in South Asian history. April 2010 would be a good month to get that project back on track.

Time to end the impasse with Pakistan

By Siggharth Varadarajan for The Hindu.com

Forget Kashmir and terrorism or even Afghanistan and water, the current stalemate between India and Pakistan is all down to one word. Both countries publicly say that Dialogue is the only way forward. Yet each is paralysed by the name Composite’. New Delhi is so allergic to it that it will not accept its use, while Islamabad has become so attached to the C word that it insists there can be nothing else.

This Indian allergy and Pakistani attachment is paradoxical, since the composite dialogue approach has suited India more than it has Pakistan. Under the guise of moving ahead simultaneously on all issues, the framework has allowed progress on trade and other subjects considered important by New Delhi, even as the status quo on major disputes like Kashmir and Siachen key concerns for Islamabad has held. Of course, the dialogue did not end cross-border terrorism or extinguish the links between the Pakistani security agencies and violent extremism as some on the Indian side might have hoped. But that was always an improbable shot given the DNA of the Pakistani establishment. Over time, India has realised the best way to deal with the threat of terror is by strengthening its internal capabilities while utilising engagement as a lever for influencing Pakistan’s behaviour over the long run.

The two most important issues for the Pakistani side today going by its public statements are Kashmir and water. But here’s the paradox: the composite dialogue, from its point of view, has produced no forward movement whatsoever on these two fronts. In four and a half rounds of talks within that framework, the total amount of time spent by the two foreign secretaries in discussing the Kashmir dispute has perhaps been 10 hours. During which neither side did anything beyond restating its national positions. As for water, it does not even figure as a separate head under this format. The only water-related dispute covered by the composite dialogue is the Tulbul navigation project, also known as the Wullar barrage. There, too, progress has been insignificant.

In contrast to the composite dialogue framework, the back channel between Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz was far more effective and productive. Between 2004 and 2007, the two special envoys, who reported directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf respectively, discussed Kashmir for hundreds of hours. More significantly, their exertions produced a framework solution that was cleared on the Indian side by the Cabinet Committee on Security and on the Pakistani side by the Corps Commanders conference, before domestic political difficulties triggered by his dismissal of the chief justice forced Musharraf to back off. As for water, the Indus Water Commissioners have been meeting continuously for more than 40 years and their forum represents the best platform for Pakistan because all the Indian projects it opposes on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers can be referred to an outside arbitrator whose decisions are final and binding. Compared to such a powerful dispute resolution mechanism, the existing dialogue framework is surely inferior. And yet, even though Islamabad’s best shot at making progress on water and Kashmir lies outside the composite dialogue, it has got locked into a situation where it is refusing any form of engagement or talks other than that.

Now let’s consider India. The Indian position has been in a state of flux since it suspended the composite dialogue following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Broadly speaking, however, India has maintained that there can be no resumption of the composite dialogue till Pakistan moves to punish the Mumbai conspirators and dismantles the infrastructure of terror on its soil. In September last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a distinction between meaningful dialogue on disputes, which would have to await Pakistani action on terrorism, and talks on humanitarian and other issues. Since then, the Indian position has evolved further. When Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir, was invited to Delhi in February 2010, India clarified that while its own priority was terrorism, it was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. That is still the official Indian position. At a press conference on April 22, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said dialogue represents a concrete method to move forward in our relationship It is always useful. It helps clear the atmosphere and especially between neighbors, such as India and Pakistan. Dialogue is really the only way forward.

But if India believes dialogue is really the way forward, why is it unable to accept Pakistan’s call for the composite dialogue to be resumed? The paradox here is that from the traditional Indian perspective, the composite dialogue has worked pretty well. Discussions on Kashmir have not led to any change in the territorial status quo but have provided a cover for India to move ahead with other parts of the bilateral agenda that suit it more, like trade and cross-border confidence-building measures. And if the Indian side is opposed to talks on the water issue’, the composite framework of dialogue is ideal because water does not figure as a standalone topic under any of the subject heads. Despite this, India is the one saying no to composite’ dialogue.

India suspended the composite dialogue in order to get Pakistan to take action against terrorism. Some action has been taken but the Manmohan Singh government rightly believes that Pakistan can and must do more. It also knows the continued absence of dialogue is unlikely to produce greater action on the terrorism front and might even be counter-productive. Yet it fears the resumption of the suspended dialogue will be seen as a sign of weakness by the Opposition.

India’s options have been further complicated by the hardening of the Pakistani position on cooperation and dialogue since November 2009, when Barack Obama’s new AfPak policy dealt the military establishment in Rawalpindi a stronger hand in the Afghan endgame. Even as the Pakistan army has stepped up its offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban and, to a lesser extent, anti-American extremists on its border with Afghanistan, it has played up the India threat’ card to balance the perception that it is too subservient to the U.S. The rhetoric on water, the Azm-e-Nau III exercises, the loosening of the leash on Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and the increase in infiltration across the Line of Control are all evidence of the hardening of the Pakistani military’s attitude. At the same time, the domestic political situation in Pakistan is fluid. The 18th amendment to the constitution has opened up the possibility of the civilian government and the provinces strengthening themselves vis-a-vis the military. The revival of the Benazir Bhutto assassination case in the wake of the recent U.N. report could also provide political ammunition against the establishment.

In the run up to this week’s Saarc summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines, Indian officials are resigned to keeping the bilateral relationship in a holding pattern.’ Their logic is that if relations cannot improve, then they should not be allowed to deteriorate either. As a short-term strategy, the holding pattern strategy works fine. There are always small things that can be done at that level too. But an aeroplane cannot circle the runway endlessly. The longer it is up in the air, the greater is the likelihood of a disastrous descent. That is why planning for an orderly landing is a much better strategy.

In Thimphu, Dr. Singh must try and find a way of doing that. One possibility is for the two prime ministers to task their foreign secretaries with reviewing what has been accomplished on the terrorism front as well as in the last few rounds of the composite dialogue, with a view to expediting the resolution of existing problems and disputes. Such a mandate would foreground the necessity of a dialogue addressing all outstanding issues while sidestepping, for the moment, any nomenclatural disagreement. It would accomplish the stated Indian objective while allowing Mr. Gilani to return without having surrendered Islamabad’s stand on the resumption of the composite dialogue.

Parallel to this process, the Prime Minister should meet with the leaders of all major political parties in order to explain the reasons why India and Pakistan need to end the current stalemate. Finally, a strict moratorium on grandstanding and posturing, finger-pointing and name-calling is necessary. When the Prime Minister is directly crafting India’s approach to Pakistan, ministers, officials and anonymous sources’ must not confuse the public with contradictory messages and statements.

Pakistan and India- The Love-Hate Relationship of Two Brothers

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Since the bitter partition that resulted in the creation of Pakistan and India in 1947, and three subsequent wars with each other, not to mention countless near incidents, the two neighbors have not had an easy relationship, to say the least.

However, mixed in with fear and hatred towards each other is a fascination and affinity to the arch rival on the other side of the Line of Control. In fact, one could say that the two have a love-hate relationship with each other. The recent wedding of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik to Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza is an indication to the amount of interest and hype given to the couple in media from both sides of the border, making them instantly one of the hottest and most talked about young couples in this Bollywood and glamour obsessed culture.

In Pakistani schools, children are taught very little if anything at all about Pakistan’s pre-Islamic history. Instead the children are told of the glories of the Muslim Caliphate from the time of the prophet Mohammed and then the grand rule of the Moguls of India with the construction of immortal buildings like the Taj Mahal in Agra, or the Badshahi Masjid and the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, all three built on the Islamic style of architecture. Not very much emphasis is given to the great contributions that the people of present day Pakistan made as Hindus for centuries prior to the arrival of Islam in the subcontinent.

Criticisms abound by Muslims that in India, Muslim contributions to modern India are down played or not explored in the manner they are deserved. However, In Pakistan it is well documented those Pakistani textbooks not only do not teach about Hindu history and achievements, they actually teach hatred against India and Hindus. There is an underlying culture of hate and inequality based on religious grounds that permeates in the society despite Islam teaching respect for all religions and faiths. It’s as if thinking of someone as a polytheist makes them less equal as a human.

The mindset becomes that these non believers are infidels and this somehow makes it easy to dehumanize them or in some way think them to be inferior to you as a human being. Even the current terrorism situation in Pakistan has its roots in this culture of hate and to some level a dehumanization of people of other faiths, especially non-Abrahamic like Hinduism or Buddhism. To not recognize that ancient Indian/Hindu history is also the history of Pakistan does a great injustice to the shared history of one of the most ancient of cultures.

The natural history of this region shows that the origins of the Indian/Pakistani civilization go back to the end of the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago, making this one of the oldest civilizations of the ancient world. This area of the world is a place which gave the world not only Hinduism, but also Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and other religions and has been a source of spiritual inspiration since the earliest of times. But maybe even more important than the contributions in the field of religion are the ancient civilization’s gifts to science and medicine.

Albert Einstein once said “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.” Indeed, Indian civilization is credited with the creation of the decimal number system, the binary numbering system, negative number, the origins of algebra, and even the all important concept mathematically of zero came from ancient Indian mathematicians.

Archaeologically, India has the most extensive and continuous record of all ancient civilizations, much more than Egypt, Sumeria or Mesopotamia of the same time periods. The ruins in Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila in modern day Pakistan point to the fact that there was a very advanced civilization present here and even the beginnings of one of the early urban settlements of the ancient world as they were remarkably constructed, considering its antiquity. Taxila is also the site of what is believed to be the first university or school of higher learning in the ancient world.

Also the ancient Vedic literature is the largest in the ancient world and contains thousands upon thousands of pages dwarfing what little has been successfully preserved by the rest of the world. This literature contains profound spiritual concepts, skills in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Sanskrit is the mother of all European languages and Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to man.

Indian culture not only gave the world the game of chess, but was also was a place where some of the earliest innovations in the fields of surgery and advanced dentistry were developed as there is evidence of complex dental procedures being performed in the Indus valley some 8,000 years ago!

The celebrated American author Mark Twain once famously said of India that “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most constructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” And not so long ago, in a statement made by China’s former ambassador to the US, Hu Shih stated that “India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.” This is further validated by the fact that the Indian civilization is considered unique in that it never invaded any country in the last 10,000 years of its history!

By denying its centuries old Hindu/Indian ancestry and history, modern day Pakistan is willfully abandoning its participation and hand in some of the greatest contributions made by one civilization to mankind. Not teaching children the importance of the pre-Islamic history and beginnings of what is now Pakistan is actually a disservice to its people. Also, since the ancestors of all Pakistanis were at some point or another Indian Hindus, disrespecting Hinduism and pre-Islamic Indian culture in essence disrespects one’s own ancestors!

Pakistan can learn a great deal from its ancient brother in the fields of democracy, constitutional freedoms, economic empowerment and technological advancements. A culture of hate has only bred more hate that has now begun to consume internally a nation that has for too long wearily looked outside to its larger neighbor as its chief enemy, instead of as a brother.

As Power Shortages Spread, Pakistan Switches Off The Lights

By Saeed Shah for The Miami Herald

LAHORE, Pakistan — Amid fears that severe energy shortages could touch off riots, Pakistan will announce drastic measures this week to save electricity, including a shorter workweek and restrictions on nighttime wedding celebrations, government officials said Wednesday.

With power outages lasting up to 20 hours a day in cities and villages, halting industry and even farming in some places, the electricity crisis could further destabilize a vital U.S. ally. Already this year, there have been streets protests – some violent, resulting in at least one death – over the electricity stoppages.

“Children can’t do their homework. Household work doesn’t get done, as washing machines and other appliances cannot work. When you go home from work, you have no idea whether there will be electricity at home. Your whole life is disturbed,” said Mahnaz Peracha of the Network for Consumer Protection, an independent Pakistani advocacy group.

The Obama administration says that helping Pakistan surmount its electricity crisis is one of the top priorities of its aid effort.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said this week that Pakistan’s electricity situation was “not acceptable” and that Washington would help to “the absolute limits of what Congress will fund. It is a big issue.”

Pakistan has been crippled by a shortfall in electricity generation, producing only about 10,000 megawatts of the required 16,000 a day. Further, some generators aren’t working at full capacity because the government owes money to power producers. The government is expected to inject around $1 billion into the system to pay its debts, but energy savings can’t make up for the shortages until new plants come online.

Industries such as the textile sector have had to shorten shifts and lay off workers, and farmers can’t use their electric pumps to irrigate fields. Some businesses, such as tailoring and printing, are telling customers it will take weeks to complete their orders.

As well as suffering from outages, consumers have been hit by a steep increase in the price of electricity, as Pakistan eliminated subsidies to meet lending terms by the International Monetary Fund, causing further resentment.

The energy-saving measures are likely to extend the country’s one-day weekend to a second day, push clocks forward by an hour and close industry for one day during the workweek, according to officials who were briefed on the plans but who spoke only on the condition of anonymity ahead of the government announcement.

Zafaryab Khan, a spokesman for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, said the proposals were being finalized Wednesday and would be unveiled Thursday.

Street lighting also will be cut back, so that only every second or third light is on, markets will close soon after sunset and wedding receptions – huge, ostentatious events in Pakistani tradition – will be required to end by 9 or 10 p.m. Individual provinces will impose further restrictions.

In the dominant Punjab province, where more than half the country’s population lives, there will be a ban on electrical billboards, neon signs, decorative lights on buildings and the operation of fountains, and government offices won’t be permitted to run their air conditioners before 11 a.m. Analysts said enforcing the restrictions would be difficult.

Situation in Afghanistan Remains Unstable Despite Gen McChrystal’s Troop Surge

India Rocked By Cricket Scandal

By Mark Magnier for The Los Angeles Times

Combine two of India’s favorite pastimes, cricket and politics. Add allegations of corruption, greed, and tax evasion. Throw in the implosion of a highflying political career and it’s not difficult to understand why India’s hyperactive broadcast media are on a tear.

On Monday, India’s finance minister announced an investigation of the funding and sources behind the nation’s top cricket teams, suggesting that more bombshells are to come. The scandal underscores the cost of operating a business on steroids without creating adequate safeguards, analysts said. At issue is the questionable allocation of shares in the enormously popular Indian Premier League, which in its three-year life has become a virtual license to print money, with its “brand value” doubling to $4 billion in the last year.

Cricket has long been popular here, but the Premier League organized truncated “Twenty20” matches among Indian teams, where before, they mostly involved longer matches against foreign teams. So when word spread that the eight-team league would expand into Pune, in Maharashtra state, and Cochin, in Kerala state, it was huge news.

The political opposition soon cried foul, however, on discovering that a female friend of Shashi Tharoor, the junior foreign minister, had received $15 million in “sweat equity” shares as part of the Kerala deal, though it’s not clear how much work she undertook. This, the opposition charged, was a backdoor way to secure his help in assembling the deal.

Tharoor, a former undersecretary at the United Nations and author of several fiction and nonfiction books before entering politics, is from Kerala. His friend, real estate executive Sunanda Pushkar, is rumored to be his future bride. Tharoor and Pushkar have denied any conflict of interest. And Pushkar on Sunday offered to return the shares. That wasn’t enough, however. After a series of hurried meetings with ruling Congress party heavyweights and the prime minister, Tharoor resigned late Sunday evening.

Tharoor, 54, is hardly a stranger to controversy. Last year he spent weeks at a five-star hotel while awaiting renovations on his official residence. Although he said he’d pay for it himself, the incident was not well received during a party austerity drive. He openly challenged superiors in Twitter messages, winning plaudits with the under-30 crowd but rattling the political establishment. For many, the questionable cricket link was the final straw. “Whether he has a political career left, we’ll have to see, but I doubt it,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a professor at Delhi University.

With Tharoor’s exit, the spotlight shifted Monday to the league and other teams’ ownership, with opposition lawmakers howling that the league was little more than a “betting and gambling ring.” Behind the league’s success is its chairman, business scion Lalit Modi, 46, who’s been termed everything from a dictator and black sheep for his arrogant style and a visionary for creating the league from scratch, reportedly modeled on soccer’s English Premier League.

Local news reports suggested Monday that Modi could lose his chairmanship in the deepening scandal. Of particular interest to tax authorities are charges that some owners used their stakes to launder money. “This could lead to a very serious investigation in today’s security environment,” Rangarajan said.

So far, the charges are unproved, but the scandal has raised concerns that Indian businesses, in their headlong rush forward, are falling short on financial disclosure, with some analysts pointing to the 2009 meltdown of Satyam, once a world-class information technology outsourcing company found to be cooking the books.

The NBA and the NFL have had decades to absorb the impact of big-money culture, but the Indian league has developed in just three years. “In India, you’ve never seen the monetization of sport like this,” said Ayaz Memon, a cricket commentator. “It’s a culture shock.”

There’s too much money, too many fashion shows at the end of cricket matches, purists argue, detracting from the essence of the game. Cricket has been overdue for reform, sports historian Boria Majumdar said. “Cricket is our only secular religion,” he said. “Everyone understands the need for a serious cleansing. Big money, big corporations, unclean money, shady deals, they’re everywhere.”

Behind the Scenes of a Pakistani Suicide Bombing

By Chris Brummit and Asif Shahzad for The Associated Press

Abdul Baseer sent the grenades and explosive vest ahead, then boarded a bus that would take him to his target, accompanied by the 14-year-old boy he had groomed as his suicide bomber.

But before they could blow up their target, a luxury hotel in Lahore where they believed Americans would be staying, the two were arrested and are now in jail — Baseer unrepentant about having plotted to send a boy to his death, and the boy saying he never knew what was in store for him.

The story that unfolded in an interview with The Associated Press offers a rare insight into the world of a Pakistani militant, from his education at hard-line Islamic schools, through his professed participation in an attack on a U.S. patrol in Afghanistan, up to his arrest by Pakistani police along with the the boy, Mohi-ud-Din. His tale shares much with that of the thousands of other foot soldiers who make up the Taliban-led insurgency that is ravaging Pakistan, experts say. It also shows how the wars here and in neighboring Afghanistan bleed into each other.

The Associated Press, after several requests, was allowed to interview the two detainees, with police present for most of the meeting at a police interrogation center in Lahore, a political and military power center in eastern Pakistan. Baseer was born in 1985 close to the Swat Valley, which last year was overrun by Taliban and recaptured by the Pakistanis. The eldest of seven children, his father was a wheat farmer and earned barely enough to feed the family. Meat was reserved for guests, he recalled.

Like many who cannot afford a regular education, Baseer attended three Islamic boarding schools where children learn the Quran by heart and spend little time on secular subjects. The religious schools provide free board and lodging, but are widely criticized for indoctrinating students with an extreme version of Islam. At least one of the schools Baseer attended, Jamia Faridia in the capital, Islamabad, has been linked to terror.

“Through my studies, I became aware that this is the time for jihad and fighting the infidels, and I saw that a jihad was going on in Afghanistan,” said Basser, a rail-thin man speaking just louder than whisper. “I looked for a way to get there.” “A trip to Afghanistan is considered part of the profession for a militant,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “It is almost like you need to do it for graduation. “The American troops are there, and it’s a cause of resentment.”

Baseer said he spent three summer vacation periods in Kunar, an Afghan province just across the border from northwest Pakistan, which he reached through a network of sympathetic clerics. On his first trip, in his mid-teens, he cooked for around 30 or 40 other militants, most of them Afghans, who were living in a large cave complex. On his second stay he had military training and learned to make suicide jackets. On the final trip he took part in the ambush of a U.S. patrol after he and other fighters had lain in wait in the snow for two days.”I was happy to be in place where I could kill unbelievers,” he said. “I thank God that we all returned safely and had a successful mission.”

He said he was in the rear of the attack, in which automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were fired. He said the vehicles were left smoldering and that later the assailants were told two U.S. soldiers were killed, but there was no way of confirming that.

Back in Pakistan, Baseer worked as a mosque preacher in the Khyber region, not far from the northwestern capital, Peshawar. He said it was there that he hooked up with a man named Nazir, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban, who was plotting the attack in Lahore. Baseer said he made 10 suicide vests for Nazir.

Lahore, a city of around 9 million, has suffered scores of attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers over the last 1 1/2 years. Last month, two suicide bombers killed 43 people in near-simultaneous blasts. Baseer boarded a passenger bus along with the boy, Mohi-ud-Din, heading down the smooth highway to Lahore, where they were supposed to pick up the bomb and grenades.

Police officer Waris Bharawan, as well as Baseer, said the plan was to hook up with other militants and storm the PC International, one of Lahore’s grandest hotels. They said the suicide vest for the attack was sent to the city before the strike. Baseeer gave only a rough outline of the plan: He and others were to hurl the grenades around the lobby or entrance gate of the hotel, and then Mohid-ud-Din was to run in and detonate his explosive belt. Did he feel any guilt about what lay in store for his traveling companion? No, he said. “I was feeling good because he was going to be used against Americans.”

As he sat in Bharawan’s office, handcuffed and dressed in robe and baggy pants, an officer brought in the vest, dropping it on the floor with a thud. The explosive pads studded with ballbearings looked like slices of honeycomb. Also in the evidence bag were 26 grenades. Baseer obliged with a demonstration, miming the yanking of a white cable that would detonate the vest. “My instructors used to say this was the most important weapon in the fight against the enemy,” he said. In the same lockup, a crumbling building built when Britain ruled the Indian subcontinent, police also briefly presented Mohi-ud-Din to the AP. He seemed nervous and tongue-tied, claiming only that he knew nothing about the alleged attack.

The pair were arrested as they arrived at the house of another suspect, just days before the attack was due to have taken place, said Bharawan, who led the arresting officers. He said they acted on surveillance work in Lahore, but declined to give details. Torture and beatings are common inside Pakistani jails, according to rights groups. During a short time when no police were present, Baseer was asked how he was treated. He said he was beaten, but by members of Pakistan’s shadowy and powerful intelligence agencies soon after his arrest, not by the police. Police said Baseer and the boy would be tried for terrorist offenses behind closed doors and without a jury, as is customary in Pakistan

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Pakistan’s Parliament Approves Reforms Stripping President of Some Powers

By Sean Maroney for The Voice of America

Pakistani lawmakers have passed a constitutional amendment that strips President Asif Ali Zardari of powers originally given to the presidency by the country’s former military dictator two decades ago. Lawmakers in Pakistan’s upper house have passed a series of key reforms to the country’s constitution. Senate Chairman Farooq Naik announced the result of the final vote live on state-run television.

“The motion is carried by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. And consequently, the bill stands passed,” he said. The lower house passed the reforms unanimously last week and the next step is approval from President Asif Ali Zardari, who is expected to sign the reforms into law.

Lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties drafted the constitutional changes, which will turn the president into a ceremonial head of state. In the 1980s, military ruler Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq assumed several powers to maintain control of the government, including the power to dissolve parliament and appoint judges and the heads of the country’s armed forces. These powers will now go to the parliament and the office of the prime minister.

A Senate opposition leader, Wasim Sajjad of the PML-Q party, addressed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who attended the vote. “Mr. Prime Minister, today you are a powerful man,” he said. “The responsibility, the power, everything you have, now the country wants you to deliver. And I hope and pray and I wish that you will come up to the expectations of the people.” But there has been much controversy regarding a clause of the new 18th amendment that renames the North West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The new name will reflect the Pashtun ethnic majority of the province, which predominately speaks Pashto.

But the province’s Hindko-speaking population has been protesting the name change since last week. The protesters say they want the province’s name to remain unchanged or they will demand a separate province that will reflect their majority in the south. On Monday, the demonstrations turned violent, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 100 others wounded. But analysts say this request does not seem likely because it does not appear to have two-thirds approval in the Parliament. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addressed the controversy.

He says that his sympathies are with the people of Hazara and he urges the provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to make sure that those people are properly included as the renamed province moves forward. Many in Pakistan believe the 18th amendment will lead to political stability, allowing the government to pay more attention to its fight against the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan.

But critics remain skeptical about the constitutional changes, saying President Zardari, who remains the head of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, will still be able to exert his influence on the prime minister. Mr. Gilani is a member of the president’s party and is considered a Zardari loyalist. In addition, as party leader Mr. Zardari has the power to dismiss PPP politicians from power, including the prime minister.

India and Pakistan’s Leaders Meet

As reported by BBC.com

Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at a reception hosted by the US President Barack Obama, reports said. The prime ministers of India and Pakistan met briefly during a nuclear summit attended by 47 world leaders in Washington DC.

A Pakistani embassy spokesman said it was “not a formal meeting”. cIt comes a day after Mr Singh told Mr Obama that Pakistan’s government lacked the will to punish those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. The November 2008 attacks left 174 people dead, including nine gunmen, and soured ties between India and Pakistan. Late last year, Pakistan charged seven people in connection with the attacks.

They include the suspected mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is allegedly the leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Mr Singh and Mr Gilani spoke to each other at a reception hosted by Mr Obama, Pakistani embassy spokesman Nadeem Kiani said.

“Both leaders were present at the same place and so they shook hands and talked,” he said. A spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, Vishnu Prakash, told The Hindu newspaper that the two leaders “exchanged pleasantries”.
‘State elements’

India put peace talks on hold after the attacks, blaming them on Pakistan-based militants. Pakistan admitted they had been partly planned on its soil. India has also suggested what it calls “state elements” were involved. Both Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba have denied any involvement.

In February, the two sides held their first formal talks since the 2008 attacks and agreed to “remain in touch”. Leaders from 40 states are attending the meeting in Washington which is expected to focus on how to secure nuclear material.

Freelance Journalist Missing, Feared Kidnapped from Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province

By Nayana Jayarajan for International Press Institute

A freelance journalist and filmmaker has gone missing under suspicious circumstances from the tribal areas around the city of Kohat in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan according to a senior editor for a broadcaster with whom the reporter was working, and a source at Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.

The senior broadcast editor asked that neither he nor the broadcaster be identified out of concern for the safety of the reporter.

The Dawn newspaper source also requested anonymity for security reasons. He identified the journalist as freelance reporter and filmmaker Asad Qureshi.

According to Dawn, which first reported the story, Qureshi was traveling with two retired officers from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The Dawn source told IPI that Qureshi and the two former ISI operatives had been returning from a meeting with Taliban representatives when they were all intercepted and kidnapped by unknown individuals. The two officers have been identified by local media as Col (R) Imam and Sq Leader (R) Khalid Khawaja.

So far, the source told IPI, no group has claimed responsibility. “Everything is shrouded in mystery,” he said.

The senior broadcast editor said: “I think we can say that something has happened.” He said that the journalist and the two retired ISI operatives had been believed to merely have been delayed until yesterday morning, when it was suddenly reported that they had gone missing and had been kidnapped.

When IPI called a mobile phone number for Qureshi listed on his website, it was switched off.

A reporter working in the NWFP told IPI that the son of one of the missing ISI operatives had spoken to his father before the kidnapping, and had been told that the trio would return in about two hours time. They have not been heard from since. The source was not able to confirm the exact time of the kidnapping, but estimated it to have taken place two to three days ago.

“We are gravely concerned for Qureshi’s well-being and safety”, said IPI Director David Dadge. “We call on the authorities to investigate his disappearance and to do everything possible to ensure his safe release.”

The North West Frontier Province has witnessed a long-running battle for control between the Pakistani military and tribal and Islamist political factions.

On Monday 5 April, forty people were killed and over a 100 injured in a suicide bomb attack at Timergarah of the Lower Dir district in the northwest province. The bomb was planted at a party meeting of the ANP, the Awami National Party, which is in a ruling coalition in the NWFP, along with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

The rising levels of violence have made the region one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists.

According to IPI’s Death Watch, in the last two years alone 14 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. Seven of the deaths occurred in the Northwest Frontier Province. In August 2009, Aaj TV correspondent Sadiq Bacha Khan was gunned down in broad daylight on his way to work in Mardan, a town in the province. On 4 January 2009, Muhammad Imran, 20, a trainee cameraman with Express TV, and Saleem Tahir Awan, 45, a freelance reporter with the local dailies Eitedal and Apna Akhbar, were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of The Government Polytechnic College in Dera Ismail Khan in the North West Frontier Province. And on 18 February 2009, Musa Khankhel, a reporter for Geo TV and the English-language newspaper The News, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while on assignment covering a peace march led by Muslim cleric Sufi Muhammad in the Swat valley.

-Read more about Asad Qureshi in his own words from his website prior to his disappearance at http://www.asadqureshi.com

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