By Omar Ali
The first thing that strikes you on landing in Pakistan after a few years is how much more “modern” it is and how dramatically (and frequently, painfully) it is changing with every passing day. One is reminded that Pakistan is as much a part of “rising Asia” as India, Bangladesh or Thailand and is not all about terrorists, conspiracy theories, Salafist nutjobs or the clash of civilizations. But since more qualified people are writing about the economics of rising Asia, the destruction of the environment, the breakdown of traditional society, the future of the planet, and the meaning of life, I will try not to step too much on their turf. And since there are countless articles (and more than one famous book) detailing the Westernized elite’s view of how the underclass lives and dies in rising Asia, I will not intrude too far on that well-trodden terrain either. Instead, without further ado, here are my personal and entirely anecdotal observations from 3 weeks in Pakistan. ….
…… Last but not the least, our sense of humor is alive and well. With newly elected prime-minister Nawaz Sharif apparently floundering without a coherent national security strategy 2 months after taking office, the following joke was making the rounds: there is a new position in the kama sutra; its called the Nawaz Sharif. You get on top and do nothing.
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by Omar Ali
If all goes well, Pakistanis will go to the polls on May 11th to elect a new national assembly and all 4 provincial assemblies. The Pakistan People’s Party was the largest party in the outgoing parliament and under the guidance of President Asif Ali Zardari, successfully held together a disparate coalition regime in the face of multiple challenges to complete its 5 year term of office. Unfortunately, that huge achievement is almost their only major achievement in office. While things were not as absolutely abysmal as portrayed by Pakistan’s anti-PPP middle class (rural areas, for example, are better off economically than they have ever been), they are pretty awful. Chronic electricity shortages (inherited from Musharraf’s Potemkin regime, but still not fixed), galloping inflation, widespread corruption and endless terrorism have tried the patience of even the most devoted PPP supporters and make it difficult for the PPP to run on their record. There are a few bright spots (including a relatively well run welfare scheme called the Benazir income support program) and with Zardari deploying his coalition building magic, it is not a good idea to completely rule them out. Still, they are clearly not the favorites in the coming elections. The middle class excitement (especially in Punjab and KP) is all about Imran Khan, while more serious pundits seem to be betting on Nawaz Sharif and his PMLN. Being out of the country, I have little direct knowledge of what retail politics looks like on the ground; but there is such a thing as a long-distance view and I am going to take that view and try and make some predictions. We will know in 3 weeks how out of touch I really am.
If you do want to look up what is happening on the ground in detail there are several excellent sources available, for example: Saba Imtiaz’s election watch, the Dawn newspaper’s election page (including an interesting motor cycle diary from Tahir Mehdi as he motors across Pakistan), an election page from journalist and public intellectual Raza Rumiand last but not the least, the wonderful young team at fiverupees.com, who don’t have a lot of coverage yet, but do have writers who prefer carefully checked facts and data to mere opinion.
Heading into 2013, Canadians are confident about the economy, less confident about Harper
By Andy Radia
Despite all the news about the Americans going over the ‘fiscal cliff‘ next week, Canadians are still confident about our economy heading into the new year.
Continue reading Canadians not as confident about Harper in 2013
All Pakistanis would be banned from going abroad if the country fails to eradicate polio by 2013 as per a World Health Organisation resolution, according to a report.
The Senate Standing Committee on Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) termed the move as an alarming situation and said that the government needed to take appropriate measures to meet the international requirement.
According to senior officials of the IPC, WHO was ready to present a resolution against Pakistan but it was delayed due to the efforts of the Pakistani ambassador in Geneva.
The official said the Pakistani ambassador informed the government to take measures in this regard, The Daily Times reports.
According to the paper, Senator Dr Karim Ahmed Khawaja also confirmed the WHO report and urged his fellow members that the matter required efforts on emergency bases. (ANI)
Courtesy: The Japan News
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
BRUSSELS — In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home.
Mr. Panetta cast the decision as an orderly step in a withdrawal process long planned by the United States and its allies, but his comments were the first time that the United States had put a date on stepping back from its central role in the war. The defense secretary’s words reflected the Obama administration’s eagerness to bring to a close the second of two grinding ground wars it inherited from the Bush administration.
Promising the end of the American combat mission in Afghanistan next year would also give Mr. Obama a certain applause line in his re-election stump speech this year. ….
Read more » The New York Times