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Showing posts from November, 2009

Bhopal Victims of the Worst Industrial Accident

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The year 1984 is remembered as a tragic year in India's history. Not only did the nation lose Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the assasins' bullets, the nation also lost thousands of Sikhs in the riots that followed the political assassination, and thousands of Muslims and hundreds of Hindus in Bhopal's deadly gas leak of December 3, 1984. The Bhopal disaster is still believed to be the world's worst industrial accident that instantaneously claimed the lives of at least 2,500 people, and injured about 400,000, with the toll still rising to this day.

Media reports indicate that a leak of the toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) occurred that night when it reacted with a large volume of water that seeped into the MIC storage tanks. Detection and subsequent action by Union Carbide employees was too late to contain the leak, and forty tons of MIC flowed out of the tanks over two hours. And even if they had reacted immediately, the safety standards accepted at the plant would not …

Pakistan's NRO and Corrupt Democracies of South Asia

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Indian and Pakistani democracies have a lot in common. Both systems of governance are a legacy of the British Raj; both have failed to deliver basic necessities, good governance, rule of law and speedy justice to the vast majority of their people; both have been marred by a close nexus between crime and politics; both have many criminals, including violent felons, as members of the legislature and the executive. But the big difference is in the top leadership; the Indian democracy is led by Dr. Manmohan Singh, also known as Mr. Clean; Pakistani democracy has Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, often labeled as Mr. Ten Percent, as its top leader.

The culture of rampant political corruption has come in sharp focus for Pakistanis with the recent release of the names of the beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a euphemism for the 2007 US-sponsored amnesty decree by former President Musharraf. There are 34 prominent politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari and his clos…

Chinese Strategy in South Asia

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China is beginning to act more like a global superpower by playing an increasingly important role in its South Asian neighborhood, with growing interest in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The United States, as the reigning superpower deeply involved in South Asia, essentially acknowledged China's stature in the region when the following paragraph found its way into the joint communique issued by President Barak Obama and President Hu Jintao at the end their recent summit in Beijing:

"The two sides welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia. They support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan. The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in …

Online Maps---Petaluma to Peshawar and Kashmir

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After painfully watching the heartbreaking scenes of carnage in Pakistani provincial capital of NWFP on TV screens, it came as a pleasant surprise to see the New York Times mention Peshawar in a different context; volunteer cartographers contributing to digital maps "from Petaluma to Peshawar". It particularly caught my attention because I have had the pleasure of visiting both of these fine cities, and I currently live not too far from the one in California.

"From Petaluma to Peshawar, these amateurs are arming themselves with GPS devices and easy-to-use software to create digital maps where none were available before, or fixing mistakes and adding information to existing ones", said the NY Times, referring to the volunteer mapmakers contributing to digital maps offered by Google, OpenStreetMaps and others. While both Google and OpenStreetMaps are community created, the main difference between the two is that OpenStreetMap provides its map data under a Creative C…

Sane Indian Cautions Against "Unconcealed Delight"

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Shekhar Gupta of Indian Express argues that India has "a stake in Pakistan’s survival and moderation as a democratic state" and warns against "utterly unconcealed sense of delight" about the daily carnage in Pakistan. Gupta cautions against the prevailing "smugness" in his country and adds, "This is not just the mood of the mobs here. Even the “intelligentsia”, the TV talking heads, opinion page columnists, government spokespersons, all have the same smug air of “I-told-you-so” and “so-what-else-did-they-expect” satisfaction. And they ask the same patronizing question: hell, can Pakistan be saved?"

Gupta concludes his piece by saying, "Time has therefore come to nuance our policy as well as national mood and psychology, to not merely reopen communication with Pakistan but to also make moves, offers, anything that will enhance the power and credibility of its government which, with all its faults, is still the most moderate of all forces in t…

Domestic Politics Dominate US South Asia Policy

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"America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam," declared Barak Hussein Obama in a June, 2009 speech in Cairo that was billed as his administration's attempt to mend fences with the Muslim world. The speech was received enthusiastically by many Muslims, and it raised hopes of fundamental changes in US policies in the Middle East and South Asia.

Just a few months later, however, considerable doubts are growing in the Muslim world about President Obama's resolve to effectively and evenhandedly address the long-standing territorial disputes confronting the peoples of the Middle East and South Asia. The hopes for course correction in US policy on Kashmir and Palestine are fading fast with the Obama administration's dramatic retreat on both fronts.

After repeatedly emphasizing that Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is inextricably linked to Afghanistan crisis, President Barack Obama backtracked on the need for resolving Kashmir when the issue was dropp…

T20 Cricket Wins----A Metaphor For Life in Pakistan

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Pakistanis are often characterized by stories of "individual excellence" and "collective failures" on the world stage. And there is some evidence to support such a characterization in Pakistan and abroad. However, the recent string of seven T20 international cricket wins, including the 2020 world championship, by Shahid Afridi's boys demonstrates the potential for collective success under competent and spirited leadership.

Cricket in Pakistan is more than a national obsession; it is a metaphor for life. Pakistani cricket is endowed with tremendous raw talent. But the national team captains have often failed in translating it into significant success in major international events. The last time Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup was in 1992. The T20 cricket has been marked by much improved quality of Pakistani leadership recently. After the seventh straight 2020 win against New Zealand today in Dubai, the energized Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi gave credit to …

A Pakistani-American Shares His Success Story

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Tariq Farid is the founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements, a successful international franchise business that specializes in delivering gifts of beautifully arranged bouquets of edibles like fruits and candy on holidays and various other special occasions.

Currently in its 11th year of operation, the company boasts 883 franchise locations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Kuwait. The company earned $300 million in revenue last year, according to published reports.

Born near Sahiwal in Pakistan, Tariq Farid has founded several other companies. One is Frutation by Edible Arrangements, which includes salads and fruit drinks. They’re sold in Edible Arrangements stores and stand-alone stores. He also created Netsolace, which provides software for the franchise industry. Another, BerryDirect, offers containers, vases and other products to our Edible Arrangements franchisees and other companies. His latest start-up is Farid Capital Corporation, a financing company that helps franch…

Facts and Myths in Globalization Debate

Big Gender Gap Persists in South Asia

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Gender gaps are among the widest in South Asia. Pakistan is ranked at 132, third from the bottom on a list of 134 nations compiled by the World Economic Forum for 2009. The 2009 ranking represents a slip of five places in the Global Gender Gap Index 2009 from 127th spot to 132nd from among 134 countries, showing an "absolute decline relative to its performance in 2008."

The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:

1. Economic participation and opportunity: Outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment

2. Educational attainment: Outcomes on access to basic and higher level education

3. Political empowerment: Outcomes on representation in decision-making structures

4. Health and survival: Outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

The country profile of Pakistan shows that it is ranked 132 in economic participation and opportunity, 128 in education attainment and health and survival and 55 in …

Pakistanis Defy Taliban Terror

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The world media are focusing on scores of deadly terrorist attacks in the last four weeks claiming over 300 innocent lives in Pakistani cities, and tracking the military's counterinsurgency campaign unfolding in South Waziristan. However, the Pakistani blogosphere is buzzing with the news and pictures of the Fashion Week in Karachi.

A series of fashion shows ended Saturday in which 30 Pakistani designers presented their creations. Karachi's Marriott hotel was the scene of the glamorous event.


And there is a lot more that is happening in Pakistan.

In October, a painstakingly detailed production of Chekov's "The Seagull" had a successful run in Karachi.

Karachi's local actors put on a female version of The Odd Couple and the Abba musical Mamma Mia drew large crowds.

An art exhibit opened recently in Islamabad to portray the effects of recent events on Pakistani psyche. Using the snake skin as a symbol of ongoing terror in the country, artist Haleem Khan has used…

Slavery in India and Pakistan

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The return of democracy in Pakistan last year has once again put feudal politicians firmly in charge of the nation's affairs. Both major parties, the PPP and the PML, are heavily dominated by the country's biggest landowners, who are reliability voted into power by their poor landless peasants making up the majority of the electorate in Pakistan.

British writer William Dalrymple has accurately described the politics in Pakistan as follows: "There is a fundamental flaw in Pakistan's political system. Democracy has never thrived here, at least in part because landowning remains almost the only social base from which politicians can emerge. In general, the educated middle class - which in India seized control in 1947, emasculating the power of its landowners - is in Pakistan still largely excluded from the political process. As a result, in many of the more backward parts of Pakistan the local feudal zamindar can expect his people to vote for his chosen candidate. Such …