Archive for October, 2010

Unending Love By Rabindranath Tagore

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…In life after life, in age after age, forever. My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs, That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age-old pain, It’s ancient tale of being apart or together. As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge, Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time: You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount. At the heart of time, love of one for another. We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you The love of all man’s days both past and forever: Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life. The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours – And the songs of every poet past and forever~ 

– Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize as he won in Literature. He was a de facto Poet Laureate of his day before India’s independence from Britain and this is Pakistanis for Peace’s homage to the man and to the human sentiment of love. 

New U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Delivers Flood Relief

By Gunnery Sgt Bryce Piper for The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution Sysem

 U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron P. Munter distributed flood relief supplies today at a World Food Program distribution point at Hassan Khan Jamali, Pakistan.

As the newly-appointed ambassador, Munter participated in the operation to see and participate in the Pakistan and U.S. military flood relief efforts conducted in Sindh province.

“It is an honor to have the chance to work with the Pakistani military and the American military together, who are working to help the Pakistani people,” said Munter. “This is a place that I think all of us will remember as a symbol and as a reality of our cooperation, what we can do when we work together, when we face problems together. And I’m very, very grateful to the Pakistanis and Americans who’ve done all this work.”

Munter arrived at the Pakistan military’s Pano Aqil Cantonment in the afternoon and then flew to the Hassan Khan Jamali relief site where he and a team of Pakistani and U.S. military members unloaded approximately four tons of food aid from two helicopters. Pakistanis waiting at the site collected the humanitarian supplies for distribution in the surrounding area.

This was the ambassador’s first trip to flood-affected areas of Sindh since arriving in Pakistan Oct. 27.

In addition to delivering food aid, Munter and his wife Marilyn Wyatt had an opportunity to meet with local flood victims. The couple flew to Hassan Khan Jamali aboard a U.S. CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 26th and 15th MEUs have been conducting humanitarian relief efforts from Pano Aqil Cantonment since Sept. 3, 2010.

The Marines there have delivered more than 3.7 million pounds (over 1.6 kilograms) of food and other supplies to more than 150 locations throughout Sindh Province, flying more than 450 heavy-lift helicopter sorties.

Since Aug. 5, 2010, U.S. military aircraft and personnel, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistan military, have provided humanitarian airlift for the delivery of more than 20 million pounds (over 9 million kilograms) of relief supplies and the transport of more than 27,000 displaced persons throughout Pakistan.

In addition to humanitarian airlift, the U.S. Government is providing more than $398 million to assist Pakistan with relief and recovery efforts, while USAID and other U.S. civilian agencies continue to provide assistance to flood victims.

U.S. efforts are part of a multi-national humanitarian assistance and support effort lead by the Pakistani government to bring aid to flood victims.

Suspicious UPS, FedEx Packages Raise New Concerns About Al Qaeda in Yemen

By Christa Case Bryant for The Christian Science Monitor

Suspicious packages found on United Parcel Service and FedEx planes reportedly originated in Yemen. While the planes appear to be undamaged, the incidents could bring fresh scrutiny to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the relatively new franchise that claimed responsibility for the failed underwear bomber plot on Christmas Day last year.

A spokesman in Yemen’s US embassy said in a statement that the Yemeni government, which has carried out numerous strikes against suspected AQAP operatives over the past 10 months, has launched a full-scale investigation.

“We are working closely with international partners – including the US – on the incident,” said Mohammed Albasha, adding that no UPS cargo planes land or take off from Yemeni airports.

However, an airport employee in Sanaa, who did not want his name used, confirmed that there are private company flights from Sanaa to the United Kingdom, where a suspicious package was found at East Midlands airport at 3:28 a.m. local time.

The UPS store in Sanaa was staffed with one employee and one guard Friday evening local time. The employee refused to talk to the media.

The White House said that in addition to the package found in the UK, which according to CNN contained a “manipulated” toner cartridge, another suspicious item was found in Dubai. Both were said to have originated in Yemen.

“Last night, intelligence and law enforcement agencies discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the US,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday. “As a result of security precautions triggered by this threat, the additional measures were taken regarding the flights at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports.”

Among the suspected targets were Chicago-area synagogues.

The incident, which CNN posited could be a “dry run” for a future terrorist plot, is one of numerous red flags raised this year about suspected Al Qaeda militants operating in Yemen.

The country’s weak central government, which has difficulty maintaining order in Yemen’s rugged mountain terrain, has over the past year quietly strengthened its cooperation with US counterterrorism officials to address the militant threat.

The US military announced early this year it would more than double the $67 million aid package to the country. Since the failed Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound airliner, international concern that Yemen could become the next Afghanistan – a lawless refuge from which to launch terrorist attacks on the West – has risen.

The rise in prominence of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American preacher linked to the Fort Hood shootings last year and now wanted by the CIA, has heightened fears that the militants could more easily navigate Western society with his help.

Experts have cautioned, however, that focusing US and international efforts solely on containing the Al Qaeda threat could backfire.

Yemen is the Arab world’s poorest country, and faces numerous other challenges, including corruption, a violent southern secessionist movement, tensions between powerful tribes and the central government, and dwindling resources.

Obama Will Try to Avoid the K Word

By Paul Beckett for The Wall Street Journal

To some U.S. officials, it is known simply as the “K-word.” Kashmir. It’s a topic we expect U.S. President Barack Obama to try his level best to avoid during his three-day trip to India that starts next week.

The issue got the former British foreign secretary in hot water when he was here last year. And when Richard Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan at one point suggested he tackle Kashmir too, the idea received a furious rebuff from the Indians.

If the topic does come up, Mr. Obama will likely follow the same tack taken by his advisers earlier this week in a briefing with reporters. When asked, “Will the President talk publicly or privately about Kashmir and the tensions between India and Pakistan?” this was the response from Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communication.

“The President believes that the U.S. relationship with India and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan does not take place within any kind of zero-sum dynamic.  It’s often been viewed that way in the past, that if we become closer to one it’s at the expense of the other. And we’ve tried to send the signal that it’s the opposite with this administration; that, in fact, actually you see that borne out in the fact that we had a very successful strategic dialogue here, with the Pakistanis in town last week, discussing greater security cooperation in governance and economic issues.

And as a part of that, the President met with the Pakistani delegation and ended up speaking to President Zardari yesterday to discuss that strategic dialogue and said that he’d very much like to visit Pakistan next year and is planning to visit Pakistan next year.”

If you’re counting, that almost 150 words – and not one of them is “Kashmir.”

William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, added his own non-Kashmir Kashmir response. “We have always welcomed dialogue between India and Pakistan and certainly encouraged efforts to improve relations between those two very important countries.  Obviously, the pace, scope and character of that dialogue is something that Indians and Pakistanis have to shape.  But we’ll continue to both welcome and encourage it.”

White House reporters being an intrepid bunch, another questioner brought up the topic again, using the K-word specifically.

“Just to follow Steven’s question on Kashmir. Will the President be making some public remarks explaining the U.S. position on Kashmir?  And will he also be addressing — explaining the U.S. relationship with Pakistan publicly?”

This time Mr. Rhodes was even more eloquent, going for a full 286 words, not a single one of them Kashmir.

Accused DC Bomb Plotter Farooque Ahmed’s Goal Was ‘Killing as Many Metro Riders as Possible’

By Kerry Wills, James Gordon Meek, and Helen Kennedy for The NY Daily News

A former Staten Island man was busted in Washington on Wednesday for helping what he thought were Al Qaeda terrorists plotting to bomb the capital’s subways.

It was really the FBI stringing him along, the feds say.

Farooque Ahmed, 34, a computer engineer who lives with his wife and baby in suburban Virginia, was accused of making sketches and surveillance videos of busy subway stops near the Pentagon and tourist-packed Arlington Cemetery.

The stations Ahmed helped case are popular with Defense Department workers. He thought the stations would be blown up sometime next year, the indictment says.

His goal was “killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said. “It’s chilling.”

The feds said straphangers were never in any danger.

Much like the four men convicted this month of plotting to attack a Bronx synagogue, Ahmed was stung by an undercover FBI operation and never met any real terrorists.

His face hidden by a long beard, mustache and glasses, Ahmed appeared briefly in federal court and will be held until a detention hearing tomorrow. He said he could not afford a lawyer.

A Pakistani who became a naturalized citizen in New York 17 years ago, Ahmed worked for Ericsson telecommunications in Virginia setting up routers for the Sprint network, his LinkedIn profile says.

He received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the College of Staten Island in 2003 and studied mechanical engineering at City College, but did not receive the graduate degree, college officials said.

Ahmed’s online profile blamed that on “a political issue between computer science and (engineering) departments.” Officials said the dispute was over academic credits, not geopolitics.

He registered as a Republican in the borough in 2002.

Neighbors in Ashburn, Va., said he moved there a year ago with his British wife, Sahar Mirza, and toddler son.

Sahar Mirza is co-organizer of a Meetup.com group for mothers of new babies called Hip Muslim Moms.

He wore casual clothes – he appeared in court in jeans – but she wore more traditional garb and covered her hair.
“He was out back mowing the lawn over the weekend. He just seemed like a normal guy. He never talked about politics,” said neighbor Barbi Shires, 43. “I’m just glad it was the FBI he did it for, not al Qaeda.”

Next door neighbor, Tanya Minor, 32, who works in a doctor’s office, said Ahmed “came to look at the house with a man who spoke his language, who said he helped people from New York find apartments here. They were very quiet. They always had the blinds closed.”

 

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteThe arrest of Faisal Shahzad and now Farooque Ahmed illustrates that unfortunately there are some within the large Pakistani and Muslim American community in the United States who mean to do us harm and they need to be caught and brought to justice. We urge all Pakistani and Muslim Americans to be vigilant and proactive in reporting anyone to the authorities who they believe have become radicalized and deemed a threat to the safety of others.

Alleged Would Be Terrorist Thwarted At Every Turn

By Richard Serrano for The Los Angeles Times

Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, according to the FBI, traveled the world in search of jihad. But Pakistan turned him away, and Jordan did too. He tried to get into Somalia, but U.S. authorities placed him on the no-fly list. An American citizen, he visited an army recruiting station in New York’s Times Square hoping to be sent to Iraq; they did not want him either.

So, the FBI said, the 21-year-old born and raised in New York created websites and posted threats of radical Islamic violence, including one from another American expatriate, Anwar al Awlaki. Then Shehadeh flew to Hawaii and allegedly started taking target practice.

FBI agents said he wanted to join a jihadist group to learn “guerilla warfare and bomb-making.” Had he been welcomed into the U.S. army, they said, his plan was to defect in Iraq and turn against his comrades.

Shehadeh’s journeys ended last Friday. He was arrested in Honolulu and accused in a federal criminal complaint, unsealed Monday, of making false statements in an international terrorism case.

For two and a half years federal officials followed his travels, tracked his websites and enlisted help from his grade school friends. On Tuesday they singled him out as someone much like Awlaki — eager to forfeit his U.S. citizenship for a life of jihad.

Florence T. Nakakuni, the U.S. attorney in Hawaii, said the investigation covered “a six-hour time difference and 5,000 miles.” In New York, FBI assistant director Janice K. Fedarcyk said “stopping one prospective terrorist can prevent untold numbers of casualties.”

Shehadeh faces up to eight years in prison. His Hawaiian attorney, Matthew Winter, said he “wants to return as soon as possible to New York and face the charges there.”

He is slightly built, thin and clean-shaven. He does not evoke the image of an angry Islamic radical. But his arrest comes during a heightened alert over threats from homegrown terrorists.

“My brothers of revolutionary Islam, I am with you as long as you keep struggling,” Shehadeh allegedly posted on his website. “Trust me there are many brothers and sisters in America that are ready to speak up. They just need a push.”

He first drew the eye of FBI agents in June 2008 for signing into the online Expedia travel agency and purchasing a one-way ticket to Pakistan. A New York detective interviewed him at the airport; Shehadeh said he was going to Pakistan to attend an Islamic school there.

Customs and Border Patrol searched his checked baggage. They found a sleeping bag, toiletries, three books and two changes of clothes. When the plane landed at Islamabad, he was not allowed in.

According to the FBI, he created his own websites. One highlighted the “Benefits of Jihad in Our Times.” Another ran speeches from al Awlaki. A third, titled “civiljihad,” included warnings dripping in blood.

He visited the recruiting station at Times Square in October 2008, according to the complaint. The army turned him away because he failed to disclose his trip to Pakistan. Two weeks later he flew to Jordan, but the authorities would not let him in.

The FBI developed two confidential informants who were boyhood classmates of Shehadeh. The agents said they learned Shehadeh wanted American Muslims to travel to Muslim countries and fight against the U.S. He allegedly told them he wanted to die a martyr, that there were “no more excuses” for avoiding jihad. He spoke of an afterlife with 72 virgins.

In June 2009 he purchased a ticket to Dubai. Again FBI agents said they interviewed him; he told them his destination was Somalia. But now he was on the no-fly list; he could not even leave the U.S.

He went to Hawaii. In October 2009, he visited the SWAT Gun Club, and practiced firing an M-16 assault rifle, .45 caliber and 9 mm semi automatic pistols, and a .44 caliber Magnum revolver. Last April, he again spoke to the FBI. The conversation turned to why U.S. muslims become radicalized. The agents said Shehadeh told them, “take my story for example.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteDeranged individuals such as Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, Faisal Shahzad, and Nidal Malik Hasan do not deserve American citizenship and all the freedoms and privileges it entails. The US government must remain vigilant and suspicious of anyone who espouses treasonous acts against the republic and its interests regardless of their race, ethnicity, citizenship, religion or any other identifying characteristic. It is our hope that the Obama administration will continue to remain proactive and alert in apprehending and stopping all individuals who pose danger to the country and patriotic Muslim Americans must continue to do more to assist the nation in keeping safe.

Arundhati’s Statement From Srinagar: Full Text

By Arundhati Roy
October 26, 2010
Noted Indian Hindu writer Arundhati Roy Tuesday said her speeches supporting the call for azadi were what “millions” in Kashmir say every day and were “fundamentally a call for justice”. Following is the full text of the statement that she has issued.
 
“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villags in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.  

“Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

“In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

Arundhati Roy is a novelist, essayist and human rights activist. She won a Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things. For more on her read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arundhati_Roy

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteArundhati Roy’s courageous plea to her country is to be lauded. Although branded a traitor by many in India and within the government, she knows that she stands for peace, justice and fairness for all humanity. She wants self determination for all Kashmiris, be they Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.

We at Pakistanis for Peace want nothing more than peace between India and Pakistan and therefore understand that Kashmir is the one and single most important issue between the two countries. Solve it and you do not have the threat of cross border attacks, friction, animosity, perpetual war and a tense border between two neighbors of nearly 2,000 miles. If we continue to ignore it then it will eventually be the crisis that starts a 4th and possibly nuclear war between the two neighbors. A war that neither the neighborhood nor the world can afford.

The Pakistan Paradox

By Bret Stephens for The Wall Street Journal

Any serious observer of the war in Afghanistan will tell you that we can’t win without striking hard at the safe havens the Taliban and its allies enjoy in Pakistan. That means going beyond drone strikes and deploying ground forces in places like North Waziristan.

Any serious observer of Pakistan will also tell you that such strikes would complicate, and perhaps fatally compromise, our relations with the country whose cooperation we require to win in Afghanistan.

Both observations are on the mark. Isolating the battlefield is a cardinal rule of warfare. So long as the Taliban can shrink away to Pakistan to lick their wounds and plot their return—as they have in the wake of their recent reversals in Kandahar—then we have failed to isolate them. Yet if Pakistan should begin to turn against us—as they briefly did earlier this month following the accidental killing of Pakistani border guards in a NATO strike—then we are the ones who will be isolated.

So how do we finesse the Pakistan paradox?

It helps to see the country for what it is. Pakistan suffers from an abandonment complex rooted in historical facts, especially the Pressler Amendment that cut off Pakistan-U.S. military ties throughout the 1990s. Those fears are compounded by a national paranoia that is the product of conspiracy theory, misplaced indignation and jingoism. The country’s elites typically divide between secularists, mainly feudal aristocrats or corrupt parvenus like President Asif Ali Zardari, and Islamists of either conservative or radical bent.

Standing astride the Islamist-secular divide is the military, which profits from cultivating both connections and is Pakistan’s most competent—and least accountable—institution. Down below is an ethnically fractious and largely destitute population of 170 million people, just emerging from a flood that swamped 20% of the country.

From this unsavory stew it’s unrealistic to expect a high degree of clarity or consistency in Pakistani policy. At best it leans one way or the other, never very far and rarely for very long. Mr. Zardari’s government has deployed the army against the Taliban, or parts of it, and consented to a dramatic increase in Predator strikes. But that’s happening concurrently with the intelligence service, or ISI, providing material aid to the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and failing (or more likely refusing) to break up the so-called Quetta Shura of Mullah Mohammed Omar.

If there’s an overarching logic here it’s that Islamabad wants to preserve its options. Uncertainty about U.S. staying power in Afghanistan helps explain why Pakistan will not entirely forsake its erstwhile clients in the Taliban and the mujahedeen. Pakistani fears are further exacerbated by America’s recent tilt toward India. And while the Obama administration has made much of its aid packages for Pakistan—$1.5 billion a year on the civilian side, followed last week by the announcement of another $2 billion for the military—Pakistani officials complain that only a small fraction of the funds have been disbursed.

What, then, to do? First, instead of publicly lecturing Pakistanis on how they need to get tough with the Taliban, the administration would do better to make good on its existing commitments. Say what you will about Mr. Zardari’s abilities, he has aided the U.S. military effort in a way his predecessor Pervez Musharraf, supposedly a pro-American strongman, never did.

That’s a relationship to build on, quietly and incrementally, not to tear down. So it would be helpful if the administration doesn’t repeat the mistake of blabbing to Bob Woodward, whose book may have helped Mr. Obama seem more presidential but didn’t do any favors to his presidency.

Equally helpful would be to stop mindlessly demanding that military assistance to Pakistan go toward fighting the Taliban instead of arming against India. The missing ingredient in Pakistan’s counterinsurgency effort isn’t the right military tool kit, such as night-vision goggles or Apache helicopters. It’s the will of the Pakistani general staff to cooperate more fully in the fight. If that cooperation can be secured by selling conventional weapons such as F-15s and M-1 tanks to Pakistan, so much the better.

(As for India, it has less to fear from a reasonably well-armed, confident Pakistani army that has strong ties to the U.S. than it does from a poorly armed Pakistan that mistrusts the U.S. and continues to consort with jihadists as a way of compensating for its weakness.)

Finally, the administration ought to understand that Pakistan’s reluctance to defeat the Taliban at any price is a mirror image of our own reluctance. The July 2011 “deadline” to begin withdrawing troops was bound to affect Islamabad’s calculations, and not for the better. The sooner we junk it, the better the cooperation we’ll get.

It’s an old American habit to lament the incompetence and duplicity of our wartime allies, and Pakistan abounds in both qualities. But unless we are prepared to deal with Pakistan as an adversary, we must make do with it as a friend.

Sectarianism Infects Hospital Wards

As Reported by IrinNews.org

Religious, political and ethnic divisions have claimed hundreds of lives in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, but also influence the chances of survival for the injured.

A doctor in the emergency ward of Civil Hospital Karachi, one of the city’s largest public hospitals, told IRIN: “After a terrorism incident, we are under intense pressure. Earlier, we had the activists of various political parties threatening us in the emergency department to not treat the patients of their rival groups. They use all sorts of delay tactics, be it blocking the entrance to pounding on the doors and abusing the staff. Now, we also get calls [from the militants].”

The doctor, who asked not to be identified, added: “One ethnic-based party is so strong that it makes sure that the duty doctors are unable to carry out their work once the injured start arriving. We have doctors and other staff who are from that party within the premises. Time and again we have been told not to treat Pushtun injured, who are very easy to identify due to their language and beards. We already face a shortage of staff, medicines and medical equipment… It’s just a mess here. [But] all professionalism and ethics aside, how can you expect me to save someone when my life is in danger?”

According to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report released in July, 260 people have been killed in targeted killings since January 2010. The number continues to rise with 50 people killed so far in the latest wave of violence following a shooting rampage in Shershah Market on 19 October.

Turf war

The nub of the problem in Karachi is the ongoing turf war between the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) for control of the coastal city. Both parties draw support from rival ethnic groups; the MQM’s vote bank is among largely Urdu speakers who migrated to Karachi after partition from India in 1947, while the ANP mainly represents Pushtuns.

Habib ur Rehman Soomro, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association, acknowledged that sectarianism was rife in the health services. “I will not deny this occurrence. I live in this city and I know how things work. Refusing and delaying treatment in cases of emergency, especially after incidents of ethnic violence and terrorism, is a crime but all this is happening… Now the situation is such that all public hospitals in the city have the offices of MQM, PPP [the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party] and if it’s a Pashtun-dominated area, ANP.”

Shams Khan was injured on 3 August in the violence that erupted after the killing of MQM leader Raza Haider, which claimed 45 lives.

“I was shot in the leg by these boys near Lalo Khait. I made my way to Abassi Shaheed Hospital but they refused to treat me. I was practically thrown out of the facility by my beard as one of the doctors called me a Taliban. Bleeding, I made my way to JPMC [Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre]. I lost so much blood by the time the doctors attended to me. I now limp around and need a crutch to walk. The doctor told me that had I been treated earlier, it would not have happened.”

Soomro told IRIN that doctors were under constant threat. “Since the 1990s, there have been plenty of incidents of targeted killings of doctors killed on the basis of sect and ethnicity. Over 85 doctors have been murdered. First it was the Shia-Sunni issue, then the Pushtun-Mohajir issue, now it’s about sects. It’s just insane. Political affiliations need to be removed.”

A doctor at the JPMC, who asked not to be named, said: “We have seen days where doctors were beaten by angry political activists as well as the family members of the victims after a bomb blast… This cycle of madness will not end.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteWe are unsure which is sadder, the inability of doctors in Pakistan’s biggest city to save lives without threat and or intimidation and violence against them, or that the very people giving these threats to the doctors are in fact linked to members of the two ruling political parties, who have been charged with being “leaders” of the country.

Meet Nikki Haley, the Next Indian American Governor of a US State

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Nikki Haley is not destined to be the first Indian American governor of a US state. No that honor already belongs to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Haley however is poised to do something greater and that is to become the first minority female governor as she competes for South Carolina’s highest office on Tuesday November 2.

Already the first Indian to hold office in South Carolina, she currently serves as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from the 87th district. A past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, she is a CFO and an accountant by trade who worked in her mother’s apparel business that has grown into a multi-million dollar company.

Although born to Sikh parents, she converted to Methodism after marrying her husband Michael Haley and describes herself as a Christian. Her religious conversion as well as her ethnicity has not hampered her dreams of becoming the first female governor of South Carolina.  Neither have allegations of extramarital affairs or reports of paying taxes late.

Nikki Haley’s candidacy received a boost when Sarah Palin and Tea Party officials gave her their backing for the election and she is leading her opponent, Democrat Vincent Sheheen, in most polls. If she wins, this will not be the first time she has won in a state where politics is mainly a male run enterprise. In 2004, she challenged and won against Rep. Larry Koon who was South Carolina legislature’s longest serving member, having served 30 years in the House. She is a tough lady who also happens to have a concealed weapons permit and strongly supports gun rights, a staple of Republican Party values.

Aside from Haley, an unprecedented number of Indian Americans are contesting for office this year across the country. There is Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania running for the House of Representatives in the state legislature. Others running for house seats in their states are Ami Bera in California, Raj Goyle in Kansas, Ravi Sangisetty in Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal is the governor, and Surya Yalamanchili in Ohio.

After making inroads into American boardrooms with top jobs in the corporate world such as Vikram Pandit, the CEO at Citibank and Indra Nooyi, the boss at PepsiCo, Indian Americans are exploring opportunities in politics which is good for America as more involvement by minorities in public service makes the country stronger and shows that there is room for everyone at the top. Many other minorities also can take encouragement from her candidacy and be mindful that race and ethnicity is not always a barrier for running for office and that the right candidate and platform can land a person in the governor’s mansion.

Should Nikki Haley be successful in winning the governorship of South Carolina, she will instantly become one of the rising young stars of the Republican Party and a face for women leaders the world over. Regardless where you stand on the political aisle, her candidacy and subsequent election will be a turning point in the US for Indian Americans and South Asians who have become an indispensable part of the nation’s fabric.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s  Note 11/03/2010We at Pakistanis for Peace want to congratulate Nikki Haley for winning the governorship of South Carolina in a very tough and hard fought race. Both as an American as well as ethnically being a person from the Indian subcontinent aka Desi, we are proud to see her elected to serve as governor, despite disagreeing with her party on many issues.

Her rise as well as that of Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to the top of American politics is a source of pride for all Desis, be they Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, etc. We invite people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds to join our Facebook group at Pakistanis for Peace and strengthen those who support peace between India and Pakistan and around the world. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37793413510&v=wall

Pakistan Urges US to Intervene in Kashmir Dispute

As Reported by The Associated Press

Pakistan called Friday for President Barack Obama to intervene in its longstanding dispute with India over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, the cause of two of the three wars the nuclear-armed rivals have fought.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the unusually blunt appeal for Obama to seek a resolution of the dispute when he visits India next month, saying he should “redeem the pledge” he made as a candidate.

The conflict over Kashmir has been the main source of friction between India and Pakistan since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistan has frequently sought outside intervention to resolve it but India vehemently opposes such involvement and the United States has traditionally stayed above the fray.

Qureshi, speaking next to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the closing day of three days of U.S.-Pakistan talks, said Obama must get involved because a crackdown against suspected Muslim militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir threatens the entire region.

“It is in the U.S. strategic interest to work for peace, stability and resolution of the disputes in South Asia,” he said. “The starting point in this quest is justice for the Kashmiri people.”

“President Obama has always understood the importance of a Kashmir solution,” Qureshi said. “His coming visit to the region is the time to begin to redeem the pledge that he made earlier.”

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama suggested that the U.S. should encourage India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute so Pakistan could better focus on fighting extremists on its own territory and Afghanistan. Although he did not advocate direct mediation, his comments were met with disdain in India.

Obama will not visit Pakistan on his upcoming trip but he plans to spend several days in India, which has cracked down on violent anti-Indian protests in Kashmir since June. The violence has killed at least 111 people, mostly teenage boys and young men in their 20s. Authorities have imposed off-and-on curfews in an attempt to halt the unrest.

Quershi expressed astonishment that the U.S. and other major powers had said little about India’s response to the protests.

“People of conscience have protested the use of force against the defenseless people of Kashmir, in particular the targeting of the Kashmiri youth,” he said. “But the Kashmiri mothers are baffled by the deafening silence of the world’s leadership. History has proved that the force of arms cannot suppress the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people.”

India and Pakistan fought two wars for control of Muslim-majority Kashmir, where rebels have sought independence from India or incorportation with neighboring Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Kashmir since fighting began in earnest in 1989.

Flood Relief: A US Helicopter Pilot’s Tale

By John Bockmann for The Express Tribune

I am an American helicopter pilot in Pakistan.  My colleagues and I came because Pakistan and its people are enduring the aftermath of a devastating flood.  We were ordered to be here, and we miss our homes, but most of us are glad to help because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

I did not know much about Pakistan before I arrived here.  I knew of the food.  I knew of monsoons and Mohenjo Daro, Karachi and the Khyber Pass, but I had no concept of what Pakistan looked, felt, or sounded like. I even thought many Pakistanis would want us to leave.

I had no idea what the people would be like in person.  I wondered if they would resemble the images I’d seen on TV – would they protest our presence in the streets?  Would they tolerate us?  Or would they simply ignore us and go about their business?

After a few weeks of packing and planning, we were ready to deploy.  Full of excitement and some anxiety, I kissed my wife, took one last picture and was gone. We flew on a cargo jet from Alaska to Islamabad and the flight took so long I hardly knew whether it was day or night when we finally arrived.  Shouldering my gear, I headed to the terminal, weaving among Pakistani military and civilians on the tarmac.  A US Marine captain guided my group inside where we filled out information cards and relaxed in the cool quietness, surveying our area; smooth stone floors, low-slung furniture, and ceiling fans spinning high above.  The captain was talking to a Pakistani man who had been helping us.  Before we left, the man shook my hand and looked me in the eyes. “Thank you for coming to my poor country,” he said quietly.

I wanted to convey the depth of my feelings toward him and his homeland, but all I said was, “You would probably do the same for us” as I walked away.

That was my first interaction with a Pakistani here.

The days since arriving have passed quickly.  Every day we take rice, flour, blankets, housing materials, cooking oil – anything – up and down the Swat and Indus River Valleys.  We also bring sick, injured, and displaced people to hospitals and hometowns.

My first mission took us up the Indus river valley, and I embarrassed myself by constantly exclaiming its beauty.  Below me was the Karakorum Highway – the old Silk Road into China – and the valley itself, with terraced farmland overshadowed by majestic, snow-capped mountains.

Along with the beauty, though, I see reminders of the flood, bridges that are broken or missing and roads and fields that have been washed away.  I am beginning to see widespread reconstruction now as well and feel hope for the people in these villages.  They will soon have another way to get help.

I realize that some who read this will question our intentions and some may even wish us ill.  I certainly did not imagine that cheering throngs would greet us at each village though – we are always welcomed.  I did not expect our goodwill to be taken at face value by all of Pakistan, but we have received immense support.

I have learned in my time here that Pakistani people are truly gracious.  Strangers have invited me for chai and conversation.  Almost anyone will shake my hand and ask my name, inquire about my health and how I am getting along.  Instead of a handshake at our first meeting, I have sometimes been embraced.  “Strangers shake hands,” my new friend Mahmood explained, “but brothers hug each other.”

This warms my heart.  My mission, our mission, is straightforward, noble, and good.  I am deeply grateful to those who support us here, for we need all the help we can get in order to help those in need.   I am honored to do this work. I feel at home here beyond anything I could have expected.

Ah, home!  I miss my home, my wife and family; each day I wonder when I will see them again. But we have a humanitarian mission to accomplish.  Since I must be away, I’m glad that I am here, doing work that’s needed and good.

When I do return home, I will bring with me hundreds of pictures, dozens of journal entries, six duffel bags, and several recipes for local dishes that I have enjoyed, but I will also bring innumerable memories that I will treasure for life — memories of Pakistan and its people.  They have surprised me with friendship.  I hope that through our work of compassion we may surprise them with friendship as well.

How to Restore the American Dream

By Fareed Zakaria for Time

The American dream for me, growing up in India in the 1970s, looked something like the opening credits of Dallas. The blockbuster TV series began with a kaleidoscope of big, brassy, sexy images — tracts of open land, shiny skyscrapers, fancy cars, cowboy businessmen and the very dreamy Victoria Principal. We watched bootlegged copies of the show, passed around on old Betamax cassettes. America (certainly the CBS soap-opera version of America) seemed dazzling and larger than life, especially set against the stagnant backdrop of India in the 1970s. Everyone I knew was fascinated by the U.S., whether they admitted it or not. Politicians who denounced the country by day would go home in the evenings and plot to send their kids to college in “the States.”

Of course, the 1970s were actually tough times in America — stagflation, malaise, the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate — but they were brutal in the rest of the world. Hyperinflation racked most third-world countries; coups and martial law were familiar occurrences, even affecting staunchly democratic India, where emergency rule was enforced from 1975 to 1977. Set against this atmosphere of despair, the U.S. looked like a shining city on a hill.

A few years later, when I got to America on a college scholarship, I realized that the real American Dream was somewhat different from Dallas. I visited college friends in their hometowns and was struck by the spacious suburban houses and the gleaming appliances — even when their parents had simple, modest jobs. The modern American Dream, for me, was this general prosperity and well-being for the average person. European civilization had produced the great cathedrals of the world. America had the two-car garage. And this middle-class contentment created a country of optimists. Compared with the fatalism and socialist lethargy that was pervasive in India those days, Americans had a sunny attitude toward life that was utterly refreshing.

But when I travel from America to India these days, as I did recently, it’s as if the world has been turned upside down. Indians are brimming with hope and faith in the future. After centuries of stagnation, their economy is on the move, fueling animal spirits and ambition. The whole country feels as if it has been unlocked. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the mood is sour. Americans are glum, dispirited and angry. The middle class, in particular, feels under assault. In a Newsweek poll in September, 63% of Americans said they did not think they would be able to maintain their current standard of living. Perhaps most troubling, Americans are strikingly fatalistic about their prospects. The can-do country is convinced that it can’t.

Americans have good reasons to worry. We have just gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim at best. Sixteen months into the recovery, the unemployment rate is higher than it was in the depths of all but one of the postwar recessions. And as government spending is being pared back, the economy is showing new signs of weakness.

Some experts say that in every recession Americans get gloomy and then recover with the economy. This slump is worse than most; so is the mood. Once demand returns, they say, jobs will come back and, with them, optimism. But Americans are far more apprehensive than usual, and their worries seem to go beyond the short-term debate over stimulus vs. deficit reduction. They fear that we are in the midst of not a cyclical downturn but a structural shift, one that poses huge new challenges to the average American job, pressures the average American wage and endangers the average American Dream. The middle class, many Americans have come to believe, is being hollowed out. I think they are right.

Going Global
For a picture of the global economy, look at America’s great corporations, which are thriving. IBM, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and Caterpillar are all doing well. And they share a strategy that is becoming standard for success. First, technology has produced massive efficiencies over the past decade. Jack Welch explained the process succinctly on CNBC last September. “Technology has changed the game in jobs,” he said. “We had technology bumping around for years in the ’80s and ’90s, and [we were] trying to make it work. And now it’s working … You couple the habits [of efficiency] from a deep recession [with] an exponential increase in technology, and you’re not going to see jobs for a long, long time.” Welch gave as an example a company owned by the private-equity firm with which he is affiliated. In 2007 the business had 26,000 employees and generated $12 billion in revenue. It will return to those revenue numbers by 2013 but with only 14,000 employees. “Companies have learned to do more with less,” Welch said.

Next, companies have truly gone global. The companies on the S&P 500 generate 46% of their profits outside the U.S., and for many of the biggest American names, the proportion is much higher. You might think of Coca-Cola as the quintessentially American company. In fact it is a vast global enterprise, operating in 206 countries. “We have a factory in Ramallah that employs 2,000 people. We have a factory in Afghanistan. We have factories everywhere,” explains Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coke. Nearly 80% of Coca-Cola’s revenue comes from outside the U.S., and an even greater percentage of its employees are in foreign countries. “We are a global company that happens to be headquartered in Atlanta,” says Kent.

America’s great corporations access global markets, easy credit, new technologies and high-quality labor at a low price. Many have had to cut jobs at home, where demand is weak, and have added them in the emerging markets that are booming. They are not “outsourcing” jobs. That word makes little sense anymore. They simply invest in growth areas and cut back in places where the economy is weak. None of them will ever give up on the American market — it is too large, too profitable and too central to their businesses — but the marginal dollar is more likely to be invested abroad than in the U.S.

While businesses have a way to navigate this new world of technological change and globalization, the ordinary American worker does not. Capital and technology are mobile; labor isn’t. American workers are located in America. And this is a country with one of the highest wages in the world, because it is one of the richest countries in the world. That makes it more difficult for the American middle-class worker to benefit from technology and global growth in the same way that companies do.

At this point, economists will protest. Historically, free trade has been beneficial to rich and poor. By forcing you out of industries in which you are inefficient, trade makes you strengthen those industries in which you are world-class. That’s right in theory, and it has been right in practice. As countries have traded with one another over the past two centuries, they have prospered, and average living standards in those countries (primarily in the Western world) have soared. Those places that kept themselves protected (mostly communist and third-world nations) found that they had crappy industries, shoddy goods, massive corruption and slow growth.

And yet something feels different this time. Technology and globalization are working together at warp speed, creating a powerful new reality. Many more goods and services can now be produced anywhere on the globe. China and India have added literally hundreds of millions of new workers to the global labor pool, producing the same goods and services as Western workers at a fraction of the price. Far from being basket-case economies and banana republics, many developing economies are now stable and well managed, and companies can do business in them with ease. At some point, all these differences add up to mean that global competition is having quite a new impact on life in the U.S.

Two weeks ago, for example, I sat in a Nano, the revolutionary car being produced by Tata Motors in India. It’s a nice, comfortable midgetmobile, much like Mercedes-Benz’s Smart car, except that rather than costing $22,000, it costs about $2,400. Tata plans to bring it to the U.S. in two to three years. Properly equipped with air bags and other safety features, it will retail at $7,000. Leave aside the car itself, whose price will surely put a downward pressure on U.S. carmakers. Just think about car parts. Every part in the Nano is made to global standards but manufactured in India at about a tenth of what it would cost in America. When Ford orders its next set of car parts, will they be made in Michigan or Mumbai?

This is not a hypothetical. Steven Rattner, who helped restructure the automobile industry, tells the story of getting a new General Motors plant online in Michigan by bringing management and unions together. “The unions agreed to allow 40% of the new plant to operate at $14-an-hour wages,” he says, “which is half of GM’s normal wages. The management agreed to invest in this new plant. But here’s the problem: workers at GM’s Mexican operations make $7 an hour, and today they are as productive as American workers. And think of this: $14 an hour translates into about $35,000 a year. That’s below the median family income. The whole experience left me frightened about the fate of the American worker.”

Alan Blinder is also worried. A distinguished economist and Princeton professor, Blinder is a former vice chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve. In a now famous essay in Foreign Affairs, he argues that while we recognize the pressures placed on manufacturing jobs by international competition, technology ensures that service jobs are now similarly exposed. Since the service sector is a much larger part of the economy, Blinder estimates that 28 million to 42 million jobs will be “susceptible” to being shipped offshore — jobs such as customer-service representative and stock analyst, which we tend to think of as local. Blinder understands the benefits of free trade but worries that the new wave of offshoring is so big and fast that Western societies will have difficulty adjusting. The crucial distinction for the future, he argues, might be not between highly educated and less educated workers but between those jobs that can be done abroad and those — such as nurse or pilot — that cannot.

You can divide the American workforce in many ways, but any way you slice it, you see the same trend. People who get paid a decent wage for skilled but routine work in manufacturing or services are getting squeezed by a pincer movement of technology and globalization. David Autor, an MIT economist, has done an important study on what he calls “the polarization of job opportunities” in America. Autor finds that job growth divides neatly into three categories. On one side are managerial, professional and technical occupations, held by highly educated workers who are comfortable in the global economy. Jobs have been plentiful in this segment for the past three decades. On the other end are service occupations, those that involve “helping, caring for or assisting others,” such as security guard, cook and waiter. Most of these workers have no college education and get hourly wages that are on the low end of the scale. Jobs in this segment too have been growing robustly.

In between are the skilled manual workers and those in white collar operations like sales and office management. These jobs represent the beating heart of the middle class. Those in them make a decent living, usually above the median family income ($49,777), and they mostly did fine in the two decades before 2000. But since then, employment growth has lagged the economy in general. And in the Great Recession, it has been these middle-class folks who have been hammered. Why? Autor is cautious and tentative, but it would seem that technology, followed by global competition, has played the largest role in making less valuable the routine tasks that once epitomized middle-class work.

Recapturing the Dream
So what is the solution? It’s easier to identify the wrong answer than the right one. It would be pointless and damaging to try to go down a protectionist route, though polls show a stunning drop of support for free trade, even among college-educated professionals, its usual cheerleaders. But technology is a much larger driver of the hollowing out than trade. You cannot shut down this new world. How would you stop people from sending one another e-mails, which is what a lot of offshoring comes down to these days? Nor can you help a modern economy by shielding industries from world-class competitors, which just encourages greater inefficiency. I grew up in an economy made up of those kinds of industries, all tightly protected from “foreign exploitation and domination.” It added up to stagnation and backwardness.

There are solutions, but they are hard and involve painful changes — in companies, government programs and personal lifestyles. For more than a generation, Americans have been unwilling to make these adjustments. Instead, we found an easier way to goose the economy: expand consumption. During the early 1950s, personal consumer expenditures made up 60% to 65% of the U.S.’s GDP. But starting in the early 1980s, facing slower growth, we increased our personal spending substantially, giving rise to new economic activity in the country. Consumption grew to 70% of GDP by 2001 and has stayed there ever since. Unfortunately, this rise in consumption was not triggered by a rise in income. Wages have been largely stagnant. It was facilitated, rather, by an increase in credit, so that now the average American family has no fewer than 13 credit cards. Household debt rose from $680 billion in 1974 to $14 trillion in 2008. This pattern repeated itself in government, except on a much larger scale. People everywhere — from California to New Jersey — wanted less taxes but more government. Local, state and federal governments obliged, taking on massive debts. A generation’s worth of economic growth has been generated by an unsustainable expansion of borrowing.

That is why the current economic debate between another stimulus and deficit reduction is frustrating. Right now, there is a strong case for government stimulus, since no one else is doing much spending. But then what? What happens after another year of federal spending? Consumers still might be cautious; do we really want them to spend like they did in the old days? Is the strategy simply to reinflate the housing bubble? In recent years, the left and the right in America have conspired in feeding consumption spending. The left expands government, much of which means more consumption (pensions, health care). The right focuses obsessively on tax cuts, which have a similar effect. The political system, pandering to today’s constituents, encourages both tendencies. But when will we invest for our children’s economy?

What We Need to Do Now
Ultimately American jobs are created from the bottom up by companies, not from the top down by government fiat. But there are measures we can take that will encourage the process. Here are the key ones:

Shift from consumption to investment. Fundamentally, America needs to move from consumption to investment. Everyone agrees that the best way to create good jobs in the U.S. is to create new industries and companies and to innovate within old ones. This means large investments in research, technology and development. As a society, this needs to become our strongest focus.

Despite substantial increases and important new projects under the Obama Administration, the federal government is still not spending as much on R&D as a percentage of GDP as it did in the 1950s. I would argue that it should be spending twice that level, which would be 6% of GDP. In the 1950s, the U.S. had a huge manufacturing base that could absorb millions of semiskilled workers. Today, manufacturing is a small part of the economy and faces intense global competition. The only good jobs that will stay in the U.S. are jobs related to knowledge and innovation. Additionally, in the 1950s, America was the only research lab in town, accounting for the vast majority of global scientific spending. Today, countries around the world are entering the arena. Two weeks ago, South Korea — a country of just 50 million people! — announced plans to invest $35 billion in renewable-energy projects. We should pay for this with a 5% national sales tax — call it an American innovation tax — which would be partly offset by a small reduction in income taxes. This would have the twin benefits of tamping down consumption and yielding some additional funds. All the proceeds from the tax should be focused on future generations, because we need to invest massively in growth.

The often overlooked aspect of investment is investment in people. America has been able to create the future in large measure because it has tapped into the energies and work of immigrants. It has managed to invest in human capital by taking smart, motivated people from around the globe, educating them in the planet’s best higher-education system and then unleashing them in a dynamic economy. In this crucial realm, the U.S. is now disinvesting. After training the world’s best and brightest — often at public expense — we don’t find ways to make sure they stay here by giving them a green card but rather insist that they leave and take their knowledge to another country, where they will invent, inspire, build and pay taxes. Every year, we send tens of thousands of the smartest Indians and Chinese back home, which is a great investment — in the future of those countries.

Training and education. “Most jobs that will have good prospects in the future will be complicated,” says Louis Gerstner, the former CEO of American Express and IBM. “They will involve being able to juggle data, symbols, computer programs in some way or the other, no matter what the task. To do this, workers will need to be educated and often retrained.” We need more and better education at every level, especially job retraining. So far, most retraining efforts in the U.S. have not worked very well. But they have worked in countries that have been able to retain a manufacturing base, like Germany and parts of Northern Europe. There, some of the most successful programs are apprenticeships — which cover only 0.3% of the total U.S. workforce.

There are advantages to the U.S. system. We don’t stream people too early in their lives, and we allow for more creative thinking. But the path to good jobs for the future is surely to expand apprenticeship programs substantially so industry can find the workers it needs. This would require a major initiative, a training triangle in which the government funds, the education system teaches and industry hires — though to have an effect, the program would have to be on the scale of the GI Bill.

Fiscal sanity. To pay for such initiatives, the government needs to get its house in order. The single most important aspect of this is getting health care costs under control, followed by other entitlement programs, especially pensions at the state level. Government today spends vast sums of money on current consumption — health care and pensions being a massive chunk of it — which leaves little money for anything else. We need a radical rebalancing of American government so it can free up resources to fund future growth.

Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark. There is now global competition for growth, which means the U.S. has to constantly ask itself what other countries are doing well and how it might adapt — looking, for example, at what other countries are doing with their corporate tax rates or their health care systems and asking why and where we fall short. Americans have long resisted such an approach, but if someone else is doing tax policy, tort litigation, health care or anything else better, we have to ask why.

There are things the U.S. does well. Most new jobs in America are created by start-ups and small companies, so the ease of doing business is crucial — and there’s good news there. The World Bank has a ranking of countries measured by the “ease of doing business,” and the U.S. is No. 4. That’s very good, but there’s a catch. Those rankings are divided into several categories. In most, like “starting a business,” the U.S. does well. But in one category it’s only 61st in the world, and that is “paying taxes.”

The American tax code is a monstrosity, cumbersome and inefficient. It is 16,000 pages long and riddled with exemptions and loopholes, specific favors to special interests. As such, it represents the deep, institutionalized corruption at the heart of the American political process, in which it is now considered routine to buy a member of Congress’s support for a particular, narrow provision that will be advantageous for your business.

The Work Ahead
My proposals are inherently difficult because they ask the left and right to come together, cut some spending, pare down entitlements, open up immigration for knowledge workers, rationalize the tax code — and then make large investments in education and training, research and technology, innovation and infrastructure. But the fact that it is a solution that crosses political borders should make it more palatable, not less. And time is crucial. The U.S. has considerable advantages, but every day other countries try to find ways to attract growth within their borders. People often note that America’s political system is broken. Perhaps the truth is more awkward: America needs radical change, and it has an 18th century system determined to check and balance the absolute power of a monarchy. It is designed for gridlock at a moment when quick and large-scale action is our only hope.

When I left India, the marginal tax rate was 97.5%, corporate taxation was punitive, and business was stifled or went underground. Were I to move from New York City to Mumbai today, my personal tax rate would drop, as would every other rate, from corporate to capital-gains taxes. (The long-term capital-tax rate in India is zero.) Singapore now ranks as the No. 1 country for ease of doing business, with a top tax rate of 20%. I know permanent residents working in the U.S. who are thinking of giving up their green cards to move to Singapore. To an Indian of my generation, this would have been unthinkable. The green card was a passport to the American Dream. But for young Indians, there are many new dreams out there, and new passports.

But there are reasons for optimism. The U.S. faces huge challenges, but it also has enormous advantages. “I’ve always been bullish on America,” says Coke’s Kent. “It’s the largest, richest market in the world. Look at the demographics alone. North America is the only part of the industrialized world that will be growing in people. It now has a higher birthrate than Mexico, for the first time in history.” Or listen to Alcoa’s German-born Klaus Kleinfeld, previously the head of Siemens: “I know the things that America has that are unique. The openness, the diversity, the dynamism — you don’t have it anywhere else. If you keep all these things, build on them, I still believe in the American Dream.”

The term American Dream was coined during the Great Depression. The historian James Truslow Adams published The Epic of America in 1931, in an atmosphere of even greater despair than today’s. He wanted to call his book The American Dream, but his publishers objected. No one will pay $3.50 for a book about a “dream,” they said. Still, Adams used the phrase so often that it entered the lexicon. The American Dream, he said, was of “a better, richer and happier life for all our citizens of every rank, which is the greatest contribution we have made to the thought and welfare of the world. That dream or hope has been present from the start. Ever since we became an independent nation, each generation has seen an uprising of ordinary Americans to save the American Dream from the forces which appear to be overwhelming it.”

Today, those forces really do look overwhelming. But challenges like them have been beaten back before — and can be again.

Fareed Zakaria is a journalist, author and host of his show on CNN. His special Restoring the American Dream: A Fareed Zakaria GPS Special will air on CNN at 9 p.m. E.T. and P.T. on Saturday, Oct. 30, and at 10 a.m. E.T. and P.T. on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Pakistan’s Musharraf is Launching a Long-Shot, Long-Distance Bid to be President Again

By Zain Shauk for The Houston Chronicle

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf hopes to retake the leadership of his country, and he is actively campaigning — in Texas.

Musharraf, who relinquished his presidency in 2008, has a set of Houston meetings planned this week with wealthy Pakistani-Americans and corporate leaders.

He is scheduled to meet today with former President George H.W. Bush and Joanne King Herring, a longtime advocate for development in Afghanistan and Pakistan who was played by actress Julia Roberts in the film Charlie Wilson’s War.

Musharraf, a London resident, announced this month the creation of a new political party and a plan to run in Pakistan’s 2013 parliamentary elections.

But he has kicked off his campaign in the U.S., a decision that could say more about the perceived influence of the Pakistani-American community in cities such as Houston than Musharraf’s chances for success, experts say.

Musharraf said he believes connecting with Pakistanis in America will give him enough backing — financially and politically — to carry him to victory in Pakistan.

“I do need financial support, and I would ask the American Pakistani diaspora to support me … because I see darkness in Pakistan,” Musharraf said. “Because I don’t see a political party or a leader in Pakistan to be able to tackle the problems that Pakistan is facing.”

While Musharraf enjoys backing from the Pakistani-American elite, experts say he will be hard-pressed to develop a political base within his country and likely does not stand a chance against more established parties.

He is also in no position to campaign within Pakistan. Safety is a concern after multiple assassination attempts during his presidency, and he would likely face prosecution in connection with several criminal cases currently pending in Pakistani courts, experts said.

Still, Musharraf’s interest in wooing deep-pocketed Pakistani-Americans is revealing, said Walter Andersen, associate director of the South Asia program at Johns Hopkins University.

Not only do Pakistani-Americans play a role in financially supporting candidates, but their meetings in America are covered by Pakistani news media and seem to give politicians the idea that they are gaining traction, Andersen said.

Former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif also visited U.S. communities while campaigning, he said.

“Whether it works is not important,” Andersen said. “The perception among them (politicians) is that it works.”

Wide-ranging itinerary
U.S. communities don’t play a visible role in Pakistani elections, but Musharraf could stand to gain from his current North America tour, said Jamal Elias, an expert on contemporary Pakistan and chairman of the religious studies department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Musharraf’s itinerary will include stops in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Toronto. He visited Dallas last week.

“Appearing statesman-like is going to help him in Pakistan,” Elias said. “It’s not going to build a constituency, but it may help him.”

There are more than 75,000 people of Pakistani origin in the Houston area, which includes more than 800 doctors, executives in the energy and information technology industries and scores of business owners, according to the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston.

Many of them have in the past contributed financially to political parties in Pakistan and will likely do so again, said M.J. Khan, a former Houston city councilman and member of the Pakistani community.

Khan said he does not send money to Pakistani political candidates, but knows U.S. residents in Houston and elsewhere who do. “They’re an educated community, and they send a lot of resources to Pakistan,” Khan said. “So I think every politician in Pakistan feels the Pakistani-American community is an important group to reach out to.”

Tactics questioned
Some community members – including Sajjad Burki, president of a Houston chapter for a political party headed by Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan – were not sure of the former president’s legitimacy as a candidate. Burki questioned Musharraf’s campaign tactics and priorities.

“It doesn’t make sense for him to be creating a political party and campaigning abroad rather than campaigning in Pakistan,” he said.

Herring, who is hoping to build support for Musharraf’s candidacy, said she planned to back him because of his support for her development efforts in Afghanistan.

“I think that Musharraf is interested in my plan,” Herring said. “I know he is. He supports it.”

Seeks ‘legitimacy’
Musharraf, a retired general, said he hopes a possible election to office will give him “the legitimacy that maybe I didn’t have in the past” as someone who had seized control of the government in a 1999 military coup.

He spent much of a luncheon Tuesday discussing the threats to Pakistan created by instability and lack of development in Afghanistan. Asked how he would solve that and a host of other challenges, Musharraf paused and smiled at his audience.

“First of all, get me elected,” he said.

Top of the Agenda at US-Pakistan Meetings: Mending Relations

By Howard LaFranchi for The Christian Science Monitor

If Osama bin Laden is really living comfortably in a house in northwest Pakistan, can we finally get him?

One might assume that the question would come up during this week’s three-day “strategic dialogue” between the United States and Pakistan – given the news out of NATO earlier this week that the Al Qaeda leader is no longer believed to be roughing it in a remote, no-man’s-land cave.

But instead, topic No. 1 at the three days of Washington meetings that begin Wednesday is likely to be relations-mending.

US-Pakistan ties, already roiled by frequent US drone attacks in Pakistani territory, suffered an abrupt setback over a NATO helicopter attack on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border late last month that killed several Pakistani soldiers. The US apologized for the incident, but not before the Khyber pass border crossing was closed and dozens of bottled-up trucks transporting fuel and supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan were torched.

It is in the still-touchy aftermath of the border incident that the US is expected to offer Pakistan a multiyear, multibillion-dollar security package aimed at enhancing the ability of Pakistani security forces to take on domestic Islamist militants.

The US already offers Pakistan about $1.5 billion a year in military assistance through what is now a year-to-year program. The proposal to be presented at this week’s meetings is for a package of military hardware, training, and counterinsurgency materials stretching over several years – something the Pakistanis have been seeking for a while. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had said at the last session of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Islamabad in July that the US was “working on a multiyear package.”

Such a package for security assistance would presumably mirror a five-year, $7.5 billion development assistance package for Pakistan that the US approved last year.

US officials acknowledge that Pakistani security forces are stretched thin – especially after the summer’s devastating floods – and could use more supplies and training if they are to go after militants in their havens. But at the same time, US officials continue to harbor suspicions that some of the Taliban and other militant groups, in particular those involved in fighting in neighboring Afghanistan, continue to enjoy protection from certain elements of the Pakistani security structure.

The claim from a NATO official about Mr. bin Laden, reported by CNN, included the widely held contention that the Al Qaeda leadership is protected by elements within the Pakistani intelligence services.

Earlier this month, the White House submitted an assessment of Pakistan to Congress that is critical of the country’s antimilitancy campaign and suggests its existing capacities would allow it to do much more to confront the Taliban and Al Qaeda. A softer version of that assessment was offered at the State Department this week, when spokesman P.J. Crowley commended Pakistan for “aggressive action within its borders” before adding, “Clearly, this is an ongoing threat, and more needs to be done.”

At a State Department briefing Tuesday, the deputy US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Frank Ruggiero, said that while the Pakistanis have taken “some substantial steps” against organizations threatening the security of both countries, the US will call on Pakistan to do more – such as taking its campaign into North Waziristan.

Confronted with America’s you-can-do-more attitude, the Pakistanis are responding with requests of their own. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has a list of things he says the US could do to build his country’s confidence in the US partnership. Among them are a civilian nuclear energy deal like the one the US has signed with India, a wider door for Pakistani products to enter the US, and more US pressure on India to resolve issues of interest to both India and Pakistan, such as Kashmir.

Mr. Qureshi, who is to meet with Secretary Clinton on Friday, has already previewed the proudly independent tone he is likely to employ when meeting with senior Obama administration officials.

“We are an ally, not a satellite,” Qureshi said Monday in comments at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Mass. “We have to protect our borders. You have to respect our sovereignty,” he said, alluding to the recent helicopter border shooting.

Qureshi said the “trust deficit” affecting relations between the two countries has been furthered by such interventions in Pakistani territory, although he acknowledged that the outpouring of US relief assistance after the summer flooding was viewed much more positively.

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