Thursday, December 27, 2007

My alarm was set for 6 am this morning, but as it always happens I got up almost an hour earlier than that time. I tossed and turned in bed, and waited for the ceremonial alarm to let me know it was officially morning. Just as I rested in bed, thinking about the wonderful life I have been blessed with, Benazir Bhutto was being killed in Rawalpindi. What amazingly different lives people on this planet live! Benazir's murder was another violent death of a Bhutto. These people who ostensibly live such high lives die so soon and so miserably. It is hard not to feel sorry for them.

[Photo, courtesy of Harry Walker Agency.]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bangladesh is saying enough is enough

Thursday December 20, 2007 9:43 AM

DHAKA, Bangladesh – In a most unusual, unprecedented diplomatic move, head of Bangladesh's interim government, has warned the West especially the US to drastically cut down its Carbon dioxide emissions and has demanded money for Bangladesh to mitigate the effects of global warming in its coastal areas.

In a press conference held on Thursday at the Prime Minister’s residence in Dhaka, Fakhruddin Ahmed flanked by his top military commanders threatened to disrupt the world economy if Bangladesh’s demands are not met.

“We are going to lose a large chunk of land when the sea levels rise because of global warming. Millions of Bangladeshis are going to be displaced. We refuse to accept this situation acquiescently. We need money to build levees to save our land. And we want the developed countries, especially the US to stop further aggravation of the global warming phenomenon. The oil party should be over, now! If they don’t stop the party we will have no choice but to use force to bust it.”

When asked to elaborate on plans Bangladesh had to “bust the oil party”, the Prime Minister seemed reluctant to comment. After mulling his response Ahmed said,
“I don’t want to go into specifics, but understand that we are not too far from the Persian Gulf, world’s largest oil producing region. We can use our air force to harass oil tankers and disrupt transportation. We have a large expatriate population in the Gulf countries. Who knows, may be those people would sabotage the oil pumping operations? After all what are they (Bangladeshis working in the Middle East) making money for? To one day come back and retire in a country that would be several feet under the sea? And also remember that there are a lot of Bangladeshis in the US and Europe. No one is asking them to do anything, but once the ball starts rolling they may feel inclined to upset oil refining operations in those countries. Bangladeshis will do whatever they can to disrupt the present energy scheme that bodes an imminent, ominous fate for their country.”

With a sullen face Ahmed added, “It is a matter of our survival. We are a peace-loving people but now that it has come to a life or death situation we are justified to employ all means to ensure our survival.”

With a fleet of Russian made MiG and Chinese built F-6 and F-7 fighter jets, Bangladesh Air Force is capable of striking targets in the Persian Gulf.

When asked what took Bangladesh so long to take such a stand, and told that whatever greenhouse effect had been started would take its toll on the world and Bangladesh, with or without any future reduction in Carbon dioxide emissions, Ahmed said,
“We don’t see it a fait-accompli. The scientific forecast regarding the effects of global warming does not mean the world should keep burning oil till we consume the last drop. Global warming is like a disease. If it has been diagnosed it must be dealt with, right away. The earlier it is treated the better.”

At one point in the press conference emotions got the better of him when a tearful Ahmed spoke in Bangla, and then provided an English translation for the benefit of foreign correspondents: “You have all the fun, and we get punished! Where is the justice?” The remark was an obvious reference to the fact that countries contributing most towards the intensification of the greenhouse effect of the planet would be least affected by its consequences, and vice versa.

Ahmed also said Bangladesh would form union with other countries threatened by the predicament of global warming.
“I am contacting President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (of Maldives), President James Michel (of Seychelles), and other heads of states of island nations. We are going to fight tooth and nail for our survival.”

When Ahmed’s attention was called to the Ethanol production measure of the energy bill passed by the US Congress, he said, “It does not matter what you burn there. It hurts us here. Can we get away from this burning thing, please?”

When asked if Bangladesh had any deadlines for her demands to be met, Ahmed said,
“We need $250 billion dollars to build dikes and we expect this compensation from the US by February 21, 2009. And we want the US to roll back its Carbon dioxide emissions to the 1990 levels by January 1, 2015.”

The bellicose press briefing by the Bangladeshi head of the government took place just days after the conclusion of the UN conference on global warming held in Bali where the US was mostly at odds with other countries over the strategy to tackle the impending environmental disaster.

Among the plethora of questions asked in the press conference there was one that dealt with the logistics of ‘environmental war’ Bangladesh and other nations may wage with the West.
In response to “if Bangladesh would consider getting help from Al-Qaeda?” Ahmed stumbled, and responded with:
“No, not Al-Qaeda, but Greenpeace.”

John Passacantando, of Greenpeace USA, known for his strident attitude in promoting Greenpeace’s environmental agenda was amused by the Bangladeshi stance.
“We cannot volunteer ourselves for suicide bombing missions, but we can certainly strap people with the right ammunition," Passacantando jovially commented. And not so jokingly, he passed on a tip to the Bangladesh Air Force.
“The world would appreciate if the jetfighter pilots surgically bomb and disable the engines of those oil tankers instead of indiscriminatingly bombing the whole ship. We want to avoid any oil spills."

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, who at the Bali conference had asserted the global warming situation to be “so desperately serious that any delay could push us past the tipping point, beyond which the ecological, financial and human costs would increase dramatically” said he can understand Bangladesh’s desperation.
“But the world does not need another war, and especially in the name of environmental peace. Bangladesh has the option of presenting her case in the International Court of Justice. In fact, I would encourage Bangladesh to file for damages against big oil corporations.”

Oil prices have been on the rise since the Bangladeshi press conference. New York Stock Exchange saw an increased activity in the trading of renewable energy technology shares. Chris Cox, Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, said the federal agency has received complaints that several US and international renewable technology companies have formed a cartel and one of their strategy is to stir controversies about the oil-based economy—one rumor making rounds in corporate circles alleges cartel’s collusion in pushing Bangladesh towards such aggressive posturing.

Professor Guy Welbon of University of Pennsylvania, President of American Institute of Bangladesh studies, thinks the belligerent conference needs to be seen in the context of Bangladeshi national politics.
“The present Bangladeshi government being unelected is looking for ways to legitimize itself. Fakhruddin Ahmed as the interim head has aggressively pursued the anti-corruption agenda of this government. He wants to further earn approval and support of his countrymen by challenging the ‘external enemies’ of the country.”

Speaking to Washington correspondents, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “It is sad that they (Bangladeshis) are using language that violates diplomatic norms. The US is well aware of the dangers faced by Bangladesh and wants to help her but it is not reasonable to give us any deadline or ask for a specific amount of money.

“As far as the so-called ‘oil party’ is concerned, it is fashionable to blame the US for all evils. Bangladesh must understand that the whole world has enjoyed the ‘party’. Yes, for whatever reasons some countries had more fun than others, but if Bangladeshis did not enjoy the revelry then basically it is their problem.

“Our own airbase in Diego Garcia, not too far from Bangladesh, is in danger of drowning (because of global warming). In fact, we can use Bangladeshi labor to build levees around that atoll. This way Bangladeshis would get employment and would be able to earn foreign exchange for their country.

Answering a question about US’s readiness to deal with any military adventure led by Bangladesh, Perino said, “We take all threats very seriously and we will not let anyone disrupt the world economy. We are talking to the Bangladeshi government, but if it unfortunately comes down to bombing Bangladesh back to the Stone Age then we would just have to do it--very unfortunately."

(A.H. Cemendtaur in California and Angelina Matriati in London contributed to this Rioters News Agency Report)

Photo, courtesy of Daily Star.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This poem was NOT nominated by the UN as the best poem of 2006 - and it was NOT
written by an African kid:

When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in sun, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die, I still black

And you white fellow

When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die, you gray
And you calling me colored??

Before the advent of the Internet, when we used to get junk only through the mailman, we hardly ever felt the need to go knocking on our friends' doors to share the 'gems' we had received in our mail. But the Web changed all that. Now anytime we receive anything that strikes a chord in us, we need to forward it to all and sundry--and without checking any references. Why? Can we be a bit sparing?

Most of us have been receiving the above quoted poem in spam for the last many years.

To spammers,
Since when has the UN entered the business of nominating the best poem of the year?
Please tell us the name of the African kid who wrote this?
[The style is more like Borat's, my favorite Kazakh journalist.]

Photo, courtesy of the UN.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The mystery of young Pakistani-American men dying in their sleep

There is a mystery I need to solve—the puzzle involves murders. In my personal knowledge there are three, but my friend Annie Akhter tells me she knows of six (6) cases involving young Pakistani-American men dying in their sleep. All six of them were 22 through 28 years old. They all lived pretty normal lives. Some were good students, other were not. All of them were fairly healthy; all of them had completed their studies and had either just started working or were about to start their working lives. And each one of them went to bed one day to take care of important things in the morning, and the morning never came. In many of these cases no autopsy was done. For others, families are hesitant to share private information with us.

But we got to know what is happening.
Imagine the possibilities a young man in his prime holds, the life one sees ahead when he is 25—all hopes, every expectation dashed by a sudden death. It is hard not to be enraged.

Do you have any pertinent information about any of the six cases that have happened within the last 6 months, in the Pakistani-American community? Or, do you have general ideas about what might be killing young Pakistani-American men? Would you like to share your thoughts with us, either by your real name or anonymously?

Annie and I have decided to study each case thoroughly and develop a profile. We hope we can reach important conclusions and avert similar deaths in future.

For example, we would like to find out from each aggrieved family:
List of all the people the deceased man met the last day of his life.
Minute by minute account of last 6 hours of his life before he went to sleep.

And most importantly we would like to interview the best friends of these young men.

Such a study is important not only because these are far too many deaths to be apportioned to vagaries of life, but the analysis would also help parents of other young men to watch out for certain anomalies--obviously, our assumption at this point is that there are red flags to notice.

Can you help us, please?

[Comments and information can be posted at:

Monday, November 19, 2007

War on Terror is depriving Pakistanis of their basic rights

Going to bed yesterday I counted the nights many prominent Pakistani lawyers have spent in jail this month. I tallied 15, for it has been 15 days since General Pervez Musharraf proclaimed emergency in Pakistan. Whereas, ostensibly, the purpose of emergency was to arrest the advances religious extremists had been making, in the wake of emergency thousands of lawyers and political activists were detained by the Pakistani government.

After imposition of ‘emergency’, Musharraf government has taken other repressive measures. Independent minded judges who valiantly challenged the executive branch of the government have been removed from their jobs. Private television channels that gave large coverage to political news and broadcasted debates and analyses on government policies and actions have been taken off air. Just two days ago Pakistani TV channels broadcasting from Dubai were made to shut off their operations. Strident political leaders have either been put in jail or put under house arrest. By all means developments of this nature should be of grave concern to any nation. In other parts of the world people pour out on streets for far less serious matters. But save for a small portion of the society we don’t see a unified national movement in Pakistan ready to take on Musharraf’s government. You ask, why?

Democracies are always threatened by special interest groups. In Pakistan the largest, most organized special interest group has guns and tanks, it is the Pakistan Army. The Pakistani army feels justified meddling in the political affairs of the country because it believes it can do a better job of governance than the Pakistani politicians. And not too long ago this conviction of the army was widely shared by the common man in Pakistan.

In October 1999 when General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif, people came out on the streets to express their jubilation. Pakistanis were truly happy to see corruption-riddled Nawaz Sharif government go. And before Nawaz Sharif credibility of Benazir Bhutto too was eroded by financial scandals surfacing during her two tenures as Prime Minister.

In contrast to the economic activities that took place during the democratic governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, what Pakistanis saw during Musharraf government was spectacular. Businesses started booming, foreign investments started pouring in, construction of country’s infrastructure picked up, and independent radio and TV channels started operations. Who cares if these developments were largely a result of post-9/11 geopolitical situation of Pakistan? Pervez Musharraf was at the helm; he took the credit of turning around the country and ordinary Pakistanis believed him to be the savior they were looking for, all along.

If discredited politicians and the self-perceived moral high ground of the Pakistan Army were not enough guarantees of Musharraf regime’s longevity, external support from the US cemented the general’s grip on power. Bush administration never got tired of thanking Musharraf for his role in fighting extremism in that part of the world.

Musharraf did rule with a guise of democracy. There were elections; there were assemblies where political parties of all hues were present and an active opposition debated issues, but the whole show was acted out under the watchful eyes of a dictator who was both the president and the Chief of Army Staff.

With GDP growth rate averaging over 7% and Pakistan Army and the US firmly behind Musharraf, the general could probably continue ruling the country relatively undisturbed were it not for his dismissal of the Chief Justice of Pakistan on March 9. Since then it has been a gradual but continuous downfall for Musharraf and November 3 promulgation of emergency took the veil off the real nature of his dictatorship. Now, unlike ever before the future of Pakistan is hanging in the balance.

How would Pakistanis claim back their country from their army, especially when the country lacks credible political leadership? Sixteen days after the imposition of emergency this question baffles Pakistani intelligentsia. Probably, such a monumental feat would have to be accomplished with unity among political parties and through active support of civil society.

Unfortunately, Pakistan does have a precedent of a showdown between the general population and the army. It happened in 1971. Then, through external help the largely unarmed population prevailed over the army. This time around getting help from India is not an option.

[Photo courtesy of AP/Riaz Khan)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You ain't no Lincoln, Bozo!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Emergency in Pakistan

What’s on their minds?

Pervez Musharraf: I know what is good for the nation. And I feel very secure doing what I wish to do. The Army is with me and I don’t face an internal coup. Americans are with me because they need me to fight a war against extremism in Pakistan. Other players and 160 million idiots don’t count.

General Kayani: I can see it is time for my promotion, but how should I do it? I wish someone could give me a Powerpoint presentation explaining the step-by-step process of staging a coup.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry: What kind of people these Pakistanis are? This dictator has suppressed their basic rights and they don't care! Can't they see it is not only the lawyers he is arresting? He is after anyone who does not wiggle his tail like Shaukat Aziz does: political activists, media people, and dish-antenna sellers. Only the lawyers are interested in upholding supremacy of law, in saving the country? Why are political parties and common Pakistanis not coming to help?

Shaukat Aziz: Thanks God I still have my US citizenship. Where would I settle, New York or Hawaii? Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Benazir Bhutto: If I can scare Pervez Musharraf and the US with my street power, I can get the General negotiate on my terms. Let me see how Musharraf and the US react to my call for long march on November 13.

Shujaat Hussain, Pervez Elahi and other PML-QA leaders: Can only that part of supremacy of law be restored that would keep BB out of the game?

Maulana Fazl ur-Rahman: I am with Musharraf, or whoever is in power, on anything, as long as I get my cut.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed: Historically every opposition has used my party to create unrest in the country. But this time I want to be assured I would get something out of this.

Altaf Hussain: I control Pakistan’s biggest city. The situation is too fluid for me to say anything to the media. I am monitoring the developments and would decide if the party I rule needs to ditch the General.

Imran Khan: The General has raised the temperature. It is time for a meltdown. I wish there were more people ready to come out on the streets.

Nawaz Sharif: I wish I were in Pakistan, but since I am not, can someone pass me another plate of murgh-musallam, please?

Monday, November 05, 2007

FOSA's 2007 Eid-Diwali celebration held on Sunday, November 4 turned into a brainstorming session to work with other organizations and people in Pakistan to resist emergency rule. The following media advisory sent to various publications was read in the meeting.

FOSA Demands the Restoration of Democracy in Pakistan
The military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, has imposed a state of emergency in Pakistan, aborting the long-awaited return to democracy. With the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), Mr. Musharraf has authorized himself to rule by decree, suspended fundamental rights in Pakistan, and granted himself unlimited powers. The PCO also prohibits the Supreme Court of Pakistan from passing a judgment against Mr. Musharraf. When the Supreme Courtrefused to ratify Mr. Musharraf's declaration of the state of emergency, eight SC judges, including Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhary, the Chief Justice, were taken into custody and Mr. Musharraf appointed a new Chief Justice. Other judges from lower courts and many lawyers, including Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, have been detained. Regular news broadcasts have been suspended, independent TV news channels forced off the air and curbs imposed on the media.
Friends of South Asia (, a San Francisco bay area based organization, strongly condemns the declaration of emergency rule in Pakistan. It is an illegal and unconstitutional decision and an attempt by a military dictator to continue his illegal and unconstitutional rule. This declaration of a state of emergency must be universally condemned and the generals in Pakistan must end their stranglehold on the country.
FOSA expresses its solidarity with the people of Pakistan in their demand for an end to dictatorship and for free fair and elections. We are heartened by the courage shown by the Justices of the Supreme Court who have declared the PCO and the imposition of the state of emergency illegal and unconstitutional. The Court has declared that no judge of the Supreme Court or any of the high courts including the chief justices would take oath under new PCO. We also commend civil society organizations such as various human rights groups, lawyers groups, independent news and blogger sites in Pakistan who continue to organize and inform the public in defiance of the government orders.
FOSA rejects President Musharraf's defence of emergency rule as a necessary step to combat extremism and terrorism. We disagree that suspending the rights and liberties of its own citizens would in any way help Pakistan fight extremists and terrorists. This is a transparent ploy by Mr. Musharraf and his military junta to crush the nascent movement towards democracy.
FOSA joins with all citizens of Pakistan in demanding an immediate end to the emergency rule and a speedy restoration of the constitution and the rule of law. To ensure working of an independent judiciary, all Supreme Court judges deposed on November 3 by Mr. Musharraf should be restored to their positions. FOSA demands that all political workers and members of the legal fraternity arrested in the wake of declaration of emergency rule be immediately released.

Previously, a bolder plan of action was under consideration. Here is the draft.

With the imposition of Emergency on November 3, 2007
General Pervez Musharraf has plunged Pakistan into
great uncertainty. Whereas General Pervez Musharraf
says he took the precarious step to save Pakistan, no
one doubts the only thing Musharraf is interested in
saving is his own grip on power.

We condemn Pervez Musharraf’s latest authoritarian
decree and want Pakistanis and well-wishers of
Pakistan to build pressure on him to take back the
emergency measures. But having witnessed Pervez
Musharraf’s propensity to sacrifice anything for his
own personal gain we doubt if Musharraf under any
cogent force would backtrack.

Considering Pakistanis desire for democracy, the
recent struggle for the restoration of a Chief Justice
illegally removed by the dictator, the ongoing
pro-civil society debates in the erstwhile independent
Pakistani media, and the pro-democracy sentiments
within the Pakistan army we wish to humbly suggest a
shorter path towards restoring order in Pakistan.

In order to facilitate removal of Pervez Musharraf and
to avoid further chaos in the country by keeping its
institutions intact we urge Pakistanis in general and
Pakistan’s political parties in particular to quickly
form an interim government. The interim government
and events related to its enactment should have the
following features:

1. The interim government should be headed by an
interim president who would hold free and fair general
elections in the shortest span of time.
2. To ensure working of an independent judiciary all
Supreme Court judges deposed on November 3 by Pervez
Musharraf should be restored to their positions.
3. Pakistan Army should stop taking orders from Pervez
Musharraf and current Vice Chief of Army Staff,
General Kayani should immediately take charge of the
forces. General Kayani should work under the interim
4. All political workers and members of legal
fraternity arrested in the wake of emergency should be
5. All bureaucratic institutions with their current
officers should keep functioning under the interim

We urge Pakistani political parties to quickly consent
to an interim president. One choice obvious to many
would be Retired Chief Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed who as
a public servant not only had a spotless career, but
who gained considerable public support while recently
running for President against Pervez Musharraf

Till an interim government through the wishes of
Pakistanis and Pakistan’s political parties takes
command we ask all citizens to commence an indefinite
strike starting from Monday, November 5.

Abrar Hasan Advocate, President, Sindh High Court Bar Association

Is it all coming to a grand finale?

Munir, Abrar arrested, raids to arrest more

By AR Qureshi

KARACHI: Munir A. Malik, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Pakistan (SCBAP) and Abrar Hassan, the president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) have been taken into custody and removed to Central Prison Karachi (CPK).

Malik was arrested a few hours after the emergency was declared by Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday evening. Hassan was arrested on Sunday afternoon from his residence and was immediately taken to jail.

Salahuddin Gandapur, senior member of the Sindh Bar Council (SBC), was also taken into custody and raids are being conducted to arrest Rasheed A. Razvi, a former judge and frontline lawyer leader, said Shaikh Munir-ur-Rahman, the SHCBA’s honorary secretary, while talking to Daily Times.

When asked about the leaders of the Karachi Bar Association (KBA), Rahman said that the cell phones of both the KBA secretary Naeem Qureshi and President Iftikhar Javed Kazi were off and they might have gone underground under the circumstances.

When asked about a strategy, Rahman, while speaking from an undisclosed location, said that lawyers would boycott court proceedings on Monday and would hold general-body meetings to decide what to do.

Police start rounding up lawyers?: The names of more than two dozen lawyers are on a list for arrests ordered by the Sindh Home Department, sources said. But this has been denied so far by the chief of police.

Sources said that the police have started conducting raids to round up Justice (retd) Rasheed A Rizvi, advocates Abrar Hassan, Noor Nas Agha, Shahadat Awan, Arshad Judoon, Nehal Hashmi, Iftikhar Javaid Qazi, Naeem Qureshi, Aqil Lodhi and others.

There were reports that Advocate Noor Naz Agha was in the custody of Jamshed Quarters police. Supervisory Police Officer (SPO) of Jamshed Quarters DSP Anwar Zaib confirmed Agha’s detention. “We don’t know yet where Agha has been kept,” he said adding that it was the work of the women police. However, SHO Women Police Station Ghazala Pervain denied this. “We don’t have Agha in our custody yet.” According to some reports, the police raided the residence of advocate Munir A Malik and others lawyers.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gone Phishing

A very official looking email message from IRS, with the above logo, landed in my mail box. It read:

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that
you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $89.46.
Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 3-6 days in order to
process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please click here

Note: For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date and time.
Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicated.

Internal Revenue Service

© Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. All rights reserved.


Were it not for grammatical and syntax errors in the message--the most laughable being "criminally pursued and indicated"--I would have fallen for it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Allah is smoking out depraved Hollywood people, says Maulana Ahmad Shah Thatvi

Allen Hafman

Thatta, Pakistan
Maulana Ahmad Shah Thatvi has expressed contentment with the latest news of raging fires in California that have burned homes of many Hollywood stars.
“They are the textbook examples of na-farman (disobeyers). Allah's wrath has finally caught up with them," a smug Maulana Thatvi told a large crowd.
“Have you seen American porn? What filth these Hollywood people produce! Naoozo Billah. Is it any surprise that the fire of hell which was their destiny in afterlife has been ordered for them a bit earlier,” Maulana told his Isha prayer audience.
When asked to compare American porn with European and Japanese porn and inquired if European and Japanese actors were going to hell too, Maulana refused to comment because he had not seen European and Japanese porn.
When asked if there was any way the California fires could be stopped, Maulana said that if all Hollywood men and women convert to Islam right away and pray (men and women separately) on Malibu beach the winds may suddenly die and it would be possible to put out the fires. [Maulana was informed by the reporters that the negative image of Muslims and Islam in the American media has ensured that only those interested in getting hired as suicide bombers would convert to Islam.]
When told that Britney Spears was on the verge of conversion to Islam, Maulana said if she had done it in time Allah might have changed His plans, and she might even have received custody of her children.
[Karim Bux and Angelina Matriati contributed to this Rioters News Agency report.]

Friday, October 19, 2007

People from South Asia are at a greater risk for heart diseases than most of the world.

People over 40, and even younger ones if there is a history of coronary diseases in the family, should get their Cholesterol (and Glucose) checked annually. With extraordinary advances that have lately taken place in medical technologies it does not make much sense to die young with a failed heart.
Cut down on meat, eat fruits and vegetables, exercise daily, have a vast social network, and be happy doing what you really want to do instead of putting yourself in some mindless rat race, and there is no reason you would not be blessed with a long, healthy life that would benefit everyone around you.

On its web site, the South Asian Heart Center, describes its mission as:
"The mission of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital is to reduce the high incidence of coronary artery disease among South Asians, and save lives, through a comprehensive, culturally-appropriate program incorporating education, advanced screening, lifestyle changes, and case management."

South Asian Heart Center
El Camino Hospital, Park Pavilion, Ground Floor, 2400 Grant Road, Mountain View, CA 94040
Phone: 650.940.SAHC (650.940.7242) | Fax: 650.966.9269 |

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A fraud about an alleged fraud

The following email message about an alleged swindling scheme at Indian airports has been making rounds on the Internet.


Important Information. Please pass it on to all you know..

Dear All:

Be careful At the Indian Airports, This is a well-organized conspiracy by Indian Immigration, Police, Customs and Air India staff with networking at all the Indian International Airports. Be watchful whenever you give your passport to Immigration/ Customs/Air India staff. The passport can be easily tampered and can create trouble to you. They have found easy way of making money from NRIs. This is the way it works.At the time of the passenger's departure, if the passenger is not looking at the officer while he is stamping the exit, the officer very cleverly tears away one of the page from the passport. When the passenger leaves the immigration counter, the case is reported on his computer terminal with full details. Now all over India they have got full details of the passenger with Red Flag flashing on the Passport number entered by the departure immigration officer. They have made their money by doing above. On arrival next time, he is interrogated. Subject to the passenger's period of stay abroad, his income and standing etc., the price to get rid of the problem is settled by the Police and Immigration people. If someone argues, his future is spoiled because there are always some innocent fellows who think the honesty is the basis of getting justice in India . Which is wrong...Please advise every passenger to be careful at the airport. Whenever they hand over the passport to the counters of Air India , or immigration or the customs, they must be vigilant, should not remove eyes from the passport even if the officer in front tries to divert their attention. Also, please pass this information to all friends, media men and important politicians. Every month 20-30 cases are happening all over India to rob the NRIs the minute he lands. Similar case has happened with Armco¢s Arifuddin. He was traveling with his family. They had six passports. They got the visa of America and decided to go via Hyderabad from Jeddah. They reached Hyderabad . Stayed about a month and left for the States. When they reached the States, the page of the American visa on his wife's passport was missing. At the time of departure from Hyderabad it was there, the whole family had to return to Hyderabad helplessly. On arrival at Bombay back, the police caught them and now it is over 2 months, they are running after the Police, Immigration officers and the Courts. On going in to details with him, he found out the following: One cannot imagine, neither can believe, that the Indian Immigration dept can play such a nasty game to harass the innocent passengers.
All the passengers traveling to & from India via Bombay and Hyderabad must be aware of this conspiracy. Every month 15 to 20 cases are taking place, at each mentioned airport, of holding the passengers in the crime of tearing away the passport pages. On interviewing some of them, none of them was aware of what had happened. They don't know why, when and who tore away the page from the middle of the passport. One can imagine the sufferings of such people at the hands of the immigration, police and the court procedures in India after that. The number of cases is increasing in the last 2-3 years. People who are arriving at the immigration, they are questioned and their passports are being held and they have to go in interrogations. Obviously, the conspiracy started about 2 to 3 years ago, now the results are coming. Some of the Air India counter staff too is involved in this conspiracy.



Is the above for real?
Probably not. Why? Because:
1. It is poorly written, indicating it not to be from a credible source.
2. The byline is missing. We don't know who wrote it.
3. The language used is typical of spam: "Similar case has happened with Armco's Arifuddin." Remember the letter that foretold the curse that would fall on you if you failed to make copies of the letter and send them to 100 people? It also used the same language: Arif of Bombay ignored this letter; next day his mother died.
[The truth was otherwise. Arif's mother was sick, but instead of taking care of her he went to make copies of the letter and mail them to 100 people. By the time he was done his mother died.;-)]
4. Even if you ignore #1, 2, and 3, the alleged scheme is too elaborate to take place. It requires collusion of too many people, at various levels. Unless there are regular meetings of all personnel working at Indian airports, to get reports, declare 'income', and equitably divide up the booty, the scheme cannot successfully run.

It is a hoax. Please do not forward "PASSPORT FRAUD" message to anyone. Do your part in keeping the Internet free of spam.

[Photo courtesy of BBC]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Information highway bandits

Saeed Ahmad (not his real name) is a good friend of mine. This morning I got the following SOS message from him.

From: saeed
Date: Oct 11, 2007 9:21 PM
Subject: Emergency !!!

How are you today? I went to Australia for a program called (world summittion child labour and child exploitation ).On our way back to our hotel we were robbed by a gang of armed robbers and my wallet and my ATM card and other valuable things like my I.D card was taken including the wallet.

I needed to pay for my hotel bills but do not have anything on me right now and I have contacted every one to be of assistance,please I want you to help and send about $2,500 to help me pay some bills here and get my flight ticket back and I will return the money back as soon as I get back to home by Friday Morning.I am so sad and unhappy about the situation here and I have to visit the Doctor at the Holroyd Private Hospital(villawood) here in Australia which Mrs Tomajina rushed me immediately because I was hurt badly so I want you to help me send some money to pay part of my bills so that I could leave Australia.

Please I need to hear from you soon as you get this email, I will send you the information where you will be sending the money to me through Western Union.But the problem is that I have sent Mrs Tomajina to the Western Union outlet here and she was told that I would not be able to use my international passport to get the money pick up because it is not an Australia Passport,So I have decided to used Mrs Tomajina who has saved my life here in Australia. please you will be sending the money through her information to help me get the money picked up at the Western Union office here in Australia,Please be rest assured that I will pay back the money as soon as I arrive back by Friday Morning,And please understand that your help is much needed right now because I am very stranded here.

Waiting to hear from you.

Thanks for the effort



Obviously, the above message got me very worried. Mindful of spam I sent the following message.

Dear Saeed,
Is it really from you?
Kindly confirm.


Right away, I got a response from Saeed.

Thanks so much for the reply and so much concern towards my situation.Please I need your help right now that why I have contact you if you can help me with any amount tangible so that I will be back home.It really me but I wish to explain better but time does not permit me because I am using a public library internet here in Australia that why, I wish you can send me the money and when I get back I will surely pay you back.I will be looking forward to read from you as soon as possible so that I can send the information you will be sending the money to.Looking forward to read from you.


A bit suspicious, I wrote,

Dear Saeed,
Kindly give me a phone number where I can contact you.


Saeed responded with,

How are you doing? And thanks so much for the reply.I am very sorry I can't provide any phone number right now because my phone can't work here in Australia and the only way I can contact you right now is through mails, and that why I have contact you if you can help me with any amount.Please try and understand me better and I promise when I get back I will surely pay you back.I will be looking forward to read from you so that I can send you the details you will be sending the money.


Being completely satisfied, I wrote

Please give me the name, account number etc. where I
need to send the money to.


Saeed responded with,

Thank so much for helping me but I don't have any account here and the neither the poor widow Mrs Tomajina has but you can kindly send the money through Western Union Money Transfer to her so that she can kindly help me pick the money up at the Western Union outlet office here.Here is her details below:



Text Question:Who send the money?

Please kindly get with the necessary information like MTCN(money transfer control number)and also the address you use and send the money as soon as possible.Looking forward to see that


Then I wrote,

Thanks for the information, Saeed.

Let me run to the nearest Western Union. It is late
at night here, but let me find a branch that operates
24 hours.

I have been deeply disturbed ever since I read your
distress email message this morning. In fact I have
been crying.

Saeed, Because of our years of friendship I am not
going to send you $2500 that you have asked for--I am
going to send you $25000. I don't want you to spend
any more time in Australia, looking for a bargain
ticket. If the money I am sending you cannot get you
a charter flight, you can at least come first class on
the next airline flying out of that hellhole.

And please don't think for a moment that I am doing
you any favor. I am merely paying back what you have
done to me through all these years. How can I forget
your help in my hours of crisis? When Michelle, my
first wife, ran away, you started dating her and
provided her support. And innumerable other times you
have proved yourself to be a friend I can truly count

As for the robbery that deprived you of everything, I
have a suspicion that you have been trapped. I won't
be too surprised if I find out that the hotel manager
and robbers are cohorts. I have even nurtured the
thought of Mrs Tomajina being part of the gang--Mrs
Tomajina being hotel manager's mistress. But the fact
that Mrs Tomajina did not disappear after the looting,
and in fact has been helping you, makes me discount
the last part of my theory--or else, the plot is
really thick.

Saeed, I am disgusted by this incident of armed
robbery of an innocent American traveler in Australia.
It has proven beyond doubt that Australia is not safe
for Americans, and in fact is a terrorist country. I
am going to ask President Bush to bomb Australia. In
fact an aerial campaign, to soften enemy positions,
can commence right away--but not before you safely get
out of there.

As for poor widow Mrs Tomajina, kindly thank her on my
behalf. It is great that she is besides you in this
moment of misery. Is she good looking?

Saeed, Let me not make this message any longer. I
know that having lost everything you are checking your
email at a library and libraries limit the time
patrons can use computers--these Australian library
terrorists can especially be ruthless.

Saeed, Let me assure you that with my money and your
charm this ugly episode is coming to an end.

Hope to see you here soon, before the Australian skies
get filled with our Apaches and B-2 stealth bombers.


Photo courtesy of Amazon dot com.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Pressure Tactics"

I came across this news report in Daily Dawn:

KARACHI : SHCBA chief's complaint

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Oct 1: A ditch has been dug in front of Sindh High Court Bar Association President Abrar Hasan's residence in Gulshan-i-Iqbal to make it inaccessible by car, the SHCBA chief told a meeting of its members addressed by presidential candidate Wajihuddin Ahmed on Monday.

Mr Hasan told the meeting that he had been receiving "warnings" for quite a few days. The town municipal administration sent a bulldozer this morning and it cut a trench in front of his house. Fortunately, he had already driven his car out of the house for proceeding to the high court. A truck came soon afterwards and took away the dug-up earth and rubbish, perhaps to prevent early refilling and leveling. He said no pressure tactics would work and he would remain steadfast in the campaign.

The first picture is a close-up of the "punishment" trench; the other one shows the ditch from some distance away--that it is only in front of one house.

What do you think of this? Who came up with this idea?
Imagine pro-Musharraf people sitting somewhere, making a list of everyone against Musharraf's presidency and deciding who deserves what kind of punishment.

Digging a ditch in front of your opponent's house may appear amusing to some, but imagine facing inconvenience related to such a punishment when the table is turned and others are strong enough to do that to you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mourning the death of Jamal Ashraf Ansari

If every birth reminds us God is still hopeful with humanity, perhaps every death reminds us how little time we have to fulfill that hope.

Jamal Ashraf Ansari died in Karachi today.

Although I had the pleasure of briefly meeting soft-spoken Ansari I did not really know him that well--directly. Indirectly I know a lot about him; the source of my indirect information being Ansari's bright son writer, blogger, activist Sabahat Ashraf, more popularly known by his penname iFaqeer.

1970s were a special time in the history of Pakistan. Middle East ready to exploit vast oil reserves opened its doors to skilled and unskilled labor of the subcontinent. It was around the same time that a lot of teaching positions opened up in Nigeria. Pakistani teachers went to West Africa in hordes. Jamal Ashraf Ansari was one of them. Several years later on returning back from Africa Jamal Ansari started teaching at a Karachi college, and that was when the prefix 'Professor' was added to his name.

Long time ago when as a child I heard the expression of a death leaving a hole I conjured up an image of humanity that is made of various shaped blocks butting each other. Every now and then a hand shows up from nowhere and randomly picks up a block, leaving an empty space. Then the whole humanity jostles and squirms and the movement ends up filling up the absent block's space, but in this process the blocks around the hole change their orientation and the whole frame of humanity does change its shape a bit.
That is exactly what Jamal Ashraf Ansari’s death would do too.

[Photo obtained from , Government College for Men's website--Jamal Ashraf Ansari taught at that college.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

FOSA held joint celebration of 60th year of Indian and Pakistani Independence

“Go West, Young man,” they would be advised. They would heed the call, would leave, and on reaching the destination, would forget about the lands they came from. And their forgiveness would be more of a nonelective than a voluntary act. The ‘young man’ settled in the West would have little means to keep in touch with the folks left behind. Not any more. Modern day immigrants—and now they are going everywhere, east, west, north, and south (though a more recognizable stream flows from countries of turmoil to those with stable political systems)—keep well connected, if they wish to, with people they have left. But FOSA (Friends of South Asia, insisted that immigrants to Western countries often have a frozen social, political, and environmental image of their ‘homeland’, whereas in reality places are going through continuous change. Keeping up with its tradition of holding a joint celebration of Indian and Pakistani independence days, this year FOSA marked the occasion by holding its fourth annual South Asian literary evening on Saturday, August 25, at Milpitas Library Community Hall. FOSA had invited South Asian writers to reflect on the notion of ‘Revisiting Changing Homelands’ “to recognize and record” changes immigrants see and feel taking place in their ‘homelands.’

Even with a strong desire on the part of FOSA administrators to get submissions in regional South Asian languages, FOSA failed to get much diversity in contributions for the literary evening. Though hard to believe that FOSA’s widely distributed call for submissions, making rounds in the literary groups on the Internet, did not reach people writing in Tamil, Sindhi, Nepalese, and other South Asian languages let alone Bangla (the only South Asian language boasting Nobel Prize in literature), the literary evening featured only two entries in any language other than English--both pieces were in Urdu.

Moazzam Sheikh a writer originally from Lahore and settled in San Francisco moderated the literary evening. Moazzam Sheikh writes fiction in English and Urdu, and translates from Urdu and Punjabi into English. He is the editor of ‘A letter from India: contemporary short stories from Pakistan’ (Penguin Books, 2004).

Amina Kamal Khan a poet and filmmaker living in Washington DC area had submitted a poem for the evening. Amina Khan’s poem ‘Coming home’ was read by Moazzam Sheikh.
Khawaja Ashraf, editor of, has been writing short stories in Urdu and English since 1973. His Urdu stories have been published in Auraq, Lahore and Shubkhoon, Allahabad. Khawaja Ashraf read a short story titled “A Cup of Tea With Buddha.”

Mohezin (Mo) Tejani, currently residing in Thailand, writes articles, stories, and poetry for various magazines worldwide. A Chameleon's Tale – True Stories of a Global Refugee, the first volume of his globetrotting memoirs, was published in June 2006. “Fruits of Childhood” written by Mo Tejani was read by Saadia Mumtaz.

Rinku Dutta, born in Sanctoria, Bihar, is currently engaged in post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania. Ijaz Syed read a piece written by Rinku Dutta--the commentary was titled "54, Chowringhee Lane."

Maheen M Adamson, a research fellow at Stanford University, is interested in film, theater, and Urdu literature. Maheen Adamson read “Aik Ungal Ka Border" (Urdu).

Ahsan Sajjad, a Karachite settled in the heart of Silicon Valley, has been writing songs in the American Folk/blues style. Ahsan Sajjad read "The Origination of The Musical Chair", a satirical piece.
Saqib Mausoof, a writer and filmmaker based in San Francisco is currently working on his feature film ‘Kala Pul’, and his travelogue, Afraid to Shoot Strangers. Saqib Mausoof read his memoir titled “The Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro.”
Wajahat Ali a native Californian of Pakistani ancestry has been writing and producing plays and films since he was a child. His play "The Domestic Crusaders" was performed at various places in the Bay Area and earned accolades from critics. Wajahat Ali's troupe performed staged reading of an excerpt from Ali's play "How to read 'Un-Wholly Warriors.’”

A prevue of the movie Kala Pul and a short film on crossing Wagah border were screened to conclude the literary evening.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Got this email:

Sep 17, 2007 11:34 AM
subject Unauthorized Activity
Dear Bank of America client,

You have received this email because you or someone had used your account from different locations.For security purpose, we are required to open an investigation into this matter.

In order to safeguard your account, we require that you confirm your banking details.

The help speeed up to this process, please access the following link so we ca complete the verification of your Bank of America Online Banking Account registration information.


If we do no receive the appropriate account verification within 48 hours, then we will assume this Bank of America account is fraudulent and will be suspended.

The purpose of this verification is to ensure that your bank account has not been fraudulently used and to combat the fraud from our community. We appreciate your support and understanding and thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Look at the ghastly grammatical errors in the message. They make me cry. Can someone kindly offer an 'English writing' class to the spammers? Please!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pervez Hoodbhoy's keynote speech at NEDians' Convention 2007

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy spoke on "The Power of Ideas." It was a brilliant speech given in a soft tone that would make you fall madly in love with Hoodbhoy's scholarship. You can listen to the speech here:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nawaz Sharif landed at Islambad, but was made to leave for Saudi Arabia

News reports suggest Nawaz Sharif went back to Pakistan without thinking too much about the details of the imminent confrontation (for example, when asked to hand over his passport, he and his colleagues did not have a pre-planned strategy to cope with the situation; the entourage was not prepared for how much pushing and shoving it was ready to take, and where to draw the line).
Most importantly, Nawaz Sharif picked up the wrong city to land in to. Not sure why he did not go straight to Lahore, his power base. In Lahore, it could very well be a completely different story. Imagine hundreds of thousands of NS supporters gathering in and around the airport; imagine PML-N local leaders preemptively threatening officials who would be found responsible for turning back NS, etc.

A suit for the contempt of court (in not letting NS in) has already been filed. Let's see what comes out of that.
A review of Shazia Mirza’s comedy stints at NEDians’ Convention 2007

Humor in most parts is about putting very serious things in a most unserious manner. These are the things that you either have great respect for, have strong reservations about, or are normally uncomfortable discussing in public. Consequently, humor banks on poking fun at religion, important government matters, and sexual mores and attitudes.

Shazia Mirza, a UK based comedian of Pakistani ancestry, gave two performances of stand-up comedy at NEDians’ Convention 2007, in San Jose.

The War on Terror being the most serious stuff these days was understandably Mirza’s one domain of humor—she was original, brilliant, and very funny.
[For example,
My grandmother is on a wheelchair. She was stopped at an airport in the US. Looking at her wheelchair, they asked, “Did you make it yourself?”

Pakistani women normally walk five steps behind their husbands.
These men look better from behind.
But now Pakistani men are having their wives walk five steps ahead of them.
Because of the landmines.]

Pakistanis are definitely not at the forefront of sex-related-morality reevaluations. To state the obvious, Pakistanis are conservative in their attitudes towards sex. Comedians performing to Pakistani audiences are expected to pay attention to this little detail, and especially comedians who are from the Pakistani ethnic group. But Shazia Mirza did not display that intelligence. Her jokes on sex at the NEDians’ Convention were devoid of the subtlety and suavity this conservative community is used to in regards to sex-related jokes. Though this aspect of Shazia’s comedy least bothered this scribe, some in the audience did object to her content and the organizers promptly informed Shazia about the objections; she was asked to “tone it down.” The way Mirza acted after this confrontation made it obvious she had come without a B plan. She appeared confused on where to go from there.

One short-phrased thought on Shazia Mirza’s performance that stayed with this correspondent was: one man not laughing. For, in most part Shazia Mirza’s comedy on September 8 was grade-school humor: you pick one person from the group and make him/her the butt of the joke. Everybody laughs their hearts out, everybody but the person everybody is laughing on. Perhaps this kind of humor displayed in comedy clubs to an intoxicated audience that is hell-bent on having a great time, even at the expense of others, is OK but at the NED Alumni convention it was a different story. In NED culture where social status of a student was set by the time they had spent at the University—more senior being more worthy of respect—making fun of people on how they dressed or on their physical appearance did not go well with many in the audience.

The third aspect of Shazia Mirza’s comedy that was most problematic to this scribe was a hint of snobbery in her dealing with the audience. Maybe we were seeing her UK based understanding of her own ethnic group: people who have learned to amass wealth, but otherwise are not too educated. This hint of disdain was obvious in her opening note [that whereas she had been asked to tone down her content she believed she should be giving Pakistanis what she gives to her “White” audience--as if what she gives to her “White” audience is the premier class stuff, and toning down the act would be like giving a second class product to Pakistanis, who, whereas are second-class people still deserve premier stuff] or her questions meant to size up audience’s cultural refinement [for example, if the audience knew about ‘Vagina Monologues']. It might very well be that some of the Pakistanis are not too much into off-Broadway shows, or operas, or NY Times bestsellers, but they definitely don’t need a comedienne from Europe to tell them that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Amazing how reputable news agencies goof up with editorial comments. Look at this:
At least 106 dead at Pakistan mosque

By SADAQAT JAN, Associated Press Writer 39 minutes ago
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Commandos cleared the warren-like Red Mosque complex of rebel fighters Wednesday, ending a fierce eight-day siege and street battles that left more than 100 dead. The government warned it would not tolerate militancy in any of Pakistan's thousands of religious schools.
Officials found no corpses of women and children, although seven or eight of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition, apparently by the militants' gasoline bombs, said Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, a military spokesman.
At least 106 people were killed overall since the violence began at the Red Mosque. They include 10 soldiers, one police ranger and several civilians who died in the crossfire // one word in 2002 of the initial street fighting last week.

Apparently Sadaqat Jan wrote "cross fire" which the Associated Press editor changed to "crossfire" with the comment 'one word' (not sure about 'in 2002' part; may be the reference is to Word 2002 software) and then everything including the comment was published on the Internet. Yours truly found it at Yahoo.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Starting a Green Literary tradition

Now there is a Green Halqa-e-Arbab- e-Zauq--not green
as in 'green with envy', but green as in kind to our
environment. This Halqa-e-Arbab- e-Zauq, with Dr.
Khawaja Ashraf as its patron, meets on a conference
call. No need to drive to anywhere or make special
arrangements to fit the Halqa program in your busy
schedule; just call in and be part of the literary
conversation. Green Halqa-e-Arbab- e-Zauq's first
meeting took place on Sunday, July 1. Ijaz Syed,
Shahab Riazi, Saqib Mausoof, Khawaja Ashraf, and this
scribe attended the conference. Ijaz Syed read parts
of a Punjabi translation of his short story "Butt
Sahib" (originally written in English). The story,
translated into Punjabi by Narinder Jeet Kaur, has
appeared in Sanjh, APNA's Quarterly Magazine. A
detailed discussion on the story followed the reading.
Green Halqa-e-Arbab- e-Zauq plans to have regular
meetings on Sundays at 10 am, Pacific Standard Time.
Conference call number and access code would be
published at various forums, before each meeting.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hugo Chávez and the closing down of RCTV

Richard Gott appears to be the apologist of the kind that permeates the left today. To these people Chavez is an infallible hero because of the simple fact that he challenges the hegemony of the West. No further questions need to be asked. Chavez is above any independent scrutiny, a very convoluted left logic professes.
Such blind loyalty to a living person appearing to be a revolutionary is pathetic--it paves way for fascism.

> >>
> >> Racism and TV in Venezuela
> >> by Richard Gott
> >>
> >> "RCTV was a white supremacist channel."
> >>
> >> This article originally appeared in The Guardian
> (UK).
> >>
> >>
> >> After 10 days of rival protests in the streets of
> >> Caracas, memories have been revived of earlier
> >> attempts to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution
> of
> >> Hugo Chávez, now in its ninth year. Street
> >> demonstrations, culminating in an attempted coup
> in
> >> 2002 and a prolonged lock-out at the national oil
> >> industry, once seemed the last resort of an
> opposition
> >> unable to make headway at the polls. Yet the
> current
> >> unrest is a feeble echo of those tumultuous
> events,
> >> and the political struggle takes place on a
> smaller
> >> canvas. Today's battle is for the hearts and
> minds of
> >> a younger generation confused by the upheavals of
> an
> >> uncharted revolutionary process.
> >>
> >> University students from privileged backgrounds
> have
> >> been pitched against newly enfranchised young
> people
> >> from the impoverished shantytowns, beneficiaries
> of
> >> the increased oil royalties spent on higher
> education
> >> projects for the poor. These separate groups
> never
> >> meet, but both sides occupy their familiar
> >> battleground within the city, one in the leafy
> squares
> >> of eastern Caracas, the other in the narrow and
> >> teeming streets in the west. This symbolic battle
> will
> >> become ever more familiar in Latin America in the
> >> years ahead: rich against poor, white against
> brown
> >> and black, immigrant settlers against indigenous
> >> peoples, privileged minorities against the great
> mass
> >> of the population. History may have come to an
> end in
> >> other parts of the world, but in this continent
> >> historical processes are in full flood.
> >>
> >> Ostensibly the argument is about the media, and
> the
> >> government's decision not to renew the
> broadcasting
> >> license of a prominent station, Radio Caracas
> >> Television (RCTV), and to hand its frequencies to
> a
> >> newly established state channel. What are the
> rights
> >> of commercial television channels? What are the
> >> responsibilities of those funded by the state?
> Where
> >> should the balance between them lie? Academic
> >> questions in Europe and the US, the debate in
> Latin
> >> America is loud and impassioned. Here there is
> little
> >> tradition of public broadcasting, and commercial
> >> stations often received their license in the days
> of
> >> military rule.
> >>
> >> "Those most in view on the screen were
> long-haired and
> >> pulchritudinous young blonds."
> >>
> >> The debate in Venezuela has less to do with the
> >> alleged absence of freedom of expression than
> with a
> >> perennially tricky issue locally referred to as
> >> "exclusion", a shorthand term for "race" and
> "racism".
> >> RCTV was not just a politically reactionary
> >> organization which supported the 2002 coup
> attempt
> >> against a democratically elected government - it
> was
> >> also a white supremacist channel. Its staff and
> >> presenters, in a country largely of black and
> >> indigenous descent, were uniformly white, as were
> the
> >> protagonists of its soap operas and the
> advertisements
> >> it carried. It was "colonial" television,
> reflecting
> >> the desires and ambitions of an external power.
> >>
> >> At the final, close-down party of RCTV last
> month,
> >> those most in view on the screen were long-haired
> and
> >> pulchritudinous young blondes. Such images make
> for
> >> excellent television watching by European and
> North
> >> American males, and these languorous blondes are
> >> indeed familiar figures from the Miss World and
> Miss
> >> Universe competitions in which the children of
> recent
> >> immigrants from Europe are invariably Venezuela's
> >> chief contenders. Yet their ubiquity on the
> screen
> >> prevented the channel from presenting a mirror to
> the
> >> society that it sought to serve or to entertain.
> To
> >> watch a Venezuelan commercial station (and
> several
> >> still survive) is to imagine that you have been
> >> transported to the US. Everything is based on a
> >> modern, urban and industrialized society, remote
> from
> >> the experience of most Venezuelans. Their
> programs,
> >> argues Aristóbulo Istúriz, until recently
> Chávez's
> >> minister of education (and an Afro-Venezuelan),
> >> encourage racism, discrimination and exclusion.
> >>
> >> The new state-funded channels (and there are
> several
> >> of them too, plus innumerable community radio
> >> stations) are doing something completely
> different,
> >> and unusual in the competitive world of
> commercial
> >> television. Their programs look as though they
> are
> >> taking place in Venezuela, and they display the
> >> cross-section of the population to be seen on
> >> cross-country buses or on the Caracas metro. As
> in
> >> every country in the world, not everyone in
> Venezuela
> >> is a natural beauty. Many are old, ugly and fat.
> Today
> >> they are given a voice and a face on the
> television
> >> channels of the state. Many are deaf or hard of
> >> hearing. Now they have sign language
> interpretation on
> >> every prograe. Many are inarticulate peasants.
> They
> >> too have their moment on the screen. Their
> immediate
> >> and dangerous struggle for land is not just being
> >> observed by a documentary film-maker from the
> city.
> >> They are being taught to make the films
> themselves.
> >>
> >> "Venezuelan state TV will become a useful space
> for
> >> rescuing those values that other models of
> television
> >> always ignore, especially our Afro-heritage."
> >>
> >> Blanca Eekhout, the head of Vive TV, the
> government's
> >> cultural channel, launched two years ago, coined
> the
> >> slogan "Don't watch television, make it". Classes
> in
> >> film-making have been set up all over the
> country. Lil
> >> Rodríguez, an Afro-Venezuelan journalist and the
> boss
> >> of TVES, the channel that replaces RCTV, claims
> that
> >> it will become "a useful space for rescuing those
> >> values that other models of television always
> ignore,
> >> especially our Afro-heritage". With time, the
> excluded
> >> will find a voice within the mainstream.
> >>
> >> Little of this is under discussion in the
> dialogue of
> >> the deaf on the streets of Caracas. For the
> protesting
> >> university students, the argument about the media
> is
> >> just one more stick with which to hit out against
> the
> >> ever-popular Chávez. Yet as they mourn the loss
> of
> >> their favourite soap operas, they are already
> aware
> >> that their eventual loss may be more substantial.
> As
> >> children of the oligarchy, they might have
> expected
> >> soon to run the country. Now fresh faces are
> emerging
> >> from the shantytowns to challenge them, a new
> class
> >> educating itself at speed and planning to seize
> their
> >> birthright.
> >>
> >> Just a few weeks ago, Chávez outlined his plans
> for
> >> university reform, encouraging wider access and
> the
> >> development of a different curriculum. New
> colleges
> >> and technical institutes across the country will
> >> dilute the prestige of the older establishments,
> still
> >> the preserve of the wealthy, and the battle over
> the
> >> media will soon be submerged in a wider struggle
> for
> >> educational reform. Chávez takes no notice of the
> >> complaints and simply soldiers on, with the
> >> characteristics of an evangelical preacher: he
> urges
> >> people to lead moral lives, live simply and
> resist the
> >> lure of consumerism. He is embarked on a
> challenge to
> >> the established order that has long prevailed in
> >> Venezuela and throughout the rest of Latin
> America,
> >> hoping that the message of his cultural
> revolution
> >> will soon echo across the continent.
> >>
> >>
> >> Richard Gott is the author of Hugo Chávez and the
> >> Bolivarian Revolution. He can be contacted at
> >>
> >>

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More supporting material for Imran Khan's case against Altaf Hussain

Photo and story from Daily Dawn, Karchi

(Note the byline, "By a Reporter." Karachi journalists hide behind such bylines because they fear retaliation from MQM. Thanks God, Advocate Iqbal Kazmi is braver.)

Ordeal of freed May 12 petitioner

By A Reporter

KARACHI, June 8: Advocate and civil rights campaigner Syed Mohammad Iqbal Kazmi, who went missing on Wednesday afternoon, was released on Friday morning by his captors on condition that he leave Karachi within five days.

Mr Kazmi had recently filed petitions in the Sindh High Court on the May 12 violence and the new Pemra ordinance in which major political and government figures were named as respondents.

Upon regaining his freedom, Mr Kazmi narrated his harrowing ordeal to journalists at the committee room of the Karachi Bar Association in the City Courts on Friday.

Later in the evening, Korangi police registered an FIR against unknown persons on the complaint of Mr Kazmi.

He said that he had left his residence in Korangi at about 3pm on Wednesday in his Alto car, bearing the number-plate AKV 520, to drop off his eldest son at the house of his mother-in-law in Gulistan-i-Jauhar.

“On my way back some unidentified persons in a Prado land-cruiser bearing an AFR 2007 number-plate started chasing me. As I reached near Qayyumabad, they intercepted my car and forced me to get into their vehicle,” he said. He added that after a 30-minute drive they took him to a bungalow with his face covered and his hands tied. He was kept in a room without a fan or a bed.

With tears welling up in his eyes, Mr Kazmi said that two men tortured him during this period and quizzed him about his association with Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and the reason for filing a petition against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain.

They also asked him to disclose the names of his supporters. He claimed his captors used to throw cold water on him to force him to stay awake.

“They burnt the sensitive parts of my body with cigarettes and pressed my fingers with stones,” he said.

Mr Kazmi said that his captors threatened him with death if he did not disclose the names of those who had asked him to file the petition. He said his cellphone containing photo clips of the May 12 incidents, Rs12,000 in cash, a telephone directory and other documents were taken from him.

He said that one of the men -- whom the others referred to as ‘sahib’ – talked to him in a much more civilised manner. He said the man grilled him and asked him to withdraw the petition. Mr Kazmi said he was given some plain white papers to sign and then asked to bathe.

“As I came out of the bathroom I was given a cup of tea with two tablets, after which I fell asleep. When I came to I was lying near some thorn-bushes near Clifton.”

Mr Kazmi said that after much difficulty he hailed a taxi, whose driver facilitated him by letting him call his wife and took him to the City Courts. He said that he would neither surrender nor leave Karachi even at the cost of his and his family’s lives.

His wife, Sadia Kazmi, also said that the family would not leave Karachi and would face whatever happened. She criticised the officials of the Sindh home department for what she described as their failure to register an FIR on time and to provide security to her family.

Naheed Afzal, counsel for Mr Kazmi, condemned the kidnapping of Mr Kazmi and vowed to lodge an FIR with the police.

Referring to the petition filed by Mr Kazmi, he said Sindh Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, federal Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, the Sindh CM’s Adviser on Home Affairs Waseem Akhtar, Chief Secretary Shakeel Durrani, Home Secretary Ghulam M. Muhtaram Naqvi, Provincial Police Officer Niaz A. Siddiqui, CCPO Azhar A. Farooqui, the SHO City Courts police station, SHO Jamshed Quarters, and others were named as respondents.

Mr Afzal said that in case any harm came to Iqbal Kazmi, his family or his property, the entire responsibility would rest with the Sindh government and added that Mr Kazmi should be provided with proper security. He demanded the recovery of his vehicle within 24 hours and said that Mr Kazmi had been threatened thrice at different times after filing the petition.

KBA General Secretary Naeem Qureshi said that the lawyers were fully supporting Mr Kazmi. He said that he had contacted the home secretary to ask him to provide security to the Kazmi family, but he (the home secretary) had refused to do so. He said the issue would be discussed in the next meeting.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sniffing Stereotypes

I often sit on the second floor of the Santa Clara Library. Here, tables with power outlets and Ethernet ports are set for people to use laptop computers. You are surrounded by books and connected to the world through the Internet--it really works out great. Where I sit, each table has six chairs but normally only four people sit at each one of them, one person at each corner. So, this particular day I was sitting at a table which had three corners taken (one by me of course). A young man comes in, looks around, does not find a place anywhere else and decides to take the fourth corner of our table. As soon as he comes closer to the table I can smell oil out of his clothes--it is the kind of smell you normally find in Desi, especially in Gujrati households. I am sure many in the Desi community like that smell, after all it is food smell--but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is not a desirable odor for people outside the community. So this guy settles down in his chair and now the whole table is engulfed in this very powerful oil-and-masalah smell. I was not too happy about the situation but I was OK with it. A couple of minutes later I see a man sitting across me giving a piece of paper to the newcomer. Naturally, I got very curious and I peeped. In bold letters the note on the paper read, "YOU STINK REALLY BAD. CAN YOU PLEASE GO HOME, TAKE A SHOWER, AND THEN COME BACK HERE?" Wow! I could not wait to see what would happen next. The newcomer read the note a couple of times, appeared very confused, and looked at the person who had given him that message. That man, apparently to avoid any conversation on this topic, had gotten busy in his work. The newcomer got up, put his things back in the backpack and left. I thought about going after the newcomer and telling him, "No, you don't have to take a shower. Just change your clothes and put on good cologne. And next time before going to a public place sniff your clothes and make sure they are not giving off a strong kitchen smell, and you would have to do it outside your home, to differentiate better between odorless air and the oil-masalah smell. It is not only a matter of common courtesy but also a way to avoid negative stereotyping for the whole community." But I did not go after that man and now I wonder if he would really understand why that rude note was given to him.