Monday, August 18, 2008

Musharraf's legacy and how the US should look back...

Pakistan's President Musharraf has stepped down from office, finally falling victim to relentless pressure by Taliban fundamentalists and misguided opponents. With his departure, its time the US thinks long and hard about how it treats its allies.

Earlier, I heard a report that Condoleezza Rice put down any suggestion that the US would be willing to give sanctuary to the Pakistani President, who is under threat of impeachment from the recently elected "coalition" government, led by the late Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif, a former Pakistani prime minister. First of all, let me just say that I am completely disgusted with Rice's statements, and the US should be ashamed of itself, given the decision by Musharraf's opponents to attempt to negotiate people who blow up innocent people-security forces, civilians, Shia AND Sunni Muslims. When I thought about writing a post on this subject, I wanted to begin by saying that Nawaz Sharif is a vindictive, fat-headed moron (Musharraf ousted him in a coup almost ten years ago, and he has gone so far as to say Musharraf should be sentenced to death), but then I read this letter.

An Open Letter to Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari

I AM writing this to you sitting outside a coffee shop in Virginia, a little outside Washington. I hope that my letter will be taken in the spirit in which it is written — from someone who deeply loves Pakistan and sincerely cares about it.

Over the years, I have watched the situation in Pakistan, analyzed it and have come to the conclusion that the problems of Pakistan can be solved by the people of Pakistan themselves provided they set aside emotions and self-interest. A country of about 150 million people facing so many dangers from within and without cannot afford to be hostage to the whims and caprices of anyone — even elected leaders.

Sitting thousands of miles away but emotionally present in Pakistan, I feel that the time has come for everyone to rise up and confront the danger, reject revenge, put aside personal ambitions, remove malice and enter into a new phase of reconciliation.

I read in the papers here of calls for the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf. I read of statements saying he will not be granted safe passage. I read of charge sheets being prepared against him by hitherto unknown politicians. I also read about the president calling for reconciliation.

I tell you in all honesty that Pakistan does not have the luxury of time or money to embark on an impeachment move. Neither is it the time to focus on such divisive issues. Suddenly political pundits and inexperienced lawmakers are seen making statements. They talk about the interest of Pakistan. What interest, I ask them. It is good for the ego to get 15 minutes worth of fame by talking to a local television network or The Washington Post.

HOWEVER, it is more difficult to show generosity and tolerance by reaching out and closing ranks, and history is full of such examples.

And I will start with our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who forgave all his enemies. It was he who told the Archangel Gabriel that he would forgive all those who threw stones at him in Taif. Let us honor ourselves by following him.

Let us take a great man of our time — Nelson Mandela. After 27 years in prison, he spoke of truth and reconciliation. Mandela sat with Pik Botha, who served as South Africa’s foreign minister in the last years of the apartheid era, immediately after his release and helped guide South Africa to its promising future. After the black majority came to power, Mandela’s followers did not go on a rampage. They did not burn or loot. Mandela commanded respect.

I asked him was there any rancor or hate in his heart for those who oppressed him and his people. He replied that South Africa was too important for him to feel anger. Imagine what would have happened if Mandela had taken the road of personal revenge.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is indeed on his way down the dark pathway of revenge...and in the process is dragging his country with him.

Now allow me to offer my thoughts. Musharraf is obviously not a perfect man, but I think he understands the nature of the situation his country his facing. Condoleezza Rice feels the need to go off on him for declaring the much vilified state of emergency, but there is no doubt in my mind that President Bush (or any world leader, really) would take the exact same course of action if thousands of soldiers had died on his nation's soil, if suicide bombers were victimizing American cities on a daily basis, and if countless civilians continued to fall pray to terrorism in a savage attempt to disrupt the political process. If this was happening in the United States, what would we do? Please Ms. Rice, would you be willing to answer this question? I suppose this could be my open letter to Condoleezza Rice, or even the Bush Administration in general.

Musharraf tried to do the right thing...he wanted to do what the US asked of him while trying to put his country first. I believe what ultimately led to his political was the targeting of Pakistani civilians by militant groups based in the Northern mountains, which turned the population against him. Many far-left and so-called "antiwar" groups also allege that Musharraf "wasn't doing enough to fight terrorism". To me, that is complete nonsense, given the above scenario, Musharraf was probably afraid of a full-scale confrontation because of the bloody backlash it had against his people.

All I can say now is that I hope that Nawaz and Zardari will heed the calls in that letter, because the very last thing Pakistan needs is more tension. Sharif's vengeance may ultimately prove to be just as divisive as the bombing campaigns ordered by Taliban warlords, who are very likely laughing it up in a cave somewhere in the mountains right now...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Russia threatens Poland...

After what they unleashed upon Georgia, should we actually believe Russia when they suggest madness on this scale? I think this was one factor is the KGB's (Kremlin's) decision to invade Georgia--to try and intimidate the international community into having things their way.

Poland is a target, says Russian general

POLAND: POLAND HAS "100 per cent" made itself a potential target for a Russian attack after agreeing to host part of a US anti-missile system, according to a leading Russian general.

Under the preliminary agreement signed on Thursday night, the US will install 10 interceptor missiles at a base in northern Poland linked to a radar station in the Czech Republic, to be used to intercept missiles fired at the US and Europe.

The Kremlin yesterday attacked the system that is scheduled to go online in 2011 and this is likely to overshadow Polish-Russian relations for many more years to come.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has cancelled a September trip to Warsaw that was, ironically, part of a strategy to improve traditionally difficult relations between the two countries.

Polish radio claims that the Kremlin has frozen all contacts with Polish institutions, including a bilateral committee investigating the 1940 Katyn massacre, when the Red Army killed almost 22,000 Polish soldiers.

"By hosting these [missiles], Poland is making itself a target. This is 100 per cent [certain]," said Gen Anatoly Nogovitsin, deputy head of Russia's armed forces, to the Interfax news agency.

"It [Poland] has become a target for attack. Such targets are destroyed as a first priority."

Other officials said the timing of the agreement - during the crisis in Georgia - confirmed Russian suspicions about the plan.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's Nato envoy said, "Of course the missile defence system will be deployed, not against Iran but against the strategic potential of Russia."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A cultural crossroad

It can almost be called Al-Qaeda’s Tibet…China’s western Xinjiang Province, home to the ethnic Uighurs, a mainly Muslim minority in China. Chinese repression of the Uighur people has given extremist groups an opportunity to exploit this suffering, and turn it into a political tool. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement has carried out at least three violent attacks against Chinese police in security forces during the month of the Olympics, killing dozens of people, primarily ETIM fighters and policemen.

Seeing as I have never had the chance to come face-to-face with an ethnic Uighur separatist, I am not sure if liberating the Muslim people of western China is truly something they care about (terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in Iraq or the Taliban routinely put this notion to rest by blowing up innocent Muslims, often dozens at a time, almost every day). Regardless, the attacks that have occurred during the Olympic Games have only provoked the Chinese regime into forcing its ironclad grip even tighter on the Uighur community who would like to have the chance to exercise their religion, language, and culture freely.

Below is a very interesting article I found on Al-Jazeera about this tense situation…note the map of the province above, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s alleged that some ETIM fighters are receiving training in the mountainous tribal areas of these countries.

Xinjiang tense in wake of attacks

By Tony Cheng, in Kashgar

With the eyes of the world on the Olympics in Beijing, a lockdown is in force across China's western Xinjiang province.

After three separate attacks in recent days, the Chinese government is unsure who they can trust in this restless region, more than 2,000 km from the Chinese capital.

At a checkpoint outside the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, a short distance from the site of Tuesday's fatal stabbing of three security officials, we found police relaxed, but no one was allowed to pass unchecked.

Heading back into the city, security was much tighter, with armed police forcing passengers to disembark from buses and cars to have their ID cards electronically checked.

Foreigners had their passports photocopied and their details entered into a computer.

A total of 31 people have been killed in just 2 weeks in the deadliest upsurge in violence seen in Xinjiang for many years.

Uighur exile groups based in Germany say the government has detained dozens of innocent Muslims in the wake of the attacks.

On August 4, Kashgar, close to the frontier with Afghanistan, saw the deadliest of the recent attacks when two men drove a truck directly into a group of jogging border police outside a small boarding house.

They threw what the authorities described as grenades, and continued the attack with knives.

By the time the attackers were overpowered, 16 policemen lay dead.

Reports in Chinese state media said police later found papers detailing a plan for "holy war" in the attackers' belongings.

It was a severe and bloody assault but with apparently very few witnesses - the owner of a nearby boarding house said she saw nothing.

When I asked a local shopkeeper how 16 people had died without his seeing any thing, he told me to go and ask the government.

The government itself has said little, despite claiming several months ago that there was a very real possibility of an attack from Muslim Xinjiang-based fighters targeting the Olympics.

But the simplicity of the weapons used - trucks, homemade bombs and knives - does not suggest the operations of a global "terrorist" network.

And the nature of the attacks appears more spontaneous than highly planned.

Kashgar's famous bazaar is still bustling with life, but in the wake of the recent violence everyone there seems a little
more wary.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Putin's little circle of comrades

Here is an excellent documentary entitled "Murder by Numbers in Putinland" that delves deeply into the Russia that is currently being run by Vladimir Putin and his KGB buddies. As Georgia smolders in the aftermath of the brutal Russian invasion and the scope of the violence is unveiled in the coming days and weeks, it is important to see just who these people are—people like Putin, his hand-picked successor Medvedev, and other, more shadowy figures. One might wonder if Medvedev, the current Russian President, is spending more time in his office feeding his fish while self-appointed Prime Minister Putin runs things. The violence in Georgia is only the latest in a disturbing chain of events that can be traced back to the Kremlin.

How nice it was that this violence (the Georgia fighting) started on the opening day of the Olympics, as if the event was not overshadowed enough by China’s repressive actions in Tibet and the emerging threat of ethnic separatists targeting the games.

This documentary was released on youtube just days before Russia decided to flex its military power in the world stage against its tiny southern neighbor, and primarily deals with the assassinations of high level Putin critics, including ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvenenko and journalist Ana Politkovskaya. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to die when they speak out against Putin and his close circle. The killings that took place in 2006, along with Russia’s attack on Georgia, its support for the most despotic regimes (such as Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and Khamenei’s Iran), and its belligerent, Cold-War style actions are plenty of reason to put the west on edge. When Russia threatens to respond to the missile defense plan the US and NATO are trying to put forth in Eastern Europe, should we take them a lot more seriously?

The documentary has five parts to it and can be viewed here, for those of you who would like to see more.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

*More News*

It's about time we show some support for our allies outside of a few "strongly worded statements"...

From Al-Jazeera English:

US military to take aid to Georgia

George Bush, the United States president, has said he is sending US military aircraft and naval forces with humanitarian supplies to Georgia.

Speaking from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on Wednesday, Bush said: "Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis."

He said: "The United States of America stands with the democratically- elected government of Georgia, [and] insists that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected."

He also said he was sending Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, to show his support for the Georgian government.

Flanked by Rice and Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, Bush warned Moscow against breaking its pledge to halt its military action and announced that a US humanitarian aid flight was already on its way to Georgia.

'Unwavering support'

He said he had spoken to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president, amid a peace push by Paris, which holds the rotating European Union presidency.