Thursday, November 29, 2007

Israel, Palestine and the US's sham peace initiative

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to launch peace negotiations with the goal of reaching a full treaty by the end of 2008. But Israel has already said it will delay talks on core issues, including the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the fate of Palestinian refugees. We speak with Palestinian lawmaker and physician Mustafa Barghouti and former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy.

Democracy Now! proves yet again why it's the best daily news show in the Western world. Please take the time to listen to this segment here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Judge Tariq Mahmood the unsung hero

The moving ordeal of an ailing but defiant Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood lodged in the Sahiwal jail for the last 23 days, as narrated by his struggling wife, brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of members of the civil society and political workers who watched the 'Capital Talk' show of Geo TV live on the footpath of Islamabad on Monday.

So this is the kind of moderate regime the US gives $US13 billion to?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Howard's end

John Howard going to a voting station in Bennelong, Saturday 24 November 2007.

For a decade Howard's power had resided in his ability to speak directly and powerfully to the great negativity at the core of the Australian soul - its timidity, its conformity, its fear of other people and new ideas, its colonial desire to ape rather than lead, its shame that sometimes seems close to a terror of the uniqueness of its land and people.

The Guardian's Richard Flanagan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The politics of genocide

If you have a genuine interest in Darfur (rather than merely feeling sad over images on your television of crying black people in the desert) you must watch this interview. Part two available here. Part three available here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Protest outside Pakistan High Commission London


FREE Pakistan from Marshal Law and Musharraf's tyranny

FREE All political prisoners ( Thousands of Judges, lawyers, students, teachers and human rights activists, etc)

FREE Imran Khan who is in jail facing a bogus charge of State Terrorism

FREE The media RESTORE The Judiciary RESTORE The Constitution

Date: Sunday Nov 18th
Time: 12 noon
Location: Pakistan High Commission, 34-36 Lowndes Square, London, SW1X 9JN Tube: Knightsbridge
Mobile: 07825 433 263

GUEST SPEAKERS(All guest speakers subject to confirmation)
David Cameron, George Galloway, Tony Benn, Hina Jilani, Lord Nasir Mohammed Sarwar, Ken Livingston

See you all there,


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Real democracy

Sometimes the greatest displays of democracy are expressed in the least democratic of countries. The image of people as varied as lawyers in black suits and housewives in their shalwars marching in protest against the dictator Musharraf must surely fall within this category. For not only have these people proven the popular disatisfaction with Mushrraf's regime, they have also shamed those of us in supposedly more democratic countries who generally struggle to express interest in our own democratic life. It is worth taking pause at this moment to consider one of the key platforms of Western foreign policy, championed as ever by the United States. I speak here of the claimed interest in spreading democracy to the world. Well, if present events in Pakistan are anything to go by, Pakistanis are already democratic. They just need for you to stop supporting their tyrants and dictators!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Write to your government about Pakistan

Here's a pro forma letter from the UK branch of Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Imran Khan's political party in Pakistan). Although it only mentions writing to US and UK government officials it can be used for any government that has a significant relationship with Pakistan.

AoA,A fellow member of this group has made a valid request to email out all the members. So through myself he is passing on this message to everyone. As Pakistanis living abroad this can be our way of putting the pressure on the 'power' that be in Pakistan.

Please write to/fax/phone Nancy Pelosi etc if you're a US citizen and write to/fax/phone David Miliband if you're British. Urge them to tie aid with the condition that Pakistan's judiciary and media not be held hostage by the recipient government. These institutions are far more important to Pakistan's future as a democratic state, and to the war against terror, than any short-term elections.

Below is a sample letter that you can use.

The Rt Hon David Miliband
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Ede House 143 Westoe Road
South Shields NE33 3PD
(0191) 456 8910

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
US House of Representatives
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-0508 202 225 4965

Re: Aid must be conditional - Pakistan's judiciary and media must not be held hostage

Dear Madam Speaker,

If the US government is committed to promoting democracy in the Middle East region, why does it continue to support a dictator in Pakistan? General Musharraf is stifling organic democratic movements. His government is launching attacks on the freedom of Pakistan's nascent television media and a judiciary that is finally showing a commitment to the rule of law and the Pakistani constitution.

General Musharraf, some argue, is a key ally in fighting terror. This could not be further from the truth. No war on terror will be won by a government that disrespects the constitution, undermines the rule of law and grants amnesty whimsically to kleptocrats in a feeble attempt to win support of a people who rightfully regard it to be their enemy.

Fearing an unfavourable ruling from the Pakistani Supreme Court on the legality of his 're-election' last month, General Musharraf declared 'emergency rule' and suspended the constitution. He says his actions are in the interests of fighting terrorism and yet he has had hundreds of journalists, judges, lawyers and peaceful activists arrested.

I encourage you to review the policy of supporting a dictator who undermines democratic institutions. If aid is to be sent to Pakistan for its contribution to the war against terror, tie it with the condition that Pakistan's media and judiciary not be held hostage. Judges sacked by Musharraf's government must be reinstated. Until Pakistan has an independent judiciary and a vibrant media, Pakistan will not be able to develop legitimately elected accountable, honest and trusted politicians it needs to effectively address terrorism.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Has Imran Khan been kidnapped?

There have been reports in the media that Imran Khan, one of Pakistan's most well known personalities and founder of the Tehrik-e-Insaaf party escaped house arrest during the Musharraf crack down that commenced on 4 November 2007. According to a spokesman from Tehrik-e-Insaaf Imran did not escape house arrest. In fact, his whereabouts are presently unknown. Here's a chilling report from Tehrik-e-Insaaf:

This is a message from the Chief Political Secretary of PTI Saifullah Khan Niazi. Imran Khan did not escape house arrest in Lahore as has been reported in electronic media, we are unsure of his whereabouts, and he has likely been kidnapped by the agencies:"The Chairman Imran Khan was told by the police last night that he is under house arrest. But around 3 am the police brought warrants to take him to prison and at that time it was discovered that he had mysteriously vanished while there were over two dozen policemen surrounding his house. We are not sure where they have taken him as there is no way he could have gone out without the knowledge of the police and he could be in a lot of danger.

I have been asked to kindly request from those of you who maybe willing to, to please put this issue on all types of blogs for discussion.

Individuals have also requested that people should instruct all their International Chapters to protest in front of their respective Pakistani High Commissions as his life could be in danger.

In addition to this please start a million signature petition to free Imran Khan and send it to the UN, amnesty international and the human rights commission or whichever organization you can think of."

Musharraf meltdown

Perhaps inspired by his counter parts in Burma, President Musharraf of Pakistan has decided to clamp down on political dissent like never before. Martial law has been imposed. Political opponents (meaning, activists from practically every political group not in some way bought off by positions in his puppet regime) have been imprisoned. All private television stations domestic and foreign have been banned. The Supreme Court has been sacked. If ever a student of history needed a lesson on the desperation that fuels a despot's hunger for power, even well after they ought to know their time is up, then this is it.

Musharraf the man is perhaps one of the more innocuous of dictators. He is no General Zia, the semi-literate colonel-come-general who executed the incumbent Prime Minister (Benazir Bhutto's father), took control of the country, and invested heavily in Pakistan's jihadi militant movements. In contrast, Musharraf was schooled in the British military tradition. He is a deeply secular man who is known to appreciate the odd shot of malt whiskey.

Yet whatever the character of the man there is one characteristic that makes him much like any other dictator past or present and that is his lust for power. A lust for power is an essential ingredient in the creation of dictatorship. For fairly soon within the mind of a mere mortal stems the false realisation not only that power is good and that absolute power is even better. A dictator begins to believe that society cannot adequately function without their overbearing presence at the top of the political hill. Such a rationalisation trumps all other rational considerations, even often to the extent that the dictator acts against his own self interest.

Mushrraf is no different in this respect. In creating the most draconian political conditions the country has ever known under his rule, he has effectively hastened the prospect of his ignominious removal. President Musharraf has only been able to survive as long as he has because of the abject lack of quality leadership in Pakistan and because of the political and economic patronage of the United States. Previous regimes in Pakistan, ostensibly democratic or otherwise, have been so incompetent and blindly corrupt that even the most elemental aspects of state management have seemed like impossible acts of genius. There has long been an expectation in Pakistan that an incumbent will siphon off the country's wealth into his or her own bank accounts, acquire companies and land, and eventually retire to an estate in the United Kingdom, France or the Gulf. In this climate the fact that Musharraf was able to improve the country's economic situation and curry international support was seen for some time as a powerful case for his continued presence. But even at the height of his popularity he was expected to eventually subside.

Most observers outside Pakistan and Musharraf himself underestimated the extent of popular support for a return to democracy. In the West, Pakistan, like so many other non-Western states, is viewed within the familiar prism of security. The simple premise is that Pakistan is volatile and Musharraf is a secular, educated man who keeps the extremists away from the country's nuclear arsenal. Pakistan may or may not deserve democracy, so the reasoning goes, but whatever else is true, 'we' need a strong man to hold tight on the reigns of power so he can reign in the extremists.

When Musharraf last visited Pakistan a colleague of mine preparing briefing for Australia's Prime Minister remarked that Howard would literally glaze over in admiration for Musharraf whom he saw as a gallant old warrior holding the fort against the terrorist menace rising from the tribal hills. This, and Musharraf's relative eloquence and capacity to talk the war on terrorism talk, meant his regime was relatively uncritically accepted by Western governments. However popular disenchantment has risen to such a level that not even the most pro-Mushrraf governments such as the United States can avoid condemning his regime.