Tag Archives: reforms

Greece looks to China and Russia for help but cannot get around its euro zone partners

Running out of room

ALEXIS TSIPRAS, the Greek prime minister, and his radical Syriza party are beginning to feel the heat. Two months of bluster by Greece’s first left-wing government have failed to produce the results it wanted. Those include an injection of fresh cash from the country’s current €172 billion ($185 billion) bail-out programme, and a new deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would allow Athens, not its creditors, to decide on future economic reforms.

Greece’s eurozone partners are still waiting for Athens to come up with details, promised two weeks ago, on the country’s deteriorating public finances. Mr Tsipras has promised Greek voters that Syriza has banned the hated “troika” of bail-out monitors (from the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank) from Athens. To protect that political narrative, a team of mid-level officials from the three institutions sits ensconced in a four-star Athens hotel, gathering information by exchanging e-mails with their finance ministry counterparts. The ministry itself is strictly off-limits. “This system works quite well,” claims Dimitris Mardas, the budget minister. The visitors disagree, complaining about delays and inaccurate replies that could be avoided if they were allowed to meet Greek colleagues face-to-face.

Continue reading Greece looks to China and Russia for help but cannot get around its euro zone partners

Japan desperately needs economic reform

Abe’s last chance

Japan desperately needs economic reform; Shinzo Abe still offers the best chance of that

TWO years ago Shinzo Abe ran for office vowing to end Japan’s long economic malaise by banishing deflation and smashing the old habits that impeded growth. He promised to make a country suffering a collapse in confidence once again stand tall. Mr Abe won the election in a landslide, yet barely two years later he has called another.

One reason for this is painfully obvious: Mr Abe has failed to deliver on those promises. Japan is once more flirting with recession and deflation. Households feel no better off. Promised structural reforms have not happened. “Abenomics”, the prime minister’s slickly marketed programme, is looking to many Japanese like a prescription that is benefiting only the rich and big business. Mr Abe’s decision to hold a fresh election on December 14th is in part a cynical move to consolidate his power before his popularity falls further.

In political terms that gamble seems likely to pay off. Given a weak opposition, it would be a shock if his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, did not win again. But does Mr Abe actually deserve a second term? Our answer is yes—but only if he does what, in an interview with this newspaper (see article), he says he will by finally embarking on the structural reforms that his country badly needs.

Read more » The Economist
Learn more » http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21635488-japan-desperately-needs-economic-reform-shinzo-abe-still-offers-best-chance-abes?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/abe_s_last_chance

What comes after November?

By Sikandar Hullio

Excerpt; …. The deadline of November 30 may come and pass us by. What is more relevant than what happens that day is the fact that the PML-N is ageing, ailing and failing to impress the masses in Punjab. The PPP is also faltering and getting irrelevant by repositioning itself in Punjab.

As a counter effect, the more popular force of the PTI is trying to get both wickets with a single ball. For the PTI, this is also a moment to reflect and reset. Mere blame-games and agitations won’t work. They need to go back to parliament and relearn the art of honouring the mandate, besides pursuing their cases pertaining to election rigging within relevant courts. They also need to sit, settle and finalise a plan of election audit with electoral reforms under the supervision of parliament and make it a custodian – instead of looking at hidden hands, which were badly exposed, at least this time.

If done, this would provide the PTI a renewed life to prepare for the next elections and keep the political temperature up and exit from the sit-in trap in Islamabad.

The writer is an anthropologist and freelance analyst based in Islamabad. Email: sikandarhullio@yahoo.com

Read more » The News
http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-286938-What-comes-after-November

 

Mass protest in Italy

Italy job reforms: CGIL union organises mass protest

A mass protest is being held in the Italian capital, Rome, against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s plans for labour market reform.

The turnout for the rally, organised by the largest union, the CGIL, was put at up to one million.

Mr Renzi has backed plans to loosen labour protection and make it easier for firms to fire workers.

The protesters are angry in particular at job prospects for the young – youth unemployment is at a record 44.2%.

Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL, told the crowds: “We want work for everyone, and work with rights. This is a demonstration for those without work, without rights, those who suffer, who have no certainties for the future.”

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-29771540

BBC – Burma riots: Video shows police standing by while Buddhist rioters attacked minority Muslims

Burma riots: Video shows police failing to stop attack

To watch video click HERE

The BBC has obtained police video showing officers standing by while Buddhist rioters attacked minority Muslims in the town of Meiktila.

The footage shows a mob destroying a Muslim gold shop and then setting fire to houses. A man thought to be a Muslim is seen on fire.

It was filmed last month, when at least 43 people were killed in Meiktila.

Meanwhile the EU is expected to decide whether to lift sanctions imposed on Burma, in response to recent reforms.

It is thought likely that despite concerns about the treatment of minorities, Brussels will confirm that the sanctions, which were suspended a year ago, are now permanently lifted.

The sanctions include the freezing of assets of more than 1,000 Burmese companies, travel restrictions on officials, and a ban on EU investment in many areas. However, an arms embargo is expected to remain in place.

Continue reading BBC – Burma riots: Video shows police standing by while Buddhist rioters attacked minority Muslims

The Rise of China’s Reformers?

Change You Can Believe In

By Evan A. Feigenbaum and Damien Ma

Most observers are gloomy about the prospects for serious economic reform in China. But they ignore a central lesson of recent Chinese history: reform is possible when the right mix of conditions comes together at the right time. And the very circumstances that facilitated the last major burst of economic reform in the 1990s are largely present today.

Read more » Foreign Affairs
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139295/evan-a-feigenbaum-and-damien-ma/the-rise-of-chinas-reformers?cid=soc-twitter-in-snapshots-the_rise_of_chinas_reformers-041813

Via – Twitter

Healthcare Reform: What Would Jesus Do?

By Lou Kavar

“There was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse” (Mark 5: 25-26).

Their web site describes their mission. They “provide free medical care to people in remote areas around the world…” They’ve sponsored expeditions with doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care professionals to provide care in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, East Africa, India, Nepal and many other countries – serving those with no other option for health care. In Guyana, they have established a permanent base of operations. Remote Area Medical has pioneered no cost medical care, touching the lives of people who have no hope for other treatment.

While it is understandable that Remote Area Medical provides free health care to people in under-developed, impoverished countries, Americans should be scandalized to know that Remote Area Medical has a year round schedule to provide care to people in the United States. Yes, in the richest country in the world, in the country which brags of having the “best” healthcare in the world, American citizens line up and wait for free medical care because they have no other option.

From August 11 to 18, 2009, Remote Area Medical held clinic hours in the “remote” area of Los Angeles County. People slept in the streets overnight, lining up for health care services which they longed to receive for years. Various newspaper and TV reports recounted stories of people waiting in line to receive treatment from chronic and severe conditions. One woman stated that if her child did not receive eye glasses from Remote Area Medical, the child would have had none.

While people waited in the streets of Inglewood, Calif. for medical care, vocal, angry, and hate-filled debates ensued in other parts of the United States over health care reform. A public health care option for those in need was labeled as socialism, communism, and Nazism – often by the same commentators.

“She came up behind Jesus and touched his cloak, saying to herself, ‘If I only touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease” (Mark 5:2-29).

Like the woman two millennia ago, people are pushing through crowds hoping to find help and healing for serious medical conditions. While Jesus was a willing conduit for this woman’s healing, many of the followers of Jesus today actively work to block access of those in need to health care. What’s even more scandalous is that many of these same people insist that America was founded as a “Christian nation” yet they vigorously oppose helping those in need through a public option for health care.

Continue reading Healthcare Reform: What Would Jesus Do?

“Pakistan has potential to become a global economic player”- Mark Lowcock

Politicians challenged to secure Pakistan’s global economic future

Mark Lowcock said:“Pakistan has everything it takes to be a successful, thriving, prosperous Islamic democracy.’

Pakistan has potential to become a global economic player.  It’s a powerful vision which can be realised if there is a focus on economic growth and implementing the vital reforms needed to stimulate and underpin growth a representative for the UK Government signalled yesterday.

Speaking at the Karachi School of Business and Leadership Mark Lowcock, the UK government’s most senior aid official, told business leaders and students that countries succeeding in today’s global race are those reforming the fastest to generate growth and reduce poverty.

Mark Lowcock said:

Pakistan has everything it takes to be a successful, thriving, prosperous Islamic democracy.”

“If you develop a clear and shared vision, sustain a long term commitment to travelling the long road of reform, and refuse to be deterred by the problems that will inevitably arise, then you can transform your country within a generation.”

Citing examples from across Asia and Africa, Mark Lowcock pressed that Pakistan’s stake in the global economy, and future investment potential, could be transformed. It has enormous potential for trade. Population dynamics mean that over the coming decades it could reap a demographic dividend, if the economy develops in a way that creates jobs for all young people.

Mr Lowcock stressed elections as an important watershed in embedding an inclusive political system, emphasised the importance of greater transparency in public operations, and highlighted the need to broaden the national dialogue on economic reform.

Mark Lowcock said:

Pakistan cannot sustain high rates of economic growth without a sufficient, reliable supply of energy…. The sector needs to be put on a more commercial footing, including a regulatory and tariff structure that is attractive to investors.”

“A tax system that collects less than 10% of GDP is unsustainable for any modern country. Without agreement and tangible progress on broader and fairer taxation, Pakistan will be unable to invest in a more prosperous future.”

Pakistan needs to invest in its best asset, which is your own people, especially in health and education to build human capital. It is also critical to promote women’s participation in the economy.  This is an issue of fairness and good governance. But it is also crucially an economic issue.”

Continue reading “Pakistan has potential to become a global economic player”- Mark Lowcock

Khomeini’s granddaughter says Iran facing “critical situation,” calls for reforms

Khomeini’s Granddaughter Gives Iran Some Tough Love

And she believes that the Islamic Republic has no choice but reform.

According to Zahra Eshraghi, whose grandfather, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founded the Islamic republic, Iran “is on the edge of the precipice.”

Eshraghi — who is married to Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami — recently gave an interview to the Iranian website Anarpress and said, “Everyone knows that the country is facing a critical situation.”

She said politicians should find a solution quickly to the crisis the country is facing, though it may be too late.

“Maybe they thought we could act independently and that we don’t need the world,” she said. “We should be up front. As much as [the West is] likely to need us, we need them.”

The 49-year-old mother of two also talked about the negative impact sanctions are having on the Islamic republic.

“For example, Tehran’s air pollution,” she said, “for which the sanctions — and the bad gasoline that is being used – are to blame. This pollution should be considered a silent death, meaning that we in Tehran are breathing poison every day.” …

Read more » The Atlantic
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/khomeinis-granddaughter-gives-iran-some-tough-love/267196/

Pakistan’s Kangaroo Court calls itself “Supreme Court,” but in fact is another front for the Mullah-Military complex

Pakistan’s puppet Court – By Shiraz Paracha

The Supreme Court’s controversial detailed verdict against the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan is one more bad decision by a Court that has a dark history of collaboration with the military in depriving the people of Pakistan of their fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court has been transcending its legal boundaries and constitutional role. Its decisions are biased, unfair and politicized. The Court is not a neutral and objective defender of law and judges have been acting as puppets.

The Judiciary is not independent and appears to be playing someone’s game. Indeed the Supreme Court is acting as a proxy for imposing a controlled democracy in Pakistan. It seems that characters such as Imran Khan and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan are part of this game. The former ISI chief Lt. General Shuja Pasha was an architect of the latest effort to introduce ‘clean democracy’ in Pakistan. General Pasha was not alone in military’s one more political adventure.

Actually, the military considers itself the sole defender of Pakistan and generals have been trying to shape and control the Pakistani politics. In fact, the military never felt comfortable with parliamentary form of democracy. For this reason every few years new campaigns are launched to ‘clean’ the system.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan’s recent calls for the establishment of a technocrat government and Imran Khan’s Tsunami are reflections of military’s new efforts to bring a setup that ‘suits’ Pakistan. The Judiciary and media are means to complete that agenda. As the Parliament is about to complete its term, Imran Khan is threatening that he would not accept results of the new elections. Dr. Qadeer, dubbed by some as the future president, has joined hands with Imran Khan. The media and the Judiciary are taking cue from some in the military to pressurize the present government. All these actors want to maintain the status quo by imposing a controlled democracy.

Continue reading Pakistan’s Kangaroo Court calls itself “Supreme Court,” but in fact is another front for the Mullah-Military complex

Military-Owned Businesses Pose Unique Corruption Risks

By Samuel Rubenfeld

Businesses owned by militaries around the world pose unique corruption risks to the sectors in which they operate, a new report found.

The report, released Thursday by Transparency International’s U.K. Defence and Security Programme, looks at how military-owned businesses are structured, what the inherent corruption risks are for these firms, and why and how the countries have made reforms to their military-owned companies.

“Once the military begins to engage in economic activities, it is often difficult to end such practices. In most situations, corruption becomes rampant and a major problem which (sic) harms the state and the national economy as well,” the report said.

Introducing a profit motive into the military increases the chance for distraction, the report said. Looking at case studies in China, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan, the report found that distraction often leads to outright graft, and in the more extreme cases that manifests itself in the form of embezzlement of state funds, tax fraud and even brutal coercive practices on workers. …..

Read more : The Wall Street Journal

Fantasy land and killing fields of Pakistan

by Dr. Manzur Ejaz

Excerpt;

…. It is self evident that Pakistan’s pathetic conditions are due to internal causes and have nothing to do with the US, India, Israel or anybody else. And, yet our intelligentsia, media and political operators pay more attention to foreign powers than on the real culprits. A small friction with the US becomes the main topic of talk-shows, newspaper columns and political circles.

Pakistani opinion makers have chosen to buy into a fantasy land where they can blame the foreign powers for everything and not pay attention to the inner dynamics of the society. South Korea is much more aligned with the US—the superpower has military bases in that country—and yet it has become a well developed, industrialised society. The difference is that South Korea had thorough land reforms and its ruling elite are much more focused on domestic development than blaming the imaginary or real foreign enemies. As a matter of fact, many East Asian countries have followed this model and are industrialised by now. It’s about time we turn out backs to the fantasy land or else things will only continue to worsen.

To read complete article → WICHAAR.COM

‘Stable Afghanistan not worth abandoning strategic interests’

By Shahbaz Rana

Excerp:

…. The German cabinet member appeared reluctant to commit to additional assistance for security. “We know that for our work we need a secure environment but we cannot make payments as much as you require,” he said. …

…. The German minister urged Pakistan to implement tax reforms. “For us as donors, a strong, big and proud country must do more than have revenues from only 1.5 million people out of a 180 million population as it is important for us to explain our taxpayers,” he added.

To read complete article: The Express Tribune

Syria unrest: ‘Bloodiest day’ as troops fire on rallies

At least 72 protesters have been killed by security forces in Syria, rights groups say – the highest reported death toll in five weeks of unrest there.

Demonstrators were shot, witnesses say, as thousands rallied across the country, a day after a decades-long state of emergency was lifted.

Many deaths reportedly occurred in a village near Deraa in the south, and in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

The US White House urged the government to stop attacking demonstrators.

Spokesman Jay Carney said it should “cease and desist in the use of violence against protesters” and follow through on promised reforms.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “extremely concerned” by reports of deaths and casualties across Syria and urged restraint on the country’s authorities.

“Political reforms should be brought forward and implemented without delay,” he said. “The Emergency Law should be lifted in practice, not just in word.”

Live ammunition

Protesters – said to number tens of thousands – chanted for the overthrow of the regime, Reuters news agency reports.

Video images coming out of Syria show footage of many confrontations where live ammunition was used.

President Bashar al-Assad’s lifting of the emergency had been seen as a concession to the protesters.

In their first joint statement since the protests broke out, activists co-ordinating the mass demonstrations demanded the establishment of a democratic political system.

Political unrest in Syria developed after revolts elsewhere in the Arab world, which saw the downfall of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents and an ongoing civil war in Libya.

At least 260 people are said to have died since it began last month.

‘Rain of bullets’ …

Read more : BBC

Anti-government protests held across Syria

Syria: Clashes at mass Damascus protest

Syrian security forces have used tear gas and batons to disperse tens of thousands of protesters in the capital, Damascus, witnesses said.

The protesters called for reforms, while some demanded the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

The protests, in Damascus and other cities, are believed to be the largest in a month of unrest in which about 200 people have been reported killed. …

Read more : BBC

Who Will Bell The Intelligence Agencies In Pakistan?

Presidential Spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar says that apparently no law exists to hold intelligence agencies accountable in Pakistan and parliament should draft such laws. This depicts a very sorry state of affairs and seriously undermines the concept of across the board accountability of all institutions in a democratic dispensation. In this episode of Reporter, Arshad Sharif tries to find out how and who will bring the intelligence agencies of the country under rule of law.

Courtesy: DAWN News (Program “Reporter” with Arshad Sharif) – You Tube

Failure of Leadership in Pakistan

Review by Azhar Ali Shah

In oder to understand the root causes of the failure of leadership and parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, I will be sharing some important articles, for your comments and interaction. The idea is to detect the main causes of the faults and propose the remedy based on consensus of all of us. At the end we would try to synthesize these discussions in the form of a publishable document which could provide the bases for starting a public campaign for the implementation of political reforms in Pakistan.

To begin with, I am presenting my review of the Khalid bin Sayed’s article (Click here to read, COLLAPSE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN ). This article provides some of the description of political setup during the very 1st decade of Pakistan and observes that it was Punjabi Machiavellianism (the political doctrine of Machiavelli: any means (however unscrupulous) can be used by a ruler in order to create and maintain his autocratic government) that caused the collapse of parliamentary democracy. The author then comments on the performance of the military regime and how it was dealing with politicians, civil servants and common people. The whole article is worth reading and is available online a: http://www.jstor.org/pss/4323166 .

Collapse of Parliamentary Democracy in Pakistan

Kahild bin Syed, Middle East Journal,Vol. 13, No. 4, Autumn, 1959

Review by Azhar Ali Shah
This article begins with the description of parliamentary democracy and its success in homogeneous communities. The article questions whether democracy could be a way of life in a country like Pakistan (consisting of heterogeneous communities)? It cites examples of Pakistani leaders (both at center and provinces) who flouted democracy and took arbitrary actions but there was no rally by any party/leader to defend the sovereignty of parliament!

Continue reading Failure of Leadership in Pakistan

Protests in Oman Spread

By NADA BAKRI

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Demonstrators blocked roads and clashed with police on Monday in Oman, the normally quiet oil-rich country along the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, as three-day-old protests calling for political reforms and better living conditions spread to Muscat, the capital.

In the northeast port city of Sohar, where the protests originated, demonstrators blocked roads to the port, Oman’s second biggest, and an industrial area that includes a refinery and an aluminum factory, according to two witnesses in Sohar and news agencies. They also set a supermarket on fire and clashed with the police. Protesters have also been camped out for three days in the city’s main square, called Kurra Ardiyah Roundabout, despite efforts by police and army to push them out, a resident in Sohar said by e-mail. …

Read more : The New York Times

Reforms in Pakistan Army

by Azhar

Let me reproduce the examples of some other reforms which were undertaken to bring British Army under the control of parliament and to integrate the induction/workding of WOMEN in the army (Annex I).

Taking this opportunity I would also like to reproduce some of my earlier messages regarding the induction of pure provincial regiments/ battalions (Annex II) (which is akin to localization scheme in Cardwell’s reforms) and abolishment of Military Hospitals (Annex III) and Cadet Colleges/ Army Schools (Annex IV).

I think this provides sufficient body of starting background to initiate a campaign for defense review in Pakistan. There are many other points that could be added e.g., abolishment of DHAs, Cantonment Boards, etc., banning the Army/ Military from involving in the provision/business of social services (education, health, transportation, banks, petrol pumps etc just to name a few) and allowing army personnel to go to civil courts etc.

Read more about the Reforms in the British Army: Wikipedia

Source: Pakistani e-lists,  February 28, 2011

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk: The destiny of this pageant lies in the Kingdom of Oil

The Middle East earthquake of the past five weeks has been the most tumultuous, shattering, mind-numbing experience in the history of the region since the fall of the Ottoman empire. For once, “shock and awe” was the right description.

The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world. One after another, our satraps are falling, and the people we paid them to control are making their own history – our right to meddle in their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been diminished for ever.

The tectonic plates continue to shift, with tragic, brave – even blackly humorous – results. Countless are the Arab potentates who always claimed they wanted democracy in the Middle East. King Bashar of Syria is to improve public servants’ pay. King Bouteflika of Algeria has suddenly abandoned the country’s state of emergency. King Hamad of Bahrain has opened the doors of his prisons. King Bashir of Sudan will not stand for president again. King Abdullah of Jordan is studying the idea of a constitutional monarchy. And al-Qa’ida are, well, rather silent.

Who would have believed that the old man in the cave would suddenly have to step outside, dazzled, blinded by the sunlight of freedom rather than the Manichean darkness to which his eyes had become accustomed. Martyrs there were aplenty across the Muslim world – but not an Islamist banner to be seen. The young men and women bringing an end to their torment of dictators were mostly Muslims, but the human spirit was greater than the desire for death. They are Believers, yes – but they got there first, toppling Mubarak while Bin Laden’s henchmen still called for his overthrow on outdated videotapes.

But now a warning. It’s not over. We are experiencing today that warm, slightly clammy feeling before the thunder and lightning break out. Gaddafi’s final horror movie has yet to end, albeit with that terrible mix of farce and blood to which we are accustomed in the Middle East. And his impending doom is, needless to say, throwing into ever-sharper perspective the vile fawning of our own potentates. Berlusconi – who in many respects is already a ghastly mockery of Gaddafi himself – and Sarkozy, and Lord Blair of Isfahan are turning out to look even shabbier than we believed. Those faith-based eyes blessed Gaddafi the murderer. I did write at the time that Blair and Straw had forgotten the “whoops” factor, the reality that this weird light bulb was absolutely bonkers and would undoubtedly perform some other terrible act to shame our masters. And sure enough, every journalist is now going to have to add “Mr Blair’s office did not return our call” to his laptop keyboard.

Everyone is now telling Egypt to follow the “Turkish model” – this seems to involve a pleasant cocktail of democracy and carefully controlled Islam. But if this is true, Egypt’s army will keep an unwanted, undemocratic eye on its people for decades to come. As lawyer Ali Ezzatyar has pointed out, “Egypt’s military leaders have spoken of threats to the “Egyptian way of life”… in a not so subtle reference to threats from the Muslim Brotherhood. This can be seen as a page taken from the Turkish playbook.” The Turkish army turned up as kingmakers four times in modern Turkish history. And who but the Egyptian army, makers of Nasser, constructors of Sadat, got rid of the ex-army general Mubarak when the game was up?

And democracy – the real, unfettered, flawed but brilliant version which we in the West have so far lovingly (and rightly) cultivated for ourselves – is not going, in the Arab world, to rest happy with Israel’s pernicious treatment of Palestinians and its land theft in the West Bank. Now no longer the “only democracy in the Middle East”, Israel argued desperately – in company with Saudi Arabia, for heaven’s sake – that it was necessary to maintain Mubarak’s tyranny. It pressed the Muslim Brotherhood button in Washington and built up the usual Israeli lobby fear quotient to push Obama and La Clinton off the rails yet again. Faced with pro-democracy protesters in the lands of oppression, they duly went on backing the oppressors until it was too late. I love “orderly transition”. The “order” bit says it all. Only Israeli journalist Gideon Levy got it right. “We should be saying ‘Mabrouk Misr!’,” he said. Congratulations, Egypt!

Yet in Bahrain, I had a depressing experience. King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman have been bowing to their 70 per cent (80 per cent?) Shia population, opening prison doors, promising constitutional reforms. So I asked a government official in Manama if this was really possible. Why not have an elected prime minister instead of a member of the Khalifa royal family? He clucked his tongue. “Impossible,” he said. “The GCC would never permit this.” For GCC – the Gulf Co-operation Council – read Saudi Arabia. And here, I am afraid, our tale grows darker.

We pay too little attention to this autocratic band of robber princes; we think they are archaic, illiterate in modern politics, wealthy (yes, “beyond the dreams of Croesus”, etc), and we laughed when King Abdullah offered to make up any fall in bailouts from Washington to the Mubarak regime, and we laugh now when the old king promises $36bn to his citizens to keep their mouths shut. But this is no laughing matter. The Arab revolt which finally threw the Ottomans out of the Arab world started in the deserts of Arabia, its tribesmen trusting Lawrence and McMahon and the rest of our gang. And from Arabia came Wahabism, the deep and inebriating potion – white foam on the top of the black stuff – whose ghastly simplicity appealed to every would-be Islamist and suicide bomber in the Sunni Muslim world. The Saudis fostered Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida and the Taliban. Let us not even mention that they provided most of the 9/11 bombers. And the Saudis will now believe they are the only Muslims still in arms against the brightening world. I have an unhappy suspicion that the destiny of this pageant of Middle East history unfolding before us will be decided in the kingdom of oil, holy places and corruption. Watch out. ….

Read more : The Independent.co.uk

With the Mubarak gone there may be changes or the ruling elite could just find a new public face

Mubarak’s departure marks the end of an era for Egypt

If real reforms are achieved, Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – and its impact will be felt across the Middle East

by Ian Black

Hosni Mubarak’s dramatic departure marks the end of an era for Egypt and the Middle East. Thirty years of his rule has left a deep impression on his country’s domestic affairs and external relations. Without him, much could change on many fronts — at home and across the region. …

Read more : Guardian.co.uk

INJUSTICE / DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DALITS OF PAKISTAN

INJUSTICE / DISCRIMINATION AGAINST SCHEDULED CASTES OF PAKISTAN

To – Honourable Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Islamabad.

by Kalavanti Raja Menghwar, Khairpur Mirs

First of all, for current performance of Judiciary I can shortly say “BRAVO, WELL DONE AND CONGRATULATIONS”. Now, some facts about the subject are hereby stated for sympathetic consideration and order.

The castes doing laborious jobs were considered as the outcasts as per Hindu Caste System in Sub Continent for thousand years and remained deprived of social, educational and economic growth. And during 20th century reformers sympathetically named all depressed castes as Harijans, Dalits, Adivasis, Achhoots etc.

Continue reading INJUSTICE / DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DALITS OF PAKISTAN

An untimely invitation

By Haider Nizamani

AS many as 150 members of India’s 541-strong Lok Sabha (the equivalent of Pakistan’s National Assembly) have criminal records. More than 300 of these members are millionaires. More than 50 political parties have elected members in India’s national and provincial legislatures.

Corruption and crime are endemic in its political system. Yet none of these parties, from communists to communalists, can muster up the courage to invite the Indian armed forces to kick out the politicians and take up the reins of power in the country.

Pakistan is in a different league. Altaf Hussain, the long-distance leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), recently extended an invitation to the Pakistan Army’s ‘patriotic generals’ to come forward to remove feudal politicians and root out corruption from the country. When the invitation received more criticism than accolades, the MQM leader roped in the Supreme Court on Aug 28 to team up with the army to do the needful.

The MQM is a partner in the coalition at both the federal and provincial levels, and ordinarily a party in power requesting the undoing of the system would sound scandalous. On both counts, feudalism and corruption, history and the present realities suggest that the military is not the answer. ‘Feudalism’ is the term used by the MQM to refer to the country’s land-owning classes. Either Mr Hussain is politically naive and has little grasp on the country’s history, or worse, he issued the statement taking the cue from authoritarian forces. More importantly, the stance of the MQM in raking up the ghost of feudalism in the manner that it has shows the party’s lack of seriousness about putting in the hard political work needed to meaningfully confront the landed elite of Pakistan.

Continue reading An untimely invitation

Developing a proper method of accountability- Watchdogs on the judiciary, parliament, executive, police, or for that matter

Issues to consider

–  Aqil Sajjad

I’m listing down some political issues that we should consider taking up now that the deposed judges have been restored. Each one of these issues is very important, and we need someone to take it up.

1. Judiciary and police reforms:

..Developing a proper method of accountability for the judges because the existing SJC structure is flawed. – Reforming the lower judiciary. – Police reforms

2. Devolution:

This is very important because devolution has the potential to open up opportunities for ordinary citizens to enter electoral politics. Union councils are small, and you can contest elections even if you are not filthy rich. Once you have been a union councilor, you can gradually go on to contest elections for bigger constituencies and move up in politics.

Things to do: convince the media to have more constructive discussions on devolution, and promote the idea to the people at large, so that it becomes increasingly difficult for any government to roll it back.

3. Intra-party democracy:

This requires engaging with the media and political party workers at the grass roots to highlight this issue.

4. Demanding live debates on local radio:

Due to the wider reach of radio, and considering the fact that TV channels can generally only talk about national issues, there is a real need for local city/district radio stations to come up and hold live debates on local issues. During elections, the election commission should even arrange for regular structured debates at the local level for all constituencies.

We need to highlight this issue and press the govt to remove unnecessary restrictions and giving live debates proper air time on govt-owned local radio stations.

5. Corruption:

Highlighting the need for a constitutionally independent NAB, which can investigate and prosecute corruption cases against anyone including those in power without political interference.

6. Provincial autonomy:

A first step should be to make an attempt to understand what people outside Isb, Lhr and Khi think and want…

7. Constitution revue:

Understanding our constitution, and then determining whether it really serves our needs even if it’s restored to the original 1973 form. Then figuring out the kind of amendments that are needed for the genuine empowerment of the people. Some of the earlier points related to judiciary reforms, devolution, NAB and provincial autonomy would automatically be a part of such an effort, but here the goal would be to have a comprehensive review of the constitution rather than a single issue focus.

8. A political party Watchdog:

Looking at things like

a. The extent of intra-party democracy. This should include how party tickets are awarded.

b. Whether the parties have proper think-tanks for policy formulation.

c. Whether the parties have competent people and intra-party mechanisms for bringing such people forward.

d. whether there are any intra-party mechanisms for accountability, how many members of the parties have criminal or corruption cases etc.

e. How many of the MNAs and MPAs elected on party tickets are lotas with a history of switching loyalties.

9. Media watch:

This can include things like

a. keeping an eye on the political connections of newspaper and TV channel owners, and making knowledge of such connections well known to the public;

b. keeping track of whether journalists are consistent in applying the same principle. Example: if someone said that Iftikhar Ch should be restored when he was first removed by Musharraf, then did they continue to propagate the same position when the PPP came into power or did they suddenly do a ‘lota’ on this?

c. rating various talk-shows on the diversity of guests they invite, so that our national discourse does not remain monopolized by a very small group of people.

d. Pointing out instances of yellow journalism.

10. Other watchdogs:

Watchdogs on the judiciary, parliament, executive, police, NAB, or for that matter, any regulatory authority, like PEMRA or SECP.

March 28, 2009