Archive for January, 2011

Indo-Pak Express: Chugging for Peace

Originally posted on Aman Ki Asha

The unique tennis doubles team, Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Indian Rohan Bopanna popularly known as ‘Indo-Pak Express’ have urged their governments to allow tennis matches across the border.

There is growing support for their symbolic event – the Stop War Start Tennis campaign. Both players want a match organised between the two countries, but with a twist. They want the match to be held with a net strung across Wagah border. Now that would be a great feat.

The duo are hopeful that their doubles partnership will improve bitter relations between their countries, particularly since the initiative is now backed by the world tennis body and an international peace group.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has thrown its support behind the scheme, along with Peace and Sport, a non-governmental organisation run by Prince Albert of Monaco.

“A lot of good things have been achieved, the ITF is now supporting this, Peace and Sport is also supporting this,” Qureshi, who is also Aman ki Asha Ambassador, has said. “The letters have gone to both the prime minister and president of both countries.

“It is a political issue and there are a lot of security concerns, so we are just hoping that the governments will give us the green light so we can play that match on the border.”

Both players, who were finalists at last year’s US Open and gave their opponents, the top-seeded Bryan brothers tough competition, are confident of a positive response from their respective governments.

“Things are going in the right direction,” Qureshi said.
“Last year, at the US Open, both the UN Ambassadors for Pakistan and India came and watched our matches, which was a huge thing and they are supporting the cause as well.
“Things are going in the right direction; we just have to keep playing our matches and get more and more publicity on the bigger occasions. Hopefully it will happen this year.”
– Aman Ki Asha

Drug Row Sets Pakistan Scientists Against Ministries

By A A Khan for The Science and Development Network

Efforts to produce a cheap local version of a hepatitis B drug have ground to a halt in Pakistan amidst a row between a leading scientist and senior officials from two government ministries.

Officials claim to have evidence that scientists involved in the drug’s production have cut corners in carrying out trials, abused resources and misused research funds.

But two of the scientists said they feel they are being deliberately prevented from launching the drug, interferon, because it could undermine the lucrative contracts for supplying it currently held by international pharmaceutical companies.

Viral hepatitis B is endemic in Pakistan, with an estimated seven million people infected,according to research published by the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences in 2009.   

The government’s claims relate to scientists at the Centre for Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB) in Lahore. The ministry of science and technology commissioned an audit of the centre, carried out by a committee of officials and external auditors, according to sources.

The ministry referred the findings to the Federal Investigation Agency this month (8 December) which will decide whether to proceed with charges. In the meantime, the centre’s accounts have been frozen.

Meanwhile, officials in the ministry of health said they are refusing to approve use of interferon produced by CAMB because of alleged irregularities in the clinical trials.

And, in a separate development, an independent petitioner, Batish Mahmood Tipu, filed a petition in the High Court this month (13 December) which has led to the court issuing notices to both ministries.

The notices require them to explain before the court why they are not allowing the use of locally produced interferon that, according to the petitioner, costs 70 Pakistan rupees (around 82 US cents) per injection, compared with the imported version, which costs around US$11.

CAMB trains molecular biologists and specialises in recombinant DNA technology. The centre has a good record of achievements related to Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) rice, Bt cotton and Bt pesticide formulations. It has obtained more than ten patents. 

The centre received regular funding from the ministry of science and technology for the interferon project and, from 2004 onwards, it also received financial support from Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC).

CAMB also received prize money of US$100,000, in 2008, from the Islamic Development Bank for its outstanding contribution to molecular biology.

Clinical trials criticised

Sheikh Riazuddin, one of five scientists targeted by the government’s investigation, was director of CAMB from its establishment in 1985 until June 2009.

Riazuddin was working on a project entitled ‘Local Production of Interferon’, headed by Javed Akram, a professor at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore, which began in 2000.

According to Riazuddin phase III clinical trials of the local version of the drug were conducted at Jinnah Hospital, a teaching hospital of the Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore, and it was ready for final approval in December 2008.

By January 2009, CAMB had patented the drug and produced 100,000 vials of it — which have still not been used.

Sources from the ministry of health said they have not approved the drug because of the omission of two key stages normally conducted in clinical trials: phase I (laboratory testing of the drug) and phase II (safety testing on humans).

But Riazuddin said these stages are not necessary in the case of a ‘biosimilar’ drug — an exact copy of a drug for which these trials have already been conducted. 

Rauf Khalid, drug registration controller of the ministry of health, told SciDev.Net: “The approval of hepatitis interferon for commercial release can only be granted when CAMB completes all the requirements, including tests, and shows the capability of its production facilities”.   

The ministry of science and technology’s audit committee, whose findings have not been made public, has, according to sources, found among other alleged irregularities that Riazuddin had been using CAMB facilities, such as transport and phone, even after he had left the organisation.

The committee has also said it can find no satisfactory answer about where the bulk of the prize money from the IDB has gone.

Khalid Siddiqui, joint secretary of the ministry of science and technology, said: “Irregularities have taken place at CAMB for the last many years and all the findings by our committee have formally been sent to the Federal Investigation Agency for verification.

“We respect them [the CAMB scientists] as researchers but any irregularities identified by the fact-finding committee have to be dealt with according to law.” 

Allegations have ‘no substance’

Riazuddin confirmed to SciDev.Net that he has been contacted by the [FIA] which informed him that it had received a case against him involving corruption, to the tune of millions of rupees, and misuse of authority — charges he denies.

“There is no substance in the allegations,” he said.

He agreed that, even after leaving CAMB, he continued to direct the team and spent most of his time at CAMB.

“I did that not for my sake but to see my brainchild become a reality. I assumed if I do not look after the research I started, that might vanish, rendering many years’ effort futile.”

Riazuddin and Akram claimed that there have been government moves to try to block the development and production of their drug.

“Some sections in the ministry of science and technology and in the health ministry are playing into the hands of multinational companies who do not want a local launch of this medicine as Pakistan is importing hepatitis drugs worth Rs 4 billion (around US$47 million) annually from those multi-nationals,” Riazuddin said.

“This all is to force us into saying goodbye to the local production of interferon,” Akram told SciDev.Net

“At every step, from release of funds to the approval stages, we faced bureaucratic hurdles so much so that we felt that they do not want local production of hepatitis interferon,” Akram added.

Anwar Nasim, patron of the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre (PABIC), told SciDev.Net: “It is not shocking to know about corruption allegations in research when the menace of corruption is all around us. An external investigation by the FIA would soon help us know who was in the wrong — the ministry or the researchers”.

Egypt Protests Continue as Government Resigns

By David Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

CAIRO — Egypt was engulfed in a fifth day of protests on Saturday but an attempt by President Hosni Mubarak to salvage his 30-year rule by firing his cabinet and calling out the army appeared to backfire as troops and demonstrators fraternized and called for the president himself to resign.

While some protesters clashed with police, army tanks expected to disperse the crowds in central Cairo and in the northern city of Alexandria instead became rest points and even, on occasion, part of the protests as anti-Mubarak graffiti were scrawled on them without interference from soldiers.

“Leave Hosni, you, your son and your corrupted party!” declared the graffiti on one tank as soldiers invited demonstrators to climb aboard and have their photographs taken with them.

“This is the revolution of all the people,” declared the side of a second tank in downtown Cairo. Egyptian men all serve in the army, giving it a very different relationship to the people from that of the police.

The feared security police had largely withdrawn from central Cairo to take up positions around the presidential palace, with their places taken up by the army.

Following Mr. Mubarak’s demand in his late-night speech, the Egyptian cabinet officially resigned on Saturday. But there was no sign of letup in the tumult. Reports from morgues and hospitals suggested that at least 50 people had been killed so far.

In Ramses Square in central Cairo Saturday midday, protesters commandeered a flatbed army truck. One protester was driving the truck around the square while a dozen others on the back were chanting for President Mubarak to leave office. Nearby, soldiers relaxed around their tanks and armored vehicles and chatted with protestors. There were no policemen in sight.

In another sign that the army was showing sympathy for the demonstrations, in a different central Cairo square on Saturday a soldier in camouflage addressed a crowd through a bullhorn declaring that the army would stand with the people.

“I don’t care what happens,” the soldier said. “You are the ones who are going to make the change.” The crowd responded, “The army and the people will purify the country.”

Workers at the Alexandria morgue said they had counted more than 20 bodies from the last 24 hours of violence. Meanwhile, protests had started up again in the city. But there too, the demonstrators and the soldiers showed sympathy for one another. Demonstrators brought tea to the troops and had their pictures taken with them. Protesters walked by armored carriers unmolested with few signs of animosity. People gathered outside the morgue looking for their relatives. In the main hospital, there were a number of people lying wounded from live fire.

Cell phone service, cut off by the government on Friday, was partially restored although other elements of the communication shut down remained in force. On Friday, with much of the nation in open revolt, Mr. Mubarak deployed the nation’s military and imposed a near-total blackout on communications to save his authoritarian government of nearly 30 years.

In the early hours of Saturday, protesters continued to defy a nationwide curfew as Mr. Mubarak, 82, breaking days of silence, appeared on national television, promising to replace the ministers in his government, but calling popular protests “part of bigger plot to shake the stability” of Egypt. He refused calls, shouted by huge, angry crowds on Friday in the central squares of Cairo, the northern port of Alexandria and the canal city of Suez, for him to resign.

“I will not shy away from taking any decision that maintains the security of every Egyptian,” he vowed.

Whether his infamously efficient security apparatus and well-financed but politicized military could enforce that order — and whether it would stay loyal to him even if it came to shedding blood — was the main question for many Egyptians.

It was also a pressing concern for the White House, where President Obama called Mr. Mubarak and then, in his own Friday television appearance, urged him to take “concrete steps” toward the political and economic reform that the stalwart American ally had repeatedly failed to deliver.

Whatever the fallout from the protests — be it change that comes suddenly or unfolds over years — the upheaval at the heart of the Arab world has vast repercussions for the status quo in the region, including tolerance for secular dictators by a new generation of frustrated youth, the viability of opposition that had been kept mute or locked up for years and the orientation of regional governments toward the United States and Israel, which had long counted Egypt as its most important friend in the region.

Many regional experts were still predicting that the wily Mr. Mubarak, who has outmaneuvered domestic political rivals and Egypt’s Islamic movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, for decades, would find a way to suppress dissent and restore control. But the apparently spontaneous, nonideological and youthful protesters also posed a new kind of challenge to a state security system focused on more traditional threats from organized religious groups and terrorists.

Friday’s protests were the largest and most diverse yet, including young and old, women with Louis Vuitton bags and men in galabeyas, factory workers and film stars. All came surging out of mosques after midday prayers headed for Tahrir Square, and their clashes with the police left clouds of tear gas wafting through empty streets.

For the first time since the 1980s, Mr. Mubarak felt compelled to call the military into the streets of the major cities to restore order and enforce a national 6 p.m. curfew. He also ordered that Egypt be essentially severed from the global Internet and telecommunications systems. Even so, videos from Cairo and other major cities showed protesters openly defying the curfew and few efforts being made to enforce it.

Street battles unfolded throughout the day Friday, as hundreds of thousands of people streamed out of mosques after noon prayers on Friday in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities around the country.

By nightfall, the protesters had burned down the ruling party’s headquarters in Cairo, and looters marched away with computers, briefcases and other equipment emblazoned with the party’s logo. Other groups assaulted the Interior Ministry and the state television headquarters, until after dark when the military occupied both buildings and regained control. At one point, the American Embassy came under attack.

Six Cairo police stations and several police cars were in flames, and stations in Suez and other cities were burning as well. Office equipment and police vehicles burned, and the police seemed to have retreated from Cairo’s main streets. Brigades of riot police officers deployed at mosques, bridges and intersections, and they battered the protesters with tear gas, water, rubber-coated bullets and, by day’s end, live ammunition.

With the help of five armored trucks and at least two fire trucks, more than a thousand riot police officers fought most of the day to hold the central Kasr al-Nil bridge. But, after hours of advances and retreats, by nightfall a crowd of at least twice as many protesters broke through. The Interior Ministry said nearly 900 were injured there and in the neighboring Giza area, with more than 400 hospitalized with critical injuries. State television said 13 were killed in Suez and 75 injured; a total of at least six were dead in Cairo and Giza.

The uprising here was also the biggest outbreak yet in a wave of youth-led revolts around the region since the Jan. 14 ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia — a country with just half Cairo’s population of 20 million. “Tunis, Tunis, Tunis,” protesters chanted outside the Tunisian Embassy here.

“Egyptians right now are not afraid at all,” said Walid Rachid, a student taking refuge from tear gas inside a Giza mosque. “It may take time, but our goal will come, an end to this regime. I want to say to this regime: 30 years is more than enough. Our country is going down and down because of your policies.”

Mr. Mubarak, in his televised address, said he was working to open up democracy and to fight “corruption,” and he said he understood the hardships facing the Egyptian people. But, he said, “a very thin line separates freedom from chaos.”

David Kirkpatrick talks about the close call he had while with Nobel laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei, the kinds of police on the streets in Egypt and the possible prospects for the Mubarak government.
 

His offer to replace his cabinet is unlikely to be viewed as a major concession; Mr. Mubarak often changes ministers without undertaking fundamental reforms.

A crowd of young men who had gathered around car radios on a bridge in downtown Cairo to listen to the speech said they were enraged by it, saying that they had heard it before and wanted him to go. “Leave, leave,” they chanted, vowing to return to the streets the next day. “Down, down with Mubarak.”

A bonfire of office furniture from the ruling party headquarters was burning nearby, and the carcasses of police vehicles were still smoldering. The police appeared to have retreated from large parts of the city.

Protesters throughout the day on Friday spoke of the military’s eventual deployment as a foregone conclusion, given the scale of the uprising and Egyptian history. The military remains one of Egypt’s most esteemed institutions, a source of nationalist pride.

It was military officers who led the coup that toppled the British-backed monarch here in 1952, and all three Egypt’s presidents, including Mr. Mubarak, a former air force commander, have risen to power through the ranks of the military. It has historically been a decisive factor in Egyptian politics and has become a major player — a business owner — in the economy as well.

Some protesters seemed to welcome the soldiers, even expressing hopes that the military would somehow take over and potentially oust Mr. Mubarak. Others said they despaired that, unlike the relatively small and apolitical army in Tunisia, the Egyptian military was loyal first of all to its own institutions and alumni, including Mr. Mubarak.

“Will they stage a coup?” asked Hosam Sowilan, a retired general and a former director of a military research center here. “This will never happen.” He added: “The army in Tunisia put pressure on Ben Ali to leave. We are not going to do that here. The army here is loyal to this country and to the regime.”

One of the protesters leaving a mosque near Cairo was Mohamed ElBaradei, an Egyptian who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency and has since emerged as a leading critic of the government.

“This is the work of a barbaric regime that is in my view doomed,” he said after being sprayed by a water cannon.

Now, he said, “it is the people versus the thugs.”

Israel Fears Unrest in Egypt Could Jeopardize Peace Treaty

By Robert Berger for The Voice of America

The unrest in Egypt is sending shock waves throughout the Middle East, including in neighboring Israel.

Israel is extremely concerned about the situation in Egypt because President Hosni Mubarak has preserved the peace treaty between the two countries for 30 years. Israel considers the treaty a strategic asset, and it fears that a regime change in Egypt could put the peace agreement in danger.

Israeli analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem says an Egyptian government led by opposition groups or the Muslim Brotherhood would take a harder line on Israel.

“It might be a hostile regime to Israel that will not respect the peace treaty with Israel and will cancel it, abolish this agreement, and we will go back to a situation of hostility between Israel and Egypt,” said Ben-Menachem.

That would complicate Israel’s situation strategically, because it already shares two borders with hostile elements: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.  And Ben-Menachem believes neighboring Jordan could be next.

“This can create the domino effect, and this fall of the regime in Egypt can also continue to Jordan, and also with Jordan we have another peace treaty,” added Ben-Menachem.  “And if this will happen, if there will be a strategic change in the Middle East, that will not be for the benefit of the State of Israel.”

While the treaty between Egypt and Israel is often described as a “cold peace,” Ben-Menachem says Israel values its relationship with President Mubarak and sees him as a bridge between Israel and the Arab world.

Arab Pundits Cheer the Tunisia, Egypt Protests

By Salameh Nematt for Newsweek

Following the political earthquake that removed Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power nearly two weeks ago, seismic waves have been shaking ruling regimes from Algeria to Egypt, and from Jordan to Yemen. But if political earthquakes could somehow be measured on a “political” Richter scale, the question would be: Is this a magnitude 3 mild tremor that will pass, leaving behind little damage to the region’s authoritarian regimes and dictatorships? Or will it prove to be a magnitude 7 shocker, causing serious damage to a number of regimes?

Watching and reading Arab pundits and political analysts offers no conclusive answer. Most of the pan-Arab press appears to be celebrating the “Jasmine Revolution” that brought down the Tunisian dictator, cheering on protesters in Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, and Jordan and the rest of the Arab world. Meanwhile, Arab leaders have been at pains not to appear opposed to “the will of the Tunisian people” while at the same time trying not to encourage the spread of the “democracy virus” to their own countries.

It is anybody’s guess how events will ultimately unfold in Tunisia, where a transitional government made up of remnants of the “ancien regime” and a group of opposition and independent figures is trying to appease the disorganized and still angry masses, promising sweeping political reforms and democratic elections within months. But so far Tunisia’s revolution has only gone halfway, removing a president and shaking the establishment but not gutting the entrenched regime that still holds considerable power. That regime includes a military-security establishment that might decide, at any moment, to take things into its own hands and decide the future of the country, for better or worse.

It would be naive to assume that Tunisia has already made the transition from dictatorship to democracy before the current standoff unfolds, a process that may take several months and could turn bloody at any moment.

But the events in the region have certainly dispelled a number of myths and offered a few lessons for governments and observers. Perhaps the most important myth is that the Arab regimes, most of which have been ruling for decades, are too resilient and cannot be toppled, except through foreign military intervention or an inside coup or seizure of power. The other myth now being seriously questioned throughout the Arab media is that Islamists are the only alternative to these secular or apparently secular regimes. In Tunisia, the Islamists appeared to have little visible influence in the popular uprising, while the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has deliberately kept a low profile, perhaps for tactical reasons, leaving the disorganized popular masses of protesters of various political shades to take the lead.

Elaph.com, the Arab world’s most popular online newspaper, argues that the recent events in the region have demonstrated that “people are capable of breaking the fear barrier,” despite the ruthlessness of the ruling regimes. The paper quoted Burhan Ghalyoun, the director of a Middle East research center, as expressing surprise that the Tunisians “have achieved massive change at lightning speed, which goes to prove that change is not as difficult as we previously thought.”

Understandably, most of the official and semi-official Arab media have recognized people’s “right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression,” echoing calls from Washington and the West, but warned, at the same time, against actions that may undermine stability and security. Wisely, many governments in the region, including that of Jordan, have moved quickly to reduce the prices of consumer goods and promise political reforms to preempt an escalation of popular anger.

But unlike previous protests in Egypt and other Arab countries, this time the region’s leaders and their governments have not rushed to blame “foreign forces,” namely the U.S. and other Western countries, for instigating the riots. Tunisia’s government had always adopted a pro-Western stance, but today the West, which had turned a blind eye to human rights violations in that country for decades, is now almost silently watching as that regime crumbles, without any sign of wanting to do anything to save it.

However, one might argue that this month’s protests are not only the product of worsening living conditions resulting from the global economic crisis and homegrown corruption and mismanagement. They are also the product of decades of political oppression and humiliation by regimes that are now beginning to realize they can no longer oppress their own people with impunity. Social media and other modern and widely accessible communications tools have stripped these regimes of their monopoly on information. And since knowledge is power, the power is now shifting from the ruling few to the unruly masses, and these masses, in turn, are challenging the status quo throughout the region. But it is certainly too early for pro-democracy advocates in the region and beyond to bring out the Champagne glasses. It isn’t over till it’s over, and it is definitely not over yet.

U.S. Companies Urged to Tap Into $170 Billion Muslim Consumer Market

By Brittany Hutson for The Atlanta Post

U.S. companies are loosing out by neglecting a rather attractive and overlooked consumer: American Muslims.

There is an estimate number of six to eight million Muslims in this country that possess an annual spending power between $170 and $200 billion. It is believed that two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000. Miles Young, chief executive officer of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, an international advertising, marketing and public relations agency, said in a speech at this past December’s second annual American Muslim Consumer Conference that Muslims are the best-educated religious group in America and over 40% have bachelors’ degrees. Clearly, this is a consumer that companies cannot afford to not attract.

According to the Associated Press, corporations in Europe have long been catering to Muslim communities there. Nestle has about 20 factories with halal-certified production lines and advertises to Western Muslims through its marketing campaign called “Taste of Home.”

So why is it that companies in Europe have been able to successfully attract and retain the interest of their Muslim consumers?

Part of it has to do with Muslims in Europe having lived there for multiple generations, said Ponn Sabra, founder and owner of the online blog community for American Muslim Moms, AmericanMuslimMom.com.  Also, “European Muslims are extremely strong in faith, very vocal, [and] much more confident in their practice of our faith than the majority of Muslims living in America.”

It also helps that Muslims in Europe are not stereotyped like Muslims in America, added Sabra. It’s only been recent that businesses in the U.S. have started to tap into the Muslim consumer market. McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have entered the halal arena and last August, Whole Foods began selling its first nationally distributed halal food product—frozen Indian entrees called Saffron Road. But because there is still intensified anti-Muslim feeling throughout the country, this is causing companies to worry that they will be attacked for going after this consumer.

But Muslims do not necessarily want companies to be their advocates against opposition, more so as they would appreciate that companies get to understand their values. Mohammed Abdullah, director of the 2009 Conference, said in a press release, “Muslims want to be acknowledged in mainstream media. You don’t need to change your product of show Muslims in your ads. Instead, consider advertising in a Muslim media outlet. Say Eid Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem during the holidays. The Muslim community will respond. When we see an ad we like we send it to our friends and share it with each other,” he said.

Of course, the worldwide market for Islamically permitted goods, also known as halal, is the best option for companies interested in attracting the American Muslim. The industry includes foods and seasoning that omit alcohol, pork products, cosmetics, finance and clothing. According to Young, the global halal market is worth $2.1 trillion dollars and it is growing at $500 billion dollars a year.

Muslims as entrepreneurs shouldn’t be underestimated either. For example, Tariq Farid developed and launched one of today’s successful and international companies in the floral industry that many know and love as Edible Arrangements.

“The American Muslim Consumer is extremely loyal, wealthy, educated and well-connected on and offline,” said Sabra. “Companies who jump at the opportunity have the potential for life-long happy customers who willfully recommend their products and services.”

Bombers target Shiites in Pakistan, killing 12

As reported by The Associated Press

Suicide bombers attacked police protecting marches by minority Shiite Muslims in Pakistan’s two largest cities Tuesday, killing 12 people and wounding dozens, officials said.

The first and most deadly attack occurred in the eastern city of Lahore, where the bomber detonated his explosives as police tried to search him, killing 10 people. About an hour later, a second bomber struck in the southern port city of Karachi, killing at least two people.

The attacks laid bare the challenges facing Pakistani officials trying to secure cities far from the northwest, where militants fighting Pakistan’s U.S.-allied government and American forces in neighboring Afghanistan have long thrived. Many recent attacks have targeted minority Muslim and other religious groups.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Lahore, where thousands of Shiite worshippers were marking the end of a 40-day mourning period for the Islamic sect’s most beloved saint when the blast hit their procession early Tuesday evening.

The bomber is believed to have been a young teenage boy who was wearing a suicide bomb jacket and also carrying a bag full of explosives, said senior police official Aslam Tareen. He detonated his explosives when police tried to search him, he said.

“It is a great sacrifice by the police officers who laid down their lives to protect innocent people,” said Tareen.

Footage from the scene showed ambulances racing to the area and men carrying away victims. One young man whose arm was apparently hurt screamed as he was placed on a stretcher. A white car caught up in the explosion was largely destroyed, its hood twisted upward. A man lay wounded on the ground with two women and a child weeping beside him.

Dr. Zahid Pervaiz at the city’s Mayo Hospital told reporters that 10 dead bodies had come in, while another 52 people were wounded.

Shakirullah Shakir, a spokesman for the Fidayeen-e-Islam wing of the Pakistani Taliban, told The Associated Press in a phone call that the militant group had dispatched the bomber and warned of more bombings.

Later Tuesday evening, a suicide bomber struck police protecting a group of people returning from a Shiite march in the Malir neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

Three people were killed and three wounded in the attack, said Hamid Paryar, a doctor at Karachi’s largest hospital. Two of those killed and one wounded were policemen, he said.

The third person killed is believed to be the suicide bomber, who was riding a motorcycle and carrying his explosives in a bag, said senior police official Shaukat Shah.

The blast occurred near a police van protecting the Shiite marchers, said Akbar Jaffry, who witnessed the bombing.

Attacks roughly tripled last year in Lahore and Karachi, according to a recent report by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies.

The trend is a sign that militants are having greater success exporting the fight far from their northwest heartland along the Afghan border. The Pakistani army, under U.S. pressure, has carried out several offensives against militants in its northwest, but violence persists.

NY Jets, NY Mets and Pakistan

By Dr Sayed Mansoor Hussain for The Daily Times

Just as most Mets and Jets fans never gave up on their teams, it is necessary that Pakistanis must not give up on Pakistan. And if the Jets can win the big one this year and the Mets do it later this year, Pakistan also has a chance

By the time this column is printed, the New York Jets (an American Football team) will either have qualified to play in the ‘Super Bowl’ or else will have been eliminated in the Sunday evening game by the Pittsburgh Steelers. For most of my adult life I have been a fan of the NY Jets and the NY Mets. Of the New York metropolitan area teams, these two probably have the longest history of losing persistently. The Jets have not won a Super Bowl since 1969 and the Mets have won the World Series (of baseball) only twice, in 1969 and then in 1986. The NY Yankees (baseball) and the NY Giants (football team that plays in New Jersey) have a much better winning record and yet I do not consider myself a fan of either one of them.

Why then did a foreigner ‘fresh off the boat’ like me become a fan of two teams with such a dismal record? Probably it is all about timing. I arrived in the US in 1971 and spent my first six years living and working in New York State barely 20 miles away from New York City. And for the next 30 years I lived just across the river from NYC. When I arrived in NY these two teams had just won the championships a couple of years ago and for the Jets, their quarterback Joe Namath (Broadway Joe) was a household name as was the star pitcher for the Mets, Tom Seaver also known as ‘Tom Terrific’.

For many years people like me waited for either of these two teams to hit the big time once again but then got used to the idea that they would not win another championship any time soon. Frankly, seeing your favourite team lose again and again builds character, brings a sense of fortitude and above all teaches patience. The Jets never did come back after their first win but the Mets did have a brief resurgence when they won the World Series in 1986 and for a couple of years were a dominant baseball team. This time around it seems that the Jets have finally got their act together and even if they do not win the ultimate prize, they will have established themselves as ‘contenders’.

Why these thoughts at just this time? Two reasons. First, if the Jets win the big one all the years of waiting will have finally paid off. And only a diehard Jet fan can really and truly understand and empathise with how I feel about this. Second, when I think of my favourite NY teams that keep losing and I keep hoping, praying and waiting for them to win I just cannot help comparing them to my other favourite team and that is Pakistan. And yes I am still waiting for Pakistan to get its act together and win the big one or at least become a contender.

About the baseball Mets, their brief and meteoric rise in the middle 80s was epitomised by two young and brilliant players, Dwight Gooden the pitcher and Darrel Strawberry the long ball hitter. Both of them within a couple of years literally flamed out and with their fall from favour of the gods of baseball, so did their team. Here I must admit that when the Mets won the World Series in 1986, it was indeed a truly ‘shining moment’ for Mets fans like me. And the sixth game of that World Series will always be etched in my memory as one of the great moments in sports history.

When I think of these two teams during those early years of my life in the US, I cannot help but compare Broadway Joe (Namath) with Jinnah. Namath put the NY Jets and the young American Football League on the sports map of the US just as Jinnah put Pakistan on the map of the world. Tom Terrific (Seaver), the star pitcher of the NY Mets, on the other hand was a person of perseverance and little flamboyance who kept the Mets going for a few more years after their win in 1969. Perhaps he could be compared to Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan.

As far as the Mets duo of the 80s, Gooden and Strawberry are concerned, they do make me think of ZAB and his rise and fall, mediated by his own personal failings rather than by adverse circumstances surrounding his brief but brilliant career as a politician. The point is that being a fan of these two NY teams taught me the perseverance to wait for a possible resurgence. This sense of patience combined with hope has allowed me as writer for these pages over the last many years to be much more optimistic about the future of Pakistan than many in the ‘commentariat’.

Just as I have faith in my favourite teams, I have faith in Pakistan. I realise that many ‘observers’ insist that Pakistan has reached the end of its tether or its rope or whatever apocalyptic metaphor one might wish to use, but it still survives and like the players on those teams the people of this country go to work every day and more often than not do the best they can. Yes, they will benefit from better leadership and with a few ‘star’ players that actually act as role models for the rest. And I am not willing to accept the proposition that Pakistan is devoid of such ‘star’ players.

Just as most Mets and Jets fans never gave up on their teams, it is necessary that Pakistanis must not give up on Pakistan. And if the Jets can win the big one this year and the Mets do it later this year, Pakistan also has a chance. What then about the prospects of the Pakistani cricket team? Let’s not get carried away here!

The writer has practised and taught medicine in the US.  He is expressing his own opinions in this article and not connected to this website. He can be reached at smhmbbs70@yahoo.com

Mark Sanchez Has Arrived

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

I have to admit, I have already become a fan of him but if he wins today, I will have to go and buy me a #6 Mark Sanchez NY Jets NFL  jersey if my boy Mark of the NY Jets goes and wins again today, and this time at the home of the Steelers late in the playoffs!

 In what would become an unprecedented three consecutive weeks of facing and defeating past Super bowl winning quarterbacks, Sanchez has a chance to make special history.

He could be on his way to his 1st Super bowl appearance since coming into the league just a mere 2 years ago and in choronological order would have defeated: Peyton Manning with his 1 ring, Tom Brady and his 3 and now Ben Roethlisberger, who has 2 and is himself looking for his third?!!

If he does this, he will have become the first NFL quarterback to win a Superbowl after winning three consecutive victories over previous champs on his way a Super bowl appearance  against either the Chicago Bears or the Green Bear Packers.

Having just come into the league from USC just 2 years ago, this would be quite a feat and especially considering all the competition he is defeating along the way! It would certainly put Mark Sanzhez in some rare company.

There was never a doubt that this guy was an amazing pick for the Jets by their front office when they drafted him with their first pick in the 2009 draft. Surprisingly he was not even the 1st quarterback picked in that year’s draft. No, that honor belongs to the starting QB of the Detroit Lions, a Mr. Matthew Staddford out of Georgia who was picked first overall by the Lions in that year’s draft.

It seems that even then, people weren’t giving Mark much credit! Despite having just won the Rose Bowl earlier that year in 2oo9,  he was coming off being named the 2009 Rose Bowl Offensive MVP also.

The following turn of events according to Wikipedia after the Rose Bown are in quotes: “After the Rose Bowl, Sanchez said it would be “hard” to leave USC for the NFL and “probably couldn’t do it; He also mentioned that the New York Jets were a possible to team to sign with. Though he would have entered his redshirt senior year if he had stayed. However, with the subsequent announcement that other NFL-caliber quarterbacks, such as Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, had decided to stay in school for their junior and senior seasons respectively, rumors arose that Sanchez would use the opportunity to be one of the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2009 NFL Draft

In January 15 of 2009, Sanchez announced his plans to forgo his final year of college eligibility and enter the 2009 NFL Drat, although he continued as a USC student and finished his degree in the Spring of 2009 while preparing for the draft. During the press conference, Carroll made it clear that he did not agree with Sanchez’ decision, and that he advised him of the low success-rate of quarterbacks who left the college game early to enter the NFL, and suggested he attend graduate school to use his final year of collegiate eligibility. Despite the public disagreement, the two remained close afterward. Sanchez was the first USC quarterback to turn pro before exhausting his eligibility since Todd Marinovich did so after the 1990 season.”

And since coming out a couple years ago after that fateful decision at the end of his junior year in college, Sanchez has proved and continues to prove himself to his doubters. I was a fan of his casually during his college days, but I am certainly an official convert and praying today at the “Altar of Sanchez” and hoping that his day has indeed arrived!

Already with his last win in New England, Sanchez tied the legendary Kansas City Chief Len Dawson, Hall of Famer Roger Staubach,  and good QB’s in Jake Delhomme, and Joe Flacco for most post-season road victories by a quarterback in NFL history.

And so I want to wish Good luck to the boys in green today against the Steelers and their terrible yellow towels and I hope they fight like they are mad at no one giving them any credit or respect despite all that they have already done all season as Bart Scott stated in that now, classic ESPN post game on the field interview following the victory over Brady and the Patriots!

As for me, I know that I will be chanting “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!” all game long~

Longtime KC Chiefs fan, Manzer Munir is a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is a Sufi Muslim who is also the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites such as www.DigitalJournal.com, www.Allvoices.com, www.Examiner.com and www.open.salon.com as a freelance journalist and writer. He asks that you like the Official Facebook Page of Pakistanis for Peace to get the latest articles as they publish here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Pakistanis-for-Peace/141071882613054

 

New Zealand Thrash Pakistan in Cricket ODI

As Reported by The Associated Press

A five-wicket haul for Tim Southee and a blistering 55 by Jesse Ryder saw New Zealand shatter an 11-match losing streak in style with a nine-wicket win over Pakistan in their one-day match Saturday.

New Zealand were so dominant in the opening ODI of the six-match series that they took just 17.2 overs with the bat to wrap up the match after whipping Pakistan out for 124 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Under pressure to perform after being whitewashed in successive series against Bangladesh and India, New Zealand rejigged their batting order with swashbuckling opener Brendon McCullum dropped down to number six.

The aim was to give New Zealand strength at the top and tail but McCullum never reached the wicket as his regular opening partner Jesse Ryder carved up the Pakistan attack in a whirlwind reply to an ineffective performance.

The only success for Pakistan was when captain Shahid Afridi won the toss and opted to bat, their day going downhill from there.
The Pakistan innings lasted just 37.3 overs and the outcome was almost inevitable once Ryder opened up in the fifth over of New Zealand’s innings, taking 17 off Shoaib Akhtar including two fours and a six.

He made his 55 in only 34 balls in a batting display which complemented the bowling of 22-year-old Southee, who assumed the role of New Zealand’s senior quick for the first time and claimed his first ODI five-wicket bag.

New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said it was good to snap the losing streak and full credit had to go to man-of-the-match Southee.
“It was a good win for us after a long time. Tim Southee set it up for us with his swing,” he said, leaving Afridi to rue an ineffective batting performance by his side.
“I think the pitch was very good. I don’t think that was a bad decision batting first. We were missing partnerships.”
Southee destroyed Pakistan in three spells in which he ripped out the top order, came back to break up the middle and returned again to wrap up the innings.

His figures of five for 33 from 9.3 overs were backed up by three for 26 for Hamish Bennett, playing in only his third ODI and first at home, and two for 33 by the veteran Jacob Oram. Only Misbah-ul-Haq produced an innings of substance for Pakistan, reaching 50 before he was bowled by Southee to end the innings.

But the New Zealand openers Ryder and Martin Guptill showed there were no demons in the wicket as they put on 84 in 10 overs before Ryder’s departure. Ryder brought up his 50 edging Abdul Razzaq for a single and in the following over took a single off Sohail Tanvir before attempting to pick up the pace again.

He smacked another four and then went for back-to-back boundaries only to pull the ball straight to Asad Shafiq on the mid-wicket boundary.
Guptill, averaging almost a run a ball, made an unbeaten 40 but it was Ross Taylor, promoted to number three in the new-look New Zealand batting line up, who stroked the winning single, finishing on 23.

Pakistan’s innings was shaky from the start with Mohammad Hafeez dropped by McCullum in the first over, but falling soon after when he edged an outswinger from Southee.

It was the start of a penetrating period for Southee in which he took the wickets of Kamran Akmal (eight) and Asad Shafiq (four) to take three for 16 from his first spell of six overs, leaving Pakistan 32-3.

Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, who provided the backbone of each Pakistan innings in the Tests, set about repairing the situation but had added only 28 for the fourth wicket when Bennett struck.

He had Younis caught behind for 24 and then dismissed Umar Akmal with his next delivery, caught at second slip by Taylor. Shahid Afridi avoided the hat-trick but was dismissed by Southee in his second spell to have Pakistan 88-6 before the quick ended the Pakistan innings in his third turn with the ball by bowling Misbah. The second match in the series is in Queenstown on Wednesday.

Thou Shalt not Mock or It May Cost You Your Life!

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

In the wake of the murder of Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab a couple weeks back, I did a great deal of contemplation about the situation in Pakistan and the current state of affairs of Pakistan and indeed in much of the Muslim world.

The current situation, especially in Pakistan and when it concerns the rights of the non-Muslims, is apparently the worst of anywhere in the Muslim world. Indeed, the plight of Asia Bibi, (also known as Aasia, Ayesa Noreen) Islam and Islamic Blasphemy laws have come under rightful scrutiny as of late.

One question that tugs at the heart of the debate for me is why is it that Muslims seem to get so very offended to the point they want to KILL you over a remark or something that comes out of your mouth? As Americans, we wonder to ourselves, “Haven’t they ever heard of sticks and stones may break my bones, but words don’t hurt me?!

Sadly, what the fundamentalist preachers at all the podiums of their Friday sermon or khutbah, nor any of their brethren on the run and in caves like the Taliban and Al Qaeda fail to realize that we are all God’s children. And God, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, or whatever name you assign him, he is One and the same God of all religions. He is too big to fit into just one religion, concept, version or story of him.

And we all are his creations. Not one of us is superior over the other in his eyes and he judges us all equally. To him, the children of these three religions and its offspring’s are all related to each other. Adam being the first man, then Eve, and then all the Biblical figures and names such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, yes especially Jesus. He is their Messiah too!

Jesus, in fact is mentioned some 28 times in the Muslim holy book, Qu’ran whereas their own prophet Muhammad is mentioned only 4 times. And the fact that Jesus is also considered by Muslims to be the Messiah, it is sad that his followers should get such abject treatment in Pakistan and sadly, many Muslim countries.

If only the bad guys realized the connections between Christians and Jesus only then would a Pakistani Christian woman, suffering needlessly in a cell tonight going on 2 years away from her children in solitude, and constantly fearful for her life, would see her horrific ordeal come to an end.

These people are incapable of understanding basic rights, freedoms and even the unhindered concept of free will. No, they are primitive minded in their their spiritual and daily lives. They fail to see that a Christian’s God and a Muslim’s God are the one and the same. And he never would agree to laws like Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws at all. Why? Well because the Muslim God is known first and foremost as a Gracious, Merciful, Compassionate God.

In fact, the Arabic phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim is a beautifully poetic phrase which offers both deep insight and brilliant inspiration to the average Muslim who says it countless times as he or she starts each day and till they rest their head to sleep. “ It has often been said that the phrase Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim contains the true essence of the entire Qur’an, as well as the true essence of all religions. Muslims often say this phrase when embarking on any significant endeavor and the phrase is considered by some to be a major pillar of Islam. This expression is so magnificent and so concise that all except one chapter of the Qur’an begins with the words Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim.”

The common translation:”In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate” essentially is saying that God is compassionate, and full of grace. So how would this God punish Asia Bibi? What would he do if he is so full of compassion and mercy? Would he even punish her? And if he is such a gracious and a compassionate God, then wouldn’t he feel that nearly a two year jail sentence in solitary is already far more than her crime not to mention being away from husband and children and being worried about mob vengeance on her or the death penalty?

That God may act in a multitude of ways and we cannot ever know till said Judgment Day. That is what Judgment Day is all about after all. In fact, this is probably one day when the man upstairs works overtime judging all of us mankind, from the beginning with Adam to the last standing comes till Tribulation and the End of Days. It is only he, the Creator who will do the judging and this is something that the men with the loudspeakers who climb to the top of the minaret five times a day to call the faithful to prayers, just do not really understand, in my opinion. They apparently constantly seem to forget and pass judgment from the pulpit and this in turn helps set the “popular” opinion amongst the ultra-religious faithful of Pakistan’s society.

My only prayer to this Creator is that may he keep Asia Bibi safe tonight and continue to give her strength. And if God should call her home and have her die a death at the hands of the real savages those that not only kill but shockingly, in your name, then please Allah grant her heaven just as you should governor Salmaan Taseer, a man who was only defending the rights of all your children, including those of other faiths. He was being compassionate and gracious towards a fellow human being God, as he was only trying to emulate his creator, You Lord. Ameen.

And while you are at it Lord, will you also please let the imam at the microphone know that “Thou shall not mock, should not cost you your life.” Afterall, “Thou shall not kill is one of your top 10 commandments, whereas mocking prophets or religious figures does not make the list!

Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is a Sufi Muslim who is also the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites such as www.DigitalJournal.com, www.Allvoices.com, www.Examiner.com and www.open.salon.com as a freelance journalist and writer. He asks that you like the Official Facebook Page of Pakistanis for Peace to get the latest articles as they publish here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Pakistanis-for-Peace/141071882613054

VJ Syra, Most Wanted and MTV Pakistan

Taking a break away from all the current events, news, and politics to talk briefly about something completely different, my favorite MTV Pakistan VJ/Personality: Vy Syra Khan. The VJ of MTV Pakistan for the last couple years.

Difficult Outlook for India-Pakistan Talks

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal 

The Times of India reported today that India and Pakistan may try to rekindle peace talks in early February.

The paper says Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi could meet his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, informally after a regional meeting in Bhutan on Feb. 8.

The report suggests that the idea is to set the ground rules for an official visit to India by Mr. Qureshi sometime later this year in a bid to normalize relations that have soured since a major terror attack in Mumbai in 2008.

Given the disastrous outcome of Mr. Krishna’s last formal visit to Pakistan – in July of last year – those ground rules will be important.

At that meeting, Mr. Qureshi became incensed during a press conference over India’s claims that Pakistan’s military intelligence services had orchestrated the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, during which 10 Pakistani gunmen killed more than 160 people over three days.

Mr. Krishna arrived back in India to criticism of being made to look a fool by Mr. Qureshi and a peace talks process begun in 2004 was put on hold amid mutual recriminations. The slow-moving (and now stalled) dialogue is an attempt to normalize relations that have been rocky ever since the two nations were created out of British India in 1947.

India has stuck to its claims of official Pakistan involvement in the Mumbai attacks and says Islamabad is not doing enough to prosecute the perpetrators and rein in India-focused militants in general.

Pakistan retorts that it is committed to fighting terrorism. It also has called on India to broaden the agenda for peace talks to include other topics, such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which both countries claim in its entirety.

It is uncertain whether talks at this stage can produce anything meaningful

India is set against any wider peace talks until Pakistan sentences seven militants that it has charged for involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

But the atmosphere in Pakistan right now means it is unlikely that any politician will want to be seen vigorously cracking down on Islamist groups.

The killing earlier this month of Salmaan Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, by one of his own police guards has uncovered the extent to which hardline religious views have permeated many layers of society.

The police guard admitted he was angered by Mr. Taseer’s defense of a Christian woman sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in November for blasphemy.

In recent days, scores of Pakistanis, including lawyers and clerics, have publicly rallied in support of the police officer.

Killings of Newborn Babies on the Rise in Pakistan

By Hasan Mansoor for The Associated Press

The lifeless bodies of two tiny babies are being given their final bath before burial in Karachi, after they were left to die in the southern Pakistani city’s garbage dumps.

“They can only have been one or two days old,” says volunteer worker Mohammad Saleem, pointing at the two small corpses being gently washed by his colleagues at a charity’s morgue.

In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise.

More than 1,000 infants — most of them girls — were killed or abandoned to die in Pakistan last year according to conservative estimates by the Edhi Foundation, a charity working to reverse the grim trend.

The infanticide figures are collected only from Pakistan’s main cities, leaving out huge swathes of the largely rural nation, and the charity says that in December alone it found 40 dead babies left in garbage dumps and sewers.

The number of dead infants found last year — 1,210 — was up from 890 in 2008 and 999 in 2009, says the Edhi Foundation manager in Karachi, Anwar Kazmi.

Tragic tales abound.

Kazmi recounts the discovery of the burnt body of a six-day-old infant who had been strangled. Another child was found on the steps of a mosque having been stoned to death on the orders of an extremist imam who has since disappeared, he says.

“Do not murder, lay them here,” reads a sign hanging outside the charity’s Karachi base where it has left cradles in the hope that parents will abandon their unwanted children there, instead of leaving them to die.

“People leave these children mostly because they think they are illegitimate, but they are as innocent and loveable as all human beings,” says the charity’s founder, well-known humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Most children found are less than a week old. Khair Mohammad, 65, works as a watchman in the charity’s vast graveyard in the city outskirts. It is dotted with tiny unnamed graves.

“We acquired this land to bury children after another plot was filled with hundreds of bodies,” he says. The death toll is far worse among girls, says manager Kazmi, with nine out of ten dead babies the charity finds being female.

“The number of infanticides of girls has substantially increased,” Kazmi says, a rise attributed to increased poverty across the country.

Girls are seen by many Pakistanis as a greater economic burden as most women are not permitted to work and are considered to be the financial responsibilty of their fathers, and later their husbands.

A Pakistani family can be forced to raise more than one million rupees (11,700 dollars) to marry their daughter off. Edhi says that up to 200 babies are left in its 400 cradles nationwide each year and that it handles thousands of requests for adoption by childless couples.

Abortion is prohibited in Pakistan, except when the mother’s life is at risk from her pregnancy, but advocates say that legalisation would reduce infanticide and save mothers from potentially fatal back-street terminations.

According to Pakistani law, anyone found to have abandoned an infant can be jailed for seven years, while anyone guilty of secretly burying a child can be imprisoned for two years. Murder is punishable with life imprisonment.

But crimes of infanticide are rarely prosecuted. “The majority of police stations do not register cases of infanticide, let alone launch investigations into them,” said lawyer Abdul Rasheed.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteThe killing of innocent babies is utterly reprehensible in conservative Pakistan. If one does not want the baby, we urge the parents to drop off the unwanted babies at any Edhi Foundation center to be raised as an orphan. Islam does not condone killing of any life at any age under any circumstances. We are saddened by these stories and hope that this trend comes to an end soon.

Gandhi and King- Two Martyrs Who Will Never Die

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Martin Luther King Jr, who would have been 82 years old January 15, was a great believer of Mohandas K Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement from Britain. King saw that Gandhi’s peaceful civil disobedience and non-violent methods of protest were very effective in bringing down the British Empire in India and as a result Pakistan after some 300 years of direct and indirect rule. Gandhi had believed that people could resist immoral government action by simply refusing to cooperate. Gandhi adopted many peaceful resistance techniques in developing his concept of Satyagraha, which was a philosophy and practice of passive nonviolent resistance.

Gandhi had earlier used this resistance technique in his struggles for freedom and equality for blacks and Indians in South Africa where both minorities were subjected to second and third class citizenry. His methods and refusal to bow down to the injustices that Indians faced in colonial South Africa inspired Nelson Mandela several years later to start his own peaceful struggle that eventually led to the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1990.

While at Morehouse College, King learned about Gandhi and became very excited about his ideas. He wanted to further educate himself and read many books on Gandhi and his life and beliefs. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, King states that “Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. He further writes in his book that “It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking. I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

King felt that he had finally found a way to where oppressed people could successfully unlock social protest through Jesus’ teachings of love. In fact Gandhi himself had said “What does Jesus mean to me? To me, he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.” He also once mentioned Jesus as the “most active resister known perhaps to history. His was non-violence par excellence” Therefore to the Christian minister living in the pre-civil rights era in the South in America, Gandhi appeared to King as a follower of Christ, someone who preached peace and love even at the expense of suffering. Martin Luther King once said of Gandhi “It is ironic yet inescapably true that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity.”

In 1959, King visited India and became fully convinced that Satyagraha could be effectively applied to the struggle by blacks in the United States for racial integration. He came back to the United States where he continued the struggle for freedom and equality for all Americans. Like Gandhi, King also talked about suffering as a path to self purification and spiritual growth. He not only experienced this suffering by being jailed, beaten and harassed by the authorities of the day, but he eventually ended up paying for this cause for freedom for all with his life.

 Mohandas K Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr arguably were two of the greatest men of the last century.  Both men believed that “injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.” They both led their people and millions of others out of slavery and servitude against seemingly insurmountable odds to freedom and salvation. On what would have been his 82nd birthday, let us recognize that despite an assassin’s bullet and in the greatest democracy in the history of the world, the spirit and dream of a King still live on.

 

Originally published on 1/18/2010 for Pakistanis for Peace

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